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Danny Adams

[ website | Bio of a Silver Fox ]
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I Hate The Sound Of Story-Chopping In The Morning [Dec. 30th, 2014|08:55 pm]
Danny Adams
[Current Location |Staring Into Winter Staring Back At Me]
[Current Mood |Lacerative]
[Current Music |Hobbit closing songs]

I'm facing another big Kill Your Darlings moment: As much as I like the first two chapters of my first Arizona novel, three years of distance and experience since writing them is increasingly telling me that they aren't nearly as up to par as I'd like. And that if I cut them out, plus changing the first three chapters from the second book into the last three of the first, I'll have a much stronger novel. This would start the book - which I might re-title Wolves in the Desert (currently the name of Book 2) - out with a single prehistory chapter and end with the beginning of Geronimo's warmaking in the 1850s.

I hate chopping that much. But if I finally decide that it makes the book better, I'll be ready with an hatchet in each hand.

And of course, in our fabulous Age of the Internet, if the book sells I can always put those two chapters (both prehistory - the first set at the end of the Ice Age and the second about the building of the great canals near modern Phoenix) online as free reads. This would also then have the effect of compacting my 2nd and 3rd Arizona novels into one book as well. Which means if I ever write the last book, the series would finish as a trilogy.

Meanwhile, I've also toyed with the idea of chopping up my last Shenandoah novel as well - ending it at the beginning of World War Two instead of the present day, then adding to the pre-existing chapters to have a final book more comprehensively covering the 1940s up to now. But that would depend on selling that series, too.

As for actual new writing, I knocked out 2000 words on the For Fun Fantasy Novel today, just to get in a few more licks before the end of the year. It's hovering around 115,000 words now and still not quite close to finished yet. It's a good thing that "Don't pay close attention to your word count" is one of the book's multiple experiments.
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Link Stew Can't Choose Between Articles So It Links Them All [Dec. 11th, 2014|09:52 pm]
Danny Adams
[Current Location |Waiting For Christmas Land]
[Current Mood |Ramped up]
[Current Music |"Duel of the Fates" from Star Wars]

'Star Trek' Flashback: Leonard Nimoy Notes 50 Year Anniversary of Original Pilot Shoot. Of course this had to be my lead story. Meanwhile, Astronauts lift our spirits. But can we afford to send humans into space?

Why Pluto Still Matters. And while we're talking about Pluto, New Horizons Wakes Up On Pluto's Doorstep.

10 Reasons Why Our Universe Is A Virtual Reality. I'm not sure if I buy any of this, but it's like candy to my Writer Brain.

The Closer We Look, The Stranger Europa Gets. As much as I'm fascinated by distant galaxies and quasers and what-not, I love exploring our backyard. And in the farther backyard, A Distant Planet May Lurk Beyond Neptune. Besides Pluto, they mean. And not, I suspect, the Planet X / Nibiru that some people think will sweep in someday and destroy all Terran civilization.

New Mystery Arises From Iconic Iwo Jima Image. The image had identification issues right from the very beginning, but I'm fascinated that that problem can resurface after 70 years.

Shell Engraving Has 'Rewritten Human History'. Those archaeologists, always pushing and pushing.

Is Space-Time Shaped Like A Spiral? See my comment about the universe being virtual reality. But I would dig the idea of the entire universe having a Golden Ratio.

Roman Cats Turn Historic Site Into A Cat Haven. Cats and ancietn ruins. Add some books and that's pretty much all I need.

Slayer Rescues A Kitten. Because as the article points out, there's nothing more metal than saving kittens.

Cutest Baby Ever Couldn't Be More Confused By the Concept of Twins. Because as much as I hate to admit it, the Internet can't be all cats.

Government To Pay Off WWI Debt. I personally like the idea of being considered solid if I can pay off my debts within 80 years.

Literally The Best Thing Ever: The Journal Of Emily Shore. This early 19th century teenager wanted to write natural science articles - and succeeded before she was 20. I'll warn you that this story doesn't have a happy ending, though.

Why Save A Language? The author agrees with the idea of seeing things from a culture's unique perspective, but argues that this most-often-given reason isn't the only one by any means.

Now Where Did I Park My 60 Cars? Another awesome treasure trove of antique cars unearthed. I'm less amazed that such things exist, though, that they keep being "lost" for decades at a time.

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' character names revealed (in coolest way possible). I'll admit that even after collecting a thousand or so Topps movie cards when I was a kid (and that I still own them), I didn't realize Topps was even still in business, but I was happy to hear it. I still have my collection of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back Topps cards, so maybe I'll grab some of these for old time's sake. You can have my gum.
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Hoping For A Truthful Happy Little Black Cat Ending [Dec. 7th, 2014|09:27 pm]
Danny Adams
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |Half-Sheltered]
[Current Mood |anxiousanxious]
[Current Music |The Virginia Gentlemen]

As much as I love cats, and kittens, and little black cats in particular, I was hoping that this year would be the first in a fair few that the library didn't end up hosting feral kittens. That hope was dashed by the appearance of one early last week - a little black kitten about six weeks old, living inside an outer library wall.

By "outer library wall" this is what I mean: It's a brick sheathing with a hollow space inside for running cables, and the holes the cables run through also allow a little climate control out. So over the years it's been a popular spot for feral cats because it's both sheltered and cool or warm depending on the season. One of the other librarians heard it mewing, and caught a glimpse of it; I likewise heard and saw it the following night.

I started making plans to catch it and take it to the local no-kill shelter. Keeping it wasn't an option; we already have eight cats (four of whom were supposed to be fosters until the people we were fostering for never took them back) and two dogs. I was willing to spay/neuter it and have it vaccinated, but then what? The shelter wasn't forthcoming about whether or not it could take the cat, which usually means they don't have room. (Though Laurie advised I push on through - take the cat there and make them turn me...and the kitten...down face to face.)

So catch-and-release seemed to be the only option if the shelter wouldn't take it. Which is a poor option, because kittens and small cats don't last long on this campus, nor do the domesticated cats dumped by students at the end of the school year because they have the idiotic thought that "It's an animal, it knows how to survive". (Or they assume someone will clean up their mess and take the cat - I even met someone once who dumped a cat because they knew Laurie and I rescued and they figured we would rescue that one too.) Wandering dogs kill these cats, diseases kill them, roadkill dropped food that's spoiled and rotting kill them, and running alongside campus is a secondary highway where half the drivers act like they race for NASCAR no matter what the weather. Most of the feral kittens I've seen on campus disappear, probably to one of these fates. A few of them I know did.

I wasn't particularly happy about the release idea, though doing nothing was a bleak option as well.

Then the mewing under the window disappeared for two days, and I feared that it was gone. Especially since a skunk had been roaming around, and skunks will attack kittens too. But then one of the library's student workers told me that a student she knows had managed to get the kitten and planned to give it to "a good home". I hoped the student who got the kitten was telling the truth; students aren't allowed to have animals in the dorms, and I was afraid maybe they were saying that to keep from getting busted. I passed along the message that if the good home fell through, bring the kitten to me and I'd take care of the surgery and shots.

My hopes rose when my library worker told me that the student got the kitten vaccinated.

But then, just a few minutes before I started writing this, she found out that the student took the kitten to the shelter. So - not the worst possible ending, or really even a bad ending so far, but not quite the best of possible worlds either. The shelter is good, it will do right by the kitten. But I also know that black cats are a hard sell around here - the two we have are proof of that. At the time, no one else would take them.

But who knows? Maybe this time will be different. But at least the kitten is indeed away from ravaging dogs, and skunks, and every other danger small creatures on this campus face.

In the meantime, I'll try trapping the mother if I can to have her spayed. I'd still feel bad about releasing her, though not as much so: she's an adult, so she's probably already learned the tricks to survive, and feral adults usually don't socialize well. She'll still have her little climate-controlled shelter, and with no possibility of more kittens. So there's that.

Animal rescue: wonderful work, but I certainly understand the quick burnout.
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Link Stew Exclaims "SCIENCE!!!" [Dec. 1st, 2014|08:31 pm]
Danny Adams
[Current Location |Not Well Poised]
[Current Mood |Kitten-fretting]
[Current Music |"Yankee Doodle Dandy" ala James Cagney]

Russian Miner Spends His Breaks Taking Photos Of Foxes In The Arctic Circle. Just because, as some of you know, I have a thing for foxes.

Young Volcanoes on the Moon. Rabble rousers!

On the Trail of an Ancient Mystery. Temples aside, the Antikythera Mechanism is far and away my favorite ancient artifact, and I love finding new stories about it.

What It Feels Like To Rocket Into Outer Space. Aside from the cool factor, this might come in handy for some of you writers one of these days.

Forging a Photo is Easy, but How Do You Spot a Fake? Not something I need very often, but you never know, it may come in handy in online political discussions.

Mystery of the 'spooky' pattern in the universe: Scientists find that supermassive black holes are aligned. I also find it especially interesting that some of these are thousands and possibly millions of light years apart - which means, of course, that we're seeing them as they existed at different times across millennia.

The riddle of the missing stars. I'm one of these people who's thrilled when one solution creates two new mysteries. In science, I mean, not my personal life.

Brain Scans Reveal What Dogs Really Think of Us. The headline's a wee bit misleading, but I still like the notion.

Why Science Fiction Matters. Money shot: What O'Brien is getting at is that investing resources-including imagination-into the intersections of art, science, technology, and health will help us understand creativity as a resource that can be "exercised and optimized in fresh ways." The right to imagine a new world is perhaps the boldest act of citizenship.
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Link Stew Looks Like It's Seen A Ghost [Nov. 25th, 2014|01:24 pm]
Danny Adams
[Current Location |Watching The Coming Snow From the E-Peak]
[Current Mood |Anticipatory]
[Current Music |"Enterprising Young Men" from Star Trek]

Artist Jakob Hadavra has created 32 plaster life-sized ghost statues inside a medieval church in the Czech Republic. The church has been falling into disrepair for nearly fifty years, and this is bringing attention back to the idea of trying to save it before the church itself becomes nothing more than a ghost.

The SLF Working-Class / Impoverished Writers' $750 Grant. The qualifications are broad, and entering is about as easy as they could possibly make it.

"Miracle" Kitten Survives Ride Under Car Hood in Freezing Temperatures. Yeah, I'm a sucker for stories like this. And speaking of animals...

Enter Now: Grand Canyon Wolf Naming Contest! The solo wolf that has been spotted in the Grand Canyon - the first wolf seen there in 70 years - is up for naming - if you're under 18 years old. A neat contest for kids!

Unearthed: Thanks to science, we may see the rebirth of the American chestnut. The Washington Post tells the American Chestnut's story and about the now-successful attempt to genetically modify the tree to make it Blight-resistant. I've seen chestnuts that were nearly on the cusp of the Blight strangling them to death, when they were just a little taller than me. It's probably too late for me to see one fully matured now, unless I travel to see one of the handful of naturally Blight-resistant ones, but just seeing one survive well into adulthood would be enough for me.

Catholic Church Says Religious Freedom Protects Them From Going to Court. The church being subject to secular authority is an old, old debate, going back almost as long as Christianity itself. Money shot: However, there is no special religious exemption for sex discrimination which is how the terminated teacher is framing her dismissal. She proved her point quickly by showing that the diocese had never fired a male teacher for using any type of fertility treatment. The church admitted that indeed, it had never fired a male teacher undergoing fertility treatments in the past, but it probably “would” because it is against church teachings; they just “hadn’t gotten around to it in the past.” I've got to say that I'm with the secular authorities in this particular instance.

'Star Trek' was launched 50 years ago this week. "The Cage", that is - not when the main series with Kirk began. I first watched that episode in 1987, as I recall - on cable TV, about a year after it was released to video. Happy Anniversary, Star Trek!

The Unexpected Math Behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. I might've done better in math if I'd known more about stuff like this.

Swiss museum accepts Nazi-era art collection. And they say they're going to try working with German authorities to get artworks back to their rightful owners. In a way, the Monuments Men never stopped working.
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Infected By The Too Many Books Syndrome [Nov. 24th, 2014|03:40 pm]
Danny Adams
[Current Location |On The Cusp Of A Cusp]
[Current Mood |restlessrestless]
[Current Music |After Jack]

I've been collecting books for a long time, one way or another. I started gathering them about me from my earliest memories, picked out my own that I wanted to buy early on in elementary school, and at the age of 12 - after seeing Phil Farmer's 20,000 volume collection in this pre-Internet age when information was not necessarily at your fingertips - decided that I wanted my own personal library. So for thirty years I assumed that once I got my own house then that would be that - I'd get all the books shelved and turn the house into a permanent biblio-fixture.

Strangely enough, while I do still have several thousand books that aren't going anywhere shelved all over the house, now that I am a homeowner for the first time I've kind of accelerated the pace of giving books away.

It's not many - a small box every few weeks - and it's not exactly unprecedented. I've given away hundreds of books over the past fifteen years, since my first big move. But I've never owned a house before, been able to put the shelves and books exactly where I wanted with no one (except perhaps structural engineers) to gainsay me, and I hadn't expected to keep purging once I did.

I don't have enough shelves, and I don't want to add any more shelves to the library room since it's not a ground floor, but it's not really a space issue. I can always get and fit more shelving. And sometimes I'll look at the giveaway box and think, "Why not keep them? When you've already got a few thousand, what difference will an extra dozen or two make?"

The best answer I can come up with is, while as counter-intuitive as they may have seemed to the pre-house owner me, I'm still getting rid of books because I'm a homeowner.

Not over space, not over crowding from shelves, but because now that I own a home I've been filling it in a permanent way with things that are meaningful to me. Along with books, things like family heirlooms, pictures I particularly like, and the odd bits here and there like favorite antiques and various types of replica weapons have been finding nooks and crannies in ways that they never could while I was renting. Since I'm optimistically assuming my home ownership status is permanent, I want the things around me to be that much more meaningful.

And some things - even books, I shudder to say - aren't quite making the cut. Things I lugged through ten moves over the last twenty-one years are going away, being fostered by the local Goodwill or Better World Books.

Maybe I'll miss some of them. I have replaced a handful of books I've given away over the years - though if I do any book replacing I'll be starting with the two hundred plus I ended up having to throw out due to mildew damage. One thing I can guarantee, though - one way or another, if you come to visit with me, you're still going to be surrounded by books.

PROGRESS REPORT FOR 11/22-23/14Collapse )

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Link Stew? [Nov. 20th, 2014|09:25 pm]
Danny Adams
[Current Location |Out Of The Blogging Crosshairs]
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]
[Current Music |"American Patrol" by Glenn Miller]

Once upon a time there was a fellow named jaylake, and along with being an uber-prolific writer, even when the universe did all it could muster to stop him, he was also a prolific blogger. And among his prolific blogs were his Link Salad entries, in which he posted links for things he found either interesting or utterly atrocious. For Jay was a polymath who was interested in pretty much everything, and so his links were unfailingly broad, varied, and engaging. And so his Link Salad page because one of my all-time favorite things on Live Journal, if not the whole realm of the Internet.

I got to thinking about Jay, his blog, and Link Salad while I was speaking at the edu-blogging faculty discussion today. In fact I used Jay's blog as an example of everything an excellent blog could be. Link Salad came up during the part of the discussion about linking to other pages as part of your blog format. And I remembered - when I wasn't feeling a wee bit hypocritical for talking about blogging when I've done so little of my own lately - that I'd thought from time to time about doing my own version of Link Salad. But that I've always only done it now and again at best, and next to never at worst.

Which is strange, because I read a lot of articles online. I mean a lot. I'm not suffering for a lack of content I could provide, and much of it is interesting, at least to me. I don't know how well it would suit anyone else, but then that seems to be a pretty universal rule for blogging in general. At any rate, I'm thinking about doing it again.

But I'm hesitating. Jay did it so well and so regularly that I couldn't hope at all to follow in his footsteps even in this one small thing. But even doing it as my own thing, I'll admit that I am concerned that if I do it poorly, or let it fall by the wayside as I have in past years will, in a strange sort of way, be dishonoring his memory. At the very least I wouldn't call it "Link Salad" - that was his name. Maybe something similar enough, like Link Stew.

I can use this entry as a trial run, though. I have a handful of links sitting on my browser right now, and they look like the makings of a good small sampler. So starting with one I've already posted on Facebook and elsewhere, try these out and see what you think . . .

The Ten Thousand Chestnut Challenge. A little over a century after the Chestnut Blight came to America and almost completely drove the American Chestnut tree into extinction - a tree that numbered in the billions and was as widespread as oaks - SUNY-ESF has finally come up with a Blight-resistant Chestnut tree. Now they're asking for help with funding to plant 10,000 of these trees in the wild across the country. If you're able and would like to see the American Chestnut rise again, would you consider sending a bit of money their way?

67,000 Victorian Criminals. The Dorset History Centre has made these 67,000 19th century criminal records available for free and fun browsing - complete with photographs. Fun for writers, or general fans of the wicked, the wanton, and the wild.

Where to See the Oldest Artifacts in the World. Smithsonian Magazine's guide to ten sublimely ancient antiquities that you can see for yourself - including, as I was hoping, the Western world's oldest book.

The Fall of Facebook. Yeah, we'll see. I wouldn't count Facebook out just yet.

Childen helped make one of the world's oldest geoglyphs. I'm not sure how the archaeologists came to some of their conclusions here, but I'm buzzed just by the existence of a 6,000 year old geoglyph, and that children did seem to help make it.

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Scatterlights [Nov. 19th, 2014|10:06 pm]
Danny Adams
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |In The Blogging Crosshairs]
[Current Mood |fretting]
[Current Music |The Charlie Brown Theme]

I don't really consider these highlights of what I've been up to lately, unless you call them scattered highlights. Since blogging seems to be practically impossible these days, though - ironically, I'm going to be doing a bit of public speaking about blogging tomorrow - I wanted to do some catching up if only in a small way.

  • Six months into my new life as a homeowner, I'm still working out the kinks of trying to do writing and house-related stuff in the same day. I've only managed it three times in recent weeks. Today, working on the house, was not one of those successfully joint days. Yesterday, writing chapter 20 of the For Fun Fantasy Novel, was also not one of those days. The fact that For Fun Fantasy Novel is for fun and is an experiment on several levels is enabling my bad segregation behavior. But I also know that when I get concentrating on something, that's the something I concentrate on for the time I have. When I write, I write till I'm done for the day. When I've been painting siding, organizing the still-unsettled parts of the house, raking the thirty million leaves from the forest surrounding me, or whathaveyou, then that is the something I work on until I'm done for the day.

    I like to play with the fantasy that if I ever became a full-time writer, this would change and I could get it all worked in each day, as I'd have an extra eight hours a day to work with. I'm sure all the full-time writers I've known are laughing right now.

  • In other news, some fun at work has become a practical tool.

    Writer Warning

    If you're reading this blog, you almost certainly know that I work at a college library. Well, two weeks ago today, one of the students (who also happens to work at the library) did a Makerspace presentation where she taught us how to make our own blackboards. I made the one you see in the picture above, minus the warning message. In the course of making it I half-joked that I ought to write the warning you see and place it on our main service desk where I sit at night. My boss happened to think this was a cute idea and gave me the OK to do it.

    I thought I was just having fun. But lo and behold, overall the last two weeks at the library have been remarkably quiet.

    We've put out signs asking people to be civil - or just outright asking them to keep the noise levels down. The signs are ignored, or occasionally moved out of sight by the people they're aimed at. We've asked people to keep the noise down, which generally works for about five minutes. Those and other measures have failed more often than not. But suddenly I threaten to write about people, and tranquility descends upon the library.

    Who knew writers had so much power? The pen is mightier than the shush.

  • I've written here before that I have a hard time teaching writing because I've been doing it for so long, and it's become so ingrained in me, that when you want me to pin down how I do what I do, I'm not really sure. I've discovered this week that my literary uncertainty encompasses blogging too. One of the other librarians here was slated to co-host a faculty service discussion about educational blogging, and asked me if I wanted to participate. Without realizing at first how close blogging is to writing for me *cough*, I agreed without hesitation. Then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was as uncertain as to what I would say as I always am when someone asks me to talk about writing.

    I was invited to participate this past Monday; the discussion is tomorrow afternoon. I'm still working out what I'll be saying. If this goes like many other writing-related discussions and classes I've been in, I won't know part of what I'll say until I actually get there and start talking. At any rate, my portions of the event will be interaction, best practices, guest blogging, maybe some process, that sort of thing. Which is why I thought this was ironic for me to be doing right now, since the process hasn't been happening a whole lot lately.

    But who knows? Maybe I'll inadvertently reinvigorate myself my blogging by doing this.

  • The aforementioned For Fun Fantasy Novel, No Word in Death's Favor, is closing in on 100,000 words, and only about three-quarters done, so it's a pretty darn good thing that I've almost got myself convinced that I'm not paying attention to word count this time around. I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo, though I have been keeping a November word count, just because I'm a little obsessive that way.

    PROGRESS REPORT FOR 11/18/14Collapse )

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    Appreciate The Ones You Don't Know As Well [Nov. 6th, 2014|06:11 pm]
    Danny Adams
    [Tags|, ]
    [Current Location |At My Usual Library Spot]
    [Current Mood |discontentdiscontent]
    [Current Music |Astaire and Rogers]

    Yesterday a campus e-mail went out announcing the sad news of the sudden death the night before of our head swimming coach here at Ferrum College, Tom Calomeris. I regret that I didn't get to know him very well. But he was a library regular - at least once a week he would come in to check out movies and sometimes books. He would always smile. He would always chat with me for a few minutes while he was here. There are a lot of people here who knew him a lot better than I did, so I was surprised when I realized how much I was going to miss seeing him around.

    It never surprises me when I miss people I was close to for a long time, of course, and how much time can pass before I stop expecting to see them around the corner, or when I keep thinking of things I want to tell them. It doesn't surprise me how much I can miss people I never met in person but knew online for years, especially when those people died decades before there time, like our losing Jay Lake and Eugie Foster this year. But after I got over being knocked off guard realizing that I would miss someone I didn't know nearly as well as I should have, something obvious occurred to me that I'm ashamed of myself for not thinking of before.

    It also occurred to me yesterday, and has bothered me ever since, that Coach Calomeris was almost always the one to say "Good to see you" first whenever he came to the library.

    There are a lot of people and things out there telling you not to take your loved ones for granted. And those are great, and should be out there, because sometimes we do need reminders of that. But I don't know if there's anywhere out there reminding you to appreciate the ones you don't know as well. The co-worker in a different department. That customer who comes in now and again who always has something nice to say to or about you. The particular clerk at the store whose line you always want to get into. The mail carrier who leaves a card in your box on holidays. The owner of your favorite store or restaurant, the waitress who sneaks you a little extra onto your plate, the barrista who remembers exactly how you take your drink. And heck, maybe the librarian who always has a pretty good idea of what to recommend to you when you're looking for a new book or movie.

    So this is that message. While you're remembering not to take your loved ones for granted and to make sure you tell them how much they mean to you, don't forget the people you interact with every day that you may hardly know, but make your life a little better for being there. Maybe not a big expression of emotion. But say something nice back to them, add a little to the tip, leave a card for your mail carrier too. Tell them first that it's good to see them.

    Appreciation. When you get right down to it, it does just as much for ourselves as for the people we show it to.
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    Silence Your Brain, Or Ramp It Up [Oct. 1st, 2014|11:33 pm]
    Danny Adams
    [Tags|, ]
    [Current Location |Tuning Out The Static Land]
    [Current Mood |Distracted]
    [Current Music |"Wherever You Will Go" by the Calling]

    A few weeks ago Laurie wanted to attend a Quakers meeting and asked me if I'd like to come along. I did, having been interested in the Quakers for a long time but never having attended one of their meetings - I am curious if nothing else, and that was a good enough reason for me. Plus I suspected I might get a lot out of it. And also, the meeting house is an hour away when you hit all the green lights (in Roanoke, Virginia to be specific) and I work most Sundays, so there was no telling when I might ever make it back there. So off we went.

    I left half-an-hour early in case there were traffic issues, of which there were none, meaning we had a half-hour to walk up and down the street the meeting house was on - a street filled with brightly painted Victorian and Edwardian houses. I hadn't thought to bring a camera but my cell phone was good enough to take a couple dozen pictures. I went to the meeting in a good, calm frame of mind. That doesn't mean my mind was quiet. But then, it rarely is.

    For those who don't know, Quaker meetings don't follow the traditional pattern of Christian services. There is no sermon, no singing, no passing of the tithe plate. There is, however, a great deal of silence. The people who speak are the ones who are motivated to stand and speak - which can be anyone attending. During the hour Laurie and I were there, three people spoke, lasting a total of about five minutes. The rest was quiet, leaving people to their own thoughts, or meditation, or listening for the still small voice of God, or simply trying to clear their mind. And that was the time in which I discovered that silencing my mind is a lot harder than I thought.

    This isn't the first time I've discovered this, by any means. I've always been a daydreamer, or had things running through my head, however you want to look at it. In school as a kid (and sometimes older), in church (ditto), taking walks, even when reading or watching TV. Something is always going on in my brain; as often as not it's a story idea. During times when I was supposed to be meditating, or doing yoga, I didn't have much luck clamping down on my mental livestreaming. Within the first two or three minutes of silence among the Quakers, my brain was automatically playing out the next two chapters of No Word in Death's Favor.

    This time I thought I would be prepared. I was going to be in a good, calm, relaxing place. So how could I not keep my brain silent for that little while? But what I didn't realize until I got there was that running like a river under the silence was a palpable intensity of feeling and emotion. I might as well have been in a church where the sermonizing was powerful and the music loud, and all of it right in front of me. I certainly wasn't going to have any luck keeping my mind quiet. But at that point I decided this really wasn't necessary.

    At least not at that moment. Sooner or later there is likely going to come a time where I just need to stop thinking, even if it's only so I can get to sleep. But being at the Quaker meeting made me decide that it's not shushing my brain that's needful. The energy is going to be there; I should just put it to good use as long as it's going to insist on running around like a wet toddler escaping the bathtub anyway.

    It seems to me that the problem has been that I'm trying to tone down my thoughts or eliminate the thinking entirely. That plainly hasn't worked. Instead, what seems to work better is when I ramp up whatever is going through my head. This sounds counter-intuitive, but so far I've had some success with it. What I have to do is be a lot more selective about what I'm ramping up - or understand that I'll just let this thought have reign for a little while. If a thought is distracting me or it's depressive, not anything I really want to be dealing with, I let it get itself out for a few moments and then I pull a bait-and-switch on it. I wish I could be less vague but I'm still figuring out exactly how the process works. All I can do at the moment is liken it to telling it, "All right, you've done your screaming. Now let's move on to something else."

    This doesn't always work, of course. Some thoughts - especially the depressive ones - are incredibly tenacious no matter what I've tried. Those I usually have to ride out - or I find something else to distract myself with. But as I go I'm starting to catalog things to switch over that I already know have power enough to get me concentrating on them instead. Even if I can't knock down a thought process I don't want, I can dilute it.

    I'm still working on the complete silence part. The farthest along I've gotten there is muted background thoughts accompanied by quiet music.

    In the meantime, and since I haven't done this for awhile, here's a Progress Report on something that's been claiming a lot of my brain time lately.

    PROGRESS REPORT FOR 9/30/14Collapse )
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