Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wandering Brain

Earlier this week I read an article that was published on dealing with the Wandering Brain.  Apparently, some people can control pain with a Wandering Brain.  Research by Wendy Davis at theUniversity of Toronto indicates that “mind-wanderers” were able to function better on cognitive tests if they focused their thoughts away from the pain than those who focused on the pain.

While small, the study and preliminary findings indicate non-medical treatment for pain sufferers might be available in a somewhat easy manner.  A focused thought is not quite the same as day-dreaming but it reminds me of an old adage, “Take your mind off of it.”  Perhaps there is some science or truth behind that expression.

Some of you may remember sitting through boring, painful, early morning lecture classes as a college freshman.  The text books had all the information and note taking was merely writing down the same information you highlighted the night before and therefore was mostly, by me anyway, perfunctory and incomplete.  So the student’s mind does what it tends to do, wander, daydream, or sleep. 

In smaller classes the teacher could catch the wanders, those off on an imaginary trip.  As a teacher myself I have on occasion asked a student where he or she was.  This question was directed at their mental state not their physical location.  It usually got a chuckle from them and their classmates and then a return to the classroom activity.  I hope they were merely bored and not in pain from my classes.  Although being merely bored or in pain from my class did not reflect well on my technique or the subject matter at that moment.  The need to ask that question usually was a prompt for me to change and re-engage the class.  Mind-wandering was okay for the student but not for the instructor.

Large lecture halls of the 1960s excelled in the creation of mind-wandering situations.   I have seen card games in progress, students working on other homework assignments, and outright sleeping.  But the blank looks that appeared on the faces of the wandering student raise another question:  Where do we go when we mind-wander?  Good research and blog writing should not just give static opinions by the author but prompt or ask other questions that promote critical dialogue.

So where do we go when we wander?  Answers to that question vary by individual, some people relieve past experiences of their youth or merely last weekend, others speculate on what if situations, or dwell on upcoming events with dread or anticipation.  Come back next blog for a trip in mind-wandering.

Update:  My mind has wandered and I entered a contest to write a 50,000 novel in one month for National Novel Writing Month.  The clock is ticking now.  No more posts until the end of November.  

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Slippery Slope

Part 1

In 2004 I joined the Sun Poets writing group as a tool to divert and channel my energy after leaving the best job I ever had in 2001 (up to that point).  In fact, I had resigned my position on September 7 (a few days later the world was turned upside).  I wasn’t searching for a better job, nor was I chasing a dream or experiencing a mid-life crisis.  A wall at work hit me and a change was required.  Best move I ever made, but not without regrets at times.

The slippery slope started with flash fiction, very short pieces that could be written in 15 minutes, perhaps only 200 or 300 words at most.  Some were written during the sessions and re-crafted later.  Others were started at home and shared with the group during the critic period. 

Later I gravitated to longer pieces of perhaps 600 to 1000 words.  These pieces took longer to thrash out in my head and on paper.  I eventually wrote a few pieces that I submitted to a few publications.  Rejected.  No problem, I was just writing for myself and with no dreams of becoming a famous or rich writer, although that would be nice.  Eventually several pieces became published on-line for zero dollars.  Again, no problem.  I was writing garbage and regularly working at it.  Many hours were spent during lunch-times at the book store with my laptop or early on the weekends to work the keyboard and my pound head on the wall for a few hours.

I wrote a true story about an event that I experienced during my tour of service in Thailand.  Then I wrote a second true event recreation; next came a fictional account of a Buddhist monk giving a lesson.  The wheels in my head started to turn overtime.  

A basic concept of a novel developed.  These three finished stories and a few scraps of other pieces I had written formed the basis of Far from Newark.  And so it started.  No outline at first, just writing as thoughts and events popped into my.  No direction just working at my computer whenever I could.  At some point I sketched a story on a page or two, created a general timeline of events and the story evolved when I moved the timeline to 3 x 5 cards.  Then I arranged and rearranged the cards, into a logical sequence of events.  It was light on details, just a sentence or two on what happened.  Those few lines acted as a prompt to create a chapter or two.

Posed picture on original Mac

Many hours of research went into learning about old Newark, Thailand, Buddhism and anything that popped into my head.  The writing and research occurred simultaneously.  The entire process ended in 2013 with a notebook (3” thick) of information, a notebook of rough draft chapters and a finished story of 55,500 words.  Strangely enough, the three original stories are not part of novel, but remain as stand-alone pieces that were the inspiration for Far from Newark.

The past year was spent editing the final piece.  In all honesty to my readers there were times, sometimes months long, that I did not touch the story.  But at some point during each lapse I decided to finish the project.  It could not be left incomplete. So I plunged back in and finished the novel, and then went back and trashed and rewrote some sections.  AND EDITED.  

Now, what next was the question?  I decided to utilize Smashwords to self-publish in digital format my novel.  It is scheduled for release on November 5.  My goal for now is still modest.  I just want to sell enough books to plow back into printing a small number of print copies to give away and sell.  

The slippery slope continues with the next blog.  Come back.  Please.

To read Parts 2 and 3 click on READ MORE below

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Siclovia San Antonio

On Sunday Broadway Street from Mulberry Street to Alamo Plaza was closed to vehicular traffic from 10 am to 3 pm to allow 75,000 San Antonians to walk, ride, stroll or bike the 6-mile route for its semi-annual Siclovia event.  I arrived with my bike and camera around ten am at the middle of the route.  (Pronounced sic-lo-via)

Even at that early hour and after a overnight heavy rain downpour many thousands of people were already enjoying the event.  At my starting point I looked for someone I was supposed to meet.  Couldn’t find them, but meet a few others I knew.  After a quick schmooze I checked out a few health vendor booths, got two T-shirts, a bag and a water bottle, before pedaling south towards the Alamo.

My trek was a slow easy ride with increasing crowds as I approached the Alamo.  The sounds at the Alamo were amazing.  Vendors galore, people milling about and a buzz in the air of excitement.   Having your picture taken in front of the Alamo is a popular tourist and resident’s activity that I didn’t decline.  At this time I am waiting for the on-line photo to be posted.  At the Alamo I took the opportunity get free air for my bike.


I didn’t stay long before I turned around and rode north towards my starting spot and beyond.  I stopped to enjoy the San Antonio Youth Symphony performing at a street corner.  Rode past “bubble artists.”  Waved at strangers and just goofed along.

At the mid-point I stopped again to check for my missing companion, still missing.  To be honest it was a person that I had only spoken to on the phone and I had no idea what they looked like.  Could have been right next to me and I wouldn’t have known.  Then I continued north with increasing crowds.  Past Ronald McDonald, the Pig Stand, a rock climbing tower and Larry’s Lop-cycle.   

Larry's "Lop-cycle." Note rear wheel hub location.

The Siclovia event ended at Brackenridge Park with numerous booths, refreshments, water and crowds.

Booth at Brackenridge Park, with water, bananas, apples and more

At one point I glanced at my watch and realized how long I had been out and proceeded to call my wife.

“Honey, I am having too much fun and I might leave in another hour.”

It turned to be more like ninety minutes, but when having a good time there is no reason to quit too soon. 
Me at the Alamo

See the entire slide show on my webpage of my 12-mile Siclovia day. 

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