Saturday Writing Exercise

It is Saturday evening at 9 o’clock, and I am just sitting down to write my daily blog post. Often, I have specific ideas I want to explore on specific days. However, as the day goes on and I run out of steam, my ability to tackle the ideas diminish and I simply need to sit down and write something, out of discipline as an exercise. It looks like today may be one of those days.

The day started much like any other day. Fiona woke me. She wanted help with our new puppy Wesley. She took him outside and fed him. Then she switched on the television. Kim and I both encouraged her to turn off the television and play with Wesley. She would be gone much of the day and Wesley needed the attention.

I sat down and read through various emails and blog posts. There is a lively discussion about the future of educational virtual worlds, and I’ve been writing a bit about it here, as well as joining in on the discussion on a mailing list. For those who ask, yes, by virtual worlds, I mean things like Second Life.

Kim and Fiona left for their big day. Last Wednesday was Fiona’s birthday and for a second year, instead of having a birthday party, she goes to a water park with a special friend that she has known longer than just about everyone.

I stayed home and spent a little more time exploring ideas for virtual worlds. In many virtual worlds, people create virtual roads, buildings and other objects on top of virtual land. So, when someone creates a virtual world, one of the first things they need to do is create the land, or separate the land from the sea. I used a virtual world viewer called Hippo and entered a virtual world I have created using the system OpenSim. I spent a little time experimenting with terraforming. With certain keystokes land could be made higher, lower, flatter or changed in other ways.

I walked around my little virtual world getting the land configured the way I wanted. The program uses a metaphor of a bulldozer, and that makes a lot of sense. However, in my case, my avatar walked around the virtual world, pointing various places to cause the shape of the land to change.

It felt like my personal songlines as I walked routes across my virtual land. Building a virtual world can be a bit like the dreaming time, and when I made mistakes, large pieces of land would jut out like Uluru.

Later, I took to flying, another thing easy in virtual worlds, and as I flew over sections of sea, I raised the land up. It was captivating and the time slipped by. I suspect that those better acquainted with the mechanics of Hippo and OpenSim could have found much more efficient ways of terraforming, but it was an interesting adventure for me. This was one of the ideas that I considered for a longer blog post today. Instead, I’ll save pieces for other blog posts.

Finally, I took a break. Today has been a beautiful autumnal day. Since I would be gone for a long time in the afternoon, I wanted to give Wesley as much exercise as possible, so I took him for a long walk in the cornfields. I checked in on Foursquare, and Wesley sniffed at bushes, benches, and signposts; places where other dogs most likely had checked in with their social network tools.

We didn’t run into as many people or dogs today as we have on other trips, and Wesley seemed a little spooked. He sniffed and looked off into the distance. He did not want to run like he had on other trips. Perhaps it was the folk of geese passing through. Their noise certainly disturbed him. Perhaps there was something else. Finally, Wesley found his stride and we ran a fair amount.

I brought Wesley back to the house and soon it was time for me to head off to see Kim, Fiona and her friend. Another blogging idea was to write about Wesley’s story. The story is still evolving and can wait.

There was not a cloud in the sky, and the trees which were just starting to turn stood out against the background of New England towns. I passed a church with a beautiful tree and a bright blue sky. I passed firehouses, town halls, local libraries and elementary schools, all similarly adorned.

Years ago, Ronald Reagan had a famous advertisement which started, “It’s morning in America”. I pulled on traditional conservative heartstrings using similar backgrounds as settings. Well, for me, it was afternoon in America, and I reflected that I was driving on public roads past beautiful public buildings; the community services that really built our country and that some want to curtail. There is a good political blog post in those observations waiting to be explored.

On the radio, I listened briefly to “Selected Shorts”. This is a series on public radio, where famous actors read wonderful short stories. Someone was reading Aimee Bender’s Fruit and Words. The story was magical. It made me think about how prosaic much of my own writing, whether it be emails, blog posts, or attempts at National Novel Writing Month is. The writers that have always fascinated me are those that weave something magical, something transcendent into their writing. Will I attempt a novel this November? Will I be able to weave some magic into it? Can I weave magic into my blog posts, or at least use my daily writing times to conjure something transcendent? My mind drifted to William Blake:

To see a World in a grain of sand,
And Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

H.D. jumped in with The Moon in Your Hands:

If you take the moon in your hands
and turn it round
(heavy, slightly tarnished platter),
you're there;

I turned off the radio to ponder these thoughts. I knew that soon I would be arriving at the water park. I would have a good time splashing and relaxing, but it would be far away from a world of magical writing.

I did have a good time. It continued with a nice dinner, and then cupcakes as Fiona opened presents. Yet it wasn’t until the drive home that I returned to thinking about my writing. I drove through small New England towns where the local restaurant was closed by 8 PM on a Saturday night. As I drove the back roads near my house, three young deer crossed from right to left in front of me. I’ve known people who have had accidents hitting deer crossing this way. I saw them and stopped in time for them to cross safely. Was there something magical I could glean from this? As I arrived at home, I saw the handle of the Big Dipper floating just above the hilly horizon. Perhaps there was a touch of magic there, or at least a pointer somehow tied to the north star. Joni Mitchell drifts into my mind. “Constantly, in the darkness, where’s that at? If you want me I’ll be in the bar.”

So now I am home. I’ve fed Wesley and patted him a little. I’ve written and soon I should sleep. The suicidal Hamlet comes to mind. “To sleep, perchance to dream”. No, that’s not the line I want. Romeo’s “I dreamt a dream tonight” is a tad closer. Mercutio taunts Romeo with his dream that “That dreamers often lie.” Yet Romeo’s dream was a warning about the ball where he would meet Juliet ultimately leading to Mercutio’s, Juliett’s and Romeo’s deaths. No, that’s not the dream I’m looking for either. “I have a dream” would be nice, but perhaps, I am returned to my virtual world building and the dreaming or dreamtime.

Usually when I write a blog post, I go back and read over it. I wordsmith and edit it. When I write sections for National Novel Writing Month, I just write, figuring that someday, if the novel turns out to be something to work further with, I’ll go back and edit and revise it later. This blog post will be more like a writing exercise, closer to a day of National Novel Writing Month. If it ends up meaning something to someone, good. If not, I have done my exercises. Good Night.

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