The Queen Is Retired, Long Live The King

Marlies DekkersHave I told you, I am from the Netherlands? For all those not from Europe, some facts: small country across the North Sea from UK, next to Germany and Belgium. We have a queen and she will give the crown to her son today. On Queensday. If you have ever been to the Netherlands around this time of year, you’ll know that this day makes all Dutchies go out in Orange (our national color , drink beers and dance like there is no tomorrow. Or else you are probably selling secondhand clothes, books or toys.

Am I going somewhere with this? Yes. And no, this is not another ‘I am so not focused’ post (although, yes, I am out partying). This is a ‘fairytales are very much alive’ post. We have a prince who is now becoming a king. Sometimes you just have to leave out the political side of things.

Like with Obama shooting his gun and showing the ‘real’ picture during the Correspondents dinner, which isn’t a fairy tale  by the way, because he is still shooting a gun. But it’s a good story, right? Instead of holding a gun at a shooting range, he is now in unicorn land with laser shooting cats and fast cars.

So today I won’t be looking at the actual coronation. I will fantasize about this great kingdom in a small land where the people wear orange and party in honor of the Queen that is giving her golden crown to her son. A kingdom where people are friendly, crime was crushed and discrimination is non existent. Where people drink pink soft drinks that make them sing the most beautiful songs and make them fly across the sky to color a rainbow. Aaaah, the beauty of imagination. (And alcohol, I am afraid.)

Good Question! (And Then 100 More For Your Protagonist)

Below you’ll find a list of questions, 100 to be exact. This is a very serious post on how to get some answers when your protagonist is no longer talking to you. Or when you have the feeling that you have grown apart. Or he or she filed for divorce. Sometimes you have to spend time with the other, just to reconnect again. I did this interview-style conversation last summer when I was completely stuck in my story and needed to get a good feeling of Mary, my main character.

She answered honest and truthfully, and we got along much better afterwards. You can think of it like a game. Or see yourself as a journalist. Yes, that means you can deviate from this list and ask any question that is relevant. It helps with getting the truth out there, to let your protagonist really speak. Eventually, you’ll appreciate this quality time. Trust me.

Character (Answer in character’s point of view)

BASICS

1. What is your full name? Do you have a nickname?

2. How old are you? When is your birthday?

3. Where were you born? Where do you live now? Are you patriotic?

4. Who are/were your parents? (Names, occupations, personalities, etc.)

5. Do you have any siblings? What are/were they like?

6. What is your occupation?

7. How tall are you? How much do you weigh?

8. What color is your hair? What color are your eyes?

9. What is your race?

10. To which social class do you belong?

11. Do you consider yourself to be attractive? Do others?

12. What is your style of dress?

13. Do you have any scars? Tattoos? Birthmarks? Other unique physical features?

14. Do you have any allergies, diseases, or other physical weaknesses?

15. Are you right- or left-handed?

16. What does your voice sound like?

17. What kind of vocabulary do you use?

18. List three quirks or other defining characteristics.

19. How often do you bathe? Do you wear perfumes?

20. What kind of facial expression do you commonly wear (dour glare, wry smile, etc)?

21. Do you use body language? How?

22. Do you have a commonly used saying?

CHILDHOOD

23. What is your earliest memory?

24. How much schooling have you had? Did you enjoy it?

25. Where did you learn most of your knowledge and skill?

26. How would you describe your childhood in general?

27. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

28. When and with whom was your first kiss?

29. Are you a virgin? If not, when and with whom did you lose your virginity?

30. Do you have a notorious or celebrated ancestor? Does that affect you?

INFLUENCES

31. What do you consider the most important event of your life so far?

32. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

33. What is your greatest regret?.

34. What is the most embarrassing or shameful thing ever to happen to you?

35. Do you have any secrets? If so, what are they?

36. What is the most evil thing you have ever done?

37. When was the time you were the most frightened?

38. Have you ever traveled outside of your country? If so, to where?

BELIEFS

39. What is your alignment?

40. Are you basically optimistic or pessimistic?

41. Do you believe in a god? If so, which one and why?

42. Do you believe in an afterlife?

43. What is your greatest fear?

44. What makes you angry? Sad? Happy? Why?

45. Do you think people are basically good or basically evil?

46. What are your views on politics?

47. What are your views on gambling, lying, theft, and killing?

48. How far will you go to defend your beliefs?

49. How much do you value money?

50. In your opinion, what is the most evil thing any human being could do?

51. Do you believe in self-sacrifice for the greater good?

52. Do you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?

53. Are you superstitious?

54. How much do you respect the beliefs and opinions of others?

55. How honest are you about your thoughts and feelings?

56. Do you have any biases or prejudices?

DEALING WITH OTHERS

57. Who is the most important person in your life, and why?

58. Who is the person you respect the most? Despise the most? Why?

59. Do you have a significant other? Who? Why?

60. Do you have a lot of friends? Who is your best friend?

61. How do you relate to members of the same race? Class? Sex?

62. How do you relate to members of a different race? Class? Sex?

63. Have you ever been in love? If so, describe what happened.

64. What do you look for in a potential lover?

65. How close are you to your family?

66. Do you want a marriage, family, and/or children?

67. Do you tend to argue with people, or avoid conflict?

68. Are you a listener or a talker?

69. How long does it usually take for you to trust others?

70. Do you hold grudges?

71. Do you tend to take on leadership roles in social situations?

72. Do you like interacting with large groups of people?

73. How well do you express yourself?

74. How quickly do you judge others?

75. Do you care what others think of you?

76. Do you have any enemies? How or why are they your enemy?

PERSONAL TASTE AND OPINIONS

77. What is your favorite pastime? Color? Food? Possession?

78. What are your preferences in arts and/or entertainment?

79. Do you smoke, drink, go whoring, or use drugs? Why or why not?

80. How do you spend a typical Saturday night?

81. What is your most cherished fantasy?

82. How long is your attention span?

83. Do you laugh a lot? What do you find funny?

84. Is there anything that shocks or offends you? If so, what?

85. How do you deal with stress?

86. How much athletic ability do you have? Artistic?

87. Do you like animals? Do you like children?

88. Are you spontaneous, or do you always need to have a plan?

89. Do you have a pet? If so, what is his/her name? Species? Fur color? Etc…

SELF-IMAGE

90. What is your greatest strength as a person? Weakness?

91. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

92. Are you generally introverted or extroverted?

93. Do you like yourself?

94. Do you have a daily routine? How do you feel if your day is interrupted?

95. What goal do you most want to accomplish in the next six months? Your lifetime?

96. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?

97. If you could choose, how would you want to die?

98. What is the one thing you would like to be remembered for after your death?

99. What three words would you use to best describe your personality?

100. What three words would others probably use to describe you?

101. Why are you risking your life to adventure?

Getting Some Inspiration

Brian OldhamMy friend calculated that if I would leave at 2.15 am that I would home in time for 8 hours sleep. At around half past eleven I was already thinking, I am so tired, I need to go home. Of course my friend wouldn’t have it and so I stayed until 2.15 pm. At that moment everybody was getting their jackets and bags, ready to leave. So I got my coat and left the house with them. Nobody got left behind. Even though I live a 10 minute bike ride away from the b-day girls house, I managed to get home at 5 am.

So, yes, this is another post on how, if you decide to party, you won’t get any work done. No inspirational blogposts and no quality time pursueing one of my artistic dreams. In stead I leave you with another website, where I get inspiration from: My Modern Metropolis. The photo above is from that site and they give you beautiful photographs, architectural inspiration and remarking art. A website worth checking out when you, like me, have no energy or inspiration to make something yourself.

All The Reasons You Need

Sometimes you stumble upon the most elaborate list of reasons that you need to justify some choices you have made. Like this blog ‘25 things writers should know about traveling‘. Yes, I am going traveling. At the end of the year. Three whole months. With no budget. One suitcase. And a lot of pens and paper. While being over 30. Because I am a writer. (And because I can, apparantly).

The Great Advantage of Failing Fast

Yesterday, I posted a wonderful quote of Cher with the promise to explain why failing is such a great thing. Cher was talking about looking foolish, but I think the same can be said about failing. Or you look foolish because you failed at something. For example: writing something completely rubbish and posting it online. You might look foolish, but if you can’t accept that not all your writing will be Pulitzer price worthy, how can you grow?

We only know heights, because we know the lows. How else are you going to define ‘great’ if there isn’t something foolish opposing it?

The last couple of weeks I have been attending loads of conferences and the new power expression is ‘fail fast’. If you fail slow, you won’t have many successes either, the experts say. So fail fast, so you’re successes will come fast as well. They follow the 80/20 rule with that: of all new ideas 80 per cent will fail and 20 per cent will be a direct hit. I think that is something to keep in mind when we try to be creative. We make lots of drafts of our painting, our stories or theatre plays, but we don’t say we make ‘fails’, right?

Being ashamed of failing is something we grow-up humans experience. I wrote in an earlier post on editorannedaily.wordpress.com:

You have seen these funniest home video’s of cats making the wrong jump and end up getting stuck? Or bumping into a window? Do you think these cats are like ‘ooohhh myyy, I feel soooo ashamed! I hope my boss didn’t see me’? NO, they don’t. They get up and try again. Or the kid that is trying to walk? He falls down every once and a while, even when he’s a bit older. Do you think he’s going to hide and think by himself: ‘Oh my mommie is gonna think I am so stupid, because I fell.’ NO! He just gets up and try again.

There is another dimension to it: by trying, experimenting, making drafts, we will come outside our comfort zone and find new solutions to old problems. Succesful artists have acknowledged this side of ‘failing’. In the book ‘the secret of genius’ by Tijn Touber a couple of geniuses are quoted:

If you don’t fail every now and then, it means you’re not being very innovative – Woody Allen.

Fall regularly, the world looks different from the ground up – Oprah.

A genius makes no mistakes. His mistakes are the gateways to new discoveries – James Joyce.

Or like Cher said: if we can’t be foolish, we will never be great. Cheers to all the failures, the draft and the falls.

Cher On Looking Foolish

AfbeeldingToday, I leave you with a thought, a quote to think about, a wisdom Cher (of all people) has given us. I think she is right, I wrote about this before and will share again tomorrow (I am in the train and the laptop battery is almost giving up). I collect these wisdoms and quotes on my Pinterest board, if you’re looking for more! 

A Different Take On Things

A big bonus to being a journalist? Travel. I get to travel three or four times a year. This week I temporarily moved to London. For two whole days. You know what is great about travelling, even to a city you have been before? Seeing things afresh.

It is something so basic, I hear you think ‘and now what?’ What happens when we get out of our routine, we exercise our brain. You can call it BrainPump or CombatBrain, it takes a lot of energy and it may even hurt, but we’ll get stronger in the end.

If you are stepping out of our comfort zone, the brain starts making new connections between different parts and knowledge available inside. You see where this is going? Making new connections makes us more creative, because it will increase the possibility to connect a particular problem with a unusual solution.

Finding a solution when abroad or a different place closer to home, can be very practical: for example using my hotelroom as a location for one of my story. Or use the structure of the wall in my room (it’s weird, trust me), for a painting. But if we trust our brain and our capabilities we can just relax and let the brain do her work. Maybe in a year we find the most effective solution to a difficult problem all thanks to this trip and the exercise my brain had here.

Should We Know What Our Purpose Is Right Now?

The thought that I could become a journalist, grew on me during a year at the Free University (Vrije Hogeschool), more than ten years ago. I had been writing for some time, but with no particular purpose. I thought writing is something everyone does, not something to specialize in. Of course, one could become a writer, but I could surely never be that.

Until that year, where I learned about retorics and writing an argument. I had to perform it later, but just the process of getting all the information, knowing what both sides of one topic could think and getting it all on paper, was the best feeling ever.

Later I discovered that I could do more with my writing. Sure, I had been writing stories for years now, but it was not until I did a course at the Writers Trade School in Amsterdam (Schrijversvakschool) that I became more involved. If I wanted to get better, I would have to do it more often.

Sometimes I hear from friends or acquaintances that they knew from when they were little, what to become. I never knew that, and even though I love my work as a journalist, I sometimes dream about other lifes, Like being a fulltime writer or artist. Do I miss something? A real passion? And is that even a problem?

According to Roman Krznaric of the School of Life it is not. Hooray! He writes in the book ‘How to find fulfilling work’ that even though we can have fulfilling work, a calling is not something that is there instantaneously or that we shouldn’t work to find it.

On the educational and entertaining website Brain Pickings, he is quoted talking about Marie Curie:

Curie was absolutely committed to her career. She lived an almost monastic lifestyle in her early years in Paris, surviving on nothing but buttered bread and tea for weeks at a time, which left her anemic and regularly fainting from hunger. She shunned her growing fame, had no interest in material comforts, preferring to live in avirtually unfurnished home: status and money mattered little to her. When a relative offered to buy her a wedding dress, she insisted that “if you are going to be kind enough to give me one, please let it be practical and dark so that I can put it on afterwards to go to the laboratory.” Before her death in 1934, aged 67, she summed up her philosophy of work: “Life is not easy for any of us,” she said. “But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.

Marie Curie never had [a] miraculous moment of insight, when she knew that she must dedicate her working life to researching the properties of radioactive materials. What really occurred was that this goal quietly crept up on her during years of sustained scientific research. … Her obsession grew in stages, without any Tannoy announcement from the heavens that issued her a calling. That’s the way it typically happens: although people occasionally have those explosive epiphanies, more commonly a vocation crystallizes slowly, almost without us realizing it.

So there is no great mystery behind it all. If we want a job that is also a vocation, we should not passively wait around for it to appear out of thin air. Instead we should take action and endeavor to grow it like Marie curie. How? Simply by devoting ourselves to work that gives us deep fulfillment through meaning, flow and freedom. … Over time, a tangible and inspiring goal may quietly germinate, grow larger, and eventually flower into life.

I am completely and utterly assured about my life purpose and calling. We just have keep working, keep our minds open and keep our eyes open for the next best opportunity.

Number One Priority For Delivering Good Work

What’s your number one priority when you want to deliver good and creative work? What makes you jump higher? What makes you feel awesome and lovable when no one else is giving you any reason for that special feeling? What makes you be kind when all others are bitchin’? What makes you inspirational? What makes you make long hours? What makes you overcoming white papers, white canvasses and empty minds? 

Mine? Sleep. I need sleep. I need the full eight hours. For some reason I have laid away for pretty much all night, tossing and turning, dreaming the weird dreams. I need sleep. 

Someone suggested that the full moon (which is on her way) might be messing with our heads. What do you think?

Sometimes You Just Have To Listen

AfbeeldingI am talking about listening in the most physical form you can imagine: going to a concert (NOT a party) andlet the music fill you. Yesterday we (I mean ‘we’ as me and my (writer!!) friends) went to see Laura Jansen. She inspires people. You know how she does that? She sings like an Angel. She ís probably an Angel too; according to others she is a very nice and friendly person. 

Apart from that she is extremely funny, making fun of her depressing period and the person who encouraged to put it on paper (in a positive way, he brought her to new heights in a musical way). She isn’t afraid to tell us, she is afraid. Insecure about the stuff she does so well (sing and play the piano). Which reminds me that insecurity isn’t bad at all, you just have to channel it in the right direction. 

The most inspiration came from the fact that she doesn’t turn this insecurity into hurting other people or feeling better than everybody else. She even asked us to be more polite, more friendly. Because, people of the internet, no inspiration, no creativity comes from being an asshole. 

For me, that is a challenge, I can tell you. Not because I am a bitch. Well, alright, sometimes I am, but I am too nice. Or Have Been, I have learned in the last year, it is best to push people away who are assholes to me, because I really don’t need another load of crap. I need love. So I try to balance the being nice to myself and the being nice to someone else. 

Thát brings inspiration, why? Because you can stay in your own strength while acknowledging the strength of the other. You are an artist, but you can learn and get inspired by another artist. You can have success, but someone else can sail along side of you. Isn’t that sweet? And I learn all that, just from listening to Laura Jansen. An inspiration for us all.