Loud and Quiet Days


I’m feeling a bit ~quiet~ today, which is a thing that comes and goes in waves. You know those days where you turn a bit inward and think a little deeper on things than on most days.

Today my thoughts are hovering over reality, expectations, promises [kept and broken], goals, forward motion, commitment, longevity, why some supernova collapse into blackholes while others morph into neutron stars. You know, light stuff like that.

When I drift into these moods, it’s nice to find other’s words to help express what I’m feeling. It’s part of the processing, I guess. A way to sort things out—simplify them—and ease back to a more outward existence.

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” ~Anais Nin

And a lot of times one set of words will lead me to another set, which may or may not be directly related but possesses this ethereal connection somehow.

A lot of you will readily know this reference

A lot of you will readily know this reference

And I seem to stumble upon the most random & interesting tidbits when in this mindset.

Described by one scientist as “the ultimate alchemists,” stars are pretty incredible in that they are these miraculous self-contained and proactive systems that, with the pure power of their own mass, produce the principle elements of life.  Then, because all life is about connection, they clump together into star forming regions (or nebula), evolving, and turning themselves into new stars. ~ Lynn Johnson

So, yeah: growth and transformation and thoughts and stars.

The great thing about these ~quiet~ days is how they usually spark new ideas. They serve as those star-birthing nebulae. And they also help existing ideas, thoughts & emotions kinda coalesce. They’re as welcome as the ~loud~ days, and perhaps cherished because of their rarity.

Here’s to hoping you find that perfect balance of ~loud~ and ~quiet~ days.

nebula A lot of times, my ~quiet~ days are triggered by hurt. Someone I trust, I’m close to, lets me down in some way. The processing is how I stretch beyond the hurt to forgiveness. Because nobody wants to be a blackhole.

Are You Applying for the #AmtrakResidency?

View through the Amtrak window. NY state?

View through the Amtrak window. NY state? – July 2013

I took my first train ride over July 4th weekend 2013. Cleveland >> Buffalo >> Toronto >> Return.

This trip was amazing for a ton of reasons: couchsurfing, TORONTO, the travel itself. A good portion of my quick turnaround four-day weekend was spent on a train. [Details here: http://wp.me/p2k31x-oA]

Only selfie I took on my Amtrak nomad trip

Only selfie I took on my Amtrak nomad trip – July 2013

At that point, I was revising my novel Phreak Show and plotting Epistle Of Doff. I’m not sure if wi-fi is a thing on some trains, but there was no internet access on my trip. Translation: productivity.

A lot of you are already aware of the #AmtrakResidency Program for writers. If not, check out the origin story here: http://blog.amtrak.com/2014/01/tweet-lands-writer-best-workspace/

Toronto-Best (42)

Random ?orchard? scenery I whizzed past – July 2013

And if you dig the idea of a long distance train ride in a sleeper car [complete with desk], you can complete your own application here:  http://blog.amtrak.com/amtrakresidency/

[I totally jumped on that thing the second I realized the application was live.]

View of the Niagara River from the train

View of the Niagara River from the train – July 2013

During the application process you’ll have to confirm that you read the Official Terms. I’m [obviously] not a lawyer, but we writers are always concerned about works-related rights. Right? Right.

So, with that in mind, consider the clause in Item 6 of the Official Terms before selecting what writing sample to include with your submission:

6.   Grant of RightsIn submitting an Application, Applicant hereby grants Sponsor the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy Applicant’s Application, in whole or in part, for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and marketing, and to sublicense such rights to any third parties…

Bear in mind that as part of the application, your submitted sample (up to 10 pages) falls under the above Grant of Rights. You know, not that that should hinder you in any way. Just something to weigh and perhaps aid in the sample selection process.

Buffalo-Best (2)

Early morning chillin in the Cleveland station

So my application’s in. With up to 24 possible slots with 1000’s [10,ooo’s ?] of applicants, it’s a long shot for any of us. But that’s okay, because an investment of 15 minutes time could end up in a 2-5 day train excursion. Pretty rockin’ tradeoff if you ask me.

Outside one of the Buffalo stations - July 2013

Outside one of the Buffalo stations – July 2013

Q: Who else is applying for the #AmtrakResidency?
Q: If you don’t score one, now that the concept is under your skin, would you self-fund your own train trip as a writing retreat?

Formatting Tips for Writers – Chapter Breaks

Word formatting 4

I wear a ridiculous number of hats. [More metaphorically than in actuality, because I love my hair. I kinda treat it as living art.] One feather in one of those symbolic caps is this: I’m MS Certified in Word & Excel. Like, a certificate and everything.

Often, I see questions tossed out on Twitter: HELP! Does anyone know how to [insert formatting issue here]??? Also, when I CP, I find really strange formatting things going on and I’m all like: ZOMG this is a pain in the ass how do you even deal with this madness ahhhh let me help you please please I beg you no really I don’t mind please.

So, I figured, why not share a bit of the knowledge hinted at by that little certificate? Thus, as long as you loverly readers are interested & gaining golden info, I’m gonna do a series of  Formatting Tips for Writers.

I use MS Word 2010. If you have a different version, or your toolbars are set up differently, feel free to comment below or hit me up on Twitter [@LucasMight] and I’ll gladly walk you through how to format with your specific setup.

Today: Inserting chapter breaks [with a delicious, free-of-charge side-dish of Chapter Navigation]. And if you already have a manuscript, you can easily go back in and apply these steps retroactively.

Step 1 – Choose a Heading Style: When you begin each chapter, select a Heading Style. [I choose Heading 1, then change the color to black.] Type your chapter title. Once you hit enter, the style will automatically revert to your default font style.

Word formatting 3

Step 2 – Insert a Chapter Break: Type your awesome words. After the last sentence of the chapter, hold down [Ctrl] as you hit [Enter]. This will insert a Page Break so your new chapter begins at the top of it’s own page. Even after you revise, add or remove words, it will forever stay where it should.

Step 3 – Use the Navigation Pane: Let’s fast forward. You have chapters with perfect page breaks. By using the Header Style, you also have another tool at your disposal. On the VIEW tab at the top, click the Navigation Pane checkbox. A list of chapters appears as a left-hand sidebar. This makes hunting down and navigating your chapters during revision/editing so fantastically easy. If you ever want it out of the way, simply uncheck the box.

Word formatting 2

There are a ton of tips and topics I’ve seen other cry for help on, or that make my drafting, revising, CP’ing, etc so much easier. The functions are there, and I’d love to put that damn certificate to good use by passing the wisdom on.

Do you have formatting questions?
Word issues that give you headaches & keep you from actually writing?
Things that MUST have an easier way to accomplish?

Let me know via comments or Twitter. MS Certified Lucas at your service.
:: tips hat ::