The Care and Feeding of the Imagination


Today, my mind feels like a vast desert. Miles upon miles of sand without even a Saguaro in sight. The sunshine beats down on my head, burning out the engines of my thought. Fiction? What’s fiction? Writing? My soul wails and whimpers. As much as I enjoy my part-time job, my need for money has begun to take over and has parched out the lush jungle that was my imagination.

Writers rely on their imaginations as do all artists. Imagination also solves problems, visualizes futures, supports empathy, and opens hearts.  America, and Americans, could sure use a lot more imagination right now.


As for me, I need to take better care of my imagination.  I need to feed it what it needs to thrive.  In other words, I need to play like a child again.  Look at picture books.  Watch animated movies.  Go outdoors and play pretend.  Listen to music and move.  Kids have an instinct about play.  It comes naturally.  As kids grow up, each year they have more homework and less play.  In college, though, some playtime returns. I remember some radical water fights with other inhabitants of the Deutsche Haus when I was in college.

Where to begin?  First, it’s truly necessary to take care of whatever’s bugging me, i.e. chores, chores, and more chores.  Next, take care of the money issue.  I have a de-cluttering project started that will, I hope, bring in a nice chunk of money.  Of course, the issue with that project is having the time to really focus on doing the documentation and photographing, then uploading the items to selling websites.  It’s far more work than I’d expected.  And last, let go of the part-time job when I am at home. There is no reason with this kind of job to bring any of it home with me.

Once these adult things are out of the way, then my mind, I hope, will be fertile ground for my imagination and playtime.  What kind of play?  One of the things my imagination just loves is listening to classical music.  The music sparks characters, action, stories, and dialogue and continues to feed my imagination for developing them.

Free writing can also open all the doors and windows to let in lots of fresh air.  It’s written free association.  Sometimes I use writing prompts from The Writer or Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Lusser Rico. Or I pull a word out of the air to see what kind of character it will trigger in my imagination.

Writing natural way book cover

Movement tones up the old brain muscle.  It can be as simple as a brisk walk around the neighborhood, or as complex as a dance routine.  When I was a kid, I loved to dance.  I rushed home from school to watch American Bandstand and dance around our living room to the music.  Getting back in touch with my body helps me to feel comfortable and relaxed.  It’s amazing how much tension and stress accumulates in the body.

Does Nature feed your imagination?  Coloring pictures?  What do you do to revive the jungle of your imagination?




Writers Deserve Payment for Their Work!


Wil Wheaton over at Wil Wheaton dot Net wrote a post recently about being asked by The Huffington Post for permission to publish one of his blog posts on their website.  What followed was  a fabulous example of what so often happens on the Internet.  There still exists a general attitude that everything should be free on the Internet and available to everyone.  Well, it’s one thing for websites to be willing to make their content available to everyone for free, but quite another not to pay their content providers.

Please check out “you can’t pay your rent with ‘the unique platform and reach out site provides.‘”  I agree with Wil Wheaton and the stand that he took, and I thank him for taking it, and then writing about it at his blog.  Writers need to eat, pay rent and bills, and be able to live in a Capitalist society also!

Oh, What a Lovely Blog…Award!

one-lovely-blog-award-e1447361998422First time Anatomy of Perceval has been nominated for a blog award!  Thank you to Steph P. Bianchini at the Earthian Hivemind for the nomination and the recognition.  I read Earthian Hivemind fairly regularly for its science and its love of speculative fiction.  Please check it out if you share those interests.

According to the rules of participation, I need to write about seven interesting facts about myself.  My first reaction was that I’m actually a pretty boring person!  But there are certainly facts about me that I’d be quite willing to share, in the hope that they are interesting enough to qualify….

  1.  I have lived in Vienna, Austria and speak German.  My German is a bit rusty now, especially since I haven’t been going on a regular basis to the German conversation group I joined 8 years ago.  Vienna is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I wish I could return. In Vienna, I especially loved cafes, Stadtpark, trams, and the Vienna Philharmonic.
  2. In 1987, I fulfilled a life-long dream to go to Russia.  The tour included Moscow, St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), and the Russian Orthodoxy’s “Golden Circle.”  It was in the autumn in all its glorious colors, and I fell in love with the Russian forests as well as St. Petersburg.
  3. Deju Vu, I believe, can be connected with possible past lives. Yes, I believe in reincarnation! I’ve experienced powerful deja vu in places I’d never been before in this life. It’s a very odd sensation to know a place so well I didn’t need a map to get around…but I’d not been there before!
  4. In addition to writing fiction, I also write nonfiction, and I’ve been published online at, among other places.  An ongoing nonfiction project is a memoir entitled The Successful Patient.  I’ve given a couple talks on how to be a successful patient and communication with medical professionals.
  5. Classical music is my heart, while writing is the breath of my soul. I’ve loved classical music since I was very young.  I have sung in choirs, played the French horn in orchestras and bands, played the piano as a soloist, in chamber groups and as an accompanist.  Now I write about music.
  6. The first book I ever read on my own was Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, a book my father had read to me on a regular basis.  My mother read Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to be before bed. I love Russian literature, mysteries, science fiction, thrillers (especially espionage thrillers), biographies, and I’m open to other nonfiction. As I don’t have a favorite composer, I also do not have a favorite author, but there are some I return to often.
  7. After seeing Bernardo Bertulucci’s movie Little Buddha, I was so deeply moved that I began studying Buddhism on my own. It led me to deepen my spiritual beliefs, as well as to be inclusive regarding others.  I also studied the Koran at about the same time, and learned about Hinduism from which Buddhism had emerged. Now I practice Falun gong whenever I can, and am looking forward to finally starting a yoga practice.

And now, for my nomination of 15 bloggers for the One Lovely Blog Award. This is difficult because there are so many out there and I hope that my 15 will also nominate each another 15 to capture even more lovely blogs on the Web.  I encourage all my readers to check out the blogs that Earthian Hivemind nominated, too.

In conclusion, to all my blogger nominees, here is the list of rules to participate:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to her/his blog.
  2. List 7 interesting facts about yourself.
  3. Nominate 15 other bloggers and inform them by posting on their site.
  4. List the rules and display the award.

Thank you!  I look forward to hearing from other bloggers and learning about new blogs to read.

In Search of the Right Word

Gregg Bradem: Autumn Way

Gregg Bradem: Autumn Way

Autumn, my favorite season, colors the world in golds, crimsons, oranges, and earth browns. The air, lit by the sunshine through the trees, shimmers warm like gold dust.  Or sunshine air, warm and light, shines golden against the crisp azure sky. Or…what are the right words? How do I describe as accurately as possible the experience of autumnal air? I seek something original, compelling, words that put the reader outdoors, under the trees, on a warm autumn afternoon.

Isn’t that the definition of writing? Seeking the right words to capture the essence of an experience, thing, place or person. We seek original ways to capture that essence in metaphor or simile, without using cliches. It can defeat even the most experienced writer. We read other writing to sow seeds of new perspectives in our imaginations or give our minds permission to explore and roam, to transcend the boundaries of mundane thinking.

I’ve begun a new first draft of a short story that will not leave me alone. In my imagination, this story occurs at some point in the near future, in a city with a large research university. The main character, Abigail, teeters on the cusp of change: she’s broken up with her boyfriend, looks for a new job, and deals with a flare of psoriasis that leads her to her dermatologist. Her adversary is a university professor, George, a lean, middle-aged man who believes in science above all else to explain the mysteries of the universe. Empirical evidence rules his life. Abigail will rock his life, but will he open his mind and listen? He places Abigail in front of colleagues at a symposium he’s designed to challenge her experience, and this is where the story opens. Will she participate or not?

Fiction writing satisfies me in a visceral way. I feel it deep in my bones. My non-fiction writing produces satisfaction, but not in the same way. Fiction carries me to a huge playground for my imagination where I can enter different worlds and universes. The characters are the players, there to show me their lives and stories. So, you see how important it is to find the right words?  Without them, I could lose my playground and players.  At least, that’s how it feels.

Where to search? In addition to reading as much fiction as I can in different genres, I also own several dictionaries, a thesaurus, a synonym finder, and I’ve had a lot of fun perusing resources online for words. Sometimes, I find the right word fairly quickly. At other times, I search for days. Or months. I’ve put a chapter of my first novel away to let it ferment without finding that right word, and returned to it months later. Sometimes even then I cannot find the word I want. At such moments, I must confront the possibility that the word doesn’t exist and proceed as I used to as a student when trying to speak German with Austrians, i.e. describe with other words the idea or image or thing.

No matter how many years I’ve been writing, the search for the right word reminds me that I am still learning. I would not have it any other way.

Laptop Computer: a tool of the writer in 2015

Laptop Computer: a tool of the writer in 2015

Good vs. Evil

RingstrilogyposterWhen the movies for Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy were in theaters and they were everywhere in the media, a friend asked me why they were so popular. Well, Tolkien tells a classic good vs. evil story in the trilogy and gives us memorable characters on both sides.  My friend nodded, then told me that he wasn’t a fan of fantasy anyway. To this day, I have no idea if he’s seen the movies or read the books.  I was thinking about this conversation the other day after I’d forwarded to him a hilarious story about a man vs. squirrel at Facebook.  I laughed thinking how the squirrel was the antagonist in the story, not the man.

That got me thinking: what is good?  What is evil?  We think we know, somehow, but how do we know? We know from the stories we’re told from birth that teach us morality and our system of beliefs. I’ve been fascinated about turning those beliefs around and seeing the world from the perspective of the antagonist, i.e. the “evil” side. Know thy enemy, so to speak.  That shows me that “good” and “evil” depends on one’s perspective.  In other words, there really is no absolute, just whatever large groups of people, allied or not, agree on what is good or what is evil…according to their beliefs and perspectives.

Stories and storytelling play a crucial role in perpetuating systems of beliefs. Writers are important in that regard.  Their role is perhaps what Joseph Campbell remarked about writers being modern human’s shamans.  Writers, being human, grow up learning about their culture’s system of beliefs from their parents and close relatives, then their school, their community, and eventually, in society.  They learn from stories these people tell them, stories that carry meaning in their themes.  The themes are intertwined with the story, the characters, and the structure.  And what is the most important element in these stories?


Entrenched in our belief system is a belief that “good” always defeats “evil,” but evil continues to exist in different forms everywhere. We must be vigilant against evil and know who our friends are.  Sound familiar? All of our stories build from this foundation belief. This conflict propels our stories.  We’re satisfied readers when the murderer is caught and convicted, dictators are overthrown, Orcs and Goblins are wiped out and the One Ring is destroyed.  In literature, we recognize four types of conflict: human vs. God (rare), human vs. Nature (anything in Nature including disease), human vs. human (most common), and human vs. herself or himself (perhaps the most interesting and most difficult story to tell well).

The most common narrative structure also supports the good vs. evil conflict, i.e. the 3-act dramatic structure. In act 1, we learn about the characters and their situations, including the protagonist. At the end of act 1, the protagonist must make a decision/choice/commitment and set a goal that will move him or her into act 2, the “conflict” act. This act is the longest and involves one conflict or obstacle after another that the protagonist must overcome. Often the antagonist creates most of the obstacles as part of the larger conflict, or the protagonist has conflicts with allies. The protagonist reaches a point at the end of this act when all appears to be lost and defeat is imminent, but then she does something, thinks of something, or learns something that gives her the means to overcome the obstacles amassed against her and to enter act 3 and the climax, i.e. the moment when the protagonist achieves the goal set at the end of act 1. After the climax, there can be a “resolution” that ties up loose ends or gives the reader the chance to share the satisfaction of victory with the protagonist and her friends.

Mordor in "The Lord of the Rings" movies

Mordor in “The Lord of the Rings” movies

In The Lord of the Rings, we have Frodo, the Hobbit, as the protagonist; Sauron is his antagonist. What do they each want? Well, Sauron wants the One Ring in order to return to power over Middle Earth.  Frodo wants to deliver that same ring to the fires of Mount Doom in order to destroy it and save Middle Earth. These two are not the only characters in the story, and those other characters support or fight against their desires and goals.

The next time you crack open a novel or attend a movie, think about the story and the conflict within it…..