Welcome to MTP. Here's some things you should know:

- The owner of this blog is by no means old, wise, or any combination of the two. In fact, he/she/it may be placed under either of the underwhelming categories of "fledgling" and "feckless." Feckless. Ah, what a beautiful word.

- I am a writer - I write. My posts will be long. My rambles will be longer.

- Comments are excellent. Silent pageviews, while appreciated, are depressing. Leave a comment! Spill your heart!

- Vocabulary is paramount here. If you got it, use it. And no, that doesn't mean you should introduce yourself as a "cogitator of brobdingnagian proportions." Put away the thesaurus. Go on. Drop it.

- There shall be no "hating." "Hating" does not exist. It's like my middle school principal used to say in a vain attempt to prevent frost-related "accidents" each January: "The snow does not exist. Do not touch the snow. Do not lick the snow. Do not throw the snow. You can't, of course. Because it's not there." In the same way, "hating" is for other places. This is (dare I say it?) a hate-free zone.

- Lastly...welcome to my creative outlet. Door's open wide.

Enjoy yer scrollin',

Enjoy yer scrollin',

Friday, May 24

How to Accomplish Anything Without Knowing What You're Doing - A Five-Step Plan

A hello to everyone in the blog-verse, and a welcome to MTP. We've been expecting you.

Before I launch into this post, I'd like to explain just how hard it was for me to come up with something suitable to write about. Every time I plopped down in my desk chair, my mind just wandered. Facebook, refresh. Ooh, look, Play-Dough. What's that speck on the wall? I wonder if my hair looks as terrible as I think it does. Do I have anything important to do today? What if I was Whitney Houston? Oh, I wanna dance with somebody...

Okay, maybe not that scattered, but pretty scattered. Until, of course, I found a hole in the fabric of society - a big, gaping hole. You've felt it at home. You've felt it at parties. You've felt it at huge family gatherings that no one really wants to go to, those ones where everyone shows up out of a sense of obligation.

It's called, what am I supposed to do right now?

Commonly mistaken as "awkwardness," the "what-am-I-supposed-to-do-right-now" syndrome is a brain malfunction where not a single directive thought runs through your mind for a few minutes, sometimes even a few hours. You feel like a trout in the Sahara - incapable of saying anything intelligent, or doing anything intelligent, so far outside of your "zone." (We're excluding, of course, the fact that a trout in the Sahara would die almost instantaneously.)

But sometimes we feel like that, don't we? I do. I want to melt into my shoes like a Fudgesicle in a greenhouse. Red face, sweaty hands (gross), shuffling of feet, awkward conversation ("I like your hair! I mean, your lack of hair. When did you shave your entire head? It looks fantastic!").

And so on.

So, how do we know what-we're-supposed to-do-right-now? Unless you, by some divine providence, already know, you can't know exactly what-to-do-right-now - but you can pretend you know what you're doing, which fools most people who don't really look.

I give you, How to Accomplish Anything Without Knowing What You're Doing (A Five-Step Plan):

1. Bring a buddy. No, this is not just for elementary-school field trips! This is for any situation in life. Whether you're headed to a Memorial Day barbecue this weekend or a wedding in Manhattan, you always need someone to pal around with, preferably someone who's just as desperate as you to look like they're doing something. It's amazing how much less awkward you feel when you've got someone laughing nervously over your shoulder.

2. Throw a line. Stuck in a conversation? Don't know how to continue it? Want to save yourself some silent gaps? Here's how: talk about the other person. Ask them about their recent move to Manitoba or their new fiance (under no circumstances may you talk about their ex-fiance), or, if they're younger, their least-favorite class in school. This one's important - never, ever, ever ask any student "How's school going?" You'll get "Fine," they'll think you're as unimaginative as the rest of 'em, and you're stuck again. Instead, talk about how Math was your least-favorite class and about that one time you cut Molly's hair with safety scissors. I'm cutting up the old adage: if you don't have anything nice to say about their personality, mention their dress/shirt/skirt/shorts/skort/dress pants/earrings/cuff links/lack of hair/new hairstyle/white teeth/sparkly shoes/expensive watch. Not saying anything at all won't help you much. If you ask them interesting things, you'll make a new friend. I guarantee it.

3. Carry something. A purse, a box, a notebook, a Kindle, a pencil, a tray of cookies, your sister. You always look busier with something in your hands. That way, if you're stuck in a conversation, you can say "Whoops, look at the time, look how important this thing in my hands is, yes, I have to put my sister the cookies in the other room, where they belong." Rush to the exit. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

4. Don't touch anything. Yes, everything in the room looks oh-so-interesting, but that glass vase could be worth your entire left arm. I don't care if you're deadly curious. I don't care if you want to poke around the china cabinet. If you're anything like me, it'll end up broken, and then you won't have a left arm. Console yourself with snooping around their bathroom cabinet - there's likely nothing breakable in there.*

*Oh, come on, you've done it. You've snooped. Studies show that 70% of those surveyed admitted to poking in guests' bathroom cabinet. How's that for creepy? (How many of you went to go clean your bathroom cabinet?)

5. Remember: you're less weird-looking than you think. So what if you're standing in the corner? So what if you look a bit like a trout in the Sahara? These gatherings are supposed to be fun. Most everyone else in the room feels trout-like. Find your buddy, grab your object, make some small talk - you'll survive. I promise.

Good luck at the Memorial Day barbecue (and for heaven's sakes, stop cleaning out your bathroom cabinet),

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Sunday, January 13

Writer's (Cement, Unbreakable, Irritating, Story-Killing) Block

Are you ready, readers, for a foray into unexplored territory?

Here is my fair warning: we're about to venture into perilous lands. It's bleak here. It's dangerous. You might not return with all your screws on tight. Heck, you probably won't return with all of your screws.
 If you want, don't accompany me. Leave. Stop reading. Save yourself!

Really, I would. Keep walking. Hightail it outta here. Go on. Git.
But - but, but, but. Before you leave. Let me tell you where we're going.

We're off to discover the cure for writer's inescapable, omnipresent block.

Are you gasping? Did you faint?

Now, I know what you're thinking. "But, Alex! Such a journey is as pointless as it is terrifying! Please, don't do this! Save yourself!"

And I'm thinking as I flip my hair, vogue-style, "Stop being so dramatic. Honestly. Kids these days." 

Alright, all of my eccentricities aside, we're really going to search for the cure. I, among all of you,I'm sure, have many-a-night stared at a blank Word document in desperation, forlornly picking the green M&M's from a ceramic bowl and downing them four at a time. Writer's block is a real, problematic thing, and today we're going to go about smashing that cinder to pieces.

The first step to overcoming writer's block is realizing the Simple Truth. This is heavy doctrine here. The Simple truth is...

You're not alone.

Really! I swear!

Every writer that has ever lived has, at one point, experienced writer's block. You're not the only one.
Just because you can't for the life of you get Timmy onto that starship headed to the planet Narflex without introducing his Uncle David, who isn't supposed to come in for at least another fourteen chapters, you're not a bad writer. Not even a little bit. In fact, writer's block is a sure sign of a healthy writing life. And while it can be a pain in the royal Narflex, it's bound to happen sometime, right? We're only human. We're not endless pools of brilliance. Well - arguably, we are - but sometimes those pools run a little dry.

Allow me to ask you a question. Do you write better right after you've seen a particularly good movie, or watched an interesting play? Does your pen flow more readily after you've been to the Metropolitan, or subsequent to reading a good book?

For most of us, the answer is yes. That's because the human mind loves new material. It processes it and threads new things through your brain that perhaps you'd never thought of previously, planting brilliant ideas in your head, seeds lying dormant for the proper moment to bloom. Your mind loves the arts.

Writing, remember, is an art; in my opinion, it's the finest form of art there is. What leads you to write? What leads painters to paint? Singers to sing? Composers to compose?


That's what led the greats and the not-so-greats. The famous and the infamous. Inspiration.

The trick to overcoming writer's block is simple, yet effective - get inspired.

That's it. That's the big secret.

Are you skeptical? Are your little mind-voices irritatingly asking, "Well, Alex, how do we get inspired?" They're right, you know. That's a good question. And this post will, hopefully, answer it.

These are a few ways that I employ to get inspired.

1. Listen to music. Not bad music. Good music. I'm not going to draw a definitive line for you - in truth, there's no such thing as "good" and "bad" music - but you should know by now which songs work for you, and which don't. Choose the ones that do. Here are two of my writing favorites:

Lindsey Stirling's entire album. With barely any lyrics at all she modernizes  the  violin in truly impossible ways. Don't believe me? Watch this video of her song "Shadows" and tell me that that woman isn't inspired.

Genius, right!? My inner inspiration's going haywire.

Florence and the Machine is, quite honestly, made for writing. Their lyric-writing is exceptionally done, and I find myself listening in the background while I pour my soul onto paper.

I like to listen to my music while I write, but for some auditory-inclined people, it gets difficult to concentrate. If that's true for you, set aside a few minutes before you hit the parchment and listen. You'd be surprised what magnificent ideas your brain's capable of conjuring. Here's another tip - jot down the song lyrics that strike you while you listen. Here's my sheet:

2. Draw. No, I don't care if you're not an artist. Start in the corner of a page and draw swirls until they cover the whole page. If you're artistically inclined, you might go for more advanced sketches. Don't think - just do. This is a relaxing, concentration activity. Take your time and think about your stuck story while you're doodling.  Here's mine:

Don't ask about the huge smiley face. Or the circus tent. I honestly don't know what comes over me.

3. Photography. Google your subject and let it inspire you. Got a scene that takes place in some shady wooded area? Search it! You might come up with something like this:

How cool is that!? Right?
Here's a fun exercise - after you've found a really cool photograph, take out a sheet of paper and think of a phrase that describes it. After looking at the above photo, the one that popped into my head was "Daylight is  twofold - mother to dusk and child to dawn."


So, there are a few ways to get your mind moving. There is no definite solution - it's different for everybody. But, in my experience, the only way to un-stuck yourself is to slide on by without direct confrontation. Then, when you're good and intellectually ready, take a jackhammer and smash writer's block from behind. It'll never see you coming.

Saturday, January 5

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

This list came about by accident.

Today, the laziest of all Saturdays, I was lounging around the house with a plate of pancakes and, of course, mulling over my "second post", for which I had no ideas. Blank. My mind was entirely blank.

Somehow, I got the brilliant idea to eat breakfast in my room. As much as I love those round circles of goodness...my bedroom is not the place to inhale them. It worked out for me in the end, though. For a while there, things took a turn for the worse: the syrup was running off of the side of the plate, and I was trying to balance it with one hand (having a fork and "The Complete Works of Jane Austen" in the other). My body was twisted in a pretzel shape as I tried to wipe my sticky fingers on a napkin...and I elbowed the space bar on my computer, kickstarting some playlist.

And then - may the angels sing their chorus - it hit me.

Mostly because The Sound of Music was playing in the background (I did reference my ever-evolving music library of showtunes, right?), but also because you should get to know me, I'm going to do a "favorite things" post. And, of course, my least-favorite things will find their way in there, as they always do. Sneaky little things.

#1: My journal.

I know, I know. A blogger with a handwritten journal - sue me. I find that it helps get your thoughts down. I guess I should abridge that...it's not really a journal. More like a "rambling book". I've already completed today's entry. It was a blue day. Not a melancholy blue - an acceptance blue, a calm blue.
Here it is:

She's a maaaaniac, maaaaniac...
#2: Mismatched socks. I'm incredibly lazy, and that probably has to do with it. Where I live (Narnia), it's pretty much freezing every day. Something about having different colors on my feet relaxes me. And warms my very, very cold toes. To the left is today's pair, along with some obnoxious, one-side-rolled-up PJ's.

(Oh, and something I hate? People who are obsessed with having socks that match.)

#3: My "academy plaid" TOMs. I wear them very nearly every day. Why not? They're comfy, and they go with everything. Plus, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that there's another kid wearing a matching pair in some foreign country. This is my second pair. The first, I actually wore holes in. Yeah, they qualify for this list. With flying colors.

#4: These. Enough said. I've broken about three pairs already.

#5: "The Stash". My ever-changing, ever-evolving, ever-spilling-out-of-the-cupboard stack of library goodness. Each time I visit, I take home about 15 books. When you visit once a week...you acquire a mountain of library fines. Gah!

#6: Jane Austen. The loveliest lady in literature. Alliteration is fun.

I've annotated "Pride and Prejudice". Watched both of the movies (before I read them - you can shoot me if you like. I know I've committed a crime against...everything). And there's no man quite like Mr. Darcy. To my dismay. To my extreme, extreme, extreme dismay.

#7: The view from my bedroom window. So very calm. Great for curling up next to with a book and a steaming mug of vanilla tea. Or the old laptop, for novel-writing, and some hot chocolate. Or my journal.

(One more thing I hate - that "racquet club" in the background. Nature ruined by people in sweatshorts jogging down my street. With those fuzzy '60's headbands. And '80's leg warmers. That's a novel-killing moment, if I ever saw one. Shudder.)

See, that wasn't so hard, was it, Alex? And it didn't even include a single kitten whisker. Or a raindroppy rose.

However...I do have a sudden craving. I wonder if we're out of schnitzel with noodles.

Friday, January 4

Welcome to Blog-Urbia.

This is it - the dreaded first post.

I've already set the background. Changed the font. Agonized over the header. Now it's time for the real stuff - the words.

My "first posts" have a history of being utterly awful, especially on my older blogs. Only my mother liked them, or at least, she pretended. They were terrible, and I admit it. Fully. With hands in the air (like I just don't care).

The only problem -- I do care. This one has to be good. Magnificent. Entertaining. Reflective. So far, all I've managed to do is talk about my lack of things to cram into this post. Lovely, eh?

So, let's get down to business, shall we?

My name, or my pseudonym, is Alex Grace. No, that isn't what's written on my birth certificate. But it'd be pretty cool if it was. As far as occupation goes, I'm a full-time student, an avid reader, and - hopefully - a blogger. I sketch, write, and listen to showtunes in my spare time, as well as hack away at the old novel.  If I'm not attacking a mountain of homework in my bedroom, I'm at the library. If I'm not in either of those places, and - lord forbid -spending time with the other humans, I've likely been replaced by the parallel-universe me that's been lurking in places that a broomstick can't reach.

Don't let me fool you, though. I'm an extrovert, against all odds. No matter how many times I try to deny it, I'm as extroverted as they come. I'm the first to say hello and the last to say goodbye. I've always been all over public speaking. Gasp - a writer, using VOCAL CORDS to convey ideas?!

I do love to speak, but I also love to write. Which is why I'm here - for a fresh start, a new blog, one that I'll update as often as I can.

That's about it for me.

I guess I should explain the title - Mightier the Pen, or MTP. It's based on that old adage, "the pen is mightier than the sword". Hence, "Mightier the Pen".

But you probably already knew that. No one said I was creative.

So, welcome to my blog. Welcome to my outlet. Welcome to my world. I'll have new posts up often, good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise. Please drop in again soon:

Uninvited, unsolicited, unexpected. Walk right in.