Time to Retreat

Napoleons retreat from Moscow

Napoleons retreat from Moscow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Retreat
Fall Back
Retreat

These words conjure up images of war.

You know …

Decorated gentlemen on horseback, led by an officer who is poised on his white stallion as he stares down the enemy. The color guard flying their flags so you know for whom they fight.

The officer shouts, “Charge,” and the battle begins.

Men start running toward one another, stomping out a rhythm of pending collision. Weapons ready. Their mouths open wide issuing battle cries. Gunshots ring out; contributing to an orchestra of chaos.

Wisps of smoke grasp with shady white fingers to catch hair and coattails flying past as if to draw the warriors back. Mid-cry the smoky air rises. It chokes and coughs fall from lips as it fills their lungs. It stings and tears spill down their dirty cheeks.

Battle cries turn from fierce to fearful as pain replaces courage and infantry men are injured. Rivers of red flow through the peaks and valleys of the fallen soldiers who litter the field; many lost lives and some lost limbs. This is the heavy price of war.

The Grande Armée Crossing the Berezina.

The Grande Armée Crossing the Berezina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hope starts to wane as they watch their brothers in arms fall to the left and right. Where conviction of belief once went before them, confusion settles in. They look around, bewildered and wonder what cause they’re fighting.

At last in the distance a shout reaches them. It breaks through the noise of metal on bone and bone on bone.

The disembodied voice of the commanding officer shouts, “Retreat! Fall back! Retreat!”

He’s lost enough men today, in a matter of hours, which means he’s lost this battle. He wishes to keep the remaining soldiers safe, alive and well to fight another day and possibly win the war.

re·treat [ri-treet]noun

1.the forced or strategic withdrawal of an army or an armedforce before an enemy, or the withdrawing of a naval force from action.

You’re wondering what this has to do with me? Well … this is my life: a war over time and self-care on the battlefield of busyness.

My enemies are my schedule: work, family, friends, committees, and personal goals; and my distractions: TV, movies, Facebook, twitter, podcasts, and anything else of interest. They all crash together vying for the optimal position in priority.

And I feel like I’m losing this battle. But I won’t lose the war.

So this weekend I responded to the call of my commanding officer to retreat. To take time to recharge, regroup, assess my losses, and ready myself to go back into battle.

My church hosted a women’s retreat which sold out quickly. My sisters in arms are all fighting on different fronts and needed this time …

re·treat [ri-treet]noun

5.a retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation.

And, the busyness of life almost prevented me from going. We had scheduling conflicts with my husband who also had a retreat this weekend and his wonderful mom who came to stay with the dudes while we were away.

I missed part of the weekend retreat but am so thankful that I didn’t decide to bag the whole event. I was able to make the drive to the campgrounds in silence, watching the snowy landscape pass by. It allowed me to clear my head and my heart in preparation. (My apologies I didn’t get any pictures of the location.)

English: Snowy Day at Droop Mountain, WV

English: Snowy Day at Droop Mountain, WV (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I arrived I had the privilege of hearing three moving testimonies of women I’ve known or observed over the years. Emotional and vulnerable stories about coming to faith that they hadn’t shared before. Stories that made me cry and celebrate their triumph.

In those moments, these courageous women let down their guard. It made me grateful for the community … for the solitude … for the reminder that we all need to rally together after a long hard fought battle.

I wish I could adequately capture the feeling of peace for you. I wish that you could understand how refreshed I feel with just one day away from my normal routine.

I am incredibly thankful.

Maybe you can relate … maybe you just need a break. It doesn’t have to be faith based like mine was but maybe you are craving the quiet so you can face another day.

Tell me … what is your war? What battles have you lost and won? But most important … how do you retreat?

Definitions complements of dictionary.com

Images from Zemanta

Advertisements

I’m Not Your Superwoman

Lois Lane's first appearance as Superwoman. Ar...

Lois Lane’s first appearance as Superwoman. Art by John Sikela. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a song I loved growing up, titled: I’m Not Your Superwoman, performed by Karen White. If you were to go check out the lyrics (video here), you’d wonder why it appealed to my teenage self. But it did non-the-less.

A few years ago I started using the catch phrase: “Well I’m off to save the world one person at a time.” It was my standard exit line instead of “bye” or “I have to go.”

People would say things like “Oh you’re a superhero?” Of course, dripping with sarcasm.

To which I would reply in the affirmative. Assuring them, “My cape is tucked into my blazer and my tights and boots were hidden in my heels.

They’d ask, “If you’re a superhero, what powers do you have?”

Thinking they’d stumped me I would smile and say, “I can read minds.”

You know what comes next …

Prove it!”

You’re thinking, she’s out of her @#$% mind,” I’d say, getting a laugh for my flippancy.

I’m not your Superwoman …

Nor do I want to be …

Boy I am only human …” is a line from the song. And that’s me. I’m only human. And most of the time the first person I’m off to save is me, from myself.

Superwoman (Kristin Wells). Art by Gil Kane, 1983.

Superwoman (Kristin Wells). Art by Gil Kane, 1983. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up though … my mom was Superwoman. She worked full-time outside of the home. I honestly don’t know how she did it. Even with the help of 4 able-bodied children.

Our house was always clean. She managed to make home-cooked meals at least 4 nights a week. The other 3 nights were handled by the leftovers. Laundry was always done. And not just washed and dried but folded and put away. And, we didn’t have a dryer, they were hung on a clothesline outside (year round). Dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, scouring.

It all got done some how; without modern conveniences. We didn’t have a dishwasher (she still doesn’t). I was almost out of high-school before we got a microwave.

Yet, our home was a constant state of “guest readiness”.

Where am I going with this?

My husband and I have been talking about hiring someone to come in and help clean our house; maybe cook meals. We just can’t do it. Not with our schedules and other responsibilities. 

I have several friends who’ve referred their person or service; a maid who fills the gaps in house work and does the things that they just can’t. It seems the norm within my peer group.

And crazy as it sounds … it feels like cheating … taking an unauthorized shortcut. I actually feel guilty for needing the help (which I shouldn’t – feel guilty that is).

I mean what’s different from the generation before to my generation now? I guess each generation has its battle. For my mom, she was up against the June Cleaver model of wife and mother.

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot "It's a ...

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot “It’s a Small World”, 1957. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still … how’d she pull it off?

My mother was always the first one up and usually the last one down. Which is true for me too but I accomplish far less around the house than she did.

I don’t remember seeing her enjoy much of the homey home she provided. She rarely sat to read a book or watch TV. Maybe on Mothers’ Day or her birthday meals were prepared and served to her. There weren’t days of staying in her PJs to cuddle up with us.

That’s not what I want from my life.

So this is me giving myself permission: I’m NOT Your Superwoman.

I’m just a woman … a mom … a wife … an employee … a daughter … a friend … a sister … Dreaming of living a SUPER life.

Now I’m off to save my world.

To all you Superwomen out there, my cape’s off to you for all that you do!

Superwoman (Kristin Wells)

Images from Zemanta

What I Learned at Jot

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I believe it’s important to continue to grow personally and learn new things, despite being a creature of habit. There’s a saying:  Knowledge is Power. Maybe you’ve heard it before. Anyway, this is the reason I encourage all writers to attend a writing conference.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a local event … one night only … four short hours … with writing time built in. JOT:  the GR writers mini-conference.

It was a great event. I dare say special. And what made it extra special, is my hubby went with me and we made a date night of it.

The most valuable lesson I learned at JOT wasn’t a specific bullet point from a specific presentation. It was the entirety of the experience. The most valuable lesson was steeped in reflection. Like hot water is to a tea bag, JOT was to my writer’s mind. Extracting the full flavor.

It finally occurred to me … What I’d failed to recognize before was suddenly clear. And I smiled to myself as I sat soaking up everything this event had to offer, sipping coffee with my notebook open, and my husband sitting next to me. Ahhh … the moment of enlightenment.

You’re wondering what I learned and why I was smiling?

I realized that I couldn’t appreciate the message of each presenter or the questions of each writer without having already failed at their writing advice.

Huh? Yes, there is something to be said for the try, fail, and adjust process.

Let me explain …

One presenter said, “Write your first draft as quickly as possible,” which is great advice.

The reason? Your writer’s voice changes over time. Each book or article you read or write; each day that passes and experiences lived cause you to evolve.

So the quicker you put all the words for your novel down the better it is for keeping a consistent voice and minimize some editing as a result. Makes sense.

But as someone who is well into her second year of a first draft (writing in the gaps of life), I can totally see it. When I read the earliest parts of my manuscript I can recall what I was reading and see how it influenced my output.

Do you see? I wouldn’t  have been able to wrap my mind around this concept if I weren’t living the failure of it already.

Another presenter talked briefly about platform. That all important word that strikes fear and stress into writers. Because we have to figure out how to use social media to gain a following of engaged readers.

He said, “The number one reason books are turned down [for publication] is lack of platform.” He defined platform as the ability to promote your story.

I understand how important platform is. Still I struggle with it. I worry, wonder, and doubt what I should or should not share. Is it worthy or value added?

And even though I’ve garnered around 200 followers between my blog and twitter account, I dare say only a handful are “engaged”. If I weren’t in the process of building my own platform this advice wouldn’t resonate with me.

Trying and failing is a remarkable teacher. If we adjust our actions based on where we fell short and what we were trying to achieve we stand to accomplish something great.

So don’t be afraid to jump in and just start.

Now you may think I’ve contradicted myself … I still advocate for attending writers’ conferences and applying practical knowledge gained.

Just remember there is plenty of advice out there on writing. Some of it is Best Practice and shouldn’t be ignored, but it doesn’t mean all of it will work for you.

I’ve learned a lot about my writing process just by trying. And I’ve learned a number of things by following the advice of others.

I appreciated my experience at JOT for the epiphany and because they delivered exactly what they promised:  Meet. Learn. Write. Looking forward to the next JOT.

What life event led to your most recent “aha moment”? Do you learn best by doing or from instruction? Feel free to leave me a comment. I’d love to hear your story.

3 Writer’s Truths

Writer's Stop

Writer’s Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)

I love how our experiences teach us the best lessons. I love how they shape us.

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard some interesting statements which have made me reflect on my writer life. These statements have led me to some new truths.

I want to share my new found knowledge with you. Forgive me if these are truths that you already carry around with you.

1. Knowing is half the battle.

I had the privilege of attending a motivational conference for work. One of the speakers said, “Know some stuff, so you can say some stuff.” Her topic was about meeting new people, striking up conversations with strangers.

My colleague and I were tickled by this assertion. Why? Because it’s obvious. To have something interesting to contribute to any conversation you have to know something.

I guess this is why some of the most frequent advice to writers is you should be readers especially in the genre you write. Reading is research. It helps you know stuff.

Another frequent piece of writer advice is write what you know. My recommendation … know some stuff, just as the speaker at this event said. Then you’ll have lots to say.

But equally important to remember, like in a conversation, is the other person knows something too. Your reader knows stuff. You don’t have to describe or explain everything because the readers’ experience can fill in gaps.

2. Boring is relative.

I listen to a few podcasts. On a recent episode of I Should Be Writing, the host was reading comments and questions from her listeners. One said, “My life isn’t interesting enough to blog about.” Hmmm.

Then I listened to an episode of Writing Excuses where the writing prompt was:  The Hero of the Most Boring Story Ever.

Both made me think of the Seinfeld phenomenon. A show about nothing that has a cult following.

Isn’t it the responsibility of the writer to help the reader connect to the content; to get them to feel something?

If our lives aren’t interesting or if we are the hero of the most boring story ever, it doesn’t matter. Boring is relative. We need to make them feel excited about what we perceive as boredom, just as Seinfeld writers accomplished.

My recommendation … write with abandon … write like what you have to say is the most important and exciting, interesting, wonderful story that needs telling. It’s your job.

3. Solitude produces the goods.

I recently added a new podcast to my list, The Introvert Entrepreneur. In this episode, they were explaining the differences between introversion and shyness. The guest quoted Carl Young, “…The introvert is usually happy alone with a rich imagination and prefers reflection to activity…”

This made me think of a cartoon that my mom-in-law sent me by Jason Love. The caption is:  “The writer:  Someone who spends a lifetime in solitude for the sake of communication.”

Sound like any writers you know? Maybe yourself. Definitely me.

Now … let me say that not all writers are introverts and not all introverts are shy … but it stands to reason that if introverts are recharged by their alone time that their best work would come during times of solitude.

My best writing ideas come when I am alone with my thoughts like curling my hair, taking a shower, doing the dishes or driving to work.

My recommendation … make solitude a priority if you want results. It can get your creative juices flowing.

So … these are my new truths. Maybe I’ve always known them but hadn’t categorized them. Either way I will be operating in truth.

What have your recent life experiences taught you? What new truths will you be exercising? Share the stuff you know in the comments and make it engaging!

Photo from Zemanta

Something Got Done

 

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Oh Yeah!

Thanks to my writing partner I set out to make the most of writing in January. I decided to make it A Month of Something.

And thankfully, I have the privilege of announcing that Something Got Done … Lots of something … I was able to check something off my list time and again.

As stated in the original post I didn’t want to focus solely on word count for fear of paralysis.

Instead, I focused on days/times writing. I focused on addressing open plot questions. I focused on new scenes without looking at old ones. I focused on character development. And, I focused on moving forward.

All that focusing on SOMETHINGS led to RESULTS.

Somethings” to Celebrate:

  1. The End – As I stated in the A Month of Something post, I wrote a 400 word scene of what I envision being the end of the story. Can I get woot-woot?
  2. Finishing Scenes – I wrote two scenes that I’ve been putting off since summer. I had one sentence descriptions and now they’re done. They are rough but have so much potential. Raise the roof!
  3. New Scenes – I wrote two new and unexpected scenes. Also, rough but ripe with potential. One Love!
  4. Characters – I discovered that my comic relief characters have British accents. Who knew? Nervous about how to write it well but it plays marvelously in my head. Throw your hands in the air…
  5. Planning – I actually sat down and revisited my story “outline”. Made some modifications based on where the story is right now. …and wave them like you just don’t care…
  6. Research – I did some. I looked up education requirements and credentials that my grief counselor would need to possess. I requested input on linking two worlds within my story. And, if you didn’t already know, this is my least favorite part of the writing process. Or, to state it plainly: I hate research. So this is a huge victory. Can I get an amen?
  7. Images – I found some great pictures to represent my characters quirks or personalities. That’s how we do it …
  8. Writing Days – I checked my writing notebook and have identified 10 novel writing days since January 1; 5 of which were consecutive. Thank you very much. This doesn’t include blog post writing days … or the days that aren’t captured in the journal. Woo-hoo!
  9. New Words – I wrote 3,378 words in one month. That may not sound like much to some of you but it’s the best writing month I’ve had in a LONG time. High five!
  10. Word Count – My “ungoal” … without trying … by focusing on other aspects of writing … I broke the 40,000 word barrier. Now I have to say … I’ve been hovering so close to this for SO long that I nearly cried. As, I write this post I am at 42,631 words and that doesn’t include the dialogue I need to type up from my last writing day. CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES, COME ON!
  11. Birthday – And I turned another year older, wiser and willing-er to chase my dream. Bonus!

Again, these may not seem noteworthy to you, but I am excited about the progress and direction. I am excited that I had wins instead of losses.

I am grateful for my writing partners (and you … you know who you are) who graciously tolerated my tweets, emails, texts, and now blog posts, about how it was going. Thank YOU for the love!

Switching my POV about writing my novel and what’s important reinvigorated me. I’m still in love with my story! I encourage you to measure something different to spark your creativity and drive your momentum.

Thanks for celebrating with me! Cheers~