Signing Off, Broken Process, and a Writing Experiment

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My Colorado vacation highlight was hearing Gary D. Schmidt talk about writing and publishing. His advice was similar to what you may hear from other sources e.g. write every day. He recommended 500 words. Disciplined. Committed. Daily. No excuses.

I considered my writing process and the rationale behind it. Early on I determined every day didn’t work for me. It was too much. I needed time to ruminate, rejuvenate, etc.

Then I decided that word counts could be weekly instead of daily since I wasn’t writing every day anyway. It made sense.

And then, I figured my writing goals could be worked monthly so long as I donated some of my time to it. It’s not like it’s my ‘job’ right? Who needs deadlines? It will get done in its own time.

Four years later …

When my writing process seeped out of its dedicated-routine sized pitcher and leaked into a-hobby-I’ll-get-to later sized bucket, I didn’t notice. Until I kicked the bucket over making a huge puddle sized mess to mop up. A puddle, I promptly pulled up my pant legs and stepped over it.

I thought, “I’ll deal with you later,” because it was like trying to drink the ocean with a straw. A salty impossible mess.

Better for it to be out of sight, out of mind. (But not really.)

I realized, my process was broken. And broken processes are an irritation, a pet peeve. Ask my husband the number of times he listened to my rants about this topic on vacation. Processes are meant to run smoothly and efficiently. When they don’t, they’re meant to be improved.

Stay with me …

Gary also talked about how he’s not actively engaged in social media. He stated (and I’m paraphrasing), if you only write 500 words a day, should it be a blog post? Or tweets or whatever? Or should it be 500 words toward your fiction or non-fiction pieces? At the end of the year you’ll have 183,000 words to edit into the story you want to tell. You can get it done.

Ouch! That hit home.

Remember, my blog was supposed to be the place where I practiced writing? Okay, maybe it’s become a distractor or an “out” from doing the “real work” that’s hard and terrifying.

Again, broken process.

I know, I know, I just posted that writer’s write and it doesn’t matter what they write, but hmmm … I am rethinking that philosophy.

While I was on vacation my characters came-a-calling. They’ve lain silent for almost a year, only to shake me awake at 5 AM when I could be sleeping in for a change.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” they screamed.

I was game. I sat in the dark of our hotel room writing feverishly while my family slept quiet and peaceful.

There’s something about this time of year. Summer and vacation, being away from my normal seems to unleash my creativity, the playful side.

Hold on, we’re getting there …

While I thought about my recent reads (which were so good) and all of Gary’s encouragement, I realized the story scope on my novel was too broad; aggressive for a newbie. I started in the wrong place. I needed to plot the plot even though I am a pantser. The list of first-timer mistakes I’ve made is long.

I tweeted my epiphany which came in one of those 5AM moments:

From 40K to zero because starting over feels right. #plotting #AmWriting

Yes, I am scrapping it all. I am giving this WIP a clean slate to reinvent itself.

In working through this I found a new beginning to the story (4 unique versions of the beginning to be exact). A new direction and manageable scale which can help me past my writer’s block. I hope.

There’s a new working title: The Way to Wonderland, which makes me smile.

Character names, purposes, and motivations will change. Locations will evolve. Villains and heroes will get an unexpected twist, I never saw coming. And somehow it will all come together.

Here it is …

The culmination of events leads to the real reason for today’s post …

I am signing off.

No, not forever.

I am dedicating the entire month of August 2014 to writing; working on the novel in progress which technically is a new angle on an existing idea. I’m in pursuit.

31 days of 500 words a day. No exceptions. No excuses. It will be my little writing experiment,

Let’s see if I can fix my broken writing process. I’m nervous but hopeful.

Wish me luck. Live in the suspense. I’ll chat with you in September around the 9th. Be well!

~Gail

NOTE: I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, thinking the timing would allow for character development and plotting. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it done. I will spend the first part of August completing the important task of planning. Then I will write 500 words a day. I’ll still check in with you early September but it’s likely I will need more off time to hit 31 days.

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Writers Write, Right?

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Confession: I haven’t been writing, at least not in a fiction-novel-in-progress sort of way.

Of course I’ve captured conversations with my dudes that are humorous and notable, like:

S: How old is she again?
Me: She’s almost two.
S: Yeah. Right.
Me: Why?
S: Well, that’s why we’re keeping her away from the Legos. It’s a choking hazard till she’s three. You know because of all the small pieces.

Or this one:

Me: Do you want the last two books in the Sweetfarts trilogy?
N: I don’t know. No.
Me: They’re $1 on the Kindle right now.
N: I don’t know. I guess.
Me: Well would you read them? For a dollar each?
N: Okay. Go ahead. It’s your money. Spend it however you want.
Me: Gee thanks for giving me permission to spend my money on you.

Cute, right? Worth committing to paper for the sake of telling my future grandkids.

Confession: I haven’t written in the one-day-you’ll-be-a-published-author kind of way.

Hey, blogging is writing, right? Some of my posts have been longish of late, as I toy with sentence length, alliteration, and structure. My posts have ventured into new topics or maybe I should say, I’m not writing solely about writing (or not writing). Good, bad, or indifferent, I’m playing with language to share what’s on my mind.

Confession: I haven’t been writing in the sense of word count goals and manuscript deadlines. NaNoWriMo camps? What are those?

Sure my days are filled with endless forms of the written word: emails and tweets and Facebook posts.

I’ve engaged in rambling text conversations about homeschooling and teaching writing; about books on my “to read” list; and summer reading plans for my boys. Texts about grammar and Ted Talks; reminders and questions; random and fun; word bubbles and emoticons. Battling autocorrect when I want to intentionally misspell a word.

So much to say to so many people in a limited amount of time.

Confession: I haven’t written in terms of feeling like an artsy creative type; unworthy of the craft and tortured soul.

My first and only novel-in-progress remains at just over 40,000 words, which averages to be 10,000 words per year.

The new piece I wanted to start, stalled out because I tried to map it out. Poor Pantser me.

Accountability calls with writing partners have turned more social than productive. Well, when they attempt to steer conversation toward my writing life anyway.

How many times have I used a form of “write” in this post so far? Too many. I need to consult a thesaurus. I’m getting rusty and maybe language lazy.

Anyway, I digress.

Confession: I haven’t written in the butt-in-seat, every day way typical advice to writers.

Wait!

What?

Yes. Yes, I have written in the butt-in-seat, every day way, because I journal constantly; making notes of ideas that intrigue me; listing thoughts that challenge me. Jotting down phrases and words that may morph into blog posts.

What the heck?

I blog. I post. I send emails. I tweet. I text. I write down what my boys say. I even handwrite letters and thank you cards.

Does it matter what I write? No, of course not. What matters is the practice of writing, of thinking critically and creatively.

Writers write.

Writing is writing.

Don’t be fooled.

It starts small and it builds. It happens when you don’t affix the label “writing” to it.

What guilt riddled writing confessions hold you back?

Go fill all the blank pages with story …

Celebrating: Two Years and One Week Later

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

I’m just a girl … sitting here holding balloons and confetti … wearing a party dress … sipping a cocktail … waiting for the cake to get done.

The streamers and sign are hanging on the wall.

The punch bowl is full.

Where are the Party People?

Oh, I forgot to send the invites!

Because I missed the fact that there was something to celebrate. Oh well, better late than never.

Last week was my two year blog-o-versary.

I signed on to wordpress.com to post what I’d written about Seattle and there sat a trophy icon. It’s the small things.

How exciting to make it through year 2. I almost threw in the towel but ended up sticking it out. Re-framed my expectations and moved forward.

Now, I am looking forward to what year 3 will bring.

Thank you for being on this word-filled journey with me and for letting me be a small part of your social media life. CHEERS!

 

 

 

Letter from Summer Living

IMG_1056Dear Friends,

How has a month passed since my last confession? I mean since my last blog post.

I guess summer has been filled with the living of life. So much so, I haven’t had time (or energy) to write about the life I’m living or write, in general, really.

Anyway, this is just a quick “HELLO” … a wave from my corner of the world … a report (positive I hope) that I am still very much inhabiting the land of the living.

And I have lots to tell you about the busyness and bustle of my summer thus far. I have much to share about what’s coming. Of course, I also want to catch up with all of you, my peeps, and find out what’s new with you.

So thank you for sticking with me and waiting and checking for new stuff.

Let’s see … you’ll soon hear about:

  • Teaching an old dog new tricks … how I learned new things watching my dudes learn new things … Okay, I’m not an old dog but still.
  • Busting baby fever … we overcame an urge … it was tough and then easy *sighs*
  • Staycationing instead of vacationing … there are lots of perks.
  • Fighting my addiction to amazon.com daily and monthly deals and emailing recommendations to the world at large. Have I mentioned that I am losing the fight? I truly need an intervention.
  • Planning for the next writers’ conference I will attend. *smiles*
  • Writing my WIP and the crazy questions and comments I receive about when I’ll be done … which, at this rate, the word NEVER comes to mind.
  • Celebrating birthdays. *smiles again*
  • Working like a dog … I know another canine reference but I have been and there’s no end in sight.

These stories and any others that strike my fancy will come in combinations in the near future. Bits and pieces. Little Gail glimpses.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my regularly scheduled living, already in progress …

Till next time, peace out,

~Gail

Hello World! One Year Later …

WordPress

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

Happy Blog-o-versary to me … One year ago I started blogging after three months of prep time.

I spent almost three years debating: should I or shouldn’t I? Once I decided I should then, came the other hard part:

  • Choosing a blog name
  • Picking a theme
  • Determining a publishing schedule (ha)
  • Writing posts (just in case inspiration didn’t hit on schedule)

I remember reading all the information WordPress had for new bloggers. And there were a few suggestions or statements that stuck with me.

  1. Blog often
  2. Like and comment frequently
  3. Make it a year and you’ll have staying power

It’s been an evolution and not the revolution I expected. Some how I anticipated that I would “arrive”, but understand now, it’s a journey.

Walk on the Edge

Walk on the Edge (Photo credit: Lel4nd)

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher

And it’s on this journey that I’ve found a supportive community … I’d like to say thank you to all the writers, creators, artists, innovator, and dreamers. You’ve made this year worth every moment. Thanks for each “like” and comment and follow. Thanks for reading and sharing. Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey and engaging me in conversation.

Although it’s been everything I hoped and nothing I expected all at the same time … maybe this next year holds the best!

Happy New Year … Anniversary … Birthday …

Images from Zemanta via WordPress

Welcome to Boring …

I want to be tweet-able and retweet-able. (Okay, so I just opened my twitter account this week.)  I want to be Facebook stalked (only a little). I want to be Freshly Pressed worthy.

But I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I won’t.

Why?

I’ve finally figured it out. It’s something I already knew. It’s what I, as a creative type, fear most. Fear of being uninteresting …

Then I remembered one of the first things I wrote for the Jotter’s Joint … it was a practice run and I never posted it (till now). I hadn’t decided if it was a post or my About page. I thought it was funny.

Re-reading it makes me laugh and it makes me feel better because I was managing my own expectations. I didn’t have grand ideas of success. I set the bar low enough to accomplish my goal.

Here’s what I wrote:

Welcome to Boring …

Why read this blog? 

Because you don’t have anything better to do. You don’t have a life. You’re friendless and alone. You’re tired of the well intentioned, deliberately positive, motivational, blogs selling happy. Or maybe, you’re a recluse; suffer from paranoia, or worse. Afraid of technology but sitting here reading this with a tin foil hat on hoping I can’t read your thoughts or transmit signals to your brain.

So why not read my blog? 

It fits right in with our “random” loving culture today. In a time when we can select and self deliver the kind of news … special interest stories … celebrity drama to our phones or laptops or iPads. Where we can follow our friends’ every move from waking to sleepless nights via Facebook or Twitter feed or better yet by subscribing to their blog.

Let’s face it … this is just another opportunity in our information overloaded lives for you to examine and criticize, ponder and pontificate on the boring things that happen in someone else’s life; my life. It’s a chance to offer up your opinion on what matters in my world, from the mundane to the monotonous.

Why read a boring blog? 

I have no idea. It’s just the stuff I think about on my drive to and from work. It doesn’t get much more boring than that …

So maybe my expectations were too low here but I didn’t want to be disappointed. Then I started posting regularly and I was sucked into this belief that my blog had to be perceived as great. It didn’t matter if I thought it was great. And it stopped mattering if there were readers, even one reader, who thought it was great. I started measuring my success by the stats and not by how flexing my creativity made me feel.

I will always have pangs of wanting others to claim I’m great but I realize that ‘great’ is a relative term. Being tweet-able or Freshly Pressed aren’t my yardstick (although I would be happy if it happened).

I will remind myself often that I am measured by my enjoyment in blogging and my growth as a writer. When I forget, all I have to do is go back to my About page and read my reasons for starting the Jotter’s Joint. This is one writer’s world and you’re welcome to be a part of it.

So, today, just a reminder … manage to your own expectations!

Off the Air … Unexpected

My computer has died so the Jotter’s Joint will be off the air for a little while. I am incredibly sad. But post by phone won’t do.

Wishing you peace and happy blogging until we meet again.

~Gail

How Sweet it is to Be Loved by You …

Thanks to my super sweet blogger friend, Jenni over at News of the Times, for nominating me for a few awards. Sorry it took me so long to respond. This post is dedicated to the acceptance of the Super Sweet Blog Award.

Recipient Requirements:

  • Thank the Person who nominated you
  • Answer the 5 Super Sweet Questions
  • Nominate a baker’s dozen of other Super Sweet Bloggers and let them know

Super Sweet Questions (and my answers):

1. Cookies or Cake?

Cookies because they are portable. I guess I could say (cup)cakes for the same reason, but there is something about a crisp but chewy cookie still a little warm that makes me smile. Truth be told? My girlfriend calls me an honorary “Cookie Monster”.

2. Chocolate or Vanilla?

Both. They’re best (sweeter shall I say) when they are together.

3. What is your favorite sweet treat?

That really depends on the day and time. Right now I am enjoying a couple of Keebler Sandies Cookies – Toffee Shortbread with my coffee as a breakfast dessert. Later I will have a few squares of Hershey’s Symphony – Almond Toffee Milk Chocolate bar. MMMM!

4. When do you crave sweet things most?

I find myself wanting something sweet right after lunch or while watching late night TV.

5. If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be?

I guess I would have to choose … Brown Sugar. Oh or maybe Cocoa.

A Baker’s Dozen (not quite … I am watching my sweet intake. Not really but my list isn’t quite that long):

If you are reading this and have a super sweet recipe you’d be willing to share, feel free to do so in the comments. Just know I’m not a great baker but I love great baked goods.

The Booker Award

Thank you to my dear blogger friend, Jenni, of News of the Times for the nomination of this award. Her blog keeps me informed of issues in the world but not like reporting the news. She also has some stunning pictures that she shares. Take a moment to check out her site.

Accepting this award includes:

  • Nominate other blogs, as many as you want but 5-10 is always a good suggestion. Don’t forget to let your recipients know.
  • Post the Booker Award image.
  • Share your top 5 books of all time.

Listing my top 5 books of all time is more difficult than listing 7 things about myself, but here goes …

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” The injustice that takes place in this story still amazes me. Even with proof we choose the path of ignorance and conformity to maintain our status in a flawed societal structure. We hide behind the law or religious belief and label our crimes against our fellow man as something other than what it is. I read this for the first time in high school with the naïve hope that one day it would not be true. And even though we’ve come a long way there are still places in this world where this type of injustice exists.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

One of the teens in my life suggested this read. It’s a great book for generating discussion around topics like teen pregnancy, adoption, abortion, and government involvement in such issues. It shines a light on how our decisions for the sake of humanity can be just as horrific as the travesty we are fighting against. It has a creepy factor, like slowing down as you drive past an accident. Wondering if you’ll see something you don’t want to but secretly hoping you do.

Earth’s Children Series by Jean M. Auel

  1. The Clan of the Cave Bear
  2. The Valley of Horses
  3. The Mammoth Hunters
  4. The Plains of Passage
  5. The Shelters of Stone
  6. The Land of Painted Caves

Book 1 is my favorite in the series. Watching a young orphaned girl who is different; because she’s capable of forming words and has a rounded forehead, get adopted into a nomadic family who communicates without sounds. It shows us the first structures of authority we learn:  familial hierarchy, community, and then world. It gives us the chance to experience being different to the point of being ostracized. I have to admit that I haven’t been able to read Book 6, which came out in 2011, because it didn’t get good customer reviews and I don’t want to ruin a story line I’ve been following for 14 years. Eventually, I will read it so I can see what’s next for Ayla and Jondalar but for now I am content.

Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

  1. The Hunger Games
  2. Catching Fire
  3. Mockingjay

Again a recommendation from a teen reader, she keeps me in interesting books. Although this story is one of personal discovery, fighting the system, overcoming and a romantic subplot, the real story is about power. How we gain and lose it. How we wield it. How when liberated we may make the same choices (or worse) as those who were relieved of their power. There is a burden of responsibility, to do what’s right or best, that goes with the authority we have over others. Violent and tumultuous but a good way to look at the world we live in today.

Watership Downby Richard Adams

The first time I read this book it was because I wanted to know the story behind the animated movie I watched as a kid. For some reason animation can make something serious seem a lot lighter than it really may be. The struggle to get to safety. The challenge of deciding who to follow and why.

Again, a difficult list to narrow down but hopefully, you’ll add some new books to your “must read” list both from here and from the following nominees, once they’ve posted their lists:

Thank you again to News of the Times for giving me the chance to share favorites from my bookshelf.

Happy reading …

Inspiring? Who Me?

Let me say a special thank you to my blogger friend Zen of zenscribbles who graciously nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Zen is a writer and a foodie (usually desserts). She tells quirky stories which keep life interesting. Please take a moment to visit her blog.

Accepting the nomination includes the following:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post the award some where on your blog
  • Tell 7 things about yourself
  • Nominate 7 blogs

So onto the hardest part … 7 things about me … that I haven’t already told you:

  1. I squint a lot. Not because I can’t see but because I’m thinking. Squinting makes me think of the TV show Bones in which they call the super smart people who work at the Jeffersonian “squints”. Oh not to imply that I think that I am super smart.
  2. I am obsessed with using imdb.com. I can’t watch anything without looking up the entire cast. It shouldn’t matter but I just need to see who they are and what they’ve done before.
  3. My husband says I snore but I deny it (vehemently) even though I’ve woken myself out of sound sleep before. (Please don’t tell my husband I said that. He’ll consider it an admission of guilt.)
  4. I am a horrid housekeeper, decent cook, and SUPER wife and mother. Well maybe SUPER is an exaggeration so I’ll go with super.
  5. I can read in the car and feel sorry for people who get motion sickness when they try to do it.
  6. I got my driver’s license late in life (I was 20) and I barely passed. Why do you need to know how to parallel park? Anyway, I think my driving is indicative of the “barely”. Oh but I wasn’t driving during the Chicago fender bender (just saying).
  7. My kids have started asking for cereal for dinner. And I don’t have a defense to say no since it’s usually my dinner choice. Did I claim “super” mom-ness? Oh well.

Forgive me for the short list of nominees …

Thanks again Zen!