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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Failure IS an Option

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Wednesday night is family night. Our standing date to spend time together. It’s the untouchable night. No work. No interruptions.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband decided that a game of catch was in order, since it was our first rain-free sunny summer Wednesday. And so, with miniature football in hand and triangle formation, he tossed around the old pig-skin with our dudes. (I watched from the sidelines as cheerleader and music coordinator).

If memory serves me well, this is the first time we’ve played catch with our kids. Ever. Why? Because my husband and I aren’t good at sports. We don’t have an interest in most things sporty.

Earlier in the week my 9 year old told me he wasn’t good at sports like football, soccer, and basketball. Despite my protestations he was sad about what he viewed as deficiency.

But WOW can that kid put a mean spiral on a football pass. He knew to line his fingers up with the laces on the ball and follow through with his whole body. When I asked him where he learned how to throw like that, he said, “My PE teacher.”

He had the technique down. His little brother on the other hand didn’t. He needed help. It wasn’t coming easy. What a great opportunity for peer to peer teaching.

Our oldest demonstrated and helped his brother with positioning. And, for the 7 year old it was frustrating when the ball didn’t go where he intended or as far as he wanted. There were tears at failed attempts.

On the flip side, our youngest is a great receiver. He stepped into the ball and wrapped his entire body around it to prevent dropping it.

Instinct? Innate ability? Either way, it was his strength. His big brother was afraid of the ball coming toward him, using his hands and arms to block the ball.

Again, peer teaching. Our 7 year old had the opportunity to demonstrate and instruct his frustrated older brother. There were tears at dropped balls.

For both, there were moments: throwing up of hands, stomping of feet, and blaming, “You didn’t do it right so I could catch it.” Or, “You didn’t tell me that part. That’s why I did it that way.”

There’s room for improvement, but by the end there was laughter and joy; a sense of accomplishment. Since then they’ve gone out on their own to throw the ball around.

Why am I telling you this? A sweet family outing story? No. This evening allowed us to start the dialog about failure and what it means; about starting imperfectly and growing into a skill.

I value failure for what it can teach us. (I talk about failure in writing here.) I despise failure because I wasn’t taught to embrace it. Quite the opposite, I was taught to avoid it. It is only in my adult life that I’ve come to realize the benefits.

I am aware of the need to create an environment where failing is an accepted practice, mostly because we’ve decided to homeschool and assume the full time responsibility of formally educating our boys.

My children need to know how to harness the power of making mistakes. Right now they fear being wrong and messing up. Our football night is a prime example.

Inadvertently I’ve contributed to their sense of foreboding about being anything less than perfect. I have unwittingly taught them to be critical of others shortcomings by a careless comment here and a careless statement there.

 I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.

~Michael Jordan

Now I need to unravel this thought process and reframe failure for my boys. It’s time to deliberately teach them that it’s normal and everybody does it: cool kids and geeks, the book wise and the street smart, young and old. Failure is an equal opportunity life coach.

To grow from ignorant to bad; from bad to good; from good to better; and from better to best; we have to be willing to look at where we fell short, what went wrong, label it, and then bridge the gap so we can learn and develop. That’s the beauty of failure.

 It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.

~Bill Gates

We put undue pressure on ourselves when we:

  • Fear giving the wrong answers
  • Worry about not getting it right the first time
  • Panic about trying something new

I want to normalize the process of learning from your mistakes, trial and error. We often hear this quote: “I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong,” which is true. How in today’s world do we teach our children to leverage their failures instead of berating themselves for the one result?

I don’t know what the answer is but I know it starts with a dialog. It starts with a moment like football family night. It comes with experiential learning and allowing them to own it without shame. Diana Laufenberg said it best here. Or maybe you’ll prefer the way Ramsey Musallam said it here.

This transition from parent to teacher and care-giver to educator has me scared, I am prepared to fail some. Okay, I’m prepared to fail often.

And the best part … I am willing to be transparent in my failures so that I can model for my kids how to respond to our own limitations and push them farther out. J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Graduation address beautifully speaks to failure. And I appreciate her openness. I hope I express it to my children with similar grace and eloquence.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case you have failed by default.

~J.K. Rowling

Where have you failed? What have you learned?
 

Slapped Style-less in Seattle

You can imagine, I was looking forward to my trip to Seattle, using airports as my personal social petri-dish. Excited for the first in many planned opportunities to gain creative perspective.

Only the perspective I glimpsed wasn’t flattering. It smacked me in the face hard, laughed, and walked away.

Let me start by telling you, this is not an issue of vanity. Consider it instead an issue of maybe self-value, definitely self-awareness. Really it’s about being all of me and not merely one of my life roles …

I never considered myself frumpy (dare I make an Ugly Betty reference here), but I wasn’t haute couture either. I wasn’t a fashionista or a trendsetter but I would have called myself stylish.

I liked what I liked and stayed in tune with the what’s-hot-what’s-not type of lists, you can find in magazines like Glamour and IN Style, to avoid embarrassing myself much.

People who knew me in my formative years, could probably pick things out and say, “This is something Gail would wear.” I had my favorites within every trend. My style was definitive.

Post kids I said, I wouldn’t be one of “those” women who “let herself go” because their role in life evolved and they added a new title to their resume: mom.

SMACK!

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

The truth is I’m a little less Gail-tastic and a lot more Ugly Betty (this is the best place for this reference). I did the very thing I said I wouldn’t do. I became one of “those” women.

While I still frequent the salon for my hair and nails, leave the house wearing makeup and give off the air of being put together, my wardrobe is lacking.

Here’s what happened in Seattle … I walked through a high-end department store watching my colleague shop and thinking: “I don’t get these trends,” and “I wouldn’t be caught dead in that.”

SLAP!

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

As I touched various items: dresses and skirts, shorts and shoes, scarves and necklaces, I realized I have NO style. Style-less in Seattle.

Strolling through the women’s department, with a dismissive attitude, I systematically wrote off every option. I mean we’re back to parachute pants?

Okay, I found a few things I liked: grey cardigan, kelly-green scarf with bright yellow polka dots, and a hot pink D&G trench coat (not an ensemble people, individual items to weave into my wardrobe). All of which were left adorning their chrome racks.

I was too shocked to impulse buy and sensible enough to forego the buyer’s remorse.

My closet can be divided into two categories: work and not work; nothing in between, neither of which is inspired or gives the sense of “who is Gail Hanson?” and if it does I’m afraid of what story it’s telling.

SMACK!

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

When did this migration from bright creative frippery to functional clothing happen?

Even my shoe lust waned. I started looking for comfortable shoes rather than the type of shoes that aren’t for walking but for showcasing with crossed legs or ankles?

I guess partly, in a world open toed shoes, which I can no longer wear, it’s hard to find a cute closed toe high heel. Shoe shopping is less fun when your options are limited to a quarter of the available selection. But I digress.

Maybe the migration can be attributed to the yo-yo 20 pounds I drop and gain annually. Regardless, my style revelation mortified me.

DOUBLE SMACK!

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

I need an intervention. I am that mom.

Why did What Not To Wear have to choose 2013 as the year to call it quits. I need Stacy and Clinton’s help, desperately. What are their style rules again?

  • Fit the body you have now.
  • Shine, texture, pattern, color.

Dramatic, but I was freaked out to recognize my wardrobe is “safe”. Where were the iconic colors and silhouettes of a daring, zealous woman with wildly imaginative streak?

I said this wasn’t about vanity and it’s not, please understand … There was a time when appearance was priority and I measured all aspects of life by outer beauty, the objects I could put on to mask the virtues I lacked.

In my teens, I wanted to be with the “pretty people”, perfectly coiffed, polished and poised, wearing the latest and greatest, so that everyone would know I was somebody.

A poor measure but often in our teens we want to fit in and to be popular. We don’t want to be laughed at or mocked, our self-esteem wrapped up in the way we look. Appearance gave us a false sense of control.

Shallow and ignorant. I didn’t just want to be with the “pretty people”, I wanted to be one. Sad, I know, judging a book by the cover (I had to have a bookish reference). I was in my twenties when I learned that true beauty comes from the inside out; that the dust cover is a mirror image of what’s inside.

BACK-HANDED SLAP!

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Yet, I’m real enough to know that our culture, our world values beauty. It’s an extension of high school that I didn’t anticipate. I acknowledge that to be relevant my style matters.

Although I’ve come back from Seattle a little bruised and battered, I also come back aware. Aware that my style needs an upgrade but it can be unique and trend breaking and appealing.

I need a revival. My style should be reflective of the artsy, bolder, wiser, and sassier self.

*HAND TO FOREHEAD, AH-HA MOMENT*

World of Words: My Experience at Festival of Faith and Writing

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

I had the privilege of attending the Festival of Faith and Writing or #FFWGR on twitter hosted by Calvin College every two years. It’s THE literary event and it floods our city with artists, creative, wordsmiths, and readers.

Maybe I’ve mentioned before the power of community to inspire, motivate, and engage people. Well the #FFWGR community is a testament to that power. They are my people. What a sense of kindred spirit.

However, I have a confession and a regret. I’ve considered myself “well read” but even as a voracious reader I found that I had not read anything by any of the numerous speakers.

In the months leading up to the Festival I checked out the speakers and facilitators. Looking at their books and descriptions on Amazon. Visiting their author pages and websites. Hitting their social media sites. All to find, I knew a handful of names and their reputation in the writing world.

Despite having read zero of the represented presenters, I have to say what an awesome event. It was filled with great tips and advice; motivation and humility; and an energetic group of vibrant characters. Did I mention they are my peeps?

Mostly the Festival provoked in me a challenge and a desire to do what I love; to write. I learned that swimming in words surrounded by others who love words as much, is the place I am at my best.

At the end of each of the three days I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from all the interaction and knowledge. I am after all an introvert which means I get zapped by the social parts of life. And still, my mood was high. I didn’t yell at my kids like I do when I get home from working. I responded differently. They experienced a kinder, gentler mom.

Calvin Campus © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Calvin Campus
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Writing is many things. Speakers referred to writing as:

  • Higher calling
  • Stewardship
  • Self-Examination
  • Silence
  • Worship
  • Mirrors and Windows

For me, writing is all of that plus it is who I am. My sanity is tied to my writing. It relaxes me in the midst of hectic life. Writing helps me express what I feel, what I want to see in the world, and how I want to be remembered.

No matter how many times I quit, coming back to a world of words is like coming home. Every speaker and contributor, every participant, and every moment of the Festival was the jumpstart I desperately needed.

My favor quotes and the most tweet-able statements (please keep in mind that the speaker may have been quoting someone else and I didn’t do a good job of capturing that):

The cynics among you have a lot of blah, blah, blah to lay at your feet. Skepticism is good. Cynicism is the killer of dreams. ~James McBride

Fiction is the lie that tells the truth.

~Hugh Cook

We give language to longings that have yet to be articulated. ~Sharon Garlough Brown

If you will extract the precious from the worthless, you will be my spokesman. ~Tracy Groot adapted from Jeremiah 15:19

When we choose the right word, it’s worth a thousand pictures.

~Richard Foster

I gave up pontificating for Lent. ~

Silence is writing. If you want to be a better writer, if you want to have things to say, you need to spend time in silence. ~Nathan Foster

Failure is an integral part of success … recognition is earned not bestowed … If I’ve never failed at anything in life, I am setting my goals to low. ~Pam Munoz Ryan

True objectivity is fiction. We all write from a specific social location. ~Valerie Weaver Zercher

What I know about anything applies to everything. ~Anne Lamott

You are so loved and preapproved. ~Anne Lamott

The sacrament of puttering … Laughter is carbonated holiness. ~Anne Lamott

It’s the business of the writer to tell what haunts us. ~Valerie Sayers

Talent is a God-given gift often squandered. ~Valerie Sayers

Writing fiction is like being in your underwear in front of the world.

~Suzanne Woods Fisher

I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing. ~Suzanne Woods Fisher adapted from 2 Samuel 24:24

All fantasy has a happy ending or at least a hopeful ending. ~G. Willow Wilson

Any belief system worth anything should tell an ethical message to all people. ~G. Willow Wilson

As writers of faith, we don’t have to operate with the scarcity principle because we serve at the pleasure of a generous Master.

~Rachel Held Evans

This is not a competition, it’s worship. ~Rachel Held Evans

Sitting in the sanctuary of his words. ~Rachel Held Evans

Amazing right? How can I not face writer’s block and rejection after hearing such statements of faith and writing? Bulletproof comes to mind.

I am still processing all of it. Ruminating.

I’ll tell you what though … since all of you are my peeps too, mark your calendars for the 2016 Festival of Faith and Writing.

I hope to see you there!

Wanderlust and Writing

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .’

Confession: I’ve yet to read Charles Dickens’s classic, A Tale of Two Cities. It’s on my ‘to read’ list.

The famous first line, a run on sentence of contradictions, best describes my writing life in 2013.

Living in the gaps between the best and the worst … the wise and the foolish … etc. Never quite staying in one extreme or the other.

As I reflected on my creative process and writing specifically, I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d hit such a wall. Why was I blocked to the point of paralysis? What caused me to go off the rails?

Lack of inspiration. Lack of desire to chug along with my novel. Inability to craft weekly blog posts. Where had all the words gone?

I thought I’d nailed down all the reasons. I thought I’d reached understanding, named the big evil. I blamed it on:

  • Writer’s block
  • Capability / not good enough
  • Characters stopped talking to me
  • New characters were calling
  • Story wasn’t going where I wanted
  • Lack of time

Take your pick!

I blamed everything short of labeling myself a hack. Well, okay maybe I did that too.

But now I see one of the big issue that I didn’t notice before. You’re wondering what could be missing from this list?

TRAVEL.

My job requires that I travel 6-10 times per year. I typically go to the same corners of the continental U.S. Last year I only went on two trips; both within the first quarter. Shortly thereafter my writing slowed.

How does travel affect my creative journey? What are the benefits of traveling as a writer, even if it’s to Small Town America?

Change in venue
New places means new opportunities. A change that allows me to employ writing exercises where I can practice describing people, places, and things to which I wouldn’t usually be exposed. New perspective.

Different interruptions
This, for me, means no kids or hubby needs. My interruptions include clients and coworkers. But mostly it means a greater level of control over my time and energy. When I say “do not disturb”, guess what? No one disturbs me. Novelty.

New experiences
Airports are filled with diversity. It’s one of the best places I’ve found to develop characters: people watching, eavesdropping on conversations for dialogue, and assessing physical attributes, ticks and wardrobe. Amazing. I constantly think: if that person were in my story how would I “show” them. Great fun.

I now have an acute case of wanderlust; a desire to be somewhere else, new or familiar, just not here in my personal normal.

I want to hit the road and get outside of myself. Rack up miles and earn points. Buy postcards and key chains and t-shirts as souvenirs. I want the words to return from their journey as I embark on mine.

Can you relate?

Travel makes life interesting.

Would I prefer some place exotic: Australia, New Zealand, China, Greece, Japan, Spain, or Italy? Sure!

But for now I am thankful for six work related trips on the books already for 2014. All in the U.S. with some locations I haven’t been before. The first trip is at the end of this month.

Six scheduled attempts at jumpstarting my writing and digging out of my rut.

In addition to my work travel, we have some big family trips planned this summer and some day trips with new adventures built in. I am scheduled for a few writing events where other writers can rub off on me; their enthusiasm and expertise can influence me.

As much as I love to live vicariously through social media, it’s not enough. There’s something to be said for living life that revitalizes. I’ll experience these places for myself.

And, as much as writers may write about the solitary nature of writing, there’s something to be said for community, engaging people and being involved in the world outside of our heads that builds captivating stories.

To the writers among us … wander … live … roam … exist … tell great tales.

Crochet Crazy

It’s been almost three months since I shelved my novel.  And more than six months since I’ve done any serious writing.

But my creativity needs to spill out some how. It needs a place to flow.  Where?

Well I’ve poured my creative expression in to crafting … I’ve been crochet crazy …

I don’t have a lot to say today but thought it would be fun to share some of my completed projects (Note none of the patterns are mine. I’ve gotten them from books or online. But all the color combos were personal choices) …

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Work in Progress © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Work in Progress
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Writing is still on the back burner but I am registered for some writing events coming up in March and April. I am hopeful that something new will spark as a result. I’ll keep you posted.

Until then … happy creating, whatever form that may be for you!

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: A “Dear John” Letter to a Fictional Character

Dear Baby Girl,

What can I say? Arriving at this moment is surreal.

I thought we would be together for a long time; friends for life.

Our lives are inextricably linked with a common thread …

Eight year old you wanting to escape, finding solace in the pages of a book. Struggling to deal with the loss of your grandmother. Realizing the fate of two worlds rests on your young shoulders because only you can defeat the villainous Red Queen. Fighting the internal battle of the truth that surrounds you or accepting your mother’s beliefs.

And my forty something self, also longing to escape by penning your tale so others can escape into its pages. We’re a match made in heaven.

Yet here we are …

I have other characters whispering, okay shouting in my ear. Waking me from sound sleep and vibrating for my attention. Of course, I’ve denied them till now because I was committed to you. But I can’t deny my feelings for them any longer.

They speak to me in ways you haven’t in far too many months. Six to be exact. That’s not an accusation. It’s a fact. We don’t talk like we used to. Let’s face it, the spark is gone.

I crave the newness that comes at the beginning of a relationship. The “Honeymoon Phase” they call it. I miss that. I miss the excitement and exploration and surprise as we were getting to know each other. I need that.

Still I held on …

Why?

Because calling it quits would mean failure. Calling it quits would mean admitting that your story is bigger than my ability to tell it.

I know it’s selfish. I’ve stayed for the wrong reasons. I stayed because I was afraid of not finishing.

This may be cliché but:  It’s not you … It’s me.

After three years and four months of trying to make it work … three years and …

  • Countless reams of paper
  • Megabytes of memory
  • Tens of thousands of words
  • Three journals
  • Hundreds of phone calls and meetings
  • Lots of tears and heartache …

I have to say goodbye.

I have to put you on the shelf and walk away. We’re just holding each other back. I’m sorry. I know I’ll regret this one day.

There’s an old saying:

“If you love something very, very badly, let it go free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, it never was yours to begin with.”

Baby Girl … I pray you and your story come back to me. Please know that I love you, I just can be with you right now.

Tell the others bye for me …

Gail

Best of Breathe

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

As promised from my last post, I am sharing my Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference experience with you.

Instead of me telling you all about every detail, I’m going to give you the best sound bites that came out of the weekend.

I made every attempt to capture statements verbatim and will use quotation marks. With that said, please be forgiving if you later find I misquoted a speaker …

Take what works for you and leave the rest. Enjoy:

Treat your writing like a business because agents, editors, publishers, bookstores, and consumers do.” ~Peter DeHaan 

Writers shouldn’t settle for mere escapism.” ~Patti Hill 

No one is more qualified to give your message than you are.” ~Twila Belk 

If I took my character to a psychiatrist, what would I learn about them?” ~David Beach

Be faithful to the task of writing and God will do something with it. He probably won’t publish your thoughts though.” ~Latayne C. Scott 

If you get hung up on a form of writing, you won’t be able to write. Or, you get addicted to that form and you don’t move forward.” ~Tracy Groot 

Social media isn’t your platform, but it does direct people to your platform.” ~Peter DeHaan

I have a love-hate relationship with the writing life. I wouldn’t wish to have any other kind of life . . . and on the other hand, I wish it were easier. And it never is. The reward comes sentence by sentence. The reward comes in the unexpected inspiration. The reward comes from creating a character who lives and breathes and is perfectly real. But such effort it takes to attain the reward! I would have never believed it would take such effort.’ From Elizabeth George’s: Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life 

 “All dialogue should have tension.” ~Patti Hill

Don’t die with the story still in you … Let it out!” ~Twila Belk

Read your dialogue out loud in a monotone to see if the words move you anyway.” ~Patti Hill

We live most of our lives in contradiction … Quality writing requires friction.” ~Latayne C. Scott

Give the muse something to work with.” ~Tracy Groot on Preparation

An author’s job is to leave breadcrumbs.” ~Patti Hill

Our writing must link the reader from the seen to the unseen …” ~Latayne C. Scott

I needed to hear all these things and much more. My “to do” list has pretty much doubled, but I can’t focus on its length or I will be paralyzed by it. But it’s there in list form (in the margins of my writing notebook with g* as a signifier that I need to take action).

My “to read” list has grown by leaps and bounds. I’ve added titles written by the presenters and writing resources they recommend. Some of the writing resources I wanted to avoid but my desire to do so is futile.

Resources:

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Elements of Style by William Strunk
  • Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
  • Writer to Writer by Cecil Murphey

I’ll be back soon with a few more things to share from Breathe!

Being Selfish

Have desk, will write

Have desk, will write (Photo credit: Bright Meadow)

I wish I could say that my two months absence was due to writing furiously; especially sense my last post was titled “Back-To-Writing”. 

Alas, it’s just because life is life. We’ve been busy. Too busy to think creatively elsewhere thanks to:

  • Work volume that’s unseasonably high.
  • Dudes going back-to-school and the realization that I am not smarter than a 3rd grader (seriously, 3rd grade homework will be the death of me).
  • Catching up with friends I haven’t seen or heard from in a while.
  • Volunteer commitments which are important.

At the end of most days, I don’t have much to give. Right now, no one is getting the best me. My employer gets first dibs on my energy just because it’s first in my day. My dudes get marginally less than my job. My hubby never gets the best me (which is sad). And me … I don’t get any of me (which is pathetic).

I know, I’ve told you this before. You’re wondering, what’s new? Nothing’s changed. If anything, the pace of busy keeps increasing.

Back-to-writing didn’t go the way I planned.

What I learned in the process is I am not effective at writing every day. Every other works better. It allows me time to refill the creative bucket. Then brain dump the next day and keep moving.

I am thankful to have this writerly knowledge of myself.

Now, I’ll stop whining and tell you what I going to do about.

I am attending a two day writing conference this coming weekend. Hello, Breathe Christian Writers’ ConferenceHere I come!

The countdown is on. This year’s theme: Let It Out!

I’ve already registered for the workshops I’m interested in. Purchased new pens so I can fill as many blank pages as I can, with advice, thoughts, and maybe even new novel words.

Yep. It’s a big deal.

I am ready. I am going to be totally selfish and not worry about anything else for two days.

Our youngest dude is in a play that I will miss. His disappointment almost had me caving in; almost compromised my selfish ways. But it would have meant missing the keynote address on the first night of the conference. A topic I need to hear about: The Rule of Three

Thankfully, my husband reminded me that it’s okay to give myself this time. As a matter of fact, he’s excited because there’s a school event on a night he doesn’t have to work. Bonus. They will video it for me and we’ll watch it back as a family.

I’m going. No guilt trips.

Both of my writing partners were planning on attending with me. We’d all saved the date and talked about how great it would be when we could all gather together under one roof. Except, life happened. Babies, family, worthy things happened. Now they’re not coming.

I’m going anyway.

I turned my attention to two acquaintances who I met at the same event last year. I figured I’d still see some faces I knew. But one has a schedule conflict and the other decided not to go.

I’m going friendless … but I’m going. Wait … I’ll make new friends.

I don’t have any new story ideas; not starting a new project. I’m working on the same novel as last year this time (and the year before and the year before). Of course, I’ve made progress. Maybe not as much as I would like but …

I’m still going … hoping to be inspired.

Speaking of selfishness, I splurged and purchased new frocks to wear. I can always use more clothes and shoes but what a wonderful excuse to do so.

I’m going in style.

This is my gift to me. A writerly respite. A vacation from day to day. A writer’s retreat. A reboot if you will.

And, when it’s all over, I will share with all of you. Whatever I learn or think or feel … I will share with you. Community is a beautiful thing.

You’ll be hearing from me soon.

~Gail

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… chasing fireflies …

Fireflies 1

Fireflies 1 (Photo credit: ShutterSparks)

Curiosity of children is an amazing thing.

I love seeing their imaginations at work as they reason with and negotiate through and interact with their world.

The simplest concepts can become complex mysteries that want solving; like fireflies lighting up the night in a petite fireworks display.

That’s how we spent last week … chasing fireflies … entertaining our 2 nieces along side our 2 dudes. (Remind me to tell you later about parenting 4 kids for 10 days when you’re only used to 2 kids. Ages: 9, 8, 6 ½, and 4. Yeah, we were busy.)

What makes fireflies light up? Bioluminescence!

The kids all understood, at a high level, the complicated truth thanks to the children’s movie Curious George. It’s a defense mechanism.

But at it’s core, the elementary truth, is that it’s fun. They want to capture the light between their fingers and watch it blink in their hands.

And so, we spent hours waiting in the fading sun, trying as the sky darkened, laughing with hope and reaching for the little miracles.

When they were successful, they would preserve their prizes in plastic water bottles and plastic sandwich bags without air holes. In their enthusiasm they smothered the little bugs, forever extinguishing the light and lives.

Sad. I know. I tried to explain the value of life but to no avail.

From their inquisitive point of view there would be more fireflies to chase the next night … and the next day … and the next day. Youthful optimism.

This experience made me think of dreams. Okay, I had some help. Yesterday, blogger buddy, Britt posted a little ditty titled:  What’s Wrong with Having Dreams Anyway? She says it brilliantly. Which made me think of this post I’d started.

A post which I originally thought would lead to me telling you the story of how busting my bout of baby fever but instead it’s turned into a post about running hard and fast after something as elusive as fireflies.

Dreams, if your lucky come true.

Wait!

That’s not right.

Like chasing fireflies … if you want to catch your dream you have to be diligent and patient. You have to put effort into the result you want. You have to accept the fact that you are not like everyone else.

Being a dreamer is not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. But I’ve said something like this before, here.

Dreams can be snuffed out if they’re locked away in an airtight container or ‘real life’.

Isn’t it odd how quickly we give up our dreams? How they end up by the way side? To Britt’s question I say, there’s nothing wrong with having dreams.

I’m a self-proclaimed dreamer. And that may be weird to some of you. But I embrace my weird.

My big dream is finishing my novel, being recognized as a best selling author some day. My small dream is to write every day.

I know … it’s kind of a single track. But like my kids this past week, hanging out in the front yard while darkness descended; chasing fireflies … I am chasing my dream …

I’d love to hear from you … What fireflies will you pursue? What dreams will you reignite?

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