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 …

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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.

Joint Venture: Susie Finkbeiner on Facing Fear

Photo provided by Susie Finkbeiner

Photo provided by Susie Finkbeiner

My friend, author and blogger, Susie Finkbeiner is hanging out at the Jotter’s Joint today as we celebrate the release of her second novel:  My Mother’s Chamomile.

The most terrifying moment in writing (for me, at least) is just before I start. The cursor blinks. Blinks. Blinks. The word count at the bottom of the page shows a big, round zero. My fingers hover over the keys.

I hesitate because the beginning is important.

No, I’m not talking about the “hook” or getting the first sentence right. That’s not the beginning that scares me. All that can be tweaked and polished later on.

I get goosebumps from the genesis of creation.

My first book, Paint Chips, was in the hands of a publisher and I was ready to start work on my second novel. I had the characters, the plot, the ending, even the title.

But I also had a problem.

Fear of the blank page paralyzed me.

Would I be able to write a novel again? Would it be okay? Did I know enough about my subject? Would I be able to find a publisher for this novel?

I’d write a sentence. Delete it. Another. Delete. Over and over.

I needed something. I just didn’t know what it was yet.

I tried more coffee. Got up earlier. Stayed awake later. Prayed. Cried. Smashed my keyboard. Okay. Maybe not that last one. But I sure wanted to.

Then, I remembered that November was coming. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). A challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month.

I signed up.

Turned out, I needed a fire under my behind. I wrote furiously. The words came. They were awful, but they came.

By the end of the month, I had a good deal of the first draft done. 50,000 words.

The real work was about to begin. Editing and reshaping and cutting and rewriting. But the terrifying part was over.

The blank page.

I needed to cannonball into the swimming pool of writing, not keep on the edge, testing the water with my big toe.

My novel, the one that tortured me before I began, My Mother’s Chamomile released last month.

That means it’s time for me to leap back into another novel. Only this time, I’m not as scared.

I’m ready for the splash.

Photo provided by Susie Finkbeiner

Photo provided by Susie Finkbeiner

I am grateful to Susie for being my guest and overcoming her page fright to deliver a powerful tale of loneliness, longing, loss, love, and grace.

Buy your copy of My Mother’s Chamomile at your favorite retailer and then show Susie some author love by visiting her at:

 

 

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!

Remembering Where We Started …

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I have to start this post with a big THANK YOU to Letizia of reading interrupted, who’s recent post, Revisiting The Jefferson Bible, led her to her first blog post. Also, it led her down the path of checking out the first blog post of her followers.

When she commented on my first post it made me wonder what I’d said, what I’d been thinking almost two years ago. Reading it made me laugh. It made me smile.  It made me remember. 

Quite honestly, it nearly brought me to tears. Not because it was prolific or special, but it captured my feeling, my desire, my dream.

I am inspired by my intentions and hopes from that first post.

I was optimistic, and let’s face it, naïve, which of course is the beauty of beginnings.

Amazing how powerful and happy I felt about writing before I tried to incorporate ALL the advice in cyberspace or build a platform using social media. I was overwhelmed by self-imposed pressure to live up to an ideal of a writer, not defined by me, when all I wanted to do was tell a story.

Writing, and consequently blogging, lost the shiny new exterior because stats were tripping me up, checking the number of blog hits or new followers.  Worrying that I needed to change to increase my stats.

Writing became about pleasing others instead of pleasing me. My blog posts were about getting attention, catering to an audience. I didn’t know.  I see the time and care I put into those first posts because I was more concerned with liking what I wrote rather than having it liked.

Maybe you can tell by my personal marveling that I’ve been in the state of quitting writing for months now. If you recall, I shelved my novel recently.

Sammy, my writing partner, whom I love and adore, has been encouraging me and with each card, email, and phone call, I’d postpone my departure from the writing world one more day. I’d hold of giving up my title of writer for one more week.

She’ll be glad to read that I’m trying to work this out (albeit publicly) as opposed to avoiding the writing conversation.

And then, as if they’d planned it, another blogger buddy, Britt of A Physical Perspective, posted a renewed commitment to her writing dreams.  I am moved by her revelation and hope for the new year. Thank you, as well Britt.

Stories connect us. Good stories reveal something about who we are or what’s important to us. Letizia and Britt’s stories serve as great reminders.  Sammy’s investment in me keeps me sane. These events are a catalyst for creation. My muse is knocking. I’m tingly like someone sprinkled fairy dust.

So even though I didn’t make any resolutions for 2014, I am seriously considering making this a year of renewal … a year of remembering where I started … a year of celebrating where I am headed.

Which means, I am a writer, telling stories for me, while hoping others will love them too and join me on the journey.

I wish all my artistic and wordsmith friends a year of renewal!

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!

Parenting a Budding Hobbyist

Paint SuppliesLast week we had Family Night on Friday instead of Wednesday due to a work requirement for me. We planned breakfast for dinner and an outing to Hobby Lobby to get paint for their latest hobby, which my oldest refers to as “Collecting and Customizing LEGOS”.

While waiting for our food we had the following conversation:

8YO – I’m going to be a doctor of science when I get done with college.

Hubby: Which science?

8YO – Something to do with technology and chemistry.

Hubby:  A Chemical Engineer. Nice. What will you make?

8YO:  A unicorn army to take over the universe. (Laughing because he recognizes that it’s far fetched. Yet one more reason I love Disney’s Phineas and Ferb. If you haven’t watched an episode of this trust me when I tell you that you’re missing out.)

Me:  If you do that I’ll pay good money for access to it.

Waiter:  I think a lot of people will pay good money for that. (As he walked away with a smile and a shake of his head.)

I need to replace my “if” statements with “when” statements in the you-can-do-anything-vocabulary. 

Paint Bottle Flower

But the real story here … is how I want my actions to match my words as I build their personal belief; water and grow their creative dreams. It’s possible to teach people tasks and functions. It’s not always possible to help them use their imagination. It’s a skill and an art that they can apply to any aspect of life.

My parents always had the words. But as I reflect, they rarely put those words into actions. Don’t get me wrong, their words took me a long way in achieving certain success. I can only imagine what I would have accomplished had they invested in other ways too.

So even though I don’t have personal experience to draw from or real life examples to reference, I want to take it to the next level of support.

As I listen to my dudes play it’s clear they are highly inventive. And now is not the time in their young lives to poke holes in their ventures. Some of their projects so intrigue me.

Red - The Beginning

The 8YO intends to create real light sabers. His business plan involves low cost initiation with the product but the profit will come from upgrades as a customer completes proficiency levels. We talk a lot about the importance of chemistry to excel in his passion. He also has plans for some stop motion LEGO videos, memorializing stories that he plays out as live action.

Lego Mario

The 6YO wants to write comics and make movies. “Some movies will be appropriate. And some will be inappropriate.” Which is his way of explaining that some won’t be kid-friendly. Chapter 3 of his current comic is titled:  The Parents Made The Kid Bad. Not sure if he’s trying to tell me something. Anyway, his artistic representations go well with his dialogue.

Together they are role playing scenes for their upcoming talk show. NOTE:  I’m not allowed to sing the theme song because apparently they “created it” and so they “own it”. Who taught them copyright disclosures so young? It wasn’t me. And I won’t name the show or tell you more … you’ll have to wait for the pilot release on YouTube in the near future. (I’ll  post a link when it’s out.)

Work In ProgressWe are in the process of getting them the tools to do all they wish. It’s easy to keep notebooks, markers, crayons, paints, and other craft tools on hand. However, part of this process of fostering their hobbies and interests is to teach them patience. My oldest seems to think starting today means finishing today. So managing expectations e.g. Painting LEGOS has to happen in layers so that the colors don’t bleed together.

Once he can appreciate this lesson we’ll take steps to get a tripod and help him experiment with a camera.

I feel like I’ve taken the long way around to say it’s important to me that my boys know that I care about what’s important to them in meaningful ways.

What are some ways that you invest in others’ dreams without squelching them? Or maybe you had a dream that you put on the shelf because you needed someone to encourage you? I’d love to hear about it.

Making Real the Moment

Interview

Interview (Photo credit: smiling_da_vinci)

I’ve always been able to daydream away my problems, at least for a little while.

One of my writer dreams since before I committed to actually writing (last year) … since my early twenties really … To have Oprah Winfrey select and use my work of fiction in her book club. Followed, of course, by an author interview on her show.

The only change to this dream over the years has been style related. As fashion changes so does what I’m wearing in my visualization.

Now that Oprah has moved on to do her OWN thing, I haven’t kept up with her shows or formats. I know she still does the book club but I don’t know the details.

As a result, my visualization has changed. The interviewer is faceless. The set is different. Again my outfit is different. But the one constant:  I arrive at this moment. In my mind I make real the moment of becoming a published writer, an author. Sought after. Movie rights sold.

So … out of my writer’s toolbox into yours, I give you visualization.

It helps when I get discouraged or feel inadequate or hit a wall and become blocked.

I imagine an interviewer asking me questions about the point in the story where I’m blocked. I imagine that the end result is so fabulous that people want to know how I pulled it off in my novel.

By answering the questions the interviewer asks, I work out solutions and overcome the writer’s block. In essence, I interview my way back to writing the story, back to momentum.

This may sound weird but I’m not the only one who uses such tactics. It comes in many forms.

For example, earlier this year I came across a blog where the author had a friend take his book jacket photo. It was a brooding black and white of the author. Artistic. Clever. I thought it was brilliant. This author was making real the moment. The moment of success and accomplishment.

I plan on doing this as one of my milestones. I love it.

Some writers I know print images to post in their writing spaces to represent their characters or their environments.

My writing partner sent me a picture of a Queen of Hearts Halloween costume. I’d just figured out who my villain would be and this image made her real. Dark hair and tanned skin, clothed in a red and black Elizabethan collar dress. She’s my Red Queen.

Another writing friend sent me a picture of cupcakes via Pinterest. How can you go wrong with an image of cupcakes? The cupcakes were decorated for an Alice in Wonderland theme party. Her note said, “This is how we’ll celebrate the completion of the first draft.”

Since my writing space is portable, I carry the images with me by pasting copies in my journal.

Both my writing partners in their own way were holding me accountable by making real my villain and finished draft. They were helping me visualize success of my WIP about what happens before and after Lewis Carroll’s works:  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

And today, I stood in the mirror curling my hair thinking … How will I create the history for this story? How were The Few formed to protect the mirrors that lead to Wonderland?

I didn’t have answers. My reflection looked at me and shrugged. That’s when the interviewer showed up. Now I have some notes that will help me move the story along. Call me happy writer.

What’s in your writer’s toolbox? What tricks do you use to stay motivated to write or overcome writer’s block?

Photo from  Zemanta

Writer’s Block: A Breakthrough in Progress

When I started blogging I thought I would write about writing more frequently than I have. I guess I don’t have a lot to say about writing.

One benefit of blogging is that I am writing almost daily. I realize writing comes a little easier when it happens frequently at least for me.

Blogging allows me to write in burst and have a completed story at the end. I like finished projects that are ready to share.

This is different than novel writing where I have a burst which is immediately followed by a block. I walk away from these writing bursts with more questions than answers, especially because I am following the story instead of leading it.

Blocks force me to turn to my writing resources looking for motivation:  books, online articles, events, bookstores, and my writing partners.

My hope? To better understand the writing process. But sometimes that’s not enough.

I am reading a book, Imagine:  How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer, which breaks down the creative process. This work of non-fiction intrigued me because I thought if I could just figure out the process of creativity and what it means to be creative, then I could figure out how to write.

Creativity is the header and writing is the subcategory. So, if I understood creativity than maybe writing the novel would come a little easier.

One of my favorite lines from the book, so far is, “The first stage is the impasse: Before there can be a breakthrough, there has to be a block.”

I’ve shared this quote with my writing partners. It’s a good reminder and it takes the pressure off. It gives me permission not worry about putting words down. It tells the story that no matter what I do there will be a block and I should just go with it.

So my focus today is not on the block but the pending breakthrough. Just around the corner waiting for me are the answers to the questions, the decisions on direction, or the epiphany about how to finish.

Writer’s block is part of the journey and I am learning to be grateful for it.