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.

Advertisements

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 …

excuses! Excuses! EXCUSES!

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  New Journals

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
New Journals

This post has been simmering in the creative juices of my stewpot brain for weeks.

I’ve been unwilling to let it come to a boil and bemoan (yet again) my lack of writing. I know this is the writer’s journey. The cycle of highs and lows. Triumphs and defeats.

But I wonder should I keep talking about the journey? Especially when said journey is at a standstill?

Apparently, the answer is yes because here I am, telling you (yet again) that I have writer’s block. Or better yet, as Jerry Cleaver, author of my go to resource, Immediate Fiction, puts it: “Page Fright”.

Last time I talked about writing, it was on the heels of a recommendation to take a sabbatical. To which I publicly said no, only to traverse that path anyway …

Confession: It’s been months since I’ve opened Scrivener. It’s been weeks since I made a note in my journal relative to the novel in progress. It’s been days since I’ve thought about my characters and what’s going on in their lives. Truly, I am embarrassed at my lack of concern for them.

So you’re probably wondering what has me blocked this time. What’s the trigger for my “page fright”?

  • Excuses
  • Self-loathing
  • Emotions
  • Self-doubt
  • Oh yeah and did I mention?
  • Excuses

Tell me my creative friends … have you ever said any of these things:

I’m too tired …

It’s an excuse. I have the energy to stay up all hours of the night and day watching TV or surfing the web (especially for books on Amazon) or playing games on my iPhone. So I’ll take the hit for this one. It’s really just laziness on my part.

I’m too busy …

And I am. I’m a wife and mom who works outside of the home. Needless to say in the last six months my day job workload has more than tripled; leaving no room for anything else. Except maybe: baby blankets? Remember all my friends who are expecting or adopting? Wait. That’s another excuse. If I’m being honest it just means I procrastinate and writing is first thing to go.

I don’t have time …

Okay, is this the same as being too busy? Maybe. What I know is in a high time in my writer cycle I would say something like: “It’s about making time,” which is a truthful declaration. And I would. I just don’t know what to do in the low times like right now.

Writers should read widely … inside and outside their genre

So, I’ve immersed myself in books. Isn’t that what the Goodreads 2013 Challenge is for? I need to read more before I can write well. Reading a well written novel should teach me tips and tricks. Unfortunately, all the great writing I’ve been reading is discouraging me … paralyzing me. Plus all the bad writing I’ve been reading is discouraging me. This losing myself in other people’s stories instead of my own is a distraction.

Who am I kidding … Nobody’s going to want to read this

The word drivel comes to mind which is why good writing and bad writing is discouraging. It all depends on the day I peruse my darlings. Sometimes I find gold and it makes me smile. Other times, I lay my head on my desk and weep because only rewriting can fix it. Ever been here?

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

“Put all excuses aside and remember this: YOU are capable.” ~Zig Ziglar

I’m not good enough because writing is hard …

Haha … this is Who-Am-I-Kidding’s kissing cousin. Writing is hard despite my love for words and the thrill of a story. Thanks to I-Don’t-Have-Time and I’m-Too-Tired, the last thing I want to do is invest my time in learning “the craft” of writing. I know … another play at laziness.

I need to build a platform …

Do I really? I mean, yes, I get it. I do. But having a platform and nothing meaningful or substantial as in finished to give those who would join “my tribe” is just social media fun not platform building. Distraction at its finest, right? Tweet. Friend. Post. Like. Sigh.

What is the cure for the excuse-itis I am experiencing? I’ve self-diagnosed the symptoms:

  • Distraction?
  • Procrastination?
  • Laziness?
  • Stress?

Truth be told, all my excuses boil down to good old fashioned FEAR.

  • Fear of finishing.
  • Fear of not finishing.
  • Fear that it’ll be bad.
  • Fear that it’ll be great.
  • The list is endless.

We are just a couple of months away from my self-imposed August deadline. WIP started in August 2011. I can look in my journal and tell you the day I penned the idea. I gave myself a year for completing. Ambitious for a first time novelist. Then I extended it to August 2012 and again to August 2013.

It’s fast approaching and I have little to show for it. I should cut myself some slack. August 2014 anyone?

Some of the podcasts I listen to have recently referenced authors who worked on a book for 10, 20, 30+ years before finishing.

Again I wonder … what’s the cure for excuses? Especially when the first words to form are my handy little phrases … there seems to be a shortage of the words I crave most. You know …

  • Clever words
  • Witty words
  • Rambling words
  • Story picture words
  • Pithy words
  • Words with friends (oh wait … no … strike this one)

I should be making word soup in my stewpot brain … not excuses …

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  New Ink

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
New Ink

And yet during this unexpected hiatus I’ve found it easier to tell people who ask what I do: 

“I am a writer.”

And to respond to the question: “What do you write?” with “I write YA fiction.”

Now like the sign off from the podcast Writing Excuses: “This has been Writing Excuses. You’re out of excuses. Now go write.”

Today, I’ll take that advice. I’m off to write in my stacks of beautifully blank journals; fighting “page fright” with ink. But before I go, tell me:

What self-talk keeps you from your creative pursuits? What’s on your list that isn’t on mine? And most important, how do you combat the excuse mill?

How to Commit Identity Theft without Breaking the Law

Alachia GoodReads

Alachia GoodReads (Photo credit: alachia)I don’t usually do “how to” blog posts … but thought this was a worthy topic.

 

I don’t usually do “how to” blog posts … but thought this was a worthy topic.

It’s simple really. I do it all the time … this identity theft thing … but never thought much about it.

Have you ever considered it? That’s a rhetorical question, so please don’t answer out loud.

I will attempt to share my steps with you as an experiment to determine if it’s really as simple as I think it is.

Step 1 – Go to the bookstore or library
Step 2 – Select a book
Step 3 – Purchase or check out selected book
Step 4 – Go home
Step 5 – Get comfortable
Step 6 – Start reading
Step 7 – Lose yourself in the story

When you lose yourself in a story you are “experience taking”. You put on the life of the protagonist or main character. You get to feel what they feel; see what they see; and live through what they live through. For a brief moment in time you are that person.

As a reader, I love that moment when I’m whisked away to another time and place. I get to be someone else without the risk of committing a crime.

As a writer, it’s my dream that someone would connect so deeply with my characters. It’s my desire to create worlds that people will want to inhabit; stories where people never want them to end. That’s my writer’s utopia.

Sorry if you feel misled by the title but this really is the only way I know to steal someone’s identity. Writers actually would encourage you to do so … so I guess it’s not theft at all.

I was listening to a podcast called The Psych Files when this came to me. The title of the episode (#190) was Why Do You Get So Absorbed in that Book (or Movie)?

The host, Michael Britt, talked about a study that was done to determine what causes us to be engrossed in stories we read and watch. The first half of the podcast was most interesting to me but the second half he unpacks the study (a little too technical for me).

He explained the idea of “experience taking” and how being caught up in someone else’s story allows us to test our social identities or try things we wouldn’t otherwise try.

It was very reassuring. It validated one of the reasons #whyiwrite (check out other writers’ reasons for writing on twitter). Also, it reinforced one of the reasons I read: escapism. I love putting on someone else’s life.

Along with this podcast prompting, blogger buddy, Jordana East posted some thoughts on book selection … Which lead me to think about how I choose titles and make decisions about what to read, whether or not I should ditch books mid-read. Be sure to check out her “won’t read” list. 

How do I select an identity to assume (a book to read)?

  • I tend to gravitate towards books written by women. I don’t know why. In recent years I’ve been broadening my scope to include male authors. I guess I used to think that I couldn’t relate to things a man would write. Thankfully I’ve matured.
  • Likewise I tend to choose books with female protagonists. Probably for the same reason as above.
  • My #bookconfession (again check out this hashtag on twitter) is that I worry about cost per page. It started out when I was poorer in life, when I worked full time in my early 20s but survived by eating a lot of Raman noodles while barely making rent. It seemed to matter more how I spent my entertainment dollars. But I am still grappling this thought process and as a writer I am mortified that this exists within me. My budget is bigger now and I love hardcover books so I want to pay what a writer is worth. Surprisingly when it comes to buying books for the dudes this never enters my mind. Anyway … I am working on it.
  • I typically enjoy books with a “meet cute” element. One of my favorite “experience taking” moments. So you are likely to see romance or chick lit titles on my Goodreads page.
  • I like books that appeal to young readers. So I ask the young people in my life what they are reading and get to see them be excited about immersing themselves in a good book. Which is also why I probably like and write YA fiction.

I am sure there are other ~isms that lead to the identities will take on.

Anyway, a long post to ultimately say:

Goodreads Avatar

Goodreads Avatar (Photo credit: minifig)

GETTING CAUGHT UP IN A GOOD STORY IS LIKE COMMITTING IDENTITY THEFT.

This has been a public service announcement for literacy … read more … it could keep you out of jail … unless you choose a book on the topic.

What stories are on your list? What identities will you try on this week? Who are your favorite authors when it comes to creating great lives to steal? 

Images from Zemanta care of WordPress.

Write Now? Write Later? Write Never?

Keyboard

Keyboard (Photo credit: Quinn deEskimo)

To write or not to write? I’ve asked myself this question before but previously it was to determine whether or not I should be a writer. This time I ask for a different reason.

Making the decision to take a break is the latest meaning of this question. That’s where I am.

Over the past six weeks or so I’ve been struggling with my writing. You know the drill:

  • Wondering if I’m any good.
  • Comparing myself to other writers.
  • Finding the time to write or better yet making the time to write.
  • Finding the inspiration or motivation.

And it’s not just with my current WIP but with all writing in my life:

  • Blogging
  • Journaling
  • Lettering (okay letter writing … I liked the –ing I had going)
  • Posting to any social media

Right words elude me. Really, all words (good, bad, and indifferent) our outside of my reach for some odd reason.

My writing has been sporadic to say the least. It’s not a good feeling.

And I wouldn’t call it writer’s block because words will come to me. They just won’t stay. They flit around my mind and then fly off to places unknown; never quite landing.

What’s writerly me to do?

I don’t feel solid without my words. I am at loose ends because of this unscheduled and involuntary break from writing.

Which is why my writing partner and I had a brief discussion about taking a six month sabbatical. Six short months. What could it hurt?

And, for half a heartbeat I considered it. For half a heartbeat it sounded good … I mean I’m already not writing. Right? Why not call it? Label it?

But, only for half a heartbeat. Then I effectively dismissed it. I can’t make the deliberate choice to shelf my writing, not my project, but my writing. Taking an intentional writing hiatus is not going to happen. Why?

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like one of my favorite quotes says, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~Maya Angelou

No matter how hard it is, this story has to be told. It’s this burden that keeps me moving.

My fear is that I won’t finish telling Baby Girl’s story. It’s a fear greater than facing this lack of creative flow. It’s a fear greater than worrying about whether anyone else will care about her story. It’s a fear greater than facing rejection for publication.

My mojo will return …

In the interim, I’ve been quiet and reflective. I’ve learned some things about my writer self.

First, I live in my head a lot. And I write mostly about what I think and how I feel and how I experience life.

The same is true for my characters. I am good at telling you what’s on their mind. Unfortunately, it all happens in a void … white spaces of the mind.

I need to practice giving thoughts, feelings and experiences a landscape to play across; a stage giant stage and beautiful scenery for the drama to unfold.

Second, I live life in extremes. I am either high or low; up or down. There is very little middle ground. You’ve probably noticed the pendulum swing from blog post to blog post. (Thanks for bearing with me.)

I am sure other writers have similar existences: zealous melancholy but not status quo.

And it translates to my writing too. It’s either feast or famine. A smorgasbord of words or a naked plate. A cup overflowing with motivation or empty and dry.

I need to learn to harness my energy regardless of the planting and harvesting season of my creativity.

So, if you hear from me a little less don’t worry. I’ve decided already that I won’t quit. I won’t take a break.

I’ve decided to write now … not later …

Images from Zemanta

3 Writer’s Truths

Writer's Stop

Writer’s Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)

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

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

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

1. Knowing is half the battle.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Boring is relative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Solitude produces the goods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from Zemanta

Dreaming is Hard Work

dreams and wishes. 62/365

As the New Year rolled around, my mind immediately went to goal-setting and resolution-making, which is to be expected. But, the other night I realized it should have gone toward dream-chasing.

If you didn’t know before today, I’m here to tell you, being a dreamer is hard work. Don’t be fooled by those who make it look effortless.

For me, there aren’t enough gaps in a day, between what’s “required” and “expected” to contain what’s “desired”. It overflows and quite honestly my goals should lead me to my dreams. That’s the hard work part.

I never dreamed of success. I worked for it.” ~Este Lauder

Ask anyone who’s reached their dream and I’m sure they’ll tell you they had to fight for it. The movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, comes to mind. Dreamers often equate work with the realization of their dream.

Recently I noticed I have calluses on my hands. I’m not sure what has caused these rough patches to appear on my palms.

Usually calluses are associated with repetitive motion and hard physical labor. I think of cowboys or ranchers or farmers … not a person who sits at a desk all day and taps away on a keyboard.

Maybe my mind manifested the calluses in response to work I need to do; for the dream I am chasing.

But as a writer who aspires to novelist or finished first draft of my novel, I don’t think I should develop hardened patches on my hands even if they are the instruments for putting down words.

Wouldn’t I instead toughen the mind muscle; the imagination maker? And how would I know that I’ve toughened it up? Maybe this is it:

If you’re not lying awake at night worrying about your novel, the reader isn’t either. I always know that when I get a good night’s sleep, the next day I’m not going to get any work done. Writing a novel is like working on foreign policy. There are problems to be solved. It’s not all inspirational.” ~James M. Cain

For most of the holiday season, my characters have been silent. My main character, Baby Girl, didn’t say a word. She let me sleep in. None of my characters distracted me from professional pursuits or leisurely lounging.

To the point where I considered, for a millisecond, abandoning them to the unfinished projects pile. I didn’t though. I waited. 

Where was the hard work part in the past two weeks?

Please know that I was still going about the hard work of a writer.

I read … I buried myself in someone else’s story until mine called me back. I read three books and my writing partner’s manuscript. I listened to podcasts on writing and dreamt of incorporating the advice. I read blog posts and articles. I searched for writing rescues and conferences for 2013.

My dream of writing was still at the forefront.

Then came the familiar ring. “Vacation is over,” Baby Girl called out. “Back to work.”

I hit my normal routine and my characters met me there. I couldn’t fall asleep last night. I couldn’t quiet my brain. As I grabbed the notebook from my bedside table and wrote:  plot notes, character ticks, missed opportunity lists, and dialogue, by iPhone light.

My poor husband. He’s so patient with me.

I am excited again. Anxious, once more, as I rediscover their story. I am having “roar” moments instead of whimpers and whines. Frustrated and worried about how to make it all come together.

Dreaming is hard work. If you’re a fellow dreamer you know what I mean.

What’s your dream? And, what hard work comes with it? Do you have the calluses to prove the hard work?

Photo Image from Zemanta

I’d Rather Be Writing …

Don’t get me wrong, I like my job. I enjoy it. It fills some of my basic needs like a way to earn a paycheck. It also gives me the opportunity to learn new things every day; the opportunity to educate others (to a degree); and there’s variety even when everything is exactly the same.

Oh and did I mention, I’m good at it. That’s not a brag, it’s a truth. I’m good at my chosen profession.

Can you guess what’s next? Can you hear what is coming? Can you imagine the word on the tip of my tongue, on the point of my pen?

BUT …

I wouldn’t say I love it. And it isn’t my dream. It wasn’t my first choice. Which is probably why I’d rather be writing?

Remember taking career assessments in school? You know that ones … based on your interests and skills, they tell you what potential careers you should pursue. Well when I took them in junior high and high school my current job didn’t show up on the list. None the less here is where I’ve ended up.

So what did show up on the list? Journalism. Every single time I took a career assessment. And that was the path I thought I would follow. I loved writing and reading but not research. I still feel this way.

I’m not a journalist but I am a writer. This is my personal declaration despite lack of publication.

I’d rather be writing … more than handwritten correspondence … more than clever blog post … more than emails and business letters.

I’d rather be writing more than anything else in the world. This alone makes me a writer, right?

 I find myself fully distracted at work and home. At the oddest moments I find myself craving a pen and paper or the click of my nails on the keys of my laptop. It’s so strong that I wish I could quit my job and walk away without regrets.

It’s NOT good. It’s NOT convenient. It’s NOT an option.

Do you have dreams or passions like this? A desire that’s all consuming? Feel free to share in the comments.

This distraction is paralyzing … You would think I’d be spurred on to write in the gaps of my days like a junky jonesin’ for a fix. But I don’t. Instead, I waste time watching TV or playing games on my computer (while I watch TV). I read or find any number of things to do with my time.

Why? When there are plenty of opportunities for me to focus on writing, the thing I’d rather be doing. Why am I squandering my dream?

It’s because it’s hard, as best described here by author and blogger, Jeff Goins. It’s because I’m most productive sitting at my desk at work in the early part of the day. It’s because I want it to be what I do in my “full time hours”.

Trust me … I know I need to use my time wisely so I can get to the point where I can transition to writing instead of carrying around this feeling. I will buckle down and get back to my novel.

Another personal declaration:  I am a full time writer, who’s on the road to writing full time.

Anyway, just so we’re clear. In case you missed the meaning of this post. Let me say it again … I’d rather be writing …

What would you rather be doing?

The Suspension of Disbelief in Writing

My boys know I am writing a novel. My oldest even remembers to ask me how it’s going from time to time. I love that about him. He’s very thoughtful.

Recently, he wanted an update:

“Mom, when will your book be published?”
“Well, I have to finish it first.”
“When will that be?”
“Next year I hope.”
“Okay. And then you’ll get it published.”

I love the fact that he assumes publishing is the automatic next step. He doesn’t know how difficult it can be. He doesn’t know that it may not happen. I am glad that he isn’t limited by the realities of chasing a dream. I hope he keeps that innocence.

I wish I still had the attitude of an eight year old; the child-like faith. Remember when we believed anything was possible? Remember feeling invincible? Remember thinking we would conquer the world? Well it’s still inside of you!

When I sat down a year ago to write my novel, I had this naïve outlook. Nothing was going to stop me. I thought it would be easy. What was my goal?

  • Goal #1:  90,000 words in a year and a completed manuscript.
  • Goal #2:  6 months to edit and send to publishers.
  • Goal #3:  Publish the manuscript.
  • Alternate Goal #3:  Self-publish. (Okay, so maybe it’s Goal #4)

And I wasn’t afraid. It was do-able. I believed I could pull it off. I’d made the decision. Nothing else was necessary.

Until I sat down to write. I wrote 4 paragraphs that were flat. They didn’t match the pictures in my head. I realized I didn’t know what I was doing. But it was still possible so I kept my goals intact and invested in learning what I needed to achieve my goals.

Writing is a process. It starts with an idea. Sometimes those ideas flourish and sometimes they fizzle out and die. Sometimes they can be resurrected.

I’ve talked about some of my writing rescues before. This one is new. I subscribe to a blog called WRITEtoDONE. In a recent post, Unleash Your Writing With This Trick from the Movies, they talk about “suspension of disbelief”. This concept helps me view my writing in a whole new way.

As August 31, 2012 draws near and I’m only a third of the way to my first goal, I’ve decided to reset the clock. I will add a year to my project counter in Scrivener. I’ll adjust the word goal accordingly.

I will sit down and write in a state of suspended disbelief. The realities of life won’t hold me back. My story will unfold as it does in my head. I’ll wait to ask questions like:  “Is this possible?” or “Is it realistic?” or “Will my readers believe this?” I’ll reserve my judgment on issues like:  “How will this plot idea work?” or “Is the dialogue authentic?”

My Suspension of Disbelief … my new affirmations …

  • I am a novelist. It’s possible.
  • I am an author who is invincible.
  • I can conquer the world of writing. Why not?

Reclaim your child-like faith. Believe again in the impossible being possible. Dare to tell people you’re invincible and then leap. Start conquering the world around you in every positive way.

Writer’s Block: Start Small, Change Venue

My writing partner and I have a weekly accountability call. Every Thursday night we talk about what we’ve accomplished in the previous week and what our goals are for the week to come.

Before I left for vacation I promised her that I would write one new scene. Maybe 500 words. That’s it. A small commitment to get me back into writing the novel after a long break from it.

Five days into a new accountability week (and the distractions of vacation) I hadn’t put down one word toward the scene I set as my goal.

As I sat on the plane heading West I tried again to read through my manuscript only to find it made me sleepy. That’s not necessarily a commentary on the quality of the story as much as it could be a reflection on traveling in recycled air.

I closed my eyes intent of taking a nap. But that’s when insight came. I was so excited. I pulled out my notebook and pen scribing 175 words. A small step forward.

Then 2 days later sitting in my hotel room while my family slept another 150 words flowed. Renewed inspiration when I least expected it. A small move in the right direction.

All I can think of is finishing this scene to see how it changes the story. I keep thinking about where I left off and wondering, “What’s next?”

Since returning I’ve finished reading through my manuscript (without falling asleep). New story are lines spinning around in my mind. A small spider web of thoughts has started to form.

Two weeks away from home, my sofa, and writing at night after the boys are in bed. I added 800 new words. It sounds small but it serves as a new beginning especially when 0 words were added in a two-month time frame.

My point, in sharing this breakthrough, is that one way to move forward, move past the block, is to change venue. You don’t have to take a trip like I did. Start small. Sit in a different seat at the table. Go to a coffee shop. Pick a different time of day. Does the change in scenery change your perspective in your writing?

Being outside of my regular writing routine was wonderful, because it provided a small flash of creative light that I may not have experienced otherwise.