Category Archives: The Writing Life

How the personal affects the professional

We’ve all seen it. That point in your life where suddenly everything is happening at once. And that’s kind of where I am right now.Graduate school is still in full swing, work is going well at 20 hours a week.  I’m married, but we’re having a ceremony so all the family can come down. As if that wasn’t enough, I’ve got the personal/professional goal of finishing several short stories, and starting to edit my completed novel. Somewhere, something has to give. Either that, or I need to invent a time machine, so I can go back and relive several days so that I can complete everything that needs to be done. Oh, and taxes need to be finished too. Sigh.

While I am more confident in my schooling, I still have five more classes to go before I graduate. Since my GA position pays for 2 classes a semester, that makes three more semesters after this one is over. Oh, and my GA expires at the end of the year. Time to start looking for a job in the real world.

I’m told that planning a wedding should be fun. I don’t even have a budget yet. But I do have a date, and  a theme. Medieval. Full regalia. On the plus side, that could actually lower the cost of the wedding dress. But we definitely are looking at this thing from two sides. I’m practical, and cheap. He wants something grand and memorable. I wouldn’t mind grand and memorable, if I won the lottery and could afford it. The average cost of a wedding these days: $27,000! That’s more than twice what I make in a year (minus the tuition waiver). I’m constantly thinking of ways to cut costs, and he’s constantly thinking about ways to make an impression.

Since May of last year, I’ve lost 30 pounds. Not too shabby for someone who never seems to find time for exercise. I do try to walk (and by the way: I did make it to Rivendell last year, just one day before my deadline). After talking with one of my best friends, who looks amazing after losing 50 pounds in far less time, I realized the secret is movement. I’ve sort have always know that. But she rides her bike 3 miles 3 times a week. And has lost 50 pounds since October. Looks like I know something else I’m adding to my to do list.

With that on my plate, I’m not sure how I’m going to find time to write, although I have been writing. Google docs is my best friend. I can write from anywhere there’s a computer and internet access…which means…just about anywhere. I did finish one short story, but haven’t had the time to edit it yet. Or the much bigger project of editing my novel. And that great idea I swear I had, still have it. But I haven’t started it. Sigh. I know that if I want to make it as a writer, I need to make time to write. And I do. Just not nearly as much as I’d like.

Sometimes, when my personal life gets too full, I feel my writing slipping. And when push comes to shove, the writing falls completely by the wayside. I don’t want that. Something has to  give. But does it really? The more I think about everything that’s going on right now, the more I feel like I’m drowning. Maybe things will get better if I don’t think about it. Maybe, if I take a few calming breaths, I’ll realize that things are not nearly as crazy as they seem. And maybe I’ll actually get everything done, while keeping my “me” time, staying sane, keeping up my grades, losing weight, planning a wedding and keeping up with my writing. It’s possible I’m sure. I know some awesome women who have full-time jobs, are going to grad school and have children at home as well. With that in mind, it must be possible to do everything I am trying to do.

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Filed under Graduate School, The Writing Life

Reviving the barely living blog.

West Hall, Valdosta State University

West Hall, Valdosta State University (Photo credit: jadjadjad)

In a couple more months it will have been almost a year since I have written a blog. In the interim, however, not all of my writing has gone half so wrong. And much has happened, although not all of it is of note.  But before I get into everything else, allow me to apologize for my absence. I had to sink myself wholly into my graduate studies, and if I didn’t I may not have continued. I seem to be slightly obsessive compulsive when it comes to doing one thing. I can do that one thing fully and completely, but then everything else falls by the wayside. While it may not be o/c, this is not the first time I’ve noticed this tendency in myself. I hope that when I have a full-time librarianship, and hopefully more time, it means I’ll throw myself into my writing with abandon.

And here’s the important news, I’m just about half-way through my graduate studies. When I first started in the MLIS program, I had no idea what APA, let alone how to use it. I’d never taken a fully online class. And to be honest, I felt like I was drowning. I’m quite afraid if I hadn’t given up everything, for a little while at least, I was going to fail. I very nearly did barely scraping the two “B”s that I needed to continue my studies. Since then, my grades have gotten better. I can at least understand APA, even if I am still wrestling with how to arrange my time in fully online classes.

As things with my online classes have gotten better, my writing has improved. I have a new best friend: Google Drive. Yep. I save almost everything in Google now. From ideas, to bits of inspiration, to excerpts from stories, and full short stories. The only thing not on there, my novels. Google Drive is the most accessible, travel-ready storage in the universe beyond the human brain. And for some reason, my brain can’t always keep what I “write” in my head especially when I’m awake. Gradually, as I’ve become more accustomed to my studies, new home (almost one year here), and job, I’ve been able to “find” more time for writing. Something for which I’ve been grateful as life without writing is a drag.

But it also seems that my interest has shifted from fantasy towards speculative and science fiction. My husband says I’ve been watching too many movies, he made that comment an hour ago when I told him of my dream that I had to write down before I forgot. But the most recent movie I’ve seen in the theater is Les Miserables, and the most recent at home is Brave. In fact, I haven’t watched a science fiction movie since…I’m not really sure as I don’t watch many movies anymore. Even my TV watching is more geared toward fantasy and/or contemporary fiction rather than science fiction (Once Upon A Time, Monk, and a few oldies that I grew up with thanks to Netflix).

I now have a new project. Thanks to my acid dreams that I’ve come to welcome as inspiration. My most recent short stories have all been inspired by dreams. I have one complete short story, roughly 5K words, that was started at the end of January. I finished it a few days ago is about humans becoming the abducting aliens causing terror among other beings. That was quite fun to write. But now that I have wasted enough time babbling to everyone who will listen, perhaps I will spend my next hour or so before sunrise to start hashing out last night’s dream into a real story.

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Filed under Graduate School, The Writing Life, Writing

Compulsive Creative Writers

I apologize for the gap in my blogging. Most of my writing has seen this gap. Between midterms and finals my school work, plus work, plus everything else, was just too much and I gave up a lot. Not just my writing, my walking suffered a severe drop as well. I’ve found a way to fix that, but it was a little late, and I’m embarrassed to say, I did not meet my Walk to Rivendell goals for the month. And before we go on to the main attraction a few quick words. First: Happy May Day! Second: We bought a house! Yay! One thing down, a million more to go.

I read an article recently that compulsive liars may be creative writers in disguise. And while I can no longer find that article, it got me to wondering. Why do people lie? It turns out that there is a “disease” called compulsive lying, which is completely different from a normal lie, I suppose, and it’s also different from people who lie because they are sociopathic. But does that mean people who have an “overactive” imagination (not to be confused with psychosis) are automatically liars? Well, the first step is define what a compulsive liar is and what is an overactive imagination.

Compulsive liars are creatures of habit. Lying is an addictive trait, much like drinking and smoking, and has similar effects on people and relationships. A compulsive liar is someone who feels best when lying rather than telling the truth. According to the Truth About Deception, compulsive liars often experience a time early in their life where lying has become necessary, the child of an abusive parent lying about their bruises for example, and from that they start lying about everything.The website futher states that “Lying feels right to a compulsive liar. Telling the truth, on the other hand, is difficult and uncomfortable.” Unlike manipulative sociopaths, compulsive liars are simply creatures of habit. This problem can be a symptom of a bigger, and more distressing personality disorder. In addition, this habit can ruin a relationship. There is help for compulsive liars, however, like most addictive behaviors, getting the person to see their own problem is difficult and often leaves them at rock bottom.

Overactive imagination, on the other hand, isn’t easily defined. What is overactive to one may not be active enough to another. The definition of imagination is the ability to “think of clever and original ideas, possibilities, or solutions.” Whereas the definition of overactive is being abnormally excessive. I suppose that there a certain amount of “normal” imaginative abilities, we all have dreams don’t we? And that does take some imagination. The ability for people to dream is only a small step into the deep waters of the imagination. The way I would define an overactive imagination is a person who, while they can tell what is reality, they can experience the imaginary on a sensory level. They can, willingly, see the worlds they (or another) have created, smell the flowers and feel the breeze. They can feel the emotions of invented people. And it is a person with an overactive imagination, in my opinion at least, that makes the best writer.

What does all this mean? I suppose that this could mean different things to everyone who reads this. To me, all this means is that compulsive liars were in some way unhappy with thier lives and fell upon lying as a way to make up for it. I believe that compulsive liars have overactive imaginations, and if it could be caught early enough it could be steered towards more productive, artistic, means. I believe that the article I read could be right, and that with the proper direction liars could stop lying and start writing, or painting, or finding another outlet for their feel-good fix.

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Filed under Just for Fun, The Writing Life, Writing

Exercising Your Creative Muscles.

William Faulkner's Underwood Universal Portabl...

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For Christmas I asked for a subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine. While I haven’t entered any of their contests in a while (say like a year), I do enjoy reading the articles that they publish. And while I can often get them online for free, I’d rather be able to turn the pages in my hand, and stop half-way through an article if I have to, or want to. Well guess what? I got it. And my first magazine came in yesterday (oddly enough it’s February’s issue), which is why I waited until today to make my post.

In this edition of Writer’s Digest, there was an article about exercising your creative muscles. “Skill-Builders for Fiction Writers,” by Mike Nappa, gave a list of things to do, what that “exercise” was supposed to do for your writing, and how to make make the most of it. In short, this is a review of one article in the February issue of Writer’s Digest.

Exercise: For enhancing our plot building, the first exercise he lists is “Play alongside a kid.” This is supposed to help you put more imagination into your plotting by immersing yourself completely in the child’s world of make-believe. He then suggests that you ask the child why they made certain decisions.

Pros: First, this is fun. If you have access to a child and haven’t done this, then you’re missing out on something that, although it’s completely exhausting, is also far more enjoyable than you’ll admit later. Second, it really is a great way to see things from a different perspective. If you’re crawling around on all fours, pretending to be horse, rearing, and whinnying and all the rest, you get not only a different perspective physically (you are, after all, on all fours) but you have to ask yourself: what would a horse do?

Cons: The obvious con here is that not everyone has a kid to play with. A writer might be an only child so no nieces or nephews, and they might not have children of their own. Another con, I find that children are relying more on television and video games than their own imagination. My third con for this one, don’t ask a child why. They’ll just as likely give you no reason as a real reason (especially the youngest ones). I would humbly suggest that you interpret why. It would be more beneficial to your skill building than simply asking anyway.

Overall: If you have a child, who uses their imagination, then this is a great exercise. However, not everyone has a child at their disposal. I would suggest, instead, simply changing your perspective deliberately. Go outside, sit against a tree and imagine what it would say to you. Imagine all the sights and sounds it has experienced and write that down. It may even spark a story.

Exercise: To help build characters, Nappa suggests that you “Let characters define themselves.” This one I really enjoyed, mostly because I thought it was funny. He suggests that you create facebook personalities for each (main) character. This will really bring your characters to life as you fill out their likes, dislikes, philosophies and religion.

Pros: This exercise will help make your characters real in a way that “describing” them can’t. What, after all, is cooler than logging into facebook and seeing your character as a “friend?”

Cons: This exercise theoretically must be done online. Also, if you want a separate account for each character, you’ll have to get an email to match it, according to fb’s new rules.

Overall: Totally funny, and I’m gonna try it. It may be useful to create one account that you can change the information on. Print them out as you finish and start over. Another way: make up a table (using Facebook as a guidline…or not, whichever), and fill it out. You can save them all to one file, or have separate files for each…and no need for the internet.

 

Exercise: The last exercise he provides is supposed to help you adapt your writing: Use every fifth word in this article. He suggests that you highlight every fifth word in the article (the one he wrote had about 160) and use them to write a story.

Pros: Definitely helps adaptation. I’ve done this exercise before, although not in Writer’s Digest. I felt my mind being stretched because in the one I tried we had to use only those words, Nappa gives no such limitation, which makes it far easier in my opinion.

Cons: Theoretically you need something in paper, however, if you can copy and paste into word it’s just as effective.

Overall: Loved this one. You can use any article, any number, and can use just those words, or you can add to it. It’s a very versatile exercise.

 

These are just a few of the exercises given in the article, and on the whole, I enjoyed reading it. However, I feel that if you’re going to present an “exercise” routine for promoting creativity, they should be offered in a way that everyone can do.

I hope you enjoyed this little review, and by all means, try an exercise.

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Filed under Reviews, The Writing Life, Writing, Writing Tools

Leibster Awards

Okay, I understand this is one day late, but I only got the idea for this on Monday morning, and I wanted to make sure that I gave full credit to those who deserved it.

From December 5th on, I have been awarded two Leibster Awards and have been recognized as a “new find.” To show my appreciation, I would like to bestow awards on others as well. But first, I’d like to share my awards, and the awesome people who bestowed them.

On December 5, Jo Eberhardt, from The Happy Logophile awarded me with a Liebster Ham Steak Heart Award.

On December 7, Connor, from Cities of the Mind, recognized me a new fin.

And finally, on January 20 Snagglewords awarded me with the second Leibster Award.

To all of you, thanks for reading. I’m truly honored to have been given these awards.

I would also like to add that while viewing these awards I had the pleasure of reading blogs that I may not of found otherwise. Further, I had no idea what a Leibster was until I received the awards, but I’m not going to go into the details of what it means.

One more thing before I announce the winners. These are just the ones I’ve enjoyed and read on  a regular basis. They make me laugh, or think, or any number of things.  And, since I have no idea how to check the number of followers, I’m not going to include Leibster in my Award titles.

So the Winners of the Ham Steak Sauce Awards go to:

Stephen of The Undiscovered Author. This person has inspired me not just through his blog but in real life too. This was the first blog I followed, and still read whenever he posts. And it was through his blog that I started to read (and love) many of the other that I follow as well. So for that, this one goes first.

Jo from The Happy Logophile. She has written things both thought-provoking, and hilarious. My second true following went to The Happy Logophile, who shares blogs that she enjoys as well, all of which I had never heard of and probably wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for her.

And lastly, Tianna from Seven and a Half First Drafts. I don’t believe there has been a post I didn’t enjoy.

Thanks to all of you for the laughter you’ve provided. And the provoking thoughts. And, oops…I  just realized they are all blogs that talk about writing. Ah, well, I guess that means I’m biased. 🙂

 

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Letter Writing Part Two: The Letter

Netscher, Caspar - The Man Writing a Letter - ...

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I started Letter Writing Part One: Spelling and Grammar about a month ago. And I promised that my rant would be continued into something else. In fact, it had started as something else, the actual art of letters. Not to be confused with the alphabet. I love everything there is about a hand-written letter, from getting something (anything really) in the mail that isn’t an advertisement or bill to the paper and ink that were used to write it.

This part of the Letter Writing series, is less rant, and more praise. I have a pen pal, perhaps a tad late in life, but I never had one as a kid, although I was curious to meet people from across the seas. While my pen pal lives in the US, like myself, we are still separated by quite the distance. I won’t get into how I met my pen pal online, but during a lively discussion we realized that we both enjoyed writing and getting letters.

But what is it about letters that differs from, say, email? What makes them so enjoyable? Well, apart from the fact that it isn’t an ad or bill, it’s…everything.

Receiving a letter is like getting a Christmas present. It can stimulate excitement and curiosity, you have only a vague notion of what might be in there. It can even make your day so much brighter to know that someone else out there cares. Someone to share interests with, share joys and sorrows with. It’s also a great way for people who are shy, or need time to digest information to get to know others.

Writing a letter is just as important, but involves more than just putting pen to paper. When writing a letter you can learn interpersonal skills at a different level than applying them online or in person.   It does not have to be as formal as in-person, unless you’re writing a business letter, but can be (in my experience it is) more formal than an online presence (facebook and twitter to name two). Writing letters can help with memory, when you are replying to what the other just written while also keeping in mind what they have said previously.

When writing a letter you should be able to take into account the person on the other end. What are their interests? Do they really care that you have seven cats and four dogs? How to say things are just as important as what to say in a letter. There are several different reading levels and formality levels. If you’re writing a letter to a friend, feel free to be more informal, and lower the reading level (or raise it, whichever fits both of you).  Writing letters on a regular basis for pleasure can help prepare for writing more formal forms of address (Cover and Thank You Letters).

This pastime can also help vocabulary skills. Sometimes when I’m talking with someone in person I can’t always say what I mean but will think of it later. I don’t have to worry about it when writing a letter, I can take hours to write a single sentence (although that rarely happens).  I can look it up while writing, that’s hard to do in person. I can also look up synonyms when writing a letter to get the whole feeling across.

I just received a letter from a friend in Texas. I was pleasantly surprised that it took a shorter amount of time to traverse half the country than it usually does. I found out that she has interests in helping other people and volunteering, I had never known that part of her before and it was good to find out so I can add more of what I put into my letters to her.

Perhaps this whole post seems a bit scattered, it was written over a couple of days. I do hope, however,  that my passion for letters gets across. I honestly believe that learning how to write a letter can help people in their lives,

both professionally and personally.

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Graduate School,the Writing Life and my Biggest Fear

Last Friday and Saturday, I underwent orientation for the MLIS program at the local university. During this time I realized that my life as a writer would have to be put on hold a bit, as well as my blogging. But I’m not giving up completely. The majority of the classes are online, giving me ample time to also blog. However, due to the workload, and my work in the Archives, and looking for a second part-time job, and volunteering at the local public library, my time will be greatly reduced, therefore, I’m cutting my hours back to one post a week. I believe I can manage that and my workload. I promise not to let anyone down. There will be some exceptions, updates to the Rivendell challenge will be posted on the first of each month.

My Letter Writing Series will pick up next week on Monday.

But back to graduate school. Sometimes, a person has to determine what is more important in their life, doing the one thing they love and perhaps forgoing the money that would come with something else, and being with the one they love, whose desire for material safety has held back their life together thus far. I have chosen the latter. During a rare moment into his private workings, my fiance let me know what his greatest fear was. And it wasn’t heights. His greatest fear is being poor, and being unable to pay bills, and struggling financially. I should have been able to guess, but I suppose I let my feeling cloud my judgement. I do not fear being poor, living on well fare if I have to. I now realize why he was so encouraging in my dalliance with MLIS. It can come with a steady paycheck.

Do you want to my biggest fear? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway. It’s being unhappy. It’s having to go in for a 9-5 job that I hate. It’s flipping burgers. I’d rather be poor and enjoy my work, i.e. writing, than rich and be miserable in all that I do. That’s why I bounced from one major to another to another in my college career. If I couldn’t be happy studying it, how could I find a job that I would like in that field? I am not giving up on writing, but I am giving up a career in writing before it’s even begun, because even if I had a job that I loved if I didn’t have my fiance I would still be miserable. I once believed that he was supportive of my writing, but I have seen now that I was wrong. His only encouragement is what will make us more money. MLIS, then, is a compromise. I like libraries almost as much I like writing, and it has the paycheck that he looks for.

So all that’s left is to win the lottery and never have to work again, right? That way, I can do whatever I please. But I should probably have a back-up plan in case that doesn’t work.

I promise that my next post will be far more upbeat, as I have reread this post I found it kind of…depressing. But perhaps it’s only my mindset since I’m sort of feeling disappointed right now. Still, graduate school is going well so far, and my job in the archives is far from the strenuous work of a restaurant, and I even get to work with rare books, and hang death shrouds, and order little freshmen around. So it’s not all bad, in fact, the ordering freshmen around is quite the picker upper.

Until next time then.

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