Tag Archives: Writing

Ups and Downs of the Writing Life

There is a huge drawback to writing on the computer. You can get dependent on the technology.

I was riding a high wave on my CampNaNo project. I was above and beyond the number count every day, averaging about 1700 words per day. Then the worst thing that could possibly happen happened. My computer decided it didn’t want to start.

I spent the next couple days trying to decide if I really needed a computer or not. While they are getting more affordable, how much computer did I really need? The more computer, the bigger the price. I realize that what I really do is I write, surf a little bit, and that’s pretty much all I do on the computer. I don’t need huge graphics. I hate the idea of a touch screen.  But I did want a cd/dvd drive as I’m still partial to my cds so a “flip” computer was pretty much out.

I had been riding the high of CampNaNo and suddenly came to a screeching halt. With the finish line  in sight. I tried writing on a pad and simply couldn’t get any words out. So I went from almost 2k words higher than the goal to 5k below the daily goal in just a couple days.

Now it’s the last day. And I have only written a handful of words since this happened. I went from writing 1700 words a day to less than 100 words a day. I totally lost myself, my enthusiasm and my story in trying out a new computer.

Bear with me here. I’m going on a tangent. I have recently reconnected to twitter, just like this blog. I check it two to three times a day, sometimes I tweet, sometimes I don’t. Since rejoining I have added 40 new followers and am following almost 100 more than I was previously. I have no idea how, but I came across Joanna Penn and followed her.

A few days ago she tweeted about an interview podcast that she did with author Rachel Aaron/Bach.  She wrote the Eli Monpress series and a few other series. In this interview she talks about how she writes TEN THOUSAND words a day. And I thought oh. my. god. That’s insane!

MyAnd only watching a decade later will we understand all the other jokes... first reaction is there was no way I could possibly reach 10k a day. She and I have drastically different lives. She’s a full-time writer. I’m a full-time mother and homemaker. She has one young son. I have triplet toddlers. She’s been published both traditionally and self-published. I have only had a few articles published in a college magazine.

My second reaction was: “Well why the heck can’t I?” If I say I can’t, I probably won’t. And I may not be able to make the 10k every day, but if I could religiously do 4k would be amazing! So I listened to the podcast again. I found her blog and in particular the post where she talks about how she increased her writing from 2k to 10k a day in about a month. I’m not going to go into detail about how she did. But if you’d like to read it you can here.

Getting back to my original idea. Writing has always been up and down for me as I write in an organic way allowing the story more or less to write itself. Doing this, I’m probably never going to get published, self or traditional. I have started more than 5 novels. Although I love them all, I ride the high and when I get stuck and the story stops writing itself, I stop.

This CampNaNo I was insistent on “winning” right up until my computer crashed and I lost all hope. But now I can take what worked for her, find what parts work for me and apply it to my writing. Just because I only have a few hours a day to myself doesn’t mean I can’t break 2k every single day.

Time to start the experiment. I’ve more or less used up all my writing time today to get this post done. Awful I know. Since NaNo was keeping track of my writing, I’ll be able to use that as my “before” numbers. I’ll apply what I can to my writing and I’ll track what happens. I’ll let you know about my progress in a week or so. My goal is to reach 4k a day in my 2-3 hour writing period every day.

Stay tuned.

 

 

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Filed under Inspiration, The Writing Life, Writing, Writing Challenges, Writing Tools

Happy Birthday to Me.

My birthday is coming up. And I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I’m no where close to where I once thought I’d be at this particular point in my life. It’s not even a “milestone” age. I just once thought I’d be, if not a published writer, then at least successfully pursuing a career somewhere.

But I’m not. I’m a stay-at-home mom of three little ones. And this is something I have never dreamed that I’d be. There are days that I love being able to stay with my kids all day. Then there others where I really don’t want to share a room with them by 10am and I have them to myself for another eight hours.

stay-at-home-mom.jpg

But I really shouldn’t complain. There are many people who want to be able to stay at home. I’m lucky that we can “afford” for me to be here with my kids.

And what I mean by that is the cost of childcare for my children is currently more than most jobs I could get. So it’s more affordable for me to stay here. Originally I thought “Yay! Lots of free time to work on my writing!”

What happened was: change a diaper. burp baby. wipe up the mess. Rock them gently. Teething! Then when they turned a year. Oh My God! They’re walking. No you can’t go there. Put that back. You’re going to break it! Now they’re two. And it’s potty training all day. Don’t you dare sass me. Put that back. You took your diaper off…AGAIN! And pooped on the rug. Sigh.

Still. The more independent they get, theoretically I get more time. Most of my writing even now is a sentence here. A few words there. If I’m lucky I’ll get a whole paragraph down.

But I’ve realize that if I really want to write I’ll make time for it. I’ll get up a few minutes early. Even an hour early doesn’t guarantee a full hour writing though. I’ll try to stay up a little later.

I have been participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. And I said this is the year that I win! I said that every year. But I’m making it a priority this year and I have stayed more or less on track. Yes there was one day that I only wrote 100 words. But I’ve also had a 2000 word day. And multiple 1800 word days that more than made up for it. I have sixteen days left and I’m siting at 25810 words of all brand new story.

Smiling Mother And Daughter

I’ll also write while they nap. This is my heaven time. They’re all asleep and I have anywhere from 1 to 3 hours of ME time. I often don’t spend all of it writing. I’ll do a little of everything during this time. But my two favorite activities: a nap, and writing.

But back to my birthday. No I’m not where I thought I’d be. I’m in a completely different world. However, I am making finally making this world work for me. And all I want for my birthday is a day. Yep. One whole day where I don’t have to lift a finger for housework, or taking care of kid and I can sleep and write to my hearts content.

Yeah. Like that’d happen. I suppose I’ll have to settle for the composter I’ve had my eye on for years and a new book. Maybe a little bling for my car. So happy birthday to me.

 

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Filed under Parenting, Personal Life, The Writing Life, Writing Challenges

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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First of March Update: Walking to Rivendell

I honestly didn’t intend this to turn into a fitness blog with updates of my Walking to Rivendell challenge. But on the first of March, I’d like to say how happy I am that (drum-roll please) I met my quota! Woohoo! For the first time I met my quota for averaging 1.4 miles a day. Which means instead of having to average 1.5 miles this month, I can still shoot for 1.4 miles.

My work and school are also both going very well. I’m getting A’s in both my classes, and am thoroughly enjoying my work. I’m currently in charge of a preserving a collection of slides from the 40s and 50s. The database I inherited was in terrible condition, but I’m ironing it out and working on it with enthusiasm.

And for more good news, my fiance and I have decided to buy a house. While this is just one more thing to do, we have both started looking with enthusiasm. We have found a couple of houses that are “possibilities” but almost all the houses down here need at some work, and that is making us a little hesitant.

On the down side, I haven’t been nearly as happy as I could be, and it’s my own fault. I haven’t taken the time, as I should, to be writing for pleasure. In fact, I haven’t written anything since the beginning of February.  And I haven’t found the time to edit my novel either. It seems to me that something has got to give, sooner or later, and I’m looking forward to summer, when work will be slower, which might give me a little more time to do everything I need to and still have time to do the things I want to.

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Filed under Exercise, Graduate School, 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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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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