Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just Write It

It has been way too long since my voice has been heard. I make no excuses. I am done with that. I am re-organizing my life and getting my priorities in order. Good, bad, or ugly, I chose to WRITE! JUST DO IT! Stop saying, "I'm busy. I'll get to it later." Procrastination is my enemy.

The important thing is writing something each day. Not anything life-changing, deep, or brilliant, only keeping the wheels of creativity going by putting something down on paper.

Some of us out there thrive on competition. I am one of those people. If you, like me, are having problems staying on the straight and narrow of writing consistency. Find someone to run with. Someone who will say, "Ha, Ha, I'm way ahead of you. Eat my dust turkey!" (hint, hint, Beth)

That's it. Plain, simple. Take the plunge. Jump off that cliff. Write!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Make habits work for you

Christine and I were talking this week about employing personal strategies which would lead to greater consistency as writers. When you're a mom, consistency can be tough to achieve, but the more people I talk to, the more I think that if you're alive and breathing at all, becoming consistent is hard work. On the mom side, there are a lot of little things to stay on top of, and some of them keep moving around, making messes for you to find an inconvenient moments.

Anyway, we decided that support in the form of other writers (namely the power of peer pressure used for good) is a strategic tool we can use to hit our weekly writing goals. That's what we did during Nanowrimo, for example, and it worked great. Somehow, in less than 26 days last November, I wrote a 50,000 word novel. So did Laura and Christine. I looked back, totally amazed. How did we do that? Consistency! Okay, so there were also chocolate, coffee, and other perks involved, but the important thing is, we did it.

There was one testimonial that I read last year that made such an impression on me that I actually remember it even now. One gal had participated in the previous 2008 Nanowrimo, and had just decided not to quit writing after it was over. She didn't want to lose her momentum. By the time 2009 rolled around, she had several completed manuscripts under her belt, and had been contracted to publish one of them. Her skill was developing as she continued to write consistently, and it was getting her somewhere.

True, she was stuck with her husband in a foreign country where he was stationed, and I don't think she knew the language, so she probably didn't have anything better to do. However, she was typing her word quota faithfully, and I think she would have done it even in the States. The point is, if it worked for her, it will work for anyone.

So Christine and I decided it would be good to pick a doable goal for a basement word quota, which we as busy moms think any writer would be able to commit to. We chose 5000 words a week. It's not as ambitious as Nano, which is about 12,000 to 14,000 words a week, but it is a nice round non-threatening number. Plus, we know that if we do just that, we'll be able to make steady progress which will in turn produce a rough draft in about two and a half months, minimum.

So here's to overcoming those excuses for not writing. If you want to come on board for this minimum challenge, you can post a comment. Many of you writers are doing more than 5000 words a week, and that's okay. The idea is to just create a minimum accountability that will cause you to keep moving forward even when life gets hectic and challenging.

Just like Nano, don't allow yourself to stop. Don't care when it's lousy. I'll tell you in advance that it will be. Pay no attention. Just keep writing. Everything can be fixed, so fix it later. For now, write! Are you with us?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Freedom vs. Fear of Failure

In a day and age where people scramble to maintain their space within the macro- and microcosms of their daily experience of life we are prepped to fight for our freedom. That seems to include everything reaching from profound things like religious freedom, freedom of speech all the way to silly things where people feel offended if somebody dares to cut in front of them at the water cooler. Nonetheless many seem ready to oppose this breach of an invisible boundary of personal space with just as much tenacity as an attempt to silence a confession of faith.

But what happens when people are taken out of their usual boundaries and are being told to just "Do whatever you want. No boundaries!" My initial response is to tense up. What does that mean? I can do what ever? What does that include and where does it stop? More specifically: What do you mean I can write and blog about whatever?! "No boundaries" seems like a trick answer, a bait luring you into something....lethal. Having gone through college and countless classes, papers, lectures and tests aiming for specificity (I like this word....spe-ci-fi-ci-ty...spe-ci-fity) the permission to roam, type and publish without opposition is just...outrageous! It's scary! And yet, I decided that addressing the problem is often the first step towards enjoying the moment and changing, commanding your circumstances. Freedom is what you decide to do with what you've been given. Freedom is not defined by the existence or absence of mental blocks or actual, sometimes physical limitations. On the same note, hearing and DOING what God tells you to do? Now that's wisdom :)

So today is the day that I declare breakthrough! Freedom from fears of "no boundaries" opportunities! Freedom to obey and step up towards your calling! Freedom to trust, let go and let God! My first blog entry. Ever.

God bless :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

The doctor is in

The doctor ushered me into his office and offered me a chair or the couch. I took the couch. When you're a mom, you have to rest whenever you get the chance. He settled himself behind a desk in his distinguished leather chair and picked up a notepad and paper.

"Now, I'd like you to relax and tell me what's troubling you."

I frowned in concentration. "It's hard to put my finger on it, but it has to do with writing."

"Ah, you're a writer. Very interesting. Go on."

"There are days that I feel frustration while I'm at the computer. I push through and get my quota out, but all the time there is this nagging feeling that my story isn't any good, or that no one is going to like it. It's hard to be productive when you're grappling with thoughts like that."

The doctor scribbled furiously in on his notepad. "That is very interesting. Are there any other symptoms?"

"I find myself strangely drawn to hang out on Facebook, read blogs, and do housework." I stared up in the corner of the ceiling. "You know, speaking of housework, you've got some cobwebs up there. Do you want me to take care of that for you?"

"What?" The doctor looked up, startled, and waved me toward a closet door next to the filing cabinet. "I think there's a broom in there. You know, this is really fascinating." The doctor made a couple quick notes, then stood up and started to pace. "It seems to me that what we have here are some early stages of atychiphobia."

"Is that a virus, or can you fix it with antibiotics?" My voice was muffled, coming out of the depths of the closet.

"Neither, actually." He dropped onto the couch to avoid my expert swishes with the broom which made history out of the cobwebs. "It's fear of failure."

"You don't say." I pounced on some Lemon Pledge and a dust cloth on the shelf as I replaced the broom. "Do you mind if I clean the top of these cabinets? I have a dust allergy."

"Go ahead." The doctor stretched out on the couch, putting up his feet. "I'd like to confide to you that I suffer from the same malady."

"Dust allergies?"

"Oh, no. Atychiphobia."

"Oh, right. What is that, again?" I finished up the edge of the filing cabinet and headed for the main desk.

"It's fear of failure."

"Right." I paused. "I don't think that's what I've got. It's more like a bad case of inner editor. My writing group says I need to quit listening to her."

The doctor snorted in bitter irony. "As it turns out, I am well acquainted with atychiphobia. I've been working on a novel of my own. I'm thinking about quitting, though, because I'm sure it's no good. Of course, I'm still in the first draft phase, but you'd think I'd see something great in it. I mean, if I don't like it, will anyone else?"

I dropped into the chair behind the desk. "The truth is, doc, you need to push through that first draft. Even without looking at it, I can tell you it's awful. All first drafts are awful. Doesn't matter who you are. But until you throw that clay on the wheel, you won't have anything to mold into a real story. Give yourself a daily quota and stick to it. And don't listen to a word that your inner editor tells you. Just those two things will do wonders."

The doctor stood up and gave me a hearty handshake. "Do you really think so?"


He sighed with relief. "Thank you so much. You've given me hope."

"No problem, doc. If you keep writing, you'll get past it. I'm glad I could help." I stood up and glanced at my watch. "If you'll excuse me, I have to run. I've got an appointment with my protagonist. When you finish that first draft, give me a call if you're feeling that attic-whatever-stuff hitting you. I'll talk you through the next step."

"I'll do that."

I watched his enthusiastic wave in my rearview mirror as I drove away. Hmmm, I thought. I wonder how it would affect chapter ten if I added a doctor character with strange phobias...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

If you're looking for a gnomish gift this Christmas...

Special congratulations to Chuck Sambuchino, whose latest book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, is now available through Amazon. You can also check out his other two books, 2011 Guide to Literary Agents and Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, for writing guidance and wisdom. (The gnome book is just for fun.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Carpe Diem!

Every once in awhile you run across a book on writing that is so tremendous and informative that you have to tell every other writer about it. I've found such a book in Quit Your Day Job! by Jim Denney. The book has been around for awhile, but I found out about it on Kristi Holl's blog, Writer's First Aid. Since I was at loose ends for a book for the time being, I decided to check it out and read it. I love it.

Jim Denney approaches writing as a cut and dried business, which is what a writer needs to do if he or she is not simply a hobby writer. I thought of myself as a working writer of sorts, mainly because I'm consistently (albeit slowly) creating new material and shucking it out the door to publishers and agents. But Jim says that if you want to call yourself a writer, you really have to be writing every day.

I'll admit right now that I don't do that. I know it's possible, because I wrote an entire 50,000 word novel in about 25 days during Nanowrimo last year. I think I missed one or possibly two days of writing, but I know I can do it. But normally I don't write like that every day. During the school year I have a tremendous amount of studying and reading to do, in addition to grading, etc. I have to prioritize, because as a home schooler, it's a lifestyle choice that I'm not willing to give up my personal day job in order to write. Also, in real life, most writers have other jobs. Jim Denney's point is not that every writer should give up his or her day job. His point is that if you want to, and you're motivated, it can be done successfully. In my personal season, there is one thing that I believe I could handle that would enable me to classify myself as a writer.

Grab 15

The truth is, people have time for what they choose to have time for. Let me qualify this by saying rare is the individual who truly doesn't have time for any particular activity. Of course, every person has to make choices about his or her time use, but let's be honest about it. Generally, it's not that you don't have time; it's that you choose to use your time for other purposes. That's okay.

With that said, commit yourself to grabbing 15 minutes (preferably at the beginning of the day when you're fresh and ideas are often flowing freely) to write. Everyone can commit just 15 minutes. Carry a notebook with you. Don't rely on the laptop or computer hooked to the wall. That simple 15 minutes will translate into 91.25 hours over the space of a year. That's over two weeks of full time writing. It's almost enough to write an entire novel, in fact, looking back at the time I spent during Nanowrimo. The whole first draft of that November novel took between 50 to 70 hours to write.

Your reward for those daily 15 minutes? You can say the words, "I am a writer," with a clear conscience, because you are no longer a hobbyist who waits for inspiration. You're a staple-your-rear-end-to-the-chair-whether-I-feel-like-it-or-not-writer. The best part is that you'll see the fruit of your commitment in time.

In closing (sounds ominous) I'd like to say that accountability is very nice when it comes to keeping yourself motivated to produce that daily 15. I found that out during Nanowrimo. Chris Baty, the Executive Director of Nanowrimo, suggests you do things such as promise to wash someone's car if you don't meet your daily quota or ask your spouse and kids to find new and embarrassing penalties if you don't make yourself do the daily work. In Quit Your Day Job!, Jim Denney sites one writer who would belt himself to his chair, guzzle a 2-liter of Diet Coke, and not allow himself bathroom breaks until he had hit his quota. That's creative self-motivation, but it would be a little extreme for me. I don't think I could type with that much caffeine coursing through my veins, either, but feel free to get creative. You can do this.

So, is anyone out there willing to take their writing to a daily 15/365? No matter what? Let's hear what you have to say about it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Laboring on Labor Day

I don't have anything spectacular to tell you today. It's just one of those days, which I think should be allowed to everyone once in awhile, especially on a holiday weekend.

Right now I'm reading Quit Your Day Job. In it, Jim Denney has caused me to do a little deep thinking (which is probably part of the reason why I feel so tired) by asking his readers why they write.

After reading this, I considered it for a time.

It can't be that I write for the money, because I haven't made any. (Well, not for a long time.) It can't be that I write for fame, because nobody knows who I am. It can't even be that I write because I have something deep to say, because nothing that I write is ever deep, unless it's by accident.

My conclusion is that I don't know why I write. I just write.

So this very short post (short because I deleted the deep part—it just wasn't me) is to ask, does anyone else out there even know why they write? Personally, I don't know why. I'm just compelled to, even though I've been a little road-killish this last month. (You'll have to check August's post if you want to know what I mean.) But the vultures don't have me yet, and I'm hoping that Jim Denney's book will help me get back in the game as a consistent writer before they do.

So happy Labor Day. May your labors in the world of writing be profitable ones.