Sunday, December 5, 2010

Be-lated Thanksgiving

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I'm not sure which guy I felt like after realizing
I hated my WIP. Probably the one in black.

Last week I was reading Natalie Bahm's latest post, The Truth. She said that she was shelving her manuscript that she had been working on for over a year to start on something she was actually excited about. Her post punched me right in the nose, and it hurt. I knew that I didn't enjoy my WIP. I had been working on it for about 7 months and I couldn't even get through the rough draft. I kept avoiding finishing it by revising what I had already done.

For those of you don't know, my WIP was (yes, WAS) about a real witch who lives during the Salem Witch Trials. It was an exciting premise. Everyone said how excited they were to read it when I was finished with it. But then I got bored. It wasn't fresh. Oh sure, the story was different and exciting, but it still contained elements that I had heard over and over again. When writing something that is based on events that really happened I realized that I needed to be really close to what actually happened, despite adding in many obviously fictional elements. The same people surrounded my characters, same events, same places. I had to research the trials from various sources. And I hated it. Despite it being a new story it had a feeling of, "I'm re-telling an old story, just in a new way. And I don't even like the Salem Witch Trials!" Not good. 

With Natalie's post I realized that I was holding onto something that I didn't want. And it was time to let go. That hurts. I spent all week not writing and contemplating if I should even keep writing at all. Maybe I should take a long break. But I can't. I need someplace to escape to. I need someplace that I can create and escape the reality of my job, bills, and life challenges. Don't get me wrong, I have a great life. Its just hard.

And so, I begin again. I have an exciting premise in my head and I begin today to start creating my new world. It's fresh. I can do anything I want with it. I'm not restrained by history. I make my own history. I hope to have a polished manuscript in the time it took to almost get through my last rough draft. When you're excited about something you can't stop writing. I hope to not be able to stop writing.

So, I'm offering a be-lated Thanksgiving to all of you who post blogs and take us with you on your journey. I am grateful for writers that help me have the courage to do what needs to be done to be a great writer. So, Thanks.

How do YOU decide when it's time to shelve a manuscript?  

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nah Nah Nah Nah Live for today

The Grass Roots. Ever heard of them? Yeah, I know they're old school. If you haven't heard their song "Live for Today" go look it up on YouTube then come back. Just kidding. You can look it up later. Anyway, it's talking about how we should live for today and the future will take care of itself. I know that I'm supposed to be working on all sorts of goals, but doesn't it ever seem like it's easy to get lost in them? I have a hundred things I want to be working on. I want to exercise and eat better to lose my baby fat. I want to keep up on my Thai that I worked so hard to learn. I want to own my own home, finish my scrapbooks, cross-stich, get my christmas shopping done early, read X amount of books, finish my manuscript, get an agent, get published, write another book...AAAUUUGGGHHH!!!!!!!!

I get so caught up in everything that I haven't done that I forget to stay in the present and enjoy the things that I am doing. It's so hard to stay in the present and work on my WIP when I'm already planning what I will say on my interview with Oprah about my long, arduous journey to fame. It's hard to enjoy the hilarious look on my son's face when I'm thinking about the laundry I'm going to do, the stomach fat I still need to work off, and the dinner that still needs to be cooked. I also find that I spend a lot of time worrying about things that haven't happened yet, but I have to plan out every possible response to every possible scenario. And then none of the practiced scenarios actually occur. I could have saved a lot of brain power.

How do you stay in the present and not get too caught up in the future?

On a quick side note. Don't forget to visit Jessica Bell and help her with her goal of reaching 500 new followers. Way to go working towards those goals Jessica!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is Writing Fun?

Ok, so the title seems a little bit obvious. If we didn't enjoy writing we wouldn't do it. It takes too much time and effort to do it for the money (if we're lucky to get any at all), and there are certainly plenty of other things I can think of to do with my time (play Super Mario, read, play some more Super Mario.) Elana Johnson wrote a fabulous post that got me thinking about why I write.

Elana talked about the common phrase, "Treating writing like it's your job." Meaning, you have to be there and do it every single day. You need to have that time set aside for it, and do it no matter what. But she said that she doesn't believe in it. I don't either.

I have goals. I want to have my WIP polished and ready to go in time for the Utah Arts Council Writing Contest in May. However, I've been stuck on my rough draft, not sure where or how to take it (I have my characters in quite a pickle.)

I don't write every day. I work full time at a job that does pay me. I am a full time mom in the evenings when my husband is as school. I have to have a clean apartment or I go bonkers. I have to have clean clothes or I go naked. I'm busy. I'm lucky to get a couple of writing hours in on the weekends. Sometimes I can sneak it in during the week. And then I get stressed. I want to write, but I don't know what to write. I want to write, but I don't have time to write. As the stress mounts, my creativity plummets. I've realized that the more I put pressure on myself to write at every available chance, the more I'm not able to write at all! This is a frustrating cycle of disappointment, and certainly takes all the fun out of what should be something I love to do.  

So, tell me: How do you keep yourself from sucking all the fun and creativity out of your writing? How do you accomplish goals without stressing yourself out?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Awesome Contest!

Hey, I just wanted to throw out a plug for Jessica Bell's awesome contest that she has going on right now. I think we all know how hard it is to get followers as we begin on our road of blogging. Trust me, I know. Jessica has come up with an awesome way to attract visitors to her blog. She is on a race to get 500 followers by the end of the year, a worthy goal indeed. What good is having an awesome blog if the whole world isn't reading it? She is giving away prizes for those who best help her on this quest. Visit her and get to know her while making new friends and discovering something new about writing. I'll be blogging more tomorrow so stay tuned!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Through the Fog

Oh my gosh, it's been 2 weeks since I've written. Shame on me! Not only that but I've hardly been working on my manuscript. Granted, I'm trying to work through the fog of a head cold right now. And I've been doing research for my novel.
Part of me just wants to work on my manuscript day and night. Forget research, just write the dang thing! And yet, I know that I'll never be in touch with what the people of Salem really went through if I don't. I have to beat back the devils on my shoulder saying, "It's ok if it's mediocre. What is important is that you get it done as fast as possible. Particularly since you don't have much free time, just get'er done."

The book I'm reading is amazing. I am reading The Salem Witch Trials Reader by Frances Hill. It is compromised mostly from the actual documents from the trials and is phenomenal. But it takes time. And it's easy to want to take shortcuts. But there are no true shortcuts in creating a fabulous novel. For those of you who don't know, I am writing a YA novel about a 17 year old witch (yes, an actual witch) who lives during the Salem Witch Trials. And the fact of the matter is, I can't sell myself short. It's frustrating when I can't write a bestselling novel in a week. Dang it all! But there are no shortcuts to greatness.

I just watched a DVD about Switchfoot (love them!) and how they created their latest cd, Hello Hurricane. They cut their manager, producers, music label, everyone, and did it on their own. It took them 2 years to create the one cd. They wrote over 80 songs, knowing that in the end they could only use 12. But they wanted to make sure that it was who they were, what they wanted, and that it would be the best that it could possibly be. Sorry folks, sometimes it takes years to create a masterpiece. It's not a race. There are no shortcuts.

What shortcuts are you sometimes tempted to make?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Consistency: Good or Evil?

Consistency: it can be one's greatest victory, or greatest defeat.

 I have begun to be much more consistent this past week and it has been a wonderful victory. Even if I don't have a lot of time I've tried to exercise a little bit every day. Some days I've been able to exercise 40 min, sometimes 15 depending on what my son needs. And it's ok, because I've been consistent. I've also been more consistent at my writing. Somedays its 30 min, somedays 1 or 2 hours. I just have to be consistent.

However, there are those times that I am very good at being consistent at eating chocolate--very consistent. I have also been known to be very consistent at playing mario on the wii and watching netflix. I'm not sure I would consider this a victory. So how do we choose what constitutes a consistency victory or defeat?

Sometimes I come home from working all day with behaviorally challenged kids and collapse on the couch. I feel guilty and think that I'm so lazy, just lying around at home when I should be cooking and cleaning and baby proofing the house and doing laundry, etc. I view it as a defeat, but I just worked all day at a stressful job. The best thing I could probably do at that moment is take half an hour to watch a tv show and unwind before tackling the rest of my to-do list. If I took that half an hour each day to avoid getting burned out it would probably be a victory for me.

What are some of your consistency victories and defeats?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Escaping the Mind Trap

Well, this weekend has been refreshing and interesting. I haven't seen my husband and son since yesterday morning when I left for work. They've been visiting my in-laws and I've had the whole house to myself. Something very interesting has occurred. I have decided that when it's hard for me to write and I feel like I can't escape writer's block, it has nothing to do with me. It has to do with my environment.

Today I didn't need to worry about if my son had woken from his nap, if my husband needed the computer for school, or what chore I needed to do next. My mind was completely uninhibited. I woke up early thinking about where my story was going to go. I was showered at 6:45 am on a Saturday and excited to begin writing. For two hours I typed, rarely pausing, and the story just flowed. I felt completely uninhibited and it was wonderful. I still have another hour I can work before picking my parents up from the airport. I love my husband and son and can't wait for them to get home, but it was also a breath of fresh air.

Another unusual thing happened last night. Because I had spare time I was reading other's blogs and commenting on their brilliance. I was about to comment on one and recognized a name attached to one of the comments. After a little more research I discovered that a friend of mine is a fellow writer like myself. She lives in the same apartment complex, we lead our church choir together, etc. In all of our conversations, for some reason, writing never came up. This is unusual because I usually bring it up with everyone I know. How is this something that never came up? So many times I feel like the writing world is this huge scary place. There are thousands of people working hard to get that coveted agent and publisher. There are so many people, so many different ideas. And yet, on a blog of someone I have never met I came across someone I see every week. Suddenly the writing world seemed so small, and I was so excited to have someone to talk to about things that others just can't understand unless they've lived it themselves.

What do you think? Is the writing world as big as I imagine it? Or is it a small world after all? (It's a small world after all, it's a small world after all, it's a small small world. Now try to get that song out of your head.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Baby Steps

Have you ever seen "What About Bob" with Bill Murray? Hilarious. One thing that his psychotic psychiatrist told him was that he needs to take baby steps. "Baby steps oto the elevator. Baby steps into the elevator. I am in the elevator." As i've been watching my son trying to crawl, I've realized how important baby steps are. Sometimes he looks like he wants to jump right up and run. These are the times that he falls over, bonks his head, lands on his arm, etc. Then it's my job to coming running and comfort him.

Baby steps are so important in writing. It's so hard not to think that I should be running with a New York Times bestseller...right now! Writing is an art and takes time. Each time I make a mistake, fall, bonk my head, etc. it's something I learn from and come one step closer to crawling, and then standing, then walking, and maybe one day I will be jumping up and running with that bestseller. Maybe.

But for now, I feel like I'm still trying to learn to roll over. With patience and perseverence, just like my son, I will figure it out. One step at a time.

How do YOU keep yourself from running before crawling?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Early Mornings

Many times my only wish is the ability to sleep in. Having to be to work at 7 am doesn't offer that opportunity very often, not that Bobby would allow me to anyway. I am on vacation in Idaho and he decided that 5:30 was a good time to get up. I gave in and got up to feed him at 6:00. Needless to say, i was not completely thrilled to be up earlier than if I were getting up for work.
However, it turned out to be a wonderful opportunity. As he rolled around laughing and playing I decided to use the unexpected early hour to work on my manuscript. I was able to get a few more pages done and, surprisingly enough, my mind was clear and excited.
I get down on myself often for not working on my writing more. I decided this morning that it's not necessarily about the time I don't have, but taking advantage of the time I do have. I was able to take advantage of unexpected free time this morning and it felt wonderful. How do you make the most of what little free time I suspect most of you have? How do you make the most of your day?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Brain Dead Anyone?

I have heard that there is no such thing as writer's block--that if you can't think of what to write you must not know your characters well enough. I offer another option. It is a universal phenomenon that I suspect most have succumbed to at one point in their life. You are simply and irrevocablly brain dead.
I lead a busy life. I work full time, am a full time mom, cook, clean, shop, get the oil changed in the car, etc. Sometimes when it gets to the time of the evening when I would ideally be able to work on my novel the only thing I am receiving from my brain material is pure static. I know that ideas are lying dormant somewhere in it, but the only thing I can think about is not having to think. This is usually when King of the Hill is turned on. Then I get annoyed with myself, feel guilty, and hear Elizabeth and Sabastian protesting that they are once again being neglected. Other times my family is more important and I need to spend quality time with them. Sometimes I can't believe how little progress I have made toward my writing goals.
"Be not afraid of moving slowly, be only afraid of standing still." I will continue to neglect my novel if it means spending time with my son and husband. I will not, however, ignore my writing completely. Even if it takes several months longer than expected, it will get done. But for now, my son is rolling around and asking for his mother's attention. And I'm never too brain dead for that.