Archive

Archive for the ‘The Writing Life’ Category

Why Haven't You Written That Novel?

July 4, 2010 Leave a comment

missing puzzleI don’t have time to blog regularly.  I don’t have time to tweet or check facebook.  Some days I wonder why did I start this  blog.  I find the pressure to write a blog at the end of the day painful.   So, you can only imagine.  It should come as no surprise that my book ideas still sit in my head. 

I have analyzed my resistance.  I have told myself every excuse in the book.  I sometimes think I am like an addict to my established behaviors.  I make excuses so I do not have  to change, even though it would make a positive difference in my life and take me that much closer to achieving my writing aspiration — to write that novel.

Here are some classic symptoms.  You may recognize them in yourself.  I guess I’m doing that analytical thing again.  (And is blogging another avoidance behavior mechanism?) All of these actions murder the writing spirit.  Are derailing yourself from ever writing that novel?  How does one stop these self-sabotaging behaviors?

  • You are always too busy to write.  The holidays. The family. The house.
  • You start a story, but suddenly stop  because you don’t know what comes next.   You tell yourself, you are going to let yourself think about it ….the story eventually lands in a desk drawer bottom because you never find a good resolution.
  • You wait for inspiration, cause you don’t know how you want the story to progress and figure that when you see or hear it, you’ll know it.
  • You feel much better if you had someone to share your writing pain.  You can’t write anything without a partner.
  • You have anxiety about completing a project, because you may not feel you did this or that.
  • You think your first draft stinks…and most likely, it will.
  • Your family doesn’t support the alone time that it takes to write and research.
  • You find it much more fun to do the research and not so much the writing.  You like the idea of being a novel writer, but resist doing the work.
  • You over analyze everything.
  • You want each paragraph to be perfect, so you find it difficult to ever get to the end of a chapter. 
  • You do more blabbing about your story line than writing about it.  That has to mean something.

In the weeks to come, I will explore each of these Resistance to Success behaviors.  If you are reading this and want to share your story…maybe owning up to it will get you that much closer to achieving your writing goals.

Or if you have strategies to overcome the resistence to write, please feel free to share.

Advertisements

Nature or Nurture?

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I am in transition.  As I reflect back at my life (yesterday was my birthday), I see that I unwittingly followed in my mother’s footsteps.  Was this nuture or nature? 

I can make an argument for both.  My mom is the creative type, a bit wayward.  She has structure in her approach toward her goals, but the structure is limited to the scope of the immediate project.  She is detailed in a microcosmic way, never able to step outside herself and see the bigger picture…see that her artwork is wonderful and how her talent was never discovered (except by close friends and family). 

As I look back into a couple of generations before her, I see her shortcomings are the shortcomings of all the women in her family.  This could be  generational, societal, and ethnic —all equally responsible for her lack of consistency.  It could be a lack of a role model in self promotion.  But what if she were lucky to find the right mentor?  Would her inherent choices in life change? 

While genetics doesn’t help you make decisions, it does govern your responses to situations.  If you tend to be shy, self promotion may be extremely difficult.

I am so much like my mom, it is frightening.  I fear that I will follow in her footsteps.  The path isn’t quite the same, but the results parallel each other.  My mother strove for self-actualization in her artwork.   She is 80 plus years old, still painting, producing her best work, but the staccato rhythm of her projects makes it tough to get any momentum. 

My lifestyle differs from my mom, but yet, I too suffer the same staccato pattern.  Is it learned behavior or the inability to stay focused for any length of time? 

I am moving past my genetics, my learned  behavior.  I, unlike my mom, understand what strategies I have to employ to reach my goal.  I know I am not alone. My internal struggle is shared by many others.  I just wonder sometimes, if the adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has merit.

Writing Workshops

January 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Over a decade ago, I attended several writing workshops.  I always walked away disappointed and wondering  whether I could have used my time more wisely by spending it writing.

Today, I attended a writing workshop that for the first time brought some clarification to why I have been struggling with my writing  all these years.  

What I learned today is that the scope of my project is ambitious for a first time novelist.  The suggestion from the group was to take it in smaller chunks.  While that would seem obvious to anyone, the obvious becane obfuscated through too much isolated thinking and not enough sharing. 

For years I have been searching on and off for a writing partner. Inherently, I knew I needed someone to bounce ideas around with, to help keep me focused, and to provide the mental support when that inevitable writer’s pause strikes.  My mistake, as Edie Hemingway, today’s instructor, pointed out is not pairing with a writer that shared a similar genre.  No wonder why I cringed when my writing partner handed me a 50 page manuscript of science fiction or 3 pages of esoteric poetry!  I had no interest in reading much less critiquing a first draft manuscript.  It wasn’t my niche.

Another point I found interesting was the show of hands of writers who thought they were structured writers and those who thought they were intuitive writers.  I, of course, stood alone again.  I lean toward left brain, structured approaches to all tasks.   As we each presented our thoughts on a small writing assignment, it was amusing to hear how each one of us interpreted Edie’s assignment. 

Mine was 4 sentences, each about 12 words long.  I thought I misunderstood the assignment at first as I watched others writing away, scribbling furiously on a second page.   Just as too many words is not good, paucity of words is not good either.  My writing lacks that emotional ingredient that stirs up the reader’s passion and loyalty.  I have to learn to share my feelings, otherwise, there will never be a wide audience for my writing.

In any case, I feel motivated again.  This class was just what I needed to jumpstart my 2010 writing goal for the year.  Edie’s workshop breathed O2 into my book.

I wholly recommend Edie’s class, if you are in the area.  She runs workshops from her home in Frederick, MD and teaches classes at Frederick Community College.  http://www.ediehemingway.com/

Eegaads! It's almost 2010.

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment

As we approach the new year, I see that I have made only baby steps in my writing attempts.  I’m embarrassed that I have not written an entry in this blog since September.  No excuses.  I got swept up in my old habits and let time slip through my fingers.

If you are in need of some serious motivation to break old habits, shake things up a bit because your answer to Dr.Phil’s “How is that working for you?” has you shaking your head, I recommend reading James Arthur Ray’s book Harmonic Wealth.  Yes, he is the same dude that is under investigation for deaths at his retreat in Sedona, AZ.  (I am not sure why people don’t use common sense when trying new things.  People, huddled in a sweat tent, must have known that they were subjecting their bodies to the same environment that animals face locked in a parked car for hours in the summer.)  Anyway, if we can surf past this event, and discover what Ray has to say, you might find that there is relevance in his life philosophy and message.

As I read Ray’s book, I liked the fact that the conversational tone wasn’t preachy.  He  tells you his take on life and what he has learned.  His message isn’t new.  What is new is his delivery.  He is able to explain and connect what happens in everyday life.  It is not as random as we might like to believe. 

For us busy people,  he outlines steps to help you realize what you want and how to get it.  As I said, this  nothing new.  For years business schools have touted the management by objective system, but Ray has broadened the scope to open the potential for success in all areas of life.

For the new year, this book/ CD, which is in libraries, might help you slug through and figure out how to achieve your wildest dreams.  So, I have read this book once, listened to the CD, and now look forward to 2010 with renewed enthusiasm for my writing. 

Julia Cameron in her book,  The Artist’s Way, says that if you do a timeline of goals, you will find when you look back 80% will have been realized.  So, join me in creating your timeline for 2010.  We’ll meet back here next year at this time and see how much has come to pass.

Emails: the time leech

July 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Technology, specifically email, has been a blessing and a curse.  Recently, my employer asked the us employees to refrain from hopping onto our email accounts so frequently.  She said that two or three times during the work day should be more than enough. 

Although I bristled at the thought of changing my behavior…an occasional “good” email, one that makes us smile or delivers good news, often breaks up the work day. 

Well, the first day of email access three times a day wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it would be.  I was more productive.  I was able to plan and organize better because I was more focused.  And the first week rolled into the second.  My work seemed less disjointed. 

Then, I started a project that required me to email out.  I was back to my old habit again like an alcoholic having a relapse.  However, I realize how emails can steal precious time, so I have cut back again at work.  I have cut back at home.  I would like to think that I am reclaiming time to write, but I can see that I may have to leave home to get any real writing done. 

Home is the biggest distraction.  Like exercising, you have to initiate discipline.  You have to ignore the calls to help find the favorite pair of socks or the ketchup.  You have to shed the pressure of preparing meals and focus on achieving even small goals toward a writing project.  This is my next step…leaving home or finding a 6 X 8 cell with a door.

But for right now, curbing the emails is a good thing,despite those beckoning words to peek.

Do you suffer an addiction to email reading as I do?   Share your thoughts, but time yourself…after all, your response may be helpful to others, but not helpful in advancing your writing project.

Thought Leaders

June 30, 2009 Leave a comment

One of the hot new terms in our lexicon these days is the concept of a thought leader.  Those of us who have a specialty can now share creative thoughts, views and opinions with the rest of the world through social media sites.

If you happen to specialize in romance writing, for example, you can visit any number of writing sites to post your expertise.  Recognition for your contribution comes in the form of e-networking opportunities, which may parlay into meeting an editor or a literary agent.

So be bold.  Share your thoughts.  Just a note though.  Remember that your information has a far reach and therefore, you need to always remember what the image you are trying to create for yourself and make sure that publication of your thoughts are aligned with your desired image.

Are You Satisfied With the Status Quo?

May 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Half- written stories, rejected submissions, and possible story lines found their way to my desk drawer graveyard through not understanding a couple of rules of the road in this craft.

The first rule is not to take a sabbatical while working on a project.  It is the kiss of death for many a project.  The obits of my characters read:  Died before I lived.  Everytime  I start writing a story and put it down for a few weeks, inertia takes over and I cannot resume. 

If I drop writing, even for as little as six weeks, I see more subtle changes in my characters as they adopt the influences or viewpoints that came into my life during that short time span.  The differences may be subtle, but nevertheless there.   Once changes are made, they, no doubt, alter other parts of the story line, and sometimes it means starting from scratch.

Consistency is the key.  It may take only a three day break to lose interest.  If you write everyday, even if it is for a short period, your interest will not wane, your momentum will not sag.  It takes a tremendous amount of discipline and perseverence to dust off an older piece of work and rework it.

Another observation I made about my writing is that if I don’t know my characters well enough at the onset, I lose interest.  I have to be emotionally engaged to keep the writing from being dull.   If I am not familiar with my characters, they never materialize on the page.  They aren’t bigger than life. Since they never seem involved in their own lives, they all appear to have self-esteem issues.  How boring is that! 

These characters maybe a stereotype without depth, without uniqueness.  They move through their lives aloof, controlling their space without connecting with anyone on or off the page.  Just like a marriage license doesn’t make a marriage, a character even though connected to another character may still have the reader  screaming into the page:  What about passion?  What about love?  What about sacrifice and honor?  Damn it.  Say something.  Do something.  This is exactly what results when your characters are not well established in your head.

So, if you find your characters a little lackluster, do your homework.  Etch out everything about this character.  Create a backstory to establish a reason for his/her behavior.  Add a quirk or two for interest and make it points of challenge in the character’s goal.

I posted a question on a www.LinkedIn.com  group asking whether established writers prefer to develop character over plot or vice versa when beginning a novel.  One respondent likened it to playing the piano.  You can play the melody with your right hand, the harmony and chords with your left, but eventually, you will want to play them together. Together the music is whole, rich and filled with texture.

If I was happy with the status quo, my writing could never get better.  Writing is one craft that you can be learning something new every day of your life.  This is why writers keep writing.

What did you learn last?  Care to share it?