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Happy New Year

January 1, 2009 Leave a comment

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Wishing all of you a safe and happy holiday! ~~~Cori

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When Life Gets in the Way

October 29, 2008 Leave a comment

My last post was weeks ago.  I could tell you about abandoning my car on the Pennsylvania turnpike because the head gaskets leaked coolant into the engine.  I could tell you about how the sucky economy has ramped up my workload at my day job (financial planning).  I could tell you that kids and house need attention.  But I have decided to bite the bullet and make no more excuses.  Life is testing me.  How much do I want to write? 

Like a yo-yo dieter, I have tried every time management tool out there.  I have tried MBO (management by objective), reward systems, and numerous strategies used by other writers and writing gurus.  I have been trying for years and something inside me won’t let me quit.  Why can’t I let myself off the hook?  What is the deep dark place that holds me back from living to my potential?

I write.  I write everyday, but it is not fiction.  My husband thinks I should write non-fiction, because I gravitate toward reading non-fiction material.  Maybe he is right.  I often think of going on a writer’s retreat to get that flow started.  I feel like an engine that needs an oil change.  The oil, viscous and dark, is like sludge gumming up the works. 

Here’s a site about writer’s retreats. If you ever thought about going, this is a good place to start.  http://www.writersretreat.com     (This is a hot link, even though it appears like plain text).

Hey, November is National Novel Writing Month and celebrating its tenth year.  Perhaps, you have already heard of it.  This is the opening content on the home page.  http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/whatisnano

Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  “It is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing.  Participants begin writing November 1.  The goal is to write a 175 page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.”

Speed writing is one strategy I have not yet tried to crack my writing inertia. 

Staring at the Brick Wall

August 25, 2008 Leave a comment

brickwall-2  I have hit a brick wall.  I haven’t posted in two weeks…or has it been longer?  So I do apologize for being absent.  Unlike some writers, I’m not stuck for ideas.  Or ability.  Or skill level.  It’s just plain poor time management. 

In Victoria Schmidt’s book, a self help book for the miserably time challenged (Book In A Month), she identifies several self defeating thoughts.  The one that I identified most was “I feel like I have no control over my time and how I spend it; writing is always pushed to the wayside.”  I don’t blame anyone but myself.  

Here are some strategies that I am employing to see if I can get over the brick wall:

1.  I started blogging to see if just the act of writing daily would morph into writing more substantive material.  Result:  It turns out I like blogging, but as you can tell by the last two weeks, I haven’t had much time. Results:  Blogging keeps me sane and as focused as I’ve ever been. 
2.  I have been searching for a writing buddy.  I’m not thinking about writing collaboratively, just someone to talk about writing, critiquing each other’s works, and to keep me from sliding into the nonwriting abyss.  Results: The first three people whom I approached wanted to be a writing buddy, but time management got in their way.   A little disappointed, I figured it was  better to know early in the game than later…and if they have more time issues than I do, how was I to ever improve?  I have a new writing buddy.  I am ever hopeful that this will be the one that helps me push through my writing dormancy.
3.  I have set deadlines for small assignments.  Results:  These have come and gone…and another deadline for a short story at the end of this month looks like more of the same. 
4.  I have daily to-do lists.  I have started listing writing at the top of the list instead at the bottom as an afterthought.
5.  In my spare time, I am always reading.  Results:  I’m enjoying the reading.  Am I more a spectator when it comes to writing?
6.  I’ve mapped out every hour of my day to see where I could be amiss.  The last two weeks I was sidetracked by the Olympics and now the political conventions are full steam ahead.   Results: No excuses.  I shouldn’t have given television a priority over my time with the computer.  
7.  Part of my problem may lie in the fact that I am working in front of a computer 8 hours a day.  I try not to hop back on the computer right after dinner.  I get a little exercise and then write.  Results: Obviously, this area could use some improvement.  Is my job the large elephant in the room?  Would I be more productive, if the best energy hours of the day were open to personal writing?  Do I have to wait until retirement, because I’m too undisciplined to make any progress?
8.  I am trying to say “NO” to people, but I often slip up.  Results:  When I do say no, which cuts down the level of noise that runs through my head, I am able to sit and write and enjoy myself.

Anyone have any suggestions that I can employ?  Giving up my day job is not one of them. 

Btw, writing is a great cheap form of therapy.  Try it.  I understand that writing also aids good health.

 

 

I used to be smart. What happened?

August 2, 2008 Leave a comment

I used to know a lot of important stuff and a lot more unimportant, unrelated bits of information that I’m sure will not come in handy to anyone, except if you are a game show guest or writing a novel. 

I used to be smart, but one day I was watching Cash Cab, a tv reality game show.  The fares answer questions for money while riding to their destination somewhere in mid-Manhattan.  I read the newspapers. I watch the 7 o’clock news.  I pay attention to Jay Leno’s monologues to be up on the really important highlights of the day.  But I miss half Ben Bailey’s questions.

In college, I entered trivia contests and believe it or not…won.  I won geography contests…this makes my husband roll over in laughter.  I won spelling bees, but now I have trouble remembering how to spell hors d’oeuvre.  Gee, that word will forever look like it is spelled wrong.

In high school my friends actually thought I was cerebral.  I liked talking about literature and cut my teeth on Sidhartha, Nietzche, and Marxism.  I was enthralled by Machiavelli’s The Prince.  The denial of morality in political affairs and the justification of craft and deceit in pursuing political power came as cerebral jolt to my naive teen outlook of the world.

I used to be smart.  I knew who the 16th president was.  And what year George Washington became president.  I knew how to spell Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and now I have all I can do to pronounce it.  In the years since earning my graduate degree, I began a long, slow slide into a mental lethargy. 

Around age 35 I started teaching college English.  It is then I realized how ignorant I had become.  I entered motherhood a couple of years earlier.  I had traded in my grasp of concepts and thought for expertise in diaper rash, flash cards, and walks in the park. 

I watched as my expensive education became obfuscated by the distraction of babies crying,  mundane chats with neighbors, and house cleaning.   It was like quicksand.  Once I stepped in, it was hard to pull myself out, that is, unless I was Bear Grylls in Man vs. Wild.

I depend on Google to remind me of the details of chronological history, names and dates and have to quickly scour literary SparkNotes.com to jog my memory about plotlines, characters, and themes.  I can still add 2 plus 2.  Thank heaven for small favors. 

As I fast approach my senior years, will I my life be reduced to toggling between watching “Wheel of Fortune” and playing gin rummy?  Will I pick up a Danielle Steele novel instead of a book such as “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch?

What do I attribute my cerebral void?  It isn’t all about aging.  It is about life’s choices.  At the time, I wasn’t aware how my choices would shape my present.  If Dara Torres (42 year old Olympic athlete) can make a comeback on the swimming circuit, I can too, especially now that my children are leaving my home to start their own.  And while I am creating a wish list here, I wouldn’t mind reclaiming my twenty-something body. 

I have a stack of books to read. I have the Internet.  I am ready to become an information junkie.

So, Ben Bailey.  Next time I’m in NYC, I will be looking for your cab.  I’ll be ready for you.

 

Discovering Who You Are as a Writer (2)

April 24, 2008 Leave a comment

Tonight we are going to talk about weaknesses. This is part of the SWOT analysis explained in a posting dated 4/19/2008.  The W stands for itinerating your weaknesses.  I know that we all know what we are weak in, but if you write it down, the cumulative picture shifts a bit.  You will see yourself slightly differently and begin to connect these weaknesses with other events in your life.  Since I am sharing, I have listed my weaknesses in regard to my writing goals.  You may realize that these very same weaknesses may appear in other areas of your life as well. 

WEAKNESSES

Need more fiction writing time
Easily distracted by family and responsibilities
Too eager to help others
To-Do List is overwhelming

For a long time I’ve been trying to work this out.  Obviously, I am my own worst enemy.   I have no one to blame but myself.  I look at this weakness list with more clarity.  I don’t want it to be me, but it is me.  I have drifted through life, not paying enough attention.  I compounded these weaknesses with a cardinal error. I kept telling myself that in a couple of years, life will be more settled and I will have time to write. Don’t believe it. It doesn’t work that way. Action, even the smallest amount, consistently performed toward a goal is what yields achievement.

So, here’s what I learned from the list above:

1. I should have set aside time to write consistently. The same spot every day at the same time, even it is for a very short time.

2. I should have learned to say NO on occasion.

3. I should have learned to delegate tasks.

4. I needed to push my writing time to the top of the priority to-do list.

Here’s the hard part. I’m going to have to change my behavior to overcome these weaknesses. This is no small feat. But if I change one thing, maybe it will make a noticeable difference? The next thing I need to do is create an action plan to resolve these weaknesses.

1. I have to ask myself every time a task sits before me: To which of my goals will this task advance along? If it isn’t advancing my writing or the top 4 goals, then I have to ask myself “Can this be done at some other time? Or does it have to be done at all? And if it does need to be completed, can anyone else do it?”

2. I have to talk to my family and win there support verbally. This will make for less problems in the long run, if my new schedule should cause the family stress.

3. I am getting out a grid to schedule what my days are like. Write in colors. The visual cues of daily chore will help move your writing project toward completion. You assign a time to write. The empty space on the grid calls for you to claim writing time. Because this time will be sandwiched between two other engagements, you will make this time very productive.

4. I have many years of unconstructed behaviors. There will be the occasional lapses into being too nice…and you will notice it, because suddenly you have stopped writing.

I will post this now, but I’m thinking that I will also share with you my time schedule, so you will see how I needed to fit writing time in.  A visual calendar is a good way to keep you on track. 

Next we will see what opportunities awaits me. How can I use that to my advantage?

Writing Inertia

March 25, 2008 Leave a comment

I’m back from a great week of relaxation.  My husband and I went to Cancun, Mexico.  It is our first vacation together sans children in many, many years. 

Although our days were filled with exploration and tours, I somehow found time to read and think about writing.  Or in my case the lack of writing fiction.  I have no one to blame but myself.  I have the desire.  I possess the intellectual and technical knowledge.  However, I am unable to move beyond the initial planning stages. 

I tried to isolate my issues and realized that it isn’t one neatly packaged cause, but a myriad of excuses all converge into inertia.  Time management, or the lack of it, is one of the major culprits.  I work full time and when I get home, I feel brain dead, and opt to finish up small, not-too-demanding-on-the-brain activities, like folding laundry. 

I am in my mid fifties.  If I don’t get my act together, I may never go further than writing this blog.  That would be disappointing.

So, since time seems to be my greatest competitor, let’s continue with this theme next time.  If you have some good time management strategies or tips you would like to share, please comment.  I would love to hear what others are doing.  And how they make the leap from intellectually knowing and successful execution. 

I have worked with time management for tasks/projects  in several of my many places of employment.  However, knowing what to do is so totally different from doing what you know.  I am hoping if I articulate these strategy ideas that I will be more motivated to actually take my advice.  How great is that!