Hello everyone. Long time, no chat. I know, I really should post more often but I did post a warning about my time being eaten by school, work, and kids.
So remember when I said I was going back to school in hopes that it would help me improve my writing? Well, I have managed to learn a few things.
- I prefer writing for myself instead of my class and my teachers.
- I have to unlearn how to simplify.
- Teachers seem to want long exploratory paragraphs and information dumps rather than just sticking to the point.
Number 3 somewhat baffles me. I mean, part of me understands. They want to know that you really know what you are talking about. Maybe I have learned to simplify too much? I used to read books that warned against information dumps in stories. I am beginning to fear I fixed something that wasn’t broken and now I have to unfix it.
I have to go to work in a few minutes and I have an exam tonight so that’s all for now. I just wanted to let people know I am still alive and my hiatus from my blog is only temporary. My posts may be irregular but they will still happen from time to time.
When I was in school I hated American History. I thought it was boring. I thought that since other countries had been around so much longer, they were obviously much more interesting.
Now that I am older, I am no longer so excluding. For the past few weeks I’ve been focused on the American Civil War. My attention was peaked last year when I did some family history research. It was more recently that I received a book of local ghost stories that pinged that interest again.
Then I spoke with another writer who I greatly admire. I told him that I had been thinking about writing a book that takes place during the civil war. I recounted what I had found out about my family, and he said: That sounds like a good place to start. Why don’t you?
That “Why don’t you?” Has been echoing around the empty cavern of my skull for weeks.
I tried to use the excuse, “Well, life has so many changes going on right now, with the new job and going back to school…”
My inner writer answered with, “You don’t work on the weekends and part of your degree is going to be in History anyway.”
Then the dragon of self doubt raised its head and said, “Do you really think you can find the time to write a book? Look how well that has worked in the past. You have three unfinished novels sitting on your computer right now. And remember that rejection letter. The one that hit the mark so well.”
The dragon almost got me. Then I remembered the rejection letter it was reminding me of was the catalyst I needed to pull up my boots and march back to school. The three unfinished novels reminded me that my current way of writing isn’t working very well and I need to try something new. (Not that those three will never be finished. Two are honestly in a rewrite stage but I changed things and got stuck in the muddle in the middle. Then proceeded to wallow in the muck.)
So now, with so many things already on my plate and with so many new challenges to face, I find myself stacking yet another task on top. I’m going to write a book.
The only constant is change. I am sure that is a quote from someone much smarter than I am. I cannot recall who it may have been. It is a truth that my life feels like it is trying to prove these last couple of months though.
I lost the best boss I’ve ever had, but was able to reposition her into a ‘awesome friend‘ slot. So she isn’t gone from my life, just from that one spot. I left the job I have spent nearly 7 years of my life at. The place that ate up half of my nights every year. I left behind good friends and routine. I even stopped writing for a period of time.
I had a moment of evaluation and came to the conclusion that things were not as they should be and that I was not happy. Then I came up with a plan to fix that. It sounds easy but it was not. It was terrifying. It was a doubt filled tangle of What if’s. It was a massive black hole of: But how do/will I…
Then I took a step. And then another step. I am still scooting along, one step at a time. The ground still feels unstable beneath my feet but that hasn’t stopped me yet. The changes are probably not all over yet either. I am in transitional limbo. In September or October things should feel more solid.
I have a new job now. I am still in training and have five more weeks of it to go. I love it so far. My kids are signed up for a new school. I signed up to go back to school and my classes start mid August. I no longer work nights. I no longer have to drag stacks of totes larger than I am. I started writing again.
I have no doubt that my writing will be the slowest thing to advance simply because of all the other obligations. Not because it isn’t important, but because it is. I have to learn patience with my writing.
I get in a hurry and I often don’t do the best job I can. I want the story told. However, I also need to tell the story right. I need to let go of the rush, rush, get-it-done and just tell the story. It’s like turning the oven up as high as it can go. Yeah, it will cook the pizza but it probably won’t be very tasty. I want to make tasty pizzas…er stories. (I am writing this too close to dinner time.)
Anyway, the point is I am taking more time with my writing and therefore I will hopefully be churning out a better quality of fiction. As a result of this and my other obligations I may not be updating my blog as often. My normal routine has been to post once a week on Mondays. From now on it may be once a month or once every two weeks. I am not sure yet. I will try it until I decide that the schedule doesn’t work, and then change it again. Or life will change it for me.
I met this Monday morning slowly and with heavy eyes. I was awake before the sun but refused to get out of bed, hoping for a few last minutes of sleep that never came. I don’t really dread Mondays. It is just that there is so much to do on them. It seems like all of the things I was unable to accomplish from Friday just swell until the wave of errands breaks over me on Monday.
I’ve accomplished three tasks already, four if you count taking a shower. (I am not above padding the number of my accomplishments where I can. Especially if it helps me get motivated.) I fetched paperwork I need to fax off, found and acquired coffee, then took the trash down to the curb because it is collection day. All mundane tasks that have nothing to do with writing.
As far as writing goes, I’ve not done much. I checked my email and discovered another rejection slip. After that I showed up here to write a blog post. I really didn’t feel like writing this morning, but it is Monday so here I am.
I showed up. It isn’t much but they say 75% of writing is showing up to the computer even when you don’t want to. (I made that number up. There is a percent that is routinely quoted but I don’t remember what it is right now. 75% sounds about right to me.)
I have a long list of tasks that need to be accomplished today. I will be very surprised if I
get to them all. Many of them are boring things that take me out of the house and out among people I don’t want to talk to. However, if I am good and get at least half of my list done then I will reward myself by reading a book.
My daughter and I went to the Georgia Renaissance festival yesterday and I am longing to read a good fantasy novel. I am still tired, a little sore, and a little sunburned but it was worth it. We had a great time. Maybe I will write a fantasy story too.
I’ve been rather down lately, in both body and spirit. As one heals I try to focus on raising up the other too. Not feeling well in body can dampen low spirits evern further.
It has been really hard to think and focus. Like my brain is so busy trying to steady the spinning world that it doesn’t have room for things like words or holding on to thoughts. I find this incredibly frustrating.
Then a couple of days ago I decided to check my email. My writing ego, which was already beginning to look like a flap jack, took another hit. I got a rejection letter. That isn’t unusual. I get them all the time. However, this letter left about a paragraph of actual honest usable feedback.
Normally I would be really happy about that. Feed back is a good thing. Non-form letters are good things. The problem was that I liked the story I wrote quite a bit. There is nothing wrong with that either, except I came away with the feeling of being exceptionally clever and I let that writing high go straight to my ego.
The story was average but shows promise. I just have yet to develop that promise. You see I learned a few things writing that story and, like a kid who just learned to tie her shoes, I felt like I had mastered the secrets of the universe. Then when these other kids come by and point out that my shoes have come untied, I am humbled and embarrassed. It is hard to swallow that my tying skills/ writting skills are still lacking more practice.
Humble pie, like many things that are good for us, doesn’t taste that great. I am not Mary Poppins. I am not “practically perfect in every way”, though sometimes I think I am. My umbrella doesn’t talk or fly. However, with practice, maybe it will keep off the rain.
Recently I was applying a thick coating of antibiotic cream to an abrasion my eldest achieved from doing something she realized (in retrospect) was a bad idea. It was while listening to her hiss in pain as she attempted to hold still that I was struck with a thought. Kids are a second chance to learn from your own mistakes.
You see, the thing she did was something I easily could have done once upon a time. I have even considered it before. However, by that time I was old enough to think the idea all of the way through and realise what the end result would probably be. She is still at the age of: “I have an idea! Let’s try it.”
Being a parent of really creative children is a joy and a challenge. They come up with some wonderful insights but they also find their fair share of trouble. Sometimes they find that trouble earlier than they are prepared to deal with it. Mostly it is because they simply haven’t learned to think things through. It can be a hard lesson to learn. Some people never learn it.
Bumps, bruises, scrapes, and embarrassment help encourage us to look ahead to possible outcomes. This is a good thing for self preservation but it can also be a bad thing if you only weigh the negative outcomes. There is a balance that has to be learned. Sometimes it is worth it to take the chance. Sometimes it is not. The important thing is to think about things before you do them.
I would like to say this is a lesson I know well, but that would be a lie. In some things I am good at looking ahead and going “Nope. Bad Idea. Okay, Plan B…” In other things it never occurs to me. (Hence the three novels currently being worked on all at the same time.) Sometimes I see the mud puddle and jump it without look to see what the ground is like on the other side. That is a good way to lose shoes. (I know from experience.)
If my daughter had thought things through she wouldn’t have gotten hurt. It is a lesson she has learned and will not repeat soon. It also reminded me of my own mistakes and the things I learned.
Parents like to repeat: Look Before You Leap. There is a reason. It is cliche but it is ancient wisdom we try to pass on. We try to warn our offspring. Often they don’t listen to the warning and end up making their own mistakes anyway, just as we did.
One day they will grow up and pass that phrase on to their own children, who will roll their eyes and make mistakes. It is part of the learning process. However, if the same mistake keeps getting repeated over and over then the lessons aren’t getting through and it may be time for extra guidance. (Unless you are trying to make something. Then those “mistakes” turn into “drafts” or “experiments.”)
This is the third time I have sat down to write this morning’s post. For some reason it is more difficult that usual. Words are hard. They don’t want to pour from my fingertips right now. Instead I have to siphon each and every one and my fingers on the keyboard feel large and awkward.
I am still writing. It has taken me three tries, but I am covering the glaring white page. The progress is slow but each word is another small step forward.
Sometimes writing is like that. Sometimes it flows and sometimes it only trickles. It is still important to show up at the keyboard and pound those words out, even when it is almost painful to do so. If I give up just because it is hard, then I don’t deserve the days when it comes easy.
The muse is lazy. She doesn’t always show up. Sometimes you just have to write without her.