4 Questions Answered

I’ve secretly always wanted to be featured in a blog hop.  Most of the bloggers I’ve come to admire host them fairly regularly, or simply name drop other bloggy buddies here and there.  Needless to say, when I was tagged in Dustin’s blog hop, I was more than excited… then life happened and I forgot… but then!  I remembered!  Don’t be so excited!

The gist.

I answer four questions (previously posed to Dustin when he was tagged) then I tag a few more blogger friends for readers to hop on over to check out. Here goes…

What am I writing or working on?

Well, currently I am writing this post.  I’ve been neglecting my writing and it’s beginning to show.  A writer without a regular outlet for their literary energies can be a scary thing. When I start to wax poetic when drafting emails full of spreadsheet attachments, I know it’s time to get back on track. In other news, I’m working on formatting the print version of my book, The Broken Places, to be available in the next month or two on Amazon along side the already released Kindle version.  Exciting times!

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How does my work differ from others in this genre?

For fiction, my “genre” is about as vague as my “voice” as an author.  I’m not sure where I fit…  these are probably really good questions to think through and get at solid answers… later.  As with blogging, I think the simplest and perhaps truest answer is that my genre differs because I’m human.  While on one hand it is true that there is nothing new under the sun, on the other hand we are each highly unique and given exactly the same prompt to create, we’d come up with different takes.  So I supposed my work differs from others in the genre because I differ.   I will always mix humor, romance, tragedy, mystery, spirituality into a compound that is uniquely me whether good, bad or indifferent.

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Why do I write what I do?

So many reasons here… because I can’t sleep if I don’t.  Because the story must be told for some unknown reason.  Because I pray it will be of some use to the world is some way that I may never know.  Because I want to solidify my memories and experience.  Because I want to connect with human kind in a way that just can’t be done face to face.  All of these and more to include  the most basic reason: it’s fun.

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How does my writing process work?

When I figure this out I’ll tell you… Nah, it’s all about consistency.  About getting my behind in the chair.  Once I’m there, I’m golden… sometimes.  For bigger projects I’ve adopted a modified snowflake method that ends up involving a dedicated wall in my office and LOTS of post-its. In terms of motivation, I’ve found that starting with really small blocks of time has worked.  I sit down with the timer set for 15 minutes, allowing myself to stop, if I want, as soon as it beeps.  More often than not, my mind clears, the words come and I’m well into an hour or two session with the oven timer long forgotten.

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So there you have it.

My quick and dirty answers to the four questions.  Are you a writer?  Do you have a process?  Does it always begin with “Pinterest?”  No?  Just me I guess…

Thanks Dustin for tagging me for this blog hop!  Next up, I’m tagging…

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September – Call it current

I have this tendency to beat myself over all the uncrossed off things on my to do list.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  But seriously, there are times that someone has to convince me that the kitchen cabinets do not, indeed, need to be painted before I go away for the weekend.  As I type that, a wave of guilt hits me that my cabinets are still not paint.

September is going to be about letting go of that stress.  As I alluded to last week, September’s motto is going to be “call it all current and move forward.”  Sure, it’s not really a goal or a habit.  Let’s say the habit is to give myself a break.  I like that.

I’d like to say that I’m putting all my running to-do lists, and there are many, through the shredder or the fire pit I just cleaned out.  I think I might have a heart attack or go into shock if I did that.  Instead, I’m taking a hard look at the reality behind what’s on my list.

Call it an examination of “why do I do what I do?” Call it a war against paralyzing perfectionism.  Call it a reality check… or just time to get over myself and my first world “problems”.  Call it all current and MOVE FORWARD.

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Here are a few areas I’m going to work on:

Project Life.  I’m months behind… months.  I had to come back to the whole reason behind wanting to do PL in the first place.  I love playing with paper and photos.  Seeing the little moments life is made of make me love life all the more.  I see how truly blessed I am.  I want to do this so the message is clear to get back on track.  So who cares if I catch up by covering two weeks in a spread instead of two?  Not me.  What’s the drama then?  I don’t remember.  Call it current and move forward.

The novel has been on draft #2 for almost a year.  I started off behind with writing.  I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, mind you, but I lost the race, as it were, in my imaginary competition with S.E. Hinton who finished writing The Outsiders when she was 16 and was published by 18.  It’s pretty bad when you’ve been defeated by 18… especially when it was a self-imposed imaginary competition.  What’s the A-HA in that?  There is no competition but myself (and possible my TV).  The stories in my head are mine.  They get written or they don’t.  My only deadline is death.  I can work with that.  And I WANT to write.  No need to carry around lost battles on my shoulders.  Call it current and move forward.

The blog and the shop.  While I’ve finally listed to the shop a lot of the work I’ve amassed recently, I feel way behind the game in the marketing, making-a-name game.  Same goes with the blog.  Again, I had to really look at why I even want to blog or have a shop.  I’m still working on that.  I like the blog as a journal of me and it struggles when I try to make it more than just a letter to my friends and family.  If the blog is my letter home, then the Etsy shop is my mom’s virtual fridge.  It practically squeals, “look what I can do!” complete with full Stuart hop-kick.  The pressure comes when I want it to make money.  I mean, obviously the goal of having an online shop is to make money.  But really, would I have made my art for free?  Well, yeah!  Because that’s what I already did.  Call it current and move forward.

Keeping in touch with people.  I suck at this… but does it make any sense to let the guilt of being bad at it keep me from making contact?  i find myself thinking, I’ve been terrible at keeping in touch with so-and-so, it would be weird to call her now.  Really?  What sense does that make?  Call it current and move forward.

House everything.  I read too many dwelling blogs.  Period.  I am not Young House Love.  Neither are you, really.  Unless you are.  In that case, hi Petersiks!  But really, I’ve done a lot in the two years I’ve lived in my house.  Sure I have grand plans, but that doesn’t mean I’m behind.  My house is doing a great job of being a house.  A safe house, a fun and cozy house.  Every nook and cranny need not be magazine cover material.  The laundry list of cabinet painting and pergola building and the replacement of all things “bisque” is about wants not needs.  There is not room for guilt in this casa.  Call it current and move forward. 

 

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On Writing…

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[stamp by Amanda Rose]

I’ve published exactly zero novels in my life so, naturally, I’m here to write about writing.  It’s a misconception, you know, that writer = published.  You’re a writer because you write.  Some people want to be a writer.  What’s stopping them?  It’s the sitting down with pen and paper or at  a computer with a blank word document and a glaring blinking cursor.  That’s all… but it’s the absolute hardest part.

I often wonder what quality it is, what that spark looks like, that gets a person over the threshold from not doing to doing.  I just attended the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit and Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Great by Choice, said something that really stuck with me.  He said,

“Creativity is natural; the human state. Discipline is NOT. The real skill is marrying creativity to discipline so it amps up your creativity.”

He called it “Fanatical Discipline” and “Empirical Creativity.”  Empirical as in tested, calibrated, something with some bones to back it up.  And there it was, the answer to my question.  DISCIPLINE.

It’s pretty hilarious to me that one of my top StrengthsFinder attributes is discipline.  While their definition of discipline rings true for me in the need for predictability, order, precision and structure (the silverware should be organized by type and size in the dishwasher people!), I have a hard time applying this discipline to some of the most important things to me.

Often, I sound like the Paul of Romans 7:15, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do (NIV). I think this every morning that I pass up the exercise bike in favor of 15 more minutes of sleep that leaves me feeling more lousy than if I’d just gotten up.  If I was doing what I want to do, I’d write, not watch another episode of Doc Martin only to be disappointed with the sorry excuse for a season finale.

So, discipline… it’s why I’m sitting on my couch right now writing this annoyingly long blog post that I’m sure you didn’t sign up for…but, hey, if you’re into this long winded thing I’ve got going on I have this novel idea I want to pitch you… but I digress.

I’ve always written.  It’s one of the few things I can remember doing my whole life.  I have folders full of little stories and poems in my earliest printed handwriting, complete with illustrations.  It’s strange and perfect that this thing about me, that’s woven into my DNA has taught me so much, especially over the last few years.  Writing with my sad semblance of discipline has taught me HOW to write.  I’ve learned that the pushing through, the writing when it’s hard, easily bears the most impressive results.  It’s when I really don’t want to write a scene or I’m just not in the “writing mood” and I do it anyways, sometimes huffing and whining the whole time (sorry, Tynisha), that great writing happens.

Last night was one of those nights.  I’d been battling with what I know needed to happen in the story line and just not wanting to got there, not knowing if I could write it, it was just too big and scary for me… but then… I did.  This is the first story I’ve ever stuck with, persevered with, struggled and beat and deleted and rearranged and argued with.  It’s made me a bit crazier than I ever used to be but I’ve never felt more like a writer.  A REAL writer.  No just someone who wants to be a writer.

After spending some time wrapping up that tough scene and cleaning up the outline for the remaining chapters, I started writing a new scene.  The final scene.  It came out seamlessly, all at once.  (You need to know this rarely happens.)

I even had to hop on Facebook and proclaim to all the nations my friends:

“Just typed the words “The End”… But before you get excited, I’m the type that skips to read the last page when things get intense…

Apparently I write the same way.”

(See, always learning something new about myself along the writer’s way.)

I have typed the words “The End” with sincerity for the first time and I saw a vision of the novel coming to completion.  I can see the finish line and so I pray for more and more of that fanatical discipline to get me those last few miles and, Lord willing, for it to become so ingrained in me that I never lose it again.

 

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Don’t forget to check out my prints for sale at:

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Flash Fiction

It’s not at all a new concept but it was a new idea to me a few months ago when a my friend posed this writing challenge. 

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For someone whose writing challenges typically include writing an enormous amount of words in a ridiculously short amount of time, I found that this challenge resulted in an inverse effect; the less words required, the more time required per word.  (I feel like I should provide some mathematical equation.  I’m bound to get the old white board out and start solving for X any moment now.)

You see, I’ve found that when you tell people that you are writing a novel, they always ask the same question: “What is it about?”  It should, theoretically, be an easy question to answer for the person that’s been obsessing over the details of a fictional plot for an embarrassing long time.  Yeah… not so much.  I usually say something completely unhelpful like, “It’s complicated” or I just sort of ramble out a synopsis as I watch the interest drain from the listeners eyeballs making me wish I’d just said, “It’s complicated” in the first place. 

So what does that have to do with flash fiction?  Nothing, really, except that I took up the challenge as a lesson in brevity.  My goal was less “write a whole story in 55 words” than it was “express a concept in a few sentences.”  I needed to find the happy medium between the two-word response, “It’s complicated” (well, three words depending on your word count policy regarding contractions and hyphenations), and the ten-page dissertation without organization, direction or a proper thesis statement. 

Was I successful?  Eh, well, I got the word count undercontrol…

Big Questions

She could feel the warmth of the unending sun leaching from the grass up into the backs of her legs as she lounged comfortably at the base of the oak tree, groping skyward. Bewildered people rambled about as she looked on. She smiled. A lifelong question was answered; you can still feel after you die.

Have you ever tried flash fiction?  Do you have any extreme exercise you’ve practiced to hone your craft? 

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NaNoWriMo

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  The time of year where writer extremists like myself subject ourselves to “thirty days and nights of literary abandon.”  A.K.A.  We forgo food, sleep and sanity to write an entire 50,000 word novel in the month of November (National Novel Writing Month… get it?).  For one month, and one month only, THIS site will be at the forefront of my web browsers tabs over even my Google Reader *gasp* and that’s truly saying something.

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It’s only day two so if you are likewise inclined, jump on the bandwagon, sign yourself up, take the plunge and, well, get caught up fast because the first time you think you can skimp out on a day in hopes of writing twice as much the next, you are in serious trouble.

I’d like to say that this won’t affect this already neglected blog but chances are I’ll forget my name and that I even have a blog after another 72 hours contemplating the complexities of an overwrought plot.  But, who knows, maybe I’ll turn to writing blog posts as a means of procrastination.  It can go either way folks.  In any case, I apologize in advance for either the lack of posting or the rambling run-ons of an over-caffeinated girl with writer’s block.

If you’re the praying type, please get those knees to the floor boards now.

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When I want to stop…

There’s a new label in my Gmail inbox these days.  It’s bright blue and reads “when I want to stop.”  Thanks to some fabulous people who’s paths God has ordained to converge at this exact time in my life, this label is finding it’s way on more and more emails. 

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The most recent was from Tynisha Leon (of Dasheen Magazine).  She forwarded a recent post from Danielle LaPorte’s blog Whitehot Truth that contained a stab to the heart that this girl needed to hear today.  Danielle wrote about the difference between motivation and inspiration, and though I know I’ve been lacking in the motivation department, one of her examples of inspiration summed me up in one sentence.

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I have something to say that needs to be heard.

When I write I feel bigger, freer, like God is using me well.

I have to write.  It’s what pulls me.  To ignore that fact is just disobedience.  I don’t write to make money.  I don’t write to please people.  I don’t write because it’s cool or because I have delusions of being a Bronte.  I write because it’s in me.  It IS me. 

Novel Writing (Day 3)

 

Imagine this post with a great big blue label that will catch my eye the next time I want to stop…

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It’s NaNoWriMo… you are NOT ready.

and neither am I.

As I mentioned in a past post, November is National Novel Writing Month-a.k.a. NaNoWriMo. The mission, if you choose to accept it, is to write 50,000 words during the month of November and upload to NaNoWriMo.org by midnight, November 30th.

It’s crazy, it’s challenging, it’s down-right exhausting… and it’s amazing. There won’t be too much blogging going on… actually, there will probably be zero blogging so, send up some positive thoughts to tide me over.

You can keep up with my progress below! See you in December!