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Posts tagged ‘writing’

January 2020 – New Year, New Goal

Happy 2020!

We’re in a new year and that means it’s time to talk about new goals for the year. Last year my plans got derailed. I had these big goals to write more stories, write my novel, and grow my blog. I did write a couple of stories, write some of my novel, and gained a few more followers, but still I fell short. Throw in recovering from surgery, getting laid off, money worries, and starting a new job, and well, the goals just didn’t happen. I fell behind. Then, I beat myself for falling behind.

So for 2020 I’m scaling back the goals. I only have one.

Write and sell my book.

That’s it. One single focus. I may do other things (rewrite some stories or maybe another chapbook next winter), but the primary focus will be on the book. I’ve ignored it far too long and this is the year that I really devote time to it. Writing a novel is a brick by brick building process. It won’t get written in a week, or a month. But it will get written this year.

It’s not an exciting goal on paper, but the last time I finished anything that was over 5,000 words long was 2003. I’m a bit daunted by this goal, but I also know that I can do this. I’ve done it before and I KNOW I an do it again. I just have to stick to my mantra — Put words on the page everyday.

Also, if you missed the news, I had a new story published last month by Scarlet Leaf Review. You can read it here.

Thank you for reading and Happy New Year!

 

 

All Work, No Play

The new day job has been a time suck. I went from staying home all day long with occasional errands, to twelve hour long days ( two of those hours are commuting to and from the office). In some ways it’s nice to be busy again, but, wow, I’m tired at the end of the day. The job itself is great. I’m getting better at it and feeling more confident in the work. Hopefully, in a few months I will be able to work from home a few days a week.

Honestly, I don’t know how some of these super commuters do it. People who have longer commutes than me, or travel all the time. I know someone who lives in LA, but works in AZ! My hats off to you all.

But… the writing hasn’t stopped! If anything I’ve started writing on my lunch break, like I used to do years ago. Now that I have limited time and energy, I find myself scribbling a few pages everyday. So like my affirmation card says, “I’m putting words on the page everyday.” The novel may be slow, but it is progress. I never was one for sprinting. I prefer the long endurance races.

I still have some writing goals to meet, but for now (and probably the rest of October) it’s going to be on writing this novel (and getting my 100K words written goal) done. Currently, no word count because I have a crap ton of handwritten pages, but it’s hefty. Plus, I’m not too worried about word count right now. I”m just going for it and writing everything down. I’ll edit¬† and shape it later. Right now, I just want words on the page, a beginning, a middle, and an end.

This past weekend I attended a great writing workshop. As many have said before, you should never stop learning. This particular workshop was taught by Donald Maass on “The Emotional Craft of Writing.” It was a good size group and I got a lot out of it. If you have the opportunity to go — do it. It’s always good to learn new things in your craft, or remind yourself of the lessons you already know. I realize now, after twenty-years out of undergrad, that I’m never going to be done learning. There is always another part of me where I can grow.

Also, you don’t need to pay for a workshop. Trust me, I know what it is like to be strapped for cash. Reading books, watching youtube videos on craft (by people who you think are successful), and talking with other writers are great ways to grow too. Just never think you know it all. I think that is detrimental thinking.

So, I’m pushing forward, working hard (both the writing and new day job), and trying not to burn out. It has been a crazy, crazy, year so far. I’m a little scared about what these last three months are going to bring, but I am hopeful. Things seem to be settling down. I want a quiet fall and holidays filled with love, laughter, and lots of writing.

 

New Season, New Beginning

It’s not quite officially fall yet, but I’m starting to feel it in the air. Kids are going back to school. The lazy, hot days of summer are fading into busy, crisp days of autumn. The days of relaxing are gone and replaced by days of activity.

In other words, I got a new job.

I’m excited for the new experience. In a way this is new territory for me. I’m entering the world of government contracting (I had to get security clearance.) and I’m now working for a large company. I haven’t done that since 2000. My very first job out of undergrad was with a large company. Since then, I have only worked for small businesses. I also have a commute again. Back into the fray of traffic. I hope this is a good match. I think I made a good choice accepting this offer. No job is perfect, but I think this place is a good fit and I’ll be there for a while.

As for writing, my novel is still chugging along. I had hoped to have most of it done by September 1, but that didn’t happen. Truth is — It’s been a while since I’ve written anything over 5K. Once I passed that mark, I lost steam. My friend Jennifer Ryan suggested that I set a timer for 30 minutes and just work for that amount of time everyday. So far, that has worked, but the progress is slow. I get bored, insecure, or just plain lazy and don’t want to work. It’s strange, but when my time was limited, I was able to focus and get stuff done. Having lazy days where I don’t have much to do took the wind out of my sails.

I have an affirmation card on my bedroom wall that says, “Put words on the page everyday.” It’s a reminder to myself that I don’t need to have the perfect words, I just need to write¬†something. I need to move forward. Maybe by October 1 I’ll have a very rough draft of the book. For now, I’m just putting words on the page. One foot in front of the other. I’ll get there… eventually.

Also there are some other great literary things that are happening and I’ll talk about those later, as I get further into the fall. I may have been lazy at times, but I still got some stuff done. I’m still submitting and going to literary events.

So it is a new season for me. A new start and, in a way, a new adventure into the next phase of my life. This summer was challenging and difficult at times. Change never really feels good as you’re going through it, but after the dust has settled and I started to move on, I have a better attitude. In some ways, my life needed an upheaval. A reminder that nothing is certain and the the winds of change will blow your way one day. After my surgery, I started practicing more gratitude and never have I been more grateful for getting all my medical issues taken care of before I lost my job. I really lucked out there. I’m also grateful for all the family and friends that supported me through this time. They made the time much more bearable.

Here I go. Onward.

Chapter 5 and Beyond

I’ve moved on to chapter 5 of the novel. I wish I could say that this book is flowing easily, but I think I’m a bit rusty when it comes to longer pieces. It has been so long since I’ve passed the 10K mark with a story that it feels like foreign soil to me. The last time I wrote this much on one story, I was in my twenties.

But I like the story I’m writing. I’m still interested. My main character is a complex guy and I’m enjoying spending time with him. So more words get written on the page and I am not ready to stop.

Sometimes I think getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to my writing career.

Yes I’m still applying for jobs and going to interviews, but I also have the fill the other hours of the day. Writing my fiction has been a good way to occupy my time and thoughts. I can always keep busy with a writing project. Also, it’s supposed to be around 100 degrees this weekend! It’s like the universe is forcing me to stay home, in the AC, and write. It’s too hot to go anywhere.

Seriously though, all writers know how hard it is to get time to write. In between jobs, families, and sleep, long chunks of writing time can be a luxury. So this is an opportunity that I’m not going to waste. Soon enough, I’ll be back in the grind. For now, I’m going to write my brains out and enjoy it.

Don’t Make Decisions Out of Fear

We’re halfway through the year.

And what a year it has been for me! I started off getting major surgery and recovering from it. Now, I’m figuring out what the next step in my careers is going to look like. I say “careers” because I have two.

I have my records management career that I’ve stuck with for almost twenty years. Ever since I graduated from undergrad school, I’ve been involved one way or another in this field. I enjoy it and it feeds a particular part of my personality that enjoys planning and organizing.

My other career is the fiction writing. I’ve been lucky enough to be published a few times, but I really want to do more. I’ve been using my time in between jobs to really focus on writing and submitting more. I’m currently on chapter four of the novel and I have nine submissions out.

Through this whole year, I’ve been trying to focus on how I made big decisions in my life. So many times I’ve been pushed into a corner and had to make a decision because, if I didn’t, I thought things would get worse. One big moment for me was back in 2014. I had planned to take some of my savings and pay for my last class outright, instead of borrowing the money. As soon as I pulled the money out of my savings, I got furloughed. Worried I might lose my job, I stuffed the money back into savings and went even further into debt. If I had just taken a few weeks and let the fear go, I would’ve saved myself hundreds of dollars in interest.

Sometimes it is hard to know. For me, I’ve tried to set myself up so that I don’t have to make decisions out of fear in the first place. When I lost my job, I had enough savings that I could take a breath and figure out what was next. With my health, I plan on never going back into surgery like that again, so I will be much more vigilant and take better care of myself. Sometimes emergencies can’t be helped, but health issues of my own making should be stopped. I knew about a year before surgery that something wasn’t right, but I ignored it and told myself it was not that serious.

With my fiction writing, I think I’ve done better. I try not to self reject. If I see a open call and I think my work is a good fit, I send it to them. I try not to let the fear of putting myself out there hold me back. It’s easy at times to talk yourself out of submitting. You tell yourself, “It’s not that good.” or “I need to rewrite it again for the hundredth time.” or “I’m not important and this place only publishes famous writers.” That is fear telling you this.

The best advice I ever heard was from a video. The speaker said that no one can see the future (at least as far as he knew). When you talk yourself out of things, or make decisions out of fear, you are predicting the future. You already know that the outcome is going to be bad, so why try? Truth is, YOU DON’T KNOW THE FUTURE. You can’t predict what is going to happen. All you can do it make the best choices for yourself to your benefit. Fear is a lie telling you the future. So ignore it and try anyway. You never know what is going to happen.

As I put down more and more words for this novel, the fear comes on strong. This is a long work and part of me hates to work on it, only for it to fail. So I have to keep telling myself that I don’t know whether it will fail or not. No matter what has happened in the past, I don’t know the future. I have to trust in my ability as a storyteller that this manuscript will be successful.

I have to trust myself.

 

On Why My Fiction Writing is Necessary

To date, I haven’t earned more than $20 from my writing. To be a full time fiction writer is a dream come true, but the reality is that even if you have multiple books published, you still might have to do something else to support yourself (and your family). More practical people would see my work in the past years as a failure.

“Whaaa? You still haven’t published a novel?” they say.

It’s hard for me to explain to someone, who isn’t a writer, why I continue to write. There’s no money coming in from it, so why bother? It’s a hobby — a pastime, that I tinker with but don’t ever seem to get any traction on. At best, I’m an undiscovered genius. At worst, I’m a hack that is deluding herself.

Neither one of these is true for me.

I think I’m a good writer. I’m good enough to be on the shelf with my peers, but I’m not Margaret Atwood, or Octavia Butler. My ego tells me I’ve got something special and my common sense reels me back and says I need to work on that specialness. That sounds pretty healthy to me. You have to have some sort of ego to be any artist. You have to believe people will care about what you create. Otherwise why bother putting it out into the world? Just write your stuff in journals and stuff them under the bed.

As I look for new employment, I ask myself what made me stay at my previous job so long? I was there for almost eleven years. Not only that, but the job I had before, I was there for six and a half years. Clearly, I wasn’t there only for money. What were the traits of that job that made me stay so long and how can I find to same qualities in my next job? That’s the questions I ask myself as I comb through job announcements and email my resumes.

The first time I decided I wanted to write, I was twelve years old. That was thirty years ago! This is a hobby/hopefully second career that I’ve stuck with for more than half my life. So why have I done it?

First off, I’m an introvert. I’m not good at parties and I don’t want to be around people all the time. Even as I type this, I’m alone in my place with no plans to meet up with anyone today. That sounds great to me. Yep, I’m in the yoga pants, t-shirt, and house shoes.

Yet, I don’t want to cut myself off from the world all the time. Writing helps me connect because I can do it in the comfort of my house, but then share with all of you. I can be vulnerable and still feel protected at the same time.

Second, I do love stories. Not even kidding when I say that I can watch the same movies and TV shows multiple times, even if I enjoyed the story the first time around. (And let’s not forget I have a pretty good memory, so even if I remember the story-line, I’ll still watch it.) I just recently found the reruns of Monk on Hallmark’s Mysteries channel. They are still funny, wonderful stories. Also, I will reread some of my all time favorite short stories again and again. Recently, perused through Ted Chaing’s “Story of Your Life” again. (The movie came on Syfy.)

So I write stories that I really enjoy and want to read over and over. It’s a challenge and exhilarating. I love to push myself to go outside of the box and really write a story that is unique, but familiar. Odd, but comforting. I love the challenge and when I feel like I’ve written something good, oh my it is a happy day in my house.

Lastly, I do write stories for you the reader. I love to brighten someone’s day. Make them laugh and forget the crap they are dealing with. Make them say “Wow, what fun!” Making someone else feel better, have empathy, see through fresh eyes, or simple helping them escape for a few minutes is the best job in the world.

I’ve been fiction writing for thirty years, and I plan to do it for at least thirty more.