Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dealing with the Unexpected

I should be back to normal. No more wedding shenanigans, no contractors. I’m back home and ready to resume my writing routine.

There’s just one problem – my right arm swelled to twice its size on Monday.

Poison Ivy. Yep. All thanks to the landscaping help I gave my dad before our house was overrun by relatives and other out of town guests. That was two weeks ago and the dreaded stuff keeps getting worse.

When the swelling didn’t go down, I went to the doctor on Tuesday. Now I’m on heavy duty steroids and anti-itch meds that don’t just make me drowsy but put me in a coma. And I still have a puffy Popeye arm that aches whenever I type, write longhand, or hold a book.

This wasn’t the homecoming I expected.

In fact, I spent most of Tuesday drugged up and feeling sorry for myself. I got down on myself and my writing. Self-doubts that I managed to stave off before came back in full force, somehow knowing I was in no shape to disregard them this time.

Every time I get discouraged, I come back to the same thing: I know I am improving but I have nothing to show for it.

When I get in these funks, I usually start something new, something exciting, something that will distract me from the doubt. But that’s not so feasible this time. Not with my achy puss-filled balloon arm.

Consistency is so important to both my process and my progress. And when unexpected setbacks get in my way, it can be that much harder to get going once more.

I need to give my arm a break, but I’m curious to know how you deal with the unexpected.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writing Group Woes

I’ll be heading back next week. Wedding festivities have been fun and spoiled me for all things food and alcohol related – I just need to stay hydrated and stick to veggies for a while and I’ll be ok.

Coming back means a return to routine. Before I left for home, we got the last of the interior work done on the house, which means I won’t be a prisoner to the contractors’ schedules. I can come and go as I please. Bike rides to coffee shops and the library are in my immediate future. Bliss!

I’ll also be returning to my writing groups, or should I say group… My Monday night group that’s centered around prompts is still going strong. The critique-focused group, however, has kinda imploded.

First indication that something wasn’t right: one member stopped coming without a word. Secondly, the founder left town to address some personal issues (outlook not so good for her return). Then, when I and the two remaining members were going to meet and figure out how to carry on and recruit new members, we had to cancel last minute because one member was ramping up for her first year as a teacher. We’re tentatively scheduled to meet next week after almost two months of down time, and I’m not sure what will happen.

I realize writing isn’t easy. I realize that groups, while encouraging, can also stress people out and place pressure on them to produce work on a regular basis, which can be frustrating when inspiration strikes irregularly. And don’t even get me started on the critique aspect. There are always those who take take take and never offer reciprocal feedback. Always with a well-meaning excuse, mind you.

I also wonder if my standards for myself are unforgiving for others to meet. After all, I’m not working right now and don’t have to worry about the stress of a 9 to 5 (or longer) job and then writing on top of that. Nor do I have children, who are another time suck. No, it’s just me, my writing, and my understanding husband who knows I’m not happy only keeping house. Therefore I have the time to read and review every submission from the group. But I do wonder why some of the members joined up if they couldn’t commit fully…

People have talked before about the difficulties of finding good critique partners, and I think I’m dealing with these growing pains right now. Sharing your writing is important and necessary. See The Importance of a Critique Group from All Kinds of Writing if you need convincing. But some criticism is better than others -- A breadth of critique from TalkToYoUniverse provides a nice description of the different types of readers and how you should interpret their criticisms.

What I liked about our critique group was the wide variety of styles and genres the members brought to the table. This range of perspectives was wonderful as I’m still bouncing around a bit in terms of which writing styles I’m focused on. In other words, which ones I'm better at. So if I do meet up with the remaining members, and we do decide to keep going and recruit more folks, we will want to preserve that variety. Searching for a Critique Group provides a nice checklist of questions we'll aslo need to keep in mind as we try to grow our group.

If we can’t get dedicated people, I’ll have to explore other ways to find like-minded writers – probably have to break down and join the RWA. I’ve been hesitant to do this, which is something I’ll have to talk about in another post.

Anyone else going through this right now? What strategies have you used?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Slow Blogging

Lots of theories abound when it comes to social media and how blogging should be utilized:

  • Post every day.
  • Respond to each and every comment.
  • Read and comment on other blogs indiscriminately.
  • Flaunt yourself as much as possible.

Trouble is, I’ve never been much of an exhibitionist. Admittedly, blogging is a bit of a contradiction for me. Every time I post, I put myself out there in the ether for public consideration – except I do this under an alias because I’m not ready to own up to being a wannabe writer unless I make it. So why do I do it? Because the benefits of writing practice and engagement with the larger writing community far outweigh the nuisances of blogging.

That said, I’d rather be working on my WIPs instead of putting together my next blog post. But when I do blog, I want my posts to be as strong as possible. I’ll revise, research, and let them sit until they’re ready. This takes time. I guess I’ve always preferred quality over quantity.

When it comes to commenting and interacting with others, it’s all about the content for me. Not the brown nosing, the contests, the polls. If I feel I can’t add to the discussion on someone else’s blog, I don’t bother to comment. Blasphemy, I know. I’m just not comfortable saying something for the sake of saying something. I like to think about things, and I don’t want to rattle off the first thing that comes to mind. Especially when it is so easy to follow things back to the source. I don’t want to be haunted by half-assed comments years from now.

So when I heard about the notion of slow blogging, I felt relieved that it wasn’t just me who took issue with the time pressure of producing content and interacting with others. The concept has been around for awhile now. Anne R. Allen provides a great overview of the movement with respect to writers, which I stumbled upon thanks to a post by Elizabeth Craig. If you want to know more, you can read the Slow Blogging Manifesto and a New York Times article on the movement.

So from here on forward, I will aim to post once a week – usually on Wednesdays.

Before, I loosely coupled my posting schedule to the number of trips I took to the coffee shop to write – roughly two times a week. It was an informal schedule at the best of times before it was utterly destroyed during the big move and subsequent babysitting of contractors over the last two months. But weekly blog posts? That I can get behind. People have talked about the benefits of having a posting schedule before (Elizabeth Craig again comes to mind), so we’ll see how it goes.

I see this move to slow(er) blogging as:

  • a way to help me handle the time pressure of blogging,
  • a justification of the pace of posting I’ve already unconsciously set,
  • a way to reinforce the quality over quantity criterion I’ve always valued,
  • a formal acknowledgement of my accountability to myself and my readers, and
  • a way to ensures I have time to do justice to the topics I post about.


And if this builds in extra time for writing, who am I to complain?

I’ll also be tinkering with some of the labels and tags this week, so apologies for any inconsistencies on that front.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Home Sweet Home (In Theory)

I’m back in my hometown. Been here since last Thursday. My sister’s bridal shower and bachelorette parties are behind me (and went off without a hitch), and in theory, I have two weeks until the wedding hoopla builds up again for the actual ceremony and reception. Two weeks to work on the revisions I brought with me. Two weeks to develop new blog posts (since I’ve been a bit remiss lately) and to come up with new writing ideas.

Cue the eye roll.

I know what happened last time I was home, and it wasn’t writing. Granted, I’m at a coffee shop right now working on this post while my dad’s out golfing. But the next couple of days I’ll need to be working on my writing, and he’ll inevitably be around – without his golf game to distract him from me and my WIP.

He’s not stupid. He knows what I’m doing. But we’ve reached an unspoken agreement not to talk about it. In theory, this means I can write whenever I feel the need to, but I’ve never made my process so visible to him before.

At the same time, if I just do the normal thing (think vegging out in front of the tv – ah, cable…) I won’t get anything done. And there goes all my personal goals and deadlines. Down the drain.

I know what you are thinking: Get over it. Writer’s write. Own the process. Do your work justice. Everyone else can be damned. And while in theory this is true, it’s a lot harder to be self-righteous in the privacy of your own home than it is when you are reliant on the hospitably of others. And yes, I’m painfully cognizant of the fact that my childhood home is no longer my home. I no longer feel comfortable enough here to be myself.


Thankfully, all this angst lends itself nicely to blog ramblings. I will have some actual content in my post next time around. In theory...

Until then.

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