Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Give Yourself Over

Give yourself over. That is what you must do each time you pick up a pen or sit down in front of your computer.

Give yourself over to all the words, images, ideas ready to pour out of yourself and onto the page, the screen. Step aside, make way. Don’t stop yourself before you even get started.

But it is hard to find that mental place where your mind is alight with possibilities and creativity practically pulses through your fingertips.

Not all of us can reach this place on a consistent basis. Dean Wesley Smith in Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Rewriting Part 2 says professional writers have taught themselves to access this mindset whenever they need to. But for the rest of us mere mortals, it can be a challenge to write while contending with everyday distractions.

While I was traveling, I didn’t write. It’s not that I didn’t have time, not exactly. I could have stayed in the bedroom a little bit longer each morning to write or “take a nap” in the afternoons when we didn’t have any other plans. But staying in my in-laws’ house added a self-consciousness to the act of writing that’s not present when I sneak away to the coffee shop or library.

I even went to a coffee shop on two separate occasions while we were traveling – ostensibly to write. But the words would not come. I was too busy worrying about getting back to the house, all the errands and activities still needing to be done. In short, I wasn’t writing on my own terms.

But as one week turned into two, two weeks into two-and-a-half, I was desperate to get back to work, to immerse myself in my WIPs. I even came up with a new short story idea. But I still didn’t write. Even in the airport and on the plane ride home, I did not put pen to paper because I was too exhausted by the whole trip.

A good night’s rest in my own bed did the trick. A return to routine and a burning desire to make up for lost time had the words coming fast and strong.

I found that creative space in my mind quickly, now that I had the chance. But it was more out of necessity, since it had been so long, than any ability to access this part of myself at will.

Even times when I’m writing on a consistent or at least semi-consistent basis, I can’t always rely on my momentum to keep me going. Instead, I have to reread my previous work or write blog posts like this one to prime the pump, so to speak, before launching into any “new” writing.

Some people swear by taking showers or regular exercise, or even meditation. There are whole books out there on how to find and harness inspiration, as if it’s some light switch we can turn off and on.

But for me, it always comes down to giving myself permission to write. Shucking the self-consciousness for at least a few hours so that the words come more easily.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve come a long way from where I was when I first started writing on a regular basis. I’ve gotten better. But I do feel like I’ve regressed a bit after this trip. And now I’m trying to make my way back to where I was before.

I need to give myself over to writing. But typing it is easier than doing it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Housekeeping and a Meme

I’m finally back from my psuedo vacation – it was jam packed with things like weddings and rehearsal dinners and bridal luncheons and binge drinking and rich food and awkward conversations with relatives. And also the beach and bug bites and sunscreen and bike rides and laughing and reading.

But, alas, no writing.

I did manage to eek out some time for reading blogs, but commenting went by the wayside. I have a ton of things to catch up on, so please bear with me as I recover from my two-and-a-half weeks of non-writing.

In the meantime, I want to thank my blogging pals Laura Marcella, Lori M. Lee, and Julie Dao for tagging me for a blogging meme. I won’t be tagging anyone else, but here are my answers nonetheless. Enjoy! (And sorry for the lateness.)

Do you think you are hot?
Umm… awkward.

Upload a wallpaper you are using at the moment.
I’m so cliché, but it’s a picture of my dog. We rescued her as a puppy and were told she’s a mix of Australian Cattle Dog and Australian Sheppard. But in any case, she’s adorable, and having her on my desktop made it easier being away from her while we were on vacation.

When’s the last time you ate chicken?
A chicken cesar wrap at the airport on Monday just before we were informed our flight home was cancelled and had to be rescheduled for Tuesday. Talk about buzzkill.

List the songs you listened to recently.
Blur’s Think Tank
Radiohead’s The King of Limbs
Sufjan Steven’s Michigan
And before that, too many wedding songs to count.

What were you thinking while doing this?
I need to hurry up and post this before heading to my new writing group.

Do you have nicknames?
Yes, but if I shared them, I'd have to kill you. :P

Tag eight blogger friends.
Not going to, but be sure to check out my blogging buddies who tagged me:

Laura Marcella at Wavy Lines – With posts like Monday Quote Day, Wednesday Writing Workout, and Fun Fact Friday, how can you go wrong?

Lori M. Lee at You Are the Unicorn of My Dreams - Monday posts focus on writing craft, Wednesday posts are writing excerpts, and you never know what you are going to get on Fridays.

Julie Dao at Silver Lining - Thoughtful posts about the writing life and staying inspired with some whimsy thrown in for good measure.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Family Vaction or Why I'm Still in the Closet When It Comes to My In-Laws

Tomorrow we leave for a two-and-a-half week vacation of sorts, which includes two weddings, a trip to the beach, and visits with college friends. It will be fun and exhausting, and there’s an excellent chance I won’t get anything done.

But I’m still looking forward to the trip. Even though I need to make some tough decisions as to which books to pack. Frankly some books are simply better on a plane versus on the beach. Or read on the couch in front of in-laws instead of before bed at night.

And of course any time spent with extended family can lead to awkwardness as to just what do I do all day. Now that I have two stories forthcoming from Eclectic Flash, the temptation is there to finally say I’m a writer.

But here be monsters.

Why? Well, for starters, They May Not Value Writing. I have evidence that could go either way here. If they aren’t big readers or value only extrinsic measures of success, they just aren’t going to get it. But I am a member of the family, they are generous people, and they respect me. So maybe they’d respect the writing too.

They Also Have No Clue Just How Difficult Writing Can Be. And this goes for a healthy chunk of all non-writers. So much thought goes into word placement, structure, characterization… The more I learn about writing, the trickier it is to get words down on the page that I’m satisfied with.

Because they don’t understand how hard writing is, They Will Ask Me Why I’m Not Published Yet. You know, as in what really counts when you are a writer – a book deal. Short stories are, well, short, and no one is making millions on them. Publishing is a molasses-slow process, just as writing something worth publishing takes a looong time. They won’t understand milestones like getting a CP, or querying that first agent, or getting a full request. They just want to see a book.

And there’s the whole They Will Want To Talk To Me About My Writing Projects. They might ask out of courtesy or maybe they are genuinely interested. Which is great. I can appreciate that, even though I don’t like talking about my work until it’s far enough along that I’m comfortable sharing it with others. Ideas are just that, and until they get to the page, I don’t have a strong sense of how things will turn out. A careless word by someone else can destroy a story before it even starts. Plus, can you imagine me discussing the finer points of love scenes in my historical romance with my father-in-law? Neither can I.

But I guess it all comes down to the fact that They Will Stop Thinking I’m A Mystery And Start Seeing Me As A Dreamer With No Prospects. In some sense, the question of what I do – do I stay at home all day? Do I volunteer? Do I watch soap operas? Do I secretly want to have babies and be a stay-at-home mom? - protects me and keeps them from knowing the truth. Rejection is writing’s constant companion. I don’t need someone telling me writing is impossible, that I’m a dreamer for even trying it. I already know that. But I do it anyway, and that can be hard for some people to understand.

So yeah. Not telling them. Yet.

My husband and I discussed the best time to tell them the truth. And we decided that a professional short story sale or an agent would necessitate telling folks about me writing and all that. You know, which ever came first.

(cough) yeah, right (cough).

But for now I’m optimistic that one day I will be able to share this part of my life with them. I am a dreamer. Or a masochist. It’s hard to tell some days.

Because of all the travel, blog posting and commenting may be spotty, but I wish you all happy writing! I’ll be back for sure by the second half of the month.
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