Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Should I or shouldn’t I…

As I continue my self-imposed social media review and purge, I considered not blogging this week since I haven’t reached any conclusions. Then I realized – I haven’t missed a week all year. (at least I don't think I have...) I can’t skip now!

Then I scrolled through my accumulated Google Reader stash and shuddered. I couldn’t contribute to the ‘where I’ve been in 2011’ or ‘where am I going in 2012’ parade. Which left me at a loss for a worthy topic to round out the year.

One blog I’ve begun following recently – which will most certainly make the cut as I decided which to keep and which to jettison – is Single Dad Laughing. If you’re not familiar with his work, check it out, parent or not. His year-end post is artfully titled “Don’t Should on Yourself,” something I’m very good at doing. I “should” eat better/write every day/walk more often/relax and let go/be kinder to my hubby-kids-parents-friends…all those things we pack into New Year’s resolutions that fall by the wayside when the holidays end and real life intrudes.

My “shoulds” robbed me of almost two days of my life this week, felling me with another migraine. I “should” relax and stop trying to do everything/please everyone/live up (down?) to society’s expectations for this time of year/avoid unresolveable debates with loved ones…but I do, even when I insist I won’t. And then the migraine hits, and I’m the one who suffers. Me and my poor hubby.

So – no more “shoulds.” Instead, I will eat better, write every day, walk more often, relax and let go, be kinder to everyone…And if I slip, I will start over again. And again.

Not because I “should,” but because I choose to.

Happy 2012! Let’s count down to the apocalypse together, writing all the way.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Year-end questioning

I’ll skip right over the holiday itself (bleh) since I’ve already ranted about that a bit and move straight on to New Year’s resolutions. I’ve decided to take the rest of the year off to reevaluate my online presence, specifically:
-Why do I blog?
-Who do I picture as my audience?
-If a blogger posts on the Internet and no one notices, is there a point to all that effort?
-On a related note, how many of the almost seventy blogs by fellow writers that I follow daily truly offer something worthwhile?
-Do I really need to be active on Facebook and Google+ and Twitter and Goodreads and LinkedIn and …? Why?
-What is the respective benefit (if any) of each social media platform?
-How much more time would I have available to actually write if I didn’t spend so much time trying to keep up with all those outlets?

The new year already promises exciting new opportunities. Beginning in January, I’ll be teaching my first college-level class. Yesterday I received an email from a writer friend offering to connect me to a scientist who needs an editor for his most recent book. I’ve been invited to work more closely with the Antioch Writers Workshop, expanding my workfellow duties as we look forward to another great session in July. My third (and most promising) novel is in full draft and ready for rewrites. Looks like I’ll be busy in 2012 as we wait for the Mayan calendar to wind down.

So much of social media comes off as the cliques I avoided (okay, they largely avoided me) in high school. Why do I put so much time and energy into them now? What, if anything, am I doing wrong?

Your thoughts/comments/experiences would be greatly appreciated while I reassess my ’net life. Meanwhile, Happy New Year! I’ll be back in some hopefully improved form in January.

And Happy Solstice – let the sun shine in!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Perchance to dream…

There’s a constant battle between the hemispheres of my brain, as if psychologist Julian Jaynes’ bicameralism has re-evolved. The hyper-logical left brain that craves order runs roughshod over the creative, emotional, more sensitive right brain, demanding explanations, searching for answers, discarding whimsy. It creates an often unbearable havoc, like Springsteen’s “freight train running through the middle of my head,” day and night.

A constant, conscious awareness of everything permeates even my dreams. I doubt I often reach the scientifically-designated restorative stage of delta sleep since I wake up regularly, in right about the ninety-minute cycle described as needed to reach REM. I remain too aware of my sleep, vigilantly observing my dreams. I know I’m asleep. My brain doesn’t disengage long enough to relax. I’ve read about lucid dreaming and while it’s an interesting concept, it doesn’t describe my mental turmoil. I’m exhausted.

I yearn for quiet, for internal peace, yet even concerted attempts at meditation aren’t able to break through the miasma that clouds my brain. Any snippet of a song, nothing more than a title or the fragment I quoted from Springsteen, lodges in my mind and runs in an endless loop for days on end, usually until it’s supplanted by the next earworm. I mentally rewrite scripts for the TV sit-com or movie we watched. The phrases coil themselves around news headlines, Facebook and Google+ posts, Tweets, and the latest ambiguous conversation with a friend or family member, twisting all the conflicting thoughts, words, and emotions into a tangled mass of confusion.

My only sure avenue for escape, fleeting as it may be, is my writing. When I manage to become engrossed in creating a new story, my tension eases. The rigid left brain seems content to impose its order on the words flowing to the page from the creativity of the right brain and for those few brief moments, the fractious hemispheres work in tandem. Time slips by unnoticed. I skip the hourly time checks which pepper my night and lose myself in a world where I have a semblance of control.

A semblance of peace.

Why do you write?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A blast from the past – refined…

Last week, in the midst of post-NaNo depression (need to keep writing momentum on track…can’t start another novel until completing one of the four in finish/rewrite/edit stage actually is done…writers group expects output, now what?) I took a trip in my personal Wayback Machine (and I don’t mean the Internet archive…Google it, youngsters) and revisited a short story I wrote in 1991.

Yikes. Please don’t do the calculations and tell me how long ago that was.

Let me preface this by noting that a few weeks ago at my writers group, I brought in the opening of my first novel, Ties that Bind, which I completed in rough form as my master’s thesis in early 2010 and sat untouched since. One of my fellow writers commented how much my work had improved (his words) when comparing Ties to my latest WIP. I was flattered, but not entirely convinced.

The 1991 story proved him right. I’ve been rather proud of this particular story in my personal oeuvre, submitted it a few times over the years to various journals without success, tweaked it a bit here and there. After the last rejection, which was longer ago than I can remember, I stuck it in my files and forgot about it until now.

Good grief was it rough. The main characters were compelling enough, decent setting, interesting story line with a nice twist at the end. But I was appalled at the language – stilted, wordy, redundant narrative, unnecessary side plots…this was my idea of good? Maybe I have learned something.

I knew if I wanted to read it to my group, it needed a serious overhaul, no more tweaking. I turned to a technique introduced by the delightful Crystal Wilkinson at the Antioch Writers Workshop in 2009, and reinforced later during my master’s program. I printed out a copy and started retyping, editing and revising as I went. Within just a few hours I’d rewritten vast swaths of the text while maintaining the kernel of the original, tightening and focusing the piece. Along the way, I trimmed over six hundred words from the total.

My writers group was encouraging in their responses and seemed suitably impressed with the result. But I know that, even after twenty years, the story still needs a bit of polish before I inflict it on yet another journal.

Guess I have learned something. Now where’s the rough draft of that early novel…

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Dec. 3rd book signing

If you’re looking for different sort of outing this Saturday, consider the Lebanon Horse Drawn Carriage Parade & Festival, where yours truly and fellow writer Tami Absi will be signing copies of the Reflections from Women anthology The Moment I Knew, which includes our essays. I’ll also have copies of my Historic Warren County: An Illustrated History on behalf of the Heritage Advisory Council, and Tami may bring her Cup of Comfort publications. Our host is Chapters Pre-Loved Books, and we’ll be in their booth at Mulberry & Broadway from 2-4:30 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

For the win...

Excuse me folks, but damn! I hit all sorts of mileposts yesterday, that’s why this weekly post is late. Not only did I make it to the 50K National Novel Writing Month deadline I was convinced was unattainable, but I wrote a personal-best 9,800 words in one day and finished the first draft of my WIP. And it’s not rambling, fill-up-the-page lorem ipsum text either, it’s a story that works.


I started November and NaNo with high hopes of reaching this point. Life intervened, as usual. A late autumn head cold, a couple of disturbing family crisis, and while none of them required my physical presence, they certainly took me out of my writing zone for several days. And of course, Thanksgiving (see last week’s post to see what the holidays do to me). My personal Black Friday hit with the realization my NaNo count stood at a paltry 38,500. I needed to write over 4,000 words a day for the next five days to get the win. Not likely.

So I did what I usually do. I found a rational excuse. I gave up on NaNo with the justification that I’d never intended to make the 50K, it was just a jump-start exercise for the stalled WIP and look, hadn’t I added almost 40K to my work? It was fine that I didn’t finish NaNo, really.

Only it wasn’t. My capitulation nagged at me. I went into a two-day funk, wrote nothing Saturday and Sunday and started the week staring at my NaNo spreadsheet (yes, I have one) which told me I needed to produce 5,470 words a day on each of the last three days to hit the mark. My brain told me I couldn’t possibly do it, but now it bothered me. The earlier justification wasn’t enough to overcome my sense of failure.

Then my wonderful, amazing, incredible support crew kicked in (that’s all of you!). Hubby offered food and drink and lots of hugs. Daughter and son gave me long-distance pep-talks via text, chat, and Skype. My fantastic writers group, friends and strangers I’ve collected on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, all urged me to persevere. The NaNo forums introduced me to still more writer types and my circle grew exponentially. And the words started to flow. 3,742 on Monday. 2,885 on Tuesday. And the truly incredible 9,806 on Wednesday, reaching the magic 50K number at 9:46 p.m.

I proved myself wrong, and right. I did manage to complete the NaNo challenge, and while in reality it’s ephemeral, it’s also an internal boost, a kick in the pants. I proved to myself I can maintain a steady 2K word per day output of mostly decent stuff. But I also managed my original goal of jump-starting the WIP. I now have on my hard drive – and flash drive, and external storage drive, and email transfer – a 78,408 word completed first draft of Fatal Error: AYBABTU.

Because I pushed myself (with lots of help) to work through NaNo, my story evolved more consistently, new characters appeared and vanished, some died when I didn’t think they could, the bad guy who maybe wasn’t turned out to be even more so while the clueless puppet had me fooled, sub-plots I never considered before crept in, my MC learned lessons I didn’t know she needed. I’m a confirmed punster; how anyone writes a novel from an outline I’ll never understand.

See how well I justify? Thank you, everyone!