Saturday, August 30, 2008

Getting to know you....

I've figured out some of the problems regarding my story. One is that I'm putting way too much pressure on myself--something about having graduated makes me feel like I should be producing a ton of high-quality work, which is just stunting my creative process. Not sure how I'm going to get over that...

Something that's easier for me to fix is this: I did a ton of journaling/blogging about Janine, my main character, when I started the story. But then she changed A TON, and so did the story. I never re-brainstormed about who she was. So while the plot of the story feels right, the voice of it doesn't, because I don't know my character yet. So stay tuned for some "getting to know you" exercises. I'll probably post an interview with her later on this evening.

Also to come: Next week is Gratitude Week on Writerbug. I'm going to spend the whole week staying positive on the blog. I've been much too negative/whiny--on here and in general.

For now, I'm off for dinner/drinks with a friend. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, August 28, 2008

If I used all the time I spend fretting to write...

...I'd be published by now.

This transition from MFA student to graduate is harder than I thought it would be. I thought having my degree would make me feel like a "real" writer. Surprise: it doesn't! I don't know what will. I want to say publishing a novel, but my guess is that if I did that, and wasn't a best seller, I'd still feel like it wasn't enough. I think this feeling can be a good thing--as it pushes me to do more and more. But right now, the feeling is so overwhelming all it does is make me cry.

So I'm taking tomorrow off, having a full me-day to regroup. So far the plan is to wake up, walk Chloe, do some yoga, and then head to Salem for a day at the beach, writing in a cafe (assuming I find a cool one), eating a nice lunch, and wandering around town. I hope to use some of this time to think about what I could be doing--right now--to make my life more the way I want, to make me feel more like I am a writer.

I say "right now," because "quitting my job and writing all day" just ain't gonna happen.

Wish me luck! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Writerly events

Some literary events that I will have the pleasure of going to in the next month:

Let me know if you'd like to join me! I have "dates" for each event, but the more the merrier. :)

Though I lament the end of summer as much as the next New Englander, September sure does mean the beginning of the lit scene here in Boston. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, August 25, 2008

Slow but steady

I didn't follow the writing schedule I posted last week. I'm not exactly shocked. I think I post schedules/goals that are just a *tad* out of my reach. While it is sometimes depressing that I never seem to be meeting these goals, I also know it's motivating, and if I made the goals too easy, I wouldn't be challenging myself. Also, I often forget to list certain tasks in my list, tasks that must be done before I move on to the later task. Like in last week's list I forgot to put down an important scene that went between what I had labeled scene one and two. (That last explanation is just to ward off any of you who might be thinking, "She couldn't get through that measly list of scenes to write? Pathetic!" Or maybe that's just my internal editor talking?)

So, this week, I still have three items left over from last week's to do list:
1. Journal about Janine's friendship with Rita, who comes into the next scene. I need to get a better understanding of how these two interact. TO DO: TUESDAY, on train ride to work.

2. Write the third scene, where Janine's friend Rita comes to the hospital, and asks Janine a bunch of questions that makes us (the reader) realize that what Janine has been thinking/telling us about her marriage isn't exactly true. TO DO: WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY EVENINGS. THIS IS A BIG SCENE, AND MIGHT TAKE MORE THAN ONE DAY OF WRITING TO GET THROUGH.

3. Write the final scene, where Janine finds out her husband came out of surgery alive, and she realizes how much work she has ahead of her to repair her marriage. TO DO: OVER THE WEEKEND

Other writing-related tasks to do this week:
**Create a workshop proposal for a class on collage-making as part of the creative writing process for a local non-profit looking for writing classes. This will be done with B, so that should be super fun.

**This weekend I'd like to organize a few writing-related things, namely my sending-out process. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A writing meme

Becca posted this meme for writers, and I couldn't resist answering her questions.
  1. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both? I write fiction mostly, but I dabble in essay writing, too. I like how non-fiction helps me work through/think about my life more clearly, but I'm drawn more to fiction. Writing and reading fiction also helps me to work through the issues that arise in my life, and there's something so satisfying to me in knowing that there are infinite possibilities when you start a work of fiction, and the work is getting to the place where you know you've landed in the one that's perfect for your story.
  2. Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook? I do have a writing notebook. I've been using my morning commute to journal (by far the best way to spend that time!). I would say I spend half the time writing about my life, and half working out problems in the story I'm working on. The latter is so amazingly helpful--that way when I do my "real writing" later in the day, in front of the computer, my pump (brain) is primed.
  3. If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful? I usually think I know the motivations and conflicts before I start. But then as I'm writing, new things always arise that make the story better/more interesting and complex.
  4. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work? I guess a little of both, if you can be. I can get in procrastination phases, but I'm not a good procrastinator when it comes to writing--ie, I don't have fun procrastinating. It feels like something is hanging over my head.
  5. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time? Again, I think I do both. It just depends on my mood and the time I have to spare.
  6. Are you a morning or afternoon writer? I'm in the process of training myself to write anytime. My life is just not calm enough to allow for a regular time for me to sit in front of my computer.
  7. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate? I'm realizing how incredibly flexible I am--again, my answer is that I can go with any of the above. Though if I'm in a bad mood, noise will annoy the crap out of me.
  8. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?) I do my journal long hand, but my actually stories are all typed.
  9. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write? I agree completely with what Becca wrote: "I usually think I know the ending - but it seems like it often surprises me!"
  10. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write? No. I don't think it really makes sense to try to write one way or another. It'd kinda be like asking me to grow my 5'2" body into that of a super model. Plus, by the time you notice a trend in publishing, it's way too late to start writing something in that mode and get it published before the trend has passed.
  11. Editing/Revision - love it or hate it? I both love and hate it. I hate the pressure I feel when I revise--ie, that I need to be perfect because I'm perfecting something. But once I get into it, I enjoy the process because it allows me to get even deeper into the story/characters.
Thanks Becca for the great meme! Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A schedule

I'm off schedule--both in terms of blogging and general writing-- since I was away for a long weekend, visiting family and getting some beach time. But as I wrote about last week, I had a major epiphany with the story I'm working on. And now I have a plan to tackle the story: I'm going to start over. Completely over. Just rewrite it from scratch. I've done this before and found it helpful, though I'm not sure why. Maybe not having something to fiddle with makes me try things that I wouldn't try otherwise. In any case, here's my plan to get a draft down this week:

Today: At lunch, go to the hospital near my office and journal about being there--the sounds, smells, sights, etc. This is important since my story takes place in the hospital.

Tomorrow: After work (before hitting a jazz concert with B), write the first scene, where Janine brings her husband to the hospital after convincing him that he is having a heart attack, not indigestion. They're nasty to each other, and he brings up the fact that she killed his dog.

Thursday: During lunch, write the second scene, where Janine fumes in the patient lounge, and overhears a doctor apologize to a patient and be forgiven. She fumes even more about not being forgiven for something much smaller, that happened much earlier.

Friday: After work, before doing whatever B and I are doing, Journal about Janine's friendship with Rita, who comes into the next scene. I need to get a better understanding of how these two interact.

Saturday and Sunday: We have a few plans this weekend, but I will find time to write each day, getting through: the third scene, where Janine's friend Rita comes to the hospital, and asks Janine a bunch of questions that makes us (the reader) realize that what Janine has been thinking/telling us about her marriage isn't exactly true. And the final scene, where Janine finds out her husband came out of surgery alive, and she realizes how much work she has ahead of her to repair her marriage.

This is the first story where I'm using an unreliable narrator. I'll probably blog about that experience sometime later this week. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why I write

A fellow writer told me about a dream she recently had where she just published a piece of writing, and then said to a friend, "I'm grateful for the work but I know that when it finally gets published, that good feeling is pretty fleeting." And I know from experience that that sentiment is true. With every goal I reach, I feel good for a fraction of the time that it took to get there.

So why bother writing? I had a glimpse of my answer on Sunday. After writing for a few hours--the miserable kind of writing, where I grumbled the whole time, wondering what the f I was doing, wondering why I don't just give up and spend my time, oh, making cocktails--I had my very own Ah-Ha moment. Something clicked in my story. I got perspective and saw that my way into the story was through using my character's perception of the setting (the hospital) to mirror my character's feelings (confusion and anger about her marriage).

It felt so good to get those pieces to click! As good as meeting any external goal (graduating from a degree program, publishing a newspaper story) has ever felt. And it's lasted a lot longer, too. In fact, I'm still riding on the feeling, which has allowed me to write a little bit of the story each day without grumbling and wanting a drink.

So that's why I write. For the feeling that comes from finally--finally!--making a story work.

Though getting published would be nice, too. :)

I'd love to hear why you write. Leave a comment. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My week in Photos (6)

Monday through Friday of last week looked like this:




Then with a little help of

Comfort foods like:
and




And an afternoon spent like this:


And two evenings filled with good conversations with good friends, and this week I am more like:

Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Funk

Like Poetmom, I'm in a bit of a writer's funk. I've been having a very stressful summer for reasons I don't want to go into, and I think all of this stress is taking its toll in a few ways: I'm really moody and prone to crying at just about any moment, and I feel too emotionally tired to write. Because writing, I'm noticing for probably the millionth time, takes a lot of emotional energy. Just beating back those critics who sit on my shoulder mumbling, "You're wasting your time. This scene is stupid, you're going to cut it anyway, just stop writing," takes a lot of energy. And i'm afraid I just don't have it right now.

But the bigger conundrum is that I know that not writing isn't going to make me feel any better. In fact, it's going to make me feel worse. So I'm going to make myself follow a new routine. I'm hoping that, like with going to the gym, dragging my butt to the page will get easier and easier each day.

New Plan
* Go to sleep by 10. Stress is tiring, and therfore I need more sleep. Being in bed by 10 means that I'll actually be asleep by 11, which means that I'll actually get 8 hours of sleep.

*Write everyday. At least 15 minutes each week day, and 2 hours each weekend day. I'm hoping that the small weekday goal will lead to longer writing jags, but I don't want to set the bar too high and then just give up.

*Concentrate more at work. I end up wasting too much time at work, and then feel guilty and stay late to get things done. I'm going to disable my work IM, which we all really use to chat rather than for work. And I'm going to limit my online breaks to 10 minute chunks of time. No more getting sucked into one website, and then another... Best Blogger Tips

Friday, August 08, 2008

Sunday Scribbling: Ask

The first phrase that popped into my head when I read this week's prompt was "Ask and ye shall receive." This reminded me of Becca's post this week about how she decided she needed to do something to take her writing to the next level and that day she saw a sign advertising a new writing group that sounds like it's convenient to her. She called it the universe at work.

My mother has often prays on things, and finds an answer soon thereafter.

My take? It's not so much the universe or God fixing your problems for you, but it's the power of articulating a goal, and then directing yourself and your energy toward meeting it. So asking God or the Universe for a million dollars isn't going to do anything. But asking for a million dollars might make you realize how very important it is for you to have a million dollars, which could spark you figuring out a way to get there. That, to me, is the power of prayer or putting your desires "into the universe".

But now that I type this, I realize, too, that I believe a little bit of mystery is involved too. Like just working out a problem isn't the whole she-bang. Maybe it's that getting to the point where you'll pray for something means that you've thought long and hard about it yourself already. Or maybe it's the surrender of asking for help that gets your subconscious going full force on the problem.

It seems natural to end this post with a few requests for the universe/God/my subconscious/ whomever.

  1. I'd like to find a way to better integrate my writing into my daily life. Right now it's feeling a bit more like a tack-on/must do, than an organic part of my day.
  2. I'd like a best friend. I know I am ridiculously fortunate to have a husband whom I adore and who is also my best friend, and to have many other friends with whom I can celebrate things like my house warming, and a few other friends who I feel super close to even though they are not physically nearby. But I miss having one really good girlfriend who I can do everything with, who I can sit around and do nothing with, who really knows me and understands me, who I can plan on being around for the rest of my life. Not having that makes me feel lonely at times.
  3. I'd like to publish some stories. I'm guessing lots of people have this goal. But I really, really want it. Like when I think about what I want to accomplish in my life, this (in varying forms, ie publish a novel) is pretty much the only thing I'd be ridiculously disappointed about not doing.
What do you want? And do you believe that articulating your goals has any power? Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ugh

Ever have one of those weeks that is so insanely frustrating and stressful that you feel like you could literally explode? Having one. Right now. No fun.

Just scheduled a massage for this weekend. Sigh. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wednesday Wrap Up (5)

Good news to report! I finally, finally, finally sent out my story! I sent it to only two places, since many are closed for the summer, one contest and one general publication. Without the pressure of having professed here that I was going to mail it, I know I would've procrastinated. So thank you, dear readers, for "making" me do it.

I also spent some time editing a short, short story, which still needs some work but is getting there.

All in all, a success of a week.

Next week's goal is to get a draft of my Dead Dog story down. Right now I have a million pieces of it: a few blog posts, some random Word docs, etc. I hope to piece them all together and have a semi coherent first draft. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, August 03, 2008

My week in photos (4): A sad post

We lost both of our bunnies this week. It seems they had a parasitic infection passed from mother to baby bunn that shows very few symptoms until it's too late. It's been a really sad week for us, but we're hanging in.

Oddly, we already have a new bunn to announce (which we got as a match for Doodle Doo before we knew he was sick. His brother, President Reagan, died a few days before him and bonded bunnies usually do much better if they get another mate soon after theirs dies). Her name is Daisy, though we might change it to Dandelion or Lauralei. We're waiting to see how her personality develops and hopefully she'll tell us what her name is. She is a giant angora, emphasis on giant:



It feels a little wierd to have her already because we're nervous about getting attached again to a creature who might leave us (but that's life, isn't it?), and because our grief is so fresh over our first two bunns. But hopefully she'll help us through this sadness. With a face like this, how could she not?


And check out her clydesdale-esque paws:


And just to make sure our other animals don't feel left out of the blogosphere, here's a pic of my Chloe dog, with whom I have been enjoying long walks around our new neighborhood:



And here's Boom Boom, our large and in charge cat whose favorite hobby, by far, is purring:
Best Blogger Tips
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