Category Archives: Series of Sorts

Those “Repeat Features” that show up from time to time

A Writer’s Thanks

Yesterday I started to delve back to my childhood with a Thankfulness game (please join the fun!), as part of my week of Thankfullness (please, join me, share your posts!)

I’ve been thinking a bit about those things that I am thankful for which come with being a fiction writer.  The more I think about it, the longer the list, but there is one thing that is standing out to me just now, the way that writing helps me to expand my ability to connect with an array of emotions.  To place myself, for moments, in the shoes of others.

When my characters are in a certain state, I try, at the very least to imagine that emotion.  This has its downsides… characters in grief, or suffering, can be hard to write, and sometimes if I dig too deep and don’t have the proper time to work my way back to reality I can carry their emotions and frustrations into the real world.  But sometimes there is a very bright side.  They can make me laugh, lift my spirits, and give me hope just as easily as they can make me sad, angry, or frustrated.

Right now I am working with two characters who are very much in love.  They’ve been in love a long time, so they aren’t at that lovey-dovey stage… rather the comfortable point where they have a long-standing friends and deeper emotions tied up within it.  They can exchange a great deal of meaning with a look or glance, and know one another well enough that there isn’t a lot of time spent having to explain themselves, instead being able to talk about what they are in the middle of, what is to come.  They are comfortable with one another, and know that they can be themselves.

I recently wrote a scene where the two of them were having the opportunity to create a story together, one that was theoretically about themselves (to fool someone else).  I was grinning at my computer like a mad-woman, laughing as they riffed off of one another to create the story while exchanging looks of silent communication.  And, for a brief moment, I got to enjoy that feeling.  Drawing on relationships of my own, bits and pieces that are, or have been, similar I am able to put my own emotional and relational understandings into their characters.   Since they are their own characters, not simply mimics of me, I also have the joy of seeing the scene unfold, living in the brief moments of them being themselves and just having fun.  As I was writing this particular scene (which very well may not end up in the final draft) I had that great feeling that comes with reading a good book.  I was there experiencing the story as it unfolded.  In that moment, I felt the characters become real… and it was a powerful feeling.  A silly little scene, nothing highly important to the plot, nothing that needs to happen — just them sitting there having fun, playing a little joke on the main characters niece.  Being relaxed and being themselves — and I love that I was able to share in the experience, share in the moment.

It is powerful, and I am so thankful that I am able to do such a thing as part of my craft.

If you are a writer or musician or artist, what are some of those moments within your work that you are thankful for?  Or what is it about the work of others that you are thankful for?  Or… anything else?

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Alphabet of Thankfulness, a Game.

I remember a slew of different projects around Thanksgiving.  Those hand-trace-turkey pictures.  Lists of what we’re thankful for.  Drawing the cornucopia and filling it with stuff.  The ubiquitous word-search and cross-word puzzles.

In the spirit of these memories of tangentially relevant games, I’d like to host a game of my own.  One of those Alphabet-Poem kinds of things.  Comment on the post with the next letter of the alphabet, and something starting with that letter that you are thankful for.

Also, given the fact that I don’t like having my creativity so closely defined, feel free to provide a sentence starting with the appropriate letter or… something else entirely.  I just ask that we follow the (English) alphabet and the theme of Thankfulness.

I’ll start with A.
Awesome Friends.

If We Were Having Coffee — Thankfulness Edition

Coffee Time!
I’d tell you, as we settle down with our nice warm beverages, that I’m hoping to encourage people to look at what they are thankful for this week.  Today I’m realizing that it can be a good (if challenging) exercise to focus on thankfulness when things seem overwhelming.   I’ve ended up in the position to be in charge of most of the food preparation for Thanksgiving, and we have a crowd of people who will be staying at the house.  I’m also trying to finish up my novel for NaNo, and have had a busy weekend already.

It would be easy to get overwhelmed, but I can’t let it.  So instead, I look to the positive side, the things within this all to be thankful for.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that I’m thankful for the opportunity to have a Thanksgiving dinner that will be prepared by three generations.  Grandma, Mom, and myself (and whoever else wants to step in and help) will be working together.  I’m not a huge fan of Thanksgiving food (I’ve said a few times that, left to me, we’d be having Nachos, or Pizza, or something of that sort).  But It will be cool to learn how to make these things. And I get to make Pumpkin Creme Brule for dessert – which I’m very excited about!

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I love the interior of the Schnitz — such a beautiful place.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m thankful for days like yesterday — it was a busy day but overall amazing.  I was able to get tickets to go with a friend to see Bernadette Peters at the Schnitz, and we decided to make a nice evening of it — going out to dinner first.

Earlier in the day I had gone to a wine tasting with my Dad and Step-mom, which was also a lot of fun and I got to taste a few new wines that I like.   I’ve very thankful for family and friends that enjoy going out and doing those things with me that I enjoy doing.  Friends that help me laugh.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m thankful for what I’ve been learning participating in NaNoWriMo this month.  I’m getting very close to the goal of 50k words — though (as I predicted) the writing this second half of the month is going slower.  I do, however, feel like I am getting some really good stuff on the story, learning about the characters, the magic of the world, realizing things about different subplots that will help (or hinder) story cohesion.  It’s very cool, and it’s also been amazing to be gaining a sense of confidence that I can do this — I can write even when the story is getting to be a challenge.  I can pump out over 4k words in a day (I’ve done it a few times this month), and they are a decent base to jump from.

If we were having coffee, what would you have to say about your week?  The one past or the one to come?  What are you thankful for today?

If We Were Having Coffee (#14)

“Hey!  Good to see you again!”  I’ll give you a hug, if you’re open to hugs, because I’m in a hugging mood today.

Let’s settle in this lovely living room I’ve created in my imagination, overstuffed chairs (and a few old-fashioned, wood framed, lightly padded ones too, so you have options), the walls lined with shelves of books, the window looking out on some spectacular scene — city-scape, the ocean, mountains, lakes, mountain-lakes… take your pick.  It’s a living room of dreams, so it can take the form you want.

 I’m not actually drinking coffee this time, I need to detox a little bit after the spree of caffeinated beverages I had yesterday.  My NaNoWriMo region held a coffee-shop-hop, moving around the area from one coffee shop to another, writing our hearts out on our novels.  I spent an unhealthy amount of time at one of the shops, and then moved on to the next one with the group for a while.   I do not want to count how many shots of espresso I had in that time….  So, today is a bit of a detox day so that Monday mornings coffee can still be effective.

I can’t quite believe November is half over, but I’m really enjoying the work that I’ve been doing on my novel.  It’s kind of cool to watch the story finally unfold — after having vague ideas about it for so long it’s cool to see how things are playing out.  I’m actually starting to look forward to the editing and revising process!  REALLY hope that feeling lasts!

Not a whole lot else happened this week. I wrote a lot.  I spent large quantities of time in coffee shops for said writing.  We had a great threat of winter weather this week, which resulted in a little ice – but nothing too grand.

I feel like I’ve hit that point where my story is taking over much of my thought and energy — so I’m afraid my conversations are getting repetitive and dully, as I just keep trying to work through the story points over and over again.  Hopefully I’ll break through that soon — editing and revisions will at least cause me to look at it a bit differently and vary the conversation topics a tad.

In the meantime, what has your week been like?  Anything exciting going on?  What challenges are you facing?

Celebrate the Small Things (#11)

Friday!
Friday
Friday Friday!

Let’s celebrate with a song!

Catchy, huh?  Check these guys out… they’re awesome (and doing quite a bit of touring these days).  Also, check out the awesome Ultra Tom, who’s been working with them behind the scenes, but does his own stuff too.

It isn’t that this week has been particularly bad.  Heck, it was even a short week — I had Tuesday off.  But strange weather has made everyone kind of off, and yesterday felt like it should have been Friday.

So, now that it’s actual Friday, I feel the need to do some celebrating!  Hey, there’s a blog-hop for that 🙂

My small celebrations:

First one is that previously mentioned Ultra Tom is currently back in town — which means I get to have the occasional lunch and coffee with my big brother.  I am so grateful that we’ve gotten the chance to reconnect as adults.  As he often jokes, “it’s a miracle we didn’t kill each other when we were younger.”

I’m a day ahead in NaNo, or at least, I will be again by the end of the day.  Met today’s word count during my morning commute.  This year NaNo is working a bit differently for me, less frantic rushing and going into overly-detailed description, and more actually moving along in the story, jumping from scene to scene, and figuring out different narrative threads.  I think it’s because of the approach I’ve taken in preparing for it — and my plans for after.  So really, the celebration isn’t that I’m on-top of things for NaNo, it’s that after years of thinking I wanted to be a writer and author, I’ve finally started to approach my life as one, and have gotten myself to a place where I know I can do this (and feel like I have finally settled on the right path for myself).  It’s an amazing feeling, and I know I can face the upcoming challenge (of revising, rewriting, editing, and figuring out the whole query-letter, submitting deal) head on.

I’m also celebrating winter.  I love winter!  At least, parts of it.  Living in the Northwest, after so many years in Northern New England, is still a shift for me.  Yesterday we were threatened with a winter storm, and there was a certain nostalgia watching as school-district, after school-district, canceled for the ice-threat.   Of course, where I work decided not to cancel or delay — but it honestly wasn’t bad traveling for me to get in to work (or home).  Snow boots (which were totally unnecessary, but are my best option for good-traction-footwear), scarf (I have quite the selection to chose from), gloves (also have a few to choose from, but — as is the nature of gloves — many of them have decided to go into hiding.  If I still lived in New England I would remedy that, as it is, three pairs is probably enough to pick from), hats (also a few options!) and my winter coat (which continues to need to have the zipper replaced, maybe this year will be the year I actually do that?  maybe?) — I bundle well – with so many options!  Last night, walking home from the bus-stop, it was amazing to be able to see the ice crystals on the leaves, little icicles forming — nothing like some of the epic ones I’ve seen in my day (do I sound old there?  huh, do I?) but they were fun to see.  Hopefully this will mean I’ll get some lovely-winter-weather to enjoy this year!

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Coffee Time! (#13)

If we were having coffee… I’d tell you the week has really been a blur.  Work’s been busy, and I’ve been doing a lot of my writing on the bus in the morning (as well as at lunch).   Yesterday I managed to catch up with my NaNo goal — as well as pushing myself to move forward in the story telling.  I have these scenes to write, so instead of dwelling on early scenes I should push through, get the scenes written, and then figure out what else needs to be put in.  It’s a very different approach to writing for me — but I think I’m adjusting.

I’m also having fun preparing to join in Raevenly’s Character-oke event — it’s the event of the Season for November.  My first venture of taking Bria Lana out of her story-world (and frantically trying to figure out more about her by tossing her into a completely unrelated world) will go up on Monday.

There are other things, little things, but I guess the most important is that I’d like to do a giveaway!  It’s kind of silly — but I feel like celebrating the milestone of passing 2000 followers — and that’s thanks to all of you!  So… at the end of this week I will randomly select someone to receive a little notebook.

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Pen is for scale – yellow and white design cover, purple inner page, lined pages.

Here’s how to qualify for the notebook giveaway!  Over this next week, leave a comment on my blog — I’ll have a few new posts going up during the week.  Next Sunday (during our coffee-get-together) I’ll select the winner from my list.  If you are commenting and want to be eligible make sure to let me know in the comment.

I’m afraid that I can only offer this to people living in the continental United States (if you’re out of the country, uhm… someday I’ll figure out something awesome I could give-away for you… that could be sent in the virtual world, and therefore not cost me a fortune in shipping….).

That’s it for my coffee today.. I should get to work — but first, how are you doing this week?  What do you want to share over our coffee?

 

Juggling Act

My elementary school gym teacher was also a clown, so my gym classes included things like juggling, riding a unicycle, and balancing a feather on your hand (and getting occasional opportunities to watch his ventriloquism act).  I learned valuable lessons in those classes, ones that I can readily apply to my life now — especially my writing life.

When we started juggling we used scarves.  Up goes one scarf, catch it.  Up goes one scarf, up goes another, catch, catch.  Throw, throw, catch, catch.    You learn a pattern, start out slow, and then build.  After mastering three scarves, you switch to juggling balls or bean-bags.  Throw, catch.  Throw, throw, catch, catch.  And then, when you get really good at that:  throw, throw, catch, throw, catch,  throw… or something like that.  I never quite managed to build to three very well.

I can sometimes keep three small stuffed animals in the air (enough to entertain toddlers), last time I tried a unicycle was probably about two decades ago (I think I did okay), and I still can balance a peacock feather on my hand like a pro.

But some people I know, they can juggle three, or even more exciting things.  Some of them can even do it while balancing on a unicycle.   They didn’t get there overnight, it took a lot of practice, dedication, and some amount of skill.

 As writers we’re always juggling.  There are paying jobs (writing or otherwise), families, friends, self-care, and writing to keep up with.  Within the writing itself there are often multiple characters, plot-lines, plot-snags, grammatical rules to obey (or not), scenes clamoring to be written, and scenes presenting problems.  Add to that social media, the “writer/author platforms,” networking and (if you have work already produced) marketing.  It is a lot to keep moving.

I’m early in the process.  I have to remind myself of that.  Just like juggling started out with the lightweight scarves, slowly building to more challenging things to catch.  We have to build up slowly, taking on too much at too quickly can end badly, like a novice juggler deciding to try knives or flames.

We’re all move at our own paces.  While the kid next to me may have been able to move from the scarves to the juggling balls faster than me, I might have been able to master the unicycle with more ease.

Writing is about balance.  “Just keep writing,” is bandied about as an important phrase, when you don’t feel like writing, keep writing.  But sometimes this isn’t the case.  Sometimes you need to just STOP writing, to give yourself room to breath.  When you’re juggling, if you start to lose the rhythm, you can quickly lose control, and it wont be long before they all fall.  You have to pace yourself.  You have to keep an eye to the rhythm.  Yes, it may speed up or slow down, but it is still there.

Same with writing.  Sometimes you’ll push and move fast, sometimes you’ll slow down and there will be more space between writing sessions.  There is a rhythm unique to you, and you need to learn to listen to that.

There are times when you can do it all.  When you can sit on the unicycle, juggling flaming knives while playing the kazoo and causing the tree to sing the alphabet backwards.  Embrace those moments when the world comes together and you are in “the flow” and able to do it all.  For me they are relatively rare, and I need to remember that they are not the bar to which I should hold myself, but rather a dream to reach for.

Other times you have to do things one at a time.  Start slowly and allow yourself space to breath.  There’s nothing wrong with only riding the unicycle for a while, or going back to scarves for a while to get your grounding.  Take your time.  It’s okay to have stumbles, to not get something written — because you can only do so much.  We can’t all always be juggling masters.

So.. it may be a somewhat jumbled metaphor but… I think it works.  Especially right now, in the starting stages of NaNo where I need to be reminded that, while it is a bit of a marathon, I still need to pace myself, and keep balancing in mind.


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  This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a great group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
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