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Archive for January, 2009

Creative Tidbit

“What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in awhile.”

– Gretchen Rubin

I love this quote. In fact, I printed it out in bold type and pinned it to the bulletin board in my office.

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Permission to Create

I joined this book blogging group and have been reading the book but not yet blogging. We are reading “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women” by Gail McMeekin. I have read this book several times over the years, mostly when I was the mom of a baby and then the mom of a baby and toddler. It was a time in my life when I clung to whatever tiny threads of creativity I had left, unable to picture a day in the future when I would have an hour to myself. My daughters are now fifteen and twelve and I have many hours a day to myself. Eight and a half hours a day, five days a week, except in the summer. As I read the first two chapters and looked at what I had underlined and the notes I made to myself in the margins I was struck by what a different person I am today. Back then I was looking for permission. Permission to write. To create. To take any time away from my babies. No longer. I have created a life where the permission surrounds me in the form of a supportive husband, family and friends, a room of my own, an art studio that I share with my daughters, shelves filled with books that inspire me, a writing group, classes, retreats, blogs. As a friend recently observed I am surrounded by my writing and art. I live it. So I am curious as to what I might underline this time around as I read the book again, as the person I am now. I’m curious what lessons await the writer and artist I am today.

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Writing Meme

This is from Becca:

What’s your favourite genre of writing?
Literary fiction – novels and short stories.
How often do you get writer’s block?
I used to succumb to it quite often. Now I understand that it’s either A) a necessary break or B) I am at point where I don’t know what happens next
How do you fix it?
By writing anything: morning pages, in my process journal, from any prompt, on my blog, even a grocery list
Do you type or write by hand?
Both. Morning pages and prompts by hand. Many first drafts by hand. Small revisions can be typed right onto the screen. But often I print out a hard copy, make corrections and insert letters that correspond to handwritten paragraphs in my notebook.
Do you save everything you write?
Yes. Every story has its own “cut” file. Once a story is sent out I will finally get rid of all the old paper drafts but most of the files stay on the computer or a back-up disk.
Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
Yes and the verdict is still out on how that works. Part of me thinks I can bring new knowledge and energy to it and another part of me thinks that I have outgrown it and need to cut it loose.
Do you have a constructive critic?
Yes. I always have either a writing group, writing friend or reading friend that I can run a story by.
Did you ever write a novel?
Yes, in thirty days.
What genre would you love to write but haven’t?
A screenplay as good as “You Can Count on Me”.
What’s one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
Romance.
How many writing projects are you working on right now?
A collection of stories, a novel-in-stories, an essay  and a novel plus this new idea that is percolating and I am doing research on. I’m thinking it might be a trio of novellas.
Do you write for a living? Do you want to?
No and yes.
Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?
Articles in “Welcome Home” and Raising Arizona Kids”.
Have you ever won an award for your writing?
First place in a flash fiction contest. I think it was a hundred dollars.

What are your five favourite words?
Opakapaka. Cerulean. Serendipity. Murky. Translucent.
Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Hmmm… not really. I wrote a dream of a character once and then I couldn’t remember if it was hers or mine.
Do you favour happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
I hate cliff-hangers. It makes me feel ripped off, like the writer didn’t finish her work. In my own work the endings are subtle. No huge epiphanies. I try to give a glimmer of change but not tie it all up a neat tidy bow.
Have you ever written based on an artwork you’ve seen?
Yes, often. I am also a graphic designer and mixed media artist so images are inspiring to me. I can rarely get through an art gallery or museum without being inspired to jot down something. I make cards of images that I then string together to use as writing prompts, creating a narrative out of them. So much fun.

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Fresh Starts

Becca writes about a fresh start over at Write on Wednesday. It’s the start of a new year, the proverbial clean (or fresh) slate making it a perfect time to bring a fresh perspective to my writing.

I was just writing in a journal that I keep solely for the purpose of reflecting on my writing/creative process. The first entry was written on March 3, 1998. Almost twelve years ago. That number stunned me and not in a good way. Not at first anyway. My immediate, default reaction was “Twelve years? What do I have to show for it?” I felt like Oprah must have when she talked about falling off the wagon yet again, furious with herself for still dealing with her weight. When I saw that interview I just kept thinking, “Man, she is so hard on herself.”  Well. Then a new, kinder me stepped in. This journal holds twelve years of me showing up to reflect on my writing, my craft, why I don’t show up and so much more. So instead of using this as a way to berate myself I chose instead to see it as proof of my commitment to my writing life. In twelve years I have:

–  filled dozens of journals with morning pages

– filled dozens of notebooks with writing practice and prompts

– had three stories published, one of which won first prize (and some money)

– received dozens and dozens of rejections including the “good kind”  that encourage me to try them again

– participated in classes at universities, workshops, retreats and writing groups

– read widely and deeply for the pure enjoyment of stories and to learn what makes a story work (or not)

– wrote a draft of a novel in thirty days

– started and maintained this blog

– wrote a brief reflection of every book I read last year

So my fresh perspective includes having more compassion for the me who writes. The following excerpt from “From Where You Dream” by Robert Olen Butler helped me to arrive at this new way of looking at the creative process:

Let’s look at Michael Jordan in his later prime – let’s say his last season with the Bulls, when they once again won the world championship. When Michael received a pass at the top of the key in full flight and he left the ground, he defied gravity, floated through the air, let that ball roll off his fingertips and into the basket. Tongue unconsciously extended. When he did that, he had to be in the zone. He could not be thinking about what he was doing. But to make his zone exactly analogous to the art zone, you have to add this: every time he shoots, in order to make a basket Michael Jordan would have to confront, without flinching, the moment when his father’;s chest was blown apart by the shotgun held by his kidnapper. You know that happened in Michael Jordan’s life. Well, Michael would have to confront that in order to make a basket every time. Without flinching. Now his zone is equal to the artist’s zone. And now you understand the challenge of being an artist.

If that doesn’t give you some compassion for your artist self, nothing will.

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This month so many magazine covers boast variations on the headline “A new year, A new you” and I am left asking myself what is wrong with the old me? For the first time in many, many years I did not approach this New Year’s eve with my usual frantic scrambling of resolutions designed to “fix” me but all they really do are make me feel less than. I realized that I finally feel good enough in most of the important areas of my life. I found this website called “Joe’s Goals” where you can track your goals with smiley faces or sad faces. When I looked at what other people are trying to achieve I found that I am way ahead of the game. I already do these things on a regular basis: floss, exercise, meditate, yoga, eat healthy foods, no credit card debt, read.

Last year I had this book about resolutions and I had so many that I couldn’t choose just one to focus on. This year it is just the opposite. There is only one thing I want to focus on and that is my writing. I stopped sending stories out over the last year or so. I still have several big projects that I need to finish. So I have written everyday since December 1. Many of those days were only morning pages especially throughout the holiday but it was still writing. I didn’t want to wake up on January 1 and feel behind. I wanted to gather some momentum to propel me writing into the new year and that’s just what I have done.

Resolution is such a harsh word and has so much baggage attached to it so I am not even calling it that. No. This year is all about my focus, my intention. Where do I intend to focus my energy this year? On my writing career. That little word “career” is new to me. I’ve always downplayed writing as just something I do but now I want it to be what I Do with a capital “D”. Each day I am asking myself “What did I do to nurture my writing career today?” So far it’s been things like revising a story, organizing my office so it is an inviting space to work in, looking through “Poets & Writers” for upcoming contests or submissions, buying index cards and a box to track my submissions. I am borrowing the concept of “micro-movements” from Sark so that some days the thing I do is print address labels to journals or draft a cover letter or find one new journal to submit to and write down the contact info on an index card. My intention is that all of these big and tiny creative movements will add up to a major leap in my writing life by the end of the year.

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