• Check out this site for some inspiration and company on this often solitary writing path.
• Five questions to keep in mind as you write a story from a master storyteller.
• A new challenge awaits you here if you are up for it.
• This looks like fun.
• An intriguing article on the push and release of the creative process.
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If I update my blog I can then officially cross the last item off of my to-do list for today. I don’t believe I have ever crossed every single thing off in one day. What gives?
Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve been laying low lately. Usually that means I’ve slipped off the creative/motivation radar. Not this time. This time I’ve been conducting a little experiment. It’s the TV-has-been-sucking-my-soul-dry-so-I-must-do-something experiment.
TV and I have a love/hate thing. There’ve been shows that I love. “West Wing” tops the list. But I hate that I can let myself get so easily sucked into the mindless TV stupor that comes from too many channels and nothing really on. With these long gray Michigan winters I am easy prey to the idea of just vegging out. Relaxing in front of the TV. The winter inertia is then fed by the TV inertia and as you can see it can become a vicious cycle. And the thing is, I never, ever leave the TV feeling relaxed or less stressed. In fact it is just the opposite. I end up tense and jittery.
After doing some research I learned that TV puts your brain in the fight-or-flight response. And that it can take five hours to come down from that. Your body may just be a slug on the couch but your brain is totally wired and amped up. My oldest daughter has trouble falling asleep and so I wondered if it could be the whole too much TV thing.
So. We’re conducting a little TV rationing experiment around here. Not getting rid of it but really being selective about what and how much we watch. I think I’ve watched two hours total in the last five days. I’m embarrassed to admit how much less that is from a normal day. Let’s just say it’s way way less. The girls can watch a half hour after school and if they get their homework, showers, and lunches made another show at night. Emily came downstairs last night at 7:30 listing all the things she had accomplished and asked now what? She picked up a book. Just now she informed as she turned the TV off that she watched seventeen minutes of TV.
Limiting TV has allowed me to:
• give myself a pedicure
• shave my legs
• complete a page in my art journal
• write alot
• start research on a new novel
• play games after dinner with the family
• visit blogs I love
• write on my own blog
• sleep longer and better
My insomniac daughter has been sleeping better too but she maintains that the TV thing doesn’t prove anything. Hmmm.. .I’m not so sure about that.
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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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Here are some interesting links (that I found thanks to Leah) to inspire you as you head into the weekend.
• Break through writer’s block here
• This looks like so much fun. I think I’ll play with it after I write today. Would make great homemade gifts for the holidays.
• A pep talk to just do it.
• An interview with the designer of the Obama logo.
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Morning pages everyday day for week 3? Check. It surprised me that for several days almost the entire three pages were filled with reflections on the election and the economy.
Artist Date? Check. I volunteered at the local Obama headquarters. I did some data entry, inputting info from phone calls. I consider this an artist date since it is something new to me. It pushed me out of my comfort zone. Although I did find myself seeing this “date” as just one more thing to check off my to-do list.
Now I’m at the dreaded week 4 of the program. Dreaded because this is reading deprivation week. Yep. That’s right. No reading. Here is what she has to say about it:
“For artists, words are like tiny tranquilizers. For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.”
It makes sense. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve posted similar thoughts in this blog about my own relationship to reading. I can definitely see the power behind not reading for a week. But I hate the idea of it. I found myself busily devouring several books last night, like a squirrel hoarding for a long bleak winter. And tomorrow I am going to Grand Rapids to see the Richard Avedon exhibit for my artist date but I always take a book with me everywhere I go. Everywhere. What will I do with any unexpected pockets of time? I guess that’s the whole point of this week. To try something different like actually interacting with my environment instead of burying my nose in a book.
I did not write on my story every day. Actually, only three days. I’m beginning to wonder if I am writing the kind of stories I want to write or if they are the kind of stories I think I should write. And how can you spot the difference? This week’s writing intention is to be more playful. If I don’t know what happens next then just play with a prompt, write a memory, write from a different point of view. Not writing is not going to get me any closer to finishing the story.
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After a month or so of parties and company and family reunions, the girls are back in school and I have settled into a semblance of a routine. Since they both leave at 6:50 in the morning I can workout, do yoga, eat, shower and be at my desk by 9:00 most mornings. My ideal is to sit there for three hours but I get so restless. I do better with a break every thirty or forty-five minutes or so. I really need to build up some writing endurance. Some days it’s only thirty minutes but today it was a few hours on and off. I managed to finish the first draft of a revision of a story I wrote quite a while ago. I already know I want to change a few major things before I send it out to my writing group on Sunday but am pretty sure I can get it done in time.
I still need to write down my official “writing syllabus’ for the next twelve weeks but I have the general outline in place:
– a draft of a new story or revision of a story every Sunday. Intense, I know but it’s what I did in a class at OU and it generated lots of new material. That’s one thing I want to work on- generating new stories.
– work with “Deepening Fiction” – a chapter a week. Each chapter focuses on a craft element and includes a story or two to analyze. Very do-able.
– three freewrites a week aimed at discovering something about the current story I am working on
I can think of many other tasks/assignments to add but I don’t want to get overwhelmed. This is do-able. Yes. I can do this. For twelve weeks. And I will track my progress here so stay tuned…
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I know that rejection is part of this business. A huge part. I know all the numbers of rejections by writers who are now hugely popular. I know the ridiculous amount of submissions journals get each month compared to the handful they actually have room to accept and publish. I know that it can be very subjective. I know I shouldn’t take it personally. I know that I should just keep sending the stories out there. I know all these things. Really… I do.
But. Here’s the thing. The very first story I ever sent out was to a really prestigious magazine that used to publish stories each month and I received a personal note from the editor outlining what worked and what didn’t and to keep them in mind for future submissions. That was six years ago. I’ve written a couple dozen stories since then and, in my totally objective opinion, they keep getting better. I’ve had three stories published, one of which won first prize in a small university competition. Three stories. Six years. That’s not the frustrating part. Well, not the most frustrating anyway.
See, yesterday I received one of my SASE and I could see the tiny three inch square of paper through the envelope and almost didn’t bother opening it since I knew what it was but I did on the off chance that somebody with Lilliputian handwriting had scrawled something encouraging. Uh, no. And I was so disappointed. Totally unreasonable. I should know better. Really I should because I know what I’m up against. And this was one of my “A” list journals. I was more annoyed that I let it bother me. Then I realized this: I am more frustrated with myself. I know I am not giving my writing all that I can. I could work much harder than I do. So much of my writing energy is wasted on why I fight it so much, or the actual resisting of it and the subsequent beating myself up over not writing enough. See what a draining vicious cycle this is? It’s endless and fruitless and in twenty years has gotten me three stories published. So this is so not working for me anymore. I don’t even care why it’s hard for me get to my desk and write most days. I don’t care that part of me feels like a fraud because I have to trick myself by going out to a coffee shop to write. I don’t care that I’m afraid of success and/or failure. I don’t care what neuroses keep me away from the page. I just don’t care anymore. I’m done resisting the resistance. What I do care about is the fact that when I don’t write I become a self-indulgent lazy blob who snaps at her family. I care that when I write I feel like a weight has been lifted. I care that when I write my life feels in alignment. So today I wrote. I wrote morning pages. I wrote four book reviews to be posted later this month on my blog. I pulled out an old story and worked on that and during my massage today those characters swirled around in my head and now I know where to go next. And I wrote here. And the day’s not over yet…
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