The Stories Begun











{November 1, 2011}   Oh. Oh dear.

It really has been that long, hasn’t it?  And now it’s November 1st, the beginning of NaNoWriMo, the most enjoyably hellish month of the year.  I’m already 1700 words into the novel (hooray, I met and passed the daily average I’m supposed to maintain) and feeling good.  My favorite part of this feeling is that I chose a subject I was only so-so excited about and STILL managed to get that far in a couple hours.   And, despite my reservations and my insane lists trying to find something that I could get passionate and crazy about during NaNo, I fell in love with my story as I started it.  Sometimes, you just have to trust that what feels like a mediocre idea (or even a bad one) can still be good.  It’s amazing, when I take the step back that this blog demands of me, to see that growth in such a small endeavor.

So, good luck to all you NaNos!  I’ll be seeing you tonight at the kick off if you’re in my area, and if not: I can’t wait to hear from anyone who wants to share their harrowing stories of writing and failing and cringing (because you can’t edit or you’ll lose too much time).  I hope there are a lot of you out there and I hope you’re wanting to discuss.  I know for a fact that doing NaNo alone is NO FUN.  See you here or on the forums!

~RJLouise

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{April 5, 2011}   I really hate mirrors.

And history is the worst one.  Thankfully, it seems that this time, the reflection of my past has actually taught me something.  My past pattern has been to be faithful in blogging for a little while, maybe even a good while, and then miss for about a month (for a myriad of reasons, perhaps some of them are even good).  At a month, I get too intimidated/ashamed to start up again until I am too sick at heart from lack of writing to not start up again . . . about six months later.

Vicious cycle.

Thankfully, as I said, the mirror of my blogging history has at last come through.  When I realized that this week would make the dreaded month, I figured I should probably get back on the blogging horse before my shame became too enormous.  Still, since my shame is still decently large, I decided to use it to examine my writing practices in general, to see if what other patterns of fault that mirror could illuminate.

But first!  A few rules:

  • No castigating!  Recognizing faults and areas for improvement is one thing.  Beating myself up will help nothing.
  • Related to rule one is rule two: minimum name calling.  I am only allowed one “I am/This is stupid.”  That’s it.  To be used wisely.  Other names also to be used sparingly.
  • Focus on the general today.  Descending into minutia can wait for another careful scrutiny of self/post.
  • After determining the faults, come up with some simple solutions, preferably ones that address multiple problems.
  • Last but not least: Understand that these problems are not unique.  Many people struggle with their own craft.  You help nothing by assuming that you are alone.

Okay, the rules are set!  On with the task!

Fault one:  Good intentions.

You know that saying about the pathway to Hell?  Well, the pathway to a dead manuscript (the dreaded xms) is paved with the same materials and do I ever have a lot of them.

Fault two: Distractions.

Thankfully, I have the ability to be single-minded when I need to or to multi-task when called upon.  However, when I’m between needs, I seem to set up my own distractions (have the internet browser up and running behind my word processing application as well as a card game I can switch back and forth between when a sentence is taking “too much” work to form).  Beyond just those distractions, there are personal “distractions” (family and friends) that, rather than work around them, I allow them to displace the work entirely.  This is not okay.

Fault three: Project jumping.

This is really stupid. I know better than to do this and I do it anyway.  Rather than sit down with a project and get a clear idea of it, I often get just far enough to establish shallow roots in my brain before jumping ship for the next interesting project.  I know that variety is the soul of creativity and am not silly enough to think that I can start one project and finish it while never working on another, but I am smart enough to know that there should be one main project I am working on and that there better be a darn good reason for me to put it aside.  At this point, there rarely ever is.

Fault four: consistency.

Ah, I’ve talked about this one before!  I’m not sure there’s much else to say about it, either.  inconsistent = sub-par writing.

Fault five: Getting bored.

I don’t get bored with the story.  I get bored with the work. It’s much easier to imagine the end than it is to work towards it.  Bad, lazy me! (That wasn’t castigating . . . that was a gentle scolding . . . yeah.)

Fault six:  Minutia.

I’ve always liked the details of things: the brushstrokes of a painting, the stitches in an afghan, each shave and thrust of the knife in a carving.  In fact, it was something of a revelation when I was told that one of the main reasons I struggled in school was directly due to the fact that I saw details better than the big picture.  Unfortunately, it is easy to drown oneself or one’s ms in said details. Especially since, as the author, it is my job to know them all.

Okay, I think those are the main faults that my history can show me today.  Solutions go along these lines:

Solution one:  Find time where there is time.

Consistency is one thing, writing the same time for the same amount of time is another.  I may one day get there, but it’s not going to happen right now.  So, when I find the time, I need to utilize it!    For example, this blog goes out on Tuesdays, but I had time on Monday to write it, so I did!  Then it was just a matter of scheduling the post to publish on Tuesday.  (Addresses faults 1 and 4.)

Solution two: Learn to say no.

Eliminating distractions includes saying no to myself and to others.  I need to be able to say no to that silly game on Facebook (although shutting down my account at the end of the month will help with that) as much as I need to occasionally say no to watching NCIS with the family or watching a movie with the boyfriend.  My writing may not be my job right now, but it is still part of me as well as eventually being a career goal.  Also, saying no to the lazy/ship-jumping instincts will help specific project progress greatly. (Addresses faults 2, 3, 4, and 5.)

Solution three: Take good notes.

Ideas strike all the time. I know this.  I love this.  In fact, this has helped me get back on track before.  However, this also causes problems.  So it’s time to start taking the same sort of fastidious notes that I did in college classes, this time with my ideas as the subject.  This way I’ll be less afraid of losing things, as well as less enticed by the thought of starting something new. (Addresses faults 2, 3, and 6.)

Solution four:  Set up a regular time each month to review projects.

Once a month, look at the work I’ve done.  If I’ve done one page of work, maybe this “main project” isn’t the right main project for the moment.  Maybe it is, but I’m not doing something right (should be editing some older parts of it rather than trying to add new material).   Just spend the time to make sure that I’m setting myself up to succeed, not merely not fail.  (Addresses faults 1, 3, 4, and 5.)

And there you have it!  I’ve held myself up to the mirror and come out fairly unscathed!  Sure, I have things to work on, but none of these are particular news.  And the solutions are, thankfully, simple.  Funny how being determined to be simple makes it easier to be simple.

Off to put the plan into action!

~RJLouise



{January 18, 2011}   Shame

For some odd reason, I feel the need to explain why I up and stopped writing in my blog.  So, it’s really unfortunate that I can’t.  I would love to know what demotivated me after several months of weekly (sometimes more) updates.

There are certainly a few logical reasons: I was sick a LOT in the fall with many various illnesses, I had to use an internet-less computer at work for two months, NaNoWriMo, and my brother (and some friends, too) came home from his mission.  Many of these things make it easier to not write, but not one of them–individually or collectively–managed to consume enough time to justify not writing at all.  They just made the whole process inconvenient.

I think the big reason I stopped writing was the shame.  After missing two weeks, I didn’t know how to hop back in.  After three, I felt I owed myself an apology, much less one owed to those who had been reading.  After four, I felt like I did when I was a teenager trying to sneak quietly back into the house, late from curfew, but instead managing to step on the alarm button on the car key (yeah, that happened more than once).  There is just no graceful recovery from that.

But, as I have just described, shame is not something others assign, it’s something I create.  The response to starting over again has been a lot less like that car alarm at just-past-one in the morning and more like a small celebration.  In the end, erratic writing isn’t anything but me getting in the way of myself.  Shame would not exist if I did not create it.

It seems I spend quite a bit of time getting back to my writing, more than I do working on it.  Eventually, I’ll stop making barriers.  And when I do that, I’ll have more room in my head to learn.

Time to begin again!

~RJLouise



On Saturday, I rode with my father and brother south to a privately owned large-group campsite that is still being prepped.  The campsite, which has been under construction for a year, needs to be ready by June 9th.  We were rushing.  A couple hours into the day, I stumbled on my way to picking up another bathroom stall door and twisted my ankle.  I walked it out, but it inhibited my movement and made working awkward for the rest of the day.

Much like Saturday, after a stumble, my writing tends to be awkward for a decent period of time.  In this case, my stumble has been too much technical writing of late.  I put my priorities on school (not a HUGE mistake) instead of on craft (the better choice) and created my twisted ankle.  I sat down to work on Scarlett and found that anything I wrote didn’t flow right at best and was horribly clunky at worst.

Part of my instinct is to put Scarlett down . . . again, just as the instinct is to rest a twisted ankle.  This is a bad choice.  Now, were the ankle sprained, I supposed the equivalent of truly abused writing, rest is the exact antidote.  But a twist is finicky.  If you rest a twisted ankle, it remains in pain.  Weight on it is actually a good thing for it.  It’s painful at first, and my writing will be painful to even look at at first, but eventually the added pressure will put my twisted ankle to right again.

I’m going to try and work on Scarlett a little bit every day now.  It may be the same part over and over again, but at least I’ll be realigning my creative self, bit by bit.  Or, that’s the hope.  If all goes well, I’ll have a paragraph or two to post next week.

Clunkily,

RJLouise



et cetera