Something familiar, yet new

Wow. Seven months. Where does the time go?

Worse, what did I do during that time?

I can answer that easily. Continue reading

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Experience it all

I have finished the story I discovered last week. It was a rush job because I wanted to get my ideas down while I was in The Zone. It’s in dire need of editing now, due to that rush. Damn, the flush and excitement of having finished it is really nice.

Now, MtM!

By Ryzen (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Do Writers Need College to Write?

(page 20) EXERCISE: What have you learned from LIFE that has given you themes, experience, and ideas for stories you can start telling right now?

I’ve worked in offices and in retail. I’ve done manual labor and intellectual labor. I’ve worked from a chair and on my feet. I’ve packed and shipped, engaged in Q&A and challenged many up the chain of command in every organization I’ve been in and held their feet to the fire to support the very Q&A standards they put into place.  I’ve pursued hobbies that gave me joy; parlayed them into paying gigs.

I’ve learned about people and how their own life experiences colors things for them. I’ve seen destructive behavior and great leaps of kindness.

This is something I’ve known for a long time, for as long as I have wanted to be a writer. Watch people. Pay attention. Glean from my surroundings. Be quiet and observe. The world, life, will show you more than you can possibly imagine if you just slow down and listen.

So, no, I don’t believe a writer needs college to write. Would they benefit? I think so. Just like I think they would benefit from doing anything at all that would broaden their horizons and expanding their experiences.

Sideswiped by an old story

Something wonderful has happened.by Lynn Davis from freetrangestock.com

Like most writers I know, I have my moments of doubt. Those dark places where we wonder ‘is what I’m doing any good?’ It is usually followed by ‘why am I even trying?’ and ‘god, I hope no one sees this’.

Many who hit that wall eventually give up. What they’re writing doesn’t seem to mesh with what they envision the final product to be, and they stop.

Now, I’m not talking that middle novel sag where all of a sudden, out of damn nowhere, sparkling new ideas come at us from all directions vying for our attention because we’ve hit the saggy part and we follow after happily, chasing that new high because what we were doing looked suspiciously like work. Boring work. That most certainly happens.

No, I’m talking about the creeping self-doubt that dogs our heels when we’re writing. The words are coming in a white-hot moment of inspiration…and then when we make the mistake of reading back over it, we’re plowed down by the momentum our self-doubt had built just trying to keep up.

Something thunks in our self-esteem as it plummets and we quietly slip it to the side, hoping no one noticed what we did and pray that they never actually find that piece of dreck. Yet, we don’t want to throw it away because maybe we can cannibalize it later, for when we’re a better writer and can do it justice.

Yeah, so, you know, that happened to me. I can’t remember why I put this particular piece to the side. Maybe I thought my plot was weak. Maybe I thought my writing was trite and cliche. Whole lot of maybes that I have certainly thought before, so I’m sure one or two of them caught up with me while I was writing this story and I used that convenient excuse to trunk it. Less than half done.

Well, in the interest of housekeeping on my harddrive, I happened upon it. Honestly, by this time, according to the save date a year has  passed, I barely remember this story. So, before I decide to delete, I open it and start reading.

And that something wonderful happened.

…It wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was pretty damn good. I mean, I know it was rough but what was I thinking trunking this story? I know myself well enough to know that the most likely cause of it getting dropped was I thought it sucked. Bad plot, cliche and trite. All that, maybe more.

I dug up the synopsis I wrote for it, just to bear my theory out about a sucking plot.

Nope. The plot seemed pretty solid.

So, the writing was actually pretty good, the characters were ones I enjoyed reading, the plot seemed to be solid…why on earth did I trunk this bad boy?

No clue. Absolutely no clue, save one. I believed the voice of self-doubt and put it aside. Now I’m so sorry I did. It’s not quite at the half way point (so I can’t blame Saggy Middle Syndrome) but it’s still a solid story

This sucker is getting dusted off and finished. What do I lose? Nothing. I have no firm project on the table at the moment so it’s not like my attention is getting diverted from anything.

The thing I hope to take away from this is that no matter how dark those moments get, where self-doubt smothers me, I’m never as bad as the self-doubt tells me and I can’t, simply can not let it convince me to put it aside.

Finish. Edit. Let my betas help me smooth the suck out of it if I continue to be convinced of its suckitude. But I will never let a story get dropped again.

Why is it so quiet in here?

Didn’t mean for my absence to happen or to take this long. Family drama. L O L.

Back to MtM!

moon_alteredFinding Silence

(page 15) EXERCISE: How can you quiet your conscious mind so you can hear what your subconscious mind — your Muse — is trying to tell you?

It boggled me to learn there were some people who were afraid of the silence. It’s a concept I simply cannot understand. Moreover, they are terrified of the mind chatter that crops up when there is silence in their environment. So they fill their space with inane noise. Television. The radio. Podcasts. Winamp.

Understand, enjoying those things aren’t necessarily bad. I love a good TV show. When I’m feeling it, I will crank up my writing soundtrack. Having noise in our life isn’t inherently bad.

It’s when the noise is used to escape their headspace and their thoughts.

I’m sure they have their reasons and I’m sure they’re valid. It’s just something I’m not grasping because I love my space-silence and my mind-silence.

Sure, sometimes my brain decides to fixate on something. How to meet bills, how to resolve this familial drama-fest, how to deal with a recalcitrant neighbor/loved one/coworker. Then the chatter starts.

My favorite is when my brain decides to dredge up everything I’ve done wrong ALL EVER IN MY LIFE and dwell on it to the point that I can feel the despair dragging me down. Or when it fixates on one thing that a close loved one said that hurt me so deeply that I move from grief to rage at ‘how dare they’ in the snap of a fingers.

Since my brain has determined to use this as a way to derail my writing, I indulge it. I set a kitchen timer and self-talk, saying ‘okay brain, you have five minutes to get it out. rage and rail and cry and beat about how it’s so tragic and angry and unfair it all is. after that five minutes, we get back to work.’

It usually works. My brain settles down and I can get to the tasks at hand. When it tries to dredge it up later? I tell it ‘too bad so sad, sucks to be you but you had your five minutes now shut up’. After a few times of that, the rest of my day goes swimmingly. If it behaves, I will reward it with music. My brain seems to like it.

My productivity seems to like it, too.

On borrowing trouble

Could VS. Should and the Price Of Your Dreams

(pages 11 and 12) EXERCISE: What is the worst thing that could happen if you become a writer (and how likely is that to happen)?

What is the worst thing that could happen if you DON’T become a writer (and how likely is that to happen)?

dreaming dogOh! A variation on my favorite game! I’m serious, it really is my favorite game. Many people consider the second question to be ‘borrowing trouble’ but it’s something I’ve done for a lot of years.

Imagine the worst possible thing that could happen to me. Really pull out the stops and try to envision the worst thing ever that very well could happen in regards to a situation. Then ask myself this: Can I handle it? Can I handle that very possibly the worst thing ever?

If the answer is yes, then I’m golden. Because I know I can deal.

If the answer is no, it’s time to whip out ye ol’ pen and paper and start brainstorming and dreaming. If the worst possible thing that could happen does, what can I do to minimize damage, pull the situation around, make it work in my favor?

Once I have a master plan in the event the worst thing ever happens, then I slip into the yes answer and the yes mode of being in a position where I can handle it. I’m back to being golden again.

That’s the general answer. Now, the specific answer.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if I become a writer? I’m ravaged by reviewers and all the readers ever in the world hate me, hate my books, hate my dog, hate my life, hate how I look. How likely is it to happen?

Well, it’s unlikely that all reviewers and readers everywhere will have that degree of hate, so, if I can handle the smaller degrees of it, I should be okay.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t become a writer? Then I never finish a book. I never finish a book and put it out there and I move on to other things that I derive equal happiness and joy from. And that’s a likely thing that could happen.

So the key distinction is do I want that to happen? The answer is no. I write because I have stories I want to share. I can’t say the money is good because, let’s be real, it’s not. So there better be something else in there that I can latch onto.

Sharing gives me pleasure. Sharing gives me happiness. Sharing gives me joy. The worst thing that could happen if I don’t become a writer? I have less to share with the world.

That saddens me, which in turn, gives me thrust to pursue it. What do I have to lose? Not a thing.

something something rolling stones

How I Found Myself Here, or Why I Became a Writer

(page 9) EXERCISE: Answer the following question in between 100 and 250 words: I’m taking out the words ‘limit’ because I’m a wordy person. I type, think and get it down until I’m done.

What obstacles have you overcome in your life to get where you are, and what obstacles do you foresee facing as you pursue your dream of writing?

rockThe obstacles that keep me from getting anywhere in my life? Pretty short list. I’m lazy as hell. It applies to everything in my life.

I don’t like doing things, I like having done things.

The trick is to bridge that gap between doing and having done. It’s where I need the biggest kick in the pants.

Oh sure, I know intellectually that my novel won’t write itself. I’ve heard all the rahrah of Ass in Chair. 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. See, I know that. It doesn’t make getting my ass into my chair any easier. Momentum is a far bigger impediment to my achieving anything than any inspiration.

Once I get my momentum moving, I’m a steamroller. I’m hard to slow down. It’s getting the motion from being at rest. Gravity, inertia…I weigh a ton so the lever to unwedge me needs to be really long.

So the key is, how to overcome this obstacle that is clearly going to impede me? That’s the real crux of the problem and one that I will continue to examine as I move through Mugging the Muse.

And away we go!

I’ve learned this about writing — if you will not put yourself in a position to fail, you cannot succeed. — Holly Lisle, Mugging the Muse 2nd ed.

pen and paper

Since I don’t know how long or how intensive these posts will be, it’s hard to predict how frequently I’ll update. Right now, I’m shooting for once a week, saving up all my work from Mugging the Muse and dumping it into a blog post.

I reserve the right to change my mind if it becomes too much for one day, up to and including more frequent posts. This will be a process in progress.

Right. On to Mugging the Muse. 

So much for starting on Friday, though. We were without power for much of yesterday and so I couldn’t post. I still did the exercise from Mugging the Muse. Pen and paper for the win. Just add seat by the window for light and I was good to go.  Here is the answer, typed up word for word with no editing.

Everyday Courage and the Writer

(page 6) EXERCISE: Answer the following question in between 100 and 250 words:

What scares me the most when I consider writing for a living, and WHY does it scare me?

Oof. She starts off the bat asking the one question where I feel I suffer the most. I’m not sure I can even put it into words.

A lot of it is this flying without a net. I’m all about being safe. Which is what this entire exercise is about. Learning to do what I love and realize that being safe leads to comfort. Being in comfort means I don’t stretch myself.

Definition time. Writing for a living means, to me, making my primary living as a writer. And writing for a living is self-employment. There is no job that allows me to write novels and offers a stable health plan, handles taxes and 401k and the like. I’m responsible for my own taxes, my own social security, my own health plan. There’s that netless situation now.

Because I have no idea what I’m doing! That leads to more fear. What if I do it wrong? What if I fail?

That’s it, isn’t it? Fear. It all comes down to fear. Fear is uncomfortable. Fear is the unknown. Fear is being outside the comfort zone and if I’m nothing else, I’m a creature of comfort. But I can’t reach my goals if I’m comfortable. Extending outside my comfort zone is reaching into the unknown. The unknown is full of fear.

The thing about cycles, though, is that to get anywhere, sometimes you have to step out of the cycle. Step out on faith.

Easier said than done.

Yet, here I am. I’m using Mugging the Muse and my love to let it all hang out to shift me out of comfort. It’s terrifying. My heart is pounding and my mouth is dry. It’s funny because I don’t have another choice. Either I get out of my comfortable complacency or I’ll never achieve my dreams.

Fears at war.