Reaching Out Through the Web

Well, it’s been a quiet week here in Lake Woebegone… ahem, erm, I mean Upstate New York.  Yeah, sometimes you feel like there isn’t an original thought in your brain.  Haven’t we had this conversation before?  Let me refresh your memory.

Hasn’t it all been covered, all been written about before?  Perhaps.  (Though I’d dispute even that.)  The fact remains that you are a unique individual.  Nobody has ever existed with your combination of genetics and experiences.  When you take any topic and filter it through those filters, you will be giving your unique perspective on a topic.

One of the writer’s from our group was in today and started talking about empty nest syndrome.  As she spoke, very eloquently, about her experiences and how she moved on to embrace life on her own, I wished I had a recorder of some kind going.  I urged her to write an article for Yahoo! Voices about it and I hope she will.  Even if someone has written extensively about it in the past, perhaps her experience will be positioned in the right place, at the right time, to help someone who needs it.

I’ve heard people lament the advent of blogs and social networking many times.  They consider it the height of self-involvement to think that others would be interested in what we say.  “No one cares what you think!” they rail.

I do.  I care.  I believe that we all have a story to tell and I love to hear other people’s stories.  Not everything, of course.  I don’t care what you had for breakfast, unless it was at an amazing place to eat, or you made a recipe I might like to try.  It’s all about context, whether it’s relevant to the reader.

I recently came across a review of a book that claimed that social media was causing us to have shallow relationships and isolating us from one another.  That hasn’t been my experience.  Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with family and friends that I had very limited contact with in the past fifteen years.  Perhaps they aren’t all substantive exchanges on the networking site, but they could be, if we chose, and they can set the stage for the opportunity to have more and deeper dialogues.  I’ve also had the opportunity to share writing that I’ve been told deeply touched or helped a person.  That’s a pretty substantial return on my time investment, to me.

In the end, as with all technology, it’s all in how we use it.  If you put yourself into your writing, it’s going to touch people.  Take the time to edit and make sure it’s ready for publication.  Putting it up somewhere on the Internet is still publication.  Your writing is worth that and the dialogue it can generate will be so much the richer for your time and attention to detail.

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A Novel Idea

Lots of thinking going on about my writing in the past week.  I’m enjoying watching the views add up on my Yahoo! Voices page as people read things I’ve written.  I had two items due on Wednesday that proved more difficult than I expected.  I wrote a four hundred word entry on Easter memories that took a little time to get started but then the angle became clear as I thought about how my memories center around going to my Grandmother’s for vacation the week after Easter and weeding her flower beds.  That became Easter Vacations in the Country.  It was my favorite place to be and where I’ve returned to live and raise my own daughter.

The second piece was a bit more difficult.  I decided to write a Western.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  It’s never been my favorite genre but images of Little House on the Prairie flashed through my head and I thought I could do it.  Actually, I had a halfway decent idea, about a strong woman who leads the family, but not in time to really write it properly.  It turned into something pretty hokey.  I’m still trying to decide whether to invest the time to save it or leave it as the hokey western romance it turned into and move on.

Thursday night was our writer’s group meeting and I decided to share a science fiction short story for feedback that I wrote for a contest, (which it didn’t win.)  I was surprised at the strong reactions it drew.  They generally thought it deserved to be a novel.  I’m really considering working on that.  If I could write one page a day even, that would be 365 pages in a year’s time.  But where to start?  I don’t have a big vision for this.  It’s going to take some thinking.

 

Challenge Yourself

I’d like to challenge you today, to challenge yourself.  Step outside your own comfort zone with your writing!  Expand your creative mind and try something different.  You may not be interested in writing in a different genre, or style, but like a singer who strengthens her voice by singing scales, you can strengthen any writing ability you already have by expanding your range.

There are many different ways to do that.  At the beginning of every writer’s group, we pick prompts and write for twenty minutes, usually on a topic we hadn’t been thinking about until we picked up that little slip of paper.  It’s a common writing exercise to strengthen our creative skills.  If you’ve never done it before, you’re missing out on something really fun.  It may not turn into anything useful.  On the other hand, it could spark an entire story, article or novel.

You could also try your hand at a genre that you’ve never tried before or that you might even feel a slight aversion for.  I’ve never really cared for the horror category but several years back I tried writing a horror story for a web site and it turned out to be very well received.  Likewise, poetry is not my first instinct, though they do occasionally pop into my head.  For me, it takes a different mental state to write poetry.  We’re having a poetry writing workshop at my library on Saturday though and I’ll be there.  I think writing poetry is a great way to strength your skills at imagery and playing with words.

One of my favorite self-help gurus, Martha Beck, recommends doing something in a different way every day to challenge your brain.  She talks about walking a different way to work or eating with your non-dominant hand.  Strengthen your writing muscle today with a new exercise.  It may be just what you need to see things in a new light.  Follow the adventure, see where it leads you. 

Writing from the recesses of my brain

It’s funny how we can write something down, tuck it away then come back to it months later and not even remember writing it.  I have a habit of scribbling down little notes and bits of dialogue then tucking them in a pocket in my bag so that they won’t be lost to the recesses of my brain.  I just got a new tote bag and pulled all my notes out of the pocket of my old bag to reconsider.   Is it worth keeping or should I toss it?  A couple notes popped out at me as good prompts.  Feel free to see where they lead you. 

“Sins of omission, causing pain through what you fail to do.”

“Write the story you’d want to read.”

I’ve published several pieces on Yahoo! Voices in the past month or so, a couple new ones just this week.  There’s a little poem based on an image, a science fiction short story, another flash fiction based on the night the tornado hit, and more.  I keep hoping another will be featured as the little flash fiction was, but nothing so far.  They seem to be going through some changes just at the moment.  I’m still waiting to see how things shake out there. 

http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/1202123/melora_johnson.html   

My goal in putting writing up there is two fold.  First, I would love to make some money off my writing.  (I half jokingly refer to it as my debt reduction plan.  Anything I make off my writing goes toward reducing my debt at the moment.)  Second, and perhaps most importantly, I am trying to bring my writing to the notice of those who might be out there perusing writers.  One of the short stories I published this week, Devolution, is a piece taken out of my science fiction novel in progress.  In a post pandemic world, Sarah and her brothers search for civilization. My pie-in-the-sky hope is that a publisher might happen upon the story and ask to see more of it.  At least it’s not hiding in a drawer somewhere.

Do you have something lurking in a drawer somewhere that deserves to see light?  Why not get it out and find a way to share it?