Making a Start on my Writing, Over and Over Again

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The other day I was telling one of my co-worker’s, who is also a writer, about my intention to edit the next fifty pages of Biomalware (just in case the fellowship contest wants to see them) then go back and do a complete re-write and re-imagining of the book, to really get the tone I want.

She looked at me with something akin to admiration, “You’re really doing it.”

“Well, not really,” I replied, shamefaced. I’d been procrastinating terribly, as far as I was concerned. “I haven’t done anything with it in a couple weeks.”

“But you are,” she insisted. “You’re thinking about it and that’s an important part of it.”

 She’s right. I am doing it. Stating my intention and thinking about it is a step in the process.

I also have a huge tendency to discount what I’ve accomplished because I’m not accomplishing it as fast as I’d like. (I suspect I’m not the only one, huh?) I intended to do a complete edit on those fifty pages today. Instead I did about seven pages. I made a start though, and that’s important.

So, maybe it’ll take me a week to get that edit done, but I will get it done. Then I’ll start the re-write, hopefully by the beginning of April and complete it within the next three months. Maybe it will take longer. I’ll take as long as I have to. I simply won’t stop until I accomplish it.

Perseverance. It’s the difference between the published and unpublished.

I’ll keep writing, no matter what, because I love to write. I’ll keep growing in my writing because I love to learn. I’ll keep submitting because I love to share my stories. I’ve already found people that enjoyed my stories and I’ll find more. Hopefully some day I’ll be writing for a living.

I always recall Joseph Campbells advice to follow your bliss. If you do, the money will come. If it doesn’t, you’ve still had a damned good time in the process and life is about the journey, not the destination.

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Searching for Equilibrium as a Woman, Writer and Mom

JoyDietMarthaBeck

 

I’ve been feeling a little off kilter lately.  Life is hectic.  I leave for work in the morning, drive an hour each way, spend 9 hours there, pick up my daughter and arrive home nearly 12 hours later.  The rest of my evening is consumed with cooking dinner, cleaning up and caring for my toddler child who goes to sleep late because my husband works second shift and needs some sleep too.

Most of you probably have your own schedule challenges.

I feel like I’m constantly behind and running from one task to another, forgetting things and not sure what I’m really supposed to be doing.  I’m pretty good at organization but I lose track of my purpose sometimes, and therefore lose my balance in life.  The good thing is that I think I know what can help me.  That hard part is fitting it into my schedule.

Several years ago I picked up the book The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life by Martha Beck. It’s a tiny little book but it holds so much humor and wisdom.  I incorporated it into my life at that time and it truly helped me put what was most important to me center stage in my life, define goals and take towards making it a reality.  Sadly, I’ve gotten away from it.  Oh, I still do a few things she recommends on an irregular basis but I think working more consciously with these steps could be just what I need.

One of the hardest steps, though it sounds easy, is the first – to do fifteen minutes of NOTHING every day. We are so inundated with things to do that it may be more difficult than you think to find fifteen minutes all to yourself to quiet your mind. Of course, you can never really completely quiet your mind. The point is to watch your thoughts go by without getting drawn into the emotions they usually create. My boss is being a real jerk today! Mmm-hmm, that’s nice dear. Just watch your thoughts float by like a leaf floating down a stream. The point is to detach from them so you can relax.  I found doing this on paper, ala Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” was a great way to go for a writer.

The second step is to create or find a moment of TRUTH every day. We tend to assume that the things we are telling ourselves are true. The truth may be vastly different and yet those thoughts are creating our feelings! We dig a little deeper to find the truth so that we can be more productive. I have felt my mood elevate just by acknowledging what I am saying to myself and recognizing how I have made something seem worse than it really is.

The third step is to figure out what we DESIRE. So many times we divorce ourselves from what we really want in our lives because we think it just isn’t realistic, that we’re never going to get it. “I’ll never find someone to love so I should just stop wanting it.” But that doesn’t make the desire go away, it just submerges it so that it becomes a deep-seated source of discontent. Might as well acknowledge what we want, figure out if it’s something we really want, then start figuring out how to get it. Which brings us to our next step.

CREATIVITY. Most of the time we’re not going to get what we really want by doing the same old things we’ve always done. It’s time to get creative and come up with some ideas. Martha has a phrase for it that I really like, “force innovation.” You create lists of ways to get what you want, from reasonable to illegal. The point is to brainstorm ideas, not necessarily to do them.

Next comes RISK. It’s often going to take a risk to get what you really want. If you break it down into the smallest step you can possibly take every day, you can overcome the fear and actually take the step. Put up the profile on the dating site, send the manuscript to the editor, send your resume off to the company.

Then you can get to the TREATS. Just like training any lab animal, you’re going to have to reward yourself into taking action if you’re going to keep it up. Martha teaches you how to figure out what a treat is for you and to give yourself permission to have them. (Yes, some people need permission to treat themselves well.) Some of mine include listening to music, petting my cat and good coffee. It’s anything that sparks a smile for you. The real trick is to recognize them as treats and take full pleasure in them.

The ability to PLAY is something most of us figure we have to give up at some point. What Martha is suggesting is a change in perspective about what you do every day. Once you realize what your purpose is in life, you can see that everything else you do is simply a game you are playing to make your real purpose in life possible. It’s not such a big deal. Martha has a shortcut to figuring out what your purpose is. Think about September 11, 2001. What did you do that night? It’s probably related in some way to your life purpose. I wrote a fictional story about a woman who lost her husband in the towers, but then I’ve always known my purpose is to write. Yours may not be quite so literal.

Ever since Norman Vincent Peale, we’ve all known that LAUGHTER is a powerful form of medicine. Really, is there anything better for lifting your mood? Sometimes I trip over it and sometimes I have to go looking. I take myself over to Pinterest and look at the Geek board at least every other day. I adore funny movies and books. I recently found the Sweet Potato Queen books and I have not laughed so hard at a book in ages. It relieves stress and lowers your blood pressure. I’m learning to laugh instead of getting angry when something goes wrong. Martha suggests you should be getting at least 30 LPDs (Laughs Per Day.) I’d say it’s a fun thing to strive for.

CONNECTION is perhaps the most important of the Joy Diet steps. It requires that you use the first five steps in dealing with at least one other person every day. We all know that solitary confinement is a punishment. There’s a vast difference between being alone with yourself and being lonely. We need other people in our lives, but more than that, we need to feel connected to other people. A lot of people don’t know how to truly connect with others, or they’re afraid of the pain that doing so will inevitably bring them. Yes, being connected to other people will bring you pain. They will do things that hurt you or you might be left behind at some point. The point is that by being connected to other people, you’ll be better able to endure the pain life throws your way. Martha says that, “even as your heart breaks, you’ll find that it always breaks open.” You’ll have a network of connections to call on in your time of need.

The last step simply sounds joyful, FEASTING. I close my eyes and picture large groups of people talking and laughing, sitting around and enjoying each other’s company, with music and food and drink. But feasting doesn’t require other people. It doesn’t even require food. Feasting is about the attention you give to whatever activity you are engaging in so that it is set apart from other daily activities. One of the most important aspects of feasting is ritual. Most people think of a church service or a family saying grace before dinner, but it can also mean getting into comfy clothes, making popcorn, and getting cozy on the sofa with a blanket before starting a movie. The actions set what you are about to do apart from the rest of the day.

You can feast on sights, sounds, touch, movement or even sleep. It’s something that feeds you physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. Some of my favorite feasts involve watching a movie that inspires or makes me think, listening to peepers in the warm spring air late at night or washing my hands in warm water with honey scented soap. Then you give thanks. Feel your gratitude for this feast, whomever you direct it to, God, the universe or yourself. Being grateful for the good things gives us something to hold onto when things aren’t going so well.

Of course, there’s a lot more to all of this than I’ve been able to say in just this post but I hope it gives you the idea. This book is packed with humor and information. I’ve only been able to give you a taste here. I highly recommend you get the book for yourself and give it a try. Check it out at the library if you’re not sure you want to spend the money on it. I did, and ended up buying it for myself. I’m so glad to have it on my bookshelf. I hope it enriches your life too.

Only So Many Hours – is re-writing, revising and editing really “working” on my art?

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Over the past weekend I went to a Business of Art workshop and one of the attendees on the first day was also a presenter, a musician named Jogo. One of his parting thoughts was that you should take at least one action every day that works on your art and one action to promote yourself.

I like this idea because as a full-time working mother there are not that many hours in the day for me. I can probably write a little something and do one thing that promotes it. The question is, is re-writing, revising and editing really working on my art? In one respect, of course it is, but I feel like I should be writing something new every day.

There was a time when I was able to do the morning pages every day that Julia Cameron recommends, three pages of long hand writing.  Even though they were most often venting or journal pages, I liked that three pages in the morning for my creative writing as well.

I know that James Lee Burke, who writes the Dave Robicheaux novels, writes at least 750 words every single day. I’ve heard other writers say that they set themselves a limit and they produce that much of new material every day.  Then the editing and the business aspects of being a writer can come later in the day. Of course, they’re working as a writer all day long while I’m spending my day driving to work, working, driving home and then taking care of a small child who demands my attention until very late at night.

So, I’d like to be creating, really creating new material every day. Even if it were just a line or two, but preferably somewhere around three pages. After three pages a day, the creativity in my writing dissipates.

Right now, asking myself to get up early enough to write before I go to work just does not seem to be feasible, but first thing in the morning is my best, most creative and energetic time for writing.  So, what do I do? My best idea so far is to write in my head on the drive in and either use a digital recorder or scribble it down when I get to work.  I don’t get a lot of really good lines that way though.

So, if I have limited time and I don’t create something new, is re-writing or editing “working on my art?” It doesn’t feel like it but I think I may have to accept that it is.

The one action for promotion is not so difficult. I do recognize that there is a very good cumulative effect. After the workshop, I ended up with a long list of actions to take. For instance, yesterday I pulled my short artist’s statement out of what I had written to get into that workshop. I edited it down to a paragraph and put it in my Facebook page. If I fill out one element on that Facebook page every day, within a week it will be done. Some of those same elements are going to go into my website. I’m already signed up with Weebly and bought my domain name so I can do that very soon.

In fact, I started to work on the Weebly page but I realized I need to get a visual image in my head and pick out the visual elements before I really create it. I know what I want for content on each page but I would like at least some of the images to be my own creation, photographs or drawings. Also, do I want the images to be different on each page or the same throughout the site?  I think that will be my task over the weekend or next week.

Is revising and editing working on my art? Yes, I think it is. Is it creating something new every day? It can be, but it doesn’t really feel like it.  I would really like to be creating something new, whether it’s a couple lines of poetry or a paragraph on a story. Today I will just keep my eyes open and see if anything occurs to me that I can scribble down.

I think this is probably a personal question with a personal answer.  How do you handle it?

(Please join me on my Facebook page, where I will be posting a daily note on something interesting or inspiring about writing or life in general. Just click here -> Melora Johnson’s Facebook page.)

Changes are a-comin! The Business of Art, Writing Fellowship, a Facebook page and MY domain.

How fast can I write a blog post that’s interesting with links and good information?  Start timing – 7:48 am.

Okay,

(Excuse me, have to go peanut butter my raisin toast, back in a minute.)

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by the beaping of the toaster, (it’s a good thing I can still type with peanut butter toast in my mouth) lots of great things going on this week!

I went to submit my novel, Biomalware, to the James Jones Fellowship Contest last Friday and found out that they had pushed back the deadline two whole weeks!  There’s still time if you want to enter.  I’ve been slacking a bit but I worked on the book Friday and will continue to do so until the deadline comes back around.

I’ve been attending a Business of Art workshop at the Community Arts in Elmira in Upstate NY through the ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes and there’s been some really interesting info. shared. 

The workshop prompted me to go purchase my own domain name through https://www.godaddy.com/.  It was quick and easy.  It did start out being 9.99 for the year but then you add on the cost of keeping it private (so that your personal contact information isn’t used for registering the domain name so everybody can see it on the Internet) and the cost of registering a dot com and it quickly came up to about $23.00.  Still, a solid investment.  This blog will soon be www.melorajohnson.com

Anyway, I now have a Facebook page where I will be posting a daily note on something interesting or inspiring about writing or life in general.  Come like my page and I promise not to flood you with junk!  Just click here -> Melora Johnson’s Facebook page.

It was really easy.  I just went to my Facebook profile and clicked on “Add a page” down the left hand side.  They asked what type of page I wanted to create and let me upload a picture then I posted something on my new page and asked my personal friends to like it.  Woo hoo!

A couple things I found out yesterday about using Facebook to promote yourself or your business – the first time you post each day people will look but the second time your looks/likes will go down about 57%.  Also, once I have an event or book trailer, or something, to promote, I can do that through Facebook and pick the types of people I want to promote it to.  Cool! 

Okay, it is now 8:08 am.  I need to add a pic and go put something interesting on my new Facebook page.  Hope to see you there!

Oh, gotta eat that toast too.

The Glimmer of Hope

It’s been a long week and I’m so frazzled from the process of trying to rewrite, revise and edit the summary and first fifty pages of Biomalware before tonight’s deadline that I’m not entirely sure why I’m doing this anymore. I want chocolate… and a nap.

After I submit Biomalware to the James Jones Fellowship contest tonight, I’m going to take the weekend away from it. I have some reading and commenting to do for others and the house is in a state of disgrace that only some heavy duty cleaning and elbow grease will elevate it from.

I’ll need to get back into it fairly soon and revise then edit the next fifty pages so that if the Fellowship competition should call for them, they will be ready.

I’m seriously thinking about creating just an outline for the book and going back to reimagine each scene and write it fresh with all the details then combine the best of the two versions I have. I think I probably will. That would allow me to come at it from two different writing directions. It will also give me time to research the GMO question and take Sam through the research process more in the book.

Oh, and to cap off my wonderful mood yesterday, I got my rejection e-mail from the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Contest. Guess I’ll be submitting that story to Yahoo! Voices this weekend. I doubt it will get much interest because they aren’t really featuring new stuff these days but at least it will be out there. I really liked it though it’s a bit unusual, a bit of magical realism, so hopefully someone else will enjoy it too.

I write because I like to write and to connect with others. I would really like to be writing novels and short stories for a living. I often refer to it as living the dream.

New York State came up with an ad campaign a few years back for their lottery tickets that said “you can’t win if you don’t play.” Now they more often go with “Hey, you never know.” Both sum up how I feel about submitting my work to contests and for publication. It’s a long shot but there’s that glimmer of hope that keeps me persevering. I know I want to write for a living and I know it’s a long shot but I know it’s certainly not going to happen if I don’t submit what I’ve written. I’d write even if no one ever read it but it’s so much more fun to share what I’ve written.

So, I have my lunch hour today and what time my 2 year old will allow me after work to continue revising and editing the excerpt from Biomalware before I submit it competition. On the one hand, I know there is so much more I could do to it, and will in the future. On the other hand, I promised myself that I was going to submit to this contest and I really feel compelled to at least put it out there. Maybe I could get an honorable mention for the ideas, if not the execution.

Hey, you never know.