What I look at when I run . . .

The ground. That is the depressing finish to this sentence. I went on a long (for me) run this morning as we are actually having a beautiful spring here in the high desert. Normally spring is non-existent. We just go from snow to mud to broiling hot without a whole lot of nice days in between, but not this year. It’s lovely, and I’ve made an early escape from the treadmill to the outdoors.

Despite the beauty of the spring mountains, I don’t look at this. . .

Or this. . .  

I look at this. . . 

Why?

I’ve been thinking about that these past few weeks because I’m struck by the beauty of the mountains greening up when I do look up, right before I look down again.

I think its because I’m a list maker, a life chunker. I like to break everything down into manageable pieces.  Because I live near the mountains, when I run I climb a lot of hills. If I look down, I can only see about four feet in front of me, especially if I wear a hat, and anyone, including me, can run four feet. If I look down, I can break down an entire run, especially the climbs, into four foot chunks.  I even have a “hill” mantra that I chant as I climb, “climb up this side, coast down the other, climb up this side, coast down the other.” If I only can see the next four feet of the hill, before I know it, I’ve made it to the top.

I do look up on the down hill sections, but I also often run on trails, and if I look up too much, I might trip.  I need to see where I’m going to avoid stepping in a hole, so I find my eyes glued to the ground right in front of my feet again.

The problem with this approach, I’m discovering, is that I can miss the whole big picture, the beauty of the journey.  It’s one thing to have a goal and go for it, even if it is only four feet, but not at the expense of the whole view.  I tend to forget that.

The funny thing is that I really do like getting outside and exercising – I just need to look up occasionally and enjoy it. Perhaps I need a new mantra, something like, “pull your head up (or out!), enjoy the journey, pull your head up, enjoy the journey.”

I’m still a WIP

1) My blog – I finally updated the “about me” page and changed the name of my blog. This is the third name, but that’s okay. It needs to grow with me. It’s now titled, “Speaking of Words, Quilts, and Life.” In reviewing the collection of posts I’ve made,  most of my posts somehow address creativity in my life through writing, quilting, or even parenting, so I decided to expand the title. My goal for this blog is to write, consistently, twice and week for an audience, whoever they may be. So far, I feel good about what I’ve done here, and I’m also okay with not having a laser focus on my “content.” If I was trying to monetize this, that might be a problem, but I’m not, so I feel perfectly comfortable writing about my writing, my creative process, my quilting, or even my kids if I feel like it.

2) My novel – My goal for the year was to finish my first draft by April 15. I figured that is a national deadline of sorts, so I’d just join the party. Alas, I didn’t make it. My word count goal was 90,000 words, and I’m happy to say I have met and surpassed that goal by several thousand words, but I’m still not done telling the dang story!  I think I have about six scenes left to write which could be anywhere from 6000-10,000 more words.  At this point, I have the end written and 90% of the middle, I just have to get the two tied together. I’m almost there, and I hope to have a first, really rough draft done in two or three weeks. I’ve decided not to beat myself up over this as I’d rather start my revisions knowing that I have to cut rather than feeling like I have a lot I need to add.  For me, cutting and tightening up language during revision is much easier than writing more.

3) My quilts – this part of my life has become a big zero. I haven’t touched a needle or thread in several months, other than to sew a button on a pair of pants last week, but that doesn’t really count. I wanted to sew this past weekend but ended up cranking out several thousand words on my novel, so my fabric continued its lonely existence. Summer vacation is coming, however. I just need to keep that in mind!

4) WhereTeensWrite – Another of my goals this year is to start a website for teen writers.  I am happy to say that this is in the works.  It will be a community for teen writers to share their writing, get feedback, and take online creative writing classes. I’ve had several students “consulting” with me on it, and we’re all pretty excited though it probably won’t be live for a couple of months.  When it is, you will be able to find it at whereteenswrite.com.  That whole summer vacation thing really needs to happen, so I have some time to dedicate to this project too!

5) This is not a goal, just proof that I’m still a “work in progress.” I’ve been blogging for a year and I just discovered that WordPress has a Handy Blog Scheduling Feature! I’m sure this tool has been available since I started blogging, but somehow it escaped my notice, so I’ll share for those of you who haven’t found it yet either. If, like me, you are busy and sometimes aren’t on the computer to post on your regular schedule, there is a solution.  The next time you finish a post, click the “edit” button next to “Publish Immediately” above the big blue “publish” button.  You can then schedule it to go out whenever you want it to and WordPress does the rest. How nice are they? This has made my life as a woman who works full time, has two teens, and tries to post regularly much easier, and I wish I had discovered it a year ago. Oh well, live and learn.

Image is Royalty Free clipart from Microsoft Office.

Keep Your Day Job AND Write . . . How?

This summer I attended the Willamette Writers’ Conference.  Many of the writers and presenters there kept saying, “keep your day job.”  There’s even a pretty good blog that I occasionally read called www.writerwithadayjob.com that offers tips and motivation to keep going in the face of a busy life.  She also has a companion book that I haven’t read but it’s on my list.

Some of the reasons successful (read published) day job writers give for keeping the job are:

  • It keeps you out in the world with real people, not locked away in solitude.
  • It gives you something to write about
  • It helps structure your day
  • It keeps you focused.
  • Health  Insurance
  • A steady paycheck so you can relax and not feel pressured to write

While I actually agree with many of those reasons, in practice it’s tough.  Now that I am almost a semester and a half into the school year, I’ve been thinking about my progress on my writing thus far.

It’s been a struggle to meet my teaching, coaching, wife, and mom obligations and still find time to write.  Last week, I did alright, but during the two weeks prior, I failed miserably at the writing part.  It seems to work like this.  I have a great week and churn out two blog posts and two thousand novel words and other weeks, it’s a struggle to get one blog post done.

My new writing goal is to write something every day.  I started the school year with the goal to write 4000 words per week.  That soon got reduced to 2000 words until I finally decided that writing something every day was better than nothing and demanding a word count from myself only made me feel like I was failing, which I am not, at all.  It’s just that writing in the large chunks of time which I prefer has been difficult to achieve.

So my question is this:  How do published writers do it?  They give reasons to keep the day job but then how do they achieve their writing goals?

What are the specific strategies?  On the one hand, I like the structure and focus my job teaching gives me, but on the other hand, my job is a time suck.  Right now, I have a stack of research papers to grade; I had to be at school at 6:00 am this morning to take four students to town to speak to the local Rotary club; I am sending 18 more students to Reno for a tournament at 6:00 am Friday morning with hotel arrangements etc., and then I’m driving a school vehicle down with four more students after school gets out.  I’ll return home midday Sunday.

Oh ya, and then I have a novel to finish.  I am not complaining. I am happy . . . just busy.

My life is full.  Each minute is precious. What are strategies that any of you found that work?  I’ve tried a bunch, and I’m open to suggestions.

Fear of Finishing

Last week I pulled out a bunch of fabric to start a new quilt.  It’s not that I don’t have enough current projects to work on, (there are at least eight).  It’s that I like starting projects.  There’s so much potential at the beginning of a project, whether it’s a new quilt or a new story.  In my mind, it will turn out amazingly well.  I can picture the beauty of the quilt, feel the flow of the words.

The fabric I pulled sat on my ironing board for about five days, right in front of a quilt that is stuck to my mini-design wall and has been either on the wall or shoved in a basket on the shelf for, well, about five years now.  Obviously, that project has not had my undivided attention.  It did at first, when I started and tackled it merely for the challenge.  This project entailed drawing a picture (I don’t draw), enlarging it at the print shop, tracing it all onto butcher paper, labeling each little piece, ironing it to the back of the fabric, and stitching it all back together again.  It was a long tedious process, one of those that you get halfway through, start drinking and then think “what the hell was I thinking?!?” We’ve all had them.

The first part looked like this:

The stars have TINY pieces!

This took FOREVER, so I bagged that plan, and went with this:

The pieces are slightly larger and easier to work with here.

The entire quilt is now done except for the hands.  I appliqued them on, decided they looked like lobster claws, and shoved the thing back into the basket for another year.

                                

Last summer, I got it out again and added some thread to try to add some shadows and fingernails to the hands.  It helped, but they still don’t look like I want them to look.  So I shoved it back in the basket.  It came out a few weeks ago.  Now, it’s on my wall, sitting right next to where I write.  Or, more accurately, where I haven’t been writing, but where I’ve been sitting, staring at the screen or the paper, trying to finish the last stretch of my novel.

I’ve spent a lot of time the past few weeks thinking about “finishing.”  I have two projects that are two of the most difficult I’ve ever done: my hand quilt and my novel, and I’m struggling to finish them.  I’m learning that I have a hard time finishing hard projects. I start to doubt myself, decide it’s going to stink anyway, and start on something new and easier.  I realized that’s what I’d done this past week when  I pulled fabric for a new and easy quilt, one that I know will turn out, and also one that I know won’t challenge me at all.

I have never thought of myself as someone who avoids a challenge; I take them on all the time.  My hand quilt, my novel, even this blog are all challenges I’ve taken on.  However, somewhere along the way, I must have decided that it’s the finished project that is the most important element.  Intellectually, I know that is a fallacy.  The finished project is not the most important thing.  Really.  I learn something every time I work on the damn hand quilt as I do every time I sit down to write. It’s all about the journey . . . right?

Emotionally, I’ve decided my problem with finishing a difficult project is that it just might suck.  My hand quilt might look like lobsters trying to sew and my novel might serve better as kindling for the wood stove, but if I don’t finish, they’ll always have the potential to be perfect!  I’d love to say I’m mature enough to finish a hard project, accept the lessons of the journey, and move on, but I’m finding that the reality is, I’m not.  I’d clearly rather keep working on these projects indefinitely rather than face the fact that they might not live up to my expectations.  I might let myself and everyone else down.  That’s scary, and in a nutshell, I don’t like it.

However, to try to overcome this new little core belief I have discovered about myself, I’ve decided that I’m not starting any new projects until the hard ones are done.  I put all the fabric I pulled for the new easy quilt away.  I’ll try to make the lobster claws on my quilt magically transform into hands, and I’ll also create a fabulous resolution for my novel . . . hopefully.  In any case, they’ll be done, perfect or not, and I can start fresh.

Small Stones #1

“A small stone is a very short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment.” This is defined on the website www.writingourwayhome.ning.com which hosts a free mindful writing challenge called The River for the month of January.  The idea is for writers to live mindfully and note at least one moment a day.

One of my goals for this year is to write something every day, whether it’s a blog post, 2000 words on my novel, a character sketch, or even a “small stone.” I want to write something.  This challenge fits into that goal perfectly.  It also fits into an ongoing spiritual goal to live mindfully which is sometimes difficult in my busy, distraction filled world.

I’ve included my first “small stones” of the year that I’ve written so far.  I haven’t managed one everyday but I have managed to write something every day. The site has prompts to look at nature, people, etc.  They’re actually kind of fun to write.  Enjoy.

#1  A bed of coals, glowing, radiating, heating, engulfing, burning.

My cheeks heat as I watch the flames, red and hot, as if I said something perhaps I shouldn’t have, but not this evening.  This heat is delicious, warming all the way through, safe, no regretful words involved.

#2  My Mandala . . . placing pebbles winding, circular, encompassing the garden of my own creation, paper, flowers, glue, my soul, reaching outward to create, becoming . . . me.

#3  My old dog snores, adjusting his legs, sighing in his relaxed contentment.  The puppy shakes and wriggles before yawning, his jaw stretching wide, sounding like a baby pterodactyl, high pitched and squeaky.  My son, his voice recently deepened, laughs his new sounding laugh and carries the pup off to snuggle and bed.

#4  He approaches, chews on the smile that tries to spread across his face, looks at me then steals a glance at the young woman by my side before looking down again.  His hair, sweat soaked, sticks to his cheeks, his forehead.  He holds his hockey stick across his chest, his gear in a pack on his back, a young warrior.  “You played well,” she says, grinning.  He looks up, nods, the smile makes the briefest of appearances again before vanishing into . . . cool.

#5  The pen, scratchy on the page, my lower thumb aching with the exertion of actually writing, using a pen and paper.  The words, inscribed forever, no delete button here.

#6  A spider dangles, slowly lowering himself on a thread, swinging over my morning coffee, too close.  He pauses, unaware of our rescue, swaying in the air as I move my cup; his descent continues.

I haven’t yet written a small stone while I’m at work.  Perhaps it’s the environment of 29 teenagers in my classroom that prevents me from remembering to take note of a single moment, but it is a goal for the next week or so.

Lessons Learned from 2011 to Help Build 2012

In listing my accomplishments from 2011, I also discovered some important lessons I’ve learned.   While my list of accomplishments made me feel pretty good, it is the lessons those things taught me that I need to remember to carry forward as I live 2012 with intention.

Lesson #1 – Creativity feeds creativity.  Whenever I got stuck in my writing, I would sew or go for a run and listen to music.  Giving my mind a creative outlet of another for somehow seemed to “unstick” the stuck part.  All of my creative endeavors go hand in hand, but I never realized how intertwined they truly are until this past year.

Lesson #2 – Doing my daily Soul Writing centers me.  Some call it journaling; Julia Cameron with The Artist’s Way calls it writing your “Daily Pages,” but Janet Conner’s method of deep Soul Writing, resonated with me.  It’s a daily meditation with a pen in my hand.  I’ve tried journaling for years and never stuck with it until now.  Perhaps I was finally ready for it, who knows, but in any case, I love how it centers and grounds me.

Lesson #3 – I can write! People actually read my writing and like it, or at least they tell me they do.  That was shocking for me to discover.  I’m usually pretty confident, but when it came to sharing my writing, I felt like I did when I was six and had to go to swimming lessons with the high school wrestling coach who taught swimming in the summer.  The man was huge and terrifying.  The idea of sharing my writing gave me the same huge pit of fear in my gut, but I got over it and survived just like I did with the scary swim teacher.  I enjoy swimming, and I now actually like to share my writing.

Lesson #4 – The more I write . . . the more I write.  In mid-November, I decided to cut down my blog posts to once a week in order to be able to devote more time to my novel. I found that overall I actually wrote less.  Writing my twice weekly blog posts forces me to sit down and write . . . something . . . anything!  I realize that I made that commitment to focus on my novel as we headed into the holiday season which is already extra busy, and then both of my teenagers decided to seriously challenge my parenting skills.  I’d like to blame my lack of progress on the holidays and “momflict,” but really, I just didn’t put my ass in my chair like I should have.  Posting twice a week makes me do that, despite all my other commitments, and if I’m writing one thing, I learned that I will write more on other projects as well.

I hope to carry these lessons through 2012 (and beyond) as I build my life around who I truly am and how I want to live. With that said . . . (drumroll please) . . . my intentions for 2012 are . . .

  • Run a 5k AND a 10K – this is a holdover from last year.
  • Write something every single day, whether it’s a blog post, a paragraph, a small stone, or 3000 words on my WIP.
  • Focus on doing work that I love and incorporating those components into my regular day job.
  • Finish the first draft of The Overlander’s Daughter by April 15.
  • Finish a first revision by July 1 and get it to some readers for feedback.
  • Learn how to write a query, write one, and submit it.
  • Continue to clarify my intentions, my message, my life with regular deep soul writing.
  • Post on my blog twice a week.
  • Regularly feed my creativity through quilting and playing with fabric.
  • Start a website/community for Teen Writers that includes options for sharing writing as well as an instructional component.  This is an offshoot of a Creative Writing Club that is a goal of mine and a group of students.  There’s NO time for a club with meetings at school, so I’ve decided to take this route and build it in an entirely different way. I’m excited to see where this can go.

I’ve never put such strict deadlines, so we’ll see how this goes.  Just reading over those dates my tummy did a little flip-flop, so that means it’s either a good thing (or not). I guess we’ll see!

Reflections on 2011

In 2010, I spent the last day, December 31, 2010, journaling and creating a mandala that I posted in my writing area.  I’ve spent this entire year, looking at it everyday.  I’d never actually set goals for the year in such a concrete and specific manner, and as I’ve spent time during the last two weeks of 2011 reviewing and reflecting before looking ahead to 2012, I have to say that I’m happy with what has transpired over the last year.

My happiest accomplishments during 2011:

  • I started this blog in March, posted twice a week with great regularity until late this fall when my job and mom duties made life crazy.  I also got brave enough and after a few months and some encouragement from a new writer friend (thanks Susan) to link my blog to Facebook where people that I know (other than immediate family) would read it.  That was a scary day for me – not sure why it was so scary, but I overcame it and now I’m okay with whoever reads it, or not.
  • I wrote 70,000 words in a novel with the working title, The Overlander’s Daughter.  Just writing that title makes me happy.
  • I applied for and received a new passport which will help me fulfill travel dreams.  I haven’t needed a passport since I was fifteen, and hopefully, after a 17 year hiatus from international travel, I will need one in the near future.
  • I made it to almost all of my kids’ soccer and hockey games.  I love watching them play.
  • I visited the Redwoods which I’ve always wanted to do.
  • I started and completed three full quilts – Megan’s fairy quilt, my Man quilt, and Haley’s denim nightmare quilt.  I also finished six Christmas table runners and started a scrappy block quilt. I have it all designed, but it’s currently in my WIP pile along with my hand quilt, a beach themed quilt, and a block exchange quilt.
  • I participated in the Willamette Writer’s Conference and learned a TON about writing, the writing industry, and publishing.
  • I ran a 5K.  I wanted to also run a 10K but was unable to find one that I could get to on a free weekend.  Having my own kids in sports as well as my own coaching responsibilities tends to keep my weekends full.  In fact, I had to miss the first quarter of one of Haley’s games to finish my run.  I’ll keep the 10k for next year I think.
  • I read Writing Down your Soul by Janet Connor.  It was a great book that inspired me to write three to six times a week in my “Soul Journal.”  This has helped me to clarify what I want and who I am.  It also helped me to feel much calmer and more grounded each day.

One thing I haven’t included on the above list is the awards my Speech and Debate team won which we’ve definitely earned or those accomplishments with students in my classroom.  Those aren’t accomplishments that ring true to me right now, maybe because I’ve been so focused this year on writing and moving forward in other areas.  I am ready to move on to adventures that excite and inspire me.

As I look over this list, I’m pleased, and I think its okay to celebrate what I have accomplished.  So often we focus on what we didn’t do or fail to accomplish.  In fact, its been surprising to me how many people have blogged about how ready they are for 2011 to end as its been such a bad year.  One lesson I’ve learned and been able to appreciate as I’ve gotten older is to take time to celebrate what we do accomplish and achieve, even if they’re small or seemingly insignificant.  Taken altogether, as I look at my list, I can say “I’m a writer,” and overall, 2011 has been a good year.  I’m excited to see what 2012 will bring.

Writing Strategies to get the Novel DONE (hopefully)

This Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful for this blog.  It has given me the courage to make my writing public, something I have never done before.  It has forced me to stick to a writing schedule.  I’ve posted every Monday and Thursday, except for a few misses here and there, since April.  It has pushed me and even gotten me to believe in myself as a writer. Amazingly, people actually read what I write, and some even comment on it and “like” it.

However, since school started this fall, blogging has taken a huge chunk of my precious writing time during the work week.  During the week, I’ve focused on my blog posts, and then I work on my novel on the weekends.  I’ve turned into a weekend warrior writer, and its killing me.  So far this fall, I’ve had a 10,000 word weekend, a 6000 word weekend, and a 4000 word weekend.  I realize for those participiting in NaNo, this is nothing, but for me, they are exhausting weekends. While I’ve learned that I can produce in large chunks, I have also learned that I don’t necessarily like to.

After I  have a “writing warrior” weekend, I take a break from my novel as I’m drained, and I tend focus on blogs, mine and everyone elses, all week.  This is a problem because my intended little break turns into a big break, and then I need a super productive weekend to maintain my goals and my vicious cycle starts all over again. I’ve decided that it would be much better for me to write on my novel a little bit each day rather than in giant, draining chunks.

This past weekend I didn’t get much written at all because I kept thinking I MUST write 8000 words. I got completely overwhelmed with that amount, so I didn’t writing anything.

Yesterday afternoon as I was not writing and distracting myself with activities related to writing, I was reading an article in Poets & Writers Magazine by best-selling author Ellen Sussman titled “Four Steps to Higher Productivity.” Yes, I note the irony here. Unfortunately the article is not available online as it’s a great piece.  She offers four steps to increasing writing productivity. They are:

  1. Do ten minutes of pre-writing meditation to clear your mind of distractions.
  2. Block the internet – it is NOT ALLOWED during writing time.  Research time is different than writing time.  The internet is a major distraction for me, so I think this one will be helpful.
  3. Write in 45 minute chunks and then take a mandatory 15 minute break before writing again, even if you’re on a roll.  As a full time writer, she is able to repeat this cycle three times a day, five-six days a week.  I can’t imagine having the time to write for three hours uninterrupted each day, but I can try for smaller chunks.
  4. Write daily. I try to write every day, but there are days when I don’t or I just focus on my blog and never write a word on my novel.  I need to be focusing on my big project at this point, and I need to focus on it every single day, not just on weekend marathon writing sessions.

I am going to experiment over the next few weeks and try her four steps.  The first step I am going to take will be to limit my blogging to once a week, each Thursday, with the occasional Monday.  I want to focus on getting my novel done.

Hopefully, her steps will help me do that.  I will let you know how it goes.

Progress on my Works in Progress

I’ve been awake since 4:08 am.  I do this every time I’m going somewhere that I’m excited to go.  Today, I’m driving four hours to the airport (the joys of living in rural America), and flying to Portland, Oregon to: 1) visit my sister and her kids and 2) attend a real live writing conference called the Willamette Writer’s Conference.  I’m the girl that could happily go to school and learn new things until I’m 95, so three whole days of workshops on writing makes me, well, wake up super happy at 4:00 am.

In honor of this, I decided to write an update on my writing, so here goes.

The Overlander’s Daughter – This is the working title of my novel in progress.  It is has two intertwined narratives; one is historical and one is contemporary.  This summer, I have focused mainly on the historical portion which is about a young woman on the Oregon Trail.  I haven’t gotten as much actual text written as I thought I would this summer, but I have done tons of research.  If you are ever wondering something about the Oregon Trail, ask.  I probably know the answer.  I’ve gotten just over 30,000 words written. I feel like reaching that number was a big milestone to reach though I’m not sure why.

I’ve learned quite a bit about my writing process through this project.  For each section, I write the key scene or most dramatic piece first.  Then, I write the rest of the scenes that surround the key scene.  It takes me about a week to research and really live with the characters in order to write the key scene, then, a bit to actually write that piece.

Finally, I write the “surrounding” scenes.  This whole process takes me two to three weeks, a little bit slower than I had anticipated.  I also have found, surprisingly, that I can often write and get my ideas flowing better by hand, but then I have to type everything up.  This takes a little more time, but by the time it’s typed, it’s already gone through one revision as I always add and delete as I’m typing.

Short Stories – I haven’t written any more short stories and the one I did write last spring has actually become a piece of the contemporary portion of my novel.  I’ve been reading lots of short stories, and I love them, I just haven’t been hit with one that needed me to write it down recently.

The Speaker’s Workshop – This is actually a project I started last summer, shelved when school started, and forgot about.  I’m not sure how I forgot about it so completely, but I did.  I was stunned when I “found” it.  I have the chapters outlined and two written.  It is non-fiction and some creative non-fiction.  It focuses on how to incorporate speaking activities into the secondary classroom. It is not just about “how to give a speech” but how to use speaking and discussion to promote critical thinking about literature and to develop writing as well.  It’s also a bit about my life in the classroom.  I’ve written a few pieces to incorporate into this, but I haven’t focused on it this summer.

Then there’s this blog which I’ve posted at least two times a week since I started and sometimes three, except for my vacation week.  Including all my character sketches, plot notes, blog entries, my personal journal, and the projects above, I’ve been writing . . . a lot.  Though it feels like I should be further along than I am on the above projects, I realize that I need to honor this creative process as well as my life.  It’s full, and it’s full of things I really love, like my kids, my husband, my quilts, my books, and now, my writing.  I have written almost everyday, I have learned a ton, and for now, I’ve decided to keep at it.

Reading About (and not doing any) Writing

I hit the 20,000 word mark on my novel this past week.  This seems like a big milestone to me.  I’m not sure why, but it does.  To celebrate both this milestone and our country’s birthday, I took the last three days off from writing.  Actually, I didn’t have much of a choice.  We were camping on this holiday weekend with no cell service, no electricity, no computer . . . you get the picture.

I did actually bring a clipboard with some paper, but all I managed to write on it was the beginning of a character sketch and a list of stuff I needed to get to restock the camper.

Instead of focusing on writing, I played with my family.  And I read.

I finished Jeannette Walls’ lovely memoir The Glass Castle.  I also spent time in my lounge chair with some of my writing craft books.  As I began writing fiction in earnest at the beginning of this year, I read and read and read craft books, but I finally got to the point that I needed to actually practice what I was reading.  I needed to write my stories.

Now that I’ve made a bit of progress, I’m finding that as I read the craft books I’m thinking about and approaching the information in a more practical way.  I have characters and plots to think about which has given me a different perspective on the information.

The first time I read the writing books, they gave me the confidence and knowledge to start writing fiction.  Now, I feel like they’re giving me the information and confidence to keep going.  In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says “the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts” (22).  Mine is now well under way, and I’ve decided that its okay if its crap.   Writing is hard, I’ve figured out that much.  But I’ve also figured out that I love it, and I’ll stick with it.

I just need to keep going, keep plugging away, even when life is busy and crazy and I decide every single one of my ideas is lame and the whole story sucks.  The only way to get this book done and this story out is one (possibly shitty) word at a time.  The great part is, as the writer, I have the freedom to go back and change it all if I need to.  Perhaps that’s the best part of writing.

Next stop . . .  completed character sketches and 50,000 words.