Staying the Course with “Leaverites” & Einstein

Sitting in the corner of my writing desk is a rock cairn that I bought at a mining supply store.  I didn’t buy it right away.  I came home, thought about how ridiculous it was to actually buy a stack of rocks, and then went back and got it.  It’s my favorite writing desk accessory, though my Einstein doll is a close second.

The rocks remind me to stay the writing course while Einstein, the guy who developed theories related to time, reminds me to be patient about it, not one of my strengths.

Hikers use rock cairns to mark trails and let fellow hikers know where to go. They are especially helpful when trails traverse giant slabs of granite, like they do in the Ruby Mountains near my home.  If you lose the trail, just look for a cairn, and then head toward the next one.  They keep you on the trail, or at least heading in the right direction.  They’re also kind of fun to build, to find rocks that will actually stay on top of each other and stay standing for any length of time.

Next to my cairn on my desk, I also have random rocks that I have picked up on walks and hikes.  I am no geologist or archaeologist; I just tend to look down while I walk, so I find rocks I like. I bring them home and set them my desk or in my classroom.

One friend who loves rocks and crystals told me that any type of rock will help break up negative energy. I have no idea if this is true, but it sounds great.  As a result, I have rocks scattered in every corner of my high school classroom.  I figure I need all the help I can get to help build positive energy in there.

When I first brought home a rock years ago, my husband asked me if I’d found another leaverite.  I was completely impressed with his geological prowess and got all excited that he actually knew what kind it was, until he explained himself. “Yep, that’s a leaverite,” he said.  “You should ‘leaverite’ where you found it.”

I was crushed.  My plain gray rocks were just that, a plain gray rocks.  Bummer but at least they now had an official name.  My rocks are all leaverites, and I use them to guide me, to remind me of where I’m going.  I am a writer, or at least I’m on my way if the cairn in the corner of my desk is guiding me correctly.

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.

9 Reasons I Miss my Film Camera

This little roll of film made getting pics so much easier.

Last weekend, my husband asked for one picture, a single lone shot he took.  When I went to get it off my camera, I discovered that every single picture I’ve taken over the past year and a half was still on the memory card.  Oops.

It took me an entire afternoon and evening to get the pictures onto my computer, sorted, labeled, and edited.  It has taken the rest of the week to get them uploaded onto a web site, so I can order them. As I’ve dealt with all these digital images, I’ve been thinking about all the reasons I miss the days of film and negative strips:

1)  I take far too many pictures with a digital camera.  It never runs out of film, and I can just delete the bad shots which makes taking 1000’s of pictures easy.  With film, every image cost money to develop, so I was much more particular about the shots I took.

2)   It takes hours of precious time to deal with my overabundance of digital images.

3)    I can no longer shove a roll of film into an envelope, drop it into the Kodak box at the grocery store, and pick up the developed pics a few days later.  The photo people took care of everything, saving me lots of time.

4)    Editing bad photos merely entailed tossing the crappy ones in the trash, the actual can underneath my desk, not a virtual recycle bin on my desktop.

5)    Before I get an actual picture, I have to upload them to my computer, sort them into folders, edit them, and upload them to a site before I can order them.  The other option is to take my memory card to Wal-Mart on a Saturday with every other person in my small town and wait in line to use one of their machines to develop my shots.  Neither of these options is quick or ideal.

6)   I no longer have film canisters lying around to store random odds and ends or make to fill with something for a quick baby rattle.  The only ones I have left are the ones my husband’s grandma gave us full of the different State Quarters.  Did you know that a film canister fits a stack of quarters perfectly?  I’m not sure my kids even know what those handy little black canisters filled with
quarters were originally used for.

7)   I now have a phone that takes pictures.  When we used film, my camera was the only “device” I owned that took pictures, and I didn’t carry it everywhere.  I have far too many opportunities to take photos which I then have to deal with.

8)   Did I mention that it takes far too much time to take organize and print digital images?

9)   In the next week or two, I will receive 800+ photos in the mail, a huge amount.  In the happy days of film camera, I got my pictures in perfectly manageable bunches of 24 or 36, depending on the roll of film I had purchased.   After my monster order arrives, I will have to spend another hour or two sorting and filing all these photos, getting them ready to put into an album, so we can actually enjoy them.  Isn’t that the point?  I won’t get started on the amount of time it takes to put them in albums and write about them.  I can’t blame that problem on digital cameras, though, so I’ll leave it alone in this post.

Perhaps my problem is not the camera, but the fact that I love photos.  I enjoy taking them, putting them in albums, writing the stories behind them, and looking at them.  The only real solution here is to abandon photography altogether since I seriously doubt film cameras will ever make a comeback, and abandoning photography is not a solution.

Maybe I should just deal with my photos more frequently than every 18 months.  I think I’ll try that.

Tying Up Loose Ends

Last week, I got inspired to create a denim soccer quilt for my daughter.  She made the varsity squad as a Freshman, and her team made the 3A state playoffs.  I had a pattern that I bought probably twelve years ago, and I had all the denim, so I decided I could whip it out by the end of the weekend.  The universe had another plan for me.  Instead of writing (which I wanted to do this weekend) I sewed and sewed and sewed.  I went through almost four bobbins of thread and the quilt is not even one quarter completed.  For those of you who don’t sew, four bobbins is A LOT of thread.

The pattern required me to cut out 180 of denim and fleece circles.  The palm of my hand is still bruised, a week later, from this delightful step.  I should have known then.  After cutting, I had to stitch together a denim circle and a fleece circle to make one piece.  Then, I sewed the circles together which made tons of “circle flaps” that have to be sewn down.  It’s taking me forever to stitch all these loose ends down.

As I was sitting at my machine yesterday grumbling that my daughter better appreciate this, I actually started to laugh.  Somehow, the universe has consistently managed to point out the parallels between writing and quilting.  I hit the same stages in the creative process over and over again.

I am also at the “lots of loose ends” point in my novel.  The working title of it is The Overlander’s Daughter.  There are two parallel stories, a contemporary one and a historical one.  Last weekend, I hit 60,000+ words, and I think I have about 15,000 words left to write on the contemporary section, though who knows.  That could change too.  I began my project with this great outline, and I started writing the story at the beginning.  For my first novel, this seemed like the logical place to start.

It didn’t take too long to discover that the outline bogged me down.  It provided good structure, but I found that I liked writing on whatever section struck me.  This means that my story took off in all
sorts of random directions, and now I have a lot of scenes for the main plot and sub plots, but I haven’t put them all together yet.  I am discovering that, like my quilt, this could be a nightmare to put together.

Last week, I printed all the scenes and tried to put them in some sort of order.  Oh my.  I have lots of loose ends to connect and stitch down.  One example is with the seasons.   The main character seems to flit through the year like some sort of time traveling fairy.  At one point it’s Christmas and in the next scene, she’s sitting outside enjoying the sunshine and looking at the garden.  Since the story does not take place in the Caribbean, this is a problem.

I will spend the next few weeks attempting to stitch it all together, both my giant denim nightmare and my pile of seemingly disparate scenes.