Showing Up

So many writers talk about the struggle to turn up to the page. Once we carve out some time, set up our space, follow our routines and finally sit down (or stand, if you have one of crazy treadmill desks!) the writing feels like no big deal. It’s the set-up and the process that turn us off some days. I’m finding the easiest way around that is to write daily. Nanowrimo got me back in that habit and it’s sort of stuck ever since. In fact, now, when my mind starts to wander or I’m less than busy, I write. At work, I sort of miss crafting my writing, so I sneak in a little break here and there to write to myself or to you all.

I think writing, as a habit, is an easy one to maintain because it is extremely and immediately fulfilling. You see the progress and process and words filling up the page. It’s not a habit like exercise that takes months to see results. One, 15 minute sit-down with writing will create loads of words, a possible scene, a character sketch, a poem.
I’ve been doing this daily writing on top of my 10 pages a day revision project. The revision takes around 15-20 minutes, as does the writing. So I’m happy to fill 30-40 minutes each day with writing. On days when I have more time, I spend more time on it. On days when I have less, I try to stick to my 30-40 minute commitment.

So, showing up to the page, thinking through my writing, creating routines, blogging more, revision- it’s been a productive 2013 so far, let’s hope it keeps up!

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Following My Bliss

So much has changed and so much remains the same.

In August, I left my teaching job. After 10 years of being a classroom teacher, I made a change.

For the last 3 months and some odd weeks I’ve worked for an educational software company. I was hired to write instructional content for the language arts portion of the software.  While the company was still deciding what that would look like, I was asked to consider applying to become the manager of the reading and language arts department. So I did and now I am. Without even doing the job I was technically hired to do, I’m now managing people who are doing that job.

Last week the company had layoffs. The grief I feel for my former coworkers currently outweighs the understanding of why it happened. I do get it, but I don’t get it and I certainly don’t like it. The corporate world is far different than the world of public education. I saw a lot of commonality at first, but now I’m feeling like I’m in a foreign land with no passport. I’m still working, I kept my job, but others didn’t. How do you weigh the sorrow versus the relief.

So I took to my notebook. I had to write it all out and let the ambiguous and contradictory feelings flow on paper. Thank the heavens for writing, clear train of thought or not, the ability to mind dump onto the page is a savior. As I wrote I came to one big realization.  What I’m doing in life is fleeting. I thought I’d teach forever. I thought I’d writing language arts lessons, I think I’ll manage (in more than one way). What I did realize is that if, and probably when, the same fate happens to me, I want to act with grace, dignity, and self-respect. I will be upset, no doubt, but I will hopefully look on it as a blessing.

With that in mind I went back to writing. I finished a story this summer, during the June CampNanoWriMo. I worked on editing it a little and then dropped it. I briefly considered doing CampNano in August, and then school started and then I left for my new job. Feeling a loss, my great friends Candace and Lizzie agreed to start a writing group with me. We decided to Skype one a month after sending each other 5 pages of a draft in order to get feedback and guidance.

I wasn’t ready to share my June piece, so I submitted the first part of my children’s chapter book “Raleigh.” I got great feedback and immediately felt reinspired to work on writing. I began redrafting the back story and beginning, with what I think are pretty good results. In October, Candace introduced us to her friend, Victoria, who was looking for a writing group. So now we’re four writers, with very different styles, but a whole lot of support for each other. Candace dabbles in realistic lit and romantic comedy-ish stuff, Victoria is working on romance and mystery pieces, Lizzie tends toward Supernatural YA and my recent pieces are more realistic YA, though Raleigh is a talking raccoon chapter book.

The four of did Nano this past month together. Every day we sent emails with word counts, musings, or grumblings. We made our writing intentions public to each other and it was a great motivator.

Over the past weekend when I thought about the layoffs and felt sad or cynical, I kept thinking about writing. Even though it’s tough and sometimes feels like work, it’s so endlessly rewarding. A string of thoughts that once only lived inside my brain can now be printed on paper. A plot, a character, an emotional quote that didn’t exist before my fingers set to the keys, are now things, they exist now in the world.

So writing will get me through. I have so much to work on and so much to do.  The events at work just highlighted the urgency that I need to bring to my writing. I must spend my time drafting, revising, editing, plotting, reading, thinking, writing. I want to bring my commitment to writing to the next level: submitting pieces to agents, finishing half done work, believing in myself.

So for public accountability, here’s my quarterly plan:

  • Finishing my Nano draft by Dec 14
  • Editing my Nano draft and sending to my writing group Dec 15
  • Whole month of Dec- Plotwrimo with Punx Not Dead Piece
  • End of Dec- Draft 2 of Raleigh
  • January- Draft 2 of Punx Not Dead
  • January- Revising Nano piece with Plot Wri Mo
  • February- Draft 2 of Nano piece
  • March- Have 3 pieces ready for submitting- Punx Not Dead, Raleigh, and Takes One to Know One
  • March- drafting Rose Quartz

Quick Struggles, Finding What’s Good

I just spent the last 2 hours attempting to eek out the requisite 1,667 words in order to reach 50,000 by the end of the month. I made it to 1,837, thanks to a little surge at the end.
It’s not that I don’t know what I want to write, it’s that it’s not coming out on paper the way it plays in my head. So my goal tomorrow is to silence the inner critic- the one who eats my precious time, slowly chews it, and spits it out, like it doesn’t mean anything. I know the work can be done in far less time. Day 1 was one hour.
Even with the struggles to focus, I feel like the story was more comfortable for me tonight. I didn’t love where it was going yesterday, but it took a better turn today. The best part, though, was I typed for a while and reread what I had just written and I unearthed a precious little tagline. I searched the phrase with quotation marks and it doesn’t exist in the google-sphere as written, so I’m going to put it out there and lay claim to it right now!
“And when things got supernatural, life got messy.”

Developing a Writing Practice

Write everyday. That’s what they all say. They are people who write and who I admire. So, if they say to write everyday, I trust it to be good advice.

This summer I began keeping a writer’s notebook. I didn’t struggle with the daily writing part, so much as the diary-ishness of what I was writing. I wasn’t getting writing done, because I was just venting and not reflecting. When I figured that out, my writing changed. I still vent, but then I try to follow through with processing the feelings a little. Sure enough, I usually walk away with a new seedling of an idea, or a possible theme to explore more.

When school started back in the fall, I quickly fell out of practice. I spent many weekends staring at my notebook, stacks of projects to be graded, and my couch. The couch and a YA book usually won the battle. Luckily, in November I found my way back to daily writing thanks to a group of dedicated friends. We met every Sunday and shared our ideas and writing progress. The talk around the process was vital for me. Being held accountable for getting things done, was necessary for me. That’s how I work.

After learning this about myself as I writer, I now set monthly goals for my writing. They often include dates to get storyboarding or character sketches done. Sometimes I meet the deadlines, other times I let them slide a little,   my writing is for fun. If (when?!) I start having deadlines handed down by the publishing powers that be, I know I’ll meet them, because that’s how I roll.

So I decided to tackle nanowrimo this year and try a novel in a month. The structure and the deadline is perfect for my work style. But in typical overachiever style, I didn’t want to wait until November. I was pleased to find Camp Nanowrimo. In both June and August, the nanowrimo people put on summer novel in a month projects. Yay!

But, again, why wait? Since I’ve never done a novel in a month, or even written thousands of words everyday. So I’m starting my own personal nanowrimo project for the month of May. I’m planning to write everyday and keep track of word count, but mostly, I’m trying to build my writing stamina and focus. I want to be able to sit down and write and write and write when I have a brainstorm, rather than start and stop like I do now. I want to write as a brain dump and then work to revise and redraft after putting ideas on paper.

So, happy writing to me on day one of Amanowrimo!