Distractions

Distractions are so dependable. When one shows up, I say, ‘Ah, there you are! My old frenemy. So glad you could join me in this creative endeavour!’ Not.

My writing days have become an exercise in distraction prevention…and that’s good because it’s how the laundry gets done which is considerable with 5 humans and a dog.

I have two 4-hour chunks of dedicated time to write each week. All other writing happens in-between times and nap times and letting the kids watch tv and eat snack-times. And on my writing days, when I have 4 whole hours, I feel pressure. It’s all from my own head and is a distraction in itself. I deal with it by breaking it down into 30-minute pieces or just giving myself a break or giving myself a hard time, depending on day.

When I first started writing, I was semi-obsessed with the writing processes of accomplished authors. I would read books about it. Articles about it. I would try stuff. For a while, part of my writing process was painting my nails just before I began because a) I could type/write with semi-wet nails and b) it kept me from doing other things like moving my butt out of my chair. I had been inspired by Victor Hugo who famously had a servant take his clothes away, leaving him no option but to stay indoors and write. Painting my nails was tame, and warmer, by comparison but it served the same purpose and worked for a while.

What I did finally discover, and it came as my confidence grew, was that there’s no right or wrong way to do this. If you must write, then you must.

But some good, and odd bits of advice have stuck with me:

  • Don’t eat. This is rubbish though. This lady (don’t remember her name, which is good cause I wouldn’t want to heap ridicule on her) advocated naps, walks, music, dancing, but NOT eating. She specifically said, Do not take a break from writing to eat. She had problems. I take relish in breaking this ‘rule’ regularly.
  • Anne Lamott is a writing hero of mine. Her book Bird by bird has to be one of the best and funniest books about writing, ever. Here’s what I wrote as a takeaway from her. “Align myself with the river of the story – the river of unconsciousness – of memory and sensibility, of my characters’ lives, which can then pour through me.” Any time I fight this one, it’s a disaster. Go with the flow when not editing.
  • Silence the inner-critic – I think I’ve become pretty good at this. This and the advice above are how I’ve written the first draft of my book. If you go with Anne’s advice, you will pretty much silence the critic or will at least be so caught up in your characters’ lives you won’t notice anything else. But you must not have the demon in your ear saying horrible things like you’re no good or you’re a fraud, you need a happy womb for your word baby. Remember, we’re all practicing the writing thing, all of us. Out of quantity comes quality, so just knock out the words and keep.on.going. Keep them tumbling. And no one but YOU can tell your story, just as you’re telling it.
  • Have a lie down, but stay awake. Yes, it’s the opposite of a nap and that’s a big negative. I know. But seriously, a friend mentioned this to me and I tried it because sometimes my ‘best’ ideas come as I’m just drifting off to sleep. And we’ll never know if they are truly my best ideas because the ones that don’t get recorded (over half of them!) are lost FOREVER! This haunts me as someone who can live in an idea or use it as a scene or poem or that plot twist I desperately needed. Laying down is just relaxing. Then from this relaxed state, the ideas flow…but instead of rolling over and going back to sleep or repeating them over and over and telling yourself to remember them, (it doesn’t work, just write them down!) you are poised to record those glorious words.
  • Write it down. Sounds completely obvious, but the obvious is worth stating. I have paper and pencil near my bed, in the car, with me at all times. Failing that, most of us have a phone with a note function that will do in a pinch though I wouldn’t want to write tons in that medium.

And now I’ll leave you with this from Carl Sandburg, “Beware of advice – even this.”

Thanks Carl. 🙂

 

 

 

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Queries, Synopses and Agents, oh my!

The Voice was one of my favorite shows. (That’s past-tense because we were in the UK at the time and had ‘live’ tv which we will probably never have here in the US, cause I can do without the ads and cable news for like, forever.)

But really, my love for that show is all about the moment the chairs turn around. And you see the singer’s face light-up, because someone, besides friends and family who love him anyway, BELIEVES in him.

A minute ago this kid didn’t know if anyone would validate him. And now 4 celebrities are trying to out-name-drop each other or establish their credibility to get HIM to choose THEM. But I love the reversal of how the ‘who-is-this-person?’ person now has the choice.

So I was just a teeeeeensy bit reminded of this dynamic when I was looking at agents this week. Now, by no means am I holding all the cards, or any cards really, just some words I have poured myself into for the past few years, here and there. But I can identify with that vulnerability the people taking the stage on The Voice must feel.

I’ve always known I did not want to self-publish this book. But only recently have I, in earnest, started researching exactly what my next steps are if I want to be represented by a literary agent.

This is both a helpful and daunting article on writing a query letter. Helpful, because clear guidelines, examples and such…Daunting, because I now have to audition my novel and the audition is an audition in itself…If my writing and content for the letter aren’t great, the novel will never even get a look-in…so no pressure then!!

But searching for agents has turned out to be a fun diversion in the whole process….like internet dating of a different sort. There are hundreds of literary agencies out there, but only one of these people is going to, ultimately, work with me to get my book published (being positive here, folks!!). So I’m looking for someone who’s looking for me, my style of writing, a first-timer, my genre….don’t get me started on genres.

Some agencies are super-helpful and have great agent bios like this to help you suss out who to address your query to because I’m guessing very few of us would-be novelists have come face to face with the elusive literary agent.

And it was after reading MANY of these bios that I realized they need us too. They would be out of a job if it weren’t for us would-be novelists who write unsolicited material, tons of it, giving them words and words and stories to read and yes, mostly reject…but man, when the chair does turn…well, I hope to tell you what that’s like.

In the meantime, I’m trying to whittle my novel down to 3,000 words or less…I wonder if people self-publish to avoid writing a synopsis? I’ve read my book many times but when I come to write the synopsis, my mind completely blanks. It’s not new threads or plot twists I’m trying to create, just some simple recall. I never was great at reading comprehension though…something about how I translate words and actions into emotion and then remember the feelings rather than what caused them.

 

 

Holy Moly

I have no words.

Actually, I had lots of them…but they’re all tucked up together now, in their dreamy little drama that I hope to share with the world one day.

I have been typing out my soul for YEARS!!!! Maybe 13+ ? I haven’t been keeping exact track but it was about that long ago I started writing in earnest with the end goal of writing a novel.

The project morphed more than once. At one point, I trashed everything I’d written (or put it to one side…I never trash precious story ideas, snippets, and the such and have a box full of them that I’ll go through one day…who are we kidding, I’ll just keep them forever because otherwise, their ghosts will haunt me.) and started over on a new thread.

And that new thread was started about 5 years ago.

And today – la fin!

Between those points – lots of life happened, a birth, three deaths and a transatlantic move for starters…and also some procrastination. Let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be who I am without procrastination.

Why, just today, at the thought of actually finishing this mammoth project – and then what??? – I got the sudden urge to mop the floor. This is the fruit of writing procrastination – some cleaning happens.

I am now firmly in the “and now, what?” phase of this writing project which will include:

  1. Some rejoicing
  2. Some fretting – I’ve sent out my word-baby to a few ‘safe’ souls for a cursory glance. If we make it out alive, there will be more editing.
  3. Research – I’m gonna try to find a literary agent – stay tuned for all the rejection letters I’ll post!
  4. Life – it will go on…
  5. More writing – one of the aspects of this project ‘morphing’ was that I envisioned a few books – maybe three or four? so I’ll start writing the next one…
  6. etc, etc…

I’ve been in a strict season of silencing my inner critic. You know, that ‘voice of reason’ that tells you to be realistic, that second-guesses, and offers unsolicited advice among other nasty habits. It’s crucial to creativity to go with the flow, travel down the winding path and follow those fancy flights. I don’t really want to come out of it.

But to move this baby on, I have to craft a marketing letter – for me and the word-baby – but that’s alright. I’ll relish that challenge. What I’m a teensy bit apprehensive about is coming out of my own head – where I’ve been living regularly to make the novel happen – and having to face the big scary world where sometimes dreams come true and sometimes…they are squashed. So there’s that.