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Fighting the creep that’s keeping me from my love

standard April 3, 2009 5 responses

I raised my arms way above my head and stretched my back by leaning side by side. I dropped my arms and flexed my fingers a few times. I closed my eyes and toke a deep centering breath. I’d worked my way through my overflowing email box. I’d crossed my way through my to do list. Little L was thankfully napping. I finally had some time to work on my novel.

I opened the document, flexed my fingers once more, and… “WAHHHHHHHHH” Little L’s howl ripped through my moment.

I looked longingly at the last paragraph I wrote – four days ago – and I pushed myself away from the computer. She’s sick. It’s not her fault. She needs her mommy’s TLC, yes, even if it’s been four days since I was able to get anything really done.

Little L’s howls continued, rising to fever pitch as I made my way to her room. I tiptoed into the dark room hoping to cajole her back to sleep, but she frantically clawed at my arms as I leaned into the crib to search for a pacifier so I caved and pulled her out. She instantly lowered her head onto my shoulder and relaxed.

One of the books that currently lives in our bathroom is Chapter After Chapter by Heather Sellers. I’ve been reading it in snippets, which for the most part have left me somewhat irritated both with Heather and myself. I can’t tell if I don’t like what she’s saying because she’s right and I don’t want to hear it or because she’s wrong and I don’t like her patronizing tone. Either way, as I stood there swaying in the dark with my baby dozing in my arms the last chapter I had read kept running through my mind.

Most people, especially on their first book, struggle with a terrible insidious mental weed called Creep. If you don’t surround yourself with your book, you risk it creeping away from you-or you unintentionally creeping away from you-or you unintentionally creeping away from it.

You can’t take your eyes off the book. Not for very long, anyway.

Fight Creep with intention. Tether yourself to the book every day. When you notice it slipping away, turn up the volume on your writing life. All the way to ten.

I don’t mean to let my book creep away from me. God knows I don’t want it to creep away! I love writing it, I love the story, I love the characters, and as I’ve said before, it gives me a huge high to write it. But at the same time it’s harder to write than anything else I work on. I have to dig deeper and be more honest with myself. I know when the storyline is failing or when a character isn’t ringing true and I have to deal with that.

It’s like going to the gym. You don’t want to go, you know it’s going to be hard, that you’re going to have to push yourself, hurt, sweat, everything. But at the same time you know it’s going to be great while you’re doing it and even better after. That said, it’s awfully easy to find a reason not to go, because until you’re there and sweating you’re still stuck in that “ugh, too much effort” mode.

Working on my novel is the same. I want to do it, I know it’s going to be great, I know I’m going to love every moment of it, but I can’t always muster up the energy to get going. And, as much as it chafes to say this, Heather Sellers is right, the more time I let slip between writing sessions the harder it is to get back to it. Just like going to the gym.

Little L patted my cheek with her hand and I realized I wasn’t going to get her back to sleep. I headed out of the room and asked her if she’d like a snack. I set her up with her snack, her favorite blankie, and her pacifier and turned on the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I sat back down in front of my computer and flexed my fingers again. Then I started typing and didn’t stop until M and C came home, all of ten minutes later. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to make me feel tethered to my book again, and it felt great.

I just posted an incredible Crayola giveaway at The Lemonade Stand. Like art? Got kids? Seriously, don’t miss this giveaway – $80 of Crayola products. No joke!

How blogging has made me a better writer

standard September 27, 2008 7 responses

I’m part of a writer’s group on Yahoo!Groups. Well, OK, I’m part of many, many writer’s groups on Yahoo!Groups, but I really only follow one religiously. Those writers are serious writers. (Which isn’t to say the other groups don’t have serious writers, I just haven’t connected with them the same way.) Novelists, journalists, freelancers, etc. Like always, there are a hard core group of participants who always chime in and post the most, and there are people like me, who stay on the fringe and jump in once in a blue moon, but read everything that goes through.

Once I peeled myself from the fringe and jumped in to correct some of the core users when they jumped down a newbie’s throat for asking if having a blog would help her writing career. They were adamant that a blog would kill her career right there. Dead in the water before even starting out. They were convinced that “real” editors would poo-poo her self published work. They were brutal in their insistence that she take down her blog stat before people started labeling her as a hack.

So I stepped in. I said “I have a blog. And all the work I have gotten to date has been based on the virtue of my blog.” They stopped pontificating long enough to listen. Or maybe they got bored with the topic and moved on. Either way, I kept talking. “Maintaining a blog for a long period of time shows clients that you have staying power. Keeping the content fresh and interesting shows them what you are capable of. And frankly,” I added, “I think people like knowing who they’re going to hire, and reading someone’s blog is a great way to get to know them better.” No one ever replied to me, but the girl didn’t take down her blog and soon after, a spin off of the group, focusing on all the bloggers, was started. Boo yah.

Beyond helping with my writing career, I actually strongly believe that my blogging is also helping me become a better writer.
Want to know how?
Of course you do! That’s why I love you.

  1. Posting every single day come Hell or high water has forced me to become more observant. I have to pay attention to every little detail during the day because I have to find something to write about. Amazingly? There’s always something to say or recount. Making it interesting for the reader is the challenge. It’s all about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary and then putting it into words.
  2. In order to describe the minutia of life and make it interesting, I’ve had to master the art of showing, not telling. I’ve gotten very familiar with my thesaurus and dictionary. And I’ve gotten good at trying to see a scene through the eyes of a stranger. What would a passer by notice? What do you notice? What do you need me to show you so you can feel like you’re standing there with me?
  3. The nature of the blog post and the way people surf the Internet has pushed me to become more succinct. No, really. My posts used to be WAY longer. Seriously. You’re welcome.
  4. Blogging forces me to be more honest in my writing. Sure, it’s safer to gloss over feelings and emotions. But no one wants to read something Plain Jane Vanilla. Readers want the no holds barred honest painful truth. That’s what makes writing pop. People want to feel like they’re seeing a piece of your soul every time they stop by.

While I feel like I more or less manage the first three things on a daily basis, the last one is my Sword of Damocles. I know I have to open up more. I know I have to dig deeper, but it’s not an easy feat. I might be able to let complete strangers to see my deepest darkest fears and my most private emotions, but I have family and friends who read my blog on a daily basis. And while I love, love, love that they all tune in, some things are a little too raw and secret to share with someone who’s going to be looking me in the eye three hours later.

That said, nothing I write will catch the eye of my dream agent until I know for a fact that what I write makes people squirm a bit in their seat or hold their breath as they wait to read the resolution so I better keep trying no matter how much it makes me squirm in my seat. Wish me luck, it might be a rough ride some days.