Be Here Now

“Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin

I’m about to dive in to the busiest time of year again, and no, I don’t mean the frenzy of National Novel Writing Month which kicks off at midnight (though I do enjoy that annual treat!). I’m talking about that blessed time of year that people love to hate: The Holidays.

Personally, I love the holiday season. I’m a sucker for the window displays. The more nostalgic and whimsical, the better! Bonus points if the window displays are animated! Anyway, even though I may end up mentally, physically, emotionally exhausted by January (yay for spa days!), I always look back on the Thanksgiving-through-Christmas rush with a feeling of ‘Whoa!’ Another mountain conquered, another wave I rode out, another notch added to my belt.

But before I dive headlong into the thick of things, I need to give myself a few ground rules/reminders. After all, I juggle multiple roles, and I want to ensure that I balance all aspects of my life.

1. Before I can be take care of others, I need to take care of myself. I’m not going to lie, I feel BLESSED to have my strong immune system, and I’m sure that my positive outlook on life is directly related to my health. I don’t remember the last time I’ve been sick, and I want to keep it that way. So. When do I schedule my work outs? What foods do I need to keep in stock to prepare my meals in advance? What does my routine need to look like so I can get a good night’s sleep?

2. Don’t Mistake Activity for Productivity. Instead of scheduling All The Things and prioritizing them, I just need to schedule my priorities. Ask myself, ‘Does This Thing require my attention Right Now or can I manage this later?’ Focus on the Few Things that will give me the biggest return on my investment. During the five weeks of holiday, those few things are: exercise/nutrition, family time, writing time. Everything else is a luxury.

3. Be Here Now. To me, all of the above planning and prepping is to set me up to be 100% present, whether at work or at home. So, where do I need to invest my time so that when I’m off the day job, the switch stays off and I can enjoy being with my family when I’m with them? When can I schedule time to write, so that when it’s writing time, I’m writing my novel and not tweaking a work schedule? How can I invest in my family time so that I don’t carry any emotional baggage with me to work?

So, if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines this year. There have been too many changes in my dayjob to spread myself too thin. Besides, I’m still revising WIP2, and my writing time will be devoted to finishing that.

Do you have any tips to keep yourself grounded during hectic times?

Just Finish

I love that moment when the end is in sight. It gives me that second wind that I didn’t know I had. It’s that feeling of sprinting the last 100 yards of a run and believing that I’m almost flying; of pushing that one last set of weights and knowing “I got this;” of seeing the culmination of my many well-laid plans come together, more or less, and knowing that whatever the result, I know that I did my best. Self-doubt has already been burned away, completely destroyed in the face of seeing the end. And, at that moment, there is no next time yet, so I don’t need to reflect on my performance, nor strategize how to run faster, push harder, and, overall, be better.

That moment is all about feeling unstoppable, and reveling in the knwledge that I’ve already won, I just need to finish.

Just. Finish. And then, celebrate your success, whatever it may be.

{Shinedown hasn’t made a music video of their studio recording of “Fly From the Inside,” but I enjoyed this youtube interpretation of that song.}

GChatting With Friends. Where the Magic Happens.

If you don’t have trusted writing friends to be a sounding board to your novel-in-progress, get some. Your muse(s) will thank you. Plus, you get to have random conversations like this:

 me: YES do it!

kill MC and make BFF go on a quest!

Melissa: lololol

“and she found a note – “In the event of my death, go on a mighty quest!””

“and lo, she quested. and it was good.”

These bits of brainstorming made possible by NaNoWriMo, Google chat, and crit partner of Awesome, Melissa Veres. (I look forward to my dedication page when your book is finished and published!) 😉

Road Trip Wednesday #100: Your Writing Journey

I haven’t participated in YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesdays before, but since I’m a sucker for milestones and round numbers, I felt like this Road Trip Wednesday was made for me. 😀

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs.

This week’s topic:

What has your writing road trip looked like so far? Excitement? Traffic jams and detours?

Where are you going next?

My blog is sort of an answer to this question, since I keep it as an accountability tool for myself. Ever since my first posts, (“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” “Prioritizing My Life” and “Music, Fitness, and My Muse“) (I just noticed they were posted on Star Wars Day, May 4, 2010…yes I’m a BIG nerd!), I have been focused on making the most of the time I have, and have challenged myself to finish a novel in a year.

After my declaration to pursue novel writing seriously, I have fumbled my way through my writing process, eventually participating in NaNoWriMo, and winning! My novel wasn’t complete at 50,000 words, but I eventually reached The End in December.

The satisfaction of reaching The End didn’t last since I knew my story was a Hot Mess. After a break in January, I tried to get back into the story and revise it. During that time, another story (Scrap Metal, aka WIP2) begged to be written. After scribbling down the first two chapters on post its and index cards at my pay the bills job, I dutifully ignored The Shiny so I could make my Hot Mess less messy.

I attended my very first writer conference, SCBWI. Though I enjoyed the experience of hearing from industry professionals, by far the best result from that conference was meeting local writers. (I’ve enjoyed many a business lunch with them since that conference. :D)

Then, I went to a John Green reading, and that was the aha moment that “gave me permission” to let go of my Hot Mess (for now) and start drafting WIP2.

With WIP2, I’ve learned the value of slowing down and delving into my scenes (“Stuck” “Stuck, Redux“), and that I can balance plotting and pantsing to design a story worth reading. (I’m still learning the rhythm that works best for me).

I’m currently in the Plotting portion to develop the Act 2 of WIP2. I participated in ROW 80 to keep me on track. My goal is to have a rough draft finished this month, and have a prettier draft by the end of this year.

I know that I have so much to learn about my process, but the best thing is knowing that when I’m creating stories, I am truly happy. All throughout my life, schooling, jobs, relationships, etc, everything seemed to come easily for me. I’m grateful for that, but when I look back at my life, the road seems kind of fuzzy; like, it’s all been one big dream. And then, I come to the point in my path when I committed to finishing a novel. The path from that point on sticks out in high relief. With that decision, I became aware. When I decided to follow my dream of writing stories, I awakened to the rest of my life.

I know I talk about writing in almost transcendent terms, but honestly, I don’t know how else to describe it other than an epiphany. A mindset altering, life changing decision. With writing, I have found my purpose in life. How can I treat it as less than a spiritual awakening?

*I couldn’t have gotten this far without my writing partners, alpha/beta readers, and cheerleaders. They keep me refreshed and motivated to keep pursuing my dream, and for that reason I’m ever so grateful for social media for helping me find my writing circle.

So, what has your writing road trip looked like so far? Where are you going next?

Thursday Thoughts on the WIP

The writerly blogosphere seems to be abuzz this week about conflict.  Check out these posts that I found during my blog time just scrolling down my blog subscriptions:

The Writing Lair: Why We Need Villains
Tempering the Steel: Death, Destruction, and Despair: Writing Conflict
Ink-Stained Scribe: Character Flaws – Make Them Matter!

Erin Writes: I’ve Been Thinking A Lot About Antagonists

I thought these posts about conflicts and character flaws and resolutions fit perfectly with my own recent mindset since I had to conquer (yet another) mental obstacle before I can push on and make progress on my WIP (any WIP, really, including my guest post for a friend).  I wrote a ridiculously long blog post last night about the root cause of my work stand still, but Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) captured the essence of what I felt when she said: “…some days it feels like you just have to keep getting out of your own way so that whatever it is that wants to be written can use you to write it.”  The end result of my realization was my comment on Sierra Gardner’s blog:

“You are a different person, which means that your success will look different as well and that is a very good thing!”

Thank you so much for this post! Not so long ago (coughcoughlastyearcoughcough), whenever I saw others finishing books, landing agents, etc, I ended up thinking, “why bother?” and stopped writing. But, I would always pick up my pen again or start doodling another idea in my journal, like I’m some kind of unstoppable masochist.
It took a LOT of stops and starts (a lot, a lot!) to realize that
1. I obviously love The Writing, otherwise, why would I keep going back to it against all my ridiculous reasoning and
2. The need/desire for stories will NEVER run out, so I should stop feeling like the world will sell out of agents/publishing houses.

Plus, all this reminds me that I am in charge of my own success. I’m accountable for how much (or little) work/effort I put into the WIP. So, if I haven’t been putting a lot of effort into it, then I really have no right to complain.

The Shiny: My To-Read stack

So, not only did I have my own random (and fleeting) feelings of inferiority to overcome, I’ve had SO much fun (maybe too much fun) recently reading the GLUT of books that I’ve been desperately waiting for, that I have only given my WIP half-hearted attempts.  Well, enough of that.  I have a hard enough time getting over my own mental obstacles, and writing around a full-time work schedule, that I don’t need pretty shiny books distracting me.  (But, oh, The Shiny!)

So, I have reined in my readinglust to one fiction book and one non-fiction book a week.  And, I will only get to read another book with each chapter I finish revising.  I’ve also put my wordmeter back up from my days of NaNoWriMo, to keep me accountable to my words.

For my mental obstacle?  Well, even though I feel like it’s sufficiently solved, there may, MAY, be a time when it will rear its obnoxious head again.  And, when it’s time for me to relearn, I’ll revisit Anne Lamott’s words in Bird by Bird (what, you didn’t know she wrote it specifically for me?):

“You begin to string words together like beads to tell a story.  You are desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive.  But you cannot will this to happen.  It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work.  So you might as well just go ahead and get started.”

Time to get started.  Again.

Seasons of Inspiration

Tornado Warning

Image by RaGardner4 via Flickr

Here in Indiana, weather is…unpredictable.  The calendar may say that we are firmly in the spring season, but nature has its own ideas.

Last week, I…

…hid in the basement during a tornado warning.

…took pictures of hail pelting my car.

…pulled on my fuzzy boots because it snowed. Again.

…woke up in the middle of the night as a thunderstorm rolled in and I thought a tree crashed through my roof. (That’s happened before.  Twice.  So, you can understand my paranoia.)

…basked in beautiful sunshine as I ate my lunch outside, to the delight of my sun-starved skin.

It’s both awe-inspiring and humbling to see the influence that nature has on us and how we in turn, respond to it.

I have been working on a couple of Works In Progress now, which isn’t as confusing as it seems since they’re so different and are at different stages.  My first WIP is in a revision stage, and honestly, I plan to focus on it more this month than my second WIP, which is only in the rough draft stage.  So even though first WIP gets more of my structured writing time, I still let my muses play with second WIP during random times like driving to work or while my store is empty.  That’s the beauty of a rough draft: unbridled creativity and imagination.

My first WIP, I started writing in the fall during NaNoWriMo.  It’s dark and disjointed and looking back, probably reflected the madcap emotional turbulence of both NaNoWriMo and working through two retail jobs during the holiday season.   My second WIP was born on a bitter morning, the bleak winter landscape a perfect setting for a character filled with the helplessness, anger, and resentment that biting, sub-zero temperatures can create.

This week,though, something odd happened as I drove to work.  Well, two things really.  First, because of extremely gusty winds (I’m talking blow-you-into-the-next-lane-without-warning gusts), I ended up driving 5-10 miles under the speed limit.  (No comment on my normal driving speed.)  Second, I realized that I was dreaming up words for another WIP.

Now, this bout of inspiration didn’t just happen.  The WIP my muses brought to mind is one that I’ve had in the back burner for basically my whole life, but I have never dared to capture it in words.  My current WIPs were born out of fun ideas that I followed to their inevitable conclusions.  They are exercises in my mental stamina and discipline to finish a task. This other WIP, though…it’s different.

This WIP (which for clarity we’ll call third WIP) matters the most to me because it encompasses all of my unspoken fears, hopes, loves, dreams.  It’s basically a straight window into my soul.  As such, even thinking about it both inspires me and intimidates me.  I’m too emotionally invested in it, which is why I never felt like I can write it the way it needs to be written.  The way it deserves to be written.  So, I’ve gotten used to just ignoring it.

But then, the wind whipped just right and I imagined a curling wave.  The humidity and warmth reached a specific threshold and I delighted in memories of tropical sun showers.  My cautious wariness of other cars brought to mind the winding road to Hana (on Maui).

Now, I can’t help but wonder: should I follow my muses into this third WIP?

SO TELL ME: I know writers find inspiration everywhere, but do YOU have seasonal “moods” when it comes to your WIP? Do YOU find yourself reading a book or genre during specific times of year because it “felt” more like summer or winter?

Janus

As janus rostrum okretu ciach

Image via Wikipedia

I think it’s fitting that I’m born in the month named for the god of beginnings.

I love change.  I love new ideas, new initiatives.  Which is great when I see that I need to formulate new action plans to get to my desired results.  Not so great when I know the course direction is straight ahead, and the pace is slow and steady.

I’ve been working on my current Work in Progress for some time now.  It was my NaNoWriMo story, and though I’ve only been shaping it since November, I’d been thinking about it for some months before that.  I even thought that I could write one story before November, and write another one for NaNoWriMo.  Easy, breezy.

So, in September, I did attempt to write this story.  And then, 10,000 words later I stopped, feeling too discouraged to continue.

Then, I decided to re-plot this story.

Again.

And, again.

Each time I had a different history.  Different characters.  Different worlds. Different story.

Then, October rolled around, and I decided to plan out my story, scene by scene because this time, I was not only going to start a novel, but also finish one.

And I did.  And I’m happy.  Believe me.

But I’m also tired of it.  I admit it.  I have other random story ideas that I’ve dutifully written down, and have neglected in favor of writing and finishing this one.  I’ve kept my head down, and continued scribbling on the Hot Mess, though the want for something new and shiny is always there, clamoring for attention just outside my consciousness.  (I hear the waves breaking against the shore from the setting of another story as I type this blog.)

I know that I need to continue to do what I know was successful, in order to sustain the change that I want to make in my life.  I need to look behind, to what has passed, for perspective, so that I can look ahead and press on down my path.

But Tell Me: Would pursuing some of those bright, shiny story ideas be such a bad thing at this point? What would YOU do?