Writer Affirmation

Thank you to Belinda Witzenhausen for letting me post this affirmation to my site.

Please visit her blog for more writerly affirmations.

Happy Writing!

I’m Being Interviewed

Fellow #WriteCampaign-er Michael McDuffee is interviewing several writers from the Campaign, and his latest interview is with me!

Michael: Liza, you have a very involved and interesting blog. I highly suggest that anyone who hasn’t already done so go check it out.

Liza: Thank you so much. Really. I appreciate it, since I blog mainly to keep myself accountable to my goals. So the fact that anyone else finds my blog interesting in any way is awesome to me…

Swing by HERE for the rest of the conversation! ^_^

Routines

The Writing Life

Image by Simply Bike via Flickr

{So, I decided to start yet another series of posts for the best reasons of all: because this is my blog, and because I can. It’s simply titled, The Magic of Writing—that indefinable, ineffable relationship between the writer and the muse.}

I probably shouldn’t have titled this post, “Routines” since that implies a certain healthy-ness that my writing habit does not have. Maybe “Ritual” would be more appropriate. Or, “Addiction.” Oh well.

Anyway, a running theme with all time management gurus is this: whatever goal you have, make sure you do it first thing in the morning. There are plenty of reasons why this advice is common, so I won’t get into that here. And, I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with that advice. I’m just saying it’s out there.

Well, I’ve discovered a long time ago that I’m not a first thing in the morning kind of writer. I’m actually not the best thing at anything first thing in the morning, unless you count coffee and meditation (read: staring off into space) as a “thing.” (Although, while on vacations, I enjoy morning walks on the beach. Since I live in the Midwest, this is not so much a possibility in my everyday life…) But, after my cup of coffee, putting the dishes away, and my morning ablutions, I can sit down and hammer away at the keyboard and sprint out a couple of pages before work. Then, after a day of work and other non-think-y pursuits, I can bust out more pages at night right before bed. (Actually, through a happy accident of passing out on the couch after a late night movie marathon, and not being able to get back to sleep, I found that I’m the most productive and creative between 1AM-4AM…possibly because my brain is really supposed to be sleeping and dreaming, but hey, whatever works, right?)

But, before my self-discovery, I thought I was the most uninspired, unfocused writer ever! After all, ALL the author websites that I’ve visited that have a “My Writing Process” page include waking up at 6AM to write their requisite page counts per day. I know all writers have a different process, and we all have to find out what works best for us, but I always felt “wrong” for not having a morning writing session.

Now, I have my semblance of a routine, and feel good about it. (I know, I know, I should sleep more, but sometimes, writing into the night and “dreaming” that way is WAY more refreshing to me than sleeping a full eight hours.)

How about you? When are you the most productive? What habits/quirks/superstitions do you have in your writing routine?

#100Blogfest, A Guest Post by Martin King

I’m pleased to host the next childhood story in Martin King’s #100Blogfest, where he has committed to write 100 childhood memories on 100 different blogs. I’ve been inspired to share a childhood memory myself, so look out for that sometime next week-ish. 😉

“Paint”

by Martin King

It’s funny how memories come flooding back when you start thinking about it. Here is one I forgot totally about. I was about six years old at the time and my mum had bought me some paint to make lots of pretty pictures.

Now this paint which was supposedly for kids came in these smart little tubes and these clever invented tubes of paint for small children had these small tops. Now according to the instructions on the side of the paint, it said that you had to forget about the paint and play with the little totally safe screw caps.

So that is exactly what I did. I invented a game where I had to push the little screw cap as far up my nostril as possible and then see if I could get it out again.

This worked fine a couple of times until the moment I realised I had shoved it too far and I couldn’t get it out. My mother rushed me to the doctors’ surgery, but our local doctor couldn’t get it out neither. He called in all his colleagues one by one in an attempt that one of them would, but alas no.

So I was on the verge of being taken to hospital when on one of his last attempts, he managed to pull it out with his tweezers.

These blogs are all about fun and sharing. Thank you for reading a ‘#100blogfest’ blog. Please follow this link to find the next blog in the series: http://martinkingauthor.com/blog/7094550076

Thank you, Martin, for sharing your childhood memory with us!

My Writing Groove

make it happen!

I’m roughly a third of the way into my current work in progress, nicknamed WIP2.

I really enjoyed writing the beginning. I felt like an utter genius, writing down all the scenes that zipped inside my head. Truly, I couldn’t write fast enough, and those who paid attention to my Twitter timeline knows I barely slept throughout the month of July.

I was ok with not sleeping. I had a goal. I knew that my paythebills job would be time consuming throughout August, so I wanted to write down as much of the story as possible.

Well, here I am now, after all the Stuff from my paythebills job has gone away (for the moment), and trying to get back into my writerly groove as before.

Hate to admit it, but I’m not there anymore. Nothing seems to be grooving together. My writing is awkward and cringe-tastic. Scenes aren’t making sense. As I’m writing them, I can feel how horrible they are and know that they won’t find themselves in the story AT ALL.

And…my body is ACTUALLY making me sleep. No joke. Like last night. I sat down to write on my laptop for a bit after dinner, and I literally fell asleep right there. (And, no, it wasn’t my writing that put me to sleep. I didn’t even get a chance to open my document!) Anyway, it was all rather surprising for this write-through-the-night writer.

Oh, but I long to get back into that writerly groove again! The feeling of my fingers flying over my keyboard, of my heart pounding because, yes, this scene makes so much sense, of laughing at how ridiculous my MC can be…I want to feel that again.

So, I’m reminding myself of some of the helpful things that I’ve done previously to get me this far.

First, I promised myself that no idea is stupid. Any fleeting thought or terminology that I think could be useful, I incorporated it into my story. I free wrote a little bit to see where the idea will take me, and paused for a moment here and there to check a few facts. Then, I re-read what I wrote, and smoothed out any rough spots.

Second, I told myself that no idea is sacred. Even if that idea, item, thing had a fixed meaning in this world, in my universe, I could do whatever I wanted with that idea. That way, I didn’t feel so trapped, and enjoyed the full range of possibilities that an idea sparked in my brain. (My brain elves had absolute free reign!)

Third, I loosely plotted out what the next logical steps would be through my MC’s perspective. I thought about any potential obstacles that may come up, and what MC would do to get around the obstacle and to the goal.

And then, of course, I wrote it all out.

Writing what worked makes the process look SO easy. But the major obstacle for me at the moment is my own fear of failure, and my desire to get the story just right, right away. I hate writing scenes that I know  will never see the light of day. And, what’s especially annoying is that I know that writing them is all a part of the process.

Or, as Melissa, my wise crit partner told me today:

“Sometimes you just have to keep going and any of the rubbish that turns out lining your recycle bin will have brought you one step closer to understanding your characters, their wants, needs, etc…All you’re doing is finding the paths that don’t work. This is just as important as finding the ones that do.”

(Sigh, I LOVE my crit partner! Especially since she’d be the first to tell me what’s not working ^_^).

Melissa also referred me to Laini Taylor’s blog…I’m pretty sure she meant THIS article when she referred me to it!

Ok, enough philosophizing about writing. My personal deadline for WIP2 is September 30. I will need to write four pages a day to reach my goal. Time to make it happen.

Blog Titles and Other Thoughts

Dandelion clock

Random picture. We can pretend it means that time is ephemeral and fleeting, like dandelion fluff held aloft in the breeze. But really, I just thought it looked cool.

Do you ever wonder what meaning or story a blog title may have? Most titles I guess are straightforward, like “So and So Writes!” or “Books Books Books!” or “How To ___.” But, there are those other ones (you know what I mean, I’m sure) that are either titled or domain-named (can that be a verb?) kinda randomly. Or, am I the only one that wonders about these things? Like I’m reaching to find a story where none really exists.

At any rate, I started thinking about bloggery things, and inevitably, blog titles/names since I chatted with a group of lovely writer friends last night about blogs.*

Previously, my blog title was simply, “Reading Makes Me Happy.” (In fact, some wordpress correspondence still shows up that way, which kinda throws me.) Obviously, I love books, I love reading, so BAM! Easy title! (My focus quote was: “I read to find a ladder to heaven.” W. Strieber.)

Well, sometime last year I had an epiphany, and I won’t go into details about it here (feel free to click on that link, though :)), but I realized that my unacknowledged dreams of writing a book and being a published author was in fact attainable, and it was only seemingly unattainable because I made it so. I did nothing to get me toward writing a novel, so why was I surprised that “gasp! I didn’t have a written novel, and I never will, and this will never happen for me.” *wonk, wonk*

All I needed to do was break down my dream (published author) into a more manageable goal (write novels), and break down the action steps to get me to that goal (develop and hone my writing skills, find a feedback/support group, read a lot, etc). With a paythebills job (sometimes, two!), balancing my goals was sometimes tricky, but I never let the “I have no TIME!” be an excuse for me to fall back on. (I have the same 24-hours that Edison, Einstein, and all those guys had! Surely I can “find the time” to write a book!)

“Find solutions, not excuses” is a mantra I embrace, and I’m also someone who responds well to accountability exercises and goal setting. (It’s the Achiever in me.) I wanted to make the most of the time that I have been given, and not just impulsively do things in the moment. I wanted to really create value in the now that I have. Thus the title, “Redeeming the Time.” (Also, it sounds pretty.) 🙂

“Redeeming the time” reminds me to focus on the things that I do control, like working on the craft of novel writing, so that I can eventually see my dream realized. It also reminds me to simplify and let go of those things that distract me from my goals. Sometimes it’s tough, but I don’t count it as a sacrifice. At this point, I find I feel freer because I’m not owned by other time-wasters. I have more ownership and control of my time, and guard that time zealously.

With all that said, I really want to incorporate reading back into my writing schedule, and even though I’ve said that I don’t really do book reviews, I at least want to put a few in rotation. (I plan on posting a book review page soon). Now, the reviews won’t be as fancy or engaging as most out there, but like this blog, it’s mainly just to keep me accountable to reading all the beautiful stories that find themselves in my mailbox or inbox. If my love for a book inspires someone to go out and read it, well, I’ll look at it as a bonus!

Plus, it’s a shame to get ARCs or egalleys and not give at least a little pre-release blurb about the book. Heck, even sharing a “new to me” title would be delightful. Great stories are meant to be shared and loved. The writers who wrote those stories should know that their sweat, tears, and sleepless nights have created worlds for readers to live in.

For a little while, both the reader and writer share the same dreamspace, and that is an experience worth cultivating.

So Tell Me: Any story behind your blog title? Do you like or care when someone blogs (non-spoiler-y) book reviews?

*The other friends I chatted with were:

Why I Write

Hands

When I was really focused on my fitness goals, I put up pictures of my version of an “ideal body” to give me the visual I needed to continue on my fitness path. I also internalized motivational quotes and used a lot of focusing techniques to keep me driven to reach my goals. Though ripped abs and ever increasing weights are not the central focus in my life, I still have an awesome graphic of a strong woman doing squats as my computer’s desktop image. It comes complete with this statement: “A firm behind like mine comes from the old school leg exercises–deadlift, squat, and lunge.” (For the curious, I stumbled on the pic at Jen Grasso’s Renegade Fitness website here.) I keep this image up to remind me that I have reached my goals before, and to use that success to fuel the success in other areas of my life.

So far, this action plan is working. I am writing and learning more about the process and myself each and every day. However, there are times when I’m just plain tired. Tired of life, or being my own personal cheerleader, whatever. And, though I parallel my writing journey to my fitness journey a LOT, the one thing that doesn’t quite fit is the “pay off” that comes from doing something even when I don’t want to do it.

For example, when I don’t want to train for whatever reason, I could always coax myself to do something which inevitably snowballs into a really good training session. The pay off was, once I started moving I physically felt better (yay endorphins!). Plus, I got great feedback visually because week after week, the result of the constant training was a stronger, more svelte figure. Easy straightforward science.

On the other hand, writing isn’t quite so straightforward. Sure, I can go off of pure word/page counts. And, I do kinda feel like the god of my own universe when stuff starts working and flowing. But, those times that aren’t quite working…when consecutive writing sessions aren’t adding to the story at all despite growing word counts…I begin to feel like…what’s the point?

Why show up?

That’s the feeling that I started with today. Though I was on fire to write yesterday, a long day (which stretched into 5:30AM this morning) turned my writing mindset for today from “on fire” to “blah.”

http://twitter.com/#!/lizakane/status/70872609486671872

Thankfully, a few of my darling NerdSquad members were on Twitter, and gave this little pep talk:

http://twitter.com/#!/AnnieLCechini/status/70873419503239169
http://twitter.com/#!/AnnieLCechini/status/70873538491461633
http://twitter.com/#!/AnnieLCechini/status/70873729231618048
http://twitter.com/#!/AnnieLCechini/status/70874014679179264
http://twitter.com/#!/AnnieLCechini/status/70874179137830913

And of course, I reminded myself of what Margaret Atwood tweeted at me a few months ago:

http://twitter.com/#!/MargaretAtwood/status/33273959608745984

On a usual day, I absolutely love the challenge of working through my WIP, either ripping it apart or adding scenes or both. But sometimes, there are days when I’m tempted more than usual to stop progressing. Days that I forget that dreaming up worlds and using words to paint a picture of them is the goal in itself. That I don’t need approval or permission to write; that even if I stop writing, I would invariably return to it (and curse the misspent time of my writing hiatus).

On those days, I’m so grateful to those who walk this path with me to remind me of why I write, and gain strength and encouragement from that.

“When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, when you can’t do that…you find someone to carry you.”

The Message, Firefly