Eureka! My Story is an Infant…

I claim to be a writer of all things.

Sometimes, that feels like a lie.

It’s not as if I don’t have good reason to make this claim. In the past 15 years or so, I literally have written just about everything. From employee training manuals to web content, news articles to speeches. I covered events I had never been to and wrote multi-page news stories about them. I’ve cranked out literally hundreds of pages of web content about things so foreign to me I had to learn a new language to write it.

I don’t claim to be the best, I don’t even claim to be good. I just do what I am stirred to do. Writing is my bread and water. I breathe it in, it sustains me. I’ve done so much writing in so many different ways that none of it really intimidates me anymore. Except for one thing.

Which is why saying I’m a writer of all things sometimes feels like a farce.

I’ve been working on writing a fictional novel off and on for almost nine years. I’ve talked myself in and out of it a thousand times. I’ve (driven my writer’s group crazy) completely given up on it, and then the story comes lurking into my peripheral vision again, and I’m summoned to pull my butt out of bed at 3am to hammer out a new scene. The writer’s version of self-masochism.

Writing a novel is my biggest dream. It also scares the hell out of me.

Why? Because all that other writing, web content and news articles and speeches and such, that’s all small potatoes. If you ask me, fiction is the real McCoy. You’ve got to be a damn good writer to make a fictional story REAL.

This notion terrifies me.

You see, I have these wonderfully enchanting, beguiling stories in my head. (Trust me when I say that having an overzealous muse is both a blessing and a curse.) My characters are…beautiful. They are lovable and jaded and scarred and passionate and mysterious and utterly human. They have rich and complicated histories that bring them to perfectly fit into their place in the story. My book is full of intoxicating circumstances and exciting plot twists and turns that I know, if written well, will keep readers turning pages into the latest hours of the night.

Those are the things that I know, will sell my book. Those are also the things that keep me from writing it.

How will I do them justice?

How will I give my story the writing it deserves?

And so I start and stop and edit and rewrite and quit. I swear novel-writing off for good, go to work on other projects and am slowly drawn back into it. (Damn it.)

I go through it all again. And Again. And Again.It’s like that on-again, off-again boyfriend that you were both drawn to and repulsed by at the same time. (I now fully understand why all the literary greats were drinkers.)

Which brings me back to my book. Which I’m writing. For the hundred and seventy second time. Again.

This go-round has gone unexpectedly well. Last week I finished outlining the plot and chapter sequence and for a flash of a second, I felt like I might actually be able to kick this feeling of inadequacy and get this story written, once and for all.

Eureka!  I drove home from the coffee shop screaming out my car window: “I’m wriiiiiiting a noooveeeeell!” Several strange glances ensued. But I didn’t care. For the first time in maybe, EVER I actually felt like the real McCoy.

And then life happened. Work. Laundry. Kids. School. Tantrums. Grocery shopping. Sicknesses. Cleaning. Family dinners. I didn’t have an opportunity to write again for nearly a week.

And by then, of course I had over-thought the chapter sequence ten thousand times, to the point of convincing myself that all the holes in the story were going to be its downfall.

Aaaaaaaaaaghhhhh! Someone please make it stop!

But….

One night after the house was silent and all the family was long asleep, my muse awoke and beckoned me. I crept over to my desk and flipped open my laptop.

Go on, open it up love. Give it a read.

Read what?

Don’t be bloody ridiculous. You know what.

Since when are you British?

I have your attention, do I not?

Yes.

Ahhh, then no need for further discussion. So let’s have a look then shall we?

Go on love, read on.

I double-clicked the draft of my story on my desktop, and blindly started reading. The first chapter, along with some other passages, sections I had edited and rewritten half a dozen times, struck me as well-crafted. Others were not so hot, obviously slammed out in a twenty five minute increment between a laundry-folding marathon and pick up time at preschool. Some of the dialogue read like choking on cream cheese. And of course a whole hell of a lot of it what I had in my draft, I wanted to cut and paste into the recycle bin.

Keep going.

Why? Self torture?

Just do it.

So I read on. I read through the entire draft. Sure enough, I found more cheese and more garbage. But every so often, I’d uncover gem, glittering in the midst of telling-not-showing, cheesy dialogue and mindless narrative. In a few, fleeting passages I found pieces of the real, whole, perfect story. Characters, waiting for the story to morph and unfold them out of the confines of their pages, to come alive in the hearts and minds of readers. Waiting to be made real.

*Sigh*

I closed the document and sat quietly, my face illuminated by the glow of my laptop screen. I sunk my chin into the palm of my hand and stared into a picture of my two daughters, sitting on my desk.The voice appeared again, like a faint jingling of tiny bells  inside some quiet corner of my brain.

Your daughters. What lovely creatures they are.

They are a lot of time. And work. And patience. But they are lovely, aren’t they?

They are the very products of your life and your love.

Did you know how you were going to teach them things, when they were born?

No.

 When they were infants, did you ever fault them for not knowing how to smile?

Of course not. Watching a smile cross their faces for the first time was magic.

Did you ever give up teaching them how to talk? How to walk?

No. The little one had some trouble. I took her to physical therapy… after that she was off and running in no time.

Will you stop giving them any less love, knowing they still have so far to go?

Not a chance.

I have loved them, adored them at every stage. Watching them grow and evolve, supple spring leaves sprouting, unfolding, fading into a thousand brilliant shades, a new hue and texture and purpose for every season. That has been the greatest joy of my life.

This is what your writing needs, love. Love.

Yeah, but what about the—

You have to love your story for what it is, at any given time. All of it. At every stage.

It is no less loveable now, in its infancy, than your toddler was when she learned to walk. Your 8 year old learning to sing, or when she is a teenager and gives her heart away for the first time…

As you give your time and your love and effort to it, it will grow. It will get bigger and better and stronger and more beautiful with every stroke of the keys on your keyboard.

Slowly, it will become whole.

 And when it is ready, you will know. And then you will let go.

I took a breath. The voice fell silent and I sat for awhile in the dark, thinking about my story, about  what I had written from a new perspective. With the love and hope that every parent carries in her heart.

I realized that at nearly a decade old, my story was still in its infancy. Newborn and pliable and naive and lovable, drool and spit-up and wobbly legs and all. Cheesy and awkward, a little broken in parts, not understanding yet what it means to be whole.

My story is an infant. Wishing for me to love it, waiting for me to help it grow.

*Eureka.*

Back to the keyboard, then, love.

Till next time,

~CindyImage

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Top Ten Prompts to Inspire Creative Writing

If you’re a writer, an artist, musician or creative soul of any kind you’ve probably had those days when you just can’t produce anything worth… anything. The harder you try, the less effective you become and you get yourself into a ridiculously concrete mental block. It’s tough to pull yourself out of this phenomenon, and many times the feeling has negative effects in the rest of your life too.

As writers, we’ve found that completing writing prompts not only helps us get a fresh perspective in our writing, they open our minds in a myriad of other ways. The mental fog clears, and suddenly there are windows where there were once only walls.

These prompts our a few of our group’s favorites– and a few have even turned into some of our most beloved pieces. Give them a try, let us know how it goes, and we might even feature your response as a guest post!

Happy writing,

~C

10- They told her not to open the box…

9- You’re walking along a crowded street and an old woman hands you a brown paper bag. You take it from her and feel that it’s slightly weighted by whatever is inside. She smiles and disappears into the crowd. What is inside the bag, and what does it mean to you?

8-  This picture:

St. Etienne - Muse

7- Think of a character, either from a story you’re writing or a book you’ve read.  He/she has a favorite pair of shoes. Why are they special? Where did they come from? Where does he/she wear them? What stories go along with those shoes?

6- You wake up locked inside a closed coffin. Explain your initial reaction, how you attempt to escape, and what you remember about how you got there.

5- Find and buy (or take a picture of) an object at a thrift store, and write a short story or a scene around it. Below are some examples of objects we’ve used:

Vintage radiovintage gray tub

red high heelsrose colored glasses

4- You and your friends take a three mile hike up to a campsite and you’re sitting around the fire toasting marshmallows. Out of the blue one of your friends reveals a secret that turns your pleasant camping trip into a total nightmare…

3- Write a few paragraphs explaining how this picture came about, or what it represents:(image courtesy of www.vladstudio.com)

2- Write a story from the perspective of the family pet. The family is bringing home a new baby, going through a divorce, recently lost a loved one, the children are starting school, or they are moving across the country.

1- As a person or thing that inspires all your creativity and new ideas, your muse has been trying to contact you. Write a conversation between you and your muse. There are no limitations as to what he/she/it is, appears, or looks like. What does your muse want you to know? What is your reaction?

The End of Summer

This one is going to be short. Every member of the group is going through, what can only be described as, “The End of Summer.” We’re getting our children back to school, we’re writing schedules and organizing our homes to support the added burdens on our time. Some of us are starting school ourselves and realigning our lives to fit the time for further education.

It has been an eye opening summer. I think that this group will look back at it as the “Summer of Magic.” There has been a great deal of adventure and some heartache, but all of us have experienced a growth within our soul that can only happen in the shadows of fragrant summer nights and in the wilting heat of a hot summer day. Details are coming, and we will divulge all we have learned, but for now we are weary. Our spirits have been stretched to their limits and it’s time to let all of those things distil within us so that we can share them with you.

But I will tell you this:

  • People are amazing and kind.
  • Friends are found in the most unexpected places.
  • Hugs are healing.
  • Marriages can be saved.
  • Old friends can be found.
  • New friends can understand the core of you at your first meeting.
  • Death isn’t the end.
  • Love really is the answer to almost everything.
  • Summer nights are magical and fleeting.

And you, Dear Reader, are loved.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck by us through this interesting time. (especially two husbands who would prefer to remain in the shadows throughout the pages of this blog.) Thank you to all of our readers and followers.

And personally, I would like to thank the other women in this group. I love you and you have helped me to grow in ways I would have never imagined.

2013-07-22 21.32.42

Moxie Monday- The Summer of Letting Go

My turn for a Moxie Monday post is long overdue, and there is a good reason for that. I’ll do my best to explain.

I’ve been referring to this three-month stretch of sun as the Summer of Letting Go, long before I had a grasp on what that would mean. But somehow, in spite of my ignorance about it, those words have proved themselves inside and out. This summer:

I discovered, relived, and let go a small piece of my history.

I let go of regret at things undone, unspoken, undreamed.

I let go of thinking that any human being understands love, in it’s fullest. We are all just trying to love with the tools we’ve been given. Sometimes that is nothing at all.

I let go of the notion that magic does not exist. It exists with our without us believing in it. All we have is the decision whether or not to let it in.

 

I let go and let go and let go, until I was empty of all feeling. And then I rose up and did it again. It’s not over. This is likely to happen again and again until there is nothing left to confine or define me. Only then will can I say I have once and for all let go, and be free.

It has been a beautiful, unthinkable, boundless summer. And it has been a heartbreaking, weepy, arduous one as well. It is for this reason that I’ve been avoiding talking about my goals, my strength, my strategy. At times, I literally had none. And you know what? For the first time in my life, I’m okay with that.

I say this to the world with more intent in my heart than anything I have ever planned to do or be.

Today, I will follow my heart.

 

Till next time,~C

 

Top Ten Finally

Top Ten Tuesday…er…Thursday.

Okay, Fate, you piece of $#!%, I’m going to post this one way or another!

(Ahem)

Top Ten Saturday.

The Top Ten Lies That Keep Us From Writing

(And yes, I see the exquisite hypocrisy in posting this specific post late.)

liesEvery writer knows that there is an anti-writing demon that possesses a part of their soul. From the moment you discover that your calling is to be a writer, something sinister awakens and attaches to your spirit. It begins to send messages to specifically interfere with your pursuit of writing. Some writers fail to realize the message they hear is a lie. I myself just barely escaped. Today we will explore the Top Ten ways we allow this anti-writing fiend to keep us from accomplishing our goals.

10. The Lie: You can do it all! – There are only 24 hours in a day, and they must be used wisely. There are many activities that we want to do, many that we should do, and many that we need to do.

The Solution – Where does writing fit for you? Is it something that you NEED to do so that you can find release and peace in your life? If so, schedule it as a need and don’t let less important things interrupt you.

(You’ll find that this is a theme running throughout this post. Make time for you to write every single day. Schedule it!)atlas3

9. The Lie: You need to “be there” for every person in your life – Most writers and artists are sensitive, kind, loving and generous; and that is wonderful. There comes a point in all the giving when you have to realize what people really need vs. what they think they need. Some people will drain you dry in every way possible. They will take up your time, your money and your compassion.

The Solution – If you have someone draining you in your life, set some boundaries! Decide now, before they ask, what you are willing to do for them and stick to the plan.

8. The Lie: You don’t have time to write because of your work (or school) responsibilities. – Yes, I know we all have responsibilities. And yes, I believe that you should have a job, and you should do that job to the best of your abilities. However, I know that some of us will use work or school as an excuse to NOT write. “If I didn’t have this paper to write, I’d be able to work on my book.” I think I have said those EXACT words. Or “I’m swamped at work. I don’t have time to write.”

The real reason I didn’t want to write will be discussed in number 1.

The Solution – No excuses!

7. The Lie: I don’t have time to write because of my family. – I know that you’re surprised that “the fam” would be at number seven and not at number one. Listen, the family will continue to thrive if you take up the pen again. Moms, it’s okay if you step away to work on something for yourself for a few minutes a day. The same goes for you Dads.

The Solution – Defend your time to write. Unless someone is bleeding profusely, you are not to be disturbed.

6. The Lie: You must begin to write every story that pops into your head. – This one too-many-ideasmight seem counter intuitive. It happens like this: You start working on a story and, for whatever reason, you stop. It might be stopping to grab a sandwich. It might be that you stop for a few days to let the story solidify in your mind. Whatever it is, you let your mind take a break and new ideas start to tap on your shoulder and introduce themselves. “Hello. I know you’re busy but…” and they begin to explain themselves in excited tones. You, as a writer, LOVE new ideas, and so you, in turn, get excited and open a new document and begin to develop this new idea until you need a sandwich or for that story to solidify…and the process goes on and on and on.

The Solution – Jot down your new ideas, but keep plugging away at your current project.

5. The Lie: Your work is not as good as (insert name here.) – Comparing your work to comparingthat of your peers serves no one. Each of us are different with different skills mastered at different times in our writing career. Each of us has a different story to tell, in a different style, with different characters.

(This group is guilty of this. One day I said, “I feel like I’m the weakest link.” Then, Cindy, the wise one, said, “We all are…for different reasons. But we’re also the strongest links too.” Since then, we’ve moved beyond comparing, it doesn’t work and just makes us all feel bad.)

The Solution – Accept yourself and your work as it is now. If you want to improve, then do it! But don’t try to improve by comparing your writing to someone else.

4. The Lie: You must make your current project perfect before moving on. – This is one of my very, very WORST habits. I participated in NaNoWriMo one year and spent almost the whole month editing the first chapter of my book. I wanted it to be perfect. At one point (on November 29th) I realized that I had to move on or the rest of the story would never be told.

The Solution – Make sure to set aside time during your “writing time” to edit and leave the editing to ONLY that specific time.

3. The Lie: Something important is happening on Facebook/Twitter/Email. – This does not need any explanation. It’s so easy to fall into the web of…well…The Web.

The Solution – Take time to write before you open your browser. Set a timer and write for 30 minutes.

2. The Lie: Others know what you are capable of better than you do. – When I was young, someone told me that desiring to become a writer was a silly idea. He would rip into my work and criticize nearly every single word. (This is not an exaggeration.) It was a person who loved me and so I trusted that they had my best interest at heart. As an adult, I know that he was merely voicing fears about his own discarded dreams.

The Solution – Examine your beliefs about your dreams. If it is from anyone else, let it go. You do not need other people’s fears holding you back.

1. The Lie: You can’t do it! – This is the biggest lie of all. It is the most personal and the hardest lie to dispel. Thoughts begin to run through our mind, “You are wasting so much time.” “Why do you even do this?” “This is just crap. You’re writing crap.” “What makes you think anyone is going to want to read this?” “People are going to read this and laugh at it. It is so ridiculous.”

The Solution – The best thing you can do for yourself in this situation is to let go and do three extraordinarily frightening things:

1. Allow someone to read your work and ask for their feedback. Share it! It doesn’t matter if you think it’s ready; email it to someone you trust. Just attach it and hit the send button. You can explain it later. The important thing is to share it and ask for feedback.

2. Introduce yourself as a writer. For the first little while, you will flinch when you say it. You will berate yourself and internally call yourself a liar and a poser. That’s okay! The discomfort means growth. Pretty soon, it won’t feel like a lie. Something will change within your heart and you will realize that you already are that thing which you most want to be.

3. WRITE! Make time for yourself to hone your craft. Make it an important part of your life. We all have responsibilities and sitting behind a computer does not, from the outside, look like a productive use of time. But, if you don’t tell your stories, who will? You have ideas, dreams, visions, and thoughts to share through the written word. To do that effectively, you must make time to practice.purpose

I believe that each human being, has a rich purpose in this life. We all have something to share with the rest of our fellow persons. There is nothing as sad as witnessing someone who has a purpose and desire ignore it because they doubt their ability to do it.

Don’t be one of those people.

You be the kind of person that ignores all the lies and fulfills your purpose.

After all, what else is there?

3 Ways to Keep Writing…or How Not to Lose Your Writing Mojo

I promised to share some insider tips from our group about writing, and today I’m going to start with my ongoing advice to myself. Things I have to make myself do, outside of my freelance writing work and constant mommying.  Without these activities in my day to day life, I tend to lose my writing mojo, so to speak.

For me personally, my attempt to write just enough so that I actually feel good about calling myself a writer goes a little beyond typing at the keyboard. So that I feel like a writer, there are three things I do every day.

I Read

Yep. Everything. At any given time I’m reading a book I love, aopen-book-on-top-of-pile-of-booksnd one that I probably don’t love but I’m forcing myself to get through, if for no other reason than I know how I don’t want to write. On top of this I read newspapers, magazine articles, blog posts, and my very favorite– fresh, unpublished fiction from some future authors I am lucky enough to call friends. Everything I read, whether I love it or hate it, agree or disagree with its message, makes me a better writer in one way or another.

As far as what I like to read, I try to choose books that are similar to the genre in which I like to write. This helps with a myriad of things: what kind of characters are best for my stories, how dialogue and narration plays into the overall piece, the way the plot unfolds, and etc… When I’m reading a book I’ve chosen specifically because it’s like my own writing, I not only look for things I love, I find and analyze the things I don’t like. I ask myself why I didn’t like something, and what I might have done differently.

If you want to write but aren’t sure what genre might suit you best, think about your favorite books. Go back to the stories that stay inside your head long after you turn the last page, those favorites you keep on your shelf year after year.  Read them, even if it’s for the twentieth time and make a note of specific scenes, characters, paragraphs and pages that strike you. Chances are, you’ll find your writing voice there. If it means something to you, that’s probably the kind of thing you want to say with your writing. As the popular young adult fiction author Brandon Mull says: “Try to find the music that only you can hear.”

I Write

This may seem a little obvious, but if you’re a parent, have a job, or are working on a higher education (basically any form of adult human being) you know this isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are some days I literally have six minutes in between obligations. But I make myself write something every day. It might be a short conversation from my novel,  an idea for a scene, or even an idea for a new story.  hands_on_laptop_green_field-353x179

A lot of times, what I write is simply a random observation; a quick sentence about what the trees looked like after a storm or an overheard conversation that sparks an idea.  It can be any length, from a few simple sentences to a thousand word document. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t grammatically correct or especially poetic. The point is that original thoughts from my head have made it into print.

Try this, and do it without limits or rules. Anything goes. Trust me, this does wonders for the psyche. Start doing this and you’ll see instant results— hit with an onslaught of new words and ideas. The brain is a beautiful thing in that once it creates something new…it begs for more. There is simply no better way to inspire writing, than to write.

I Imagine  Romance

I have to admit this one is my favorite (and I chose this picture because it reminds me of the characters in my current project…*sigh*)

Ahem. Anyway, every day, just before I fall asleep I close my eyes and give my imagination a chance to hold my attention.  I just let whatever images come into my head play around there for awhile, to see what my muse comes up with.  A lot of times it’s random, anything from the perfect first kiss to a giant, fire-breathing dragon, but if I’m in the middle of working on a specific story, it’s an existing scene.  And even if I’ve re-written it twenty times, I figure if it comes about in my semi-subconscious, I still have probably not written it to its truest form.  So I let the muse have her way with my mind. And that isn’t as dirty as it sounds. (Well, okay maybe sometimes…)

Often, I simply let my mind settle into sleep and let the images gracefully fade away. But sometimes  (this is the best part!) I get an epiphany. Suddenly I have a new idea, the perfect premise for a new blog post, an essay or a poignant conversation between two of my characters. I keep a notebook or two, (or twenty) in my nightstand for just such occasion. I jot it all down without worrying what it sounds or looks like—just get the idea down there on the paper so I can tangibly reach for it later.  It’s the perfect way to capture random creativity. It’s like getting keynotes from my imagination

Zion NarrowsEssentially, those are the basics for me. Sometimes, a friend will come across something I’ve written, a blog post, part of my book, (a sarcastic Facebook post) and ask how I keep coming up with fresh things to write. In repeatedly doing these things I’ve discussed, that’s how.  Believe it or not, most of the time I have to lead my mind into the narrows of creativity.

Before I sign off, I feel compelled to say that my methods aren’t the only means for inspiring oneself into writing. On the contrary. In our little  group alone, each of us have probably tried a half-dozen different approaches on any given day, to keep the muse at hand.

I hope this has brought some insight to those of you who want to write but aren’t sure where to start. And for those of you that do write, I’d love to hear what keeps you inspired!

Gotta go, it’s time to imagine. 😉

~Cindy