30 January 2011

Personal Libraries: what do your bookshelves say about you?

One of my personal goals over the next few months is to get more organized, particularly in my home office area. We have a baby coming this spring, and I want to get as much done before she arrives as I can.

Image: Paul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As part of my office re-organization, I'm taking a critical look at the books I have, and deciding what I can donate or pass on to someone else. ::coughcough::RogerHall::coughcough:: I have lots of books I love and refer back to often, but do I really need to keep that book that I hated so much I could barely finish? Probably not.

So as I was looking at the titles lined up behind my desk (alphabetically by author's last name, of course), I realized that what I have tells you something about me: my reading tastes. (All the more reason to get rid of books I don't like, I suppose.)

As the book world moves more into the digital age and libraries are concealed on screens, I think it's even more important to be aware of the physical books you have. After all, people may or may not make judgments about you based on what they see on your shelves. Think about it a moment. If you look at a bookshelf lined with Norton Anthologies and texts on literary theory, your thoughts of that person will likely be different from someone who has every title by James Patterson and Janet Evanovich.*

Like it or not, people have opinions about books, and when they see you with a particular book, they're likely to attach that opinion to you, as well. If you see someone with a book by an author you admire, how would you interact with that person? Especially in comparison to seeing a book by an author you consider a hack?

Now, as I say this, I know there are people in this world who have books simply because they want to create a particular image of themselves. (Yes, I'm talking to someone who has a copy of Anna Karenina and Moby Dick but hasn't read them and never plans to. You know who you are and what I think of you.) I'm not of the mind that you should only own books you've read (what would be the point?), but I also think you should be honest in your purchasing.

Writers are artists, and by buying their books, you're telling people you support their work. Whose work do you want to support? Whose art do you want displayed in your home?

Since Hubby and I are still getting our new apartment sorted and arranged (and lots of my books are still at my mother's house), most of my titles are about writing (freelancing, creative writing, AP stylebook, etc.), as well as A. S. Byatt and Jasper Fforde. I don't know what, exactly, that says about me.

What are your prominent titles? What books will you never part with? What books would you be glad to be rid of? What do your bookshelves say about you?

*no judgment here

19 January 2011

When my Inner Writer is stomping her foot in protest....

I love writing. I really do. Editing, not so much. Background info....meh. But I love writing.

And yet, there are days when I sit at my computer and open my WIP*, and all I can think is, "Okay....now what?" Yes, as much as I love writing, there are days I don't really feel like writing.

There are generally two camps in writing that address motivation: write every day and write when you're inspired.

Write every day

The first camp is one that says you should write every day, no matter what. Even if you don't feel like it or don't have anything to say, or know as you're writing that you're going to have to delete everything the next day. The point is to get words on the page.

Those who have participated in NaNoWriMo often see the value in this camp. Those who have read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way may also see the benefits from this approach.

Of course, this camp says that even if you don't feel like writing, do it. If it's on your schedule, do it. You can fix it later.

Write when you're inspired

The other camp is more forgiving when it comes to motivation. If you're not inspired to write, if you don't know what to say, no worries. You can write later when you're motivated to write.

This camp doesn't necessarily write every day, but when you are inspired to write, you keep going as long as you can. So your schedule may say to write for an hour, but if you're on a roll, you keep going for two or three or more hours because you're inspired to write.

Both sides have their advantages and disadvantages.

The write every day camp is good because you, yanno, write every day. But if you know you're writing something that flat-out won't work, is it worth it to take the time to put down on paper?

The write when you're inspired camp is good because, when you do write, you're writing something that you're inspired to write, that's more likely to be kept through editing. But if you only write when you're inspired, how long will you go between writing session?

I bring this up because I haven't been entirely motivated to write lately. After Bean being sick, I've had a little trouble getting back into the swing of things, especially since I'm still doing a lot of background writing (that can get a little tedious, to be honest). I think I've managed to come up with a good compromise that puts one foot in each writing camp, and that works for me.

I do try to write during my scheduled writing times, but if I know I'm forcing it, I use that time to be productive in other ways. I might work on some background/outlining, I may do some administrative stuff (filing invoices, catching up on emails, etc.), or I may take the time to read something beneficial instead. That way, I'm still using my writing time to further my writing, but not necessarily by actually writing.

Maybe you find that you really do need to write every day, no matter what. Or you may find that you really do need to let your story be unless you're inspired to work on it. Or some combination of both. Or neither. As always, you have to figure out what works best for you.

How do you handle motivation--or lack thereof--in your writing life?

*WIP=Work In Progress

14 January 2011

I see you in the shadows...!

 h/t to Loralee for that image

Today is National Delurking Day, a fun event that happens on the blogosphere, and encourages readers who rarely or never comment to make themselves known.

So I encourage you to take this opportunity to let me know you've been following my ramblings about writing and life as a writer. Drop me a comment and tell me what you're reading and/or writing these days.

I'll start. I'm reading The Jeeves Omnibus by P. G. Wodehouse, and I'm writing the coffee house book. (See how easy that is?)

Then, you're more than welcome to go back to the shadows!

12 January 2011

"Mom" beats "writer" this week

My poor darling Bean has been sick this week. I think he's on the downward slope of it (thankfully), but for the past few days my time has been spent wiping a snooger nose, distributing doses of Tylenol, wiping a fever-hot body with a cool washcloth, and spending lots of time snuggled in the recliner to "bock-a-bye."

Sick Bean on Tuesday
While I haven't taken Bean in to his pediatrician or the ER (again: thankfully), I've been concerned for the past few days. Bean's temperature is normally about 97.5, and at it's highest it was about 101. It was not a happy afternoon for me.

Because of Bean's cold, I haven't spent much time at my computer this week. My email inbox is overflowing with unread and unresponded-to messages. My poor coffee house characters have been sitting on the sidelines patiently twiddling their as-yet undescribed thumbs.

Now that Bean is starting to (finally) feel better, I'll be spending more time writing again, and getting caught up from the past few days' lack of work.

I am a writer, and I always will be. But I'm a mom first, and this week, I've been a mom.

Is there anything that keeps you from writing sometimes? If so, what is it?

06 January 2011

Continuity in my collection

As I've been doing background information for the coffee house book, I've realized that I want something to further unify the collection of books. It's not a series, but I want there to be some thread (aside from the books all being set in the same small town) that connects the books so that readers who read multiple books from the collection will see that they are, in fact, a collection.

My initial idea was to use a character. One character who appears in every book. That wouldn't mean that that character would have his or her own story in every book, but he or she would appear in every book in some capacity. In one book, the character might have a story to tell, while in another, the character might be an observer in someone else's story. Or someone on the street. Or barely noticed at all.

And while I'll still most likely incorporate one character into all the books (somehow), I'm also thinking of adding another dimension to this thread that will run through all the books: an event of some kind.

All the books in the collection take place in the same small town. That's why it makes sense for the characters to overlap. They know each other. Many of them grew up together. They see each other at the post office, on the street, in the coffee house. And, to that same end, they hear about what goes on in the town.

Now, this isn't such a small town that Ginny knows about Harold's late night out with the guys last weekend when his wife made him sleep on the porch. But the significant things that happen in the town are talked about. So, yes, everyone knows about the barn that burned down because those kids were smoking in it. Or whatever. And that's what I'd like to do with the other part of this unifying thread.

I'm going to incorporate some event or something that happened in the town that nearly everyone knows about. Like the unifying character, this event will have different weight depending on who's mentioning it, and what story it's in. In the funeral book, for example, you might only hear it mentioned in passing, or as a time frame reference. While in the coffee house book, someone may explain their reaction to the event, which will reveal more of it for the reader.

I don't want this event to create a story arc through the collection. But I do want it to be present, and to give another depth to what's going on in each of these books, and in each of these characters' lives.

I think, as well as helping show that these stand-alone books do go together, the character and event will be a little "aha" moment for the readers who pick up on them.

What do you think?

Note: Did you notice my delightful label alliteration today? ::grin::

04 January 2011

On 2011

We're done with the first weekend of 2011 already.

As is often the case, I've been thinking a lot in the past week or so about what this year will bring, what I'd like to accomplish, and where my life is headed.

I didn't make resolutions for this year. I have in the past, but haven't always been so great at keeping them. So what I'm doing this year is setting goals instead. Maybe it's just the terminology that's different, but "goals" are a lot less intimidating to me than "resolutions." Goals I work towards. Resolutions have to be kept.

The biggest writing goal I have in 2011 is to write the coffee house book. 2011 will be the year of the coffee house book.

2011 will be the year of the coffee house book.

I'm much better prepared to write it now, my story, characters, and outline are far more developed, and I'm ready. This story is ready to be told. I'm more excited about the story than I have been in a very long time.

I think it's going to be a good year.