21 April 2013

When your writing won't leave you alone

The first idea for the coffee house book came in 2004 as I was preparing for my first foray into NaNoWriMo. The idea wasn't developed very well at that point, but it was a start.

Over the next few years, I changed the structure, format and overall idea of the coffee house book until it became, a few years ago, what it is today: the first book in the collection.

In all that time, as I worked on the coffee house book as well as other projects, had babies, took jobs, took other jobs, moved.... the coffee house book remained.

My mind worked on plot details, I saw characters and their relationships in people on the street, and whatever else I wrote, I always ended up back at the coffee house book.

It wouldn't leave me alone.

That's how I know the collection is where I need to be. Yes, it's an intense project, and will be incredibly time-consuming. In fact, it will likely take many, many years to complete. But I'm willing to take that time for it because it will be worth it. These characters' stories are begging to be told. They're important, and I can't ignore that.

I'm making good progress on the work now, and I'm looking forward to when the first draft will be done. Until then, I'll keep plugging along because my characters and their stories certainly won't leave me alone until they've been given voice.

20 April 2013

Time management

There have been times that, as a writer, I've been frustrated that I "don't have time" to work on the collection. Which isn't entirely true.

What is true is that everyone has 24 hours every day to do with whatever they choose. So I've been focusing on utilizing my time better to maximize the time I have for non-work related writing.

A schedule is important for my family anyway. As a single mom who works outside the house, a structured schedule is necessary for things to run smoothly. And as the kids get older and begin to get more involved in activities, a schedule will be even more important.

However, the good thing about the crazy-structure schedule I have is that it ensures I make and keep time for writing.

Remember NaNoWriMo? The crazy adventure that teaches you that you can, in fact, make time to write? It's all well and good to make time to write a book in November, but the true purpose it to carry the motivation and time management with you through the rest of the year. That's what I'm trying to do with my structured schedule.

By setting aside specific time for fiction-writing, I'm making writing a priority in my life. I'm still making time to do all the things I need to do each day (feed the munchkins, work, exercise, shower....), and still have a good amount of time to work on the coffee house book.

Yes, I'm making sacrifices right now because of my obligations. I sleep less than I probably should, and my days are quite full, but it's worth it to know that I'm making progress on the collection.

How to you ensure you have time for writing in your schedule?

16 April 2013

The writer as observer

I think I have always liked to watch people. Growing up I was very shy, and went largely unnoticed. I heard interesting conversations around me simply because people didn't really see me. And it was hearing those conversations and seeing people react to each other when they didn't realize someone was watching. And I think that ability to sort of be unseen has served me well as a writer.

I don't mean that I think writers should be wallflowers or secretly spy on people. But I do think writers should be observers. It's important for us to see the world as it is, in the quiet moments between "events" in order to share stories.

That's when you really see people. When people don't know they're being watched, they are more themselves than any other time.

I'm sorry. That sounds really creepy. I don't intend it to sound that way.

But still, you learn a lot about people, their relationships, their actions and reactions, when you sit in a public place and people-watch. In fact, I've learned a lot about my own characters by watching other people relate to and interact in the world around them.

As someone who writes realism, my goal is to write stories that put the reader in that position of observing while the characters are unaware. (Well, when I'm not writing first-person point of view, that is.) By using my own observations and incorporating them into my stories, readers can see themselves and people they know in the stories.

But even the most fantastic non-realism storyteller can use what they learn from people in their stories. Because regardless of how far from realism a story is, the readers still need to be able to relate to the characters. And to write real characters, you have to know about real people.

Yes, it's true that writing can be solitary. The stereotype of writers locking themselves away in cabins for days on end came from somewhere. But writers still have to be part of the world, and connect to it somehow, to be able to tell stories in it.

Are you an observer? How do you incorporate it into your stories?

15 April 2013

For Boston and Beyond

I don't know what to say. It seems that many, many others have said what I'm feeling and thinking far more articulately than I could. So instead, I will be quiet and keep all those across the world who are affected by what happened today in my heart.

Tomorrow I will run, and cry.

The writer and self-care

It's important to take care of yourself.

I have a bit of a chaotic life at times, and it's easy to get wrapped up in all the things I have to do, and neglect the things I really should do.

Lately, taking care of my physical health has become on the list of should do instead of have to do. I've been focused on other things and haven't been taking care of myself the way I should be.

I'm making an effort to change that.

I'm making positive changes in my nutrition. I'm eating less meat and dairy, as well as drinking more water. I've already noticed a difference in my energy because of it.

I'm also trying to be more active. A friend of mine and I are training together to run a 5K this fall (the first of many, I hope), and I'm doing cross-training on the days I don't run (yoga and burpees). Just as with my diet changes, I'm already seeing a difference in my energy levels.

As much as I wish I could skip sleep and food altogether and use that time for writing, I know I can't. And I know that taking time to be kind to my body will mean I'm less likely to get sick, and that will equate to more writing time in the long run.

Not to mention it's helpful for keeping up with active toddlers!

14 April 2013

The Artist's Way

Though I've gone through it before, I've decided to go through The Artist's Way again.

Lately I've felt disconnected from my life as a creative writer, and I think Cameron's book will help. If nothing else, it will get me back into the habit of writing every day and making creativity a priority in my life.

The coffee house book won't leave me alone. I think about the characters and their stories constantly, and it bothers me that I haven't gotten further in the process of writing the collection. I'm hopeful that the daily writing and weekly tasks in The Artist's Way will get me back on track.

I've set deadlines for myself in regards to the coffee house book, and I'm determined to meet them. I have big plans for 2013. And this will be one way of ensuring I can follow through on those plans.

Have you read The Artist's Way? Was it helpful to you?

13 April 2013

Coming back to the blog

I've missed blogging. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed it until I made the conscious decision to not do it. But I needed the break; I've had a bit of a chaotic life lately, and I needed to clear my head a bit. Now that I have, I've learned some things about myself.

I can't hide from writing.

I'm a writer, and even if I take a break from it, I'm a writer. I always come back to it. And if I stay away too long, I feel agitated and anxious. Writing is very much a part of me. It's more than just something I do or even a career. Writing is what keeps me going.

Just are there are other parts of myself I can't pretend don't exist, I can't pretend I'm not a writer. I know now, more than ever, that writing is the only career that will really bring me happiness. I'm fortunate to be in that field already (though I'm in a marketing department, so it's a lot of sales copy), but my ultimate goal is in the realm of fiction-writing.

I have goals.

I've known what I've wanted to do with my writing for a long time, but it was a lofty, somewhat vague idea of being A Writer. I took steps toward this intention, got sidetracked, and kept moving forward.

However, I set aside some time to think about what I really want as a writer. This led me to setting more specific goals, and achievable steps to get there.

I feel like I've been floating a bit with my writing, partly because of things that have been going on in my personal life. Clarifying my goals and having steps in place to get there has already helped immensely. I have a direction again, and I'm looking forward to what will come as a result.

I'm looking forward to what's coming in my writing life, and I'm looking forward to sharing that with you here.