That’s not a commitment to writing a chapter each day, although my creative side is doing much better in the last week or so. Rather, that is the commitment I made to be better at reading.
One of the things I really enjoy about the community in which I live is the way the local public library tries to improve and influence things going on here. Part of the larger county-wide network, they have been great about supporting the numerous initiatives dedicated to improving access to books, reading, technology, information, and learning resources. Every summer the county-wide system sponsors the Tulsa City-County Library Summer Reading Program, and our local branch has been pushing hard to get people doing it.
The current head librarian is someone my family has known for a while when we first started taking our children there for story time and she was the children’s librarian. . The newspaper had a fun write-up a little while ago about the record numbers our branch has been signing up for this year’s Reading Program. The Adult Reading Program is to read 4 books by the end of summer.
As a writer, you’d think that would be easy for me.
It hasn’t been of late. My current job is such that I am constantly reading – taking in huge amounts of information to sift through, find what’s needed, make decisions, and do work. But that also means my brain has been retrained to think about words in a different way – deep enjoyment of the written word has been replaced by an ability to scan through reams of information, only to discard vast amounts of it. Much of it very surface level reading. Staying focused to just “read” is actually very difficult for me now and I’m shocked at how I’m only just now realizing how bad the situation has become.
I used to be very into using Goodreads to track my desired ‘to-read’ books. I recall at least one year were I read 41 books, and that was still a slow rate compared to my teen years.
One post a month feels to little, but life has been such that getting the energy and desire to post is…difficult. Discipline to keep up a blog/personal website is something I still need to work on.
That said, I have been busy with the writing world. Another round of agents submissions has gone out for my novel Betrayed and drafting on Junkyard Dogs is again in full swing. I have writing group meeting this week and am really looking forward to meeting with my tribe of writers. They are such good people.
I also realize that if I’m going to keep fostering a community of creators, I have to make the time to do that. I’ve been in a “consumption” phase for the last few weeks and it’s time to start working. So, hopefully, a few more posts coming soon.
For anyone familiar with arts programs, it’s an accepted truism that art can cross boundaries which other types of human interaction can’t; or at least that art can do so more easily. A quick Google search of “art breaking down barriers” yields the following four top results.
The most obvious if you’ve been to my site before is the change in theme – been contemplating a change for a while and then accidentally hit Apply while testing. So we’re going with it.
Next, this previous week has seen me returning to a good groove with regards to my writing, which had been very sporadic over the last few months. However, I’ve completed most of the planning work on my latest novel and am starting back into actual prose drafting tonight. I also sent some more query letters to agents. Daily writing is back to being the norm. /SITREP
All that leads to my thoughts for the rest of the post today.
I’ve noticed that my personal productivity, regardless of the area of my life, waxes and wanes. During some weeks and months I’m focused, committed, and driven – even if the nature of the projects themselves are slow, my dedication to working them doesn’t waver. Other times, my productivity seems tied to the accomplishment of tasks – if I can tick things off a list, see progress being made, or ship something off I have energy to keep working; but the desire to grind something out just for the sake of grinding depletes my energy = I don’t want to do it, and often won’t. And then last, I have those times where it is a struggle to get anything accomplished – distractions reign supreme, frustration and tiredness sap my will power, and a desire to do nothing permeates my thinking.
For a long time, I’ve tried to fight against that wax and wane, the push and pull. But in the last year, I have worked on learning to better embrace that aspect of my persona. I am not a Type A personality – I am not the extreme go-getter. In fact, like many aspects of my personality, I find myself of two minds with regards to work: sprinter and marathoner. I am both the tortoise and the hare.
By that I mean there are times when I spring ahead fast and furious towards a future goal, working hard until…something pops up. While at the same time, long term, I keep trudging away towards that goal, making small, meaningful progress over months and years. Writing is very much this way – I will hit a project hard and work myself to a standstill on it, then that project might sit for months during one of those wane periods. But during that same standstill period, I’ll be re-configuring my blog, seeking out agents, feeding my creative centers with story, recharging – always knowing that I’m coming back to the project that is waiting for me.
I find that more and more, I am embracing the truth espoused in Ecclesiastes 3:1, and popularized by Pete Seeger and then The Byrds in the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and learning to accept that seasons change.
Seasons are cyclic. They come and go. And while each time we hit spring, we recognize it as spring, no spring is exactly like any other. Weather changes day to day. Climate shifts or butterfly effects cause each one to be unique. So while this time around I’m feeling productive, compared with the last time my productivity waxed I feel more secure in letting it be what it needs to be right now.
When I need to wane, I have started to lean very heavily into the idea of relaxation and rejuvenation, taking it as a sign that my mind, body, and soul have given all for right now, instead of fretting and trying to push myself to keep working on thing and mentally flogging my exhausted horse called “will power”. Really accepting that idea of “Now I’m going to rest,” and being truly intentional about it has started to pay very real and very precious dividends. Anxiety melts away faster, sleep comes more readily, play becomes more free. I don’t recover any faster it seems – those wane periods still last a few weeks. But I get more out of them in the moment.
Managing those seasons, learning to embrace the moments as they come and making the most of them when they do seems like a good focus and goal for me right now.
Two major themes in my life are a sense that I’m simultaneously not good enough to do something while also believing that I can do it, and overthinking what I should be doing. All of that together is a recipe for procrastination.
Combine that with a whole lot of work stress and fighting what is probably latent seasonal affective disorder and the last few months have been very unproductive, both from a writing standpoint and a blogging standpoint.
But unproductive just means I don’t have a product to which to point; it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been fighting in the various battles I have. And in several of them, I’ve been winning.
So, time to take that spirit of winning back into the writing world and start being productive with my books.
Ooo! Episode 13.40 looks interesting! I like this idea of having many teams answering the same questions, so I hope this works out. There’s been a lingering problem that Writing Excuses has had the last few seasons – the same answers to what amount to the same questions. At the end of the day, after a while, you find yourself in the same rut of questions about story as last season and the season before that. I think that was a big driver in past seasons to do the Master Class and the new teams this year.
Been awhile since I was caught up enough on my podcasts to be getting in reaction posts, but thankfully all caught up on Writing Excuses, so here’s Episode 13.38.
Alpha/Beta readers and how to use them. Having only really done one book through readers, my process isn’t very set yet. But for the most part, my process is similar to the podcasters. Alpha reader is one other friend who is a librarian/author who reads a lot in my chosen genres. I found her through NaNoWriMo, I think through the cabins that are done during Camp NaNo in April/July. We connected up and she has been a great champion and supporter who manages to balance good critiques with plenty of cheerleading. Beta readers include some family and local friends, and recently members of my writing group, though I think they will move forward into alpha read status in the future.
Finding them all felt like luck, but in line with what the podcast recommended – networking with other writers (in my case, through NaNoWriMo) and sending out invites to those close to me to see who would have the time and desire to do it. I’ve had lots of people accept enthusiastically, but who end up not reading it. Probably about 50% fall out rate in that sense. Those people I will ask again for the next novel just because they say they want to help, but I have a core that I trust who give me the right feedback.
As for getting back the answers I want, I’m very much in the same camp as Valynne – I know my strengths and weaknesses as a writer and I’m actively looking for people to call me out on my weaknesses. I know I do big picture premise well, along with story structure, narrative threads, and action scenes. I’m also pretty good with the logical inferences that come from extending a technology or creating a magic system. Where I struggle is making characters memorable and anything descriptive. So I ask my readers to look specifically at my characters and locations to make sure they’re striking enough. And I always ask about the emotional beats and about the things that already work to make sure I don’t loose those or that I haven’t blinded myself on a topic.
I also generally send an entire manuscript rather than chapters/scenes just because I’d like a one and done, but that might change more as I try to level up faster.
So far, it’s worked out well.
The homework challenge from the episode was to send something to alpha/beta readers that I’ve done recently. I do have a completed manuscript sitting, but I’d been calling it a trunk novel because I didn’t think the story worked. But then again, who knows? I’ll see if anyone one my writing crew wants to read it or if my library friend wants to take a crack at it. Maybe it’s better than I’m giving myself credit for. Or maybe it’s more salvageable than I realize.
With the large push I undertook to get Betrayed ready for Pitch Wars, as well several trips for work, a funeral, and getting kids back to school, I have been struggling to get into the swing writing. And in my writing group, I was definitely not the only one — we have several all on the very limits of time and effort trying to balance artistic creation and just getting through the day.
When we met for our monthly meeting last night, one of them asked me how my exercise regime was going in a perfectly timed moment of “keeping me honest”. And I had to admit that in the last two weeks it’s been terrible. I haven’t been making it to the gym and haven’t been taking care of my body the way I needed to. So, I re-committed to my friends that I’d get back in the groove for both exercise and writing.
This morning I hit the stationary cycle at the gym and this post gets me back on the writing train.
But it got me thinking about how I try to balance my self-care with all the other things I have to do.
Pretty much my whole life, working out has taken a back seat to something else. Sometimes, that thing was a “still good for me, but isn’t exercise”, but often it was just blowing off steam or wasting time. Other types of self-care have been slowly getting better over time – stress management, eating well, brushing teeth, etc. – but I still find that I have to remind myself more often than not to do the things that my body, soul, spirit, and mind need in order to stay sharp and working well.
Habits are slow to build and can get upset by changes in schedule, but the longer I go, the more I find I need to have bits of self-care to keep me going. And today thankfully is one more notch in the proverbial belt of habit making.
What kinds of things do you do to take care of yourself so that you’re ready to create? Or what challenges do you find yourself struggling with in performing that self care?
Singing in the Rainhas long been my favorite movie musical. A fun story, awesome dancing, catchy music, great gags and jokes, a wonderfully wicked antagonist, and a look at filmmaking by a film.
But this isn’t going to be a standard movie review; hopefully something deeper. I’ve been trying to wrap my head more and more around how story is told. A while back I stumbled on something I don’t think I’ve seen anybody else talk about with regards to this film. The expectation I have as I write this is that you’ve seen Singing in the Rain – indeed that you are well familiar with it. Because I want to look at the way this story was told, not the story itself.