Time and Time again . . .

It’s Monday again. And here I sit thinking about time. Time that we all have, time that we use, time that we waste or time that we let pass us by. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. It is how we use them that is what makes the difference.

Do you spend your time on your priorities? Priorities can be just about anything: Family, Fitness, Entertainment, Work, Survival, or just letting life go on around you. If you’re a fitness buff, you probably make sure you have time to exercise, go to the gym, take a walk or run, or insert your exercise of choice. If your family is a your priority you may be spending time with them, caring for children or elderly relatives, keeping things going so the family can get the stuff they need to do done. If you have to work, you make time for that, or more realistically, your boss tells you when to be there. Even more so if you’re your own boss, self-employed people work harder than anyone I know. All I know is that when most people talk about “Where does the time go?” they usually have no idea where it went or are fooling themselves about how much time they actually invest in things.

We have more time now than at any other time in history. We have machines to do work for us that used to take significant amount of time: tractors, cars, trucks, trains, washing machines, vacuums, microwaves, bread machines, cell phones, portable computers, etc. The list goes on and on. We go faster, further and longer than we ever have before to get to work, play or whatever. It’s what we do with the time that makes the difference, remember?

Our society is also more entertainment based than ever before. There is programming on hundreds of channels 24/7, the internet never closes, we have more electronic gadgets with games, magazines, and books (remember those?) than most people can process in any reasonable amount of time. Yes, life is good. But what are we doing with our time? Watching TV? Playing games? Instant messaging friends? Posting on Facebook or Twitter? Do we even talk to each other or do we just text? Everything happens now, instantly and interrupts what might be going on at that moment.

Think about what your priorities are. Do you make time for them? Do you make enough time for them? What can you cut that isn’t or shouldn’t take up so much of your time to put that time back into your priorities? Take responsibility for your decisions and do something. Don’t let the question “Where does the time go?” be answered by “I wasted it.”  Also know that if something unexpected comes up . . . tomorrow is another day.  Just don’t let too many todays pass you by.

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The Writer’s Toolbox

I’m having motivation issues, so fear is my first topic revisited. I came across this quote as I was working (or in this case not working) on my writing. This one is from Dwight V. Swain:

Only if you stand ready to make mistakes today can you hope to move ahead tomorrow.

So yet again fear seems to be a theme. I don’t want it to be. I would like to convince myself that I am over-empathizing with my main character who is WAY outside her comfort zone, but no.

Rather than letting myself be paralyzed, I am looking outside myself for help. I once read a book by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way. It has lots of tips and tricks for letting your inner artist out, working through tough times, and pouring inspiration back into your creative well. Ms. Cameron has a blog now where she posts regularly on letting your inner artist free. Check it out if you’re into motivation or need a little spark to get you going on something. Another book that I read way, WAY back is by Gabrielle Rico called Writing the Natural Way. Ms. Rico does this clustering model that allows you to free up ideas and make some associations that your subconscious doesn’t even realize is there until you do it. If you’re into free writing, poetry or just curious, check it out. They are just some of the things in the writer’s toolbox that pop out when I’m in the place where nothing seems to be working the way it should. What is in your toolbox?


Spare any change?

I actually mean the change other than money but I couldn’t resist the title. Change can be good or change can be bad. It depends on the circumstances. But the one thing that I do know about life is that change happens. Cope with it and move along in life.

I myself am not all that adverse to change. I’ve been through enough restarts, moves, and sudden shifts in direction that I usually take my moment to emote, cry a few tears, celebrate, let the shock wear off, or whatever and then go on. It is just the way I am. I like doing new things so even if it might be a bad change I can usually bring myself around to think of something positive.

So the big change recently, I set time aside to write. Oh boy, you’d thought that I’d asked people to cut out their major organs in sacrifice to my whim. I think the big mistake is that I told certain people I was doing this. My time management has gone to pot these last three weeks. Now granted, personal and family stuff always comes up and you cannot always plan them. I knew about my sister’s wedding and I knew it would take time. I consoled myself that I would make time to write AFTER the wedding. Great, wonderful. I did that.

I get home from said wedding and another crisis has arisen. I am keeping my promise to myself in that I am ignoring the phone, messages, texts, chat and everything else on the planet just trying to get something written. In this case my minimum goal is the blog. Ok, I wrote the blog. (More like a personal rant, but still, it’s written.)

When I made the change in my life to write, and write regularly, I knew there would be resistance. I just didn’t realize how much resistance there would be. I keep harking back to “Resistance is futile”. But in MY case, resistance is NOT futile. I will resist other’s demands on my writing time. Now there is change for the better.


Plotting or plodding?

I am working on my plot this week. I never really thought about what plot is until I started struggling with my own version. I have the major ideas that are not character or setting based, but when it came down to the sequence of events that happened either to force the characters to react or not I got stuck. When I get stuck, I have the habit of reading writing blogs, books, websites, magazines or whatever I can get my greedy hands on to work through it in my subconscious. (Yes, I know I’m a writing geek.) I came across this sentence in Patricia C. Wrede’s Fabulous (my word not hers) Blog that really got me thinking (to the point that I wrote this without finishing the rest of her blog on Plot until afterwards.) She wrote:

A plot, by my definition, is a sequence of events, nearly always tied together by causality, that involve characters and take place in a setting. I prefer the sort that have a problem to solve and some sort of resolution or closure at the end.

What it got me thinking about was that I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been talking to other writers and they think they are talking about plot but in reality they are talking about character issues or setting issues. Not that it’s right or wrong. If that is what they are focusing on, great, it’s their book not mine. I like plot. I love how I can make something happen that the characters now have to deal with. Remember the pool with the shark? If the shark is hungry or the character is bleeding it is no longer sink or swim . . . it is live or die. So plot can do a lot with a story. Turn it in a direction you’re not expecting. Or the plot point hit and the character is now doing something you didn’t expect. I love those moments of discovery in my writing. The hope that I keep experiencing these things and enjoying them keeps me sitting down to see what the characters do next.

Back to the plodding . . . I mean plotting. Is my sequence of events moving too slowly? I am beginning to think that instead of plotting I’m plodding. I might have added too much detail of what is going on (for my taste) in how a book is paced. I know there are a lot of writers who can focus on the small details and really make it come to life for a lot of readers. Robert Parker comes to mind with the descriptions of cooking or food in his Spenser novels. Science fiction writers like Arthur C. Clarke, Stanislaw Lem, and Poul Anderson come to mind where they go into great detail of the science of how things work. My dirty secret: I skip these parts. I’m a character person, a plot person, a setting person . . . a story person. I could care less how the dish was made, what ingredients went into it, or how it tasted to the characters. I don’t want to know how the faster-than-light-engine works, or the super-duper-insta-trasporter broke and how we’re going to fix it unless it is a key part of the plot. I know people who love that kind of story because that kind of detail makes it real for them. But that is not my thing.

I think I’ll try and adjust the zoom lens on my internal camera and see if putting the plot into less granular detail helps me move ahead with this story. Just gotta remember where the key points are and keep going. Maybe then I’ll stop plodding and start plotting again.

Cheers.

Author’s note: Apologies for the week hiatus. My sister was getting married and I didn’t account for how much I would get sucked in to doing things around and for the wedding. Therefore I got NO writing done.


Fear or Fear Itself?

Fear can be a huge motivating or limiting factor in life. What are we really afraid of? As writers we are putting our hearts, souls, thoughts, ideals, values and blood, sweat and tears out there for others to examine. For a most people those are risks they are not willing to take, hence there are so few writers. Fear is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as both a noun and a verb.

n. an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

v. be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.

Now I personally believe that fear, when it comes to writing, is mostly linked to the pain or painful part of those definitions. No one likes to be criticized. Even if true it can be hurtful. But the thing I keep learning as I get older is that what I once thought as huge, big, scary and I-am-NOT-doing-that changes due to my experiences and attitude. Growing up I lived in fear of the “what if”. What if I ask and they say no? What if no one likes me? What if I do something someone doesn’t like? I spent a lot of negative energy consumed with these questions. Age, and a few hard knocks, made me realize that I was paralyzed by the fear, mostly by the last one as no one liking it. So in order to try and change my perspective, I tried looking at the other side of the equation. Basically I asked myself what is the worst that can happen? Now I’ve always had a creative side to me and I can make some really intense worst case scenarios. But I found that what it all really boiled down to in most cases was someone said no or didn’t like what I was doing (hmm, I think I’m seeing a theme here).

Of course the next step was critically looking at what that possible worst case scenario meant to ME as a person. Was it really ME they were rejecting or my work? The first part of that was what did I do if it was a rejection of me? Well, I am usually my own worst critic. I generally don’t go around inviting other people to disprove of me on a regular basis. I don’t need that kind of toxicity in my life. In that case, nice to meet you and have a nice life. Secondly, almost always it was the work. Could I live with that? You bet. Writing in fiction isn’t supposed to please everyone. It cannot by default. Everyone has their own opinion about how things should be done, how things should end, and how we should try to get there. Try to please everyone and everyone will be disappointed. So the one person that you should be trying to please is yourself. There are others out there that may agree with none, all or part of what you are doing. Don’t do it for them, do it for you.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Always do what you are afraid to do.” Take a risk. Try something new. You might surprise yourself. Remember that at one point in time NONE of us knew how to speak, walk, run, read, write, do simple math, and any number of other things. We all had to try it the first time. Once we took that risk most of us thought, hey, I can do this. The point is that we didn’t give up. Do something positive for yourself. Now keep doing it.