Category Archives: Writing

Write, write, write

There is a small voice in the back of my head that keeps repeating one word: write! No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I hear that voice. Sometimes it is so low it is barely a whisper. And sometimes it is so loud I can’t hear anything else. But it is always there.

I admit I am a timid writer. I am unsure of myself and sometimes wonder if I am even good enough to call myself a writer. I have fears and insecurities about my writing all the time, sometimes to the point where I won’t even go near the computer and avoid paper and pen like the plague. Yet, I still here that voice chant: write, write, write.

The funny thing is, even when I question my ability to be a writer, I still get ideas. They come to me in my sleep, while watching TV, while listening to the radio, while working my boring job, while eating dinner with my family, while in the shower, and while just sitting out in the backyard enjoying the nice weather. Sometimes I’m able to jot them down and sometimes I have to let them pass me by as I have no way to get to some paper. But they still come to me.

The other day, as I sat and stared at the screen trying to get the words out to move my story along and feeling frustrated because nothing seemed right, I could still hear that word in the back of my mind: write!

There are times when I get frustrated with that voice. I try to write everyday but sometimes the words just won’t come, yet that voice still says to write. But sometimes, most times, when I’m feeling down because I want to follow my passion but just can’t seem to find the right direction, I hear that voice and it cheers me up. It’s as if something bigger than myself has faith in my ability to write.

I may never be a best-selling author. Heck, I may never publish a word for anyone but me to read, but as long as I can write, I will. And that voice in the back of my head that tells me to write keeps me focused on that goal, building my self-confidence enough to keep putting one word after the other, forming those sentences and paragraphs until I have told my story.

I may struggle with writing every day for the rest of my life, but I will keep writing. As long as that little voice keeps cheering me on, as long as new ideas keep generating in my brain, I will keep putting one word after the other. No matter how inadequate I feel, no matter how crappy it might sound at the time, just keep putting those words down one at a time and remember: write, write, write.

 

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At a crossroad

I am at a crossroad in my story. I’m undecided on whether one of my characters should be found dead or alive. And I think I won’t to be able to move much farther into the story until I make this decision. Maybe I should flip a coin and decide that way.
I’m not sure why I am having such difficulty making this decision. Probably because this particular character is based off of someone I remember well, a cherished friend from my past, someone I still love dearly. How can I kill off this character and not feel like I am killing off our friendship. Yet, the kidnapping is a metaphor for our relationship, one that went in hiding for years before we reconnected.
I just assumed when I started writing this story that I would find her alive and well, as we have found our friendship again, alive and well. Yet I know our friendship changed over the years and I think that is why I had the urge to “kill her off” in the story. Because in the story, a new friendship is forged while trying to find and rekindle an old one. And that is how I feel about our reconnection. There is a lot of the old, comfortable feelings still there, yet we are adults now and our friendship has changed to reflect the people we’ve become over the years.
It still amazes me how much of myself is poured into my stories and poems. My heart, soul, and memories are written and transformed into these tales. This is the first story where I made the conscious decision to use actual events from my past to lay the foundation for this tale. And I think this is where my struggle lies.
So how do I get past this glitch, pick a direction, and write? I believe that would be just sitting my butt in the chair and writing. Just sitting down and writing with the realization that this is only my first draft, not the final copy, and that anything can change between the two.
So if I decide the character is dead in the first draft, and the reading doesn’t feel right, I can always go in the opposite direction in the next draft. The fluidity of creative writing is one of the reasons I love to write. Nothing is final until I decide it is final. The words are not concrete. They can be easily changed or deleted with no real consequence, unless I forget to save the changes.
The only time the words can’t be taken back is when (and if) I ever decide to have the story published. Until then, I have the freedom to add or delete words, even sentences, as often as I desire.
Problem solved!

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Finding time to write

My life is all topsy turvy right now and I am finding it hard to carve out writing time. After six months of unemployment, I finally found a job. This is good news. However, it is the overnight shift, which is bad news for my writing schedule. I am more productive early in the morning, but now that I don’t get off of work until 7 a.m., writing is taking a back seat to much needed sleep.

Now I just scribble a bit here and there, trying to keep working on my novel in progress as well as short story ideas that come to me. I keep a small notebook in my lunchbox so that on my lunch hour, at 2 a.m., I can jot down ideas and even paragraphs for my novel. It’s also when I wrote this blog post, which, unfortunately, has become low on my list of priorities. One I aim to bump up to the top of the list and soon.

I know if you really want something, you will make time and effort for it. However, I am having a hard time adjusting to working at night and sleeping during the day so that anything I can do during my time off work is being pushed back to catch up on sleep.

I really thought that I would be adjusted to this new schedule by now, but after four and a half months, I’m still feeling the drain. But it is getting better, slowly but surely. Like I said, I am now writing on my lunch hour, and I am pretty productive on one of my two days off. The other day is spent catching up on sleep.

My goal now is to create a new writing schedule and stick with it. I keep a notebook and pen with me at all times: in my purse, by my bedside, in my lunchbox, on the end table by my chair. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to jot something down when it hits me. I am also trying to get in the habit of writing when I get home from work while my three dogs are eating their morning meal and getting their morning outdoor exercise.

My body may be exhausted when I get home, but I am trying to get it used to writing a little first thing in the morning. I am also trying to write when I wake up in the afternoons.

I’m finding it frustrating to go from writing for two or three solid hours, to only getting 10 or 15 minutes here and there, but I know that any little bit of writing gets me that much closer to finishing my story.

My goal has never been to publish a book, but to just finish the first draft. If I can just complete the first draft, I will feel like I finally accomplished one of my goals. A lot of obstacles have been thrown in my way and I feel that if I can just complete this first draft, I will have won my personal war.

I will worry about the next step after I complete this one. But right now, I need to get my writing life in sync with my working life so that the two can be harmonious and I can complete my goal of finishing this first draft.

This adventure is teaching me how to take negatives and turn them into positives, a life lesson I really need to learn. And I will keep on writing.

 

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Great ideas in the middle of the night

super moon by teresa tIt seems that I get some of my best ideas in the middle of the night. On one hand, it’s wonderful that my mind keeps churning out ideas even when I’ve given up for the day. On the other hand, it’s frustrating that they come in the middle of the night.

By the time I wake up enough to reach over and grab my notebook and pen from the nightstand and write, the idea is fading and I am only able to capture a couple of sentences or words.

And they always seem like great ideas too. That could just be the sleep talking, but it seems like everything just falls together perfectly including dialog. Then I wake up and it all begins to dissolve, breaking apart like morning clouds as the sun strengthens.

Sometimes I am able to hold on to enough of the idea to get it on paper and some good writing ensues. But mostly, it completely fades too quickly to use. But like I said, I think it’s wonderful that my mind is churning out ideas, wonderful ideas that I may use in the future or may never use. Ideas that may come to fruition or may peter out as I set them to paper. But after months of uncertainty, I am glad that the idea machine is still up and running.

And now with the 2013 NaNoWriMo in full swing, I am glad the ideas are still churning around. I am doing some wonderful writing right now. It may not be my best work, but I feel it is my best work to this date. I know that the more I write the better I will become. That is the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn so far. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given up on a story, on an idea, on myself. But I have finally found enough faith in myself to keep going no matter how bad I think the writing is going. Because I now know that sometimes the best writing can come out disguised as my worst writing and setting it aside for a day or two can bring it all into proper focus.

And that brings me back to those dream time ideas. I believe that on my worst writing days, I have my best idea dreams. It feels like my subconscious mind is telling me don’t give up, keep writing, those good ideas are still there even if I have a bad writing day.

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Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween! Today is a day when spirits roam the earth in the form of little witches, ghosts and goblins running along sidewalks shouting trick or treat at every door.
I have fond memories of Halloween. The memories are so dear that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I thought, in honor of    the day, I would share a snippet of a story I am currently working on that entwines my memories of past Halloweens with my imagination. I hope you enjoy it!
The crisp October wind blew swirls of leaves through the gutters and in-between cars as children in gaily decorated costumes roamed the neighborhood. The acrid smell of crushed leaves and tantalizing scent of popcorn danced on the breeze, enticing people to partake of the festivities of the holiday.
Walking along the concrete path, dodging small ghosts and goblins, I remembered when Dawn and I used to be part of the spookies haunting the houses for candy.
Part kids and part teenagers, we were just getting to the age when it looked suspicious for us big kids to be out. This would be the last year we could get away with it and we worked it for all we could.
So much had changed in the old neighborhood. People who lived there back then no longer live there; houses looked old and worn from the harsh North Eastern winters and humid summers. Yet, on this night, with the jack o lanterns glowing bright and the autumn colored leaves falling from the large oak, maple and hickory trees that lined the old streets, the place didn’t look so bad. Flipping strands of long brown hair from my face, I smiled as I watched two young girls race up a stone path to an old gray house. I could almost picture Dawn, dressed as a cowboy, and me as a ghost, flying up the old gray steps to see what goodies we could get. Candy was always the best treat, but sometimes, pennies and dimes would be given. The dreaded treat was always the toothbrush. What were those people thinking?
As the girls came back down, talking excitedly and showing each other the contents of their treat bags, I knew they were discussing some unexpected treat they received.
The ghost girls of my friend and I ran ahead of me as I continued my way down the road. I could almost see the old Dodge that Dawn’s Aunt Norma used to drive, slowly following behind us, waiting for us to get tired of this street and moving on to the next one.
I walked the end of the block, reaching my own car, and drove to the Dairy Queen. The building was dark and boarded up. The outside lights had been smashed by rocks and glass covered a good deal of the parking lot. Carefully picking a spot, I pulled in the parking lot and turned off the motor. In my mind, the building was bright with florescent lighting. Employees in the old red and brown plaid uniforms with the funny little hats gave small ice cream cones to all the little ghouls that came in. Buckets and bags draped across arms, Halloween candy was temporarily forgotten as the cold, sticky dessert was quickly consumed. Painted faces sported ice cream mustaches and white drips down the chin. I could see us sitting in a booth with Norma, trying to contain the dripping cone as we told her all the fabulous things we saw and received.
After the flood of memories washed over me, I started the car, adjusting the heater as I drove away. Amazingly, I made it to a well maintained neighborhood that I had visited on occasion, but not really enough to be sure I knew how to get to. Parking across the street from the one story ranch home with the green trim, I remembered that our Halloween adventures always ended here.
The place was owned by Norma’s boyfriend, always known as Big Walt. He was a kind, gentle man with large glasses and an ugly station wagon. Norma and he would take us to dinner on occasion as well as trips to Massachusetts and his house for barbecues and other fun. His back yard was huge and sprawling, nothing like the yards of the houses in the neighborhood I lived in.
Every Halloween, like clockwork, after getting our candy and other goodies, Norma drove us to Big Walt’s house. After canvassing his neighborhood for those last few pieces of candy, we would settle in front of his console TV with a bowl of fruit and the bowl of candy he had been giving out. We would spend the rest of the evening sprawled on the living room floor with candy wrappers, fruit peels and soda cans stacked around us, watching reruns of badly acted horror movies until it was time to go home.
I could see through the big picture window into the house. Three young children, still in costume, gathered around a big screen TV, were playing video games while eating popcorn and drinking sodas. It was different but still the same.
Finally, I drove back to the old neighborhood and parked in front of my old house. It was a two-story house with peeling gray paint on the wood siding. The place looked abandoned; so did several other houses on this side of the street. The stairs to old number 32 were warped. The glass to the front door was missing and a piece of wood covered one of the three windows that belonged to what used to be my bedroom. I sat there for a few minutes, wondering if it would be safe to go in. Surely the man who owned the house was long gone, he was quite old when we lived there thirty years ago. Deciding to chance it, I carefully walked up the rickety steps and tried to look in through the grimy windows.
Memories of that night, thirty years ago, flooded my head as I stared into my old bedroom. The wonderful memories I had relived just a moment ago continued as I stared in at my old room. I remembered coming home that night, my stomach full of fruit, candy and cola. The sheet of my ghost costume was dirty from walking on it all night and the paint on my face was streaked and running. We ran into the house, chirping away about all the exciting sights we saw. And luck was with us, as Dawn’s grandmother and legal guardian agreed to allow her to spend the night, something that did not happen often.
My parents sat in the living room watching old Bewitched reruns. My mom sat in her small brown recliner, feet tucked beneath her and a light quilted throw over her knees. My dad, sprawled back in his large, dark brown recliner, snored like a buzz saw. After spending a few minutes talking to my mom and showing her some of our choicest goodies, we ran to my room, eager to shut the door, turn on the radio, and devour some of our newly gotten sweets. We poured our pillowcase sacks out onto the floor in two huge piles and began sorting our treats and swapping our not so favorites for our favorites. The music played softly so we wouldn’t get a parental warning, but we still danced and sang to our favorite pop songs.
We settled down to play card games when my mom knocked on the door and said she was going to bed and it was time for us to settle down and think of getting some sleep as well. Still hopped up on sugar and all the excitement, we changed into our pajamas, but decided to keep playing cards. It was a quiet activity, we told ourselves.
We kept the overhead light off and only had the small lamp on my bedside table on for light. It gave it a cozy feel in the room and with the music on even lower; it felt like we were the only two people in the world. Though well after midnight, we could still hear people laughing and talking as they walked up and down the street. We figured they were stragglers from parties, adults or older teens allowed to stay out way later than a couple of kids were. Or we figured they were older kids who were up to the regular Halloween pranks, toilet papering, trees, egging houses, and leaving bags of shaving cream on front door steps. Whatever they were doing, it didn’t concern us for we already had our night of fun.

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Getting ready for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2013 starts in just five days and I am ready. Last year, I went into this endeavor without fully understanding the importance of having a game plan. I naively thought I could pump out the 1667 words a day with no problem. I mean, I am a writer, right? I had no clue how tough it would be.

Between a full time job and family obligations, it was difficult to carve out time solely for writing. Well, for writing that much at a time. I try to carve out a bit of time every day for writing, whether it is working on my latest writing project, writing in my journal, or penning a poem. Sometimes it is only a few minutes and sometimes it is an hour or two. But I must confess I am not consistent.

And that brings me to the problem I had during last year’s NaNoWriMo. I did not realize how difficult it would be to write so many words a day on story idea I just pulled out of my hat with no thought to topic or characters. In fact, I bombed miserably last year, only making it to 15,000 words. Here it is almost a year later and I am still working on that story. I also discovered that I have a hard time turning off my inner editor. It seems that I sabotage my best efforts by wanting to go back and edit what I have written, causing myself to lose focus of the story and its completion. I bog myself down in second guessing what I already wrote and trying to change it instead of powering through to the end and then going back and editing it.

I love the idea of last year’s story and I think if I can just get it done it would work out. There are some lovely bits in it, but the whole thing just ran away from me. I introduced characters that I am still unsure about and I think my plot twisted in a way that I may not be able to recover from. But I will continue to try. At this moment, I have 25,000 words invested in this story and my goal is to get it to an ending, any ending.  And see if I can’t wrangle a good story out of it in revisions.

But in the meantime, I’ve found an idea I love for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ve developed the three top characters so I know who they are and why they act as they do. And I will spend the next five days developing the secondary characters as well. I have developed an outline for how I would like the story to progress and worked out my setting so that I can move comfortably in this story. I know that as I write, things may and will change, but I feel like I am in a good frame of mind for this year’s challenge.

Having attempted this challenge last year, I now know what it takes to get the minimum word count done each day and still progress my story to a finishing point.

I feel confident that I will get to the 50,000 word goal this year. That is the real challenge to me this year, to reach the goal. But more importantly, to have a story I will be proud of.

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Doubt

I have days, even weeks, where I doubt myself. When the words just won’t come no matter how focused I am, I feel that the last thing I am supposed to be is a writer. I doubt my ability, my commitment, and my desire to write.

When I doubt my writing ability, it leads to doubting other things in life. My self-esteem comes under attack at these moments. I begin to feel that all the steps I’ve ever taken to pursue writing have been a grave mistake. And I wonder if I shouldn’t have taken a different fork in the road somewhere that would have led me to another career, another passion. To something where I am not filled with so much doubt.

I start to wonder what if. I’m really good at that game. What if I majored in something else in college besides English, where would I be today? What if my fifth grade English teacher never encouraged me to enter that region wide grade school writing competition? What if the sky turned green one day? What if?

There are days when the doubts plague me worse than others. I look at what I wrote for the day and see only the flaws. Never dwelling on the gems that do shine through even in the rough draft. I can lose myself in the doubts, believing the doubts are absolute fact and not the creations of my own mind where fear lives.

I have a good friend, a kind, caring, loving friend (who is also brutally honest, which is the best way to be) that tells me all the time that people suffer doubts all the time. Everyone, she says, has doubts. You just have to acknowledge your doubt and press on anyway. I find it strange to think she has doubts as she always seems so self-assured.

But I have learned she is right. Even the most self-assured people suffer from doubts now and then. The only difference between them and me is they continue on anyway, barely giving pause to their doubts before picking up their shield of self-confidence and carrying on with the fight while I struggle with my doubt, as if it is quicksand. There is a way out, I just panic and don’t see it quick enough.

And yet, I can’t see myself as anything but a writer. Even if the only place I have been published is in the local newspaper during my 12 year stint as a reporter, I still feel like a writer. Every day I face the screen of my computer, my incomplete novel staring me in the face. 2,000 words complete, 10,000 words complete, 15,000 words complete, 21,000 words complete. Each day I add to my word count, I grow stronger in my desire to be a writer. 

And as my desire grows, so does my conviction that I am meant to be a writer. And with that strength, I am able to battle the doubt.

 

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