7:30 am Directional Epiphany

This morning in my quiet time, I felt like I was handed a new map, new orders. At first, I didn’t understand it but now I do. Writing about writing reaches a very limited number of my friends and followers.

I want to reach more people with my message but in recent months, that was called into question. What is my focus? What is my message? What is it that when I start, I don’t want to stop? And even more importantly, if the world really does have something I need, what the heck is it?

Many of you may not know that I have a long history of creating art–thirty years! Shocking, I know. And ten years ago, I laid it down to write. I’ve written my million words, now, give or take and it no longer seemed fitting for me to write about writing. It would be like Joyce Meyers talking about talking. Honey, she has a voice and she’s not afraid to use it, but if you know her, then you also know that is not the focus of her message. Her voice and words and ability to speak publicly are tools in her toolbox.

This morning it was like clicking a download button. It seemed I’d been asking a question and didn’t really know the answer to. A flood of information came rushing in like that wave of warm sunlight after the storm clouds finally pass.

And this is your heads up. You’ve been faithful on this bumpy road, but this is something that gets me all fired up again and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It means I’ll be posting every week instead of the once or twice a month of before and increasing it to twice a week. Can you handle that? If not, I understand, no hard feelings. But if you can, if you’re made of more durable stuff, are infinitely curious or just want to see what’s up my sleeve, see you next week!

Catching Every Word

Columbus, Ohio Freelance Writer, Juli Ocean

One thing I do a lot of is interviewing. Working remotely, I attend a lot of webinars and online meetings. As one who is already guilty of word hoarding, the last thing I really want to do is miss a single comment. Are you like this? You’re listening to someone talking and then they use a phrase or a word and then you find yourself thinking about that. They haven’t stopped talking either, so you probably are missing all that followed. For how long?

Having never learned shorthand, it’s impossible for anyone but a court reporter to keep up with taking notes when the great ideas begin to fly. Add to that, I didn’t learn courtroom reporting, nor do I have such a reporter at my beck and call.
But I think I’ve found something even better.

Freelance Ghostwriter Juli Ocean uses DB9Pro and Jigmo voice recorders.
JiGMO a little voice activated voice recorder. This little beauty fits in a pocket or purse and the microphone is amazing. It picks up sounds and voices from up to 10 feet away. I have been at the back of a hotel conference room listening to a presentation and it caught every syllable.
What I especially like (after using a different brand that required a review of instructions far too often) is that it’s so easy to use. Just slide the switch to “on”. In three blinks of the light, you’re recording. The light doesn’t stay on which makes it even more unobtrusive. Because it looks like a jump drive, people don’t feel intimidated by it. They won’t even notice they’re being recorded.
It can records for up to 96 hours, (.wav files) on a single charge. To recharge it, make sure your switch is in the “off” position and plug it into your computer’s USB port. And you’re listening to the meeting. When it’s charging, the light is red, and when it’s full, it’s blue. When you’re downloading files, it flickers between the two. Make sure to close out through the computer before removing the device.

My other very pricey voice recorder had additional features, additional steps and the recordings from the microphone were always slightly fuzzy. These do not have playback features on the device, no headphone port. You can use it as a recorder and/or a jump drive.
So, if you’re like me, and you want to capture every word, I highly recommend this gem. They come in black, silver and gold with a wrist strap or string loop. Let me hear your thoughts!

 

Back on track

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwj-w9_WvPDRAhXGOSYKHV7eCuoQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pleinevie.fr%2Fgalerie%2Fj-ai-recu-une-contravention-injustifiee-comment-la-contester-910&psig=AFQjCNFNxD_WLvJZbJG1mChvi3B5ZPYuAg&ust=1486092646972745If you’re wondering how long it’s been since I was on here and posted, it’s been too long. 1 year, 5 months, and 1 day, to be exact, according to Date Difference calculator.
So what was that all about, you ask?

It’s amazing how little things can get a plan completely off-track. And it also speaks to my failure to properly steward my time.

A part-time job was supposed to give me time for writing (while keeping me fed!) and several things evolved making that really difficult. The first was getting up early to go to work. I am not pleasant to be around at 6 a.m. Or earlier depending on the weather. My smile doesn’t even wake up before 9 a.m. (Not good when working with the public.) My internal chronometer works best waking up on its own and I was seriously unable to get up on my own at such an early time.
Secondly, the powers that be kept trying to add more time to my schedule. Going from 20 to 28 hours played havoc with my desire to write when I got home. Then, it was another bump up to keep the insurance. The job turned negative and nightmarish.

Even though I had been diligently writing at night while holding down the part time job or PTJ, I slowly slid into a funk. I needed a radical shift in my life and quite honestly because it didn’t look like I was going where I wanted to go, as fast as I wanted to get there. Cocktails alleviated some of that stress. And then it added another set of problems. What was I supposed to do?

I needed a radical change of scenery. I took a leap of faith and was hired by a different company with later hours and a schedule that we agreed on. Four months later, I landed another part-time gig writing for a website developer. I was gaining traction again.
Over the last year, I took up ghostwriting in addition to my own writing. I managed to finish my first ghostwriting project and my third short story at the same time. With all that’s going on, I’m learning new things. Cocktails have disappeared off the menu. And I have new de-stress techniques that work even better.
And the truth is, I missed you guys. Life is exciting again and I can’t wait to share with you, all the new things I’ve discovered. So, if you forgive me, hop in the car and let’s see what lies ahead!

P.S. here’s the link for figuring out how much time is between dates click here.

Under Construction

Turn offI had embarked on a few “simple” updates for my website. Over the last week you may have been sent broken links, pages that looked promising only to find that they were not available. I want to take a moment to apologize for the confusion and probably annoying stream of emails for a lot of updates.

I confess that I like learning about technology and at times it leaves me baffle, and sometimes being a DIYer there is fallout. Some people around here didn’t get fed on time (sometimes not at all) and I was grouchy and not much fun to be around until I could get pages straightened out and the lost ones found.I would have liked a button like the one above so I could work without disturbing you. Will you forgive me? I think we have this all figured out now. If you get to the site and find that you hit a wall, please feel free to let me know. I value your feedback.

9 Writing Ideas for Summer

Lane_County_Farmers_Market,_Eugene_Oregon

It’s a little late in the season for spring cleaning but I find that I’m looking over how time gets spent and, like an editor poring over redundant sentences, I excise those things that were not bad, which brought pleasure, but were not really helping my writing career as a whole. Because it’s been a rainy summer this year, (and we got a new kayak) I’m really attempting to cherish our sunny days before leaves drop and the chill wind begins whistling winter songs.

Everyone who’s been writing for a while can tell you how solitary writing can be. My husband and I are both writers and it’s easy to fall into a habit of spending days in front of a computer screen, or writing while staring out a window, but not participating in life. I want to enjoy it outside with others.  I discovered more joy and creativity when the sun shines and I’m active. I have fantastic friends whose company I truly delight in and it’s easy to get busy writing and let far too much time slide between visits. Participating in life gives us material to write about. Combining the two can give you fantastic results.

It’s an opportunity to hear a new story or a storyline I can run wild with. You may see something along the way, like I did: A young teenage girl on a pink bicycle texting while she rode wobbling precariously on the edge of a busy street. I wanted to follow her to see what happened.

So, you may ask, how do I stay focused on my writing and still enjoy my summer?

  1. Keep your pen and notebook handy. Be on the lookout for little scenes and character sketches.
  2. Think through your day. What’s ahead? Family reunion? A day in the amusement park? A wedding? Jot down some of the vignettes you catch. Describe some of the people there, what they wore, how they behaved. Write down any great lines you hear.
  3. Going on vacation? Take lots of photos and write descriptions of your lodgings, people at the pool, people in restaurants. Did you get a quirky waiter or funny waitress?
  4. Going camping? What disastrous thing happened? (I’ve never been camping without some sort of disaster. I hope you fare better than I!)
  5. Going to a street fair? Farmer’s Market? Arts and Craft show? What sort of people do you see there? Find out about the vendors who are working the show. My husband once wrote a play about a woman selling bread he met at a Farmer’s Market. What sparks your imagination?
  6. Are you going to see a traveling Circus? Maybe you’ll get a chance to talk to some of the barkers, or performers. What philosophies do they have about life and traveling?
  7. Are you going to spend an evening watching outdoor theatre?
  8. Public fountains anyone? Not terribly far from where I live, there’s a shopping area built like a small town. It’s street after street of shops. Across from the book store is a pavilion with underground water jets. They’re timed and follow various patterns. The fountain is entertaining to watch on its own. When it’s extremely hot, parents dress their kids in bathing suits and let them run through it. Invariably one little kid will look down at where the water came from after it has gone and get a surprise squirt in the face.

It seems impossible to have too many character sketches, but you never can be sure where they might lead. I visited a friend who had recently moved to a new house. We had a lovely dinner, got the grand tour of the new digs and scoped out her new studio space. As we were about to leave, she discovered a tea light candle balloon had landed in her yard. It’s too good of an idea not to write about.

14 Ways to Stretch Your Writing Voice

writing-pens

In my last post, I talked briefly about stretching as a writer. Hopefully, you’re on track with writing. You’re sitting in front of the page every day, or most days, and hammering out some words. Maybe you’re even consistently hitting your word count.

You have filled or are filling notebooks, or a journal or collecting all of your writings in a word file. You are finding your voice and feel like your writing has gained a sort of consistency.

What can sometimes happen is that you start feeling like, blah, blah, blah. Stretching ourselves where our writing is concerned is a great exercise that can broaden our horizons and add depth to our voice. Although there are many ways to expand, I have a few favorites listed below.

  1. Read outside your genre. If you write mysteries, you might dive into a few science fiction novels, or if you read exclusively romance novels, you could pick up a thriller.
  2. Create a blog. You’re a writer and you have something to say. They’re easier than ever to set up and some of them are free. For the very brave: You can allow comments and get feedback on your posts. It’s a great place to test the waters of your writing.
  3. Take a writing challenge. One of the favorites is National Novel Writing Month which falls in November. The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. I love 30 day challenges. Write a super short story, journal entry or poem every day for 30 days, or post everyday on your blog. Write a page a day. Increase your word count to see how often you hit your goal.
  4. Take a favorite character from a book you read and tell what happens to them after the book ended.
  5. Write a journal for one of your favorite characters. It can be one of yours or someone else’s.
  6. If you normally type, write with a pen on paper. Conversely, if you always write on paper, try typing or keying your thoughts into a document.
  7. Clip photos from magazines and write your own version of what happened.
  8. Using Google maps (or other favorite map site) write about a city you’ve never been in based on the images you see.
  9. Attend (or participate in !) a poetry slam, or an author reading.
  10. Sharpen your skills of observation by looking for unusual situation while in your car, or on a walk. Write down five a day. I once walked in to a local java joint to find a pretty young woman sitting in the lap of a considerably older man. In traffic one hot afternoon, I looked to my passenger side to see a tiny, bright pink car with a behemoth man in a full beard driving. On a sunny Saturday, I saw a little girl on roller skates attempting to get on a two wheeler. I wanted to know the stories of those events.
  11. Increase your word power by learning and using new words you discover in the dictionary or in the course of reading. Write them in a notebook and try to use them the next time you write.
  12. Consider all the people you know. Who among them intrigues you? Ask to interview them. You would be surprised how many people are happy to talk about their lives. And you might just make a friend. This exercise also helps you focus on dialog various speech patterns.
  13. Try to capture turns of phrase. When I lived in the Deep South, I heard some of the most wonderful idioms. I wasn’t a writer then and didn’t bother to write them down and missed out on an opportunity to collect valuable character possibilities.
  14. Gather snatches of conversations by eaves dropping in restaurants or coffee houses. You never know what phrase will trigger your next story.

Certainly there are many more ways to expand your writing possibilities. What are some of your favorite ways to stretch yourself as a writer?

Starting Somewhere

paper-stacks

A very dear friend of mine frequently said, “Do not despise small beginnings.”

It has taken me the best part of fifteen years to appreciate her advice, and it’s a quote I consider often as I go through my life on the writing journey.

It’s very east to look at others in the world who are enjoying some level of success and be a little envious. It might be a nice car, a home or homes, vacations, glamour or a lot of money. Of course those things can be attractive. These things are not really ends in themselves. I don’t write to get things I don’t have. I don’t write to become anything I’m not. They can be motivational to some starting out. What motivates you? What drives your writing or creativity?

I like writing. In fact, I’ve always liked writing. If I’d had slightly more attentive people in my life when I was younger, I might be farther ahead in my writing career. Lots of writers have been more successful at a much younger age than myself, some had parents who were writers, or their talents were recognized earlier, or they knew what to do with that gift regardless. It would be very easy to compare myself to those people and after a few hours, I’d be feeling pretty bummed out that I am not where they are.

But, I didn’t start when they did, or do what it took early on. And what I have chosen to focus on instead is that I finally recognized my passion (thank you Vera Hassell and Neil Wein) and because of that, I may not have accomplished as much as some, but I’m not where I used to be either. I move forward, sometimes incrementally, and at other times in great leaps. Those writers who are succeeding often share what they did to reach that level. Some of them are mentors to me. And it always comes down to this: They did the work.
I didn’t start taking my writing seriously until eight years ago. Up until then, I never considered writing for publication, but when I did, there was a shift in my thinking. I looked for opportunities to stretch myself.

So much of writing is about committing. It’s about showing up to the page day after day and writing when you think “you got nothin’”. I’ll step on more than a few toes when I say that you can train your muse to show up at a regular time. If you show up every day to the page at the same time, get your coffee or tea, and sit at the computer or your desk with your pen and paper, you will write. Don’t get up until you write. You can start a blog, write a short story, a poem, or your screenplay or a novelette. You can begin with one page, a word.
Start somewhere. Start now.