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!

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.

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.

The Cost of Inspiration

pandora-logo

If your writing goals have become easier to reach, it might be time to raise them. I was able to consistently write 1000 words a day and raised it just recently. This happens to coincide with my desire to send more stories out to literary magazines. I’ve watched over the past few months as my husband cranked out submissions one after the other, all across the country and, in fact, all across the English-speaking world.

He inspired me to start sending my stories out again. Additionally, I get inspired is through music and photographs. I can take them as sensory prompts and write for quite a while. Normally, I don’t talk about music on a writing blog. Maybe you’re one of those who prefers total silence in order to work. I love music. I’ve listened to all of my personal collection so much, I’m pretty tired of it. So something like Pandora, where the station constantly updates is pretty cool. I hear fresh sounds and favorites quite a lot.

I don’t get anything tangible from Pandora except inspiration. They don’t pay me to say I love this or that track, or even tell you that you can get hours of uninterrupted music all day every day for the low price of 49.98. One really good piece of writing will pay for that. Actually, that must sound like a deal. The truth is, they just endured a price hike and I wasn’t very happy about it. That motivated me to look into some other streaming music sources.

I discovered I’ve become quite a snob about all of this music stuff. I don’t like commercials butting in (at twice the volume–how jarring!) and I despise short playlists that want me to keep picking what mood I’m in now after 5 or 10 songs. I don’t want to be bothered to pick another song… I priced some other venues only to discover that they want nearly double per year what I currently shell out.

I listen, on average, to 8 hours of music a day (which I assure you is conservative!) nearly 3000 hours a year. Rounding up to 50.00$ a year dividing by 3000 hours, I end up paying about one penny per hour. Suddenly, their prices didn’t seem so bad. Plus, no annoying interruptions. I can click the songs I don’t like up to three per hour or change stations anytime. A paid account lets me have up to 100 stations. That’s access to every genre and millions of songs.

Since listening to Pandora, I’ve completed my first two books, dozens of blog posts, countless short story starts, four that are finished and won two Nano Awards. I’ve published in half a dozen magazines.  I’m feeling a little happier about my music investment.

What are your inspiration sources? What do you invest in? What inspires you? Please let me hear from you!