Saturday, June 26, 2010

Week Seven and Eight in Review:
Just so I can say I'm caught up...

but I'm really not.  

At least not with my writing.
But my brain is being filled with wonderful tools to make my writing easier, more creative and more productive.

This week I read and enjoyed Merrilee's links on Fear and Perfectionism.

I most identified with Mary Anne Hahn's post:

Yes, Merrilee it is worth reading, even with the horrible red background.

"Little did I know that my perfectionism would also turn out to be the biggest roadblock to my writing dream for many years. Far from being a "wonderful" or "positive" character trait, it held me back, taunted me, scolded me, filled me with guilt, scoffed at my burning desire to be a writer. Without teachers to constantly stroke my ego and provide me with the encouragement I so needed, I floundered and procrastinated, struggled and avoided.

It took a long time for me to realize the real reason I wasn't writing. I blamed it on lack of discipline, or lack of time, or occasionally came to the conclusion that maybe I just wasn't meant to be a writer. Then I would stumble across an old story or essay I'd written, recognize the skill and talent there, recall the joy and fulfillment I'd found in the writing process, and give writing for publication another go. Yet nothing was ever perfect enough to submit" 

These are Mary Anne's words, but they quite eerily could be my own.

Of course, I also had the additional roadblock that with so many children to nurture and care for, how could I ever find the time to write?  Looking back, that was just another excuse.  I knew of others in like situation that found the time to write and to do it well enough to be published... and still mother their many children.  (Editors Note: My husband adds... Yes but how well did they mother? How did their children turn out?  Of course I can't say about their children, but I can mine... they all turned out wonderfully well, contributors to society, every one of the eight I was blessed with. And in the end, that is far better than any other work I could spend my life doing.)

♦ ♦ ♦

I must admit, I have actually been published... exactly once.  It was my second submission.  My first was denied.  To my credit, I reworked the story and resubmitted a year later, and this time, my story was accepted. (I'd include a link to my story, but I'm quite sure no one is that interested.)  I was given a check for $100.  The date was December 20, 1992.   I can still remember the thrill of seeing my story in print. I felt validated as a writer and I knew my college English professor would have been proud.

A whole lot of life has passed by since then and I have never since submitted a story for publication.  "Nothing was ever perfect enough to submit."

This course is giving me the tools I need to write again and perhaps the courage to submit another story for publication. I could use another hundred bucks.

♦ ♦ ♦

I should also mention how much I enjoyed the Guest Post for this week:

From her words I have gleaned the following:

So what do you do in drought?

Go for walks.

Absorb and don’t try to produce.

When it’s ready, the well will be full again.

I seem to be doing a lot of that lately,
part of my quest to set my Muse free.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week Six in Review:
Never mind that we just completed week seven

The Guest Post for the week was The Muse’s Secret Address by Meredith Wickham.

This post is amazing... all you blog stalkers that never leave comment should seriously consider following the link to read Meredith's post. (I know you are out there, my stat counters assure me I do have readers. ☺)

After reading this post you may also want to visit Merediths garden blog: 
The Enchanted Earth.  It's one of my favorites!

Meredith's words from her guest post invited me to ponder the value of paying attention to the “here and now”.

"I trained myself to note the minutiae of the present moment, to become aware, bit by bit, of this particular here and now. Paying renewed attention to my reality might be as simple as noticing the sunset outside the kitchen window as I do the dishes, or actually feeling the flow of the hot water over my hands."

I'm afraid that as a mother of so many children, my life has been more of a “hurry up” mode. The reality of my "here and now" was more like: "Come here... (insert a child's name) and I mean right now, " said with a sweet and loving voice to the mischievous stinker boy hiding under his bed after... (insert any act that a little stinker boy might do.) With so much to do and so many wonderful little beings to do for, not much time was spent in slow mode.

Now, for the most part, my children are all grown up and I’m in the process of discovering how to let my Muse out of the closet. She is a bit timid and frightened that I may include her in my “hurry up” list of to do’s. My husband shared with me the visual image of someone cracking the door slightly and peering out with large and sensitive eyes to see if it were safe to come out yet. Yes, it's safe.

I am discovering that as I learn to slow my pace and allow myself to really see the “here and nows” of my life, I can experience moments where wonderful ideas flow.  And then, my Muse is free to dance about my mind and enrich my soul, giving breath to my own creative thoughts.  And then I can write... and I do, fettered only by my poor typing skills.  (I never did learn the "home keys" during my college typing class as I was madly in love with my honey and only had eyes for him.)

One more thought from Meredith that caputured my attention:

"The tiniest detail is the gateway to story."

To harness the power of that statement, the answer is again, to slow down and train my eye to see and my heart to listen to the tiniest of details.  I'm actually enjoying experimenting with this concept through my camera lens.  There is a beautiful world out there that most of us are far too busy to see.  

That's all for now... 
 this new week my goal is to keep my head above water, and find moments to slow my pace... enough to allow my Muse to dance!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Boring? Weigh in!

I've heard the whisperings that this blog is boring... so in an effort to spice it up, I'm sharing a post from my garden blog.  Let me know if you enjoy it!

We're going on a snail hunt!
We're gonna catch a big one!
I'm not afraid,
Are you?
Not me!

Grandchildren love to go on snail hunts 
and I love to rid my garden of these pesky little creatures.

The brown garden snail, Cornu aspersum 
Introduced to the USA from France during the 1850s for use as food
Escargot anyone? 

♦ ♦ ♦

When I was a child, I walked home from school everyday past a beautifully cared for red brick home. I always slowed my pace as I passed this home so I could take in the sight of all the beautiful trees and bushes and flowers galore. 

One rainy day, I noticed a snail moving along the sidewalk. I had never seen a snail before and was intrigued with the creature that quickly hid inside the shell when I picked it up. I held it in the palm of my hand for a few minutes fascinated by the artwork on the shell. Slowly the snail began to peak out from within the shell, probably as interested in me as I was in him. He pulled his little body almost completely from his hiding place and began to move along my palm. It tickled! He was a slimy creature, but not so much that I didn't enjoy our encounter. I placed the snail on the grass and skipped all the way home, content with my day's discovery.

The next day I looked for my little friend, he was nowhere to be seen. Each day I walked very slowly past the red brick house with the pretty gardens hoping to see him again, but he was never there.

Then one day it had been raining as I ran out through school doors. My world was clean and bright and the air smelled so fresh! I loved the rain. As I walked past the red brick house I walked very slowly looking for my snail on the sidewalk as I always did since we first met. Still no snail in sight. 

I was brave enough to walk up the driveway toward the garage as I looked for my snail. There was a fence on the far side of the garage with a narrow strip of land that had just enough room for me to walk in. There were green plants that I carefully stepped over. I felt a little naughty as I took each step as I knew this was a place I was not invited to be in. The feeling in my stomach told me I better leave. 

As I turned to make my escape I saw my snail, and another and another, there was a whole family of snails! The uneasiness I felt persuaded me to run home, but I knew that I would go back again another day. And I did, this time with a friend. 

Funny how brave you can be when there are two. Together we sneaked up the driveway and into the long green corridor looking for snails. We found them quickly and I tried to convince my friend it was ok to pick them up, that they tickled your hand as they slithered along your palm. She wasn't as brave as me, so I picked up two of them and carried them home to put in my mother's garden. I just knew they would love to live there.

The red brick house became our stopping place for several days as I caught snails to take home. Then one day as we came out from the side of the garage we were met by an old white haired man with a stern look on his face.  "What are you girls doing?"  Time has not erased the feeling of fright I had as this man confronted us.

"We're catching snails." I remember saying timidly. I opened my hands to show him my treasure. His dour look burst into a smile as he began to laugh. We were a bit perplexed as we wondered if we were in big trouble.

"Take all the snails you want!" he said in-between chuckles. Just don't step on my plants. He explained how he had watched from the window the past many days as we had disappeared behind his garage. He was curious about what two little girls might be doing there each day. We were relieved to find that he was a nice old man and wasn't angry with us at all. He told us again that we could take all the snails we could catch.

 I can see-e-e you...

When I got home, I decided I'd better tell Mom what had happened. As relieved as I was that the old man wasn't angry with us, I was still a little shaky about the encounter. I showed her the snails I had collected and told her the story of how my friend and I were hunting snails each day on the way home from school. "What are earth are you collecting snails for?" she said with a curious look in her eye.

"To put in your garden so we can have snails too!" was my innocent reply. 

It goes without saying that was the end of our snail hunts after school. My mom just didn't appreciate snails the way I did and certainly didn't want them living in her garden!

And now I understand why...

 ♦ ♦ ♦

Snails are hermaphrodites, so they all lay eggs. 
Brown garden snails lay an average
of 80 spherical, pearly white eggs at a time. 
They can lay eggs up to 6 times a year. 
Talk about multiply and replenish!

 Snail Huddle

What do we do now?

Let's have a Snail Race!

Obviously my perspective on snails changed once I became a gardener.  I don't really like creatures that nibble on my leaves.  Perhaps because of my early encounters with snails I prefer removing them by hand picking,   Handpicking can be very effective but you need to be thorough and hunt for them often or your snail population will quickly get out of control.  Thank heaven for little grandsons!

And what do we do with the snails once we find them? 
We send them all off to vacation at
The Snail Resort
where they can munch away 
to their hearts content... 
(the garbage can that holds my garden refuse.)

Want to know more about snails?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Week Five in Review:
Late, but still chugging...

 The Guest post:  The Zone by Karen Collum

Totally inspiring!  I identify with her thoughts on so many different levels. I'm very familiar with The Zone as I watched my daughter run the hurdles and high jump in college on a full Track scholarship. It was amazing to watch her as she entered The Zone.  I remember very well the almost trance-like routine that she entered into before, during and after each event. It was actually quite magical!  We knew better than to try to communicate with her when she was in this state of mind as it would completely throw her off her mark.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if others could recognize when I am in my zone and be so accommodating as to not interrupt my train of thought?  Now that would be magical! Until reading Karen's post, I never identified that as a writer, I also enter into The Zone.

"How are you doing?" assignment: Completed

1. Creativity

1a. Am I doing my daily creativity exercises? Yes and no. Most often it isn't a cognitive activity. I can do better.

1b. How full is my notebook? Not full enough if you count what's on paper.  If my notebook could be what's in my head, it's time to get another one.  OK, I can do better.

1c. Do I look around me and collect inspiration as I go about my day? YES!  YES!  A resounding yes! (and it is so delightful!)

1d. Am I looking for inspiration, instead of waiting for it to appear? Again yes. But if I were to be truthful, it just seems to appear. Not much effort required.

Yes: How does this make me feel?  Do I feel more creative?  Do I feel more connected and focussed?  Is my creativity becoming a part of my life? It is an amazing feeling of connection to my universe.  My view of the world around me is more focused.  My kids would tell you that I am a little different but then they've always thought that of me.  :)  I'm quite enjoying the freshness and newness my creative thoughts bring.

No: Why not?  What’s holding me back?  Am I afraid?  Am I resisting change?  Am I worried about what other people will think of me?  Is my creativity a priority to me?  What do I want from my muse?  What steps can I take to achieve my wants?  How do I want to feel, and how can I achieve that?

2. Focus

2a. Am I examining ideas that excite me? Not to the extent that I'd like to. Not enough time, so they get put in the notebook.

2b. Have I found a particular genre or topic that really means something to me? Yes I have.  Two actually.

2c. Is my exploration leading me to new outlets for my creativity, or do I feel like I am going in circles? I'm enjoying the fresh ideas and look forward to their creation.

2d. Am I finding it easier to concentrate on a project on-demand, or do I get distracted easily? Sometimes I feel too focused, and need to bring balance back into my life.  Then there are times that I feel a little burnt out and just need to step away for awhile. The on demand aspect doesn't work well for me, but because I'm thinking more creatively it hasn't been such a problem of late.

Yes: What has changed in the last week?  What actions have I taken to improve my focus?  What works for me?  What physical or mental changes have I made to improve my focus? I think the act of doing has had the greatest influence on me.  Most mornings I wake up with new ideas spilling out of my mind and find myself a bit frustrated that I don't have more time to develop them.

No: Why not? What’s stopping me from concentrating on a single project for a short period?  Am I slipping back to old, familiar projects because it’s easier? Do I feel frightened by new projects? Do I feel that the new project won’t lead anywhere?  How can I change so that my new projects will feel meaningful?  What do I need to modify to improve my focus?

3. Productivity

3a. How many stories have I started? Five

3b. How many stories have I completed? Four completed, except for final edit of one. Two of which the word count is just enough but not much. (translation: very short)

3c. Am I writing as often as I could be?  Yes on some days. No on others. I can improve.

3d. Do I bring the story to mind every day, even when I’m not writing? Yes, I do. There are days that it seems to take over a measure of my thoughts that actually becomes quite exhilarating and fun.

Yes: How do I feel about my productivity?  Am I excited by my progress? How does this line up with my desires?  Are there new goals that I could make to reach those desires?  I want to progress faster, but in order to do that, I need to be more productive.  I've altered my goals to allow that somewhat.  All truthfulness, I'm actually moving about as fast as I'm able. I need to remember that my life was full before adding writing to my list of to do's.

No: Why not?  What’s stopping me from writing when I can?  Have I forgiven myself for having other demands on my time that I cannot control (work, children, school)? Am I taking each day as it comes?  And I making the best use of the time that I have?  Am I making steady progress towards my writing goals? How can I change my writing habits to meet those writing goals?

4. Goals

4a. Am I meeting my goals? Some more than others.  I have actually changed things up a bit since the course began

4b. Do I remember what my goals are? Yes.

4c. Do my goals reflect my desires and where I want to go as a writer? Yes, for now.  But I remind myself that I've just escaped from the closet and need to take it one step at a time.

4d. Am I keeping my goals in mind whenever I get excited by a new project?  Could do better here. The excitement of the project seems to over-ride all sense of duty.

Yes: How does this make me feel?  Am I being positive about my achievements, or beating myself up for not doing better?  Am I fired up and ready to do more, or content with my steady progress?  There was a point where I was beating myself up, I don't enjoy being behind.  Changing my goals to be closer to what I want to achieve and what I realistically can achieve at this stage of my progression has helped tremendously and has allowed me to feel content with steady progress.

No: What is preventing me from working within my goals? Do I need to revise my goals, or is there something else stopping me? Are my goals not in line with my desires?  Have I made goals to fit my own image of where I want to be, or am I making goals to meet the expectations of others?  What part of my goals is not working?  How do I make changes to help me achieve what I want?

Enough Introspection!
I'm off to begin Week Six before it is long gone.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Week Four in Review:
Does it matter that we are well into week five already?

I'm done.
Finally finished.
Well, almost.  
I still need to edit. But I will do that another day.
I'm the last one out of the gate for week five.

What I have learned from week four:

"Starting the task is half the battle." 

"Starting the task IS the battle."

I won't divulge how long it took to get started on this week's story.
When I finally willed myself to sit down and do it,
the words just would not come.

I have never been good at writing on demand.
I must have rewritten the first paragraph dozens of times. 
The story was in my head, but where to begin?

Finally, after a forever of trying, I had my beginning.

♦   ♦   ♦

Resist the urge to edit.  

(Am I listening?)

At the beginning of each writing session I always go back and read what I have already written.

Very Bad Idea. 

I spend all my allotted time editing a story still in its infancy and then feel frustrated that I'm not progressing.

"I managed to shut the editor up and give myself permission to be bad.  And I made it; I pushed past the barrier and the words flooded out."

Your words inspired me to do the same.
And it worked, as though the flood gates were open.  
I need to remember this as it is so contrary to what is me.

♦   ♦   ♦

I was intrigued with the words of the 
Some of her words touched my heart and rang true to what I know:

"To me, creativity is the means by which I can share all things that move me in life. As an artist, I am especially affected by what I see. I think in images, dream in images and am deeply moved by what passes before my eyes."

Her words could be my own.  My desire is to paint the picture I see with my words.  I can see the story in my mind. My challenge is to select the right perspective and find the right words to paint the story as beautiful as I see it.

"Sometimes I am delighted and slightly surprised when I complete a really successful painting. It’s like I get totally lost in the process, fully intent and concentrating deeply on my subject, then when I come up for air and step away from the piece, it’s a thrill to see what has come to life!"

No need to say more...  it is a thrill!

"The secret about miniature art is the intense sense of intimacy that is experienced when you hold a piece in your hand. When a piece of art is so small that it can rest in the palm of your hand, you are being gently invited to bring it a little closer to your eyes. You bow your head a bit and bring your hand nearer to your face. This is a very intimate pose. At this moment, you have let the piece of art enter into a vulnerable personal area. You would never hold anything dangerous this close to your face. This is the way you would hold a butterfly or a small kitten; very gently and close."

 I feel much the same about my writing, my words open the door to my personal thoughts allowing others to others to view my world.  This can be "dangerous" to my ego as it is true that the reader may not share my feelings, my passion for the story I tell.  However it can also be fulfilling and gratifying  as the reader responds positively to what I write. It's a chance we take when we share.

In summary, I may be pokey slow, 
but I feel that I am learning from this course.

This week, what's left of it, I'm going to try Merrilee's suggestions for Procrastination.  I would be the last to admit this is my problem, but if I were to be truthful, there is a vein of that within me. Gotta get going.  I'm already starting the race in last place.

Make session goals
When you sit down to write, it helps to make a specific goal for that session, rather than a time or word count goal.  Choose a specific aspect of the scene that you want to progress.  It might be a tricky conversation between the characters that you have been avoiding.  It might be a climactic moment in the storyline, or it might be as simple as getting your characters moving again.

Make changes to your technique
Sometimes just shaking up your routine is enough to work through the procrastination.  Try writing in a different room.  Or get out the pen and paper.  Write in the park.  Start in the middle of the story, instead of the beginning.  Stir yourself up a bit.

Just write
Unfortunately, you still have to make the decision to sit down and write.  All the tools in the world won’t help you if you won’t make that mental step.  However, if you identify why you are procrastinating, you can at least address a concrete issue.  And that is the first step to reducing the amount of time you spend procrastinating.