Category Archives: process

Faith of a Different Kind

What is the relationship between faith and expectations?

I just finished Christine Hassler’s book, Expectation Hangover, after having it in my TBR queue for a loooong time.

One of the points she makes that rings true is about having a long period of adjusting and learning after each bout of disappointment (which she brands as a ‘Hangover’).

Days, months, years, even.

carl nightingale quote time will pass anyway pinterest

But it gets shorter and less deep each time, because you get better at processing, detaching, and learning.

The years are needed because this is when you develop faith, the kind I’m talking about, faith in yourself.

“Faith is not developed in times of certainty, but rather in the vast sea of the unknown.”

Last year I struck out to sample how a full-time writer’s life might look and feel. I had oodles of free time, most of which I spent at home alone. I could frame it as the life of an aristocrat, or the poor church mouse, because at different times I felt like both.

But when it came to the tasks I had set myself to accomplish: getting a professional author photo, updating book covers, submitting proposals for speaking gigs, etc–I labored in the dark, with too-big rubber gloves.

I felt stuck, and merely kept trying new things, to see if any would shake loose some results, either in terms of book sales, speaking engagements, writing contacts, or some unknown new variable.

Now that I am back in my busiest schedule since college (27 credits and a part-time job? Sure!), I continue to fumble along, no longer seeing clearly my stepped graph of new marketing efforts with each book’s publication.

normal vs my love life graph humor

Substitute “Career” for “Love Life”

My graph has got more complicated, overlapping, looping back, subsiding, sparking unexpectedly. With Book Number Four taking longer, I have had to innovate in different ways.

I still can’t predict which efforts will yield the results I seek, and merely keep on keepin’ on, some days.

This is faith.

And expectations? The way to avoid a hangover, in 3 simple steps:

  1. Reward your efforts, not your results, in healthy ways.
  2. Bolster your sense of self with replenishing solitude and social time with supportive friends.
  3. No matter the rate, don’t quit trying new things and putting in the time to improve.

These are the things I learned on my own, while waiting to read Christine’s book.

 

Does this resonate? How has your faith changed, or your expectations evolved, over your writing career?

 

Images via Pinterest

Solitude vs. Loneliness, and Productivity

I was thinking the other day of the highs and lows of loneliness and connectedness in my life.

And then I was thinking of the highs and lows of productivity in my life.

plot of sin and cos curves

And then I was trying to think of how they intersected.

(not my strong suit, spatial relations)

But before I can explain my analysis of this relationship for the benefit of all you writers out there, I feel compelled to highlight the difference between loneliness and solitude.

paul tillich quote loneliness solitude

I enjoy a lot of solitude in my life right now. I work outside the home one day a week, maybe two. I live alone (well, now there are two cats, as of two weeks ago–yes, we are all three still alive). I live on a tight budget because revenue is currently at a trickle, which means not a lot of going out for meals and drinks with friends.

As an introvert, I love looking out at heaps and bunches and gobs of alone time such as this. As a social human, I do manage to stick a pin in, here and there, for Gaelic, karaoke, coffee, etc. but I do enjoy structuring my own time.

Mornings have a certain rhythm.

Chores don’t feel so onerous when they are break from intellectual work.

I SO enjoy not having to worry about another person’s comfort in my space.

introverts often alone rarely lonely

But in between these yawning stretches of satisfaction and comfort, I sometimes miss having someone to talk to, to hand me a mug of tea, to drive me somewhere, to change the light bulb. You know, share the responsibility of being an adult in the modern world. Key word: share.

Another key word: witness.

That is loneliness. And it only gets worse when you try to reach out for a connection–what the Gottmans call a bid for connection–and are met with flakiness (I’ll drop by) or dismissal (I can’t right now).

In terms of how this interacts with my writing life, I think that solitude clearly allows for work to be assessed, scheduled, and accomplished, if not quickly, at least when the projects are ripe creatively.

But loneliness? It builds a wall around the writer and makes the vision go blurry and the creative impulse go slack. We may write a world into being in order to feel connected, but eventually we’ll realize we need the real thing.

Characters can’t give you a hug. Neither can they laugh at you with that sparkle in their eyes that makes you feel part of a tribe.

When I think about the times when I am most writing-productive, it is when there is a clear goal, a flexible strategy, a loose and diverse community, and a finish line in sight. You know what I’m talking about, right??

NaNoWriMo! I’ve written four out of my five novel-length drafts during NaNo. Not that they came out perfect, but they came out. It has proven to be a good annual challenge for me, so I intend to keep using it. You may have a similar retreat time every year, or a weekend ritual, or a great critique group.

Think about how your ritual is or isn’t working. Ask yourself if solitude or loneliness might be playing a part.

Try giving yourself some more solitude. And if the mean reds start to get you down, reach out! Play in some snow! Dial a friend! Sing a song! Host a potluck! Attend a bookstore reading!

When you settle back down, you’ll feel all right. And the work will get done.

 

Image via Univ. of GeorgiaPinterest, & Pinterest

Aftermath of NaNoWriMo…NaNoMath?

Well, NaNos, we did it.

nanowrimo 2016 winner badge

We dared censure, derision, skepticism, and impossibility to come to this:

Thousands of words from our brain have been transmitted to paper, and a story has begun.

Maybe it has sketched out its full arc, and now it is time to give it a rest before revising.

Maybe it got into the meaty part of the conflict, and ran out of steam.

Maybe you picked and chose, and are now the proud possessor of a heap of vignettes, loosely tied together, but needing a quilter’s skill to stitch them together.

Any way you look at it, you’ve made a start, and I’m proud of you! Now, don’t waste that momentum–take the next step!

For me, that is finishing up the last two scenes for the story to sweep to its conclusion. (I learned from last year; I will not leave it in the drawer quite yet.) When that happens, probably tomorrow during a snowflake armageddon, I will then get to take my step back for objectivity.

THEN, I will be swooping down onto Book 2, whose progress was halted for NaNoWriMo, with my sharpened scythe. Because now that Book 3 has a shape, Book 2 has boundaries. Time to slice and dice.

Does writing a series work like this for anyone else? No? OK, then. I can only imagine the uproar if I decided to just publish Book 3 ahead of Book 2…but what is self-publishing for, if not causing a ruckus?

I ended November at 52, 389 words, a respectable slow-down distance after the finish line. I hope my posts helped motivate and encourage some of you writers out there to push through the fatigue and frustration. NOW. Let’s put 2016 out of its misery with a Christmas full of gratitude and joy!

charlie brown christmas singing ending

 

Images via NaNoWriMo and Timbuktu

Famous Last Lines to Finish Strong

Here are some stirring last lines, or just inspiring lines, from famous works to keep you going these last three days on #NaNoWriMo2016!

tom hiddleston henry v

From Henry V: (not the last line)

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, Or close the wall up with our English dead! In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility; But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger: Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood. (Act III, Scene I) 

gandalf aragorn legolas black gate lotr

From Lord of the Rings: (not the last line)

I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is notthis day.

jamie claire outlander liquid courageFrom The Fiery Cross:

“When the day shall come, that we do part,’ he said softly, and turned to look at me, ‘if my last words are not ‘I love you’ – ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

From Gone With the Wind:

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”

 

All right, enough inspiration! Get thee to the Page!

 

Images via Collider, Simon Kepp, Giphy, and Zimbio

Your Writing Environment

img_7212

Welcome to the third post in my new series about preparing for, and surviving, NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Join me in November to attempt this valiant feat yet again- check in with the writing community on our Facebook page.

If you are going to undertake a concentrated effort to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you’ll want to have your writing environment established. I’m here to help you set it up.

What makes up this ‘environment’? Well, there are plenty of wonderful examples of famous dead writers’ workspaces , and the recent trend of posting about one’s own workspace. I love these latter ones, especially when the writer explains why the place works for them.

But there are also other elements, such as music (some like quiet, some loud, some none), positioning (toward a wall, a window), timing (early morning vs late at night)…endless possibilities for the finicky writers in all of us!

Clean, minimalist, soothing

a421733ea1b11ed7fb18be496ecd4d8c

It’s bare, giving you space to create.

It’s light-filled, making you feel buoyant and supported.

It uses a semi-comfortable chair, ensuring you are ergonomically comfortable but don’t fall asleep.

Who likes this one?

Cozy, Saturated, Comforting

writespace_03

This one likely has easy access to books, where they crowd you at each elbow.

This one has a super-comfy chair that makes the discomforts of the sitting position vanish as your imagination takes off (or your focus sharpens, as in this case with the writer’s edits ready to go).

This one comes complete with cat, safely off the writing surface–peaceful coexistence, unlocked!

Who likes this one?

 

Chatter, warm drink, calm in a storm

p1264m1066840f

Here you have liveliness, which gives you energy.

Here you are an island of calm, a black hole of concentration in a sky of chattering constellations.

Here you are forced to work on what you came for and not get distracted…unless you give in to the wifi sirens!

Who prefers this one?

My Mash-up Style

 

home setup desk cozy

At different times, I use all of these writing environments, although it must be said the clutter-free, minimalist look gets the least play around here.

It’s part of my strategy, which can be summed up as “A change is as good as a rest.” I’ve talked about resetting the inner writer, and that is part of the same strategy. By facing one battle, getting the work done, and shifting course, it resets the attention span, creative juices, and sitting muscles.

I’ve got my wingback armchair, two cluttered bookcases, the desk, and an organizer cabinet in one corner.

I’ve got the pale-wood Ikea table in the kitchen nook (where I’m writing from now), which is easy to clear off.

And when I’ve been cooped up at home for too long, and not even lounging on the sofa will do the trick, I head to the Clearing Cafe, a modest (i.e. not caught up in its own hipster vibe) coffee shop with good (and healthy!) food available, a brisk 20-minute-walk from home.

So, back to you. Do your reactions to these environments give you a clue as to which works best for you? Will you try something new for NaNo? Let me know in the comments, or in our Facebook group!

Here are some more resources on how to set up a divinely inspiring writing environment:

I hope that helps you all on the practical side of your writing journey. I’d love to hear which environment appeals to readers, or what I’ve left out!

 

Images via Pinterest, MeaganSpooner.com, and New Scientist, as well as the author herself.