Write Wherever… Whatever…

First, let me say this post for the second week of the month is supposed to be about me personally in some way, something preferably not related to writing. This week’s post is supposed to be designed so you, the reader know me, the entire person behind the tap, tap, tap on the keyboard. Be that as it may, I felt–do feel–this subject will reveal something about my personality and my daily life.

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Write Wherever... Whatever...
by Asheboro Public Library
https://www.flickr.com/photos/asheborolibrary/

A few weeks ago, I received a newsletter in my email inbox from David Duhr, one of the two founders of WriteByNight. He suggested I try writing in some way that would be unfamiliar to me to get the juices flowing.

Each and every day I sit down at my PC with my first mug of coffee, banging on the keyboard doing battle with my WiP, crafting a blog post, writing a comment on someone else’s blog, or scratching out an email to an online friend. My rear end is firmly in the chair during the day except for housecleaning, quick meals, appointments, minute exercises, and, of course, bathroom breaks.

David proposed I try writing differently. To be sure, my line of thinking went straight to where I physically am. This comfy chair is molded to my butt, after all.

Well, I do have a laptop I’m neglecting with some remorse, although not enough to leave my chair. I could bring it out from under the bed and set it up on the kitchen table where the light streams in from the deck’s sliding door. However, I’d have to wait for the gizmo to sync with my WiP folder at Dropbox. That may take only a couple of minutes, or it could take hours. The extra natural light would be sensational, though. I do hesitate nevertheless because I doubt the height of the table and chairs in the kitchen are going to put my fingers at the right angle for ultimate use on the keyboard.

Doubtless, there’s the spiral notebook and pen I could always divert to, which would give me the freedom to sit in more unusual places. I used to have pretty penmanship. Due to being left-handed, my slant goes the opposite of the way it should be. I position my paper so the top is to my right instead of to my left. My handwriting was small–dinky, in fact–but precise. I wrote longhand all the time before I was introduced to the personal computer. The thought of using a typewriter would furrow my eyebrows and vulgar words would spill out of my mouth. The hassle of having to set up the damn thing was something I didn’t want to endeavor. Nowadays, I cringe at the prospect of longhand because my penmanship has become scrawls that even I can’t read at times. I still write out the greetings for Christmas cards every year but I screw up at least five of them through the process. The ones that are sent out do not have that pretty handwriting. It rates as being legible at best.

It did dawn on me that I could get so foreign as to go outside the home altogether. Take my laptop or spiral and pen to the local library, for instance. Except for the height of chairs and tables, and the disgrace of my handwriting, the library would probably be inspirational. It would be quiet, yet give me something new to look at when I mull over on what to put down next. This is plausible if I can get a ride. The car husband and I have is a stick-shift. There isn’t any way I can work with that because of the disability. I’m mulling this over, finding the solution to the one hang-up with this idea.

Indeed, David wasn’t just referring to the physical aspect of writing. I write prose. I love stringing words along to spawn thought, concept, opinion, or story. I want to be elegant at this, which, of course, I’m not.

David suggested trying an alternate form of writing. The mere conjecture of me being able to write a poem is inconceivable to me. Sure, I wrote poems when I was in high school. Disgusting free-verse garbage about war and prejudice. Looking back at those, they didn’t say anything worth recounting in any way. Prose would have been so much better.

I don’t know the first thing about writing a play, whether it be screen or otherwise. Yes, I’m sure I could find a class to take to bring me up to snuff–kind of anyway, but I have zero interest in this type of writing.

Other writers have advised writing in a different genre in their blog posts. This has caused me to pause and consider, although I haven’t even come close to deciding which genre I should try.

I know I should try something altered from the normal hollow I know I’m saddle to somehow. After all, I keep on telling everyone I like change. Diversity is my buddy. It keeps me from falling asleep from boredom. This shouldn’t be difficult for me. Yet…

If you still can’t guess, the revision isn’t going well. I’m set on changing the entire story from first-person to third. This is taking up so much time and effort that is boring me almost to the point of tears. As I do this stodgy work, all I see is me telling a story. I only get glimpses of showing it. Ugh! Before I can even consider anyone else reading it, I’m going to have to rewrite the whole thing. Yes, I know first novels are like this. Nevertheless, I think I’m going to have to do this like a relay race, a snail-slow relay race.

In between this ugly WiP, I’m going to start sketching characters for a new story and make a determination as to what the new genre for me will be. Additionally, I’m thinking about actually taking one of my best online friend’s advice by trying my skill at essays. [Thank you, Tess. ]

Has this post unmasked some aspects of my personality? There are times when I’m extremely mulish. It takes me a while to be insightful but I do get there more often than not if given the time. Sometimes I’m self-loathing.

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within. ~Gustave Flaubert – QUOTES ABOUT WRITING

 

In the Mood

In the Mood
Image provided by Universal Pops
https://www.flickr.com/photos/universalpops/

No, I’m not discussing the song, “In the Mood for Love”. What I want to explore is what gets us in the mood to write. This can be a vast subject seeing that depending who you are and what you like can vary beyond a person’s imagination. I thought it would be good to start with the basics though.

Maybe the best way to handle this topic is for me to tell you what works for me and, hopefully, you will tell me your strategies in the comment section.

Random or Special Places

I guess I need the special place. The smallest bedroom in my house is converted into “the computer room”. Although I’d like to write in other rooms like the kitchen or living room, when I do that, I feel my surroundings are strange and distracting.

I bought a laptop just for that purpose, switching rooms once in a while. So far, the only other room that doesn’t disconcert me is the back bedroom. Maybe it’s because it’s cooler in there, which must be good for the laptop. Right?

Noisy or Quiet Surrounding

Kristi faithfully visits a coffee shop in Texas to do her writing. She takes her laptop and tries to snatch the same table every time. Somehow all the commotion with people talking works as white noise for her.

I know other writers who have music going while they write. They tell me they need it to set the mood or for the rhythm of their writing. I understand what they’re saying, but it won’t work for me.

I wouldn’t get any writing done if I tries to pound on the keys in a public place or with music blasting. Even a library gets me feeling a little daunted when it comes to writing, yet it sure is quiet there. The library intimidation could be that I’ve not spent a lot of time in one since the turn of the century. I use the resources on the internet now. Maybe I just need to reintroduce myself to the building.

Until that time comes, I need utter silence in my environment while I try to weave a tale. This can be troublesome at times. My husband loves noise. This wouldn’t be such a grave issue except “the computer room” doesn’t have a door. I’m not sure that would do much good anyway though because one of my cats, Marble, would continuously scratch at the door until it was opened. Whenever my husband goes someplace without me and I know he’ll be gone for more that a half hour, I try to use as much of that time for writing.

What Items are in Reach?

Jacqui has two monitors for her computer. She also has a personal library of books she uses when she writes. Her desk is so clean and tidy. Judging from the pictures I’ve seen, she’s well organized.

My collection of items to use while writing is minuscule compared to Jacqui’s arrangement. I have a traveling mug that will hold three regular mugs of coffee. There’s no way that sucker is tipping over either because it’s got a weight in the bottom of it. I have yet to have liquid all over the keyboard. I have a small bin to the right of the monitor that stores my books about writing. The plastic tray that sits in front of the bin holds Advil, post-note pads, a dinky spiral, and a flashlight. I keep my pens in a McDonald’s Happy Meal glass.

Weather

The weather, for the most part doesn’t seem to affect my desire to write one way or the other. I’ve known writers that have a hard time during the glorious days of summer or can’t seem to find that groove in the winter. Sometimes, but not often, the wind will play havoc with my ability to write. I wish it would have the opposite effect on me.

Without these things, I have a hard time getting in the mood to write. Sometimes I wonder why I even bothered getting the laptop when I rarely use it. Yes, I know, I should get more adventurous.

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Now, even with all this said, I know some writers wait until they’re in the mood to write. I have a hard time understanding this logic. You could be waiting for years for that mood to hit you just right. Some of the best writing I’ve done has been when I’ve had to insist that I get my butt in the seat and just start hammering in the keys.

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What gets you in the mood to write?

“There are times when I think that the ideal library is composed solely of reference books. They are like understanding friends—always ready to meet your mood, always ready to change the subject when you have had enough of this or that.” ― J. Donald Adams

 

Twists on Style and Technique

Twists on Style and Technique

I’m smack dab in the middle of The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford, a thrilling suspense of a woman who is bipolar. The story is good, no doubt about it, but that’s not what I’m writing about in this post. After all, I haven’t finished reading it. Second, I’m the worst at writing reviews. [Makes me wonder how I’m going to ever write a synopsis or query letter.]

I’m marveling at Susan’s characteristic tone and delivery of writing. Chances are I’ve seen it before, but where and when totally escape me.

She uses the deep POV approach. Duly appropriate because of the syndrome the protagonist has. Knowing what happens when she switched to manic is a main but not only twist in the story.

Susan chose to write this novel in third person, which is common enough, but she uses in the present tense. I find this atypical, although it could definitely be that my list of books isn’t reaching out far enough to find others. Anyway, putting third person with present tense is unexpected.

She has a few scenes where the POV is one of the other characters, but so far anyway, most of the scenes are from the perception of the first main character. [Am I using too many POVs?]

I’ve been writing my WiP in third person using past tense–prosaically common. I want to stay with the third person approach, but maybe I should think about switching to present tense to bring the reading in closer; have them feel that they’re standing right next to the character.

Susan does have some scenes that are done in past tense though. She’s done this to give back story. She brings the back story into the other scenes, but only glimpses because the bulk has already been addressed. I like this technique. Sure, it interrupts the story, but it enriches the knowledge about the character and, therefore, deepens the POV.

I’ve been trying to give out tidbits of back story as I write. It’s been such a struggle. I’m seriously thinking about going back and using Susan’s method.

Another aspect of Susan’s writing that I would love to practice so I feel comfortable with it is the abundance of narrative and less of dialogue. She has page upon page of narrative that moves the story right along. Somehow she gets the deep POV in there without any character talking.

This isn’t to say she doesn’t have any dialogue, but the conversations  I’ve seen in other books  are used for explanations vital to the story. This doesn’t seem to be the case in her stories. Instead, it’s the conversations that would be normally heard in such situations in real life. She gracefully enters the needed information in her narrative in such a way that the passages flow.

Yes, I’m one of those who has been using dialogue for clarification and description. I’m not even sure why I do it because I’d much rather use narrative for these aspects. I think I’m probably being lazy.

I’m glad I have found this incredible author. She has shown me possibilities I think I’ve needed to consider.

– that so much of what determines who we are, who we become, our sanity or lack of it, depends on circumstance, on voices from the past that whisper in our ears or lodge themselves in our heads. ~ Susan Crawford

 

Influenced Concepts

Influenced Concepts

…the first step in creativity is not focusing on goals but letting go of them. Being open and aimless. Forgetting preconceived notions.

Jill Jepson

Are any of my ideas original thought? Or have I been deluding myself?

Some time ago, I was receiving Jill Jepson’s newsletter in my email inbox twice a month. I unsubscribed from her letters after a while because I was so busy trying to make some sort of progress on my WiP. Her emails were still valid for where I was in my writing, but the time with so many emails had to stop.

Anyway, I have a list of possible blog post topics that sit in one of my notebooks in my OneNote app. I add to it as I see potential phrases and sentences that spark topic ideas for me. When I came across this one written by Jill, I thought maybe getting back to the simplest of basics might be good.

Jill’s lines got me reflecting about times when I let my mind wander randomly. It was difficult to find those old times at first. So much of what I do is planned, deliberate, intentional, methodical. If I do this one thing, then such and such will be next. So much of my everyday life is like this. It’s rare for me to follow the flight of a fleeting thought. Most of my life is far from being original.

Long ago I used to play the flute. It took four years of doing exactly what the teacher told me to do before I let my imagination have a say in what I played. With the flute, I did forget about those preconceived notions and aimlessly made up melodies once I was done with my hour of rigid practice. It was also back then that I wrote stories, letting my young imagination take me wherever it felt like going at that particular moment.

Yes, there was a time when I was utterly and completely creative.

Then life got in the way as it has the bad habit of doing. Jill’s email got me questioning whether I could bring all that originality back or had I lost it forever.

Of course, that question lead to other ones like is writing the right path for me. I can’t play the flute anymore. Still, writing isn’t my only option. I’ve done needlepoint, Native American crafts, web graphics, and even dabbled in painting. Did I choose the right craft to pursue seriously?

I know that one of the reasons I chose writing is that it’s so extremely accessible to me. I didn’t have to buy a thing to get started either. Everything needed was already with me.

Those other options would require me finding stores where I could buy the supplies. There aren’t any art craft supply stores in this town. Even if there were, how was I suppose to get to them and what would I use for money?

Now, accessibility wasn’t the only reason for taking up writing. I’m so much more comfortable writing than I am talking. I think it’s because I can change what I say before anyone sees it. The chances of me being misunderstood are much less.

Jill also mentioned goals as something that might squash the creative pulse. Yes, I most certainly agree. I have a nasty habit of letting my thoughts jump to the end of what I’m trying to do. Often, it’s just for a transit moment but it still stops me from having my attention solely on what I’m doing at the time.

Goal watching can definitely ruin creative flow. This makes me wonder why personal coaches keep stressing the aspect of looking at goals, keep an eye on the big picture, and keep on shooting for what’s in the future. How can anyone get anything done that way? Or does it just put money into the coach’s pocket?

Are your ideas and dreams influenced, or are they more of the created kind?

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” ― Martha Graham

 

Mental Illness in Fiction

Mental Illness in Fiction
Image courtesy of Mohammad Irtez Khan
https://www.flickr.com/photos/irteza/

As I inchmeal along in my WiP, I feel a compelling allurement to the general theme of my story, namely how mental illness affects a person’s life. It may seem simple at first. Reality gets distorted.

That answers the what, but how about the how, why, and when? We may know people who battle these illnesses and not even be aware of their struggle as we go through our daily lives. And if we do know, even if the person is a close friend or family member telling us more than he or she would tell someone else, I doubt seriously that we can know, with any certainty at all, how it feels from the inside.

Writing about these sorts of disorders isn’t, in truth, going to get me inside a person who bears these disturbances, but I think it’ll get me closer to understanding these plights from the outside. Yes, I write about what I think is going on inside the head of my protagonist. What I’m actually doing though is combining, adding, and/or subtracting what I’ve read in case studies. In reality, each person who confronts the demons of these illnesses are experiencing it differently, if only just marginally. After all, they are all individuals just like everyone else.

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To give you an idea of what I’m referring to, I have General Anxiety Disorder. My symptoms are:

  • Persistent fear, sometimes without any obvious cause, that is present everyday
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Muscle tension; muscle aches
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Digestive issues
  • Insomnia and/or sleeping too much
  • Irritability

For many people, they do experience these same symptoms on occasion, but don’t have a clue as to how they would handle each one twenty-four/seven. In addition, most people experience only one to three of these symptoms at one time when something monumental comes into their lives. Without medication, daily tasks done every day would be completely overwhelming for me.

Now this is just an overview of a mental illness. Even doctors don’t really know what thoughts I have when I go through this anxiety. The unrelenting indecision, flightiness, stiffness, nausea, and so on come crashing down as if I’m being buried alive. Even that doesn’t tell you what is actually going on with my thoughts though. All I can tell you is the medication is a must for me to live a normal life.

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Why am I feeling driven by this motif?

Way long ago, back in the 1970s, I entered college with the major of Sociology/Social Work. I was enthralled by the entire field. When I took my first class in Psychology, it literally trapped me. I couldn’t get enough of the subject. Everything I read lead to more questions I needed answered.

Unfortunately, the hardships of life reared up. The need to survive took over my need for answers somehow. So I quit and found a job. Luckily, it was within the scope of my major. I worked as a financial patient representative at a hospital.

Now that I don’t work outside the home anymore, I’m back to finding the answers to all of those questions while I fulfill my secondary dream of writing.

[Do you wonder why I didn’t continue my education while I worked? That’s a story I’ll save for another day sometime in the future.]

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Writing and studying go hand in hand for this project.

As I write about the character’s struggles, I have the Internet open for search, have my two Psychology textbooks at reach on a shelf next to me, and have The Emotional Thesaurus in between where my keyboard is and my monitor.

Writing a book that is so jumbled with emotions, beliefs, and thoughts isn’t an easy task for a first novel. Yet, the dominance the subject has over me leaves no choice in the matter. There are many days when I wonder if I’ll ever get to that point where I look at publishing it.

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Does your WiP have you enslaved?

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. ~Vita Sackville-West