#weekendcoffeeshare: Writing during the Holiday Season

#weekendcoffeeshare: Quirks
Image provided by Dave White
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrdestructicity/

Diana at Part Time Monster used to host a weekly link-up, where you can submit a link to your post and browse everything else that’s been submitted, or you can use the #weekendcoffeeshare hashtag on Twitter or Facebook. However, her last #weekendcoffeeshare was last June. Still, I like this idea of a dialogue so I’m bringing this post category back, but as a monthly feature. 😀

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We’re having our coffee at Sisters’, a little knock-about diner on Main Street. Things have changed a bit since the last time we were here. The linoleum is gone and tile that resembles a light grained wood has replaced it. They’ve removed some of the tables and chairs along the front and side walls where the windows are, replacing them with booths. Still, the laid-back atmosphere hasn’t changed.

(Your dialogue is in brown. My dialogue is in green.)

After placing our order, the waitress circles back to us.

“We have flavored creamer. Do you want that instead of the half and half?”

“If it comes in the packets, sure.”

We catch up on the going-ons of our lives at first. After all, it’s been months since we’ve gone out for coffee. With the winter holidays in gear, we end up talking about the interruptions in our schedules.

“So how are you handling your time writing right now?”

“Writing?! What’s that?” You look around for our waitress. “I need coffee. Ah, there she is. I don’t have time for writing these days. I shouldn’t have volunteered for the events at the school. I know better than that. How’s your writing coming along?”

I dump some of the French Vanilla creamer into my coffee and stir, trying to give myself time to drum up courage.

“Well, I shelved the book I was working on.” You don’t say anything, but the stiff posture says it all for you. “The thought of the wrong person reading it was wearing down on me to the point where I had a terrible time even thinking about what word should come next. I have two other incomplete projects I can work on, plus an idea for a new one. Now I find my time has to be gauged minute by minute because of family obligations. I hate to put it that way, but that’s the way it feels.”

“Yes, I know what you mean. I love my family, but this holiday stuff is mind-wrenching. You said you had gotten to middle of the story. Couldn’t you just change a few things and keep on going?”

“Chances are I could, but I think I need some distance from the story, at least for a while. Besides, I think this season has me in a funk. Every time someone calls, I cringe, wanting to be left alone.”

“Kinda sounds like depression. One of the best things for melancholy is to write. You know, get your feelings out in a way that isn’t too aggressive.”

“I think they’re talking about free writing where you write about anything. Writing a story doesn’t cut it. Besides, I’m kind of afraid of what I’d write under those circumstances.”

You shrug your shoulders and gulp down the rest of your coffee. I do the same. On the way out we make intentive plans to do coffee again in about four weeks.

“Happy Holidays! See you next year.”

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” ― Linda Grayson

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Assessing Time

Assessing Time
Image provided by skyler817
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sky817/

Back when I was in high school writing short [very short] stories and poems in a spiral notebook while sitting on my bed Indian style, I wrote until I had nothing more to say or until I heard my mom yell for help in fixing the evening meal. I didn’t give one inkling of thought to how many minutes equaled a “good session of writing”.

Most of my poems were free verse with three parts to them. Sometimes I’d write at feverish speed as if I might forget the complete thought before I got it all down. There were instances when this only took five minutes at the most, and then I was done. I’d open the bedroom door and go spend time watching TV with my brother or go offer a hand in the kitchen.

Other times, I’d painfully struggle to get those poems out of me. I’d have to write the first stanza, stare out the window for I don’t know how long, and try for the next one. Those poems could take me days to write.

The short stories were done much the same way, though I always had some idea of where I was going with them. I knew where I wanted to start and end.

No place during those years did I worry about what constituted a “good writing session”. I just wrote. When did all of this change?

Life got busy and complicated until I was in my late forties. At that time, I decided to take a correspondence course through Writer’s Digest. The class was based on the assumption that I knew grammar up past the level of high school, which I did. It was designed to get the creative juices flowing and teach me how to submit my work.

Within all those pages and lessons, there wasn’t one indication, tip, or hint about how long a “good writing session” should be. I can only surmise that I should write until I was done for that day, that morning, that afternoon, or whatever.

It was in 2013 that I felt the urge to get serious about writing again and hopefully stick with it for more that three or four years. I subscribed to a hoard of blogs owned by writers in the hopes of learning the finer points of the craft/art.

Most of the blogs I followed talked about the writing process, writer’s block, and gave prompts and exercises. A little over a year ago though, I’ve seen a shift in a few of these blogs. I’m not sure I agree with the switch. I’ve come to know these bloggers and think of them as reliable for information, yet I’m reading something, not every time of course, about what establishes a “good writing session”.

Although good habits are bound to make life easier in many ways, when it comes to most activity requiring creativity, some of these habits can be too restrictive, making it almost, if not completely, impossible for a person to be imaginative or resourceful.

I tried taking the advice I was reading, but found myself getting stuck as if I was thrown into a bin of glue. I’d sit myself down at the time I had deemed to start my session and begin to write. Within twenty minutes at the most, I’d find my muse refusing to cooperate and flying off into space. The damn thing wouldn’t come back until the following day, and that was only if I was lucky.

Should writers have a strict schedule? Maybe some need it. Maybe some were raised with rigorous rules set down by their parents and have kept up the habit. However, I don’t see how this should apply to every writer. Many writers are the free spirit type. They may not start a project until three in the morning, work frantically for a half hour, and go to bed and sleep until noon. This does not mean they’re lazy. It means they have an unconventional life style.

I consider the above example a little extreme, but I’m certain some writers work that way. I was brought up with rigid rules: set meal times, set bedtimes, laundry day, meatloaf on Tuesdays, and so forth. I only make meat loaf about four times each year now so I think I’ve moved away from the do-or-die schedule.

Most days I want to write as soon as the house is quiet in the morning. I sleep regular hours when I can sleep so morning is when I have the most brain energy. However, while husband watches sports channels in the evening, I’m known to sit my butt in the chair to pound on the keys furiously for a couple of hours. Still, I don’t have a set number of minutes I gauge.

I write until I feel done.

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How do you feel about writing sessions?

“Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.” ― Red Haircrow

 

What Should My Blog Be Doing?

What Should My Blog Be Doing?
Image provided by Cassiopee2010
https://www.flickr.com/photos/cmoi30/

Back Then

When I began this blog, my aim was to practice my writing and get a feel for what readers wanted. Both of these endeavors gave me more than amply room to explore. I figured I could “discover what my voice was”, dig into what genre I would be most comfortable with, try on different styles of writing, receive feedback from visitors, take advantage of constructive criticism, and get a good following going.

 

What Now?

That was a couple of years ago. I’ve become more focused, at least more often. My “needs” have changed. And the blogosphere has done some shifting as well. Most of the bloggers I follow aren’t posting every day as they once did. Other aspects of life have their attention.

 

Aims Forward

I’ve learned that “my voice” will discover itself. I can tell you that I enjoy writing in the more casual frame where verbs are often found hooked to nouns by apostrophes, and word usage filled with slang. Does this mean I’m a lazy or sloppy writer? Some of you may think so and you’re welcomed to include it in your comments. Just so you know though, I don’t think of myself that way.

Finding the genre I think I should write in has been a bewildering ramble. I know what fires me up to write, but finding the name of that genre has left me thwarted. What would you call a story that deals with inner conflict as the main theme? The story may, at some point, have a death in it, or it may not. It may not have a happy ending, or then again… The main character may be worse off than when s/he started, or may have come upon the solution. Would this be called a psychological suspense, maybe? Whatever it’s called, this is the genre I like to write in. I’ve done a few flash fictions, character sketches, and scene sketches in this blog, although it’s been a while. I’ve pondered on doing more, but I think I’d narrow them just to this genre now because then it would be a practice session for my WiP and hopeful others. As a visitor, would this interest you?

The past few months I’ve been mentioning my WiP often in my posts. Most the time, I’ve been questioning how I’m approaching the process of writing it. Although I’ve seriously considered the organized methods of authors with a few books under their belts, I always go back to setting my butt firmly in my swivel chair and letting my muse do most of the guiding through the story. All of it is trials and tribulations. Are readers, in particular, are you interested in that?

The life of a writer can be intriguing. That is, if the writer is doing something other than writing and is willing to share those times with the audience of his or her blog. I’ve been falling way short in this category. Most of it is due to the fact that I don’t have what I’d consider an exciting life anymore. This is an area I need to work on. I doubt that my life will get fascinating anytime soon, but there must be some things I can tell you so you know me at least. I’m hoping you, as my visitors, will give me some critical feedback on whatever I write in this persuasion.

I’m told that as a writer, my blog should be promoting me and my work. The problem is that there isn’t all that much to me or my work right now. I want to write essays for magazines once in a while, but I haven’t a clue as to which magazines I should submit to other than what my essays would be about. Even at that, until I write the essay, I don’t know what the topic is. What magazines are more likely to accept a writer who’s been unpublished for over twenty years? If you know of any, please click on the Contact link at the top of this page. [By writing essays, maybe I’ll find more content for this blog.]

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During these last two months of 2016, I’ll be working on a newsletter for this blog that will be published once per month starting in January. This is in the effort of raising the number of followers I have. In December, I’ll tell you more about this project.

“Sometimes you need to sit lonely on the floor in a quiet room in order to hear your own voice and not let it drown in the noise of others.” ― Charlotte Eriksson

 

#weekendcoffeeshare: Surmise of Life and Death

#weekendcoffeeshare: Quirks
Image provided by Dave White
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrdestructicity/

Diana at Part Time Monster hosts a weekly link-up, where you can submit a link to your post and browse everything else that’s been submitted, or you can use the #weekendcoffeeshare hashtag on Twitter or Facebook.

If we were to have coffee, I’d want it to be at a quaint coffee shop. It would be one of those places off the main drag that probably only has about ten to fifteen tables scattered around within its four walls. However, Jacqui asked if I could change locations. She gets bored easy. Today we’re having coffee at a diner on the main strip that goes through the middle of my town. The name above the entrance is Sisterhood Diner. Men are most assuredly welcome too.

(Your dialogue is in purple. My dialogue is in green.)

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The diner has been here for years. It used to be considered on the outskirts of the downtown area, but not anymore. The parking lot needs resurfacing again. The potholes are getting harder and harder to miss.

Inside things look pretty much the same as they always have. I’m not sure how they’ve kept the linoleum looking so clean but it still shines. The color on the walls has changed from the light peach to a light, almost white, sea blue. Forget about looking for a booth. The three sisters who own the place have never put them in. We take a table against the front windows. There’s paper placemats laid out with silverware wrapped in paper napkins.

What can I get for you today, ladies?

The woman is probably in her sixties, trim, and dressed in dark blue jeans and a pink t-shirt.

Do you, by chance, have flavored creamer?

Sorry, we don’t. Want regular?

I’ll take it black. Thanks anyway. And I’ll take one of those sourdough rolls.

I’ll have the same. Could you bring more sugar packs to the table?

Sure enough.

With the ordering out of the way, we sit back and sign in unison.

Did I tell you my neighbor, Mr. Hayes died day before yesterday?

I shake my head as I watch the woman come over with our order. She loads up the little basket with the sugar packs before she leaves. She’s good at this. She saw us in conversation and didn’t interrupt.

The funeral is tomorrow. I’m still trying to decide if I’m going or just sending a plant. I refuse to send flowers. They just wilt and die. If I send a plant, maybe they’ll plant it or at least keep it watered in their house.

I like the plant idea too. They eventually die too but they do have a longer life span. Wasn’t he the man who gave you the marigolds?

I take a sip of coffee finally. Not too bad without the creamer. After adding the sugar to your mug, you smile as you sip.

#weeklycoffeeshare: Surmise of Life and Death
Image provided by Yannis
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ellie-yannis/

Yes, he was the one. Maybe I’ll make a small plaque for those flowers. It’s sad that he’s gone. Do you believe in life after death? I don’t know if I do or not.

Yes, I think there’s life after death, although I’m not a religious person by any means. Plants “die” each fall and come to life each spring. Although I’m not sure about reincarnation, there’s no reason why we can’t come to life again on another plane of some sort.

So you’re saying you believe in ghosts?

I guess they could be called that–or maybe spirits of people. It’s difficult to explain without bringing in the religious aspect, which I definitely don’t want to do.

Why not? It’s one of the cultural elements of being human.

It’s created by humans to serve humans as they think they see as being fitting. In doing so, I think human miss out on the mysteries of life. There all around us, yet no one pays attention. Looking at all other life around me, there isn’t anyway I can believe this life is all there is. What’s beyond it, I haven’t a clue, but I think it’s out there just the same.

The roll is wonderful. It doesn’t need jam or jelly, just a little butter. Judging from the look on your face, you agree. I hale the waitress/owner.

Can we get refills?

Sure, just a minute.

Waiting for the coffee, we watch to clouds roll in. They’re heavy and dark, threatening a downpour.

Do we stay or go?

We stay. Coffee is coming.

I think I’ll go tomorrow. I owe it to him. I’m not all that religious either but I do believe in keeping the culture going.

The clouds don’t bring much moisture. Most of it is in that heavy humidity that hangs in the air making everything feel sluggish.

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Rules for #weekendcoffeeshare

  1. Posts should be framed as a chat over coffee or some other beverage.
  2. Posts should be current (written within the week).
  3. Links go on the link-up, not in the comments section.
  4. Comment and share each others’ posts using #weekendcoffeeshare on Facebook and Twitter.

A human act once set in motion flows on forever to the great account. Our deathlessness is in what we do, not in what we are. ~George Meredith

 

#weekendcoffeeshare: Comfortable Spaces

#weekendcoffeeshare: Quirks
Image provided by Dave White
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrdestructicity/

Diana at Part Time Monster hosts a weekly link-up, where you can submit a link to your post and browse everything else that’s been submitted, or you can use the #weekendcoffeeshare hashtag on Twitter or Facebook.

If we were to have coffee, I’d want it to be at a quaint coffee shop. It would be one of those places off the main drag that probably only has about ten to fifteen tables scattered around within its four walls.

(Your dialogue is in purple. My dialogue is in green.)

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Somehow we arrive at the same time. The last time this happened was months ago. The table we usually sit at is taken. I glance at the other side of the shop seeing a table in the corner against the windows that go along the front of the establishment.

The name on the waitress’s breast pocket is Laci. She’s a slender young woman I would guess to be about twenty-three to twenty-five years old.

May I take your order?

We’re just having coffee.

Laci gives me a questioning look. I nod and smile.

Will be back with them in just a jiffy.

I wonder if she’ll bring a goodie basket. So how are you?

Image provided by Glamour Caprices https://www.flickr.com/photos/ilviaggiointornoalsole/
Image provided by Glamour Caprices
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ilviaggiointornoalsole/

I can’t figure out why we’re getting the special treatment in the first place. My daughter, you know, Rachelle, thinks she should be able to wear whatever makeup she wants. I can’t believe how hideous she looks. She’s a beautiful girl and then there’s that dark green gunk all around her eyes. And she thinks she looks gorgeous.

Remember the black eyeliner we used to wear?

You roll your eyes and frown at me. Yes, you remember but I’m not so sure you wanted to heard that or think my comment is relevant. Sometimes it’s hard to admit your mistakes, I guess

Our coffee is served and Laci did include a basket of mini muffins.

I’ve been informed that you two get a bonus with your coffees.

These look good. Thank you.

We don’t ask why but exchange names with Laci before she get a wave from the boss to get her butt back to the serving window.

If you don’t want Rachelle to wear it, tell her not to. Or did she get sneaky and ask permission before showing you the makeup?

You heave a sign and dump the three sugars in your mug.

She has my permission. I know I can take it back but I’m hoping one of her friends tell her how awful it looks. I have to give her a little space to grow up, you know.

Yes, I do know. Change of subject–well, kind of anyway. It’s still about personal space. I’m finally going to do something about my work space at home. It’s okay the way it is but I always feel as if it’s shared space.

I can see the imaginary question mark on your face as you nibble on a poppy-seed muffin. I peer into the basket looking for something good to catch my eye. Oh ah! I pick one of the cranberry ones and take a miniature bite.

You feel as if you’re sharing the space? You ARE sharing it with your husband.

Yes, but he isn’t there when I’m working on the book. He’s at work. If I could have one of those dividers or even a curtain, I think it would be better. However, that would mean rearranging the entire room, including the shelves attached to the wall. That would mean repainting the walls on to of it all.

All of that could be done within one weekend.

I guess, but I’ve decided not to do any of that in order to keep the marriage boat on gentle waters, if you know what I mean. Instead, I’m going to re-stain my desk so it looks more like drift wood and not so orangey. It’s getting pitted and needs the staining done anyway. I’m going to have dear husband put a shelf up above my PC screen for all that cable garbage so it’s off my desk. And I’m going to swivel the TV stand I use for the printer around so that it kind of acts like a mini peninsula between my space and his.

I watch you as you take all of this in. You looking someplace where there’s a wall for everyone else. I can only assume your picturing what I’ve described. We take nibbles of our second muffins simultaneously.

You don’t want to divide that window between you, do you?

I smile with mouth closed as I chew.

You need your own space, you know. Yet, I know what your money situation is so… it’ll help a little–maybe.

What’s that suppose to mean?

You look at me with soulful eyes. I’m baffled by the expression I see.

Okay, spill it.

You didn’t sign up for all the heartache you’ve taken on. Why do you keep on trying so hard?

Everyone has heartaches. You, of all people, know that. I try because if I don’t, I’m giving up. I’ve tried that many times. I don’t do that well at all. I scrutinize my options, sometimes have to play meeny, miney moe with them, and keep on trying to forge on forward. Welcome to real life.

You shake your head and drink the little bit of coffee still in your mug. I hale Laci to get a refill. You place your cup next to mine.

So do you really think I should let Rach keep her hideous look?

Sure. She’s a good kid. She’ll see herself eventually and change it. I have a niece who put blue streaks in her hair last summer. This summer she gone two-tone, platinum blonde and carrot red. She looks ridiculous but she’s still my niece. I figure she’s creating space between herself and her mom.

More coffee arrives. We go through our routine with the add-ons and take careful sips of the burning hot liquid. The French vanilla is hidden by the burning sensation.

I suppose the carrot red is on one side and the blond on the other?

No. She has that white blond in front, which looks out of place with her skin tone, and the carrot stuff on the back side.

Neither of us can hold it in. We laugh hardily out loud.

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Rules for #weekendcoffeeshare

  1. Posts should be framed as a chat over coffee or some other beverage.
  2. Posts should be current (written within the week).
  3. Links go on the link-up, not in the comments section.
  4. Comment and share each others’ posts using #weekendcoffeeshare on Facebook and Twitter.

I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism have brought me to my ideas. Albert Einstein