Worse at the Craft

As you can see, I changed the colors and head image of my blog again. My only explanation is I get bored easy. Those who subscribed to my monthly newsletter knew about this permutation last Friday. If you’d like to know of my arbitrary flashes first, sign up for this newsletter in the sidebar.


Worse at the Craft
image by Christina Xu

Is it possible to get worse at the craft of writing?

It is said, quite often in fact, that a person can improve at whatever he or she does by practice. This means doing whatever it is repeated day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

There was a time when I sincerely believed in this. When I was an elementary school child, I took piano lessons. I practiced every day for thirty minutes. I did get more proficient at it to the point where the nervousness of the recital was minimal. In upper elementary school going all through junior high school and senior high school, I spent hours learning how to play the flute. Not only did the anxiety of performing in front of others become infinitesimal, I also entered into local and state contests, winning a blue ribbon in various categories.

I’ve written more in the past decade than I have all those years before since grade school. Yet, when I read what I’ve written in these past ten years, my conclusion is I’ve regressed.

How can this be?

It could be I need a refresher course in the basic rules of English. My style is okay but not what I would consider terrific, by any means. I break the rules as I see fit, which may not be the best way to write. True, I read about how it’s okay to do away with some of the rules for the sake of the story but maybe I’ve gone too far. After all, the rules were created for a purpose. Moreover, I could take a course for free. There are several websites offering free basic grammar classes, yet I’ve chosen to ignore them.

It could be I’ve become so accustomed to writing like I speak. My speech is full of jargon and clichés. Of course, this means my writing is full of this junk too. So many people I have contact with are writers and 95% of that contact is through the internet, which means my language is also tarnished with terms that aren’t usually read in the books I prefer to read and write. Yet, looking at my WiP, I readily see these terms that, I’m quite sure, would turn the stomachs of readers. The people I converse with by phone or in person are usually family. I don’t adjust my speech for them.

Yes, I do believe a person can become worse at the craft of writing. The dissatisfaction of my efforts is enormous these days. The impediment my laziness has caused is abominable.

My solution is to go ahead with a free writing course. I’ve signed up to take a course at openlearning entitled Scribble: Writing for New Writers. It’s self-paced so it doesn’t interfere with anything. I know some of the lessons will be repetitive for me, so probably a little tedious. Still, I’m hoping to unlearn bad habits I’ve gotten into during these years.


How would you judge your writing skills these days?

To be a writer is to sit down at one’s desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone – just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over….


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#weekendcoffeeshare: Writing during the Holiday Season

#weekendcoffeeshare: Quirks
Image provided by Dave White

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. 😀


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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Redesigning My Work Plan

Redesigning My Work Plan

First, just to get it out of the way, my WiP is now over 25,000 words. It hasn’t grown much since August, less than 12,000 words worth.

I’m still a pantser for the most part. I do character questionnaires as the characters pop into the story. I use the Bing map to lay out where my story is happening, again, as the need arises. Both are just a tactic I use so I don’t forget details and end up making new particulars that don’t fit.

The process is slow. Most of this is due to the passages with physical movement by the characters. I find them hardest for me to do. Thoughts, dialogue, and description are the easiest. It’s a good thing my preference in genre isn’t something like Action and Adventure. I’m relatively sure I wouldn’t have a chance in that, and I would have given up long ago.

During the summer I was hoping to get more done. I was telling everyone, including myself, that warm or cold weather didn’t matter. I still think it doesn’t, but looking at the difference between what I did in the summer vs. what I’ve accomplished just in the last three weeks, there’s obviously something about summer that puts me in a slump.

Could it be that my poor little brain cannot get off the school time routine? School starts in August for the U.S. students these days. Back in ancient times, when I was in school, the school year started in September. I was one of those kids who was chomping at the bit to get back to the classroom by the second week of August . Summer had become a big ugly bore for me. Still, I’m quite certain my motivation wasn’t really ready until September. I would walk into the classroom, sit in my assigned seat and willingly put my nose to the grindstone.

Since the latter part of that first week of September, I’ve had good writing spurts. I’m not up to good sessions yet, but it’s better than working like a snail.

Did I hear you whispering about NaNoWriMo? No, don’t expect me to do it. I have a distraction that’s unbelievably annoying. There would be too many days when I wouldn’t get enough done. Get rid of the distraction? I would if I could, but I can’t.

Still, there’s a lot I can do to boost my output. Most of what I need is psychological in nature. Whatever works, right?

I still don’t have a new desk top. I’ve come to the conclusion that it just isn’t going to happen. However, I spotted one at the Wal-Mart site that is within my budget because of birthday money I received. It isn’t super fancy giving me oodles of surface space. It isn’t even real wood, plaster board. It does have the CPU compartment where I want it. It does have a couple of drawers instead of one. And most important psychologically, it isn’t an orange tinted wood stain. It’s charcoal! I’ll still need the shelf for all of the cable equipment, but I do have a piece of wood that will suffice for that. Sure, doesn’t sound psychological, does it? But it is. This orangy finish is so ugly and disquiet.

My space isn’t the only thing that needs rejuvenate.

Some of the blog posts I’ve been reading talk about when writing should be and how much time a session should be. For the longest time, I thought my schedule was okay. I’d like to start at about six in the morning, but there’s that distraction. So I opted for 9:30 to 11:30am. Then another session at 2:00pm for another two hours or more. But then I started questioning the wisdom of all that advice. Is a two-hour stretch enough? How many breaks are right for me? How about all those who write at night?

Come to find out, if I can’t start early, I’m better off waiting until at least 11:00am to start writing on my WiP. The morning is filled with other things that are kind of an obsession with me. Make the bed. Put the morning dishes in the dishwasher and clean off the kitchen surfaces. Do the laundry. Clean bathrooms. Vacuum and dust. By rearranging my time to write, I will get more of the story down and will be more focused. I can write from 11am to 3pm without having my brain go off to something else. Even after that, if the motivation is still high, I could continue for another two hours.

Of course, because of when I’ll be writing, I’ll need food that can sit on my desk and won’t taste raunchy if it lays there a while. Additionally, it has to be filled with protein, and be a little light on salt. There’s only one dish I’m going to have trouble with. That’s my cottage cheese with fruit. It’s a mainstay for me.

Yes, I’ll take a break or two in that span, but no more than ten minutes.

I will be at leisure on the weekends. Working on my WiP without some sort of long break is bound to make me go bonkers. This doesn’t mean I won’t work on it at all, but there won’t be the strict schedule. Instead, I’ll be working more on my blog post, writing comments at other blogs, sending email to friends, and doing some reading. Sure I do these things every evening, but I’m tired then. I’m sure it shows in my writing.

I won’t be visiting as many blogs during the week, waiting to do most of that on Saturday and Sunday. This will afford me time to expand my character questionnaires so they don’t have any chance of being less than three dimensional. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.


Will this new plan work? I think it will, although it remained to be proven.

Have you revamped your work plan lately?

“Being in the mood to write, like being in the mood to make love, is a luxury that isn’t necessary in a long-term relationship. Just as the first caress can lead to a change of heart, the first sentence, however tentative and awkward, can lead to a desire to go just a little further.” ― Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life


#weekendcoffeeshare: Crazy for Color

#weekendcoffeeshare: Quirks
Image provided by Dave White

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.

We’re back at the coffee shop this week. Sorry Jacqui, want my flavored creamer. Besides, it isn’t the hot spot on Saturday morning like the diner is. I like the quiet here.

You, the reader and I, your friend for a few years now, have coffee almost every Saturday morning at approximately 9:30. If you rise later than this, assume the time has changed to your convenience.

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


When we get seated at a corner booth along the outer wall, Connie is the waitress who come to take our order. Once she’s headed toward the counter where the coffee maker sits, I look around for Laci. Maybe she took the day off today.

I was kind of looking for her too.


You squint your eyes at me, probably wondering where my brain is.

Oh, you mean Laci. Yes, but maybe she’s off today.

Or fired.

Nothing more is said about Laci. I figure the next time we’re in we’ll get a better idea of what’s happened to her. Our coffee comes in mugs we haven’t seen before. The pattern is random and the colors are wild. Swirls of hot pink with bright orange and specks of aqua and maroon. The handles go from the top to the bottom of the cylinders, and the bottoms are stemmed a little. Unusual to say the least. As usual, we have a small basket of goodies–donut holes this time.

These mugs are great. What do you think?

They’re okay.

Okay? All right, so I’m a little outlandish when it come to color. What can I say? I took that art class in my senior year of high school and have been fascinated with color ever since.

While I’d been yakking, we both had dolled up our coffee, you with your sugar and me with my cream. I pick out two of the donut holes, one cinnamon-coated and the other chocolate. You pick two of the powdered sugar ones.

I painted my bathroom light spring green after the new shower was put in. You aren’t bored by the color in there, that’s for sure.

Aren’t you afraid of green making someone feel sick?

Oh no. It isn’t hospital green. It’s the color of the first new blades of grass in the early spring. I’d like to change the walls all through the house. For the common areas, I’d like a white sea green, and in the bedrooms a white aqua blue.

What do you mean by white sea green?

In daylight or when the lights are on bright, it’ll look white, maybe a little off-white. In the shadows it’ll look the slightest of sea green. Same for the aqua blue. I did it in the house in Ft. Lupton, Colorado. It was one of the key features that sold the house for the list price we asked for.

#weekendcoffeeshare: Crazy for Color
Image provided by Keshav Bahety

You hale Connie to come over to get our mugs for more coffee. I start to reach for another donut hole but stop myself. I’m not hungry. I’d be eating just because the food is there. No a brilliant reason.

Okay, what do you think of white with earthy orange? I want to do something–well, anything with my mud room.

I don’t think orange is going to work.

My eyes get narrow, my lips pucks, and I hunch my shoulders as I shake my head. The refills have arrived and we pour in our add-ons.

How about a soft peach color? Or maybe a light lemon?

Orange won’t work, eh? How about purple like your blog?

You give me a toothy grin when you see the shocked expression on my face.

Lilac would work, but for a mud room? It would look fantastic in a bedroom though.

I was just kidding. Probably the peach would do the job all right. Why did you make your blog purple anyway?

It’s a shade of purple but the color is periwinkle, a purplish blue or a bluish purple–whatever. I even have it subdued so there’s a lot of gray in it.

Okay, but why? I wouldn’t call it a happy color.

I wasn’t thinking happy or sad when I decided on it. I want to pull people in with words rather than all the visual stuff. I almost went with black, gray, and white but I just couldn’t do it with the way I go bonkers over colors. The other day I was thinking about changing it all again. It’s been almost five month since the last time I did it.

I don’t know how many times you’ve changed your blog in the three years I’ve known you. Do you know?

No, but at least twice per year and maybe up the four times between 2014 and 2015. I really don’t know.

You’re fickle.



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.

Color possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter. ~Paul Klee


My New Blog and Scene Colors

My New Blog and Scene Colors
by G. J. Jolly

A New Design for a New URL

Chances are you clicked over here from the blog where the name and the URL don’t match. However you got here, I’m glad you arrived and thank you for taking the time to be here.

Do you like this look? I know that I’m elated and impassioned by the painting I’m using for the header. It was created by Mark Chadwick. Somehow it says This captures you to me. I chose the light beige background because the white, I found out, was too intense and stark for a few of the people I know who grace my pages when they can. They had been avoiding my blog because it physically was hurting their eyes. I’m still uncomfortable with the span of the space for my entries, but I’ve had this wide berth before so I’m sure I’ll be able to accustom myself to it soon.

New Visitors

This blog is about, as the tag line in the header says, my perils in writing and whatnot. Please read my bios, the one on the sidebar and the one on the page called About (you’ll find the link at the top of all page).

I was going to spend the money on a year’s worth of redirect through WP until I took a look at my list of followers. I have only three — YES, three followers who are following me by email. And none of these three are regular commenters. I follow almost everyone by email so this was kind of a shocker to me. How many are using a feed software program? How many are using the Reader feature at WP?

Of course, not on this list are the people who plug into my posts from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Maybe it’s time for me to read some selected posts on how to do the Social Media thing. Does anyone know of some worthwhile articles on this subject?


The Colors of the Scene

Technically, it’s still summer here in the northern hemisphere. Yet, when I survey my backyard with the backdrop of the woods behind it, I see the signs of Autumn. Also there’s the fact that school is in session again. I associate children standing at the corner waiting for the bus as something that happens anytime but during the summer.

Living in Tennessee means a lot of brilliant colors during the fall. In my backyard, I’m seeing ripened wild raspberries. The maple trees along the edge of the woods are turning a rich shade, maroon. The tall elms are started to drop golden leaves onto our lawn. The Asters are in bloom with their elegant earth colors. Even the greenery is looking sunburned now.

My computer desk sits right next to a front window. It gives me many opportunities to see what’s amiss on my street. I see the kids walking down the middle of the street with their new clothes on and their new backpacks either on their back or one shoulder. (Growing up in a big city, I walked on sidewalks. This sign of rebellion by kids walking in the middle of the street isn’t one I’ve seen too much of.) Right now their chatter is about which teacher is absolutely horrid and which teacher is cool. Can you believe it? The slang term, cool, is still popular. Nineteen fifties, here we come.


Please speak out and give me your opinions about my new blog. I also welcome suggestions. 🙂 Oh, and please, if you’ve been following my blog in the past, re-follow my blog by electing to get emails or by just clicking on the follow button in the top strip. If you’re new, consider getting notified of future posts.

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants.