A to Z is over… now what?

Hello, sports fans!

Welcome to May.

Yes, I know May has been going for more than a week now, but April was pretty busy and I took a few extra days to recover.

For those who were playing along, you are already aware that my A to Z challenge was completed with relative success.

I didn’t adore ever single story, but I got them all written, mostly on time. And I’m happy enough with the overall quality that I’m going to publish a collection!

What that means for you is that if you want to reread any of my stories you should do it sooner rather than later. I expect to leave everything up at least through the end of May, but once the collection is ready I’ll be taking down most of the stories here. My Blog Hop story (V is for Vortex) will stay put indefinitely, and I may pick one or two more to remain. I also need to do some rewrite on a couple of them, and I always like to include some bonus material so I need to write a few extra stories too. But I’m hoping to have the collection ready by mid-June at the latest. Watch this space.

Writing Stuff

In other writing news, I’m getting back to work on the revision that fell fallow over the last several weeks. As I think I’ve mentioned before, it is almost certainly going to end up as a complete rewrite. But I’m still taking the whole thing through a complete HTRYN-style revision process to get there. Partly because I want/need to fully understand that process. Partly because what I’ve done of that process so far has really helped me focus on what I think the story will end up being. I want to create a clear enough target that I know for certain that I’ll hit it the second time around. 🙂

I also have another idea percolating in the back of my head. It’s a young-adult-space-opera kind of thing that I worked on for a while and abandoned because I didn’t know what to do with it. But recently I’ve had some new ideas for the story so I want to take another stab and it. I think it will be 3 novella-length shorts, but it may decide to end up as a single, full-length novel. I’ll play that by ear as I’m working on it.

I’d really like to get both those ideas completed and published before the end of the year. It should be more than doable, but will require the kind of focus I employed during the A to Z. Sustained effort! Yikes!

If anyone wants to help, send chocolate! 😉

Moving Forward

In other news (that’s really related, but on a slightly different trajectory), another author has put a challenge out there to do what she is calling the 1000 Day MFA. Basically, it’s a process of intentionally self-educating by consuming lots of content and producing stories on a regular basis. Without the high price tag of a traditional education. Yeah – that’s a plus.

I’m at least tentatively committed to her plan which includes:

Reading/consumption
  • 1 short story, 1 poem, and 1 essay every day
  • watching 3 movies every week
  • reading 1 novel every week
  • reading 1 craft book (writing craft, duh–not arts-and-crafts) every month
  • (my own, personal addition) regularly listening to writing-related podcasts as a means of keeping up with author/writing/publishing news. I regularly listen to:
    • Writing Excuses
    • The Every Day Novelist
    • The Creative Penn Podcast
    • The Self Publishing Podcast
    • The Rocking Self Publishing Podcast
Writing/output
  • write 1 short story (or flash fiction story) every week
  • write 1 novel every year

My personal goals are actually a bit higher, but I don’t have the best track record of meeting my self-imposed goals, so going with these reasonable, doable plans is a good starting point.

Really, the overall goal is to get story and form and language and ideas percolating in my brain. That way, when sitting down to write, interesting things will end up on my page. I was already doing some of this. Joining this public-ish challenge seemed like a reasonable extension of my own personal commitment.

I haven’t quite “officially” started yet. I need to figure out a regular source for poems and essays since those have not been part of my usual intake up to now. This might be as simple as a visit to the library, but I also want to look into online resources. Additionally, I need to set up a tracking system both for what I’m consuming and for what I’m writing. That shouldn’t be too hard, especially since I have a husband who is the king of spreadsheets. But I need to figure out exactly what I intend to track and what I want that to look like.

The other bit I am adding that isn’t part of the “official” process–sharing things here. I want to start posting a weekly review of some kind. I want at least some of my short fiction to be practice in genres that are not my usual fare. And I want to get back in the habit posting weekly fiction or snippets here so y’all can follow along with what I’m doing. I probably also need to improve my blog organization so it’s easier to just get to what you want here. Right now it’s a bit of a mess, as per usual. * insert eye roll here *

Again–none of what I’m proposing should actually be that hard. The tough thing for me is going to be creating the habit.

Wish me luck!

And, like I said, send chocolate!

Procrastination

Hi. My name’s Liz and I’m a procrastaholic. appointment-15979_1920

I start out with really good intentions to sit down and write, or plan, or edit. I have the tools I’ll need at the ready. I have a gigantic cuppa coffee to keep me fueled up.

But then I lose focus.

Usually it starts pretty innocently. I don’t quite know where to start, so I’m looking for inspiration. Or I feel stuck on a particular project and I’m trying to decide what to do about it.

So I sit there. Thinking. Processing. And I’m inside my head, knowing I really should be doing something rather than just mulling it over.

And that makes me feel guilty. So to block out the guilt I try to think of something to do. Then I’ll make the mistake of opening my email. Or Facebook. I’ll go to check something out on the internet.

Once that happens, it’s all over. Ten minutes of email turns into, “how the heck did it get to be 4:00 in the afternoon?” And as much as I hate to admit it, there are other things I have to do besides staring at my computer. There’s housework and a husband and dinner to be cooked and eaten. There are the other commitments I have that I can’t simply blow off for more screen time. There are books to be read. There’s a dog to be walked.

Far too often I find that the time I have available for writing simply slips away from me, like mist across the water.

But I have a plan. That plan is to learn how to plan.

No kidding.

I’ve always been more of a pantser. That’s a writer who writes by the seat of her pants, for the uninitiated. One who sits down and just writes without necessarily having a concrete idea of where a story might be going ahead of time.

Pantsing feels more creative than plotting. Plotting feels too structured, too organized. Plotting will suck the life out of my writing. Pantsing seems so much more free.

Now is when you might ask, And how’s that working out for you?

Clearly, it ain’t. It’s fantastic for developing my procrastination skills, and terrible for getting any actual words on the page.

So this coming week my goal is to create a plot outline for at least one of the stories that have been percolating in my brain or languishing on my computer. The good news? I have plenty to choose from!

I’ll probably start with something relatively short, but not too short. One of my short story or novella ideas should work. I’ll create a basic structure for it, fill in a few details, and know what story I want to tell.

pen-994464_1920And from that, hopefully, I’ll be able to sit down with my coffee and my blank page and fill up the one while I empty the other.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

On being a professional

Every now and then I say something that makes me think, Yeah. That was good. Today is one of those days. So I turned it into a meme.

Presented here without further comment…

ProfessionalMeme

How did this happen?

blonde-1296489_1280Here it is – more than 2 weeks after the end of April.

2 weeks after completing the AtoZ Blog Challenge.

3 weeks… THREE!!!… after participating in an outstanding short story intensive.

And what have I done in the last two weeks? Not write. That’s what I’ve done.

It’s not that I didn’t have very good intentions. There are a couple of short stories that I started and want to finish. There is the novella that began on my blog. I want to keep practicing with the techniques learned in my class so my writing continues to get better and faster.

And I haven’t done any of it.

I could enumerate the reasons. Some of them are actually good.

But I won’t.

Because the reality is that no matter how good my reasons, if I want to be a writer, I need to write. It needs to take priority over Facebook and other time wasters, for starters. It needs to be at the top of my To Do list on a daily basis.

I struggled with that and (mostly) won during the blog challenge. There were days that I had a lot going on, but I’d made a commitment and I followed through.

But as soon as the challenge was over, I gave myself permission to take a couple of days off. A couple of days became a couple of weeks, and here we are, more than halfway through the month and this post is the most I’ve written.

So, effective immediately, I’m making a new commitment to myself. My commitment is to write.

  • I will work on fiction at least 5 days a week.
  • I will post on this blog at least once a week.
  • I will not allow myself to make excuses for putting off my dreams.

I might not always win the struggle… and make no mistake, for me keeping any kind of routine is a struggle. But I will continue to do this thing that gives me so much pleasure. I’ll continue to create and lose myself in interesting worlds filled with interesting characters.

I will write.

And hopefully you’ll be glad I did.

D is for delayed. And dog. And dentist.

I haven’t written yet today, so I decided I needed to say something about the delay in meeting my challenge.

I’m a little disappointed (another D) to have slipped a little so early on in this process. But today, there are good reasons.

Oreo - 2003

Oreo – 2003

Oreo - 2015

Oreo – 2015

 

 

Oreo - 4/4/2016

Oreo – 4/4/2016

This morning we had to take Oreo, our almost-14-year-old border collie, to the vet for the last time. She was old and sick. She had arthritis and cataracts. She was mostly deaf, and had a hard time walking. So we took her to the vet and sat with her as she escaped the prison her body had become. I have no doubt that she is now enjoying flowered fields, barking at birds and clouds and rainbows. I’m sure she’ll have steak for every meal. She’s better and happy now, but our hearts are more than a little broken.

It’s hard to write when you’re feeling broken.

This afternoon was a little less traumatic, at least for me. I took my husband to the dentist for a tooth extraction. May as well get all the crap out of the way on the same day, I guess. He’ll be uncomfortable for a couple of days, but at least it’s the end of the ongoing discomfort of a broken tooth. And we stopped on the way home to buy yogurt and pudding – soft things that he can eat easily. We never get pudding, so yay, pudding. 🙂

So here I sit, fairly late in the day, thinking about what D could possibly be for. Maybe David. Or Danger. Or even (dare I attempt it?) Dog.

I don’t really know yet. Check back later to find out what I (D) discover.

Incarnations of Creativity

I’ve always been a believer that everybody is creative in some way.

Not everybody becomes an author or artist. Not everyone takes award-winning photographs or sings like Leontine Price (or Taylor Swift). But every human being has an innate urge to create. It’s in our DNA.

Many of us create in multiple arenas.

Napa2011-304 Obviously I do the writing thing. I also dabble a little bit in art (not well, but I do dabble). I’ve been involved with music most of my life. And I’m a pretty reasonable hobbyist photographer.

Recently (well, maybe a year or so ago), I had the opportunity to make some greeting cards for an event using some of the photographs I’ve taken over the years. I’ve been offering cards for sale, on a very small, local level, ever since.

But I’m actually thinking about branching out a bit. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m seriously considering setting up an Etsy or similar shop to sell cards and prints of my photos. I may eventually include some original artwork as well … or even cards and prints from my artwork.

August 2013-599It feels very nervy to consider it. It’s an entirely different kind of publishing than I’ve been working on. But it would be exciting to know that something I created got to wish someone I never met a happy birthday. Or whatever.

Anyway, just thinking at this point. But I’ll let you know if/when I decide to move forward with it.

FWIW – the photos on this page are a couple of my favorites! And the cover of my most recent collection, Flashes of Magic, is based on a photo I took.

These images were taken by me and are copyrighted – All Rights Reserved

Monday Mumblings

Yeah… don’t know if that name will stick. We’ll see.

This past weekend I had a really interesting opportunity. I got to participate in a class on life coaching. It’s potentially the first step to becoming certified as a life coach.

This isn’t exactly something I’ve dreamed of for ages on end. Nope. Never even really thought about it. But then the opportunity opened up, and there I was.

And I have to admit, I was fascinated.

Unlike so many things, Life Coaching isn’t about teaching someone what they need to do or how to live their life. It’s not about training someone to become  mini version of the expert. It’s not counseling.

board-784363_1280Life Coaching is about drawing out the wisdom someone already has, and letting them figure out how to use it in their own favor. A coach asks a lot of questions. A good coach doesn’t give a lot of answers – they let their clients come up with those answers for themselves.

It’s an interesting process. I’m still trying to decide if I’d be good at it.

But here’s the thing – I am (as you might guess) passionate about creativity. I think everyone is creative, but a ton of people just don’t understand what creativity really is. I’ve played with the idea of helping people determine the kind of creative they are. And I’ve thought about what it might look like to help people explore their own creativity in a judgement-free environment.

I won’t be giving up writing – probably not ever. But the possibility exists that I might add Coaching to the list of things I do.

It’s an intriguing possibility.

If I pursue it, I’ll let you know.

Things I’m learning about myself

When you get to be a certain age (and I will let that age remain ambiguous – don’t ask, don’t tell), you expect to have life kind-of figured out. At least the part of it that related directly to you. Everyday type stuff seems like it should just be a given.

Why then do I continue to be surprised and find out new things about myself?

old-books-436498_1280This thing I’m doing, the writing, was a smallish thing to find out.

I’ll admit, I am not one of those people who always knew I wanted to be a writer. I always loved books. I was always a reader. But I don’t think it occurred to me until the last decade or so that I even had the potential to be a writer. It’s been even more recent that I’ve actively pursued writing in a serious way.  And it hasn’t even been 6 months since I decided to make writing my primary focus. It’s weird for it to be such a big part of who I am now considering what a recent revelation it was to me. It was unexpected.

Probably a bigger surprise, though, is that, when necessary, I can and will be the kind of leader who will kick butts and take names.

What I mean by that is that I get frustrated when people I’m working with don’t get their act together and take things seriously. When they waste time. When they dawdle. When the thing I see as important seems to be ancillary to them.

Drives. Me. Crazy.

And I’ll start pushing a little to get people to do what they’ve said they would do. Which is funny (strange, not ha ha) because I spent many, many years being that person who doesn’t take things seriously, wastes time, dawdles, and has a problem with focus. In some arenas I’m actually still that person. Sometimes we all are. I think that’s OK-ish, if you’re aware of it and don’t commit to what you’re not going to take seriously. The reality is that not everyone can take every ball and run with it. There’s a big difference between having an interest in something, and feeling called to it. Something being a hobby is worlds away from something being your life.

heart-370621_1280And when you find that thing that is going to be your life, it frustrates you to see people treat it like a hobby.

It’s the difference between a time-filler and a passion. And here’s the thing – the passion will take more time and will force you to let go of things that are just filling time. Those time-fillers aren’t bad things. In fact, they are probably the passion of someone you respect, and admire, which is probably how you got involved in the first place. But when passion comes along, do the passion. Because there’s nothing more satisfying that pursuing your passion… and catching it.

I know this was a bit of a rambly post. I hate to say it, but get used to it. I’m prone to the occasional ramble. But usually there’s something buried in there that is worth considering. I hope that’s the case today. 😀