Category Archives: Blogging

The Writing Questions

question

When people ask you what you do and you tell them you’re a writer, be prepared to close your eyes and shake your head a lot. Better that than blurting out what you’d really like to say. Trust me on this.

The first inevitable question, which usually comes with not-so-subtly raised eyebrows: “Oh. What do you write?”

My response: “Fiction.”

At this point, the eyebrows go up even further. I will interject here with an observation. To a large chunk of the population, fiction is not considered real writing. Apparently, anything you make up in your head is disqualified.

Question two: “What have you published?”

Me: “I am working on a couple of manuscripts to submit to potential publishers.”

Now the eyebrows drop and a look of indulgence appears: “So you’re not actually a real writer.”

I smile with my mouth, not my eyes, and grit my teeth as I politely respond: “Yes, I am a real writer. I write.” It doesn’t get more real than that, people.

To their credit, they recognize the fumble: “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to – um – .” Their eyes dart around, seeking a way to bail themselves out. I’ve stopped helping with this. Finally, they ask: “How many books have you written?”

Why is our society so caught up with numbers? Quantity is the key. If there is no quantity, there is no validation. So I tell them that I’ve written dozens of technical manuals, completed two novels, started about a hundred others, and kept a blog running for over five years. Their eyes glaze over and comprehension drops. They don’t get it. And I freely admit that I’ve lost patience with them.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that no one understands a writer like another writer. And when you connect with another writer on that pure organic level, your mental chaos settles into lovely organized thought patterns. I have a few of those writers in my life.

Emily.

My beautiful thirteen-year-old granddaughter, already a brilliant fiction writer with an incredible imagination. She is working on her first fantasy novel and I am honored to be collaborating with her on it.

Christopher.

My talented university-student nephew who is well into writing the second novel in his Sons of Depravity series. He is the master of epic stories. I’m often dumbfounded at the level of detail and research that he puts into each scene. I’m grateful that he considers my opinions worthy.

These two, in particular, motivate me. They inspire me. They get me in a way that very few do.

The writing questions will always be there, coming from people who ask without thinking, comment without understanding, and form opinions based on whatever it is that makes them tick. What they think doesn’t matter to me as much as it used to. I’m doing what I know to do, just as they are.

So go ahead and ask.

But you may not like the answer.

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Where Are the Thinky Ones?

The thinky ones are disappearing at an alarming rate. Or so it seems.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a rather marked decline in the thinking population. I’m talking about people who actually stop to consider their actions, their decisions, their words, and their goals on a daily basis, rather than doing life by rote. Thinking people allow their minds to dwell on problems in order to solve them rather than lamenting their plight. They come up with new ideas instead of blindly following the latest fad. They are capable of having intelligent conversations that don’t revolve around the weather or football or shopping. They take the time to work through difficult situations rather than giving up because it’s too hard.

Where are the thinky ones?

I want to talk to them.

I have to admit that I’ve found myself downright bored during a good number of conversations I’ve had over the years. I’ve concluded that life is too short to waste on small talk. Especially when small talk is all that too many people are able to produce.

During my high school years, I was fortunate to participate in a series of seminars that pointed me in a good direction – a direction that opened my eyes to possibilities. I learned to explore the unlimited capacity of the mind to be able to think and to reason and to create. This made sense to me. It still makes sense. So I think about it and experiment with it, and I see potential become reality.

As I spend time in God’s Word studying the things He has laid out for me, untapped abilities are coming to life. As I follow His direction and think His thoughts, I see limitless dreams and visions begin to form. It’s mind-blowing. And that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

But I have to focus. I have to zero in on what’s really important. I have to think.

I don’t know if this blog post makes any sense. I hope it does. Because that means you’re probably one of the thinky ones, and I’d like to talk to you!

 

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The Big Idea

Have you ever had a Big Idea? You know, the kind of Idea that seems impossible but is fun to think about anyway. The kind of Idea that when you tell people about it they look at you weird and back away. The kind of Idea that has potential to change the world. At least, your world. Yeah, that kind of Idea.

I have them all the time.

But the problem with having Big Ideas is that you have to be careful who you tell.

There are the Dummy-heads who don’t get it at all. They roll their eyes and groan, wondering what kind of lunatic you are to let your imagination run away with you like that. Stay away from them! They are damaging to your creativity.

There are the Polite ones who want to be nice about it. They smile and nod and say the right words, acting like they really like your Big Idea and they get your hopes up because you think you’ve found somebody who understands, but they don’t. These people are easy to spot because they usually look at you with a blank stare and have a fake smile pasted on their faces. They mean well, but they don’t help you.

There are the Naysayers who stop you dead in your tracks before you’ve even finished what you were saying. They have all kinds of reasons why your Big Idea will never work and they shut you down before you’ve had a chance to explain. It’s good if you can weed these creeps out of your life because they will choke you out.

There are the Control Freaks who can’t bear to let anyone have a Big Idea they didn’t think of first. Be careful how much you tell them, because the next thing you know, your Big Idea is being promoted as their Big Idea.

I like the Honest People. They will take the time to listen. They let you tell the whole story without interrupting except to ask clarifying questions. They make valuable suggestions and actually help you to make the Big Idea even better. They are the ones cheering for you when the Big Idea is a success. And they’re cheering for you even if it isn’t. These people are your real friends. If you’ve got one or two or three of them, don’t let them go!

I popped another Big Idea into the pipeline today. It needs some time to churn and grind in there – to smooth the rough edges and get the gears aligned. I haven’t told anyone about it yet and I’m going to be picky about who hears the details.

I’m not interested in rolling eyes or pretend smiles or being told a hundred ways why it won’t work.

Because sooner or later, one of my Big Ideas will change the world.

 

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Filed under Being Creative, Blogging, Dreams, Imagination, Writing

Ladybugs and Rewrites

Ladybug

I had company earlier today. This little lady and a few of her friends have managed to find their way into our house as they seem to do every spring. I thought she displayed an amazing degree of bravery, though, marching across my notebook the way she did. Don’t worry, she did not meet her demise. I escaped her, as my four-year-old grandson would say.

Unfortunately, this was yet another diversion to keep me from the dreaded rewrites. Am I allowed to say that I am so tired of this story that I want to remove all references to the thing from my desk, my hard drive, and everywhere else?

I read this quote from Ernest Hemingway:

I read my books sometimes to cheer me up when it’s hard to write and then I remember that it was always difficult and how nearly impossible it was sometimes.

While I’ve never been a Hemingway fan, his words are so true. Today feels like one of those nearly impossible days. I wonder what it is that makes me think I can actually write something that people will want to read. Am I kidding myself? Are my dreams too big?

I know what the acceptable answer is. I’m just not feelin’ it.

So, from the desk of a very honest and discouraged writer who is avoiding the work of rewrites on a story she doesn’t want to look at anymore, it is what it is. I know this will pass. It always does. I know the exhilaration of a really good writing day will come again. I am confident that whatever creativity lurks in the recesses of my muddled brain will make its way to the surface eventually. I will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Right?

RIGHT . . . ?

I’m going to go outside and re-pot my ferns now.

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Filed under Being Creative, Blogging, Humor, Writing

The Writing Course

I am on the tale end of a week-long online writing course, for which I paid good money and had high expectations.

I’ll cut to the chase.

It’s been a huge disappointment. Well, maybe not huge, but definitely sort of.

Each day, we were asked to submit an excerpt of our work-in-progress (WIP), rewritten to follow the instructions as outlined by the moderator. These were posted on a forum which was open for comments from our classmates and from the course moderator (who happens to be one of my favorite editors).

While I greatly value the constructive feedback from the moderator and most of my peers, there are always some in the crowd who wreck it for me. And for everyone else. In this case, there is one that stands out.

Let’s call her “Miss Massacre”.

I truly believe that this woman couldn’t crank out a compliment if her life depended on it. She’s trashed every single person’s work, on every single day of this course. And the kicker here is that her own work really isn’t very good. Oh, believe me, there are things I could say about that. But I have refrained from stooping to her level and I just don’t post anything at all where her stuff is concerned.

Why do people do this?

Maybe her boyfriend just broke up with her. Maybe she has a splinter in her – um – foot. Maybe she lost her job. Maybe she’s just like this all the time. Who knows? Unfortunately, Miss Massacre made the whole online course experience very unpleasant.

So what now? I take the constructive stuff and rework my own writing to make it better. I thank God for a great connection with a fellow writer from the land of Far-Far-Away. I forget about Miss Massacre’s massacre and move on.

Thanks for reading. Come again.

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Fulfill Your Vision Despite Opposition

You’ve finally decided to go for it. The Vision. The Dream. The God-given Plan. You’ve thought about it for months, maybe even years, and now you’re ready and excited.

But the people in your life aren’t.

In fact, you get the feeling your family and friends would rather have  you stay right where you are. You try to convince them that this path is your true calling, but they remain skeptical. Their doubts sap your passion and resolve, and deep down you start to wonder if they are right.

Maybe you’re not cut out to be whatever it is you believe you’re cut out to be at all.

Instead of cheering you on in your quest to fulfill your vision, those closest to you may:

  • tell you that your dreams are unrealistic or even crazy
  • stress that a safe, reliable job is more important
  • remind you of past failures and warn against taking future risks
  • urge you to consider your dream a hobby, not a serious pursuit

These are common reactions. Because people feel threatened by change and uncertainty. Your new direction can be unsettling and worrisome for your friends and family. It’s not that they don’t want you to succeed; they just don’t want to leave the familiar behind.

Whenever you embark upon something new, skepticism and doubt will follow. It’s inevitable.

But deep inside, you know that God has shown you exactly where He wants you to go, what He wants you to do, and how He wants you to do it. He has placed within you the dream, the VISION, to do that which only you can do.

It’s big. It’s scary. It’s just plain exciting!

It will take tenacity, focus, and determination to keep you from giving up.

Learning to press forward in faith, with God providing the direction, will make you stronger, more committed to succeed, and ultimately, the very person you were always meant to be.

When your favorite people aren’t supportive, moving forward with your plans can feel like trekking the outback with nothing but a rope and a knife on your belt. You’re attempting something you’ve never done before and you’ll face real dangers – possible financial struggles, work/life balance issues, and more. Yet you must press on. You can’t afford to let other people’s good intentions hold you back.

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

1. Craft concise responses to questions about what you’re doing. Find simple, clear ways to explain what you do when asked. Create some basic scripts in advance if you have to. It’s great that your family and friends care about you, so tell them that. Give them general updates, but don’t get into a lot of detail. Volunteering too much information can create a slippery slope that invites interference.

2. Choose your confidants wisely. Pray about who would be the right people to ask for help, or just to lend a listening ear. These people will give it to you straight, but also make you feel encouraged and uplifted. They are the few with whom you can confidently share everything – even your fears and failures.

3. Prepare for negativity. If you have a particularly skeptical person in your life, try preparing some kind but firm responses in advance. Something like, “I appreciate your concern, and you’re right, things might be tough for a while, but I have help and a plan, and I’m confident that everything will be alright.”

4. Be on a mission. Keep your goal front and center. Write it down. Memorize it. Get a solid vision and purpose for yourself, strong enough to help you plow through on tough days. Don’t underestimate the importance of your “why”. And don’t be afraid to communicate your mission through everything you do. Passion is contagious and will draw supporters to you.

4. Find good mentors and teachers. Stick close to the people who believe in you and what you’re doing.

6. Find supportive groups and communities. Get involved in a good church. Join a small bible study group. Ask God to show you where you can plug in. Some of the relationships you build will benefit you for years to come.

7. Keep looking for and trying new avenues for learning and growth. You will outgrow learning opportunities. Give yourself permission to move on when you feel a particular person, program, approach or activity is not the right fit for you, or isn’t working any longer. Don’t waste valuable time due to indecision. Don’t feel bad about moving on, either. Keep the good connections you made and lessons you learned, and let go of the rest.

8. Defend your boundaries. Fiercely protect your attitude and your vision. If you can’t avoid vampires (the people who suck the life out of you), be nice to them, but not open or forthcoming. Remember that negative comments can ruin your confidence and mood for hours or even days. You owe it to yourself to avoid such comments so you can do your best work.

9. Take excellent care of yourself. Get enough sleep, revive that exercise routine, and be sure to eat healthily. Your physical and emotional state will benefit, and it’ll be great for your outlook and stamina.

10. Help someone else. Reach out to others, either through your work or otherwise. Unexpected blessings come when you put aside self-interest and focus on those who need you.

11. Pray. Be in the Word. Spend time with our loving Father who wants above all else for you to succeed.

When you shake things up in your own life, the people around you are bound to react. Don’t let their fears and frustrations hold you back from achieving your dreams. Persistence in the face of skepticism will strengthen you, and as you continue on the journey to your dreams.

The world needs your contribution. For every person who feels threatened when you step up your game, 20 to 100 others will likely be inspired.

Maybe, like me, you are blessed with family and friends who are on board with your vision. If that’s the case, stop right now and thank God for those wonderful people in your life. They are rare.

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Filed under Being Creative, Bible, Blogging, Dreams, Prayer, Writing

Breaking Out

Desk

Yesterday, I prayed.

Well, I pray every day. But yesterday was different. Because I was desperate. You know, the kind of desperate when you’re at the there’s no way this is going to work without Divine intervention and if that doesn’t happen, I’m done. Yup, that was the motivation behind my pleading, whining, begging prayer. And I’m pretty sure that once again, God rolled His eyes.

There’s this story, you see, that I’ve been working on for what seems like a hundred years, but since I am not even close to that old, I might be exaggerating just a little. In reality, it’s been at least five years. My Word doc drafts only go back to 2009, so I know it’s been that long for sure. Some of the initial ideas have been on the back burner since 1990. Yeah, a long time.

The day has come to write the thing and get it out there.

There’s been a little issue with that. I got stuck in a boring part and couldn’t find a way out. Every time I sat down to work on it, I ended up staring into space and thinking that if I thought was dull, why in the world would anyone want to read it? So I’d close the file and do something else. Like crochet a doily. Or bake cookies. Or read Stephen King.

People would ask, “How’s the book coming?” and I’d smile and nod and act like it was all good. Ha! If they only knew.

Hence the prayer of desperation.

After I explained the situation to God (as if He didn’t already know), I asked Him for words. Yes, words. Words to get through the fog. Words to flow together in harmony. Words to excite and enthrall and elate. Words to create scenes. Word to write the story the way it needs to be written.

Then I sat in front of my computer for three hours, staring at a blank screen.

So, I cleaned up my office. Unpacked a couple of boxes (I know, I know, it’s been six months since we moved). Sorted my pens and paper clips. And all the while, that darn blank screen just glared at me. Mocking me. Taunting me.

Finally, in a fit of frustration, I pulled out my journal and started to write. And write. And write. I ended up with four pages of much needed revision and new ideas for said story. The plot fell into place. The questions got answered. And some very interesting twists appeared.

Did God come through? ABSOLUTELY!

But not until I actually picked up my pen, opened my book and began to write. He was there all along, waiting for me while I was waiting for Him. He just wanted me to go first. Then He joined in and we took turns coming up with a great bunch of pages – I wrote, He spoke, then I wrote some more, and He told me more. It was so fun!

I’m breaking out.

Breaking out of old writing habits that hardly ever work. Breaking out of trying to do this by myself. Breaking out of a box that I put myself in.

It’s going to take some serious work to get this story back on the right track, but oh, it will be worth it.

Now I’m kind of giddy!

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