Tag Archives: writing

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a little girl who wanted to be a writer. She loved to put words on paper and read them back to herself when she thought no one was listening. Her daydreams were full of stories about beautiful princesses and handsome knights in shining armor and fire-breathing dragons who were actually good people under wicked spells. The girl would tell these stories to her younger sisters who believed every word she said.

The little girl grew older and although she still had lots of stories in her head, she discovered that her friends and family weren’t as enthusiastic about her writing anymore. They told her to grow up and stop living in a fantasy world. They told her that she was just imagining things that could never happen and that her stories were stupid. So the girl let them think that she’d forgotten about being a writer, and from then on she tried to be what they wanted her to be. She worked very hard at doing what she thought were the right things to do in order to fit in, but she never really felt like she did. Fit in, that is. And for many years she didn’t write anything at all.

Then the girl fell in love with a boy who didn’t care that she was different. As a matter of fact, he loved her more because she was. He believed in her, encouraged her, and pushed her along in her dream to be a writer. It took a long time, because they had children and the girl had to work to make ends meet, and there were so many other things to occupy her time. But eventually, when the girl was a grandmother, she became a writer. It was then that she realized something.

She’d been a writer all along.

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Research Day

It’s foggy outside, pouring rain, and you know what that means . . . it’s a research day.

Before you get all kinds of ideas about what that looks like, allow me to explain. This is the kind of day where you find a very comfortable chair, a warm fuzzy blanket, and a large mug of whatever hot drink is your favorite. You also have a pile of good books beside you – the ones you haven’t read yet – and your laptop or notebook is ready and waiting. Now you’re ready to begin your research. Oh, and don’t forget to turn off your phone.

While it sounds like this is simply a day to relax and do nothing, you are in fact going to perform some valuable background work. You might do some relaxing and doing nothing as well, but we won’t go into a lot of detail about that here.

Seriously, a day to unwind and let your mind dwell on something other than the terrible predicament you’ve created for your protagonist is a good thing. You’ll read, think, and new ideas are going to pop into your head. No pressure, no deadline, no tummy in knots because you are on the verge of panic. A day to let your imagination swirl around you.

Sound good?

Oh yeah.

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Filed under Being Creative, Imagination, Writing

The Progress Process

There are days when it’s difficult to imagine, it hurts to think, and your page stays blank.

Nothing works.

Nothing.

You wish the magic story genie would pop out of your can of diet Coke and tell you what to write. It would be brilliant, of course, and you’d bask in the accolades for the rest of your life.

Doesn’t happen that way.

Creative progress is a process. Just as you can’t whip yourself into physical shape overnight, neither does creativity reach peak condition after one day of hunt-and-peck on your computer keyboard. You have to work at it, exercise it, push it beyond known limits, and fight for every single great idea. The effort, the pain, the struggle will pay off. Really.

Don’t give up.

 

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Closet Writer


I don’t tell a lot of people that I am a writer. There are even a good number of family members who don’t know. Or if they do, they think it’s a little hobby like knitting or stamp collecting.

To a degree, I guess that makes me a closet writer.

I am not at all ashamed of what I do, but there are reasons why I keep quiet about it. The vast majority out there views writers like this:

1. Writing is not a real job.

2. If you haven’t published something they are familiar with, they dismiss you.

3. Writing books for children or teens is so easy, anyone could do it. Again, not a real job.

4. They think a 400 page novel can be written, edited, sold, and published with a matter of months. Any longer and they think something must be wrong with you.

5. They don’t take you seriously. This becomes evident when you say no to their invitations for coffee, lunch, phone calls, shopping expeditions, etc. because you are writing.

They just don’t get it.

Try to explain the mere five hundred words you wrote today after sitting at your computer for nine hours. It was painful to get those words out. You typed, you deleted, you struggled with sentence structure and finding the perfect word. But when you were finished for the day, you were darn proud of the result. And then someone says, “that’s all you wrote?”

Try to explain that you can’t write on command. Even my dear and wonderfully supportive husband has been known to question why, since I have a spare hour before company arrives, I don’t just go on up to my office and write for a while.

Try to explain the frustrations, the anger, the exhilarating highs, the heart-wrenching tears, the disgust, and every single other emotion that courses through your brain during the writing process. And they wonder why you are completely drained at the end of the day.

Yeah.

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The Sweet Spot

Amid the challenges that will inevitably present themselves over the next few days, I am looking for the sweet spots. You know, those places where, if only for a moment, everything is right with the world.

In the sweet spots, wonderful memories are made and I keep them close to my heart. I purpose not to allow those treasures to escape through insignificant disturbances that try to distract me from the moments that give life meaning.

Look for them – the sweet spots.

Write them down.

And smile.

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Real Imagination

I video Skype with two of my grandsons almost every day, even though we live in the same city. They are little guys – Nikolas is almost 3 and Elijah just turned 1 – so their imaginations haven’t had the brakes installed. I love “playing” with the boys via Skype because as far as they are concerned, I am right there in the room with them. I can tickle them (with a little help from their mommy), play peekaboo, pretend to eat their play food, read them a story, and blow them kisses. Nikolas will even beckon me to follow him when he goes to his room to show me a special toy or book. So mommy has to unplug her laptop and take me to Nik’s destination.

The author and physicist Arthur Clarke once said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. It’s really true. Our video communication, in Nikolas and Elijah’s minds, is magic – where imagination becomes reality.

The same thing happens when we write a story. We imagine people, places, events. When we put them all together, magic happens and they become reality in the minds of our readers. That’s what good fiction does. And we, the writers, are the ones who have the privilege of being the conduit of that process.

I don’t take my imagination for granted. It’s too important. I need that child-like ability to think and dream and plan.

I have a vision for the future.

I see what isn’t. Yet.

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Bleaching the Shower

I bleached the shower this morning. It’s a job I hate, hate, HATE doing, but you know what the inside of a shower looks like when you are prone to procrastination. I won’t go into detail.

Anyway . . .

As per my habit to turn every situation into a learning experience, I thought about how this annoying task could be relevant to my writing life. My mind was blank. I had nothing. Until an hour after I was done and the whole house smelled like bleach.

My shower enclosure is clear glass, lovely when it’s clean and disgusting when it’s not. For the past few days – okay, maybe two weeks – I haven’t been able to see anything through that glass while I take my shower. I was starting to feel sort of claustrophobic.

About the same way I was feeling about my writing.

I don’t know if there is any government funded scientific research going on to determine the correlation between dirty showers and writer’s block, but I’m sure it would be worth someone’s effort to look into it. I can attest to the fact that my little adventure with a bottle of bleach and scrub brush has indeed opened up some interesting windows. Just as I needed something to clean the shower, my story needed something to cut through some of the grime and build-up. The unnecessary fluff.  The irrelevant drivel. The stuff you write just so you can say you’re writing when you know very well it’s going to end up at the mercy of your delete button.

Sometimes that means you have to go back to square one and look at what you’ve written with a more critical eye. Sometimes it means you give it to someone else to read and provide you with feedback. Sometimes it means you just put it away and write something else.

The claustrophobic feelings are mostly gone. I am hopeful. And I am pretty sure I can do this, even though I may simply go back to Chapter One again to fix those bothersome bits.

The important thing is: WRITE!

Now go bleach your shower.

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The Wednesday Morning Breakfast

For the past six or seven months, my middle daughter and I have spent nearly every Wednesday morning at the same local restaurant. We have our breakfast, then open our laptops to settle in for a couple of hours of work. Jordan does homework (she’s a graphic design student at the Art Institute of Vancouver) and I write. These breakfast sessions have yielded a huge amount of creative harvest for both of us. We have worked through concept statements, plot issues, design ideas, and character development. Sometimes we talk a lot and sometimes we say nothing at all. Today is one of those quiet days.

I think the most important thing about these weekly outings is that I have someone to discuss my writing with. Jordan is a ruthless verbal editor. She will tell me straight up if my idea is dumb (and some of them are) or if it’s completely brilliant (I have some of those too). This is usually the place where my ideas bloom or die.

You need a writer friend. You need to have someone you trust to tell you the truth about your writing. Even if it hurts. I don’t recommend that person be a family member because they will find it difficult to be brutally honest. Jordan is an exception. She’s pretty black and white about everything to everyone, and I know she doesn’t withhold appropriate feedback just because I am her mother. I have other writer friends who critique my work, just as I do theirs. But most of all, you just need a writer friend to support you, encourage you, and kick you in the pants when you feel like quitting. Which is nearly every day.

Find a Wednesday morning breakfast buddy and come on down to see Lisa. She’ll give you the very best service as you get some serious writing done.

 Lisa – the best waitress ever!

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Pure Enjoyment

This is my grandson, Elijah, enjoying his first birthday cake – a cupcake, actually, with green frosting. As I watched him dig into that multi-colored confection last night, I smiled at his determination to consume every last crumb. Didn’t matter that he had only four little teeth with which to chew. He was in it for pure enjoyment.

I thought about that.

When was the last time I sat down to write for pure enjoyment? Not thinking about how to twist the plot to create more tension, or tweak a character’s mannerisms to make her a little more or less evil, but just writing because it’s fun. Hmm . . .

I think today I may put aside the intensity and write something silly.

For pure enjoyment.

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Thinking in the Rain

When you live in Canada on the west coast, you learn to live with rain from November until April. A lot of rain. I look outside and see little streams of water running down the road, puddles in potholes, and windshield wipers flapping on every car that drives by. Yeah, I know, it’s an exciting life I lead.

Today I am thinking in the rain.

Who is the lady with the bright pink umbrella who walks so slowly past my house every day at 10:30? Where is she going? Does she have a husband, children, friends? Is there something troubling her? Maybe she catches the bus to go to a job she despises, knowing that if she doesn’t work the bills don’t get paid. Perhaps she goes to visit a friend or to care for a loved one.

What about the couple next door who come and go numerous times a day in their beat-up Chevy van? Or the teenage boy who never wears a jacket.  Or the man with the limp who walks his dog.

These are the people I see when I sit at my desk, looking out the window. They don’t know I see them. They don’t know that I wonder what their story is. So I imagine stories for them, and some of them show up in the stories I write.

That’s what thinking in the rain does to me.

Weird, huh?

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