IWSG- February 2019

Snow day today here in the Salt Lake City area. If you live in a place where it routinely snows, snows in quantity, you know how rare a valley  wide snow day is. The storm that came through last night and early this morning dropped over a foot in a damn hurry. Before the plows could do their work, traffic was at a standstill. One by one, agencies, schools, businesses announced they were shutting their doors for the day. The worst part for me, I forgot to buy more coffee yesterday, thinking I’d do it this morning. Epic fail-

Also, it’s the first Wednesday of the month which is the blog hop for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

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Check us out HERE. Sign up.

Things have been slow on the writing front. Stories are brewing, but either I’m fighting them or they are not quite ready for the light of day. Distractions rule the day lately, and I’ve got to fight my way around, over or through them.

One accomplishment- I entered a novel in a contest for unpublished work. I’d planned on entering this same contest two years ago and last year, but lost track of half a month and the deadline passed. This time, I was smarter and put an alert on my phone. Crazy how convenient those things are. Now the waiting begins. I’m getting used to waiting now, and while I am still disappointed when the rejection comes, it stings less and less.

The optional question for the month is-

Besides writing what other creative outlets do you have?

I like to pretend I can play the guitar. I taught myself the year I turned 30. My initial plan was to learn to play chords and be happy with that. Which worked well for about 15 years.  I really enjoy playing, I’m not awful, but have never been great at it. I wrote a few songs in the early 2000’s that I recorded, burned on CD and gave to unfortunate friends and family. Some of the tracks were decent and one or two were really good. It’s fun to come across that music from time to time, even if there are three or four songs that make me cringe.

Anyway-

About two years ago, I really got the itch to actually improve at the instrument. Last spring, I met a man who teaches finger style (bluegrass, blues), decided to stop wishing and wanting and committed to learning. In many ways, it’s like I’ve never played before and am learning the instrument all over again, which is a good thing. I have to work hard, practice, be patient. The skills are coming. One day, I might actually be able to call myself a musician. Won’t that be swell.

Here is my little army of instruments. The Taylor in the center is my baby and it gets the most love, but the Dean is the one that gets played the most. I dropped it one day and put a nice crack in it. I guess that makes it vintage.

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Until next time, chumps.

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IWSG – January 2019

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Hey gang! It’s the first Insecure Writer’s Support Group post of the year. Check us out HERE and start 2019 by joining the best writer’s group there is.

Happy New Year!

I hope your holiday season was as filled with love and happiness as mine. I was fortunate to spend a great deal of time with my family, and I have to admit, I feel a bit spoiled. Today is the first day since before Christmas where I am pretty much alone in the house and I am feeling the heaviness. It was difficult watching Sheryl head back to work, and seeing my son heading back for college. The other son is working today, then will spend the rest of his time hanging with friends. This leaves me and the dog. I love the dog. The dog is excellent company, but I had become accustomed to the noise of a full house. I’m sure soon enough the routine will feel normal again and I’ll settle right in to things.

I’ve been pondering my writing goals for 2019, and while I refuse to set numbers as far as stories or works completed, contests entered, items submitted, I do want to spend more time creating new things, taking more risks, finding some much needed confidence in what I write. I’d really like to see something published this year, maybe several things. Funny enough (and maybe I say this every January), I feel ready to work hard and make that happen. I’m sure the usual insecurities will rear up, making me question every decision, but with the support of family, friends, and my IWSG blogging buddies, I will persevere.

One specific goal I’ve set, and I think it is an important one, is to compose more things by hand this year. I’ve a journal of sorts, something I’ve worked on since 1997 (I’ve three volumes completed so far) but the more I use digital software, the less I’ve used paper. I’m committed to 2 entries each week, and man, I hope writing this here helps me keep that commitment. I enjoy each revisit to those journals and every time I wish there were more to read. It’s time to make more a reality.

So tell me about your plans, goals, writing stuff for 2019. Let’s pretend this whole new year thing isn’t just an arbitrary time to make empty promises and really try to improve.

IWSG- December 2018

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The first Wednesday of every month is set aside for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you don’t have a clue what IWSG is, you are ridiculously new to to my blog. Check us out HERE.

I’ve met some of the most awesome writers and people by being a member of this group. Also, they almost always have great advice on getting you through any writing troubles. Sign up. Play along.

The optional question for December is- What are five objects we’d find in your writing space?

My writing space lives in the basement of my home. I’ve filled it with all sorts of things that inspire creativity in me. It is a comfortable place, perhaps my favorite in the entire house. IMG_2314.jpgIMG_2313.jpg

I feel lucky to have such an awesome space devoted to creative thought and action.

Clearly there are more than five objects in this space, but there are five you would always find in any personal space I’ve set aside for writing.

  1. A quality laptop- I used to write everything by hand, but my handwriting is atrocious and often when I go back to read or edit, even I can’t make out some of the words. Writing software has made everything so much easier. Editing alone is exponentially easier on a laptop vs a handwritten text.
  2.  A device for playing music- I learned years ago that I am more relaxed, better able to write when I’m listening to music. I’ve tried writing in quieter spaces and it just doesn’t work for me. In fact, I’m more distracted by a quiet room than a noisy one. In my current writing space, I listen to both vinyl LPs and compact discs. I have used digital music before, and will if I’m out at a coffee shop or library, but I’m a collector of things (books, music) and like the tangibility of objects, so my preference is for a physical copy of whatever I’m about to listen to.
  3. A mug of coffee- I don’t do this for the caffeine, but for the sensation of consuming a warm beverage. Honestly, it is among the most crucial aspects of writing for me, something to hold between my hands, something to sip at during a moment if indecision or when more thought is needed.
  4. A comfy chair- In this case, it is a mid-century modern, red leather, armless chair with a matching ottoman. Every writing space needs a place to sit and ponder before writing, during writing, or after a session is complete. It is also a good space for enjoying music or reading.
  5. A nice wide desk- I recently bought the desk in the picture after my old one decided it no longer wanted to stand. My new writing desk is huge, awesome, and has loads of space for me to pile papers (I hid them for this photo) or other objects that might be necessary. Also, it’s surprising how many coffee mugs, books, pens, etc. can pile up and clutter the area. The bigger the desk, the longer it takes for the stacks to becomes cumbersome.

    Well, that’s it for me. I’d love to hear about what I’d find in your writing space. In fact, I think I’ll go read all the IWSG blogs and find out right now.

IWSG – November 2018

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Hey look at that. It’s time once again for the monthly installment of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Take some time, look here. Decide you want to join in all the fun and sign up. All writing insecurities are welcome.

Also, there is another Twitter pitch party coming up on January 15th, 2109. IWSGPit 2019

Get your pitches ready. I’ve had some small successes in these events and am hopeful this time the usual nibbles will instead be huge bites.

I’m still in flux when it comes to the direction of this blog. I like the idea of it focusing on the creative aspects of my life, but I’m still unsure how that will look. I used to share flash fiction here, bits of poetry, but even though I was proud of those pieces, I always felt the interest in those blogs was limited. Also, it is very hard to comment on short fictions and (especially) poetry. I wanted my blog to be a place of engagement, and I’m not sure posting that way inspired that sort of interaction.

What sorts of writing blogs do you all find useful and interesting? I don’t want to copy anyone else, but I am interested in the sorts of topics that bring each of you back to any particular blog. Any input or advice I can get will be most welcome.

Alright, enough about that for now, On to the next-

The optional IWSG question this month looks something like this- How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

Okay, so it looks exactly like that.

I love this question, and I’d wager for most of us, the answer is very similar. I’ve always seen myself as creative, as far back as I can remember. My mother tells stories of me as a small boy, under the age of 4, making up adventures with my toys, creating odd songs, walking around the apartment singing them.

I was constantly shifting from one idea to the next, and sometimes felt unable to express all the awesome things floating about in my head.

By the time I was 11, I’d started writing short stories, certain they were already among the most awesome things ever written (they weren’t, I promise). I loved the creative process, which I naively thought was pretty easy. There was always something new to think about, write about, and I was completely convinced I would be a professional writer when I grew up.

Funny how easily life becomes a self created stumbling block. I still haven’t quit on that dream, but it has taken way longer than I ever expected.

Like every writer, I’ve gone through periods of hyper creativity and also had times when the distance between ideas felt like crossing a never ending desert. But as I’ve concentrated on improving my writing, my creativity has become more focused. I find ideas don’t come at me in impossible to navigate waves any longer. I don’t get overwhelmed by the need to take on twenty stories at once, and I don’t get bogged down or depressed when it feels like there will never be another idea ever again.

It’s all part of the same process, right?

 

IWSG- October 2018

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a mighty fine group of people. If you haven’t already signed up, joined in the fun, I’m not sure I can do much to help you anymore.

Check us out and sign up here– 

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This months optional question is-

How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?
Major life events can affect my writing in many different ways. When I was younger, I often didn’t understand my own reactions to events until I wrote about them, which I tended to do during any big live change. Even then it would often take months for me to make sense of what I was writing about and how it related to whatever life event had taken place. I was always grateful for the moment of understanding that came after I was ready, when the writing finally made sense to me.
As I’ve grown (in age and as a writer) I’ve found that when I am in the middle of an event, I really can’t sit down and write about it, or even write about other things besides that event. If the event is a catastrophic one, it might be months until I am ready to sit down and write anything again.
Writing has been very helpful in getting me through unexpected things. The untimely death of a friend for instance pushed me into a different kind of writing. I wanted to leave behind a lot of the more abstract stuff I’d been working on and really get at something concrete, bare and bold. A few months after this friends passing, I started trying to define the experience through poetry, and had to resist the temptation to be vague. I no longer wanted to dance around hard issues or sugar coat them. I missed my friend a great deal and wanted everyone who read my work to have little doubt about that emotion, where it came from, what this friend meant to me.
On another topic, I’m extremely unsatisfied with the direction of this blog and am in the process of evaluating new and different directions. Hopefully I’ll have this figured out soon and my weekly post will return better than the recent stretch of fairly uninteresting entries.
Love and light to you all.

 

Grateful

My wedding anniversary was Monday. Twenty-five years, which is a shocking number to me. I remember the first time I realized I’d had a friend for that long, or that an album I’d purchased with my own money reached that age. It isn’t new knowledge that the older you get, the faster time goes, but sometimes the realization hits home and staggers you a bit.

Sheryl worked on Monday, so we spent most of last Saturday out and about, celebrating by purchasing new books at our favorite bookstore (The Printed Garden), eating lunch at a delicious Chinese restaurant, and looking for new flooring (puppy claws and hardwood floors do not like one another).

It was a pleasant day, and I was feeling pretty good about things as we drove home. At the intersection of a major highway, I waited for an opportunity to turn right. Traffic on this road travels between 55-70 MPH depending on the time of day. It is wise to wait for a very clear lane before turning as to avoid misjudging the speed of oncoming vehicles. In my old age (wink), I’ve learned some patience behind the wheel, so I waited.

A minivan in the far right lane slowed to a stop, and I concluded the light was turning red. In the moment before I decided to turn, I noticed a white Jeep approaching the minivan at high speed. It wasn’t slowing, wasn’t going to stop.

The impact launched the stationary minivan through the intersection (which was luckily still empty), and I watched in fascination as the crumpled car wobbled past me. I marveled at the damage (the rear end was obliterated), amazed to see the driver still conscious, attempting to maneuver off the road.

I heard my wife next, shouting something like “Use your brakes. Stop.” and I looked to my left.

The Jeep was bearing down on us, rolling at around 20-30 MPH. There was little I could do but wait for the inevitable. The Jeep crushed my driver side door, nearly bending it off the hinges. I may have let loose a swear or two.

With some help from kind people we were able to move all the vehicles off the road. Before I was able to exit my Toyota (through the passenger side door), paramedics were already on scene and the police arrived two minutes later.

Fortunately no one was hurt.

Unfortunately, the driver of the Jeep was very drunk. He spectacularly failed every sobriety test, and a search of his vehicle uncovered an empty pint of vodka. He was arrested and taken away before the first tow-truck arrived.

I spent the next hour stewing about my damaged SUV, angry about what had happened, how it had unfolded, and how unnecessary it all felt. Driving home, most of the adrenaline was slipping away, and my thoughts turned to the absolute luck of it all. Things could have been so much worse. Someone could have been injured or killed. If children had been in the van, they would have certainly been hurt. If the van had not been there and the Jeep had continued through the red light, he would have impacted cross traffic and maybe an unsuspecting Ryan turning right.

The carelessness, the selfishness of one individual angered me.

But something else pushed through- Compassion

I felt (and still do feel) so much sympathy for this young man who had made a terrible choice. I doubt this was his first time driving drunk, but the repercussions of this particular decision will certainly be many- The hefty fine for DUI, the arrest record, loss of employment (maybe), loss of insurance (and the likelihood his insurance company sues him), the driver of the minivan will likely sue; the inevitable guilt.

I don’t know what events in this guys life, what decisions or outside influences put him in the position where he concluded getting behind the wheel was a smart choice, but I feel so sorry for him.

I might feel differently if I’d been injured, or if someone else had been hurt, but I hope my compassion would remain intact. I’m not naive and certainly believe there should be consequences for actions, especially those that adversely impact others, but I really hope this kid gets his life together, and that this one bad choice doesn’t ruin his life completely.

Hope is a good thing, right?

Also, these events have caused me a great deal of introspection, made me reevaluate every time I’ve been out with friends, had a few drinks.

But that is what life is supposed to be about, learning not only from our own mistakes, but from the errors of others.

As of today, I’m still feeling grateful, thoughtful, careful. I hope that continues.

 

 

IWSG- August 2018

I had the pleasure of driving my 90+ year old grandmother to the doctor this morning, which means this lovely IWSG post is seeing the light of day a bit later in the day than I’d like. At 47, having living grandparents is pretty cool. I’m grateful for the opportunities I have each month to visit with her, take her shopping or to the doctor.

What I should do is sit down with her and record a ton of stories, memories, stuff like that. Knowing her, she’d be resistant at first, then once I got her talking, she’d be excited to talk.

But that can wait for at least one more day. For now, on the the IWSG fun. You know the drill, check us out and sign up HERE.

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I didn’t even check out the optional question for the month as I’ve had a busy month on the writing (and beta reading) front.

I promised myself I would enter two story contests and submit to at least one small press in July. Mission accomplished, just barely. I entered a Glimmer Train contest early in the month, but felt I didn’t have a super clean second story to submit. I pondered writing something brand new and hopefully feeling confident enough with it, but that didn’t work out. The story is mostly done, but without any editing or breathing time, I didn’t trust it would be solid.

So, yesterday I pulled out option number 2, gave it a pretty good look, and determined it was ready. The contest deadline was yesterday, and I pressed send with a few hours to spare. Now the waiting game begins, and I do hate the waiting game.

As for the small press- A local publisher had liked one of my pitches during PitMad and several weeks after I sent in my query and sample pages, requested a full manuscript. Of course I was unsure if the novel was edited well enough, so I spent the last three days doing a quick read, cleaning up stuff I’d been unsure about since the third draft. The manuscript was actually tighter than I expected. It seems all that editing paid off.

Fingers crossed that this opens some doors for me.

Also, I’ve had the great pleasure of helping a friend by beta reading her memoir. Man, she can write (quality and quantity), and at times I don’t feel up to the task, but I’m loving the sneak peek into her truly unique life. The hard part is focusing on the writing and not getting absorbed in the stories. I hope I have some helpful advice to offer.

What about you clowns? Got any good stories brewing, tales begging to be out there in the universe? I’d love to hear what you’ve got going on.