I took a month off from the IWSG blog hop (due to circumstances beyond control) and gosh, I really missed all of you (the dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions) who read and leave thoughtful comments on my post. I also was (legitimately) sad to miss out on all the amazing things you were up to on your writing adventures. Good news- I’m here, I’m writing, I’m ready to be wowed by all your awesomeness, and maybe dazzle with a bit of my own.
Once again, If you aren’t already a member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, do better and sign up HERE.
The optional monthly question vexed me some, so lets discuss-
It’s been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don’t enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?
A writer who does not read is like a chef who does not eat. I wouldn’t want to consume what either of them produces. The odds of their creations being awful are high.
I’m struggling with the premise of the first two sentences. It might be possible that a writer is somehow devoid of influence (Okay, honestly it isn’t), but if that writer is magically unaware of what is being written, what has already been written. how it is constructed, I’m not sure they can successfully enter the conversation with any authority or state anything of value.
If I tried to offer my opinions or insights on a topic I knew very little about, say quantum physics, it might be mildly entertaining, but it certainly wouldn’t advance the field or suggest any new direction for study and no scientist would feel obligated to take me seriously.
And isn’t that what most writers want, to be taken seriously?
The presumption that originality comes from a void of influence is flawed. All of us are influenced by something or someone. Just because a writer (who does not read) claims to not be impacted by the writing of others, does not mean their creations are a pure extension of self. No one lives in a void, and whatever concepts about writing, ideas about story, structure, grammar, one works with come from interactions, observations, education, influence. If someone somehow inexplicably avoided being impacted by anyone and everything, their ideas might seem new and unique to them, but that would not inherently make them universally new or unique.
So yeah, I’m not on board with their being any benefit to being a writer who does not read. It seems like a made up thing. And I’m right, right?
Loads of good music to listen to today. If I might suggest one song, let it be this one.
And without further introduction, it’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it is time for…
…monthly bog hop.
Sign up HERE.
The optional question for August – Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you’d forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?
When I was working my way through the initial draft of my second novel, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted the story to be about, who would live/die, and how the end would come together.
I kept a writing journal, moments, ideas, thoughts that came to me during the composing process. I read it again recently, intrigued by the way I approached the story, the conflicts, the difficulties (and writing is always full of difficulties). But what really stood out- How off I was in the beginning when it came to almost everything the finished draft became. Characters evolved, changed gender, names, motivations. Some who were supposed to be killed off early on, talked themselves into survival, then into becoming catalysts for events, actions, changes. By the time I was wrapping up the first draft, the entire story had evolved, and while the overall tone was exactly what I hoped, the way things came together were unexpected and surprising.
I cannot recommend a writing journal enough. I certainly would have forgotten most of the process I went through while writing. And looking back, seeing my insecurity, uncertainty, confidence and passion helps immensely when approaching any new project. I’ve done it before, and beyond the finished product, I have a detailed map of how I got from point a to point z.
-The soundtrack for today’s writing session provided by the Beach Boys–
Welcome to the monthly IWSG blog hop. Check us out HERE, sign up and play along with the best bunch of writers out there.
For any who are wondering about my ongoing heath saga (see last months post), I’m improving, figuring out how to exercise, eat, function with the side effects of my medicine and my illness. My mental health is improving, and I’m starting to feel that writing urge. The blank pages still scare me, but I was able to hand write a few journal entries recently. Getting words on paper helps.
The optional question for the month of July is- What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?
Looking back at the history of my writing, almost every character/protagonist I created when I was in my late teens and early 20’s was a mash up of my good and bad traits. I don’t think I was ready or able to write outside of myself or at least what I thought about myself. These characters were idealized versions of me (both positive and negatively), and they were also heavy with hyperbole. Looking back, reading the stories makes me a little uncomfortable. The protagonists all shared my political ideology and world view. They looked like me, talked like me, desired the same things out of life. Every love affair was the most important love affair. Each conflict, the ultimate conflict. Any emotional crisis…
Well, you get the point.
I’ve gotten less pretentious, I hope, less judgmental, and hopefully that means better able to write authentic characters. They may still be infused with my personality traits, ones I find interesting or complicated, but I hope I’ve grown enough as a writer to add elements outside of my little world.
After missing a month (story to follow), I’m back in the game and ready for the IWSG monthly blog hop. Haven’t heard of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group? That seems very strange if you’ve been reading this little blog of mine for any period of time, but I guess it’s possible. Check us out HERE and sign up.
An insane story-
About 4 months ago, my wife and I planned and booked a vacation to New York City. It is our favorite city and our favorite place to vacation. We try to travel there at least every other year.
One thing about NYC- You walk a lot. And I was not in great shape for walking. I’ll blame winter, but really I’m just lazy. In order to enjoy my trip to the fullest, I began walking on the treadmill, uphill, about 45 minutes a day.
Sometime in the middle of April, during one of my workouts, I experienced a strange numbness in my left elbow. I immediately thought heart attack, but when I got off the treadmill, the numbness went away and I felt fine. Not wanting to overreact, I decided against going to the doctor.
From time to time, and only when my heart rate was elevated, the numbness would return. Each time, when I stopped and rested, things returned to normal. I knew something wasn’t right, but my trip to NYC was coming up (first part of May), and I really didn’t want something to get in the way of 8 days in my favorite place.
The first few days in the city, things were fine. I was tired, but the numbness stayed away. Over the next few days however, whenever I was exerting myself, the numbness returned. I was forced to stop several times each day and rest for longer and longer periods before I felt normal. It was starting to really freak me out. Rather than enjoying my visit, all I wanted to do was survive the week, get on the plane, go home.
Wednesday the 8th was the worst. I had several events, and spent most of the day resting in the hotel. After meeting a friend for dinner that evening, Sheryl and I stopped at Whole Foods to get some things for breakfast the next few days. On the five hundred yard walk back to the hotel, I was forced to stop twice, both times requiring 10 minutes of sitting before I could begin to walk again. Back in the hotel, I flopped on the bed and fell asleep very quickly.
I woke with a start just after midnight. For the first time since the numbness began, it manifested during a resting state. It passed in seconds, and my exhausted body fell back asleep. Forty minutes later, I was awake again, numb from my elbow to my shoulder and this time, my chest hurt, as if someone was pushing down on my sternum with tremendous force. I was out of excuses and rationalizations. I woke Sheryl, and at 1:00 AM Thursday morning, we found ourselves on the way to an emergency room.
24 hours of tests revealed the culprit. I had at least one, maybe more blockages in at least one artery. I had been suffering angina from lack of blood flow. Luckily, I did not experience cardiac arrest, but if I’d continued to ignore the warning signs, the chances of a fatal event were very high.
I spent a very stressful 36 hours worrying, wondering, thinking. I’d always considered myself an optimistic person, but most of those hours were lost in depression, the strangest and most intense sadness. All the medical personnel were certain I was a stent or two away from feeling better. Their confidence, and the continual presence of my amazing spouse kept me going.
On the 10th of May, I had an echo-cardiogram which revealed two blockages (one at 95+%) in the LAD artery. Angioplasty was performed. Two stents were implanted, and after 95 minutes awake on the table, I was back in the recovery room. After 24 hours of observation, they released me from the hospital, back to the city, the subway, my life.
We had to stay in the city an extra week, but the difference between the first 7 days and the second were night and day. I was able to walk without pain or numbness, sleep without being awakened.
Physically I wasn’t limited, but mentally, I had and still have some difficulty.
Every twinge of pain or discomfort and I’m sure it’s my heart again. I feel alright, but the side effects of the blood thinner are kicking my ass. I get tired easily, dizzy. Sometimes my breathing is labored (another lovely side effect of the meds). I hope as my body gets used to the medicine, things will balance out.
Writing has become difficult as I’m not sure how to process the strangeness of the past two months. I feel relieved to be alive and mending, but absolutely undeserving. I’ve sat at my desk a dozen times since returning home, hoping to write something, anything, but I don’t think I’m ready. I need more time to think, and while writing would certainly expedite things, there are very few sentences willing to come out and play.
If I’m honest, I’m afraid. Absolutely insecure. And right now, that fear wins out every time. Getting this blog written down has taken me several hours, and I’ve left out a great deal. Most of it is more instances of me ignoring obvious signs of distress. Some of it is the emotional stress of worrying each night that I might not wake up the next morning.
I’m going to get some help, talk with a professional. That seems like a really good idea. Maybe the best one I’ve had in a while.
Also, I really want to go back to NYC. All this craziness hasn’t diminished my love of that place.
And I would be very ungrateful if I didn’t mention how outstanding my cardiologist in NYC was. He saved my life. Angioplasty is a modern miracle. A little hole in the wrist is the only wound required. And that has already faded away.
The first Wednesday of the month (and apparently my entire blog) is reserved for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. Check us out HERE and sign up.
The optional monthly question for April is- If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? (examples: fight scene / first kiss scene / death scene / chase scene / first chapter / middle chapter / end chapter, etc.)
When I finally summoned up the courage to start writing a novel, the first five pages came very easy. I’d already written, and rewritten the introductory moments at least ten times, thinking it would end up as part of a novella or short story. But when I embarked on the insanity of composing a novel length work, the idea crumbled and I found myself stuck, stopped mid sentence, looking at the screen, hands over the keyboard with no idea where to go or how to get out of the hole I’d dug for myself.
So I put the chapter aside, stopped writing, let myself be frustrated.
Two years later, I was going through some old files, hoping to find a fragment I could use to create something new. I like doing that, finding one or two discarded ideas and seeing if I’m ready to finally write them. I read the five pages, liked the feel of it, and in a flash, saw the way out of the scene.
Not only that, but I realized I’d been approaching the concept of the novel from the wrong angle. I wrote the rest of the chapter, pleased with myself, then sat down to write a prologue, which later became chapter one.
I adore the book, mostly. The ending is brilliant, and I especially love the prologue. What I don’t love, and what I would use a magic wish to make right, is those initial 5 pages, that chapter that stifled me once, and then gave me the insight to compose the novel. It is by far the weakest part of the novel, likely because the writing was initially unfocused, and then later, good enough to get the job done.
I should just rewrite it from scratch, see where I end up. At the same time, I’m not sure I should be pushing myself on this particular novel anymore. It was my first, and like most first novels, it suffers from my lack of ability. Still, whenever I read it, I don’t feel like it’s a throwaway book. At some point though, I have to move on and focus on the next project, which is finally (FINALLY) starting to take shape. I’m excited about that project more than revisiting an old one, and I’ve learned it is best to go where the excitement takes me.
I’m sitting at my lovely desk, typing on my super groovy laptop, listening to New Order as a spring rain drizzles outside. I’m warm and comfortable. I have a mug of coffee. I have Girl Scout cookies and three bars of fine chocolate. It is hard to ask for anything more.
Also, it’s the first Wednesday of the month, which is Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop day (and apparently the only time I ever blog anymore. Do better, Ryan). Check us out HERE. Sign up and play along.
This morning, before the rains fell, I took the Athena to the dog park. The place was empty. Apparently, most owners feared the water and decided to stay home rather than embrace the wonderfulness that is the dog park in sketchy weather. My German shepherd was full of energy and with no dogs to play with, made the best of it by running ahead of me as I walked laps around the three acres that make up the park.
Usually, we both prefer the place to be filled with happy, looking for fun, dogs, but I have to admit, I quite enjoyed having the place to ourselves this morning. The cool wind made my cheeks numb, and the occasional moments of light rain stained my glasses, but being outdoors with my dog is among my favorite things in the world. She is always joyful, often mischievous, and infinitely curious. Her sadness is always temporary. Chasing a leaf, or scrap of paper thrills her. The very prospect of going anywhere causes her body to shake with anticipation. She reminds me to pay attention to the little things, and I needed that today.
I’ve been ungrateful and wasteful lately .
I have so many opportunities to write and create that I allow to slip into empty unused hours. I spend way too much time consumed with the dull and the mundane. I make millions of excuses. I’m letting my life stagnate and that should be unacceptable. Days like this one, when I actually do write, when I share and communicate with others should be the norm, not the exception. It’s time to carry today’s momentum into tomorrow.
Dogs are awesome, aren’t they.
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.
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.
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.
Until next time, chumps.