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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The idea occurred to me several times before, but I’d never had the courage. And honestly, this was the first time an opportunity presented itself when I was actually in a relationship, when any initials I carved wouldn’t have been and exercise in imagination. Cowardice disguised as confidence. One day, RSC hearts KEC or ABC or HIJ will mean something more than a long list of letters inferring a long list of never been lovers.
Which is exactly as pathetic as it sounds.
But she was different. Or I was different around her, which might be saying the same thing.
She liked winter rains, the sort that iced your eyebrows and lashes, made walking dangerous, filled with ankle twisting, bottom bruising obstacles. And she preferred silence when given the choice, her feet up on the sofa, across my lap while I read a book, no words shared for hours.
I also liked the rain, but preferred the October variety. As for silence, well, I didn’t believe it existed. There was always some little noise, a scratching in the back of my brain, which I trusted, if only because it helped me feel substantial, genuinely present.
One warm afternoon late in September, we hiked into the woods along a favorite trail for almost an hour (autumn leaves scattered across the ground, reds, browns, and my favorite yellows piling up, begging to be stomped or kicked about), rarely speaking, until we came upon a massive oak, somehow left unmarked among the aspens and elms lining the path, all etched with layer after layer of scribbles that stood out like scars on skin.
We stood in front of the tree, marveling at its unlikeliness.
“I can’t help but think,” she started, then paused. “No, you’ll think I’m being silly.”
I shook my head, somehow stopping myself from adding phrases which would only detract from the moment. I adore words, but I often say the wrong ones at the wrong times.
“I feel like this tree appeared out of nowhere, in this moment, in this place, just for us.”
I pulled my knife from its leather sheath, then walked forward, keeping my eyes on the tree, convinced she was right and if I looked away for even a moment it would disappear. With my free hand, I touched the bark. Deep, rough grooves touched back, and for an instant I thought the tree quivered beneath my fingers. I pulled away, looking up at the branches far above my head, swaying gently in the light breeze. A pale blue sky seemed impossibly far away. I tightened my grip on the handle of the knife, turned my attention back to the trunk, and selected the location to make my first cut.
In my head, I imagined the task already complete. I could see each letter already formed, rising out from the wood, tangible evidence of our connection, hers and mine, our shared adoration and affection. I wanted to say one word out loud, shout it, but it came as a whisper- love- because I did love her, and I believed she loved me.
I imagined other outings we’d take, coming back to this tree, staring up at the crudely carved initials somehow meant to represent us, hoping our love would last as long as the tree itself. Someday, we would bring our children, spread a blanket on the ground, share a picnic lunch and stories about the inevitability of our meeting, the permanence of our devotion. Our timeless love.
I wanted to cling to this image, but before I could lock it away in my head, store it like a memory my heart sunk and I knew.
What a ludicrous notion. I suddenly wanted to be anywhere but here, in front of the magnificent tree.
Before I could compose my thoughts, she stepped up beside me and put her hand on my shoulder.
“I don’t want you to do it either,” she whispered.
I slid the knife back into the sheath, put both hands upon the oak and wished it well.
Without looking back, we headed down the trail together, towards the parking lot where we’d left her car. A cooler in the back seat held cold water and some good chocolate.
Fifteen steps down the trail, she slid her hand into mine.
The query edit continues. I’ve found a few kind persons willing to aid in my efforts to create a solid bit of writing and I’m super thankful to them for their help. My hope is to have these paragraphs polished and ready by the middle of July. That would be swell.
Next on the agenda, getting the courage to submit short fictions. I’ve always struggled with knowing where to send stuff, what contests/publications to approach, and if paying an entrance fee is a good or bad thing.
And of course, the super hard part- feeling a story is polished, presentable enough to get attention. Like most writers, my confidence in a text varies from day to day, read to read. Today, most of what I’m editing feels right, feels good, and what I should do on days like this one is find someplace to send something right this moment.
Maybe I should do that, end this post, seek out someplace to send that one story I’m really liking.
Am I brave enough?