Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Writing When Life Interferes

by
Kathryn Page Camp
 
 
I’m a full-time writer, so I don’t usually have a problem finding writing time. But even when I worked in Chicago as a lawyer, I managed to find several hours a week to write. I could do that because my life had a routine, and I slotted my writing time into it.
 
But what happens when something explodes the routine?
 
My husband just got a knee replaced, and I went from full-time writer to part-time writer and part-time caregiver. I still have some writing time, but it doesn’t feel like enough.
 
Writing is in my genes. It’s also what keeps me sane even when I’m tearing my hair out looking for the right words and trying unsuccessfully to avoid clich├ęs. I can’t not write. (Yes, the double negative is intentional.)
 
So what do I do? I look for every spare moment and use it.
 
Roland’s knee surgery is a good example. I spent a lot of time waiting that day. No, that’s wrong. I spent a lot of time reading as research for my next book. If I wasn’t in research mode, I could have taken my laptop and written. Or, more likely, I would have done it the old-fashioned way.
 
I keep a notebook labeled “WIP” (Work in Progress) that I carry with me when I expect to have a few minutes of writing time away from home. I use it when I take my elderly mother to doctors’ appointments, and I will use it when I take Roland for follow-up and physical therapy.
 
My WIP notebook contains four tabs.
 
The first tab is for typed notes such as:
 
·         The basic story line/plot, which is a short summary at the beginning of the project and a chapter outline later on;
·         Character sketches;
·         Notes that I made as I thought of things out of sequence, recorded so that I can add them to my draft at the appropriate spot; and
·         Anything else that I may need to refer to as I write.
 
The second tab contains the current manuscript. I double-side it to save space, and if it is still too long, I only take those parts of the manuscript that come right before the section I am working on now. (Or before and after for a second or third draft.) Having the entire manuscript is better for continuity, because I can look back if I can’t remember what my character did or said in the past or what the living room looks like. But if I don’t have that section, I make a note to check it when I do.
 
The third tab is for photocopies or printouts of any research documents that relate to the current part of the story.
 
And the fourth section is the most important. It has lined notebook pages to write on.
 
Have you ever thought about setting up a WIP notebook? You don’t have to follow my categories. You can even do it on your laptop if you prefer. But make sure you have something you can grab and take along whenever you might have some waiting time.
 
Because that may be the only way to write when life interferes.
__________
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at www.kathrynpagecamp.com.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Four New Years Promises

by
Joyce B. Hicks
 
 
Since New Years I’ve spent time at coffee shops attending to my resolution of writing a sequel to my first novel. I counted on the industry of others clacking away and high-octane coffee to bring inspiration. However, about $25 has yielded a paltry dozen pages. How can one keep up enthusiasm for a commitment to writing in the face of such meager output?
 
The blog Changing Aging provides four resolutions that can help immensely with staying committed. Let me thank Jeanette Leardi for providing her thoughtful essay at http://changingaging.org/blog/how-should-we-change-aging-in-2015/.  She writes of her New Years resolutions: “I promised to try, as often as possible, to 1) create something, 2) maintain something, 3) repair something, and 4) let go of something.” I’d like to propose that these promises may be more effective than caffeine in making 2015 a good writing year. 
 
Create something—Sure, that’s what I was trying to do at my laptop! But for a writer maybe this doesn’t have to mean a poem, story, or chapter; in fact, Leardi includes writing a letter to a friend as an example of creating, among others non-literary. Perhaps one could include any activities that result in the same kind of satisfaction or exhilaration felt when words do flow. Like writing, the activity ought to require concentration and be a visible step to a completed project.
 
Maintaining something definitely applies to the writing life if the goal is publication. A website, facebook page, or author entries on Goodreads and Amazon require a lot of maintenance. And what about keeping up with blogs in one’s genre or interest area? Or scoping out deadlines, contests, and new publications—this is definitely writing-life maintenance. In fact, maintenance can take up all one’s writing time and energy. So don’t get too carried away about this resolution, although performing maintaining first could be so satisfying that it gets the juices going for create something.
 
Repairing something could mean fixing a broken link on one’s website, but really the writer should use this resolution for editing and polishing. These activities are fun for me. Spotting a shifted point-of-view may bring a story in line and suggest a more developed plot, an area I struggle with. Even fixing a dangling modifier makes me feel sanctified! A feeling that may return me to step one.
 
Letting go of something can be pretty tough or exhilarating. I’m sure that doesn’t mean, “Be realistic. You’ll never write something publishable.” It might mean letting go of a favorite character or plot line; or one might let go of discouragement over another Glimmer Train rejection. Or a writer might have to get over an attitude that is standing in the way of success.
 
Publications about writing are not the only place to seek inspiration for commitment to the writing life. In fact for me sometimes they have a repressive effect since I feel overwhelmed by good advice other writers are following. For 2015 I’m trying to include these four resolutions each day, rather than have “get busy writing” as my only mantra. Please consider reading the full essay on the blog Changing Aging since Leardi provides many thoughtful examples of the resolutions. 
 
__________
 
Joyce B. Hicks is the author of Escape from Assisted Living and a member of Blank Slate Writers, Valparaiso, IN. She’s in her second year of retirement from Valparaiso University where she worked with student writers in a help center. You can find her on the web at www.joycebhicks.com.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Technology VS The Writer

by
Kayla Greenwell
 
Technology is generally pretty awesome—I mean, you're using it to read this blog right now.  A lot of us, especially millennials like myself, use it daily to do everything from watch television to pay bills. However, there has been a lot of buzz recently about the effect technology is having on our brains. And there are strong arguments from credential sources on either side of this argument, but what does that have to do with us writers?
Following through on your commitment to writing can be hard in the digital age.  Technology is often considered a double-edge sword. It hurts as much as it helps, but I don't think that is an accurate description. Technology, especially for writers, is more like a sword without a handle.  It does exactly what it is supposed to do, but if you aren't careful when you use it, you're going to cut yourself.  Technology does exactly what is says it's going to do, the trouble comes in how we use it.   So what can we do to keep focused and use technology like a master swordsman? We have to give up the distractions we love so much.
Here's some advice from author's claiming they've beat the technological distraction monster.  Nick Bilton, author of this article, introduces the struggle we all know too well:
"I was going to start writing this post a couple of hours ago, but I got distracted. At first I checked Twitter — lots of chatter about the debate there. Then I did a side-shuffle to Facebook, where I saw a friend just purchased a lovely new plant! Then Tumblr, to look at some funny animated gifs of Fearless Felix. Then Instagram. Then Twitter again...Although all of these distractions are wonderful for our creativity and sanity, they can also be incredibly unproductive when it’s time to get some real work done."
Of course, avoiding distractions is easier said than done.  Recently, I have found a few applications that actually shut your internet down for a set period of time.  There are a lot of them out there, but the one I use is Cold Turkey, because it is free—and you can't turn it off when you get weak and want to check your Facebook notifications.  I have found that, if I have all my research done, this is a great help to me.
In the end though, you have to find what works best for you.  If it's making lists or planning to give yourself enough time to write a few hundred words a day, because that is typically all you can manage before life sweeps you away again, then that is what you need to do. But for those of us who need a little push to break free—there are options out there.  Good luck technological swordsman. Let's hope you master your training and start putting pen to paper!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Resolve to Write

by
Robert Moulesong
 
Every New Year’s Day I make a determined resolution to make a change in my personal life. For example, every New Year’s Eve I pledge not to wear my tin suit in lightning storms. So far, so good.
 
This year, I have resolved to write.
 
I have learned that the more I write, the better I write. The words flow easier. The characters come to life with personality quirks I never dreamed they had. Plot becomes more than a four-letter word. Tension and conflict roll off my fingertips.
 
I have learned the more time I take off, the harder it is to get back on the proverbial horse. I get lazy, and it reflects in my work.
 
The analogy I use is my protagonist. I would never let my hero get away with such an easy out. He has to climb the highest mountain, cross the swiftest current, slay the dragon – you get the point.
 
I believe the best work I do is when the huge obstacle the protagonist must overcome … is … himself.
 
So why should I be any different?
 
I’ll call a spade a spade. The number one reason I don’t have more quality work completed is … me.
 
Every time I get on a roll and stay on it, the result is quality as well as quantity. Therefore, I resolve to write. Now, to say that is the easy part. To follow through on it, hmm …
 
I decided that I need metrics. I need to be able to honestly and accurately measure and evaluate my progress. Without metrics, my resolution is just cheerleading.
 
When I write a story, I resolve to write 500 words per day a minimum of four days a week.
 
When I edit and/or revise, I resolve to work two hours per day a minimum of four days a week.
 
When I write poetry or children’s work, I resolve to write two hours per day a minimum of four days a week.
 
I resolve to track my metrics with a spreadsheet. At the end of the day, I resolve to enter my timekeeping in my spreadsheet.
 
When I put these resolutions to paper, I was exhilarated. This did not sound like work. My writing is not “work” to me. It is my escape from the drab world where people have such mundane expectations, like, oh, pay NIPSCO on time.
 
Yeah, like that will get the kids back through the wormhole, or make the sun reappear. Sigh.
 
            If you have found yourself saying, “I need to get back to writing” or “I need to write more” then perhaps you, too, can find your way by making your resolution into a story.
 
            A letter appears. It contains a picture of your long lost love. Still alive – for now. However, you must finish the (story, poem, novel, pick your poison) before the stroke of the clock … or else.
 
How can you resist?