Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday's Children - My Dark Secret

I have a dark secret I don't tell most people...I write.

If someone does find out (which happens from time to time), it becomes one of the most awkward and uncomfortable conversations to have.  I'm usually met with skepticism ("you're writing a novel?") and sometimes even suspicion.  I don't understand that part.  It's as if people don't know how to talk to me now that they know "I write."  Like it changes who I am or more specifically their idea of who I should be.

There are, of course, the inevitable questions. What do you write?  Where do you get ideas?  Why do you write?

I recently had a kind of embarrassing experience when a group of people I just met found out that I write.  It shouldn't have been embarrassing, but I didn't know how to handle the questions.

I started a new job a couple of months ago and the weekend after the second week was my writing group's annual conference.  Of course I got the inevitable question about plans for the weekend, so I told one of my co-workers.  She was...shocked, I guess is the best word to describe it.  It was obvious that the idea of going to a writing workshop was something completely foreign to her.  And honestly, I could tell that she thought it was just really strange.  But I got through the conversation, it was just one person.

Then the next Monday after the workshop my whole department ate lunch together and once I again I got the question about my weekend and my co-worker told everyone about the workshop.  I don't know if I can adequately describe how uncomfortable it was to have everyone peppering me with questions.  I usually try to avoid answering questions about a specific project I'm working on, but it's hard with six people all staring at you waiting for an answer.  So I gave them the bare bones, I focused on the fact that it is set in Grand Haven.  I work in Grand Haven and most of the people I work with live near there, so I thought that might be an interesting little tidbit.  It almost seemed to offend them.

Then the judgement really amped up.  What are you planning to do with it? Are you actually going to try to get published?  How much time do you spend writing?  Does your husband mind?

If I had said I knitted I wouldn't have gotten this response.

Do you run into situations similar to this when people find out you're a writer?  Do you ever avoid telling people?

I guess I don't understand where the suspicion comes from.  So for now, I'll just keep it to myself.  Maybe I'll bring it up again if I ever get published.  That'll show 'em.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday’s Children – Inspiration Out of the Blue

There have been discussions in various Thursday’s Children posts about music and how that helps the writing process.  I think a lot of us (and by us I mean writers) have playlists or maybe certain albums* that we listen to more when working on a specific project.  Sometimes we create specific playlists for each story. 
But, have you ever been listening to a song and a line out of it speaks to you and suddenly you have a kernel of an idea forming?  Or maybe the whole story just jumps out at you from start to finish. 
This didn’t happen to me recently, but I’m still working on the story that was the result of it, so I think it’s relevant.
Raise your hand if you remember the group from the 90’s called Veruca Salt?  Anyone, anyone, Bueller?
I wasn’t a particular fan of the band, I’m not sure I could even name one of their songs to tell the truth.  But after they split up their lead singer, Nina Gordon, put out a solo album.  I adore it.  It has gone many places with me over the years on various travels and I’ve listened to it countless times.  One day, probably four years ago now, I was listening to it and a line from one of the songs drilled its way into my head and stuck there.  Mind you, this wasn’t an obscure track, this was maybe the one and only single so I had heard this song hundreds of times, easily.  The lyrics are:
                Down to the earth I fell
                With dripping wings
                Heavy things won’t fly
                And the sky might catch on fire
                And burn the axis of the world that’s why
                I prefer a sunless sky
                To the glittering and stinging in my eyes
                (Nina Gordon – copyrighted 2000)
I heard that and boom, story!  I pictured an angel falling to earth by choice to remove himself from the battle for heaven.  He thought he could be persuaded to join the other side and if he did, heaven would fall.

That was just my first thought, but the idea has grown from there.  I have two great main characters and a mostly fleshed out plot.  I’ve been working on it off and on for a few years now, but one of my 2013 goals is to finish the first draft, finally.

That was a lot of rambling to get to the point of this post.  Have you ever found inspiration from something that you’ve heard/seen/read a million times before?  Something that wasn’t new but for some reason it spoke to you at that time.  I’m curious to hear (read, I suppose) your stories of any similar lightning bolts of inspiration.

*Just a side note, but what are we supposed to call albums now?  I can’t remember the last time I actually bought a physical product for music, so I know CD isn’t appropriate anymore.  Welcome to the digital age where nothing is tangible anymore. *Sigh*
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday's Children - The Voices in My Head

This week I’m not thinking about what inspires me, but rather what kills inspiration and how I can defeat those pesky harbingers of doom.  I’m thinking about the voices in my head.

I seem to have a multitude of voices distracting me from my life (as I think I a lot of writers do).  Do you ever feel like you need to tell them to just leave you alone?  Telling is a nice word, usually I want to scream at them. Sometimes they are helpful when it comes to writing, I’ll admit that.  There are those voices that turn into characters or are already characters that tell me where the story should go next.  Although mostly it seems like those pesky characters tell me that the direction I was planning on going is totally the wrong way.  There are voices of those who encourage, telling me they believe in me.  Sometimes I have so many voices shouting at me that I don’t listen to what’s going on around me.  And doesn’t that make for fun dinner conversations?  My husband has to deal with a lot “huh?” from me.

But in and amongst all those helpful voices are the evil ones; the ones telling me I’m not good enough.  The ones telling me this story is stupid, it doesn’t make sense, it’s not going anywhere, it’s been done before, it’ll NEVER GET PUBLISHED.  In case you can’t tell, I’m suffering with a crisis of confidence right now.  I know I’m not unique, I know every writer goes through this.  But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t flat out suck when you’re in the middle of it.

Those evil voices are the ones I want to learn how to quiet.  They may be right.  I might not be good enough and my story might not make sense to anyone but me.  And, in reality, there is a good chance I will never get anything published.  But that shouldn’t matter when I’m writing.  If those voices would just leave me alone I might be able to make some progress and move the story forward, instead of being paralyzed by fear and indecision. 

Do you have voices whispering in your ear?  How do you quiet them when you want them to let you be?  

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Take a Chance and Be Brave

So I did something brave this weekend, something that was so nerve-wracking to me that it actually made me a little sick to my stomach.

I shared two of my WIP’s with someone, my mentor in my writer’s group actually.  The only other person I have shared my projects with is my friend Stephanie.  We’ve known each other for years and know just about everything about each other, so I have nothing to hide from her.  It still made me sick to give her my partial manuscripts.  So, imagine the nerves I had when sending the two files to a published author who also happens to be an editor at a publishing company. 

It all started because I was lamenting on Twitter about not knowing how teenage boys interact.  My mentor happens to have two teenage sons so the conversation went from there.

I’ve been really stuck the past month or so (maybe longer) for a number of reasons.  Some of which I’m just now figuring out, some I still don’t know.  So, my mentor offered to read my current project and after talking about it a little bit, the other project as well.  The two stories have quite a few things in common.  I started the first one and really liked some of the aspects of it, but didn’t know where it was going.  When I started the second one, I had a fully fleshed out idea that was plotted (at least loosely) for a four book series.  I ended up incorporating some of the characters from the first into the second. 
But now, I can’t seem to make progress on the first of the series I have plotted out.  I sit and stare at the screen with no idea, or no desire, to further the story.  I don’t know if I’m just stuck in a part of the story that I don’t like or if I don’t like the entire story anymore.

I don’t think that’s true though.

When I think about the story in the abstract, I’m still excited about it.  I like the IDEA of it, I’m just struggling with getting it out on paper, or the screen as the case may be.  I end up with these huge blocks of time in which I could do nothing but write, but I don’t.  I find anything to do instead, or nothing to do and just ignore my computer.

I’ve come up with all kinds of excuses.  After looking at a computer all day at work I don’t want to when I get home (yet I spend the evening messing around on my iPad).  I hate to ignore my husband (true, but he understands and doesn’t mind).  I don’t have time (flat out lie – sure I have a full time job, but I know people with a lot more going on than me who find the time to write).

So, what does all of this have to do with being brave?  By sharing my projects with someone else, I have to accept what is wrong with them (in the form of feedback) and acknowledge that I need to get moving on making progress.

Part of our monthly writer’s group meeting is to celebrate who met their goals for the month.  I have yet to meet my word count goal I’ve set for myself on a monthly basis.  That changes this month.  That’s another part of being brave, putting my goals out there and keeping track of my progress in a public way so others can see how well I’m doing (or how much I’m missing the goals, as the case may be).  

Here are the goals for the January meeting on the 12th:
-        - 15,000 words (I didn’t specify a project, just word count on something, not including blogs)
-        - Complete four Thursday’s Children blogs
-        - Post on the GRRWG blog on Dec. 15

Now I just need to buckle down and get to work.  And not make myself crazy waiting for feedback from my mentor.

Here’s hoping these little acts of bravery get my back on the right track…