Help … I’m trapped in a tunnel!

I’ve been unusually overwhelmed lately. It’s summer, so that means time spent trying to keep some semblance of order in the gardens; more time spent with local family; and considerable time spent preparing for visits to and from distant family. I fear I’m heading toward a time bankruptcy. Worse yet, I’ve discovered I have creative tunnel vision.

To preserve any writing time at all, I’ve cut down on distractions—which means even less Twittering and blog commenting than before I started the Creativity Workshop. But my writing productivity has gone down, down, down. I no longer have enthusiasm for writing any of the short stories I had set as workshop goals. I get set up to start, then sit there blank-minded. No. Not exactly true, I sit there thinking about working on my next novel. I end up not writing anything at all.

To ignore this, I grab one of the books I’m trying to finish reading before the world ends. You can’t write, if you don’t read. Right? I am not suffering from writer’s block. I know I could write like crazy, if I gave myself permission to work on the novel. But that’s not what I’m supposed to be doing. I signed up for a workshop. I challenged myself to work on a schedule. To set goals and accomplish them. The idea was to increase my creativity. Hmmm …

I admit I’m weak on self-discipline. I thought the workshop would help with that problem. Instead, I’m now questioning whether I have what it takes to be a writer at all. Can I be successful writing only what I want to? Is the real problem that I’m just not creative enough to be a writer? Do I balk at writing something I don’t want to because I’m not clever enough to do that? Or did I just sign up for a workshop at the worst time for me?

I feel like my writer’s mind has splintered into shards. As a mother, I learned long ago to be a multi-tasker, but I think I’m the complete opposite as a writer. In theory, devoting one hour a day to the workshop should have left me plenty of time to work on a new novel. In reality, one hour actually typing might be all it takes, but I need a lot more time than that to conceive and gestate before I birth a story. It might sound ridiculous that writing one short story a week makes it impossible for me to work on the novel the rest of my writing time—and yet, it has.

I’ve been able to balance blogging and writing for almost two years, but then blogging is non-fiction writing. Before the workshop started, I was trying to write short stories, while polishing my last novel and even that didn’t work well. But now that I have a new novel begging for attention, my problem has become obvious—I can’t juggle two new creative works at the same time.

I suppose my primary motive for signing up for the workshop was that I would end up with at least solid first drafts of some short stories. But now I’m questioning:  Do I really need to write short stories? Can you get an agent’s interest without previous short story publishing credits? Or should I focus my creativity on novel writing?

Have I made a decision? *sigh* Does a bottle of wine and a long nap count?

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Monday Melting Pot

In a previous post, when I talked about Tim O’Brien’s book, I told you I was reading two short story collections and had planned to write about the second one today. Alas, I haven’t finished reading it yet, so I’ll just catch up on a few other bloggery things.

From the results of my last poll, it appears that most of you don’t really care to read samples of writers’ work when you visit their blogs. In light of that, I should be thankful I got even a handful of comments when I’ve shared a flash or poem in the past. I haven’t figured out what you do prefer to read—maybe another poll is in order. If I possessed that particular golden ticket, and my blog readership skyrocketed, I could brag about my “platform” in my agent query letter. How soon do you think I could increase my daily post hits to at least a thousand? 😉

I’m sure you all remember the momentous day I blogged about bacon presses, so I thought I should update you. I did buy the one pictured, and as you can see, it works perfectly to keep the bacon flat. The bacon cooks evenly, but it also cooks faster, so I’ve had to watch the timing. What is it about bacon that people love so much? Within my circle, there is only one carnivore who doesn’t like it, but then she doesn’t like any pork product.

Because I’m a research addict, I went online to further my bacon knowledge. What we in the USA call bacon, is not necessarily what the citizens of other countries know as bacon. Americans refer to fried, smoked pork belly when they speak of bacon. Non-Americans may call that “streaky bacon” because their preferred bacon is leaner, cut from the sides and back of the pig—although there’s also “fatback” cut from the back, which is almost pure fat. What we Americans call “Canadian bacon” is back bacon. I also discovered that what I grew up calling jowl bacon, was not jowl at all, but just belly bacon with the rind left on. For the record, my favorite bacon is applewood smoked. And now I really, really, really want a BLT.

If you’ve been keeping track of my Creativity Workshop progress, you may have wondered why there was no update posted yesterday. Well, the simple answer is there wasn’t any progress to report. My goal last week was to write a short story, one of four connected by place, but I only managed to write maybe half a story. I know the rest of the story, so I’ll get it written eventually. I also failed to do Merrilee’s writing exercise, in fact, I forgot she posted an exercise. But I’m giving myself a pass because this was a busy week, with the end-of-school awards and a high-school graduation.

That’s not to say I did no writing this week. I wrote three little poems; it seems all I have to do is be quiet in the morning, especially on the way home after driving my husband to work. I also finished my final polish and format clean-up of my novel. This time I know I’ve done all I can do because I’m down to deleting and inserting commas.

Okay, that’s that. Thanks to all who participated in my weekend discussion on publishing options. Today, I hope to finally get my new dishwasher installed, and then I will—once again—ignore the crabgrass that is taking over my flowerbeds because it’s supposed to be 100° F here today and I truly, totally cannot stand to sweat.

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She Writes and She Updates

Another brief post and more questions for you today. At least I haven’t resorted to  repeating posts from last year.

Okay then, topic of the day is She Writes. I joined this group within the first week of its inception … and then I pretty much forgot about it. This morning, I read that it will celebrate its one-year anniversary later this month, and I started wondering how many of you might also be members. If you are, I have some questions for you:

  • Are you an active member?
  • If you are, what exactly does active mean?
  • What benefits have you received from She Writes?
  • In other words, what am I missing out on?

Now, for a brief update on my Creativity Workshop progress. My goal this week was to write the fourth, and last, poem for my first set of goals. This week’s poem was to depict Autumn as a middle-aged woman—the second half of motherhood. So, on Monday I compiled a list of appropriate words and phrases. Then, a life situation derailed me for the next three days, and I resigned myself to marking this week as a fail. But on Friday morning, as I sat in the cool of my backyard with a cup of ginger tea in hand, words started aligning themselves. Autumn spoke to me for a while, and then I came in and wrote the poem. It’s in prose form. I’m not completely satisfied with it, but I’m grateful I got something written this week.

From this first set, I learned that I can write a poem on demand, possibly of the same quality as my other poems … of course, that’s not saying much! 😀 I also discovered that there is far more to learn about writing poetry than I imagined. I have a new level of admiration for those who are able to write a poem that moves me.

The next set of goals, is to write four short stories. Originally, these four were to be horror or psychological suspense, but I don’t want to be thinking dark thoughts right now. My last set was to be four stories centered on the theme of place, so I’m switching the order.

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Sunday Stew with a side of Workshop Update

Today I’m serving up one of my stew posts, a bit of this and that. Plus, it’s time to let you know about my brilliant, fabulous, stupendous progress toward my workshop goal. Grab a spoon and bowl; the line forms on the right—women first because this is a matriarchal blog.

BLOGS: Lately, I’ve visited several blogs that frustrated me. I wasn’t frustrated with the content of the blog, just the presentation and/or navigation. A lot of the popular blog themes use either small white fonts on dark backgrounds or small greyed-out fonts, which are hard to read at my usual screen resolution of 1680×1050. I’ve been grumbling for a while. Fortunately, I just learned that I can enlarge the fonts with the keyboard code Ctrl+plus. Still, I hate having to do that so often while I’m browsing, especially because I sometimes click through to another blog where the fonts are now HUGE and I have to use Ctrl+minus to get back to normal.

Another thing that bugs me is a blog with no search capability, or categories, or even archives—some way to get to previous posts. I always wonder if the blog author is ashamed of every post they’ve written except the current one. Sometimes I go back to a blog and want to reread a previous post and have to jump through hoops to find it—and sometimes I never do. Please, Bloggers, add a search box or at the very least use a category list or cloud because it’s unlikely a reader will take the time to go back through your archives looking for the post where you mentioned some particular person/place/thing especially if it wasn’t named in the post title.

Hmmm, I guess I should ask: do you find anything frustrating or annoying about my blog?

Twitter:No, this is not going to be another rant about Twitter. I’ve made my peace with it. I’ve learned to glean some useful information from it and use it to keep in touch with writer friends. I’ve also learned that I can live without logging on every day. I no longer worry about how many Followers I have (or Facebook Friends, for that matter) because unless you have thousands of them, it means nothing—and maybe not even then. An acquaintance recently explained how she amassed such a “following” so quickly (she’s not famous.) One of her methods is to use a lot of hashtags and buzz words in her tweets. She also accepts ALL followers. When I asked her how she could possible keep track of all those tweets and status updates she gave me a look that clearly questioned my sanity and told me she doesn’t. In her Twitter app, she creates a list of the dozen or so followers she really wants to follow and then only watches the tweets in that list. (She does the same in Facebook, only there you can just Hide the “friends” you don’t care about.) I didn’t dare ask which category I’m in. 😕

I like to Tweet and ReTweet good links for writers. Here’s a few recent ones:

  • Things I no longer believe (via Scott G. F. Bailey at The Literary Lab) http://bit.ly/dzBXD5 This is tongue-in-cheek, but speaks to the frustration at all these writing “rules.”
  • @LadyGlamis blogged about the need to back-off when reading a fellow writer’s work: http://bit.ly/9cpgXs
  • Another post from Scott at The Literary Lab | A Question of Genre: http://bit.ly/9suLqW
  • And one from Edittorrent: Does your POV make it hard to like your character? http://bit.ly/aKeWvB

Also on Twitter, @karenfrommentor reminded me the other day about the virtual parties we used to have here on my blog. They lasted all weekend and things got a little crazy. Ah … the good old days.

Creativity Workshop update, Week 4

I completed my weekly goal for Merrilee’s Creativity Workshop, so I will take another step up. This week’s poem continued the theme of personifying the seasons, and depicted Spring as an ingénue. (Yeah, yeah, cliché.) Here are the notes from my week:

  • Monday: Chose the triolet as my form for this week’s poem. Wrote my first two lines (A and B) and then filled in the fourth (A), seventh(A), and eighth(B) lines of the form. Jotted down some possible third lines.
  • Tuesday: Went to Rhyme.com to find possible rhymes for last words in lines A and B. Decided to change end word of line A because of difficulty in rhyming. Wrote some possible third, fifth, and sixth lines.
  • Wednesday: Changed one line and now have a completed poem, though I don’t much like it. I think I could have written a better poem about Spring without this rhyming structure, but then I suppose that’s the challenge. If I were truly a poet, I could write a good poem in any form. I’ll look at it again tomorrow.
  • Thursday: Changed several words in an effort to mature the poem.
  • Friday: Took another look and declared the poem awful. Revised it. It’s okay now, definitely not one of my favorites because the rhyming still assaults my ear. But after having now read numerous triolets by published poets, I recognize the fault is only in my amateur application of rhyme.

Next: My fourth, and last, poem for this section will be about Autumn—or Fall, depending on where I take it. 🙂 I have done no advance work on this one, so I’m hoping some of that Tuesday morning magic kicks in.

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Stone steps photo credit: Michael D. Perry – MikePerryMedia.com

Creativity Update

Despite my focus on introspection this past week, I did accomplish writerly tasks. I not only reached my Creativity Workshop goal, I also continued polishing my novel, as well as read and wrote feedback on submissions from some of my critique partners. And in related matters, I finished reading two novels I had started weeks ago. All in all, I had a productive week.

One more step up! Here’s the breakdown of how I met my CWS goal for week 3:

Monday: I took another look at the words I jotted down on Saturday for my haiku. Most of the words were okay, but they didn’t produce the right number of syllables. In the second line, I changed sees to mourns and passed to lived. Then I revised the final line and by the end of my CWS session I had the 5-7-5 pattern and a draft of my Winter haiku done.

Tuesday: Woke up in a black mood that just would not relent. All of my work looked horrid to me, even my beloved novel, so I shut down the writing room for the day.

Wednesday: Did no work on the poem today.

Thursday: I read an article by Jane Reichhold on haiku technique. I have much to learn before I can say I have a reasonable understanding of the form. Even the 5-7-5 pattern has been challenged. I played with my words moving them around, making substitutions. My third attempt felt right, so I declared this haiku written.

Friday: I thought ahead to the next poem, which will focus on Spring. I don’t know which poetry form I’ll use, but I’ve narrowed down ones I want to explore to the cinquain, triolet, and rondeau. It’s possible I’ll end up not using any of those, but I will definitely use a form I’ve never written in before.

It’s hard for me to believe that two years ago, I rarely read a poem because doing so made me very uncomfortable. It almost felt I was reading something in a foreign language, and I was sure I never understood what the poet was trying to convey. Many times, I still don’t, but I’m not afraid of poetry any longer. Pamela Villars may be right; I just might become addicted to writing poetry … but for me, it will never supplant writing fiction.

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