typewriter

#am (almost) writing

Every now and then, I think about trying to be more consistent and predictable in my choice of topics for my blog. A day may come when I succeed, but that day is not this day.

I have been struggling with some doubt and disappointment related to my writing, not to mention skepticism about investing time and energy in the pursuit of publication. One result is that I realize how much I like this blog as a way to share my words among what feels like a supportive and small circle of readers. I like being writer, editor, and publisher on this space, including the chance to go back and edit or even delete as my thinking changes. Traditional publication is like a snapshot of a world that is always in flux, a historical artifact as soon as it is created. Blogging as a form of publication allows for movement.

So I think I will start blogging more often. At the same time, I love writing novels, so I have been journaling lately about how to recommit to this long process that may not, in the end, lead anywhere but still brings my life so much value and meaning.

One thing I have done is reviewed some affirmations that were meaningful for me over the years, and I thought it might make sense to share some of them on the blog. Some make more sense than others, so no telling where this will lead.

Today in blogging…

So my morning was packed with appointments around town, which tends to undermine my ability to stick to any writing routine. I dictated some blog ideas onto my voice memos app as I drove around, which made me feel productive, even though I did not feel inspired later to transfer those ideas to a blog post later. The topic was too large for a quick blog post, so I will have to be more deliberative, perhaps, slowly teasing out what I really want to say. Or perhaps, what I should say.

The rest of the day passed in a blur, an odd mix of productivity and not-so-much, plus a few more errands for my family. So now it is the end of the day, and I am pondering my goal to write a blog post “first thing” each day with the goals to “be brief” and “be specific.” It hasn’t been happening the way I hoped, and perhaps it shouldn’t. My “first thing” writing time is pretty special to me, and I want to channel it to my top priorities, which are coming into focus. It’s time to dive fully into my SF novel. I’ve been dabbling with it, which has been good, gathering ideas and notes. There was that character chart. All good. But I want to boost it to top priority now. And second priority each day will be to work on a revision (better described as a re-vision) of my time management book.

So I will move the blog to a new location on my (mostly imaginary) daily writing schedule—end-of-the-day. I can still read/reflect on important articles and books. I can use the blog as an accountability partner and process log. I can even talk more about apps I like (way more than you want to hear, I bet!). But not first. Working on the blog will be a reward once I’ve gotten some work done on my top priorities. Okay, new day, new plan. Cross your fingers for me.

Meta-blog

Today I have the urge to work on a blog post first thing, a kind of morning page, perhaps, a la Julia Cameron. It could become a new writing routine that also honors my goal to post on the blog daily (or almost daily :)).

Before beginning, I reviewed my growing list of possible blog topics, and I glumly realized that many should have been tackled when the idea was fresh. It makes me flash back to my teen years, or even my pre-teens, when I would get struck by what I was sure were great ideas, often before I fell asleep for the night. What I almost never did, and stop me if this sounds familiar to you, was write any of them down. I loved to be seized by inspiration. I just couldn’t seem to capture my thoughts in the moment.

Granted, there were usually a few obstacles in my way, such as the absence of a notebook nearby or other system to capture the idea. Or worse, I was always hampered by the awareness that ideas are far more perfect in my head than on paper (or screen, as the case may be).

Over time… too much time… I developed systems to capture ideas, which helped a little. What helped more was to write regardless of inspiration. I will sometimes have those heady moments of writing on fire, the ideas flowing to the page so quickly I start to understand what people used to mean by a muse, or when writers struggled to take full credit for what they have done, feeling more as if they were mere go-betweens between some divine source and the words on the page. (Note: I take more than full credit for all the things I get wrong, sigh.) But those moments of writing-on-fire arise from writing routines, not from inspiration, at least for me.

Still, it feels as if I have some time right now (knock on wood) to launch new projects and start new writing routines. Capturing my ideas when they arise is not a new goal; I have indulged more than I should in various digital gizmos and paper products to make it possible. But what if I strive to make it a habit?

I suppose I have a few other goals for my blogging life. I want to find ways to be more specific, to provide telling details, as part of each piece. While that is a wise goal for writing in general, it is even more challenging when I feel a general discomfort on how much is safe to post on the internet. At any rate, it will be a goal to keep in mind.

That, and to remind myself to be brief. Starting now.

A new page

I have met almost all of my revision goals for my novel, except perhaps for the part where my writing becomes flawless. Ha. Okay, that wasn’t actually my goal, but it would have been nice.

So I am ready to start new writing projects while I explore next steps for my completed novel. It is a great feeling. No matter what happens, I am satisfied that I met my own goal to engage with the very troubled history of the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot and that I, well, wrote a novel. Or something that resembles a novel. 

This may sound familiar, but my new goal is to post daily on this blog. Or close to daily. Until I don’t want to. A firm goal, right?

I have many topics I would like to explore, plus I always enjoy using the blog as a kind of process journal as I tackle various projects. As usual, I anticipate a variety ahead. I don’t know how anyone can stick with one platform for a blog. Is it really possible to focus one’s attention on the same general topic every day? This may be why the robots will win some day. Hmm. I skimmed some NPR reports on the ways technology may start to enhance our capacities both physically and mentally—maybe technology will enable us to stick to one subject? An unsettling thought.

At any rate, I’m back and ready to return to blogging. I look forward to peeking in at some of my buddies on here to see what’s new for you, too.

Hydra Head

While I keep gathering ideas for blog posts, I have prioritized my writing time for the novel revision (#2,345), not the blog. I am not sure if that has resulted in more time on the revision, but perhaps it’s some kind of superstition, similar to ones attributed to sports players.

Still, I thought it might be wise to post something today, just to remind myself I have a blog. I finished my revision of the point of view for the novel, at least a rough version. I then planned to review how different plot points and hints fit together and to look for what was missing. There is a light mystery tying the book together, and I’ve been kicking around how to make it as believable and seamless as possible. I decided keeping it simple might be best for what I’m doing. Then I reread the full report on the Wilmington Race Riot. This is perhaps a sad commentary, but the first time, I was so upset and angry by what I read that I had to take breaks frequently. Since then, we had the 2016 election, and I also just recently read the biographies of Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells, and now it all just feels so d#$% familiar.

Anyway, reading it completely made me see more that I should or could add, so much so that I realize that writing a novel can be a bit of a Hydra head experience. You fix one part, and suddenly there are five more areas that need attention.

The Power of Practice

I feel most comfortable as a writer when I see the work as practice. Writing warm-ups. Journal reflections. Writing exercises. First drafts. The attempt to say what I want to say without the pressure of getting it right the first, or second, or millionth time.

Yesterday it occurred to me that what I am doing with my blog is practice. My occasional anemic tweets are practice.

Stating these activities in those terms is a relief. As much as I would like to believe in my ability to craft a blog post or tweet worth reading, I don’t think I have it in me to see each one as a polished final draft. And polished to reach what goal? I am exploring what I might say. Surrounded by ongoing conversations, I lose time wondering what can I add and what should I avoid? Sometimes I am not yet ready to put my thoughts or reactions into words.

In the face of so much uncertainty combined with the challenge of what it takes to write well, I benefit from calling it all practice. Practice helps me move forward.

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s a new year, and as those who know me might predict, New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday because of the chance to make resolutions. I actually set goals as often as every day, every week, and/or every month, so of course I like having one more reason to resolve to do something. I am drawn to the potential of the blank slate that lies ahead. Even though people like my husband are often eager to tell me that no one ever keeps New Year’s resolutions or similarly dire insights, I believe it is never wrong to hope or to resolve. I can’t control how it all will unfold, and I may have to adapt or start over, or even fall down and get up again more than I would like. Yet how inspiring to imagine something better and move towards it.

I have taken a bit longer this year to sort out my resolutions due to some kind of sinus infection, but I think I am ready to make a few commitments.

1. I have a list of several books that it’s high time I read, and I will tackle them this year (and buy them, if possible, from our local bookstore). If I love them, I will share more on here later.

2. I have finished the (I lost count)th revision of my novel set during the 1898 Wilmington race massacre, and I have begun seeking feedback from readers. While I work through that process, I will use the time to research and reflect on how I might seek to publish this book.

3. I will post on this blog once a week. Or maybe an average of once a week, since some weeks will be busier and/or offer more inspiration for blogging.

4. I will post on social media once a week, too. I have had such mixed feelings about social media due to the terrible ways our data is being used and our politics have been subverted. But this article was helpful https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/opinion/delete-facebook.html among others that discuss ideas for regulation, something desperately needed even though, like all solutions, it may take time, tweaks, and political courage. Sigh. I also saw a similar sentiment on Hasan Minhaj’s fabulous Patriot Act, which I just now have started to watch. Our checking out of social media won’t change the harmful effect it is having. So we need to explore ways to reclaim it.

5. I will work a few days a week on my YA/SF series. I seem to have lots of choices of next steps for that project, so it may be a bit like tending a garden, just checking in to see what deserves attention right now.

6. My health and fitness goals will chug along as usual. The general theme is to exercise a bit more and eat a little less. Piece of cake, right?

5k to go

Only five thousand words to go to reach the 50,000 word goal for National Novel Writing Month. Of course, I only have three days to go, so I guess that makes sense.

This round of Nanowrimo has felt different both because of my commitment to blog daily and because I have been engaging in a hybrid approach to my Nanowrimo work, generating words, ideas, and revisions to the existing bits and pieces that make up my SF series. While I will have nothing readable after the month ends, I have gained far more insight and fodder into the world and plots of this series than I expected. And blogging every day has given me insight into what this blog might become, even if it might not be there yet.

Typically, my thoughts are now on December goals. I am looking forward to not feeling guilt if I don’t post on the blog every day. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I want to read more in December, so perhaps that will be the focus of the blog then. I will still make time every day to work on my SF series, but my focus won’t be on counting words or clocking my effort but just engaging with whatever makes sense to unpack or revise or draft anew. I hope to take my time rather than race ahead as I have been this month.

Who knows? It could work.

Halfway Point

15 days: 15 blog posts and 21k+ words on the novel

So we are halfway through Nanowrimo, and I am making good progress on my novel/series. A series set in a future filled with alien interactions and advanced technology is, probably by definition, unwieldy. But so much fun. I may not be racing ahead, but I am getting a grip on how to move forward. So that’s good.

Wisely or not, I also set a goal this month to post in my blog every day. This has been more challenging than I expected because I know how to phone it in with my daily NaNoWriMo goals, writing anything to make progress, but it is new for me to share my writing daily. One especially busy day found me at 10 pm (my bed time!) trying to come up with something I was willing to post, and I had multiple stops and starts before I settled on something. Late at night has never been prime time for me in terms of writing, so that was a good lesson to learn: Blog earlier in the day.

Posting daily on the blog has been very positive because I am feeling far more immersed in the writing life than I did when I was *just* working on my fiction every day. Posting on the blog involves a compressed round of writing stages—brainstorm, compose, revise, edit, publish. And there’s the huge perk that by engaging more in the blog, I am discovering how WordPress connects me with other writers in a flexible yet supportive atmosphere. Very cool.

Historically, participating in NaNoWriMo always improves my mood. I get to do what I most love (write), I get to celebrate progress without enduring the risk of negative feedback on my writing (ha!), and I know I am not alone in this otherwise lonely venture.

Blogging during this month has added a new layer to this experience in ways I did not expect.

For both, I am grateful.

The daily slog, I mean, blog.

I am struggling today to find time to blog, but I am determined to do so because I vowed to post something every day this month, and I hate to break my now 7 day record. Some might question the wisdom of setting this goal at the same time as I pursue the 50,000 word goal of NaNoWriMo, but who said writing was necessarily a wise thing to do? Good for the soul, sure, and, according to a recent New York Times article, good for one’s mental health. But wise?

Perhaps it is time to sift through my goals in writing this blog, since they keep changing. The one through line is that this is a space where I get to be writer, editor, and publisher. And so far, it’s a quiet space, which I rather like. I am dipping my toes in the water, seeing what makes sense to write, and, this is harder, what I am willing to post.

If I can see this blog in that light, perhaps I can relax and let the words lead me wherever makes sense each day. Perhaps I can let go of my Be-A-Good-Student-And-Stick-To-The-Topic mentality, and not worry if one topic does not always fit with another, or if there isn’t time to polish the words as much as I’d like. This month there won’t be time to polish. Just write.

Sounds good to me. Not necessarily wise, but sure, why not?