Monday, July 28, 2008

The Mulberry Bush and Writing Buddy Goals Week Five

Here we go again, around and around and around. You'd think with all this "around" business, I would be able to better handle the Tilt-a-World at the county fair.

What am I talking about? I am talking about which comes first, the Outline or the Pages? Now all of you die hard outliners out there will obviously say the outline. And all of you "organic" writers will say... well, it's a little of both, back and forth, do what you need as you need it.

OK. Fine. I've done it the "organic" way for a year and what I've found is I've done a lot of spinning. I also call this crazy method two-stepping because I take one step forward and two steps back (or three or four...).

Another week has passed, another week's worth of goals, and still no real amount of viable new pages have passed through my fingertips to my computer screen. Why is that? This was the topic of today's phone conference with my therapist... Er... I mean writing buddy, which is beginning to feel a little like therapy for writers.

What we discovered...
The reason I am not writing new pages is because there is still so much I have to know. I still need to do research and figure things out and fill the gaps in my story. For example, I know the ending will involve my MC realizing her journey is only just beginning - setting the stage for a sequel - but I am still unsure what her larger calling is. I know it will be some Earth First kind of thing, but I am unsure what specifically. Because I still have all these gaps and holes, I am having great difficulty writing forward.

So, I am putting this question out there to all of you, my fellow writers...
Do you think it is better for me to spend the rest of the summer (or however much time I need) to fill in all these gaps in my outline, by researching, reading, brainstorming, interviewing, etc, making sure my outline has filled in all these gaps and holes and then write the ending?

Or do you think I should just keep my notes as to all my gaps and holes, and just write the ending as if I have solved all my problems?

Which is better? Which do I work on first... or at least work on now... the Outline, or the Pages. I know writing pages will sometimes lead you away from your outline and that is the "organic" part to writing and I am OK with that.

I am used to spending my summers reading, researching, and note taking. Maybe I should listen to my natural rhythms of writing -- my process -- and not fight them or force them to be what I want when I want. OR... Is that what real writers do? -- force themselves to write no matter what, even if it's against their natural process or rhythm.

What rules me? Or should I say who (or what) rules whom? Do I rule my process, or does my process rule me????

Like I said, here I go 'round the mulberry bush...again...

This Week's Goals
  1. Fill in the gaps and holes of my story. Figure things out now, not later.
  2. Research about black willow trees vs white willow trees in folklore and Celtic mythology.
  3. Research rain forests -specifically what ones are at most danger, what is being done to continue the hurt, what is being done to stop it?
  4. (aside from writing...) Finish steps 4, 5, and 6 of refinishing my daughter's dresser.

Let me know what you think? Do I write to the end regardless of all my gaps and holes? Or do I get my outline airtight?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Power of Now

Time isn't precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time -- past and future -- the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.

Why is it the most precious thing? Firstly, because it is the only thing. It's all there is. The eternal present is the space within which your whole life unfolds, the one factor that remains constant. LIFE IS NOW. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be. Secondly, the Now is the only point that can take you beyond the limited confines of the mind. It is your only point of access into the timeless and formless realm of Being. (Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now)

This is the point in reading, when it all clicked for me. I felt a deep shift from within, mostly in my belly, as I finally understood. It is so simple. There is only Now. There is nothing else.

Our past is our past. It was once a Now, but is no longer, therefore, our past is an illusion. All the baggage we carry around is filled with our interpretation of the past. It controls us and keeps our true selves veiled. We act according to past events that we harbor and hold onto. But this is just our perception of some past event that we allow to shape us and tell us our limitations. It happened and is over with and most importantly, it is not Now. Therefore, can no longer have any hold on us unless we allow it.

Likewise our hopes (or fears) of the future control our Now too. Our hopes drive us in the Now, dictates how we spend our time. But the future is an illusion too, because it hasn't happened yet.

Therefore all we have is Now. Now is all that matters. We can use our Now time however we want and not let the past tell us we will not succeed, or whatever the past tells you in order to control you.

According to Tolle, there is clock time and psychological time. Psychological time uses all your past baggage and future hopes to drive your Now. It is the way 99.9% of us live. We don't fully live in the present because it is being fueld by illusory past and future. Clock time is used when you lively fully present in the now, but might need it in order to say, keep an appointment or work towards goals.

However, if you are working toward a goal and become obsessed with it, you have switched to psychological time because you are striving to make your goal only in order to achieve some future vision and not because of the Now.

I know. It is confusing.

But while I am trying to ponder and digest all of this, it raises the question about all this talk about positive thinking. The Secret and many other books say you need a mental image of your future in order to achieve it. You need to think positively about it and hold that thought in your mind and the feelings of having "it" as well. This kind of thinking is based on The Laws of Attraction. If you think positively and really feel it, then you will put out positive thoughts and therefore attract positive things to you.

But according to Tolle, doing this would mean you are not living in the present because it would mean you are obsessed with obtaining something in the future.


What I have taken from this is... I am no longer going to allow myself to be limited due to past baggage. In fact, I am going to open up that baggage and let my past go free (and all the moths that are in there too). I am going to pay attention when my mind roams and starts thinking either about the past, negative thoughts, the future, etc. I will know that my mind is just bored and entertaining itself with interesting thoughts. I will no longer give power to them by feeling the emotions that can usually accompany such thoughts because that is all they truly are; thoughts.

The past and future are illusions to entertain our minds.

So here's an exercise for you. Start to listen to your mind. When you are quiet, or just waking up, or just before going to bed, or in the shower, or driving in the car.... just listen to your thoughts. What are they about? Are they about the future, hopes and desires? Or are they an imagined disagreement with someone? Are they about a past experience? Don't judge the thought, just note it. Keep noting your thoughts. Are you stuck in the past or living in the future?

I have to say, I am pretty equal. I do all of the above. This morning the first thing I thought of when I hit the snooze button on my alarm was, "I'm never gonna finish that novel." I heard it as soon as I thought it (because I've been practising) and I was shocked! I wasn't even aware I still held onto these feelings. In fact, I have been feeling the total opposite (what, with my new and wonderful outline and goal setting...) I don't even know why this was my first thought of the day. Maybe because I had woken up late, hit snooze a couple times, and yet still felt tired and lazy. But I thought to myself, "What was that? Why did I just tell myself that? I haven't even gotten out of bed yet and I have already started my day by doubting myself!" I was amazed.

I wonder how many mornings I have woken up unaware of this negative chatter in my head? No wonder why I have been struggling!

After you've mastered the ability to listen to this inner chatter, then comes the hardest part... listening to that voice when you are in the throws of a heated argument. Every argument you have is either fueled by the past or ignited by the future. You get emotional and upset because the argument either triggers some feelings based on past events or it threatens your sense of the future. It is much harder to stay in the Now during those times.

So have you mastered living in the Now?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Writing Buddy Goals Week Four and The Winners Are...

Today was the big day that Jason announced all the winners for his flash fiction contest. I am so sad to say I did not win... not a place anyway. Philosophically speaking, I won in other ways. I met lots of new writer-bloggy friends, I tried something new, I came up with a new idea for my next novel, and I read over 40 positive comments for my contest entry (well, some were my replies...).

So the winners are...
1st Place--SARAH HINA, And Miles to Go Before She Sleeps (#27) Prize: $25 Amazon gift certificate, 8 x 10 print of the "Running Wind" photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)

2nd Place--SEAN FERRELL, Reversal (#56) Prize: $20 Amazon gift certificate

3rd Place--JOSH VOGT, Time is a Road (#49) Prize: $15 Amazon gift certificate

4th Place--PAUL LIADIS, Ar'n Man (#39) Prize: $10 Amazon gift certificate

5th Place--JEFF B, You Can't Get There from Here (#61) Prize: $5 Amazon gift certificate

Honorable Mention--CHARLES GRAMLICH, Precious Cargo (#1)

Honorable Mention--SCOTT SIMPSON, Blurred Vision (#6)

Honorable Mention--POSOLXSTVO, Anywhere But Here (#19)

Honorable Mention--SCOTT ELLIS, Freebird (#32)

Honorable Mention--AERIN, Dreamland Eyes (#62)

READERS' CHOICE AWARD:Readers' Choice...
CHARLES GRAMLICH, Precious Cargo (#1) Prize: $15 Amazon gift certificate, 8 x 10 print of the "Running Wind" photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)

1st Runner-Up--SARAH HINA, And Miles to Go Before She Sleeps (#27)

2nd Runner-Up--JOSH VOGT, Time is a Road (#49)

Congratulations everyone! This was an awesome adventure with lots of talented writers.

Last Week's Writing Buddy Goals...
Last week, one of my goals was to write an outline from page 85 to the end. I am happy to say all I have left is the second half of the last chapter to complete and I feel fan-tas-tic! I really do. Who knew an outline could be such a freeing experience? Not me! I am always, down with outlines, let your story come organically. Well, not that I tell others what their process should be, but I feel most of the time, that is the best process for me... up until a certain point, that is.

What I learned is, I can do that for the first draft up until about the second half of the middle. I can throw out all the foreshadowing and seeding and laying the ground work in an organic, free, no-outline, kind of way. But, then I hit a point in the story where all of that needs to be tied up in a neat little bow and resolved. It is at this point that an outline needs to be written. It was downright mandatory. And now that I've written one, I really do feel unclouded.

What was Learned During my Writing Buddy Discussion...
Today, my buddy and I conferred... (sorry, just had to use that word - don't know why...) and I would say the unifying theme for both of us was all about something I recently read in Eckhart Tolle's book, The Power of Now. (I actually posted more about this subject here.) We both discovered we are using the thinking brain while we both need to use what Tolle calls the unthinking brain.

Cathy and I were talking about, how right now, in our careers as writers, we don't feel we have any control over this process. We likened it to exercising. When you don't exercise for a while, you are rusty and out of shape and it takes a while to get "into" it. So ,we both are on a mission on how to be able to control slipping out of the thinking brain and into what I would like to call instead, the artist brain (you know - that trance-like state you get into during a really good writing session).

I would like to open a discussion here... How do you get into that trance-like state where the writing just flows and you are not intentionally thinking, or analyzing what you are writing? The words just pour out of you and you are more like a passenger on a ride. Have you been able to master going between these two states when you need to? How do you engage that artist brain and tell the thinking brain it is time to quiet down?

Goals for this Week...
  1. complete outline (I am on the last chapter)
  2. go through all my notes of things I had seeded and foreshadowed and make sure they are all resolved in my outline notes.
  3. WRITE
  4. WRITE
  5. WRITE
  6. (unrelated to writing) I am in the process of refinishing my daughter's old dresser. My dad and step mom just gave one of my daughters all this great furniture for her bedroom. But now her old dresser sticks out like a sore thumb. So far I have sanded it down to the natural wood. Next, I have to paint it black, then apply a thin coat of crackle, then white paint, then pink accents, then new knobs.

Those are my goals for this week. Wish me luck! And happy writing to all of you!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Writing Buddy Goals Week Three

OK, so my writing buddy and I just couldn't seem to connect this week until this morning. So, finally, here are my goals for this week and the outcome of meeting my goals from last week...


But for good reasons...

First of all, I was stuck. I wasn't blocked. That is different. I was stuck.

Yes, I admit it, I still have Agent Guy's voice stuck in my head, but only because Agent Guy said something I had previously been fearing. So when he said it, my negative ego voice latched on and said, "See, I told you so!"

So I was stuck. I was stuck wondering if I need the fantasy element in my story or not. And in being stuck and in thinking too much, I became, well, "more stuck."

Then Chris Elden (hi Chris. I miss you!) said, enter Jason Evan's contest. It will get your juices flowing and you will be unstuck. So I did.

And my juices flowed.

They woke up a latent story in me I have wanted to write but was never ready to write about for years and years. And just like that, there was a picture of a motorcycle and the idea I had, became the beginning of my next novel and Sara, my new MC. So then I went from being stuck to confused...

Since I'm stuck on my WIP, maybe I should just begin my new story GPS???

But that was my ego again - that darn negative voice saying - "See, I told you you'd never finish that novel."

I stick my tongue out at that evil voice! *tongue protruding*

At long last, my writing buddy and I connected at 9 am this morning. I was ready. I spilled my guts, me fears, my worries, my "stuckness" and she listened. And then she had me talk it out. Tell her what happens from page 85 to the end. So I did. And you know what? It all came out. It flowed like water. See, I'm not stuck.

As Eckhart Tolle would say in The Power of Now, I am just stuck in my thinking mind and I need to get to my unthinking mind where art lives. (You know, that trance-like state we all go into when we are writing, or drawing, or whatevering...)

So just like that *ping* I'm unstuck.

Through talking it out with her I also realized this is where I stopped writing my animation script. I told her about that story and she was laughing really hard. She said, you stopped writing it at the same point as you are now. *light bulb* Yeah, I stopped that one at about this page count too. I knew the ending, but didn't know how to get from the second half of the middle to the ending and that is exactly where I am now.

Unfortunatley, Sara from GPS, I am onto you, creeping up on me, taunting me, teasing me with a new novel idea, distracting me with your story. It's a test.

Will I take it?

No. I will not.

I will finish my WIP and come back to Sara because she has been waiting for me all this time anyway and I know she will be there when I finish my WIP.

So my goals for this week...

  1. Write, in synopsis form, my story from page 85 to the end to remind me that I am not stuck. I know exactly where I am going.
  2. WRITE
  3. WRITE
  4. WRITE

Happy Writing Everyone!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Jason Evan's Running Wind Short Fiction Contest

Hey Everyone,

If you've never joined in on a short fiction contest, I highly recommend it. This was my first one and it has been a blast! 45 entries in all, flooded the pages of Jason Evan's blog Clarity of Night .

Tomorrow is the last day for submitting. You have until July 16th at 11 PM. (I don't recall if that is eastern standard...) Click here for details on rules...

At some point Jason will pick a winner and a few runners up. But there will also be an award given to reader's choice. So here are a few links to my favorite stories, in no particular order...

Entry #32 Freebird by J. Scott Ellis
Entry #27 And Miles To Go Before She Sleeps by Sarah Hina
Entry #22 Crisscrossing Over by James R. Tomlinson
Entry #21 Riding to Extinction by Linda Courtland
Entry #16 Winnie Rides Again by Amy T.
Entry #13 Visiting You In Ward B by K. Lawson Gilbert
Entry #1 Precious Cargo by Charles Gramlich

Luckily, it is not up to me to pick a winner, but if I was forced to choose only one, I think it would have to be K. Lawson Gilbert because hers was written in such an interesting and unique style that was both powerful and emotive. She vacillated between what the MC was thinking (written in italics) and what the MC actually said out loud. I thought it was brilliant mixed with moments of just beautiful writing.

My favorite stanza would have to be...
Are your eyes looking at my face?
Are you really seeing me?
Your lips are as soft as rose petals.
They taste like 1963.
So good luck everyone! it was a lot of fun getting to make some new bloggy friends. I wish us all the best and hope our paths cross on the blogosphere again.
Happy Writing!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hey Everyone...

Hey you guys, if you like my below entry, GPS (My Next Novel) will you please go to Jason's blog and leave a comment?


Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Next Novel...

Chris Elden informed me about Jason Evan's blog and the fun contests he is having this summer. Check it out.

It was exactly what I needed to get my juices flowing again. This will be the next novel I work on as soon as I am done with my WIP. This one will be YA though...


She was practically born on the back of her father’s motorcycle, learning to navigate with the wind in her face at 60 mph. Her father’s broad back kept her somewhat sheltered.

She learned to position the map the way they were headed on the road so she wouldn’t accidentally say, turn left, when she meant turn right and they’d end up in Toledo.

This time they were headed to the Amish Country, PA. “Which way,” he yelled over the roar of the wind.

“Make a left onto Bird in Hand Road and then a right at the fork.”

He knew he could trust her directions, after all he had taught her. And no daughter of his would read a map like a girl. It was the same with driving a stick too. “My daughters drive like men, aggressive behind the wheel, smooth with the gears, and hugging the inside of curves.”

But how could she tell him this summer things had changed, despite map reading and driving a stick. She had unwillingly become a woman. He wouldn’t want to know but fear buzzed like an electric wire in her brain. “This is why daughters need mothers,” she thought to herself.

As the darkness engulfed her, she convinced herself she was still a virgin and no one would ever need to know.

She studied the map in-between whizzing streetlamps and wished it could help navigate her through this slippery world of sex for a motherless girl.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Writing Buddy Goals Week two

So, I may find out some time this week, if I am returning to the teaching world this fall. Therefore, finishing my novel has never been more important. It is do or die time, sink or swim, and a whole mess of other related idioms. So how did I do holding up my end of the bargain this past week?

Well, I began the week really well. I woke up at 7:30 am and read my novel until about 10:00 each morning in the beginning of the week. My girls and I were still able to fit in bike rides and together time, and I was still able to make all my freelancing deadlines as well.

Then the nearer the 4th of July holiday weekend came, the more off track I became. My husband took a couple days off and my whole plan fell to pot.

But that's OK. We are allowed to take off from time to time too, right? (Do you think JK Rowling ever took off, or Sharon Creech???) Anyway, all that matter is I am back on track this week

So my goals for this week are...
  1. finish reading my novel

  2. continue taking notes for changes to make in the next draft

  3. continue cataloguing characters as they are introduced and what pages they are on so I can see gaps for MCs.

  4. If I can finish all of that, I will write 10 new pages.

So those are my goals for this week. Wish me luck and happy writing everyone!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

4th of July Berry Blast

Barrie has put it out there in Blogger World, anyone who has great 4th of July side dishes or dessert recipes to post them for all of our enjoyment. Her thinking was we would all most likely wind up somewhere on the 4th and would need to bring along something scrumptious.

So, here is mine. This is an easy one, but my kids just love it and they love making it.

4th of July Berry Blast

This is a super easy fruit parfait. So simple, your kids can make it. It looks prettiest in tall glasses or fancy glasses for martinis, champagne, sangria, etc.
  • Wash blueberries and strawberries.
  • Set Blue berries aside.
  • Cut the stems off the strawberries and then slice. Set aside

To make home-made whipped cream(or buy some at the store):

  • buy heavy cream - now in some stores you can find fat free heavy cream, or 1/2 and 1/2. You'll never taste the different.
  • pour cream in bowl. Use whisk or hand mixer and begin whipping until it is almost stiff - not all the way.
  • add a teaspoon of vanilla and sugar to taste
  • continue whipping until you can make peak.

Layering the Parfait

  • begin with a dollop of whipped cream in the bottom of all the glasses, then layer with strawberries, whipped cream, blue berries, whipped cream, etc until the glass is full.

And viola! It is so simple and really delicious. Every time I make it, it is such a crowd pleaser. Everyone is drawn to the pretty glasses and the red, white, and blue dessert.

Enjoy! If you want to play along in this 4th of July recipe blogger-share, please post on your blog a fun and delicious side dish or dessert and then reply back so we can go and check it out.

Happy 4th Everyone!

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous