It’s that time of year again…

It’s that time of year again. The time where we look back on the last year and forward to the new one. We take stock of all we did, but mostly all we didn’t do and we make those pesky promises – or resolutions – to ourselves about how we’ll better ourselves next year.

Well – screw that. I’m going to get started early.

So – here’s the thing. I keep making excuses about my writing.  First, it was my old job. It was draining and I was just too exhausted to be creative. True – but an excuse non-the-less. Then, it was my laptop – my trusty companion from college and grad school entered into its twilight years. It still works. But not well. So it was frustrating trying to get anything done on it. Well, then Husband in all his amazing awesomeness got me a new laptop for Christmas!

Here’s my plan. No. My promise to myself.

I will write something every day. And I will post it here. I need to hold myself accountable.

What are my rules? Should I have rules? Yes – I think so. Writing of any kind will count. It could be a regular blog post. It could be a writing exercise. It could be one of my “critical essay” type blog posts. It just has to be SOMETHING.

Length? Because a single word shouldn’t count. So – maybe AT LEAST a paragraph. Yes, I think that sounds good.

In moments that I need inspiration I’ve got two books I’ll be using. First is “The Write Brain Workbook” by Bonnie Neubauer.

thewritebrainworkbook

And the other one (the one I’m really excited about) is “The Imaginary World of __________” by Keri Smith

1011441611

On the days that I work directly in the books – I’ll post a photo of the writing. That seems fair.

So – let’s get this year ended on the right foot.

People That Stick With You

There are people who challenge you every day. They challenge you to be braver. They challenge you to be stronger. Nicer. Better. Kinder. 

There are people who bring out the best in you. These people can take all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s your husband. Sometimes it’s your boss. Sometimes it’s your best friend. Sometimes it’s a total stranger next to you in line at the grocery store.

Then, there are people who give you the opportunity to learn who you are and who you can be. These people are the ones that makes you doubt yourself. These are the bullies, the naysayers, the haters. Just like the others, these people can be anyone. They can be a sibling. They can be a coworker. They can be that jackass in the next lane that cuts you off.

These people, the “good” and the “bad” shape who we are. How we react and how we change defines how the world sees us, and how we see ourselves. 

Then, if you’re anything like me, there’s the scenes that play out in your head. The World of What If. What if I was kinder? What if I stopped and gave that homeless man I pass on my way to work my yogurt in the morning? What if I was braver? What if I told that coworker to go to Hell? What if I rammed that jerk in the bumper at the next red light?

I see these scenes play out so vividly in my mind. Mostly, I’m the hero. Other times, I’m the villain. All these people and all these choices to live in the World of What If are opportunities.

What people don’t know, is that for a writer, we live in the World of What If. Everyone we meet. Every person that makes an impression on us (good or bad) is free game. I might not be able to tell that creeper at the pharmacy what I really think about him, but in my writing I can. In the World of My Words, I can come in dressed in a cape, say something so clever and witty that ass won’t know what verbal onslaught just hit him, and then spray him with mace. 

This is your warning, people in the Land of the Internet. Piss me off, I will slay you in my next short story. Give me strength and I will make you a hero in my next epic. For all those people out there, the ones that stick with me, are the ones that will become characters in my stories. Good or bad, you will be my inspiration. 

I like the good, but the bad are just as fun to play with. 

So, I dare you. Challenge me. Push me and see what happens. Support me and see yourself through another’s eyes. I’m always looking for more characters for my stories. Just ask yourself first, “Who do I want to be?”

Loving Imperfections

I’m one of those people that likes to troll Facebook in order to see the funny articles, videos, and occasional updates from my friends. I don’t really pause to examine your dinner in full detail nor do I feel compelled to read every status update on your new born. Don’t get me wrong, I like babies, but I don’t need to know what color his/her snot is.

However, the other day I saw an article that made me stop and read the whole thing through. It was a link to a blog post about 7 Cultural Concepts We don’t Have in the US. The concept that spoke to me the most was this one called wabi-sabi. From the blog post and a small bit of other research, I discovered that the wabi-sabi way of looking at life might be something that all artist should adopt. Basically it’s a Japanese idea of finding beauty in something that is imperfect and/or worn. One web site defined it as ignoring perfect and embracing the worn and asymmetrical, and proposes that doing this can change the way you see the world.

It’s already helped me accept my knitting mistakes. Each time I purl instead of knit and each time I knit instead of purl I’m making a mistake that (while annoying) adds a since of humanity and beauty to the scarf. A machine can knit tons of scarfs in a day with no imperfections, but it won’t do it with love. It won’t come home from work and think of that special person each time it adds a row.

But this is a writing blog.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Everything.

That first draft of anything you write should be full of grammar mistakes and plot holes. You should work hard on it and love those imperfections as you write. If another writer hard the same plot and characters and everything, they wouldn’t make the same mistakes that you do. And maybe something that looks like a mistake (a character turns out a bit differently than you intended) might be that thing that pulls the story together later on in other drafts. You need to make those mistakes to see what your story is just as much as you need them to see what your story isn’t.

Well, what about the last draft? The story will never be “perfect.” Each time you read it you’ll think, “Oh, I should have changed that phrasing…” So – just love the story for what it is. Sure, you’ll need to fine tune those rough edges, but by the time you are done that story will be well worn. It will be full of little quirks that is all you. Quirks that you might not even notice. Quirks that make up your own unique writing style.

Maybe its just me, but I think that sounds like a good way to go about writing. This concept of wabi-sabi is what finally got this idea of being okay with your sh*tty first draft. And, the cowl I’ve been trying to knit since October.

Second Thoughts on the New Year

Since my last post, I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions.

I think I was a bit negative about the whole thing. I suppose at the end of the New Year, it’s easier to get distracted by all you haven’t done and not all that you have done.

I did have some pretty awesome moments in 2014.

I had a short story published (with other stories by fellow and former students from my grad school) by the Peace Corp in Ethiopia. Schools all over the country will now have the books with our stories, my story, in them to help the students learn to read English.

I got promoted at work and now have a Big Girl Job.

Husband and I have never been stronger and never been better.

And plenty of other small victories.

I don’t need to focus on that fact that I didn’t write as much as I wanted, or that I didn’t submit to as many agents as I should have, or that I didn’t read as many books as I had wanted to.

Goals are important. I can’t believe that I forgot that lesson from one of my classes at school. We made a goal board that was a visual representation of our goals for the year. Then, I posted a list of all my goals all over my house in places that I would see every day. And, it seemed without even trying, I completed most of those goals.

So this year I vow to…

  • Write more
  • Read more
  • Loose some weight (yep… I’m at that lovely stage of life now. I even joined WeightWatcher this weekend. Exercise just wasn’t doing enough)
  • Be better about staying on top of the laundry
  • Submit to at least TWO agents (Setting the bar kinda low, but with the rate I’ve been going it’s better than two in a year and a half)
  • Submit at least one story to a contest

Right. I think that’s a good start. This blog post is probably the one that best reflects the “life and times of a former English grad student trying to make her way in the world.”

Well, the holidays are over and “real life” starts back bright and early in the morning. Here’s to making these resolutions stick.

That Time of the Year

Well, it’s that time of the year again.

The time where work is slow and I have a chance to catch up on reading and writing.

The time where I (and millions of other people) make promises to themselves that they probably won’t keep.

The time for New Year’s Resolutions.

I do/say this every year. I’m going to write more. I’m going to submit to agents this year. I’m going to read 50 books…well, maybe more like 25 (which I never even get close to) this year. This year I’m going to be better.

And, like most people, I am. For a little while. But not long enough. Not long enough to be really productive anyway.

*sigh*

So, what am I going to do differently this year? What revelation have I had that’s prompted me to write this post?

…. The answers are 1) I don’t know and 2) nothing.

In a lot of ways, I think my thesis burnt me out way more than I realized. For over a year the thought of writing something new,o f opening up a blank word document and just letting the words flow, was just exhausting. It took me about 5 years to write my thesis from scratch and work through countless drafts and revisions. 5 YEARS! I know that writing the second book will be different than the first, but its hard to get excited when I know how much “suffering” there is ahead of me.

Maybe you’re thinking at this point, “Why are you even worried about writing a second book when the first one isn’t even published?”

Because the story isn’t over. It’s not all about publishing and agents and that nonsense. Writing for me has always been a passion. A discovery of people and places and things. I had to learn a lot about fencing my thesis. And fairy tales and folklore. I also learned a lot about myself.

I will write the second book because it deserves to be written, even if I’m the only one who ever reads it.

While writing this post, I found a quote from Neil Gaiman that I think encompasses my goals for this year:

gaiman

So – here’s to surprising myself next year, and I hope the same to you.

Are you there Blog? It’s me, Caroline.

I do this all the time.

I know. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again.

But right now, I have the time AND the desire to blog. A very rare combination, but one that I hope to have more often.

Anyway, here we go again. I’ve decided to start submitting to agents again. The first time I did it, well, it was really to only one agent. I think this time I have a better game plan, of sorts. Well, at least I have a better mind set.

I just got home from doing a reading at my old college. It was awesome. I got to feel like a real, published author for a little bit. I got to strut my stuff (my killer-MFA-knowledge-stuff) and show off a little bit for Husband. The best part though, were the students that came up to me afterward and told me that I inspired them. Holly crap, that was awesome. And it was in that moment where I thought, “Yep. Stop dragging your feet and start working on your writing again.”

I’m not going to lie. It’s been a little over a year since I finished my 250 page thesis. I ODed on writing and fantasy and all the things that I loved about that side of my life. It’s taken me a year to want to write again and to want to even LOOK at my thesis/novel to prepare it for submissions. I’ve finished one short story in this past year. And that’s it.

Okay – yes. I have gotten a new job and been promoted to a pretty important role very quickly. And I have been trying to launch an Etsy site. So, it’s not like I haven’t done anything.

But, I haven’t done anything with my passion. I’ve let it wither and die. Professor/Friend and Husband called me out on it at dinner one night – I’ll never get published if I talk myself out of submitting.

With that in mind, an hour after Husband and I got home, I cleaned off the desk. I pulled up my dusty file on possible agents, and began researching fiction competitions. I am going to do this. I owe it to myself, my parents, Husband, all my former professors, and those students that I inspired to do more. I don’t want to be 80 and still perfecting my novel – still waiting for…something. 

I think I’ve been a bit overly ambitious before. I think, if I can really get into the groove, I can dedicate a few hours every Saturday to writing. Writing meaning anything that has to do with writing – so preparing things for agents, submitting stories for competitions, planning the next book, and actually writing. I can do that.

This is what I love. And this is me, raw, at my core. I am a lover of literature and a wonderful writer. I won’t let myself forget that again.

Making Time to Write

Well, I’m doing it. I’m getting back to my writing.

One piece of advice that I hear all the time from people on how to be a good writer is to write something everyday. Which doesn’t really sound all that hard now does it? Just sit down, with pen and paper, and just put some words down. It doesn’t have to be the beginnings of amazing literature. It just has to be something.

Yeah, it’s not that easy. Maybe for some people it is, but not for me. I do this thing where I psych myself out. I over think my writing all the time and don’t allow it to be crappy. I mean, no matter what, when you write something you need to allow yourself to write that shitty first draft.

I don’t do that. I put too much pressure on myself and I know it’s stupid, but I do.

Then, on top of all that, I have to make time for writing. Again, not that hard, right?

And again, for me it is. I work a full time job now, I’m married and (call me crazy) but I like to spend quality time with Husband, I have friends that I already don’t spend as much time with as I should, family, reading, blogging, and I joined a gym. By the time I get everything done in a day that I need to do, there’s not a ton of time or energy left over for writing.

I suppose that’s what self discipline is for, but even that comes in limited quantities.

So how do I go about making time to write and making sure I have energy?

I don’t know really. I’m still trying to figure it out. It would make sense to set time aside everyday for writing, but I’ve tried that before.

Really, I’m just making excuses. I’m going to try different strategies and we’ll see what happens.

My first plan is to participate in the weekly writing prompt that Writer’s Digest has on their webpage. My plan is to post the prompt (and others that I come across) at the beginning(ish) of each week, and then post what I write on it by the time I post the next prompt. We’ll see how this works. I’d love it for anyone to join me and in the comment section leave some of what they wrote in response 🙂

What about you? How to you make sure that you have time to write?

Remember When Writing Was Fun?

I might’ve written something like this before…

Anyway, I’ve hit this wall.  This wall of just not caring about my craft and it totally sucks.

Writing used to be my passion. I mean, I used to have so many ideas and just such energy that I filled notebooks up with scrawling. Seriously, everywhere I went, I spent 90% of the time writing. Restaurant: wrote on the back of paper napkins. Church: Wrote all over the bulletin. School: well…notebooks. I even wrote fanfiction.

But now…

Now it’s like another job. I have contests I want to enter. Samples I’m preparing as samples for Agents. Articles that I write for culturemass.com. I’m trying to build a web presence, a publishing history, and maybe even make a little money along the way (because isn’t that part of why I got an MFA?).

So, in other words, now there’s all this ….pressure. And it’s all from me! I’m putting all this pressure on me and my craft. That it has to work out. That it has to be done. And just thinking about it all is exhausting. Then, I sit down to write and nothing comes out.

…Which freaks me out even more.

I know what it all comes from.

I’m not writing for me anymore. I’m writing for my career. It’s become work, and it’s less fun. Which is also scary and freaks me out. (I think this is why authors do writing retreats, but I can’t afford a writing retreat so what’s a girl to do? Push through it.)

This big question here is: HOW DO I MAKE IT FUN AGAIN?

The answer: *shrug* I don’t know.

My plan for now is to just power through it. That’s all I can do. It’ll be fun again one day. I’m not going to give up on that day.

The Right Words

A few posts ago (The Dangerous of Being True To Yourself) I mentioned how many inspirational quotes there are out there and that words can only go so far.

I don’t admit this often, but I was wrong.

Let me start of with this awesome quote from Mark Twain:

I think this really applies to “inspirational” crap as well.

It’s not about the words- it’s about finding the right words to inspire you.

See the difference? 

What gets me inspired and pumped up to write and just be plain awesome might not be what gets other people’e juices flowing. 

Here’s what gives me strength:
“SOME NIGHTS”

Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck
Some nights, I call it a draw
Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle
Some nights, I wish they’d just fall off

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know anymore…
Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa oh oh
Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa oh oh

This is it, boys, this is war – what are we waiting for?
Why don’t we break the rules already?
I was never one to believe the hype – save that for the black and white
I try twice as hard and I’m half as liked, but here they come again to jack my style

And that’s alright; I found a martyr in my bed tonight
She stops my bones from wondering just who I am, who I am, who I am
Oh, who am I? mmm… mmm…

Well, some nights, I wish that this all would end
Cause I could use some friends for a change
And some nights, I’m scared you’ll forget me again
Some nights, I always win, I always win…

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for, oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know… (come on)

So this is it? I sold my soul for this?
Washed my hands of God for this?
I miss my mom and dad for this?

(Come on)

No. When I see stars, when I see, when I see stars, that’s all they are
When I hear songs, they sound like this one, so come on
Oh, come on. Oh, come on, OH COME ON!

Well, that is it guys, that is all – five minutes in and I’m bored again
Ten years of this, I’m not sure if anybody understands
This one is not for the folks at home; Sorry to leave, mom, I had to go
Who the fuck wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?

My heart is breaking for my sister and the con that she call “love”
When I look into my nephew’s eyes…
Man, you wouldn’t believe the most amazing things that can come from…
Some terrible lies…ahhh…

Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh oh
Oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh oh

The other night, you wouldn’t believe the dream I just had about you and me
I called you up, but we’d both agree
It’s for the best you didn’t listen
It’s for the best we get our distance… oh…
It’s for the best you didn’t listen
It’s for the best we get our distance… oh…

Or, you know, if you want to hear the song if you haven’t already check out the video:

To me, this is a song about being an underdog. It’s about doubt. It’s about figuring out who you are and what it might cost you to be true to yourself. It’s about weather or not it is worth doing what you do if you feel like no one understands. To me, it pretty much sums up my Dangers of Being True To Yourself post. 

When I need a kick in the pants or when I need to feel like “YES! I may be super nerdy! I may want something that isn’t easy (a life where I can be a writer and just write) but NO! I will not give up!” I listen to this song.

Also, sometimes just one or two lines – like the hook or part of the chorus of a song – really empower me. So this one from Imagine Dragons’ song “It’s Time” is one I shout at the top of my lungs in my car when I need some reassurance. 

I’m just the same as I was
Now don’t you understand
That I’m never changing who I am!


Then – I also have this lovely picture hanging in my bathroom. Every morning when I brush my teeth I see it. Every night when I get ready for bed, I take it in.
It’s “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

Some days that road is hard and bumpy. But I am better for it I think, “And that has made all the difference.”

I’ll wrap this up now – but I do want to share that I made an iMix on iTunes that I think you can search for and download. It’s called “Music For Writers” but I really think it can be for anyone who might need a bit of inspiration. Just incase, here’s the track list:
  1. Die Vampire, Die – [title of show] 
  2. Some Nights – fun.
  3. Through Heavens Eyes – The Prince of Egypt soundtrack
  4. Defying Gravity – I like the Glee version and the original so whatever floats your boat
  5. Just Dance – Lady Gaga
  6. I Want It All – Queen
  7. Eye of the Tiger – Rocky Soundtrack
  8. Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
  9. It’s Time – Imagine Dragons
  10. Paperback Writer – The Beatles
  11. Open Book – Cake

What songs empower you? What words? Share them here or just find them and hold on to them. The right words make all the difference. 

Back to Reality

Yes, I lied.


I said that I would post (not regularly, but post none-the-less) this summer. Well, I didn’t. Sure, I posted a bit, but not enough to count.


I was super busy! This was my last summer to be on campus during my program and I wanted to make it count. And did I ever. I made tons of new friends, got lots of writing done, fell back in love with my novel/WIP/thesis, AND came to terms with the fact that I am a good writer.


For such a long time I felt like I wasn’t good enough. That the words that I put done on the page were just awful and that I’d never get a book deal. 


Well, I don’t feel that now. I reread a lot of my older stuff, stuff I typed up three months ago and with each key stroke would think, “This is shit. This is total and complete shit, but just get it on the page and then you can revise.” I don’t think that anymore. 


I need to believe in myself, because if I don’t then who the hell is going to? Yes, my super-amazing husband will always believe in me, and so will my family, but that is only enough when you believe in yourself. 


I’m stepping off of my soapbox now. 


Goals for this new “year.” I say year because by this time next year I will (hopefully) have my thesis done and will be looking for agents/ editors. Well, let me rephrase… Goal for this year. Work on my thesis/novel (it’s one in the same now) for AT LEAST one hour each day. I need to do that to get the last few chapter written and then begin the revision process before sending the revised chapters to my thesis advisor for notes and even more revision.





But it’s so exciting! There is an end in sight! I will have this  novel done soon, and before you know it you will be seeing it on the bookshelves at bookstores. Mark my words. I will continue to make salads and whatnot to help my husband with the finances but also so that I can focus on my work.


From here on out, my real job is my novel. My hobby is going and making money.