Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Friday Five3

Since our last Friday Five, I have been intrigued by people doing things right. Some of them are serious and some less so, but either way, we don’t always hear these stories, so I thought I’d share. Enjoy!

  1. The geniuses at Girlxoxo are my heroes. Here is a master list of reading challenges for the year. Click on that, and come back. Are you back? Did you see?!?!?! I KNOW, RIGHT?!?! This is the best.
  2. I imagine that there are several issues on which Sarah Silverman and I would disagree, but this is absolutely the nicest way I’ve ever heard of handling someone who called you something terrible.
  3. A compilation of writing advice from 27 successful writers.  I particularly enjoy James Altucher’s advice to drink coffee + read and read and read + write and John Avlon’s description of writing for the ear.
  4. Danielle Henderson via Shondaland teaches us how to gym for non-gym people. *raises hand*
  5. How to apologize, the master class. The podcast linked within the article is long-ish (well, not for a podcast, I guess, but I’m having attention span issues today) but worth the listen.
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

photo (17)

THE BEST DAY!!!

New Year’s Day is easily one of my top ten favorite days of the year. Maybe even top five. I love setting new goals or revising old ones. I love – if even for just a day – looking forward and being intentionally cheerful about what the year might bring. I looooove breaking in my new planner – saying my official goodbye and thank you to last year’s calendar with its scuffs and battle scars and breaking out the shiny new one.

My word for the year is “core.” I have a pretty strong sense of what is important to me and what traits I want to cultivate the most, but this year is devoted to saying those things out loud (or at least on the internet). I am going to talk more about this later this week, but by the end of the year, I want to see a marked improvement in how my core values shape my goals, commitments, and strength.

I have listed a lot of goals and dreams for the year in my 52 Lists journal, and I won’t bog you down with all of them. But here are the key ones:

  1. Read 100 books. That’s just two a week with a couple of weeks off. That’s how much I read when I am reading consistently. Reading grounds and calms me. I fall out of the habit when I over-commit to other things that leave me drained and stressed, so ideally this goal will help me do more reading and less stressing this year.
  2. Make some of these books really long ones. Specifically, I want to read Don Quixote, Infinite Jest, and Anna Karenina.
  3. Finish the first draft of Fishbowl. My hard deadline for this is June 15, so the year’s end may even find me in revision mode. But the first step is just to finish.
  4. Finish Epic Meal Planning edits. Possibly even publish?
  5. Continue learning Spanish and read at least one book in Spanish (with minimal dictionary usage) by the end of the year.
  6. Take a solitary writing retreat. Criteria: 1) outside Denton, 2) two days minimum, and 3) no Internet.
  7. Go to a coffee shop or wine bar at least once a month. Write more about coffee shops.
  8. Build up my emergency fund and get back in the habit of paying off credit cards fully every month. I’ve lapsed a little, and I don’t like it.
  9. Financial/health combo goal – actually use my gym membership regularly or cancel it. Paying for something I don’t use is ridiculous. So is being sedentary.
  10. Try at least one new recipe a month. My meal planning is in a rut. I need new ideas. Feel free to post your favorites in the comments section.

What do you want your 2018 to look like?

Read Full Post »

photo (14)

Wild streak

It seemed fitting to end the year of wild with a little heat in my hair.

Other than cosmetically, however, I am not sure how wild the year was. It had its moments. We road-tripped to Virginia and made no real plans for the trip there and back. I ran alone sometimes. I tried new things and spoke out a little more about things that are important to me. I also discovered I’m wilder than I suspected, which is equal parts exciting and scary.

A significant part of the year seemed to be tangled up in trying to balance the wild with safety. This post from my 31 Days series sums up that struggle nicely. Wild is not safe. But wild can be free. It just needs a little room to run. I seem to love (and by “love,” I do mean “thrive in”) the chaos of the wild. I wouldn’t have guessed that.

I’m not through unpacking all of it yet, but that’s okay. The word doesn’t have to end its influence just because the year does.

In other resolution news, I’ve managed to meet at least a little of each one.

  1. Read 100 books. I read 63 books (or, at least, I kept up with 63. A few seem to be missing). I really loved a lot of them. The ones that stand out are Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, Meagan Spooner’s Hunted, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series, and all the Fredrik Backman books.
  2. Learn conversational Spanish. I took a Spanish class at work. We only got to things like simple directions around campus, but it’s a start.
  3. Continue to make my home a place that is welcoming and does not hinder the life I create. My office is a madhouse. Everything that is still unpacked is in there, and it’s a lot. I think I met this goal in a way that I didn’t intend, though. Even though there are pockets of mess all around, I still had people over more often. I meant to keep my home in a way that was not a hindrance to hospitality, but what seems to have happened is that I just decided that it wasn’t going to be a hindrance and lived my life anyway. Acceptable.
  4. Continue to improve my health and well-being. This is another goal that morphed. My health is better. My blood pressure is staying down, and my focus has improved. Anxiety is still afoot, but it is the monster in the back of my mind instead of the one staring me down when I open my eyes, so that’s better. I haven’t lost the weight like I intended, but I haven’t gained either, which is something, considering that I didn’t pay much attention to it at all.
  5. Finish at least one manuscript and publish a 2018 calendar. I did not finish a manuscript. But I worked on one more consistently than I did the previous year, so…progress? I didn’t publish a calendar like I meant to, but I did make my own calendar of coffee pictures (currently hanging in my kitchen, and it’s sooo cute). I think I just needed to prove to myself that the printing of the calendar was the easy part if I would just get the pictures together.
  6. Run a 5K. Running is so much harder now than it was 20 years ago. I think I finally accepted that this year. This is a doable goal; it’s just not a quickly doable goal. I have a vague hope that I will run consistently one day, but this is not that day. And tomorrow’s not that day, either. Don’t hold your breath.
  7. Go on a writing retreat. Yay! I did! I went to Andi’s retreat, and I have to finish my Fishbowl rough draft by the time the 2018 retreat rolls around. I may have to insert some solitary retreats in there this year to get this done.
  8. Get paid for writing in some way. I totally did this. I make enough in writing to cover my grocery budget, and my Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify subscriptions. SEO writing is not my calling, but it’s a writing job, and I am happy to have it.
  9. Continue/establish beloved traditions. My traditions that have stuck are my Advent/Christmas rituals and my Hemingway party, and they’re both the newest ones. It seems like each home has its own traditions. The cooking/baking weekends all happened when I had a great kitchen (and Maggie to help). But parties with lots of people and space for a full-sized Christmas tree? That I can do here. I look forward to seeing what else this space might hold for me this year.

Happy New Year, everyone!

photo (15)

 

Read Full Post »

Love-Letters-to-Writers_screen_72dpi

Andi’s book is launching on November 14, and I’M SO EXCITED!!! As a member of her online writing community, I have benefited from Andi’s wisdom through my inbox every week, so it’s thrilling to see her letters compiled in a volume that I can share with the writers in my life. I interviewed Andi about the Love Letters to Writers, and I hope you enjoy it!

1. I am a to-do list person. One thing your letters (and your online writing group) have encouraged me to do is slow down and pay attention. Why is this important for artists in general and for writers in particular?

Oh, I’m a to-do list person, too. I like to feel like I’ve gotten a lot done, but I’ve learned that as a writer that product cannot be the end-all-be-all. Process is crucial, and part of the process for an artist is that we have to notice and bear witness to what happens around us. For writers, this means that sometimes our work is to take note rather than to shape things.  So sometimes we do a lot of writing that no one else will ever see.  We have to pay attention to our senses, to our bodies, and to our emotions. We have to slow down to try to see the Why? behind things . . . because it’s in that why that the life of a story lives.

2. You often write in your letters about the physical spaces you create to support the habits of your writing life. What common elements do you find necessary for such spaces?

For me, the space needs to be quiet. It needs to be filled with things I love but that don’t require my attention – pieces of art, books I know, objects that people I love have given me.  I really need to love the wall color (My office is painted in “Macaroni and Cheese.”).  I also need my writing space to be comfortable in terms of a chair and desk.

But that’s what I need. Every writer needs different things. Some people need to work in coffee shops for the gentle distraction of other people and their chatter, and others love to have music going all the time. Some people prefer a pristine, streamlined environment, and others find that the dining room table is ideal for them.

The key is for each writer to determine what works best for them and then to create the space they need. I recommend a dedicated space for writing – even if it’s that the dining room table becomes writing space after dinner – because when we return to the same space again and again to write, it creates a sort of mental memory of what we do there.  That can be a powerful tool for starting that day’s writing.

3. You are so gentle – in your letters, in your work, and in person. Have you found this gentleness to be useful in the work you do? Why or why not?

What a kind thing to say, Suzanne. Thank you.  In the work I do with writers, yeah, most of the time I think gentleness is key. We’ve all been scolded about our writing selves – either by teachers or blogs or by those voices that live in our own minds.  Most of us need to be spoken to with gentle directness, I think.

On occasion, my clients could probably use a more assertive coach who demands more of them, but then, the clients who work with me know who I am, so perhaps they don’t expect that.

In my writing life, well, I often wish I wasn’t so gentle. When I’m not working with writers, I research and write about the history and legacy of slavery, and I’m learning to make my voice more steely because American needs to hear the truth about this part of our American history.  I’m still gentle on the inside, though, so sometimes, it’s quite challenging to continue to speak strong on something that feels so obviously needed to me.

4. Great writers are often great readers. What is the best book you’ve read this year, and what did it teach you?

This is always a tough question, but I’ll just go with the first book that came to mind: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken.  I read this book just after I miscarried this year because it’s about McCracken’s own experience of losing her son before he was even born.  It taught me to write raw about the pain I’ve lived, even if I’m not ready to share that rawness yet, and it taught me that you can recall the details and emotions of an experience even after it happens and even if you don’t journal the whole time. Sometimes, I feel like since I don’t journal my days I’m missing out on books I could write later, but McCracken’s memoir reminded me that those experiences still live in me – I just have to work to find them again.

5. What are your favorite moments when working with writers?

Oh, many.  My all-time favorite is when a writer decides to take herself seriously as a writer, when she decides to commit the time, when she decides to do the work because she WANTS to do it . . . even if there’s no recognition or paycheck coming. I love those moments because they are the moments I know that a writer is in and will keep going no matter what.  They aren’t that common, but when they come, I’m exhilarated.

I also love the moments when writers find that their own egos are not the best judges of their work, when they can put aside their intentions and what they thought a work was and hear the perspective of someone – a friend, a reader, an editor – who does not find the work flawless.  Those moments are the ones that make us better writers, and while they are painful, they are crucial.

I also love launch days for writers I know.  They aren’t always – or often – spectacular successes, but the joy of putting something out into the world, something built with hard effort and love, well, that’s a glorious thing.

Love Letters to Writers is available for pre-order now. Treat yourself to this gem of a book.

DSC01789_ANDI_CHOICE (2)

Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer, who lives at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, four dogs, four cats, six goats, three rabbits, and thirty-six chickens. She writes regularly at andilit.com

Read Full Post »

Friday Five Minus One

Friday Five3

Happy Friday to you! I only have four things to share this week, but there’s a lot to chew on in some of them.

  1. Jane Friedman’s post on social media for authors was a soothing balm to me. Particularly these sentences: “It works best when you can see it as play, as a natural extension of your work. As soon as you carve it out as the ‘marketing and promotion’ part of work/life, your results may be lackluster.” Sometimes, I worry about my online presence, as the bulk of my writing time is spent in offline projects and SEO stuff. Then when I do post on social media, I feel like it has to really be something special. So I end up not posting for longer. It’s possible I’m overthinking it and just need to play.
  2. Melissa Febos via  Catapult urges us to fight the expectations placed on us (…that we place on ourselves also?) to better manage our time and get work done. I like any advice that tells me to ignore emails (except for customer emails at work, of course).
  3. If there’s one thing I love about the upcoming female remake of Lord of the Flies, it’s the opportunity it provides for satire. The last faux excerpt on this list is my favorite:

    “Murder?!” asked Erica.

    “Literally the only thing we’re trying to do on this island is not die. Why—” but Sam couldn’t finish her sentence. She was laughing too hard.

  4. The 2017 Texas Book Festival. I am going to this one year. This might not be the year, but maybe. I haven’t been to Austin in a while.

So that’s my week. Give me a fifth – what have you read this week that you liked?

Read Full Post »

story cure

The Story Cure is a how-to manual from a book doctor on fixing your manuscript. This book can do for your manuscript what a physician’s home reference book can do for what ails you physically.

According to Dinty Moore, a book doctor is “a person who will take a book manuscript…and diagnose why it is not yet working.” He then goes on to detail what aspects you might need to address during the editing process. The goal of this book is to help writers get from “I finished/started/proposed a manuscript” to “I have a real book that people might actually want to read.”

When I am evaluating writing books, I look at three things:

  1. How many notes I take
  2. How many ideas I scribble in the margin for current or future projects.
  3. How long it takes me to get through it or how often I come back to it while editing

Judging from my five pages of excited jottings, this book was a success. I read it straight through once and then went back to start some of the tasks Moore lays out. It has improved my focus on my main fiction project and has inspired new ideas for a novel I’m going to start in November. It’s been so helpful, I may have to give him credit in my acknowledgements section when the books are published.

It should also be noted that I said “when” – not “if” – they are published, because The Story Cure has armed me with tools that I’m confident will lead to publication.

Elements that I found particularly helpful include

  • character motivation/development questions to focus your characters (and thus your story),
  • a massive amount of examples and advice from other writers (complete with reference list), and
  • adaptations for people who write fiction vs. nonfiction and for people who are at varying steps in the writing process.

I also appreciate his writing style, particularly when it includes gems like this when referring to why we fix bad writing – “So Roland is safe after all, but unfortunately not everyone is safe, because it is at this point that the reader pulls out a gun and shoots the author at point-blank range.”

The Story Cure is a helpful tool for people who are in the midst of editing a story that isn’t quite where they want it to be. This book can help get you there.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Read Full Post »

photo (2)

My Instagram is cute. My house is not always cute. Sometimes, parts of my house look like this. It’s okay…ish. It could be better. I like it when it’s better.

My schedule has changed recently, so things are falling through the cracks. Things that I’m usually pretty good at, like keeping up with my meal planning calendar and laundry. It’s been a long time since the table beside the couch looked like the picture above. I can’t say that I’ve missed that.

I recently lamented to friends that I was disappointed with how my year of wild is going. As someone who is mostly organized but is also a little fond of and prone to chaos, I was looking forward to wild really shaking my year up. A still life of cups and glasses was not the chaos I had in mind. On the surface, wild hasn’t stirred around much. My life is just as un-wild as it ever has been.

Or so it would seem.

One facet of wild that I am particularly interested in cultivating is freedom. Freedom from shoulds. Freedom from lifeless traditions. Freedom from good advice that doesn’t particularly work for me in practice.

In this way, this year has been super wild, and my progress on my resolutions shows it. I am farther along toward my goals this year than I was at this time last year. Who knew that, instead of just saying, “I do what I want!” while still bending over backwards to fulfill obligations that aren’t really mine to fulfill, intentionally embracing saying no in order to cling to what fulfills me would result in getting what I want done?

Everyone, you say? Literally everyone knew that? Okay. That’s fair.

Anyway, I apologize to wild for being disappointed. Although…don’t go anywhere, wild. We’re not done here.

Perhaps it doesn’t look wild to me because I use structure, but I think this is a misunderstanding of the term. Sometimes I expect wild to be loose and flowy, but then I watch an animal stalk its prey (and by animal, I do mean my mom’s barn cats). Wild definitely requires a certain measure of focus for survival.

So this week, I begin testing a new time management structure. I was inspired by Sarah Bessey’s best practices post. The ones that really stick out to me are actually writing when I have made time to write, setting boundaries but writing them in pencil, and fill your well (because if I’m not reading or eating right or staying active, everything else goes awry). I have added a second job writing SEO content, so it makes sense that my schedule could not continue as it was without something important taking the hit. I imagine it will take a few weeks of tweaking, but I’m confident that it will work.

For those who want to put a little structure in their schedule, it’s pretty simple. I started by making a list of priorities. For me, I thought about what I would need in order to consider myself as having my life together. Keep in mind that I am single and childless and that, for the most part, I operate on a pretty low supply of give-a-damns when it comes to other people telling me what my life should be. If this does not describe you, you’re going to have to concentrate a little more to get past the voices that want to shout over you. When you are listing your priorities, your opinion is the one that matters the most.

[Aside – this is not advice to shut out other people altogether. If you are in a committed relationship and you want to remain in it, you might want to list it as a priority. Please don’t ever use “I’m focusing on me right now” as an excuse to be an inattentive asshole. If you want to break up, just break up. Don’t be passive and shady about it. /psa]

After I had my list of priorities, I divided them into daily, weekly, and monthly lists. I listed each one as specific tasks to complete. For example, for my body weight, I need to drink 100 ounces of water a day to stay hydrated, so that’s what I listed as one of my daily health goals. Decide what you can reasonably do, and quantify each goal on your list. Once you have these lists, document them. I keep a goals calendar, but you can keep up with them in whatever way works for you. It helps you chart your progress.

What process do you use to meet goals?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: