Thursday, October 8, 2015

BE-ing in Exchange for Success: Part II of Oct. IWSG Post

First let me say a great big THANK YOU to everyone who stopped by yesterday. Your comments were warm and the encouragement was much needed. I am constantly amazed by this fabulous group of writers that I've fallen in with. I started here some 7-8 years ago and it's been a wonderful ride. Even though I tend to get off the trail, switch horses, or set up camp in the woods for years on end, you are all still here, riding along solidly, ready to welcome a wandering soul back into the fold.

I am grateful. Truly.


I've been rolling around in my head the post I did yesterday. I realized it could mean two different things and it seems to have signaled a pause in my writing. Granted, I've needed that in the past (as we all do from time to time) but that's not the case this time. THIS time, I NEED to write. My hands literally (and I'm using this in the real and 'literal' sense here) itch when I think up a story or have an old tale return to my imagination. It's kind of weird, actually. Isn't there an old wives' tale that says if your palms itch, company's coming?

Does that ring true for characters? The ever elusive Muse?

There's a research project in that, kids!

Anyway, this permission to just BE is something everyone should give themselves. It is especially important for creatives. You see, I believe we are born with an innate knowing of who we are and where we belong. It's an instinct bred from stars. We KNOW who we are at a very young age, even if that knowing manifests itself in immature or contrary ways.

The very first thing I ever remember wanting to do was write. I can remember being somewhere around 4 or 5 and telling an uncle that I wanted to be a doctor but I knew that wasn't true. I wanted to be a writer. A story teller. I said "Doctor" because it impressed, even though I didn't understand "impress" at that young age. Prior to that, I'd written stories at home, in school, and I was always and forever making up games for myself and my imaginary friends. (My imaginary friend at the time was Mickey Mouse. Apparently I had celebrity connections in Imaginary Friend World.)

You see, THAT'S what I'm talking about. That need to impress. That, "Gosh if I tell them I want to write historical romance they're going to think I'm nuts!" mentality that makes us answer, "hard-boiled crime fiction" when someone asks, "So, what do YOU write?"

And have you noticed, until you're published, people ask it that way. What do YOU write? as if we're just another one of a million book author hopefuls who really can't write but think we'll be rich and famous one day? Now that's a soapbox for another time entirely.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: there's a need in all humans to be accepted. For whatever reason there are groups of people who view the arts as something nice to do on a rainy day or something to remember when you retire from your "real" job. There is another group who sees the arts as a viable career, but only if the type or medium or genre fits in with their idea of "successful" art. Or, in my experience, their idea of what YOU should be creating.

Ah, now we're getting down to the bones of the issue. We want people to be proud of us. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Aunt Edna, Uncle Phillip who secretly writes prize-winning Haiku under a pen name so all "the boys" won't know it's him. We want them to be proud of us! And rightfully so! No shame in that. But there are those genres, those art forms, that tend to get a gasp or a confused scratch of the head when mentioned. Or my personal favorite, the apprehensive step backwards.

Finding our place in art takes experimentation. Some people write what sells and they make a good living at it. I applaud them. I'm not able to do that. I've tried. I have a couple of finished and half finished manuscripts that I pounded out because I thought it made more sense than what I really wanted to write. And they have potential, truly. And I'll probably finish them one day and see what happens with them. Maybe I'd be foolish not too. Seriously: one of these books I wrote the first draft in 8 days. How very Hemingway of me. Why NOT pound out book after book, month after month, and submit it. What if they're successful?

Well, what if they are? Am I being un-authentic? No, not as long as I'm still being true to myself in other writing.

Perhaps THAT'S what I'm really insecure about. If I write something because it came to be easily and it was one of those, "Wow. That was kind of a breeze" things, am I selling out? Or am I being smart and taking advantage of a good idea whose time has come?

I guess as long as I still write what my soul's begging me to write, I'm doing OK. Those tales just take longer. They demand a lot from me and that's why I've shirked them. Not very loving of me, eh?

Sorry for the long post. It is rather rambling but I'm curious: have you ever put your true stories on hold -the ones that haunt you- for stories that came easily? Ones that seem to be quicker to create and possibly quicker to sale? We can't know that for sure, but I'm talking about appearances here.

Just curious.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

October Edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group

Good morning! Welcome to this months' edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group! We meet monthly to let out our frustrations and insecurities into the world of writers. We also offer support to those who are experiencing more than their usual amount of insecurity and fear. If you're a writer (or if you know one or two) feel free to join us! You can click HERE to learn more about our group, our mission, and our fearless leader, Captain Alex.


Insecurity comes from being moored on unfamiliar shores. Of this I am convinced. When I'm writing, I am free. When I'm not writing, I know I should be. Words are my breath and the expression of my soul. Reading the words of others is breathing and I am caught up in a whirlwind of stories at present, both by others and of my own making.

My insecurity this month comes from a couple of sources. First, a new job has thrust me into an unfamiliar world. The subject is known to me but the manner in which things are carried out on a day to day basis is still, even after almost a month, stressful and hectic. Second, there's that ancient niggling at night that whispers, "What are you doing? Shouldn't you be doing this, that or the other?" You know what I'm talking about. It's that well-meaning interrogation you receive from those who love you, those who knew you Once Upon a Time.

"Well, you SHOULD be ..."

"I don't understand why you stopped..."

"So what are you doing NOW?"

"Back at that old game, huh?"

Now, I know these questions aren't asked to jibe. They are sincere queries with sincere answers and expectations. It's those expectations that grate to bone and soul. What many people don't understand is that some of us have to try different things to find where we belong. Some of us have to do things we'd rather not spend our precious time doing in order to make ends meet, all the while pushing in the evening hours toward those things that bring us joy.

My insecurity this month comes from that inevitable and age-old question, "So, what have you been up to." There's a pressure, Dear Reader, to answer with EVERYTHING: working on a new novel, experimenting with this genre, creating that, fiddling with this. Oh am I guilty of the avalanche of Impressions! Someone fires off the shot and down comes all I've ever attempted.

I'm at the deep breath stage.

I don't want to cavalcade down mountain sides anymore. Not even when those I'm talking to seem to have "made it" while I'm still digging up fragments from a potentially rich archeological site. Peace is calling me to just BE. That, Friends, is hard. People rarely understand a state of BE-ing that doesn't shower with accolades or impress with accomplishments noticed.

Sometimes the victory is in the clean dishes, the folded laundry and the swept floor.

Sometimes the victory can be felt in the clasp of a lovers hand while watching and old Disney movie.

Sometimes it's the sigh before the first word is ever written.

And yes, sometimes, it's those big moments that are publishable and noteworthy.

Right now, I'm living in Ordinary Time. My insecurity? Being OK with BE-ing.


Have a wonderful week! Whatever your insecurities are, find yourself a support group. If you're in need of one, join the Insecure Writers Support Group. They take good care of their own.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Doorways in the Dusting

We raised with liturgy are used to the miraculous. We believe in virgin births, walking on water, resurrections of the dead.

It's the mundane Holiness we have a hard time with. I look for dragons and wardrobes that lead to untamed lands but fail to see the majesty and grace in ordinary time.

I can wait for wings of fire and hope for ghosts but the budding of a flower, brewing of coffee, wiping of rag over counter get dusted aside, polished away with spaghetti stains.

I am comfortable with conversations between stars and find no wonder in Titans. But a barefoot walk on sharp stones fails to prick me with the marvel of anatomy and the miracle of senses.

I need fresh eyes to see doorways in the dusting, lingering angels in the laundry. I look so hard for fairies I miss the cherubim in the vegetable garden.

All wardrobes lead to wonder to a willing and hungry heart. Lord, air out my cupboards. Let my spirit sing praises as the dust rises from shaken coats and shifted books.

The windows need cleaning.

They are clouded with glory.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

When Fear gives way to Faith

They say "time flies when you're having fun" but what about when you're working on a dream? Writers understand this. Sure, you enjoy writing. Some days it's even FUN. But does the time fly? Do you wake up one morning, suddenly, and go, "Ha! A book! It's complete!"


Real life dreams don't work that way either. It starts with a dream. Something that won't leave you alone. An idea. A character. A city. You jot down some notes, pay a visit. You start an outline, put in an application.

Then the work begins. A story is born. You now have to write it.

You get the job. Now you have three weeks to move.

The book gets written because YOU sit down and write it. And it takes work. And tears. And sweat. And many, many words which cannot be uttered here.

The move happens because you sell half of what you own, drive 250+ miles three times in three weeks to do a job interview, look at a teeny, tiny house, then pack up your cat and race to make the 3 o'clock deadline to put down a deposit so your water can be turned on.

The next day. And you have four people staying with you to help you move.

But I digress.

One year ago TODAY my husband and I packed up a waaaay too small U-Haul and chased a dream to live by the sea, in an artist-friendly town. We downsized by 700 square feet and traumatized our cat who thought it a great idea to panic and leap up on the dashboard of the car when I was driving 70 mph down the interstate.

One year ago TODAY we said YES to the craziest idea we've yet to have.

People see the dream. They see the pictures and envy the sand between our toes. What they don't see are the oceans of tears, the fear of lost jobs and mounting bills, and the many, many words that cannot be uttered here.

Chasing a dream is HARD. Let me say that again: chasing a dream is HARD. VERY, VERY, HARD. It is hard work to build a life from the bits and pieces of wonder and magic you have collected and hoarded your entire life. Parts get left out. They get left behind. And many of them don't fit the final product. But the funny thing is that the final product starts to look much better than YOU imagined.

The final product is still many years away but I'm enjoying the building process. I could have NEVER done this without my life partner in crime. Jon Chandler, THANK YOU. And thank you to everyone who has supported this massive uprooting and who still envy our beach pictures and shots of that silly fountain that still, after a year, tends to crop up in our Instagram feed on a regular basis.

Follow your dreams, Dear Reader. But let me warn you: it's one CRAZY ride!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reclaiming Mystery

To retain the mystery of one's faith is what keeps it faith. As humans, we want to know and understand things. WHY did that happen, WHAT did I just see, WHEN is it going to be? But truth be told we'll never know everything. We can't. Even if we uncover and understand everything in our current universe something else would crop up for which we have no explanation,

And this is GOOD.

Things happen and we look to logic and reason to make sense of it. And many times, with diligence, we find that sense. That accepted explanation. But oh the times we can't. What then? Give in to those who discredit, who refuse to believe anything intangible? Who mock ones who, through personal experience, have walked with stars?

Some things are better left unsaid. At least in word by word commentary. This is the power of Story. To take those things, those experiences for which we have no name, no scientific category, and mold a world around them.

The power of Story is the freedom of fiction. Not a telling of lies in the guise of literature. No. It's the communication of truth through its most ancient of mediums.


Happy Banned Book Week everyone! Pick up a book you wouldn't normally read this week. Grab one off that "forbidden" list. Like Guy Montag, discover why books ARE so dangerous and why we so desperately need them. Need the Power of Story. NEED the Freedom of Fiction. Not the Prison of Fear in the sheep's clothing of Protection.

Monday, September 21, 2015

In Praise of the Weekend

For the first time in six months I had a weekend off. Saturday. Sunday. All day, both days. I know, I know: a day off is a day off and it really doesn't matter which days you call your own. There is, however, something about weekends.

I'll admit I was raised in an old school family with a mother who stayed home and a father who worked Monday through Friday. I don't apologize for that. In fact, I'm thankful for that. When I was a child it was commonplace. Now that I'm an adult I realize it was a gift and a rare one at that.

Weekends were sacred. My sister and I were up with the sun, tiptoeing out to the den to watch cartoons. If it was summer, we'd wait impatiently in our bathing suits for Mom or Dad to wake up so we could FINALLY go swimming. Outside or in, we'd play until Dad announced breakfast was ready. Not that we needed that announcement. The smell of sizzling bacon called us from the furthest reaches of the back yard. On school days we ate cereal or toast. On Saturdays we had a feast!

We LIVED outside! Dad and Mom would garden and do yard work while we played house in the small blue cottage beneath the far back pines. We slew demons while Dad sliced weeds and took tea with dragons while Mom plucked lemon balm from the burgeoning herb garden. Lunch was lazy: sandwiches munched on the porch or at the breakfast table amid ongoing projects that usually consisted of fabric scraps, dried herbs or beeswax.

Those crafts and more occupied our time when the crisp autumn winds blew in or the winter kept us by the hearth. For dinner we cooked out or fired up the cast iron griddle inside. There were hotdogs and mac-n-cheese while the Braves played baseball on the tiny TV.  There was meatloaf and biscuits, gravy and chicken at the dinner table. Bills and paperwork, craft projects and math books cleaned off, shifted to another counter so we could gather together and say Grace.

Sunday was church day, grandparent's day, lazy day. The smell of coffee warned it was time to get up, eat eggs and grits and put on dresses and polished, patent shoes. There were ruffles on our socks and embroidery on our sweaters. Sunday school smelled like clean carpets, wood shelves, and dust complemented by butter cookies and punch. The sanctuary was Gothic, complete with the requisite pipe organ and stained glass. I still remember watching the light shift through the hour-long service, spilling rainbows over the backs of the heads of little old ladies in front of us. Robes and choirs and Gloria Patri, thank you all for coming, God bless you, Amen.

Mawmaw had roast and potatoes and green beans. Nanny had cakes of half inch layers, crunchy icing between each and everyone. We explored gardens and pecan trees and cried when we had to leave, unless, of course, it was summer and we knew the pool waited.

Sunset brought lightening bugs or cold winds. We'd take baths and eat ice cream and watch movies or Halloween specials. Christmas movies and Murder, She Wrote colored our dreams depending on what time of year it was. Of course we hated that Monday meant school but it also meant five more days until Saturday morning. Five more days before the next, blissful weekend.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Daily Rituals

I don't know about you, but I have been guilty of beating myself up if I go one day without writing. Then, when I do write, I'll beat myself up if I don't write ALL DAY. And true, there are some people out there who can write all day, every day. That's wonderful for you. Really. But there are others of us who simply can't.

I'm not talking about jobs or families or outside obligations. I'm stating a fact that I have learned and have recently accepted about myself. I cannot write all day, every day. What I can do is short spurts of several hours where the words flow or the editing is spot on. Suddenly, without warning, usually at a very good stopping point, the flow ends and I simply stop.

The End for the day.

I'll confess that used to bother me. Aren't we supposed to be Writers with a capital "W"? Aren't we supposed to sacrifice all for the art? No. No we're not.

I just finished this wonderful book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. The book is a collection of the daily creative rituals of a whole slew of writers, artists, composers, scientists, philosophers, etc. It's a massive selection of the creative practices of some of the most brilliant minds in the creative fields. I checked it out from the library thinking, "Hey, maybe I can pick up a few tips from the masters and figure out how I can force myself to work harder and longer at my craft." Surprise, surprise. That's NOT what I learned!

What I took away from this book is something very quietly profound. Almost all of the writers highlighted in this book only wrote for a few hours a day. Most averaged about 3-4 hours in the morning (some in the evening) and then they went on about their lives. The majority of the daily goings on recorded in this book talk about daily walks, dinner with family and friends, the smoking of a favorite pipe, the visiting a favorite museum or symphony. Swimming, playing with children, reading in bed: all of these simple things were the brunt of these geniuses' days.

I was dumbstruck. Really? You mean George Sands didn't shut herself up for 12 hours a day to work? Flaubert wasn't chained to his desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday? No. A big fat no to both and to all.

And yes, there were those writers and artists who DID work a full 8 hours a day and longer. But most of them didn't. Some of them even had outside jobs that they kept long after their classic works were published.

Here's the Thing: YOU have to find out what works for YOU. If you can manage a full 8 hours (and there are days we all get those bursts of the Muse) then by all means GO FOR IT! If, however, you're like me (and 97% of the rest of the writers highlighted in this book), and all you can manage are 3-4 hours of labored writing/typing where half the time you're getting up and wandering around the house, puttering in the garden, and washing 3 dishes, then so be it. Do what works for YOU. One writer said (and I'll have to reread the book to get specific quotes and references): even if I write one page a day, that's 365 pages a year and that's a good bulk of work.

Tell me: Have YOU found a ritual that works for you? Do you write every day or are you a writer who works in spurts, who has to walk away from the keyboard or notebook and do something else? What keeps you grounded in your work and your life?


Speaking of rituals, I start a new job today, kids! I bid a sad farewell to the Kitchen Boutique Monday to go back into the Herbal and Natural Health industry. My schedule will allow me mornings and weekends and I'll be rediscovering what works best for my creative endeavors. Here's to the rest of the week, for finding our footing, and for adding as many words as we can to our WIPs!


As for WIPs: my current project is rambling on. I discovered I need ANOTHER draft in order to reacquaint myself with my main character's true self. There was an element to the story I took out in the second draft but realize now that it needs to be there. No worries! Looks like I'll be clacking away on Draft #3 starting tomorrow!

I JUST finished the second draft of a horror story!!! Gonna let that one simmer for a bit and then I'm going to take up the keyboard for one more round of drafting. It's a doozy and it takes a lot out of me BUT I really, really LOVE this story. Scares the mess out of me every time I work on it! And my cat always chooses THIS story to creep around the house uncharacteristically...evil minion..

Happy Writing!