Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Are you a homebody like me?

"Homes need names and they need to be big, sprawling. 
Accommodating. ... a house of charming confusion."
~ A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle

Our home is neither big nor sprawling but it is definitely accommodating. It holds our hopes and our dreams as well as our current projects and collections, obsessions and possessions. I do love L'Engle's description of a "house of charming confusion". That suits our home to a T. As to naming a house, I agree: a home needs a name, even if it's just a description of color. We named ours The Hedgehouse for several reasons: There's a hedge of holly across the front, we've plans to install a woodland garden in the front yard which will include more hedges, and I have this  bizarre desire to live in a proper English hedge like Mrs. Tiggywinkle.

Creatives tend to collect things: random things that gather like sentinels on the shelves and guard the hopes we hold for the art we create. When I write, I like to be where I'm surrounded by the things I love. There are days when I feel the need to get away from the house, the pressing laundry and dishes, the litter box and the cats continual mewling for food. And I enjoy those times out and about, writing in the community, sitting behind the anonymity of my laptop and a very large cup of tea.

Still, there's a peace that comes with sitting at my table, looking out my back door at the flowering camellia tree. The grass is over grown, the crepe myrtle is still a bundle of twigs, but the books, the photographs, the collection of ravens on the top shelve all whisper as I work. They speak of comfort and of the satisfaction that comes from working at home.

Several days a week I do go into the shop in which I work. On the days I don't have to, though, I'm happy to patter into the den, cup of tea in hand, and sit at the folding table that serves as my writing desk. I keep my notebook open, my current book on the writing craft at hand, and a stack of magazines I'm researching for possible essay material within easy reach. And, with schizophrenic February still changing it's mind day to day, the space heater is close by to warm my legs and hopefully keep the aches and pains at bay.

Working at a table in a coffee shop has its rewards. You get to know the baristas, the sales people and they get to know you. They recognize your laptop stickers and know you prefer a venti tea with no caffeine. Bonus points for getting to peruse the newsstand after a few hours of work. I try to write out of the house at least once a week but I also try to stay ensconced in my little bubble of warmth as often as I can. I find different inspiration at each place, different ways of seeing not only the world around me but also the story on my screen. I'm able to feel out a different perspective and enjoy a different shimmering of energy.

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Tell Me: Where do YOU enjoy working? Do you have a usual table at the local coffee house? Do you curl up on a sofa at a local bookstore? Or are you a homebody like me who prefers the tabletops and couches in your own piece of heaven? Where does your writing come alive? On a park bench, a picnic blanket, on a trail, at the beach, in your home office, your kitchen? Does your house have a name? Have you ever considered giving it one?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

February IWSG 2019 - Lassoing a novel and trying new things

Good morning! It's been a few months since I last posted for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. It's good to be back and I'm looking forward to reading as many member posts as I can get around to over the next couple of days.

January clung to me like plastic wrap. It wasn't bad but after awhile I felt a little trapped and wondered if I'd ever get it off. I know many of you have been hit hard with some crazy winter weather. I hope you're all safe and warm. In the South we complain when the temperature dips below 50; I can't imagine facing temperatures in the negative 20s and below. You have my warmest thoughts. If I could send you all a keg of hot cocoa I would.

So here we are, the second month of this brand new year. Did you set some goals last month? Did you try something new? Did you re-evaluate those goals and ask yourself what works and what doesn't? I spent January doing all of those things. I sat down and put some old advice from a writing professor to good use and committed to daily freewriting for two weeks. I realized, however, that I was spending a lot of energy and time trying to get to the end of a successful freewrite; by the time I was ready to work on something substantial, my brain was muddled and I turned off the computer. Writing practice is important and I do enjoy it, but I had to admit that with my limited energy, I have to really focus on making my words matter. Yes, practice DOES matter. We have to practice in order to get better at anything but I also believe that sometimes we should just dive into our stories and let them guide us rather than any set clock or random prompt. My new freewriting goal is to set aside a few days a week for writing practice and spend the bulk of my writing time working on my new novel.

Yes! I started a brand new novel and I finished the summary this past Saturday. It's 45 pages long and so rough around the edges it looks a bit like barbed wire. I started that all important Chapter One this past Monday morning and the words are flowing. I cannot stress enough how much the summary has helped me solidify my story, determine my theme, and guide the voice and genre for this story. Also, creating a summary is more than an exercise in lassoing your novel; it's a great way to get in those freewriting minutes. Think of it as guided practice with your novel as the prompt. I didn't set a single timer and I was able to write for over two hours each time I sat down to focus on it.

If you've never done a summary for a new story, might I suggest the practice for your next one? It's not as rigid as an outline. It kind of looks like a really terribly laid out rough draft with stage directions and a bit of dialogue and maybe a few descriptions but nothing too concrete. It's a guidebook that lets you start working with scenes, typing your way from start to finish. It helps you keep on track when your mind wants to wander but be aware: your story will change as you work on it. Don't get married to the summary. Casually date it at best and be prepared to be completely derailed. At least when that happens you can still find your way back on track with the summary as a rough guide.

And speaking of new projects, the other two new ventures I've started are the perfect answer to this months question:


Sewing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. If I wasn't working with a needle and thread, someone in my family was. This past month, I started a quilt and taught myself how to knit. I forced myself to face my sewing machine fears and my fear of creating something larger than an embroidery hoop and so far it's going really well! Knitting has also been a big bugbear for me. I've wanted to learn for years but every time I started, it was like learning a new language and I just didn't get it. Finally, I found an online tutorial that simplified it and made it so easy. I made a very wonky pot holder and I'm now working on my very first scarf!  Here's a picture of the quilting rows I've completed and the beginning of my scarf:

I hope your January was a great one and I hope that February has, so far, been kind and filled with joy. Here's to a wonderful month of new, creative adventures in your writing and any other way you find to express yourself.

Take care, Dear Readers!