Archive for April, 2013

Whips, Shotguns and “Mud”

Perhaps I should have called this post “Monsters, Murders and Magic Trees”, given the subject matter of my latest writings. It’s been a great 6 weeks for me since the middle of March. A story in Niteblade and another (free) one over at Out of the Gutter. To top it all off…

Hazardous Press announces the release of Horrific History, featuring stories from a bevy of talented writers … and one by me. (Hilarious, I know). My contribution is titled “Mud“, a World War 1 horror tale and my homage to all the brave men who selflessly sacrifice life and sanity in causes they largely don’t understand at the time.

The anthology:

Evil has lurked behind the scenes since the dawn of time. Read the story behind the stories, and you’ll never look at history the same way again.

Featuring tales by Brent Abell, Pete Aldin, Jason Andrew, Monette Bebow-Reinhard, Rose Blackthorn, Rebecca L. Brown, Deborah Drake, T. Fox Dunham, Gwendolyn Edward, Aaron J. French, Tara Fox Hall, Christian A. Larsen, Ken MacGregor, Lynne MacLean, Adam Millard, Douglas J. Moore, Doug Murano, Christopher S. Nelson, Brent Nichols, Emerian Rich, Stephen D. Rogers, Julianne Snow, Cameron Suey, Jenny Twist, D. Alexander Ward, Jay Wilburn, David Williamson and Lee Clark Zumpe.

Available currently from Amazon.

No Time to Write?

 

It seems to me that the biggest block to us authors completing projects  isn’t writer’s block or procrastination; it’s actually the time factor.

As in “I don’t have the time to write.”

Hmm, “I don’t have time” is one way to express the issue. But I don’t think it’s entirely accurate. I’d prefer to express the problem like this:

 

I haven’t yet organised my time and/or valued my own writing talents enough to make space in my life to write.

You think that’s cruel? Simplistic? Well, feel free to discuss it in the comments below. (I said discuss it, not flame me). But for the moment, I’m going to go with that phrasing as the real problem.

When you make the decision to pursue your writing as a vocation, it definitely complicates life. You put flowers into a vase already full of water, some water will spill. Our time is limited to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, etc. And there’s lots of stuff that can fill it. Some of it is necessary. A lot of it is non-negotiable. (E.g. If you have kids or a partner, they need your attention. If you want to eat, you’re going to have to work to earn $$ for groceries.)

But there’s other “stuff” (horrible, lazy word, but I like it)…stuff which is negotiable and stuff which might have to  move the hell over and let us write.

What complicates your life?

As a life coach, I used to facilitate a short workshop entitled Less is More. In that workshop, we talked about “complicators” – things that drain our energy or clutter our lives or distract us from what we truly value and desire. Complicators are not just things that thieve our time, but things that steal our energy as well. Energy we writers could spend writing.

Complicators usually fall under one (or more!) of the following categories:

1) Shoulds – These represent the ideals and expectations of others for our lives. Some sources of shoulds include our peer group, our parents, our workplace, our neighbourhood or some media-driven ideal.

I’m not talking about the obligation to do good to other people, to care, to contribute. I am talking about unnecessary and unreasonable baggage other people pile on us, because they either have a selfish agenda for us or they have some lack of something in themselves which we wind up compensating for.

While struggling to carry your own shopping bags from the car, you wouldn’t add the burden of your neighbours’ bags at the same time. But we do something similar when we accept “you should”  messages without question.

What examples from your life come to mind when you hear this? _______________________________

 

2) Put-Upon Duties – these are specifically the negative form of responsibilities. I adhere to the belief that to be adult means to embrace responsibility and some sense of duty (as a parent, citizen or employee for example). However – like shouldsput-upon duties are the result of someone else deciding what we should do for them. They are dealt to us without consideration for our feelings and freedom to choose. These things are one-way streets. It’s wonderful to give to others without desire for compensation. But things become complicators when you actively resent them, or they drain your energy and rob you of precious time spent on your genuine responsibilities and passions.

What examples come to mind when you hear this? _______________________________

 

3) Unnecessary routines & tasks – There exist in our lives routines and tasks that are completely unnecessary and yet we maintain them unquestioningly (eg. ironing underwear; making the kids’ school sandwiches every morning instead of once a week and freezing them). Alternatively, it might be in the way that we do them: haphazardly, multi-tasking when single-tasking is more appropriate, settling for the familiar way when a more efficient way is available.

What examples come to mind when you hear this? _______________________________

 

4) HabitsWe all know what a habit is. Let’s consider three that some may  consider to be complicators – the Mañana Syndrome, the Hoarding Habit and the CCs Jingle.

i)                     Mañana Syndrome – the habit of putting things off until tomorrow (with the unspoken hope that tomorrow will never come for those things). “Why do today what you can leave until tomorrow?” One of the effects of this is the accumulation of unfinished tasks that start can clutter our thought space, our workspace or even our relationships.

ii)                   Hoarding Habit – “You never know when I might need that!” A cluttered world means a cluttered mind.

iii)                  CCs Jingle – remember the commercial for these flavoursome corn chips?  “You can’t say no!” [CCs, feel free to send the sponsorship cheque whenever you’d like].

Many people have extreme trouble in using that word: “no”. They have trouble saying no to corn chips, to people who ask them to “do a small favour”, their children’s demands for chocolate in the supermarket … and a host of unreasonable expectations. This desire to say “Yes” to all requests may be based in a sincere desire to benefit others. One of the problems with it however is that the person saying yes has lost the time and energy to comfortably look after their own needs and goals…Balance is needed! You’re going to come to a limit anyway, why not limit yourself to less “yes, I will do that for you” and more “Bugger off please, I need to write my novel”?

Which of the three habits discussed could be a complicator in your life? Is there a different habit you know of?  ___________________________________________________________________

 

5) DUMB Goals – Perhaps you are familiar with the concept of SMART goals? It’s a widely used framework used to assess, refine and improve goals for maximum outcome. It teaches us that unless goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timeframed, they probably won’t come to pass.

Despite this simple idea, occasionally we persist with a goal that actually fits within a different framework: DUMB.

  • Discordant (out of tune with who we are and the way we operate).
  • Unspecified (a goal too unclear in our own minds to even aim at).
  • Mood-driven (the goal we desire one day and despise the next).
  • Beyond control (the unrealistic desire to change things that we actually can’t).

Maybe the reason why you struggle to impress others in your work role is that it’s simply not your vocational “fit” – that’d be a D on the DUMB profile.  Perhaps the goal would be better achieved over a year, while we expect it to be complete in a month. Perhaps it is a flight of the imagination that never can actually be reached. Perhaps it’s the general pressure on oneself to be “better” without breaking it down it specific objectives which can be tackled one at a time.

What examples come to mind when you hear this? _______________________________

I would love to hear your thoughts on the above and any results your own reflection on these questions. Of course, I’m also interested in polite debate.

Read it. Reflect. And take your own life seriously, dammit!

 …Here endeth the lesson…

So. Now what?

I begin a new project. It’s a novel. I’ve had the idea for a year it feels like and I’ve been tinkering with outlines and notes, but I’ve done no actual writing yet. No, not yet. I’ve had other projects to complete before I commit to this baby.

But now it’s time. I’ve been anticipating this — chomping at the cliched bit to get stuck into it, to let the story flow onto the page. I have some time away, so I use it. I write something like 2000 words the first day, and by the end of the week, I have five chapters finished…

And then…

It hits a wall, gets stuck in the mud, runs out of steam, and other hackneyed phrases (to quote a friend of mine). I can’t get past the opening words in a scene. I try writing another later scene. That too gets stuck. And another. And yet another.

The project, the draft, comes to a wheezing halt, less that a third complete. 31, 000 words of dribble going nowhere fast.

So. Now what?

This is when I’m thankful for three things: hindsight, the internet and great writing buddies.

Hindsight.

I’ve been here before with all three of the novel manuscripts I’ve completed. This is familiar territory. And I got through it the last three times too; just took far too long to do it. This time I won’t beat myself up, spend months in procrastination, give up and start something shinier. This time I’ll work through this. Because this time, I have…

The Internet.

Because of the wonders of technology, I’m connected to hundreds of blogs and forums I can trawl for advice. Before long, I come across a gem of a post by author Joseph D’Lacey. Joseph was my mentor during a Mentoring Program and helped me shape the outline for this novel. It seems in absentia, he’s still helping. Great idea in this post. I use it and a couple of ideas shake loose.

But I’m not done finding solutions to my “writer’s block”. Oh, no. Because I also have…

Great Writing Buddies.

One of the mighty writies in my local Writers Circle (I think it was EJ) had the idea to write your first draft as a 90 page movie script. The benefit is that you quit worrying about how crappy your prose is, why the character’s not leaping off the page at you, etc, and just focus on action, dialog, and conflict. Great idea!

So that’s my next step. Document’s open, film treatment’s about to commence.

So. Now what? Now, I get back to writing.

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