Posts Tagged ‘writing’
I can’t run right now. *growls* I mind and it matters.
The weather is perfect.
And up until last week, I was kicking milage butt. I was on track for one of my best months of running to date.
And now–not so much.
It started with some mild leg pain. But it wasn’t too bad, more like a sore muscle, so I was running through it. And it always felt better after the run. But even so, I started to notice my runs were getting slower. And instead of the leg warming up over the course of the run and feeling better, it began to hurt throughout the whole run. Clearly I was compensating for something wrong by changing my gait and now more of my leg was beginning to hurt. At this point I realized “running it out” wasn’t going to be the answer.
I was going to have to stop running and rest the leg, which means I need to find other ways to keep up with staying in shape and eating right. Exercise is essential, because I may be willing to count those calories and hold myself accountable, but I’m not capable of doing it without some extra calories providing me with real food in moderation.
But here’s the problem…running is the quickest, most efficient way I know of, to stay in shape. I’m not saying there aren’t others, but this is the one that works for me. So, this means I’m now stuck finding other ways–more time consuming ways–to get a somewhat comparable burn. And I also have to go to a podiatrist and get my inserts checked. *sigh* And all of this takes time. Time I need for my writing.
You see where this is going, right?
And while all the changes have been inconvenient, the truth is that I’ve committed to writing at least a little bit every day this month with #WriteDaily30 a challenge run by Linda Urban. And because I’ve eliminated my excuses and decided that a little is better than nothing at all–I’m making daily progress on my writing. Really good progress that makes me happy.
So, what I’m trying to tell you is that I’m really grumpy because I can’t run and my leg is being a pain in the leg. But I’m also really excited because I got retrained on the nautilus machines at the gym and some day I’m going to be kinda buff. And then the pup is dog-wagging excited that I’m taking him for longer walks. And despite it all, the writing is getting done because as I was recently reminded that it’s all about mind over matter…if you don’t mind being flexible, it won’t matter.
When has mind over matter worked for you? Have you had to cope with a running or sports injury? Were you climbing the walls?
Yesterday I headed to the gym to run on the treadmill. While I was there, I learned it was an advantage to know your process. I went to the gym, not because I hate running in the rain, I kind of like it actually. But I didn’t think I’d want to run in the rain AND THEN go back out and play ball IN THE RAIN with the dog. Plus, I may have wanted a strawberry smoothie with flax afterwards.
But, I digress.
As you may have heard me mention in the past, running on the treadmill is not ideal for me. Why?
- I get bored.
- I spend a large amount of my run trying to convince myself not to get off earlier than I should.
- I get a strawberry smoothie with flax afterwards. Yum! But let’s be honest, it’s not a lunch replacement.
Know your process. Running outside combats these three treadmill challenges rather nicely.
- Lots to see–nature and wildlife–never bored.
- If I run out as far as I can, I still have to come back. No one is going to give me a lift back home. I’ll get there quicker if I just run it out.
- After running, I’m way too lazy to make a smoothie. And the dog isn’t going to wait for more than a shower and pouring a cup of coffee to go out and play ball.
So, in general I’m aware of what works for me–I know my process. But sometimes, even when I know what’s good for me, I end up on the treadmill, despite my best intentions. As I listened to music I could barely hear in my broken headphones (asking for new ones for my birthday) while watching the really bizarre closed captioning that used to be so much better when humans did things, I realized that it helped to know my process in a different way. Or maybe the best way to phrase it is I needed to create a process for the situation I couldn’t avoid.
As I pushed myself through my treadmill run, I pictured my favorite outdoor run route–the one that I do so often I no longer need to hear a voice in my ears telling what mile I’m at. Envisioning this was helpful to me. Instead of selling myself on the benefits of getting off the treadmill, I over layed my outdoor run process, on top of the treadmill run I was struggling with. I knew When I hit the one mile mark I knew I’d only gotten to the top of the very first hill and quite honestly, I’ve never in my life run that route and turned around at that point. Or the two mile mark for that matter. Why would I do it now? There was no reason to stop running.
I made it to 6.3 miles by knowing my successful outdoor process and using it to inform my treadmill process. Hey–whatever gets it done, right?
Additionally, part of my process when I’m running outside is to think. I realized I could still do that if I stopped some of the noise pollution around me, like the Live with Kelly and Michael Show subtitles which looked something like this…
Kelly: That tat two back is Adam Levine.
Michael: 6 mthdsa….hurt…xdhxdnl
Kelly: Never had–
Kelly: Yeah, Buddy–childbirth! yahdl.,,sxsss
You get the picture. Or maybe you don’t. Instead of trying to follow the Adam Levine, tattoo, childbirth indecipherable subtitled conversation, I started planning this blog post. And the more I thought about my running process, the more I also thought about my writing process. How could I carry over the idea of…know your process…from one activity to another.
Here’s the facts. I’ve heard hundreds of authors, more experienced than me, talk about how every book is hard in it’s own way. I believe that.
We all struggle at some point–or at many points in the journey.
But I also think that if you know your process–your writing process–you have a template you can use to help get you through any manuscript. It’s all about being aware of your mile markers. Do you struggle with getting started? Do middles make you mad? Is the wrap-up your biggest hurdle? Is character development killing you? Or maybe the plot fairy never shows up to your house. Knowing what obstacles make you want to get off the writing treadmill isn’t a quick fix for your speed bumps, you’ll have to put in the work in the area that challenges you, but it is still helpful. The more you know about where you get stuck, why you get stuck and how you got unstuck in the past–the more likely you are to keep pushing through the miles of drafting and revision you have ahead of you–no matter how much they make you feel like a turkey on a treadmill…
Do you know your process? How does it help you through the tough spots? Is your process always evolving? How does it change with each manuscript you write? Any runners in the house? Treadmill or open road? And by the way, who likes strawberry smoothies????
Yes, I’m a day late on this blog post. But I’m here now. I’ve been working really hard to return to being a consistent and diligent blogger. Why? It makes me feel good. So, because of unexpected obstacles in my yesterday, you are getting a Thursday blog on Friday. How do you like them apples? That’s what I thought–you probably don’t give a flying fig. You’ve got plenty of things to sidetrack you from your own goals. I am only the center of my own universe.
But I’m not alone in that, we are all the sun and the planets of of life orbit around around us. We are jugglers. For gravity we have two hands–only TWO HANDS–to keep three or more balls in the air. Then some monkey starts throwing extra balls at us. It’s SO easy to get sidetracked and drop a ball or two.
When this happens, because it will, do not self flagellate with wet noodles. Seriously, it’s a waste of noodles.
Make some sauce or if you’re really tired, drench them in butter and grated cheese.
Have a good meal.
Pick up your balls. Yes, even the one that rolled under the radiator where the dust bunnies live.
Then toss them back up into the air and move on with your juggling. That’s all. Just do it.
It is a good practice for everything in life. Spend less time worrying about what you didn’t do and just move forward doing the things you need to. Last time I looked, complaining about not writing a blog post doesn’t produce a blog post. And trust me, staring at all the laundry you didn’t do this week only makes your kids have to turn their underwear inside out. Eat your noodles and toss your balls.
But digging in isn’t just for the laundry pile, it also is a strategy for your creative life–especially for writers. You WILL get sidetracked on your journey to create. You’ll be led astray by good things and bad things. Your balls will drop, roll and scatter at the most unexpected times.
Know how to pick them up and how to get home…
TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert
It’s Friday and I’m pretty excited about getting this blog post out to you. I’m also going to write today, too. Although I’m still pretty iffy on the laundry. Hey–nobody’s perfect.
How do you combat dropping your balls and being knocked off course? What’s your wet noodle of choice when beating yourself up? What’s your favorite way to eat noodles? Gosh, I want pasta now.
Happy Friday all–have a fabulous weekend and don’t forget to eat your noodles and toss your balls!
I’m going to start this blog post by giving you a GUSH ALERT.
If you choose to continue reading, you will hear me gushing about a book I read last week–a book I’ve been dying to share with you. In fact, as I finished reading it, what came to mind was…this is a book that all the humans should read! So, if you can’t handle my enthusiasm, this might be the time to slowly step away from your lap top.
You’re still here? Excellent! Then I’m so excited to tell you about BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
This book called to me. Certain books do. The ones I’m supposed to ready will pop up in my direct and peripheral vision over and over again. People will casually and even directly mention them to me until I pick those books up. Big Magic was one of those books that demanded I read it. And as always–I’m so glad I did.
I grabbed Big Magic in audiobook form after being pummeled with hints from the universe. Right off the bat, I was thrilled to hear that the delightful voice I was listening to, belonged to the author herself, Elizabeth Gilbert. If you decide you want to try the audio version–I promise you will not be disappointed. In fact, I feel as if Gilbert brings something extra to the reading through her connectedness to the content.
BUT…my one disappointment as I devoured Big Magic, was that I wasn’t able to underline quotes that I wanted to return to. I wasn’t able to write little notes in the margins–I always do that with books that will clearly be my companions over and over again though the years.
Here are some of the ones that I would have wanted to highlight as I was listening…
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
“You can clear out whatever obstacles are preventing you from living your most creative life, with the simple understanding that whatever is bad for you is probably also bad for your work.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
“Basically, your fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL: He hasn’t slept in days, he’s all hopped up on Red Bull, and he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone “safe.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
“If I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
“Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
While adding to that list of quotes, I quickly realized I could keep going for pages. Make no mistake–I want to, but I won’t–for your sake. But if you do want more, you can click the link and see all the quotes that effected people on Goodreads.
But even though I was able to find the inspirational words that (I missed being able to grasp more tangibly by reading the audio version) I still wasn’t satisfied. Then I remembered this…
I had received a Barnes & Noble gift card as a thank you from three of my little ballerina’s this year. I hadn’t used it yet, because when you receive a special gift from special people–the purchase should be just as memorable as the people who gave it to you. I finally knew what to do with it. My ballerinas bought me a copy of Big Magic, which is it’s own kind of magic. Next time I see those girls, I’m going to have them write something in the cover because very quickly, little magic grows into big magic, and I always want to be reminded of that.
I know this post and my gushing is now all over the place. And I’m aware that I may not be doing the best job in explaining why YOU should read this book, but perhaps the best way I can explain why I think you should explore Big Magic, is to share why I believe it spoke to me so strongly…
I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by IDEAS. Ideas are disembodied, energetic life-forms. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us–albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have a consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.
Therefore, ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners. (I’m talking about all ideas here–artistic, scientific, industrial, commercial, ethical, religious, political.) When an idea thinks it has found somebody–say, you–who might be able to bring it into the world, the idea will pay you a visit. It will try to get your attention.
This is how my writing process works. When I wrote my debut YA novel, Touching the Surface, I had this niggling fear that once I was done with it, I would have no idea what to write next.
Life altering mistakes are meant to alter lives…
But I didn’t have to worry. Once the story became fully formed in my mind, the next idea landed. I was still revising and working with my editor, but I knew I had captured the truth of my story and it would one day soon have wings. And as that happened, there was room for the next idea to perch along side me and begin to take shape.
This happens every single time. In fact, I was never as joyful as I was recently, when the next new idea flew at me. I have been “struggling” for quite a long time on my latest book. Dare I say it has been much like a dyslexic reader trying to attack War and Peace. It is a great idea–a worthy idea. It is an exciting and fulfilling idea. But it’s also been less then flexible at times–like a cold lump of clay that has had to be worked over and over again to find it’s shape. So, when the next new idea for a project began to relentless peck at me, I did a happy dance. I was a roller coaster that had reached it’s highest point after slowly chugging along for what felt like an eternity.
There is still track to ride, but I now have momentum to move me along. I have finally captured the essence of my current project. And I know I’ve done it according to the idea’s expectations, because it’s now inviting another idea to work with me. I feels as if my former employer had given me an outstanding letter of recommendation.
What I’m trying to tell you is that I didn’t fall in love with Big Magic because it told me things I didn’t know. The opposite was true. Elizabeth Gilbert spoke to me because she put into words all the things that I already knew to be true about ideas, fear, creativity, hard work and magic. I resonated deeply with what she said. Magic has always been discretely woven throughout my books, like delicate, shimmering threads that wait for someone sees the glint. But outside of that, my thoughts on magic have mostly been deep held beliefs I’ve been afraid to say out loud. What if no one else has these kinds of thoughts or experiences and I’m just a big weirdo?
But I’m not.
And you’re not either.
And that’s the gift of Big Magic.
So, go read it because there are ideas out there waiting for you. They are trying to get your attention.
Have you read Big Magic? Is it on your TBR list? What is your proof that big magic exists? How do ideas find you?
I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say life is hectic. Hell, it’s bat shit crazy for most people most of the time. I ain’t special. There will always be something or multiple somethings that will dig into your writing time and often your sanity. I’m a firm believer that if you wait for things like inspiration or the perfect conditions to write–you won’t get a lot done.
But even knowing that, over the years, I’ve noticed the way I balance my writing with my cray-cray life, tends to change over time. It’s a fluid thing. Sometimes I find myself being rigid with structure because I need that self imposed task master. Other times I find I’m forgiving of my inconsistencies because, at that moment, I need that too. Some days life has beat me up and I really don’t need to add to that. It thrills me that I’ve arrived at a point in my life where I can reinvent myself every day if I need to. I’m very proud that I’ve discovered the benefits of flow. I spent many years of my life being flowless and struggling with the need to seek a perfection that I’ve discovered does not exist. I’m more flexible than I’ve ever been.
Yesterday I had a kickass writing day. And the day before yesterday I had a kickass writing day too. *fist pump* And what I stumbled upon in my post-holiday-back-to-focusing-on-writing-spree, is that at this moment in time and with this manuscript, the thing I need the most (to finally complete what I’ve working on for so long) is continuity. I finally know my story. It’s inside me–I’m not searching for it any more. And I understand how to make it happen. And to do that to the best of my ability, I need to be immersed in the world I’m creating. Long periods of time would be ideal, but more importantly, if I don’t have that option (remember the bat shit crazy life stuff) I think it’s necessary I be there frequently. It feels necessary to keep my wheels greased and moving in order to keep all the bits and pieces of my story in my focus. So–right now–my goal is to visit this story as much as I can every day. And if I can only stop by for a brief period of time, then I shouldn’t berate myself. Instead I should be really proud that I’ve showed up that day, despite all the other really important things that are happening around my writing.
My focus is to have flow, frequency and continuity until I send this piece out to my critique partners–and to be proud of it–the work and the way I made the writing happen.
What is your writing strategy for 2016? Does your approach to writing change with the place you are in your work and with the outside forces in your life? Are you too hard on yourself or not hard enough? Do you have your own version of flow that helps you navigate a bat shit crazy life?
Traditionally, when writers hear the phrase Working like a Dog, their minds go to coffee fueled, butt-in-chair, word sprints with fingers flying over keys. We picture grabbing a hold of the task at hand and refusing to let go until we find a book on the other end.
But having observed my pup, Riley, walk a half a mile down to the bus stop the other day, I’ve discovered there’s more to working like a dog then one might expect…
And it resonated with me. Sometimes part of working like a dog means needing to explore the world around us. When we do some mental meandering, we might find the spark that ignites our next story. Or, if not the actual spark, we may be filling our mind with all kinds of creative kindling. Which is just as important, because when the spark does arrive, it has something to ignite. There must be dots to connect–ideas to set aflame.
Dogs are smart.
It’s as important to give ourselves as much time to fill up, as we give ourselves to empty out between the pages of a book.
This is the balance of art and life.
And naps–don’t forget the importance of naps! Trust me, Riley knows what he’s barking about.
As a thanks for the canine guidance, tell me your favorite dog book. It can be anything from picture book to novel. I think mine is The Art of Racing in the Rain.
ONE WEEK FROM TOMORROW MY KIDS WILL BE BACK IN SCHOOL!!!!!
(Me doing the happy dance)
Please don’t judge my enthusiasm–I really do sympathize with the back-to-school teachers. (((hugs)))
Truly, it’s not because I didn’t love having them home–we had a fabulous summer.
I got some projects done around the house. Cleaned out and organized all my clothes and the closets and drawers that hold them. *fist pump*
Then it was vacation time…
We went to Vancouver on our way to Alaska.
Then on to the Disney Wonder.
Tracey Arm, Alaska
And Ketchikan, Alaska too!
We also did some local stuff with visiting family…
The 9/11 Museum.
Summer in NYC
And then it was off to LA SCBWI!!!!
Caught a baby dragon <3
And happily hanging with my tribe. <3
And then a road trip to Lake Placid with my Mom…
Miracle on Ice
And Whiteface Mountain.
But even when I was home, there was lots going on. Camps for the kids and just hanging out and enjoying the gorgeous Hudson Valley.
And while I absolutely did lots of writing over the summer, it was always writing that was done in and around other things. It was moments stolen here and there.
Which sometimes made it feel as if I was trying to type with a wee beastie in my way.
So, as great as the summer was, I’m looking forward to some longer, quieter, uninterrupted stretches of writing time.
And while my boys are moaning and complaining about their impending doom…
I think they’re secretly excited to see their friends again and perhaps to get away from their annoying mother.
(I know–hard to believe *snort*)
And of course, the trade off for that newly acquired work time will be lunches and homework and a never-ending schedule of after school and weekend sports and activities. But that’s okay. Although I have a reputation for hating change, I’m a seasonal girl–always more than ready for the next change of weather after the previous three months. And maybe, since I can’t slow down time (even if I wanted to) it’s a good thing that there’s some change I actually enjoy.
Love the one you’re with.
How do you do with the change of seasons? Back to school? Did you get more writing done over the summer of less? And what’s your favorite season? Mine’s fall–I consider it my own personal new year. <3
Where have you been???
Oh, wait, it was me that fell down the rabbit hole and got lost? Yeah, I guess it was.
I was busy surviving the end of the school year. I know normal people do this all the time, but let’s face it, I don’t consider myself normal.
I’m a procrastinating, organizationally challenged mom who’s allergic to party planning. I harbor secret guilt about how excited I am the day after birthday parties and graduation events. But I love my people and I’m married to a host with the most, so I try to crawl out of my box when necessary.
But, summer is HERE! RITH NOW!!!! Although you wouldn’t know it much from the weather. WTH humidity and rain???? And I have some things on my agenda for the vacation–besides spending quality time hanging out with my family and being foot loose and fancy free. Here are the BIG ones…
*VACATION!!!! I will be taking an Alaskan Cruise this summer. I am so excited. Major bucket list item. I VOW to pack and prepare ahead of time giving me a stress free lead up to the trip!!! Stop snorting!!!!!
*WRITING!!!! Well, no surprise there–I write all year long. But I’ve got some really great projects that I’m working on and I’d love to finish. And of course I’m off to SCBWI LA at the end of July.
*TIDYING UP!!!! I know I moved into my house a year and a half ago, but some how all the not so fun stuff to unpack and organize got shoved to the side and in the closet and into every available nook and cranny. My goal this summer is to utilize my boys to entertain my dog so I can get my act together. I read THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo and while not everything resonated with me, I certainly found lots to love and implement. More posts and pictures of my progress over the summer.
*AND BLOG MORE!!!!! Because I’ve missed you. <3
What are your projects, goals and big plans? What’s on your summer agenda?
As much as I look forward to vacations, I always look forward to coming home and the familiar routine when I return. Last week I was away in St. Louis visiting family. It was a fabulous trip–the perfect mix of laid back relaxing with family and a super fun time seeing the local sights and eating ALL the food. Here are some highlights…
And the nice part about this trip was we were able to build in enough days at the end of vacation to come home and straighten life out, before heading back to school and work. Of course, things are about to get hectic with spring sports and activities. My command central boy calendar is already starting to look intimidating.
But no matter how fun vacation was or how hairy the future schedule. Writing is back at the top of my list of priorities. *does a happy dance*
My question for you…is it harder or easier to write in the spring when the weather starts getting nice? It depends on the day for me.
My blogging has been sporadic at best.
I’m trying to get my act together. But the truth is I’m dropping balls left and right LOL! Somedays I drop the laundry ball…one of my favorites to “drop.”
Other days I drop the eat breakfast ball. Crap! Did I really manage to leave the house without eating? Cause I won’t be back for 4 hours. *checks to rearview mirror to be sure all three boys and dog made it into the car*
I also tend to drop the “getting the dishes done ball” until they start climbing out of the sink. Or something starts to smell.
Additionally, the kids were moaning yesterday, because I dropped the “get the groceries they wanted ball.” (PLEASE get the GOOD bread for sandwiches, school snacks, cranberry juice and dessert for God’s sake!)
And now *insert giggle* (I have to giggle because it keeps me out of full on panic mode.) I’ve got a spring break trip coming up in the future and my “pets, boys and personal preparations balls” looks something like this…
Need I say more? You get the picture. But there is some really good news. I haven’t dropped the “writing ball.” I’m never as fast as I want to be, but I’m happy with my progress, so the high from that, makes it easier to maneuver around all the other balls scattered all over the floor LOL!
I’ve also been reading a ton, thanks to audiobooks. It’s my bonus when I’m walking the pup and throwing an actual ball. And this is not just entertaining multitasking. Every book I read is a master class in how to be a better writer–and often a better person. And just to prove how awesome it is to drop the “household chores balls” instead of the “reading balls.” Here’s a quote from one of the best books I’ve read in awhile…
“That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.”
― Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain
I don’t know about you, but despite all the balls all over the floor, it feels like I’m manifesting something great.
What are you manifesting at the moment? What’s the “best” ball you’ve dropped recently?