Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Journaling – Does it work for you?

Much as I try to journal my thoughts or experiences, I just can’t seem to be consistent with it. The only time I was able to do it on a regular basis was when I was in counseling during a particularly difficult time in my life. My counselor/pastor used it as a way to get me to identify and verbalize my feelings and thoughts. I was so used to hiding and putting them away, that I had lost the ability to even think. Journaling enabled me to rediscover who I had shut away.

Currently, journaling for me seems to be tied to a form of self-therapy instead of what many people use it for, as a way to chronicle experiences and thoughts, which may still be tied somewhat to self therapy, but maybe not as much. I have a deep respect for those who make this a daily or regular practice. Much as I try to make it part of my writing life, it just always seems to get pushed aside for a story. I guess that is why I don’t do it except when I’m in duress.

As I reflect on various occurrences in my life or with my family, it would be fantastic to have something in writing, instead of trying to rely on my memories which are often faulty. Journaling would give a record of sorts to at least the special things that happen, such as the birth of my daughters or my grandson. Descriptions of people, emotions, the environment and more can lend special texture to the experience that fades over time like an old photograph.

So, if you are one of the amazing people who journal, know that I for one am deeply in awe of you. You create a special record of thoughts and events which are important. Maybe, not on the scale of Anne Frank, but who knows? Even she had no clue how important her journaling would be. The right events can lead to something special in writing. Regardless, keep up the good work. You are writing history, even if it is just your own.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Did It!

“A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first to be convinced of it.” – Alexandre Dumas

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t do something? Has someone ever told you that you weren’t good enough? Unfortunately, most of us have had this happen. However, a positive way to treat these experiences is to use them to your favor. Use them to inspire you to achieve what you or someone else thought you couldn’t do.

If you have read my blog before, you may have seen me talk about National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, which takes place every November. Once again, I participated wondering if I had enough of a story to complete the 50K words required to “win”. I surpassed even my wildest expectations by attaining that goal by November 14th and actually completed the novel on the 21st. Now, let’s clarify, this is a first draft, which means it is full of flaws and problems which need editing. But, that’s what writing a first draft is for. It is the time you run pell mell down this unknown path and wonder where it is going to take you. If you just go for it, it is full of surprises and twists and turns you never expected. For me, writing the first draft like this makes it far more fun and exciting.

Before participating in NaNoWriMo, I used to write in a slow, formatted form, carefully weighing out each word so that by the end of the story, I would have very little editing to do. I discovered in writing this way, that I was inhibiting my stories. They were also short and unfulfilling because they never had the opportunity to spread their wings and fly.

By turning off my internal editor while writing the first draft, I discovered a whole new joy to writing. I find new words and phrases and unexpected adventures I had never allowed to happen before. It made writing freer and less stilted. My characters and plots develop and mature.

An example of this was at a point about three-fourths thru the novel when the story made a surprising turn where one of the main supporting characters died through injuries sustained in the previous battle scene. I had gotten to know my characters so well, that I was sobbing as hard as I was typing. Tears were just flowing down my cheeks. My husband was watching football in the chair next to me, just smiling and shaking his head and occasionally handing me a tissue.

It wasn’t all that long ago where I thought there was no possible way I would ever complete a novel, let alone write one in three weeks while working full time at another job. Yet, I have, and did so by putting one word down after another and before I knew it, I was done.

Don’t let self doubt or the doubts of others stop you from doing something you want to do, whether it be writing, playing music, climbing a mountain, or any number of wonderful endeavors. You only have this one life. Make it a good one and don’t let it pass you by without giving some of these opportunities a chance. Just go for it. What have you got to lose?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oops, I took a break

I can hardly believe it has been two months since I have posted to my site. It has been a very busy time with programs breaking for the summer and summer programs beginning. An emergency surgery also sidelined me for a short time from which I have recovered almost fully.

My husband and I also welcomed the visit of his brother, sister and brother-in-law for several fun-filled days. We took a couple of days to travel up and down the Oregon coast, visiting antique shops and eating lots of seafood. They are such a joy to spend time with and we always count ourselves blessed when those opportunities arise, especially since we live so far apart.

In between all of that, I have been working very hard to finish the first draft of the book I have been writing on since November. I have every intention of getting this completed by this coming November so I can once again be involved in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I learned so much from doing it this last year and I want to be able to start a new project without having to worry about finishing this current one.

If you have never heard of NaNoWriMo or have been reticent to partake, I encourage you to go to their website and check it out . It is a free opportunity to join writers around the world during the month of November in the goal of writing a minimum of 50,000 words of a new novel or writing project. Last year, I was coerced by a friend to jump in and do it two days before the start date of November 1. I had no idea what to write about and had been in a slump for some time. A hint of an idea came to me and I decided I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. It has since turned into something I feel has some real merit and has been a joy and learning experience to work on.

Last week, I quickly jotted down some thoughts about this years project and look forward to fleshing it out. It looks like it will be a sequel to the project I am current trying to finish. In the meantime, I will attempt to get back to my diligence of posting to this site at least once or twice a week. Having a blog or website is another wonderful way of building your writing muscles in different ways than writing novels or other projects. When you take advantage of opportunities to write, you can’t help but get better.

If you would like to be a writing buddy on NaNoWriMo, I am Tale-Creator. So, let’s stretch those writing muscles together!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Take A Deep Breath

The weather today is spectacular. The sky is a vivid and clear blue, the trees fully leafed out, and the warm weather is bringing out the wonderful smells of the grass fields. My allergy pills are thankfully working and allowing me to breathe in the incredible aroma my little valley has to offer.

We have had so much rain this spring that the warm sun is bound to cause everything to burst forth in a fit of gleeful growth. The garden might actually start showing signs of producing the fruits and vegetables we planted there some time ago. The only thing that has been loving the soggy weather has been the slugs, who have also been feasting on the plants we are hoping to supply us with our summer crop. Slug bait, here we come.

Along with the sights and sounds of happy birds, are lawn mowers, motorcycles, convertibles, children and dogs in play, and the humming wings of the hummingbirds feasting from the feeder hanging from our porch awning. I don’t know about you, but I actually enjoy the sounds these evoke, as it shows that others are enjoying the world around them.

Flowers are also bursting forth in colorful abandon, sending their intoxicating sweetness through the already aromatic air. The sun’s rays causing their leaves and branches to stretch skyward as though trying to touch its brightness, giving thanks for its life-giving warmth.

It’s truly a time to rejoice in the sounds and smells of nature.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Using “I” Instead of “You” in Relationships

The making of a good relationship takes work. Relationships are just that – relating to one another through being in one another’s life, good times and not. Whether it is a friendship or a marriage, the people involved should be better because of it, not made to feel less.

Often, when there are problems, it’s usually because there is a breakdown in communication. Sometimes, along with the lack of communication, is an assumption that was made which is frequently based on not enough information or choosing to not see the information for what it is.

When confusion or conflict arises, instead of playing the blame game, which only succeeds in causing more hurt and widening the distance, try talking about what is really causing concern. However, instead of using the word “you”, use “I”, like “I am feeling…..” or “Help me understand…” By changing to using “I” wording, you switch the direction of the conversation to how you are feeling and how you are being affected. This change of focus keeps the other person from feeling so defensive and allows for more open and honest communication.

Start slow and be gentle. Allow for the conversation to develop, peeling away the layers of concern and you will often find that by handling it in this manner, that you and your partner will be able to clarify issues and see that more often than not, what was getting in the way was a feeling of insecurity or that someone jumped to an errant conclusion.

Get in the habit of immediately taking care of these feelings when they come, instead of letting them fester and grow to something that feels unmanageable. It’s never a pleasant task, but it does get easier the more often you do it. The key is staying open and if something is affecting the health of your relationship, then it needs to be addressed.

The key is taking the first step and talk.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Research, it’s become mandatory

25 years ago, I was fortunate to have eye surgery to correct my eyesight. I was so severely myopic (nearsighted) that I was legally blind. Thanks to my prayer team, the Good Lord, and a brilliant doctor (who was just hoping to enable me to see the big E on the chart), I was able to have perfect vision up until just this last year or so.

According to my optometrist, RK and laser surgery lasts about 25 years, which is awesome as far as I’m concerned, before there becomes a possible need for some minor correction. Then, the scar tissue begins to lose its strength and causes the cornea to sort of collapse. Now, before you faint, this isn’t as bad as it sounds. Of course, when they told me that my corneas resembled Mt. St. Helens, I did think I was going to faint. She explained this was normal and was easily corrected with lenses. Big sigh of relief.

My eye exam showed that I had some astigmatism, which was the probable cause of the headaches I had been suffering with for the last few months. They sent me in to see the glasses specialists, but after several attempts at getting lenses to work, I decided to see the optometrist, again. That was when I decided to do a little research. I figured that since I had worn contacts before my surgery, there should be contacts to help my eyes, now. Even though there have been great strides in contact technology, I wasn’t completely sold on rigid lenses. So, I kept digging. I eventually discovered a couple of new lenses for eyes like mine. One in particular looked like it would work the best. It married a rigid center with soft skirt.

When I went to my next appointment, I asked the optometrist if I could wear contacts. She told me that shouldn’t be a problem and took me in to meet the contact specialist. She tried fitting me with a rigid lens, and although not as painful as when I tried them in the mid-70’s, they still just felt like a piece of plastic in my eye. So, I asked her about this new lens. Her response was that they were expensive. I asked her how much? She said about $600, which was way lower than what I was anticipating. Then, she told me that my eyes should be covered by my health insurance, which could pick up the bulk of the cost. I was silently wondering whether she would have told me about them had I not researched them. I’m not sure she would have. The contacts were perfect and quite comfortable.

This is not the first time I have researched something ahead of time and had it turn in my favor, especially when it comes to my health or the health of my family or friends. In spite of what doctors may say, researching is often a good thing. What the doctors get wary of is when people research and then ask for something totally unreasonable. But, if it’s reasonable and you have looked at all of the pros and cons, you will then go into appointments and meetings with the information to ask the right questions and make good decisions.

It has come down to the importance of personally advocating for our own healthcare. We are not given enough time with the doctor (scheduled 15 minutes) for them to be proactive about our health. It’s up to us to take the initiative. It’s not up to us to diagnose, but it is up to us to check out our options. Remember, whenever you research, especially healthcare, make sure there plenty of substantiating documentation from different, reputable sites. Do not just settle on one that says something you want to see. That’s not being responsible or proactive.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Let Go, Let It Flow

Yes, I’m still working on that novel I started this last November for NaNoWriMo. I finally got through the worst of the battle scene and am now wrapping up that chapter. That was a tough section to write. Actually, I don’t know that ‘write’ is a very good definition of what I accomplished there.

Maybe a better word would be ‘dumped’.

This section has no energy, no real intensity, and very little to redeem itself. I had absolutely no epiphanies or enlightened moments. It was simply an arduous daily task to pound out. All I can hope for is that when it comes time to revise, I will finally get some sort of inspiration to make this section become fulfilled.

The nice thing I discovered through writing this particular piece is that I don’t have to make it perfect the first time. In fact, it is better that I don’t. So, I'm okay the battle is less than perfect.

My writing skills in all of the areas that I write took a huge leap forward when I discovered the enormous merits of just putting everything down and revise it to the piece it should finally be. It allows so much more to work with and makes the piece more rounded and effective.

By putting down all of my thoughts and ideas as I go, I open myself and the story up to all it can possibly be. In other words, I’m not limiting the story, but allowing the story to drive the writing. In allowing the story to be the master, I’m not controlling the ebb and flow or the final outcome. I actually am surprised by what shows up on the page.

This is what makes writing so addictive.

The other novel I was working on before November, I was definitely the one in control. It’s plain to see. In that piece, I was trying to write it perfect the first time.

This is so stupid.

It’s also being very narrow-minded.

The reason I say this, is all you have to do is look at the word count. In not allowing the story to have its say, the story is short, stilted, and doesn’t explore all the areas that make a story so compelling. Now, I’m not saying the one I’m working on now is compelling, but it has a whole lot more potential than the first one. When I’m done with this first draft, it will be set aside and let to rest for a while.

During that time, I will go back to the first story and try to write a second draft that is more like a first draft. I really hope I can make that happen, as I really believe the story has a lot of merit and needs to be told. I just have to let it do the telling, not me.