Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Boring Part

Am I writing? Yes, I am.

I had a record number of people ask me about my writing this weekend. Maybe it was because I was at a few parties and events with friend I hadn't seen for a while, but it seemed like I was telling the same story over and over.

It was a boring story.

I wish I had something exciting to say like, "I found an editor/agent/publisher who can't wait to work with me!" or "The publishing date is xxxx!" or the biggest dream of them all: "They're turning my book into a movie!"

I'm not really using a Remington. No delete button.
Someday. But not today. Today I am doing the work-work. I'm writing and rewriting. I'm finding weak spots, highlighting them, and hoping my whole manuscript isn't highlighted when I'm done. I'm removing words that are unnecessary, annoying or just plain wrong. (Just being one of those words I eliminated today...)

So even though I don't have anything exciting to reply, I do appreciate the questions and the interest in my writing. Because I know that someday I will have something exciting to say. So thank you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Plans

Days like these make me smile.



It's all a lie -- I didn't write down the jobs for the week yet -- but it's nice to pretend that summer days really are as carefree as they should be.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

12 books at once

I have a friend who loves to read as much as I do. She speeds through books without any trouble. But we have very different approaches to reading. She has to finish one book before she can begin another. More disciplined than I, she has a list that she uses and checks each book off as she goes, never starting this one before finishing that one.

Me - not so much.

I love visiting the library with my big book bag. I collect as I walk, stopping in aisles and grabbing titles without a plan, simply because of the colors or fonts on the spine at times. A quick browse through the pages and many end up in my bag. Checking out with 6+ books is not uncommon for me. There are days when I have to stop simply because I cannot carry them all.

Then I bring them home and begin.



I have 13 library books at home at the moment. I have started reading 12 of them. My friend cringed when I told her.

Granted, they are not all novels. In fact, very few are. Flipping through a book on vegan cookies while reading Doctor Sleep is not the same as trying to read A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings at the same time. But they all interest me, they all call to me at different times throughout the day. All I ask is that they open my eyes to something new. When they do, I keep turning their pages until the end.

Sometimes I wonder if this crazed approach to reading is a result of having a smartphone and laptop always within reach. The need for an instant update, new info, has become a powerful force. But then I remember that no, I used to do the same thing way before my phone, way before my laptop.

Summers were always full of reading for me. School was out and I could read whatever I wanted - joy! I'd read anything and everything I could find. But even back then, back in middle school, I had multiple books going at once.

I always had a soothing book for night reading that would help me forget the scary things I read from Stephen King. And I was always reading something from Stephen King. My grandfather knew I liked his books, so every time he was in a book store, he found another one for me to devour.

I had a classic going at all times - I thought it was very sophisticated to be able to say, "I'm reading War and Peace," even if I never finished it.

I was forever reading Watership Down for some reason. I did finish it once, and I think I must have skipped sections, so I went back to re-read. But I couldn't dig into it a second time, so it sat with a cute pink tasseled bookmark perpetually marking my last attempt. 

And then there were whatever new books I'd stumbled upon during a trip to the library. Some kept my interest right away and some were discarded after the first few pages. But it was never wasteful, my approach to reading. I would immediately return what I could - completed or simply "finished-with" - and start my search again, book bag open and ready for treasure.

Open my eyes. Show me something new. It's what I asked then, and it's what I ask now. I think I'll head to the library again today...




Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Thrill Ride

Yesterday was our annual trek to the local amusement park, Kennywood. As a native Pittsburgher, I can proudly state that there have only been a handful summers that I can remember not going on the Jack Rabbit, Racer, Log Jammer and Kangaroo. But something has changed.



I can't say I know exactly when I shifted from Rider to Watcher-and-Purse-Holder, but I am fully in the latter category now. Rides that used to excite me, used to tickle my belly with dips and drops and breakneck speed now just make me stressed. Is it that I'm old? Maybe. But I don't think that's entirely it.

I remember going on one of those super high water slides in high school. (They don't have those at Kennywood, so I don't know where I was exactly...) I walked up the steps with my friends, determined to go down as cool and calm as could be. I wasn't going to be one of those girls who screamed the whole time. My turn came, and I thought, "Oh HELL NO." But I wasn't going to slink back down the ladder and walk to the ground. I was going to slide.

I jumped onto the mat and whooshed away from the platform.

I don't remember exactly what happened, but I am pretty sure I didn't scream. I don't think you can scream if you're holding your breath. The. Whole. Way. Down. And my eyes were mostly shut. When I reached the bottom, I realized I had the worst wedgie of my entire life. And I was lightheaded. But I made it!

I waited for the wave of euphoria to wash over me. But instead, my hands shook. My knees felt weak. And I thought I was going to throw up. I rushed to the bathroom and sat in the stall for a while until I could stand without hurling.

That's when it started. That's when I realized that all thrills are not the same. I didn't hate the water slide, but I certainly didn't need to do that ever again.

Some friends of mine go to Kennywood to ride as much, or more, than their kids. They enjoy things I cannot even watch, like the rides that go upside down over and over, or the swings. I have an irrational hatred of the swings. They're just swings, chains attaching them to a decorative spinning top, but you could not pay me enough to get on one of those.

Last year I was talked into going on something I did not want to ride. My dear friends (B. and D., you know who you are!) convinced me it would be fun. I had to hide my hands as we waited in line, and then again when we got off. Once again, like that water slide 20+ years ago, I held my breath and closed my eyes most of the time. The shaking hands lasted through the next ride and finally slowed. It was not fun. Not for me.

I was a proud Purse Holder this year. I enjoyed watching my kids laugh and scream with their friends. I enjoyed watching my friends wave to me from way, way up high. And I really enjoyed seeing it all with both feet planted firmly on the ground.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Worthless Stats

I have tried a number of ways to track my writing. I used to keep a daily word count on a spreadsheet. I even blogged about it way-back-when.  It didn't last long. I've searched for apps, for tricks, for foolproof methods.

But in fact, the most consistent tracking I've done for my writing is all in my head:
  1. I remind myself every morning to write.
  2. At lunch time, I tell myself that I haven't written anything worth keeping yet.
  3. After lunch, I nag myself that I need to get started or I'll run out of time.
  4. At 3pm, I give up, knowing it's too late to get anything done before the kids come home from school.
  5. When I go to bed, I tell myself that tomorrow will be better, and I will write a magnificent chapter, maybe 2. 
  6. I wake up the next day and begin again at #1. Then repeat. Every. Day.

Today I finally found a way to break the cycle of disappointment. 

I stumbled upon the A Year of Productivity website via a Lifehacker.com link. I may have spent more time than I should reading through the productivity tips and experiments conducted by Chris Bailey, but I found something that let me step out of my cycle at #2...

Productivity isn’t about how much you produce, it’s about how much you accomplish

When I first started my year of productivity, I created a Stats page so I could share exactly how productive I was every day. Every day I posted the number of words I wrote, pages I read, and hours I worked, because I considered these to be pretty good measurements of how productive I was.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Unless you run a factory, measuring your productivity based only on how much you produce gives you only a shallow, limited picture of how productive you are. In fact, if you come up with an intelligent and creative approach to a problem—let’s say that you find a way to write 500 words in 100—when you measure your productivity simply by how much you produce, you’re much less productive!

It’s easy to get caught up on measurements and statistics, but as far as personal productivity is concerned, statistics are secondary. Productivity isn’t about how much you produce, it’s about how much you accomplish.
I think I knew this, somewhere deep inside, but I didn't believe it. I keep hearing other authors talk about word counts and daily counts, and I thought I needed to meet or beat those numbers. So if I didn't hit that magic number, I considered the day to be a failure. Writing became a loathed chore, an easy thing to procrastinate. Hence my lack of actual WORDS floating out there in the world (and on amazon.com). I touched the files, even played with the letters and spaces, but didn't get anything done.

I am really enjoying A Year of Productivity. There are so many articles and ideas that appeal to me. So I will go back there later today. After I finish one sentence that has been waiting for me for weeks.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fault and Characters

On a recent trip out of town, I purchased the Kindle version of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

I wanted to read it before my 11-year-old daughter to see if she would like it. I knew vague details of the plot, and I knew cancer was involved, but that was about it.

Well, the quick answer is NO, she is not ready for this book. I realize they read dark and sometimes depressing books in middle school, but the reality in this one is too much for her at this point. It may have been too much for me.

By saying that, I'm not saying I didn't like the book. I truly did. But it made me think in ways I was not prepared to think. To ache. To wish. To gasp out loud on the airplane when I reached an important moment.

I kept imagining what I would have felt if I had read it as a teenager. I imagined what my daughter may feel when she reads it someday. And I also read it through the eyes of a parent, wondering how much pain a person can take.

But more than all of that, the writer in me was drawn to the characterizations, the details that made the people come to life. Short phrases conveyed paragraphs worth of emotion. As with any book, some of the quirks were a bit too quirky for me, but they never took me out of the story. A mild annoyance rather than a distraction, they probably made me feel as I would have if I met the characters for real.

And isn't that a lofty goal for a writer? To create characters that readers want to meet is quite an achievement. Creating people we want to know can be tricky. It happened in the story. It happened to me as I read the story. Now how can I make it happen to someone who reads one of my stories? Something else to keep me up at night...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Focus

I noticed something about the last 10 or so posts I've made here: they are weird. As I've spent the last year or so fighting with myself, wondering if I should "be a writer" or not, I've been fighting with this blog, too. It's not good.

Then I noticed a number of photos are missing. Links broken. I think I know why, but I don't know if I'll get them back in place or not. So for now, I've changed the format here a bit.

There will only be one post on the home page.

If you dare to dig deeper than this point, I can't promise you'll like what you see.

And I will post something of value every Tuesday.

Whether or not you agree there is value may keep me up at night, but regardless, my post will have value to me.

That's the best I can do until I either win or lose the "writer" war. Thanks for hanging in there while I try to find my focus.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Music of 2NE1

Some days I prefer the sound of my quiet house first thing. Everyone has gone to school or work, my mind can tune in, and I have no sounds but the ones I make as I type.

But some days I want to do something new, stretch and test, force words to match that sound strange. I bounce in and out of that place, maybe only getting there a few times all day. It's more of a struggle than I'd like it to be. 

Music helps - it takes me to places I can't go on my own. Not easily, anyway.

I found a new place today, and I like it.

This is the first video of 2NE1 that I saw, and I'm hooked. I'll be here all week, maybe longer. Join me?



How I got here: http://www.refinery29.com/2014/03/65313/2ne1-kpop

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

back to me

It's time to get back to work. I have waited long enough.



If you need me, I'll be at my desk through the month of March.


Editing, editing, editing.
Time to get back to being me.

 
 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Movies

We had an unusual week with the New Year holiday, one day of school, then the day off today for cold weather. But hubby and I still managed to watch a fair number of movies this week.

Strangest Feeling At The End - Devil's Pass on Netflix


Even though I knew where the story was headed, I was still surprised by my reaction to the twist at the end. Unsettled is the best way to describe it. Without giving it away, I wanted to know more about the secret place and who had been there in the past. But I thought they threw in a bit too much information about other paranormal events instead of focusing on the one that meant the most. 

I have to say that of the "Student Filmmakers Who Get Lost, Yet They Manage to  Film All of the Bad Stuff That Happens To Them" films I've seen, I liked the beginning of this one the best. And I liked Holly, our main character and film narrator. Even in the end, I liked her.






Almost Great - Europa Report on Netflix

A really, really long trip on a space ship is never a good idea. That's what I've learned from every movie I've seen about deep space exploration. But this one was a little different. It had one scientist on Earth narrate what happened, how they found out what happened, etc. And it was super convenient that all of those on-board cameras captured every moment we needed to see. It seemed like the same old story. But it wasn't.

The last 15 minutes were so close to being great. They really made up for the middle when I was pretty bored. And I loved Rosa, the quiet one who shocked me the most.

Full disclosure - we actually fell asleep for the end (it was VERY late), but we watched the last 20 minutes the next day and I'm glad we did! Best part, by far.




 Not Worth Staying Up Late - The Final on Netflix

Seriously? 4 out of 5 stars on Netflix?

I am confused.

Sad and depressed kids who decide to kill their classmates who teased and bullied them? Oh, not kill, just torture until they may or may not die. Editing errors. Unlikeable main characters. Unrealistic minor characters. Agonizing resolutions.

I am still confused.

Bullying is awful, no question. But an eye for an eye? A bit too biblical for me. 

Who gave this movie so many stars? I want my time back.





Ready for the Sequel - Man of Steel on Blu Ray


Loved it.

Maybe it's because we saw it over three nights because we were watching with the kids and it kept getting too late. Or maybe it's because I love Amy Adams. It doesn't really matter - I loved this one.

Don't get me wrong. I laughed out loud when Clark Kent went to his first day at the Daily Planet in his big disguise - GLASSES - and wasn't recognized. (Or was he?) But it was a fun movie.

Sequel with Ben Affleck? Yes, please. And Diane Lane, you've been my favorite since The Outsiders. Love you, even more with the gray hair.