When the dogs bark: listen!

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Art sculpture is titled “Muddy Dog” and produced by a local artist that I’m rather fond of.

I started a new writing project last night. I know I had promised myself to stick it out with only one big story at a time–one novel and not to hopscotch around further dividing my limited writing time. But, the water began boiling many days ago. I honestly tried to put a lid on it, or ignore the flash of ideas, yet before I realized it– she had a name and a face and a heart full of pain.

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So when I sat down to declutter the ever-growing paper mess at my writing desk, and casually retrieved a legal pad from the floor, in an instant I knew the only question was whether I’d use pencil or pen. The lid popped off the pot, the steam released.

When I finished the first entry(epistolary format), that pad literally vibrated in my hands. It held me as much as I physically held it. I didn’t want to go to sleep, afraid I’d lose that connection. No worries! In fact, or in spite of spending a rushed day out and about navigating everyday life(including work on a tooth’s crown), I’ve garnered a nice collection of napkins, receipts and Post-its scribbled with written material.

Back to the odd blog title: listen, don’t suppress! (Has anyone ever heard of such a saying before, or did I actually make it up?) Perhaps everything does have its own season and time, and moment of birth.  This could be the very right instant in time to write this one particular story.  I must listen!

My first interview(kinda)…

Well, I was interviewed once, by a very rural newspaper when I won first place in a recipe contest.   That was cool, but my writing Q & A interview was a surprisingly awesome experience.   Feel free to check it out, there’s a lot of writing tips and ideas included, and perhaps more personal insights than I should have divulged.

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2013/09/shermie-rayne-second-place-winner-in.html

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The above books I ordered with some of the winning-prize money!

The naming game…

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Last week my writing hit a wall!  That wall was made of colorful Post-its, pinned to the cork board above my writing desk.   I had come to the point in the story where I could no longer get by with general, generic names–those given out in the initial pursuit of practicality and momentum.

As I introduced my leading character’s sidekick, this became painfully obvious.   The words were stifled and lacking, because an element of liveliness was missing.  My character was ready to live and breathe–yet could not!  Hence, he needed to be named, like all things that are created.  (Actually, he still needs to be named.)

From this fantasy story’s earliest conception, he has been called simply: “Red man”.   (Rest assured that this is not an ethnic reference, more of a literal observation.)  Similarly, other characters had/have temporary pet names, take Yoda-like man for example(short, wise and speaks his mind).  So, I pulled out the baby-naming books and my overflowing “name” file, which holds scraps of papers scribbled with various names and words.  Those names are found(stolen) from books, magazines, movies, the shoe boxes at Kohl’s, name tags of workers and even the yearly unclaimed money/property register.  Names are truly everywhere–you just have to be open to receiving them.  I do, however draw the line at searching the obituaries!

Again, I’m at a standstill.  I need the name.  A solid and strong name, perhaps a name from long ago that can be resurrected and recycled.

I’d love to hear from other writers!  What is your character-naming process like?  I’m especially curious as to the naming process for fantasy and/or other uncommon world genres.

…the difference between a hobby and a calling?

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For the longest time my husband has considered my writing to be a hobby, and has often referred to his enjoyment of fishing as a comparison. This infuriates me, for I perceive it as so much more.  I believe it to be my calling–something I don’t necessarily want to do, but rather it calls out to me, constantly nagging and berating me into its devotion.

Anyway, after recently considering the matter, I’ve realized that perhaps I was the one not fully understanding the comparison.   I took the time to get over my own indignation, and had quite an epiphany. I realized that I was applying my own assumptions or perceptions of what fishing meant to me, yet I failed to understand what his perceptions might be.  So, I thought about it…

He loves the act of throwing a line into stilled water, watching the undulating ripple dissipate, while anxiously awaiting that pull of power from the unknown at the other end of the line. He calls this his time of peace–where the mind is free to roam and relax against the calm embrace of nature.  I get that now, that was the intended comparison.  I was simply hung up on that single word: hobby!  I wanted a more precise and elegant lexicon to acknowledge my efforts.

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Don’t get me wrong!  I do consider writing much more difficult than fishing, of course. I mean–writing is a very internal process, it requires lots of synapses to snap and flick just right, in an often frustrating attempt to conjure up new worlds, and characters that actually think and feel and act in all sorts of crazy ways. It is truly exhausting, and arduous and rarely easy. Whereas, fishing is an external interaction in a living, tangible environment. Yet, in the end, both could or should provide the same result: that Zen-like trance, that feeling of unawareness to all those walls that otherwise enclose us.

Sometimes, I think we all get so hung up on the words and their meanings, and our own (mis)perceptions, that we don’t stop to realize that not everyone shares the same definitions and interpretations.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~Carl Jung

So, I won my first writing contest…

http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/57-FE1-Spring13Contest.html
Well, I should say that I won second place. However, it feels like I won the entire contest, because you see, the competition was within myself. I have been intermittently dabbling in writing for the last two years, unsure and uncertain, basically fearful to immerge myself completely. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if I was wasting time that could be more productive elsewhere? Thankfully, the biggest “what if” held steadfast: what if I don’t try?

This spring, after months of abandoning my writing and mentally beating myself up for not writing, I had an honest discussion with myself, which boiled down to one statement: either commit yourself or quit. I could not accept the latter. I just couldn’t let it go(I’m a bit stubborn). I had heard the promised whisper of what should be, which had to come to me when I needed it most. Alas, I was neglecting that purpose–and ultimately me. That had to change. Banishing faithless comments and doubtful looks, both those personally contrived and received by others, to the farthest reaches of comprehension released my productivity.

I also made the dynamic decision to start with just one of my several stories(all in various stages of development) and stick with it until the very end. No more daydreaming between various characters and worlds(unless something just happens to pop in my head). I’d be resolute and dedicated. I have to say, this obvious method is working, much to my chagrin.

Anyway, it was also around this time that I was Googling “writing contest” and happened to stumble upon Women On Writing’s website and their quarterly contest. My inspiration: “The fair nymphs of this isle are in wonderful tribulation…” ~Francis, Lord Rawdon. I had recently heard/read of that famous British Army quote from the Revolutionary War. It bothered me, or more precisely the story behind the quote’s meaning…it angered me. Not because atrocities of that nature didn’t happen, or don’t still happen, but because it had occurred so freely on American soil. I envisioned being a mother with a young daughter to protect, and from that place of desperation, Revolution was born. And, may in fact become a full novel someday.
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Falling off the wagon…

Yes, I have fallen from the novel-writing wagon! It is not such a far fall, really–and is quite easy to accomplish. It only takes a proverbially small bump in the road or a tree blocking the way. I could list a zillion reasons: kids, my first dental crown (ugh!), keeping up with cooking, cleaning and household duties, launching this blog and a Facebook page, other commitments and kids (I know I said that twice). However, in the end these reasons are but glorified excuses.

So, for ten days or more, absolutely nothing has progressed in my novel, Faye. My characters are frozen in time, trapped and awaiting the keystroked words to come and carry them forward. Thankfully, I’ve developed the awesome habit of outlining and with the help of many, many Post-it notes, their story is safe and ready for the telling.

Did I feel a pang of guilt last night when my nightly morsel of Dove dark chocolate was unwrapped to reveal the following message: “Keep the promises you make to yourself”? Yeah, a little, I have/had promised myself to write every single day. But then I have to allow myself to look at those myriad of excuses and realize that I did accomplish something. I even wrote a little poem that I feel a bit proud of, as it relates to an issue I feel strongly for (human trafficking). In the end, I suppose we all have to decide what to do with the time we are given. (Wow, I think I just re-worded my favorite Gandalf quote!)

Today is a new day, and I begin again!

“Man starts over again everyday, in spite of all he knows, against all he knows.” ― Emil Cioran

Fighting the fear…

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

I took that sage advice today– I spent the morning and afternoon at a writer’s workshop. Although I had attended a similar event last summer and enjoyed myself greatly, I had mentally worked myself up into a great frenzy recently. So much so, I had to have ongoing debates with myself as to why I should take the class and not cancel—this seemed ridiculous to me, considering I had stayed up past midnight waiting for the moment online registration was active weeks ago.

I believe my angst was stemming from the workshop’s description: a writing workout to “tap into memories for inspiration.” That last bit subconsciously echoed in my thoughts all week, causing my heart to race and my belly to flutter. The fear of what disclosure would be required petrified me. I’m an introvert, peacefully quiet and shy. Reticent I am to reveal my own deep thoughts. How could I possibly open up in such an intimate way with a room full of strangers?

Thankfully, through affirmations of positive thoughts and fear- pulverizing quotes, I pushed through the week of dubious thoughts. I’m happy to report I even arrived for the workshop on time, with a full one minute to spare (Ha-ha). And, as is often the case, reality never measures up to disserving expectations.

I loved the writing workout! The teacher was excellent. The prompts were varied and didn’t necessarily need to originate from one’s own memory. Surprisingly though, I did tap into my own consciousness for several of the pieces. Best of all, there was no forced sharing or reading required. Perhaps, this is why I felt comfortable to read aloud a solid piece of flash fiction. When it was all said and done, I’d spent three of the four hours writing: my hand ached and my mind was numb as I drove home, but I was content. I had conquered the day.