Monday, May 31, 2010

Frustration Reigns on the Prairie ...

... partly because, but not only because, it has RAINED (even SNOWED) in the past ten days! And not just measly little showers. The weather gods have poured and dumped on us. A lot!!! For our American neighbours who are celebrating the long Memorial Day weekend, let me tell you that last weekend, the Canadian Victoria Day long weekend, was cold and miserable. I hope yours is better.

The subheading below our Prairie Chicks banner warns all comers that they might read about thoughts, ideas, jubilations -- all those good and thoughtful avenues that we hope will lead to the fulfilment of our dreams. Notice that the word frustrations is also there. I'm sure everyone has a hefty tale of frustration to tell. I'm not about to launch a contest for the most frustrating circumstance, but perhaps a little venting won't do us any harm. Some of those threads of frustration might lead us into more positive scenarios that will be less nightmarish.

First to get the weather issue done with -- it is the everlasting Canadian theme, after all. Never mind if the campers were sent home early last weekend. So what if our moods take a dive when it's cloudy, day in and day out, and the temperature has plunged so that it is too cold to put the new, fragile plants into their summer beds. The grass in the yard is waving at me, daring me to try to mow between rain and gusts of wind. Surely this slow-moving low pressure system will soon move on.

One would think it would be an ideal time to hunker down and write, write, write. Ah, but therein lies part of the problem. The weather isn't what the calendar tells us it should be, so everything is out of kilter. Including the writing regime. Look at me. I sit, eyes glazed over, watching television that nobody would want to watch. The season and series finales have come and gone. Reruns, only reruns in our 600-channel universe. And playoffs! Well, that would be a bright spot, if only I had more players left in my pool.

Not nice to be outside, nothing I can set my mind to indoors. What's a person to do? Well, I do have a blogpost to write. Another frustrating wall just reared up in front of me. Blank screen, cursor blinking. I do have several works-in-progress I could use as springboards for "thoughts" or "ideas." In fact, because both my novels (as well as a short story that's begging to be finished) are very dependent on place and time, I was about to write about setting. However, there was no way I could improve on the excellent posts that Connie and Janet have done in the past. Click on the label Setting on the left for three previous posts.

I almost got beyond frustration as I re-read their thoughts on the importance of setting, checked out the links, and delved into the book I borrowed from Connie. I think I'm on the right track, because I have already taken a hard look at the novel I'm working on. Setting is so important that part of the revision I have already started involves lifting my story out of its current time period and moving it back several decades. Conflict and misunderstandings have arisen from communication issues that are important to the plot, but would not be credible in the era of cell phones and email. However, they fit perfectly into the fifties when people used telephones for emergencies, but for little else!

You see where I'm going with this frustration thing. By the time I have finished whining, I may have a post almost written. If I'm successful or have a bit of luck, the sun may be shining the next time I raise my head from my pillow.

Frustrating moments are not totally depressing. I don't think that's an oxymoron. Sometimes they motivate me to go looking for something else that beckons from the future; perhaps an event will present itself in that quest for a better day. Aha, summer is the time for festivals. And programs for conferences in the fall are being announced at this very moment.

I love writers' festivals where I can listen to and talk with writers I have read and admired, or others whom I've never met before but I know I'll be a fan forever after the event. I will be attending two this summer. One is The Festival of Words right here on the Prairie, which I attend every year. In August I am also heading out to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia for what will be a fabulous treat, both in terms of the writers who will be there and the setting. (That magical word again. It holds a lot of power in real life, too.) Even if I am in a writing slump during this spell of miserable weather, looking forward to surrounding myself with some of my favourite authors helps me see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The other major event I'm looking forward to is way down the road, but registration opens this week for the Surrey International Writers' Conference. Some of the Chicks and other writer friends from the SRW went last year in October. A few repeats are holding up their hands, and some who couldn't make it last year are about to take the plunge. I am on the verge of deciding to go again. It was an amazing experience. Now if that doesn't get me motivated to have at least one manuscript ready to pitch to an editor or agent, I don't know what will. And the prospect of rubbing shoulders with prominent authors and sitting at their feet (at least in the same room), while they generously talk about the art of writing, offer advice on markets, and generally make all of us feel that anything is possible, whether we are already published or are still seeking that first golden moment ... well, it's inspiring and breathtaking!

Come to think of it, I am grateful that I could spend some time on the websites of all the various festivals and conferences that take place annually across the country. If I had been out pushing a lawnmower or planting my garden, maybe I would have been too tired!

Perhaps frustration has been underrated as a motivator. If I grind to a halt with one endeavour, good old Freddie Frustration shoves me in another direction. Change up the settings, don't always rely on the default. There are many paths on the way to achieving dreams. I must remember not to get discouraged over the bumps in the road, but look for detours that will take me somewhere exciting and different. Even the research leaves me eager to get on with the revisions and the new writing. Now ... to plan what to do when I spend a weekend writing retreat in June. That always recharges my batteries, too.

Without dwelling too much on the frustrating side of things, how do you pull yourself out of the doldrums? Do you have some exciting summer (writerly) plans? Any conferences or festivals that are in your regular routine or that will be a new adventure on the horizon for you this year? Please share. That's what our blog is all about.


Helena said...

Still no sunshine, but I shouldn't leave the impression that all is doom and gloom. There are many parts of the prairie provinces that badly needed this rain. Even so, it's getting to be a bit much.

Things should improve by tomorrow. And that's how I try to view the universe!

Janet said...

Hey there, Helena - first the weather, you must be getting Nova Scotia's spring and we're getting yours. We're basking in glorious sunshine and warm (some say hot, but a true Prairie Girl knows +25's not hot) temperatures. Loving it...

But that then leads to all kinds of outside things and the need to take drives to interesting beaches and little villages where craft shops and antique stores are starting to open up for the tourist season. Then there's the expanse of yard that no has cared for in a very long time...

Writing? What writing? And frustrations abound with Lady Bells - to name the most vile culprit.

Oh, well, this too shall pass. Hope you get back into a routine and out of the doldrums (although with all that wind you're having, doldrums are not the issue). Your conferences and festivals will brighten your mood - and inspire you. Wish I was going to Surrey this year, but too many visitors coming to see the fall colors. Next year I'm hoping to go to RWA in New York - fingers crossed (you should start thinking about that).

Joanne Brothwell said...

I'm tired of the rain too, but last weekend at the cottage the weather inspired me! I'm starting to develop the plot of my next novel (in my head at this point), and the torrential rain, thunder, electrical outage and trees that fell gave me some great ideas for the setting. I guess I'm one to try to roll with the punches!

Karyn Good said...

May to September is always a struggled for me, writing wise. I'd simply rather be outside! So you'd think the rain would help with that and enable me to be productive, but it's not working. I'm ready for summer.

Right now I'm thinking about writing contests and submitting, so that's keeping me moving forward on the writing front.

I'm also looking to 2011 and New York and planning on attending!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

I think it's official, Helena, I'm the only one in the province who's enjoying all this rain. It's the West Coat in me I guess, I think it's fabulous, and would be out in it more if it wouldn't soak my writing through! Definitely going a bit stir crazy right now though, but it's unrelated to the weather, just haven't gone and done anything in a while. I suppose I'll be eating those words in a month though, won't I?

I've got a good solid deadline to aim for with Surrey this fall now, and looking at goals to ensure everything's ready by the time I get there. Getting a good amount of writing in, and trying for more than usual to make of the zero productivity I expect to have once I get to England. My last month of no work resulted in great energy after, so I'm hoping it'll be the same this time.

Helena said...

I agree with you, Hayley, about the Surrey deadline being a motivator. I hope it will work that way for everyone who goes.

Glad you anticipate that you may not write while you're in England. I find writing on vacation really hard to fit in to the program!

Maybe you'll get some good old West Coast-type rain while you're there -- which, as you say, doesn't need to keep you indoors at all. (I remember two weeks in B.C. when our boys were small, rained every day, and we had a ball.)

When I was in England three years ago, it rained to start -- which didn't show the gardens to the best advantage but didn't deter us much, then we got hot weather. It was this very time of year. Later on there was a huge downpour in the Midlands, with flooding, the whole bit. You never know.

Bon voyage!

Helena said...

Hi, Karyn.

Maybe it is partly the transition to spring/summer that has me a bit befuddled. I can usually get quite a lot done either at retreats or workshops during that time. Probably I do lose my focus when other summer activities start taking priority.

Good luck with the contests and any other submissions you undertake. Certainly good motivators to get something done.

I'll have to think about NY, tho I'm not sure if RWA is right for me. Also I tend to prefer smaller venues, but who knows?

Helena said...

Good for you, Joanne. I have to admit that extreme weather conditions have sometimes got the juices going in my head, too. The right atmosphere can do it, if you are open to it.

Good luck with the writing you do this summer, whatever the weather.

Helena said...

Janet, when I lived in northern Alberta I thought +25 C was really hot. Sure woke up my memory fast when I moved back to Sask. one of those summers when it was +35 C day after day!

Have almost decided to go to Surrey again. Have until Wed. to be sure. Will be more focused this time if I do go, and better prepared.

Not sure about RWA in NY. Coudn't you find some nice little conference somewhere in New England?

(Don't mind me -- still whining!)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Helena,
I can totally sympathize with you about the weather. We've had crazy rain here this past weekend. There's flooding all over the place. We were lucky not to get water in our basement.

So frustrations. Had my share this spring. I was all set to take a week off work to write a novella for a contest in the Last Rose of Summer line with the Wild Rose Press. And then my mom had a heart attack. We had some pretty tense moments but she's doing much better now, thankfully. I've been back and forth to Regina several times. Each time I got back home I had to try to catch up on things at home and at work. The result has been that I've done no new writing, other than blogs. I just haven't been in the head space to write.

But things are starting to turn around. Mom is getting better, and I'm starting to feel like writing again. Unfortunately I won't make it to retreat this year, but it's because hubby and I are going to Toronto for #1 daughter's graduation from university. So that's a good thing. I won't be going to any conferences this year, but now you've got me thinking about RWA in New York in 2011. Something to consider and look forward to.