Thursday, July 15, 2010

Play it again Sam

Oh No! Anne wrote about my topic yesterday. And worse: her blog is better than mine was going to be - I planned to  whine .

We have all the same problems, she and I. We haven't written in months, have several stories going at once and none are a flaming passion or they would be written by now. Family problems, in my case - autism, a down and dirty divorce, (not mine) a sociopath (mine) and, chronic depression. Interesting perhaps but somewhat distracting, not to mention debilitating. Anne and I apparently both have absolutely no interest whatsoever in cooking or eating.  She mentioned dismal spring. One more raindrop and all our flowers are going to succomb.

One more raindrop and frankly my dear, I won't give a damn.

Anne provided the answers for most of us to overcome the blocks that hold us back. I read all the links she gave us and picked up approximately 34 tips. Several things jumped out at me. I am going to try now to ask the questions Anne has answered.

Do you need a goal? I have been thinking about this for several months. It seems to me that Husband and I don't have any goals anymore except to golf every day the temperature is above zero, (him) and (for me) to hang out at the cottage and berate myself because I have all sorts of great ideas and no motivation. We need goals to work toward. On the other hand, we achieved our professional goals and retired. I have a wip or five, but at 69, I don't hope to see any published unless I can shake the lassitude, fire up the computer and make darn sure I do it quickly before I end up in a place for the badly bewildered - or worse.

Part of my problem is chronic depression.  That keeps me from revving up and accomplishing so much in a day, my sneakers start to smoke. Part is not turning things upside down. I don't see any point to setting a goal to write and have a book published. Why can't I see that as a goal? So what if it is published posthumously? What if it never gets published at all and the descendents pitch it?

Frankly, my dear, I won't be in any position to give a damn.

So, I need a goal.  Do you? Some people putt along steadily, without a goal and one day, the book is written and they are just as satisfied as they would be if it was a goal accomplished.

Are you afraid of failure? Or success? You have to think that one over carefully. It is amazing how many people are parked because they are afraid family, friends, neighbours, taxi drivers and grocery clerks - even the goldfish will know they failed. They didn't fail. They finished the project didn't they? They can always bury it in the backyard and never tell a soul that they wrote a book. That works.

Fear of success is another problem altogether because many people don't realize that is what is holding them back. What will happen after 'The Call'? All of us have worried, scurried and been awed by what all it takes to get a publisher to say yes, without considering if the outcome is too scary to face. Will you be embarrassed? Will people expect more of you?

Is it enough to have a goal of being published? Should you also set yourself to feeling accomplishment, pleasure, enjoyment of all the little high points along the way?

Do you ask yourself questions? What would happen if your character did this instead of that? What if your character demonstrated a whole new approach to solving the problems everyone has? Do you consider multiple solutions to your characters' conflicts? Will that kind of think session power you up?

Some people are journal writers who reflect on their work and all the ideas that pop up. For some people, that works. They open their journal and bingo, they see  something they wrote that sets them off in a burst of creativity. Some people carry a notebook at all times and jot down notes which may later be the kicker to a great book. If nothing else, it will remind them of all the funny people or situations they have seen and noted. Journal keeping is not for me. As a journalist, there wasn't time to note all these things and reflect on them. Hence, I am not one to keep a journal now. I have scraps of paper noting ideas all over the place and that is as close as I want to be toward contemplation and horror of horrors - 'Organized'! The very word is foreign, and as far as I am concerned, it is also a nasty thing that would keep me from knowing where I'm at and where everything else is at. There is no hope at all that I ever will be 'Organized', so I consider it an unnecessary word - dirty even. Just because I wrote a blog on organization doesn't mean I actually DO it if there is any way to wiggle out of doing it.

There are a couple of 'write-em-down and organize-them methods that I have tried and they worked for me, but not as motivation. I put a big piece of paper on the wall and scribble key points of the plot in some kind of order (not organized mind you). Looking at them and mentally taking them out or rearranging them helps.

Do you draw mind maps? You start with a theme or an idea in the centreand then you write down everything that comes to mind about that central theme and draw lines from each new idea to the central idea. Further ideas about each of the notes you just made are joined to it by lines and so on. For example, the theme is murder and that leads to ideas around that word, such as knife, dark, known, rain. Known may lead to old friend, fear, shock, disbelief. Shock can lead to cold, relative, sudden. You end up with a more or less circular drawing with progressive ideas branching out as far as you want to go. A flow chart allows you to see the ending and eliminate errors before you make them. Would that help you?

Successful writers have all said the same thing. Specify a time period that will be the same each day and darn well sit down and write during that time. I got the impression that using a set time period to write has to become a habit that you don't break unless the house is on fire or you are dead at the time.

Your internal critic has got to go by whatever means it takes to shut him/her up permanently. Shooting same is not a good plan. That critic has been so busy making you feel badly, it hasn't had time to keep up with the latest developments in its field. Therefore, it doesn't know what it is talking about. Who needs a critic like that? Dump him/her.

There are endless ideas to help get a writer get writing. I talked all this over with Husband this afternoon while we neglected the yard work. He said, "Just do it!" I think, now that he knows I haven't accomplished anything in months, his not-all-that-musical voice is going to ring in my ear. "Get at it and just do it" over and over and over and over.

He is very motivational.


Helena said...

I like your husband's approach. Never mind all the justifications, goal-setting, and looking for excuses. If you've got a whisper of a notion that this is something that will bring you pleasure (and at this point in my life, that's really important, as my 95-year-old mother says) then just sit down and get at it.

My mother also says not to work too hard, and oh, yes, grab those opportunities to do things you might not have thought of doing. Which was why she told me, when my family asked me to go to Disneyland, you don't say no, even if it's not top of your list of destinations. I think she's a wise lady.

So, get to it, Connie. Unless this writing life is NOT something you want to do.

connie said...


I have just 'gotten to it'.

Day 1.

I really do want to have something - preferably at least a draft - to have on hand at SiWC.

By the way, I said yes to my son and family when asked to go to Disney World in October.

connie said...

Helena -

I have just 'gotten to it". Day 1.

I do want to have, at he very least, a complete draft for SiWC.

Our eldest son and family asked me to go to Disney World in October.

I said yes

Now I know where your wisdom originated. I like your mother and grandmother!

connie said...

My google account is playing games today - hence the repeated reply

Anita Mae Draper said...

Debbie Macomber was the keynote speaker at the last ACFW conference. She gave us all a blue index card and told us to use it to write down our goals. She said she's a firm believer in dreams coming true if you turn them into goals. And one of the first steps is to write it down. I still have my card. And it's still blank. I think I'm afraid to write down what I really want. :(


Helena said...

Anita, in one way that blank blue card is so-o-o sad, yet in another, you can just look at it and say, "My future is wide open, I can still put anything in it that I want. I am free to experiment. So there, Debbie Macomber!"

Janet said...

Wow - this is a great post, Connie! I'm still mulling it over from my morning read! So many things to think about - so many things to question.

Why am I stuck? Not moving forward? Failure or success? A bit of both? The thing that stuck with me all day was the comment on not having any goals. That was how I wrote Lady Bells. There was no goal of finish it, fix it, publish it. I just wrote - had some free time and a story kicking around in my head. I wrote it! Surprised the hell out of me.

Now, I think all the advice, the pressure to get it right, the possibility that I will never get published, the fear that I will (and OMG, the work begins then and when people read it they will question why it was published - come on, we've all done that with books), I could go forever - it's all settled in and disabled me!

K - I have to stop typing now or this will turn out to be a paper in psychology or I'll spin myself into a bigger hole than I find myself in now.

Anita - your comment resonated with me! I don't blame you for not writing on that card!

connie said...


I think Helena has made a very wise suggestion re the blue card.

It's refreshing to have someone like Helena see things from a different perspective and present us with some good ideas. Kudos Helena

About that blue card. I think we all want the best for our family and to do that we need to be happy with what we do for ourselves as well as for them. You obviously love writing and through that, I'd say you are a better mother and wife and most of all self.

What works for Debbie doesn't necessarily work for us though it is a good idea.

I'd put it in a drawer until its time comes. To everything there is a season...

connie said...


Holy Cow! I didn't mean to throw you into a major hair pulling, nail biting session although asking all the questions did sort of aim at it I guess.

I'm finding the pressure of all the points to remember - arcs, POV,sexual tension, major tension everytime you turn a page. It is getting to me. I just want to write the darn stories. I can create an ulcer later if I decide to go further.

I'm dying to read Lady Bells.

Sufficient unto the day are the problems there of....however, I do what you do: I have fears, worries and potential problems lined up until the next blue moon and back. Like we can do anything about them now? I survived the kids - somehow - and all the worrying I did was for naught. Some turned out to be great people. Some didn't and NOW I know there isn't anything I could do about it.

What if Lady Bells sails into the publishers office and directly to the press? What if some jerkette wonders why it was published? What does she know anyway? You will never meet her and that's too bad. The dumb broad needs some telling, if not threats to ruin her makeup.

I didn't sleep much last night, worrying that this blog wasn't any good. Today, none of you have said goodbye, goodluck and stop writing blogs.


Jana Richards said...

Hi Connie,
I'm sorry for getting to your blog and Anne's blog so late this week. Both are very thought provoking.

It's interesting that setting goals has thrown a lot of us into a paralyzing panic. I've been beating myself up for a while because I haven't reached any of the goals I set for myself back in January. But I have to remember that those goals are arbitary. Sometimes other opportunities come up, or our muse takes us in a different direction. Sometimes life interferes and throws us a curveball. All we can do is pick ourselves up and keep going. We only fail if we let ourselves think we've failed.

Personally, a couple of things motivate me. I love to finish a story. I love when it comes together, when I answer all the questions, when all the pieces fit. I love to tell stories. When it comes down to it, I think that's why we're all in this business.

The second thing that motivates me is far more practical. My overarching goal is to make at least a part-time income from my writing (or at least cover the expenses from my writing habit). To do that I have to be prolific and have a lot of stuff out there, whether it's ebooks, articles, short stories. That's what motivated me to write another story for Chicken Soup for the Soul when they asked for Christmas submissions. It's what's motivating me to take off from the paying job so I can finish the story I'm working on. I was reading the cartoon "Shoe" in my local newspaper the other morning. One character says to Shoe "So you're a writer. What inspires you?" Shoe answers "My muse is my mortgage." I so hear you Shoe.

Sorry to be so lengthy.