Tag Archives: writer’s block

It’s Like Beginning Again

After this much time away from my novel, I’ve had to spend time reading it. I had to get back in touch with the details I wrote over a year ago and forgot about completely.

I had forgotten that Margaret’s old friend’s husband beat up her new friend’s husband because of the color of his skin. This is why Margaret’s husband was walking away. His idealistic view of society crashed and burned around him as he watched the man who was his cousin beat a black man into a bloody mess just for being a black man trying to vote.

After this revelation, I wondered what else I might have forgotten that would be important as I move forward again.

I didn’t read all 50 pages word for word, but I scanned much of it just to feel again like it was mine – my words on the page.

And I was able to largely pick up where I left off, as if I hadn’t taken a year-long break.

In other news, I passed my final for the medical billing & coding program. Maybe I learned more of it then I thought but the exam was multiple choice, so really it was a matter of not choosing the answers I knew were wrong.  That would leave me with only two plausible answers to the question. I realize I could still have bombed it if I wasn’t able to correctly identify the right answer between the two, so I’m back to thinking maybe I learned a little more than I thought.

This weekend my husband and I went on a much needed mini vacay. You might recall we are from Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, we have a custard shop called Culver’s. They have a grill and do burgers and such, but their claim to fame is the custard. We love Culver’s. It’s one of the things we miss most about having moved hundreds of miles away. Imagine our delight two years ago when we discovered there was a Culver’s in Greenville, SC. Only problem is that Greenville is a three hour drive.

One way.

Now you know how good the custard is, because we’ve made this trip twice so far. Usually, we make a weekend of it – get a hotel room and find some things to do. We eat every meal at Culver’s. Except breakfast, but only because they don’t serve breakfast.

On Monday, my husband started talking about how he really wanted to get some custard. Because I’m off every weekend now, it was easy to reserve a hotel room and spend the rest of the week waiting until we could hit the road.

We drove up Friday evening and had our favorite butter burgers for dinner. We shared an order of deep fried cheese curds and he had a raspberry shake.

Here’s another ringing endorsement for how good the custard is.  I’m lactose intolerant. I can eat cheese, but milk and ice cream turn my stomach into a…well, you can imagine. Culver’s custard is well worth the stomach turmoil.

The first time we went up, we wondered if we could transport custard home with us. We bought a small cooler, bought 2 pints each of our favorite flavors (John loves red raspberry, while I prefer bonfire smores), filled the cooler with ice and made the three hour journey back to Charleston.

It worked so well that this time, we got a second cooler and brought back 4 pints each. I think this will quickly become a yearly pilgrimage.

Which is perfect, because I also have a love of waterfalls. Charleston, as you know, is a coastal community. I adore the beach, but now that I have the beach all the time, I’m developing an appreciation for the mountains. More specifically, waterfalls in the mountains. So, each time we’ve gone to Greenville, we’ve gone to see a different waterfall.  The brochure I have shows 7 waterfalls in Greenville County alone. We’ve got 5 more years of easily tying our love of custard into a weekend getaway to see a different waterfall.

The first time we went up, we went to Reedy River Falls, right in downtown Greenville.

reedy river falls

It was a pretty dry year and it wasn’t that impressive, but it didn’t matter to me – I love the sounds of moving water (partly why I love the beach so much, with the constant crashing of the waves).

This year, we went to get a look at Wildcat Branch Falls, largely because it was supposed to be the easiest one to find – you were supposed to be able to see it right off the highway. I think the trees must have grown up a little since my brochure was printed, but we did manage to find it.

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It’s been raining like crazy by the coast, so I had hoped for better rain in the upstate too.  Obviously they haven’t gotten as much. But it was a nice waterfall and we did a 1/4 mile hike that took us by two more waterfalls – one of them about half the size, located directly above and behind the main one in the picture. Back further into the woods was a huge waterfall that, with more recent rains, would have been amazing to see. The rock ledge looked as tall as the tree tops (officially, 100 feet tall), with smooth rocks all the way to the rocky and wooded trail where we stood. I gazed at it in wonder. The picture does not do it justice.

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Again, the water cascading over the top wasn’t as impressive as it could have been, but I loved it anyway.

The water energizes me and I came back from Greenville ready to get back to writing.

Or ready to eat custard.

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Finally Finished My Studies!

It’s been a long road that I still don’t know is going to bear any fruit, but I finished my final exam today for the medical billing and coding program. Fingers crossed I passed and I don’t have to take it again! I won’t know how I did for about two weeks. I should be insane with worry by then.

But, enough about that – now I can get back to writing!

This might have been just what I needed – a year-long break to mull over the plot corner I had written myself into – because I have just the solution to get my character’s husband to come back to the story. Yay, me!

I’ve also recently started a new job – away from the storage industry and into recreational boating. A large part of my job consists of writing newsletters. How much more perfect could a job be? Well, if I was being paid to sit on my sofa and read, that would be more perfect, but for real world jobs, I finally lucked out. The job is close to my house (and could end up turning into work-from-home at some point down the line) and I can wear jeans and flip-flops to the office. I’m about as happy as I can recall ever being about a job, so that’s a huge win.

This all means I should be back to doing some regular writing and blogging again.

It feels good to be back.

 

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Priorities

I’m writing this post from my day job. I had to make The Drive to a store 20 miles from my house, so I left super early. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that it’s been FOREVER since I updated y’all on how the book is going.

It’s not going.

Not stopped forever, just for right now.

Besides, the character who walked away has still not decided he wants to come back.

I decided my husband is right – I have to focus on getting through my education. I am supposed to have the program completed by May 18 and that’s going to be a struggle. I’ve only just gotten to the actual coding part of the course (everything else I’ve been doing was medical terminology, pathological conditions and treatments) and it has been challenging. My older brain needs more time to put all of this together, but I don’t really have the luxury of time. I’m taking a week vacation from work in April to try to get as much of the school work knocked out as possible.

I do, however, have another book idea taking shape in my head, so there’s that.

So, hopefully, in a month or two, my focus will return to the book and my wayward character will give me a break and come back to the story.

 

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My First Hurricane

I now understand why the natives make light of hurricanes. You have to or it will make you lose your mind.

The meteorologists brought Matthew to our attention before the storm had even earned a name. We’re talking weeks of weather segments on every local TV channel giving us the latest update about where the storm was currently and where it “might” possibly go next. For a storm that started somewhere towards Africa, traveling about 12 miles an hour, the average local has time to sell their home, pack up, drive all their worldly possessions to Ohio, then unpack and settle into their new home long before the storm will cause a ripple on the beach.

Anyone who has lived along the coast for any length of time knows this. I learned quickly that if the natives talk less of hurricane parties and more about boarding up windows, we’re screwed.

I haven’t lived along the coast for that much time and I was worried from the very first spaghetti models showing Matthew coming right up along the coast.

Once the Weather Channel got involved, I was updating my life insurance beneficiary – no sense in it being my husband because, according to the Weather Channel folks, we were all going to die. I understand having to take the storm seriously, but it seemed a little bit to me like this was their 15 minutes of fame and they were darn well going to make the most of it.

I can’t speak for everyone, but my husband and I only watch the Weather Channel when there’s a weather crisis somewhere that might affect our family or friends. Because our local meteorologists weren’t on 24/7 (until the storm actually got to our shores) we were often forced to watch the Weather Channel if we wanted to know how our friends in Florida were faring. I think the Weather Channel knows this so they better hit the ground running and give us the best storm coverage they can muster up.

I didn’t see/hear this myself, but one of our friends watching the coverage from Wisconsin said one meteorologist (I’m not sure what channel he was watching) basically said anyone who doesn’t evacuate should put their social security number on their arm in permanent marker so the body could be identified later. WHAT!?

Even though it was my first hurricane, it seemed that a storm not scheduled to even make land fall (at that point) could be so serious that you better make it easier for the morgue to contact your next of kin.

Certainly Hurricane Matthew was serious and it did a lot of damage, but I don’t think it warranted that bit of gruesome advice. The storm was more deadly in Cuba, Haiti and other islands in the Atlantic, but for the U.S., the magic marker advice was a bit heavy-handed. I hope that person was reprimanded off air.

Nevertheless, the impending doom and gloom of Matthew was a train wreck I couldn’t turn away from. I didn’t write, I barely went to work (in fact, three days before the storm arrived, the governor declared mandatory evacuation of the coastal communities, so I didn’t go to work because various roads were closed). We stocked up on water, non-perishables and batteries just like everyone else. We bought a generator and took the flag pole down off the porch. We sat down with our TV tuned to the Weather Channel, changing the channel only for our local news. We went to the Waffle House because that was the only place open.

Seriously, they never close.

The waitresses were talking about who was scheduled to work on Saturday (when Matthew was scheduled to visit our slice of shoreline). We asked them if they were for real going to be open during the storm. One of them nodded her head, “The windows might all blow out, but we’ll be here.” I turned to look at the two walls of nothing but floor to ceiling glass windows. My jaw dropped straight into my chocolate chip waffles.

I spent several days with a migraine headache surely caused by the fact that I slept little more than 4 hours a night for almost a week. By Friday, my husband and I decided that waiting was the worst part.

I found the whole thing hideously ominous. The sun would be out, but on the TV, we could see Matthew blowing into Florida and bending palm trees in half. It was a little bit like watching ourselves inside of a horror movie. We knew Jason was coming…he was around the next bend…but he had all the control. We were tied to a palm tree in the middle of town and had no choice but to wait him out.

Friday night we slept in shifts. If something happened, one of us would be awake and aware. Not that either one of us could sleep anyway. I think that was the scariest part for me. Why do these things always come to town under cover of darkness? You can’t see the wind swaying the trees to the point of pulling them out of the ground. You don’t know if the water rushing down the road is also creeping silently up to your front door. It’s harder to be pro-active when you can’t see the enemy coming.

Fortunately, we made it through the storm with only a few shingles missing from the roof and a broken gate on our fence. We can see cracks in the ground where one of our trees had been swinging in the wind. Thankfully, it didn’t come down. That tree will be removed – hopefully before the next storm blows our way.

Hopefully, there won’t be another one for many years.

 

 

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Lost Research

Before starting my novel, I conducted some research. Research on life in the South during and after the Civil War, the Jim Crow Laws, and the KKK. All of which will fill out the background of the world my character is living in. I gathered this information in a file on my old computer, written as a free-write applying the information to my character. It went on for pages.

I needed it today so my character could react to the Black Codes enacted in the South after the war and…

Many of you will remember, the old computer crashed.

It appears I didn’t copy that file to my stick drive to transfer it to the laptop.  I’ve torn the house apart looking for a printed copy of the file to no avail. All the time invested in research that I now have to do again. The thought of losing all that work makes me sick.

Today I spent most of my writing time looking for this file. I spent some time surfing the web, looking for the bit of detail I wanted to add to my narrative. And, I’m not gonna lie, I spent a little of my writing time feeling sorry for myself for losing a file just as valuable as the timeline taped to my wall. Why, oh why hadn’t I taped the free-write to the wall?!

At some point, I’ll learn my lesson about electronic copies of important documents. Or at the very least, the importance of double checking that I’ve actually made an electronic copy (or two). Hopefully, I’ll stumble upon the printed copy that I know is here. I’ve seen it. I may have emailed it to…

WAIT! I haven’t checked my email yet!

Fingers crossed.

Word Count: 8686

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Writing the book and…it fails

One of the things that keeps me from putting words on the page is fear. I’ve talked about this before. Fear of the mountain of research, fear of not doing the story justice…and fear that my writing abilities are all in my head and the book will be crap.

Case in point:

I’ve always thought my husband could be a professional photographer. He knows all about lighting, he knows all the photographer words like “aperture” and what they mean, and he’s great with composition.

It occurred to me that maybe I could be a decent photographer as well. I also thought this would be the perfect complement to my writing career because I could illustrate my work. At the very least, I could get some photos into other people’s books and that would be equally cool.

So, I signed up on Shutterstock and submitted a few pictures. Of the ten I submitted, only three met all the submission requirements. I was disappointed, but not completely deterred. I combed through the rest of my pictures and none of the ones I thought were “my best work” met the pixel size requirements.

Even this, one of my favorite photos ever, is too small.

Even this, one of my favorite photos, doesn’t have enough pixels.

So I failed. I’m not the photographer I thought I was. At that second, I was ready to give up. My internal editor said, “See? I told you so.” I spent the next several days feeling sorry for myself.

Then I thought – Oh no! What if my writing is the same? What if I THINK it’s better than it really is? What if all my college professors were just humoring me to get me graduated out of the program so they could focus their time on students with REAL talent?

It’s so easy to get on this speeding train of self-doubt. Oh no, I burned the pork chops – my writing sucks. Oh no, I spilled glue on my scrapbook page – my writing sucks. I know it’s silly, but I stop writing until I’m able to get back out of my head again. Sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes it takes days or weeks.

My soul knows that my head is trying too hard. My soul reminds me that even if no one else ever sees the book, it still has value to me. It’s still a story I’m interested in reading. It’s a story that needs to be told because it’s a side of history most of us have never heard. It’s a story that needs to get out of my head because it won’t let me focus on anything else. My character allows me to write this blog only because it’s directly related to her story. I have a friend who wants my help writing vows for her wedding and my character is making it difficult for me to redirect my focus.

So I sit in front of the computer, unable to think about anything else but scared about writing the words.

Crazy, right?

If you need me, I’ll be at the park with my camera getting more pixels.

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And the Muse Lives!

I wrote about three thousand words of my book since I last updated the word count. I was off work yesterday and spent a couple of hours going back through what I’ve already written and fleshing it out. I feel more comfortable going forward now, having matched up what I’ve written with my character’s timeline and adding important historical goings on, like President Lincoln’s assassination and reconstruction.

It’s interesting to watch some of my minor characters already changing from how I originally perceived them. The naïve best friend is the positive force that gets my protagonist to take risks. She is not as innocent as I thought. The best friend’s husband is a racist. I thought he was going to fake it to pacify others when society pressure forced him to choose or lose everything.

I’ve always been skeptical when authors talk about how the characters dictate to the writer who they are and what they want. You create the character…you know what you want this character to do. And then that character sticks his tongue out at you, “Oh yeah?” he says, “Well, I don’t want to do that. I’m going to do this…”

And then they proceed to do just that. No amount of revision on your part can change it, because anything else you try to write doesn’t ring true. No matter what you do, you can’t convince yourself this particular character would behave like that, and you’re the one who created him! If YOU can’t believe it, the reader won’t believe it either.

And the character laughs at you.

from clker.com shared by Mohamed Ibrahim

from clker.com
shared by Mohamed Ibrahim

And you throw your hands up in the air and say, “OK, you win.”

Word count: 7650

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