Tag Archives: writer’s block

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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Posting Activity Shame

For the WordPress.com bloggers out there:

Have you noticed on your stats page, the little monthly calendars that show you on what days you’ve posted? They color in the squares for the days you posted something new. Well, I just noticed this little tidbit and I’m embarrassed. The last two months, I only have 2 colored squares.

Two.

I’m so ashamed. I’m certain that’s not the point of this stat, but if wanting to see the calendars full of colorful squares gets me to write more frequently, so be it.

Yes, I’ve been busy with out-of-town guests and by going out-of-town myself for a funeral, but that leaves plenty of other days to write something. All writers are busy. Some are so busy that I feel guilty trying to use that excuse for staying away from my computer, because those busier writers still make time to write.

To be fair to my premise, this blog IS about trying to write my book and the things that get in the way. So, I’m actually working on my blog by NOT working on it. Pretty neat how I spun that to a positive, right? Us procrastinators don’t get that way by accident. We are professionals at trying to do too many things at the same time and ending up doing nothing.

Right now, I have the following projects all started:

  • Two scrapbooks for my two youngest cats
  • Family tree/photographs for my mom’s side of the family
  • I’m reading three books (one on prayer, one to tell me what to be when I grow up, and a biography of Jack Nicholson)
  • Finding crafts I can make with shells I’ve collected on the beach
  • Two journals on different topics
  • Misc. arts and crafts (bookmarks, holiday decor, etc)
  • Writing this blog
  • Writing my book
  • Research activities for writing my book

I can’t bring myself to work on most of these things after working all day because if I spend one more minute staring at the computer I might go insane. Or I have to pull out supplies and spread them out on the table and then put them all away again. Or I need peace and quiet to focus on what I’m reading. I almost always will push things off until my day off from work. But then, the day off comes, and I can’t decide which thing is most important and deserves my attention first. So I sit down on the sofa, flip on the DVR, and get caught up on Once Upon A Time. I have programs on the DVR that have been there so long that Santa appears in most of the commercials.

And let us not forget the cat who requires my undivided attention every minute of every day. The only time I have to myself is when he sleeps. And he only sleeps when I sleep.

I have a powerful muse, but she is easily distracted by shiny objects.

I’m an over-achiever but a completer of nothing. One look at my posting activity proves it.

Must. Do. Better.

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Following the historical timeline

For me, the biggest problem writing historical fiction is making sure your story aligns with historical events. For example, my character’s family moves from their plantation into downtown Charleston during the Civil War. My research suggested that most families were leaving downtown while union soldiers occupied the city. A small oversight on my part that I have to acknowledge in some way or do a rewrite.

I also changed the age of a couple of characters.

It seemed it might be a good idea to print what I’ve written so far and match it up with the historical timeline I created to make sure I’m writing a believable story. I’m using a real person as the basis for my character, so I want the story as true to this person’s experiences as possible. I found a few discrepancies and now I have red ink all over the first several pages. Now I need to make the adjustments and pad a few scenes to smooth out the narrative.

Confession: I’ve had an ugly month and it didn’t hurt me to get my head back in the story.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

For a while, it looked like Molly had about used up her ninth life. As it turns out, this 17-year-old ball of fur is healthy as a horse. After testing her for everything they could think of, it turned out the old girl had a wicked nasty bladder infection.  My husband had shoulder surgery the end of March so he’s been off work recuperating. On top of all that, I’ve been sick the past two weeks with a cold. Coughing and cold medicine lead to migraine headaches, so there were two migraines mixed in for good measure.

I’m finally feeling like I can focus on something besides closing my eyes and having a nap. Although, looking at the rewriting I need to do is making the sofa look mighty inviting.

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