Sunday, March 25, 2012

Goals...or Burdens

I recently read a book Write Is a Verb: Sit Down. Start Writing. No Excuses. With DVD by Bill O'Hanlon in which one of the chapters asks a writer wanting to become serious to set out goals. I, being a writer who soooo wanted to become serious, did so promptly. The problem? What happens when goals are too far? In my ambition, I set plans without weighing time to accomplish against time available. Working two jobs creates a never-ending struggle to squeeze out minutes in the day. I believe with my whole heart that it is worth the effort not to use the two jobs as an excuse, but ultimately it is an issue.

So, what happens when goals set were too unrealistic? Self hatred? Self pity? Or maybe toss out the entire idea altogether for the imperfect method before reading the book. That is the easiest route...even if it didn't actually make things better. Perhaps it is okay to go back to the drawing board. Perhaps it is even okay to change goals or extend deadlines. I can see how such action can lead to the never-ending extension, but if some goals are being met, why can't you extend others? I have finally decided that I am not a failure for "failing" to meet my goals. Maybe I was overly ambitious. BUT if I am making progress toward the ultimate goal of being a thriving writer…even if it is baby steps…who can call that anything other than success? Maybe this process is just another way of teaching patience and perseverance.    

Power of a good book

Occasionally, when I do my signings, I run across someone who claims they don’t read much (if at all). I always look at them baffled at the idea. I am nothing like my mother, who devours at least a book a week, but the thought of depriving myself of a good book seems torturous. Reading, as they say, is an escape. I get to be a different person. I get to live a different life. It is much the same as writing, in a way, only there I am the creator of that small universe. I love to grab a hold of another writer’s world and let them take me on a ride, one where I neither control the direction nor know the destination.

But, I don’t read for the “normal” books that lead me out of reality. I read for the off chance that it is a page-turning adventure. I love the hart-pounding, mind obsessed, don’t-talk-to-me-because-I’m-reading book. I yearn for those books that capture my very core and cause me to stop everything, counting the hours until I can return to the adventure. I can only hope to be as talented as the writers who capture me so.

I suppose that’s why I look at the self proclaimed non-reader and wonder if they know what they are missing. Would their life be a little richer with a good book? I admire J.K Rowling not because she became a writer superstar, but because she brought a generation into reading with stories that captured thousands. If only I can reach a fraction of that ability.

Now, excuse me while I dive back into the world of books.

Queen of Distractions

I have decided that I have a talent besides writing…becoming distracted. I fill my life with “necessities.” During the weekend, I do the laundry or clean the house. I wash the car and walk the dogs. During the week, besides working multiple jobs, I find I absolutely need to catch up on television shows that I’ve missed. I think of all the countless hours wasted…hours I could be using to write.

I am starting to think this is human nature. Even if writing isn’t the thing that drives you, is there something you daydream about doing when there’s “more time?” Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we fill our lives with distractions and necessities that probably aren’t so dire? My spiritual side tells me this is the devil trying to keep me from doing what I love, but I tend to think it is my own fault. I am so used to filling my life with homework from school, that when I transferred into the work force, I continued the same habit. I would rank everything else as more important than the passion I have…just because of that: one is for “pleasure” while the other things are for “livelihood.”

About two months ago, I began waking up 15 minutes earlier just so I could write a little every day. While that keeps me going, I am still mad I have to do that to stay in touch with my passion. My wish for myself, as well you if it applies, is to put the distractions away and to focus on writing. If for nothing else than to keep my heart happy and my life fulfilled. The other stuff will get done if it is truly important. It’s time to make writing a priority in my life and to stop letting myself get in the way.

The Power of Critiquing

A friend once told me they knew someone who went to a critiquing workshop and didn't write for a year after. Only through recent events did I finally understand why that would happen.

I recently joined an intensive online critique group that lasted four weeks. While it was a valuable experience, I found myself unable to write for a few weeks after. I finally understood the cautionary tale.

Intensive critiquing groups are awesome experiences that help grant tremendous insight into one’s own style and weaknesses. Yet, there is something about having someone in an official group (which automatically adds more weight) do a line-by-line critique. I think, as writers, we all have those voices that tell us we're no good. Unfortunately, I found the meticulous critique of the class strengthened these doubts, causing my creativity to stumble in uncertainty.

While I learned so much from the experience and would never suggest it was a bad thing, I think it is imperative in the future to keep a solid foundation when participating. Ultimately, these are opinions and suggestions. They do not hold the "key" to awesome writing, but mere speak to one person’s suggestions. I know I have determined one thing: I would never do another without a strong support system to help me discern what is fact, what is opinion, and what should just be thrown out.