Tag Archives: #CreateWS

Fresh and Focused

17 Jul

It’s a sunny Saturday morning.

I’m in my favorite sweats and zip-up hoodie, sitting in this window seat with a stack of books, pages to be edited, and this long overdue blog post to write.

Oh, and because it’s a fun fact, this window seat just happens to be in the bed and breakfast where we had our wedding, three years ago this very week.

And they have coffee.  Like, good coffee, complete with a delicious breakfast.

Today is lovely.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint the reason I haven’t been blogging as much lately.  It’s not because I don’t want to, or because I don’t like it, or because I’ve forgotten.  It’s partially because time is flying by.  Much of it is due to more focus with revisions, as I’ve mentioned.

Mainly?  While tackling this huge project, my days — though productive and lovely — have started to look the same.  I’m kind of doing you a favor, I think, by not bombarding you with daily iterations of, “Oh, and today — just like yesterday, and tomorrow — I got up, had coffee, sat at (black chair by the window with Mr. Cat draped across my lap/desk with Crazy Kitten/favorite Starbucks table) and worked on making my scenes better.  I got stuff done — probably not as much as I wanted to, but still.  Progress.”  I don’t want to bore you.

I started thinking, though, that this is probably still information worth sharing.  Maybe someone might even find it encouraging.  Because, really?  Consistency and diligence and focus is kind of the goal.  And redundant as it may be to report, I’m actually doing well with this goal.  (I don’t mean to make anyone feel guilty by saying I’m doing well, by the way.  Not every goal is going so well.  Perhaps I should make another post altogether for goals I’m not doing so hot with.)(Creativity Workshop, I had good intentions.  Truly.  I did.)

Even with progress being made, it’s nice to break up the routine and write at a new place this weekend.  I brought stacks of work, even though it’s a mini-vacation of sorts, because I think there’s a certain freshness that comes from writing in a bright, clean, unfamiliar, quiet, complimentary-coffee-at-the-ready kind of place.  Words and ideas look fresh here.  Focus feels sharper.

I think this is largely due to the window seat.

Here’s to focus and freshness and summer sun. What do you guys do when you want to — or need to — to spice up life with a little freshness?  How’s everyone doing out there?

Lemons and Things

25 Jun

So, uh, hey.

This is the part where I awkwardly tell you about my inadvertent, week-long blogging absence.  That’s what I get for breaking up my every-other-day-or-so routine last week.

Note to self: oops.

Rather than spelling out things you already know¹, I’ll just skip to the juicy parts.  Let’s pretend my life is a lemon (a before-I-made-lemonade-from-it version of lemon).

The juicy part?  My absence was inadvertent² for a reason: June has been more productive, in terms of novel revision, than both April and May combined.  This is rewarding and awesome (not to mention difficult and tiring).  I crawl into my cave³ and re-emerge hours later, only to realize time has, indeed, continued to pass.  And not at a snail’s pace, either.  Unless said snail is propelled with rocket-boosters.

The sugar in the lemonade, while not technically part of the lemon itself, would be the oh-so-fun distractions I’ve had in the past week!  Namely, I got to play the guitar and sing at church for all three services on Sunday.  This involved, like, an all-day commitment, plus a rehearsal.  It was a lot of fun, and it went well, but my poor hands are not used to that much guitar-playing.  I ended up with fingers full of blazing sore calluses-in-the-making.  (Needless to say, typing was a blast for the next few days.)

And now, for the seeds.

Obviously, the seeds represent the more annoying part of the week.  I’ll lump the pith in there, too, since bitter white nastiness isn’t anyone’s idea of tasty.  Right?  (I hope no one thinks pith and seeds are the epitome of yum.  That would just be sad.  And confusing.)

Moving on.  So, my week had its share of seeds and pith.  Like seeds in a lemon-raspberry tart which, otherwise, is the picture of perfection, some emotionally draining stuff keeps popping up where it’s least expected.  Responsibilities and commitments to think through, advice and support to give, random frustrations to deal with.  Nothing terribly terrible on its own, just a lot of it all at once.  Plus, I’m getting a cold.  In June.  Weird.

Rather than carry this lemony analogy full-circle (“My attitude has been…so…ZESTY!”) — mainly because I now have a wicked craving for lemon-raspberry tart — I’ll end it there.

In case you’re wondering where my Creativity Workshop end-o’-the-week-assessment is, it was eaten by snails.  Don’t worry, though, you didn’t miss much.  I took an inadvertent break from that, too, so there wasn’t much to report.

Also, in case you’re wondering why I didn’t post a new music video this week, in the tradition of the last two weeks (see here and here) — see my aforementioned blazing fingertips.  I may have also had some bad hair days in there, and did not want to frighten anyone.  (Give me some blue dye, I become Thing One and Thing Two.)  I’ll do a new video next week, provided my fingertips and hair do not go on strike.

Aaaaand, last but not least?  I get to hang out with THE Melissa Williams again tomorrow.  Hello H-Town, hello humidity.

Hello, awesome weekend.

Hope things are going as well as a seedless lemon-raspberry tart for all of you!

PS: Here’s the recipe for the lemon-raspberry tart — just in case you’re now craving it as much as I am!

¹Things like: time, these days, has a way of making a girl feel like she’s been sucked into a time warp and spit out six months in the future.  Or the past.  Or somewhere else entirely.

²It would appear that the opposite of inadvertent is not the word advertent.  This is inconvenient and somewhat illogical.  Just a thought.

³Also known as my living room, with no lights on.  Or, my favorite Starbucks.  Or, my new favorite library.  Who knew writing caves came complete with lattes and strange patrons?

Commitment v. Desire

18 Jun

COMMITMENT

[responsibility, obligation, duty, liability, task]

DESIRE

[wish, want, aspiration, fancy, inclination, impulse, yearning, longing, craving, eagerness, enthusiasm]

I don’t know about you, but to me?  One of these sounds way more appealing.  In an ideal world, the things you desire and the things to which you’re committed would be the same things.  Too bad the world isn’t always an ideal place.

There are tons of directions I could take this topic — relationships, work v. rest, budgets of all sorts, social responsibilities.  For now, because it’s a recurring theme I’ve seen at least three times this week, I’m pointing it in the direction of writer-sees-sparkly-new-project-and-wants-to-drop-everything-in-pursuit-of-said-sparkly-new-project.

As writers, we have more freedom than most to commit to the things we desire — if you’re writing a novel, a short story, even a blog post, it’s probably about a subject that appeals to you.  Right?  I hope so.

The hard part happens when new becomes old, dull replaces sheen, and our eye lands on a new desire.  There’s temptation to drop the current commitment and follow the sparkly thing, the pretty thing, the oh-this-would-be-SO-fun-RIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE! thing.

Usually, that temptation arises when the current commitment becomes difficult.

So, what are you to do?  Stick with the commitment, or follow the new desire?  Or, find a way to stick with the commitment and follow the new desire?  Well, I hate to disappoint you if you were looking for a hard and fast answer, but a) I don’t have one, and b) I don’t know if anyone does.  I have been thinking about this, though, so I’ll give you my thoughts.  Then, you should give me yours.

The way things are today, it’s become normal to do what we want, whenever we want to do it.  It feels unnatural to spend valuable time on a project we don’t always feel is valuable.  There’s the problem.  Feelings aren’t always reliable.  You have to go on truth, too.

Truth #1: Shiny new things will, inevitably, get dull and old.  Truth #2: Most worthwhile things take work.  Truth #3: Work is often hard.  Truth #4: If you’ve committed to it, you committed for a reason.  Truth #5: Nothing will ever get completed if you stop working on it when it gets hard.

However.

Misery isn’t exactly the goal, either.  I don’t think it’s wrong to want to enjoy life, or to want to enjoy the work you do.  So, when is it okay to drop a project in favor of a new one?  Here’s what I’m thinking.

[Click over to the actual post if you're on the main page & the bullet list is scrunched/impossible to decipher.]

It’s not okay to sacrifice Dull and pursue Sparkly when:

  • Someone else is counting on you.
  • You are legally obligated to follow through.
  • Your financial health depends on you upholding the commitment.
  • Your reputation or your integrity would be tainted because of it.
  • You’re acting purely on emotion, rather than truth + emotion.

It’s reasonable to ditch Dull and pursue Sparkly when:

  • No one else suffers negative repercussions from it.
  • The reason your current commitment is hard is because the idea is lame, will never work, and you’ve spent way too much time already trying to force it into something it’s not.  You had high hopes for it, and it is still hard to let go.
  • You are overcommitted, others end up having to pull your weight, and you are hurting more than you are helping.
  • You genuinely believe, after much thought, that the new project is a more valuable use of your time.
  • It’s a commitment for an undefined length of time, one which will never end unless you end it.
  • You don’t have a jumping-from-project-to-project-and-never-finishing-anything track record.

These lists are, most likely, not exhaustive.  Also, there are probably circumstances where exceptions happen.  And, like I said before, I don’t have answers — these are just thoughts, opinions based on (a slew of sometimes painful) experience.

To sum up: commitment is good, difficulty is not bad, misery is not preferable.  Emotions can blind, and are not reliable if unmixed with truth.  Overcommitment is a draining cancer.  Doing things you know are healthy — even if they’re not particularly enjoyable — can lead to wonderful, surprising results.  And, there are times when dropping commitments can be the best decision.  (Not a lot of times, but they do exist.)  Other times, you can keep current commitments, but still try to get a marginal amount of work done on the sparkly project in time not already devoted to anything.

Okay.  Enough of me.  What do you guys think?  How do you decide what to work on, when to work on it, and when to move on?

Top of the World

8 Jun

Sunday was inspiring, Monday was a whirlwind, Tuesday is happening now.

I do believe I promised you a surprise, somewhere in there.

Before we get there, though, I have to tell you something fun.  The Monday Whirlwind saw fit to plop me down within driving distance from THE Melissa Williams.  As in, awesome blog-friend extraordinaire, known to the Twitterverse merely as @melissaiswrite.

We chatted for hours over a grande nonfat latte and an iced venti chai, and you know what?  She’s every bit as awesome in person.  Now I wish we lived closer.  Alas.  Maybe one day.  Hopefully.

So, the surprise!

In honor of Set #2 for the Creativity Workshop, in which I’m loosely basing my four short stories on songs about birds, I’ve decided to take YouTube by storm.  Hopefully, said storm will be a small one, more like dreary uninteresting drizzle, because I don’t quite care to get in trouble for using someone else’s material. (That said, Powers That Be: if you want me to take it down, no worries.  I’m a YouTube novice, and don’t care that much about having an account.  This is just for fun.  I can sing the song in the quiet of my own living room.) (Typed by my inner goody-goody.)

Powers That Be aside, you may have gathered: I covered a song.  It’s not perfect, I fumble over a couple of words, but hey.  It’s not touched up by auto-tune, which is saying something these days.  Plus, to perfect it would take away from my writing time, right?  Right.

So.  Click here to watch and listen to my cover of Patty Griffin’s “Top of the World.” I posted a version that works on iPhones as well as computers, so hopefully you guys can see it.

This is the song that’s inspiring my story this week.  Here are the lyrics, in case you want to read along.  Hope you enjoy it, even though it’s a terribly sad song.  I can never say enough about how incredible Patty Griffin’s songwriting is.

Top of the World

by Patty Griffin

I wish I was smarter / I wish I was stronger

I wish I’d loved Jesus / The way my wife does

I wish it had been easier / Instead of any longer

I wish I could have stood / where you would have been proud

That won’t happen now / That won’t happen now

There’s a whole lot of singing that’s never gonna be heard

Disappearing every day without so much as a word, somehow

Think I broke the wings off that little songbird

She’s never gonna fly to the top of the world, now

To the top of the world

I don’t have to answer / any of these questions

Don’t have no one to / teach me no lessons

I’d come home in the evenings / Sit in my chair

One night they called me for supper / But I never got up

I sat right there / in my chair

(chorus)

I wish I’d have known you / I wish I’d have shown you

All of the things I / held on the inside

I’d pretend to be sleeping / when you’d come in in the morning

To whisper goodbye and go to work in the rain and

I don’t know why / don’t know why

Everyone’s singing, we just want to be heard

Disappearing every day without so much as a word, somehow

Wanna grab ahold of that little songbird

Take her for a ride to the top of the world, right now

To the top of the world


The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 5

6 Jun

Merrilee Faber, when this trilogy in my head gets written, revised, bought, and published, I’m going to mail a big thank-you to Australia for your brilliance in running this workshop.

That’s right.  Trilogy.  Sort of a far cry from short-story.  Not a word of it is written yet, except for page upon page of ideas, but OH MY.  It’s epic.  It’s adventurous.  It’s currently all in my head.  I want it out.

But, I digress.¹

Oh, boy, the Creativity Workshop this week.  Perhaps I should begin with how last Sunday suddenly morphed into Saturday night, and six full days mysteriously slipped through a black hole?  To be fair, time passed at warp-speed because I was furiously devoted to novel edits, but the result — as far as #CreateWS is concerned — is the same.

Notebook.  Blank.  Ideas, existing only in my head, curled up to sleep beside my good intentions.

How lame, I thought.  Lame, lame, lame.  Must fix. Not at all content to tell you guys, “Hey, guess what?  I didn’t do one single thing toward the workshop this week, and I’m okay with it because of (insert some valid excuse here),” I set to work on it.  Last night.  At 10pm.

Yeah, so that didn’t work too well.  Sweet husband and I got invited to a concert, and though we did not go, the invitation itself distracted me.  Plus, I made us some tea, and found myself distracted by the boiling, the steeping, the drinking.  We somehow ended up tackling four loads of laundry instead, and my notebook remained blank.  (Wait.  Lie.  Not totally blankI managed to transcribe the entire three lines of my nursery rhyme inspiration, “Sailing, Sailing,” before giving up.)

This morning, I woke up with the sun, while my husband and the two cats slept.  I brewed a fresh French press, ate some toast, and tried again.

Um, this time?  MAGIC.  Magic, magic, magic.  Epic magic.  In my head, on the page, frantic scribbles in my little green notebook.  Ideas.  Characters.  Twists, lies, hope, jealousy, love, loss, bitterness.  Adventure.  A quest.  Mystery.

Pretty soon, I became fairly certain this would not a short story make.  It would a LONG story make.  Like, maybe three long stories.  Complications, twists, motivations snaked their way out of my pen and onto the page, building upon each other to weave a surprisingly coherent, intriguing, tight idea for a plot.

Moral of this week’s story?  It is SO worth it to at least try to do something on these workshop stories, even if it’s at the last minute.  To give it time, real time, along with real thought.

Worth.  It.

I desperately want to vomit my ideas onto the screen, but that sort of thing tends to jinx me until the story is at least somewhat underway.  Sorry to be all, YAY FOR IDEAS and then, NO I WON’T REVEAL ANYTHING.  I plan to pursue this project, so stick around and I’m bound to tell you more at some point in the future.  If you really want to know, email me, and I’ll probably be too excited to hold back, once pressed.

So, the plan.  I’m pressing on with the workshop.  The next set is all about stories inspired by song lyrics about birds, and I’m excited.  I have a surprise in store for you guys, so check back early in the week.

As for my trilogy idea, I’m trying to figure out when is best to do something on it.  On one hand, I’m thigh-deep in revisions for my WIP.  I’m determined to finish that one, and finish it well.  So, that remains priority.  Also, the workshop has given me great new inspiration, many new tools, and I have committed to it, so I’m going to keep that as a priority.

I’m thinking I’ll try to write for fifteen or thirty minutes a day on the trilogy idea, something short and consistent to both a) get my writing juices flowing, and b) maintain a connection to these ideas I’ve had.  Once the workshop is over, I’ll focus more energy on the new project.  Once I’m done with edits and in the querying phase for my current WIP, I’ll focus even more energy on it.

As if I needed more stuff to do.  The good thing, though, is that I’m SO EXCITED about all of it.  No, I didn’t write a short story this week, but I have my next novel project lined up.  What I need now is patience, and the ability to focus my enthusiasm.  No deserting the current projects, no sacrificing the almost-finished for the not-even-started.

This post is long enough.

¹I have ALWAYS wanted to say I digress, but I think this is actually the first time I ever have.  Just FYI.

One Whole Year!

3 Jun

What’s that I hear?

A rousing chorus of too-excited waiters, bringing my sweet little blog a free piece of tiramisu for its first birthday?  (I wish.)  Crinkles and tears from the wrapping paper around all the gifts it received?  (Again: I wish. The blog loves gift cards to J.Crew.) (And Starbucks.)

Oh.

No, that’s just birds.  And air-conditioning whirr.  And Mr. Cat, snoozing on our his fancy red quilt.  Perhaps if I was a good blog-mother, I would have remembered its actual birthday: yesterday.

Enough of this if-I-was-a-good-blog-mother stuff, though — it’s been a year!  A whole stinkin’ year.  Wow.  When I look back over the year, I can’t imagine making so much progress on this novel without having such an encouraging network of blog-friends.  Obviously, I wouldn’t have (the world’s most amazing) blog-friends if I didn’t have a blog, so there you go.  Boom.  I’m glad I started this thing a year (and a day) ago, and I hope you guys are,too!

In honor of a year, I’m posting links to some old posts that most of you haven’t read.  (They’re tired of being hidden with the chimney soot and have begged for the chance to put on a Cinderella dress for the day.  I decided to oblige.  It is, after all, their birthday.)  Feel free to check them out, not check them out, or pretend you checked them out, at your leisure.  Random smattering of old posts starts…now!

Here’s 15 things I loved about working at a bank drive-through.  (Perhaps you noted the sarcasm dripping from my mouth?)

On having discipline in an instant-gratification world

On doing the very best with the talent you are given, inspired by J.K. Rowling

On sincerity, in life and in writing

On rejection, and how life is sometimes better when you don’t get what you want

Aaaaand that’s all, for now.  It took longer than I expected it would to sift through those old posts, but it was interesting to see how far I’ve come this year.

Things I have now, that I didn’t have a year ago, include:

  • A completed second draft on its way to becoming a completed third draft
  • MUCH more knowledge about agents and publishing
  • The aforementioned network of amazing writer friends
  • A Twitter account (@olsonkayla)
  • 138 posts, including this one
  • Heightened confidence, boosted by experience and encouragement
  • A psycho kitty who freaks out over everything (pictured above)
  • Discipline, diligence, and even more motivation than before
  • A first-draft query letter and the wisdom to not send it out yet
  • A few more pairs of yoga pants, a few less pounds on me
  • Several short stories in the works + more ideas than I had even a month ago
  • A more concrete idea of what LOST was about

Now that I’ve lingered in nostalgia for a while (thanks for indulging me, yo) it’s time to press on with these edits and my #CreateWS project.  In case you’re wondering, it’s been a pretty rockin’ week for the novel edits.  I’ve been on such a roll with them, I haven’t started writing my short story yet, though I plan to start today.

Party on, friends.  I’d give you all tiramisu, lattes, and J.Crew gift cards, if only we weren’t separated by hundreds/thousands of miles and/or oceans.  Thanks for being awesome.

The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 4

30 May

This week, in terms of my Creativity Workshop writing goals, was pretty void of progress.  I was going to say abysmal, but that would be just a bit too harsh.

My project of choice involved fluffy, innocent sheep who turn up tail-less in the field.  Oy.  Perhaps I should have considered what that would mean, in terms of a story, before I chose it: it means that somehow, someone needs to sever those little tails.  Poor, poor, fluffy sheep.

My problem with this week was not a lack of ideas.  It was not a lack of ability, or time, or even writer’s block.  My problem?  The idea I came up with rattled me a little bit, because it’s totally not something I would normally write.  Yes, yes, I know that’s what the workshop is for — to get out of my comfort zone, to try something new, to push myself, for fun and for practice.  Eeeeek.  Schizophrenic Bo-Peep?  Innocent sheep, harmed by their own trusted shepherdess?  Um…not completely my scene.

Still, once the idea snaked into my brian, it coiled up and would NOT move.  I was intrigued by it — I just wasn’t so sure I wanted to write it.  Something about it was off-putting, and I hid from it for a few days.

It scared me, but I did not ditch it.  Friday morning, I took a deep breath and faced it.  And you know what?  I like it a lot better than I expected to.  It’s colorful and vivid and dizzying, intense.  I still feel like I’m sort of closing one eye to it, not going as deep with it as I could, but the eye that’s open thinks the story’s pretty intriguing.

Though I didn’t finish it, and I only worked on it those two days — one for planning, one for facing the plan — I’m satisfied with the fact that I didn’t ignore the things that scared me.

This week, hopefully, will be better.  My inspiration for the new story the nursery rhyme “Sailing, Sailing,” and it will deal with love interrupted by nature and time, and waiting for someone to return home.  I have a smattering of social plans this week — holiday on Monday (YAY for pools and lakes), friend coming to visit on Friday, taking another friend to the airport, a reunion with my old roommates — so the challenge this week will be a busy schedule.

I can’t believe this is already the last week of the first set.  So far, I have one completed story that I like, one idea I’m SUPER-EXCITED about, and a half-written idea I’m still somewhat unenthused about.  I’d like to add another completed story to the list this week!

Happy creating, everyone!

PS: If you’re new-ish around here and have no idea what the Creativity Workshop is (also known on Twitter as #CreateWS), click here for a post about the workshop itself, and click here for a post about my goals for the workshop.

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