Tag Archives: people

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?

10 Things I Learned From First Graders…

28 May

Well, since you’ve all been dying to find out whether or not I got eaten alive by a den of hungry first graders the other day at my event as a guest speaker, today’s post is about that.  (About the event, rather — not about me getting eaten alive.)

Thank you, everyone who gave me encouragement and advice and ideas!  The event went well, especially considering I don’t baby-sit often and the only kids I see on a regular basis are the ones who treat the Starbucks café like their own personal zoo.

These kids, though?  These kids were adorable.  Maybe it’s fun-aunt-slash-kind-grandmother syndrome — they were adorable because I had no responsibility and was only around them for a very limited amount of time? — but whatever.  It was fun.

I’ll spare you the details of what I said, since I did pretty much what I told you about in the last post.  Instead, I thought I’d give you a fun list of the stuff they taught me.

(As usual, I feel I should advise you to click over to the actual post, rather than attempt to read it on the main page — the list below is much less cramped that way.)

10 Things I Learned From First Graders

  1. Six- and seven-year-olds are way more articulate than I thought they were. They expressed themselves with confidence and clarity when they spoke.
  2. They aren’t afraid to ask questions, and they asked some really good ones! Among the questions: Is it hard to write a novel? (Yes and no.) How many books do I plan to write? (Several, since I’m hoping this will be the first in a series.) Am I going to be rich? (Hahahahahahahahaha.) Where do I write? (Starbucks, or home, or anywhere quiet.)
  3. While many questions were surprisingly articulate, there were a few that were so adorably first-grade: “What is the cover made out of?” Not, “Who gets to design it?” — but what is it actually made out of? Um…thicker paper?  Thin cardboard?  Cardstock?  (Forgot to put that on my list of answers to prepare.  Silly me.)  Also adorably first-grade: “Do you have to write a lot of books when you write a book?”  Translation: “How do so many copies get printed?”  The sweet girl thought authors had to make, by hand, every single book that makes its way to a store.
  4. First-graders, these days, are not sheltered kids. They were all already familiar with Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, which totally surprised me.  Like, not just familiar with the names, but they recognized the cover from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Plus, at least three of them are currently reading the third Percy Jackson book.  Huh.  Good thing I didn’t bust out Dora the Explorer or Magic Schoolbus and expect them to think I was cool.
  5. They like to talk.  A lot. It’s probably more like they just enjoy the attention, but that meant lots of talking.  They were well-behaved, though.  The talking made things easier for me, because they were neither bored nor disinterested, and the Q&A time went on for longer than expected.
  6. I learned that I do, indeed, have a catchy title/main character name. I’ll call him “S.H.” for now, because at the rate my edits are going, someone might be able to whip up something with his name before I get the chance, and that?  Would not be good.  I didn’t even mean to bring his full name up, but I opened my notebook to the title page and they all read it out loud!  From then on, it was, “S.H. this,” and “S.H. that.”  Something about hearing his name said over and over again by strangers just warmed my little heart.
  7. Along with that, they are idea generators! My book is geared more towards the YA audience (though with first-graders reading Harry and Percy, I guess anyone could end up reading it one day), but if I ever decide to write for six-year-olds, I am now well-stocked with ideas.  “Miss Olson!” they exclaimed, “You could write ‘S.H. and the Missing Eyeballs’!” [giggles] “Or, ‘S.H. and the Missing Cheeks’!” [cue adorably freckled kid covering his cheeks as if they’ve fallen off] “Or, ‘S.H. and the Missing Freckles’!!”  I guess, to six-year-olds, all it takes to make a hit is a good name and something that’s missing.
  8. They’re perceptive without really knowing how perceptive they are. I asked them, “What tools do you need to write a book?”  Among the usual — pencil, pen, paper, computer — I got an interesting answer: an eraser.  That was fun to work with, because it led to a conversation about revision and multiple drafts.  I learned how to explain revision to them on the fly, and it was part Stephen King and part luck: “When you’re writing, you want to share the ideas in your head with someone else,” I told them.  “After I finish writing them down, I read them.  If I look at what I have and go, ‘Nope — other people won’t see the ideas in my head like I do,’ then it’s time to write it again.  I change it until it’s able to make other people see what I see.”  They got it.  Miraculously, they got it.
  9. In case there was ever any question, kids ABSOLUTELY DO CARE if their parents show up for things. After the Q&A time, the kids were herded to the library, where they got to read the books¹ they’d written in front of guests and family.  It’s a great idea, actually — very bookstore-book-signing-esque, where they get to be the author for the day, complete with refreshments and flowers.  Anyway, I had to console a little girl whose daddy told her he was coming, then didn’t show up.  Sigh.  They notice.  Yes, they do.
  10. The tenth thing I learned?  Even though it didn’t take much to impress these kids, their enthusiasm was contagious and motivating nonetheless. “I’ll buy all your books, Miss Olson!” one kid said, with the others nodding.  “Will you let us read it when it’s published?”  Count on it, babes.  You may be in fourth grade by the time it’s out of manuscript form and covered with whatever a cover is made from, but when that day comes?  Heck yes, you can read it.  Your library will get the first signed copy.²

All in all, you can probably tell I had a blast.  Who knew I liked interacting with kids so much?  Not me.  Maybe one day I’ll have some of my own.  (Sigh of relief heard from my parents, in-laws, and husband, I’m sure.)

Now: on to writing!  I’ve got ambitious goals for the day, to accompany my heightened motivation (and to make up for my less-than-stellar rest-of-the-week), so here goes.  How’s the writing going for all of you guys?  We’re several weeks in to the Creativity Workshop — are you guys hanging in there, or are you discouraged, or somewhere in the middle?  How’s the writing going for those of you not participating in the Workshop?

¹Illustrated non-fiction books about sea horses, starfish, octopi, and sharks. (When I saw these books, it became clear where the “What’s the cover made out of?” question came from.)(Construction paper, in their world, FYI.)

²By the way, nothing after the part about them being in fourth grade when it’s done actually met sound waves.  Kept the rest in my head.  Didn’t want to frighten them with happybabble.

A New Queen

8 May

Oy.  It is a dark and early morning, that’s for sure.  A loud one, too.

With two five-thirty a.m. text messages and a veritable R&B concert directly over our heads, I’m finding it a little bit difficult to do what people do on Saturday mornings (i.e. not wake up at five-thirty a.m.).

The text messages?  Totally understandable, and welcome even.  They were from my sweet mom, whose play¹ competes today.  She’ll be busy all day, wanted to know when we’d get to town (it’s a four-hour drive for us), et cetera.  Plus, I know she’s not the most dextrous texter — between her lofty texting ambitions and (probably) a ten-minute internal debate before bothering us so early, the texts are more endearing than they are a nuisance.

As for the music², I can’t say the same: this new queen on the block has just ousted her previous contenders people-who-drive-and-act-like-jerks-in-parking-lots, things-spelled-incorrectly-on-purpose-à-la-Kwik-Kutz-or-Sassy-Katz³, and pounding-bass-speakers-who-take-my-concentration-and-dangle-it-over-the-edge-of-a-cliff from their comfy, coveted spots on the Throne of Pet Peeves.  (Those three have shared the Throne so long its velvet has worn down in a few places.)  Technically, what’s happening today is the third pet peeve after it’s had about eight fully caffeinated espresso shots, therefore I’m counting it in a category that’s wholly other, and am convinced it supersedes the annoyance of a mere pounding bass.

It’s starting to get light outside.

Sweet little birds are singing.  It’s impossible to tell whether they are trying to sing karaoke or drown out the noise.

Hey, wasn’t it just last week where I mused about the delight of not having much to rant about?  (Yes. Yes it was.)

On a brighter note (one not being melismatically forced down my ears) that’s totally unrelated to anything else in this post, Jen Lancaster’s book reading/Q&A/signing was a treat last night.  The excerpt she read was funny, as was the Q&A.  She then managed to stay personable and look genuinely thrilled to be there while she signed books for three hours (I know this because we got there late and were therefore relegated to Group H on a scale from A to I).  Tyra Banks would be so proud — Ms. Lancaster welcomed photos all night, and has perfected the whole find-the-light and smile-with-your-eyes thing they’re always trying to get contestants to do on Top Model.

I feel sufficiently unburdened by my loud morning, so I shall roll with it and get a head start on today.  Breakfast, latte, and packing, here I come.  Oh!  Before I forget, I should let all you #CreateWS people know, due to our weekend trip, my Sunday workshop post won’t be happening until laaaaaaate Sunday (which might actually turn into eaaaaarly Monday)(especially if my neighbor has anything to do with it).

PS: I’m experimenting with a Tweet button at the bottom — thanks, Linda! — not that I really expect you guys to go reTweeting this totally unhelpful little post.

¹She’s directing high schoolers in a one act play competition.  They made the state-level competition, which is a Big Deal in Texas because it takes stellar performances at three or four competitions in order to do what they’ve done.  I’m proud of her, and proud of her cast!

²(Noise.)

³Yes, it hurt to type that.  Hurts more to leave it in there and not delete it, knowing a good many of you may very well cringe upon reading it.

Intricacies

28 Apr

It’s been a while since my last Project: Edit update.¹  I’m almost hesitant to write one, given my tendency to jinx myself whenever I’ve had a string of productive days, but whatever.  Update you I shall.

Things have been productive.

It took a while to get started on the actual editing of my second draft, but the ball is rolling on that.  I’m taking it scene by scene, doing my best to be all there when I write.  Somewhere, a long time ago, I wrote that the first and second drafts felt super rewarding, but for different reasons.  Already, the same holds true for my third draft.

For the first draft, I didn’t know where I was going, didn’t know what kind of characters I’d meet along the way.  What resulted was surprisingly coherent, but far from polished.  I added subplots, strengthened characters, bada-bing bada-boom,² the second draft was born.  With both of those drafts, I wrote to get the story down, not to make it pretty.

This time feels different.  It feels slow, calculated, intricate.  Not overworked — just worked.  It’s fun to focus on each scene, fun to make each one special, fun to know the whole story and strengthen its parts.  As satisfying as it was to know I could produce quantity, it’s a hundred times more satisfying to see the quantity morph into (what I hope is) quality.

It’s late, and it’s been a full day.  Time for a little Curb Your Enthusiasm (our most recent DVD fix) after a midnight conversation with my sweet husband and my little editing assistant.³

Project: Edit Update | The note card system is alive and thriving.  I’m still working my way through section one (of nine), but progress is progress.  Diligence is key, and that’s been going well.

¹If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click on “Challenges” at the top of the sidebar.

²And by bada-bing bada-boom, I mean, of course, that it happened overnight.  And by overnight, I actually mean that it took a while.  A long while.

³Also known as Mr. Remy Fang Richard Alpert the Cat, pictured above, hard at work.  He sits in my lap whenever I write, which is adorable until he decides my wrists are made for biting.  Always nice.

Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop

23 Apr

Something really cool just landed in my lap, and no, it’s not a spilled glass of iced water.

It’s an opportunity.

A challenge.

A here’s-a-chance-to-grow-in-your-skills-and-discipline-and-creativity sort of opportunity-slash-challenge, dropped down from the sky courtesy of the amazing Merrilee Faber.

Basically, she’s taken the initiative to organize and put on a fourteen-week Creativity Workshop (one week of intro, thirteen weeks of workshop) from May 2 – August 5.  There’s a whole slew of awesomeness wrapped up in this opportunity, including a wide range of applicable topics to be covered by Merrilee and the various guest bloggers she’s lined up. Here in a minute, I’m going to direct you to her two most recent posts for more information.

To quote Merrilee, “It is a workshop about teaching yourself to be creative when you need to be, not at the whim of the muse or the tides or the phase of the moon.”

I don’t know about you guys, but this sounds great to me.  For more information about what kind of work is involved, what kind of topics will be covered, who the guest bloggers are, and to sign up, follow the links below.

A brief overview (the what, the why, and other answers to questions)

More details, schedule, and sign-ups

Let me know if you decide to join Melissa, Cassie (JC), yours truly, and — of course — Merrilee, as we brave this adventure.  I fully expect it will rock.  In fact, it will probably rock so hard that I’ll spill iced water all over my lap and then be inspired to write something creative about it.

Where Did The Time Go?

11 Mar

I have SO MUCH to tell you guys.

It’s been one crazy week, let me tell you.  This is the…uh…second time I’ve stopped to sit down today and rest.  Things have been a little crazy, what with my attempts to prepare for a trip, rearrange-slash-organize-slash-completely clean my whole apartment (laundry included), and yes, get some work done on the novel.

[I interrupt this blog post with outrage: Ryan Seacrest, did I just overhear you say America voted out Katelyn Epperly?  One of my favorites, THE Katelyn Epperly?  Okay.  Just making sure.  Crap.]

I’ve been planning to write a good long post about my editing progress this week — after that whole Smoke Monster incident, after all, you might have worried that I’ve been sulking in despair, ignoring the world and my writing.  I’m pleased to report that there’s been very little sulking, and loads of progress.  Monday morning, I sat down to work, and something just completely clicked.  I’m not stuck anymore, and am poised to get a lot of work done when I return from my trip.

Unfortunately, it’s been one of those days that’s left me in a state of dazedness, and all I can really think about right now is a huge plate of pasta, white wine, and a night full of Survivor and NBC comedies.  The unfortunate part of that sentence (since we all know pasta, white wine, and TV is a recipe for awesomeness) is that my long blog post about the editing itself will have to wait.  There’s still quite a bit of work I have left to do before embarking on a loooooooooong drive to Minneapolis tomorrow with my church group — this, most likely, means my next post won’t be until I get back to Texas a week from Sunday.  Just thought I’d let y’all know, you know, so you don’t worry when I’m MIA all week.

Oh: those of you who love LOST as much as I do, you should know that I won’t be able to watch it until after I get back, so this is my preemptive strike against accidental spoilers!  (Why, yes, I am planning to bring my laptop justincase there’s an Internet connection and I get a chance to watch it at, like, five a.m. one morning when I’m not busy hanging out with 20 freshmen.)

Happy week to you all!  I’ll be back soon.

PS: Another Outrage Alert!  Two of my other favorites — Lilly Scott and Alex Lambert — got voted off tonight, too.  This is not because my taste = horrible.  It’s because America’s does.

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