Tuesday, October 30, 2012 | By: Lynn

Time to Write

I write for a living. I also edit for a living. I love my work and am grateful to have it. But it keeps me busy and I have not felt able to devote much time to working on my current WIP…for quite some time. It's been a WIP for longer than I like, but I tell myself it can't be helped. I have to contribute regular income to my household and there is only so much time in a day, week, month. Only so much physical and emotional energy within me to put out. However, there is nothing like getting a book contract for renewing my commitment to my not-yet-completed "next" book. (Pause here for brief happy dance and smiles for my new publisher, Crimson Romance !)

I Got, Got, Got, Got No Time
I’m weary of talking about not having enough time. I'm kind of bored but not surprised with myself that I’m writing about it again. I wrote a post about it last summer and discussed how those of us writers who also work jobs and take care of families need to be creative, something we're good at, in finding time to write. And here I am again, reiterating the challenge.

I'm open to suggestions for how to put time on my side. Here's a thought from Hope Clark in her October 26th Funds for Writers newsletter and website. She suggests taking a hard look at life's demands.

"We have to give up something else to make writing happen. We have selected a crazy hobby/career path/dream that is one of the most time-consuming interests on the planet. It starts as a whim, then a dream, then an urge that grows. You have to do this. You NEED to do this . . . this . . . writing.

So, for every new hour of writing, what other hour of something else will you sacrifice? Give it a name. Cleaning? Jogging? Sleeping? Gardening? Lunch?" she writes.

The P Word
Clark makes a good point, because there really is only so much time to work with. It's a likely conclusion that I have to set my Priorities to, well, Prioritize working on my book. It seems that even though, as Clark points out, we as writers often glow when we talk about what writing means to us, we don't do it. And according to Jennifer Blanchard at Better Writing Habits , being too busy to write, another way of saying not having enough time, is the number one reason writers give for not being productive with the thing they love. She, too, attributes this situation to not Prioritizing.

"Most likely you’re making time for non-productive things, like watching TV or surfing the Web. That means you actually do have time to write, you’re just not making it a priority to write," she writes.

It seems a good, stiff shaking of myself is in order. As Clark, author of Lowcountry Bribe and The Shy Writer, noted and what we all know, we can't do everything. We may have to stop doing something we feel has greater importance than our writing. She's found this out by becoming more successful with her writing.

"As my writing grew, as I had to promote a novel I never had to before, the demand for my other hours grew ravenous for my attention. How could I find more time? There went some of my gardening . . . I saw my chickens less. The house is definitely not as clean. I stopped going to the gym."

It seems obvious but nonetheless mindboggling—I have to pick what I'm going to spend time on. And if I seldom pick writing fiction, I'll not complete my beloved WIP. I have already cut back on housecleaning, so what can I cull? I'll have to figure it out. It's time.

Any suggestions?


Image from Dreamstime

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 | By: HiDee

Stupid, Pointless Annoying Messages


Guten morgen, honey! How are your boobs? 

Apparently my spam filter is male.  It catches and holds messages from girls who want to meet me and companies who want to help me have better sex, but it directed this “boobs” message to my inbox.  Normally I ignore these messages and get on with my day.  But I have to admit, this one made me laugh!

Spam is a slang name for Unsolicited Commercial Email.  Used as an acronym, SPAM stands for stupid, pointless annoying message (folk etymology).  Spam message topics seem to run in cycles: lotteries, speeding tickets, inheritances, online pharmacies, sexual enhancements, mortgage or insurance rates, mystery shoppers, and drugs. Unsolicited?  Definitely.  Stupid, pointless and annoying?  You bet.

But for email users, spam is unavoidable.  Spam messages find their way into my inbox every day.  And more often than I would like, important emails join the spam caught in my junk folder, making it necessary to check all those messages before I can delete them.  Outlook allows users to preview messages in a reading pane, without actually opening them.  I can highlight any message that is not obviously spam and scan the content.  This enables me to quickly determine the authenticity of emails and to avoid infecting my computer with viruses.

Since I need to check the messages, I try to make the time spent checking them worthwhile.

Many spam messages are written with terrible grammar and punctuation.  The sentences often make no sense at all.  I know there are gullible and lonely people in this world, but I hope they are all smart enough not to be sucked in by this stuff.  I have to shake my head and laugh at some of it.  It’s better to laugh than be annoyed.

Do you ever pay attention to who sends spam messages?  I’m sure these are not real people, but I keep a spreadsheet of names (male, female, and surnames) to use in my writing.  This isn’t something new for me.  I started keeping lists of names years ago when I worked at a cap and gown company.  One of my jobs was to check measurement forms submitted by schools and churches to order graduation and choir gowns, making sure each form contained name, height, and cap size.  Any time a name caught my attention, I added it to the list: names I liked, names with unique spellings, funny names.  Over the years, I’ve continued to add to the list, and keeping a spreadsheet is an easy way to keep them all in one place.  Now when I need a character name, I like to refer to this list.

So, thank you for your interest, Mr. Spammer.  While I am not inclined to answer your email, I did get a good laugh out of it, and if you’re lucky, I might name my next villain after you!

How do you deal with spam emails?  Do you mine them for ideas to use in your novels?  Please share.

Friday, October 19, 2012 | By: Cafe

There’s never nothing going on. There are no ordinary moments.
-from A Peaceful Warrior
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 | By: Lynn

Celebrate!

I was watching a news magazine show recently when I learned I'd missed celebrating Moldy Cheese Day on October 9. What?? How does one celebrate such a holiday, eat blue cheese? I don't think the holiday is celebrating the moldy cheese I used to find in my mother's refrigerator. It's pretty clear how one would celebrate National Vodka Day. That one I missed, too. It was October 4.

What is it about holidays that we humans enjoy so much? Give us a day to celebrate something and we're going to be happy, or at least distracted from the ordinary routine of life, which is something to celebrate.

Holidays for many provide a day off from school and/or work, so of course that makes us happy. Even those of us who love our work need balance, so time off from being productive is welcome. And depending on what we're celebrating, it gives us an opportunity to express ourselves and display our love. We humans enjoy that, too.

Some holidays garner more attention than others, obviously. Stores start stocking for Halloween on the heels of back-to-school products and promotions. And I'm sure Christmas shopping is already in our minds before Halloween passes. But though many feel that Thanksgiving is given short shrift in holiday respect, there is plenty of attention given the holiday and what it means to us. We set aside time to gather with friends and family, eat a lot and celebrate our blessings.

Though each holiday offers a theme – gift-giving, love, beginnings, for example – it's my current theory that they share a common theme – celebrating being alive.

The Pilgrims celebrated that they'd survived, so far, in the New World and that celebration of being alive continues, not just at Thanksgiving but in celebration in general. It's often said that life is a gift, one to be appreciated. But life is also hard, in different ways for all of us, but still hard. We acknowledge that paradox with celebration, and we often incorporate the elements of our living that have meaning to us. These are the things we live for, even in hard times, the things that make life worth living. We want to express ourselves, our aliveness, in ways that matter to us. We want to be with people we love, people we believe we can count on, and in doing so fuel the bonds that ensure not only our survival but our quality of life.

Halloween is approaching. There will be witches and goblins and Darth Vadars and princesses and more, all seeking candy. But underneath is the common theme celebrating being alive. Halloween has its roots in celebration of harvests, but also historically was a time to acknowledge the spirits of the dead, according to Wikipedia, the portal to all knowledge. In our past, humans established a tradition of recognizing that it's possible we endure, beyond the grave, beyond this life as we know it. In a sense, celebrating being.

So yes we all may tire of the commercialization of holidays. But we get on board because, no we're not mindless lemmings, we need hope and celebrating special occasions acknowledges there is reason to have hope. Life is a celebration – of something at any given moment. For instance, just in October there are pages of lists of holidays, including everything from Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, National Reading Group Month and National Rollerskating Month to World Rainforest Week (12-18), Peace, Friendship and Goodwill Week (24-30), and Dictionary Day (16), Wear Something Gaudy Day (17) and Information Overload Day (20). Visit  OCTOBER2012 for the full list and get celebrating!

But if you don't want to overtly celebrate IPod Day (23) or National Magic Day (31), celebrate vicariously by reading about others celebrating a holiday. Do a search on Amazon  for Halloween fiction, for example, and you'll find romance novels to enjoy. You don't have to get costumed up to join in that celebration of being alive. You may not be able to find a novel that incorporated National Moldy Cheese Day or IPod Day, but you'll certainly find plenty of holiday fiction.

Have you written or read a romance novel that incorporates celebrating a holiday? Share?

Image from Dreamstime

Friday, October 12, 2012 | By: Cafe
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. 
- T.S. Eliot
Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | By: HiDee

Follow Through


My son’s varsity soccer program is young. This is their fourth year, and their record so far is 16-3-1 (wins-losses-ties). For the first year, their record was 2-14-2, which could be expected with a new team.  In years two and three, their wins increased to five and 10, respectively. This year, with about equal numbers of juniors and seniors, the team is doing very well. But all the progress they’ve made over the past few years was almost undone by a new, well-meaning but not very bright,  assistant coach. He advised the players NOT to follow through on their shots to score.

Say what?!?!

I may be nothing more than an enthusiastic parent now, but I played my share of sports and grew up watching other sports with my dad. It doesn’t matter if it’s baseball, softball, volleyball, football, basketball or soccer. What do coaches tell their players? FOLLOW THROUGH. Your throw won’t be any good if you don’t follow through. Neither will your hit, your spike, your shot, or your kick. Following through helps guide the ball where you want it to go. Following through will help you score. And isn’t that a players ultimate goal?

Follow through. The words reverberated in my head.

Follow through. Maybe we want to, or maybe we don’t have any choice. Either way, many of us follow through on family commitments. Sometimes what we need to do is pleasant, and other times it’s not. But we do it anyway. Why? Family counts.

Follow through. We all have responsibilities at our jobs. We have to produce or we won’t have a job. A job is what pays the bills. We have to eat, and we need a place to live. Without a job, those necessities will be difficult to come by so we just do what is necessary. Why? Money counts.

Follow through. Follow through. Follow through. Over and over the words pounded in my mind. Mocking me. Prodding me. Follow through: be the writer you want to be. 

Writers practice just like athletes. We each have our own routines that serve as warm-up exercises. There are drills we perform to tone and define our skills; repetitive motions that become easier over time. We spend hours at our craft, fine-tuning each skill. Are we ever done? Probably not. There is always room for improvement, and we should continue striving to be the best we can be. A well-written story keeps readers turning the pages until the very end. Why? Because words count.

It all comes down to following through. Instead of dropping the ball, it’s time for me to heed the words and follow through, in my life and in my writing, with things that are important to me.

Are you following through, in your life and in your writing? Or has the ball of things important to you been more like a greased pig, squirting out of your hands just when you’re about to score that sometimes elusive goal?

Friday, October 5, 2012 | By: Cafe

Opportunity dances with those who are ready on the dance floor.
-H. Jackson Brown
Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | By: Lynn

It's Not Truth, It's Self Doubt

A few weeks ago, I unexpectedly found myself watching a news segment on a Sunday morning television show profiling a day in the life of a famous romance author turned mainstream writer. The show described how she rose in popularity in her career and now enjoys the pleasure of not only writing for a living, but of having a publicist promote her work and seeing her books on best-seller lists. Quite unbeckoned, panic and self-doubt rose in me, shouting, "You don't have a publicist, you don't even do much with social media. You have only one published book to your credit, much less a number of best sellers. You are never going to make it. You don’t work hard enough at your craft. You are not a real writer."

If life is a journey, my road has been lined with billboards prompting self-doubt. I suspect not every writer struggles with this kind of self-abuse and self-doubt, but I think many do. Proof of this malady can be seen in the Letters to the Editor section of Romance Writer's Report and in the tone of issues circulating among the members of RWA.

Pick any month and you'll read someone defending her/his right to recognition in our organization as a legitimate writer. Squabbles erupt over the same themes, like whether a writer should be held to certain criteria to be eligible for full rights in RWA, what kinds of work are recognized as romance novels and genuine sales; do published writers have a responsibility to support unpublished writers, and on and on. Even the endless battle of trying to elevate the stature of the romance genre in general could be viewed as the work of a genre of writers struggling with fears of not only being perceived as a fraud in the expansive world of writing, but of actually feeling like second-class writers.

Now don’t get me wrong. I support efforts to raise awareness of the quality of our writing and to promote professionalism. Sometimes the battles are essential to protect the rights of authors, and I appreciate the value of recognition. At the risk of oversimplifying, I'd just like to suggest we not take some if it too personally. To do so, is to lose sight of the truth, and when that happens, chaos reigns, both inside and outside of our organization, our industry, our world.

Take me for example. When I let a very non-threatening thing, like another author's success, attack my sense of self, I started down the slippery slope of chaos. The self-doubt inflicts confusion and motivates desperate actions driven by fear, not truth. From feeling like a failure as a writer, it's not a far drop further down the slope to feeling like a failure as a woman, as a person. Suddenly time and space presses in and I can feel like I've wasted my entire life. I might as well give up. From the bottom of the pit, my options are limited, so I might slip into depression, from where I may never write another good story. I may resent my husband for not supporting me enough, or strike out at my fellow writers for not giving me the respect and opportunities I need.

But we have other choices, because, as I see it, the truth is there to guide us if we choose it over fear. And the truth is quite simple.

Luckily for me, the truth out-shouted my inner critic that Sunday morning and led me back to solid ground. I don't have to have a publicist, a best-seller, or even another published book to be OK. I just have to follow my soul's purpose. When you can do that, you have nothing to prove and no one can accuse you of being a fraud. Even if they did, it wouldn't matter. Every day is another opportunity to express my soul's purpose and an adventure in experiencing how it unfolds. From that space, all the bickering, all the angst, and even the hoops we're asked to jump through to be considered valued and recognized members of RWA, as well as the writing world, are insignificant.

Follow where your soul beckons, is my humble advice. For writers, that will lead to a story only you can tell. And quite naturally, it will guide you to your best work. That in and of itself is valuable.

This post is excerpted from an article published in the October/November/December 2010 Romancing the Prairie, the newsletter of the Prairie Hearts chapter of RWA.