Friday, August 21, 2009

Cloudy Friday

Today was a cloudy and rather cool, for this time of the year, Friday. I was just happy to get off work a little early and come home. I've finished up some laundry and some cleaning so I won't have that to do this weekend.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I'm leaving early for Alabama where I'm going to spend the day with two old friends, Beverly and Edna. It is the get-together that we missed last year because of one thing or another. Beverly was determined that we were going to do it this year so we are meeting at her house at eleven. It may be a little bittersweet because this is our first time to get together without Willie, who lost her battle with cancer since the last time we were together. Of course, she will be with us in our hearts always. She was a very special friend.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Self-Acceptance

While reading a magazine article recently, I came across this comment by Leo Buscaglia, "The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be." All I could think about is how very true that is. How much of life is wasted trying to be what other people want you to be? I know I spent years trying to be what my mother wanted me to be. And, I could apply that to husbands and a few friends as well. However, I never succeeded. I was seeking affirmation that would never come. I was trying to be someone I wasn't and that led to failure and unhappiness.

It took a number of years for me to come full circle, to accept myself the way I am and not feel badly about it. I tend to be a loner. I can honestly say I don't get lonely. I have no idea what that is like. I don't know if it is the writer in me or what, but I love my time alone. It is when I get to write, read and watch my favorite movies. I am with people all day and I have always worked with the public, so when I come home, I like a quiet house, a silent phone and my own company. I am totally selfish, more so now than ever before. I have spoiled myself rotten and I'm very happy. Of course, there are many people who would hate my lifestyle, which is fine with me because I would hate theirs.

It is my belief that life is too short and time too precious to squander by not being true to yourself.

I think the same should apply to writing as well. Be yourself when you write. Love your stories and feel confident about them. Remember, the more you try to please other people, especially other writers, the more you will have to struggle. The more faith you put in their opinion, the less your own opinion will mean to you. Without confidence and acceptance of yourself as well as your work, you will never accomplish anything. I'm going to close with a great quote by Aristotle on how to avoid criticism:

"Criticism is something you can avoid easily--by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Writing 101: The Outline and The Old Recliner

When it comes to outlining a story, nothing beats being sprawled out in an old recliner. I do love my old recliner, which I bought new sometime back in the early 90's. I picture myself someday like the TV dad from the series, Frazier, hanging onto his old recliner. Well, I don't have any duck tape on it yet and for it's age it is in remarkably good shape. But, the poor thing is no longer "den" worthy so it was moved to a less-seen place in my writing room and crowned my "outlining" chair.

As far as outlines go, writers have varying opinions. One thing you should know is that an outline is not the same thing as a synopsis, which is much shorter. An outline goes into more detail. Some writers feel if they outline a story/book, then they'll have "told" the story while others want to write the story as it comes to them. On the other side of the coin are the writers who want to know the lay-out of the story and can follow their outline verbatim. I'm none of the above. And, I don't think a writer has to be a pantser or a plotter. Why not both?

I can't sit down and write at a computer, just going from one chapter to another, without direction. I can't hold all the plot threads, background and characters in my memory. I have to have notes. I like to think about my outline in three ways: as the whole project, as the next chapter, as the next scene. I have never sat down cold at a computer and just started writing. For one thing, I have to think and I don't like sitting in a desk chair, staring at the screen. It is hard on the back and I like to relax when I create.

This is when I go to my old recliner. I consider my outlining time as my "creative" mode. I want to be comfortable. I want to have music playing. I use Dr. Grip gel ink pens. All writers should have these. I have used them for several years. I also use the cheap unlined art pads for kids. No lined notebooks as writing on lined paper will do two things: it will stress your hand/wrist and writing without any guiding lines frees up your creativity. You can write as big or sloppy as you want.

You can draw boxes for chapters, which is what I do when I want to "see" the book. Often times, I'll sketch out a scene in a box and put see notes, then flip to next page and write down the dialogue and action that comes to me during this time. I also put "reminders" in my notes about the plot and loose ends that will need to be taken care of before the end. Most of the time, this is stuff I do on week nights if I'm too tired to sit at the computer. Then, the next morning, I'll take my outline of the next chapter and start work on it at the computer. However, that doesn't mean there are no changes. There are always changes. I have never followed an outline exactly as I have it down. Sometimes, the scene I outlined is too long once I start writing it, so I have to cut it down. Sometimes, only parts will work and I change a lot of it when I'm writing. I usually use up several art pads for a books. I am continously adjusting the outline as I write. Then, I do revisions to the finished draft on the computer as well.

I guess you are wondering why outline in the first place? For me, the outline is the potter's ball of clay. It is what I start with but not what I end up with. It is not the finished product but what leads to a finished project. Whenever I've been frustrated with a story at the computer, moving away from it and back into my old recliner, pad in hand outlining, new ideas come to me. Suddenly the story is fresh again. I have never found outlining to be a restrictive process. However, one word of warning, outlining is not writing. It is not a finished book so don't get so caught up in outlining that you don't write.

In the end, my advice to writers who are stuck in a book or even stuck in a rut, I suggest you go find a really old comfortable chair, some pen and paper: your brain and hand will like that(sorry no laptops or other electronic gadgets),and let your creativity flow.