Sunday, January 28, 2007

Editing- The Hard Work

It has been my experience that editing is one of the most difficult tasks of writing, as well as one that is often not done well. I can use my own work as an example: what an embarrassment to edit numerous misspellings in my own articles published here in my blog!! I did initially edit using my spell-checker here in the blog editing interface. However, this particular editor does not pick up words repeated next to each other as misspellings, nor does it do a language check. From now on, I will do my final editing in my Word program.

I have read published writer's work often contain spelling and grammatical errors before the editing process, as well as extraneous stuff that needs to be cut. Nobody is a perfect writer, and most writers go through numerous versions of editing and rewrites before their work is ready for submission. As a writer, it is essential for me to make sure my work is well edited and my best work before publishing anywhere, including to my blog and the writer’s forum for critique.

Lesson learned.

© 2007 Susan Littlefield

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Motivation- Part II

My last article was on finding motivation and discipline to write. Well....Eureka!! I think I found it!

My boyfriend, Don, is a professional musician. I have been to many jams with him, which are usually parties with a lot of mingling, music and a lot of laughter. I have been fortunate to meet other writers at these parties. After all, musicians and writers understand the artistic side of each other.

In my last entry, I wrote about difficulty in finding motivation and discipline for writing. Well, on Saturday, Don asked me if I wanted to attend a jam with him at one of the local classy coffee shops. All I could think about writing.

"Sure, I'd love to," I said. "I'll bring my laptop and work on my story."

The jam was fast paced blues and lasted about 3 hours. I set up at a nearby table, got a mocha and worked on my current story that I'm writing for submission. I was so into the music and writing my story I was sorry when the jam was done. The best part is that in those 3 hours, my writer's block was lifted (if that's what you want to call it, when you don't know where the story is going so you just stare at the screen) and I added about 700 words to my story, along with some much needed editing. It feels great to have been on a word roll!!

I took a short break while writing and a gentleman next to me struck up a conversation about my computer, which led right into writing.

"I write science fiction," he said. "I'm just learning how to do it on computer rather than the old fashioned way."

"Are you published?"

"No," he said. "I write songs, which is really what I do. But, I wouldn't know where to submit by stories."

I wrote down the address of Writer's Market, as well as where to find the hardcover book. This interaction got me to thinking: wouldn't it be great to establish a writer's group and hold it at a coffee shop? http://www.writersmarket.com/

After such productivity this weekend, I have decided music jams are my new venue for writing. My next goal is to get a writer's group going and become part of the writer's community.

© 2007 Susan Littlefield

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Discipline and Motivation

As a writer, I often find myself at a loss of motivation to sit down and write. I get up at the crack of dawn three days a week and go for a long run. Three days a week, I go to the gym in the evening for my weight work out. In between, I'm at work and living life with myself and those I love. However, the motivation killer is having the TV on for background noise when I write. Really, who can have the TV on and write without distraction? Not many, I suspect.

So, I guess it is not lack of motivation that keeps me from writing. Perhaps it is more the lack of discipline. I wonder what discipline looks like to a successful writer? About 15 years ago right after my divorce I lived in a lovely little cottage in the country. An orchard was to one side of me and an orange tree lived in back yard. I had a beautiful garden and lots of countryside to admire.

And, I had a TV but no cable access.

When I lived in this wonderful little place, even with a 45 minute commute two ways for work, I found myself writing every spare moment. I joined a writer's workshop through the local community college and I wrote...and wrote....and wrote. In fact, every day after work and on weekends, I sat down at the computer and wrote my stories. I was motivated, but then again I didn't have the distraction of television either. My hunger to put words onto paper was strong, compelling, constant.

When I had lived in the cottage for about a year, I made the decision to move to the town where I worked. When I was doing the final walk through with Kathy, the owner of the cottage, I suggested she get cable access for the next tenant.

"It's tough living out here with no TV," I said.

"We have antenna," she said. "All you had to do was hook it up."

Funny, I hadn't even thought about hooking up the cord because the cable company said there was no access in my area. I really didn't miss television either because I was so busy writing!

My goal today is to keep the TV off until there is a show on I want to watch. But, writing comes first. And, believe me, with all the reality programs today, there is not much I am interested in. Just a few shows that come on later in the evening, thus no reason to have the television on for background noise. That's what music is for. And silence.

Now, it's time to get to work on my story with.....some beautiful silence in the background.

© 2007 Susan Littlefield

Monday, January 8, 2007

Healing Through Gathering

This last Saturday was filled with the joy of Don's birthday party. A wonderful mixture of family and friends ranging from age two to eighty-something, showed up for this gala event and shared in food, laughter, music and dancing. People have gathered for generations to bond, heal or to share in the wonderful gift of life, and I believe this weekend was no exception. My experience of sharing Don's birthday with him deepened our own bond, but also reminded me of the gatherings in my own family, both large and small, and how they have helped to shape me into who I am today.

I have wonderful memories of Thanksgiving at my grandparent's house in Cloverdale, where my parents, my brothers and myself would meet my aunts, uncle ad cousins. Along with the wonderful food, and many hours of play, we would look at photographs and talk about old family legends. My favorites were stories about my mother growing up at a Sawmill Camp and sneaking pickles from the over sized pickle barrels. Along with the happy, funny stories were the difficult, sad experiences of my grandparents growing up during the great depression.

This Thursday, January 11, will be one year since my grandmother passed away. Over the years, she and I have shared a love of creative writing. I used to love to spend time with her talking about writing, and I was even given the privilege of reading one of her journals from the 1940's. Her other passion was researching our ancestors, and then sharing her experience of finding relatives who lived in our family history. After my grandmother died, my aunts asked me to be in charge of her family history research and writings. I can't tell you what an honor and gift it is to have my grandmother's writing and family research.

Today, the gatherings in my family feel different without my grandmother. My grandfather and I have carried on a long standing tradition with of monthly lunches, including Don and other family members, where my grandmother's presence is still strong.


(c) 2007 by Susan Littlefield

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Culture in Story

This weekend Don took me to an isolated 40 private acres in Lake County where grandfather trees lined trails leading to faraway lands. Off one trail near the home on the property is a series of caves where Native Americans lived. The cave ceilings are darkened and embedded with soot from fires to keep families warm during the cold, winter months. A chimney has been carefully carved to one side. As I stared at the caves, I wondered if the caves had been formed from weather erosion over many hundreds of years. Don thought the opposite, that the caves were created from the hard work of whoever had lived on the land. The more I studied the sometimes smooth, other times ragged, parts of the cave, I realized Don was right. I imagined Native Americans starting at the outside of the humongous rock and chiseling and carving away until shelter had been created.

My affirmation during this trip was finding a piece of obsidian outside of the cave, as if a hand had reached through history and left it there just for us. The obsidian had been worked into an arrow head, the indentation to the shaft still visible. To me, this small piece of history was a treasure. But, to a friend who spent childhood summers in Lake County, obsidian was a common everyday item.

"We used to find those all the time," my friend said. "We used to play with them."

I imagined children playing with obsidian as if they were Tinker-Toys of Lego's. "Didn't you ever keep them?"

"No," she said. "They were everywhere."

As I thought about what my friend said, I couldn't imagine the luxury of having such precious remnants of history at my immediate disposal. I grew up in Redwood Country with mountains at one end of the street, and the Eel River at the other end, and I was never at a loss for toys created by nature. Would my ordinary rocks, pine cones and redwood branches I used for toys be treasures to someone from another culture?

Culture provides structure and meaning to groups of people. When writing about any culture, it is important to research and to provide accurate facts, especially in fiction writing. Many questions need to be asked: what type of culture are you researching? What is everyday life like within the culture? What is its hierarchical structure? What is the driving force behind the culture? Of course, more specific questions will be geared toward how culture functions in your story.

I feel blessed to have experienced a part of history, to get a glimpse into a different culture.

© 2007 Susan Littlefield

To Go Oxford....or Not

Do you use the Oxford comma or do you omit it? Some grammar sages say to either keep it or omit it, unless omitting the Oxford comma will...