Thursday, July 31, 2008

Goals and Other Stuff

I have been working at setting writing goals; write at least an hour every day on a short story, novel or blog entry. My priority is editing the first draft of my novel, then working on short stories and then adding to my blog. Point: sit butt in chair and write. Find that passion within myself.

Today at the writer’s digest forum, someone wrote about losing her passion for writing after the death of her partner. A very wise man responded with something to the effect of the flame burns within, but sometimes it takes someone outside of us to light the match.

Reading this wise man’s response reminded me that human beings need people. It’s no good isolating and shutting the door on the world. No matter what time I spend writing, I need to interact with those I love- a phone call, a walk, or meeting someone for a movie. Other times, I just need to interact with a stranger- a smile, nod or even exchange a few words. I am a true believer that what we offer to the world is what comes back to us.

This week I was saddened to read about the death of a man I knew from my childhood. This was back in the seventies before home computers and email, when people actually took pen to paper, or fingers to typewriter, and sent personal letters through the United States Postal Service. Cell phones were unheard of, and most home phones were still rotary.

Well, at that time, I was 13 years old and had the maddest crush on a DJ at a country station. I would come home from school just in time to catch the last half hour or so of his radio show. In fact, I became so lovesick that I started calling him to request songs and just say hi…

When I was ten, I began writing poems and lyrics, which continued through early adulthood. Well, I started sending my poems and lyrics to my new friend. He thought they were very pretty, perhaps someday he would write music to them. I was ecstatic because he was the only person in the world who took the time to read my poems and lyrics, and he even understaood where I was coming from!

Always very nice and cordial, one day he asked me out of the blue, as if he had been holding this question in for the longest time, “Susan, just how old are you?”

“Fourteen,” I said in my sexiest voice.

A long pause, and then “Fourteen? My goodness!”

He may have even asked if my mother knew I was calling him, I don’t really recall. But, what I do remember is that my heart dropped to the floor and I held my tears back. After that day, every time I called the radio station, he spoke to me as if I were a little sister or just some nice kid. When my mother found out I was calling him, she was furious. “He’s in his early twenties and way too old for you!”

Well, as it turned out, my mother monitored my interactions with him, my crush passed, he moved to Arizona, and we continued to talk on the telephone and exchange letters for about a year or so. He was always kind and wrote good advice in his letters that I have carried with me throughout my life. I am sure he was not even aware of the impression he left on me.

On the home front, Don is doing well with his music- he and his band will be going to a music festival in Phoenix in the fall, and the bluegrass festival will be going into its third year in September. Don is such a talented musician and a beautiful boyfriend. I feel blessed that we can share our lives.

I plan on taking a trip back up to Northern California sometime in the fall to visit friends and my younger brother Vaughn. I am hoping Don can come with me, as his brother and sister-in-law live in Crescent City. I would also love to get up to Oregon to visit my special cousin Tammy, and to Washington to visit my older brother Tom. I also have nieces and other family members along the way. It’s been too long since I’ve been up in the Pacific Coast, which I love.

My grandfather is doing well, too. Don and I went to Dixon to have lunch with him two weeks ago. He was a little down because his brother, Paul, could not make his yearly visit this last month. The family always enjoys Uncle Paul and Don playing guitar and singing.

That all for now. I must say that I have reached my writing goal for today of one hour, which equals almost 800 words! Yahoo!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Writer's Block

At a writer’s forum I visit, one of the most asked questions is How do I get rid of writer’s block? Answers from other writers range from there is no such thing to try to figure out why you are blocked. It seems to me that writer’s block has become a blanket excuse for not writing.

If there is such a thing as writer’s block, I feel it is more behavioral than anything else. In other words, we find other things to do rather than writing- go to the market, socialize, clean the cat box, watch the comedy channel, play Spider Solitaire on the computer, or even call Great Aunt Ethel who hasn’t seen us since we were six and doesn’t even remember us.

Excuses, excuses.

I don’t want to try to figure out why I don’t want to write. It’s easier just to admit the truth- I don’t want to write, I would rather (fill in the blank). That’s when I take responsibility and writer’s block becomes a choice rather than some psychological condition destined catapult me into a therapist’s chair (and take all the money I could be making if I were writing).

My cure to writer’s block is to write. I have a set time each day, five to six days a week, when I commit to sitting down and writing. On weekdays, I write in the evening for 45 minutes to one hour. On weekends, I am more flexible and will often write in different places, sometimes as little as a half hour, other times as much as two hours.

What helps me stay focused is to have several projects going at the same time. If I make the choice not to work on one, I will work on the other. I try to keep some type of a deadline in mind. Perhaps, I want to finish editing chapter six of my novel by the end of the week, but I also want to continue writing my short story in two weeks. If I have my priority on track, I will finish editing chapter six and then move to the story. If I have my priorities in the wrong order, then Spider Solitaire will pop up on my screen (all right, I open it, it doesn’t just pop up) and I will play a game. But, I always have the choice whether to continue my game or write.

If I’m smart, I make Spider Solitaire a reward for completing a day’s writing. Writing is hard work. I must pay attention to detail including spelling, grammar, and style while I use that creative and physical energy that can drain me to the bones. Rewards for hard work are a must.
Remember, those of you who do believe in writer’s block, this is my opinion only because, if I allowed myself to believe in writer’s block, I would probably use it as an excuse not to write.

I am still trying to find a home for one story. I am working on another short story that I want to submit to Glimmer Train, as well as editing my novel. My short story has priority because it takes less time to write than my novel. Finally, I have been considering a volunteer position in our local writer’s club, but I am not sure I will have time for it.
Time to get to work on my short story just for my reward of Spider Solitaire.

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...