Posts Tagged ‘LinkedIn’

Lift Every Voice

February 20, 2015

In these days of multimedia presentations, sound bites, and constant sensory bombardment, we sometimes find ourselves feeling depleted and at a loss for words. We writers can feel empty and unfocused and in desperate need of something, anything, to spark our creativity and inspire us to return to the page. Yesterday I found a wonderful way to fill my empty creative well and it didn’t cost a penny or require a single scrap of technology! I attended a Black Heritage Worship Service at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and it was just what I needed. I left refreshed and rejuvenated with a new sense of purpose. On the way home I thought about the different ways words were used, out loud, throughout the worship program, which gave them a whole new dimension.

The Sermon

Given by the nationally recognized Dr. Forrest E. Harris, President of American Baptist College in Nashville, the preached word was a true auditory treat. Have you ever noticed that many of our great speakers have some connection with the ministry? I’m pretty sure it’s not a coincidence. Dr. Harris started off slowly but gradually built to a crescendo that had many of the congregants on their feet, shouting along with him. A few of the literary devices he used to make his sermon so compelling included imagery, repetition of key themes (Push the Pendulum!), pauses and change in tempo and volume, and metaphor. Though I may not remember all the details of the talk, I will retain the key points and, perhaps more importantly, the jubilation I felt.

Poetry Readings

The poetry selections “I Too” by Langston Hughes and “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou were read aloud by two young women. Though I’m familiar with both of these poems, you perceive them on a different level when they come through your ears rather than your eyes. This reminded me of the importance of taking the time to read your written work aloud before you hit “submit”. Trust me, you will immediately tune into words or phrases that just don’t sound right.

Musical Selections

The Heritage Community Choir was amazing and the Chapel was the perfect space to allow their collective voices to soar. The beat of the music and the words of encouragement in the songs filled me with a sense of elation that I haven’t experienced in some time. “Lift Every Voice And Sing” was introduced by James A. Scandrick, Jr. with the reverence it deserves.  Something I hadn’t realized was that James Weldon Johnson had originally penned it as a poem but liked it so much that he then set it to music, where it became known as the Black National Anthem. If you really listen to the words you are singing, you’ll realize how strong and evocative the prose it and how well the unusual melody meshes with it, giving the song a twist while keeping you slightly off-balance, similar to a story with a surprise ending!

I think what was most impactful about the service was how the various components of it, were not only strong on their own, but also fit seamlessly together to give you a much grander and more unforgettable experience. Given this, my afternoon at CRCDS was not only personally pleasurable, but I feel like I learned something as a writer as well.

Valentine’s Day is for Writers

February 13, 2015

Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovers. It’s a day writers should take advantage of too, no matter how many, or how few valentines you have. Here’s a few suggestions:

Treat yourself to something special

The child in all of us likes to receive a small token of appreciation on Valentine’s Day, no matter how corny we try to pretend the holiday is. Give yourself one of those chocolate sampler hearts (and permission to poke a hole in every one so you can eat the ones you like first!). Or buy yourself an orchid, a bunch or irises, or a bouquet of sunflowers, anything that will help you forget the snow piling up outside. You can always buy a book of love poems or a love story to read for good measure.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way was the importance of being kind to your inner self and of occasionally buying small treats just for you. What better reason than this February holiday to practice this?

 

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Make a list of three things you appreciate about yourself as a writer

You can even draw hearts around them! Post them by your computer to get you through the rest of the longest month of the year.

Be playful!

To me, that means putting aside some time to write something that will make you laugh out loud. Sit down and draft a piece of work that gives you heartfelt pleasure to write, even if it never gets published or you never show it to another living soul. This year I am planning to enter the Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest. In case you haven’t guessed by its name, this humor contest is specifically for very bad poetry. And I have the perfect piece to pen. I actually began it as a serious nature poem last year but it was clearly so gag-worthy that, when I attempted to read it out loud, it had my son Russell and I rolling hysterically on the ground. This morning, in anticipation of St. Valentine, I printed it out. Luckily, it’s just as awful as I remembered! Here’s the link if you want to try WF as well:

https://winningwriters.com/our-contests/wergle-flomp-humor-poetry-contest-free

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

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What’s on my Bedside Reading Table?

January 31, 2015

 

All sorts of good stuff!

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

I have read this book over and over and it still gets to me every time I pick it up. Set in the 1950’s, it’s a memoir of Toby Wolff’s childhood with his mother, a series of men she’s involved with, and an absentee father and brother. The most compelling aspect of this story is how clearly it shows the disparity between how teens act and speak on the outside and how they view their “real” inner selves, hidden and carefully protected from others. Though he’s clearly an intelligent and imaginative kid, with a wonderful sense of the absurd, Toby is always getting into some kind of trouble or hatching up ridiculous scheme. He rarely has money, his friends are they type characterized as “losers”, he drinks and smokes and plays hooky, and he refuses to live up to his potential. But inside, Toby remains convinced that he is destined for greater things than life at Concrete High School and one day he decides to make this belief a reality. The sheer audaciousness of how he does this will undoubtedly make you laugh out loud in disbelief but, at the same time, you won’t be able to stop hoping that, against all odds, Toby will be able to escape the life he’s stuck in and enter the life he was really meant to have. Things don’t turn out quite the way he wanted them to by the end of the memoir but they are better than they were. And, today, all grown up, Wolff is a published and highly regarded author, a recipient of the Pen/Faulkner Award for fiction and a finalist for the National Book Award.

Perhaps my favorite part of this book is the dedication in the beginning when he says his first stepfather always told him that what he didn’t know could fill a book, and adds “Well, here it is.” The message that, as long as you believe in yourself, your potential is endless is one that bears repeating.

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills.

Who could resist this title? I can’t even count the times that I’ve sat down and opened up the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird once again.  I’ve also seen the play and the movie and listened to the book on tape. It’s like having an old friend over for coffee, always the same in some ways, completely different in others, depending on my mood and the life stage I happen to be in. It’s the only book Harper Lee ever wrote and, since she and her sister Alice Finch Lee were notoriously close-mouthed with journalists, I decided this might be my only chance to learn more about the Lee’s and To Kill a Mockingbird. Besides, I was really curious about how Mills was able to, not only interview the Lee sisters, but get enough material to write a book about them. Now that’s some savvy reporting! It all began in 2001, as part of a feature story for the Chicago Tribune. When To Kill a Mockingbird was chosen for the “One Book, One Chicago, city-wide reading program, Mills and a photographer journeyed down to Monroeville, Alabama (which Maycomb is based on). Mills was granted an interview with Alice and things snowballed from there, with the reporter being admitted into the Lee’s inner circle of friends and receiving an education about Alabama that it’s unlikely she could replicate anywhere else. Mills ends up moving next door to the Lee sisters and beginning this book. Her story is a rare inside glimpse into the lives and minds of two Southern ladies who were as typical of some parts of the old South as they were atypical of others. In the twenty-first century, some may say To Kill a Mockingbird didn’t go far enough in challenging the Jim Crow attitudes and practices prevalent in the south. But I believe the book’s longevity speaks for itself.

Harper Lee was willing to tackle a difficult issue and to begin a conversation that is still continuing today, through characters we can all identify with on some level. For example, Atticus Finch is someone I think of when I’m tempted to not speak up because it would be easier to remain silent. To learn more about the woman who penned his story (based on her father and sister, both lawyers) was a rare and enjoyable opportunity.

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

This book is just for fun but it has a serious side as well. It’s about a clash of values between a human sexuality teacher at the local high school and an Evangelical Christian youth soccer coach. Both are battling their own personal demons, in addition to each other, and Perrotta is wickedly funny while exploring the spiritual versus sexual impulses that Americans often keep under wraps, while simultaneously provoking readers to think about their own moral positions on certain issues.

Read any good books recently? Feel free to send them on!

Martin Luther King Jr. Day-Where Do We Go From Here?

January 23, 2015

I spent last Saturday and Monday immersed in MLK Jr. Day celebrations and activities, some for my job, others because I had a personal interest in what was going on. What did I come away with? It’s apparent that we still have a long way to go to achieve racial and socioeconomic equality. But, though there are many people invested in not seeing America live up to its ideals and potential, there are as many, or more, who are committed to seeing positive social change occur during their lifetime, if not sooner. I wasn’t surprised to hear a lot about the importance of all African-Americans receiving a good education so as to gain access to a wider range of opportunities. I agree wholeheartedly with this. However, I also heard a number of black men and women saying that they were tired of “having to educate whites about us” or “needing to explain everything to white people” before any forward movement could occur on certain issues. This was sometimes referred to as “racial fatigue” a term that was new to me.

Given this, I’d argue that perhaps African-Americans aren’t the only ones who need an education. It sounds like whites need to educate themselves too, about black history and the black experience in America, unfiltered through a Caucasian lens. Tell the truth now. How many books have you read by African-American writers that weren’t assigned to you in high school? I had always considered myself a well-read individual, across many cultures, until this summer when I stumbled across a 588 page paperback at a book sale in Brewster, MA that challenged this view. I picked up the hefty Masterpieces of African-American Literature, edited by Frank N. Magill and published in 1992, wondering what could possibly be in the tome. Were there really enough African-American writers and poets to fill the pages I naively wondered? And, if there were, how come I had never heard of many of them? I began to peruse the essays, written about 149 works of literature from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, and then I trekked to the library and checked some books out and began to read. As I write this I just finished an intense story by Chester Himes, If He Hollers Let Him Go that I absolutely could not put down. Chester Himes was criticized when he wrote this book, both readers and reviewers found the tone of the novel to be “too angry”. After you read what the main character, Bob, goes through, physically and emotionally, over the course of several days, I dare you not to feel angry too at how much of Bob’s day is taken up negotiating race-related situations when all he wants is to do his job and spend time with his girlfriend Alice.

Then there was Our Nig by Harriet E. Wilson, the first novel written by an African-American woman, copyrighted in 1859. Though it was a dramatic, well-written, and compelling story, the book had to be rescued from obscurity by none other than Henry Louis Gates in 1982, . How did this happen? The reviewer in Masterpieces of African-American Literature speculates that Wilson’s book was dismissed (and sent to a literary graveyard), because it dealt with several subjects that were uncomfortable for white liberal readers, interracial marriage and the fact that racism and exploitation were just as prevalent in the “free” northern cities as in the south. Also, these same liberals didn’t like the shades of irony in the title…

Talking about what needs to change and taking positive steps towards these changes on Martin Luther King Jr, Day, and all year-long, is important. But before you act, take the time to learn more about the black experience in the United States. You may be surprised at what you discover.

The Powers of Observation

January 17, 2015

January is a great time to hone some of your writing skills. This month I’m working on character description. Doing this requires that you actually leave your warm house, venture out to places where there will be all sorts of people to look at, and then record their various features and mannerisms. Sometimes I may also practice writing a short back-story for them based on what I see, hear, and sometimes smell and feel as I look around. It’s actually really fun to spend an afternoon acting like Harriet the Spy (one of my favorite childhood books!) The goal is to provide as many concrete details as you can, in a multitude of ways. For example, don’t just say “He has blue eyes.” Ask yourself, “Are his eyes narrow or wide?” or “Do his blue eyes twinkle with hidden amusement or are they cold as glacial water (okay that’s a little dramatic but you get the picture!) With hair, don’t just talk about the color, write down the texture, the style or length and other interesting tidbits (dandruff anyone?) Smiles can also be unique. Is the person grimacing, grinning, or smirking? How do they laugh? Do they chuckle, chortle, or guffaw? Body type is another way that people are unique. Some are fat or thin, others are gaunt or obese. Is the man or woman stooped or do they have posture like a dancer’s? I call this my “level one” of observations. Level two involves a closer look at less obvious features or mannerisms. Are there any distinguishing marks like a chipped tooth, a birthmark, or a tattoo? Do they constantly twist a lock of hair around their finger or stutter or jiggle their left leg? How do they walk? Do they saunter, powerwalk, or drag their feet? Is there an odor that accompanies them? Fried food, aftershave or perfume, or dirty sneakers?

I usually try not to record what I overhear. Dialogue is probably my strongest point so naturally I tend to gravitate toward what’s easier for me. But occasionally, I’ll overhear something that opens the door to all sorts of possibilities. Like “I can’t believe how well you’re coping with this. If it was me…” I can come up with at least twenty scenarios for the mysterious “this” she was referring to! If you decide to go one step further and do a back-story, be sure that it includes as many descriptive qualities as possible. Or at least enough so you would recognize the person if you ran into them at the mall or on a bus.

Speaking of buses, they are a great place to observe humanity. Other great locations are grocery store cafes, public libraries, parks, and malls. If you see me scribbling away at a table near you, don’t be alarmed! The notes I take are eventually shredded because it’s just an exercise, nothing more.

What’s in my New York City Travel Journal? Part II

January 9, 2015

The first part of my travel journal focused on things to do in NYC that are especially enjoyable during the holiday season. For a few activities that you can do anytime, check these out:

The High Line

The High Line is an elevated freight rail line that has been repurposed into a free public park. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenue. Though we couldn’t see this for ourselves, given the weather, its planting design was inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the abandoned elevated rail tracks for many years after the trains stopped running. The species of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees currently on the High Line were chosen for their hardiness, sustainability, and textural and color variation, and many are species native to the area. The High Line’s plants are in bloom from late January to mid-November so we just missed them in either direction. However, we were able to see some great examples of public art and some stunning views of the city as we traversed the old tracks. If you live in the City, a special events that you won’t want to miss is the currently running Snow Sculpt-Off, an excellent way to have fun with the fresh winter snow in the city.

 

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The Chelsea Market

This market, located in the Meatpacking District and described as “a mall for everything food”, has every culinary item you want and more! With over thirty-five vendors, it attracts over six million visitors (domestic and international) annually and when you step inside, you’ll soon discover why. Two of the places our little group found most interesting were the Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucino and The Lobster Place Seafood Market. Giovanni Rana has been offering artisanal pastas for half a century and you can watch them make it on-site at the Chelsea Market. Offerings include Squid Ink linguine, Chocolate Ravioli, and (for the less adventurous) gnocchi and tortellini. Though we didn’t eat at the Cucino, Carla assured us that it’s to die for. Perhaps our next visit…  The Lobster Place is both a visual and an olfactory experience. Every type of fresh seafood you can imagine is displayed behind glass. Some of the fish even look like they should still be swimming around in a lake or ocean! I even saw my first “cockle” from that old children’s song “Cockles and Mussels”. Who knew? It’s also fun to observe people from all over the world strolling through the store, happily devouring bright red lobsters in paper boats. There’s also a fantastic loose tea shop and even a Korean/Japanese Ramen stand, mokbar, which serves take-out hot and cold noodles prepared by Chef Esther Choi. Let your college students taste the real thing. They’ll never eat the packaged stuff again!

A Few More Ideas

Our New Year’s Eve concluded with a 12:00 a.m. fireworks show and the 36th annual New York Road Runners Midnight Run at Central Park. It’s a four-mile, unscored run with many of the participants in costume. Talk about starting the New Year off with a bang and on the right foot!

New Year’s Day we made one last stop, to check out my oldest nephew’s new apartment in Astoria. From there we walked down the street to Bahari Estiatorio, an authentic Greek family restaurant where there was no problem seating our party of six as most of the other diners were in even larger groups. The Greek salad was to die for, with crisp vegetables contrasting with an amazingly creamy feta cheese. For entrees, the only disappointment was the quail which had way to many small bones for my son to deal with. The squid and salmon were succulent and the stuffed peppers and tomatoes tasty with an interesting combination of sweet and savory spices in the meat and rice filling.

Though some people claim that the end of the year is one of the worst times to visit New York City, I have to disagree. For us it was the perfect ending to 2014 and a marvelous beginning to 2015!

What’s in my New York City Travel Journal-Part I?

January 4, 2015

With a burning desire to ring in 2015 on a positive and exuberant note, I packed up my husband, my son, and his girlfriend and headed south to Manhattan to visit my best friend and her teenage son. In her usual style, she whisked us all over the city to get a real taste of what the Big Apple has to offer during the holiday season. Since we were able to squeeze in so many things in forty-eight hours, this will be a two-part post.

First stop was Patsy’s Pizza (http://www.patsyspizzeria.us/), the West side location, which was festively decorated for the holidays and smelled great. There was no problem seating the seven of us and the food, salad, pizza, and two calzones, arrived quickly and were delicious, with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and an excellent tomato sauce. At about $150 total for the whole crowd, it didn’t break the bank either.

Next, at my request, we headed to the Solomon Guggenheim Museum (http://www.guggenheim.org/), a Frank Lloyd Wright architectural masterpiece. Carla instructed us to start at the top and we split up there so we could each move at our own pace. The current exhibit that I was interested in was “Zero: Countdown to tomorrow, 1950’s and 60’s” (http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/exhibitions/on-view/zero-countdown-to-tomorrow-1950s-60s) which spotlights artists worldwide who wanted to transform the way art was created and experienced after WWII. Having seen the “Beyond Earth Art” exhibit last January at Cornell University’s Johnson Art Museum, I thought this would be a fitting end to my year of visual experimentation! Carla was most interested in the “Kandinsky Before Abstraction” (http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/exhibitions/on-view/kandinsky-before-abstraction-1901-1911) exhibit and, as an artist and art therapist, she was able to provide me with the complete background of the artist, who I had never seen before. We both enjoyed the permanent exhibits too.

The following day we got up bright and early and hit the pavement. First stop was Times Square where we’d hoped to catch a glimpse of the famous ball perching above our heads but all we saw were battalions of New York City policemen being instructed in crowd control procedures and the glamorous Diamond District. Next stop was the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday windows where we paused to admire the artistry that had gone into the opulent fairy tale creations (http://sakspov.saksfifthavenue.com/features/saks-holiday-fairy-tale-enchanted-experience-window-unveiling/) as well as admiring some of the manikin’s clothed in glittering holiday splendor. Next up was St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Though it’s currently under construction, it’s still possible to get a feel for its magnificence and how meaningful it is to so many people. I was shocked to learn that the Cathedral gets about five million visitors a year, substantially more than the Empire State Building. We lit candles, perused through the various inlaid religious tableaus, and finally made our way to the front of the church to view the life-size nativity scene that had a particularly lovely Angel and (surprise!) a dog. The daily religious service was just concluding so we were able to join in a rousing chorus of “Joy to the World”.

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For still more holiday cheer, across the street was Rockefeller Center and the famous tree, which really is quite splendid and puts our own small pine at home to shame! Sadly we weren’t able to see the ice skating, only the Zamboni putting on a fresh coat of ice.

 

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Stay tuned for the next stops-The High Line and the Chelsea Market!

A Writer’s Resolutions

December 30, 2014

For me, resolutions are like journals, helpful if used in ways that will move you forward. Every year I make a few resolutions related to my health, my personal life, and my writing career. Rather than issuing hardcore ultimatums to myself, I try to use my resolutions as guideposts for the coming year, realizing that they may need to be adjusted  if my situation changes as the months’ progress.

This morning I came up with three that I’ll share with you.

  • Build on the 50,000 words I wrote for NaNoWriMo and see if I can develop and expand them into a novella or a novel. Along with this, I’m planning to work on specific techniques that I still need to improve, using exercises from What If, Writing Down the Bones, and other writing craft books. The primary skills I want to focus on are description and setting. Another thing that I want to try (recommended by my Chautauqua writing group) is to spend some time typing from the books of authors I admire to see how they construct sentences, use words etc…
  • Spend more time writing with others. Look for a small, friendly, and constructive writing group to join (maybe at Writers and Books?) Find two new writing conferences to attend. One I’d definitely like to apply to this year is Sewanee (http://sewaneewriters.org/). I’d also like to spend time writing in an interesting setting like a writers colony or a writing residency in a national park or another inspiring outdoor place.
  • Continue to submit short stories and poems to literary journals, writing contests, and other publications. I resolve to get something fictitious published this year! Also to look for a few new venues to write for, more parenting magazines, another newspaper or two, and niche magazines.

Though three things may not seem like much, you’ll notice that the resolutions I’ve made here are both specific and measurable, as opposed to general. They’re also challenging without being overwhelming, a good mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar.This should make them much more likely to be achieved by the end of 2015.  Resolutions aren’t for everyone. But I believe that, by treating them as something positive, a way to enjoy the writing process while growing and improving as a writer, they become an interesting challenge, rather than an unpleasant obstacle.

Do you have any resolutions for 2015? Please feel free to share them! I’m always interested in hearing what goals other people are setting!

Wrapping it up in December

December 16, 2014

I was talking with a friend the other day and we agreed that December is a great time to wrap up your creative year, along with your gifts. How do you wrap up your writing life in December? First of all I give myself the gift of time. The end of the year offers a fantastic opportunity to sit back and take stock of what you’ve done for the past eleven months. This can include:

Articles or interviews you were particularly proud of

What were my favorite articles this year? There are so many that I really enjoyed interviewing for and writing. The ones that come immediately to mind are the “Re’s” in Genesee Valley Parent, “Revisiting Samantha”, about the student who took a gap year, and “Rethinking Thanksgiving” with Perry Ground, a new perspective on one of America’s favorite holidays. For New York States of Mind it would have to be the article about my beloved hometown and close seconds would be the annual cello festival and Cider Week FLX.

Here are the links if you want to check them out:

There are too many more to count so I’ll just close with a few favorite 2014 interviews from Tompkins Weekly newspaper; LeAlan Jones at the Ithaca Youth Bureau (2/17/14), The Beck Family at the NYS Fair’s Dairy Cow Birthing Center (9/8/14), and the owners and staff at Firelight Camps Glamour Camping (9/15/14).

Skills you mastered

This one is easy. I learned to prioritize my writing above all else. This often meant turning down breakfast and lunch invitations, limiting myself to activities that added to my writing toolbox instead of doing, or volunteering for, whatever caught my fancy at the moment, and, yes, taking the phone off the hook when I really needed to concentrate. I learned to use Natalie Goldberg’s “timed” writing to keep myself on task and free-writing daily. I acquired all sorts of new ways to unblock my creativity through “Writing Aerobics” classes. Best of all, I was able to suffer through a whole year of short story rejections. I refused to stop writing and just kept submitting more of them. Rejection is horrible but I have slowly taught myself to feel crappy and discouraged for an hour or so, then to do something like take the dog for a walk or eat chocolate, then move on. Pick up the pen, sit down at the keyboard, read a craft book, whatever it takes to suck it up and keep going forward. Sadly, there are no guarantees in this line of work. But I still wouldn’t give it up for anything!

Completing tasks on your “to do” list that haven’t yet been accomplished yet

Of course I have all the usual ones like updating my social media profiles and website content. Then there are the tasks like getting on Twitter which I know I need to do but still haven’t forced myself to do yet. In terms of writing itself, I want to finish my NaNoWriMo challenge today or tomorrow. I am currently at 47,471 words-almost there! I may not have met the deadline but I can still complete the required 50,000 words. Even though I didn’t get the practice novel done by 11/30, I have learned so much about my work habits, areas of my writing that need improvement before I start a novel for real, and the types of characters and plots I’m attracted to. Finally, I have one last 2014 short story contest to enter, despite my dismal record so far. Hey you never know! Then it’s a week off for Christmas and New Year’s to enjoy my friends and family and refill my creative well before I hit the ground running in 2015.

What do you have left to wrap up this December?

Thankful in November

November 19, 2014

This month I’ve come to the realization that I have one thing above all others that I’m thankful for in my writing life. I’m thankful that I don’t give up. No matter how discouraged I am, how many rejections I’ve gotten, or how many days have lapsed since my last blog post (17 but who’s counting?!) I always manage to pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again. This might sound a bit too much like Katy Perry’s “Roar” but it’s how it works in my creative life. I once read a quotation that says something along the lines of “You always have two choices, to walk away or to try harder” and that has always rang true for me. There have been times when I have chosen to walk away, from toxic family relationships, from volunteer commitments that were no longer meaningful, or from business writing jobs that I instinctively knew would not be cost/beneficial for me to take. But, in the seven years I’ve been freelancing, I have never walked away from my writing. Honestly, I have never even been tempted to do so, even when it seems like I’m the only one reading my words.

So what does it look like to “try harder”? For me, it meant attempting something so far out of my comfort zone that I might as well be at the South Pole. What could possibly be that difficult and isolating you ask? National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo as it is affectionately known by participants). It’s been an unusual, but rewarding experience for me so far. Though I’m definitely shooting for the goal of  a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month, I’m not thinking that whatever I produce will be publisher-ready and that the next time you see me, I’ll be riding off into the sunset with a huge royalty check clutched in my fist. Instead, I’m viewing this experience as a “test run” to see what writing a novel entails and if I am both interested in, and capable of, writing one. Here’s why I believe that this November will be beneficial for me

  • It makes writing fiction part of my regular work routine and forces me to write a specific amount of pages every single day. So far I’ve written about 7/day or an average of 1,450 words, much better than when I leave it up to chance.
  • Working on a novel is great for improving my technique. I didn’t go to college for creative writing and I don’t have an MFA. Therefore I have a lot of missing tools in my writer’s toolbox. To take on NaNoWriMo, I’ve had to work on plot structure, descriptions of characters and settings, and on how to escalate conflict. I’m also learning about which point-of-view is the most comfortable style for me to write in.
  • The final thing which I am hoping to get out of this experience is to learn how to be part of a writing community. I haven’t gone to any of the local writers’ events yet but I plan to before November 30.

Reading this over,  it seems that I should not only be thankful for my persistent nature but also that there are so many exciting and varied opportunities for us writers to take advantage of.

Wish me luck. As of today I’m halfway there!


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