Simmering Down and Summertime Planning

Friday again. But not just any Friday … the last Friday of springtime. Grandchildren are finishing school for the summer season that starts this weekend, and all the mid-week meetings and organizations are beginning to simmer down.

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For those of us who don’t hold full-time jobs, summer is ‘me’ time, when there’s breathing room in daily schedules and freedom to savour an extra cup of coffee in the mornings.

Summer is when I always assume I’ll have time to do all the things that fell to the wayside during ‘the busy seasons’. Unfortunately, it rarely happens that way.  Either I slow my pace to the point that everything takes longer, or I fill the days with unanticipated pursuits that squeeze out time for anything else. Suddenly September arrives and I’m moaning about the lost summer.

This summer I want to be aware of each day and of how my time is spent, whether it’s in a specific activity or doing nothing at all.

I have unimpressive goals which include some writing projects, lots of reading, a little scrapbooking, periods of puppy training (yes, there’s a new puppy on our horizon), bits of gardening and the least amount of housework possible. I’m planning ample time for gatherings with family and friends, and lazy lakeside hours with extended opportunities for meditation and intentional thankfulness. In some ways it doesn’t sound much different from other summers, except that I’m planning ahead so it won’t disappear without opportunities to acknowledge its existence.

When summer arrives this Sunday (on Father’s Day!) what will it herald for you? Are you making any specific plans for how you’ll spend its days?

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Active and Passive Waiting (again)

There were too many happy distractions during the past week, and creating a new post wasn’t in the cards. I hope you’ll find something of interest in this re-run from 2013.

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“They also serve who only stand and wait.”

John Milton
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I admit to doing a lot of sitting. I sit and think, sit and talk, sit and watch, sit and write. In this photo taken by my DD, I was sitting and absorbing inspiration from the sight, sounds and smells of the ocean.

Sometimes I sit and wait.

Writers do a lot of waiting… waiting for time to write and inspiration to strike, or perhaps waiting to hear from beta readers, editors and agents. The most ineffective kind of waiting is passive, and I don’t believe indulging in it has any value. If we sit, wonder and worry, we fall prey to negativity. We stagnate. Active waiting puts us in control of how we are affected by the passage of time. It’s all about attitude.

Being proactive results in being productive. While we probably can’t change the outcome of whatever it is we’re awaiting, we can use the time to our advantage by doing something positive. Writers might start a new story or article, go on a research trip, contact a colleague to brainstorm or offer encouragement. Whether in life or writing, when we make an effort to wait actively, we discover there are all sorts of possibilities.

Milton’s quote is often used out of context, but so are the scripture verses below. They can be construed to mean we should just sit around (or stand) and wait for God to make something happen. But in my books faith is meant to be active. I know it’s a noun, but I prefer to think of it as a verb… a kind of ‘doing’… just as waiting should be a ‘doing’.

Can you think of other situations in which we can actively wait and thus move forward rather than be a victim of  inactivity?

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“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”

Isaiah 40:31a

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart.

Psalm 27:14a

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1,000 and still counting!

1000PostsWordPress tells me this is my 1,000th post. There are times when I wonder what you expect to find here when you visit, and whether you leave satisfied or disappointed. The truth is, when I write, I rarely worry about what readers want. Words spill out of my brain and spatter onto the page. If something is produced that appeals, that’s a good thing. If it falls flat, like a stone into a mud puddle, that’s okay, too. At least the words are out of my head and I’m free to move on to explore other ideas. You aren’t obliged to stick around either. But after Monday’s post, I’ve continued to think about my online identity and my purpose here. I never promised to produce brilliant treaties on meaningful topics. My mental meanderings on life and writing really do wander all over the place, and quite honestly, I’m not sure why you’d want to read any of them. Yet, since the summer of 2008 and after nearly eighty-two months in this space, you’re still turning up here, and so am I! It’s a comfortable place for me — a little like my family room, where I can curl up on the couch in front of the fireplace with the afghan and journal on my lap, and share anything that pops into my mind. The trouble is, some days not a lot of popping happens. On those occasions I clip my pen to the edge of the page, reach for my mug of coffee (sometimes it’s chai tea or a Diet Coke), lean back into the cushions and let the flames mesmerize me. IMGP6757_2 There isn’t always a story to be told … at least, not a specific one. Not one of significance or with an analogy and application. Sometimes there is, but not always. Today is one of those days. Today I’m simply celebrating one thousand posts and you. Thank you for being here and sharing this milestone with me.  You make it all worthwhile.

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To mark the occasion and also help express my thanks, I’m giving away a $20 Amazon or Starbucks gift certificate (your choice). I’ll draw a name at random from among those of you who leave a comment here between now and midnight Sunday (11:59 p.m. April 19th). I know not all of you who stop by here like to leave comments, but it’s the only fair way I can think of to choose someone. Check Monday’s post for announcement of the winner.

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“… I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you.” [Romans 1:8]

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Renos and Revisions: Decently and In Order

Renovations can be stressful. Being a contractor’s daughter, I shouldn’t be surprised by renovation woes — the delays, unavailability of ordered materials, and, of course, the mess.

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There’s a difference in being a contractor’s daughter, and being the affected homeowner. Now it’s personal. The problems that crop up, while apparently trivial to the contractors and suppliers, are a bigger deal to me.

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Quality of work is paramount, but reliability is important, too. When multiple contractors or technicians are involved, each is dependent on the others to do their tasks in a timely manner. When one is delayed, the effect ricochets down the line. Some delays are unavoidable; some are not. Some are a result of poor planning.

Last month I wrote about the minor kitchen reno we had started. The main contractor has been super, but a couple of the sub-trades have held up the process. The end should have been in sight today, but it’s not, and it’s frustrating. I tend to be impatient when it comes to inefficiency.

I related my other post to the writing/revision process and I now realize my current situation is also applicable, especially when it comes to revising a manuscript. Without effective planning, it can become a frustrating endeavour. If I begin with the wrong things — perhaps tweaking sentence structure and grammar — before dealing with larger issues such as plot holes, location of scenes or character development, I will find myself muddling along, going over previous ground multiple times, and inevitably having to redo earlier edits. That prolongs the task. My hubby likes to say things need to be done “decently and in order”.

Editor Danielle Stoia  says, “the editorial work on the road to publishing has three [progressive] stages: taking care of the FORM (Substantive Editing), the LANGUAGE (Editing or Copy Editing) and the final overview (Proofreading). Any and all manuscripts should go through these stages … and the need for this ‘quality control’ does not affect, infringe upon or otherwise criticize the quality of the writing or the author’s competence.”

We still have lots of little things to do in this reno — painting, installing a new range hood and light fixture, window coverings — but even if we went ahead and finished all of them, until this pesky tiled backsplash is done, the room will not function well or look complete. It’s one of the biggies!

(But at long last, today I have a sink, tap and running water again! WooHoo!)

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#wipMadness Day 19: Memories That Matter

IMG_0979 - Version 2Heritage items intrigue me although I’ve never been one to collect antiques. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, either. I like things with a history that is significant to my family — with some kind of personal connection. That’s why I treasure this glassware. I doubt the pieces have any monetary value, but they belonged to my maternal grandmother. They are older than I am, and I remember her using them on special occasions during my childhood.

IMG_0980 - Version 2Is it the memories or the items themselves that attract me? In this case, definitely it’s the memories. My personal taste doesn’t lean towards ornate anything, but I keep these pieces displayed in our china cabinet and enjoy my regular glimpses even if I don’t normally use them.

Memories are a big part of our existence, and yet when it comes to giving memories to my fictional characters, I forget how important they are.

After spending time creating  plot, conflict, and setting, too often I let my characters’ personalities develop solely through their actions and words. Without a past, characters can be two-dimensional. I’m trying to correct that in this manuscript. One of the reasons my progress has been so slow during March Madness, is because I’m taking time to get to know my characters better … finding out what happened in their past that is bound to influence their present.

Q4U: Do you give your characters a past, complete with memories that play a part in your story?

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Denise tells me she’s drawn the name of another prize winner. This time it’s… (insert drumroll here)…

 TANYA

Yay! Congratulations, Tanya!!! You can stop by Denise’s goal-setting post to select your prize from those that haven’t been crossed off the list, and then email Denise your choice at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com  .

We’re almost three-quarters through the month. (Can you believe Spring arrives tomorrow?) Are you satisfied with the progress you’re making towards your March goals? If not, what can you do differently during the next ten days that will leave you with good memories of the month’s achievement when it’s over? There’s still time to make your efforts count, Wipsters! :)

And don’t forget to check in tomorrow with Tonette de la Luna!

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Oh, no! It’s almost March Madness time again!

Didn’t we just have Christmas? How can we possibly be on the eve of March? I could swear the calendar is lying to me, but there are people around me mentioning March Madness in hushed voices.

IMGP7750_2It’s the writing version (not football), and it’s a collaborative effort where we all — writers, readers, illustrators, and bloggers — set our own goals for the month of March, and encourage each other towards reaching them. It’s all about commitment, accountability, encouragement and achievement.

As the coordinator, Denise Jaden has introduced it on her blog. I’m saving you clicking time by reprinting her message below, but if you’d like to join us you’ll need to click on over to her space on Sunday and add your name and goals in the comment section there so she has you registered.

Think about joining us. It’ll be a blast! At least, it will be once I get myself psyched up for the commitment. AND THERE’S JUST ONE MORE DAY TO DO IT! ACK!! ;)

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From Denise Jaden’s Blog

MARCH MADNESS Writing, Reading, and Blogging Challenge! #WIPMadness

It’s almost March and time for an Almost-Nano Challenge! If you have a writing project you’re ready to start, or a work in progress you’re ready to finish, come and join the fun. Accountability is our main aim and the more support we have, the easier it will be to sail on through the month of March, bouncing along on each others successes!

And, like last year, we’re opening up March Madness to readers who want to challenge themselves to read more, bloggers who want to challenge themselves to blog more, and illustrators who want to challenge themselves to illustrate more! Basically, anything to do with books!

And did I mention there will be PRIZES? Prizes will not be awarded based on how much you write, read, draw, or blog, but simply on how involved you are in the Big Accountability Plan. There will be check-in points most days throughout the month of March. Each time you check in and record your progress, your name will be entered into a draw for some great prizes, donated by our fabulous blog hosts, including some high demand advance copy books, audiobooks, and a writer’s survival kit! And not only that, but the more you encourage others along the way (in the comments), the more times your name will go into the hat!

Spread the word, and check out http://denisejaden.blogspot.com on Sunday, March 1st, to put your goals officially in writing and find out the locations of the check-in points. If you’re ready to get serious, don’t do it alone…Get serious with us!

Now is the time to be setting your Ambitious Goals for the month of March! (Trust me, you will be able to accomplish much more than you normally would with the added camaraderie and support, so don’t be afraid to set the bar a little higher.) If you haven’t already, start meeting up with us on Twitter under the hashtag #WIPMadness .

Please spread the word about this Challenge. There will be lots to win throughout the month and the more support we have, the better all of our goals will go this month!

So check back in at my blog March 1st. If you’re such a proud participant that you want to let everyone know, grab the March Madness badge from below, and put it somewhere prominent.
#Wipmadness Participant!

 

Everyone is welcome and the more the merrier! Let’s march into March like the mad group of writers we are!!!

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Okay, that’s the skinny on March Madness. Now start thinking about your goals, and on Sunday head on over to Denise’s place to share them and sign up!!

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From the Archives: Partying in the Bedroom

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Once the bed is made, thoughts or dreams from the night before usually disappear into the fabric of a new day. But not always. The following account comes from my 2008 archives.

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By 2:00 a.m. last night (technically, I guess it was this morning) I was ready to evict everyone. Some time prior to midnight characters from my novels had decided to gather at the foot of my bed and challenge my right to go to sleep.

Normally such nightly encounters are welcome. The twilight zone between yawning and oblivion is often my mind’s most productive time. As the day’s memories slip away they are replaced with solutions to story telling dilemmas that eluded me during an earlier writing session. Conversations with my characters are not unusual. It is in those not-quite-asleep-yet moments that just the right words jump into my unfettered brain.

What was distressing about last night’s group was that they weren’t the characters from only my current w.i.p. (work in progress), but also from the previous book. Granted, some of them appear in both, but their stories are not connected and last night’s dialogues won’t fit into either plot. It was a useless waste of my mental energy. I would rather have been sleeping, but the unruly guests wouldn’t go home.

We were out for dinner during the evening. Maybe I drank too much coffee? (Or not enough wine?)

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