Sleepers Begone!

 

Dogs

I bit the bullet today and deleted my Google+ account. It was a sleeper anyway — a place I rarely visited. My blog posts from here were set to automatically show up there as well as on Facebook, but when I chose where to spend my social media time, apart from here, Facebook usually won out, despite some of its features that annoy me.

Every time I checked my Gmail messages I would find some ‘interesting’ yet unknown-to-me man had added me to his Google+ circle. Today it was another military guy supposedly from Iraq. I’m supportive of our military, but don’t appreciate stalkers of any ilk.

Sleeping accounts are risky. Without monitoring, I don’t remember to change passwords, and that’s a security hazard. I don’t see inappropriate comments and spam. It truly is a situation where, excuse the cliche, one shouldn’t ‘let sleeping dogs lie’. Right! So, after considering its lack of usefulness to me, and without a twinge of guilt, I deleted the account.

I spend most of my online time here. Second on the list is Facebook, because that’s where most of my online friends hang out. A distant third is Twitter. I don’t find Twitter conversations particularly satisfying, but I do check my account regularly, albeit not often, because I believe visibility there is a useful tool for writers. But I no longer have to worry about who’s tiptoeing around me on Google+.

No more sleeping dogs! C’mon, guys! On your feet! It’s time for some activity. Let’s go for a walk.

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Where do you spend the majority of your online time? Do you ‘post and run’, or do you stick around for meaningful conversations? How useful is social media to you?

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The Intrusion of Real Life

Do you ever try to visualize what it would be like to live someone else’s life? Real life for some is a dream world for others.

There were days when I wondered if my life might have been different if I’d made different choices. The grass was greener, much greener where I envisioned I could be, and yet now, decades later, hindsight proves me wrong. Their colours might have seemed more appealing at the time, but the weeds and wildflowers grew just as abundantly in the grass on both sides of that fence. It was only my perspective that changed the view. I was exactly where God intended me to be.

Everyone’s life is filled with a lot of ordinariness, interrupted by occasional mountaintop and valley experiences.

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While I know perpetual tranquility would be boring, during times of upheaval and crisis I’m pretty sure most people wish life could be more serene.

I have family members who are currently wishing for less upheaval in their lives. What seemed like a simple plumbing-related flood upstairs in their home on December 9th resulted in damage also being done to several areas downstairs. The insurance and restoration companies were quick to tear out walls, ceiling and floors, to get drying underway. The repairs, however, are taking several weeks — which, when you are having to live somewhere else until the work is completed, is frustrating enough. When full weeks go by  and nobody comes to do any work, or when a carpenter arrives by himself, and puts in an unproductive day, working slowly while admitting he wants to get paid for as many hours as possible, it becomes downright maddening.

Almost eight full weeks have gone by, and it’s obvious there are more yet to come. Cold, hard “real” life continues to intrude on their daily existence as family members live out of suitcases and add extra commuting time to work and school schedules. It’s stressful for them, trying to carry on with all their normal activities under these abnormal circumstances. And yet they do it.

The thing is, they aren’t the only people who have to cope with the intrusion of the unexpected. I often read other author blogs and Facebook posts and note how their writers mention the impact of unexpected events, but they still manage to meet their writing, editing and publishing deadlines.

It’s a reality that we do what we have to. We compromise on the unimportant in order to give priority to the important. It’s a strange reality that no matter how challenged we may be by life, we always manage to make time for the things that are important to us. At least, it seems that way to me.

While the insurance company handles the paperwork at an unemotional distance, I hope my family members make it through this upheaval without any nervous breakdowns.

Have you experienced any inconvenient intrusions of “real life” and had to function around them? How did it work out for you?

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Reading for writers

I hear it all the time. If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader. It’s logical, but apparently not considered necessary by some aspiring authors. I’m not sure how a person can know how to write or what is worthwhile to be written if they don’t read extensively. But what should we read, and what’s considered extensive?

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I included the above photo in a 2011 post, displaying how-to books from my bookshelves on the topic of writing. Did reading them make me a better writer? A successful writer? I don’t think so. I learned what other people said I needed to know and do. Trying to apply what I learned — trying repeatedly — has been a step in the right direction, but it’s hard work, and I still have a long way to go.

More than craft books about writing, what’s important to read is well written narrative by successful authors … in any genre, but especially in the one we are trying to write. We need to be able to recognize good writing before we can hope to produce it.

Reading isn’t an option for writers, it’s a requirement; and it isn’t an either/or thing. If you read at the expense of actually writing, you’ll defeat yourself before you start. You don’t have time to do both, you say. Make time. Yes, I know it’s hard, but nobody promised being a writer would be easy.

An article on Hugh C. Howey’s blog earlier this week talked about the dream of becoming a professional writer. In “So You Want to be a Writer“, he suggested the goal is attainable — that a lifestyle of “sitting in your underwear, hearing voices, talking to people who are not there, mumbling to yourself, Googling how to dispose of bodies and the firing rate of an uzi submachine gun” can be achieved, provided we’re willing to do certain things.

There are ten points Howey offers as priorities we need to consider if we want to be successful at writing, and perhaps make a living at it. I wish I could reproduce the whole article here — it’s that good — but, of course, I can’t. Here’s an excerpt:

“…here’s the #1 secret to success and a career of working in your underwear: You have to work harder than anyone else. Period.

“Look around. What are other aspiring writers doing? That’s your ground floor. Your minimum. That’s where you begin. Double that. I promise you, this is the easiest path to success. What follows is specifics. But this is the general rule: Work harder than anyone else. If you don’t have this as your benchmark, you are going to have to rely on too much luck. And this blog post isn’t about the luck, it’s about how to minimize your required dosage.

“Let me tell you about my luck. I was lucky in that I started writing when a whole lot of people were working a whole let less. The amount of effort required to make it as a writer today is in some ways greater, even as the tools of access have lowered the barriers to entry. Yes, barriers are down. And yes, the castle courtyard is now more crowded. So you’ve got to do more than your neighbor. [Below], I’ve ranked the priorities I believe you should have and how to approach them. Anyone who follows this list has a great chance of making a living as a writer. I don’t say this as someone who saw it work for me; I say this as someone who has studied the hell out of this industry and profession, who has taken a very large sample of those trying to make it and those who are making it, and finding out what the latter group has in common and what separates them from the former.”

The rest of the article contains the other nine priorities, and I highly recommend you click over — here — to read the rest. I’m going back to read it again myself. I think it should be compulsory reading for all aspiring authors.

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What’s your philosophy about writers and reading? What have you read lately that is helping to make you a better writer?

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Another Mañana Morning

While I’m immersed in other Monday morning things like puppy training and NaNoWriMo writing, I hope you won’t mind this 2009 rerun from the archives…

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Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m not a morning person. While I’m thankful for each new day, I waken groggy, slow to acknowledge its presence. I’m always in awe of writers who rise before dawn to snatch hours of quiet creativity before the rest of the world has left their beds.

I think I may have been a mañana kind of person in a previous life – not the “esta mañana” kind but a “hasta mañana”, a let-me-sleep-and-I’ll-see-you-tomorrow sort.

mexicantime234Maybe that’s why I was drawn to Tony Cohan’s book, ON MEXICAN TIME. When Los Angeles novelist Tony Cohan and his artist wife, Masako, visited central Mexico one winter, they fell under the spell of a place where the pace of life is leisurely, the cobblestone streets and sun-splashed plazas are enchanting, and the sights and sounds of daily fiestas fill the air. Awakened to needs they didn’t know they had, they returned to California, sold their house, and cast off for San Miguel de Allende.”

(My friend Joylene Butler has taken to doing something similar. For the second winter in a row she and her hubby have traded their usual northern winter for six months of Mexico’s warmer climate. I call it escaping reality, Joylene. LOL)

Cohan writes of a sensual ambience and a sometimes languorous lifestyle that suits my version of time … at least, my mornings. Eventually my days gather speed as I muster enthusiasm for their upcoming tasks. Coffee helps.

That’s what I need this morning: coffee. Perhaps a cup of one of the excellent organically grown coffees from Mexico. That would do it. Okay, I’m off to fill my favourite mug. :)

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Starting another new month, and NaNoWriMo

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There’s nothing realistic about the premise of National Novel Writing Month, i.e., that “the world needs your novel”. No, it doesn’t. It isn’t likely to need the 50,000 words that will spew uncontrolled from the chaos of my less-than-organized mind.

But I need them, and I need NaNoWriMo. I need the discipline to force those words out of my head, onto a page, into a manuscript where they can then be rearranged and revised into something resembling the story I’ve been imagining.

So now that November is here, I’m once again committed to participating in NaNoWriMo for a month of BICHOK (the acronym for Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard). My name on the NaNo website is Wildwood Gal, if you’re looking for a buddy. I may cheat during this first week because I have a completed manuscript that requires another read-through and minor revisions before I’ll be ready to start something new; but you can be sure I’ll be working on words every day, all month.

What’s your project during this new month? If you’re writing, are you taking part in NaNoWriMo, or do you have a personal goal? 

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Talking About Aging

This is the fourth year in a row that my friend Diana Trautwein has taken up October’s 31 Day Writing Challenge. She says, “First was 31 Days in Which I Am Being Saved by Beauty (2012), then there were 31 Days of Giving Permission (2013), and last year, it was 31 Days of Looking for the Little.

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This year the theme is 31 Days of Aging Gracefully. I haven’t joined her in the writing, but I delight in reading her words. Diana is a gracious lady, full of wisdom and deep faith. She is also a gifted communicator.

Signature-Headshot-Left-2225x270If you read the Bio on her blog, you’ll discover that for over twenty years she was a stay-at-home mom, then owned a small floral business for seven years. In mid-life she went to seminary, answered a call to pastoral ministry, and finally retired at the end of 2010 after seventeen years in two churches. At present she is a certified spiritual director and writer.

She says she’s trying to be a better writer, “to tell the stories God has written in [her] life.” I don’t know how much better she can get. She already writes with honesty and a clarity that sometimes leaves me breathless. For anyone facing or contemplating increasing age (and isn’t that all of us?), I highly recommend bookmarking Diana’s blog, Just Wondering, and following her October daily entries as she shares her very personal reflections on this sensitive topic.

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Diana says, “This is a year of facing into reality for me. I turned 70 in January, I landed in the hospital in February and again, at the end of April. I traveled to Kauai in July with our entire clan to celebrate FIFTY years of marriage, and in August, my husband and I moved, downsizing after 18 years in a much-loved larger home with a huge yard. Yeah, it was time. It IS time.” [To continue reading, please click the October 1st link:

October 1 — The 31-day Write
October 2 — Living In Gratitude
October 3 — Slowing Down

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I have miles to go…

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(Consider clicking on photos for a larger view.)

In round numbers, we drove about 500 miles on a weekend in mid-July, then 600 more on a round trip to our Cariboo cabin in early August, and another 1000 to the Kootenays and back in the past couple weeks. I am always awestruck by the seemingly endless miles of wilderness in our province, and how long it takes to get anywhere.

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Although he was speaking of a winter landscape, Robert Frost said it well:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.
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It takes time and effort to travel any major distance, whether it’s a journey by car or by pen. Wherever we’re going, we must stay the course or we’ll never reach our destination.
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A novel of 90,000 words may take one writer only a few weeks, and another, several years. The speed doesn’t matter as much as the consistency of effort. (There’s a lesson for all of us in the story of the tortoise and the hare.)
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As mentioned in my previous post, I abandoned the journey on a short story this month, not so much because I wasn’t enjoying the writing, but more because the effort lacked purpose. Not to say I won’t ever finish the story. One day I might, but I’ll need a better reason than to meet the deadline for a contest of dubious value to me.
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I want to feel passion for a story — a yearning to record and share its characters and their message. I want to immerse myself in the creation of words that will transport me into and through their world. A novel-in-progress is beckoning me to put aside less challenging distractions and get back to work.
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A journey awaits.
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I’m curious. What motivates you to write?
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