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…

Coffee Owls

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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So Many Books, So Little Time!

I’m sharing an article from the archives today, updated from its original posting in 2008.

But FIRST… I have to share my daughter’s exciting news! Her first publishing contract! Head over to Shari’s blog and read about it, then come back here to continue. 🙂

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“So many books, so little time.”  If you Google this phrase you’ll come up with about 563,000,000 results — everything from a link to the quote attributed to Frank Zappa, to Sara Nelson’s book documenting a year of her passionate reading, assorted articles on the subject, even a forum of the same name on the Indigo/Chapters site debating about what ten books you might take if you knew you were going to be stranded on a desert island.

Summer Reading GraphicFor me, the words stand alone, not as a title for anything. They emerge from my mouth sounding more like a moan, even a wail, expressing my frustration that there are more books that I want to read than there are hours left in my life. (And I’m planning for a lot of those!)

Selecting what to read — what’s worthy of my time — is always a dilemma. So I could relate to a  blog entry written some years ago by literary agent Jessica Faust.  Here’s an excerpt:

“I somehow had the impression that as a recent college grad, or just an intelligent woman, I should be reading more intelligent books (whatever that means). In other words, I should be catching up on the classics I missed out on as a journalism major or reading only books that incited great philosophical discussions… It took me a long time to accept and advertise the fact that I was a commercial fiction girl… I think all readers evolve and grow over time and eventually find their niche. I hear often from those who read only fantasy as young people and now have grown to read different kinds of fiction, and I hear from others who still can’t stomach commercial fiction but love nothing more than to cuddle into a long classic. Some typically enjoy longer literary works, but when life is tough or getting them down, they will pull out a favorite romance or thriller. What we read and when we’re reading it can say a lot about who we are in that time of our life, just like the music we listen to and the movies we watch.”

I wonder what my reading choices say about me. I’m definitely not scholarly. Today’s post is a re-run from my archives, but at the time it was first posted, my virtual coffee table held the following: Fiction — “Leota’s Garden” by Francine Rivers, “Carlyle’s House” by Virginia Woolf, “Light on Snow” by Anita Shreve and Kirsty Scott’s “Between You & Me”. Non-fiction: Julia Cameron’s “The Sound of Paper”, Des Kennedy’s “Crazy About Gardening”, and John Fischer’s “Be Thou My Vision” (daily meditation).

Reading vies with writing for possession of my time. No matter how much I spend on either, it’s never enough! I need to live to be 120!

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QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

  • Are your reading choices eclectic, or do you have favourite authors or themes that govern what you read?
  • Are your summer book choices lighter reading than what you choose during the rest of the year?
  • What’s on your coffee table (or bedside table) right now?
  • What’s on your summer reading list … anything you’d like to recommend?

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Five-Minute Challenge: Musing about CHANGE

Leaves twist and curl, flip their skirts in the breeze and tease with silver undersides. Photo-synthesis slows and autumn’s chill changes green to gold.  The season is edging away from what was, to what will be, tugging me with it.

Time slides into space, today melding into tomorrow, and I sort and decide: what belongs in which pile? Sandals and boots, stories and dreams. I yield to the slipping away with its unexpected abbreviations. Some things change while others never do. Shall I return to the familiar or venture into the new? Indecision buzzes with the view of changing options in life and writing while decision is wrapped in a cocoon of translucent fear, waiting to be released. Waiting for what?

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Indulging myself in a five-minute free writing challenge on the topic of ‘change’. If you’d like to join me, post the results of your five minutes on your blog and let me know in the comment section. I’d love to hear what ‘change’ means to you.

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“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)
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Reading instead of, or in addition to, writing


My post last Friday began with, I don’t have time to write… or do I? Silly question. If we’re novelists, we make time, because our passion for storytelling drives us to get the words out.

But what about reading? If we’re writers, making time to write can be challenging enough. Who has time to read? At a workshop a writing colleague said she crammed her writing into isolated moments of busy days and evenings, and there were absolutely no other free moments left. If she chose to read, she wouldn’t be able to write.

My thought is, if you aren’t reading, and reading extensively, you probably aren’t much of a writer anyway. Sorry, I know that’s blunt, but that’s how I feel, and I’m not alone.

On Jessica Morrell’s website she has a column entitled, Reading and the Writing Life in which she says, The only way to become a writer (and I’m paraphrasing Stephen King and many others here) is to read a lot and write a lot. Reading is part of your job; in fact, it’s a huge part of your job. I’m writing on this topic today because I keep meeting writers who are writing fiction or other genres, but don’t read it. In fact, I meet writers who don’t read much at all. They claim they don’t have time. I don’t get it. You’ve got to make the time. Reading like a writer is living like a writer.”

I admit to the luxury of having more free time than many people. I read every moment I can, yet the pile waiting on my TBR shelf is constantly growing instead of diminishing. There’s never enough time to read everything I’d like to, but I keep trying.

I’m the last person who ought to offer advice to another writer struggling with the time dilemma (although I’ve occasionally tried), so I’m asking for your input:

  • On average, how much do you usually read?
  • What genre do you read? And is it the genre you write?
  • When do you do most of your reading?
  • How do you ‘make time’ for reading?

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 I hope you’ll join me here on Friday for an interview with author Jody Hedlund
as we celebrate the publication of her second novel and give away a copy of it.

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I Don’t Have Time (or Do I?)

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I’ve just returned from a few days away.  Being short on time and inspiration I’m offering a re-post from 2009 that I hope you’ll find timely. I’ll be back on Monday.

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Someone once asked me if I’m disciplined. Disciplined? Me? That’s a relative term and I had to ask for clarification before answering. After all, if she could see my haphazard approach to housework, she wouldn’t need to ask. But the reference was to daily writing so I was able to affirm that yes, I do write every day, although not always at the same hour. I’m not that disciplined.

Not everyone agrees daily writing is essential to an author’s success, but those who have read about Morning Pages, Weekly Walks and Artist’s Dates will know Julia Cameron isn’t one of those people. She is a remarkably self-disciplined author, artist, composer, filmmaker, teacher and journalist. It doesn’t matter how she feels, where she is, or how much time she does or doesn’t have, her creative commitment is always fulfilled. Whenever I feel as if I don’t have time to write, I think of something I read in her book, The Right to Write.

She says, “The “if-I-had-time” lie is a convenient way to ignore the fact that novels require being written and that writing happens a sentence at a time. Sentences can happen in a moment. Enough stolen moments, enough stolen sentences, and a novel is born–without the luxury of time.” *

My dictionary defines disciplined as “showing orderliness and control in the way something is done or somebody behaves.” When it comes to writing, we are the ones who control our own output. For me the daily question is: will I take control and make time today?

As you start into your Fall routines, are you scheduling specific time for your writing, or simply hoping you’ll be able to squeeze out whatever you need?

* The Right to Write, Julia Cameron (Tarcher/Putnam, 1998)

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Making Better Use of My Time

 

Google Reader helps keep my blog-reading habit under control. One day I took the time to enter the URLs of my favourite blogs as ‘subscriptions’ and now I can access them all in one place. A quick glance lets me know which ones have new postings so I don’t have to waste time travelling to each bookmarked blog to check.

Sounds simple enough, but on second thought my opening sentence is misleading. Better to say that Google Reader consolidates my favourite blogs into one place. Period. Nothing really keeps my blog hopping under control except self discipline or good old lack of time. But what it does is allow me to use my blog-reading time to better advantage.

That’s how I managed to catch up on some of my favourites while taking a brief break from NaNoWriMo this morning. That’s how I discovered I’d missed two valuable posts by Rosslyn Elliott. That’s how I was inspired to create this post. I still haven’t made it back to NaNoWriMo.

Something Rosslyn said created an eureka moment – one of those ‘I knew that but she said it so much better than I could’ thoughts. In What Makes a Novel Feel Real? – Part 1, she suggested, Don’t get so focused on a slamdunk pace that [you] leave out the everyday moments, the normalcy that makes the novel feel real.… I’m not saying we should never have burning buildings, but unless we balance those events with the more mundane dramas that fill most of our lives, novels feel fake.”

I’m not going to re-run her posts, but I do suggest you go read both of them. I’m heading back to Google Reader now to re-read her Part 2. Then I really have to get back to my NaNo novel. At 21,300 words I still have a long way to go, and today is already the middle of our NaNo’ing month!

To reiterate Rosslyn’s question, what does it take to make a novel feel ‘real’ to you?

Autumn Nostalgia

On the way into town today leaves fluttered from trees and floated across the road in windy disarray. So many barren branches compared to just a week ago. Now that clocks have been turned back, the extra few minutes of morning light are welcome, but evening sunsets are too early. It’s hard to steel myself to face twilight before I’ve even had my dinner.

As we whizzed past winter-readied fields I thought of our own gardens with their mushy hostas and wilted lily spears, faded hydrangea blooms and brittle astilbe feathers. I’ve ignored the fall cleanup process in favour of NaNoWriMo writing. I’ll be sorry next spring when new growth struggles to emerge from under the debris.

Autumn Sky

Colour still haunts the few leaves clinging to our blueberry bushes, but the lilac shrubs are bare. There is melancholy in late fall – regret for the passing of another season – but it is tempered with the promise that after winter’s hiatus the cycle will begin again.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

(I Chronicles 16:34)

On the Go

One of the frustrations of my life is how often a good photo opportunity is lost. My DH likes to travel from point A to B, reaching a destination with as few stops as possible, so most of my en route photography is done through the vehicle windshield at 100 kph. It’s hard to plan the composition of a shot at that speed. Most times I just point, click and hope.

This was one of the unsuccessful attempts to capture gorgeous green moss clinging to the craggy roadside rocks. I never did get the shot. The blur shows how the scene flashed by.

It reminds me of how quickly my holiday disappeared. Time is a strange commodity, dragging on forever when one is waiting in anxious anticipation, but slipping from one’s grasp when one would like to savour it.

Are your stories sagas that take place over a character’s lifetime or are they focused on specific incidents? How do you use time to complement conflict and mood?

Mornings, or maybe not…

Morning drifts into my consciousness, hesitates and leaves again. On its next attempt it flits and flickers like a butterfly darting from one flower to another. Oh, bother! I guess it really is time to wake up.

Eyes squinting against the light I ease out from under the duvet, stretch, stumble to the closet for my housecoat.  I wrap the lush velour close with a tug on its belt, sealing out the early chill.

Early? Who am I kidding? It’s 8:00 a.m. I am SO not a morning person! I think I’ve mentioned my fridge magnet before… the one that says, “I would like mornings better if they started at some other time of day.” My brain eases into gear slowly, reluctant to part with remnants of the night’s dreams, opening slowly to the new day… a morning glory unfurling. Okay, that’s a bit over the top. Maybe not so much like a morning glory.

Obviously I’m not a morning person. I’m in awe of writers who willingly leap from underneath the covers an hour before they have to, so they can squeeze in an extra hour of writing before the rest of their workday gets under way. My internal compass wouldn’t function at that hour; I’d never find my way to the computer let alone find words. If I have a choice I’ll always take midnight creativity over morning brain dredging.

How about you? Can you write efficiently whenever you set your mind to it, or have you identified your prime time?