Writing Goals

Writers Write: Five Hundred is the Goal

It’s no secret that I have trouble committing to anything I’m not getting paid to do. I also procrastinate. For instance, I was supposed to write this post on Sunday evening. I can’t imagine that I was doing anything that would have warranted my not writing the post then. I had the task written on my calendar. I had the freedom and time to keep my word to myself.

I found last week that in order not to lose the voice and tone of my novel, I need to work on it daily. I didn’t just pull this goal out of the air without reason. So, I’m going to fight to keep it. Even when it mess up. I’m going to keep trying.

This weekend I said I would give myself the goal of writing five hundred words towards my creative writing project a day. Even while exhausted I should be able to keep this goal. Even on posting days. I realize I may miss Wednesdays – that’s a day where its normally impossible to find the time to do anything. But on every other day of the week, I’m going to make writing a priority. I deserve this commitment to myself. Wish me luck.

Writing Goals

The Art of Finishing: Maintaining Voice

I’m a one-off sort of person. Every now and then I may say or do something inspired, maybe even profound. I have commanded attention with my brilliance, but before I can really revel in the moment, before i can pat myself on the back, I am equally known to follow up my greatness with blatant and embarrassing stupidity.

A fear years ago I was sitting in a lecture when the writing instructor spat out a list of rules and terms he wanted us to use as a writing prompt. I had one of my one-off moments in that lecture. I totally killed the prompt. It as glorious.

For the first time in my life, a one-off moment seemed as if it would last forever. I was able to stretch that brief exercise into nineteen chapters. The new writing style was unfamiliar but every time I sat down to work the characters, the plot, the setting, the voice – all of the confidence of that moment came back to me. It felt like I wouuld be able to pull it off forever.

And then I finished the MFA program and took a break from creative work. In that short time period, I lost it all . I could no longer find the tone, the voice, the pacing. None of it felt accessible.

Since last month, when my writer’s group decided to come back together again, I tried to reenter the story. I tried reading aloud, editing chapters, and freewriting. None of it worked. I only got discouraged.

As I mentioned last week, one of the ladies in the group suggested I work on a character diary so I could get to know my characters’ motivations. And I did. I wrote through different narrator so that I might free myself over the loss of my voice. I wrote knowing that I would never use any of the words for my final project. I wrote and wrote.

Last night, while rereading the last section I’d written in the diary, it all came back. The voice reappeared out of nowhere without warning.

Writers like King and several of my MFA mentors believe in a daily writing practice. Ive tried to commit to such a practice and failed. But now, afer these months of sitting before a blank screen waiting to fall in where I left off, I realized that the secret to consistency is practice. I have to keep the fires burning. Voice, especially this unfamiliar one, needs for me to come back every day in order to interact with it. The voice and I have to remain in constant conversation if we’re ever to know each other well enough to grow together. We have to make whatever sacrified we need to make in order to carry each other through.

Uncategorized

2020 Goals: #1 Adding Backstory

Last week my writer’s group met for our first meeting of the year. I was an hour late because of an extended church service and arrived just in time to have the first four short chapters of my novel critiqued 😟.

I didn’t get terrible comments but what I did get were lots of questions regarding my characters and their motivations. Although I could provide ideas and explanations that were none too convincing even to me, I realized I didn’t honestly have any definite answers.

During my MFA years, I thought creating a character diary was a waste. I figured that as a true pantser it would all work out. Plus, I only had so much time to spend on writing. There were always due dates and other responsibilities looming over my head.

That’s not the case now. I don’t have a lot of free time but I do have just enough to take my craft seriously. So, for the next two weeks I’m going to finally create my first character diary. I’m going to set a goal to break down the backstory of every character in the novel: their childhoods, their hopes, dreams, family dynamics and motivations.

If do it right, by the next meeting I should be able to answer any questions that may come my way. If I’m lucky I may have enough info to write a short story or two to send out for publication.

Believers

The Art of Finishing: Characters are Real People Too

Outside of the soon-to-be consistent blog posts and the journaling I do when I’m wrestling with my emotions, all of my writing is fictional. I make up worlds, characters, and story lines for fun. I lie as a form of creative expression. However, I recently realized how close to the truth most of my work is. In one way or another I identify with all of my flawed and unsympathetic characters, even the worst of them.

My characters are the hidden reactions I stifle in order to survive in the free world. They are the what-ifs. What if I had been born at this time and had to deal with this manner of injustice? What if my parents were proud but weak? What if I was a wife who hated her husband but needed to be loved by him?

The characters I write are not nice people. They are misogynists. They are indifferent to the plights of those who struggle around them. They are selfish, impatient, and cruel.

It makes me nervous to think that when readers meet my characters they will judge me for allowing those people to live inside my head. I am a believer, but my imagination is not easily explained and probably not justifiable. It is filled with brokenness.

Does that make me wrong – to have so many flawed people inside my imagination? This is one of the reasons I have had trouble finishing a draft of my novel. I’m afraid of what it might say about me.

Uncategorized

Nanowrimo 2019 – It’s a Mood

Nanowrimo starts this week and I’m preparing for it by lying on my couch with an entire blanket coiled around my neck. (My throat hurts and I’ve convinced myself that the blanket is a healing agent.) I have a mug of salted caramel tea steaming on top of my Star Trek: The Next Generation coaster, a handful of cough drops, and yesterday I checked Dreyer’s English out of the library. I’ve already read the first chapter. As far as I’m concerned, I have my tool kit! I’m ready to write.

For reasons I’m not entirely sure about, I chose not to prepare an outline or chapter guides… and I barely remember the names of the characters I was hoping to cover in the next sections of the story, but I have hope. I hope that when I sit down in front of my laptop the words will pour out of the large black void I call my imagination and ooze onto the lines of my Google Doc’s page. I hope that whatever talent I was able to muster during my two and a half year-long master’s program will snap back into place.

I haven’t won Nanowrimo since 2015. I haven’t been consistent about writing since I finished my MFA and I need a good kick in the butt. The judgmental gaze of my family hasn’t done the trick. Maybe the 50,000-word count goal is the answer. Maybe Nanowrimo will reignite my focus.

Believers, Time Management

The Believers Guide to Time Management

I’m pretty busy. I have a teenaged son. I work full time and I’m also in a master’s program. I became active in my church a few months ago and am helping to plan a women’s conference. On top of that, today I decided it was a good time to finally learn to cook.

Two years ago, when I started school, I tried to soothe my fear of deadlines by studying time management practices. I read Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning in hopes that I would find my answer in an early start. I subscribed to podcasts marketed to female entrepreneurs and moms. I thought that if I gathered all the right information I would find the right tools.

Despite every attempt to manage my time; despite color-coded schedules and calendar apps with timed notifications; despite task lists and reminders, I found myself failing horribly at getting things done.

This morning it occurred to me that the problem isn’t that I haven’t found the right book, radio program or mentor. My issue is that I haven’t turned my day, my desires, and my tasks over to God.

The Bible says, in Psalms 37:23, that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. James 4:15 also says For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live and do this, or that.

After reading those scriptures, I wondered if accomplishing my goals isn’t so much about setting aside blocks of time as it is about taking ordered steps? I wonder if it isn’t so much about making plans and struggling to keep them as it is about turning everything over to the Lord to manage?

What does that look like in practice? I think it looks like taking everything to the Lord in prayer. What I hope to do over the next coming weeks is to remember to hand my day over to God, considering my obligations like work, church and the responsibilities that come with parenting a busy teenager. My yes has to be my yes (Matthew 5:37), so anything I have agreed to: volunteering in the church bookstore, paying my bills, showing up to work on time, having my son at school on time, turning in my schoolwork on the due date, those things have to be done. I have to make those things a priority and I have to pray for the strength, endurance and favor to accomplish them, while trusting and believing that I’m can do all things through Christ.

The key is to prioritize prayer and reading scripture. As I ask for my daily bread I have to receive and eat it. I have to make time to hear God clearly so that I can follow whatever direction He has for me for each moment of the day with an open heart in case I have to refocus my assignments.

For the past few months, I have been repeatedly reminded that I must seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33). If we seek the kingdom first, and make God and his righteousness our focus, I think He’ll help us to manage everything else. And I think it will be his good pleasure to do so.

Uncategorized, Writing Goals

Countdown to Excellence

I have no idea if anyone noticed, but I added a countdown clock to my page. I am going to finish the first draft of my first novel by the end of 2018. I’ve decided. More than once. And I’ve said so on this page several times.

But as I sit on my couch staring at the wallpaper on my TV screen,  with a thousand important things to do looming in the background, and buried under the weight of the many promises I’ve failed to keep, I’ve decided I’m going to do my best with this one. Why not make another promise?!! What will it hurt?

As I’ve tired of lying to you, I won’t say that I’ll post my progress, but I hope to. I hope to report that I’m progressing like the good and committed writer that I could be if I only put forth a bit of effort. I can do it. I know I can. Just you wait and see!

Believers, Encourage Yourself, Uncategorized

Renewed and Ready?

Today is Sunday – my favorite day of the week (until about 6pm, when it really sinks in that I have to report to work the next day). Don’t get me wrong, I love Saturdays. Saturdays are wonderful, but often busy with errands, chores, and other responsibilities. Sundays are supposed to be chill: church, a good meal, a few hours of relaxation.

desk-keyboard-typing-8264When I woke this morning, my plan was to write out my schedule in my planner, post to each of my blogs, read Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and start my Camp Nanowrimo writing. It’s after 8 PM and so far, I have completed none of those things.

Today, my pastor told the congregation to be doers. At the time, I took it as “go do something,” but I think he meant more than that. I think he meant, become a doer. It felt like my pastor was saying, do something consistently and your reputation for doing will proceed you.

This year, all of our sermons have been about real change. This blog was supposed to reflect that. I’m trying. My hope was to work a  little bit by little bit, one word at a time, one decision at a time. Luckily, it’s not too late to start. I can still win Camp Nano. Today’s only the 8th. I can read a few pages of Gilead before I turn in for the night, and I’m typing my post now. I’m doing something. I’m moving forward.

Believers, Time Management, Uncategorized, Writing Goals

Write the Vision

My uncle just sent me a text that said “Write the Vision.” I’ve been told that by different people more than three times in the past two weeks.

I have several apps that are supposed to help me do just that: goal apps, to-do apps, habit trackers. You name it, I have it.

There’s gotta be some truth to the advice. I listen to several productivity podcasts, get a half dozen motivational emails and texts, and they all seem to come back to:

And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. (Habakkuk 2:2 King James Version KJV)

Which leads me to ask, “Am I supposed to be running?” Until I copied that verse into this post, I’d never noticed the second part of the scripture. I don’t run!

I tackle my to-do lists a little at a time. I procrastinate. I linger over the checkboxes on whatever app I’m using and do little. WHO KNEW I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE RUNNING?!!! And I bet it’s a long race. The Bible is big on endurance.

For the record, at the time of writing I feel tricked, bamboozled and downright lazy. I’m out of shape. I wasn’t ready to run. I was barely ready to walk fast and now the stakes are higher! THE STAKES ARE HIGHER!

I’d better order some running shoes. I’d better learn how to stretch myself.