Finding Inspiration Everywhere

If you haven’t yet, please subscribe at the new blog address HERE.

While I feel writing is my artistic outlet, there are times where producing actual writing is hampered, by real life, by other interests and responsibilities, by the lack of time. This happens to be one of those two week periods where finding a good, solid block of writing time is just not possible.

It’s not that I’m lazy – well, yes, I’m kind of lazy, although I’m trying to reform myself. It’s not like I’m lying around eating bonbons and watching daytime TV (which I guess is now NOT soaps and might be Judge Judy). I work – a lot, in fact, it’s a holiday and I’m taking a break from work right now (and the phone is ringing off the hook! Shouldn’t they be barbecuing or something?) I have a huge house and a bigger yard that I maintain on my own (with the help from the other half), and there are other commitments that eat into time. It’s not unusual, in fact, you could say that outside influences are a prevailing factor amongst us “struggling” artists. It’s a monumental struggle to create.

Still, you can find inspiration everywhere.

I force myself to do writing prompts. I’m currently doing 21 Moments (I’d link you, but this month will be the last set). Short writing prompts are the easiest. They take about 30 minutes to complete, perfect for those days where a block of three or four hours just doesn’t exist.

Even without the prompts, life gives you plenty of opportunities to explore your creative side. I have a huge vegetable garden, and have had to devote many days recently (thank heavens the days are sunny and clear!) to tending it.

At my age, I rather enjoy gardening. There’s something organic about the human hand digging in dirt, getting rid of the weeds, planting new material and seeds. There’s an order, a certain Zen about it. It’s the circle of life, and hopefully in a few months, I’ll be able to bring the fruits of my labor to the table. In the quiet of the early morning hours, I can entertain entire conversations in my head, play out plots and scenes, and think about the larger picture.

During breaks, I scribble down the meat of the moment. I’ll uncover it later, and use it in my writing.

It might seem strange, but I find cooking gives me a similar artistic charge. Many modern people think cooking is a bore, that it takes a lot of time, that you can nourish yourself a lot quicker through a drive-through or with ready-made meals. Not me. Home cooking takes a little forethought but it’s not difficult. There’s a care and love in making a meal, and the machinations always translate into tasty literary morsels. In fact, I’m working on a story with food as an underlying theme.

(I used to be able to write at work; unfortunately, things are more stressful now than they used to be.)

Art can be born of any action. The artist has to take a germ of an idea and go from there.

Any art takes a commitment. The artist has to be able to carve out time from the day to create.

It’s a daunting task, but you can find inspiration everywhere.

Real Life Bulldozer

I have to admit this, but as a writer, I’ve been really bad.

No, really, really bad. (Note the use of that adverb. It’s doubled, italicized, and bolded for a reason.) In fact, I’m almost a non-writer.

I won’t go into the grim specifics, but let’s just say that Real Life is kicking my ass.

The older I get, the more I realize there aren’t enough minutes in a day. Honest to God, it was just February and my return from the San Francisco Writers Conference last week! Wasn’t it?

I have three edits printed and waiting for me to slice and dice. Okay. So I did get to one of them about a month ago and made some significant progress, but then… yes. I ended up nowhere near my computer as I raced from one end of the world to the other.

So what do you do when life bitch-slaps you and leaves you with no time?

This is what I’ve been doing.

1. Write in my little notebook. The one I carry in my purse, religiously. I jot down ideas, lists, emotions, character traits I want to use later. Names. Places. Smells. Sights and sounds. It takes just a second. Sure it’s not a novel, probably it’s not serious, but every little bit helps.

2. Read. Here, I’m not doing so well, even with Kindle on my iPhone. BUT… I have discovered Audible.com. I am listening to THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand. I’m up to Chapter Three. I mostly listen in the car or…

3. While exercising. Because if you’re not going to exercise your brain, you might as well work out. Not that working out has made this aging hipster a babe. In fact, while losing a pants size, I have gained two pounds. Go figure.

4. Channeling my creativity to other endeavors. You don’t know how beautifully I can scrub soap scum off my shower tile. Of course, I have to break the chore up into four days. I can’t hack away in one sitting. Cooking is another way to expand on creativity, and it doesn’t take much time. Cooking, however, is fraught with pitfalls. According to my husband, who rails against my creme brulee or cherry duck, I should stop cooking altogether. But when I do, he gets mad.

5. Gardening. It is somewhat time consuming, but at least there are edibles at the end of the season.

6. As a writer, you should give yourself a simple, stupid-easy to accomplish task to achieve daily. Mine is THIS. I know. It’s frivolous, it’s silly, it’s dumb even, but it only takes me five minutes.

7. Buy a tool to help you in your quest to write. My current is 642 Things to Write About. I picked this book up at the airport in San Francisco on the way back from the writers conference (like I needed extra books? my bag was stuffed full of books -and wine), for a couple of reasons: 1., I am a HUGE Chronicle Books groupie, and 2., I often find myself without writing prompts. In fact, I just filled out a page yesterday.

Writing during real life can be done, although, the road isn’t exactly a scenic drive on new asphalt.  When the bulldozer threatens to mow you down, push back, even if the only tool you have is a child’s beach shovel.

It’s the only way to write.

Regrets and Resolutions: A Writer’s End of Year

I honestly don’t understand how some published authors are so prolific. Especially mind boggling are those who have small children, businesses or day jobs, health problems, and the like. My life (especially the last few months) is at times so chaotic, it’s sweet relief to fall into bed at night. As a result, writing as taken a definite back seat.

Yet I try to squeeze out some writing time on a regular basis. I could be doing other things, like being more productive in my business(es) (totally boring), working out (uber boring), or maintaining my house and yard (not so boring, but time consuming). I could promote my writing more, but I’d feel like a huckster on a street corner peddling apples. Plus I’m too laid back (i.e. lazy) to do real promotion. I’m an artist: you either love my work, or you don’t. No hard feelings.

If I have one writing regret of 2012, it’s that I haven’t written MORE. Unfortunately, life threw me a couple of obstacles this year, and precious time was taken up by other more pressing matters. Maybe I was hoping the Mayans were right and I’d have no qualms about my absenteeism if I didn’t wake up on the 22nd.

Of course, that didn’t happen. The sun came up the next day.

2013 is starting early for me. Like TODAY.  My writing resolutions are as such:

1. Write more. I know. I say this all the time, but I need self-flagellation on a regular basis. Perhaps I should pencil that in on my calendar? While I’m throwing that idea on the fire, perhaps blogging more would be a good idea too.

2. Write more carefully. (Excuse my probably bad sentence.) Use what I’ve learned over the last few years to prevent writing mistakes before they happen. That way I won’t have such a heavy burden when it comes time to…

3. Edit more carefully. I’ve been working on Finding Cadence since 2007. I’m on my sixth edit, and I’m amazed to find errors and awkward phrasing even now. While I’m not exactly pleased as punch with Virtually Yours, the book served a purpose, mainly to remind me that editing never ends.

4. Study more. I love the Savvy Authors web site. So far, I’ve taken two classes and found them to be most helpful. The support and feedback are wonderful.

5. Network more. While I don’t write genre romance (my work does have romantic elements) I belong to the RWA and the Greater Detroit RWA and I’m a terrible member. I need to attend more meetings. I might need to branch out and find a serious critique group.

6. And finally, finish all of the half-baked projects I have hidden on my hard drive. I’ve got excellent ideas and compelling stories, but they won’t finish themselves. Time is short; I am old. I really need to start writing as fast as I can. After all, if someone with children under the age of 5 can do it, I should be able to.

For writers, writing is life. It’s the air we breathe. We have to channel our imagination somewhere, or we turn into tortured souls.

Leaving now to find my source of oxygen.

Novel Update: Virtually Yours Forever

Somehow, I have managed to carve out six entire days of writing in the last week.

I’m not exactly sure how this is possible. I’ve spent the last two and a half months running around southeastern Michigan like a headless chicken. But look, today is August 24, and our summer rush’s days are numbered. Pretty soon, we’ll be back in a peaceful, nearly coma-inducing rhythm and we can catch our breath.

As for writing, it helped to have the husband in San Francisco for four of those days. Once I got into a groove, and after he returned, it was fairly simple to keep up the forward momentum. I retired each day for a few hours of diligent editing.

Most of the story is already there. I wrote Virtually Yours Forever during NaNoWriMo last November, after spending a summer devising plot lines for my sequel. I opened the file up for the first time in late July. The first week of August was spent mapping out scenes on color coordinated 3″ x 5″ index cards.

Of course, this meant first having to construct color coordinated 3″ x 5″ cards, because in this modern age, office supply stores are loathe to carry them. While there, I also snagged a pretty notebook – on sale – in order to further map out my plot and characters.

I have to say, it’s kind of a mess. VY4ever is 30 chapters long, and with seven major characters, it’s a gargantuan effort to keep everything straight. When I write during NaNo, I write like a crazy person. I don’t self-edit, I don’t look back. I just want to get the words down and worry about the execution later. As with the first book, I spent each day in November writing from one character’s point of view, which gave me a lot of material until Thanksgiving.

(The bride and groom’s wedding is scheduled for November 29. Between the 22nd and the 28th, the Virtual Mom world begins to unravel.)

Well, such a frenzied pace shows in the writing. It took a week of reading the first draft before I figured out what I wrote. During the excavation, I noted some pretty interesting and twisted dialogue I’d completely forgotten about. This edit is all about weaving the individual stories together. Then it’s off to my Editor for Life, and he can figure out the gaping holes or inconsistencies.

I’m old-school, so looking at two open Word files on the same computer screen drives me crazy. Add to that mess my 3″ x 5″ cards littered all over the living room floor. After three days, I had confetti everywhere, and I’d lost two pens and one fine point Sharpie. I was certifiable and my eyes were permanently crossed. It occurred to me (in the dead of night) to highlight what I’d used in the old draft, after placing it in the new so I wouldn’t get lost.

Yesterday, I made it to Chapter 15, meaning I’m halfway there. Halfway there in six days. I can only hope I can make it the rest of the way in six more, but that would be tempting the fates. It’s best if I tell myself now that it’s not going to happen, and pray that it might.

(I don’t know what I’d do if I had to work under real deadlines. As it is, my ED is a little behind on the last project I sent him, so all in all, we’re probably even. That’s what counts.)

I’d like to be able to tell you that VY4ever will be ready for release next spring, but that, too, would be tempting the fates. But I’m working on it.