Chasing Inspiration

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Typical Day

Someone asked me what a typical writing day for me is like. My short answer, anything but typical.

I wish I had a schedule where I could have set times to write. Sadly, I need to hold down a day job. I'm out of the house by 6:30am and at the office sometime around 7am. Since I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination (just ask the boy), I don't do any writing in the morning. I try to carve out my lunch hour for writing or online research, but invariably I get caught up in work meetings or the necessary networking required to build those interpersonal connections that allow you to really leverage your resources. You see, at work I'm a project manager/business analyst. This means I need to be in the "know" and to have contacts throughout the organization. Lunches are the main way I keep up.

So, on those days when I don't get a lunch break (which are most days), I end up not getting a lot of writing time in during the day. I make up for it by carrying a notebook with me that I write in scene snippets or ideas as I wait for meetings, stand in line at the coffee shop, or generally have a spare moment. Once a week I go through this notebook and harvest those ideas that stick.

After work I have several responsibilities. I am a wife and I need to take care of those things that make marriage run smoother. Things like preparing dinner, taking care of the household finances, cleaning, and being there for my husband. The boy is in school earning yet another degree. This one is in mechanical engineering. He works full time while he's going to school and we are renovating/gutting our house. So, he does most of the grunt work and I do the traditional wifely things. Eventually we'll get back to a more egalitarian division of responsibilities, but in the mean time, there's a lot for me to do.

Some nights I also have appointments with couples I coach. I'm a life/relationship/creativity coach in my copious spare time. *snort* I love it! It's what my degree in counseling psychology was for. However, I don't make enough money doing this to ditch the day job. Some day, though. Some day.

I am also very involved in our church, which means that there are nights or weekends when I'm spending time presenting a training, planning for children's education, or organizing work days. As you can see, when the work day is done, I have many other things that demand my time. If it wasn't for my palm pilot and keyboard or my notebook, I would never get any writing in!

So when do I write? Well, I write when I have moments of spare time. I write on the weekends, a lot. I get up at the same time I usually do during the week and I write in the mornings. I set up the laptop at night and write while the hubby and I sit on the couch and watch reruns. I write on Friday afternoons when I'm finished running errands. I have cut down on my reading time so I can write before bed. I have learned to write anywhere. Literally. I have written on the bus, in the car, during weddings, in meetings, waiting in line at the grocery store, in quiet corners at boring parties, in the emergency room. Anywhere.

I have also learned that I cannot wait for the muse to strike or the time to be right. There will always be something that will try to get in the way of my writing. An emergency will come up when I have a block of time set aside for the story. I will over book myself because I can't say no. The hubby will need my assistance to hang drywall. So I've learned to look for opportunities, keep my writing tools with me at all times, and to write fast.

That's a key I've picked up from two prolific authors - MaryJanice Davidson and Susan Mallery. Both have said that they write 120+ words per minute which allows them to write a lot in a short period of time. If I'm going to maximize the time, I need to write fast. I can go back and fix things later, but the ideas flying around in my head need to get on the page before I lose them.

That's my typical day - cramming writing in whenever I have a chance as I juggle all the other hats I wear. I dream of the day I have hours every day to write. That's the goal. But for today, I practice being nimble.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

It Wasn't Me, Officer!

There are about 6 police cars parked in or near my driveway. The good news, they didn't come looking for me, my husband or the dog. The bad news, they were chasing someone in a vehicle who tore up our driveway, stopped short of hitting the garage and bolted. So I'm locked inside my house with my cell phone and the dog and my husband is outside assisting the police as they look for whoever it is who tore up the driveway and abandoned their car.

Things like this don't happen to me. I'm a law-abiding citizen. Okay, for the most part I'm law abiding. But still, the bad guys generally leave me alone and the police have no reason to talk to me except to raise money for their charity events. It's kind of freaky to realize that some potentially dangerous person may be lurking outside my relatively safe home. And that if the police don't find him, he may come back. Oh, not to mention that car in my driveway blocking the garage. I hope they move that soon.

Since I'm a writer, I find myself thinking more about the "what ifs" then about my general safety. I figure, the police are still outside, the doors are locked and I'm going to be okay. My mind is actually going down the path of what if a person was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was mistaken for a wanted criminal. What if he was chased by the police into a residential setting. And what if he abandoned his car and took solace in a house not too far away. And what if that turned into a hostage situation, accidentally of course. And what if the police were actually in on this to protect one of their own. And what if the woman who lives in the house knew some of the truth and believed this stranger who is trying to get away. And what if...

I love what if exercises. I probably won't ever write that story above, but thinking about the what ifs get the mind pumping and the creative juices flowing. Not to mention it keeps my mind off the blinking red and blue lights in my driveway. The real story is some guy in the apartments down the street was evicted, showed up to the apartment up to no good, the cops were called, he has a suspended license so they were going to do whatever it is police do in that situation, he tried to flee, drove into our driveway thinking it was an alley, saw the garage so abandoned his car and fled. The police are impounding his car and issuing a war rent. He could be a drug dealer, a wife beater, a gambler, or just a jerk. Who knows. But it doesn't make for exciting or titillating fiction. What ifs are so much more interesting, don't you think?

Friday, March 16, 2007



That's all I can say about the movie based on Frank Miller's interpretations of King Leonidus of Sparta and the famous b
attle of Thermopylae in which he and a contigent of 300 Spartan soldier and 1600 Thesbian and Thebians stood against a much greater horde of warriors and slaves of King Xerxes of Persia. I had read about the battle during one of my high school history classes back in the 80s, before Frank Miller wrote his graphic novels about the subject. School would have been a lot more interesting with graphic novels depicting historical events, don't you think? Sadly, my knowledge was based on dry text book accounts and the battle was barely a blip on the radar. Which is really too bad, because there are so many life lessons to be gleened and so many parallels to be made.

And it's quite funny how history repeats itself. I'm not going to get all political on my blog, because that's not the intent of my little corner of the internet. But I will say, it's interesting just how tenacious free men are when they fight for their land, their beliefs and their future. Very interesting.

Back to the movie - it was stunning. And not just because the men spent most of the time in leather short shorts and sweeping capes. The backdrops were stunning. The cinematography was amazing and the music was an incredible blend of sweeping lyrical threads and pumping metal beats. The storytelling was top notch and unlike Sin City, you didn't need to be familiar with the story in order to enjoy the movie. Also unlike Sin City, there are lessons built into the movie. I don't know if they were purposely inserted into the story or if they are just a by-product of history. Either way, I was moved, and not just by the very fit Spartans.

There is something for everyone. Epic storytelling. A fiesty heroine. A truly heroic hero. Battles. Blood. Bonding. Brotherhood. Honor. Really bad bad guys. Love. And betrayal.

If you haven't seen it yet, I encourage you to do so. And as you watch, think for a moment about what it means to be free. And the price attached to that freedom.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Happy Birthday To...


Yup, today is my birthday. My 36th to be exact. And I'm okay with that. There's nothing wrong with turning a year older. In fact, there's something wonderful about knowing there's a new year ahead. A new adventure. A fresh start. A time for reflection and celebration.

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions. Birthdays are more a time of reflection for me. I look at my goals and determine how far I am from reaching them, decide if those goals are still valid, and write up a new goal statement for the upcoming year. This year is my year to really push the writing. To take some chances. To let this excitement over the story really bubble up and spill over into other areas of my life.

It's also my year to put the pain of past rejections behind me and to start submitting again. I'm done with excuses this year. I'm not too busy, this manuscrip is not shitty, and I have come a long way from my first novel. That's not to say I'll sell anything this year. Writing is so subjective. But I can't reach my goal of being a multi-published author if I don't let my work leave the house.

So this year, I'm pushing my boundaries. And hopefully in more than just writing. But I'll start there. *grin*

Saturday, March 03, 2007

So, What Are You Writing Now?

 The more people who know I write, the more I find myself fending off this question. I don't often talk about the particulars of my stories. I find I'm almost afraid to talk about these fledgling works in process because in the talking I may lose the magic.

The second book I ever wrote was a wonderful story. It had danger, love, dirty little secrets, passion, location...well everything. But the more I talked about it, the less I wanted to write it. And so the story sits, a rough draft, a great idea, but not finished. Oh, the tenets of the story are there and it wouldn't take too much work to fill it out and get it out the door.

But I lost interest.

This is why I don't talk much about my stories while I'm writing the first draft. Not even my good writing friends hear much beyond the basics. I have a casual critique partner who reads the rough draft and then tells me how wonderful it is (it being the bones of the story, because trust me, there will be a ton of work after this draft is done). Ah, the joy of an "unbiased" fan. *grin* Still, I don't talk to her about the story. She doesn't know anything more than the pages I give her. She keeps notes and at the end, or when I'm stuck, she'll pull them out and go over things with me. It's a great system.

So what do I do when someone asks me what I'm writing now? I smile kindly and tell them I'm working on a story of love and redemption and hope. Which pretty much covers any plot I may actually write. When pressed, I may give some details like:
  • It's a story set in Minnesota
  • The hero and heroine are on paths of discovery - he with his faith, she with her past
  • It's a little bit other, a little bit dark and a little bit romantic
  • There will be a happy ending
Not much, but enough to satisfy the question. I hope.

I'm on this journey with my characters. I don't know any further into their story than what I put on the page. Oh, I may have ideas of scenes in the future. And I may have a hunch as to where the story is heading. But for me, the joy of writing is in the journey. I map out things, I figure out who my characters are and where they are coming from and where they are going t land. But if I talk about my story too much, those happy discoveries are discovered too early and when I sit to write that sense of adventure is gone. I lose my steam and my drive.

So, if you're one of those people who have have ever asked my what I'm writing now, sorry if it seemed like I brushed you off. I didn't mean it that way. I was simply trying to save the journey so Mallory and Jason can have the story the deserve from me. If things go in the right direction, perhaps you will be able read this story for yourself someday. Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Reading Can Be Useful

I'm avoiding the written page - and balancing my cheque book. On one of the web boards I frequent I found the following. It brought a smile to my face. I hope it brings a smile to yours.

One morning the husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, and reads her book.

Along comes a Game Warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says, "Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?"

"Reading a book," she replies, (thinking, "Isn't that obvious?")
"You're in a Restricted Fishing Area," he informs her.
"I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading."
"Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up."

"If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault," says the woman.
"But I haven't even touched you," says the game warden.
"That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment."
"Have a nice day ma'am," and he left.

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It's likely she can also think .