29 January 2013

My Disappearance

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I have always disappeared in one way or another. The history’s there; I just had to write this blog to discover it and understand why. 

My family lived in New Hampshire in a small ranch house across the street from Lake Winnisquam. I shared a bedroom with my sister who is six years younger. My brother, two years younger had his own room. The walls were thin, the commotion pretty constant, and finding privacy almost impossible. Dad used to tease me about spending so much time in the bathroom, the only room where no one barged in or bothered me unless it was an emergency.


I first disappeared into a typical pre-teen refuge, burrowing down after bedtime under my blanket where I would read or write in my diary by penlight with one ear bud plugged into my transistor radio. Even though I had school the next day I would stay up until one or two in the morning, leaving my parents dumbfounded as to why, when in the morning, I was so miserable to get out of bed. Sometimes my dad resorted to pulling the pillow out from under my head and yanking back the covers. One time he sprinkled my face with cold water

My escape was discovered one night when I fell asleep, the cord to the transistor unplugged, and rock-‘n’-roll woke my parents.



That was around the time the Beatles took over my life and I soon disappeared into a fantasy world with three other friends. We formed a secret club, each of us becoming “the bird” of our favorite Beatle and writing stories about our “luv” and then exchanging them. That only lasted until one of the parents caught Ringo’s bird passing a rather risqué story to John’s bird. We had to disband. After that, I didn’t dare write stories.



Next, I disappeared into my diary, filling it with a teenage angst pot of longing for love and someone to understand me, a place to help me figure out what to do with classmate troubles and old-fashioned, strict parents.



Then the summer after turning fourteen, I wrote in my diary that I’d fallen in love.

Because we lived on the opposite side of the road from the lake, we had to use the right-of-way at the west end to go swimming. That summer I met and fell for a boy from Boston who was there with his family vacationing in one of the summer cabins. His name was Bruce, but his cousin called him “Punk,” as I would. To my astonishment this handsome lad liked me. I kept him a secret as my dad thought all boys from Boston were “bad seeds.” Punk and I would meet and hang out at the right-of-way during the day and a few times we met in the evening to be alone. I wore peddle-pushers and a mod satin shirt with puff sleeves and twenty-five tiny buttons down the front. I wasn’t ready for the heavy petting. I only wanted to kiss him, and those buttons kept me safe.



After Punk returned to Boston without conquering that blouse, a few letters followed, but soon my first love faded away. My parents never saw the letters as I brought in the mail every day, so I was safe from discovery, or so I thought.



One night at dinner, Dad asked about the boy from Boston.



I can’t remember what I said, but I must have asked him how he knew, and he said, “You shouldn’t leave your diary out and open on your desk.”



I waited for some kind of punishment while I went from fear of discovery (Oh, my god, what had I written? What had he read?) to anger at this breach of my privacy. (What gave him the right to read my diary? And how could it have been open on my desk? I always lock it and hide it away.)



I don’t know what happened to that diary. I wish I had it now. After that, I only wrote notes to my girlfriends, poems, and school reports. I started drawing and painting instead.



When the fights with my dad increased, I would retreat to the right-of-way and sit under the old tree where Punk and I made out. The roots that protruded above ground held me between them and I would lose myself in the cry of loons, the twinkle of lights from cabins across the lake, the smell of bar-b-ques, and the accompanying laughter and voices of other families that drifted to me over the water’s dark surface. I often took a book and could stay there for hours.


The day after my father committed suicide, I disappeared to the right-of-way, scaring my mother. But that house was too chaotic and filled with confusion, shame and grief. I needed to be alone, to cry, to settle my head, body and soul so I could return and carry on, although my heart would be damaged for a long time.


Life continued and changed many times, and so did my reason for and avenue of disappearing. Whenever life became too noisy and stressful, whenever I needed to escape trying times—the fear of moving to a new land three-thousand miles from home, the loneliness of being that far away with a three year old, divorcing an abusive first husband, the craziness of an out-of-control seventies and drug culture—I would lock the door of my house, hang up a do not disturb sign and paint or draw while listening to music. For days, I would do this, often having to tell those who stopped by, “Yes, sorry, that sign does mean you,” even when it was a new friend.



And here in the writing of this blog is where a memory brought an epiphany.

Kippy, a blue and green parakeet, was my first pet. I think I was around ten or eleven. He’d ride on my shoulder, poop on my cousin’s blonde flattop, repeat a whistle I taught him, and generally make everyone laugh. I fed him regularly, cleaned out his cage, did my best, which I admit, being a kid, probably wasn’t up to adult standards.


One day, after school, either my mom or dad forgot to bring home birdseed. Knowing that kids often don’t give their parents enough heads-up time about these things, I probably waited until the last minute to tell them I needed birdseed.



I walked to the local market and bought wild birdseed, the only kind they had. Just before dinner, as mom was cooking and dad was reading the paper at the kitchen table, Kippy started to choke. I took him from his cage. A sunflower seed was caught in his throat. I yelled for my mom and dad, raced to the kitchen with him in my hands, crying, as I watched my bird struggling and falling down. Mom continued to cook, dad read his paper. They looked over, but by the time they responded, Kippy was dead. I think I remember someone saying, "It was only a bird." Maybe not, but I heard it in my heart.



Something lodged in me that day, something that equates with how it feels to have something dying in me. I tried to feed my parakeet so it wouldn't starve, and I had the wrong food, so Kippy died. No one from the outside helped. And that’s what brought me to this conclusion as to why I disappear.



I believe that when creative people are threatened with the outcome of being a “starving artist,” it’s a way to discourage us from taking hold of our creative life. (My dad: “You are not going to be a starving artist; you will go to college to be a teacher, nurse or secretary.”) If you’re not being productive in the traditional sense, when you’re seen as selfish or self indulgent because you want to follow your art, your passion, then you're gifted a sense of guilt.



The real threat, however, is being starved of time, freedom and the opportunity to create. The real threat is not taking care of our true selves. The real threat is listening to that inner “guilt pusher” that says you should be doing something else.



In the past six months I have cracked a rib, had oral surgery, helped plan a big party for my mom’s 90th birthday, gone to that party in Florida, returned home to the worst sinus infection I’d ever had, and during this time I had to make a decision: while I healed from these various health issues, I could concentrate on writing my novel or continue to take time from that writing and blog.



I took care of myself. I met with a few friends, but stayed home most of the time and was as quiet as I could be as I worked on my novel. I had breakthroughs. I had a-ha moments. I held myself in my hands and removed that sunflower seed. I fed myself the right food.



And the irony was, when I tried to blog in November, the universe slapped me silly. My blog feed would not work. No matter what I did, I could not get Feedburner to send to my email recipients. I didn't need a clearer message. I went back to work on my novel.



Since then, life has allowed a little time, and I switched my blog email feed to a reliable one. 

Hopefully, for those of you out there who have had a rough time lately—and I’ve read and heard many of your stories—I hope this brings some kind of epiphany for you, too. Even if you are not an artist or writer, you have a creative soul. We all do. 


Last year in January, astrologer Johanna Mitchell said about 2012, “It's a great year if you’re going to change. It’s not such a good year if you can’t find inspiration in chaos.”



My discovery makes me wonder if others out there have found themselves “disappearing,” or retreating, or whatever name you put on it. I wonder if you found your creative soul or true north in all that chaos and if you took the time to feed what was starving.



So much of our time is spent in trying to figure out what to do when we really know all along what we need; for some reason it seems counter-intuitive to care for ourselves. That’s when I go back to the context of “starving artist.” It all depends on who you’re listening to.



Hugs to all,

Val





Other blog posts that you might enjoy:

Kristen Lamb's Blog


"Author Blogging: You're Doing It Wrong"
I think blogging is a wast of time.
 
"Get Rid of "Should" Once and for All"

"They Call Me the Wanderer"



If your comment won't post, email me at ValinParis (at) earthlink (dot) net. I'll post it for you.


23 October 2012

What the Heck? My Latest Blog--Again

My last blog seems to have gone ... astray.

Not really. I posted last week. Unfortunately, I've been hearing from my subscribers who receive my blog via email that they didn't receive it. And d'oh, I didn't get mine in my email box either. What seems to be the problem? The Feedburner tool OR me. Maybe my blog was too large to send. I am a big girl. I do have a lot of content.

Feedburner won't let me send the same blog post twice, so for a quick fix while I spend time trying to fix the dang thing, here's a link to my last blog post when I introduced Cheryl Strayed, our NW powerhouse and NYTimes bestseller of Wild, at her event in Eugene, Oregon. The intro is me as cheerleader and writer's advocate. It was a fabulous night.

Click here for the LINK to my post.


More later! And let me know, dear subscribers, if Feedburner delivered. If not, a change is coming!
hugs,
Val

17 October 2012

Cheryl Strayed at the UO and My Intro for her Event

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Sometimes life as a writer can't be topped. 

This past week, I was fortunate to be asked by Laura White from the University of Oregon Duckstore to introduce Cheryl Strayed at her event in Eugene last Wednesday night. I've known Cheryl since 2006 and, in an earlier post that you can read here, Cheryl gave me the courage to dig to the deepest part of my writer's heart. Once I was there, I was able to write another post, "The Day My Dad Died," that started a memoir.

So I have a lot to be thankful for.

Cheryl's event Wednesday night showed her ability to captivate an audience, swinging them from laughter to tears and back. She read from both books, her memoir Wild and a collection of her favorite Sugar columns, Tiny Beautiful Things


It's taken a week to post because I had one day after the event to prepare and pack for a week away from home: the weekend to attend Wordstock, Portland's brilliant book festival, and a week of writing at Colonyhouse with three of my posse. All I can say is, "I'm in heaven."

Me and best pal Jan Eliot

Jan talking with Cheryl
I decided to share the introduction I gave Wednesday night for three reasons: 1) to let you know that, even though the event sold out, the UO Library has a video recording of the evening, 2) I felt the intro would be encouraging to writers, and 3) readers will learn a few things about Cheryl that I'm pretty sure aren't out there on the internet.

A special thanks to Kirsten Steen for taking the photos and to Laura White who did, and always does, a superb job at organizing author events and does it with infectious enthusiasm.

(Bonus: If you read to the end, I give an inside detail about Cheryl's fashion for the evening.)



Introduction for Cheryl Strayed
UO Bookstore Event
7:00 pm, Oct. 10, 2012

When Laura asked me to introduced Cheryl, I thought, What an honor. And this will be easy.

An honor, yes. The easy part? Not so much. How do you introduce a literary rock star, especially Cheryl, who really needs no introduction?

Do I focus on the theme of grief, how Cheryl was a perfect example of the dual nature of grief where one wants to feel nothing because one feels too much. And what do you do to get past that? Or do I focus on her anonymous life as Sugar on The Rumpus, an unpaid gig, btw? How she used private stories to help others, showered her advice seekers with love, empathy, “honey buns” and “sweet peas?”

No, I didn’t need to tackle either of those because all you have to do is read Wild or Tiny Beautiful Things to immerse yourself in her overarching theme.

She’ll tell you this: “The unifying theme is resilience and faith. The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker. It’s not fragility. It’s strength. It’s nerve.”

Yes, that’s all there. But to me, her work, her life’s theme, is love. It takes strength and nerve to keep love as a theme. It takes resilience and faith to champion love. In her work, I see love as the motivation, conflict, struggle, journey, epiphany, and resolution, whether it’s love for a dead mom, love for herself, or love for those poor struggling, terrified, advice seekers.

So what do I say about Cheryl, especially now that she’s a literary super star and you know everything about her? When she’s in the phase of her life where she’s known as “Sugar,” “Oprah’s Pick,” or “a New York Times bestseller?” Amazing, the distance she’s traveled, both literally and figuratively.

In fact, when I met her in 2006 when she and a close friend of mine Randy Sue Coburn appeared at UO bookstore for a reading from their novels, approximately 25 people attended.

Oh, how some things have changed.

Many of you have probably followed Cheryl since Wild was published, what with the accompanying media blitz of articles, appearances, and interviews. The media has treated her as a literary darling and delved into the minutiae of her life as all celebrities are treated. We want to know what Cheryl eats for breakfast or how she copes with fame or, for example, what she packs around now. Is she still a Monster-carrying traveler in all her trips for promoting her books? We love our authors. We love our celebrities. We want to know them on a personal level.

Unfortunately, the media also likes to create buzz by sensationalizing stories. We are not naïve. We know they do this. But as writers we are sensitive to word choice, and that gave me my moment, the answer to how to introduce Cheryl.

Oh, yes, how some things have changed for her.

According to some media, Cheryl’s an “overnight sensation.” She’s also been referred to as “an unknown writer” who “came out of nowhere.”

Well, let’s clear this up right now. Many of you are UO students, some with dreams of becoming an author. Don’t fall for the idea that you can become an overnight sensation by being a writer. I know that our microwave culture sells us on the idea of now, fast, riches, fame, celebrity. But that isn’t the heart and soul of being a writer. We all come from a place where we seed ourselves in the soil of a literary community, grow with nourishment from other writers, and are tended by our families. We produce—a book, an essay, an article, a blog, a chapbook—and we keep steadily growing.

Cheryl recently posted about being referred to as a writer who “came out of nowhere”:
I bristle at this narrative not so much on my own behalf, but rather on behalf of the many writers I love, admire, respect and read. There is a strong and vibrant literary culture that exists and thrives in this nation and it does not exist in a place called nowhere, whether you know about it or not. It's the place where the writers work.
She may not bristle at this on her own behalf, but I do. Cheryl is sensational, but no overnight sensation. She’s never been an unknown writer. Just ask her lifelong friends, her writing group, her husband, Brian. The “nowhere” where she lives is a thriving little town called Portland.

The reality is, she started early and worked her tail off—or should I say toenails.

She didn’t just walk the Pacific Crest Trail, stop at a bridge, eat an ice cream cone, and write a book. She’s been on the long arduous, amazing, eye-opening, toe-bleeding writer’s trail since she was a kid.

As Cheryl says, her success is built on a million smaller successes. Cheryl began writing stories at age seven and never stopped. Her first real short story was called “Murder on the Midnight Express” and featured a talking parrot named Poncho.

She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English and women’s studies from the U of Minnesota, and afterwards worked various jobs and wrote on the side. She earned her MFA in fiction writing at Syracuse University in 2002. In 2003 her short story “Good” was selected by Joyce Carol Oates for inclusion in The Best American Voices 2003. Her personal essays, “Heroin/e” and “The Love of My Life,” were both selected for inclusion in the prestigious Best American Essays collections in 2000 and 2003 respectively. Other short works were published in The Washington Post Magazine, Vogue, The Missouri Review, New York Times Magazine, Allure, and The Sun.

She won a Pushcart Prize for her essay “Munro Country.”

Her first novel Torch was published in 2006. That was the year I met Cheryl here at the UO bookstore.

Her unpaid career as Sugar, the anonymous Rumpus advice columnist, began in March 2010. Cheryl came out as Sugar this year on Valentine’s Day.

In June of this year, Wild was chosen as the inaugural selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Reese Witherspoon optioned Wild for her company Pacific Standard. Lisa Cholodenko is slated to write and direct the film with Witherspoon to star.

On Sept. 17, Cheryl’s 44th birthday, she finally paid off her student loan debt.

Please welcome Cheryl Strayed.

 
If you've been patient (or cheated and skipped ahead), I'll tell you what Cheryl was wearing on her feet that night:
Black Harley Davidson boots. Yup. The girl keeps her edge.

And my favorite photo taken by Jan Eliot. How can I not love this.

Be brave! Stay adventurous!
Hugs,
Val

COMING UP:
Wordstock Fun
Where I Work: a photographic peek into my writing spaces
A Confession: What happened after my six readers responded to the Beta version of my novel
  

12 September 2012

Fabulous Blog Ribbon

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Thank you, Cheryl Fassett, fellow blogger and writer extraordinaire, for honoring me with a Fabulous Blog Ribbon. After a mixed summer of highs and lows, you made my entry to fall, my favorite season, a grander one.

Check out her blog Catching Fireflies where she captures creativity, magic and inspiration.

I’m a little late thanking Cheryl due to a cracked rib. I had no idea they hurt so much and could slow me down to half speed. But being recognized by one of my favorite bloggers is enough to sprinkle fairy dust over my writer’s world.

For those unfamiliar with blog awards, they come with a set of “rules,” but I would rather call them guidelines and give out awards without asking for anything back, in this case answering questions and passing the award to five fellow bloggers.

Call me conflicted, but sometimes these things remind me of a chain letter when they’re actually meant to help bloggers expand readership and feel good about the time and energy they put into their blogs. I know what it takes to keep up a blog, keep up with life, and keep up with other people's postings, and therefore I am reluctant to add one more “to do” to the list of these extraordinary bloggers. I hope you visit their pages to see why I love them so much.

Here are the guidelines for receiving this Fabulous Blog Ribbon:
  1. Thank the blogger who gave it to you and share the link back to the awarding blog.
  2. Name 5 fabulous moments in your life.
  3. Name 5 things that you love.
  4. Name 5 things you hate.
  5. Pass the award to 5 deserving bloggers.

So, without further ado…

Five Fabulous Moments in My Life
  • The birth of my son, Jason
  • Finding my sweetheart, Dan, and being with him for 36 years
  • Discovering my life as a writer—over and over and over again
  • Being in Paris the first time
  • Seeing Fleetwood Mac in concert for the first time

Five Seven Things I Love
  • My friends and family, with all my heart
  • Writing, writing, writing
  • Paris
  • Books by my favorite authors and discovering new ones
  • Music, mostly rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, funk, French pop, folk
  • Dancing
  • Art in all forms

Five Things I Hate
  • Crazymakers
  • The word hate
  • War
  • Dishonesty and greed
  • Not giving art & culture in our society and government programs the recognition it deserves

Five Bloggers Who Deserve a Fabulous Blog Ribbon*
  • Barbara Sullivan for her extraordinary wisdom and big heart in The Solace of LoweredExpectations
  • Kirsten Steen and her exquisite blog Write-on-Thyme for keeping me in touch with our beloved Paris (plus having such gorgeous music on her blog, too!)
  • New to the blogosphere in March, Karla Droste with open heart and adventurous spirit takes us on her life-changing journey in Re-inventing Karla
  • DianeProkop keeps my reading pile high, not just in height, but in the quality of her book reviews and recommendations
  • Supremely gifted artist and creative, Beth I. Robinson, who keeps me laughing and gives me the gift of being inside the head of a working artist (p.s. check out one of my favorite pieces of hers at her website)

* Ribbon recipients: please accept this Fabulous Blog Ribbon, enjoy freely, post the ribbon, know that I give this ribbon to you with no expectation of you having to do anything more than enjoy it for all the hard work you put into your blog.

As for something to entertain you further, I offer this bit of writerly eroticism:

Thanks for tuning in!
And yes, for those who asked, my cracked rib is healing nicely. Thanks for being concerned!
Keep creativity in your heart and soul,
Val

COMING UP:
Where I Work: a photographic peek into my writing spaces
A Confession: What happened after my six readers responded to the Beta version of my novel



12 August 2012

Part III – Managing Social Media: Val’s Tools & Hardcore Suggestions


Before I give you tips on how to:

put a few tools in your toolbox for fixing social media woes,
POST THIS TO YOUR COMPUTER:

Do the Most Important Thing First -
WRITE

Good. Now, let me clear up where I stand on social media. I am not against it. I’m on many social media sites. I’ve made some great friends there and have also kept up with writer friends who are as busy as I am. Social media is an important tool for connecting if used correctly.

For writers, however, it can be, as I’ve said before, a time suck. I hear more and more about writers and artists who can’t seem to manage their time since joining social media sites. I don’t need to say more about this. I hope, however, that the following tips and tools are helpful, and above all keep you writing. That’s my only goal here: to keep you writing.

In fact, this blog post is NOT about social media at all.

It’s about creating time to write and putting writing first.

Let’s get started with “Val’s Tool Kit”:

My Portable Office Admin Assistant
#1 Tool in Val’s Tool Kit


            Do you schedule your writing time? Why not? We schedule doctor’s appointments, kid’s after school activities, our jobs, our vacations. Do you keep that all in your head? No, you use a calendar.
            I have a calendar that I call my “Administrative Assistant.” It makes me feel as if I have a secretary and puts my writing into terms of “going to work,” making it important.
            Mine’s an old-fashioned Day Timer-type calendar with my writing time scheduled into it, weeks in advance. That prevents me from scheduling any other social events on that day. As a writer, I prefer using the old fashioned type of calendar for a number of reasons. (I love my iPhone, but its calendar is useless. I also have a house calendar for the rest of my life.)
            Check out the photo above. That’s an actual week from my calendar. I’m a visual person, so I created a simple visual method. I use a diagonal line for writing related activities. Every Monday and Friday I write at our local Barnes and Noble Café. (I’d love to work at my favorite independent bookstore, Tsunami Books, but I know too many people who come and go there and, therefore, I’d be managing the socializing aspect and I don’t want to.) B&N’s café offers me a table, and I can buy my tea and food there. Those two writing days each week are sacrosanct. The reason I don’t work at home much anymore is that my husband’s retired. ‘Nuff said.
            Tuesdays are divided up between my writing group and writing days.
            Thursday is my day to meet with best friend and creative soul mate Jan Eliot. Jan and I have been meeting for twenty-three years in order to keep our creative lives on track by talking about issues that effect us and to track yearly goals we set in January. Another diagonal line there.
            I scheduled time this week for writing my blog and social media. See separate section for this.
            For everything else, I use a vertical line to show it has nothing to do with my profession. (Notice I use the word “profession.” Start using it. That helps develop a sense of priorities. Even if you’re a lawyer by trade, writing is your profession—if you want it to be.)

My Weekly To Do List
#2 Tool in Val’s Tool Kit

            I work best with a TO-DO LIST. If I don’t write down the major needs for the week, they often don’t get done. The list is divided into major components: BIZ (this is for paying bills, communications, errands in town, returning phone calls, etc. all related to my writing profession); MY NOVEL (where I write down everything I want to accomplish that week on my writing); MY CLIENT (I always schedule Wed. for working on my client’s poetry marketing); other MAJOR PROJECTS (I’m organizing the upcoming Oregon Writers Colony Founders Day weekend this month); and last, but not least, SOCIAL MEDIA.
            My To-Do List is written on a large sticky note that fits in my calendar admin assistant.



-------   Scheduling social media   -------

            Here’s the thing—psychologically, we can fool ourselves into believing that everything we do online is related to writing. Research. Networking. Marketing. Keeping current. Checking out the competition. Finding ideas.
            We’re creative beings. We can justify any use of the internet.
            And isn’t that where we get in trouble?
            Let’s look at an example:       
            Say you’re writing a scene in your historical novel where you need to know if Boston Commons had a pond in 1854. You get online, Google the many permutations of “Boston Commons pond 1854.”
            You can’t find the answer, although some of the research points to the possibility. 
           “Wait!” you say. “I can post this to LinkedIn, Women Writing the West Yahoo Users Group, and Facebook. One of my historian friends will know.”
            You post the question.
            But as you’re posting, you see someone has posted an article on a new service for writers that grabs your attention. When you follow that, you see a YouTube video for a new novel you’ve heard about and you watch it, justifying that you, also, will need to create a trailer for your novel when it’s published. Two hours later, you’re reading a blog post about “ten fixes for your novel’s saggy middle” because you’re in the middle of your novel.
            Sound familiar?
            Yes, and you can justify all these side trips because they have something to do with writing. (From experience, I know many side trips have nothing to do with writing.)

            Bravo to those of you who have the self-discipline to stop when you’re done with your research.
            For the rest of you? Here’s what to do.
            Don’t get online.
            Do the research later during scheduled internet time.

            I can hear you now. “But I need to know that information before I can continue on with my story.”
            No, you don’t.
            Journalists write drafts all the time without stopping every paragraph to do research. They don’t interrupt the flow of their writing if they can help it. They leave the unknown fact out, replacing it with the letters tk. (tk = To Come, the phonetic abbreviation used in journalism)
            I use a highlighted tktktktkt so I can easily find it later. Later, during my scheduled time to be online, I’ll do my research.
            If your brain right now is scrambling for a reason not to do this, I can provide one: “I need to know that info for plot purposes.”
            Nah, not buying it. Sorry. Story elements can always be changed later. What you really need to do is keep writing. If there is no pond for your character to drown in, kill him another way. Besides, we usually do this type of research ahead of time while forming the plot in our head.
            My big rule for myself is “Try never to leave the page. Keep writing.”

            (I couldn’t remember what tk stood for so I looked it up after I wrote a draft of this blog and then plugged it in. Yay! I'm following my own advice!)



“But I Found this Great Article and I had to Read It”
#3 Tool in Val’s Tool Kit

            Ok, so you went online anyway, ignoring my “research later/schedule online time” advice, and you found an important article on “ten fixes for your novel’s saggy middle.” You swear you needed to read it.
            Really? Bet you didn’t need to read it at that moment. Bet you've made up a justification for the time you spent reading it. Bet you interrupted your writing flow. (Yes, I’m trying to make you feel guilty.)
            No, you didn’t need to read it right away. Be honest. You could have read it in the evening without your world falling apart. Right?
            So let’s look at the real motive for needing to read that article right then.
            Quite simply, you could have been procrastinating. More likely, you, as I always was, were afraid you’d forget it, afraid you wouldn’t get to read it because it would be hard to find again. It would bug you if you left that page. You won't bookmark it because you have a million bookmarks.

            Breathe! I have a solution.
            This is my all-time favorite tool:  Evernote
            This brilliant program saves web articles or whole html pages, Word docs, pdfs, and photos. It lets you create notebooks to file them in and then synchs them to all your other electronic devices such as your iPhone, iPad or Kindle. I have a Kindle, so I can read my saved articles on the go. Evernote is my library, and it’s super easy to use.
            File folders I created in Evernote include: NEED TO READ ASAP, Agents, Blog Ideas, Book Promo, Concept/Query/Synopsis, Craft, Editing, Inspiration, Marketing, Pinterest, Publishing, Query Letters/Samples, Quotations, Reading, Self Publishing, Social Media, Web Site, Writers Resources. I also have folders for my novels and research-related files.
            This tool is my “fantasy” admin assistant's file system. I can’t sing its praises high or loud enough.
            I also keep notes on it, like the list of hashtags I use on Twitter. If I’m in town and need to send a Tweet to a hashtag group, I can quickly look it up on my phone because Evernote synched everything, including changes I made. If I'm riding in the car and I post on my iPhone, it synchs to your computer. 

But I Want It Now!
#4 Tool in Val’s Tool Kit
            This one is so simple.
            A DO TODAY! desktop folder
            Let’s say you find an historical photo that would be great to pin to Pinterest. You’ve done really well by going online and finding a map of Boston in 1854. (You weren’t supposed to go online, but this time you did, found what you needed, and got off right away because you were afraid Val was looking over your shoulder. Bravo!)
            Should you open Pinterest and pin the photo?
            NO!
            You know what happens when you do that. You get sucked into looking at other photos and another hour is kaput.
            Instead, pop that photo into the DO TODAY! folder. At the end of your writing day, during your scheduled online time, you open the folder and handle everything you put in it during the day.

The Goddess Gave Us Sticky Notes
#5 Tool in Val’s Tool Box
            Yes, Sticky Notes. Simple. Instead of going online to check a spelling of a foreign word, type in tk, write yourself a sticky note, and put it on your desk, lamp or calendar, someplace that’s not your computer where it can distract you. At the end of the day, you check your DO TODAY! folder and take care of your sticky notes.

“I Still Get Sucked In”
#6 Tool in Val’s Tool Box

            This is the simplest and most effective tool I have.
            My iPhone clock timer. 

            Any timer works. I set the timer for 30-minute increments when I’m working on my client, working on research, working online.
            Thirty-minute increments work best for me because an hour seems too long. Thirty minutes passes quickly, and I’m ready for another 30 minutes. The timer helps me stay focused. I’m less apt to waste time, especially on social media. If I set my timer, I hurry! Especially if I’ve allotted myself only an hour.
            Maybe this would work for you with writing. I don’t know. I don’t need a timer for writing. Once I’m in it, I’m gone.
           
Now for one of the biggest problems writers seem to have:

Getting My Butt in the Chair
#7 Tool in Val’s Tool Box

            This seems to be the worst offender for me—getting my butt into my chair. Once I’m there, I’m good to go.
            I’ve developed two ways to make this difficult body part sit down.
            For at home:
            Create a Ritual.
            Before I procrastinate by doing laundry or dishes, I shut off all the phones, home and cell. This signals to me that I’m serious about shutting the world out so I can write. Then I make a cup of tea and take my laptop to the bedroom where our big slider looks out over the back meadow. Why there? Because it’s away from my office, the magazines I need to read, my client’s pile of submissions, and other distractions. The bedroom is peaceful and I’m not tempted to do anything else. Yes, I have Wifi, but for some reason, when I’m in the bedroom, I’m not so tempted.
            Whatever you do, make it special to the writing process. Light a candle. Meditate for 10-15 minutes. Fill a page with stream of consciousness writing. Make a list of those ten things you’re grateful for. Doodle for five minutes. Reread the last ten pages you wrote in hard copy.

            Go someplace away from home that feels like you’re going to work.
            On Mondays and Fridays, I get up in the morning, shower, get dressed, pack my computer case, and head to town where I work in the café at Barnes and Noble. I also have a writing pal who does the same, so we’re reinforcing this with each other.
            When I’m in town, I have no dog to walk, no unexpected visitor, no family calls, and all noise is not my noise. If I’m distracted by loud voices nearby, I put on my headphones and listen to instrumental music. I work 9-3:30. At lunch, I take a break and read a few chapters in the latest novel I’m reading or check out the new arrivals in the bookstore.

“I’m Addicted”
Badass Tools for the Hardcore

            So you confess: you’re an internet junkie. Well, there are a few tools left to help if you’re willing to take a hardline with yourself.
           
·      Work at a place other than your home like I do, but choose a place that doesn’t have WiFi
·      Have your husband or wife take your modem to work
·      Use software like Freedom. This software lets you choose a certain amount of time you want to be offline, then shuts you out. Yup. It won’t let you back online no matter what you do.
·      Make a contract with a friend or writer; call each other at a certain time to say, “Start writing,” and then call each other at the allotted time when you’re done. Accountability to others sometimes works better than accountability to ourselves.

Bottom Line

            Warning: I’m getting tough here.
            If none of this helps you, then you really don’t want to write that badly. Writers need to write. They simply cannot NOT write. It’s not always about self-discipline. It’s about passion. It’s about doing what you love. It doesn’t matter what you write. It matters that you have to write.
           Sorry, but if you keep talking about writing and you’re not writing, then you’re not a writer.

http://blogwritingcourse.com/

A Word About Blogging

            I started out loving the act of blogging every week. But I love writing novels more. At first I felt guilty when I took a hiatus this year and didn’t blog for two months. I felt guilty because this was something I started and I felt as if I had to stick with what I started—blogging every week.
            But I realized it had more to do with how badly I handled it. I didn’t let you, the readers, know that I was taking a hiatus. I didn’t tell you why right at the start. That would have been the right course of action. Later I wrote about why I didn’t blog for two months, but that was too late. I apologize. Sometimes I forget the good manners my mother instilled in me.
            I have switched to blogging when I can, preferably every two to three weeks. If I take another lengthy hiatus, I’ll let you know.
            This, of course, is a cautionary tale if you’re thinking about starting a blog. Everything when it’s new is fun. Well, almost everything. Give it a good amount of consideration. Talk to people close to you, people who know your habits and how you work. Make sure you can keep up your blog or, if you start and decide you don’t like blogging, let your readers know and then take down the blog. (See Kristen Lamb’s post below) I understand that, if you’re a writer, you’re trying to create an online presence and blogging sometimes fits. But if it doesn’t, don’t do it because you’ve been told you have to do it. Find a different way. Like Cheryl Strayed in my last post. Right from the start, she decided to work the heck out of her Facebook page.

Social Media for Published and Yet-to-be Published Authors

            Here’s the distinction between social media for published and yet-to-be published authors:
            You will, at some time, need to have an online presence. You can wait until you sell your novel to create an online presence. Or you can create it now, become comfortable with it, build it while writing your novel or memoir. All agents and publishers will expect this of you. If you do create an online presence while you’re writing your novel, this presence will give you leverage with agents and editors. They will see that you’re serious about writing as a career. If they can Google your name and it pops up on a long list of search results, that is going to make them very happy and give you an edge in the final verdict of whether you are publishable.
            Nothing, however, beats a page-turner of a manuscript, luscious prose, or the uniqueness of your story. And what does that mean?

            Do the most important thing first:  WRITE

A Last Confession

            I’m a creative person. My needs change. I might be on Facebook a lot, and then find myself back to blogging. I have a tough time with Twitter because I like immersion. LinkedIn hasn’t yet satisfied my needs as a writer. SheWrites is one of the most supportive social networks out there, but I had to stop the posts from being delivered to my email because everyone there is soooo supportive! I also regularly purge my email subscriptions.
            A last word of advice: be selective about the social media you choose to use. I have not joined Google+ because it seems to duplicate what I already have. That may change when I publish my novel.

            I love staying in touch with you. I love telling personal stories and helping writers when I can. I’m not a born teacher. But I do like passing on what I’ve learned.
            I hope you find something in this post that will keep you writing. And if you have something to add that would be helpful for other writers, please share it with us by leaving a comment.

            Keep those words flowing,
            Val


From agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog:

From Social Media Guru Kristen Lamb:


COMING UP:
Graciously accepting (although very late) a blog award
Where I Work: a photographic peek into my writing spaces
A Confession: What happened after my six readers responded to my novel