Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Writing Words on Wednesday

Sylvia Plath said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

This quote hit home for me the other day and gave me a light bulb moment. First of all, for those of you who don’t know, I used to do quite a bit of acting in high school, college, and in the community theatre in my hometown (there are pictures floating around on Facebook to prove it). One of the plays I performed was called “The Nagging Doubt” (or “Nagging Doubt”). I believe it was a one act play, but I can’t remember the author. I do remember it was a play with only two characters. My best friend, Christi, and I performed it. I played the main character and Christi was my self-doubt. The MC wanted to go to a party or something, but the doubt kept knocking her down and making her feel like crap.

This quote and memory had me looking back over all the times I’ve revised a manuscript (sometimes to death—the manuscript’s death, not mine) and realized how much self-doubt has been involved in my work.

I came to understand I revise for two reasons. First, I revise because so much self-doubt creeps into my work as I write the first draft. It goes like this. I get an idea, I plot it, plan it, love it, build on it, and am incredibly excited about it. I think I’ve got it all laid out. I have a plan. I’m ready.

And then I sit down at my computer and actually start writing. I try to write, not caring that the first draft is crap because I can fix it later. But my problem is that I DO care if it’s crap. I can’t let go and allow the words to spill out onto the paper. I doubt myself too much. Will this be good enough? Is the idea even worth writing? Am I fooling myself? All of these thoughts and more creep in as I write. Sometimes it sends me back to the beginning to revise the novel before it’s even complete. Sometimes it makes me stall out (that thing called writer’s block is really self-doubt)—to the point I stop writing the idea. Which brings me to the second reason I revise.

I revise is not necessarily because the work needs revision, but because I’m too afraid to write. It’s so much easier for me to revise something I’ve already written than it is to sit down and write something new—especially when I’ve stalled out. I know I can write a novel because I’ve done it—but that self-doubt gets me all tied up and stifles my creativity.

Ms. Plath was completely right in saying self-doubt is creativity’s worst enemy. It certainly is for me!

I’ve collected hundreds of story ideas—but have written so few of them. Some ideas are fantastic, others not so much, but all of them should have been written by now—or at least the fantastic ones.

The only thing stopping me from being the kind of happy and successful writer I want to be is my self-doubt.

So, what the heck am I going to do about it? The character in the play I mentioned earlier stood up to her self doubt. She gained the confidence she needed and drove the doubt into the ground. I’m going to follow her example. I’m not going to let doubt drag me down and creep into my work. I’m going to stop doubting.

Yeah, I know, easier said than done. But I’ve identified the problem and that’s the first step to changing it. I’m not saying things will be awesome right away or that I’ll never have any moments of self-doubt again, but I’ve printed out Ms. Plath’s quote and taped it above my computer as a constant reminder. I hope this reminder will help me get that nagging doubt under control.

It’s time for me to let go and allow the first draft to be crap (and—news flash—it’s less likely to be crappy without all that self-doubt creeping into my writing from the get-go). I truly believe that those who have experienced success in writing have done it because they’ve conquered their self-doubt—or at least tamed the beast enough to control it most of the time.

My second step will be sticking with the writing, even if it gets tough. And my third step will be really thinking about each line when I go into revisions. Am I changing the line because I want to change it or is my self-doubt dictating the changes?

I have a plan to tame my beast, and I’m determined to do it. I may have a few bites and scratches when I’m done, but the beast WILL be tamed.

What about you? Have you tamed your self-doubt or is it something you struggle with in your writing? Do you revise because the work truly needs revising? Or do you revise because you lack confidence in your work and in yourself as a writer?

Write on—without doubt!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thoughts on Thursday

It’s been hard to think lately. It’s not that I can’t, but it seems like every time I have a quiet moment and start thinking, a song pops into my head. This usually doesn’t happen to me since I don’t listen to music.

And technically I don’t really listen to this song that pops into my head. It’s all the fault of my children. One daughter in particular, K, keeps playing this song over and over and over and . . . yeah you get the idea. So now this keeps popping into my head complete with the memory of the video that goes along with it—which I’ve seen only once and for some reason it’s burned into my brain forever.

I suppose there are worse songs that could be stuck in my head. And I’m not too proud to admit I thought it was hilarious when I first saw it. But I’m tired of it popping into my head when I’m trying to write or driving in the car or—heck, just all the time.

In the spirit of sharing the misery joy, I give you The Dramatic Song (complete with video) by Toby Turner (a.k.a. Tobuscus).

And if you want more of his songs (and these are less likely to be stuck in your head forever) you should watch his literalization (let’s pretend that’s a word) of movie trailers. J says he did one for the Hobbit movie trailer—I’ll have to watch it later.

And so, my friends, may you enjoy The Dramatic Song as it plays over and over and over in your head. Well, it probably won’t since you don’t have a child who plays it all the time. I’ve practically got the whole thing memorized. What a waste of good brain space. *sigh*

Write Think Tobuscus on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Writing Words on Wednesday

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about plotting and writing in general. I’ve looked back on how my writing has changed over the years (yeah, I’ve been doing this a LONG time). When I first started writing, I just wrote words. My manuscripts would include notes to myself either in parentheses or between asterisks. I’m not talking just a little note or reminder to fix something, I’m talking pages and pages of notes where I rambled on about the possibilities of a certain plot twist or general brainstorming.

I still leave myself the occasional note within the manuscript, but it’s usually when I’m done writing for the day and I don’t want to lose the train of thought or where I want to go next in the MS so I’ll leave a note before I save and close the document. This has cut down on my time when I come back to write the next day because I no longer have to read through what I wrote in the previous writing session—I just read my notes and pick up where I left off. Well, I may read the paragraph or a few sentences before my notes to get back into it, but it’s a far cry from the pages and pages of wordage I used to do.

I wrote by the seat of my pants with no plan whatsoever. Then I transitioned to doing my brainstorming sessions in notebooks. I ended up with pages and pages and sometimes several notebooks for one novel. Now this may be due to my obsessive nature; if I had to “cut” an idea or decided to change a plot point, I had to rewrite everything in a new notebook so I wouldn’t be distracted by things crossed out—those scribbles on the page drive me crazy (I even rewrite my lists if I have to cross something out).

And now I have a new method for writing/plotting. I mentioned the 3x5 index card plotting before, but I can’t stress enough how much time and energy this method saves me. If you aren’t familiar with this amazing method, you really must check it out. I first learned about it from the ever amazing Kimberley Griffiths Little. She has some posts on her blog that tell you all about the 3x5 index card method. You can read her first post here, the vlog from WriteOnCon is here

, her follow up post can be found here, and her newest post can be found here (with some quotes from an email I sent her). Blogger seems to be having a  bit of trouble (or maybe it’s just my computer) today so if the links don’t open right away, try again.

Anyway, this method has changed the way I write. Drafting is so much easier. Though the notebook people will be sad to lose my business, it’s awesome to be able to throw away a card instead of having to rewrite entire notebook pages because I changed my mind or the plot or a character changed.

For example, in the new MG I’m writing, the main character’s uncle played a huge roll. I had several cards with info about him, scenes with him, etc. I decided it was more important for my main character that her uncle not play such a large roll. So I went through my cards and took out the ones about the uncle that I needed to change. I rewrote new ones and slipped them into place. SOOO easy! He’s still a character in the book so I did keep the cards with his character information, but the scenes with him were thrown out and re-plotted—with the exception of one scene.

It’s been enlightening to take a look at how my writing process has changed over the years. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s changed the way they write. I don’t think we SHOULD still be writing the way we did when we first started—because we’re supposed to improve our writing. I don’t think our writing can improve if the way we write doesn’t change too. I could be wrong though.

Let’s see if I am! How many of you out there are still writing the same way you were when you FIRST started writing (you don’t have to count the things you wrote as a child—unless you want to)?

Write on.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Friday Flood

Well, it’s not quite flooding yet, but it has been raining all morning. This put a halt to the field trip to the county fair for which I was to chaperone (for K’s class). K and the rest of the class are pretty bummed about it—but I’m okay with not having to spend the day at the fair . . . I’m evil like that.

It’s not that I don’t love going to the fair—I really do. I mean, there are animals (those who know me understand I’m a huge animal lover) and booths with lots of fun food and crafts and projects that the kids did and events to watch. But I’m okay with staying home today.

Here’s why:

As some of you may know, I’m in the process of cleaning out the storage shed in my back yard so I can transform it into a special place for me to write and do my crafting. Yesterday was the day to get some cleaning out done. But before I could start hauling stuff out of the shed, I had to mow the lawn—cause the grass/weeds were up past my waist (I’m short, but still—waist high grass/weeds are too tall). I wasn’t able to mow the entire lawn because the inflatable water slide was in the way. So I had to inflate it, hose it down, and let it dry out so I could put it away. So I mowed the lawn around the water slide and went to open the back gate in order to haul stuff to the front—the location of the huge trash dumpster.

After I opened the gate, I realized I wouldn’t be able to get stuff out the gate because we’d set some junk by the gate so we’d remember to throw it out. So I had to move the junk pile to the huge trash dumpster first. Once I dragged stuff to the dumpster, I realized some of the larger things—like the old BBQ grill and broken swimming pool—would have to be taken apart if I still wanted to have room in the trash bin for more junk. So I started taking apart the grill. Then I decided I needed to get oldest son, E, out of bed to help me. Once I got him up and moving (no small feat), I decided to leave the taking apart of the larger items to hubby or I’d never get stuff out of the shed. So E and I started pulling stuff out of the shed.

The first thing we hauled out was the old inflatable water slide. It had some holes that I was going to repair but never got around to fixing. So into the dumpster it went (and took up most of the room—stupid water slide). We then hauled the plastic tubs full of old toys and books and keepsakes, etc. out of the shed and set them in the driveway. I went through a few of them and threw things out (don’t tell the kids). When hubby got home, he took apart the grill and started helping us load the plastic tubs into his truck.

I’d like to say we got the whole shed cleaned out and everything hauled to the storage room we rent, but, sadly, that’s not the case. We did get quite a bit of stuff out of there, but there’s still SOOO much more to do.

Anyway, all that was to explain why I’m tired today and not sad to stay home instead of having to chaperone a group of excited fifth graders at the county fair. Plus, unlike today, yesterday was bright and sunny—okay, down right HOT—and, being the idiot I am, I forgot to wear sunscreen and got sunburned. It hurts.

So, yeah, I’m evil and selfish and glad the field trip got cancelled. So there. *sticking tongue out*

Tomorrow will be another day of cleaning out the shed so “the guy” can come on Tuesday and tell us what we’ll need to do to transform the shed into a writing/crafting room.

And I’m excited for the writing/crafting room to be finished so I can have room to work on my secret craft projects—yes, I need more room than my kitchen table provides (will share pictures/info when the crafts are done). And it will also be nice to have somewhere quiet (and not so cramped to write). The little desk off to the side of my bedroom is not near enough room—and it gets noisy when everyone’s home . . . and the distractions of seeing laundry and stuff that needs done around the house really kills my creativity.

What “fun” things did you do this week? Have anything “fun” planned for this weekend?

Write/craft/clean on!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Tuesday Times

Things have been so crazy here (what else is new)! We’ve travelled every weekend for the last month to visit family and attend various family gatherings. I’m exhausted!

This weekend was the most exhausting yet. We visited my parents in Snowflake (AZ) for the corn harvest. We planted less this year, but harvested more. I’m not sure I’ve seen so much corn! Not only did we harvest it, but we also steamed it and cut it off the cob so we could freeze it. We started at 6:00 a.m. (which meant the kids and I had to get up at 4:00 a.m. so we could get there on time) and didn’t get finished until just after 4:00 p.m. After harvesting the corn (there was a truck bed full of it), my siblings and their children shucked it while another sister and I harvested the carrots (a wagon overflowing with them) and some watermelon (gigantic heavy things—or maybe it only felt like it because we were tired). I brought home a thirty-one pound watermelon (we’re going to cut into it tonight) and there were several others that were big like that.

So exhausting might not quite convey the level of tired we all are. Yesterday was spent recuperating. We had planned to travel to Flagstaff for the Coconino County Fair, but decided not to. We did go out to one of the local pizza places to hang out and eat lunch, but that was it.

Two of my kids are home today because they aren’t feeling well—likely a combination of exhaustion (they helped harvest and shuck the corn) and eating too much corn (we had some for dinner last night and the night before—on the cob). Corn tastes so much sweeter when you’ve grown and harvested it yourself—or maybe we just appreciate it more.

Anyway, today I’m hoping to get some writing done. I wasn’t able to write much last week at all between the sick kids and preparing to travel. But it’s a new week—and a new month—and I’m hoping to accomplish great things. Well, I should at least be able to get the research done that I need to for this new project.

So how was your Labor Day weekend? Did you do anything fun? What are you planning for the rest of this week?

Write on!