Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Maybe I Can('t)

I recently started the best "day job" for a writer. I stock groceries at Wal-Mart. (Sorry, if you have negative opinions about the company. I don't feel strongly either way, but I love my job and the people I work with.) This job is perfect. Stress-free, mindless, and more physically active than you would believe - I have lost weight every week since I started. My only responsibilities are to find what needs to go on the shelf, put it where it belongs, keep the shelves neat and everything in order. My inner librarian is as happy as a clam. And I can spend all day thinking about stories, characters, plot, conflicts, etc.
      I have always been that annoying person who goes into a store like Home Depot and asks random employees where to find light bulbs, bug spray, ladders, curtains, and various types of hardware that I have no need for and no interest in purchasing. I do this not to be obnoxious but because I enjoy being amazed that anyone you ask can tell you what aisle something is on, what side of the aisle, how far down the aisle and, if applicable, what shelf. This fascinates me because I know I wouldn't be able to do it. Or so I thought.
    The grocery section of Wal-Mart is not nearly as huge as a DIY store, but there is a lot of stuff -small stuff. And I am completely shocked that after the first few weeks I worked there, I can tell any customer where almost anything is. (This is valuable, because some of it makes no sense. Why is dried fruit on the baking aisle between jello and pudding and not with the canned fruit? Why is Kool-Aide by the soda and not on the juice aisle? Why is instant tea with the Kool-aide and not with the coffee and tea - which are on the condiments aisle? And so on.)
     We carry exactly one kind of molasses (on the middle of the top shelf of the cereal aisle with the pancake syrup).  We have cream of coconut in two different places, while coconut milk, coconut water and coconut oil are in three other separate places, none on the same aisle. Pimentos are in the vegetable aisle right next to canned artichokes and mushrooms and sauerkraut.
    In most cases, I can lead customers to these things unerringly. I still get a little confused that chili is on the pasta aisle instead of with the beans on the soup aisle. And I get capers  -which are with olives and pickles - confused with cloves, which are with spices.
    I have gotten so confident that when a customer asks me, "Do you know where I can find...?' I say, "I know everything." I once had a woman ask me this and when I claimed I knew everything, her wise-ass husband asked, "The square root of pi?" Wish I could have remembered it and tossed it back at him.
    The reason I am so impressed with myself is that I always considered employees at Lowe's and such places to be like those writers who can remember every detail of their books. I know many writers are like me and have to keep notes and constantly check back to see what Teri's husband's name is and which of the neighbor kids drove the four-wheeler through the other neighbor's corn field.  But I suspect that many writers don't have to do this and I am envious.
     So, ridiculously, I am now thinking, since I can recall the exact location on everything in the twenty sections of each of the twenty shelves in grocery, that maybe I can keep all the details of my novel in progress straight in my mind. Is this belief the result of my new confidence in my ability to find things in the store? I don't know. It's possible that my new skill will translate to my writing. Also possible that it won't. But maybe if I think I can...


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things I Am Thankful For

My grandmother had a saying that my family members quote to each other when any of us suffer a crisis: "If money can fix it, it's not so bad." It is understood that frequently there is not enough money to fix whatever the problem is, or often, lack of money is the root of the trouble (can't pay the rent, can't afford to get the car fixed, etc.). What Nana was trying to make us understand was that money can't buy health or happiness or the life and well-being of our loved ones.
      When I count my blessings, family, friends and loved ones are always at the top of the list followed by health - mine and theirs. I always put the intangibles above the material things I am thankful for. I am grateful for my house and having enough to eat and transportation to work, but I am thankful that I am able to work and even to eat. I appreciate that I am mobile, have the ability to see and hear and talk.
     I am glad for my intelligence, although I recognize that those among us who are less intelligent are often happier; they are satisfied with the simpler things, as I try to be. I'm glad to be as well-educated as I am (being a book lover, I cannot imagine not being able to read), that I have traveled and experienced different things. I am thankful for memories. I am grateful that I can love and be loved.
    Among these intangibles I most appreciate, right near the top, is my creativity and ability to write. If I can keep reminding myself what a blessing it is, it may inspire me to be more dedicated to my craft and write as much as possible, not just as much as I feel like doing at any given time, not just when it's easy.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To Blog Or Not

As I was contemplating another post on the subject of blogging, I happened to read an article reposted on our writer's group (LWC) fb page. It was about blogging: "Would Jane Austin Have Written A Blog?" by Cath Murphy. Interesting article and Ms. Murphy is a very entertaining writer.
     In it, the author opined that you should only write a blog if you have something to say. Now I don't understand people who blog about their everyday adventures, even when they are amusing or informative. However, I have also wondered if my blog, where I try to share encouragement, advice, experiences and information about writing is really helpful to anyone. I do, on some days, feel what I post may be useful to someone.
    Ms. Murphy also said you shouldn't blog out of a sense of duty. I'm not sure what that means. I guess it could apply to one of my reasons for blogging, which is to keep myself in the habit of writing regularly and keeping to a self-imposed deadline.
    The statement that most caught my attention was that a writer should not blog "to feel like you are writing when you are not." That speaks directly to another of my reasons for blogging, which is to use it as a writing exercise. I more than occasionally think I use blogging as a way to write when I am "not able" - I use that term loosely and relative to my lack of self-discipline - to work on any other writing projects. But for the most part, I do consider it a valid writing exercise. I try hard to find topics I think are relevant and I work to convey my ideas and information clearly.  It really is an effort for me.
    I feel Ms. Murphy is one of those who thinks any kind of writing that is not productive work on a publishable project is a waste of time that should be spent on 'real' writing. I know many writers believe that as well, and it may be true for some people. However, I am of the school that you need to write regularly, and if emails, random haiku or blog posts are all you can manage at a given time, it is worthwhile.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

I'm not participating this year, but I did once a couple of years ago. It was how I got the rough draft of my second book finished. Even though I had already started it, I needed to add at least 50,000 words, that was my project for the event and it was an effective way to get the book done.
    Some of my writing buddies are doing NaNoWriMo this year and they are struggling.  I don't understand why. The point is to write 50,000 words. It can be - in fact, is expected to be  - crap. You aren't supposed to care whether the story is any good or even if it's written well.
    Maybe I had an advantage in that I had a work in progress when I started. But I think it would be fun to just start with a speck of an idea and just write whatever. Maybe I will try that next year. (When things calm down...)
    Even though I had a definite plot and established characters when I wrote my 50,000 words in 30 days, I still feel like the experience, not the end result, was the important thing. You learn a lot about yourself  - about your writing process - when you commit to something like that and stay with it. And I think what you learn stays with you. The experience has positive benefits no matter what the end result.
     Another angle to consider is the idea that "writing is re-writing". Many people have trouble just getting the story down, but once they have something to work with - no matter how rough or bad it is - they feel they can make it into something good. The hard part is getting the raw material.
    This is not true of all writers. I am one among many who, when faced with a manuscript that needs a huge amount of work, finds it easier to just start over. I'm not sure if it's because fixing too much is overwhelming or if my mind isn't as strong at remodeling as building. (There is a difference.)      
    Whatever kind of writer you are, whatever your process, experience, strengths and weaknesses, I think NaNoWriMo is something all writers should try. Whether you've never written anything or have already finished one book (as I had), it's a worthwhile experience.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When Things Calm Down

Except for blogging, I haven't worked on my writing in weeks - which at this point adds up to months. Not editing, not rough-drafting, not researching markets, not outlining. I haven't even participated in my writers group flash fiction contest.
     I keep thinking when things calm down - which of course they never do (dad's health is better, moving is almost done, horse show season is over for the year, I'm settled into new job and NOW I have the flu - something would inspire me to get back to it. Interestingly it's not so much that I miss the writing itself, although I do. The main thing I'm missing my characters.
     I've always been anxious to finish one book (or book-related short story) so I can go on to the next adventure. Kind of like reading a series and anticipating the next instalment, even though I am the author.
     I like to think one day my readers will feel this way about spending time with my characters and wanting to know what's going on in my characters fictional world. But in order for that to happen, I need to get book two edited and published. And do some marketing. And get started on book three. Essentially all the things I'm not doing. (I give myself some credit for getting this blog posted while I'm feeling so miserable, but I did miss posting both times last week. sigh.)
     Don't be like me. There is always something that will keep you from doing what you want and what you love. There may never be a "good" time to start, continue, return to whatever it is. I have to teach myself to work through the challenges that life will continue to throw my way. I hope everyone else has an easier time with this than I do.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Writing Yoga

In my last post I mentioned that I was reading a book about meditation and not sure why, but I have come across several phrases and images in it that I find thought provoking. Today's was, "every time you come back to yoga practice, you see the effect of not having done it for awhile." The next paragraph clarifies that you realize how much harder it is after any lack of practice, but when I first read it, applying the idea to writing, I thought maybe there was some positive impression that could be gained from coming back after a break.
    So I've been trying to think of what beneficial effects you might see after a hiatus and I'm not finding any. Sigh. The only one I can think of right now is realizing how much you miss writing when you have been away from it for a time. I am just now getting to that point again after a few months off. It's too much to hope that you might come back to writing with some great new skill or perspective, but maybe it could happen. I write fiction; I can believe in these things.
     The lesson here - again - is that not practicing your craft just makes it harder, dulls your skills and sets you back in your works in progress and growth as a writer (or as anything else). So follow my advice and not my example and keep at it.