Inside the soul of a writer

Monthly Archives: September 2018

Today is the very first day I have ever seen my reasons for writing written in a book. I almost cried. Finally, there was someone who got it. Someone who knew why. I don’t have many people in my life I can talk to about this. And, out of those, most of them are either creatives themselves or married to one. The others don’t get it. So, today, I thought I would write about respecting the creatives in our lives even if we don’t understand them.

First, let me share the quote that touched me to my core. From Jennifer Probst in Write Naked, “Writing helps you find the lost pieces of yourself—those pieces that were misplaced, forgotten, or squashed long, long ago. Through words, we may carve a new path for ourselves or recapture the power to own who we are.” “Recapture the power to own who we are.” I think this is what I’ve been missing as I’ve started on this path of the next phase of my life. I am a creative, and that means I’m different. I think differently, react differently, and look for ideas and things I can translate into words. I always have a story idea rolling around in my head, and I want to talk about things that matter. Trying to fit into a mold I was not meant for is tiring, frustrating, and not what God means for me to do as I live my life.

So, how do I live like this and still live the life God wants me to live among the rest of the world? To answer this question, I think I first need to appropriate a term that the younger generation is using. I need to “find my tribe.” I remember the first time I heard it used. It was a couple of years ago when my older son had first left for college. During my life, I’ve heard it said that people gravitate to the people who are most like them. It’s certainly been true for my son who is in the nerd/geek social club and who now has a girlfriend with similar interests. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t tried different things. (Jamboree 2018 being a prime example) It just means that he has people he feels comfortable with in sharing the deep things of his life. He has “found his tribe.” While I have a tribe of online friends who are creatives, I think I need to do a better job of finding them in real life. People who won’t roll their eyes or tune me out when I want to talk about the important things in my life.

What about the rest of the world who aren’t creatives? How do I deal with them and have relationships without denying myself or going nuts with the banality of the world? The facetious answer would be to buy my own island and limit the people who I let come onto it. My husband and I have talked about this as a lottery goal when we’ve gotten tired of the world’s nonsense. But, that’s dreaming and not realistic, and we both know it. Back to my question. I think it’s important to realize not every relationship in my life will be a soul nourishing one. There will be conversations that mean little, and people who won’t support me or my goals no matter how much I’d like them to. There will be people who just don’t care despite the one or two things we do have in common.

I entitled this post “Respect the Creative” and promised I would give ideas on respecting the creative people in your lives. This is where those ideas are. 🙂  If you have a creative person in your live and sense them starting to drift away, ask them about their work. Ask them what they’re writing, composing, painting, crocheting, knitting…the list goes on. They want to talk about their work, but they want to be listened to as well. Pretending is something they can see through right away.

If their work is for sale, buy it or share it with someone you know would like it. Not only does it help a creative person eat, they know someone else appreciates their work and that they are leaving a legacy behind.

Finally, creative people need to know they’re loved and cherished by the people in their lives. They’re different, and they know they’re different, but they still need to know they’re loved and cared about. That is one need we all have in common.

Have a great day, everyone!

 

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When I first started writing, I had trouble writing a story with a specific word count. I’d want to keep making the action move forward or describing the world I’d developed or putting more description and development into my characters. In other words, I would meander through my writing. 🙂 Now, that’s fine for the first draft of a novel or a short story. But then, I would need to enter the editing process, and I wasn’t sure of the best way to do that. So today, I thought I would describe the process I’ve been learning in my class about how to write a short story and about making word count. Then, I’ll post the story I wrote for my class for your reading enjoyment.

The first thing I learned was to make each word count whether it was a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, or any other part of speech. If one word could say what I wanted it to write better than two or three, it was all the better for my writing. The trouble I ran into was which words to use so I put a lot of thought into it while I was writing the first draft of my story and while I was editing it. It was a good process for me to learn–to make my story truly say what I wanted it to say and to make it “lean and mean” as some of my author friends would say.

The second thing I learned wasn’t necessarily from my class, or maybe it was something mentioned, but something I had already decided to try. I decided to write my short story about a moment in time. If the moment wasn’t a long-lasting moment, then it would be more likely I would hit the word count I needed to hit. It was interesting theory. I started writing, and the moment in my head started appearing on paper. I used the best words I could think of for each part fully describing the moment, but trying to be economical with them as well.

Did I hit my word count? No, I didn’t, and that brings me to the next thing I learned. I learned about editing and how it was supposed to work. When I finished the first draft of my piece, it was about ninety words more than I needed. I had been careful about my word usage, but my story wasn’t where it needed to be. This was where the editing came in. I was able to go back through my story and find more words I didn’t need or find a better way to state something with fewer words. I found I understood the process better after going through it this time for some reason. My story felt stronger, and I felt like it conveyed what I wanted it to say. I know this knowledge will help me as I begin to edit longer pieces and as I submit my work for possible publication.

Here is my story, “Belonging”, for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

Crash! Clank! Melissa hung her head in shame. This was the second time this week her lunch had ended up on the floor. The cafeteria workers ran to clean up the mess, and she was sure she heard the Spanish word for clumsy in there. She replied in kind. “No soy terpe. Alguien me empujo.” A torrent of Spanish came from the worker.

After taking the sandwich thrust at her by the manager, she turned to go to her table. She gazed at the crowd. There was no indication of who had pushed her, but two of the cheerleader brats were hiding their faces behind their hands. Emily saw her staring and raised her hand in salute. “Enjoy your sandwich, geek girl!”

Knowing that Emily had failed their Spanish test earlier, Melissa yelled, “te odio, perra!” She walked away from the crowd. After sitting down at a table in the corner, Melissa gave rein to her churning thoughts. ‘I hate this place. I wish we had never left Peru.’ Her parents had been teachers at the international school in Lima, and she had loved her life. She had been accepted there. But now they were back in the United States, and she had to go to this stupid school.

“Excuse me, young lady.” Melissa looked up to see one of the janitors sweeping near her table. “I like your hair.”

“You do?” She cradled the magenta ends of her hair. “It’s inspired by Gamora on Guardians of the Galaxy. She’s so kick-ass.” She gazed at the long table with the cheerleaders and football players. “And she wouldn’t let Emily push her around either.”

The janitor followed her gaze. “Don’t worry about her. She’s gonna get what’s coming.” He stuck out his hand. “Name’s Oscar. What’s yours?”

“Melissa.” She shook his hand. It was nice to feel comfortable with someone. “What do you mean?”

“Watch.”

Melissa saw the cheerleading coach walk up to the long table. The coach spoke to Emily. “Due to your score on the Spanish test today, you are on probation. Gotta get those grades up, Emily.”

Emily screeched. “You can’t do that, Coach!” She tossed her hair. “I’m a cheerleader.”

The coach spoke again. “Yes, I can. You need to listen. Cheerleading isn’t everything.”

“But it is!” She burst into tears as the coach walked off.”

Melissa grinned. “You were right, Oscar. She did get what was coming.”

“Keep watching,” said Oscar.

At the table, the football captain was speaking. “You have to move.”

“Why?” asked Emily.

“You made the rule. Only cheerleaders and football players can sit at this table.” He gestured to another table. “Move along.”

Melissa wasn’t able to contain her laughter. “Best day yet at this school.” She looked back at Oscar who had a slight disapproving look on his face. “Sorry.”

“I need to get back to work,” said Oscar. “Let me tell you something. You are worth ten of those girls, even with your magenta hair. And…you’re gonna find your tribe. In fact, I think you and Natasha would get along just fine.” He motioned to the door where a red-haired girl had come in. “Ask her to eat with you.”

Melissa recognized the girl from her math class. “I will, Oscar. Thanks.” She turned back, and he had disappeared. “Huh? That was weird.” She watched Natasha go through the line and motioned her over to the table. As they both sat down to eat, Melissa realized she might have a chance to belong in her new school after all. She looked up. “Thank you, Oscar.”

 


This week I’ve started a creative writing class through Wesleyan University called The Craft of Style. It’s part of a set of writing courses for people who are planning to participate in NaNoWriMo in November. In case you don’t know what this means, the abbreviation stands for National Novel Writing Month where those of us who are of the writing persuasion try to complete the first draft of a 50,000 word novel during the month. Anyway, back to my course. I thought for the next few weeks I would write about what I’m learning and provide excerpts from my writing assignments so I can accomplish some “practicing in public” time.

First up is style. Scribophile.com defines style like this. “Style is like a fingerprint, no two are alike. A function of diction, syntax, and voice, style tends to emerge from how you write rather than from a concerted effort to control it.” This is where I’ve always confused style with some of the other elements of writing. How can style be taught? Isn’t style just our own way of writing?

The answer to that is yes…and no. Notice the definition includes “diction, syntax, and voice.” I believe that is what makes style similar to setting, and it also explains how they’re both interrelated with description. The professor is using description to teach us about style, and it’s been fascinating so far. I’ve learned about taking a piece of writing and making it more vivid by the words I’ve used. I’ve also learned that making scenes clear and vivid are the underpinnings to having a great story. I rewrote something I had written a few months as part of an assignment using what I had learned and was intrigued by how different it sounded when I read it.

I know I have a lot more to learn about style and the other elements of writing, but, for now, here is my latest piece of writing for you to peruse.

Description Assignment

Kathleen Whitaker and her daughter Olivia looked up and around in fascination, barely noticing that their limousine had driven away. There was the red and black pagoda featuring the poster of the movie Kathleen had come to review. The building appeared as traditionally Chinese as the buildings she had seen in Beijing two years ago. She could sense the history oozing out of the building and into her pores. Looking up as she walked forward and studied the building, Kathleen didn’t see the person in front of her until it was too late. Oof! Crash! It was one of the waiters carrying a tray of cocktails. Kathleen helped him steady the tray. “So sorry, sir.”

He didn’t reply and walked off. She was almost sure she could hear him saying, ‘Tourist yokels,’ under his breath. She thought of replying that she was most certainly not, but then realized she had been acting like a tourist yokel. It was time to focus. She turned to her daughter who was wearing a gown identical to hers except Olivia’s was royal blue, and hers was midnight black. “So Livy, what do you think of your old mom now?” She motioned to the crowd and historic buildings around them. “Do you like it?”

Olivia was bouncing with excitement. “Mama, this is so fancy.” Her eyes widened at the sight of the red carpet. “Do we really get to walk on it?” Her mother nodded glad to see her so excited. They followed the crowd of reporters there for the premiere into the theater. Everyone oohed and ahhed at the gift shop, the concession stand, and finally, the elegant staircase and escalator leading to the theater itself. It was all so beautiful. She could hardly believe she had been asked to come to such an elegant place. Now, to see if the movie was as good as the theater it was being shown in.

Have a great day, everyone!


Sorry about the lack of an entry last week. Life was…overwhelming. Anyway, back to today. How is dancing anywhere near like writing? Bear with me. All will be made clear.

I get many of my topics for this blog from my writing inspiration book, and today was no different. The entry was about Mikhail Baryshnikov who is recognized as one of the greatest ballet dancers of the twentieth century. I learned snippets about his life in communist Russia and when he danced with the Bolshoi Ballet before defecting to the United States. One thing I was surprised by was that he was not a star dancer for the ballet. He only had secondary roles because of his height. Maybe that was his reasoning behind saying these words. “I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.” He knew he would need to work hard to get to where he wanted to be so he set goals for himself that reflected his primary goal. His opportunity did come, and I was reminded of the benefits of setting goals.

It’s the same way with writing. We need to set standards for our own writing and work on continually improving our craft. I found it interesting that the author of my inspiration book says this as one of my goals is also publication. “Just as Baryshnikov set out to dance for himself, you must write for yourself. Even if your vision is to have a work published, you must first write a work that’s pleasing to you and that meets the standards you have set for your own writing.” (The Writer’s Daily Companion, Amy Peters)

Dancing better than myself or writing for myself. They both remind me of something that I think can be important for any career or pastime. Having a heart for it and going back to the basics for it. When my sons, who are both in college now, chose their majors, they looked for things they were passionate about. Things they could imagine themselves doing in the long-term. I look back on the process now and can’t imagine them not having a career in either. They have a heart for what they want to do in their lives, and I know it is something that will sustain them.

Then, there’s going back to the basics. Each career has something that’s basic to the heart of it. For the dancer, it’s the ballet barre. For the veterinary technologist, it’s animals and taking care of them. For the sports manager, it’s the love of the game. And, for the writer, it’s the page. Always the page. It’s where I find my heart and where I find my words. I hope as we all set our goals and do our best to meet them, we remember the passion that first brought us to writing and keep going no matter what.

Have a great day, everyone!