Write Like No One Is Reading

My seven-year-old son, Skyler, has a behavioral chart at school. The main obstacle to achieving four stickers, the highest level of success, has been narrowed down to mostly one thing, completing his journal. He either doesn’t write in the journal or doesn’t read the journal out loud to the class when requested. I’ve felt bewildered by this. I had always kept a journal as a child because I wanted to. My thoughts were written for my eyes only and I wrote what I felt I needed to write.

I haven’t kept a journal for a long time, and thought about doing so once again for my son, but also for myself. It’s been a while since I’ve written just for me; thoughts that were not going to be published, myself the only audience, no edits, no proofing, and usually no re-reading. I simply wrote to write them, to get them out of my head. I kept journal after journal and later they ended up in a box or a drawer. Unfortunately, most of the journals from my adolescent years have vanished. Looking through some journals, I realized I haven’t written one since 2006, a journal I kept during the first years of my son’s life in which every entry began with, “Dearest Holden.” Someday he may want to read it. I’m sure it’s gushing with sentiment that would probably make him squirm today. But maybe someday.

A journal for my firstborn. I thought he might like the colored paper.
A journal for my firstborn. I thought he might like the colored paper.

Generally speaking, journals are private. Where would crime drama be without the mysterious diary? It’s all in the diary. There you’ll find the clues. And hands off, NSA. They can’t touch this one. In this age of spontaneous, digitized reactions, private thoughts maybe are not recorded as they once were. Flipping through a few of my journals, I encountered pictures and receipts, like spontaneous, magical gifts of my past.

My son’s in-class, daily journal is seemingly more of an assignment, usually with questions about his weekend, maybe a field trip. Usually, he doesn’t share the topics or what he’s written, except in the case of this one:

Homework is…

His response:

 Homework is frustrating and tiring, but helps me learn.

Pretty good! I would give that sentence a 4 on their 4-point scale. I’m not sharing to boast like a proud mommy, but merely to express that, perhaps, it’s not writing that is the issue. He’s anxious, he’s maybe even fearful about being incorrect. I’m not sure, really. What I don’t want to see happen is for fear to get in way of him being able to enjoy writing, and to write as a means to express himself. Because he can and because he wants to.

A few journals from the past. The pink one on top from 1991, detailing a cross-country trip before I was married. I looked through that one for the first time today.
A few journals from the past. The pink one on top from 1991, detailing a cross-country trip before I was married. I looked through that one for the first time today.

I’ve always have the most fun dancing when no one is watching. As a trained dancer, I could be consumed with the technique of a step. But as a child, I spent a lot of time dancing alone, with joyous abandon, and then my mother would put me on the spot in front of tens of people. I would freeze, sometimes cry. I don’t know why I froze, I knew I could dance. I had tons of lessons; I loved to do it, yet I couldn’t when asked. I stumbled. I couldn’t deliver what she wanted.

Writing can be much like that with the pressure to perform on cue. As I ponder my son’s anxiety, I’m reminded of my own. So now I’m giving myself permission. I’m going to write in my journal like no one is reading. Because I can and because I need to.

My new journal. It's blank and waiting for words.
My new journal. It’s blank and waiting for words.

Do you have a journal? What do you like to write about? Or, hey, you don’t have to tell me. You can keep it all to yourself.

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Voices – Friday Fictioneers – 12/07/12

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, brought to you by our gracious host, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Today’s photo was provided by Rich Vosa. My 100 words comes to you as story. Initially, I went over with this one, so I did some cutting. The end is, well, your interpretation.

Click here for more stories related to this prompt. As always, your participation is welcome. Why not try it out?

Copyright – Rich Voza

Voices (100)

At the third door, they heard sobbing. Two doors further, they listened to mumbling in words beyond recognition. Across from this door, a man yelled, “I told you to stop it.”

At the end of the hall, an unmarked door lead to another hallway. The corridor adjusted itself for re-engagement, the crying, mumbling, and the yelling, until the sunlight grew dim and darkness cloaked around them.

Annie pounded with her fists. “I know you’re in there.”

“We already tried,” Henry sighed.

Behind a wall sat two men at a monitor. “Haven’t they had enough?” relented the younger man.

“No. Almost.”

I’m a NaNoWriMo Winner! I did it!

I’m a NaNoWriMo winner! Friends, I did it!

I just want to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who offered me kind words of encouragement during the NaNoWriMo challenge. You probably won’t believe me when I say this, but YOU made all the difference. There were some days when I had another 600 words to write, and I would think, “I just can’t….” But then, I would think of you. So, I kept a steady course, and I finished my novel. Well, I put an ending on it. Never mind all the holes in the middle. So, THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

My son asked me if he could read it and I said, “No way!” He found this kind of pathetic, wondering why I would take all this time to write something that I don’t want anyone to read. And, all you got was a stupid badge…yeah, yeah, yeah…I’m proud of my badge.

For one thing, I discovered a great story out of it. I wrote a suspense/thriller with a lot of plot points and twists. But let me tell you, it’s awfully hard to write a plotty and twisty novel when you’re not quite sure what the plotties and twisties are. You see what I’m saying? My novel had lots of stray body part pieces in it and I wrote it in pieces. Oh, let me think about that for a moment….That’s quite profound….The second draft will be easier. I plan to pick it up soon, but probably not tomorrow. Do I want to do this next month? No, I don’t!

But I’m happy I did it, and it feels like a great accomplishment. It’s true what they say about the NaNoWriMo. In one of the pep talks I read from NaNo, it said something like you’ll be able to write anywhere….Yes! I could have written in a crowded bar with loud music with darts flying around my head. Or, at a kid’s birthday party with kiddos swarming around me. No problem!

Also, when you sign up and fill out your profile, they ask what music you listen to while you write. They even had a space to fill out your listening music. I thought how sweet that they want to bring people together based on their listening preferences. I thought, Oh, I write to silence. That all changed! I needed some pep, something with spunk, and I listened to music most of the time I wrote.

For those of you who are thinking about doing this, I highly recommend it. If anything at all, by doing the NaNo I gave myself permission to write. I gave myself a chance. It also made me realize why I usually don’t give myself time to write. There are so many distractions that get in the way. For a month, I made it a priority and that was a huge step for me.

Thanks again for your support!

 

NaNo…Who…Knew

NaNo Who Ha

NaNo Mo Fa

NaNo Who Knew

The End

I guess I can do better than that…oh, I’ll try.

This writing thing…DANG!…it’s hard.

She’s bursting with creative juices. All I need is a cape and lights!

Here’s my latest NaNoWriMo update in which I will give myself a pep talk and you, dear reader, can observe me slip into madness.

All work and no play make Amy a dull girl

All work and no play make Amy a dull girl

All work and no play make Amy a dull girl

Do you see where I’m going with this one?

This is not one of those posts where I tell you that my story is just flowing out of me. I’m still waiting for that creative surge to hit allowing me to write with literary abandon, where my characters are writing my book for me. Hmm…no, not quite.

Now for reals…I’ve written 8,534 words to date. Whoo hoo! This means that I’m on target and writing the necessary amount to achieve the 50,000 words by the end of the month. One of my goals is to not fall behind, because as soon as I do, I fear I won’t be able to catch up.

Now, are they good words, you might ask? No. In fact, I don’t think I want anyone to read this. It’s raw and messy. So far, a lot it is back story. Is is the research I should have done beforehand? Perhaps. If you were to see my book in screen form, it would be a lot flashbacks.

If I thought it could really make a good book, it would be a definite rewrite. I’ve determined this is a grand experiment. I’m sure if I were left to my own devices, I might abandon this project altogether for fear that it isn’t any good. So, with nothing to lose, it would seem it might be easier to write freely, to write for writing’s sake. This is goal #2.  Let my characters and my writing roam free. I’ll see how my story shapes up.

I try to write in the morning first thing at about 6 am. Then I take a few chunks of it later in the day. That schedule seems to work for me. The most difficult thing is doing it everyday. However, everyday does feel like an accomplishment. Those words I wrote, even if they’re crappy, weren’t there the day before. How’s that? All in all, so far so good.

P.S. Blogging friends, I don’t want to disappear off the face of the blogosphere. I still want to read your posts. If by chance I don’t comment on your post, please don’t take it personally. I probably can’t write another word!

photo credit: rachel a. k. via photopin cc

Once Upon a Bumble: What’s in Your Writer’s Tool Kit?

Last week, we discussed our writing habits. Thank you to all who shared their tips and experiences. Indeed, it’s different for everyone. Many of us still depend on our trusty notebooks. And, it looks like I’m not the only one with bad handwriting. Many of you discussed the process of thinking and writing with pen and paper (or pencil) to the transition of typing these words into your computer. Some of us believe that the process of actually writing with pen and paper was more suitable for how our brains are wired. Writing longhand is a method, perhaps a dying one, that may encourage a slowed down pace for more thoughtful writing.

Of course, ultimately our final draft is in digital form. We all have a computer or we wouldn’t be in wonderful Blogland. Computers, however, may be the culprit of bad handwriting. It’s all the computer’s fault. I know I get lazy, knowing my final draft will be on the computer. So, some of us use smart phones for notes, and this comes in handy as well since our phones have become attached to us.

Another trusted companion is the good old dictionary/thesaurus which for some need to be in arm’s reach to coax the mind into writing mode. Let’s not underestimate the importance of brain mapping with sticky notes and color coding ideas. Others mentioned the importance of starting off with the right beginning and that once this is accomplished they can create freely.

Others imbibe tasty beverages before or during their writing, smoke, take walks, see the chickens, or write with dim light to help focus the mind. A few of you, I won’t mention any names, considered writing au naturale. No one admitted to writing with a snake.

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Today’s Topic: What’s in Your Tool Kit? What about Scrivener

We’ve discussed tools that help us write. Today I’d like to introduce Scrivener.

For those who are looking for a better way to organize your writing, Scrivener may be just the tool you’re looking for. I learned about Scrivener through the living notebook (a great blog here!). He swears by it. I thought I might pass this information along in case you’ve never heard of it.

Scrivener is for all writers—novelists, journalists, academics, screenwriters, playwrights—and is ideal tool for writing and organizing that first draft. It offers, in digital form, a ring-binder, a scrapbook, a corkboard, an outliner, and text editor all in one package.

You can try Scrivener for a 30-day trial.

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What about you? Have you used Scrivener? Do you know of any other programs? Do you think this would be a helpful for your writing process?

Well, give it a try. I’ve downloaded it, but have not yet had a chance to work it. Hopefully, by next week, I can provide you with my thoughts on it.

Don’t forget the blue moon tonight, my blogging friends. The blue moon is a rare occurrence.  Another one is not expected until 2015, three years from now. I suggest you have your notebooks/smart phones ready to capture any strange happenings, or perhaps you’d just like to write by the light of the moon.

Related article:

Why creative writing is better with a pen

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Once Upon a Bumble: What’s Your Writing Habit?

Welcome to the weekly forum, Once Upon a Bumble. Last week, I was contemplating the when of writing. Today, I want to explore writing habits, as this may very well dictate the when of our writing.

In my writing experience, I have what I like to call a dual process. I usually begin with my notebook, scribbling down thoughts, words, sometimes sentences. I follow this with scribbles,  scratch outs, doodling, daydreaming, and hopefully more writing. Eventually, I may have a sentence or two I like. If the sentence is a keeper, I transfer the words into my computer as soon as possible.

My chicken scratch writing may very well be the worst handwriting on the planet. Blogging friends, I don’t believe you would be able to decipher a word of it. If I don’t transfer the information within a reasonable amount of time, it may be forgotten forever. This is similar to forgetting what you were going to say, but at least twice as worse, because that thing, that thought, word, sentence…It was perfect, the connection, everything…it was probably…garbage.

This would be perfect.

Writing in my notebook is more about processing ideas, because much of the time when I transfer material from paper to computer, it transforms mysteriously into something else, usually an improvement from what I had. I write more seriously at the computer. If I’m really in a bind, I usually pace around, fold clothes, clean up, and then, a word or thought enters my mind, unlocking my creative energy. Well, ideally anyway. Other times, my writing is more fluid.

Yes, and birds chirping. I like to hear them, which means I should be writing in the morning. But I feel I have more free-flowing ideas at night. Oh, I’m so conflicted.

Let’s now turn to famous writers for inspiration and their interesting habits. I will highlight a few here. For more details, see the articles below.

1) Location, location: Truman Capote wrote in the horizontal position on a couch, sipping a glass of sherry/coffee and puffing a cigarette; Vladimir Nabokov soaked in a tub while he wrote on his index cards; For distraction-free writing, Flannery O’Connor used the blank surface of her dresser drawer.

2) Amount of Writing: Ernest Hemingway wrote 500 words a day, sometimes stopping in mid-sentence (although this could also be due to his high-alcohol consumption); Stephen King, ten pages a day, even on a holiday; Thomas Wolfe, also about ten pages, triple-spaced, roughly 1800 words; James Joyce considered three quality sentences a full day’s work.

3) Early Risers: Toni Morrison and J.K. Rowling wrote in the morning, working their schedules around children; J.K. Rowling stole away to a cafe to write while her child napped; Sylvia Plath rose at 4:00 am to write.

How about a snake around your neck? Oops, her top might be a tad small. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear a bathing suit.

4) Foreign Substances/Odd/Memorable: Philip K. Dick, hallucinogens, Aldous Huxley, mescaline; William S.Burroughs, heroin, W.H. Auden, Benzedrine; Mary Shelley wrote with a snake around her neck; John Cheever often wore nothing but underwear; Ezra Pound breathed only through his mouth while writing; Hemingway first discussed his writing with his cats; George Orwell started his daily writing routine with a swim across the English Channel; Virginia Woolf engaged in hot yoga.

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What about you?

Do you have a writing ritual? Do you write in front of computer or with pens/pencils?  While lying down? In a pool of water? In silence or with sound/music? While naked? Oh, I got your attention.  Seriously, I wouldn’t expect you to admit it here. Of course, you want to…

I’d love to hear from you. Share away.

Relating Links on Writers’ Habits

Weird Writing Habits of Famous Authors
Words That Sing the Body Electric: The Writing Habits of Famous Authors
Daily Routines
Writing habits of 9 super famous authors

photo credit: cogdogblog via photo pin cc
photo credit: Kevin Eddy via photo pin cc

Once Upon a Bumble: When do you write?

Welcome, my fellow blogging friends to another episode of Once Upon a Bumble. If you are just joining us for the first time, welcome. For those who joined last week in our forum discussion, first I want to say I’m amazed with the overwhelming response. I say it’s free advice for me, but I do hope you gained something from it for yourself. Thank you all for taking the time to participate.

Last week’s question was about how we decide WHAT to write.  The second thing I want to share is that my overall feeling from last week’s discussion resulted in renewed motivation for my writing. This is a huge for me. I have you to thank for that.

Allow me to share all I that I learned from your excellent, insightful, and honest comments. I will paraphrase and hope that I get it right.

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Experience:

Many of you have written novels (congratulations!); some of are in the process of writing a novel; many of us plan to write one someday; things get in the way, such as jobs, life, blogging….

Ideas:

Ideas and inspiration could be random and hit you spontaneously while walking in the park, reading something, or watching a TV show.

It’s important to write all your ideas down; Carry around that notebook. If you don’t, you will not remember. (This is true for me.);  Let your ideas rest and mull in your head. If you remember them weeks from your initial inspiration, your idea may be a winner.

Ideas are strung and cobbled together piece by piece; it’s not necessary to concentrate on the whole; ideas may come out in scribbles and words, and dots can be connected later; don’t delete what you think is garbage. You may want it later.

Write to feel alive; stories are fighting to get out; in the beginning it’s best not to discriminate; the hardest part is getting started.

Many ideas come in dreams; perhaps our minds are processing all our cobbled ideas.

You may seek inspiration from people or events in your life; maybe there you will find answers; some feel writing from experience makes more sense and writing what you know.

Breathe life into your characters; they have a life of their own.

Process:

The process of writing is probably unique as our fingerprints; you may be trying to develop who you are as writer; using your strengths and writing what you prefer or attempting to create and communicate a greater truth/beauty.

An outline may be helpful; it’s best to let the story unfold on its own; no writing plan.

Writing as a physical activity, not drumming at keyboard; writing and coming back and fixing it later.

Don’t get stuck; don’t be afraid to move ahead in your story and connect your pieces later.

Write a few pages a day.

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So, keep writing. And then, write some more. That’s the important thing. There is no easy, magic formula. Dang! Of course, there isn’t. I Well, I  hope that was useful for you.

We know that writing requires a lot of practice, patience, and perseverance.  I like to compare it to other activities I have experienced in my life. I was a dancer for a while, a runner. I could always manage to keep taking class and get a run in. Sometimes my writing is an extra activity, something I must squeeze into my life. If I could treat more as a daily practice, I feel I would be a lot more productive. So far, I wouldn’t give myself a good grade.There’s room for improvement.

Certainly, we all have obligations, families, jobs, commitments. So, I guess my next question is along the lines of how do we get this done. How do we keep it up?

Question for today:

WHEN do you write?

How do you fit it into your life? Do you write every day? When you’re inspired? Do you have a writing routine? If you don’t, do you think it would help if you had one? Do you write in the morning/night/any hour? For how long?

Do you try to write a quota? Pages? Words?

What’s your secret?

Related Post:

Why Being a Writer Means Being Selfish

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