Does A Change In Seasons Change Your Writing Habits?

blur branches depth of field dry leaves

Does a change in seasons bring changes in your writing habits?

I’m voting yes on my ballot. As the daylight fades and it starts getting darker earlier, I find myself planted in my chair a little more, pecking away at my projects. But for me, it’s just because I’m an outside kind of person. I spend more time outside during the summer season which just leaves less time inside at my desk, translating into a less productive time of year for me.

I know what you’re all saying. Why not write outside?

Yeah, I see all you writerly types posting outdoor Instagram photos of yourself and a laptop, perfectly perched on a quaint table or sandy beach near a softly rolling ocean, picturesque lake, rippling stream, or overlooking a valley or scenic mountain range.

My office for the day. The view from my workspace today.

But are you really writing? Are or you doing what I would be doing, staring out into that beautiful setting, mesmerized by nature and trying to remember where your fishing pole is while keeping your laptop open to check social media?

Hey, if you can write like that, more power to you. For me, a setting like that would be the reward for getting my writing completed, because I surely wouldn’t want to be staring at my laptop screen while all that great scenery is within my view, just begging for attention. “How am I supposed to write with all these distractions. ” is what the caption of my Instagram photo would read. Hashtag not writing, haha.

I do find inspiration in the views, though. I can easily see how a little outdoor time can refresh oneself while providing new insights and a clean brain slate, so to speak. In fact, a good walk has helped me further my writing numerous times, whether I’m stuck on a particular scene or just looking for the right words or phrases to convey my intended message.

Nevertheless, for whatever reasons, as the days get shorter you are way more likely to find me right here, butt in the chair, painfully reminded of the fact that I still haven’t purchased that comfortable office chair.

But, as professional writers, I suppose this is where we all should be anyway, right?

Have a great writing day!

 

Writers Are Always Working, Even When We’re Not

adult bench business man garden

Well, it’s been a bit, hasn’t it?

With the writing I mean. Your WIP. More specifically, with my WIP, actually.

All I can say is that life happens, you know?

Family matters, when serious enough, must take precedence and get priority treatment, of course. Mix that in with the deadlines of the paying job, and before you know it, your WIP, well, mine anyway, has a fine layer of dust on top of it and a couple of scenes that we can barely remember, right?

Right…

So once things calm down and get back to a more manageable, routine pace, those undeniable urges to get back to your writing passion return to haunt and taunt you, making you feel guilty about the neglect, and even making you doubt yourself again. The hot writing streak has ended, and you’re left slouched in the chair trying to stay awake by thinking about everything except the details of your story in progress.

Or are you?

I found that there is a shining light at the end of this long, seemingly endless tunnel. And it’s right there in my own head.

Strangely enough, I noticed that even though it was difficult to get the time and space to sit down and get involved with the ongoing plotting and writing of my story, my brain apparently never quit working on it, even if it had to wait until it was in the subconscious mode to get to it.  I would wake up sometimes thinking about certain scenes, characters, and plotlines even though I hadn’t given it any thought on that particular day. Of course, then I tried to immediately jot something down resembling keywords in the hopes of later triggering my memory to retrieve those thoughts or risk losing them for good (See examples of this behavior here). Unfortunately, some of my hastily written notes look more like hieroglyphics than keywords, and no, my WIP has nothing to do with Egypt or the carvings and etchings that they used.

What I’m saying is, not all writing is putting letters down on paper or making tapping noises on your keyboard. We’re still working when we’re thinking. We’re still working when we’re playing out different scenarios and plotlines in our head. We’re still working when we’re sitting there silently looking out of the window into an open space. We’re not working, however, when we’re sitting there silently looking out of the window into an open space with our forehead leaning against the window attached to a smooshed, stretched face that’s stuck to the window because of the moderate amount of drool escaping our half-open mouth.

But then again, maybe we are. Subconsciously. Maybe we really are.

In that case, we writers are really working twenty-four hours a day, so if you would be so kind as to excuse me, I’m going to take a nap.

I’m exhausted.

 

Seasons Change, And So Do I…

autumn close up color daylight

Well, here we are, back at that dreaded daylight savings time, or maybe a better name would be the daylight shifting time. Apparently it’s not enough that the sunlight naturally dwindles a bit each day now, because we feel theneed to manipulate our clocks to better match the lighting patterns of the sun.

Shouldn’t we at least get to vote on this?

It really doesn’t matter, I suppose, because I can’t really do anything about it. I just accept the fact that I will, through no fault of my own, lose an hour of my preferred daylight time while some others may benefit from the change.

But does it affect you? More specifically, do your writing habits change with daylight savings time? With the seasons in general?

It does for me, I know that. Being someone that loves to be outside, including being able to sit out there and so some writing, you betcha it changes things. It brings me inside, of course, but it does so without the benefit of natural light. There I sit, darkness the backdrop out of the window, soft light glowing at the desk, and it puts me in a different mood. A wintertime, sluggish, less aware mood. If I liked locking myself in a room to write, I would love this time of year, because that’s what I feel. It’s more of a job than an activity, and it’s harder to get up and get outside to stretch the bones and mental processing.

But here we are, and theres nothing to do but sit my posterior down and put words to paper, whether hot or cold, sunny or darkened.

And you know what? Even if it does feel like more of a job during this time of year, what a wonderful and fulfilling job it is.

Happy writing to you all!

 

What’s Your Why, And How Does It Affect Your Writing

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

We hear the phrase a lot.

What’s your why? Why are you choosing to do what you do? Specifically, why are you writing?

So here’s your chance to explain yourself. What’s your why when it comes to your writing? I mean, you’ve got a reason for putting pen to paper, don’t you? Sure you do, or else you wouldn’t put yourself through the headaches, backaches, and mental struggles of finding that perfect word or phrase to get your point across.

Say, for example, that you write because that’s what you get paid to do. Perfectly legitimate reason, and a fine reason to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. I do it myself, and know that deadlines, contracts, and pending payment are fine motivators. Fine motivators, indeed.

Let’s say you write because you have a message or sales pitch that needs to get out. Again, a perfectly fine reason to write and get that message out to your targeted audience. This, seemingly, is one of the main reasons that articles and web content are splattered about all over social media, sometimes over, and over, and over, and, well, you get the picture.

“Because I have a story to tell, Jerry. That’s why I’m writing”. Excellent. Write that story and get it out there. Tell those that should know, and those that you think will have interest, and then sit back and be satisfied that you got your story out there as desired.

“I shall be rich and famous, revered by all for my literary prowess, leaving a legacy of the written word that shall carry over into the history books. I shall please everyone with my words, and everyone will buy my books”. Okay, here is where I must pause and turn away while laughing so hysterically that my eyes turn red, coffee shoots out of my nose, and I need an inhaler to regain my composure. Aack!

Come on now, you don’t really believe that one, do you? I mean, if that happens, kudos to you. Honestly, congratulations! But writing just usually doesn’t work that way. When you’re trying to please a certain group, person, or genre, the words will reflect that in an almost sleazy, sales pitchy way. Good for those used car salesman, but bad for a writer.  In fact, for creative story or novel writing, it’s tough to completely narrow down your genre before writing your story or novel, because you have to be continually aware of the parameters and various rules you need to remain in your predetermined genre classification.

I have a different idea.

You’ve got a pending story or idea for a story in you. And for one reason or another, (the why), it needs to come out. Whether it’s a story that you’ve been thinking about, pouring over, and painstakingly working on every-single-day, or it’s an article that you’ve been commissioned to write, just write it. No immediate rules, no confining parameters. Just write it as you see it, because you know what?

You can shape it, edit it, and transform it later, after the original draft is written without the predetermined rules. This will ensure that the article, short story, novella, or novel will be written in your voice, ultimately satisfying your why. It doesn’t matter who you think the audience will be, or what the genre was going to be. Those things will be revealed naturally as your story evolves.

Happy writing.

Hello New, Old Friend. I Think I’ve Missed You.

view of tunnel

Hello there old friend. Why, those are some attractive accessories you’re sporting these days, and may I say you’re looking sleek and confident. Have you lost weight? Indeed, it shows. Come, let’s sit, talk, and get reacquainted, shall we?

Ah, nothing like getting used to a new piece of equipment after your old one just decides to die, right in front of you, leaving you hurt, angry, speechless, and also wordless, which some clients don’t always like to hear. But it happens, and we must move on, learning yet another, newer, and supposedly better way of doing things, even though the old ways were perfectly fine, dammit!

Back from the depths of technology hell, where glitches are said to be caused by outdated operating systems, leading to operating system updates that lead to bigger glitches, system crashes, damaged hardware, and well, you can figure out the rest, I suppose.

But when new, out of the box equipment starts acting up, and technicians on the phone explain it away calling it yet another glitch, I start really, really hating the word glitch and move on to frequently using a new word, aggravation. So two days and two marathon phone conversations later, after that innocent little glitch renders a new laptop unusable, I returned the laptop to its rightful owner, the store where I purchased it, and came home with another, again all bright and shiny computer with again, promises of a beautiful relationship experience.

We are celebrating a couple of months together now, and while catching up with work, moving a website to a new server, drinking to ease the pain of moving a website to a new server, and the setting up of this machine to my liking, I can say that we’ve already been through a lot of aggravation, turmoil, but also some relatively good times and none of those pesky glitches. Still, as much as I need technology to do what I do, I sometimes hate this technology that I need to do what I do.

But, because the assumption is that opposites attract, I can only conclude that this machine and I are indeed made for each other, as things are now getting done on time, with little interruption.

And, I really do believe that I’m starting to see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Unless, well, you know.

 

Writing Fiction With A Nonfiction Brain

 

pexels-photo-302440.jpeg

Just The Facts Ma’am

It’s a learning process, that’s for sure.

I was trained to see and report the facts, and only the facts. News reporting, community happenings, and numerous city council meetings meant digging for, uncovering, and reporting only the facts, in succinct, short, quick to the point sentences and fragments. It was mandatory to clearly share point after point after point while fitting the necessary information into a specific number of column inches. It would become the way I saw and remembered everything.

But now, in creating fiction, I felt like that dog that carelessly gets adopted and confined to an apartment bathroom, only to be finally let out into the world to be in awe of everyone and everything around me.

World building, descriptions, fictional details all available to me to complement my story? Descriptive and creative license available at my every turn? Turns available at every twist? More twists at those turns?

“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” as I go screaming around the house.

What I’m trying to say, as you can gather by now, is that it’s a different set of skills to learn how to write in a fiction setting vs a nonfiction setting. And therein lies the constant struggle in my writing psyche. For so many years, and even continuing to this day, much of my writing is based on facts, research, and numbers. The creative part is me just trying not to bore you to tears while providing all the necessary information for the article or study. But whilst brandishing that fiction pencil, all options are on the table. That can be daunting, and certainly demands a reset of my brain processing function.

How do you perform that mind reset?

Well, that’s a good question, and in all likelihood has as many unique answers as there are writers. For me, I have to be consistent in reminding myself to have fun with the words, since I have the luxury to make things happen as I want them to happen. It can be raining or not. It can be a cold day in winter, or a perfect beach day across the continent. Characters can be fashioned after anyone walking, running, strolling, skipping, or driving down the street. I can still write as if it’s a news story, but I have the creative license to go back and fill in the story with details, descriptions, and dialogue as I see or hear them. There are no fact checkers for these events, because I am my only source, leaving no one to refute my findings.

I know what you’re thinking, and it has to do with editors. That’s a damn fine point, but  more to do with the consistency and believability of the story, not my self witnessed, fictitious facts. As Stephen King says,  “The job of fiction is to find the truth inside the story’s web of lies”.

So whatever you need to do to flip that switch in your brain from fact based, nonfiction writing to fiction genre storytelling, do it on a consistent basis and pretty soon it’ll become as natural as sitting here cursing while watching those damn chipmunks dig up my yard everyday. The fiction writing mode of thinking will fire up more readily and allow a pretty cool working relationship with the rest of your mind.

And although I’m sure there is a statistic that would sound very official about this whole psychological matter, I’m forcing myself not to do the research and report back, because thankfully, I’m getting better about this whole switch flipping and brain resetting myself.

Damn chipmunks!

He Said, She Said: Dialogue Tags Are Killers

pexels-photo-551657.jpeg

So I finally worked up the nerve to have the first 3000 words of my WIP read out loud and critiqued at a writing conference.

Gasp!

Yeah, I know, but there I was, in the crowd, waiting for my page to be drawn and read out loud by an actual publishing person, and then judged by other prominent publishers, writers, and agents. And I’m talking about a couple of heavy hitters in the room, recognizable by face as well as name. When I heard my working title read, I tensed, trying to not look too guilty of being the creator of this passage, even though I may have noticeably readied myself a bit more for taking notes. I’ve hesitated to do this in the past, but after revising it a few times based on other classes and advice I had gotten from reading and researching, I felt pretty good about letting this one be judged. Hey, we need to get used to being judged in public settings anyway, right? Why not here, where the learning, and the help, is readily available?

The instructions from the reader to the panel were to listen and read along, and raise their hands when running across anything that would make them stop reading, things like poor flow, bad grammar or vocabulary choice, a boring scene, non believable actions or situations, etc. If during the read, the panel showed three raised hands, the reading was stopped and then discussed. If the reading was allowed to finish, the panelists all took turns critiquing the work, both for what they enjoyed and where the improvements could be made.

Gulp!

My words were read out loud, and I could feel myself silently reciting the chapter with the reader. One hand went up. My eyes caught the motion of a hand being raised. I hoped for an instant that they just had an itch on their head, but no such luck. I panicked a little and started scanning the panel and hoping that there would be no more. The judges remained looking down at their copies of the transcript, intently reading along. No hands seemed ready to bolt up, and as the read was completed, they all seemed intent to listen to more. A big sigh escaped my chest.

But…

Something wasn’t right. While having someone else read my words out loud, I noticed it. So did the judges, by the way, who were all in agreement. Dialogue tags. Too many dialogue tags. The story was good, and the setting built the level of suspense that I had hoped. But the story read choppy, because of all the “he said, she saids” I had inserted. They were killing my pacing while adding extra, unnecessary words to the chapter. I had two people conversing in the entire scene, so there was no need to keep telling the reader who said what. I can achieve that through voice and proper dialogue, which I was glad to discover and learn in a separately offered class within this same conference.

But if it wasn’t for hearing a professional in the writing industry read my words for a set of equally professional judges and experts, I may not have caught this fault until further down the path in my WIP, and that wouldn’t have been good news for writer or reader.

He said it, she said it, they all said it. And I listened.

Good writing!

 

Finding The Time To Write Usually Means Making The Time To Write

 

pexels-photo-164604.jpeg

Sure, we all have the same amount of hours in the day. That’s been the retort when complaining about not finding time in the day to get some quality, uninterrupted writing done. But everyone has their own individual priorities that have to be completed, based on work, family, or even health situations.

So I always roll my eyes when I hear about that go-getter that writes a sentence at traffic lights, jots down a few ideas that they’ll get back to in the next book while bouncing around on the metro, comes up with another hundred words while waiting for the barricade to rise at the parking garage, and then successfully finishes that integral  paragraph while waiting for the elevator.

I mean, can they be a legitimate writer?

By all accounts, at least from what we’ve seen on the internet, those statements just can’t be true, because we know that real writers act like now, don’t we? Being the cerebral sort, we writers, according to social media, obviously need a pre-writing routine to even think about getting words down. We have to endlessly organize and reposition things on our desk. We need to have just the right coffee cup, with just the right saying on it, in just the right spot on our desk. We have to arrange our favorite pens in just the right order, even if we write exclusively on our computers or laptops.

All the legitimate writers start their day by browsing through the wonderful and inspirational quotes from other writers and stare longingly at rustic cabins in the snow or sexy little shacks on pristine beaches so that we may have glorious words flow like spring water from our wonderful creative minds out through our fingers that are sparking along a keyboard or traveling side to side through a leather bound journal.

And last, but not least, how the heck can we be writing if we haven’t even proclaimed to the world by way of social media that #AmWriting?

So I ask you, how can we believe these stories of spontaneous yet connected words being written during the awkward pauses of life’s moments to be true?

How is one supposed to find the time to passionately pursue their writing?

The only way that I know, and it works pretty well, is to put your sitter-downer in the chair and start pecking on the keyboard or scribbling on a legal pad. I do like to always have a pen and some sort of paper with me to jot down thoughts and ideas, even unrelated to my current work, because as soon as I think I’ll remember it later, it’s gone, and trust me, it’s just as hard to make out those ink smudged words when they are written on your sweaty palms.

To find the time, you have to make the time. (Somewhat inspirational quote)

PS  I wrote this short blog, sentence by sentence, while gargling mouthwash, waiting for the dog to hack up whatever is stuck in his throat, and pausing to pick up the paper off of the front lawn, because #amwriting.

What I Do…

Within the familiar confines of my work area,  I craft creative web and business page content, including product guides, buying guides, and blogs for The Park Facilities Catalog, AluminumBleachers.comBourbon and Banter, and Ink And Embers. I also enjoy writing features for both digital and hard copy magazines, including the latest edition of Terrain Magazine, and have been published in both fiction and non-fiction books, and anthologies. During the appropriate months, I edit and proofread personal statements and resumes through www.cvpersonalstatement.com for medical students looking to attain medical school acceptance. Interspersed in these tasks is a true passion for writing fiction, and so yes, you may see some of that around as well.

Previous journalistic experience includes work at both the St Louis Post-Dispatch and the St Louis Suburban Journals as a neighborhood news reporter and editorial columnist, respectively.

Web content writing clients, present and past, include The Park Facilities Catalog, AluminumBleachers.com, Ink And Embers, Bourbon And Banter, and ParentUSACity.com.

Feature writing clients, present and past, include Terrain Magazine, St Louis Commercial Journal and St Louis CEO Magazine (Anthem Media Group), St Louis Parent Magazine, and High Performance Human/Achieve magazine.

Longer feature pieces, story length writing, and individual photos have been published in the Chicken Soup For The Soul:Think Positive, Spirits of St Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories anthology, and Rollin’ On The River, The Story Of The Admiral In St Louis.