Lisa Manifold

Writing From the Top of the Street

Tag: writing obstacles

Post Turkey Day Reflections

This is not going to be my usual type of post. I want to talk about barriers. Hang on. This is a long one.

When we get older, we are imbued with fear. Well, I have been. I think it just happens. I was fearless when I was younger. My attitude was, ‘Well, why not?’ This applied to what I could do, couldn’t do, wanted to try, thought I might like, everything. The world was my oyster.

As I got older, I learned more of life. We all know how that goes. It shows you, first gently, and then with a hard bitch slap, that everyone has limitations. Or at least, Life wants you to think that way.

For someone who was only limited by what I felt were limits (and I just didn’t have any when I was younger, because I was convinced of my own fabulousness and ability to conquer whatever Life or anyone else put in my way) learning that someone or something else set limits and would let you hit up against them hard was an ugly revelation. I stumbled, then fell. Having done so spectacularly, I became cautious. Perhaps even fearfully so. I don’t know. I look back, and see where my fearful caution held me back. I think, Why? I know it seemed important at the time.

Living in any sort of state inspired by fear is an awful thing. You do it long enough, you don’t even notice it. It’s always there, part of the landscape.

fear of failure

I’m 45 now, and letting go of some of the fear. Why? Because I like me, and getting to this point has been a journey from that younger me who loved herself, and felt no fear. So fuck it. I like me. I’m not backing down or apologizing for that. Not anymore.

But an adulthood of fear of some sort or another is a hard habit to kick. That hit home with me this past weekend. I just started skiing again in the past several years with the family after…oh…twenty years since my last foray into trying to ski.

What I’ve learned is that I am afraid. Of falling. Of breaking something. Of something I can’t even articulate. We planned to go out on Friday, when everyone else was fighting over a TV at Best Buy or some other Black Friday thing. Everyone got up late. No one made the push for going – and I finally did, even though I was dragging my feet.

So on the drive up, I mulled over why I dragged my feet. I hate the walk to the slopes. Getting the kids ready. All the circus-like atmosphere to get a family out for the day.

On the ride up, I forced myself to shift my attitude. It was a beautiful day. Sunny, and the wind wasn’t kicking. Since I ski near the Continental Divide, no wind and sun is a gift. (Note: It didn’t go over 20 degrees all day, but we weren’t cold. It was too sunny.)

You know what? Getting the kids suited up and ready wasn’t as bad. My boots fit amazingly this year, so the trek to the lift wasn’t so bad. No whining from the aforementioned kids. It was nice.

On to the lift we go. First run down, and it’s not so bad. Little icy, which makes me nervous. Then I think, wait. Last year in spring snow I fell face first ass over teakettle, and I was fine. Thank god for helmets! So I fall. So what?

I spent that first run watching my kids and making sure I hadn’t forgotten everything. Then we go down the second time, and holy hell. It was better. I watched my kid (the one I was assigned to), and I leaned forward, and forced my shoulders to drop.

That run was fantastic. I got some speed, which I normally am not comfortable with. I’m always afraid I’ll lose control. One more aspect of the fear issue.

What’s so bad about losing control? Well, for me, and this will be different for everyone, when I lost control, I totally dropped my basket and my life went to hell. So I am negatively conditioned to hang onto control like my life depended on it.

Even to the point where I won’t go fast skiing. I changed that on Friday. I let go, and I went fast. Guess what? I didn’t lose control. When things got dicey, and I am sure they still will, I managed it.

I managed it. Take that, Fear.

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Which led, because my kids love the lift that takes an eternity, to more reflection. Look how much I enjoyed the day that wasn’t a full day, nor was it the most challenging day we’ve ever done. I had a fantastic day. I took more risks (no moguls or anything like that) than I usually do, and I did it skiing faster than I normally would.

Because what the hell? I’m not a crazy risk taker, but ANY step out of my normal is a risk for me.

And since then, I’ve had a weight lifted off me. Some of that weight is still there. I’ve spent too long keeping control and worrying and making sure that “something” doesn’t happen. My wariness and cautious nerves won’t ease up overnight.

But something left. And it’s not a bad thing. All because I took a deep breath, and said ‘What the hell?’ on the first day out of ski season.

So take a chance this week. It doesn’t have to be big, or even anything that someone other than you notices. It just has to be a chance for you. Bite your lip, take a deep breath, and just go for something. Something just for you.

Because that’s what this is all about. In our own way, we are all

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Craft talk from Ursula K. LeGuin

shownotell

I read about my craft regularly. While I’m pleased with my progress over the last year, I am in no way anything other than a noob at this gig, and I don’t pretend otherwise.

Another writer brought this site to my attention – Ursula K. LeGuin did a Q&A blog where she answers questions about craft. How fabulous is that???? You can find it here:

http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2015/08/10/navigating-session-1/

You need need need to read the entire fifty questions. She is just marvelous.

One of the questions I really liked was about Show vs Tell. I hear the groans now. We ALL know that phrase, have said it, have heard it in regards to our own work. I personally am quite familiar with it. I rarely meet exposition I don’t like. But I think this question, and the answer, are a wonderful way to approach it. It’s something I’m finding now that I am three works in. Sometimes, you gotta tell. Because it’s a story, and you’re telling it.

Paige: I have been writing fiction (fantasy, light sci-fi) for several years now, and my question is the age old one about showing not telling. My narrator is telling his story through a journal that shuffles back and forth in time. How can he tell his story without “telling” as much as showing? Thank you for any advice or guidance you can offer.

UKL: No matter what sacred laws the Moseses of the Iowa School of Writing handed down on their stone tablets, the fact is, stories are not shown, but told.

Movies show stories, graphic novels (partly) show stories, but we story-tellers tell them.

“Show don’t tell” is good advice for beginning writers, and for preachy writers. And it reminds us all not to lose the onward pace of our narrative among infodumps.

But if your narrator has a complicated story to tell, let him tell it. Let it be as concrete, as visual, as vivid as possible, of course. Keep it always moving forward (or in your case, sometimes backward!) — in any case, moving.

Showing can be quite static, after all; but telling always involves moving on.

There you have it. From a pro’s pro. (Or is that prose pro? LOL, not enough sleep last night!)

There’s also this tidbit, which I 110% subscribe to.

UKL: How can you judge how well the first page of a story works until you’ve done a first draft of the whole story? There’s no way you can tell until the whole thing is, however roughly, there.

And then, more often than not, you find the first page, the first several pages, are just throat-clearings. Necessary preliminaries. Clearing stuff out of the way. Circling around, nose to ground… till finally you pick up the scent and you’re off into your story like a bloodhound on the track.

So then when you revise you throw away the whole beginning.

If you don’t trust me, trust Chekhov. He said you can always throw away the first three pages of a first draft. I didn’t believe him till I tried it.

Goes along with my editor’s recent comment that the first chapter is hell, and then things calm down from there.

thor-with-beerNow back to work. If the above doesn’t inspire you – holy friggen forearms! – I got nothing.

Using Tech…for everything

Sooooo……I have been getting myself together, so to speak. As you might have noticed via the Welcome page, my book is FINALLY about to be released. AKA I FINALLY got off my duff, wrote the thing, and took the steps needed to get it out into the public eye. Let’s be honest here. I’m the only one holding myself back.

However, there is a road block. And it’s technology.

Don’t get me wrong. I love me some techie stuff. Not that I USE it as much as I should, nor do I maximize the technology available to me. I am well aware of my shortcomings. But good grief! The things one must learn to set up an internet presence – I used to think it was easy peasy.

To an extent, it is. But then, you get into specifics. And certain pages/software/programs are not friendly with others – which means you must find a go-around to accomplish what it is you want. It means for every item on your To Do list, there are four or five more items in subheadings underneath.

However, I do feel that I have come to a place where I look out over my internet playground, my massive presence (stop laughing!), and feel pretty damn good. As much as I love tech, I remember when the first personal computers came out. We didn’t have computers in the classroom when I was in school. You took a separate class for Computer Science – even in college. I had a desktop in college, and I was considered fortunate.

Now, my kiddos use tech to sign in each morning, order their lunch, communicate with their teacher (seriously, my kids have Google accounts so they can send Docs back and forth to the the teachers), communicate with each other, with me – and these kids are not in junior high! It’s amazing.

I’ve tried to embrace it, and I think on a slightly deeper-than-superficial level I have. But learning what I need to do business primarily online has been like going back to school. This means pulling out my reading glasses, and reading the How To pages several times over to make sure I am doing it right.

Usually I am not. At least the first time.

But I get there.

Today, my kiddo asked me, since his iPhone was offering an update for an Apple watch, when he was getting his. He was taken aback that no, it didn’t come automatically. Tech to the school aged generation is something completely different than it is to my slightly older Gen X self. It’s not as automatic to me, whereas to my kiddos, they don’t even see it as a thing. It’s just there.

I’m sure my parents felt the same when I moaned and carried on about where was my boom box, and how I just needed one.

boombox

(Have a cookie if the dude carrying the box means something to you as well!)

Step Away From The Smart Phone…

 

So it was another weekend up at the shalack. That’s our little mountain hideaway that is a cross between a shack and a lovely chalet. Just so you know.

If you’ve come visiting us, you know we don’t have much in the way of technology. No cable or satellite, no internet, no phone. I can usually get a cell signal for calls, but not for much else. Not even texts. Part of me mourns a little when we go up there. I do love my techie stuff, and I do miss keeping up with my tech world.

But when I get home, I am always struck, when I look over what I’ve done during the weekend, how much I accomplish. This weekend, and if you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know this already – I managed over ten thousand words. That is just astounding to me. I did the bulk of it Saturday night, after a long and lazy day with family. Our big event was going to the hot springs and cooking ourselves lobster style. Well, and I walked around town (it’s a small town) hitting the local yard sales. Scored an amazing cast iron stove for the deck.

Back on topic. I know we all love technology, or you wouldn’t be here, on WordPress. It’s fun, and I love keeping up with those I care about who don’t live close. And yet, when I step away, how much does life improve in certain aspects?

No, we don’t do much. One of the reasons we go there is to just get away, and because we love the pace of a small town in the mountains. It’s quiet. Our house is in a part of town that is generally composed of residents. There’s not a lot of tourist traffic.

The best thing? It’s the hummingbirds. My long suffering spouse, who generally indulges me has put up a number of feeders, and adjusted and fiddled to get the birds to come and visit our feeders. We sat, both mornings, watching the birds fuss and fight and generally carry on with one another. There are six regulars that go between the four houses on the corner of our street. They make a wonderful whirring noise – and all of them have a slightly different whir. It’s louder than a hum, LOL.

And then, my spouse takes a well-deserved break and sits on the porch with first one, than another of the kids, and they sit with camera in hand hoping to get the perfect hummingbird shot, and I go write.

The old saying of ‘sit ass in chair and write’ is so true. I was reading an interview with Diana Gabaldon, and she writes between midnight and four am. She says that it’s the best time for her because the house is quiet and she can work without distraction. And that she writes every night. Even if it’s only half a page, one has to put it in the schedule as a habit.

Which brings me back round to the idea of stepping away from the technology. It’s addictive, and I am as guilty of it as anyone else. But when we move away from it, even for a time, we can be productive outside it, and then utilize it for good.

I have to admit, I missed being able to look stuff up. I make notes and do research while I’m writing. It feels weird to not be able to follow my normal habits. but it’s not a bad thing to break away from habit once in a while.

So in my continuing interest of sharing what is fueling my writing, because I have some self-imposed deadlines that have to be met this year and that means I must be organized, here’s another tip I’ve learned the hard way. If you’re finding you can’t seem to settle into writing, which is never as easy as it sounds, then log out of Facebook, Twitter, and any of your other instant notification media. Set a timer, and sit in front of your computer, or with pen in hand, and see what happens.

It could be amazing.

Rebooting the writing…thing.

So what a shift from the last time I was posting! It’s amazing – before I was married with kids, I worked two jobs, usually six days a week. (As a recreational activities instructor, your day job is awesome, but the pay is not. A second job, usually restaurant oriented, is required.) I thought, and I remember this, how hard can married/parent life be? (Stop laughing.) One job, your husband is a team player and a partner in the hellish list of chores, and you come home from work and get it all done in a jiffy! Pretty sure, although I wouldn’t have admitted it then, I also saw the birds from either Snow White or Cinderella flitting through with ribbons.

That is SO not the case! My husband is totally a team player, and a great partner. Yet there are some days we both come home and don’t care that the kids want cereal for dinner, or that there is not a representative from the fruit and veg category on the menu that evening. I should feel like a bad parent (or as we call it in my house, MOTY/FOTY – short for Mother Of The Year/Father Of The Year). I’m usually too spent to muster the energy for that much guilt.

I still have a day job, and it’s not writing, sadly. I actually love my day job, and it’s both demanding and rewarding. My kids are demanding and rewarding. They’re kind of a day job, too.

So where does writing fit into all this? Well, late in the evening, when everyone has settled, and the kitchen is tidied. When my brain is still going, even though I know I have to get up to hit the grocery store tomorrow morning. We’re low on jelly, and that doesn’t fly at lunch time.

It’s hard, though. My head, up until the last week, has been full of what I’m working on right now. I got, finally, something to replace my 47 pound dinosaur of a laptop, a Surface tablet with the fun light up keyboard. Which means I take my writing with me. I have to mention, the last purse I bought was purchased with being able to carry the Surface around in it.

So if I’m stuck somewhere waiting on something (like the vet’s office for the mysteriously sick senior kitty) I pull it out and work. I have a running doc just for ideas. It’s invigorating! I’m pulling all the little minutes I can to work and ease that cracked out hamster in my head.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. I was reading in one of my forums a post from a mom who just can’t find the time to write, and I remember thinking, I get that. I totally get that. It’s why I’ve gotten crafty in my pursuit of time to get stuff out of my head into some written form.

Something else that motivated me as well was finding the right critique group. I used to go to one that met twice a month. It never felt amazing or creative, or any of the things I’ve heard from other writers about their groups. Then I met the group leader of my current group, and gave her group a try. It felt like the difference between night and day. The members write in different genres, are all passionate, and all enjoy helping one another. We meet weekly, and I’ve missed it for two weeks due to summer stuff. Boy, do I miss it.

So if you’re struggling, just find a way to squeeze it in. Easier said than done, initially. For me, the kick in the pants was getting a work station, so to speak, that I didn’t need a sherpa to carry around for me. I still have my dino HP. I need to transfer a bunch of documents from it to the new one. It still weighs 47 pounds. LOL, not even my kids want it, because it’s an older model than theirs. But in thinking about it, working with that thing was a weight in more ways than one.

Once I cast off the weight, so to speak, and became more flexible in what “work time” could mean, I got more productive. Then I surrounded myself with really great creative energy, and the brain and output has increased tremendously. So if you’re struggling, and I was for a time, look at what your weights are. What is it that slows your progress, or puts roadblocks up, figure it out.  That in and of itself can take a few days.  Then find ways to either remove the roadblock, or get around it.  Either one will work.  Whatever takes less energy and allows you more time to write, or do whatever it is that fills you creatively.

Because even though putting One. More. Thing. Into my schedule fills my schedule up even further, I am happier.  Happier that I’ve made time in my life for something that is just mine.  Don’t we all want that?

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