Monday, February 24, 2014

Surprising Things I Learned

It's the end of the first week with my new part-time job. What? You didn't realize I have a new job? Yeah, it's called being a writer. And it can be described no more eloquently than how I heard it from a very successful author: "butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard". I know I should remember exactly which famous author from LTUE said it but truthfully I can't remember if it was Larry Correia, Michaelbrent Collings or Johnny Worthen. (How's that for name dropping, huh?) In fact, I think all three of them might have said it which is why I can't remember exactly who it was.

Here's what I've learned so far:

1. The work gets easier the more consistently I do it. And I'm more consistent when my writing time is scheduled in my calendar and everyone knows that's what I'm doing in that time slot. It may be that I slid easily into this habit because it's the same way I navigated writing in November when I did NaNoWriMo, but I also suspect that my logical and organized mind just needed it laid out like another commitment I had to fit into my crazy schedule.

2. Even if I only have a couple of hours on most weekdays and one day of the weekend to devote to writing, I still got FAR more accomplished than I thought I would this week. This was a pretty big surprise for me. In my corporate life, I usually need large chunks of time devoted to enormous projects to make real progress. When I don't get that, it usually is more counterproductive to get going just to have to stop. Writing has proven far different. I can plug away in smaller time increments and still get lots of things done. This week could be an anomaly but I'm guessing it isn't. Even my 'Marathon Sunday' of writing this week included time to get my house clean and my laundry done while taking advantage of my built in breaks. Since my family got my undivided time on Saturday and I wasn't some recluse they didn't see all day on Sunday, my guess is they may just think I'm messing around on Facebook like nothing is different. Won't they be surprised when I have more than a Facebook feed to show for my efforts? Another bonus: I got more sleep this week than I usually do on top of doing more every day. How does that work, I wonder? I'm not complaining but I suspect not watching television has much to do with it. 

3. Revision isn't as bad as editing when you look at it as part of the same process of writing. I always thought of the editing process as something separate from writing your first draft. Truth is, once you get the rough draft down, you just keep going and revising (or re-vision-ing as I like to think) until you can't improve it anymore. Even then you will need another set or two of eyes to see what else there is you missed and then if it's good enough to sell to a publisher you'll have to do it all over with their editors. Now that I realize I can't compartmentalize or avoid revision, it is a much more enjoyable process.

I'm currently working on several things. Which I also never trusted could be done when authors talked about writing one book and editing another. I'm brewing a new story in the back of my subconscious while I work on revisions of the novel I wrote last November. I finished reading through the first draft after I let it sit for a couple of months so I was reading with fresh eyes and a memory that had faded a bit. I found lots of plot points that needed to be fleshed out or tweaked for consistency and now I'm seeing the entire whole for places that can be improved. I find so much excitement working with a finished draft because the bare bones of the story are all there and now I'm just adding organs and connecting tissue to bring it more fully to life.

I love going back and seeing how things shift for me years down the road so I'm going to keep documenting what I think of as "My novel project" for my own hindsight as I explore what works for me and what doesn't. Why have a blog if not for your own personal benefit, right? I'll also keep regaling my faithful readers (all ten of you?) with the craziness of the rest of my life. Hopefully you'll remain entertained and keep coming back. If I learned anything from attending LTUE it is that I've grown as a writer the last four years even if it was in miniscule steps I didn't realize until I look back and compare then to now. If you need me, I'll be reading, drinking excessive amounts of coffee, running around with my hair on fire to keep up with where me or my kids need to be, and writing into the wee hours of the night. My goal is to have my revisions done of my current novel by the end of the summer.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Being a Writer - a new perspective

I just attended Life, the Universe & Everything (LTUE) - a science fiction and fantasy symposium geared mostly toward writers. It was my second writers conference and the first I've attended in its entirety. I went with my amazing writing group so it was also one of the funnest girls weekend trips I've ever taken. I came away energized and excited about writing in a way I never have been. I attribute this to two reasons.

First, because I got to be the nerdy geek girl I really am at heart. And I mean got to be her FULL OUT. For an entire three days. From sunrise to sunset. I've read science fiction since I picked up "Battlefield Earth" by L. Ron Hubbard when I was in sixth grade and it changed me forever. I found fantasy and horror not long after that and never went back. I loved being able to gush about being literally feet away from my favorite fantasy author (Brandon Sanderson of course). Got to hold in my hand a copy of his latest book that no one anywhere can purchase yet like the holy grail it is. And no one thought I was weird for doing any of it. I was surrounded by my people. And it was heaven. I even ventured into fan-girl insanity by dressing up as a character from one of my favorite novels at the banquet. Which paid off when Brandon Sanderson himself stopped in the middle of his toastmaster address to say "I'm sorry, are you wearing mist cloaks?" and proceeded to complement and make inside jokes about not 'dropping coins' or 'licking the dinnerware' while my writer's group stood for all to see how cool we were. (Sorry if you aren't a nerd and don't get the references. If you want to, read Mist Born!)

Second reason is the perspective I took away from the panels I attended. I realized I've been envisioning this whole 'being a writer' thing in an entirely wrong fashion. Being a writer always looked like: me at a desk in my house, by myself, working hard, and then someday selling books and "making it big". What a bunch of vague and empty terms with no specifics! What I learned is that being a writer - at least the kind where you get paid to do it and make your living solely by writing - can be summed up on a very basic level. IT IS A JOB. Which means you have to build your skill set, start at the bottom, get a ton of experience to put on your resume so you can get the best job. [LIGHT BULB] Just like trying to get a corporate job. Which I already know how to do!

After I appeased my OCD by transcribing (and color coding and organizing for action items) all my handwritten notes from the weekend, I sat down with Hubby and made sure he was on board with me taking on a part time job. Because that's what I'm going to do from here on out. I already proved as recently as this past November that I can have a life and still write fifty thousand words in a month. So, I'll continue to do that every single month from here on out. I'll further tune and hone my skills then build my resume until I land a position with an agent willing to sell my work to publishers. Because those are the nitty-gritty specifics of what it really takes to be the kind of writer I want to be. Finally a project plan for my writing!

Wouldn't it be super cool if one day I was on one of those panels at LTUE? Look out world, the ultimate overachiever has taken things to a new level. If you need me, I'll be somewhere with my hair on fire I'm quite certain!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Small Steps

One of the things I've learned on my fitness journey is: you can't change everything all at once and hope to be successful. You can try, but usually all the changes are so overwhelming that you're left with frustration and disappointment when you can't meet all your goals. And when that happens you just give up. Instead, deciding to change one thing or committing to add one thing at a time to your routine until it is a habit yields far better and lasting results.  Struggle with making poor food choices? Take it a meal at a time. Want to exercise more? Add one thing at a time with small goals that increase over time. Never worked out before? Just start moving more and then try a lot of different things until you find what you like to do.

Personally, I love looking back at where I've been and where I am now and seeing a huge difference. My own journey was more of an evolution than a radical change in my daily activities. Remember three years ago when I decided I liked running and then I had run a half marathon and three Ragnar relays within the span of two years? It all started with getting off the couch and walking until I could run and then systematically increasing how much running I did until I was capable of whatever I wanted. The same has been true of yoga. A year ago I "liked" yoga but didn't practice more than once or twice a year. Sure I loved it when I did it but it wasn't a weekly or even monthly habit. Now I practice four times a week - sometimes more - and am capable of so many things that I thought I would never be able to do like back bends, splits, arm balances and (almost) a headstand.

As much as I have loved my journey, until now I have not had the best of both worlds. I started my weekly yoga practice only a few months before I had to completely give up running because of my health issues. Yoga kept me sane and grounded (and active) while I couldn't run and in the process I realized I loved yoga more than I ever had loved running. Or so I thought. Now my health is pretty much back to normal and I have been talking about adding running back in purely for the cardiovascular benefits. After a year of not running, I've completely gotten out of the habit; not to mention lost all my cardio capacity I had developed. Plus I have two kids with dance schedules now so juggling WHEN to run has gotten harder. I let that hard part stop me for a few weeks and finally decided that I just needed to do it. After all, the longer I waited the harder it was going to be to get back to where I was before I had to quit.

Yesterday, I went for a 3-mile walk/run (which was way more walking than anything) like I used to do every Sunday. I took my trusty running companion with me - my beloved elkhound - and picked a familiar route I used to run regularly. It starts with a challenging uphill and finishes with a rewarding downhill. It was amazing to be outside in the sunshine in my favorite running temperature (between 36-40 degrees). But what I didn't expect was the emotional response when I rounded the bend to start the downhill. The vista of the Salt Lake valley and the Rocky Mountains rising in the distance hit me - almost physically. I have trained with that view of my mountains for every long-distance race I've ever run. I was home again whether I was running or walking. Most surprisingly, I hadn't realized just how much I missed it until I was back. Not going to lie, I cried most of the way down the hill - almost a mile - but they were truly tears of joy.

Whether I can fit more than a Sunday run into my fitness routine right now doesn't matter. Sundays are again run days. And once that has become a habit, I'll tackle finding another established time for an additional run. Will it be the gym, at work, during the evenings or early mornings? I don't know yet. I just know that small steps will eventually get me to my goal like every other time before. Maybe someday soon my personal label of "Writer, Runner, Overachiever" will be completely true once again.