Essays

Never Say Never, or You Just Might Find Yourself Writing Longhand–Shiver!

Rarely will you hear me say I will never do something. Why? Because you never know when those words will come back to bite you in your plump, writer’s behind. What follows is just such an example. 

I haven’t written a story by hand in ages. Once I got my word processor (years ago!) and, later, my own computer followed by my laptop, I left the archaic days of paper and pen behind, and happily. Back then, I hated that my wrist got sore, and that weird callous on my middle finger was a source of pride (Yay! I’m a writer!), but also annoyance (Ugh, how to ruin a good-looking pair of hands!). Besides, it was slow. My mind would be three sentences ahead before my hand would catch up, which always resulted in chicken scratch even I couldn’t figure out when it came to revising or transcribing to the computer. Good riddance and no looking back!  Futurama Yes, the computer was a godsend. Quick, easy, and waste-free, it was a breeze to write and edit, and it required no transcribing—another thing I hated about writing longhand. 

But, well…you see, I’ve…um…(coughs)– I’ve gone back to longhand writing. There. I said it.

In an older post, I hinted at it, as I find writing poetry by hand helpful in getting me ‘unstuck’—maybe it’s the fact I’m creating in an environment different from the one I’m stuck in (bent over paper with a pen in hand versus hunched over a keyboard staring at a blank screen), or perhaps, as it has been suggested, that handwriting uses a different part of the brain than typing. Regardless, I have found it successful. For poetry. 

So, how is it that I’m finding myself writing a story by hand?  I’ve mentioned that I have tendonitis in my ‘mouse’ hand/elbow, and, lately, I’ve been bothered by back and neck problems on the other side. I write for work and then I go home and write for play. To deal with this, I decided to ease up on writing and focus on other things instead: reading, editing, beta reading etc, to still be in the writing head space while resting my body.

But I’m still driven to create.  So, here I am, back at the beginning, holding a pen in one hand and bracing a lined page with the other, just like I did in the first grade when I wrote my first story. And I have to say, I’m liking it. 😉 

From chronicle.com
From chronicle.com

Some thoughts:

  • I’ve discovered that the brain is pretty remarkable, and this exercise made me realize just how fast it can be. As I’m getting my words on paper, I’m conscious of just how many decisions I am making before the pen hits the page: Is this the right word? No? Okay, should I change it? To what? Or should I just keep going and correct it later? …How does this section relate to what’s coming? Do I even know what’s coming? No? Who cares? Stop thinking, don’t self-editing, just write, write, write, get it down and correct later. Write, write, write! Try it. It’s pretty amazing.
  • Going slow isn’t bad. I like to be productive. I don’t have a lot of spare time, so the fact that a computer lets me bang out a story quickly and in one shot is very satisfying. However, this process is changing the way I approach my writing sessions: being forced to write in short bursts before my hand wears out forces me to think first about what I want to get down on paper. And between sessions, I think about what should happen next, rather than typing whatever feels right at the moment because I’m on a roll or because I just want to have something finished by the end of the session. It’s a different way of writing for me, and though it’s hard to slow down, I find this process pretty neat.

Anyhoo, those are my thoughts on this. What do you think? Do you write by hand or were you like me, spurning it with every ounce in your body? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Oh, and I’d share a little of the story I am working on, but well, it’s on paper. 😉 Maybe next time!

Essays

Yes, I Attended a Schmoozer!

Two days ago, I got to attend something called a SCHMOOZER, a networking get-together hosted by the Quebec Writer’s Federation at a pier-side bistro in the gorgeous Old Port of Montreal.

Now, I’m not big on showing up to these things on my own, you know, sauntering through the doors and not giving two flying forks that no one knows me from Eve. So, in order to go, I had to latch myself to another writer. Luckily, new friend and fellow writer, Su Sokol, was happy to oblige. Thanks, Su!

We strolled up to the gathering of writers, editors, budding lit agents, translators, QWF staff, etc. in the sweltering heat and humidity (Montreal has lovely summers but I swear its humidity was concocted by demons in the deepest, darkest pit in hell and consequently unleashed on our poor, unsuspecting island) and promptly had a swell time. Everyone was nice and chatty and, because it was a networking activity, it wasn’t weird to talk about myself or my book or my blog, and even less so when I whipped out my new business card–Wham!–and tucked it into the hand of whoever I was speaking with. It was invigorating!

Thanks to my husband who did a fab job!

Thanks to my husband who did a fab job!

 

I’ve written a lot about my writing experiences and projects on this blog and in guest blogs, messaged and emailed friends on the subject, and participated in interviews and blog hops and author features, all of which are great. Doing this kind of stuff is a great way to connect with a broad audience. Also, thinking about writing and then organizing those thoughts in order to compose an article, for example, are great ways to improve. In fact, I believe doing these things have gone a long way in terms of helping me produce pieces that are easy to read and, hopefully, well-thought out. If nothing else, it’s given me the confidence to believe I can write other things besides stories—something I wasn’t sure about when I started blogging.  

That said, having to look someone in the face and talk about my book was tough. Not because I didn’t know what I was talking about but because knowing how to do it in a way that avoided causing my listener’s eyes from glazing over stressed me out.

Case in point: The first person who asked about my book…well, it didn’t go so good. In fact, it was one big fat, FAIL. I felt so much pressure to present my book in a unique and interesting way, in other words different from the 6 billion other books on the market, that I could barely string a sentence together, let alone anything that sounded convincing. Did I mention that I was surrounded by people who had published with well-known publishing houses and others who had won awards or had some amount of recognition for their books?

from godtalkvermont.blogspot.com
from godtalkvermont.blogspot.com

Yeah.

But as the evening wound down and with a Smirnoff Ice mellowing in my stomach, I began to relax. I chatted, smiled, and learned about the people around me and about their writing experiences and challenges. I discovered that, in a lot of ways, we were in the same boat. Hate marketing? Yep. Frustrated by how much time the business side takes away from writing. Oh, yeah. Wish you could write full-time but stuck having to work a day job? Oh, yeah! Finally, long after the event was done, a few of us stuck around to chat and a writer (Hi Veena, if you’re reading!) asked me about my book. I didn’t stress about any of the stuff I had before. Instead, I talked about what The Purple Morrow meant to me and that’s when the words started to roll. There aren’t many unique stories out there, but talking about Morrow’s essence and its themes and how they became the story worked. I felt like my listener actually listened.

Purple_Morrowl

 

Anyway, I’m glad I attended. It was a great opportunity to meet some great people while practicing becoming comfortable talking about myself and my work. I’d been looking for a place in the Montreal writing scene for a while and, after four years or so, it looks like I might have got my toe in the door. In September the main activities like workshops and mentorships will start up and I hope to explore those too. So stay tuned as I venture deeper into the realm of the Montreal writing scene since I will most definitely be blogging about it. 🙂

Essays

Self-Confidence: How do you feel about your writing?

A few weeks ago as I was perusing my G+ stream, I came across a post by a young writer who basically said her work was crap and that nothing she created was worth a damn. Of course I stopped, read the post through and then added my two cents worth of support to the others, hoping to help boost her spirits, if even temporarily. It’s important to reach out for support when our confidence is wavering, and I’m glad she did. Still, it’s not the first time I have seen posts like that, nor do I think it will be the last.

Probably the reason that post resonated with me is because maintaining a healthy level of self-confidence in regards to writing is something I regularly deal (struggle) with. I love to write and I love to share, but that doesn’t mean I never wonder if a new piece is as good as the last one. Thinking about not being able to meet people’s expectations in terms of quality or entertainment is a dirty specter that frequently lurks in my head.

So why am I writing this, then? I think anyone who reads my blog posts can see that I write them with my heart on my sleeve, and that I don’t shy away from talking about my mistakes and the tough lessons I’ve learned. I do this partly because sharing those experiences validates the challenges I have faced and reminds me of the strength/courage I developed as a result. When I feel less confident in my abilities, thinking about those things actually encourages me which helps rebuild my self-confidence.

Basically, one thing I’ve learned is that confidence is shaped and it is strengthened or weakened depending on how we handle the challenges that cross our paths. So how does this relate to riding the crazy emotional rollercoaster of ‘Damn! I’m the biggest, baddest writing SOB out there!’ to ‘I totally suck! Nothing I write means anything! Where are my sack-cloth and ashes??!!’ I’ve listed a few suggestions that might help anyone struggling with this issue:

1)      Check your perceptions: It is so easy to count our mistakes, isn’t it? If I sat down with you over coffee and asked you to list me your faults, I’m sure within 1 minute I’d have 5 pages of scribbled notes to read. But if I asked you to write down 15 positive things? Sure it can be done, but it would likely take much longer to fill out the second list than the first. It’s important to learn to think positively about ourselves and to appreciate the good things we do. I’m a good mom. I’m a great dad. I work hard. I finish tasks I set my mind to accomplish. Think about these, write them down and post them on a mirror or fridge, if you have to. Once you can do that with relative ease in your everyday life, then apply them to writing: (start small) ‘I wrote 50 words of my manuscript today’, ‘I received a compliment from someone about my work without minimizing it’, ‘I wrote two pages today!’ and so on. How you think about yourself often affects how you feel about yourself, so why not try improving your self-perception? 

2)      Try not to compare. I was terrible at this. When I started on G+ and other writing sites, I was intimidated by people who had published books, had articles in magazines, had a gazillion people following their blogs, had friends up the wazoo…blah, blah. I’d look at myself and go, ‘There’s no way I can compete with that!’ I literally had to force myself to stop comparing myself to them. Those people probably worked their butts off to get where they are and so deserve their success. Instead, I decided to be happy for them and to support them when I could. That took care of the comparing and taught me to rejoice with others when they found success. 

Also, I had to consider my own situation: I have a family, a fulltime emotionally taxing job, and so I write and blog when I can squeeze them in. I had to learn to appreciate what I was able to do with the time and resources I had and be satisfied with that. 

3) Write for yourself first. This is the best suggestion I can make for anyone who is struggling with self-confidence in regards to their writing. Writing is personal and it comes from the core of who we are, so it should be meaningful to and resonate with us first before anyone else. I believe that when we do that, the piece is infused with a part of our soul anyway, and somewhere, someone is bound to connect with that. But even if they don’t, the point is to relish and cherish your creation simply because it came from you.

 In sum, everyone has their own level of self-confidence which is based on different things, such as social, psychological and sometimes, mental health issues, amongst others. More specifically, life experience, successes and failures, what we’ve been told about ourselves and consequently, what we choose to believe about ourselves. But confidence is not static. It can fluctuate from day to day! The good news is that as much as confidence can be weakened, it can also be strengthened.

I may have opened a can of worms with this post but I’d still love to hear from you  Readers. Thoughts? Comments?

Author Interviews

Author Interview with Patti Tingen, inspirational Christian writer

Patti Tingen, inspirational Christian author
Patti Tingen, inspirational Christian author

Today I’d like to invite you to meet someone I’ve known from way back, when I was active on another writing site: Patti Tingen. I met Patti in one of the forums and we later met up again on Facebook. Some of the things that always stood out in my mind was her positive attitude, her work ethic in regards to getting her book into the hands of readers, and her helpfulness when I had questions. It always makes me happy to hear of her progress and of the doors that open for her and her books. So it gives me great pleasure to have Patti here with me for today’s spotlight interview.

1- So, Patti, can you start by telling us a little about yourself? Perhaps include something unusual, like a talent or skill?

I live in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with my husband Doug and our cat Braveheart. I work full-time for a county Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention Program. I also stay busy in various ministry positions at my church including prayer, teaching and serving as an elder. I love animals, music and nature. Probably what’s most unusual about my story is that I never had any aspirations to be an author. God truly had dreams for me that I knew nothing about!

2- How did you get your start in writing and why were you drawn to it? What keeps you motivated/inspired?

I discovered I was a writer during the creation of my first book. What started out as a simple desire to preserve the stories of my extraordinary cat Knickerbocker, turned into something far greater than I would have ever imagined. He Was Never a Cat became an incredible adventure as I honed my writing skills and formed lasting relationships throughout the writing, publishing and marketing process.

What keeps me motivated is receiving feedback from readers. Every time I hear that my writing has given someone encouragement or hope, I am amazed and humbled all over again. That God would choose to use my words to impact others, including those from various parts of the world, is just incredible to me.

3- Your books are inspirational. How do you go about writing something like that? Do you write in other genres of forms like short stories, poetry, novels?

I write from the context of my own spiritual journey over the years. Through many teaching opportunities at my church, I saw how God blessed my words of personal experience and testimony to encourage and inspire others. So I already had a lot of material that I could use to transfer to written text for my books.

I haven’t written in any other genres at this point with the exception of a picture book manuscript. It’s a fun story that I hope to see published one day.

4- How often do you write? Do you hold to the idea that a writer must write every single day?

Mostly, I only write when I’m working on a project, so no, I would not believe that a writer must write every day. Even when writing my books, I didn’t necessarily write every day. In fact, it’s helpful for me to let ideas stir around in my mind and spirit for a bit. I then find that my writing is much fresher and more powerful than if I tried to force it before I was ready.

5- What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing and how do you cope with it?

As above, I needed to understand that I didn’t have to panic when I couldn’t find the words. Over time, I learned to trust the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts and let my writing flow from Him – in His timing.

6- What advice would you give to new writers?

I found it very helpful to join a website with other aspiring writers. (That’s how I met Dyane!) The feedback and critiques that I received from fellow authors was invaluable to me in polishing my manuscript for A God for All Seasons. I’d also encourage writers to never give up on their ideas. Do the hard work to see your story in print and you’ll never regret it!

I’ve also learned that there are no easy or quick roads to publishing, even if you self-publish. It takes a lot of work if you want to produce a quality product. I’d also encourage any aspiring authors to do extensive research on publishing companies before they commit to one and be very wary of anything that looks too good to be true.

7- What other projects are you working on? Upcoming promotional events?

I don’t have any other projects at the current time but want to be open to any new ideas God may have for me.

I am very excited to have recently received invitations to several events. One of those includes being a special guest at WoofStock 2013 in Harrisburg, PA to sign copies of He Was Never a Cat. I’m quite honored to be sharing space with their featured guest, Jon Provost, Timmy from Lassie.

8- How can readers get into contact with you?

I can be contacted through Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/patti.tingen

or my Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/PattiTingenAuthor

My Amazon page is https://www.amazon.com/author/pattitingen

Synopsis of my books:

a god for all seasons - copyright owned by Patti Tingen

A God for All Seasons: Inspiration and Reflection for All Times takes the reader on a yearlong journey, month by month. Starting with winter, the book moves through the natural seasons of the year. Each chapter then correlates with a month, starting with December, and offers personal testimony and insights for the various spiritual seasons that we all experience. The theme of the book is that God’s love and presence is with us through every time and every season of our lives.

Knick cover

He Was Never a Cat: Knick’s Story, My Story, Your Story is the heartwarming true story of my remarkable tabby Knickerbocker. Humorous tales relating the many antics of Knick are told in each chapter. I then draw a spiritual parallel to the characteristic described and share some of my own testimony and personal experience. The “Your Story” section of each chapter offers the reader an opportunity to apply the principles to his or her own life.

Many thanks to Patti Tingen for joining us today. To find out more about her books or upcoming appearances (or events), please visit her at one of the links above. Or, drop her an encouraging message or just say, ‘Hi!’ You won’t regret it. 🙂

Until next time, folks!

Stories

Rebirth, a poem

red tree

Oy, I’m in one of those moods again. Maybe it’s because it’s Sunday and I’m alone and I have time to THINK (a gift any wife and mother can appreciate, lol). But I got to thinking about life and about the many hats I put on to get through an average day. It’s exhausting, and when it goes on for too long without a time to regroup, it becomes confusing. And frustrating. At times, I can get so caught up in meeting other people’s needs or expectations that I lose perspective of who am I and what’s important to me. That’s why I like to be ALONE. I can throw all those damn hats into a corner and just be me for 15 minutes or a day. But it’s hard to do. In this busy, overstimulating world, it’s hard to sit back and do a self-analysis, to separate our inner self from that outer self. Not that there has to be a real ‘separation’ of the two since we are whole people, but I mean in the sense of identifying and accepting our core values, our sense of self; our identity. We are many things, a lot of them socially constructed (wife, father, worker, lover, caregiver), but who are we inside? What makes us tick? Makes us happy? Sad? Hurt? Angry? Anyway, these ideas are the core of what started this poem. It’s a little graphic, but looking inward can be difficult and painful. Oh, and the tree image above is the closest thing I could find to the original, more sinister looking one which started this off whole thing.

Rebirth

Like oil,
The shadow of
Your crimson tree
Sprawls across the ground.
Black, poisonous. Deadly.
It’s coming for me.

Your mangled cross stands alone,
A twisted aberration of
Judgement.
Branches creaking
In the wind.
It beckons. I listen.
Do I go to my own
crucifixion?

All my life,
You have watched
My every move,
Disapproving eye catching
All.
No haven or harbour
Could I find to escape.
You waited patiently, expecting me
To fall.

And now judgement.
Now the revealing.
I die so the truth may be seen.
No more faces, no more
Hats.
Just the core.
When my skin is shed,
When my essence pours out
When I see my heart
Who will I see staring back?
She? Her? That one?
Which is the real me?

Everyone watches.
I close my eyes.
The nails drive in,
The sword cuts deep.
Blood is drawn.

Through pain
We come into this life.
Through pain
We are further formed.
Through pain
We are broken.
But then
We are reborn.

 

D.Forde (July 2013)