Mon. August 26, 2019: Shake Up Your Process — #upbeatauthors

milky-way-2675322_1920
image by Felix Mittemeier via pixabay

Monday, August 26, 2019
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

We’ve been talking about different things that inspire us here on the blog for the Upbeat Authors Month of Inspiration. Today, our final day on this topic, let’s talk about shaking up our process as a way to inspire.

We all get stuck. We all have days where there’s resistance.

As a full time writer, I can’t afford the luxury of writer’s block. Yes, I said “luxury” and I will not apologize for it. If I want to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, I can’t indulge in writer’s block. When things get tough, I have to show up and do the work anyway. Just like in any other PROFESSION.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I look at my chapter and have no idea what to do next, even with a detailed outline. Or I know what to do, but the words feel like lead instead of taking fire and racing across the page.

Then I know it’s time to shake things up.

How do I do that?

Lots of different ways:

Shower. Yup. For me, that’s one of the best ways to work through plot problems. I take a shower. I get more inspiration in the shower than just about anywhere else. When a book gives me trouble, I am so clean I squeak and practically glow in the dark.

Cook. I love to cook. While I often like to cook focusing on the cooking itself, my mind often begins to wander and work out plot problems. Food and feeding each other is an important part of many of my books. When I set a book somewhere, I often cook meals from that area that are then incorporated into the book.

When I initially write cooking or food scenes, I overwrite them, overload them with detail and sensory description. I then cut back in the editing, leaving what is necessary to further plot & character.

Housework. Vacuuming, scrubbing things, folding laundry. Again, there are days when I want to do it mindfully, when I need to do it mindfully. Other times, I can let my imagination figure out how to solve writing problems. Then I’m eager to get back to my desk AND the house is clean!

Take a Walk. I’m lucky. I live in a neighborhood that is quiet enough to take a walk. I live a few miles from the beach. I live a few miles from several Audubon sanctuaries. Walking helps me clear my head and figure things out. I tried running, but I hated it so much that I stick to walking.

Additional yoga/meditation. Sometimes getting up and doing a few asanas or sitting on my zafu makes all the difference. It’s a refresher for my tired brain.

Read a book. Reading often fuels the writing. The danger is that you get so into the book, you lose the whole writing day. Sometimes I use a particular book as a reward AFTER I get in my quota for the day.

Switch projects. Sometimes this works, sometimes this doesn’t. If you have too many unfinished projects around, it drains creative energy. It’s important to finish what you start. I teach an entire class about this and have a Topic Workbook on it: THE GRAVEYARD OF ABANDONED PROJECTS.

Switch locations. When I get restless at either of the two desks in my writing room, I might write in the living room. Or out on the deck. I often go to the library to work. We’re lucky on Cape; every town has a wonderful library with a unique character. Library-hopping is an activity many locals enjoy. There’s also Cape Space, a wonderful co-working space. I don’t write much fiction there, but sometimes I’ll go if I need to video conference or work on projects for my marketing clients.

Go to a museum. As I’ve talked about, over and over again here, I use visual art to fuel my verbal art. Live music often does the same. Or dance. Or theatre.

Experiment in a new genre. Try writing something in a genre in which you don’t normally work. It can be flash fiction, if you like. Or it can grow into something different.

Write a scene several times, in several different perspectives. If you’re struggling with a multi-person scene, do one draft of it in the perspective of each character. Yes, you’ll cut a lot. One of the most ridiculous things I hear from writers in classes is they don’t want to write something that will get cut. It’s not a waste of time. You need what you learn from it to get to your ultimate goal.

Use prompts. There are prompts all over the place. In July, I posted one every day. They are still up here on the 31 Prompts page.

Write differently. If you always outline, try blank paging. If you NEVER outline, outline something and then follow through and write it. (Note: I don’t call it “pantsing.” To me that sounds like an STD. I call it “blank paging”). Whichever way you try, FINISH THE PROJECT. If you didn’t like this foray, you don’t have to do it that way again. BUT FINISH THE PROJECT.

Join online groups where you can hang out with other artists. I find Women Write Change to be especially valuable, in both good times and rough ones. The #remotechat group on Twitter, with its Wednesday afternoon chats, is terrific. We have so much fun there, and exchange so much useful information. #TheMerryWriter, also on Twitter, is a fun monthly game, and I’ve met some great people through it. I’ve had some excellent conversations with other artists of all types via Ello. Lori Widmer’s Words on the Page blog has grown into a tight, supportive community.

Get together with other artists in person. I like mixing with all kinds of artists. Too often, hanging just with writers lately has become a venting session or all the talk goes to marketing. It’s not enough about craft and content and ideas. (Again, this is why I love Women Write Change — we talk a lot about craft and ideas).

The HobNob Group ended when its founder died last year. I miss it terribly. It was a combination of visual, verbal, and performance artists. We got to learn from each other and support each other. I participate in some of the writer activities around here and go to conferences. I try to attend as many readings and author events as I can. I also go to opening receptions at local museums and art galleries. I’ve cut back on a lot of the other networking I was doing around here (chamber events, business networking events, etc), because I’m setting the foundation for moving in a different direction with my marketing writing.

Online is great, but meeting and spending time with other artists in person is even better.

Make sure you give yourself an Artist Date. We talked about that earlier. If you stick to that, and integrate a weekly Artist Date into your life, a commitment to yourself, you will find that you’re refilling your creative well, and that will flow into all areas of your life.

What are your favorite ways of changing up the process?

Thurs. July 11, 2019: A Little Off Schedule

Thursday, July 11, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Hot, humid, misty

 

I did not sleep well. Was up fretting for about 2 hours at 2:30 this morning.

Yesterday was fine. I was on track with the writing, worked with a client, did some updates for another client, got some other material out.

This morning’s writing schedule was thrown off, because I had to hit the grocery store early, before the traffic was unbearable. I have to take my mother to a doctor’s appointment later this afternoon, and what should be a 20 minute trip will take over an hour.

Have some frustrating stuff to deal with, but that’s life, right?

The important thing is to stay focused on the writing. I had a bad day on ELLA this morning, but will have a better afternoon, I hope, on GRAVE REACH.

I have a lot to get done in the next few days, when all I really want to do is rest.

I also have to work on purging some more stuff from the basement, and write ahead on a few blog posts.

I have a stack of Venice books I have to get through this weekend before starting to work on the play about Canaletto’s sisters this weekend. Plus, I have to start the radio play set at Brighton Pier. It’s a farce, and I’m not feeling funny right now, so I have to get over myself and pull up the craft.

So I better get to it. I’m updating #31Prompts. I hope you join us.

There’s also a new post up on Gratitude and Growth, about the yard.

Published in: on July 11, 2019 at 9:14 am  Comments Off on Thurs. July 11, 2019: A Little Off Schedule  
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Wed. July 10, 2019: Daily Pages Add Up

Wednesday, Jul 10, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

 

 

There are plenty of things that are worrying me and infuriating me on several fronts. However, I am grateful for some of the small, but important pleasures.

One of the biggest of those is my first writing session of the morning out on the deck. I take my coffee, Tessa usually comes with me, and I write my first 1K or so outside, enjoying the yard.

It’s not always 1K on this particular project. Sometimes it’s only 500 words. Sometimes it’s more than 1K. But it’s in longhand, in a series of notebooks, and it’s uncontracted and not on deadline.

Which is one reason I’m having such fun with it. There’s no pressure. I can just let it rip.

I recently started my second notebook on this project. The first notebook contains the first 10 chapters, a little over 130 pages, approximately 1/3 of the book for this first draft. I love seeing the tangible evidence of these past few months’ work.

I’ve done some research for this book, but as I continue, I keep finding more things I’ll have to look up, and I’m using more placeholders than usual to keep the momentum. I’ll regret that when I hit the next draft, but it’s working for me in this first one.

After my yoga/meditation and my shower, I go to the computer, and I work on the next book that’s contracted. I do at least 1K, although at this point, it’s more like 1.5K, and with a deadline looming, I have to up my game to closer to 2.5K a day. That’s the reality of deadlines. But the steady, daily work, even on days I don’t feel like showing up to the page, builds momentum, keeps me in the world of the book, and makes this book better than the previous books in the series (which is my goal).

I print out my pages every day, both because I’m paranoid about losing work (even backed up work has been corrupted) and because it’s easier for me to edit on the page still. It’s easier for me to make the tracking sheets I need and the notes I need for the Series Bible when I can physically flip between the pages.

I print material on 3-hole punch paper and keep each draft in a 3-ring binder. I do refer back and forth between different drafts in the editing process, especially when my editor and/or copyeditor find discrepancies. Or when I cut characters or subplots, and decide to re-introduce them in other books, where they fit better, further down the line in the series. I use the final galleys to update the Series Bible.

(If you want more information on how I create and maintain a Series Bible, I have a workbook available, based on my workshops).

Again, I have (and need) the tangible evidence of the pages adding up.

While this contracted novel is with my editor, a few weeks down the line, I’ll switch to the next book in the next series that has to be torn apart and rewritten, because the last few drafts I wrote haven’t hit the mark. It has to get fixed and get in the publication queue — we already pushed back the dates for it, and for another book, and now we’re playing catch-up. But I’d rather push the release date back a reasonable amount of time than release a bad book.

At the same time, in the evenings, I’m playing with pieces inspired by #31Prompts.

Again, there’s not pressure on these pieces. They’re not contracted. They’re taking all kinds of different formats. I’m stretching and having fun.

By the end of the month, I have to write a short radio play set on Brighton Pier in the 1920s, and I have to start writing the play about Canaletto’s sisters, which is due in NYC by the end of the year.

Showing up at the page every day for whatever project I’m working on is vital to me. I can’t write in spurts and then go away for stretches. I lose the innate rhythm, the heartbeat of the piece.

I need to see it through.

I need the dailiness of the writing. It keeps the rest of my day in perspective, and makes me feel better and clearer about the entire day.

I change my writing process every few months. I make adjustments as to the where and when I write.

But I show up.

What is your process?

Published in: on July 10, 2019 at 6:20 am  Comments Off on Wed. July 10, 2019: Daily Pages Add Up  
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Tues. July 9, 2019: The Steadiness of Daily Writing

Tuesday, July 9
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

Yup. Five damn retrogrades. July will not be an easy month.

If you missed any of the #31Prompts, you can catch up here.

The weekend was good, for the most part. Too much stupid from too many stupid people, but, whatever. Some friends stopped by on their way to the rest of their trip. Nice to catch up.

Other than visiting with friends, it was a quiet holiday, except for the numbnuts who set off fireworks in the neighborhood. The cops do NOTHING. It’s nudge, nudge, wink, wink, boys will be boys. It’s the same damn idiots every year who set them off. It’s illegal, so DO SOMETHING.

I will have a few words with my Town Councilor this week. Not that it will do anything — he’s a total waste of space and has done NOTHING for his district since he got elected. (And no, I did not vote for him. I knew he’d be a waste of space in the job).

The night of the 4th was spent on the floor, trying to soothe the terrified cats.

These jerks aren’t smart enough or skilled enough to be handling explosives.

Friday was an outstanding writing day — worked on ELLA, GRAVE REACH, typed up part of ELLA, did some revisions on GAMBIT COLONY. I love steadily working on projects. You can watch pages stack up, in a tangible way.

Got a contract signed and in the mail — wanted to get it done before Mercury went retrograde.

Finally switched the winter, fleece sofa and chair coverings to the cotton yoga blankets for the summer.

My order from Crystal Bar soaps arrived — just lovely. They have such excellent products.

Marinated tuna steaks in a soy-sesame-ginger sauce. Delicious.

Saturday, was up at five. Baked lemon cupcakes, chocolate chip devil’s food cupcakes, and a spiced chocolate banana bread with rum before it got too hot. Took a dozen of each cupcake to the new neighbors to welcome them. They are long-time Centerville residents, downsizing. Took another dozen of each type of cupcake to my lovely firemen — this is a busy weekend for them.

Got a little bit of writing done, but not much. It was too hot to think. Got a good bit of reading done instead.

The Goddess Provisions box arrived and is a delight. A book arrived, too — one of the Caribbean books I test drove from the library that I wanted to keep, so I bought a copy.

Started re-watching the Lord Peter Wimsey episodes starring Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walters. I’d forgotten how much he loves to play with props when he works.

Up early on Sunday. First writing session on the deck, on ELLA.

Plenty of loads of laundry, between clothes, sheets, and the winter furniture covers.

Worked on GRAVE REACH.

Started the short story inspired by the July 1 prompt on #31Prompts: The bagel has landed. I wanted it to be a flash fiction; it might be a short story, or the draft might be a short story, then edited down to be flash. We’ll see. Right now, I’m just writing. Stretching. That’s important.

Up early Monday. Worked on ELLA, worked on GRAVE REACH. Onsite with a client, then another appointment, then meditation group.

Today, I’m onsite with a client, then another appointment. Decent writing sessions on both ELLA and GRAVE REACH.

Not where I’d hoped to be by this point in the summer on anything, but I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

 

Published in: on July 9, 2019 at 5:43 am  Comments Off on Tues. July 9, 2019: The Steadiness of Daily Writing  
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