Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

Don’t Let the To-Dos Get You Down!

My writing buddy, Lauren, has started a lovely little blog! This particular post really hit home for me as I am a list-maker from way back. Please pop over to her site to read the entire post and show some blog love!

Stop Stressing Over Your To-Do List!

Life can get a bit overwhelming at times. I know I’ve felt it. Try as you like overwhelming times happen to all of us, those times when everything just seems to build up into one giant never-ending list of things-to-do and you feel like you are never going to catch up and get everything done. Those times when, short of hiring a JCB to bulldoze the piles of paper and commitments, your just at a lose-end as to where to start or how to go on.

It hard when these times are upon us. All we really want is to curl up in a ball with a shot of something alcoholic and watch re-runs of ‘Friends’. But we know we can not. Because we’re adults, and things still need to get done no matter how overwhelmed they make us feel.

But what can we do to avoid this feeling? Or to combat it when it does arise?

First things first….[Continue reading]

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

No More NaNo?

I won’t lie to you. The first few days without NaNo are the roughest. You are burned out, exhausted, jittery and not quite sure what to do with yourself. The best thing to do is sit back, enjoy the glow of having accomplished a monumental thing, and contemplate what you have learned.

Life Lessons from NaNoWriMo

I realize that most people have posted about the end of NaNoWriMo already and I am a little bit behind, but I think it took a few extra days for me to process the things that I learned this year.

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To get the official report behind us, I won – 50152 words officially counted by the Office of Letters and Light, and I passed 53358 before I took a much needed break from my characters. The story is not over, but I really needed to step away for a bit and let it simmer in a drawer before tackling the ending and the edits.

Now on to the things I learned this year in NaNo — lessons that can not only be applied to trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days, but also to life.

1) It is easier with friends. The first two NaNos I participated in were a lone venture. My husband knew what I was doing but that was about it. I was afraid that too much talking about my story on the forums would ruin it and I knew my capacity for slacking off was most obvious when I started to poke around on the internet, so I avoided the site completely except to update my word count. Last year, my faithful husband participated with me and we both won. It was easier because I wasn’t going through it alone, and I enjoyed it more because I could talk about the plot challenges and how much my characters were driving me up a wall and he understood. This year I could not convince him to sign up, so I reached out to some fellow bloggers and the folks on the Facebook NaNo page and made some buddies. They gave me encouragement when I needed it most! (Thanks Morgaine!!)

2) It is possible to do something just for the fun of it. I did not go into this year’s NaNo with any ideas. I had no plot, no character, nothing. I did not expect or plan on publishing this one and if it ever sees the light of day again remains to be seen. And that is okay. I enjoyed it. I embraced the challenge. I didn’t do it for glory or money (HaHa!). I did it just because. And sometimes that is a darn good reason.

3) I realized this year after deleting over 19,000 words on day 11 that I have more tenacity and fight in me than I ever thought. It never occurred to me to throw in the towel. I just started over and kept writing. I think all of us have hidden strengths and inherent pluckiness that we are unaware of. It will pour out of you when you least expect it. And it is wonderful.

4) You truly do have enough time and energy to do something you love. Everyone always seems to complain about not having enough hours in the day, days in the week, to get things done. I know I am guilty of this. It seems you run from day job to errands to chores to the couch to watch some mindless TV and then repeat the whole thing again the next day. You don’t feel like you have the time or energy to do anything fun. Well, I am here to tell you that you do. It may be an hour here, fifteen minutes there, but if the project matters enough, if it speaks to your soul, you will grab those minutes and use them up.

5) Not reading saps my creativity. I always worry that if I read during NaNo I will not only not have time to write, but I will inadvertently steal ideas from the books I am reading. This month I found that after two weeks of not reading and only trying to write in my spare minutes, my creative juices were drying up, and I couldn’t think of a single thing to write. I was dragging my characters along kicking and screaming and they were hating it as much as I was. I think we need to fill the well, feed the muse and just allow ourselves to relax sometimes with a good book – even in the midst of a crazy month and a looming deadline.

6) I am a better planner than a pantser. While sometimes writing by the seat of your pants will cause the most unexpected things to fly out the tips of your fingers onto the screen, I think I will plan and outline the next novel. I am not a hard-core planner and will definitely leave wiggle room for my muses to whisper ideas. But I know now that having no idea of where I am going and who I am on the journey with is much more difficult for me than to sit down ahead of time and flesh some characters out and outline some basic plot points. 🙂

7) You do not have to be an expert. Truly. You do not need to be a published author to write a book, and you do not need to be an expert on anything to write about it. First drafts are always bad! And it helps to remind yourself of this as you write. Perfection is highly over-rated and is probably responsible for more unfulfilled dreams than fear.

8) As E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t always have to know what is around the corner or where your journey will take you. Sometimes you have to take it one step at a time and have faith that you will find your way.

Also, deep breathing and wine helps… in all things. 🙂

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

NaNoWriMo Week 4 – This Fallow Ground

NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to plant something and watch it grow!

This Fallow Ground

Recently, I read an article over on WriterUnboxed about the importance of doing nothing. The author, Robin LaFevers, talked about how many times writers may look like they aren’t doing much of anything. Yet, they are subconsciously working out the plot or character arc of their next book. She stressed that these times of apparent inactivity are important to the creative mind and they are not truly inactive. Our brains are busy busy busy getting us ready to actually write. She urges us to give ourselves permission to stare at the wall and let this process happen.

I agree 100%. Sometimes we have to just let those ideas percolate. Even famous and prolific authors like Stephen King or Danielle Steele can’t write 24/7. They need to let the brain rest and recharge.

That is where I am going to take staring at the wall one step further. I think it is equally important for writers and other creatives to pursue other pastimes that use different creative muscles than writing. For some, this could mean running, playing sports, horseback riding, gardening, or like me, you could take up quilting or crocheting.

I find that when I am in the moment with a pile of fabric and the hum of my sewing machine my mind is usually full of my story in progress. It is truly the perfect zen state for me to work through any idea issues or story snags that I have come across in my writing. The same holds true with crochet. If I am working on an afghan or scarf, once I get the pattern going, I cruise along and disconnect from the task at hand. It creates a meditative motion and I am able to zone out and think about my book.

I think that is a lot of what the author at WriterUnboxed was getting at – You need to allow yourself time to think about your project. Set the pen down. Step away from the keyboard and let it just simmer a bit. You can’t constantly be moving that pen or typing those words.

It is the exact opposite of the mentality I usually maintain during November – National Novel Writing Month. A typical November will see me tapping away at any free moment, filling the screen with my daily word quota. There is a certain zen feeling about NaNo too but you don’t have the luxury of time to think about your story. In NaNo, you throw everything down on the page and sort it out later. In NaNo, I have found that the greatest relief from the stress of the day job is to go home, grab my Alphasmart Neo or laptop and lose myself in my story.

I did not do NaNo this year. Too much going on with editing and formatting. I don’t regret the decision as I know adding NaNo to my plate would have sent me screaming right on down to the Crisis Center in town. Still, though, a small part of my heart is missing the adrenaline rush as thousands of folks start to cross that 50K finish line.

I am grateful that I had the foresight to realize this and to set aside some moments this month to let myself play and let my mind lie fallow.

fallow

Fallow ground is left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility as part of a crop rotation. And a creative mind benefits from fallow periods too.

How do you plan your fallow season? Do you take time between projects? Or, do you make sure you take a day each week to let your mind wander and recharge?

 

 

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

NaNoWriMo Week 3 – Perfection is the Enemy

Perfection is the enemy of done. Truth.

Little Miss Perfect

Hello, my name is Cheryl, and I am a perfectionist.

We need to start an intervention group for perfectionism. Maybe they exist already. [Note to self: Google this because you need help.]

perfectionism-quote

I am one of those folks who let perfectionism keep me from doing a lot of things. This is especially true if it is something other people will know about or see. I have always been this way, I think, but when I was younger I had enough of a fatalistic attitude to just go with the flow and do it anyway. As I have gotten older, this attitude has been softened by fear.

For all the peer pressure to fit in that we survive (or don’t) in our school days, I think adults have it worse. I know a lot of people who are acutely aware of and worried about what other people think of them. They don’t do something for fear of being foolish. They don’t laugh loudly in public. They don’t try anything new.

I have fallen into this perfection trap myself. I have resisted signing up for a class because I would be called on to do something that I may not do well. I have stayed on the side line instead of jumping into the center of attention and doing something others may think is foolish. I have stood tongue-tied in a conversation because I didn’t value my own opinion enough to voice it.

But, really, what is the worst thing that could happen?

You sign up for a class in ballroom dancing because you want to learn to dance. You take violin lessons because you have no idea what to do with this beautiful instrument and you want to learn to play. You go to a writers’ conference because you want to learn from other writers.

perfect writer

No one in any of these situations will be perfect.

No one becomes a dancer without stepping on some toes and falling on their butts a few times. Dance anyway.

No one (except the rare savant) picks up an instrument and plays advanced concertos flawlessly and with great emotion the first time. Do not compare your beginning efforts to those who have recorded the classics and played Carnegie Hall.

No one writes a perfect first draft, or second draft, or published draft without help from an editor and a lot of great beta readers who pick it apart first. Do not compare your first draft to the published work of a master author. Sit your butt in the chair and write anyway.

Perfectionism is fear in disguise. It has very little to do with not making mistakes, and everything to do with how we want others to see us. It is a terrible disease. Symptoms are procrastination, failure to progress, hyper-sensitivity, nausea, heart palpitations, feeling stupid and self-flagellation. There is no known cure other than to do what you want to do and do it publicly. Put yourself out there. Own it. Make some noise. Make glorious mistakes. Wallow in them, learn from them, and move on.

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In the book, No Plot, No Problem, Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), says we need to “embrace exuberant imperfection.” That has stuck with me since I first read it in 2007. I have that quote taped to my desk. My problem is remembering to live it.

I am getting better. I guess, I am in recovery. I finished and published my first novel. I have become a speaker. I have attempted to play new instruments. I have tried to put myself out there more and not give much thought to how others perceive me. There is a chance for us recovering perfectionists to live a normal life after all. 🙂

perfection

 

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