Writing In The Time Of Corona

woman in bed

 

Yes, the title is inspired by the title of one of my favorite books – Love in the Time of Cholera.

I don’t think the current situation with Coronavirus or COVID-19 needs any explanation or introduction. Its nasty reputation precedes it!

Now for the serious part…

For the last eight days, I have found myself trapped on treadmills of worry due to Corona’s widespread and assorted effects.  Numbers and deaths are rising, but our data is unreliable and we don’t really know what is right at this point, if we have already hit the peak or not. Most of our freedoms have been curbed for the foreseeable future, and I have realized I am more of an extrovert than I believed. The pain of separation from friends is not to be taken lightly.  People are frightened, and the media is whipping us all further into a mass frenzy of terror with their constant coverage. Ignorant remarks online likening Corona to the Black Death are not helping.

One of my fears came true today – a lay-off, hopefully only temporary, but unsettling nevertheless. I haven’t been unemployed in the past twelve years and though I have no intentions of working in the travel industry for the rest of my non-retired life, I would rather work there than have no job at all.

Work on my manuscript ground to a halt about ten days ago. This massive interruption may put a dent in my plans to publish this year. Though I knew I did not have the means to hire an editor, I did intend to have my novel typeset, have the covers designed by a professional, and set up a website. Depending on how long this lay-off lasts, publication may not take shape at all this year.

So where do I go from here? I don’t remember the last time I felt this adrift. I have a great deal of fear now, and I sense the great fear in the collective consciousness too. I fear for my family and friends who are older or somehow immuno-compromised. I don’t want to see mass amounts of people die. But I also fear the aftermath of this nightmare. When the smoke clears and COVID-19 has been contained, where will our society be and how will it recover? Will these lockdowns ultimately do more harm than good? How many will continue to suffer from poverty and mental anguish? How many businesses closed forever, how many dreams shattered? Are we heading into a second Great Depression, a sustained period of social and political unrest? How many divorces, suicides, spirals and relapses into alcoholism and drug abuse will we see in the months to come as a result of isolation, unemployment, and desperation?

galaxy-4954417_1280

But, whatever is going on, creativity never ceases. The muses do not really sleep. They’re always awake, kindling fires deep in the subconscious, whispering in our ears. My creativity has been strangled this last week by so much worry. Perhaps now that one of my biggest fears is manifested and “purged” if you will, I can focus again.

I must focus. There’s really no choice, I suppose.

I have always had a strong spirituality, and I will turn to this in the trying weeks to come. My writing has also always been a safe haven for me in times of sadness, and it will be so very much now. My critique group will continue online for however long it must, which should give me some inspiration  to continue. Friends have checked in on me through text or phone calls and I live with family, so my lot could be much worse. Facebook video chat is pretty cool, and so are the streams of operas and plays, and virtual museum tours.

I suppose I should use this “down time” to put my nose to the grind stone and edit like a hurricane. I certainly can’t say I’m just too busy this week or burnt-out from work. I just need to pull my attention from the insanity going on outside my door and look inward, to the mysterious place of dreams and inspiration.

Times of adversity don’t last forever…but the writerly spirit does. I will continue to remind myself that this is but a temporary limbo, that every day of worry is one we will never have to repeat, one day closer to a cure or a drop off in cases and deaths, one day closer to the end of lockup –er, lockdown.

One last insight. Like many Americans, I am accustomed to a rather cushy life. Aside from the usual nonsense and glitches of daily existence, my experiences of discomfort have been mostly fleeting and highly personal. I have never lived through a global crisis of this sort and magnitude. My book is set during a tumultuous time that took place over a span of several years. Hopefully, an economic crash does not unravel the very social order of the United States and tip us into something even more frightening and destructive — like a revolution. I now find myself with a whole new admiration for other humans who lived through times of darkness and uncertainty.  The day to day stress of such things is extraordinary and coping with it and moving forward takes strength. Humanity’s survival through so many ghastly happenings is a testament to the amazing durability of the human spirit.

One thing’s for sure…I will never again take dining out or sitting with a journal and some coffee at Panera for granted ever again.

 

Be well, and write on. ❤

Invoking The Muse

 

muse image

So, on Thursday night, I invoked the muse. It had been a while, admittedly. The holiday season combined with too much analysis and a good dash of sloth all combined to create a distinctly non-creative stew.

But last night, I got hungry, hungry for real food. I realized I truly may never amount to anything if I do not work harder at my goals. Some of those goals are not completely under my control, but being a published writer is. So, I sat in front of my laptop, opened the document, and edited until around 11PM.

And just like that, the muse returned. She came slowly at first, having been ignored for so long. But deep down, she knows that I am honest. Though my devotion to a schedule might not be steadfast, my longing to be a storyteller and my thirst for the waters of creation are genuine.

Now, she’s gifted me with a little flame to tend. A flame that is growing steadily brighter as I read the story I began writing nearly five years ago, remember the joy it brought me, listen to the playlist I made for it, and find all sorts of ways to improve it. I had stopped editing seriously somewhere around Thanksgiving, but there will be no more long hiatuses.

The muse has been loving and extraordinarily patient. She is standing by to help make this novel the best it can be, as well as tending other stories for me in the strange nether world where ideas reside. I am already hearing the siren’s song of those other tales, as a matter of fact.

But first, I must finish what I started. I must apply myself faithfully and deliver the story I promised, the story that has been such a delight to me, to the world. No more fooling around.

Write on.

 

How Long Should Writing A Book Take?

clock on book

As you all know, I have been working on my novel for over four years now. I started this blog in 2018 during the second draft. I intend to self-publish in the first half of 2020. Since the time to send my baby out into the world is drawing close, it has me thinking (among a million other things) about how long it took, and asking a question: how long should writing a novel take from beginning to end?

This is a question not easily answered. Writing a book is certainly fun but no cake walk. There’s the first draft where you become hopelessly enamored of your story and write on pure passion, the second draft where you see the myriad flaws in your romance, and usually a third or, you know, sixteenth draft in which you reconcile the first two states and make peace with them. Then, there’s the designing and marketing phase, which isn’t writing, but is every bit as serious and important as the actual writing.

How long is all this supposed to take? There’s no real answer to that. Everyone has their opinions, of course, and everyone works at a different pace. If you have to do any significant research for your book, as I have had to, that can also slow you down. So can procrastination, perfectionism, and all the other tiny incidents that make up the game of life.

As I aim for publication in early to mid 2020, that makes five years of work for this project. I personally feel that is too long and for my next novel, I will aim to complete all drafts and publish within three years or less. The story is percolating within me now, and I intend to start outlining soon, to avoid any sort of writer’s block. Taking several years on end also heightens the possibility of burnout, another notorious writer’s enemy we all should strive to avoid.

If you are a writer, nail down exactly how long you wish to spend with your book and try to stick to your deadline. Your audience will thank you. 🙂

 

Write On!

 

 

 

Why Reading is Essential to Writing

library-425730_1280

I have heard that some writers have a phobia of reading while they are writing. They believe that the words of another writer might sneak into their subconscious and influence them too much, dampening their own voice, even resulting in plagiarism.

I can sort of understand where this fear comes from. However, in my experience I have found it to be untrue. If I don’t read, my inspiration dries up. My words become blah and even my desire to keep producing dwindles.

I really believe that reading is to writing like sunlight is to flowers. It’s nourishment. If not for reading other books, would a desire to write your own ever have even been born in you? Probably not. Other stories fuel our passion and even sometimes help us when we are stuck by providing new ideas. One thing leads to another and before you know it, the story you just read is feeding the tiny one that’s already growing somewhere deep within.

columbine-3379045_1280

So if you are a writer who doesn’t read while you are working and you are finding yourself stuck, pick up a book, either a new one or your favorite one. Lose yourself in it for a while, a solid hour or more. You might just find that the struggle is gone or a lot easier to deal with when you look up.

Write on!

Is Writer’s Block Fact or Fiction?

I am pretty sure that, despite being often being invoked as a lame excuse, writer’s block is sometimes real.

wall-823602_1280

*** Originally written for The Odyssey Online in 2017 ***

Every  writer has heard of it and every writer dreads it: writer’s block. Though this “malady” seems to strike word nerds across the board at some point, there is debate as to whether it is a real phenomenon or just a cheap excuse not to park your keester in front of your computer and get the keys hot. Truthfully, I have found myself on both sides of the argument at different times of my life. What is my current take on it? I am going to say that yes, in some cases, it is real.

Now we all know that many writers are epic procrastinators and frequently cite assorted reasons why they are unable to write. But beneath those reasons lie a mere lack of motivation and discipline. And then sometimes, life really does happen and you need to attend to real-world issues, which is perfectly understandable. That’s called being a human

However, I have experienced episodes of what I can only describe as “block.” This block goes far beyond knowing exactly what I need to do next in my story and how to do it, but deciding to binge watch episodes of “My Haunted House” instead and eat my way through a bag of miniature Butterfingers. That’s laziness. Pathetic laziness, often rooted in fear of an impending challenge.

But block? It sucks. You want to write, but for some reason your brain is like an overactive beagle puppy cooped up in the house on a rainy day; it can’t sit still long enough to focus and does not want to do what it is told. Furthermore, and this in my opinion is the worst part, if you try to push through the block and force yourself to write, you end up with god-awful dribble on the paper in front of you that is so uninspiring, it is not worth pursuing.

It happened to me after I finished the first draft of my third novel. I knew what I had to do and wanted to do it, but I felt like I was walking through drying concrete. Like a good little trooper, I slogged through for a while, but finally I had to take a hiatus that lasted for several months. Those first seven chapters that I rewrote when I was struggling are quite frankly mediocre and need to be rewritten again.

I have no explanation for it, but I do remember feeling sort of empty, like a corn field that had been picked clean of its crop. Only husks of my creativity remained and I needed to wait for next year to come back to life. I had given all I had to give and now I needed to rest and replenish.

crop-3067356_1280

Maybe this is just the natural ebb and flow of life at work. Everything after all comes in cycles and I assume creativity is no different. Writing is satisfying but challenging work and maybe our brains really do need a break occasionally. Knowing when to retreat is just as valuable as knowing when to forge ahead. Retreating though does not mean you lost the war; you’re just recouping and waiting to come out in full force again.

So yes, I am pretty sure that writer’s block, despite often being invoked as a lame excuse, is sometimes a bonafide issue. What it is not though, is a good reason to completely give up and abandon a project. Give yourself a rest if need be; and then when you’re ready, give it everything you got!

 

Write on!

Cover Image Credit: Pixbay

What Writing Taught Me About Discipline and Perseverance

No one becomes a successful writer by giving up.

*** I originally wrote this article for The Odyssey Online in 2017. ***

turtle-2201433_1280

In mid-March of 2015, the random scenes I had kept in a notebook for two years finally came together, and I began to work on my third novel. This novel was much different than my first two though. Not only did it lack the paranormal element the others had contained, but I felt a seriousness about it, an absolute dedication to it, and a determination to work on it every day.

Though I had read plenty of articles extolling the benefits of daily writing, it was a practice I had never assumed. Keeping schedules and deadlines has never been my strong suit, but this time I set myself the task.

 

Armed with a pretty journal I could easily tuck into my purse and an abundance of pens, I began the journey. Seven days a week, I wrote anywhere, anytime I could. I wrote before work in the living room, after work at the nearest Panera, in my bed before turning out the light, and as the weather warmed, out on my sundeck. I made scene cards that I tacked to a fabric story board hanging in my bedroom, created a Pinterest where I posted pictures of period clothing and furniture, and made two different novel playlists to listen to as I typed the final product and even as I drove my car.

I was seized. I completed the first draft right around my March deadline. I had planned to give myself a week’s rest before embarking on the all-important rewrite. But there was an issue that I hesitated to confess even to myself; my passion had begun to wane.

I first noticed it around the end of January, but I was able to feed the fire long enough to type “The End” by my deadline. During my week off, I tinkered with words here and there, fearful that if I stopped entirely, I would not go back to it at all.

Over the next two months, I grappled with the frustration of the fire burning so low. It dimmed until it almost seemed hopeless. Nevertheless, I continued writing. On the days I could not muster the enthusiasm for my novel, I worked on poetry or just random “rants,” anything to keep my pen in hand.

After 14 months of faithful duty, the bubble burst at last. I had to give myself a break. My focus and motivation fizzled and I passed the next several months — much to my chagrin– writing in intermittent spurts when inspiration struck, something I had sought to get away from. Other distractions in my personal life sucked away my brain power on top of that.

Now, it is August, 17 months after the first draft was completed. I am about half-way through the rewrite and, to my delight, feeling the embers of my fascination reigniting. I have set myself a new deadline and am trying my best to work a little bit every day. Bottom line: I refuse to give up.

In the past, I was all too quick to concede defeat. I backed away from far too many challenges, sabotaging myself by flitting from unfinished project to unfinished project. The old cliché “jack of all trades, master of none” is true. No one becomes a successful writer without enforcing discipline, nor by giving up. Inspiration and skill, while essential to an accomplished writer’s repertoire, are only two pieces of a complex puzzle. It is discipline and perseverance that separate the apprentices from the masters, and that goes for everything in life, not just writing.

So if you stumbled upon this article and are considering giving up on your writing, I ask you, from one writer to another, to please have faith in yourself. I don’t care if you are 18 or 108, refuse to take no for an answer. Batten down the hatches, park your rump in a chair, and write. Ask your loved ones to cheer you on. Reward yourself with something awesome when you meet your goal. Even if you never make a dime off of what you write, do it because you love it, do it because you have to. The world needs stories and it needs people who don’t understand the meaning of quitting. It needs disciplined people who persevere.

Write on!

 

*** Update: I am nearing the end of the second draft at this time. Yes, it seems I was more turtle-like this last year and a half than I like to admit. 🙂 ***

 

Cover Image Credit: pixabay

Writer’s Block? Try This.

sewing-1229710_1280

Finding yourself afflicted with writer’s block? Feeling uninspired? My advice: try your hand at another hobby.

About a month ago at this time, I was trapped in a maze of overthinking and worrying about every detail of mundane life. I was also spending far too much time on social media. Naturally, this was squashing my creativity at a time when I had already hit a brick wall near the end of my second draft. I felt burnt out and knew I could not keep doing this. So, I decided to take a break from it all by picking up a new hobby.

I have always loved needlework. For a long time, I had been meaning to learn cross stitch, something I had tried and failed at years ago. With an easy kit and a little bit of help from a co-worker, I was soon off and running. I picked it up quickly and within a week completed three small projects. I moved on to another slightly more difficult kit which I am wrapping up now. I also saw some beautiful yarn in a craft store and decided to crochet a lap blanket out of it, another needle hobby I have loved for a few years now. That project is now also almost done.

It seemed my time outs from writing and everything else offered the muses the perfect opportunity to sneak back into my brain and do some housecleaning — and then throw a wild party chock full of poetry and new story ideas. Even the part of my book I was having such trouble with seemed less intimidating and finally came clear. It was seriously magical.

I cannot recommend enough the benefits of having a second or third hobby outside of writing. Whether it’s sewing, gardening, cooking, woodworking, painting, etc, get away from your keyboard and do something fun and productive. Also, watch the amount of time and energy you pour into social media. I am a little ashamed to admit just how many hours of my life have been lost to mindless scrolling on Facebook. Social media can be a blessing for networking and promotion, but it needs to be checked.

So, if any of you have been fighting with the monster of writer’s block, I invite you to step back and walk away from the struggle for a bit. You might find the monster turns into a tiny puppy that was never really scary after all.

Write on!

%d bloggers like this: