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Thought that I would share some words from The Sacred Circle Tarot. This morning I drew the 3 of Wands. Here’s what the guide book has to tell me:
“The three of wands indicates that you are entitled to celebrate the initial success of a project…. However, though the foundations have been well laid, you will now need to put in a lot of hard work and creative energy. Be flexible, as it may become necessary to modify or improve the original idea.”
Um, yeah. I’d noticed.
And, in case anybody was wondering, (Digital Dame) I am writing away this morning and don’t need to be chased into the bushes with a baseball bat.
I have encountered new terrain on this writing journey of mine – a sort of No Man’s Land, with no signposts and a bewildering tangle of paths. Some, no doubt, are dead ends. Others hold land mines and other booby traps designed to hinder or possibly even blow the unwary writer into fragments. But somewhere in the maze I believe there are paths that lead to a publishable novel. As I stand here, bewildered, afraid to set my foot to any path lest I go astray, it is tempting to believe that there is only one right path, one chance out of a hundred, a thousand, of reaching my destination.
I am lost.
A voice of wisdom reminds me of something drilled into me since childhood: when lost, stay put. Don’t go aimlessly wandering about, thrashing through the bushes and falling into swamps. You’ll only get yourself more lost. You might even drown or get eaten by bears.
This seems to me to be good advice. I have, for the moment, set Swimming North aside. I have too many ideas of where a revision could take me. There is no clarity. My heart and my head are not lined up. Anything I do in this frame of mind will make matters worse. I suspect there is a simple solution to my dilemma that is staring me in the face.
The best solution, I believe, is to just set up camp here in this wilderness until I’m clear about which path to take. I have resources, helpers, and guides, which I fully expect will be of benefit to me. Here is my plan:
1. Write something every day that is related to the story but not part of the novel. A character snapshot. An idea. A scene fragment.
2. Read a good book. I have selected Stephen King’s The Dark Half.
3. Learn something. I’m reading Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, which has already inspired me with the words, “anything can be fixed.” Maybe this needs to be taped above my work station, along with “Before the beginning of great brilliance there must be chaos” (I Ching) and my favorite rejection letter.
4. Give myself permission to stay here for awhile. This too is writing. I’m not under contract, there is no deadline to meet.
5. Freely brainstorm the possible options. Explore them and see where they go.
6. Remind myself that this is only temporary. I will write other books. Better books. This is an educational opportunity, if nothing else. In fact, I hereby give myself permission to enjoy the stay.
Outside my window today, the world is beautiful and white. The cat curls into the chair next to me, recovering her composure after a disconcerting encounter with snow. As for me, I inhabit a small bubble of peace in the middle of work, holiday baking and decorating, and the other real life pressures that have chosen to present themselves during this very busy month of the year.
There’s a manila envelope on my desk addressed to me in my own handwriting, containing a dream that once again has returned to me rather than reaching the desired destination. It sits there as a reminder, not yet put away, that dreams perhaps would be better invested in other aspects of my writing and my life.
Long ago, an exercise meant to be taught to my counseling clients taught me a very important lesson, which I’m about to share with the rest of you. Maybe you know this already – it seems simple, on the face of things, and yet most of us live our lives disregarding a simple principle that makes a world of difference in the thought processes.
Make a quick list of the things you worry about. Mine would look something like this:
2. Getting senior to college next year
3. Finding an agent for Filling in the Blanks
4. Finishing Swimming North
I won’t bore you with more. The next step is to break each one of those elements down into units of responsibility. For example:
Q. How much of this is my responsibility right now?
A. About 60%
Q. How much time do you spend worrying about it every day?
A: Not a lot. A few minutes here and there, more when I’m paying bills.
Q: Are you doing everything you can to fulfill your part of the responsibility?
This is a fairly healthy ratio of responsibility/worry. Now let’s look at finding an agent.
Q: How much of this is my responsibility right now?
A: About 50%, I guess – the part about getting the queries out to appropriate agents.
Q: And how much time do you spend fretting about it every day?
A: Do I have to answer that? (A lot)
Q: Are you doing everything you can to fulfill your part of the responsibility?
And here there is a problem. The reality is, I only have control over maybe half of this process. I can research, I can send out the query letters. That’s it. I can’t make an agent fall in love with my book. And yet, I’m expending a tremendous amount of my energy on worrying and fretting and angsting about this. Where the energy rightfully belongs, is on the things that are under my control, and that are my responsibility. Energy expended where it doesn’t belong takes away from proactive and productive work on other fronts, rather like spraying a fire extinguisher into the air when there’s a fire in my kitchen. Nothing productive is done, and I get burned, along with everything else that is important to me.
Writing another and better book, now, that is another story. Fully 100% of that is in my power. Any energy I expend toward the writing of that book goes directly to an effective place. I can learn, I can study, I can perfect my craft.
That said, I think it’s time to move on with the day. Time to go to the storage unit, and load the trash into the truck for a trip to the dump. Time to do some Christmas shopping. And later, time to finish editing this draft of Swimming North and get ready to move on to querying.
Let me begin with an apology.
Dear Non-Twittering Blog Friends:
I know some of you do not love the Twitter. This post is not for you. I have no wish to exclude you. You are beloved. This would be an excellent opportunity for you to join the writing community on Twitter, if you care to read on and participate. If not – alas. You will be missed.
Today on Twitter, Julie Butcher, aka @jimsissy, online social planner extraordinaire, hatched another IDEA: a brilliant, wonderful, non-grinchy idea. Wouldn’t it be great, she mused, if we could manage to get all of the writers and editors and agents and publishing people together for fun and general holiday celebratoriness? But we are so far flung – not just different states but different continents – and nobody seems to be rich enough to supply the jetliners to bring us all together.
To a schemer of Julie’s stature, these are minor considerations. Let’s have a virtual holiday party, she thought, but a virtual party with real life, in the flesh gifts. Sound like fun? If you’re already on Twitter, the rest is easy. If you’re not yet part of the Twitter community, you could go HERE and sign up. Once you have an account, send a message to me, @uppington, or to Julie, @jimsissy, and we’ll be happy to introduce you to people and help you learn the ropes.
Read on for the details:
1. Join the party by tweeting to #holidaybash by Monday, December 7, 2009
2. Run around your house and find a white elephant gift that will fit into an envelope, put it in the envelope and get it ready to mail. You can’t buy something new. Your gift can be humorous, thoughtful, strange or dramatic. The wilder, the better. (Risque is acceptable but not dirty. PG rated gifts.)
3. On Monday, we’ll post who you mail your gift to. It will be your job to follow them on twitter, get their mailing address, and send their gift.
4. Tuesday, December 8, 2009 we get our work done. Agents do agent stuff and clear your inboxes. Writers write and work on revisions. Editors, set a goal. We’ll cheer you on! Authors, finish those projects.
Let’s all work like crazy so we can enjoy the holidays with our families!
5. Don’t open your present when it arrives! We’ll open them together at the party.
6. Party time is Thursday, December 17th at 9:00 PM Eastern. We’ll get a chat room, open the presents, sing songs and drink the beverage of our choice ;D