Wednesday, July 31, 2013

August is almost here! Where are the blog challenges?

Since it's going to be the first of the month, and I have all this extra time, I was thinking I'd take up a blogging challenge. However, I don't know which one to do. I've found #BlogFlashDaily but I don’t know if there’s one up for August 2013. I have found some that require a newsletter sign up, with a person who is a blogging guru now that they’ve been blogging since 2009. Um…no. If you don’t know what Geocities is, you’re not a blogging guru. Plus, a lot of these challenges are for business so, no, not for me. I found another one for writers that is the #WPad Challenge for August so I may do that one even though it’s for script writers.

Honestly, I may just pick and choose and make my own. We’ll see. Since I’m such a big Instagram junkie, I may do a picture prompt thing. Not sure if I could keep that up for a whole month, but we’ll see.

Anyway, are there any other good blog challenges out there in August?

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Case of the Mondays for 29 Jul 2013

July had been hot, as we all know. I think we’ve gone through a record number of popsicles (lollies, as we say in England) and (cloudy, not the clear fizzy stuff that looks like Sprite) lemonade. The rain has been here, so at least it’s not unbearable like it has been. It’s the last Monday of July. I always have energy from resting over the weekend, and I get so excited to get back to my project. Then the week drags on and it turns out, I’m restless and ready to do cartwheels in the back yard to ward off cabin fever. I’ve had all three fans running non-stop, and I can only open the computer room window at night because I have a squad of bees doing their business above in the window sill. I shudder to think how many there are up there, but I do know they love to come and in to say, “hello” if I open the window a crack. (No, we don’t have screens for windows in England either.)

Anyway, I’ve opened a LiveJournal account as missusp. I just wanted to use it again. I miss it. I miss that you can have people in groups chat with one another. The social networking is right there without having to use a feed reader or Twitter to get to each other. Granted, that was in its prime, before hackers, spam, and Facebook. I may get some satisfaction out of using it again, maybe not, I just felt like trying it. *shrug*

It’s only three more days of Camp NaNoWriMo and I’m only at 14,441 words, but they’re decent words and I have an ending to aim for. I said before that I was trying to outline. That didn’t work. I mean, it was fine to jot down the ideas I had in my head, but once I started writing, the story just turned into something different than what I had originally intended.

Since I have all this time in the world due to Summer break, I’m really trying to get a ton of work finished before the holiday is over in September. Granted, supply teaching is hit or miss, but if I’m steadily busy, or get some kind of temporary job, I’m just too preoccupied. When I taught full-time last Winter, I was too tired and busy to even read a book. I know working like that is food financially, but, man, not having any time for anything other than teaching is hard for me. I do get bored out of my mind, though, so I’ve been hitting Starbucks regularly for a Frappuccino (I learned last week that they’ll make a triple caramel light Frappuccino!) I can enjoy the A/C and write a little bit in a different environment. It at least makes me feel like I’ve left the house.

I’ve made a photo set on Flickr from our trip to the Lake District.  Other than that, nothing much exciting is going on. I’m trying to sign up with a couple other teaching agencies, but it usually ends in never being called again, so I may not bother to pursue any others now that I went through the process at a new one already. For me, Summer is kind of a low-key thing that entails a whole lot of staying indoors, watching the weather, and trying to get stuff done.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Writing your own story for success

C. Hope Clark at Funds For Writers, a newsletter that I’ve been subscribed to for ages, posted an interesting link on Facebook: 10 Little Habits that Steal Your Happiness. The first tip is one we can all learn, to stop focusing on everyone else’s story. “Unfold your own tale and bring it to life.” Someone on (my favorite place) Twitter the other day said they were happy, but they’d be happier if they were J.K. Rowling. I know what they mean, but, we just can’t think like that. I could never write high fantasy or crime like Rowling does (heck, I never even spell her name right; Rowlings, Rawling…) But that doesn’t mean we can’t have goals to be successful.

I’ve been reading my free Kindle sample of The Productive Writer. Cohen says that we should make a list for our future goals and even if they’re ridiculously high, at least we’ll aim somewhere below high rather than somewhere behind mediocre. The list should include writers whose work feels somehow related to ours. I think that’s such a much better way of doing things, rather than saying, “I want to be successful, so I want to write about vampires and wizards so I can be successful too.” Granted, I understand there is a definite niche right there, but as my graduate professor said, “I’m really not interested in what the market wants.”

The kinds of writers I felt akin to were of the simplistic writers. The ones who didn’t mess around and just told you the story. Papa Hemingway is an obvious mentor, so is Raymond Carver. I was also taught with examples from Lorrie Moore (whom I met at UCF) and then later Dorothy ParkerJ.M. Coetzee and Per Petterson when I did my thesis in grad school. That kind of writing was interesting to me; the slightly humorous but ultimately tragic. After school, however, I didn’t have academia to rely on, and I discovered more novels like Catcher in the Rye knocking around. Hence, I became a YA fiction reader.

I am not really a fan of anything far-fetched. I like people stories and even if there is some elements of horror, sci-fi, or the supernatural, it’s done within the regular constructs of the real world. Luke Skywalker, Leia, and Han Solo are all humans from other planets but that’s about as far as I can go. Carrie is a teenager with regular problems and a supernatural power. Ripley is an officer on a mining ship that’s trying to get back to Earth. The premises of Lost and The Walking Dead are that people are in “What If?” situations. The lives of characters have to be relatable to me in some way, otherwise I get super board. I can even get bored with comic book based movies sometimes just because it’s very, very formulaic (cue Scott Pilgrim who fought evil exes one after the other. The characters where great, but the video game plot just didn’t entertain me whatsoever – and I like video games!) Katniss Everdeen is an American fighting in a screwed up version of Big Brother. Miranda is experiencing a time travel mystery all set in 1970s New York. I’ve never been one to want the “escape to another world” kind of reader. I want to know the dysfunctional neighbour next door.

Anyway, back to the goals. Camp NaNoWriMo will be over soon and I’m just horribly behind. As always, I was going well for a while, then stopped after we went on holiday. I wrote a decent amount in two sittings on Monday (I also read that procrastinators and adults with attention deficiencies do better if projects are in bite sized chunks.) But by Tuesday I questioned my choice in projects, if the story would work, if my characterization was all right, etc. etc. I wrote about 500 words, then sat there second guessing myself.

But the best tip I found that made it feel all better was from Neil Gaiman who said,

For me, it’s always been a process of trying to convince myself that what I’m doing in a first draft isn’t important.

Holy crap, thank you! I read that, watched the saddest episode of Walking Dead (Season 3 – you know the episode), cried a bit, and got over my little hang-ups. Now I can go back to getting something done. I have until October, more or less, before any supply work will come in, so that leaves me all the time in the world to work. Aside from the little chunks of writing that help keep my concentration up, instead of one month, a novel could be written in three with shorter bursts of creativity. I can handle that.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Technology makes writers of us all

Steve and I were talking about how depressing the world has gotten with technology. He speculated that if legendary great minds like Einstein were living today, they’d be ReTweeting pictures of Sheldon Cooper with “LOLZ”. My take is that it’s created us to all be the same. We’re on the same sites, having the same accounts, looking at the same things, and discussing the same issues. I hear this word “Connect” a lot and I want to know why people need to connect so much.

Let me first say that I have a private list of people on my Twitter account who I really like and chat with on a regular-ish basis. Don’t get me wrong, I use Twitter. I don’t have big, long discussions with them, or feel like I’ve found a Twitter family in cyberspace. Some people do, and I understand that being in the same career field, or just finding someone with similar interests is good. Librarians like to see what other librarians are up to. I’m assuming from the Tweets I read, that most of them are using a computer all day during the day as well. I’m still not sure how much of the usage can be personal since every place I’ve worked at (which was a public library, a public school, or a government contractor, mind you) didn’t allow us to use computers for personal use.

Anyway, for writers it makes sense as well because we’re sitting at home doing our work at a computer. Free reign! We can find new books to read and have chats about our word count. I like that, especially now that school is out, I’ll probably be on more than I have been recently. I’ve purposely not used Twitter as much this week since Steve’s been home and we had our holiday in the Lake District. We purposely wanted a holiday away from a lot of technology. So, I checked my feed, saw a couple of things I wanted to address when I got home, and that was it. I don’t think I’m missing much by not being online all the time. (I can say that my word count for Camp NaNoWriMo has suffered greatly though.)

There are millions of “writers” now, and that makes me depressed and ill beyond belief. Everyone has a computer now. Everyone has a Twitter account. Everyone thinks they should write a book. Doesn’t anyone else get angry about that? I wish the economy would go back to giving people some jobs so I don’t have to see the garbage flooding sites like Smashwords. Horrible book covers, horrible ideas, and just a wasteland of trash that is masking around as a novel. Yuck. I’ve had enough. There are even auto generated books being thrown into the mix. Makes me want to cry.

I thought about just making a new Twitter account and starting fresh because it’s nothing like it use to be. At first I was happy to find fellow writers, but I’ve just made my short, separate list of Peeps, and left it at that. My however-many followers, who knows what they’re doing? Do I care? Not really. Doing a mass clean-up is virtually impossible because of Twitter’s stupid ratio rules. I can’t even find articles about statistics of how many books are self-published a day, or how many indie writers there are in the world because the internet is flooded with Writer’s Tips! Good grief!

I’m probably one of the only people who longs for a time when people didn’t have to be connected. The people I talked to in email or chat where people I actual knew in real life. This is why I keep my Facebook page. I don’t post my Foursquare check ins to Twitter, because I only want my family and friends back in Florida to know what I’m up to. I love my Instagram because photography is just plain fun for me, but all in all, the addiction to technology is bringing me down in a major way.

Even my new phone isn’t the top selling gadget (a Samsung Galaxy SIII), because I don’t use it as much as I use to. Back a handful of years ago, the idea of sharing and having someone care what I said and did was so exciting. I would love to have that feeling back again, but I think it’s become so diluted with sameness that everyone is just mulling around like zombies, going about their regular business. I even use to get excited about my blog posts. *sigh*

The best Tweet I heard about writing last week was,

Write the next book and stop focusing on social media so much.

Amen to that. And lastly, for motivation to get the heck away from the computer for a while is from our friend Anais Nin,

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.

Now, I’ll go share my quotes online and get back to doing stuff.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Writing and the last of the Summer Whine

The weather app says it’s only 60+ degrees outside, but this flat gets so hot, it’s unbearable. It's so hot in this flat and it makes me incredibly grumpy. In Florida we have weather management systems. This "we don't have air conditioning because we don't need them for more than one day a year" motto is driving me crazy. It's too hot to sleep,  even with a fan. The air outside is hot and even when it cools down, I can’t open the windows to let the stuff air out because we don’t have screens to keep the bees out (they hang out by the computer room window, waiting for me to invite them in) or the cat out (he’s equally waiting for such opportunities.)

So, with that said, I’m just not in the greatest of moods. Usually I’m excited for Monday to start up because I can get work done, maybe get a couple of teaching gigs set up for the week, and so on. Today, I’m just tired, hot, and grouchy. I even tried to get caught up on my Camp NaNoWriMo this morning only to have Microsoft Word give me the “not responding” crap and make me lose the three sentences I wrote.

I’m totally behind on NaNo because of work, and with this technology to fight with, I’m seriously considering getting a word processor like the Neo 2. Taking the netbook out has been okay, but fighting the “not responding” error messages, just wastes time. I try to get the programs to work, and then resort to Wordpad, just to type out something for the day.

I also use to really have grandiose ideas about posting to my blog, Tweeting, sharing photos, and such, but that isn’t really that important anymore either, sadly. I know most people don’t agree with me, but I feel such a decline in social networking that I’m starting to feel that most of it is pointless. I’d never get rid of the accounts all together, but here and there posts are about all that’s necessary each day.

So why not use a word processor instead of going through the task of using a netbook? I use to think the idea was really stupid, but now I really see how handy that would be. Of course I’d have to write and I think the ease and availability of it, instead of having to boot up the computer and force myself to sit and do the work while waiting for technology to catch up would be good. Of course I could handwrite things, which I do for notes and outlines, but the actually word count and productivity needs to be typed.

Now that school’s almost out, it’s time to get busy. Too bad Sims 3 Island Paradise and Animal Crossing have other plans for how I use my time. I get really bored in the daytime now if I’m not at school, and while writing is my hobby, and I have to get down what I can when I have to time, having the whole day to embrace entertainment outlets is just way too tempting for me.

I wonder if they have a support group for procrastinators.

If you need more motivation, like I do, my link for today is Why the First Draft is Usually Awful (And Why it's Ok). Notice that they used the same word processor photo that I did. Great mind, you know?