The stories we share

A Quiet Growth

This year so far I’ve mostly focused on writing quantity over quality. At least, it looks that way by what I’ve published.

The benefits of this are many. I’ve bulldozed roadblocks of fear to creativity. Stifling thoughts, all things related to “not good enough”, all things that make me think my idea isn’t worth sharing or, even worse, not worth writing at all, have started to break down. It just feels good to create. It’s similar to my doodling: I may be years away from selling my drawings; maybe I never will. (Here’s where the similarities end because one day I will be a published author.) But I feel a little more like myself when I get out my colored pencils, and that’s good.

Of course, meanwhile all these other desires keep tugging on me. This writing contest, that deeply rooted project-they sometimes demand my attention right now, clamoring for energy and cultivation that I don’t have yet. The time isn’t right and I’m learning that slow isn’t bad. “Just wait,” I tell my clamoring dreams. “Your time will come. I’ll plant a bit here, weed a bit there- I may have a black thumb when it comes to plants, but I can’t kill these dreams or these projects. One day you’ll come to fruition.”

I’m learning to quell thoughts like, “You posted WHAT?!” because art is not perfect and if it helps you to show up, I think you should just do it. I trust that there is more at work than what I can offer right now. Eventually, it’ll be ready.

Whatever your project is, you don’t have to be discouraged by slow progress. What’s worth doing takes time. And when it’s ready, it will be all the more beautiful for your honoring of every little step.

 

Can you see the tiny green oranges?
My life stories · The stories we share

A New Year Ahead

I talked about shaping my perspective on writing for next year in light of our current circumstances. Soon after, I realized I still wanted to share my small goals with you for 2017. They are:

 

  1. Take a class! I asked my family for gift certificates to the Creative Writing Institute for Christmas. They are an organization that offers free writing classes to cancer patients and happily affordable writing classes for anyone else. I’ve missed writing classes so much. This one will probably be for the second half of the year.
  2. Give my novel a break. I finished this draft (woohoo!!) and will send it out to some friends for feedback. It felt good to make that decision, even if I didn’t have the time to formulate beta questions like I’d wanted. Now I can move on and that is freeing. So the novel gets at least a six month break.
  3. Revamp my blog. Let’s get tabs going, an About page that you can actually find, etc. Also, hello, giant tag cloud?! I may need to fix that too…
  4. Enjoy the process. This one encompasses a lot. I spent so much time fighting the idea that writing for my own benefit is enough. They say writing is cheaper than therapy…it’s true! And I’m finally learning not to discount that. This year I have some short story ideas to flesh out and have fun with, and I will not be obsessed with writing to find the perfect market. Writing for contests and markets is fantastic, necessary practice for any writer. This year, however, I’m just focusing on having fun and practicing the craft of writing…although I can’t promise the contest bug won’t bite at least once in 2017.

 

In the spirit of fun writing, I bookmarked several blogs that offer daily or weekly prompts, like the ones The Daily Post provides. Oh, and I’ve bookmarked some fun prompts in this little gem a friend gave me:

Little projects are easier to conquer than big ones, and can help keep momentum going!

It’s encouraging to know that goals can still be set, even in light of big life changes. What are your goals for 2017?

My written stories · The stories we share

A Look Back at 2016


Can you believe this year is almost over? It’s been a whirlwind for sure. Looking back at what we’ve accomplished can be a huge morale booster. I almost didn’t write this post-but again, morale booster. Need I say more?

My post from the beginning of the year listed my 2016 goals. Here’s what I actually did.

Blogging-I wanted to post at least 4 times a month. I did that, except for October, when I intentionally took a break.

Novel-The plan was to finish a draft. I’m pleased and grateful to say I finished two. Hooray!

Children’s Magazine Writing- This one veered off course, but I can’t say I’m upset about it. The plan was to revise/write and submit four manuscripts by the end of the year. Instead I did get to study a magazine market, write and submit one story, and take notes for a second. I did also get a lot of use out of the market guides my husband bought for me, mostly for writing contests.

Additionally, I submitted 3 stories to contests, 2 of which were children’s. I also submitted an essay and a piece of flash fiction (see below). None of them were featured or won anything, but, it was all good practice.

Flash Fiction-The plan was to write and submit 3 by years’ end. After the first one, I realized I’d better practice more before I tried submitting to more contests or other markets! So there are several flashes floating around my word files. I’ll probably share them here over the next month or two.

All in all, I’m very happy with my writing this year. The deviations turned out to be really good ones.

Did your goals veer off course a bit, or did you stick to your plan? What was one thing you gained as a writer this year?  I want to hear what discoveries you made along the way of what was 2016.

My life stories · The stories we share

I Have a Plan(ner)

Do you like starting the year with a fresh, blank planner? I do. There’s nothing like a new year, new goals, and a fun way to track and tackle those goals.

As this year winds down, I debated over what planner to use for 2017. I debated over whether or not I should even get a planner or notebook. After all, I’ll have a newborn very soon, and our fourth child at that. My toddler got a hold of my notebook recently and gave me a nice visual on what children can do to your plans:

 

I could not stop laughing when I found this.

This transient nature of this notebook is kind of funny, too. I finished my other notebook a few weeks back, and, not wanting to start a brand new book when the year is almost spent, was pleased to stumble upon an old spiral-bound from high school half full of notes on Jane Eyre. Can’t waste paper! And it’s Jane Eyre…so, in between chapter notes and character sketches, I’ve been carving out temporary weekly lists for now.

(Side note: the other day, still battling a cold, fatigue, and the shallows of despair, I scribbled “malaise and soul-search” into my planner. Check! Take that, despair, I can find something to do…haha!)

Back to the new year dilemma. It’s a challenge for me in the postpartum stretch to find that balance between rest and recovery, and doing the next small thing even though it will be interrupted (think, taking all day to empty the dishwasher after 6+ attempts. Or even just the top rack of the dishwasher. Moms, you know what I mean.). I love my babies but the frustration is also real. Often in the past, I’d look at my empty planner, or my simple to do list on that planner (with no check marks!) and feel the paralysis sink in.

So, in the spirit of finding beauty in the mundane and repetitive, I pulled out a notebook and an illustrated calendar from the Target dollar spot, wielded my scissors, and slapped on some glue to make a cute, albeit very handmade planner for next year:

It’s my planner, baby, I can customize this thing! Instead of days laid out crisply and uniformly on the page, where I might hate those blank spaces, I can take a week at a time to jot family milestones, or record something uplifting, or write “take meal out of freezer”.  Oh yes, I will find a way to get a little of that productivity high. 😉

I won’t be writing much for a while in 2017. I won’t be cleaning much. Meals will probably constitute largely of the (frozen) tears of our forefathers for several weeks. But this notebook is a little gesture that helps me to value the slowness and smallness of new beginnings, and a reminder to myself that my value never lies in what I accomplish, but in the Author of my days. My days will change, but His love for me stays the same.

Here’s an early toast to the new year, friends, whether you’ll be pounding out your next best-seller (cheers!), practicing a new genre, or balancing life’s unexpected ups and downs. Personally, I’ll be cheering you on, no matter how much of the year is spent in the writing sidelines. And before I know it, I’ll be rejoining the writing race, too.

 

 

My life stories · The stories we share

Christmas Wonder

A few weeks ago the kids and I were driving home from my mom’s house. It was just after Thanksgiving, and we spotted several houses bedecked in Christmas lights and yard decor. A surge of nostalgia and anticipation welled up within me as we talked about one of my favorite Christmas past times: driving slowly through neighborhoods in search of these Christmas outdoor lights.

Last year, we were in Asheville. We were loving the “cold” weather (by our standards), and despite the lack of snow yet, it felt more Christmassy than the usual Florida 70’s and (heaven forbid!) 80’s we usually experience on this winter holiday. But this year all the sentiment of the season that is so tied to this one place came back to me on that neighborhood road. And I realized how much fun it will be (and has been since) to share these memories and small rituals with my children.

Last year I had so much fun writing a post about different ancient rituals that have contributed to (or been denounced as horrible) the way we celebrate Christmas today in America. You can read it here. This year, I find myself revived by one narrative of Christmas: Emmanuel. Powerful  God became a crying baby to walk among us, know our pain, and live the life we cannot apart from him. Sometimes the simple, well-known stories breathe newness into what can be a cynical, complicated life in a way that brings glimpses of forgotten joy and anticipation.

I’m also reminded of another Christmas memory. Years ago, our church’s worship team was led by a talented, big-voiced and big-hearted musician who organized Christmas cantatas. I miss the joy of participating in something beautiful-the harmonizing of voices to create auditory texture and color. If you enjoy Christmas carols, then this clip is for you.

 

 

The stories we share

What’s so Dangerous about a Single Story?

Sometime ago I read the transcript for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk entitled The Danger of a Single Story.  You can watch or read it here.  Adichie is a Nigerian author who talks about her experiences of reading Western and Nigerian literature, and how those helped to shape her as a writer.

Are you familiar with many African countries’s stories? I’m not. That’s partly why I was intrigued by Adichie’s talk. We have a wealth of Western literature at our fingertips. It’s what I grew up on. Eastern and African tales, not so much. As writers and human beings, I believe we owe it to our fellow human beings to gain a better perspective from other narratives. The danger of a single story is that we often pick the one that sounds most like us, that reassures our own beliefs, that reinforces our often little viewing window on the world.

Now, I’m not Nigerian. I’m not from Africa (of course, we all began there…that’s another blog post). I’m not from a country that suffered prolonged Colonialism, genocides, or other man-created tragedies, ones that all but eradicated the narratives of my nation or people. (Well, not my Caucasian narratives, anyway.) So it’s with some hesitation that I say I can relate, a little, to Adichie’s feeling of not belonging as she read stories of blond-haired children. It took me years to find a character that seemed to face the insecurities, doubts, and fears that I knew. When I finally found someone with which to say, “Aha! You too?”, the relief was real.

You don’t need me to tell you that we read stories to know we aren’t alone. There are other ways we can seek out different narratives, too, and we owe it to those around us as well as ourselves. With our wealth of available information, let’s not forget to use it well.

The stories we share

Freelance Writing with HireWriters

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I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d done some small freelance writing jobs. One of the companies I worked for, HireWriters, contacted me asking if I would post about them. Since I discovered HireWriters through other blogs in the first place, I decided to spread the word. So, fair warning-this is a sponsored post. If you’re interested in making a little money choosing your own writing jobs and hours at home, then you’ll want to read on.

How does it work? First of all, working for HireWriters is not a “get rich quick scheme”. And their website is clear about that. To sign up, click on the “get paid to write” button at the top and follow the easy prompts. You will fill out some information about yourself and complete a brief writing sample. You also need a PayPal account so you can receive weekly payment.

All writers start out at the beginner level. To advance in payment and job opportunities, simply complete the required number of writing jobs at a satisfactory level. Once your articles have been approved by the client, you are automatically advanced.

Clients post articles they need to have written, along with the pay, word count, and specifications. You pick the articles you will write, and complete them within the allotted time frame, which is usually 24 hours. You work when you want, and get paid every Friday. It really is pretty simple.

HireWriters is known as a content mill. You can find several of these easily enough, and they all vary a bit as far as payment, sign-up process, and article content. I recommend signing up with at least two. This way you’ll have more article options to choose from any given day. (More on my overall experience with content mills in a moment.)

Now, when I was reading other people’s blogs before I signed up with HireWriter, there were many who hated content mills. It’s true that, as I said, you won’t make a lot of money working for them. Most of the individuals disparaging content mills were people ready to aggressively pursue clients and build their own freelance business. They were ready to  put the serious time and effort into getting higher-paying jobs. So if this is what you’re ready for, HireWriters (or other content mills) probably isn’t for you.

On the other hand, if your circumstances and inclinations are more like mine, this may be a perfect fit for you. I was happy to find something that I could do from home that involved no risk on my part and the flexibility I wanted. I ended up working about 3 hours a day around my toddler and two school-aged children. Not as much as I’d hoped, but it payed for Christmas gifts and a few other things, without requiring childcare or some crazy schedule. I can honestly say I wasn’t disappointed in the experience-as a short-term job, I was happy with the pay off.

HireWriters was one of two content mills I signed up for. Between the two of them, I checked in at least twice a day to see the updated job listings. These are always changing so I’d recommend multiple check-ins throughout your work day. I think being able to work for longer, uninterrupted periods at once instead of an hour here and there would have been more profitable, and several of the people whose articles I read did just that.

So if you’re looking to earn a part-time income free-lance writing from home, I highly recommend HireWriters and other content mills. It won’t make you rich, but it is a legitimate way to earn an income at your pace, on your own time frame.

The stories we share

Colorful Humours

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The study of the four humors have their roots in ancient Egypt and Greek study, but they really gained popularity during the Middle Ages. Islamic medicine added its own layers as well.

Each humor was thought to be caused by an excess of too much bodily fluid. Diseases and personality were influenced by a person’s fluids. At times, it was also tied to the four elements (fire, water, earth, air). They were:

Sanguine-generally happy, cheerful, outgoing, often scattered, caused by an excess of blood.

Melancholic-yep, we get the word “melancholy” from this one. Prone to sadness, depression, but also thoughtful and observant. (*waves hand*) Due to an excess of black bile.

Choleric-demanding, prone to anger, powerful. Caused by an excess of yellow bile.

Phlegmatic-slow-moving, don’t-rock the boat kinda person. Easy going and peaceful. Due to an excess of, well, phlegm.

I haven’t done any reading to see if the author of The Color Code based any of his research on the four humors, but I see plenty of similarities. Both theories center around four temperaments that appear to correlate. A little reading and it’s easy to see most of us are a combination of at least two temperaments on either theory.

My husband and I read The Color Code when we were engaged. The section on how Blues (similar to Melancholics) interact with each other in intimate relationships was surprisingly accurate for us-we laughed at how much it ‘read our mail’. We both also have White (or Phlegmatic) elements to our personalities, and Mike has a much-loved Yellow (Sanguine) streak. That particular one is like a breath of fresh air and a pesky fly, sometimes all at once. 😉 I’m glad he has it.

I’d love to incorporate more personality theory into my future character crafting. I’d also love to create workbooks for other writers that would help enable them to do that for their characters. Think of how fun (and easy) it would be to throw obstacles at a character if you know what they want and fear. And how humorous it could be to throw different temperaments into the same situation and force them to work it out! Ok, that pun was not intended.

For a list of several great resources on the four humors, click here. Are you familiar with the four humors, whether from study or from books you’ve read? Do you pull from personality theories when you create your characters?

 

Source

The stories we share

How Random, Novel

It’s the month of NaNoWriMo. How are all you brave souls doing? I love reading updates about your discoveries, wayward characters (or not-sometimes they’re cooperative), and word count achievements.

My own novel goals are a bit more modest for this month: finish the draft, which needed about 5,000 words at the beginning of the month. I’m a few words shy of 2,000 to go, which is just on target. Woop!

I’m also almost 8 months pregnant and battling a cold. Finishing this draft feels more and more like reaching towards the due date: I’m tired, I’m getting sick of both, but I just need to keep going. Every little page I write gives me motivation for life in general and reminds me I’ll get to both finish lines eventually.

Besides motivation and perseverance, writing my first novel has provided various insights into my own thought processes over the 4 years I’ve worked on it. You know what I mean? Have you had that experience of writing a scene or chapter, only to go back over it and realize that was you processing certain life events? Several times it’s come as a shock. Things I didn’t even realize fully manifested themselves in the events and characters I’d created. Well, even if I don’t intentionally write about everything I process, apparently it will out one way or another. It seems there’s no way round it. What an experience novel writing is!

Before this novel began to germinate, I’d imagined writing it as this outside-directed process, by which authors in general must take in information they want, bend it to their wishes, and create this recipe of measured plot, character, and other familiar elements. But there’s also the way many authors pull out of their internal reserves and experience and, surprise, it’s not aways a conscious effort.


Well, speaking of recipes, there’s an apple crumble that I need to make for the big feast tomorrow. I should probably find a real recipe, or we may have more surprise than one:)
If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, then happy Thanksgiving to you! And tell me, do you find writing to be more an unconscious revealing or a conscious throwing ingredients into the pot? I’m really curious about other writers’ thoughts and experiences on this.

My life stories · The stories we share

October was Grand

Cliche? Yes. I love it anyway.

Hello fellow bloggers, how was your month? I’ve missed this space and while I’ve enjoyed reading many posts in the past couple of weeks, I’m also ready to jump back into blogging after my break.

A blogging break turned out to be a good idea. I surpassed my goal for my novel. I submitted a couple of short stories in record time (for me) and began small freelance writing jobs. It’s been a month of exploration, discovery, and new possibility, writing-wise.

It’s been such a full month that I haven’t finished a single book I started. I tried to read a few, but didn’t have sufficient time to get invested in the characters. Hm, let’s try to finish *one* book in November…

Otherwise, I’ve had room to breathe now that the weather has been tolerable. Many days it’s been downright beautiful, leaving me in near disbelief that summer is actually, finally, broken and pleasant temperatures are more often than not the norm. For my friends in cooler climates, I guess fall and winter here are like spring and summer for some of you. If I were facing snow next week and/or months of winter, my enthusiasm wouldn’t be as pronounced. But I hope you find many good things to cherish over the next few months, wherever you are.

By the way, is anyone participating in NaNo? November will hopefully see more blogging for me and the completion of my novel draft, but with another shift in writing coming soon, I’ll be focusing my writing elsewhere. Kudos to you who are climbing that 50,000 word mountain!