Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Resolve; Absolve. Regrets; New Beginnings.

Getting ready to kick another year to the curb makes me self-reflect. Retrospection can be enlightening as long as it's viewed without regret. But, at times it's difficult to not regret just a teeny-tiny bit. Alas, do-overs in life never happen, but if I fail to see the lessons left behind then I'm bound to repeat the same mistakes that lead down regret-road.

All said, in 2010 more bad happened than good. I can change none of it, but I can resolve to create a plan based on mistakes of last year. If I could manage to develop a shield to protect me from the out of control happenings, I would. Instead I pray that the Fates go easy on me this year.

And now for my resolutions, also known as The Plan:

I resolve to be less grouchy. Yes, it's true. Sometimes I allow myself to fall into the pit of self-pity because I feel that everyday should be rainbow filled skies. Better to recognize the mood and work to wipe it out before it chews up my entire day.

I resolve to not spend ANY MONEY on writing unless it comes with a college credit. In recent years I've paid membership fees to writing groups that I never became involved with thinking that maybe it would help my writing. Disclaimer: I've spent money on certain courses designed to improve skills, such as grammar, synopsis and query letter writing and they were worth every single penny. But, to spend money thinking it would actually improve my writing was somewhat of an empty wager with the exception of college courses, which improved my writing, and in light of this aforementioned resolution -

I resolve to write without setting any goals. Yes, no writing goals. No word counts measured daily, no promises to write each day. I'll write as the spirit moves me. After all when I'm not writing I'm thinking about it. Truly, I do. That counts. For me it's not the quantity but the quality. Besides, when I miss goals I get all...well, see first resolution.

I resolve to read more and only read well written works. It's my belief that if I surround myself with greatness it truly rubs off. Thus, the better written books I read, the better my writing will become. (Listed to the right are books I consider really well written works.) That said, last but not least,

I resolve to post reviews of each book I read this year for I really enjoy writing reviews. Stay tuned for the first review of the year coming up this week.

Here's to a stellar Two Thousand Eleven. Eleven years later and the millennium still feels shiny and new. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'll Take Your Sour Grapes With A Grain of Salt

Truth: I don't read as many books as I used to, and one might think that as a stay-at-home human I'd have scads of time to devote to my once favored entertainment. However, a month has passed since I last read a book.

Lately, most of my reading is accomplished in waiting rooms. Yesterday, for instance, I took my daughter to the endodontist for a root canal. Upon leaving the house I quickly grabbed a book for company as well as a distraction. That's when I realized how pitiful my plight. And then I began wondering when and why I strayed from my favorite pastime. As a writer I feel that reading is a part of the beast. It helps keep skills sharp, all those words coming at me, the story unfolding without distraction...

As I hunkered down in the waiting room and began reading I began noticing the author's writing style. "How did he get away with that?" I asked myself. Run-on sentences an entire paragraph long. What was he thinking? How did that get by his editor? Several one-sentence paragraphs. Long run-on sentences.

That's when I realized that I was reading as a writer and not a reader. In the last eight years of writing I think that I've slowly developed that writer-self-editor eye as I read published works. This can be a terrible detriment. Reading with a judgmental eye is distracting.

And then it occurred to me that I know of several writers and authors who read this way too. For instance, I once attended a local RWA chapter meeting during the reign of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. Member said, "Oh dear, that was the worst book I ever read. Seriously, the writing was TERRIBLE." Years later I read an interview of a renowned author who said of another renowned author that she wasn't a very good writer. Both authors appeared in this years Forbes 400 as two out of three richest authors.

I have a code: Never diss fellow writers, EVER. It's bad form. Yet, an increasing number of published authors and neophytes feel it is their right to criticize in a public forum an opinion of other writers' skills. Could it be that these writers feel it's safe to assume the role of world-wide editor? And I've seen this in myself as happened yesterday while reading this book, which spent a week or so on some best sellers' list, but also received a few scathing reviews. However, as a writer I don't feel it's my god-given right to disparage another writer's work, especially when one, I'm not a reviewer by trade, and two, it's unbecoming.

Perhaps some authors are jealous of another author's fame. And for the neophytes, well, I guess they're jealous, too. I tend not to criticize success. I mean, seriously, Stephanie Myer IS one out of three authors previously mentioned who made the Forbes 400 for 2010. That's inspiration, if you ask me or even if you don't.

All said, there are two things that I'm always going to maintain from this day forward: Remove my self-editing-critique-hat when reading for entertainment and NEVER diss fellow writers, EVER, even if I make a gazillion dollars as a result (and even if they choose to diss me - cest la vie).

It's nice to be important, but really sucks to be self-righteous too. Self-editing while reading is hazardous to entertainment values, so adjust thyself accordingly, folks, and keep your unsolicited opinions silent, please.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fear: My Old/New Motivation

Inspiration comes in many forms. I'll see a banal television commercial depicting a middle-aged man carrying a surfboard and I immediately wonder, "What's his story?" That question grew into my current work in progress.

I see stories everywhere because I question everything I see. The difficult part for me is believing enough in my creation to see it to fruition. Is my story strong enough? Will it draw in the reader at line one and then keep them interested for the next four hundred pages? Fear spreads breeding chronic self-doubt, my self-inflicted Debbie Downer.

It scares me to the point of paralysis, keeps me from acting on impulse and trusting my ideas.

Lately it's been killing me and has let Ugly Inner Critic win...

And then something fabulous happened this past Wednesday, right on the brink of my angst. I received an email from a friend who had recently seen an interview of Broadway director Julie Taymor. Friend said it caused him to think of me. Intrigued, I tracked down the interview based on his comments.

In her interview she stated, "I love it when people say what a horrible, lousy idea. I think that’s great. I hate the comfort zone…I don’t think that anything that’s really creative can be done without danger and risk." When asked how scared she is, Taymor replied, "Oh, yeah, I'm scared. If you don't have fear then you are not taking a chance."

Julie Taymor is my new hero. She lets fear drive her. Her words shook me by the shoulders. I recalled the fear I felt when I wrote sentence one in my first manuscript eight years ago. Uncomfortable sitting at the blank page; my stomach squeezed like when you see the dentist's needle coming at you. Scared, uncertain, I wanted to puke. Yet, it didn't stop me, and thanks to Friend's thoughtful email, my drive has returned.

It takes a lot of nerve to believe in yourself I have found. It's important to listen to opinions and ideas as well as criticisms, but it's more important to clearly see your path and then stay on it. Keep on keepin' on for yourself, because if you don't believe in you, no one else can or will.

Special thanks to Friend for reminded me of who I really am. I owe ya one, pal.