“That would be so much more fun to work on…”

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.

You can join here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

October 6 question – In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

***

I don’t have a lot to say on that subject, so I’m going to write about tangent projects and haiku.

While working on another project, I had an idea for a silly haiku book. You know how it is—your work in progress has hit a point where you are just unimpressed, and then some tangent projects start poking your brain. “Hey! This chapter is going nowhere. How about you write a book of haiku? It’ll be great!” My brain convinced me it would be fun, so I set aside my novel (again) and worked on the haiku book.

I did rein myself in after a few days and got back to the novel. (What a mature writer moment. Who saw that coming?) The haiku book idea is filed away for future use. I don’t foresee there being a big market for it, so it’s just going to be a “look at this fun thing I did” project.

I read once that the goal of haiku is to illustrate a particular moment, preferably something in nature. I came across that bit of information about 30 years after being taught the 5-7-5 format, so my brain has never been hard wired to that “moment in nature” philosophy. (Haiku philosophy! So cool!) My haiku tend to be on the less “artistic” side, but I don’t let that get in the way of haiku fun.

Though I love the challenge of finding those perfect 17 syllables, I read recently that the 5-7-5 format isn’t as important as capturing the essence of the moment/idea, so you can be flexible with structure as well as content. Poetry is subjective, ideas evolve, etc. so you do you in your haiku.

(Note: I was proofreading this and realized that last bit in the previous sentence has seven syllables. My haiku senses are tingling! I will probably have a new haiku to post tomorrow.)

I wrote the haiku below years ago after spending two days making up haiku for just about everything that was happening. I think it started as a friendly haiku challenge and then I could not stop. I don’t remember the exact details, but I seem to remember someone saying, “Are you going to do this forever?”

Help! I’m trapped in a

Haiku factory and I

Can’t find the exit!

It’s one of my favorites. Very meta.

Anyone else get distracted by tangent projects?  Any other haiku lovers?

The Philosophy of Success

This post is for the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story.

You can check out more details here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up

September 1 question – How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

***

Ooooh- being invited to philosophize about word meanings! The universe is shining on me today!

Success is all about the mindset, right?

When I was about twelve, inspired by an author interview, I found the place in the library stacks where my future book would be shelved. For ages, that was my view of writing success—a book in the school library. I had no plan, but I didn’t worry about it. It didn’t even occur to me that I might need a plan. My book being on a library shelf was just a thing that was going to happen. Success, baby!

I’m not sure when that version of success faded, (though now that I am reminded of it, it would be pretty cool to have a book in a library) but these days success is as simple as being able to write a few hundred words a day, or even coming up with a perfect synonym. Woohoo!

It would be nice to say that this modest version of success is due to my new, zen-like outlook on life, but I doubt that’s the case. Though I am measurably more chill lately, I suspect the new definition of success is more due to lowering my expectations. What can I say? Life pressures wore me down.

It’s not a really a problem, though. Recognizing the day-to-day successes keeps me from getting so discouraged that I give up writing altogether. I could recycle the library book version of success as a long-term goal, but it might make more sense to just shoot to finish that first draft. (This should be a no-brainer, but my sixth-grade brain is in control right now. Don’t judge.) I’ll have to think about it. In the meantime, I’m going to celebrate the opportunity to be philosophical about definitions. I’m feeling like a winner already!

Writing Craft Book

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! You can sign up here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

August 4 question – What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique. And why?

I am currently reading “Story Genius” by Lisa Cron. The exercises have helped me develop a different way to think about what I’m writing. I’ve also learned new ways to observe how elements relate to the overall story.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I had an “my novel makes sense now!” moment. Of course the moment didn’t last, and I do still sometimes wonder if it’s even worth it to continue with my work in progress. But the book did help me create a sort of philosophy to get back to when I get lost writing.

It’s also a fun read. The tone is friendly and has a “you’re not the only one thinking this sucks” attitude. (The author probably didn’t use that exact language.)

I did have to rein myself in a bit and remind myself that none of it is an assignment — I am allowed to stray from the lessons if I need to. Almost made myself MORE insecure there for a minute!

Other books have been helpful in general ways, but this one is giving me the exact help I need at this time. It’s been great. I highly recommend it.

I am looking forward to reading other people’s favorites and picking out the next additions to my “to be read” pile.

It’ll Never Work

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so time for the ISWG!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

It’s fun! Join here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

July 7 question – What would make you quit writing?

The only thing that could make me quit writing is if someone came up with a version of Extreme Meditation.* Extreme Meditation would give me the ability to make my brain quit thinking things like “Hey that would be a great name for a character,” or “Sure, you’re irritated now, but won’t this make a great story?”

But really, even if someone did come up with Extreme Meditating, I’d be much more likely to use it to make my brain leave me alone about things other than writing. No more obsessing about whether I bought the wrong house or if I talked too much in that one meeting. There are a lot of things to quit thinking about. Writing/being a writer would be way down on that list.

Peace and love!

*Philosophical question- is Extreme Meditation a paradox?  I’m pretty sure it is. (Do you see what I’m dealing with here? While I’m writing, my brain is already thinking of other things to write about. Even meditating to the extreme probably can’t fix that.** I’m doomed to be a writer forever.***)

**Especially if I make ‘comma’ my mantra. “Commmmmaaaaa.”

***I don’t have a problem with this.

Leave a comment with your completely unhelpful mantra!

Lori

Scheduling “space” from your writing project

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group:

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Check it out here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

June 2 question – For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

I don’t think I’ve made conscious, consistent choices with this. Usually by the time something is “finished” (I am using that term loosely) I’m so over it that I don’t bother going back to it for months, if ever. That is probably because I rarely have a strict timeline in mind. Mainly I just want to get what is in my head on paper (Ok, screen, but I still think of writing as “getting it on paper”. Who doesn’t love paper?) and then get on with the next thing. Or just go back to slacking. Whichever.

This downtime will be something to keep in mind now that I’m trying to write with more specific goals. I’ll have to build some “lock it in the cabinet and don’t look at it” time into my writing schedule. I guess the length of the piece is probably a factor? Also how long I’ve been working on it? Seems like a day or two break wouldn’t be long enough for a novel, but it would probably be sufficient for a blog post.

I look forward to reading how other people plan this.

PS- I can’t help picturing going back for the rewrite and having to explain to the work in progress, “WE WERE ON A BREAK!”

***

A Pleasant Surprise for My Writing

It’s time for IWSG!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!


Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.

This month’s question is about reader reactions — have any responses been unexpected or surprising?

I haven’t put much of my writing out in the world yet. Response to my blog has been positive, but being an insecure writer, I naturally attribute that to my blog being read (mostly) by people that love me. My family and friends wouldn’t criticize my writing in public — right?

Occasionally the number of views is higher than I expect. Originally I expected about four views, so it doesn’t exactly require a viral response to beat the expectations, but it is still a pleasant surprise every time.

I was shocked the first time there was a view from another country. Naturally, the insecure part of my brain immediately reminded me that proxy servers are a thing. It simultaneously reminded me that I’m hardly important enough that someone would have to hide that they’re reading my blog. Insecurity wise, those thoughts balanced each other out and became the general “Hey, people I don’t know are reading my blog! Who saw that coming?”

I use all that information in feeble attempts to psyche myself up: “Even people that love me wouldn’t read something they hate”, and “They can’t all be hackers”. Surprisingly, those miniature pep talks do motivate me to write more often.

The feedback from the IWSG has been great for my morale as well — other writers reading my work! I never expected that! Many thanks to all of them.

If anyone is interested in joining in ISWG, you can find the information here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up

Check it out and get your motivation on!

There’s more than one way to write a book

This is my first post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. You can check it out (and join!) here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html.

I’ve been checking out the IWSG blogs for a while, but have never felt confident enough to sign up. But this month’s prompt is about reading preferences and writing, and guess what? I have reading preferences and I like to write. I might be able to do this!

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I have always loved reading mysteries. Encyclopedia Brown was fun. I read my Trixie Belden books so much I wore out the covers. But as much as I enjoyed them, neither of those affected me the way Agatha Christie books did. Once I discovered her my whole worldview changed. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have a house in the English countryside. I’d have friends that entered the house through the windows just like the characters in Ms. Christie’s books did. I didn’t realize that when Ms. Christie said someone came in at the window, she was actually referring to patio doors. I really thought the characters climbed up into the windows, and I could not wait to have friends like that. We’d have weekend parties and only use doors when we were dressed for our formal dinners every night.

I didn’t imagine solving murders though. No one ever died when I imagined my country house. No one even sprained an ankle exiting via the window. Sometimes I thought there might be some amnesia type mystery, but never a murder.

I eventually quit thinking that people climbed in windows, but I never did get inspired to write a murder mystery. I get a vicarious thrill when I see how an author handled a clue – “Ooooh, it must have felt good when you put that subtle mayonnaise reference back in chapter three. Excellent.”- but I have no idea how to go about doing that myself.

I am currently working on an epistolary novel, so these days the closest my brain would get to a murder mystery would be along the lines of, “Dear Maude. The vicar was shot. There is a person here investigating it.” I could probably keep up the suspense for three pages if I threw in a description of the ha-ha. (I’m still dreaming about that house in the countryside). The big reveal would probably be, “So it turned out the gardener killed the vicar because of the tea set. Oh right. Just realized I forgot to tell you that the vicar had a tea set that belonged to the Romanovs. Sorry about that. Anyway, they arrested the gardener. Please give the puppy a kiss for me. Love, Victoria.” Not Hercule Poirot-esque at all.

That’s not to say that my reading hasn’t influenced my writing. “Up the Down Staircase” by Bel Kaufman was the first epistolary(ish) book I ever read. It was the first time I noticed “how” a book was written. I remember thinking, “An entire book in letters/memos/etc? Is that even allowed?”

It also seemed like it must have been fun to write. I know now that might not have been entirely the case. Writing is not always fun. But the idea that writing could be fun was an exciting idea I had not considered up to that point. That one fun book in an unusual format captured my imagination in a way that all those murder mysteries had not.

Hang on-a fun book in whatever format I want? Sounds great. I will definitely finish writing that soon.

~

I’m always interested in an epistolary book, so If you have any recommendations please let me know. Murder mystery recommendations are also always welcome.

Bingo!

Just for fun, here are the results from this week’s Kick Ass Bingo card:

I got bingo! Yay for me! I kick ass!

Since the week is not technically over I could theoretically get a few more squares, so I left those blank. You never know when one of my dogs will do something totally crazy and/or adorable. And if someone starts a conversation about Doctor Who, I could get the TV quote square and the time travel square at the same time!

The ones with “FAIL” are either the ones that I was unable to avoid, or the ones that I know that I will not accomplish by tonight:

  • Turns out you don’t need a hotkey for an em dash (figuring that out got me the “research anything” square! Yay!) so I won’t be creating one.
  • Write 3000 words is not going to happen even if I include this blog post.
  • Chips for dinner–Note to those worried about my nutrition: the meals were rice, beans, and cheese, but with tortilla chips as the eating utensils–sort of like nachos. I did not have bags of potato chips for dinner (this week).
  • No clod incidents–I failed this one very early in the week when I cut my finger while trying to clean a hand saw. Bummer. But considering all the potential clod incidents—cutting myself with the chainsaw, falling off of the ladder, getting knocked out by a tree branch—a cut from a hand saw is practically a victory for me. Bingo-wise the day was a victory. I didn’t overreact to the injury—just bandaged it up and kept going—and I remembered to put the ladder away. That’s two squares! Woot!

Since I have kicked ass this week, I am now going to reward myself with a movie marathon. No guilt. I deserve it! I hope all of you are also rewarding yourselves accordingly. Feel free to share details in the comments.

Peace and love(and ass-kicking!),

Lori

Keeping the Clichés at Bay

The clichés are out to get me.

Not that I’m special or anything. Clichés stalk everyone, trying to wedge themselves into people’s lives. The more people they can convince to write/do/be clichés, the happier the cliché powers-that-be are. “Do what you want,” says the cliché, “I can’t stop you. But don’t you want to just try this other thing? Or maybe just describe it this other way? See? I knew you’d like it. All’s well that ends well.”

I don’t know why the clichés were even putting effort into my life. It was practically a cliché already when all of this started. I’d been married to my high school sweetheart almost thirty years. We had kids, dogs, a mortgage, etc. The only thing even a bit unusual about us was that we were a military family, living on bases and moving frequently. Maybe the cliché committee wasn’t meeting its quota or something. Who knows. But for whatever reason they sent one of their oldest, most reliable, cliché inducing situations: the mid-life crisis. My husband, about to turn 50, left to start a new life.

For weeks, I was a total break up cliché — crying, binge watching TV, grief eating. Going to work and keeping the dogs fed were about the only two things that I could accomplish. Somewhere, an entry-level cliché handler was awarded an “Employee of the Month” parking spot for provoking my oh-so-typical response.

But soon, it occurred to me that the situation was not as common as it seemed. My Marine husband hadn’t left me for a woman he met on a deployment. He left to pursue a relationship with a woman from his Bible study group. Not ultra-common.

I was in the midst of preparing to be a bridesmaid as well. The wedding was in a different part of the country, so all the preparations were being handled long distance. Literally two weeks after husband left, I had to drag myself out of the house and go to the bridal store alone to try on bridesmaid dresses. I did manage to not roll my eyes or cry when random brides-to-be picked out their dresses. Bonus non-cliché points for that.

I had also recently been placed in the Jeopardy contestant pool. I was excited to get that far into the Jeopardy process, but I didn’t really expect to get on the show. But after my husband left, I just knew the next catastrophe would be Jeopardy calling me while I could barely function. There’d be a laryngitis epidemic, and I’d be one of the only people in the contestant pool that could still speak loudly. Jeopardy would be forced to call me as a last resort. Then, I’d get to have a nervous breakdown on TV when Alex revealed the category “Happily Ever After.” Surely that hasn’t happened often.

So, to review: Husband left me for Bible study woman; I was preparing to be a bridesmaid; and I was waiting for Jeopardy to call me out to Hollywood.

Nice try, forces of cliché! Instead of adding up to the biggest divorce cliché ever, my life had become the premise of a sitcom.

Sitcom me would be angry, not sad. She’d say things like, “Which Bible verse made him think this is ok? ‘Rationalizations, Chapter 2018’?” or “What, he’s a pirate now? Vows are more like guidelines?”

Sitcom me would lose weight and look fabulous in her bridesmaid dress. So fabulous that she’d convince a sexy groomsman to accompany her to the Jeopardy taping. In a brilliant, season-ending plot twist, she’d win big in Final Jeopardy by being the only contestant who knew that John A Lejeune was the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps. Sitcom me and sexy groomsman would use the winnings to get surfing lessons in Hawaii.

Of course it’s not how my life went. I didn’t think up those snarky comments until I started writing this blog. I had a great time at the wedding, but the only thing I picked up was a hangover. Jeopardy never called. But even though my life didn’t become a sitcom, thinking that it could be one cheered me up. For a while, I even quit thinking my life was a cliché.

Of course the cliché committee couldn’t let that continue, so they sent online dating.

I had not been thinking about dating at all. When you’re dealing with a divorce, you’re not really thinking “Can’t wait to have another guy break up with me.” But people talked to me about dating all the time, especially online dating. Some of them even sang dating app jingles at me.

Since I’d been married so long, my only experience with online dating was from years before when someone used my debit card number to sign up for a dating app. So aggravating. Not only did I have to block my card and reset all my automatic payments, I also had to convince my financial institution that I did not sign up for that dating site. “No, I did not sign up for that app, I’m married. No, really. Look at my birth date, I don’t even technically qualify to use that app yet. Trust me, if I were to ever use a dating app, it would be something more along the lines of “cougarsrus.com.”

(Ok, I never said that last one to my financial institution. I said it at a party when the idea of being single seemed impossible. Sometimes the clichés team up with irony. Jerks.)

But now I was a prime candidate for a dating app. Why not?

Not sure what I was expecting. I guess some grand algorithm that paired me up with my ideal mate. He’d probably live in Buenos Aires and I’d never get to meet him, but at least I’d know a match was out there. We could at least be pen pals.

I’d forgotten that some apps are based on location instead of algorithms. I was shocked when I hit “enter” and men immediately appeared on the screen. I hadn’t even answered any questions about my favorite books yet! Was it swipe right or left if you liked someone?

On the first day I noticed a lot of guys from a city about 75 miles away. I’d never heard of the place, which was weird since the number of possible matches seemed to indicate it was a decent sized city. An internet search revealed that it’s a truck stop. Guys were stopping for gas, checking the app, and then driving away! Seemed weird and counter-productive, but then again, I had just learned which way to swipe. For all I knew, gas station likes earned extra star power or something.

On day three I finally got brave enough to send messages to some of the men. First guy responded with one word. ONE WORD. I gave him a day to add more information before giving him the left swipe heave ho. “No thank you,” I said to the app. “I do not have the mental energy to pry conversations out of a man.”

Another guy suggested we go for a long car ride on our first date. Oh sure, that’s not creepy.

After a few more frustrating interactions I took a break from messaging, but I kept stalking the app. I quickly developed some auto-rejection criteria:

Guys at the truck stop

Guys pictured holding a fish

Guys that didn’t smile in their pictures

Guys wearing a hat in every picture

Guys posing at the gym

Guys whose beards weigh more than my dog

Except for the not smiling one, there is nothing wrong with any of those things. They were just reasons to not have to pick anyone.

Rejecting every man no matter what? Afraid to open myself up to a new relationship? Ugh. You could practically feel the clichés in the room.

I kept scrolling and swiping, but with no real purpose. Two profiles finally convinced me that I probably wasn’t ready to date.

First guy said he was in the Air Force. “Give me a break, Air Force. Get back to me if you join the Marines Corps.”

Very next guy was a Marine. “NO MARINES! SWIPE LEFT! SWIPE LEFT!”

I laughed at myself and gave up. Probably just in time. Cliché-wise, I was probably only a day away from taking a chance on a giant-bearded, body-building, hat-modeling fisherman.

The only thing I got out of the app was stories. The truck stop thing made people laugh, as did my ridiculousness about Marines. I started thinking that the whole thing would be fun to write about.

BAM! Sneak attack! Big cliché had obviously found out I’d avoided the “I’d given up on love when I met him” trap, and they’d leveled up! Of course they’d suggest writing about online dating! Writing about online dating is practically the cliché-est of clichés!

I fought the urge to write. I told people that I’d really like to write about it, but it had already been done. I pretended I didn’t have a blog, or even a journal. But come on! I’m supposed to resist writing about people checking their dating apps at truck stops? Can’t be done!

So, I gave in and wrote this blog post. But that doesn’t mean the clichés are the boss of me! Sure, I wrote about online dating even though it had been done a million times before, but if I saw a cliché heading my way, I grabbed that cliché and used it as a weapon! I invoked clichés to beat other clichés at their own game!

Yes, I achieved Meta-Cliché! Victory! Bow to Your Queen, clichés! I own you.

Probably not interesting enough for a TV show, but it might make a good t-shirt.

Anyone else out there beating clichés into submission?