Five Year Plan

I had something terrible happen.

I hit forty.

I’m not really sure how it happened, one day I was thirteen and in my blue room listening to music and reading, and then I blinked and I was in college, and then I blinked again and was forty.

I’d wanted to be a writer through all those blinks, but the actual writing part generally fell at the end of the long list of to dos for the day. I said would start tomorrow or after X, I would get serious about writing.

There was always another X.

I turned forty and had (warning: about to be crude) a “shit or get off the pot” moment. Was I going to be a reader or a writer? Was I willing to truly commit to being a writer. Which meant writing each day and completing projects.  It meant taking realistic stock of my perishable skills.

Or would I just lose myself in books and daydream stories?

There was nothing wrong with either path. It was a matter of how did I want to spend my time. Before I know it, heck I might even be 80.

But I didn’t want to be stuck at the same crossroads. I was walking down one path.

Taking stock, I dabbled in MANY things. I painted, I sketched, I crafted, I wrote, I made jewelry, I read, I worked out, I had a day job and I was starting a family. Heck, I’m tired just listing it all.

How much of that could really fit in a day? (assuming I need to sleep, which I love doing)

The second factor was, well, I wasn’t happy being okay at stuff. I wanted to be good. I didn’t want a pat on the head for trying, but actually have people be even slightly impressed.

No pressure, right?

So I decided to trim back what I did.

I packed it all away: the jewelry making supplies, the craft projects and ideas, the painting, the sketching, the drawing materials.  They all went into boxes in my closet.

That left: family, job, writing, reading and working out.

I was going to commit to writing.

My hubby and I had the discussion of perishable skills (which always makes me think of fruit). He was a linguist in the military. If he did not practice the extra languages, the words would not come as easily and his comprehension went away. One had to practice to keep them up.

So it is with writing skills. And not that I had mad writing skillz, but I needed to refresh my fruit cup.

Now I have a five year plan to actually finish some of the projects that are languishing in my computer (I actually picture them around a virtual pool trading war stories maybe eating fruit).

I’m refreshing my fruit cup, with classes, critique groups, writing immersions, craft books, and writing at least thirty minutes each day.

What do you prioritize at the top of your list each day?  How do you fill your fruit cup?

Just one small thing

I have small kids that go to a daycare center. They bring home all sorts of crazy illnesses. Flu, whooping cough, Small Pox.

Recently my oldest got sick, then the youngest. I thought I was in the clear and then it hit me.

Hard.

I shivered, was cranky, my body ached, had a running nose, a non-functioning brain and barely enough desire to blow my own nose.

I dropped the kids off at daycare, called in sick and slept six extra hours.

When I woke up, I still felt yucky. I logged into work to see if there were any emails I had to respond to today. Then I got down to do some (hopefully) productive writing.  I knew I was going to bed early.  If writing was gonna happen it was going to be right then.

Why, you ask?

I have a challenge with a group of ladies that we write every day for at least thirty minutes. Text confirmation when completed. I must be actively engaged in writing or editing.

Uggg.

I tried editing my WIP’s new opening. Everything seemed stupid. The words mocked me. My writing felt flat and uninspired. Ten minutes of agonizing and googling about what alarm clock my POV should have in his room, left me drained and no closer to completing my task. Perhaps this was not a day to do editing.  Having stared at the screen didn’t count toward my time.

So I opened up my blog ideas. The thing was…I didn’t feel funny. I didn’t feel inspired. I didn’t feel profound.

I did feel like I needed to get something done so I could check the box on my writing challenge. Then I could see what movie I could find to doze to.

I needed just one small thing to write about.

Ta-da!  Just one small thing done.

What do you do to find that one small thing when you are not inspired or feeling sick?

Crushed, but thank you

When I was java developer in the way back, a cool new idea was ego-less development. The concept was you shouldn’t get attached to the code, that way feedback would be about the code and not about you or your baby code snippet.

It might seem odd, but people are possessive of their code. When I started at my current job, there was a section of code I wrote that exists ten years later. I consider that section of code my code.  Even though I’m no longer a developer. It’s still mine.

So imagine you’re talking about something more personal than a java method.

Your novel.

The story you birthed on the page. The story you cleaned up and watched grow. The story you nurtured and pruned in hopes it would be something special. I think we all want that deep inside, something you write to have some sort of effect. The story to make a difference.

Then you take your story and give it to someone and ask them for feedback. And they go away.

Meanwhile the worry-train chugs into the station. Would they understand? Did your effort make any difference? Was it good enough? Would they hate it? Would they still be your friend? Would they never respond – A thought that plagues you every 15 minutes or when you open emails.

Then the feedback comes. (cue scary music)

I will admit, I dread the moment, when you have the feedback in your hands.   I will stare at the file/email and know I am at the Schroedinger cat moment. The moment when the cat is at the same time alive and dead. You only find out which is true when you open the box.

The feedback could be glowing (doubtful) or it could be the you-suck variety (probable) or worse in some ways, the isn’t-that-cute kind (oh, the horror).

Then I open the file.   No matter which way I’ve worked myself into, it’s never what I’ve pictured.  Some of the feedback stings, but you read the feedback and set the story aside. Write an email to a trusted friend to whine, or commiserate in person with someone who understands. (Maybe drink some whisky.)

And then I go back and really study the feedback. Are there patterns between this feedback and what the other people I have asked said (is 500 people too many to ask)? Are there things that you agree with now that they point them out (Damn it, I am telling! But, maybe I meant to?).

I always send a nice note back thanking the critiquer for their time and effort. I may or may not agree, but this person took time out of their day to respond.

So why does the title of this blog have crushed in it?

I recently sent the first chapter of a novel to someone and gave a critique in exchange. They were a superior writer with a lyrical style. Their feedback hurt.

Alot.

Not because they were mean. No, that’s not it at all, they were not. It was the truth they may have revealed.

The I-am-less-thans which plague a writer/woman/person jumped out and had a party in my head. It’s not pretty, and the mess was crazy, but when it was over, the part of me who really wants to be a good writer stepped out.   She dusted herself off, cleaned up the mess and got to work. (yeah, she is a pain in the ass (PITA))

I read the feedback again and took notes.

I sent them a nice email thanking them for their time. Even if the feedback is rough, I am truly thankful to have someone willing to read my work.

And give feedback!

How about you guys? What was your roughest piece of feedback? Or what was the feedback that stuck and catapulted your project the next level?

Allowing failure: Exploration

I have small kids. A three and a five year old. A boy and a girl. The other day for some reason they wanted to help me look pretty. (trying not to read into that, lol)

So they have a bottle of detangler spray (it has a purple octopus on it, so it’s in the cool pile), a comb and a round brush. (I think I can feel the people with long hair cringing away). Oh and a kid’s headband with two giant purple flowers which was too small for my adult head.

It gets better, they decided they wanted to do my nails. My daughter has a dozen different for kids nail polishes (the non toxic – you-could-eat-it-if-you-really-wanted-to, but-it-would-still-taste-way-bad kind).

Picture me sitting on the living room floor, next to a table with the nail polish bottles, and paper towels under my bare feet and hands. Got the picture? Now add the three and five year old.

For the next 15 minutes, they sprayed and brushed. Calling out to Daddy, doesn’t mommy look beautiful? (There is a right answer to that question. 🙂 ). I limited myself to the “be careful, don’t brush mommy’s ears off” or “don’t twist the round brush when you pull, mommy needs hair” comments.

And then came time for the nail polish.

They painted half the nail surface or most of the toe or would ‘accidentally’ color over an already painted and still wet nail. They glopped and missed and messed. And well, generally had a great time.

It occurred to me that I could be upset that I had a half a bottle of purple nail polish on my big toe, but the kids were experimenting and making mistakes.

They were having fun.  (see?)IMG_20160807_135535

Some of my projects get stuck at the beginning. The fear of making a mistake or making a mess makes the first step feel like scaling the grand canyon. The fear of failure or the fear of looking like an idiot reduces the odds of me doing something new. Something new and scary. The task becomes daunting! (Do I get word points for that one?) – like blogging. (insert creepy music here)

As Nike says, just do it. Do it! Just start! Right now. (Did you start?) What’s the worse that could happen?

Fine print: I do not recommend jumping off buildings or putting a rocket on your back. Don’t do things that no human should do or should only be done by a trained professional (if you are a superhero, alien or figment of my imagination, you can ignore this warning). Don’t just do ‘it’ if it may result in peeps getting hurt or killed. That would be bad. Don’t make me get a rolled up newspaper.

What do you do to get yourself started on a project?