Vacation Recovery

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Isn’t it funny how vacation is sometimes more exhausting than the real life world you are escaping? All of last week, I was chuckling to myself as I collapsed on my hotel bed from sheer and utter exhaustion from a full day adventure.

It all began when I traveled to Oregon with a friend where we embarked on a series of adventures that took us through Portland, Willamette National Forest, the Pacific Coast, and the Columbia River Gorge.

I saw more of Oregon than I ever thought I would thanks to a combined sense of curiosity and fearless exploration. And we have to multiply this combination by two because when my friend and I travel together we are unstoppable! On one day, we drove almost 400 miles tracking down waterfalls, collapsed sea caves, and snow capped mountain peaks.

While the adventures we shared were incredible, both of us came out of it realizing we are no longer spring chickens. I would’t call us out of shape, but rather victims of the aging process. When I was younger, I could engage in active travel (hiking, walking long distances, etc) for extended periods of time. Now, four days of driving, wilderness hikes, and city walking sent me home with an injured foot tendon and multiple strained muscles. This from a person who trail hikes nearly every day at home!

Still, I can honestly say the pain is worth it. Oregon turned out to be an incredible place. I think part of the reason I pushed myself harder than I should was because I didn’t want to miss what was around the bend. Whether it be a hidden waterfall in Willamette National Forest, Spouting Horn (aka Thor’s Well) on the coast, or a funky corner in Portland, I was completely under Oregon’s spell.

Of course, now I’m limping around like a cripple.

And yeah, it’s still worth it.

Here’s one reason why …

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Multnomah Falls, Oregon, c.b.w. 2015

With a view like this, the pain doesn’t matter. I’ll heal. 

More pictures will be posted in the coming weeks as my muse was greatly inspired by Oregon’s beautiful scenery and the quirky awesomeness that is Portland. The taste of Voodoo Doughnuts still lingers on my tongue.

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c.b.w. 2015

2015 Goals: June Status Report

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1. Work towards getting The Muse published.

Chapter 1 has officially been deleted! I am now in the final stage of restructuring Chapter 2 as the new beginning. The trick was keeping in mind the list of things agents hate to see in an opening chapter, (see Killing Chapter 1). The more I mulled over this list, the more I realized it applies not only to agents, but readers as well.

Gone are all the references to weather descriptions, the sky, and a main character waking up. With the new beginning, the reader is dropped right in the middle of the main character’s life. Bit by bit, her story comes into focus without any sort of an information dump. I’m liking the breadcrumb approach a lot more and I think this set up allows my main character’s personality to take center stage.

Next on the agenda is doing another read through to make sure the rest of the novel is not impacted by the deletion of Chapter 1. I’ve got to dig through each section to ensure there are no references to anything that was mentioned in the old beginning. There are a few things I’m already aware of from memory and I’m sure I’ll find more!

A writer’s work is never done!

2. Start writing Lineage.

My muse is starting to talk for this project. I’m anxious to see where she takes me.

3. Submit poetry.

Once again, I participated in the Poetic Asides community via Writer’s Digest. As always, I find the prompts challenging and the community inspiring.

I also completed another month of National Haiku Writing Month’s daily prompts via NaHaiWriMo’s Facebook Page. June prompts all started with the letter R and were quite challenging. Still, I managed to write one or two haikus each day.

4. Don’t give up or get distracted.

Free time in the summer can be a blessing for a writer, but also an invitation to distraction. There are always so many things I want to do! Luckily, I was able to find a nice balance between writing and other projects each day.

5. Be flexible.

My journal is coming with me to the wilds of Oregon this week. I’m anxious to see what will inspire me.

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And let’s not forget the word of the year:

Persistence

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How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

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c.b.w. 2015

Where to Write?

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When I started writing seven years ago, it was easy to find a place to write. There were four bookstores within a 10 mile radius of my house, all of which had coffee shops with free Wi-Fi. It was a writer’s paradise with unlimited space and inspiration.

Being a coffee shop writer, I loved having the ability to change my atmosphere by simply choosing a different freeway exit. Each coffee shop had it’s own feel and I could choose which one fit what I was going to write that day.

Over the last few years, my options have dwindled considerably. First, Borders went out of business, taking with it two of my writing locations in one shot. Then, back in December 2014, a Barnes and Noble disappeared from the radar. There goes favorite writing spot #3.

Only one writing spot has managed to survive and I’m lucky that it happens to be my favorite. But here’s the thing – even my favorite spot can get stale after a long stretch without a break. Without a change of scenery, inspiration and motivation runs dry.  I see the same people every day (although I love the people that work in my favorite spot) and see the same things.

Sameness brings a certain level of comfort (which I often enjoy), but I’m starting to get antsy and even bored. Writers need spark and I am seriously in danger of losing my spark. I’ve tried writing at home, but there is so much distraction thanks to one husband, five furkids, and the TV. I need to be out and about with endless background activity and conversations to wake up my muse.

There is a nice little Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf nearby and I am starting to explore it’s possibility as a new writing spot. The only issue I’m having has to do with the coffee. It’s good, but it’s not my muse juice. I may have to experiment with the menu to see if there’s some magic elixir hiding somewhere in the latte options.

I live in a city that has almost no stand alone coffee shops. Maybe its because I live in a desert where cold smoothies are the thing or maybe there simply isn’t a coffee culture. Almost everywhere I’ve been from Europe to Asia, I’ve always been able to find a coffee shop. I’ve written in coffee shops in London, Killarney, Florence, and Shanghai, which makes it even more baffling to me that I can’t find a decent coffee shop/writing spot where I live.

Part of my writing goals for the summer includes scoping out new writing spots. I don’t want my favorite (and last bastion) to become that blah spot I once liked, so I have to find some new places to put into rotation. Hopefully, there is a magic spot or two waiting to be discovered!

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Where do you write? I’m open to all possible ideas!

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c.b.w. 2015

2015 Goals: May Status Report

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1. Work towards getting The Muse published.

I didn’t get to work on this goal as much as I would have liked. The day job always gets a little crazy during the month of May and makes some pretty intense demands on my time. On top of that, my portfolio submission for National Board Certification was due during May as well. Instead of focusing my energy on fiction writing, I had to direct my attention to professional, analytical non-fiction writing. My muse was not happy, but we got the job done.

With the arrival of summer comes huge amounts of free time that I will be devoting to restructuring Chapter 2 of The Muse,  (see Killing Chapter 1).

p.s. As this post goes live, I’ll be taking a Content Knowledge test for National Board Certification. Ahhhhh! Wish me luck!

2. Start writing Lineage.

I’m getting ready to blow the dust off of my notes as the above mentioned free time will be utilized for this project as well.

3. Submit poetry.

Once again, I participated in the Poetic Asides community via Writer’s Digest. Every Wednesday, prompts are posted with an invitation to submit poetry in the comments. I was late a few times, but I managed to submit a poem every week.

I also completed another month of National Haiku Writing Month’s daily prompts via NaHaiWriMo’s Facebook Page. May’s prompts were particularly challenging as each prompt started with the letter  “Q.” Despite the difficulty, I managed to crank out 46 haikus.

4. Don’t give up or get distracted.

National Board Certification severely encroached on my creative writing time, but I never totally lost focus.

5. Be flexible.

While I’ve made plans for my upcoming free time, I’m also making room for inspiration and exploration through travel. Towards the end of June, I’m heading Portland, Oregon for a change of scenery. We’ll see where it leads ….

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And let’s not forget the word of the year:

Persistence

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How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Writing: Part II

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See Part I of this series, here.

6. It’s hard work and fun at the same time.

Whether you’re writing a novel or a haiku, writing can be a challenging pursuit. It involves daily practice and often hours of unflinching focus. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me as I love hanging out in my imagination bubble, but there are days where lifting the pen or punching those keys can be an enormous challenge. Sometimes the muse just won’t cooperate or the day job leaves me so exhausted, the words are hiding beneath layers of stress.

While the work is hard and never truly ends, it is worth every bit of the effort. Every word written brings you that much closer to finished draft. Every word makes you a better writer. And here’s the best part, writers usually love what they do, so that means all of that hard work is actually fun. Even on the days when the words are playing hide and seek. The bigger the challenge, the more delightful the reward.

7. Edit with an open mind.

For some writers, editing is the best part of the process. They can slash and rearrange without any hesitation. At first I struggled with editing because I liked to hang onto every single word. I swear my first novel was akin to a hoarder’s closet – cluttered with stuff that should’ve gone in the trash bin.

The simple fact is you have to be wiling to let things go in order to let things in. Writing is a fluid process with constant changes from start to finish. The more open-minded you are, the more your story finds it’s footing or the more your poem finds it’s rhythm.

Editing is about making a draft as good as it can possibly be. Sometimes that means simply polishing language and sometimes that means rewriting entire sections or reconsidering an entire storyline. Either way, let your muse be as much a part of the process as it was at the very start.

8. Do your homework.

If you’re writing a YA novel, read YA novels. If you’re writing haikus, read haikus. It’s a simple rule and one worth following. Even if you’re looking to reinvent a genre, it helps to know where it began, current trends, and techniques used by other authors. After all, how can you add tracks to a road if you don’t where it’s located?

When I started writing poetry again a few years back (after a loooooong hiatus), I just did my own thing and didn’t really think to read poetry. I like what I wrote just fine, but soon I realized I was missing out on a well of inspiration by failing to explore other poets. After immersing myself in anthologies of multiple poets and exploring poet blogs, I watched my poetry go from mediocre to something better.

The same is true for my novel writing attempts. For the first novel, I read plenty of fiction, but not in the genre for which I was writing. The result was a halfway decent attempt, but nothing too exciting (yet). For my second attempt, I read every YA novel I could get my hands on in order to get a strong sense of how to structure a YA novel and to learn techniques to make writing appealing to young adults. The result is a novel I’m pretty darn proud of.

The big take away here is to let other writers guide you through their work and inspire you to blaze your own trail.

9. Join a writer’s group

Writing can be a lonely pursuit. While most writers are introverts and prefer the solitude, it’s still important to leave that lonely bubble and socialize with other writers. A writer’s group can be a place for inspiration, camaraderie, advice, and networking. Writers’ groups range from groups that just write, critique groups, or groups that work on a single project. There are, of course, many more options and they are all worth considering.

Much like editing, writer’s groups offer that open door that all writers need. Sometimes we get so stuck inside our own little world, we don’t realize how stuffy it gets. Let some fresh air in by letting other writers into your world. They bring fresh perspective and insight. They lift you up when your inner critic is weighing you down. They never let you give up.

10. Trust your muse.

When in doubt, listen to your muse. That gut feeling is usually right and always knows best. No amount of book smarts, advice, or technique can outmatch the creativity that lives inside of a writer. Trust your vision and stay true to what your imagination sees. No matter what.

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Did I miss anything? What do you wish you had known before you started writing?

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c.b.w. 2015