Friday, August 17, 2012

The Gauntlet...

...has been thrown down.

The next time I submit to my critique group, my first draft will be finished.

Part of the reason I can't finish the book is that I have lost the focus of my original vision; I have been distracted by other shiny possibilities and strayed off the path. Or maybe subconsciously I think that if I don't finish it I don't have to face this product that is so far from what I imagined in my head. If I hold on to the fact that "I am still writing the story" I can still salvage what has become an unwieldy mess in my mind. 

But my critique group, patient saints though they all are, has had enough of my 40 years of wandering, and has given me the command: finish the thing, and do so by September. 

It's time. Enough. The end is near.

I accept the challenge. (Or suffer the consequences at this gauntlet.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WFMD Challenge Day 15



Hoping it will take fewer than seven days for me to reach a productive writing day

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


It's to be expected. Falling off the wagon. Household emergencies, health issues: those were the reasons I didn't write for a few days. 

Those particular situations are over now and it's time to start over. Not guilt trips, no lament over but-it-was-just-starting-to-get-good.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Then, on the Seventh Day

Most of what I had written in the first seven days of WFMD Challenge were not words that would see the light of day. I was writing for the sake of writing.

But something happened on the evening of the seventh day. 

I had already written that day, but in the late afternoon, I decided to open a file that I had been avoiding. It was the current chapter in my YA novel, a chapter that had been giving me fits. Like any good procrastinator, I just chose not to look at it. 

I am not sure what the initial spark was for wanting to return to this chapter, but I know it was not guilt, it was not a sense of duty. It was something closer to curiosity: I wanted to see what I had done and what I could do. (Ignoring it deliberately does have its merits. It allowed me to read what I'd written with a more objective perspective.) As I read the rough words, I started writing and editing. While I wouldn't describe the process as having the heavens open up, I was able to work and push forward instead of fighting with the stop-and-start-and-stutter phenomenon that had passed itself as the process of writing in recent times. 

 So it is true. Write consistently: drivel, rubbish, cliches, doesn't matter. The habit will make it easier for the real writing to take place. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Inviting monsters

Laurie Anderson provides writing prompts every day on her blog during the August Write Fifteen Minutes A Day Challenge. Today's prompt, especially, hits me with that strange combination of fear and excitement. 

Inviting my inner monsters? Isn't that just a crazy idea? I spend my time avoiding them, why focus on them now? Why give them the attention?

And yet. 

There seems to be some wisdom in choosing to face down a foe instead of running away or closing my eyes and ears and singing "lalalalala" whenever there is a chance of being confronted with it. 

So today I'm going to do it. If you don't hear back from me tomorrow, I hope it's not because I am rocking back and forth in a fetal position in the darkest corner of my house. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gold bars and badminton and priorities

Badminton is a favorite sport in my family. Growing up, we watched as many of the Thomas Cup and All England matches as were broadcasted on TV. We watched amazing feats by the international greats such as Rudy Hartono, Han Jian, Svend Pri, and Lim Swie King as well as Malaysia's own Punch Gunalan, Sidek Brothers, Ong Beng Teong, Cheach Soon Kit. Just typing these names bring back so many fond memories. 

The current Malaysian top player, Lee Chong Wei, was in the finals of the 2012 London Olympic games. He lost, but not before winning the first of three matches and going all the way to tie at 19-19 in the third. Lin Dan from China took the gold.

Not having caught the game on TV (somebody please tell me the best place to watch the match?) I read some articles on it. I found out that a rich businessman in Malaysia offered to gift any Malaysian badminton players with a gold bar if they won the gold. Malaysia is a small country and while she has seen some sports glory on other international stages, the Olympic gold medal is one that has eluded her.

The offer got me thinking. I can't believe that Lee Chong Wei, a person at the top of his game, who has known what it takes to remain a champion, and who has lost to Lin Dan more than he has won in recent years, needed an extra motivation to do better in an Olympics finals!!!!! That he would say to himself, "well now that there is an additional $600,000 involved, I'd better train harder,' is inconceivable. 

I have to say though, if someone offers me a gold bar for winning the TKD Top Ten or to get a book contract, I may shift my priorities. The thing about wanting a balanced life and learning different crafts is that there is always tension. Should I be playing Clue with my children? Should I work on my TKD form/core strength/balance/flexibility? Should I write? Pursuing excellence in one area often means putting aside another area, at least for the time being. There is always a cost. 

But I have to say, if someone were to offer me a gold bar for winning the world championship and getting a book published, I don't think I'd be doing anything much differently. That's a good sign, isn't it?


Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Challenge of Saturdays

Saturdays: lazy mornings, breakfast stretched into lunch,  impromptu bike rides, movies. 

Setting aside time to write? Not so easy. So I'm going to do it now before the rest of the family emerges from their brunch and books to ask expectantly: "what are we doing today?'


Friday, August 3, 2012

Exhausting or energizing?

It's Day 3 of WFMD Challenge.

What's on my plate today: an overall examination of my young adult novel that is (finally) nearing the end of the first draft. I have become aware of a number of things that are not working but wanted to finish the draft before revising. Now it's time to retrieve the new knowledge and insights I'd filed away to figure out how I can make it work. 

It's another one of those difficult processes to begin, because there is so much that is new and untested, and it is difficult to seperate the essentials from the peripherals. Plus, I know that the next revision, my second draft, will depend on this new road map, and I really would like to avoid as many false paths as possible. 

In other words, too many decisions have to be made based on too few indisputable "knowns." 

I used to love this very situation as a young piano teacher. Every year at the end of summer, I would take out folders of my students for that year (I taught at a community music school, and while most of the time we kept our students for years, we did get students new to us every year because of scheduling  issues or teachers leaving.) Sitting at my desk with their folders before me, trying to piece together what each student need was a most enjoyable and energizing process. 

Now the prospect of that just exhausts me. 

Let's see if this free writing with no (wink! wink!) real expectations of an end product will lead. 

What are you writing today?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mind games

Day 2 of WFMD Challenge allowed me time to explore the thoughts, some unformed, all unrelated, that have been brewing beneath my alert mind after I finished Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. 

Like any good book, State of Wonder has not only engaged me while I was reading it, but also kept my thoughts turning to it repeatedly after I had finished. 

Judging from previous experiences, however, I probably would have just allow these simmering thoughts to die away unexamined. 

It's never easy to put into words feelings and thoughts that are multifaceted and rich and meaningful in my mind. Sometimes it's easier to just let them stay unwritten. Or so the procrastinating, perfectionist writer thinks. 

This time, however, I have decided to use my allotted 15 minutes to figure out these still nebulous ideas and see where it would lead. After all, 15-minutes isn't a long time. If I ended up with nothing but rubbish, I wouldn't have wasted too much time. 

Not giving myself any expectations of an end product, not having to Write A Review, also made the process much easier.

None of my book reviews came easily. The authors and their agents and editors and friends had invested so much into these books and for me to pass judgement by just having read them once seemed ludicrous. Yet I also wanted to share my thoughts, and so each time I fretted and hummed and hawed before coming up with reviews that I felt did them justice. 

Promising myself that I wouldn't try to wrestle my thoughts into a review relaxed me considerably. Words came out onto the paper with a flow that I don't think I had ever experienced when writing a book review. 

There may still be a review in the future, but by assuring my anxious mind that I didn't need to produce one loosened the grip on that hose through which my words flowed.

On that questionable metaphor, I will stop today's post.

Day 2, completed. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's about habit-building

It's August, and that means I start the Write 15 Minutes A Day Challenge organized by author Laurie Halse Anderson.

It seems so insubstantial, doesn't it, 15 minutes a day? Surely we can all find 15 minutes a day to write. Sadly, it's all too easy to keep putting it off until writing even 15 minutes sounds too big a hurdle. 

It's the same thing with exercising. How can I possibly let days go by without spending at least 15 minutes a day doing some form of physical exercises? Yet I do.

So here it is, a small step toward re-building one habit that has gone by the wayside over the summer, and really, the month before that while dealing with the whirlwind that was the end of a school year. 

So I am making this modest effort. Care to join me?

Also, I'll post what I've written here for the next month. So if you don't see a new post, please feel free to nudge, bully, or otherwise hold me accountable.

Today I wrote about 500 words. A story about an incident in my childhood that has stayed me with so long I figured it needed to be written. I did make myself a much more interesting kid than the placid, gullible child that I was, though. Funnier. Or maybe just less painful.