Category Archives: Me

Writer, Interrupted

I was having a great writing morning, after a day when I couldn’t get my head to either wake up or focus on one thing for more than four seconds (I think that was, actually, my personal best).

I had just written most of a short story (a new episode in the Forgetown series) and was firing up my laptop in order to transfer my handwritten version into Scrivener (the program I’m using for this and most of my writing now).

“Just about to” I say, because then my 11 year old (wow, that still shocks me. I did so much blogging when he was a baby and toddler, that typing about him as an 11 year old seems weirder than looking at the evidence in front of me) burst out through the door to the deck, clutching handfuls of fabulously creative figures made from bits and pieces of Lego Hero Factory in a cross-over (in our minds at least) with Doctor Who. He wanted to tell me all about what he had created.

And really, how could I say no?

I see it as a mark of my increasing maturity that I did not run flailing around the deck, stamping my feet, wringing my hands and crying ‘No! No! No! But it was all going so well!”. Instead I listened to my child tell me all about his daydreams, made manifest in shades of plastic.

Eventually, of course, I dismissed him with the excuse that I had to get some stuff done before we went out to pick up his brother, and that was perfectly true. But I did listen and nod and even offer a thought or two during the 25 minute oration, which shows I was paying attention and not merely thinking about my own story behind fake-interested eyes!

In the Good News department, I finished the story and typed it up (with roving edits) this afternoon while said brother rotted his brain on a new twitch-video game. Will make amends later.

I’m up to 9 episodes complete in the Forgetown saga. When I get to 10 it might be time to start putting them online.  What do you think?

 

Make Stuff You Love

I’m writing more and more in this blog about my writing process and what I’m up to, in part because of this book, Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. You should take a look if you have any ambitions to make your creative impulses more than a dirty little secret that you sort of maybe mention apologetically if anyone pushes you.
This morning I sat out on the deck, trying to write a story for StoryADay May. At first I tried to write something short, based on observations of the world around me, because I felt guilty taking time away from the family on a weekend morning.

I hated the thing I wrote.

I mean, there were words and phrases in there that were pretty, but the overall thing? Ugh.

So I gave in and finished a fragment I had started the other day. I knew it had the potential to be good, it was just not going to be quick. But, as my friend Austin up there says, “Make stuff you love.” Really, what’s the point in putting in any time if I’m not going to do that much?

So I did. it’s not a short story. Really it’s a scene from the novel I’ve been wrestling with forever, but it’s a complete scene. “Write and finish every day” is kind of the key point of StoryADay May; the rest is all up to the individual writer. So I’m writing scenes. Not all of them fit into the novel, but they’re not complete short stories, because I’m not setting up the characters every time or doing complete world-building. They might turn into short stories later, or into parts of future novels, or they might just help me figure out the world I’m writing about.

What they ARE doing though, is leaving me energized and raring to go about my day.

I don’t know how many times I will have to learn this lesson until it sticks: writing makes me happy. It makes the rest of my life go better. I should do it first thing every day (or as near to first thing as I can manage) because everything else just works better after I’ve filled my reserves by writing.

That’s been one of the most powerful lessons of StoryADay for me, over the years: that writing every day is something I need to do. When you get this lesson hammered home every day for 31 days in a row, it makes a bit more of an impression than when you just experience it in bits and pieces.

What about you? What leaves you energized and happy and feeling like your best self? Do you make an effort to do it everyday, even if it feels selfish when you start out? (Hint: it’s not). What will it take to make you do that thing regularly?

Writing When Not Writing

Today I had a huge number of things on my To Do list. One of them was a hopeful “write fiction?”.

It did not get an asterisk.

And so it did not happen.

But I did think about the fiction I wasn’t writing, and the story ideas there might be there.

And I discovered another hidden feature of the Mac Operating system today 1 Apparently there’s a misleadingly-named Quicktime Player on there that also does screen recordings. With audio. I’ve been reading about Camtasia (in my PC days) and Screenflow, but completely failed to realize there was a built-in way to easily create on-screen tutorials for things like, say, how to use a custom online writer’s community.

So that’s what I did.

Five tutorials about using the StoryADay community, so that people don’t have to figure it out 2. Boom. Done.

Not exactly writing, but creating. And writing-related.

  1. I used Macs at university a thousand years ago, but from 1996-2010 I was Windows all the way. Moving back to Mac has been painful and four years later I’m still going “what? You mean I can do XYZ?! Why the #$% didn’t they think to mention that? What am I psychic? Is Steve Jobs just supposed to inhabit my brain?”
  2. Or not, and get frustrated and leave the site.

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Stopped in at an independent bookstore today (yes! There is one within 20 miles of me!).

Since I had loved Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like An Artist” so much, I immediately wandered over to the display of his work, including this one: “Show Your Work”. After leafing through a couple of pages I knew I wanted it. So while I have the other one in Kindle edition, I have this one as a paperback.

“The Tenth of December” has been on my list for a while because, hey, short stories! And it has been winning prizes and every one is raving about it. that’s not always a big selling point for me, but I like the things people have been saying about it, so we’ll see.

The third one I picked up on a whim. It looks very literary and is set in Paris. 1 I don’t have anything very literary on the go at the moment2, and I am going to Paris in July, I thought I’d give it a try.


So that’s what’s on the new reading list.

I have already started “Show Your Work”, which is, in part, why I’m posting this. At one point he advocates sending out “a daily dispatch” from your creative life: if you’re in the planning stages, share what’s inspiring you; if you’re working, share excepts etc.

So this is what’s inspiring me today, among other things.


  1. “Paris: The Novel”, by Edward Rutherfurd. Now that I think about it, that definite article sounds a bit arrogant. And his last name is spelled unexpectedly, which seems pretentious, but probably isn’t his fault. I shall try to overlook these things.
  2. I always have multiple books on the go at one time. Do you? I like to have different books for different moods…

The Many Faces of The Writing Life

It is 12:37 AM. I should not be here. I should be tucked up in bed, ready to get up at an ungodly hour tomorrow and do this all again.

But at least I’m sitting here feeling satisfied (and not a little smug).

Today I had a great writing day.

It wasn’t great fiction writing day, but I was working all day on the many other things writers have to do.

  • By 9:30 I had done a grueling workout (thanks, Joe!) and was BIC (butt in chair) reading lots of other people’s opinions on Flash Fiction. (I’m writing a series on the form and need to interview lots of people. I like to be able to ask intelligent questions, so that means lots of reading).
  • I sent out several interviews-by-email to people who have already said ‘yes’ to my request, and gave the a deadline because I know what writers are like…
  • I organized my calendar.
  • I rescued my poor, ravaged website from the edge of disaster. (This has been a month of torture so you’ll forgive me if I consider the six or so hours I spent wrangling it into shape this evening, time well spent). Not only did I get it working properly again, but I redesigned it to make it easier for the incoming class of StoryADay-ers to figure out where all the good stuff is and what they heck they’re doing there anyway.

Check it out:
StoryADay Facelift

What Does All This Have To Do With Writing?

Well, no, none of this is putting words into my novel or short stories. But all of it helps me to build by network and community.

It’s a lonely business being a writer.

Most of the time I’m absolutely fine with that (and frankly, most days I could do with a little more loneliness!). But there are days when your evil inner voices start telling you this writing lark is just a waste of time and money and that you should stop kidding yourself. That’s when it’s a great idea to have built a community of like-minded individuals who are, hopefully, having a better day than you and who either a, boost you up or b, need something from you (something in the writing line). Helping other writers, or being helped by them, is a wonderful way to remember that you’re not entirely crazy. It’s also a great way of guilting people into reading your work and usually they find something in it that’s better than you thought it was.

So hey. No fiction words added to the works in progress, but a very satisfying day clearing the decks for when I do manage to work on the fiction tomorrow.

And that’s what a writer does, some days (and nights).

Speaking of which, goodnight.

So That’s What Was Hiding Under The Snow Drifts

Every year this strikes me as something of a miracle.

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A scientifically explained miracle, true, but that robs it of none of the thrill.

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This year has been such a hard winter, and my borders have been crushed under so much snow, that I wasn’t sure I was going to see Green for quite some time.

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But here we are, March 20, and the plants know what they have to do.

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If it had been up to me,
I’d have given up hope and thought “maybe I’ll have color next year…”

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I’m so glad I’m not in charge.

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Everybody Needs A Garrett

I’m working in my garrett today.

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I highly recommend seeking out some cheap co-working office space to rent if you are trying to take your writing seriously and have the means. I also recommend biting the bullet and taking as little stuff with you as you can get away with. There have been days when I haven’t come here because I’d “need” all the notes I’ve been gathering for four years about the novel-in-progress, or because I think I *might* want to work on admin tasks that really call for the big computer, or, or or…

What happens, when I actually get here, is that I pick a task (a short story or a blog post series or the novel or some outreach to potential interview subjects) and I work on that thing. Until it’s done. Or until I run out of time.

Can you imagine?

I focus on one task.

And can you guess what happens next?

Stuff.

Stuff happens. I achieve things. Word counts grow. Ideas are put into practice. Progress is made.

#HeadsDesk

So the family might not get a lovingly slow-cooked dinner tonight (“Oh, squirrel! I could make keema in the slow-cooker. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about dinner later, only I don’t have beef, so I’ll just run to the shop and buy that and mix all the spices and put the keema on before I start writing and oh! ‘Nother Squirrel! I could whip all the sheets off the beds and put them in the washer before I go, so that they’ll be ready to go in the dryer when I get back. Look at me! I’m so efficient! That’ll leave me lots of guilt-free time to write. But before I do any of that, let me email the tax lady, find the tax documents and call the doctor, just to clear those things off my to-do list so that I can have a guilt-free time to write. And squirrel! Wait, how did it get to be 2:44pm and why are my children coming home soon?”)

Instead I am at my paid-for-and-potentially-peopled-by-other-working-folks garrett, thinking about how much I pay per minute to be here (not really) and how I should really be thinking about doing something writing related if only so that, should someone else ask me what I’m working on, I can smile and be honest.

And yes, this blog counts. It’s my warm-up writing, my Morning Pages.

Now, back to the long-overdue novel-in-progress.

Buttering the Sky

This is a quarter of a pound of butter.

Since August, I have managed to shed the equivalent of 40 of these (42 actually, if this morning’s weight is to be believed).

It’s only 10lbs. It doesn’t sound like that much when you consider that a, my weight had spiked up a few pounds in August and b, I have a lot more to lose.

But 10.2lb (or 163 ounces) of blubber is gone, baby. And I’m stronger than I’ve possibly ever been, too.

Just pausing to note it and celebrate.

Onward and downward!

P.S. The answer to your question? Sadly: diet and exercise. And consistency. And accountability. And patience. Gah!