Posts Tagged 'Writing'

Second Real Day Back

events stack

Well, finally, after all the catch-up I played last week after our trip, I’ve gotten back to work. It was a productive day!

When I started, though,  as I looked at the three hundred or so  2″ x 3″  cards scattering my desk, I felt quite overwhelmed. Over time I’d used them to note down ideas as they had occurred to me — ideas about character, about incidents or events that might happen, about a character’s intentions or desires or reactions… each to its own card, but the cards all in a jumble. All waiting to be put into some kind of coherent plotline.

Augh! How was I going to do this? It was all swirling around —  random events and occurences that seemed to have no relation to one another. I needed, so I thought, to form some kind of plot line, but I felt lost in a fog of indecision.

So I went to the Lord, which I’m doing a lot more now than I have in the past — about almost everything.

“What should I do?” I asked Him, wanting to run away from it all yet again…

Well, He drew my attention to the fact that I have three placemats on my desk and enough space for another, though I don’t have one.  That’s more or less 4 sections. I could at least divide up the stack into general sections…

So I took up my stack of “event” cards (above)

And began to go through them one by one… placing some of them on the “beginning” placemat, some on the “ending” space and  just parceling out the rest of them as seemed fit, more or less where I thought they would fit in the story. Some events were predicated on others, some had to come after others… Sometimes I had two cards with different options for the same event, mutually exclusive. Sometimes I had two cards with slightly different takes on the event, or different details or trappings for it.  I just laid them all down, some in rows, some on top of other cards, some bridging two rows. Some of them I even put between the placemats when I wasn’t sure.

It was kinda fun, because I didn’t have to decide, just generally divide up the cards. Some of them I even threw away. And it was something of a comfort to find that for several of the events I’d envisioned, I’d made two, three even four cards with the same event on it.

Once I had them all parcelled out, I divided them into four piles, which I gathered together in a rough approximation of the order they’d been placed on the table.

The operative word here is “rough.”  I was not demanding that I be precise and orderly, it was just to be a general dividing of the concepts.

parts 2 - 4 small

Above you can see parts 2 -4 all gathered up and secured with rubber bands.

Where is part 1?  Well, once I’d gotten all four of my stacks divided, I took up Part one and began to lay out those cards in terms of cause and effect, order, etc.:

cards part 1

And having done that I have the beginnings of a line of events to work with. Nothing finished by any means but a start. There are lots of holes, and some of them are just ideas that need fleshing out. Some — those either/or cards — require a decision to be made one way or the other.

But that’s all tomorrow’s work. Oh, and I’m still loving my Freedom program, which I blogged about awhile back. That and turning off the phones, continues to give me what feels like a safehaven in which to relax and focus on the work… Plus something about the suspension of being available for contact motivates me to use the time to advantage rather than simply dink around.

I Seem to be Wordless

work desk

I really don’t know why I haven’t been posting much lately. Or maybe I should say, I really don’t know why I can’t seem to think of anything to post. No, that’s not it either. I can think of things to post, but then I don’t feel like writing them down, so nothing happens.

I haven’t been keeping up with email, nor even doing much in my journal.

I have, however, been fairly regular with working on Sky. Six days last week. For at least three hours a day and often more. It’s been good, because I’m actually making some progress. The biggest thing that happened was that I realized that allowing the fact that I felt dead and empty inside with respect to the work to stop me was a mistake. Yes, it was certainly true that every time I thought about the chapter, or even the book in general, I drew a complete blank. I was so indifferent I began to wonder if I was barking up the wrong tree.

So I let myself stop trying for a bit and read my HUGE Tom Clancy novel, which I believe I mentioned. Then I read another novel, a Christmas present from Bethany House. I’m currently finishing up a third, this one a continuation of the Roman-based mystery series I started over a year ago. Oh and in the middle of that I read, um, about half of The Shadow Within, just to remind myself that hey, I really can write.

That was when I remembered all the days I spent being just as blank and helpless and dismayed as I was with Sky. Yes, days. In fact, it was typically about three full days of hanging around, lying on the couch, staring at the ceiling, walking laps in my house or back yard, trying to come up with an idea, and being completely, hopelessly, helplessly BLANK.

And then after several days, something would come. It wasn’t something logicked out, or figured out or put together. It would just be there. And I’d write it down.

So recalling that, I’ve gone back to putting in the time. Not running off to do something else when I find myself blank. But just sitting or lying around exploring the blankness.

And it’s been working. I was working my way through what I was afraid was a boring and pointless party scene when suddenly a new character showed up, one related to an existing character who wasn’t even supposed to be in town… and a scene happened. I even like it!

And now, in describing that, I’ve actually come up with something to post.

How about that? (Well, this IS supposed to be a “writing diary” sort of blog…) Now I need to go get dinner started…

Trivial and Urgent vs Important but not Urgent

Another bit from the John Cleese video I posted yesterday. I found this to speak directly to one of the things that has most bedeviled me:

“It’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent, than it is to do important things that are not urgent (like pondering) and it’s easier to do little things we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about.”  ~ John Cleese in his talk The Origins of Creativity

He is Not a God of Confusion

Sea Voyage: Leaving the Land Behind

I think the thing that most helped me from the discussion on the open ended writing process wasn’t so much doing the process itself, but realizing that what I am doing IS hard, and DOES take a lot of time and I WILL feel chaotic and disoriented, even frustrated with all the choices, but that it is okay. It’s actually the point.

The point of the sea voyage is to leave the old “wrong” ideas behind and find a new vision. New ideas, something based on the old, but not the old.

All that was on Tuesday. On Friday I listened to a Bible class from summer 2011 about how the spiritual gift works. I’ve been slowly working my way through those classes as time allows and it had been awhile since I’d listened to this particular series. I can’t even say why I chose to do it that day, but the content fell right in line with what I had been learning about the writing process. Again I found myself transcribing quotes into my journal.

From my entry last Friday:

(This Lesson from Sunday, July 17, 2011) is speaking directly to me!

“The power that flows through my spiritual gift and the results of its function are up to God.”

In my case “results” can mean what I’m seeing as accomplishment, as acceptable “progress.” So even when I can’t see anything, it’s still Him.

“So what does that leave for us to do? We’re merely to nurture a willingness to do the work (write the story) and be prepared. And to put ourselves in the place where the gift can operate. We let Him pick the right time for its operation.”

Which means for me, when the story “emerges” when things finally begin to come together, whether plotwise or world-buildingwise.

“This is new! This is different! This is not the way you’ve been trained (by the world) from birth to get things done.

 “The results are up to God, not you.”

“Therefore, don’t judge your effectiveness in your spiritual gift by the results. Be faithful to what God has called you to do, whatever it is. Just trust that He knows what He’s doing. Don’t freak out. Don’t get depressed, despairing, thinking that maybe you’re not doing what you’re supposed to. If you’re following the Word of God, hearing the Word of God, and being obedient to it, God’s gonna get you where you need to be.”

This on the surface relates to physical position, like at the corner where there’s a person waiting to hear the Gospel from you. But lately I’ve been reading about writing in terms of a journey – the sea voyage. You set out, leave land behind, get lost, don’t know what you’re doing and then gradually you come to a new land…. God will get you where you need to be.

This all SO applies to my circumstances right now. I’m looking through notes, reading various writings, doing open-ended writings and nonstops… trying to figure out/decide whether to have a more direct parallel to our situation today as a nation ( with other nations in my created world, covert ops, war, military actions… ) or make it a more abstract, even stylistic allegory, without all the grand political arena and dispensational stuff…Except I’ve already started both in the prologue, at least hints… And here I’m conflicted again. I feel like I’m getting nowhere..

But in all this mess I must stop and reflect: God will get me where He wants me to be.

Oh! And another message in today’s lesson:

“God is not a god of confusion. This is a very important principle when it comes to your spiritual gift because there’s a big temptation for them to get out of hand, lead to chaos rather than clarity. And God is all about CLARITY. Making things clear.”

So trust Him to do just that. Trust Him to show you the way you should go and believe that He is, even if it doesn’t look like you think it should look.

A Place for My Mind

Well, I’ve been on another journey, I think. A thought journey. A life journey. I’m not sure what to call it.

For some time I’ve wrestled with should I have a routine or shouldn’t I? Should I try to force myself to write or just let it come? Set up a schedule and force myself to keep it or not, seeing as I always fail.

Then pendulum has swung back and forth. I look at old notes from the “schedule” stage and am repelled, certain they are all wrong. Whenever I try to do the schedule thing I start into the control mindset and it only ends up in failure and guilt. So I’ll just relax and let God the Holy Spirit guide me. But then my life unravels and I never seem to get to the book. So then the pendulum swings back, I go back to the notes and start over. Is self-control a fruit of the Spirit? Or something I’m supposed to do?  Didn’t God say that he would work in me “both to will and to execute for his good pleasure?”

It seems to me I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth for over a year now. Maybe longer than that. But I think perhaps there’s been a couple of small changes in my thinking that might make a bit of difference.

Last Friday I listened to a message by Pastor Farley delivered last summer on spiritual gifts that shed new light on my confusion.

“When we’re living in our gift, it’s because of the ongoing work of God the Holy Spirit through us. That’s a great comfort. There’s nothing worse than when you get to any point in the spiritual life and think it’s up to you; when I get the idea that yes, at the moment of salvation God the Holy Spirit gave me a gift but now I gotta run with it. I gotta do something with my gift.

NO!

God the Holy Spirit will continue to do things with that gift as you allow him to, as you say yes to Him, as you put yourself in the place of being available (99% of these things is showing up). You say, “I’m available. I know my gift is (writing) and I’m gonna put myself in a place where that gift can function  and I know the rest is up to the Holy Spirit.”

The Bible says you’ll be promoted at the proper time, when God says so, and that whenever it is you’ll be using your gift, God will provide both the will and the power to do it. So it continues to be the Holy Spirit’s operation and ministry all the way throughout our lives.”

That really zinged me. Especially the part about putting myself in a place where I know my gift can function.

That place is my office. It’s my couch. It’s walking laps around the house. It’s a place of the mind more than the body. Not a mind cluttered with all sorts of random thoughts, half-baked ideas, urges, to-do lists, etc.

So clearly the first thing to do is make a space for my mind to be free and uncluttered during the day. Hence my return to the schedule idea.

To be continued…

A Day in My Life

 

Well, I wanted to put up another post on thoughts generated by my reading of America Lite, but I’m afraid I’ve reached the end of my day without sufficient mental energy to do that. Yes, I started the post yesterday, but there are so many thoughts, it’s hard to narrow them down into something that makes sense.

I’m also in the process of working on a Big Project that has nothing to do with writing, which is partly why I don’t have any energy. And, I’ve been making a point getting in at least two hours of writing work a day on Sky (I’m using a modified version of the pomodoro system I wrote about here) in addition to my weekly Monday house cleaning stint. I’ve been putting the latter off for a couple of weeks now… I run out of time, tell myself I’ll do it tomorrow and hey! Tomorrow never comes.

So today I just decided to do it first. I put on my mp3 player tuned to messages from Pastor John last week (which were EXACTLY what I needed to hear, last week and today) and went through all the chores instead of trying to split them up across 5 days. Worked much better and I was glad to just have it all done.

After that and breakfast, I did 8 pages of revision on chapter 6. Oh and I printed up the following, which I found whilst re-reading my old blog:

Really bad means REALLY BAD

I forgot about writing really lousy drafts! Or rather, I knew about it, and I even have a sign about it on my desk, but I’d forgotten about it. Kind of like I know the Lord has promised to take care of me and bless me , and that He is wise and good and kind and powerful, yet suddenly I am worried and fretful again. I know it, but it’s not registering. I’m not applying it.

Really lousy drafts are just that. Really lousy drafts. Bad, bad writing that makes me wince as I’m setting it down. Sentences and thoughts that provoke all manner of objections — No! It can’t be that way. It should come after this, or before that. Or, This is really cornball… Or melodramatic. Or off the wall.

I just have to plug my mental ears and keep on writing, one bad sentence after another.

I love these reminders from the past. Besides reminding me of principles and activities I’d forgotten about, they also remind me of how much I forget!

I spent the afternoon working on the project before more Bible Class, walking Quigley, making and eating dinner and then… putting in some time on the blog post before Hawaii 5-0 (Danno is really starting to bug me and this episode — he and McGarrett on the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fishing trip — he was especially obnoxious. I wasn’t too fond of that character in the original series, either, though I think for different reasons.)

Well, if I want to have any mental energy at all tomorrow, I’d best stop this and get to bed.

Update: Writing Again

Today I went into the office and worked on Sky. For at least five hours. In fact, I’ve worked on Sky for at least two hours every day this week. I finished a rewrite of Ch 5 and for the last couple of days have been working on rewriting Ch 6. Kind of amazing.

I also think I’m finally getting to a place of clarity relative to what’s been going on in terms of the distractions and such.  Regular readers may recall I have been waffling between “get control of your life, make a schedule, have a little self-discipline” and “relax and trust the Lord to see it done.”  Well, the answer seems to be… It’s both!

I am not clear enough on it to actually articulate it, but perhaps in time I will. I’m still testing out whether I really do understand what’s going on or not.

Anyway, I worked through a lot of questions and details of setting today. I’m hoping tomorrow I can move through more pages. We’ll see.

One Day At A Time

Well, I’m tired this week. Still getting over a cold I’ve had for over 10 days now. And We had a big weekend — my hubby wanted to throw a party for friends who’d helped him with this Bighorn Sheep Hunt last year, and so I helped. It was an all day affair on Saturday that started at 7am and lasted until 2am the next morning. After a few hours sleep, we started in on the clean up.  I had a nap after that.

Monday I was good — worked on Sky for three hours! — but Tuesday I crashed entirely. Slept almost all day. Watched TV all evening… (Well.. they were the season openers for NCIS and NCIS:LA, so… I’d have watched them anyway. Probably wouldn’t have sat there for VEGAS though…)

Today I was in the blank, wandering around the house staring at things mode. Trying to make sense of the notes I had for Sky, feeling like the entire premise was absurd and fatally flawed and how had I ever thought this was remotely interesting?

So I didn’t work on the next blog post I’d thought to do for my impromptu Light of Eidon week. In fact, I couldn’t even decide which one of several to do.

So I got the idea to go looking again at my early newsletters… the ones I put out right after Eidon released and found this bit from one I put out in April of 2003, written while I was deep into the writing of Book 2: The Shadow Within.

It applies today as surely as it applied nine years ago, and was actually a comfort to me to reread in my current circumstances.

One Day at a Time

I’ve been writing for a long time, and have never been a fast writer. I have always tended to go three steps forward and back up two. Sometimes I have to rewrite and rewrite until I get the thread right, and only then can I go on with the story.

Often I may go for two or three days getting nowhere at all, blank and empty and even indifferent. Then the doors will open, the scenes will emerge and all will be well. Until I hit the next blank spot.

Over the years I have tried setting up various writing schedules according to the generally accepted advice that if you want to complete a big project, you must divide it into increments, then proceed to carry out each increment in its time. I would make up my schedule of how many chapters I wanted to complete over a certain period of time, and determine that I would be professional and disciplined and Just do It! It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not, you just have to write it. Except . . .

I couldn’t.

Never have I managed to keep one schedule. Always I hit a snag, go over the allotted time, then hit another snag and another until the deadline I had set for myself fades into dim memory. I have received much friendly and helpful advice on how to deal with this, but none of it ever works.

Over the last few months, as I contemplated the remaining time I had left before Book 2 (The Shadow Within) is due, I found myself increasingly disturbed that I still hadn’t reached the point where I could sit down, plan out a schedule of work, then embark upon that work and be confident that it would all be done on time.

Throughout all this, the Lord was reminding me that I should be trusting Him about it, but the voice was too still and small, and the message too familiar.

I was too busy thinking about how much time I had left and comparing that with how much work I thought I had left to do. Too busy harassing myself to get to work, to be more disciplined, to force the story out. Too busy getting upset over outside things that came in to steal my time. Too busy beating my head against the wall–for it was all to no avail.

The story wasn’t coming any faster than it ever had. But the idea of stopping that, and giving it all over to Him? How could I do that? To do that would mean losing all control over it.

It wasn’t until I had that last ridiculous thought that I realized how silly I was being. I had no control over it anyway, so what’s the big deal about giving it over to Him?

Clearly I had a choice to make. Was I going to continue to seek to control the what for me is an uncontrollable process, flailing myself for my lack of progress and worrying about what would happen in the months to come when the Lord clearly tells me not to? Was I going to continue refusing to rest in Him, and instead seek to use my own strength and ability (obviously lacking) to handle this?

Cursed (miserable!) is the one who puts her trust in man. Or woman, as the case may be.

Finally, that verse, one I memorized long ago, got through. The light went on and I backed off.

So from here on out it’s one day at a time. I WILL stay out of the future. Whatever progress He gives me, I will accept, without making a fuss about what hasn’t been given. If I fail to concentrate or use my time wisely on any given day, I can have confidence that He knew, way back in eternity past, that I would fail and He took it into account when He made His plan.

If something comes up that diverts my time and energy away from the book, I will remember that it is also part of the plan, and that He has everything under control, knowing precisely how long it will take to make this book what He wants it to be. This is His book, not mine, so He’ll have to see that it gets done in spite of me. (I especially like that part.)

Now, at last, I can rest, knowing that even though I am “dust”, inadequate and weak, He is completely adequate and His strength will be perfected in my weakness. I may bungle my way through my days and the writing of this book, but He who is wise and good and faithful and gracious is at work in me nevertheless. And His Plan is not only perfect, it’s brilliant!

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord, for he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes.” ~ Jeremiah 17:7

Craft and Daft

Recently I’ve been exploring various elements of WordPress, such as the new stats page, the “follow” function, the reader page, and on the latter, the WordPress Daily Post. Today’s Daily Post was on what it takes to get on their “Freshly Pressed” page, which is a best post of the week collection, or ten best for the month. That was interesting in itself.

Even better, though, was that through it I discovered this post by Oliver at his blog Literature and Libation. It’s part of a new series on writing he’s started called Craft and Draft, but it wasn’t long before I was seeing that as Craft and Daft.

Both titles work for this particular entry in the series (It’s called Craft and Draft: Character Counts), because it’s not only hysterically funny in a daft sort of way, it also resonated in terms of what the writing process is like for me.

He uses, of all things, photographs of various Lego figures to complement and illustrate the process he is outlining and explaining. That choice was brilliant. Yes, it’s exaggerated and simplified but that’s what makes it work so well. It’s easily applied to one’s own situation.

A vivid metaphor for how disconnected, discombobulated, and contradictory one’s characters (or world, or plot, or descriptions) can be — most likely will be, maybe even should be — when you’re moving through your initial drafts of the piece.

I will never forget his Lego man “hero” with the wooden leg, high-tech breathing apparatus, extra head with no face and best of all, a “period-inappropriate tricorn hat” which also happens to be on fire.  (You gotta see the photo, if nothing else. Here’s the link again. And you might as well read it while you’re at it, cause then you’ll have context for what I’m going to say next.)

I love it! As I said earlier, it’s daft, but TRUE. I call this process “cobbling,” and I’ve been doing it for some time — in fact, with every novel I’ve ever written. A process where  I just shove all the things I think I want in a scene together, whether compatible or not, with the promise that I’ll straighten everything out later. It’s a way of getting past the inertia, the inability to decide — eg, should he be high-tech (breathing apparatus) or low (wooden leg)?  And if both, how could I make that plausible?

(In point of fact that is EXACTLY what I’m facing with Sky, since it has a sort of Roman-flavored culture, but is high-tech as well, thought “high-tech” in its own way.  I’ve made the changes in the characters’ backgrounds, motivations, relationships, etc., just as Oliver described. But a lot of that has worked itself out now. At least for the beginning sections.)

This piece has reminded me how difficult this all is for me… in the sense of tolerating the chaos and uncertainty. But it’s also reminded me that there is something on the other side and that I have to go through all this to get there.

The only thing I took exception to in Oliver’s article was his contention that we force our characters to have whatever views we have decided they should have: “We force their beliefs onto them without even asking,” says he, “telling them what they’re passionate about, what they think about certain philosophical quandaries, and how they ultimately view the world.”

I’ve tried to do that. It doesn’t work. They sulk. They refuse to do what I want. Literally refuse. Everything goes blank. I can’t get them to talk or do anything. I avoid the work for days. I go back to it and they’re still stubbornly refusing to do what I want.

“No I will not go fight the fire. I don’t care if it’s dramatic, I think having the fire happen right now is a stupid thing.  Why in the world would I be out there, anyway? I’m not a fireman! And besides, it has nothing to do with anything.”

That probably sounds loony, but I’ve been through it enough, I know it’s so. Instead of me forcing things on them, I believe it’s my job to discover who they are and what their story is. When they don’t want to fight the fire, and the fire has nothing to do with anything, I need to find out what the “thing” is that I’m really supposed to be focusing on, because clearly I’ve gotten it wrong.

Of course it’s all coming out of my thinking, so maybe a better way to describe it in macrocosm is, what kind of story is it that I’m wanting to tell? What kind of characters am I wanting to tell it with? And I really have no idea at the outset. I can only muddle my way along, putting down the things that I like and seem to fit at the time without worrying about if they actually do fit.

In fact, I’ve been doing that with Chapter 3 for the last three days and I am almost to the end of it… maybe tomorrow I will be!

Just Ask For What You Need

One of the prevailing messages the Lord seems to be giving me of late is, again, to come to Him and ask, to let Him do the things He’s called me to do.  In everything, but particularly the writing.

A week or so ago I listened to a message Pastor John taught last year, wherein his words so closely echoed what I’ve been dealing with this year, that I stopped the tape and wrote it all down.

He said,

“I still get in these situations where I’m a little intimidated (Me: YES!!!! intimidated by the book I’m attempting to write.”  “I know there’s something I need to be doing with these people (the characters in my book!) but I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what I should say.  (EXACTLY what I had been moaning about and experiencing regarding the book) 

He went on to describe himself as someone who when there’s too many people around, tends to get overwhelmed, thinking he has to deal with everyone.  In my case, there’s too many characters, too many possible threads, motivations, scenes, conflicts… too many possibilities. It’s a good thing to have a lot of possibilities — it makes your work richer. But it can be completely overwhelming and intimidating.  Thus I could relate completely to what he was saying.

It happens to Pastor John all the time. And then he realizes:

“You know what? I don’t have to come up with a great creative solution here! All I gotta do is go to my Lord, my Father and say, “Hey. You know what I want and you know what you want. Now you just gotta put the light bulb on. And He does!”

Well, I was completely blown away when he said that. It was so targeted to my situation, so completely apropos and yet… I hadn’t been doing that.  I thought I had to figure it out.

So what was the next thing he said?

“I can’t tell you how long it was where I thought it was up to me, ultimately. Me figuring it out, putting all the energy into it and … fail, fail, fail. And I was miserable, walking around with a guilt complex, feeling inadequate, horrible.

“But the fact is, God the Holy Spirit is the one who’s behind this. This variety of gifts, this idea that this is something where you can relax and understand that Ephesians 2:10 says He’s already ordained the things for you to walk in. All you gotta do is show up with a heart that’s wanting to serve with the bible doctrine that’s already in your soul and walk. And walking isn’t hard. No one gets a prize because today I walked…

“No, it’s God who’s doing the heavy lifting here. Just say, “Yes!” and put one foot in front of the other. Be positive, go in the right direction, show up and have a desire and God will take care of the rest.”

And in today’s message, he brought all that around again. We’re to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, to abide in Him as He abides in us. We — I — can do nothing apart from Him. If I abide in Him and His words abide in me, I am told to ask whatever I wish and it will be done for me. And by this is My Father glorified.

Me abiding in the Vine and His words — His truth — abiding in me and then I ASK Him for what I need. This is pretty much the whole point, the whole deal.  That I come to understand more and more about grace — which is God’s unlimited capacity and desire to bless me — and the truth of who He is and then ask Him for whatever I need.

Like what do I do in the next scene? How am I going to get out of this corner I just wrote myself into? All the details that so intimidate, me, ask Him to show me. And I’m thinking that it’s important to be specific, rather than general…

So that’s what I’m hoping to do tomorrow. And I think I’ll just ask Him now to help me to remember that.


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