Real life vs. Social Media

For awhile now, I’ve been contemplating giving up Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, or at least curtailing the time I spend on it. I started participating in these platforms because I wanted to stay in touch with friends, and I’ve done that. I’ve reconnected with childhood friends, my friends from college and my time as a military wife. I’ve also remained connected to others I’ve met more recently, especially my writer friends. I’ve joined quite a few online groups to connect with other writers through Facebook and on Twitter, too. Writing is such a solitary occupation (especially when you practice it in a rural setting) that connecting through the internet is invaluable and validating. There really are others out in the world who write!

writer

A secondary reason I became involved in social media was to build an audience for my book(s) when I am published one day. I don’t really know if I’ve managed to build an audience, (perhaps a small one) and my books aren’t on the market yet. Though I still like being on social media, I spend far too much time following my interests down the rabbit home of information and curiosity. I will intend to spend only a moment checking updates but find that an hour and a half has passed before I realize it. I no  longer have much time to do other things!

Also, I’ve noticed something about myself and the time I spend on social media. I feel scattered. I struggle to concentrate. I am disconnected from life rather than connected to it. I don’t engage with my writing as readily as I once did.  I have trouble concentrating on long passages of reading or writing for extended periods of time; whereas, I used to read and write for hours. I also used to draw, sew, garden, watch birds and myriad other pursuits. Ironically, my world and my interests have narrowed even as the internet has brought the world to my fingertips.

Once I wrote from a place of deep introspection. When I sat down to write, the words bubbled up from deep within. Not at first, but it didn’t take long to enter the mindset necessary for the magic to happen. Sometimes hours would pass, but it only felt like minutes. Characters appeared seemingly from the ether. Experiences, voices, descriptions, scenes, dialogue, all these passed through me. I was the conduit for the story. I didn’t think it up. I simply waited for it to come to me, and I wrote it down. It was glorious, like a runner’s high, endorphins exploding inside me and filling me with deep satisfaction. When I found that I could disappear into the words and rhythms of the story I was writing, I knew I had found my release, my meditation, my art. I want that back.

worldbuilding.jpg

Now I struggle to write because I inhabit a place of frenetic activity, sound bites, and frequent interruptions. I think my characters into being rather than being open to the muse and letting the action and the characters appear as they once did.

If the creative act of writing is a meditative, relaxed, art-minded state of being, taking part in social media is the farthest thing from it. When I have written, I usually discover something about myself or gain some insight into the writing process or human nature. But on social media those moments of insight are rare. When I hop on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I tell myself I will only scroll down my feed (disgusting term, that) for a few minutes, but I so easily succumb to the seduction of reading articles, looking at pictures of cute puppies, watching videos–you name it–that I often spend far too long there and come away feeling less happy, less settled, less satisfied with life than when I began. I should have more will power, but I know that social media sites do a lot of research to keep me clicking.

I have decided to conduct an experiment. Starting today, I am going to limit my time on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Oh, and definitely Pinterest, that black hole of a time suck where I tend to dawdle! From now until further notice–at least a month or longer–I plan to be on social media only AFTER I have worked, written, read, cooked, gardened, walked Stella, visited with friends, and generally enjoyed my life.

I am going to live my life, rather than share an edited-for-media version of it. I want face-to-face conversations with my friends at dinner parties over good food and wine. I want to float down the river with my husband and walk with him in the forest to pick berries or see the leaves change. I want to visit with my children and really hear what is going on in their lives. I want live music, art, and travel. No more distractions, no more staring at a phone or a computer screen.

images

I’m making a change today to save my brain from the constant barrage of ads and negativity I find on social media. I will continue to write this blog, and I hope you’ll follow me here, but I am limiting myself to an hour each day of activity on all media. I know it will take a lot of willpower to make this happen. All habits are hard to break, but I hope to be a happier, more productive person, a better writer, a more attentive wife, and a more loving mother, sister, daughter, and friend. I’ll check in and let you know how it’s going. You’ll still find me on my social media platforms, but not as often as before. If you feel compelled join me in sharply curtailing your involvement in social media or have done so already, leave me a note and tell me how your life was changed (or not). I’d love to hear your story!

Advertisements

My Writer Birthday

 

 

Last Tuesday was my writer birthday. It was the first day of investing in myself in pursuit of a full-time writing life! Mind you, I’m still in the throes of post school year fatigue and would like to do little other than sleep, but my “sea legs” are coming back.  I’m still not fully able to get in the zone and write for hours on end as I once was, but I’m improving.

I worked this past week on my book edits, so I can send the manuscript to the agent who requested it. My goal is to send it by Friday afternoon. I don’t think I’ll ever be truly satisfied with it, (really, is a book EVER done?) but I’m giving myself this deadline and sending it along no matter how I feel. My friends have told me it is finished, but I am having a hard time letting it go into the world. As long as it is finished to the best of my ability to make it what I envision, then it is “done.” I just hope to get some good feedback from this agent.

I’m not only working on this book, however. I’ve been contemplating a number of new ideas, one of which won’t let go of me. Last year when I looked out at my patio I noticed two new birds on the trellis where the honeysuckle grows next to our garden, a pair of American Redstarts. They were only on the trellis for a moment or two, hopping about and flying quickly from one place to another, but they were new in my backyard so I took note. That’s when the idea for another book took shape. A young woman popped into my head, her name, her time period, her home (Here is Wisconsin!), the fact that she stutters but sings and whistles bird songs beautifully.  I have been bird watching again, mostly from my back windows, and noticing colors, songs, even habitat on my walks with Stella. Yesterday I found half a robin’s egg on the ground near our stream, a spot of clear blue on the brown sand. As I notice these things, I wonder what she would notice, how she would interpret them. The fermentation process has begun. Collected impressions of the natural world are percolating to the surface.  Although I haven’t devoted any time as yet to writing this story, I know the well is nearly full, and I can’t wait to begin drafting again! First things first, however.

I have a full list of writing “to dos” for the week. Really,  each week or even each day, I would like to move forward a few steps learning, writing, reading, contacting agents, and then writing again. Sometimes those steps will be concrete and measurable as a word count or pages ticked off in the editing process. Other times I may only come to a new realization or new understanding. Both are valuable. Here is this week’s list:

To Do Week of June 12:

1. By Friday finish editing  first novel for the last time before sending to round one agents.
2. Write several blog posts for editing later.
3. Work on my short story to send to Kristin Oakley for possible publication in The Write City E zine. Kristin is the editor of this publication as well as one of the founders of In Print Professional Writers Organization, and a dear friend of mine! You should check out her wonderful, award-winning novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois,  and her soon-to-be-released God on Mayhem Street.
4. Take notes on the ideas for the other books I have in my head to figure out how to get them out of my head!
5. Daily writing practice: 20 minutes each day.

I only included 5 items on my list because I think that number is doable for me. It isn’t overwhelming and will give me a sense of accomplishment when I complete an item. Since this is the first time I am sharing my goals, I’ll let you know how I do. Publishing them will, I hope, make me accountable not only to myself, but also to you!

How and when do you set goals for the work you do?

Ada Lovelace: Mathematical Visionary

 

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Google’s tribute to Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer.

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, and it does, mostly. I’m sure I’m not alone in my struggle to learn the nearly constant changes in technology I’m supposed to apply in both my work as a teacher and also my work as a writer. I must admit part of the problem is I’m reluctant, not because it intimidates me though sometimes it does, but also because I’m tired of change. Society lacks a human connection and a connection to the natural world these days, and technology is making that lack more pronounced. I resist the indoor/sedentary lifestyle that has been imposed on me to become and remain connected to the world through technology. The paradox of this dilemma is that through technology I am more connected to people and places far away from me  than I ever could have imagined 20 years ago, but that connection comes at a cost of being disconnected to physical reality. Technology is more than ever a matter of the mind in much the same way writing is.

More of my life than ever is spent at a desk or sitting with a laptop warming my thighs as I grade papers, write blog posts (though I’ve done precious little of that lately) or work on my novel. Seldom do I drop everything and walk outdoors to enjoy the brilliant colors of autumn or call a friend or better yet, meet a friend for a walk amongst the brilliant colors of autumn or for coffee outdoors. This school year I’ve tried to balance the demands of a demanding job, to satisfy my creative calling, and to learn the technology skills I need to use to do both well, but I also don’t want to neglect the part of me that requires the sun on my face and the feel of stretching my legs on a long walk. More on that in another post.

Who I would like to pay tribute to here is a woman for whom creativity and poetry was mathematical–seems a contradiction of terms to me because I’m language oriented, but I understand the elegance of math, just not the mechanics of it. I wish I did. I know I would have a far greater appreciation of the world and the workings of minds like Alan Turing’s, the man credited with breaking the Enigma code, or Ada Lovelace’s, the first computer programmer.

Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of the Romantic poet, George, Lord Byron, and his wife, Anne Isabella Noel. Theirs was a stormy relationship and one that inspired Ada’s mother to foster in her a love of logic and math  to prevent her from developing what Anne Isabella Noel regarded as the insanity (read poetry here) Ada’s father suffered. Despite her mother’s influence, Ada was fascinated with her father even though he left her mother and her when she was only a month old and died in Greece when she was only eight years old. Perhaps the influence of his reputation as a passionate, free thinking poet rubbed off on her after all or was handed down in her DNA. Whatever the reason, Ada became a mathematician who approached her subject using, to quote her, “poetical science.” She described herself as an Analyst and a Metaphysician.” I believe she had the same free-thinking tendencies, the creative vision, if you will, her father had and was able to make connections no one else had done because of those tendencies.

Her mathematical talents led her to begin a working relationship and friendship with the brilliant British mathematician Charles Babbage, working in particular with him on his Analytical Engine. Babbage called her his “enchantress of numbers.” After she translated an article about the engine written by an Italian military engineer, Luigi Menebrea, Lovelace added her own extensive notes that she called simply Notes.

The significance of Notes is that many consider it to contain the first computer program, (and here’s where the description of it escapes me) an algorithm that was to be carried out by a machine. Ada Lovelace’s remarkable accomplishment took place in the 1840s. Over 150 years later I struggle to understand basic computer coding to deal with my blogging program or my interactions on the web for my technological teaching needs, but I appreciate the intelligence that went into making those technologies possible. Her research and Notes along with Babbage’s work on the actual hardware paved the way for the work of Alan Turing and others of the Bletchly Park mathematicians who broke the code of the Enigma machine. Their successful breaking of the code is credited with saving Britain and, very possibly, the world from Nazi Germany and Japan. If you extend that credit, we would have to also thank Lovelace’s mother and Lord Byron’s the scoundrel ways for inspiring Lovelace’s mother to raise her to become a clear-eyed, logical but creative thinker!

Tomorrow is Ada Lovelace Day, a day celebrated world-wide to honor the contributions of women in science, technology, engineering, and math. My hat goes off to the women like Ada Lovelace who have made our world what it is and have made technology to ease our handling of information. I just wish I were better able to understand the complexities of how it all works. I also wish there were a way to handle the new tasks created by technology. Wait, no I don’t. I love my world of language and the images and emotions it conjures. I’ll leave it to those women (and men) who make it possible for me to reach out to the world with my words. Tomorrow, October 13, I’ll raise a glass to the women who have made this blog possible through technology! Here’s to you Ada Lovelace and your poetical science!

 

Graziano Gardens

 

Graziano Gardens

Last Saturday I was feeling lonely because my hubby was away, my friends were camping or otherwise occupied, and I needed a little inspiration for my house and garden. I’ve also been trying to do something creative other than writing to, as my husband says “keep my saw sharp.” We writers need to use our creative energy in more than one way to keep the creative juices flowing. Since the main character in my book is also a gardener, I thought getting back into gardening would not only be good for my creative spirit and let me feel some of what Faith feels, but it would also be a good way to be active, a real challenge when I sit so much at my desk writing. It is definitely a workout.

20150801_141438

I use to really enjoy gardening, but the past few years I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of work I need to do, and I’ve been lazy and uninspired. We have lived in our house now for nearly ten years, and all our landscaping needs overhauling. After a time, shrubs reach their full height and need radical trimming or removal, perennials need dividing–especially when you neglect doing that year after year, and some overzealous plants reproduce and take over–Siberian irises anyone? That’s where my gardens stand right now. I’d really like to pay someone to come in and redo everything, but who can afford that?

20150801_143255That’s why on Saturday, August 1, I went to visit my friend Shelly Christie, the owner of Graziano Gardens.  That’s us: she’s in pink looking lovely even in the heat! People display their creativity in numerous ways, and I’m glad Shelly lets her creativity shine in the garden. You can see it even in my less than stellar photography. Last Saturday was the first in her new Super Saturdays at Graziano Gardens. I visited to get some inspiration for planting and also to go to the Barn-tique sale–the barn on the property has all kinds of antiques and collectibles to restore and up-cycle into some new treasure for your house or garden. Pinterest anyone?

In addition, I listened to the very knowledgeable Rob Zimmer discuss gardening and designing with native plants. Rob is a columnist for the Appleton Post Crescent and is also known as the Yard MD. I did get some inspiration for next spring, but still have too much to do with what I already need to divide and move to buy anything else, except for two daylilies–there is always room for more daylilies, and Shelly had some beauties. I purchased two called Pardon Me (love the name!) miniatures with cranberry red flowers with green throats. They are re-bloomers too. I can’t wait to get them in the ground. Today, I promise.

20150801_133410

If you need an injection of creative inspiration and haven’t been to Graziano Gardens yet or haven’t been in a while, I urge you to go. The gardens surrounding the garden center will inspire you as will the numerous plants and pots for sale. Shelly and her crew are wonderfully  helpful and friendly! Also mark your calendars for the next two Super Saturdays this fall. The weather will be cooler, perfect for gardening. Here’s the info! I hope to see you there!

Super Saturdays, September 5th & October 3rd

  • Super Specials & Sales
  • Barn-tique Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Linda Otto Peeters of Willow Farm – Wet Felting / Jewelry Making
  • Mum Arrival
  • Fall & Seasonal Decorating Tips
  • WE-SHARE-A-COUNTY Fall Driving Tour

20150801_133722

Is This Writer’s Block?

I’ve Hit the Wall

I’ve hit a wall with my writing. Somehow I feel empty, as though the creative well has run dry. Maybe it’s because I’ve finally finished my novel and am in the revision stage—the hardest stage for me I’ve discovered. Maybe it’s because we went on a wonderful vacation to Norway which I’ve been uninspired to write about, or because I brought home a horrible cold which turned into bronchitis and am still recovering. Maybe it’s because I will be teaching again in the fall and my mind has already turned to what I will have to teach rather than turning inward to my creative inner world. Whatever the reason, I feel lost, like a part of my soul is missing.

After the past year of being unemployed I had the utter luxury of spending every day for as long as I needed or wanted to work on my manuscript. I know others write in the wee hours after their families are in bed. Still others write early in the morning before their families get up, but I have had the complete fantasy writing gig of getting my husband off to work, walking the dog or running, then coming home to spend all afternoon writing. At times I’m embarrassed I only finished a novel, but I know how lucky I’ve been.

Help!

I’m writing this post for help! What words of wisdom do my fellow writers have for me concerning revision? What can I do to prime the pump and feel the richness of my imagination flowing forth again? How can I set up a new routine in the midst of working a demanding teaching job; where can I carve out those moments I need to survive?

With only a month left before I go back to the classroom, I want to accomplish as much as possible. I’ve decided to come up with a pretty regimented schedule which will include free writing and also beginning a new project. Revision is rewarding. I can finally see the whole picture and understand what must be changed and moved and tweaked and refined, but spilling a first draft onto the page is different. I miss being wrapped and rapt in the creative vision.

The Plan

Here’s the plan I’ve set forth for now to overcome my creative paralysis. If you have suggestions, please tell me. If you have words of wisdom, please let me know.

  1. Begin the writing day with free writing exercise or prompt for 10-20 minutes a day. I have to do something to prime the pump!
  2. Revise my novel for at least one hour/day, more if the work is going well, which I hope will be most days.
  3. Work on queries and synopsis for one hour per day.
  4. Work on social media for one hour per day to promote my author platform.
  5. Work on my blog one hour /day.

I need to crush this wall before it crushes me, so I’m putting this plan into action for now.  I’ll adjust if the writing or revising is going poorly or well, but I do want to accomplish my goals for this year. What routines have you come up with that help nurture your writing in the midst of chaos, a job, or the demands of life?

This Writing Life

20130508_214636.jpg

On May second I realized a dream. I finished the revision of  my novel The Portrait. I didn’t really take the time until this past weekend to recognize what I had done. The dream I’ve nurtured and fed has finally came true. It was a five year journey, longer if I count when the idea actually came to me, and it took lots of hard work and many hours of research and writing and rewriting.

Why did I decide to write? I think I’m creative. I always have been. When I was younger it was visual arts that captured my interest. I used to pass hours and hours alone with my drawing pad and pencil shading with my finger to create depth and dimension, but I never had any formal art training. In fact when I went to college, I wanted to be an artist, but I thought I didn’t have the skill or talent to do that. I still think that’s the case because I’ve seen true artistic talent. What I have is not that.

I was pretty good at writing in high school, but I wrote for academic classes, not for pleasure. It wasn’t until I went to University of Georgia and took a class from my English professor, Dr. Kilgo, that I even attempted to write fiction. He challenged my class to write a short story. I think his idea was we were reading them, so we should have an idea how to write them. That attempt may have been the worst thing I ever wrote, but it opened my eyes to a new way to express myself. And in that first attempt I felt like a little kid who didn’t even know how to hold the pencil. That’s how clumsy I felt, but somewhere along the way fiction took hold of my imagination, first through reading and then through writing. Writing became how I made sense of my world.

Hemingway once told George Plimpton in an interview in The Paris Review, “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of.” Isn’t that lovely?

I write because I love putting words together to make something never seen before, never felt before I formed the image. I can create people who never existed, places and weather, sunsets and music, steaming buttermilk biscuits, anything I want! When I’m writing, I feel like I take part in something sacred, like I am part of a mystical experience and am a conduit for what I write rather than the creator. That may not make sense to some people, but it’s the best way to describe the creative act when the muse takes hold of me, when time passes unnoticed when I’m in the midst of the writing. I don’t know where inspiration comes from, but I know it doesn’t all come from me.

I found out after my grandmother died many years ago that she had harbored a desire to write and be published, but her dreams never came true. She wrote many poems, mostly about her children, and I treasure them. My son Erik is also an aspiring writer. He is so far ahead of where I was at his age that I am amazed. He has already written stories and served as an editor for his college’s literary magazine, and he has in the planning stage a science fiction novel I hope he brings into the world one day. I am so impressed by his drive and talent and know he will succeed beyond his wildest dreams if he chooses to pursue writing. I hope he doesn’t wait as I have to follow his dream but makes time for the muse in spite of life happening around him at lightning speed. Because that is what we all must do if we want this writing life.

These two people, my grandmother and my son, remind me that the great passions of our lives should drive our choices and guide us in what we do. It is never too late to choose to follow our passions where they lead. It’s never too late to fulfill a dream. My dream of completing a novel is realized, but I have many more books in my imagination waiting to be born. Do you have a dream nagging you, one that is waiting to be realized? Do you have the courage to follow your passion where it leads?

On May second I realized a dream. I finished the revision of  my novel The Portrait. I didn’t really take the time until this past weekend to recognize what I had done. The dream I’ve nurtured and fed has finally came true. It was a five year journey, longer if I count when the idea actually came to me, and it took lots of hard work and many hours of research and writing and rewriting.

Why did I decide to write? I think I’m creative. I always have been. When I was younger it was visual arts that captured my interest. I used to pass hours and hours alone with my drawing pad and pencil shading with my finger to create depth and dimension, but I never had any formal art training. In fact when I went to college, I wanted to be an artist, but I thought I didn’t have the skill or talent to do that. I still think that’s the case because I’ve seen true artistic talent. What I have is not that.

I was pretty good at writing in high school, but I wrote for academic classes, not for pleasure. It wasn’t until I went to University of Georgia and took a class from my English professor, Dr. Kilgo, that I even attempted to write fiction. He challenged my class to write a short story. I think his idea was we were reading them, so we should have an idea how to write them. That attempt may have been the worst thing I ever wrote, but it opened my eyes to a new way to express myself. And in that first attempt I felt like a little kid who didn’t even know how to hold the pencil. That’s how clumsy I felt, but somewhere along the way fiction took hold of my imagination, first through reading and then through writing. Writing became how I made sense of my world.

Hemingway once told George Plimpton in an interview in The Paris Review, “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of.” Isn’t that lovely?

I write because I love putting words together to make something never seen before, never felt before I formed the image. I can create people who never existed, places and weather, sunsets and music, steaming buttermilk biscuits, anything I want! When I’m writing, I feel like I take part in something sacred, like I am part of a mystical experience and am a conduit for what I write rather than the creator. That may not make sense to some people, but it’s the best way to describe the creative act when the muse takes hold of me, when time passes unnoticed when I’m in the midst of the writing. I don’t know where inspiration comes from, but I know it doesn’t all come from me.

I found out after my grandmother died many years ago that she had harbored a desire to write and be published, but her dreams never came true. She wrote many poems, mostly about her children, and I treasure them. My son Erik is also an aspiring writer. He is so far ahead of where I was at his age that I am amazed. He has already written stories and served as an editor for his college’s literary magazine, and he has in the planning stage a science fiction novel I hope he brings into the world one day. I am so impressed by his drive and talent and know he will succeed beyond his wildest dreams if he chooses to pursue writing. I hope he doesn’t wait as I have to follow his dream but makes time for the muse in spite of life happening around him at lightning speed. Because that is what we all must do if we want this writing life.

These two people, my grandmother and my son, remind me that the great passions of our lives should drive our choices and guide us in what we do. It is never too late to choose to follow our passions where they lead. It’s never too late to fulfill a dream. My dream of completing a novel is realized, but I have many more books in my imagination waiting to be born. Do you have a dream nagging you, one that is waiting to be realized? Do you have the courage to follow your passion where it leads?