Saturday, December 31, 2011

Revolations and Resolutions

As 2011 comes to a close, I can't help but look back at this year with a mix of frustration and pride. 

On the more frustrating end, I was unable to follow through with the writing game plan I had set for myself and I barely made it past the 10,000 word mark in NaNoWriMo this year.  I was so busy with my life outside of my creative pursuits that my writing suffered.  I went through a creatively-depressed period that was so bad, I couldn't bare to even look at a copy of Writer's Digest for fear it would send me into a pit of self-hating guilt.

Okay, I'm being mellow dramatic, but I really couldn't read anything about the creative process without feeling poorly about myself.

But I'm happy and proud to report that I'm on a an up swing right now.  I've been reevaluating my interests and have found that while writing stories isn't my primary driver in life - as I've always secretly wished it would be- it is something I still feel the need to do.  I would be lost without my journal to pour myself into and board if I no longer told myself stories.  What I'm working out now is what I want to write and share with others.

I think my primary misstep in 2011 -perhaps my greatest misstep about writing in general - was not sharing my work.  By always being convinced that what I had was too rough or not of interest to others stunted whatever growth or motivation I could have gotten had I been more open about my work.  I'm lucky enough to be a part of a great writing group, but have barely been a participant for the last year.  That saddens me and I want it to change in 2012.

While I have many half written stories I could work on, what I'm most interest in pursuing at the moment is writing a personal essay about my experience with food.  I love reading food writing, so I'm excited to try my hand at it.  Admittedly, I'm not quite sure how to go about food writing or about personal essays, but I plan on just going for it!

2012 is a blank page that I'm looking forward to filling.  There will be many challenges - I plan to start culinary school possibly as soon as March while still working a full time job - but I feel more confidant than ever that I will find the time and discipline to accomplish what I want in 2012.

Let's toast to the end of good ol' 2011 and raise our glasses to 2012!  Cheers to you all and thanks for reading!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Writer's Game

When I decided to start writing "more seriously" (i.e. actually write on a regular basis rather than sporadically) after graduating from college, I knew plotting would be involved.  From my limited writing experience, I understood that I would have to plot my way from a happy point A to a shocking point B.  What I didn't realize at the time was that I would need to plot my own life too.

I’ll spare you the messy details, but it occurred to me recently that if I don’t make some changes to how I approach my writing, I’m never going to get the crappy first draft (and I say that with great affection) done.  My writing has been like the caucus race in Alice in Wonderland.  You don’t know whether or not you’ve won, let alone reached you’re desired destination.  So you keep running until you tire yourself out and drop the project for not better reason than you don’t want to race about with it anymore.  And that thought scares me.  How can I become a better writer if I can’t even follow through with my stories?

Since figuring out that writing without concrete goals is the best way to guarantee that I wouldn’t be motivated to write, I happened to read Michelle Ward's recent guest post on Writer Unboxed.  She wrote about working through obstacles by taking one step at a time and one of sections stood out to me: “…You might be overwhelmed with the scope of an idea.”

*raises hand* yep, that’s me.  I’m ¾ of the way through and that’s still me.

In the body of the text was this handy-dandy link that went to her site and something Ward called the Goal Game.  Figuring I had nothing to lose, I figured I’d play a round and see how it went.
It ended up looking like this:

Not bad, right?  Okay, it’s a bit messy, but it’s a great start.  Because of all the long division scribbles, I figured out that if I write 2000 words a week (that’s only 285 words each day!), in seven weeks or so I should have 14000 more words, in which I hope to finish the first draft of my novel and can move onto revisions.  I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty big.  No, HUGE!  If I can win this game, it’ll be my first ever completed novel draft.

And if for some reason I shouldn’t finish in this time period, hey, I’ll be that much closer to finishing.  Either way, as long as I play the game, I’ll win.

So, dear reader, are you game?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wet Paint

After two tumoltuous years of semi-blogging, I decided in a few whimful seconds that Informally Yours needed a newer, brighter look.  While I'll miss the simplicity of the classic blogger template, the soft yellows and greens in this template make me feel calm and happy. I even chose a background that reminded me of vintage wallpaper to make this small bit of space feel more like a home.  But I guess that's what a blog is to all who chose to write in the public space of the internet.  It's a home and the readers are the party guests.

On that note, welcome to my home and I hope you enjoy your visit!  I've set out a big, linen covered table with glasses of sparkling juice (or something stronger if you prefer) for you to drink.  Let me know if you brought something for everyone to nibble on, whether it be an hors d'oeuvre of a juicy bit of writing news!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why Writing Groups Are Like High Pressure Systems

Today I would like to tell you all that I am grateful for my writing group.  I know that I've expressed  frustrations about being in this group and not always feeling it fit my needs, but today they were a bigger help than maybe they even realize.

For the past two months I've been trying to work on finishing up my winning NaNoWriMo story.  While big changes at work didn't help me have time to write, I struggled with more than just the time crunch: I had hit a wall.  It wasn't just the plot or characters, but suddenly anything I wrote sounded flat and left a stale, cardboard taste in my mouth.  I was at a transitional, potentially pivotal, part of the story line and I couldn't get past it.  

It was the perfect hurricane of doubt: insecurity and perfectionism spinning together with a few key, unanswered questions sitting idly in the eye of the storm right above my head.  I wanted to swim away and break free, but the storm was so daunting that I didn't even know which way to go.  So I gave in and floated there, stranded at sea.

Today was my first opportunity to attend writing group since the new year (can I just say again that my work schedule in Jan and Feb was horrendous?) and I finally confronted my hurricane of doubt.  I started to explain my story to my group members and asked the questions that had been sitting in the eye of my own personal storm.

And you know what?  My group had insights that ultimately lead to answers.  It was as if they were a high pressure system moving in, lifting my spirits and sweeping my storm away.  For the first time in two months, I thought, "I can do this.  I can still write this story."

So the moral of today's story is don't be afraid to talk to other writer's about your frustrations.  Thinking I wouldn't find the help I needed held me back for months and while I'm not foolish enough to think moving onwards will be any less challenging, I certainly am more clear headed and optimistic about it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Writer Seeking Writers

I don't know about you, but January was a blur of noise and emotion for me, some good and some bad.  It moved so fast that I had a hard time keeping up with my life and any sort of writing. 

February isn't looking to be any easier.  I see a mountainous terrain in my near future, where the obstacles of my work life are steep slopes slicked with ice.  However, this month I have pens in my hands and a net book strapped to my back.  I'm ready to climb this mountain one journal entry and short writing assignment at a time.  Maybe I'll get out of it more sane than I've left January.

And I might not be traveling alone.  Though I'm already a member of a critique writing group, I've been struggling for the past few months to produce anything at a stage where it needs critique.  If anything, I've been producing fragmented pieces that I haven't felt worth their time and effort to review (and maybe this has been my own fault and downfall).  And let me tell you, there is little as unsatisfactory as being in a group and being the only one a) not turning anything in or b) not feeling motivated to turn anything in.  That said, one of my major goals for this year is to find another writing group of some shape or form to support my writing.

Maybe that's what I've missed most from my current group: support.  While the other members (two wonderfully funny and smart women) are great to work with, I don't feel like I'm being encouraged to produce anything new, nor are they asking me to motivate them.  They are luckily motivated on their own.  So, I'm working on expanding my writing social circle to find others who, like myself, need and give moral support and encouragement.

I've joined a few groups since January.  The first was a motely crew of writers who I found through, gathering together for the purpose of having shared writing time each week.  While the location and purpose of the group were well within my needs and wants, I felt very little connection with the writers who showed up.  My schedule has yet to allow me to go back, but maybe that's just fate telling me something.

The other group I've found seems more promising.  The Reader-Writer Roundtable is for writers who read, or readers who write.  What's more prefect than that?  The first meeting was a mere one hour, but I greatly enjoyed the company I was in.  The women were opinionated, but not fanatically so, and we all shared a love for the printed word.  E-readers, "the classics", and the merit of graphic novels (of which I'm a fan) were up for discussion.  Needless to say, I'll be going back and have optimism for this group's future.

I guess that's a good way to summarize my feelings towards February after a tumultuous January.  I'm optimistic as a writer seeking other writers to join her in her climb over this winter's obstacles.