(And if you would be so kind, please take the poll in the left-handed column).
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
(And if you would be so kind, please take the poll in the left-handed column).
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
But I can't stay silent on this subject.
If you have kids, especially little girls, I'm sure you've heard of the Bratz dolls. I've never liked them for a few reasons, but the main one is that they look like little prostitutes. I'm not being harsh, really I'm not. But dolls wearing belly-showing shirts, short-shorts, mini-skirts, high-heeled platform shoes, and tons of make-up, is just a bit much for a girl aged 4-10 or so to be playing with. My daughter was given a Bratz doll for Christmas at one point - I vowed never to buy her one. But since she's not into dolls (she is a huge Scooby Doo fan) I didn't worry too much about it.
I'm thanking God right now that she could care less about dolls, especially the Bratz ones, after reading this article. If the American Psychological Association is issuing warnings about these dolls, we better sit up and take notice. Our current society teaches our children - especially young girls - that their bodies are the most important thing about them. I'm not being a prude - but come on. Some of the girls clothes in stores today I would never let my daughter wear. In fact, that's another blessing I have to count - she doesn't like skirts. She's a jeans and t-shirt gal. At this particular time in our culture, I think I'm glad she doesn't want to get all dolled up with the make-up and hairspray, etc.
Being a woman is a wonderful thing. But where has our femininity gone? Even I have fallen victim to the mentality that I have to show a bit of skin to get some respect. That is so darn backwards, isn't it? What about modesty? Now if you wear a long skirt, you're looked at as being a prude. Less is more in the world of fashion. But we're adults. We can make our own decisions on what we want to wear. That's our prerogative.
But here is the kicker. Our children are now the targets. The Bratz dolls are not your average Barbie dolls - Barbie was tame compared to the Bratz! The name alone is insulting. Yet someone is marketing these dolls to children. Hollywood is going to make a movie about them. And their "fashion" is creeping into the girls' clothing departments in every major store. Short mini-skirts. Flimsy, too-tight tops. Shirts that say, "I'm spoiled" and other sayings that really only degrade instead of flatter.
Let's not even get into what this is doing to the little boys of our society. That's a whole 'nother rant. I have a teenager, and let me tell you - the costume I saw his girlfriend wearing to the Halloween party made me eyes pop - and not in a good way. Yet he said it was "hot."
There's something wrong in our culture if our little girls, who should be enjoying their childhood, are worried about how they look. As the mother of a little girl, I refuse to succumb to society's pressure. I have every intention of raising my daughter to be a woman with high self-esteem based on who she is, not what she looks like.
Monday, October 29, 2007
She gave a one-day workshop at the Nebraska Romance Writer's 5th Annual Conference and although I no longer belong to NRW or RWA, and even though I have been experiencing writer-burn-out, I still went. I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to go, but I'm so glad I did. Not only did I glean some great writing advice and wisdom, but I also feel energized. Two of my friends and I are forming a critique group and we've already set a deadline for ourselves to get started. This has given me focus, and I'm suddenly rarin' to go.
There's just something about being with other writers - face to face - that is, well, essential. I haven't had that lately, and I miss it. Internet communication can only take you so far.
Here's a few tidbits of advice from Stephanie:
--Stephanie always writes a synopsis before she starts the book. Always. Does she sometimes deviate from it? Yes. But what's important is that she has a roadmap of her book. And here is the second important thing she does - she gives that synopsis to her critique partner. That way if there are any holes in the story, her critique partner can point them out before Stephanie even starts writing. This is exactly what my friends and I are going to do - we each have to have a synopsis of our story to each other in two weeks. Here's the crucial part - do not discuss the book with your critique partners before you send them the synopsis. That way they act just like an editor - they know nothing about your book and cannot fill in the holes of the story with the information you've already given them.
--Your story begins on the day your character changes. Simple enough. But this will help you get rid of all that gunky backstory.
--Use definitive sentences in your novel. What are definitive sentences? Think of the most often-quoted movie lines. For example, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship." or "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Those lines are memorable and can reflect a turning point for your character, and can set apart the beginning of your book, a chapter, or even a paragraph. Make a conscious effort to include these types of sentences.
--If you're writing a tragic story or it doesn't end in a "happily-ever-after", then above all, do one thing: Leave the reader with hope.
And on the business side of things, if you're struggling to find time to write, remember this: We take as much time as we give ourselves. You're the CEO of your own business - your writing business. Write a business plan to help you keep on track and know where you're going.
Friday, October 26, 2007
When I hit 6th grade and started to really focus on my writing, I didn't leave my crafting love behind and continued to do just as much as before. But during college, marriage, and a career, I abandoned it. I got into rubber stamping for awhile after I got married, but I haven't done much of anything with it for a long, long time.
The other day, my daughter and I went to Hobby Lobby again where they had pre-made wooden Christmas decorations on sale. So I selected a few a few, bought some acrylic paint and brushes, and headed home. Wednesday night I decided to not worry about the writing or the housework, and I just sat down to paint.
It was so much fun. I didn't have to worry about a character's motivation or if this particular plot point made sense, I just painted. All I had to worry about was what color I wanted to paint my snowman's scarf!
This led me to wonder at why I chose to pursue writing above my other creative endeavors. Why didn't I pursue art instead? I loved to draw in elementary and high school, but I haven't picked up a pencil to sketch in years. Drawing wasn't the easiest for me, but when I look back, I think it was a lot easier than trying to write a novel.
I guess there's only one answer for this - I had the passion for writing. Sure, I loved to draw and paint and hot glue, but it wasn't a consuming need. I did it because it was fun to do and I enjoyed it. It was a hobby, not a passion.
Writing is my passion. But I've also recognized that I need to take time to just sit and paint and let my mind be creative without being mentally exhausted afterwards. That is what triggered my burn-out. I was focusing on the work and not the fun. And let's not kid ourselves - writing is a lot of work. But it's also a lot of fun. When you lose the fun part, well, it's just a miserable existence.
What about you? Do you do any other creative activities besides write?
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
It's finally time to admit it.
I'm burned out.
I sit down in front of the computer and open up my novel, then I slave over each and every word. It's not fun.
I'm not excited to write right now. When I'm at the day job or in the midst of a particularly bad day, I don't stop and think of my novel and feel a rush of relief because I always have my writing (I used to feel this way all the time, especially when life was tough). Lately, it's more of a yoke around my neck than anything. I've started second-guessing everything that I write. Everything. A little gremlin has popped into my head and said, "You can't write anymore. You lost your talent. It's gone. And it's not coming back. So there!"
I know I shouldn't believe him. But right now, that psychological block is there.
Barbara Bretton wrote a great article on writer burn out. After I read it, I felt better. Yes, it does happen, even to multi-published authors. The creative well runs dry.
I've suspected something was off-kilter for awhile now. My entire mood has been up and down. There are times of the day when I feel really good - and then an hour later, I'll be depressed again.
Maybe it's all just the residual effects of the summer medical disaster with my husband. Maybe I'm still adjusting to the new job. Maybe I am just going through a particularly down period.
Whatever the reason is, it's scaring the crap out of me. I don't like feeling this way. I don't like thinking about my writing and not feeling that burst of happiness. I don't like going through life feeling, well, rather numb.
I don't know what's going on, but I'm trying to take some action. I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday because I felt the need to be creative in something other than writing. I wanted to paint, to draw, do something different. But by the time I got there, that same lackluster feeling overcame me and nothing caught my eye. I decided to make my own charm bracelet, which consisted of picking out charms that represented who I am and then attaching them to the already-made bracelet. That took all of ten minutes to make. I love how it turned out, but it didn't ease the ache in my soul.
I haven't been exercising as much, although I do take a break every afternoon and go and walk. My eating habits are getting better. And this is my favorite time of year! I love fall. I love the leaves changing color. I love the cool breezes. I love preparing for the holidays.
I've also been reading a lot, watching movies, hanging out with my daughter (we colored pictures last night and watched a movie), and spending quality time with my husband.
In a way, I'm grieving for my writing. I want it back. I want to feel that spark again. But it's been doused.
Will it come back? I'm sure of it. But at this point, I'm not going to rush things.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Here's what I mean.
I've immersed myself in craft for the past two months. I've studied books, worked on my outline, and prepared myself to write. Now that I'm actually in the writing stage, I'm having a hard time shutting off that internal editor.
Is this the first time this has happened? Absolutely not. Will it be the last? Nope.
Our writing personas are constantly in flux. One day we'll have no problem zipping through our daily word count or coming up with an awesome turn of phrase. The next we'll have a gremlin jumping up and down on our fingers, making us produce absolute rubbish or criticizing every single thing we write.
It's a cycle, isn't it? Every day is different.
But that's what makes the whole writing journey worth it.
Agree or disagree?
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Hubby's whole medical experience over the summer severely derailed my weight loss and workout plan.
Well, now that he's back to work, (albeit with a huge scar on his upper arm) and we've recovered from the whole experience (although not financially), I need to get back on my plan.
To that end, I've resurrected my weight loss blog.
This may not be the best time of the year to get focused on my weight loss with the holidays coming up, but in my experience in the past (I lost 38 pounds in the past year and a half), I know that it doesn't matter what day you start - putting it off only makes the whole thing worse.
I have to get back in that mindset. I was a lot happier in that mindset, let me tell you!
Another powerful motivator, besides my health (I still need to watch my diabetes, even though my levels were great last time I went in for a checkup), is my clothes. They're starting to not fit so well again. I refuse to go back to those old clothes.
Here's to getting back on the wagon and staying on it this time!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I'm deep in research mode right now and finding lots of cool info. Little did I know that the region of Piemonte, Italy, (where my great-grandparents are from and where my next novel is set) is the birthplace of Nutella. The region also supplies the yummy hazelnuts used in this divine spread. And little did I know how great Nutella tastes!
My local Walgreens on the corner had a jar of this yummy, creamy stuff, so I decided to try it. Oh. My. Goodness. Wunderbar, though I will have to watch my intake so I don't gain any more weight!
I love all the little facts and hidden treasures I'm finding about the region where my great-grandparents used to live. So much fun!
Hmm...I think my main character might just have a thing for Nutella...
Monday, October 08, 2007
I devoured the book in 24 hours - something I rarely do (of course, I was also sick and didn't feel like doing much else!). But when I got to the last two chapters, the author had her character make a decision that I neither agreed with nor thought plausible. I felt cheated. Because I cared about the author's characters, I decided to come up with my own ending, one which satisfied me much more.
When I went to look at the reviews, I found that I was not the only person who disagreed with the ending.
Now I know that book reviews are subjective - some people will hate a book that others love. But when the same thing is cited in the majority of reviews as being the kicker as to why the book didn't receive the best rating, you've got to take a look at it. For me, the author's decision to end the book this way effectively "broke" the promise that she'd made with me when I started the book.
Some reviewers stated that they'd loved this author's books - all of them - but this one. And that got me to thinking about several things not only about writing, but about the publishing industry in general.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
1) The pressure.
I can't imagine the pressure that NY Times bestselling novelists have to produce great books one right after the other. Does there come a point where they just type the ending, throw up their hands, and say, "Good enough!" ?
I'm talking about the push for authors to produce a book a year or sometimes even more. I remember reading an author's first book - it was extremely well-written, emotionally-intense, and remains one of my favorite books. But her second and third books, well, fell flat. I wonder if it's because she spent all that time on her first book, honing and polishing it until it gleamed, because she had time to do all those things. In the rush-rush world of publishing, I'm thinking authors don't have nearly the luxury of all that time. Pubbed authors, if I'm wrong, let me know!
We all get it. But when you have a deadline and a contract to fulfill, it doesn't much matter, does it? You've got to get the book written and submitted. Does this lead to a less-than-enthusiastic effort on the author's part? And is there a way to avoid burnout as a successful, published author?
Lots and lots of stuff to think about. It only reinforces the notion in my mind that becoming a published novelist will be wonderful, BUT it will have its own stresses to deal with.
In the end, it's the writing that matters. Here's the thing, though. Does the writing get pushed to the side because of one of the three reasons above, or a combination?
Curious to hear what you all think...
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Sure enough, Friday morning I felt worse and decided to take the day off. Not happy about that, but then I realized that if I was to get better, no sense in going to work and allowing my body to get sicker than it already was. I slept until after lunch and hubby was fantastic in bringing me something to eat, plus two great movies - North by Northwest with Cary Grant and a new one with Nicolas Cage called Next. Excellent flicks, both of them. Also have been doing a lot of reading - I finished John Grisham's new book, Playing for Pizza last night (loved it) and finished Elmore Leonard's newest Up In Honey's Room (meh...) the other night. I'm now reading Elizabeth Berg's Dream When You're Feeling Blue.
I just came down with a cold a few weeks ago and my conclusion is that my body is crashing. When I went through everything with hubby, my adrenaline was going all that time and I think that now things are back to normal (hubby starts a job on Monday!!!), I'm bottoming out.
I am of the mindset that I can snap back from things (life-altering things) quite easily. In other words, the week's vacation I had should have been enough to get me "centered" again. Unfortunately, I don't think this is the case at all. I've changed jobs, had financial problems to deal with, finished a novel, and dealt with hubby's health issues. I think I stayed pretty strong through the whole ordeal, but now...now I just want to lay in bed, read a book, watch a movie, and eat bad things for me. The adrenaline has worn off, the "tough girl" attitude has crept off to the shadows, and I'm left with the fall-out.
Never despair, though! This, too, shall pass, and I know I'll get my act together again - eating right, exercising (although I must admit, I have been doing an awful lot of walking lately), and working on my writing.
But tonight I'm going to lay on the couch, crack open my book, and maybe sneak in a bit of chocolate...
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Now I think my brain is rebelling.
I've been working on my plot for the next novel and while I pretty much have it figured out, there's still some research I need to do before I start writing. But lately, I've been just going home, vegging on the couch, and reading. Granted, I'm reading books set in Italy to give me a better feel for things, but I still feel like I should be doing more.
In short, I don't feel too focused right now. I tend to think that this is a result of being so mentally focused on so many things for so long. Now that things are pretty much back to normal, I think my brain is down-shifting and being lazy.
Of course, I'm my own worst critic. It's not like I've been completely ignoring everything. I research on a daily basis. Of course, I haven't been writing. Maybe that's why I feel a bit of guilt.
I can't write right now because I'm not ready - I still have some critical research to do.
What about you? Do you feel guilty when you're not doing what you think you should be in regards to your writing?
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007
There's a few reasons. One, I don't want to do every other idea that's out there. I want to be original. And in so doing, I can't use the first thing that pops into my mind. The problem is, by blocking those thoughts, I'm also blocking the entire creative process. I'm not allowing my brain to cast aside the junk to get to the gold.
The two sides of my brain are at war - the analytical side and the creative side. This makes for some darn frustrating moments where I just want to abandon the entire idea and move on to something else. I'm just thinkking too darn much.
There's a book called Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath, a new and upgraded edition of the online test from Gallup's Now, Discover Your Strengths. This book helps you discover your strengths. After taking an extensive online questionnaire, my results came back and honestly, I wasn't too surprised by them. Number one on my list? Intellection. And the definition boils down to, "You like to think."
But there's a danger in thinking too much - on everything. My brain needs a break sometimes!
Last night, before I went to sleep, I started to look through my novel notes with nothing more in mind than to see what I'd already come up with. Before I knew it, ideas began to spark and suddenly, everything fell into place. I tried not to scrutinize those ideas, but to just let them come. When I was finished writing everything down, I knew I'd made it to the top of my mental mountain.
I went to bed with peace in my heart. And now, I can't wait to get started writing!
I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance! www.melissamarsh.net
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