Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Digging in the (Blog) Archives

Since I've been writing this blog for well over five years now, it has become a nice archive of my life, writing and otherwise. And sometimes, when I'm struggling with a particular writing problem, I look back at my archives and discover that I have struggled with it before.

Case in point...

I just finished reading Kate Furnivall's The Jewel of St. Petersburg. It takes place in pre-Revolutionary Russia and is a wonderful, passionate story of pianist Valentina Ivanova and her lover, Jens, and the political turmoil that sweeps them into history. Furnivall is one of my favorite authors because her writing is absolutely gorgeous, and as I read her books, I feel that writer's envy taking shape because, simply put, I want to write like that.

But this begs the question: am I supposed to write like that?

And, of course, when I happened to be digging into my blog archives, I came across this post, and my question was answered:

"I think this goes along the lines of, "To thine own self be true." I have tried writing sweeping, grand, lofty sentences, but they all fall flat. I am not that kind of writer. I have to stay true to my writing self. This does not mean that I can't explore and branch out of my comfort zone and try new things. But if I discover that those methods do not work, I should not force them upon myself simply because I "think" I need to write that way."

Apparently I am one of those people that needs to be constantly reminded of certain things, this being one of them:

To thine own self be true.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Garden Goodness

When we moved to our house earlier this year, we were fortunate to become part of a close-knit neighborhood, and really fortunate that our next door neighbor wanted us to take charge of his garden. Since he is elderly and cannot put in the time and effort a garden requires, my husband was happy to take over.

Unfortunately, we've had to battle the critters. The squirrels and rabbits completely destroyed our sweet corn crop and our green beans. Hubby even tried a safe remedy to deter them - spinkling cayenne pepper around the plants. Didn't work. Next year we plan to install an electric fence or something similar to keep them out.

Fortunately, we've enjoyed a bumper crop of zucchini and tomatoes already. I created a yummy new dish with zucchini, chicken, and black beans that was quite good, and then on Saturday, my daughter and I made zucchini bread for the first time. I found a very healthy recipe with less sugar and whole wheat flower and it turned out wonderful!

We had two green peppers ready to pick and some yummy tomatoes, so I made my family's famous Italian salad: green peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers with oil and vinegar.

There is something incredibly satisfying about going to your own backyard and being able to use food that you've grown yourself. We are still waiting for our cucumbers, squash, cabbage, pumpkins, radishes, and carrots.

Now if I could just figure out how to grow chocolate...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I'm A Believer

A few months ago, I decided to take drastic measures where my health was concerned. Female issues have troubled me for the past 11 years, and I was seriously considering a hysterectomy.

As a last resort, I started acupuncture. And it's working!

If you want quick results, this is not for you. I've had at least five or six sessions to finally get my cycles "back on track." But I've cut the dosage of one of my medication in half and will soon be off it completely, and this was all accomplished by NOT giving me more drugs to put into my body.

It's early days yet, but I'm hopeful. 

In other news, my daughter is quite the writer. She has written over 53,000 words (yes, you read that right) on her novel. She is disciplined and tries to write every day, and I daresay that she's having the time of her life. She's not worried about writing for publishers or agents or critique partners - but just for herself and the story. We would do well to follow her example!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summertime Blues

It happens every year.

We get a monstrous heat wave that makes it incredibly hard to be outside. Right now, we're under an excessive heat warning and we have been for the past five days. The heat index can reach 115 degrees on these days. Add in eastern Nebraska's humidity and you have a recipe for disaster.

I don't enjoy the heat at all. I've blogged about this several times over the years, so this will come as no surprise to you. But what does bother me is how my mood shifts. I don't like to leave the house or office unless I absolutely must, and my night-time walks are suspended for the time being. Yesterday I felt just plain ol' depressed.

Hubby and I joke that we will not be able to find a place to retire because he likes heat and I like cold. He thrives in this type of heat while I shrink and retreat into my air-conditioned shell.

I keep thinking of those lovely, cool autumn days, where the leaves rustle under my feet and the breeze carries a hint of pumpkin pie and spice. Soon...

In the meantime, I've been editing. I reworked the beginning of my novel and I really, really like it. That's a good thing.

How's the weather where you are?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Clean Desk...

...is a sign that Melissa is ready to work!

I can only take clutter for so long. I can also only take loafing around for so long. Last night, I'd had enough of both (though to be fair, I have a good reason to loaf as my remaining ovary is giving me fits!) and I decided to sort, file, and clean.

A clean desk is also symbolic of how I've swept my mind clear of mental clutter surrounding the editing process. I feel ready to work now. It's only been two days, but I guess for me, that's long enough.

Can you work in constant clutter, or do you have a breaking point like me and need to de-clutter before a major project?

Monday, July 11, 2011

It Is Finished

The novel, that is.

This is my fourth completed novel.

Over the weekend, I wrote nearly 7,500 words, most of them yesterday. It was the ideal time to do it since we had temperatures in the triple digits. Because my office is on the second floor and gets nice and hot, I worked on my bed with my two kitties at my feet. Perfection.

To celebrate (because these things must be celebrated!), my daughter and I went and got ice cream from that handy Dairy Queen down the block and watched a World War II movie, Since You Went Away.

Most people advocate waiting a week or more before diving into the edits. But since I already had this novel pretty much finished before and had to go in and rework a bunch of stuff, I feel like I should keep pushing forward. I'm one of those writers that needs to stay in touch with the work, otherwise it takes me a very long time to get back to it. And I don't want that!

The best part? I get to edit and revise to my heart's content.

I can't wait.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

On the Verge

There are times when I'm writing and I sink into this deep place where, if I push just a little harder, my creativity will explode onto the page, filling those ordinary words with something extraordinary.

I feel on the verge of something truly remarkable.

Yet those times are fleeting and few in between. But it makes me realize something rather powerful: I do have the capacity, intelligence, and yes, talent, to go deeper into the written word, to transcend the average and go above and beyond average. In other words, I am getting closer to reaching my potential.

This is an exhilarating feeling. It's an area of growth, a new level to climb and conquer, if I can only breach that wall. Sometimes I peek over the top and can see the lush fields on the other side full of brilliant prose. But more often than not, I've got my back against the heavy brick wall and no matter how much I push, it's not going to move.

I'd like to one day stand on this wall, victorious, as I let the power of my creativity breakthrough and flow nonstop into my writing. How to do that, though, is another matter.

I do believe I shall ask God to untie that mental knot of mine and unleash an eternal well-spring of creative goodness. But I also recognize that I must put the work and dedication into the writing, as well, to further develop the gifts God has given me.

How have you seen your writing grow?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What Are You Reading? Summer Edition

I'm just plain worn out after my crazy 4th of July weekend. We went home to western Nebraska and it's a 5-6 hour drive. With all three kids along, we were pretty cramped, so it wasn't exactly a comfortable road trip.

But we had a fabulous time with family and friends (well, except for my daughter getting sick on Saturday!).

So I'm recuperating (though after eating a bunch of not-good-for-me fare, I'm off to exercise over my lunch hour!), and thought it would be the perfect time to ask all of you what you're reading.

My list:

The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall, a historical novel set in the years right before the Russian Revolution.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson. Fascinating look at the American ambassador's experience in pre-war Germany.

Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo. This family is from Nebraska, and it's a wonderful read.

You?

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance! www.melissamarsh.net