Wednesday, August 31, 2016
In the history of my writing life, starting when I was a child and continuing until I was 42 years old, I started hundreds of projects and never finished a one. I'd write until I hit something that stopped me (either within the story, or in my life)…then I'd stop. When I came back, I always started something new.
That's fine, if you want to write just for the enjoyment of writing. But I wanted to *be* a writer, with books for sale in bookstores. Maybe even make my living at it someday. You can't do that on unfinished work.
People are motivated by different things. I honestly didn't expect the Magic Spreadsheet to be as effective for me as it has been. After all, I've tried point systems and gamifications of various sorts for other aspects of my life (exercise, chores, etc.) and it only works for a little while. They usually feel artificial and constricting to me--but this one was different.
I don't really care about my number of points or my rankings against other writers that much (Okay, maybe I do check to make sure that I'm ahead of Chad in points, since he'll always be ahead of me on number of days).
But I have a chain--a chain of 1,066 days as I write this. And it's maintaining that chain that has me writing every day, even when life is busy and even when I feel terrible, even when the children are sick and the Internet is down, even when I'm on vacation or have to do my writing on the mom couch at lessons. The longer the chain of days written in a row grows, the less likely it becomes that I will break it. I'll cut myself the slack to make a weaker link on some days (only writing 250 words, the minimum), but mostly I write somewhere between 800 and 4,000 words a day now, and that adds up fast.
Now, that explains why I write every day, but not why it helped me finish things. That, I think is physics: momentum in particular. Momentum fed by sheer stubbornness.
If I'm not allowed to drop a project (because that would break the chain!), then I have to find a way to move forward in it, thinking my way out of corners I'd trapped myself in, digging my way out of holes I'd fallen into. I have to find a way or I'll break the chain, you see.
So, how about you? What works for you to keep moving forward when you hit blocks in your endeavors? Does tracking help? Or does it make you feel trapped? Would love to hear your stories in the comments.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
On Monday, the kids are back.
Something I'm trying this year is getting up earlier and giving myself a positive, well-paced morning to lead into the hectic melee we call the school day. This is challenging. Even after twenty years of teaching, I am not a morning person. The husband and I are trying morning yoga practice and I am trying breakfast.
I'm not a breakfast eater, generally, though I know that it is generally considered a good thing to do for your health and wellbeing. Food is unappealing to me first thing when I wake. And traditional breakfast foods (cereal, milk, yogurt, toast, eggs, etc.) are even less so. It's a little better if I don't eat breakfast foods. Leftover supper warmed up is something I'm trying. Protein heavy. I'm giving it a go, but I'm not a fan.
I am a fan of the hot drink varieties of caffeine though: coffee and tea. Especially tea. And I know that the experience is enhanced when you have the right mug to drink it out of. So, I'm mug shopping--in my own cabinets because I'm a teacher in North Carolina (that means I'm chronically broke because they pay peanuts here).
There are a few different things that make a mug perfect.
First, there's the weight. The mug should have some heft, so that you don't tip it over by just because you flicked your hand awkwardly reaching for the blueberries. But it can't be too heavy, where you end up settling it too heavily on the table and sloshing the liquid heaven onto your hand and tablecloth. Tea is much better INSIDE mama than OUTSIDE.
Feel in the hand is also important. I have arthritis, so my hands are often stiff and sore in the morning. I like a taller mug with enough surface area to wrap my fingers around and warm the swollen joints. I like a nice retention of heat that comes with thicker sides. Again, not the thin and delicate sort for me. They're pretty, but I don't like to hold them. I always feel like I will break them with my clumsiness (and often have done exactly that).
And lastly, there's the art. Whether it's caffeine humor, a picture of your kids, or just a nice pattern you like, the mug should lift your spirits when you look at it.
So, I found my perfect one. It's my Elmo's mug. It's a traditional diner mug, hefty but not heavy in my hands, large enough to warm my hands and shaped to keep my drink warm, too. It has that curve in the side that keeps my drink pouring in the right direction. And Elmo's is special. It's the first place my now-husband and I had breakfast together. It's the one restaurant choice guaranteed to please all four Bryants. Seeing the mug lifts my heart thinking about Sweetman's face smiling in the lovely morning sunlight through their long windows or my youngest giving me a chocolate chip pancake grin, or my eldest stealing my warm cinnamon apples and giving me a teasing look that says, "What? I'm completely innocent here."
In short, it makes me feel love and loved, and that, my friends, is the right thing to drink from in the morning.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
It's my pleasure to hand over my blog today to C. Hope Clark. Mystery readers know her for her Edisto Island Mysteries; writers of all genres know her for her Funds for Writers newsletter. I invited Hope to talk to us about balancing a writing life with the rest of life now that she's where some of us still aspire to be: working full-time as a writer.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
I watched all of Stranger Things, two seasons of Penny Dreadful, most of season 6 of The Walking Dead, and half of a season of Jane the Virgin so far this summer. I've also watched a few episodes of The Flash (I'm still in season 1 because the husband and I are trying to watch it together--and he's not got the summer off).
I really want to love The Flash. It's my kind of show. There's so much that is right about it.
What I love about the character in this iteration is that, in spite of tragedy and bad luck in his past, he still has heart. He hasn't become bitter or vengeful. Even as he struggles to deal with the mystery of what happened to his mother, he doesn't turn a Batman sort of dark.
I also love Joe West (played by Jesse L. Martin). He's a rare creation in television history: a good father. There's no sign of Mrs. West so far in the story, so he appears to have been doing this alone, at least for a while, and raising an extra foster son with love as well as his own biological daughter. So, a good, black, single dad. Are there any more of those anywhere on television? Even rarer, he seems to have a clue when it comes to parenting adult children.
Harrison Wells (played by Tom Cavanagh) is a complex villain and I love how his contradictory motivations are coming into play. The man who does good things, but has a dark over-riding purpose--and this particular episode (season 1, episode 17) furthers that story and gives us an explanation we've long been lacking, while still leaving mystery.
Cisco (Carolos Valdes) has way more personality than the science guy is usually allowed. And he's a male character allowed to be emotional!
I wish I could love the other characters as much. But the women in this show. Gah! Have these writers ever met a real woman?
Caitlin Snow, science girl (played by Danielle Panabaker) isn't outright offensive, but she's also not very interesting. When it's time for the science support team to act, it's always Cisco's skills that save the day. She's supposed to be a brilliant scientist in her own right, but we never get to see her be one. She's just monitoring and communicating, supporting, but not actively problem solving. She might as well be the secretary in a 1950s show. The best she gets is a little heart to heart talk with Barry from time to time. Even when we brought her long lost back-from-the-dead beau in, they still only gave her an emotional range of "bravely not crying" to "crying."
And Iris. Good G-d, I can't stand Iris West (played by Candice Patton). The writers have done women the world over a disservice in making the object of Barry's affection a selfish woman who toys with the emotions of others. I think I'd like her better if she was aware of her manipulations and doing it on purpose, but no, they don't even give her that. She's not manipulative because she enjoys it or as some kind of power play. It's supposed to be unconscious.
She's so blind to the inner workings of her own heart, that she seems TSTL (too stupid to live). She reminds me a lot of Bella from the shiny vampire series…and I hated her, too. Good people just don't string other people along like that--they confront the feelings or they cut off contact. If I were writing this show, Barry would realize that any number of women would be better for him than Iris and move past his little boy crush for good.
And the way the men in the show (Dad, Barry, and Boyfriend) condescend to her by lying to her and misleading her under the guise of protecting her because they love her…what year is this again? They might as well pat her on the butt and tell her her not to worry her pretty little head about man stuff.
The portrayal of women isn't the only flaw in the show, unfortunately. There are also huge plot holes, all the time. Like, if the Flash just "flashed" he could win the day, but for some reason, he just…doesn't. As a superhero writer myself, I recognize that it must be difficult to write good challenges for a speedster character, but there have been many cases where it felt like the writers phoned in the plot when they were on a bender on a fraternity reunion weekend, ignoring completely obvious solutions to the problem and hoping you wouldn't notice through the haze of relationship drama.
That's why I was so thrilled with Season 1, Episode 17: Tricksters. For once, it felt all right. It was so good! In a show that's all about the breaking of the fourth wall and meta-moment Easter eggs, this episode was amazeballs.
So, first off, we've got Barry's dad, Henry, played by John Wesley Shipp who played the Flash in the 1990s series. He's been there the whole series, but he gets more screen time in this episode to enjoy that meta-goodness. Then, we've got special guest Mark Hamill as The Trickster. Mark Hamill played the Trickster in the 1990s show, too. They even work in footage from that 1990s performance in some stills and showing his costume.
And the very very very best part?
Mark Hamill, in his best villainous whisper, honed from years of voice work in superhero cartoons, references his Star Wars history at the same time by announcing, "I am your father!" I thought my geek heart would burst with joy!
If only all the episodes could be this good! So much potential…so not fully realized.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
I had a strange experience this month. I got published and didn't know it had happened. I only found out the book was out three weeks after its release, and even then, it was kind of by accident.
The publication was a short story in an anthology. I love anthologies, both as a reader and a writer. They are like sampler platters and gateway drugs into other books and authors. You can try a lot of different things for a low investment of time and money, since the pieces are shorter. I've discovered more than one writer I love to read this way.
So, I thought it might be fun to share my adventures in anthologies so far. It's an uncertain process that can definitely bring out all your insecurities.
Now I'm working on a novella for an invitation call. These are pretty awesome because there's little doubt that my work will be accepted and published. After all, the publisher/organizer contacted me and asked me to contribute something. They must already like my work. My first one of these was put out by the same publisher who does my novels. Curiosity Quills put out Indomitable Ten to showcase all the superhero and super-villain writers in their stable and give us a chance to get some cross promotion by attracting each other's audiences. The one I'm working on now is for a charity anthology and I've got one more on my writing schedule for August.