Writing Practice

Before this past summer, I never really thought of writing as something to be practiced. To be honest, I’ve never been too good with the idea of “practice,” anyway. It always felt unproductive. I practiced my trumpet in school mainly because we had to log how many hours of practice we did at home and get graded on it, and I was too strict with myself to lie about the time spent practicing.

I’m pretty sure the only reason I learned to type properly was due to my awesome keyboarding teacher Mrs. Smith, who made a song and dance to the sound of our practice typing.

FJF (space) FJF (space) *Mrs. Smith does a little dance*

Usually, though, I’m too interested in the finished product.  I guess I thought that all writing needed to be awesome in order to be valuable. I didn’t think that I could just write nonsense in a spiral notebook and practice my craft so that my writing is better when it comes to creating that final product.

I knew that writers write and that if I wanted to be a writer I should write more. But I thought that meant, “write more good, finished products.” Now, I know better. I’ve been reading library books and trying to take in all the advice about writing practice. Two of my favorites so far have been Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and Finding Your Writer’s Voice by Thaisa Frank & Dorothy Wall.

Tips for practicing writing:

  • Use pen and paper. At least try it. It feels totally different from typing, and the words seem to flow more naturally.
  • Write regularly. Be as regular as you can, and write SOMETHING. Anything.
  • Write in different circumstances. When you’re alert or tired, when you’re alone or in company, when you’re stressed and calm, when you’re inside or outside, with a cat on your lap, in poor lighting, with a brownie on the table, with tea steeping on the counter, with distractions and without. Change it up. Try everything.
  • Don’t read back over your writing practice right away.
  • Find things to write about. Make notes (in your journal, on your phone, through email, whatever), and take inspiration from life. Take notice if a neat phrase crosses  your mind out of nowhere. It won’t stick with you for long. Watch people. Look at things. Use these notes as prompts to begin your writing practice.

Writers must write

Writers do write and must write, and the truth is that practice is far from unproductive. In fact, whatever your craft is, you have to do it over and over and over again if you want to become great. Great cooks cook. Great painters paint. Great musicians music. (Yeah, I just said that. Deal with it.) Great writers write.

Practice: to perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.

Some bits and pieces from my notebook:

The hot-pink high-heel dangled from one finger. . .

At the first sound of raindrops, the cat dashed for cover under the couch. . .

The waves were huge. I had never seen them so big, so violent. So green. . .

I’m gripping his hand. Partly for the security, partly to ground me in reality. Partly because I can’t explain or express what I’m feeling, but I know it’s okay because he’s there. . .

Libraries are cool. All the books smell of books. . .

Green crunchy cabbage is good in ramen. . .

The fan of the AC whirrs and blows and motors on. . .

League of Legends: the game where you die. The game that kills you, enrages you, addicts you. . .

It’s Hard

Writing is hard. Writing has to be one of the hardest modes of creativity there is. Creating is hard work no matter what you’re making, but if you’re painting you can step back and see if it’s accurate or pleasing to the eye, and if you’re cooking you can taste to see if it’s edible or needs some more flavor. Writing is hard to gauge. How do you know if your writing is any good? I may read something with a few good sentences but is overall a terrible read. It could be boring, too fast, or not make sense, or it may have bad syntax and grammar. And you have to take the time to read things, and you have to have the knowledge to figure out why it’s bad. I just don’t know. It’s hard. Not the actual writing. I love to write. Sometimes I am lazy or have trouble with the ongoing commitment to write regularly, but the actual writing, the activity, is easy. I love to put pent to paper – or let my fingers fly across the keyboard as words appear. That’s not where it’s hard. It’s hard to . hard to . have confidence. I have, currently, 6 unpublished blog posts, and you know it’s not because I’m saving them up. I haven’t even posted to my blog in 8 days, when I planned to post 3 times a week. It’s because none of them are any good. Not in my eyes. They’re not worth reading. They’re embarrassing. They’re lame. They have no pictures. They don’t make sense. They aren’t worthy to be posted. Of course, the longer I go, the more pressure builds up, the less likely it seems to be that I’ll be satisfied with anything I write – even this. Blogging is hard. Writing for others is hard. Sometimes I don’t even know why I try to make this work. No involvement, a tiny readership, no idea what my audience wants to see or even why I have an audience at all. For some reason I still want to do it – or at least try to do it. So I can only just keep writing what I know and publishing what I have when I can. Even if it’s this crap.

August in the RV

At the first sign of raindrops on the roof, Tumbles dashes for the protection of the couch, hiding underneath until he falls asleep, not to be seen again for hours. Leela is sleeping, as well, sprawled on the floor in front of the couch. She would be closer to me and my desk if the rabbit’s carrier was not in the way.

Rain by *suika *

Photo: Rain by *suika *

Marty is away at school, learning to be a chef. I won’t have seen him at all yet, since he leaves before I wake up, usually. So it’s just me and the pets and the rain pounding on the roof and the wind that tries to grab our home by the awning and throw us around. I keep hoping that if we ever get a storm violent enough to succeed, I will at least have enough advance warning to put up the awning.

It will have been sunny all day until just a few minutes before those first rain drops. It’s Florida, so we get rain most days, but we also get plenty of sun in between. In fact, the rain will usually stop within the hour. Not so, this time. Just as I think it’s letting up, it starts to pour even harder, as if it intends to go all day. I have to turn on a light in the kitchen to make my mid-morning coffee. As I return to my desk with the steaming cup, I realize that I will probably have to run the main engine this afternoon.

A few hours into the rain, and Marty is finishing up school for the day. He won’t come straight home, though, because he’s working hard to find a job. I’m okay with that. I’m busy working through lunch. What I’m not okay with is the heat and moisture gathering inside the RV, and it doesn’t take me long to catch on to the fact that the AC fan is blowing warm air. We’ve lost power again.

Until we can get our power issues fixed, we’ve stumbled upon a temporary solution: running the engine. I pause my time-clock for work and take a few minutes to start the motor and stretch. Ten seconds later, the lights flicker and brighten. I walk back to the thermostat, turn it off and back on, and now cold air is blowing. It might be time for more coffee.

More Thoughts on Writing

I doubt my writing. I doubt not just the quality of writing, but my capability to write at all. And I do not just doubt it, but really.discredit it.

This morning, I notice my self-depreciation even more than I normally do because, yesterday, I was denied a certain writing job that I really wanted within a company for which I already work and with which I already have a good reputation. I didn’t even think I would get the job (because I think so lowly of myself) or that I stood a chance against the other competition, so when I received notice yesterday that they had passed on me in favor of someone “more seasoned,” I really just put it out of my mind. I pretty much said to myself, “See? I told you so. You’re not good enough, and this shouldn’t be a surprise at all.” I moved on to other things.

This morning, however, it was in my head. It was all I could think about when I first woke up, and it’s still in there, now. It’s actually quite disappointing, if not surprising. I hoped, in the back of my mind, for some validation from this. I’ve spent the last couple of years convincing myself that I have no talent for creative writing. That, I tell myself, is why I shouldn’t bother to write stories or novels any more. That, I tell myself, is why I struggle so much with my blog. Creating anything worth reading, I tell myself, is something I’m incapable of doing. However, interestingly enough, I’ve also spent the last couple years telling myself that, while I can’t create decent written works, I can actually edit other peoples’ creations, making them into things that are easier to read – that make more sense – that sound nicer. I can edit, I told myself, even if I can’t write.

This job came along, and it was a sort of editing job, and I thought, “Hey, that’s perfect for me!” Yet, even though I thought it was perfect, I knew I didn’t stand a chance. I hoped, wished, and dreamed that maybe, by some miracle, they would tell me I was good enough. They were blown away. I beat out the competition. I actually did have talent. I hoped while telling myself it wouldn’t happen, and it didn’t happen, and I told myself, “Well, duh!”

So I’ve been thinking about all these things this morning, and I’m mourning the lost opportunity for the “perfect” job. And you know what I’m thinking?

I’m thinking, “Enough is enough!”

Why am I so hard on myself? Why am I afraid to believe in myself? Why do I set myself up for failure? Why convince myself it’s not even worth trying?!

I love to write. I’ve been told, at least a couple different times, that I have some sort of talent for writing. And I am not going to take this rejection as an excuse to give up on myself! I am not going to take this as a sign that I’m as unworthy as I’ve been trying to convince myself I am. I am going to take this as a chance to start again. Write more. Take up story-telling again, and recommit to blogging. Why not? Even if I’m not good at it, practice can only help. It’s something I love and am passionate about, and I’m not going to give it up!

I’m going to stop beating myself up and telling myself I can’t write. I can write, and I will.

Welcome to 2011

First blog of the new year! I’ve been at this for several months, now, and despite what my recent lack of activity might suggest, I am still interested in keeping this blog going. I do, however, think that this is a good time to reassess some things.

It seems I need to recognize that I’m in a different place in life than I was last February.

I am, for one thing, no longer an Avon lady, per se. I can still order products, but I don’t have the website to allow customers to place orders online, and I don’t order and distribute brochures. What do I do, then, ask my friends and family. Do I go to school? Well, no. I’m not currently going to school, either.

I am an Army wife who is trying to survive her first deployment through the help of God, family, friends, and a regularly-scheduled counseling appointment. Since deployment began, if I’m really honest, I haven’t done much of anything. At all. After deciding to finally give up on Avon (I’m not a sales-person…), I intended to spend “work time” each day doing blogs and working on my novel. But the truth is that I don’t spend my days doing productive things like that. I don’t do the things that are high on my priority list, or the things that are the most fulfilling for me. I do the things that are the easiest, and the things that pass time quickly, the things that take my mind off of reality. And I regret it, and then the next day I do it again.

I’m an Army wife trying to survive her husband’s first deployment. I leave the house a few times a week: to go to counseling, to go grocery shopping, to go to church, and to go to Bible study sometimes. I go walking for thirty minutes about five times a week. I try to read my Bible and pray daily. I write a weekly snail-mail letter to my husband in Iraq, despite the fact that we talk almost daily online. And I watch a *lot* of Netflix. And play Minecraft. And sleep.

But am I still passionate about writing? Yes. And am I still an aspiring novelist, an artist of sorts, a homemaker, a Christian? Yes.

So, what will Ocipura.com look like in 2011?

*More personal. I tried hard in 2010 to keep the blog from becoming a personal journal. And when I say tried hard, I mean hard. It was a lot of effort for me. You can ask Hubby – one of my most frequent complaints was that I couldn’t write about something or didn’t know how to write about something without making it too personal. I’m not too worried about that anymore, and I think that my friends who read won’t be too bothered by the blog becoming more personal.

*More fictitious? I’ve been thinking a lot about trying to post some of my writing on here. I haven’t decided for sure yet. Frankly, I’m worried about my work being stolen. Not that someone would necessarily take my words and pass them off as their own so much as they might take my ideas and write them better. So this isn’t something I’m saying you will see in 2011, but it’s a possibility.

*More pictures. I know I’ve mentioned before that this blog has a severe lack of pictures. I really would like to correct that.

*More interactive. I’ve already talked to my webmaster about the possibility of adding a forum, and I’m really hoping to get more feedback from readers this year. We’ll see. On that note, please, can you tell me what I can do to entice you guys to become more involved? I ask questions frequently and try to open things up for discussion, but that rarely draws a single comment. Any thoughts?

NaNoing and Visiting

Life during deployment has gotten better in my neck of the woods. I think that nearing the two-month mark is helping. In other words, the further we get into it the more it becomes…somewhat easier to handle. It’s not that I don’t still miss Hubby. I do, sometimes to the point of tears, but the house just doesn’t feel quite as lonely now that I’m a little more used to the idea that I’m here and he’s not. I’m definitely looking forward to the coming R&R (hopefully in the spring) and his homecoming next fall!

It also has made a huge difference to me to have my mom here for a visit. She arrived last week and is staying for just shy of one month. We’re enjoying some mother-daughter time that we really haven’t had in four or five years! The house feels a lot less empty with her here. So I’m keeping busy with that and with other goals I’m working on.

And, of course, it’s NaNoWriMo time! National Novel Writing Month comes every November, and I’m participating for the fourth year in a row. This year, due to marrying into the Army and currently living through my first deployment, I’ve really got military on my mind, and I’m writing a story about the Army. I did some planning and outlining last month so that I could jump right in on November 1st. So far it’s going well!

Expect my updates here to remain somewhat sparse for the time being as I spend time with my mom and with my writing. I will try to continue updating once or twice a week, though, because I know I need to get back in the habit of regular posting!

How does everyone like the new layout? My friend Jester is still working on a few of the kinks, but it’s mostly done! I like it.

Is anyone else participating in NaNoWriMo?

Books I Want to Write

Book writing is definitely on my mind recently. Did you know that I am (or at least I claim to be) an aspiring novelist? Yes, indeed! In hopes of making it easier on me to one day reach the level of Actual Novelist, my husband recently found a great deal and bought me a netbook. Now I can write from wherever I happen to be! The beautiful little computer that I have named Eeeny-Weeeny, since it is, after all, an Eee PC, is just the right size for my hands. Ooooh I can’t wait for NaNoWriMo this year!

Thus Far

Second grade was the first time I got to write complete stories, as far as I remember. My teacher had this bright idea of stapling together a few sheets of unlined paper to make books, and we got to fill in as many as we wanted with stories and illustrations. My stories were all about the Pretty Pretty Princess(es), but I had a lot of them.

I stopped writing for some time after that, perhaps in part due to the dreaded Writing Wednesdays in fourth grade. That was tough. Ugh – writing prompts. My hands would get so sore – my fingers actually developed these hard, raised bumps from holding my pencil all day, and man, I hated Writing Wednesdays. Now, give me a computer and tell me to write all day, and I’d be happy to do my best to comply. But I think doing that in fourth grade was actually a bit of a hindrance to me.

A few years later, I participated in the Young Author competition and wrote/illustrated a story that won some sort of award. A year or two later, I wrote/illustrated another children’s story for school. I still have both of those, in laminated form.

But now writing has become more difficult. It’s not enough for my stories to be 10 pages long with a simple plot. As I’ve aged, I’ve become increasingly critical of my own work. That’s when I started that bad habit of writing a few lines or a few pages of a story, and then putting it aside. I would get stuck, and I couldn’t think of a satisfactory way to continue the story, so I just stopped working on it until the next half-baked idea came along. I guess I just never had the follow-through to finish them on my own.

NaNoWriMo has gotten me over that hump, in a way. I now have two complete drafts to work on.

What’s Coming

The first draft has no working title at all. It’s simply NaNoWriMo 2007. The basic plot and the characters I created are good, but the story itself needs so much work that rather than editing the novel, I’m actually in the process of re-writing it. It’s a fantasy “escapism” novel set in a world of my own creation.

The second draft is on the back-burner, still. When I look at it again I’ll be able to see it with fresh eyes – or so I hope. Its sad working title is Pickles From Space. It has nothing to do with either space or pickles, but there you have it. It is, in a way, kind of science-fictiony, only.. It’s really not science fiction at all. It takes place right here on Earth with regular-old humans.

This year for NaNoWriMo, I plan to write a military-related story, since my Hubby will be deployed, and I’m sure the military will be on my mind a lot. And I also have other ideas in mind for the future. Sequels to the fantasy story, possibly, and some more present-day ideas. I can barely wait to get started!

Unfortunately, thinking of ideas is much easier than sitting down and completing a novel. I just hope that, one day, I can actually call myself a published novelist, rather than just aspiring to be one.

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