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.

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.

Finally Out of Excuses

I’ve been putting off writing. Life has been stressful.country home

Marty came home.
We went on vacation.
We came back, we celebrated Thanksgiving.
Marty had to go to WLC, and then we celebrated the holidays, which involved going on a short vacation again.
We started to panic because our PCS was coming up. (Okay, maybe I was the only one panicking.)
We started trying to find housing/lodging and plan our move.
We had to pack up our entire house since we chose to do a DITY move.
We had to move, which was the most stressful part of the whole thing!

And now, I have no excuses. Well, other than unpacking, but I can only unpack so much every day, so, like I said, no more excuses not to get back to writing.

Missouri is where we are now, and no, we’re not miserable. We actually got through the move rather unscathed, and we found a really nice rental house out in the middle of nowhere. Marty, Leela the dog, Tumbles the cat, Pumpkin the bunny, and I are all settling into our big country house on 3 acres in the middle of the forest. We love it here and can’t wait till springtime when we can start planting and growing our own vegetables. We might even expand our little zoo by getting a few chickens! What better way to eat organically than to eat home-grown food, eh?

I’m not sure where this blog is going these days. I’m not even sure where this post is going, to be honest. I just know that I want to write again. More. I want to blog-write and write-write. In fact, I’m going to set up my typewriter in the sitting room attached to our master suite (yes, that’s right – be jealous), and I’m hoping that will help me feel inspired to do more writing. And blogging is going back into my weekly schedule, so expect to hear from me more. Even though I’m not sure what you’ll be hearing.

So… that’s all! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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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Five for Friday IV

Previous Fridays

I love you!

1. I love how you always try to better yourself.

2. I love how patient you are with me.

3. I love watching you play with Tumbles.

4. I love the stories you write.

5. I love it when you compliment my writing!

😀

Screw You!

I’ve been not writing because I’m too worried about what YOU might think. Things keep running through my head, such as: You won’t think I sound professional enough. You won’t think I said anything interesting. You won’t think I write as well as those other blogs you read. You won’t like me. You won’t come back.

You know what?! I don’t care any more! You don’t like my writing? Screw you! You’re still here, reading, aren’t you? You disagree with me? Fine! Tell your friends, or don’t for all I care.

I’m going to write, and I’m not going to pretend to be anyone else. I’m going to write, and I’m not going to worry about anyone else. I’m going to blog whether or not I get any traffic. It’s going to be written in my style, in my words, as often as I like. Unless, of course, you have a friendly suggestion or request….