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Friday, October 10, 2014

Pushing the Button

Current word count: 65,731 (In final revisions of my current manuscript.)
Song on my playlist: "Hey Ya" (The acoustic version by Obadiah Parker)
Drink of choice: A VERY large coffee. (Caramel Macchiato)

It's just after 8:00 AM, and I'm attempting to get my groove thang going this morning. It's been a bit of a trying week. Actually, that would be an understatement. Applying the "ass-to-chair" method has gone awry at some point, and now I find myself in a tizzy trying to catch up.

I'm a goal oriented person. If I don't set deadlines for myself, then, who will? The problem with that is I know, deep down in the crevices of my mind, that no one is going to breathe down my neck if I let a self-imposed date slipped passed me. I'm an "indie writer," after all. So, I have every option to go at my own pace and finish when I finish. However, the flip side to this is that it's oh so easy to allow the distractions of life to come in and steal away my time and attention.

That's exactly what's happened to me these past few weeks. Between work, family events, yada, yada, yada, I've let a set goal date for completion of my final revisions slip past me. It was at lightning speed. All I know is that I heard a "swoosh" and papers went flying, everywhere. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

So, here I sit... blogging. Makes sense, right?

Anyhoo, I'm just about finished. I do have a few final chapters that I have to tweak. Then, I will set my launch date and push the "publish" button. At which time, an inevitable freak out season will incur.

Maybe, that's my problem. Commitment issues. Committing to pushing the button. Maybe I'm afraid of the rejection factor and what people will think about my writing. Of course, I don't expect to please everyone. You can NEVER please everyone. You can have 1,000,000,000,000,000 great reviews. But, oh that ONE! That one that stings so badly, you need an EpiPen to save yourself from Anaphylaxis shock. Yeah... that ONE, sucky, horrible, nasty review.

I think that writers, although we love what we do and are passionate about our craft, have this innate sense of foreboding that can paralyze us with over analyzing our work and bitch slap our creative muse. Even when we are writing what we love, we have to keep in mind our readership. We want to deliver on our promises. We want to earn the right to be read. After all, even after all of our sacrifice of time and mental energy used to complete our "masterpiece," it's the reader who is sacrificing their money to purchase our work, and then, their time to read it. I don't ever want to take that for granted.

I guess I said all that to say, I'm nervous. As I draw this work to a close, I'm hoping that my novel will deliver. My desire is that readers will connect with my characters and fall in love with them, as I have. That my readership will be moved with compassion, laugh, and cry. And, that on some level, they will relate to these beautiful people that have been birthed from deep within my soul.

So, I will push that button.

XOXO,

C.J.

P.S. I will be scheduling a virtual launch party for SOD via Facebook. I hope that you will join me. I will be posting the particulars, soon. If you are an author, and would like to join my party, I would love to post links to your work as well. And, as always, if you've enjoyed this post, please let me know! It's always awesome to hear from others.





Thursday, September 4, 2014

Are We the Crazy Ones?

" I write only because there is a voice within me that will not be still."  ~  Sylvia Plath

Time:  7:14 AM
Word count on my current WIP:  10,515
Song on my playlist: "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones
What I'm drinking:  A medium coffee. (It's still early.)

Yeah, I know. Three posts in three days. Don't get used to it. I go back to work on Sunday and return to the 14 hour work day that will cut severely into my writing time. Then, I will probably only post once a week. But, I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

It occurred to me that writers are the only people that can get by with telling others that we have voices in our heads without it being suggested that we should be highly medicated. Think about it.

Are we crazy, brilliant, or both? 

There are some authors, that I would dare say, are totally wack-a-doodle, and others who are off the charts on the IQ scale and should join Mensa. But, I'd like to think that we "regular" writer folk fall somewhere in the middle. Beautiful minds that walk the fine line between slightly disturbed and just plain clever.

To do what we do must have elements of both. What person in their right mind would sit for hours a day typing out a make-believe scenario that is playing out in their head? Sacrificing time and energy that could be spent doing other things. (Yeah, I know... that last line made no sense to me, either. What else would we do if we weren't writing? As Gloria Steinem has said, "Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.") I should know. I spent the last several years trying not to be a writer. And, the voices haunted me, daily. I'm truly at peace when I'm writing.

I believe the crazy begins with the voice in the head and brilliance comes from knowing how, and being willing to, release that crazy onto the paper. I don't know about you, but I'm always hearing the "voices." And, it can drive you mad if you don't release the hell hounds that are running rampant in your brain.

So, is it a gift or a curse?

It's a gift. There's a reason that we are given this gift of the "voice." That little spark of something with promise drops into our consciousness like a bug in our ear. It will buzz until we do something about it. Just as any artist who feels driven to pick up his paints, or a photographer that won't leave the house without her camera, we have been given a gift to create. 

Our ability to create something from a simple inspiration, that won't let us rest, enables us to free others through our dedication to the craft. They can escape, for a moment. They can live in another realm that lies between the two covers. They can leave their reality for a while and be transported to another time and place. You know all of this, I'm not saying anything new. I'm just approaching a topic that we've all thought about at one time or another. That being, "Am I crazy for doing this?" Yes, yes you are. But, you're also brilliant. 

Not everyone can do this thing called writing. Just like not everyone can be a physicist, or mathematician, or artist, or... whatever. You get my point. We all are gifted with brilliance in one arena or another. And whatever that "call" is, if you're not doing it, it will hunt you down and stalk you everyday until you do something about it. Plot twist... I'd venture to say that the truly crazy ones are the ones who refuse to listen to the heart-cry of their creative muse. Sanity comes when we heed. Because, that's where the joy of being in harmony with our destiny lies.

When you're doing what you know you've been born to do, when the going gets tough, and the rejection hits, you'll have the tenacity to continue on and push through. Because, you know that you are fulfilling what you were called to do. You are a writer.

So, embrace the insane brilliance that is you. You have a special gift. You have stories to tell that no one else can. See where the voices take you. In turn, you'll be taking others along for the ride on the crazy train.

If you are enjoying my posts, please be so kind as to leave a comment or subscribe. If you have a blog or Twitter, let me know in the comment section.

xoxo,

CJ






Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Are You Disturbed? Are You Scared? You Should Be!

"Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open."  ~  Natalie Goldberg

Word count for current WIP:  9,867 (Not counting typed out plotting and some dialogue.)
Currently erupting from my playlist:  National Anthem by Lana Del Rey
What I'm drinking: A very large coffee. (I'm really tired today.)

I have the above quote on my vision board. I have several quotes that inspire me on that board. It's hung up right next to my desk. I also have a picture of Ernest Hemingway with his quote, "The first draft of anything is shit." It's framed and on my desk along with some family photos. Whenever I get the urge to stop free writing and over edit myself during the first go 'round, I glance up at him and he gives me his, "It's crap... and it's OK!" look. Then, I keep plugging away.

As I've begun my new novel, I've pondered Ms. Goldberg's words. I've always written from a safe place, I guess. That was the main reason why my first novel didn't get repped. I rewrote it twice for the agent. But, at the end of the day, I just played things way too cautiously. (I don't mean gratuitous stuff. I mean that I didn't go deep enough. I didn't go enough into the dark, scary places that my character needed to go within his soul to grow and find resolution.) I didn't split open and pour my innards out onto the page. And, I've come to the conclusion that because of that, I really didn't tell his whole story. Therefore, it didn't work.

To tell a story and to tell it well means to tell the secret things of the heart and mind. Not only show the struggle, but to be in the struggle along with the character. Readers must invest in the gamble. It has to hit them in the gut so hard, that they lose their breathe. The inner struggles of our characters must be so deep, so transparent, so authentic, that when they grieve we grieve. When they find victory, we celebrate with them. When they are broken, a little piece of ourselves breaks with them.

That's what makes them memorable. That's what makes them real.

Truly feeling what your characters are feeling can be overwhelming at times. But, that is the sweet spot. I'm learning through this process, how to pour myself out. A scene I wrote, night before last, left me emotional and spent. And, that's OK. It should. If I didn't feel that way, how could I expect my readers to?

Inner conflict is crucial. It's human. And, building deep inner conflict within our characters is key. We have to go to those places that scare us, that disturb us, that frighten us. That's the only place where redemption can come... from a place of great need. A need to understand, heal, grow, and restore. It's powerful. It's real.

As writers, must take the plunge in to the deep end. We have to take this journey with our characters. We have to feel so they can, in turn, feel. Then, and only then, will our readers feel as well.

Baring our soul is a scary proposition. And, for some of you, it may not even be an issue. But, for me it was. I grew up hiding a lot of my feelings and emotions which, in turn, shaped who I was at a certain level as a writer. Writing raw emotional scenes were disturbing to me. Not to mention the writing of the scenes that caused the emotional responses of my characters. To get in touch with such deep emotions can be scary. It's makes us feel vulnerable as we chip away at the hard outer exterior and expose our fleshy weaknesses, exposing our human frailty and flaws. But, that is what makes us human. That's what will make our characters human.

One of my all time favorite movies is, "Out of Africa." In it is a beautiful line when Denys comes to visit Karen after her rummage sale, and is preparing to leave Africa forever. (I will paraphrase as I'm not sure I will have it totally correct.) Karen tells him how she tortures herself in the bad times by remembering the good times. Then she says, "And, when I'm sure that I can't take it anymore, I go one step further... will you help me?" And, takes him by the hand and pulls him out to dance with her among her picked over items that remain on her lawn.

DAMNNN!!

I cry, every time. But, that's how we need to be as a writer. As an amazing and memorable writer. When our characters have been taken by us to the deepest crevices of the pit of life, we need to go down there with a shovel and dig that pit just a little deeper.

I'm determined to stretch myself to uncomfortable lengths to tell my next story. How about you?

If you got anything out of this, I would be so happy to hear about it. Let me know where you're at in your writing endeavors.

xoxo,

CJ










Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Price I Paid for Walking Away from a Dream

  It’s 7:50 AM, and I’m enjoying my fourth day of my eight day “stay-ca.” Sitting at my desk with my coffee, listening to Milky Chance’s, ”Stolen Dance,” and organizing my day in my head.

  I took PTO in order to throw myself back into my writing. It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made, in a long time. Unlike, say, dumping my old blog in an attempt to begin anew. (Sometimes, a symbolic gesture isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… just sayin’.) Now, I have 0 followers. We live and learn. But, I digress.

  As I sat down to post this morning, I began to think of all the reasons I set aside my writing, some years ago. Now, I have always felt I was still a writer, in some aspects. I kept a writer’s blog (on occasion), I kept a sparse journal, I plotted scenes and dialogue in my head.  I can’t remember a day that went by that I didn’t yearn to be a writer. It felt something like when I was living elsewhere. I’m a Native Floridian, water-baby, and beach lover. But, my hubby’s profession took us away for nine years. I was land-locked for all of that time, and although I tried, with some success, to adapt to my life in these various locations, I knew I was a Floridian, and a southerner, at heart.

  Some of my dearest friends are in other states. But, my life and my breathe, were in Florida. In all those years, I was who I was, no matter what state I lived in. (And, I lived in some pretty hip and cool places!) So, even in the winters while I was dressed in garb that was more fitting for Eskimos (and wore it damn well) I longed for the bikini with the crocheted cover up and flip flops. As breathtaking as the Pocono landscape was during the changes of seasons, I grieved for the ever constant roar of the ocean and the air seasoned with salt. I was a Floridian. Location didn’t change who I was.

  We hear, so often that, “writers write!” Yes, that’s very true. But, what if you’re not currently writing? Does that change who you are? Will you allow your current circumstances to determine your identity? That’s the danger. I had circumstances arise that caused me difficulty in continuing with the writing process. I put my manuscript and WIPs in the drawer (figuratively speaking, as they’re on my computer) and moved on to more pressing issues. Then, a year later, I felt awful for having done that. I felt guilt. I had thrown in the proverbial towel. I was a quitter. Therefore, I was no longer a writer. Simply because, writers don’t quit.

  Fast forward six years. (Yes, I know… makes me shudder.) By this time, I had completely disengaged from the writing community, took up other interests, as I had difficulty relating to my former identity. Not for a lack of desire. But, I had allowed life to get in the way. (A few more moves, cancer surgery, the necessity to return to full-time employment, personal challenges… bah waaaahh!) Well, you get the picture.

  The catch is, even during those “wasted years” I never was free from an interior pull from my creative muse. She was anemic and frail. But, she still believed in me and that I could revive her. She trusted me. She always kept the hope that I would not let her die alone locked in a basement, starving and cold, with want for affection.

  Three years ago, we decided that it had been long enough. We packed up and moved back to Florida. It was scary to return home after being away so long. People change, you change. Your hope is that you can find your way back to open arms and pick up, as best as you can, where you left off, so many years earlier. Some things remain the same, and others don’t. You deal. And, a few months ago, I decided the same should be done for my writing.

  What price have I paid for the time I squandered? Well, my initial thoughts would have to be my lost relationships in the writing community. My lost momentum with writing 3000 words per day and my organized submission process. Being in the know of what’s going on in the industry. The loss of respect from some fellow writers (and friends) that believe I’m a quitter, and may walk away again, when times get tough.

  Well, let me just say, that times are probably as difficult as they’ve ever been. Yet, I’ve looked back on the years as a learning experience. I believe I’ve grown and matured in a lot of ways. I have more to say, and the confidence to say it. I’m a little more timid in some ways, as I venture on to new writer’s forums (new to me) and put myself back out there. But, it’s good. No, it’s damn good!

  Most importantly, I’ve grown as an individual. I’ve learned valuable lessons. I’ve taken responsibility for my past and have told myself, “Suck it up, Buttercup! This is your life. The good, the bad, and the questionable. And, it’s OK… move on!”

  I’ve unlocked the basement of my soul and released the muse. I’ve fed her, washed her, and consoled her with the promise that I’ll not abuse her kindness in the future. I’ve learned to appreciate her and love her for her patience with me. And, in return, she’s been generous.

  Now, I’m currently working on my second novel. And, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I actually took vacation time to write. If that’s not determination, I don’t know what is. Especially being that I’ve not had a real vacation in four years. I’m seriously honing my craft. I’m prioritizing. Most importantly, I’m writing.

  So, was I a writer during those years in the desert? Yes… yes, I was. I am who I am, no matter what I may or may not be doing. Moving to MO didn’t make me a mid-westerner like moving to PA didn’t make me a northerner. No matter where I lived, I was a Floridian. Whether or not we stray from a path doesn’t really change our life course. We are who we are, in spite of our choices. And, the path from point A to point B is not always a straight line. All we can do is learn from our decisions.

  Please understand that I’m not advocating the abandonment of your dreams when times get tough. I’m just saying that if for some reason you do, you can always return, with your identity intact. You are who you are.

I’m a writer.

xoxo,

CJ

P.S. If you have found this post helpful or enjoyed it in any way, please let me know. I would so appreciate it!

Monday, December 31, 2012

2013: Not for Cowards



It's New Year's Eve!
 
Another year has been spent and a new one is about to begin. Resolutions are flying around like mosquitoes over standing water, and as I relish in the victory that was living through the 2012 apocalypse *slight smirk*, I can't help but wonder what 2013 will bring. How many events will transpire because of "destiny" and what will simply be a result of my choosing?
 
2012 was a very trying year for me. I didn't follow through with anything that I desired for myself (as I'm sure you've noticed by my extreme lack of posting). Yes, I admit that I dropped the proverbial ball of inspiration and creativity, and let it roll under the couch of passivity and martyrdom. I blamed situations and circumstances for my dry season instead of watering the seeds of artistic expression. I allowed my day job, my lack of energy,  my... whatever, to dictate whether or not I was, in fact, an artist and writer. In a sense, I simply forgot who I was... err... am.
 
I have a choice going into 2013... do I continue to struggle with waiting for everything to be perfect before I press into what the muses have been saving for me? Do I beat myself up with all the regrets and "you should haves?" Or, do I simply brush myself off, and move on with a fresh outlook and a new beginning? I choose the latter.
 
Now, I'm not saying that I won't be tempted to be hard on myself from time to time. I'm really bad at that. Or, should I say good at that? Nobody ever needs to remind me of my shortcomings, because I'm terrific at doing that for myself. However, all my misguided and wasted writhing over what I could or could not do during this passed year has yielded me nothing more than frustration, an empty creative spirit, and broken promises to myself.
 
However, I have chosen to learn the lessons that 2012 had so generously afforded me, and will choose to live a more fulfilling 2013. Embracing the miracles of the moment, and finding the joy in the trying times.
 
Artists tend to be a bit more melancholy than most, we all know that. But, we always should remember that life is a beautiful subject to be painted, whether by colors or words.
 
I'm excited about this upcoming year and what it will have in store for me (and you). I feel alive with resolve.
 
Tonight will be spent with my hubby planning our next year. I'm making a new "vision board" and then we will sit together on the couch with nachos, wine, and watch the ball drop.
 
Tomorrow, I will wake up and breathe in the new air of expectancy and joy of new beginnings with a fresh determination.
 
We all have choices to make for this upcoming year. Everyone has something they want to work on or change or tweak a little. We are all in this together, whatever our resolutions may be.
 
It's nice to know we are not alone. Even in the Armageddon of our mind.
 
It's been so long... I would love to hear from you all, again. I hope, in some small way, I've been able to encourage someone who may have been going through somewhat of the same challenges. Artistic block is a beast to be conquered by our resolve and determination. We all can slay the dragon.
 
Wishing you a Happy New Year with abundance of creativity and freedom of expression!!
 
xoxo,
 
CJ

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Something Beautiful Is Happening...

At the close of 2010, I created a beautiful "Vision Board." Well, before our move back home to Florida, I hastily disposed of it (Ughhhh!) and have regretted it ever since. That makes two that I've now lost.

So the other day, my dear friend and I spread out over my dining room table our craft supplies, magazines, baubles and shells, as well as whatever else we thought we may need, and created new ones for our lives. (I highly encourage this. As personal as a dream/vision board is, sometimes it's a wonderful thing to share the creation of it with someone close to you who "gets" you, and encourages you in your life's aspirations.)

So, over mimosas, cuban sandwiches, and great conversation, we meticulously pieced together the hopeful stories of our lives to come. There will be additional ones, as well.

My new one, was done in text only.

It's full of sayings and words that capture the essence of what I see. Daily affirmations and the bold print that speaks so well to me. The next will be pictorial in nature.

I had someone ask me what a "Dream Board" was. So, I figured I'd repost my original blog entry on the subject from back in November, to bring clarity to what I believe these boards to be about.

The following is my post from November 2010:

The other day, I made myself a new "Vision Board." Most of you would know what I mean by that... a "dream" board where you adhere pics of things you're working towards in your life, inspirational quotes that fuel your energy to get there, as well as other bits and pieces that symbolize your life journey and where you would like to end up at a certain time frame in your life. I like to call them "focus triggers" that help me stay on track with my life goals.

I had another "Vision Board" some years ago, and lost it during one of the many moves we've made. I had folded it and placed it in a treasured journal, that obviously, was lost as well. (I still grieve over that lost journal to this day.) For some strange reason, I never made a new one. But, upon looking back on what I can remember about that particular board (it was actually a piece of paper where I had pasted and taped these "focus triggers") I realized something, I had actually seen it all come to pass. Every single thing that I had placed on that board happened. They weren't only dreams for myself, but for those of my family.

Now, mind you, I'm not a "name and claim it" kind of gal, and I'm fully aware of the foolishness that can transpire when individuals look to this process to be nothing more than trying to hit the "jack-pot" of life, and miss the whole point. There's so much more to it than getting what you want materialistically. Certainly, there can be those benefits. But, the over-reaching blessing of it all is to have a sense of fulfillment in the act of becoming all that you were created to be. Also, being a person of Christian faith, I do believe in, "writing down the vision and making it clear so that those who see it, can run with it and will know how things will turn out...," Habakkuk 2:2-3. ( I've paraphrased a bit, but you get the understanding.)

There's something to be said for focus and predetermination... an advanced resolve for our lives, if you will. It's a very spiritual process. It can serve to keep us focused on the very best parts of who we are. Tapping in to the creative spirit that we have all been blessed with in one arena or another.

It's also and endeavor to find out who we really are. What really makes us "tick." When I sat down to make my new board, I dug deep within myself to find what it was that excites me, what inspires me, what drives me. I needed to determine what motivated me to take the steps needed to become who I want to be. Some things spoke to my future, while others speak to me in the now. I needed things that would encourage me when I'm being challenged by self and others to reach my goals, or when I feel like throwing in the towel and giving up. I needed to have something that would remind me of who I really am and why I do what I do. And, when I'm not being the best of myself, an encouragement to return to "me."

I guess I've said all this to serve as an inspiration to anyone who reads this to think about who they really are and what they'd like to see develop in their lives as we enter this new year. What we're willing to settle for and what is not going to be compromised. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing."

Let me know if you've decided to make a "Vision Board." I'd love to hear about your process and how it may have changed your idea about your future, or re-awakened you to your real self.

xoxo CJ

"Our aspirations are our possibilities." - Samuel Johnson 1709-1784

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wet Jeans & Sandy Feet

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." Daphne Du Maurier's "Rebecca."

Longing. Heart-breaking, gut-wrenching longing. I remember that feeling.

Mine was not of a homestead or family estate. It was of the ocean. Salty air, sand between my toes, and the high-pitched screeching of sea birds. It was of the thunderous roar of the waves crashing and spitting up upon the shore the remains of beautiful shelled creatures, whose armor was of no consequence to the awesome power of the deep.

It was of long walks filled with inspiring sights and peace-inducing breezes.

Today, I had those experiences, once again. In the midst of all of life's challenges and trying situations, I was able to decompress for a while and once again, appreciate the miracles of the moment.

I don't know if I coined the phrase, "returning to self," as I've used it on a number of occasions in my journey of a writer's life. But, today, I did. I truly feel as though I've reconnected to my self in a way that I've not felt possible in some time.

It may have to do with heading out early in the morning to watch the schools of dolphin swim by and frolic in the waves. Or observing the hawks dive into the surf and come up with a catch. Or, seeing the surfers wait patiently for the right moment to catch the wave. So many beautiful moments that serve to refresh and re-energize me in the midst of chaos and unnerving transition.

Things just don't seem to take their toll on me as much since I've returned home. I feel more resilient.

I have my moments. But, they are fewer and farther in between.

I suppose I needed this transition to get me to the place that I long to be in my writing. Baby steps, once again.

I meet my muse there at the ocean's edge. I hear her most clearly when I take the time to walk to the sand and let my vulnerability call to her. I say "vulnerability" because I'm never so alone and raw as when I go there. No make-up, no power-dressing, no masks. I'm just "me." It's so freeing. I let others walk passed and see me for who I really am. They are "raw" and real as well.

It's so refreshing. No one is there to out shine another. They're all just doing their thing, and thinking their thoughts, and processing their lives in a very simplistic way. No judgement, no competition, just living the "Salt Life."

I suppose that's why hikers hike, and bikers bike, and sailors sail, etc. It keeps us in awe of something and someone so much greater than ourselves. Nature in it's purest sense keeps us humble and very aware of our "humanness." It washes our soul.

And, it's from the soul with which we write. Pure and unaffected, if we allow it.

I also have a supportive family who believes in what I dream to do. And it is they, my husband, in particular, who has encouraged me to press in and begin to write again. Having others who believe in your talent is a priceless gift. And, I'm so thankful to have those, who when I've nearly thrown in the towel and admitted defeat, come to my rescue at the eleventh hour, and encourage me to push on.

So, here I am, again. And, that's OK. It doesn't matter how many times I try and fail. It's the time that I try and succeed that matters in the long run.

xoxo,

CJ






Must Reads

  • "A Long Fatal Love Chase" by Louisa May Alcott
  • "Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell
  • "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith
  • "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo
  • "Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier
  • "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing" by M.T. Anderson
  • "The Grace Awakening" by Charles Swindoll