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Saturday, April 25, 2009

I am a great writer, I am a great writer, I am a great writer...

State of my writing: Focused on writing notes and studying for my upcoming women's conference. I really need to buckle down today. Putting away my completed and revised MS until such a time that I feel would be good to pull it out again. Maybe, never. It might just be one of those things. Maybe it's out of season. Maybe it's just not something people would be interested in. Maybe, I didn't stretch myself enough.

State of my reading: Scriptures regarding my conference topic, and passed on The Shack. For now, at least. I need a funny, poignant and light-hearted romp. So, I reached for I Capture the Castle. If you've not yet read it, you must!

Okay, I know it's been a week since my last post. Hate that! But, I've been really busy with all kinds of preschool, women's conference, and just plain, being sick, kinda stuff. So, I'm glad to be back. Still not at 100%, but getting there.

I've been speaking positive affirmations to myself. And, as long as I don't end up behind the couch in the fetal position, or eating copious amounts of chocolate (well, I'm one for two, anyway), I suppose I'll be fine. This is a really hard and bumpy road, but one that must be traveled, non-the-less.

I love what I do. Right now, without accolades or applause, just obscure and unknown, with all of its frustrations, I still love what I do. Why? Because I'm a writer. From the depths of my being, that's what I am.

As discouraging as this process can be, it's my enthusiasm for this craft that keeps me going and creating when the going gets tough. I have to purpose within myself to enjoy the journey, even when there doesn't seem to be much to enjoy about it.

The emotional highs of creating a beautiful moment or dialogue that sings, to the emotional lows of rejection or "writer's block," it's a real bi-polar type experience. Thankfully, I'm still non-medicated.

XOXO, CJ

Shoe Mood:










Choosing to shine, even when my writer's soul feels a little drab.







Saturday, April 18, 2009

What Happens When I Should Be Writing...















I play with stuffed birds!

(You'll have to click on the pic to enlarge and read it.)

Shoe Mood:






The birds brightened up my day!
How 'bout you?

Don't You Just Hate Transition?

The state of my writing: Plotting and character development on one of my current WIPs.

The state of my reading: I'm looking at The Shack. (No... really, I'm just looking at it. The cover is closed and everything.) Have not been able to bring myself to read it yet. I will, though. Hubby and oldest daughter did, and cried. Very revelatory for those of us who are Christians and who find, on occasion, we are stuck in the traditional thought patterns of man and the way man thinks "religion" should be, versus what God thinks about everything. A beautiful and anointed work of fiction, I've heard excerpts from my hubby's download of the book on CD. Now, after someone bought the book for me, I must bring myself to read it in full. I'm all about the grace of God and having an honest relationship instead of empty religious rituals and superficial actions. But, that's just me.

Now, moving on. Maybe it's because I haven't even begun to plan the preschool graduation program, or complete my notes for my upcoming women's conference on May 8th and 9th. Or, maybe it's because I'm still a little out of sorts with my Grandmother's passing away, or what I thought I loved about my MS, I'm struggling to now embrace. But, I'm second guessing myself in all areas. Even my current WIPs are giving me grief.

I think that I need a vacation.

My head isn't very clear right now. I'm not sure which road to turn down. I'm directionally challenged. It's like there's been a ten car pile-up in my brain, and I'm stuck until the emergency teams come to clear out everything and wave me on through. Hopefully, they'll wave me in the right direction.

I usually feel pretty confident about my writing skills. Disclaimer: I'm certainly not saying that I feel as though I have arrived. That's quite obvious. I still have so much to learn and many areas to grow and develop in. But, overall, I usually feel as though I'm a pretty good writer with a lot of promise. Today, well, actually over the past several days, I've been questioning myself on that score.

I feel like I'm in that transition period of labor and delivery. You know, ladies? The few minutes between transitioning from contracting and laboring to the actual delivery of the beautiful gift. It's a time of "self-doubt" mode. You question EVERYTHING.

"I can't do this, put it back in, please!"
"What do you mean you can't do this? You're doing it right now!" dear hubby or the doc and nurses say.
"No... no, I'll just carry it a little longer, if you don't mind," you answer, panting heavy with the fear of the unknown.
"You can't carry this any longer. You have to push," the doc says firm and bold.
"Yeah, sweetheart, you have to do this," dear hubby says.
"Shut up! I'M NOT READY FOR THIS!" you scream in defiance. Truly believing, if only for that moment, you are not equipped or capable of bringing a treasure into the world.

That's where I am right at this very moment. I'm in full-on self-doubt mode. I'm just telling it like it is. Those of you who know me, know that I 'm a transparent person (well, not literally, although that would be pretty cool at times). I have my moments of just opening up and pouring it out. It's not always pretty.

I find at times that I struggle between the many hats that I wear. Wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, academy director, kid pastor's wife, writer, artist, and, occasional women's conference speaker. Jack-of-all-trades and master of none. There's so much I want to do, and so much I wish to accomplish. Everything right now is vying for my time and attention. I guess that's why I feel a little overwhelmed and unsure about my writing. I'm not having a clear and concise direction. I think I've hit the dreaded "writer's block" with regard to my current WIPs, and have been gripped with serious trepidation with my completed MS.

If I don't hear from the agent who has my current query and first 10 pages, I think I may just put it aside again, and move on to my new ideas. Maybe, it wasn't meant to be. Maybe it was a cathartic exercise. Maybe the timing is all wrong. All I know is that I've poured my heart in to it, and have revised and rewritten it several times over the past three years. If I do have to "bury" it in a drawer, at least I can say that it served a fantastic purpose. It got me to write, and to write with a passion. It was the vehicle that transported me from "thinking" about becoming a writer, and honestly becoming one. For that, I'm thankful.

If I've learned anything over the past several years in my personal life, it's that getting from point A to point B is seldom ever a straight line. And, I have to be okay with that.

XOXO, CJ

Shoe Mood:








Need to relax and go with the flow of life.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Lemonade Stand Awards!

Thank you, Bish! I'm so happy! It means so much to be nominated by fellow sister bloggers. I really work hard to give readers what is relevant and encouraging, as well as interesting to them.



The Lemonade Stand Award is awarded for great Gratitude and /or Attitude.

All I have to do is follow a few simple rules:
1. Post the logo on my blog.
2. Nominate 10 blogs with great gratitude/attitude.
3. List and link my nominees.
4. Alert them of their nomination on their blog.

Well, I know that most of those that I nominate will have already been nominated. But, here it goes, non-the-less: (They deserve double!)

1. Rena
2. Christina
3. Court
4. Julie
5. Nan
6. Emily
7. Angela
8. Tabitha
9. Renu
10. sruble

They're so many fantastic blogs out there. And, I'm still getting familiar with several of them.

Thank you, again, Bish! XOXO

Also, just for your information, I have posted the first ten pages of one of my current WIPs (I have two), "Jeremy Tremble." If you think you might be interested in taking a look, it's posted on my sidebar below "Where I Like to Visit."

If you feel so inclined, let me know what you think. It would men a lot!

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:










A little "frisky!" MEOW!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

M&Ms: Motivation and Momentum

The state of my writing: Sad... I am, however, working diligently on my upcoming ladies' conference notes. May 8th and 9th will be here before I know it!

The state of my reading: Sad... I am, however, diligently reading over those said notes. (I'm also skimming back through Mr. Maass' workbook.)

"Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work." - Aristotle

My hubby has a passion for M&Ms. He collects those cute novelty dispensers that, when you pull a lever or push a button, or move around some part of the object, a colorful candy coated little piece of heaven drops out. Sometimes, you have to struggle with the device in order to even get the candy out. But, once you do, oh man!

I was digging through our garage the other day, and many of the boxes we still have stored away, when I came across another one of my hubby's lost M&M dispensers. It got me to thinking about those M&Ms (when I usually crave Dove Chocolate), and as one thought led to another, the words motivation and momentum popped into my head.

As writers, wouldn't it be grand if all we had to do to receive motivation and keep up momentum would be to press the "easy button" and grab a few pieces? Unfortunately, it's not like that. The only comparison that I can say holds true is the struggle to get the darn things out!

I think as writers, we must keep these two Ms (motivation and momentum) clear in our hearts and minds. First, we need to ask ourselves what our motivation is. What causes us to act on our inspiration and create something special? What drives us to push through self-doubt and fear of rejection? What propels us when we must sacrifice time with family and friends? What prompts us to keep typing or writing away for hundreds of hours? In a nut shell, why do we do this? Why do we write?

If we don't have a clear and concise motivation, we will lack desire and and passion for our writing. If we're not passionate about it, how can we expect others to be?

Second, we must keep up our momentum as writers. Our momentum determines the length of time it will take to bring our work to completion. It's as simple as that. If we catch a great flow, we work longer and more passionately than if we don't know where we're going with our story lines.

It takes both motivation and momentum, working hand in hand, in order for us to accomplish what we desire in our writing careers. One can't work effectively without the other, in my "humble-bumble" opinion. How can we be motivated to do something if we don't know why we're even doing it?

Sometimes, it's easy for us to lose our way. I know that, like a hound dog, I've had to find my scent in order to get back on the trail to my writing endeavors time and time again. If we keep our motivations before us, then our momentum will come.

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:









Following the yellow-brick road...
Dorothy ain't got nothin' on me! ;-)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Up Close and Personal!

"Good work doesn't happen with inspiration. It comes with constant, often tedious and deliberate effort." - William Hefferman

Once again, as I've done several times before, I'm enjoying Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel. I have both the book and workbook, and they both continually open my eyes to the industry in amazing ways.

In his book, Mr. Maass stresses the point that it doesn't matter how good we are at self-promoting, or how many books we sign, or how big of an advance we may land, or how great an agent we may have. If we don't write the story well, we won't have longevity in our writing careers. It's as simple as that.

I know that I'm preaching to the choir, but it's good to hear again on occasion; we alone are the ones who control our writing destiny. We decide whether or not we're going to give it everything we've got, or allow things to slide a little (or a lot, as in my case as of late). We decide whether we will hold ourselves accountable, or, when things don't go exactly our way, blame others for their lack of excitement about our project. We alone must stir the reader's emotions with great passion and authenticity. We alone must decide if we're satisfied with just thinking about being a great writer, or in fact, actually becoming one.

If you're a writer, I know that I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know, especially if you're one of the fortunate ones that have found representation and publication. It's just that sometimes we "know" something without really "knowing" it. You know? (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) There's a big difference between "knowing" something in our head, and "knowing" it in our heart. Our head-knowledge doesn't lead us to action. It's the heart-knowledge that does. Passion comes from the heart, not from the head.

To really understand and "know" in my heart that I alone hold the power to break-out, is both exhilarating and terrifying to me. Exhilarating because I feel empowered; I'm not dependent on anyone else for my success or failure. Terrifying because, again, it all depends on me, not my agent, editor, or publisher. They will help me along the way, but they do not write my stories, and they do not birth my visions. The buck stops with me.

So, once again, it's time for me to buckle down, dig deeper, and give everything that I have. If we as writers REALLY want to, we CAN be break-out authors. We can excel, we can succeed. It will take some longer than others, as with any success, but it will happen eventually for all of us who are willing and disciplined enough to pay the price. Yay for us!!

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:










"Golden" and feeling on top of things!
Wahoo!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Losing Your Voice?

Well, I'm back. It feels as though I have been gone FOREVER! As I'm sure you've gathered by now, it was a tough week with the passing of my Grandmother last Saturday, and then the traveling to Florida for the services and back again on Friday. Then, yesterday morning called for us to jump right back into the thick of things with our huge Easter event that we host every year. All I can say is, thank God this week is Spring Break and I'm off from school. Even though I still will have a lot to accomplish this week, I can sleep in a little and work from home. YES! Love that!

I was going to dedicate my first post following my return to my precious Mam-maw. But, I'm still processing quite a lot. So, I will hold off until later in the week. I will, however, return to the art of writing.

Question...are you a character or plot motivated writer?

I, myself, am intensely character driven. I don't know why that is, it's just the way I write.

My characters are my motivation. I love all of their quirks, emotions, baggage from past relationships and situations, and just like us, their unpredictability. I'm like a protective mother in some aspects, as I find myself wanting to save them from from their bad decisions and inevitable heartache. Yet, I have to allow them the freedom to learn and grow on their own.

But, I know that every writer is different, as they should be. What would literature be without plot-driven authors as well? I read all kinds of novels, and I'm enriched by the different styles and voice that come from within the soul of each author.

This brings me back to my original question...are you losing your writing voice? I ask because it occurred to me that so many of us, in the motivation to write well, fall prey to trying to become someone else other than ourselves in our voice and/or style. We may be character-driven, but read a great plot-motivated work that inspires us, and find that we want to write just like that, or vice-versa.

It's a wonderful thing for us to remain challenged. I'm reading The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. LOVE IT! I enjoy her unique descriptiveness and abstract thought. I read M.T. Anderson's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing a few times a year. His use of vocabulary is almost intimidating to me as it challenges me to be a better writer. It thoroughly stretches my brain capacity. Can I learn from these two fabulous award-winning authors? Absolutely. Will I try to glean something from them? Yes. Will I try to BE them? Uh...no. I don't want to be "Anderson-like" or "Proulx-like," I want to be me, CJ.

Each of us should be careful to remain true to what inspires us; to remain true to our personal writing heart. Different prose, voice, and style, give us the diversity of works that are either literary, romance, mystery, fantasy, or...well, you get the picture. We need to continue to embrace our own unique voice, while at the same time, allowing ourselves to be continually challenged and stretched.

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:









Not really a particular mood. I just wore these to church today.
64 degrees. Tootsie-bells just liked being out for some fresh air.


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