The I-Think-I-Can Approach

Planted in April 2021

A story starts with an idea, like a flower starts with a seed. It’s planted. It germinates.

As with a book or the sunflower that just bloomed in my garden four days ago, it can take a while. Weeks. Months. Even years. The process is often unpredictable.

But one day, something starts to happen. Something fresh pokes through the many thoughts, or the dirt in the ground, and you’ve begun.

The journey isn’t easy. There are periods when nothing seems to be happening. This is because you can’t truly see what’s percolating in your subconscious, or what’s going on underground. Self-doubt creeps in. Maybe unintentional neglect. Or impatient waiting for some sign of progress.

Through the period of early growth, there are setbacks and obstacles. Illness, emergencies, accidents, or natural intervention. For my sunflower it was a summer of heat domes, toxic smoky air, and water from a hose rather rather than thirst-quenching rain.

Time passes. Obstacles fade. Dry toxicity turns into breathable air. Thoughts begin to gel. The story is making sense now, and then it really takes off. One day you look up and the stem is strong and two feet tall. A bud appears. The logical sequence to an approaching climax.

Finally, one day, you spot a vibrant little flower peering down at you, and you realize it’s survived a pretty long journey. Sure, the surrounding vines and tree are stronger and larger, but my sunflower stands just as proud, basking in the light of day.

May everything you create and grow, flourish.

Two Overlooked Impacts on Editing

Pexels Image by Suzy Hazelwood

Thank you to those who commented on last week’s blog. They inspired me to give more thought to writing productivity and editing, specifically, since it’s 100% of my writing life these days.

Whether I’ve had a good or lousy editing session depends on a number of factors, like how many other things I have on my mind, whether I’ve slept well, eaten properly, or even exercised. As mentioned last week, skill and time play a role in productivity. But here are two more factors that tend to slip off my radar.

One is location. After blogging about the importance of stepping away from writing to get a change a scenery, I’ve also remembered that editing in a different space from my usual spot often has a positive impact on my work. It can be a library, the car, (I did that a lot while waiting for my kids’ extracurricular activities to finish) or somewhere else. Those changes helped me see my work in a new light, literally and figuratively.

Last week, for example, I drove my husband downtown to have a minor medical procedure. While I waited to pick him up, I went for a walk and wound up in a food court at a large mall. I ordered lunch, found a table removed from everyone else’s and, after eating, pulled out the Casey Holland novella I’ve been working on. I don’t know if it was the lighting, the white noise, or what, but I suddenly found entire sentences that didn’t need to be there. Would I have done this had I been working at my home office? I don’t know, but I do know that those lines had made it through umpteen previous drafts.

Here’s another, often overlooked impact on my editing life. Moods. After times of frustration and annoyance at my secretarial jobs, I’d find a quiet place on my lunchbreak and start crossing out unnecessary words. There was something about a “let’s cut to the chase and bloody well get it done” frame of mind that helped cut superfluous words. So, if you’re in a lousy mood and don’t want to get down to editing, try it anyway. You might be surprised.

I’m not suggesting you’ll be a better editor if you’re experiencing negative emotions. If you’re really happy or relaxed, editing can go well, too. All I’m saying is that my moods have an impact on my work, so I now attempt to make them work for me. If I’m experiencing intense emotional or physical pain, however, that’s a different story, and probably a topic for another day.

Those Crazy Creative Phases

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted a blog, but honestly this retired grandma has been on an ambitious streak. I’ve stepped up my commitment to various writing-related tasks, as well as my new critique group and volunteer work. I’ve also attended some interesting Zoom workshops lately.

I don’t know about you but my life seems to revolve around internal cycles where I have a lot of energy and ambition to get things done for a few weeks—or even months—and then it diminishes. It doesn’t necessarily involve weather and seasons, although they might contribute.

During the low energy, unambitious phase, writing projects aren’t quite as important. I’ll have little interest in monitoring book sales or networking on social media. I still edit my book every day, but not for as long a period. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the low energy phase always passes, so I don’t fret about it anymore. It’s perfectly okay to make more time for rest and reading, a lesson that has taken a long time to learn.

I’ve been in an ambitious phase since about the end of August, which means, I’ve finished a fair number of tasks, in and out of the house. Due to the terrible fires in the U.S., I did retreat indoors for several days when Vancouver’s air quality plummeted. My throat became dry, eyes stung, and I started coughing after only a couple minutes outside. My heart goes out to everyone south of the border who are suffering so much through this calamity.

The air improved enough over the weekend to go back outside and continue yardwork, but the rain has now returned big time and I don’t know when I’ll get back to the garden. Meanwhile, the photos below show some of the clearing I’ve been doing in the backyard, plus our first sunflower! We’ve also harvested a couple dozen of tomatoes.

Our first sunflower! We started late this year.
Slowly clearing the weeds. The yard was completely overgrown at one point!

Of course, there have been visits with our lovely little Ellie, who is pure joy and light. She’s adopting a wide range of expressions and sounds and is absolutely delightful.

I don’t know how long my ambitious phase will last—I never do, but that’s okay. I’ll role with it and see what happens. How about you? Does your creative life involve ambitious, or other types of cycles?

Getting Involved

A few weeks ago, when I began planning tasks and events for the remainder of 2020, I assumed this would be a slower fall than usual. After all, I retired from my Mon-Fri day job and many of the in-person events I take part in are either cancelled or going online.

So, what to do? Well, the answers came quickly. First, I was invited to do some volunteer work for Crime Writers of Canada (I accepted this short gig which ends in Oct.). Second, I learned that my casual job, which is to facilitate creative writing workshops for my local recreation center, is starting up again for five weeks, and possibly longer if these in-person sessions go well.

Third, I’ve started an online writing critique group comprised of experienced, committed writers. I’ve known all of them for years and am thrilled that I’ll be receiving weekly feedback from this diverse and terrific group of people.

Finally, I’ve joined a highly interactive online organization that offers all kinds of mini courses, support, and resources, called Creative Academy. I hope to connect with authors, readers and gain assistance in areas I need help with.

While I’ve had a productive, self-isolating six months working on my current urban fantasy (over 280 pages edited these past three months), it’s time to reach out and connect with the writing community in new ways.

Getting involved whether through critique groups, courses, or volunteering seems like a great way to stay positive and look forward to whatever the rest of this year brings.

Ellie and me, Aug. 25. I swear she was smiling 🙂

Inspiration from Game of Thrones. Who Knew?

18679295525_f39cc1bc70_z[1]If you’re a Game of Thrones fan like our family is, Sunday, April 14th was a big day, as it launched the beginning of Season 8, the show’s final season. I wasn’t completely waiting with baited breath, as I had plenty of other things to tend to on Sunday before show time.

One of my tasks was to edit a chapter of the urban fantasy I’ve been working on for some time. I always work on it Sunday mornings before spending the afternoon with my mother. Honestly, I didn’t really think about the manuscript the rest of the day.

After the visit and a few more chores, we sat down to watch the show. If you haven’t seen this series, you should know that it has some of the most creative and entertaining opening credits I’ve ever seen. And that’s when it happened.

I’m listening to the music and watching images of heavy square floor panels open and close when an idea for a second fantasy novel bounded into my head. And then another. I grabbed a sheet of paper and pen and started scribbling down everything I was thinking while the credits went on. By the time the first scene opened (there was no dialogue for at least a couple of minutes) I was still scribbling, and managed to write a page and a half on a notepad before the first word was uttered.

Once they were, I fell into their world and forgot all about mine, which seemed perfectly logical, given that I’m writing a modern day urban fantasy set here in British Columbia. Game of Thrones is completely different. Or is it?

Aside from the main plot, the quest to sit on the throne and rule the seven kingdoms, GoT is a story about relationships, trust, betrayal, love, ambition, and battles for the right to control the world.

As it happens, the components aren’t that different from my current WIP, albeit with healing-focused themes and significantly different twists in my work. Those opening credits last Sunday, however, inspired an idea about how to take the themes and aspects in my first book to a whole new level in a second book.

You might find it strange that I’ve never read one of George R.R. Martin’s novels. But, hey, that’s okay. The TV series is amazing and clearly, the opening credits are inspiring enough for the moment.