Category Archives: Writing

It Has Begun

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo for short, has begun. Yesterday to be precise. And I missed it. I had a family emergency sprout up that took the entire weekend to resolve and so I ended up without logging (even for my own benefit) any writing time.

But you know what? That’s ok. I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I’m not out to try and “win” NaNo. By that I mean that I’m not going to try and kill myself to make the 50k words in 30 days goal that defines NaNo. I will do my best to get close but pushing myself to frustration to be able to cut and paste a “I Won NaNo!” button on my home blog isn’t worth it. That’s not MY goal.

My goal is simple: to sit down and write something every day. I have one idea that is my NaNo project, but I have a few other projects that I would really like to work on and finish as well. So, I plan on writing a little on my NaNo Project, then working a little on another smaller project and getting it completed. No, that doesn’t follow the NaNo contest guidelines but so what? Isn’t the whole premise of NaNo to get you writing? What does it matter if it’s one new project or an older one? As long as you are writing every day and reaching whatever reasonable word count goal you have set for yourself, I don’t see that WHAT you write matters all that much.

So, what is my NaNo project? I am taking on and retelling King Lear. I was inspired this past September after I watched Sir Ian McKellen’s 2008 performance of Lear. His portrayal of the mad King sparked an idea that I ruminated on for at least a week before realizing I was prepping my story already. I had most of my characters and scenes began playing out in my head. All I had to do was write them down. That’s where NaNo comes in.

Thanks to NaNo I had to hold off on actually sitting down and writing the story. Because I had to wait to begin writing until November, I was forced to actually prep. I had some research to do (I still have research to do). There were character sketches I wanted to write out. And, horror of all horrors, I actually began outlining! A natural pantser (thanks to writing poetry…A LOT of poetry), I was outlining…in my head. I know. I can’t believe it either. But I did.

I don’t have all the mechanics worked out. But I have enough that it didn’t matter that I missed writing yesterday. As far as I’m concerned, all of my prepping (which includes writing about 500 words of a summary that could be a possible opening chapter) should count towards my first day work. I sat my butt down and wrote every day in October. Granted, it was for a poetry challenge but I still sat down and wrote. I also did lots of reading, on my subject and off it. I planned, I plotted, I wrote. (Google Translate says that is: “Aluero, confirmaro insidiatus scripsi” in Latin.) As far as I’m concerned, I have made a great start. And let’s face it, we’re going to need all the little bits of encouragement and support as November marches on and NaNo becomes a pain in the butt to get through.

So, a few tips.

  1. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make your daily word count. Some days you are going to have a word count euphoria while others you might manage two words.
  2. Take breaks. Get up and walk around. Go for a walk outside if it’s nice. Make a cup of coffee or tea. But take a break. Get your mind off of writing for a bit. It will help if you come back to your writing with a fresh mind.
  3. Reward yourself, even for small goals. Basically, be your own cheerleader. Do something kind for yourself like having a piece of chocolate (or your preferred delectable treat) or watching a movie (see tip #2).
  4. Ignore all your natural inclinations to surf the web and social media sites. Set your phone to vibrate or turn it off completely if it’s a big distraction. It’s a proven non-scientific fact that once you sit down in front of your computer to write you find a hundred other things to do instead of actually writing. So, put on the blinders and turn off the distractions.
  5. Remember that “winning” NaNo is NOT the goal. Writing every day is.

NaNo is a good exercise in dedication. It’s helpful in that it forces you to try and make a habit out of writing every day. And if you are sincere and determined to be a writer, then writing every day is not just a necessity, it’s your writing oxygen. Even the great writers knew it. Practice makes perfect isn’t just an adage, it’s a well-known fact of every craft.

Here’s to hoping you’ve made a great start to NaNo! Happy writing this week!

Jesi

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

As I’ve been working on my October NaNoPrep I’ve discovered I may be facing a tough break up. If I am going to be successful with a NaNoWriMo commitment, I’m going to have to stop spending so much time with my iPhone.

I admit to having a borderline unhealthy relationship with my phone. I wake up and check all my Twitter and Facebook notifications. I read any new text messages. I check my email. I read some favorite blogs.

Throughout the day when I have a free moment, I’m looking at my phone. When I wait in line at the grocery store, I check my phone. When I am at the doctor’s office, I check my phone. When I’m at football practice, I check my phone. When I get the kids to bed, I check my phone. When I’m cooking dinner and the kids are playing Xbox, I check my phone. My phone is a constant go to for info and entertainment to fill the free moments.

The problem with having that constant go to for any type of distraction is that those free moments are all suddenly filled. By filling my open moments away from work and family obligations with a phone in front of my face, I remove the opportunity to just be still and think.

If I can take a break from my iPhone addiction, at least for the month of November, I can use the time I might otherwise be drifting through Facebook with no real purpose to get in my word count for the day, or at least make a start on it. I can work out a difficult plot point while sitting in the doctor’s office instead of shopping around for stuff for the house on a favorite website.  I can think through how the next scene I’m writing may develop while I wait in the grocery line instead of poring through the latest pictures of a favorite actor on Twitter.

By removing, or severely limiting, the smart phone distractions, I can open myself up for a healthier relationship with my own creativity. After November’s writing challenge comes to an end, I may drift back into that relationship over time, but perhaps I’ll see how well I can do on my own.

For all the good the break may bring, I have to admit that breaking up will be hard to do. 🙂

What about you? Do you have a smart phone addiction? Do Twitter and Facebook notifications call for your attention? Are you perpetually connected to your phone? Do you think you, or someone you know, could do well with a break up? I’d be happy to hear about it the comments.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week!

~CJS

You’re Not Alone

November is quickly approaching and for some brave souls that means NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in 30 days). Perhaps I will include myself in that group, if I can muster up a bit more bravery.

For many, October has therefore been all about NaNo Prep work. For those out there who are giving this a go and perhaps having a little trouble, I’ll tell you this much: you are not alone.

You are not alone if you have spent more time coming up with reasons why you can’t do NaNoWriMo than reasons why you can.

I fight off the instinct to list the many obstacles to actually getting 50,000 words written in the month of November. It is easy to see the difficulty of committing to such a significant word count goal. Sticking to a commitment to write with a specific goal in mind truly will be worth the difficulty however so I have to move past the excuses and keep looking at the reasons.

You are not alone if you’ve spent more time reading articles on the best way to prep for NaNoWriMo than actually prepping for NaNo.

Fortunately there are some excellent resources available, both through the NaNoWriMo site and through all sorts of other sites as well. However it is very easy to spend much more time reading about prepping than in actual prep work. I’ve begun limiting the exploration of ideas and just applying what I’ve already found.

You’re not alone if you struggle against the plotting nature of NaNo Prep since you tend to be a full time “pantser”.

I have never done an outline prior to writing, so this is a big step for me. I’ve played with completing character sketches that are much more detailed than I’ve tried in the past. I’ve also worked on a plot summary more detailed than previously done on work I let come freely (but a bit more haphazardly).

You’re not alone if you are not nearly as ready as you should be.

I am quite sure I could be doing more to get ready and if I do this again next year (heck if I make it through this year! Haha), I will definitely learn other things I coulda, shoulda, woulda done differently. Live and learn is, I suppose, the only way to handle it at this point.

How is your writing or writing prep (or thinking about writing or prepping for writing) going? Do you feel alone in your struggles sometimes? Does it help to know we all have our struggles? Feel free to share with me about NaNoPrep struggles/victories or any of your current challenges. I would guess whatever it is you may be struggling with (or succeeding at), you are not alone. 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

~CJS

 

Drawing Your Reader Into Your Story

I apologize for my extreme tardiness. I had an overly busy weekend that seems to have extended itself into today. So, this is going to be short.

Yesterday, in my Critique Group, we reviewed a short work that was an assignment the author (AJ) was given. She was given a choice of a picture, song, or poem, and told to write what she saw. It was a “show, don’t tell” assignment. AJ chose a picture which happened to be Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio, and the story she wrote from that had me captivated and intrigued.

The main thought that kept circling in my head was how excellent an exercise this was for writers. Especially for beginners. One of the biggest problems I’ve had in my writing is the tendency to write exactly what I see in my head. Most of the time this is fine. However, I forget that I’m seeing a scene in my head that I’m trying to describe to an audience and I want to bring that audience into the scene with me. That means showing them by using descriptors and metaphors that put them there, not giving them stage directions, that will bore them and make them not want to know more. It’s not enough to know it’s raining; they need to feel the rain as well.

The exercise AJ had to do was such a great way to practice this technique. It forced her to bring her reader into the picture, which she did very well. Another way of accomplishing this would be to write for 30 minutes about where you are right this very moment. Are you sitting down at a desk like I am? Are you in a park? Describe in detail what is going on around you, such as the noises, the scents, etc. Use your five senses and bring me to where you are. Show me, don’t tell me.

This works for poetry as well. Last week for the poetry challenge I am doing I was supposed to write a poem about risk taking. Instead, I wrote about a dream I had the night before which continued to haunt me throughout the day. So, I wrote a poem about that instead. You tell me, did I bring you into my dream or not?

You Were Not There

By Jesi Scott

 

Last night, I had a dream about you,

But you were not there.

I know it was you I dreamed about because

I felt you all around…

But you were not there.

I walked the rooms you had walked in,

Placing my steps in the same places you did.

I sat in the chairs you sat in

Imagining you reading into the depths of the night.

I laid my body on the couch in just the same spot,

In just the same way, that you did

Only…

The cushions had forgotten your shape

And so, I could not feel your body next to mine.

The chairs were hard and cold,

And did not retain the memory of you in them.

The floors had erased your footprints.

You were not there.

Yet…

When I looked I noticed the relics of your presence:

Old, worn shoes left by the front door

Waiting for you to put them on again,

The book you turned upside down on the last page you had read

Waiting for the caress of your hand on its pages,

The cup you left by the sink, unrinsed,

Waiting for the softness of your lips pressed against its rim-

All of us waiting for your return.

Yet I could not wait forever so I turned away

and opened my eyes eager to see your face…

But you weren’t there.

 

And I am left,

Bereft.

 

Personally, I think it could use some editing. I could have described the couch more or maybe I could have mentioned the table that the book was lying on. What about adding a clock ticking somewhere? Or did I manage to pull you into the poem by not showing you everything? Showing can mean a little or a lot, and part of our job as a writer is to know when just enough is good enough. Too much can take away from the overall scene by being too descriptive, and too little can leave a reader trying to figure out what’s going on.

Try it for yourself. Find a picture that captures your interest and write to show, not tell, and bring your audience into it.

Have a great week!

Jesi

Dreams with Deadlines

“Goals are dreams with Deadlines” – Diana Scharf Hunt

Do you ever wonder what life would be without dreams or goals? Would we just float along aimlessly, with no real gumption to move forward in life? It sounds boring.

Goals can be mundane, for example, like planning to make it to a destination on time for once. Or they can be a major plotting point in your life, like becoming a successful author.

One of my major writing assignments, due today actually, for one of my classes was to write an essay on my Life Goals. This included a three year, five year, and a ten year goal that I had to set out for myself. These things could not be something like getting married (though, check), or having children (again, check), but more like goals that I could accomplish on my own by pushing myself to reach them and not relying on another individual to succeed.

This sounds easy enough, but it wasn’t. Writing is a big part of my future, and I share my goals for writing every time that I make it to a writer’s meeting. It was difficult for me to come up with three attainable but meaningful goals and then write a paper explaining how I plan on reaching these said goals.

Writing this paper was horrible, not because I couldn’t do it, but because it had me hanging my head in shame. I am so swamped with trying to keep my head afloat that I am not getting the one thing done needed to reach my ultimate goal. Write! I mean, I am writing, but I am not getting to really write the fun stuff right now. Oh, I write. Essay’s upon essay’s! (If I never have to analyze another topic again, I wont be saddened.)

I need to write for fun for any of this to be worth it. This being school, blogging, and meetings.

At the beginning of next month is the start of NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in 30 days), I know that Jesi and CJ are already signed up to do it and have been planning profusely. I keep telling myself that I don’t have the time, and I really don’t, but I need something fun to get me back in the swing of writing for pleasure and not just for a grade.

 I guess I just added another dream with a deadline to my list .

So what goals do you have set for yourself? How are you going to achieve them? Let us know down in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Till next time,
~AJP

A New Twilight?

This past week, Stephanie Meyer, the best-selling author of the teen vampire series, Twilight, upon which the blockbuster movies were based, made a big announcement.

With the 10 year anniversary of the first Twilight books’ publication, Meyer has announced a new Twilight book, Life and Death – A Twilight Re-Imagining sold in conjunction with the 10th anniversary edition . Well, it’s not really *new*, it’s a new version of the first book.

This release is not like her unreleased and incomplete version that was leaked and then given for free on her site at one point, Midnight Sun, which was told from Edward’s POV. The new re-telling is the same story with – wait for it- gender swapped characters! (Cue eye roll).

In this new book, Meyer now has the teenage vampire as a female character and the love struck human as a male. Instead of Bella, we have a Beau. Instead of Edward, we have Edythe. Other characters are also gender swapped, like Carlyle, but the story is the same.

Meyer has said that this “new book” is not really a new book and she views it as more like “bonus material”, however new book or not, it will get a lot of sales I would imagine, given the series success.

Here I will admit I enjoyed the Twilight books. I know, the writing wasn’t good. I know she totally ignored the vampire tropes and gave the world the sparkling vegatarian vampire. (Cringe) I know the female lead isn’t the strong character I prefer to read about and see portrayed in film. I know. But I enjoyed them. Yes, part of this had to do with liking the British actor who portrayed Edward in the movies. (I love the Brits okay?) It absolutely had to do with the fun of the first movie and the great soundtrack. For all of the books’ (and movies’) faults, I enjoyed them. Chalk it up to guilty pleasures if you must. I’m coming clean here. I liked Twilight. Judge me all you want. 😉

Having admitted to that, I can tell you I think it is absolutely ludicrous to re-tell the same story with changes. I’ve seen her defense that it’s a response to the harsh critisism she’s faced with her ‘damsel in distress’ main character. I think the flaws with Bella go beyond a simple gender swap to play with the weakness not being female. If she wants to respond to giving us a weak female character, she should write something entirely new with a kick-ass female lead.

If she wanted to capitalize on her well-loved existing series, she could take one of her other characters in the world she has already created and explore her story. Alice was a cool and capable character that she could make the heroine in a new series. It could still be in the same world people are already plugged into and could be either before Bella or after Bella.

She hasn’t done that with this new “book/bonus material”, so I have no interest in reading it. I hope for her that she gives her audience a better option in the future. Better yet, perhaps all the readers who fell in love with Twilight can continue enjoying all the great books that have been published since in the same young adult category that are really worth the read. Susanne Collins’ Hunger Games series is fantastic and has a kick-ass female lead. Marie Lu’s Legend series is a great read. Ally Condie’s Matched series is also great and her prose is beautiful. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices Series are both captivating. (The Infernal Devices series was my personal favorite between those two series, by far.) I also enjoyed the very popular Divergent series but didn’t like the writing as much as others. The YA audience has a wealth of strong options to choose from, so I would say, let’s just skip this “new” Twilight book and look nearby on the shelves for another instead. 😀

What do you think? (Amanda and AJ you don’t get to chide me for my Twilight guilty pleasure! 😉 ) Is a re-tooling of an existing story ever a good idea? Does her gender swap accomplish anything? Should successful series ever be re-visited? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. (No, Amanda, nothing about the Twi-Hatred you may have haha).

Thanks for reading. Have a great week!

~CJS

Rogue Muses or Overbearing Ones, We Got All Kinds Here

Last week Amanda talked about her rogue muse, Myrtle, and how Myrtle is driving her insane. (My word, not Amanda’s but I bet she’d agree with me.)

I don’t know if I’d rather have her muse or mine. Mine does not have a name because mine likes to change identities half the time. Mine is also being a little overbearing lately. And a workaholic. It isn’t enough that she’s got me participating in a poetry challenge, which I can handle just fine, but she also has me participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those who need to have it spelled out). And that means prepping for a long month of writing. Oh, and let’s top that off with agreeing to write a short story (5-10k words) for a murder mystery novella with a deadline of December 1st.

Yeah. She may have bitten off more than I can chew.

But that’s the fun/insane thing about being a writer. You never know what you’re going to find yourself getting into. Take for instance the poetry challenge I’m doing. Last year I joined thanks to CJ’s gentle nudging. (It really was-CJ is a subtle witch-she says “hey, you should do this” and then she begins writing some lovely words and I can’t resist.) I joined late but began writing two poems a day to catch up (because I could, not because I had to). By the time the challenge was coming to a close I was writing three poems a day. It was a lot of fun and I met new people and ended up with quite a bit of poetry in my repertoire.

Now take NaNo. I joined that last year as well, thanks to AJ. She’s not so subtle. She’s more like “you should do it because I’m doing it and you should do it.” Did I mention she was holding a sledgehammer at the time? (Okay, not really. She’s not that violent…or is she? 😉 ) During NaNo I began writing something I thought would be my first book. And I was doing well until midway through a bad head cold/infection cold-cocked me and took me out of the game for good. It was awful. You’d think that would put me off NaNo. But you’d be so wrong. I’m doing it again this year. What could possibly go wrong this time? (I know, I’ve just invoked the Writing Gods’ perverse sense of humor. What can I say? I like a good challenge.)

Amanda always asks us in group what our writing goals are. I may be one of the few that can look her in the eye without flinching, or fidgeting under her steely gaze, and give her an acceptable answer. I have more than enough goals and writing going on right now, and I think both Amanda, and my muse, should be happy with that.

And me, well, tune in next month to watch me become a sleep-deprived, raving lunatic.

Have a great week.

Jesi

When your muse goes rogue

The last couple of months have been more than interesting in the old proverbial way. But, until recently, I’d still managed to get some writing done. Not nearly as much as I would have liked and, as a result, I’m behind on a couple of deadlines. Add in the hard drive that died and is being resuscitated and, well, frustration has been the emotion of the week. But now that things appear to be getting back to normal, Myrtle the Muse has decided that she wants to be more difficult than usual and my writing life has fallen down the well and into a Twilight Zone version of Wonderland.

I’d finally finished Nocturnal Challenge, the fourth books and fifth title in my Nocturnal Lives series. If I had to pick one character of all those I’ve written who I really like, it would be Mackenzie Santos from that series. Mac is stubborn, flawed and trying to figure out how to live in a world that suddenly isn’t quite what she always thought it to be. She can also be a pushy bitch in my head when she thinks I’m not giving her and her cohorts enough of my attention — as in whenever I’m writing anything else.

Normally, the Nocturnal Lives books are relatively easy writes. But not Challenge. Part of the “challenge” — pun intended — is that the world for not just Mac but for everyone is about to change and the events in this book will play a big role in what happens. Part of it is that one of the major supporting characters is basically off-screen for the entire book, so some of the byplay that has been so important in the previous books isn’t there.

The real challenge, however, has been Myrtle the Muse. She has been playing games with this book from the very beginning. She messed with my normal writing routine. Usually I write front to back. Not this time. Oh no, Myrtle demanded I write the opening couple of chapters, the last third (maybe a bit more) of the book and then go back and write the middle. I. DO. NOT. LIKE. THIS. Not that Myrtle cared.

When I finished Challenge, I put it aside. I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I practiced what I preach. I put it away until I could look at it with fresh eyes. The problem with that is it gave Myrtle more time to figure out ways to screw with me.

Imagine my surprise — and anger, frustration and outright disbelief — when I picked Challenge up over the weekend and started reading it. Everything about it screamed “WRONG!” It was more than my usual dose of self-doubt. The muse that shall no longer be named (TMTSNLBN)– yes, I’m that mad at her — was having all sorts of fun messing with my head.

You see, after three novels and a novella in the universe, all written in third person, TMTSNLBN had decided it would be really cool if I wrote Challenge in first person. Forget about the more than 80,000 words I’d already written. I would be sooooo easy to go back and write it in first person. Do it all from Mac’s point of view. Forget about the fact the other books were written in third person.

Head, meet desk. Repeat.

I talked with my mentor and alpha readers. They were as confused by TMTSNLBN as was I. So I tried what TMTSNLBN wanted. I tried first person. Not only no but NO! It doesn’t work. Maybe if this were the first book in the series but not the fourth. So I’ve told TMTSNLBN that she is in a time out. I’ve printed out the manuscript as it and am going at it the only way I know how — with a figurative shovel.

In other words, I’ve told my muse that she is just that, a muse, not the final arbiter of all that I write. I’ve also reminded her that I know about her warped sense of humor and that I, too, look at a calendar and I’m not about to fall for her early Halloween joke. (Okay, I really do know that my muse is only an extension of my mind and not a real person. It would be easier if she were. Then I could toss her out the front door and refuse her calls.)

The point of all this is that sometimes, for whatever reason, we get sidetracked. It can be the popcorn kitten issue where everything except what you are working on looks like it would be fun to write. It can be your subconscious telling you that you are about to go off the rails if you don’t go back and fix something. It can be, as I suspect this is, a subconscious fear because you are taking your characters into unknown territory after they have gotten comfortable where they are.

My solution has been to give myself not only a daily schedule of what I expect to do but a deadline for when I plan to put the book up for pre-order. The only thing that will impact that schedule is if, when I get the recovered hard disc back, I discover I lost the one major editing job hanging over me. If that is the case, the weekend will be spent redoing it because it is very late now.

In the meantime, push through. That’s what I keep telling myself. The work computer is back together. The geek guys at the local shop have been trying to salvage my old HD. Writing, such as it is, is starting up again. Now to get back into a regular schedule and get a few deadlines met.

And, most importantly, figure out how to stop TMTSNLBN from going rogue again.

You Have To Write It

 

WITCHESNo, sorry. It doesn’t work that way. You have to sit and write it and there’s no magic in the world that’s going to change that.

As much as we love to write, you have to admit that there are times when you wish you could just snap your finger and there it is. Life keeps happening no matter what and sometimes as much as you want to sit and bleed that ink there just seems to be no time. And maybe…just maybe…you have time and are simply making excuses. Either way, it isn’t going to get done unless you park your butt in that chair and start banging away at those keys.

I’m writing this to myself, by the way. If you feel that it pertains to you, too, then by all mean continue to read. I realize that this is a universal problem. Okay, maybe not the whole universe, but certainly here on this planet wherever there happens to be a writer.

I sit down and look at the book I’m working on. It says at the bottom of the screen that there are about 9800 words to it, so far. How can that be, I ask myself. I’ve been working on it for months. It should be done by now! Why isn’t it done?

Because you haven’t been working on it, I answer.

Ah, well yes. That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is why I find it so hard, sometimes, to sit and do something that I actually like to do.

Maybe, because it’s work. When I was flying I never hesitated to head out to the airfield and jump into my little airplane. But that was pure exhilaration. Nothing but enjoyment. Writing is different. I enjoy it, but yet it’s not always enjoyable. I suppose only another writer could understand that. It makes you work. At least it does if you are doing something worthwhile that you really care about. And that’s the thing. It’s hardest if you really care about it. And I’ve cared about all that stuff I’ve written. Wouldn’t be bothering if I didn’t. And because I care, I want to get those words out so perfectly that it hurts.

So there’s that anticipation of pain. That might be why we find it so hard to plop ourselves into that seat and start. We know the pain is coming at some point. That’s why you sometimes take a deep breath before you begin and say, “Okay, here goes.” It’s like waiting for that needle at the doctor’s office.

And yet it’s so rewarding once you’re rolling and move on passed the pain. But to begin rolling you have to sit down and start. No excuses. Just start. Again, this is to me but its fine if you are listening.

So forget magic. And praying won’t work either. You can pray, before you go to bed, that when you wake up there will be a 100,000 word manuscript in your laptop all ready to go. But when you get up in the morning to check, the same 5,000 words that were there yesterday will still be there.

Because like it or not. You have to sit and write it.

The Hardest Part of Writing

This past Thursday I began the annual October Poetry Writing Month Challenge (OctPoWriMo). CJ got me started on it last year and I couldn’t wait for it to begin this year. And boy, did it ever start. I’ve already had two challenges that gave me pause. One was to write cinematically and the other was to write a shape poem on the subject of showing up. And BOOM, baby! I knew what to use as my subject for today’s post here.

Writing is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. To sit down in a chair and write for a set period of time is not natural, and the inclination is to procrastinate. To find anything else other than what you should be doing, i.e. writing. So, the hardest part of writing is showing up.

What I mean is to be focused on what you are doing. It’s relatively easy to become distracted. Let’s see, there’s Facebook, or Twitter, or, oh yeah, what was that thing on Amazon you were looking at? Or maybe there’s some housework that needs to be done, or you really should take that walk you’re supposed to be taking. Guess what…you aren’t showing up. In fact, there’s nothing being written because other things have taken your time and attention.

Now, I’m not talking about those things that really need taking care of, e.g. kids needing to be fed, dogs needing to be walked, the tire changed on the car. Obviously, family (and laundry) is important. But, I’m fairly certain that you can do without all the drama on Facebook for at least thirty minutes.

This is why I like doing writing challenges. They force me to show up, and that, in turn, sharpens my skills and strengthens my weaknesses. Especially when I’m doing an online blog challenge. I get immediate feedback from different readers and their viewpoints are invaluable. In minutes I can tell if I need to change POV or if I’ve missed something. Is the poem I wrote subpar or should I consider adding it to a future collection folder? What needs tweaking and what did I do right?

The two prompts that I was especially challenged by nearly had me stumped. Writing cinematically was a prompt where we had to view our favorite movie, scene, or video, mute it, and view it without sound. We then had to write a poem in such a way as to express the way the scene came across to us. Well, I don’t have a particularly favorite movie or video so I chose a scene from Sir Ian McKellen’s 2008 performance of King Lear. The scene itself had moved me to torrential sobbing. Sir Ian is like a grandfather figure to me and so the end scene is heart-wrenching. I didn’t much like the poem I wrote (read here), but I was surprised by how many people were moved by my words. I showed up and put a lot of thought and focus into it, even using two phrases from the play to emphasize Lear’s frame of mind. (By the by, this is an excellent exercise to utilize sensory perception-take away all sound and write only what you see.)

The other prompt was difficult only because I really do not like writing shape poetry. That’s where you write a poem whose form is a visual shape on the page. Think Shel Silverstein:

shel

The day I was supposed to write for this prompt ended up being incredibly busy, but I still pushed it off for as long as I could. I REALLY don’t like writing shape poetry (probably because my illustrative skills suck-Joe, feel like giving me some lessons?). But still, I showed up and completed the challenge:

Uncomfortably Numb 10-3-2015

Yes, I wanted to make you cross-eyed. No, not really. The spiral itself is central to the idea/theme of the poem. Here is the actual poem:

Uncomfortably Numb

By Jesi Scott

 

Those eternal days of not being enough

not having it all together

lost hopeless

small cry-yourself-to-sleep days

when even your heart doesn’t show up but hides

in the endless pit of hell on earth-

What brimstone scorches worse than this black hole named despair?

Sucked dry and spit back out into chaos where

the best you can do is show up but

your best isn’t good enough

and so you spiral down and down and down…but still, you show up.

The poem itself can stand alone but is definitely more impactful when utilizing the shape (spiral). It gives the sense I wanted to convey of falling in and spinning out of control.

I wouldn’t have come up with either of these poems if I hadn’t shown up. You have to make the time to write. You have to give it your complete attention.

Showing up is half the battle.

Have a great week!

Jesi