For the writers who need to hear this right now. Don’t let self-doubt take over. Keep writing. You are a writer. So write.
For the writers who need to hear this right now. Don’t let self-doubt take over. Keep writing. You are a writer. So write.
We are into the second day of my favorite month. I’ve always loved October. It’s a cozy month. The air is crisp and cool. I get to wear the hoodies that I love. Sure, I can wear hoodies in winter, but it drops to below zero where I live, so I usually need a jacket, too. In October, a hoodie and a pair of comfortable jeans (or long shorts) are all you need.
October, with its earlier sunsets, is a nice slowdown from the fast pace of summer. Summer days seem to last forever, and I feel guilty when I’m sittin’ around being lazy while the sun beats down in a cloudless blue sky. But now that October is here, and soon nightfall will come as early as 4:30, I won’t have so much guilt on lazy days.
Since I started writing, October has been the month I really hunker down on my work. October is like New Year’s for me. I start anew. I assess where I am with my current project (usually I am behind, as is the current case) and decide which story I will work on next. Will it be one that I have already started or something entirely new?
The book I’m working on now is a short story I had written in college, over twenty years ago. The revision is going on two years now. Although I’d wanted to be finished with the book a year ago, I went through two major changes in plot lines that resulted in the deletion of multiple dozens of pages and countless hours of work. But I have no regrets. The story is remarkably better today than it was at any other time since I began writing it. So don’t be afraid to dump a few, or fifty-five, pages.
Three weeks ago I started a writing course at my local community college. I needed a reset with my writing, and being in a classroom helps to “recharge my writing batteries.” I find inspiration from other writers. It was this time six years ago that I took my first writing class since graduating college in ’99. The course, as well as the students in it, helped to refresh my writing ability, and four months later I had a contract option on my first novella, Her Name.
It is no coincidence that that first class, the current class I am in, and the writing course I took two years ago, were all signed up for in the fall despite being offered in other months.
Writers write no matter the season, time, or day of the week. But for me, there is nothing like October writing.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
I was at a bar one night and ran into a woman I used to date over fifteen years ago. In our exchange of pleasantries, my being a writer came up and immediately my ex grabbed my arm and exclaimed to me with vigor how she is planning on writing her autobiography because she’s led a very interesting life, and all of her friends tell her she just has to write a book.
I told her I was sure she had many great stories to tell, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could fill a book, but I asked if she’d had any training in writing. The uncertain look on her face answered my question. She hadn’t studied writing in any way past a classroom in high school, but figured since she had a story to tell (most people who are alive have a story to tell. It’s called life.) and knew how to write in complete sentences, she could write a book.
I didn’t roll my eyes in front of her. I’m not that rude. But I did suggest to her that if she was serious about writing her book, she should enroll in a writing course at her local college. Three months before I contracted my first book, Her Name, I had taken a writing course at my local college and it helped me more than I imagined one class would. I was lucky to have had some terrific writers in my class who gave me incredible notes on my story, which I still possess over five years later.
After I published my second book, Loving Again, I enrolled in another writing course at the same college. It was during that course that my third book, A Penny on the Tracks, was contracted. I value all of the critiques of my work by my peers and instructors because they have helped me become a better writer.
But as a writer, I have to put in the work, and it bothers me to no end when people think they can just pick up a pen and start writing the masterpiece that is their life without studying the craft.
I’m writing my current book in a point-of-view I’ve never attempted — subjective omniscient. My former books were written in first-person and third-person limited. This is completely new to me. I feel like I’m starting all over again as a writer, and that isn’t such a bad feeling. I may enroll in another writing course. I need the guidance my fellow writers have given me on my previous works for the story I am writing now.
The writing community is tremendously supportive.
I thank all the writers who share their time and their knowledge to inspire and encourage those aspiring to write.
Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net
A week ago, I received the best news. One of the dogs that had been at my shelter for eight months was finally adopted. I was ecstatic. I cried a mixture of happy and sad tears. Happy tears because this little guy, Rupert, was so deserving of a loving family (they all are), and sad tears because I had developed a special bond with Rupert.
I was his handler for over five months of training courses. He wasn’t a very good student and together we failed the first Basic Training class, but in the second go-round we were head of the class. 🙂
Rupert had come to the shelter as a rambunctious 7 month old boxer/pit mix whose previous family used drugs in lieu of proper training to keep this energetic puppy under control. This lazy approach wasn’t effective, but with a lot of work from all the shelter volunteers, Rupert learned his manners and became a very polite little boy.
Three days ago, Rupert’s new family returned him to the shelter. I was shocked because I couldn’t imagine anyone taking this sweet baby home only to have second thoughts. But despite the tremendous strides Rupert had taken in his behavior, a chaotic life with young kids may have been too much for him. When Rupert saw the children playing he most likely got overly-excited, and when he decided he wanted to play too he scared one of the kids.
That was all it took for Rupert to find himself back in the confines of his little kennel. I went to see him today. He doesn’t seem too phased by what happened. Maybe he thinks he was just away on a mini-vacation. I hope that’s the case. The last thing I want is for this little guy’s morale to break. I’ve seen dogs shut down in shelters and it’s an awful sight to witness.
Until the day some other lucky family discovers this gem of a dog, I’ll enjoy whatever time I have left with this sweet baby and give him all the love I can.
If you’re considering getting a pet, please visit your local shelter. So many wonderful animals, like Rupert, are waiting for their furever home.
“One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.” – Margaret Mead.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what to write for my next post (this post) and I got stuck. I don’t know what to write. My intention was to blog two days a week. Sounded simple. But it isn’t because I want to write meaningful posts, not fillers, (like this one?) just to take up space, or to pat myself on the back for being one post closer to my weekly goal.
My blog isn’t overrun with hundreds of daily visitors. But still, even if only one person reads my blog, from here or some other country, I wonder about who that person is, and how the words I wrote made them feel during, and after, they read them (if they felt anything at all). To write with the intention of someone taking the time to read your words is the kind of tough pressure you put on yourself when you don’t want to let someone down.
As a writer of books, and now blogs, I don’t want to disappoint my readers (as few as they may be), and I feel a great deal of anxiety (and guilt) when I feel I cannot write, because it’s what I (I’m supposed to) do.
I rely on inspiration to write, and then my imagination usually takes over. Someday maybe my imagination will jump-start itself, but till then, I need help. I turn to music, movies, and other writers to inspire me.
I came across the above quote while watching a performance on Youtube of a brilliant musician. Her name is Beth Hart, and I wish I could write the way this woman sings. I remembered her from the late nineties because she had a hit song about L.A., but I’d forgotten her over a decade, until I stumbled across one of her performances on the Internet, and now I am sure I will never forget her again.
She is that amazing, and I know she will inspire a story out of me because her lyrics capture every raw emotion that runs through a person’s veins. The above quote will inspire me, too, because the words grabbed me and stayed with me. Anything I read that stays with me, will always have some bearing on me.
The performance Ms. Hart mesmerized me with was a song titled, “Leave the Light On,” and here are a few of the lyrics she sings with so much pain you swear she’s bleeding.
* “Cuz I want to love, I want to live.
I don’t know much about it, I never did.
I don’t know what to do, can the damage be undone?
I swore to God I’d never be, what I’ve become.”
Beth Hart inspires me. Who inspires you?
*These are copyrighted lyrics. I don’t own them.
Everybody hurts. Everyone gets sad. At times, life can seem so hopeless you wonder if it’s even worth living anymore. And then something good happens. You find inspiration in a place you weren’t looking.
A year and a half ago I started volunteering at a dog shelter. I wasn’t prepared for the profound impact it would have on my life. I went into it believing I was the one who was going to save lives, but I was wrong. Those homeless animals saved me.
My shelter takes in dogs from all different situations – dogs from other over-crowded shelters, owner-surrenders, dogs found amid the aftermath of natural disasters or roaming the streets as strays, or taken from abusive/neglected homes, or rescued from puppy mills .
Each dog comes with its own story, its own unique path, that led them to the cages lining the walls of the kennel I work. Some stories are worse than others, leaving you clenching your fists as you witness, first-hand, what the horrendous cruelty and lack of humanity residing within a person can do.
It forces you to question who the real animals are, and they aren’t the ones with four legs, a tail, and a wet nose.
The four-legged beings that I have the privilege to spend time with each week have demonstrated a level of compassion and forgiveness, so heartfelt and ardent, that I fear I will never, in all my life, come close to attaining the emotional intensity attached to the freedom that comes with letting go of the past, and truly allow myself to forgive and forget, while being open to new happiness without the weight of old baggage holding me down or the pain of worn-out, ancient scars running through my body.
Shelter dogs know how to move on. They are eager to love despite the fact that somebody had let them down because they ended up in a shelter. They forgive the hands that have hurt them and forget the dirty shed they were chained to their entire lives because all they want is a home and someone to love them.
The shelter I volunteer at is a no-kill shelter. However long it takes for a dog to find a home, that’s how long it stays. Unfortunately, there is dog who has been there almost as long as I have. His name is John Boy and he is amazing. Despite being passed up day after day, week after week, and month after month, he has not lost an ounce of spirit. Whenever I, or any other volunteer, pass his kennel, he pops to his feet and hurries to the front of his cage, with tail wagging, and watches us with eager eyes, hoping that he is next to go out. He loves his time outside, even in the bitter cold.
When I put him on his leash, he pulls me to the yard with an overflowing excitement he can’t contain, the way I imagine I dragged my mother from one roller coaster ride to the next. But John Boy isn’t hurrying to jump on a fast-paced ride filled with sharp twists and quick turns. He’s rushing toward the same yard, with the same familiar toys, he’s been going to for fifteen minutes a shift, four times a day, for almost a year.
There is nothing “upside-down-roller-coaster” thrilling about that, but John Boy loves it. He inspires me because even though he’s not where he wants to be, he still wags his tail. He still licks my hand. He still enjoys the yard. He still has hope.
John Boy wants to live and he is looking forward.
He deserves a home, like every dog in the shelter, but he’s one I wish for the most. Every Friday night I say goodbye to him hoping I won’t see him the following week, but I always do. I will miss him so much when he’s gone because we’ve bonded during his long stay, but I anxiously anticipate the feeling of joy that will rush over me when I pass his kennel and don’t see his nose pressed against the metal or the stub of his tail wagging side to side.
I can’t wait for the day I don’t recognize the name sprawled across his cage. I’ll smile big because John Boy will finally have found his home.
Millions of dogs are euthanized every year. If you are looking for a pet, please consider visiting your local animal shelter. There are many loving animals in need of a second chance. Most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills that breed dogs under inhumane conditions. Please Adopt and Don’t Shop. Thank you for reading.
I am so excited to have Carol Browne on my blog today. She is a tremendously talented author and was gracious enough to accept my request for an interview. Thank you Carol and welcome to my blog. I am privileged to have you as my first guest on my blog.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been a scribbler since I was six or seven but large chunks of my life passed by without much in the way of creative endeavour. I’m back on track now.
I’m so glad you’re back on track, because I feel this is where you’re supposed to be. When was your first book published?
Apart from dubious forays into self-publishing, my first ‘proper’ book is The Exile of Elindel, published as an eBook by Musa Publishing on 18thApril, 2014.
I understand you have a trilogy coming out with Musa Publishing. Will you tell us a little about that?
The Exile of Elindel is Book I of my fantasy trilogy The Elwardain Chronicles. Book II, Gateway to Elvendom, is scheduled for release in March 2015; Book III, Wyrd’s End, will follow in December of the same year. Exile was originally a stand-alone book but the characters niggled at me for thirty years until I gave in and continued writing about their adventures.
Here’s the blurb for The Exile of Elindel:
Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.
Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.
A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.
When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.
There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?
Congratulations on the two scheduled releases for next year. You have been busy! I need to ask. What inspires you?
I am inspired by music, nature, the beauty of words, history, the supernatural, the triumph of good over evil, and by people who refuse to give up in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
I like those inspirations. Why do you write what you do?
I wrote fantasy because of a day-dream I had in which I saw my characters when they were nearing the end of their quest. There were other factors that started me writing in this genre but it was never a deliberate choice. It just happened.
Do you find any recurring themes in your writing?
A major theme is one I know interests you, Alicia: the idea that one small action done, or not done, can have a far-reaching effect on everything that follows. I do love the theme of friendship too; it has been so important to me in my own life. I also like unusual relationships where friendships are formed between unlikely characters. The battle of good against evil is a given theme for the sword-and-sorcery genre, of course, and I also like the zero-to-hero scenario. This happens to several of my characters as they grow into themselves and find their place in the world.
(Laughing)Oh yes, Carol. I do love contemplating the consequential lingering effects of our actions – both big and small. It is fascinating that decisions made in one moment, one second of our lives, can drastically change our paths. Would you like to share an excerpt from one of your books?
Here’s a short extract from The Exile of Elindel:
Supporting herself against the tree, Elgiva struggled to her feet. Her head reeled, and her legs were weak, as though her bones had melted. Her body felt scorched by magic. Her powers were growing stronger, but she lacked the strength and skill required to protect herself from their intensity. She felt like a shallow river, broken-banked and choked with stones, unable to cope with a fierce spring flood. She cursed her weakness and also the fever that had cost her so much energy, yet she smiled at the irony of it all. The more she exercised her powers, the stronger they became; the stronger they became, the more they weakened her. She was on a downward spiral that could only end in death, and perversely, there was pleasure in it, for it was true what Vieldrin had said: power was like a drug.
But it was pointless bemoaning her weakness, and she had no time to convalesce. Only magic mattered, and she was born to serve it, and if it destroyed her, so be it.
Wow, this trilogy sounds amazing, Carol. Congrats to you with your upcoming releases! Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to talk with me today.
Carol’s first book The Exile Of Elindel is available at the links below.
Amazon USA – http://tinyurl.com/k79eoh7
Amazon UK – http://tinyurl.com/n8msefk
Musa Publishing – http://tinyurl.com/o5zk2ja
Barnes & Noble – http://tinyurl.com/lo4ukvo
Carol Browne first appeared on the planet in 1954. She regards Crewe, Cheshire, as her home town and graduated from Nottingham University in 1976 with an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living in the Cambridgeshire countryside with her dog, Harry, and cockatiel, Sparky, when she’s not writing fiction, Carol spends her time as a housekeeper, proofreader, and ghost writer in order to pay the bills. Pagan and vegan, Carol believes it is time for a paradigm shift in our attitude to Mother Nature and hopes the days of speciesism are numbered.
Carol can be contacted at:
I am a writer. I write. Unless I can think of nothing to write. Then I don’t know what I am. I suppose I’m still all the same things I am while I write, when I’m not writing. I’m a daughter, an aunt, a sister, a friend…a basically good decent human being, thank you very much.
Except when I can’t write, I feel like I’m nothing. That’s a terrible feeling. I may still be all those other things, but when I’m not writing, I’m not a writer.
I know how I’m supposed to present this to myself, as well as to others when they ask, Hey Alicia, how’s the writing going?
I don’t say – It sucks. I @#%^$#% hate writing. I slammed my hand against the wall three times yesterday. My head soon followed.
Instead, I slouch my shoulders. Apologetic soft grin and utter the words – Writer’s block.
Encouraging smiles all around. Arm pats. Don’t worry, it’ll come back….Write through it…You did it once, you can do it again…Is there anything we can do?
Yes, feel sorry for me. Feel sorry that I can’t do my job. I’ll remember to feel sorry for the paramedic who forgets how to perform CPR – I’m sorry he’s gone. But I was blocked……..It’s okay. We didn’t like him much anyway.
I hate the words “writer’s block” and whenever I use it, I verbally abuse myself later. I hate it because it lets me off the hook. It excuses my failure to meet that day’s deadline – one page, two pages, five hundred words – as though it were out of my hands. Does God control writer’s block? No? I didn’t think so. So the ability still must be within me and yet…
We (me) use writer’s block as an explanation because it is prettier than images of punching and slamming walls, or throwing objects. There’s something quaint and self-suffering, very ‘Hemingway-esque,’ about the term “Writer’s block.” Wikipedia defines it as “a condition…in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.”
You see…I’m not really bad at what I do. I have a “condition.” I’m excused. I suffer from a “documented” problem that has affected all the best writers – including Hemingway.
The fact is – I need to be inspired. I am a writer who needs to be inspired to write. There are writers who wake up and write. They have a schedule and they stick to it. They don’t have to take walks. Observe Nature. Hear children’s laughter. Or listen to inspiring movie scores on YouTube.
They just write. They Sit. In silence. And write.
Something pops into their heads and they may not know it as they write (or maybe they do b/c they’re just that good) but their ideas will lead to something – a new character a reader will fall in love with, or a surprising twist the reader will never see coming until the words spill from their lips across the pages.
But I need the music. I need the feeling. I need the inspiration. Joe Pesci sits across from me, scowling at me. “I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I’m here to…amuse you?”
Yes, Joe, you are. Amuse me. Inspire me. Do something. Please.
I went to Starbucks today. I sat in my usual comfy chair with my journal in my lap and a book set on a table to read when I am finished writing. I hear a woman’s voice tell someone their usual spot is taken. I look up and see a woman settling into a chair across from me. I ask her if she would rather sit here. A huge smile covers her face. She’s sixty-five years old, (I learn this later) but has the ‘full of life’ smile of a child and she really likes to sit near the window.
I stand up and collect my things. With the help of a cane, she walks toward me. I offer my hand. She takes it, kisses it, and presses it against her face. I smile. That’s not why I extended my hand. I meant to help her, but I don’t mind. It’s not awkward. She’s sweet and thanks me many times for giving up my seat. I tell her I’m happy to do it. Her husband arrives with their drinks and they sit together, side-by-side, on the cozy chairs near the window.
We talk a little. She tells me her age and the reason for the cane is because she has Multiple Sclerosis, a condition she developed when she was twenty-two. She tells me she worked with children with Autism and she is recently retired. Because I know MS is a progressive disease, I tell her how wonderful it is that she was able to work for so long doing what she loves. Again, she smiles that awesome smile.
She talks about her husband and casts a loving look his way. “He’s been taking care of me our whole marriage. We’ve been married almost forty years.” I imagine she takes care of him in ways she doesn’t even realize because being with her for the short time that I was made me feel more alive – more appreciative of life – than I’ve ever been.
I listen to this woman talk and occasional symptoms of her disease show, but she works through them. “I’m a fighter,” she tells me.
“Yes, you are.”
She smiles and waves at people. When a young mother with a small child orders the exact beverage she has, she raises her drink, and says, “Me too!”
I go to my new seat and open my journal. I try to concentrate on what I was there to write, but I can’t stop watching the couple I just met. Their legs stretched out on an ottoman, as they relax into their chairs, talking and laughing, completely enthralled with each other.
After nearly forty years of marriage, not only does this husband and wife still love one another, but they really like each other, too. Even when they’re saying nothing, I can feel contentment in their silence. It’s a touching moment because sometimes a partner’s illness can strain a relationship, but poor health hasn’t dampened this couple’s bond – -perhaps it has enriched it.
I watch them closely and know they are oblivious of the woman sitting across the room writing about them. And that she is inspired. They inspired someone – me — just by being themselves and I really needed that today.
I see them preparing to leave and I toss my journal to the side. I’m sure the woman will come to me, so I get ready to stand up. I ponder if a simple ‘good-bye’ will do or if I should extend my hand. It’s an uncomfortable predicament because so many people are anti-contact, but the woman puts my concern immediately at ease when she approaches me with her arms wide open. And that smile…Oh that smile.
She hugs me as though she’s known me for a long time. It’s not a quick embrace. She lingers close to my neck, long enough to tell me I smell good. She kisses my hand again.
I ask her name. It’s Betsy. She says she comes here a lot. I tell her I hope to see her again. And I mean that.
We don’t need to climb a mountain to inspire – – just look adversity in the face and smile. Someone will be inspired.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net