Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday Musings: Life for a writer


Happy Halloween Eve to those who celebrate and a Happy Sunday for everyone!


Again, I'm going to go straight to a musers' topic, this time from our Alix:

 How do you as a writer deal with "real life" occurrences intervening with your writing?  -deaths, births, marriages, divorces, illnesses- Do you muscle through? Take time out? Is your writing your therapy?




Sadly, I’ve learned I don’t deal well when “real life” intervenes with my writing. I lose my thought process, forget where I was going and sometimes just flat out cannot get into the mood to write. I’ve muscled through as much I can then it all just stops. I’m left sitting in front of a blank doc with nothing to add. I tell myself that it’ll start back up again, I just need to be patient. I’m horrible at having patience. LOL I write more in my journal then I do in stories these days. Still waiting for the pain of loss to heal. I know it will. With each person it’s different. I understand now, why there were rules for mourning in the past. Life keeps going, while you are healing. At least back then society gave you time to heal. Nowadays, we’re left to struggle on our own as best we can. Guess our ancestors weren’t ignorant in everything. Especially in the matters of healing from the loss of loved ones.



My marriage fell apart after my first book was published. I spent that year writing - a lot. I finished ten titles. (Though I started out with another publisher, Muse now exclusively publishes all of my books.) Writing was a way to lose myself in another reality and on some level work out what I was going to do next.

After the divorce and I relocated to the Southwest, I started a new novel but didn’t get very far into it. I spent more time trying to find out who I was and how I needed to live. I started a self-help book about starting over.

Now, nearly six years after that first book, I finished the self-help book, “Standing Strong: Honoring the Unexpected Changes in Our Lives (Lessons along the Journey to Become a Woman of Power).” It’s in the hands of a psychologist friend of mine currently to make sure I’m giving proper advice. I hope to have it out with a local publisher next year sometime.

And, I’m back writing my next novel and am about a third of the way through. I think it will be a long one. I truly long to be in the flow of writing, with the novel running constantly in the back of my head like a soundtrack to my day. It will be finished soon. And I can’t wait.


MJ LABEFF, New Mainstream author

I treat writing like my fulltime job. No matter what happens, I’m expected to show up and when at work, work and don’t get sick. I had a former boss who used to say that to employees. Life is full of the unexpected; however, my employer provides vacation and sick time, short term and maternity leave, bereavement days and so on. I choose to follow those same guidelines being self-employed. Before I published my first novel, Mind Games and then signed four books with Muse, I would write every single day. I was committed to writing 500 to 1000 words at night. Now, I’m finding a balance between a fulltime job, my hubby and dogs, family and friends, writing, editing, marketing and promoting. Writing is like a muscle. The more often you write the stronger it becomes. Don’t allow difficult times to derail your writing and don’t make excuses. Employers are nice, understanding people, but eventually you have to show up and do the work. Take the appropriate time needed if you’re dealing with a death, divorce, illness, or even the joys of a marriage or birth but don’t stay away for too long. Your readers, publishers, and other people are counting on you. Don’t let ‘em down.



If I’m feeling sad my motivation tends to go, so I think it would be time out for me, especially if someone needed my practical support. At my stage of life a lot of ill-health and bereavement is happening to a lot of my contemporaries and that is possibly why my writing of late has tended to the lighter side, humour, good heroes and wicked villains, some redemption somewhere along the line and of course HEA endings.



I try to fit my writing in whenever I can, so, for example, if I am travelling or waiting before an appointment, I usually have a notebook on my lap and make use of time that is not normally productive. If life suddenly became very hectic, I would take time out and hope to get back to my writing as soon as the dust settled. But if something upsetting has occurred to me, I usually spend even more time writing because I can lose myself in an imaginary world and avoid thinking about real life.



Genuine major life situations, whether they involve humans or animals, come first.  I've dealt with several of them including the deaths of my parents, my mother's long illness, house moves, and a serious health issue in the form of a suddenly developed DVT.  I am fortunate in that all my writing is first done in my head.  One can think just about anywhere.  The next step is usually putting the rough ideas down on paper with a pencil.  This can be accomplished in waiting rooms, public transport (assuming one has a seat), and the like.  I've never had a deadline such as a galley or edit hit at the same time as a major crisis.  In that case, I'd try to complete the job, but if I could not, I'd hope the publisher and/or editor would cut me some slack.

Writing has never been therapy, but it provides a powerful focus.  Having that normally helps immensely in focusing, organizing, and managing everything else as well.



My writing is 110% my therapy. It's my escape. When I am extremely stressed with schoolwork, dealing with someone else's problems is great, especially when the problems include solving ancient riddles, running from curses, and robbing Parisian museums, for example. I would purposely get up early and brew coffee, then get lost for a couple hours. I would end up always oddly short of breath, but relaxed. However, sometimes I don't even have time for therapy! This is my senior year of college and I have so many papers that I haven't had time to write anything by academia.



I write mostly at my "day job," which is on the graveyard shift at a call center where people seldom call. I have a full 8 hours of down time most nights. My job is 95% being awake if the phone rings. Because of that, unless life interferes so strongly that I miss work, it doesn't intervene so much as shapes. I'll use the real-world events to give a more vivid feel to my fictional ones, if I can. I'm not a terribly emotional person, so I often need to see the way other people react to things to make clear that not everyone has the same sense of detachment (soulless robot) I do.

I did have a "very bad night" with a guest when I worked at a hotel. I went home that morning and did a short (2k) installment that was basically one long fight scene. I guess that was like therapy.

Normally, if events get so intense that I need to process them in some way, I'll sit back in a chair, put my feet up, and go through it completely in my head. I can run dozens of versions in a night, and if something strikes me as worth keeping, I'll make a note of it.



Writing has always been a form of therapy for me, especially since I picked up a pen because the state assigned therapist suggest journal writing when I was 13. However, when I’m going through a particularly rough patch, depending on how choppy the waters are, I may step away through the worst of it, before coming back to work through things afterwards. When I lost my father-in-law, I took a two month break. When I was “riffed” after 18 years at my job, I spent the entire time in-between jobs writing, it kept me sane. When under siege by viruses, I don’t dare set words to pages, you have no idea what weird thing will happen and throw the entire plot off line.


Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.


If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at MuseChrisChat@gmail.com




Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Musings: Your writer’s box


Morning!

I'm going to jump start to Dawn's topic:

What would be in your box: I was just reading my copy of Writing Magazine and it had an idea for visual inspiration. The Advice is to keep a box of items which could trigger ideas for stories that can help if you get writer's block. I have no need of a special box of interesting items - I have a loft full of stuff! But I thought it might be a better idea to have a book full of pictures of unusual items. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to see which items would find their way into the other authors' boxes. Perhaps we could pick three items that are in our home/garden now that could be put in a box to give inspiration later.




My first item would have to be a pair of spectacles which would remind me to see ordinary things in a different way or even to filter out things that are actually there. Looking at the world from a different perspective could be a good prompt for an interesting story.
My second item would be a bottle of perfume, so that I would focus on the sense of smell and remember to describe any scents in the story.
My third item would be a map. How many stories begin with the discovery of a map? And there must be many more to be written!



I do have a file of interesting photos that I will use to write from one day. For past writing inspiration, I’ve relied on memories of people I’ve met, actors in movies, musicians, special places I’ve been, and even emotions I’ve experienced.

What I do have on my computer currently that I will use in a new Bowdancer book later on are photos I took over the weekend at a music festival of a young dancer.

When I first saw her, I was intrigued by her exotic appearance, especially her head shaved on each side (rather like my character Bekar in the series who had hers shaved on only one). The rest of her thick black hair was French braided from her forehead all the way back.

The next time I saw her she was barefoot and dressed in a short leather skirt and a laced vest, carrying a fire baton. I spoke with her and found out she was a firedancer. Bam! Yep, she had to be in my next book. She needed to be there.

Finally, I saw her dance (without fire), dressed in a charming peasant outfit that was quite unique. I had the full story running in my head by then. I did jot down notes of those ideas because I have another book to finish before I can write her story.



I was just reading my copy of Writing Magazine and it had an idea for visual inspiration. The Advice is to keep a box of items which could trigger ideas for stories that can help if you get writer's block. I have no need of a special box of interesting items - I have a loft full of stuff! But I thought it might be a better idea to have a book full of pictures of unusual items. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to see which items would find their way into the other authors' boxes. Perhaps we could pick three items that are in our home/garden now that could be put in a box to give inspiration later.


In my box would be crystals and candles as well as images, anything that strikes my imagination. Pictures of elaborate jewelry and crystals, mountains and beaches, houses and city buildings. Even colors, like material or a small stuffed animal. I can’t point out each item, as I don’t know what would I’d put in until I actually placed it in the box. I’m kind of strange like that. Who knows what could be found in my visual box. I’d have to say anything would find a home in the box. Including dried flowers and spices. Anything goes.



What a lovely idea. I’m going to go searching.



 I don't have such a box or album and wouldn't have one simply because I'm far more verbal than pictorial.  Mental images and stories recounted by others have often inspired me to start working with an idea.  I don't believe anything I have seen has ever done so.  For argument's sake, though, if I started such a virtual box, I'd put in it:

    My cats, little dog, and fish plus those of family and friends.
    Memories, my own and those of family and friends
    Certain experiences, mine and those of others.  The actual knowledge gained by wielding a pike or helping deliver a calf coming breach can add great immediacy to one's work.



Wow, I've never heard of this before. Ideally I would have something like a compass, a pirate's hook, and a magical jewel in my box, but I don't exactly have those lying around my house. And I'm currently living in a sparsely furnished college apartment so I have to think about this. I do have a map of the world hanging on my wall, so that would go into the box--along with this book on castles I bought when I worked at a bookstore this summer. I know it's a book, but it has blueprints on castles from all over the world, and I definitely want to write some sort of book with a castle in it in the future. Lastly, I would pick the mint julep cup I bought recently. It's silver and embossed with little dots, quite dandy and good ol' boyish. It makes me think of the South, a place I've never used as a book setting and I really should someday.



I have a folder on my phone for pictures I think set a mood or sketch a character. I guess that's a similar idea.

Most of my inspiration comes from things I see or hear, though. It might be a TV show, or old radio program (I have a few hundred on my computer). Or it might be seeing someone do something decidedly odd in real life, which drives me to imagine why anyone might do something so strange. Those are hard to fit in a box.



Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.


If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at MuseChrisChat@gmail.com