Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: December 2020

 



It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time for another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled another wonderful cohort of co-hosts for this month: Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writerly resources!

The optional question for this month is: Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

Having kids in the house plays a large role in how much writing I get done at any given time. During the summer months, when all of the kids are out of school and home all the time, it's harder to focus on writing. I still manage to carve out times to write, but the opportunities are less abundant.

2020 started out productive for me, but when the schools shut down in March due to Covid, that made things a bit more difficult. I had to switch gears to help keep their learning on track at home, as well as mediate arguments between my restless children. This cut into my writing time as well. Lack of inspiration during this time also didn't help. The upheaval in normal life took its toll in multiple ways. It hasn't been easy recovering from that.

Still, I'm hoping the first half of 2021 will be a productive time for me as a writer.

Are there times of the year when you're a more productive writer?

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: November 2020



It's the first Wednesday of the month, and you know what that means! Let's kick off another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled another great group of co-hosts: Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, Tyrean Martinson, Rachna Chhabria, and me!

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writing resources!

The optional question for this month is: Albert Camus once said, "The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself." Flannery O'Connor said, "I write to discover what I know." Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

That is an excellent question, and I love these quotes. I don't know if I feel competent to keep civilization from destroying itself (there's a lot of pressure there in that statement), but I can certainly relate to what Flannery O'Connor is saying here. Writing can certainly be a process of self-discovery. I use it as such all the time.

However, in seeking to answer this question for myself, I can't help but think of how I first started writing. I made my first attempt at writing a novel when I was six years old. It was awful, I think that goes without saying, but I was eager to put words on the page.

My parents were avid readers when I was growing up, and I emulated that. I also lived out in the country, and though I had half-siblings, I spent most of my childhood as the only child in the house. At least I had a gigantic backyard to keep me entertained. I used to stalk about the yard, weaving around trees and pretending I was on a grand adventure. 

The moment I started learning how to write, I began to translate those imaginary adventures onto the page. Maybe it was the fact that I'd already fallen in love with reading. Perhaps I did it to keep myself entertained. Mostly likely, it was a combination of the two, and I've been writing ever since. I grew up as a writer.

So why do I write?

I write to be who I am.

That's my declaration. I wouldn't be me without writing. It's been such a formative part of my life that I can't see myself without it.

Why do you write?


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

WEP October Challenge-Grave Mistake

 



It's time for our October WEP Challenge! The prompt for this month is Grave Mistake!

I didn't get any real inspiration until last minute, so this little story happened all at once. I hope you enjoy it!

Into the Earth

 

Sweat beaded on Hank’s brow as he plunged the shovel into the earth. His muscles strained as he lifted another mound of dirt from the growing hole and lofted it onto the pile alongside him. The sun beat down on him without mercy as he worked. This was the first week of October, when the weather was supposed to be turning crisp and cool.

“Someone must have left the gates of Hell open,” Hank muttered as he watched the moist dirt yield to his shovel once more. Instead of being a crisp, fall day, it felt more like the height of summer with temperatures nearing 90 degrees. Not the kind of weather he wanted to be digging in, but he needed the money.

Taking odd jobs helped to pay the bills. Hank tried not to think about his growing pile of debt. It threatened to bury him alive.

He shook his head, flinging some of the sweat droplets from his forehead. No, he wouldn’t think about his money problems now. One of the main benefits of hard physical labor was to temporarily forget about life and immerse himself in the moment.

And so, he toiled away, flinging more and more dirt out of the way. Mrs. Morris, the lady who hired him to dig this darned hole, wanted to install a little reflecting pond beside her garden. It was the kind of unnecessary luxury he couldn’t envision ever installing for himself, but to each his own.

He was about three feet down when his shovel struck something hard. The reverberation ran up both of his arms, jarring his entire body.

“Stupid rocks,” he muttered.

Using the tip of shovel to push the dirt away, he planned to dig up and cast aside the problematic obstruction. A smooth white surface greeted him. Dropping the shovel, he leaned down to grasp the rock with both hands and give it a good yank.

His lower back flared with pain as the rock refused to budge at first. Hank gritted his teeth and gave it a second, mightier tug. The earth finally released it, and he found himself face to face with something he’d never imagined.

Two empty eye sockets stared blankly back at him. A slack jaw hung for a moment before crashing to the ground by his feet.

A skull. And this was no animal skull. It was human. No doubt in his mind about that.

Stunned beyond belief, he sunk to his knees and set the skull down beside him. His hands frantically began pushing dirt out of the way, searching to see if there were any more bones to be found. He couldn’t begin to articulate why, but some dark curiosity had seized him.

Sure enough, within minutes he’d found a fleshless hand. The bones were no longer connected by living tissue, but the soil held them in place, making it impossible to ignore what they meant.

Who was this person, and why in the world were they buried here?

Hank was so immersed in his own thoughts, he didn’t hear the footsteps approaching from behind. He didn’t notice anything at all until he heard a slight gasp.

He turned to find Mrs. Morris there, her hands clasped over her mouth.

Of course she was horrified. Who wouldn’t be to find such a thing in their own back yard? The older woman’s eyes grew wide as saucers as she peered down into the hole.

“Mrs. Morris, are you okay? Do you want me to call the police for you?” Hank asked. Surely they would need to report this. It was going to be a pain, but he couldn’t do anything about that.

She shook her head. “I thought I buried him over yonder,” she muttered, pointing toward the other side of the garden. “Just goes to show that the memory fades over time. My mistake.”

Hank stared at her for a long moment, the truth dawning on him slowly.

Too slowly, as it turned out.

Mrs. Morris already had the shovel in hand. When had she even picked it up?

He started to back away, but she was already mid-swing. The metal connected hard with the side of his head, and he crumpled where he stood.

The world stopped making any kind of sense for a time. He couldn’t say how long, but once he was able to form a coherent thought, Mrs. Morris stood in the hole beside him.

No. This was no hole. It was a grave, and it was about to be his, too.

Though Hank’s vision was blurred, he could make out the edges woman’s deranged smile. She leaned in closer, and Hank was overwhelmed by her putrid breath. If he wasn’t so grievously injured, he might have wondered what she could have eaten to make such a horrific stink.

Perhaps it was better that he didn’t know.

“I will say this,” she said. “It sure was kind of you to dig your own grave for me. My back has been acting up something terrible lately. These old bones aren’t as tough as they used to be.”

Bones. Hank thought of that pile of bones he’d unearthed. The ones that were currently resting beneath his injured body. He was going to decompose on top of them until his bones comingled with those of this other man he’d never met.

A few moments passed as Hank drifted in and out of consciousness. He was only vaguely aware of the dirt raining down on him. In some distant part of his brain, he realized with horror that she wasn’t even going to finish him off before burying him.

It won’t be my bills that bury me alive after all, he thought bitterly.

More dirt fell on top of him. It would take her a while to cover him completely. Bad back, and all.

This whole thing was a grave mistake. That morbid joke, a last taste of gallows humor, carried him into the black for the final time.


Word Count: 1000

FCA

 

 


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: October 2020


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time to convene another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled another wonderful group of co-hosts: Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for plenty of great resources for writers!

The optional question for this month is: When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if the latter two, what does that look like?

One thing I can say for certain is that, if you write, it is appropriate to call yourself a writer. You should never feel shame in claiming that label, even if you don't write as often as you'd like, or if you have yet to achieve publication. Someone who never allows their words to be read by another person can still be a writer.

That being said, there are certainly different types within that designation. When I think of the term working writer, I see that person as someone who writes regularly. A working writer is someone who, by their own standards, has achieved success in their writing career. A person who earns their living based solely on their writing is obviously a working writer, but that is also a pretty exclusive club. If that's the definition of a working writer, there aren't a whole lot of them out there.

No, that definition is too narrow. It excludes too many people. How about expanding it to include writers who use their income to supplement what they earn from their day jobs?  Or writers who do this in addition to caring for children or enjoying their retirement years? Well, that certainly helps. Even so, do we want to exclude writers that don't yet earn money from their work? Or writers that don't do it for the goal of earning money, but for some other reason entirely?

The trouble with defining what it means to be a working writer is that there's no correct answer. The definition varies depending on who you ask. After some thought, I've come up with some questions we can all ask ourselves to decide if we're working writers.

-What does success as a writer mean to you?
-Have you yet achieved this success?
-If you haven't achieved your definition of success, do you have a plan in place to help you get there?
-Are you striving every day to stick to that plan to the best of your ability?

If you can say that you are indeed striving to achieve success (in whatever form that might take for you), then I think you can consider yourself a working writer.

Working off of that, I think an aspiring writer is someone who wants to be a working writer, but they're not yet certain what their vision of success is or how to get there. They know they love writing, and they know they want it to be a concrete part of their lives. They simply need time to develop a roadmap for themselves.

So what does it mean to be a hobbyist? I guess, to me, that means someone is simply writing for fun with no real goal aside from enjoyment. The hobbyist writes recreationally when they have the time or the inclination to do so. They don't do it in the hopes of making it big someday.

So which am I? I honestly have no idea. I feel as if I'm stuck somewhere between the aspiring writer and the working writer. I do my best to write when I can, and I know where I want to go with my writing career. What I lack is the concrete plan to achieve that success. Life keeps pulling me away. 

What kind of plan should I enact to strike the balance between writing and the other aspects of my life so I can achieve the success I crave? I don't know yet, I'm working toward figuring it out.

What does being a working writer mean to you?






Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Insecure Writer's Support Group-September 2020


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time for another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group! Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled a wonderful bunch of co-hosts for this month: PJ Colando, J Lenni Dorner, Deniz Bevan, Kim Lajevardi, Natalie Aguirre, and Fundy Blue.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writerly advice!

I wanted to talk about how hard it can be to write sometimes. During times of stress, getting words onto the page can feel a bit like pulling teeth. It doesn't help that this struggle is often coupled with insecurity. There have been many times in the last few months that I force myself to write something, only to look at it with doubt. Is this any good? Did I waste my time? I've heard it said that you can't edit a blank page, but what if what I've written is so bad that it would only make sense to delete it and start from scratch?

Am I alone in feeling this? Surely I can't be. I think a lot of us have had those dark moments. And in a year as topsy-turvy as 2020, we need to be a bit more forgiving of ourselves. In looking through various articles and social media posts, I've seen that a lot of creative people have been struggling this year.

I remember when quarantine started, I thought it would be a good opportunity to be productive. The more time you have, the more productive you can be, right? That sounds nice in theory, but as it turns out, pursuing creative endeavors requires more than time. It also requires the right mindset, and that can be harder to achieve when all of life is stressful and uncertain.

This year still feels up in the air. I don't know what's going to happen next, nor does anyone else. Yet I feel like I'm making progress again. I've been writing more. I've finished short projects again, and I'm diving back into writing a novel. I'm not moving as fast as I was at the beginning of the year, but I'm making strides. Why? Maybe it helps that I've been more forgiving of my short comings. I've been trying to beat myself up less when I fall short of a goal. Being angry with yourself doesn't make productivity come. It only leads to more stress.

If you've been struggling with your writing, be kind to yourself. You can continue to push yourself without the negativity of self-doubt. Set smaller, more attainable goals. And if you need a break to do something nice for yourself, do it. Take a walk. Watch a beloved movie or TV show. Do anything that will help you relax. Then make yourself pick back up where you left off and try writing again. Find balance between work and play wherever you can.

I don't know how much this advice means to you, but it's helped me. What do you do when you struggle with writing? What leisurely activities bring you joy when stress overwhelms you?



Wednesday, August 19, 2020

WEP August Challenge - Long Shadow


Hello everyone! It's time for the August WEP Challenge! The theme for this one is Long Shadow.

I opted to write something light and simple this time around. 2020 has been hard for us all. I live in Iowa, and last week we had a derecho roll through. For those who don't know, a derecho is a strong thunderstorm with insane winds. This storm experienced winds of well over 100 mph in some places. My family got lucky. We only lost power for a few hours and lost a large branch in one of our trees. This storm absolutely devastated many communities near us, and I personally know many people who had significant property damage. The photos I've seen are nothing short of horrifying.

So, fortunate as I am, I still felt the need for something lighthearted. I think we could all use it.



Monster 

The sun is going down soon. I look to the west and see the hints of orange and red on the horizon. A bird sings in a tree nearby. It’ll be going to bed soon. I don’t want to go to bed, but I don’t have a choice. I’m only seven.

I smile. I don’t need to go inside yet, though. I have a little more time. Turning my back to the sun, I gaze down at the ground. My shadow stretches out in front of me, taller than two of me stacked on top of each other would be. I push myself onto my tiptoes to make it grow a little more.

With a giggle, I hold my arms out over my head, curling my fingers so they look like menacing claws on the grass. I let out a vicious snarl. “Rawr!” I stomp my feet, hunching slightly so I look like a giant monster in an old movie.

Stomp. Stomp. “Rawr!”

My shadow keeps growing as the sun dips lower. The blades of grass become a forest of trees. An ant skitters past one of my shoes. I wave my clawed hands, and the shadow envelopes the tiny creature.

Run, little one, run! I think as I continue to claw at the air.

The ant disappears under a fallen twig, and I move on.

I’m large. I’m the biggest thing in the world. I pause at a boulder that sits on one corner of a flower bed. It isn’t a boulder today, though. No. It’s pointed top makes it a mountain. I stand beside it and consider the possibilities.

“Rawr!” It takes little effort to climb it, and I balance precariously on the tip. Raising my arms high over my head, I make my shadow spread across as much of the yard as possible. I am gigantic. Cicadas drone in the background as I savor my moment of triumph in the warm summer evening.

“Laura!”

My mom’s voice tears me from the moment, and I scramble down from my perch. I can’t see her thanks to the hedge surrounding the patio, but I know she’s waiting there by the door.

“It’s time to come inside!” she calls.

“I’m coming!” I reply.

I turn to make my way back to the house, my shadow now invisible behind me.


Word Count: 390
FCA


I hope you enjoyed it! Be sure to visit all the other participants!




Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: August 2020



It looks like the first Wednesday of the month snuck up on me this time around. I apologize for running late with my post for The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled a great group of co-hosts once again: Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes, Chemist Ken, and Chrys Fey.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writerly advice!

The optional question for this month is: 
Quote: "Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don't write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be." Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn't planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

When I set out to write a story, I have a rough idea of what it's going to be. Sometimes I even have a plot worked out. This in no way guarantees things won't change during the writing process. I have many examples of this, but I'll speak specifically about a project I'm working on right now.

My current WIP takes place on a space station near Saturn, so it's pretty clearly science fiction. The story started out as a YA story. Why? I knew I wanted to deal with characters who were finishing school and trying to figure out how to scrape together a living on a space station, where the economic opportunities are somewhat more limited than they would be on earth. That generates a lot of conflict on its own and is an interesting topic to examine. I wrote about 90K of this story, and while I like a lot of it, I knew something about it wasn't working. I thought about it for a while and decided I needed to age my characters up a bit. They needed a little more experience in this economic reality. In the end, I only aged them up a couple of years. It's enough to officially boot the book out of the YA category, at least. My characters are still young and learning the ropes, but they also have a bit of valuable experience informing their decisions. How will this rewrite ultimately go? I'm not far enough into it to know for certain, but I'm hopeful.

It can feel daunting when your story needs to take a different direction than you initially planned, but that's a part of being a writer. Being open to that change is a crucial part of creating the best stories we can.

Do you stick to the genre/form you set out to write in, or do your tales sometimes transform as you write them?