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.


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.


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

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?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: July 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. Alex J. Cavanaugh has gathered another group of wonderful co-hosts for this month: Jenni Enzor, Beth Camp, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Tyrean Martinson, and Sandra Cox.

Be sure to visit the IWSG website for great writing resources!

This has been a crazy couple of weeks for us at home. One of the tendons in my husband's leg snapped while he was at work not long ago. The good news is that it isn't a major one, so surgery isn't necessary. Since the tendon helped to support his knee, he will need to do physical therapy to ensure his knee doesn't give out a few years down the road. He also had an issue with one of his feet during this time. So he was off work a little more than a week, and we've been focused on getting him feeling better. Now that he's back to work, hopefully there will be a relative return to normalcy around here.

As things at home have been so crazy lately, I haven't done a lot in terms of writing. I want to change that. As such, I went searching through writing related quotes to boost my inspiration. I came across this one, which was just what I needed to see right now.

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” -Stephen King

It isn't easy to get back into the swing of things. It can be downright intimidating at times, but that's okay. The important thing is to press on and keep writing.

Have a happy July everyone!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

WEP June Challenge-Urban Nightmare

It's time for another WEP Challenge. This month's theme is Urban Nightmare. It seems oddly fitting now. Be sure to stop by the sign up post if you want to join in!

This poem is the result of me trying to grapple with the world as we know it. Humanity has been through many times of struggle, and people have been proclaiming that it may well be the end of the world for a long time. And if not the end of the world, at least the end of life as we know it. I can see why people may be tempted to think that way, but I have to hope for something better. Giving in to despair solves nothing.

Poetry isn't my strongest suit, but it felt like the best avenue for self-expression at the moment.

In the Streets

The forecasts of the world’s end
came time and time again.
The end is nigh came the cry,
“You must repent, amen.”
Those dates foretold came and went
and life continued on.
New voices rose as others faded
but people wished them gone.

Then science chimed in with its warning,
but cries fell on deafened ears.
“We don’t trust you!” many yelled.
“You’re only stoking fears.”
The warming planet, depleted resources.
Those in power waved them off.
Changing things would take effort.
So much easier to scoff.

Then the viral threat reared its head,
but it started so far away.
“It isn’t here, no need to worry.
It’s easily kept at bay.”
The spread came anyway, as history
has shown it surely could.
The illness spread like wildfire
before people finally understood.

Soon the streets were empty.
The world fell quiet and still.
Life ground to a halt,
by an act of collective will.
The urban nightmare set in,
as the emptied streets mirrored death.
The end of our lives as we knew them.
We all paused and took a breath.

As it turns out, pausing and waiting
was not as simple as it sounded.
People grew restless and bitter
and the problems compounded.
The allure of life as normal
was too precious to resist.
“The world must open once again.
Life must go on. We insist!”

And as life started to resume
old problems bubbled up.
Lives taken unjustly with no consequence.
More people did rise up.
“We want to change this now!
Listen to our pleas!”
They filled the streets and shouted
While others got down on their knees.

Most took to the streets in peace,
and still some violence reigned.
The message filtered through the chaos,
while many relationships were strained.
Disagreements did abound as talks ensued
about how to fix what was broken.
Ideas did flow through,
but many resentments were spoken.

The world’s ills weren’t visible to all
while others accepted them as fact.
“You can’t fix all of society,” they said
in the hopes of keeping it intact.
Change is painful for all,
but some have more to lose.
Livelihoods upended and lives lost.
Society needs to choose.

Illness rampant and unrest in the streets.
It all seemed too grave to bear.
How can it all be made right at last?
How will we wake from this nightmare?
As buildings burn and tempers flare,
we all forget to listen.
As lives are lost and futures changed
and the mounting tears glisten.

Sickness threatens with a new wave,
while our societal sickness festers.
While it may feel hopeless at times
we must stand up to the jesters.
Scary as the future is
we must work to make it bright.
Life and society will never improve if
good people don’t join in the fight.

Word Count: 465

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Insecure Writer's Support Group

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 group of marvelous co-hosts: Pat Garcia, J.Q. Rose, and Natalie Aguirre.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for lots of writing advice and resources!

Here is the optional question for this month: Writer's have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

This is a tricky but fun question. It's tricky, because I've shared a lot about myself on this blog over the years. I think my biggest secret that I'm a little embarrassed about is how disorganized I can be with my writing sometimes. I try to plot, and I keep track of my word counts. These are simply meager attempts to get a handle on the chaos that is my writing process.

I can never write a story in sequential order. I hop in between scenes in an attempt to get an overview of the story as a whole. It's almost as if I need to write a scene for each of the major plot points in the story before I go back and fill in the rest. It's part of my process, and while it feels chaotic in the moment, it ultimately seems to work out.

As for non-writing related secrets someone might not know about me, I drink most of my cups of coffee cold. This isn't because I prefer to drink them cold, either. It happens purely through circumstance. Sometimes I get involved in something and forget I have a cup of coffee. Other times I have to put it up because my daughters both love grabbing at my coffee, so I can't have it within their reach out of fear they might burn themselves. The end result either way is cold coffee. And even though I would rather drink it hot, I'll still take it at whatever temperature I can because I want the caffeine.

Lastly, I'd like to wish my husband a Happy Anniversary! As of yesterday, we've been married 13 years.

What secrets do you have?

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Insecure Writer's Support Group: May 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 great group of co-hosts for this month: Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe McClure, Mary Aalgaard, Kim Lajevardi, and Chemist Ken.

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

The optional question for this month is: Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

I'll say this. I've needed additional help getting into the zone lately. The stress of the pandemic is a factor, but an even bigger factor is having the kids home all the time and adjusting to them learning from home. I find the best time to get any writing done these days is after I've put all the kids to bed. The down side of that is I am often tired or stressed out after a long day. Still, trying to sit down and write can be a good way to end the day with a sense of accomplishment.

Normally I would sit down to write with a cup of coffee, but since I'm writing later at night, I've had to substitute that with a cup of tea. Sometimes putting on some soft music helps. If all that fails, forcing myself to start writing, putting one word in front of the other, can get things going.

There are no guarantees, of course, and in stressful times like these, it's understandable if your creativity well is less plentiful than normal. Enjoy the times when the writing flows, and when it doesn't, try not to be too hard on yourself. We're all human, and all we can do is our best.

Do you have any writing rituals that help you get into the zone?