Another Chapter

DSCN3919Over a year ago, I created two goals for my writing: I wanted to create a blog about the      challenges of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (The Old Lady in My Bones), and I wanted to finish a particular story and send it out into the world. I accomplished both. I also created this second blog which was not part of the plan. I made my goals small enough to attain, and I put no pressure on myself to achieve the impossible.

This year, my goals are a bit more challenging: I want to finish my novella, polish and complete existing short stories, and clean up my files by cutting away the half-started dead-end projects that have fizzled out with the remaining days of 2013. I want to take some time to step away from the desk and connect to the world, reviving the poet in me, who sometimes gets lost in the ongoing tasks of writing blog posts and editing stories. I will write every day; I will write fearlessly, and do my best to ignore my inner critic; I will write for me, not for the world, although it will please me if the world sometimes likes what I have to say.

All my submissions have been sent, accepted or returned. There is nothing of mine floating around in the ether. I will start the new calendar year fresh, with new projects, new submissions, and new challenges. Stories, prose, non-fiction and poetry, will stream from my imagination for another 365 days. I can close the book on the past year, satisfied with my accomplishments, and open a new chapter, that will lead me closer to the thrilling conclusion. Like a smouldering spark, just waiting for a bit of oxygen, the New Year will rekindle my passion, lighting the pathway to new worlds dwelling inside my imagination.

Happy New Year to new moments, new days, new words and to everyone who has, or perhaps will intend to, create new worlds with their words.

Writing Like the Seasons

DSCN0992“Winter breaks beneath the glow of the holiday lights and the zesty aroma of mulled wine; days grow longer, thawing into the promising buds of spring, giving birth to a new dawn bursting with the perfume of crocuses and pansies, lingering into the long humid days of summer before the fading light gives way to cool nights speckled with bright stars, watching the earth fall into the quiet lull of winter once again…”

 Every year the seasons take their turn manipulating the earth with their own style. Winter,      spring, summer and fall, cyclically arrive leaving their own unique imprint. I have discovered that writing also has its seasons. There are seasons for short stories, novels, poetry, memoirs and narratives; there are seasons for beginnings and endings; there are seasons for repose and production; there are seasons for burgeoning ideas and seasons for barren days where we shed the skin of past work and clear space for new ideas.

Diverse types of writing will arrive at different times in an author’s life; we may find ourselves spending weeks or months on one type of writing, and then we switch gears, moving onto another form. Writers will bloom and perish with the onset of each new writing season. We may find our strength with one particular genre, returning to it again and again, but sometimes, we will step away and experiment with different styles.

We may enjoy some seasons more than others; we may linger in one season longer than others; but just like the seasons, change will come. It’s a natural process of writing.

Wishing everyone a Happy Winter Solstice, and a warm and loving holiday season.

Writing Practice

In order to become proficient at any skill, it’s necessary to practice. Just as athletes train their bodies for competition, or dancers work their routines, writers can improve their skill with a daily writing practice.

Writing practice can help writers find their voice and develop their own style. I write every day, even it’s only for a few minutes (Finding the Time: Writing Anywhere). My own writing practice consists of journaling, flash fiction, poetry, or composing my next blog post. Writing prompts are delightful tools if I’m not working on a specific project. I use writing exercises from a collection of reference books (there’s a lovely set of books called “Now Write” and “Now Write Non-Fiction” compiled of writing exercises from numerous authors) that help hone skills in character development, settings, context and dialogue. The more often I write, the easier it is to maintain a smooth flow. Writing practice keeps my mind sharp and helps me develop the little nuances that make my writing my own. I see small victories in each new piece that support my belief that writing is a skill that needs to be cultivated.

Writing practice helps keep the mind fit and the imagination strong, one paragraph or verse at a time.

WHISTLE

A whistle blows; muscles tense, ripple and flow

Chasing an object distant and out of reach.

Contact is brief but rewarding;

Sometimes there is ecstasy, victory.

Sometimes there is tragedy, defeat.

Yet, the object is pursued with determination,

Striving always forward to reach the goal.

A whistle blows; muscles relax, slide and slow.

No longer chasing that distant object

For another day it is out of reach, until the next sunrise;

Then it begins again….a whistle blows.

The Work Will Prevail

I have many files in my computer filled with work I started, but have not finished. I often go back to them looking for that new perspective to give them life. I won’t abandon them because I believe the ideas are too compelling to let go; there is something worth fighting for.

There are many pieces we start and abandon, but sometimes an idea comes along that is so fascinating it must be written, no matter how arduous the task. These are the stories that linger in our minds, in our dreams, in our notebook and in our computers, for weeks, months, perhaps years; they are the stories that will exasperate us but we continue to go back to them, working through them because this is the story worth building.

One short story took me five years to complete. I struggled with it, but I never abandoned it; I returned to it again and again, because I knew it was a good concept, and no matter how difficult it became, I had faith that one day I would complete it. I wasn’t sure what form it would take; it began as an idea for a novel, but in the end, it found its place as a short story. I returned to it over the years, brainstorming, re-writing and editing, until one day, I had a finished piece. It felt like an amazing accomplishment. I submitted it and it was published. In the end, all that hard work and frustration had paid off.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes to write a story; even if you don’t know the form it will take yet, trust that time and perseverance will lead you down the right path; the work will prevail.

Family Roots

Families are rich in history and some of the best stories can be found in your very own backyard.

Digging into your familial past can be a great way to unearth a story. My great-grandmother was a Vaudeville actress in England who moved to New York in the early 1900’s to resume her career on the stage. Remnants of her life are left behind in copies of family letters. One day, her letters stopped and an ad was placed in the New York clipper in an attempt to locate her.

I can piece together the events of her life through these letters. I will never know the truth of how she lived or what happened to her, but hidden in the words of this vague record, I have uncovered the groundwork of a story. Some families have accurate details of their history; others may only be able to catch a glimpse into their ancestors’ lives. If we don’t have all the pieces, our imagination can go to work to fill in the rest and this is where the fun begins. Even with only minute details, we have the foundation of a story.

Here is a link to a small excerpt from the story of my great-grandmother: Exit Stage Left. It is a true account of my journey to find her.