Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oh Dear!

I'm a mess. I'm wearing grungy sweats because I haven't done laundry all week. The sinks are full of dishes. There are enough crumbs on the kitchen counters to make a meal for five. My blogging has been woeful in frequency and content. Nothing is getting done...except for one thing.

I'm on the last 10K words of my WIP. My mind is consumed with it during the day. I am so distracted, I will start a task and not finish it because my mind is on my book. The only thing I do stick to is lunch. I generally stop at noon and eat lunch while watching t.v. This is my time to relax and watch the horrible shows my family won't watch.

Some people feel that fervor for the entire time they write. Not me. I'm not particularly enthusiastic about anything. There are some books which evoke that feeling in me. Sometimes a movie or t.v. show, but those are brief amounts of time. I don't have the energy to feel that way for an entire book. But once I hit those last three chapters, I am burned. I can feel it so close, can feel the satisfaction of tying up the lose ends and putting my characters through that last black moment before every one rides off into the sunset.

How consuming is writing for you? Do you hit a point where it becomes priority or is it a priority for you the whole time you are writing?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The End Is Nigh...

I've really had a hard time blogging lately. One, I've been sick. And when I get sick, I'm pretty useless for anything that requires focus. The other is my WIP. I'm down to the last five chapters. Actually four, I'm nearly done with the one I'm working on.

Anyway, words come easily in my WIP. I'm a pretty disciplined writer when I'm writing. But my brain seems to shut down when it comes to anything else. Over the last few days I've written and deleted several posts. I can't maintain the focus to get them done and have them read the way I like. Odd how I can write a 85K book but I can't pound out a 500 word post.

I've had plenty of good ideas, but the words aren't there. Perhaps it is a writer's defense mechanism. Kind of like when you are freezing to death and your body kicks in with weird responses designed to keep you alive. My writerly brain is protecting itself, making my book the essential reason for living and giving everything else the boot.

There is a sense of urgency in me to get this book done. Its been hanging around my hard drive way too long. I haven't really had any problems with it. I'm pleased with the writing and all, but I've really had a hard time focusing on it. I've had good reason for dragging my feet. But not good enough. So here I am on the precipice of writing "The End" (well, I don't really write the words, but I know when I'm done) and I can feel the tension in me. It needs release. So I've been pouring myself into my book. Sometimes I have to get up and do something (re-sealed the granite last week, the whole time my mind was on my book). My floor may get a good mopping just so I can do something physical while my mind races.

I hope by next week I'll be back to my usual brilliant posts about kids putting foreign objects in their ears or the emotional impact I receive from bad reality television.

So here's my question. When you are overwhelmed with your writing, does your focus sharpen all around or does it reserve itself for your writing and nothing else?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Will It Blend?

I had a total soapbox post planned for today but lucky you, I am feeling too crappy to go on a ranting tirade. Instead, I thought I'd share one of my favorite time wasters.

My kids, like so many others, are experts on YouTube. One day I heard them laughing over something, (usually it is something stupid like "Charlie the Unicorn" (a true head-scratcher for me). But this time it was a guy with a blender. I totally got hooked on the videos.
They are hysterical. Tom, the host of the videos and founder of Blendtec is amiable and blends the darndest things. My favorite is when he tries to blend Chuck Norris. You can find the videos at Will It Blend?. However they are easier to search on YouTube.

Obviously the point is to sell blenders. Does the campaign work? I don't know, but after watching the videos, I did look into the blenders. My KitchenAid blender recently snapped under the pressure of making a smoothie, so the BlendTec may be the answer. Don't worry, if I do get one, I will not be experimenting with any small consumer electronics.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Some priorities are easy to see and understand. Your family is always top priority, even if you don't actually feel that way all the time, you can believe it. While it isn't always easy to give your top priority its due, we still have no problem making ourselves sacrifice as much as we can to make our families happy and safe. I hate doing laundry, but I can make myself do it with little convincing because it has to be done and heaven forbid my children wear dirty clothes to school.

But what about those other priorities? I came to the realization this weekend that it is easier for me to write a novel than lose weight. Doesn't that seem wrong? Crafting a lengthy piece of fiction should be tougher than dropping 10 lbs. And yet I've achieved a lot more of my writing goals than I have my weightloss ones.

Why is it easier for me to create another world populated by complicated beings than to watch what I'm eating? Why can I carve out an hour of my day to write but not a measly 30 minutes to exercise? In the long run, I will see satisfaction in losing weight long before I would in writing. Even if I sold a book today, I'd have more than a year before I actually saw it on the shelves. If I started focusing on weightloss I'd see a difference in a month. It doesn't make sense.

I don't really have any answers. I just thought it was curious.

What about you? Anything skewed for you?

Thursday, January 08, 2009


I am as easily distracted as a 3 year old. My attention seems to wander at all times. When I do focus, I'm unwavering, but it is something I have to work on.

The biggest problem is the amount of distractions I am bombarded with. Some are necessary, some aren't. Even now as I write this, I feel the lure of going and doing something else. Sitting here and finishing the post is taking all my focus.

Part of it's laziness. It is easier to go with the flow than make the effort to concentrate. Part of it is my own lack of organization. I was not born with the organizing gene, it is truly an effort to keep myself organized. Which is why I need lists. I need to write on a piece of paper what I need to do that day whether it's feeding the fish or writing 1500 words. Unfortunately I've been too distracted lately to sit down and write out what I need to do.

Anyway, I've committed myself to making writing a higher priority. All well and good but I'm having a hard time just writing. It isn't writer's block. It isn't a lack of time. It is distraction. Melissa sent me this article (she's always finding great articles online) and it really resonated with me. The author,Cory Doctorow, has really come up with some great strategies for those of us who are distracted. None of them take a great deal of effort to enact.

How do you battle distraction when you are writing?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I'm Doing Them No Favors

My husband and I are far too indulgent of our children. They generally get what they want. Our lives rotate around them, their activities dictating our time and energy. We suspend our own interests to indulge theirs. And I don't mind. I enjoy watching my kids play sports and I like participating in my daughter's Girl Scout troop. I honestly think the activities they paricipate in will help them in their adult lives.

But I have failed them in the domestic sphere. My kids don't have any set chores. They slide on cleaning up their rooms. They do their own laundry but they don't help anywhere else. And it isn't because I want to indulge them, its simply a matter of laziness. It is easier to do it myself than delegate it to someone else. I'm doing them no favors. In six years my son will be out of the house at college living with other people and he won't have a sense of responsibility of participating in a household. I'm sure many of you had to live with someone like that when you were in school. I know I did. It would be a pity if my kids ended up being those people.

I know I need to make a change but boy, how do you introduce it without A) starting a fight and B) taking over the chore because they suck at it?

Monday, January 05, 2009

It's a Shame

I am endlessly amazed at how disgusting people can be. We took the girls up to the snow again yesterday to do some sledding. I was shocked at the amount to garbage I saw. Why do people do this? People escape up to the mountains, leaving their urban wastelands behind to enjoy the snow and the beauty of the forest. And they treat it like a dump.

Are they really this lazy? This oblivious to what they are doing? Do they realize what a total lack of respect it shows for the world? It was heartbreaking. And if that wasn't enough, it got worse.

My daughter brought a snowball maker yesterday. She set it down to sled down the slope, a time frame of about 5 minutes. The damn thing got stolen. I looked around and sure enough, I saw a kid playing with it with his family. We aren't talking a toddler, he must have been about 11, old enough to understand that stealing is wrong. I told my husband and he went over to the group and got it back. The kid's mom told him to give it back. However, she was fine letting him play with it. She didn't seem to have a problem with the fact her son was playing with a toy that was not his. I guess it is only considered stealing if you get caught.

Anyway, my opinion of my fellow man is pretty low. I thought decency was more prevalent. But as my husband said, if people were basically decent, he would be unemployed (he's a lawyer). What do you think? Am I just seeing some bad apples or is the general population lacking in a moral code?

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Cursive Curse

Is there anything lovelier than a beautifully written missive? How often have you seen a letter or note and thought "wow, what pretty handwriting?" On the flipside, I'm sure you've also read something and wondered if it was written by a human or a chicken.

Cursive runs the gamut. When I was a kid it was a required skill taught in the third grade. Now it isn't. I discovered this last year when my daughter was in third grade. I couldn't believe she wasn't being taught cursive and I found out it was no longer a standard.

How necessary is it that she learns? This post doesn't think it is. As a mother, she writes about the struggles her son is having with cursive. She discusses the difficulties the issue has created within her home and with her son's learning. From the number of comments to the post, you can see how hot this issue is. I read through some of the comments and many people brought up excellent points. Handwriting is fine motor skill, a way of developing our brains. Cursive is a lost art falling victim to our glorification of technology.

I hate cursive. Like the woman's son in the article, I also suffered through penmanship and remember my mother having to meet with the teacher because of it. My printing isn't great either but it isn't illegible. My cursive is unreadable and I can honestly say I haven't used it since jr. high. The only "cursive" I use is when I sign things. Once I learned to type in high school, I almost never write on paper.

Newsweek offers an article citing why it is important that our children learn handwriting. My son learned cursive in 3rd grade and I can honestly say I've never seen him use it. He prints and he types. Since he has entered jr. high, he is typing even more. He communicates better when he types.

I'm not saying handwriting is obsolete and shouldn't be taught. Certainly it is essential our kids learn "manuscript" writing, being able to communicate with pencil and paper is beyond importance. But fine penmanship is not a crucial skill. Being able to write legiblly is. But so is knowing proper grammar and spelling. If a child is struggling to form letters properly, how focused are they on content?

English professor Dennis Baron thinks the emphasis on handwriting is not preparing children to be actual writers. He brings up the point that good penmanship was a necessity back in the old days for business, but now speed is far more important. He also discusses how his own students find themselves far more connected through their keyboard than they are with pencil and paper.

Some writers I know are more creative when they write long hand on paper. I'm not. I type faster than I write. Like the college professor's students, I find myself far more connected to my keyboard than with a piece of paper. I also started teaching myself to type when I was a freshman in high school, so I've been connected to a keyboard in one way or another for most of my life.

I understand the desire of people to keep handwriting alive in our society. There is pleasure in reading a well-written note penned in a beautiful hand. For many, there is a delight in handwriting, communicating their thoughts and ideas with sweeping florishes and dramatic loops. I admire beautiful handwriting the way I admire art. While I like the idea of giving our childdren the opportunity to learn cursive, I'm not so sure I think it should be given a whole lot of emphasis. In truth, I'd rather they learned to use a keyboard at an early age.

I'm sure much of my opinion is based on my own personal experiences with handwriting and the tortures of cursive. I have similar feelings about beef stroganoff and second year algebra.

So what do you think? Is cursive writing and penmanship a quaint yet obsolete talent or am I a techno-barbarian who is leading the way to the destruction of western civilization?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

Our New Year's Eve was quite the spectacle...NOT. Hubby and I made it to midnight only because we were watching a movie. We aren't what you call party animals. We woke up this morning and took the girls to the mountains to play in the snow. They had fun but thankfully only lasted about an hour. It only takes us about 20 minutes to get the snow from our house. But as we were leaving the cars were starting to line up. Since snow is such an exotic substance to most southern Californians, it is quite the attraction. People can wait for hours to get up the mountain. Thus the advantage of living close by. We can get up there nice and early and leave before it gets too crowded.

Did any of you watch the Rose Parade? It was always a tradition for me as a kid to watch it. My kids are watching a replay now. And yes, the weather was as wonderful as they showed today. Highs in the mid-60's without a cloud in the sky. The temps in the mountains were in the 40's, so it was nice up there too.

Hope your new year started as pleasantly!