Elizabeth: #LiveIt

As often seems to happen, I had a completely different post planned for today, but then I attended a leadership training class with presentations chock-full of inspirational and motivational quotes, images, and sayings, and my plan changed.

Normally those motivational things don’t particularly resonate with me, probably because they are often cliches or things that I’ve heard/seen a thousand times before, but occasionally one catches my attention.

The image above, a variation of “Just Do It,” did just that (despite, I’ll admit, the fact that I was multi-tasking at the time).  For some reason, this is just the nudge or kick-in-the-pants that I need right now to start moving forward.  It may be a little early to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions and 2020 plans, but I’m pretty sure #LiveIt is going to be my motivational tagline for the year.

So, what’s inspired you lately?

Michaeline: Enjoying the Process for NaNoWriMo

Just a quickie today, but I saw a good video (10:47) last week on YouTube that really rang a bell with me. It’s called “How I Tricked My Brain to Like Doing Hard Things”, and it’s not about writing, but rather getting to the gym. But a metaphor is a metaphor, and I think his points apply well to writing.

Enjoy the process was the biggest thing. What do you love about actually writing? I love it when the writing gods drop a fantastic idea down in the middle of my process – a cool character, or just the right word in a very good sentence. I feel a physical “click” when that happens, and it really is awesome!

Take a look. Point after point could be applied to writing, or any creative endeavor – whether it’s creating a story, or creating a better body.

Michaeline: A Writing Staycation

“My goodness, this might actually be pretty decent!” (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been on Twitter an awful lot since I’ve gotten my new phone; I set up an alt account called “fooling around on my phone” and instead of trying to be on-brand and promote my writing (at this point, my only public writing are these blog posts and some earnest advice on obscure Reddit subs), I lurk on other writers’ threads and enjoy some weird bots that tweet famous authors’ works. (When Gilgamesh, Sappho and Vonnegut line up on my screen, I get some pretty amazing reading.)

I should probably quit spending so much time on the internet, but I have to admit that Twitter is quite inspirational. I’ve almost put down the phone and started writing MANY times; I have screenshotted some amazing ideas to use later.

This weekend, I’m finally taking action. At least two people have shown up on my Twitter feed saying, “Going off-line. Writing retreat. See you Monday!”

So, I’m inspired. I won’t go off-line (ha! As of this writing, I’ve already scrolled through about 50 tweets, watched three YouTube videos and texted my mother, despite my best intentions). But it’s a beautiful weekend to have a writing retreat at home! Here’s how I’m doing it. Continue reading

Michaeline: Autumn is Calling

Two young women gathering grapes in a Grecian setting

Not quite summer, not quite fall — something delicious in between. (Image via Wikimedia)

Autumn is coming in! I know, I know, equinox, blah-blah-blah. But modern people tend to jump the gun a little – perhaps we’re more attuned to the marketing cycle than we are to the actual season, but that’s OK. A lot of us are sick of summer, anyway.

How do I know it’s autumn? Well, I suspected it last night when Randy Rainbow sang to me of pumpkin spice on YouTube. That’s the first whiff of autumn these days – the cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg get re-branded as pumpkin spice, and jazz up any number of delicious, non-pumpkiny things – the real pumpkin being saved for Thanksgiving, I think.

This morning confirmed things. Nearly the first tweet I read said: “WE ALL HARD AGREE THAT HALLOWEEN SEASON BEGINS SEPTEMBER 1, RIGHT?” Lisa Marie Basile, you are ahead of time, I thought. And then I remembered . . . thirty days hath September, and that means August has 31. We were at the end of summer.

At the time, there were 2,080 tweets in the past hour for Halloween costumes, and 910 tweets for hashtag Halloween. I’d say Halloween season has begun.

This summer has been such a bubble of confined space for me. I’ve been getting by, concentrating only on the stuff right in front of my face, and barely paying any attention to the passage of time. When I managed to get enough water, I felt I’d accomplished enough for the day. When your focus is so tight on the next five minutes, there’s also a strange feeling that time will go on forever.

Autumn is a lovely season, but there’s that bittersweet haze of “ending” that hangs over it. Winter is coming, and so are the short days and long winter’s naps. But, it’s good reading weather, and good writing weather.

The thing is, I’m still behind. People serious about publishing are already knees-deep into their Valentine’s Day offerings, and already starting to think about summer stories. So, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I linger in summer for just a few more weeks. Either way you look at it, I’ll get caught up to the seasons, or the seasons will get caught up with me. Time goes on, and there’s writing that needs doing.

Jeanne: Enneagrams

On Sunday, Jilly talked about the class we’re taking, Inside Out: Crafting Your Character’s Emotional Conflict, with award-winning author Linnea Sinclair.*

LinneaSinclair13

Linnea Sinclair

One of the things that makes me such a slow writer is because it generally takes me 100 or more painfully typed pages to know my characters well enough to understand what they’ll do in any given situation. Up to that point (and sometimes, as with my current WIP, even longer) I head off in wrong directions and follow blind alleys and generally wander in the wilderness while I get to know them.

It’s not an efficient process.

Now Ms. Sinclair has given me a tool to (I really hope) shortcut that painful process–the Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram). According to the Integrative 9 website, the Enneagram is an archetypal framework that offers in-depth insight to individuals, groups and collectives.  Put more simply, it’s a psychological test that categorizes people into 9 different groups based on personality/character factors. Continue reading

Michaeline: April, Empty Nests, and Cats Amongst Pigeons

Three birds, empty nest

Image via Wikimedia Commons

I was tempted to post a cat picture today and call it good – maybe even do it for the whole month. See, the thing is, I am now officially an empty nester.

I spent a lot of the last six weeks getting my youngest to entrance exams and then helping her settle into her apartment just outside of Tokyo. I’m exhausted. Tokyo is a city for walkers. And for stairclimbers. And for uphill shufflers. It’s a regular Olympics for the pedestrian, and I participated in the triathlon (at least until I did a bit of orienteering, and learned to find the hidden elevators in the city).

I didn’t write. I barely even thought about writing, and for the last week, I didn’t even study kanji characters. (Commitment: 10 minutes a day. Reward: Much satisfaction.) And I played the ukulele once . . . in a crappy little music store in an outlet mall, about five kilometers (or miles, if it makes you feel more comfortable) away. I pretended I was going to buy an instrument, even though I have no room for another uke, just jonesing for a little strumming fix. Stealing sound and rhythm. They needed to change their strings, so I didn’t steal much.

By last Tuesday, though, things had settled down. The entrance ceremony was held on Monday, and so I was left in the apartment to my own lazy devices. We’d built IKEA Kallax monuments to books and makeup, and a clever shelf/hanging rack for over the washing machine. We’d hauled at least 10 tons (if you want metric, you can consider it 15 tonnes, if you like – I’m too tired to Google it, but it’s rhetorical metric, which doesn’t have an accurate counterpart in the real world, anyway) through the train and subway systems, and up to the third floor (no elevator, no magical portals, nor any sprouting wings).

Tuesday, I cracked open a book about self-publishing that I’ll talk about this month, and started making some plans to feather my empty nest with activity. I started thinking about two of my abandoned books, and idly toyed with how I could re-start them as projects. I thought about blogs and blogging. I thought about how much I loved short stories, and how I need to start sending them to magazines and let other people see them. And I began to dream about schedules – I have a dayjob from eight to four every day, but if I organize myself, surely I can find two hours each weekday for writing. Surely more on the weekends.

But for now, I’m awash in emotions. It’s really, really nice to have two daughters launched and on their own. (Oh, Mrs. Bennet, I can feel your foolish joy.) The reduction in laundry alone is a satisfying side-benefit. But on the other hand, it’s worrisome. Are they happy? Are they fine? There’s really very little I can do to contribute to their happiness at this point. Last month, it was enough to feed her some chicken, or drive her to the really far clothing store. This month, it’s out of my hands, and if things follow their natural course, it’ll never really be in my hands ever again.

It’s overwhelming to lose that role; maybe I can channel my over-abundance of helpfulness into other causes. Or maybe I can post cat pictures for the month of April, and get back into the swing of things in May. We’ll see.

Justine: Tricks to Help You Focus

Depressed man with worried desperate stressed expression and brain melting into linesI have attention deficit disorder. I’ve had it my entire life, and because of a heart condition, I can’t take medication for it. ADD makes staying focused one any one task for a long period of time very difficult (unless I’m really excited about the task — like reading a book from my favorite author).

In the past, I’ve tried setting goals in order for me to get my writing done. But word count goals didn’t work for me, especially when I was editing. Did I really write 1,000 words? No idea…too much cutting/pasting/adding. Plus, there were some days Continue reading