Nancy: On Gratitude

In the US, it’s that time of year again: the beginning of the holiday season. First up, American Thanksgiving. From an historical context, this holiday and the ‘facts’ we Americans know about it have their problems. In the modern era, the day has become associated with overeating, dealing with disagreeable relatives, and watching a lot of football. But at its core, both historically and currently, there is something truly lovely that Thanksgiving reminds Americans to do – be grateful.

Speaking for myself, fellow Americans I know, and the general aura we project as a nation, we are not great at gratitude. So, an annual holiday that reminds us to give thanks – whether we do it in a spiritual or secular context – isn’t a bad thing.

Earlier this year, I began a (sporadic) practice of meditation to help focus my energy and calm my nerves in these…er…troubling (to say the least) times. One of the most interesting guided meditations I’ve done is to be used before a meal. It leads the listener through a series of gratitude exercises, thinking about each person who ‘touched’ the food – from planting to harvesting, to packaging and shipping, to stocking shelves and checking out food at the store – and being grateful for the way each of them contributed to getting that food in front of you. Even for the most basic salad, it takes a village to make a meal.

As I’ve gotten back on track with my writing and have been following the Jen Louden’s GSSD (Get Scary Shit Done) program, I’ve been reminded by her lessons and my own reflection to be grateful for all the things that allow my writing time to happen, from the weird way my brain works to create story, to the amazing technology that allows me to get it all out onto the page. Even during a crappy day of writing, I can find reasons for gratitude. I’m grateful when I have the strength and energy to show up, the support of other writers when the going gets really tough, other stories to read for inspiration and solace when my own story is stuck (like my WIP is today). And it turns out, I’m reaping a whole host of positive things from simply finding and reflecting upon a reason to be grateful every day. Continue reading

Nancy: November Accountability Thread

It’s already the first Monday of November. Can you believe it? And you know what that means! It’s time to fess up. Tell us what you did (or didn’t) accomplish toward your creative goals for October, then share your November goals.

So are you ready to play ‘I’ll show you mine, you show me yours’? As always, I’ll go first. This month, though, I’m going to do this a little differently. No harsh words for myself. No disappointment. Celebration and appreciation for what I did get done. It’s all part of incorporating self compassion into my creative process. I’ll write more about that in next week’s post. But for now, time for some self-compassionate accountability.

October Goals

1) Finish the novella revision. Continue reading

Nancy: “I Really Should Be Writing, But…”

Maybe you’ve said those words yourself. Or maybe you’ve substituted some other creative endeavor for writing, to the same effect. You have a project you want to do, you plan to do, you’re passionate about doing. You’ve carved out a block of time for it, negotiating and juggling other priorities, you’ve showed up at your desk, and…you’ve reached the end of your writing time and you haven’t written a word. Or maybe you’ve written a few words or sentences or paragraphs, but then wandered off to look at something shiny, like a fab cat video on YouTube or the latest hot thing on Netflix.

You must not be a real writer. Better people, other creatives, real writers don’t get distracted this way. They get their shit done, no ifs ands or buts about it. They show up for their writing blocks and they get it done! Or do they?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing some of my aha! moments that have come from my journey through Jen Louden’s Get Your Scary Shit Done course. One of the things Jen’s course teaches is that while we’re all special snowflakes, we’re not special when it comes to having fear, anxiety, or at the very least discomfort around our creative projects (or other ‘scary shit’ we want to do, like training for a triathlon or learning the ukulele). A nearly universal aspect of the human experience is that creativity requires growth and change, and those things rarely happen without pain and resistance.

Lisa Cron of Story Genius fame discusses this in reference to our characters. We’ve all heard we should chase our protagonists up trees and shoot at them. Why would we do such a terrible thing to our characters, whom we tend to love? Because at the heart of our stories, we’re exploring how our characters grow and change. But the force (of inertia) is strong! If we, and by extension our characters, can get by, survive, sometimes even thrive doing the same old same old, that’s what we’re going to do. Not because we’re bad people, lazy SOBs, or fake writers, but because evolution has hard-wired our brains to take the most comfortable, least resistant path to staying alive. Human evolution – the very survival of our species! – has depended upon not only the ability to adapt as quickly and efficiently as possible to change, but also the skill of recognizing a good thing when we have it and coasting on that as long as possible.

Phrased that way, goofing off on YouTube or binge-watching the first four hours of Stranger Things 2 on Netflix (not that anyone here has done that, right?) doesn’t sound so shameful, does it? “I know it looks like I was avoiding the next chapter of my WIP, but I was actually contributing to the survival of our species.”

That’s not to say you should embrace an everlasting state of inertia. Continue reading

Nancy: To Thine Own Process Be True

Write first thing in the morning.

Write last thing at night.

Carve out big chunks of time for writing.

Learn to write in 15-minute increments over lunch.

Learn to write 10,000 words a day.

Don’t end a writing session until you’ve written 1,000 words.

Write every day, every week, every weekend.

Set aside one weekend a month and write in a flaming frenzy.

If you’ve been writing for more than a hot second, you’ve heard some if not all of these words of wisdom. They are all true. Completely, utterly, 100 % true. They are also pure bullshit.

No, I haven’t been drinking. (Well, not enough to cause concern.) The reason all of those statements can exist at the same time without interrupting the space-time continuum is that they each come with a caveat: if it works for you. Continue reading

Nancy: Boom and Bust

Several weeks ago, I found myself in a familiar place. I was coming off a big day-job project, which had included long hours every day for the last couple of weeks to complete it. I hadn’t been able to touch my writing during that time and for weeks before that, because even when I wasn’t working quite as many hours, I was expending all my mental energy on that other job. But now that I and my team had completed that project and submitted it to the customer, I was able to reclaim my life, including my writing time. “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” right?

Um, no.

When last I’d communed with my writing, I’d been on a hot streak (despite that pesky novella that I’ve struggled to revise). I was writing for long hours and wracking up word counts, knowing all the while it couldn’t last. I’d signed a consulting contract. A company was going to write me a monthly check; it stood to reason at some point they’d want me to do something to earn that money. Then I got a call saying a project that was supposed to start in October was actually starting six weeks early. I went cold turkey on my writing. Turns out, by the time I finally got back to it, it had gone cold turkey on me. I had one novella and one full-length novel in need of revision, and the first act of a second full-length novel all set in the same story world. I also had the first half of my women’s fiction story waiting for completion. But when I sat down at the computer, I couldn’t get back into any of those story worlds. I’m not going to lie – some panic set in. After all, it’s only a matter of time before I get the next call about the next day-job project, and then I’ll have to go cold turkey on writing again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Continue reading

Nancy: Romance is the Shizzle

OK, that might be a terrible and decidedly dated title for a blog post, but what’s important here is the message. Romance is hot! I’m not talking about 4-alarm heat levels based sexual explicitness. I’m talking about the state of the market. While other fiction genres struggle to recover from the hit book buying took last November (after something happened…something cataclysmic and unprecedented…ring any bells?), the romance genre is leading the pack in rebounding.

According to an article on Salon.com titled Welcome to the Romance Resistance, booksellers, publishers, and indie authors are reporting record sales in the genre. The article credits the escapism the genre offers its readers, something many women (remembering that women make up 84% of romance’s readers) are seeking  during these trouble times. No doubt there’s something to that. But other genres offer escapism, too, so what else is romance offering its readers?

It’s another e word. Empowerment. We’re seeing tremendous pushes toward regression in women’s rights, on issues ranging from workplace protections to bodily autonomy. Much of the romance genre provides a ballast to this frightening trend. Authors across the genre write about heroines who are smart, capable, and full of agency. Heroines who are empowered.

We’ve seen how threatening empowered women are to the powers that be and the pushback that women’s societal strides forward have engendered. But we must keep that forward momentum. When fighting the good fight exhausts us, we can take a break and sink into a good book for a little bit of escapism and a big dose of ‘woman power’.

Friend of the blog Jennifer Crusie has said romance is the most subversively feminist genre she’s ever read. That subversion, and the escapism, empowerment, and celebration it brings with it are center stage right now. So let your romance flags fly, readers and writers of this awesome genre!

 

Note: This week, whether you’re stoking your creativity by writing your own romance story or immersing yourself in someone else’s story world, how about a little musical accompaniment? Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the smash Broadway hit Hamilton, has undertaken a musical project to help victims of Hurricane Maria. If you want to hear him talk about the creative process of writing and recording the song Almost Like Praying with a whole host of Latinx stars, check out NPR’s interview with Miranda. To get straight to the music, check out the video on YouTube. Whether you stream the song or buy, the proceeds go to the Hispanic Federation’s Hurricane Relief Fund.

Nancy: October Accountability Thread

As Jilly mentioned in yesterday’s post, it’s already October. Autumn has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere! Like many people, I find the cool, crisp air and explosion of colorful leaves invigorating and uplifting. It gives me energy and a renewed sense of purpose. It probably even helped me get in gear to post our first Monday accountability thread on (who woulda thunk it!) the actual first Monday of the month. So I’m already doing a better job of accomplishing things in October than I did in August and September.

While Jilly and a few others shared their goals for this final quarter of the year, I’m eating a slightly smaller elephant (one bite at a time) by setting some goals for this tenth month of 2017. But first, I give you the September recap, with less success than I’d hoped to report.

September Goals

1) Finish the novella revision. You have to be as sick of seeing this goal on my list as I am. This one is a good news/bad news story. I have made progress! I can see light at the end of this seemingly never-ending revision tunnel! But I’m not done, not yet. I think there are a whole lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is fear of finishing, of letting this thing go and moving onto the next step of the process which will end in eventually releasing it into the world. It will never be perfect. It will never be as wonderful on paper/screen as it was in my head, not even close. And I’ve been having a hard time making peace with that. September was, at least, a chance to realize this and to fight through some of the harder parts of the rewrite.

2) Make my one-year writing plan. Yay, a success! I’m able to check this one off my list. And I actually have a two-year writing plan, with built-in flexibility and the prerogative to change it if necessary, but as it is, it’s a really good plan!

3) Sign up for a 6-month book coaching program. Done! However, I now won’t be starting the 6-month journey until November, but it’s all good, because that fits with my two-year writing plan.

4) Re-engage with this and other special online communities. Well, I fell short on this one, too. But I did at least get back to reading posts (most weeks), interacted with a few groups on Facebook, and I took advantage of the opportunity to connect with a few of my tribes live and in person in September.

October Goals

Out with the old goals, in with the new. Except, of course, in the case of that novella…

1) Finish the novella revision. Seriously. I’m sick of saying it; you’re sick of hearing it. Here’s hoping I officially cross this one off the list this time.

2) Finish the next 30,000 words in my WIP. This is another in the Victorian Romance series. My writing plan says I’ll release that (damn) novella and the first two full-length books in the series in 2018. This is the second of the 2018 full-length books, and after October’s 30k words, I’ll have 20k or less left to go. Even with my painfully slow revision process and all the steps that need to occur between first draft and publication, I’m dangerously close to achieving that 2018 publishing goal if I hit this October writing goal.

3) Get on a writing schedule. It doesn’t have to be rigid, and I don’t want to beat myself up if I miss the occasional writing session. But I want to get back to some good habits I once had. With the really big personal and professional obligations of the past few months behind me, this feels like the right time to do it.

That’s it. Nothing that I haven’t done before. Nothing I can’t do again, if I get my writing house in order. How about you? Tell us what goals you plan to accomplish this month as the days get shorter and cooler, and the smell of freshly-baked apple pie wafts through the air (or is that only at my house?).