Deadlines

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After my 50th birthday celebration and awaiting the upcoming Thanksgiving Day holiday, it’s been hard to write. Excuses, excuses; don’t I know it. As you, my constant reader, have followed me on my writing journey, you’ve witnessed how I’ve struggled to maintain a writing habit. For the most part, I have been successful. Although I don’t write every day, I do at least something like characterizing, outlining, revision, etc., for my writing at 5 days out of 7 a week, sometimes more. Based on where I started, this is a huge turnaround for me.

But as positive as that is, the process is slow going. As of this posting, I am 25,000 words into my 90,000 word manuscript. Each day I add to it is the furthest that I have ever gone on a single project. This is great and I’m proud of myself, but I’m moving too slow I think. There are days I can binge write and churn out 1000 words. Some days, though, I log only 100-200 words. Other days I’m just under 500. While others I can’t write at all. Time has come for me to turbocharge my writing habit! In order to do that, I must give myself a deadline.

Most people hate deadlines. They have a tendency to put undo pressure on people, causing them to rush the quality of a project. Some people feel anxiety when faced with a deadline. Deadlines can be too rigid which prevents working minds from being open to surprises. But some folks thrive with deadlines. They can help tackle procrastination, force you to set and focus on goals, or strengthen your resolve with future projects when you’ve stuck to a deadline.

This is why I have decided to give myself a deadline. As you may remember from past posts, how I pitched three literary agents who want to read my manuscript. The literary industry usually will not provide deadlines because one: agents read so many manuscripts and don’t have the time to jump right to yours, and two: agents want to give a writer all the time in the world to submit a well-polished manuscript. But you don’t want to take forever to submit a manuscript. You want that manuscript in their hands in a timely fashion even thought there is no timeline, which there generally isn’t. I want to build up my speed so I can get manuscripts into the hands of agents in a timely fashion on a regular basis.

Now what kind of deadline have I given myself? Let’s take a look at the numbers. I have 65,000 words left in my manuscript. In keeping with my 500 words a day, this should take 130 days to complete a first draft. 130 days shakes out to about 4.5 months. Since I’m feeling really generous, lets call it 5 months. From the time of this posting, that brings us to April as the month I will try to finish the first draft of my Afro-fantasy manuscript. It’s a tall order, but I will try my damnedest to accomplish it.

Words have power. My declaration has been put into words and sent out into the universe. The dream has been given life. It is now a real concrete goal. Doing this is an act of courage for me. Hopefully, I’m able to rise to this challenge.

What if I don’t complete the manuscript in 5 months? Then I will pick myself up, dust myself off and set a new deadline. What I won’t do is beat myself up for not reaching this goal. That serves nothing but to set me back and break me down mentally. I don’t need that headache. This is a learning experience that I hope will build up my writing muscles, preparing me for the next project and the one after that and the one after that.

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Milestone

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On this writer’s journey of mine, I have set many goals for myself. One was to write for 21 days in a row in order to make that happen. Another was to finish a piece of prose that was longer than 15 pages long. I had never written prose that was over 15 pages (typed, double spaced). Years ago, I wrote a 30 page sci-fi action screenplay. That was the longest thing I’d ever written, but as far as prose went, I’d never come close to that. But now I have exceeded that in spades.

Back in January, you loyal readers may remember, I completed the first draft of a sci-fi action novella that is now in revision. I say ‘completed’ because I’d never gotten past the first draft phase before for something so long. Currently, the story tops out at 21,517 words. That comes out to about 71 pages! It was the most I’ve ever written. I started it in August of 2016 while staying at an ashram in upstate New York. I’m quite proud of not just what I wrote but reaching the milestone of finishing a first draft of a longer form piece.

Now we come to today. As some of you may already know, I am in the process of writing a 90,000 word Afro-Fantasy novel. Three potential agents were promised 90,000 words and that’s what I’m going to give them. With the full intention of keeping this promise, I can only hope that they find the vast majority of those 90,000 words of great quality. One great thing about undertaking the task, is that I have reached a milestone by breaking the 22,000 word mark. This is truly a momentous occasion that fills me with a small measure of pride. But I must remember that this is just one step in my Writer’s Life. For one, are they quality 22,000 words? That remains to be seen. And second, I still have 68,000 words to go! Can’t forget that little tidbit, so let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

I considered doing NaNoWriMo this year, but I needed to start this Sword and Soul novel back in late June for pitching purposes. Also, I know it’s probably and excuse, but I just didn’t have the time to dedicate to NaNoWriMo. Hopefully, I will next year. No promises on that yet. Let’s see if I can now make it to 50,000 words, the minimum for NaNoWriMo, to determine if I have what it takes to do it next year.

In the meantime, I will briefly celebrate my 22,000 word achievement by outlining some more and try to write 500 words today. Remember, when it comes to writing, Work is its own reward.

Safe Spaces: Part Deux

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I’ve been trying to write in the local public libraries around my job because they stay open late, but the public-ness of the library has been causing problems for me as of late. Please do not misconstrue this post. It may come off as humorous or mean-spirited. That is not my intention. What is intended me giving voice to my frustrations about the homeless situation in NYC getting worse and the problem spilling over into the NY Public Library system. It’s reached insanity levels.

The Mid-Manhattan Library was my haunt for a few years now. I love nothing better than to sit down, plug in and write away the hours. There was enough space between me and the homeless that I could sit down wind and tolerate their presence. While I typed, the random homeless person would sit quietly reading a book or magazine that interested them or maybe slept quietly. But as time went on, I noticed a disturbing trend. More and more homeless had cellphones and the library became the place for them to come and recharge, taking up prime outlet access for a patron’s laptop. Now I understand that when you are homeless the cellphone is a literal lifeline to the family members you still connect with and to necessary social services and possible job or home opportunities. I get it! But all too often, the homeless person would just be on their watching their favorite tv show or movie (sometimes without headphones!) and reacting loudly to it, disturbing those around them. With the return of Gulf War vets, I have seen a rise in more angrier, self-talking homeless who are too far gone to abide by the rule of not talking loud in the library. And because of their menacing demeanor, have come to monopolize whole sections of a library.

The Mid-Manhattan branch was very old. It’s rickety elevator leaks oil. It did not have enough outlets to accommodate today ubiquitous laptop use. This branch is now closed for renovations that will take at least two years. So I had to find another library branch.

Enter the Grand Central Branch. It’s a bit more modern, but much smaller than the Mid-Manhattan. I like the cozy atmosphere. But just as I made the switch to the Grand Central Branch, so too did the homeless. Now we are all in a much smaller space, so the negative issues have been magnified tenfold.

Hogging up deskspace with torn bags stuffed with newspapers. Occupying chairs with dirty luggage filled with the totality of worldly possessions. The stench of unwashed bodies on all sides. The putrid smell of bare athlete’s foot. It all became so frustrating that I was overwhelmed to the point that I couldn’t concentrate to write.

As I stated in a previous post, I can’t seem to write at home. I can’t seem to shut out the distractions and I get too comfortable there.

But what could I do? I couldn’t go to a Starbuck’s because of limited outlets and limited table space. Going to Panera, was more of the same, but compounded by workers harassing you for your seat once you finished eating. I have no problem paying for food or coffee to stay in these establishments, it’s an effective way to keep the homeless away. But I want to save my cash.

So these days, I have resorted to writing in a small, but cozy out of the way meeting room at my job. It has a good size round table for three chairs, with AC outlets, and sound proofing. So far no one has said I can’t be there. A new refuge is born!

In the meanwhile, don’t get me wrong. I am by no means against the homeless or their right to spend time at the public library, but there comes a tipping point.

I believe there should be low income housing to house the homeless. Housing prices in big cities has gotten ridiculous while the rich continue to price everyone out. There should be safe shelters for the homeless to spend their nights. Along with adequate security, the homeless person should be determined not to be a violent menace. The shelter, where my wife and I have volunteered in the past, vets the homeless men and women before they are allowed to sleep there. There also needs to be a mental health component in helping the homeless, because so many of them suffer from mental health issues that range from PTSD, Bi-Polar Disorder, and Schizophrenia. Unfortunately, our American society deals with mental health by stigmatizing it and ignoring those afflicted. Don’t forget that many homeless people also suffer from addiction. So in dealing with homelessness there needs to be a substance recovery component as well.

Today, libraries have become the daytime sanctuary for the homeless, so much to the point that the library going experience has become quite negative, and that’s truly unfortunate. But while we try to better our society to alleviate homelessness, the homeless need to understand that the public library shouldn’t be treated as their daytime daycare center. We all need to share public spaces and respect each other.

Pitching at Conferences

 

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I’m back boys and girls, ladies and gents! What kept me away? Well, it was a bit of good news. I have three literary agents interested in my work. Cool beans! I’m so excited. That’s what’s been eating up my time, preventing me from posting. But I promise to make this blog a weekly event. There is so much to share.

How did I get these agents interested? I attended a writers conference is how. Agents, editors and publishers frequent writers conferences all over the country in search of that fresh new voice. Believe it when I tell you that they are actually desperate. Sure we’re getting rejected constantly by them, but that hasn’t curbed their enthusiasm for more new writers. And we must meet this demand by going to writers conferences and pitching to them.

From August 17-20th, I attended the 2017 Writer’s Digest Writers Conference, with one of my Climbing Ivies of Blackrock partners, Justine. This was the second year in a row that I attended. I’ll write about some of the workshops at this conference in a future post. But what’s so special about this conference is that it has a Pitch Slam where aspiring writers can pitch their book ideas to a plethora of literary agents in speed dating style fashion. Last year, when I attended this conference, I did not participate in the Pitch Slam. With no manuscript to pitch, I was too scared to create one to pitch. But this year, though I was still scared, I had a story idea I felt worthy of pitching to the agents in attendance and decided to suck it up.

How did I prepare? I studied and crammed like I was back in school preparing for a test. That’s what part of your pitch is you know — a test to see how much you are familiar with your own story. The more you know your story inside and out, the more you are able to break it down to its component parts, the better you will be able to relate that story to agents and make them feel engaged in your subject matter.

For two weeks, I distilled my story down to two paragraphs. When starting a novel, you should have a one or two paragraph synopsis that you know well enough. You should also have a two sentence log line that you should be able to rattle off with ease. From these two concepts you chisel out your pitch.

One of the rules of the Pitch Slam was that each writer was given three minutes per agent. We were given an hour to try and meet as many agents as possible. I was able to see only three agents because most agents didn’t pay attention to the three minute limit if they were positively engaged with a writer. While waiting for one particular agent I was burned by this. On the flip side, I was aided twice by being able to spend well over three minutes with two different agents.

Knowing I had in theory only three minutes to spend with an agent, I managed to get my pitch down to 40 seconds allowing more that enough time for the agent to ask me questions. For a week and a half, I practiced that pitch over and over. I enlisted my wife to randomly ask for my pitch at odd hours and in odd places. One time she asked me right before I went to bed. Another time she asked me from the shower. My co-workers also took part in listening and indiscriminately requesting my pitch. It was most helpful and I greatly appreciated their support.

The day had finally come. The Pitch Slam was on Day 3, which was a Saturday. I scheduled my pitch session for 2pm-3pm. This was the session that took place after lunch. I chose this hour because of something I heard on a podcast once (I think it was Freakanomics Radio or Radiolab, I can’t remember). The gist of it was that the best time to get paroled if your a convict was after lunch. The reason being is that the parole board has had their lunch by 2pm and are well fed and satisfied. You don’t want to be paroled just before lunch because the parole board might be hungry and antsy and take it out on the poor convict who just wants to be released from prison. During my pitch session, the agents looked well fed and not hangry. My critique partner, Justine, had the session before lunch, but she suffered no adverse reactions from the agents; successfully scoring callbacks from 4 out of 5 of them.

What was great for me was that I was able to pick Justine’s brains on what to expect from the Pitch Slam before I went in. Thankfully, she warned me about one agent who was stone-faced throughout the entire process. It just so happened that agent was my number one get!

Now if you’re going to attend one of these pitch slams, you must obtain the list of agents who will be attending beforehand. Study that list. Find out what type of work they are looking for and compile a list of agents who are appropriate for your genre. Then take that list and pick a top three. Go to those agents first. You don’t have time to mess around. I debated if I should’ve gone to a random agent in order to get rid of my nerves, which were off the charts. I couldn’t stop sweating. But I saw the amount of writers in attendance inside that massive meeting room and knew I didn’t have time to waste.

With your featured agents at the top of the list, go to your top agent first. I did this because I needed to rip the bandage off and get it over with. If I failed, I failed. At least I would know where I stood. Justine was right. This agent, who I’ll call Q, was ridiculously stone-faced. Q was not playing around. Q refused to have any sort of expression. I’m sure Q’s heard it all before and was probably a little jaded, so Q didn’t want to give writers any wrong messages or high hopes. Q heard my pitch and true enough I couldn’t read Q’s reaction. Q requested I go into more detail about the amount of magic that was in my story. This almost threw me because I just assumed that if I say my story is a ‘fantasy’ the magic was simply inferred. No. I needed to be clear. That’s on me. And you should be ready to clarify anything and everything in your pitch at a moments notice.

Then Q asked for comps or comparables or comparison titles. Comps are stories  or titles that are similar to your story. You know, the old “it’s Harry Potter meets Dirty Harry” or “Julia Child meets Rain Man” or “Lord of the Rings meets Pacific Rim”. That’s what comps are. Now I know that you hate the idea of your story being compared to anything else. Your story is a unique little flower. Trust me, I get it. But the deal is this, agents want to sell your story to a publisher and to do that the publisher and agent need to know what the market is for your story. The easiest way to do that is to understand what your story is like in relation to what has successfully sold before. The night before the Pitch Slam, I crammed online looking for writers and stories that were similar to my afro-fantasy novel. I found Charles R. Saunders, who is the father of Sword and Soul, an ethnic version of Sword and Sorcery or Sword and Sandal. My story is more medieval though, with Saunders’ work being more tribal and Hyborian Age-like. So I found that 2015 Man Booker Prize Winner, Marlon James, was coming out with a black medieval fantasy trilogy in 2018 called the Dark Star Trilogy. I used them as examples. But Q asked what writer who was currently out now did my story compare to. Luckily, I name checked Nnendi Okorafor for her mystical fantasy style. Q seemed to like that.

Satisfied with these answers Q started to slide their business card across the table to me as Q asked if I had a full manuscript. I told Q I did. It’s nowhere near ready in reality. I told Q it was in revision. But terrified that Q would pull the business card back, I blurted out that the first two chapters were ready to go. Q continued to push the card forward and said to make contact when the full manuscript was ready for me to send.

Taking Q’s card, I was still raw nerves. I managed to thank Q but forgot to shake Q’s hand. We were done with 30 seconds to spare. Success! And on my first try!

Here is something else you need to understand when pitching an agent. Always remember, you don’t want to give the agent any of your work at that moment. They don’t want to carry around your work at that moment either. You don’t give them anything except your pitch. What you do want is to get the agent to give you their information/business card. That’s how it’s done. That’s how you know your pitch was successful.

The other two agents were much smoother sailing going forward. There was P, my other big get, who immediately introduced themselves to me. We even bonded over what borough we had in common. P’s demeanor was very disarming, which helped me calm down big time. P was glad to hear that my work had a protagonist of color in a world of color. P was also very enthusiastic and said, “Your story idea is great, now I need to see that in the writing.” P didn’t want the full manuscript. P only wanted the first 50 pages. He said that he would be able to see if I had “it” or not in those first 50 pages.

Finally there was C. C was icing on the cake because Justine suggested I go to her if I had time. I did have more time so I went. Good thing I did. C was very attentive, supportive and friendly. C liked what I had to say and asked really good questions about my world-building and how ethnicity played into it. She too was glad to see a world of POC. Like Q, C wanted full manuscript though.

I tried to get a fourth agent but ran out of time. Justine and I were so happy that we called the conference a success and didn’t attend any other workshops after that. We achieved what we came to do.

Now in the aftermath of the Pitch Slam, I have once again re-dedicated myself to writing and completing this novel. Everyday after work, I have spent at least two hours at the library to work on my story. Lately, I’ve faced resistance when I try to write at home, because there I get lazy after eating dinner and try to catch up on peak television. So by working at the library, I delay my gratification by putting my time. It would be awesome if I could log 1000 words a day, but that hasn’t happened yet; the most so far has been 800 words. But I am satisfied if I can write 500 words a session. For a novice like me, that is a good pace. I now use a calendar to log in my daily word count. I’ve been averaging between 350-600 words a session. The key, as I have stated in earlier posts, is putting my butt in the seat for an extended period of time. One writer called it TIC or Tush In Chair. If you dedicate yourself to doing that, instead of waiting around for inspiration, the words will come.

Inspiration

Where do you get your inspiration to write stories? You can find inspiration everywhere and in everything. Often, I get inspiration from quotes by either real or fictional people. The news gives me tons of inspiration. Movies and books also provide me a plethora of new story ideas. No, I’m not ripping them off with fanfic! It’s more like “how could I’ve made that better”. Or “that side character was interesting, how can I expand on her?”

But what if you’re stuck? What if you are mired in soul-crushing writer’s block? Perish the thought! I read a great article on Torforgeblog.com called 5 Gaming Tools to Help Your WritingThe author of the article, Michael F. Haspil, gives insight into how some tabletop games can help you when your stuck. I took his advice and purchased 4 of the 5 games on the list, not because I’m getting blocked that much, but because I found these games and tools to be really fun and cool.

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DIXIT from Asmodee:  This storytelling card game has 3-6 players drawing cards that have abstract art on each one. In the game, players take turns each round being the Storyteller. Their job is to draw a card and verbally somehow describe the image on the card. The pictures on the cards are difficult to define thematically and that’s the point! You say what you think you see; sort of a well-crafted Rorschach inkblot test. There are no wrong descriptions by the Storyteller. The card is then mixed up with cards pulled by the other players, then they are placed on the board. The other players try to guess which card the Storyteller described. Points to the Storyteller and the players with the correct guesses. This is how the game is played. But how does this game help with writing through block?

Following the story prompting purposes, suggested by Haspil, I took seven of the beautifully illustrated cards and laid them out to see what story they might tell.  Later, for a quick hit, I took just one card and tried to ascertain a theme from the singular image. From there I came up with a writing prompt and a log line. Maybe one day I’ll write the entire story.

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Rory’s Story Cubes from Gamewright: This isn’t a game. Story Cubes are nine dice with images on each side. You can roll one die or up to all nine dice, then line them up and check out the images to see what story they tell. Quite similar to Dixit.

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StoryForge by B.J. West: Also not a game. It’s a deck of cards created by West, a writer, filmmaker and graphic artist, for the sole purpose of generating story ideas and busting through writer’s block. Each card has a concept or theme on the top of it and if you flip the card upside down there is the opposite concept. Deal the card out in particular “spreads”, ala tarot cards, in order to create characters, plots, or story direction.

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FATE DiceThis is a set of 12 dice that are used with the Fate role-playing system. These are typical six-sided dice, but instead of pips they have ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ signs on them. Two sides have nothing at all. In the game, Fate, skills and attributes are assigned a number. When attempting to use a skill or attribute the player must roll four of the Fate dice. The pluses and minuses are tallied determining your score. Positive numbers mean success while negative numbers mean failure. Great for freeform RPGs.

When using the Fate dice as a writer, there’s no need to assign outcomes a number. Just roll the four dice. The more pluses in a roll mean success, more minuses mean failure. Roll them when you don’t know how your character should react to a plot point or to mix things up when your plot is moving too much in a stereotypical direction. This’ll make things interesting. Haspil calls these moments, Gary Stu, moments. The products the article suggests get the thumbs-up from me. Below are products that I already have that aid me with inspiration.

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Funny thing is I’ve been using role-playing games to help in my creativity for years going back to the granddaddy of them all, Dungeons & Dragons. I used to make up silly little stories based on characters I’d randomly generated from the rulebooks. The Player’s Handbook is perfect for this. Even today, I scour the handbook for spells and skills, picking one or two from the list that stand out to me or I’ll take a 20-sided (die) and generate at random.

Two other RPGs I like to use, are The Doctor Who Role-playing Game (both Cubicle Seven and Fasa editions. Fasa edition shown) and DC Heroes Role Playing Game. The Doctor Who RPG is great for creating planets and aliens. I recently used the alien creation chart to randomly create some strange lifeforms for the novella I’m currently revising. The randomness I generated was so crazy and weird that I had to tweak the creatures into a real-world animal variant, which made them quite intriguing. Meanwhile, the planet generator was used to create the planet which my novella is set. There’s also a Time Travel sourcebook that is indispensable when writing that wacky time travel story you’ve been holding out on. This guide gives you some points to ponder so your time travel set up doesn’t come off as ridiculous or write yourself into a paradox.

DC Heroes, my other RPG resource, is great for creating superheroes or heroic-like characters based on your favorite DC Comics characters. It’s also helpful in choosing a kick-ass superpower or an awesome skill for your story’s protagonist and understanding how these would work in your tale. Writers can just roll a die, pick a power and give it to your main character. Better yet give it to your villain!

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One final product I have is not a game. Not so much a card system, like the previous products I mentioned, but it’s more like a writer’s resource tool kit as the box proclaims. It’s called The Observation Deck. What’s so cool about it is that it not only inspires you with ingenious ideas on each card intended to jostle your brain and get you thinking differently, but it also comes with a book that works in conjunction with each card, offering practical advice and strategies designed to help you break through writer’s block. One card I pulled recently said “Listen”. What did it mean by that? The strategy book’s take on the card was to stop what I was doing, close my eyes, and just sit and listen for ten minutes. We are surrounded by sounds, so just take them in. Identify these sounds. You should become relaxed and focused. And then just write what you are experiencing. I did this at the library in which I experienced silence (Duh!), the clacking of keyboards, and the rumbling of my hungry stomach. For the story I’m outlining, I thought about having a scene where my protagonist experiences hunger.

At some point in time we will all experience writer’s block in one form or another. Everyone has their own ways to tackle this troublesome foe. You may not need or feel comfortable using games and cards to get you through. That’s okay. Do what works for you. The above products are just a few fun ways to break out of block and possibly achieve our writing goals.

 

Writing Through the Dog Days of Summer

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“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.”Steve Karmen

So begins the Dog Days of Summer! These are the days a writer’s fancy turns to beaches, cool clothes, cold drinks, travel and vacations. It’s hot and you just want to sit back and chill. In the heart of summer, we all know it’s increasingly difficult to write.

Discipline is still the key to keeping up the writer’s life during the summer months. There’s no way to get away from the trappings of summer. I get it. You can’t fight it, so don’t. It need not be an either or situation. As long as you fall back on your discipline and trust your training, you’ll be able to write during the summer. You don’t have to write every day. But do engage with your writing every day. That means do some plotting, or some outlining, or some character backstory, or read a book that is similar to what you’re writing. Go to the beach, drink those cold adult beverages, go on vacation and travel the world. Chill out in your favorite beach chair and bring your notebook or laptop with you. While travelling, write about what you’re seeing. Record your experiences. But always remember to at least engage with your writing.

Sadly, I didn’t follow my own advice. My wife and I went to Montreal for the Memorial Day weekend. We met up with some friends of ours, a married couple from Chicago. A great time was had by all. Biking through Old Town and along the canal was awesome. Eating poutine at La Banquise was super cool. Travelling on the Metro was good clean fun. Montreal was and is a great way to experience a little bit of Europe in the Western Hemisphere.

But I didn’t write at any time I was there. I should have. But I wanted to focus on spending time with my loved ones and taking in the sights and sounds of the city. For this reason I will not beat myself up about it. Next time I will try harder.

Meeting with my writing group has become more difficult during these summer months as well. Last summer we were in writing class together. Postponements due to travels to Asia and Europe and visits from out of town family members have been prevalent. We all have lives outside of writing so we simply must grin and bear it. If you can write during these events then more power to you. If you can’t that’s okay too. But you should at least try. One member of the Climbing Ivies of Blackrock wrote a revision for part of her novel while flying back to the U.S. from Japan! It can be done, folks!

A lot of life happens in the summertime. It’s hard to stay dedicated and disciplined. We must do our best to maintain our writer’s life. But if we can’t it is understandable. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Acknowledge what happened or didn’t happen, then rededicate yourself to not only writing on a regular basis but building up the grit needed to carry on.

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The Climbing Ivies of Blackrock Writing Group

 

 

Safe Spaces

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It’s been a long time since my last post. I know. I know. But I’m back, Baby! So let’s get on with the topic of where to write.

Every writer has and needs a place to write. It would be awesome to mimic a rolling stone and set up shop wherever you may be. But the reality is that’s just not the case for most of us. We need that place, dare I say that safe-space, where we can quietly concentrate, contemplate, and be our truly creative selves.

Some people make fun of the concept of the safe-space when referring to its original concept, which is:  an autonomous space for individuals who feel marginalized to come together to communicate regarding their experiences with marginalization, typically on a university campus. I’m not using the term in that way.

What I’m referring to is that place where the writer can go and be free of distraction and outside influence. Typically, this is your favorite spot to write like in your home office, at your local cafe, the backroom of a library, maybe by a lake, a porch, a diner, on the beach, or on the grass at the park. Wherever you find that place that allows you distraction-free creative work, that is your creative safe-space.

Now if you don’t have one, then you need to get yourself one. Your creativity will jump by leaps and bounds, I assure you. I have a home office that I share with my wife. I have an expensive high-back office chair that’s pretty comfortable (I’ve fallen asleep in it) and my computer desk is at a proper height that it doesn’t literally cramp my style. For the most part, my space has been relatively positive to my writer’s life.

Sharing a writing space can be problematic though. Now I’ve mentioned that I share this home office with my wife. On one side, I’ve got my desk; cluttered, semi-organized and lived in. On the other, she has her desk; neat, clear, everything in its place. When I work at my desk, I like to have Battle Music playing (some call it Epic Music). I find this type of music gets my creative juices flowing. While writing, battle music stimulates my imagination causing to me to picture what types of warriors are going head to head to this soundtrack. My imagination becomes unleashed. So it would follow that Battle Music helps me against writer’s block. Block is that enemy warrior to be defeated utterly! Hard driving and loud, battle music can be disturbing to those around me, so if my wife is in the office with me I’m usually blasting these tunes through my headphones. Even when alone I use headphones. The battle music comes in, the outside world is kept out.

My wife, meanwhile, likes to do her work with the television playing or listening to comedy from Pandora on her Amazon Tap. Whatever gets you through the day, I don’t knock it. And yes we have a television in the home office. Since the home office doubles as our guest bedroom (or vice versa) we’ve provided a television for our honored guests.

For me, of course, television is the Great Distractor. There is much sports, Netflix and CNN that requires my attention. Even if I have my headphones on and I see a television playing, I need to know what it is they’re talking about, so using headphones doesn’t help. When this situation arises, I have been going to the living room or kitchen with my laptop. Unfortunately, both locations are not conducive for writing. Both places provide even more distractions than a home office with two computers and a television would. There’s a wide-screen television, blu-rays, a super-comfy couch, and video games in the living room, while food, drink and yet another television beckon in the kitchen (We have four televisions in our apartment).

On top of it all, my wife requires my attention and affections as well, which while sweet and necessary, still distracts you from your writer’s life.

Distraction is the anathema of creativity as I’m sure you know. So when you get yourself that writing space, guard it with your life. Treat it like a panic room! Guard it against anything and anyone that would violate it. That may mean family members; especially family members since they will most likely be the ones violating your space. Talk to them nicely. and Be sensitive to their feelings, but be direct. Don’t get angry with them. Explain to them what your are trying to accomplish before you start your writing day. And when writing time is done, let them know you are available. This is why you should set an exact writing time so you don’t neglect loved ones.