My Favorite Writing Tool

Everyone has something that makes their writing easier, and possibly better.  It is the chair that is perfectly aligned to be comfortable, or the pen that writes so smoothly.  It is the music that inspires, or the water bottle that means you are not getting up for a refill every two minutes.  It is the tool that lets you do whatever you need to do to get your story out.

For me, I would be unable to write without my trusty pad of Post-it notes. 

There are many sizes of Post-it notes, and many colors.  The possibilities are endless for their uses, because they have an almost unlimited options to choose from.  I have used the large, lined, note size, and the standard size.  I’d have to say my absolute favorite is the 2×2 inch squares, which barely have enough space to write a sentence.  I can’t say why.  I’m not writing detailed messages, just a quick note, and maybe that is the point.  It is a quick reminder I can look at later, and then I am back to business.

I do most of my writing sitting in front of my computer, so it would seem as though the Post-it’s don’t make a lot of sense, but I use them everyday in my writing.  I use a Post-it to mark down the daily word count, allowing me to keep track of my daily words written.   When I have a stray thought about my story, something I want to add in earlier in the story, or change, I can make a small note for later and not have to go back and rewrite everything that moment.  Some of my story ideas started out as a small scribble on a Post-it.  One I am preparing to begin, was once three words on a Post-it in the back of my calendar, and it is now preparing to be the first in a series of mid-grade books. 

It’s hard to say why I love them so much.  I can go months without using a Post-it, but when I need one, there is nothing more convenient and wonderful in my life.  Somehow, Post-it notes are what makes my writing easier.

Now, I know some people may assume I am being paid by Post-it to write this, but I am not.  I’m pretty sure they don’t have a clue that I am talking about them, and they don’t really need me to get sales.  Post-it’s are simply the strange but essential writing tool for my work.

What do you absolutely need when you are writing?  Do you use it everyday, or is it something you simply like to have nearby just in case?

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Practical or Purchased

I’ve been working on novel writing for a while now.  I know I am far from the only person out there who has a story to tell, and we all think there is something about our story that makes it different.  It doesn’t matter if technically I know there is likely something else out there that would be considered similar, I know mine if special.

The best part of my writing life currently is the more I write, the more I find I have new ideas to write.  The truth is, I seem to be on a creative high right now.  Not necessarily completing everything I have in concept, but the ideas are flowing.  I’ve worked on documenting these ideas, and writing them all out in some sort of outline for later. 

The trouble I have, is choosing what projects to pursue.  Statistically, I know there will be a certain percentage that are just bad ideas.  The idea might make a good sound bite, but that’s all it is.  Other ideas turn out to just not have legs.  I get started, and nothing seems to work, and the stupid story just sits there irritating me and wasting my time.  

My favorite portion of these ideas might turn out to be REALLY good, but they would be a hard sell for one reason or another.  These are the passion projects, ones I feel strongly about, ones that come from deep in my heart.  Finding someone else to match that passion would be difficult to say the least.

Then of course, there is the last bit of projects.  These are the ideas I like well enough, and I honestly think have commercial potential.  They might actually fall into one of the earlier categories, and turn out to be horrible, but in concept, I can see the audience.  I can imagine who would read them, and possibly even who would sign onto the idea. 

Naturally, there is a part of me who instantly feels I should pursue the stories that might sell.  After all, selling books is what will allow me the freedom to keep writing.  If I have a little commercial success, even very minor success, there goes the need for a day job.

After that thought, I instantly feel bad.  I don’t want to write just for money.  I want to have the creative freedom to pursue the projects that I want.  Writing isn’t and shouldn’t be all about the money, there should be a large element of creation simply for the sake of creation.  If I am fueled by nothing more than money, my work will suffer. 

Of course, one can’t live off of passion and creativity alone.  There are bills to pay and mouths to feed.  If writing doesn’t make me money, I won’t have the time to work on the passion projects. 

But if I am not working on something I am passionate about it will show in my work.  Agents and publishers need to believe in the strength of the story.  If I don’t, they won’t. 

You can see how I go back and forth, right?

So how do you choose?  If you choose to work on something that will have commercial potential, knowing it will be easier to sell, are you selling out or being practical?  If I turn away from the projects I am passionate about, even for a while, am I making a wise career decision, by writing something others will buy, or am I putting myself on the shelf for purchase?

Can you be practical, and still passionate about what you do, or is all money related considerations a betrayal of the creativity that drives me to write to begin with?

Five Things About My Trip to Edinburgh

Well, I’m back everyone!  It  was a busy week, full of lots of fun, but of course as always, I am happy to be home.  Traveling is wonderful.  I love to see new places, experience new things, and learn something I didn’t know before.  But at the end of the day, I just want to sleep in my own bed, with my own oversized blanket and many extra pillows.  It is one of the many reasons I wish the Doctor would just pick me up for my vacations already; I can go anywhere I like, bring all of my clothing, sleep in my own bed, and never worry about having room in my suitcase to bring home souvenirs.

Today, I will keep it simple, and just share with you a few things from my trip.

 

1) I love Touristy Crap.

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I know, you are supposed to pretend you don’t want to see the ‘fake’ tourist stops, or buy anything from the shops aimed at the tourists with dirt cheap prices.  Screw that.  I love the touristy things.  Not only is it awesome to step into a shop that jokes about the cultural stereotypes, but you cannot beat the ‘everything is on sale’ prices.  I love when a culture is willing to make fun of themselves a little.  Scotland knows everyone thinks of kilts and Nessie, so they sell Nessie in a kilt.  It’s just knowing what people want and giving it to them.  The shops win in the end as they laughingly walk away with our money, finding our lack of exchange rate knowledge hilarious.

Its not just the shops I love.  I genuinely enjoy the tourist trap destinations.  I’m in Edinburgh for only a few days.  I can’t get to know the entire history, or the real everyday culture in a short time.  I know most people from the city most likely avoid the Royal Mile unless they work there.  I’m not trying to be a local, I am trying to see a place I never have before.  Tourist traps are designed to take your money, yes.  But they are also there to give you a small glimpse into a place, something that will make you want to come back another time.

2) I ate haggis and didn’t die.

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Technically I am Scottish, somewhere back in the line. Now enough time has passed that, up until this trip, we held a perfect balance of Scottish and American culture in my family.  My brothers occasionally will wear kilts (some of them anyway) but no one ever ate haggis.   Well, I decided I was going to do it.  I was Scottish, in Scotland, it was required.  I have no idea exactly what is in that picture (the menu said Haggis, Natties, and Mash with a Whiskey sauce), but I ate it all.  The orange stuff tasted kind of like cauliflower, the white was obviously potato, and the haggis itself wasn’t bad.  The flavor certainly didn’t tell the truth of what kind of meat goes in there, but the texture was not pleasant to me.  It seemed as if someone had cooked ground meat on the stove, like you would for tacos, and then stuck the cooked meat together in an attempt at meatloaf.  I’m glad I tried it, but I don’t think I ever will again.

Haggis definitely did not win my vote for best food I ate in Scotland.  I expected it to be fish and chips, something I shouldn’t eat, but love enough I eat like crazy when I travel, but it wasn’t even close.  Don’t get me wrong, there was good fish to be had, but my favorite meal was a quick snack we had at the Elephant House.  We stopped in for my Harry Potter obsessed Big One, and went to have a cup of tea.  We ended up there three times, and if we hadn’t needed to pack on our last day we might have ended up there again.  On the third trip, we were killing time before a tour, and getting a drink and snack.  A person behind me in line was eyeing the pastry case, which with my gluten problems I had mostly ignored.  She mentioned a blueberry coconut sponge cake and I may have involuntarily moaned that it sounded delicious.  When the kind staff informed me this it also happened to be gluten free, I instantly ordered a piece.  I might be willing to live in the Elephant House and eat that cake exclusively for a while.  It was quite possibly the most amazing thing I have ever eaten.  I’m pretty sure I will dream about that cake for years to come.

3) The entire city is uphill.

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Do you see that gorgeous view?  Yeah, I worked for that view, harder than I have ever worked before.  There were points walking around the city when I wasn’t sure I would ever recover.  By the end of the trip, I was absolutely certain my ancestors left Scotland because we were not built to travel on hills.   Or maybe that is just the lazy, out of shape, could live off of blueberry coconut sponge cake, modern American I am. As much as I loved the city, I may need to replace my feet now.

4) I took the tours.

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We took three walking tours while we were there, and honestly, I kind of wish we had taken more.  The first was a the guided tour of Edinburgh castle.  We didn’t want the audio tour, since there is something taken away from a family vacation when you are all listening to different parts of a tour with headphones in.  We happened to walk up just as a tour was leaving from the front, so we hopped along to hear a little about the castle as we went.  Let me tell, you it was awesome.  Not only was the guide funny, but I was enthralled with the history he shared.  Hearing a story about how 31 Scotsmen took back the castle in the dead of night, against a large English army was inspiring.  It was also cool to actually see the Stone of Destiny, and hear it’s history from someone who seemed to feel the connection personally. 

The second tour we took was the Potter Trail, a free tour put on by University students.  I didn’t expect to like the tour much.  I am a fan of Harry Potter, but not an obsessive fan the way Big One is.  We mostly took the tour because it was important to her, and in the end I loved it.  It was more than just the little stuff listed on the website.  Gemma was a charming guide, who laughed and joked as she shared stories, and was completely willing to geek out with all of us. 

Our final tour was a paid tour, again one I did because my husband thought the walking tour would be fun.  We were supposed to learn secrets of the Royal Mile, and it was amazing.  We had been walking around for two days already and didn’t realize how much we walked right past without ever knowing it was there.  She took us down the little alleyways, showed us the oldest walls in the city, walls that once surrounded the city.  There is a heart, made of bricks outside a cathedral, I had stepped on many times, never realizing it marked the site of an old prison.  The architecture I had looked at many times and simply thought to be pretty took on new meaning when she gave us the historical context.

In the end, the tours gave me a little taste of what the city used to be, and it is now.  I was left with a desire to learn more, and really, what else could they ask.

5) I want more.

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I watched the sunshine on the waters of Leith.  I walked along roads that had been soaked in history.  I drank my tea in the same room where much of Harry Potter was written.  I left Edinburgh feeling relaxed and inspired.  I’ve often told my husband I would like to retire to Scotland someday.  With every trip we take, I wish for that more and more. 

Clearing My Mind

Every now and then my Little One will announce that she needs to meditate for a while.  Most often it comes before a meal, or after she gets home from school.  Sometimes it is out in the middle of shopping (such as this time the day after she broke her arm for the second time this year).  When and where vary, but one thing is consistent; Little One has had something happen to overwhelm her and chooses to sit, calm herself, and re-center her mind.

I’m not sure exactly where this habit of hers came from.  I did yoga for years, but mostly before she was born.  I studied Buddhism, but we don’t teach our daughters much about religion or spirituality.  Somehow, Little One came to the practice on her own, and decided it was something that helped her.

Last week I finished a manuscript.  Well, mostly.  I’m saving my celebration until I tweak the ending into something better.  I made a goal to get it done before today, and luckily I came through.  I plan to start the first round of revisions, fixing the notes I made while writing in one week from today. 

Before I start the editing process, I need to take a moment away.  I need to clear my mind, center, and come to it with refreshed eyes.  Instead of sitting on a bench outside a store in the Netherlands as my daughter chose to do, I am taking a family trip to Edinburgh.  We are going to see the castle, eat haggis, and visit every Harry Potter related thing we can find (my Big One is just a wee bit obsessed).  I’m hoping the inspiration found in the Elephant House might rub off on me a little, or at least that they have good coffee. 

How do you clear your mind and center before you start something large?

Five Things I Miss About Home

In spite of being born and raised in America, I haven’t lived there in a decade. 

Over these last ten years, there have been many things I have loved about living overseas.  My eight years in Okinawa were amazing and I would go back there is a heartbeat.  I’m fairly certain there is a part of my soul that now firmly belongs to the island.  Falling in love with Belgium has been shockingly quick.  It’s as though I was grieving for the loss of my overseas love and pushed myself to fall in love again right away.  But this isn’t just a rebound country; the kindness of the people, the unique character of the country has helped to build a solid foundation of love here.

While I have found so much to love about living overseas, there are times I miss being home in the USA.  There are just some things that you can’t find when you are away.

 

1) Family

The absolute worst thing about living in a foreign country is living away from family.  I might have picked up and left, but they stayed behind.  It can be years between visits, and due to the awkward time difference, months between phone calls.  At first I resisted Facebook, thinking it to be a trendy thing that would pass.  As soon as I realized how easy it would be to stay in touch with people this way, and know what was going on in their lives even when we couldn’t talk, I was converted.  I honestly would have to say that social media saved my sanity while living overseas by putting me back in touch with my family.

 

2) Holidays

Independence day has just passed for the USA, and I did nothing.  Well, not nothing.  My husband joined up with the Air Force, and we moved all over the place.  But you know.  No barbeque, no fireworks; none of the traditional celebrations.  Why?  Because the closest place to celebrate that way for us was at least an hour drive and no one wanted to make the trip, dodge the traffic, fight large crowds, and get back superiorly late at night.  The hassle of not having a celebration close by means we must make a choice.  Either we celebrate the traditional way, or we make it a low key holiday at home.  We’ve had quite a few low key holidays at home.

Of course, when it comes time to travel to Germany for the Christmas markets, I am really happy to be overseas for the holidays.

3) Shopping

Of course there is shopping all around the world.  I’m not complaining about there being no where to shop.  The complaint is in the ease of shopping.  There are always going to be things I simply can’t get anywhere else.  Some of these things are from the USA, others are now things I wish I could buy from Okinawa, and I am sure when I leave here there will be things I deeply miss from Belgium.  The biggest challenge is the translation of ingredients in food.  I have a gluten intolerance, which means I have to read what is in my food carefully for my health.  Checking labels that are in another language is not an easy task when you do not speak the language.  Some are easily labeled, and some have multiple languages written on them.  Some are just me taking a chance as to whether or not it will work out.  It’s a risk, and it’s not always one I enjoy taking.

4) Fast Food

There are very few fast food restaurants here in Belgium, at least that I have seen.  In many ways, this is a great thing.  We can’t as easily just pick up dinner instead of cooking a healthy meal, meaning our healthy eating habits have improved since moving here.  However, when I am exhausted at the end of the day and just DO NOT want to cook, I hate that I still need to make something.  When we are on the road, or having an incredibly busy day, I hate that we can’t just pull over anywhere and have a quick bite before diving back in.  The lack of fast food restaurants is great for our health, but horrible for my convenience.

5) Family

I know, I already said family.  This one is hard enough it deserves to be said twice.  I’m fortunate enough to have an awesome set of siblings, and a mother who is AMAZING, as well as the coolest nieces and nephews.  Everyday I am apart from them is heartbreaking.  I know living in another country is a great opportunity for myself and my daughters, but I hate that the price is time with my family.

 

So now, I have to ask.  What is your favorite part about your home?

Potential

 

This morning I took my children to the fabric store.  There were technically many other things I should have been doing, but the fabric store was where we went. 

I needed a small piece of fabric to make a repair on a shirt of my daughter’s, and naturally found other things I somehow realized I could not live without.  Now that I am home, I can lay the fabric out, but I have very little desire to actually sew with it.  Once I begin sewing with my fabric, it loses it’s greatest excitement; the pure potential available. 

I might know what each of those pieces are going to be, but until I actually cut into the fabric and start sewing, they can be anything.  It is the real reason why I accumulate so much extra fabric.  It’s not because it was on sale, or because I have a pattern I could do with it.  I keep it around because I love being surrounded by possibilities.  Each and every piece could be something new and exciting.  I can’t just go with the first thing that crosses my mind, not when there are so many other options.  I am able to let my creativity flow, and see what happens.

Tomorrow, I might need to cut into the fabric.  After all, the shirt won’t mend itself, and the dress my daughter wants will not happen b magic.  Today, however, I will leave them out on the table to show their potential, and allow me to dream. 

Lost

I had planned to write an intelligent post today.  I’d tell you more about it, but I might get around to writing it soon, so I’ll save the brilliance.  Naturally, this also allows me to save face if it turns out to be less clever and more huh?

The last week and a half, since my children left school for the summer, it has felt as though my brain shut down.  I’m still moving, speaking, and making plans, but I don’t feel as though I am thinking.  I can’t seem to process things more than a step ahead.  Which is naturally a problem.  Not only do I need to plan life, but I am going on vacation next week and finishing a novel.  These are things that require thought and planning.

It’s as if I am living someone else’s life for a few weeks.  Someone has made plans for tomorrow with their children, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.  Someone wrote out a chapter on my computer; unfortunately I can’t use someone else’s work.  Someone is going to have a great time in Scotland, and I hope they show me pictures when they get back.

I’m going through the motions, feeling slightly disconnected and I’m not sure why.

I imagine it starts with a changing sleep schedule.  Since we don’t have to be up for school, it’s much harder to get up in the morning.  Instead of getting up early to run, I shut off the alarm and sleep in.  Granted, sleeping in is only until about 7 am, but it is still a slightly off schedule.

Of course since I keep turning off my alarm instead of running, my workout schedule is off.  I don’t feel the same when I don’t run regularly, but it becomes much harder to run down a narrow busy road when you would need to take your six year old along because you overslept.

Having already slept differently and exercised differently, it doesn’t take much else to my normal routine to have me completely thrown off.  I was trying to establish a routine, but it seems pointless.  We have doctors appointments, vacation, and then three weeks of day camp.  I can’t get us into a routine anytime in the next month because things are going to be changing too much.

So what can I do about this lost, dazed feeling?  I can’t keep going around, feeling as though I am not a part of the life I am living.  I need to wake up and get back on track.

It starts out small.  Do something normal, something you would do everyday.  Take that tiny, normal moment, and run with it.  Add it to something else, and something else, and something else, until you have a whole day of normal activities.  Wake up the next day, and do it again.  Even when the day is not normal, find something you can do daily, and keep it.

So today, I had my coffee.  I wrote a post, even if it isn’t about much.  I’m going to take my dog for a walk, do my Tone it Up routine.  I’m going to write until I hit my word count, do some homework, and maybe watch a movie with my kids.  I’m going to cook dinner, go to bed at a reasonable time, read until it is no longer a reasonable hour, and then sleep.  In the morning I am going to wake up, and do it again.

Here is to getting back to normal!