A Good Cup of Coffee

People drink coffee differently in different parts of the world.  Traveling though America, almost every shop you visit will make your drink in a cardboard cup.  Occasionally, you are lucky if the coffee in your cup came from real beans.  It’s not always consistent, but every coffee lover has their favorite shop.

Outside the states it is a little different.  Finding good coffee to go in Belgium is difficult, and not only because Starbucks are almost exclusively in airports or train stations.  This varies slightly country to country, but for the most part, coffee houses are an experience, not a simple stop.

It’s hard to determine which coffee shop style I like better.  I miss the quick stop to get a latte on my way to work, but I enjoy sitting and enjoying the atmosphere as well.  During my trip to Edinburgh last summer, I fell in love with their coffee houses.  Maybe it was knowing I was sitting in the exact same place where JK Rowling had worked on parts of the Harry Potter series, and the delusion that perhaps I was soaking up left over inspiration.  Maybe it simply the relaxation that comes with being on vacation.  Either way, I felt a fire lit beneath my creativity, pushing through the pieces of my broken heart, knowing I would likely never be able to visit again.

I wanted to return, or even better get my own local coffee house where I could occasionally work.  One month ago, that dream became a reality.  A short, five minute walk from my front door is a new neighborhood coffee shop, Brogela.

First off, I have no idea what the name means.  I assume it is a play on the name of my tiny town, but Google translate can’t help me.

Six months ago, this lovely little shop didn’t exist.  Instead, it was an open room with a variety of vending machines.  Looking inside now, you can slightly see the conversion.  Cement floors have been left, and imprints where machines used to live are on the floor.  However, they added a bakery, windows, and a variety of delicious coffees.

I can admit it, I was a little scared to go on my own the first time.  I had so many hopes for a place I could work when I needed to get out of the house.  There was a lot of pressure on this little visit.  My daughters were more than happy to accompany me to check the place out.

thumb_IMG_3162_1024

Now, I am not exactly a coffee purist, but I did choose to keep it simple with a chocolate cappuccino.  Sure, I could have gone with a plain cappuccino, but when you are in Belgium and they offer to put their amazing chocolate in or on something, you take it.

thumb_IMG_3161_1024

Big one chose a Mars Latte, delicious coffee with excessive whip cream, caramel, and miniature Mars Bars.  Somehow it still wasn’t sweet enough for her.  I try not to worry, but I think it’s warranted here.

thumb_IMG_3160_1024

Little One chose a similar option, the Snickers Latte.  It was kind of cool to see the caramel melting down into the drink in little trails.

Between the three of us, we all agreed it was a great place, one we will continue to visit.  On my own, I’m almost afraid to try to work there.  I want my coffee shop work space, but it is so different from what I already do.  Trying something new could be brilliant, or it could be a disaster.  Either way, I will only be living near this particular shop for another six months.  If I hate it, oh well, it was a failed experiment.  If I love it, it doesn’t matter, because it is temporary.  Sure, maybe I could write the best works of my life, but then I would leave and always wonder if it was me or the shop.  Maybe Dumbo flew without his feather, but we’re not all flying elephants.

In spite of the potential risks, I think I’ll have to try.  After all, big risks, big results, right?  Time to get me a good cup of coffee.

Advertisements

Editing

I worked throughout April on a new manuscript as a part of Camp NaNoWriMo.  This is no secret, and was actually a part of my temporary radio silence.  At the end of the month, I had met my word goal by writing 40,111 words, but had not actually finished the story.  I suppose I should have aimed for a higher word count, but based on the last couple I had written, my young adult first drafts tend to hit slightly on the lower side.

While I am still completing this novel, I am also beginning to think about the next step.  No, not publication and inevitable success.  (Okay, maybe occasionally.  I am an unapologetic dreamer after all.)  No, as I finish my mind begins to turn to the dreaded task of editing.

There are different views to editing, and honestly different needs based on the writer.  Many successful writers have made statements indicating that editing was a key part of their success.  True or not, Ernest Hemingway is credited with stating, “The first draft of anything is shit.”  Of course there are others who only edit for spelling errors, and are completely happy with their end results.  So who is right?  I don’t know, and I don’t really care.

For me, I hate editing.  It requires me to be objective about my own writing and my own story.  I begin to second guess everything and suddenly I not only believe Hemingway, but I realize that no matter how much you polish, a turd is still a turd.  I take everything about my own writing personally because it is technically personal.  This is something that came from inside me.  Even if it’s not actually my biography there are parts of me in every character and every choice.

It’s much easier to be objective and honest when I am working with someone else’s work.  I’ve done beta reading before, reading the draft of a story and giving honest feedback.  I feel like I can give constructive criticism without making it unnecessarily cruel.  It’s not about what I like or don’t like, it’s about what makes sense.  Occasionally, I even do it without thinking.

I recently finished a novel, a new adult story that at first seemed like a straight forward girl goes away to college and falls into the middle of a love triangle.  Instead it felt to me to be several books in one.  As I read I could not help but cut through the chapters mumbling to myself about what was unnecessary and what was distracting or weird.  To me, this book needed some severe editing and should not have gone to print without it.  But then, as far as I could find, the writer is at least reasonably successful so my opinion may be the unpopular one on this book.

I hate editing because at the end of the day it is going to arbitrary.  There are many books I have read and wondered how the hell they got to print through a major publishing house without someone saying something about editing the story in some way.   If I had been the agent, or publishing house rep, I would have sent it back and said redo it and we’ll try again.  But no one did, and the world (or part of it) thanks them for sending it through as is.  I can look at someone else’s work and whine about how they should have done things, and doubt all of my own work, but at the end of the day I am only one reader.  My opinion is not the one that makes decisions, and clearly I shouldn’t be the one to make those decisions.  I might have saved the world from some poorly written books, but I also would have saved myself and everyone else from a large quantity of money.

So what does this mean for my own editing?  Hell if I know.  I guess it means I will be one of those writers who needs someone else to help me sort through my own mess.

Silence

Today is April 1st.  In many places this is known as April Fools Day, but not in my house.  I have an absolute hatred of pranks as 99% of them are mean spirited at best and absolutely cruel at worst (if not criminal) and designed to have amusement with someone else’s pain.  Even the things that are considered harmless involve laughing at someone and then forcing them to clean up the mess of what you did.  Luckily for me, my husband was born on April 1st.  He spent years hearing the ever so witty joke, ‘Oh, so you ARE the April Fool,’ and agrees with me that this day sucks (except as his birthday.)

This year, in addition to celebrating his birthday, I am celebrating another day.  April 1st marks the first day of the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo.  (Don’t forget to sign up!)  November was exhausting for me, but it was also effective, which naturally means I can’t wait to start again.  I have my story picked out, my outline done, my opening line. In fact, as soon as I am done writing this, I’m onto my next novel!

I thought that I should take a moment this morning and explain why I might not be writing as much this month.  You know, since I am pushing hard to write elsewhere.  Then I realized, I haven’t been writing much anyway, so you might not even notice.

When I first started this blog, I wrote much more frequently.  I actually had a schedule for myself, telling myself when I was going to write about what, and I often pre-wrote and scheduled my posts.  What it really came down to was an excess of ideas.  There were so many things I wanted to say, I felt like I needed to say them all, right away.  Sometimes I would have a random thought and start writing with it, other times it was a weird observation.  None of the things I wrote about at the beginning seemed like they were a big deal until I started writing.

I think with my fingers.  It’s something I’ve noticed about myself.  Something might be just a thought for a long time, and then when I sit in front of my keyboard and start writing a lot more can come out of it.  Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but either way, I don’t know until my fingers do their little dance.  Many of these random thoughts I had felt like they were something that might just be funny, and then I would start typing and everything would change.

Go ahead.  Go back to a year or so ago and read some of my earlier posts.  Somehow, no matter what I started with, typing it out seemed to give me some bigger or deeper meaning into who I am.  It wasn’t what I set out to do, but there it is.  Good for me, right?  Sigh.

It’s not like I don’t like learning more about myself, or realizing why I do the things I do.  It’s nice to occasionally realize that I was not just insane, some of these thoughts made sense, in some world, somewhere.  But the constant making something small into something huge felt incredibly pretentious.  I mean really, who wants to spend all of their time listening to someone drone on narcissistically about how the way they eat breakfast in the morning actually points to the greater issue of how to feed the world?  (Don’t bother looking, that isn’t one of the early posts.)  I didn’t want to be that person even more than I didn’t want to read about that person.

So, I started writing less.  If I wrote less, and concentrated, fewer of my posts would end on a pretentious note.  I started trying not to ‘wrap up’ my posts, leaving out anything that could be misconstrued as a larger purpose or thought.  Basically, I was writing worse, and feeling like less of myself was really here.

This was where I started to hit my biggest fear.  Was I writing pretentious posts because I am in fact a pretentious person?  First of all, to be pretentious is to, in essence, pretend.  A person who is pretentious is one who pretends to have knowledge or status when they really do not.  You pretend that everything you have is greater and better than it really is.  At least this is the technical definition.  Generally speaking, a person is considered pretentious when those around them feel like less, rather then when a person acts like they are more.  So, yes, sometimes my posts were pretentious, not because I was faking finding insight into who I am, but because I was attributing this knowledge of myself to the tiny moments which were not really that significant.

I stopped writing as many posts that could accidentally lead me to something bigger because I didn’t want to be that person.  Then I realized, that maybe I am that person.  Maybe I am just someone who will find deeper meaning in little things.  I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

So, yeah.  Writing for this blog has changed the way I write.  I don’t want to be the person who is the person who I am, but the more I get to know the person who I am the more I see the person I don’t think I am.  Is this a midlife crisis, or a middle school flashback now?  Either way, it is very confusing.

Now is when I would normally try to give this post a neat wrap up, almost like what you would find in a  sitcom.  Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed at the same time.  I give insight into why things are how they are for me, and realize that maybe I am smarter than I often give myself credit for being.  Then, I read through and realize I kind of like what I realized, but worry about how the post sounds.  Do I sound like a real person, the person who wrote this post while drinking their morning coffee wondering if they can skip washing their hair that day, or do I sound like a person who wears real clothing on a regular basis and leaves the house daily?  If someone who only knew me from this blog met me, would they think I was the person who wrote it, or would they be instantly disappointed?

And see, I am doing it again.  Maybe it isn’t the deeper insights I should worry about, but the fact that I care so much about what people think.  Ugh.

So, yes.  I am going to Camp, and yes I will post occasionally throughout.  Maybe it will have deeper meaning into my life, and maybe I will write a poem describing the way my toe nail clipping fly, because honestly, both posts would be very me.  But today, I have other things to worry about.

WRONG!

I have problem, one to which many of you out there might be able to relate. Let me give you a situation here.

You are happy in your life, experiencing a story.  It could be a book, a movie, or a television show.  It doesn’t really matter the medium.  The point, is the creation.  This is a story that was intentionally created, and you are now for better or worse invested in the outcome.  It happens.

Then, your world crashes down as you reach a part that is, simply put, wrong.  Somehow, the writer (or writers) planted the clues, created a structure, and did not see where everything was supposed to end up.  I don’t know how they missed it, when everyone else in the world sees what SHOULD have happened.  All right, maybe I’m the only one who sees what ‘should’ have happened.  The point is, they got it wrong.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

Technically speaking, I know I should not say the writer got it wrong.  It is their story, but when the story is told well you feel like you are a part everything.  You become emotionally connected to every fictional character, and you know what you want to happen.  You know what should happen.  When the writer doesn’t agree it is hard not to feel betrayed.

This is more than a problem for readers (or watchers), this is a problem for writers.  Sometimes you know the outcome you envision will upset people.  Is it all right to keep going, knowing it will break hearts?

The problem seems to come in when the writer is telling a different story than the reader is hearing.

Sometimes I, as the writer, know exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling, but am unable to put all of it into words.  After all, much of human behavior is subtext.  For example, I don’t walk up to those I am close to on a daily basis and tell them, ‘I find you enjoyable to be around, and consider you a friend.  You rank #4 on my list of favorite humans in this moment.”  Honestly, I think most people I know would be frightened if I told them my feelings regarding them on a regular basis.  Instead, friendship is implied through action, and yes, occasionally words as well.  A person knows they are my friend because I make time for them in my life.  I ask them for help when I need it and am happy to return the favor.  For me, if you read a manuscript between myself and the people I consider to be the most important in my life, you might not think we liked each other at all, but insults and sarcasm are our way of showing affection.  So, when I write, I am not going to have my characters state their feeling outright at all times, but I know how they feel.

As a reader, I am able to see this subtext as I read.  Everything the author puts into the story, every word they give to their characters, every action right down to the smallest gesture, I see it all.  Not only do I see it all, but I am able to play it again and again, reading things as often as I want and seeing new things each time.  Every time I read, there are new words to find, new layers of subtext.  Because I spend so much time reading, I start to feel like I know more about the characters than the writers do.  It’s like the friends you have in high school.  Their parents gave them life, and sent them out into the world, but you, their close friend know things about them their parents never will.  I mean really, how many of us told things to our best friends that we would never tell our parents?

So, who is right?  The writer or the reader?  Do I, as the creator have the right to take the story in whatever direction I choose or does the reader have a right to expect a level of satisfaction from their story when they reach the ending?  Who can claim a greater ownership of the story?

I suppose at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.  When I write a story, I consider it mine and when I read a story, I consider it mine too.  Whatever others think of the story belongs to them, and that is their business.  When people get things wrong, I have a right to be angry, and I guess that means you have a right to be angry with me when the time comes.

(Quick disclaimer, I am not talking about the recent finale for Pretty Little Liars that I saw upset people.  I have not seen it, and I would really appreciate if no one told me!)

Camping Out

I hate camping.  I didn’t always, but over the years I have come to truly loath the entire process.

The beginning of the end must have come when I was six years old.  My father was long gone, and my Mom was moving up North where living was less expensive and she could go to school.  Finding a place to live was rough, and for a few months we called the campground by the lake home.  At the time, I thought it was a lot of fun.  We went swimming every night, cooked on a fire, and watched the stars.  It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that the facts fell into place and I realized why we lived there.

Since the reality of camping hadn’t sunk in quite yet, and after years of watching my older brothers go off to boy scout camp for half of the summer, I was thrilled to finally be allowed to go to on a camping trip myself.  Girls camp through my mother’s church was only one week a year, starting when you turn 12, but it was the only option I had so I embraced it.  We swam, learned to tie knots, practiced first aide, read scriptures, and sang stupid camp songs.  For five years I went for my one week, adding in extra time my fourth year to go on a three day hike with the other girls my age.

I suppose it is possible that this is what drew me away from camping; as I left church behind me, perhaps everything church related when with it, including camping.  Fortunately for me, I married a man who also hated camping, and no one has asked me to sleep in a tent since.  Now, I am getting ready to go to camp again.

I’ve been a little quiet about my writing lately.  After NaNoWriMo, I had a bit of a writing hangover.  I had consumed too much writing in a short time period and I was burnt.  Naturally I haven’t given up writing, I just slowed down. A lot.

I needed to recover.  I spent the time editing, and writing new outlines, but not trying to write a new story.    Now, it is time to start again.  April 1st begins the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo, another chance to push my ability to write.  This isn’t only about putting words on paper for me, it is about making a commitment.  I want to tell my stories, and the only way that will happen is if I commit to myself, commit to my dream, and take action.

This is the first time since I was 12 years old that I am excited to go to camp.  I don’t need to sleep outside, or dig a hole to go to the bathroom, but I can tell stories while I look at the stars.  Not a bad way to live.

After NaNoWriMo

Just over a week after NaNoWriMo ended, and I am sure there are many people who wish I would stop talking about it.  However, as my final checkin for the year, I have to acknowledge the aftermath.

Writing heavily for one month was great.  It helped me to see what I was capable of, and let me really push myself.  Now however, I cannot seem to write anything.  I tried to keep the momentum going, but it is not really moving yet.  After all of the work I put in, getting started all over again is not easy to do.

Perhaps I am stuck on the opening.  There is so much pressure put on the opening of a novel.  The opening line needs to be perfect, and if the first ten pages are not perfect, you will never hook the reader. At least that is what agents say.  Trying to sell your book, they only want a few paragraphs, so your opening has to be perfect.

Can you see where the pressure comes from?

Moving on, and moving past NaNoWriMo, is difficult.  When I had to get a lot of writing in a short time period, I didn’t have time to stress out.  Now, with a different time period, I can’t stop stressing.  More than that, during NaNoWriMo, I knew millions of other writers around the world were in exactly the same position.  Technically I know that there are many other people out there writing with me, but it is not the same.  I can’t seem to connect to them in the same way I did before.  Instead of being part of a larger team of writers, I am individual writer.  Writing is normally such a solitary activity, I didn’t realize how much  having the support and camaraderie of other writers made a difference.

This doesn’t mean I am out of the writing business, it just means I am needing to reevaluate my writing habits.

Okay.  NaNoWriMo is officially done here for this year.

A Momentous Occasion

I reached a milestone the other day; I finished my NaNoWriMo novel.

Well.  Sort of. I completed the story arc I had outlined, and written all of the scenes I had planned, but I am still sitting at just over 35000 words.  Yes, I still have 15000 to write in order to ‘officially’ complete NaNoWriMo.

I am not at a complete loss as to what to do.  As I wrote I would occasionally make notes as to what I would need to add in later.  You know the type of things; change this fact, more build up on this relationship, more interaction among characters on this point.  It is not specific details, but is reminders on what I noticed as I wrote, which would help me in fixing things later.  I’m not entirely certain that it is 15000 words worth of add ins, but it is a start.

The biggest thing I have noticed in my writing this novel is my current focus on dialogue.  In the past, I have often been told I spend too much time on exposition.  I would tell details quickly, or include unnecessary details which would bog down the story.  In my attempt to avoid this pitfall, I tried to take out most of that, or present it in other ways.  Other ways read, mostly dialogue.  Seriously.  I have pages of dialogue at a time with little in the way of a break.

I am currently looking at four days of adding in and fixing this imbalance.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what should make a balanced novel in this respect.  I mean, let’s be realistic.  Good books are in the eye of the beholder.  Everyone likes something a little different.  There are bestsellers that I cannot stand, and little known books I am deeply in love with.

On top of the personal taste issue, is the emotional connection.  What makes this book resonate with the reader at this moment in time?  Timing is important.  I have read books which I considered only ‘eh’ at best, and then, months or years later had a strong pull to read the book again, only to fall in love deeply.  There are books from my childhood that will always be special to me, simply because they were there when I needed them.  Poor writing can be forgiven when the reader is really reading something they need at that moment.

That connection is not something you can count on when writing, and can occasionally work against you.  I mean, if the agent/editor/publisher/reader is just not in the mood at the time, then it will not be your day, no matter how good the story is.

It is a tricky business, trying to figure out when to break up the dialogue without losing the rhythm of the conversation.  In order to figure out if I had too much dialogue (I was really sure I did) I turned to my trusty friend the internet.

The first article I found, I actually liked quite a bit.  Ask the Writer gave the honest answer I already knew.  Maybe you do have too much, and maybe you don’t, it really depends on the novel.  Looking at your dialogue, you need to determine if it is important for story and character development, or if it is boring filler words.  It also recommends the reminder of what people would never say in normal conversation.  It might be easy for someone to drive by a house and say ‘My Mom died there,’ but it doesn’t mean it was natural.

The Creative Pen gave me recommendations that were more about keeping dialogue natural and productive.  They also pointed out that many readers like books that may have plenty of dialogue.  The white space it presents not he page can look less overwhelming to readers, even if they are not aware of that part of their screening process.

Of course Writer’s Digest is always a good resource, however in this instance not particularly helpful.  They recommend intuition as a guide; if it seems right to leave it as mostly dialogue, leave it there, and if it doesn’t add more narrative.  Hmmm.  If I intuitively knew, I wouldn’t be asking for advice, but I appreciate the affirmation that I can figure it out.

I finally found some clear numbers however!  When discussing dialogue as one of the seven deadly sins of writing, they estimate 40-50% of a novel being dialogue, with a potentially higher percentage for novels for younger readers. Finally, something I could quantify, and count.  Thank you!  Of course they were not really saying if this was a correct percentage you should have, they were discussing how to make your dialogue stronger.  I’m not sure if that means I am doing things right or wrong still.  Hmmm.

Okay, I have to be honest. I think the internet failed me on this one.  Or it told me what I already knew.  All books are different, and there isn’t an absolute formula for writing correctly.  There is no right or wrong, there is just something that works or doesn’t work.  Sigh.

I guess I am on my own with this one.  Wish me luck, only 4 more days!

NaNoWriMo Week 3!

Wow.  I am honestly a little surprised I have made it this far.  I know a lot of this is thanks to blogging it.  If not for the fact that I am sharing my experience with you, I might have given up by now.  I know there is a very good chance I will not hit 50,000 words in the next week, but because I have pushed through, I will finish my story.

So, onto my progress over the last little while.

This last week/8 day period has been most likely the weirdest of the month.  I have had sick kids, random inspectors, a power outage, late homework, Christmas shopping (I know it it early, but it has to be when you mail stuff out), and of course trying to be healthy and not go insane.

I have had the two worst days of  the month, with 338 words on the 14th, and 330 words on the 16th.  I have also had the two best days, with 3105 words on the 18th, and 3475 just last night on the 22nd.  Overall, I think it balanced out to my average word count of around 1500-1700 words per day.  It has taught me something important.  Some days, you have to know it is better to step away from the keyboard and know that it will be all right.  The writing wasn’t great on those days, I was exhausted, it just wasn’t good.  Sure, sitting there anyway I did get something, but I also ended up feeling horrible because I didn’t get as much as I wanted to.

Oddly enough, I found my two really good days fascinating as well.  Writing 3000+ words for me is pretty much unheard of, and ended up being most of my day.  It’s not like I can’t write a lot at one time normally; I can sit down and write a few blog posts at once, or do a homework assignment, and crank out 5000 words in a couple of hours.  But when I sit to write fiction, the words are much slower.  I know how everything is supposed to go, but I don’t write it out quickly. I get distracted and wander around the house.  I second guess almost every word.  Basically, I am pitifully slow.

During this entire month, particularly as I started out a little behind, I have been pushing to hit 2000 words a day.  It felt like if I could hit that, I would make it on time.  (Officially I need 2227 everyday now to make it one time).  So I pushed, trying to get as many words as possible each day.  Most days, I crapped out around 1500-1800 words.  A few times I made it to 1900 words. Every time I would stop.  It would be late at night, I would be falling asleep, I just wouldn’t have anymore words in me.  That would be it, I would be done.

However, the two days when I did hit 2000 words, I went beyond.  I didn’t just hit my mark, I surpassed it by a lot.  I can’t tell if I should feel like I am doing well when this happens.  Yes, I am getting plenty of words, and doing better than I thought I could, but I am not hitting the goal I aimed for.  Does hitting the goal matter when you are able to go much further?

I guess the answer is probably no, it doesn’t matter.  I did what I set out to do, and hit my word count.  Now, I need to stop talking, so I can go and do it again.

Happy writing!  Let’s finish NaNoWriMo!

5 Things About NaNoWriMo Week 2

Week two is over, and we are halfway through.  I would like to say I am halfway through my word count as well, but, well, I’m not.  Sigh.

1. This is harder than I thought.

I knew this was not going to be easy.  To write 50,000 words in 30 days requires an average of 1667, which is higher than my current average. This is the kind of daily word count that I knew would require focus and no days off. The no days off is a real killer as I usually don’t write much on the weekends.  This is a combination of family time, errands, and homework time.  I always get the required number of words on the weekend, it’s just not usually within the confines of my novel and unfortunately homework and blog post words do not count.

2. My writing schedule needs work.

Writing from home, much like working from home, requires discipline.  You have to be able to block everything out and just do what needs to be done.  I feel like this would be much easier if I had someone here to cook, clean, move laundry, grocery shop, go to the gym, organize, stress out, and worry for me.  Since that does not work, I need to find a better balance of work/school/family/home.  Everything seems to want every minute and it gets to be a lot.  I guess I am just not great at multi-tasking.

3. I am trying to take part in social media.

I like these big global events, and I am trying to actually be a part of the bigger conversation.  I’ve tweeted a few times about my NaNoWriMo experience, and I am trying to occasionally respond or show support of others.  It is difficult because there feels like an obligation of reciprocity; if someone comments or favorites or anything I put out there, I feel like I must find others to support too.  It is wonderful to be supported and support others, but it is another drain on my time.

On a strange note, it also brought me slightly to the attention of an actual corporation, but I’m not sure how.  I ran out of red vines, (a tragedy I know) and tweeted a comment that I did not have enough red vines for this. Someone commented, I commented back.  Whatever.  A couple hours later red vines retweeted my comment.  I felt like I had been tracked down by the man.  I didn’t tag red vines, or hashtag   them, they just found me.  Don’t ever doubt Big Brother people.

4. I am not sure I am going to make it.

When you start to fall behind, it is really hard to catch up.  The first two days of this combined I managed to get one days worth of writing in, meaning I started out about 1600 words behind the goal.  In order to catch up, I now have to write even more every day.  I’m writing faster and occasionally better than I have been in the past, but I am still not hitting word counts as high as I should be.  To catch up, I need to have at least a week of 2,000 words a day, a goal that has so far eluded me.  I have come close, getting as close as 1,939 before burning out for the day, but I can’t seem to break it.  Not only have I not broke that word count, I have had hard days where get no where near as much as I should. Usually these days are busy, but illness has also been a factor (thank you migraine for the 338 word day).

I know that technically the word count is subjective.  My book should be exactly as long as it takes to tell a story, and any longer or shorter is taking away from the power of the story.  I could still make it, as I am around the halfway mark in my story outline, even if I am not at the halfway mark in my word count.  Additionally, editing usually cuts words.  If I am below my word count right now, maybe I am leaving out things I would be cutting later.  The integrity of the story should come first, not the number of words.

I still wish I was on goal as far a numbers.

5. My family is very supportive.

I have stressed out, complained, posted my numbers on a white board by my desk, written a lot, refused to talk about my story, and felt as though I was close to a mental breakdown while trying to keep up with everything.  No one has done more than tell me I am doing great and should keep going.  This either means they are very supportive, or I am normally so crazy they haven’t even registered a change.  Either way, it is nice to hear kind words of encouragement, reminding me I am doing great, anything I get written this month is impressive, and that it is okay if I don’t make it.

Art

Sometimes there seems to be a convergence of information; ideas come together, each feeding each other, and becoming more than they were to begin with.  The connection can be obvious, or not, depending on who is noticing, and what is being noticed.  For me, these current small events coming together seems like an obvious connection, but I would not expect everyone to see it.

It started with an article on another person’s blog.  It wasn’t a big deal piece, nothing meant to be controversial (and I don’t think it technically was).  The article simply caught my eye because the blogger was discussing reading more books lately, partially due to their subscription to the service, Oyster.  This excited me, as it was essentially a Netflix for books; pay a subscription fee and have access to a large collection of digital books.  I had been wanting something like this for a long time.  Yes, I know, many other people call this service a library, but for a person such as myself with a pitiful local library, I was willing to pay for a better option.

As excited as I was to have this service as a consumer, I could not help but wonder how this service is for the writers.  Are they paid per read, or a one time book purchase?  Does allowing their book to be on a service like this help them by allowing them to reach a larger audience, or does it hurt them by keeping their work from producing a paycheck, therefore making it more difficult to earn a living from their writing?  Does it matter?  I mean, it’s not like libraries have killed the book business; this shouldn’t be any different.

It was almost just a passing thought.  I am working towards joining the ranks of published authors, so I think about these things now.  I wonder how my behavior as a consumer effects the producers.  And yes, sometimes I wonder if my opinion on these things will bar me from entering the elite ranks.  It doesn’t always change my opinion, but I think about it.

So I wondered about it, made a note to research it a bit, and signed up for the free trial which would allow me to see their collection of works.

A week or two later I caught notice of a large hullabaloo involving Taylor Swift removing her music from spotify.  My caring about this technically makes no sense.  I’m not really a fan of Taylor Swift; nothing personal, she’s just not my style.  I’m more suited to the SNL commercial then anything else.  Additionally, I have never listened to spotify; I hadn’t even heard of it before this.  So why do I care?  A musician I don’t listen to on a service I don’t use?  I care because her reason for doing so fascinated me.

Now there are a lot of different reasons available on the internet as to what contributed to this, everything from flat out money issues, to the potential for fans to be embarrassed about buying an album.  If you do a search, I’m sure you can find many reasons and pick your favorite.  However the first reason I found (linked above) targeted an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal discussing her opinion on art and compensation.  Simply put, her music is her art, and giving her art away for free undervalues both her and her product.

I’ll be honest.  Not being a spotify user, I don’t totally understand the idea of this service being equal to giving away her music.  From my understanding, it is similar to other services I have used, Pandora and Jango, but with a little more control over how often you listen to a specific artist or which songs to listen to.  Using these types of music services in the way I do, free access with occasional ads, does not feel like it is taking away the paycheck of the artist.  To me it feels the same as when I was younger, listening to the radio and hoping to hear my favorite songs.  If I like something enough, I’ll spend money to hear it whenever I want to, but most songs I am good hearing on the radio only.  Does this mean I am undervaluing art?

What is art?

Yes, art is rare and unique.  You and I could try to make the same thing, but it would not work.  We would end up with one of two results; either we would have similar items or one of us would have an original while the other made a copy.  Whatever an artist does is unique not only because of the vision they used to create it, but because they are the only person who could create that exact piece.

Of course, using this as the only definition, the sandwich I made for lunch yesterday could be considered art.  It was my own vision, and no matter how many people in the world choose to combine tuna and avocado in an open faced sandwich, this one is unique because it was made by me.  Additionally, because I do not make sandwiches for mass consumption, sandwiches made by me are quite rare.

Now, the sandwich was good, but I would not call it a work of art.  It wasn’t that good.  So what is art?

I would absolutely consider music to be art, but I don’t feel it is more beautiful simply because I pay for it.  The beauty of the music comes from it’s ability to express or invoke a feeling, particularly one I had thought was unique.

Of course, paintings and sculptures are art.  I have stood inside the Sistine Chapel and while it was beautiful, it was no more beautiful than when I had seen it on the internet.  In fact, I could easily argue the images I have seen elsewhere were better; I could zoom in on details and look for as long as I wanted without the pushing and body odor of other tourists.  I was moved to stand and appreciate the Venus de Milo, but that does not mean that all other images of her lose their beauty.

Writing is absolutely an art.  When the words are right they are magic.  It is more than just the beauty of the right words; you are transported.  No one else can tell the same story, and it does not matter what the format the story takes.  Digital, paperback, first edition; the words are the same.

For me the art is not in the creation, it is in the sharing.  I love the art of others because it allows me to not only see a part of myself laid out, but a part of the artist.  It is the beauty of what is inside us all, even when we do not realize we share these qualities.  We think we are one individual until another shows us how much we are alike.

Art is not meant to be hidden away, it is meant to be free for everyone to enjoy.  Yes an artist has a right to make a living, but without sharing, are you really an artist?  The creation should not be done because you need a paycheck; that is business.  Creation of art comes because it must happen.  You write the song because your soul is singing.  You carve the sculpture because the angel is screaming inside the marble to come out.  You paint because the picture belongs on the canvas.  You write the story because you must tell the tale.  You sell the art because you need to live, but you create the art because it makes you alive.

Does this mean it is wrong to value your art based on what someone is willing to pay for it?  Maybe, but then again, maybe not.  It is your art, a piece of you, not me.  You have the right to make artistic choices, just as I have the right to make my own artistic choices.  For you, you might need the paycheck to feel appreciated; right now I just want to be read.

So thank you, for reading.