(A gracious thank you to our sponsor Beth Camp for helping us welcome the new year:
Writers: “Ready for 2018?”
By Beth Camp
For writers, each year ends and begins with reflection, and that’s good. For sometimes we feel used up and are uncertain how to reconnect with our writing. Sometimes ideas for stories come so fast, we cannot get them down on paper.
Even if we are immersed in drafting or revision, or floundering a bit between projects, we may question our writing, want to change our writing process, or set new goals to improve our productivity.
Does it matter when we write?
Or how or what?
Do I pack my journal with my lunch,
a physical reminder to write?
You might feel, “I can only write in the morning, when my mind is clear.” But what if the only time in your cluttered day is late at night? What if work and family commitments leave no time for writing at all? How do we ‘schedule’ down time – not just at the end of the day when we are exhausted from all we have managed to accomplish.
- One strategy is to find pleasure each day in small things. I remember laughing out loud when I read somewhere that even washing dishes can be a meditation. I learned this is true when my grandmother’s lovely Desert Rose dishes were gifted to me, the meandering flowers a reminder of my childhood.
- We can set boundaries. Perhaps we say ‘yes’ too often. We know it takes courage in the moment to act with intention. Focus on priorities. With many possibilities before us, trust yourself to know, truly, what is best for you.
- Take time to analyze, list, reflect, and choose. Follow up by asking ‘How am I doing?’ as we check in with A Round of Words in 80 Days.
- Try out a ‘do it different’ day. Can you write at a coffee shop? Write by hand instead of on the computer? Write late at night instead of in the morning? Set aside one day a week for those projects that have languished all week? Read a writing craft magazine (like The Writer or Writer’s Digest) for professional development? Challenge yourself by scheduling something new each quarter — Join a new writer’s group? Support other writers by writing a review? Teach a workshop? Go on a writing retreat – formally with others or on your very own? Attend a writing conference?
- Celebrate your successes. Every step takes you closer to reaching your ‘big picture’ writing goal. Recognize that sometimes nurturing yourself may mean taking a break from writing, letting those projects lie fallow. Or maybe, just maybe you want a new pair of winter boots.
And the morning begins
anew, each day, each season, another round,
even as we change.
How do we begin? Meditation? Morning thoughts? An intuitive scrawl that brings our stories to life? Sometimes we are inspired by writing prompts that take us in unexpected directions.
Or, we might pursue a programmed approach: Step 1: Draft the story concept. Step 2: Block that story into scenes. Step 3: Flesh out characters.
No matter what writing process we use, from inspiration, to drafting, to revision, at the end, we are surprised at what we’ve written. Whether we write by hand, draft on the computer, or dictate into our phones, we write. The story takes over; its meaning unfolds as we write.
What really do I need?
A notebook, a pen, my laptop.
Some place separate.
Perhaps a room of my own.
Some writers like to think about inspiration that comes from a muse, as if she were someone separate, a guest somewhat whimsical, who may or may not appear, and certainly who chooses not to appear on demand.
Or perhaps we write on schedule, the blank sheet (real or on screen), a dumping of words on paper, almost an invisible chain from the mind that seeks its own journey to a story unfolding.
Whether we write with a plan or without, we still build our story word by word, layer by layer. ending with often unexpected resolutions and insights about the human condition. That is our condition, regardless of setting. The story is what connects us to others, that creates a community of readers and writers.
Somewhere a door closes,
and another opens.
Each decade we live presents new challenges.
Does it matter how old we were when we began to write? Or how old we are now? The reality is that writing is a chimera, a dream world we create with words, a space and time that we build (and that only exists for us), until we share our words with others.
Perhaps just now, we have young children whose energetic needs pull at that time we have for writing until another week has passed, and we feel bereft at what we lose, even at the same moment, we cherish these little souls who begin their own journey. What gift do we give those who are close to us when we show them that we respect our inner lives? That a parent, aunt, or sister paints, or writes, or does just about anything with creativity, passion, and a snitch of abandon?
Some seasons are cold,
but even the moon rimmed with blue hints at change.
The end of a year invites us to consider: What can I celebrate this year? What would I like to write? What ideas draw me to write?
When I begin a story, something intrigues me. I have no idea, really, what length it will be. Flash or novel. It’s not so much that I think about finishing (though, trust me, I really want to tidy up and finish several floating projects), but a new story grows with each writing session, scene upon scene, some days slower than others. I write about relationships, conflict, setting, those pinch-pins of history that hold the story to a certain place and time, each element tightening that essential line of plot-conflict-resolution. Some stories, like some lives, end in tragedy as I attempt to work out why this character in this particular time and place acted in this way and what this means to us today.
Because I write historical fiction, if one part of the story isn’t working, I can switch to another part, fall back on research, or write more character studies. Alas, my writing style is recursive, circular, and there’s always revision. One thing, though, I’ve finally learned. I can squeeze in an occasional article or poem, but, unlike others, I cannot work on more than one major writing project at a time.
Now that I’m a septuagenarian, I can ask: How long did it take for me to say – without flinching – that I’m a writer? Somewhere between writing that second and third novel, I stopped hesitating when people asked me what I do. All those years of working, teaching, parenting, and yearning for my own writing life, of writing short stories and the occasional poem, and of reading and studying – and yes, living – prepared me for what I do now: I write, and I cannot imagine not writing.
Listen to your heart.
Listen to your mind.
Then write those unique words
that are yours alone.
Beth Camp travels with laptop and writes historical fiction and poetry. Her novel, Standing Stones, set in Scotland during the time of the Clearances, won an award at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association literary contest (2010). In Years of Stone, Book 2, Mac McDonnell is transported to Van Diemen’s Land in the 1840s (Australia). Rivers of Stone, Book 3, tells the story of Catriona McDonnell, as she crosses Canada disguised as a boy during the fur trade era. Her poetry and stories have appeared in Camroc Press Review, Fickle Muses, Celebrating Spokane Authors, and on her blog: http://bethandwriting.blogspot.com