Archive for the ‘My Kitchen Table’ Category
“I’m looking forward to looking back on all this.”
Life is all about transitions. As soon as we get comfortable in our current position, something changes. We don’t like change. We like our comfort zones. But there is something we like even less than change.
Hallways are those dis-comfort zones between where we are and where we’re next going. We get tossed into them, or stumble into them, and we have no idea how long we’re going to flounder around, looking for the doorway out. It could be we’ll walk right to it. It could be we’ll spend months or even years searching for it. There’s no way to really know.
What we do know is that we’re not going to find it whining about being stuck in the hallway. Actually, whining and complaining are only going to assure that we stay stuck in the hallway. Why?
Because what has our focus and attention is what we’ve got. That is our reality. When we spend fifteen minutes whining to someone about our situation, that’s fifteen minutes more that we’re focused on the hallway rather than getting out of it.
When transitions strike and we find we’re in the hallway, we need to determine what got us there, of course. But once that determination is made and we’ve grasped the good that can come from understanding, it’s time to look forward not back. Only in looking forward can we move forward deliberately–and hopefully avoid a side-trip that delays our forward momentum and lands us in yet another hallway.
It helps to remember too that while we don’t like hallways and we certainly don’t look forward to them, we can’t move ahead without them. These transitional phases are truly the pits, but if we can get past the uncertainty of them and harness the opportunity in them we’ll not only be healthier and happier, we’ll be seizing the chance given to us in them to progress.
Let me share an example. I was writing single title for Signature and Bombshell novels. It’s no secret that HER PERFECT LIFE (Signature) is a very, very special book to me and that I absolutely loved the smart, savvy women in the Bombshells. (Blondes with brains and the ability to use them–what’s not to love???)
Signature ceased publication about two months before the novel was released. Months later, Bombshell ceased publication. I went from writing two very different types of books for essentially two publishers (though both were with the same house) within a matter of six months. That’s one huge hallway.
While I was saddened–I loved these books–and not eager to be in yet another hallway, I also saw the opportunity in it. Mmm, what do I want to write now? It was a great time to really think about what I wanted to be my focus. What I was passionate and enthused about–enough that I’d be at my computer in the middle of the night because waiting until morning was just not possible.
Before and at this time, I’ve written in a lot of different genres and in books that were genre-benders and in no genre. But what would I love most? Suspense, mystery and a light romantic element. That’s been true and was still true. So on which element did I want to seriously focus? Suspense. And something with a twist–another genre-bender.
I wrote a suspense novel. Not the synopsis or proposal, the book. (Two reasons. 1. Taking care of my infant granddaughter while her mom taught school. No deadlines. 2. I loved the story and I wanted to see how it worked out. I didn’t want to wait.) DEAD GAME was born and is now with my agent. I’m so glad I did the book because I totally love it. I worked and reworked and reworked and reworked it until all of it felt just right. I think it’s some of my strongest work. We’ll see what others think shortly. Regardless, this was a terrific move for me, focusing on the suspense.
I also created a series of genre-benders. These, I’ve done all the prep work and synopses on several of the books. It’s paranormal, but not. Supernatural I call them. To skip to the chase, without the hallway, I wouldn’t have ventured into this area. Because I did, there’s now an offer on the table from a publisher interested in buying the whole series.
Hallways do have perks. But we have to be willing to get past the annoyance and concerns that come with being in them and use them and seize the opportunities that can be found in them–inside us, in taking the opportunity to evaluate and decide what we want–and outside us, in seeing opportunities we otherwise might not have noticed.
Hallways are seldom fun. They bring out concerns and fears and uneasiness in us all. But if we can find a way to be content in them long enough to evaluate, we can progress in ways we couldn’t without them.
That said, two things remain true:
1. We will likely always hate being in hallways.
2. We will likely always look forward to looking back on them.
©2007, Vicki Hinze
What is inspiration? Why do we need it? Why is it important to us?
An informal chat…
When you write full-time, you spend a lot of time alone with your thoughts. Sometimes that aloneness is spent in your office, sometimes under a tree, or daydreaming in a wheelbarrow or while staring out at the horizon on the beach–all of which can be peaceful or get your heart pounding, depending on the line of your thoughts–but it is still alone time. Still time where you’re generating fantasy and not living reality.
This is a real job hazard for writers, particularly full-time writers, because the work is never done. There is always a brimming list of to-do items screaming “Me next!” at you. And the only way you get time off to create real memories is to take it.
Some writers who have learned this the hard way feel that time off then must be a major production. Something significant must be done or it doesn’t qualify. And perhaps that’s true if you’re only interested in creating major memories. You know the kind I mean. Ones that require time to prepare and then more time to execute and then more time to recover from them–like our pending trip to Disney.
Here’s the challenge. We can get so locked into making those major memories that we neglect to realize we have countless opportunities to make little memories–and they can be even more important than the major ones–to us, and to others.
My angel (pictured above) and I have a tradition that makes for little memories. It started when I got the Mac computer that has photo booth. I showed it to her and she said with an endearing giggle, “Gran, let’s make silly faces.” Naturally, we did.
I didn’t realize it would become a tradition then, but it has. We routinely make our “silly face” pictures and have ever since that time. We both giggle and tease and come up with more and more goofy poses. It’s a special time for us. It’s fun. It’s little memories. Doesn’t take much time–probably fifteen minutes, if that. But it’s something precious to us both and something we’ll remember forever. That’s what making memories is all about.
Writers, take time to make little memories. They’re important to those with whom you make them, but they’re also important to you. We live in a fantasy world a lot of the time. Eventually, life intrudes and we’re firmly entrenched in reality. And if we lack little memories, reality isn’t a great place to be. Compared to the lush, rich lives we create in our minds, reality can be a dim substitute. And when that happens, we’re critically out of balance which isn’t good for us–the person or the writer. These memories ground us. Enrich us. And they remind us why we are driven to write.
The bonus is that when you’re alone with your thoughts, these little memories have the person and the writer balanced and more content.
Please pause a moment today to think of our troops and to show your support for them. How? Light a candle and post a kind thought. Here’s the URL:
(Copy and paste into your browser…)
or here’s a hyperlink…
Light a Candle to Support our Troops
It started out simply enough. Dinner with the kids and grands at a local waterfront eatery, lots of laughing, joking around—fun! Then came a restroom run…
A woman was there with her elderly mother. Mom was disoriented. Daughter was worried and exhausted, and the flashback came immediately and without warning. Suddenly I no longer stood before a sink, watching the daughter tell her mom to stay right where she was and then step into a stall. Suddenly I was back in the hospital with my patient mother and in the same worried and exhausted state I’d been in then, with one difference. Then, I was mentally, physically and emotionally drained. Now I was an objective observer, but acutely aware of the emotions of both women.
The daughter’s state was processed immediately; I’d lived it for a grueling six months. But the mother’s perspective was vivid and clear to me now in a way it had not been then. Weary of my limitations, fearful of being “too” much trouble and being put away in a home to wait for death. Angry at my body for betraying me by not doing the mindless tasks that once had been so simple they required no thought. And fear. Fear of being a burden to those I love, fear of having lived too long. Missing my deceased husband, my dead children, my youth…
The emotions tumbled one over the other through me—grateful for everything, for nothing. For just being, and feeling selfish for that gratitude because it meant she lacked the freedom to just live her life. Confusion and an overwhelming sense of no value, of not having spent my life wisely, being a better person, of wondering what I wouldn’t be able to do tomorrow or even later today. All evident in her expression—the soul truly is seen in the depths of the eyes.
And then her daughter walked out, smiled and asked her mom if she was okay. Tears welled in the woman’s eyes and she blinked hard, smiled brightly and said she was fine. The daughter looked relieved. The mother did, too.
I was enlightened.
It’s been a decade since my mother passed away, and during her lengthy illness, I knew she’d had many of these feelings; we talked about them. I’ve always been perplexed by her death. She’d been released from the hospital and moved to a facility to regain strength, after which she’d be ready to go home. Only she died instead and there’s never been a totally logical explanation. At least, there hadn’t been until now. Until I saw all I did in that stranger’s eyes. She wasn’t depressed; she still laughed easily and often. But fighting the weakness, the limitations, the loss of so many she loved . . . she was ready.
I thought on this for days and applied the insight to other people. Even to my beloved Weimer, Alex. She instinctively knew when she was injured not to walk up the steps. She instinctively knew when she was too old to go up them anymore, to jump up on the unforbidden—hubby’s recliner—which she’d done her entire life. When she was ready, she changed a lifetime daily habit. Rather than going to bed that night in her bed beside mine, she went into a different bedroom alone—my mother’s room, and lay on the floor at the foot of her bed. Nothing could coax her into her own bed, which was far more comfortable.
Realizing that brought to mind sitting at my dying father’s bedside, willing him to live. When I reached for his hand, he gently whispered, “Don’t touch me, Tiger.” I hadn’t understood that, then. But he too was ready and detaching from those things here that made him want to linger. He was ready.
And all three, parents and pet, understood instinctively that to each thing there really is a season—and when it is coming to a natural end, one knows. They’d fought the good fight, during fighting season, but when it had passed, they all just stopped breathing, just let go. No fear, no anger, only peace.
They knew instinctively. But entrenched in life, it took me ten years to discover answers to lingering questions and to gain this unexpected insight.
That it came from a simple trip to the restroom proves that everywhere, as well as everything, is fodder.
© 2007, Vicki Hinze
Our every act has an Oops! Factor. You know the one I mean. You write your heart (or gut) out and realize on page 150 that everything you’ve had happen since page 37 is impossible because your character is mortal and not superhuman, or you changed hair/eye color on a character three times during the course of the project, or you changed the background/history/parentage of a character and forgot to note it early on in the book so now the character has led a double life and s/he shouldn’t have because there’s no logical reason for it.
These things happen to us all. We write and get so lost in the fascinating creation that we often are just typing as fast as we can and huffing, totally breathless from trying to keep up with the characters and what they’re doing, feeling, saying. I call that getting into “the zone.” My husband calls it me being in “lala land.” But regardless of what you call it, we who write all want to get there. We want to shut out all but the creation and lose ourselves in it–and when we do, well, it’s pure magic.
In experiencing the magic, we generally have locked up the internal editor–and we want to do that, too. We want that internal editor stuffed into a mental closet. We want the door shut and locked and something really heavy blocking the door to keep the internal editor off our backs and out of our stories–for a time. The creation time.
The creation time is our bliss. That sweet expanse when art and creativity and imagination come out to play and somehow merge and blend until one isn’t decipherable from the other. And oh, we savor our time in bliss. We stretch our creative wings and fly through the pages, feeling every emotion, seeing every detail, experiencing each single event to the hilt.
And barring interruptions–Wait. Fact: There are always interruptions and after we’ve dealt with them, we have to work like the damned to get back to where we were in the bliss zone [sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we’re not but we create a new place instead]–but interruptions and all, we finally reach the end.
Ah, we’re satisfied. What a whale of a story we’ve created! We feel great. Not good, GREAT. It’s DONE!
Then comes the Oops! Factor.
Done is a relative term. We have to go back and edit . . . and edit . . . and edit. We expand some scenes and shrink some scenes and gag when we read some scenes that have us banging our heads and groaning, “What was I thinking?” Oops!
Reconciled, we toss the raunchies out and rewrite and eventually we feel great about these new scenes, too. But wait… An inconsistency pops up. Then another. And, shoot, there’s a dangling thread—and–ooooh–there’s a new totally cool gem we just have to add in–somewhere. So we search for the perfect place and then edit the surrounding text so that this place we’ve chosen becomes the perfect place, and we fix all this stuff and then read on. Dang. More other little stuff pops up.
We’re so focused on the little things, on the gems and those vivid details that make the writing rich and lush and fragrant, that we totally miss a whopper blooper story-stopper. Oops! Not done yet.
But we reconcile. This happens in creative pursuits. It’s normal. So we keep a good attitude–mostly–and let the work cool for a time so we see it with a clear eye, and then we read it again and edit it some more. We catch a few more errors and sometimes in correcting them we make a few more mistakes. But we know to expect that, so we resist the elation of feeling done and the urge to get the final copy printed and get the thing out the door and submitted.
Yes, and we accept that this “fascinating creation” is now “the thing.” We’ve read it so much and worked on it so long, the bloom has definitely worn off the rose.
So we exercise a little discipline and let the thing rest–partly to gain a new fresh eye and partly because we think if we have to read it again now, we might just decide we hate it, tear the thing up and forget ever looking at it again. But what’s totally annoying is that inside, we feel this faint longing to create something new and different–something we haven’t done before–and we fight that urge, sometimes calling on our last sliver of discipline.
We stare at the stack of pages sitting innocuously on the edge of our desks, knowing we need to get back to the thing, but suddenly doing the dishes or mowing the lawn takes on mammoth importance and just must get done.
We feel the urge to get the thing off our desks. To just shove it in a mailer and get it gone. But we know better and so we drag it front and center and with a sigh borne of resignation, we again begin to read. Our enthusiasm, at this point, is snuffed out. Dead and buried. We’re down to sheer grit.
And about five pages into the thing, we realize we’re living the story and not editing. Oops! Have to go back and start over. And so we do. But–oops!–it happens again. But while this is good–surely if we’re sick of the thing and we’re transported from reading words on a page to living the story then the reader will be, too–it’s not good right now. We need to catch those errors, sharpen those images, get the thing done.
With renewed determination and a warning to ourselves to stay sharp, we go at it again–and before we know it, we’re again lost in the story. Frustrated, and now totally sick of this–why did we want to write the thing in the first place????–we say spit upon it and keep going. And an amazing thing happens. Errors and inconsistencies jump off the page, snag our attention–and tick us off because they pull us out of the story.
So we fix them and press on. We finish, enter the changes and corrections and print out a fresh, clean copy. We know we should read the thing again–to make sure we didn’t create new errors or screw up scene breaks–but oh, the thought of it has us weary and bleary-eyed. Our fascinating creation has morphed into the thing and now it morphs again. We moan and groan and half-convince ourselves to give into temptation and call the damn thing done.
But at that very moment we give in to temptation, the internal editor busts out of the closet shouting, “Hey! Hey, writer. Yeah, you. Don’t you dare short-shrift me after I spent all that time stuck in that closet so you could create in the zone! I demand my turn–all of it!”
Grumbling, grousing and adding new meaning to the term “pregnant sigh,” we can’t make ourselves ignore the internal editor or shoot the damn thing out in the mail with the editor looking over our shoulder. Internal editor would have a coronary. Worse, if one negative comment came back to us on that mailing, we’d never hear the end of it. And the very worse: he’d be right. Wishing we’d put him in a soundproof vault instead of a closet, we reconcile and hatch a new avoidance tactic by talking ourselves right into letting the damn thing sit and cool again. But . . . oops!
The internal editor is not happy. And then he starts nagging. The need to get the work finished, off the desk and out the door. We block him out, resist listening as long as we can because now we’re sick and tired of the whole damn thing. So sick and tired of it that the idea of reading it yet again, well, it makes raking the lawn or scrubbing toilets look as enticing as a trip to the water park on a scorching hot day.
We mutter and curse but discipline wins out and we cave in. We must read the whole damn thing again. To console ourselves we’ve gotten away from our desk, gone to our recliner and propped up our feet or parked ourselves on the grass under our favorite shade tree and, sipping at a chilled glass of sweet iced-tea or tart lemonade, we get started . . . and get lost . . . and we stay lost in the world that had been pure imagination until we dreamed and worked it into creation. We live the story. We feel the feelings and see the places and people in our minds. We love and hate and hurt; laugh and cry and get mad and sad and scared to death.
We experience the fictional dream.
We read on and on and when we’re done, we stop, emotionally wrung out and suddenly surprised. “Oh, wow. What a story. What a story!”
Then it hits us and we think, “I wrote that? I can’t believe I wrote that.”
The internal editor snorts, “You mean we.”
“Yeah. You, me, determination, discipline–wait. You’re not thinking you’d have gotten this fascinating creation without us, are you? You were stuck with the whole damn thing.”
“True. But I’m happy with it now.” Actually, brimming with satisfaction is a more accurate description. We absorb that magnificent sense of accomplishment and realize–oops!–the whole damn thing really has morphed yet again. Somehow it has again captured us and become the fascinating creation.
“How did that happen?”
Internal editor snickers. “It’s the Oops! Factor.”
The Oops! Factor. Mmm…
If at any time during the process, when Oops! sounded the alarm we’d ignored him, we would have been stuck on a journey with a one-way ticket to “the thing,” or “the damn thing,” or “the whole damn thing.” We’d never have made the round-trip back to “fascinating creation” or experienced the “wow” moment. “The Oops! Factor. Yeah.”
We stroke the pages, content.
©2007, Vicki Hinze
Learn to pause … or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.
A few days ago, an author friend who was judging a writing competition asked me, when I’m judging, what challenge I most often see in writers’ work. I didn’t have to pause or stop to think about it and immediately answered, “Rushing.”
I then went on to explain. We write, and when we do, we translate the images that we see in our heads onto the page–or we intend to, but often important details get dropped in the transfer. Because we’re rushing to finish in the allotted time, or to get the work submitted, or read or critiqued, we don’t let the work cool long enough–and allow our minds to get occupied with other images sufficiently–so that the images we held during the creation process are dulled by time and/or distance.
So we read the work–read it again several more times–and consider it done. And then months later, we return to the work to see that what is on the page doesn’t sufficiently convey what we saw in our minds during creation.
But it’s too late. We had the critique, the reading–the work has been submitted. And now we wish it hadn’t because we see flaws that we wish we’d first corrected. Fuzzy details instead of sharp, crisp and vivid ones. We see that what is actually on the page isn’t nearly as strong as it could have been. And so we edit, honing the work, fine-tuning it to eliminate the flaws.
The problem is it’s too late to get a first impression through our normal channels. It’s been done. So now we must rely on second impressions and resubmissions, and those can’t be as strong as the first. We can’t recapture that initial burst of enthusiasm, or that sensation by others that what we’ve done is fresh and different because it isn’t–they’ve seen it and experienced it before–from us.
So the drawbacks of rushing are significant. The penalties are steep and the benefit is that if we do this once and recognize it, we might just slow down long enough to not make that same mistake again.
I can hear you say, “But I don’t have a choice. I have deadlines. I have to get this puppy submitted so that I can start the next book.”
To that, I say, “When you invest in writing a book, it should reflect your best. After all, you’ve traded time with your family, time doing other things that are important to you in creating it. If you’ve made those sacrifices, then doesn’t that warrant a complete project that is your very best? Isn’t your time–your life–worth your best?
Remember that writing isn’t all about mechanics and craft. It’s about art, too. And creating something from nothing that will transport readers into a story and embrace them so they live and experience it is art at its best.
How long does it take for those images to fade, so that what you’ve written matches the vision in your mind when you were creating? That’s a question only you can answer. For some, it’s brief. For others, it takes months. The time you’ve put into the work can be a factor. If, for example, you’ve been working on the project for six months straight, it’s going to take a while. If you’ve worked on it and other projects simultaneously, likely it won’t take as long. That splintered focus will aid you in this.
The bottom line is that you need to let the project cool long enough for you to forget the little details. You’ll likely remember a good deal about the characters and plot, but you’ll forget snippets or how A led to B. You’ll know that sufficient time has passed by reading the work. It will seem familiar and yet strange, too.
Will what you’ve written on the page ever equal the vision inside your head? Doubtful, if I’m a decent gauge. I’ve been writing twenty years and I’ve yet to do it. But when I’ve built in cooling periods and utilized them, I get a lot closer. I hope you will, too.
An interesting question was put to me a few days ago, and determining a thoughtful, honest response to it has taken time. I had to think, ponder, explore. But finally, I have a firm grip–at least, a firm grip that reflects reality to me. Your reality might be different. (I secretly hope that it is!)
The question? What writing shortcuts have you learned that can help me?
The short answer: There are none. None. Not one. Not a hint of one. Not a whiff of a sniff of a hint of one.
Writing is craft but also art, and art requires its due. You can rush it, and not focus intently enough to unearth the gems. You can nip and tuck and automate creating novel elements to shorten the process and then toss those elements together in a faster fashion, but to get to the core of those elements, you’re going to eventually have to slow down and focus intently so that you–you got it–unearth the hidden gems.
This goes beyond craft and into storytelling. That’s the art, and a gift, and you either have it or you don’t. Storytelling can’t be taught. It’s that still, quiet voice that tells the author, “You’re on the right track. This is significant. This is of value. This is infused with purpose.” It’s that drumbeat that matches the beat of your heart that thuds and echoes in your ears, signaling you that you’ve hit the mark, touched a core truth that otherwise would remain hidden. It’s that bubble in your gut, that burning that starts at the back of your nose and stings your eyes just before they fill with tears.
Some things can’t be rushed. Won’t be denied their time in the sun. Demand their due. The creative writing process is like that.
It’s the embodiment of the human condition. It encompasses all we were, are, and can be. It’s our dreams, hopes and fears personified.
It’s also why some books come to us in a flash–like a lightning strike. One minute we have nothing, the next the creation process is done and we’ve experienced an entire novel–or series of novels–in our heads. Then we work out the details. Then we begin the discovery of the hidden gems.
And it’s why some books take years and years to write. We work on them, focus and give them all we have to give, but we know they’re just not ready. We know there are underpinings yet to be discovered, and often we must wait for something to happen in our own lives that reveals them to us by giving us some new insight or perspective that lifts the scales from our eyes so we’re able to see that core truth.
There are no short cuts in writing.
There are many, many short cuts on the business end of writing, in the methods implemented to lay the groundwork for writing. But the writing itself allows none.
And for that, we should be grateful. Why? Because each project we are dedicated enough to take from a thought to fruition is a project in which there are hidden gems–ones that speak core truths to us and to our readers.
That is the reason we write. So the answer to the question is there are no shortcuts, but the journey is worth every effort because there are many, many hidden gems.
It’s the end of the school year. A very, very busy time where getting a few minutes to yourself to even think is a serious challenge. So naturally that is a prime time to fall under attack by people with too much time on their hands and too little to do.
I snagged a quick second to check email and get the latest batch of urgent questions and discovered that one of my accounts had been breached, and while this attacker had figured out the account name, s/he couldn’t get the password. So s/he requested it. It came to one of my accounts and changed the password.
This with the security software (all the bells and whistles) in place to fight off attacks. <sigh>
So why do this? I mean, I’m a writer, not a merchant. To prove you can? Annoyance? Well, you somewhat succeeded. But your intention was exposed along with your attempt to pretend to be me, and so this message is delivered:
If my articles or workshops or seminars or any other copyrighted information on my sites–yes, this does include my blogs–shows up in Spanish without the appropriate credit or permission, you are in big trouble. Intellectual property theft is a serious crime and before it’s done, you could lose Internet privileges. I promise I’ll do my best to see to it that all applicable consequences are levied. Every single one.
You will not sell what I do free to help others. You will not.
Expect to find yourself without a server, as well. Yes, your footprints were in place and you’ve been tracked.
And from this, a lesson to others on the perks of not storing your passwords. Even with all the protective gear in the world, some jerk is going to spend time trying to use you and cause you challenges. If the passwords had been stored, more challenges would have been created.; no doubt about it.
The underlying message is one about truth being exposed. It always is, though sometimes it takes its own sweet time. This time was quick and the consequences will be just as harsh as law allows. Not just for my sake, but to encourage this individual to not do this again.
Actions such as this make it easy to become cynical. But on that front, this person failed, too. I won’t. There are far more people who appreciate my little efforts than who attempt to abuse me or them.
Well, this is one way to get going in the morning, now isn’t it? It’s not yet 7 a.m. and people are hopping already. You see, they too have accounts that could be breached. And they too take exception to deception and fraud.
At least there are some good lessons to be learned in this. And some verification of past decisions being good ones.
Have a great day!