Category Archives: Writing

The Shitty First Draft

My initial goal for the month of November, my first “someday”, and the WNFIN challenge, was to write and e-publish a non-fiction book in 30 days.  Now, one week before the end of 30 days, I’ve revised my goal.  Instead of getting the book all the way through publication, I am now aiming at completing the “Shitty First Draft”.  This is quite a shortfall from where I had hoped to be, but I’m okay with the adjustment.  Writing the book has been much more challenging than I expected.  The length alone makes it a totally different type of writing style than what I have been accustomed to.  Then there’s the storytelling aspect – again, quite different.  I have gone from believing I’d write straight through from the Introduction to the final chapter, to writing a hodgepodge of ideas and stories that are only partly related to my initial outline.  Hence, the Shitty First Draft.

In Bird by Bird Anne Lamont urges writers to embrace the shitty first draft claiming it can lead to clarity and even brilliance in the second and third drafts.  Ernest Hemingway claimed, “The first draft of anything is shit.”  Instead of letting my perfectionism and ego rule how I feel about the shortfall of my goal this first month, I’m going to look at this experience and know I’m in good company.  However, I’m not going to say I’ll finish the book Someday – that would be counterintuitive to the point of my 366 Somedays challenge.  Instead, I will commit that it will be done by Day 366 – hopefully significantly sooner.  On to the second draft…

“Writing is an adventure.”

–Winston Churchill

Big Words

While doing some research, I came across a comment that said, simply, “Existential angst.”  I looked at that and thought, Really?  I don’t mean to denigrate people who use big words (some might think denigrate is a big word), but I prefer to read and write more simply.  Am I lazy or incapable?  Neither!  When I read, I’m fine with needing to roll the ideas around in my head, but I don’t want to be running to the dictionary to understand the meaning of seldom-used “big words”.  My writing style is pretty much my talking style.  I want my writing to come across as if we’re sitting at a café having a conversation.

“One should use common words to say uncommon things.”

–Arthur Schopenhauer

That describes what I like to read and also my dream goal when I write.

The Enemy of Soul

I haven’t yet told anyone except my husband the topic of the non-fiction book I’m working on this month for my first “someday” and during the WNFIN challenge, but I’m revealing it now.  My book is about marriage and how to do it right.  My husband and I married when we were only 19-years-old (too young to get married), but we’ve been very happily married for 38 years and I think we’ve done a lot of things right along the way.  So, I want to share our experience.  I’d love for every married or long-term committed couple to have what we have; to know what we now know.  But remember back to one of my first entries about “Resistance”?  Well, Resistance is back and it’s talking smack to me.  “You’re not a marriage expert.  You don’t know enough to tell people how to be married.  Hell, you’re not even a writer!”

I’m not one to crawl back in my hole, but I must admit to giving Resistance’s resistance a bit of a listen.  My project has stalled and I realized this morning the stall has been caused by Resistance.  So, once again, it’s time to smack Resistance upside the head and get back to what my soul is telling me to do.  Yes, it’s true:  Resistance does not live in one’s soul.  Resistance is the opposite of soul.  Resistance is the enemy of soul.

Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.

–Anne Sexton

Fuel for the Brain

This weekend marked the halfway point in my first monthly “someday”.  During the month of November, I am participating in a challenge to write and complete a work of nonfiction (WNFIN).  On this halfway point weekend, I decided to do something contrary:  instead of writing, I read.

2015 has been a year of transitions for me.  My husband and I bought a company in a different town.  He’s actively engaged in the company and is spending part of each week in that town.  In order to make his commute shorter, and to complete a long held dream, we moved from the home where we’ve raised our family to a dream home four hours away.  We have one child left at home, a high school senior, who has moved with us.  The move has dragged on for months.  The old house is not yet ready to put on the market.  It’s been a crazy year.  To compensate for my lack of time, I’ve pretty much given up reading.  Then, with the beginning of my yearlong personal challenge on November 1st, reading took a seat even farther back in the bus of my life.  This weekend, I remedied that by reading.

I realized, while I love to think ideas through in my head until they’re ready to put into readable words, I also crave the influx of ideas and knowledge I get from reading.  Reading is a fuel for my brain and creativity and cannot take a back seat to writing, cleaning, moving, or any other task I come up with to banish it to a low priority need.

“Reading is fuel for the brain.  Writing is fuel for the spirit…"
                                         –Megan S. Johnston

I need both!

Let the Spinning Wheel Fly — December’s Sneak Peek

Blood, Sweat & Tears’ song Spinning Wheel has been spinning around in my head since I woke up this morning.  At first I thought there was nothing in the lyrics that is particularly relevant to me, but my husband pointed out it’s actually quite relevant.

Did you find the directing sign
On the straight and narrow highway

I’ve planned out what I will do for the coming year in order to harness all those ideas and dreams floating around in my wish list – I’m heading down the straight and narrow highway.

I thought the song was in my head simply because I have so much stuff spinning around in my brain.  Working on writing my book plus journaling the process through this blog has meant ideas are constantly spinning ‘round.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I do a lot of thinking prior to writing.  I’m finding that trying to write a book, not just a short blog post, means I’m almost always thinking about my topic.  I feel my brain isn’t getting much rest and I’m not thinking about much else.

My December “someday”, in contrast, is going to be to learn about meditation and begin a meditation practice.

Drop all your troubles by the riverside
Ride a painted pony, let the spinning wheel fly

Yes, I guess the song is relevant and, yes, my brain will be ready for December!

Time & Space

I’ve been writing regularly for almost eight years.  During that time, I estimate 95% of my writing has been done before the sun comes up.  This month, while I’m tackling my first “someday”, write a non-fiction book in 30 days, I have found I need to write at other times as well.  Part of the issue has been this blog because I write here first and the book writing gets pushed to a later time.  Writing by the light of day – interesting idea.

Prior to November 1st when my “someday” project began, I worked at prepping my office/studio so I could write there.  We moved recently and my space is the last to be organized.  It still isn’t completely organized, but it does have a comfy chair with a table beside it.  Still, here I am, writing in the living room.

I guess the takeaway is it really doesn’t matter where I write or when I write.  If I want this “someday” to happen, I just need TO WRITE!

I’m writing a book.  I’ve got the page numbers done.
                                            –Steven Wright

The Grandma Moses Program

When I was a child, I loved The Night Before Christmas.  Actually, it is still my favorite Christmas book.  At some point, someone gave me a second copy of the book; this one illustrated by Grandma Moses.  I remember having conflicting emotions about the illustrations.  They were childlike and unprofessional, yet I was amazed at the story of this old lady who didn’t start painting until she was in her late 70s.  In the back of the book was a picture of this old grandma-like lady, sitting outside at her easel.  Her face was full of joy.

As I contemplated the idea of tackling my “somedays” during the next year, the thought crossed my mind that some people in their late 50s might think they’re too old to take on their lapsed dreams.  I determined a decade or so ago I would not become “too old” and I try to live each day with that in mind.  As I struggle with my first “someday” of writing a non-fiction book in 30 days, I keep Grandma Moses in mind.  She painted in her own style – I will write in my own style.  And, I’m not too old to start writing or to do any of the other “somedays” yet to come.  Heck, at 57, I’m two decades early under the Grandma Moses Program!

Pings & Zings

I’ve always thought I would be a writer.  I’m not sure why the English Department at the University of Oregon didn’t agree with that assessment when I took a writing test to challenge a required writing course.  That’s okay, though, I learned a lot in that class that later helped me with the professional writing I did as part of my job as a bank trust officer.  But that type of writing isn’t the type I always imagined myself doing.  Neither do I see myself as a novelist.  I’m a real world type of person and the idea of creating a make believe world is simply beyond my comprehension.  Even when I read novels, I frequently find myself disbelieving the events, actions, and plot lines.

I’ve always thought I have somewhat unique insights about life and human interaction, so I’ve always thought I would write about them.  The thing about writing is, when I’ve worked a thought over in my mind and managed to transfer it from pings and zings inside my brain to a readable format, I feel great.  I get a feeling of release and satisfaction.  However, getting from pings and zings to readable doesn’t just happen.  It’s work.  Sometimes it’s easier to just let my brain skate along, not worrying about what to do with the pings and zings.  I’m feeling that way now.  Why did I sign up for this writing challenge?  Why did I announce it to the world?  Sorting out the pings and zings is so HARD!  I keep reminding myself about Dr. Seuss’ mountain in the quote from my first post, Hello Inspiration!  I don’t want to skate; I want to climb that mountain.  I want to write this book.  I want to harness those pings and zings.

Writing is thinking and thinking is hard work.
                               --Lewis Black

Writing for Goldfish

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. This is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

I’ve taken enough classes and workshops and done enough writing and reading to know, when writing, to be succinct.  Keep your writing tight.  Make every word count.  As the writer of a blog for the last eight years, I have written hundreds of relatively short posts, each on a specific topic, and contained within an overall theme, Debbie Does 50!  Please don’t go looking back at each post to see if I did, indeed, write concisely.  The point is most of my posts have been in the 400 to 800-word range.  I like that length both for writing and for what I like to read.  When perusing a magazine, if an article goes beyond the first page I am likely to just skip over it – too long!

Now my quandary is I am trying to write a book.  A short book, but a book, not a blog post.  The reality is each topic within my book could be a blog post, but I’m finding, in my typical style, each topic is relatively short when I first write it.   So I’m wondering – what fleshes out the topic?  I’m listening to a book right now in which the author has said the same thing, over and over, in different ways, but without really adding any new content.  I don’t want to be that writer.

This challenge of writing a book in 30 days has uncovered new, unexpected challenges.  Yesterday it was the challenge of actually writing.  Today I’m grappling with this one:  when one has been trained to write for humans, how does one learn to write for goldfish and still maintain meaningful content?

Holy Moly — Reality!

Day 4 of my “366 Somedays” and today was a reality hit.  I’m sure there will be additional hits as the year goes by, but I didn’t really expect one this soon.  Day 1 was exciting – I set-up my blog and Facebook pages, I announced my plan to the world, I received some great feedback.  Day 2 I worked on the outline of the book I will write this month and the excitement from Day 1 lingered.  Yesterday, Day 3, still felt pretty invigorating.  Today, Day 4, I had a morning commitment which put me out of my routine.  I normally write in the wee hours of the morning, but I couldn’t do that today because of the meeting.  As I prepared to head out the door, I thought about what else I wanted to get done throughout the day:  some bookkeeping needs for our business, prepare some packages for mailing, further work unpacking from our recent move.  Then it hit me – I needed to make time to write!  I’ve committed to writing a book in November.  That won’t happen unless I … write!

So, even though it’s not 5:00 a.m., even though I’ve already had more coffee than should be allowed in one day, even though my little dogs are looking at me wondering why we haven’t yet gone on our walk, and even though this is not my normal writing routine, I WILL write!

Keep on reading, thinking, doing, and writing.
                                                                       –Toba Beta