Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Case of the Disappearing Author

I know I've been scarce around here. Spring is usually a busy time for me, but this year has been especially busy.

First there was finishing up the details for Faith, Hope, and Murder. It took extra effort to make it available in the iBookstore. Apple is more demanding than the other online vendors. They actually do review each book individually where the others use a totally automated approval process. I consider it a significant accomplishment to be distributed through Apple. I'd love to provide a direct link to my book, but you have to go through iTunes to purchase books from Apple.

I also wanted to have a print version in time for the Tucson Festival of Books. The Tucson chapter of Sisters in Crime put together two baskets of books for a free raffle and I wanted to be part of that. I made it by the skin of my teeth, letting a slight formatting issue slide so I could make the deadline. I now have a list of three things (or is that six?) I want to change in the second edition.

Speaking of the Tucson Festival of Books (TFOB), I was in charge of organizing the Tucson Sisters in Crime booth this year. That meant all the preparations, lining up volunteers to staff the booth, assembling those raffle baskets, being there for setup at 7:30 Saturday morning, and staying until after 6:00 Sunday night to pack everything up.

Candi Cornell, one of our published authors, at the TFOB Booth
Saturday we had the added challenge of an overcast, windy, showery day. We, along with the other exhibitors, had to do a lot of scrambling to keep things dry. You can see the rocks we used to keep our promotional material from blowing away. Even the rocks weren't enough when the wind gusted.

I also do volunteer tax preparation through AARP's Tax Counseling for the Elderly program. This isn't only for senior citizens, but for any low income people. There's also the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Both of these are affiliated with the IRS and free. There are certain limitations on the kinds of tax returns we can do, such as depreciation on rental property, but there are an amazing number of returns that we can do. Did I mention that it's FREE? You can find a site near you through the IRS.

As if I didn't have enough to do, I signed up for another Margie Lawson online writing class. She only gives this one in March of each year and I thought I would have time to keep up with it. Hah! I'm frustrated that I haven't gotten as much out of the class as I have others in the past, but I hope to review the lessons once life slows down.

Anyway, I wanted to check in here (not that anyone's reading) and let you know I'd be back in late April or early May. Life gets simpler after tax season!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Miracle of Morning Pages

I recently started doing Morning Pages again. When I first decided that I wanted to write after not writing for thirty years, I took a class based on Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. This is the first book Julia Cameron wrote on creativity. She believes that we all are creative at heart. We just have to release our creativity. Embrace our creative nature.

In the first book, she encourages you to use two tools to bring out your creativity. The first is Morning Pages. These are three pages of stream of consciousness writing done when you first get up. Your logical left brain hasn't had a chance to take over yet from your dream state right brain. The idea is to dump all your mental junk out on the page to clear the way for writing.

You're supposed to write these pages without stopping. She tells you that if you don't know what you should write, just write "I don't know what to write" over and over again. This sounded somewhat useless, but doing Morning Pages every day was the first week's assignment, and I always do my homework, so I made myself sit down every morning with my new notebook.

I was so blocked at that time of my life, so distanced from my inner self, that I wrote three pages of "I don't know what to write" for three days. And then, somewhere on the third page on the third day, I wrote something else.

I don't know where that came from. Well, yes I do. It was my inner self, my creative self, who had been released by the act of writing every morning without thinking, finally communicating with me. I did Morning Pages almost every day for years, rambling on about my life, ideas, rants, whatever came out of my pen onto the page. Over time, these daily writings included ideas for plots and characters and themes for my fiction.

Last year, I took Margie Lawson's class on Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors. I wanted to be more productive in my writing and I know I can be my own worst enemy. One of the things Margie recommends is, if you don't think you have enough time to write, you try writing at different times of day to find if a different time works better for you. She specifically suggested getting up a little earlier and writing then. But not journaling, a.k.a., Morning Pages.

I hated leaving Morning Pages behind at the time, but I knew I needed to finish my novel and was willing to try anything. And it turned out that I was able to write early in the morning before work, something I'd never imagined was possible for me. (I am so not a morning person!)

Then the book was finished, the editing was finished, and I went part time at the day job. I decided I didn't need to get up earlier on work days to write because I had my newly found off days to devote to writing. And I'd gotten out of the habit of writing Morning Pages.

However, when I went back to the sequel to Faith, Hope, and Murder that I started last year, I felt as if I was standing in front of a brick wall. This is sometimes called writer's block. I know that the cure for writer's block is to write, but I've been at that point most writers reach when starting a new book. This point is where you're convinced that you can never write a book again. You have no idea how you did it before and you're sure it was just a fluke and you know nothing your write will ever be any good. Even Tess Gerritsen, who is always on the New York Times bestseller list, admits to having this feeling when she starts a new book. (This is why Margie Lawson's course is so popular.)

Recently, another writer I know mentioned reading and doing the exercises from Walking in This World, another book in Julia Cameron's creativity series. And I remembered how much The Artist's Way had helped me to embrace my creativity and start writing fiction after so many years. I decided that Walking in This World might be exactly what I needed to get going again.

Of course, the first thing Julia Cameron tells you to do is write Morning Pages. I'd gotten out of the habit. I wasn't sure they would do any good. They took time in the morning when I had to get ready for work. Do you see a pattern here?

But I decided it was better to write Morning Pages than to assume they wouldn't work a second time. So I started over last month. It wasn't as bad as the first time. I didn't need to resort to writing "I don't know what to write" over and over. I had to remember that whining was allowed, in fact encouraged.

So one morning last week, I started whining about short stories. I've rarely written short stories. Like, almost never. And there were two opportunities for anthologies that had presented themselves in the same week. Both had themes. I went on and on about how I never had ideas for short stories. How I didn't know how to write something without multiple subplots. Heck, I was having trouble with novels, which was why I was writing Morning Pages to begin with. And the theme of one anthology wasn't something I could relate to anyway.

Then, somewhere in the middle of complaining about the elements of that theme, I started writing down my responses to them. I had an idea! I had characters. I had a plot. I might actually be able to write a short story for one of the anthologies. It was amazing.

So, at least for me, Morning Pages do work. As does the artist date. And the artist walk. I've started thinking of myself as a creative person again. And I believe that, with the help of Morning Pages, I will finish the second Community of Faith mystery.