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I know it’s been a while since I last shared what’s new on my road, so here’s the rundown…Family life, school life, writing, art, and commissioned work and freelance whenever possible. Just to name a few.

These past few years have been a lesson in perseverance. After going back to college to further my education I became intimately acquainted with frustration, failure, and hard-fought triumph. They were hard lessons to be learned for sure, but it’s something that each of us has to endure in order to learn and grow.

Frequently throughout life I had been told I was a talented person, that my creativity was unique, but being surrounded by all those young, mentally box-free individuals, and their flowing effervescent art made me realize just how crammed into that proverbial box I had become. Nothing knocks you off your pedestal faster, and makes you try harder, than realizing just how boring and lackluster you really are.

All that frustration certainly makes you question the sanity of going back to school in the middle of life, but the reasons to go and the reasons to stick it out are the same – to overcome the soul-sucking exhaustion from enduring the same-old-same-old. The horizon never changes and the opportunities for renewal stagnate if you stay in one place. If you never search for the mysterious and new, if you settle for the status quo, that’s all you get. Some might be satisfied with that, but I am not.

In this last semester before I graduate a realization occurred that I have gained valuable insight into myself. Startling knowledge of just what skills I possess and which I do not. As mentioned previously, perseverance is topmost in skills I hold dear, for without it I would have given up on the dream of furthering my education and learning exciting new crafts. I learned just what I like, and just what I have a knack for, and exactly what I never want to undertake for a job if at all humanly possible.

Another invaluable skill is my obsessive need to be organized. I can’t stress how important being organized is. On more than one occasion it helped when I had stayed up way too late studying for an exam and couldn’t remember if I’d packed my assignments for the next set of classes, but of course, I had, along with all the relevant books and supplies needed. It was instinctual and this precious skill has never let me down.

In between over ambitious course loads, family life, and taking on commission work, I found time to write. It’s part of my creative outlet and it keeps me “sane” when I would have otherwise chucked it all in favor of becoming an agoraphobic. I think I will always have the urge to create through words, as well as through my art. It’s who I am and an intricate part of what makes me happy. With all the demands of life these days I don’t always get to do what I want, and I certainly don’t succeed at everything I try. I admit the demands sometimes get overwhelming and I certainly want to give up at times. Life isn’t always easy, or fair, or rewarding. Things don’t always work out or go our way. Truthfully it’s downright depressing half the time.

So when do you give up? The answer is Never.

Because when it does finally go your way the victory will be that much sweeter because you ignored all the negativity and made it happen.

Why do you spend (read as waste by some of our peers) all your time writing?   What’s the point to wearing down all those keypads?  When every spare moment is dedicated to liberating the obsessive storylines running through your head at the expense of laundry, maintaining personal relationships, and dare I say bodily hygiene, what’s the point?  What’s the end game?

The need to share stories has its roots deep in time.  For as long as folks have been communicating there has been a need to share what we know, what we think we know, and what we hope to know.  All sorts of information is passed along through stories; parables, fables, children’s rhymes, ghost stories, urban legends, family histories, whatever the label.  The art of conveying through verbal tradition, and then as time passed written pages, is as basic a need as the search for hearth and home.

We tell personal stories, inspiring stories, stories just for fun.  All for that “Ah-ha” moment when the reader connects to what you’re trying to convey.  And really, that’s why we write, to connect.

I must apologize at this point, my time has been overrun with many new endevours, and I’ve fallen short of making timely posts.  I recently decided to go back to college and gain a few more degrees.  One in Multimedia Web Design and another in Graphic Design.  Admitedly, at my age, it’s been an adjustment, but it’s exciting as well – and let me tell you, the inspiration for furture stories abound!

Role Play is when someone assumes a character, either from an existing story or one they made up, and writes as them on an internet social site like FaceBook or MySpace.  These sites don’t condone this but it happens none the less.

While on my chosen social networking site I noticed a post by my favorite author.  Drawn to the link, I saw comments under that post by people named after the characters in the author’s books.  Curiosity got the better of me and I read the posts on their walls.  I was thrilled to discover more story to fill in the detail of what the author had already created.

It was fascinating.  The characters had been brought to life and were interacting as if they were real.  I followed for a few months and came across a “casting call.”  They were looking for people who were familiar with the stories and characters who wanted to assume their roles.  Hole smokes!  A chance to be my favorite character.  Well all right, too cool.  I sent off my introduction email to the group’s admins and did an audition… And got the part!  Color me ecstatic and a whole lot terrified.  What if I mess up?  What if I embarrass myself and those I write with?  GASP!  What if the author reads what I’m doing and Hates it??

All fears aside, I jumped in and had a blast.  I’m not saying it’s always been a breeze.  As with any medium where true human emotions can’t be deciphered in person, it’s easy to misconstrue what’s being typed/said.  That also aside, RP can be a great place for a writer to practice their craft.

Role play, or RP, as it’s known in the trade, is helpful to work out character and plot issues, especially when you create characters around your own story.  The trick is to find writers you Know, Like and Trust to help you.  That’s the hard part.  I suggest talking your known friends into it if you can.  I started in a known group and branched from there, going off contact information given by fans and other RP group members.

After taking the plunge into this little known world earlier this year this is what I’ve learned:
There are a lot of immature people out there with no qualms about showing exactly how immature they are.  Try and ignore them.  If that proves impossible; Delete/Unfriend and Block are your best friends.
Another startling fact?  People will actually believe the character you created is a real person, even when the profile clearly states it’s a role player.   Sure RP is all for fun, but be responsible and try to make sure readers understand the RP is Fantasy.
Oh, and No One, not even RPers are immune to people pushing growth enhancers, “Come see my naked picture” ploys disguised computer viruses, so beware.

But the absolute best part about RP has to be the wonderful folks who actually love what they do. They love to write and interact with their on-line friends, families, and fans, and that connection is why we all write in the first place.

Let’s face it, as a writer, you suck.  You know you suck, your family and friends know you suck, and the poor editor that was unlucky enough to receive your work knows you suck.  If you’re serious about being a writer and want to improve the trick is to figure out how not to suck.

First, figure out exactly why you suck.  Is it creating or telling the story?  Are your characters flat and about as lifeless as an old inner tube?  Does decent grammar and punctuation escape you?  Or is it some combination of the aforementioned?

Ask anyone who has recently read your work to tell you honestly.  Don’t let them weasel out of it.  Make sure they’re honest by telling them you promise not to get mad and then follow through by not getting mad.  In fact, thank them for helping you and mean it.

When you have your info on why your work isn’t making the grade, read it and set it all aside, and then – this is the important part – GET OVER IT.  Leave it alone, at least for a little while – long enough to be able to look at it objectively.  You won’t do anyone, mostly yourself, any favors by looking at all that fresh data through a haze of offended anger.  Sure it hurts to have your faults poked and prodded, that’s only natural, but to truly grow as a writer you’ll need to be able to accept it, get over it, and get on with it.

Granted, you might not agree with everything being said, but it’s a start, it get’s the thought process going.  In all that data is the how and why your work is suffering, so look carefully and with honest, accepting eyes and an open mind.  That is the start to becoming a writer whose work people want to read.

I’ve briefly spoken about writer’s groups before, but I think they deserve another mention.  They have a place in the aspiring writer’s arsenal of useful tools.

These tools include, but are not limited to:

Inspiration
There‘s nothing more eye-opening than bouncing ideas off people that can offer viewpoints from their own life experiences.  We’re all different, each with our own unique ways of viewing the world, so don’t be afraid to explore someone else’s thoughts – you’ll never know what interesting things you’ll discover.  Who knows, they might even trigger the development of the next “great story.”

Encouragement
When you’ve stared at that unfinished story for the hundredth time and find yourself still vapor locked, a writer’s group is a great place to pick up that extra spark of enthusiasm.  Share what you have with those that will listen, I think you’ll find their anxiousness and excitement to know what happens next to be a huge driver to continuing on.

Accountability
When there is someone expecting to get more from you it can be a big driver to get it done.  If you find yourself needing a kick in the pants have your group give you that extra push.

Some groups even have writing assignments that are due each time they meet; these exercises work the mind and help develop positive writing habits.

In short, a writer’s group can be like surrogate editors and test-readers, helping to get your work whipped into something actual editors and publishers would be interested in.

Writing groups help foster a sense that we are not wasting our time.  They’re a great place to meet new people with similar interest on a journey that may mirror our own.   As humans we all crave validation, whether it’s in our chosen professions or simply as people, we all want to feel like we have purpose.

If you’ve chosen writing to be your purpose I believe these groups can help.

It seemed with the turn of the calendar page the weather followed suit.  Dense gray clouds move across a cooling sky like enormous battleships, each heralding the coming storms that will chase the remnants of summer away.  Already the maples and ashes are starting to color and fall blooming flowers are in full display.

With bittersweet smiles farewell slips past our lips and the warmth of summer shimmers away, dissipating like vapors on the horizon.  Autumn fills the air with rich scents and promises of crimson sunsets.  Patchwork trees canvas the landscape, bright hues that warm the heart even as the dwindling daylight cools.

Pumpkins perch on stoop and porch, welcoming with a warning in the same sight, warning to enjoy the tepid days and mild nights for winter approaches with its icy breath and darkened days.

Did you accomplish what you set out to do?  Did you do all you wanted to?

Soon the leaves will dry and swirl on by, falling reminders of another season, and possibly another opportunity, gone.

I have recently been befriended by an individual who offers me priceless guidance where my writing is concerned.  Showing me ways to shape my prose and enrich its content.

This friend claims to be starving for literature that feeds his mind and I am quickly coming to realize that my works are far from being able to fulfill his needs.  It is an enormous disappointment to realize that something I’ve worked so hard on is lacking on so many levels.  I truly want to produce something that is enjoyable to those I would call my friends.

My stories and poetry are pieces that have been a part of my soul for so long that when they are finally set to paper it’s like joy has taken a physical form.  I realize I am not the next Tolkien, nor would I chose to be, his style is simply not my own.

I guess I’m just having trouble getting past my own stupid pride, my feelings are crushed, and it is no one’s fault but my own.  Blinded by hopes of being the next writer to hit it big, I let myself get dragged down the commercially dazzled path of status quo and never stopped to see if what I was writing held any true form.

I do realize I will never grow as an author if I cannot accept the criticism of those willing to offer it and I cannot change if I am unwilling to heed direction.

Someone once said, “You don’t know what you don’t know until it’s reveled to you.”  The trick is to find someone willing to invest time in showing you what you don’t know.

For all of you who have so generously given your time to help me with my writing I am forever in your debt.  Your patience and incite is invaluable and I sincerely thank you.  I hope you all know exactly how much you mean to me.

In the meantime, please be patient with me as I attempt to rework my prose into something worthy of your time.

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