Zone

Z

Wow! Here we are. The last day of the A-to-Z Blog Challenge and we’ve made it. The ups and downs have been worth it, just to say I’ve done it.

Today’s word is Zone.

One of the definitions of zone, according to The Oxford New Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus, is ‘area having particular features, properties, purpose or use’. The writing zone is that place where the words just flow from your fingertips with little or no thought.

Writers seek the zone and can find it. Sometimes its luck and sometimes it’s not.

Tell any of your writer friends you found the zone and they all nod with understand. It is that moment that the world disappears and the only thing that matters is you and the words.

It doesn’t happen often, or at least not as often as we’d like. It would be nice if every time you sat down to write but too often the words come slowly. Or sometimes, not at all.

I’m not sure there is a “trick” to getting into the zone. I believe that a person can create habits that greatly increase the odds of reaching the zone.

Those habits include:

Writing daily – I find it best to write at the same time each day. Your muse responds to habit – usually.
Find other writers – Writing is often solitary and finding others who also write can shake up your own energy.
Create a ritual for writing – Using music, lighting a candle or the like can help you find the zone. I struggle to write if I don’t have a cup of coffee. I know things have been flowing well if the coffee is cold when I look up from my keyboard.
Read – Any time, all the time, when you aren’t writing. Reading books, whether they are nonfiction instruction type books, books in your genre or books out of your genre, can stimulate the brain to produce words.
Leave the inner critic at the door – Yeah, this is the difficult one. I’ve written about this before in this post.

These habits if modified a bit can apply to other things.

May all your words be written in the zone.

Have you ever written in the “zone” and how to you get there?

Yellow, Yen, or Young

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This has been the most difficult post to get moving. There aren’t many “Y” words that translate into something worth writing about. Or maybe it is my present mind. I have no clear reason for each of these words just random picks. Lets talk about Yellow, Yen and Young.

Yellow

Yellow happens to be one of my least favorite colors. I seem to gravitate toward cool colors, especially purples. I can see the value in each of the colors though. My office has some light, creamy yellow walls and it is one of my favorite places. When it is clean and neat. Which it isn’t at the moment. Four year olds tend to be hard on a playroom. It is calming for me and my clients.

Yen

Yen is an interesting word. It means yearn or long for. Also it is the form of currency in Japan. This word has caught my imagination. Since I haven’t been to Japan and therefore have never needed the currency, I am focused on the yearning or longing word. The thought I’m having is that I’ve never used this word in my writing. Well, not that I can remember anyway. There is a certain appeal to the word and I hope it is one that will find its way into my writing.

Young

Another interesting word. Our society seems to be enamored of youth and the young. Getting old is seen as having little value. There are things that only come with age:

Experience – There are mistakes we won’t make again. We have learned from them. Of course, there are many more that I can and will make. That is just part of life.
Knowing what I want out of life – At least I think I do. I am more clear on how I want my life to go now more so than I ever have. This is a good thing. There is less angst.
Grand kids – This is one of the best things about growing older. I am lucky to have a couple of the cutest little ones to call me Memaw. I’m not biased at all. See for yourself:

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I wouldn’t change a thing.

What are your favorite things about getting older?

Xena, Warrior Princess

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Interesting title. Just how does it apply to writing?

“X” titles and subjects are hard to come by. This one actually came from my husband over lunch while we were traveling this weekend. He had other suggestions but this one was the most interesting.

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from Vibe.com

Do you remember Xena? A warrior princess set in mythical times who went around redeeming herself by helping others? Yes, no? Since the show began airing 20 years ago, I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

Before I did a little research (i.e. Wikipedia), my thought was Xena was a woman who lived life on her own terms. I seem to remember her evolving from only the warrior to a woman who was strong but also embraced her feminine side. She was tough, taking on the biggest adversaries and winning. I know this is made for TV but having women who are like this wasn’t very common then and still isn’t today.

The thought that struck me all day was that she lived her life on her terms, not bowing to convention, and how this applies to writing. There are so many how to’s, conferences, and classes that tell you a path to write and publication. You know the ones I mean – 10 steps to publication and the like. What I’ve come to believe is that there is no one path when it comes to writing. Just like Xena.

How, you might ask?

Well, you have to be tough and learn to navigate your own world, on your own terms. Having a thick skin is just one necessary thing to have when you are battling the critics.

There is no one path to redemption (publication). Xena traveled throughout the countryside taking on the ills of her world, never having an actual plan that I can remember. While it may be a good idea to have a plan for your own writing, it is important to stay flexible.

She also looked good doing it. Again, I realize this is TV. However, it is important to take care of yourself while you walk this path. That means getting enough sleep, eating decently, exercise, keeping up relationships and not taking yourself too seriously.

I believe that the writing life is fulfilling and rewarding in its own right. Publication is simply icing on the cake.

Who are your heroes for writing or otherwise?

Willow Tree

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I’ve been saving this story for today. I hope you all enjoy it.

Willow Tree

By: AC Hoekwater

I stood in my favorite spot overlooking over the devastated backyard. The once tall and graceful tree now lay in pieces. Parts of the tree crashed over the kid’s swing set. The rest of the tree fragmented all over the grass. The storm had taken both out at once. The kids cried over the loss of their swing but I am shattered.

My husband slid his arms around my waist. “It will be okay,” he says. He just doesn’t get it. I fell in love with the tree first, house second. He remembered the mess after each storm and knowing the wood isn’t good for much, not even burning. He’s glad to be rid of it.

tree-204297_1280I heard a door slam outside. “They’re here,” my husband kissed my forehead and abandoned me to my grief.

I heard them laughing and joking outside. The tree killers. No, that isn’t fair. The storm did the damage, the men are just here to clean up the mess. The clatter of machinery reached me. No one understands.

I remember another willow in another backyard. Long before my world was irrevocably changed, I’d played under its branches all day. Mom knew where I could be found, always hiding, always safe.

I heard the chainsaw start, the loud rumble made me jump. The men began to take branches down, one by one. My husband stood watching, helping where he could. I wanted to look away but couldn’t as bit by bit the tree came down. The broken branches soon stood in neat piles, the men cleaning up as they worked. “It will be like it wasn’t there,” my husband said when I’d expressed concern over what to do with the remains of the tree. As the chainsaw work began on the main part of the trunk, I couldn’t watch any longer. I crawled into bed, still hearing the noise but no longer able to see it. I waited, hiding.

My husband found me in bed curled under a blanket. “Get up. They’re gone and I’ve got something to show you.” He stood patiently waiting while I extricated my self from the cocoon I’d built. He took my hand and led me into the back yard. All I could see was the strangeness of the empty landscape.

“Where do you want it?” My husband asked. I turned to look at him, “Want what?” “This.” He pointed to small willow sapling in a pot standing near the stump of the old tree. “I just need to know where you want it and I’ll get it in the ground.”

I smoothed my hand over the trunk and small branches. “Beautiful,” I breathed. “Wherever you think is best.” Smiling through my tears, I watched him begin.

 

Victory

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This post is a day late for a normal update but the letters just worked this way.

The A-to-Z Challenge

There are just a few days left of the A-to-Z Blog Challenge and I am still excited about it. I find myself wondering what I’m going to do when April is over. Looks like it is time for some serious blog planning.

I like the momentum I’ve found in this month of writing six posts a week. However, that is a lot of posts. Its a struggle at times to make sure I have a post each day. Coming up with topics has been challenging but still this has been a positive experience.

Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo has been a success also. Though I am not done with my novel, I have met my goal. Here is the badge to prove it:

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No, my novel isn’t done. Most likely just under halfway through. I have a lot of work to do. But it has been fun.

Even though I have still have one more challenge, I’m still going to celebrate my success. My plan is continue with my novel until I finish. Of course there are two more to work on to complete my series. It never ends.

At this moment, victory is sweet.

Unless it Moves the Human Heart

It is spring in my part of the world, though the snow I’ve found on my car for the past couple of days would beg to differ. One of the good things about snow this time of year is that I know it won’t last.

I must, grudgingly, admit that it is beautiful.

I spent some time with friends last night at a cabin on a small lake. After spending time together, I spent some time gazing at the lake.

With all of the ice gone, the lake rippled gently. Against this backdrop, the trees that lined the lake were dusted in snow. The contrast between the nearly calm lake and the snow was incredible. It reminded me again of the beauty of our world.

There are a lot of things that are ugly in this world but for that moment, it was beautiful. I wish I had taken a picture of the lake.

Instead I have this picture of some of my favorite people whom I shared that moment with:

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This is one of the reasons I write. This is how I make sense of my world and the things I see. I am moved by the beauty of a snowy, spring lake, the company of friends, and the cry of a baby. These are the things that move my heart.

What things move your heart?

Turning off the Inner Critic

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We’ve all had that feeling. We are going along, the words are flowing and boom, the voices start.

No, not the ones that push your story in a new direction. Those are the fascinating ones.

I mean the ones that say “oops, that didn’t sound right,” or “this is drivel, no one is going to read it,” or, my favorite, “you are never going to be a writer and you may as well give up and go back to bed.” Yep, that’s my favorite when I am writing in the wee hours of the morning.

So, how does one turn off that evil voice? Or, at least keep it at bay while you are getting the words down.

The only way that I have found is to keep writing. Every day. And, write fast. The inner critic can’t keep up when you write fast.

The therapist in me also works at discovering whose voice it is – here’s a hint: it is seldom our own.

Often it is an overly critical parent or other loved one with well meaning, or not, advice. I’ve also confronted the words the critic chooses to use. Most often they are a lie. The problem is when we believe the voice, we get sucked in and stop whatever it is we are doing.

By writing each day and ignoring the voice, I have found that I hear the negativity less and can get the words out. It isn’t a fool proof plan but it’s that is what works for me. There is always going to be someone who doesn’t like the words, however, for every person that doesn’t there are so many more that do like the writing.

The only way we find those who do like the writing is to keep going. Don’t give up.

How do you keep your inner critic at bay?

Success

S

How do we measure success?

Making money?

Publishing that book?

Getting that promotion?

All of these are measures of success but are they good ones? I believe that each  of us must decide what success looks like to us.

In the past year I’ve made some changes in my life. I did get a promotion at my day job and discovered another world that I am still learning to navigate. Then I returned to my writing roots and have lit a fire. Finding a balance between the two has been incredibly difficult especially given the measures for success I’ve decided upon.

Success means several things to me:

1.  Being published.

2.  Making a living as a writer.

3.  Making my life work regardless of the path I am on.

I am still working on the how but the plan is in place. Each days writing is one step closer to finding this success.

My definition of success may, and most likely will, change over time. Going with the flow has become my new motto though I struggle with it at times. It has helped as I work toward my goals to achieve my success.

Another thing that has helped is a process called visualization. This is where you see yourself going through the steps toward your ultimate goal. Successful people use it including athletes, entertainers and anyone who wants to reach for something higher.

Believing in myself is just the first step.

How do you define success? Have you envisioned your success?

Rather Be….

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At this moment, I would rather be doing anything but writing.

I would rather be in bed, sleeping next to my husband.

I would rather be playing computer games

Or

Reading, knitting, talking on the phone. Anything but writing.

However, since I am not one to back down from a challenge, here I sit. Writing.

It isn’t that I hate the words, though they’ve come slowly today. Its that I’ve put in my quota for the day. I should be done but I’m not. Yes, I have a quota of words each day.

My muse is a reluctant ally tonight. Kicking and screaming, I’ve dragged her from the bowl of triple peanut butter ice cream she insisted on after dinner, to write. Sometimes, you just have to show the muse who exactly is in charge.

So, though I would rather be doing anything but writing, I am sitting here keeping the promise I made to myself. Thats what this challenge is. My promise to myself that I would write a post for each letter of the alphabet. And that is what I am going to do.

No matter how tired and full the muse is.

How do you write when your muse is reluctant?

Quelling Your Fears

Q

Yesterday I met up with another NaNoWriMo writer to discuss building a community of writers. We have this vision of the craziness of NaNoWriMo being carried throughout the year. We are hoping to create some meet ups to help with education, community and improving our work.

One of the ways we spoke about is critique. My suggestion of reading work out loud for critique created a visceral reaction during my meeting. It reminded me that fear is the thing that keeps us stuck.

Critique is one of those things that I have both craved and feared the entire time I’ve been writing. As with many writers, I crave that affirmation that feedback often gives. Unfortunately, along with the good feelings comes the bad when critique is given.

Too often we focus on the problems in our writing as with our lives, giving into the fears: “I can’t do that,” “I’m not good enough,” or “I should just quit.” I know I’ve said these things to myself many times.

And I’m not the only one.

I’m going to give you the secret I have discovered and, mostly, believe whenever I am confronted with my own fears:

“The best way out is always through.” Robert Frost

This may seem a bit counterintuitive but I have found that whatever I was dealing with that caused my fear to spike was never as bad as I thought it was going to be. The term “just do it” from Nike comes to mind.

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t dissolve into my fears and let them paralyze me for a time. No, I generally have to take some time to work through my fears. As I’ve done this I’ve discovered I have fewer fears all together. I often surprise myself.

Reading my work out loud always cause me to have butterflies in my stomach and my inner critic to come out. I am nearly always glad when I am finished and I get some suggestions. Not that all of them are good nor are they all bad, I still have the choice to follow. I am just given more to think about. My work is always better for having done this.

How do you deal with your fears about your work, whether it is writing or something else?