What I’ve Learned by Writing and Reading

 

“Writing and learning and thinking are the same process.” (William Zinsser)

Some days I struggle with words. But this isn’t a post about writer’s block.

Instead it’s a post about learning.

I’ve realized that I go through cycles; words flow then words fizzle but they will eventually flow again. Meanwhile, I fill the void with ideas and possibilities. I keep my mind open to images. I jot down thoughts. I read . . . I read . . . and I read some more.

Since I can’t seem to move forward in my own creative words, I’ve been focusing on the words of others. I’m participating in Sandra’s Writing Workshop on Facebook, despite my own self-doubts. I swallowed my fear, and submitted a chapter of my book for feedback. I haven’t gotten any yet. Does that mean it’s terrible or people simply don’t have the time?

I downloaded other people’s works with caution, fearful of what I would find. What if their work was so spectacular it made me feel ashamed of my own? What if I couldn’t think of anything to say, either positive or negative? What if participating in this group revealed the imposter in me? The person who has taught writing in the past (although granted mostly research writing) and has everyone fooled that I have any ability with words.

But, as I settled into reading, I had a realization. I’ve learned a lot through this writing  journey that I’m on.  Some of my learning has come from ideas, some is personal to my life, and some has made me a stronger writer and/or editor.  Here are a few things I’ve learned, in no particular order:

  • The Value of the Beginning: How many time have you read something that didn’t draw you in immediately? I admit to being a stubborn reader, and struggling through pages or even chapters of a book that has a fascinating premise in the hopes that eventually I will wade my way through the weak beginning and find something to keep me reading.  But I don’t do that as often anymore. Even though you can find gems this way, I would rather be pulled in by a strong and glorious beginning then labor through endless exposition in the hopes that something wonderful will come along. Of course, this means that I often struggle with my own beginnings, but I think the struggle is worthwhile in the end.
  • The Need to Read Out Loud: I’ve always made this suggestion to my students. “Read your work out loud, it will help you find the weaknesses.” Of course, my students often look at me like I’m insane. “If you don’t want to read it yourself, then have someone read it to you.” That doesn’t change the look. At times I’ve even forced them to read to each other in class.  I read my own work out loud all the time. You can sometimes catch me mumbling in public venues as I try to find the flow of a passage that is particularly challenging. This method helps me discover when I’m being too formal with my words, or too cryptic. It’s not perfect, and I still need to make changes, but it helps me find my own voice as well as the voices of my characters. Trust me, before I post this, I will have read it out loud several times.
  • The Power of the Right Word: I am always mesmerized by writers whose vocabulary challenges me, but I’ve come to realize that an extensive vocabulary isn’t always the best choice. Finding the right word can sometimes mean finding the simplest word, or perhaps it means using a word with a twist and finding a new metaphor. It’s not easy, but the way we use our words–the choices we make–defines our style and our voice as writers.  Words can soar and words can flop. Words can propel us forward or make us stop and think. I envy the people who always seem to find the right word, but I also value my own struggle as I search for the words that sing.
  • Questions Matter: In my classes, whether I’m teaching about theater or writing, I encourage my students to ask questions. I’m currently teaching a course called, Studies in Drama, where I’ve focused the course work on works that challenged society with either political or social change.  My students are required to submit a discussion question for each reading to an on-line discussion group and then respond to at least two questions. What does this have to do with writing? Well, I find that I enjoy questions. If someone asks me a question, then I can find the flaws in my own words. If someone challenges me with a question, then I can find my own answers. I’m not always right, but by exploring the questions, I find new ways into material. As I respond to other people’s materials, I try to respond with questions because questions lead to new thoughts and new answers. Do you enjoy questions or do they frustrate you because you say to yourself, “The answer is right there”? If someone has to ask the question, then perhaps the answer isn’t so clear.

What are some of the things that you have learned on your writing journey? Add to the comments below to make this list grow.

 

 

The Value of a Quality Editor

As you know, yesterday I finished an exquisite book. From the beauty and simplicity of the language to the depth of the personal reflections and messages, Gift from the Sea makes my list of books that I will return to when I am in search of inspiration as a writer and a person.

Today I finished a book that affected me in a completely different way–in the way you can learn from the mistakes of others.  The story was decent in this self-published book, but I found myself wishing that the author had gone through a publishing process, or at the very least hired an editor to guide him through his final draft before he published it.  I am not against self-publishing, by any means, but if I ever finally do it (I know I’ve talked about it as a possibility) I will be sure to look for guidance before I publish. I think that anyone who considers it should make every effort to create a process similar to a regular publishing house in order to ensure the product is the best quality they can produce.

What, you ask, was wrong with The Thirteenth Unicorn by W. D. Newman? Setting aside the typos and spelling errors (which I sometimes have even found in traditionally published works) I found myself editing (in my head) for active verbs as I went, and wishing that  Newman had posted a sign over his head emblazoned with the words:

As I made my dizzying way through the story, I yearned for the author to make a choice of viewpoint, as he bounced from the head of one character to another within a few sentences or words. I don’t mind when viewpoint changes from chapter to chapter or even scene to scene, but this was ridiculous.

Why did I keep reading? For two reasons:

  1.  I thought the story had potential. It was interesting, and would have been even stronger if he had gotten to the story faster, and built up some feeling for the characters rather than spending the first 7 1/2 chapters plus a prologue on minute details that only add a tidbit to the adventure. Once he got to the meat of the story, the flaws became less evident.
  2. I found myself fascinated by reading this book with the eyes of an editor. I think it can only help me improve myself as a writer, if I learn how to see areas that slow a story down or frustrate the reader.

Now I know for sure that if I ever do decide to go the self-publishing route, I am going to make every effort to have some trusted soul edit my work. I know it is difficult to let go of words you have labored on, and phrases you love, but sometimes a fresh outlook can only help improve the story.

A few weeks ago, Victoria over at VictoriaWrites wrote a post called “Can you write if you don’t read?” where she discusses some author who “was quoted as saying she never read as she was worried she’d end up copying other writers.” My response to Vicky’s post was:

Honestly, I wouldn’t want to read anything written by the writer who claims not to read. While some have an innate talent for words, it wasn’t built in a void. Writers learn from other writers. The truly talented develop a style because of other writer’s: seeing what works, what doesn’t; hearing the rhythm of language used by masters; feeling the thrill of a well-turned phrase or a rich inventive metaphor. Writers who don’t read, don’t grow.

I would now add to that response, in that it is also important to learn from less skilled writers. If we can begin to recognize the flaws in some works, we can learn to correct our own.  If we learn to edit other people’s works, we can learn to value the importance of an editor/author relationship and grow in all aspects of the craft.

Do you think it is important for self-published authors to find editors?

Fiction or Non-Fiction? Finding My Voice

“I am a writer.”

I forced  encouraged myself to tell someone that for the first time yesterday,  when I went in for an eye appointment with a new doctor and they were getting my background information.

“I am a writer.”

“You’re a writer? ”

“”Well, I’m trying to be a writer?” (my inevitable self-deprecation). ” That’s the first time I’ve claimed it out loud.”

“And that’s good, isn’t it?”

I thought it was good except for my  backtracking, diminishing my belief in myself as a writer. Why is it so hard to say and believe? After all, a writer writes. I write, every day. So, I’ve only been paid for a couple of articles and that was long ago. That doesn’t mean I am not a writer.

A writer is, after all, someone who writes. Of course, I want to be a writer who writes as my profession. I would like to make a little money for my words.

First, of course,  I have to produce good work.

Part of the reason that I am (sort of) taking a break from blogging (which really means giving myself permission to blog when I feel like it, rather than feeling an imagined pressure to post every day) is so that I can focus on other writing, on Works in Progress. Up until now, I’ve had a lot of Works but not a lot of Progress.

If I want to be a writer, I have to write and complete something. Yes, I technically have two books under wraps (a dissertation and a fiction novel for middle grader readers) but they remain objects of times past,  hidden in the depths of my overstuffed bookshelves where they will probably remain, unread by any new eyes.

It is time for me to move on and practice the art of writing. If I want to be an author, then I must treat author as a verb. I must author books.

So far I have written between 5000-6000 words on both of my current full-length fiction projects.  A lot of it has been character exploration, or the wanderings of my mind as I try to figure out the actual stories I am trying to tell. Some of it may make it into the books, but some may just live on as an exploration in time, place, history, character and background–all the things I need to know to make these character’s come to life for my readers. If I ever finish them enough  to have readers.

Over the past week or so, I have discovered that I can focus more on these projects by leaving my home office for part of the day. When at home, I’m more tempted to distract myself with computer games, or books, or a little tv. When in a public place, like a coffee shop, even if I have my computer I am less susceptible to the easy access available on my screen. I may check e-mail, but I focus on my goal. I have also discovered the joy of going for walks and then exploring character or story in handwritten pages on a yellow pad, which I then transfer to my computer (with edits) when I return home.

Today, however, my journey to an outside workplace  threw challenges in my writing path. First I stopped at the office supply story to buy index cards, since they helped me plot my last writing ventures. From there I headed to the coffee shop next door, only to find after purchasing my Chai Latte and a healthy snack that there was no place to sit and plot. Not a single spot.  I didn’t want to return home, so I decided to be naughty and bring my purchases to one of my other writing haunts, a nearby Barnes & Noble. I figure I spend enough money there that bringing outside food and drink was acceptable once in a while.

While driving in search of these various possible writing locations, I listened to NPR. I only caught snippets of talk shows but they were each interviews with authors. The first was with Ruth Richardson,  an expert on Charles Dickens who wrote Dickens and the Workhouse: Oliver Twist and the London Poor. While I am not an avid Dickens fan, I love hearing authors discuss their work, and I am really fascinated by history and non-fiction in general.

Should I be writing non-fiction? The question popped into my head.

The second interview was with David Rees, the author of  How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers,  Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants.

I kid you not. That is the actual title.

Now, I know I am not the most comical writer in the world, so perhaps I’m not the best person to write the follow-up book of HOW TO ERASE MARKS COMPLETELY AND FULLY  AFTER USING THE PERFECTLY SHARPENED ARTISINAL PENCIL. But, the reality that a book like that exists speaks loud and clear to a fact that you can write non-fiction about anything.

Again the question, should I be focusing on non-fiction?

I can write non-fiction. I’ve been doing it almost daily in this blog. I have done it in hundreds of pages of academic speak. I have plenty of non-fiction books in my idea pile.  You know, the ideas that are works without a lot of progress.

In a publishing market where the big sellers seem to be Young Adult or non-fiction, why am I pounding away at two books that I can’t quite even classify yet? (They both lie somewhere in the realm of fantasy meets contemporary literary fiction, social satire).

In many ways I believe that part of my struggle with saying “I am a writer” relates to a general struggle I have had surrounding my life.

I cannot label myself in a single word.

Well, I can describe myself in two words: Renaissance Woman.

Perhaps I should be writing about that?

Thoughts “On Writing”

“I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible. It’s best that I be as clear about this as I can–I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow (and to transcribe them, of course).” (Stephen King, On Writing)

Stephen King signature.

Stephen King signature. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have spent the past few days reading Stephen King’s On Writing at the recommendation of my instructor/guide through this book journey that I have begun. On Writing  has been on my list, but I never really pursued it because I don’t always love King’s writing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read several of his books and been drawn in and terrified, but he also has written a few that I’ve started and just cannot finish (and  for a while I was the person who had to finish every book I ever started).  However, based on my instructor’s recommendation, I plunged into this book which is combination memoir and writing guide only to discover a kindred spirit in terms of King’s approach to writing.

He has opened the door to possibilities for me.

When I signed up for this writing course I was hesitant, because I knew from the outset that there would be a heavy emphasis on plotting and outlining. Not that I am against those things, exactly, but I struggle with working on any piece of writing based off of an outline. Much of my best writing comes when I sit at the keyboard and just write, letting the characters or the subject guide me. I’m not saying that my writing is perfect, and this method often requires multiple edits, but for me the initial burst of language gets me further than careful plotting and planning. Sometimes, when I plot and plan, I find myself stuck trying to get from point A to point B to point Z in an organic way.  Please understand that I am not criticizing writers who approach material this way, because every writer needs to find the method that works best for him/her, but I struggle sometimes maybe because I am not completely sure where my story is heading.

After reading King, I feel much better about allowing my characters to tell me the story as they live it, rather than forcing the story into some sort of manufactured shape.How this will play out in the coming months while I work my way through this course is yet to be seen, but I feel like I have been given permission to follow my own instincts as an artist, and that is a gift.

As a theatre director, I work very organically, by coming up with a general concept for a production (and having an end goal in mind) but allowing and trusting my actors and designers to find the natural way to the end point. In many ways, it seems, my approach to writing and to theatre reflect on each other.  I can only create the way instinct tells me to create.

Opening scene from the production of Caryl Churchill's Cloud 9 directed by me at Castleton State College

I feel like I’ve been given permission to . . .

  • close the door and write a “shitty first draft” (I know that is not from King. King advocates that the first draft be for the writer, and the second draft be for the reader).
  • allow the story to tell itself
  • provide only enough description to spark the reader’s imagination
  • write with honesty, even characters who scare me because they are so different from me
  • write the story first, and then figure out its meaning
  • write the story I want to and need to write, and not worry about whether or not it will ever be published.
  • and to relish the journey of writing magic

“Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.
Drink and be filled up.”  (Stephen King, On Writing)

What words do you need to read/hear to inspire you to just write? What is your approach to writing? 

No to NaNoWriMo but Yes to Writing More

As you know, this is National Novel Writing Month fondly called NaNoWriMo, and many people have begun the journey to writing a 50,000 world novel in a month.

Kudos to them!

As the beginning of November approached, I had a debate with myself about joining. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Should I? Shouldn’t I?

I recognize the advantages of joining NaNoWriMo: the community, the inspiration, the support group, etc. But, when I really thought about it, I felt an overwhelming sense of pressure at the thought of joining. Why? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • I know I can write a novel. I’ve done it. Just because that novel has yet to be published doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
  • I know I have other books inside me, but trying to force them out has made me depressed and frustrated. I can’t force myself to create, I create when I have something to say.
  • When I find a story, I write quickly. Thousands of words pour out of me in a short time period, so the time limit of a month has little meaning anyway. If I have a story to tell, I will tell it.
  • Writing quickly does not necessarily mean writing well. I know, the concept behind this is to just get a draft done, and then you can enter the editing process, but every writer has  a different process so I’m not sure that would completely work for me. (I often alternate between writing and editing, reviewing past work before I continue forward).
  • I am already putting too much pressure on myself to accomplish, and I’m struggling a lot with my own pressure. NaNoWriMo seems like it will just add to the mix.

For those of you who have joined this challenge, I think it is wonderful. I look forward to reading your stories and learning about your adventures throughout the month.

I just needed to make a different choice. For a while I thought perhaps I was just making another excuse, another reason to say “I want to be a writer,” rather than “I am a writer.”

Then I looked at what I have written since Nov 1 (even with a power outage and other issues)  and I realized, I am writing. I wrote:

I have written hundreds, if not thousands of words a day. So, while I may not (or maybe I will) have a novel to show for it at the end of November, I will still be able to say “I am a writer.”

That has to be enough.

Good luck to all you NaNoWriMo writers! And good luck to the rest of us as well.

Deciding to Get the Words Out There

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

Writers write.

I know, that’s not news, but it is true. Writer’s write.

Why do writer’s write? The numerous answers to that question would make this post far too long and uninteresting. Some say they write for themselves. Others say they write because they have to. Some say they write to learn. Others say they write to heal.

I suggest writer’s write in the hopes that the words they write will be read.

Now, I recognize that sometimes the words we put down on a page are too personal to be shared. But I am the first to admit that I picture my great-great-great grandchild picking up the fragile pages of my journals in order to learn more about his/her family, in order to learn about my life. Do I want those journals published now? No way. But I still write them (although I haven’t for a long time) in the hopes that someday someone will read them.

I would that writer’s of stories, in particular, write words that beg to be read. So, if you’ve written something and labored over it, editing, revising, crafting and so on, the last thing you want is for it to sit on your shelves gathering dust and loneliness.

My manuscript for Giving Up the Ghosts has done just that.

But, in typical Lisa fashion, the fact that I have not found a home for that book has led somewhat to my inability to focus on writing another. I’ve started several, but deep inside my overly critical brain I hear this voice:

“Why bother loser? Nobody would publish your last one. Don’t waste your time!”

Sometimes I wish that little voice would just be quiet!

Yesterday, while I was talking to my partner in creative crime, Jackie she asked, “Why don’t you just publish it to kindle?”

Why don’t I? I could give you all the lame reasons and arguments I’ve said before about not self-publishing–but really they all boil down to one thing.

FEAR!

But, everyone I’ve shared this book with loves it. I worked hard. I know it is good. Do I expect to get rich off of it? No. But, I am even poorer if I don’t allow the book out in the world for people to read. Even if I only have a few readers, at least it would be read.

So, when I got back last night, I looked up how to publish it to Kindle, and it is super easy. I also discovered what looks like a super easy to publish physical (paper back) copies as well, that can be printed on demand.

So folks, I’m going to set my words free. Of course, some day I would love to get a publishing contract and sell books the traditional way–but, as in most of my life, the traditional way doesn’t always seem to work for me. So now I’m going to do it a less traditional way.

Why? Because writers write and stories want to be read.

Stay tuned for more specifics and wish me luck.

The Spark of Creativity

Yesterday Sparks In Shadow asked some difficult question in response to my questions about my blog. She said:

As to the topics I find most interesting to read about here — for me it would be anything to do with the writing or artistic process, because I like hearing how other artists tackle the issues I’m also dealing with. (I’ve really got to get back to your previous post about the play writing class/workshop. I need to get back to it when I can immerse myself without distraction.) How do we tend to shape our stories or art? How much do we consider the way our art is experienced by others? Is our goal to make things only with ourselves in mind, or do we want to grow into wider acceptance by incorporating aspects of feedback and certain kinds of structure? How does that feel? How do we handle re-writes or other changes? How much and how do we want to be different, in terms of pushing the limits or heading into abstraction, or do we want to excel at more accepted norms? What does that even mean?”

Ah that Sparks, she likes to ask the difficult questions. 😉

This morning as I lay in bed trying to ignore the insistent whining of Lizzy that I get up and feed her, I thought about the mystery of creativity. 

Two nights ago I crawled into bed to read a little after declaring my intent to write because I want to. I’m reading a book called Literary Women:The Great Writers by Ellen Moers. This somewhat dated book takes a feminist look at the women writers who had influence on writing today, although they may not have had as much recognition as the men. I say it is dated because it was written in 1976 and I think that more women have made impact on the writing world since that time, and received more recognition for that impact. But, I bought this book at a library sale, hoping to find more ideas about women who have been swallowed up into history as written by men.

I’ve been finding lots of interesting things. But as I read two nights ago something sparked in me. A simple phrase formed itself in my mind, “She was not allowed words.” The phrase kept repeating itself in my head, and then grew in urgency. A voice called to me, “You must write this down now or you will regret it!” and the phrase repeated itself again. I jumped out of bed, having moved my dream journal a few days ago when I used it for something else and forgotten to return it, and scrambled around for something to write on. I found two  large index cards and then searched for a pen.

Then I wrote. “She was not allowed words. No woman was.” And a story started pouring out, or at least the beginnings of one. I’m not ready to share more of it yet, but maybe one of these days.

I wrote, filling three sides of the index cards. Then I put them aside until yesterday morning.

Yesterday I woke up thinking about those cards and that story. I’ve heard that story before, I thought to myself. Where have I heard that story? Then I remembered. Several years back I took an advanced course in writing books for young people through The Institute of Children’s Literature. The end result of that course was Giving up the Ghosts the book that still hasn’t found a home. In the beginning of the course, I had to write several book proposals so that my instructor could help me choose the best one to work on. Sadly, I seem to have deleted some of that work accidentally, but I still have hard copies of most of it. At first I proposed ideas for two fiction books and two non-fiction (both having something to do with the arts and theater, one I think about perfectionism). My instructor, after reading my lengthy letter describing my life, nixed the non-fiction saying that it sounded like I needed a break from that stress and pressure. She had me write proposals for four fantasy fiction books that I might be interested in writing. One of them was called Judith of Lexiconia, and told the story of a girl who had the power of words even though girls were not allowed to read them. She discovered that her power extended to being able to write about something, and have that thing come true. [No offense, but I would like to remind you about copyright for a moment. ;)]

My story started years ago, and now it wants to be told. I’m not sure yet if it will take the same form, or where it is going, but somehow the words spoke through me urging me to listen.

Where do those ideas come from? What sparked that moment and made me get up and actually follow that urge? I’ve had plenty of ideas pop into my head during the night, but often (much to my own regret) I am simply too tired or too annoyed to actually write them down. But this time the call could not be ignored.

I remember reading long ago in The Artist’s Way the idea that creative energy surrounds us, with all the ideas floating around waiting to be plucked from the energetic mix. I’m obviously paraphrasing from a long ago memory here; I would quote the book directly, but I don’t know where my copy is at the moment. 😦 I believe that we are all connected by that creative energy and that some people have more easy access than others.

I don’t always have access, but once in a while the spark ignites and takes me on a journey that is both terrifying and joyful. This time, however, I think I am truly excited for this journey and ready for it, because of the warm support system I have found in the blogging world.

Where does the spark come from? What are some of your answers to Sparks In Shadows questions?


Goal Setting and Re-focusing

“Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.” (William Zinserr)

Sometimes I feel like I can't see the forest for the trees.

Now that I have freed myself of the obligatory blogging I’ve been doing, I feel the need to reflect on and establish some goals for myself in terms of writing and blogging. I started this blog with a purpose that included (according to what I wrote on my About page)

” . . .  a place for me to explore life and practice writing. It is a motivator for myself to sit down and write as often as possible. It is also a place to explore ideas, issues, and questions. Sometimes it is a place to vent. Sometimes it is a place to cry. Sometimes it is a place to laugh. To me, it is a sacred place, so please treat it with respect.”

I think that still holds true, but now the blog has become so much more. It has become a place of community and support, where I am meeting wonderful people who boldly express their dreams and trust that this environment is a safe one where dreams will not be mocked. It is a place where I have discovered my inner artist, my hidden poet, my passionate advocate, and my angry rebel.  It is a place where I have learned to recognize my strengths as a teacher, a mentor, a mother, an artist, and a friend. It is a place where I have discovered the parts of myself that need strengthening or changing; the darker parts that I do not love but I need to accept. It is a place where my dreams have begun to shift and reform so that I see more possibilities instead of only obstacles.

So now the question becomes, what do I want next? Where do I want this blog to go?

I’m not sure yet, but I do have a few goals:

  • I want to continue writing daily, but not just blog posts. I want to get back to writing stories or articles and working toward publication.
  • I would like to find a way for this circle of wonderful people to support each other in their publishing goals, a way that somehow bypasses the bureaucracy of traditional publishing and allows us to nurture each other toward success.
  • I want to continue to write about things like arts advocacy, arts in education, challenging social injustice, and creating a more peaceful world.
  • I want to continue to nurture the relationships I have started as well as develop new ones.
  • I want to find the balance between writing, reading, responding and growing as a writer
  • I want to do research on and perhaps start writing two projects that have called to me for a long time. One that reflects on women’s voices through some form of historical fiction or drama, as I discuss here. And one that shares stories of people who have fought through no guarantees to thrive and grow and create their dreams–a story which I’ve begun to explore in my other blog, Living Life Without Tenure

But, despite that list, I’m still struggling with focus. So I have some questions for you, my readers. I feel a little lost in confusion and would appreciate some help clarifying my focus.

Which posts or topics do you find the most interesting to read about on my site?

What do you think Woman Wielding Words is really about?

Time to Celebrate!

No, I’m not celebrating the successful opening of my show. I did that last night with a Long Island Iced Tea (a rare and special treat).

Today I am celebrating my one year Blogiversary! Yes, folks, exactly one year ago today I wrote my very first blog post.

This blog started for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important one was that my dear friend Sue said, “I dare you to start a blog!” I couldn’t pass up a dare. I think Sue still follows me, but she is a very busy woman so I haven’t heard from her for a while. Sue, are you out there? Give me a shout out so I can recognize you! Sue? Sue! Bueller!

Seriously though, this blog was also an attempt to have a virtual writing group with Sue and Sharon, the wonderful women who I wrote with, cried with, shared my book baby with, and did not want to leave behind when we were forced by the injustices of the academic world to uproot our lives and move on. I haven’t completely explained that situation on this blog, as it still hits a nerve, but I have another much neglected blog where I begin to explore the circumstances that brought me to my current life, if anyone is interested. I actually even have a third even more neglected blog, which was supposed to be a place where I propose writing prompts and hoped people would contribute in response. I’m thinking of somehow merging these three blogs together. Does anyone know if that is even possible, and if so how do I do it?

Anyway, I digress. This blogging journey has been interesting, frustrating, exhilarating, intimidating . . . and any other “ings” you can think of. It started out slowly, with weak posts and maybe between 20-30 hits on random days. Sometimes I would post daily, some months I could hardly face the screen. Sometimes I asked myself, “why bother, nobody cares what you have to say”. I’d look at my somewhat abysmal stats and feel lonely and hopeless that this blog would ever become anything worthwhile. It became frustrating because, I admit, part of my hope for this blog was that somehow I could tun it into something profitable. Either I hoped to be discovered and offered the next book contract  a la Julie and Julia, or discovered and offered freelance work from numerous sources. Of course, with a truly practical useless plan like that, I couldn’t help but succeed, right? 😉

I realize that it doesn’t really work that way. I need to put myself out there and market myself if that is what I want to do.  But somewhere along the way that desire to make this somehow a financial boost had morphed into something else. (Don’t get me wrong, I would still love to be paid to write, but the blog has taken on a different meaning.) I began to realize that I needed Women Wielding Words because it was time for me to  stop talking about wanting to be a writer and actually become a writer.

With that shift, I made the commitment to write daily. With that choice, I joined a community of writers who support and respect each other. I’ve begun to recognize my own skills as a writer, and to reflect on why I write. I’ve value the interaction with other people who seem to be passionate about sharing words, images and stories for the simple joy of having those things to share. The blogosphere is now I community I truly cherish.

And, I admit, I’ve enjoyed watching my numbers grow. Two days ago I hit 100 views in one day for the very first time. Exactly 100 views. Yesterday that even went up a little. Not that the numbers matter, but there is a thrill realizing that my words do not simply go out into an empty void. I am completely content knowing that I have a few readers who come back regularly.

So, as part of my celebration of completing one full year of blogging, I would like to thank all the new friends I have made, and recognize some of my favorite bloggers in the hopes of continuing to make our community grow. I’m going to link you to the most recent posts of my favorites (even though I haven’t read them all yet). I’m sure your will find wonderful things as each person offers food for thought in a variety of ways. I’m listing Blogs, alphabetically. Enjoy!

A. Hab’s View of the Word

Aligaeta’s Blog

Broadside

Gifts of the Journey

Have Coffee . . .Will Write

The Idiot Speaketh

The Incredible Lightness of Seeing

jessi hagood photography

Little Miss Everything

The odd ramblings of a mind that does not quite fit

Piglet in Portugal

The Ramblings

Random Thoughts from Midlife

reinventing the event horizon

That’s Ahhsome!

A Thursday’s Child

Whew! That should keep you busy for a while. Sorry if I missed anyone. I’ll catch you in another post sometime, I promise.

Here’s to another year of growth, exploration, sharing, and writing! Happy blogging everyone!

Show Don’t Tell, From Page to Stage Version

Each of my young students has a magic invisible box.  I gave it to them a couple of classes ago, after they did excellent jobs at whatever the activity of the day was.

These boxes can grow or shrink to hold anything imaginable in them. They come when called, or can be stored in a pocket. When they are opened, each student can pull out their dreams or their nightmares, things to make us laugh or things to make us squirm in disgust. There are no rules except that they are supposed to show the rest of the group what is in the box so that the group can guess.

One student made her box grow significantly and then dove in to bring out whatever was inside. She made a magnificent display of this action. But then, as she climbed out, she told us “I’m all wet. It’s a squid.”

I didn’t correct her at that point because of her enacting the hunt in the box.

Two students later, a younger student opens the box, pulls something out and promptly says “It’s an octopus.”

“That’s cool,” I said realizing I should have corrected the other student, “But you need to show us, not tell us what is in the box. How can you show us an octopus?”

She turns her hand toward her face and says, “Aaauuuggh! It’s got me!” (Which, I might add is a typical response for this girl. She loves screaming and acting horrified).

“Okay,” I say, still wanting more showing, and less telling. “Everyone help her get the octopus legs off of her.” The students rush to her aid, pulling legs off one at a time. By now there must be multiple octopuses, because I count many more than eight legs. But, at least my point was made, as revealed by the students who followed showing me a dog and a microphone without a single word.

Show, don’t tell.” The axiom every writer knows and perhaps struggles with took on new meaning today, as it came to life beyond the page.

I’ve always known that my training in theater and improvisation has influenced me as a writer. It makes me more confident writing in first person and writing dialogue. I sometimes struggle more when writing in third person because of the narrative focus of that form, rather than the character focus.  This is a reality that I have come to accept about my writing, and I am working to deal with it.

But, as I began to settle down for the evening, the phrase “Show don’t tell!” flashed into my head along with this vision from my class this morning. I am trying to get my students to enact the living version of show don’t tell. Wow! Is this something that I can offer other writers?

A few years ago I wanted to offer an Extended Studies course that explored this concept; using improve and drama in the classroom techniques to motivate writing of all sorts, not just plays. I thought it would be a really interesting way to explore character and relationships or develop problems that then could be placed in a story. I’ve used improvisation and reenactments in lesson plans for young people to introduce a variety of topics.  My favorite has been creating a mysterious island retreat which they get to explore and uncover clues. They find books in the library of a creepy old house and each have time to read some of them. (All enacted in their imagination)  I then ask the students to write a page from the book and then share that writing. The results are always fascinating!

I never did get a chance to offer that class, but I think the time to explore that option has come again. Playwrights often use improvisational workshops to develop their plays, so why not fiction writers of all sorts? Or people who write poetry? Or memoir?

While writing is an individual act, it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. I am learning that through the blogging community. Now, I think, the time has come to make my two passions come together in a new and interesting way.

Anyone care to join me?

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