Friday, March 29, 2013

A Final Note to my Writer's Wellspring Friends

My dear friends,

I want to thank you for walking with me through the various stages of our writing lives together these past couple of years. When I wrote my first blog post for the Writer’s Wellspring in March 2011 I had no idea how many people would visit and connect with me as a result.

While I had hoped I would be posting more often here this year. That simply has not been the case. But on the bright side, I have been given the opportunity to spend my mornings working as an aid to elementary-age children who need a little extra help with reading and writing. I’m also studying for my Chiropractic Assistant license and have been hired part time at a local clinic. On top of that, it is my hope to return to Uganda at some point again this year.

Needless to say, my writing time has become very limited. As I am unsure of how often I’d be able to post, I’ve made the difficult decision to put the Writer’s Wellspring on an indefinite hiatus. I will, however, leave the blog up for those who still wish to look back on previous posting.

For those interested in keeping tabs on what’s happening in my life writing-wise or otherwise, you can connect with me via Twitter or Facebook.

Thank you again for your support the past two years. This has been an incredible learning experience for me, and I look forward to whatever new lessons are in store for me in the days ahead.

Until we meet again, I wish you all the best in your writing and in your personal lives. God bless!


Monday, March 11, 2013

A Day to Pay Homage to the Makers of our Coffee

A little love (and a lot of extra chocolate) go a long way in making any day better.
©2013 JELindsay

This past week I was hit with (what I’d like to think is) a marvelous idea. Random idea generation isn’t all that uncommon for me. I ask myself “What If?” all the time. But this time my “What If” is a little bit different. And it was spurred on by a cup of coffee.

As writers, one of the things we tend to talk about a lot is coffee. 

We need it to function, to awaken our muse. We drink it in the morning. We drink it in the afternoon. We drink it far too late at night and then wonder why we can’t sleep. (Of course we blame a new astounding idea for that!)

But there is one thing we don’t tweet about all that often. We don’t tweet about the people who go the extra mile when they brew our precious elixir of life. Our baristas.

Now it’s possible you stand in as your own barista and keep that coffee pot full yourself, but I’m a well-known face at more than one place. My favorite haunt is Rogue Roasters in Grants Pass. It’s a small family-owned shop that roasts its own beans right in the store and showcases a new local artist on the first Friday of each month.

It’s here that the baristas know me well enough they’ll come across the room to give me a bear hug when I first walk in. It’s here that I’m teased about my predictability in what I order every Tuesday afternoon. And it’s here that a special drink was invented for me on a day I couldn’t figure out what I wanted because I was far too frazzled by the challenges life presented me with that particular day.

My baristas make me smile. They make me laugh. And they inspire me each time I see them. As often as I thank them, I feel like there’s something more I can do to express my appreciation for the work they do. 

So today I’d like to propose a new holiday: Barista Appreciation Day.

On Friday, April 5th, I intend to make an extra effort to thank those who get up extremely early or stay up extremely late to make sure I’m alert throughout my day. I’d like to invite my fellow coffee connoisseurs to do the same. Whether it be a card, a flower, or maybe a little extra tip, do something to honor, appreciate, and encourage those who remain cheerful in what can be a very demanding and sometimes thankless job.

It’s because of people like baristas that our lives are a little better each day, and for that I am incredibly thankful.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

A New Way to Track Your Growth as a Writer

It doesn't matter if you wrote today or not. You are a writer.
It's time to start living like one.
 ©2013 JELindsay

You just glanced at your calendar and realized once again that your resolution to write 2,000 words a day has turned into praying you can reach 2,000 words this month. Who knew life could be so inconsiderate of your writing time?

Or perhaps, like me, you get so fixated on reaching a certain number that the words stop coming. The daily quota that was intended to encourage you to reach a goal has now become a 20-pound stone in the stomach instead.

Numbers, letters, and I have never mixed well (just ask my old algebra teacher), so this year I decided on a different approach to track my progress. I call it, “The Writer’s File.”

At the end of each day, I open up the Top Secret Document on my laptop. I type in the date and add an entry that looks similar to this:

March 2, 2013 — Today, I am a writer. I developed character sketches for two of my secondary characters who will ultimately play larger roles in my protagonist’s life, and discovered what they have to do with each other. I also posted a review of Jim’s newest book. Today, I fulfilled my purpose as a writer. Tomorrow I will do the same.

No matter how I spent my day (even the days I chose not to write), each entry begins and ends with the exact same words, and each entry is limited to 3 or 4 sentences. This serves three purposes:

1) The first sentence affirms that I am a writer now, not that I will be a writer someday. It encourages me to keep at it even when I don’t want to.

2) The short entries give me a concise record (sans emotions) of daily accomplishments and ideas. This gives me something more tangible to look back at on days when I’m stuck or I feel like a failure.

3) The last sentence puts my mind to rest when it’s time to sleep. It’s a reminder that, as hard as I try, there will always be something left undone. I did my best today and tomorrow (Lord willing) I’ll have the opportunity to do so again.

So if the words aren’t adding up for you this year, it’s not too late to try a new approach. However you choose to track your progress just remember one thing: You are a writer. Get out there and fulfill your purpose!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

James Scott Bell's latest novel keeps you hanging on and begging for more!

When Chuck Samson left for Afghanistan he was a man in love. He returned home broken to a marriage that would never be reconciled, a mother who no longer recognizes him, and to a brother who depends on him as much now as he did when they were children. Then came the morning he collided with “the Mad Russian,” making his already difficult life impossible.

Now on the run and attempting to clear his name in a murder investigation, Chuck must try to put together his jumbled memories from a war he was never supposed to return from and face the shadowy horrors that have haunted him every day since — all while protecting his autistic brother Stan whose greatest fear is that one day Chuck will leave him.

From the very first line of the very first paragraph, readers are set right in the middle of the chaos that is soon to become Chuck’s life. As with much of Jim’s work, Don’t Leave Me is set in the quick pace of the Los Angeles backdrop. The story twists and turns through trumped up charges, mysterious phone calls, abduction, gunfights, and a brief encounter with a hippie playwright — and the story does so without missing a beat as it speeds its way to the explosive conclusion.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Don’t Leave Me is the multiple viewpoints. Although the bulk of the story is presented through protagonist Chuck Sampson’s eyes, we are also given the opportunity to experience the world through Stan’s unique perspective, as well as gain the insights of a homicide detective, a school principal, and a couple of very unsavory drug lords.

True to his form, Bell creates a realistic and believable world, includes plenty of trans-generational pop culture references, and has just the right mix of humor to add a little spice to the tang of suspense. Even better, Don’t Leave Me is a story that I enjoyed reading just as much the second time.

Don’t Leave Me, is currently available in digital form for Kindle and Nook Readers and Apps. As of this writing, a print edition had not been announced. But if it is, I’ll be one of the first in line to add it to my real-life bookshelf.

Note: I had the privilege of reading an earlier version of the book last summer while Jim was still working through the final edits, so it was especially fun for me going from reading a draft with lots of notes and questions in the margin to reading the fully finished novel complete with revisions that addressed those very concerns. As a newer writer, it was encouraging for me to see that a more experienced writer still goes through the same processes and struggles as I do. Seeing the polished work only encouraged me to keep moving forward with my own fiction writing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How writers put personal feelings to work

As writers we have the option of using our daily,
often chaotic, emotional range to our advantage.
Image courtesy of ©2005 je1196.
How is your writing going this week? Is your current project still exciting, or is it causing you intense anguish? Is the work moving forward, or have found yourself stumped and at standstill?

How are you doing this week? Are you proudly declaring yourself a writer or do you secretly fear being outed as a "fraud" because you haven't had a moment to devote to the craft?

As writers, it's common to feel an entire range of emotions regarding our writing and ourselves — sometimes several times in a single hour! But that emotional roller coaster doesn't have to be a curse. In fact, it can be a blessing.

Human feelings are complex, but the emotions we experience are universal. That's what makes the characters we love so much so relatable.

Feeling the arm-hair-raising thrill of anticipation? I'm sure there's a chapter in your book where one or more of your characters feels the same way. Take that excitement and work it into a scene.

Are you being pulled down into the darkness by the invisible weight of fear? One or more of your characters should feel that often. Time to tap into that boiling stomach acid and pour it out onto the page.

Uncertainty? Concern? Happiness? Heartache? Whatever describes your current state of mind, put it to use. Don't think about how pretty the words sound, don't worry about form or grammar. Just get it out and set those words aside in a special file for later. That way you don't have to wrack your brain trying to convey feelings that may be contrary to your own later on.

Franz Kafka once said, "Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your soul according to the fashion. Rather follow your obsessions mercilessly." 

He may have been speaking about writing in general, but the same is true of conveying emotions. We were created to feel intently, so let your characters (and your readers) feel what they are intended to feel. After all, the best stories are the ones in which we as readers believe that whatever is at stake for the characters is going to affect our personal lives as well.

By the way, I honestly do are you doing this week? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Out with the Monday Panic and in with a week of Peace of Mind

Photo Courtesy of ©2009 O_m.
"The more we are prodded the lazier we get, and the less capable of the effort of will which should carry us to, and nearly carry us through, our tasks." — Charlotte Mason {Vol. 3, p. 39-40}

It's Monday, which means my mind is full of all the tasks I have to accomplish this week as well as a nagging reminder of all I failed to finish last week. In many ways, Mondays are the hardest to get started because it seems that there is just too much to do in too short of time.

In fact, "The List" was in the forefront of my mind all morning as I was trying to get through my early morning routine. As usual I found myself distracted and then chastising myself for my lack of work effort. I don't have a single person telling me what I have to do right now — except for me — and I've discovered the more I try to motivate myself the more frustrated I've become of late. 

Rather than being productive, every glance at the clock reminds me just how much time I've wasted in a pointless internal struggle.

This is a serious problem.

So it was a blessing to see Charlotte Mason's quote posted on my mother's Facebook page this morning. For those not familiar with this incredible woman, she was a champion for improving the education of British children in the late 19th through early 20th century. She is also a hero to many homeschoolers. 

Charlotte was also my mother's inspiration as she raised us. Much of my love of learning stems from what my mother learned through Charlotte's methods. In seeing the above quote, I was reminded of the most important lesson I learned at my mother's feet: 

Focus on one thing at a time. Give it your full attention and when the prescribed time is up move on to the next task. Do not worry about what came before and what comes after. Just focus on what you need to do in this particular moment.

As soon as I read Charlotte's quote it seemed as if a huge weight came off my shoulders. It's so easy to forget that I don't have to tackle an entire mountain in one go. The work is done a shovelful at a time. With each shovel emptied, I'm one step closer to finishing my work.

I don't know what your week looks like. Perhaps you're far better organized than I am and have a system in place that works wonderfully for you. But if your Monday is starting out like mine with a sense of overwhelming doom, take heart in knowing you aren't facing your battle alone.

Mom always made me work in 15 minute increments when I was younger. It taught me to focus and it allowed me to move onto something else (even if it wasn't completely finished) about the time my attention started to wane. I learned later on it was an attention building exercise that also improved memory retention. (Which would explain why I've gone from remembering everything to forgetting what I was trying to say only moments ago.)

I figure if it worked then, it would work now. So instead of allowing my inner slave driver to goad me and make me feel worthless and lazy because I can't do everything at once, I'm going to tackle today — and the rest of this week — one moment at a time.

Happy Monday to you all, my friends! May this week bring you a sense of joy and accomplishment as well!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Four Ways to Cut the Insanity out of Your Writing Life

Photo Courtesy of SXC. ©2006 Muresan113
Thanks to our technologically rich environment, it’s become increasingly easier to find information over the years, especially in terms of how to write well. No longer are we limited to books such as Strunk & White’s Elements of Style or magazines such as Writer’s Digest. Now we have libraries full of books claiming to teach the secrets of writing, blogs that offer daily tips and leads, and conferences that are bursting at the seams with all the latest How-To’s. You don’t even have to leave your office to attend the seminars anymore.

As a writer, it’s easy to get lost in all of that information and, as a result, become overwhelmed.

I, myself, have noticed I spend more of my writing time “studying” how to write than actually writing. Another large chunk of time is spent engaging in activities to “build my platform.”

In his introduction to Revising and Self-Editing, James Scott Bell shares a story of attempting to learn golf. He bought books, he listened to tapes, and nearly chucked his clubs into the dumpster. Then he met a well-respected teacher that showed him what he’d been missing all along. In putting all of his focus into technique, Jim had overlooked the feel for the game. The same, Jim writes, can be true of writers.

In focusing on doing everything “right” we forget the feel of writing. We lose sight of the joy of creating and miss what we set out to do: Write. And if we don’t enjoy our labor, why would anyone who comes up behind us and reads over our shoulder?

So how do we cut some of the insanity weve introduced into our writing lives? 

1. Trust our instincts. 

We’ve done the exercises, read the books, and sat through the seminars. We have the tools and the capability. It’s time to put them to use.

2. Be intentional. 

Our writing time needs to be about being creative and enjoying that process (and all the challenges that go along with it). If a question arises in how to handle a certain issue, make a note and move on. Use some free time later to brush up on the subject.

3. Take a Social Media break. 

We don’t have to read every article posted, nor do we need to update our feeds with witty comments, random questions, or inspirational photos every couple of hours. The world can and will survive without our constant digital input.

4. Re-read the book that first inspired you to be a writer.

By revisiting the story we can recapture some of those memories and feelings. They might not be exactly the same, but they could be enough to kick-start the enthusiasm and drive to get back to our own work in progress.

Your turn: What tips would you add to this list? Add them to the comment section below!