Writing Wednesday – STRESS!

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One of the worst types of writer’s block is caused by stress.

I like to roll out of bed and get straight to writing before any other distraction or activity comes up. I find that I work better and longer if I push everything else away until a manageable time. However, I find stress takes me completely out of my writing brain.

Where I can stop for breakfast, talk to friends or family, or even keep an appointment and get back to writing, when I’m stopped by a stressful event or activity I find it extremely difficult to do any work.

The good thing is that it takes a lot to get me to that level of stress; however, that’s not so Stressed-Brainfor many writers. Besides the littlest distractions causing problems for many writers, any stress weighing on a writer can keep them from being productive. One of the elements of stress is the inability to focus on anything else – it is the most distracting distraction a writer can face. Stress causes us to avoid things – things like writing!

If you’re experiencing something like this and can’t get on track with your writing, you need to ask yourself what is happening in the background of your life. It depends on each individual’s ability to handle stress, but it could be a small thing like a car problem or a large thing like a family problem. These things wreak havoc with our ability to be productive.

Again, my cure for this is to focus first on my writing and, second, on anything else. Cures for others might be similar. Block out the stress and focus on the writing – this could be a way of de-stressing. Creating a time to worry about problems is an age old recommendation. Years ago, someone told me “plan ten minutes before bedtime to worry.” I, personally, prefer before sleep and after waking to be the least stressful times. But it could still work – schedule your worry time like we all should schedule our writing time. Or, give yourself time to solve that problem, and realize if it’s something you can not solve and let it go.

stress2Let it go! If it is a stress we have no power over that is the only answer. It will pass. Focus on the writing, that you can control!

I like the quote “you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” That’s what we have to remember. We can choose to stress about problems that we can’t immediately solve, or we can choose to use our writing as a distraction from that stress.

If you’ve found anything that’s worked for you, please post it in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Next week – decision making and writing.

Friday Feature: Second Chance – Iuliana Foos

The second indulgence of our Friday Feature is Author Iuliana Foos’ personal story- Enjoy.

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iuliana

Thank you so much for hosting me today.

Born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, I had a childhood and upbringing different from what most people outside the country are accustomed to. Since an early age, I loved to read. Growing up in a communist country, where all information was closely supervised, I soon ran out of book to read.

I had to start of course with the literature mandatory in school, all Romanian authors, but soon, I started to borrow books from my parents’ collection. When most people hear ‘Black Market’ they think of illegal merchandise. For us, was also books. Coming across translated international authors, wasn’t easy, but not impossible either.

It was when I fell in love with ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexander Dumas, the first romance book I ever read. I was only in my early to teens, so extremely impressionable. Until today I still believe everyone should have at least one sword, even if only for decorative purposes.

When I attempted to read ‘War and Peace’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I failed miserably, falling asleep before finishing a whole page. I still didn’t get the courage to go back and try to read what at that time, for me, was the most boring book, so I never made it past the first chapter. It served as a good paperweight, and many times I used it to hide underneath another book, usually something frowned upon, like ‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell.

Around the same time, I managed to put my greedy hands on translated adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, whose themes are still successfully rehashed today.

One of my best finds has to be Greek Mythology Adaptations. Those gods are still inspiring.

By the time I was sixteen, I ran out of books to devour, and started to make my own stories. In school and at home, I was busy creating worlds and characters in my head. The visit at Dracula’s Castle uncovered infinite possibilities. Our ordinary world had become that day less important than my fantasy one. You can only imagine the new level of commotion in my mind. It was the first time I knew what I wanted to do in my life: be an author.

With my first job, life started to interfere with my dreams of writing. Living though the revolution that ended the communism in Romania, brought hope. Unfortunately, the bitter taste of disappointment with the new life, convinced me to leave behind everything I knew. Only months before my twenty-ninth birthday I emigrated to Canada, in a search of a better life.

As an immigrant, I had an allowance of two large travel bags, each no heavier than forty kilograms (or eighty pounds), so I packed my life in those and started new. I still have my fifteen large notebooks, handwritten in Romanian with my first stories. They took half of one of my allowed bags, my most precious possessions.

Year after year, I drifted further and further from my dreams. With bills to pay and life in general happening every minute of the day, I had to stay focused on my sales/marketing career.

When I thought life couldn’t surprise me anymore, it did. I divorced and years later, remarried. Following my husband meant yet another big move, this time to the United States of America, my new home. He encouraged me to revisit my dream, give writing a second chance, and so I did.

New challenges rose, but I was determined not to let anything stand between me and my dream this time. Not even writing in a language that is not my native couldn’t stop me. It took me seventeen years to even dare consider it. English is not even my second language, but my fourth. I was fluent in Spanish at nineteen, and in French at thirty. With time I lost the ability to speak any of the two, but I still can understand some.

If you ever look for a challenge to test your courage and drive, try it. Pick the best language you speak, other than your first, and write a novel. Let me know how that works out. No, really, let me know. If you think having an accent is bad, wait until you have to figure out grammar. Thank God, the accent doesn’t come through in writing.

Many people start new chapters at some point in their lives. For some, the change is major, for others not so much. For me, it was monumental. All three times.

So here I stand today, humbled and grateful for everything I went through. I carry the scars of my battles, and the sweet memories of my victories. Every adventure and step I took brought me where I am today.

I’ve learned to never lose hope. It took me over thirty years to live the dream I had as a teenager. It is never too late to reach that dream you have. Hold on to it. Foster it’s growth, and above all else, never give up. Second chances happen when you least expect it.

iulianna

 

 

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Iuliana – thank you for sharing your story. It’s always heartwarming to hear a story of challenges overcome!  Much luck on your book.

Writer Wednesday: Say Yes to the Edit….

When I’ve mentioned, within a writer’s group, an editor asked for changes the room heats with disagreement.

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“You’re not going to do it, are you?”

“Why would you sell yourself like that?”

“How dare they?!”

 

They dare because they are willing to publish my work; and while it does matter what they ask, I’m willing to listen and consider their ideas and advice. Usually, it is merely for clarifications or changes in simple sentence structure or the like.

My story, $1.00 Stories, was originally published by the Chicano Tribune’s Printers Row Journal. When that editor called me and hesitantly said, “we’re requesting changes;” I think he was quite surprised with my, “certainly.” The only requested was a few clarifications between the character’s name, Chris, and his nickname, C.C.

writerblog3It would be foolhardy and, even, unprofessional for me to say no without hearing them out.

While I suppose many writers believe the editor might ask for major changes in ideas or plot, I haven’t had any ask me for such things. As writers, we need to be open to consider what is said.

By request, I critiqued another writer’s work. I offered my point of view, and they became offended, tried to explain what they meant in this scene or that narration. My response, “there are all great ideas, but they are not in there.” The young person huffed off, I believe, without hearing me. Writers, we cannot be that sensitive.

We are not perfect human beings. We make errors. Some things are clear to us, but not to others. We can improve our work for the better by listening to others’ opinions. Of course, not all are worth considering. But an editor’s opinion, one who is willing to publish your work, is valuable.

 

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Friday Feature: Guest Author Margie Harding.

I wanted to start something new and feature other opinions, ideas, and authors on Fridays. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Margie Harding, author of The Paxton Series.

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Writing is a passion I’ve been developing for many years.  While I blog, have written devotionals for teen girls, a novel about my experience of attending college as a non-traditional student thirty years after high school graduation (receiving an AA degree in Elementary Education), and more; I have been provided yet another challenge that warms my heart.

For years I have said, “It takes a special person to be a special education teacher and it isn’t me!”  I have five children and sixteen grandchildren and still a special education interest alluded me!  It was never my heart’s desire.  God has a sense of humor, I think.  After all these years of avoiding special needs and disabilities, I have begun a new children’s book series on this particular subject!

We call the series, “The Paxton Series” with our setting in the Black Hills of South Dakota, paxtonusing the wild animals of the area as our characters.  (Paxton the Prairie Dog shows up in every book, if nothing more than in a cameo appearance!)  The books are written for the child with the disability or special need….and for the child that asks, “What is wrong with my friend?” —and there are amazing illustrations, thankfully from someone who is able to acclimate the disability to the particular animal!

When the series started, I had no intention of a “disability series,” yet it morphed into this before I’d realized the need for this kind of material or impact it could make.  I attended a church organized disability conference two years ago and for the first time heard the term “disability people group” and learned much about these special people for whom I was writing!  The statistics astounded me!  I knew this was to be my life’s mission.

I am delighted to say this series is being well received –and will continue indefinitely! (The list is up to 60+).  Doors have opened I never imagined as schools, colleges (using them to teach students to be special needs educators) and other groups have found the merit of sharing these books with children, parents, educators, medical staff and others!

Invitations to share about the books from a “special needs” perspective, have also arisen and I am delighted to be an advocate for these children (and adults) who are often neglected in a variety of areas, (even if unintentionally) including written stories they can relate to.

There is very little actual reading material for children who have special needs; and paxton2certainly not for those young ones introduced to special needs children, as integration into mainstream classrooms continue.  Their peers are often confused by what they see as “different” and perhaps even “wrong” when it can’t be defined by the “normal classroom rules.”  My books attempt to bridge that gap, and are a great starting place for teachers.  They are written to aid in understanding, inclusion, and acceptance of those behaviors that are different from the traditional “norm.”

There are ten books in the series currently.

Paxton’s World on Fire                                                          Introduction

An Early Arrival                                                                     Preemie

The Great Race                                                                       Asthma

Ears Like Gramps                                                                   Hearing

Lillianna Moves to the Country                                              Down’s Syndrome

Micah Mink Goes to the Concert                                           Autism

Mixed Up Words                                                                    Dyslexia

Special Goalie                                                                        MD

Opal’s New Dream                                                                 Arthritis

The Camping Trip                                                                 ADHD

 

Coming soon:

The Spelling Bee                                                                    Diabetes   (September)

Madison’s Sad Christmas                                                       Depression (November)

Bristol Goes To School                                                          Cancer      (2019)

Harbinger Village                                                                   Cerebral Palsy     (2019)

Fabian’s Smile                                                                        Cleft Palate            (2019)

Our children face an amazing list of challenges.  God has placed me in a position to be able to do something fundamentally good.  I am humbled to be able to place words on paper that can help children understand what is going on in their bodies, as well as, a resource parents and teachers can use to help other children understand what is happening with their friends who seem different than themselves. If you are interested in any of these books or those to be released in the coming months and years, contact me, authormargieharding@gmail.com or visit http://www.paxtonseries.com or amazon.com.

**An added note — All 10 books are both in softcover and hardback….and we are just beginning to add a toddler version of the current K-3rd grade books (although the books are used for older students in special education classes, as well), and I am working on a chapter book!  The first toddler book, The Big Fire, should be available in just a couple weeks.

 

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Margie – thank you for guesting. I’m grateful I could host your blog and further the word about these important books.  NL

 

Writer Wednesday: Writer and Writing is a Relationship

heartI know people say writing is a commitment, but it’s more than that. Writing isn’t “like” a relationship, it IS a relationship. A writer must be involved with the whole process of writing, must love it, need it, want to continue to work to make it better. It takes commitment, time, dedication, and the desire to move forward in life with writing.

A few years ago, I was at a conference where the main speaker (don’t remember his relat 1name) said, “You have to be selfish. You must take the time for yourself, for your writing.” He went on to say he spent every Friday at a hotel with his writing. (are you picturing him checking into a seedy, no-tell motel with an old typewriter?;-)

My friend joked, “Noreen does this thing where she actually spends time writing.” My regular action became fodder for humor because he is a writer, but he falls under the category of non-writing writers like many others.

Life happens. We have families, pets, jobs, homes, tons of responsibilities. But notice that list – I put family first. People we love comes first. This is why a writer might consider writing as a relationship – so they give it priority.

I schedule things around my writing whenever possible. I will make doctor appointments, meetings, and everything I have power to plan secondary to my writing by scheduling them before or after my planned writing time.

Once a person considers themselves in a relationship with their writing, they may relat 3naturally form relationship goals! If writing were a romantic relationship, how would you handle it differently? Would you want to go to sleep with it or wake up with it or both? What would you want to give it? Would you spend more time with it, going over the details, working it out so it was just perfect, going over it and over it again to work it out nice and smooth? What do you do for your significant other? Take it out to dinner? On vacation?

Writing, like a lover, needs constant attention and nourishment. Placing it on the back burner means we may never get to it. It’ll be there, but not as warm and flush as we’d like. Being in a relationship with writing means the needs of both are fulfilled. Writing is fresh and flowing and continually improved and the writer is happier, more productive.

We do this because we love it, we are driven to do it. Treat writing like it’s important to you.

Think of writing before you fall asleep, when you wake up in the middle of the night just to say one more thing.

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Coffee and your Character – Writer Wednesday

I’ve been thinking of coffee shops. And it’s not only because I’m a caffeine addict. Coffee and coffee shops are a part of our everyday lives and, therefore, our characters’ lives. What type of coffee shop and what they order will inform our readers of who they are in ways we won’t need to spell it out.

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I, personally, savor that first sip of morning tea. For a few moments, it’s the perfect temperature and I hold it close to my face, ready for the next sip as the first drips of bitter black tea warm my throat and my body, the caffeine going to work immediately to bring me to full wakefulness in anticipation of a busy day.

A friend described a man in her carpool who stopped every day at Starbucks for a large quadruple espresso latte on their way to work and on their drive back from work. But, she added, he also complained constantly about his budget. This told me a lot about the person in just a few sentences.

Does your character rush into Starbucks and curse the line? Probably orders ahead for pick up, but what if it’s not there? Or is your character the kind that seeks out the independent coffee shop because it may be less busy or just because it’s independent.

There used to be a coffee shop on Ventura Blvd between Hazeltine and Woodman. I don’t pinkremember the name, but I do remember the walls were pink. I liked it for it’s small town charm. Local home made jams lined the shelves behind me while local artists’ paintings adorned their walls. They only had a few wooden tables, a few more outside, and a few bar-type seats at the counter. Instead of the iced black or green tea choices at you-know-where, I opted for their daily choices, which might icled iced peach or raspberry-ginger. They offered an array of vegan or gluten free cookies as well. Who could resist?

I used this coffee shop in my story “Harvey Levin Can’t Die” (originally published in Pilcrow and Dagger Sept 2016). The story really is about change. How society reflects the harveylevincan't dieindividual and how the individual internalizes society. One of the characters worked there, but felt out of place. This also represented her life, she felt out of place and hadn’t really begun to make real decisions about who she was or what she wanted. But, of course, that changed and so did her involvement in the coffee shop and the guests as she becomes more proactive in her life. The reader is left to decide the interaction between her and society and whether the influence is good or bad.

It would have implied something different about my character if she’d worked at a chain coffee shop. The chain itself would have had an influence and been a foil. She wouldn’t have been able to grow and and the readers couldn’t see the change within the coffee shop itself; therefore, the setting was important in that instance.

Each place, each chain, is different. The people who go to the local Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Company are different than those who go to Pete’s or even Starbucks. As writers, I imagine we’ve all spent time in these places. And our jobs as writers are to observe. Beyond the color scheme and coffee served, there’s a different atmosphere garnered by and at these places, and the people are different or act different.

I rarely see the impatient phone-bearing customers from the Monday morning Starbucks run at Pete’s. Nor do I see the more relaxed culture of the Pete’s “give me the multi-grain scone and flipped macchiato” at Coffee Bean.

1dollarstorysmashwordsI used another independent coffee shop for “$1.00 Stories” (originally published in The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal April – 2016). A mixture of independent coffee shops, one of which still squeaks by in the recesses of North Hollywood. I wanted a friendly owner and regulars my character would recognize. Not that he cared about them; it was more important for the story that they were familiar with Cris, and they accepted with good-natured-humor his occasional weirdness. I didn’t want to make him completely unlikable. I wanted him to come across as a little more complex, so he went to this coffee shop where he knew the owner and sneered at the community table while the regulars chuckled.

The joy I get from using independent coffee shops (or even invented coffee shops) is that I get to describe them, which will also tell us something about the character. In “Harvey Levin”, the character hated the pink walls. But using a chain also tells us something about the character.

Our characters are going to need caffeine at some point in the story. Giving the reader their choice of coffee shops, even in one line, gives the reader an insight into the person we’re creating.

Now my tea’s cold. But I don’t own a microwave and that never tastes good anyway.

 

Harvey Levin Can’t Die is available on Kindle and at Smashwords.

$1.00 Stories is available at Kindle and at Smashwords.

 

 

What’s New With You?

I’ve been remiss in my posting – which is a social media no-no.  icecreamCan I tell you a secret? I’m really just an introverted writer and I really want to do is:

 

Write!

 

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I had a fantastic time at the Poe Museum reading Eddy. They live streamed it (I didn’t know they were doing that!) and I’ve been invited back, hope to go soon!

 

 

 

 

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In the meantime, I’ll be at AWP.

 

 

 

 

 

But the real news today: my short stories – loving the covers! – are available for .99 cents on smashwords and kindle.

 

So – whenever you need something to do – click the link, read a story, let me know what you think!

Be Joyful!