I’m going to interrupt the flow of this blog , but we really should talk about how we deal with interruptions to our work.
I try not to take phone calls during my work time; however, sometimes I have to. A doctor appointment, a work call – all important, can’t wait until later. At least with those, you know you won’t be on the phone long.
The other day a friend called me. I hadn’t talked to him in over a month, so I wanted to see how he was. We live in different times zone, which makes scheduling time for a chat rather challenging. I told myself, even upon answering, that I wouldn’t talk long. But we did get carried away in catching up.
Set boundaries. I finally did tell him I needed to get back to my writing. He understands. Many people don’t, so I don’t regularly say that. I do tell them I can talk to them later or that I’m in the middle of something – both of which are true.
Phone calls and text messages are easier to put on hold – put the phone in the other room or turn it off. It really is not that hard. Having children or spouses is a whole different topic, which I’m going to talk about during another blog.
Right now, as I said, I need to interrupt the flow of this blog with an announcement.
You can win my short story, The Gold Tooth! Click here. This is only for a limited time.
Long lost sisters are reunited at the reading of their mother’s will. Celeste who has cared for their mother in her declining years is awarded a small, broken music box. The force of nature, Nancy, who hasn’t been seen they were teenagers, is awarded the entire estate. Before they leave the office, Nancy is given the option to exchange the estate for the box. Nancy laughs off the incredible offer and moves into the estate. What’s discovered in the music box could cost one sister her freedom and the other her life.
Writing hurts – no, seriously, sitting for long periods of time makes my back ache.
Now, we have standing desks, but studies show that’s only moving the pain around, not really as good for you as first thought.
My trainer recommends getting up every fifteen minutes to stretch and walk around. But, when I’m in the flow, three or four hours have gone by and I’ve even forgotten to eat!
Longfellow may have been the first to use a standing desk; he alternated between sitting and standing, which I think is a good idea.
Charles Dickens described his writing as “prowling rooms, sitting down, getting up….”; It’s purported he owned “all manner of comfortable easy chairs.”
It’s more about the way we sit and stand that is hurting us. Our shoulders coming forward and our heads hung puts far too much pressure on the back of our necks and can cause permanent damage.
Laptops don’t help. When we had our desktop computers, it was all about raising the screen to eye level, sitting in an ergonomic chair, with our arms at a comfortable angle. With laptops, either our head is tilted down or our forearms at a strange angle.
Spinx pose will help with those rounded shoulders and neck pressure.
Child’s pose and/or downward dog will also relieve some of the pressure.
Thread the Needle Pose is one of the best.
These are the easiest, but writers can benefit from a regular yoga class or a yoga routine.
Many posts in writers’ groups and questions in writerly gathering surrounds the fear of family or friends finding out what they are writing.
Surprisingly, some of these are fiction writers. Although many are memoirists, poets, fiction writers and essayists are also concerned with offending someone they know.
My response to this is: They’ll probably never recognize themselves! The truth is many people see themselves far differently than others do.
Furthermore, studies show that we remember events differently; to be more accurate, we remember different details of the same events, and our memories are not as reliable as we’d like to think.
Legally, in memoir, if names are changed, there is little a person can do if they do recognize themselves. One attorney told me: They’re welcome to write their own version of the events.
Fear should never hold a writer back. A small change in details or location can allow for some question if someone does think the story might include them.
Even if you think you’ll never publish it – write it. You’ll feel better!
Poe’s secret for inspiration is used by many writers today.
Poe scanned headlines, read newspaper stories, and gleaned ideas from the oddities. His story Berenice is about a man who digs up his dead wife and takes her teeth. This is reportedly inspired by newstories of grave robbers, some of which left the body and took the teeth. Another story reportedly inspired by a news report was the Facts in the Case of Valdemar. At the time, there were reports of people who could speak to the dead; there were other stories of ways to prolong life. Poe, it seems, blended these and created a story in which Valdemar “survives” and “speaks” beyond his natural life. This short fiction was thought to be real. People believed it!
Inspiration, for me, has come from the odd news story. A human interest story in which a homeless man was selling stories on a New York street, inspired me to write $1.00 Stories.
Another story flickered to life when someone posted a handful of gold teeth and said she’d inherited them. How does someone come into the possession of teeth, not their own, and why would they will them to a family member? Hence, The Gold Tooth springs to life from my suspicious mind!
Scan the newspaper, and let your mind wander. We’re writers; we have the desire to understand, explain, and create.
I use first person narrator in many of my stories. I find the level of intimacy I can connect with in the character makes the experience feel more authentic.
I also enjoy the unreliability of the first person narrator. Although I don’t intend to make my main characters questionable, all first person accounts must be met with skepticism.
There’s one possible downside to the first person narrator and I’m certain many writers have experienced the fan who believes they understand the author based on a story which utilized the “I”.
One reader contacted me convinced Dad Shining was about me. “This is a true story, I bet!” He wrote.
This is complimentary in the fact that the story must have been realistic enough for this reader to believe and enjoy it.
However, Dad Shining (originally published in The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal) is written from a male point of view experiencing a life event incomparable to what a woman could experience.
There’s not much a writer can do about being mistaken for their narrator except to gently correct the reader without offending them or merely thank them. I said, “thank you for reading.”
My main character in West End is a young woman, and I did use an area close to where I grew up. A number of readers have attempted to call me out on that. One reader wrote, “I know most of this is you, except for the part of leaving the boy.” Another reader, convinced it was me believed I’d been married before and left them to change my name and start a new life incognito.
This did bother me to some extent; the woman in West End is in some ways stuck in life, and while that might be my fear, it is not me.
Still others found the first person narrator unreliable enough to question her sanity and ask me if she was seeing spirits. These questions I rather enjoyed. One character I had intended to be questionable, but when asked about another – I don’t want to say as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone! – I was blown away!
And that is the benefit and, perhaps, curse of first person narrator. The connection is so authentically intimate that you might convince readers it’s you; And you might just convince them the narrator is a little off her rocker!