Writer’s Confessional Part Six

Re-posted from Deadwood Writers Voices Blog, August 2018

This past month has been a writing bonanza. I’ve written my own obituary, started my About Me biography for WjK ARTiSAN DESiGNS, and have also focused on the anthology project for the Deadwood Writers Group. It’s been an interesting thirty-one days.

Jo Self

I’ve been concentrating primarily on my top five strengths through the class I am taking with Jo Self at Jo Self Consulting. It’s a strengths-branding course (she differentiates for each person’s needs). For my individualized consultation we’ve concentrated on my solopreneurship to dig through my top five strengths—Responsibility, Harmony, Discipline, Consistency, Maximizer–and beyond, which are the result of a specifically designed questionnaire at CliftonStrengths 34 online. It’s been enlightening.

Writing my obituary was a fascinating exercise. What would you want someone to say about you at your funeral? Or, if not an obituary, how about a speech at your 90th birthday celebration? It is a lesson everyone should try. It forced me to look at the accomplishments in my life. What should my life look like as I move forward? Did I reach for things I wanted? Did I set on a path to success? It was an emotional read. When I got to the end, reading it aloud to the participants on the conference call, I had to stop to control my tears because of the hope I have that I helped my girls turn into great woman. The exercise also allowed me to see what needs to be done to reach the goals I’ve set for myself in my professional life.

During the second section of the course Kirsten Back, The Word Distiller, helps with branding our businesses. She wants us to emotionally connect with our customers. That in turn will help customers justify their return or pass on the word about our businesses. There’s some more work to be done with Kirsten, but I’ve got a good start to my About Me page. Now, I need to add the nuances of my top five strengths into what I’ve already written.

And to wrap things up, I’ve asked a lot of what if questions regarding where I want my characters to go in the Anthology for the Deadwood Writer’s Group. The ‘What if’s’ stem from a book I discovered by K. M. Weiland, called Outlining your Novel, Map Your Way to Success. The idea is to take your story in a direction that the reader doesn’t expect, so I asked myself the ‘What If’ questions to understand the premise goals.  This exercise led me to some interesting ideas about the characters and how they’ll interact with the main prop, the coin of Caligula. It must be a part of everyone’s story for those participating in the anthology. It was a fun bit of writing and hopefully I have a solid foundation to move the arc in the direction I want the story to conclude, with a happily ever after.

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Writer’s Confessional Part Five

Blarney Castle, Ireland

A re-post from the Deadwood Writer’s Voices blog I wrote in 2018.

It’s said that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you’re gifted with eloquence.  Or, if I tell it like most people have heard it, the gift of gab. Well, I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone. Too many lips on the same surface for my taste. But, what I won’t bullshit you about is as soon as I saw the green of Ireland I fell in love.  I already felt a pull toward the land of Skellig Island off Portmagee, which is southwest of Dublin, also the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren’s. Setting foot on the earth where God granted a little more green than other places, the magic of the island was captivating. Larger modern cities like Dublin, Cork, or Killarney, they have their own mystique, their own magic in music, the people, the pastel-painted architecture, the history, the beer. Take away those larger cities and I’m left with nature so beautiful it’s overwhelming. So much history, blood, and struggle poured out into the land I can’t possibly fathom what life was like a thousand years ago or beyond. It was inspiring, as an artist, a writer, as a person with Irish blood.

I took my sketchbook with me but didn’t pull it out, surprising myself, since everything there is a sketch study. I took as many photos as I could though, a lot of the flavor of Ireland waiting to be written or drawn.

One thing that caught my writer’s mind was the concept of the fairy myth and folklore. I didn’t see it marketed anywhere. As an American, you can go to any craft store and find ceramic garden fairy’s, fairy doors, mushrooms to go with the fairy’s, etc. I found it odd but satisfying that they didn’t market the fairy myths or the idea of leprechauns for the touristy crowd throughout most of the country. There was a particular store, but it was done in a commercial way rather than done by craftsmen or artisans.

But what are your thoughts on Irish myths and folklore?  Conjure your concept of a leprechaun in your mind. Some might consider a character from a movie wearing green pants and coat with scary bright orange hair, a sinister angry face, or maybe something from a children’s book a little softer, more inviting with a rainbow and a pot of gold. In my mind, it’s a bit of both. I did see something that caused me to think of just those kind of stories, though.

We landed on Irish soil during the sunniest week Ireland will ever see this year (I actually got a sunburn). As we enjoyed the shade in Cork’s shopping district I noticed a man that looked a little separate from everyone else, like he was floating through the brick and mortar landscape of shops and the modern world. He was about my height, five feet nine inches tall, squarer in the shoulders, dramatically so. The man’s hair was not the stark orange-red that most people think of when they think Irish heritage, but it was a deep rusty red, a windswept mess. His clothes were bland in color, plaid shirt, and twill pants, hanging off him like they didn’t belong. As we passed him a shiver danced across my skin because his stare in his craggily and pitted face was blank almost as if he was looking off somewhere that no one could see. I asked myself if he was seeing something other than the fast-bustling pedestrians needing to get their tourist trap purchases back to their hotel rooms before they went off to the next pub to have a pint or if he was so displaced in time lost to all the people around him. It scared me a bit, his blank stare, his ghostly demeanor. But I brushed it off and continued to wander through Cork with my hubby. But I couldn’t get the man out of mind so when I saw another person that was so similar in features, a smaller frame, feminine this time, I started to pay more attention and this new set of characters came to life in my head. It was exciting.

There were other instances where this happened too. A dilapidated house in the middle of a flourishing neighborhood outside of Dublin, the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, with its jewelry made by Vikings, or the sheep and cows littering the landscape disappearing into the rocky green hills, or the castles that would pop up just around the bend on the narrow road. It was a compelling and fantastical place.

So, as a writer what am I trying to tell myself? What did I learn while I was on the green island? I would say that I need to go outside more, wander a bit, even if it’s to a city or park I’ve been to several times. Pay attention to what surrounds me and stop being so apathetic to my city, towns, and parks nearby. Do a little digging into the history of the places and I might just find a story somewhere left in the cracks of time.

Writer’s Confessional Part Four

A lot has been on my plate this month. I decided to start my own business, my art illustrations and my jewelry the focus. It’s entailed time away from fiction writing but directed me towards writing copy for the marketing end of my business, where I got my ideas for my jewelry and art. It brought me back to around the time I began attending the Deadwood Writer’s Group. I was writing a children’s picture book. I’d developed illustrations which now I am selling as prints on my Etsy page, www.wjkartisandesigns.com. It’s an exciting time in my life and I’m glad and grateful that I get to share these artworks in my own way now.

 
Another aspect that’s filled my attention is all that goes into starting a business. Finance, marketing, social media, product development – more jewelry and illustration development. It’s a bit nerve-racking to fit everything in, meaning my artistic nature and my need to write juicy and intriguing romances. But a smart woman, when I thought doing both was crazy, told me, “Why can’t you do both?” Her encouragement toward my success and happiness has always been given right when I needed it. So, thanks Mom. Love you!

 
On other exciting news, I’m going to Ireland soon. I’m not even there yet and I’m already inspired. What kind of stories will sprout from my visit, the brogue, the people, the colors, the constant green that everyone talks about? My heart gallops to fiery beat of a stampede when I think of all the opportunities that have become evident these past few months, words that have been spoken by friends and family. I’ve heard encouragement before, but this time, as my friend and sister of the heart, Jo Self– who is also a branding/strengths consultant for business and the individual, would say, I listened to what the universe was trying to tell me and am using the strengths I’ve been given to make positive things happen.

 

Writer’s Confessional Part Three

My most productive day of writing is on Tuesdays. I don’t understand why I seem to be able to write the best on that day more so than others. It is perplexing.
Why is it that my mind can focus on the task of writing someplace other than my desk, in my home where I always have access to my computer, my writing space? What psychology is at work? It goes back to my first confession about procrastination.
I went in search of ways to circumvent my procrastination, and this is what I found. An article in Psychology Today, online, says, “Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day. “I don’t feel like it” takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort.” It also says, “Perfectionists are often procrastinators; it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.”
Now, I know I’m not a perfectionist by any means, but I do have goals with my writing and artwork, but the negativity of failure keeps sneaking in, blackening my mind, pulling me away from what needs doing. And when I add even more to my to-do list the dominos keep tumbling down and I can’t catch up fast enough to stop the consequences as they continue to fall away from me.
To add to the stack of black tiles with white dots, I’m starting my own business to sell my art called WjK ARTiSAN DESiGNS. I’m excited but I’m also terrified. But without the risk there cannot be success. So, I’m going for it.
I want to keep the dominoes from falling. What do I do to fend off procrastination? How do I control what needs to happen so my writing, the planning for my business, and my home life tasks all get done? I must break them down into smaller stacks and obtainable goals.
One of the reasons I procrastinate is because I always have other responsibilities at home. It’s why I write outside of my house at coffee shops, things that need to get done in my daily routine as a Mom disappear. There are no dishes or laundry to get to. I don’t feel I need to get back home to do any of that and I can be free to write. There is a time frame, but when I have my headphones on blocking out all the other noise of life, I can concentrate on the words that I’m putting onto the page.
Dr. Jo Minden, Ph. D., in the article Beat Procrastination in 3 Steps , also on the Psychology Today website, talks about breaking things down into smaller tasks and making it easier on myself so I can start something rather than pushing it off until later. He also talks about procrastination as something that stems from anxiety. I would never have thought of it that way because I don’t ever feel nervous or sick to my stomach. As an observer, I can see why this would be the case. Based on my fear of failure which I talked about in my first confessional his conclusion makes sense. So now what?
Dr. Minden says, “Think about what needs to be done, how to make it happen, how long it will take, and whether it’s possible to break the project into smaller and more manageable pieces.” My writing and artwork are in this category. Building stories bring together a lot of parts. It is overwhelming most of the time. Thinking about how I’ve gone about the planning for the next novel in my Hot Blacktop series, Hot Turns, when do I stop answering questions about my characters and their story arcs before I start writing the actual words for each chapter? Am I procrastinating by not beginning the chapters? Maybe. For my art there’s a constant stream of ideas that I sketch and don’t start the final drawing. Is that procrastination. I say yes, again. Because, in my head I’m hearing, “It’s not quite good enough, keep sketching, Wendi.” It’s like I’m a perpetual student that never gets a job in the real world. Ugh. Even writing this blog is making me frustrated and angry at myself. I can see what I’m doing as a write this, talking it out with you, but all I want to do is read another romance novel.
Admitting the problem is half the battle, right? I must force myself to keep scheduling my tasks, limiting my addiction, to read as an avoidance tactic, and get my goals or tasks crossed off one by one. Make each task smaller, more manageable. Even thinking about what I must do makes my eyes go to my e-reader. It’s a scary revelation.

 

Writer’s Confessional Part Two

Self-doubt is like a disease that goes undetected, sneaks in, and metastasizes when I’m not looking. It sits like a lump in my mind. It’s awful because it can lead to depression. Creative people deal with this every day. And inevitably, when it latches on to my psyche, it leads to fear and then procrastination. Because I can’t fail at something if I don’t start it, right? But then I think of my mantra, “Failure is a bridge to success.” So, I can only keep looking forward.
The start of 2018 is a good one, even if it has been a rocky road. There have been some bumps, okay a lot of bumps, which is self-doubt. I’m still confident that my plan is manageable, which means even the days that I’m down, my goal is still in my mind. It pushes me forward with my writing and art. And I’m still using the bullet journal to see my accomplishments.
The days I wrote and didn’t paint or draw, I used a couple of Donald Maass books on writing. The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stake, and his Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling. February was a fun, productive month in character development. The exercises will lead to a better outline and scenes that are full and beautiful with story. Each book has great lessons at the end of each section. Questions are listed so I can express the people I create in a more meaningful way. Most questions ask, how would a character react or function to inner and outer conflicts? They help define characters in a way that is more in-depth and intense. The reader will latch onto them to encourage experiencing the emotions the hero and heroines elicit. That’s what I want. It’s what my writing is missing. I even created another character that I didn’t see coming to add more tension to the story arc, which could lead to another book in the series.
There have also been places where my scenes are flat. They have no meaning to the story, or they aren’t becoming a part of who the character is, or fails to show what the place means to a character. I recently finished a chapter and shared it with my writer’s group, Deadwood Writers, for specifically this goal. I wanted the chapter to feel as if the reader was stepping into the soul of the character. That the place I was creating was a living memory of what the character experienced throughout her lie and to have the main heroine understand that it was something she could/would want, or as someone put it in the writer’s group, or not. In conclusion, I decided my character isn’t ready yet to deal with what she’s feeling. So, I had to create a space that was lived in and had a good history. But at this point she must have it on pause, like a still painting in the back of her mind, ready to bring it back to life when she’s ready. I was pleased with the result. But you’ll have to wait to read it since it’s in the sequel to Hot Blacktop.
I’ve also worked on some fun projects in my art life, which I also listed in my bullet journal. I was on a mission to see where my art could fit into retail locations, and online at an Etsy store that I’ve started to create. I asked myself questions regarding starting a business along with talking with small gift shop store owners where I frequent. How can I sell my art? Where is the best place to do that? How do you choose the art you sell? Do I need a lawyer to create a business? How do I price my art? I did research online looking up other artists. I found videos, and articles, and will continue to develop what I intend to do.
Even though I stumbled in February, not working as many days as I did in January, I still made good progress. I can’t let the days of idleness get to me. I’m still doing what I love. I’m still learning. That’s all that matters.