I typed up my writing intentions at the beginning of the year.
My writing life will continue to flourish in 2014 by showing up daily to my creativity and writing; being comfortable with not always knowing what comes next; allowing myself to play; giving myself permission to succeed or fail; being presnt to and grateful for the process.
It has sat on my meditation altar all year. Some days I read it; many days passed when I did not. But it was always there. Always present.
Somehow, some way the energy of that intention seeped into my consciousness and has manifested in me actually sitting down five days a week to write.
I finally committed and bought Mac Freedom which allows me to disable my internet access for up to eight hours. Creating that little bubble of distraction-free time has resulted in several thousand new words in the last three weeks. Today, I upped my minimum daily quota from 500 to 750 words.
I can always write more than the minimum but if I skip a day I must make it up the next session.
By showing up each day to my WIP, not only are the pages stacking up , but all of the things I intended at the beginning of the year are happening:
I am showing up daily.
I am getting much more comfortable with not knowing what comes next. Most mornings I sit down and wonder what happens next. That used to keep me from sitting at my computer at all.
I am allowing myself to play with words, to follow threads of story and plot to see where they lead.
I am free to succeed and/or fail. I think fear of both used to keep me away from the page.
I am present to the ebb and flow of the process, knowing that some days the words may be crap, other days they may flow.
And, lastly, I have become incredibly grateful for the whole process. Grateful for the time and tools. Grateful for the process of showing up and doing the work. Grateful for all the ways that creative energy I generate then spills into other parts of my life, enriching and nourishing them in ways I hadn’t expected.
Who knew that freedom could be bought for only $10?
I did, actually. I just resisted it.
I’m talking about Mac Freedom, a program I downloaded that blocks the internet and increases my writing productivity.
I think I resisted it because I saw it as a crutch. As a sign of weakness. I thought I should (always a dangerous word) be able to ignore the lure of Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and the millions of other distractions that are literally at my fingertips all on my own. Then I would feel such guilt that I wasn’t able to do so.
So I tried a free trial of Mac Freedom and was stunned at how well it worked for me. I think “life-changing” is what I tweeted the first day.
Here’s how it works: I pick an amount of time (up to 480 minutes) that the internet will be disabled for. Once it’s set, I sit there at my computer and write until I hit my quota for the day. To start with, it’s been at least 500 words. That usually takes me about 45 minutes.
What I love about it is that it makes me focus. I found that as soon as I hit a part of my story where I was stuck or didn’t know what came next, I’d immediately click on my Firefox window. Not for any purpose like research—just for distraction from the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing what came next in my story.
I’m aware that I could easily pick up my iPhone and do the same thing, but I don’t. There’s a certain sacred bubble around my allotted writing time now that I honor. I stay in the room, as Ron Carlson says.
Since I’ve started using Freedom, I have written 7493 words on my current WIP.
The best ten bucks I have spent.
Seriously. The best.
How about you? Do you use an internet blocking program? How do you stay productive and focused. Feel free to share your tips in the comments.
“California” a novel by Edan Lepucki
On the map, their destination had been a stretch of green, as if they would be living on a golf course.
Yet another yummy novel to feed my post-apocalyptic genre obsession. In a frighteningly realistic future, Lepucki imagines a world wrecked by climate change, income inequality and flu. Cal and Frida have fled a collapsing Los Angeles for the isolation of the wilderness where they squat in a house left by neighbors who apparently committed suicide. They live off the land with only each other for company.
They rely on visits from loner, August, who brings news of the area along with goods to trade. When Frida becomes pregnant, they decide to venture past their boundaries to the nearest settlement, hoping for a place and community in which to be a family. But the possibility of security comes at price, a price they are not sure they are willing to pay.
We learn about Frida and Cal’s past and how that past may eventually catch up with them. While the premise is intriguing, unlike other dystopian stories I’ve read, there is a lot more focus on the characters.
The whole story hit a little too close to home with the thought of college students revolting over the sky-rocketing costs of tuition and the huge gap between the wealthy and the rest of the people, a gap that basically contributes to the downfall of society as we know it.
What I learned: To stay close to the characters in order to ground a dystopian vision of the future.
“Accidents of Marriage” a novel by Randy Susan Meyers
Maddy ran her tongue over her teeth, imagining the bitter taste of a crumbling tablet of Xanax.
Ah…where to start with this gem of novel? Well, the first sentence, right? How can you not be intrigued? I was and continued to be intrigued throughout the whole messy story of Maddy and Ben’s complicated marriage and its effects on their three children.
Like Robin Black’s “Life Drawing,” we are given an intimate look at a struggling marriage between two beautifully flawed people. Ben has a temper. A real temper that results in ugly speech and the throwing of objects, leaving his family walking on eggshells much of the time, never knowing what might set him off. It would be so easy to dislike him— I should say to only dislike him—but Meyers gives us a complete view of an imperfect man, husband and father.
When Ben’s temper causes a life-changing accident, the entire family is left to pick up the pieces. Alternating from the POV of Maddy, Ben and their teenage daughter, Emma we get an insider’s look at an average family in crisis.
This one kept me up at night.
What I learned: To allow your characters their flaws.
“Quarantine- book One, The Loners” a YA novel by Lex Thomas
Someone must have bitten off her nose.
My thirteen-year-old niece gave me this to read so that she could have somebody to talk to about it. She thought it would be right up my alley, and it was.
She described it as a cross between “The Hunger Games” and “Lord of the Flies.” That pretty much sums it up.
A huge explosion devastates McKinley High school. Not only that, but apparently all of the students have virus that is deadly to adults. All of the teachers die and the kids are left on their own, quarantined and completely cut off from the outside world expect for bi-weekly food drops.
Cliques mutate into gangs, lines are drawn as deadly power struggles ensue. David and his younger brother Will try to stick together but find they are fighting alone against the whole school. Can they survive on their own?
It is a dark and very violent novel that looks at what happens when kids are isolated and left to survive on their own.
What I learned: That I skim over the really violent parts so I wonder how necessary they are. Could more be implied rather than vividly described?
It’s a sad day.
I’m always a little stunned when I find myself so stunned at the loss of a celebrity. Obviously, I didn’t know him personally, but it felt like I did. Actors and comedians, especially of Robin William’s caliber, do that. They welcome you into the sphere of their being.
Watching Robin Williams do an interview was a spectacle in stream-of-consciousness let loose on the world. I’d sit there mesmerized, wondering what he would possibly say or do next.
His passion and energy radiated off the screen—whether TV or movie.
These days, with social media such an intricate part of our lives, we come together in our mourning. In our grief. Finding solace in photos and quotes shared, in heartfelt pieces written in the moment, proving again that stories unite us.
That we are indeed made of stories.
Robin Williams was a tapestry of stories that swirled around inside him, stories that he was generous enough to share with us.
It’s Day 11 of this writing challenge and while I haven’t posted here every day, I have managed to write something every damn day. I read the posts others are sharing and I am humbled and energized as I ride the wave the waves of words being created, being shared.
This challenge, our words, our stories?
This is how we fan our own little sparks of madness.
Well, I did it. I managed to write every day, even while on vacation.
I shared a bed with my daughter so I’d wake up before her, slide my two notebooks out of my bag and I’d write my morning pages for about 15 minutes. Then I set a timer for another 15 minutes, and wrote from the POV of one of the characters in my current WIP using a prompt from Judy Reeves‘ “A Writer’s Book of Days.” (I have both editions!) This morning I even sketched the floor plan of a character’ study.
The good thing about these write-every-damn-day-no-matter-what challenges is that they give me some momentum. I often compare it to a rocket ship. It takes so much energy to launch a rocket into space but once it’s there, it’s there.
Showing up every day no matter what keeps my writing life orbiting—around and through me.
Super short check-in today.
One of the things I am loving about this challenge is the sense of freedom I have when I wake up in the morning. I know exactly what I am going to do. I don’t have to decide if i should eat first or meditate or check my email or Facebook or write.
I don’t have to decide because the decision has been made: write. Writing comes first.
This morning I did my Morning Pages then I wrote for 15 minutes from a prompt that helped me gain some insight into one of my characters.
And I’m done. it’s not a lot but it is something. Showing up today to my writing, no matter the quality or quantity of the words, makes it easier to show up tomorrow and the next day, and the next…