Thursday, March 29, 2012

Writing is like exercise

Yep, I've decided that writing is like exercise. But I love writing and I hate exercising, you say? Well, hold on, and let me explain.

So, when you are on pinterest, or see that magazine at the store, or your neighbor who just completed his/her tenth triathlon and you think, "wow, I wish I looked like that." We'll call that "inspiration." (This is correlated to getting an "idea for a book.")

There are a LOT of people who decide they want to "get in shape." A majority never take it past that--a decision or longing that never results in action. Some will go buy a couple of outfits, maybe a workout video, some hand weights, maybe even join a gym! We'll call this "baby steps." (This is correlated with writing a couple of notes, maybe even a few chapters, maybe even signing up for a writer's conference.)

But most of those people will go to the gym a few times and loose motivation. Or they'll do their videos once a week. Enough to appease their desire without really accomplishing anything substantial. This is the "dabbling stage." (You see where I'm going with this yet?)

BUT... there are those few people who are really, truly determined to make a change. To pursue their dream--muscles, skinnyliciousness, or writing and publishing a book. Those people put in the time, the effort, they push through exhaustion, sickness, stress, lack of time, boredom--you name it. And they start seeing results. Some are faster than others, and some take different routes. There are runners, weight lifters, triathletes, swimmers, yoga enthusiasts, etc. And of course there are the side decisions you have to make as well, to make the exercise more effective--eating healthy, getting enough sleep, etc. (Obviously, this is a comparison to not only sitting down and making yourself write--no matter what--it's also about revising, editing, finding CPs, a crit group, actually going to conferences and participating, etc.)

And guess what? What was hard at first, becomes easier. That class at the gym that kicked your butt becomes *gasp* kind of fun. Because you can hang with the teacher without feeling like you're going to pass out or have an aneurysm afterwards anymore. You start to think, "I can do this! I kind of rock!" And you can. And you do.


Yep, there's a but.

Sometimes, it's still hard. This is how I thought of this post. Yesterday, I was trying to work on my new idea, the one that has been flowing for days. And then, all of a sudden, yesterday I hit a wall. I was stuck. I stared at that screen and couldn't figure out what to do next. I thought about closing my laptop, doing something else. But I knew that was a surefire way to NOT fix the problem, to never finish the book. So I made myself keep writing. It was slow, it was painful, but I kept going. (See the exercise correlation again? Even if you are in good shape, there are days when it is just HARD to exercise. Like when I went for a 4 mile run with my mama yesterday, pushing Baby Girl in the jogging stroller. For some reason, running yesterday was super hard.) I forced out a page or two, and then my time was up until later that night. I thought about the problems I was facing all afternoon as I took care of the kids, made dinner, all the other stuff.

And then an idea hit me, a way to fix the problem. I went back a few chapters, added some scenes, and then changed the stuff that happened after to match. And suddenly it was flowing again, even faster than before. I had what I like to call a "writer's high." Those times when you are just bursting with happiness and excitement as you type as fast as your fingers will go. I've only had a runner's high two, maybe three times. But one in particular stands out--it was the longest run I'd ever done up to that point (10 miles) and the first few were so hard I almost didn't keep going. But then, I hit mile 8 and I suddenly had this burst of energy. I wanted to sprint, I felt that good. I grinned from ear to ear as I ran. Then I hit mile 9.5 and the high went bye-bye and I had to really push myself to finish the last mile.

But the point is this: there are going to be hard times. In fact, more often than not, it's going to be hard to exercise OR write/try to get published. But if you do it, if you put the time in and keep going, you will see results. And you might even get to experience those elusive highs every once in a while that make all the lows worth it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

There's this movie coming out...

You may have heard of it. And I'm going to see it tonight!

I am so excited, I can't wait. I was thinking about one of the most famous lines from the series, "May the odds be ever in your favor." Katniss faced some pretty insane odds of losing (aka dying) in the story. But since there are 3 books and more movies being made, I think it's pretty safe for me to announce that she does survive book 1. (If any of you are shocked by this, I apologize.) She beats the odds. Why? Was it her skill? Her determination? Luck? Who she knew--those who cared about her, loved her, wanted something from her--everyone who helped her, each for their own reasons?

How much is real life like this? How much of accomplishing your goals is beating the odds? I know in publishing it is a big part of the puzzle. If you look at the numbers, the percentages of authors who actually succeed in getting an agent, and then even beyond that a book deal, and beyond that becoming a bestseller... well, let's just say they are slim. Like really slim. Single digits slim. Just for the first level, agents get hundreds if not thousands of queries EVERY month. And they pick up, what, maybe one or two new clients a year (if that)? Let's just say the odds, they are so not in your favor.

So, if you've done the best you can do--polished, learned your craft, edited, revised, polished some more--until your book shines, what makes the difference in beating those (admittedly) depressing odds? (Because obviously the first step is you must have the skill, whether you are naturally talented [which is great, but will still only get you so far before you have to learn how to be even better], or whether you work your butt off to turn your creativity into quality, you must have that in place before anything else can come together to get you published.) But AFTER that, what helps you beat the odds? Luck? Who you know? Determination, never giving up? What?

I think it's a combination of all of it. There are only a few things you have control over--your work and your determination to not give up, right? So all we can do is keep working, keep persevering, honing our craft and putting ourselves out there. And sooner or later, the luck and timing will be right and you will be positioned to finally have those pieces fall into place.


Well, anyway, May the Odds be Ever in YOUR Favor... And enjoy the show!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Four or Five

1. I got older this week. I have to admit, I love birthdays. I love getting spoiled, I'm not going to lie. But I used to dread that number getting higher. Not anymore. Now I am grateful for every year I am blessed with.

2. The publishing industry can be a hard one. So many high highs and really low lows (and everything in between). But one thing is constant--how awesome all of my CPs and writer friends are. Whether we only communicate through emails and social media, or if you're one of the lucky ones who gets to see me in person and hear my stories about potty training my 3-year-old, I am so grateful for you all. You make the lows bearable and the highs even higher.

3. You know what else makes me happy? A new idea after a long dry spell. I was seriously beginning to wonder if my well had dried up last week. I was racking my brain, desperate for a new WIP to lose myself in. NOTHING CAME. *insert shrieks of horror* So I sat down and started writing. I didn't have an idea for a story, I didn't even know character's names. I just wrote. I got a few paragraphs out and still had no idea what it was. Then, five days later, the rest came to me. Shiny new idea, I love you.

4. Spring is here! Sunshine, 60's, wind... Yep, it's definitely here. And I have to admit, I'm loving it. I feel better than I have in weeks. Months, even. More hopeful. I have some great books on my night stand to read, I have a new project to work on, I have wonderful friends, an amazing family. I am very blessed. After losing Josh, I am trying to never take any of my blessings or the time I have with the people I love for granted ever again.

What's on your mind today?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

THE SAVAGE GRACE launch party!

Last night was the release party for Bree Despain's THE SAVAGE GRACE. Bree is such a wonderful person, and I am so excited for her for the release of the final book in THE DARK DIVINE trilogy!
Me, Baby Girl, and Bree.
I've already heard great things about this book, and I can't wait to find out how it all ends! She gave a great talk about how hard it was to write the third book, to let go of these characters. I'm sure Stacey will detail all of that in her blog post over on My Pile of Books. I can't image how hard it would be--but hopefully I'll get the chance to find out someday.

Afterwards, Stacey and I grabbed some Red Mango. It was a fun night! TSG was my belated birthday gift to myself (my birthday was on Monday). Now excuse me while I go dive in.... :-)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Going Forward

I'm going to be honest, I don't know what to post about today.

I'm sure you are all tired of reading about how sad I am, or how much I hate cancer, or anything else like that. This is an author blog after all. But I can't seem to think of what else to blog about that doesn't seem disrespectful in a way. My last two posts were about Josh and Megan, and then to just jump right back into normal posts, trying to be entertaining, somewhat funny, and also inspiring... I can't seem to do it yet.

So instead you get this rambling post. I guess what I'm trying to say is that in a very small way, this is a metaphor for life. How long do you allow yourself to mourn, to hold on to the pain, to be afraid to smile, to laugh, to experience joy in abundance? I know Josh would want us all to be happy. But the pain of his loss is still a hole that is there every time I turn around. My heart aches for Megan. But we all have to keep going forward. It will be easier for me than for her. I love Josh, but he was her everything. And yet, she is already such an example. She is already able to smile, to laugh, to joke. Not often, not exuberantly, but she can do it. She is amazing. At the luncheon after the funeral her belt kept coming undone, and she grinned at us and said, "Josh keeps trying to undress me. Oh, Josh." I love that girl and her indomitable spirit.

So, in line with my normal Monday posts, here is a quote that I just found:

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.
Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened,
ambition inspired, and success achieved." - Helen Keller

Thursday, March 1, 2012

picking up pieces

One of the hardest parts of tragedy is that life goes on. My sister and I were nearly overcome by that realization on Monday as we sat on the 5th floor of the hospital, staring out at a view of almost the entire Salt Lake Valley. It almost made me dizzy. SO many people. So many lives. Here we were, holding on to each other, struck to the core with pain and sorrow so deep that it grabs you and pulls you inside out, and out there were so many lives continuing on. Life must go on. Even if you want to sit down in a corner and cry for days, you just can't.

You get up and make breakfast. You dress your children. You write and work and clean and keep going.

But every few minutes, you remember. It hits you. Your eyes fill with tears, you pause, you swallow a sob because your sons are watching and they're tired of seeing Mommy cry.

And then you keep going.

Perspective is an interesting thing. How quickly it can change. What constituted a bad day a week ago is quite different than this week.

And at the end of the day, the thing that keeps you going--the thing that makes you able to get up again and make breakfast again and keep going, doing, living--is hope. Hope that someday, somehow, this will all make sense. That wounds will be healed, that hearts will be mended. That happy endings really do exist, and that Megan will be blessed with one. Not today. Not tomorrow. But someday.


That is my hope for her. For all of us.