Posted in Ramblings, Uncategorized, writing

Functional (writing) Goals

Guess what; it’s still January.
Only 24 days into 2022, so I’m still talking about preparing for the year.
In accord with my last week’s post, I’ve spent time shut away from the world every day. I’ve also attempted to use those moments as meaningful ways to enrich my writing skills. In doing so, I’ve found an interesting podcast. The Writers Block Party is new to me, and if it is new to you, this post may be of interest.

One episode I particularly enjoyed was about goals. Even though I’m a bit of an anti-new-year resolution person, I do believe in goals. I’m not going to spend time justifying why. I’m simply going to dive in and give an account of their podcast.

The podcast suggested making three categories and having three targets within each category.
Categories are:

GOALS

HOPES

DREAMS

Goals are achievable. Goals are actionable tasks for you to perform. These goals should be checked off by the end of the year because no outside element prevents you from achieving them. For a writer, that may be to submit to x amount of manuscripts or complete x amount of pages. For anyone else, it may be to exercise x amount of days a week. (That’s always a common theme in January, isn’t it?) Or it may be to clean out your closet before March. Actionable, achievable, real.

Hopes are still a bit in your control but may be affected by outside elements or circumstances. You may hope to have a polished manuscript by a designated time. You may hope to successfully find your dream agent. You may hope to lose 5lbs or get in touch with an old friend this year or save a specific amount of money.

Dreams are almost entirely outside of your control but are still important. Wasn’t it Carl Sandburg who stated, “Nothing Happens Unless First We Dream”? So get dreaming. A writer may dream they get published in a magazine or win a contest. You may dream of finding the perfect job or person. You may dream of quitting your day job to paint all day.

In each of these categories, have three. You may find that they all tie in together. You may find you’re not focused enough to achieve any one thing. I found being realistic about what are dreams, what are hopes, and what are goals to be very practical.

I have my goals written down (as suggested in the podcast) and hanging at my desk. Simple. Three goals. Three things to put the majority of my energy towards. Three hopes. The ideas to move towards as I achieve my goals. Three dreams. Fuel for the fire of intent and creativity.

With one final week left in January, some people may have already given up on resolutions. Or will think it’s too late to focus on one. February is a new month, a new week, a new day; start today. Or begin next week. Be kind to yourself and don’t stress about it. But also, be kind to yourself and know you are worthy of achieving goals, having hopes realized, and dreams come true.

Posted in Ramblings, writing

It’s ok to not write.

Looking at writing differently this year.

Forgive me as I spew out some old ideas in an attempt to inspire myself. There’s so much advice for writers that it’s hard to figure out which is best.
This feels like cleaning out a closet. When looking for old clothes to donate, you find items you forgot you had. Perhaps you were saving them for a special occasion that never happened. In this way, I am trying to figure out what works for me as a writer and human.
I read somewhere or heard somewhere, I wish I could remember, about how this day in age is too focused on productivity. We even have to monetize our hobbies when hobbies are supposed to be a free form of expression, a way to not be work, a way to reconnect with ourselves. I know this is why I lost my vibe in writing. Not that I was trying to monetize, but I was trying to prioritize it in all the wrong ways.

It is true that to be a writer, you must write. You must give it as much priority as you do all your other chores or jobs. That worked for a while. I have critique partners counting on me, writing groups that have check-ins, and challenges I partake in to help me stay on course. But that eventually turned my hobby, my passion, into a job. An unpaid, time-sucking job that I started to dread. Life has been difficult enough to get through one day job, let alone a second.

So how do I ensure I keep writing in 2022?

Hobbies, habits, goals, writing; these all do better with routine. Even your health. This is more or less my point today. As we stumble back into our old work routines post-holidays, with all sorts of fancy new goals and promises, I have just one. I just want to stick to a routine. We can’t do it all:

  • 8hours of sleep
  • 8glasses of water
  • 3 days of workouts
  • 100words a day
  • 5 walks a day for your dog
  • 15 minutes of training for your dog
  • Eat three well-rounded meals a day
  • Meditate once a day
  • Read that book, do your laundry, keep your house clean, go grocery shopping, listen to the podcast, return all those emails, help your co-workers after hours, call your family – IT’S TOO MUCH. 

Then “me-time” becomes staring at a screen to escape into some lousy tv show. (Ok, some are good, but that’s not the point) We stop doing, we stop creating, we stop being us. We become spectators of someone else’s life, someone else’s goals. Just know; that someone achieved their goals with a routine. A dedicated routine.

What does this mean? It means it’s ok not to write. Writing time may mean reading, research, daydreaming, sketching, brainstorming, revising, world-building, or maybe even simply playing around with words. “I’m not a loser or failure if I don’t put words down every single day.” (note to self: this is a mantra)

My intent is not to write every day but to cut out some time for writing-related things each day. FOR MYSELF. If I can at least bookmark a spot and have writing on my mind and shut out the rest of the world completely, I just may find that time a perfect writing opportunity.
I’ve created a list of options for this time, and although it seems daunting to try and achieve any of these things during a hectic day, I’m going to try.
More importantly, I’m telling myself it’s ok to not write every day. Just live in that world a bit, shut computers & phones off, and close doors as well. Breathe.
Connect. Create. Write. Or not.

Best of luck to all of you out there who may be losing yourself in someone else’s dreams and goals. I hope you find time to create and recreate yourself.

Posted in Ramblings, writing

12 Days of Writing

Twelve Days of writing for writers. It’s an annual event that Julie Hedlund of 12×12 Picture Book Challenge offers. We were asked to put together many lists, and she suggested we post our “successes” list. I did that last year with what felt like a rather pathetic list. This year is no better. Although I have successes, nothing is worth sharing and, nothing is inspiring. She also asked us to create a cover for this project we’re creating and, although I do not consider myself an artist, I did sketch something.
Creativity feeds creativity, so on occasion, I bust out some pencil or charcoal to make something when words are giving me trouble. Which they are today and have been for a while. Not exactly what you’d call writer’s block. I have several ideas and stories bouncing around loudly in my mind, but sitting down and concentrating on them has been a challenge. Drawing and seeing more immediate results can help me feel accomplished somehow. It feels like my creativity still exists and takes the sting out of my low word count.
I warn you again, I am no artist, but I share this sketch because the idea of sharing our personal stories is helpful. Yes, read the blogs and websites of successful writers and illustrators, listen to the podcasts of their journeys, follow them on Instagram. But also know there are others out there like you still stuck in the darkness, trying to keep their creativity lit.

Perhaps this year will be our year, whatever that means for you.

Happy New Year.

Posted in Ramblings, short story, writing

shadows

I feel the shadows slowly peel off the walls.

They quietly rip from the corners,

hungrily make their way towards me.

Blocking exits,

snuffing out light,

pausing now and again to be sure their victim is as weak as she appears.

Calculating their moves, working as one.

One of many.

So many against the weak and injured light of one.

Will she fall this time?

Even if she does not fall, they lick their lips anxious for a taste.

The taste of despair and failure.

The stench of rotten wasted hope entices them to creep closer.

A broken heart, a soiled soul, a lost cause.

All a feast for the darkness. All good things that end are for them.

All good things gone wrong, all dead dreams, hopes and love,

but mostly; faith.

I feel the shadows upon me.

Posted in Book Reviews, MG Book Reviews, Middle Grade Books, Ramblings

The Way Past Winter

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Magical Realism – Middle-Grade

My Synopsis:

Mila lives in the dark cold, woods with her brother and two sisters in a small cabin. Their mother is dead, and their father left them for unknown reasons five years ago. Since then, the forest has become perpetual winter, and memories of Springtime and happiness are fading. One evening a stranger and his fellow travelers come to their home asking for food and shelter, but the next day when they are gone, Mila’s brother is missing. The sisters debate whether he left them to join the traveling men or was he taken against his will. Mila insists on going after their brother and so begins a daring adventure north through fierce winter landscapes mixed with magic and folklore that she and her sisters are afraid may actually be true.

Why I Picked This Book:

I love Middle-Grade books, and I was looking for something with a simple feel to it. I didn’t want a modern story and, (being on winter break), I was hoping for somethings snowy and cozy. It seemed to have the perfect amount of magic laced through it without being doused in magic and fantasy, and oh yeah – the book jacket mentioned sled dogs.

What Was Disappointing: 

I read it too fast. I wanted a book to last me through the winter break, but I finished this in about two days.

Why I Kept Reading:

I read it so fast because the author took me away from reality. The characters were so well-rounded I easily felt apart of their family. The simplicity of their home and family life was akin to that of Laura Ingalls, albeit without all the details. Although there was a bit of predictability, being a middle-grade novel, it was the perfect amount. The story unfolded not in a way that makes a reader disappointed because they knew the writer’s secrets, but in a way we all say in life “I knew it!” when we really didn’t, but suspected to arrive at a certain point or outcome. The longing for that affirmation and for the reveal of what we didn’t know, kept me going on almost as fast as Mila’s sled dogs flew across the frozen north.

Take Away: 

I will read this book again. I know I will. There are stories inside of stories with this book. Although the author could make this into a series of spin-off books and tales it doesn’t need to. It stands alone and stands strong. Much like its characters. The bond between sisters and the strength of their spirit is so beautiful and well done. The author very simply has females in most of the roles and if I weren’t telling you this now you may not have even noticed. There is no talk about being tom-girls, no talk about expectations for women, and the author also doesn’t shy away from letting the girls swoon over men. They are just unapologetically who they are, and they happen to be girls. I also love how there is no really clear “hero” in this story. Pieces of the puzzle unfold so naturally and those who need to be there to play their parts arrive to be in place so naturally it felt more like a true story than one about cursed forests and magical islands in the icy seas of the north.

Final Thoughts:

It’s been a long time since someone created a new fairy tale that had all the elements of actual folklore. No pretty princesses or beautiful castles, or handsome heroes. This is a simple tale and is told in a minimalist way without a ton of flare and fantasy that is saturating novels these days. This book has plenty of myth, gore, truth, and good old fashioned storytelling that will have a reader of any age turning the pages while pulling up their blankets around them to keep out the haunting winter that seeps out of its very pages.

Post-Script:

I have to wonder if Dusha and Dayna would have liked Flora the pig.