Thursday, October 31, 2013

Keeping Your Chin Up When Life Refuses to Cooperate

I usually have a sunny disposition and am able to take the knocks of life gracefully. Lately, life is testing me and I feel cynicism and discontent etching a pattern in my daily life. This year has been tough with job losses, moves, housing troubles and a lost cat who may never return.

In an effort to keep my chin up, I am listing things that make me feel better. 

1)    Focus on other people. If I think about other people’s problems and situations and how I can help them, I don’t think as much about my own. It also builds empathy. We all struggle in life at times, some more than others. None of it is fair.

2)    Get outside, get active. One of the tasks I hate doing turns out to be a positive in my life. I walk or bike with my 1st grader to school every morning. I don’t want to be up that early in the morning, let alone dressed and walking in the cold. It would be easier to take the car, but I think the exercise is good for his health. Turns out it is good for me, too. That brisk walk/bike ride wakes me up for the day, gets me in touch with the outside world and gears up my body to take on the day. The days I drive him (there are some) turn out to be crabbier days that take me longer to get in a groove.

3)    Engage the senses. We went from living in a 2200 square foot house to an ugly, 700 square foot apartment. Some days I realize I am hungry to look at something beautiful, smell something delicious, bask in a warm glow of something. I have added a few touches to the apartment to help it look a bit nicer. We spend time looking at beautiful things, fall foliage in the woods or a wedding at Downton Abbey. Some days I make soup just for the smell.

4)    Create something. When things are stressful, I think I can’t work on my novel in progress, but that is the perfect time. It is an escape to another world that whisks me away from my troubles. I get the same effect in creating anything, be it a Bitstrips avatar or the ultimate chili.

5)    Exercise. This the last thing I ever want to do, but I work out so much during a good run or ride on the bike. I always feel more accomplished afterwards.

6)    Eat well. The candy only makes me feel good for a minute. Clean eating is a better choice that leaves a lasting feeling of good will.

 If you are struggling with troubles, keep your chin up as best as you can. At times, it seems a little wallowing is ok. If you are a creative person, use the energy in your work to create something tragically beautiful. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

From First to Final Draft

I am currently working on another draft of a novel I already wrote. This is the part of the process I get confused. I am not sure what is considered revision and what is rewriting. I use both terms for doing pretty much the same thing, working the words to make the story better.

This is probably my seventh or eighth draft of this book. I practically have it memorized by now. I think this is part of the process, and getting to know a book intimately. I know every curve and corner to this story, which is mostly why I am rewriting it again. I am close enough to see the flaws.

This is a good rewrite, as I am falling more in love with the story as well as its execution. It sometimes takes me a few drafts for the latter. Like anything, you must practice to make it perfect.

Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. I feel like I spend that on each book, although I know I fall far short of that. I do know it takes more than one draft, or even two or five to get to something that is beautiful. Perhaps this is not true of all writers. Some may have an innate or learned skill that allows them to churn out a great story in one, two or even three drafts. I am not one of those writers, although I wish to become one of those someday.

Although in doing that, I would miss out on the intimate phase, where I have the story memorized. I would miss pushing my characters to their limits, and seeing what they are capable of. I would miss the growth of secondary characters and subplots, which often don’t emerge in first drafts for me.

So, for now, I hurrah the umpteenth draft of this novel, because it is making the story better. It may take me longer to publish. I may never be an author who can churn out a book a year or more, but I will churn out books I love.