Tuesday, May 20, 2014

(Almost) A Year of Simple Living

Last summer, we decided to relocate the family to be together, moving from a 2200 square foot house to a two bedroom apartment in a new city.  It was a big change. Three boys sleep in one room, with about one foot between the beds. The garage is too small for our cars, so we were scraping windshields every morning all winter. We all learned patience and bladder control with one bathroom, five people, and a cat. Even the cat had to wait for the bathroom from time to time.

Tomorrow morning marks the end of our journey as we close on a new house in our new city.

Although I had doubts along the way, more than a few, the experience of living small has been something that changed all of us, probably forever.

1) Never underestimate the importance of a couch. We didn’t have furniture for the first five weeks in the apartment. Not having a decent place to sit in your place is harder (no pun intended) than any of us thought. We bought bean bag chairs, but they went flat after three weeks or so.

2) Same for a yard, or a square of driveway. People grill out in front of their garages, surrounded by a line of other garages in a parking lot pretty far away from a table. I hate it when the kids play outside, as all they have is the parking lot, which is not safe.

3) We don’t just love each other, we like each other, too. There has been no privacy for any of us in the last nine months. We laughed more often than we thought possible and grew closer. Perhaps because for some time, we were the only people we knew in town.

4) Being together is what is important. The darkest days were when the cat went missing. While it was hard to be away from him, not knowing if he was ok was what made a couple of us cry in the night. His return was the happiest of days and melted even the most cat hating family member. (Otis loves you too, Dean).

5) I don’t need half the stuff in my kitchen. I couldn’t bring everything, since the kitchen in the apartment is 1/3 the size of that in my house. I took the essentials. The only thing I truly miss is the George Foreman grill. Yeah, it surprises me, too. I miss it more than a microwave.

We won’t move first thing tomorrow, as I have some things to do to this house before we move our life and excessive stuff in. It could be a few weeks, perhaps as much as a month. I think I should leave a note of apology on the door of the apartment directly under us upon moving out. They put up with a lot with us.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Getting Past the Inner Critic

We all know the inner critic. It is the reason I write 15 blog posts before I decide to post one. It is the reason I spend years instead of months on novel revisions.

It isn’t good enough. Nobody would want to read this. It could be embarrassing.

The common advice for novelists in a first draft is to shove the critic aside and keep going. Writing a novel is a huge undertaking. Allowing the inner critic to voice its objections in early chapters may be an insurmountable roadblock and your work becomes a half finished novel. The words need to get on the page before you can really work with them. You need to fully flesh out the idea, and then tweak it.

If you are in revisions, it gets a bit trickier. I find it easiest if I work on one thing at a time during revisions….making the scenery pop, working on dialogue, fixing plot problems….one thing at a time. A notebook can be handy, to write notes on future revisions when the inner critic pops up to point something out.

Having a critique group is vital. Outside voices and eyes on the project can be far more informative than normal writer insecurities.  

The inner critic is not only for novelists. I see those shy Facebook posters and nonTweeters. Your friends and followers want to hear from you, too. Otherwise, they wouldn’t follow and friend you. Don’t be afraid to speak up, show a bit of yourself, cast aside the inner critic and embrace your voice.