Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Many Hats of a Writer

I just got home from a ladies social where the theme for the night was vintage fashion and the girls put on a fashion show. There were vintage era dresses and hats from the late 1800's to present day. I have never seen so many outlandish hats and froofy dresses in one room all at one time!

It made me think about all of the many hats we wear . . . just today I have been a business woman doing outreach for my agency at a charity breakfast, an office assistant, a mom cooking vegetable beef stew and checking homework, a friend, a fashion consultant for my 14 year old daughter, a napkin for my 3 year old, and now I am attempting to put on my writer's hat, while at the same time serving as a bean bag chair for a child who will not go to bed.

With life sometimes spinning out of my control, I often feel at a loss when trying to fit in time for writing, and yet on those days that I barely have time to think, it is in the quiet moments after the kids have gone to bed (and sometimes after I have finally gotten comfortable) that the ideas start coming in like waves. It can be really irritating. Of course I never have a pen and paper handy, so while I lay there all comfy in my blankets with my pillow just so, staring at the ceiling and knowing that if I go to sleep the idea will be gone in the morning . . .

With my eclectic web of life experiences, it seems like there are always a wide variety of crazy stories bouncing around my head, from pirates on a picnic (inspired by my 5 year old) and tales from the little farm I lived on as a child to the more serious stuff of family dysfunction and teen angst, divorce, and moving to the city.

Even now as I sit here typing, Brie has pulled off one of my shoes and socks, and is asking for a glass of milk. As I get up to accommodate her, I notice that she now smells strongly of perfume and is wearing gray-blue eyeshadow on her eyebrows and lips -- how long was she gone? My foot is cold and she is finally falling asleep in my lap . . .

In stores now: Shameless plug

by Scott Rhoades

On my own blog, Doggerybaw, I often post about free software that I think might be interesting to writers. I turned some of those posts into an article for The Writer magazine, "Great Writing Software That Won't Cost A Dime." It is in the May issue, available in stores today. Check it out.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Where's the Spark?

by Sarah Southerland

As a kid, it was easy to live in my imagination. My days were spent creating and recreating the world around me-- changing playhouses into castles, dogs into dragons, sand into burning lava. Using my imagination and creating were daily jobs, and I loved it. As long as I was creating, I was happy.

Fast forward many years. The need to create and use my imagination has never left me, though life frequently dominates my time. Instead of creating dragons and dungeons, I create dinner menus, clean bathrooms, and checks to pay off the bills. Normal life doesn't exactly leave me the same amount of "play time."

That's why I love writing for children.

The challenge is saving enough energy each day/week to use in writing creatively. Each of us must decide the best way to do that. Writing early, writing late, writing in short bursts of time between babies and bills and time clocks-- the key in all of these is TO WRITE. Life will never, ever automatically order itself so that you have ample writing time. No matter what stage you are in your life, writing takes effort and good planning.

I find that when I'm thinking in a writer's mindset (and anticipating my next writing session), I can see through more childlike eyes. The robin on the street, the gnarled tree branches hanging over a fence, a silly statement that makes the kids laugh-- all of these things become fuel for my imagination. They provide the spark that gets the fire going. Writing the ideas down keep it going.

Imagination will never come as easy as it did when you were a child. But that doesn't mean you're doomed to spend the rest of your life living in a world of starched shirts and ties, bills, oil changes, and carting the trash can to the curb. You can regain the sense of wonder and creation you held as a child, but, unlike then, it takes work. It can be done. All of us on this blog can attest to that.

Now, go create a great day! And watch out for that green-haired monster lurking behind the fence next door.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is It Worth It?

by Scott Rhoades

In the early stages of a writing project, it’s often hard to know whether the thing is worth writing. That initial flurry of ideas is an instant high that makes you think it’s going to be the best story since The Epic of Gilgamesh.

When you first get an idea, there's a flush of excitement. It’s a lot like that feeling you used to get in school when you realized you had a crush on this girl. There’s the usual nervous fluttering of the gut that moves up makes the tops of your arms itch. Your cheeks burn. Your hands shake. It’s terrible and exciting and pleasant and sickening, all at once.

But ideas are tricky things. In your mind, the idea is spectacular. It's perfect. You share it with friends and they're excited about it, if they get it, and if they don't they nod and tell you to go for it. Then you sit on it a while and the idea starts to cool and doubts set in. That’s often as far as a person ever gets.

But you're better than all those wannabes, so you start writing.

The first sentence doesn't come out right. In your head, it was brilliant and full of nuance. On paper, it's flat and dull. Clever, original plot twists look familiar and cliched. Your character voices don't sound human, if they talk to you at all. You get lost in trying to set things up that were crystal clear in your imagination. It doesn't matter how many times you've been told (or that you've told other writers) that first drafts are lousy. How can such a brilliant idea turn into such a dud?

It doesn't take long to lose confidence. This is where you ask, "Is it worth it?"

If your ideas got you so excited and the excitement stayed with you long enough for you to start writing, chances are that there's something there. Imagination is easy, but conveying those images in your fantasies so that others see what you do takes a lot of work. It takes a few minutes to think all the way through a story, and it can take years to learn how to write it.

This is why so many people never start the book ideas they have in their head. It's hard to see your perfect idea turned into a rough draft. Most people, if they start a book, don't get very far. Anybody who has completed a first draft, though, knows the tremendous feeling of making it to the end. If you've done that, you've already got 99 of a hundred aspiring writers beat. You've written a novel.

It might not ever be as good as it was in your head. Chances are, if you work at it, it will be even better. Whether it ever gets published doesn't even matter that much. You've written a novel. Sure, it needs a ton of work. It's not very good. But you did what everybody says they want to do and almost nobody ever actually manages to do. You've stretched your abilities, and you can look forward to improving your skills even more as you turn rough stone into a beautiful sculpture.

And that makes it worth writing.

Welcome to our New Blog!

Welcome to the blog based on the Utah Children's Writers Yahoo group. Here you can find more information about all of us, read what we're up to, take a peek at our work, and watch us as we work together to strengthen our creative writing muscles. Please check back often, leave lots of comments, and become a follower! We'd love to have you!