Rebooting (finally)

Been MIA for a while. Life got very complicated on me – my best friend in the world’s mom was killed in a car accident, so I gathered up my spare change and flew up to be with her family for several days. I got back and spent several hours starting a story inspired by something her nephew said while I was there.

The next morning, I started a work project that wound up being 12 straight days of work, a total of 111 paid hours. Project ended last Friday and I picked up a friend’s dog so she could take her kids on a quick jaunt to FL. The dog and I were not a good fit – she’s a crazy puppy, not yet leash trained, far to energetic for me. So that made for several very challenging days. Never been so happy to give back a dog. The following day, I pulled my back out. It’s been an exhausting few weeks.

I had lunch with an artist friend who also turned out to be a writer. I’ve agreed to help coach her into finishing her book. That definitely excited me! She’s going to do 15 minutes a day, and I’m going to do the same.

It was exciting to start something new. I’ve had a couple of ideas for new pieces, but other than that one spurt, I haven’t spent any real time working on anything just yet. But at least my writing depression appears to have lifted and I’ve made the 15 minute a day pledge, so I’m confident words will start flowing.

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This checkerboard guy’s going to hold me to my 15 minute a day deal!

Overwhelming Doubt

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November was a stressful month, nowhere near enough paid work for me to pay my bills. Not a good thing. I tried to fight my stress by writing, deciding to do a version of NaNoWriMo, working on an idea that excited me. I wrote just about 12,000 words and then froze. That’s never happened to me before, where my fears stopped me from writing. Every word I’d written felt forced. I no longer feel qualified to be writing. All my self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy from my inability to get anything published hit me smack dab in the forehead and I don’t know how to fight it. It’s been two weeks since I wrote a single creative thing. I’ve written some articles for my mediation website, some stuff for Examiner, but nothing creative.

Ironically, while I’ve been full of writing doubt, I had a short story published at http://www.1127zine.com/. The editor said the “hatred and unpleasantness is so palpable.” An interesting comment, as to me, the fictional piece is just dark humor. And the editor is someone I’ve known for years, so I don’t feel like the piece was accepted solely on its merits.

I wish I knew how to shake this. I think it’s the thing about trying to get published that is most debilitating. I understand how the game works, but this time it’s under my skin and I can’t excise it. My confidence is gone. I hope it returns soon.

NaNoWriLamott

It’s been a while – sorry! Decided to do NaNoWriMo at the last minute, and it’s been eating into my time.

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a challenge – write a 50,000 word book in 30 days. I’ve done it twice before, succeeding once. The second try was right after I moved and I just couldn’t focus. This year, I had no intention of committing to the insanity of NaNo, but realized I needed to start something new. So I jumped on the bandwagon, freeing myself from the 50,000/30 day factor, but using it as a tool to get myself writing again on a daily basis.

It’s far too easy to get stuck in revisions and edits and forget about the joy of starting and working on something completely new. I haven’t committed to a new piece of long form fiction in over three years. This experiment is an invitation for me to explore new themes and ideas. After a week, I’ve written about 7,500 words – a great start. I’m not on track to win (that’s a 1,500 word a day challenge), but I’m excited to be writing again.

Even better, yesterday, I had the pleasure of joining two of my writing buddies and one of the 12 men in a sea of 688 women at a local church to witness Anne Lamott speak. She’s one of my writing heros – Bird by Bird is one of the best books on writing ever written. I’m a huge fan of her twitter feed and facebook postings. I love the way she brings everything into perspective and looks for spiritual meaning in everything she encounters. Her speech was utterly inspiring and I’ve been busy with the words ever since.

There are three things Anne Lamott speaks and writes about that are always with me: put your ass in the chair, shitty first drafts are a great start (and believe me, this new novel is a shitty first draft but there are pearls hidden inside) and there can be meaning in things that make no sense. Words to write by!

So though I’ve not been moving Suns Set Breach forward, I’m excited to be rediscovering the joy of writing. What have y’all been up to?

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Red Tree by LJ Walter, AcidArtbyLJ

 

Beta Boosts

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Seeing through tinted glass     

Duke Peeps by LJ Walter – Acid Art by LJ

 

 

I received comments from a beta reader of my novel, “Suns Set Breach.” It had been months since I sent her the book and I hadn’t heard anything. Naturally, I’d become convinced she’d read it, hated it and didn’t have the balls to tell me the truth.

When I read her notes, I saw that my imagination and self-doubt had gotten the best of me. Her notes started out “I totally loved reading the book – and it would make such a great movie!” I couldn’t have asked for a better ego boost.

Even better than her complements was the opportunity to see her concerns. I’m one of those people who wants to know what’s wrong with something so I can find a way to fix it. Hearing what’s right is all well and good, but gives me no place to go with making things better. And I know everything can always be better.

I’ve been living with the comments for a few days now, mulling them around in my brain. Some are very useful, while others are not. Either way, having actual input into what’s right and wrong is insanely helpful. I’m contemplating another pass through the book to try and address her concerns, but I’m not there yet. Either way, elements of her input will find their way into the story and make it a better book, which is always goal number 1.

In the meantime, I’ve submitted two short stories to competitions and begun work on a new story. I’m trying my best to write from the heart, but it’s incredibly draining. I can only hope that by reaching deep it will lead me to publication. Fingers crossed.

Writing from the heart.

October 5 was my cousin’s birthday and my birthday was, as always, four days later. Whenever we were in the same country, we celebrated together. Except this year, and for all the years still to come, because she is now buried in Old Montefiore Cemetery.

She’d been battling cancer. In September 2012, I learned the odds were against her defeating it this time. The good news was we had time to put our issues aside and rejoice in all we had together. And we had a lot of together with which to rejoice.

As a kid, I wanted to be just like her. She was seven years (and four days) older than me and seemed so worldly. Thanks to cuz, I learned to love The Beatles, worship books and believe in our family legends.  It was us against the world. In time, my idolization would change, but eventually we found our balance. For most of my adult life, my cousin was one of my closest friends. The friend who could push all my buttons but who also understood better than most.

Through the years, we always made time for each other. I would travel to Europe, as cuz, her hubby and son lived in Croatia for two decades. We’d rendezvous somewhere fabulous – Venice, Florence, Paris, Budapest, Dubrovnik so we could grab a couple of days together. I watched her son grow from a child to a man in the blink of an eye.

The worst part of the worst month of my life was the four a.m. call in January 2013. I was relieved to know her suffering was at an end; no one should have to endure that level of pain. We were fortunate to have had time to make amends, to love each other and to say our goodbyes.

What I hadn’t expected was the pain I’d suffer in the months since her death. I’ve never been much of a crier, but damn, I am one now. In an instant, I go from fine to sobbing. The only good thing is most of my tears come when I’m alone.

On our greatest adventure, the two of us traveled to Poland to find our Russian roots. It was an amazing experience, one that bonded us tighter than before. That trip was the genesis for my first try at novel writing. It’s another debt I owe cuz, my love of long form writing. I’m glad she was one of the five people who read that book. It’s not very good, but she at least had a chance to see things from my eyes. Someday, I’ll rewrite it; this time from the heart instead of the brain. I owe her that.

I didn’t think getting over her death would be as hard as it is. But it is and what I’m realizing is that the way to move forward is through words. Writing from my heart is how I can honor her best and keep her at my side.

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My cousin, Jill.

Beating the blues

Lately I’ve been horribly discouraged. For all the time and effort I’ve invested in my writing, I haven’t been able to make any inroads. Sometimes I wonder if my way of writing is alien to the rest of the world. Other times I wonder if I just suck.

The odds are neither of those things are true (at least I hope neither are true). But it still feels like I’m in a pointless death spiral when it comes to my writing. The worst part is some of my most recent short stories are among my best. So if my best gets me nowhere, what does that say?

Most of the time I try and put a positive spin on things, but sometimes I just get overwhelmed. When that happens, I allow myself a brief wallow period and then compartmentalize. Some might call that emotionally fucked up, others efficient.  Either way, it’s just my way of dealing.

I’ve been researching a ton of short story and flash fiction contests, journals and zines. Searching for the agent who will become my agent. Beginning to research self-publishing. Taking action makes me feel better, so I do my best to be proactive.

When I’m down, I tend to write. Whether it’s a blog entry like this, a new piece of short fiction, a couple of pages towards my new book idea or even just a few sentences scribbled on a napkin, it makes me feel better, calmer.

The other thing I do is work on my art. Since my photo art business is built on bright vibrant colors (you can find and like it at https://www.facebook.com/AcidArtByLj), it invariably lightens my mood. Photos have long been an inspiration for my writing – I used to do an exercise where I’d take a photo or a picture postcard and write a story based on the picture. It’s a great way to fight writer’s block and when I’ve written something, I always feel lighter.

I can’t imagine I’m the only one to get the writing blues. But I’d love to hear what y’all do to fight letting it overwhelm you. Maybe we can help each other!Image

Blues by LJ Walter  www.acidartbylj.com

Cre-age-itivity

LJ Walter - Acid Art by LJ

Day Star – LJ Walter – Acid Art by LJ

I recently participated in a long form blog interview with Susanne Dutton over at her blog, LongerStory. I had a chance to give some thought and some answers about both creativity and the aging process. It gave me the opportunity to give some thought to issues I don’t normally contemplate. You might want to take a look. It’s an interesting interview (if I do say so myself).