Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"...almost incredibly successful"

I picked up The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy last night and actually read through the introduction this time. And I found this gem:

"... Later I became a writer and worked on a lot of things that were almost incredibly successful but in fact just failed to see the light of day. Other writers will know what I mean. " - Douglas Adams
Do you have an almost incredibly successful project in the works? What stage is your future success at right now?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

There's still time!

No, I'm not talking about Christmas shopping.

What I was thinking about was year-long goals. Do you set those at the beginning of the year? I often do. I always start with some easy ones so I feel progress right off the bat. But those ambitious ones are trickier. They take plodding - one small task at a time that eventually adds up to the big job done.

So it's about this time of year that I dust off the goal list and see how I've made out. And as I look at it, I see some things I'm really proud of. I finished one ambitious art piece that I've been working on for 2 1/2 years. I've experimented with some new mediums - some I like, some not so much. I've had some very productive public appearances and made some good friends in the process.

But I must confess, I've got one big project that still isn't ready to go. In spite of time blocked out, my husband's support (read "coaxing", "encouraging", "nagging") and a "productivity pal" it's still not where I wanted it to be by this time.


But the good news is the year isn't over yet. I still have time (roughly a week, once the Christmas company clears out for the year) to pull it back out and make some progress. And even if I don't quite make it, I guess I have the beginning of a goal list for next year.

What's left on your list for this year?

My thanks to Rick Green for the use of his hilarious "doodle".

Monday, December 14, 2009

Art in healing

Art enables us to find ourselves
and lose ourselves at the same time.
Thomas Merton
I found a site today that intrigued me. And once I finished looking through it, it also touched and challenged me.

The site is called "Lilly Oncology on Canvas" and it features an annual art competition, as well as a gallery of past competition winners, for those who have been personally touched by cancer, either as a person diagnosed with cancer, caring for someone with cancer or as a healthcare professional.

I'd encourage you to take a moment to look through it. And if you know someone that might be eligible, encourage them to consider expressing their journey through art. The guidelines for the 2010 competition are here.

An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.
Charles Horton Cooley

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Touch typing

I've run into a funny dilemma in my writing.

The letters are wearing off my keyboard.

B and N are totally gone. L and V are a mere speck of their former selves. S, D, C, M and K are fading fast. And E is looking pretty skinny too.

I've never actually had this happen before and its been funny to watch the letters slowly dissolve into blackness. It's also causing more typos and spelling mistakes. It's not that I stare at the keyboard as I type. I progressed beyond that some time ago. But somehow having the "anchor letters" fading, combined with the process of thinking through the spelling on some words makes me too aware that some letters are missing. That it'll be a laborious process of memory to find it on the keyboard if I have to look.

My solution, for now, is to have to operate in autopilot. You know how that works, right? Like the centipede that has no trouble walking until it has to explain which leg goes where - if you forget your hands and just type away, it seems to work much better than being conscious of where each finger should go to find each letter. It goes much more smoothly that way. (It also works sometimes if you forget your PIN.)

I suppose I could get a new keyboard. But I kind of like the story this one is telling on its own. It tracks my writing almost as well as anything else. So for now, I'll just clatter away on this one.

But when I wear out the asterisk, I'll know for sure it's time for a new one.

(I also learned two things while taking the picture of my keyboard:

1. It's very dusty!
2. There are actually function cues on the fronts of some of the keys. Never noticed that before ...)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Responding to criticism

I was pointed to a great blog today by Nathan Bransford. His blog on "How To Respond to a Manuscript Critique/Editorial Letter" is definitely worth the price of admission.

These responses can be difficult. I always open them with rubber gloves and as long a reach as I can manage, especially if it's a first-time response from an editor I haven't worked with before, or that I've disagreed with before. And I've had clients tell me they react the same way when I send revisions their way, too.

So what do we do? We know that these suggestions and critiques are necessary to make our writing stronger. (Yes, I said NECESSARY.) But the whirlwind they can cause sometimes makes writers (and artists) want to pack in their pencils.

I've learned to watch for some warning signs in my responses. Maybe some of them will look familiar to you:

1. Anger. This usually takes an "How dare they?" or "They don't know anything" sound. Don't they understand that the whole premise of the plot rests on the fact that the protagonist had his mother serve him bad brussel sprouts as a child?

My suggestion? Anger might suggest they have a point. So have a tantrum if you must, but then take a deep breath, count to ten and look again at the suggestions in small pieces. Remember that it's business, not personal. Your editor or agent isn't out to destroy your voice, your career or your reputation. On the contrary, they have a very vested interest in seeing you succeed. That doesn't mean to have to agree, but it does mean you need to understand why you agree (or don't agree) with the suggested changes.

2. Despair. "I'm just not a writer," "I'll never write again," or "This will take MONTHS to revise." It may be even the silent motion of simply closing the file and walking away with no intention of ever opening it again. (Depending on deadlines, of course. Or money on the line.)

My response to myself has usually been, "Get over it." Put it away for a bit and then take another look after you've armed yourself with a goodly supply of chocolate (or coffee or Barry Manilow or whatever it takes to keep your mental boat steady. Okay, maybe not Barry Manilow.)

3. Dismissal. I was part of a critique group once that had a mix of genres represented in the group. And I found myself "weighting" the criticisms by the genre the other writer wrote. "Well, he writes novels - he just doesn't get picture books," "She's a poet. She doesn't have to deal with character development."

It's common sense that we gravitate towards people with similarities, in almost every situation. But that doesn't mean there's no value in the differences. Why? Because our readers will also have different viewpoints, backgrounds and areas of expertise. Perhaps don't make wholesale revisions based on every comment you get, but welcome the "hmph" reaction as a chance to see from another point of view. And then (and only then) evaluate it's validity.

Criticism is a double-edged opportunity. Too many times it can feel like "hit me again." But it's still the mark of the dedicated writer to be able to accept the input of others to shape and carve our words. Hopefully without feeling carved up in the process.