Tag Archive for deadline

Guest Post: The Charming Light Box and a Literary Fetus

This guest post by Creative Writer’s Workshop member Kim Chamberlain, who is steadily making excellent progress with her memoir. Kim is a music teacher, clarinetist and jazz singer with lots of great stories. Kim can be reached at chamberlaind@bellsouth.net.

My writing coach’s words from a month ago reverberate inside my head: “You have four long weeks to get a lot done.”

Now, my deadline looms at midnight. In my basement writing room, twenty-seven chapters, hiding inside 2 large binders, remind me that I’ve got Writer’s Block.

Light Box by Kim ChamberlainI can write. A lot. I can quickly churn out another chapter for my memoir, sending it on its way to Wayne’s Thursday night writers’ group.  I recall the ending of my group evaluation at our last meeting weeks ago:

“Consider choosing five chapters that anchor the plot best, and start building structure from there,” Wayne suggested.

Five. Yeah, right.

The glow from a nearby lamp radiating off the top of Wayne’s pate inspired me to ponder the reflective quality of human skin. My mind meanders down a trivial trail into a thicket of distraction.

His mouth continued to form words. “Why not start by identifying the setting, characters and theme?”

I wonder if Wayne’s crown feels silky or maybe a little bumpy. That Yul Brenner look requires a nicely shaped head like Wayne’s.

Ann, the first published author among us, chimed in. “It may be difficult to pick five, but I learned a lot by doing the same thing.”

Back from her year-long sabbatical, a time spent publishing her book, Ann has plunged into her second work while still finding the time to promote the first one. She manages to simultaneously write new material and present workshops requiring airline and hotel reservations.

Will I even get to the editing stage?

Ann flashed a wide grin. “Just spread the chapters all around on the floor like I did. You’ll figure it out.”

She had a point. I earned my Masters in Library Science in a maelstrom, broadcasting my handwritten notes, rough drafts, markers, and pens upon a wide table in the library. The debris always managed to write itself. But writing memoir was different.

I imagined a hurricane of papers scattered haphazardly on my already cluttered writing room floor. I pouted and replied, “Well, I’ve put all 27 chapters in 3-ring binders.”

Wayne’s timer trilled, and everyone folded up their notes on my work and passed them to me.

Wayne smiled, “Good work, Kim. Karen? You’re on.”

A masterful weaver of imagery, Karen often apologizes for not producing enough. Yet her book is organically forming itself.

“I didn’t get much done,“ she confessed, as I unfolded her 2000-word entry of the week and contemplated my commentary next to hot sauce stains that I’d added at lunch earlier in the day: “Brilliant as always! You’ve accomplished so much!”

Enjoying a mini-sabbatical herself, the soon-to-be online published Hana checked in through Wayne. We learned that while she drove her son to a soccer tournament, her characters frolicked in her mind, concocting the next plot twist.

Wayne wrapped it up. “See y’all next month! Do good work!”

Flanked by my fellow writers, I stumbled toward my Subaru, noticing one benevolent star at the far end of the plum-hued sky. It was a hopeful sign.

As soon as I pulled into the carport, I made a beeline for my basement writing room.

I’ll start tonight!

It wouldn’t take long for my chapters to come together and form an embryonic entity, the way primordial organs adjoin in utero. By July, there’d be a memoir, a literary fetus. At group, everyone would coo, “Look! You can see all of its parts, and there’s a cute little ending. How adorable!”

Still warm from group, I hole-punched the group’s notated papers and snapped them into Binder 2.

Better start fresh in the morning.

FullSizeRender 9That was a month ago.

I’ve gotten a lot done over break, but I haven’t touched my memoir.

First, Dave and I spent four days with our son at his future college. Exuberant student representatives plied us with window decals, plastic coffee cups, T-shirts, and brochures. Time had to be spent to sift through it all.

Next, I succumbed to my thrift store addiction. Rather than heed Wayne’s words, I made things from purchased wooden boxes, bric-a brac, knick-knacks and picture frames. Whenever I’d sit down at my writing table, my creative brain focused on crafting.

Hmm. If I remove the glass from that picture frame and put it inside that wooden box, I could make a nifty case for my clarinet reeds.

The hours ebbed into lost time, yielding unique folk-art masterpieces and charming light boxes.  My writing room is ablaze.

I did work on my memoir just a bit. One day I cleared a place at my long folding table, and I skimmed a few chapters from Volume 1. Jotting down the main characters, setting, plot, and themes onto index cards, I realized that some of my work belonged in the “reject” folder.

The next day, I slammed volume 2 onto the table with a thud. I froze. I fell asleep.

Hours dribbled into days until I had less than 72 hours left.

Volume 2 just sat there—a Stonehenge monolith—impenetrable, looming and impossible. Rather than turn to another craft project for diversion, I realized that worry and grief work just as well.  I was seriously nutting up.

Last Friday evening with three days left on the break, my husband and son found me plopped on the couch, as intractable as my binders.The Chamberlains, photo by Tom Marnell

“Do you want to come with us to a show in Marietta?”

“You guys go and have a good time. I’m going to work on my writing.”

I listened to the truck pull out of the driveway and reached for my son’s gaming remote. I turned on the TV and scrolled down to You Tube.

In the search bar, I typed in “The Illuminati and UFOs.”

Five more minutes and I’ll go down to the basement.

I scuttled deeper into the sofa.

Wow, I didn’t know that ex-Presidents are working for some new world order!

The television droned on. I dozed off then jolted awake to fuzzy images of naked billionaires sacrificing goats at secret rituals deep in the California woods.

Goosebumps erupted on my arms as a male voice warned, “Wake up, people! The signs are all around us!”

The weekend vanished with only hours left.

I heard Wayne’s voice in my head, “You have four weeks…”

Forget about the chapters. Write. Just Write.

That’s what I did.

Now at the deadline’s midnight hour, I finished this and emailed it to the group. On Thursday, they’ll tell me they still have faith in me. Then on Friday, I’ll fling twenty-seven chapters onto my writing room floor and see what happens.

Photos 1 and 2 courtesy of Kim and David Chamberlain.  Photo of the Chamberlains by Tom Marnell, mineeyeshavescene.com.

Change Adds Up

celebrate changeThirty-one million, five hundred and thirty-five thousand, nine-hundred and ninety seconds go by without much awareness, yet we make the final ten a collective concentrated countdown.  At the final tick, we instantly let go of all the seconds from the year before and enthusiastically kiss in another block of time.

When the clock strikes midnight, we celebrate change.

For many of us, that’s it.  The one-time only.  We get an idea about change, maybe make resolutions, then drop ‘em to the wayside as we journey along as if nothing happened.

But like the seconds ticking by, change persists.

This past year, there was change I didn’t choose, like the updating of my computer’s operating system.  Though the same company, command buttons moved and renamed. Others vanished. Additionally, Gmail went to a new look and filing system, and ITunes, which probably updated years ago, became new to me.

synapse firingDid these changes make my life better?  Not necessarily.  I moaned about it, but I learned it.  I strengthened my synapses a little through the exercise.  And I dropped resistance; the Internet and its technology are so young, they are bound to change.

Language changes with new words and altered meanings.  Remember when “bad” meant “bad,” then meant “good” and then later meant “bad” again?  This past year, if I were rich and did something really bad (and I mean “bad”), I could blame it on my “Affluenza.”  If I “twerked” without a major stretch before and a chiropractic adjustment after, that would be bad (I still don’t mean “good”).

Rather than relearning computer software or attempting to dance like a teenager again, I’d much rather make changes that give me the expression of creativity I desire.

Bottom line: change requires two actions – choice and effort.

So, if you’re a writer or want to be, choose and make the effort.  Affect change –

  • Hire an editor for that manuscript
  • Book some coaching time to rev up your pace
  • Take a class or seminar for new ideas
  • Attend a free writer’s event and build community
  • Make a coffee date with yourself, a macchiato and a writing prompt
  • Buy a cheap notebook and begin to fill it with whatever
  • Write down that resolution to write, then, gosh, write about it

Like coins tossed into a bowl, change adds up.  If done consciously, it adds up for good.  If consistently celebrated, you feel happy as time flies.

Please follow links to the right for info on current writing seminars and classes.  Editing and coaching services always available.

Client Success: Author Jonathan Larney

Larney.Head.Hurts.artJonathan Larney has a headache.  A persistent one.  He knows it so well that it’s the antagonist of his memoir My Head Hurts! My Struggle with the Headache That Refused to Stop.

“My headache started on August 1, 2011, and the odds of my type of headache going away significantly drops after two years.”  For this unique sentimental reason, Larney, 24, aimed to publish his first book near this anniversary to celebrate achievement over adversity.

I found his memoir to have an inspiring universal message of hope.  Whereas books about other medical conditions usually have this, too, most everyone relates to having a headache.

“The book is about knowing someone who looks fine, but underneath is a lot of pain. We all know someone like this, but we don’t know it, if that makes sense. Thus, my story is intended to represent those people and tell the world that we aren’t all as fine as we look.”

Larney writes how his consistent condition fluctuates as he metaphorically describes what the headache is like to live with, often to achingly funny results through his sharp wit and pop culture references.  I was uplifted and sometimes angered reading his experiences with those in the medical world, his workplace and community.  Additionally, I was surprised to learn how hard he’s worked to cover up his pain and not share much about his condition.

“I went from wanting to delete the book, to sharing it with a select few, to wanting to publish it, to wanting to burn it,” Larney said. “It was originally a tool to help connect me and someone close in my life who wished to know more but didn’t have the chance or didn’t know where to begin.”

His purpose expanded to include those who suffer migraines, chronic daily or seasonal cluster headaches, or someone like him with a New Daily Persistent Headache. “I could have used a book like this when I was struggling. Like a lot. I really felt alone, and it would have helped if there was another person sharing similar thoughts. So if this book helps one person with a headache, inspires them to not give up or to try one more thing, I did my job.”

Preparing to share his story with the world, he contacted me in mid-June inquiring about pricing and process for the final line edit.  After a trial run of editing the first two chapters, he hired me, and the project was completed in less than ten days.

Larney’s compelling story raised my knowledge, compassion and interest.  Demonstrating commitment and perseverance, he wrote through the personal challenges of considering the most compassionate way to share his secret while living with a never ending headache.

“For a long time, I wasn’t sure I would ever make this leap to tell the world my secret, but it’s really the other way around. I’m not sure the world is ready to know about it. But I am ready to find out.”

Jonathan Larney’s My Head Hurts! is available in paperback and for Kindle


Wanna write your memoir? Join the Memoir class! 

After The Deadline

After the researching, drafting, editing, and dancing the final adrenaline-fueled dance with the deadline, you submit your writing.  Gone; out of your hands.  Your desk still looks the same, but there’s an eerie silence. . .except in your head.

A writer can often feel lost or jittery, filled with anticipatory dread about the final edit, upcoming publication, or possible rejection. So, now what?

Deadline After

The creative wheels on recent writing keep turning after hitting ‘send.’  Ideas can come instantly or up to days after submission.  That’s good!  Creativity is still clicking, so honor the ideas, notate them, or maybe file them away for possible revisions or expansions in the future.

Something happens to make you wish for just one more revision.  Yes, your mind may change.  I witnessed a writer who had researched libel, felt confident about his work, then heard another opinion making him anxious all over again as the presses were running.  More research was the salve to calm his fears.

You are wired and worn out from your too-fast dance with the deadline.  If you were stressed or, worse, simply didn’t make the deadline, reassess your process.  Though some writers are like crazed holiday shoppers thriving on the last minute rush, try beginning work upon assignment and setting a personal deadline days in advance of the real one.  A buffer gives you the opportunity to breathe easier.

You get the blues.  Some writers use the term ‘put to bed’ from the newspaper industry, which either can give a feeling of freedom or one that feels self-defeating. An attitude of ‘all is lost’ or ‘it’s over for good’ is limiting.  Be discerning with self-talk at this juncture.  Speak to yourself in a way to create a feeling of a clean slate and a golden opportunity to begin anew.

Do something good for yourself.  Asleep in HammockAfter big projects are complete, a feeling of letdown can set in.  See friends, get out of town, garden, indulge in an afternoon in a hammock, go to a show.  If necessary, shift focus and relieve stress by catching up on the to-do list you haven’t finished while writing the project.  Whatever you do, engage enthusiastically as you did with your creative project.

Enjoy the glow of accomplishment. Answer your fan mail and take the calls from those who want to give reviews.  Enjoy their enthusiasm and graciously receive their kudos and suggestions.  Accept the compliment that they cared enough to express from the encouragement of your writing, even if their voice is dissenting.  Most importantly, feel great about your good work.

Keep writing.  Maintain momentum by writing in whatever way feels right, whether it is journaling, revising or beginning anew.  Keep up the practice, and keep the creativity fresh.

Get ready for more ideas when you read your published work.  You will have grown into a new perspective, even in a short bit of time.  Celebrate that growth, the outpouring of ideas, and channel it into your next project.