What I Learned from Offline October

Those of you who follow this blog (may blessing rain upon you for making a writer happy) might remember that, at the start of October, I decided to try to go light on the internet during that month.

Specifically, the idea was to limit online time to an hour per day, so as to have time to engage in offline pursuits that ‘fill the well’ of creativity, partly to inform NaNoWriMo in November.

As far as the stated aim of an hour a day went, I would have to say it was a colossal failure.  (I appreciate you keeping the laughs down to a polite tittering.  Your manners are valued.)

But, as an exercise in working out where the time goes and making  a plan for the future, it has been, I think, very successful.

Here’s what I discovered:

There are three main ways that I lose time to the internet.  The first is when I am avoiding jobs that I think are going to be difficult, scary or boring – or classic procrastination, in other words.  The second is in genuine work, which needs to be done, either for business, personal or volunteer reasons.  The third is in due to the fundamentally interconnected, diffuse and non-focussed nature of the way I interact with it.

So, how can I deal with these issues?

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Wednesday WIP: Unexpected writerly inspiration and ideas from my friends

So, on Monday, I took up a writing challenge and put out an open invitation to others to join in.

(BTW, that invitation is still well and truly open so if you haven’t had a chance to throw your bit into the ring yet, please do! Click the blue ‘Monday’ above.)

I was delighted to see how many people responded and how good their snippets of work were.  If you haven’t seen them yet, do have a look and if you feel inclined, I’m sure the contributors would love your feedback.

I was expecting to enjoy reading the work.  What was an unexpected pleasure was finding two little gems of ‘advice’ that I can use immediately in my current manuscript.

The first was this one, from Bella

One thing that always works for me is to have an “out of body” experience. That’s when I have a look at what’s currently taking place as if I were a spectator of the tragedy or comedy unfolding before me. No longer am I the protagonist, but instead, a bystander who is able to observe so she can later recount what she has witnessed.

She was talking about finding inspiration for a blog post, but it burst upon me as a way to overcome the slight block I’ve been experiencing in my story.  I need to get some of my characters through a list of tasks and wasn’t sure how to approach it.  But this has made me realise that perhaps I’m overthinking it.  I’m well into this story.  These characters are well fleshed-out now, with personalities and ideas of their own.  Maybe what I need to do is just give them the task list, perch like the proverbial fly on the wall and watch what they do.

If you’re not a writer, that may sound extremely odd, but if you are, you might like to try it too.  I know it’s made me excited about writing these scenes I’ve been avoiding, and I’m all for anything that can do that!

The other little nugget of wonderful was from Jett, who said this:

As a rule, I want each character to be interesting enough – even if they only have a couple lines – that if I had to I could write a story on them.

This is an excellent reminder.  I once read somewhere – I think it was in Stephen King’s, On Writing, that every character in a scene thinks they’re the protagonist and as writers, we need to remember that.  If a character doesn’t bring wants and needs to a scene, he or she shouldn’t be in it – or the story.  Since my ‘list of tasks’ involves several minor characters and a hovering bad guy (who thinks he’s a good guy) this is a timely reminder for me.  So thanks, Jett!

Incidentally, Jett has recently set up a Kickstarter for what sounds like a fascinating project dealing with unknown women’s history.  He was too polite to mention it in his comment, but this is a subject close to my heart, so I’m doing it now! Check it out his post about it here.

So I’m off to get some scenes done in the story, refreshed by an unexpected source.  What about you? Have you had any serendipitous moments of clarity?

Offline October: Are you in?

If you are reading this, then it is pretty much a given that you love, or at least like, the internet.

As a blog writer, can I say, I love you for loving it, and thanks!  Knowing that at least some people enjoy your work makes it worth doing and is a wonderful, irreplaceable encouragement.

It’s also wonderful to know that it’s not just me.  Because oh my giddy aunt, I do love the interwebs!

It’s writer heaven, the online world. Where else could I find detailed instructions on how to field-strip a pistol in the middle of the night?  (When I need it for book research, natch.  What were you thinking?)

And blogs, twitter and the faceplace keep me in touch with my tribe.  Writing is a solitary business, but thanks to the internet, it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. I have met wonderful new friends here online, both writers and non-writers and I cherish them.

But… there are only so many hours in a day.

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A picture is worth a thousand words…

Ooh, look at me and my bad self, titling a post with a cliché… 😉  Bear with me.  There is some sense in this reckless word-usage – I hope!

I’m fairly certain that the original coiner of that phrase didn’t have a patch of frosty grass in mind when he or she said it.  But nonetheless, the phrase, or rather a twisting of it, came to my mind as I looked out over this patch this morning.

What I thought at first, as I opened the curtains, if I may quote my early-morning thoughts, was, ‘ooh, frost. Pretty. How would I describe that?’

Then, as I made tea, I began thinking about it and realised that there are probably at least one thousand words that even something as ordinary as frosty grass could give me.

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Music for steaming ahead

This month, I signed up to the RWA’s 50k in 30 days challenge.

I didn’t plan to do 50,000 words, but I did sign up for 40,000.

I have to admit, at this half-way point of the month, it’s not looking good.

For some people, 40,000 words would be a piece of cake, but I don’t count the total words, only what I call ‘finished words’.  I write a chapter at a time and only move on when it’s as close to done as it can be without having the whole manuscript together.  (It’s a legacy from being a copywriter – each scene or chapter is like a ‘job’.  It’s how I roll and I’ve given up second-guessing it.)  So I might write 12,000 words but end up with only 4,000 that I count.

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I’d like to thank the Academy…

I feel a little like Sally Fields that time at the Oscars, when she said “You like me! You really like me!”  In the last week or so, I have been given two blog awards by two sweet fellow Blogistes.

The first is this one:

which was bestowed upon me by the lovely Lea of Lea at Sea, who has a charming blog about books and writing (and often, beautiful photos).

The second is this one:

which was given to me by the brave and mysterious ‘S’, who has undertaken, for the sake of her health, to eschew sugar forever more and is documenting the process in her blog, S Isn’t For Sugar.  Sooner her than me, say I, but I am following her progress with interest!

I’m very touched and would now like to spread the love by nominating some other blogs that deserve some lovin’.

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Spread a little Kindness: it’s good for all of us!

Last Friday, I said I had stopped talking about what makes men sexy.  Due to popular demand (two people, but that’s a quorum where I live!), I have changed my mind and will be continuing the series, but I am breaking in to do two quick updates and something new.

First, updates:

For everyone who expressed concern over the technical issues, chez Imelda, thank you and I am now the proud owner of a gorgeous, thin, light, long-battery-lifed laptop, which is making me very happy.  No doubt there will be a rhapsodising post at some point.

For those who liked the post on Pigtail Pals, Melissa has a post up on her blog today about just how hard it was to bring her business baby to life and keep it afloat which is touching reading and an encouragement to anyone struggling to keep up a good fight.

And now, onto the new thing: The Kindness Project

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Monday on Writing Talks Poetry

I will out myself now: I am a lousy poet.  In all the years of my life, I have written about four works that I think qualify as actual poetry (I have written them carefully in a notebook that I hope to have half-full before I die).  But I love to read it.  So I was excited to discover that April is (in America, anyway) National Poetry Month.

And in the grand, go-getting tradition of the US of A, home of NaNoWriMo, this has inspired the creation of NaPoWriMo.  For those who haven’t heard, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, held in November each year, which is a challenge to writers to write 50 thousand words of their novel in a month.  NaPoWriMo is the poetry equivalent, where challengees set themselves to write 30 poems in 30 days.

At my current output rate, I would need to live to approximately 330 to produce 30 poems, but in keeping with the spirit of the thing, I have dusted off The Notebook and found this.  It’s untitled.

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Sunday Salon is Serious Women’s Business

I haven’t been out here in the blogsphere long, but I have already ‘met’ many lovely fellow bloggers.  Recently, I came across Stella Marr (pictured, left), who has a blog called My Body the City: The Secret Life of a Call Girl.

I’m sure anyone who has read my blog will guess that this isn’t a salacious tell-all.  It’s a story about survival.  It’s a story that moved me and I wanted to share it.  With her permission, I am reprinting here the letter she posted on her blog that she wishes she could have sent to her younger self.

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Today’s Musical Friday Favourite = OK Go

I love, love, love, OK Go.

What other modern band would illustrate their song with a multi-coloured tango?

Or work so well with the Muppets?

Or go to this much trouble for the sheer, gleeful, musical madness of it? (Listen to the end to get the ironic, [in view of the song subject] spoken last line of the video.)

A true Friday favourite!  Do you have any OK Go favourites?  Or Muppet favourites, for that matter?  Or any video silliness to share?

Hope your weekend is looking good…

Imelda