I'm Ba-aacck!

Hey there! It's been a really long time since I've been active here. Life was pretty sucky for a while and I couldn't write. I won't bore you with the details, because all is well now. 

I can't promise I'll be posting super regularly again, but I definitely won't wait so long between posts.

I'm hard at work on my 5th Red Stilettos book. After that, I'll get back to my baseball and weddings series. 

Anyway, it's great to be back, and nice to *see* you again.

:) Becky

Fast Drafting to the Finish Line!

May 7, 2018

I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump for a couple of years (due to some crap life threw at my family) and haven’t released anything new (a couple of re-releases, but that’s it). I’ve started and stopped a few books in that time, but keep getting stuck.

With every book I hope I’ll find a process that works for me, but – big sigh here – my process is just a mess and I think I need to learn to accept that. I’m a pantser (I write by the seat of my pants, with no/limited plotting beforehand) who wants to be a plotter, who’s really a pantser who keeps trying to be a plotter. Yes, I’m confused. LOL.

It’s exhausting trying to be something you’re not.

Years ago, I attended an RWA workshop called Fast Draft, by the amazing Candace Havens. She is also a pantser who has written countless books. She says the first draft is the hardest (I’d have to agree) and she can finish the first draft of a novel in 14 days… by writing 20 pages a day.

Considering I can barely write 1-2 pages a day, this number is daunting. But she promises if you can stick with it, by day 3 or so, the magic will take over and you won’t be able to type fast enough to get the story out of your head onto the page.

Havens says the faster you write that first draft, the more your muse will take over, the less your bitchy internal editor will yell at you, and the more creative your story will be.
Sounds promising.

So… because I’m tired of spinning my wheels with this story (and the others I’ve attempted to write), I’m going to give it a shot. She says the average writer will take 3.5 hours to get 20 pages written. And the more you practice, the faster you’ll go. I don’t know if I’ll be able to hit 20 pages. But I’m going to try.

I’ve got nothing to lose. My first drafts are completely sucky whether they take me two years to write or two months. So why not try for two weeks?

The rules are simple:
  • No whining.
  • The only excuse for not writing is if you’re in a coma or dead.
  • Write as fast as you can.
  • No going back to read/edit what you wrote the day before, just keep going.
  • No stopping to research, just make a note to yourself.
  • If you’re more of a plotter, you can write up a synopsis beforehand or scene cards or whatever you need to do to start writing the first draft.
  • No excuses.

The key is challenging myself to write more than I normally do, and to immerse myself in the story world every single day. I want to live, breathe and eat my story.

I’m going to give this a shot. Wish me luck. I’ll update you in a week on how it’s going. If you want to join me or try this yourself, let me know in the comments.

Week 5: The Artist's Way

Week 5: 
Recovering a Sense of Possibility

I apologize for my hiatus. My husband had major surgery and it kind of threw me for a loop. So if there’s any time I need a creative recovery, it’s now.  Anyway, I hope to be back on my weekly or sort-of-weekly schedule of going through this program.

This past week we were supposed to examine our payoffs to remaining stuck. Julia Cameron said most of us have a limited notion to what we are able to accomplish. I’d agree with this. Lately, with my focus elsewhere and not on my writing, I don’t believe I can write at all. So I haven’t even tried.

Cameron suggests we look to our higher power (whatever that is for us) for help, saying that we must not set a limit on how much He can help us or give us. Here’s the thing, while I’m not a religious person, I am spiritual. And I’ve prayed every night for my husband’s healing. I haven’t thought to pray for my creative recovery—it sounds so trite and trivial in comparison. But perhaps I shouldn’t limit my beliefs to thinking I’m asking for too much.

Cameron says we need to stop discounting our dreams, and not be afraid to ask for help, guidance, abundance. Hmm. That’ll be hard for me, given my circumstances now, but I will try. I will try to be open to opportunities and at least try to write again.

She also says we must have downtime to do nothing. That withdrawal from others is a necessity to an artist. If we deprive ourselves of this, we feel “vexed, angry, out of sorts.” I can relate to this. I have had no time to myself for weeks. I don’t begrudge my husband or the situation, but I guess it makes sense then that I have no creative well to draw from when I barely have time to myself to think. I will work on this. I will try to tend a bit more to my needs as I’m tending to his.

So… no major revelations this week. If my life wasn’t so topsy turvy right now, I would have really enjoyed this week’s exercises and readings. I’m going to assume my subconscious is taking in all Cameron’s advice to use sometime in the future.

Weekly Check-in:

Morning pages: Except for the few days I stayed at the hospital with my hubby, I have done these religiously. In fact, I believe they’re what have kept me somewhat sane.

Artist Date: Ummm, not really. I have been coloring in my adult coloring book, which I find enjoyable and meditative. I feel guilty coloring for more than a few minutes at a time, but some is better than none, right?

Any synchronicity this week? If there was, I wasn’t paying attention. LOL. Maybe next week…

Week 4: The Artist's Way

Recovering a Sense of Integrity

This is the week we start sorting through the differences between our real feelings (how we really feel) and our official feelings (what we project publicly). Julia Cameron warns this may be exciting or really difficult, or both. Uh, yeah. This week was hell.

When someone asks how we are, we usually answer, "I'm fine," or "All good," or some other innocuous answer. But inside, are we really fine? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Our morning pages help us get to the root of how and what we are truly feeling, not just about our art and creativity, but about our lives. 

Life has been a struggle for me and my family lately. My husband has battled unemployment and now cancer. People are always asking me how we're doing, how I'm doing. I always say, "I'm fine. It's all fine. We'll get through this." I do believe we'll get through this, but am I fine? Oh, hell no. Inside my head, I'm curled up in a fetal position wanting to ignore the world because it's all so overwhelming. I've been writing down my thoughts in my morning pages, unraveling how I'm really feeling rather than the way I project myself to the outside world. I didn't expect The Artist's Way to help me get a handle on this most difficult time in my life, but it is. You can't hide in the morning pages. 

Thanks to this program, I'm trying to find more alone time--time to think, cry, write my pages, do my weekly tasks, whatever. I feel like I'm nearing a break-thru, that I'll be able to write again soon. Every time I try, I just stare at the blinking cursor and no words come. But I really don't feel stuck anymore; I just don't quite know where I am at the moment. Cameron says that's normal. . 

This is also a week where we work on our changing self-definition. It encouraged me to finally start working on my goals for the year, in my writing business, health and fitness. I've been redefining what health and fitness means to me. Before my husband's diagnosis, it was all about losing those extra pounds I've gained, upping my workouts, achieving new feats of physical fitness. Now, it's about my general health and that of my family. I want to eat healthier and work out more consistently to be healthier, live longer and feel better, rather than to lose weight or look better in my jeans. 

On a lighter note...Ugh. This was the week of reading deprivation. Luckily, it took me 3 days into the week to read the chapter, so I *only* had 4 days of this special kind of hell. According to Cameron, reading deprivation "casts us into our inner silence." Even though reading is vital to a writer, by depriving ourselves of this inflow of someone else's words, new words will begin to form inside of us. Hmm, didn't really happen like that for me. I kept forgetting and would find myself accidentally reading. Oops. Instead of reading, I watched more Criminal Minds reruns, listened to some podcasts, and almost shot myself out of boredom as I walked on my treadmill with nothing to read. 

Still, Cameron insists it's a powerful tool--"and a very frightening one. Even thinking about it can bring up enormous rage." Yep, that was me. Rage-aholic for the the last four days. LOL

All in all, it was an... interesting week. Glad it's over. Ready to move ahead.

Weekly Check-in:

Morning pages--Did these daily. I start the pages with 10 things I'm grateful for. Monday, #1 was "I'm grateful I'm allowed to read today." LOL

Tasks--I did most of them.

Artist Date--Nope. Why do I resist this? I have no idea.

How's the program going for you? Any breakthroughs?

The Artist's Way--Week 3

Week 3
Recovering a Sense of Power

You may have noticed that Week 3 took me two weeks instead of one. While this program is 12 weeks in the book, I
figured there was no harm in going longer if I felt the need.

I ended up purchasing the workbook, and have been reading through it, doing some tasks from earlier weeks that I skipped. I think the workbook will be really valuable – I recommend getting it if you haven’t already.

Every section of this week’s chapter spoke to me. The first is about Anger. “In the recovery of a blocked artist, anger is a sign of health,” Cameron says. Well, good. Guess I’m healthy. She says with a little digging, we can figure out what our anger is trying to tell us, that it will always tell us how we’ve betrayed ourselves.

I’m angry at myself for all the time I’ve wasted over the last few weeks/months/years, worrying about this, that and the other thing rather than just writing. I spend a lot of time telling myself “I can’t” or “This is a waste of time” rather than just sitting down to write. I spend a lot of time being jealous and envious of others’ successes; if I spent as much time writing as I do comparing myself to others, I’d be way better off. If I could grab myself by the shoulders and shake myself, I would.

Cameron also talks about Synchronicity. This is probably my favorite part of this whole course, because it’s so true. “Watch out for what you pray for, you just might get it.” She says once we start our creative recovery, synchronicity (answered prayers, the open door, whatever you want to call it) will pop up everywhere. She says never to ask yourself if you can do something. She says to say instead that you are doing it. And amazing things will start to happen. 

“Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.”--Ovid

I haven’t experienced much synchronicity yet while doing this creative recovery, but I know I will. I just need to keep my eyes open to it.

Another thing Cameron talks about which really hits home with me is Shame. “What will the neighbors think” was my grandmother’s favorite saying. It must have sunk into my brain because whenever I write a steamy sex scene, I think my mom’s going to read this, or some of my co-workers might read this, etc. Why do I care? If I wrote graphic horror novels, I wouldn’t think twice about friends and family reading those scenes. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten so many comments over the years about my choice to write romance. “I think it’s time you take your writing more seriously.” “Did you know Becky writes those smut novels?” “Do you actually read romances?” Yes. I love to read romance novels. It’s my favorite genre. It makes sense that I would write it. So what’s my problem?

I also feel shame that I spend so much time on my writing, when I could be spending more time with my family, or cleaning my house, or cooking, or any of the bazillion other activities I could be doing.

Clearly, I have some serious issues to overcome, LOL, thus this program and thus the reason for taking my time in completing Week 3.

Weekly Check-in:
Morning pages—I do these daily. They are pretty whiny and like a glorified To Do list lately, but my day would feel incomplete without them.

Artist Date: Last week, I spent about 45 minutes at the local Goodwill, looking at their huge selection of used books. I also like looking through the furniture and vases and pottery. This week, I didn’t do an artist date. I’m still resisting it. It still feels like a waste of my time, which means I really need it.

Tasks: I did the majority of the tasks. Now that I have the workbook, I plan to eventually go back and finish them all.

How’s your creative recovery going? Does my craziness make you feel better about yours?

Week 2: The Artist's Way

Week 2
Recovering a Sense of Identity

I just finished my second week of The Artist’s Way 12-week program. This week, author Julia Cameron talks about how we doubt our creative power. We question how on earth the “universe” might be cooperating with us as we strive to find our creativity again.

But I had at least one instance where this seemed spot on. I like to listen to writing podcasts while I’m driving. When one finishes, it immediately goes on to the next one. Well, one day last week, the podcast I was listening to finished and went right into the next. It was one about freelance writing—something I had no interest in listening to and normally would’ve deleted it and gone on to another. But I didn’t want to fiddle with my phone while I was driving. I ended up listening to that podcast twice, checking out the interviewee's blog and signing up for her newsletter.

Long ago I had a dream of being a freelance writer, but that dream got lost along the way of my life and my fiction writing career. But freelance writing makes so much sense—I have 14 years experience as a personal trainer/instructor/coach. Why have I not tried my hand at fitness writing? I have a background in graphic design and illustration. Could there be something in that industry I could write about? Hmm. The wheels in my brain are starting to turn…

Cameron wants us to set aside our skepticism. When a weird idea or coincidence pops up or presents itself to us, we should gently nudge the door open and peek inside, rather than slamming the door to new ideas and/or possibilities. Which is what I tend to do a lot. It’s all about being open-minded (or open-doored LOL).

She says creative blocks manifest in our fantasies, in our daydreams. We need to start paying attention to those. “Sanity lies in paying attention,” she says.

So starting today, I will pay attention. I will nudge that door open and peer inside.

What about you? What do you need to start paying attention to?

Weekly Check-in:
  • I did my morning pages daily (easy for me; it’s been my routine for 10+ years).
  • Tasks—I did a couple of them; resisted these for some reason.
  • Artist Date—I went on a 4-day writing retreat with six other authors. So I basically had a 4-day Artist Date, and it was fabulous, inspiring and humbling.

Week 1--The Artist's Way

Week 1—The Artist’s Way
Recovering a Sense of Safety

I just finished Week 1 of The Artist’s Way, a book/program written and designed by Julia Cameron. I’ve done this program before—the first time in the mid-90s, back when “everyone” was doing it. I’m doing it again now because life hasn’t been very kind lately and I really got away from my writing and my creativity. I’m hoping these 12 weeks will ease me back into a creative life.

So… week one. It’s all about feeling safe with one’s creativity, safe from others’ judgments and safe from my own. My internal editor is a total bitch (her name is Helga), and AW is all about learning to ignore Helga and be a bad artist for a while if that’s what it takes.

Julia Cameron says our biggest enemy is our negative core beliefs. She says if we are blocked in an area of our life, it’s because we feel safer that way. Hmm. This used to be my issue, which is why I’ve done the program before. But right now, I haven’t been writing (being an artist) for several months due to personal reasons that have nothing to do with writing. Back in October my husband was diagnosed with colorectal cancer after a routine screening. His prognosis is good, but our world went topsy turvy, and my focus turned far away from my writing to him and our kids. I haven’t written more than 2000 words since early October.

Normally, that would really stress me out, but I’ve been very patient with myself because I know I’ve been focusing on what’s important. However… now that my hubby is between treatments for the moment, I feel ready to get back to the page. I never feel quite right unless I’m writing. Unfortunately, when I sit down in front of the computer, Helga is screaming in my ear so loudly that all I can do is stare at my blinking cursor. She’s telling me that my writing isn’t important at all, my husband is. That if I focus on my writing, I’m not focusing on him. Or my kids.  Even though they all want me writing again.

I just can’t shut Helga up on my own. Thus, the Artist’s Way to the rescue. I can’t say I’ve made a ton of progress in one week, but I did my morning pages every morning (three pages of unedited, stream of conscious writing). I did most of the tasks, and even did my artist date—Cameron says in order to be a good artist, we must regularly fill the creative well. That means taking myself on a weekly artist date. I went to Ben Franklin, a craft store I haven’t spent much time in for years. I made myself walk down every aisle, lingering longer in the print art and gallery section, and the art supplies section. But I felt very antsy, like I was wasting time and should be doing something else, like being home with my family (I blame Helga again).

Anyway, doing this program makes me feel like I’ve come home again—maybe because I did it in the early days of my writing career, when I was 20+ years younger. I look forward to seeing what the program can do for me this time, now that I’m older and wiser. (Um… Older, yeah. Wiser? Ha ha ha ha.)

If you’re doing the program with me, let me know how you’re doing and if you had any a ha moments.