Archive | August, 2011

Fall Break

This week is my daughter’s fall break. You know, when you’re four, the trials of preschool can be overwhelming. So she’s home all week to rest up before becoming a Big Dragon in the “fall semester.”

Our house, and my writing practice, is trashed. To get any work done I basically have to sit here and give her assignments, and not worry about the mess she makes. Make me a picture. Staple this piece of paper until it’s full of staples. Right now she is “scanning” things with my mouse, like we’re at the supermarket, her art projects stacked up around me like leaves caught in a fence on a windy day. Earlier she got ahold of the Febreze and “cleaned” the whole house. It wreaks in here.


I’m keeping this post brief. I’m hoping to get some writing done tonight once she’s in bed. We’ll see if I have any energy left for that. I finally get why my parents were always so excited when I had summer school.

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Carving Out Time For The Fiction

I met with my writer’s group on Wednesday and we got to talking about how hard it is to focus on our fiction sometimes, in the light of all the distractions that are available via the internet. One of my writing buddies told me that she sets aside time every morning to write before she allows herself to do anything online.

For her that means sitting down to write as soon as she wakes up around 8, then by 10 she clicks over to check emails and start her regular business day. She told me that really, there’s nothing in her life that can’t wait that one business hour for her to attend to it. 

It made me realize that my life is in a pretty similar spot. I can’t start writing until 9 when I sit down in my office (I’m busy with the kids before that), but really, most of the time, my career will not collapse in on itself if I don’t check my email for two hours.

So it’s been two days now. I come into my office, sit down and just start writing. It sounds like such a small thing, but it’s been awesome. Something about giving my creative work priority – before my brain is cluttered with daily life – allows me to make some real progress. I hope I can keep it up. 

I know at some point I will have clients with a rush job or some other thing that demands my attention early in the day, but generally speaking, this is a habit I’m going to try to keep.

So if you need me (I mean REALLY need me) before 11, call me. 

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It Only Works If You Work It

I blogged a while back about my writer’s notebook. It’s something I learned from Janet Fitch in a class at USC. Write down everything. Any time a verbal tick or landscape catches my attention for any reason I pull out my handy little notebook and write it down. Unfortunately, with all the distractions in my life, I have fallen short on the second, and vitally important part of transferring those notes to some sort of organized filing system. 

This morning I am working on a scene where my character’s crush is blossoming.  A few months ago I had this very visceral memory of a crush I once had. I don’t know what sparked it, but I was smart enough to not question and instead just pull over and write down what I remember it feeling like. 

The trouble is, this morning, when I could totally use that note, I can’t find it. I have two notebooks and two separate files for notes that I tear out, and it doesn’t seem to be anywhere! Arrrgggg! I wrote it down so I wouldn’t HAVE to remember. 

On the plus side, as I was sifting through my notes, I found I actually have a wealth of story ideas and character quirks that I might be able to use. I just need to get more organized so I can find them when I need them. So I guess some time soon I will need to go through the files and notebooks and type everything up. Then I can print them out and stick them in a binder I keep (or used to – it hasn’t been updated in a long while) for that precise purpose. 

Sweet. Another thing to add to my to do list.

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Run, Baby, Run

I’ve decided to become a runner.

After three months on bed rest and then actually squeezing the little guy out, my body is not the body I remember. I feel weak, and I’m tired of it. So I googled up a storm and designed a plan to ramp up slowly into a running practice. Yesterday was my first day – I did thirty minutes; three walking followed by two running, repeated six times. It felt good.

The best thing about this plan is the two minutes. Running is hard, but for two minutes I can do just about anything. And unlike my usual attempts at running, I wasn’t playing the mental game of “how much further can I go” I knew exactly how much longer I would be running, which allowed me to switch my focus to the act of running. I spent the two minute intervals of running time trying to find a groove, a comfort in the motion of it. It was cool.

It reminded me of my writing. Just like exercise, writing is hard to get back into when you step away from it for any length of time. And that’s why a writing practice is so important. Rather than pushing myself to get through this chapter or word count or what ever, when I set aside time to write, and I accept that writing is what I’m doing, I can free myself to settle into it, to find a comfort in the challenge of it. By embracing the act of writing and ignoring the part of me that whines “this is too hard…” I can let go and fall into that zone, the one where words just pour.

And on that note, time to stop blogging and get back to the novel.

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Two Truths and One Lie

I was at a conference a while back and a guy told a story about a writer who had taken a leap as a professional, and upped his price. This writer was surprised and excited to find that his new client didn’t balk at the quoted rate and posted  a note to Twitter – something like “just landed a job for three times my usual price!” The presenter joked that hopefully this new client wasn’t following the writer’s Twitter feed. 

I think about that a lot when I’m trying to decide what to write about for my blog posts. There are so many things I would love to share that I just can’t. Say I agreed to write an article for an online venue for free and the editor is holding out on giving me the byline. Or, say a fellow writer has given me a crap manuscript to read and I’m not sure how to give them the feedback. Or, say  I’m working on a piece for hire and the client has five individuals giving conflicting feedback. (Two out of those three are true. One is total fabrication.)

The point is, I can’t really blog about some of the most interesting shit going on in my writing life because I honestly don’t know who might happen by for a peek. In fact, it’s the people I am currently working with who are most likely to stop by my blog, as I have an automatic signature on my email linking directly to it. 

Honestly, I think I’m safer blogging about my husband these days since he’s way to busy to read my blog. But then again, my father-in-law gets posts delivered directly to his kindle, so gotta be careful there, too. (Hi Juan!)

How do other bloggers out there deal with this delicate balancing act? How to engage online in a frank and honest way without sharing details that really don’t need to be immortalized through the internet?  

Would love to hear any thoughts y’all might have on this one.

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New Writer Tool

I’ve done a lot of interviews this week. Knowing that was going to be the case, I took a little time Monday morning to find a good recording app for my iPhone because frankly, I don’t take dictation well. I like to be able to focus on what someone is saying so that I can engage them with good follow up questions, rather than being focused on trying to remember what they just said. 

So I read some reviews on line and decided to go with the HT Recorder app, and I have to say it’s been awesome. The interface is really intuitive. It has a great range – anyone talking within a six foot radius comes through nice and clear. It also has some neat playback options like the 5 second jump forward or back buttons and the x1.2 or x1.4 options that speed up the recording to skip the boring parts. If your recording comes in under 30 minutes you can email it to yourself and play it on iTunes, but really I didn’t end up using that since the playback functionality is so good on the phone. 

The one thing it doesn’t do is record phone calls actually taking place on the iPhone. I had hoped that if I put the caller on speaker it would record us both, but the app doesn’t work at all while the phone is engaged. Still, the easy fix was to call my interviewee on my land line, (ask for permission to record), then put them on speaker phone right next to the iPhone with the recorder app running. That was an acceptable work-around. 

Overall 4 out of 5 stars.

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IBC – That’s Me

I’ve decided to postpone the redesign of this blog in favor of spending some time and money on setting up my business writing website. Yes, I love my self-indulgent, artsy-writer self, but I also need to promote my business writing and let’s face it, my corporate clients don’t need to know about my baby’s blood tests.

So I’m setting up shop as Innovative Business Content (IBC). I’ve already reserved the url and am working on a very simple website to act as my online presence. I’ve decided not to blog on that site, just to host a sampling of my work for potential clients to check out.

Once it’s up and running I will redirect my love back to this site for a serious overhaul. The other site has to come first because right now, the business writing is what’s bringing in the cash.

In effect, I’m doing something I never really thought I would – I’m making myself into two people. The professional writer me, with a somewhat boring website who is always on time and on budget AND the fiction writer me who likes to eat cookies all day while deleting adverbs.

I’ll let you know when the new site is actually up. I’d love to get some feedback before I send the url out to current/potential clients.

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City of Bell – One Year Later

Today I am getting a unique peek at the attempts currently underway to save the city of Bell. In case you don’t remember, about a year ago the city was rocked by scandal when its City Manager Robert Rizzo was arrested for fraud. He (and seven others, all of which are awaiting their trials), were being paid exorbitant salaries for running this city of 35,000 people. Rizzo’s assistant alone was being paid roughly $800,000 annually.

So it’s a year later, and the city can’t find anyone to take Rizzo’s place. A group called California City Management Foundation (CCMF) steps in to help and they bring on this guy Ken Hampian. Ken was the City Manager of San Luis Obispo, but is recently retired. Well, he decides he can help, and he offers to take the job (temporarily) free of charge.

CCMF decided that this is a side of the Bell story that really should be told, and they called me in to write it. The really exciting part is the access that they’ve arranged. I’m going to spend a big chunk of today and this evening following Hampian around to see what his days look like. How is he trying to save this city? Is it working?

I’m fascinated by the idea that when most officials don’t want any association with Bell, there are some who are willing to charge into that burning building and try to save it.

Stay tuned.

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Novel Update

It’s been a while since I gave an update on my actual writing. The novel I mean. I am about halfway through the third draft, though I kind of consider it my second draft since the first was so bad that I scrapped it almost entirely.

The hardest part about the work I’m doing right now is getting over the idea that sections are almost done. For instance, right now I’m working on adding a character. I’m glad he’s come into the story, he brings a sense of balance, but I get really annoyed when I have to go back into chapters that I thought were getting close to done and pull them apart to insert this new guy.

My latest trick is using the XX tag. If I’m writing something new and it occurs to me that there are revisions that need to be done in another section, but I don’t want to get side tracked from the work I’m actually doing, I type “XX – need to make sure this is consistent throughout” or “XX – should they kiss?” and just move right over it. Then, later, it’s easy to do a search for “XX” and jump from one note to the next.

It occurs to me, just now, that I could also just use the “note” function in the new word program. That would probably be even easier, as long as the notes print out along with the body of the text. Anyone out there know how that works?Funny I never thought of that before. I guess I’m just a creature of habit.

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It’s That Time Of Year

About a year ago I began the strange four months that I now refer to as bed rest. At first the doc just said “take it easy, rest as much as you can,” and seeing as I’m a writer who pretty much does very little in the course of day anyhow, I didn’t worry. Yes, I tossed in a nap mid-day, and stopped exercising, but that was about it.

But by the end of August, I was in bed full time, trying to keep the contractions at bay. The first few days of bed rest I actually kind of enjoyed it. I caught up some projects, watched a few movies. Not bad. For a few days. Three months later I was desperate to leave that room, but that’s a story for another time. Allow me to bring it back to the present. The reason I’m thinking about last August is because one of the projects I did was to revamp my website.

I had my reasons for choosing Weebly, but mostly it came down to design. I liked that not everyone had this same layout. But since then I’ve come across other sites that look just like mine – boo. At the same time I’ve become cozy with WordPres, I actually much prefer their interface. So now I want to redo my website – again. It’s becoming an annual thing.

I don’t have time for it to be an annual thing.

So I’m thinking of turning to a professional. I’m going to bite the bullet and pay someone to design a site that is uniquely my own, and to get it up and running on WordPress. My hope, in investing a small(ish) amount of cash, is that this will be a site I can use for years to come. Is three years of functionality too much to ask in this day and age? I’d settle for two.

The way I figure it, $450 spent now will (I hope) save me weeks of trying to revamp a site I will be sick of almost immediately – a week that I could use to write something that gets me paid. When I put it that way it seems absolutely worth the money. Fingers crossed.

Oh, and it’s probably time for a real head shot, too. Ug.

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