Rejuvenate Your Muse

I slept away most of last week because of an upper-respiratory infection. My illness didn’t require bed rest, but the meds made me drowsy. I spent awake time, listening to audio books and watching movies and TV reruns. After three complete seasons of NCIS, I’m sure I could perform an autopsy, sleep in a coffin, and drink Starbucks coffee 24/7.

The good news: I have lots of ideas for new stories and characters. Too often we forget to take inspiration from daily life—bits and pieces from strangers’ conversations, body movements of people engaged in an argument, hand gestures from someone in animated conversation. The list is endless. Use the bits of information to create believable and interesting characters and stories.

By watching the NCIS episodes, I learned to create a strange but lovable character without stereotyping (Abby). I can use a swagger and stare to show self-confidence (Gibbs) and beauty and small stature to take down the most violent criminals with one kick or a 9mm Sig (Kate). On the other side—the stereotype—Tony epitomizes the womanizing hunk, yet occasionally he lets down his guard to reveal compassion and empathy under his macho façade. When interrogating criminals he can be ruthless, first convincing criminals he is an incompetent, uncaring, funny guy and then turning on the criminals so that he, the interrogator, appears psycho.

This week, I’m playing catch-up with a couple writing deadlines, but as I work, new stories are beginning to form in my mind. Perhaps having a week to rest is a good thing. I encourage you to take a break from your usual creative process to inspire new ideas.

Take the challenge to rejuvenate your creative muse—Write Now!

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Writing through Problems

I never thought I would say, “I hate technology!” Formerly a techno-junkie, I loved learning new technology, buying new tech toys, and discovering new ways to use technology in everyday life.

Then came the new Smart Phone. I thought I wanted one. I thought I wanted to text, email, and google on my phone. Ha! Now, I have turned into an android: a robot trying to behave like a human. If only my signal strength would support my apps. What good is a Smart Phone with only one bar? Okay, so I can take a picture and look at my contact list; not good enough. Through all this, I saw another side of my character that I’ve not seen since my divorce twenty years ago: I can go from carefree to bitch in less than five seconds, the amount of time it takes to get the message: No Signal.

Today, I have misplaced my old, but still working, phone. Of course, the sound is off, so calling myself won’t help even if I could get a signal. I’m having withdrawal symptoms from signal loss. Silly me—I thought it was a sinus infection! I just need to get in my car, drive two miles, and then I can talk. Grrrr! Until I find my old phone or get to a Verizon store, whichever comes first, I am unreachable except by email.

Meanwhile, I’ll focus on the positive side of this situation. I’ll save the $25 co-pay at my doctor’s office; I’ve suffered through worse illnesses without drugs. I’ll probably get more writing done today than in the last three days. I’ll pour another cup of coffee, take the laptop to my comfy sofa, and snuggle in for a day of writing.

See how therapeutic writing is? My anger dissipated, I’m ready to tackle a day of writing; no signal needed. I’ll view this as a day of rest from everything except reading and writing, two favorite things. Maybe I’ll find the courage to turn off the wi-fi. Hot diggity! I may be on to something.

This week, I encourage you to write through a problem. Find one thorny issue and put it on paper or screen. Be honest; be brave. No one else has to see what you write.

Take the challenge to discover the therapeutic effects of writing—Write Now!

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Staying Focused

Last week, I accomplished my goal of staying focused on one writing project. I used the week to research, write, and revise one piece of writing. At first, I found it difficult to focus on just one piece of work, but by the end of the week, I celebrated the writing quality and the market knowledge I acquired.

Sometimes writers tend to forget that writing is a process and not just a product. Most writers lament that the finished product—a marketable piece of writing—requires more than a desire to write, a grasp of basic grammar rules, and one hasty writing session. A marketable product requires thought and planning, writing and several revisions, and knowledge of the product market. Although the process can be broken into several parts and the path to a finished product is not always linear, no part of the process can be eliminated.

This week, I encourage you to select a task for the week and stay focused on it until completion. Break your task into small sections that are manageable, and then put all other tasks out of your mind until the designated task is finished. You will be happy with the results this simple change produces.

Take the challenge and focus on one task at a time—Write Now!

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New Project, New Risk, New Opportunity

Gears changed in my writing machine. The truth: I’m sick of reading my manuscript, and I’m bored with the revision process. I know, I know—writing is mostly revision, but I need a diversion, so when a writer friend asked me to spend January collaborating with her on a screenplay, I jumped at the chance to put away my mystery manuscript for a few weeks and take on a new project.

Sometimes you have to take a risk and try a new opportunity. Michele and I talked about this collaboration in late December, but I traveled the last week of the year, so we were able only to plan and outline. Last week, we had a three-day writing marathon. So far, we love our story and the work we’ve finished.

Collaboration has been easy because we complement each other’s talents, and we both have good ideas but are willing to listen to new concepts, to accept constructive criticism, and to eliminate lines we’ve written when necessary for our goal: sell the screenplay.

We will have another writing marathon this week, which should net us a finished screenplay. Then on to the agent. But that’s another story for another week. I’ll let you know the outcome of our efforts. I’m keeping the faith that we will sell this screenplay.

This week, I encourage you to take a risk and do something new—preferably something physically safe. No jumping off tall buildings to see if you can fly; you can’t. My young cousin is an inspiration to me this week. Just out of college, he left his lifelong home, friends, and family in Tennessee to move to Los Angeles. He’s taking a risk and a huge step toward achieving his dream of becoming an actor/writer. Good luck, Mitch!

Take a risk to bring one of your dreams a step closer to reality—Write Now!

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2011: A New Year of Opportunity

Here we are, facing a bright new year with 361 days remaining to form into whatever we want. Three hundred sixty-one days of new opportunities to do something that makes us happy. 

For me, this translates to writing. If I write, I’m happy; if I don’t, I’m not so happy. My writing schedule was a little off during the Christmas season because my aunt passed away on Christmas afternoon. The family grieved as we all came together for the funeral and burial. But we also, laughed, hugged, shared favorite stories, relived family memories, and pondered about how long it had been since we had seen each other. Finally, we said goodbye to my aunt and to each other as we parted ways and traveled to our respective homes in several different states. For a funeral week, it was fun. 

Did I write last week? No, but I have some great ideas for characters in my next book! Family and friends are the best fodder for story and character ideas. A snippet of conversation here, a body movement there, a cut of the eyes, a hand motion. All are useful in a character. Even though I wasn’t at my keyboard clicking away, I wrote in my mind thinking up new characters, new situations, new locations for my next novel. 

Writing this blog today gives me inspiration to get back to my “happy place,” my center of being and write every day. I’ve set my new writing goals for 2011, and I hope you’ve set new goals, or at least updated some old ones, for whatever you want to accomplish this year. I’m a firm believer in being ready to act on every opportunity that presents itself. So be ready to pounce if an opportunity arises that will propel you toward your goal. Without clearly written goals, you may not recognize an opportunity, so write those goals. Unwritten goals are only pipe dreams. Written goals become reality. 

Take the challenge: put your goals on paper—Write Now! 

In memory of my aunt . . .
Frances Johnson Lazzaro
May 29, 1921 – Dec. 25, 2010
WWII Veteran — United States Army

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So Many Words, So Little Time

Last week, as I stood with my mom by her sister’s hospital bed, I realized this frail, semi-conscious woman with tubes connected to every possible part of her body was only twenty-five years my senior. Twenty-five more years, and not all those years will be productive writing years, yet I have so much to write. 

In a hospital a few miles away, my cousin’s daughter-in-law gave birth to a baby girl. As I gazed at the newborn only hours after seeing my aunt, I thought of all the wasted time between birth and present day that I could have used to learn something new, to read, to help others, to write, to inspire, to have fun, to do anything I dreamed of doing. Now, as I meander through the youth of my old age, I’m doing less yet accomplishing more of my priorities and living at a less hectic pace. 

We have twelve days until Christmas, the magical time of year. Seven days later, 2010 will be only a memory. I gave up writing New Year’s resolutions years ago, but this week, I will begin planning new life goals just as I did twenty years ago when I wanted a divorce, an education, a career, a new home, new furniture, etc.  I put a goal on paper and made it happen—almost like magic. At this moment, I don’t know what my 2011 goals will be, but by the time I next write this blog on January 3, I will have them on paper. Perhaps I will share some with you; perhaps you can share some of yours with me. 

This is the last blog post of 2010 as I am taking time off to visit with family for the holidays and to complete yet another manuscript revision. One of my 2011 goals will be to submit it for publication. Each revision brings me one step closer to that goal. 

This week I encourage you to ponder how you will use the 12 months, 365 days, 8,760 hours of 2011 and set your goals for the new year. Life is short; make each day count. 

Take the challenge: put those goals on paper and make magic happen—Write Now!

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Read and Write

I’ve recovered from the writing marathon of November, ending with 33,017 words. I didn’t make my original goal of 50,000 words, but I’ll take the 33,000 and a fun month with family and friends! Last week, I completed a detailed revision of the first one hundred pages of my mystery manuscript. I can see a great improvement since the summer versions. This is encouraging and inspiring. 

This week, I have unexpected travel because of a family medical emergency, but I’ll take my trusty computer—I really should name this little box that is my constant companion—with me so I can work even while sitting in a hospital waiting room. This week, I’ll revise the second hundred pages of the mystery manuscript and begin planning another humor essay—topic as yet undetermined. The good thing about travel is that I have no housework, no dishes to wash, no food to prepare, no grocery shopping. This leaves more time for reading and writing. 

As a writer you should read the genre you’re writing. Recently, I read Margaret Maron’s latest book, Christmas Mourning, two Michael Connelly books (his latest—The Reversal and The Lincoln Lawyer), and two David Baldacci books (his first—Absolute Power and his latest—Hell’s Corner). All five books are page turners. I read each in only two days because they are so intense, I couldn’t stop reading. That’s the kind of suspense I want in my manuscript, but I have a long way to go before I run with these big dogs. 

This week, I encourage you to read a book in your genre. Read often, especially if you plan to write and publish. Not all readers are writers, but almost all good writers are avid readers. Visit your library or your favorite book store and find yourself in a book. Once you read a book, record it in a reading journal and write a few sentences about it. 

Take the challenge: read a book and record it in your journal—Write Now!

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