Blue in the Sky

A lesbian wife and mother tries her hand at something new. Surely there is a hat that fits out there somewhere!

A Big Part of Writing is…. well, Writing Friday July 16, 2010

Filed under: Daily Life,The Writer — The Professor @ 1:46 pm

If you want to develop yourself as a writer, you’ve got to write.  It’s not something you can really avoid.

Right.

So, back to the page I go.  Again.

I’ve been refreshing myself with The Artist’s Way and reminding myself of the importance of Morning Pages.   Julia Cameron (the creator of the book) describes the Morning Pages in this way:

“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only.”

I know one thing about these pages for sure.  I know that I feel more balanced when I wake up to the page.  I’m not so sure that it will ever mold me into a fabulous writer, but it might make me a calmer, happier person.

 

Back to School Friday June 4, 2010

Filed under: Daily Life,The Writer — The Professor @ 10:45 am

Almost.

I’ve started an online writing class.  With the exception of a poetry writing class I took in college (in which I learned only that I am not a poet), I have never had any focused training in writing.  Of course, I’ve read lots of books on the topic, but reading is not the same as writing.  On that point though, here are a few of my favorite books on the topic:

I’ve been waiting quite some time for the return of a course called Beginning Fiction Writing.  Unfortunately, that class hasn’t come around this year so I am a student in The Beginning Writer.  I had initially thought this would be a snore, but so far I’m learning things.  I’m a beginning writer after all.  This week we’ve focused on detail and description and I am happy that I have done more than read the lessons, I have completed the assignments.  Instead of reading about writing, I am actually writing.

Progress.

 

The Writer is….. Friday April 9, 2010

Filed under: The Writer — The Professor @ 11:32 am

struggling.  I am blogging from a coffeehouse in our new town and I have just been informed by some friendly girls a few tables down, that the power has been shut down to the outlets in the dining room.  Nice.  Guess they aren’t fans of the lingering internet user.  I DID buy food.  Oh well, enough grumbling.  I’ve only got 37% of my power remaining after all.

I had breakfast in this very location LAST Friday.  Lots of traveling lately.  Not good for the writing.  Is that an excuse or just the reality of the situation?  Hard to tell.  I haven’t worked on the novel at all this week and I’ve only done my morning pages once.  Yikes.  Hardly an impressive record.  What to do?  I guess all there is is to call it like it is and keep moving.

So…. how was your writing week?  It blew.  How is it looking for next week?  Possible.

Down with self-flagellation.  Up with honesty and optimism.

 

The Novel – The One I’m Writing Friday April 2, 2010

Filed under: The Writer — The Professor @ 11:04 am

Yes, I said it.  I didn’t say it out loud in the traditional sense, but I said it somewhere other than in my head or in a conversation with my Mother.  That my friend, is progress.

I am writing a novel.  Yes I am.  Why, you may ask?  I am writing  a novel bc  I have always wanted to.  I wanted it as long as I can remember thinking about anything resembling a goal. I am willing to commit to the work bc I can actually feel the story in my bones and the not writing is becoming harder than I think the actual writing will  be.  I look forward to finding that out.  Testing that assumption.

So, what is my novel about?  It is about a woman.  Perhaps a girl a first.  Her name is Katie.  The first time I saw her was almost five years ago when I was sitting on my couch doing my morning pages.  It was November of my first year as Dr. Assistant Professor of Psychology.  I was writing and she was standing in the front yard of a house with a red ribbon holding back her hair.  The ribbon was fluttering in the wind.  She felt lonely.  Her eyes looked like they were searching for something she never expected to see.  I’ve never forgotten her.

Although Katie has hung around the edges of some of my more unconscious thoughts, I haven’t taken the time to get to know her.  Now is the time for that.  Now, when I’m riding out the end of a Very Bad job.  Now, when I no longer think of myself as an academic.  Now, when my wife is pregnant with a child that will join us in September.  Now.  It really is time.

So, how to proceed?

  1. Get to know Katie.  Start asking questions.  Why the frown?  Where and when are you?  Who lives in that house?  What do you dream about?  What do you want that you don’t have?  What are you afraid of?  What’s your favorite song?
  2. Create a schedule.  This scares me.  It scares me bc I’m afraid I will disappoint myself.  I am afraid that I will create a plan, but won’t have follow through.  What would I do if I wasn’t afraid to fail? Got to make that my mantra.  Repeat play baby, repeat play.  Start small.  Two hours Mon-Fri morning.  8am-10am.  Done.
 

And Away We Go – Writer Week 1 Friday March 26, 2010

Filed under: The Writer — The Professor @ 3:05 pm

So here we are on Day 1.  Nothing like a fresh new beginning.  In fact, let’s start there.  At the beginning.  Before the Professor became the Professor, although after she announced  her desire (at the age of eight) to become a child psychologist when she grew up, she did a lot of writing.  Hey, this was my childhood hero after all.

So I wrote story after story after story.  Life was quiet as an only child and when I wasn’t reading someone elses’ story, I was probably making up my own.  In fact, I had something of a series going by the time I got to middle school.  The title of this collection?  One Big Family.  Yup, nothing like a creative title and a kid wondering about the opposite of what she had.  I spent a bit of time worried about this big family fascination as an Intro Psych student, but the more I thought about it, the more it became clear that the huge family in those childhood stories gave me lots of opportunities to do the thing I love best, to create characters.

Characters are what captivate me as a reader and keep me motivated as a writer.  For some it is setting or hey, even plot, but for me it all starts and ends with characters.  There is much to be said about character development,but one of my favorites comes from Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird.

“You make up your characters partly from experience, partly out of the thin air of the subconscious, and you need to feel committed to telling the exact truth about them, even though you are making them up.  I suppose the basic moral reason for doing this is the Golden Rule.  I don’t want to be lied to; I want you to tell me the truth, and I will try to tell it to you….. Just don’t pretend you know more about your characters then they do, because you don’t.  Stay open to them.  It’s tea time and all the dolls are at the table.  Listen.  It’s that simple.”

That advice resonates with me, it makes sense.  Lots of other writing programs and books suggest a similar approach.  One of my favorites of this kind of book  is The Writer’s Idea Book by Jeff Heffron.  In the chapter entitled Folks Like You, be provides a number of helpful prompts that writers can use to get to know their characters.  Here are a few of the best:

  • Describe your character’s facial expressions and body language.  Describe any tics or physical habits, such as clearing his throat when he’s irritated or stroking his chin when we watches TV.
  • Describe your character’s wardrobe.  Know everything he wears, but pay particular attention to favorite clothes.  What image does this character try to project through clothes, and what does that desired image say about the character?
  • Describe your character’s interests and hobbies.  How active is in he in all of these areas?  Which hobbies has he abandoned through the years?  What is the hot interest of the moment?
  • Write your character’s life story in a few pages, focusing on the key moments, the turning points.
  • Describe your character’s personality.  Outgoing?  Shy?  Both?  Give this description some depth.  Here’s where you’re really getting to the heart of the character.
  • Describe your character’s large and small possessions.  What objects are most loved?  What does this say about your character?

Do you, like me, have a character that’s been tapping on your shoulder for years?  Popping into your mind when it wanders?  If you do, sit down with a cup of coffee and these questions and get to know each other.  I imagine I’m talking to myself, but if I do have readers that want to play, I invite you to post what you’d like from your own conversation in the comments.  I will be doing this later in the week.

And to get you in the writing mood and welcome you to the weekend, take off your heels and settle in to hear what Joyce Carol Oates has to say about character development.  It’s short 🙂