It’s late Tuesday afternoon EST and another Wednesday lurks in the shadows, haunting and tempting me to come up with something new, fresh, fascinating, and so captivating, you could not resist.
I don’t think I have anything to say today, however, I’ll rev up the engine and see where she takes me.
To-do or not to-do the lists …
The Big Guy called me a doll, wooden head and all. The tease came from my inability to stay on target, stick to the subject, reign in my over-active imagination, and never, and I do mean never, could I follow instructions.
I have post-its on a small bulletin board in front of my computer that I manage to ignore. I have to-do lists in the kitchen, in my office and detailed descriptions of “things” to-do in a computer file on Microsoft.
No matter how many times I remind myself of where and what I am do to on any given day of the week, I will manage to rearrange or reschedule, pushing dates and obligations forward until an entire month might expire before I make a simple phone call.
In fact, I have already written a post for two weeks from today and an interesting idea for next week and haven’t the slightest notion of what to say today .
Writing about nothing at all is a great challenge for most, a pain for others, and a way of life for this empty-headed Brooklyn Doll.
Get to the point …
When I write outlines or first chapters, first drafts or odd characterizations and story plots, I might send them via-email to my two main BETA readers. Then I might also send them to a couple of my blog readers or innocent victims I’ve met in various groups.
First, to explain.
I bet you were afraid I’d explain. Tough.
To explain. I was born a verbal story teller. I followed my poor mother around our cramped, cold-flat in Brooklyn, waving my hands, breathless and melodramatic. I’d risk life and limb walking inches from her heels whilst she wielded her wooden spoon or took frozen sheets off the line in the dead of winter.
Nope. There was no dryer. There was no washer either. No gas range, no refrigerator. There was a coal stove and an “ice box.” We lived in this frozen tundra until I turned nine. In my story I left poor Antoinette in the frost-bite until she was fourteen.
Okay. To get to the point.
I am a “Later” bloomer (thanks Debra) and a slower learner. My children seemed to believe because I completed my Bachelor’s and first year of my Masters in three years, that I am some sort of genius. No, the resident genius of our family was the Middle One. The Big Guy and I had the same method of learning.
We did something over and over and over and failed again and again and again. The downside being, we had to work harder to keep up with the genius. The up-side was obvious. Once we finally learn something, we’re damn good at it.
However, if you have ever been pained to read my stories in their first, second, third or fifth drafts … before I finally settle down and get to the point … you know how I can jump and circle and bounce until I settle down and let the characters finally do their thing.
Two weeks ago I sent the first three chapters of a new book to three friends. All three “liked” the story and encouraged me to continue. But the one I was the most worried about said what I was afraid she might.
Like Lisa Shiroff, my first and main BETA reader, this experienced and multi-published author told me in no uncertain terms that I had to STOP doing it again. Stop jumping, calm down and let it happen.
Listening to all three of these truly generous women, I became fascinated with the process, more than that … I finally got it. Well, I had gotten it with my first mystery, but I guess when I sat down with first thoughts running at the mouth on this one, I somehow forgot.
Last week I listened to my good friend, sat still, and let each woman speak to me.
It wasn’t my fault, Shelley. I was born a verbal story teller … did I mention that?
When I was in my early twenties I was an Executive Secretary, working on the prestigious Executive Floor of the second largest textile company in the world, and of the eight of us, four of my mates insisted on scheduling their lunches with mine so I could entertain them during lunch.
Thousands of stories told at book clubs, luncheons and dinners, during phone conversations or at our writer’s group, and thousands more with my school-mates, college friends, work-mates, and family distant and close.
Extemporaneously, I can go off on a tangent, start at the beginning of a tale, veer off to the side for a bit, swing back, boomerang and “shake myself about,” until the listener’s hair starts to fall out. Yet, for some strange reason, my friends and family still listened.
My Big Brother once told me why. “When you finally get to the point, you’re funny.”
“When you settle down, I love what you write,” my two BETA readers tell me. “But until you get there, you make me nuts.”
The end results of my learning curve …
I took an Advance Editing Workshop with Margie Lawson. I read all of Donald Maass. I read each post at Writers in the Storm. I took Laura Drake’s query/pitch workshop. I took several other workshops, watched hours of stuff on You Tube, read over a dozen how-to-write books, and paid both Chuck Sambuchino and Rachelle Gardner to critique queries and synopsis.
My two BETA readers and over a dozen of my writer friends have helped by reading several of my books.
So why does it take so long for me to finally get it?
I have a very wide-angled learning curve. Like my Italian body, it curves in dimensions that might be pleasing once it’s all together, but taken one body part at a time, I might have been thought of as bottom heavy, or my feet too long and narrow, my nose a bit askew, my left-handed skills a bit off.
Like the Big Guy, it takes me a long, long time to learn something to get it right.
And like the Big Guy, I love to do lots of things. I am currently developing a workshop I can teach in various communities and assisted living facilities in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Called … Beyond Scrapbooking …this fun workshop teaches people the hundreds of things they can do with scrapbook paper (with hundreds of types of paper) and never do a scrapbook The idea came after a very successful Flea Market where I brought my decoupage “stuff,” and was invited to join a group and give a workshop on how to make what I make.
Isn’t it the best to get paid for something we love to do?
I’ve been writing full-time (on paper at least) for six years. For four of them, I played and had the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.
Long before I decided to write novels full-time, I played with poetry and thoughtful prose, I did a stint as a journalist, I did essays and wrote professionally for four non-for-profit groups, the main group, my heart and soul, Children’s Arts & Science Workshops, taught me more than I could have learned taking two more degrees. The strange truth is that I never had the same problem with the structured work as I have since I became a free-agent.
I spent my childhood imagining fantastical tales, studied people on the street or at luncheon counters, and met hundreds of people from the four corners and the seven seas. I’ve had three careers that had nothing to do with each other. More than anything else, I’ve loved being a people watcher, a people pleaser, and I’ve had great fun reading everything from several newspapers and news magazines to fantasy fiction.
Before I got down to the reality that telling a good story is NOT the same as writing a good book, I had the joy of reading and writing everything that teased my fancy.
Did I say I didn’t have anything to write about today?
I guess I did. Truth be told, I seem to have a lot to say about a lot of things.
Thanks to the dozens of patient readers who have helped me during this learning process.
What say you, reader?
What do you love?
And who has taught you to do what you love?
fOIS In The City
Note: About those sentences, people. I might leave this note every week. Even though I won’t get to the first one for another month and I have one more left over from the last round, I will continue to nag. I’m on a mission here, so anytime you’re ready.
Also note that each link leads to my good friend’s pages at amazon or the website of WITS and Margie Lawson. I’m sure you all know how to find the others.