Jun 17, 2016

Writing My Way Back

Hi All

      It's been a long time since I posted here but life threw my family some serious curve-balls to prioritize my daily activities. And I'll admit it's hard to shut me up but throw a terminal diagnosis of Cancer and Alzheimer's for a loved one in the mix and that will silence even the gobbiest and most creative writer among us.

      However, in the midst of it all, I did manage keep my fingers on the keyboard periodically in the form of a gratitude journal. But even on that front, I have to admit that there were many days the only thing I managed to be grateful for was the fact that I had woke up. Did I miss writing? Yes, absolutely, but my head was in such a mess I struggled to differentiate my ear form my elbow let alone write anything of any significance.

    Nevertheless, her I am, yet again, back at the keys after giving myself 'Permission To Fly' as you can read in an upcoming post of the same title, because for me, writing really is the painting of the voice - the musings of the mind inked upon the canvas of time through the medium of paper. It's a huge part of who I am and what I do.    

      When I couldn't write, I read. When I couldn't read, I cried. And the only way back for me was to pick up my pencil and write. It didn't matter what I wrote so long as I was writing because it gave voice to the myriad of emotions within. It's as though my pencil is my brains anchor in the midst of my earthquake.

      My dear friend, Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin, founder of www.writing.ie and author of the bestselling book #LittleBones written under the pseudonym of, Sam Blake, assured me everything we are exposed to in life builds us as writers. If that be the case, then at this stage, Hercales, could have claimed me for his fifth wife were I born in the ancient times of the famous hero. But seriously, when your confidence is knocked from trying to survive life's tragedies, its seeing great writers like Vanessa, and Louise Phillips succeed that ignites the courage  to allow the creative spirit to soar again. And the dedication in #LittleBones  spoke to a very deep part of me - a part that longs for the structure and formation of words to convey a story and bring characters alive that only a writer can fully understand.
      Therefore, I come before you with my shoulders squared back, my head held high, fingers at the keys and throat cleared - ready to write my way back and give voice to my imagination once more.

Jul 13, 2010

Spilled Tea - Laptop Died - I Cried!

Yes, it happened – I spilled tea on my, relatively new, and very expensive laptop. I couldn’t believe it. I was always so careful. And from the time my daughter was old enough to tap her tiny fingers on the keypad I have preached about the importance of never having liquid of any sort near the computer. I was stunned, speechless, and that’s a rear happening for me I can assure you.

So what did I do? What did I learn? What did it teach me – for I do believe most things happen in our lives to teach us something; my default thinking I’m proud to say after 20+ years of watching the Oprah show.

Well, the first thing I did when I recovered my vocals was screech. And, I hate to admit it, but the second thing I did was spew a litany of unrepeatable profanities as I saved and closed files at record speed.

The stench of burning wires was unreal. My adorable little silver box of technology suddenly reminded
me of  Old-Sparky on Death Row in Stephen King's  book, "The Green Mile" only it was my ass frying along with it. Once I had it unplugged, I yanked it off its stand and turned it upside down while open in an attempt to let the tea drain out of it. Quote – I did say in an attempt – nothing came out.

I tried a blast of the hair dryer, on the cool setting mind you, I didn't want to fry it any worse that it already was. More tears, and a few words no good honest Irish Catholic girl would ever want her father to hear her say. Finally, I sat in the chair horrified at the sight before me and thanked God and every Saint known to mankind, that I had backed up my work the night before.

I wasn't just tired the previous night, I was shattered. It is nothing short of a miracle that I plugged in Click-Free to let it do it’s job before collapsing into bed. No, you don't have to copy or paste, or do anything with it other than plug it in and wait for it to backup – but when you are out of your face with tiredness after a long day at the computer it’s very easy to say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Boy was I glad I hadn't left till tomorrow what I could do that day, as that wonderful saying goes.

The second thing I learned was NEVER EVER go anywhere near a laptop with liquid of any sort. You would think I would have known that after preaching for years to my daughter but…
Now don’t get me wrong here – it’s not like I was stupid enough to sit down to have a cuppa beside my laptop – oh no, far from it.

I suffer horrendously with sciatica; a burning sensation down my legs and it gets particularly bad when I am sitting, so I get up every hour or so and stretch my limbs. On this occasion, I decided to get a cuppa and read a chapter while pacing the floor slowly. It was either that or lie flat on my back on the floor, and whilst I often write that way, it’s quite difficult to drink tea in that position. Anyway, with tea in hand I reached across the laptop to get my glasses. I staggered, caught my toe in the base of the chair, and splash…..

Now if ever I needed proof that I am addicted to my writing, that writing is my oxygen, by golly I got it when my laptop fired. The fear of loosing my work consumed me. I knew I had backed up but I had never actually tried to replace work from my backup to know if it was working properly.

My fingernails got the works – the dog got yelled at – sleep eluded me, copious quantities of tea and coffee was consumed and my daughter was blessed she was away until my fingers were back on the keypad. Basically, normality only resumed on discovering my files were safe.

So my dear people – learn from my mistake and make sure you are ten foot away from the computer when you have the cuppa in your hand, and Back-Up, Back-Up Back-Up your work daily.

With a smile

Jul 1, 2010

Why Pay For A Professional Critique

Why pay a professional to critique your work – why not just get a very honest friend or family member who is capable of being objective to do it for you?

I’ll tell you why – without meaning to offend anyone, they are not lightly to know what to look for in the processional sense of what you as the writer need in a critique.

Yes, they will spot some major error in your writing, which is great – like the following little beauty a friend spotted in my writing recently.

“…when I woke earlier with Mison howling!”

Obviously, I wasn’t howling with the dog, though anything is possible during a full moon phase where I am concerned, but in this instance, that wasn’t what I meant.

I doubled laughing when she pointed it out to me. Oh, the difference an “’s” can make within a sentence. It obviously should have read, “…when I woke earlier with Mison’s howling, or, when Mison’s howling woke me.”

But, in my defence, because the writer knows the story in their head it is hard to spot the foul-ups, blunders, errors or inconsistencies that will be apparent to someone reading the story for the first time. Thus, it’s great to have fresh eyes to check things over for you.

If you have a friend capable of proofreading your work and giving you an un-biased opinion, you are blessed. But note, I did say review, (as in look over) not critique your work – there is a world of difference.

When you need a piece reviewed, in the sense of proofreading for typo’s, grammar, and punctuation, by all means go to sharp eyed friend who is on the button in such matters – but when it comes to getting your work critiqued you need to find a professional that you are comfortable working with.

There are many critiquing services available to writers but I consider myself privileged to be a member of the phenomenal Inkwell Writers @ http://www.inkwellwriters.ie/whose founder, Vanessa, not only runs fantastic writing workshops by Best Selling authors, but also offers a wide array of services for writers at every stage, and provides a critiquing service of the highest standard.

And if you attend the Inkwell workshops, you are even lightly to meet the Best Selling author in person – it’s a win-win situation for all writers no matter what stage you are at in the craft.

I chose Best Selling author Tracy Culleton @http://www.inkwellwriters.ie/Critique-Service.html#TracyCulleton2 from the panel at Inkwell, and with the butterflies doing a fine rendition of River Dance Re-visited in the pit of my stomach, I bunged off my chosen segment for critiquing by email.

The level of professionalism with which Tracy analyzed my work was second-to- none. Not only did I get an honest in-depth line-by-line appraisal of my work, but her suggestions to improve my work were astounding, and her encouragement heart-warming.

The praise and encouragement are important for more reasons than the obvious boost to ones ego that one might expect. Yes, we all need a boost to our ego from time to time. Writing can be a lonely experience where rejection batters the ego, and if that’s not bad enough, we beat ourselves up at times; comparing our work to the best – which is always going to fall flat, but with our professional editing head screwed firmly in place – the praise in the critique plays an entirely different role.

In the editing mode, you use the comments like, "excellent - deep in POV here very vivid and powerful and the right side of purple prose Very good ‘timeline’ here making it clear whats happening when vivid description, and excellent use of back story ah! There’s the needed locator, nice work  great use of strong verbs love this Para, etc," and study what you did in those sections that earned you this response from a Best Selling author, and then use that knowledge to improve the rest of your ms.

Thus, an in-depth critique by a professional highlighting the positive with the negative is actually all positive and worth ten times what you paid for it when you are in either editing mode, or study mode.

At the end of the day, as regards ego, if you want to be a published author – you need to leave your ego on the shelf during the critiquing process. Critiquing is about improving your ms, learning, and moving closer to being published, and nothing else.

To conclude:
Unless they work in the profession, your friends are not qualified to give you the in-depth analysis you need to put your work forward as a polished ms for publication.
What you need is a professional analysis like the one I received through the Inkwell services, which will improve your ms a thousand fold.

With a smile
Ita x

Jun 18, 2010

Writing With The Door Open

The open door!

Ok, in the last post I talked about writing with the door closed – bliss, painless, no judgement from anyone – not even your inner critique, if you’re very lucky.

With the door closed, your work is not open to an onslaught of the judgment from your critiques. But in the second draft, you are preparing to show your manuscript to whomever will be critiquing it, therefore the second draft needs to be written with the door open.

The magnificent book, “On Writing” by Stephen King, describes writing the first draft with the door closed and the second with the door open brilliantly. If you haven’t read that book I highly recommend you do. In an ideal world it should be compulsory for anyone putting pen to paper or finger to keypad to study that Stephen's book.

Opening that door can be a painful process. Opening the door means that you, the author, are open to criticism. Opening that door means many great lines will be slaughtered by the delete button. Lines that you thought were brilliant in the first draft suddenly wither beneath the scrutiny of the second draft.

And if they don’t disappear with the help of the delete button, you can be sure that they will after you receive some critiquing process.

At the end of the day, if you are serious about being published, then you are going to have to write the second draft with the door open and know that in time you must hand your baby over to the critiques, no matter who they are.

It is said that to write a book one must have determination for the First draft. An eye for detail in the 2nd. True creativity in the 3rd. Ability to distance yourself in the 4th. And last, but by no means least – a bloody thick skin for the 5th.

And that’s if you’re lucky enough to get there in just 5 drafts.

To conclude then – there comes a time one must open the door and just let go.

With a smile

Ita x

Jun 7, 2010

Writing With The Door Cloosed.

Stephan King, in his amazing book “On Writing” said that we must write first with the door closed before writing with the door open.

As a writer battling with Dyslexia, I would like to elaborate on that a little more.

For now, I will focus on writing with the door closed and cover writing with the door open in the next post.

What the great King of writing is referring to keeping ones writing clear from the opinion of others when it is not developed enough for even your closest friends to cast an eye upon. Unless you are a very-polished writer - the first drafts are usually little more than a creative scribble of the story outline. Remember - the first drafts are just the seeds of what will eventually be a great novel.

It would be ludicrous to take a friend out into the garden and say, “look at the fantastic seed I’ve sown that will be a magnificent oak tree in a few years,” and yet, without realizing it, that’s exactly what we do with our book if we produce it for the opinions of others during early drafts.

The first draft is for creativity and creativity only. And the first draft is definitely NOT the place for the intellectual left side of the brain to throw in it’s sixpence worth.

This is where I ran into trouble. I allowed the intellectual left side of the brain to edit every word the creative side was trying to relay, as I was writing it. I combed over every line, every paragraph, constantly looking for mistakes. I now realized I did this because of my neurosis over being dyslexic.

Can you imagine the dilemma – the conversation – the craziness of it as right brain and left-brain both tried simultaneously to control of the work at hand?

I was paralyzing my creative flow by being obsessed that there would be mistakes that I would not spot.

This led me to realize that it’s not just other people we need to keep the door shut on while working our first drafts – it’s also our critical mind we needs to be shut out.

How can do we do this?

I now have the following little statement carved on timber and placed where I can see it at all times.

“First Draft: Don’t get it right - Get it written!”

This helps me focus on allowing the creative energy flow and leave the critical intellectual side of the brain until the editing drafts, which is where it belongs.

With a smile
Ita x

Mar 15, 2010

So You Think You Have Nothing To Write About!

So You Think You Have Nothing To Write About – Think Again!

I hate negativity, I really do, and I make no apologies for avoiding negative people like the plague. When I see the black cloud descending, I leg-it!
But as much as I hate negativity in other people, I absolutely loath it in myself. And, as a writer, I found that negativity – the daemon it is – has the audacity to voice its unwanted opinions about my chosen profession from time to time.

On one particular occasion, the detrimental whispers were suggesting that I had nothing to write about. Imagine – me – the mouth of the south with nothing to say! I think not!
But it serves to prove just how powerful the voice of negativity can be when it gets a hold. Indeed, if you give the infernal wagon an inch and it will run a 26mile marathon on you. Within seconds, I had an appalling list of detrimental thoughts throwing in their sixpence worth:

What was I going to write about? Who was I to think I had anything worth saying to anyone? What had I done in my life that was worth talking about? Where were my ideas for articles, books, columns, going to come from?
And it went on, and on, and on. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, then fear rose its ugly head to say hello – plunging me into a downward spiral of misery and despair.

It stopped me dead in my tracks, but thankfully, I had experience with the said daemon.

I have learned that when negative carp starts I need to devise a plan, and rapidly, otherwise I end up in the YO-OH-ME mode. Yo-oh-me leaves me, all alone in my canoe, (metaphorically speaking) the weight of the world firmly planted on my shoulders as I row down the Amazon through a dense fog singing yo-oh-me, yo-oh-me: its haunting echo lasting longer than my image as I disappear into the mist with no hope of ever returning.

I went for a walk to rid myself of the despondency that was settling in.

20 minutes later - eureka – I would write a list, a HUGE list of things that had happened to me in my life. Draw from the University of Life was my plan. Excitement replaced negativity as I realized writing down endless things I had experienced in my life would have a double whammy. One, it was going to kick the notion that I was ever going to run out of things to write about firmly in the butt, and two, I could use it when I was editing. Yes, I said editing, I'll explain in a minute.

The List - Things I can write about:
Being a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, a lover, a teenager, giving birth, post natal depression, pmt, christenings, communions, conformations, debs, weddings, grief, betrayal, first day at work, playschools, primary school – to third level, football, sons, daughters, dyslexia, buying a house, building a house, decorating, housework, painting, writing, eating disorders, weight watchers, exercise, living in the country, trips to the city, holidays, faith, shopping, fear, mothers day, fathers day, flowers, my love of candles and music, etc, etc, etc.

Then I broke my list down into particular memories under each heading. I now have a folder on my laptop where I write memories and ideas for stories, and it’s growing all the time. This also helps to keep the head clear. And not only that – when I am editing, I look at each chapter and at the list to where I experienced something similar in my life – connect with the emotions I felt at the time and then rewrite from the heart. When you write from the heart it’s far more powerful!

I highly recommend everyone spend time developing a list for when negativity, or writers block, comes knocking on the door!

With a smile

Ita x