Resolving To Be Imperfect: An IWSG Post

Hello, my fellow writers.

It’s a rainy day here in Georgia. Usually a good time for writing. And being that it’s the first Wednesday of the month, it’s time for my Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. I have to say that for this month, I had a hard time deciding on what to talk about. I thought about answering the optional question, but I had this feeling I needed to talk about something else. Continue reading “Resolving To Be Imperfect: An IWSG Post”

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Why Me?

Two things with this story. One, I got inspired by all the illnesses going on this season, especially with my family (sorry, guys). Two, in my attempt to kill my perfectionism (hint, hint), I took on an exercise from The Write Practice to write a 500-word story as is. In other words, write a story that’s not perfect from the get-go. So even though this will probably be a choppy draft, I have to say I’m pleased with how it turned out. Continue reading “Why Me?”

The 365 Writing Club: Reflections on an “Awesome” Year

The 365 Writing Club on Facebook gave me an “Awesomeness” badge for the strides I made in my writing this year. For overcoming doubts and gaining confidence through the encouragement of fellow writers. Today, I share what I’ve learned through this group and the challenges I faced.

This past week, I strolled through my Facebook notifications when I happened to see this…

…a badge the administrators of the 365 Writing Club on Facebook awarded to me. According to the status, Continue reading “The 365 Writing Club: Reflections on an “Awesome” Year”

Reflecting on 2017: An IWSG Post

Good day, my writing and blogging friends. It’s the first Wednesday of December. (Hard to believe.) And as with every first Wednesday, it’s time for my Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Now before I get started, I have to thank the IWSG Administrative Team for allowing me the opportunity to share and encourage fellow writers. To be honest, when someone encouraged me—I forget who—to sign my blog up for this group, I had my doubts. I wasn’t sure how encouraging I would be seeing how I struggle with the writing process. I’m still learning things about the evolution of the writing process. I’m finding myself having to refresh myself on numerous factors of storytelling. And I’m still learning things about myself as a writer. But in writing these posts, the biggest I took is that not only am I encouraging others, but I’m being encouraged. And we all need encouraging once in a while. So thanks to the administrators for allowing me to share what I’ve learned in my writing journey this year, and I hope to continue to be a source of encouragement in the years to come.

So, now on to this month’s question:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

This came at the perfect time. I’m using the majority of the month to go through my Evernote notebooks and Pinterest boards. During this time, I’m thinking about all the goals I set for the year; about the reasons why I succeeded or failed to meet those goals. I usually reserve that post for the end of the year, but now is as good a time as any.

2017 was a mixed year. It was a year where I decided to expand my horizons in my writing. But like with any endeavor, there were setbacks. And there were things I wished I could have done differently. It seems pointless to be thinking about what I could have, would have, should have done. Especially for someone like me since I can obsess over failures more than successes. But there’s something to be said of being honest with yourself. While I have things I wish I could have done differently, it’s important for me to highlight my successes. So, let’s go.

Let’s start with Project Blacklight. This year, I added two serial blog posts. The IWSG being one. The second being the Weekend Coffee Share, where I create posts about events around my personal life. I interjected writing into the mix. Just recently, I found out the mediator shut down the Weekend Coffee Share postings. But I thought of opting out of the posts anyway because I don’t want to go into too much detail about what goes on in my life. I’ll still offer tidbits on the most relevant events of my life. Content-wise, there’s nothing I would have done differently. In terms of the blog as a whole, I wish I would have chosen a different name. It’s a moot point now, but I wish I could have given it more thought.

Next, social media. It’s not so much about what platforms I joined. It’s more about being more active. On Facebook, for example, I joined a new writing group. The 365 Writing Club. To do so, I had to sign up for their challenge. The idea behind it was to encourage and enrich daily writing habits. I say that it has worked out well, even though I didn’t write every day. And there were periods of time where I recorded consecutive zeroes and debated among myself on whether I should be a writer. Another thing I wish I could have done differently. But I got a lot of support from fellow members and administrators. And I’m seriously considering joining next year’s challenge, upping the word count goal to 500.

On Twitter, I joined the Flash Fiction Hive. I’ve talked about this group on several posts. Even shared some of the stories I wrote based on the prompts offered. The group went live in August and they post a month’s worth of prompts every other month. The best thing I’ve gotten out of the group is the writing hashtag games throughout the week. It sounds silly, but I thought I couldn’t do them because I didn’t have a WIP that involved the theme. But I didn’t need a WIP to participate. I wish I knew that sooner.

And finally, let’s talk about my writing. This year marked a big deal. I wrote some stories outside my genre. This is such a big deal. I felt locked in Contemporary Fiction. But after some encouragement, I took the plunge. I drafted a few stories in fantasy and sci-fi. But the one thing I regret was relying on other writers for inspiration. By that, I mean I posted polls on Twitter for what my next story should be about. I lacked a lot of confidence to come up with a story and I wrote them to please them, not myself. I wish I was more confident in myself to create the stories I wanted to write. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t appreciate their input or their encouragement. But I needed to stand on my two feet. Write what I felt gave me the best joy, even if I didn’t know all the rules.

Second, I set a goal this year to start submitting stories to contests and magazines. That hasn’t happened. I came up with a lot of excuses as to why it didn’t happen.

The fees were too expensive.

I didn’t know anything about the theme.

There were too many ways to interpret the theme.

I didn’t have the right software.

Over and over again, the same excuses. Truth is I could have submitted something, as long as it was polished to the best of my abilities. And even then, I used that as an excuse. But the biggest thing that stopped me was me. I was afraid to fall flat on my face. I’m someone who doesn’t like to admit faults and shortcomings. But everyone has them. Everyone is going to fail. Not every work that’s published is going to be the best. There will always be critics.

I’m still trying to get those realities into my head. I’m not going to be the best writer in the world. There will be others better than me. And that’s the biggest thing I would want a do-over. I would tell myself to not worry if I get rejected. It will happen. But at the same time, I would tell myself that it’s worth it to become a better writer. And that’s the end goal: to become better and better with each story. Not perfect, but better.

If I had to define 2017 in one sentence, it would be, “I tried something that scared me.” Now yes, there were some things I didn’t try. And sure, I had moments I wished I could backtrack and change some things around. But overall, I’m proud of myself. And that’s the important thing of why I did what I did this year. I wanted to say I did this, I did that, and it felt so good. Whether it was writing so many words a day or writing outside my comfort zone or being a voice of encouragement even though I had doubts myself. I set out to become a better writer and I feel I’m on the right track heading into the new year.

So, how about you? What are some of your successes in 2017? What’s something you wish you could have done differently? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

My Writing Christmas List

We’re thirty days away from Christmas. (Hard to believe.) And by this time, kids and adults are compiling their Christmas lists. So I am going to give you my list of things I want for Christmas. And if you didn’t guess by the title, everything will be writing-related. Now, this is only a wish list. I don’t expect to get any of these items. But if there’s anyone willing to gift me any of these items, “Thank You” will be in order.

In no particular order…

  • Apple iPhone X. Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. I debated, and still am, on whether it’s worth getting the iPhone X or the 8 Plus. Either will fulfill my wants for more memory and a bigger screen. And either will have multiple uses besides using them for my writing and note-taking. The biggest questions come to cost and use of features. Am I going to use all the features that the iPhone X is offering? Will I sacrifice having the latest, greatest phone for ease of use? And what about the price? Am I willing to sign my life away—not that I already am—to have a phone that will be good until the newest model is announced? On a couple of occasions, I thought I had a definitive answer. Not so much now. But I have some time before deciding.

  • Bluetooth headphones. I like listening to music when I’m writing or doing anything else like outdoor chores or working out at the gym. Wired earbuds are a pain and I don’t keep up with the cushions on wireless earbuds. So I think having headphones will be better for me. They’re more comfortable and most will allow you to answer phone calls. Beats are the go-to, but there are others that are as good and cost less. I’m open to anything.

  • Writing Craft Books. I’ll be the first to admit that I need help with the writing craft. I get that books can only get you so far, but any help is welcome. Now I can compose a list just on this item alone, but I’ll list the books that are the most sought after. On the top of my list is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Ever since I learned of its existence and reading about how it’s helped so many writers. I can’t imagine not benefiting me. Next is Stephen King’s On Writing. The quintessential guide to the creative process. I used to have this book, but I gave it away. I want it back.

  • Writing Prompt Books. Like the craft books, I can compile a list based on this item. I research a lot of prompts on Pinterest and subscribe to a newsletter that posts new prompts every week. But having a book will be a boon. Will I use them all? Maybe. Maybe not. But it will get me thinking outside the box.

  • Short Story Collections. I like reading short stories as much as I like writing them. And The Pushcart Prize and The Best American Short Stories are the best out there. There are others like the O. Henry anthology. And there are collections by various writers that are on my list. What makes these collections and anthologies so great is that while they cannot possess the depth of a novel due to its format, there’s the potential of reading memorable characters and awesome storytelling. And I want to learn from as many writers as possible so that I can create memorable stories of my own.

  • Subscriptions to Literary Magazines. It’s one thing to learn from the best writers in the world. It’s another to discover and read works from local writers, whether first-time or seasoned. Georgia has some great literary magazines, like New South and The Georgia Review. I want a subscription to either one and, like the nationwide anthologies, learn what makes their stories special.

  • Writing Space. This may sound like an odd item, but hear me out. I live in a small house that’s filled to the brim with family and it’s always busy. Even when I have the time to write, I’m writing in the kitchen most of the time. And I don’t have the privacy I want and frankly need to concentrate on writing. I just want an area that’s designated for me and my writing. Someplace where people know that when I’m there, I don’t want to be disturbed, even if it’s for thirty minutes. And I don’t care if it’s at a corner of the living room. I don’t care if it’s in the laundry room. I just want a space that’s mine where I can write in peace.

So, there you have it. My writing wish list. Will I get everything I want? Odds point to “no.” But a writer can dream.

What about you? What are you hoping for on your wish list? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

Harvesting Childhood


I must give thanks to Rachel Poli for providing the prompt, Apples and Pumpkins. I’ve wanted to write a story based on one of her prompts for a while, but didn’t find one that fit my style until now. And seeing how I love the Fall season, I find this story fitting. Hope you enjoy. 

Ridgeway Farms is possessed. At least that’s what Mr. Ridgeway tells us. As he drives the tractor, he speaks about how the farm was built on old cemetery grounds, and yet, the crops flourish. Especially the Apple and pumpkin crops. He says around the fall, The apples and pumpkins spring to life while everything else withers and dies. He speaks about the summer of ‘76, when a big fire scorched the grounds. But somehow, the apple trees and pumpkins continued to grow. I chalk it up to dumb luck. He and Mrs. Ridgeway believe otherwise.

Mr. Ridgeway pulls the tractor up to the barn. My sons, Keith and Alex, and I jump out of the car. They circle around me, chasing each other and fighting over God knows what. I snatch them both by their arms. 

“Did you boys listen to anything that nice farmer was saying?”

The boys look at me with shaking eyes. They shrug. I don’t mean to be harsh, but trying to connect with them is like trying to squeeze the last drops of soap out of a bottle. You try and try until ultimately, you throw the bottle away. 

“Go. Go play.”

My boys scuttle along. All I can do is watch and wonder why I bother trying to reach out to them. Things haven’t been the same since Carrie finalized our divorce. I see them every third weekend. It was her that suggested taking them to Mr. Ridgeway’s farm. She says all I do with sit on my butt and ignore the boys. “Going to the farm will be good for all of you,” she says. I doubted it, but went along with her idea.

The boys run to the pumpkin patch. Mr. Ridgeway stands with his hands tucked in his overalls, smiling all the while. He tells them to pick one pumpkin to take home with them. Mrs. Ridgeway watches them while he and I take a break inside. He pours me a glass of his cold homemade cider. Carrie told me his cider is better than anything Starbucks will ever make. He hands me a stick of cinnamon and I dip it in the glass. 

“Let it soak for a moment,” he says. I watch the kids out the window chase each other. I recollect the days working on my grandfather’s farm. I was eight when my parents divorced. I remember Aaron and me staying with him every weekend throughout the summer. He wasted no time putting us to work. Aaron got the easy job watering the crops, while I had the arduous task of extracting weeds. My hands aches for hours and I think I stretched out my back on a few occasions. I didn’t understand why Grandfather made us work so hard. All we wanted to do was play. And whenever we complained, Grandfather always said the same thing.

“I’m teaching you youngens the value of hard work. Believe me, you’ll thank me when I’m gone.”

That was twenty years ago. I turn to Ridgeway. He cradles the mason jar like a child. The sunlight kisses the snowy beard on his wrinkled face. Something inside me wonders why. 

“I wish my kids would come to visit more often and bring my grandkids. They’re missing out on a lot.”

I don’t know what to say, so I nod. 

“Kids these days,” he grumbles. “All they do is sit and stare at a small screen. It’s like they don’t care about the world around them.”

As he speaks, I can’t help but to think about Grandfather’s words. All I wanted to do was play. I wanted to be a kid, but I didn’t have that luxury. I look down at my steeping cider, I think about my boys. I wish they’d take things more seriously. I wish they’d understood the world is not going to hand things to them for free. That I or Carrie are not going to be there for them all the time.

“…but I wish I wasn’t so hard on them,” Mr. Ridgeway says. “I wish I would have let them be kids. Maybe then, they would want to see us more.”

He looks up and I see a glimmer in his eye. I flash a smirk and take a sip of the cider. As I take in the sights of play, I feel a surge of sweetness and tartness down my throat. I feel the bite of the cinnamon. I can’t stop smiling. 

“What did I tell you?”

The screen door flings open. Mrs. Ridgeway pops out. 

“Carl, we need to go to the hospital right now.”

I rush out the house to the pumpkin patch. I see Keith hold his arm stiff. Alex stands over him, crying along with his brother. I kneel down. 

“What happened?”

“I’m not sure. I turned my back for a few seconds. Next thing I knew, the boys are crying.”

I look to the boys. Already I feel my blood heating up.

“What were you thinking? I told you you can’t run around like that.”

I feel a hand on my shoulders.

“It’ll be okay, James. Accidents happen. We’ll get them taken care of.”

The laser stare tapers. My tense body relaxes. I reach for my boys and hug them. 

“I’m sorry. I just don’t want you guys to get hurt. Your mom would freak out if anything happened to you two.”

I hear the car pull up just as the sun begins to descend. I carry Keith to the car with Alex following close by. I strap him in, making sure his arm is not caught up. I sit beside him and Alex scoots beside me. We fasten our seat belts as Mr. Ridgeway closes the door behind us. Once everyone is in, we move. The car shakes as we travel down the bumpy dirt road. I see the innocence in my boys. I smile as I embrace them. It’s in this moment that I decide to release the leash. I can’t hold onto them forever, but I can love them forever. 

Writing Update: An IWSG Post


Hello,

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s Insecure Writers Support Group Day. By this time, you know the drill. So I’ll go ahead and give thanks to the administrators of this group, which underwent some changes since last time. More details about the group can be found here. Have a look, see what the group’s about, and sign up. 

I can’t believe we’re in the home stretch of 2017. It’s been a tumultuous year as I’m sure you can surmise. Political unrest, protests, disasters. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for this year to be over. But enough about the world. Let’s get to the writing. 

I had to look at the archives to remember all the goals I set. I had four main goals plus some I added midway through the year. And there are some more that I added in the last three months. But before I get to them, let’s discuss what progress I’ve made with the previous goals. 

Write a Short Story Outside My Genre. Success. I didn’t have a particular order in terms of priority, but this was a topic of conversation throughout the year. I’m happy to say that I succeeded in this goal. I have a fantasy and science fiction story in my notebook. And I actually enjoyed writing them. I think it helped listening to music put me in the right frame of mind. I haven’t written a second draft on either one. I put them aside for the time being. I certainly plan on revisiting them before the year is over.

And while I accomplished this “feat,” this challenge is far from over. I plan on taking on another genre. The superhero genre. After talking with some writers on Twitter, I decided that this will be the next challenge on my list. I love what Marvel and DC have produced in the last several years. And while it won’t be on the grand scale in terms of writing, I think I can create a good universe. Right now, it’s in the planning phase. When it’s done, I plan on posting it on my blog. More details to come as the project progresses.

Submit a Short Story to a Writing Contest or Magazine. Not Started. Next to the short story venturing, this was another priority. Unfortunately, I haven’t started this process. Blame procrastination. Blame fear of failure. Blame not trying new genres. Blame not having the right tools. Whatever. It doesn’t change the fact that I have yet to submit a story. There have been plenty of opportunities. I follow a Twitter handle that posts free writing contests. I follow a blogger that posts writing contests every month. And yet, I fold. I psych myself out every time. If I’m going to improve as a writer, I need to stop making excuses and get this done. 

Compile Stories For a Series. Fail. For over a year, I told you, my writing/blogging friends, that I would write a short story series and post them on my blog. In the three years I’ve had Project Blacklight, I had three ideas for short story series and they flopped. The first, and perhaps the more truthful reason why these failed to gain traction, is that I lacked the motivation to keep writing the stories. I wrote one story, but gave up on them when I found myself stuck.

In addition, I didn’t have a plan. I’m someone that has to have a plan for everything. Especially when it comes to writing. I can’t just write by the seat of my pants, even if it’s a short story. Consider it a lesson learned from this experience. 

Write Twelve Short Stories This Year. In Progress. To be honest, I forgot about the original goal until I pulled it up from my last post. It was to write a short story a month. I’m altering this goal for two reasons. One, I have drafts scattered all over the place. I have some on Google Docs and some in my notebook. And two, I wrote more than one story on various months. I’m guessing I’m three-quarters of the way through. I’ll have to flip through my notebook and check the time stamps on Google Docs to get a more accurate measurement. 

Read a Book Outside My Genre. In Progress. This was one of two goals that I added to my list this year. This coincides with having a plan for my writing. I have to have guidelines. Plus, it’s said the best way to write a lot is to read a lot. And not just within your genre of choice. I have to say this has been a struggle. I have choices. I asked for recommendations and received some good ones. And I borrowed books from local libraries. The real struggle is making the time to read. Like some writers, I have a day job and family responsibilities. So time to myself is very scarce. Even more so with a second job I picked up recently. 

And then, there’s the issue of losing interest. I’ve mentioned this on a few occasions that I’m in the firm belief that watching so much TV has spoiled me. I’m not very patient. And I’m very picky about books. AND my interest in genres wavers. Like right now, I’m interested in the superhero genre. I read one book this year, Wayne of Gotham, but haven’t read another superhero book since. But this is where I need to think about what I like and don’t like about facets of different genres and find books that mostly match my criteria. 

Write Every Day For a Month. Success. I was worried about meeting this goal. I decided on July to be the month where I set out to write every day. And it just so happened to coincide with Camp NaNo. With the lack of free time, I had to get creative on some days. On others, I had to hunker down to get words on paper. But I can say that it was a success. I’m actually thinking about taking on this goal again during the real NaNoWriMo, though I won’t participate in the festivities. (Don’t ask why.)

So, that’s my progress. The last three months should be promising for my writing. I would love to hear from you.

How has your writing come along? What goals have you yet to accomplish? Let me know in the comments. 

Until next time, take care…

(Note to self: I need to come up with a better exit line.)