Monday, January 18, 2016

Pick A Project. Now Focus.



Instead of  trying to take on a lot of small projects this year, I've decided to focus on one novel length project. By doing it this way, I'm hoping to get to the root cause of why my last three projects have all turned out so horribly broken. Why can't I seem to fix them?  Better yet, how do I fix them? Whatever the problem is, I'm seeking to solve it, even if it means taking a solid year to repeatedly workshop one single book.

My last three novels - yes, three full-length completed novels (or rather, three complete messes) - are so broken that I can't seem to dig my way through the revisions. One of the novels, a contemporary cowboy romance, has been rewritten four times. It still sucks. There's no other word for it. It reads like a first draft, even after four drafts, and I can't seem to fix it. In fact, until recently, I wasn't even able to figure out what the heck is wrong with it. How can I hope to cure the problem if I can't properly diagnose the terminal issue killing my novel in the first place?

I took a workshop recently, and in the middle of one of the lectures, I had an epiphany about the cowboy romance and why it wasn't working. It all goes back to the planning stages of the book, properly setting up the conflicts, and building the characters. I looked at the notes I'd taken during the workshop, and instantly knew I would have to go back to the beginning and start over again. I said to myself: Really? Really, Cora?  [self loathing intensifies] Sigh. Yes, really.

I'm not diving back into the cowboy story again just yet. It frustrates me just to look at it, so I'm setting it aside to work on something fresh. I've made some notes on ways the cowboy story can possibly be fixed...things I picked up from that workshop. In the meantime, I'm brainstorming a new project and taking the advice of the writing teacher. I'm taking my time, digging deeper into who the characters are, and focusing on building the conflicts before I start writing. Should I hit a snag somewhere, I'll be heading off to the nearest workshop to try to figure out where my project derailed and why. Then, back to working on it. Rinse and repeat. We'll see how that works out. ♥

Thursday, January 07, 2016

2016: Be Loyal To Yourself

Dear 2016, please be kind. That's all I ask you to be. My wish can be summed up by quoting Reinhold Neibur:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference."

The only person I can change is me. A hard lesson to learn, but perhaps absorbed more easily after bringing two headstrong boys into the world. With that in mind, the one resolution I made for the New Year was to make changes in my life so there is less stress. The emotional turmoil I've been through over the past two years just isn't worth it. I can't let it continue. It's slowly killing me. To help combat some of the negativity, I've been meditating more, praying more, and walking away more.

Starting way back in mid-December, I deleted several social media accounts, and since then I've trimmed my Facebook list by half. The trimming continues. In every corner of my life, I'm making it a point to weed out those who aren't worthy of my trust, my energy, my support, or my loyalty.

That last one is a big deal for me. I'm loyal to a fault, and I know this. I tend to give people I love - both friends and family - chances, then more chances, then still more, even after people have made it plain and clear they wouldn't do the same for me. And I usually know I shouldn't give "one more chance" when something bad happens, but like the sucker I am, I do it anyway...out of guilt, or something like that. I don't know why I do it, really. I wish I knew, because then maybe it would be easier for me to stop doing it. Know what I mean?

Anyway, I have a set of oracle cards called The Wisdom of Avalon by Collete Baron Reid, and one of the cards in the deck is the dog. That card is about loyalty and sincerity. The thing that resonates most with me about that card is that it tells us to love sincerely and without conditions, like the dog. Also, the card teaches that if someone is being insincere, move on because that person isn't meant to be in your pack.

I've been letting go of people who have made it clear in one way or another that I am not a part of their pack. I can't tell you how freeing that is. Especially when it comes to the fair weather friends, quasi-friends, and the ones who know they can use you because they know you're loyal to them, then they drop you like a hot potato when they get what they want.

I'm so over it. I've been over it a while, but there is something about deleting someone, whether from real life friendships or online friendships, that is so hard to do. It feels so risky and personal. I don't like to hurt other people. I have frequently made myself uncomfortable in order to make concessions for others, and I can tell you first hand that if you make a habit of it, people close to you eventually being to expect it.

While making concessions can be a good thing in and of itself, taken to an extreme - which I tend to do - it isn't healthy. I know this, and over the Christmas holidays I realized that I have to start looking out for me, too. After all, if someone only comes around when they want something, that's not really a friendship, is it?

After reading back through all of the above (I went to get tea and lost my place), I realized there's more than one simple step when it comes to my "stress less" plan for the year. Stressing less is going to require letting go of toxic people and relationships, and learning to value myself more. It makes me anxious just thinking about it, but I know it's time.

Here's to 2016, and moving forward without regret. ♥