Monday, July 22, 2013

All in the Attitude

I returned from the RWA National conference last night. I'll likely post more about the conference later, but I just had a thought I wanted to get down...

And it's not a particularly original thought, it might even be cliché, but I am struck this morning about how much a positive attitude can affect one's experiences and enjoyment of life.

I booked a later-in-the-day flight yesterday, thinking I'd do some sightseeing in Atlanta, but a longer-than-planned breakfast, and a long-as-usual to-do list kept me in the hotel until I had to head to the airport.

Then I went to the airport early, because I spotted someone I knew heading out, and didn't want to get stuck paying a full cab fare myself.

Here are the things I didn't know when I decided to head to the airport early:

- the international terminal in Atlanta is a long way away from the domestic one. (Seriously? Are they in the same city?) So, my taxi fare was pretty much what I would have paid on my own, even though I split the fare to the domestic terminal 3 ways.

- after getting to the airport early, my flight boarded 2 1/2 hours late, then sat on the tarmac for another hour and 45 minutes before we even got into the queue on a runway. We landed 4 1/2 hours late. At least.

Let's just say that it was a loooong trip home.

But I was grinning nearly the entire time and woke in a great mood this morning.

Why do you ask?

Well, all the misfortunes listed above, led to some interesting and fun consequences.

First, the cabbie, with whom I got an extra 15 minutes after dropping the other women at the domestic terminal, turned out to be an interesting man, originally from South Sudan who likes books and asked for my card and seemed genuinely interested. Plus, he was nice to talk to after I got past my initial reaction that he was ripping me off when he said it would cost another $13 to go from one terminal to the other. After the trip, I realized why...

Second, in the airport, I got to hang with five local writers, only one of whom I knew well before. And now I feel like I have four new friends. We had some huge belly laughs. It's amazing how punchy I get on almost no sleep and a 4 hour wait in an airport.  Plus we got to watch a fireworks-show-of-a-thunderstorm that was one of the reasons our flight was delayed. Front row seats from inside a wall-to-ceiling glass room.

Then, on the flight, I was seated way at the back (within sniff distance of the stinkiest airport toilet ever) and next to a very chatty young woman.

Now, with the wrong attitude, that might have annoyed me. But I set my book aside and chatted back. And she was pretty amazing. Without going into details, she was highly inspiring in what she's gone through and accomplished in her (I'm guessing) 20 or 21 years, and she also reminded me of how much I've accomplished, at a time when I've been thinking the opposite. (It's easy to come back from conference thinking you aren't successful enough, or good enough, or working hard enough, or that the odds are so stacked against all authors that most of us are delusional in thinking we can have a career.)

Reflecting this morning, I thought, hmmm... somewhere in a parallel universe, another Maureen would have fought with that cabbie over the fare, sat stewing on her own at the airport trying to get work done, and ignored the chatty girl on the plane. In a parallel universe, another Maureen would have been angry and frustrated about the delay and loooong trip home after a tiring week, and translated her fatigue into grumpiness instead of giddiness.

Glad I ended up in the right parallel universe yesterday. And it was a great reminder that, most of the time, we have a choice of which universe to live in.

All about the attitude.

How about you? Any time you've turned bad luck into a fun day?

Plus, if you love romance, or more importantly if you tend to dismiss it as trash or "mommy porn" you should read this post by the fabulous Molly O'Keefe.

Friday, July 12, 2013

On Writers' Block

I dropped by a #litchat twitter chat a few days ago and the topic was writer's block.

Opinions on this topic vary wildly. But I've chosen to believe that:

a) it doesn't exist, you just need to push through, or
b) if it truly does sink in for you, it might be clinical depression and you should see your doctor.

Writing is hard. If it were easy to finish a novel, everyone would do it.

If it were easy to revise a lousy or mediocre novel to make it a good or exciting novel, more of the people who complete the first step (already very few), would do the second and there wouldn't be as many badly written self-published books out there. I know there are great self-published books out there, before someone yells at me. :) I know that these days self-publishing is a choice, not a last resort. But let's face it, an awful lot of the stuff out there, especially by writers who were never previously published traditionally, is crap. But back to writer's block.

Prolific and wildly successful romance author Nora Roberts has been quoted as saying (I'm paraphrasing): There's no such thing as writer's block, just lazy writers. She also says something like: You can't fix a blank page.

And I've taken those two quotes to heart on the days when the writing isn't going well.

I've also discovered that, for me, writing can cure writers block. If I'm hating my work, or it seems all wrong or I just can't think of a good plot twist or a clever way to say what I want to say, I just start typing (or writing in a notebook) about how frustrated I am, or about why I think the book's not working, or what might work, or ridiculous ideas of things I know won't work--and almost always (I can't think of a time that this hasn't worked) by the time I'm done ranting on the page, I start back into the work again because I've thought of a solution to the problem I'm having or I start to realize how to fix it. (That is one long sentence. Is there a prize for that?)

Or somedays, if the right words aren't coming, but I know what's going to happen, I'll just give myself permission to write it badly. Or write detailed outlines of the scenes instead of the actual scenes. Or put in things like "Glory does something that shows she's happy", instead of stopping to think of the absolute perfect and specific thing for my character to do. That works too. At least it keeps me moving forward to a point where my momentum and ability to form words into nice sentences might come back to me. I can fix it later. (You can't fix a blank page.)

I think the important thing is to keep moving. To treat writing as a job, even if you've never been paid for it, or even if you've been published but also need a day job, or a spouse's income, to make ends meet (as 99% of us do).

And today I stumbled on this Stephen King quote.

And this really spoke to me, too. Our best work, no matter what style of writer we are, or which genre the industry lumps our work in to, comes from deep inside us and sometimes hurts coming out. But the stuff that hurts, the stuff that's hard, is also usually our best work.

I also realize that most of these great quotes about not being too precious about your work, and being professional, and just getting it done, come from so-called genre fiction authors, who are often looked down upon by writers deemed more literary.

Well, okay. I get that it might take longer to write a truly great literary novel. I get that each scene might take more time and more revision might be required when you're writing a book where the words count more than the story. (I don't know if I actually believe this. Story is hard too. Great characters are hard too. Writing emotion is hard too... But whatever. I'm conceding for a moment that literary fiction might take longer.)

And my point is, no matter what you're writing, ultimately it comes down to "butt in chair, hands on keyboard" at some point.

I think too many creative people use the word muse as an excuse.

NB.  This doesn't mean I don't get to stare out the window, or play Bejeweled and call it work. Sometimes we need that, too. To let the subconscious do it's thing. Okay.
Just don't whine and call it writer's block.
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