Falling into the Flow

It’s been nearly sixteen years since I dared called myself a “fledgling writer”.  It used to be that I could sit down and verbal vomit onto the screen a complete story.  I was a pantser.  But now, writing is a bit more tricky.

Which is why I am turning back toward reading to jump start my writing.  But reading isn’t always easy these days either.  There is the required reading for work, the rereading of texts for work, and the endless emails, texts, tweets, and posts.  But it surprised me how challenging it can be to fall into the flow of a novel.

I will put the book by the bedside, intending to spend a chunk of time reading before sleeping.  Instead, I will spend a chunk of time on social media, checking out the latest news stories, and be half asleep by the time I put down the ipad/phone and pick up the novel.

Why is that?  I know that Nicholas Carr’s THE SHALLOWS tries to explain that Google just might be “making us stupid” by encouraging us to skim and scan, to not read.  But it frustrates me that when I think I want to sit down to read, I struggle.

Last summer I tried a new approach.  I picked up a book that I loved as a teenager: Anne Mc Caffrey’s Dragonflight.  For a week, I fell in love with reading again, yearning for the extra free moments when I could slip into the world of Pern and ride a dragon alongside Lessa in my imagination.  And it was interesting how things that did not stand out for me as a thirteen-year old reader, did as a midlife mommy.

More importantly, I felt a sense of accomplishment.  I had fallen into the narrative’s flow and allowed myself to experience  the story.  For a little while, I had forgotten all the day to day challenges.  Reading in the flow was cathartic!

And all it took was carving out some time, choosing the right book, and slowing down.  Slowing down might have been the magic ingredient in the fairy dust that transported me to Pern.

It was a healing experience.

Upon finishing Dragonflight, I felt compelled to research about Mc Caffrey’s life and her inspiration.  Then I marveled at how dragons are once again an important part of our culture.  And at last, the single sandy grain of a story began to form in my head.

Reading is breathing for a writer.  And I am still working on falling into the flow of others narratives.  But when it happens, it’s extraordinary.

JMonell

 

A Mommy Moment With BTS Night

September is always chaotic in our home.  It amazes me how our family accelerates the pace of life from the hazy days of summer crawl to the all out sprint of BTS.  Suddenly, bedtime has to be adjusted to accommodate an early morning wake-up.  School forms need to be filled out and signed. Sports uniforms have to be ordered. Schedules have to be coordinated.  And I am in a mad dash to do all the summer cleaning I swore I would do, but didn’t.

The Tuesday after Labor Day is my New Year’s Day too.

And I have two BTS nights.

The second one requires me to rush home, pick up Munchkin, provide some sort of meal,  hug DH with a ‘hello” then rush back out usually within an hour of getting in the house.  I relish BTS night because I want to meet the Munchkin’s teacher and hear about what he will be doing.  Every year I can predict how it is going to go just from quality of the presentation and the expression on the teacher’s face.

Sometimes, the Munchkin’s teacher doesn’t want to entertain me.  It can be threatening to know that your client has the same job as you, knows the lingo, and can see through smoke and mirrors.  There have been years when I felt the hesitation in the handshake, or could imagine the teacher talking in the faculty room…”Watch out! Mom’s a teacher.”  I understand.  It has happened to me too.

The best BTS nights have been the ones when I walk into the classroom and know the year will be great.  I can feel the care that was put into making the room feel like home.  And it is organized.  Reading in one corner.  Math manipulatives in another.  Science in the back.  Social studies in the front.   I love it when I leave and know I will be working with Munchkin’s teacher.

But, my anxiety does rise like icy water when I walk into a room full of parents and I am the oldest one squeezing into a little kid seat.

You see, BTS night is also the time when the parents check each other out.  A glimpse around the room can be very revealing.  There have been moments when I swear I feel the other women’s gazes upon my back and I can hear them ask “Just how old was she when she had her child?” in their heads like some sick yummy mommy telepathy.

Being an “older” mom makes some ask why you waited so long, or wonder if you couldn’t find Mr. Right “on time”.   Then some will look around or listen to hear if I have an older child, almost as if this one was an “oops”.

I am being scoped out on the battlefield of the mommy wars.

And I know it.

As the class parents (moms) stand up and talk about giving money for class parties, and getting involved, I feel a bit sick.  They smile and bounce like they’re walking down some runway not standing in the front of a fifty-year old classroom.  Sometimes they giggle.  Sometimes they growl…”Of course you will join PTO!”  “Give us your name, numbers, email…rank and file too.”

Honestly, I feel bad.  I work.  Halloween parties and parades are great, but I only get so much personal time in a year, so reading during Read Across America, supervising holiday parties, or helping organize graduation are not options for me.  And PTO after a full day of work, family, grading, lesson planning, cooking, and…. it’s just not going to happen.  This doesn’t mean I don’t care.

And I should not also feel like a second- class citizen.

It amazes me how quick people are to judge one another.  My middle age is teaching me to take a step back, and breathe, before allowing those thoughts to consume me.  One would think I’d be beyond caring what other people presume.  But it is still a struggle at times.

Sometimes, when I see other moms, I wish we had children when I was younger.   It’s too easy to wonder what life would have been like if only… Not that I regret my choices.  There is a reason why things have happened in the time that they did.

This year I looked about the room and tried to stay present.  Munchkin is growing much too fast.  When I blink, I wonder what I missed.  Now I try to live moment by moment and let go of Regret.

JMonell

 

 

 

Reditus

Source: Reditus

I love this post, because writing is really about getting back to one’s “roots”. Amanda Mininger beautifully describes the sentiment of writing because one needs to, because one needs to find the words that explain our humanity.

In a world that runs through space and time at the speed of light, it is easy to forget how necessary the act of creating is to be human.  Shaping words, forming images, evoking emotions, are all a part of that creation.

Human beings need stories.

Human doings may not.

Enjoy the post!

JMonell

 

 

Is Publishing Dead?

Last night I had the chance to speak with an author who has published quite a bit more than I have, but who is more pessimistic than I am about the state of publishing today.  Lucky for me, I was with a few different authors, but most of them said the same thing, that publishing your work the traditional route has gotten more difficult, if not downright impossible.

Then why are there so many new books in the teen section at Barnes & Noble?  And why do I get great book deals day after day on Book Bub?  Can you explain why my local library has at least thirty to forty books in the New Book Section each month?

Is publishing dead?

Well, maybe the traditional route is dying.  But there are other ways, right?

Nicholas C. Rossis’ 9 Hot Trends in Publishing in 2017  suggests that most sales will come from eBooks.  He cites Amazon’s imprints as the way to go.  So it seems that Amazon continues to dominate the book selling market, even going as far to add brick and mortar stores.

Kallen Diggs also draws a bleak picture for traditional publishing in The Inevitable Death of Traditional Book Publishers .  He breaks down the numbers for how much an author would make if they sold 5000 copies, a very bleak picture indeed.  According to Diggs, authors can earn a 25% royalty for an epublished novel, versus a 10% for print.  Mmmm 25% vs. 10.  Mathematics does have that ability to clarify things.  Diggs also suggests that the argument that self-publishing is less credible is dying today.

For me, the bottom line is that there are ways to publish your stories, and I don’t believe that STORY is dying.  Not at all.  As a writer, we just need to go around the perceived road blocks, or better yet, think outside the box.  If our egos are chained to the idea of traditional publishing, then we might have a tough time.

The new global economy is not going away any time soon.  And it seems to thrive on populist ideology, like current politics in America.  So can you get published?  Sure.  Is publishing dead? No.  But it may be tied to your reader’s impression of you and how much they like the story.  Reviews may be proof of that.  The relationship between reader and writer may be more important now, even if you know it is superficial.  People are looking for that good feeling, the one that warms them and makes them feel special, appreciated, or validated.

Maybe we should act like  financial advisers and differentiate our assets,  some traditional publications, some e-publications, a few audio productions, and of course promo videos for Utube.

I don’t think publishing is dead.  If I did, I wouldn’t duct tape my ass to the chair and write with some regularity.  Let me know what you think!  Or share some tips in the comments.

Write on!

J.Monell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motivation

Why write?  Mmmmmm….that is a good question.  Over the years I have heard many writers offer advice about writing, but one of the best was Brian Keene, the author of Ghoul and other horrific tales.  Brian kept it simple and stated that he had to write.  He was just miserable without writing being a part of his life.  Another writer who considers writing his passion is James Patterson.  The first lesson in his Master Class is that you have to LOVE it, the entire process of writing.  And if you don’t, find something else.

But so many people who dream of writing the next bestseller are miserable writing. Why?

This summer I read a few books that changed my thinking about writing.  The first was THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE by Thomas Friedman.  Friedman examines the intersection of the rapid increase of technology, climate change, and the global economy.  The anecdotes Friedman shared made me realize that there is an audience for your writing.  You just need to find it.  The internet is virtually ubiquitous.  Anyone on Earth with a cell phone could be reading your work, maybe not in book form, but definitely as an E-Text.  Digital publishing is thriving.  Just look at Book Bub.  All you need is a good story, nice cover art, some social media savvy, and a desire to learn how to use technology to publish your work.

Okay, okay…you might be groaning because you realize I am writing about self-publishing, but Friedman also claims that the old constructs that governed business are showing cracks, and the water is spilling through, or should I say ideas.  New business models are emerging.

I’ve read a few articles that suggest that publishers are perusing the ranks of self-published authors on Amazon, looking for the next “big thing”, and offering standard contracts.  So what have you got to lose?  Do the math?.  $.99 a copy for 150 copies is still better than letting the manuscript rot in your desk’s drawer with no audience.

I don’t think a writer has much to lose if they haven’t landed that traditional contract.

The other book that made me think about writing was DRIVE by Daniel Pink.  Pink studies the progression from Motivation 1.0 to Motivation 3.0 and claims that in our modern day society, an individual needs purpose, autonomy, and mastery at work.  He shared a study where critics evaluated works of art that were both commissioned and not commissioned by a group of artists.  The critics did not know which pieces were commissioned or not, and consistently chose those that were not commissioned as having more artistic merit. The artists indicated that they felt more freedom to create when they were not exposed to carrot and the stick extrinsic motives.  Their love of art and their intrinsic motivation drove them to commit to the process and give the time.  Art exists for art’s sake.  And writers are artists in my mind.

So what is motivating you?  Write for the love of it.  Period.  If you’re writing for the cash because you’ve got bills to pay, well, your creativity might enchain your muse.  The stress of everyday life can effect your ability to create.  In other words, I’m not going to quit my J.O.B. because it gives me the freedom to write without a carrot or stick.

However, I also need to give myself time to write, time when I’m not obsessed with cleaning the house, putting Munchkin to bed, or guilt over not spending enough time with DH.  But I’m working on that. 🙂  I’ll save that for another post.

So next time you dream you’re standing up to receive an award for your book, or seeing it’s title on the New York Times Best Seller List, think about what really motivates you and work on freeing your muse.

Happy Writing!

JMonell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing through a midlife crisis…

Do you remember when you were a little kid in elementary school and you loved to write stories, especially those you could illustrate yourself?  I do.  And then something happened.  Something called SCHOOL, or at least SCHOOL for real, which meant that writing fiction was a frivolous pursuit.  After all, one had to learn to write non-fiction in its various forms for this test or that test. Not too much has changed, has it?

My mom wrote in my baby book that I wrote my first story at the tender age of three. I have no recollection of the story, but I know my mom must have been proud since she felt it significant enough to write about it.

I received the book sometime in late ’96 after her death from cancer.  And that was twenty-one years ago.  So much has happened during that time in a speed that defies memory.  This scares me.  It scares me enough that I woke up a few mornings ago to realize that I have passed the midpoint in life.

And in the past twenty-one years, I have gotten married, had a son, published fiction, bought a house, had a few health scares of my own, and grown disenchanted with the J.O.B., or just ordinary bullshit, as I like to refer to it.  I no longer have a type A personality, but still flounder between B and C.  Life for a while seemed like a highway between points A, B, and C.   And I wonder how much authentic living I have done these past twenty-one years.   So much seems a blur, and that upsets me.

Why have I given so much time to a daily pursuit for a paycheck?  Okay, so yes, I am suffering a bit of burnout.  But the road to retirement is long.   And I think the best way to move forward is not to look backward, but to write through it.

So come join me as I talk about writing, reading, and living through a time that feels a bit like a Twilight episode.  Leave me notes and say hello!

Fondly,

JMonell