Friday, February 19, 2016

In Defense of the Notebook

Hands up (and be honest), who has a writer's notebook?

I stopped using a notebook for several years and only recently picked the habit back up last September, but it's already proved to be invaluable. This cute little thing? Yeah, that's mine.

What's not important is the canvas cover (which is totally adorable) or the zippered compartment where I keep a pen. What really matters is found in the scribbles on the pages. I've filled this notebook with everything, including but not limited to:

  • Angry, emotional-fueled rants
  • Lists of cool jobs for characters
  • Lists of possible titles
  • Writing exercises and prompts
  • Dream analyses (Come on, someone getting shot in Kroger parking lot is a crazy recurring theme)
  • Interesting moments in my day
  • Short story ideas

My daily journaling isn't necessarily a play-by-play of that day or even recent events. Sometimes it's fiction, sometimes a list, sometimes it's only 2 sentences, like when I wrote:

     Nicholas leaves on October 14.
     Nicholas is leaving and I can't breathe.

For the record, I did start breathing again. No worries, my lungs going strong.

But other than staying in the habit of daily writing, there is an enormous benefit to keeping a writer's journal. One, your husband might buy you brand new journals for Christmas that you are dying to start using (The Doctor throwing the TARDIS at a dalek? YES PLEASE.), and two, they are literally a little black book of ideas.

I have a short story due in my workshop in a couple weeks that I've been struggling with. On more than one occasion, I sat down at the computer and typed and erased a dozen first lines before giving up.

Later, while flipping through my notebook, I spotted one of the titles I'd jotted down for future use. And jesus fucking christ, BAM, there it was. The idea. The story. The plot. Even the characters!

So hey, if you haven't used it in a while, pull out your notebook and put it to good use. And if you can, put a picture of your notebook in the comments, I want to see yours!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Oh wait, I'm supposed to be running a blog...

You know what I’m pretty much, almost completely, for real just about done with? School.

Last fall I switched my degree from an associate of science to an associate of arts, took 15 credit hours (including my 5-hour physics class, which should have been worth WAY MORE than 5 measly credits), and basically ran on a weird mix of adrenaline, coffee, and late nights that were only appropriate for my early 20s. And I passed. I passed everything. I even got out of physics with a B.

Last fall, my husband deployed and my son later spent a week in the hospital.

Last fall, I had to take a temporary leave of absence from work. And I love my job.

Last fall, I felt like I lost myself.

Bob Ross gets life.
Because guys, last fall fucking sucked. Like, for real. Big time. But it was OK, because I finished my associate degree and was going to start University of Arizona (with a conservative 9 credit hours because fuck anything else). Then I saw the tuition. My husband and I had been saving for a year and a half to avoid taking out student loans that we just can’t take on, and tuition for a single semester was well over $2,000 MORE than we’d managed to save.

What. The. Fuck.

So hey, fun news! I have an associate of arts aaaand that’s about it for the foreseeable future. Sorry creative writing major, more than $10,000 a year is more than anyone can afford, much less a small family with two young kids and childcare bills and, oh you know, the desire to buy groceries and toilet paper.

But all isn’t lost. At least not yet. Instead, I’m sticking around my community college with its deliciously reasonably priced classes. This semester I’m enrolled in the advanced fiction writing workshop so that I can hammer out a few solid short stories complete with feedback and enforced by deadlines.
Next fall? Next fall won’t suck, and here’s why.

I’ll be in the advanced novel writing workshop, I’ll still be at my job, I’ll be writing still, pushing forward with submissions, and my husband will have his adorable ass back home, right where it belongs.

Plus side to saying “Fuck this” to moving on toward a bachelor degree? My reading time has pretty much quadrupled. What do you mean I don’t need to figure out the acceleration needed to safely stop a vehicle from careening into a raging river of death? (Bonus points if you get the move reference.) Oh fuck yes, I’m reading.

And what else? Words are flowing out of me like never before.