Happy anniversary!

I made it — yeah!!

When I started this blog Oct. 23, I challenged myself to publish one new post every day for a month. Since today’s Nov. 23, it’s been a month, and I’ve managed to rant or praise or instruct or yak about something every single day.

Not bad for somebody resistant to this social-networking thing!

Some of my posts have been short; others, not so short. Some, I still find interesting to read. But even the others are so much better than my preteen diaries that they were worthy of my time and effort!

After attending a Writer’s Digest Editor’s Intensive in October, I decided to test the social media waters with blogging rather than begin with Facebook or Twitter. I might try those two one day, but certainly not now. You see, I’m already juggling a full schedule and don’t need anything else to distract me from my novel (and unfortunately, we writers are masters at procrastination!)

I soon found that blogging can be a two-sided sword. On the one hand, some posts came so easily that they served as “warmup writing,” making my novel writing clearer, tighter, and more readable. Other posts took so much out of me that I really didn’t have time for creative writing — at least, not as much time as I needed or wanted.

So I think it boils down to this — I’ll keep on blogging, just not every single day. That way, I’ll force myself to adhere to a schedule with my novel and I won’t waste time penning boring blogs.

Seems like a reasonable compromise to me.



An “ah-ha” moment!

I spent much of today with a writer friend of mine, and right before I was to leave, I had a stunning revelation!

The reason I’m struggling so hard to express my creativity lies in years and years of daily journalism.


Yesterday, I was an editor’s dream. My grammar was spot on, my punctuation perfect, my facts checked and re-checked, my copy was readable, tight, and in perfect inverted pyramid format. I didn’t need to be creative, or think about word count, or wonder if someone was going to buy or read my story — I had a ready-made audience, and I became so practiced at what I did that it wasn’t much of a challenge any more.

Time to tackle a new objective, writing a novel.

Now, you might think that since I’ve written practically my entire life, a novel would be a cake-walk.

You’d be wrong.

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever undertaken.

Besides handling the basics — grammar, punctuation, spelling, research — I’ve learned I have to worry about plot, structure, dialog, point of view, first lines that “hook,” resolving all brought-up issues, characterization, timeline, setting, tension, denouement, final chapters that resonate with readers, and a gazillion other things while I’m writing.

Suddenly, there’s no magic formula other than “show, don’t tell.”

So I’m tackling this project the same way I usually tackle something new — researching the daylights out of it, soaking up as much information as possible from others more experienced than I, and practicing, practicing, practicing!

This struggle to free myself from the constraints of “formulaic” prose is frustrating. Why can’t I slap words on a page like my writing friend and have them mean something, tell a story, invoke feelings? What happened to the creativity I exhibited as a child? What can I do to get it back?



Music for Writing

My Favorite Domer finally sent me a belated birthday present, and I couldn’t be happier!

It’s a CD from the Band of the Fighting Irish for the 2003 season, and besides including all the favorites — the Victory March, the Alma Mater, Damsha Bua (the Victory Clog), and Hike Notre Dame, to name just a few — it has a little jazz (Birdland), some rock (Bohemian Rhapsody), some oldies (Saturday in the Park), classical (1812 Overture), and whimsical (Mario Medley).

As someone who spends a lot of time at my computer, I really appreciate being able to choose different styles of music to listen to. When I’m doing Web Design, I find myself tuning in to rock, usually something with lyrics (especially those I can sing along with!). I find it helps me focus (especially if I’m just doing routine maintenance on a site I’ve created!). But no way can I write fiction with somebody singing — too many words, and I’ve lost all track of my storyline!

So instrumental music becomes my primary companion when I write (and re-write). I often opt for classical — Mozart is a perennial favorite — and I have a stack of CDs and an MP3 loaded with hours of background music. In addition, MFD has compiled numerous CDs for me (“writing music,” he calls it) — everything from hard and soft rock (no lyrics!) to movies themes, piano and other instrumental selections.

One of my writing buddies is the exact opposite. She can’t write with any music in the background (she calls it “noise”). I wonder if it’s true that one person’s “noise” is another person’s “music?”  Whatever, I find it distracting to listen to things like the pipes creaking, branches scraping the gutter, and even owls hooting — must be because I write suspense fiction!

How about other writers out in blog-land? What’s your pleasure — music or silence? And, if music, what type?


Lifelong learning

Let’s get one thing out of the way upfront — I’m not a Notre Dame alum.

Heaven knows, I wish I were, but all I am is the mom of a Domer — that, and a huge fan!! Shoot, I’ve even considered the possibility of enrolling in, say, the Graduate Program in Creative Writing, just so I could be a Domer, too!

I’ve always had a passion for education. I was one of those “weird” kids who simply loved school, not just because my friends were there but because in school, you learned stuff. I love the smell and feel of a book; I love being able to string words together so when folks read them, they go, “Yeah!”

When I was a kid, every week in the summer I’d go to the Library and check out a stack of books — as many as I could carry — then hurry home and immerse myself in wonderful, magical stories. Even today, there’s nothing better than getting lost in a novel and forgetting there’s a world with problems outside.

My undergrad education was at Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi (Go Rebels!!), and my feelings for Alma Mater run oh so deep. I had a four-year Band scholarship, so participating in halftime shows and supporting the Red-and-Blue became deeply ingrained. Perhaps it’s the growing-up one does during the four years between 18 and 22; perhaps it’s the friends one makes at college. Whatever, I (and most of my fellow Rebs) feel an intense pride, unwavering loyalty, and profound gratitude to Ole Miss.

As the late Frank E. Everett Jr. (a UM alum) put it: “The University is respected, but Ole Miss is loved. The University gives a diploma and regretfully terminates tenure, but one never graduates from Ole Miss.”

When My Favorite Domer was in elementary school, I returned to college (community college, this time) to pursue a new career in Web Design. I found, to my surprise, that I was an even better student than during my first go-round as an undergrad. I seemed to have an intuitive awareness of what material was important for me to learn, how to study and budget my time, how to access the help I needed, and I wasn’t afraid to approach my instructors, spend time in their offices, and soak up their advice.


Today’s buzzwords are “lifelong learning.” Yep, I’m a firm believer in that. As a Web Designer and Writer, I often run into something I’m unfamiliar with, and I constantly find myself having to learn new code and techniques or new ways of solving old problems. I pity people who don’t find learning enjoyable, or who think that once they’ve got a sheepskin, they’re finished.

So, while right now I can’t justify returning to academia for another degree, don’t count me out — I just might, one day!