Go Slow and Don’t Stop

Go Slow and Don’t Stop

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”   ~ Confucius

Confucius Statue

Today is the birth anniversary of Confucius, who would be 2,568 years old if he’d managed to stay alive for twenty or so extra centuries. 

Confucius was born on or about the equivalent of September 28, 551 B.C.E. He was a political figure, philosopher, educator, and founder of the Ru Chinese School of Thought. He was also an author and has been credited with writing or editing the Five Classics and other Chinese texts.*

We hear some version of his advice often these days, don’t we?

 

Just Keep Swimmin’

Persevere

One Step at at Time

Never Give Up!

Just Do It

 

The truth is, a hundred thousand words is daunting. I suspect it would be all the more so without my keyboard. Or a pen. Or paper. I’m pretty sure my chiseling skills are woefully inadequate.

Yes we’re pulled in umpteen directions and the clock never stops ticking. But we can carve out a few minutes most days, if we’re intentional about it.  And when I say we, I mean I. 

Because I’m great about talking about planning my writing. I acknowledge that a plan, a schedule, a timeline would be helpful.  And then I get distracted.

Sound familiar?

So, enough talk about writing. Time for me to write. How about you?

*Cunfucius peppered his writing quite generously with adverbs!

I am a Perfectionist Scaredy-Cat Writer

I am a Perfectionist Scaredy-Cat Writer

 

“I am a perfectionist and a scaredy-cat.”

~Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop

 

 

 

Elizabeth Winthrop Photo with Quote

 

Today Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop celebrates her 70th birthday. Elizabeth has published children’s, young adult, picture books and historical fiction as well as memoir – more than sixty books since her first, Bunk Beds, in 1972. Elizabeth is best known for her middle grade fantasy classic, Castle in the Attic, and has received numerous awards. She’s recently done a Ted Talk about creativity and risking exposure as a writer. It can be viewed here.

 

In her Ted Talk, Elizabeth advises writers to follow where their creative urges take them. Wise words. Sometimes my characters seem to have a mind of their own. They insist on acting in ways I hadn’t planned. My stories have been known to fight me in an attempt to veer in unanticipated directions. 

I should loosen the reins.

Which is not always easy for me.

I have a plan, often an outline. I am detail oriented, definitely more plotter than pantser. And I may just lean a bit towards having control issues. But then my story twists in a burst of spontaneity I’d repressed with the weight of my detailed notes. Or a character decides to do or say something that I didn’t authorize.  

So I pause. And after a while, I can remind myself that my character is making their own decisions because they’re just that real. And that the unplanned variation may improve the story.

But only if it give it a chance.

So I try to turn off the orderly part of my brain and just get the words down.

And the result may be better than I’d anticipated. I like to think I’d planned the perfect novel, but I suppose the creative recesses of my mind have a better idea. If only I can fight off the resistance and follow those creative urges.

Elizabeth reminds us that as writers, we are perfectionists because we get to have our failures privately. I take this to heart when I find myself comparing the ugliness of my first draft with that finished novel on my bedside table. That little activity is one of my own personal private opportunities to see my work as a failure. All alone in the comfort of my own home. Then I shake it off and move forward. And not a soul knows. [Well, I suppose the cat is now out of the bag]. I love the idea of keeping my failures under cover and letting the world see that final polished bit of work.

I’m a scaredy-cat myself.  Elizabeth shares that hiding behind our characters allows us to avoid real-life confrontation. So maybe I’ll create a character that bears resemblance to some real-life people who’ve been on my mind. And then I’ll have them slip in a puddle and drop their coffee. Or have the perfect wedding. Or wreck their car. Or contract food poisoning. Or get upgraded to first class. So many possibilities, and limited only by my imagination and the depth of my emotion. How is that not fun?

Go and take 15 minutes and hear what Elizabeth has to say.


My late sister and grandmother shared a September 14th birthday. I’m pleased that I was able to learn a bit about an author who was born on that day as well. I hear each of their voices in parts of Elizabeth’s Ted Talk, and an involuntary little smile tugs. Ms. Alsop, I think you’d have liked the both of them. Thank you, Elizabeth.

She Wrote Her Bestseller in Her Bedroom La-Z-Boy

She Wrote Her Bestseller in Her Bedroom La-Z-Boy

“I wrote The Hunger Games in a chair, like a La-Z-Boy chair, next to my bed. I had an office, but my kids sort of took it over”. ~Suzanne Collins

Today, August 10,2018,  Suzanne Collins celebrates her 56th birthday.  

Suzanne is a television writer and novelist, and is Amazon’s best selling author of all time. She’s best known for The Hunger Games Trilogy, but back in the day she wrote for children’s programs on Nickelodeon, including Clarissa Explains it All and Little Bear. 

Suzanne Collins Quote Picture Wrote in a La-Z-Boy Recliner

Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games in a corner of her bedroom. I can picture her intended writing space, her office – cluttered with craft supplies and game pieces and action figures and a dress-up bin in the corner. I see her quietly closing the door behind her, turning, and stepping gingerly as she maneuvers past those painful plastic bricks strewn on the floor. At her ergonomic office chair, she removes Baby Doll and friends, carefully placed for a recent tea party, and arranges them on floor beside her desk. She takes a seat, indulges in a deep calming breath, and spins the chair towards her desk. 

And gazes at her horizontal surface, hers, and every single square inch is buried under youthful projects and folly. That glitter will turn up in her paperwork for eternity, and there’s those missing socks. And who thought they could hide a C- paper here of all places?

Okay, I admit it. I’m describing my writing space, not Suzanne’s. I’ve never been to her place, and I expect she’s doesn’t have a glitter problem as serious as the mine is. But there it is. In-my-face visual evidence of the many competing priorities of my day. I’ll wager I’m not alone. I find it encouraging that people-way-ahead-of-me also slip away to a place of peace and quiet, where they can expel the mind clutter and get some words down. Suzanne Collins found a way and so will I. And so can you.

This post is the first in a little series about the logistics of writing. Where we write, how we get the words recorded, what tools we like to use – we each have a process. I’m going to share my thoughts and experiences; some worked, and some didn’t.  I’ll delve into the whys and the what-fors, I hope you find purpose in these posts, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

And now, off to find a space where I can get my creation groove back on track… 

Photo credit Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash and Suzanne Collins quote from www.brainyquote.com

More from Random Resolutions, The Genealogy Files

More from Random Resolutions, The Genealogy Files

1925 Adolfo Petteruti 7 - Version 2
Grandpa’s Vaudeville Days

I’ve been gathering my family genealogy information for about two decades now.  Pell-mell and random, but there must be some semblance of an accurate family history in there somewhere. Another Random Resolution – to organized my piles of paper and electronic genealogy files and to verify that they’re accurate.  I’m not going to hunt very many new leads until I get all of what I have in order.

Big plans for 2016! Wish me luck.

So this far-more-knowledgeable-than-I-am genealogist out of Australia posted 27 Golden Rules of Genealogy.  Here is the link: 27 Golden Rules of Genealogy  Below, I’ve copied some of the text and added comments from me, a long-time but still beginner very disorganized family historian.

 

  • Don’t expect to find your whole tree online.
    • If you do, it almost certainly has piles of inaccuracies.  I’m still trying to sort out the two nearly identical families of 11 or 12 kids, four generations back, that are apparently not actually the same families.  Wot?
  • In fact if you find information online, don’t assume it is accurate.
    • See above.  This is why I am going to go through all my stacks of paper and files.  I got caught up early on when all that great information became available online, and I accepted and downloaded way too many files without checking them.  My OCD self (CDO for those of you who get that) hates that my family history is probably riddled with errors and lovely stories that have no actual merit.  What?  I’m not the great-great-great grandchild of the lost czar?  How did that happen?
  • Don’t show living people in your online tree unless you have it hidden and Private.
    • Do I even have to say anything here?  Well, maybe that I can go back and make the people who’ve died visible now.
  • Don’t take information or photographs from others and not give anything back.
    • Common courtesy, right?  Such short supply of that, these days.
  • Don’t expect that you can do it ALL for free.
    • My Ancestry subscription has been worth every penny.
  • Don’t be a name-collector. Look for the stories that MAKE the people.
    • Just like world history, names and dates are just plain boring, if there isn’t some real life behind them.
  • Don’t believe everything on a Birth, Marriage or Death certificate.
    • Not everyone is honest when they fill out forms.   I found out not too long ago that the father on a birth certificate had actually adopted the baby, and had been nowhere in the vicinity when conception occurred.
  • Don’t give up if you hit a brickwall. Take a look at it from a different direction.
    • Yeah.  I’m so very guilty of that.  Perhaps this year I’ll find the tools I need to smash the biggest ones.
  • Don’t write on a chart in pen until you are 100% sure of the details.
    • Pen?  Are you kidding?  Hello, graphite!
  • Don’t assume that if you can’t find the data you’re looking for on a website, that it doesn’t exist. Especially if that website infers that it would be there. Not everything is indexed or digitised yet.
    • And check back again later.  I’ve found searches that turned up empty provide all kinds of stuff just a few months later.  Somebody somewhere is ensuring that everything ever printed will someday be digitized.  I suppose I should thank them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people willing to guide you on your genealogy journey.
    • I’ve been a loner all these years.  Time to start finding some communities.  Plus, best to get the stories from those remaining relatives before they’re gone.
  • Don’t forget to write your OWN history. Afterall you know your own life history better than anyone else.
    • Guilty.

 

  • Always start from yourself and work backwards.
    • Okay, I did do that.
  • Get organised: both on your computer and your paperwork.
    • Did I mention this is my goal for 2016?  I’ve found some resources that I sincerely hope will keep e on track.
  • Join a genealogy group or society. The more you mingle with other researchers the more you’ll learn.
    • Perhaps if I can find the time.  I know there is a group that meets here in town once a month.
  • Do your homework and learn the social history of the area your ancestors came from.
    • Fascinating the things you can find out.  I’ve known the names of the (former) villages my Italian relatives came from since I was a little girl.  I only learned, accidentally that they’re all on the edge of the Pompeii crater.  Seems kind of a fascinating thing to have overlooked.
  • Honour family members wishes when they give you (or let you copy) photos, stories and other information. Not everyone is happy for it to be online.
    • Ummm… back to that common courtesy thing, right?
  • Learn to expect name and date variants. EVERY family has name variants.
    • Boy Howdy, this is true!
  • When filling in a pedigree chart, the male line is always on the top with his wife’s details in the box below.
    • Okay, I could step up to the sexism soapbox, but it has to be one or the other, so why get worked up over it?
  • Be consistent in the way you record your data.
    • Yup – that is back to the whole Big Organization of 2016.  When I started it was paper and pencil and postage stamps.  Now all is digital.  Lets get this stuff integrated.
  • Verify everything with at least two separate sources for each piece of information.
    • Did I mention something about a big project this year?  This is a key component.
  • Back up your files at least once a month and have a copy OFF of your computer, and preferrably a copy at a different location.
    • I’ve got backups that are as old as my last entries.  And my computer has redundant backups on hard drives and in a cloud or two.  But not everything is on paper.  Man, better invest in a few ink cartridges.
  • Expect surprises. It is truly amazing what you’ll find out about your family.
    • The guy who supposedly died, but then (maybe) turned up a few miles away with a different wife and family?  I kid you not, these little gems are so much fun to chew on.  That one is going to be fun.
  • Use ethics when you do find out shocking tales about a family member. Not all stories need to be aired to everyone.
    • Very possibly applicable to the item directly before this one.  But we’ll have to see… if true, a couple of generations are already dead and maybe I have some really cool cousins.
  • Visit as many living relatives as possible to get their stories now. Often family stories have some truth in them. But don’t believe them till verified.
    • I used to get so frustrated when relatives didn’t want to share.  They came here to escape hard things and who wants to talk about that?  But every now and then I’ll find a subject that sparks stories.  Don’t waste your time on this one -people pass away and take all kinds of wonderful antectdotes with them.  I didn’t know my grandma was called “Sarge” (long story) until a family gathering at her funeral.  Oh, what I would give to hear her side of the story!
  • If a document exists, read it. Every detail that is written on it.
    • You’d be amazed at the connections you might find.
  • Learn to record your sources of where (or who) you obtained information from. The sooner you start doing this, the better. And later you’ll be thankful that you took the time to note it now.
    • Then you won’t be going through this massive fix-my-past-mistakes project like me.