2017 Writing – Would I Do This Again?

So you may have seen me mention Insecure Writers Support Group.  You can also find them on Twitter – @TheIWSG.  This group of writers support and encourage one another through their blogs. The first Wednesday of the month, a question is presented.  In keeping with my commitment to put words to paper regularly, I’m participating.  Here it goes…

And the First Question Is…

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?


Transition was my watchword for 2017.  As the year opened, I’d spent the previous 18 months dealing with commitments and unexpected situations that had been wreaking havoc with my personal roadmap. And it appeared that the upheaval was going to continue through the better part of the year.  It did.

But here’s a good thing about those circumstances that swept me away from my status quo.  I found myself in a place of evaluation.  Sometimes the inertia of day to day life shoves aside the time spent thinking about whether the hours are spent on the right things.  Those upside down days, endless hours driving to be where I was needed, and complete disruption of my activities and schedule – they provided me the opportunity to review and prioritize.

Turns out I wasn’t getting any nearer to checking items off my “get to it someday” list.  And now I had the chance to take a better look.

I Wrote.  And I Write.

I write. I’ve always written. The word compulsion could be bandied about with reasonable accuracy. The turn of a perfect phrase makes me smile, and it brings me pure joy if I happened to be the one who put it on a page.

It has been decades since I’ve been published; I was pretty certain the industry had changed.  So I decided to learn more, and it turns out there was a writer’s conference in my hometown, on a weekend when I’d be home.  That was enough of a sign for me.  I registered.

The point of attending this little local gathering was to determine if my passion deserved dedicated attention.  In my world, this is a very real consideration.  I have this embarrassing habit of finding joy in some new creative pursuit, stocking up on all the accoutrements, diving in one hundred and ten percent.  And then growing bored.  My closet full of art and craft supplies covered in a thin layer of dust accuse me every time I glance in that direction.

My goal was to take that weekend, learn everything I could, and then make a decision – to continue dabbling or to pursue this craft seriously.  Would I be able to write professionally again?

Well, That Was Unexpected

I arrived at the venue and discovered that the little local conference was actually quite the big deal, with nationally recognized speakers, and writers pitching and/or selling their latest success. The fact that I didn’t turn and run in terror gave me some confidence that maybe I was in the right place.

And It Worked!

I learned more in that weekend than I could have imagined.  And I made my decision.  I set goals and timelines and began to familiarize myself with the local writing community.  I’ve begun the never finished task of improving my craft.  I’ve learned about publishing and genres and word counts and all kinds of details that I didn’t remember from back in the day.  I’ve been fortunate to digest advice from generous experts in their fields.  I’ve absorbed all kinds of knowledge and hints and vocabulary (I never knew beats meant that). I’ve met bunches of people who don’t look at me funny when I whip out a notebook and write down a compelling phrase or idea.  I’ve edged my way into my local writing community.

Yes, Yes I DID

I even participated in NaNoWriMo 2017.  My goal was not noble – I wanted to cement a habit of regular writing.  I was successful!  I won NaNoWriMo, though I imagine only a  small percentage of the words in that document are even worthy of being recycled into something else later.  Who know, I’ll address that in January when I go and reevaluate my creation.  But I wrote regularly and reinforced my habit.

So, What Would I Change?

Are there things I’d do differently in retrospect?  Of course there are.  Perhaps I’d have sat in on the big deal agent’s headliner workshop at that conference, instead of the (understandably) sparsely attended beginner’s workshop across the hall. I probably would have purchased a couple of fountain pens sooner. I’d have been more choosy about craft books.  And I wouldn’t have considered it realistic to write a thoughtful review of every single book I read. Because, yes, I read many many books.

And What Would I Do Again?

And I’ll continue to read like crazy.  Craft books, fiction, poetry, nonfiction, magazines, blogs… Yes, I’d attend that conference (and I will again, in 2018).  Yes, I’d talk to all kinds of writers and learn about different genres and craft and style and publishing.  Yes, for sure I’d do all that learning again.  Yes, making my writing a commitment was the right choice.  And, yes, finding the Insecure Writer’s Support Group was pure happenstance, but I’d connect over there again, too.

And I Conclude…

2017 threw me over and left me discombobulated, and that turned out to be the perfect opportunity to look around, set some priorities and make a decision or two.  And I think 2018 will be the better for it.

At Least I’ve Got the Page Numbers Done

“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.” ~ Stephen Wright


I suppose I should begin with the times when it was easy.  When I was a student, an intern, a researcher, a scientist, an engineer, those were the easy days.  I wrote textbooks and technical papers, manuals and government reports.  I wrote Really Hard Stuff, except that is wasn’t that hard.  That writing came with the job, and the priority was the data, the process, the procedure, the specifications.  I got published.  My work is still in use, decades later, around the world.  I made a few bucks.

Early on, when I was part of a team, I knew I’d be expected to get our results documented.  Nobody else wanted to do it, after all. Except, here’s thing…  Whatever you’ve got in your head is amazing and profound and life-changing only to yourself until you share it with others.  Not just share, but share in a way that can be understood and put into practice.  I never got why others hated writing.  I loved distilling a whole mess of technical into something organized and understandable.  Useful.charles bukowski quote about writers block

And I Got Paid…

Later, I did more solo projects.  First I’d justify the cost.  Then I’d do the researching and the calculating, the experimenting and the graphing, the justifying and the concluding. I’d get to document the whole messy thing.  I’d distill piles of sticky notes, mounds of data and journals and scribbles into something useful.  And people would read what I wrote and use it and make a difference.  I taught people.  I shared new discoveries.  I developed and documented procedures that saved corporations more money than I’ll earn in a lifetime.  I showed workers how to do dangerous things without killing themselves or anyone else.  I revealed the secrets that engineers needed so they could teach to those whose brains work more traditionally.  I translated government mandated policies into real-world application.  And I enjoyed every last minute of it.

And I got published.   And I got paid.

Then I took a break, set my sights on different priorities.  And now I’m back.


And I want to make stories.  I’d like to change people’s lives just a teensy bit, one chapter at a time. I hope to create something compelling enough that it provides entertainment and escape and maybe even a life lesson or two. That’d be perfect.  I’d settle for even one of the above.

And I am Stuck.

I see too much expanse of blank whiteness, sitting silently and expectantly, mocking me for my inability to string together a few coherent words.  Oh, I want to silence that accusing blankness with some genius keystrokes or the scritchtey scribing.  The inability to string together a coherent paragraph always takes hold at the worst possible time. No, not when I’m facing a deadline.  The absolute most  inconvenient time to have trouble composing is those occasions, oh so few and far between, when I have uninterrupted time to dedicate solely to my craft.  Most unfair!

Okay, so today I got nothing done on my novel.  But I thumbed my nose at The Block and got a blog post put together. Perhaps this will be the introduction to my  future series on how to overcome The Block.  Ideas a-plenty – I’ve got’em!

Now, let’s see what I can do with them.






What, Me? Committed?  About Those Resolutions…..

What, Me? Committed? About Those Resolutions…..

2015_16So I took several posts to share my plans for the New Year.  My resolutions, if you will.  Then I sort of fell off the virtual earth.  Been awfully quiet around here, I know.  So, after taking a peek back at what I said, I think it is only fair to share what I actually did.  Here we go.

I’ll start right away with That Temperature Scarf.  I’ll admit I did get a bit behind.  I used my most recent road trip as an excuse.  Who wants to haul 8 balls of yarn around?  In any case, I found a great website, wunderground.  It’s a weather site, and the fun part is that people who have home weather stations can post all kinds of weather-related activity.  So, I found one right near my house, and, funny world that we live in, I actually know the folks who are sharing their data.  She’s a talented (read: published) novelist and they have two super-smart sons.  Daughter used to play tennis with the older one, back in the day.  But I digress.  I printed up a blank calendar, and, from their weather station, I jot down the high and low temperature for each day. Since each day is only two short rows of knitting (it is a scarf, after all), I sit down every week or two and get the needles going. Since it was so cold, I decided to make a daily low scarf.  Perhaps later I’ll make another for high temps.  I’m pleased to say not only is January complete, but based on one month’s worth of stitches, it looks like my scarf-of-lows will be a bit long, but not freakishly so.

Good for me!

Now, let’s talk about Taming the Paper.  I’m proud to say my kitchen counter is clear, the shredder is busy and I fill my recycle bin each week.  I do have a couple of paper projects to finish. I need to send that registration paperwork for Rosy the Therapy Dog (and AKC Canine Good Citizen!).

paperworks needs to be done- stack of papers, folders and envelops

A bunch of bill-paying is set to automatic now, wish I’d done that ages ago.  Taxes are nearly done, FAFSA will be finished right after Uncle’s stuff gets e-filed.  What is FAFSA, you say?  Lucky you!  Someday when your offspring head off to college, you’ll know the pleasure and pain of FAFSA.  Simply put, FAFSA is an annual online entry of a bunch of information you’ve already shared with the IRS.  Your child(ren) don’t get any financial aid if FAFSA isn’t done.  Magazine piles are gone – yay me!  Why am I still getting magazines?  Oh well, they’ll all expire eventually.  I’m using all the time I’m saving to plan a big trip.  Anyone have good hints on cheap car rentals in Europe?

So far, so good!

Those Genealogy Files.  Well, I’d kind of vowed to go through and remove errors and get everything organized and beautiful.  I made some progress, I really did!  I’ve got an indexed list of everybody and another list of all the things that need rechecking.  I’ve added a bunch of photos to dead people’s profiles.  I made it through a major genealogical panic when it looked like my software was going kaput, and found a solution and rode out that storm with only a few chewed fingernails.  I’ve backed up and got caught up on correspondence.

But the occasional search is just way too tempting.  And how can you deny me the pleasure of finding treasures like this?   I mean, honestly, this is just too fascinating to let go.  The_Escanaba_Daily_Press__Escanaba__MI__4_May_1948__Tue__death_of_Helen_Duprie_at_age_36I’m not exactly sure who she is, but I’m almost certain she’s related to my great-grandfather.  This clipping is from 1948.
So, not only must I find some time to figure out exactly who she is, but I must, must do a little digging and see if they found out why she died after eating a hamburger.  Did she choke?  Was she poisoned?  Did the counter clerk hit her over the head with a brick for non-payment?  Seriously, this merits attention.  Then I’ll get right back to organizing and cleaning my genealogy files, I promise.

Now, about that long list of Random Resolutions.  There were twenty of them.  I won’t bore you with every detail, but I have managed to keep on top of 18 of them.  I even scheduled the damn mammogram.  It is so very difficult to not yell at the tv, what with this being an election year, but I’m trying.  I’d say 50% success on that one.  I’ve blown it completely on baking cookies more often.  In my defense, however, I’ve been getting my fanny to the gym and just snagged a treadmill.  Why would I bake cookies when I’m working so hard to remove the sweets deposited on my hips?  I will make a batch soon, and it will go straight in a box to be sent to Daughter at college.  My plants are watered, I knit and write and read nearly every day, and I watch His shows without whining too much.  And I’m giving that forgive thing a great effort.  I’d say mostly a win on Resolutions 2016.

Granted, it is only February.  I may have to revisit this in a couple of months.