Archive for August, 2013

When You Don’t Have Time to Write

Sometimes I don’t have time to write. It’s the truth. I suppose some would say I don’t make time to write and I guess that could be true as well.

But there are some things I do when I don’t have time to write and there are a few things I do:

1. Keep a notebook or file or anything you can write on (I use my phone notepad, calendar, etc). This helps me store ideas for later use when I have more time. Also, it helps me remember ideas for a later time rather than losing them in my mind.

2. Let the story ideas come to you! I tend to get random story ideas from real life events later I twist and turn them so that they become fiction.

3. Imagine stories in your head before you go to bed. If helps me flesh out ideas and characters and then the next day I can rethink over my storyline and decide if I want to use it.

Those are my three tips for writing when you don’t have time. What are some things that work for you?

 

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“The Block” and How to Overcome it

What is writer’s block?

I was going to write my own comical definition, but Merriam Webster’s dictionary described it so well.

writer’s block: noun a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece

Now you know. But how do you achieve victory and write?

1.) Admit it is real.
It makes sense that the first step in writing therapy is not unlike the first step in AA groups. You must admit that it exists before you can take steps against it. Admit to yourself – and yes, say it aloud: “Things are keeping me from writing, and I want to get better.”

2.) Determine which type of block ails you.
Lack of planning: This is what hits me the most. I open up a document for a brand new story I’ve been mulling over. I get through the first chapter or sometimes only the first sentence and realize – I have no idea what I’m doing. This can happen mid-story also: i.e., main character finds herself in a grave, life threatening situation. Author knows main character needs to survive, but hadn’t planned how to get the main character out alive. And thus the block sets in.

Laziness: This type of block happens when you succumb to that evil voice in your mind that says you don’t feel like writing. There are so many reasons not to write. It’s too hard, too much planning is involved, you need a nap, etc., etc.. Thus, the block takes over your mind. Yet consider how empty our bookstores would be if every writer ever decided to write only when they “felt like it.”

Lack of time: Being on a tight schedule freezes some writers with stress. Need I say more?

3.) Follow your treatment plan accordingly.
For lack of planning: Planning is vital, even for writers like me that are stifled by detailed outlining. Do the research when the question of accuracy arises. Librarians and Google are now your best friends.

If you are in the brainstorming stages and fear writing the first word, spend time outlining your plot to understand the story. Hang out with your characters to understand how they will react to stimuli within the story (i.e., interview your main character, pick out key words that they would say when danger strikes, for example). Here’s one of my favorite posts about starting a story on the Go Teen Writers blog.

For editing block, draw a thee-act structure diagram of your entire story. (See this helpful post explaining the three-act on Go Teen Writers.) This way you can see the holes in your plot as well as the areas that are superfluous. Write and delete accordingly. I recently plotted out a three-act for my story on post-it notes and it was particularly eye-opening.

For laziness: Power through the difficulty and just write – there’s no other way. Bribe yourself if you most. Guacamole is a great motivator for me. Remember why you started the story in the first place. What is it in your story that your reader’s will leave with? Write because of that.

For lack of time: Who can really cure this one? The only way to write is to make time. Plan a few specific times every week to write. Set a timer. Learn to say no to distractions until the timer dings. Use every possible minute in your day to your advantage. Those ten minutes when you stand on the city bus? Plan out the next scene in your novel. Taking a shower? Think about what you can add to your character’s backstory. The environment may be less than ideal, but it’s one way we can stop the rest of our lives from taking over our writing life.

4.) Repeat steps as necessary.

What works for you?  What excuses do you tell yourself to avoid writing? What type of writer’s block do you usually have?

~ Felicity

Indecision

by: Rebecca Taylor

Shannon Harper watched the seconds tick by on her watch; she had been offered a huge promotion at the bank where she worked, she had been a teller for five years, then she moved up to customer assistance where she helped clients open accounts, learn about investments etc. for the last three. Now the Bank of Scotsville wanted her to move to another city and work as an accounts manager. She was excited that they wanted her to do the job, it was another step up the corporate ladder to where she may some day want to be, but she did not know if she wanted to move four hours away to a place where she knew no one. She also didn’t know if she should be asking her husband Albert, seven‑year-old son Shane and four-year-old daughter Courtney to be making this move with her. Albert worked from home as a graphic designer but even so, it was unfair to ask him to pick up his life and to ask the children to leave the school and friends that they knew. Albert said he was willing and nothing had been said to the children, the move would mean a substantial salary increase and they could do very well even though the cost of living in Scotchtown was slightly higher than where she was now in Scots Hill. This was a huge opportunity and Shannon knew that there were other bank employees who would take it in an instant if she didn’t. It was Thursday afternoon and the bank needed to know by the next morning, she had been thinking about it all morning and she was having so much trouble trying to decide what she wanted. Life was so complicated when such a decision was upon you; she didn’t want to toss aside a chance that may never come her way again. If the opportunity had presented itself at her current bank then she would have said yes in an instant, even if she had to commute each day. The decision would be easy but having to uproot herself from a place where she had grown up, gone to school, got married, had children and worked so long was a major choice to make and she didn’t feel ready to make it even after almost a week of thoughts, lists, talking and long sleepless nights.

            It would be childish to toss a coin or pull on the petals of a daisies, this isn’t high school any more, you can’t say if someone walks around the corner in the next five minutes you’ll say yes to so and so’s offer to go to the dance and otherwise the answer is a no. That usually backfires anyways. I need to look at this reasonably, this is an amazing chance, and the extra money could give my children opportunities they may not have otherwise. If they need braces or eyeglasses down the road, this will help me afford them. Between the salaries that Albert and I both get we do well for ourselves but we can do better. Not only is this an amazing opportunity but they are offering me better benefits, I will five weeks vacation instead of three each year which means that we could go someone in the summer and I could still have time off for myself when they are in school. My parents are here but four hours away isn’t terrible if we left after work on a Friday night we could get here around nine and spend all day Saturday and go back late Sunday night and if the Monday is a school and bank holiday that would make for a nice weekend. The kids though, they love their school and they have some really good friends, I don’t want to take that away from them even though if we visited a lot of weekends, they would still be able to see each other. It all comes down to do I accept this chance which could better all of our lives or do I keep going and doing this job that I love and we live on what means we have making out okay. I’m going to drive myself crazy, here I am sitting in the park, thinking all these thoughts and still I can’t make up my mind. This is useless I might as well go home face my family and we can all talk this out together…rationally…I hope.

            In the tastefully decorated living room of the Harper home, Shannon and Albert sat on the sofa with Shane and Courtney.

            “Hey guys,” said Shannon, “your dad and I are thinking about moving, what do you guys think about that?”

            “Leave here?” asked Shane.

            “Yes,” replied Shannon, “this house and your school and Scots Hill and go live in Scotchtown where I would have a new job at a different bank.”

            “What about my friends?” asked Shane.

            “We’d come back and visit them and Grammy and Gramps and Nana and Pops on weekends, not every weekend, but lots of them. We would make lots of new friends,” said Albert.

            “I like my old friends.”

            “Take Courtney’s teddy bear?” asked the four year old.

            “Yes, we’d take your teddy bear and all the things we need, we should probably get rid of the things we won’t use anymore…” said Shannon scooping Courtney up into her lap.

            “Do you want to move, Dad?” asked Shane.

            “I want to give your mom a chance to have her new job; I work from home so I will still be doing the same things I am now. Your mom and I will be there when you go to school in the morning and I will be there to pick you up at school. We might even try to find a house with a big backyard so we could get that dog you guys have been wanting.”

Shannon shot a glance at Albert; they hadn’t talked about getting a dog at their new place. They had decided that moving would be a great opportunity and occasionally they discussed the benefits of children having pets but they had definitely not said anything about the big backyard. Albert pretended not to notice.

            “A dog, you mean it Dad?”

            “We’d have to get settled first, but in time we could have a dog,” answered Shannon taken in by her son’s enthusiasm.

            “Doggy,” said Courtney.

            “That’s right a dog, Court, we could play with him and feed him and take him for walks, I’ve always wanted a dog.”

            “So the move is on?” asked Shannon.

            “I guess so, but we have to come back here lots.”

            “We can come back to Scots Hill but we can’t come back to this house, it won’t be ours anymore. Somebody else will buy it and make it theirs. We’ll have a new house of our own.”

            “Will I still have my own room and be able to have my friends come over?”

            “Yes, we will be looking for a house and will make sure that it is big enough for all of us but not too big to take care of.”

            “When are we moving?” asked Shane.

            “It won’t be for a little while yet, I have to talk to my boss at the bank in the morning and see when I start my new job, and we might have to find an apartment just for a little while until we get all set up; selling this house and finding a new one.”

            “What are you going to do at your new bank Mommy?”

            “I’m going to be an accounts manager that means that I help people and look after lots and lots of paperwork.”

            “Are you going to like working with paper?”

            “I think so, now go and get your homework, the school year is almost done, and I want to finish it on a good note.”

            “Will I like my new school?” he asked.

            “We’ll go look at it soon, everything is going to be just fine, we’ll all be together, and we will even have a dog eventually. You’re good at making friends, don’t you worry.”

            That night after Shane and Courtney were in bed, Shannon and Albert sat on the sofa talking about the day.

            “You could have asked me about the dog, I couldn’t say no and we don’t know what kind of a place we’re going to be able to find,” berated Shannon.

            “Come on, Shan, you know that we’ve talked about it enough times. They’re old enough now and I’m home all the time. We won’t have to worry about coming home and having a wrecked house. You just concentrate on being a good accounts manager, my paperwork queen and we will all be very happy.”

            “Paperwork queen!” exclaimed Shannon.

            “Well isn’t that what you told our son that you were going to do lots and lots of paperwork.”

            “Yes, and I am but my role will be bigger than that and you know it. This is very big opportunity; these kinds of chances don’t come up everyday.”

            “I know, I was just teasing.”

            “Good thing you work from your computer no matter where you are or else this could be a lot more complicated.”

            “You’re apprehensive about this move too aren’t you?”

            “Anyone would be even if they didn’t have two kids to worry about.”

            “We’ll make out fine, you’ll see.”

            “I know we will, I guess it’s just when you’ve lived somewhere for your whole life, it is hard to imagine living somewhere else. You go from knowing everyone who walks into your workplace and you meet all your friends in the grocery store and stuff to knowing nobody.”

            “You’re good with names and faces and all of that, you’ll adapt quickly.”

            “I’ve spent this whole week with indecision and now that we’ve finally made a decision, I don’t know if it is the right choice or not.”

            “You worry about making the choice and once you’ve made it you still don’t know if you’ve made the right now. That’s indecision for you.”

            “Life is full of it, sometimes it is the stuff that makes dreams,” answered Shannon laughing. Everything was going to turn out even though the thought of so many changes was nerve wracking and no matter what she did or where she went in her life, there would be obstacles, indecision would only be one of them.

Decision

He had never liked me, I know that now. I had tried so hard to be his friend and I thought that it would work out with Rob.

But he had his own mind and he didn’t like me.

All the questions and all the extra hard work to try to get him to be my friend hadn’t worked. I would never be one of his friends. He might be nice to me but he would never hang out with me unless he had to.

I remember the day I asked him if he wanted to hang out. He didn’t outright reject me, he simply turned the conversation away from that topic or made a joke so as to avoid the question.

I was over it now and he wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t sure if it was worth trying to make friends with people, it was always so difficult.

A loud drawer closing pulled me out of my reverie. I was at work, one of those office jobs that most people hate. But I sort of liked it because of the people.

“Jamie, how’s it going?” asked the new hire, Trevor. I didn’t know Trevor very well but hoped he wasn’t like Rob.

I smiled. “Good, just another day in the life.”

He said, “Yeah, I don’t really know anyone here.”

I made a decision right then. I made the decision to not let the rejection of some random guy change my life view or hinder me as I went along to make new friends. I said I could show him a good place for lunch, if he wanted.

It was his turn to smile and he accepted my invite.

Maybe the other guy just wasn’t worth it and I could move on. I probably wouldn’t forget it, but I could still move on.

 

 

Come Away

Come Away

The year is 2053, and all past has been forgotten.

It was tempting. When Rosalyn first saw the ad for the electro shock treatment, it couldn’t have come at a better time. She had gone to the grocery store, like any other day. She planned on surprising Aaron by making him homemade spaghetti. Her boyfriend loved his Italian. It was when she came out of the store that she saw him. He was leaning against a lamp post, and another girl was leaning against him.

“So? What about her?” Aaron was saying.

“You said you’d break up with her already.” The girl said.

“I know, I just – I have to find the right time.”

Rosalyn watched in disbelief. The other girl sighed. “It’s like pulling of a Band-Aid. Just do it quick and get it over with. What’s the problem, anyways? Do you really love her?” She teased.

Aaron’s eyes were glued to the mystery girl. “You know it’s only and always you that I’ve loved.”

Rosalyn dropped the grocery bag, the jar of tomato paste shattering on the sidewalk. Aaron turned and saw her, but Rosalyn’s fight or flight instinct kicked in and she ran. After six blocks of running, her flip-flop ripped, tripping her and sending her into a face plant on the sidewalk. Lying in the empty street, she replayed Aaron’s words. He’d never loved her. Two years together, somehow it’d been a lie. She picked herself up off the sidewalk. Her knee was bleeding, but it was not the cause of her tears. That’s when she saw it. A fluorescent yellow sign on the side of a medical clinic. “Electro shock treatment. All negative memories erased. Government funded, completely free, come in and receive your fresh start today.”

The sign was calling her, saying, Come away. Come away from the darkness, into a forgetful bliss. She stared at it a long moment, contemplating. Then a car zoomed down the block. She picked herself off the street before she either was run over or simply labeled a lunatic for laying on the pavement. She told herself to forget about the silly sign and went home.

That was months ago and Rosalyn saw things for what they really were.

First, she realized something about herself. Now that Aaron was gone, she could make her own life for herself. He was on his way inventing a software that would rock the technology world. It was bigger than the rise of Microsoft and the Apple put together, or so he’d said. He liked her because she supported him. Once his product came out, he’d be in the limelight, and so would she – but only as the pretty girl hanging on his arm. When they were together she had believed they truly loved each other. Love is blind and she hadn’t realized how large his shadow had grown. Now was her chance to step out from under it.

She also caught on to the government agenda. The government was trying to protect itself with this new procedure. If the citizens forgot all that pained them, they would no doubt act happier. Happy people worry less and spend more money, fueling the economy and directly filling the pockets of the bureaucrats. Happy citizens also didn’t start riots against the government, for these happy people now could not remember they had anything to protest. No one would remember how the government had changed, how their leaders were now paranoid brain-washers. But Rosalyn knew.

That was why she begged Sage not to go through the shock procedure. Sage was her sister, younger by two years, but still old enough to understand the weight her decision held.

“Why shouldn’t I?” Sage cried. “Everyone says I’ll forget. That’s what I want.”

“It’s high school. Everyone forgets about it after graduation, anyways,” Rosalyn countered.

“But when Emily betrayed me, when Levi broke up with me at prom – I knew I needed a fresh start. And I need it now.”

“It’s not a game, Sage, the procedure is dangerous.”

“If it’s so dangerous how come the government is requiring it now?”

“They want you to be happy, and be happy with how the government is run.”

Sage sniffed. “It hasn’t been that bad.”

The sky-high taxes? The law forbidding anyone to leave the country? “Unbelievable. It’s already working,” Rosalyn muttered. She knew how this went – once a person’s mind was set like concrete, there’s no changing it. She’d had similar debates with every one of her friends, and she’d lost every debate. Some of her friends didn’t remember her anymore. Now her voice was gentle. “I hope you remember how much I care about you.”

Sage blinked and nodded. “But what will you do?”

A plan was unfolding in Rosalyn’s mind. “I took acting classes in high school.”

“What does that even mean?”

“That means I’m going to fix this.”

When the time came for her to have her treatment, Rosalyn would swear she had nothing to forget. All those acting classes in high school would come in handy. She would act as though she already had forgotten – forgotten her break-up, forgotten the about the federal corruption. If they government thought she was just another brain-washing subject, she’d already be under the radar. It was the perfect disguise for being the rat to reveal the system.

She chuckled to herself, despite the dark situation. A year ago, she was a sweet girl who thought the best of everyone. She was content to sit back and watch others bask in their own glory. She never would’ve thought she’d be this girl – the girl who faked shock treatment in order to bring social justice. That was why could never forget Aaron. Without her past, she would regress to the girl she used to be. Without the memories, she would lose the lessons that came with it.

Charlie’s Dreams

by: Rebecca Taylor

         A light snow was falling as Charlie Reardon left the diner and made his way down Madison Street. He had wants and needs and most of all he had dreams, none of which his girlfriend seemed to understand. He was twenty-four years old and had a life ahead of him; he wasn’t ready to make payments on a house or settle down and start choosing baby names. He wished that Michelle could understand the way he felt but she kept talking about time running out. Her parents had married when they were eighteen and had been happy raising their four children. Charlie was happy for Mr. and Mrs. Lurie but couldn’t convince the woman he cared deeply about that just because her parents had been married when they were so young, it didn’t mean they had to be. As the snowflakes landed on Charlie’s clothing, a chill went through him, he was afraid – afraid that if he didn’t give in to Michelle, that their relationship would suffer but he knew that if he married her, he would eventually resent their relationship. He felt like it was a no win situation and he didn’t know what to do about it. Michelle was a great person to be with when she wasn’t freaking out about how close she was to becoming an old maid. Charlie had tried to tell her that it was the year 2012 and nobody used that term anymore but his arguments fell on deaf ears. Liking children and being ready to commit to their needs for life were two different things in Charlie’s books. He was a spur of a moment kind of guy and that meant grabbing a change of clothes and a few other necessities on the weekends to get out of the city and just go somewhere new. You couldn’t be spur of the moment with a baby in tow, because you had to make sure you had everything the baby needed. Charlie didn’t mind driving in snowstorms, he was careful and he had survival skills. You didn’t take chances like that with a baby. He’d even been doing it less since meeting Michelle because he liked being with her except during her rants. Adventurous Charlie didn’t want to become rush home from work to a family Charlie.

         His cell phone rang and he looked at the screen to see Michelle’s name show up. He slid the phone back into his pocket. He had walked out of the restaurant in order to give himself time to think, time that he needed so he didn’t say something he would regret.

          Toss a coin, make a decision, to be with her or to move on and find someone who wants what you want, said a voice inside his head.

      Don’t give up on the woman you love, said another voice.

     Charlie sighed; it was happening more often that he felt like he was being pulled in a billion directions. He had finished college and just entered the job world – he was getting used to the responsibilities that held, but that was only for eight hours a day, five days a week. Having a child was a lifetime responsibility, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and you didn’t get vacation days.

            Michelle’s not the only woman out there; maybe we should both be seeing other people, but I know I wouldn’t like seeing her with another man. I want to be with her and maybe in ten years I will be holding her baby in my arms but not now. We have time now to have adventures together, we can save our money and go to Paris or Ireland, anywhere we want. You don’t take your baby to see the Eiffel Tower, you go to Disneyland or somewhere that has families and strollers all around you. I’m not ready for that, no matter what Michelle wants I can’t be that guy right now.

            Charlie shrugged his shoulders which were protected by his heavy winter coat. He could feel the tension beating on his muscles.

        “Oh what should I do?” he asked the winter’s evening.

         “Follow your heart,” answered a man sitting on a bench, “and stand up for what you believe in.”

      Charlie looked at the man; his clothing was worn and dusty as he sat at the bus stop. He had obviously done a hard days’ work, but he looked happy and his words were the answer to Charlie’s prayer. He thanked the man and turned around and headed back to the diner. He had to tell Michelle how he felt, that she was in his heart but that he couldn’t turn on his dreams to follow hers. They would have to find a way to make their paths join like the intersection of a street or find another road to walk.

If I Could

Encounters with the many customers at gas stations can be quite interesting.

There are, of course, many customers who are quite “normal” or average. With around 1,000 people stopping by the gas station I work at, many are not memorable transactions. People can be quite dull and robot-like when they stop at the gas station to buy a pop or cigarettes.

Fortunately,  not all customers are personality-less.

For example, there was the one lady who explained, without me asking or prompting, that she was headed to a funeral and then went into details of the persons death despite my attempts to move her along to the funeral she was already late to.

Another time, a man came into a gas station I worked at and asked what kinds of gas there were and what each was used for. He then went into a tirade about gas prices and how he doesn’t understand them. I had basically no answers to his questions (I mean, do I look like a gasoline expert? Just buy some.) and he eventually left after getting all his talking out.

One customer memory, however, does stand out from the others. I’m not sure why, exactly.

You see, there was once a man who was a regular customer at my gas station (Sometimes I like to pretend I own it.). I knew him decently well, if you consider the random discussions I would have with him about his job at the casino, my job at the gas station and whatever random events were happening around town (We are all about townies at the gas station.).

Oftentimes, we didn’t talk about anything significant. But, like I said, I knew him decently well.

One day, he was lingering after purchasing his two bottles of Mountain Dew. We had discussed our jobs and got on the subject of guitars. He told me, “I just want to teach people about them.”

“Huh?” I asked because I hadn’t been following the conversation that closely.

“If I could do anything, all day long, I would teach people about guitars. I love them,” he said wistfully while looking at me like I was supposed to turn into a genie-in-a-bottle and give him his wish or something. I just looked at him and let the awkward silence reign. I was used to them because they happen often at a gas station, one of the more boring places in the world.

He left a little bit later, without explaining himself. But he came back for his Grizzly Wintergreen chew one day and he went on with his explanation. “I’m saving up for a new guitar, almost there!”

There was pause while I rang his items up.

“You see, my Dad taught me how to play and I’ve been playing all the time, used to play for the church in high school but haven’t done many public performances lately.”

I knew that there were a few music stores around that he could have applied to or he could have started lessons or played at the local coffee shop that hosted local artists. Why wouldn’t he do that? I didn’t understand but said, “That’s cool that you are close to buying it.”

“Thanks,” he said and walked out. He occasionally talks about his guitar (he bought the new one eventually) and what songs he is working on. I sometimes offer some words of encouragement.

Then he goes to the casino and I find something else to break the boredom at the gas station. The boredom hits as some more robot-customers visit. If only I could not be so bored.

 

 

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