Friday, August 30, 2019

Self-Sabotaging Writing Habits

Sunset at Lake Cowichan
 If you have been following my blog for awhile, you know that I am a writer. I haven't updated you recently on what's happening in my writing world, so, first the good news!

How the Novel is Coming Along

For the last few years, I have been working on a novel. Last November, I announced that I had completed a first draft of it. But then I changed my mind and re-wrote the ending. Then I read the whole manuscript through and made minor corrections. Then I was finally ready to send the manuscript out to beta readers.

What is it about, you ask?

It is a dystopian tale that takes place in the near future. A small group of survivors, all female, have survived cataclysmic events that have destroyed their city, and for all they know, most people on earth. Years later, two best friends in the shelter come of age and begin to wonder what is outside of their protected enclave. The ecosystem of their little world is beginning to collapse. Each of the two has to make a choice whether to listen to her conscience or follow her heart.

Over the spring, I received feedback from my five beta readers. All of them were very positive about the story: plot, characters, the futuristic setting, the social commentary, and the writing. Two of them recommended changing the ending (again), and I agree. I left things up in the air too much, and that was unsatisfying. My amazing beta readers also gave me lots of pointers about specific changes to make.

I have also read out many snippets to members of my writing group, and their advice is always constructive, gentle, and to the point.

So, the good news is that I've written a novel and I'm really happy with it.

The Revision Process

I spread out all the notes from the beta readers around my computer and began to work through the revisions. That has worked well, as long as I sit down in that room and at that computer. I have found that it is important to not leave too long a time period between each revision session, because then I forget all the details I was trying to hold in mind about what to change, and have to read through all the notes again. Successful revising, for me, appears to be dependent on how I organize my time, space, and written notes.

Before I wrote this novel, I wrote two other novels that I never finished. With the first, I got about 3/4 through a first draft. With the second, I finished a first draft and sent it to beta readers who made excellent suggestions. And then I became so overwhelmed about how to tackle the extensive revisions that I couldn't bring myself to do them.

I am happy to report that I am not struggling with my motivation to do the revisions on this novel. I am enjoying the revision process, and I love sitting down at the computer to work on it. And I really want to finish these revisions and get on with the next phase because this novel is timely right now and because...

It's Going to be a Series!

Yes, it's not going to end with the novel that I have just written. It's going to be a series of three books, and the completed one is the one in the middle. Right now the prequel novel is burning a hole in my brain. I have written copious notes for it, and the opening scene.


So where does the self-sabotage come in? Why am I not finishing the revisions?

I have no desire to avoid working on the revisions. I am eager to sit down at the computer and mentally jump back into the world of my story. I kind of dread the next step of seeking publication, but that is not why I haven't been working on the revisions.

I have always been a person who takes on way too much. They are all things that I want to do, like travelling to Crete, or going on an excellent 3-week vacation, or spending time with family or friends, or participating in art shows, or agreeing to do other writing projects. Or they are things that I have committed to do for others, such as volunteer work for my service group.

I am very disciplined about making myself follow through and actually do the things that I have promised that I will do. But the downside is that all those other things have specific more urgent timelines, so my writing time gets pushed into the background.

In the case of the revisions, my summer travels meant that I have had hardly any time to sit down at the particular computer where my revision notes are laid out. I was afraid to take the revision notes with me for fear they would get lost, and also because it takes long stretches of uninterrupted time to get into the head-space and work on revising.

In contrast, I was able to write background notes for my new prequel novel anywhere in any little fragment of time that I had. All I needed was a laptop or pad of paper.

There is a little executive manager in my brain who tells me how to allocate my time. The sabotage equation goes something like this: "I want to work on my revisions, but I've promised to do project X which is due [insert date coming up very soon] so I can't do my revisions until I have finished project X. But I don't really feel like doing project X right now, so first I'll [insert alternative activity such as do the laundry/go for a walk] to get myself into the mood to do project X, and at least [the laundry will be done/I'll get my 10,000 steps]. Oh no, the whole day has gone by and I haven't worked on my revisions or on project X!"

Or I'll be talking to a friend and the next thing I know, I'm meeting them for lunch or dinner, or to go on a bike ride, or X, Y, or Z.  

So that's how I have been sabotaging my revision process. I've been avoiding project X (which is actually a very interesting project and I'm sure I'll enjoy it once I'm actually working on it again), and not allowing myself to work on my revisions until project X is finished. 
Floaters on the River

Never to Old to Ride on a Swing
The other thing is, I've been too busy having fun! I have inserted a couple of photos from my excellent summer vacation to whet your appetite for my next blog post.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Blogging, Friendship, and Community

News Flash! Bloggers Converge on Vancouver Island!

Originally, that was going to be my title for this blog post. That was way back in late July, when the event actually happened and when I intended to write this post. The weekend of July 19, I had the chance to meet with five amazing bloggers, only one of whom I had met in person before. They arrived in the little window of time in between when I returned from Crete and just before I left on my next amazing summer adventure (which I hope to write about soon -- because, you know, pretty soon it will be Fall).

But maybe the delay has turned out to be a good thing, because as the topic rolled around in my mind during my August travels, it shifted in focus a little. I started thinking about how we make friends, how we deepen friendships, and how blogging is one part of all that.

The Big Event

But first, the blogger meetup.

From left: Donna, Ann, Erica, me (Jude aka Dr Sock), Janis, Kathy
The plan was hatched by Donna of Retirement Reflections, who put her head together with Janis of Retirementally Challenged and Kathy of Smart Living 365. The three of them coordinated a plan for Janis and Kathy and their partners to holiday in Canada this summer, and to arrive in central Vancouver Island in late July. Before I knew it, Donna invited me to be part of the get-together, and then Erica of Behind the Scenery and Ann of The Unretired Life joined in too. Of the six of us, two of us were from the central part of Vancouver Island, one from the south Island, one from a Gulf Island, and two from different places in California.

You might have already read about our gathering. Donna wrote about it here, Janis wrote about it here, Erica wrote about it here, and Ann wrote about it here. Kathy cleverly got us all to write lists which she compiled and discussed here.

Donna hosted the weekend (which stretched into several days). She put a huge amount of planning into it, researching activities and excursions for us to join in with, suggesting accommodations, providing meals, soliciting ideas for blogging discussion topics, and herding cats (that's us!). Thank-you Donna!

On Friday evening, we all went to see Deafaids - Beatlemania, a Beatles tribute band that put on a free concert in the community park.
Music in the Park: From left, Donna, Janis, Ann
Saturday was the more structured, blogging-focused part of the meetup. We met at Donna's house and talked our heads off about blogging through the morning, lunch, and afternoon. Yes, there was wine.

We Talked Blogs, For Hours

Look How Serious We Were

 On Sunday, the gang (spouses too) came over to my place for lunch, a tour of my art studio, Notch Hill Art, and a hike. Fun was had by all.

After Our Hike
Tour of Notch Hill Art

10 Things I Wish I had Known Before I Started Blogging

Kathy asked us to each put together a list of ten things we should have known or wish we had known before we started blogging. (You can read everyone's lists here.) I started blogging a long time ago, before blogging communities were "a thing." Things like differing purposes of blogs and blogging etiquette that seem quite obvious to us now were not so obvious more than a decade ago. I was very lucky to have entered the blogosphere just as the phenomenon of blogging was taking off, and it has been fascinating to see how the practices of blogging have changed. In particular, the development of blogging communities of people who share their ideas with each other has been wonderful to observe.

As a blogger, I've changed too over the years. Kathy published a short version of my list on her blog. Here's a longer version.

First a bit of context. I started a blog 11 years ago to get familiar with the process and technology of blogging, for a work-related purpose. I created a blog to use temporarily as a practice blog before building the actual work blog (which is now long gone). I had no expectation of keeping Dr Sock Writes Here going, yet here I am more than 11 years later, still blogging faithfully 1 to 3 times a month.

1. I wish I had known I was going to keep on blogging for years and years, because then I would have given some thought to my blog's name and URL, which were just some silly things that I pulled out of the air because I needed a name to set up the practice blog. The original Gideon Sockpuppet was an actual hand puppet that I made of a a sock in a puppet theatre workshop when I was a teen. If I can ever find an old photo of Gideon, I'll post it on the blog. Gideon (the actual puppet) was a very opinionated fellow.

2. Once I committed to keeping the blog going, I wish I had given some thought to the purpose of my blog. It has shifted over the years. At various times, it has been a technical learning experience, a way to immerse myself in blogging culture, a writing blog, an art blog, a retirement blog, a chronicle of what I have been doing, and a soapbox for my opinions about things. Presently, it zigzags between all of those things.

3. I wish I had steeped myself in blogging culture a bit before starting my own blog. I had hardly ever read a blog before I started one. But then again, my approach allowed me to do my own thing rather than running with the herd.

4. I wish I had known that there are people out there who actually read blogs. At the beginning, I threw words into the ether with no expectation that anyone would ever read them.

5. I wish I had learned the principle of reciprocity a little faster. That is, if someone comments on your blog, it is polite to respond to their comment. And if a person who regularly comments has a blog, it is courteous to read some of their blog posts and comment if you feel inspired by what they wrote. (If you have time! There is so little time to read all the wonderful blogs in the world.)

6. I wish I had known that bloggers aren't just strangers on the other side of the world, but real people -- people with shared interests -- that you can actually meet in real life. But now I know that!

7. I wish I would have known how much enjoyment I get from regularly reading selected blogs. You can learn a lot about people, their interests and lifestyles, and other places through reading blogs.

8. I wish I had known how much time blogging would begin to take up in my life as I became more integrated into a blogging community. I presently limit how much blog writing, reading, and commenting I do so that I have time for all the other important things in my life, including my other writing, and my real-life friends and family.

9. This is not an "I wish" point, but an observation. I am endlessly fascinated with ordinary people's everyday use of writing, images, and videos on the Internet to represent themselves to the world, express their point of view, interact with other people, and form communities. Blogs are a great example of that.

10. Oops. No number 10.

Why I Blog

Why we blog and persist at it was one of the topics that we kept returning to in our conversation about blogging at our meetup. That is a big question with lots of answers. I think each of us has more than one reason that we blog. Here are a couple of my reasons.

Having a place to write down my thoughts and combine that writing with visual images was what drew me to blogging. The idea that *anyone* could have a platform for publishing that was not blocked by gatekeepers, high costs, and genre rules was appealing to me. Blogs have democratized publishing. I also like the interactive, evolving nature of blog writing.

Another big reason, and the last one I'll talk about here, is that blogging is a way of forming community. This reason brings us back to the theme of this blog post -- friendship and community.

Making Friends; Deepening Friendships

In these challenging times, we need to form communities. We need to make friends and hang onto our existing friends.

In our expanding social world, one's peer group is no longer just the people living on the few streets nearby, but potentially can include people all over the world who share work interests, hobbies, skill sets, or social concerns. It is wonderful that through online technology we can meet fascinating people whom we never would have known in earlier times. Yet, managing a whole world full of potential acquaintances can seem overwhelming. As we turn away from looking for friends among the acquaintances right around us to seeking human relationships through a much broader sphere, the process also can feel isolating.

Making friends means putting yourself out there: being in places where you'll have a chance to interact with people; taking the first step to start a conversation; engaging with someone by doing something jointly together; helping people and accepting help. Writing a blog is a way of putting yourself out there. Commenting on someone's blog is a way of socially engaging.

In the case of our blogging meetup, we took it one step further. We all knew each other to a certain extent because we had read each others' blogs. But because most of us hadn't met in person, there also were lots of things we didn't know about each other. One thing that all have in common is that we blog. The topic of blogging provided a touchstone, a shared focus that we could all weigh in on.

The topic of blogging provided an excuse to get together, just as doing yoga together, or being in a service club with others, or collaborating on a work project, or cooking together with others to prepare a holiday meal provides a way to get together with people and to come to know them better. 

Ultimately, I believe that it is not blogging per se that builds a community or develops friendships. Blogging is just a technology that extends the reach of our relationships. Rather, it is the process of sharing something of ourselves with each other, being there for each other (e.g., reading, commenting, and keeping in touch), and doing things together (in person) and for others that builds friendships.