Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Preparing for College

As my eldest is going through the task of filling out college apps and writing numerous essays, I'm struck by one thing: the questions of gender and ethnicity (maybe two things?). If discrimination due to gender or ethnicity is not acceptable (or legal!), then why do those questions even make an appearance on the applications for college?  Those questions can easily be answered (if needed) after acceptance into the college.

I confess I have not looked at any of the apps as I'm not the one applying to schools, so I don't know if the questions of gender and ethnicity are optional, but I don't think they have any business being on the application at all if one is to believe it's illegal to discriminate against any gender or race/ethnicity. I doubt they are asking out of curiosity (yeah, right!) or even to keep track of what groups are applying in the first place. Those questions can be answered upon acceptance into a college.

I don't know if being white, Italian, Scandinavian and American Indian will help or hurt my child in this process, but the inappropriateness of the above mentioned questions remains regardless.

Shouldn't merits be the focus? The only focus?

Would you agree or disagree that posing the question of gender or ethnicity on college applications is unnecessary, even wrong?

Whatever questions are posed or not on college applications, it's an exciting and anxious time for young students who wish to further their education, so I wish them all the very best!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Slowing Down

Good day!

I just read a post on LinkedIn where a fellow author talked about being way too busy to visit the site often enough to reap any benefits, then followed up the post with another, sharing that she'd just had her eyes opened to the fact she was living her life way to fast when she received a speeding ticket. Her "story" inspired this post.

Like most of us, I can fill my days to the brim and have little time left for anything else but eating and sleeping. But I choose not to. That has never made me happy, and I don't handle high stress well. So a long time ago, I carefully chose not to "be too busy". How do I do this? Well, I guarantee it's not because I have any less life to live than most. I believe, and my choices reflect this belief (in other words, I practice what I "preach"), that most of us always have a choice. Our busy schedule will only be as busy as we allow. No matter how insurmountable your schedule may seem, take a deep, examining look and you'll find you can shift or remove things from that schedule that will indeed free up some of your time for much needed reflection, rest or social activities.

It's a choice (in most cases, not all). A choice I personally made a long time ago when I realized I couldn't live at a high level of stress or be too busy. I needed reflection time, time to exercise and time to be a friend, mother and wife, and time to do it well. I make that time on a daily bases with the exceptions being limited and short-term.

To my point, many of us find the time for exercise, squeezing it in during early morning, mid-day, evenings, late at night or in small bursts all throughout the day. The end result is that you have "found time" to exercise. On the flip side, others claim they have no time to exercise when the truth of it is, they don't want to fit it into a schedule they already feel is overwhelming. Bottom line: we have time for whatever we make time for. And if you think you don't have time to make or enjoy friendships, or reap the benefits of exercise, or just do nothing for a while, try looking again.

Of course, like everything in life there are exceptions. But for the most part, the majority of us can choose how we live, and our busy schedules that keep us from the things we need or want to do should be temporary. Being too busy for something we want to enjoy or experience should be a short-term issue, not a daily, long-term way of life. Life will always throw curves, but we should find our way around those curves and back onto a path at a pace we can enjoy to the fullest.

I simply suggest most of us do have time for the important things in life if we are willing to rearrange and shift for them. And I also suggest each of us take the time to slow down. Really slow down. Time, even just an hour out of our day, to reflect or be at rest can make such a difference. You'll be a better you.

I hope this has been helpful and/or eye-opening to some of you. Good luck, and may you "find the time" for all the things you enjoy and love.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

First Draft

I recently took a writing class where the instructor spent a great deal of time and energy trying to get one very important point or lesson across: your first draft will suck!

At first, I shook my head, thinking no way could I possibly let my first draft suck (the idea piqued my OCD behavior tendencies!). I'm one of those writers who edits as she goes. While it's not exactly a bad thing to do, it does slow down the process and "talks over" the creative voice.

The best advice I got from the class was to let myself "write badly", knowing I will most definitely be writing several more drafts following (my favorite part of the process, oddly enough).

Changing any habit is tough, and this has been no exception. I still try to edit as I write my first draft, but now that I'm aware of what I'm doing, I can hush the editor voice and let the creative voice rise.

I still stop about 1/4 of the way through and start from the beginning again, editing just enough to get a better and stronger grasp on where my story is going, who the characters are in all their glory and yes, correcting any issues I find along the way. This process works great . . . for me. I think of it as catching my breath part way through the course before hiking up the remainder of the hill.

If you don't already keep your inner editor at bay during the first draft, give it a try. It's very freeing! And it allows the creative voice to pave the way.

Here is a link to an informative and entertainingly written guest column on the Writer's Digest website by author Kathy Leonard Czepiel. - http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/5-tips-on-writing-first-drafts

Enjoy and good luck with your own process!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Back from the dead no longer science fiction?

Did you know that birth rates around the world are down? Yet population is rising. This is due to our ability (and obsessive need) to prolong life.  Many of the strides we've made to prolong life are wonderful, but are we taking it too far when there is talk of bringing people back from the dead?

On the Today Show this morning (http://todayhealth.today.com/_news/2013/02/26/17101996-god-held-me-coming-back-from-the-brink-of-death-is-possible-says-doctor?lite), there was a guest author/scientist who is taking part in the discussion about bringing people back after they die.

Unlike a sci-fi movie, the return to life must occur within 8 hours after a person is considered a corpse (this is new knowledge). They (scientists) are working on how to do this without brain damage or any damage to the person, and they seem to have it nearly figured out. It's a matter of making the process available world wide (or even hospital wide). Depending on what city and hospital you end up in, you may or may not be brought back if you die.

How do you feel about this? I'm torn.

Having a loved one die is beyond painful, and I can imagine the urge to bring them back, but I'm torn as to how good of an idea this is. Maybe it depends on what killed them? Hmmm. I can't say. But ultimately, I suppose my Christan faith reminds me that no matter what we do or don't do, if God wants us to go home to him, there will be no fighting it. And if he wants to allow us to stay longer, he'll let that happen, too, via doctors or whatever means. So we may as well do everything in our power to save loved ones and ourselves (as is our instinct). That's how we should live anyway, right? Do everything "in our power" to accomplish whatever (even life) and let God take over where our own power falls short.

Keeping this in mind, the next time you see a family with more than the accepted 2 kids, smile instead of sneering (yes, I've heard many times of people sneering at families). From what I've read in many different sources, they are NOT the problem with population, in fact we need them to help balance the age demographic of our population. Right now we are headed to being top heavy with seniors (we may already be there, I'm not quite up-to-date). We need the young ones to refresh the world! ;)

The above statements are my interpretation and opinion. You are encouraged to share yours.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Outlines: love them or hate them?

I recently read an article about novelists and outlines. Some writers can't imagine trying to piece together a story without a tight, involved outline, and others wing it all the way. I fall somewhere in between precise and winging it. I think.

I begin with an idea for a story and a very rough idea of characters and setting, then put that "on paper". That's where I start, but once I begin the actual writing, I back-fill the outline. I let the story and characters develop as I go, then make notes on the outline rather than the other way around. It works for me.

It's best not to be too rigid about the writing process, allowing imagination to sculpt. But with that said, I also believe each writer must do what feels most comfortable to them and what works. What I've learned most recently is that there are no rules to how we create our stories, only suggestions. Don't box yourself in with rules, even if you created them. Be open to change your process as you go, as you learn and grow.

The creative mind needs wiggle-room and a safe place to experiment. This has not been an easy lesson for me (I'm a rule-follower!), but I'm getting it now and it feels fantastic. With my second novel, I'm feeling the exhilarating freedom of . . . well . . . freedom. And I love it! Rules have their place, but that place is not in the creative process.

So follow your own creative path and enjoy the process guilt free!

Here is a link to an article on advantages and disadvantages of writing:

Link on how to write an outline:

Monday, January 14, 2013

If you're not prepared to be wrong...

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original."--Ken Robinson.

I was watching a short video about schools and learning processes by phenominal speaker Ken Robinson (http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html) when he made the above statement.  I jotted it down and read it several times, letting the truth of the words sink in.  I encourage you to do the same.  The statement is profound for every one of us, but especially those of us fearful of taking chances.

Try to write without fear and filters.  Or at the very least, don't let those things inhibit your writing, or curb your ability to let creativity flow.  It sounds like a no-brainer, but it's surprising how our own internal filters (or neg. and fearful voices) can hold us back.  Write with freedom and abandon, let it pour out of you.  Filters, or editing, comes later.  First create, then shape.  But through it all, keep the above quote close at hand.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Change in this blog profile!!

Hello followers and visitors!

After a very long time agonizing over how to run this blog, I believe I've finally found my place.  I've never written a blog, and I'm new to the blogging community, so none of this is coming easily or naturally to me.  But after months (no exaggeration!) of trying (and failing) to come up with a topic to build my blog posts around, I think I've finally got it. 

I was cleaning house without a single thought about blogging (confession: I haven't thought about blogging in weeks) when it (cliche alert!) hit me out of the blue.  I'm going to blog about the process of writing and what I've learned and what I learn as I continue to grow into a better, stronger writer. That's an easy enough topic since I'm constantly striving to learn as much as I can about the craft of writing, and I'd be happy to share my knowledge.  Remember, about 10% of writing is talent, the rest is hard work.

I write fiction with an emphasis on women's romantic contemporary fiction, but the advice and knowledge I share will be helpful to writers across the board, all genres, because writing is writing. 
There is a basic knowledge and understanding we all need for success in writing as a career, then there is all the other stuff we as creative individuals will add.  I'll have bits of both here for you.

Now, all that said and done, I'd like to begin with my first "tidbit":  Write with the intent to place your reader into your world, or story (fiction or non-fiction).

Yes, I realize how obvious my above statement sounds, but really think about it.  You might be surprised to find part - or possibly even all - of the above mentioned message got lost or misplaced when you sat down and "put pen to paper".

We as writers are not responsible for whether or not people like our work (this is important to remember), but we are responsible for getting them to "feel" the story.  They should feel present, pulled into the story from beginning to end.  If you've managed that, you've managed true success.

I know for myself, I was unconsciously too aware of trying to convince my readers to like the story that I lost sight of the true goal.  Not totally or completely lost, but enough that I can feel the difference in myself and my writing now that my focus is better aligned. 

If you are writing anything you want to have read, you'll always want the reader's pov in the back of your mind, but your best work will come through if you keep your story (and all that it embodies) in the front of your mind.

And that's it!  The first post of this new blog form.  I'm ready for the new year and all the success it has for me.  I wish the best for all of you, too.  Happy New Year!

*Please leave a comment with your thoughts or your own words of advice. ;)