Differently Creative

I’ve never been the neatest person in the world. My room used to horrify my mom, who is a very neat person.

“Clean your room!” she’d tell me every once in a while, especially when guests were due to arrive. Or she’d say, “Clean that closet.” The closet was where I stowed a number of projects birthed through my imagination.

This is my desk at home.

    

Those of you who are neat might be ready to crawl up a wall at the sight of it. Heh heh. Sorry about that. Whenever I’ve worked full-time in an office—usually at a publisher or book packager—my desk was usually the messiest. Piles of books, files, and knickknacks lived on my desk. Many of my neater coworkers had that crawling-up-the wall reaction whenever they looked at my desk. But whenever a supervisor or coworker asked me for anything—a book for a quote; the address of a writer we hired for a project; whatever—I could produce it just like that.

On the day before important clients were due to visit, one of my supervisors would declare a cleanup day. (Are you sensing a pattern here? Yep? Just like Mom.) I would have to return books to the office library and dump my knickknacks in a convenient drawer—only to pull them back out when the clients left.

There’s a method to my messiness. You see, I’ve often had to work under extremely tight deadlines. Like having to produce a book in a month. All of the resources required for the project needed to be at hand. That way, I could do the job quickly, without having to get up and constantly search for whatever was needed.

As a freelancer, I’ve had to juggle multiple projects also. Which usually means stopping one project and starting another, before returning to the first project. Which also means more and more things get piled up on my desk (like the sharks I’m crocheting [see below], which are on top of my writing journal).

Another aspect to my cluttered desk is my love of color. Cheerful, colorful objects always make me feel better. Which is why I love daisies, especially Gerbera daisies.

   

A number of people have asked me over the years, “Why can’t you keep your desk neat?” My answer to them is, “Does it really have to be?”

A piled-up desk is not the image I usually see in magazine articles featuring a writer’s workspace. I usually see beautiful wooden desks with everything in its place. But what you see in this post is my space. I don’t want to pretend that it’s different from what I’ve shown here.

The bin of DVDs and blu-rays (and the occasional skein of yarn) that sits next to my desk

I don’t think of myself as more or less creative than someone with a pristine desk. I think of myself as “differently creative.”

How about you? What does your creative space look like? Is it messy? Neat? In between?

Photos by L. Marie with the exception of the gerbera daisy image, which came from freeimages.com, and the Tyra Banks finger snap gif, which came from pic2fly.com.

A Sticky Situation

Ever try gluing something that seemed to resist the glue? Though the package tells you the item you’re gluing is definitely one of the items the glue works on, it stubbornly refuses to stick to the other item. I mean you’re just gluing one piece of paper to another piece of paper, for crying out loud! A glue stick should work!

And then you turn to other glues that supposedly work—Tacky Glue, Elmer’s School Glue, and—the last resort—hot glue. Nope. It’s like one piece of paper has set its will against sticking to the other.

glues

So then you consider stapling the two together. But a big staple will mess up the effect you’re going for. You really need Item A glued to Item B. So you ask someone for advice. But that person points to the glue stick, because it has worked for him every time. You growl at the person, telling him, “The. Glue. Stick. Does. Not. Work!” He insists you’re doing it wrong then. Seven buddies of his used a glue stick every time, and it worked for them. You hang up the phone, vowing never to speak to the dude again, though he’s your own brother.

Sounds extreme, right? But the glue situation happened to me with paper recently and with fabric. However, I did not vow to stop speaking to my brother. But let’s change the situation from gluing two items together to finding a job; getting a book published; finding an agent; getting a date; finding success—whatever you currently need. Maybe you can relate to the frustration I felt then. As for the items on the above list, been there done that too.

find-a-job

When we’re looking for any of the above, people give us all sorts of advice they think should work, because the method they chose worked to achieve the same goal for them. The assumption is that Method A (applying online/at a dating website/whatever) will net Goal A at least most of the time. If Method A doesn’t work, then surely Method B (networking), C (blindly sending out resumes/hanging around places where lots of people frequent/whatever), or D (cold calling) will work. If these four don’t work, well surely we must be doing something wrong.

Not necessarily. After all, can you think of anyone who has been offered every job for which he or she has applied? (Okay, there are some people who get everything they want.) Sometimes, we get none of the jobs for which we apply.(Been there, done that.)

Time for Plan B!

plan-b

The fact is that sometimes things don’t work out the way we or others planned. I know. You didn’t have to read this blog post to figure that out. Just living life teaches you that. But we also don’t have to start doubting ourselves just because someone else’s advice didn’t work for us.

What, if anything, have you had trouble doing, even after taking the advice of others? Did you eventually succeed? (By the way, eventually, I managed to get the two pieces of paper glued together. Hooray for me.)

Plan B image from teenology101.seattlechildrens.org. Find a job image from vizfact.com.

Open the Bag

Bag ShotRecently, I watched many of the A&E adaptations of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels. One of the main characters—Archie Goodwin, a private investigator played by Timothy Hutton—said a phrase over and over: “Open the bag.” I love that phrase. It means “spill your guts” or “confess.” It’s a much more interesting way of saying to someone, “Tell me everything.” But language is what makes the series and its print form so engaging.

ccd5d7549b6ad3f8f9addfb64b5243d9 Nero Wolfe

I’m going to open the bag (just a bit mind you) about writing and life. So here goes. Several people have asked me when they’ll see my young adult novel about elves. Short answer: I don’t know. It’s currently in review at two publishers. I don’t know what will happen to it at either place. I can say what I hope. But that’s probably already obvious to you.

Waiting is nerve wracking, isn’t it? I can’t help thinking of something Captain Wentworth said in my favorite Jane Austen novel, Persuasion: “I am half agony, half hope” (Austen 225). I won’t go into why he said that, since the resolution of the main conflict hinges on the why. But I can relate to the sentiment.

2156

I have another young adult novel that I’m wondering what to do with. It needs editing for one thing. Having seen some of the wonderful covers that Jason Pedersen has done for Charles Yallowitz and Ravven has done for several people, if I go the indie route for it or any other novel, I’ll need some cash to pay for a cover by either of these fine artists. They’re certainly worth it. Click on their names to get to their websites and see for yourself.

Which brings me to another subject. There are several authors I’d love to interview. But I haven’t set up any interviews lately because of a funds shortage. With interviews, I like to give away a copy of an author’s work. This is a deliberate choice I make whenever I interview someone. Buying a copy of an author’s book to give away is my way of saying, “I support you, Author.” I’ll let you know when I return to regular interviews. Those are always fun for me.

Being in this state has taught me to avoid taking even $5 for granted. Here’s a video by Ricky over at Stewdippin that best describes life for me right now:

There. If you were hoping for something more salacious, I’m sorry to disappoint. But I feel better for having opened the bag. I’m going back to my middle grade fantasy novel now. I’m in revision mode on that. It’s slow going, but I’m enjoying it. My Pinterest inspiration boards have certainly blossomed as a result. 🙂

Thanks for listening!

Austen, Jane. Persuasion. New York: Signet Classic/New American Library, 1964. First published in 1818. Print.

Book cover from Goodreads. Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin from Pinterest.

Keeping Up with the Joneses

The phrase keeping up with the Joneses usually means having a lawn or house as nice as your neighbor’s. But for a writer, keeping up with the Joneses can mean having an Internet presence like other writers. Blog, Twitter, Linked-in, Pinterest—whatever.

If you’re like me (and if you are, you have a bag of soy sauce packets from years back and a floor that desperately needs vacuuming), the thought of making your presence known is daunting. I’m almost mole-like when it comes to networking. I even find a dark corner to burrow in when I’m at my own birthday party. But after my younger brother suggested that I blog, and then repeated that suggestion because I still hadn’t done anything a year later, I decided to go for it. This is the fruit of “going for it.” But sometimes I feel like I’m driving a Model T while my neighbors race about in sleek Camaros with their cool widgets, websites, and multiple Tweets.

But that’s okay. As they say, you gotta learn to crawl before you can walk. And since I just figured out how to turn on my webcam, I’m cruising at least. Now if I can figure out when I replaced the filter in my Brita pitcher (having lost the little sticker they give you to note these things), I’d be golden.

One of my classmates from VCFA encouraged me to learn to use this blog better. She’s right. I need to do that. On the flip side, she also suggested that I keep working on my novel. Another great point. And I’ve got to finish crocheting some hats for a birthday party. And there’s another half season of Doctor Who to catch up on. So many activities. So little time.

Doctor-Who-logo-black-background11

Two dreaded words come to mind as I think about how to juggle everything: time management. I have to make time for the necessities. I was never good at budgeting time (or money for that matter). But practice makes perfect as the old saying goes.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to keep this post short. Gotta keep revising my novel and finish my seventh hat. And change the filter on my Brita.

Have I Earned the Right?

After church one Sunday, a guy came up to me and asked, “What do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” I said. Perhaps I was a little too glib in my response because he said, “Oh,” and gave me a confused look I’ve learned to recognize as “I’ve never heard of you.” (Others have been more blatant, and simply said the words.)

“You mean freelance,” he qualified. His expression cleared then. Mystery solved. Instead of someone who wants to be a writer, but isn’t, I have a legitimate reason for calling myself a writer. But I said, “I’m writing a young adult fantasy series,” which probably didn’t seem like a lucrative freelance gig, especially since he’d already given me the “I’ve never heard of you” look.

I didn’t provide a resume of projects I’ve worked on over the years or explain that I’ve been writing in some capacity (stories, plays, poems, laundry lists, notes I passed at school) since I was eight years old. Am I making money at writing? That was at the heart of the question, “What do you do?”

I’ve often thought of myself in terms of what paid the bills: “I’m an editor.” “I’m a proofreader.” “I work in retail.” Or, what gave me status: “I work for the American Bar Association.” “I was promoted to editor.” “I am a graduate student.” But after surviving a rigorous MFA program, I gave myself permission to call myself a writer. Yet one encounter left me fumbling for my identity again. My fantasy novel isn’t published yet, so I don’t have the “right” to call myself a writer. That was the takeaway from that conversation and others I’ve had over the years and questions I’ve been asked like

• “Have I read something you’ve written?” (A conundrum. Only the person asking the question can answer that.)
• “Do you make as much money as J. K. Rowling?” (This asked by a group of eighth graders during a school visit.)
• “Are you successful?”

The last question is worth its own post, especially since I’ve been thinking about it for several years now. But to get back to the question that started me thinking about this post—“When do I earn the right to be called a writer?”—I at first wondered if the answer is akin to “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I earn the right when someone else tells me, “Oh, I’ve heard of you” or provides some other recognition of my status (like a contract or a check).

Yet I see the problems inherent in that way of thinking. Judging by some of the reviews some well-known authors have received on Amazon, and accusations of “hack” or “my little sister could write better when she was in kindergarten” and other judgmental statements, the public is often widely subjective in their views. To some, you might be a writer, and to others you are fodder for a firing squad.

As I type this post, the song, “If You Believe,” written by Charlie Small from the 1978 movie The Wiz is running through my mind. The lyrics are appropriate: “If you believe / Within your heart you’ll know.” Belief is the key. This isn’t a Pollyanna notion fueled by denial, however. I can believe I’m a Volkswagen all I want, but I would be sadly deluded (and lacking the horsepower). Knowing the path in your heart—knowing who you are, young padawan—is the key. Know it. Own it.

I am a writer. How about you? How do you show what you believe about yourself?