On Writing and Procrastinating

There's this weird phenomenon I experience whenever I'm writing; or rather, whenever I'm thinking about writing: I want to do it. I ache to write. My fingers twitch on the keyboard...and yet I don't do it.

I can't bring myself to sit down, open up that document, and start typing. My brain is alive with ideas and plotlines, with snappy dialogue and fun descriptions, but that's all that happens...it just stays there.

And it's not just writing fiction; oh no, I do this with all genres. With poems, blog posts, personal essays...I think about writing so, so much, but I don't actually write that often. I just, like...marinate in my thoughts.

Honestly, if I were as productive in reality as I am mentally, I would be...so freaking prolific already. And probably actually be able to survive, financially, as a freelancer.

I think it's a common problem with writers, especially perfectionistic ones, this habit of thinking more about writing than actually writing. They say it's because us perfectionists are afraid that the end product won't be as good as what we've visualized. 

And I am a total perfectionist; I have this insane need to be excellent at everything, the best, top of the line...

But I don't think that's my problem. It's more this thing of inertia, where until I'm working on something I just can't get up the gumption to do it.

So, say, I sit down with a cup of coffee and my laptop, along with my annotated previous draft and the big book of notes I have, I'll have this fire and drive to start drafting, and that'll propel me through a good 1,500-2,000 words in one session.

It's just getting there that's so very hard.

And if I take a break for a day or so, it's even harder to get back in the swing of things.

In this way, writing is so much like exercising. Now, I don't know too much about that on account of, hahahahaha I don't work out, but still — I'm familiar with the general concept. Basically, what I hear is that the more you work out, the easier it is. 

It's the same with writing, at least for me; the longer a break I take, the harder it is to get back into it. For example, last week I was out of town working childcare for a conference — 8.5 hour days wrangling children and by the end of it all I could do was lie in bed, staring at the ceiling. 

I've been back since Friday, and today is the first day I was able to get some writing done. On the bright side: I'm pretty sure it'll be a smidge easier tomorrow!

Now, I do want to be clear: I'm not saying that the only way to write is to do it every day; honestly, everyone has their own process and technique, and for some people it's easier to spend, like, eight hours one day writing and then have a week off; for me, I can handle something like, oh, 45 minutes to an hour and a half in one day, but not a full day's work on one project. It's a weird focus thing. 

I could reasonably spend a whole day writing if it were different projects, but that's about all I've got.

And that's okay! Writing is so personal and such an individualized process that no two writers' days are going to look exactly the same. Which is, frankly, one of the beauties of this craft.

There's so many more, but...it's late, I'm tired, and this post has gone on long enough.

BUT in news: be sure to check out https://operationawesome6.blogspot.com, because I'm going to be blogging there every Monday starting next week! Woooot!!

Critiquing My Own High School Poems (This Should Be Fun)

A Day in Rome

We started the day off early -
                        eight thirty at the Coliseum,
                        seven a.m. on the bus to get there –
and wandered all around that ancient
house of death and murder.
We took hundreds of pictures,
laughed a lot and made plans for the afternoon.
Then we went to the Roman forum,
we explored that ancient governance of Rome
and discusses the lack of great architecture today.
We went to leave for lunch and discovered
that our plans for the afternoon has been broken
because you had found someone better.
But I found friends too,
we meandered through the streets –
                        got ripped off at lunch,
                        got lost, then found the
                        Spanish steps –
and there you were again.
Now I’m sitting at the Trevi fountain
the wind ruffling my hair and peace in the air,
thinking to myself about this day in Rome
and the questions I now have about
our friendship…
or this one-sided thing we’ve got going on…
Karis Rogerson
October 4th, 2010
Not the person this poem is about, just a cute friend from high school and beyond.

Not the person this poem is about, just a cute friend from high school and beyond.

Listen, I don't really know why I'm doing this. I was sitting here and realized that I didn't know what to blog about today, and I had the bright idea to, 'Oh! Share a poem you wrote in high school and critique it!" and now I'm doing it because, honestly...this is so bad.

So let's jump into critiquing it, shall we? 

It's a little derivative, if I'm being quite honest. (I don't know what that word actually means, if I'm being even more honest, but I've heard it used as a literary insult and it feels apropos right now.) It's just so on-the-nose, the language so bland, the images so...not-alive. I mean, the line(s): 

We took hundreds of pictures,
laughed a lot and made plans for the afternoon.

Are just plain boring. Come on, High School Karis, you can do better than that! What about:

We posed for our own cameras, 
snap, snap went the lens,
and giggles shook our bodies 
as we laid out afternoon plots

That's not my best work, but it's at least better than the one up there!

Of course, I'd totally forgotten about this poem after leaving high school. I honestly don't even know for sure who it's about; but it's clear that I was pissed at her (I know it's a her, because I didn't talk to boys in high school, but that's a story for another day). And I feel like this poem would be more powerful if I hadn't tightened my language, reined in a bit of my anger, and kept an air of mystery instead of so openly flailing about.

One thing I do like: the description of the Coliseum, "that ancient / house of death and murder." Not the most original descriptor, but it does its job fairly well, I think. 

In conclusion? I was not as good a high school poet as I thought!

Have you ever read your own early work? How did that work out for ya? Let me know in the comments!

Emma Mills: Author of FOOLISH HEARTS, Multi-Tasking Genius

Hello, hello, and welcome to the book birthday celebration for FOOLISH HEARTS, by Emma Mills! 

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FOOLISH HEARTS is a contemporary young adult novel that, when I read it this summer, simply filled me with happiness. I'm pretty sure there were parts at which I giggled like a middle schooler with a crush, and others where I cried and clutched my heart like an overdramatic elderly woman at a wedding. 

It was, quite simply, adorable.

So I was stoked to also get the chance to chat a little with Emma, the author! We talked about her life as a multi-tasker who has a writing career, is pursuing a Ph.D in cell biology and occasionally moonlights as a vlogger, as well as some other interesting topics. The Q&A is below!

I know you’re pursuing a PhD in cell biology — what interested you in that field?

I have always been fascinated by biological sciences and it seemed like a natural progression from my college studies. I love being a student and really wanted to continue my education after college.

How do you time-manage in order to be an author, vlogger, PhD student (and also have time to be enthusiastic about Nutella!)?

It’s definitely a juggling act! I’ve become really good at writing when I should be cleaning my apartment.

What tips do you have for aspiring writers who also want to pursue careers in different fields as to how to do it all?

In my experience, it comes with a degree of compromise about certain things--maybe less lounging around time, less nights out on the town!—but if you’re really interested in pursuing two different areas, you can definitely make it work. 

What initially interested you in vlogging, and why is it something you still do?

I got into Youtube when I was in college. It was such a fun community to be a part of at that time, and I loved watching videos as much as I loved making them. It’s not something I’m able to do as often as I’d like these days, but I still really enjoy it when I can!

Would you recommend blogging or vlogging to aspiring authors?

If it’s something you’re in interested in, definitely! I’ve been able to meet some amazing people and have some really cool experiences through my work online.

On a craft level, how did you develop your writing and your voice?

Practice practice practice! I did a lot of writing growing up, both in school and out. I wrote a lot of stories back then that will probably never see the light of day, but they really helped me learn some of the mechanics and technique involved in telling a story effectively.

What advice would you give aspiring writers who want to have their own signature style and voice?

Reading widely is really helpful; it helps you identify what you like and don’t like, what works for you and what doesn’t.

What advice would you give aspiring writers on how to find an agent and an editor to love their work, especially if it’s out of the “mainstream” in either genre or subject matter?

I don’t necessarily think being outside the “mainstream” is a disadvantage—I think people are often looking for something new and outside-the-box! I would just say to do your research prior to approaching specific agents or editors, and make sure you’re contacting them in line with their guidelines for submission. 

Thanks to Emma for letting me chat with her a little bit, and for writing a book I loved so much! Check her out on YouTube, and read some of her books as well!

Lauren Miller: a Life Woven Through with Writing

I've always had a thing about scars. Like they were a reflection of the way we live life. Accidental scars are the window to a good story, I thought, like the one on my knee from when I broke my nose, or my "Harry Potter" forehead scar. 

But scars aren't always just a fun memory of a good time. Some scars, like the ones on my arms and wrists, are markers of the hurt in my brain. Sometimes scars are there because our bodies have been through something terrible and it's just...impossible to heal.

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That's the case for Jessa Gray, the protagonist of author Lauren Miller's latest YA title, ALL THINGS NEW.  

According to the book's synopsis: 

Seventeen-year-old Jessa Gray has always felt broken inside, but she’s gotten very good at hiding it. No one at school knows about the panic attacks, the therapy that didn't help, the meds that haven’t worked. But when a severe accident leaves her with a brain injury and noticeable scars, Jessa’s efforts to convince the world that she’s okay finally crumble—now she looks as shattered as she feels. Fleeing from her old life in Los Angeles, Jessa moves to Colorado to live with her dad, but things go from bad to worse when she realizes she’s seeing bruises and scars on the people around her that no one else can see. She blames it on the accident, but as her body heals and the hallucinations continue, Jessa wonders if what she’s seeing could somehow have a deeper meaning. In her quest for answers, she falls for Marshall, a boy whose kindness and generous heart slowly draw Jessa out of her walled-off shell and into the broken, beautiful, real world—a place where souls get hurt just as badly as bodies, and we all need each other to heal.

ALL THINGS NEW is a love story about perception and truth, physical and emotional pain, and the messy, complicated people we are behind the masks we put on for the world

I read and adored ALL THINGS NEW, finding it a powerful book that reflected and enhanced some of my own thoughts about scars and the way our physical selves can mirror our spiritual ones. And I was not just surprised, but delighted, by some of the faith elements in the story.

So I was honored to get the chance to chat a little bit with Lauren, over email. Lauren grew up in a suburb of Atlanta and says she writes because it's one way to capture the images in her mind.

"When I can express my thoughts in words, I feel more fully myself – almost as if I take shape on the page," Lauren said. "I write because I can’t imagine not writing."

In fact, Lauren said that even if she knew the world were to end in a year, it wouldn't keep her from writing.

"Writing is an element of how I live – I process the world and myself with words – and if the world were ending I would absolutely want to continue doing that until the very end," she explained. "That said, I wouldn’t write a book. I’d travel the world with my family and write short stories that I could complete within a couple days."

On her own blog, Lauren shares the story of how she wrote her first novel, PARALLEL, and you can read the shortened version here

Essentially, Lauren chose to write a novel during the first 100 days of her newborn's life. Which is just...wild. I've written a few books and I know how mind-consuming the process can be, so kudos to Lauren for managing to write and take care of a newborn at the same time!

Photo credit: Genine Esposito.

Photo credit: Genine Esposito.

"Those 100 days were both the most creatively challenging and the most mentally rewarding days of my life," she says in retrospect. "But I’m so glad I did it.  I found my voice during those few months, both as a writer and as a mom."

The most rewarding part? When an agent, who had followed along with the blog she wrote about the experience, reached out and wanted to see the manuscript.

But along with the joys of writing, including a recent moment when a co-worker shared, tears in her eyes, how much ALL THINGS NEW had meant to her, there are of course difficulties. 

One thing that's hard to handle is the harsh criticism writers often face. 

"There are a lot of readers with very strong negative opinions no matter what you write, and hearing them is never easy," she said. However, she keeps perspective. "If I’ve learned anything in my 30s, it’s that everything is relative and that sometimes the hardest things in our lives are the things we should actually be the most grateful for," she said.

"I suppose I’m still a little disappointed that the pilot script Abigail Spencer and I sold to ABC Family five years ago never got made into a TV show," she continued. "It was called TEACH, and it was a fun, soapy drama about three Teach for America teachers trying to make a difference in a failing public high school in post-Katrina New Orleans." (Honestly, y'all, I'd watch the heck out of that show.)

Go ahead and check out Lauren's site and her novel; I think you'll like it!