Finding the Focus to Write

Finding the time to write isn’t always as hard as finding the focus to write.

My house is full of distractions—animals, chores, deliveries, laundry, phone calls, the list goes on and on especially since this has become as much our bunker as our home.

And then there’s the other inhabitants who are currently working from here instead of where they have always worked for most of my writing career. I am never alone at my house. And even if these people are on a different floor, doing their own thing, not paying a lick of attention to me, their presence stifles my writing.

And yes, I know that makes no sense.

Continue reading “Finding the Focus to Write”

No Matter the Results, We’re Stuck with Each Other

Today writing seems like a better option than watching the news. But then again, that’s probably the better option most days.

And yet, the news informs our writing. It’s hard not to let political opinions and party affiliations slip into our prose. I consciously censor myself. Never wanting a snap judgment of my politics to keep a reader from hearing my story.

That wasn’t always the case. I am deeply passionate about my own political beliefs, and there was a time I knocked on doors and watched polls and wrote op-eds.

As politics has gotten more divisive, I made a conscious decision to keep it out of my writing community. I want to be an open-minded person who can handle hearing beliefs on both sides, but these days it’s so very hard to have a civil conversation. There is too much judgment, too much assuming and blaming and generalizing.

So, right now, while the future of my country hangs in the balance, I know that speaking my mind won’t change any hearts or the outcome of the election. It will only alienate friends and invite argument.

But as we move forward from whatever happens, I wish I could find the words to share my absolute desire that we learn to listen to one another. That we lead with our hearts, informed by our heads, but without the knee-jerk judgment and the hate mongering. We have to—there is no other way to save the soul of this country.

In my stories, even in my ‘dogoirs’, I always, always stress the positive. I believe in happy endings. I write them into my fiction and I advocate for them in my work with shelters and rescues.

I believe that the heart of this country is good, and that most people would rather choose love than hate. Hate leaves a bad taste on your soul and poisons your days. It makes the world darker, heavier, and so very sad. It isolates you, even when you join forces and hate something together. Somehow we need to learn to disagree without hating.

That’s my own challenge, and one I am wrestling this week while watching the election returns. We will never, ever move forward and tackle the bigger issues of this world until we stop hating each other and start agreeing to disagree on some issues, while working together to tackle others. We cannot let hate and judgment and the crazy need to be right or to win, dictate what comes next.

What comes next will impact the lives of our children and our grandchildren. Maybe we need to remember this as we face our ‘foes’.

I don’t know what comes next for this country. I can only control my response to the outcome, and no matter the outcome, I plan to choose love. I will acknowledge my own frustration or disappointment or even my joy at the outcome, but I will also remember and respect that at least half my country wanted a different outcome.

It is a great temptation to disengage, to bow out and retreat. That seems the easier path. And maybe one I will take for a while. But the lessons of this election season will inform me; they will inform my writing.

I hope I can move forward gently, with calm acceptance and genuine curiosity of other people’s views, allowing for respectful disagreement, but knowing that a heart is a heart and one is not worth more than another.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you live anywhere near the PA/MD border, I’d love to meet you this Saturday when I’ll be supporting my favorite locally owned shop, Soulshine Boutique. Stop by to see me and ALL of my books between 10am and 2pm (the shop is open until 8 and I will likely stick around longer than 2, but the books will definitely stick around longer because Lisa carries them in her shop). I’ll have special gifts for anyone who drops in to see me.

If you’re curious about what I’m up to, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

And If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog. And if you want to know what is really happening in the animal shelters in this country, visit, Who Will Let the Dogs Out.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

My latest book was recently released from Pegasus books – 100 Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues is available anywhere books are sold, but if you’d like some help finding it (or want to read some lovely reviews), click here.

I’m Just a Distractible Girl

“The more willing we are willing to separate from distraction and step into the open arms of boredom, the more writing we will get on the page.” -Ann Patchett

#truth: Writing is boring.

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My assistants waiting for me to write something

It’s very easy to find a suitable distraction to Continue reading “I’m Just a Distractible Girl”

I Am Completely Beside Myself

The last few months have been a whirlwind of launching Another Good Dog into the world. It’s been beyond my wildest imagination, surprising me again and again.

I’ve done enough TV now that I’m finally getting better at not blinking so much while talking and actually answering the question that was asked (as opposed to rambling on in questionable English while my mind is screaming, “OMG – I’m on TV!”).

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I’ve even made peace with the fact that Continue reading “I Am Completely Beside Myself”

Writers Gotta Write (about something)

I always have something to say. (Just ask my husband.)

This is usually true about writing, also. I always have something to write about, but oddly, not today.

Today the distractions have me and my tired-I-didn’t-sleep-so-well mind.

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This blog is about writing and the writer’s life. Obviously, there is much that could be said about that, but….

The internet is smothered in writing wisdom. It is everywhere because, well, writers write.

It’s not like horseshoers or knitters or firemen. Continue reading “Writers Gotta Write (about something)”

Write.

It’s summer.

The kids are underfoot.

The house is a mess; it’s noisy, too.

The garden is a tangle of weeds and the blueberry bushes are so full, the berries are bending the branches low enough for the mice to feast.

I drank too much wine last night; I can’t think clearly.

I’m not feeling it.

I’m tired.

I’m sick of this story.

I’ll just take today off.

What’s the point?

That’s just a small sampling of my excuses. What are yours?

There’s never a good time to write, but if you’re a writer that really doesn’t matter—write.

Some days the words circle your head like invisible gnats, and while you can hear them buzzing, you can’t catch them—write.

Other times the grocery list and the thank you notes are nagging around the edges of your brain; they can wait another day—write.

Even when you have nothing to say and what you do want to say is everything you wish you’d said to someone who belittled your belief yesterday – write.

Maybe the only coherent thought you have is, I hate this. Write.

As Elmore Leonard, arguably one of the most successful, working class writers, puts it—

“I don’t believe in writer’s block or waiting for inspiration. If you’re a writer, you sit down and write.”

What are you waiting for?

Sit down and write.

Avoidance Techniques from a Master (Week 4 of my Be-a-Better-Writer Reading Program)

Reading multiple writing books at once has my head spinning. This past week, while distracted by my BIG NEWS, I had a hard time making myself sit down and follow my reading plan for becoming a better writer. I do my assigned reading in the evening, but each night I found a reason not to read. Instead, I spent a lot of time with my foster puppies…..

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And I caught up on The Crown and sorted my Netflix que and finished reading Dogged Pursuit by Robert Rodi (hilarious) 6480008 and The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (exquisite). 15705011Next, instead of doing my assigned reading Continue reading “Avoidance Techniques from a Master (Week 4 of my Be-a-Better-Writer Reading Program)”

NaNoWriMo Day 25: Waffling

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Half of these chickens didn’t survive the latest fox attack. My odds at finishing NaNoWriMo seem similar. sigh.

I don’t know if I’m going to make it. There are only five days left in the month and writing time is at a premium considering the house is overrun with kids and their messes and their friends and my need to be amongst them. Add to that a couple foster dogs/puppies and well, I’ve got a boatload of excuses for not finishing NaNoWriMo.

I’ve got just under 13,000 words to go. Doable? Sure, but will I do it? Not so sure.

I’m doing what I’ve done with pretty much all five of the novels I’ve written – stalling in the middle. Ask any writer – the beginning is the easiest part. And then for many writers, the ending is obvious, but the middle….that’s terribly tricky. It’s very easy to wander. It’s very easy to obsess over unnecessary detail. It’s very easy to play favorites with your characters and entertain an odd darling or two.

For me, though, what happens in the middle is a lot of circling and stalling and avoiding the ending. I don’t want the story to end. Once it’s over, the real work starts. The tedious, painful editing. The sorting out whether there’s really a story here or not, and after 90,000+/- words, there really better be a story here.

Hanging out in the middle is safe. It’s easy. I like it there. The tail end of the middle is the time when I get anxious. What if the ending doesn’t appear? And what if it does and it sucks? Or what if I jump the gun and force it?

Much better to just stall and await a sign.

The problem with NaNoWriMo is there is no time to stall. There’s not time to explore tangents and wiggle my way into an ending. I have to write 13,000 words. NOW.

But what’s the worse that happens? I don’t finish NaNoWriMo? (or in the NaNoWriMo lingo – I don’t win?) So what? No big deal, Easter seal. I can handle it. I don’t have to achieve my goal. I can finish in another week or two. What’s with the arbitrary deadline? There’s nothing hanging in the balance here. The only person I owe this to is me. And I’m easy. Ask my kids. I talk big, but in the end I always cave.

Will I make it? It’s so very hard to say. I wouldn’t wager any money on it, but then again, I’m a more or less reliable person. I usually do what I say. So, you know, maybe it’ll happen….let’s just wait and see.

NaNoWriMo Day 9: The Devil is Driving Me

download-1I kicked butt yesterday and pounded out nearly six thousand words, so I’m all caught up according to the NaNoWriMo website. They have a nifty graph there that shows how you’re doing. I’m floating just above the line, so I’m barely above average, just like my grades in school. I’m trying to resist allowing this to make me slack off for a while.

It’s hard to write today. I’m distracted by the national news and trying to adjust to a new reality. I would venture to say I’m in shock to a certain degree. Disappointed in my state and even more so in my country. I want to believe that this doesn’t mean that hate won, but I have that same sick feeling I used to get when the bullies triumphed in high school. I fear for our country and worry about the message this sends the world about how seriously we take our role in it. Enough said. I wasn’t going to write a word about it. I have to let it go or it will ruin my days. I’m just so heart-sick about all of it.

I am trying not to dwell on the sadness, but the rain isn’t helping. My first thought when I woke was, “God is crying.” Really. I haven’t thought like that since I was a little kid.

Pushing it aside. Cramming it down in that space behind my computer monitor where things get lost forever and I forget about them. There. That’s where I put it.

Instead, I’m gonna write. I’m gonna pound out some serious wordage, lose myself in my story which is much happier and more hopeful than I feel. I need my story to be my world. I won’t visit facebook at all. Too many gloating people there. I’ll stick with twitter where I found so much solidarity last night as I watched the returns.

Stop it. Let it go. Let it go. What’s the next line? No matter. I’m gonna write. Hang out with Kat and Dylan and Mac and Gweneth. What do you think of my names? I always change most of them by the time the first draft is done, but I like this bunch so far. We’ll see.

NaNoWriMo Day 4: Not a Word, Not One Word

Today is the first day that I’m worried there will be no writing. And not because I’m delaying or distracted, but simply because there isn’t a solid block of time available to me. It takes me so long to get going that if I’m only going to be interrupted or pulled away after fifteen minutes, I don’t even try. When I’m interrupted, I’ll be annoyed and when I return to the page I won’t have any idea where I was going with it and I’ll be pissed at the kid/animal/appointment for sabotaging (unintentionally I know, I know) my story.

Better not to start in the first place. Instead, write a blog post! Blog posts can be scattered and fragmented and no one minds. (well, maybe they do mind, but they HAVE NO POWER over me and there’s nothing they can do about it, is there? It’s not like they can demand their money back. After all, this is me giving away my writing FOR FREE which is what everyone expects, right? I mean, who pays full price for a book anymore? Why would you do that? It’s not like anybody’s crazy enough to think they could make a living writing books. No, they write for fun. Writing’s not a real job. Oh wait? Did I say all that out loud? Sorry. Back to the blog post….)

Today is consumed by the 12 puppies I’ve been fostering for the last 8 weeks. Today is Gotcha Day – the day the puppies go home with their adopters. It’s actually Gotcha weekend as five leave today, four tomorrow and the last three straggle out next week, assuring that I’ll get very little done this weekend as I try to soak up the last hours with these pups and console myself with chocolate and wine after they go.

Even though I can’t spend quality time with my keyboard, the story is coming out my pores. It’s making me distracted and anxious. I want to be sure I catch all of it. I’m scribbling notes on scraps of paper, my to-do list, my phone, and the edges of the puppy paperwork. I feel like it’s flying at me faster than usual, but maybe that’s because I’m forcing myself to spit it out in one month.

I try very hard not to write when I’m not writing. I try not to envision too much in my head because when I finally sit down to write, it never comes out as good as I imagined it. Alan Watt (of the 90-day novel) uses the phrase “hold it loosely” to describe how you should handle your story. He refers to having a plan, an outline even, but then holding it loosely and not being bound to it. It’s the same way I carry the eggs down from the barn when I forge the egg basket. I fill my pockets and hold the rest loosely in my hands– careful not to drop them, but not holding them so tightly that I crack them. Holding things loosely is my style, and I’m never quite sure what will come out when I finally sit down to write. I find if I have a definite idea then it’s less likely that any magic will happen.

That’s my plan this weekend. I’m holding it loosely and giving in to the distractions of puppies and wine and possibly the last warm sunny weekend of the fall. The keyboard will be waiting on Monday.

UPDATE: Days 4, 5, AND 6 and still NO writing. A tiny panic is flickering at the back of my mind.