Creative Pursuits

I listened to a short course about getting your ‘crojo’ back. (crochet mojo) About two minutes into the first episode, it felt very much like every creative pursuit could use that, including writing. The last episode was devoted entirely to self-care, and she divided the thing into categories: mental, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual. I’m not sure I’d heard it divided up like that before, and I’m glad I tuned in.

My kids have been struggling with a couple things, and so I’ve been working to keep them in good places. Invisible illnesses are plaguing them, but I’m glad Wisconsin treats them as if they’re real. Iowa always felt like I had to fight whomever I was speaking with to be believed that this was a problem that I couldn’t handle alone – often even in my own struggle for mental health. I find myself calmer here, knowing that when I call and explain a problem I get someone who works to help me, rather than just making us wait for months (we’ve waited up to 5 before) to talk to someone.

Today I wrote a little bit. It wasn’t a lot, but it’s better than nothing. My 750words project didn’t count – that was me worrying about what’s to come from my children’s current struggles. It was letting out my fears and letting them go.

Then I just had to remind myself that I am a creative. While I am crocheting a project (or five, depending on how you look at it), I’m also writing. It doesn’t need to be all of the time, but I do need to focus occasionally to keep my goals in check. I have a lot of goals, and I’m slowly getting them organized for how I work.

Hello, 2023.

I took time off to be with my family while they were home. My husband isn’t quite sure what to do – today is his 18th day off in a row (extra vacation – use it or lose it) and he goes back tomorrow, along with the kids. I’ve seen so many memes about coming in, being quiet, and nobody yelling that this is your year, but being the best version of myself isn’t claiming anything about the year.

There’s a quiet time for me between Winter Solstice and the new calendar year. I often choose a new notebook and find some goals I’m ready to work on, whether they’re new or not. Writing always makes that list, no matter what I did the year before.

I joined 750words in 2011. In the last 12 years, I’ve written over 4 million words, and that’s just what was tracked on the site. There are usually blog posts, handwritten ideas, and all sorts of rewrites that aren’t tracked. I learned a lot. For 2022, it was around 252,000 words, and I didn’t write in March. (Mom died, and before that I traveled a lot to see her in hospice. It’s very difficult to give myself permission not to do my words, but this was the time it was appropriate.)

Within my projects during 2022, I had a story published. I have a couple stories out for consideration, and I managed a decent rewrite of the first book in the space western series. I also had a couple other ideas for extended series or novella length works. I’m hoping to continue the series and see how many others I can develop.

While I’m still working on my revised goals for the year, I’m going to start the second book rewrite as well as a short story this week (the one I didn’t finish by the 31 Dec deadline). I have my new notebook lined up, and I’m excited to see what happens with both of the projects. By the time I finish one of them, I’ll have another to work on. Some of you know my love of paper – so my project binder as well as this year’s notebook are below.


Change is hard, and it happens all the time. The little ones we barely notice, and suddenly it’s Wednesday instead of Sunday and it takes a moment to remember your age. The larger ones- like moving or transitioning through life’s changes are better marked but that doesn’t make them easy.

I’m getting glasses. It’s a new transition. One I’ve never had to navigate before, and I didn’t realize it was so hard to know all the things. It’s a very small correction, mostly for the blue light. It might be one clue to why I’ve resisted editing so much lately and focused on things that take me out of the range of the screens.

The difficult part is in my head at this point. I’ve never needed glasses. If it’s on paper, I can read it. Even the small print. Mostly I struggle as soon as it’s on a screen, and that’s just a headache. But headaches become cumulative, and I’d really rather live without them. So while I’m waiting on my “real” pair, I got a cheap pair without correction that only filters some of the blue light.

There’s a difference in the blue on my office walls more than most colors, so I know it’s a small adjustment. But I’m more comfortable driving in the semi-glare without full sunglasses. The first full day and I just felt less strained. (That’s what glasses are supposed to do, right?)

But there are also other things I’m attempting to get used to – like the ring around where my eyes are. When I walk inside I want to take them off like they’re sunglasses, because that’s all I’ve ever worn and it feels weird inside. This pair gets a glare sometimes on the corner where it looks like the person next to me is showing me a cell phone screen but it’s only a reflection from the window behind me.

So many people wear glasses, that very few people even remark on my new look. It was much more of an oddity in engineering school to not wear them. They just assume they’ve never seen me in glasses because of contacts or something else. Some people I know have reading glasses on top of their contacts. I know the adjustment is inside my head.

Partly it’s my age – this is the age where a lot of people need reading glasses or something. It’s around the age where my father also needed that correction. Partly it’s just that we live in a world with a lot of harsh lights.

I didn’t want to teach with my glasses yesterday, because they’re some pretty physical classes, and I was worried to drop them or break them. But I noticed the light streaming in the window, and I almost changed my mind. If nothing else, I am paying much more attention to the light that surrounds me and how it makes me feel. Wearing glasses is a small change, but the sensory differences are worth noting.

It’s time to get back to that manuscript in edits. I know this has been part of my resistance. There are always a few other things hanging, and I’m juggling them even if I keep dropping a couple things. Part of that resistance took the form of organizing and decluttering within my home, which still isn’t done. It’s just another piece of this time of change, and I’ve been feeling that much more acutely than normal.

So, because I almost never talk about my father, here’s a really old picture of the two of us. He’ll have been gone 14 years in May.


Edits in Progress

I have been rewriting a book for a while now. I thought I would get it done last fall/winter, but then I found out my ankle was broken. (That’s a longer story, so we won’t get into that.) Somewhere along the road of surgery and physical therapy, the draft ended up on one side of the room, and I sat on the other, unable to walk.

Summer I pulled it out again, and then I got stuck on chapter 4 when my husband went to Mexico for work. (Travel happens, and while I’m stuck inside my house when kids are sleeping, there’s some magical time for writing.)

When I finally put myself back on the schedule at my writer’s group, I hadn’t really gotten back to it. Yet when the deadline came, I forced myself through the chapter that had me stranded for a couple months.

The most amazing part there, is I didn’t stop. I’ve worked through 15k words in 11 days, and the 11th day isn’t over yet. I’m juggling time with some other deadlines, but it’s going well.

For those of you who’ve met me, you know I’m an extrovert. But the weirdest thing happened this week – I want to go home and work on my book. I don’t want to go out for coffee or lunch; I’d really rather be home working on my story. I had to grocery shopping today and half of me wanted to just get enough stuff not to leave for a month, but that never works.

If you remember my road woes, they’ve finally patched the blacktop… ish. And they’ve cut off the road going the other way out of my house so I drive by this a lot more. Whee! 0921180813a.jpg

Impossible Goals

I’ve always been fond of the movie What About Bob? and partly because it has that great theory of baby steps. Of course Bob makes it hilarious-  Baby Stepping out the door. Baby stepping into the elevator. But the truth of that theory has worked for me. I don’t like to set big New Year’s Resolutions because it feels like too much to take on at once. I prefer the method of adding on something small to medium-sized and re-evaluating at the end of a month and the beginning of the next.

It’s how I combat procrastination – I spent how many hours playing video games this month? (Okay, that was a couple years ago- I don’t do it much now.) I’ve turned much of that time into more productive activities toward my goals.

So when someone close to me rattled off a median income for writers as “$70 000 a year,” I almost fell off my chair. And I was belted into a car. Median is supposedly the middle of all the writers out there, so while a straight average might take into account the big earners like Patterson and King and Rowling, the middle would be where the 50% percentile earner had income.

I’m skeptical. I want proof. I couldn’t get it, and I’d like to see where that kind of number comes from. There are so many writers out there, some of whom only send out one book and self-publish, some of whom have one book and traditionally publish, and some of whom keep sending out book after book. Some of these make great money, and others struggle along without much notice.

That median supposedly takes into account all writers, nonfiction and television and tech writers and fiction. If that had any truth, wouldn’t more of us be attempting to be writers?

Mostly, the part that makes me sad is when I think about that as a goal, as an answer to when I’ll be successful is when I hit the median of “writers,” it feels impossible. I don’t rise to impossible overnight. I like small goals. Like, how about, make more money this year than I pay out? And try to do that a couple years running?

Please send me a  comment with what you think it takes to be a successful writer – and what the goals are that keep you going on your path.

Yesterday I completed 720 days in a row of writing at least 750 words per day. I also received a rejection for my manuscript from an agent. Today’s task list includes rewriting. I haven’t given up on this writing dream.

Does an Outline Prevent Discovery?

Plotters and pantsers make up the ends of the spectrum of writers about outlining. Some hate the word, while others live by the outline map. I happen to be someone who outlines. It wasn’t always this way, but I have come to find a way to outline that keeps me focused on the story ahead.

The biggest complaint I hear from pantsers (the ones who write by the seat of their pants) is that if they outline, they’ve already written the book. What’s the point?

Maybe we have too much thrown into the category of outline. I remember them from school with the Roman Numerals and the Arabic numbers underneath. Someone must still use that kind of outline, but not most of the writers I know.

What happens to me without an outline is that I wander far from the beaten path of the story. When I have my draft, I spend more time figuring out the threads and the pieces that don’t fit than anything else. Like, why did my protagonist wander off with her dragon here? That doesn’t fit the story! Did I really need to discover that for twenty pages? (Yes, I’m exaggerating here.)

But the key to a great outline is to allow enough to keep in mind the end while not tying hands too much to get through the story. And it isn’t like an outline is set in stone. If your characters mutiny against it, the writer had better understand what happened – and act accordingly. The choice is to change the characters so they’d choose to run through the outline, or change the outline so the characters want to travel that direction.

How much of an outline is enough? It’s what keeps the writer on track with the story. If it’s enough to have that vague image of an ending in your head through the writing – go for it. An outline can be as minimal as fifteen words or as detailed as a snowflake. It’s simply a tool to work for the writing.

So does any kind of information go against the discovery of the novel? Is it forbidden by the pantser to make character sketches or physical sketches of settings or to write out the history of the world before the story begins? Maybe because I write science fiction I struggle with this. I might have years to cover with changes to the characters, society, and technology to get to the point where I want to begin the story.

I might be able to do that off the cuff, but I might get left with questions like I did from reading books like Divergent: How do you get the factionless to work in factories or drive trains or do anything when they’re homeless and don’t have food? What did Voldemort do in the thirty or so years from when he left Hogwarts to when Harry’s curse zapped him away? Thirty years feels like a long time to be gathering the supporters, if only to try to take down the Ministry of Magic the moment Voldemort gets his body back. If he gathered power to terrorize people for thirty years, wouldn’t he be a little more patient? (And I know the Harry Potter novels were outlined.)

But then again, perhaps I just overthink these things. Maybe you have your own examples of those books that have those little questions that keep you awake at night. It isn’t really possible to answer every single question about a world, but the writer ought to know. Some of that is always discovered for me while writing, no matter how tight my outline becomes.

Some resources for outlines:

Minimalist- 15 to 20 words by Les Edgerton 

Rowling’s Method (There has to be a name for this somewhere, but I haven’t come across it)
If you have a way to outline other than these, please share!

Did I forget to mention I am a writer?

Sometimes I struggle with this in my day to day activities. People who have known me for a long time have seen me shift from one kind of career to another, but a lot of my new friends and acquaintances only see me as mom running my kids around. Funny, huh?

All right, I’ll say it out loud. I’m a writer. It doesn’t mean I don’t do a hundred other things a day. It doesn’t mean I don’t have other career paths. However, this is what I love to do and what you can find me doing when I have any spare time at all.

Spare time? That’s another funny concept. Time doesn’t create itself in moments that can be considered empty or spare. I make choices about how to spend my time. Every time the little darlings go to sleep, I go to work.

I know a lot of people who get ideas. Some of them try writing from time to time. Others are writers like me. There is a difference between the ones who write occasionally and those who are writers. The writers I know have to work through the tough parts. They take each piece and examine it thoroughly. They never stop pursuing those pieces of story until they’re polished.

So I have worked other places, doing many other things. I get that faraway look in my eye when an idea comes to me and try to remember it long enough to write it down. I try to only choose things that are fun. And all of it, from that Scentsy party  to the towers we build at the Family Museum to the random tidbits I read, contributes to my writing.


For me, November always means another novel with NaNoWriMo. During the month, there are plenty of things to read on both sides – writers who love it and writers who avoid it.

I don’t think it’s fair to say people hate it if they haven’t tried it. Part of it might be because of books like No Plot? No Problem! The challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days, and they recommend little to no preparation – to simply dive into a novel and write.

I think a lot of writers just dive into a novel and write in their first attempts.  I know I did for several – and the few I managed to finish in that time were in such disarray it has taken and will take me years to sort them out.

NaNo 2012 has come and gone, and I have a new novel to work on called The Next Jane. It weighs in at about 73,000 words. I hit 50,000 on Day 15, but the second half of the month presented challenges to keep me from hitting 100,000.

I know several writers who have embarked on sequels to a previous work and we are working toward using outlines and all kinds of preparatory work to make sure it is something that has a chance to be salvaged. I mean, we could have a nice romantic comedy going on and then have aliens land to get to the word count, but we’re reaching beyond that. Check out this list of published WriMos.

The beauty of the energy and the camaraderie of NaNoWriMo helps to turn off the internal editor long enough to get the rough draft out. You can challenge yourself to finish another scene, another chapter, another book. We post our word counts and compete with what we did the previous year. This year, I wrote more words than I have before in the month of November. I’m proud that I finished the entire draft of the novel, which was my goal in the first place.

The rest  can be fixed later. I’m fixing my last in-progress novel, and then I’ll be back with TNJ until I get it in order. I really want that one to be great. Plus, I have two sequels planned.

Grill Master

Have you tried McCormick’s GrillMates? Some pretty amazing stuff is contained there.

The husband’s been trying out a couple of them when grilling. I’ve always loved his creations, but this adds a little flair. The photo above is of Molasses Bacon seasoning added to the hamburger meat and Brown Sugar Bourbon BBQ sauce. The resulting explosion of taste was beautiful.

The meal got rave reviews from everyone who has shared those meals with us. You just might see more of that in our future!

Madagascar 3

What a party! There were mazes to fill out, tic tac toe puzzles to challenge each other with, and connect the dot images to sketch. Everyone grabbed a pen and started things off well. There were even a couple matching picture challenges.

The older kids were game for Tape the Tail on the Gloria, but I couldn’t talk the adults into it. [They were a little camera shy.]

But my favorite part about a Madagascar party was the four kids each playing with the masks and trying to make the baby believe they were characters from the movie. He didn’t seem too worried, but he’s pretty used to his sister throwing him a bunch of curve balls in the way of roars and dropping dragons near him.

I taped the faces around the baby’s crib to keep him company. I hope he’s as amused as I am. The movie was awesome (but the baby had to stay home), and we can’t wait to watch it again. Hope you enjoy it as much! It’s fun to add to the movie experiences for the kids with little take-home games and activities.