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Posts Tagged ‘Research’

Today – or rather, this afternoon – was spent at a coffee shop writing. A perfect thing to do on a holiday. Well, more research than writing. I finally reached that point in my book where it was hard to proceed without an actual timeline for the California/Oregon trail. So I spent hours trying to use my accumulated research to assemble at least a vague timeline for a normal wagon train that I could use – results are posted on Once Upon A Story, if you are interested.

The coffee shop is extremely full today, but one conversation caught my attention a little ways from me. A woman probably in her early forties, slim build, beautiful medium length brown hair, almond shaped eyes, working on a computer.  A man, likely early fifties (maybe – I’m terrible at telling age) came in and sat down. They struck up a brief conversation based on – something – I forget what. Then, obviously interested in talking with her more, he asked if she was working on a paper. “No, a book, actually.” I was instantly annoyed, because I apparently don’t think anyone deserves to work on a book but me (Maybe I’ve been working too long today).

The man, not unattractive but rather unremarkable, furthers my irritation by asking the obvious question – the question that prevents me from telling people that I am a writer – “Oh, really? What are you working on?”

She proceeds to tell him what it is about, and he then responds with the comment that I find even more exasperating than asking what a writer is working on. “I’m working on a book too!”

The end result of their conversation was a mutual agreement to read each other’s books, and a closing comment from her about how she hopes hers will be published someday and it is the first time she’s ever tried this.

Glowering, I returned to the book I’ve been working on and researching for three years, after brooding over the idea for the book for ten. What right has she, someone who has never tried this before, to not only be on her third round of editing her book, in hopes of publishing it, and talking to a complete stranger about it? Clearly it does not mean as much to her as it does to me. What right has she to call herself a writer? What right has she to even be in this coffee shop with me? But, as my random envious bouts always do, it ended in self-reflection. I know quite well I am only jealous because she not only has the self-confidence to speak about her book, but because she is working hard to completion, with no apparent (key word: apparent) doubts as to the end result. I am jealous because I, who claim to have been writing since 8 years old, have yet to be published, due to my own neglect. I should look at her as an inspiration, not an intruder.

Three hours later, my judgement upon her returns with a vengeance as I hear her, while I struggle over converting a passage with a lot of “telling” into a conversation, turn to the man with the smirkish smile and broad forehead and say, “I’m done!”

Done?? DONE??!! HOW CAN YOU BE DONE? 

And she, with her perfect skinny figure and shyly innocent face, embarks on a long conversation about it with him and his energetic, encouraging tones while I sit here and write about them to make myself feel better.

But seriously. I am almost there, I keep telling myself. Oh, I am only halfway through editing the book, but there are serious edits taking place. Whole chapters being overhauled. And that quote comes to mind.

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I read it over and over again. 15 minutes a day. Write at least 15 minutes a day. To the extent that I half roll my eyes when I read it now. I know, I know. Okay? It’s not my fault that I had to . . . [insert whatever I am busy with that day]. Then there is the plaguing thought that maybe I’m not a real writer. Maybe I don’t care as much as I should. Maybe I am just a failure all around. Maybe if I truly cared enough I would make the time. That’s what everyone says. If you really care about something you make the time for it. But I do care about it, I know that in my heart. I just – shy away from it sometimes. I consider it extraneous and feel like I am neglecting other duties when I spend too much time on it. I am trying to refocus that – yes, again. This will be a constant subject, I’m telling you!

So, anyway – yesterday I went to the Library of Congress. ALL DAY. It was epic. I had a day off because I put in so many work hours last week, and decided to take advantage of my living situation and go do research for my book. I was thinking that I would spend a few hours there at the most. Nope. I spent over an hour in the geography and maps room, looking over maps of the Oregon trail from the 1800s, about as long in the newspaper room looking at newspapers from the 1800s to get a good idea of what the general news/headlines were back then, and then a few hours in the reading room looking at fashion from the 1800s and at a Writer’s Digest Publishing book to get tips. I got home around 5:00, feeling like I’d gotten a full days work in and surprisingly content, satisfied, and thinking about quitting my day job (jokingly, of course). And ready to move forward in the book, whereas I’d felt rather stuck the last few months editing-wise.

This morning I woke up surprisingly early for how little sleep I’ve gotten over the last week – early as in 9:30 – and in a reading/researching/writing mood again. So, I grabbed a writer’s digest and started reading it. And I ran across an article talking again about the whole “write 15 minutes a day” thing. Whereupon I immediately felt my normal guilt that I didn’t make a point to do that, and a little resentful. But there was a follow-up comment that really resonated with me. It was “You have to stay in the story.” Or something along those lines. The basic idea is, if you force yourself to work on a story for 15 minutes a day, you will continue to know what it is you were in the middle of, how the characters were feeling, what you were trying to figure out, and all that. And I was like – hmm. That is a good point. It isn’t just about the discipline. It is about staying with your story. And I do have that trouble when I go back to a story after awhile, getting back in the heads of the characters and what I was trying to do with that particular section that makes no sense.

So. I have decided to make a goal. I am going to aim to write for 15 minutes a day for a week solid. And to blog every day about how it went on my attempt-to-become-a-social-media-writer-guru-blog-that-isn’t-going-well-at-all blog Once Upon a Story, if you care to check in. Starting tomorrow. 😛

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Anyone who knows me knows that I am constantly writing schedules. I think that if I can find a schedule I can stick to, then I will have a more organized life and I will be able to fit in EVERYTHING that I want to do and learn (which, by the way, is a lot). I write and rewrite and rewrite schedules and lists in an attempt to organize my days in such a way that not only will I be able to write, research, read, submit items for publication, work out, do devotions, make all meals, and clean the house,  but also learn the piano, learn Russian, work on additional books and stories, learn more about writing, visit exotic locations (such as the library) AND have free time, watch movies/tv shows, play games, and spend time with my husband. You get the idea.

So – my latest attempt involves getting up between 5:00 and 5:30 in the morning to give myself an hour and a half to two hours before I have to get ready for work to fit in anything involving writing that I can free up my evening a little as well as get to bed at a reasonable time (hard for a night owl, but necessary when you have a career). This has been my goal for approximately two weeks and I’ve already rewritten my schedule accordingly about 3 times. I’ve succeeded twice. Once last week and now this morning. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Despite the difficulty of getting up at what I think is an ungodly time in the morning – there is still something really nice about having a completely silent house to work in – and more than that – not feeling like I SHOULD be doing something else – because I know everything else can wait until evening. It helps me actually concentrate more on all my writing stuff because I have no distractions or guilt about not doing other things. So I do hope I get up tomorrow too. After all, a writer who also has a career and ambitions outside of writing has to make sacrifices somewhere. Sleep might be one of them. I’ll let you know – or maybe just write another schedule.

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After worrying about it all week, I finally just went ahead and did my first post on my repurposed blog. For those of you interested, it essentially repeats what I said here previously, just without as many personal details:

http://storyidyls.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-required-introductory-post.html

My thought is, I will try to post at least twice a month, and after I have a few posts up, I will, one day when I have a ton of courage, post a link to it on my twitter feed.

I’m supposed to be working right now, by the way, but writing on here is more fun.

Okay, so, guess what I discovered (And now that I mention it, this might make a good second post topic on Once Upon a Story)?? I discovered the Library of Congress! I mean, obviously I knew it existed, and have had a library card there for like 4 years, have been in it twice, and done absolutely nothing else. UNTIL last Monday. Last Monday I went to a research orientation class, where they explained all of their resources for researchers and I am SO excited. One, they are open much later than I expected and two, they have so many unbelievable resources? I mean, I discovered that I could probably go look at actual newspapers from back during the gold rush! I am so excited to put this new resource to work as I begin major edits and accuracy research for my book Picture of the Past. And the best part is, I LIVE RIGHT HERE – only a few metro stops or a 10 minute taxi ride away – I have to take advantage of this awesome resource before we move!

And that is my exciting news for the week. Hope you all had an awesome weekend!

 

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