Tag Archives: being stuck

Submit that writing!

(otherwise you’ll never get published)

large button reading Submit mounted on the wall

CC image Submit Button courtesy of johannes p osterhoff on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Has anyone else noticed that submitting work for publication involves a lot of decision-making?

You need to figure out which piece you want to submit. Which means you have to figure out if it’s ready to submit. Which means you need to make a lot of editing decisions, and before you know it, you might be sucked into a total re-write.

You need to figure out where you’re going to submit it. This involves the monumental task of finding places that publish. Do I want to publish online or in print or both? What genre am I looking at — or more than one? Am I willing to pay a reading fee? How much? Do I want to consider contests?

What are the deadlines? What are the guidelines? Do I need to trim words? Add words? What font and spacing do I need to use? Have I put the appropriate contact and identifying information in my piece (or refrained from using it if asked)? Dammit when was that deadline again? OK, next market!

Then there is the actual packaging. Find the submission website. Click through the options, enter the information, upload the file (this stage involves a revisiting of all the previous questions, as to whether the manuscript is ready, whether this is the best work, if I should edit it some more, if this is really the venue for me, whether I’ve formatted everything according to their guidelines, etc etc etc), SUBMIT.

This spring, I began the process of submitting in earnest. I’ve got all sorts of flotsam and jetsam pieces floating around, and I need to actually send them on their way. Along with a group of other people who were using each other for mutual support, I gathered to talk about places to submit what types of writing, and pulling together my choices for what I wanted to submit and where. The idea was to get at least six submissions out that day.

To be honest, I haven’t gotten to that last button yet [SUBMIT!], because I’ve been waylaid by all the other stages.

Dilemmas, dilemmas

First, I thought I had all these pieces ready. Turns out, I didn’t, because I rejected them for one reason or another. Only two or three were close enough to send-worthy, and even these, I wanted to edit.

Then I looked up a number of promising venues to submit these two pieces. That one sentence describes more than an hour’s worth of research — see paragraphs 3 and 4, above. Finally, I got my targets organized, and went back to my chosen pieces to make a few — only minor, really — fine-tuning changes.

The time for our group to meet ended, and I still hadn’t submitted a thing. That’s fine, I told myself. I can go home, have lunch, refuel the brain, and finish up the task from there.

You know what happened to that.

The death of good intentions in the fires of creative flip-flopping

My good intentions DID carry over, at least for a little while. I sat down to make the final polishing-edits on the one piece. The more I pulled it together, the better I felt about the prose, and I lost track of the time going by. When I got up for a drink of water, the afternoon was gone.

Damn. I had had other plans for the rest of my day. After all, I was going to submit in the morning, so all the rest of the hours could be allocated for other things.

That’s fine, I told myself, as I had to make a few phone calls and buy food for dinner. I have the rest of the weekend. I have the rest of the week — by next weekend, this will all be taken care of.

I could write you a list of all the other things I had to do during that week, but I won’t. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

Research shows that we have a finite amount of energy for decision-making processes. Making a decision is a lot of work for the brain. We may start out fresh in the morning (or not, if you’re me, and the alarm goes off way too early), but throughout the day we deplete our stores of mental energy through use. Come mid-afternoon, I’m tapped out. Which is sort of sad, since I’m doing work for other people for most of the day, and my own time in the evening is then relegated to a period of vegetation on the couch, with a restorative book in hand or Netflix queued up on the computer… ah brainlessness… Pending the decision on what I’m going to watch or read, of course.

It seems to me that I’m just too stubborn.  My will will not submit.

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What about you? Do you submit?

“Busy” is a great way to destroy your creativity

Too Busy and Important to write: the age-old excuse

graffiti art tag Busy

CC image Busy courtesy of Steve Rotman on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Ah, dear neglected Blog, what strangers we have become. Seeing each other only rarely, yet remembering all the old fondness we had for each other, we have become shy in each others’ company and this keeps us from doing what we love. In this case, our words.

I can make many excuses for my neglect. Chief among them, this year, has been Busyness. Ah, the cardinal sin of Busy. Busy covers so much territory. It carries itself with moral rectitude. You can’t really assail Busy, because Busy involves good things, like:

  • Work. We like Work! Since we earn our own bread, we appreciate anything that helps us eat. Also: sleep indoors, and meet other obligations. For months now, we have been saying, “Gee, I am swamped with all this Work!”
  • Play. With all this Work going on, it’s imperative to also make room for Play. All Work and no Play leads Jill down the path of diminishing Work performance and returns. Funny thing, that. Play is necessary for Work. Also, Play is necessary for Writing. Sorry, Writing. We’re setting the stage for you here. Truly, we are.
  • Sleeping. This is a very underrated activity which also has an perverse correlation (up to a certain point) with both Work and Play productivity. The less we sleep, the less we get done. Ironic, no? I mean, this is why some of us pulled all-nighters in college. To get stuff done. Not me, though. My one attempt was a total disaster on all fronts (I fell asleep and didn’t actually finish the paper). I am a failure at all-nighters.

Depending on my train of thought, I imbue Writing (which encompasses Blog) with self-awareness, a personality, and desires. Writing could be a small child, or an insect, or Tyrannosaurus Rex. At this moment, Writing is kind of like the family dog, an older Golden Retriever mix perhaps, sitting by the closed front door with its leash dangling from its mouth. The dog follows me with its eyes, which I avoid meeting as much as possible. Whenever I walk past close enough, I hear a sad little thumping which is the tail against the floor, an irregular rhythm, still hopeful that soon, it will get to go out on that walk. No matter how many times I’ve passed by here before and then carried on with Other Stuff, the hope persists. Thump thump.  Thump.

But Busy wins. So sad.

These longing glances remind me of one of the big reasons I decided to begin working for myself in the first place. Freelance. The word “free” in that compound word is a dangerous crumb of vocabulary. We have a lot of good associations with the word free. Things like free candy (without cost), free will (yes, it’s all about ME!), free time (no one can tell us what to do).  The problem is, nature abhors a vacuum, and there’s always something ready to rush in to fill the void when we clear it out with “free.”

In the case of freelance, I’ve cleared out the boss… which makes room for me to be the new Boss.

I had no illusions that freelance would be a lot of work (I did have a good dose of ignorance, though). I’m good at organizing my time, too, so I didn’t think setting my own schedule would be a problem (this is true). If I have a project that needs doing, I get it done. What I realize I am struggling with is work exhaustion. I’ll keep doing and doing and doing, because I like being able to pay my bills. As a result, I get more and more tired, and Sleep takes over a lot more time in my schedule which I thought would be devoted to Writing.

My illusion about freelance work is that I’d have the time flexibility to work on more creative projects while handling my own business projects. Turns out, I just replaced one tyrant with another, namely myself. Now I work all the time and am too tired to write, and I have no outside party or situation to blame for my failure to make progress on my creative dreams.

I have only myself.

Now that’s an eye-opener.

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How does Busy show up in your life?

Reboot

fine art abstract drawing black and white

Sometimes chaos is better… CC image Order from Chaos by lokate366. Some rights reserved.

I’ve been struggling with this blog since the turn of the year. Which is why I haven’t been able to post anything here, until today.

Of course the end-of-year holidays provided their own source of distraction and time commitment. On top of that, however, a much bigger concern has been looming over my head with regard to what I’m writing and sending out into the world via this wee forum.

For the first time ever, I think, I took the changing of the year as a springboard to look over my work and creative crises. What I saw did not fill me with glee — but then, I’m not known for being particularly kind to myself. Recognizing this, I decided to take the opportunity to re-set in the new year with a fresh outlook and retooled goals.

The fresh outlook and goals covers every category of my life, including this blog. I had an idea of what I wanted to say when I launched it, and this past year I’ve felt more and more confused about my message. What story was I telling, after all?

Like a lot of people who start blogs and then go freelance, I had grandiose ideas at first. Alas, the ideas were a hodgepodge of themes, and so I found myself facing the same questions over and over each time I went to post content, only they got louder and in a bigger typeface each time:

  • Does this fit with my overall theme?
  • Wait — what IS the overall theme? There are at least two.
  • No, three.
  • If so, it’ll definitely fit. Because it hits at least one of the themes. Right?
  • …Won’t this just look like a bigger mess as I go along?

The crux of the matter was my obstinate attempt to be practical and useful with my blog. To be Above it All, and Wise. Except whenever I sat down to write, I found myself sinuously winding along a whimsical, playful, sometimes painful personal creative vein.

I didn’t share all of that. Because it didn’t fit.  And partly because sharing is hard (with deference to Havi here).

And my inner self wasn’t letting me get away with it. My inner self threw creative tantrums.

More and more, I wanted to talk about thoughts and ideas and inspirational nuggets and dream-babies of mine that had NO OBVIOUS PRACTICAL PURPOSE.

That’s right! About Art with a capital A!

Shocking. Downright provocative. I know — a blog about creativity and art that was — playing with creativity and art?

Say it ain’t so.

Truth: I need to find harmony with myself, and I need to find honesty with myself also. I’m simply not getting anywhere cutting out a part of myself and pretending it doesn’t exist. I signed up for a Voice & Speech class at the start of the year, which is known to be a place where people become blubbering emotive puddles, and I became a blubbering emotive puddle during THE FIRST CLASS, trying to say this out loud.

I can be practical. I can be. Just like I can be organized. Periodically. And I can be logical. In a crisis, when you need a cool head, that’s me.

The fact is, though, that my personality test results tell me I’m intuitive, feeling, and perceiving. Did I need a personality test for this? I am a stereotype. Everybody knows this about me. I am a sensory being, putting on intellectual armor over my creations before I sally forth.

I’m tired of trying to make this blog fit some preconceived mold. I’m not 100% sure what it’s going to look like, but I know what it’s NOT going to look like. It’s definitely NOT going to look like a thesis outline. More like a paint splatter. Because the point of creativity, writing and art is that they are FUN. And gosh darn it, I’m going to have fun talking about them here.*

Do you have fun stuff? Share in the comments!
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*Because I am nothing if not ambitious, I might be pursuing the more “serious” ideas in a more “serious” forum. No promises.

A Tale of Two Bed Frames:

recognizing when we use petty problems to cover more serious self-examination

Have you ever come to the unpleasant realization that you have participated in your own cover-up?

rows of metal bed frames lined up on a dusty street

CC photo “Beds” courtesy of cerebusfangirl on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

That you were your own architect, director of misinformation, and willing dupe? That, in fact, you’ve been avoiding a certain situation by creating some ancillary drama?

I have.

As I sat at my table/desk the other day, trying once again to organize my life, I surveyed the scene in my apartment.

It was a mess. I could only see patches of floor space between the scattered belongings. Everywhere I walked, I stepped on grit. Toppling arrangements of paper and books adorned the surfaces of tables.

My apartment had been a mess for going on two weeks, and was getting worse. The cause: bed frames.

I had two, in a small studio apartment, and I wasn’t sleeping on either of them. I was sleeping on the floor.

I sighed, thinking about all the other parts of my life that weren’t working, either. Then, I suddenly connected the dots.

Bed chaos = life chaos.

The disorder in my apartment was a microcosm of the rest of my life.

Behold: there were two

One of the bed frames, a white metal daybed, was loaned to me by a friend for a few months. Now was the time to return it. Disassembling the daybed was easy: one T25 screwdriver to remove four screws that held the center of the daybed frame to the head- and footboards; eight more screws (two per leg) attaching the head- and footboards to the metal spring frame. Final count: four metal pieces (headboard, footboard, center piece, and frame) and a handful of screws.

I couldn’t fit the frame into my car, as I discovered after I disassembled the bed and lugged all the pieces down two flights of stairs. My friend, who has an SUV, couldn’t pick up her bed for a few more days. I decided against putting the bed back together, and stacked the pieces against the wall in the corner.

The other frame was from IKEA. I got the cheapest wood option. The box containing the pieces was sleek enough: a long, flat rectangle, about 7 feet by 10 inches by 3 inches. There were a considerable number of pieces, however. The headboard alone contained seven pieces of wood, 10 wooden dowels, and four screws.

The IKEA frame was my Frankenstein, only I couldn’t find the spark of life.

I put together the headboard, and the footboard, and was in the process of trying to connect them via the long pieces which support the mattress, before I decided I’d much rather throw the whole lot out the window rather than wrestle with them any further. The long board did NOT want to attach to the headboard, no matter which long screw I used. About one AM, tired of cajoling splintery pieces of pine, I shoved aside my tools and put the mattress on the floor to sleep.

That’s where all the pieces stayed for another week. The headboard and one incompletely connected long piece of the IKEA frame lay on the floor and leaned up against another wall, catty-corner from the daybed, taking up more valuable space. I left the remaining screws, dowels, and metal supports scattered across tables and chairs.

What a disaster, I thought occasionally over the course of the next few days, looking at the stacks, the dust, the sprawled mattress and pieces of bed frame scattered around the room. If only I actually had a bed and all this went away...

Which was when it dawned on me.

I could clean up this mess… and then what?

If the bed frame mess magically went away, I had other aspects of my life to complain about. A list of disasters, in fact.

The bed situation was just a cover.

I’d deconstructed the simple, the straightforward, and borrowed, but I wasn’t able to clear it out of my life. I waited. I hung onto stuff which I would be better served letting go.

Then I’d chosen a cheap and complicated replacement, which turned out to be needlessly difficult to incorporate into my life, and of poor quality. I chose it for myself although I wanted better, because I thought that was all that I could get.

Sound familiar? I’m willing to bet that most of you can relate.

Don’t be fooled.

The bed frames are just a cover. If you take a closer look, I’m willing to bet there’s another mess hiding in the wings that you’d rather not examine. Confession time: when was the last time you created a little drama to distract you from a deeper issue?

Muse Hunting

3 lists you need to get creative

author with a bust of Hans Christian Anderson in Solvang

Musing… with Hans Christian Anderson

You’re supposed to be writing.

Or making art.

You’re supposed to be being productive, anyway.

What’s happened? Cat got your brain cells?

We’ve got plenty of “shoulds” in our lives. There are self-imposed shoulds, like, “I should get up earlier” (I dislike this one). There are work-
imposed shoulds, such as, “I have a deadline today at 5pm.” There are creative shoulds, similar to this one: “I haven’t made any time to shoot pictures this week. I should really do that.”

Some shoulds are more demanding than others. We could say those shoulds have PRIORITY. That doesn’t make them any easier to accomplish than the lower-priority shoulds. In fact, sometimes that makes them harder. Or it brings out our inner five-year-old, who JUST DOESN’T WANNA!

Is today such a day for you?

For those of us in chase of the muse, I have put together the following three lists of necessities for muse hunting. Fear not. They aren’t long. Just like you can’t bake a cake without flour (I’m not saying the flour has to have gluten in it), you won’t be able to get a handle on the muse without the following ingredients. Some of the items are commonplace and easy to procure. Others may be more esoteric. These lists are NOT exhaustive. How long do you want this blog post to be?

The three lists correspond to three categories: The Tangibles, The Intangibles, and The Physique. We would be wise to think in three dimensions when hunting the muse.

Here goes.

3 x 10 ITEMS YOU NEED TO HUNT THE MUSE

Category 1: The Tangibles
Yes, we can touch these. No hunter or gatherer (on Earth, anyway) gets dinner by sitting in a corner to meditate. Likewise, you won’t catch the muse without

  • a pen, a pencil, a piece of paper, a camera, a paintbrush, or a computer — I mean, hello!
  • a club (thank you, Jack London)
  • a better mousetrap
  • peanut butter/chocolate/wine/cheese/cookies/Chinese food or Your Consumable of Choice
  • space — to pace around in
  • a floor — to lie on when it’s just NOT WORKING
  • the ceiling — to stare at while you’re on the floor
  • curtains — so your neighbors can’t see you dancing around in your pajamas or underwear
  • pajamas and/or underwear
  • bait. With what can we tempt the muse?

Category 2: The Intangibles
We’re not going to be successful hunters without the right attitude. Haven’t you watched enough football movies? Anybody can hold a pencil or lie on the floor. To corner the muse and truly make her ours we also need

  • time — yes, precious!
  • a closed door — do not open it. It does not lead to the castle at the center of the labyrinth.
  • a deadline — an actual one. When you miss it, you experience physical consequences. Heartburn is a physical consequence.
  • a sense of humor
  • wit
  • cunning
  • recklessness — no muse ever cared for a safe harbor
  • a willingness to get dirty
  • a flair for the dramatic
  • selfishness — MY muse, MINE!

Category 3: The Physique
All winners train. The muse doesn’t walk up to slackers and tap them on the head. The muse wants your blood, sweat, and tears. Deliver by trying some of these

  • a walk or a run
  • yoga or tai chi
  • gardening
  • cleaning out the basement
  • throwing a temper tantrum
  • washing your car
  • washing your friend’s car
  • playing with the dog and/or cat
  • dancing — which you can do with the aforementioned curtains open or closed
  • yelling, singing, or caterwauling — alone or in chorus

What have I left off the lists? What unusual sources have you visited to find your muse-hunting tools? Let me know in the comments.

Happy hunting!