The Morning Pages

by RS on June 6, 2015

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I decided on my birthday in April to follow Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a twelve-week program that inspires and nurtures the creative spirit. One of the exercises—and it’s one you have to do no if or buts about it—is what Cameron calls “The Morning Pages.”

Every morning before you do anything—walk the dogs or check email—you get up early to write three full pages—front and back. Thank goodness for Rhodia notebooks that don’t measure 8.5 by 11 inches because writing those three full pages has been and is a struggle.

Does that surprise you considering my posts tend to blather on and on? Truth be told, I don’t want to bare my soul first thing in the morning. Most of what I write on those pages are related to work, finances, some writing, the weather, and maybe if something is really bothering me, but over the years I’ve learned to keep certain topics internalized.

Surprising, right? I come across as a forthright person so why should it be so difficult to just spew out the joy, the frustrations, and the pain? I’ve discovered that writing about frustrations bores me because I come across like a broken record (remember those?). The joy has to be something that’s so out of this world (I have an agent! I have a major book deal and a six-figure advance! I’m moving to Paris!) that I can’t contain myself, but the pain, involving a whole slew of items from actual physical pain (there is none) to mental pain (oh, how I torture myself) and that is too hard to put down on paper.

When I start writing about my fears it feels as if I’m sitting at a therapist’s office with the onset of a flash flood of tears. Crying over events from the past that hurt me and that I can’t change; constantly worrying over the state of my health (I’ve become a hypochondriac); fears about the writing (thank you Grammarly, I really thought I understood comma usage) and a slew of other things that are enough to give me angina (see, what I mean?)

These morning pages have become the bane of my morning. There are days I’m able to write three full pages because I’ve latched on to an idea and just go with it, but most of the time I struggle. Some days I write two pages and other days I write one page (and, ahem, I’ve skipped a few days here and there). When I don’t write those three full pages, I feel terribly guilty and I that’s when I’m convinced I don’t have this writing passion. No matter how much I try to nurture to encourage myself, it’s simply not there.

Yet, recently, I’ve surprised myself. For a recent article, the words flew off the keyboard and landed onto the screen without having to use the delete key and make edits (as I did just a second ago, but that’s good too, the editing brain is working).

So there’s a lesson here. Maybe those morning pages are working in spite of how much I hate them. Creating art is all about joy, frustrations, and pain. I realized what I’m doing, avoiding that tsunami of emotion, I am stifling my creative self.

So, Julia Cameron, you’ve succeeded in convincing me of why I need to write those blasted morning pages. There will be mornings I’ll moan I have nothing to say for three full pages, but there will be other days when I’ll be laying out my guts and tears on the page.

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Hello, I’m Still Here

by RS on May 11, 2015

Image: Courtesy of www.nikon.com

My hibernation ended. It is as sunny like a grilled cheese sandwich (that’s what the beagle would say if he could speak). The winter was too long here in the woods, and even longer for me because of a health issue that had me worried. Fortunately, everything is fine. The dogs are fine. Work is fine. I’m fine. Well…almost everything is fine. What isn’t fine is the writing.

Have I hit a wall? Yes and no. I spent the last three months preoccupied with my health and decided I needed a break. I spent a good deal of time reading, averaging about a book a week. Work kept me busy: Scrivener classes plus writing and editing articles.

When I wasn’t busy with work or reading, my mind wandered to an uncertain future. Or—better put—any future. Yes, I was that concerned. Looking back on the whole experience, I was a tad melodramatic.

I won’t share the details of the malady because I’m not quite ready to announce it to the world, but I’ll say this: get annual check-ups. Don’t make excuses as I did about not having any time or not having health insurance or not trusting doctors. Don’t be as stupid as I was because you won’t necessarily be as lucky. If you haven’t had a physical in a long time call your doctor today and make an appointment.

After this health scare, I decided I wanted to change a number of things in my life. You don’t realize how short life is until you’re facing a serious illness. That’s when you want to take stock of everything you’ve done, figure whatever time you might have to do it better, and be happy (seriously, I’m fine).

Changes include a full glass attitude and avoiding the snark (although I still have my moments); I’m looking for ways I can improve my life via nutrition, exercise, but also spiritually.

I’ve become a middle-aged cliché, but wellness has always been a keen interest. But because I’ve been lazy, in good health, or have been in a caretaker position and ignored my needs, it’s never been a priority.

Until now.

I’ve learned during these three months you can’t control outside forces. I know that’s not a grand epiphany but for someone who is a closet perfectionist, control freak, and tends to react to situations that are not within my control this was a revelation. Thus the big takeaway is….respond and not react, and it’s become my motto of late.

When I find myself in that panicky fight or flight mode, I take a deep breath and respond to the predicament. Unlike my former instantaneous reaction of “Oh, CRAP!” Now it’s “Okay, take the time to figure out what you need to do.”

I still have quite a bit to figure out. However this need for an instant resolution can wait until I’ve come up with a feasible response that make sense to everyone, but most of all to me.

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I posted this on LinkedIn in part because I want to expand my audience and learn how to use the blogging application LinkedIn provides. However, I think the post is worth repeating here….

I’ve been blogging about Scrivener since late 2010 when Literature and Latte first released the Windows beta version. Although there were other bloggers, notably Gwen Hernandez, who blogged about the Mac version, I decided that Windows users needed some guidance. Visits to my blog increased, and even when I went over to the dark side and bought a Mac, I continued with the tutorials although now they were Mac-based.

How did people find me? I suppose I’m good with SEO search terms because there are hundreds of Scrivener tutorials out in the interwebs. Nevertheless, I seemed to have a nice following, and I was pleased by the positive responses I was receiving in the comments section of my blog.

However, I found that most of the visits to the blog were primarily because of Scrivener and I felt that was diluting my “brand” as a writer. I’m not a tech writer. I write about international handcrafts, book reviews, dogs, the great outdoors, and my trials and tribulations of writing fiction. So I decided that I wanted to keep the Scrivener tutorials separate and launched Simply Scrivener, which is exactly what the title alludes to–nothing but Scrivener.

Within a month of Simply Scrivener’s debut, I was asked if I would be interested to teach a class via the Romance Writers of America’s Colorado chapter. I had been referred by the Scrivener master herself, Gwen Hernandez. Of course, I jumped at the chance.

Since April 2014 I’ve taught four Scrivener sessions, and this year I launched my own private sessions, consisting of 25 classes for five weeks. What have I learned from the experience?

  • You can always improve the lessons. Never be satisfied with the current lesson. Read it carefully and simplify it.
  • Just like in social media, an images speaks a thousand words. I’m a visual person. If you instruct me to follow steps A through G. I need to see what the screen looks like at the very end. I knew this early on when I started blogging, but now I’ve included more images to show the process.
  • Use other apps to help you write your tutorials. I mainly write in Scrivener, but I take screenshots, and I’ve learned how to use the various features in Apple’s Preview to label, circle certain features and so forth.
  • Be creative. I currently teach my course via daily email tutorials in PDF format, but back to the above points of incorporating images and apps, I’m now venturing into the world of video with the goal to make the lessons easier to follow.
  • Add bonus lessons. Don’t be a stick-in-the-mud and stick to the syllabus. Be flexible. Add a week to the curriculum for questions and answers. Add an extra lesson to get students excited to learn more–especially if you’re teaching a software application. Give them a PDF of all the lessons combined so they don’t have to search in their emails for a certain lesson.
  • And lastly, have fun and keep learning.

If you want to learn more about Scrivener and the private classes I teach, please drop me a line. Note: if you don’t want to take the entire five week course, but want to learn certain tools, I can provide mini one week course.

 

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