Reading…

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Actual picture of my bookcase. Note the vases and general crap in front of all the books.

I have a confession to make.

I have not read a physical book of more than 25 pages since I graduated from Grad School.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I had to re-read The Hunger Games in order to teach it to my class last fall, and I’ve picked up various books to start reading them since then, but I haven’t really had/taken the time to actually read a book for my own pleasure.

Not that I haven’t been reading. I read at least ten books a day — Of the cardboard variety. And, of course, I read articles and posts online on my computer and on my phone all the time. Articles are much easier put down when someone shouts from the other room that she needs help wiping herself. The article doesn’t lose its place so that I have to re-read the same paragraph each of the five times I go back to it over the course of the three hours it takes me to finish reading it.

I haven’t thought much about this fact in a while. I read a lot while in college, of course, but not so much in grad school. I had less time and more going on outside of school to deal with. I read all of the books I needed to for school and loved it, but I didn’t really take the time to read anything that wasn’t assigned to me.

Another fact has become increasingly apparent to me, and I think the two are probably related: I haven’t been writing. Other than Facebook updates and things that are necessary for basic communications, I haven’t been writing on my novel, any songs, on any short stories, or here (as I’m sure you’ve noticed). And while the last couple of posts here have been about living my life and being okay with being away from my online presence, I think that this is something that I need to address in my life.

Because let’s face it, I still have a lot to say. I still have things I want to say to the world. I still have characters and stories and ideas in my head that are trying to get out. But these things aren’t going to find an outlet or a road into the greater world without a little help. Words pave these roads and blast through the mountains of doubt and writer’s block. Ideas help fuel the energy to bring incorporeal things to life, to create, to birth.

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“Thanksgiving” cactus blooming at MorSkies Ranch

 

So in order to do justice to the voices in my head, I am going to try to focus back on my creativity. Writing has always been a big part of my life, but I’m not feeding it in the same way that I did. Without reading and putting in words and ideas, I’m not getting anything out. Anything that isn’t nurtured and taken care of isn’t going to flourish.

I’m just hoping that what I have is a cactus that simply needs a little water to bloom.

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Jumping Back In

I am not going to apologize for how long it’s been since I’ve posted, and if you want to know why, check out the post before this one (Life Training is Job Training). I will say that it is partially due to the 2 1/2 year old that I mentioned in my last post was fourteen months old at the time. Also due to her little sister who is now almost 3 months old. It’s been a busy year!

But despite busy, two kids, back to work, and trying to keep sane, I am still attempting NaNoWriMo this year. It’s been longer ago that I wrote on any stories than I’ve written here. I haven’t had any time to read unless I was looking up suggestions for first-time bottle feeding or how to help a toddler calm down from a fit. I fall asleep trying to watch movies or TV shows on Netflix. Fiction has been thin in my life lately.

But recently,writing has come up more often in my life. It started with ads for MasterClass’s writing class taught by James Patterson (while a class with James Patterson would be amazing, I’d rather not be one of millions of sycophants staring at a screen with bated breath). That must have been enough of a suggestion that my mind wandered back toward writing and writing-related activities. I found myself thinking and talking about my novel again, trying to find out who was looking at my facebook artist’s page (*waves at the new folks who might have found MfA through that*), signing back onto WordPress and wanting to post.

And signing back on to NaNoWriMo for the first time in three years. If you’ve never heard of National Novel Writing Month, you should check out the link above and at least witness the craziness that is 50,000 words in 30 days. It is silly to think that someone could really write a novel in a month, but it is also so much fun participating and egging on your friends, that I’ve thought about it every November since I first learned about it my senior year of college. This year, the draw is strong.

I will admit that I’m taking it a little easy, jumping back into crazy writing fury with both feet. I’m working on a novel that I’ve already written 35,000 words on before. But I will attempt to write 50,000 new words on that one novel, and hopefully by the time I’m done with November, I’ll have 85,000 words that I can pare down into a decent novel. And if I at least reach 50,000 words total, it will be a small victory, even if I don’t win the month.

So I’ll work on a novel that’s not already in it’s fourth draft, but one that’s not brand new, either. Maybe if I can keep writing this year, I’ll tackle something else out of my Look At Later file next NaNoWriMo.

But I’m going to get through this November first.

P.S. Keep track of my NaNoWriMo progress under the name goodevilangel or on my facebook artist’s page! Friend me or like my page to cheer me on!

Life training is job training

As I hang out with my fourteen month old daughter and watch her alternate between playing with the puppy and eating the de-husked pieces of popcorn that I’m leaving for her (sometimes both at once as she feeds the popcorn to the puppy), a sentence occurs to me that is one of those great truths that we come up with once in a while:

Being a mother is being everything to everyone, all the time… and on half the sleep.

<img src=" http://mybabyexperience.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/motherhood-quotes.jpg&quot;

Now I know that this blog is supposed to be about writing and teaching and learning, but that's exactly why my kid, husband, puppy, and kitty (and mom, and dad, and brother, and in-laws and…) all make appearances. I do think that a lot of what I have learned being a wife and mother is helping prepare me for whatever is ahead of me in the classroom. If you have experience being a mother or mother figure, you know that you have be be prepared for people with different needs and perspectives, and you have to be able to change up what you're doing with no warning.

Teaching someone who can't talk, and who you can't tell if they understand anything you are teaching them, is certainly good training for teaching any one. You have to think of so many different ways to explain things including visual and auditory, and you can't just rely on the text book. You can't expect the pupil to conform to your way of teaching, you have to figure out how the pupil learns the best and go with that. You have to try to cover all of the bases and teach everything that you can think of that might possibly apply, then you have to let go and watch what happens. And let's not forget the innate ability of babies and toddlers to turn any adult goofy.

Now, that's not to say that you should hold the hand of every one of your students and spend every waking moment working on new and different ways to write you assignments, but a little creativity and fun go a long way to helping your students figure out how they learn best. I had the great good fortune to be home schooled for most of my formative years, and that helped me figure out how I learn best. Unfortunately, most of your students will have gone through a standard school system with overworked teachers and strict requirements that don't allow a great deal of creative thinking or exploration. The best teachers, the ones that your students look up to and remember years after graduation, will be the ones who were creative and exploratory, anyway.

I'm not saying that everyone should run right out and find a baby to raise, but there are opportunities for everyone to mother or mentor.  If you take these opportunities, not only will they often look really good on a resume, but they will help enrich your life and teaching experience, as well. Every teaching experience is also a learning experience, and should be appreciated for it.

And going to college was the second best test for how much I could get done on too little sleep…

I know it’s been a while, but…

No, I didn’t intend for this post to be at the end of a long hiatus (not to be pronounced, “Hate-Us”). I’ve been spending the last few weeks with family, friends, looking and applying for day jobs, and trying to get my house in order in case I get one of those day jobs. Somewhere in the middle of it, I remembered that I’d left you all waiting, and suddenly I had a topic for this blog post.

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Ooh, hot fudge...

I can not count how many times I’ve had a blog, a social media site, any kind of writer’s group, or anything where people expect you to participate regularly and I’ve had to say, “I know I haven’t been here/on/posting in a while, but I’m still here, and this is the update of my life!” I don’t now if I’m that busy, that easily bored, or just that easily distracted, but even if I can get into a rhythm of things, I often get off track for a while and have to catch up or apologize because I’ve been gone. (fun fact, rhythm is the only word in the English language without a proper vowel in it!)

The thing is, we’re human, and we’re not going to be perfect. It’s the whole sad truth, but there it is. Even those of us that are driven and punctual have stuff happen and make them late and miss things, or so I’ve been told. Life happens, and we WANT it to happen. So why to we feel so guilty when it does? Why do we feel like we can’t go back to that writer’s group or gym or blog every time we miss a few sessions? Do we really have to cancel membership or start a whole new blog to keep going?

No! We need to get back on that elephant and ride it to the bazaar!

Every time my favorite bloggers and online comics take a break, I am saddened and slightly adrift. At least until I remember how many thousands of other blogs and comics there are on the web. But then when they come back, it’s like Christmas! I get ridiculously excited to see what new things are going to come out of my favorite minds. Sometimes they are whole new projects, sometimes just new things that are informed by what those minds were doing that took them away in the first place.

And that’s the thing about having a life — it might take you away from what you want to do for awhile, but it almost always brings you back to it, and it will add depth and interesting things to whatever it is once you’ve returned. “A writer – and, I believe, generally all persons – must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource,” said Jorge Louis Borges. So appreciate those resources when they happen and for however long it takes to happen. Just make sure you tell us all about it when you get back.

Henry David Thoreau said, “How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live.” If that means that writers need to take a little time off for living, do it! Now to apply that same pep talk to my yoga practice…

“Hi, I’m Caitlin, and I’m a writer…”

This is your cue to chorus back, “Hi Caitlin.”

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David H. from strobist.blogspot.com, "Book Club"

Again, I am being facetious (and if you don’t know what that word means, you should go look it up). While this post is about support for you and your writing, I don’t really think that every writer should be part of a twelve step program. While Anton Chekhov said “If you can not write, don’t,” (well, it has been attributed to many different people, but I heard it was Checkov), I don’t really see it as something we need to recover from in that way.

What I am talking about is support for you so you can write. If you have to take care of a day job, a night job, full time schooling, children, parents, a spouse, a house, a roommate… or any  combination of these things, you probably find it difficult to find time to write. While we have all heard about the people who have all or most of those things and still manage to eke out the best novel of the year that wins a dozen awards before it’s even published, it is much easier to write if you have help with the rest of your life.

This occurs to me this week as I celebrate my wonderful family for many different reasons. My daughter turned one, my grandfather is turning 89, my brother is turning 34, my dog and cat are both turning two, and it’s mother’s day, so we’re just partying as often as humanly possible. I am planning or helping to facilitate many of these parties. I stole time away while I’m baking a birthday cake to write this (hooray mutlitasking).

Obviously every parent needs some sort of support just for life, and if you can use that support to help you write, then you don’t really need this post. If it’s never occurred to you to use that support to help you write, then maybe you should start there and figure out if maybe grandma and grandpa can take the little ones for a few hours every Tuesday and Thursday or something like that. I see it as a blessing and a necessity for every writer to have someone who supports and validates their work.

And to that end, I would say that if you don’t have a very supportive family, you should seek out other like minded individuals. When I was in college, I had a group of friends who were all English-ly inclined, and we decided that we were interested in reading each others’ work and getting feedback on our own in a less formal setting. We started Girl’s Write Out, and we had a great time getting together, reading and commenting, generally kibitzing, and drinking too much coffee. It is pretty likely that someone in your area already had this idea, and there is some sort of writer’s group around that you can investigate joining.

It is important to be careful about the writer’s group that you join because some groups are far too critical of everyone’s work and some far too little. You really need to sit in on a few sessions, maybe ask them a little bit about your own work, and feel out if they are a good fit. While it’s a huge benefit to be in a group that you work well with, a bad writer’s group is much worse than not having a writer’s group at all.

Writing can be too solitary an exercise, and a writer’s group can not only help you move out of your shell and improve your writing, but often it helps you network and meet people who can help you with editing, publishing, and maybe even some day, cover art.

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