Friday, February 29, 2008

Day 29: Farewell to FEBO!

February 29th. The last day of February and of FEBO. Where do we go from here?

A Musing Mom, Donna Alice, and NancyE have suggested a Yahoo Group. That would give us all the ability to chime in whenever, and I like that.

Here is my one reservation, because I have also considered this alternative. I already belong to an on-line crit group--through Yahoo groups. I absolutely adore my group, but it can also be time consuming by spells. If I can discipline myself to turn off my email during "writing time," so that I'm not always being interrupted by Yahoo messages, I think it might work.

Let me ponder this possibility and get back to you. I don't want to lose touch with you guys. In fact, I'd like to know you better. And I'd like to have some gentle accountability to meet my writing goals. And I'd like to see all of you reach your goals too!

So, on to MARMO!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Day 27: Confessions of a Reluctant Blogger

Actually, I didn't set out to do a blog.

I have nothing against blogs. In fact, I greatly admire all you writers who take the time to blog. You are amazing. And some day I may really want to do a blog on some topic that floats my boat.

But for me, FEBO isn't about a blog. It's about connecting with other writers for mutual support and encouragement as we set out to make writing a daily habit, to set goals and reach them, little by little--or chunk by chunk as Peaches put it in her latest entry on The Word Place.

This month has flown by a lot faster than a typical February. I have been so inspired by Llama Mama and A Musing Mom and bbear and Donna Alice and Katiebee and nlindabrit and NancyE and everyone of you. I guess time really does fly when you're having fun.

I have struggled in February to reach my goals, but I don't want to quit. I don't want to lose touch with all of you. I hope to keep going on into MARMO.

But as I said, I didn't set out to do a blog. Do any of you know of a place in cyber space where we could have more of a forum, a place where we could just check in now and then to report on how we're doing? Sort of like a blog, but not with one person pontificating and others adding comments in fine print--a place where we could all chime in as equals?

There may not be a better way to do it than this. . .as a series of linked blogs. But I am open to suggestions.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Day 23: Little by little

If at first you don't succeed, lower your expectations!

This modern take on an old proverb seems like a cop-out at first glance, but it contains a germ of truth.

Sometimes we "fail" simply because we set unrealistic goals for how much we're going to accomplish (write two chapters a day) or how fast we're going to get it done (lose 40 pounds this month).

I don't know if my Febo goals were unrealistic or not. But I do know that a lot of stuff came up this month that I wasn't expecting. Sickness. House guests. Family stuff. And exactly why did I invite all those people to dinner next week? :~)

So I've decided that it's better to "lower my expectations" than to quit.

I am reminded of another proverb, this one from the book of Proverbs in the Bible:

Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow. --Prov. 13:11

The writer of this passage was talking about acquiring wealth, but it applies nicely to writing a book too. Brick by brick. Page by page. Day by day. With patience and persistence, little by little adds up to a lot.

There are some expectations I refuse to lower. I don't want to compromise on quality. I don't want to compromise on completing the writing project I'm working on. It may take a little longer than I had hoped, but I'm going to reach the finish line--little by little.

FEBO was never really about seeing how many words we can generate in one marathon month. It's about forming new writing habits for a lifetime.

In the immortal words of Peaches:

I think maybe there's only one rule when it comes to writing--DON'T QUIT!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Day 19

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.

--Somerset Maugham

This is one of my favorite writing quotes. It pretty much says it for me. Writing is an exploratory expedition. If there are three rules--or two or ten--I'm going to have to find them on my own. I can only learn to write by writing.

If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.
--Louis L’Amour

What a crazy endeavor writing is. You have to start a sentence (like this one) or a blog entry (ditto) or a chapter or an essay without knowing exactly where you will end up. Even if you make a plan. Even if you think you know the ending.

Heather Sellers, the author of
Chapter by Chapter, compares writing to faith:

When you write, you believe in something no one else can see. You spend lots of time committed to a project for which there are no assurances, no guarantees. Being a writer subjects you to the same doubts, the same unpopularity, the same nagging questions that believers struggle with.

And yet it is amazing how when you do take that leap of faith onto the blank page, things begin to shape up and come together in unexpected ways. Quirky new characters drop in for tea. The plot thickens. You take a walk in the woods and a startled chipmunk gives you a new idea. While you sleep, the answer to a story problem comes in a dream. There seems to be something about courageously setting out that invites the things you need to finish the work.

Watch for these gifts, and accept them gratefully

Friday, February 15, 2008

Day 15: Mid Point

Today is day 15 of FEBO, the middle day of February in the year 2008. If the writing life were a linear, logical progression, you would be half done with your writing goals for February.


But it's not. At least it's not for me. I got side-swiped by a flu bug early in the month, and this feels more like Day 7. Maybe you were derailed by something else, and you're actually on Day 10. Or maybe you're just joining FEBO today, and this is Day 1.

FEBO really isn't about yesterday--with its failures or successes. And it's not about tomorrow--when we fantasize about how organized we're going to get and all that we'll do some day.

FEBO is about TODAY. About setting writing goals and working on them today. Today is a fresh start, a clean page.

To paraphrase Aragorn's battle speech in The Lord of the Rings: "The day may come when the hearts of men will fail. . .but it is not this day. This day we write!"

So, welcome, one and all, to Day 1.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Day 14: A Valentine for Writers

Dear Writer. . . .

You may not be rich.

Or famous.

You may not get letters from adoring readers or crazed fans.

You may not be doing the talk show circuit to promote your latest best seller.

You may feel like you’re never going to get a break / be discovered / find an agent / finish the stupid book you’ve been writing since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

But still you keep plugging away in the face of discouragement and set-backs and rejections and gray sky days and the temptation to throw your computer out the top window of a thirteen story building.

You write in your journal. You enter contests. You send out queries. You jot down ideas on table napkins and church bulletins or the back of your electric bill. You trade critiques with other writers and keep working on ways to make your story or poem or article better than it was before.

You do it for love.

You do it for the love of creating order and meaning and beauty with words.

You do it because you have been given a gift, and you want to give back.

You do it in spite of everything. You do it anyway.

Here's to you, faithful word smith!


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Day 13

This morning I set the alarm on my phone to go off in one hour, and then I jumped into the day's writing. I knew that I could stop as soon as the buzzer sounded but not a moment before.

Now I can't wait until my next trip to Walmart or Target, because I'm going to buy a timer.

Somehow using a timer is different from just glancing at the clock and saying, "Okay, now I'm gonna write for an hour." Maybe it's because the clock is vague. On clock time I can be distracted or interrupted. On clock time, I can procrastinate. On clock time, one hour is often interchangeable with another hour. But timer time is writing time. It has a beginning and a definite end. When it's over I can quit, confident that I met my goal for the day. Or I can continue, knowing that now I'm doing extra!

When I had a job, my boss would have been appalled if I had stopped in the middle of a project to run home and sweep my floor or throw in a load of laundry. He expected me to those things on my own time, not company time. But I think nothing of interrupting writing time to do housework or talk on the phone or run to the store. At least for FEBO, I think I need to start clocking in and out.

So, what have I learned so far from doing FEBO?

  • It pays to plan the next day's work.
  • Interruptions will happen--the trick is getting back on track.
  • Writing time needs to be time apart.
But I'm a slow learner, and you probably already knew that stuff. So, what have YOU learned so far this month?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Day 8

I'm back. Sort of. In a just-getting-over-the-yucky-bug kind of way. Glad to hear that you guys have been getting a lot done. Congratulations to Llama Mama for sending out a sub this week. :~) I'm rooting for A Musing Mom to reach her goal of sending a query by today. And Donna Alice--what can we say? That girl was born to multi-task!

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. -- Sir Isaac Newton

Poor Isaac is probably turning over in his grave, because I'm going to take one of his "laws of motion" and apply it to real life. It seems to me that when you set out to accomplish something, you're going to meet resistance.

Peaches said it was "bad timing" for the bug to hit me now. I couldn't agree more. . .but let's face it, how we deal with interruptions and bad timing can ultimately make or break us as writers. No, I'm not beating myself up for not writing this week. That would be dumb.

But now I face a choice. Do I say, "Oh, what's the use? This didn't work. I tried to start this writing in February thing and whine, whine, whine. . . . ." Well, yeah, I could. That's the way several Great Projects have ended for me. Diets. Exercise programs. New Year's Resolutions. Will FEBO be the latest victim?

Honestly, I don't know the end of the story. I'm going to have to write this adventure one page, one day at a time by the choices I make now, after the interruption. It helps so much knowing that others are making the same journey.

I'd like to close with a message from bbear. Her FEBO goal is to write an encouraging word to someone every day--so I asked if she would like to write a word to the FEBO writers. Here's what she said. . . .

Persistence/endurance (keeping your commitment to your goal) is a difficult thing, but consider this, you may have already passed the hardest test/done the most difficult thing. Making a commitment to FEBO was wrung from me, not at all a glib reaction, and perhaps it was the same for you. Pause to reflect on the successes you've already had since Friday, including deciding to DO THIS THING, and continue to write.

Thanks, bbear! Yes, we need to focus on the successes. And begin again after the interruptions. :~)

- - - - -

My apologies to NancyE, who asked me to make a post for her on February 6th, Ash Wednesday. Sorry, I was too out of it, but today I am adding her comment to Day 6. It is worth reading. Sorry for the delay.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Day 6

Sorry, guys. I guess I came down with that bug my hubby had last week. I can barely hold my head up. I'll be back as soon as I can.

Hope you are all going great guns on your writing goals!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Day 4

Ahhhh, the first full week of FEBO. We got our feet wet on Friday or over the weekend, but today. . . . . today we plunge in. It's so important to form a writing habit this week, to build momentum that will keep us going "to infinity and beyond"--or at least through February.

Did you guys watch the big game yesterday? I know almost nothing about football, so this is how I pick a team. By the color of their uniforms. Or by the city they're from. Or because they're the underdog.

Yesterday I rooted for the Patriots simply for this reason (okay, I also liked their uniforms). It seemed to me that the Patriots had more invested in the game. Either team could go away with a Super Bowl Victory, but the Patriots could have had an undefeated season. That would have been one for the books. So the Patriots made me stop and ask myself: how much do I have invested in my writing? Is there enough at stake to make the game worthwhile? Am I willing to put it all on the line?

On the other hand, part of me was also rooting for the Giants, because I too am an underdog. When I submit my writing, I am competing against writers with better track records, more experience, more education, snazzier presentations. And I'm hoping for an upset. The Giants help me believe that upsets are still possible!

And since I started this stupid football analogy, I may as well run it into the ground. What does it mean to "win" in writing? To write? To be published? To do my best? To outsell J. K. Rowling? I suppose this is a question we each have to ask ourselves.

But for FEBO, the answer is much easier. To win, we set some writing goals and then try to reach them. And we can win even without reaching the goals, as long as we get more done in February than we did in January. The only way to lose is to give up.

So I'm off to eat a piece of toast with apricot preserves, and then on to FEBO, Day 4!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Day 2

Day 2 and I'm already re-thinking my goals for FEBO.

For one thing, I'm going to shoot for writing 1 hour a day, Monday through Friday, instead of 2 hours--with the hope that most days, once I get started, I'll keep going for longer than that.

The second adjustment I want to make is to the weekends. I was planning on taking the weekends off, but I think that at least during FEBO, I don't want to lose the momentum. So on Saturday and Sunday, I'm going to aim for 15 minutes a day of "writing for fun"--not necessarily slogging away on my SMO (Sprawling Magnum Opus). The big goal is to have some sort of writing routine in place by the end of this month.

You guys are amazing! You have been sending comments with your progress reports--and everyone is writing, editing, outlining, submitting. . . . In fact, just making the decision to do this is a big step forward. And there are more people doing FEBO who aren't chiming in on the blog because some of you are having trouble leaving comments. Maybe some of you experienced bloggers can tell us what we're doing wrong!

Well, I'm off to reach today's goal. Catch you later!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Blastoff: FEBO: DAY 1

Gentlemen (and ladies). . . . .start your engines!

There's something delicious about the first few words of a story, because you never know where they're going to take you.
-- from the movie Miss Potter

You may be starting a brand new story today, or you may be continuing work on something you started before. But whichever of these choices we make, today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives as writers. Today we do what writers do. We write!

It's a tried and true metaphor--I prefer to think of it as timeless rather than trite--but today we begin a journey.

The road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And wither then? I cannot say.
--J.R.R. Tolkien

A journey is always a bit dangerous--leaving behind the wheel ruts of my daily routine, the comfort of self pity because I just can't find the time to write, the safety of never failing because I'm not really trying.

But there are places I'll never see and companions I'll never meet if I don't get going. So enough blogging already.

On to FEBO, Day 1!