Summer, How I’ve Grown to Love Thee

_DSC0082

“It’s gonna be a hot one,” he said as he stepped onto the boat.

I’m not a summer person. What I mean by that is I don’t like the heat (usually).

But I grew to love summer when my kids were young and they played outside all day long, soaking up the summer warmth and fun. I loved it even more when they were school age and teens, when summer meant long vacations, sleeping in (for them), leisurely trips to the beach, long summer car vacations. In short, I loved summer with my kids.

My kids no longer have summer vacations (not long ones anyway, they both work full time)—although they’ve both been to Maine for a taste of summer—and I’m rethinking how I feel about summer, in general… Last winter was the winter from hell. It was colder and snowier than any winter we’ve had in a long time, and now I suddenly find myself a fan of summer. I can’t even seem to mind the heat. And I don’t want it to end.

Yesterday we—and by “we” I of course mean MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I—went to take sunrise photos on the dock at Littlejohn Island (that’s one of the photos I took at the top of the post). As we stood and watched the sun rise, a fisherman walked down to the dock and stood with his gear, waiting. “Mornin’,” he said as he walked by. Across the water, we could hear a boat approach from Chebeague Island. As MEH and I watched, the commercial fishing boat pulled up to the dock and the fisherman got on board.

He looked up at us as he stepped onto the boat and said, “It’s gonna be a hot one.” He smiled and waved as the boat pulled away. He was right.

This summer I’ve found lots to do. I haven’t blogged (here on my blog) for almost two months—the longest break I’ve taken ever from posting a blog. I’ve been doing other things during my summer break…

Writing. I’ve revised one novel (cut over 15,000 words and wrote a new first chapter), and now I’m querying. I’m also 20,000 words into a new novel; it opens with four kids graduating from high school and starting summer vacation. It’s sweeping me away.

Reading. I’ve read a lot of books this summer. I really loved middle grade When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. And Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor—which I just wrote this review about for Great New Books.

Editing. At the beginning of this summer Therese Walsh asked if I’d be an assistant editor for Writer Unboxed. I was honored. I’ve been working for Writer Unboxed, coordinating guest posts, for about a year and a half. I’ve also been blogging there for about three years (how is that possible?). I had two posts there this summer, one about why I’m rethinking my spying ways, and last week, I posted one about my writing rules (and why I have only one).

Watching. MEH and I just finished binge watching Alias, which I loved. I also watched HawthoRNe (not about the famous writer, which is why I started watching in the first place), which I didn’t love. VEEP, which we loved and laughed through, and I strongly recommend. We watched movies. Spy in the theater, which we loved and laughed through, and also strongly recommend. We went to see Paper Towns which I wasn’t crazy about (I read the book, too, also not so crazy about it). And last night we watched The Rewrite on DVD and it was (yes) about writing and was a good movie although not deep in the least.

Gardening. But not enough. The weeds and woods are taking over the garden. And the deer ate most of the beans and a good deal of the Swiss Chard, and about half the potato crop was eaten by some kind of grubs. It’s the way life is as a backyard farmer in Maine. But we still have lots of tomatoes and kale. And we have a lovely volunteer pumpkin (the plant reseeded itself from last year). And we’ve been going to the Portland Farmers’ Market every Saturday where we’ve bought the best blueberries we’ve ever eaten. Summer makes eating local so easy and good.

And that’s what I’ve been doing on my summer vacation, how about you?

Cheers,

Julia

The blog formerly known as wordsxo

new-header

Remember this picture?

For the past two years, I’ve used the name wordsxo for my blog, with that header. Starting this week I’m saying good-bye to wordsxo and hello to my new author website and blog, known simply by my name.

Welcome to my new website and blog! (Bear with me, it’s still in progress!)

I hope you’ll keep visiting me at my new WordPress blog. I’ve been talking about making the jump for, well, about two years. More about that transition in a future blog. Right now, I just want to say welcome to my new home. Please sign up for my mailing list so you can receive updates about Desired to Death, coming next month! If you sign up by April 5, you’ll be entered in a contest to win a copy of the book. 

I’m looking forward to many more posts here at my new blog, and I hope you are, too.

Cheers,

Julia

Anonymously Yours


From Wikimedia Commons by Friedrich Bohringer

Lately I’ve gotten a lot of anonymous comments to my blog. You know the kind. Highly personal, beautifully written, heartfelt notes like this:

Hello, after гeading thiѕ аwesome aгticle i am
as well glad tο share mу knowledge
hеre with сolleagues.CSI: New York Season X Episode XFeel free to visit my web-siteCSI: New York Season X Episode X

Don’t worry, to further protect Anonymous’s identity, I’ve removed all ultra personal information (like which episode of CSI and the link to the very personal website).

And I really enjoyed this comment, left on my post about my broken dishwasher (I think the Cyrillic letter “K” really adds a special touch, don’t you?):

Oκ, enοugh ѕaid. This wаs probably
the best article I havе read tοdaу аnd I
oftеn do rеsеаrch daily on the subjеct of оnline tarot rеading.Thanks for ѕharing with the world. Cheers!My web blog ; believe in psychic readings

Seriously, I’m so happy it was the best article you read today, but I don’t think a Tarot reading will help me fix my broken dishwasher.

More than anything, this spate of anonymous comments got me thinking about another anonymous missive I received a long time ago, way before the Internet was even a gleam in Al Gore’s eye (no, I really don’t believe that).

In high school I received a long love letter including a beautiful poem—a young man, too shy to approach me and pledge his undying love. I remember sitting in my family room with my brother and one of his friends (let’s call him Roberto), analyzing the note and its heartfelt poem …

Roses are red, violets are blue 

Sugar is sweet and so are you 

We howled until we cried. It wasn’t until ten years later I found out it was Roberto himself who sent the love note. It’s too bad he didn’t tell me in person because if he had he would’ve found out I always had a bit of a crush on him, too, especially at Christmas time when he sang The Christmas Song. He could really croon.

My anonymous blog commenters could learn a thing or two from this lesson—come forward and identify yourself. Maybe it’s a mutual thing and I really wouldwatch that favorite episode of CSI or have my Tarot cards read.

You never know.


Have you ever received an anonymous (truly heartfelt) letter? Are you, like me, experiencing a spike in anonymous blog comments?

Cheers,
Julia


Are You Addicted to Social Networking (Like I am)?

As I put the finishing touches on this post, I found out—much to my immense surprise and thrill—that the July issue of The Writer magazine named me (@wordsxo) as a “Top Feed to Watch.” I’m greatly honored and thrilled, but I can’t help but marvel at the irony.

Am I addicted to Twitter? Are you?

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while—ever since I’ve been having so much trouble focusing on my new WIP. Ever since I feel like I’m missing out on something if I don’t check Twitter or Facebook at least several times a day. Ever since I started querying and email is my new best friend (and worst enemy). Ever since I got my iPhone, and now I’m never away from social networking. Ever.

But recently I have an increased incentive. It’s bothering me more. I’ve been restless when I don’t check in. My first thought when I take a photo with my iPhone is I need to tweet this. Then I read an article about social networking addiction. Recent research suggests that all the tweeting and friending and posting we’re all doing may actually be addictive. And there’s a serious problem with addiction in my immediate and extended family.

First. For the purposes of this discussion: What is addiction? Maia Szalavitz, a neuroscience journalist, defines it as “a matter of inbalance—between your personal desire to engage in the addictive behavior and your conflicting desire to avoid the negative consequences of said behavior and/or do something else.”

According to one study I read about, people may have a harder time controlling their desire to check social media (when they really didn’t want to) than they do controlling urges to smoke or drink alcohol. The same study showed that workaholism is a very real thing, too—that many people will work when they really don’t need to.

It occurred to me after reading these results that we writers kind of have a double whammy. Not only is it a requirement of our job to build the all-important platform, but building the platform actually involves the requirement to be a social networker. Compounding this, we often work alone, and social networking allows us to connect with other writers and feel like we’re a part of a community. Further, since the majority of us work at home, we can work 24-7 if we want to—hmmm, does that make us workaholics too?

All this made me wonder…. are we as writers more susceptible to becoming addicted to social networking? And then I wondered further….am Ialready addicted? Like I said, as I set out with a brand new WIP, I’m having a harder and harder time focusing—more difficulty with the balance. Some days I give myself an ultimatum: it’s all or nothing. Shut down the social networking altogether. Because here’s the thing.I often can’t figure out a way to limit myself in a positive way. Then, if I cut myself off I end up feeling left out of the social networking scene but if I don’t cut myself off and write less, then I’m disappointed with my writing effort or just generally frustrated without really understanding why.

Of course I know I’m not the only writer who grapples with this—it’s a frequent subject of conversation and blogs and tweets among all the writers I know. In fact, just recently one writer friend and I were lamenting over email (yes, this too can be a part of the addiction) about how unproductive we were with our writing, and I asked my writer friend about the idea that social networking might be addictive. Here’s what he/she said:

“…Social media is an angel AND the devil all wrapped into one, is it not? Yes, I recall you talking about the research saying that it’s addictive. I can see that in myself, too, where some days I can’t pull myself away and am there for HOURS…”

That comment prompted me to email other writer friends—a combination of women and men, published and unpublished, traditional and indie published, new to the profession and lifers, and across genres, too. The general consensus: we all struggle with the balance in some way, shape, or form. It’s a continuum, but we’re all in this together, no question.

Here’s a sampling of what some of my writer friends had to say, clearly I hit a nerve.

Writer A: “…With the publication of my book and a newly realized need to “build a platform,” my social networking mushroomed into a blog, a couple of groups on the Writer’s Digest site, a Twitter account, and a second Facebook “author” page. There is a substantial list of other sites I’ve read that, as an author, I should be participating in, but let’s get real….”

Writer B: “To me, social networking is the epitome of a double-edged sword. It has introduced me to so many outstanding writers and authors that I can’t imagine my life without it. I have found “my people”! But in all of this wonderful relationship building, my writing has suffered….If I don’t check Twitter, Facebook, etc. at leasta couple of times a day, I feel anxious. I do think it is because of my “profession,” though, that I am so addicted. Writers are supposed to build their platform to gain an audience but then we don’t know when to quit! I think through social media it is evident that people desire connection, but there is a price we pay.”

Writer C: “It’s difficult for me to balance social media, life, and creative writing.  I don’t like to inundate people on any social media platform with lots of posts or re-tweets, but I worry that, “being out of sight is out of mind.” That’s a constant struggle.  And social media can be a time-suck, albeit a pleasant one.  So when I write creatively, I tend to just have my document file open and nothing else.”

Writer D: “I know exactly what you mean about social media feeling like an addiction; for me it’s a constant struggle. It’s the strangest thing because as much as it’s interfered with my life, it’s enhanced it in many ways too. So it’s not easy for me to describe in such absolutes as love/hate. There are days when I absolutely know I can’t go on Twitter, whether it’s because of work or because I’m out, away from my desk. There are times when I’ve gone on Twitter and had the most wonderful conversations and made genuine connections, so that when I’ve stepped away from it I’ve felt like it was a worthy way to spend my time. But the flip side of that is, there have been many, many times when I’ve stayed on longer than I should have, disengaged from the Tweets I’m reading but perhaps hoping that the next one will be like the last time, fun and full of great links, replies, etc. And I’ve stepped away wondering, “What did I just do with that hour of my life?” In that way, it’s very much like an addiction.

Writer E: “The internet, and especially twitter, has been a wonderful source of both friendship and support for me. I have made many fine friends there.  (And three of the authors who gave me fabulous blurbs for my novel were people I met on twitter.)… Of course, like so many things, the trick is knowing when to stop (and then actually stopping.)  I have precious little willpower, and so I employ artificial means to save myself from temptation when I really have to knuckle down and work.  I use software called Freedom that disables the internet completely.  Knowing that I can’t check email or social media sites allows me to put it out of mind completely, so I can concentrate on the job at hand.”
Writer F:I think one of the hardest parts of the writing life nowadays—life in general, really!—is how to find a way to keep social media’s impact at a minimum without losing touch with it’s very worthwhile points. I know for me it’s push and pull. I can’t say enough how grateful I am for the personal connections I have made through social media—the friends I’ve made…and there’s no question that social media can broaden a writer’s reading audience. But that said, it can sometimes feel as if we spend more time online than off it. For me, not having a smart phone is one way I am forced to curb my time online—and by not being able to access social media at all hours (and it not being able to access ME) I think has allowed me a modicum of boundaries. All in all, I am glad to have jumped in to the social media pool. I just wish some days I didn’t feel as if was sinking more than swimming in it!”

Can you relate? I know I can, and we’re clearly all in this together. I’d love to hear from you, to start a conversation…

Do you spend more time on Twitter, Facebook, blog responses, etc., than you think you should or than you really want to? How many hours a week do you spend on social networking—have you ever kept track? Has social networking ever interfered with your writing productivity or your “real life”? Are you like me? That some days you chalk up greater word count in tweets than on your WIP? Can you resist better than I can? Or maybe you think that the idea of social networking addiction is just not really a problem and/or not worthy of too much attention? Please leave a comment!
Cheers,

Julia

Cooking Blog Wannabe

In my next blogging life I want to have a cooking blog. Or a gardening blog. Or maybe a little of both.

If you read my blog very often, you know that I am an avid gardener and cook. We have a modest vegetable garden that supplies a goodly amount of food—and that, combined with my love of cooking, produces some amazingly fresh and delicious meals.

This season has been a challenge because it’s been colder and rainier than normal—so until today we’ve only had a handful of veggies from the garden: some snowpeas (but only a few), some lettuce (but no arugula), and a few radishes (but most went to seed).

But today? We harvested a meal!

Today’s harvest: potatoes and spring onions.

And I cooked: a potato-onion scramble.

The key to this recipe is to have very fresh ingredients and to cook them quickly.

The ingredients: Nine freshly harvested new potatoes (the most exciting part, because it’s the first time we’ve grown potatoes!!), five spring onions, two cloves of garlic (smushed), 1/4 teaspoon rosemary (my rosemary died over the winter so I used dried), 4 eggs (MEH (My Engineer Husband) said next we’ll raise chickens. I think he was joking), 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 Tablespoon butter.

The method: Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces; boil in water until just-barely soft to the bite. Meanwhile, melt butter in a no-stick skillet; add olive oil. Drain potatoes and add to the skillet. When potatoes are done (taste to check) and slightly crisped on the outside, add the spring onions and garlic and rosemary to the skillet and cook briefly. Add egg and scramble until almost set then add the cheese to melt. Serve immediately!

 

Serves two generously and deliciously! 

What are you cooking today? Is there another kind of blog you dream about writing?


Cheers,
Julia

80,000 Words


Just a few of the 20,000 words I blogged about this month, word cloud created by Wordle.net

I debated naming this post: “Blogging is Easier for me than Writing Fiction.”
Because the truth is: blogging is easier for me than writing fiction. I love blogging, and by dedicating my month of May to it, I have written 20,000 words to be (approximately) precise. In fact, daily blogging really adds up and for the past (almost) four months, I’ve blogged every day but two—so to extrapolate: I’ve written (approximately) 80,000 words in the past four months.

Those 80,000 blog-words serve a wonderful and important purpose; they:

1. Got me writing every single day and made me realize that I can make a commitment to daily writing and stick to it.

2. Connected me with wonderful, supportive, encouraging writers, who have given me daily feedback on my writing.

3. Reminded me that day after day, little by little, words add up.

Still, I look at all those words, the time that went into writing them, and I think about my WIPs. With the same focused attention I give to my blog, I could finish a draft of a novel (and more) with 80,000 words.

The truth remains: I want to be a published novelist. And the only way I know how to do that is to keep on writing fiction.
Which is why I’m renewing my daily date with my kitchen table. Some how, some way, by hook or by crook, I will figure out a way to put the same kind of dedication and commitment to work with my fiction. Even if it’s easier to write my blog.

Which is easier for you? Blogging or fiction? How do you switch gears between the two?

Cheers,

Julia

“I’d Rather Eat an Earthworm than Blog”

The other day I went to pick up my friend Betsy. She was finishing up a session with a photographer.
“This is my friend, Julia,” Betsy said, introducing me. “Watch out what you say to her or it might end up in a blog.”

This has become a standard joke between Betsy and me, ever since she appeared in one of my early blogs about handwritten notes.

Still, I winced a little. It was true. In fact, at a recent party for MEH (My Engineer Husband)’s birthday, four of the six attendees had been mentioned or made starring appearances in a blog. I don’t think I’m that different than many bloggers. In fact in Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2010, 66% of bloggers stated that conversations with friends influence what they write about.

The photographer looked up from the bag she was packing.

“Really? You blog?” She sounded interested, maybe even experienced. I thought I might have actually stumbled upon another blogger! (For the record, since I started blogging, I have not met another blogger—except online—which is pretty surprising since there are an estimated 200 million blogs, according to Technorati.)

“Yes. You blog too?”

“I’d rather eat earthworms than blog.” She said it with a very pleasant smile on her face, but I could tell she was dead serious.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

After I stopped laughing, of course I asked her if she would mind if I used THAT in a blog, and she more-than-quickly gave me full permission.

But the truth is, more than getting a funny line, it gave me pause to think. The more I become immersed in this cycle of blogging-tweeting-blog commenting-retweeting-answering comments-re-retweeting, the more I just assume that everyone is doing it. So I wondered, is that true? (Clearly my new friend, the photographer, would say no.)

Being the naturally curious person I am, I had to find out. The thing I was most interested in was how many blogging writers there are. Interestingly, it is not so easy to pin these numbers down. I searched for about an hour (about all the research time I was interested in investing in today’s blog), and the best I could do was the Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2010. Of 7,200 respondents to Technorati’s survey, 33% of bloggers said that at sometime they had worked as “a writer, reporter, producer, or on air personality in traditional media.”

And 26% of bloggers stated that they blog specifically to “get published or featured in traditional media.” I’m assuming that means that those 26% of bloggers are writers, like me. Let’s see…26% of 200 million bloggers, that’s 52 million.

Perhaps needless to say, after reading all these statistics and doing the calculations, I was no longer interested purely for interest’s sake or curiosity, but I was borderline horrified, even terrified. 52 million bloggers, blogging specifically to get published!

Now, I think I’d rather eat an earthworm.

Where do you get inspiration for the things you write about in your blog? From friends, sometimes, like I do? Have you ever had someone get mad at you about blogging about them (Technorati says 7% of relationships have suffered due to blogs but 33% have brought friends and family closer together.). Are you daunted by the number of writers who are blogging to get published?

Cheers,

Julia

p.s. Here’s the link to the full Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2010.

Yesterday When It Was Spring


Yesterday when it was 65 degrees, a lot of snow melted so that a corner of the garden was exposed. It made me hopeful, and I started thinking about planting. So much so that when I got up this morning at 5:30 a.m.—and it was dark, thank you daylight savings—I started to write a blog about planting the garden.

My plan was to go out and take a picture of that corner of the garden, to include with my blog.

But then, when it got light, and I looked outside, IT WAS SNOWING. Yep, that’s Maine in Spring. And, as they say in Maine: “Deal with it.”


Cheers,

Julia

p.s. Blog about Spring canceled due to snow.

What surprises did you get this morning that changed your plans?

5 Ways Getting Rid of TV Makes Life Better

Two months ago we got rid of TV.

It’s not that I watched too much (unless you consider four hours of the Today show every morning too much) or that it was interfering with my life (how could it, we had a DVR so I could record anything I wanted to watch for later). The plain and simple truth is we couldn’t afford it after MEH (My Engineer Husband) lost his job.

At first it was really hard, and very strange, to not tune out in front of the TV whenever I wanted to. But now, I’ve discovered that in many ways I am actually enjoying not having TV. Here are 5 ways my life is better.

1. I get more done: more writing, more reading, and recently someone commented on how much cleaner my house looks. According to A.C. Nielsen, the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (that’s 28 hours a week, and I’m afraid I might have been much higher…). That means that just since we’ve gotten rid of TV, I’ve had almost 200 extra hours to do other things! (Like blogging—I started my blog after we got rid of TV!)

2. We save $100 a month! I can hardly believe we paid $1200 a year for cable TV! Don’t worry, Time Warner is doing okay without our money, we still pay over $75 a month to them for phone and Internet service. (And, in all fairness to Time Warner, they were willing to let us keep “basic cable” for $15.95 a month. No deal: we go big or go home.)

3. We have real conversations without the humming numbing television in the background.

4. I feel happier and less sad. 53 percent of news stories are about crime, disaster, and war; and 79 percent of Americans believe TV violence helps contribute to real-life violence. Further, a study of young men by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine showed a connection between higher levels of TV viewing and greater levels of depression. Watching beautiful people with perfect homes living unrealistic lives or being bombarded with endless advertisements of things that no one can afford to live without—what’s not to be depressed about?

5. I have come to appreciate the silence and peace of just being. A lot of the time, the TV would be on in the background for no reason. Studies have shown that television viewing prolongs dominance of right brain functions, and thus causes a trance-like state of mind. And while I admit there are times I’d really like to zone out in front of the TV, I’m trying to do more constructive and healthier things with that time—like reading or coming up with new things to write about or taking a walk.

Even though we gave up TV purely for financial reasons, it has brought many positive side benefits. So many, that we are seriously considering giving it up more permanently. Still, sometimes I’m not so sure…there are things I miss, too, and at times I think we should bring TV back into our lives, and I just need to develop more self control over when and how much I watch.

What are your experiences with TV? Does it interfere with getting things done or are you able to tame your viewing enough that it’s not a problem? Are there positive benefits of TV, in regard to writing, that I haven’t thought of? (No, this is not just looking for an excuse to get TV back in my life!) I’m interested to hear your thoughts!

Cheers,

Julia

Why Do You Write?


Today I am blogging in response to Jessica Brooks’ question, posed on her blog, My Thoughts Exactly, on February 28:

“Q for you — What made you start writing? Was it a story that popped into your head one day? Or something that gradually morphed into an idea? I’d love to hear about it!”

This is a complicated question. With a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is: I have always been a writer.

I can remember constructing stories in my mind for as long as I have memory. Then in middle school and high school I wrote first in diaries and then all through college in journals. Poetry, short stories, and about my life. Everything and everyone was fair game. In those days I didn’t have a whole lot of sense about what I wrote and how I revealed myself in my writing, so thank goodness it was before the age of blogging, or I might not have any friends or family that would still be willing to speak to me.

College

In college—even though I started out in geology, changed over to anthropology, then biology, and finally journalism—I was always “that guy” who had comments like: “I really like your voice.” or “Wow, you’re a great writer.” That doesn’t mean I always got an A. I didn’t.

That’s because most of the time papers were written toe to deadline. That’s how I like(d) it best. It wasn’t until journalism that I hit my stride, and I figured out that there was a place for writers like me, and I learned how to control my writing and the accompanying deadlines. And I learned how to manage my writer’s mind.

The truth is I’m always writing in my mind. When I finally sit down for butt-in-the-chair-time (thank you Professor Drechsel for teaching me the importance of that), I’ve written the bulk in my mind. No matter if it’s fiction or an article or even a 400-page technical manual—it’s there.

The Zone

And then there’s the zone. Hitting the writing zone where everything else falls away, it’s just me and pen-to-paper or nowadays fingers-on-keyboard. So strong the concentration that when I’m done, sit back and look, it’s almost like a foreign language to me. Sometimes it feels like an out of body experience—did I really write this?

That doesn’t mean it’s always good, but I get it down, and it’s a place to start editing. (Another blog….my editing mind.)

Technical Writing

Most of my professional writing has been business and technical, a writer for hire. Someone asked me recently how I could write about technical things that I don’t develop or know inside-out, that I’m not an expert on. The answer is I don’t know, but I can. I think you’d get the same answer from almost any technical writer you’d ask….or at least the honest ones.

Fiction

Where do I come up with stories? I mean, the business or technical writing (after scrounging up clients) is easy. I write what they want.

But what about fiction? I have way too many ideas.

Almost every person I meet, experience I have, something I witness, a conversation I overhear—my first reaction is: how would I write this? It’s my nature of being an observer, a deep-seated remnant of my childhood, of feelings unheard, of not being acknowledged (this will never be a blog, but may be in fiction). Sometimes writing a scene in my mind helps distance myself from a situation when it becomes too intense.

As for my current works in progress: the middle-grade fiction is based on a gift from a grandparent and the bad luck it ensued; the adult novel is based on the feeling of never fitting in; the non-fiction is based on my love of cooking; the young adult is based on my coming-of-age experiences living in Africa. There’s more…there’s always more.

Blogging

One of the reasons I started blogging was to keep on writing every day, to give myself that deadline I like to nudge up against. The bonus? That someone may read what I write! That I’ll meet other writers?! That I will reach outside my usually-solitary world.

And that’s the short answer. Stick around and you might hear the long.

Cheers,

Julia

p.s. Nice to meet you! Thanks for reading my blog! Here’s my question for you: What makes you write? Is it something you chose to do? Or is it just what you do? Do you enjoy it or not so much? I am so interested to hear!

Lessons from an Artist

Last night I went to an art show at a small library in a nearby town. One of my friends had two paintings in the show, and although I primarily went to see her paintings, I also went to support her creative goals. I knew it had not been an easy decision for her to put herself out there.

It struck me this morning that me blogging is exactly like my friend displaying paintings in the show. Writing is a peculiar profession; we write things that may never be read by anyone. Or, if you’re a writer for hire like I am, you may work anonymously or even have another person’s name attached to your work.

The writing for hire part is still fine with me—so far it’s how my bread stays buttered. But for some reason, I am no longer okay thinking that no one will ever see any of the fiction or creative non-fiction I write. Which brings me to my goals for blogging.

1. Get my writing out there! Specifically, blog at least five times a week, preferably every day.

2. Help me to reinforce my goal of writing every day.

3. Promote my writing. Specifically, figure out how what still feels like a giant swarm of craziness (blogging and Twitter and Facebook and all other online social networking) works together to support my writing goals.

4. Meet more writers/creators and build relationships and readership.

5. Encourage writers of all kinds in their writing endeavors, whatever those might be.

Closely tied to these blogging goals, are my personal writing goals (I wasn’t blogging first thing in 2011, so I missed having a new year’s resolution blog):

1. Finish the rough draft of one novel-in-progress.

2. To help meet Goal #1, write at least 900 words a day (this does not count the blogging or writer-for-hire words I write).

3. Submit at least two queries in the year.

4. Build writing/editing clients (for writing for hire).

I’m interested to know…. has blogging helped you achieve your writing goals? What, if anything, would you do differently? What advice do you have as I’m starting out?

Cheers, Julia

Wednesday is Word(le) Day

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gleaned off the zillions of blogs and websites I’ve consulted about blogging is this: Develop a following of readers through consistency of theme.

I’ve thought a lot about this business of theme and what the theme of this blog is. In a nutshell, it is:

I love words, words are used to write, and if you write (no matter the style or purpose) you’re a writer, and this blog celebrates all writers of all writing.

I know, it sounds pretty broad, but right now it’s working. And to address this theme, today’s blog focuses on words—specifically my decision, as of 7:42 this morning, to name Wednesday “Word Day.” Here are some FAQs about Word Day, devised only in my mind of course, because (a) I have yet to get any questions, let alone frequently asked ones, and (b) this is my first Word Day blog, so how could I have had any questions specifically about Word Day yet?

Q: First, the obvious question: Why Wednesday?
A: The obvious answer: simple, word and Wednesday, they both start with W, so it will be easy to remember. This is a basic word association rule I learned on Sesame Street.

Q: Why are you even having a Word Day?
A: Aside from letters, words are the most elemental building blocks of writing. I love words, and learning about their origins and meanings. I also like word puzzles, challenges, and games, and Word Day will sometimes have those, too.

Q: Why should I read YOUR Word Day blogs, as compared to the other zillion blogs or websites that talk about words?
A: First, I hope you keep reading those other blogs and websites (I certainly will; see the list of my current favorites at the end of this blog), but I also hope you read mine. I can promise you (a) interesting words and personal commentary, (b) thoroughly researched information, and (c) well-written blogs. In addition, I will blog with a sense of humor, striving to amuse.

Q: Why is today Word(le) day? What’s with the (le)?
A: Have you seen the cool website called Wordle? It creates graphical representations, “word clouds,” of any text you provide. (The picture with this blog is a Wordle created with the text of this blog.)

Q: Do you really think anyone cares if you have a Word Day? Or, for that matter, a blog?
A: Ah, that is a very good question that I will address in a future blog tentatively entitled: “Who Cares if I’m Blogging?”

Q: Are there any constraints on the words you will use for Word Day?
A: Probably only one. I can almost assure you that words will never be obscene or pornographic (as defined by me). Sometimes they will be groups of words, defined by a specific activity like cooking or science or another passion in my life. Sometimes they will be based on other blogs or #WOTD on Twitter. Sometimes they may be based on websites or dictionaries. Luckily for me, there is no shortage of words for inspiration.

Q: Are there any personal benefits you get from Word Day?
A: Yes! (And thank you for asking!) I love to read about and research words, and this gives me an excuse to do that. Also, at least one day a week I have a built-in subject to blog about. (I think this actually may be behind some of the advice that other bloggers give—do bloggers invent these days of the week topics or challenges or …. fill in the blank…. because it’s not so easy to come up with information to blog day after day after day after day after day….?)

Thank you so much for those excellent questions! Finally, as promised, I want to give a nod to all the great websites and blogs that I enjoy so much. Some of my current favorites are wordnik, wordsmith, Oxford Dictionary, oedonline, and Cambridge Dictionaries Online. I also just discovered the Times Word Nerd test for Twitter users. (I’m sad to say I got the lowest grade possible; I’m hoping it’s because I haven’t been tweeting very long.)

On Twitter, I follow tweeters who post a #WOTD each day, for instance: @wordnik, @awad, @oedonline, @cambridgewords. Just for fun, I try to tweet a sentence-story based on each tweeted #WOTD @wordsxo.

Oh, and in case I wasn’t clear at the beginning of the blog: today’s word is Wordle, a website where you can create “word clouds.”

I’d love to answer some real-life readers’ questions about words or why I chose to write about them. Do you have any word questions? Do you write about words, too? If so, please let me know so I can check out your blog or website or tweets. Is there a favorite word or type of word you’d like me to write about?

Thanks for checking in!

Cheers, Julia