I’m not lazy, I’m unmotivated

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a terrible housekeeper. Even though I “work” from home and I’m in my house all day, I still have a messy home. It’s embarrassing really. I was raised to always have a clean home. I remember Saturday mornings, the one morning every week that I actually got to sleep in, my mother would wake me up to help clean house. Why was she waking me up on a Saturday when she was a stay-at-home mom and was there all the time to clean house herself? But, honestly, I don’t remember having to clean that much. I just remember my mother nagging me to do it. It occurred to me many years later that having a clean home is a habit of thinking passed down through the generations on my mother’s side of the family. We were always expected to have a clean home because you never knew when someone might stop by to visit. That was the motivation to be busy little housekeepers. “What would the neighbors think?”

Now the days of someone stopping by for a unexpected visit are gone, and if anyone does come over unexpectedly, what’s the first thing that people say? “Please excuse the mess. I wasn’t expecting anyone.” Right? Now, we no longer call one another on the phone just to chat anymore much less stop by unannounced. But that’s a topic for another discussion. My point is that now that I no longer have to worry about outsiders coming to my home and seeing my messy house there is no motivation for me to clean if no one is ever going to come over to see it, and the only time I really clean the house is when I know someone is coming over. So, I suppose I should have people over more often so I have motivation to keep it clean.

So what’s to motivate us when it comes to writing? Especially if you’re not writing for someone. If you are not paid to write on a daily basis, where does your motivation to write come from? If you are like me, you just like to write and get your thoughts down even if no one in the world will ever read what you have written. I started keeping a journal when I was in junior high. I kept journalling through college and off and on throughout my young adult life. I was careful about what I put in those journals always thinking in the back of my mind about who might read them someday, if anyone. Likely, it will just be me in my old age. But I kept writing, and now I write in blog posts like this one. It’s almost the same as writing in my journal, except now I know that total strangers might read it. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

This blog site that I have created is supposed to be for fellow writers. I hope to share with others the things I have learned and hopefully build a community where we can share our writing and the ups and downs of being a writer. I was a teacher for many years and the teacher in me still wants to teach others about what I know and have learned. It’s a part of who I am and essentially what motivates me to write. I am motivated to impart my wisdom to others so they can learn and grow from the thoughts that I have shared. It is not because I want to be famous or make lots of money with my writing, although doing something that I like to do and am naturally motivated to do and get paid for it would be ideal, that is not the original goal of my writing.

In addition to blogging about writing, I also write about small towns in America. I feel it is important to combine my love of writing with other passions and one of them happens to be about exploring little towns I go through in the course of my every day life activities. I have always had a nostalgia for old things and old buildings, homes and churches in particular. I love looking at architecture from the past, and I marvel at the craftsmanship and care put into those buildings that seem to be a forgotten art. Nowadays, builders want to put up a home or building so fast that they don’t want to take the time or money it takes to add creative detail to them.

The same can be said for novel writing. I have seen advertisements for writing a novel in 28 days or 9 days or whatever, luring writers to write fast and crank out the novels every month in order to sell lots of books and make big money. I don’t want to read books that have been hastily crafted, and I most certainly don’t want to write them that way. I admire authors that have taken the time to think about every detail and written every word with care in order to write a story that will not only draw admiration from its readers but will last a lifetime as a work of art. I’m motivated to write a good fiction story that will inspire its readers in some way.

The most inspiring stories and those most often remembered over time are ones that make people laugh, cry, angry, happy, or all of those. Off the top of my head, here are some of the books that come to my mind that have made me feel one or more of those things. I love the Harry Potter series. I know–I’m an adult and I read them as an adult, but there will always be a kid inside us that loves the magic of stories and I loved the magic and fantastical world of Harry Potter. I also like the worlds that Branden Sanderson and Cassandra Clare have created in their books.

One book with a funny scene comes to mind, Sideways by Rex Pickett. The movie version starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, and Sandra Oh was funny as well, but it was slightly different than the book version. There is a very funny scene in the book that did not make it to the movie version, and it made me laugh until I cried. It’s not easy to write comedy, and I have a lot of respect for Rex Pickett.

I cried my eyes out at the end of Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. The story is set in France during World War II. You would think that stories about WWII have all been told my now, but Hannah paints a beautiful portrait of one woman’s struggle to hold her family together and the heartbreaking trauma that they had to endure during that time.

Speaking of painting a picture with words, I’m a big fan of Justin Cronin. His trilogy, The Passage, was a beautiful piece of artwork. Some might view it as a vampire story, but there was so much more to his story that captures the struggle of the human spirit, and what we would do to survive and protect those we love.

I got angry both times I read Diana Gabaldon’s book, Voyager, book three of her Outlander series. The first time I read it I was furious with Jamie. The second time I read it, I knew what was going to happen, and I still got angry. It says alot about an author who can write such compelling characters that we take it personally when they do something we don’t approve of. I was invested in those characters emotionally.

Another book I read recently, but is already sort of old, was Faye Kellerman’s Justice, published in 1995. (That’s doesn’t seem old to me, but when I stop to think that it was 24 years ago, I realize it is.) At the end of the book, I was struck with the fact that her story had an overall “moral” or theme. It was essentially about the mistakes we make as humans and the consequences of those mistakes. We are all human and making mistakes is inevitable. It is what we choose to do after we make those mistakes and how we deal with the consequences that shows are true character. Kellerman showed the various choices that each character made as a result of their mistakes, some made better choices, some did not. It is all about what we choose to do afterward that makes a difference.

No matter what your motivation is to write, find it and remind yourself what motivates you to keep writing even when it seems no one else is reading what you have written. If you have a true passion for your writing, it will show through your words and inspire others to either keep reading your stories or write stories of their own. The most compelling element of a good story is the human element. Make your characters relatable as human beings, flaws and all, and your story will have a lasting impact on its readers.

Wait! Before you hit publish.

If you read my previous post right after I published it, you probably saw my many mistakes. I did what most newbie writers do and hit the publish button too soon. I wrote it late at night, and the next morning when I reread it, I realized I wrote that I wanted to be a” fictional writer,” haha! Although I may be a fictional writer, I meant to say, fiction writer. That is why it is essential to take a break before you hit the publish button and reread it at a later time to catch all the little mistakes. Even though I run Grammarly on all my devices, I still have typos, especially if I am typing on my phone.

Since it is easier than ever to publish on many platforms, too many individuals are eager to see their work published before taking the time to perfect their writing. I know I did my first time, and my book is in its third revision. It’s a delicate balance. As an author, I know what it is like to put many hours into writing something and have it rejected. I know what it is like to have a passionate story to tell and no one to listen. I want to help authors achieve their dream of publishing good, quality work of which they can be proud. Unfortunately, many writers don’t like to hear criticism or what they need to change in their writing. The stories that they write are a part of them and to critique their writing is like wounding their soul. But in my opinion, if someone wants to publish a book, shouldn’t it reflect in the best way possible?

I compare it to a woman putting on makeup before she goes out in public. The whole point of wearing makeup is so that people will see her looking her best. Many women wouldn’t be caught dead out in public without makeup or whatever else it is that she does to make herself presentable. So why would she want to publish a book that hasn’t” got its makeup on?” By makeup, I’m referring to editing, proofreading, formatting, and any other improvements that can be made to the book to get it to it’s best quality possible. Unfortunately, getting the right person to help with edits and proofreading can be costly. And even sometimes individuals who claim they can do those things for you, aren’t as good as they say they are and it still isn’t edited to perfection.
Don’t misunderstand me. I know that no book can be edited to perfection, but I use perfection here to mean good quality. Some may argue that quality is subjective, just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many artworks have been bought at astronomical prices and look like a three-year-old could have done it. But if the right person says it is worth a million bucks, people around the world will be clamoring to buy that piece of art for a million bucks. The same can be said about a book. I have read many books that I thought were fantastic, and then I read other people’s review of the book, and they hated it. An author is not going to be able to please everyone.

My pet peeve is misspellings and grossly incorrect grammar. Once or twice, I can excuse an overlooked word or two, but consistent poor spelling and incorrect use of the English language is not acceptable. I also realize that some individuals who are non-native English speakers want to write books in the English language. That is admirable, but be sure to have a native English speaker review the work and help make corrections. The non-native English speaker probably wants to improve his/her English, so why allow them to continue to miswrite it. I would hold the same standards for any language. I can only speak English, and I have the utmost respect for those that can speak more than one language, but it doesn’t serve the author well to write incorrectly and be laughed at by the native language speakers. You wouldn’t want to practice any other sport or art incorrectly and have it ingrained into your muscle memory incorrectly. It takes twice as much work to correct a poorly developed habit as it does to practice it correctly in the first place. So, I implore whoever is reading this. Take the time to review your writing carefully and thoughtfully. Reread it a dozen times, have someone else read over it, run it through Grammarly or ProWriting Aid, do whatever it takes. Let it sit for a time and come back to it. Hone your craft and be proud of your writing. If you want to earn respect and, maybe a few dollars in the process, you have to work at perfecting your writing at all costs. Otherwise, we will find our society like it was portrayed in the movie Cloud Atlas, reduced to speaking gibberish and no one making any sense.

More on writing a story in a later post.

If you’d like to check out my first book in The Spirit Traveler Series, you can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AppleBooks, or Kobo.

To be or not to be…a writer

I came to writing fiction at a later age. Granted, I’ve been writing academically for over 30 years, but to write for a living, and fiction writing at that, that is a whole different ballgame. Like lots of people around the world, I wondered if I had what it took to be a fiction writer. I think my first inspiration to write came from Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series. I read her bio and learned that she was first a botany professor and, like me, wondered if she could write a novel.

I enjoy Diana Gabaldon’s novels. They are long, but I have enjoyed every story she has written. I began reading her books in the 1990s long before the series came out on Starz. I prayed to God that they would stay true to the series, because, like all devoted fans of her stories, it would kill me to my soul if they made a mockery of Claire and Jaime.

But not everyone is a big fan of DG like I am. I have talked with other historical fiction authors who don’t like the female protagonist, Claire. They say she comes across too demanding or pretentious. There will always be those who dislike stories just as much as those who love them. There are lovers and haters alike for the Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, or Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. Sometimes what is fan fiction is not loved in literary circles.

Personally, I’m a pulp fiction-aholic. I love all those series named above and more. I’m a big lover of all things Marvel. Since 2008, it has been a tradition to take my kids to the latest Marvel movie the first weekend of its release. I love seeing their reactions to the movie as much as I like watching it.

So, as a writer, I’m first an avid reader and fan of TV and movies. I believe that you must study great works of others before you can even begin to craft your own. Love it or hate it; it is a passion, born of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s not easy to be a fiction writer, but if you are determined enough and willing to hone the craft, it can be rewarding. Whether or not I ever become a best-selling author, there is satisfaction in writing stories born from dreams.