Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Another New Year’s Day by M.M. Gornell



Madeline (M.M.) Gornell is the author of six award-winning mystery novels. Her current literary focus is Route 66 as it traverses California’s Mojave Desert. Madeline is a lifetime lover of mysteries, and besides reading and writing, is also a potter. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the High Desert. For more information, visit her website or Amazon Author Page.


Another New Year’s Day

Had a birthday not too long ago—my marker for beginning a year, not January 1st. A day for assessment and commitment (more often than not, re-commitment!). And Writing, these years, is the first item on the dreaded list. And even with all the time that’s accumulated behind me, instead of stretching endlessly ahead of me, it’s a constant yearly amazement why I haven’t figured certain things out a long time ago. A New Year for me, means a lot of “should have known” head-scratching.

This year, number one, was my dissatisfaction with where I am writing-wise, and promotions wise. On the Writing-front, “No more excuses,” I’m telling myself on B-day, I have to physically write more.

Should be spending more time writing. Deciding that was easy. So far, writing one book a year is not enough. But trying to figure out when, how, where—all those little niggling details are the hard part. So, after my New Year’s Day introspection, I was whining to a friend about how I’m flitting around not writing, who in response looked at me like I was crazy, then said, “You’re always writing. What are you talking about?”

She pointed out things like: I’m constantly picking-up unusual people and place names, also asking details about places and people no one else would bother with, and saying things like, “What a place for a murder?” or “I wonder why that happened?” or “What else was going on then?” or “Where you around when?” etc. She also most candidly offered, I spend a lot of time “listening” in a particular way. I stopped there—too much personal insight. I didn’t want to know in detail what particular meant. She also offered, “I bet you wake up thinking about writing, and go to sleep thinking about writing.” Guilty as charged.

So why am I publicly sharing all this B-day stuff? When I first sat down to write this post, I was thinking maybe it would be a help to anyone else struggling with the question of not enough dedicated computer or pen-to-paper time. I.e., 1000 words a day, or 3 pages a day, or, or… Plenty of thresholds out there to claim as your own. But now as I’m wrapping up this B-day meandering, I realize it’s because I wanted to share an important insight I finally internalized. Knowing about my writing, knowing about me even, isn’t an exclusively inside-to-outside progression kind of thing.

The looking glass needs to talk back. And I don’t mean writing critique groups—something more encompassing I can’t fully articulate yet. But hoping you get the point. Writing is a great adventure—made even better with a few road signs. Feeling pretty lucky I have some people in my life who’ll tell me the truth. But I don’t think we can always count on that, so here’s a nugget to be taken away. Occasionally step back, then look in.

And for my "writing more" resolution. Decided I’m just fine. Ha! However, I did make some promotions resolutions; but they can keep until the next time I’m up.

23 comments:

  1. A book a year? Woman, you write. But I get your point. Writing encompasses more than Kate Thornton’s famous BIC (butt in chair) principle. So much of what goes into our books come from elsewhere, places we can only access or visit when we’re otherwise engaged – going for a walk, washing dishes, sitting in an airport lounge or restaurant. In other words, living our lives.

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    1. You're so right, Miko! So many ideas (not all good ones!) have come to me on my morning walks with my dogs. Love the BIC principle!

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  2. I have gotten to know a lot of writers out here in Sunny California. One thing I learned was that we all hear a different drummer. Some writers have one book in them, some a dozen, some more, some less. But we all listen to that drummer and put words and ideas on paper. But sometimes we should take an objective look at ourselves and see not only what we have accomplished, but what we want deep down to accomplish. That might just be the motivation we need to turn out the next book... and the next. Great think piece.

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    1. Yes, Gayle, you're so right! Being able to recognize and hear our own drummer! Hard to do sometimes. Thank goodness, there's New Year's.

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  3. Yes. Today, in the waiting for jury duty, I picked up an old New Yorker, April 7, 2014. Steven Soderbergh gave an interview about writing for everyday characters. He discussed how to make "big ideas fit into small language." It is a time consuming process of reflexion and writing. Thanks for the reminder to trust in the process.

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    1. Thank you, "badge # 979," for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment. I'm going to remember "big ideas fit into small language." Very nice.

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  4. I try to do New Year's resolutions, too, Madeline. Most usually I underestimate what I can do in a year writing-wise. I think most writers do. When I sit down and go over my goals at year's end, I find I've done so much more than I thought possible. Nice, thoughtful piece here. I'm sure most writers can relate.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Paul. Always love hearing from you, and today is no exception. I wasn't sure if my post would hit a chord with anyone. And I think you're right, looking back, some of things I've done might surprise me.

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  5. Mad, this post really made me stop and think. I, too, wrestle with the "I'm not doing enough writing" conundrum, but if I count the time I spend observing (aka snooping) and pondering (like you, I get ideas when dog-walking), it looks a little better.

    PS Happy Birthday belatedly!

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    1. Thanks, Bonnie, for the birthday wish--now counting backwards, as they say! Funny what we see when we stop and take a look at ourselves! And if it weren't for my dogs...

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  6. Oh, Mad - how I identify with this! "I'm not writing enough" haunts me. I'm always writing things other than my next novel. And my 'observing' (or snooping, as Bonnie so aptly says), consumes a lot of time ,as I plot a thousand other books in my head. I don't have a dog - so mine is done at the gym or driving, cleaning, cooking and all those fun things. So I like the idea of a different New Year from which to start. I'll take that - thanks. Then I don't feel such a wastrel with my time. And belated Happy Birthday too!

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    1. Thanks for the birthday "good cheer," Rosemary! Cleaning and Cooking?!--what a marvel you are! (smile) Yes, thanks for mentioning driving, That's another one where I'm mentally writing. Problem is, I can't write anything down. Even bought a little hand held tape recorder--can't find now! Sigh!

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  7. I'm a Book a Year writer too, Madeline, and I've had a couple of other authors tell me I need to produce MORE. I don't think so. Each of us writes at our own pace. The important thing is that we write.
    As to promotions resolutions, I'll be looking forward to your post about that. I'll take all the tips I can get. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Patricia. And ha! on the promotions resolutions. Haven't found the "silver bullet" yet! You are so right, each of us has our own pace, and I'm thinking wish as I want to, I'm going to have to accept that pace.

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  8. I don't spend enough time writing either, but I'd be very excited if I could say I finished one book a year....

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Patricia, and taking the time to leave a comment! Much appreciated. Fingers crossed the ideas keep coming for the books. It's hard sometimes, rather play with dogs, garden, nap. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective--never housework instead of writing! (smile) Continued success.

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  9. A book a year is wonderful, Madeline, when you consider the time it takes to think up the ideas, do a little research, write the thing, rewrite, edit, rewrite, get a cover and back cover copy, send it off... and then market! Sheesh! You should get paid for a "full time job!"
    I know a lot of writers who write a book a year, some more than that, like Sue Ann Jaffarian. But I remember what Sue Grafton said after putting out one book a year for so long. She was killing her self and not enjoying the writing. So now she produces a book every two years. She is on X in her alphabet mysteries, so only 2 more to go (4 years). After that? someone asked her. I'll be in my 80's!!! I'm not writing any more. (We'll see!)
    Meanwhile, I so admire you for your out-put, quietly, steadily, and with such rich, meaty content. You go, girl!

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    1. I agree. If you can get it out within the year, you've done well.

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    2. Oh Jackie, H., thank you!!!! You made my day...

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  10. I think we've all done an impressive job of moving forward, if I do say so myself, especially as we have full lives. We probably all opted out of that driven world of madness called the corporate world, and here we are complaining that the lives we've chosen aren't more like that driven world of madness! After reading the comments, I think "I'm not doing enough" is a mind gremlin that we all need to abolish. It takes the fun out of what we ARE doing, no?

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    1. I agree completely, Jackie! You've hit the production nail right on the head.Your "looking in from the outside comment" is just what I needed!

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