Lori Robinett: {Creating} My Path

musings of a wife, mother, writer . . .

Archive for the tag “writers”

Drawing Inspiration

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I always assumed that the writers I look up to (Stephen King, James Patterson, Stuart Woods, Lea Wait, Jennifer Crusie, and many others) are surrounded by inspiration. That is, until I decided to start taking my writing seriously. One of the first affirmations I chose for myself was “I do not wait for inspiration to write, I am inspired by writing.” If I wait to be inspired, I won’t touch a keyboard for weeks, even months, because life gets in the way. There are so many demands on our time, that we don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to hit. One of the young writers I work with years ago told me the blank page staring at her freaks her out, and asked how I can sit down and just start typing. “What inspires you?” she asked.

The answer for me is competition. In order for me to be successful, I have to be accountable to someone other than myself. It’s way to easy to lie to myself and bargain with myself. I believe me and fall for it every time. At this point, I have eight completed novels (one published, one in the editing stages and the remainder in rough draft stage). I would never have gotten there if it were not for four very important things – in no particular order: Book-in-a-Week (BIC HOK TAM!!!), National Novel Writing Month, my critique group (this is a talented group: Colleen Donnelly, Ericca Thornhill, Carolyn Branch and Jennifer Bondurant – pay attention to those names. You’ll see them on the best seller list someday), and my friend Lynn.

I need that push, that drive, that accountability, which is currently offered by my critique group. And there used to be NaNo (this is only the 2nd year I haven’t competed). All of my completed novels started as NaNo novels (by the way, our little region frequently finaled in the top 10 for the average production per writer list!! Kudos to us!!). And that’s how I got hooked up with my writers’ group. I really like these people, and even though I only see them occasionally, we share a unique bond. I joined up as a Nano’er and stuck with them throughout the year. It is well worth it to have a face-to-face meeting with other writers. We writers are a different breed. By our very nature, many of us have tendencies towards introversion. This gives us a chance to talk to others that understand our hopes, our fears, our dreams, our frustrations.

So, that’s what does it for me. Accountability and competition.

And the chance to meet some fantabulous women for breakfast every other Saturday!

I encourage you to give serious thought to what inspires you. Do not wait for inspiration to hit. It doesn’t knock on your door and ask if now is a convenient time. Surround yourself with inspiration. Think about what fires you up and makes you productive. It may be something like a support group, or it may be something completely different, such as having a ritual before you begin writing. Once you find something that inspires you, incorporate it into your life, and start making your dreams become realities, bit by bit.

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Fear . . .

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As a writer, I mine the depths of my psyche for things to put on the page. The common adage, write what you know, can be a bit misleading. At least I think so. If I wrote what I know, you’d be reading about a boring paralegal who is a newly-minted empty nester who spends 40 hours a week behind a desk and her free time reading and scrapping and watching television. Not exactly edge-of-your-seat reading. But I do know something about fear, desire, longing, love, etc. Emotions are at the heart of every piece of fiction that resonates with a reader. After all, it’s the emotion under the actions that inspires a writer as well as the reader.

Fear is what first sucked me into reading – Stephen King is the master. He can take one little situation and turn it into the most terrifying hours of life (and he is the reason I would never, ever, ever let anyone handcuff me to a bed . . . heck, I can’t even READ about that anymore after I read Gerald’s Game).

I’m trying to include more depth of emotion in my writing. Here’s what scares me the most, in no particular order:

  • Spiders. I can’t even stand to touch a dead one. They creep me out. Just attaching the photo above gave me the willies.
  • Tornadoes. I read an article when I was 8 or 9 years old about a woman whose body was found naked in a tree. The tornado had literally ripped her clothes off. At least that’s the way my 8 year old mind thought about it. Didn’t occur to me back then that she might’ve been sleeping nude. My hubs laughs at me, but during storms I am FULLY dressed. Don’t want to be found nekkid in a tree.
  • Fire. I lived through the Centralia Gas Fires (Jan 28, 1982 . . . lest we forget). I remember vividly being told that there had been an explosion at the elementary school, where my little brother was and I thought I had lost him. Terrifying doesn’t begin to describe the situation.

I’m going to mine some of those memories in my writing this week. Help me out. What scares YOU?

Creativity Takes Courage

Creativity Takes Courage

Creativity Takes Courage

The subject matter of this page is a few years old, but it still makes me smile. I started participating in National Novel Writing Month in 2004. I’ve won several times. The first couple of years, if you won, Lulu (a POD publisher) would print your book. They published Denim & Diamonds, which was my 2004 winner, and I released it to the public. As part of my NaNoWriMo responsibilities as a Municipal Liaison, I sent out press releases. In 2009, Megan Murphy, a local television reporter, contacted me and asked if she could do a story about our group. She brought a videographer to my house and they filmed my story in my scrap room! It was really, really exciting. I asked if she minded if I took pictures while they were filming and these are a couple of the shots I got. It was beyond exciting to have her here, talking to me about my writing. Even though the photos are not the best in terms of lighting, they tell a story.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been enjoying the CSI site (Color, Story, Inspiration), and when I saw the most recent case file, I knew exactly what photos I wanted to scrap. Take a look at the inspiration and you’ll see why I chose to do the layout above.

CSI: Case File 88

CSI: Case File 88

Location, Location, Location

ImageLocation, location, location – that’s not only true for real estate, it’s true for fiction, too. The setting may be simply the backdrop for the story, or it may be a character. Think about Gone With the Wind. That book was set in the South – and it provided a beautiful backdrop for the story that simply would not have worked set in any other location. The setting is tied so closely to the story that there was no option for locating Scarlett anyplace else. Then there are stories like the Stephanie Plum series written by Janet Evanovich. Yes, the setting provides a nice backdrop and there are certain regional aspects to the story – but you could just as easily place Stephanie in another tight-knit community and the story would still essentially be the same.

Think about Lost. I know, it’s television, but the storytelling in that series was awesome (well, up until the finale)! I loved the way all the threads (characters) were woven together (plot) to create the tapestry that was Lost. In that series, the Island literally became a character in the show. It was a force to be reckoned with. That story would not have been the same set anywhere else.

I chose to set Denim & Diamonds in western Missouri, largely because I live in Missouri and am comfortable describing the area. It is essential that you know the location that you are writing about. You don’t absolutely positively have to have first hand knowledge, but it helps. I read a book a few years ago by an author who wrote about a woman’s travels as she was trying to outrun the mobsters after her. At one point, she was in Kansas City, Missouri. The author described her stepping onto her front porch and looking south to the mountains. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Missouri, but you sure don’t see mountains from your little bungalow in Kansas City. I was naive enough to think the author might want me to point out the error, in case she was writing a sequel. She emailed me back and pointed out that she had seen a map and the Ozark Mountains are clearly in the southern part of Missouri. So, she had (sort of) done her homework and looked at a map. But she was from the East coast where something in the southern part of the state could conceivably be within view of something in the center of the state. That ain’t the case in Missouri! And the Ozarks aren’t what most people think of as mountains.

There are resources available to help you make the location in your story realistic (I apologize – these links are not live yet due to a problem with my blog software, but you can cut & paste them into your browser until I get the issue resolved):

www.city-data.com/  – for basic information about a BUNCH of cities.

maps.google.com/ – for map information. Street view can be very useful for writers.

www.writerswrite.com/journal/nov98/keegan13.htm – Great article on creating the perfect setting.

Creating my Path

My life is in transition now. I thought I was doing a good job of preparing for the Empty Nest, but when my daughter moved out unexpectedly, I was forced to transition sooner. That got me to thinking about the Path each of us takes during our lifetimes. It’s not about forging a path. “Forge” isn’t really the right word. Forge indicates a forceful manufacture – I picture a blacksmith holding a blazing red chunk of iron in a roaring fire, then pounding that metal into shape with every swing of his heavy hammer. Clang-clink! Clang-clink!

That is not what we do. Instead, it is a more organic process. We create a path. It zigs this way and that, occasionally backtracking. The Path may be fast and swift, through a clearing, but more often it is slow-going, over and around obstacles.

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Creating my own Path has been difficult at times, and as I look back over the years, I realize that there were many, many crossroads where I had a decision to make. According to string theory, each of those crossroads created a new universe. In another universe, I may well exist as a canoe-paddling explorer out to chart new waters in the Boundary Waters along the US-Canadian border (trivia: I took a bunch of Girl Scouts on a 3-day backpacking trip in the BW area. It was an exercise in patience and survival.). In another, I may be an Olympian guiding my hunter-jumper over spine-tingling jumps. But in this world, I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, paralegal, writer, animal lover.

What was an important crossroad for me? Going to the World Affairs Seminar comes to mind. At that seminar (thank you, Centralia Rotary Club, for sending me!), I suddenly realized that there was a whole world beyond my little hometown. Talking to students from all over the world was an eye-opener. My weekly thoughts were “What movie am I going to see with my boyfriend?” and “What color should I paint my nails?” It was mind-boggling to talk to other kids the same age as me, who were thinking things like “Is Mutual Assured Destruction really a smart foreign policy?” and “Should the US government be aiding rebels in Central America?” After listening to folks from the State Department and talking to other teenagers who actually cared about more than themselves, I decided my own future deserved a little more attention. Although I was tired of school, I went to college determined to earn my degree and do something worthwhile with my life (which is why I decided to go into education).

Creating your Path is an individual thing. When you reach a crossroads moment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do I want to end up?
  • What are the directions I can take?
  • What will it cost me to take each direction (“opportunity cost” will be discussed in a future post)?
  • Which path will take me towards my desired destination?

Please share below the crossroads that have had an impact on your Path.

TURNING DREAMS INTO REALITY: What if you couldn’t fail?

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Like most writers, I am fairly introspective. I spend time thinking about who I am, what made me this way, and where I’m heading. I have learned that we need to spend time thinking about our dreams, and finding ways to make them a reality. If you find yourself not pursuing your dreams, I encourage you to try working your way through “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It is a revealing journey. It taught me that I can make my dreams a reality, and I learned a lot about myself in the process.

One thought I have pondered recently is this – What three things would I do if I knew I could not fail?  1) I would quit my job and I would spend more time writing. 2) I would open a scrapbook store (my favorite stores are the Scrapbook Store & More in Mexico, Missouri and Soul Sentiments in Millersburg, Missouri). 3) I would get my pilot’s license.

I am interested in hearing YOUR three things. Email me or post a comment and tell me your three things. I’ll discuss your responses in a future post. But first . . .  now that you’ve decided what three things you would do, it’s time to take action. Take a moment to consider these things. What can you do to incorporate these things into the coming week? You have 7 days, and 24 hours in each day. Surely you can devote one or two hours to one of these things. For instance, I plan to spend an hour today scrapbooking. Sure, I need to bless my house (for those of you who know Flylady, you know exactly what I’m talking about).  And laundry needs to be done. And I need . . . well, you know how it goes. But I can spare one hour to pursue my dream. That’s all I’m asking. One hour. Are you seriously going to tell me that you are so busy this week that you can’t spend ONE measly hour on your dreams?

I didn’t think so. :o)

Plan your week. Make time for your dreams. They deserve your time and attention.

Dead Bodies . . . what to do with them?

In my current work-in-progress, someone dies (shocking, I know). The novel was inspired by something that happened when I was a kid of about 12. We were on a family vacation in Salida, Colorado staying at a quaint little “guest ranch” just this side of Monarch Pass. The towering Fourteeners all around us were awe-inspiring, but what I really remember were the sheer drops as we drove up into those mountains. At one point, my mom started talking to one of the locals about how easy it would be to drive right off the edge of the mountain and someone said something about a mangled guardrail. The local told us about a woman who had driven her car off the road in the middle of a snowstorm. She said the car was still down there, at the bottom of the ravine. Said it was too dangerous to try to retrieve her body. That has always stuck with me. Very much made an impression on me.

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Although that was an interesting story, writing my novel required research. I went on a ride along with a police officer and asked questions about how the officers would react if a woman were found standing on the side of a road, where another individual appeared to have gone over the edge. If you are writing about crime, I encourage you to go on a ride along. Most departments will allow you to do so, and it’s a fairly simple matter to apply. You will likely have to pass a background check. Before you go on the ride along, do a little research. There are lots of resources, but I recommend the article at PoliceLink, which you can find here.

I have only been involved with planning a funeral once, so I did a little research about funeral directors. YouTube is a great research tool for writers. I ran across an interesting short documentary (For Life) which gave me ideas for dialogue and action. If you use YouTube for research, look for documentaries or first person reviews.

Another part of my story that required research related to death was that the body isn’t recovered. That brings up some interesting questions, about how the individual is declared legally dead (this is known as death in absentia). In Missouri, this is a statutory question and requires that the person be missing for five years. If you have legal questions, you can usually check the Revised Statutes for your state. These can also give you ideas for plots. For instance, Missouri laws cover details like the definition of dead (think medical thriller) and disposing of the body (what if a funeral director cut corners to save costs?).

So, now you know how I spend my free time. :o) What have you researched lately?

Facebook: Is it the work of an evil genius?

Facebook: Is it the work of an evil genius?

For years, I stressed to my stepdaughter and daughter the importance of protecting their online identities, and not giving too much personal information to strangers. Then Facebook came along and everyone threw that fear out the window. We now willingly announce our relationship status, our location and what we’re doing every day. Even if you have your privacy settings to allow just friends to know what you’re doing – how well do you know your friends? What about that guy that you went to high school with? The girl that moved away in sixth grade? Facebook has become integrated into our lives so completely that many feel disconnected if they aren’t on. Is it more than social media? What is the next step? A chip implanted that automatically tracks us and updates our location? What about a map instead of a wall, that constantly tracks you and your friends and shows you where each of you are in relation to others? What if it was used by governments? Employers? Stalkers? Serial killers?

Super Virus?

Super Virus?

Click up (^) there to go see the Mail article. Another Briton has died from a virus that scientists say may be worse than SARS. For years I’ve been fascinated with the idea of a super virus. From the days of throwing dead cows over castle walls, humans have been taking advantage of the mean side of Mother Nature to destroy their enemies. This new virus has me wondering – did Mother Nature create this? Or did we?

The Artist’s Way: Week 2 – Sense of Identity

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We are through Week 2, which is “Recovering a Sense of Identity”. This is an important week to me, because this is the main reason I decided I needed to recover in the first place. Somewhere in the past few years, I’ve lost me. Instead of being me, I am JR’s wife, Katelyn’s mom, the office’s paralegal, etc. My identity has become blurred. I am no longer clearly me. I look in the mirror, and I don’t recognize the face looking back at me. The person I see is more tired, heavier, and harried than the me I used to be. So, I am using this week to try and regain my identity. In doing so, I hope to become a happier person, and, in turn, a better mother and wife.

Julia describes this as “going sane”. It does feel a bit like I’m going crazy. I have become obsessive about protecting my time. I have become more aware of what is really important. For instance, several years ago, I agreed to water my mother’s plants and pick tomatoes while they were gone. Normally, before TAW, I would obsess over that and worry, worry, worry about whether I was going often enough. but after experiencing The Artist’s Way, I decided when to go and made it a family project – not just something that I had to go do while my family sat at home in the air conditioning in front of the television while I played the martyr. I’ve felt guilty about not giving more of myself. I’ve questioned my own recovery – wondering if I’ve had all the success I’m going to have (which isn’t nearly enough, as far as I’m concerned). Julia says this is normal – she cautions “Do not let your self-doubt turn into self-sabotage.”

One of the ways we can avoid self-sabotage is by being aware of our “poisonous playmates”. Be aware of your friends who are themselves blocked – they will not help you at this time. You need to guard your inner artist – you have a responsibility to yourself to do just that. You need support now. And no one will support you better than yourself, and those of us who are going through TAW with you. Lean on us, and depend on yourself. You are on the right track.

Julia introduces us to Crazymakers in this chapter. The first time I read this, it was like a huge lightbulb went on. Crazymakers create drama, and put themselves at the center of attention. As soon as you start to focus on yourself, the Crazymaker calls you with a crisis. As soon as your life starts to go smoothly, the Crazymaker creates bumps and roadblocks and detours. They force you to conform to their schedule. But here’s the thing – they can’t FORCE you to do anything. Once you are aware of the Crazymaker, you can set boundaries and react to your own needs and not the Crazymaker’s. Recognize that this person is using you, and put a stop to it. That person is using you – no, that person is abusing you. There was a person in my life when I went through this the first time who I definitely considered a Crazymaker. She certainly drove me crazy. I made a conscious decision to stop reacting, and to let go of the anger that existed over all my previous reactions. It was incredibly freeing experience, and actually saved the relationship. She still drives me crazy, but now I avoid her except in specific circumstances so that I control my reaction and how much she affects me.

Think about your identity – I mean REALLY think about it this week, and do two or three of the following tasks:

1.   Affirmative Readings every day. Be alert for attitudinal shifts.

2.   List your five major activities this week. How much time did you give to each one? Which were what you wanted to do, and which were ones you should do? How much of your time is spent doing for others, and how much is spent doing for you?

3.   List twenty things you enjoy doing. Think back over the past several years – or even back to your childhood. Next to each entry place a date indicating the last time you did that activity. (Hint: perfect list to plan upcoming Artist Dates!)

4.   From your list of twenty things, write down 2 favorite things that you could do this week. Look for windows of time just for you and use them in small creative acts.

5.   Read the affirmations from Week One. Pick two or three that sounds the most ridiculous, and write them five times each day in your morning pages.

6.   Look at the list of imaginary lives from last week. Add five more lives. Can you do a little part of any of them this week?

7.   Life Pie. Draw a circle and divide it into six pieces, like a pie. Label them: spirituality, exercise, play, work, friends, romance/adventure. Place a dot in each slice at the degree to which you are fulfilled in that area (outer rim is great, inner, not so great). You’ll see where you’re lopsided.

8.   Ten Tiny Changes. List ten changes you’d like to make – any size change is fine. Just start each sentence “I would like to . . . ”

9.   Select one change and make it a goal for the week.

10.   Go do it!!

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