Thursday, April 10, 2008

One Year Later

I always believed we have some notion of who, or what we're meant to be from the time we're eight or nine. A few people stay the course and they become that person. Most of us stray from the path, sometimes due to bad choices but most often because of fear and the need for security. Every once in a great while, we find the path again.
That was the first paragraph of my very first blog post and I still believe it and I’m still on the path. My first post was a sort of public declaration (not that I had a public) of my commitment to fiction writing.

A kind stranger commented on that very first post. Amy, from The Writers’ Group said, “For me failure means never trying. See? You've already succeeded. Best of luck...”

She was representative of the many interesting, kind and generous people I have come to know through this blog. I frequently read discussions about whether or if writers should blog and if there is any benefit to doing so. Generally, the question is raised within the context of whether it does a published, or about to be published author any good in terms of sales. I don’t know if it does or not. I doubt that in that case it makes much of a difference most of the time.

It’s made a difference to me as a writer and as a person.

When I started Eudaemonia I’d been pecking away at something I had tentatively called Ice Flowers. There was some good stuff there, but I had no idea how to structure a novel and by the time I’d gotten 32,055 words into it, I was frustrated and stuck. I’d been reading blogs and lots of books on craft and I knew I didn’t know enough to keep working on it.

I looked back on my posts at that time (it was May of 2007) and all of the helpful advice came from those of you who are still reading and who I’ve been able to share this year with. Everything that all of you said was right and I took your advice.

In June I started working on a new story and I called it Strings. I’d signed up for a weeklong writers’ retreat that would start in July and I needed at least the start of a first chapter to take with me.

The retreat was life changing for me. I attended many sessions on craft, I met some amazing Colorado based writers and despite having to fortify myself with a beta blocker and a beer before doing so, I read something I’d written in front of the whole group.

After I got back from the retreat I signed up for an eight week novel writing workshop and I got more help, learned to critique and met more great people. Then I did a second eight week workshop and it helped me to be a good critical reader and a fair editor.

I was 23,399 words into Strings when Tim Hallinan sent me an email about a crazy idea he had to start writing a novel from scratch and post a chapter a week, Charles Dickens style. I told Tim I’d do a post about the Dickens Challenge and share the information, but I had no intention of participating myself. I had a decent word count going with Strings and two heavily critiqued chapters. I was adding word count steadily, but I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going with it.

Then two days before the first small group of Dickens Challenge writers were due to post first chapters, I couldn’t get the premise of a story out of my head. I kept thinking about it and turning the characters over in my mind and finally I started to write a first chapter and I was in.

The Foundling Wheel now sits at 29,496 words and I’m midway through the first draft of chapter 12.

Are you sensing a pattern?

On the surface it looks like I’m completely incapable of finishing anything and that may be true, but for once, I’m going to give myself a break. In the last year I’ve learned a lot. Ice Flowers put me on my path, Strings helped me to hone my craft further and the weekly posting format of the Dickens Challenge has helped me with structure and it’s helped me to write less from my head.

Last weekend, I met with a new critique group. A writer from one of the two eight week work shops I attended invited me to join a new group and at this point, it feels like just what I need.

This is my 165th post and in looking back at where I started and where I am now, I know that Blogging has had a huge impact on me. I’ve met so many great people online, spoken with some on the phone, exchanged emails with many and even met a few in person.

And did I mention that I got a dog and a cat?

Thank you to everyone who has made this year such a turning point for me.


Leatherdykeuk said...

I think writing is perseverence. "Another Bloody Love Story" will be my seventh unpublished novel.

kristenspina said...

Thank goodness you started blogging!! And I agree completely--we blog because we are better for it, and the work is better for it, and because the friendships we make go a long way toward sustaining us through the hard and challenging times of writing. What comes of that writing is not entirely the point.

Leslie said...

I'm pleased and proud -- and I *love* to say "my sister is a writer"!! :)

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Happy Blog Birthday, Lisa. I'm so glad you joined the 'sphere.

One thing I've learned through my novels--published and not-yet and never-to-be: no writing is wasted; it all moves us forward.

Here's to a fulfilling year ahead!

Usman said...

Yep, here's to another year of writing.
Without my blogging cheerleaders I might not have got so far as to be revising a novel. Lisa you are one of them, I'm proud to say.

Charles Gramlich said...

Every start does not have to have an ending to be useful. You've learned much and gotten your feet wet with critiques and critiquing. Great progress and I'm proud of you.

Melissa Marsh said...

I know I'm glad to have 'met' you through the blogging community, Lisa. Your posts are very inspiring to me, and I'm so glad you are pursuing your writing dreams.

I love to blog. I love all the people I've 'met' and interacted with, and it has created another network of support and encouragement that I need. :-)

Happy Anniversary!

Sustenance Scout said...

What a difference a year can make! I'm right there with you, Lisa, and SO glad the blogging experience has been enhanced by meeting and getting to know you and Carleen and everyone you both have introduced me to. Happy Blog Birthday indeed! K.

Yogamum said...

Although I didn't meet you through blogging, I'm glad blogging helped lead you to the point where I DID meet you!

Keep on writing!

Patti said...

is blogging useful? um, hell yes. it pointed us to each other and that has been a gift for me (i will refrain from speaking for you here).

it seems like i have known you much longer than a year. you have shared yourself openly with all of us and i we have grown because of you.

you push me to try harder when i see your questions about craft. you make me think. you make me laugh. especially when you call me an ass. ASS!

i count myself grateful to call you friend. rock on, girlie...

Billy said...

I started writing at seven because the author of Perry Mason read a brief bit of incomprehensible writing I sent him. I have been sidetracked through the years by my own actions and the actions of others ... but I never really wanted to do anything else but write.

I think your very first paragraph still holds a lot of truth :)

Larramie said...

If nothing else, blogging helps to remind us where we've been and how far we've traveled both alone and together.

I, too, owe Amy a major "thank you" for mentioning Eudaemonia and providing its link on one of her posts. After following that click, well this site felt like home.

Cheers, Lisa, to sharing the best that's yet to be -- including whatever happened to Natalie's baby?! :))

Sustenance Scout said...

Ha, Larramie!! :)

Lisa said...

Rachel, You really are an inspiration to me and perseverance is about to pay off for you in the form of your first published novel. You are very talented and once that first book is in print, you will be hard pressed to keep up with the demand for your unique and delightful voice.

Kristen, You've said it so well. "we blog because we are better for it, and the work is better for it, and because the friendships we make go a long way toward sustaining us through the hard and challenging times of writing. What comes of that writing is not entirely the point." I know a lot of people probably won't believe me when I say this, but the desire for publication is really only a small part of why I write. Hannah at The Writers' Group said something this week that was exactly true for me. Something to the effect that the writing is the cake and publication, the icing.

Leslie, Well thank you so much :) Hope life in Holland is treating you well -- today in Denver we have steady, heavy, wet snow!

Judy, I don't feel like it's ever wasted either. Even if no one else ever reads it, each chunk of writing I do teaches me something I need to know to move on to the next.

Usman, We are like writing cheerleaders to each other, aren't we. It reminds me of that line from the movie, "Arthur". Writing, like bathing is a lonely business -- but so much less so with blog pals.

Charles, If you could see my face when I read your comment, you'd have gotten a snapshot of a goofy, beaming, aw shucks look. When published authors tell me they are proud of what I've done, it fuels my motivation for days. Thank you for all of the continued advice, encouragement and support that you give me and so many others.

Melissa, I'm very glad to have found you too. I think we're of a like mind about blogging. Now and then when I think of the time it takes, I question whether I'm spending too much time doing it, but the answer always comes back as a "no". I've managed to work through many issues by writing about them and reading comments from other people. That, in conjunction with the camaraderie of blogging writers makes blogging almost necessary to me now.

Karen, It has been quite a year. I've never met as many like minded souls in such a short time in my life. Glad you are one of them :)

Patti, You certainly do speak for me! I am very glad we've had the chance to meet in the "real world" too and I hope to see you down in San Antonio again before too long. I appreciate your friendship and your sense of humor -- it's not just any blogger that I feel like I can call an "ASS" :)

Billy, I think it really does hold true that most of us know what we ought to be doing pretty early on.

BTW, I am halfway through JOHN LENNON AND THE MERCY ST. CAFE and I am just LOVING it. What a fabulous mix of fact, fiction, humor and magic! More on it when I'm finished...

Larramie, It really is. When I went back and skimmed through where I was when I started and where I've been since, it was really a pretty encouraging (to me) record of forward movement and progress.

Natalie's baby -- hmm, yes I do suppose it's about time I caught us up with her, isn't it?

Lisa said...

Yogamum, Oops -- how did I miss you! Yes, I am very glad to have met you too, AND we talked about you Saturday at our first meeting. Whenever you're ready, there is a seat reserved for you. Hope we can get together and catch up soon.

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

According to Wikipedia, Eudaimonia (alternate spelling) comes from the Greek eu, meaning good, and daimon, meaning spirit. For me this blog has been just that--good spirit. Wben I read it, it usualy lifts my spirit. I look forward to more years of Eudaemonia.

Lisa said...

Steve, What a lovely thought and a nice thing to say. I can't remember why I chose Eudaemonia (or chose that spelling -- there are at least two more), but I've always liked the word and the concept. I'm so very glad to have "met" you and I'm grateful for your thoughtful posts and comments and for your continuing support in the DC.

The Writers' Group said...

Oh, Lisa, I'm sopleased you continued blogging too. You are such a fine writer and because you'll persevere, you'll one day see your book published. That's the secret, you know.

As for Leather, take heart. One of my all time favorite stories of perseverance is that of Archer Mayer. I asked him at a reading if he had any unfinished manuscripts filed away (I was about to do the same to mine after 73 agents rejected it) and he said it was his eighth book that was his first to be published. He's gone on to write many, many more award winning titles.


Shauna Roberts said...

Happy blog birthday! You've accomplished an amazing amount this past year! Even though I watched it happen through your blog, seeing the list today of how you've moved forward in your writing stunned me. May your second year of blogging be even better.

Congratulations also on finding a critique group. I hope the feedback and the chance to work on others' manuscripts are very helpful.

Lisa said...

Amy, I'm so glad you stopped in and so glad that you took the time to comment a whole year ago. It has been patient and big hearted writers like you who have kept me going, even when I thought I might be a lost cause.

And what a great anecdote! I believe in the power of perseverance too.

Shauna, I was a little surprised at where the last year has taken me myself! The blog provides me with an actual record I can look back to, which is a side benefit I'd never considered.

I'm very glad to have found a critique group too. I loved the structured work shops and everyone in the group was in the same work shops prior to this, so I am optimistic that this will be a very good experience. A very happy one year anniversary to you too!

debra said...

Blogger has been eating my comments all day :-( So here's another go at it:
Happy blogiversary, Lisa. I am so glad I found you. My birthdays are also this month--my irl birthday is next Wednesday and my blog's is on the 27th. Hard to believe how time flies...

Ello said...

Thank you! I love your blog! It has been a great learning experience coming here every week! I love your blog!

Crafty Green Poet said...

I think the opening of this post is very true. I also think that just because something is unfinished doesn't mean its a failure...

Vesper said...

Happy Blog Anniversary, Lisa! You are a wonderful writer and a wonderful person. What you say about writing and about blogging - I also can feel it. I'm glad we've met in the "blogosphere". When I visit your blog I always feel a kindred soul and that uplifts my spirits. :-)

Josephine Damian said...

Happy blogiversary!

Mine's coming up too wherein I'll be announcing a break from blogging..... it's time for me to scratch the itch the right way.

Bernita said...

What Charles and everyone said.
It's a journey and a joy.

Carleen Brice said...

About the 100 page mark is where I get stuck every time. Push forward on this project until the end and you'll do it next time too.

For the record, my blog has helped sales thanks to making blog friends and then blog friends spreading the word.

Glad you're one of my blog friends. Keep up the good all ways!

Greg said...

Keep it poppin'

Lana Gramlich said...

What lovely new pets! I soooooooo need to play with a dog. It's been too long. <:(
Glad to hear that the blogiverse has aided you in your writing. :)

Lisa said...

Debra, It is amazing how time flies and how much can happen in a year. Happy blogiversary and early birthday to you too!

Ello, I am so glad I met you out here too -- your blog is one of my daily reads and almost always gives me a laugh!

Crafty Green Poet, Thank you so much for stopping by. I agree with you on the unfinished works. I learn something from everything I start, whether I finish or not.

Vesper, You are so nice! I am very glad we met this year too.

JD, We'll miss you while you're on sabbatical. I hope it will just be a temporary break.

Carleen, Oh I'm so glad you said that. 100 pages seems to mark a great big wall for me. I'm trying to figure out how to break through, go around, dig under or climb over!

Greg, Thanks and thanks for continuing to stop in and visit.

Lana, The animals were a great addition, despite their "issues". I think blogging really has been helpful in all kinds of ways.

The Electric Orchid Hunter said...

This reminds me of what Helen DeWitt said. She had been amassing stacks of unfinished manuscripts all over her desk and in her drawers for ten years before she finally picked one as a firstborn and gave birth to The Last Samurai. So just keep at it! And congratulations on coming full circle with your blog.

Lisa said...

Orchid Hunter, Well that's encouraging!I know there is a way to break through and I'm beginning to believe this must be psychological. I just need to find the key. I will though. Thanks much!

Tim said...

Lisa -- I'm so proud of you. You've established one of the best (and best-hearted) sites I know, and I read you with fascination whenever the Cambodian Internet infrastructure allows it.

And you're a wonderful fiction writer, too.

Lisa said...


I've learned an awful lot from you in these last several months. Thanks for always being so helpful and for always knowing when to pop in with a word of encouragement. It never fails to make my day :)

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

Virginia Woolf