I have been thinking about my writing lately, and what I can do to improve. I started this blog so that I would get into the habit of writing frequently; so that I could exercise my writing muscles. It has worked – I have been blogging for over two years now, and this will be my 229th post.
Through blogging I have also connected with the other members of my writing group – four women who have similar goals to mine, and who have been so kindly encouraging that I have now completed three short stories in a little over a year. Not bad for a full-time working mother who had never completed any piece of creative writing since high school, though there were many half-hearted starts and attempts over the years.
Last Wednesday I mailed one of my stories to the Niagara Short Story contest. Over lunch on the day that I mailed it, I read the winning entries of the CBC’s Canada Writes short story contest, and then I re-read my story one last time before sealing the envelope. I saw the flaws in my work clearly in comparison to the short-listed stories, and I felt discouraged. I learned that I need to tell a more compelling story with a stronger voice from the narrator. Instead, it seemed like I had strung together a series of events and called it a story. I know I sound like I’m being hard on myself, but I think this was a really useful and constructive realization that I had. It gives me a more tangible goal that I can work on.
This thinking hit home a little bit more after I attended The Writer’s Room – a fundraiser at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama. I had a chance to listen to readings by Sandra Nicholls, Brian Doyle, Andrea Tomkins, and Phil Jenkins. The pieces they read were rich and descriptive. I closed my eyes and listened to the words and how the sentences were put together, and tried to think about what I could do to be able to write like that.
Driving home after the event, Brie and I talked about how the readings were inspiring but daunting too. We both wondered if we could ever get there. So what could and should we do? We talked about getting more involved in writing events; meeting and networking with more writers and getting more involved in the Ottawa writing scene. Mainly though, we should keep writing. We will get better.
One problem for me is being disciplined enough to write more. I would love to have a couple of hours of quiet time every day to write, but until I can free myself of all of my responsibilities and move to my much desired hermit shack, this just isn’t possible right now. But I know that I could take better advantage of the few minutes that I do get here and there when I can. I’m sure I could get in a full hour of writing every day if I really tried, even if it wasn’t all at once. It would all help.
I have also been thinking about the value of my blog. There are a lot of days where I don’t feel like I have anything to say, and I haven’t posted as often in my second year of blogging as I did in my first. And when Lynn from Turtlehead tweeted a call for blog post submissions for Blog Out Loud 2012, I knew that I hadn’t written anything in the last year that I would want to submit. If I haven’t posted anything in a whole year that I love enough to read aloud to my friends and peers, I have to ask myself if it would be better to drop it and focus on the fiction writing instead. My time is spread awfully thin as it is.
Plus, if I did have a bit more time, I would love to add in some writing workshops and courses into my schedule…somehow. This may have to wait until my daughters are a little older, though perhaps I can start sooner if I am declared to be surplus by the government after last week’s budget. Some days it’s hard to know what to hope for because when I write, or when I think about writing, my heart beats a little bit faster, and I feel the passion that is missing from my day job.
Writing is what I love; why does it have to be so hard?