Thoughts On Writing

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?

About Finola

I am an Ottawa area Mom, writer-want-to-be and coffee legend in the making.
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19 Responses to Thoughts On Writing

  1. allison says:

    Ugh. I don’t know. Could you work some sort of writing group or exercises into your blog? I just completed a project where we were given prompts every day for two weeks and, while it was sort of uncomfortable and out of my element, it really felt like I was doing a different kind of writing that is a little more thoughtful than my usual schtick. (You’re still coming to BOLO, right?)

    • Finola says:

      I am definitely coming to BOLO, and I’m even hoping I have a brainwave soon so that I can submit something to read too. I look forward to seeing you again.

  2. Shereen says:

    Hi Finola, I think it’s great that you’re pursuing your passion and trying to find the time to incorporate it in your life. Just one comment – while it’s good to admire and be inspired by other people’s writing, I think it’s also important to appreciate and nurture your own style and to celebrate your unique/distinguished voice 🙂

  3. I like what Allison says about using your blog for your writing – and feedback. I’ve thought about that too because the reality is there really isn’t time for everything, and I find it exceptionally hard to teach AND edit AND blog AND write AND be a mom AND AND AND…

    I thing we’re all navigating through this. I just sent off poems to a submission call knowing they’re not my best work, but I am striving to write more regularly and with more depth. At the same time, because of my editing, I have a million ideas floating around for some other types of fiction and a bunch of stuff started that I just need to finish up. I have some ideas – will bring them to the May writer group.

    Also, Apr. 20 is this book launch: Scott is the husband of a friend and I am thinking of going. My family is away that weekend so if anyone is interested in joining me, it could be fun.

  4. Lynn says:

    So true, so true, so true. I just can’t write fiction because I only ever see the flaws in it, and with limited time to write, I can’t make myself focus on fiction when I know it’s just going to be so terrible. I’m so impressed with you that you have finished three stories! I think that’s great, and you’re well on your way to perfecting your craft.

    I find my interest in blogging comes and goes. Sometimes I’ll take a break for a few weeks, then suddenly something will happen and I’ll HAVE to blog it, and then there will be a flurry of creativity. There’s no need to announce a big bloggy breakup – it’s my own personal space and I can use it how I want, when I want.

    • Finola says:

      It’s nice to know that one of my favourite bloggers goes through some down times too. So true what you say about your own personal space too. I find myself getting caught up in stats and numbers too often instead of just using this space as I wish. Thanks Lynn.

  5. zoom says:

    Ooooh…I understand completely why you’re considering it, but I really hope you don’t give up blogging.

    But, speaking of BOLO, this means I’ve been trying for almost a YEAR now to get my birds to say Toodle Pip. I say it to them every single time I leave the house. I’ve promised them that when one of them finally says Toodle Pip, we’ll invite you over for a visit.

    • Finola says:

      Thank you Zoom, and I hope I don’t give up blogging too. I would love to pick your brain one day about how you always find something interesting to say on your blog.

      If I could blog one day about one of your birds saying Toodle Pip, I would be over the moon!

  6. Sid says:

    I agree with Allison that you could try to use your blog to give yourself writing assignments. I seem to remember some sort of experiment where they made one group make/do something creative everyday for a period of time and another group only make/do something creative when they felt like it for the same period of time. In the end the group who was forced to make/do made more and better than the other group. Apparently the point being that creativity can (and should) be forced – human brains are funny things.

    Also, I have never once written anything that I would ever consider submitting to BOLO or a contest. You should be proud of what you write and consider yourself very brave for putting yourself out there.

  7. Finola says:

    Sid, I know for a fact that you have posts that would be excellent for BOLO. A few of us have been going together over the last couple of years – care to join us?

  8. Kathleen says:

    Hi there Finola,

    Here’s a fun idea one writer’s using to shake up her poetry:

    Maybe great writing is just regular writing that’s been edited enough. Sort of the difference between a regular home and a home that is staged for a real estate showing. With all the clutter gone, the beautiful details sparkle.

    I really enjoy popping over to catch up on your blog now and then. But the most important thing is for you to do what you would enjoy doing most with the bits and pieces of free time that you have.

    • Finola says:

      Hi Kathleen and thank you for the thoughtful comment. I really wonder about editing too. I read a piece by Stuart McLean from CBC recently and he said that his first drafts probably look as bad as everyone else’s first drafts. While I’m skeptical of that, there is likely some truth in it. I need to research editing just a bit more I think.

  9. Tudor says:

    Hi Finola,

    I’m just so excited to hear you submitted to the Niagara short story contest! That’s a victory in and of itself.

    I, too, am uncertain about the future of my blog. I still have lots to say but feel like I have to be more and more careful about what I do say. I’m thinking of taking it easy over the summer – maybe posting once a month.

    There’s nothing wrong with a break – your mind and body tell you when you need them and if all you ever do is write you won’t gain new experiences to write about!

    • Finola says:

      Thanks Tudor – it’s definitely because of your workshop that I submitted to the contest, and I’m scouring the calendar for more contests now too.
      I hope you do keep your blog, though cutting back in the summer sounds like a great idea. I’m hoping to feel more inspired soon, but if I don’t, so be it.

  10. I don’t know where to begin this comment. I was one of the readers at the Writer’s Room and even though I had an amazing time I could not shake the feeling that I was fantastically out of place. A dandelion among roses. Imagine what it felt like to follow Brian Doyle. BRIAN.DOYLE.

    I enjoyed all of writers presentations so much. They are veterans of the writing world, and I can’t even pretend to be in their league, not even remotely.

    The kind of writing they do is hard. They approach it like a job – often putting in 8 hours at a desk. I don’t have this kind of time, nor do I think that I’m well-suited for fiction. But I think you have it within you. If I were you I’d use this blog for little fictions. Writing is a muscle, isn’t it? The more you do the better you become?

    • Finola says:

      Andrea, you were not out of place at all and you did a wonderful reading. I think it was Phil Jenkins who said that blogging and writing online represents the future of writing (I am sure I am badly paraphrasing), but I believe this is true. You did a great job of representing this future, and congratulations to you.

      I like the idea of posting some small pieces of fiction here. Maybe I will try some flash fiction and see how it goes. Thanks for all of your support Andrea!

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