Like a rainstorm in January

Two updates in one month?? Madness, I know. I’m trying to get better at regular updates. Seeing as this is only January, we’ll see how it goes.

Writing:

So I pointed out last time that one of my biggest goals for this year is to finally become the writer I pretend to be. Which means actually typing up my notes and stories. I downloaded a word tracker (actually the same one I tried downloading last year, but I couldn’t get it to work. Clearly 2016 was doomed from the start for me). So far it says I’ve only written about 3,000 words, but it’s better than nothing.

I’ve been focusing on the story I started in November. I love the character I’ve been developing, and it’s been fun creating some new mythology. Because no one else wants to believe that phoenixes are real. I’m also getting excited about my other novel again. Forcing myself to write every day is getting easier. The ideas for both stories are coming much easier. It’s a good feeling.

Reading: 

I decided to create my own reading challenge without hassling my friends about what book they’d be reading that month. I’m sure my friends are very relieved.

I started this month with two different books by Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess. I don’t even know how these books ended up on my list, but I’m so happy that they did. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was fun and weird. Everything that has happened to her is ridiculous, but believable, because I know someone who has never had anything normal happen to her either. Furiously Happy made me feel more than I planned on feeling. While the first book was more of a memoir, Furiously Happy was just so much more than I expected. I expected it to be funny and strange, which of course it was, but I didn’t expect it to bring me to tears. Sometimes I feel pretty insane, but her determination to be successful and happy when there’s so much wrong was strangely inspiring. It made me think about my own life quite a bit. Then a cried a little more, but in a good way.

Coffee intake:

Could definitely be improved.

Plots and plans:

I am generally disorganized as a person. This just a fact. I’m trying really hard to get my life together this year (definitely trying harder than last year, actually). The biggest help that I’ve found is using a planner. I had planners in school, all the way up through college and I loved them. I’ve been sort of lazy about using them the past few years, but I’m hoping that will change.

I have two planners this year, which might sound strange, but trust me, it makes sense. I have a pineapple one that’s about the size of a notebook that I’m using for normal life stuff. Bills, work, vacation, forced family bonding. Then I have a smaller one that I’m using for my writer goals. I looked at the next two months and planned out how much I should be reading and writing each day. My days off I’ve turned into full work days. I even got different color gel pens for reading, writing, and blog posts. I’m getting so organized.

The idea is to make the most of my time. There’s no reason for me not to be writing, or reading more books. I’m making myself get up earlier than usual as well. This also sounds crazy, but I move much faster when I’ve had three cups of coffee before I’ve even gotten to work. I don’t know how I lived before I got this automatic coffee maker. I set it for 6:30am, so I’m pretty much waking up to the smell of coffee. It’s amazing. And it sets the tone for my day. By the time I get to work I’m energized and ready to go. I spend less time being grumpy and more time getting things done.

We’re three weeks in to January, and I haven’t lost any momentum yet. I’m pretty sure this is a new record for me. I hope everyone else is keeping to their own goals, or resolutions, or small things they’d like to accomplish. fullsizerender

For encouragement I have included a picture of the handsome Editor Cat. He’s currently in his favorite position, on my lap, between me and my computer. I’ve gotten pretty good at typing around him. Not that he’d ever move. Time for me to get back to writing.

Thanks for reading!

-JBL

Advertisements
Posted in Updates, Writing inspiration | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New year, new coffee maker, new writing goals

Hello, lovely readers. It’s that terrible time of year again, where people make resolutions, determined to challenge themselves in new ways each day. I say terrible because for me it tends to be like that. I try not to stress myself out with resolutions I know I can’t keep. Instead I make small goals that can definitely be accomplished once I stop showing my cat YouTube videos.

Updates:

I really slacked off with writing and posting these last few months, because of various personal reasons. I feel fortunate, though, that I have good friends that managed to drag me out of it.

In the writing department, though, I am pleased that I started a new story. I tend to write shorter thing. I love short stories and flash fiction. So working on a novel can be a bit harder for me. I was pleased when I started my NaNoWriMo project and was able to see how it could develop into something larger. Even though I didn’t hit the word count, I am proud of what I started.

The one goal I did manage to accomplish last year was my reading challenge. I might have strayed from the monthly themes towards the end of the year, but I didn’t slow down. I managed to read 34 books last year(it would have been 35 because I was so close but then New Years happened and I had to cook these meatballs).

I am proud of my reading goal, not because of the amount of books I read, but because of the variety. I read classics and anthologies, as well as self-published and books that were published just last year. I’ve come to realize how important reading is to me as a writer. I feel like since I pushed myself to read different genres and stories I wouldn’t normally read, I’ve become a better writer. I feel like I’ve talked to hundreds of different people, and gotten to see a hundred different points of view. It’s made me think about what I’m writing, change the view point of the story and see where this new direction will take me.

Books that changed me (well, at least this year):

Last year a coworker sent me a reading challenge, which started this whole reading madness for the year.

img_2968

For the month of April, I decided to go statewide in terms of local authors. I, of course, knew how I felt about Indiana, so I was curious to see how other Indiana writers would portray the state. I originally checked out around 12 books from the library that month, but ended up settling on 5 of them. My favorite one that month was The Starlite Drive-In by Marjorie Reynolds. She wrote about a small town in a was that, much to my surprise, wasn’t boring. She showed that the people in those towns have depth and dreams. There’s ups and downs in small towns. It’s a way of life that not many people understand or care to read about. But it made sense to me. It made me think of my own childhood, of spending summers in town, and my first double date at a drive-in. It made me realize that I should be proud to write about Indiana. That it’s not the state that’s boring, it’s all in the description of it.

February’s challenge brought a book recommended by a friend. I have so many friend recommendations that it’s hard to even begin making a list. So I picked a book that my brother recommended. My big brother is not a reader, but he heard about this book and called me to see if I’d heard about it. I found it a used book store and tried to give it to him, but he wouldn’t take it. He said he can’t sit down a read an entire book. He wanted me to read it. So, two years later, I read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I know many people, myself included, are hesitant to take on a book about a dog because we all know how these things end. But I was very happy with the book. Enzo was written not like a dog, but as a person. He felt things, and then I felt for him, and then I cried a little because his story was beautiful.

February also brought a book that has ended up being a new favorite for me. Having a favorite book is sort of a big deal to me. I don’t make favorites easily. But sometimes I find a book that moves me so much that I can’t stop thinking about it. When I first read the description for The Gargoyle, I thought that it might have some humor and be a bit fun. Anything starting out with a porn star in a wild accident is bound to be interesting, right? But this book immediately proved me wrong. It stuck in my head. There were several times that I had to take a break from the book. I’d have to put the book down for an hour, just so I could process what I had read. I could feel myself holding my breath as I read, so enthralled by Marianne that I couldn’t wait for her to tell more of her story. As I grew closer to the end of the book, I could feel myself getting more nervous. I wanted the story to keep going. Andrew Davidson had created these incredible characters that were beautiful and flawed. My heart hurt for them when I read about the lives together. Once I finished the book, I wanted to tell everyone to read it. I suggested it to everyone I knew, hoping they would be as moved as I was.

New writing goals:

I spent most of last year working on being a better reader. I think it’s time now to use what I’ve read and focus on my writing.

My goals this year are pretty simple. I’m going to act like a real writer. To me that means keeping track of how much I’m writing, and making time every day to add on to my monthly word count. I downloaded a sexy new Thor word tracker and I have a fun new planner to keep myself on track, as well as an automatic coffee maker that wakes me up with the smell of fresh coffee every day. I also got this awesome salt lamp for Christmas, which means I’ll probably be sitting in the dark, staring at my salt lamp for inspiration by mid-year. What else could a writer need besides coffee and a salt lamp?

img_4513

The obvious goal is to finish both books I’m working on, but I also hope to post on here more than once every 3 months. I can totally do this.

For now, though, it’s time for bed.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to find me on Twitter where I’m usually questioning why there’s no donut delivery system in this city.

-JBL

Posted in Updates, Writing inspiration | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

30 Things I thought I’d do by 30 (and 30 I actually have)

I’ve been going back and forth over the past few months on whether or not I’m bothered by turning 30. Some people view it as a big deal, others couldn’t care less. It’s hard not to compare myself to the people I know. At 30 my mom was married with a baby on the way. A friend of mine already celebrated her 5 year wedding anniversary, and several of my classmates have multiple children. Today is my 30th birthday, and what do I have to show for myself?

As a writer I frequently reflect on things of my past, wondering how things might have turned out different if I had made better choices. That’s just a nice way of saying I dwell on the past too much and tend to obsess over what might have happened if I had only paid better attention.

I had mentally been making a list, and driving myself mad, of all the things I thought I would have done by now. Fortunately, I have good friends that pull me out of the darkness in my head and remind me of the good things that have happened in my life. I still want to share my list, though, because I think it’s important to see how my goals have changed. I might not have gotten to where I want to be, but it’s not so bad right here.

30 things I thought I’d do by 30

  1. Get married to my college sweetheart
  2. Buy a house close to a big city
  3. Have at least three kids
  4. Buy an SUV (I really don’t want to explain why I thought this would be something I’d have done by now)
  5. Get a short story published in a magazine
  6. Get at least my first novel published
  7. Move to London
  8. Decide Paris is more romantic and move there after two years in London
  9. Have a dog
  10. Move out of Indiana for good
  11. Leave small town life forever and only live in and travel in big cities
  12. Have a job that I loved
  13. Have a well paying job
  14. Open my own coffee house
  15. Travel to Greece and fall in love
  16. Have a respectable, adult wardrobe that doesn’t contain skinny jeans or shoes with cats on them
  17. Have a large kitchen in my house that would be fully functional and absolutely impressive
  18. Have enough time and money to get my nails done every month
  19. Own enough books to create my own library
  20. Build a library in my house
  21. Drive across the country, visiting the small towns that no one talks about anymore
  22. Go to Disney World more often
  23. Have a summer home in Cape Cod
  24. Go on week-long vacations at least once a year
  25. Become a well known author (by name only, I don’t know if I want people to be able to recognize me in public)
  26. Read every book I own
  27. Gotten a degree that could actually be useful in the real world
  28. Be immersed in a writing community, or even find a writing community to dive into
  29. Publish a collection of short stories that could be read as a companion to my first novel, or simply enjoyed on their own
  30. Finally get my shit together and stop procrastinating

I’m feeling a bit sick looking at the list I just typed. Nothing is what I thought it’d be and I can’t go back and change things.

Time to focus on the positive things now.

30 things that have actually happened

  1. Fallen in love, several times, with guys that don’t always deserve it.
  2. Fallen out of love, because sometimes people change
  3. Proud Aunt to a niece and nephew that I love so much I want to cry.
  4. Been living on my own for the past 7 years. Living in my own apartment, paying my own bills, buying my own groceries. For the most part at least. My family loves to help me out when they sense money is tight.
  5. Had a Great Gatsby themed 30th birthday party, thrown by my friends and family. It was so amazing that I start tearing up just by thinking about it.
  6. Realized that I’m incredibly loved by my family and friends. They believe my life is worth living, and that’s what gets me through the tough days.
  7. Moved out of the state, realized it was terrible, and moved back to Indiana. I feared the repercussions after telling my family it was too hard out there, but they welcomed me back with open arms and asked me what they could do to help me.
  8. Planned several vacations, with my friends, that actually went pretty well. I’ve traveled to Boston, Salem, New Orleans, Disney World. Trips that I planned without consulting my mom on what I should do.
  9. Learned how to file my own taxes, which is something I never thought I’d do
  10. Connected and disconnected utility services over the phone, scheduled maintenance for the apartment, and bought LED light bulbs. Moving into my first apartment made me realize that no one is going to do these things for me. I have to be responsible for things I’d never thought about before.
  11. Got a cat, which quickly turned into an obsession. Boyfriend gave me a cat while I was living alone in the city because he was worried about me living alone in the city. I had never had a cat before, and I had no idea what to do with it. Cut to 6 years later, and this cat is companion. He sleeps on my bed, follows me around, and has a special meow just for me.
  12. I graduated at the start of the economic decline a few years ago, so jobs were hard to find. I took a chance on the first job I was offered and moved an hour and a half away from my parents to start something new.
  13. Turned the first job I could find into a potential career. I have medical insurance with my job, and a retirement plan. And I’m good at my job. It’s earned me the respect of my coworkers, which is finally being acknowledged by my boss. Things are looking up in there now.
  14. I’ve gone to almost every coffee shop in this area, and find new shops everywhere I go. I love finding a place that really cares about their coffee.
  15. I fell in love with Boston. The history and the buildings. I had never felt so drawn to a city before. Chicago has always been my favorite city, but Boston has that east coast vibe. Everything in that city moved differently from the Midwest. That was the first time I felt truly moved by a city.
  16. Realized that I can be a respectable adult and still wear a shirt with a cat on it.
  17. Forced myself to cook a variety of real food, and not go the easy route and buy fast food or pre-made food.
  18. Learned how to create a budget, even if I only follow it half the time.
  19. Started a reading challenge with my friends, hoping to finish at least 12 books this year. Right now, I’m at 29, working on my 30th for the year (how fitting).
  20. Explored all the libraries in town, and took full advantage of them when it came to the reading challenge. How are people not excited about everything a library has to offer?? I’ve gone to several author readings and had the chance to talk to them about publishing and writing. Everyone should be going to libraries.
  21. Studied literature and writing in college, instead of a more logical major, like business. My parents encouraged me to study what I wanted, and as a writer, I’m grateful for that. As someone paying back student loans for the next 10 years, maybe not as much. I can tell how much my writing has improved, and I can still hear my professors telling my how important it is for a writer to be well read.
  22. Realized just how much I love my family, even though they can be smothering sometimes. They will always be there for me, no matter what ridiculous thing I do.
  23. Accepted that what’s best for some people, might not be best for me. While people around me are getting married and having babies, I’m good being single and childless(unless you count my cat, which I sometimes do). Finding a husband is not the most important thing in my life. Pushing myself to be a good person and a good writer is what matters to me.
  24. Sadly accepted that as cool as blue or purple hair looks, it will never be a good look for me.
  25. Taught myself to make pie crust, which no one else I know does better than me.
  26. Cut out the negative people in my life. The friends I have are the friends I know I’ll have my entire life. There’s no drama, just love and respect. They encourage my writing and bring me the positivity I’m lacking most days. These are the people I want by my side forever.
  27. Made it a plan to go to the Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago every year. I’ve connected with different authors and publishers through that, and have gotten so many wonderful books.
  28. Somehow ended up a fan of a sport I had never really considered (GO BLACKHAWKS!)
  29. Made a habit of regularly going through my clothes and shoes to get rid of things I don’t use anymore, and donating them to a group I trust.
  30. Accepted that I’ll never completely get my shit together, but using a monthly planner will definitely help.

I know I haven’t posted in a while, and this seems like a strange thing to suddenly post, but the year is winding down so my thoughts are winding up. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and hopefully next time we will be back to our regularly scheduled writer updates.

-JBL

Posted in Uncategorized, Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The end of March and the beginning of thunderstorms

It’s that time of year again, dear readers. Spring has mostly arrived, signaled by my least favorite day of the year(April 1). I know Indiana has a habit of returning to Winter even on the warmest of Spring days, but I’m praying that the random snowstorms have called it quits for a few months.

Usually this is the time of the year when I get that itch for spring cleaning, and I spend half of my week cleaning. The other half is usually spent regretting the tornado I’ve started. At this time last year, my cleaning was going full force because of my plan to move to Pennsylvania. I had high hopes for my year. I’m pretty sure I tossed half of the stuff in my apartment to make the move. The weeks leading up to my move were rough, and the months that followed were even worse. I’m still unsure if I made any good decisions last year.

This year, so far, has been different. There has been to itch to clean, to rush to toss out what I don’t need. I came back with so little that I’m wondering when I’ll recover. I finally have a toaster (yeah, toast!) but I still can’t find my iron. I have my dishes back so I can cook, but I can barely afford real groceries.

Part of me feels more mature this year. I’ve been more aware of the state of things in my life. Keep up with the dishes, pick up the living room before bed, fold my clothes when they come out of the dryer. But then there’s the part of me that’s just like, “I don’t need to be an adult today. I’m just going to eat frozen burritos all week.” It can be conflicting.

Weather and depression aside, things are going better. I’m pushing through my reading challenge, finishing three books this month. The fourth will probably be done in the next few days. I’ve only had it for eight years. It’s probably time I finish it.

I’ve enjoyed most of the books I’ve read, even the ones I wouldn’t normally pick up. My favorite one for this month was published only a year ago. The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble was a quick and fun read. If you’re looking for an escape to a slightly magical world, I definitely recommend reading it.

Next month’s reading challenge might prove to be more difficult. April’s challenge is books from a local author. Any suggestions for an Indiana writer?

This month I’ve also gotten a chance to work on my editing skills, thanks to my amazing writing buddy. She has given me another story to edit, and I gave her a list of notes. It was a content edit, as opposed to my usual “tear this apart” edit. I enjoyed stepping into the story, and talking to her about the world she had created. This woman doesn’t half-ass anything. Seriously, check out her blog.

That’s all the updates I can share at the moment. Time to get back to burritos and writing. Thanks for reading! And if you have any suggestions for an Indiana writer to read, please leave a comment!

-JBL

Posted in Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On the upside of January

In my mind, winter is almost over. I’m tired of the bitter cold and icy roads. A winter scene may look beautiful, but I have an irrational fear of driving in the snow. I’m trying to forget that sometimes it snows all the way until April in Indiana. What a lovely state I’ve chosen to return to. But enough of the weather-rant.

In keeping with my last post, I have been pushing myself to accomplish more. To be the person I’ve been pretending to be. I have successfully finished this month’s reading challenge, which was a book that has been made into a movie. I read Water for Elephants, Divergent, Gone Girl, and The Hobbit. 

I feel silly for being proud of myself, but I can’t help it. I read Divergent in only a few hours, and Gone Girl over the course of a few days. Part of me feels back to normal again, reading all three books before they’re due back at the library. It feels good to get lost in stories again. It reminds me of what I’ve always loved. Stories.

I’ve also managed to keep up my goal for writing each day. My plan has been to get at least an hour of writing done each day, which for the most part I have. I am back to work on my novel, but I am also working on a short story. I’ve restarted my journaling again, which has given an outlet to some of my stress. I tend to have more bad days than good days, so keeping a journal helps me work through those feelings. Once I get all that negativity out on paper, I can start looking at the good things that are happening as well. It reminds me not to give up.

The new goal for February is to have something solid to edit. I am doing an editing exchange with a writer friend in the middle of the month. I’m excited to read her new work because she has such a unique voice. Now I just need to make sure I have something for her to edit.

The reading challenge for February is a book that’s been recommended by a friend. So far I have a few ideas, but if anyone out there wants to throw out some suggestions, be sure to leave a comment below! And if anyone else is on Goodreads, be sure to look me up!

Things seem sort of bumpy right now, but I’m trying to remain steady. I have my books and my journals and enough coffee to get me through the next snow storm.

Thanks for reading! Stay warm out there!

-JBL

Posted in Uncategorized, Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

January explanations

New Years usually calls for resolutions and newly announced goals. Since I haven’t posted anything in almost four months, I think I should probably explain what’s been going on.

Last year I talked about making big changes in my life. I (briefly) quit my job and moved two states over. I was excited for my new life and anxious to get out of the Midwest.

My new life in Pennsylvania turned out to be more difficult than I could have imagined. Work was not going smoothly, and I was making significantly less than I’d hoped. Actually, nothing about my move went smoothly.

My plan was to do a bit of traveling in that part of the country, maybe make a trip up to Canada, and save up enough money to move again in a year. Things went from bad to worse after the first month, causing me more stress than I could deal with. I found myself sinking faster than I ever have before. It was time to make another move.

In the middle of October I decided to move back to Indiana. It was something I never thought I’d do. I wanted to get out of this state, thinking that anywhere would be better than this cornfield. I quickly realized how lucky I had been in Indiana. I had friends and family that supported me no matter what.

I cried when I told my mom I was coming back. I felt like a failure. I made such a big deal about making my own decision to move away and it blew up so horribly. My mom didn’t scold me like I thought she would. She was happy for me. She told me to do what I thought was best, and that she’d support me no matter what. I really do have the best parents.

So, in the middle of November, the day before my birthday and four days before Thanksgiving, I made the 7 hour drive back to Indiana. The cats cried, and I cried, and it snowed while I was moving my stuff in to the apartment I hadn’t seen before signing the lease. It was an emotional week.

I started work the next day, then cried when I got home. I came back with nothing. I used all my money to put a deposit on the apartment. Half of my kitchen stuff had been packed away at my parents house or tossed out in July when I left town. My toaster and blender both broke down. My bookcases had been tossed when I moved out in July because there was no space in the truck to put them. Three quarters of my books are packed away in boxes somewhere.

I haven’t been able to replace any of the things I lost when I moved. I’m barely making it now, but I know in a few months I’ll be fine. I’m just lucky that I have the support of my family and friends. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful.

I’ve realized that my happiness starts with me. I was tired of how things were going in Indiana, so I moved. The problem wasn’t Indiana, though. It was my attitude and my constant excuses for not getting any thing done. My life in Pennsylvania was even worse. I wanted to do so much, but I found myself restricted in the strangest ways. Part of the reason I’m so happy to be back is that I have my independence again. I have the freedom to do whatever I want in my apartment, and a spacious bedroom to retreat to when I need a break from everything else. And, I’m happy to report, my cat is eating his food again. The last few months in PA he was barely eating anything. I could tell he was stressed out, and I knew the only way to help him was to get him out of that environment. He seems more comfortable in this apartment than he ever was in PA. He’s back to being a happy, plump kitty now.

I normally wouldn’t share this much of my life, but I’ve decided to take a new approach to things. I was frustrated and angry when I decided to move away. I was letting a bully ruin my work, which I used to enjoy. I was making excuses and not doing what I needed to do.

I’ve decided that the best thing for me to do is be positive. I am enjoying my job again. I no longer dread going in each day. I get along with my coworkers, and try to brush off any negativity. I’m writing again, and plotting and planning my moves for this year.

I bought myself a planner this week, for the first time in a few years. I loved having a planner and writing down what I need to do and making notes of things. I don’t know why I stopped using one, but I’m excited to keep myself organized now.

I have started a small reading challenge with a few of my friends. This month we’re going to be reading books that were made into movies. I picked “Water for Elephants”. It’ll probably end with me in tears, but I think that’s part of the challenge.

Thank you for reading this long post. I hope everyone had a good holiday, and I’m looking forward to all the great things we’re going to accomplish this year!!

 

-JBL

Posted in Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m not ready to be a digital writer, but I guess I’ll start trying

The people that know me know that I like my books the old fashioned way, hardcover books filling up every free space in my home. But, that’s the problem with living in the modern world(you should know that I sighed when I wrote that sentence). The world is going digital, a fact I’ve been fighting since I first learned that you could read the newspaper online.

I always wanted to be a writer. I dreamt of going to the bookstore and seeing my books on the shelves. I wanted a bookshelf at home, full of copies of the books I’ve published. I was a weird kid. It took me a while to come around to the fact that more people are turning to digital platforms such as Amazon, blogs like this, or websites like Thought Catalog or even Cracked.

I recently downloaded an app on my phone called Wattpad. It’s a cool little place for writers to post stores, chapter by chapter. They offer tips and hints for writing, and readers are able to provide immediate feedback. It’s almost like having an extended writer’s group. I haven’t posted anything yet, I’m just reading and investigating for now.

Some of my friends are looking more into independently publishing. Their goal is to publish and distribute their books themselves. I’m still hopeful for a more classical approach by sending out tons of manuscripts and receiving a few rejection letters in return.

My plan, for right now at least, is to use the wondrous Internet resources to continue to develop my writing. I have several pages bookmarked on my computer to inspire me whenever I get behind in my writing. My favorite is the charts giving you options for frequently used words, like “said”. I’ve joined several other online writing groups that send out weekly email discussions. It’s proved more helpful than I initially thought it’d be two years ago when I signed up for it.

I’m always curious to see what other writers are up to. Do any of you have a favorite app or website that you frequently use for writing?

Thanks for reading!

-JBL

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment