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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cliché Cached Computer

The game has changed now that I have moved into the realm of serious writing. This is no longer jotting down stories on the back of napkins. This is no longer 300 words here, 200 words there – none of which see the light of day. I want the world to read my writing. This is serious. My words suddenly matter. And they better be free of clichés!

I imagine first drafts of all beginning writers are riddled with clichés (I hope it’s not just me). They are so easy to write – they are on the tip of our fingers, they roll off our tongues. When we are revising, we must rework those clichés. Easier said than done (ha! I’m having too much fun.).

But what if my characters are nothing but big fat clichés? What if my entire story is a cliché? This is where I keep finding myself stuck. I come up with an idea for a story that I L-O-V-E. I love my characters. I love the plot. I can think of nothing but this story. I write a draft. Then I read it. And think, what a cliché! I fall immediately out of love with my story and my characters. I move on to the next one.

Heck, I’m a cliché: Suburban housewife turned wannabe novelist, penning dystopian teen novel from Starbucks while children are at school.

I know that I am doing myself a disservice by not staying committed to my writing, by not working out the clichés. I know that clichés can be worked through by developing my characters more, or by adding an unpredictable twist to the plot. But my excuse du jour is: I’m stuck in cliché-land! My computer holds nothing but a cache of clichés! I will keep going so this thing called writing will work out for me. But today, I’m hating.

Are you finding yourself penning a pile of clichéd crap like me? Here are some articles I found on Writer’s Digest that could help:

How To Prevent Predictable Plots
12 Cliches All Writers Should Avoid

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Worth The Move

Two years ago today we were packing up our first home to move about 50 miles away over the bridge and into another state.  It was hard to do – to leave the only home our children (and dog) knew; to leave our friends, our church, and our support system.

I do love where we moved – I love our house, our neighborhood, our bucolic town. We've made some good friends, and we are starting to get a social life. But sometimes I still pine for my old friends – the ones to go places with even if it’s just the grocery store, or the mall, or the park; the ones I can call in a pinch for anything; the ones that will have lunch with me after school; the ones to have dinner with when our husbands are out of town or working late. Sometimes I wish I could go back. Not all the time, though. There are days when I am confident we made the right decision. Days like Monday.

Monday, my Writers’ Group came over for a coffee and critique session. We are a small group of five women writers that meet for coffee and discussion on writing twice a month. When we formed, we were only loosely connected – a few of us never even met before. We weren't sure what this writers group would look like; we weren't sure if it would last; we weren't sure if we would all click. But our little Writers’ Group (we call ourselves the Moonwriters) has exceeded expectations. We all have become invaluable sources of information, inspiration, and support. We have become friends.

We sat around my kitchen table on Monday talking about our writing and our lives – the good, the bad, and the ugly. After they left, I felt a rush of gratitude. If I hadn't moved, I never would have met them. I love these women. They are so worth the move. I look forward to years of celebrating our writing successes, supporting our writing failures, and sharing our lives.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

I Used To Be The Best Mom

I used to be the best mom. I used to do everything right. It was so effortless -- I followed my instinct or, when that failed, I followed the advice of an expert which would work perfectly because they were the experts and I was nothing but a mom in the trenches.

I look back on those days of my perfection fondly...

When everything was sterile, controlled, mess-free.

The days when my children napped in their beds according to the schedule I put them on. They nursed every two hours, exactly 20 minutes per side.

At night, they would stir to nurse at the same regularity  I would lift them gently out of their beautiful bassinet, nurse, then gently place them back in -- never falling asleep with them in bed because that could be dangerous. My children never co-slept with us -- for the dangers as well as the boundary issues.  

I used only cloth diapers. My babies never drank cows milk. I made my own baby food.

They certainly never had candy, junk food, juice boxes, or happy meals. It was all organic whole foods for us.

None of my children spent time in front of the TV or other electronics. We spent our time doing educational activities and crafts. My children embraced puzzles, games, crafts, writing. Their toys, always gender neutral, never included weapons.

I never yelled at my children because they respected my authority and listened when first requested. Failing that, I had a system of positive and negative reinforcement. I never needed to resort to punishment. I remember those days fondly. I remember when I was the best mom. Then, of course, I had children.

And now I am just a mom doing my best like all the rest. Hope you had a wonderful mother's day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You Don’t Really Want a Gift, Do You?

I appreciate you all. I really do. I appreciate all you good people in the world that strive to make this world a better place. I appreciate you under-appreciated – you teachers, you bus drivers, moms, dads, all service professionals. I do. But do we have to have a day to show our appreciation? Does it make us feel more appreciated? Do you really want a flower pot with my child’s finger print on it? Do you want a cute picture of my kid in a homemade picture frame? Do you want that spread of food you shouldn't eat two weeks before the start of summer?

We should do better at showing appreciation every day. It’s a shame that as a society we need to have appreciation days and awareness months to celebrate the often ignored.

I shouldn't need Teacher Appreciation Day/Week to make my child’s teacher feel appreciated. I should send my kid to school prepared. I should raise my child to value education and respect authority. I should take my family vacations in the summer. I should respect her experience and opinion in conferences. Does he really want my handmade gift to show my appreciation? At Christmas, in May, then again in June – how many coffee mugs does one teacher need?

Are these gifts even out of appreciation or are they just another example of over consumerism? Are we just trying to pin the best picture on our social media walls? Are we just trying to throw a band-aid on a broken limb? I know it sucks to be a teacher in a society that doesn't value education, here’s a doughnut. I know it sucks to be an ignored minority, here’s a month. I know it sucks to have cancer, here’s a pink pin.

You don’t really want a gift, do you? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just an uninspired gift-giver and an unappreciative gift receiver – focusing too much on the stress both cause instead of the joy. After all, nothing is more priceless than the look on a kid’s face when he gives a gift made out of love. Maybe that’s the idea for next year – skip the made-in-China soon-to-be-trash trinket and make a video diary of kids telling the teacher why they love him and appreciate her. I’m gonna pin that! (I mean, I would if I knew how.)