Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Preparation Is Key

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Folks, I recently played a concert with the Racine Concert Band, and I was struck by the difference good mental preparation made in my performance.

When I was younger, I never thought about this at all…I figured if I’d done the work, learned the pieces, my instrument was in good repair and I had a good reed, that’s all I needed to do. But preparation doesn’t stop with the mechanics of playing music; it actually starts there.

Because I have hand problems now, I have to think a great deal more about what I’m going to do, whether it’s with music, writing, or anything else. And what I’ve found is that if I put myself into a calmer frame of mind and tell myself I’m going to do the best I can, and not beat myself up beforehand because I can’t do what I once was so easily able to do, I come pretty close to being able to do what I used to do so effortlessly.

Now, I did prepare for big moments on stage, of course. I mentally played through solos, recitals, various high-profile gigs…so this mindset is not totally alien to me.

I’d never thought about it with a run-of-the-mill concert before, though.

So, as I was thinking about this, I wondered if it might help my writing, to stay in that same mindset as best I can. Just the belief that I can do it may make a difference on a bad day…and we all need that, whether we realize it or not.

Granted, I write on different days for different reasons. Sometimes I am writing an intensely emotional scene and I need to be able to feel that. Staying detached under such a circumstance won’t work.

But the belief that I can affect my own outcome a little…that is worth having.

You see, the biggest threat to creativity is the belief that it doesn’t matter. That who you are, that what you create, won’t ever make a difference to anyone.

We creative types have to have at least a small bit of an ego to take up a creative profession; otherwise, we’d get ground to powder quickly, as creating against strong headwinds is not for the faint of heart.

So, just for today, I want you — and me — to believe one thing:

It does matter.

What you do, what you create, what you are, all matters.

Don’t let anyone tell you different. And keep doing whatever you need to do, in order to be your best self.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 25, 2017 at 10:36 am

Writing, Hand Issues, and More Frustration…

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Folks, you probably have noticed that I haven’t written a blog in nearly a week.

There is a reason for that. Three of them, to be exact: Hand issues. Frustration. And lots of editing.

My writing has taken a big-time backseat to all of this.

Now, as for the hand issues? I have tendinitis in both hands and wrists. (Until recently, I was told this was carpal tunnel syndrome, but now, the diagnosis has been revised.) Typing is painful at the moment. Using my arms at all is painful, too. I’m going to hand therapy, using heat, ultrasound, and doing various exercises, all so I can continue to use my hands as best I can.

Why am I so worried about my hands? (This may seem basic, but please bear with me.) Without my hands, I can’t work. As being an editor pays most of my bills, I need to do this despite the pain.

That’s why writing, for the moment, is taking a backseat, even though I don’t like it much. I just can’t concentrate on my stories right now, because everything I’ve got is going either into the hand therapy, my editing, or just living day-to-day life.**

In addition, I have another concert to play in a week and a half with the Racine Concert Band as a saxophonist. My part won’t be very difficult; I will have no solos, I will not have any exposed parts, and I will be someone that most people won’t even realize is playing. Yet the conductor and other members of the band would notice if I didn’t show up, and thus I’m going to go and do my best.

Even though it hurts.

I’ve persisted through a lot in my life. I’ve endured divorces, deaths, health problems, financial distress, floods, earthquakes, and probably a number of other things I’m forgetting right now. So you can assume I’m going to persist through this obstacle, too.

Do I wish things were easier right now? You’d better believe it.

But I’m glad I can still type. I’m glad that I can still play my saxophone, even if it’s not at the level I want, even if I don’t have solos anymore, even if for the most part I’ll probably never again be someone most people in the crowd think about when they go see a concert.

I’m doing what I can. I have to take comfort in that.

No matter how frustrating I find this situation to be, I will not give up.

I just have to pick and choose my spots for a while. That’s all.

——

**Note that I am still thinking about my stories. I have written down some prose notes. I have talked with other writers, and am doing what I can to re-read the works in progress, and keep going as best I can with my thought process overall. I know that my mind never stops working, so maybe being hindered will eventually produce some better, richer, deeper stories…one can only hope, right?

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 11, 2017 at 3:47 am

How to Wait Out “Life, Interrupted”

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Folks, I continue to be in a holding pattern due to what I’m going to call “life, interrupted.” As there’s a lot of stuff going on here that I can’t talk about, I’d rather talk about my coping strategies to deal with all the stress (the “life, interrupted” stuff), in the hopes that if one of you ever has a similar situation, maybe you’ll remember that you’re not alone.

I want to write every day. Most of the time, I have a lot of other stuff to do, including  editing, trying to help family, supporting friends, taking care of my health, and so forth. Writing is very important, so when all these other things crowd it out during a crisis, I get extremely frustrated because I’m not able to do very much due to the circumstances at hand.

What do I do to try to combat this frustration?

Mostly, I wait it out. Once the stressful situation passes, I can do more.

But how I wait it out may be of interest.

If I get a story idea, I write it down. I write down whatever I have, which usually is the idea itself, maybe a bit of dialogue or description, and a potential title. These things help me go back and figure out what it was that so captivated me, and actually work on it later.

In addition, I think a lot about my stories. I don’t just say, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Instead, I think about what I want to do next. What seems to be going on with my stories. What needs to be done, and how am I going to go about doing it?

So I at least stay in the mental frame of mind that I need to be in, hoping I can get a few minutes here or there to work on it.

Finally, I try to be good to myself and realize I’m not staying away from my writing because I’m slow, stupid, or anything like that. It’s that I truly am under stress and just cannot devote enough time to get writing done at such a time. (Big stressors include people in the hospital, myself undergoing medical tests, being sick to the point all I can do is sleep, etc.)

Why do I mention the last part? Because I really hate not doing anything. It annoys me something fierce.

But sometimes, the best thing you do to help yourself is to rest. Once you rest, you should have enough energy to do what needs to be done…and at the top of the list for any writer (not just me) is writing.

My view is simple: If you need to rest, do it. If you are under stress, admit it. And if you can do anything about your writing at such a time, including planning, thinking hard about what to do next, or actually getting some words written, count that as a major victory.

And then, when the big stressor passes (as big stressors invariably do, one way or another), get back to work on your work(s)-in-progress.

That’s what works for me.

So, what works for you as a coping strategy to deal with stress? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 2, 2017 at 12:39 pm

When Life Gives You Lemons…

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You all know the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?”

Sometimes, that lemonade can be sour, even bitter to the taste. But eventually, you will learn to tolerate that taste…and you might even begin to crave it.

Why?

Because it means you’re still trying. It means you haven’t given up. It means you know, deep down in your soul, you are doing everything in your power you can to make the world a better place.

You might be wondering what brought this on.

I’ve been dealing with a family health crisis this past week, and I’ve been running back and forth to the hospital. While I’d rather be doing just about anything else, I’m very glad to do this.

Why?

It means my family member is still alive, still fighting, getting better and doing whatever is possible to improve her health.

That’s a good thing.

See, the connections I have with my family and friends are essential. I want them to be happy, healthy, and to enjoy life to the fullest.

But no one can do that while sitting in a hospital bed.

Even though this week didn’t go at all according to plan, I’m glad that I was able to do something to try to help those who are important to me.

One final thought:

Sometimes, it feels like we’re not doing very much during a crisis. This is very human, but somehow we need to throw those feelings to the side.

Why?

Because self-forgiveness — which I’ve discussed before — is essential at times like this. We are not saints, and we can’t expect ourselves to act as if we are. All we can do is be ourselves, try our best, and do whatever we can to make life a little better place.

Including visiting those who are ill (if they’re up to visits), talking with them, and letting them know we care.

That’s what’s important.

Don’t lose sight of it. (Please?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 29, 2017 at 11:33 pm

Dealing with Disappointment, Part the Nth

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Folks, I know I’ve written about dealing with disappointment before. It’s one of those fundamental things that everyone has to face from time to time; we will be disappointed in something, even if it’s something tangential to us like the performance of our favorite sports team. (I’m looking at you, Milwaukee Brewers.)

Right now, I’m feeling discouraged, disappointed, however you want to put it, in nearly every aspect. And it’s hard to create that way; it’s hard to even function.

My energy level is not there, and I’m fighting hard to get it back. (Yes, my doctor knows about this. I get to see her soon.) My drive is not there, either…it’s almost as if I’m having a life crisis (I won’t say “mid-life crisis,” as I have no idea how long anyone will live, much less me).

So, what can I do about it?

Mostly, I remind myself that today may be bad, yesterday may have been bad, too, but tomorrow can still be different.

Yeah, I may never be known as a writer. (I knew that when I got into this field.) All I can do is control what I can, which is to write the books I feel compelled to write, keep working on my craft, and hope I touch at least a few folks with my stories so they’ll maybe remember them past the moment they’re read and consumed.

So, even though today’s one of those days that turning my face to the wall seems like the right action, I’m not going to do it.

Nope.

Instead, I’m going to keep trying, even if it’s slow; even if I have to rest more; even if I need to take more breaks; even if I have to adjust my diet again and cut out every processed food (I hope I don’t have to go that far, but it may come to that)…and I’m going to try to keep my friends in the loop, ’cause that’s important.

So, I deal with disappointment, roughly, by trying to get through it and remembering we all have days like this.

And so long as I keep trying, I cannot fail…because I refuse to allow myself to fail.

How do you deal with it? What tips and tricks would you like to share?

Tell me in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 24, 2017 at 6:39 pm

#SundayBlogShare: When Writing Is Like Gardening…

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Folks, I recently took part in the Authors in Bloom blog hop, where the subject was either gardening or recipes. I talked about how I don’t garden (because I’m bad at gardening), but that got me to thinking…isn’t writing like gardening, too?

Think about it for a moment.

In farming, you get your plot of land, and you make sure it’s fertilized before you plant anything. Then you put your initial seeds in the ground and wait.

But in writing, this is when inspiration strikes, or when you first get an idea you can’t ignore. You get as much down as you can, knowing tomorrow you will keep building on your idea as you see fit.

So, you have to water, nurture, and weed your garden, just as you have to water, nurture, and weed your writing. (The weeding, in this case, would be self-editing.) Both are long-term projects that require a great deal of time, effort, and understanding in order to get anything done, and if you make a big enough mistake, your garden (or your writing) will not turn out the way you’d hoped.

Fortunately, you can correct your big mistakes with some forethought, nine times out of ten. And that tenth time, where you can’t, you can use for future reference as a guidepost of “what not to do,” so you still get something out of the experience…albeit not what you’d hoped for in the first place.

But life is like that, isn’t it? We don’t always get what we’d planned on. (In fact, we get what we’d planned on so rarely, it’s a miracle any of us still plan. But I digress.) We have to roll with the punches, whether it’s too much rain (too many distractions or life-interruptions), too little rain (not enough time for ourselves, maybe), too much fertilizer (we edited too much out), too little fertilizer (we haven’t edited enough)…the list goes on and on.

How do we grow anything worth eating, then? (Or how do we write anything readable?)

I think it’s a matter of trial and error on the one hand, and sheer bloody-mindedness on the other. We keep working at it until we find a process that seems to make sense, and then we go with that. And if one way doesn’t work, try, try, try again until you find a way that does.

That, to my mind, is how gardening and writing are alike.

What d’you think? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 2, 2017 at 3:20 pm

#AuthorsinBloom Blog-Hop: Why I Don’t Garden

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Folks, I’m taking part in the sixth annual Authors in Bloom Blog Hop. And as such, I had to choose between writing about gardening, or writing about recipes.

See, gardening is something people start doing a whole lot more of, when we get into the spring. And making meals from our own gardens, or from fresh produce bought at a Farmer’s Market stall, seems to dovetail with that.

So, let’s get started on why I, personally, do not garden…after I show you this lovely graphic blog-hop starter Dianne Venetta came up with:

So, as I said above, I love this time of year. There’s all sorts of good veggies growing, there’s the promise of spring and new life and second chances…and I love gardens.

But no, I do not garden myself.

Why? Well, it’s a combination of three reasons.

First, I would rather stay away from the great outdoors during spring because bees and wasps wake back up along with everything else…and I am very allergic to them, so allergic that I’ve had to be rushed to the hospital a couple of times after being stung.

Second, I seem to have what’s commonly known as a “black thumb,” meaning I don’t seem to grow anything very well…and things others start in the garden and I try to finish die, too, no matter how much fertilizer I use or how well I follow the instructions of the previous gardener.

And third? Well, my hands are not that wonderful, as I deal with carpal tunnel syndrome on a daily basis. Dealing with hands that cramp up or drop things seemingly at random is not pleasant at the best of times, and it’s much more unpleasant in the garden when you’re using things like gardening shears, hoes, rakes, spades, etc. (Picture the stubbed toes, the long scratches cutting through my sturdy pants from the gardening shears as they fall, always toward my legs or arms or some vitally important place…and then say, “No, thanks.”)

So, that’s why I don’t garden. But it’s why I do enjoy getting food from the local Farmer’s Market, and trying all sorts of new veggie dishes…because half the fun of that is letting someone else do the work.

Before I go, here’s a bit about me that you might like to know:

BARB CAFFREY is a musician, composer, writer, and editor from the Midwest. She loves science fiction, fantasy, and romance, and tends to write some combination thereof nine times out of ten…her latest books are the YA urban fantasy/romance A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE and the LGBT-friendly contemporary romance CHANGING FACES.

As to what I’m going to give away? I figured I’d give the lucky winners various books and stories, ’cause I am a writer and that’s what I do. If you love romance, I’ve got something for you; if you love SF&F, I have something else for you; if you love it all, well, I definitely, decidedly, one-hundred-percent have something for you!

Now, it’s best for you to get to hopping, and find the next blog…lots of interesting stuff awaits!

http://www.linkytools.com/wordpress_list.aspx?id=276327&type=basic

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 27, 2017 at 12:19 am