Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Self-Belief and Writing

with 10 comments

Folks, with the recent posts about self-acceptance, I figured I’d follow it up with how self-belief and writing mix — or don’t.

In my own experience, when I am more confident in myself, and I know that what I’m saying makes sense, I am more likely to make sense in writing than when I am more insecure.

And yet, insecurity is part of what drives a creative person. I can’t deny that. (No creative person can, really, not if he or she is smart.)

The trick is to balance the two. Be just insecure enough to want to write, to need to write (or play music, or compose music, or, I suppose, paint, draw, act, or any other creative pursuit), but be confident enough in what you can do — your belief in yourself, as it were — that you can actually sit down and do it. Without fear. Or at least without the fear stopping you cold.

I’m not sure how that all works, mind. In my head, right now, I’m picturing a space station for a YA milSF story I’m working on. And as I tend to think two-dimensionally, this is a real problem. My main character, a young girl and a military prodigy, would not be thinking in 2D.

How do I get to where I need to be, so I can describe the space station I hazily see, and make the readers believe in it?

Or, here’s another conundrum I’m working on right now.

I’m writing a novel in a friend’s universe. (No, I won’t tell you which one. I won’t unless/until I pull it off. I do have permission from my friend to give it a try and an interested publisher if I can pull it off.) I know I don’t write like my friend. But I’m going to talk about characters that interested me, that my friend could not work on, as his main character needs to be doing something else.

If I think too much about how I don’t write like my friend, or that his readers won’t like what I’m doing because I’m not my friend, well, that will stop me cold.

But just a little insecurity, in that I want to find out what’s going on, and can refer back to what my friend’s written so I can use that as best I can to ground my writing…d’you see? (Or am I thinking too two-dimensionally again?)

Finally, I have a story going in my Elfyverse that’s taking a long time to gestate. I have two new characters who will be interacting with my known characters Bruno, Sarah, Lady Keisha, and more…and I like these characters. But it’s hard sometimes to figure out how to get those new characters into the mix without making them seem lesser than the two titanic mains, Bruno and Sarah, especially as this new story isn’t about Bruno and Sarah. (Instead, it’s about new love, unlooked for, with more mature folks.)

So, should I think about how people won’t like the story, because it’s not about Bruno and Sarah, and they’re at best peripheral characters? Or should I think about how there’s room for more characters at the Elfyverse inn?

And just a little insecurity may be useful. But a whole lot of it just stops me cold, and makes me trot out the “Fear is the mindkiller” speech from DUNE.

As I said, you have to have enough belief in yourself (self-belief, natch) to keep going, even when you don’t see an end-point. (Yet.) But you also have to work with your insecurity, and keep it at bay enough while using it at the same time to inform your work and make it thrive the way it was supposed to do all along.

(If this is still clear as mud, my apologies.)

What do the rest of you do, when you’re trying to create something? How do you strike that balance? (Tell me about it in the comments!)

Advertisements

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 9, 2017 at 8:31 pm

Why Must We Be So Negative?

with 12 comments

Folks, the other day I read an interesting post by my friend Tajwar Fatma, she of the blog Life As We Have Never Known it. She’d just passed ten thousand hits on her blog — a truly impressive feat, if you think about it — and she decided to talk about how much negativity she’s had to overcome during her newfound blogging career. (It’s called “Overcoming Negativity,” and can be found here.)

This got me thinking.

Why must we all be so negative all the time?

Granted, there are plenty of negative things in this world. Politics often makes no sense. The weather is too hot, too cold, or maybe just too boring. Prices are rising. Everything we seem to like gives us cancer; everything we don’t like is touted as curing everything down to the common cold, but is ultimately just good, solid food that we continue to dislike.

So, we can eat healthy and hate it. Or we can eat what we like and clog our arteries (at best).

It seems like no matter what we do, we can’t win.

I have no answer for why others are negative. But I do have an answer for how to overcome your own negativity, at least in part.

First, as Tajwar put it in her blog, “Don’t let negativity get to your mind and heart. You have to lose in order to win. And if you can’t handle criticism and negativity, you sure can’t handle praise and victory!”

Second, you need to realize that some of this negativity, regardless of how personal it feels at the time, is not being directed at you in specific. It’s because people are frustrated, upset, angry, or sometimes even jealous of the fact that you’re still trying, but they’ve given up.

Third, it’s important to keep going because you know in your heart that what you’re doing matters to you. (For example, I continue to write, despite the struggles and life-worries and frustrations, because writing matters very much to me. And my stories matter, too.)

Don’t let anyone tell you that what you’re doing doesn’t matter. Or that no one will ever care, either.

As a barely-succeeding author (someone most people don’t even know about), I’m here to tell you that so long as you care, that’s all that matters.

So keep doing what you are. Work hard on yourself, and spread joy and light and life wherever you can. Try to overcome the negativity in this world as best you can (mind, constructive criticism is not negativity, but that’s a separate issue and I’m not going to get into it now).

And most importantly of all: Whenever you get a negative thought about what you’re doing right now, do your best to throw it out. (Or better yet, laugh at it, as Tajwar suggested in her blog.) Don’t let that negative thought stop you from doing whatever it is that you need or want to do…because that’s the only way that you truly lose.

And I see no purpose in that. (I hope you don’t, either.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 25, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Work/Life Balance: Is it Achievable?

with 9 comments

Folks, lately I’ve been wondering about the above title — is work/life balance achievable? And if so, how do you go about it?

See, over the past week or so, I’ve been dealing with family health issues. I’ve also been working on my writing, editing, and staying in contact with a few friends here and there in order to remind myself there are good things in the world.

In short, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.

There are so many things in this world I can’t do much about. And when I’m confronted with those things, I sometimes forget about the things I can do something about — that is, take care of myself; get adequate rest; remember to eat properly; get a little exercise here and there; enjoy the scenery; work for positive changes wherever possible, but try not to completely exhaust myself in the process.

And I can’t believe I’m the only one to ever feel this way.

It’s sometimes easier to focus on what we can’t do, because we’re often taught that it’s wrong to focus on ourselves. Even in a good, positive, healthy sense, where we’re trying to create something or help others or do the best work we can, it’s hard to stay focused on that when everything else seems to be falling apart.

So, is work/life balance achievable?

I think it is, but it’s a tough go sometimes. It’s like running into a headwind; you have to remind yourself that you’re doing your level best, and it has to be good enough. Just keep trying, refuse to let the despair win, refuse to let the exhaustion win, and keep going long enough so it becomes an ingrained habit…then, maybe, it will give you peace of mind to know that you’ve done everything you can on your own behalf.

It’s important to do what you can for yourself.

But how do I put that into practice, under the circumstances? Mostly, I try to remind myself often that it’s perfectly OK for me to put myself first and get the rest, food, and time I need to do what I have to do in order to feel like a fulfilled person even as these other things aren’t working out no matter how hard I try and no matter how much effort I put into it.

Just remember that while you do need to work on controlling what you can control, it’s really hard to do. We’re taught to be rugged individualists, mostly, and having to leave so much up to the Higher Power is difficult. (It really is.)

But don’t stop trying. Definitely don’t stop believing that better things are possible.

Because they are. Even when you can’t see them.

So yes, I do think work/life balance is achievable. And I’ll keep working on it. (How about you? Tell me in the comments!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Book Hooks: Time for “Changing Faces”

with 16 comments

Folks, I haven’t done Marketing for Romance Writers’ BookHooks Blog Hop in a while, and I’m not sure why that is. I know that my life has been busy and stress-filled lately, but I am proud of my latest novel, CHANGING FACES, and it’s perfect for my friends in Marketing for Romance Writers. (Or, really, anyone at all who likes good romances with an unusual premise…but I’ll get to that.)

First, a quick blurb about my LGBT-friendly fantasy/romance, CHANGING FACES:

Allen and Elaine are graduate students in Nebraska, and love each other very much. Their life should be idyllic, but Elaine’s past includes rape, neglect, and abuse from those who should’ve loved her—but didn’t, because from childhood, Elaine identified as transgender.

When Elaine tells Allen right before Christmas, he doesn’t know what to do. He loves Elaine, loves her soul, has heard about transgender people before, but didn’t think Elaine was one of them—she looks and acts like anyone else. Now, she wants to become a man and is going to leave.

He prays for divine intervention, and says he’ll do anything, just please don’t separate him from Elaine…and gets it.

Now, he’s in Elaine’s body. And she’s in his. They’ll get a second chance at love.

Why? Because once you find your soulmate, the universe will do almost anything to keep you together—even change your faces.

And now, a few lines:

CHANGING FACES cover“Dammit, Elaine! I love you. Can’t you see that? Why else would I be out on a night like this, if I didn’t?”

“I love you, too, but this isn’t going to work.” The set of her jaw bothered me; she’d obviously made up her mind.

“It won’t work only if you decide it won’t,” I told her, trying to keep the edge out of my voice. “Why won’t you listen to me?” I snuck a peek at Elaine. The beauty of her oval face, her liquid brown eyes, her pointed, determined chin…how anyone that beautiful could want to become a man, I didn’t know.

“Let’s not argue, Allen,” she said wearily. “I can’t bear it.”

“Okay, then.” But while I’d stopped talking, I hadn’t stopped thinking. Why does Elaine want to become a man? Why? What have I done wrong, that she should want this? I must have done something wrong, something terrible, for her to want this…

Inwardly, I prayed, hoping that God existed and would hear me despite my usual disbelief. Oh God, if you’re listening . . .please don’t take my beautiful Elaine away from me. I’ll do anything, absolutely anything…

My reverie was broken when the car went into a skid. “Hang on!” I yelled, while I turned into the skid. That should’ve gotten us safely off the road, albeit into a ditch…but it didn’t work.

Instead, something big, something solid, was in the way.

Something that shouldn’t have been there.

“Oh my God!” Elaine screamed.

I tried to reach out to her, to reassure her, but I couldn’t. My body just wouldn’t respond.

Before I could worry about that, the world went black.

(end excerpt)

Now, if that intrigued you — and I sincerely hope it did, or I’d not have decided to do this — please hop on over to Amazon, and pick yourself up a copy today. (It’s only ninety-nine cents, too…how can you go wrong?) Here’s the link:

 

And do check out my fellow Marketing for Romance Writers blog hoppers (those doing the BookHooks hop today) at http://mfrwbookhooks.blogspot.com/ — tell ’em Barb sent you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 2, 2017 at 2:58 am

Writing and Fatigue

with 10 comments

Folks, the last week or so, I’ve been battling some intense frustration when it comes to writing.

Why?

Mostly, it’s because of being intensely tired. (Or fatigued, as it were.) I put a lot into my music, both during practice and at concerts, and perhaps during the summer it takes a bit more out of me than it used to.

(Yeah, this is as close as you’re going to get to the fact that I know I’m getting a wee bit older. But never old — that’s not happening.)

See, life is all about choices. I could’ve said, back in 2011, that I did not want to put out the energy to play again, but what sense would that have made? (It would invalidate my years of education, for one…and waste my talents for another. Again, not happening.) But I made that choice, to play again, and to use my talents and education to the fullest extent of which I’m capable…which means I don’t have as much energy available for everything else.

And life doesn’t stop. It never, ever stops…I have a lot of mundane things to do, like grocery shopping, errand-running, and so forth, plus a good amount of editing (as that, for all practical purposes, is my “day job”), and I’m glad I’m able to do all of those things, too.

But again, see what I said about “choices.”

Plus, I’m aware that right now, I seem to be in a fallow period when it comes to writing, most particularly when it comes to writing fiction. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying. But it means that maybe, if I stop pressing, I’ll do a little better…if it feels less like sheer bloody-minded pushing boulders up the hill (like Sisyphus?), maybe I’ll be able to do more.

Creativity is one of the hardest things to harness, sometimes…at least for me. Especially when I’m overtired, and been pressing too hard for weeks, and the weather is too hot and humid to be borne, perhaps the best thing to do is rest.

But I’m not good at resting. I want to be up and doing. Resting feels like surrender.

It’s not, though. It’s actually playing it smart.

Anyway, I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets into fallow periods and wonders what on Earth will get me out of it. What gets you out of these ruts? Are you someone who believes firmly in PBICAT? (Put butt in chair and type?) Or do you think sometimes you just need R&R, as much as you can stand that’s in your price range, to recharge your batteries?

Whichever it is, let me know in the comments! (Maybe we can find some new strategies in how to combat this. Who knows?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 21, 2017 at 6:52 pm

Concert Prep for Sax Solo, 7/16/17

with 2 comments

Folks, a while back I wrote a blog about how frustrated I was that I couldn’t seem to do what I used to do, as a musical performer. I’ve mostly played the second part, since I started playing again five or six years ago, and that’s really tough on the ego; furthermore, because they’re lower parts that mostly blend in, only the other musicians and the conductor tend to even know I’m there at all.

I was always a soloist, you see. Trained as an oboist, played in bands and orchestras, had musical scholarships, then picked up the saxophone in high school because I wanted to play in jazz band. I picked up the clarinet as a senior in high school because I wanted to play the doubled parts in jazz band (sometimes, the sax parts also have a small clarinet part, where you “double” during the piece and play both instruments), and in every case, I ended up playing more solo parts than anything else.

So, to go from first chair anything to second parts has been very difficult. And while “we also serve who stand and wait” (only slightly mangling that phrase), I like playing things that actually showcase my abilities now and again.

Fortunately, when I asked my conductor for the Racine Concert Band, Mark Eichner, for a solo, he gave me one. And I’m playing it tomorrow, on July 16, 2017…the first solo where I’ve stood before the band that I’ve played in twenty-one years.

What’s the piece, you ask? It’s Isaac Albeniz’s “Tango,” for alto saxophone soloist and band. (Yes, it’s an arrangement. But it works.)

I’m not the only soloist tomorrow, mind you. Eric Weiss, a very fine trumpeter, will be playing Clifton Williams’s “Dramatic Essay.” And a master illusionist, Pinkerton Xyloma, will be also helping to entertain the crowd during four of our band pieces.

So, since I put “concert prep” in the title, you might be wondering what that entails. (I hope so, ’cause I’m going to tell you anyway.)

Mostly, what preparation means, in this case, is to be prepared to play the piece. This includes physical preparation (repetition, playing it many times), mental preparation, trying to get rest, eating well, and also trying not to stress out over it all.

And I have done all of this.

My hope is that if you live in Southeastern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, that you’ll come down to the Racine Zoo tomorrow night and hear the band play. It’s a free concert; the show starts at 7:30 p.m., but the doors open about an hour ahead of time. (Park on August Street, or on Goold. The main doors are not open for the Zoo during RCB performances.)

If you do, be sure to listen hard to my solo, and come up and say “hello.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 15, 2017 at 8:36 pm

It’s My Seventh Blog-i-versary Today — and Lucky Number Seven Starts…Now

with 5 comments

Folks, where has the time gone?

Just a minute ago, it seems, I started my blog back in 2010. A good friend of mine suggested I start writing one as a way to announce myself to the universe — granted, that is not at all how he’d have put it, I’m sure — and another friend agreed, adding that a writer needs a platform. May as well make one for yourself, right?

Sometimes it’s not been easy to blog. When my best friend Jeff Wilson died in 2011, I was bereft. I didn’t know what to say, what to do, how to act, any of it. That I couldn’t get to his funeral devastated me, and in some ways, I wonder if I’ll ever forgive myself for that.

(The money was not there. No, I didn’t want to start a GoFundMe for that, not then. I didn’t think Jeff would approve.)

There have been good times, though. I’ve met some great friends, blogging and spending time online. I’ve also met a wide variety of writers, and more than a few editors; all of that has added richness and value to myself beyond anything I could’ve imagined back in 2010.

I’ve talked about many things: Sports. Politics. Fine Arts, including music and writing. My books. Other people’s books. Observations about life, the universe, and everything (with all apologies to the late Douglas Adams)…some editing tips…lots of other stuff, too, way too much to list.

Blogging has indeed given me more of a voice. And I’m grateful for that.

(Now if I could just get folks to go check out my books and stories, I’d be content. But I’ll keep working on that.)

Anyway, this is the seventh anniversary of my blog, thus, my seventh “blog-i-versary.” I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and that you’ll stay tuned for whatever comes next.

(Hey, I’m not sure, either. So we’ll learn it together?)

Before I go, I wanted to ask y’all: Which blog of all I’ve written is your favorite, and why?

And a second question: What would you like me to write about next?

(Tell me about it in the comments, and I’ll consider it. Honest.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 11, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Posted in Persistence, Writing

Tagged with