Welcome to Creating Cane

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Creating Cane is all about my real-time experience as a writer and newly published author. Travel with me as I share the bumps, bruises, milestones, and achievements on this fun, exciting, yet treacherous journey. Feel free to respectfully comment, share, and ask questions. For information on and to purchase my book, visit my author website at www.CandaceRuffin.com. Enjoy your visit and write on!


Get Write! I Mean Right;)

I’ve been thinking. To date, I’ve been at this writing thing for three years. I can hardly believe it. I left my job five years ago to be a stay-at-home mom, and soon found myself embarking on a new journey to write for children. At least . . . that’s what I claim I’ve been doing. Two years after leaving my job I published my first illustrated children’s book and I couldn’t have been more proud of the writer I’d become. Though I do still struggle with calling myself an Author (kind of like getting used to being a parent for the first time) I can’t escape the fact that I AM a writer. I AM an author. But . . . so far . . . I’m feeling like a one-hit-wonder (well, it’s not exactly a hit, but you get the point). So it’s time to move past that madness.

On again. Off again. On again. Off again. So goes the tale of my blog. But, like I said. I’ve been thinking. I laid off blogging for a while (again) because a thought occurred to me one day.

How can I blog and advise other people on writing, when I haven’t put out anything new since my first book?

I mean, seriously? This isn’t me being too harsh on myself. This is me being real. I had to do a little soul searching. I went through all the stages of self-doubt, pity, excuses, readiness, reality-checks, blah-blah-blah. I ran through all of the typical self-doubting questions: Why am I doing this? Why am I writing with no results? Am I doing the right thing? Have I made the wrong decision? Do I belong here? You name it, I was questioning it. And then, one day while sitting and wasting time when I should have been writing, it dawned on me – I’ve been so caught up on all the hype around writing, that I hadn’t felt the desire to actually – well – write.

Blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagraming (is that how you say it?), contacts, mailing lists, marketing, the list goes on. It’s pretty intimidating. Especially considering that like many writers, I just don’t find much excitement in sharing my every waking moment with the world via social media. But I understand these are different times from my upbringing. I have to adjust. I am adjusting. But something about sharing my life while giving others advice on a process that I’m still learning, just wasn’t sitting well with me. So I stopped.

I didn’t stop writing. I stopped all of the extra stuff. Just for a little while. Well. Okay. A few months. I needed to take some time to get right for myself. I can’t bring the public a load of advice if I’m not consistently practicing it for myself. Don’t you hate when people do that? You know the type. The one that always has something to say about your life, but theirs is a hot mess. That’s kind of the space I was in. I’m not a hot mess, but I have work to do. And despite my many flaws, I do have some helpful advice to offer those of you out there who are trying to navigate this writing thing and feel like you’re struggling more than most. It’s simple really.

Basically, no one can tell you how to be a writer. No one can teach you how to be a better writer. And no one can make you sit down and write. Only you can do that. Of course you can get hints, tips, take courses, attend seminars, participate in webinars, all of that. All of these things are helpful guidance. But they are just that – guidance. The bottomline is, the only way for you to become a better writer, a published writer, a good writer is to simply write. Plain and simple. Block out all of the distractions; make yourself do it; talk to yourself. Get off of social media. Turn off the t.v., silence your self phone – and tablet – and computer – and watch – and any other device you have that gives you notifications about things that won’t help you get words on the page. Shut – them – down – and – WRITE!

Now, this is something I know about. I know about distractions and how they get in the way of progress. Do take my advice on this and save yourself the headache and heartache of having to reflect on how much time you’ve wasted being distracted or just not forcing yourself to do the thing that you know you love to do. You belong here. You love to write. Unfortunately, for some of us, it’s just as easy not to write as it is to actually write.

Take a deep breath. You got this. While you’re busy coaxing yourself and pumping yourself up to get to work – I’ll be focusing on myself and getting write – I mean right – with my writing.

Stay focused and write on!

Happy New Year!

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2017 is here! What are you vowing to change or do differently this year? Me? Nothing. What’s the point? I already know I’m not going to stick to it, so I’m not wasting my time pretending anything will change. But what I will do is start fresh. New year – new beginnings.

The new year is like spring cleaning – out with the old and in with the new. This has been my focus for the new year – getting rid of old, tired stuff that clutters the house, the mind, and makes me loath cleaning. I’ve held on to some things because I may need it later (even though I hadn’t seen or touched it in years). I’ve held on to the things because it’s “special” as I ask myself (who gave me that again?) I’ve held on to things because, well, you’re “supposed” to. Really? No more. I’m ushering in the new year with a clean slate starting with the Christmas decorations.

Christmas Some of those beloved Christmas decorations didn’t make it back to the attic this year. They made their way straight to the curb. Like those Christmas lights I bought three years ago. Sorry people, they have to go. I hate faded Christmas lights. I absolutely can’t stand them. They’re creepy, dull, and they look a hot mess next to the brand new ones that replaced the set with the blown out bulbs. Trash! My adorable little angel with the clipped wings – trash! The snowman whose hat I had to paperclip to his head because  no one would notice, right? Trash! The red berry wreath that no longer has berries, but little white styrofoam balls on the end of each stem . . . uh . . . definitely . . . Trash! It may costly to replace these things, but the money will get spent on something anyway, it may as well be spent on decorations.

Clothes All those too small clothes I’ve held on to for motivation to lose weight? Trash! Actually I donated them, but still, those old clothes are out of the house. That tactic has not worked for me in several years, I don’t think one more go at it will make a difference. Face it, intentionally losing weight and getting in shape only happens one way and that’s with effort. Staring at my too small clothes does not motivate me to get in shape, it only ticks me off because I can’t fit my old favorite clothes anymore and leads to being an excuse for me to eat chocolate to make me feel better. Gone! Gone! Gone! I will wear what fits and when my clothes get too big,  oh how much sweeter shopping for smaller sizes will be.

Dishes I’ve held on to wedding sets, hand-me-downs, and discount finds long enough. While separately all of these pieces are beautiful and perfectly functional, together I have a garage sale happening right in my kitchen cabinets. Gone! Chipped and broken met the trash, good condition has moved on to a new, happier home. New dishes that are more functional for our family have replaced my old hodgepodge collection and have already made a huge difference in my kitchen. I haven’t turned to something more fancy, just something more practical and durable. Just what this house needs.

Old Projects (Home & Work) I’ve weeded through all the projects I said I would complete for 2016 – both writing projects as well as home projects and . . . yeah . . . about that . . . I have a pile of manuscripts on my desk waiting for me to push them into the next phase and I have checked off maybe two or three items from my home project list. The point is my 2016 accomplishments weren’t enough.

I’m not being a negative Ne-Ne, I’m simply stating that there were several other projects I could’ve completed that I didn’t do. Whether it was publishing a new book or repairing one of the closet doors, these projects didn’t get done and there’s no real reason why. I’ve reassessed my efforts in the previous year and have had to be honest with myself and accept that I just didn’t follow through on things the way I should have. As a result, I revised my project goals and plans for home and work, tossed the ones that were either unnecessary or unrealistic and put plans in place to make them happen before year’s end. Wish me luck.

Procrastination Gone! Gone! Gone! I’ve made my lists, checked them twice, and each time I’ve looked at those lists and been tempted with distraction, I have forced myself to turn back to my list and get to work. It’s hard ignoring the urge to do something else that distracts from what I should be doing, but the gratification of accomplishing a day’s work can’t be ignored. I will do my best to keep up the good work, but just in case I don’t,  I’ll keep you posted (wink-wink). Seriously, I’ve preached about lists and schedules before. Life really does flow a lot smoother when tasks are mapped out on a calendar or on a to-do list. Sticking to it is where I tend to fall short but I’m constantly focusing on fighting the urge to stray.

I guess if I have to say I’ve committed to something in the new year it would be weeding out the clutter. I’m decluttering in order to make room to be successful. I firmly believe that a cluttered room, office, or home clutters the mind. It’s no coincidence that since I’ve started weeding out the clutter I’ve been able to begin making progress toward my goals. With a clear home and work space, my mind is free to create and focus – clutter free.

Be brutally honest with yourself as you reflect on your writing this past year and jump into 2017 with your new writing goals. Weed out, reassess, reflect, and execute. Sometimes you have to focus on other areas in your life in order to progress in your writing. Share your successes and struggles to motivate other writers, but to also obtain support in your own writing.

Happy New Year and write on!

NaNo: Lesson Learned

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I made it through NaNoWriMo! . . . but . . . I didn’t win. Whoops. Oh well. As I compare last year’s experience with this year’s experience, I can’t deny that there are some lessons learned that are worth sharing. If this was your first NaNo experience and you didn’t make your word count I hope you’re not beating yourself up over it. There’s always next year. But just in case you’re in need of a little something to get you back in the swing of things, here’s a lesson  learned to carry on for future NaNos.

What is NaNoWriMo? (A Refresher) National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) is an writing challenge that takes place every November. It is an opportunity for writers to push themselves to write 50,000 words in one month. That’s right. 30 days – 50,000 words. Writers use the challenge in different ways. Some writers actually plan one novel per year and they use NaNo to write it. Others just like the challenge of it. Some begin a new book series using NaNo and others just do it for fun. Whatever the reason, if you love writing like I do, it’s a great way to push yourself.

Last Year vs. This Year Last year was my first time participating in NaNo. And of course by it being November, celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday presented some challenges within itself. But I persevered and stuck with it and celebrated writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I was so proud of myself. So, having gotten a taste of victory there was no reason for me to think I couldn’t do it again and have a repeat of the same success. There were a few factors this year that I had not accounted that were different a little different from last year and greatly impacted my writing.

Guest vs. Host There is a significant difference between being a guest for Thanksgiving and hosting Thanksgiving dinner. I wish I had gotten the memo. I had hosted before, but never as a writer. And as usual, that superwoman mentality kicked in and somehow the illusion of being able to do it all took hold.

I agreed to host both sides of our families for the holiday. No big deal. I had an elaborate, airtight plan for my NaNo writing schedule all worked out and I was ready to get those 50,000 words done before the first guest arrived. I started off strong and was feeling over confident until the reality of my hosting situation set in.

While being with family and friends is not all about impressions, there are certain things that are just unacceptable when hosting guests from out of town. For instance, when the shower faucet in the guest bathroom breaks, you kind of have to get that fixed. Pliers are fine if you live here, but guests and pliers? I don’t think so. Or when you look up and realize that the couch that’s been broken for months could suddenly swallow a guest and twist one of the elder’s backs, you sort of have to give that some attention. Basically, my home needed a few tweaks if I was going to host. And that was the monkey wrench that sent me on a downward spiral with NaNo.

Our old shower faucet literally crumbled to pieces in my son’s hand. Fortunately, it was a DIY project. Unfortunately, it took a while to get the right part to fix it. A little inside tip about me – I’m a DIYer. But that doesn’t mean I’m good at it. I love trying to fix simple things around the house and doing simple home improvement projects. I don’t wait for hubby to do it, I just jump in and get it done myself. Translation? 30 minute projects = 2 hour projects when I’m at the helm. Therefore, fixing the shower fell on my schedule. I probably lost about one day of writing with the shower, but I caught up. All was not lost . . . until we tackled the whole furniture issue for the holiday.

Our faux leather couch was ripped, parts falling off of it, and so badly broken that If you sat in it you literally slid off onto the floor. It was that bad. Kinda funny when it’s just you and your family. But the idea of other people coming into your home and having to sit on that – no. Plus, we needed general seating for everyone. Twenty people in one house need somewhere to sit, especially the elders. That meant shopping! Now, while I don’t like shopping, I do enjoy shopping for my home. And furniture is not one of those things you just go in, find what works, and walk out with something amazing. Not unless you want to replace it sooner than later.

The short of it is, I was in the midst of furniture shopping online and in-store, preparing a menu, deep cleaning (because some of our loved ones have allergies), and still trying to carry on with day-to-day parenting stuff. That may be easy for some writers to manage, but not this writer. And let’s keep in mind, some of the new purchases had to be assembled. And did I mention that our families would be visiting for several days? So that meant we were also having to put together itineraries.

By the time everyone arrived I was already a week and a half behind with my writing. But I was still hopeful I could make time to squeeze it in and catch up. Just because I was behind by 20,000 words didn’t mean all was lost. But as each day slowly got behind me I was losing my confidence of finishing. Then, when Turkey Day finally arrived and I was sitting around watching my sons, nephew, and my little cousins all playing and running around; as I laughed hysterically with my sister and cousins at our antics; as I stole a moment to hold hands with my husband; as I laughed and caught up with my brother; and as I chuckled at our moms and aunts with their “motherly” expressions taking it all in, I suddenly realized that I didn’t care about my word count.  I mean, I cared . . . but I didn’t. I focused on enjoying my family. Putting together that new lounge set; picking out and placing the new couch just right; checking to make sure my DIY plumbing project wasn’t leaking and exploding on anyone; getting the menu just right; slightly burning the cornbread; and enjoying every moment with my family made me care less and less about making that word count. That is – until they all went home of course.

When all was quiet (as quiet as quiet can be with a husband, a rabbit, and two boys) only then could I focus on that word count again. With three days remaining before the deadline, I pretty much knew I wouldn’t make it. So, what I decided to do instead was focus on what I could do. I set a goal to at least finish November with a 30,000 word count and that’s exactly what I did.

I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed about not reaching 50,000 words. I felt empty. But I would be lying to myself if I said I didn’t feel that I’d brushed off my writing for a good cause. Half of our family we see only once per year. The other half we had not seen in two years. As much as I love writing, I love my family more. Though I’ll have the memory of not making 50,000 words in November 2016, I’ll have an even sweeter memory of spending a wonderful, love-filled holiday with family.

Lessons Learned My take away for 2016 is a simple one. Squeezing in NaNo when you just have to show up for dinner with a dish, is much more feasible than squeezing in NaNo when you have to host a large group of family members from out of town.  I won’t be doing that again. In the future, if I decide to host for Thanksgiving, I won’t participate in NaNo. I’ll just support all my writer friends by cheering them on. Though I’m disappointed about this year’s results, I can honestly say I have no regrets.

If you didn’t make your word count this year for NaNo, don’t beat yourself up over it. Whatever your reasoning for not winning, just learn from this experience and make adjustments for next year. If you’ve never won NaNo but you enjoy the experience, relax. You will be victorious. Just not this time. There is always next year.

Congratulations to all the NaNoWriMo participants and those that won this year! I’m looking forward to NaNo 2017. I hope to be victorious with you. For now, let’s get ready for the holidays. Eat. Drink. Be merry. But make sure you set a little time aside to write on!

Script v. Type

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Recently I posted a picture on IG depicting my current writing venture. . . in manuscript. Most of the time I type when I write because the ideas seem to flow more smoothly and quickly versus writing. Typically, my journals are dedicated to notes, ideas, story concepts, and quick inspirations as they relate to one specific story. But oddly enough, one particular day I picked up an empty journal and a story flowed from me more fluidly than I had known.

img_4988I have been typing for so long I practically forgot how liberating pen-to-paper can actually be for a writer. Here is what I’ve learned from that experience and why I intend to handwrite my stories more often.

I feel relaxed when I write – at least I thought I did. When I sit down to my keyboard and start clicking away on the keys it makes me feel  – well – busy. Typing makes me feel as if I’m focused and working at a fast pace. But, I also feel a level of stress when typing. As if, I’m up against a deadline and must get as many words out (regardless of quality) as possible. However, the day I sat down with a pen was the day I was reminded of how writing is supposed to feel. My thoughts were more complete. I couldn’t believe I had fewer mistakes. And I even found myself smiling with each stroke of the pen. I was enjoying my craft. Which admittedly, was odd considering I thought I had been enjoying it all along. I have never been more relaxed while writing as I was in that moment.

Perhaps the most shocking experience of reconnecting with the pen and pad was how each stroke of the pen was so in sync with my thoughts. It would be impossible to track how many times the backspace/delete buttons are depressed during a writing session or how many times I change my train of thought while typing. However, as I wrote my story by hand, the number of times the eraser was used never hit double digits. It was as if my mind slowed down and made my words coherent the first time around. My hands and mind were so in sync, it was a thing of beauty.

Upon finishing a session each day my mind was clear. I normally have a sense of relief after writing anyway, but the pen was somehow different. I think I was smiling for at least an hour after I finished my handwritten sessions. I was so proud of the day’s accomplishment – humming, singing, checking other things off of my list. I felt like I had achieved real writing.

One final thing that stood out through my handwriting experience was I made so much progress on the story – more than I have in any other manuscript. Unlike many of my projects, this one is actually almost done! (The first draft that is). Perhaps it was the storyline. Perhaps it was my internal motivation. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence. I’m not sure. What I do know is, in all this time, I have not moved toward the completion of a manuscript as quickly as I have this one. The only factor that has been different is the fact that it is handwritten. There must be something to it. I’m certainly open to exploring it more.

Every writer has their own preference for writing. Some choose handwriting, some choose typing, and some use dictation software. The bottomline is, whatever gets you to that sense of freedom – do it! Ultimately, I will most likely use a combination of forms, but right now this is working. I’ll just let the manuscript at the time guide me. You do the same. Which ever method helps you fully develop your characters, setting, and conflict is the method you should use.

Enjoy you craft and write on!

The Revision Hump

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It’s that time of year again! When school supplies, school clothes, ziplock bags, hand sanitizer, schedule pickups, and debates with school administrators over the placement of kids have completely monopolized the lives of moms across the country. And still life goes on for the working mom – including the writing mom. This is the time when writer-moms reflect on summer achievements in writing.

Fortunately for me, this summer has proven to be my most productive summer in writing yet! I didn’t meet my goal, but oh how close I came and it feels good. As summer break draws to a close, time steadily slips away from writing and more toward back-to-school preparation. But unlike past years, this time I’m not fretting the lack of writing time because my discipline is steadily strengthening.

My goal this summer was to make significant gains on revising my chapter book. This is not a new project by any means, but still one I intend to see through to publication. Regardless of best efforts however, there still tends to be some challenges that can negatively impact writing progress and getting to the finish line. So, in hopes that you will find yourself comforted if this is a similar experience for you, I’m sharing one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced with writing/revising my chapter book this summer.

There are days that I literally set up my writing space and prepare to work on my revisions and still walk away having accomplished nothing. It’s all right there, staring me in the face. I sit – I stare – I get up – I do something else – I come back – then repeat. It’s a classic case of procrastination, which we all face. But what I continue to learn about myself as a writer, I’ve figured out that I procrastinate because I feel stuck and overwhelmed. Eventually, that procrastination leads to walking away from writing.

Some days the motivation to write just isn’t there and there’s nothing wrong with that. Taking a break from a stressful or frustrating project can help give a writer a fresh perspective on the project upon returning to it. BUT, as refreshing as it may be, walking away from a manuscript (MS) is not without its consequences.

What matters when taking a break from a MS is the length of time you choose to leave it alone. Two hours or two days – no harm done. But try not to make it much longer than that. Once your time away gets to be as much as two weeks, two months, or two years, the real problems begin. Long periods of absence from your manuscript can result in two important things happening:

  • Tone changes; and
  • Spending too much time re-reading to try to remember where you left off and what important revisions you were meaning to incorporate prior to walking away.

The problem with changing tone This is something to avoid at all cost. The danger with tone change is your story becomes inconsistent which is sure to result in losing the interest of your readers. It would be as if two different people with two different styles of writing, wrote one confusing, weak story that isn’t fit for publication. When the tone changes, the characters change, the direction of the storyline changes, and hence, the story itself changes, sadly, not for the better. Characters end up speaking and doing things that are inconsistent with their original personalities. Readers instantly take notice when a character acts “out of character”. It becomes painfully clear that your story has lost direction and vision leaving you (the writer) frustrated, overwhelmed, and ready to walk away from it again – permanently.

The problem with memory boosting re-reading Even if it’s only been a few hours since you last picked up your MS, naturally, you still re-read the last part you worked on in order to keep the story flowing smoothly as you continue to revise. However, this is a brief process that just serves to get you back on track. This can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes, then writing/revising resumes with little to no disruption in tone and storyline.

When leaving your MS for longer periods of time, re-reading becomes more of the day’s tactic than the next step in the process. You may find yourself having to re-read an entire chapter (or two) just to remember where you left off. Then you run the risk of double-revising because you can become side-tracked with making changes and revising sections of the book you weren’t meant to be working on in the first place. This neither has weight nor does it advance the story in any way. In the end, you will be at the exact same finishing point you were the last time you picked up your MS. How frustrating is that?

The Solution No matter how frustrated you get with your MS, don’t leave it for more than a couple of days. It really is that simple. The less time you’re away from it, the smoother the revisions will be. Getting stuck will happen no matter how good you are, but it’s important to stick with it. Take a breather if you must, but come back – soon!
In my limited experience, I’ve found that even on my most frustrated days, I can still get through my revisions as long as I continue working on them within a short amount of time. And as always, don’t commit yourself to more than you can handle in a day. Some writers do well devoting 8 hours per day to writing/revising; some do well with 4 hours per day; and still some do well with 1 to 2 hours. No matter how much time you can devote to writing/revising, just make it count.

Now go pick up that manuscript again and write (revise) on!

A Good Time to Write

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Time is a precious commodity that some of us writers just don’t have. Still working to meet that minimum daily word count? So am I. But saying that it’s been a challenge would be an understatement. Weeks of schedule alterations upset writing progress. But there is a good news!

Recently I read a blog post by guest blogger, Lee Kelly, on the Writers Atelier blog series, The Write Place, that absolutely put my gears in motion. Lee Kelly pin-pointed the very thing that has been the underlying cause in my inability to avoid repeated writing slumps and I am excited about following her lead.

Once upon a time when my life was perfect and everything went according to schedule, I somehow developed the idea that I needed to be in a certain space – in a particular mindset or mood – at a particular time of day – with a specific caffeine drink in-hand, to write. But not just write children’s stories, or novels, but anything. This had to be the setting for me to write anything – a blog post, a journal entry – anything.  Without these particular ingredients, the end result was empty pages and a growing time deficit.

Well, thanks to Ms. Kelly, I realized that I’m far beyond the stage of needing to have the perfect, inspirational space to write. I need to be ready to write at any time, any place, any mood, and any space. While I have a firm grasp of this concept during the holidays, applying said concept year-round just hadn’t worked it’s way into my day-to-day schedule. Time for that to change!

I have been forcing myself to get some writing in whenever time presented itself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be able to write in the perfect, quiet setting with coffee in hand. But reality is, that’s just not a realistic view of a writer’s life… at least not this writer.  Reality is that writing has to get done whenever and wherever possible. In the kitchen, on the job, in the car, even while (eh-hem) indisposed. Knowing this is one thing. Putting it in practice consistently in something else.

The bottom line is, as writers we are continuously met with challenges that impact the writing process. Our responsibility is to rise above those challenges. It’s been a pretty productive week here at The Writing Cane workshop, even if the “workshop” hasn’t necessarily been the actual location for getting things done. I have been in my car, on my bed, in the dining room and the workshop, just trying to make sure I am making some much-needed progress. And the beauty of it is, the kids haven’t felt my absence one bit simply because I’ve been making the most of the time in-between their time.

It’s the summer, but that doesn’t mean writing has to be put on hold because of it. Enjoy the summer and write on in-between!

Out with the Old…

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For a long time now, I have documented my love-hate relationship with my laptop, Lappy. I looove my Lappy. It’s been with me through the highs and lows of my most fulfilling careers, it’s my favorite color, and I just love the feel of it’s keys under my fingertips. Face it, it’s a part of me.

Sadly though, our relationship must come to an end. Arriving at this decision has been difficult, but a-long-time-coming. I don’t know at what point things actually changed. Perhaps it was the frequency of crashing incidents. Or the time I pinched my arm as I was typing because the keyboard separated from the base trapping my skin in it. Maybe it was the day it started talking back to me in the form of a loud, rattling, whir, or when the monitor started blinking off-and-on at random. Despite all of its shortcomings, I still loved Lappy. So, saying goodbye is hard to do.

I’ll miss the way the space bar stops working if a strand of hair gets trapped under it. Or how the Geek Squad recognizes me whenever I come in. I’ll miss having to ice my shoulder whenever I transport it somewhere because it’s absolutely the heaviest thing in my writing tool box. Lappy has served me well. We had a good go of it. And though I had to endure cruel jokes from the family over 15-minute start up times, or the random disconnects from the internet, or the smoking that almost set my lap on fire, I still stuck by it’s side.

Perhaps I’ll keep it around for good measure or donate it for parts (though the parts may now be obsolete). I mean, I did produce my first published book on it after all. Who knows?

What I do know is I’ll miss you Lappy! I’ll miss all the good times we shared. All the journaling, blogging, accounting, lesson planning, bill paying, storytelling, web browsing, social media-ing, and Youtubing shall be enjoyed with a model that’s a little sleeker, a little lighter, a little faster, and a little sharper. But I’ll always appreciate the good times we shared and all you did for me.

Goodbye Lappy…you’ll kinda be missed.

More Writing, Less Blogging

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One of the most difficult things as a writer for me can be flexibility. I absolutely consider myself a flexible individual…so long as that flexibility falls within my personal realm of what and how I choose to be flexible…crazy right? I know. But I love the me that I am. Sue me.

However, despite my limited scope of flexibility, I have learned that regardless of my preferences, I have to learn to be, well – flexible. After all, I am still growing and learning who I am as a writer.

So what’s the big change? So in the spirit of being flexible, here’s the new change that’s essential to me as a writer: I MUST change my blogging schedule! I love to blog. But, I don’t seem to have the time for it as I once did. On the contrary, I love to write. But there doesn’t seem to be much time for that either. So what gives?

What I realize about myself as a writer is I will procrastinate ’til the cows come home before I’ll sit down and focus on the very thing that I’m passionate about – which usually results in nothing getting done. I’m a hot mess, I know. But I also realize that I experience anxiety when I overwhelm myself with too many things – and I am not one of those fine individuals who is a master at balancing 39 things in a day. This drives me stir-crazy and leaves me feeling inadequate. Therefore, change is inevitable.

But Cane, blogging is writing! How can you not have time for it? It’s simple. Mentally, I separate blogging from what I consider to be ‘writing’. Not that blogging isn’t writing, but I don’t feel accomplished when I blog. It’s fun for me. Relaxing. It’s equivalent to playing your favorite video game or watching a good movie. When I’m gaming or watching t.v., I’m freeing my mind. That’s what blogging does for me. So when I blog, I haven’t actually penned anything toward my manuscripts in progress, or made any revisions on existing manuscripts. Not accomplishing this leaves me feeling pretty low. I don’t feel empty inside when I don’t get a chance to play my favorite gaming app on my iPad, just as I don’t feel empty if I don’t get a chance to blog. I look forward to it. I love to do it. But there’s no pressure to do it. Story writing on the other hand is different for me. I love it! I feel invigorated when I get the story out of my head. But there is pressure if it doesn’t get done. Granted, this is self-inflicted pressure, but pressure all the same. So while blogging is writing, it’s not the kind of writing that helps me achieve my goals as a storyteller.

Keep in mind, this may differ for other writers. Some writers blog for a living, so obviously blogging would hold a different weight in their writing arena. For me, storytelling is the priority for me.

I’ve changed my blogging schedule several times already! I’ve gone from daily blogging, to 3 times per week, to twice per week, to weekly blogging with gaps of inactivity in between. I’m still not satisfied. So my next attempt is MONTHLY! (Big surprise). It took a while to reach this long overdue conclusion, but it’s the best thing…for Cane.

In short, Creating Cane is switching from a weekly blog (which sort of stopped happening anyway) to a monthly blog. This will make it much easier to bring you the latest and greatest on this ongoing journey of mine. I miss you guys!

But what about that daily word count thing? I have still worked tirelessly to achieve my daily word count as discussed in my March blog post: A Daily Word Count that Worksand I am still very pleased with the results of applying this technique to my writing life. But I can’t help but feel that something is suffering when I still don’t fit it all in. And reality is, when I’m doing one, I’m not doing the other. I don’t want my blog to suffer simply because my book writing is gaining momentum. It all needs to get done. I think the monthly blogging schedule will give me an opportunity to have my cake and eat it too…just not in such large proportions.

Do you blog? How often? What schedule works best for you? Whether you’re blogging, screen writing, story writing, song writing, journaling, reporting, or any other form of writing, just be sure to make it work for you!

Write on! Write on!

A Daily Word Count that Works

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The seasons are changing and spring is upon us. With spring comes the desire for cleaning, weeding, changing, and reorganizing. Writers fall into this mode as well. Writers may desire to try a new genre, begin a new manuscript, finish a lingering manuscript, reorganize creative spaces, or weed out distractions. In my case, my urge has been to weed out distractions and try something new to keep me focused and make greater progress in my writing.

Recently a writer-buddy of mine gave me some advice that I thought I’d attempt since what I had been doing hadn’t been working up to this point. Listen up Newbies, this one’s for you.

We attended a school function together that was a “Celebration of Reading” if you will. When I first met this fellow writer/author a little over a year ago, he had a few books and I thought to myself, ‘One day that’ll be me‘. Well, as we’re setting up our table displays, I noticed his works had multiplied significantly (as I set up my only title with bells and whistles to make it look fancy). Being the conversationalist that I am, I lean over to him and ask (as only I can),

“Uhhh…What have you been doing? You didn’t have that many titles when we first met. You’ve been busy! How do you get it all done?”

I’m sure this is a common question for those new to this whole writing thing.

“How do you get it all done?”

I have read countless blogs and spoken with many writer-friends about writing and making time to write. By far, I felt this particular advice was the most practical. So I put it to the test.

He advised me not to set an astronomical daily writing goal. So many suggest a daily goal of anywhere from 1800-2500 words. Which, many of us can do, but can we do it consistently? He told me he set a goal of about 750 words per day. I immediately thought, that’s pretty low. I’ll never finish my next book with a goal that low. But I continued to listen.

He went on to explain that 750 words was a more realistic writing goal for the busy writer. Many days he would exceed that goal, but if not, at least he knew he had met the goal for the day and he could feel accomplished. Eventually, he created a habit of writing (which we have all been told is essential in this business). But the difference was his goal was realistic and attainable. He said he started aiming for this lower daily writing goal everyday (or at least almost everyday) and before he knew it his table was boasting three or four more titles than he had when we first met just over a year prior.

Despite my doubts, the table didn’t lie. So I thought I’d give it a try. Here’s my take-away:

  1. 750 words per day turned out to be a very reasonable and realistic goal for me. I was hitting my word count in no time and when I exceeded the goal, it made me feel as if I had really put in significant time with my writing each day. I could move on to get other day-to-day responsibilities done without the guilt of having not reached my word count for that day.
  2. Mentally, I didn’t feel drained by the end of the day stressing and obsessing over having not met my daily writing. I felt relaxed, accomplished, and more eager to finish the story I was trying to tell.
  3. By the end of the week, I had made progress on my manuscript that I had been longing for for weeks. No burnout, no frustration, PLUS rewards. By far my most successful week as a writer.

It’s been a few weeks now, and I have continued to apply this writing method – successfully!

Here’s the point – daily goals of 1800-2500 words are realistic goals . . . For someone else. Not for me. If you’re struggling with forming a writing habit, maybe your goals aren’t realistic given your personal schedule and/or your writing muscles. It takes time to transform our physical bodies and build muscles. Writing muscles are no different. I’m not saying aim low, but maybe you’re not being honest with yourself. While I met my 750 wpd many times, most days I was hitting 1400-1800 wpd anyway – without the pressure. This created a freedom for me to write, thereby nurturing my love for writing instead of fostering a dread for doing it, which would often lead to avoidance. I don’t want writing to become a chore, but at times the effort feels labored when I consistently fail to accomplish my writing goals.

Thanks to readjusting my daily goals, I have rediscovered myself as a writer and again look forward to tackling old and new manuscripts.

Are you setting realistic goals for yourself or are you losing sleep and hair trying to meet others’ expectations of you? If you need to write more – want to write more, but it’s just not happening for you, try scaling back that word count a bit and watch your story (or stories) come alive! Try it and share your results.

Scale back and write on!

February Favorites: Inspiring Black Writers

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As I stare at my barren Christmas tree, still trying to muster up the energy to drag it to the crawl space in the attic along with the other Christmas decorations, I realize February has crept up on me and I haven’t posted a single thing since November! I guess the effects of Thanksgiving birds, holiday shopping, and new year’s resolutions can really take a toll on a soul. But nonetheless, despite having survived our most cherished holidays, here we are, already in the second month of the year and the celebrations begin again.

February is packed full of days of recognition. From Groundhog Day to President’s Day to this year being a Leap Year, there is definitely much to learn and celebrate in the shortest month of the year. As I have every year it is imperative that I take time to recognize, what (to me) is the most important celebration of February (Hubby’s birthday excluded) – Black History Month.

That’s right! It’s Black History Month – a time to slow down and really highlight, explore, remember, pay tribute to, and celebrate the black contribution to the United States of America. Rest assured that as an African-American February is not the only time black history is celebrated and discussed in the black community. But it is a time of special observance nationwide that is important for all Americans to take pause and recognize.

I’m a writer and author and therefore choose to use this month to highlight other black writer’s and authors in honor of Black History Month. This week I’d like to highlight some of the notable authors that inspired me from girlhood to teen. I read works by all of these writers and was inspired by each one in different ways.

Now, there are countless blogs recognizing and celebrating Black History, so I’ll keep my posts short and sweet. Many of these writers are very well known in the African-American community. Below is my favorite work by each writer and a link to learn more about their lives and contributions. Enjoy learning more about each of them and don’t forget to post some of your favorites in the comments.

 Be inspired and write on!