Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is there more to being an optimist than seeing the glass half-full?


I happen to be a natural optimist. It comes very easy to me to see the positive in most situations. I look at obstacles and conflicts as things that will lead to growth. And I have to tell you, that trait was extremely helpful in dealing with years of rejection letters (as well as lots of other things life throws at me). But let me be clear... sometimes the glass is not only half-empty, it is bone dry.

Anyone who thinks optimists are always happy doesn't understand optimism.

Here's the truth about optimism and that glass half-empty or half-full question: Despite how much water is in my glass, I know how and where to get more. I know how to turn on a faucet.

Sounds obvious, right? But think about what it really means. Instead of emphasizing the present view of things, it focuses on my ability to be resilient. It acknowledges that there will be times when everything will go wrong, and I'll feel terrible. But an optimist sees those times and those feelings as temporary. An optimist is able to time-travel, so to speak, and put faith in the future when this immediate crisis or obstacle will be a thing of the past. An optimist looks for ways to get to that future.

I could go on and on about optimism and resiliency, but I don't have to because there is a fantastic new blog all about this topic. It's called The Irrepressible Writer, and it's written by Carol Grannick, one of my critique partners. Carol gives fabulous step-by-step practical advice about how to bring optimism into your life. Optimism CAN be learned. And it can definitely improve the quality of your life. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You've Written a First Draft. Now What?

You've finally done it. You've finished your novel! It's amazing. You actually wrote an entire story from start to finish. It's brilliant. It's original. It's a masterpiece. It will certainly go to auction and become a bestseller and get you on Oprah.

No? That's not how it works?

But why not, you cry!

Because, you have to revise. Every successful author revises. And as overwhelming as that might seem, there are ways to wrap your brain around the process. There are tricks. There are things that work and things that don't. There are ways to get lost in the revision, spending years changing things without making any real progress, and there are ways to revise purposefully and powerfully.

To learn how to revise like a pro, please come to The Book Stall in Winnetka, Wednesday, November 11 at 7 pm. I'll be giving away all my secrets.

I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

An Optimistic View of Writing Distractions

I'm trying really hard to finish this first draft of my next novel. Here are some things that are helping:
1. My critique group is loving it so far.
2. My daughter is loving it so far.
3. I am loving it so far.
(These three things are totally mind boggling, considering this is a first draft.)
4. I feel some pressure to finish this draft by the middle of December so I can a) enjoy winter break without feeling guilty for not working and b) sell the book sometime next year before everyone forgets I'm an author.

And here are some things that are definitely not helping:
1. I just cut about 20 pages because I'm pretty sure I was heading in the wrong direction. I was following my outline when I should have been following my characters.
2. My time gets sucked into the abyss by: doing laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, exercising, doing my hair, walking the dog, driving kids places, Facebooking, reading, watching TV, volunteering at the middle-school library, planning a retreat, buying birthday presents, teaching a writing workshop, doing school and library visits, being a friend, a wife, a sister, a daughter, and a mom. I fully realize that most of these things are the fabric of my life. I'm lucky and blessed to be able to do them. But still... they all take time. A part of me wants to hide away in a little cubicle and spend two weeks doing nothing but writing. I wonder how that would turn out.

And last but not least, here's something that might fall into both categories...
1. I'm taking a Harvard class online called Through the Looking Glass - The Philosophy, History, and Literature of Childhood with Professor Maria Tatar. Yes, it will take time (There are fabulous lectures to watch, books to read, and discussion groups to attend!), but I'm hoping I'll be richer for the experience, and maybe that will make me a better writer.

Come to think of it, all those "distractions," all those things that suck my time, they are all things that can enrich my life if looked at from the right point of view. So that little cubicle... no matter how inviting it seems... is really not the key to my happy life. My happy life is all around me, pulling me in a million directions, keeping things busy and interesting.

Maybe I'll finish this draft by winter vacation, and maybe I won't. But I will try my best. And I'll enjoy the journey.