procrastination

The Cook

The following is by Writers in the Grove member Gretchen Keefer.

Chapter One

Having the cook was a bit expensive, but worth every dollar. Janelle had totaled up the costs of eating out or getting take-out for a month, including the lunches they both purchased most days, and showed the numbers to Jason. They could save half the cost of a part time cook by avoiding those commercial meals. The meals at home would be delicious, more nutritious and offer more variety than Janelle (and Panda Express) offered.

Jason eventually agreed. The cook came in the afternoon, five days a week, and prepared dinner. She created a shopping list for Jason and Janelle to complete over the weekend. She also cleaned up the kitchen and generated lunches from leftovers before she left.

Jason enjoyed the variety of tasty dishes and Janelle was more relaxed in the evenings. They talked more over dinner and during the evening. They discovered more topics they could discuss without upsetting one another. Entertaining also became easier and more fun. In fact, Jason and Janelle began to enjoy their lives more than they ever had.

More confident and self-assured, Jason was promoted at work; Calmer and more rested Janelle landed the management position she had been striving for. Their combined salary increases more than made up for the cook’s salary. The couple started spending their restful evenings planning the vacation of their dreams for the following year. Yes, the cook was worth every dollar.

Chapter Two

Three years later Jason had gained so much weight his blood pressure shot up and he developed heart trouble. His energy slipped and he did not think as quickly at work as he had. Janelle’s love of desserts had triggered Type 2 Diabetes. She lost the baby she and Jason had carefully planned for during their peaceful evenings. Her ensuing depression led to both of them drinking more wine with their gourmet meals, continuing into the evenings. Soon it became important to add alcohol to lunches as well. Soon Janelle was asked to leave her employment.

Jason missed a lot of work with his health issues and lost his job as well, so the cook had to go. Janelle began to learn more recipes to balance her diabetes with Jason’s weight loss program. They made time to discuss their options, such as moving, downsizing, or living more frugally. It was a difficult spot in their lives. All the good times they had spent chatting and enjoying each other’s company faded as they faced this new struggle.

Eventually they settled into new routines in the small town where Jason had found a suitable job. Their health gradually improved and they felt less pressure to keep up with coworkers and neighbors. Since Janelle was home to prepare meals on time, she felt less stressed about dinners and gradually the relaxing evenings began again. One morning Janelle woke up to realize how happy she was. Truly happy.

Yes, the cook was really worth the expense.

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The Round Tuit

The following was written by Writers in the Grove member, Lorelle VanFossen, based upon the prompt about “someday.”

My father brought home a plaque one day and hung it on the wall in the kitchen. We children stood around it and admired its shiny wood finish engraved with a wood burning tool with the words in burnt black letters, “tuit.”

“What is it?” My brother David asked in wonder.

“It’s a tuit.”

“What’s a twit?” My youngest sister, Cheryl asked with a lisp.

“Tu-it,” Janet corrected. “Toooo-it.”

“Twwwwwuuuu-it. Twit.”

“No, toooooo-it-it-it.”

“Twwwwwwooooo – ”

“Cut it out,” I poked both of them. “Dad, what’s a tuit?”

He leaned in toward us kids huddled in the kitchen, our eyes glued to the round wooden plaque. “This isn’t just any tuit. It’s a round tuit. I always told myself I’d get a round tuit and I finally did. Aren’t you proud of me?”

We turned our gaze from the plaque to him, and he waited.

David got it first and let out a moan, then I, then Janet. Cheryl needed it explained to her. It took about a week, but she finally got round tuit.

NaNoWriMo Tips: When Passive Voice Starts Winning

As you plow through NaNoWriMo, are you finding yourself writing with conditional verbs: should, would, haven’t, could, maybe, might? It might be time to redirect your energies because this is a symptom of running out of steam and inspiration.

This isn’t about editing your work during the NaNoWriMo month of November. It is about changing your writing tune midway if you find yourself using passive voice in your writing.

This isn’t about a character who uses passive voice when they speak and in their actions.

This is about being unclear and unsure about what you are writing. It is about you losing confidence in your writing.

Switch immediately to active voice using action and active verbs. Don’t let your characters wonder through a fog of uncertainty. Put them in a place and let them thrive there with your word choices.

Still finding it difficult? Consider passive voice as a symptom. Here are some solutions.

  • Return to your original premise, the concept that sent you down this path. Has it changed? Evolved? Lost its way?
  • Have you swung off the path and meandered down a tangent? Switching to passive voice could be a sign that you are losing confidence in this story line, not the entire story. Find your way back, or start a new tangent and follow that.
  • Are you losing interest in your character(s)? Consider making another attempt at their character personality and descriptions and find what’s missing. Have you fallen out of love with them? Find a way to love them, or change them into someone you can love again.
  • Leave the story and dig into the back story, the history, the politics, the society in and around your story. It’s called worldbuilding. Like a child playing with tinker toys or legos, build the universe in and around your story to find the passion again.
  • Ask yourself why. It is that simple. Why are you using soft, cautious, careful words in your writing? Is it your story? Characters? Self-confidence? Guilt? Procrastination? Something is getting in your way and this is a symptom. Identify it sooner rather than later and get our your mental bulldozer to clear the path so you can keep writing.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

NaNoWriMo Tips: This is Supposed to Be Fun

NaNoWriMo, learning something new, taking classes, starting a new hobby, no matter what you do, there will always come the moment when you want to just quit. You’ve had it. It’s not fun any more.

Keep going.

Yes, you can take a break, write about something else, go for a walk, skip a day, reward yourself with a treat, but keep going.

Runners and endurance sports participants often hit what is known as the wall or the bonk, a point where their body’s energies can no longer sustain their actions. Before the body gets to that point, however, there is another kind of wall they hit. This one is when the body feels like it can’t take any more, and it wants to crap up and quit, but experienced athletes know that this is just a warning sign and not the true crash. If they push through it, on the other side is a sense of euphoria, moving becomes second nature, breathing is easier, and they get a burst of energy.

When writers hit the wall, they can’t take it any more, sometimes on the other side of that, if they just push through, there is euphoria and a burst of creative energy that keeps them going.

Writer’s walls are usually psychological rather than physical, though if you’ve been sitting for 10 hours, it’s physical. Get up and move. The psychological walls are usually self-doubt, loss of confidence, or just plain stuck.

You’ve probably already developed the tools to deal with your occasional self-doubt and confidence issues, but what about when you are just stuck? The story ain’t going nowhere.

You can push through and hope to figure it out, or take a break and let the mind rest.

Sleep is a good solution, allowing the mind to process as it rests and flushes out toxins. So is taking a walk, exercising, just letting the mind go and the body take over.

There is another method promoted by Cheryl Richardson, author of the bestselling Life Makeover series. She suggests using the power of the mind to make an appointment with yourself. Give your brain an assignment, a task, something to mull over, and set an appointment at, say, 6PM tonight or 6:30AM the next morning. Instruct your mind that you show up, on time, ready for the answer. Put your unconscious to work. Between now and then, if your unconscious starts knocking early, tell it to wait until the appointed time. Amazingly, if you show up, the answer, solution, whatever you asked it to do, will be there, waiting. It takes a few tries, but it works.

Above all, when NaNoWriMo or any writing project starts to be hard work and not fun, remember this: it is supposed to be work. Work can be fun, but when you are working, you are working, and sometimes it is hard.

Don’t give in. Examine why it feels so hard right now when a few days ago it was a joyous experience. Identify the culprit, and find a way to find the passion again in what you are writing.

Keep going. Break through that wall. There is good stuff on the other side.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Battle Your Demons

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

George Orwell

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Avoid the Blank Page Woes

During NaNoWriMo, you will be writing every day. Returning over and over again to a blank screen or page can be intimidating.

Don’t let the blank page get in your way. Put the date at the top of the page and say out loud, “I’ve already started the page. It isn’t blank!”

Then start writing. One obstacle down.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

Unlimited Health and Resources Were Available – Who Would I Be?

The following is by Diana Lubarsky, one of our active and prolific members. It is in response to the prompt, If You Had Unlimited Resources.

Spiral of clock.With all the funds I’ll ever need in my pocket, and health and conflict gone, I see myself shedding the skin of survival mode. I slip my thin, healthy young woman’s body from my yacht onto a kayak and paddle gently across the tepid Caribbean waters under a perfect blue sky. A gentle sun warms my back. No longer in survival mode, I am free at last to write of stars and sun, mountains and ethereal beauty; the sights I’ve been privileged to see; the God woven fabric of life.

But soon, I am bored. Inhaling beauty all day is like eating only sugar. My stomach aches. My gaze focuses beyond the magnificent harbor where I lounge, toward the teaming city; a place of dreams and despair, of fortunes lost and lives gambled.

At night I leave my silk shawl behind, scrub my face, don sackcloth, and enter the gates of the destitute. This is where I belong. Birthing babies, bandaging wounds, bringing hope … neck deep in sweat and blood.

Although the majesty of mountain peaks and orchestral music sing to my heart, the first cry of a slimy new born taking its first breath in my arms replenishes my soul.

I have learned, wealthy or not, I am a healer.

Prompt: If You Had Unlimited Resources…

The prompt this week was:

IF you had unlimited resources, time, healthy, and energy, what would you write?

What is the tentative working title?

Do you have a character that yells to you from inside that wants to be born?

IF you know what you would write, why aren’t you doing it?

What is stopping you?

Get started.

Write the opening paragraph or chapter. Now.