Another Cat-Sitting Gig. Another Catch Up Opportunity.

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Like an oasis.

Every year around early June, I come to this house to cat- and house-sit for a week. The responsibility is an oasis that removes me from my own non-writing duties at my home to come here where all I have is the cat, picking up the mail and bringing in the trash tote after garbage day.

The writing to-do list grows.

A month prior to arriving, I make a list of books, magazines and writing materials to bring and the agenda of what I want to accomplish during the seven days I’m here.

The bad part is I delay doing some necessary writing by putting it on this list rather than getting it done at the time.

When I arrive.

I fill the dining room table with notebooks, laptop, iPad, papers and pens. The first two days are overwhelming. My to-do list may have become impossibly long, at least it feels that way when I look at it all spread across the table.

Finding the groove.

The key is to steadily work through the priority of items. Make progress.

By the second day, I love this world where it’s only me and words.

I’ve submitted short stories to e-magazines, proofread one short piece and sent it out, researched other possible submission sites, read up on blogs and writing sites.

Started a new story inspired by the neighbor’s hot tub.

I feel good.

Thanks to the cat loving travelers.

When not under contract with an agency or editor, I don’t have any outside deadlines. All is done through self-motivation.

The fear is without deadlines, I let myself get taken further and further away from the writing life. The easier it becomes to not write, to not blog, to not research sites, not submit short stories, not query agents.

What a relief that at least once a year, I count on the folks who ask me to stay in their homes, eat their food and watch their cats to provide the catching up.

Not only do I make a big dent in my writing to-do list, but I get reinvigorated about writing as well. The pull is strong enough to keep making writing a big priority when I get back home.

 

“Motivation will keep you going forwards. Hesitation will only drag you backwards.”   ~Mouloud Benzadi

 

*All images are my own unless noted.

 

 

January: A Prompt in Itself

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Prompt Others; Prompt Myself

I first used the word “prompt” when teaching high school English as an educational tool for students to jumpstart their individualized, brainstorm-like induced stories.

“I remember….” is an often-used prompt for fiction and nonfiction.

A photo of a man standing by a human-made wooden structure with artificial eagles perched by a real eagle’s nest is a visual prompt.

After I left the classroom and pursued my own writing, I joined a newly-formed writers’ group with two former students. I made the third and was happy to follow their rules of organization. We met every Monday at Tim Horton’s. We came with copies, read our work aloud and offered verbal comments.

The final act of every gathering was my favorite. Each of us received a small strip of paper on which to write a prompt right on the spot. We placed it in one of the writer’s fedoras and picked a prompt that wasn’t our own.

The following Monday, we shared the story coming out of the prompt in addition to anything else we’d written.

Just Because I Taught English

Just because I taught writing and wanted to write a novel, I wasn’t exactly schooled in how to accomplish 70,000+ words of engaging fiction.

Short stories were practices in creating beginning-middle-ends, in characterization, in dialogue and narration and in showing description.

I’d take my writers’ group chosen prompt and spend a week on it and have a full story completed by Monday.

After nine months, the group broke up, but I came away with a portfolio of several short stories in various stages of polish. Over the years, I’ve gone back to that file and tinkered with some and submitted some.

A Prompt From Anywhere

Out my window, a dingy white car with a noisy muffler makes its second of a minimum of three daily stops next door. My neighbor is an elderly woman and the mother of the daughter driving up the driveway to check on her.

Or is she?

Prompts come from anywhere and everywhere. As seeds, they bloom stories and stories and stories.

It’s January.

The first month of the year prompts us to make resolutions to rededicate our energies toward specific goals.

I am prompted to exceed my number of accepted story submissions.

Many good memories remain of that early writers’ trio. One of the most significant is realizing the power in the prompt.

I am never without story ideas. And if I get stuck somewhere along a story line, I look around me in hope of a prompt to lead me forward.

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”  ~Orson Scott Card