Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back from Vacation + Some Changes

: Well, Bear had a good vacation/prayer break. She sends Big Bear Thanks to everyone who prayed for her during her week of seeking the Lord's direction on many major life issues. The Lord was most gracious to the Bear, and she feels much more settled and at peace. Goals and direction have been reevaluatated and clarified, and some tough decisions made.

A few of those decisions will minorly affect the Writing Den.

Bear has many goals in her writing, in general. The main priority always, is best summed up in a phrase that has almost become a slogan in some chruches -- "To know Jesus, and to make Jesus known." That's highest priority when Bear writes -- that it draws her closer to the Lord, and hopefully also witnesses to others in various ways concerning Him.

A second goal in writing is to develop writing skills and learn to write better... to continue to grow as a writer. A third goal is to use writing as a vehicle for fellowship with people. And a fourth goal is to eventually start bringing in some money through the sale of some of Bear's writing pieces.

Balancing all those goals can be somewhat tricky. And the goal to earn money has been the least of the concerns so far. Money making has usually been a goal on the distant horizon, to pursue more after the other three goals were well along their way, type of vision... something to prioritize
after writing skills improve more, for example. However, Bear has some financial needs which are not so subtly reminding her to pay somewhat more attention to the money making angle.

Also, a fifth goal has snuck into the picture, more and more lately...

Bear is realizing that she's spending much too much time on the computer again. Computers are most wonderful bear-tools, and are especially useful for writing bears. But Bear has always had a tendancy to go overboard concerning their use. Indeed, she has recognized this tendancy in the past, and even worked with it and stomped it down somewhat, at various times. But in all the fun and joy of finding FaithWriters a few months ago, and in starting up the Writing Den, and in just plain old having a good time online, writing... Bear was recently brought up hard against the realization that the computer was becoming more and more her whole life. Plus, health problems related to overuse of the computer were steadily rearing their ugly heads again.

In fact, Bears are particularly sensitive to computer-triggered health problems. Moreso, even than the general population. So, when Bear gets too computer crazed, it's even more serious than it would be for others.

So recent computer craziness was one of the things that Bear was praying on also, and trying to balance.

She does not want to compromise the other goals by making writing-for-money a higher priority than it has been. But, she wants to keep the money issue much more in mind, and work to weave that in with the other goals in a stronger way.

For example, originally when Bear started contributing to the Friday Fiction loop and posting that here at the Den, she was editing an old novel for teenagers that she had written some years back, and was planning on posting regular installments of that as she edited them, and to get feedback that way, and eventually produce a finished book. It's a book she has long had on her heart, and which she has much enjoyed working on.

However, the cold realities of a writer's life have had to be taken into consideration. Reality is, it's very, very hard for a new writer to sell a book, when she has not yet sold enough shorter pieces to demonstrate proof of professional ability. Everyone wants to write a book. And book writing is probably the most competitive field of all, when it comes to making a sale. It's much easier to make a book sale after having already sold a bunch of shorter pieces to magazines and small publications. Because publishers and agents of books usually want some proof that the writer can actually produce saleable copy before they're going to mess with looking over a book-length manuscript. There are some exceptions to that. And there are always the wonderful stories of authors who miraculously got published with their first novel and no writing experience at all; and made a million dollars at it. But needless to say, that's pretty rare, and Bear's not banking on that to happen with her.

So, although novel writing can be more fun in some ways than shorter pieces are, it seems a much saner approach (with the money issue in view) to set the book aside for now. Bear needs to concentrate on short stories and shorter pieces that are more likely to have a chance of selling for a writer at her stage -- with only some sales under her belt at this point already. Likely the novels will have their day and season -- but that season is not now. So Bear's going to devote the Friday Fiction to short pieces, and drop the novel serial for now.

Tackle it Tuesday has also been fun, and is a good exercise in writing extremely short greeting card type material in response to a given prompt. However, Bear's decided to stop spending her time at that, even though fun, and start to concentrate on writing actual Christian Greeting Cards for submission to editors (which she'll not be posting at the Den). So, instead of continuning with Tackle it Tuesday, she's now going to shift over to what is known as Word Filled Wednesday.

Word Filled Wednesday is similar to Friday Fiction in one way. It's a loop/meme that people on various websites and blogs post for each week. Basically, each person chooses a Scripture quote that the Lord has laid on her heart for the week -- usually just one verse -- and selects a photo or piece of artwork of some sort to post with it, that she feels represents something the Lord is speaking to her heart about. She can leave it at just that, or go ahead and add any of her own writing: whether it be a poem, or devotional, or just a general observation. Then she posts the link to her website at a central website where all the links are posted. Anyone that goes to that central website can then browse all the entries for the week, same as for Friday Fiction. And people comment on one another's contributions, to some extent. So it's a good vehicle for taking in the Word in fellowship with the body of Christ, as well as sharing and building up in writing. It fits in well with all of Bear's writing goals. Plus, she can use it as a place to learn to write devotionals that can later be submitted to magazines and Sunday School papers that sell that type of thing.

Bear is still praying concerning Sunday Happenings, and what to do about that. So far, she's always used a video, or a recording, or a playlist of videos as the central element in it. She's culled the best of the Web basically, in ministry to herself, as well as in sharing here at the Den. And that's been extremely valuable for Bear. However, it has taken a lot of hours of browsing YouTube videos and MP3 recordings, and, in order to cut back on the time spent on computer, Bear is thinking it likely that she needs to cut back on that element of it quite a bit. So it may be that videos and recordings will appear in that slot less often, although likely they'll still appear there some. It may become more straight writing. There may even be some Sundays when nothing appears at all there. Again, Bear's still praying on that.

The Writing Challenge over at FaithWriters is excellent fellowship, an excellent source of feedback, and an excellent tool for developing writing skills. However, although Bear is still keeping her goal to do 40 Writing Challenges (currently with 8 finished), she's going to cut back to participating every other week instead of weekly. She wants to free up some time to work more on short stories for some Christian Children's Magazines.

So the Writing Den will basically continue on as always, and continue to build up in various ways as time goes on. It's just a minor shifting and adjusting in order to balance priorities a little bit better. Bear will actually be spending more hours writing rather than less. And she has cleared the way to do that by some strategic juggling of life tasks this past week. She also hopes to gain some more time for writing, by doing a bit less general frolicking, surfing, and browsing on the computer in undirected ways.

Plus, she'll be working to shift more and more of her writing time to composing and editing away from the computer. She also wants to do more of her research, reading, emails, and critiques on other people's writing pieces (which is part of Writing Challenge, Friday Fiction, and Word Filled Wednesday participation), away from the computer.

Bear has tussled with this issue many times in the past, and so has already developed some alternative systems to computer. She has experimented with writing by using digital voice recorders, by dictating into the recorder. She's also experimented with writing on various other gadgets (PDA's, electronic keyboards, etc) that have the capability to upload material to the computer once the writing piece is finished. In fact, many of the gadgets that Bear has experimented with in the past (but not really continued with consistently) are still here, lying around the Den, (in some of the rooms not visible to public view). And Bear is going to pull those old tools out, dust them off, and give using them another whirl. Plus, she's going to add in some new tools that she feels the Lord is leading her about, that should be of help.

The reason she has never really consistently used those tools before is that it's very hard to change habits from writing in one way (using one tool), over to writing using another tool. For example, there are still people who love to write using a pen and spiral notebook, who produce their best writing that way. They just copy it over to the computer when finished in order to print it or submit it. It just works for them better than any other way. And they're more creative that way because it's what they're comfortable with and is what they're used to. Bear is most comfortable with, most creative with, and most used to the computer keyboard. And it is tough to shift over and learn new habits. However, Bear is determined this time, to try and push through, and actually accomplish that changeover if at all possible because of the health benefits to be gained. Plus, Bear's hope is that, not only will she gain good health benefits, but she'll also increase writing productivity in general, and gain much freedom in her writing worklife.

For example, Robert Heinlein, a very prolific Science Fiction author back in the '50's and '60's wrote incredibly productively and well by dictating into a tape recorder and having his secretary transcribe it when he was done. Unfortunately, Bear does not have a secretary, which Bear thinks is kind of a sad thing, as having one would be pretty convenient. Bears hardly ever have secretaries though, and it seems to her unlikely she'll get one any time soon. However, Bear does have digital recorders on hand, and has some practice at using them to produce basic emails, and other simple writing copy. So she's going to take another try at learning to write regular pieces of writing via dictation.

In fact, she's writing this very Post via dictation even now. And she plans to type it into her PDA when she's finished, using the PDA's attachable keyboard, and then sync it to the computer, uploading it for posting at the Den. It takes more time to do it that way right now, because Bear is slow and awkward at it. But, in the longrun, if a writer can get the hang of it, and get into the habit of it, it can turn out to be an incredibly productive way of writing. And an incredibly flexible way of writing. (And although Bear may never get a secretary to do her transcribing for her, she might someday be able to afford a fast enough computer to use a dictation program with, which can turn recorded words to written ones almost as well as some of the old fashioned secretaries could.)

It's a method of writing that goes anywhere. Digital recorders are small enough to fit easily in a pocket, freeing a writer to write at their local park, or (when three in the morning inspiration hits) in total darkness, or wherever one might want to write. The writer doesn't have to be hunched over a glowing computer screen for hours on end to get the same results.

Bear's computer syncs with her PDA and downloads all her emails to the PDA with just the press of a button. She can read emails on the PDA and type responses using the PDA, then upload them back to the email program on the next sync to be automatically mailed out.

Bear actually even found a program last week that enables her PDA to read text files out loud to her with a computerized voice. It's a text-to-speech reader that actually works on the PDA. Bear has used these before on the computer and found them incredibly helpful, but had no idea that there was one that would work on her tiny PDA. She bought it in an instant, for $40, and has it up and working. So now she can copy anything she wants to read, using cut and paste on the computer, put it in a text file, and send that file to her PDA, and then listen to it being read out loud to her, anywhere she wants to. For example, when reading the Friday Fiction pieces other writers post each week, to comment on... Instead of reading them each week at the computer, all she needs to do is copy them into a text file and sync the PDA. Then she can listen to them read aloud to her from the PDA in her pocket, while doing dishes or other housework. She can make her comment on each piece into a digital recorder harbored in her other pocket. And then just post the comments back on the various websites next time she's on the computer to give the authors feedback. That's not only going to save her quite a bit of time reading and commenting, but will cut back on the use of the computer for that particular task, majorly.

Those are just a few examples of all sorts of tricks and alternatives that can be used to get away from the actual computer while still making use of many of its benefits and good points.

However, there's a lot of work involved in the change-over and some frustrations in establishing new habits and new ways of working. But Bear thinks it will be well worth it in the longrun. So she's going to give it another try, and see if she can succeed better at it than she has in the past.

Bear won't yet be back at FaithWriters much at all this week, and will not do the Writing Challenge this particular week. She still has much work to do setting things up more for that kind of a changeover, and in working at a few of the other changes that she feels laid upon her heart to pursue after this last week of prayer. However, she's hoping to have things up and rolling along more normally after Memorial day weekend. And she will be around the Den regularly this week also. She already has a photo and idea for Word Filled Wednesday, and is hoping to get that first entry in tomorrow. Although she doesn't expect to produce anything new for this week's Friday Fiction, she's planning on pulling out an old piece from years gone by and editing that. So will be participating in that as well. And already has an idea for Sunday Happenings for this week.

Again, Bear thanks everyone who has prayed for her during the week prayer break she took, and is thanking the Lord above all. His Mercies truly are new every morning. And Bear feels refreshed and ready to roll.
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