Into the Wild: An Extroverted Introvert's Day Out

I’ve been delinquent in keeping up with my blog posts as of late, while on the heels of three new book releases. I still have a topic floating in the back of my mind about “Life on Plan B.” That one will come. Today, something different stirred me. I was going to post about the “writer’s life” as I work from home and juggle family, house, and all the stuff life slaps at you. Instead, I want to write about being out in the wild. As in…home-bound authors who venture out! (p.s. yes, I’m talking to you other writers who hole away in seclusion for too long…I personally go a bit nutty being home with just me, myself, and I most days.)

I’m an extroverted introvert meaning I prefer to stay home for some R&R with family, gardening, writing, TV, or books but I do love to go out and talk with other humans. I miss the camaraderie of an office (but not the drama). Not big parties or loud events (though I can navigate those just fine), but rather if I do go out, my #1 place is to enjoy nature either by boot, paddle, or pedal. If needed, I can also rock it in the extroverted world. Hence I’m an extroverted introvert. I write in cafes, waiting areas, doctor’s offices, coffee shops, bookstores, libraries, my car during parent pick-up at school or at the bus-stop….the list is long. If I can tote my computer with me and I have some down time, I write…with or without noise and distractions. I can filter them out (or pop in earbuds).

I also observe in the wild.

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Newborn baby crying next to me…momma ushering her two or three little ones through the door: both tug at the heartstrings because I have been there (and I’m still there sometimes). They aren’t distractions to me (perhaps because I’ve been writing around the “chaos” in my house for the past ten years). Instead, they are reminders of life. My observations of the world outside my house.

Out in the wild today…I visited a new mechanic’s shop to deal with a recurring problem. I was at my wit’s end with this ongoing issue with my SUV. At 180K miles, it has kid stickers plastered on the windows, stained seats, and ground goldfish on the floor (okay, those were vacuumed up yesterday). It has also seen many years in my family’s life. I arrived at the mechanic’s shop with Plan B: I wore my sneakers in case I needed to go for a walk while waiting, and I brought my laptop in case the shop had a waiting area. Score! My first choice prevailed (writing).

I sat, dug into edits, but soon found myself chatting with the mechanics. One talked all things books. He loves to read and I am a writer: instant chitchat! The other one and I conversed about travel…we’ve ventured to a few similar places such as Yosemite and Yellowstone. Though I came prepared to work (or walk), I ended up working for just a fraction of the time, carrying on lively conversations instead. Car fixed, I now have a new mechanic’s shop to go to. And for a writer who spends most of her time at home or talking to her children, it fed my need to socialize and connect with others.

What finally spurred me to write the post today was what I saw today at lunch. After the mechanic detour and some errands, I needed to eat before heading off to an appointment. I stopped at a fast food joint (nicely remodeled with comfy chairs and service). I located a cozy spot (watching the door) and prepared for a 45 minute editing power session.  

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Beside me sat a middle-aged man with his two senior parents. Maybe it’s because I am a mom to two sons, but I found myself drawn to their interaction. Part of being in the wild is people-watching. The man tenderly, lovingly took care of his mother and father. Answered their repeated questions. Treated them with respect, nurturing, and compassion. I’ll be honest, I got teary-eyed. It tugged at my heartstrings. I can only hope I will raise my sons to be the same gentle-spirited, kind adult souls.

[Side tangent: My 12-year-old son with special needs patiently taught me how to ride a bike this weekend after he just only got his training wheels off at age 11 this fall—wow, he is a sweetheart! And what a humbling, heart-squeezing moment. “Mom, this is how you change gears…” he said as I made him promise to not let go of my handle bar while he walked beside me. The display of the older man with his parents reminded me of my son and fed my wish that he will grow up to be that type of human being.]

Where am I going with this disjointed ramble? Not sure. All that I know is some days, when we are harried by frustrations like overbooked schedules and missing our editing deadlines and dealing with the same old car issue, life shows us the beauty of the wild. Friendly chats, tender adult sons, snapshots of life among the chaos.

My power session flew quickly and I wrote this blog post instead of editing. Then I rushed off to the appointment, dealt with the kid after-school-hustle, yada yada. I hope to snatch a few crumbs of time here and there to keep editing this evening (around the chaos).

Did I enjoy my venture into the wild, away from the isolation of home? Yes, yes I did. And I highly recommend that we all take a break from the workload, even if we need to force it (I know this can be more difficult for some people) and get out into the wild.

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I’d love to hear from you. Are you an introvert, extrovert, or some mishmash between? How do you get out into the wild, explore the world, and feed your soul?


If it’s Precious, Let it Go…

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”   - William Faulkner

The writing process is loaded with steps (forward and back), potholes, meandering trails, mountains, and valleys, so much so that your fingers, brain, and heart may need a few bandages sometimes. They don’t say it’s a blood, sweat, and tears career for nothing! There are epiphany moments, fueled by espresso-laced energy that keep you up half the night or rising before the roosters crow, to get that scene finished (as you think to yourself: “This is awesome!”). And then there are moments like when you get feedback on the first draft of your manuscript from your beloved beta readers, and your heart cringes with their review (and you think to yourself: “This is not so awesome” or worse, “I stink”). But remember that even gold starts out raw and elemental, and is worked and molded into a shiny ring.

Editing is just that – taking the gold, and working it into it a piece of art.

So what’s all this about killing darlings? Faulkner (or the numerous other authors credited with that quotation) put it well. You will need to kill off your beloved narratives or sentences, characters, scenes, plot points, and entire chapters…for the good of the manuscript. It happens to us all. Those golden nuggets written in feverish excitement that had you smiling (or chuckling) to yourself like Gollum from Lord of The Rings, “Oh, my Precious!” ...yup, those parts. Slice and dice, baby. Toss them into the fiery pits of Mt. Doom! Heck, you may even look like Gollum after the nights you’ve put into writing!

And the hard reality is that not everyone will think your darlings are so precious, though.

Killing your darlings can be like pulling a bandage off or as deep as stitching up a wound. With time, it will heal. Yet that doesn’t make the removal and stitching any easier. And in time, sometimes you forget all about the injury or what could have been. It becomes a distant memory or a bumpy scar that your hand glances over from time to time.  

So how do we kill our darlings? Judiciously. With sweet abandon. With hesitation. With strategic attacks.

Your red-penned manuscript sits before you on the desk (or the MS Word doc with the glaring colored marks of track changes hums on your computer screen). The edits, comments, and scratch marks stare at you with menacing eyes. Now what? Well, first, you read them. Then, if you’re like me, you mourn, cry, shout, even argue with your reviewer a little. This is usually followed by a sulking period of time, where self-doubts creep in. The comments may need to sit there and marinate for a few days or weeks. If you have other projects you’re working on, you may procrastinate and focus your efforts on those (hey, that’s good! Keep writing something!). But eventually those edits and comments need to be addressed. A version two, a glossier gold ring, awaits after all! The worst thing you can do is ignore it all and give up. Critiques and editing make for a better writer.

Once the sulking and defending are over, it is time to roll up your sleeves and dig in. Usually during the mourning period, I spend my time carefully reading the reviewer’s comments. Always remember, the final decision is yours as writer. You may not agree with your reviewer’s comments. Often, I agree with 75-90% of what my beta readers have said. Some of those thoughts may have already held a residence in my mind before I handed off that coveted first draft. So, I let the cutting begin.

I save those dissected wedges of lines, scenes, plot points, or character flaws in a file. To perhaps be used later. Honestly, those cut sections are usually never resuscitated. They stay forever filed away into a folder of the past. Some of these sections, at the time when they were written, may have indeed been one of my darlings. A scene, thought, or plot point I’d thought was amazingly genius! But with more time, ah, perhaps not so genius…recently, I spent a lot of time for a recent work in progress researching a military base and how to break into one. Yup. That scene got tossed into the burning depths of Mordor. In fact, I gouged out my entire last few chapters and rewrote them to clean up the story. Sure, I have those scenes tucked away in a word document. Just in case.

So how do you know what to cut? That’s up to you. In my previous post (Setting Goals for Your Characters), I discuss the points of GMC – goals, motivation, and conflict. All scenes must a). move the story forward in some way (a goal, motivation, or a conflict) or b). enhance character development. Does the scene (or plot point/chapter/whatever) that needs to be addressed make the cut? Or should it be revised or tweaked? Perhaps told from another character’s POV? Maybe parts of the scene can still be used, but moved elsewhere? Be strategic in your slicing. Look at it all carefully. Does it move the story forward? Is it truly needed? I am notorious for writing whiny, aimless female protagonists in my first drafts – they’ve needed major makeovers to become the strong heroines they’ve evolved into.

So, grab that red pen or keyboard, a side of dark-roasted java or a glass of aged Cabernet, and take a deep breath and dive in, knowing that some darlings need to be tossed into the fire to make room for a literary work that will shine like a golden ring that will lure all its readers in with its beauty.

Mt. Doom doesn't look too scary now, does it? (Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand, inspiration for the LOTR's movie adaptation of Mt. Doom)

Mt. Doom doesn't look too scary now, does it? (Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand, inspiration for the LOTR's movie adaptation of Mt. Doom)