Writing about writing

NaNo Dilemma Resolution

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For the first time since I started participating in NaNoWriMo, I have “cheated.” I wrote 50,000 words, but only about 20,000 of them have anything to do with my story. In spite of the fact that I did not win NaNo in regards to writing a story with 50,000 words, I have won because I finally wrote the story that has been swirling around in my head for more than 30 years!

As I share the plot of my story and the fact that it’s based on Judges 19 with others, I am extremely fascinated with their responses. Almost to a one, everyone tells me s/he does not remember reading this particular story in the Bible, everyone tells me s/he does not remember a pastor ever preaching on this passage, and everyone tells me s/he agrees that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to figure out why this story is in the Bible at all.

What makes the writing of this story that much more interesting than the typical story authors often write (even those based on other stories) is the fact that with every single person I have talked to regarding this story, we have had some absolutely fascinating and super interesting conversations. I cannot tell you how very much I love the fact that not only are people talking about Judges 19, but they are reading their Bibles!!!

How cool is THAT?!

Even more awesome is the fact that I know I am not finished with my own study of Judges 19. I want to find a definitive answer regarding WHY this story of gang rape and the cutting of a woman into 12 pieces is in the Bible. What is the purpose of this story? What exactly is God telling us?

Or….

Is it a complete mistake that this story is in the Bible at all?! I honestly don’t believe that it’s a mistake, but why don’t people talk about it?

Why don’t pastors preach on it?

Why do yearly Bible readers gloss over it and forget about it as soon as they’ve read it?

Why does the Levite treat this woman so callously?

Why does the Levite wait 4 months to go get her?

If, as many translations state, the woman/concubine had actually had an affair, then according to Biblical law, she would have been taken into the center of town and stoned. So then why wasn’t she stoned?

Or are other translations that refer to her as having become angry with her husband more of an accurate description of why she left him in the first place?

Why does a Levite, a man set apart as holy unto God as a result of his work for the Temple of God, have a concubine, to begin with?

What significance is it that we are told, several times, throughout the course of this story that there was no king in the land?

And, for heavens’ sake, why in the world does the Levite not only throw his concubine out to the men of Gibeah, but then he sits in the house with the door shut throughout the night?! Why doesn’t he DO something?!

And what in the world does he mean when he so casually says to her dead body at the doorstep, “Get up. Let’s go.”?

Seriously?

Am I the only person who reads Judges 19 and desperately wants to punch the Levite in the throat???? His concubine–wife–is GANG-RAPED all NIGHT by the men of Gibeah while he sits in the house with the old man, doing only God-knows-what!!! Of course it matters that the men of Gibeah wanted the Levite instead of the concubine, but the fact remains that it wasn’t the Levite they raped!!

And what about that old man?! He offers his virgin daughter and the Levite’s wife to the men of Gibeah because it’s such a shameful thing for them to want the Levite!!!!

Duuuuuuuuuuuddddddeeeeeee!!

There isn’t a single innocent person in the whole story, but yet, somehow, according to the fact that a war breaks out after the Levite sends the 12 parts of his concubine’s body to the 12 tribes of Israel, he (the Levite) comes off smelling like roses and the old man and his virgin daughter are completely forgotten–never to be mentioned again!!!

Do you begin to understand my fascination with Judges 19???

Do you?!

Winner-Congrats

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NaNo Dilemma

As has been my norm for more years than I’m even aware, I am currently participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I love NaNo. I love writing. In spite of the fact that November tends to be one of my busiest months of the whole year, I seem to thrive on adding the job of writing 50,000 words in 30 days!

I started National Novel Writing Month November of 2017 excited and ready to go. I had my story. I knew exactly what I was going to write about. Way back when I was a teenager, I read my Bible through from Genesis to Exodus in a year for the first time. When I got to Judges 19, my mouth dropped and I asked every Bible reader I knew if s/he knew THAT story was in the Bible! I was horrified! I couldn’t believe that a story about men wanting to rape another man but gang-raping a woman all night to the point of death and then her husband cut her up into 12 pieces to send to the 12 tribes of Israel was a story in the Bible!

Seriously?! What was even more surprising was the number of Bible readers I talked to either had no idea that story was in the Bible and/or none of them wanted to talk about it with me.

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I was intrigued. This horror story has been on my mind for more than 30 years. Every time I read my Bible and I get to Judges 19, I’m still wondering why this story is in the Bible. I have read every concordance and Bible reference book and website and so on about this story. Not one reference work has ever sufficiently explained WHY this particular story is in the Bible. Many of them valiantly attempt to explain the WHY, but none explain it sufficiently for me.

Every so often over the years, I have attempted to write this story in modern language from a modern perspective. I probably have as many starts to this story as my current age. I have never been able to get this story out of my head. It haunts me.

So this year as I was preparing for NaNo, I decided that I was finally going to write this story that had been hounding me for so long. As soon as I decided on that topic, I had that place of “knowing” that writers (creative people) get when they KNOW they have hit on a great idea. It doesn’t matter whether or not anyone else agrees. The point is that the creator KNOWS s/he has found his/her Muse.

I decided that I would modernize the story and call it The Deacon and His 2nd-Best Wife. I love my title, by the way. 🙂 I added in details to the beginning of the story where it is slightly ambiguous regarding the concubine’s role as well as whether or not she actually left him because she had an affair or got angry with her husband. It all depends on which translation you read, so I felt that I had credibility in taking a bit of poetic license with the first part of the story.

Early in the writing, I struggled with getting started, but once I got started, the story flew out of my fingers onto the keyboard and on the screen in front of me. Because NaNo is all about getting words on the page and not about editing, I wrote my little heart out.

It is currently November 20. There are 10 days to go in NaNo. And I’m finished.

I am nowhere near the 50,000 words. But the story itself is finished. I’m even going to have to delete a large portion of the story where I overdid it when I go back and revise. But as far as writing the whole story goes, it’s finished. I managed to squeak out 30,000 words (or just under that), but that’s because I included with my word count many of the other writings I’ve done for other activities throughout the month.

The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. If a NaNo participant wants to “win” NaNo, s/he must validate a Word document with 50,000 words. That will get the participant the rights to wear a Winner’s t-shirt as well as a really cool certificate to declare him/herself a NaNoWriMo 2017 Winner, and the rights to some really cool stuff by NaNo sponsors.

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My NaNo dilemma is that I don’t want to keep writing just to get to 50,000 words. The story that I started writing on November 1 is finished. I feel as if I have accomplished exactly what I set out to do for NaNoWriMo 2017: I wrote the story of Judges 19 in my own words with a modern twist, focusing on the rape a whole lot more than in the original story.

I have “won” because I have written my whole story.

But according to NaNo’s guidelines, I have 20,000 words to go in order to truly win.

But I don’t want to write anymore because I have already finished my story. I simply don’t feel a need to continue writing specifically for NaNo to get to 50,000 words to win according to their standards. For my purpose and my NaNo 2017 goal, I’ve won already.

What do you think?

Would you keep writing to get to 50,000 words just to win at NaNoWriMo or would you stop writing specifically for NaNo (quit worrying about word count, etc.) and begin the “What now?” process?

I’d love to hear your answers.

 

Hi. My name is Polly Watson and I have an addiction. I am addicted to the works of Julia Cameron. I have read everything by her that I can get my hands on and I still have a ways to go. I am currently reading Finding Water, the third in her trifecta The Artist’s Way series. I have completed every writing prompt to the best of my ability as I have been able. I am trying to do the Artist Dates–I’m still not very good at them because I don’t do sitting still very well, but I’m trying. I am not taking the walks because I struggle with walking because of the pain in my back–and because of the summer heat.

I LOVE her idea of Morning Pages–writing 3 full pages on 8-1/2 x 11 paper immediately upon waking every single day. I believe every word Julia writes regarding the value of them and their validity in our lives. I do find myself enjoying the process as well as the simple act of writing–pen scratching across the page–each morning. I didn’t realize that I had so much going on inside my head first thing in the morning until I started writing Morning Pages! Only once or twice this summer have I had days when I simply had to force the words.

For almost 10 years, I have done Morning Pages off and on. I do much better with them in the summer than the school year. The problem during the school year is that I would much rather sleep until the last possible second, get up, and race out the door than to get up at least 45 minutes early to write my Morning Pages–in spite of how much I value them. I have completed them now every single day this summer so far. And I love writing them.

But that is most of the writing I have been doing this summer. I had all these wonderful plans as my school year came to a close of writing a LOT this summer on my memoir–of working diligently on getting it ready for publication–of sending out proposals and working on getting an agent…or getting it ready for self-publication if I changed my mind and decided to go in that direction. But I have not done any of that so far and here we are almost at the end of June.

I LOVE to write. I KNOW that I am supposed to–meant to–publish my story. I have dreamed of sharing it for years now. I even have a solid rough draft. I have my “Joy Regardless” blog that I write related to my memoir. I have enough followers for that to feel validated in following through with publishing.

So why do I continue to stall? What is the holdup? Is it only the act of writing that I love? The process? Sharing my writing is definitely a part of my writing goals, but I make no real effort to do so beyond my blogs and Morning Pages.

Maybe, just maybe, my blogs and my Morning Pages are enough….

…for now.

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Write SOMETHING…

As a writing instructor at the college level, I spend quite a bit of class time in all my classes (basic college writing classes as well as in literature classes) discussing with my students how even if they have no idea what to write [about]–what to say, they should just write SOMETHING–put SOMETHING down on paper even if that something is “I have nothing to say” over and over and over and over and over again. I have even told them to write their name over and over again if they couldn’t think of anything to write. The important thing, I always tell them, is to come to class with SOMETHING written–never come to writing class empty-handed.

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I spend a lot of class time discussing/lecturing my students on the importance of writing SOMETHING, of never coming to class empty-handed. I have stories of previous students who have written about sitting in their little red truck before class and writing about sitting in their little red truck before class writing because Mrs. Watson said never to come to class empty-handed.

I use the movie Quills as an example of how if the Marquis de Saad could find a way to write, they can find a way to write. (In the movie, the Marquis continues to write in spite of continually having his writing utensils–quills–taken away from him. He finally uses his own feces in his own desperation to write.)

Without always using the words “stream of consciousness,” I teach my students to write stream of consciousness style writing rather than not write anything at all. When they don’t know what to write, quite often just the physical act of writing sometimes helps them end up with a workable document. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as writer’s block. Those who try to argue that they have writer’s block are simply looking for an excuse not to write–do what needs to be done.

When I was growing up, I was teased mercilessly that I had “dish-pan hands” because rather than doing the dishes after supper, I would disappear into the bathroom–until the dishes were done by someone else.

In other words, we tend to avoid what we don’t want to do and many of us don’t want to write. We put a fancy spin on it by saying we have writer’s block, but it boils down to the plain and simple fact that we just don’t want to write. (I didn’t want to do the dishes, so I used the bathroom.)

As my summer is beginning, I have been excited about the opportunity to have a summer of teaching online only so I can spend my summer writing. But now that the time has come, I’m blocked–apparently I don’t want to write.

Wait a second; let me clarify that statement. I want to write. I am having a ball writing in my journals–I have several and I have written in every one every day since the Spring semester ended. I am writing letters and emails and enjoying every moment of the writing. This is already my second blog entry for this blog of mine in less than two weeks and I have enjoyed writing each entry.

The problem is that I do not want to write what I had originally intended on spending my summer writing and working on: my memoir. While I have a really good draft, I no longer have any desire to work on it at this time.

What I do want to do is color. I have been doing a lot of coloring in my journaling Bible and thoroughly enjoying it. The strangest thing about my coloring, though, is that what I really want to do is just color a whole blank page with the same color.

And that’s exactly what I did.

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 I kept telling myself that I should draw something–I should use this really cool paint pen for something more creative than simply coloring a whole blank page. So I tried drawing a few sunflowers and writing the word “joy” over and over, but I kept going back to coloring the whole page. I colored four or five whole pages….no images…just colored the pages and I loved every second of it.

A part of me felt (still feels) guilty for “wasting” the ink in this cool paint pen with coloring whole pages rather than doing something more creative and artistic with it. The other part of me feels very satisfied with my coloring pages. There was something very cathartic about coloring whole pages with a paint pen.

It was my artistic version of stream of consciousness writing. In spite of our feeling as if we’ve wasted our time by writing a bunch of so-called gibberish or coloring a whole page the same color, there is great value in doing SOMETHING. Writing the same thing over and over again or coloring a whole page one color has great artistic value–because at least I’m doing SOMETHING.

No writing is ever wasted time.

No coloring is ever wasted time.

No ART is ever wasted time.

I wonder what Julia Cameron would say…..

Why is it that the anticipation of something is quite often better than the actual something?

I know. I know. That’s awfully deep for a Tuesday afternoon.

Sorry. Not sorry.

As you know if you read my previous entry, I had a writing retreat this past weekend. I had been wanting to do something like that for years–ever since my husband gave me a 3-day writing retreat over the Christmas holidays sixteen years ago. I went somewhere with no internet (you have NO idea how horrible that was), no television, no cell service, and no communication with others or the outside world. It was at a chalet in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the beauty of nature: birds [singing], squirrels, a stream heavy with recent rains, trees newly budded, and even a few adorable bunny rabbits hopping around!

Thankfully the only snakes were dead in the middle of the road.

Whew.

The first day, Wednesday, was awesome. We ran errands throughout the morning and arrived at our destination at exactly check-in time. The newness of the situation along with the quiet and beauty of the noise and silence only nature itself creates to instill calm and peace deep within one’s very being. I wrote in my journal. I read for awhile. And I wrote some more in my journal.

The newness of the situation along with the quiet and beauty of the noise and silence only nature itself creates to instill calm and peace deep within one’s very being. I wrote in my journal. I read for awhile. And I wrote some more in my journal.

I had to sleep in a bed. Considering the fact that I haven’t slept in a bed for more than seven years, it was a challenge, but I was able to get enough sleep that I only needed one or two naps on day two.

Throughout day two, I read, wrote–outlined, read, wrote some more–outlined, journaled, and read some more. My friend and I worked on editing an amazing story she is currently working on to be published.

Towards the end of day two, I started to feel “off.” It’s difficult to explain unless you have experienced the feeling, but I began to wonder if I just needed more sleep, if I needed to eat more than I was eating, or if there was something in the air that needed refreshing. By the time I woke up on the third day, I was in trouble.

Even looking at a computer screen let alone paper (or even holding a pen in my hand) made me dizzy and nauseous, so no writing was done at all from the evening of day two on for me.

I began throwing up within half an hour after eating breakfast and continued to throw up every few minutes throughout the next several hours.

My friend continued working on her story while I alternately slept, read, and threw up. Misery is a nice word for how much I felt like death warmed over. Honestly, death would have been preferable to how I felt.

Needless to say, we had to leave in the middle of the afternoon on Day #3, Friday. Thankfully my friend was with me and able to drive me back down the mountain while I spent the drive heaving into a throw-up bag I had left over from December when I was in the hospital having my gallbladder removed.

I spent the next two and a half days hugging the porcelain throne, praying for death to ease my suffering.

Writing?

Ha!

Dang it.

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To make my retreat that much more wonderful, my carpal tunnel decided to rear its ugly head and I was at the orthopedic doctor by Monday afternoon getting a steroid shot.

One thing I have realized during this writing retreat is that I do not really want to write a BOOK. I love journaling and writing blog entries. I can’t stand the whole idea, process, etc. of putting together a book. While I have a number of drafts of books that are workable and possibly good enough to be published–after careful editing, of course, I am not so sure that publishing a whole book is the direction I want to continue working towards anymore.

I love the whole process of relatively short essays and journal-style entries. I love that they are “easy” for me to write and edit and publish. I love that they do not take my readers all that long to read–except for entries like this one when I simply have a lot to say. 😉

I am not so sure that I want to work towards publishing my memoir as a book–as one entity–any longer. I’m thinking that I might continue blogging my memoir and stay with blogging as my medium of sharing rather than sallying forth with a whole book.

The other option that I am considering seriously is to move almost completely into writing Bible Studies–as I discussed in a previous blog (the one about moving into unchartered territory–writing without a net).

For now, I will not make any firm decisions because I realize that such decisions could be coming out of the desperate awfulness of being so very sick and a desire not to do anything at all–writing or otherwise. But these are some possible considerations that I am beginning to consider and pray about.

So my writing retreat was a failure because we had to leave early and I was so very sick, sadly. But it may also be considered a success because I may have realized my real writing focus that works best for ME rather than pushing myself into something I’ve been fighting because it really isn’t the writing format that is RIGHT for ME…

Hmmm……

Writing Retreat

Excitement is in the air! For the first time ever, I’m going on a writing retreat! I’ll be away for three days! Where I’m going has little to no cell phone reception. There are no TVs anywhere on the grounds! I’ll have internet connection, but only because I’m taking mine with me. I can’t write a lot and risk losing any of it, you know!!!

It’ll be private and quiet! No responsibilities. No worries. No cares. No deadlines or grading.

And no people! While I am definitely a people-person–a true extrovert, even people like me need down time–time alone.

I’m especially excited to use this time specifically for writing. I’m going to try not to take a bunch of other things to work on so I can concentrate on my writing. That part is going to be difficult, but I will give it my best shot!

What else would I do? Color. Read. Color some more. Sleep. It’s the sleeping that is going to be the most difficult to avoid. I’m tired. Hopefully, I will be able to sleep enough between now and then so that I won’t be so tired that’s all I do!

This will be the first writing retreat for me ever! Should I plan my writing schedule or wing it? Do I set a wake-up alarm? Do I create any kind of schedule? What should I do during my “down” time–the time when I’m not writing?!

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Writing without a Net

Over the many years I have been writing, most of it has been for personal use only–journaling, participation in NaNoWriMo without any intentions of doing anything with my novel, blogging, or for school purposes (as an English Instructor, it’s impossible not to write). I have never feared my writing–what I write, how I write, the physical presentation of what I write, and so on. I have always written mostly for myself and in a manner that pleases me, myself, and I–since I had no intentions of publishing anything I wrote.

But in recent months (ok, years), I’ve determined to finish my memoir and publish it. (Still vacillating between self-publishing and going the traditional route.) In doing research on memoirs and the publication of memoirs (because that’s what we’re supposed to do before publishing, right? research the genre to see what else is available?), I have discovered that the memoir genre is wide open for methods in presentations. The memoir genre is currently hot in the world of reading as is evidenced by the fact that we can’t really do a search of any kind on a subject without running across a memoir on that subject.

The good news is that means that my memoir fits right in with the current demand. The bad news is that so many people are writing and publishing their memoirs. That means then that I have to find a way to write my memoir in such a way as to make it stand out from the rest, to make it similar enough to other memoirs so I don’t scare away potential readers, but different enough so that readers don’t toss it aside with a groan because it’s “just another memoir.”

I feel fairly confident that I have found a way to put my memoir together in such a way as to be just different enough to be cutting edge and just similar enough that readers will be glad to pick it up to read.

One idea I have about my memoir that is very different from other memoirs is that I would like to include or publish alongside my memoir a Bible Study. This is where I’m thrown for a loop. While I have read and completed many Bible Studies over the years, I have never even thought of let alone attempted to write one. As I have begun researching how to write (put together) a Bible Study for publication, I have discovered that there is NO information on “how to write [and publish] a Bible Study.” There are dozens if not hundreds of books, websites, etc. about how to write and publish a memoir (or just about any other genre you can name or imagine), but there is NOTHING on writing/putting together a Bible Study!

Considering the fact that I am writing in unchartered territory, I was hoping for at least a little guidance in writing a Bible Study–as I have had over the years when writing fiction or basic non-fiction. But there is NOTHING. At least not anything that I have found at this point.

I have come to the conclusion then that there are no rules or guidelines that are expected to be followed when it comes to writing a Bible Study. I’m sure there are some because obviously writing a Bible Study involves using the Bible itself and must be faith-based, but are there rules or guidelines regarding the expected translation? Are there guidelines regarding physical appearance on the page?

What makes things even more interesting, if you will allow me to use that term, is that I want to write a JOURNALING Bible Study and maybe even include pictures to color!!!! Are there any rules or guidelines regarding journaling Bible Studies or including pictures to color in a Bible Study??

The good news is that no two Bible Studies that I have ever done have ever been exactly the same style or set-up (except those that are published by the same group or organization, but even within the group, the set-up is unique to each). The bad news is that means that I have to “invent” my own style or set-up.

The good news is that this means that I GET to “invent” my own style or set-up for my JOURNALING BIBLE STUDY/Memoir!!!!

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