Monday, April 18, 2011

Writing Rewards

Happy Monday! I am excited to welcome guest blogger Carol Alexander of Everything Home with Carol. Carol and I met through blogging, and it's a treat to have her share her wisdom and insight with us. I encourage you to stop by her blog and say hello. She'd love to see you!

The Sweet Rewards of Berries and Writing
In my neck of the woods, wineberries are the mother lode. They beat all wild berries hands down. The wineberry is related to the raspberry, but bigger, juicier, sweeter, and with seeds soft enough to go unnoticed. Our family purposes to find and pick these tasty morsels every summer.

One day last summer, while hip high in briars picking berries, I thought how this practice is much like my writing career.

The first similarity I realized between berry picking and writing came as I walked along the mountain road looking for fruit on my right. After some distance, and not finding any, I stopped to look back for my husband. I then saw a flash of red from the other side of the road.

“Wow. What a stash,” I said. “I never even thought to look on the other side of the road.”

How often do we do that with our writing? We are so accustomed to writing on the same topic that we never consider the other side of the road. Just because I, for the most part, write articles on homeschooling doesn’t mean I can’t venture into other areas. To remind me of this I posted a large note on my office wall that reads, “What Did I Do Today? Write It.”  In response to this charge, I’ve written about buying a washing machine, running a flea market business, and reaching out to my neighbors. Remember, for more story ideas look on the other side of the road.

Today the whine of the gnats was deafening. They weren’t just swarming around our heads, either. They were crawling all over us—in our ears, eyes, mouths. B-l-l-a-a-h-h-h! I could have gone nuts! But wineberries are worth it. I just had to focus on those berries—that sweet reward.

In writing, publication is the sweet reward. And the gnats are those telling us we can’t do it—the rejection slips, unsupportive families, and critics. But if we ignore them, if we focus on the reward, we can do it. If we waste time and energy fanning the gnats out of our face and slapping them off our arms, no berries go into the bucket.

That reminds me of another thing. When picking berries, and when writing, you must focus on what you are doing. Mostly I pick berries with little boys. A little boy typically picks a berry from a cluster as his eyes travel to the next cluster. Consequently, his hand leaves nine berries here to get one berry from over there, and so forth. He travels down the road that way, leaving scads of berries behind. Fortunately, I am aware of how little boys operate and follow along to retrieve the berries they miss.

In writing, losing focus leads to losing opportunities. If you sit down at the computer to write, but end up on Facebook, you’ve lost your focus. If you’re working on a story about growing tomatoes, but find yourself writing about eating tomatoes, you’ve lost your focus. Don’t be like my little boys. Don’t leave so much behind that someone else scoops up all your berries.

Picking wineberries involves trudging up dusty mountain trails and hanging onto steep hillsides. Hip high in brambles and poison ivy you constantly wonder how far lurks the nearest snake or bear. Often, you come to a great stand of berry canes that have been picked clean. Someone else beat you to them.

Just so in writing—the way is steep, it’s a lot of hard work, and the competition is fierce. But if you persevere, you hit the mother lode.

Carol J. Alexander picks berries and writes stories in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Her articles have appeared in Urban Farm Magazine, BackHome Magazine, Grit, Home Education Magazine, The Old Schoolhouse, Funds for Writers and Writing for DOLLARS! Visit her blog http://EverythingHomeWithCarol.blogspot.com for more information on wineberries.


Many thanks, Carol, for sharing your thoughts with us!

What's the latest writing idea you've gleaned from everyday life? How did you use it?


Happy writing,
Karen




Photo credit: foobean01  http://www.sxc.hu/photo/896415

35 comments :

  1. Karen and Carol... sweet pair :)
    I love this post and yes, I can surely relate to it. Celebrating small victories helps me to stay focussed!
    I learned something new today: picking berries can be very inspiring! Thanks ladies, may your week be fruitful!

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  2. Thanks, Karen for sharing my post. And Marja, for your kind words.

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  3. Staying focused is difficult but so important! Thank you for the wonderful post. I'm going to cross the road today.

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  4. Marja,
    Thank you! :) Carol is a great writer and sweet friend. May your week be fruitful as well!

    Carol,
    You are most welcome. It's a great pleasure! We must do this again. :)

    Clarissa,
    You're right, focus can be tough! Glad you enjoyed it and hope you find good things across the road!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  5. I've never had wineberries! But I LOVE the message behind them. :) Very inspiring!

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  6. Hi Karen...Nice post. I never had wineberries, either, or even heard of them. But I sure love raspberries!

    On my blog, I write about happenings, explorations, discoveries, etc. in my own life. Like this past weekend, we went to a plant nursery. I had read an ad that said they carried "frost resistent" pansies. Sure enough, they did and some pansies are now peeking up over our pots in the front yard! That's what todays post is about.

    I definitely like the idea of looking on the other side of the road, Karen. Thanks for the suggestions. Susan

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  7. I really, really like this post, ladies. Great food for thought. And may I just say, I identify completely on the "little boys" theme. Somehow, they make it into mama's writing a lot. :)

    Thank you for this. You've got my brain whirling now.

    Smiling and waving,

    Rhonda

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  8. Lots of wisdom here, and great reminders not only for writing but living each day! Thanks, Carol, for your thoughts, and Karen, for the guest post. Glad I stopped by today :-)

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  9. Jennifer,
    I never had them either but wouldn't mind trying them. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Susan,
    I think I may have heard of them, but not tasted them. They sound good! Will have to hop over to your blog and check out the pansies. :)

    Rhonda,
    Glad you liked it! Yes, the kids have a way of working into the writing, don't they? I know, this has got me thinking a bunch too!

    Kenda,
    Good to see you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. You're right, it does apply to many things!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  10. Hi Karen and Carol .. berries and cabbage and writing could go together I guess?! Enjoyed the comparison of picking berries with writing - I shall remember that when I'm out blackberrying ..

    Thanks to both of you .. enjoy the week ahead .. Hilary

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  11. Thanks for sharing Carol's wisdom with us today! Thoroughly enjoyed her reminder to look on the other side of the road for writing ideas - something I was recently challenged to do at a writer's conference. Appreciate your insightful posts, Karen! God bless!

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  12. These are some very fine observations framed within a wonderful analogy. I feel like one of those little boys so much of the time as I move from one thing to the next.

    Thanks Carol and Karen.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out
    Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

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  13. Oh, I loved this kindly reminder of my own path to finding the berries!
    Could totally relate to the the "gnats" in my head and the distractions of life, leading me away from my focus.
    Thank you SO MUCH for this wonderful post! Inspiring!
    Blessings-Janet

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  14. I often write the days events into my MS. It really helps with character develop and introducing conflict. So much of me ends up as part of the characters DNA.

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  15. Wonderful analogy, Carol. I'm never going to pick berries without thinking of this. Thanks. And thank you, Karen, for introducing me to yet one more wonderful writer.

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  16. Hilary,
    I think you are right about the berries and cabbage! Always good to see you! :)

    Maria,
    Thanks, friend, for your uplifting comments! Always appreciate your posts too!

    Janet,
    So glad you are inspired! That's a great thing. You'll have to tell us how your visits across the road go! :)

    Lee,
    Glad you liked it! Yes, I'm with you. I'm a little kid, bouncing from one thing to the next!

    Stephen,
    Hey, this is a good thing. One more way to write and expand across the board. Thanks!

    Joylene,
    I know, isn't it great? Glad you enjoyed it. Carol is a wonderful writer!

    Blessings all,
    Karen

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  17. Okay, you asked, this is gross, but here's the one that came to mind.

    Having a character dodge a flattened, gut extracted toad.

    Yeah, I use just about anything in my novels with a little tweaking.

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  18. Little boys theme. Hmmm, I have six, so that usually makes it into my writing, one way or the other.

    I love what you say about loosing focus, Carol. And wineberries? They sound yummy. Must have some.

    Thanks Carol. Thanks amigo. Enjoyed this so much. :-)

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  19. What an inspiring post. I think sometimes I'm afraid of the other side of the road. I'll try to consider it as a good thing instead!

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  20. Eileen,
    I did ask for it and you honestly answered. Can't blame you for that! :) I could see that working in the right place. Why not?

    Robyn,
    I am glad you liked this! Carol is a peach, and a great writer. Feel better, amigo! :)

    Lydia,
    I get intimidated by the other side of the road too, depending on what the topic is. I'm looking to branch out though. I'll go if you go! :)

    Blessings all,
    Karen

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  21. Hi Karen & Carol -

    Wonderful post! I'm so guilty of getting distracted. Now that my time is at a premium, I'll have to be more disciplined.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  22. Thanks for sharing this great post, Carol and Karen. I loved the analogy of the little boy. Will check Carol's blog.

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  23. This was so timely, Carol and Karen. Thanks for sharing it! I've been indulging in distracting behavior since finishing my last ms. It's time to get back to work. ;D

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  24. Susan,
    I bet you will get more accomplished with your new schedule. Sometimes it works that way, you know? Praying for the new job! :)

    Rachna,
    That was a good analogy, wasn't it? Carol has a way with words! I'm sure you'll enjoy your stop over at Carol's!

    Victoria,
    Me too - the distracted part! Working to shake it off and get some things done. Good to see you! :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  25. Little boys tend to EAT half of what they pick, too! LOL

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  26. I really enjoyed this post--you made me think of what I'm not looking at to write about! Thanks for getting the juices flowing:)

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  27. I do not know the wineberry! At first I thought rasberries were in the picture. Not only do I need to look at the other side of the road, but also not be blinded but what my own 'reasoning' of things! I really enjoyed this too! I'm not sure what is the latest idea I have gleaned from everyday life. I'll need to work on that!

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  28. Diane,
    This is true! I think little girls do too. At least, mine did. lol

    Terri,
    This really does get the ideas flowing, doesn't it? So much potential everywhere!

    Lynn,
    Good point! I think it's tempting to remain in our own little bubble; we do it without even realizing it.

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  29. Such a helpful summary of everything I'm doing wrong in writing, berry picking and in life! I love how you told this through a life example which is fun to read and full of useful messages

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  30. Very insightful! Very thought-provoking, too. Thank you for sharing these musings with us, Carol. (Would love to try that berry, by the way.)

    And thank you for having Carol, Karen!

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  31. Shopgirl,
    Sounds like you are on the right track! :) I agree, Carol's analogy was a good one.

    Janna,
    I'd love to try it too; I think we should all meet and help Carol go berry picking!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  32. Interesting analogy, Carol. Nice guest post.

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  33. Theresa,
    Thanks for coming by and weighing in!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  34. Hi Carol and Karen,

    This was great food for thought. I enjoyed reading it. "Berry" nicely done. ;-)

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  35. Jen,
    Glad you liked it. I agree, it was "berry" nicely done! Carol has a great way with words!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!