Friday, November 2, 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 2: I’m Already Ahead (But I’m Not Going to Let it Go to My Head)

Day 1: I woke up. I wrote.
It’s quite surprising to find that, when I put my mind to it, I can actually accomplish something! Well, it’s really all about having the discipline to make something happen. This is how I’m seeing this year’s NaNoWriMo- I’ve decided to have the discipline it takes to complete the goal for each day. How do you write a 50,000 word rough draft of a novel? You break it down by how many words per day that you have to have. In this case, it takes a minimum of 1,667 words every day to get all the words in by 11:59pm November 30th. For me, since I did plan and do a basic outline per chapter/story, it comes to a little over an hour of writing. My goal is to write more than that over several days. I’ve been writing this paragraph for about three minutes and right here…that’s 148 words. It is that easy! And…it is only Day 2, so I may be getting ahead of myself with the back patting.
The hardest part I’m finding for this whole process is not just doing the writing, its making the time to write. For me, I have to get up extra early—by 5am—to get things done. I’m most creative when I’m not tired, and I absolutely love sleeping, so going to bed early is a must. You may wonder, when do I socialize if I’m in bed by 9pm? Well, when do most people who keep regular hour jobs socialize? On the weekends!
I think the other disciplinary action I have to take with this is to try not to edit while I write. Editing breaks the flow of ideas, which will definitely impact the word count. It also takes up precious time that I could be working on something else.
My goal with doing NaNo for this year is to see exactly how much I can get done by doing the minimum, or close to it, a day. There are a few days, like on Fridays when I meet with Shut Up and Write, that I know I will bust those numbers and possibly double them. That’s okay, because that will help me down the road when Thanksgiving break comes and I want to have a bit of fun.
My hope in doing the 5am writings will be to help me get back into an early morning writing habit by the end of the month. To know that if I actually try, I can get the majority of a novel rough draft written in one month of disciplined writing. If I can do that, there is no reason why I couldn’t do it every month.

Join me over on the Rachel Pilcher Writing Workshops Facebook page  on November 4th at 6pm CST for Facebook Live Episode 15, where I’ll be discussing more about my writing process, which includes what I’m doing for NaNoWriMo! I hope to see you there!

Friday, October 26, 2018

National Novel Writing Month is Coming...Are You Ready?

Watch the video from our Facebook Live Episode 14: Should You NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner and I’m actually contemplating participating this year. I’ve never successfully completed a NaNoWriMo, but it looks like this year will be different—I am determined for it to be so, at least!

My plan for NaNo this year is to write at least one short story a day for a book of vignettes I've been planning for a while. How I plan to do this is fairly simple-
Get up by 5am every day (should be easy if I am in bed by 9pm!). Do my morning ritual of pet care and coffee making.
Do my morning pages for 15-20 minutes.
Write for 1 hour.
Get ready for work.
At work, on any downtime I may have, write a few lines, especially at lunch.

When the ideas are there, I tend to write pretty quickly. The key to making this happen, though, is to plan way ahead so that all I have to do is sit down and work on the story. This means outlining. I’ve already made a list of short story topics I want to explore and I’ve been adding. I’d love to be able to be a Pantser, but unfortunately I have a problem with concentration. This means that I must outline so I can quickly figure out where to pick up from where I left off.

Recently I did a Facebook Live video (linked above, but also posted to the RachelPilcher Writing Workshops YouTube channel- which I'd love for you to subscribe to!) about participating in NaNoWriMo. Check it out and let’s cheer each other on!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Should You NaNoWriMo? On Facebook Live, October 21st at 6pm CST

Just a quick announcement: Join me on Sunday, October 21st at 6pm CST over on the  Rachel Pilcher Writing Workshops Facebook page for Episode 14: Should You NaNoWriMo? I’ll explain what it is for the uninitiated and will help with strategies to make your attempt to win a success.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Queen of Making Do...

Deviced Up.
There comes to a point when your brain just shuts down. You aren’t able to really function with anything other than autopilot, taking care of just the most immediate problems right before you.
I am in this mode right at this moment. I can’t do a “to do” list because I may only get to one item on that list. Too many other issues are taking over my life right now: student laptops, teacher technology issues, voter registration, conference room reservations (or lack thereof), or meetings. The day job is just wearing me out! My last entry was about the Cult of Busy. It seems as if my life read that and said, “Here, hold my beer.”
I have been so tired, I haven’t felt like exercising, writing (either creatively or in my journal), cleaning my house, or anything really productive other than making dinner, getting ready for bed, sleeping, getting up, and going into work. I’ve actually had to take a few mental health days just to relax enough to do any other work.
In saying all of this, even though I know that my life is going through one of those busy periods, it has really depressed me not to be able to do what I need to do in my personal/business life. My brain does not function well on multitasking, so the moment that I have more than three things going at once, I start to shut down. That began to happen about two weeks ago. It’s not the best feeling in the world. I begin to have thoughts of running away when that happens. The whole “anything is better than this” idea begins to float through my head. Managing a Taco Casa starts to actually sound realistic and less stressful.
Obviously, running away is not the solution. Figuring out ways to get it all done is also not the answer. What will make this better? I’m not sure at this time. Perhaps just taking a few of my personal/business duties off the table for now will work—I am the only one who will be disappointed if those don’t get done. Maybe taking a few extra mental health days will do, as well—if I don’t do it for mental health, it may actually make me sick to keep on this track.
Meanwhile, I pray that the new Chromebooks the kids will be getting soon will alleviate the issues with student laptops. That has been the biggest headache. The rest, well…I can make do on those. I just have to.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Cult of Busy...

Panther City Review 2018 Launch...Done!
I recently declared that my new motto would be “I am not behind. I just have a long list of unfulfilled plans that I’ll eventually get to.” I spend a lot of time working—on books for Sleeping Panther Press, on library-type work, on developing and recording my online classes through RachelPilcher Writing Workshops, and on my own writing. All of this, on top of maintaining my home and sanity. I have lists that refer to other lists of things I need to get done. There are so many things that just don’t happen and I’m constantly surprised when an item on my lists gets completed. My life is definitely an example of the Cult of Busy.

This busyness can really wear a person down. Thankfully, when I do get one of the big items checked off the list, like publishing and launching Panther City Review 2018, it gives me the opportunity to move the next big thing to the top. In this instance, I’ll finally finish up my first online class so that I can get it launched. The goal post keeps moving on this one, but the end of September is my self-designated upload date. I think I’m going to make this one!

My personal writing tends to take a backseat when I’m pushing the business side of my creativity. I’m not going to get too upset about it, but I’m also going to have to start letting it ride shotgun, especially when it comes to completing my screenplay. I am so close, it’s ridiculous that it hasn’t been completed so far.

Now, in stating all my “Busy,” I also need to make sure I stop and smell the roses. Read for fun. Literally look at and smell the flowers coming back into bloom after the summer rain. Take a relaxing drive through the country. Put away my laundry (because, really it does make me feel better to take it out of the basket and away in the drawers instead of digging through the basket to find matching socks). Do the stuff people who don’t overextend themselves do, like continue my exercise regime and not put it off because I’m just too tired to go to yoga or Nia after a full day (and evening before) of work.

This kind of talk is a common thing for writers, artists, and others who have to do the creative work as a side gig. It’s not unusual to feel burned out by life in general after working so hard to get it all done. Just know that you will be able to get it done in your own time. Creativity will happen when you make it happen, but you have to let your mind rest sometime or there will be no creativity to force out.

Monday, July 23, 2018

A New Journey...

A little less than a year ago I wrote a blog post about how I was stepping back from Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp and not growing the business. Due to some misunderstanding (which makes me wonder sometimes if I am really a clear writer or if there is just not clear reading being done) I suffered a bit of unnecessary backlash from it. Afterward, as I cleaned up various messes due to the misunderstanding, I decided that I needed to have a clear mission for the Boot Camp. I began to research and found that the true way to go with my writing workshops would be online.

After much time spent researching, planning, outlining, delaying because of nervousness, scared because of the unknown, and worried about putting myself out there publicly even more, I decided to use Udemy as my platform for my classes. Last month I began having a good, old fashioned debate with myself about continuing to use my business name because I wasn’t sure if re-branding would be the way to go. After all, I had been Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp for four years. I had over 1,150 people on Facebook following the page. I still had over 500 pens and notepads with the logo on them! The most important part of this equation was the key word: I. Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp was me. I had a handful of writers work with me, teaching workshops from poetry to screenwriting, but when it came down to it, every time I taught a class, my class sold out. I began coaching and now have half a dozen writers that I mentor on a regular basis. Why did I want to keep a name that may not make much sense if I decide to move? So, the decision was made. The transition to Rachel Pilcher WritingWorkshops became complete last Friday (Check the link above).

I am so relieved to have made this choice, but it does come with downsides. Unfortunately, placing my name on the business does draw attention to me, whether I want it or not. Sometimes it’s negative, or sometimes it’s just a bit too personal—like the influx of men who send me messages now with just the word “hey” on them. Um… yeah. Why use more than one word when you’re trying to get the attention of a writer?

I would have to say that the positives are far outweighing any negatives which may come up. If all goes well, my first online class will be up and running by this Sunday! Exciting times! More to come soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Dearly Departed: Mr. Arthur Matchette, Latin and English Teacher Extraordinaire

Mr. Arthur Matchette, from my 1992 yearbook.
I found out Saturday that one of the most influential educators in my life had passed away from cancer on Friday morning. Mr. Arthur Matchette was a staple at my alma mater, Amon Carter-Riverside High School, having taught there for over 30 years—his entire career— as well as being an alumnus. I’ve been seeing many tributes to him on Facebook, some of them pointing out his quirks (let’s just say he had a slight addiction to Carmex), his influence in musical appreciation (our unofficial class song was Dreams by Fleetwood Mac), and the multitude assignments he would give us (75 in one six weeks!?!). To me, though, he was more than that. He was hands down the person who directed my education and eventual certification to be a high school English teacher.

I had Mr. Matchette for all four years of high school. I took Latin I- IV, as well as honors English IV. Through taking his classes, I learned that organization would  help me in the end by making sure my work was turned in. I also wondered how I ever made an A, since it was pretty much impossible to turn in all the assignments he gave. I have since learned how that worked (#tradesecret-- teachers know). As a teacher, I truly appreciate the intellectual banter he would have with students. My own students should be grateful that I had this experience in school, because it gave me a great example as to how I should interact with students.

I owe my vocabulary to this man, especially the ability to pick out the Latin root of almost all words in multiple Latin-based languages. Without all those years of translating The Aeneid from Latin to English, then English to Latin, I don’t think I would have been able to stumble my way through college Spanish, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to translate half of the French I was faced with on my trip to Paris last November.

He encouraged my writing by telling me as a ninth grader that I could go to college right then and succeed in writing just as well as any college freshman. That was a huge boost— I wanted to go to college, but none of my teachers or counselors had ever said that they thought I should go or that I would succeed. This is so, so important for children to have this encouragement. If I hadn't had it, I'm not 100% sure I would have gone to college or have reached my current accomplishments.

I am, in part, the person I am today because I was graced with the privilege of having Mr. Matchette in my life. I hope that I’ve had even a little bit of influence on my own students that this man had on me. I wish that I could have made it to his visitation. It was held last night at the same time as I was representing my publishing company, Sleeping Panther Press, at a book lecture and signing by one of my authors at The Wild Detectives in Dallas. I think he would be forgiving of that, though. He would be proud of how far I’ve come as an educator, a writer, a publisher, and an intellectual.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Rebirth of the Artist

Pink Water Lily, or Lotus: purity, enlightenment or rebirth
I finally made it to summer break! If anyone ever states their jealousy about educators having 2-3 months off for the summer and all of those “vacations” in between, I would like to gently remind them that we get the breaks so that we have time to forget how stressful the school year can actually be!

I made a bold plan for my summer—work like a mad woman on getting out Panther City Review, do my own writing, get some of my writing courses up online, and to work my way through Julia Cameron’s artist workbook The Artist’s Way, plus all those honey do projects that I don’t have a honey to do them for me during the school year.

In beginning The Artist’s Way this time around (this is my third trip through the book), I’m finding that I am discovering so much that I didn’t see the first two times.  The first time through I was extremely depressed after an unexpected breakup and was looking for something to lift me up, help me gain back my confidence and wellbeing. It sort of helped with that, but I honestly don’t remember much of the lessons. I was a zombie in completing the work that year. I was pretty much a zombie with everything in my life for a while that year.

My second journey was the first that I co-lead the group on Facebook with Melinda Massie, which we called The Fabulous Artist’s Way BootCamp (feel free to join us!). I started out strong, but petered out at the end, shortly after my car accident. I just couldn’t focus on anything…literally. I tried, but ended up apologizing for not participating, or leading at all, then worked at picking it back up to finish the final few weeks. It didn’t work well for me at all.

This journey, though…I am ready. I feel more empowered because I’ve been working towards my creative journey for a few months. I’ve planned, outlined, and started many of my creative endeavors that are musts for me. This first week of Week 1 in the work has been so enlightening for me. I’ve always considered myself a shadow artist and created obstacles to my own breaking out of that pattern: I want to be published, so what do I do—start a publishing company where I’m publishing others instead of using that creative energy to get my own writing done. Not that I regret Sleeping Panther Press or any of the titles that I’ve put out, but…what I have I been doing on my own work? Not much. This summer is the plan to change that.

The thing is, more often than not, women put themselves in the Shadow Artist role, supporting other artists in their work, but having self-defeatist talk about their own creativity. This is not new—women have been in this position for millennia. It is traditional for women to keep the house going, take care of the family, make sure everyone is fed, clothed, and comfortable. I don’t even have a family, yet I use the excuse that I have to take care of others before I nurture my own art. Why? Well, when it all comes down to it, men are better at saying no to things so that they can do what they want to do. Women need to take note of this. Find other ways for things to get done around the home that don’t involve women doing all the work, even if that means that the work is only delayed or just doesn’t get done.

Before school was out for the summer, I used my calendar that I created for my Write Fearlessly workshop to do a time tracker—instead of tracking what I spend my time on, though, I decided to just put down what I planned on spending my time doing. That became my schedule for the week. I have three days where I work on business/writing related items. This could be publishing, working on my online classes, or writing. I have two days where I spend the mornings either working in the yard or cleaning the house. The afternoons are free to do whatever needs to be done, or do nothing at all. Saturdays and Sundays are free days where I can either do something fun, or work. I’ve built in exercise times as well as mealtimes. It’s pretty structured, but also flexible. This first week out, I was mostly on schedule. The thing is, on those free times, I can adjust, work on a Thursday afternoon, then go out and do something on one of my business days. When something comes up, I can go do it, but I now have to make up whatever was scheduled for that time later in the week. It gives me the freedom to look at the calendar and say, “No, I can’t do that today. I have to work on my screenplay.”

It all comes down to allowing myself to say no to things that do not support my creativity during my creative time. To tell my Shadow Artist personality to take a hike. I have things to create!

Friday, May 11, 2018

It's Teacher Appreciation Week, the One Week We Try Not to Knock Educators In the United States... At Least Not Too Hard.

This was originally a very long post I wrote over on my personal Facebook page, spurred on by a video shared by a friend of mine, shared here.

When I was a classroom teacher, there were several years I spent well over $1,000 for supplies for my classroom. Some of it would get permanent use in the room from year to year, but many times it was replacement items- paper, pens, pencils, markers, construction paper, books, printer paper, staplers, scissors, glue...and this was all for a high school English classroom!

I honestly get very angry when people say, "Well, it's a calling to teach" or "You knew what you were getting into," because, you know what...most of us were not called to go into teaching. I wasn't and I fought it tooth and nail until I realized that it would be the job I could get with my degree after being laid off from publishing. Most of us had no clue exactly how much we'd have to spend on our own classrooms. Most of us had no clue that, with every 2-3% raise, our insurance would go up 3-4%. Most of us didn't know that our retirement--that we pay into from our paychecks--would slowly be dwindled down and then we would be gouged with insurance premiums that were 5X what they were when we were in the classroom, with only 2/3 the income coming to us from our retirement (if that!).

The fact that right now, working in my district, our situation isn't "as bad" as a teacher in Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, or West Virginia, doesn't mean that we can't be angry when someone belittles our occupation. We are constantly spending our own money to improve our classrooms, either in supplies or earning more degrees or certifications. I spend many a summer attending workshops and reading up on the best practices for teaching my subject and my students. You can be envious of "all that time off" if you want to, but I will challenge you to spend 10 months with 240 17 year-olds, most of whom do not care whether they pass your class or not, but it is your job to make them care because whether you keep your job is determined by how well they do on a state-mandated test-- and by some miracle at the end of the year most of them do pass those tests and "prove" that you are doing your job (how many of you have your entire career hanging on how well a kid does on a test?).

I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if anyone who thinks teachers are whining, or thinks they should just quit if they are so unhappy (most aren't, they just would like a real, living wage for the job that they do that requires degrees and certifications and such. We feel the same for social workers or anyone else who is a professional, but still has to work at Starbucks after hours to make ends meet), or believes that vouchers are the answer to all our education ills (they aren't, especially for those who are poor because they still wouldn't have the funds to make up the difference in price for that charter or private school that may or may not exist in their area), or want to blame all our educational problems on immigrants (who, by the way pay taxes which fund schools, either directly or in-directly through rent or mortgages), have any clue about more than what it was like in their day in the classroom. School is very different, so much so I had to change my own beliefs about it from the time I graduated, way back in 1994, to my first year teaching in 2002-- less than 10 years. Of course, thanks to the internet and social media, everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks it's the best one, even if it is completely uninformed.