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The Rich Writer

The Rich Writer: January 2008

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday in Peru....

I feel like I borrowed a month of winter and traded it in for an extra month of summer. Maybe that's part of the place's magic for me, that everything—weather included—is completely different from what I'd find at home. The differences inspire.

So how can I keep this sense of place fresh in my mind when I return to Colorado? Translating the details of experiences, people, and places onto the page is an invaluable skill for a writer to cultivate, since most of us can't travel to exotic locations for every writing session. Freewrite, describe, make lists, take notice—but learn to catch inspiration to use in your writing.

Here's a bit more of my gathered inspiration:

  • Breakfast: eggs with slices of hot dog, mango, fresh rolls, strawberry jam. We drink yogurt (strawberry, lucuma, and guanábana) and coffee mixed half and half with tinned milk.

  • Moto-taxis: three wheeled vehicles only a little bigger than bicycles with canvas tops, zipping around the streets of Chosica

  • Streets crowded with cars, combis, moto-taxis, bicycles, people, and buses, with trucks stopped in the middle, cars parked on the sidewalks, cars weaving in and out of traffic...when we pulled out of a parking spot, we drove a ways in the oncoming traffic lane. Cars beep constantly,high-pitched, and no one seems to mind.

  • A class of laughing adults (including my mother!!) doing the hokey-pokey in the name of education. None of them will forget “left” and “right.”

  • Narrow streets edged by narrow sidewalks, which are in turn bordered by stone walls covered in painted advertisements and graffiti

  • A grocery store with three types of pineapple

  • Half an hour in a store where I was the odd one out, where people stared or tried not to stare at my strange skin, hair, language, accent, clothes.

Now I just need to figure out how to express the depth of exhaustion that comes from day after day of nearly-unbroken intensity. Tomorrow....

:) Cheryl

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Catching snowflakes--again from Peru

I don't record everything in my life--I don't keep a diary, per se--but I like to write about things that are new or interesting or surprising as I travel day to day. Here in Peru, life flies so quickly that I have no chance of recording everything that piques my interest. I feel like I'm catching snowflakes in a blizzard: my problem isn't finding flakes, my problem is that there are too many for me to touch them all. I guess it's a good problem!

What does a children's writer do in Peru? Practical writers would photograph children's games, take notes on holiday celebrations, or seek out legends to retell. Maybe I'll come back to do those things. Right now, this children's writer is too busy catching snowflakes to be practical. Let me share a few of the images and ideas I've snatched from the storm:

  • Lucuma: a Peruvian fruit, round as an apple, green as a gourd, with the golden flesh of a pumpkin and the delicate taste of summer in the mountains. Lucuma ice cream melts on the tongue with a flavor I've tasted nowhere else. If you travel to Peru, you must try it--but be forewarned. Its taste will linger with you the rest of your life, calling you back to Peru.

  • Mangoes: Juicy Peruvian mangoes taste nothing like their cardboard cousins in the States. Imagine mangoes, but sweeter, with flesh that melts in your mouth, scented with the spice of an overcast evening.

  • Language: After spending a week surrounded by the music of Spanish, the strangest things happen. I begin to say “Gracias” instead of “Thank you.” I begin to catch words and phrases in the rapid-fire talk surrounding me. I become so used to communicating with my new friends that I forget that they don't understand English perfectly. The same happens in reverse, too. Tonight, one woman translated English into Spanish for me; another asked me a polite question en Español and waited expectantly for my answer.

  • Place: Here I saw a wildfire race up the mountainside and burn itself out minutes later; a plain gray bird singing like a nightingale; a dandelion-yellow ice cream cart piled high with treats; men working in the sun, trimming flowered shrubs with machetes.

Catching at snowflakes: I don't know when I'll make sense of everything I'm experiencing here, but I know that I won't be able to rest until I do. You know how I know? I have a new story brewing, a story that takes place in Peru—and most astonishing of all, it's not even fantasy!

:) Cheryl

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Blogging from Peru....

Well, in case you missed the memo, this blog will be a bit sparse the rest of the month because I am in South America. In Peru, to be exact, in a bungalow in Chosica where a peacock cries outside my window and a rooster announces each hour's passing. (I think he's timing-impaired.) I have plenty to write, but little time to pull it into some kind of sense. During the days, I'm teaching English to a small group of delightful Peruvians; evenings are filled with three-way conversations in Spanish, English, and sign language, with laughter filling in the gaps. I'm exhausted, I'm exhilerated, I'm overwhelmed, I'm homesick, and I want to stay here forever...all at the same time. It keeps me too busy to write much (at least, in blog format) because I need to absorb and process it all.

Besides, I have internet access for only a short time, and don't expect to be online after tomorrow until I return to the States at the beginning of February.

So--here's the official announcement/update/preview of things to come. I won't be posting much, if at all, until after February 1st. But then expect to hear a bit about the trip, and a lot about how travel makes us--and our words--more alive. Ciao!

:) Cheryl


Thursday, January 10, 2008

You know you're a writer when...(revisited)

You know you're a writer when....
  1. Your childrens' baby books have little recorded info--but your writing notebook is full of stories from their childhoods.

  2. Your coffee shop meeting is interrupted by a daydream of whether a coffee shop would be a good setting for a murder mystery.

  3. You get into discussions about possible murder mystery main characters with a massage therapist, a manicurist, and a dream interpreter.

  4. You think of naps as "creativity generators."

  5. You have trouble driving because you keep getting distracted by great article and story ideas.

  6. All news stories go through your writing filter: Would this be a good article topic? Would this help me develop an interesting culture or character?

  7. Your children critique the novels they read.

  8. You would polish those stories for submission, except you have the most amazing idea for a new story....

  9. When deprived of writing time, you get insomnia.

  10. You can deal with most stress (dentist appointments, flu shots, cocktail parties) by intensely concentrating on your latest WIP.

:) Cheryl

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008


This week's project in my house: BIC HOK TAM!

It stands for "Butt in chair, hands on keyboard, typing away madly!" and it's the rallying cry for those of us participating in the Book-in-a-week challenge ( I haven't participated in a BIW challenge in months; I've been too busy writing freelance and editing existing projects.

But as a result, my production of new material has dwindled. It's not that I lack ideas--I have too many of those!--I just haven't let myself indulge in them. Maybe it's the new year. I feel an intense need to let my fingers fly and see what happens!

Anyone else in need of a writing challenge? BIW is a great source of inspiration, motivation, and encouragement. During a BIW, incoming emails report on others' successes and challenges. Our wonderful moderator supplies us with daily writing exercises for moments when the words stall.

But more than that, BIW is a wonderful writing practice. It's an opportunity for writers to practice writing--and with practice, we learn to enter that wonderful state of "flow" more easily. Even if I never used any of the material I wrote during previous BIW's, I'd still recommend the program. It's helped me learn to stop stressing (a sure path to writer's block) and just write. Even if I write nothing but crap, it sets the stage for me to write something of value the next day. It hones my ability to focus, to create, and to get absorbed in a vision.

Man, I'm convincing myself to get writing! Join 50+ writers for next month's challenge and see if it doesn't inspire your writing practice, too!

:) Cheryl

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Where do you write?

I'm definitely a homebody, so when it comes to writing location, I can get into a rut. When I mix things up, though, I never fail to find inspiration. By taking my writing out of my normal workspace, I provide my mind with new people, places, sounds, smells, and tastes to weave into my writing. Changing location can also help me focus when the call of laundry (or children or painting) becomes especially loud.

Where have you written lately? Here are a few places I've found inspiring:
  • The beach (not lately, unfortunately!)

  • My local coffee shop (of course)

  • My local library (also of course)

  • On a mountainside, mid-hike (I carry a small notebook in my pack and a story problem in my head)

  • A restaurant (trickier--the waiters tend to worry you're grading the restaurant)

  • A bench on the downtown mall (great for people watching)

  • A hammock in my back yard

  • My sons' schools/school playgrounds

  • A hotel room

Next week, I'm going to write in a brand-new location: Peru! I have the amazing opportunity to travel to Peru with my son and my parents, to spend a week teaching English as a second language. When I'm not stressing about trip preparations (and which books to take,) I look forward to capturing my impressions of another culture and country in my writing. I'll fill a notebook with inspirations for later stories and characters--because that's how I'll best delight in the trip. Maybe that's why I'm a writer :).

Sometimes it's the place that matters; sometimes, it's just getting out of the house. Try it this week--take your writing on the road!

:) Cheryl

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ten Tips for Making Time to Write

In the interest of continuing a fabulous new year, here are some ideas for how to find that ever-elusive writing time:

  1. Learn to use 10 min. time slots for creativity bursts.

  2. End each writing session by planning where you'll start next time. This prepares you to dive right in--and it helps your subconscious chew on ideas in the interim.

  3. Put writing dates in your planner--and then follow through.

  4. Create a routine, a set time when you write, no matter how short or long that time might be.

  5. Manage others' expectations. Interruptions are the bane of creative flow, so make sure that kids, roommates, pets, and spouses know that writing time is sacred. (In my house, people may interrupt my writing time for blood or fire.)

  6. Start each writing time with a short ritual that helps you set aside the day's mental clutter.

  7. Look for time-wasters in your life--and eliminate them. TV, surfing the internet, playing World of Warcraft...they can help you to relax, but they can also be major time sinks. CHOOSE where you're spending your time; don't let life just happen.

  8. Outsource some of your responsibilities--cleaning, cooking, errands, etc. It you can hire a house cleaner, more power to you; but even if you can't, you can explore ways to decrease your work load. For ex., this year some friends and I started a dinner coop. Once a week, I cook and deliver dinner to two other families. Two other nights a week, they bring dinner to me. I spend less time cooking one large meal than cooking several smaller meals. What creative solutions can you find to simplify your life?

  9. Learn to say no. This can be tough: any freelancer working from a home office has to fight the commonly-held view that he or she has lots of free time. Value your writing time; don't let it always slip to last on your list.

  10. Make a list of reasons writing is good for you. Post it prominently in your writing space (or on the back of a writing notebook) to remind you to take time for the important things in your life--including writing.

:) Cheryl

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

How's your year beginning?

So far, 2008 looks pretty good in my house. We spent the first day of the new year skiing in a disastrous sort of way--late start, forgotten ski passes, lost mittens, lost husband--and still managed to have a great time. We returned to a house that's reached an unprecedented high-clutter mark and a kitchen covered with the debris of last night's family New Year's Eve party (can you say chocolate fondue? Yum!) and a project due by tomorrow morning....

I know, it doesn't sound like the perfect first day of 2008--but that's exactly why it IS a perfect first day. It was a great day because I got past the multiple-disasters of skiing to enjoy a few really amazing runs; because I ignored the household clutter (after a few moments of anxiety overdrive) and made a calm corner where I could work; and because all of the clutter and busy-ness is the result of a week of spending happy, crazy, busy time with family and friends.

I have an ongoing goal of de-cluttering my house, desk, schedule, and head, but I doubt they'll ever be perfect. And there will always be times, like now, when life's speed quadruples and some things have to slide. So what will I choose? In a great year, I'll choose time with my kids over clean laundry, time with my sweetheart over a picked-up living room, and time with my pen over a de-cluttered closet. That's a lofty goal, but one I reached (mostly) today.

That's why I think 2008 is off to a good start. Nah, a great start! So have a happy, wonderful, mindful 2008.

:) Cheryl

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