“It doesn’t make sense, after 10 days, putting the kids in self-isolation.”

At a time like this it is critical that we have confidence in our health authorities and respect their directives. CTV News reported in an article yesterday that Elsie Roy Elementary School in Vancouver had a case of Covid-19 and ten days later parents received a letter requiring students to isolate for four remaining days, back-dating to the last day of exposure.

As one mother pointed out, until this time the children “were in school, they were everywhere, going outside, just living our lives normally.” In other words, students had opportunity to spread the virus for ten days.

The delayed response is at best evidence of a system that is clearly not working and at worst a sign of negligence and incompetence.

The delay in response by the Vancouver Health Authority is disconcerting on its own, but the directive to isolate for the last four of fourteen days indicates a weakness in the interpretation and application of isolation guidelines.

The directors could have explained the ten day delay to parents and assured them this would not happen again, but to send families into isolation for four days is totally futile at this point. Anyone can see that. It adds insult to injury to parents who find out too late the risk they were exposed to, and then are required to respond like puppets to an unreasonable order.

The delay in response by the Vancouver Health Authority is disconcerting on its own, but the directive to isolate for the last four of fourteen days indicates a weakness in the interpretation and application of isolation guidelines. Even if we can ignore the delayed response time, this lack of judgment is difficult to overlook.

It is precisely this kind of decision making that causes people to lose confidence in health authorities. It would be advisable to investigate how such a lapse in judgment happened and to consider a possible change in management. This is not a time when we can afford to lose public confidence in health authorities.

When You Face Resistance as a Writer

Does anyone else ever feel like all hell breaks loose once you set a goal?

Recently I determined to spend a minimum of two hours each day on my novel. Since then my computer broke down and I was required to order a new one. We had “smoke week” here on the coast from the fires in the western states and this agitated me to the point where we needed to get a purifier. Some rearranging happened in our house which took up a lot more time than I expected. My husband became sick, so I tried to “nurse” him. I became sick, twice, and required a doctor’s visit. Family issues cropped up. In the middle we had the awaited “Throne Speech” and the looming threat of a federal election in Canada. And of course there was no end of strife south of the border, as I followed the news and political developments.

I also became aware that my other “work” interferes with my creative process. I am now working on a way to resolve this.

Upheavals in our lives and unsettled business constantly rob us of creative energy.

Some years ago I learned to give credit to the “stressors” in my life. Not surprisingly, I didn’t even know that certain things caused me stress. I ignored and minimized other stressors and this resulted in a kind of cognitive dissonance.

We’ve often heard the saying, The truth will set you free. It is a quote from Jesus Christ. It is remarkable how helpful a good, honest look at our situation can be.

We’ve also heard, “The trouble with being deceived is that you don’t know you are deceived.” We can’t deal with a situation when we don’t understand it. There are times of seeking and then there are times when all we can do is wait for the light.

In my case, my light came through a friend, some years ago, who loaned me a book on stress. I think it was called Pressure Points: How to Deal With Stress, by Don Osgood. Osgood talks about the fact that acknowledging stressors can be a significant key to overcoming stress. I highly recommend his book.

When I give proper credit to the stressors that impair my productivity, I actually have more peace. There are things that make it difficult to clear space in my head for writing. It is as though, by giving them a nod, they settle down.

Naming the problem has a way of reducing its power over us. Even positive stressors like a wedding in the family, or a vacation, or the Christmas Season can drain our resources.

When my children were young I learned to immediately acknowledge their distress. This made them feel cared for and removed the need for whining and nagging.

In my work with mentally challenged adults I took a Behavior Modification course which taught me that if I failed to be consistent in one instance, I could lose years of progress made with a client. I practiced consistency with my children and this made them feel secure.

We all need consistent validation and reassurance. We need to feel secure.

Since we don’t want others to minimize or ignore our needs, we should not be ignoring or minimizing them either. I find that at times I have to picture myself as the “other” in, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We are often kinder to others than we are to ourselves.

Don’t ignore. Don’t minimize. Life is what it is. Acknowledge and work your way through it. Have a little faith that you will find yourself in a place beyond this that may be better.

Many times we don’t understand the seasons in our lives. Certain periods are characterized by unique circumstances. One season passes and we find ourselves in a new place, which requires adjustment. It may be retirement, or an addition to the family, or a child leaving home. The best we can do is be “faithful” and consistently apply ourselves to the next thing that requires doing in our setting.

I read a hopeful blog this morning at Another Slice, entitled Follow the Sun. I look for encouragement wherever I can find it. There is light at the end of the tunnel, I remind myself. There is a way and we will find it by persisting in the face of resistance.

Persistence may look different than we imagined. It may mean first taking care of things that get in the way and then returning to our writing. Think of this as a pause, not a stop. Or it may mean acknowledging and then ignoring them, so that we can write.

I heard a touching story that encouraged me in a strange way. We are living in challenging times and things can get worse. What if they do? How will we manage? Things may get worse before they get better. Some things will not get better this side of eternity. I think of this when my doctor says the word “degenerative.”

The story I heard was of a man who was in a concentration camp. Each morning the men in the barracks rose before sunrise and walked miles in every kind of weather to the place where they put in a long day of back-breaking labor. He and his comrades received almost no nourishment and many succumbed. The man noticed that when the guards saw someone stumbling and failing, the person was shot on the spot. Realizing this, he knew that if he wanted to survive he needed to appear strong and capable. He decided that each morning he would get up and shave. He was a survivor who lived to tell his story.

Each day we have to do the equivalent of shaving–the thing that tells us we are strong enough for what this day may bring. I may not be able to control what happens in my life, but I can maintain my dignity in my trial. This will serve me well in accomplishing my goal.

Writing Progress Report

In a recent post I stated my intention of applying the most basic rule to my writing, being “get her done.” In other words, get in my chair and write, daily. I set a goal of two hours a day.

I have averaged pretty close to that, however, most of my work was done during the first week. then my computer started acting up. it randomly decides not to print caps, as you can see, just now. i’ll think it’s fixed, as i thought when I started this, and then it acts up again.

this can be very frustrating not only for caps, but when i am trying to print question marks. they look like this ///////. my apostrophes are ‘ single, instead of ” double. My computer doesn’t want to highlight. clicking and dragging is hit and miss. if you are a writer, you know this is really a necessary component of writing. I’m always moving things around.

before this became an issue i had for months had a problem with my curser randomly skipping around the page and i’d find myself writing somewhere earlier in my document. lucky if i caught it early, but i could end up with half a sentence in the middle of another paragraph.

i’ve already replaced the fan and the battery in this computer to prolong its life. i’ve had two computers since 1995, so i’ve done exceptionally well, i would say. but this problem with my keyboard has slowed down my writing and i’ve taken a break now, because I am actually waiting for a new computer to arrive! Yay!

So, this is what happens when you get determined to make progress. Obstacles appear. On top of that i had a few sick days during my second week. i will be kind to myself and encourage myself, as i would want you to do if you found yourself challenged. i will remind myself that I can get back on track. i’m very determined to do so, but typing with this challenge, right now, is not an absolute necessity. it wears on my patience, and writing is supposed to be done with a measure of pleasure and ease. it is difficult to begin with, so why add to the stress?

After i began my commitment to writing and finishing my novel, I watched a movie in which i saw a scene very similar to the one that motivated my story in the first place, in 1995. i searched in my ‘library’ and actually found the 1995 magazine that contained the two page photo that got me started on writing my story. i showed it to my husband. It was like a confirmation, or should i say an affirmation. i take these things where I find them. we all need encouragement.

So, my computer should be arriving in about two weeks. soo-oo-o looking forward to it.

keep at it1 9there’s another problem…ones for exclamation marks and nines for brackets…forget this for now

It’s Not Who You Are

We can choose to be identified by our past or we can have faith to move beyond it.

As I commit myself to working on my novel again, I am having to deal with demons of the past. “You won’t follow through.” “You’ve failed before.” “What makes you think you can do it this time?”

If you’ve ever tried to change a pattern in your life, you will have run into similar taunts and fears. But there are numerous testimonials to the contrary, examples of how people prevailed against odds. You can be one of those people.

I have a large bookshelf and sometimes I look at my books and ask why my novel is not yet published. What am I missing that the other published authors have?

First of all, my worth is not defined by whether I am a published author or not. Secondly, my life is not over yet and the potential for publication is still there. I just have to persevere and acquire a few skills. This may still add up to publication. I will also have to do the hard work.

Doing the hard work is probably the most important part.

I once surprised a lot of people who never gave any thought to my capabilities. You see, I attended college when I was young, but I didn’t graduate. In fact, I dropped out of two classes during my final year in college.

Then I went back to college after our children left home. I had no confidence in my ability. A friend was working to finish her degree and my attitude was, “Good for her.” But I could never do that.

The truth is that I again dropped out of two classes. History was repeating itself. But the following year something changed and for two years I took a full course load, even more than a full course load, and I graduated with my degree, with highest honors.

That voice you hear in your head, telling you that you will fail, don’t listen to it. It does not know you. It does not acknowledge all of your capabilities.

We all have an accuser that tries to keep us from getting up and trying again, trying harder, and succeeding.

The first year I took a full coarse load in college I was extremely stressed but I set a daily goal of how much reading I needed to do. I scheduled a time to work on my assignments. I attended classes faithfully. All of these added up to eventually completing my degree.

That year our school went on our annual weekend retreat and while there I climbed a small mountain. It was challenging. I didn’t know if I could make it. But I did. Whenever I didn’t know if I could succeed in my studies, I reminded myself that if I was able to climb that mountain, I could do this.

Look at a success in your life. Remind yourself of your ability. Persevere. Prevail. Don’t allow that voice in your head to define you. It’s not who you are.

I’m Back – Why I’ve Started Working on My Novel Again and What I am Learning

After a long break, I’ve returned to the editing process of my novel, From a Distance. Some of my readers have been with me from early days and I am extremely grateful to you for your patience. As writers, we know this is a complex process that involves many different components, not the least of which is believing in the value of our story.

For awhile I took a side-trip into journalism and almost gave up on my novel. I questioned whether I am actually a novelist. What caused me to return to it now?

I simply decided to apply the most basic truth about writing, namely, the butt in the chair principle. No amount of talent can compensate for time spent refining the craft. I simply said to myself that I am not going to give up without doing the hard work.

After I doing everything I know to do…I will see what progress I have made.

So, this is the beginning of the process. After doing everything I know to do, after spending a year, with an average of two hours of writing on my novel a day, I will see what progress I have made. I’m not allowing myself to quit this time.

I think I have found a new faith and grace to write. It happened after I watched a movie last night. The main character reminded me of my main character and her challenge was similar to my character. I began to feel like I had a worthwhile story to tell. This is what every author needs.

I spent about four hours editing my first chapter and I thought it sounded pretty good, so I called my husband into the room. He is turning into my editor, support, and critique group, all rolled into one. I didn’t get halfway down the first page before he was correcting me.

“You have too many pronouns. Who is “her” and “she”? The reader is being taken out of the action.”

I looked at my paragraph and it was indeed filled with pronouns. It was an easy correction to make, but I missed it on my own. I began to see how badly I needed another set of eyes.

A little while later he commented, “I like that. I like what you did there.”

Good. I thought that part was done well, too, and I really appreciated that he noticed. My reader was in the action, feeling what my character was feeling.

Before long I had another pronoun issue but then we ran into something bigger. Too much telling, not enough showing. I’ve had this critique before. It is a critique that most, if not all, new writers get.

I was sharing back-story. I had too much back story, another very common mistake. You can really only afford to have a couple of sentences of back story in your first chapter. I shortened the paragraph and tried it again.

“It’s probably alright to “tell” when it’s backstory,” my husband said.

He is the reader, I acknowledged. I need to pay attention to how he feels when he is reading my story. If he thinks the amount of telling I did was alright, then it’s probably OK.

I was beginning to see how these little adjustments were making a big difference.

But his next critique was more difficult to digest. He didn’t like several paragraphs describing what was going on in the setting, and highlighting the scenery.

“What’s the point?”

In other words he was asking, Who cares? Long ago a critique partner did some serious damage with the same question, because, after all, I care. I care a lot. Everything I’ve written affects my character’s experience and the development of her story. I’ve tried to get my reader to enter into my character’s world.

Evidently there is a more effective way to do this.

I swallowed and took the critique in stride.

It’s not uncommon for writers to burst into tears or experience something near tears when their laborious efforts are effectively trashed. We are supposed to develop a thick skin, supposedly. It’s not what most sensitive writers have. But we can have an open mind, which is probably just as good.

Parts of my writing distracted the reader from the main story, which my husband saw clearly. I didn’t want that to happen, did I? So, how could I correct this?

I felt troubled. Should I just delete these segments? Delete part of them? Shorten them? Combine them?

We had reached the end of the chapter and I returned to editing.

I did all of the above. I cut my chapter from 1800 words to 1200 words and ended with the main part of the story as the focus.

An hour later my husband kindly listened to another reading.

“That’s great. You did it.” He was almost emotional. “You’ve got a hook, now.”

The hook is the all important thing readers need from a first chapter. It is the thing that makes them want to read the next chapter.

In the first chapter a writer has to accomplish the task of making the reader feel invested in the character. They want to know what happens next to her. This is not as easy as it sounds.

Needless to say, I was encouraged. But now I am looking at the rest of my book and asking, Who cares? What’s the point?

In Defense of Journalism and Having an Opinion

Several weeks ago I told myself they are coming for Rex Murphy next. And it has happened.

There is something sinister occurring in the world. I’ve watched it for some years now.

An element of society has set themselves up as judge and jury. All they have to do is point a finger, and with magical power like the wand of a fairy godmother, the subject is transformed, only, not into an elegant beauty, but rather into a despicable, contemptible wretch. What follows is a sort of feverish glee in shifting the tide of public opinion and completing the humiliation, the shame, and the degradation.

This act of pointing is all that is needed. Once a target has been identified, sensitivity readers comb through fifteen years of Facebook history and find one comment that suffices as evidence to flay the defendant. There is, of course, no defense attorney and no jury. To assume to step up in behalf of the victim is to become a similar public pariah. All it takes is one identifiable microagression, even if it is only a quote, not an original thought, and that is enough for a guilty verdict. Microagression, by definition, according to the Merriam-webster dictionary, includes that which is said unconsciously and unintentionally.

Those pronounced guilty are placed in public stocks and made a spectacle, to the chants and jeers of the media who work the crowd into a dizzying and dangerous frenzy. J.K.Rowling is a recent victim.

The petty crimes of mis-speech and wrong-think have been elevated to criminal status equal to the act of homicide. If Rex Murphy can be indicted then we are all in danger of being caught in this irrational witch hunt where intent is irrelevant and errors are committed unconsciously.

Rex Murphy identified the bigger problem and tried to mitigate it. He tried to be a peacemaker, rather than an agitator. He tried to bring us together, one nation under God. Like a father who commends his children for their good effort. He acknowledged and praised diversity of background and thought. But the agitators would much rather stir up dissent and fan dying embers into raging flames, intent on lighting the whole forest on fire. They thrive on a brilliant show of their own making. Today is a dangerous time to be a tree.

A New Look

This week I updated my blog and gave it a new look. After about a decade, I figured it was time for a change.

If you have been following me over the years, you may have noticed that I’ve moved away from my focus on the craft of writing. This blog will still feature my writing. I’ve posted a few links to books I’ve self published on Smashwords.

Publishing on Smashwords has been a learning curve. If I sell a book for $4.99 Smashwords takes $1.49 in fees, so it’s a pretty fair deal, considering that they place my books on Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Library Direct and other sites. Having said that, I’ve only earned 9.80 USD so far! But I see this as a place to start. I was so excited when I received a very positive review for Skate With Me on the Barnes and Noble site (See sidebar).

I’ve had about a thousand downloads, so at least my books are getting some distribution.

What I’ve learned over the past years is that I just have to keep at it. Keep doing something in the area of writing. I’ve tried a lot of things. I’ve had my ups and downs.

I may still post articles about writing, from time to time, but I also plan to write some thoughtful articles about current events and social issues. I use tinafriesenwriting to post personal articles.

I will write more about my process and where I am at now in another post.

 

 

 

 

Coupon for Free Book

I am offering a free copy of my short story, Wilhelmina, for one month, on the one year anniversary of its publication. Check out Wilhelmina

Share the coupon, JS22Z, with friends. It expires on March 27, 2020. While you are there you may want to check out my other selections. I love to hear from my readers. Especially let me know if you would like to see more of my short stories.

Update on My Novel

To my dear readers who have followed my story…thank you for your incredible patience.

It would almost make a story of its own for me to document my writing journey these past months. I finally decided that at the end of the year I will put my novel aside. In other words, it must be finished by then. There are other things I want to be freed up to do.

My biggest struggle has been that I want to write non-fiction. I don’t feel like I am a novelist. I’ve had to greatly adjust my writing style in order to write fiction. Many times when I have been blocked I have read a variety of books on writing, or I’ve read novels, or I’ve picked up Writers’ Digest magazines. I always find the magazines extremely motivating.

However, lately none of the above have helped me get out of my slump. I’ve had a series of revelations, however, and these are now beginning to motivate me to keep writing.

First of all I realized that I was embarrassed to be writing a “fluffy romance.” I actually kept thinking of people who I DID NOT want to have read my novel. My husband insisted that many people loved books by Louis L’Amour, and they were not profound treatises. He kept reminding me that I was a good writer. He told me he enjoyed the parts I had read to him, and that my writing was as good or better than published authors he’s read. “If you can do that, over and over, then you can write a good book.” Don’t underestimate the importance of novels, he’d tell me.

But, I argued, that is not all there is to a book. All of the pieces have to tie together and be in the right order, and you have to keep track of all the threads, and round out all the characters, and build the tension, etc., etc. It just seemed like I would fail, and worse, I might not even know where or why I failed.

I’ve had segments of my work edited and it has proved to be a very humbling experience. However, I decided I needed to move on from there by thinking about how much I learned, how my writing changed and improved, as a result.

I read somewhere that I needed to love my book. Someone pointed out that I had a bit of “self loathing” going on here. In other words, I no longer believed in my story, nor in my ability to tell it.

One day, when I felt particularly low–the day that my editor friend told me that my main character sounded pathetic (in other words), and that my language sounded like something from twenty years ago–yes, I was really told that…I drove to the ocean and was ready to delete my book and cancel my plan to attend a writers conference in August. The thing that held me back was that, for no reason I could put my finger on, I just believed that God actually wanted me to go to the conference this year. If I believed that, then I needed to go. I don’t want to live with having failed to have the courage to do what I needed to do.

Even deciding to love my book didn’t help me keep writing. I still wanted to quit more often than not. The truth was I didn’t believe what I was writing was significant.

I had been trying to dig deep, to get in touch with my characters’ feelings. Yes, there was some good writing. I could tell when it was good and that I needed to do more of that.

I think the breakthrough came when I realized that I knew my book inside and out. I had lived with it so long, I understood my characters better than my editor. And I had grown. I was able to recognize pathetic now and use it. That day I wrote back to my editor friend and told her that, yes, my character starts out with weaknesses, and she knows this, and it bothers her. I told her that maybe I am writing in a twenty year old style, but I’m OK with it. I’m probably not going to change that.

I began to see strength in my story. I took ownership.

I had taken pieces out of my story. Now I began to integrate them once again, in a different way, because I could see they contributed something vital. I slashed whatever didn’t serve a clear purpose. I made a list of what I wasn’t sure I should include and as the weeks passed the decisions became clear. I finally had a sense, not only of where I was going, but what I was doing with my story.

If I had not put a time pressure on myself, I would not have been pushed up against a wall. I would not have realized how much I hated my story and how I was actually seriously avoiding finishing it.

Most of all, I would not have come to the conclusion that I was the only one who could prevent it from being pathetic. I was the only one who could make my story as strong as I wanted it to be. I was the only one who could say, this was how I intended it and I love it now. It is now a true representation of me as a writer.

I finally found my strength and the strength in my story and it motivated me. I saw that I could write a book I would love. And this was the book I wanted to share.