Posts Tagged ‘planning’

To The Future and Beyond

February 15, 2011 1 comment

This week I’m pulling together materials gathered on our trip so far. It’s staggering how much info one can collect on so many things within so short a timeframe. We have what appear to be reams of miscellaneous info hiding in every hole and corner in the car.

Of course, the problem would have been even greater if there had been more space available in our car. When I do research, I tend to gather as much info as is possible. Sister Jo is much the same way. After all, I never know how an angle will turn. I might be able to get fifteen different angles from one location, each with a viable voice and interest.

If we’d been able to spend adequate time in all of those places and talk with more people, heaven only knows how much material we would have gathered in the end. I would suspect that it’s a good thing that we didn’t get any more to work with than we did. I already have enough to keep me busy in articles alone for the next several months.

The book that we planned sits at the apex of the pile of work waiting to commence. Our predicament is that what we set out to write and what we will actually write are two different animals completely. This trip has highlighted many aspects that we’d not anticipated.

I keep wondering if all writers who set out to do a big project like this end up with the same problem. Does the project mutate as the research progresses? Does the writer come back to the desk with piles of experience that doesn’t resemble any of her previously planned work?

If that happens to all such projects, and the books get written, published and marketed, what was the original book idea? What did it look like at the beginning?

I look at some of the non-fiction work out there on the market now and ask that one question. How much reorganization and mental reassessment gets done before word one gets down on paper?

For instance, we set out to write a book on two senior women tenting their way across the country and exploring their own birthplace. Noble goals, don’t you think? So did we. Reality wouldn’t permit such a trip.

Weather drove us down the highway faster and faster each day. It’s difficult to sightsee when you’re trying not to drown in the deluge. Tenting is only possible when you can find a campground that accepts tents or that you can afford.

We had a realistic monthly budget when we started. We’d budgeted for gasoline costs between prospective locations within each state. We’d slated the costs of campsites as researched online for two months. The only place where we would have had problems would have been in New England in the coming summer. Those states had outrageous camping fees.

We knew how much food we’d need to buy for camping and still eat well and healthily. We’d accounted for our regular medications, our personal toiletries and laundry, and phone cards for communications links. We knew what we could live on and how much we had to spend each month.

Black and white are lovely colors, except when the economy and Mother Nature bleed all over the accounting sheets and screw everything up. Our contingency fund just wasn’t big enough to absorb eating nearly every meal in a restaurant, campgrounds everywhere we turned that accepted only RVs, and temperatures below freezing in the Deep South, including Florida.

That, my friends, is how you have a year-long trip culminate in short-term disaster in two months. Sometimes the best laid plans can bring you up short really fast. The key is to make the best of what you can and regard the rest as education for any next round that you might anticipate or plan.

Now you can understand why the book will have an entirely different slant than intended. The odd thing is that by the time it’s finished, it might actually be a better book than the one planned. Different lessons were learned and opposing aspects were revealed both in ourselves and in the world around us.

It has become a case of having a bag of lemons dumped in our laps and having to make lemonade with them. We can make it very sweet, just sweet enough with a bit of tang around the edges, or we can make it so sour that none could stomach it. Those are the choices handed us by the fates.

I’d like to think that we’ll choose the middle course. It’s much more palatable, and let’s face it. It would be much more fun to write, as well.

There it is in a burst of authorial truth. That’s how this project is progressing and why. We’re not at a place yet where we can answer the question of whether we would do it again if presented with the opportunity. We’ll save that for later down the pike.

If you’re thinking of taking on this kind of personal assignment, I’ll give one piece of advice. Before you commit to anything, sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. Ask yourself one crucial question. How flexible are you when plans go awry?

If you feel like it, give me your thoughts on the subject. Tell me what you think. And remember than everyone has their own turning point in life. The key is deciding when the road will turn too far and end at a cliff.

Until later, a bientot,


Planning: It’s In The Details

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

As a writer I’ve learned that having adequate resources available to me is essential. That rule applies as much to those times without computer use as to those keyboard sessions. Having said that, planning for an extended trip with limited online capability has its challenges.

Take dictionaries, for instance. Assuming the writer’s a good speller, choosing the correct word with just the correct nuance of meaning is critical for most writing. I’ve been learning a great deal about that subject lately. Writing poetry teaches that lesson faster than most writing endeavors. Speed isn’t always an issue, just nuance.

Given extremely limited space availability, and having to plan for such a long camping trip, how do I manage to accommodate dictionary, thesaurus, and those absolutely necessary writer’s books that must come along for the ride? My duffle bag is already overflowing. And I can barely life it.

I could reduce clothing choices. I could reduce toiletry needs to the absolute bare minimum.

Then again, did those classic authors of old travel around with more than quill, paper, and enough money to mail their material to a publisher?

That brings up another question. How did those writers finance their little jaunts around the circuit of visiting this friend and that, exploring the countryside as they went?

When you get to be my age and make the life-changing decision to uproot indefinitely, accommodating such trivial considerations comes with the territory. I’ve moved back and forth across this country every few years for the last 30. I got accustomed to living with less. What hurts is not having my books with me.

*Sigh* And this, too, shall pass sometime in the future.
 For now, the push is on to get all those niggling little details conquered, contained, and credibly finalized. It’s all in the details, my friends. Not so much what you have with you, but in how you utilize what you have.

Thank you so much for your patience. You’ve allowed me to talk myself into what I must do to get the results I need. Sometimes having a momentarily silent sounding acts as a great decision aid.

What did I decide, you ask? Well, I’m choosing to take a tiny thesaurus, and a pocket dictionary. It won’t be the same as I have on my office shelf, but those carrying only a backpack have even less with them. Surely I can  make do with those small tomes. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but I’ve gotten spoiled and now I have to learn how to do with less.

I hope all of your decisions come forth as easily today and this week. With Thanksgiving moving ever closer, time is shrinking as inexorably as the world’s glaciers.

No time for us this year for stuffing the turkey and baking the pies. We’ve got preparations to make for Christmas on the Texas gulf coast. We’re looking forward to moving away from sub-zero temps and planting our toes in the warm gulf surf.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, my friends. Enjoy the meal, the camaraderie, and the coming holiday season anticipation. I’ll be posting sometime after the weekend a couple of times before our departure.

Be careful on those wintry roads. I know we intend to be very careful out there.  A bientot,


Shifting Future’s Gears

November 16, 2010 1 comment

I’ve been writing quite a bit about futures lately and with good reason. My sister and I had big plans beginning next April. We’d wanted to implement them this past October and couldn’t. As everyone knows, the best laid plans are subject to change without notice.

And so it has been. This past Saturday during lunch, however, we began talking about those plans for April. That’s when the shift took place. We’ve wondered if we are pawns in someone’s cosmic chess game for a while now. I think we’ve gotten our answer to that question once and for all.

She and I discussed whether we could get everything ready to take off on our road trip before Dec. 1. I know. Any significant road trip takes a lot of planning and strategy. This one was worth months of both.

Anyone listening in would have thought we’d lost our minds. Give up a perfectly good apartment, stuff all of our belongings into long-term storage and hit the road? It’s a joke. Right? Well, no, it’s no joke. We were going to do this in April anyway. We’d wanted to go in October. What’s so bad about December.

Let’s see. It could have something to do with the fact that we live in Montana and have umpteen mountain passes to travel just to get anywhere out of the state. Heck, we have passes to go through just to get out of our valley. Ski season approaches on the back of a hare in a race with a tortoise. The jockey on that hare is INCOMING SNOW STORMS!

You see the immediate problem.

Okay, so we’ll crawl out of the valley, through the pass south of here toward I-90. Then what?

We’re going south for the first part of our country tour. That would mean Wyoming–got stranded there in a blizzard a year ago. Don’t want a repeat. Or there’s always Highway 93 South. That goes through many more passes, part of snow-covered Idaho and into snow-covered northern Nevada. Once we hit Vegas we could get to Arizona’s snowy north and go down to I-10 from there.

Nope, too many possible travel headaches. That leaves I-90 West toward the coast. Only two passes in that direction–both really long ones, but well maintained and careful driving will keep us safe. First hurdle planned for and conquered. Get chains.

So we get to the coast and then move south on the I-5. We won’t be making many stops if the weather is crummy. We need to get away from the northern coastline and winter storms rolling in with irrepressible, ever-changing La Nina, who threatens to bring the worst winter in 50 years.

We’ll be in good shape once we hit LA and San Diego.

I know that most won’t understand why all the rush is critical to us. Let me clue you in. We’re tenting our way around the U.S. for the next year+. That means everything we will be using will be crammed into a small car: tent, bags, year’s worth of clothing, cooler, cooking needs, computer, photography gear, everything.

Now you see the rush. We’re not fond of winter camping, though we’ve done it. If we can avoid it, so much the better.

There you have it. Once we’re on that southern road, we’ll be able to get online once/twice a week, update blogs and website, do email, send out our articles and such, and generally work our way through the country gathering material for our book.

Sounds like a fun time, huh? It will be. We’ve been looking forward to this for several months now. Not bad for a couple of senior ladies, don’t you think?

For the next many months we’ll be seeing friends and family throughout the continental U.S. We’ll be writing travel articles and the like as we go along to help augment the finances. And we’ll be learning about ourselves, our ambitions, and our potential. Our website will be up in a couple of weeks so that we can keep our friends apprised as to our progress. Those updates will keep everyone informed of how things are going, where we are, and what we’ve seen.

Wish us luck as we move into this next phase of our professional lives. We already know we’re in for the ride of our lives, but then, we’ve already lived fantastically full lives. This is the gravy and dessert rolled into one.

I do intend to keep this blog and Claudsy’s Calliope blog going during this trip as well, so there should be no real fluctuation there.

Writing and photography go hand in hand. How we utilize both may shift a bit into new territory, but I consider that growth. My poetry certainly won’t suffer from a change in scenery and neither will the potential for wonderful writing ideas. So much potential, so little time to capture it all.

I hope you follow along as we explore this country’s nooks and crannies, the familiar and not-so-familiar. Be sure and pop back here once in a while to see what’s happening.

Until then, a bientot,


A Day In The Life…

September 3, 2010 1 comment

If you read my last post you know that much of what I do entails thinking of ideas and forging them into some semblance of acceptable reading material. That is what writers do.

The question is: What else do writers do with their time each day?

I can only clue you in as to what I do. Right now I’m beginning The Artist’s Way course. Therefore, the very first thing of the day is my Daily Pages. If I’m working at home on a given day, I deal with correspondence before moving on to website perusal.

I can’t speak about why other people check out websites. I have specific ones I follow. I’m also a member of SeededBuzz , which promotes the viewing of member blogs, etc. (Check out SeededBuzz if you’re curious. I’m a member of several groups of varied interest. I also look for specific information about agents, editors, publishers, etc.–the usual business end information towards writing. That activity takes care of the clock until around noon.

Of course, within that is also social networking. That’s a must for any writer today. We were told that, we listened, and we do it. Simple as that.

And whether anyone else mentions it or not, I try to keep myself in support mode for all of my writer friends. Everyone talks about writing being a solitary and lonely life. I’m here to tell you that it’s only lonely if you don’t create a circle of writing friends with whom to keep in constant communications.

I have so many wonderful friends and acquaintances within the writing community that I never have adequate time to talk to half of them on a regular basis. But, I do keep apprised of their doings and hopefully, they keep an eye on mine as well. My life and theirs are busy and harried sometimes. That’s to be expected. But we rally when one of our own is hurting or in need of an extra pat on the back or shoulder to cry on.

So I always try to use at least one half to one full hour each day to make sure I’ve connected with those who need something extra that day. There will come a time (and has already) when I’ve been the one being buoyed up by these same friends. They’re some of the best people I’ve ever known.

The afternoon gets used for actual writing, whether non-fiction, fiction, journalism pieces, what-have-you. Then, too, it depends on whether submission deadlines loom in the near future and I’m struggling to catch up. Those deadlines take precedence, as every writer knows.

The evenings go through a kaleidoscope of activities. I might be studying research material, reading and studying writing course information/lessons/etc. or working on a piece previously written but not polished. It all depends on if I need a break from the computer and how badly I need rest.

Occasionally, as I did for the past couple of days, I take a major break from active writing. Or, I tag along on a photo shoot with my sister. We’re   making plans for the future which are exciting, intriguing, and scary all rolled into a convenient carrying case called the “Unknown Next Few Months.”

We’re trying to do away with plans other than those immediate ones that call our names and point in interesting directions. I’ve heard that kind of living called “spontaneous,” but I’ve never allowed it take hold before. I’m hoping to do better in future. We’ll have to see how things play out on a couple of fronts before we can commit ourselves to going to the gypsy mindset completely.

So, there you have my day, my life, my example, poor as it may be.

Wishes? Sure, I have them, with more arriving every day. Plans? More like desires than plans. Contingencies come into play always. I can’t do without those.

And my writer’s day. I’m here, aren’t I. I have two blogs, write for Associated Content, have begun doing book reviews, am gearing up to begin again with interviews, and have a few other irons in the fire.

Anyone one of those could control my day according to whatever schedule happens to hold sway that day. Take your pick and remember–You, too, could have a day like mine.

A bientot,