I’ve been away, but I’m back now, all finished at the cottage on the lake in Michigan.
Yep, I’ve managed to “power through” all of the business at hand over the past several weeks and am settling in once again here at home in northern Illinois.
One week ago, our pontoon was hauled out of the water by some friends who are purchasing her and trailored a couple hundred miles back to a lake here in the western part of Illinois—not too far from our home, by the way. The old girl will be missed, but knowing she’s going to a good place, with good folks to enjoy her, eases the oft-muddled mind of this writer!
We spent the next day finishing up closing out the cottage and filling both of our cars with final loads. There are so many memories we gathered in that place “up there” that it was very hard to pinpoint which one stood out as the greatest or favorite over the several summers we called the place home.
Yes, we have decided to get out of the summer cottage/lake rental game and to pursue other endeavors. An Alaska cruise next August awaits, as does a trip to New Orleans and Florida in late February. And being right here at home more frequently is mighty appealing, too!
this morning, when I finally decided that I’d been away from this blog (and other writing tasks) far too long, I took a deep breath and relished the feeling once more of plopping myself into my comfy desk chair, in front of my MacBook, and knocking the cobwebs off of Scrivener and gleefully letting the fingers do their thing, wandering over the keys to make the words to send along to any reader who’s still along with me. (Now that’s a sentence!)
So a chapter of my life closes and I’m eagerly anticipating what the next one will be about. I’ll look back—from time to time—and recall so many of those wonderful moments and memories made “up there,” and I’ll probably be hit with a touch of melancholy, but I will have moved along into that next chapter that is beginning right now.
It rained sometime in the pre-dawn hours. I heard its pleasant patter on the roof above my head upstairs as I was about to get up to put the coffee on. I pulled the covers back over me and lay there and enjoyed the sound.
Now, a couple of hours later, it’s gray, a slight breeze ruffles the wind chimes out here on the screened porch, and all is quiet on the lake and surrounding land. No wave runners or zealous ski boats are churning things up this morning as the “reality” of mid-week settles in.
Coffee cup filled now, it’s time for me to get to “work.” My trusty MacBook has waited patiently these past few days for me to be inspired enough to fire it up and catch up on my writing. Instead, my mornings have been given over to reading rather than the creation of my own words, and all of the noise and excitement of the 4th of July weekend wasn’t too conducive for getting any kind of writing going, either.
This morning is different, though. My current “read”–The Aviators–rests inside and will stay inside until I’m finished with this post and some work on the novel. Later, we’re heading away from the lake for lunch and a visit to an Outlet Mall in Michigan City. With the change in the weather, I suppose it’s a good day for that, too.
With some company arriving this coming weekend, I guess getting this sort of weather out of the way now is a good thing, and, besides, it is that inspiration for me to start up the MacBook and get back to writing! Let’s hope so…
In my next post, I will share my thoughts about all of those books I’ve read rather than spend time writing. Which causes me to wonder: When did/do all of the good and famous authors find time to read and get their writing done?
As we begin to edge our way into late May, that means that things have cycled back around to another cottage “lake season” up in Michigan. Thus, I have spent the past two weeks completely ignoring any regular writing, blogging, or commenting on Facebook, instead, rounding up “stuff” to be hauled up to the cottage on Friday, May 22. (As I write this, that is just two days from now!)
Our intrepid crew put our pier in last Sunday, and the old structure looks as though it will make it through another summer. Our pontoon will be delivered on Saturday, and I can’t wait to get it moored in its spot alongside the pier and then take it out for its out-of-hibernation cruise around the lake. The weather is supposed to be “iffy” (which is usually par for the course) so we shall keep our fingers crossed for some decent “move-in” temperatures without any rain.
I have my folders and my writing box of notes, rough drafts, and other miscellaneous notes to take along for the summer, and the MacBook Pro will be packed up Thursday night.
Which brings me to my main point of this post. I have given much thought to what I hope to accomplish this summer in terms of a regular writing routine, and I have come to the conclusion that the only way I’m going to accomplish that is to step away from social media and my blogs, Down Many Roads and All Things White Sox.
I have become stale and less-than-enthusiastic on most days when trying to come up with blog topics and to write how I feel about things in general. Quite frankly, I really have nothing much to say these days—at least what anyone out there really is interested in reading.
As a result of this epiphany, I am going on a self-imposed hiatus, an exile of sorts, from my blog posting. I know that when I do resume sometime down the road, I will be refreshed, re-charged, and re-invigorated to write some things that are fun and interesting. When that might be, I have no idea. All that I know right now is that my focus will be on knocking the cobwebs from my long-overdue novel-in-progress and re-awakening my friend Scrivener in doing so!
Now, as the daunting task of packing everything for another lake season opening in just two days from now beckons me to get back to work, I leave you kind readers with these words: Blessed are they, who have nothing to say, and can’t be persuaded to say it!
Well, now…Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone, and family I see once or twice a year have returned to their homes in Ohio, Nebraska, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. Our little spot here in northern Illinois was virtually bursting with life—young, old, and in between—beginning Wednesday afternoon.
All of the preparations and planning seem to have whisked right on by at light speed, with excellent results. The two twenty-pound turkeys and dressing I cooked on Wednesday and Thursday turned out perfect, along with the all of the other culinary delights that Carolyn put together for our traditional Thursday meal.
As we all were gathered together, each of us sharing wonderful conversation, many laughs and smiles, and thoughts of what all was going on in our lives, I realized just how much I have to be thankful for. And I have made it a goal to write more often about those many things and no longer take them for granted.
Carolyn and I have been hosting this “gathering” every year for longer than we can recall (at least 25 years, at last guess), and we look forward to it every year. And every year, family from near and far makes the trip to our humble abode, resulting in a few days of silliness, snacks, cold drinks, delicious meals, conversation, and college football and Blackhawks hockey on TV.
Today—Sunday—like all Sundays at the end of Thanksgiving weekend, seems empty and much too quiet. The leftovers populate the fridge, and the washer seems to be in overdrive, catching up on bath and dish towels, almost as soon as the last traveler is packed up and headed out of our driveway for their return journey to home.
Just the two of us, alone in our quiet house once more, we go about the tasks of getting things put back together. I spend a good amount of the morning getting all the card table chairs, tables, and plastic cups and plates back in the Thanksgiving box to haul to the shelf in the basement, where it will rest until next year at the same time. Then I help my son, who has come up from his home, load up his truck with the remaining things we had borrowed from him. He and my two grandsons eat some leftover pizza from last night but can’t stay long as there are things that they need to get done down at their house.
Through it all, there’s a sense of relief that the weekend was a success and that everything “worked” as we’d planned. Yet, at the same time, there is a feeling of melancholy that it’s over much too soon. Watching the Bears’ game doesn’t make it any better, either, as they squander opportunities to win, eventually losing late in overtime.
Carolyn has busied herself with handling the wash and bringing me the clean things to help fold. We even get all of the autumn decorations—outside and inside—taken down and stored away, making room for the Christmas things very soon. Eventually, Carolyn and I take some time away from our cleaning up duties and heat up what remains of the leftovers and watch Criminal Minds, which was DVR’d from last Wednesday.
Late in the afternoon, I finally come into my office, which for the past several days has been where my daughter and her husband have had their Aero bed, suitcases, and their kid’s suitcases. I hurriedly look back over things on my desk from when I was last seated in front of my MacBook and realize that I’m a bit behind in my blog posts. But I did manage to reach my goal of over 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo these past weeks, and I’m thankful for pushing hard during the first weeks of the month to get that word count up and climbing every day. This makes me smile and kind of brightens the day once again.
Now with the busy-ness of November behind me, I can get squared away for the month of December and get back to some sense of a daily writing routine. And there is still much to write. But for now, I’m simply focusing on those many things of which I’m thankful. I hope everyone else has plenty to be thankful for, as well….CortlandWriter
For the past week, I have been firmly ensconced in this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and in my last post I wrote about all of the trials and tribulations that the month of November offers, causing me to claw and scrape to reach my target of 50,000 words by month’s end.
I am happy to report that as of now, I have nearly 21,000 words in the hopper, and I’m having fun firing up the MacBook very early each morning and wondering exactly in which direction my story is going to go.
I love the freedom that NaNoWriMo provides in not having to be concerned with editing and revising. Since I’m a stickler for correcting and editing and revising whenever I see a need in my writing, ignoring the inclination to do so is probably the toughest aspect of the month’s writing challenge for me. But this year, I’m finding it much easier to do so.
I think, too, that this year’s effort is enhanced by that wonderful program known as Scrivener. Not only does it allow me to write in large chunks, and then break them up into smaller chunks as needed, but it is ideal for keeping track of the Word Count for each writing session and the overall count for the entire project. I love writing in Composition Mode, without any other distractions, and having the Project Target indicator showing at the lower left-hand corner of the screen. As I crank out those words, the progress bar grows slowly and steadily, and the word totals click off, higher and higher. It was never this easy or relaxing using Word.
So, unless I hit that proverbial “wall” and simply fail to pound out the rest of the story by the deadline, I am pretty sure that I’m on course to exceed the 50,000 words by the end of the month, even though I will be cramped for regular writing time the last couple of weeks. That’s why I’m making a concerted effort in these first weeks of November to harvest as many words as I can. And, of course, it helps when I have a pretty good idea where I want my story to end up–even though just how it will do so is every day’s adventure!…CortlandWriter
I guess my “exile” to Michigan has finally come to an end for another summer, and, perhaps, it’s high time I got back to work on some things—finishing my novel The Bet and catching up on my blog contributions. And, I must say, it’s really good to be back in the comfort of my writing room/office/study, although it is currently under siege from suitcases and boxes and containers yet to be unpacked and put away. My shelves and printer cabinet are cluttered way beyond normal, but it’s still good.
Additionally, to add to all the “clutter” is an issue we’re having with Internet access. The phone company service is supposed to come here in the morning to check on it and get it working correctly, removing it from my things to think and worry about.
Working at my old familiar desk on this blog post, the first in several weeks, I feel good again to be getting some words down. To say that my productivity these past few weeks up there in Michigan fell off drastically would be greatly understating things. I only have myself to blame for losing the steam I’d kind of built up and was rolling along on The Bet. Then, the end-of-season duties and procedures began to cloud my mind, and my ability to become inspired to even fire up the MacBook was basically non-existent.
I did more reading than writing during the final weeks in Michigan, and I don’t think that’s really such a bad thing. Homer Hickam’s newest YA effort titled Crescent was fun and so much different from the intense stuff about the Civil War and Lincoln that I seemed to become completely immersed within. Because of “reading more and writing less,” I kicked myself daily as the guilt piled on and on—but I simply didn’t feel inclined to boot up said MacBook—not even to check e-mail or cavort about on Facebook.
Thinking about this now, back home here in beautiful bucolic northern Illinois, I believe that there must be a reason for that malaise that hung like a thick cloud, preventing me from wanting to write! Or maybe it’s as simple as I really had nothing to say during that time or the desire to come up with anything worth sharing! I do know, though, that I’m in a better frame of mind now and think I’ll be much better for having taken some time away from the writing grind. Perhaps I’ve refreshed myself enough to get those two main characters of mine to a satisfactory conclusion and finally be able to add THE END to the thing. My intentions were to reach that end by start of fall, but I’m a ways away from that.
So tomorrow will be chock full of more unpacking, resettling, household chores (trip to the recycling, cut the grass, etc.) and hope that the DSL, Internet, and Wi-Fi gets corrected. And, perhaps, work will move forward on The Bet. Unlike these past several weeks, I can’t wait to start-up the MacBook and get those words going…CortlandWriter
Well, here I am, in an old cottage in a thick woods, along the shore of a beautiful lake, in southwest Michigan. And I can honestly say that being back is all good! Last weekend was a marathon of getting here, hauling stuff from two vehicles, opening the cottage up, and getting everything “under roof.”
The muscle aches and weariness that resulted after each day’s efforts were evidence of the work involved in making the place livable once again. But now that everything has been completed, those aches and pains were good ones. Of course, these first few days have been filled with plenty of wind and rain and cooler temperatures than preferred, and it seems as though it’s taking much longer for those aches and pains to go away. (It couldn’t be age-related, could it?)
Now the stage is set for my writing routine to help me accomplish goals I have set for the summer: 1.) finish The Bet, my current novel WIP which was my NaNoWriMo project; 2.) keep my blogs up to date; 3.) work on the various short stories that have been lurking about for quite some time; 4.) get my writing ready for publication by summer’s end. Whew! Have I set myself up for disappointment? Time will tell.
However, each of these goals seems very reachable as I open another summer at the lake. Anyone who writes seriously has his or her own writing routines, and I’m certainly no different, especially when I’m on the verge of getting some piece finished. Although it was a very eventful winter, I didn’t quite do the amount of writing I probably should have or would have liked to do. No excuses, other than several weeks were spent learning and applying the wonderful writing program called Scrivener. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s a terrific tool that has me becoming more and more organized, structured, and competent in achieving writing satisfaction as never before.
Now that the winter blues have taken flight, it’s time for some really good quality atmosphere in which to write and read. I am a lucky guy in that we move for the summer to southwest Michigan at the end of May, and there is no better setting during the week to work on my writing. To say the least, the surroundings are quaint—rustic?—and far from the hustle and bustle of city life and the roar or Interstates.
My perfect writing routine? It all begins with the coffee. I’m usually out of bed by 7 a.m. and have the coffee going soon thereafter. If it’s a nice morning (no howling winds, cold temperatures, or pouring rain), I’ll open all of the curtains and windows to let in the good, fresh Michigan air. The wife usually sleeps in until later in the morning in the upstairs bedroom, so there is no way I can disturb her slumber.
Next, I’ll go out onto the screened-in porch overlooking the lake, take in the morning that is coming to life, and get the MacBook fired up on the round table facing the lake and check any e-mail that may have arrived over night. After that, I’ll read over what I wrote during my previous writing session and use that as my starting point.
And, of course, at this point I enjoy that first wonderful sip of strong, hot coffee. It seems to be the fuel that gets me started, and nothing seems insurmountable when there’s good coffee to have along for the journey! If it’s a morning of rain or less-than-pleasant temperatures, I’ll simply set up my writing “workshop” inside on the old dining room table. I get lots of good writing done on mornings such as this, but I do prefer to be out in the air on the porch watching the lake go by while I write.
There are usually plenty of hummingbirds who come calling and pause for a sip at the feeders on the corner of the porch roof or over in the low dogwood tree next to the steps leading down to the landing by the lake. I have a terrific view of a large portion of this end of the lake, and there are usually fishermen or other early morning boaters out and about on summer mornings.
I don’t really set a time limit for my writing, other than I do much better early in the morning. I do set a word count of 2,000. This is very easy to keep track of in Scrivener. When finished, I read over what I have produced that morning and then shut the writing down until the next writing day.
While writing, I enjoy the various genres of music available on iTunes radio. Some mornings, I’ll have easy listening music; other times it will be jazz, particularly Bossa Nova or smooth jazz. Or I’ll simply select some mood music from my own iTunes library. With the right music, I’m alone in my tiny niche in the world, creating my characters and places and plots and conflicts and the rest of what makes a story. It definitely enhances my wonderful setting and atmosphere in the cottage.
Although I tell myself that I’m going to write every day, reality gets in the way, and I more often than not end up writing only three weekdays out of five —very seldom on weekends. Since I usually have chores (weekly trip to laundromat in Dowagiac, grocery store, general maintenance of cottage, etc.), I’ll do them on those non-writing mornings. Since we usually have company on weekends, writing time is really not planned then. The days when I’m not writing, however, I’m finding time to read and think about the next writing session waiting for me.
On mornings such as today (June 1)—gray, windy, sweatshirt temperatures—I am definitely in the mood to get to work on my current writing project(s). Of course, there are many mornings when it’s just too nice to pass up that early cruise around the lake on our intrepid pontoon! Times such as these, writing takes a backseat!
I find that writing atmosphere and setting is vital to being a productive writer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bright, sunny day or a rainy, dreary day—lots can be accomplished if we feel motivated and free of distractions. My summer cottage is just this sort of place. Now, another cup of coffee, an hour of unplanned weekend writing, and I’ll be that much closer to being finished with my novel, The Bet. And the gray morning has suddenly become sunny and bright! All is well…CortlandWriter
Greetings from the rural lands of northern Illinois! We’re getting that big snow that the weather people and everyone else have been talking about for the past few days, and—for once—they weren’t wrong. Safe and dry here in my work room, warmed by the glow of my MacBook screen and keyboard and a tall hot mug of strong coffee nearby, I look out on a world of white. As I tend to do at times such as these, I harken back to Jack London’s classic phrase, The white silence, and watch it come down fast and furious and beautiful.
Funny thing, though, earlier, as the wife was hurriedly getting ready to head off to her job an hour’s drive away—not long after this whole storm was getting cranked up—I was making the bed (one of my grueling daily chores!) and had the radio tuned in to the news and listening to the announcer read off a list of school closings. It quickly jolted me back to all those winter mornings as a kid, and later as a teacher, when there was a storm impending or already raging, and I’d snap wide awake, hoping that my school would be included on the list. Sometimes, when the weather gods were smiling on me, my school would, indeed, be included. More often than not, though, the “storm of the century” that was supposed to hit us somehow moved off in another direction, missing us altogether, or just amounting to something less than original forecasts predicted.
For whatever reasons, I’ve always loved snowstorms, especially when I have nowhere to go or nothing that I absolutely have to get done. And even though it’s ridiculous, when the predicted storm fails to materialize, for whatever reason, I find myself actually getting ticked-off at the professional weather “experts” who always get us excited and expectant for the thing!
I’ve always considered snow days to be those perfect occasions to get caught up on overdue tasks (besides the common routines around the house) such as getting lost in a book or pounding out those thousand words to move the limping novel along just a bit more. These are perfect days for doing all of those little things that we’re always putting aside “until later” and never really having much eagerness to actually get to them. However, cleaning out that desk drawer now doesn’t seem like such a waste of time. Getting the books straightened on the bookshelves also seems to get accomplished. Somehow, the little things that get done feel like major things at the end of the day.
And when the storm eventually peters out and stops altogether, there’s a good feeling that some important “stuff” got done inside, out of the snow and the beauty of the “white silence.” These days don’t come along too often anymore, but when they do, those old habits seem to die hard. What better time to get back to reading that book, or working on the novel, or—most definitely—enjoying another cup of that strong, hot coffee?…MLA
Yesterday, before I ventured any farther into my current writing endeavor and learning the basics of Scrivener, I finally gave up and decided to organize my MacBook’s desktop, in one big effort to clean up the clutter that has gradually gown and grown. And so I spent more time than I would have liked opening folders and files and deciding exactly where they belonged—somewhere useful or in the Trash.
I’m always leery about sending any kind of file to the Trash, because it always seems that as soon as that occurs, it was exactly what I needed all along. Of course, there are many safeguards that a wise user knows in regards to handling items in the Trash. One’s file is still there until “Empty Trash” is selected. But, for the most part, I got rid of things I know are not important and are merely taking up space on my desktop. And I was even diligent enough to move things into appropriate folders, consolidating many duplicate folders into one. Plus, the desktop’s appearance is now neat and tidy, folders and other items organized according to their labels.
And as always seems to happen, I got caught up reading and taking a trip down memory lane upon reading several of the files I came across. Regardless, the tidying up needed doing, so I postponed any further work in my endeavor to learn Scrivener and played housemaid!
In the course of all that, I came across a few other notes and reminders I’d created for future consideration in some blog post that, at the time, seemed just too good to be forgotten. For example, I’m always alert to words and terms that I’ve grown weary of hearing or seeing in print. They could be words that are misused, overused, or simply mispronounced.
So I list them here since I’m on a roll and really don’t feel like shuffling them to the “back burner” again, where they’ll be out of sight, out of mind once more.
I really cringe whenever I ask someone how they are and what’s new, and they respond with “Same old, same old…” This tells me absolutely nothing, other than that the person is not too enthralled with talking to me and bringing me up to date about things since we last conversed.
I’ve also tired of the expression “more bang for your buck,” something that falls completely short of making total sense. I know what is meant by it, but it has become trite, hackneyed, and rather limp in my estimation. I never fail to associate the term with deer hunting—for obvious reasons!
And not long ago, I overheard the following mispronunciations: “supposebly” and “probaly.” It’s one thing for junior high students to butcher their pronunciations of words such as these, but it’s quite another for grown, supposedly educated adults to continually speak them incorrectly. I just breathe deeply and move on.
Other than that, life around here is simply same old, same old! Until next time, I’ll leave it at that…CortlandWriter
I have been reading a lot lately about upgrading my MacBook to the new OS X Lion, which is supposed to be the next cutting-edge system that coordinates things seamlessly between a computer and all other devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.). Since I only have the computer, I’m not really too concerned regarding those “other” devices. However, if and when I do jump into the world that everyone else lives in, I should have things pretty much in place. It seems kind of embarrassing to admit that neither my wife, nor I, send text messages. We, for whatever reason, have never felt the true need to have that feature included in our phone service. Call us “old fashioned” or whatever, but we’ve been happily living without texting and Smart Phones all along, and it’s kind of unique, I think, to be one of that last few folks on earth to survive without texting!
Anyway, I decided rather late last night to download the OS X Lion via the Apple App Store. No problem, since everything else on my late-2007 MacBook was capable of the upgrade. With a few clicks, the process began. Of course, there was no visible Progress Bar to show me if things were started and underway (actually there was one, but I couldn’t find it for quite some time), so I began to experience those same kinds of fears from my early days of trying to configure and install programs on a computer. Yipes! And they said this would be painless.
After several minutes of searching the page for any indication of a Progress Bar or Tab of some sort, I randomly clicked on a Tab labeled “Purchases.” Voila! The missing Progress Bar, indeed! But after close examination, I wasn’t too sure things were going as they were supposed to after all. The “Time Remaining” indicator showed between 6 and 7 hours! I immediately plunged into Apple Support, hurriedly searching for forums, discussions, or anything that would help clarify if what I was doing was actually what I was supposed to be doing. I was able to find some answers, but nothing really specific.
And the night was now getting close to the “Witching Hour,” and all I had done was start a download that apparently was going to stretch into the wee hours. So, I thoughtfully went into the System Preferences and turned off my screen saver so the computer wouldn’t “sleep” over night, and the download could complete itself while I slept. It was well after midnight when I turned off the desk light and left my MacBook alone, hoping that when I awoke the next morning, Lion would be waiting for me to finish the installation. Sweet dreams!
Upon awaking at 6:30 a.m., I popped right up and came into the room and found the MacBook asleep and a message saying that the download could not be completed. Of course, knowing that I’d been charged for the upgrade, I had that certain feeling of futility when things seem way out of our hands. All I could do was get back to the App Store’s page and see what the status was. I found that it was basically just “paused,” so I clicked a “Resume” button, and the process began once more. Only 3 hours and some minutes still to go! And so the waiting game resumed as well, but at least I had the whole day to get it right.
Finally, just before noon, I had successfully installed OS X Lion, and was quite eager to test it out and see if the main things I use a computer for were functioning as they should (mail, Word, Safari, iTunes). I had to download the latest versions of Safari and iTunes,but all else was still there and working! Now, I’m anxious to learn more about this “cloud” business, a concept that is way over my head (pun unintended, but I’ll leave it here as it’s pretty good, I think!) and not having a Smart Phone or iPad or any other mobile device, I don’t really need to worry too much about it.
At least the journey, for now, is over. It was a much-longer one than expected, but the result is what really counts. Looking back, I should have followed the lesson I learned years ago when I was teaching computers to middle school kids: Don’t start something when you’re tired, frustrated, or not sure about things. At least don’t begin a heavy download late into the evening. That is pure insanity!