Friday, September 4, 2020

Writing = Life

Writing equals life. 

No, really, it does. If you are a writer, you will know this... or, at least, you'll know it as soon as you read through this explanation. You'll think to yourself (because who else would you think it to), Writing is totally like life, just as she says.

Here's how they are alike:

1. Life gets overwhelming, especially when you see the piles of stuff you have to do. If you start working on the tasks though, allowing yourself the occasional bathroom break or trip to the grocery store, life is a whole lot less overwhelming. 

Writing is the same. Write a little bit--even a page--and suddenly a whole novel, play, or essay becomes that much more doable. The key is to get started and just do it.

2. People will criticize the way you live all the time, telling you all the things you should be doing in your life, along with all the things you should NOT be doing. And some of their advice will be really good, some not so good, and some downright awful. How can you tell the difference? The easiest way is to weigh each piece of advice against who you are, what you believe in, and what you want to be. Reject the advice that has no appeal, but humbly accept the stuff that helps you live better.

Writing is the same. In fact, let me just take this previous paragraph, replacing living with writing, and you'll see: 

People will criticize the way you write all the time, telling you all the things you should be doing in your writing, along with all the things you should NOT be doing. And some of their advice will be really good, some not so good, and some downright awful. How can you tell the difference? The easiest way is to weigh each piece of advice against who you are, what you believe in, and what you want to be. Reject the advice that has no appeal, but humbly accept the stuff that helps you write better.

3. Life is a journey, not a destination. It's not about where you end up, but how you get there, and the process itself should not be torturous. If you hate ever second of running, you wouldn't run, so spend your time being joyful and finding adventures that elate and inspire you, not that make you miserable. It's why we don't work 120 hours a week. Forty is plenty. We need the other hours to do what we love.

Writing is the same. Yes, there may be parts that are harder or less enjoyable--like marketing your book (if you're an introvert) or revising (if it seems tedious)--but treat those ickier parts like the "work" parts, and always mix in some of the fun stuff, the writing exercises or activities you really enjoy. If you hate everything about writing, then you should go find another activity. Go surfboarding, or kite flying, or paint. Life's too short to be utterly miserable.

4. Life isn't perfect. It's practice, and every day you can get just a little better if you work at it. Got depression? You have ways to lessen its effects. Got an arm in a cast? It's in a cast now, but it will heal? Did your last significant other dump you? He/she was probably a big jerk anyway, and you can use this time to heal, figure out your role in the failed relationship, and do better when a better person comes along. It's all about practicing, and while practicing will never make perfect, it will make you stronger, smarter, and happier.

Writing is SO the same. No perfect writing exists, nor does the perfect writer. Practice, though, can go a long way. Every hour spent writing, even if its spent on a manuscript that will never been seen by anyone, is not a waste. Each step builds your skill, teaches you something, and brings you that much closer to changing the world, one reader at a time. 

5. Your life can inspire others. Even people with short lives--brave kids with cancer, young people in car accidents who donated their organs--inspire us with their bravery and sacrifice. A person's life affects other lives deeply, and yours can too. Live your life as an example, live your truth bravely, and others will be changed from knowing you.

Do I have to say writing is the same? Writing is an intimate form of communication with another individual, and your writing can change things. It can change your own attitude, it can change the minds of readers. It can change the world. 

So get out there and live. Write. Speak. Listen. Share. Do great things. 

Change the world.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Drawing Manga--Starting from Scratch

Oh, dear, sweet Jesus, it's been too long since I blogged!

Somehow I don't think readers think it's okay to hear from a blogger once a year, so I know I've been lame, lame, lame.

No excuse. I freely admit I've been utterly lame.

Unfortunately, in my ambition to see another version of my books in print, I've discovered another way I am totally lame: drawing.

Now, I used to be an artist. I really did. I especially loved watercolors, pastels, and pen and ink. But I am woefully out of practice (rather the same way I'm out of practice with the piano for at least the last two years). I want to create a manga version of one of my novels, though, so I'm trying to get back to it.

But I'm awful.

No, truly. I've read studies about the learning continuum, which contend that at the beginning of learning a skill, people have an unrealistic idea of how good they are... but as they learn more, they become far more aware of how much they don't know, how much they cannot do, and their perception of their skills lowers astronomically.

That's kind of where I am in many of my activities. Oh, I'm very good at some things:

1. Teaching
2. Sewing
3. Zumba

I'm somewhat good (developing) at some things, mainly because I practice them, though I am all too aware of my limitations with each one:

1. Writing
3. Parenting

I'm wretched at other things (because of not practicing them), and thoroughly discouraged about whether I'll ever be good at these:

1. Drawing
2. Playing Piano
3. Singing
4. Marketing myself

I'm woefully and hopelessly incapable of learning some things:

1. Gracefulness
2. Lack of bias in politics
3. Charisma
4. Confidence

The first section includes three activities I practice constantly (though sewing is far easier than teaching). They have immediate rewards, too. Teaching and Zumba have daily rewards, mainly stemming from students and their positive response to classes. Sewing gives rewards in the form of finished products, like costumes, clothing to wear, quilts, pillows, and other lovely things. These immediate payoffs mean I have more motivation to keep working on them.

With the second list--including the writing and parenting--I work at these constantly, in so many ways, but I'm only good enough to have figured out just how much I still lack in skill. Not being really good at them makes me sad, especially since both are so important to me (parenting especially). Still, because both are so important to me that I continue to work on them, despite how often they give me nothing in return.

The fourth list I've just resigned myself to not being good at (and living with my limitations in a peaceful way despite how clearly I see my own shortcomings). As I tell myself, though, I can't be perfect, and these are the daily reminders to me of how little I am.

The THIRD list is the most crucial one, though, and the hardest one to face. These three activities are all meaningful to me, but I am all too aware of how terrible I am at each one. Will they ever become something I am good at? Or will I work and work on them only to realize that they belong in list #4? At this point, I don't know.

What I do know is it's time to face them--and to start the practice that might someday make them perfect. Starting with the drawing.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes. I might even post some scanned copies of some of my drawing attempts (even the lame ones) so that you can see how awful I am.

What about you? What would you put on each list?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Publication... at Last!

Good things come to those who wait. 

Of course, they don't always come. And bad things come to those who wait, too.

Good things come (eventually) to those who work at it. Yup, that saying functions better for me, and it gives me hope that no effort towards my goals is ever wasted. Now, as I'm working on my fourth novel in the YA fantasy series about a boy who can see inside, well, almost everything, the first book in the series has been picked up for publication.

Honestly, I hadn't tried to send the book out until this year, mainly because every time I read through it, I found a hundred more changes to make. Some writers urged me to self-publish, and I might have done so had I felt it was ready. I finally started sending it out this January, when I could read through it and just enjoy it, without restructuring, rewriting, and shredding.

I've made changes since then -- including changing the main character's name to Joshua (since the Maze Runner series had Thomas center-stage) -- and I've read through four sets of galleys, each one taking me a step closer to the final version. The editing is all over now, though. The book is final.

The thought of that is both daunting and exciting, but I'll explain all that in a future post.

Here's the cover:

Cover art courtesy of Black Rose Publishing
The book comes out August 9, but it's already available for pre-order (10% off) through the publisher at their website:


If you'd like a signed copy, you can pre-order those, too. Just post me your e-mail, write me at shakespeare824 at, or find me on Facebook (Cheryl Carvajal), and we'll make that happen.

More details to come... including a few excerpts... to stay tuned.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Not Writing... RUNNING!

In my long-standing quest to avoid wasting my time writing, I've been working steadily on my house, painting rooms, ripping down wallpaper, sanding, buffing, replacing door knobs, etc.

But that wasn't enough for me. I also started back up running. And this morning I ran a 10K. In less than an hour and a half. Okay, so that's not fast. But I'm still doing everything I can to NOT WRITE.

How about you? What are you doing to keep from working on that novel in your second desk drawer? Have you taken up scrapbooking (always a time suck)? Decided to start a family? Decided to re-start a family? Moved three times in a year? Started up a charity dog kennel? Removed the paint from your fence? 

Unfortunately for me, my evil half also signed up for NaNoWriMo, so I'm stuck during the month of November. Damn you, evil half! Now I have to work on my sixth novel. Ugh.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Practicing Walking

My parents always told me a story about what I did as a baby. While other babies they knew were pulling themselves up on the furniture, taking a few practice steps in front of them, showing off day by day as they improved their skills and learned to walk, I didn't.

They wondered whether I was going to walk. EVER. How could I ever move from crawling to walking if I never tried, they wondered. 

What my mother finally realized one night, though, after she'd put me in my crib for the night, is that I WAS walking. I had probably been practicing for weeks. But, for reasons she could not fathom, my little baby self had waited until she was alone for the night. My mother only discovered this because she heard the springs in the crib creaking after she had put me to bed. She swung the door open, catching me in the act of walking around the crib, practicing.

Thanks to for the use of this picture!
The next day, found out, I simply walked in public. No tentative steps. No falls. Just walking. 

I cannot possibly explain why a baby would be self-conscious enough to practice walking before she did so in front of a crowd, and in many ways today I am far less self-conscious than I used to be. 

Except when it comes to writing.

I have several friends who are writers--poets, playwrights, novelists, essayists--and nearly all of them have, at one point or another, urged me to work towards publication. I tell them that I am doing exactly that, only my writing isn't ready for publication yet. 

"That doesn't matter," one poet told me. "It's good enough." 

Good enough. When imagining what I want readers to say about my work, "good enough" is not exactly what I am hoping for. I could self-publish, but I am pretty certain that the weaknesses in my writing would remain in the published work, a glaring reminder that my writing has not fully developed yet. 

Just this week I was reminded of the pitfalls of self-publishing. I bought two books by two different local authors. One, a YA book, was an okay read... but only an okay read. The plot was complete, loose ends tied up at the end, but it was too predictable, too neat, and not well written. I have no problem with simplicity in language, but I detest simplicity in thought, and it suffers from that. 

The other book, also at least partially self-published (I read the publisher's website), is, frankly, brilliant. It's by Paul J. Bennett, and it's called a Fall of Sparrows. Superb book so far, better than many Civil War era books I've read. It's meaningful without being preachy, descriptive without being overbearing... and I could go on gushing. What's sad, frankly, is that it's not a traditionally published book, distributed nationally. It would speak to many readers across the country, not just local readers here in southern Georgia. 

These two books give me a good idea of where I am in this process. My writing has come much farther than the writing in the first book. My characters are more complex, the plot lines and writing far better. However, my writing isn't as good as Bennett's. It just isn't. 

And that means, as much as I hate it, I need to keep practicing. The world is going to just have to wait longer (and I am just going to have to remain patient with myself) until my walking/writing is good enough for public consumption. Other writers might be able to blow readers' socks off, but, even in my mid-forties, I have a slower learning curve. I will just have to keep on keeping on, and hope that I eventually develop into the writer I wish to be. Back to the crib now, for a little practice. Maybe someday you'll see me walk/write for real.
This is me, only I'll be writing. Thanks,!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Too Long

It's been too long since I've seen some friends--Cherilyn, Susan, Paul, and a host of others…

And it's been too long since I've painted anything I'm proud of… I've finally painted something, but it is sort of lopsided. Okay, it sucks. And it's been forever since I've really painted consistently.

It's been too long since I've played piano. Once a week is not enough by far, and once a month is pathetic. So my piano adherence lately has been pathetic…

But it hasn't been too long since I've worked on my novel. Worked on it yesterday, as a matter of fact, and I'll be working on it all afternoon while I sit with my hubby, who will be getting his weekly chemo. I've made time for writing for well over a month now, and I won't stop.

In fact, I hope to find even more time to devote to writing.

So, if you see only a few posts from me, it's because I'm working on my novel, or my play, or my poetry.

Or maybe because I've finally sat at the piano again. *sigh*

Saturday, October 11, 2014

On Chemotherapy and Being Alone

Richard begins chemotherapy Monday.

And he's tense. And that means I'm tense. But as much as I can sympathize with him, and even though I'm driving him to it, sitting with him, and driving him home, he's really alone.

I'm not getting chemotherapy. Just him. Honestly, I feel as if I shouldn't even be writing this, like it's not my story to tell, for I'm not the one living through cancer. I'm just holding his hand, encouraging, and driving around a person who is living through it.

No matter how much we share, and no matter how much I want to help, Richard is alone. Utterly. I saw the horrible room where he'll sit each Monday and be administered his Gemzar through a port under the skin of his right chest area. I saw patients sitting there the day we toured, sitting and waiting, hooked up to machines filling them with their own particular brand of poison.

Now that I think of it, the room is pretty big, though… and those other people are going through what he's doing. Some of them have probably gone through it more than once.

So when we're sitting in that room Monday afternoon, I hope Richard will find others to talk to besides me… people who can help him feel less alone. People who can touch him through their words. People who bring their hope with them to chemotherapy, who bring their smiles, who bring their fears, who share these, so that Richard can hear, can bring his own thoughts, and can even encourage others.

Maybe then he won't be so alone.