So here it is:
Â· a person who chooses freely to do or offer to do something
Â· a person who chooses freely to enter into any transaction with no promise of compensation
Â· a person who serves as volunteer, usually without compensation
Â· a person who freely chooses to offer or give without being asked or obliged
I am by nature a very curious person. When I was growing up, my mother (who was handicapped and never wanted to be noticed) always made me sit quietly and watch. Watching is definitely not my idea of having fun. As a result, I became a first-class observer and an excellent listener. It took a few years to take that first step, but I finally got my butt off the bench and have been running ever since. Today I am a dyed-in-the-wool VOLUNTEER and darn proud of it.
Itâ€™s so much better to be involved than sit on the sidelines. To me, it’s like looking at sparkling Christmas lights through a window and wanting to touch. Today, and with no regrets, I think about the adventures Iâ€™ve had, the places Iâ€™ve been, the interesting people I never would have met and the wonderful friendships Iâ€™ve made. Iâ€™ve learned and developed new skills from artfully arranging goodies on a tray to getting up and speaking to a room full of people. Volunteering doesnâ€™t have to be vocal; what you do can be done â€œbehind the scenesâ€ as well. But most important is the feeling of satisfaction knowing that your efforts may have contributed to something or someone in a positive way.
Maybe you say you donâ€™t have the time or worse, youâ€™re all volunteered-out. I took a little hiatus from volunteering just once. It didnâ€™t take long for me to realize that a part of my life was missingâ€”that connection with people and what was happening out there in the world. I couldnâ€™t wait to get back in the game and I did.
I have to be honest. More than once I should have said â€œnoâ€ instead of â€œyesâ€ and then felt burdened with a little too much to do. So do your homework. Be realistic about how much time you are willing to devote so you wonâ€™t â€œburn out.â€ What are you interested in? What will give you the greatest satisfaction? What would make your life a little more interesting? Find that event or group youâ€™d like to be a part ofâ€”they may need you as much as you need them.
Now, get out there and volunteer for something!!!
So, in a determined effort to “get a grip” on my time, todayâ€™s post will be brief. I removed my favorite kitty-face magnet (the first layer) and six or seven scraps of paper floated down, landing in a random pattern on my already cluttered desktop. The first message, boldly printed on a scrap of neon-orange scratch paper, reads: Print signs for OCC meeting. Hereâ€™s another, quickly scrawled on a snippet of pattern tissue: Finish hem on sundress. Number three: Work on event page for June.
Oh, hereâ€™s a good one, actually written with a gold gel pen on a glossy scrap of magazine paper: Work on writerâ€™s block! Okay, I have to be honest. This is not the typical â€œwriterâ€™s blockâ€ you may be familiar with. This is an on-going craft project using a 4â€ x 4â€ cube of unfinished wood.
I think Iâ€™ll tackle this one first. But first, I have to get all these notes off my deskâ€¦..I need room.
(Maybe Iâ€™ll post a picture next month.)
As I concentrated on dusting the many books and putting a gleam on the rows of shelves, I picked up a small decorative picture frame. Sandwiched between a backing board and a dull piece of glass is one of my favorite little snippets of writing. Iâ€™d like to share it (the writing, not the dust) with you. This was written by Winston S.Churchill and is titled Thoughts and Adventures from â€œHobbies,â€ a collection of essays published in 1932.
â€œWhat shall I do with all my books?â€ was the question; and the answer, â€œRead them,â€ sobered the questioner. But if you cannot read them, at any rate handle them and, as it were, fondle them. Peer into them. Let them fall open where they will. Read on from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of uncharted seas. Set them back on their shelves with your own hands. Arrange them on your own plan, so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.
I think Iâ€™ll pay my writing books a little visitâ€¦..itâ€™s been a while and I need to fondle them.
So, Iâ€™m just writing along the other day and came to a screeching halt when I had to spell the word “commitment.” I stopped and stared at the line I was typing and the blinking cursor waiting for me to continue the entry. Next I stared at my fingers hoping that they would just magically move on their own and finally, I stared at the ceiling expecting those elusive letters to be glowing like a neon sign, but nothing happened. One “t” or two “tt’s.” Nothing. I simply couldnâ€™t remember.
For crying out loud, how could I forget how to spell? I was once a spelling champ. I know that commitment is hanging out somewhere in my brain along with judgment. They are both sitting back and laughing at me and just too lazy to get up anymore.
This happens more and more often than I care to admit. I get annoyed (and rather distressed) at all the little things that seem to be difficult to doâ€”mentally and physically. Actions and thoughts that used to be so easy and second-nature are now becoming past history. Oh well, itâ€™s not like Iâ€™m the only gracefully-aging person on the planet that this is happening too. I happen to know Iâ€™m in very good company. I plan to grin-and-bear it and move along.
And then there is the definition of commitment (which is what I was thinking about in the first place):
1. the act of committing.
2. the state of being committed.
3. the act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself.
4. a pledge or promise; obligation
5. engagement; involvement
â€¦and 6 more definitions.
1605â€“15 (Oh, Lord.)
I intended to write this blog about commitment and how important it is for success in any of lifeâ€™s endeavors. I have made a commitment to write this year and finish my book. I know I can and will do this.Iâ€™m just having a little problem with words that donâ€™t want to come out and play anymore.
Last month (along with 50+ other writers) I attended OCCâ€™s first special event of 2009–the very successful Diane Pershing â€œPlottingâ€ Workshop. Right up to that sunny Saturday morning, I wasnâ€™t sure if listening to Diane would help my plot problems. Actually, I only had one problem. I didnâ€™t have a plot.
But I wentâ€”optimistic and eager and ready to absorb everything Diane planned to share with us. I was attentive and listened to every word. Not only was Diane helpful but she made sense. So much sense that I came away with a much clearer understanding of traditional and innovative plot methods used by writers of all genres. I was brimming over with new ideas for my own story and eager to get them on the page. I was charged up. I was raring to go. I was m-o-t-i-v-a-t-e-d!!
The next day or so after the workshop, while my new story ideas percolated around in my head, I re-organized my office, my writing space and my working files. I reorganized my schedule so I would have regular, uninterrupted time. I re-organized my notes and then my old, stale plot. This flurry of pre-writing activity worked because I wrote every day for a week. I got to my chair on time. I ignored the email. I steadied myself and said â€œno thanksâ€ the lure of the Internet siren. I was so good.
Then, as usual, things started to happen. My perfect new writing schedule was sabotaged by unexpected â€œemergencies.â€ I ran out of cat food. I had to work late. I had to go into work early. Everyone else wanted a chunk of my time. And when I was finished distributing pieces of myself and my precious time to everyone else and everyone elseâ€™s needs, there was nothing left of me for me. I lost my motivation. Donâ€™t know where it went, it just vanished. Iâ€™ve been looking for it for two weeks now.
As of today there are 22 posts on A Slice of Orange with â€œmotivationâ€ as the theme. Iâ€™m going to read them, one by one, and pray that even one piece of advice will work for me.
Iâ€™ll let you know what I learn because I really had fun writingâ€¦..for a while.
To-Do Lists, Plans, Plots (and Maps)
If you called me on New Year’s Day I would tell you that I’m sitting at my desk stacking various bits of paper into little groups. I have a cup of coffee, soft music is playing and I have gently pushed my fuzz-ball of a cat off these mini stacks of paper for the third (but not last) time. I am seriously engaged in my annual projectâ€”sorting through all the “to do” notes I made the previous year.
Some to-doâ€™s I can happily check off as done, some are now little wads of paper piling up in my trash can, and some (that apparently were not that important) will be moved to my nice, new 2009 calendar for a second chance. However, there are a fewâ€”showing their age–that have moved from year to year to year. Although these particular â€œto doâ€™sâ€ have a prominent place on my bulletin board, for some reason known only to my subconscious, they were not given the priority they deserved.
These three faithful notes are definitely moving to 2009. Can you spell o-p-t-i-m-i-s-t?
I seem to be a writer who can come up with a great idea, blast through the first, second and even third chapters without hesitation but then, wham! I always hit the proverbial brick wall. And, it seems to take a ridiculously long time for those little dings and bumps impressed in my forehead to smooth out. The momentum is lost and time passes by.
Why? Itâ€™s obvious that I didn’t have a plan (or a plot for that matter). I didn’t know where my story was going because I didnâ€™t have an outline, plot, plan, map or whatever label you fancy. For a note taker and list-writer like I am, this situation could have been avoided. Why don’t I take the time to write down some simple directions? I work for an architect. I know the value of those detailed drawings and sketchesâ€”the step-by-step illustrated information absolutely necessary to get a structure built. I also love maps. I find myself in awe of intricate old/antique maps, especially the ones drawn in pen-and-ink on sepia-colored paper where the map maker/artist has detailed every single line–every twist and turn. Winding roads, streets and lanes, hills and dales are precisely “plotted” so the traveler knows exactly where to go to arrive at their destination.
So I compared this map idea to plotting. Many writers suggest creating a plot outline. It doesnâ€™t have to be a big deal. Why not keep it simple (beginning-middle-end), print it out and post it near your computer screen? Or, if you absolutely must, you can go crazy and get a big white board and cover it with brightly colored sticky notes–a different color for characters, settings, viewpoint, scenes, dark moments, bright moments and even plot lines. (Believe me, I read this once in a how-to-write article.) If I could remember where I read the following quote, Iâ€™d give proper credit: “A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there.”
Soâ€¦..create your â€œmapâ€ and start following the directions. It wonâ€™t cost a dime to revisit your old notes and files. We are all at the beginning of a whole new year with 362 unused days in it. Claim some of those days for yourself and start, re-start, edit, revise, finish, or submit your novel! (Think RWA Pro status or better yet, First Sale!) Notes from Valâ€™s Desk will keep you posted on my 2009 writing commitment (among other things). In the meantime, what are your plans to map out directions for 2009? Is a plot in your plans?
Hereâ€™s another little slice of orangeâ€¦..on Saturday, January 17, 2009, OCC (Orange County Chapter-RWA) is sponsoring its first special event of 2009..â€¦a “One-Day Plotting Workshop” presented by our very own OCC member, multi-published author and current RWA National President Diane Pershing. Diane promises to get you there to those final climactic scenes. She will encourage you to think, she will help you to create, and she will make you laugh!
Those of us who have had an opportunity to hear what Diane has to say about the craft of writing will agree: Donâ€™t miss this excellent opportunity to get your plot moving along (or move along and get a plot). You will see me there with my notebook and pad of sticky notes. Enroll today before itâ€™s too late.