Writer’s Journey with Vicky Adin

Today I have historical author and genealogist, Vicky Adin sharing her creative journey as a writer. Thank you for sharing your love of history and writing Vicky.

What, where, why?

Two separate incidents started me thinking this week. The first was a post by Nora Roberts on “Here’s how I work”.after she became embroiled in an appalling plagiarism mess involving 85 books and 36 authors. That alone is bad enough, but the fallout generated questions surrounding her methods, output and honesty. Nora took to the web to explain herself. I find it sad she feels she has to justify herself at all, but I was extremely interested in her methodology.

Now, in no way do I wish to compare myself with Nora Roberts, but I was pleased to read she, too, spends time ‘staring into space’ and ‘looking stuff up’. I wonder if that is a common trait among authors? I write historical fiction and I ‘stare’ and ‘look things up’ all the time, and while she didn’t use the word pantser, she starts at the beginning and keeps going until she reaches the end, which is also what I do.

In contrast, I tend to re-read what I wrote yesterday, fiddle with it a little bit if something jumps out that says ‘fix me’ and then I carry on. I let the story unfold in my head as I write or sometimes the characters have to have their say about the directions I’m taking. When I’m writing (and I don’t produce more than one book in a year) then I write every day solidly. While the book is away being edited, I work on the marketing and promotion. No-one, it seems, can sell books without a profile and it takes work to keep up that profile and books before the readers’ eyes. Once the editing stage is complete and the book released, then it’s back to writing again. There’s always a new story to delve into.

Which leads me to the other aspect of my writing I often get asked about. Where do I get my ideas? For me, that is easy. I’m a genealogist. I love digging into the past, searching through records, and reading old newspapers online. From that, an enormous number of ideas pop up. Tiny snippets of information will lead to a whole story line. A job – lacemaker, sugar boiler, costume maker, journalist, soldier – can often become the starting point. Other times, it’s the location: Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, but I always end up in New Zealand. On one occasion I found an article about the discovery of a long, lost painting by a Cornish artist hidden behind another painting. The research into the art world of the time was fascinating, and when I discovered links to New Zealand, the story fell into place.

My wonderful husband recognises when I’m in the zone and doesn’t disturb me other than to bring me coffee or wine (depending on the time of day) until I’m back in his world again. Often when we are driving anywhere, silence descends as my mind drifts off into whatever world or era I’m writing about at that time. I do an enormous amount of research to ensure the facts are correct and then wrap the stories of everyday life around the events of the time.

I love history, I love people and I love writing. I love my job. It’s a perfect combination.

Vicky

A fan of historical novels since her teenage years, Vicky Adin writes New Zealand based stories about the tribulations and successes of the people creating history as it happened. As a genealogist, she uncovers some amazing stories of fortitude and endurance and of love and hope. She combines her love of research and writing to weave together family sagas in a way that brings the past to life. Her books vary in format from dual-timeline. She waits for the characters to tell her how the story will unfold. Married to her greatest supporter and best friend for nearly five decades, Vicky has two children and four grandchildren. She holds a MA(Hons) in English and Education and enjoys travelling – especially caravanning and cruising; the opposite of experiences. Her writing has been compared to Catherine Cookson’s stories. Check out her website, books on Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo, facebook, and Instagram.

 

 

 

Missing Goals

I missed my writing goal the other day. I wanted to write 5k, but I didn’t make it. Right at this point it was easy to get down that I missed my goal. I didn’t hit my target. I’m now behind. There’s a big but coming here.

But…

How does the situation look if I focus on what I did do? That day I managed to write 4k. And that is a pretty good effort for me at the moment, because the other thing to remember is to take in to account other factors which influence how much I write. Life needs to be lived, and it’s natural for it to get in the way of writing. Sometimes it’s best not to fight this, and to go with the flow, and work with what you’ve got. Writing this many words in one day was a fantastic effort. And this is most definitely a silver lining. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if a goal is missed, as that can create a negative mindset. By focussing on what I did manage to write, I know that the story has progressed, and I’m closer to finishing.

There is a bigger picture, to always keep in mind too. They day before I wrote 6k, when my goal was 5k. So, I can sort of pinch the 1k from the previous day and use it today, and remind myself that I’m on track.

It’s helpful to be mindful like this to ensure that I don’t get down when writing, thinking I can do more. Or getting hung up on the 1k I didn’t write today. Especially when I went 1k over yesterday – and even if I hadn’t. When that happens, it’s too easy to translate into a writing block, and then no words are written. Being mindful means that I’m thinking positive. I avoid creating a block for myself, and I keep on writing. Plus, no matter the word count, the story is being written, and that is what ultimately counts.

Then the next day, I wanted to write 5k, but I only wrote 2k. Life did get in the way that day. On paper, I’m behind in my writing goal, but really, overall, in three days I’ve written 11k, and I’m cruising towards the half-way point – those 2k helped to push that bit closer. And I could only write those 2k because I had a positive mindset.

It’s easy to get down about missing a goal, but what’s achieved during the process can be a silver lining.

Lilliana

Fox it is!

A while back I asked on my Cultivating Creativity FB page for people to say what I should paint next. A giraffe, a tiger or a fox. It was simply a fun exercise for me and a way for me to extend myself by painting out of my comfort zone. The fox was my least favourite choice to paint, it’s just not an animal I connect with. But I thought perhaps I could give it a go. I thought painting the giraffe could be fun, and the tiger something a little challenging.

Everyone who commented suggested the fox. So, I painted the fox. Twice.

The first attempt I wasn’t at all happy with. I’d grabbed the wrong colour, though crazy colours do work with this technique, I just don’t feel it came together in this instance. I couldn’t get the nose right. It was a warm day and the paint was drying quickly making it tricky to do adjustments. At the end of the session, I just felt that I could do ‘better’ but not that day. about to start

The image I used for inspiration was in colour. I remembered that it should be in black and white in order to see clearly the low, mid and high tones. I copied my print of the fox into black and white. Got together my three favourite colours I like to paint with and I attempted to paint the fox again.

first attempt

I also decided not to try and rush, and gave myself permission to take as long as I needed. This time, it took my half the time to paint the fox. Giving myself as much time as I needed took the pressure off, and helped. Having the image in black and white also made a big difference to see the different tones better. And I’d painted the fox before, so I had some experience to draw on.

This is the first time I’ve gone back and painted the same subject again because I wanted to ‘improve’ the outcome, and my skill set. Because of these benefits I’m even tempted to try to paint the fox for a third time. For now, I’ve got lots of other subjects to paint, so a third re-visit isn’t in the near future, but might happen one time. What I can do, is apply what I’ve learnt here not just to other animal paintings in this style (I’m sure I’ll do the giraffe and tiger at some stage). second attempt

second attempt finished

The painting of the fox serviced a bigger purpose, of also making me more aware of my process, so it has been a good exercise to do. And despite good intentions, creative projects don’t always work out well the first time, and that it all part of the process.

Now, onto the next project! (which is to re-paint a rose!)

foxes painted

Act of Kindness

An act of kindness to a stranger is a lost art. Recently, it’s something I spontaneously decided to do. By giving a jar of pickled onions to someone. Odd right. So how did this come around?

I don’t like pickled onions. At all. Seriously, I don’t know why anyone would. My dad would loved them, and so we would make them for him. He thought that they were pretty good because they were also made for him by his daughters. Pickled onions aren’t hard to make. I had an ex who loved them and so I made him some, because I wanted to see if I could, and why not make him something he’d enjoy right. Recently, when I was getting some work done in my bathrooms, the tiler mentioned he liked them, and the ones he was eating (straight out for the jar for his lunch that day) cost what he thought was a lot.

I don’t know why, but I thought you know what, I could make up some for him. It won’t cost much, and it won’t take long. And I was in a cooking mode, by doing some pickling it would mix things up. Plus, I would get to brush up my skills. It also gave me a chance to check in with my sisters about what recipe to use (Golden Wattle cook book wins again!).

When tears were running down my cheeks from peeling a kilo of pickling onions I did have a moment of why am I doing this? But when popping those little suckers into the jar, and jiggling them around to squeeze them in tight, there were a lot of reasons why, all of them good. And it was all reinforced when I gave the jar to the tiler, recipe written on the jar so he can make them in the future which he reckoned he would. He was very happy with the prospect of eating a kilo of pickled onions – in a month’s time! That’s why. There were no strings attached. I wasn’t hoping for anything, it was completely random. While my eyes stung with onion fumes, it was fun to see if I could still pickle onions, and to do it on a budget. If you’re going to pickle onions, especially for someone else, it becomes worth it as while I don’t like to eat them, the person receiving does, and it gives them a nice surprise. There’s something about pickled onions I never knew about! Those who like them love to get them as homemade gifts!

What act of kindness have you done when you might not have liked the gift but knew the person you were giving it to would?

New Recipes

I’m taking a break from writing so I can re-fill my creative well. With a little more time available I’ve turned to cooking. Cooking is a day to day chore, but does it have to be? How can I make this more interesting for me? Well I enjoy cooking for bubs so that helps. And I want to look after myself, so another helpful perspective to remember. I also like trying new recipes, bingo!

As I’m deciding on what recipe to try next, then how to change the recipe to suit my diet, and then the actual process of cooking, I realise this is another form of creativity, and it’s also helping to nurture me (and bubs) but also it nurtures my creativity too. So there’s lots of wins going on here.corn chowder

beef and vegetables
Beef and Veg for Bubs

By trying a new recipe I’m exploring the unknown, like I do when writing but I’m using different creative muscles. This means my writing muscles can have a break, and I work out a new set of muscles. And I’m still being creative, which is something I love to do.

While I’m expressing my creativity differently I feed my soul in a new way. This will then influence my writing when I get back to it, how I don’t know, but at least I’m setting myself up the best way I can. The only downside, is that I love baking cakes, which is not good for my waistline!

A simple but effective way to help with creative flow, at least for me. All from simply cooking, a day to day necessity.

Share below how cooking influences your creativity.

New Writing Spot

It might seem a usual place one might write – on your bed. But this is one place I don’t write. Maybe I might jot down a few notes at 3am when my mind thinks it has come up with some wonderful idea, which I usually consider lame at 7am. That doesn’t count as writing.

I’ve never written while on my bed. I never studied on my bed. Now, out of necessity I have. Bubs was sleeping and there was a lot of noise downstairs with the council work ripping up the path for some reason. I needed to be near bubs, so I could hear him when he woke. So, I set up to write on my bed, lap top on my lap, with a cup of tea (not the usual coffee), and got writing. The dog was on the floor near me (bed is out of bounds for him), and I’m comfortable and inspired, despite the jack-hammering noise outside.

cup of tea and writing.jpgInstead of allowing the noise, and the disruption to bother me, I adapted to my environment, and got on with the writing project I needed to do. Bubs slept. I wrote. The dog was happy. I even enjoyed drinking my cup of tea during the session.

Then when bubs woke, I had a little writing to finish, so he played on my bed while I wrote. Then my computer was packed up, and we played for a while.

This sounds easy, but I don’t really like writing on my bed. By allowing myself to adapt to the situation at hand, I got to write, bubs slept, and then we got time together.

I’ve often have had Charles Darwin’s quote in mind:

“It’s not the most intellectual of the species that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

While I might be still at home, my environment is constantly changing with bubs. It’s not always easy to adapt in the moment. I now know what this can be for me in a simple form. Which means I can do this again more easily in the future. And instead of coffee, I enjoyed a cup of tea, and reduced my caffeine intake. Lots of little wins all around!

Have you had a simple moment when you’ve adapted in order to create? Please share below in the comments.

A Project Finished~almost!

Doing up this old kitchen cabinet has been a creative project of persistence.

start-of-sanding.jpg

It’s taken three years to get to the point where the cabinet doors are now attached to the old-style kitchen cabinet which I had sanded and painted.

This has been a creative project of persistence. I bought the cabinet over four years ago, ended up moving, then I decided to get started. I bought an electric sander. Paint. Brushes. Wall paper. Sourced hinges, latches, and handles. It took over four weeks to sand it back, and remove the old paint over my summer break. Then painted it, not in enamel paint deliberately. This paint will flake off over time and that’s the look I want.

starting-to-paint.jpg

 

I planned. I took my time. I sourced hinges, and handles. I did this during summer, so some days it was just too hot to work in my garage. My dogs were by my side, laying on the floor (looking rather bored!) while I worked. It was a long-term project. But it wasn’t meant to have gone on for this long.

Kimba helping.jpg

For one reason or another, the step of attaching the doors and handles was being more of a hurdle than I had expected. I had a few false starts, where I tried to organise people to help. Life got in the way. It looked like I wasn’t doing anything about it, but I wanted to, and had tried, but there were other things were needed my attention, and were a priority. I was almost thinking that I might never get this step done. And this would be one of the many craft projects that I haven’t quiet finished.

painting-done.jpg

Finally, I cornered someone to help who delivered. I’m super excited that the doors are attached, and the handles are too. This kitchen cabinet is one step closer to being refurbished in my own unique design. This is the first time I’ve done a project so big – and the last. It’s been fun, but my attention needs to go elsewhere. There’s a limit to how many different crafts I can have on the go!

doors attached and handles

 

First, this projects still needs to be technically finished. The last step is to attach some chicken wire to the side – it’s cut out, and has been for the last three years, I just have to work out how best to attach it! Now, I can focus on this more easily now that the doors are on and so are the handles! Once the wire is secured then it will be finally finished. At least I can still use it in the meantime. And now when I walk past, I feel that little bit more content that it’s closer to being finished. And it’s been worth it.

 

Share a time below when you have taken a long time to finish a project ~ or almost finished a project, and while it might not look like it, you are planning on it, it’s just taking longer than expected.

Freestyle

When painting to date I’ve had an image to use as a guide. This time, when painting a seascape, while I did have an image to work with, the muse led me and I went freestyle. I think this is what I like to do the most when creating, ‘fly by the seat of my pants,’ or ‘go with the flow’. It’s risky, as maybe the painting produced won’t be any good. Or maybe it will. Reward comes with a little risk.

This is the first time I’ve managed to do that with my painting.

Because I can’t track this process visually with my writing, I find it fascinating to look at the image I was working on and compare it to the final painting.

I don’t think I could’ve planed this if I tried.

And I have no idea where the inspiration came from. Perhaps my muse was guiding me. Or my intuition. Or because I was relaxed and having fun, I just went with the creative flow, and suspended all of my expectations of having a finished piece of a certain standard. Maybe all of the above.

Anyway, below the image that I worked from. And a photo of the final painting. Very different.

This is the magic of creating.

Cp1Kn+r0TXCLQSfpltnzWw      NVjRY9YWRom00OJYtfCPVg

Signature

I’ve taken the step and have signed my painting. Seascape is the first painting I’ve signed! (I’m disregarding the paintings done at school)

It’s long overdue, I have finally signed my most recent painting. It is a big deal. For one, I never felt a painting was feeling finished enough to sign. And two, how was I going to sign my name?

Isn’t it interesting what I was hung up on? What did it matter how I signed my name? As long as I signed it. I thought about writing my initials, or my full name, or a shortened version of my name. Then I realised it didn’t matter.

What mattered was that I took the step to sign my artwork. Because in doing so, I was saying to the world, but more importantly to myself, that I am happy, proud, and content with what I’ve created. And I am just that with this seascape. My signature might change with time, but of course that won’t matter. It’s all part of my development as an artist.

Driven to finally take the step of signing my name on my painting I realised I didn’t know what brush to use. Or what colour. These details do sort of matter. I asked my teacher. The colour didn’t have to be black, but a colour used in the painting. So I used a blue tone. I borrowed the teachers brush. I didn’t have a brush that was thin enough. Then I jumped in. I didn’t practise. I simply signed my name. And I think that it’s the best part of this painting.

I look forward to signing many more paintings.

 

Tinkering

I’ve painted enough to know to try and be mindful of overworking the image. It can be difficult to know when to stop, and consider if the painting is finished or needs to be left for a while. This also applies to tinkering.

When tinkering too much the painting can be changed in way that wasn’t wanted. A bit different to overworking. Tinkering is the adding another bird in the sky, or flower in the field, or apple on the tree, when the painting may well have not needed these extra additions.

The same can happen when writing, and editing. The life of the story can be altered in a way that was unintended. Not a big deal if the result is liked, but it’s a problem if the new direction ends up in a dead-end, or the wrong way. Then it’s a lot more work to get the manuscript back on track.

But when to stop? This is when it’s helpful to check in with yourself and ask question like; is what I’m doing improving the work?

I didn’t do so much tinkering when doing my last painting of a seascape, but it was something the teacher kept mentioning during the class. Stop tinkering! And I got what he was saying. Maybe that’s why I didn’t tinker so much. It’s another tool I can have ready to use when I’m painting. I can even extend this to editing a manuscript. There becomes a point when words are being changed but not necessarily adding to the story. At this point I need to stop tinkering. Leave the project, and either come back later, or consider that it may be as good as it’s going to be and release it into the world.

Stop tinkering! Is now something I’ll have in mind to help guide me through the painting of my next canvas and other creative projects.

Lilliana