A Busy Beaver’s Unorganised Wood Piles

Diane Lynn Tibert
The clutter can wait. My kids' favourite cookies can't.

It’s time. I’ve put it off long enough. My butt has to get in gear, my fingers have to start walking and my procrastination has to be slain. Regardless of how busy my life is, I must seize my disorganised mess and lynch it before it takes me down.

Being unorganised is about to drive me batty. I’m one more lost manuscript away from throwing myself on the floor and wailing like a three-year-old whose sibling ate the last mud cookie.

Yesterday while looking for a password – a very important password – I was left going through one stack of papers then another. After searching my day-planner – knowing I must have recorded it somewhere – and several other ideal locations, I flopped down in the chair defeated. The password was gone, never to be remembered because my brain is filled with the many things that I must do before I die. Of course, that might not be for fifty years, but I can’t live like I have all the time in the world.

Certainly, I don’t want to spend fifty years looking for things that should be at my fingertips.

It would be easier if I had a room, a wee one even, to hoard all my writing-related things, but I don’t. One is planned, but I don’t see it materialising before I lose something very important that hurls me over the edge of insanity. Instead, my material – computer, printer, paper, books, pens, manuscripts, dictionaries, documents and files – are spread throughout four rooms and three closets.

Time is at a premium between writing, working, house chores, my children, homework, horseback riding, art class and swimming. I attempt to place papers in the proper pile, but usually, the piles all come together. When it gets tall enough, I move it off my printer and onto a shelf. Then a new pile starts to grow on the printer. I have no idea how many piles I have; they eventually land in a tote where I promise to sort them but never do.
It wasn’t always this way. I used to be quite organised, perhaps a little over the top like Julia Robert’s husband in Sleeping with the Enemy. Everything was labelled and had its place. But my kids have worn me down, taken up valuable space that would have otherwise gone to neatly arranged shelves and cabinets and used up time I’d have spent putting everything just right.

Since I plan on keeping the kids – they’re too cute to give away – I must learn to organise around them. If I throw out everything no longer needed – such as those toys they haven’t played with for five years J — I might be able to create space for a tall bookshelf. Maybe I could empty out a closet and find that manuscript of the western novel I’d written fifteen years ago but haven’t been able to locate for five years.

I admit I’m a clutterbug. I have good intentions of sorting and organising but something always comes up – sketching kittens with my kids . . . taking in a movie with my sisters . . . building snowwomen . . . camping . . . fishing . . . beachcombing . . .

Has disorganisation slowed your progress? How do you keep all the writing-related papers – queries, rejection/acceptance letters, guidelines, manuscripts, notes, research – in order?

Pen Names are Good. Or are they Bad?

Several years ago while having my eyes tested, the optometrist asked me if I ever hesitated to make decisions. A little confused, I asked why. “You’re the quickest patient I ever had for giving answers,” he said. Each time he changed the lens for me to see which was clearer than the other, my answer was immediate.

I still give quick answers unless there is an important reason to ponder. However, I’ve learnt over the years that sometimes pondering can taint an answer. Gut reaction is sometimes better.

Diana Lynn Tibert
I love my name.

When it came to deciding if I wanted to use a pen name for my youth novel, I thought long and hard about the consequences. After all, I had become attached to the name I had grown up with. I had even researched and found it had arrived in Canada in 1751. Although the spelling had changed over the centuries, it was the name given to me at birth.

The surname doesn’t accurately reflect who I am, just who my father’s father’s father was. He was German and could trace all his ancestors back to Germany. However, I am an equal mixture of four cultures: German, Scottish, English and Irish.

Still, the name on my official records stood above the other three surnames of my ancestors.

With the deadline for my novel approaching, I flipped back and forth from, No, don’t use a pen name to, Yes, use a pen name.

The argument for not using a pen name was obvious. My real name was my name. It had already been published, so readers may recognise it. It could easily be found all over the web. I could claim that book as mine without explanation.

The argument for using a pen name was also obvious. I could create a name easily pronounced, easily spelt and easily remembered. After all, adults couldn’t pronounce it properly so how could I expect a ten-year-old to do so? Secretaries copying information from one source to another couldn’t even get the spelling right to keep my medical records straight.

Diane Lynn Tibert
Juggling more than one name may be a wee bit confusing.

I thought about creating a pen name for a month, considering the pros and cons. Then one morning, before opening my eyes, a name materialized in my head. I admit I was half asleep when I thought of it. I asked myself, “What name would not only appeal to kids, but be easily remembered by them?”

Candy McMudd popped in my head. I got up and immediately wrote it down. There, I had decided in that one second that I should use a pen name and what that pen name would be. All day, I played with the idea. Maybe it wasn’t the best. Maybe I should rethink this idea. Then I’d remind myself that gut reactions were better than long pondering discussions with one self.

And Candy McMudd was born. She would be the author of all my children’s books and similar material.

Now and again, I wonder if my decision was the right one. I feel a little uncertain about saying, “I’m Candy McMudd.” when promoting my book. I feel I must explain that it is just a name, one that is easy to remember, spell and pronounce.

On the other hand, books sold over the Internet don’t need me to say that. It doesn’t really matter what name is attached to a title as long as readers recognise it.

Throughout my nonfiction career, I’ve used my given name. Now that I feel I’m on the verge of my fiction career, I must decide what I’ll use. Should I simply use my given name or use both my given name for nonfiction and Candy McMudd for everything else? Or should I chose a third and use it for my adult fiction?

Diane Lynn Tibert
How many names should one person have?

I feel like I’m going through an identity crisis.

It will probably be years before I know for sure if my decisions were good or a not so good. Until then, I’ll just keep on writing with whatever name tag I’m wearing.

Do you use a pen name? If so, how do you feel about it?

Brain Freeze on a Frosty Morning

Diane Lynn Tibert
Frosty mornings reveal a crow’s true colours.

Something caught my attention this morning while filling the bird feeder at the kitchen window; a crow with a grey collar. No, the crow wasn’t carrying a collar; it was wearing it. Let me clarify this further. It wasn’t a collar that could be removed. It was a collar of grey feathers.

 

The crow swooped by the window so quick, a glimpse was all I managed. I cocked my head, stared out at the frosty branch tips of the trees and reviewed my memory files, trying to remember if I had seen such a thing before. No, I hadn’t.

I stretched my neck to see if the strange crow had landed where I throw food for these feathered friends. It hadn’t. No surprise, I hadn’t yet tossed the green bread or left-over pancake outside.

Then, from across the field, the crow with the distinguished grey collar flew in and landed on the large evergreen beside the driveway. I stared at it. I was in awe. I had never seen a crow like that before. The two-inch wide grey feathers flowed neatly into the black feathers and completely encircled its neck.

Another crow flew in and perched on a branch just above Mr. Grey Collar. I leaned toward the window and squinted in the early morning light. That crow had grey feathers, too, except his were covering the entire back of his head. Another crow flew in. You guessed it; he, too, wore grey feathers.

All these grey-feathered crows began the cogs turning in my head. Regardless of what my eyes told my brain, it wouldn’t believe them. My brain wanted more information. So I stared and I watched and I observed, looking this way and that. Then I saw it; the rays of the morning sun sparkled on the grey feathers. Squinting more, I realised the feathers weren’t grey at all. They were frost covered. Given the -20 degree temperature, this was plausible.

After more watching, I realised my latest observations proved my hypothesis correct. Mr. Grey Collar was really Mr. Frosty Neck. I finished filling the bird feeder, hung it and the suet in the trees, then threw out the bread and pancake for the frosty crows.

Receiving a critique from someone is a lot like these frosty crows – sometimes it takes thought and observation to see the truth.

Two friends and I exchange short writing passages weekly. Sometimes when I receive a critique, I express my disapproval by throwing my arms in the air, doing laps around the kitchen and blurting out things. If I really disagree, I close the message and go on to something else, trying to forget about it.

After time has passed, I return to the message, reading it with a more opened mind. Sometimes I’ll agree with the suggestions. Other times I see why the suggestions won’t work. And then there’s that stubborn streak that won’t let me accept a change because I really – for some reason – want it the way I wrote it.

But just like that grey-collared crow, my brain won’t accept my answer. Something keeps needling me every time I read over the passage I refused to change for no good reason. In the end, I usually give in to the original suggestion.

After almost three years of exchanging critiques, I think I’ve finally got this stubborn thing under control . . . almost