Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, June 29, 2007

The "to-do" list is not set in stone

I've gotten into the habit of putting together a "to do" list every week, for my writing. This came about because I have SO MUCH going on with my writing and having a weekly list of tasks to perform helps me to prioritize my week, in a way, to make sure EVERYTHING gets done and nothing important gets overlooked.

At first, my "to do" lists were pretty long...so long, it scared me. LOL I was going at doing 3 tasks a day, for 7 days! Eek! Then it got to where my workload tapered down. To where I only had one thing to do each day. At first, following THAT kind of list was strange. (I'm a BIG multitasker at heart. LOL) But as I went through my week, I saw the benefits of only doing ONE THING a day for the week.

For example, some of my tasks involved writing an article. I'd write it in the morning then go about my day, taking care of everything else. Still, what I'd written earlier lingered with me. I kept thinking it over. Thinking about things I should add, things I should take out, things that needed revising or restructuring. Then, later, when I had the chance, I'd go back and make the necessary changes. Then, still later, I'd give it a fresh read. Then I'd let it sit overnight and, if I was STILL okay with it tomorrow, I'd find something to do with it. Find a market for it, or something. So, just having one task a day was ideal. Especially since SOME of those tasks took HOURS or days to complete! (Ugh!)

After a while of this, though, something else came up. Sometimes I wasn't able to do a day's allotted task, BUT I could do a different task I had planned later in the week. So, I would switch them. I felt strange switching around the tasks, worrying that the day's task might end up being put off or forgotten, but it worked out pretty well. Everything still got done.

That is, until THIS week came about. This week, I had the task of putting together a chapter I've been doing reesearch on for a looong time. I felt that, finally, at long last, I could write this chapter and move on. I had enough information. I'd interviewed enough people. I checked out enough sites -- or so I THOUGHT!

On the day I was supposed to write this chapter, I did some last-minute research. I read a couple of newspaper articles online about my chapter's subject -- and felt my heart sink. These articles were pretty much a summary of my chapter's topic. My chapter is more exhaustive on this subject, going into detail. That last part is the reason WHY I was disheartened after I read these articles. They covered an aspect of my topic I failed to do ANY research on or gather data for! DARN!

It's not just disappointment which struck me, but panic, as well. I started to worry. I started to freak. I started asking myself, "WHAT ELSE is there that I have overlooked or forgotten??"

To say the least, I knew I couldn't write this chapter yet. But, still! I couldn't calm myself with the burning questions over whether there's other stuff I have neglected to cover with this topic. When I say the chapter is an "exhaustive" one, I am not kidding. It's supposed to be a "101" type of chapter on EVERYTHING about this topic. An "everything you ever wanted to know about it" type of chapter. And, obviously, I didn't have enough information to write it yet! ACK!

I later talked to someone about it. His suggestion: "Stop freaking out and do more research." So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to keep digging and keep digging, until I've literally read EVERYTHING in print on this subject! And there IS a book about this topic, too (the ONLY ONE, in fact!) so I'll read that book and maybe it will give me ideas on any other things my chapter should cover.

Still, work on that book was not completely put off. I STILL have an unfinished chapter I need to work on, so that's the chapter that's getting focused on this week, and the other one will be for another week.

I hope.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Please leave a message after the beep

So I put together a writing "to do" list for this week on Monday and I've been keeping up on it so far. I feel guilty I'm only doing ONE task each day this week (instead of 2 or 3, like before!) but that's actually a GOOD THING because my tasks this week involve putting together, rewriting and revising material (books, articles and chapters). I work on them early in the day and spend the rest of the day mulling over the work. That's been a good thing so far because I get more thorough research done.

Yesterday is a perfect example: I did research on my book and I'm glad I had the extra time for that because I learned that a ritual NOT in the story SHOULD be in the story. (It's a Native American story.) I also went back to it later to make some changes. AND I finally figured out who to dedicate this story to! LOL I picked this person because something I once gave to him ended up being in the story -- with good reason! How cool is that?? :) So, that's cool. But NOW I'm thinking...maybe I should break this story into mini-chapters? I COULD see how the chapters would come about. It's kind of long (just a bit over 5,000 words), so I think if it was broken into mini-chapters, it would be better. Well, I'll bang THAT idea around and hopefully figure it out!

Meanwhile, I'm falling behind on answering non-writing-related email and making the phone calls I gotta make. And not really chatting online so much. Oh, yeah. My laundry is definitely piling up again. LOL But after I get out of this "revision zone" I am in this week, everything will once again be normal. And tidy!

So please forgive me if I take too long to reply to messages and emails....as well as comments on this blog. But THANK YOU for your patience and wonderful comments! You guys rock!

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Overcoming Adversity: Being a Burn Survivor

I was tagged by Karen over at a Deaf Mom Shares Her World ( http://putzworld.blogspot.com/ ). This is part of Stephen Hopson's, over at Adversity Universitys, project on the Secrets of Overcoming Adversity ( http://adversityuniversity.blogspot.com/2007/06/secrets-of-dealing-with-adversity.html ).

I was only 20 months old when something happened that would change my life forever: I was burned. My mother was walking home one day, after walking my sister to the bus stop, and she carried me in her arms as she walked along the busy street of Southern Pasadena (California). According to the story that had been told to me many times, only after I was old enough to understand it, this woman was recklessly driving a van in the wrong direction on the street. My mother and I were in this woman's path. My sister was screaming to my mom to watch out but my mother couldn't hear her. The van hit my mom and pinned her to a brick wall. On impactr, I was thrown from my mother's arms and I landed, unconscious, underneath the burning van. If it were not for the firefighters who rescued me from under that burning van. I would've died in the following explosion.

And, yet, I had not escaped from the fire unscathed. The flames from the vehicle burned me. I ended up with third-degree burns on my entire left arm, on the left side of my face, some of the left side of my head, on my back and left side. My left hand was too badly damaged from the accident and my fingers had to be amputated. All that was left of my "stump" of a hand was a tiny piece of thumb. My left ear was also damaged from the fire; only a tiny part of it remained on my head.

The accident left me in a coma for several months. My mother also suffered injury; her left leg, from the knee down, was amputated.
I was only a baby when the accident happened, so I can't remember much. All I later remembered, when I was in my 20s, was flying through the air after the van hit my mom. That's it. My parents refused to allow me to see the newspaper story and they wouldn't allow me to watch the news about it, either. (They had taped it.) It was a very traumatic experience for all of us. Both my mother and I were in and out of the hospital a lot. When I was about 11 or 12, I had a "toe-to-thumb" transplant done on my left hand, to allow me to have a "toe-thumb" finger. Later, two more toes were taken from my other foot and I now had 3 fingers on my left hand. (Here is a picture of my hand as it is today:
http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/37406164/?qo=59&q=by%3Agreenwolf103&qh=sort%3Atime+-in%3Ascraps ) I also had cartilage taken from my right rib to create an "ear" for my left ear. It doesn't look like a "normal" ear but it's an ear enough for me! Until I was 17 years old, I had numerous reconstructive surgical procedures done, taking place in California and New York, by skilled and renowned doctors such as Dr. A. Richard Grossman, Dr. Harry J. Buncke and Dr. Elliott Rose, but never would I look like a "normal" person. This is the one thing which burned deeply within my heart: I wanted to look normal. I wanted to look like everybody else. I didn't want to have burn scars anymore; I wanted SKIN! Real skin!

And growing up with burn scars, getting picked on and bullied by kids in schools that I attended and getting looks of fright or disgust from others I crossed paths with, only added to this desire. As I got older, you could probably imagine how hard it was for me to have dates with boys. I was turned down and rejected many times. I was always "just a friend" and nothing more. My parents often consoled this pain I had to deal with, assuring me that someone VERY special, with a good heart who didn't care about looks, was out there waiting for me to meet someday. (Only years later, in my 30s, did I come to understand and appreciate this wiosdom.) But being a teenager, I didn't really believe this. I had no dates at the school dances. I felt left out while my girlfriends hung around their boyfriends. And of course I blamed my burn scars for this rejection. I didn't want to look like this anymore. I wanted to look normal.

But I eventually learned that...well, we can't really "define" normal now, can we? I mean, what IS normal? Really?

What does it really mean to look like everybody else? What's wrong with looking like...well, like ME?

This is the one thing I often take pride in nowadays. That I look so unique. As much as my appearance's imperfections make me feel so disheartened, no matter how it saddens and angers me that people and children can react so negatively to how I look, I still take pride in the fact that I DON'T look like everybody else. I look like me. This is me. This is Dawn Colclasure, burns and all. This is who I am and how I present myself to the world. This is my "normal." And I will not hide from my scars in shame. This is part of the reason why I refuse to wear make-up. I am not ashamed of my face. I am not ashamed of how I look. And I will not hide behind make-up or some mask, either.

I have ultimately learned, though, that life is not about how we look. It's about who we are. It's about the kind of life we live in this world. It's about what we do for ourselves and for others. It's about giving, about sharing, about helping, about leading. It's not about beauty...it's about love. Loving ourselves for who we are, not for how we look. Loving others for who they are, not how they look.

And most important of all....loving our life.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Writers who blog

I didn't jump into the blogosphere right away. I'm one of those people who prefers to stay OUT of trends until they've been around for a while. While this can be both good and bad (good because the people who jumped on them end up telling us ALL about what went wrong or what WAS wrong, bad because I end up coming across someone revealing something like a major character in a popular movie died when I hadn't even seen the movie yet!! GRR!!), I didn't come into blogging too early or too late. I learned certain kinks involved with blogging and, just like with MySpace, how to use it the "right" way to maximize my writing status and output.

Now I finally wrote about how blogging plays a role in my writing life. I may have more than one blog, sure, but it's my "writing blog" that gets featured here. But I knew I couldn't just include how blogging has affected only ME as a writer. If anything, blogging can have some ups and downs for EVERY writer. To illustrate this point, I included quotes from two other writers I know who blog: Jim Vines (
http://theworkingscreenwriter.com/) and Karen Putz (http://putzworld.blogspot.com/). It was actually Karen who helped me come up with the idea for this article, so it couldn't be complete without quotes from her! Thanks, Karen! :)

The article is in the latest issue of my E-zine, the Burning the Midnight Oil Book Zine. Check it out here:

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Questioning the Muse

Recently, while I was doing the housework, a scene idea struck. I didn't start writing it right away; I let it stew in my head first. As I went about finishing what I was doing and moving on to other tasks, more of the scene came to life.

But I was also asking myself one question: Why on earth did this particular scene develop? Maybe it had to do with my watching parts of Lethal Weapon that morning as I moved about the house. Or maybe my muse just wanted to hit me up with something totally unexpected. (I don't exactly write cop stories, though being a writer of suspense, I HAVE written scenes involving detectives and police officers.)

I decided not to dwell too much on that. So what if it was a cop story scene? No big D. I could just write it, anyway. Might prove to be a challenge, so why not go for it?? (I love the opportunity to test my writing skills.)

Thing of it was, I still couldn't work on it just yet. I had to wait for later.

And when I wrote it later, I'm sure glad I decided to do it, anyway, because it proved to be an interesting experience. I had to make mental notes to check on if certain parts of the scene were accurate AND since I only had two pages to write the scene (a self-imposed limitation), I had to write tight, cut the fluff and put my scene together in my mind before I got too close to the end of my two pages.

Not only did that happen, though, but something else came about. After I finished the scene, I realized it wasn't so much a "cop story," even though it WAS written from the POV of a newbie deputy. It could be more than that. How? I kept asking myself questions about this scene. Why was the deputy freaking out over the arrest? Why was the prostitute he arrested acting so haughty about her connection to the sergeant? And what kind of a "vacation" WAS it the sergeant had just returned from? This led to other questions. What kind of person is this deputy, anyway? What's his background? His history? What kind of relationship does the sergeant have with his daughter? What exactly is it that alienated them? How is he going to react when he finds out about his daughter? What will that lead to?

Out of all that questioning, I realized that writing the scene I thought would be a waste of time wasn't a waste of time after all. It was a good creative exercise, sure, but it was ultimately the springboard for something bigger. Another novel, perhaps? Or maybe a short story? Who knows. One thing's for sure: It wasn't just one scene anymore. It was now something that could be a part of a future story.

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