Sunday, October 23, 2011

Plodder, Planner, Plunger – Which are You?

What kind of writer are you? Faced with a writing project, how you advance, is determined by your character traits. I’m a planner. On longer writings, I make an outline but for shorter pieces, I only need to have an idea of my main focus and important points that show that focus. That’s when I’m comfortable.  I know some writers say planning takes away the creativity. They plunge right in without knowing where they are going.

Patterns of behavior signify our unique personalities. It is especially valuable for writers to understand how personality patterns direct their decision-making. A writer’s character is behind every word written and that is a thought that occasionally stops some writers in their tracks. Writers placated by certain personality traits are comfortable only within narrow perimeters and are less often willing to move into new writing arenas. 

The Paradox

Successful writers deal with becoming so popular in one genre that they find it difficult to change what has been the status quo of their writing. They feel it is too large a risk of losing some of their readers if they try something new. Without being willing to stretch and grow in new directions and developing new paradigms, a writer becomes bored, boring and stale.

Learning More about our Personality Traits

Building a writing career that is fulfilling to the writer as well as the reader takes introspection on the part of the writer. It behooves a writer to practice self-analysis to ascertain the best way to marry your personality traits with your writing career. Are you spontaneous or do you like routine. If you are the former, you will need to find ways to feed your muse but if you are the latter, you will want to affix a time of time to write every day. Are you extroverted or introverted? Knowing might determine whether you would be comfortable in a writing group. Understanding how your traits affect your writing allows you the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and do something you are not comfortable doing.

                                                                       Jung's Theory

As a writer/teacher, I have studied Jung’s theories regarding our psyches operating on two levels – the conscious and the unconscious. We may be conscious of some of our personality traits but it takes serious analysis to uncover what might be going on at the unconscious level. Just think that might be exactly where the best writing happens.

There are those that say personality traits cannot change. We are who we are and that’s that.  I wholehearted disagree with that notion. I feel sorry for the many individuals who live out their lives in denial of the fact that working on changing parts of their personality that are holding them back would give them a richer, fuller life. This is, of course, quite true for writers.  Planning, plodding or plunging are all fine ways to operate a writing career if the writer is happy with the results.
Which are you

Monday, October 17, 2011

Have We Come Too Far

As I surface from my research and writing about the seventeenth century, I listen to what is going on in today’s society. I think that the brave people who came to these shores and settled this country one town at a time would not be happy with the lack of leadership, the erosion of respect for each other, and the just plain greedy corruption of our government.

To begin I have to acknowledge that there was greed in the 1600s and the leaders chosen were from the wealthiest – sound familiar. There also was no equality for women. However, our foremothers were more comfortable in their skins than we women are today.

The correlations of struggle

Since my book, “Tracing the Invisible Women” is about the first women that walked our land, I am trying to find correlations between their lives of struggle and today’s challenges for women. We have all manner of machines to do our work for us. Washing machines do the laundry instead of a full day of having to boil the water outside and scrub the clothes by hand. We go to the shops and buy our clothes instead of carding, spooling, warping, spinning, knitting, weaving, sewing and the many other tasks it took to cloth a family.

There are, however, two ways I think the colonial women had it better than us.

A mission – a passion – a purpose

The pioneering women who helped settle this country lived with a purpose. We may not agree today that having as many children as possible to populate a new country for their faith was a reasonable mission but where would we be if they had not had this spiritual fervor. That, of course, is not all that they did. They helped build communities of people who took care of each other.

As I research the lives of these women, I recognize that they have descendants in every corner of our country today. That is quite a legacy.

Expectation – the drive to have

 Our foremothers were building a legacy for their faith and their only expectation was that God would smile on their efforts and they would multiply.

Conversely, our society today driven to possess, to own, is bankrupting itself. The expectations are so high that we SHOULD HAVE everything we want we have unfortunately reduced the pleasure in what we do have.

Do we have the answers?

The question is how can we stop ourselves from the rampant consumerism and be satisfied with less material goods and put our energies instead toward being involved in building communities.
Can we do it? Do you have any suggestions on how? I would love to hear them. Comment here, tweet me or find me on Facebook. Let’s start the discussion.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Jigsaw Puzzle of Seventeenth Century Women

I know people who love jigsaw puzzles so much they will sit there and work on one for hours. I never had the patience for that. I do jigsaw puzzles on my iPad.

The Puzzles within the Puzzle

Soon after I started the research for my book on seventeenth century women, I realized my project is one big jigsaw with myriad puzzles within. All the research has to be done following men connected to the women on whom I am seeking information.

In some cases, my research turns up a marriage. This is one piece of the puzzle (for one woman). Then I have to ferret out when and where she was born, married, had children, how many children, when were they born and, of course, when everyone involved died.

Making the Invisible Visible

The two prided accomplishments of women in this century were to marry and have numerous children. This was the woman’s value to the Puritan community. The more children reared in the Puritan faith that populated the land, the stronger the strength of the Puritan faith in the colony. Yet, they were and did so much more.

I look at each fact I gather as a way to complete the puzzle within the puzzle and give each woman a visible life.

Even Unreliable Source Give Something

I have found numerous resources but the question becomes one of how much weight to give some of them. Almost no primary sources are available on the seventeenth century. Consequently, it means turning to secondary sources that might not be accurate.

I have found it takes a great deal of discernment to separate the wheat from the shaft. Sometimes the inaccuracies jump right out from the page. An example is when a mother’s death is listed six months before her last baby was born. Another is when the mother would have been in her 60s if she gave birth as listed. I’ve learned to do a lot of math.

Sometimes even an unreliable source will provide one clue that opens my eyes to a possibility I had not considered.

Enter Stepmother

One such instance was one online source had the children of a woman mixed up but suddenly made some aspects of her clearer by the listing of a stepmother that heretofore had not shown up. Another surprising item about stepmother is that they did not refer to their stepmothers as such but as mother-in-law. Talk about confusing!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Researcher’s Delight

Only someone who does a lot of research will understand the glee one feels when she finds a place that is crammed with useful resources. I found that place at the Meriden History Room at the Meriden Public Library. I originally went because a book I was seeking came up as available at but only as a reference book. With that in mind, I decided to go there. You have to give them your driver’s license or other form of ID before they take you to the room. It was worth it! This was the Fort Knox of historical records.  As my eyes rove over all the titles, my heartbeat quickened. I was astounded at how much more than just the book I was seeking was there available to me. It was like locking a child in a candy store.

I won’t list all the great resources that are available there because that would not be of interest to readers other than researchers.  I will say I’d love to be locked in that room for a weekend.

Seventeenth Century Recordkeeping

Not always thought important, the compiling of history had to happen after the fact. After all, in the seventeenth century, the colonists were busy making history. It was in the nineteenth century, historians starting pulling together vital records from different sources such as church records. Many of these compilations came about because people wanted to know more about their specific ancestors.  These books of vital records are now our resources because many of the original sources are now lost.

I wonder if a few centuries from now researchers will be able to access vital statistical records easily. There are now, of course, more official record keeping of births, deaths and marriages than there were in past centuries. In the seventeenth century, these records, when recorded, are hand-written notes that are difficult to decipher.

Even though the law said marriages must be announced by banns, the actual wedding was often a private event in the home of the bride with no official record being made. The banns, never meant to be the historical record, cannot be found either.

Thank you

Women’s history is even more difficult because often when there was a record kept the woman’s complete name wasn’t mentioned.  That’s why a room full of these vital records excites me. I want to thank Janis Leach Franco, the local history/reference Librarian for the Meriden Public Library. It takes a special regard for history to know what resources are the most valuable to researchers. Janis has put together a room from which all researchers benefit