Are You A Wanter Or A Doer?

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London

Truer words were never spoken.

Here we are – almost at a new year. I bet you’re making resolutions aren’t you? Or perhaps you’re just thinking of all those resolutions you made last year that you didn’t fulfill. You’re feeling like a bit fat failure. Next year you’ll be different. Next year things will happen that surround you with just the right circumstances.

I find that the root of the issue, especially for many would-be writers, is that they’re waiting, hoping to be inspired.

I hate to break it to you, but waiting and hoping (with anything, but especially with writing) is stupid. That’s right: stupid.

You’re lazy.

You’re fearful.

You’re whining.

Stop it.

Allow me to share a story. My college major was journalism. It pains me to think of my eighteen-year-old self, now. How sweet she was. How innocent. How creative. The world was her oyster. And her skin had the thickness of a grape.

She dreamt of changing the world with her writing. She’d write for causes and the world would stand up and rally behind her because she was brilliant and insightful.

Did I mention that I was going into this major have no journalism experience under my belt but plenty of creative writing experience?

I learned a very important lesson in those four years: a creative writer is not a journalist. My sentences were too long. My language was too flowery. My descriptions weren’t based in fact. Why the hell was I using so many adjectives? I didn’t write fast enough. I was too nice as an editor. I couldn’t write the hard, cold truth even when it was staring me in the face because it put someone else in a bad light and that made me feel terrible about myself. This isn’t a review, it’s a summary. Are you crying? Why are you crying? Stop crying!

THERE’S NO CRYING IN JOURNALISM!

Oh, but I cried. I’d bring those marked up news stories home and cry over my collection of various failures until the red ink pooled like puddles of blood. Perhaps it wouldn’t have hurt so much if this feedback didn’t come from every single journalism professor I ever had. I was destined to suck.

But I’ll be damned if I didn’t grow a thick skin. That’s the first thing you need if you’re going to be a writer: a leathery hide. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. I didn’t appreciate it then, but I laugh about it now.

I also honed one hell of a talent. Not everyone can write – though a lot of people think that they can. It’s a talent, friends. And like any talent, it takes practice. You must WANT it.

Writing is not a profession for the weak. It’s not a job for people unwilling to work and grow and learn hard lessons. It’s not the place for an idealist who longs for inspiration as she thoughtfully stares out the window chewing on the end of her pencil.

If you want to write professionally, you’re throwing yourself into a deep, dark mosh pit of kajillions of people with the exact same dream. You can’t sit around on your keester, praying for inspiration. You have to get to work. Sometimes that means working when there is nothing to work with. In fact, you have to work ten times harder, longer, and faster than anyone else in that mosh pit of would-be writers. Can you do it?

Don’t wait for inspiration to burst through your brain like lightening on a cool, spring day.

The people that want something – really want something – they go after it. The people that like the idea of something? They wait around, hoping to be inspired.

Hell, you may as well be waiting for Prince Charming. Save yourselves, my friends. He’s not coming while you catch those extra Z’s.

So tell me…do you go after something or do you simply want it?

Advertisements

Writing Raw

Are you all apologized out this week?

Excellent.

I’d like to discuss a new writing topic: sharing difficult stories.

I once said that writing what you know is terrible advice. I stand by that blog 115%.

However, for those writers that feel the need to write what they know, deciding to do so is often the first step in a long, painful process.

Recently, I was approached about how to write on some very personal subject matter. Without it, the triumphs of the story weren’t as meaningful.

That didn’t mean it was easy to write. However, the decision had been made that, no matter what, this deep rooted pain was going to be the story. How to make it sound real without making it sound whiny, victimized, or a slew of other negatives?

Here’s the truth: it’s easy to let our emotions take center stage when we write personal things. To be whiny, to be a victim. Hell, it’s from YOUR point of view. Recall in the apology blog when I told you to keep it short and sweet because the more you think about it, the more pissed off you’ll get?

I’m going to give you just the opposite advice this time.

Let it all out, my friend.

I truly believe that to write the tough stuff, you simply have to sit down and write it all exactly how YOU feel it happened. Let every hurt, every scar, and every insult just pour out of you. Cry about it. Scream about it. See red. Play the victim. Feel pain. Take no prisoners. Throw everyone under the bus. This is YOURS.

Are you a mess, now?

Good.

Walk away.

Leave it for a day.

Return.

Deep breath.

Edit.

It’s time to take that puppy from raw to personal, deep and meaningful. You’ll find that you’re much clearer about a written situation when you can come back to it. It’s almost like a time machine or a second chance.

Give it a try.

 

 

 

 

 

Experimenting

Want to know when I get the worst writer’s block?

At the end of the day.

After my brain has been used and abused for one hundred other things – walking, driving, uploading, downloading, organizing, talking on the phone, remembering how many ounces are in a typical glass of wine. The usual.

Perhaps you can relate.

See, I never thought of myself as a morning person. In actuality, I was never much of a night owl either. I was more of an 11-7 type. So while there are articles written about how much smarter night owls are or how much more satisfied with life early birds are (why so many bird references when talking about times of day?) I never really related to those articles. I was neither.

Until I decided to experiment.

After all, as writers we’re required to experiment. Even someone simply handwriting a letter or a document experiments with the size of their letters, the angle of their cursive, and similar.

I experimented with what time of day I wrote for myself. This was writing anything from a journal entry to a manuscript.

I started with the evening because that was by and far the easiest. My work for the day was done. I could turn off my phone and not have to worry that I was missing something urgent from a writing client.

That was short lived.

I prefer a dental filling to having to pound out 1,000 words late at night.

I know this factually because I just had one done. A day after I’d tried to write 1,000 words at 8 P.M.

Next, I decided to try the lunch hour. After all, I get a lunch, right? That’s not asking too much from the world.

Turns out, it was. I could never get to my zen place. I was so worried about my phone call with Suzy and my appointment with Jack and my meeting with Mary and those paragraphs I had due to Lindsey.

Finally, I opted to try the morning. Just typing it, I hear the loud groan of displeasure echoing through my skull. My arm even twitched a little like my brain unconsciously asked it to slam down on the alarm clock, ensuring an additional five minutes of rest.

Guess what? 5 A.M. is the lucky charm. I give myself until about 5:30 to eat breakfast (cereal) and make coffee (usually I set a delay the night before so I don’t have to remember how to grind beans). Then I sit down and the words just flow without prompt. I could write for hours. In reality, I write for about one and a half before I start about morning chores like walking dogs and showering for work.

Experiencing writer’s block? Try switching up what time of day you write. It’s a little thing that makes a big difference.

PS: Who knew I was an early bird?

 

 

Indie Author? Ugh. Awful Writers, Aren’t They?

For some readers, that is.

Self-published novels, you say? They’re poorly written, badly edited and usually have zero in terms of a traceable plot line. No doubt, indie authors are ruining it for everyone, especially for those writers toiling away at more traditional publishing routes.

Heard of the magical, mystical world of self-publishing? Then you’ve probably encountered one or more of these snarky opinions (and much worse). Miraculously (I know that this will shock many of you) “self-published work” isn’t always synonymous with “terrible.” In fact dear challenger of that previous statement, I could share a disturbingly long list of traditionally published work that’s a total waste of shelf space. We all have our opinions.

The reason an indie author chooses to self-publish is entirely personal. Considering the route? Don’t let the stigma of self-publishing dissuade you from doing so. Not sure why so many people think this route is the way to go? Below are a few of the more popular reasons an author chooses to publish their own work. Read on and you may encounter a whole new perspective on the matter.

Building Relationships

We all have stories inside of us. Sometimes, our only goal is to write that one thing and send it off into the world, hoping it connects us with others who may share a similar story. There are no underlying ambitions – no wish for fame or fortune. A self-published work is simply a means to say what you need to say (you’re welcome). Many indie authors that choose this route have no desire to go through a traditional publishing house only to be told that their story isn’t worth the investment. They’re not in it for the money.

Accepting the Challenge

There is a rule in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers which states that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Whether you’ve managed to struggle through those 10,000 hours of writing or not, creating a book is just plain challenging. Good work doesn’t cease at writing a draft. There’s rewriting, editing, getting feedback from readers, and even more rewrites and tweaking. Some writers may go so far as to have a cover created for their work. Heck, you’d be hard-pressed to keep someone from publishing by any means necessary after all of that! Granted, self-publishing comes with its own set of challenges – and all of this helps to make authors better. Challenge accepted.

A Tryout

If you’re an indie author (or considering the path) and you haven’t heard about some of the more wild success stories, you’ve been living under a rock. Amanda Hocking, E.L. James and James Redfield started out with nothing more than a self-published novel – and now they’re laughing all the way to the bank. Need more evidence? Check out this list of self-published success stories by the Huffington Post. While not everyone approaches this line of reasoning when self-publishing, some indie authors see it as a dream, nay – a GOAL to live out the Cinderella story. No query letters. No toiling after just the right agent. And you know what? It really does happen. There’s a lot of work involved, and dare I say it – some luck. But isn’t that the case whether you navigate through traditional or non-traditional routes in an effort to gain fame and fortune? Making millions this way isn’t necessarily easier, it’s just different. Who wants to be the same?

So hey, do me a favor and quit bashing indie authors and self-publishing. Actually, I can’t stop you, if you’re that determined. So instead just know that I, for one, am a lifelong fan of anyone who has the guts and the gumption to tell the world “my art is good enough.”

1620

When I typed 1620 into Google, I was thinking in terms of the year. I had pictured corsets made of whale bone and gentlemen throwing their waist coats over a puddle for their lady friend to walk over. Romance. Chivalry. Historical. I can write about that. Here’s what I got:

I laughed. I actually backed out of the search and was prepared to type in something far more safe. Victorian, perhaps, where the strangest thing I would get would be an image of a house. Unfortunately, as a writer, you have to write about things outside your comfort zone in order to become better. I will probably never write a non-fiction book about cars. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be able to write a few words about them. In fact, learning to write a few words about cars, even if I don’t write directly about them but rather, tie it in to my overall concept, is going to make me better. I find that when I’m writing only a handful of words (25, 50, 100) about things I don’t understand, I’m much more careful- each one counts.

Did I have any desire to do a writing exercise this morning wherein I had to create 50 words about the car pictured above? No. I wanted romance, damn it.

So I did both. I did something solid about cars – a sales pitch with a love angle. Exactly 50 words. No more. No less. Not great. Not terrible. You have to make a concept work for you. Be willing to think outside the box.

Now it’s your turn. Please feel free to share your 50 words in the comments. Trust me when I say that this not a judgmental space.

Just like first love, this car is strong, sturdy, and prepared to steal your heart. Recently restored, it is suited for collectors, first time owners or old souls. Relive your childhood or make memories to share with your children. Take it for a test drive today – you won’t regret it.

What We’re Doing Here

Let’s discuss writer’s block. I find that the opinions on this vary quite a bit. There are those who say that writer’s block is not a real thing – that muses are folly. Personally, I’m of the belief that writers block is a real thing.

“Pish posh!” You might say. Or perhaps, you screamed out a resounding “yes!” in your head upon reading those words. Either way, you’ve made it this far. You may as well keep reading.

I’ve spent countless hours, sitting in from of a notebook or a computer, writing, crossing out, rewriting, standing, stretching, walking around, cursing the heavens, sitting back down and having my mind still be totally and completely void of words. Or perhaps the words are there in a jumbled lot and they kind of trip and stutter their way out onto a page and then – no. Delete. Delete. Delete.

That’s how it went – for years and years and years. I had these high aspirations – writing a book was by and far my largest. And while it was a beautiful idea in theory, I could never write more than a few sentences or a few paragraphs before I’d read back through it, sigh in frustration and tell myself that I was a terrible writer, delete it, shut down my laptop, and writhe around in my disappointment for a few weeks before I tried again. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. For years.

Then, one day, I read some advice that totally changed my perspective on writing. It was in an interview done with one of my favorite authors. She said – quit deleting things or you’ll never finish. Just write it.

Well, gee, I’d never thought about that before. It seemed so obvious. So easy. So simple.

The problem then came down to my terrible writer’s block. It was one thing to write something so awful that you wished only to burn it, but it was an entirely different matter to have nothing to hate on. I had to fix this.

I didn’t know where to begin. I began taking notes. You know, like, when you’re out at dinner and inspiration strikes so you scribble your idea on a napkin, take it home, and turn it into a bestselling novel. The trouble was, by the time I’d get home, I couldn’t get beyond the idea that I’d scribbled down.

I started to do exercises for the old brain. I would wake up a full hour before I had to get ready and go into work. Sitting in front of my computer with a cup of coffee, I’d just type a random word into Google. Fish. Cow. Fire. Purse. Cup. Sing. Apothecary.

From there, I’d click on that handy dandy “images” link. Closing my eyes, I’d pick a random number from one through 10. Then I’d open my eyes, choose that photo (even if I hated it, and more often than not I really hated it) and write 25 words about it. After doing that for a week, I raised that number to 50. Then 100.

Around that time, I started to think, “hey, this whole writing thing is coming to me pretty easily now. I need a bigger challenge.”

That’s about the time that I got it in my head to do 365 with A Twist – a photo/short story challenge. It sucked. I’m not going to lie, I agonized constantly over my words. I freaking hated almost everything that I wrote – but that didn’t stop me from publishing them on my blog.

And then, one day, I decided that I was going to turn one of those short stories that I actually quite liked into a book.

And that took me weeks and weeks to actually begin. In fact, the only thing that got me to start AND finish was a challenge I discovered through a publishing company. Without it, I can’t say I wouldn’t still be sitting on my laurels. The truth is, however, that I have two books out and I’m working on a third.

So now we’re to the point where you say, “well, gee, that’s great, but what does this have to do with writer’s block and making me a better writer?”

Maybe something. Maybe nothing. The thing is, I deeply wish I’d had a mentor during this time of writer’s struggle. I could have saved myself years of agony if someone had just sat me down and said “you’ve got the ability, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice. And here is how to do that.” Writing is like anything else – a sport, learning to cook, learning to dance. Practice makes perfect. Or, if not perfect, better.

I plan to offer advice on here. Advice as a writer, advice as a woman, advice as an almost 30-something that will hopefully show you, man or woman, that you’re not the only one feeling like your writing sucks. I also hope to offer various free exercises for my readers that can help them hone their own writing skills.

The advice and the exercises aren’t professionally backed. You’ll be participating of your own free will because maybe you think this crazy red-head can help you out a little bit. You game?