Why You Write

{Etsy print by Dickens Ink}

{Etsy print by Dickens Ink}

Writing is a choice. It takes effort to sit your butt on your chair every day. It takes courage to move pass bricks and blocks and superficialities and safe talk. It takes a phenomenal amount of patience to wait for a response. You need a healthy dose of self-esteem to endure the inevitable onslaught of rejection: no response or worse yet, a negative one.

So the one thing that can help you get pass the difficulties is to ask yourself why you write in the first place.

For me, writing is a spiritual practice. It lets out the uglies. But it also frees a few beauties too. It allows me to understand and process what’s difficult. It gives me purpose and aligns me with a greater good. And it does all these things when I write purely to write.

In How the Light Gets In, author Pat Schneider beautifully depicts the writing process:

“To write about what is painful is to begin the work of healing…To write grief onto a page of lined paper until tears blur the ink is often the surest access to giving or receiving forgiveness. To write a comic scene is grace and beatitude. To write irony is to seek justice. To write admission of failure is humility. To be an attitude of praise or thanksgiving, to rage against God, or to open one’s inner self and listen, is prayer. To write tragedy and allow comedy to arise between the lines is miracle and revelation…Writing is for me the surest way to find out where I am and to open the gate to where I might go next.”

The next time you’re stuck or blocked, ask yourself why you write? Do you do it for fame, success, notoriety? As a form of paycheck? Do you write to enlighten, entertain, engage others? Do you write to leave your mark on the world? Or do you do it to understand what can’t possibly be understood right now-to know what you don’t yet know about yourself?

 

What Should You Do When Inspiration Hits?

{Etsy art by Lyrical Artworks}

{Etsy art by Lyrical Artworks}

It happens at the most inopportune times.

It happens when you’re driving,

when you’re in the shower,

when you’re running.

When your mind finally quiets down, inspiration hits!

That’s a great thing unless you’re in motion and can’t jot it down. What do you do in those situations?

Do you pull over on the side of the road (hopefully you don’t try to text while driving)?

Do you shorten your shower?

Do you stop running mid-way?

Or do you just let the idea slip right out of your hands?

If you’re like me, you’re desperate to save inspired thoughts and would do anything to keep from losing them. I’ve tried different note taking apps and audio recorders. But this is the one thing I didn’t think of. Letting them go.

I just listened to a Sounds True podcast with mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn. Here’s what he said about ideas during meditation:

“I think that if a thought is really, truly innovative and creative, you won’t have it once and never remember it. So a lot of people might think, ‘Well, if I’m meditating, I better sit with a pen and a pad of paper to capture any of these fantastic, great, wonderful, Nobel Prize-winning, breakthrough thoughts that I might have.’ But I don’t do that. In fact, I don’t recommend that anybody do that, because then you’re just busy writing down your discursive thoughts in the hope that you’ll put them to work at some later time.”

Most interesting is what he says about how our thoughts, the really good ones, don’t go away. In fact, if we’re mindful, he says they come in waves, ready to greet you once again.

“We’re all geniuses of one kind or another, and I think part of it is that we don’t recognize it, and other people never recognize it, and we often don’t get a chance to put it into any kind of play—our own unique aspect of genius. But when you’re watching your mind in this kind of way, it rapidly becomes apparent because things recur. So interesting thoughts come back over and over and over again, which is one reason you don’t need to write them down or remember them because they have a way of nurturing you in a certain way.”

I once worried while practicing yoga, meditating, biking or showering that I would lose my ideas forever. This puts me at ease. Looks like it’s one less thing we writers need to worry about.

From Rut to Groove

What do you when you’re writing gets stale? You do the following…

  1. INCREASE YOUR VOCABULARY.

    Writing can become mundane even for the writing enthusiast. And when you’re bored, your readers are bored. Mix it up by expanding your vocab list. Check out This site, which teaches words like, “argute,” and “snudge.” You might not use every word you learn in your next manuscript, but the exercise will force you to spend time outside the box.

Read more over at The Freelance Life where I’m guest blogging.

A Slice of Writing Wisdom: Fiction

{Etsy pie by designsandimages}

{Etsy pie by designsandimages}

Think of these features as the fast food of writing wisdom. Quick. Meaty. And effortless. Grab and go back to your writing.

This week’s post is on fiction straight from the words of Rachel Joyce, author of a recent book I read and am still digesting: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

In the back of this inspiring novel, I found an interview between Joyce and another author, Charlotte Rogan. I gleaned a handful of fiction and even insights on life from their conversation. I hope you will too:

Rachel Joyce: “Reading is a creative process. As writers, we must do everything we can to make a world that stands up as if it could be a real one. Not necessarily the real one; not necessarily the world the reader knows. But within its own confines, that world must be plausible. It must add up. After that, the reader meets you halfway. The reader fills out your words with pictures, with breath, with feeling.”

 

“…whenever I begin a story, I like to ask myself, What is the situation here? What is the thing that has to change? All the clues-I think-should like in the opening scene. But they mustn’t have rings round them, signifying LOOK AT US! WE ARE CLUES! The story must work on a superficial level, and it must also work on a deeper level for someone like you who cares to look back and re-examine. That is the delight of storytelling for me: that it can be what it is, and that it can also carry reverberations, when you go back and look a second time.”

 

“…my first drafts are shocking. I reread them and I want to give up. After that, I go back and I go back and I go back. And every time I look at a scene-or I scrape at the surface-I see things a little more clearly. As for inspiration, sometimes I read poetry. Sometimes I look at writers I admire. But the thing is, I can only be who I am-so I have to keep whittling away. Besides, no one knows the story you are writing as well as you know it. And so you have to keep challenging yourself. You have to keep asking, Is this true, as I know truth?”

5 Stages of the Writing Process

{Etsy wooden steps by A Rustic Garden}

{Etsy wooden steps by A Rustic Garden}

There are developmental stages for ages. Stages for grief and loss. And even stages of sleep, pregnancy and labor. So I thought why not writing? Here are the 5 stages most writers go through from idea to publication.

Stage 1: Eureka!

Stage 1 is probably my favorite part. It’s when ideas form from nothingness. They’re conceived when showering, walking, and time spent zoning off into space. It’s an exciting part of the process when I can’t wait to get to my laptop or a notepad to jot down the crazy thoughts bouncing around in my head. It might be days or weeks until you get to stage 2. I had an idea for this blog post several days before I pondered it long enough to put it into a post.

Stage 2: Outpouring {For Your Eyes Only}

Stage 2 is a time when only you and your computer should be savvy to your work. Don’t try to edit it. Don’t read it aloud to a friend, your partner, to any one. Give yourself the freedom to write without your thinking cap on, without your editor, without limitation. This part is pretty fun. When you can quiet the censor, you’re completely free to explore.

Stage 3: A Little Here, a Little There

Stage 3 is when you invite the editor for a cup of tea. Just long enough to make sure what you wrote the day before on your stage 2 high, makes any sense. Let her weave in and out, cut here and there, delete a few misspelled words. Then leave it and return when you’re ready to do some heavy duty revising.

Stage 4: Down and Dirty

This is where the hard work comes in. It’s not usually my favorite part because it involves left-brain critical thinking. Send your right brain creative side on vacation and get critical. Be harsh, demanding and discriminating. If you don’t, your editor will. Read it objectively. Would you continue reading after the first paragraph? Would your eyes glaze over after that page? Does that word feel uncomfortable like a too tight shirt? Take it out. Read. Reread. Now is the time to share it with those you trust. Get your markers out!

Stage 5: You Can See the Light

You’ve spent days, maybe even weeks on stage 4. You’ll know you’re reading for stage 5 when you’ve read it without wincing. There are a few choice words that can be shifted, removed and replaced. Do it now! Put on a fresh pair of eyes after you’ve set this one aside at least for a day. Read each sentence as a separate entity and then each paragraph, then page. Does everything flow? Yes? Then you might be ready to send it out.

How I Became a Freelance Writer

{Etsy print by LadyPoppins}

{Etsy print by LadyPoppins}

 

{by: guest blogger}

My freelance lifestyle wasn’t born out of a dream to forge my own path, pursue my innate sense of creativity at all costs or even break free from the corporate grind. Nope, my motivations weren’t as lofty as all that.

The way it really went was something like this: My husband was given a career-boosting opportunity that involved nine months of schooling in the Washington, D.C. area, with no idea where we would be moving next. We talked it over and decided together that he should take the opportunity, and before we knew it, we were on a flight from beautiful Hawaii to the Mainland and our Nation’s Capitol.

With nine months in a new city and no idea where we’d end up next, I knew I wasn’t exactly an attractive hire for local publishing companies, even with three and a half years as editor of a high-quality Hawaii magazine firmly under my belt. I also knew that taking nine months off might just be a career killer. I loved the magazine industry and didn’t want to give it up, so instead of pursuing another, more temporary line of work, I decided to go freelance. While my income level would go down, at least at the beginning, I knew it was the only way to stay in the game. Plus, I thought, if I decided to go back to full-time corporate work in nine months, I could apply again.

Up until I started freelancing, I always thought of myself as a real brick-and-mortar work type, one who thrived in an office environment, giving presentations, running meetings and performing and receiving scheduled feedback and reviews. I loved issue planning, sales seminars, client lunches and the like, and every time I visualized myself in the magazine industry ten years down the road, an office in a large city with a commute was always involved.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Today, three years later, I can’t imagine giving up my journey from the bottom to the top of the stairs (the exact distance between my kitchen and my home office) for a one-hour commute in rush-hour traffic. I’ll never trade in my jeans and T-shirts for a suit again if I can help it. Though I’ve been blessed with some pretty amazing co-workers over the years, nobody beats our two adorable hounds, George and Patty, for workplace company.

I’ve traded a higher income for lower stress and constant deadlines for creative freedom. And that’s all fine with me. But there are negative tradeoffs as well. I have to be my own financial manager, my own marketing and public relations department and social media consultant. Without my husband’s income, I have yet to work out how I’d support myself writing without taking on a second job. And I do sometimes miss the outside validation that comes from a glowing annual review or promotion.

A lot of bloggers encourage readers to dream big and take the freelance plunge in one fell swoop. Some life career coaches talk about goal setting and pursuing a life or career “with intention” as if all one has to do is dream it in order to do it.

The reality is, for many of us, freelancing is a huge leap off of a very high diving board. Some of us risk our financial heath, our relationship power dynamic or the prospect of falling behind in our chosen field. All of us risk failure. I took a calculated risk with enough water under the high dive to ensure a safe plunge. And to be honest, I might never have jumped off if I had many other options. But today, as I sit here in my comfy home office, with my pooches curled up at my feet and a day of whatever I decide ahead, I can honestly say I made the right choice.

If you’re considering going freelance, I say, more power to you! I know I’m swimming in the right pool. But only you know how high your diving board should be and how much water you need in the pool before you make a splash. So be sure to think it through. Dip a pinkie toe in the water and try one article or two on the weekends for a while if you can. Review your finances carefully. Devour books on the subjects of freelance writing and starting your own business (Check out one of my favorites here). Talk things over with your partner. Attend a few free seminars in your area, if offered, on the subject of starting your own business (I attended a lot of free and low-cost SCORE events, for example, when I was first starting out.) Basically, run through all the boring considerations you won’t find laid out in most blogs that tout creative, freelance lifestyles. There’s no one right path to freelance success, so find the process that works for you, both personally and practically. When you have it worked out, and if you decide to take the plunge like I did, then I say, come on in. The water really is so fine.

Sabra Morris profile picSabra Morris is a full-time freelance writer on topics such as home décor and remodeling, wellness, family life, pet care, ecofriendly living, solar technology, retirement living, food and farm equipment. Her work has appeared in Virginia Living magazine, Northern Virginia magazine, Southern Living, Dog Fancy and Hawaii Home + Remodeling magazine, among others. She blogs at thefreelance-life.com.

All is Well (Even Your Writing)

{Etsy art by justamoment}

{Etsy art by justamoment}

Pastor Joel Osteen says in one of his television sermons, “All is well.” I’m not religious, but I think his wise words can be applied to writing.

That essay you wrote and completed, but haven’t found an outlet has a purpose. It works the same way for the poem you wrote as an angst teen. And although an agent hasn’t yet shown interest in your work, it doesn’t mean you should toss your manuscript yet.

One thing I wish for other writers (and myself) is that they would enjoy the process of writing itself. These days we put too much value on publishing. While it’s a necessary component to a writing life especially if one is making a living from it, it’s only one important aspect.

There are purpose and meaning in seeing your words across the page. It can give you insight to a past experience you’re still grappling with. It can teach you the importance of persistence. If anything, it will humble you. When you look back on your work, do you think about your failed submissions or do you reflect upon how far you’ve come as a writer and as a person?

If we were to cover our judging eyes for a moment and read our prose as a way to learn from instead of criticize it, we might understand its importance in our writing lives.

Not all works-in-progress should be published. Not all writing is meant for readers. Sometimes a writer must write the way a dog shakes off water. It’s automatic. It feels good. It’s necessary.

Sometimes that old prose you wrote years ago might return renewed. Or maybe that essay you wrote needed time to bake in your mind before it was ready. But many times writers need to and should write for the sheer pleasure of it. As Osteen says, “All is well” regardless.

Why Every Writer Should Hire an Editor

by: Carrie L. Lewis

{Etsy badge by beanforest}

{Etsy badge by beanforest}

People involved in the writing business are lovers of words.

Let’s face it.

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, are an agent, a publisher, or an editor, there’s something about the written word that really gets you fired up. The way each person responds to the written word is different, of course, but they all share a common interest.

Writers are most interested in creation. Getting their thoughts and ideas on paper in the most compelling manner possible.

Editors, while intrigued by language, usually also have a passion for detail and accuracy, something the writer may or may not be as concerned about. A good editor looks at everything. The big picture, the small picture, grammar, punctuation, and all the rest.

Not everyone who loves words is good at every part of the process. I can tell you from personal experience that I love putting words on paper. Getting the words in the right order and making sure the punctuation and grammar are all spot on is another matter.

Most writers are like me. We’d rather create than edit.

Which means most of us writers really need an editor to help us fine tune our creations.

So Just What Will An Editor Do For Me?

As I already mentioned, a good editor looks at all aspects of the manuscript. Three key areas are:

  • Accuracy in use of language
  • Clarity
  • Engagement

Let’s take a look at each of these.

Accuracy

You’re probably thinking this is a no-brainer, right? Spelling errors. Grammar errors. Punctuation errors. If you happen to be good at those things, you might think you don’t need an editor.

But you’d be wrong. There’s much more to accuracy than just spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

For example, a good editor is going to notice if you mentioned the Atlantic Ocean, but your story is set in California.

She’ll also notice if your character’s hair color or eye color changed part way through the story or if you changed a name in some places, but not in others.

Clarity

How well do you say what you mean? How easy is it to know what you meant by reading what you wrote? Is your writing clear and easy-to-understand or is your logic, well, illogical?

Engagement

Engagement doesn’t involve romance. It does involve catching and holding your reader’s attention. Engagement begins with the first line (or it should) and it should continue all the way to the very. Last. Word. If it doesn’t, you’re in trouble and your editor is just the person to tell you. If she has difficulty maintaining interest, for example, you need to know that.

Quite often, your editor will also be able to offer suggestions for solving the problems she finds in your manuscript. That is never a bad thing!

The Best Reason of All

For me, the absolute best reason of all to hire an editor is the fresh pair of eyes. I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve finished my book – whether it’s a novel or an art instruction book – I’m so familiar with what should be there that I totally miss what is there. Details fall through the cracks. I miss things.

Trust me, some mistakes make it all the way from first draft to polished manuscript even if you do sixty drafts in between. It’s a fact of life.

You can let your manuscript sit idle long enough for it to “go cold” and you will be able to look at it with a new perspective afterward, but that’s still not the same as letting someone else read your manuscript.

Conclusion

A professional editor – a good professional editor – is your best option for dealing with each of these potential problem areas and a number of others. There are good editors for every budget, so you don’t have that excuse. If you’re truly interested in publishing the absolute best book possible, editing isn’t the place to skimp.

Carrie LewisThis professional post was penned by Carrie L. Lewis. You can follow her @CarrieLynnLewis.

For over thirty years, Carrie’s writing took a backseat to full-time work outside the home and to her small business painting portraits of horses and other animals from across the country.

In 2008, she rediscovered writing and, in late 2009, became a full-time artist, which provided time each day to pursue writing. She writes political thrillers with a touch of Old Testament prophecy.

She also is an active critique partner for other authors, both published and unpublished.

She has published art books under the name Carrie L. Lewis and has plans for additional books on art techniques.

Carrie partners with Danielle Hanna to maintain and write for Indie Plot Twist, a blog devoted to chronicling the journey to independent publication. Indie Plot Twist and includes regular writing and publishing clinics.

Carrie’s personal writing blog can be found at http://writing-well.carrie-lewis.com/. She also has an author blog at http://carrielynnlewis.wordpress.com/.

Carrie’s art website and blog is http://www.carrielewis.com/.

Why All Writing is Good Writing (even the bad ones)

{Etsy journal by CraftColorfully}

{Etsy journal by CraftColorfully}

What you write is worth the effort.

Even if it never gets published. Anywhere.

Even if not a single person lays their eyes upon it.

Even if no one emails you, calls you or messages you that it’s the best thing they’ve ever written.

It’s worth it even if it’s the worst thing you’ve ever wrote.

Even if it follows hundreds of rejection slips.

Even if it’s tucked in a drawer, never leaves your computer or your laptop.

It’s worth it simply for the act of writing itself.

Let your words write itself. Don’t judge it. Don’t tear it apart. Don’t pull at it the way you would a loose thread which would unravel the whole quilt before it’s even complete.

It’s worth it because all writing is a work-in-progress.

Respect your words. Let it be the unfinished canvas. Love it for what it is though it may not buy you fame, wealth, or prestige. It will buy you practice. It will give you confidence. If you let it be, one day you will understand its purpose.

How SCBWI Schooled Me: Fiction Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

{Etsy print by thedreamygiraffe}

{Etsy print by thedreamygiraffe}

Going to the SCBWI Hawaii Chapter Conference was well-worth the Benjamin this weekend. I learned a ton about fiction-a topic I rarely write about. It was an eye-opening experience teaching me all the mistakes I’m making and probably will make in my fiction future. I thought I’d save you the expense by sharing all the secrets I learned this weekend. So close your wallets and pull up your laptop. It’s going to get good right now.

1) Showing off.

It’s tempting to be like a peacock and show off your feathers. But puffing up your ego with superfluous verbiage may make for pretty prose or witty wording, but if you don’t have a good story, forget about it. You’ll lose your audience.

2) Not reading enough.

I’m guilty of this. Not that I don’t read. In fact, I’m a readaholic. But when it comes to fiction especially kid’s fiction? Yikes. I need to jump on it. The thing is, you can’t write a good piece of work, if you aren’t familiar with what’s out there. So thank you Matt de La Pena for reminding me of the obvious. Great writer = great reader

3) Rushing it.

You want to finish it. You want to see it in print. But rushing the process makes for hurried, chaotic and unintentionally messy writing. Take your time to enjoy the scene you’re currently in.

4) Writing shallow.

Nancy Galt literary agent Marietta Zacker says all good stories have one thing in common. They all have a distinct voice that comes their emotional truth. What is your emotional truth and how has it directed your life and the life of your current work-in-progress?

5) Hitting send prematurely.

I’ve done this one before. But Zacker reminds me that you should only send in your submission when you can imagine the editor and agent on the receiving end. If you would feel proud of what you’re submitting, it’s ready. If not? Step away from the computer!

6) Gabbing more than writing.

Writer groups are beneficial for a lot of reasons. But you need to be clear about why you’re spending time together with other writers. Make sure the time you’re spending is helping, not hurting your ability to complete your work.

That’s the 6 golden rules I learned this weekend. I’ve got a few more nuggets I’ll share later this week. So grateful for both Zacker and de la Pena’s words of wisdom and the writing community for motivating me to get hopping on my fiction WIP.

P.S. Have any fiction tips I haven’t included here? Please share.

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