When Your Writing Sucks

pencilI used to struggle with what came out of me onto a fresh page. It was never as beautiful or brilliant as it was in my mind. In my mind, I was an eccentric, quirky, and stunning writer. One the world had yet to seen. In reality, my words were mediocre at best. It kind of depressed me. Thus, began the slog of my writing career.

Every time I wrote, I suffered a little on the inside. Why was I doing it? Why was I torturing myself when my writing sucked? I would never be an award winning writer. I would never write perfect prose like the kind in Karen Walker’s The Age of Miracles or a classic like A Wrinkle in Time. When friends read my work they thought, “I could do that,” not “I wish I could do that.” I was kidding myself. Frankly, I was a little embarrassed.

But it’s been almost a decade since I started writing professionally and it’s been three decades since I vowed to one day be a writer. And I suddenly got it.

All the work that I’ve put in. All the bad writing that I wrote and continue to write. It MEANS something! It is getting me somewhere. The work is the gold at the end of the rainbow.

Eventually you will get there too. But all the sweat you’re putting in is important. It’s necessary even. Every single writer started where you are. Even Mo Willems and Dan Santat must have written something unsuccessful at one time.

I sometimes need to be reminded of it too. Just because your working isn’t published or publishable right now, that doesn’t mean it won’t be. Your time will come. If you put in the time now.

It’s just like raising kids. Your kids won’t applaud you, give you an award or promote you for a job well done. But it MEANS something! At times, it is everything! It may be one of the most important things you do for them, for yourself, for the whole world.

Your writing is your babies. You need to invest the time and energy and the pain of producing shitty work to get to where you want to go. And when you get there, you will know. You will understand why you had to go through hundreds of crappy drafts, and rejected manuscripts. You will get it. And you will appreciate that crazy journey all the more.

Why Daydreaming is Good for Your Writing

{flickr photo by Colton Witt Photography}

 

Hurray for daydreaming! It’s the thing you loved to do in school, but what you were most likely to get punished for. Well now there’s legitimate reason to zone off when bored.

Yes, according to author Jonah Lehrer’s book Imagine: How Creativity Works, it’s those moments when you’re dazing out the window that your getting the most work done. Perhaps all of us writers knew this intuitively. But Lehrer’s book provides actual research to back that statement up. In it, he describes the work of psychologist Jonathan Schooler and his research on daydreams and their benefits.

And what did Schooler find?

“His [Jonathan Schooler’s] lab has demonstrated that people who consistently engage in more daydreaming score significantly higher on measures of creativity.”

Go Daydreamers!

So how do you reap the best benefits of daydreaming?

The process is two-fold. First you need to daydream, of course. And then you need to be aware of the fact that you’re doing it. People who can interrupt their thoughts when they’ve hit a solution to a problem are the ones that are going to benefit from creative insight.

How to Use Daydreaming to Write Better

Schooler increases the chances of creative insight in his own life by prioritizing mind-wandering activities like hiking. And you should too.

It may feel like getting away from your computer is the worst possible thing you can do when you’re stuck on what to write next, but it could do wonders for your writing. The more you can leave the actual problem where it is and zoom in on something else, the more likely you’ll be able to solve that debilitating blockage.

It’s not only a great excuse to take a break, but it’s a smart one too!

 

Quick Creative Writing Exercises

{iPhone photo using my sunglasses as a filter.}

A few weekends ago, I headed out to my first ever writing retreat class. It was great to gab with writers and nosh on good eats while taking in the view of the breathtaking mountains on the Windward side of Oahu. Besides all of that, I got a lot of practical tips to get the writing flowing. I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned with you.

Inspiration from Music

The first one’s pretty fun. Just turn on something instrumental, grab a notebook and a writing utensil, close your eyes and let the music direct your pen. The point isn’t to draw something or have an intention. It’s just to really feel the music. Something about the process releases the fear of writing within you. Try it.

Fun Writing Prompt

Choose three random objects in your vision. Now try to incorporate a story based on what you picked. Our teacher chose toothpick, clouds and elephant. We had to free write on these three topics without pausing. Surprisingly, I came up with a story about a man chewing a toothpick, reflecting on the elephant shaped clouds about his deceased wife. Who knew right?

There is something about the process of writing with wild abandon that frees your mind. It stifles your inner critic long enough to let yourself go. Sometimes that’s all you need to get started; a little push, a little inspiration to get your writing flowing.

What writing exercises work for you?

Starting Over

{by Brandi-Ann Uyemura}

Fabulous careers in creative fields (like you writers) deserve a little more attention, motivation and flexibility than other fields. You need to roll with the punches, get your tough going (when the going gets rough) and be willing to go for the ride. [Definitely met my “trite phrases quota” for the day.]

Part of that is getting used to the up and down roller coaster ride of both inspiration and writing gigs. That means sometimes there will be lulls, sometimes there will be speed bumps. And when I’m on a high, I need to remember to stop myself from being too big for my britches, less I forget that I’m about to fall back into a valley.

I’ve recently moved to Hawaii and left the comforts of mainland writing gigs. Actually, I left during the peak of my career and had to turn down several lucrative opportunities that did not allow me to work from home. But like you, I’m met with just another writing hurdle. One that asks the question:

How do you start over again?

How do you start over if you’ve been fired from a job, quit the current one or projects have ended?

You dust yourself off and get resourceful. Contact previous clients or tell friends, acquaintances, family members that you’re looking for a new one. Join a writing club, create your own (if anyone lives in Hawaii who’s interested in attending a club, I’m about to start my own).

You remember that things take time. 

You remember how busy you were when things were going good so you use the time to rest and recoup before your next big gig.

You forget about how good it was so that you can move on to bigger and better things.

You do an inventory of skills you may need and equipment and supplies you don’t. Use the time to reorganize, take classes, and read up on your field.

Most importantly, don’t lose hope. Starting over seems scary because we get too comfortable where we are. Life is about beginnings and ends. Sometimes we forget that and believe we have control over everything in life. In Produced By Faith DeVon Franklin says we only have control over two things:

“how we prepare for what might happen, and how we respond to what just happened.”

{If passion’s what you need help with, you might want to read my latest article for The Writer magazine here.}

How Yoga Can Heal Your Writing Pains

{flickr photo}

What do you do when fear and procrastination threaten to derail your writing? 

Writer and coach Cynthia Morris has been writing since 1994, coaching writers since 1999 and published several articles and two books: a historical novel called Chasing Sylvia Beach and Create Your Writer’s Life: A Guide to Writing with Joy and Ease. What has helped her persist is a unique combination of yoga and what she calls, “juju.” Read on to find out how they may be able to help you jump start your own writing:

“I think both my writing practice and my yoga practice made me this persistent. But I also tap into my values to help me persist. When the hedonist in me entices me to abandon difficult work and do something fun and easy, I look for ways to love the difficulty. Challenge and curiosity are two important values to me. By persisting with draft after draft with the novel I am honoring those values. This makes the work easier to bear.”

What’s juju and how can it spark your creativity?

“To me, juju is the magical synchronicity, surprise and connections we experience
when we’re in the flow with our creative vitality. For instance, throughout the twelve years it took to write Chasing Sylvia Beach, I had to do a lot of research. Again and again, at just the right time, the necessary resources and connections showed up. The surprises seemed nothing short of miraculous. I began to see them as blessings, gifts and boons that I could never have imagined or planned on my own. I am not sure how juju works, but I love the feeling I get when I experience it: joy, delight, trust and encouragement. This isn’t just me, though. Working with my clients, they experience juju, too. It’s a big part of what helps them ignite their writing passion on an ongoing basis. The trick is to pay attention; some clients even keep a juju or synchronicity journal to help remind them they’re on the right track.”

Maybe all you need to get your writing mojo back is to do some yoga and tune into your own juju. If not, what tips, tricks, techniques help you get your juices flowing and your creativity back?

Cynthia offers a ton of free articles and inexpensive ways to keep your writinglife vibrant with your passion and commitment, including her free video course,Secrets to Empowered Creativity. You can visit Cynthia at http://www.originalimpulse.com for more resources on keeping the passion in your writing life.

Feel Free to Moan, and Groan…But Never Ever Give Up!

{flickr photo}

I’ve spent enough time studying the grooves of my ceiling to know that every creative person, writers included, needs to take risks and risk the repercussions afterwards. Just like you may have a flood of ideas and are eager to set each one free, you may spend nights like me staring at the ceiling bemoaning over your impulsivity for not being more discriminating.

That comes with the territory.

In the five years that I’ve spent freelancing, I’ve banged my head over my keyboard (figuratively) enough times to put Don Music to shame. (If you need a refresher, he’s the crazy piano guy on Sesame Street.)

But I know it’s just another part of the process.

In fact, I’m quite sure that the more successful you are, the more failures you’ve collected over time. And while that’s not always enough to get writers to ever look forward to rejection letters, it’s hopefully enough to make you see the normality in the ups and downs of your creativity.

It’s all about falling off that horse and moseying back up again.

In a beautiful CNN article, “The success of failure: Pulitzer winner’s surprising road to the top,” writer Todd Leopold demonstrates just how far you might have to go to be successful. In particular, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan sometimes admits to going through 50-60 drafts. And it’s not just about being persistent that makes you successful. Taking a line from Kenny Rogers, it’s also knowing when to “fold ’em.”

Some writers spend years perfecting their work-in-progress having never had it published. Sometimes it takes hankering away. But other times it’s getting good at knowing when it’s time to move on.

It’s a gray area.

How do YOU know when it’s time to say goodbye to a project you’re working on or when it’s time to keep working at it?

Guest Post: How to Motivate Yourself to Finish That Book

 

{Guest post byJessica Kristie}

Each hand behind the pen is different in flow, technique, and ability. The spectrum covers a massive space and the outcome is always different. With all the many walls thrown up and doors slammed, still the greatest hurdle to overcome is often our own inability to continue. We ignore our unique voice and fall prey to the weight of the world’s negative intervention.

I have been writing for well over twenty years and it has been only the last five to seven that I have been fully dedicated, and giving the attention my pen had asked for. I have often made the choice to let stress or frustrations make huge spaces between the times that I wrote. For some this is only a hobby, but for me, it is a need. My life is much more understood, along with those around me, when I can void myself of my intense emotions. Writing helps me make sense, while bringing peace when it is welcomed the most.

Realizing the importance of penning my thoughts and dispelling my emotions has kept me going. I have found techniques for my own personal brand of inspirations and maintaining a healthy joyous life. Weaving my writing life into my reality full-time was an often difficult road, but one that was captained by the drive to share with others and that urge to write.

“What motivates each person individually is different, but there are many tools that can aide in your attempts to keep going.”

Find your purpose and hold on to that. Don’t ever allow yourself to forget why you began in the first place. When dust starts to accumulate on your one-third finished novel, come back to the basics and feel once again why you began that journey, why it was important. Not only do you need to be in touch with your unique voice, but also your unique purpose. Be honest with your intentions and your inspiration will find its way through.

Create for yourself an arsenal of motivators and activities that work for you. If something does not help, move on to the next thing. Don’t box yourself into one way, because there are many ways to maintain inspiration and keep the joy of writing alive. Writing prompts, reading, environment, and positive thinking have all played a part in my ability to push through the tough moments.

Take time to find what works for you and finish that book!

Jessica Kristie is the author of several poetry books, and the co-creator for the ArtPlatform book Inspiration Speaks Volume 1 which is now available in print and eBook through all major retailers, and benefits ColaLife.org. She is also the founder of the Woodland, CA, poetry series, Inspiring Words—Poetry in Woodland.

Dreaming in Darkness is Jessica’s first volume of poetry; the winner of the 2011 Sharp Writ Award and nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize. Jessica’s second book, Threads of Life, is available through Winter Goose Publishing along with her eBook offering to writers, Weekly Inspirations for Writers & Creators.

Jessica has been published in several online and print magazines such as Zouch, Muse, A Writer’s Point of View and TwitArt Magazine.  You can find all of Jessica’s appearances under her Press Page at JessicaKristie.com.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jessica Kristie discovered her passion for writing as a child. Her inspiration comes in many forms, often inspired by just a word or quickly fleeting emotion. Through years of writing she has been able to capitalize on her experiences, whether they are painful or joyous. She hopes to draw you close to her world through shared emotion while inspiring you to forgive, remember, and heal. Follow Jessica on Facebook and Twitter @jesskristie.

Why Do You Write?

{found on pinterest}

Do you write because it’s your secret platform for venting and free expression?

Do you write because it’s the one thing you’re good at?

Do you write because you can’t imagine not writing?

Or is it simply your career? Your main source of income. Your livelihood.

The reason why I ask is that remembering why we write is important. When we’re in the trenches, when writing feels like walking in slowly sinking sand, it’s easy to want to give up. But the one rescue line, the key to pulling us out of desperation and dismay is to remember why we’re writing in the first place.

So what is it writer friends?

What keeps you writing into the wee hours of the night or upon waking up sleepy-eyed in the morning? What is your motivation, your fuel for keeping on when there’s no visible reason to keep on?

Find the Motivation You Need to Keep Writing

An extraordinary sunset caught from high above on an airplane.

It’s the end of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for those in the know. And I have to tip my hat to you all. Writing a novel in a month scares me more than public speaking. Just the thought of it brings back an old episode of Golden Girls. You remember the one where Blanche was up all night writing the greatest novel ever? After she got sleep, she realized all that hard work was for naught. Her words written on black and white marble journals didn’t make any sense.

That’d be me if I did it.

Instead, I spent more than a week cruising Arizona. I didn’t do a stitch of writing. {Except for writing in my one line a day journal-something I mentioned in my guest post here.}

All I did was breathe in the dry Arizona air, inhale the deep red mountains in Sedona and sigh over big cracks in the earth and canyons worth crying over.

It was like visual poetry and I didn’t want to waste a minute of it writing about my in-the-moment experience.

When I got back, I realized that the trip had quenched my writing spirit. And that somewhere along the way, I had lost that sense of excitement I first felt when I put pen to paper.

And I learned that it’s inevitable. That life happens. That bills come. That light bulbs need changing. That you need to go to the dentist. That someone needs to buy the groceries. That every day you must brush your teeth, get out of bed, walk into your every day life and do what you must do to go through it. But every once in awhile you get a glimpse of how magical life really is and through that open door you’ll find the motivation to write.

I know authors and writers more experienced than me will say that you must sit your butt down and get to it. That you don’t need inspiration to write, you need discipline and motivation and perseverance.

I agree. But I also believe that without taking care of yourself, without giving yourself the time to be inspired, to get out of your comfort zone, to see life in a new way, your work will be dull. You need to tend your life, just the way you tend your garden. Maybe even more so.

When you remember the “you” in your writing, your motivation to write will follow…