finding your voice

I am currently working on a project that has been a long time coming. For almost two years it’s been festering, just waiting for me to let it out. Slowly, the plot has  grown and the words are now finding their way on to the page.

The thing about new projects, though, is that you have to step back and take the time to find your voice in it all. The characters take on their own lives, with their own dialogue and hobbies and back story and everything. As the author, we mold it… but really it can take on a mind of its own.

Already the first five chapters of this project have changed three times. Three. And while I’m on the third round of trying to bring this thing to life, I’m already contemplating an entirely different route. It would change the story, changes pieces of the puzzle I’ve been literally holding in my hands for almost two years, and yet it’s calling me.

How do you find your voice when writing a story? How do you know which way is right, and which way is the road less traveled by that could be the way?

If you came here for answers, you really should move on. I don’t have them.

The answer to the question is you. Only you as the author can decide which way is the best way, and sometimes you have to explore so many different routes and options until you happen upon the best one.

Heck, the best way can sometimes be the way you didn’t want to go. You could be kicking and screaming the entire writing time and stumble upon so many blocks that you think you’ve lost your gift. This happened to me with my first finished novel. I didn’t want to stray from the truth, until I realized that the truth just wasn’t enough. It needed to be more. Slowly the fiction truly took over, and it continues to grow whenever I finish it.

Don’t be afraid to find your voice. Don’t be afraid to rewrite the book a completely different way because you have a new idea, or someone gave you a direction that you want to explore. This is art, after all. There is no “right” way.

There are only paths yet to be traveled on, and only you can decide which one will be the path that leads you to

The End.

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making time in the new year

Happy 2019 all! How is yours starting out? I must admit mine has been a bit rocky, but I still have hope.

I have realized in the past few weeks of reflecting that my life has taken many twists and turns I didn’t expect it to when I began my writing journey. To be fair, I’ve been writing my whole life, but when I really considered myself an author– that’s when I count the beginning of my journey. And since then, so many things have changed. Within those changes- slowly but surely my writing has moved farther and farther back on the burners of life.

Now, I’m a writer. An author. Anyone who knows that feeling of an attachment to the written word like it’s your left arm knows that it doesn’t just go away.

But sometimes other things become more important. Raising babies. Relationships. Moves. Other careers. Getting well.

We enter seasons of life that don’t always allow our left arm to be as important as our right. It’s a scary feeling, and many times I have denied it. The truth is, though: it’s okay.

It’s okay because I’m still writing. I’m still working on things and jotting down ideas and making time in my schedule to sit down and write. Those times might not be hours upon hours like the days where I only had one child, or no children for that matter. It might not be a drive to be traditionally published quite as strong as it was three-and-a-half years ago before I signed with my first agent. But that’s okay.

I have written earnestly before about making time to be a writer, but what about the seasons of life where we truly cannot find that time? I know, I know. I’m eating my own words. Before I said something along the lines of: if you’re a writer, you make/find the time. And I still believe that. But I also know there are those of us that want to make that time, and maybe even have that time– and then we make the choice to say “not right now” and watch a movie with a friend instead, or sit and read another author’s book.

My goal is to take as many little moments this year and put them toward my writing. However, I also want to give myself grace and know that even if I chose other things first-

I’m still a writer.

depression, boredom, and the creative mind – a guest post from JD Buffington

Today I am happy to share a guest post from a fellow author, JD Buffington is a writer of horror and science fiction. He enjoys turning nightmares into stories and wants nothing more than to entertain readers with thoughts that keep him up at night. For more from JD, find his links below!

image1depression, boredom, and the creative mind

by JD Buffington

I’m reading THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB by Will Schwalbe and much like the book is about discussing books with Will’s mother, who has pancreatic cancer and this is how they’re bonding, I’ve been discussing themes and ideas presented in the book with my wife, who already read it. The book is full of tidbits here and there that make you go, “huh.” Whether it be an interesting take on an age-old insight or putting into better perspective things we might take for granted.

Case in point, Will learns how his mother is able to remain positive and focused on humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan while he struggles with the very concept of mindfulness. It’s in having that focus. Remaining vigilant in the present, and in your presence, also requires having something to work toward, a goal, a touchpoint in the here and now that keeps you constant. If you have something that keeps you focused, then it’s obvious that you can remain focused, even if not working on whatever project or goal your focus is on. You can apply the same skillset to other parts of your life.

In the chapter I was discussing with my wife, Will’s mother has a friend who is kidnapped in Afghanistan, and despite the worry that obviously brings about, Will’s mother is all the more determined to see a project completed that will work toward the betterment and enrichment of the Afghani people, a library. Will see’s that this determination is what has kept his mother going through cancer and “not so good days” and the pain and exhaustion those can bring. She’s not focused on her own pain, even when she’s having a bad time of it, she’s more concerned with other things, and that keeps her going.

I brought up the idea that this plays into the concept of retirement being the number one killer of old people. Not having something to do, being bored, is exhausting itself, and life-draining. I said, “…that’s why I’m glad I’m an artist, I’m always thinking, I’ll never be bored.”

Here my wife gave me the “really?” look.

Of course I can be bored. I’ve been bored! But my boredom is more born out of depression than not having anything to do. Even in my deepest pits of despair, I’m still thinking about creative projects…mostly beating myself up about not working on them, but I cannot recall a time that I didn’t have something on my mind.

Which, that raises a concerning point: when is focus worry? When is boredom depression? And how do you separate these bedfellows when they become entangled? Well, if you know, please reach out to me, because it’s something I and about half the world’s population would like to have the answer to.

The truth of the matter is, sometimes they’re intrinsically linked. Boredom can be the result of depression. Or, worry and anxiety can bear out of focus and determination. That’s not always the case, but turning your, well, focus onto what it is, right now, that is causing boredom or worry, is an exercise in mindfulness. For me, my anxiety and depression feed my creativity, albeit sometimes in unhealthy, obsessive meandering through the corridors of my own brain, but as sick as I can make myself, it’s fuel for a fire that is always burning.

I can’t imagine a quiet mind. I want one, to be able to just shut up for a minute and just enjoy some silence would be a miracle for me. Even as I write these words, I’m thinking about this short story, that novel, the laundry, are my new pets going to get along, am I gonna make ends meet this month. It’s constant. Now, I’m sure that’s true for everyone, there are all these racing thoughts and concerns that literally keep us motivated throughout the day. What I’m seeking, what I think Will is surprised by in his mother, is the ability to pick one. No matter the situation, a project or goal or task. I’m writing this out in hopes of making sense of it, and if I don’t make sense, maybe I’m giving voice to someone else’s concern. And that’s what I really want to do when I write these blog posts: conceptualize that stream of consciousness.

Yes, I get bored, but mostly, if I look bored, it’s more than likely I’m actually feeling depressed. This is just me, mind you, I’m not saying everybody who is bored is depressed, God knows there’s a bajillion kids who are so bored right now, but they’re not depressed. I, however, am always thinking, and sometimes the thoughts are quite heavy, either in content or sheer volume, amount and loudness. It’s because I have ideas. I’m not saying not everyone has ideas, I realize I’m treading potentially offensive waters here, but despite I’m worried about being worried, bored with being bored, I, personally, am never without something to think about. That’s the curse of the creative mind.

The blessing of the creative mind comes in spurts; when you can actually produce a product for others to enjoy, or that you enjoy yourself, or you’re able to take that constantly running, revving engine of a brain and apply it to daily tasks and come up with solutions to problems. Again, this is coming back to having a focus, being able to fine tune the barrage of ideas into a steady stream or controlled trickle of intention.

So, the point of this diatribe is to try and focus.

Pick one thing, once a day, and pay attention to it, see it through, put it on paper or into words or actions.

Is it mowing the lawn? Is it writing a novel? Is it making a dress? Is it just calling your mum? Be present, make whatever concerns you relate to what it is you want to focus on, that way, it’s not so much anxiety and worry, but constructive determination.

Now, if only I could take my own advice…

For more from JD you can visit his blog, CIRCUSsized, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, or find his material on Amazon. JD often writes about depression and anxiety, trying to make sense of, and normalize, these traits that threaten and feed his creativity.

guest post from author K. Bird Lincoln (author of “Tiger Lily” and “Dream Eater”) + giveaway

For those of you who don’t know, the cover reveal for K. Bird Lincoln’s Dream Eater happened just a month ago. This book is the first in a new series, and is released April 4th. I would highly suggest looking into it and preordering if you can! It was addicting, and I can’t wait for the next book. I will offer a review of Dream Eater come release day- April 4th!

While reading Dream Eater I was able to be put in touch with her and she kindly agreed to write a guest post for y’all! After all, you can read my advice all day long– but Ms. Lincoln is someone who has made it to that “final step” of releasing her words upon the world.

I won’t keep babbling. But don’t skip reading this– the giveaway details are at the end!

Find your own tricks to keep writing: how small children taught me I didn’t need three hours of uninterrupted quiet to write

kbirdlincolnheadshot

Author K. Bird Lincoln

By K. Bird Lincoln

Before I had my first daughter at age 30 I was a writer. A Writer. I had a desk in a quiet room, where I could look out the window at the San Francisco Bay. There was a ritual—stovetop latte from my Bialetti Mooka Express, soothing music, a quick check of email that often turned into an hour long session, and then several uninterrupted hours of writing.

Of course, I usually only managed like 800 words, but I was Writing. I was a Special Snowflake with delicate writer sensibilities and this was my artistic process.

Cue snort.

Then I had girl1 and for two, sleep-deprived years I pretty much lost all ability to write. My creative batteries were drained by the end of the day by tending to my daughter.

Somewhere in the tangled mess of diapers, wet bras, playdates, spilled sippy cups, and applesauce packs, I discovered I was Still. A Writer.

I just wasn’t writing. The stories were there, but nothing was getting on paper because people in real life don’t have two to three uninterrupted hours in which to light candles and listen to soothing music before they get down to work.

It was time to get brutally honest with myself. If I was going to be a Writer, I had to Write, no matter what. But first I had to figure out what my own, personal writing avoidance excuses were.

“No time”

“I can’t possibly meet word count goals every day because I don’t have time”

“There’s laundry to be done”

“It’s too hard to get my head in the right place for writing”

And then I began to trick and bribe myself.

I started to carry a small notebook around. I found there were 10 or 15 minutes I could wring out of the day. Times when girl1 was eating. Or playing with something safe. And as she got older, those 10 or 15 minutes were the times I was waiting to pick her up from preschool, or watching her at swim class in a steamy room, or right before she came home from school and I’d already done the laundry and had a snack out on the counter. Of course, things had to adjust when girl2 was born. The creative battery ran down for a few months. But I recovered my Writer identity more quickly after girl2 because I had experienced the tricks and the bribes. I was a Writer and that might go on hold, but it would never go completely away.

Girl1 is now 15 and girl2 is 12, and I could have two hours back in front of a computer in a quiet room with coffee and music. But you know what, oddly enough, it’s getting to Ballet early and sitting in the car for 15 minutes that I do most of my hardcore writing. If I have too much time, I tend to get ensnared by Facebook or updating my Amazon sales page or other writer-related stuff.

Being honest with myself about my writing avoidance behavior helped me to find ways to trick myself into writing.

No time” turned into “just write for 10 minutes.”

I can’t meet writing goals of 2000 a day” turned into “so reward yourself with the easy writing goal of 1000 a week, and anything over that is icing on the writing cake.”

There’s laundry to be done” turned into “okay, you have two minutes to put laundry in the machine, and then you have to sit down at the computer until you have written.”

It’s too hard to get my head in the right place for writing” turned into “stop whining.” And then I started making playlists of songs on Youtube that made me think of a character or an emotion I wanted to convey. Now when I sit down to write a particular novel I turn on the Youtube playlist and like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I start literally salivating…er…my brain is conditioned to jump right into that feeling or character. A few years ago I read an interview with YA fantasy/science fiction author Scott Westerfeld who said he prints out the last two pages of whatever he’s written and starts each writing session by editing/reading those last two pages.

Voila! No more need for candles or music or anything. Reading the last two pages somehow not only kicks my story juices into full gear, but also has the added benefit of being an initial editing, without the danger of getting sucked into the endless black hole of editing. There’s only two pages to edit, and then I have to create content

There’s also the fact that I don’t allow myself to buy lattes at Dunn Bros or Starbucks or Caribou Coffee unless I’m writing there or I walked there. Pure bribery, I know. But at the end of the day, I have several pieces of paper with scribbled dialogue on it that I didn’t have at the start.

But you have to be honest with yourself. What are your writing avoidance excuses? What kinds of bribes will get you to write?  Meanwhile, here are some tricks I’ve heard from other writers. Maybe one will work for you.

  • Daily word count instead of weekly—with strict no internet policy until its met
  • Writing with a timer on instead of word counts
  • Change your writing place. Go somewhere physically different to write.
  • Write the scenes you really want to write first to get yourself going, or alternatively, save the juicy scenes as a reward for after a certain word count
  • Use the voice recorder on your phone or ipad if carrying around a notebook doesn’t work for you in order to jot down ideas as they come.
  • Make yourself accountable to a writer (or non-writer) friend for word counts. Set up a mutual pledge to text or post about word counts with someone else so you’ll be shamed into doing it.

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Read “A beautifully-written genderbending tale of rebellious girls, shifting disguises, and forbidden magic, set against the vivid backdrop of ancient Japan.”—Tiger Lily, a historical fantasy novel set in an alternate medieval Japan available on Amazon.com.

Great advice from someone who has succeeded in reaching her dreams! Did you see that last little bit about reading her book Tiger Lily?

5162dw5dklLucky for you, she’s agreed to give one lucky reader a copy FOR FREE.

Enter HERE:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway starts today and ends Monday, March 6, 2017 at midnight EST. Good luck!