give thanks for your writing

In a competitive business where everyone is hoping to make a break, it’s hard sometimes to be thankful for the season you’re in.

You might just be starting out with your novel (it is NaNoWriMo after all). You might be querying, starting with your new agent, on you third agent, about to score that deal, releasing your fifth book– who knows!

The thing is, the publishing industry is a crazy, scary, beautiful place. If we didn’t know that, we wouldn’t be writers… but sometimes it’s easy to forget it.

This is just a small reminder to give yourself a pat on the back, and it’s as much for me as it is for you, reader. Remind yourself that you’re amazing because you’ve actually put words to paper. You are one step ahead of those that “want to find time” or “always wanted to write.” And if you are one of those later people that I’ve mentioned, there is never a better time than now to start.

Yes, now. I mean, maybe finish reading this…but then get your butt off here and start writing your own words.

There are never going to be perfect conditions. Maybe you think you need to work for a while so you have the time to really focus on your writing after, or maybe you want to build your family roots before you write that best seller– but if you put off writing over and over and over again… eventually you’ll miss it.

Set your mind to it. Write. Even if you can’t come up with that amazing idea, just start writing something, anything.

Anything is better than nothing.

Give thanks, writer. You are in a beautiful season- even if you don’t think you are. There’s always something beautiful to find…and something beautiful to write.

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[writing] dry spells can be natural

IMG_4877If I’m being honest, I am amazed by writers who write every day. I’m amazed by writers who can sit down and hash out a novel in one month. I’m amazed by writers who plot and plan and schedule and stick to it. I’m amazed by writers, period.

But there comes a time in every writer’s life, at least I believe this to be true, that they can’t do any of it. They sit to write and instead end up on Twitter for hours. They schedule writing time and instead settle down with a good book (or a binge-worthy Netflix show). They plot out a novel for the perfect month and then they have something come up that soaks up the time they had for writing, making them unable.

Life happens. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, writing doesn’t happen.

I am in a season of life where writing is very difficult. Not because I don’t make time to write, or because I don’t have a WIP ready for my attention- but because I’m so mentally wiped that even in my scheduled time, my brain is fried. If you’ve been where I am before, or you’re in the trenches of a hard-to-write-season with me- never fear. I have heard there’s light at the end of it, and whether this season lasts for a day, month, or years- here are a few uplifting things to remember.

It won’t last forever.

You are a writer, an author. You have written before and you will write again. Because if you are a true writer, the words of your stories and the stories of others make up your core in a way that you can never escape them. This season of life might be hard, and the well of creativity might run dry at the end of the day. Whether it’s because you are chasing little kids around day in and day out, or you’re starting a new job, or you’re going through some health issues, or someone you love has health issues– there could be so many reasons I can’t even continue, but whatever it is- know that it’s normal.

Don’t be hard on yourself.

As a writer, it’s hard not to see the success rate of others and play the comparison game. Whatever “success” looks like to you, remember that you are succeeding. Your life experiences, even the dry spells, contribute to your writing fuel. Some day you’ll sit down and remember what it was like to have no words, and spit out thousands onto a new page. Celebrate that you’re reading a book, or gaining experiences for a story, or blogging to keep those words flowing (woot woot). Don’t be hard on yourself. Celebrate yourself, because you need it now more than ever.

Just keep going.

Push through the season.

More than that, enjoy it. Enjoy this season of life- even if it sucks.

You might be craving the feeling of your fingertips brushing keyboard keys in a way that makes your head spin because the words are coming faster than your fingers can type. You might be reading someone else book and feeling as though you can do that, and start feeling low because you haven’t done it in a long time. You might be mad at this season because all you want to do is sit down and write and you feel a little robbed of your passion because it is who you are.

All of these things are normal, my friends.

Every writer who is a true writer will not walk away from it. You will come back for more, and the world will be waiting for your masterpieces.

 

bad habits as a writer

IMG_0133Happy Independence Day, fellow Americans!

As writers, we often see advice circling the inter webs. Whether you’ve joined writing groups/pages on Facebook, or you’re plugged in on Twitter, or you follow tons of writing blogs (ahem)- you’ve probably seen it all.

What NOT to do as a writer.

What to do to be a successful writer.

The best habits of successful writers.

Advice from [insert known author here].

All of these things are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. And I’ll be honest and say this piece probably isn’t 100% different from something else you’ve read. But if I’ve learned anything as a writer, it’s that every writer’s process is different. So it doesn’t hurt to read as much advice as possible, and read it all with a grain of salt.

My bad habits are a writer are as follows:

procrastination

self-doubt

chasing new book ideas before finishing another one

At least two of these aren’t always bad things for others, but for me they can be crippling. Here’s what I’ve learned to do with each of them– or what I’m still learning to do.

Practice makes progress, right? Something like that.

Procrastination

It’s no surprise that this is one of my downfalls. I am a procrastibaker. When I can’t think of what to write next, I turn to baking (and eating) a lot. It’s easy to procrastinate with social media and, well, life getting in the way of writing.

But I’ve learned that if I truly set aside a time– even if that time is just once a week, or preferably once a day– and make it my own, I do much better.

It doesn’t keep me from getting on Twitter and complaining about writer’s block or posting a picture on Instagram about my writing layout, but it does at least make me commit that time to things that revolve around writing.

Usually, when that happens- I can hash out a few words and count it as a success.

Self-Doubt

This one is killer, guys. Doubting yourself, your dreams, your goals, your abilities– this is a big NO-NO.

The problem with that, though, is it means it’s even easier to give into.

If you’re sitting down to write and have no words, or you suddenly think your book isn’t good enough, or a writer friend is having more success than you, or you had to part ways with your agent and you doubt if you’ll score another one, or you got rejected from a publishing deal, or you got a bad review– all these things can make that DOUBT seep in big time.

I’m not telling you to not acknowledge the doubt. I’m not telling you to NOT talk to someone and ignore it, or to not cope because you shouldn’t have this “bad habit.” I’m telling you it’s NORMAL to feel self-doubt.

Just don’t let that doubt make you give up. Don’t let that doubt keep you from seeing your amazing potential. Because if you’ve come this far, you HAVE potential. Cope how you need (I suggest baking/ice cream/wine/coffee dates), and then get back to writing / trying!

 

Chasing New Book Ideas… before finishing another one

I’ve written on this before. Chasing new book ideas is not a bad thing at all. Having ideas is what helps you as a / makes you a writer.

But time and time again I’ll find myself starting and stopping, starting and stopping, starting and stopping.

Sometimes this is for the best– especially if an idea cannot pan out (whether it’s because you don’t have enough to fill it in, or the story just isn’t good, or whatever the case).

If this is the only writing that one is doing, though… it might be time to reevaluate.

When I get into this cycle, I know it’s time to sit down and plot. Look at a new idea and see if it’s a FULL idea, or if it’s just a scene that I really want to write. If that’s the case, it’s better as a short story or something saved for a project it will fit into some day. Write that bit, get it out of your system- give it life- and then continue on with something else that has more grit.

 

As I’ve said, every author is different. Some have designated writing time daily, some only need it once a week. Other writers are in a different season of life and may only get a weekend a month to truly WRITE. And that’s OK. Every writer is different.

In the end, the best you can do is to admit your bad habits as a writer- or what you see as bad habits- and find a way to process them. Acknowledging them is the first step, and then you can move forward in defeating them. They won’t disappear by any means, but they will become more manageable.

Who knows. Maybe they will disappear. But I haven’t gotten that far just yet.

 

 

when to set a project aside

Writing is an amazing thing.

It allows you to get into character’s heads, creating them from nothing but your imagination. It allows you to bring new worlds or old times alive. It allows you to get all those pent up feelings out of your system. It allows you to really do something and feel accomplished.

Sometimes, though, a project isn’t cutting it. Many of these times you can push through and find a solution to the problem. You consult with your CP and brainstorm until your brain hurts and you finally get around that “block” you’ve been struggling with.

Those are the amazing times.

There are the exceptions, though, when you can’t find your way around the writer’s block. You’ve been stuck… and stuck… and stuck on this project for what may seem (or actually has been) ages and you feel like you are getting nowhere.

But you’re afraid.

You’re afraid to put the project on the shelf, because you don’t want to quit/give up. You’re afraid of stepping away and starting something new, thinking maybe the same thing will happen with the new project: you’ll start it, and then you’ll get stuck. You don’t want to create a pattern.

So you keep trying. And writing. And pushing, And prodding.

Still, you get nowhere.

This was me, my friends. I had been working on a project for about two years.

Yes. Let me say that again.

Two YEARS.

And I was so sure it was still going somewhere. I wanted it to go somewhere because it was such a good idea. It still is. But I couldn’t get it. I couldn’t get the layout how I wanted, and my characters weren’t progressing how I thought they would. Something just wasn’t right. It was lacking.

Finally, a good friend told me there was nothing wrong with shelving the idea. After a Skype session about how I had a new idea for a book, and how I wanted to write it but was afraid to step away from this other project, she said something:

“Write your new idea. Go back to your current project when you’re ready. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

After taking her advice, I have to say I feel such a relief. So, to follow up after all that, here’s some advice from me!

Write what’s calling to you.

Writing is hard work. It’s always going to be hard work, no matter what. Anyone who says anything differently is, well, dead wrong. In order to make it slightly less painful and a little easier on you, write what’s calling you. If you had an idea and started and you’ve been trucking away but you just can’t do it (I mean literally) then give yourself a break. Whether that break is for a short story, a blog post, or shelving it to work on a new novel– know that you didn’t fail. You can always go back to it.

Don’t be afraid of a new idea.

Let me first say that there is, of course, a healthy balance. If you are a chapter or few away from finishing your novel and you decide to put it aside to start a new idea because you’re afraid to finish your novel– that’s a whole different ballgame. But if you’re writing a book and you suddenly feel more pulled to write something else, you don’t need to be afraid of that. Write your idea down. Heck, write your new idea– you don’t want to lose it! Know that you are a writer no matter how many projects you have going.

Recognize a pattern.

The only word of caution I would put in here, is be aware. If you have written half of five novels and somehow can’t find the motivation to finish any of them, it might be time to reevaluate. Consider brainstorming with a CP, or finding a writing group that will keep you accountable, or make yourself write a synopsis or outline or something that’s going to get you to the end of a project. You don’t want to have all these unfinished books and wonder where you went wrong.

 

I can’t really say when YOU should set a project aside. Every writer is different. All I can tell you is that you should trust your instincts and gut when it comes to YOUR writing. Weigh advice, suggestions, new ideas, old ideas, and so forth with a grain of salt.

Above all, write for yourself. If you’re writing for everyone else, you’ll never get anywhere.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”Cyril Connolly

how do you make your writing goals stick?

img_0009Making writing goals and plans can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s even a bigger challenge to follow through with them.

As writers, we are challenged with having two parts of our lives– the writing part, and the other part. The balance can be a nightmare sometimes, and other times we wonder why others complain about not having the time to do what they love.

It’s understandable. That’s life, after all.

But what happens during those times that feel like we’ve stepped into a horror film? Those times that the plans you wrote down for the day (or the week, or the month) slip away and we find ourselves wordless and feeling lousy?

MAKE SACRIFICES

Oftentimes we don’t write because we feel like something else is more important, or it’s just distracting us. If that pile of laundry in the corner is laughing at you as you try to hash out a scene, tell it to shut-up and keep going.

It’s OK to let the laundry sit for a day so you can write, or the dishes, or the dusting– or whatever it is.

If it’s not house work, and you think your distraction is far more important– it’s up to you to decide what to sacrifice so you can get your writing time in.

PLAN AHEAD

Not good at making sacrifices? Plan ahead. Get that project done before the due date so you have time to enjoy your own writing. Make some freezer meals (or even order a pizza) to have the troops fed so you can snuggle in without interruptions (maybe). Know when you’re writing time is and make sure to prep for it.

You might never have all your bases covered, but you can come as close as possible with a little planning.

TAKE IT ONE WORD AT A TIME

Goals can be scary. And if they’re not scary, that usually means they’re not “big enough”… or so I’ve been told. The thing is, you don’t want to make your goals so outrageous that you feel overwhelmed just thinking about them.

Take your goals one word at a time. If your goal is to write 5k words in one week and you only make 3k, that’s OK! Pick up the slack the next week, or by the end of the month. The great thing about it all is you are your worst critic.

Don’t want to miss out on those 2k words? Enlist a Critique Partner or Writing Buddy that will keep you accountable. Just remember that sometimes the words come slower at times of stress and busy-ness than they do when the other part of your world is all rainbows and unicorns.

It’s so important to make our writing a priority and meeting those goals. Not only for ourselves, but for our future readers as well. But it’s never going to be easy (unless you’re a full time writer, and even then that’s debatable), and it’s always going to take work. What makes you different is you’re already halfway there– because you’ve started, you’re making the time!

You’re not just saying, I want to write a book

you’re actually doing it.

working your way over, under, & around writer’s block

writers blockI’ve been suffering from writer’s block as of late. As in I don’t know what to write about. As in I’m stuck. As in my brain is glitching. As in I have nothing to write about.

As in I haven’t been writing.

Every writer in the history of, well, ever, has suffered from writer’s block. Although writing is a passion, a need, a calling, sometimes those words are blocked from the flowing circuits of your brain and you just don’t know what to do. You are left staring at a blank screen as the blinking cursor mocks you.

You can’t always push through, so to speak. You can’t always push and punch that block until it crumbles. So what other options do you have?

 

GO AROUND IT

Although that block may seem like the Great Wall of China, you do have the option to go around it. Step away and do something else. Get outside, play in the dirt, do something crafty, bake some cookies, dance to music—do something that is a good distraction but something that will keep the wheels turning. You’re not giving up. You’re giving your mind a much-needed break as you reassess, re-strategize, and attack again.

 

GO OVER IT

Stuck on a paper or a part of the plot? Skip ahead. Go over the tricky part and write something you know will happen later. Sure, once you go back to that tricky part it may change, but it keeps you writing and makes you feel like you still got something done during your writing time. Also, going ahead may help you figure out why that block was there in the first place.

 

DIG

This is more than going under. This is digging deep. Write like your life depends on it, and see what happens. You may not get the words you need out on paper, but you’ll get something there. It may be a new project is clouding your brain, or something in your personal life is in the way, or what you’re writing is too personal—but you have to dig in and follow that tunnel to find the light at the end.

Keep writing.

If you know nothing else is going to help, then Type. Scribble. Scratch. Delete. Type More. Soon enough, that block will fall through, and you’ll be on the other side waving at it as you keep going.

 

 

 

This post was originally written for & posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog. Make sure to check out Katelyn’s amazing new site and the services she and others offer. Plus, more posts by yours truly!