Tag Archives: inner voice

Five Awful Things My Work-In-Progress Says To Me And What I Say Back

I have a work-in-progress and I think it hates me.

Every day I sit down with this project, set my timer, turn on the music, spend way too much time thinking about font, size, and color, and then work at least an hour.

When I sit down with it, I feel it come alive.

It is a non-fiction book, so it’s not like it’s alive in the sense of genre or character. It’s alive with the ease (or lack of ease) that comes with the drafting and sculpting of each chapter. At times, it feels like it’s fighting against me.  Some days, it is sterile and compliant; I’m the boss. I put one word in front of the other.

But most days, my work-in-progress is anything but sterile and compliant. It's the boss. And…

Why Do I Feel Like My Work-In-Progress is Out To Get Me?

5 Awful Things my Work-In-Progress Says To Me And What I Say Back

 

Sometimes my WIP is a wild animal.

 It responds to me with claws and fangs. It requires a chair and a whip and possibly raw meat in my pocket, never coming when I call it. I hold my ground with it, flicking the whip with confidence. I have to remind it that my name is on the contract. (Wait, no that’s not a strong argument. WIP’s name is on it too!) It says that it is an out of control animal and it can’t be tamed.

What do I say? I say, “Hey! Get back in line! I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it!” Then I get out the band-aids.

Sometimes my WIP is a diva.

It’s whiny and demanding. It insists I rewrite the sentences that have been rewritten dozens of times. Often it has high standards that I’m not sure I can meet. It withholds affection from me and turns up its nose at the ideas I bring or the structure I’ve suggested. This IS a book about writing, it sighs to me. How original can you expect to be? And then the dark glasses go on its face and I am dismissed.

What do I say? I say, “I am a professional. I’m a strong writer. If I think the work is good, then it’s good. I refuse to pamper you one minute longer than I have to!”

Support 10 Minute Novelists

Sometimes my WIP is a spoiled teenager.

My work-in-progress is bored and would much rather I turn up the music.  I often sit at my desk wanting to be other places and my WIP (who lives in my computer and never goes out) rolls its eyes at me and whines. “Let’s go swimming!” “I’m so tired of this!” “How much longer do we have to work on this project?” I can beat teenagers at their eye rolling game.

What do I say? I say, “until it’s done. An hour a day in 10 or 20-minute increments. And you realize I have a delete button at my fingertips, don’t you?”

10 Minute Novelists Insider Monthly Magazine by 10 Minute Novelists
Sign up for the monthly literary newsletter, 10 Minute Novelist Insider & get your free copy of Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A Day!

Sometimes my WIP is an exhausted toddler. This is the same thing as a spoiled teenager, only less articulate.

Tears are usually involved. My WIP holds its fists in anger and screams. “I DON’T WANNA!” Hmm, I don’t tolerate this behavior. I didn’t when my five kids were little and I don’t now. This will require the teacher voice. No one likes the teacher voice.

What do I say? 

I say, “Sit down! Hush! There is no reason to act like that. We are going to get through sixty minutes of drafting and if you give me one more whimper, one more whine, one more tear, I swear to you, I will change the font to comic sans! Do you understand me?

Sometimes my WIP is a harpy.

This is the worst one of the group. Its only attack is to mock me. Years ago, I would have responded by running away, by quitting, by believing all the lies that it was telling me about how this is a waste of time. It’s not going to sell anyway. How is this book different from what others are saying? They only asked you because they knew you’d work cheaply. After you finish this, you’re done, you don’t have any more projects in you. But I’ve changed.

When I see my WIP cross its arms and hold its nose in the air, I stand a little taller. I’ve learned that most bullies back down because they’re cowards at heart.

What do I say?

I slip into my best Dirty Harry voice: Get. Over. Here. And then I may or may not slap it upside the head, (depending on how graphic you want this story to be and how believable it is that I actually take a whack at my computer. Hmm. Not very.)

I’m Learning How To Silence The Inner Critic. I’m taming my work-in-progress.

Despite my complaints, I’m blessed and grateful that I have this gig. I’m learning a great deal, growing in discipline and already meeting people who might benefit from this book. But this is hard work. Every day is a battle of will and discipline and not just mine.

Some day this book will be done and be sitting on the shelf beside me. It will be powerless to mock me, torment me or roll its eyes. Instead, it will bring in royalty checks and open doors.

And then the scars, tears, discipline, hard work and ridiculous metaphors will all be worth it.

You Better Believe It!


If you liked this post, you may also like:

Eleven Ways To Know The Best Time To Show Your Work (And When You Should You Hold It Close To Your Chest)

Or, 10 Ways To Lift Yourself Out of That Writing Funk


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

10 Ways To Lift Yourself Out of That Writing Funk

 

 

Being in a funk comes with the writing territory.

Because writers are already of the sensitive, angsty type, we are the first to fall into a depressive funk. At best, these funks slow us down and sap our motivation. At their worst, the blues can paralyze your creativity completely. You could be so down you pick up self-destructive behaviors. (Don’t do that! Addiction is never flattering!) I know I’ve sat down with my word count and my work-in-progress looming wanted it to go away. 

 

What should you do instead if you’re feeling a little down?

Take a self care inventory. Are you getting enough sleep? Have you eaten well? Do you have any symptoms that need to be remedied medically? Are you well hydrated. Sometimes all we need is a little personal TLC to chase the blues away.

Determine the cause of the funk. I’m writing this post in the middle of a funk. I thought that the reason I was down was because I didn’t see the results I wanted in something I tried. But I think now that I’m emotionally exhausted from making three major decisions in the course of a week. No wonder I’m blue. I don’t have any emotional energy.

Pick up a pencil. There’s value in being creative while you’re feeling down. Even if it’s just 10 minutes, you’ll feel better if you’ve accomplished a little toward your dreams. After the timer goes off, you may feel your spirit lightened. You may even want to write more.

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Vent.  Often just finding an appropriate adult to talk to about matters is the best medicine. Find someone trustworty with whom you could get your frustrations off your chest.

Be honest with your emotions. Sometimes we feel down because we aren’t owning up to what’s really bothering us. I’m also kind of upset that someone in my life is way too anxious about the future. Maybe I’ll talk to them about that. Maybe I won’t. Either way, I need to at least be honest with myself.

“Depression on my left, Loneliness on my right. They don’t need to show me thier badges. I know these guys very well.”
Elizabeth Gilbert

Count your blessings. A sure fire way to beat the blues is to list, literally or figuratively, all of the things that are going right in your world. Maybe spend 10 minutes on gratitude before you start your creative work. I’m sure your mood will shift a little.

Give yourself room to fail. I know that when I fail to meet my own expectations, I’m down for a while. How better it would be if I would give myself a little grace. I need to stop connecting my value to my achievements and accomplishments and be content at times.

“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.”
Dodie Smith

Yoga, breathing and meditation. It isn’t hard to stop and breathe deeply for ten minutes. Your body has a way of resetting itself with deep breaths. Think about your gratitude list, or affirm yourself for a few minutes. Stop and stretch and relax all your muscles. You will feel better when you seek a bit of physical peace.

Seek professional help. This is the most important item on this list. A professional mental health worker can give advice that a writers blog never should. I know that seeing a therapist regularly made a huge difference in my life. Most insurance covers this cost. Make the call and don’t hesitate.

“I am in that temper that if I were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the top.”
John Keats

I also asked my friends on my Facebook group, 10 Minute Novelists, what they would do. Here are their answers: 

Rebecca Williams Waters I walk. A little exercise gets me feeling better and my mind refreshed.

Jane Lebak I find some kind of word count tracker, that way I am forced to “feed the ticker” every day.

Sheri Williams All the time. I read when it gets to bad. Or listen to really loud music.

Sara Marschand I find a buddy who’s working and they help focus me, if it’s not too bad, but sometimes I bingewatch my anxiety away.

“I have deep feelings of depression… What can I do about this?’
‘Snap out of it! Five cents, please.”
Charles M. Schulz

Sandy Stuckless Switch projects. Maybe playing around with a new idea for a bit gets me excited. I also second Sheri‘s comment. Loud, heavy music, usually wakes me up.

Erin Phillips Oh am I feeling that right now! It’s awful how outside things can effect our motivation to write, but for me journalling about the problems I’m feeling gives me some release before I try to do anything else. Otherwise, I find my current upset-ness infiltrates my writing more than I’d like.

Leya A Brown I journal for a little to unload the junk.

Christine Hennebury I write a bit about what is bothering me and then I ‘put it away’ for short periods of time.i.e. I set a timer for 10 minutes and write about something else. Then I go back to the writing about the issue. Then I take a break.

Pam Humphrey If I don’t go read or watch Netflix, I will sometimes pick a scene in my WIP I like and read for a bit. It helps pull me into my own story.

Michele Mathews I’m in a winter funk, too. We haven’t seen the sun in a few days. Sometimes reading or watching TV helps, but the best thing for me is to go to Starbucks. I get a task or two I want to get done while I’m there. Getting out of the house gives me different scenery and being away from the house makes me focus on my writing. I can’t get up and do anything else and get sidetracked.

Tanya Miranda Find a prompt online. Sometimes, I’ll find a really nice art piece and try to write something to go with it.

We all have down days.

You don’t want your blues to control too much of your life. You surely don’t want a dark day to sap your creativity. Try these suggestions to life yourself out of that writing funk.

 

10 Destructive, Cowardly Lies I Had To Discard So I Could Become A Writer

This is one of my favorite blog posts. I’m bringing it back from 2014 because I think we could all use a fresh reminder! 

We don’t get in this business to be comfortable.

We get in this business because the drive to create is bigger than the drive to be accepted.

It takes guts and courage to throw your words to the world. And if lies are keeping you back, then you need to put them in the toilet with the rest of the ca-ca in your life.

What do I do when I lack courage to write?
There isn’t room enough for the words “flush”, “pound”, or “destroy”. Pity.

 I’ve overcome a lot of lies to get where I am today. That alone makes me a success.

Not sales, not followers on Twitter, not likes on my Facebook page.

For eight years I’ve taken my writing seriously. For seven years, I’ve battled poor self image and wobbly self confidence far more often than I’ve battled convoluted plots and characterization. If I hadn’t battled them, wrestled them to the ground, wadded them up in a ball and then flushed them away,  then they would have festered and killed any creative desire. If they had won, then I would have believed  that my writing wasn’t worth the effort.

I’ve fought a lot of lies.

They are hateful, destructive and cowardly because they do nothing to make me feel better about myself, they feed my tendency to isolate myself and they make me more and more fearful. I hate these lies. I don’t ever want to believe them again. 

These are the top ten:

10. I can only be successful I find some other writer out there like me and copy them.

TRUTH: I am a unique individual. My interests, experiences, perspectives and skills are totally unique, so copying someone would only make me a hack, not a real writer.

9. I don’t have time to pursue my dreams, I’ve got five children.

TRUTH: I do have time. I can find ten minutes here and there to work on my novel. I can delegate household responsibilities, make meals in advance, keep my computer on in my kitchen, carry a notebook to the playground and work at it.

How can I write when I can't find time?
This mom only has one kid. Lightweight.

8. It must be some cosmic joke to have a desire to write, yet have no opportunity.

TRUTH: I am not a big fan of the phrase “God helps those who help themselves”, yet I do believe that I will have to go out and work to find the opportunities. Since starting seven years ago, I’ve started a blog, written and sold e-books, won runner up in a short story contest, written three novels, self-published two, became a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and published dozens articles. Oh, and I got a non-fiction writing contract, which required me to get an agent.  I’m tweeting and I have a Facebook page. I’m doing something every single day to pursue my dreams. If I’m going to succeed, then I need to find the opportunity myself.

7. Past failures certainly trump future successes.

TRUTH: I still remember sitting in college writing courses holding back the tears for a paper with a D on it. I had a lot of D’s in my writing classes. I look back now and believe that as a 20 year old, I had no life experience, no self-confidence and clearly not much skill. But I’m older now. I’ve got something to say. I still might make mistakes, but I’m not going to look back at what happened in college. I’m just to keep looking forward.

6. I can’t be a real writer, I don’t wear black, chain smoke or have a whiskey habit.

TRUTH: When I was younger I had a lot of preconceived notions about what a real writer looks like and does with his free time. My ideal always was a poor housekeeper, wore mismatched, torn clothing and had a couple of cats. My mental image also included a lot of hard alcohol and cigarettes. I am not like that and yet, I want to be a real writer. I need to discard any silliness and just write. Real writers write. That’s all I need to worry about.

How can I get my family to leave me alone?
I mean, pretty please, with sugar on it?

5. I can only write when I feel creative.

TRUTH: Because I have so little time to devote to my writing, I’ve had to discipline my emotions. I don’t always feel creative, but I write anyway. I don’t always feel like making dinner or getting out of bed either, but it must be done for my household to run well. This same self-discipline pays off when I apply it to writing. I’ve never forced myself to write for ten minutes and then regretted doing it.

4. Everything that needs to be said has already been said, or, there’s no room for me.

TRUTH: This is a tough thought to shake, especially when agents and publishers are unkind or uninterested. Nevertheless, I must believe that my stories and perspectives are important and then sculpt them beautifully and clearly. I must work on my craft so that my creations are so well said, that others will happily make room for me.

3. Taking another idea, twisting it around to make it unique and then calling it my own is cheating.

TRUTH: There really are no new ideas, just unique interpretations of old ideas. How freeing it is to realize that many Shakespeare’s plays were based on factual events. What makes them valuable is his artistic interpretation. I can do that too. And if I’m lucky, I’ll have a fraction of the success that he did.

How can I relieve my stress?
It does. It so does.

2. Real writers write quickly and elegantly without effort.

TRUTH: BAH! This is nonsense and it took me a long time to figure this out. Real writers understand that the writing process often means riding an ocean of ebbs and flows, of storms and doldrums, of smooth sailing and choppy waters. If I think that because I get stuck once in a while, then I can’t be a real writer, then I’m doomed.

1. This can’t be my “calling. It’s way too much fun.

TRUTH:  Those of us from austere backgrounds have a hard time with this, but yet, it is true. We were created for specific purposes and by doing what we were made to do, we will find much joy. I didn’t fully embrace writing until I understood that the reason I do this is because it makes me happy. And to have readers who enjoy it, makes it a double blessing.

These are my 10 Destructive, Cowardly Lies.

Because I’ve finally seen them for what they are, dealt with them properly and embraced the truth, I’m free to write. I’m free to pursue my dreams.

What about you? Do you have any lies? How are you fighting them? What is your definition of success?

Top Ten Things I Did Right Last Year That Made All The Difference

Happy New Year! 

I’m so glad we’re starting over with a fresh, shiny new year. 2016 has a lot of hope and promise. 2015 wasn’t too shabby for me personally, but I did suffer the fallout of some of the decisions that I made in 2014. 

2014 was the first year that I stood up for myself, aggressively took responsibility for my own happiness and walked in complete confidence. Today’s blog post is a throwback-what I did that year that made all the difference. I’m still processing 2015’s victories. I’ll have a post about them soon enough.

Hope you enjoy this one.  


2011 was a sucky year for me personally. Then 2012 got worse. Then, 2013 became the Papa Bear of bad years for me and my family. I was pretty happy that by the end of it, I had a new home, a new town, a new job for my husband, a houseful of new furniture and a chance to start over. I decided that I wanted to do things the right way for 2014.

If anything the previous three years taught me that many of our circumstances can’t be helped, so I decided that my attitudes  and actions — what I could control for the new year — would be completely different.

Top Ten Things I Did Right In 2014 That Made This My Happiest Year Ever

In January of 2014, my family and I started attending a new church and a new homeschooling co-op (both in our new town). This meant that everywhere we went,  I had to introduce myself, introduce my five children, leave some sort of an impression, and give it my best.It’s rather conspicuous to be new but it’s especially obvious when you’re the mother of five children from ages 8-16. We weren’t just new, we were the new parade that entered the room. If for no other reason, my kids were watching me and I knew that if I was fearless, they would be too. 

All these new faces and new opportunities made me a little nervous. I had always had this inner conflict in new situations, wanting to be bubbly and gregarious and yet feeling a sense of fear and dread in new situations. Something inside me told me I had a lot to give and people would like knowing me if they got to know me, but then at the same time, I believed that I was worthless, boring,  and worthy of rejection. I had failed in relationships and in new situations before. (We all have, haven’t we?) And I had plenty of regrets for NOT stepping up and taking the time to be with people and sharing my life. Now I was NEW again and this time, THIS TIME, I had to live differently.

I had to do it because my children were new too and they were looking at me for inspiration.

I had to do it because I knew that relationships did bring me joy and I had no choice but to extend my hand and speak up if I were going to have any at all. I also knew that only one of these voices in my head was the correct one. The fearful and anxious one had never yet made me happy, perhaps the other one would?

I didn’t just listen to my happy, confident voice I did other things differently too.

This is what I did differently

1. I practiced standing in my Wonder Woman pose for up to 2 minutes before I was put in a new situation. Um, yeah. This works. I love it.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 5.26.44 PM

2. I looked people in the eye.

3. I wore my boots because having a bit of a heel makes me feel more powerful. I’m also short. Heels help a lot.

4.I told jokes.

This was easy. I love being silly and making funny comments. I have an off the cuff humor and I decided that if nothing else, laughter, either with me or at me would loosen new people up and make ME feel better.

5. I had no expectations of the people I met.

I knew I wasn’t going to meet a BFF right off the bat. I still haven’t, but that isn’t important. What’s important is that what I once thought I needed a BFF for, like calming my fears, I can do now myself.

6. I volunteered.

I signed up to serve others at my church at and my homeschool co-op. Not only is this scary, but I had to deliberately place myself in a submissive role. This wasn’t always fun. But I did it.

7. I left my business card with people.

When I left it at the library I specifically asked the librarian to give it to the next homeschooling family that came in. That woman, Jennifer, took my card, invited me to the local McDonald’s for a play date, invited me to her church, met me at her church and now she and her family (who live a half mile from me) are very close to ours. (My teens babysit her littles!)

8. I stopped equating my value with my mistakes.

On March 24, I fell down the stairs in my home and broke my ankle in two places. It took me months to fully recover. The old me would have blamed myself over and over — believing that I was klutzy or stupid or I should have known better. The new me knew it was just an accident.  And I made the best of it. It was a result of being stuck on my butt for weeks that I got the idea for the Facebook group that lead to the development of this website. Maybe falling down the stairs was the smartest thing I did all year?

9. I set boundaries with people early in my relationships.

If I felt like something wasn’t fitting well, I spoke up about it and I was surprised at how well most people respected my position. I was not mean spirited, I just made sure that my boundaries were clear.

10. I assumed that people would like me and that I would succeed.

This was probably the most revolutionary thought of them all. Now while it was true that not everyone was warm and cuddly to me when they met me, most were. By believing in myself more, I actually became more fearless and secure in who I was and I cared less what people thought of me.

 As a result of these changes, I met hundreds of new people, took chances, had many wonderful opportunities, laughed a lot, and enjoyed myself at every turn. This ten things utterly changed everything about my life in 2014 and I think that this last year was the happiest year I’ve ever had.

So 2015? (And 2016 too!) I’m facing you the same way!

And it’s going to be awesome!


 

Want to face 2016 with great tools for Time Management?

Please sign up for my Time Management Boot Camp.

Top Ten Ways You Can Find Time To Write in 2016 by Katharine Grubb

Every Monday, for eight weeks, you’ll get an email from me that gives you specific, step by step tips on how to find more time to write. I’ll address each one of the previous ten points. I’ll give you ideas on how to organize your home. I’ll give you resources like time-saving recipes. I’ll give you vision for training your kids to help you with household tasks. The ultimate goal? More time for you and your writing dreams.

Sign up for Time Management Boot Camp! 8 Weeks of Practical Tips & Encouragement to help you find time to write!

* indicates required



Get the email every Monday morning!

I love January. It’s so full of hope and promise. This year, I tell myself, will be the year that I hit all those goals, that I become a better person, that I change for the better.

You can do it too! I believe in you! 

Top Ten Things To Do If You Feel Burned Out As A Writer

My 2015 was full.

I released three books. I spoke two times. I attended four live book selling events. I launched a podcast. I was featured on three other podcasts. I wrote more than 365,000 words (that averaged 1000 words a day).  I was successful in Nanowrimo, writing my 50,000 words. I launched my weekly encouraging newsletter. I also took on a part-time job as a homeschooling tutor. I did all this while maintaining my household, hosting two chats a week, homeschooling my five kids and baking my bread from scratch.

This all looks very impressive until you pull the curtain back and see the truth: I was a nervous mess for most of the year.

I worried about the various launches. I was disappointed in my subsequent sales. I was disappointed in  the trickling reviews. I lost sleep. I spent a three month period, between mid-August and mid-November in severe pain in my neck and shoulders.  Also, from January to December, I had an almost nonstop struggle with various relationships over this theme: I have boundaries now.

By the end of my amazingly productive, amazingly stressful year, I was completely knackered. I was so exhausted that I was ready to walk away from writing fiction, from blogging, from ever publishing anything ever again.

Fortunately, I had the good sense not to make any rash decisions. I was tempted, more than once, in this down time to confuse fatigue with failure. I found that it felt good to not have a deadline or a project or an event to plan. But in I way I felt empty too, like I should have been doing something. 

Instead, I just sat back for a few weeks. I unplugged figuratively and literally.

Sometimes the best something you can do for yourself is nothing.

This is what I did during this six weeks or so of resting.

Top Ten Things To Do If You Feel Burned Out As A Writer by Katharine Grubb www.10minutenovelists  

 

  1. I didn’t  feel guilty. I needed a break. I needed to retreat, go back and rethink what my next writing and publishing steps are. I’m still not completely sure of them, but I’m not going to stress about the unknown in my life.
  2. I didn’t feel rushed. It’s almost always better to move thoughtfully and purposefully than harried and hurried. This can apply to most things in life.
  3. I didn’t have high expectations. This was the toughest thing I had to let go.  I set aside a month to avoid writing and rest. But in the back of my head, I was, at times, convinced that this month was the key to the really big idea that will launch me into fame. Those expectations will make me crazy and neurotic. I don’t think it’s worth it to worry about the future.
  4. I practiced good self care. During my time off, I tried make sure I was doing everything I needed to do. The obvious: sleep, water, exercise, good food was just a beginning. I also took a few hot baths, got massages, read a lot of books and stopped anxiety at the door of my mind.
  5. I had a plan. Kind of. I started by asking myself what was the most important thing to me. I was surprised at my answers. It was from this clarification of my values that I was able to envision 2016 a little clearer.
  6. I looked for answers. I spent this down time reading books (and discovered how much I like travel nonfiction!).  I asked trusted friends for advice. I read old notes. I went back and remembered the highlights of 2015. What do I want to repeat?
  7. I tried new things. This meant for me new books and introducing my teen girls to The Gilmore Girls.  I also listened to the Ted Radio Hour and This American Life. I think the novelty of this entertainment kept my mind distracted from listlessness.
  8. I curbed negativity. This is probably the hardest and most important thing on this list. My negative thoughts will have more of an impact on me than anything. My wails of despair and disappointment are not as powerful if I distract them with happy memories and positive thoughts.
  9. I paid attention to the stories around me. That’s why I love Ted Radio Hour and This American Life. They have fascinating fresh stories that I believe will take root in my self conscious and give my future art depth. This is what I think it means to be filled up with art before you can overflow.
  10. I wandered both figuratively and literally. I walked on the trail behind my house. I let my thoughts go to happy, unpredictable places. I invented dialogue for ghosts of characters that will never materialize. I couldn’t plant a stake in an idea, but I didn’t let it bother me.

I didn’t do all of these perfectly, by no means. And I didn’t have this list to go on — I just let things happen. And truthfully, I’m in the middle still of this rest period and I’m still figuring it out as I go.

But I think it’s a reasonable expectation for an artist to have down times.

I think there is nothing abnormal about a dry season or a hiatus or a holiday. Our minds and schedules need breathers and even though it had been years really since I had been able to take one, I’m glad I did.

I still don’t know what my projects for the future will look like, but I’m determined to approach my words as if they are my toys, not my taskmasters.

I’m going to be nice to myself and enjoy this time between deadlines. I’m not going to worry about sales or rankings, because those figures have rarely brought me joy.

2016 could be my best year yet.

What about you? How have you rested in between projects? What did you do to take care of yourself? 

 

Why I Stopped Journaling And How It’s Made Me Happier and Healthier

Once, a long time ago, I thought that my journals had magical powers.

Why I Stopped Journaling And How It's Made Me Happier and Healthier

Journals, were, since I had started writing in one at age 14, a place were all my feels (and believe me, I had a lot of feels) were safe. My journals were a place that I could take out my feels.  I could analyze them. I could ruminate on them. I took each thought as if it were a pebble from a pocket run my fingers across its jagged edges. With a journal you can go back and remember pain. I would analyze events and observations the way an astronomer analyzes the stars. I wanted clarity perhaps, or affirmation, or some sense that these ramblings had importance.

From the time I was 13 to the time I was 27, I kept a journal. I had spiral notebooks. I am left handed, so I found blank journals a little difficult to maneuver, so I preferred either a cheap portfolio that I could put loose leaf paper in or a spiral notebook — several subject, college ruled, that would lie flat on a table as I wrote. I liked writing in pencil or quality fine point pens. I decorated the books sometimes with cutouts from magazines. I had one that was full of pithy sayings “Dreams are wishes that only have wings” or stuff like that and I would write snarky things underneath it. I had one that had the transparent overlay of a blond girl in a pink dress with flowers all around her and I had a lot of fun, on every page, adding in my own unflattering embellishments. My anger was very real in these pages. So was my sadness. My darkness. My loneliness. My despair.

I kept all of these journals, from the time I was 14 until I turned 27, in pristine condition, hoping that someone else, perhaps my children, would see the value in these words. Couldn’t I share my pain? Couldn’t they feel sorry for me?  I really thought that any truths that I came up with in the process of writing was not just a truth, but it was a SPECIAL TRUTH only I could see. I thought that these journals were the anchor of who I was. I thought that if I spritzed them with an air of prayer and spirituality that they would be like incense or an offering of sorts and it would make me more worthy or more spiritual or more mystical or something. I thought my children would see this too. I thought that this raw honesty would be instructive. I never thought it would be creepy.

At age 27, I stopped writing in my journals as regularly. I had married. And I had five babies in less than eight years. My box of journals sat ignored and unattended to. As my maturity and responsibilities grew, the power of the journals weakened.
I cleaned out that box.  I flipped through them. The magical truth that I thought penetrated every page wasn’t really magical at all. It was just sad. It was self-indulgent. It was emotional masturbation. It was too much. It was not enough. There was nothing magical or spiritual about it. I didn’t think that my children would ever see the value in these meanderings. They would see their mother not as someone who was strong, but someone who was perhaps victimized or self-pitying or self-righteous or condescending or narcissistic.

Would I miss these journals if they were gone forever? I had lived without them for years and hadn’t thought to much about them. I decided they weren’t worth carrying around.So I unceremoniously took them to the curb and let the trash truck take them away. 

By not journaling every morning, this is what happens:

  1. I start the day thinking about what I have to do instead of what’s been done to me.
  2. I don’t allow my emotions to lead me, I take control of them.
  3. I don’t allow negative ruminations to snowball, causing destruction in my real time relationships.
  4. I don’t have a record of sins. Either my sins or the sins of others.  I can’t go back and remember pain if I have no track of it.
  5. I am far freer to forgive and walk in grace, forgiving myself as well as others.
Often I see advice that says, “all writers should journal because . . .” and while I can see the value for some, I think it’s a bad idea for me.  But I think my reality is this:  words have too much power over me and they drag my emotions down. The words in my journal will naturally lean toward the negative and destructive and be tainted by this air of writerliness or spirituality and for me, it’s not necessarily a safe place. It’s safer to stay away.
My words are my toys but they are, at times, a choking hazard. They suffocate. They have too much power and I have to be careful. 
What do I do instead? I blog here. I vent on a all purpose document and promptly delete it. I take the more sensible parts and put it in my weekly newsletter. I save bits and pieces of emotion for my characters and make them richer. I put these now tamed emotions into a container and tell them to behave.
I have a new healthier way to write and I think, that for me, it will make all the difference.

 

 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward, PTSD survivor, and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day.Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her new novel, Soulless Creatures, which is about two 18 year old boys, not vampires, will be released August 2015.

 


Free Copy of Soulless Creatures for any OU Alumni! by Katharine GrubbWorking-class future leader Roy Castleberry and pampered over-thinker Jonathan Campbell are 18-year-old freshmen at the University of Oklahoma who think they know everything. Roy thinks Jonathan could succeed in wooing Abby if he stopped obsessing over Walden. Jonathan thinks Roy could learn to be self-actualized if he’d stop flirting with every girl he meets. They make a wager: if Roy can prove that he has some poetic thought, some inner life, A SOUL, then Jonathan will give him the car he got for graduation. Roy takes the bet because he thinks this is the easiest game he’s ever played. Roy spends the rest of the school year proving the existence of his soul, competing against Jonathan for Abby’s attention, dodging RAs who are curious about the fake ID ring in his room and dealing with his past. For Roy and Jonathan, college life in 1986 is richer, (both experientially and financially) than either of them expected.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb

Soulless Creatures

by Katharine Grubb

Giveaway ends October 10, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Who Are We? A Existential Rambling From A Novelist Who Should Probably Know Better

Who are we?

What is our identity?

These are big questions that haven’t been fully answered by the wisest men. But I’d like to suggest that we are more than our genders, more than our hobbies, more than our avatars, more than our homes, more than our children, more than our possessions.

Who Are We- An Existential Rambling from a Novelist Who Should Probably Know Better

I ask this because I have always struggled with identity.

I spent a good part of my childhood fighting for attention, fighting for reassurance, fighting for comfort, for safety, for aspirations, for acceptance that exactly who I am is enough. That fight lasted way too long and the addition of titles like wife and mother just made fight more confusing. But I fought anyway.

I needed to know who I was because I had been told so differently. I needed to know who I was so my children could hold their heads up high. I needed to know who I was so when the storms of life battered me, I could be at peace knowing that the foundational truths about who I was remained. It wasn’t until I fully understood that I was enough, that I began to be free. 

And I believe that there is something deep inside of all of us that needs to know — WE NEED TO KNOW WHO WE ARE!

I can tell you the facts about me but that is not enough to fill that deep longing. I can tell you about my heritage and history, but that is not enough to strengthen me for the future. I can tell you about what I own, which isn’t much, but I know from experience how empty possessions can make you feel. I can tell you about how I spend my time, and I get very excited about my project, but they really don’t define me either. It’s more like they are an expression of my identity, but not my identity itself.

Knowing our identities is kind of like going on a treasure hunt. We search our inner wildernesses for that answer. Those who know and who are comfortable in their identities can’t give us clues to our own search. This is journey is a solitary one and it can, at times, be lonely.

We need to know who we are because it is this fact from which we fuel our thoughts. If we believe we are nothing, then we tell ourselves this lie. If we believe that we are worthless, then we repeat that to ourselves. If we believe that what we do has no value, then we are lazy, uninspired, fearful and defeated. If we believe that our identities are elusive, that they are accidental, that they are disposable, then this reveals what we really think about ourselves.

We can’t be happy if we don’t know who we really are.

I believe that our success depends on settling this core truth. I believe that the happiest, most joyful people, know something. I believe they know who they are. Often they can even say it clearly: I am worthy. I am strong. I am put here on this earth for a reason. I am a child of God. I am important. I am valuable. I am loved.

How do we move from having no clue to embracing it?

We have to make a mental choice. This is a battle of our minds. This is a battle that could be gut-wrenching. I know that in my case, I had to literally list everything that was ever spoken to me, “you’re not worth it, you’ll never amount to anything, you’re a nobody, you’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re stupid, you’re just a girl” and defy them all. I had to look those nasty lies in the eyes and exert the force of my being against them. I had to TELL THEM TO GET OUT OF MY HEAD! I had to kick them in the teeth. I had to stare them down. I had to emotionally and mentally attack each one and make them cower in fear.

This took a lot of work. It took months of effort. Many times I wanted to quit. Many  times I wanted to pick up each of those shiny lies and say, “but someone with authority in my life said this to me, so it must be true” and then put the poison back in the pocket of my soul.

Recently psychoanalyst Adam Phillips said this about identities: Because we are nothing special — on a par with ants and daffodils — it is the work of culture to make us feel special; just as parents need to make their children feel special to help them bear and bear with — and hopefully enjoy — their insignificance in the larger scheme of things. In this sense growing up is always an undoing of what needed to be done: first, ideally, we are made to feel special; then we are expected to enjoy a world in which we are not… When people realize how accidental they are, they are tempted to think of themselves as chosen. We certainly tend to be more special, if only to ourselves, in our (imaginary) unlived lives.

I would like to respectfully disagree with Mr. Phillips.  

What if we ARE something special? What if we’re special not because of our chemistry, nor our history, not our talents, nor our appearance? What if we’re special because we share the goodness of humanity? What if we’re special because we have a longing to aspire to greatness? What if we’re special because we are the only creatures on the planet that creates art? What if we’re special because we are attracted to justice? What if we are special because we want to embrace the honorable? What if we are special because we make feeble attempts to worship? What if we are special because we are baffled by the complexities of life and yet we want to still understand them? What if we are special because our fingerprints indicate that we could be? What if we’re special because of the invisible, intelligent force that organized our bodies, our brains and our souls so magnificently that we are awed by it? What if Adam Phillips is mistaken?

If I choose to believe that I am nothing then I lose hope. As for me, I would rather believe my own “foolishness” and have a hope and joy than believe this so-called truth that Mr. Phillips suggests and have despair.

I have been in the place of nothingness and it is a dark pit that has an endless horror. I don’t want that any more.

This is an existential argument. I’m quite sure I’m oversimplifying it. I am not a philosopher, a psychoanalyst, nor a theologian. But I do know that there is a choice that we all make, on a moment by moment, heartbeat by heartbeat basis. Do we choice hope or do we choose despair? I believe, simply because my own emotional fragility hangs on a thread, that that choice is a critical one. That is the choice that we make when we open our eyes in the morning. It is the one that puts us to sleep at night.

What do you believe?

  • If you believe that you are nothing then you will isolate yourself to evaporate into a void. If you believe that you are worthy then you will look into the eyes of others and speak their worth to them.
  • If you believe that you are nothing, then you will have convinced yourself that your sins are too much. That your punishment is not too great. If you believe that you are something, then you wear grace as a blanket, you confess your sin to others, you are humbled and grateful for forgiveness.
  • If you believe that you are nothing, then you are a slave to laziness and procrastination. They have whispered in your ears that it doesn’t matter what you do or when you do it because life’s futility is a force you can’t reckon with. But if you believe you are valuable, then you know that your efforts, no matter now small, no matter how ignored, are life-giving to someone, somehow and you must be faithful in them.
  • If you believe that you are nothing, you will debase yourself with the things that are destructive. You pick them up even though they destroy you, even though they handicap you, even though they diminish your soul. You abuse them because you don’t believe you deserve better. But if you believe you are valuable, then you look for the clutter, the poison, and the toxicity and you eliminate it from your life. You get help to do this. You admit your weakness. If you believe you are valuable, then you will find courage to face your demons.
  • If you believe that you are nothing, then you will hurt others to make yourself look good. You will point fingers, you will guffaw, you will mock, you will threaten and accuse. You will, by your own dark words, reveal the emptiness in your life. You may alienate those around you — the very ones you say you want to be closer to. But if you believe you are valuable, you will choose peace-making. You will speak kindness. You will offer a hand. You will reveal by your changed life that there is something whole there.
  • If you believe that you are nothing then you believe that you can never change. You will say that you’ve tried, or you at least you’ve claimed to. You will take failure as an excuse to continue to lie in the ditch of failure instead of getting up and stepping out of it. If you believe you are nothing, then you fondle the excuses in your pocket, convinced that they are the talisman to comfort. But if you believe that you are valuable, then you pray for change. You believe nothing is impossible. You seek wisdom. You ask for help. You see that humility and teachability are deceptively strong weapons in your fight for happiness.
  • If you believe that you are worthless then you blame others for your misery. If you believe that you are valuable, then you take responsibility for your own happiness.
  • If you believe that you are worthless then you listen to the siren songs of mindless entertainment too often.  If you believe that you are valuable, then you make disciplined choices in how you spend your time.

I believe I am something amazing, made in the image of God, to do excellent work for others. Believing this makes all the difference.

Who are you?

Why I Write: A Guest Post By Carolyn Astfalk

I only recently pondered why I write. I simply knew that I had to write, so I did.

My love affair with the written word started with clumsily-illustrated stories and spelling bees and grew to student newspapers in grade school, high school, and college. My affection for pen and ink led me to try my hand at calligraphy. During summer visits, I sat spellbound as my aunt, my mother’s only sister, analyzed my handwriting as well as written samples from my family members, friends, and teachers.

My penchant for fiction grew out of Nancy Drew speed reading competitions with my best friend and blossomed into the memorization of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and my love for Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone With the Wind. I savored the beauty of classical Latin and Greek in college and later became known as the resident “Grammar Lady” in my office. At one time or another, I devoured the content of sundry magazines and newspapers, blogs, and nonfiction books.

Why do I write?
Why I Write: A Series from the authors of 10 Minute Novelists

My love of books eventually moved me from a self-proclaimed loather of libraries to one of their biggest fans. (To be fair, the gloomy, musty local library and a snippy librarian had more to do with my enmity than books themselves.)

I kept a daily journal from the age of thirteen clear through to twenty-five, recording mundane details, events, and feelings (a lot about boys who didn’t like me back). I poured out boredom, heartbreak, confusion and joy in slanted cursive created with blue ink.

I continued to write as part of my work in public relations and communications. There were news releases, summaries, newsletters, columns, and position papers. I dabbled in short fiction with a community college course in short stories and a library class on children’s writing.

I was still a newlywed on the beach in St. Martin when I started scribbling notes and dialogue in the back of a journal, trying to capture all the details of a story that started as a dream and evolved into a drama.

It wasn’t until National Novel Writing Month in 2010, while my husband travelled for work and my children slept, that I dove headlong into the craft of novel writing. Without a clue as to what I was doing, I set my sights on writing 55,000 words in thirty days, an unprecedented feat for me.

I began with a printout of a newspaper story that intrigued me and the vague idea my protagonist would be a teenage girl. There was treasure, intrigue, and a light, innocent romance. Then day after day I stared at the large, white expanse of a new Microsoft Word document and proceeded to make stuff up, following every tangent as if it were the lifeline that would save me from leaving my muddled morass incomplete.

I emerged from that experience with a horrible first draft but a concrete means of transferring the stories that flickered like movies in my mind into coherent, concrete products.

Until that point, I hadn't realized that the cinematic scenes that played out in my imagination while I cleaned, drove, or showered, could be translated into a coherent mass of words with arcs, themes, tension, and plot. -- Carolyn Astfalk

Until that point, I hadn’t realized that the cinematic scenes that played out in my imagination while I cleaned, drove, or showered, could be translated into a coherent mass of words with arcs, themes, tension, and plot.

The more I indulged the words and scenes in my head, the more they flowed, often unbidden and intrusive.

I scrambled for pens and scraps of paper, afraid of losing any nugget of potential literary gold. The words and the ideas multiplied faster than rabbits in spring. That was when I conceded that I had to write, if not for my love of words then for my love of sanity.

There are other, lesser reasons I continue to write.

Yes, I feel “called” in a sense to write, to share particular stories, experiences, and themes that I hope will edify, entertain, and glorify. I’m certain I’m neither the most talented nor most skilled writer (not even close), but perhaps there is some small way in which my work has purpose beyond the sphere of my small and short life.

How else could I explain the time, energy, and bits of my soul I’ve poured into writing, reading, and attempting to improve my skills? For nearly five years, this fiction-writing gig has amounted to a part-time job, one for which I’ve not yet earned a penny.


 

Carolyn AstfalkCarolyn’s debut novel, Stay With Me, will be released on October 1, 2015. At that time, she hopes to earn a few pennies to contribute to her family’s wealth and offset the time and financial drain of her word habit. Until then, you can find me playing with letters and words at My Scribbler’s Heart Blog. Carolyn resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Why I Write By Katharine Grubb, Founder 10 Minute Novelists

 

 You may have been like me. You may have always needed to write.

You may have been like me and you had five children under eight years old and all you could think about is a story.  Or maybe you wondered why if you could tell a funny story about a bunny at bath time, why you couldn’t tell something more complicated and interesting for others? So in your desperation, you checked a book out of the library and you read it while you were nursing the baby.  Or when you sat at the playground or watched the children play in the back yard. You thought about writing even though you were supposed to be watching to see if  your son ate dirt again.

Why do I write?
Why I Write: A Series from the authors of 10 Minute Novelists

I write because there was something deep inside of me that longed to create.

I’m not the only one who had that something.

We create because we are hungry for expression. We create because we know that life is more than folding laundry and planning dinner and reminding the three year old, as patiently as you can, that she really needs a nap. We create because we have these active imaginations that aren’t happy with the story about the bunny. We create because we see bits and pieces of beauty in the world around us and we want to gather them all up together in our arms and reshape them into something wonderful. We create because we know that if we don’t, it would feel like smothering our souls. We create because we’ve always had a box of crayons or an idea of a story, or a wonder about us. We create because we so easily feel the nuances of pain and sadness, of glory and love. We create because we must.

We write because if we don’t, we’ll be defeated by the forces of darkness around us.

We write because if we don’t, the words will swirl around in our brains and our souls and eat us alive from the inside out. We write because if we don’t, then as we are exposed more and more to pain and relief, hope and despair, passion and stoicism, we’ll have no way to process it. We write because we have read the words of the great writers and we want to imitate them, even if it means doing it feebly. We write because there are people whose stories we want to tell; they have become old friends in our hearts and we think others  should know them. We write because we saw something magical and we want to tell the world about it. We write because our fingers love being on the keyboard. We write because we know when a bouquet of words comes together well, their aroma lasts longer than flowers.

We write because we don’t what we would do with ourselves if we didn’t. 

We write because we don’t like the messiness of the bits and pieces of things scattered in our homes, our computer’s desktops and in our brains. We have no places to put them, no vision of what they could be, no organization or plan. They are messy and imperfect, but these little creations are ours to cherish, not unlike the children we snuggle with at bedtime. We write to make order of them.

Why do you write? I want to hear from you.

#Top10Tuesday: Top Ten Exercises To Determine Your Raison D’Etre As A Writer by Katharine Grubb

What Do I Write About?

I firmly believe that the use of fancy French phrases (and also alliteration) makes one an excellent writer.

Oh, I kid.

But really, we should kinda know what we want when we set out to become a rich and famous writer. .

But if you don’t know who you are, or what you want, or what you’re good at. It’s okay. You can find out with thinking and hard work.

 So, I’d like to propose a few exercises to get you thinking about your purpose, or your raison d’etre.

If you spend ten minutes a day thinking or writing on any of these, you might discover something about yourself. (But I can’t promise a miracle. ) Admittedly, these exercises are all very similar, but perhaps it will get you thinking, seeing yourself as a success or awaken a new idea.

1. Look at your personal library. Which books do you collect, love to read, quote from or enjoy the prose?If you want to go so far, count the fiction and non-fiction titles, see which genre has the most in it. This might be a clue to what you should be writing.

2. If you were at a party, and someone started talking to you, and you started talking, and talking, and talking and the other party-goer said, “Whoa! You sure know a lot about this!” What would the subject or subjects be?

3. Pretend that you were asked to be on Oprah to discuss your most recent book. Picture yourself on the couch, smiling, (enjoying a glamorous new hairdo and outfit) and the entire audience is enraptured . . . . what kind of questions are you asked?

4. Your blog exceeds 1,000 hits a day. Why?  You have an assistant to read all the comments.  The most common one from your readers says something like, “I am so glad I learned about  . . . I never would have thought about  .. .  if you hadn’t written about  . . . . . ” You are elated. What subject are they talking about?

Top Ten Exercises To Determine Your Raison D’Etre As A Writer

5. You read a book that got you really mad. The author’s research is shoddy, the outline is illogical and the analysis is misguided and inconclusive. You rant about this for days, even looking things up to disprove this writer. What is it that you are researching? How do you write your rebuttal?

6. You read a dull magazine article.  You’re bothered about the way the writer put the information together.  You think the whole piece is dull and uninspired.  Do you re-write the article in your head? What is the article, and in what publication is it in?

7. Finish this sentence, “I think that the biggest problem with my favorite genre of fiction is that the author’s aren’t . .. .  ” If your finished answer is more than three sentences long, you might be a fresh new voice in that genre.

 

8. You know that “dinner party” question, where you are asked which four people you would invite to a dinner party? Answer that question, but the conditions are that they have to be writers, living and they all must love your work. Who are they?

9. You have a time machine that takes you back to high school English class.  Your favorite teacher tells you that your entire grade is based on one paper, anything you want, as long as it’s 100 pages. You are elated about the subject matter, work all year and turn it in on time, getting an A. What is it?

10. Your local librarian is delighted your first work is published. She asks you to come for a “Meet The Author” night, and in her library, your book is between the works of two well known authors. What is your book about? What are the interests of the people who attend? On what shelf, in what section is your book, and who are the writers have the books around yours?

I know that when I start thinking about what I want to be known for, my vision seems to be clearer. So, try it. If it doesn’t work, or you’re still not clear, ask someone close to you, who knows you well.  They might see an expert or a novelist or a poet in you that you don’t yet see.

And once you’ve done all this, WRITE! For heaven’s sake, write and don’t stop!

How have you found your purpose for writing? 


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant to conquer Twitter, but you don’t have the time?

This downloadable workbook will show you how to create a long-term Twitter presence, approaching your Twitter activity in three parts: your set-up, your strategy, and your system. This book is not a guarantee of success, but what it will provide for you is an orderly, thoughtful process in your brand, your biography, your target market, and your future tweets. Throughout the sections, exercises are provided to help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter. This book was originally intended for authors who want to use Twitter to build their tribe of readers, but the principles of it are universal. Anyone with an interest in using Twitter as a marketing tool would find this book useful. Download. 29 pages.

Five Lessons For Prose Writers From Poetry: A Guest Post by Elizabeth Buege

I’m a wordaholic. I love to work with words in as many different ways as possible, so right now, I’m a writing teacher, a freelance editor, and a writer.

For all that I’m hooked on words, though, I’m definitely not is a poet.

I read poetry, but I can’t find the patience to write my own. Still, the poems I’ve read have taught me valuable things that I now apply to my prose (as well as that of my students and authors). The following rules come from poetry, but the principles are universal. Whatever you love to write, they still apply.

Those of us who write prose don't have

Here are the top five writing lessons I’ve learned from poetry:

Know your reader.

Children’s poets taught me that it was possible to really know your reader. This goes beyond identifying your target audience. I’m talking about knowing them on a personal level—understanding what they want, how they see the world, and how they want to be addressed. A.A. Milne and Robert Louis Stevenson both did this for me. Milne’s poems told stories the way I wanted to hear stories when I was small—each was told from a child’s perspective with a childlike respect for that perspective. Stevenson likewise captured childhood with poems like “Bed in Summer.” What child hasn’t bemoaned going to bed in full daylight? Both of these men clearly knew children. Write for the people you know, and get to know the people you write for.

Read out loud.

I started reading out loud when I first memorized poems to recite. What a difference it made in the way I saw those poems! Hearing words aloud adds another dimension—one that shouldn’t be ignored in longer forms of writing. When you read silently, you can pick up some of the sounds and flow, but reading aloud is what really brings the lines to life. Whenever I write, I read tricky spots out loud to make sure the flow is smooth and the structure logical. I encourage my students and authors to do the same with their work. Note what your words sound like when read out loud; you don’t want to ignore an important aspect of your writing.

Five Lessons For Prose Writers From Poetry: A Guest Post by Elizabeth Buege

Pay attention to more than a word’s meaning.

Writing is about the sounds and order of words, not just their literal meanings. I grew up on a lot of great books, but I give poetry partial credit for teaching me that stories are richer when they’re full of strong images and sounds. “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes is a poem that did that for me. Not only is the story sweet and sad, the sound of it is like music. It has rich imagery and great repetition of words. It’s not just a poetry thing, either—I’ve found that many of my favorite books are also richly-worded. It’s something I now push for in my prose. Does your writing sound like music? As you focus on meaning, don’t forget to consider sound and order, too.

Blend beautiful and concise.

In being concise, you don’t need to give up beautiful language. Likewise, to write beautiful pieces, you don’t have to give up conciseness. It’s tempting to spruce up a piece with flowery language, but wordiness will quickly become tedious. Poetry demonstrated to me that writers can communicate their points beautifully without using too many words. If you’re having trouble using words in a concise or lovely way, read some poems—let the skill of the poets show you how both can be done at once.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite.

The secret to great writing is the same across genres: revise, revise, revise! In college, I took two poetry classes. I didn’t learn enough to make me a poet, but I did learn enough to embrace rewriting. For several poems, the first draft was missing something. Only when I scrapped all but one line and shaped that one line into a new piece did I discover what I really wanted to say. The same goes for prose. If your first draft isn’t what it needs to be, pick out the parts that are truest to you and toss the rest. There’s no shame in starting over.

I don’t connect with every poem I encounter, but I truly believe that poetry is one of the loveliest forms of writing. Luckily, those of us who write prose don’t have to leave all the lovely words to the poets. Take their tools and make them your own. Then, get out there and make your own writing beautiful!

Elizabeth BugueEarlier in the month, I shared 7 poets who impacted my work. If poetry and specific poems have already made you a stronger writer, I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment!
My website is www.elizabethbuege.com, my blog is www.elizabethbuege.com/blog, and my Twitter name is @ekbuege. 

#Top10Tuesday Top Ten Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful

In February, I posted, Top 10 Things You Could Be Saying To Yourself That Will Guarantee Your Failure As A Writer  Today I want to do the opposite!

Top Ten Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful
Top Ten Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful

1. Everybody Makes Mistakes.  This is huge! You need to be reminded that every successful writer has a team behind them of editors, agents and publishers that help them make their book the best it can be. Don’t freak out over the errors in your manuscript. Just fix them and move on!

2. Tomorrow Is Another Day. Plan on making every single day the best you can to pursue your goals, but be realistic. Some days, you’re not going to get your words in, or write that blog post, or get those tweets out. It’s okay. Try again tomorrow when life doesn’t interrupt.

3. Look How Far I’ve Come! It’s easy to get discouraged when you see so many authors around you who are more successful than you are. Instead of looking to the left or the right, look behind you. Remember where you were a year ago, or two years ago and get excited! You’ve made remarkable progress!

4. My Book Isn’t For Everybody. This is a tough one to swallow, especially when you get a few 1 or 2 star reviews. But it’s true. Your book isn’t going to be universally loved. Put your energies into those people DO get you. And Shake Off The Rest. Like this guy . . .

 

5. I Can Learn How To Do This Better! Getting discouraged with your lack of skills? Don’t worry. Everyone was a beginner once. You can learn  to write better, revise better, edit better and market better. It takes practice and it’s worth doing.

6. I Don’t Have To Do Everything.  Don’t feel like you have to do Facebook AND Instagram AND Tumblr AND Twitter AND Pinterest AND Google+ AND whatever else is hot right now. Instead find the two or three that you’re comfortable with and ROCK THAT! You’ll be spending your time and energies more wisely.

Top Ten Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful
Top Ten Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful

7. I’m A  Lot More Than My Sales Numbers Or Amazon Reviews. Sigh. Quantity can’t accurately measure quality. Your book for sale is just a book. It’s not your soul, not your identity, not your life. Your passions, your loves, your spirit, your responsibilities, these are what make who you are. Give yourself a hug!

8. My Dreams Are Worth Pursuing. If you’re a mom, like I am, it’s easy to get sucked into guilt for not doing more for your family. But you must find time to nurture your passions even if it’s for 10 minutes a day. If for no other reason, your family will see this and be inspired to follow their passions too.

Click on the image to get your copy!
Click on the image to get your copy!

9. Hard Work Trumps Talent. Down on yourself because you don’t think you’re any good? The solution? Put your butt in your chair and write. Talent is nice, but success, both commercial and critical, comes to those who aren’t afraid of the work involved. Go for it! You’ll never know what can happen.

10. I Don’t Know Everything! Print this one out and paste at the top of your computer! You don’t know everything. You don’t know all there is to know about drafting, revising, editing, publishing and marketing. And there is so much to learn!  Take advantage of as many free resources as you can. Read books. Take a class. Listen to your peers, critique group and readers. Be humble and teachable and you’ll see that you’re a stronger and more confident writer! 

Got another one? I’d love to hear what you tell yourself to succeed!

The Single Best Writing Advice (Too Bad I Don’t Always Follow It)

We’ve heard it before, write what you know. Or, write every day. Or, READ! READ! READ!

And while that is all very good advice, and you should follow it fervently, it’s still not the best.One of the best pieces of advice I was given in college was this:

The Single Piece of Best Writing Advice

Never compare yourself to others. 

If you do, you’ll compare their strengths to your weaknesses, and you’ll always be the loser.

When I compare myself to other writers, it doesn’t do me a bit of good. I either pick up some frothy bonnet romance and throw it across the room, puffing myself up with thoughts of superiority. My books will have more meaning! I will be more literarily significant! I won’t have any ripped bodices! Or, I will read something breathtakingly good, like The Elegance of the Hedgehog  or Someone Else’s Love Story and moan in despair that I can never achieve what that author has done, so I might as well give up.

I will not compare my novels to this magnificent book. Because first of all, I'm not French.

It also doesn’t help that I’m a bit melodramatic in just about everything I do.

The truth is that if I’ve signed up to be a writer, then I’m already pre-disposed to be melancholy and moody. I’m already insecure. I’m already thinking that living a secluded life like Salinger or a despairing life like Sylvia Plath isn’t all that unreasonable. So this whole business of wallowing in what I’m not is an easy and comfortable occupation at times.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14
You can’t love yourself if you’re busy comparing yourself to others.

The truth is, I’m not going to be successful that way. 

I should not look at the accomplishments, styles, sales or rankings of any other writers around me. I shouldn’t compare blogs, compare paths to publication, compare works in progress, compare how many followers I have on Twitter, instead, I should focus only on meeting my goals for the day. One day at a time.

Today’s writers’ market is brutal to the insecure.

Because of the highly competitive market out there, the demand for originality, the constant pressure to be liked, followed, or tweeted is everywhere and it can easily wear away at our self esteem. It wouldn’t take much to find a way that our statistics aren’t good enough. But if we keep looking at the writers around us, we’ll just make ourselves miserable. I’m pretty sure that’s a creativity killer, right there.

You know, it's like comparing apples to or. . .HOLEY MOLEY! That's the biggest orange I've ever seen!

And EVERYONE has advice to follow. 

We need to be secure enough in our own skills, talent and abilities to know what NOT to do, what won’t work for us, or what can wait for another time. We don’t have to read every writing book on the market. We don’t have to create a promotional video. We need to be comfortable in our own skin. 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be teachable. 

It is the poor writer who chooses not to learn. But when I move from teachability to despondency because of my perceived limitations (which is a short trip in my brain) then I’m in trouble.

So, write what you know, write every day and read constantly. But most importantly, just keep your head down and pay attention to you and your work alone.

You may not be the richest or best selling author, you may not be the most famous or win the most awards . . .

But you will be the happiest. And it will show in your work. 

Love Your Reader, Love Your Art, Love Yourself a Guest Post by Jude Knight

When this post goes live, Valentine’s Day will be right around the corner, which is good, because this post is about love. Not romantic love, of course. Did you know that the Feast of St Valentine originally commemorated two or three different saints, and was associated with the beginning of Spring?

The connection between Valentine and romantic love is only a few hundred years old (700, to be exact). Before the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer made the link, the love that we celebrated on the Feast of St Valentine was not romantic love, but the love given by one who serves.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

As writers, we serve readers and, in a sense, we serve our stories. This post is about the love that we bring to that service.

Love your reader

As writers, we need readers. A living story is a collaboration between a writer and a reader. We provide the plot and the characters in our words, and the reader creates the pictures, the smells, and the input of all the other senses; feels the emotions; adds in the descriptive details we’ve left out.

Our readers are prepared to take time out of their busy lives to go on the story journey with us. They even pay hard-earned dollars to take our characters home with them. They deserve our respect. We love our readers by working hard to learn our craft; by writing, rewriting, and rewriting, until our work shines like the gem we know it can be; by giving them the very best we have in us.

We love our readers by thanking them for taking the time to leave a review; even one we don’t much like. Some people will not like what you write, and that’s okay. They have a right to express that opinion. (Jan O’Hara has written an excellent post on how some famous writers have set limits on that right when it impinges on the enjoyment of others. Some people forget that your right to wave your fist in my face stops just before my nose begins.)

Loving our reader doesn’t mean agreeing with them. Trying to agree with every single reader would be a swift road to insanity. The book is yours, and loving your reader requires you to first love your art.

Love your art

Your writing is part of you; the child of your brain and heart. Love your work the way a good parent loves their child. A good parent teaches manners, honesty, and hard work, not to be mean but because one day the child will be an adult, facing the world without the parent’s protection. If you want your book child to succeed, don’t accept bad spelling, continuity errors, and lost plot points. Write, rewrite, and rewrite.

And love what you do. According to Rob Parnell, you have the ingredients for success if writing is something you just have to do; if you get anxious when life keeps you from your keyboard, if the story is burning inside you to get out.

In order to be successful, you only need to love what you do. You don’t necessarily have to be any good at it – at least when you start.

Over the years I’ve seen this play out frequently – especially in writing. Technical proficiency and literary mastery pale into nothing when compared to sheer enthusiasm and drive.

Love yourself

I’ve been advised to tell agents, publishers and reviewers which other author I write like. I’m very uncomfortable with that question. Part of loving ourselves is finding – and being true to – our own voice. I can be a good Jude Knight. As I practice my craft and learn more and more, I can be a better Jude Knight. I’d be a mediocre Grace Burrowes or Stephanie Laurens, which is okay, because those two roles are already taken.

So love yourself. Believe in the voice you have. Trust your belief that your story is worth telling, and that the way you tell it is the right way.

Also love yourself enough to learn your craft. You wouldn’t enter a marathon without training, and you wouldn’t expect to win an Olympic gold medal without training a lot. Treat yourself with respect, and practice, practice, practice.

And finally, as the Desiderata that was popular when I was a teenager says, beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. We make plans, and sometimes they don’t work. Life happens. Or we make mistakes. There is a touch of arrogance in expecting more of yourself than you do of anyone else. So be kind. Love yourself.

i-XwBJcM5-L.jpg

Jude Knight has spent a career in commercial writing, and is now writing historical romance novels. She has a novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, available free at most e-retailers, and is publishing her first novel, Farewell to Kindness, in April.

Free download links on my book page: http://judeknightauthor.com/books/candles-christmas-chair/

Follow Jude on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JudeKnightBooks

Friend Judeon Facebook: http://facebook.com/judeknightbooks

Subscribe to Jude’s blog: http://judeknightauthor.com

Subscribe to Jude’s newsletter: http://judeknightauthor.com/newsletter/

Follow Jude on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/judeknight