Tag Archives: inspiration

Filling Up That Uninspired Empty Feeling

 

Feeling empty as an artist?

When people say that you need to fill up, they are tapping into a well-loved metaphor about the artist. The artist, we’re going to assume, has a lot to say. They have emotions and connections, stories and accounts, worldviews and interpretations,  images and sentences. An artist pours out their art for the benefit of the hearer, the viewer, and the reader.

But in order for them to pour themselves out, they must have something in their heart, mind, and souls first. They need to be filled up before they can empty themselves out into their art.

Where do they get their inspiration?

Currently, I’m reading Swing Time by Zadie Smith. This is a complicated, multi-layered book. To say it’s about two black dancers in England in the ’80s is ridiculously simplifies it. Our main character is inspired by a childhood obsession with early dance by African Americans in film. She fills herself up with these images and the facts behind them so that later — much later — it turns out, she can pour them back out into other art. Her values, worldview, passions, emotions, and drive all come out in this artistic expression. The original influence was accidental, yet life-changing. And while this character is fictional, the process is the same for us.

We are filled with all kinds of things.

Our stories come, whether we want to admit it or not, from the things that we know. Our subconscious is at work with each word we put together, collecting the images and memories and values into our artwork. Sometimes when we’re in the zone we can see how beautifully all our inspiration works with us.

And when we’re not in the zone, then we may be facing writer’s block. We may be empty.

Empty? You could be.

Maybe you’re burned out or exhausted. Maybe you don’t have any good ideas. It could be that the idea of writing at all makes you nauseated.

What to do to fill up?

Practice good self-care.

I’ve noticed that if I’m especially cross or grumpy, I may just need a sandwich and a nap. But if the anger goes deeper than that, then I need to get to the bottom of it.

Fill up by reading; you should always be reading anyway.

I’d suggest that if you are empty that you read things you don’t usually read — try something new. I go to my local library’s digital catalog and download a bunch of books I’d never think of picking up and go through them on my phone. It’s hardly inconvenient and if I hate the book, it’s easy to replace it.

Expand into other art forms.

You can be creative in other ways besides putting stories together. Try a new recipe. Find a cool craft on Pinterest. Make something — anything. I believe that this will stimulate your creative process enough. It may even prime the pump. You never know. you may find something just as rewarding to do as writing.

Watch a live performance.

Go to your local theater, or check out what your local community college is presenting. Go without an agenda. Go just to listen to the dialogue and to enjoy the story. The interpretation of the play will seep into your subconscious and help inspire you later, perhaps in an unexpected way. If you can’t see a live performance, go to the PBS.org site and check out one of their performances. You’ll be glad you did.

Listen to live music.

Music feeds the soul. I believe that art is art. And that the creative expressions of one kind of artist will feed the creative needs of another.

Relax.

if you stress out that you don’t have an idea, or that you’re just a hack or that you’re a has been, or the best days are behind you, then you’ll be so tied up in knots that you’ll never receive the good ideas that are out there.

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Show up.

Make an appointment with yourself to write a specific amount of time or words daily. And the muse will find you.

Enjoy life.

Look for positive things around you. It may be that you need to be more deliberate in your practices of mindfulness. Maybe you need to meditate or do a little yoga. Even 10 minutes a day could make a big difference.

Watch different genres of movies.

Streaming allows us to have access to varieties we may never have tried. The next time you’re Netflix-ing, try something new, even for a few minutes. Pay attention to the details of the storytelling. You may come away inspired. My new favorite is Broadchurch. It’s inspired me to write a mystery someday!

The FIRST EVER Conference for 10 Minute Novelists will be held August 9-11, 2018 in Cincinnati, OH. We’re featuring Donald Maass, James Scott Bell and Janice Hardy! Come and learn with us!

Write poetry.

Without freaking out about this, think of poetry as the connection of words. You could look for inspiration from other poets, collect words you like or listen to poets read their work aloud.  I find this very inspirational.

Watch people.

I never get enough time watching people. Today I saw a stocker in the grocery store who walked with a floppy gait as if he were wearing clown shoes. At Costco, I saw a man who looked just like Christopher Lee when he played Sauraman in The Two Towers.  If I had my notebook with me, instead of my shopping list, I would have spent more time writing down everything I saw.

Mentor a younger or more inexperienced writer.

Even if neither of you has that much experience, you’d probably find the relationship rewarding. Sometimes just having someone to bounce ideas off of is extremely helpful. My teenagers are especially good at this.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ON THIS LIST! It could be that the reason you’ve stalled is because you don’t think you’re as good as your friend, or you are intimidated by another’s success. Nothing paralyzes a writer more than comparing himself to another writer — she will most often sell herself short. Instead, focus only on you; your strengths, your talents, and your abilities.

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Become less dependent on your rituals.

Admittedly, my Tito Puente playlist tells my brain that it’s time to get busy. I’d also like to always have next to me an iced coffee, a savory snack, hand lotion and a gentle breeze from my open window.  I could also have a nice sans serif font, at 18pt, in a fun color for my document. I could. While these “must-haves” are all lovely, I know that I can write just fine without them. If you tell yourself you can’t write unless your ritual is perfect, then you won’t be writing much. Instead, tell yourself that you can write anywhere and then do it for ten minutes. I think this will build your confidence and help you break out of that block.

Lower your expectations.

I’ve been calling myself the 10 Minute Writer or 10 Minute Novelist for over a decade and still, daily, I have to remind myself that my allotted writing time will not be perfect. Instead of expecting a nonstop hour of work, I should expect a few ten-minute increments and then be happy that I got something at all. This blog post was written in a ten-minute increment. When the timer dinged, I decided a nap was the best use of my time. But that ten minutes, no matter how small, still matters in my writing.

Take heart!

That ebb and flow of your writing? That is normal. Every writer oscillates from being inspired to being dry and back again. Instead of beating yourself up for feeling empty, think about ways you can fill up. And don’t expect one trip to a museum to do the trick. It may take weeks to rediscover your muse. In the meantime, filling up is fun, it’s good for our souls and often it’s not too expensive.

You do have a lot to say. You’ll say more when you fill up the empty spaces.

So go out into the world and discover its marvels and mysteries. Then come back and tell us all about it.


If you liked this post, you may also like:

Nine Questions To Ask If Writers’ Block Has You By The Throat or

How Champion Free Writers Combat The Blank Page


 

 

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 Writing Prompts To Help You Unstick Your First Draft

Sometimes drafting that story stinks.

You’re all excited in the beginning, you can’t stop writing! But somewhere you get stuck. And you may want to quit.

Keep in mind, your purpose in writing the first draft is to just get the raw material of a story. You don’t have to create a masterpiece. You don’t even have to be all that coherent. In fact, what you’re doing wrong may be stressing you out. Instead, just write down what comes to your head. Don’t self-edit. Don’t go backward. Just put down word after word.

10 Writing Prompts To Help You Unstick Your Draft

 

The following prompts may just get you over your little funk and get you enough inspiration to…

1. Describe what everyone is wearing. This is especially for your girly-girls. Go into detail about the honey colored cashmere twin set that the receptionist has on. Have it remind you of your Aunt Grace and the time she took you shopping at Macy’s and you got squirted in the eye by the perfume counter and now you can’t smell Jennifer Lopez’s new scent without thinking of Aunt Grace. Do it. Your draft needs this.

2. There’s an annoying noise bothering the main character. What is it? And then describe it. What does he do about it? Even if this has nothing to do with your story, the act of writing it out can trigger something else. You may be glad you went off on this tangent.

“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.”
H. Jackson Brown Jr.

3. Your main character is really, really hungry. Have him stop and feed himself. Does he cook or go out? What does he eat? Go into detail. Why does he like bacon and blue cheese burgers so much? What does he do with his egg allergy? Why does he suspect the waitress is up to something? Not enough characters eat, in my humble opinion, so schedule some elevensies and see what happens in your draft.

4. Your main character has been in this exact position before. What was it like? What did she do differently? What feeling does she now have about this? Pride? Shame? Fear? Tell the reader. Even if you go into dangerous unnecessary backstory, do it anyway.

5. Give your main character a ridiculous middle name and tell a story of how they got it. Who cares if this has nothing to do with the plot, just write. It could be that this could open up a long lost secret or motivation that can help unstick you!

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6. That weird thing that you heard about from a friend last week — about the dog, or the appliance repair man or that puff piece on the evening news — put it in your story. Even if it’s not completely plausible. In fact, go through all your old notes and see if there’s something salvageable from other stories that this one could use.

7. Put your main character in a car accident. These are never planned. Think about how they would react, what types of injuries would be the worst. Would they be at fault? Would they take responsibility? Every draft needs something unexpected, right?

 

8. Your main character finds a cell phone. It is ringing. They answer it. It’s someone the main character knows. Who is it? What do they want? This assumes that your story isn’t set in Longbourne in 1810. Even if it is, go for it. You may discover something.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
Kurt Vonnegut

9. The weather goes crazy. Is it a major thunderstorm? Hurricane? Blizzard? This too is not in our control and it shouldn’t be a choice for you — put your main character in a storm and let them wrestle with the elements. Like we can ever do anything about the weather.

10. Finally, set your timer. Go small. You might be stressed out that you don’t have an hour or two to put in the big numbers. That’s okay. You need lots of small numbers. If you’re a fast typist, you can knock out three hundred words in ten minutes. Take any of the above suggestions, work for ten minutes and watch that word count climb.

Here’s a secret: you don’t have to write what makes sense. You just have to get to the end. Once you get that draft done, then you can get serious about what says and what gets cut.

Just write. You can do it. It will be awesome.


If you liked this post on writing prompts, try these:

How Champion Free Writers Combat The Blank Page or, Top Ten Ways To Deal With Writer’s Block


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.

7 Defense Mechanisms You Could Give To Your Character

You’ve picked out your character’s eye color, hair color, and favorite ice cream.

You have even chosen their personality type, their deep dark secret, and deepest fear. You certainly haven’t ignored their greatest desire and figured out how their objective in the story works with, or against, this desire.

So have you thought about adding a few defense mechanisms?

7 Defense Mechanisms You Could Give To Your Character

A defense mechanism is a way that we handle stress.

Defense mechanisms are often involuntary and can be seen as a form of self-deception. Your main character needs one or two because he shouldn’t be perfect. They should have a reason that they react to certain situations certain ways. They also could have been taught how to do this in their dysfunctional childhood.

A defense mechanism is often a subtle nod to the past, a protective strategy or a bad habit. It could even be a lie that they have built their life on.

Your character should see this behavior as normal. Once you’ve decided what mechanism your character is going to use, then put them in a position where it will not work. He will have to make a tough choice as to what to do next. This could freak him out completely. Let’s all pull the rug out from under our characters.

DENIAL

Denial is probably the most common of self-deceptions. People just can’t admit the truth about their situation. “I can stop drinking anytime I want.” “I don’t have to tell her every day that I love her, she just knows.” People use this device because they are afraid of admitting that they are in the wrong. They also fear change, because if they fully understood what they were doing, they’d have to take responsibility for their actions. Those who deny are seeking comfort in the short term because they don’t want to deal with the future. Denial can be deadly, it can alienate relationships, it can cause disaster. Your main character should deny something but then come to a place where he has to face reality. This can set him on a series of uncomfortable changes that could be good for him.

INTELLECTUALIZATION

Intellectualization is kind of like denial, but it’s the logical justification for an event that allows the feeler to deny all emotions. People who are typically colder or less sensitive may react to bad news with no expression. They may be matter-of-fact about the event and appear to everyone to have complete control of their emotions. But they don’t. They may speak about logic, “there’s not much we can do about it now.” But then, something else will happen that will pull the plug on their emotions and they will reveal how painful they find the circumstances. Their emotions at this point could be very intense because they’ve kept it inside for a long time.

REPRESSION

Repression is another thing that people do to themselves. To repress is to forget a negative experience and to not deal with the pain and sorrow of it. People who repress their memories of bad experiences are afraid. They don’t want to relive the experience to be free from the emotional consequences of it. They also may want to avoid any responsibility that they may have. If you have a character who is repressing something significant, have them remember! Then spend the rest of the book wrestling with the fallout from this memory. Repression can stall personal growth, it can subconsciously force someone to self-sabotage their plans or activities.

RATIONALIZATION

Rationalization is another way that we lie to ourselves. We try to explain negative situations away. We cover up our mistakes and refuse to admit that our weakness could have caused them. The worst of us actually abuse others and then explain why we can get away with it. Rationalizers honestly believe that they will not be held responsible for their actions. They can’t fathom the idea that they are guilty. If your main character is a rationalizer, it could be that they aren’t that likable. Rationalization could be better suited for a villain who sees himself as a hero in his own eyes.

DISPLACEMENT

In displacement, the strong emotions, usually negative ones, are not given to the person responsible for them, but rather in another scenario. You poor main character has just been jilted by her boyfriend. He’s seeing another girl! Now your main character still has to do the grocery shopping, so she calmly gets through her list and goes to check out. The cashier asks her question, “do you have any coupons?” And our main character snaps back, yells at the cashier and bursts into tears. This is displacement because our poor jilted young woman placed her strong emotions on the innocent. Your main character can do this too!

PROJECTION

For example, Desdemona really believes that she is too fat. She went to school, minding her own business, and realized that she had been left out of an activity. Everyone else is going except her. She concluded that this is because she is fat.  She’s projected her conclusions about herself onto another situation. There was once a father I knew who accused my children of being depressed. I went to a friend, a social worker — someone I knew who could spot depression — and she found this accusation laughable. It turns out that the father had seen depression in his own children. He projected it onto mine because he didn’t want to deal with it. Your characters could do the same thing.

REACTION FORMATION

This term comes to me just as I finished watching clips of “Much Ado About Nothing.” In this Shakespearean play, two characters, Benedick and Beatrice spew banter back and forth, decrying how much they can’t stand each other. But their friends secretly believe that they love each other. The friends set them up to fall in love, but therein lies the question. Did they love each other? Were those fiery barbs really signs that they couldn’t bear to be apart? This is reaction formation. This is when what we say and how we really feel are in opposition to each other. This is an intense form of self-deception and it happily plays itself out in romances. Because of “Much Ado About Nothing,” I’ve decided to put a bit of this in my fantasy work-in-progress.

SENSE OF HUMOR

If you have a character that is the life of the party, a stand-up comedian or a class clown, you may have someone who is using their joking personality as a way to deal with their pain. I know that when I’m nervous about a situation, I make jokes. Part of me believes that lightening things up a bit will make everyone at ease. But the reality is that I want others’ attention off of me and my weakness. I’d rather not deal with the pain of the situation and I’m hoping, probably falsely, that humor is a good substitute for authenticity.

A well-rounded character is one that has weaknesses and isn’t completely perfect in the eye of the reader.

If you have characters that have pain in their past, consider giving them any of these defense mechanisms as they deal with those around them.

A good defense mechanism is far more interesting than eye color. For a deeper explanation of these defense mechanisms, click here.

For more tips on rich character development, try: 5 Super Powers & 5 Sources of Kryptonite for Abused Characters or Top 10 Questions To Ask About Authority Figures That Could Beef Up Your Conflict

Top 10 Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful

By Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

I believe we can accomplish great things if we get our thought life under control.

Good thoughts produce good habits. Good habits produce good patterns. Good patterns help us grow in discipline, which makes us more confident, which allows us to succeed. 

I strongly encourage you, as you are facing the end of this year and the beginning of the new one, that you consider what you think about and focus only on the good things. 

In June, 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!

op 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.

Think postivie (1)

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.

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.

Think postivie (2)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.

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.

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.

Think postivie10. 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!

Top 10 Emergency Writing Prompts (And Photos) To Help You Through Nanowrimo

We’re in week 3 of Nanowrimo and if we’re really honest, it’s been a rough month.

You may have had moments of frenzy, of fatigue, of despair. And you still have several days to go!

Your purpose in Nanowrimo is to just get the raw material of a story. You don’t have to create a masterpiece. You don’t even have to be all that coherent. In fact what you’re doing wrong may be stressing you out. Instead, just write down what comes to your head. Don’t self edit. Don’t go backward. Just put down word after word.

Top 10 Emergency Writing Prompts (And Photos) to get you through Nanowrimo by Katharine Grubb

The following prompts may just get you over your little funk and get you enough inspiration to get you through the next few hundred words.

1. Describe what everyone is wearing. This is especially for your girly-girls. Go into detail about the honey colored cashmere twin set that the receptionist has on. Have it remind you of your Aunt Grace and the time she took you shopping at Macy’s and you got squirted in the eye by the perfume counter and now you can’t smell Jennifer Lopez’s new scent without thinking of Aunt Grace. Do it. It will be awesome.

Prompt 4.24.15

2. There’s an annoying noise bothering the main character. What is it? And then describe it. What does he do about it?

 

3. Your main character is really, really hungry. Have him stop and feed himself. Does he cook or go out? What does he eat? Go into detail. Why does he like bacon and blue cheese burgers so much? What does he do with his egg allergy? Why does he suspect the waitress is up to something?

 

4. Your main character has been in this exact position before. What was it like? What did she do differently? What feeling does she now have about this? Pride? Shame? Fear? Tell the reader. This will also be awesome.

Prompt 4.3.15

5. Give your main character an ridiculous middle name and tell a story of how they got it.

 

6. That weird thing that you heard about from a friend last week — about the dog, or the appliance repair man or that puff piece on the evening news — put it in your story. Even if it’s not completely plausible.

 

7. Put your main character in a car accident. These are never planned.

Prompt 3.13.15

8. Your main character finds a cell phone. It is ringing. They answer it. It’s someone the main character knows. Who is it? What do they want?

 

9. The weather goes crazy. Is it a major thunderstorm? Hurricane? Blizzard? This too is not in our control and it shouldn’t be a choice for you — put your main character in a storm and let them wrestle with the elements.

Prompt 3.6.15

10. Finally, set your timer. Go small. You might be stressed out that you don’t have an hour or two to put in the big numbers. You don’t need that. You need lots of small numbers. If you’re a fast typist, you can knock out three hundred words in ten minutes. Take any of the above suggestions, work for ten minutes and watch that word count climb.

Prompt 2.27.15

 

Here’s a secret: you don’t have to write what makes sense. You just have to get to the end.

Just write. You can do it. It will be awesome. Trust me.

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
Henry James

Regardless of tastes, preferences or trends, I believe the beautiful calls to us.

There is something inside of us that longs for symmetry, for rhythm, for thoughtful curves, for delicacy, for images that spurn our emotions, that bring out in us the good and noble. We all enjoy art for a variety for reasons, but no one can deny how beautiful art serves a purpose.

Beautiful art points us to the good in humanity.

As we write, we can organize our words  in such a way that their patterns, their meaning, their rhythm, their structure, and their message all sing together.   Finely crafted words come with discipline and practice. Beautiful sentences do not lay on the page passively waiting for an optic nerve to come by and give them life. Beautiful sentences dance — they vary in their length, in their structure, in the vivacity of their verbs and in the nuances of their nouns. Beautiful words paint a picture — they don’t slap it together. Beautiful words point to the strongest emotions on the human spectrum. Beautiful words can enflame anger.  Beautiful words can render jealously hotter. Beautiful words can pour out pain like a trickle or an avalanche. Beautiful words can sum up joy, can skip and staccato with each laugh and giggle. Beautiful words are for Hallmark cards and tweets, fortune cookies and voicemails. Beautiful words are for poets and teenagers, novelists and children, literati and pedestrian. Beautiful words pair together like friends to create a private party of emotion and delight.

Beautiful words, in prose, cannot be accidents.

Beautiful words play dress up when they are metaphor,simile or allegory. They toy with their meaning, putting on disguise, like a fake moustache or a floppy hat to be to the reader something they’re not. Oh, coy words tease and taunt the meanings and the similarities and the comparisons and the reader watches the burlesque stimulated to read more.

“I don’t know what it means and I don’t care because it’s Shakespeare and it’s like having jewels in my mouth when I say the words.”
― Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Beautiful art exalts mankind’s creativity.

Beautiful words hide meaning like a treasure, daring the reader to look for clues to the mystery. Beautiful words leave ellipses like bread crumbs that tempt the reader to go deeper into the woods. Is the reader escaping the real world or rushing to danger? Beautiful words will never tell, they’ll just keep looking behind them as they run over limb and log to keep the chase going.

Beautiful art echoes ancient truths.

Beautiful words march together in alliteration. Bearing the beat together as brothers in a band, blaring their business to any reader who claps along in the parade. Beautiful words are not democratic. Some words get the short end of the stick. They are the low feeders in the phonetic and entymological gene pool. Those words are edited and beaten and mocked and their superior sisters are given chances to go to the ball.

Beautiful art feeds our souls.

Beautiful words are parts of a whole, the vowels and consonants are like toddlers in a playground, picking their favorites for the swings or the ball game, holding hands or playing tag. Poor silent e can’t object. Poor insecure Q can’t go anywhere without U. Poor Z finds himself picked last for the game. Bossy A tells them all to line up. The words are acrobats, flipping and flying in their palindromes and anagrams. The suffixes and prefixes fly like lost feathers as up they go to the highest of heights.

“The two most beautiful words in the English language are ‘cheque enclosed.”
― Dorothy Parker

The beautiful words are our medium.

They are crisp and wide like a crayon or pastel. They are precise like a fine pen. They are bold like charcoal and pool in the crevasses of meaning like a dab of watercolor. The words are gold and crimson and emerald and cobalt. They are rich with facets and carats and sparkle. They dazzle and enchant and when they are put together like beads on a chain, we can wear them around our neck like jewels.

How can we make words more beautiful?

How can we sculpt our sentences in such a way that the true essence of our meaning shines through? How can we enhance truth through a well-crafted sentence?

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

 

Try these suggestions:

 

 

1. Eliminate the adverbs and adjectives. Stick in a metaphor if you want the reader to appreciate the nuances and features of the noun. Or pick a better noun. Need inspiration? The 50 Most Quotes Lines of Poetry. Here’s another one I just want to sit and savor. 

2. Read it out loud. Listen for rhythms and cadence. Add in phrases or clauses to slow things down, add description or amp up emotion. Need inspiration? Try reading Buzzfeed’s Beautiful Words: 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences in literature. I found them very inspiring.

3. Don’t let it start with “There was” or “There were.” Look at these quotes for the structure or how they begin the sentence. This may give you a good idea how to improve. The website calls it, “These 33 One-Sentence Quotes Will Blow Your Mind Every Time. Especially The 8th One.” That’s a bit of an overstatement, but they are nice and noble and short! (That can’t be said about the ads!)

4. Rearrange where the verb and noun are in the sentence, but don’t make it passive. Poets and songwriters have to tinker with word arrangement to make sentences work better rhythmically. Need examples? This fascinating article from The Guardian admires the beauty of the lyrics in Stephen Sondheim musicals. I loved this!

5. Add an element of emotion, especially in the verb choice you make. Here’s a list of 317 “power words” that you can sprinkle in your prose. The context of this article is blogging, but any of these words will do for your fiction too!

6. Use Anglo Saxon words rather than Latin words. Don’t know the difference? Check out this excellent blog post that explains the difference! 

“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.”
Edgar Allan Poe

7. Substitute any “be” verb for a verb that’s specific and vivacious. You know you’ve got a good one when you can see exactly what is happening. You can be more expressive with a little work and imagination. Need inspiration?  This is a beautiful collection of words from other cultures that can’t be translated into English. I love the illustrations and I also like thinking of the imagination that came up for the need for these words. I also want to put them in my every day use right now. And then I found the same list even MORE beautifully illustrated! 

8. Substitute every word for a synonym just to see what you can come up with. But don’t get fancy. Big, multi syllable words may muddy your meaning. Just for fun, check out these multi-syllable words that can add a bit of flavor. 

9. Combine two short sentences or separate a long sentence into shorter ones. Sentences should be varying lengths. In a similar vein, this is a  fascinating article from NPR about loving sentences. I want to sit and read this forever.

“He wanted to cry quietly but not for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music.”
James Joyce

10. Look for weak modifiers like “very” or “some”. If a word in a sentence doesn’t have a precise purpose, take it out. In fact, read the sentence the omit the first word. Read it again omitting the second, then the third. If you don’t miss the word, or the meaning is unchanged, omit the word altogether.  In this point, I can safely omit the words, “weak”, “precise”, “in fact”, and “altogether.” See?  My friend Jude Knight has a list of “filter words” that are dull, uninteresting and serve little purpose. Use this list to weed out the ugly and make room for the beautiful.

Beautiful words are our powerful medium.

We have control over them. We have them lined up in little drawers of our mind and dig through our thesaurus if we can’t find the right one. If we are good at what we do, they are chosen with care and precision. They are picked gingerly from the box and pressed into place with our fingertips. There they do not rest. They are to be re-read and deleted, edited and proofread, taken out and put back in.

I am thankful that I have such a glorious, magnificent, illogical, sometimes unwieldy medium in which to practice my art.

Sometimes I make the words more beautiful.

Sometimes they make me.

Top 10 Ways To Respect Your Art As A Writer by Katharine Grubb

Thank you, Internet! 

Because of you, I have to do so little work to expose myself and my family to the works of the world’s greatest artists. Gone are the days when we have to pay for parking at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Now, all we have to do is click the mouse a few times and we are seeing, perhaps not perfectly, the art of the masters.

Click the link for print availability

I appreciate this as a writer because I clearly don’t have enough distractions as it is. But I also can appreciate it because I believe that writing is an art. I also believe that like the great painters of western civilization, great writing can be something that can be respected and revered. I believe that inspiration comes from a lot of different places and that exposing myself to great art will touch my soul somehow, and make me a better writer in the long run.

I believe also that even beginning writers need to have a great respect for the art of writing. Just because visual art is cheap and easily accessible doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy it. The same can be said for the art of writing. Just because publishing has never been easier doesn’t mean that contemporary writers should reduce it to something common.

I’d like to suggest that all writers, regardless of their experience and tastes, learn to love their art.

Top 10 Ways To Respect Your Art As A Writer by Katharine Grubb

 

1. If you love your art, then you respect the masters. You have spend time reading the works of great writers, analyzing their style and choices. You’ve saturated yourself only with the best books so that you can be inspired and taught how to be great.

2. If you love your art, you don’t makes excuses for others’ bad works. This is tricky, but if we were truly respectful of the craft of writing, then we would have no trouble being honest in a review on  Amazon.com or Goodreads. We’d point out technical flaws, we’d question the author’s choices, we’d give our reasons for reducing our ratings from four to two stars. We’d be thoughtful and kind in our observations while at the same time backing up our claims.

3. If we are respectful of our art, then we should have no trouble with receiving critical reviews, even the ones we don’t agree with. We can’t leave honest reviews with integrity if we aren’t willing to receive honest ones in return.

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4. If we respect our art, then we have studied the rules of it. Despite popular platitudes in the writing community there are rules to writing. If we respect our art, then we see the rules as helpful boundaries –especially those that allow us to be clearer and better understood, such as grammar! And spelling! If we respect our art, we don’t look for excuses to break the rules. Instead we look at the rules as friends.

5. If we respect our art, then we are willing to put time into it. It is disrespectful to the art and to our readers if we are looking for ways to cut corners in our composition or creation. If we respect our art, we don’t look for easy answers like, “how many times do I rewrite this paragraph before it’s good enough?” The answer is “at least one more.”

6. If we respect our art, then we take the commitment to craft seriously. We read blogs, we read writing books, we go to conferences, we take notes, and we look for ways our prose can improve. You can’t love and respect your art if you are too proud to take correction.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 2.06.25 PM

7. If we respect our art, then we write every day. Every day! There has never been a concert pianist that didn’t sit down and play for hours on a regular basis. There will never be a great writer that doesn’t slap their butt in their chair and their hands on the keyboard. If we respect our art, then our diligence in regular writing should be like breathing.

8. If we respect our art, then we don’t tie our identity to the current work-in-progress. To respect our art means to allow it to stand alone, separate from us, open to the criticisms and praise of others. As time goes by, and we add more to our finished works, we see it as an entire body of work, with individual pieces that have each had a place in the building up of our careers. The single titles are not big enough to fill the satisfaction of a lifetime of hard work. (I’m not crazy about that sentence.)

9. If we respect our art, then we don’t compare it to others’ works. It is OUR art. We can be inspired by others, but to truly respect art, that means that we refuse to copy or cheapen our work by making it derivative of someone else’s.

10. If we respect our art, then we’re never in a hurry. The best things in life are the things that take time to nurture. Rushing through a story for the sake of publishing it weakens the art process and makes the final creation the literary equivalent of a Big Mac. Take your time. Do it right. Respect and love your reader.

So, what do you think? How can you respect your art? 

Top 10 Things I Can Do To Build Up My Confidence – By Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

I’m not in a very good place to write about confidence.

I’m in a place where my expectations of what could have been are paralyzing my current choices. But if I’m going to go any further in what I do as a writer, I need to get over myself and grow in confidence. 

Top 10 Things I Can Do To Build Up My Confidence by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

Today I have to return to the most important element in my writer’s toolbox: confidence.

I have lots of tools there that are important. Grammar is important. Storytelling is important. Connections are important. Reviews are important.

But the most important thing of all is self-confidence.

I have to believe, at least most of the time, that my dreams are worth pursuing. I have to diligently call out the lies that have been told to me (or that I say to myself) about what I really want. I must strengthen my own confidence. Unlike editing, proofreading and tweeting, I can’t outsource this. I have to find it in myself.

These are the Top 10 Things I can do to build up my confidence.

1. I can be vulnerable. Now this sounds counterintuitive. But I have to show the world my best and be willing to handle whatever reaction I get from it. The more I practice this, the easier it gets.

2. I can separate my mistakes from my identity. Instead of freaking out over my technical issues, I just need to learn from them. I will get better.

3. I can remember that art is subjective. What’s valued and praised by one person is rejected by another. This is what makes art art. This is why there’s a place for me.

4. I can ask for help. I need to be honest with myself about my weaknesses and get instruction. I can never be better if I’m not teachable.

5. I can knock on new doors. There have never been more opportunities for writers than there are right now (and there’s never a bigger competition for readers!) If I stretch myself to submit to new publications or opportunities, I just might have new rewards.

6. I can try new things. Writing is an art, just like painting or drawing. And I should take advantage of its flexibility to see what I can do with it. I may find a genre or a style I love.

7. I can stay focused. My art really is about pleasing myself first. If I’m having fun doing what I’m doing, it will show and others will be inspired.

8. I can stop comparing myself to others. My happiness and confidence levels will take a nosedive if I’m wondering what the writer next to me is doing. The more I focus on my work, the more I’ll grow in confidence.

9. I can choose happiness in this work. Writing is hard work, no doubt, but the more I remember why I am doing this, why I’m not doing something else or why I picked up my pen in the first place, the more my confidence will grow.

10. I can be involved. The more writer friends I have in my life, the more I can depend on them for encouragement and help. A strong community is also good for walking with me in the struggles and laughing at my jokes.

 Writer in this current market are nothing short of poetic masochists: we constantly have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try over and over again. We have to create our own confidence.

Without it we’ll never succeed.

 


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


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 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 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?

Even More Top Ten Emergency Writing Prompts for Nanowrimo!

Last week I suggested ten emergency writing prompts for Nanowrimo. Here are 10 more!

1. Put your character in an actual emergency. Food allergies, car accident, flash flood, explosive plumbing, gas leak — none of these are planned. You don’t have to plan yours too. And even if it looks rather deux et machina -ish, don’t worry about it. You can always go back and fix it later.

2. What does your character have in his pocket, purse or glove compartment? Candy? A gun? Drugs? A crucifix? A hundred thousand dollars in cash? Microfilm? A flash drive? A recording? An epi-pen? A switchblade?  He remembers!  And it uses it, just as the right time to get past this little problem he’s facing. Or, better still, the antagonist finds it in his possession and uses it against him!

3. Someone asks him to do something against his character and he must do it. For instance: the drug dealer has to rescue kids from a fire, the hooker with the heart of gold saves the First Lady, the victim of abuse stands up to the lady who cuts her off in the parking lot.

nanowrimo writing novel national creativity help prompts ideas

4. The paranormal sneaks in. Okay, this might not work for everyone. But what if a unicorn appears in the kitchen and tells him what to do? What if the lawn gnome knows where the treasure is? What if there is a zombie coming across the backyard and the hostas aren’t doing their job of keeping him out?

5. Have your character take a break. Maybe if he sat down and ate something, slept and had a crazy dream, did his laundry and bumped into someone at the laundromat, maybe he would think of the solution to the problem, see a clue, meet a friend, fall in love . . . . oh the possibilities are endless!

6. What would Kevin Bacon do? No really. Think about your favorite movies and steal, steal, steal! There are no new ideas. You are smart enough to disguise any dialogue, scene, or plot point from film. Write in down now and then tweak it later.

7. Go backstory. What has propelled the bad guy to do the bad things? What makes your protagonist want what he wants? Dig a little deeper, even for a thousand words or so and that may be enough to get you on your feet.

8. Cupid strikes! Nothing complicates life more than romance. What if there’s a secret love connection between a supporting character and the antagonist? What if another supporting character confesses a life long crush towards the main character? What if the romantic advances that have been in the story all along were just a ruse to advance the goals of the antagonist?

9. And if you really get stuck, ask Twitter. I love some of the ideas that my followers come up with. And then when I’m done (if I ever get done) I can remind them of their help and maybe gain a reader!

10. And then, hit the showers. No kidding. There’s something about hot water and physical touch that stimulates our brain. You may have a new idea for your story when you get out!

Remember, the point of Nano is quantity, not quality. This draft is supposed to be messy. Use these ideas to up your word count. You can clean it up, make it more plausible, omit the cliched scenes, and take out the lawn gnome later.

Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


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 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. 

How I Write: The Image, The Reality, and The Twitter Jokes

 

This morning I woke up with a backache. I decided I would postpone the start of my day until after I felt better. So, what do you do with a little extra time on your hands? You hang out on Twitter!

What luck! #HowIWrite was trending! I enjoyed very much reading suggestions from writers all over the world on the specifics of their process.

How I Write: The Image, The Reality and the Twitter Jokes by Katharine Grubb

 

You know, the hows of our writing is similar. We all sit with keyboards (a few with notebooks), we all daydream, we all fiddle with music and other ambient issues, we all drink ungodly amounts of coffee or tea and we all work at this.

Naturally, I had to write a few jokes about it.


 

#HowIWrite With the probably mistaken assumption that my readers will savor every details of character backstory.

#HowIWrite Surprisingly fast when I listen to banjo music.

#HowIWrite With unflickering white hope I will be loved by the world except for that reviewer who 1 stars me because of a misspelled word.


 

But I DO have a method.

It used to be that I worked in 10 minute increments around the needs of my small children. Now my kids are older and more independent. My increments are bigger, and I am way more productive, but I still have a method.

I’ve created this image that I run around my house like a headless chicken turning off timers and chasing toddlers. But it’s really not that crazy.

I make a to-do list with 8 columns: Newsletter/Blog, Branding, Homeschool, Reading, Projects, Release, Marketing, Podcast.

Under each column is a list of things that need to be done. Sometimes I mark the most important items. Then I work on each column for 15-20 minutes. When the timer dings, I get up and do something domestic like laundry, or check the kids or tidy the kitchen. Then I come back to the next column for another 20 minutes.


 

#HowIWrite Obsessively since we all know that only five star reviews can fill the blackest holes of our hearts.

#HowIWrite With an infinite number of fellow chimpanzees. On my manual typewriter.

#HowIWrite By deliberately, exhaustively, completely, purposefully and maniacally removing all adverbs.


 

But not everything on the list is writing.

Sigh. It’s not. It’s also blogging, emailing, tweeting, marketing, proofing, editing, reading, revising and staring out the window. It’s also running a household, homeschooling and glancing ambivalently at the welfare of the children.

All of my life is broken down into very small steps and I tackle as many as I can in a day.

When I do write, I do a word vomit or a brain spew of every conceivable idea. I don’t self-edit because I don’t have time for it. I want something on the screen so I can work with it. Daydreaming out the window is all well and good but you can’t rewrite something that isn’t written to begin with.  I have to have the raw materials to work with.


 

#HowIWrite With an intimate knowledge of which Hollywood actors will play every role.

#HowIWrite With those magical people the pros call “characters” and that thingy, a “setting” and, what is it? Oh! Plot!

In iambic pentameter just to come off as pretentious. #HowIWrite


 

I also don’t fret too much about deadlines.

But not every writer has this luxury. My deadlines are self-imposed and it’s rare that someone gives me a firm date. But I don’t tell my brain and my fingers that. I want to work fast and furiously in every increment of time. I find that by challenging myself this way I am way productive.


 

By allowing my children to run naked and unfed through squalor. Meh. #yolo #HowIWrite

With a holey, cat hair covered sweater, in a fog of cigarette smoke, an empty gin bottle next to me.#HowIWrite #myimageofarealwriter

With intense, white-hot jealousy of George R. R. Martin. I’ll knock you off YOUR Game of Thrones, bub. Winter IS Coming Indeed! #HowIWrite


 

In my fiction, I pants my ideas to death.

I make tons of notes and create little beads of characters or anecdotes or conflicts. Then I rearrange them and look for patterns or connections. The outline that will somehow develop will be the chain that links every bead together. At that point, I’m not pantsing any more. I’m drafting. And there’s plenty of room for improvisation.


With a gun to my muse’s head. Figuratively, people! Figuratively! #HowIWrite

Type ten words. Pick cuticles. Type five words. Change music. Type fifteen words. Go watch Netflix. #HowIWrite


 

I also have a mental list of books I want to write.

They are all lined up in a queue. I get to them as I can, with ten minutes here and there. I want to write a book on marketing, one on self-publishing, one on local connections, one on speaking. I keep them written down on the columns and touch on them as I can. Someday they’ll move up to a higher priority.

The danger of asking other writers how they write is that we compare our method to theirs.

We think that if we copy them then we’ll succeed too. But that’s not true at all. We need to find our own way and discover how WE write. The best writers are happy writers, who are comfortable with their method and their process. Don’t be afraid to try new things, tweak others’ suggestions and fail at times.

And if you can’t come up with a how, don’t worry about it. Make it a when instead.


 

On my left, with pillow between my knees, a mask on eyes, in a cool-ish room, for 8 hours. Wait! That’s how I sleep! Same thing. #HowIWrite

 


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 blogs at www.10minutenovelist.com. 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.

Want to win a free copy of my new release Soulless Creatures?

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Nine Questions To Ask If Writers’ Block Has You By The Throat

You can’t even. You just can’t even.

Sometimes the words aren’t there. The ideas are weak and feeble. Your fingers grow numb waiting on a decent thought from your brain. There’s a problem and you can’t quite figure out what it is or why you’re blocked.

I’ve been there. And I’ve learned that a little self introspection sometimes is enough to get to the bottom of the problem.

9 Questions to ask if writer's block has you by the throat

Are you blocked because you are emotionally damaged by your project? 

Be honest. Not every writing project is a barrel of laughs. Some, like term papers and college essays are kinda important and you need to plow through. Some though, we’ve signed ourselves up for because we thought we needed to. I do not advocate quitting, but I do advocate taking stock of your mental and emotional health. If your project is very stressful, causing emotional or physical pain (it happens) then get out of it if you can. If you can’t, then finish it as soon as possible, beating the deadline.  I don’t have exact answers here, but I do know that severe negative feelings have a source from something and we owe it to ourselves to analyze what’s troubling us, figure out a solution and fix it.

Are you blocked because other things (besides writing) are messing with your head? 

You’ve just faced trauma, you’ve had a bad day, you’ve yelled at your kid. YUP. You can really shut down after an emotional event. Catch your breath and wash your face, but go write about it. Put down in words your feelings, your fears and your emotional ups and downs. Not only is this therapeutic, but you never know, gut level honesty can be good for your writing. Just because you write something down doesn’t mean you’re going to use it, oh my goodness, NO!  But the exercise of expressing yourself, of dealing with stress, trauma or extreme emotions is good practice for whatever you usually write.

Are you blocked because you are self-sabotaging?

This is a tricky idea, but sometimes we set out on projects fully expecting to fail. Something deep inside may be telling you not to try. As a result, you don’t want to write that blog post, make that tweet or even send that email. Try this instead: write five positive facts about yourself for every negative one that you’ve been ruminating over. Don’t just think them, write them. This also is therapeutic on many different levels and you’ll find, after a few minutes, that you’re emotionally ready to tackle the project. This may be a symptom of a much deeper problem and getting good advice from a trusted friend/pastor/therapist might be the best solution.

Are you blocked because your brain is tired? 

Just like your body, your brain needs rest too. Spend an evening or two (but not too many) watching television or playing video games. Your brain will recover with a little recreation. Then come back to your project and see if you can add to it.

Are you blocked because you are overwhelmed with the project? 

You have a deadline. It’s huge. It’s intimidating. What do you do? You eat the elephant one bite at a time. Break the task down into smaller ones and spend short increments of time on the project. (Hey! Ten minutes is a good start!) Then, as you get started, you’ll see that your momentum has kicked in and you can accomplish more and more.

Are you blocked because your inner critic WILL NOT SHUT UP?

The inner critic is that nagging voice that won’t let you be free. It corrects, criticizes, makes you go back and fix little things that aren’t important, negates the smallest effort and basically defeats you before you even start. This one really needs a kick in the face. Fire, evict or murder your inner critic — at least in the drafting stages. All the things that inner critics worry about, like grammar and structure and spelling, should be addressed after the first draft is written, not before. It takes practice, but train yourself to write fast first drafts — so fast that your inner critic can never catch up. Then, even though the draft is ca-ca (Hemingway said so), at least you have a draft! Now you have something to work on later. Call that inner critic back in the room, keep him on a short lease, and put him to work.

Are you blocked because you are discouraged? 

You got the rejection letter. You didn’t make the first round of the contest. Your favorite agent hates your book. Discouragement is a tough. Take heart that every writer faces this. Then, go over any comments or feedback from these demons from Hell and see if their criticisms are valid. Then, write. Write about anything. Strive to improve. Ask your writing group or your critique partner what your strengths are and develop them. Then, when you’re ready, tackle those weaknesses. Much of writing is art — which is hard to learn. But much of it is technical! You can learn spelling, grammar and punctuation. You can learn technique. There are thousands of books out there about writing! Find one and do everything in the book. Be humble and teachable and work hard. Your dreams are worth pursuing and the hard work will be worth it. 

Are you blocked because you are lazy?  

Sorry, but it had to be asked. The truth is there are a lot of wannabes out there who don’t want to put the time in, who don’t want to be taught, who think that book contracts fall out of the sky. They don’t. (Although mine kinda did.) You can flip channels all day and call it writer’s block, and your enabling friends will help you eat your pizza and beer, but that is not what successful writers do. They work. They get up and keep going.

Are you blocked because you are afraid? 

This question is the one that is the closest to my heart. I was afraid for many, many years to pursue my dreams. My source of fear had far more to do with the messages I was told as a child than my writing goals. I spent most of my life in a constant state of borderline freaking out and it got worse when I became a mother. I was, in essence, blocked to do anything creative from the time I was 26 until the time I was 38. That’s 12 years of walking in fear! That was a lot of wasted time. (okay, I DID have five kids in less than eight years, so clearly I was busy with other things, but still . . . ) What was I afraid of? I was afraid of being laughed at, of being rejected, of failing, of succeeding, of taking time away from my family to pursue my dreams, of not being a good mother, of being thought a fool. What made me change was the realization that I had five precious children watching me. Would they say of me that I conquered my fear or would they say of me that I succumbed to it? I knew I didn’t want my children to be afraid of anything, especially my girls, so I kicked my fear in the teeth and got over it. It’s been eight years since that feeble effort to get away from my fear and ya know? It was hard! But I did it. And I’m so glad I did.

Some of these questions are going to take time to answer. That’s okay. The mental wrestling match that will required will be worth it in the long run.

What else can you ask yourself to combat writers’ block? Let me hear you!


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 blogs at www.10minutenovelist.com. 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.

Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb Your roommate just bet you his brand new 280ZX that you don't have a soul. Do you dare to prove it?

Your roommate just bet you his brand new 280ZX that you don’t have a soul. Do you dare to prove it? Now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle!  

Working-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.


Sign up if you need a weekly dose of encouragement covering all of your life, not just writing.

Starting in July, a new weekly newsletter, <em>The Rallying Cry, </em> will be released from Katharine Grubb. Sign up if you need a weekly dose of encouragement covering all of your life, not just writing. <em>The Rallying Cry </em> will be an honest, kleenex-worthy, you-can-do-this, faith-filled message of hope for those who need it. You can sign up below.

 The Rallying Cry  will be an honest, kleenex-worthy, you-can-do-this, faith-filled message of hope for those who need it. You can sign up below.

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The Amazingly Easy Short Cut Guide To Becoming A Great Writer (Tongue-In-Cheek Advice for The Lazy)

Some are born great writers, some aspire to being a great writer and some have writerly greatness thrust upon them.

Then, sometimes, neither of those three options apply to us and we have to bushwhack our own path to greatness.

Is it just me, or does that sound like a lot of work?

A great shot of a slacker in action, or inaction, as the case may be. Thanks, Morguefile

Greatness, is, in some regards, overrated.

You spend your life toiling away at tasks that you “love” or your “passions” and yet the Pulitzer isn’t passed out to everyone. The odds are against you with every query letter you send, with every proposal you write up, every word you type. Agents reject authors by the dozens, what would make you so special?

I’d like to suggest that our writerly ambitions can be accomplished with little or no effort.

In fact, I have a list of ten things you can do (or not do) to accomplish this goal. (If accomplishing goals is your thing.) I would have come up with eleven but I got really tired.

1. Don’t Write. Your day is busy enough. In fact, spend your non-busy down time doing things like hurling birds into piles of thieving pigs. Tell yourself that this is brain work too and your writing future is dependent on whether or not you see Downton Abbey. Every time you have a nagging thought that tells, you that maybe you should do Nanowrimo or something like that, just watch an episode of Hoarders until the feeling goes away. Smugness, with lack of physical activity, can be just as comforting as that pesky sense of accomplishment that comes with dedication and commitment. Trust me.

2. Don’t read. This is obvious. Since really there aren’t any new plots, there isn’t any point in reading at all. If you need to know something, don’t go any deeper than a search on Wikipedia. If you want a story to entertain you, you’ve got Netflix, right? Besides fiction is made up stories, which are basically lies. Just don’t bother. In fact, if you are reading this blog, stop right now and turn on Pandora, the Shakira station.

3. Hang Out With Stupid People. This should be easy. If you want to avoid greatness, the spend a lot of time who are content to stay where they are. It’s  way, way easier to avoid reading and writing if your BFFs are Neanderthals. The people who actually accomplish something in their lives would take the effort (and it is effort) to find smart, inspiring, intelligent and encouraging people to rub elbows with, learn from and be mentored by. Not only is keeping such company  hard, it’s risky too. You might not be liked or appreciated, or you might be thought to be stupid. It’s better not to take a chance.

4. Expect the universe to bring you want you want. You know that old phrase, luck favors the prepared? Don’t listen to it, that’s something that personal trainers and high school coaches say. There are plenty of statistics, but I’ve bothered to find them that shows that these people have never won the lottery and they’re bitter about it. Not you. Your talent/desires/destinies are special enough that the universe will just trip one day and it will all spill in your lap. So go back to bed. We’ll call you when the universe shows up.

"Some people call this a work chair. I call it amazing." Thanks, Morguefile

5. If you have to write, look for short cuts. Hard work and diligence are for those people not smart enough to beat the system. Hustle, if you don’t know already, is a dance move from the ’70s, not a verb for people who want to accomplish great things. So if you must send a query letter (but if you do, you’re missing the point of this post entirely) don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Real agents can spot talent without the rules bringing artists like you down.

6. If you have to work, and you make a mistake, then quit as soon as possible. Life should be easy and if you make mistakes, then you’re doing it wrong. If you hang out with the right kind of people, they will tell you about all the big dreams that they once had and how they quit when the going got tough. These people may be calledquitters in some circles, but in others, they are called realists. Oh, and if you’re on a reality show when you do decide to quit, make sure you make a big scene, spew profanity and throw something. You never know when a future employer might hire you because of your spirit. 

7. Never Ask Questions. First of all, you’re so smart, you don’t need to ask questions and if you do ask, it will just make you look weak. Secondly, even if you do ask, it may mean that you will not like the answer. You may have to change your way of thinking or how you do something. You are waiting for the universe to drop your destiny in your life, you don’t have time to change! It’s far better just to nod and smile and make it look like you know what you’re doing.

Don't think too hard, you may hurt yourself.  (Thanks, Morguefile)

8. Hold Your Head Up High. You should broadcast loudly and often how little you are doing to pursue your dreams. (Pursue is far too strong a verb here, go easy on yourself and use the word, ponder.) People will respect your brashness and individual spirit. They will, most assuredly, talk about you behind your back and say things like, “She is so smart and optimistic! I admire her commitment to her pondering!”

9. Call Yourself What You Are. Do you dream of being a published writer?  Call yourself that! It doesn’t matter that you haven’t published anything. You know that advice that says, “Dress for the job that you want, not the one that you have”? Well, I say, call yourself the job you want, not the job that you have. The universe will take notice of this and bow to your wishes. Eventually. Believing in yourself is half the battle, right? If you have the right kind of friends and family, they will believe you even though you’ve never really written. But, I wouldn’t suggest mentioning that you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company when you fill out a bank loan, unless you have the pay stubs to prove it.

10. Wait. This is the easiest step for anyone who wants to be great. Just wait. Kick back on the LaZ-Boy, fall asleep on the couch, turn in early. It will come eventually. You’ve done nothing to make it happen, so everything you want will come to you like a dream. Having trouble sleeping? Try this link, but don’t listen too closely, you might learn something.

 

This is a sea mammal doing a slug impression. Thanks, Morguefile!

 

Beauty, Truth, and the Power to Transcend: A Guest Post by Carolyn Astfalk

 

Sometimes we recognize beauty on sight.

Where beauty exists in the natural world, it’s often easily discernible. Other times, we have to dig to see the beauty or observe from a different perspective to grasp its intricacy or totality.

Whether we readily recognize beauty or not, its creation isn’t a slapdash affair. It can be a complicated, messy process that requires deliberate planning, execution, and revision.

Beauty, Truth, and the Power to Transcend by Carolyn Astfalk

However difficult it may be to infuse our art with beauty, it is critical to its acceptance and appreciation. Truth and beauty create transcendence, and it’s transcendence that resonates with readers. Beauty, in its universality, becomes personalist.

“In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption.”

This passage, taken from Pope Saint John Paul II’s 1999 “Letter to Artists,” sets the bar high for any artist. Writers assemble letters into an inexhaustible number of unique arrangements to create truth and beauty, and in doing so, touch upon something so innate, so universal, that it brings life to the deepest stirrings of our souls.

While writing can and many times should be light, its purpose is not to be taken lightly.

So often in life, we choose expedience over luxury. The shortcut rather than the scenic route. The functional over the ornate. Pressed for time and pulled in a dozen different directions, short and to the point is often better than long-winded and grandiose.

After all, you can appreciate music anywhere, not just in the confines of a spectacular concert hall. You can eat anywhere, not just in a fine restaurant. And you can worship anywhere, not just in a grand cathedral.

So, too, can the words you create and consume be utilitarian. Words are used to describe furniture assembly, medicinal dosage, and technical documentation. But they are also used to profess love, offer prayers, and pour out heartfelt confessions.

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

So accustomed are we to those humdrum uses, that we can fail to recognize and recall the beauty and artistry of words.

In a 2002 message, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) wrote:

“The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgment and can correctly evaluate the arguments.”

To illustrate this arcane point, he follows with an example, one to which many can relate. Then Cardinal Ratzinger recalls attending a Bach concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein. He says, “The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer’s imagination.”

He’s talking here about the existence of God, but even aside from the theological implications, it rings true. Who hasn’t felt the truth in the swelling crescendo of music, the subtlety of a painted likeness, or the recitation of mellifluous words?

Words capture truth and beauty in myriad ways. Not by sight or sound or meaning alone, but by all three.

Words possess physical beauty. It is seen in a looping descender or a graceful ascender. There is beauty in practiced, professional calligraphy and in a loved one’s unique script. There is intrinsic beauty in a recipe written lovingly by the hand of a now-deceased grandmother and in the elementary scrawl of a young child writing “I love you” for the first time.

Words have aural beauty. A beauty expressed in rhythm, alliteration, and sometimes onomatopoeia – a beautiful sounding word in itself.

Words have cognizant beauty. They possess the power to elevate and enlighten, to encourage, and to embolden. Perhaps most importantly, through their truth, they communicate that we are not alone.

That perhaps is the greatest mystery and magic of words. Created alone or consumed alone, in private or public, in silence or aloud, executed by flesh and bone or binary sequence, they exist because another exists. Because truth exists. And beauty exists. If only we have eyes to see it.


 

Carolyn AstfalkCarolyn Astfalk resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She blogs at My Scribbler’s Heart (http://carolynastfalk.com/category/my-scribblers-heart-blog/) Her debut novel, Stay With Me, will be published by Full Quiver Publishing in October 2015.