Tag Archives: self-sabotage

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.

 

Top 10 Ways To Beat Insecurity (At Least Temporarily!)

We are insecure for a lot of reasons.

We’re insecure because we probably have artistic temperaments that makes us feel deeply. We overthink and over analyze. We find it’s easier to dwell on what it negative in our life rather than what is positive. We may have lived in environments in which confidence and boldness was discouraged and despair was fertilized with lies and fear. We may lack skills. We may fear failure. We may long for approval and we know it’s hard to achieve it anywhere, much less in this field. We’ve been burned before. The last person who read our work was mean or hateful or didn’t get us. We’re  bound too tightly to the failures of yesterday. We speak a lot of negative words to ourselves. We compare others’ highlight reel to our bloopers. We are so aware of our weaknesses that we can’t comprehend that we have strengths. We’re too worried about what others think.

This insecurity is a poison.

It can seep into our lives, into our motivations, and into the words that we put together. This poison can infect our subconscious, our thoughts, and our habits. It has a paralysis that freezes all of our dreams. It’s a hallucinogen that creates ravenous monsters  that devour our hopes in one bite. It’s contagious. You can be given this pestilence by someone else with their disapproving looks, their snide comments, and their general disrespect of you.

You know how unattractive insecurity is in your friends or your romantic interests  Just think about how you’re coming across to others if you’re insecure about your writing?

Top 10 Ways To Beat Insecurity (At Least Temporarily!)

 

Here are my Top 10 easy fixes for some short term relief from insecurity. The long term fixes my need bigger guns! 

1. Practice writing. You will get better with practice. Set a word count goal or set a time limit, even ten minutes will do, and put in your effort to get better. Strengthen those writing muscles with daily workouts, even a small one.

2. Read. Read books by authors that you would love to be compared to. Study what they are doing. Look for things that you know you can do like them, like character development or dialogue. Look for things that inspire you and analyze why it moves you so.

3. Take time alone. Get away, even for a few minutes, from any people or environment that is not completely supportive.

4. Practice positive self talk. This is tough and it takes practice. Write down truths about who you are.

5. Make a list of things that you are really good at. They don’t have to be writing related. But these are your strengths. And you should be proud of these.

6. Make a list of your accomplishments. Big or small. Things that you did that were hard and you succeeded at. These things should make you hold your head up high.

7. Go for a walk. Or exercise in some way. Exercise releases endorphines and those will make you feel better about yourself. My therapist said that 20 minutes of exercise is worth one dose of Prozac. I totally love this.

8. Write down personal goals. Make them small and measurable. Something for the day, something for the week. Something for the month. And then work toward those goals. Then reward yourself for meeting them.

9.Identify the toxic, discouraging people in your life and do your best to remove yourself from them. This is not easy, but emotional and verbal abuse can wear on your self esteem and wear you down. Stay with healthier people. This means weird, clingy girlfriends. 

10. Eat well. Without getting militant about it, you will feel better and have a better emotional health if you minimize processed foods.

Want more? Stay hydrated. Limit stimulants. Get enough sleep.  Write about why you want to be a writer. What prompted this goal in the first place. Join a writers group. Like 10 Minute Novelists. See a therapist. Seek spiritual help.

Now all of these are practical steps. But this is not a complete list.

You’ll be a better writer and a better person if you’re secure. 

 

 

 

Top 10 Effective Ways I Deal With My Evil Inner Critic

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

In my writing life, my inner critic is the single greatest threat to my success.

My inner critic blames me for things that go wrong.

My inner critic calls me names like stupid and loser.

My inner critic compares me to others and finds me wanting.

My inner critic sets impossible standards of perfection.

My inner critic tells me that if I’m not the best, then I’m nothing.

My inner critic beats me up for the smallest mistake.

My inner critic keeps track of my failures and shortcomings.

My inner critic exaggerates my weaknesses.

My inner critic threatens to withhold love.

My inner critic attacks me with rage when I fail.

My inner critic says, “You’re a failure. So why try?”

My inner critic is especially loud when I feel pleasure, when I feel love, recognition or success.

 

And if my inner critic is successful, then he has produced severe anxiety in me and made me feel worthless. It’s at this point, I’m in complete bondage to this stupid, foolish, bumbling henchman and I am dragged away to be imprisoned by fear.

The problem is, I forget just how much power I actually have. A few weeks ago, I described how I was going to kick fear in the teeth, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’ve already let that inner critic have too much ground.

Top 10 Effective Ways I Deal With My Evil Inner Critic  by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

I’m not an expert, but I think these are very good steps:

1. Recognize the inner critic right away. You know his voice: it’s negative, accusatory and hopeless. In your head, it sounds either just like you or like someone in authority over you who was really good at saying toxic stuff like this.

 2. Yell right back at him. My therapist told me I can tell him to shut up. He will. You owe it to yourself to fight back. And you can mentally. And if you’re in a place where real people are saying stuff like this to you, leave them. 

“Learn to catch yourself and stop yourself immediately when you are engaging in negative self-talk.”
Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life

3. Concentrate on positive truths and self-affirmations. It usually takes me about four or five self-affirmations to get this inner critic to evaporate. (Yes, he evaporates. Why was I so afraid of something made of air?) Get in the practice of collecting positives about yourself as your weapon against your inner critic. Keep them posted where you can see them. Surround yourself with people who love you and encourage you. Inner critics love vacuums — so don’t allow yourself to have one. Fill your life with good and evil can’t come in.

 4. Get to work. I’ve been finding that this inner critic shows up more frequently when I’m stuck on something. With a little hard work and determination, I get over the hump and he’s got nothing to stand on. Set your timer. Write for 10 minutes. This may shut that inner critic up for a while.

 5. List all the people who do love you and build you up. We need reminders sometimes of who is on our side. This inner critic does not want you to succeed. Listening to it and giving it attention will make you miserable.

“Negative self talk costs more than even the richest person can afford. So be nice to yourself whenever possible … and know that it is always possible.”
Doug Pedersen, Tuna Breath: A 275-Pound Teenager’s Coming of Age Story

 6. Recount all your victories. My inner critic, for all his nastiness, is a really bad accountant and can’t see that there are far more successes than failures. Yours probably is too. If you have to create a list of all the ways you’re awesome and paste it to your computer screen, do it!

7. Enjoy your moments of victory and accomplishment for what they are without focusing on the tiny mistakes. Your inner critic also has very bad vision. He can only see the faults and failures. It’s likely someone in your life taught you to look at the world that way. I suggest you change your prescription and look for good and you’ll learn to really revel in your success.

 8. Celebrate who you are on your journey. Our paths to success are filled with bumps, detours and near disasters. This is part of life! While they can be frustrating and painful, instead of sitting down on the side of the road to bawl in self pity, we should celebrate that we’re still going forward! Stop every once in a while and say to yourself, “WOW! Look how far you’ve come!”

“As believers, we must speak only words of prosperity, health, and power.”
Lynn R. Davis, Deliver Me From Negative Self Talk

9. Stop comparing yourself to others. Your inner critic may be obsessed with the success of other writers. He may whisper in your ear that you should be doing this better, or you should be published by now, or you should have more reviews because of other people’s successes!  This is a bunch of ca-ca. Your success is yours alone. Just tell that inner critic to shut up once and for all so you can focus on being you!

 10. Practice good self-care. I’m far less likely to hear from the inner critic  if I’m well rested, I’ve eaten well and I’ve exercised. Take a moment and check yourself. Are you putting your physical well being at the top of your to-do list? This could be all you need to silence that inner critic.

If I actually listen to my inner critic, then it’s like I am putting the handcuffs on and I’m allowing him to drag me into fear. There’s no way I can be successful and listen to him at the same time. One of us has to go.

What about you? What does your inner critic say? How are you kicking fear in the teeth?

Top Ten Things You Could Be Saying To Yourself That Will Guarantee Your Failure As A Writer by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

I spend DECADES of my life saying negative things to myself.

Slowly, I’m addressing them one by one, changing what I say and taking positive steps (like NOT buying a box of donuts to eat in one sitting) to make my life better and my soul happier.

Below I have a list of the top ten things wannabe writers say to themselves that keep them stuck in failure.

Top 10 Things You Could Be Saying To Yourself That Will Guarantee Your Failure As A Writer by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

If you are saying any of these things to yourself, then you will, most certainly fail.

The reason? This negative self talk is a paralyzer.

It fosters inaction.

The antidote is two fold: say positive things and take baby steps out.

1. I’m So Disorganized.

Okay, this could be true. You maybe disorganized because you lack focus, or management skills or a plan. But all of those things are tools.  Successful people have learned how to use these tools that they can stay organized. This is the secret that super organized people know — organization does just happen, it’s daily work! If your house, office, desk, ideas or life is super disorganized, find the tools the experts use and make them work for you!

What to say to yourself instead: Today I’m taking 10 minutes to get more organized. I’m starting small. Something is better than nothing. Go me!

 What to do: Take 10 minutes, start with Pinterest and search for specific links, then create an organization board. Don’t get distracted. This is your starting place for the actual work. Or, take 10 minutes to make a list of the specific areas you want order in. Then, commit to ten minutes a day working on this area. You’ll see progress. You’ll find order. Try also Flylady.com (my personal favorite).

2. I’m Not Any Good.

This could be true. You may not be a good writer. How do you get better? With practice. Writing is a skill and the most talented writers in the world still have to practice! They did not just spring up out of the ground as NYT bestsellers. They worked on their craft over and over until they grew in skill and confidence. Learn all you can about the craft of writing. Be teachable. Find a mentor. Take a class. And write every day!

What to say to yourself instead: Everybody has to work hard. I’m no different.

What to do: Take 10 minutes and write. Don’t evaluate it or edit it. You just practiced! Then take another 10 minutes and request writing books from your local library’s website, or search Goodreads for the best books and buy them, or go to Writer’s Digest website and spend ten minutes reading. You can learn to be a better writer on ten minutes a day.

3. What If Someone Doesn’t Like It? 

Someone is not going to like it. This is a fact of life in the world of artists. If you choose to be an artist, then you’re choosing to have a bad review occasionally, you’ll receive a rejection letter or two and your skin will have to toughen up. But somewhere, someone will like it. This is your first fan. If you don’t write, you’ll never find them. It is for this reader (and all their Facebook friends, Twitter followers and Google+ people) that you write what you write.

What to say to say to yourself instead: What if someone does like it? That will be awesome!

What to do: Read all the one-star reviews of your favorite books on Amazon.com. Some of them are horrible, aren’t they? Notice how this negativity keeps these authors down. (Hint: it doesn’t!)

4. I Don’t Have Time.

You’ll pardon me if I roll my eyes on this one. For nearly every other item on this list, I have great compassion, but I don’t for this one. The truth is you have time for everything you want to do. All you need to accomplish your writing goals is a minimum of ten minutes a day. I know that this is true because between my five children, my homeschooling responsibilities and my homemade bread baking, I found time to pursue my dreams in ten minute increments.  It took me five years to write my first book, but I did it. I examined my carefully to find the time, made the time and then worked all the time!

What to say to yourself instead: I can find the time!

What to do: Spend ten minutes looking at your schedule on a daily and weekly basis. Where is there lolly-gagging time that can be devoted to writing? Where are you waiting for your kids? What Netflix show can you forfeit for the sake of writing? I bet you can find a lot more than ten minutes a day.

5. I Don’t Have What I Need.

This excuse is an easy fix. If you are reading this, you’re on a computer or a smart phone. That means you have what you need. Don’t have word processing software? Put your work on Google.docs. Do a search for all the great writing apps for smart phones. Or go low-tech and buy a spiral notebook and a pen. You can get what you need to be a writer very easily. Don’t let this small problem keep you from pursuing your dreams.

What to say to yourself instead: Wow! That was easy!

What to do: Spend ten minutes finding a place at home that will be your workspace — it doesn’t have to be big or glamorous. (I spend years standing at my kitchen counter on an iMac.) Then set up a document, create orderly files, put that journal in your handbag, get a great pen. You can do this!

6. I’ve Failed Before.

We’ve all failed. The first time you tried to walk, you fell. The first time you tried to eat solid food you spit it out. The first time you tried to read, you got it wrong. I can GUARANTEE that there are grammar and spelling mistakes in this blog post. Failure is a part of life. I’m not a psychotherapist, but I’m going to guess that it’s not the failure that’s the problem here, but the feeling of worthlessness that plays piggyback on that failure. This took me a long time to realize but the truth is, failure doesn’t define me.  I am so much more than my series of mistakes. I’m going to fail in the future, that’s a given. But I’m not going to let it keep me down.

What to say to yourself instead: I’m going to fail in big and small ways, but so what?

What to do: Read this. I am especially impressed with the fact that Oprah was fired because she was too emotionally involved in the story she reported.

7. I’m Not As Good As Them So Why Try?

Trying really hard not to eyeroll here, bear with me. Of all the excuses on this list, this one is the most cowardly. It’s bad enough that you have no confidence in your God-given skills and abilities, but then you take what you perceive as your weakness and compare it someone else’s strength and naturally come out lacking. It’s a double whammy against who you are and what you were created to be. You are never going to be as good as anybody. Do you know why? BECAUSE YOU ARE YOU! If you have artistic inclinations, then you have a distinct point of view, a unique voice, a perspective that no one else has ever had (you’ll still have to work hard to make it shine, but still). The world needs you!

If you really, really want to believe that the success of other people is the reason to hide your talent under a bushel, then you should be ashamed of yourself. I want this post to be encouraging and hopeful but I’m half-tempted to tell people who actually believe this crap to stay on the couch, stay in front of Netflix, do nothing. Please. I want your future readers for myself.

What to say to yourself instead: Dangit! I have something to offer!

What to do: Put some blinders on. And for the love of Pete, stop comparing yourself to others.

8. I’m Too Old To Try Anything New.

This one is breaking my crap-o-meter. You are NOT too old. Life is going to pass you by if you don’t pursue your dreams now. You don’t want to come to the end of it and wish you’d take ten minutes every day.

What to say to yourself instead: My kids (and grandkids) need to see me pursue my dreams!

What to do: Read this Huffington Post article about writers who got published later in life. One woman was 99!

9. There’s too much to learn, so it’s too hard.

When it comes to writing and marketing and publishing there is a LOT to learn. The bad news is that there’s always an new app or a new social media platform or a new guru to read.  The wealth of information is intimidating and overwhelming. Instead of thinking about how hard it is, choose the easiest thing or most interesting aspect of writing/marketing pursuit and only do that. The good news? Nobody knows and implements it all. The most successful people have put limitations on themselves so that they keep the ever growing information monster at bay. You can do that too.

What to say to yourself instead: My time is valuable. I’m going to focus on one aspect of my goals, like writing, and learn a little bit every day. 

What to do: Find one or two blogs on writing to follow. Read one book at a time. Don’t panic over what is left, just do what you can when you can.

10. I Don’t Have Anything Worthwhile To Say

Deep sigh. Then a hug. Then another sigh. I totally get this. Sometimes the desires that we have to write are lonely. They don’t exactly have ideas to play with. Personally, I’ve found that ideas, for some reason, inspire other ideas. The act of creating sometimes can spawn new inspiration and then you have something to say, something you didn’t know was in you.

What to say to yourself instead: Hey Muse! I’m going to sit down to work, you’re going to join me!

What to do: Write for 10 minutes about anything. Sign up for Sarah Selecky’s daily writing prompts. Then, watch this Ted Talk about the creative muse by Elizabeth Gilbert (this is my all time favorite Ted Talk. It makes me cry every time!)

The most powerful voice in the world is the one you use to talk to yourself.

Make sure the voice you use is the one that can keep you motivate, encourage yourself to succeed and keep hope alive.

It took me about 20 seconds to come up with ten, because I’ve said every single one of these to myself. I know how powerful these lies are.

 

So, what else are you saying to yourself that could be keeping you down?

What can you say to yourself instead?

What can you do to change everything?

 

Top 10 Questions To Ask Others and Avoid Being Labeled Another Emily Dickinson by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

If you are a writer, then it is likely that you prefer to be isolated from the rest of the world.

You spend your days thinking up great stories, making them as perfect as you possibly can. You may create that ideal lover, that ideal setting or that ideal story that you believe is the only story worth telling, at least for now. You may often be so engrossed in the creation of your little world that you forget that when the story is over, you may have to share it.

And that thought makes you want to pretend you’re Emily Dickinson.

Emily Dickinson was an American poet who lived about an hour from where I do now, in Amherst, Massachusetts from 1830 to 1886. Dickinson was a famed recluse. And when she died, her family found over 1800 poems that she had hand composed. Some had been “published” in that they were sent to friends, but most were left undiscovered. And this video from Crash Course and John Green explains my favorite commercial jingle related Dickson explanation. 

You don’t want to be Emily Dickinson.

Okay, having 1800 poems written would be kinda cool, but if you are going to have readers, editors, agents and publishers, you’re going to have to come out of the house and show others your work.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.25.40 PM

This means that you should get feedback.

This means that you have to open yourself up to criticism. This means that you may risk being misunderstood or disliked. This means that someone may not agree with your choices. This means that you may need the opinions of beta readers, critique partners or writers groups in order to be the best that you can be.

Yikes. That sounds scary. It’s bad enough that we’re writers. But we have to do this too?

When we start out, we’re hesitant and flighty, nervous and fretful. We crave affirmation that we’re on the right track, but we stop so often to ask, we make little progress. Then it doesn’t help that there are so many book/websites/blogs to read about how to be a great writer that it just makes us more insecure in who we are.

Oh, we writers are an insecure bunch aren’t we?

So are we good or not? How do we know? When do we find out? Why isn’t there a rule about this?

Um, well, this is the problem with the subjectivity in good writing. No one really knows. But that doesn’t help you, the new writer.

Good writers, or at least writers who want to be the best that they can be,  use beta readers’, critique partners’ or writers’ groups’ opinions to iron out the story’s wrinkles, find out what’s missing and see what the writer doesn’t see. You can use beta readers early in your writing journey, say, after the first draft. Or you can wait several drafts into it and then let trusted people read it.  Either way, you may find it helpful to give them specific questions to answer about your manuscript. Need a beta reader? The 10 Minute Novelist Facebook group has Buddy Day every Tuesday just for this reason! 

“Judge tenderly of me.”
Emily Dickinson

I’d like to suggest that the world is only big enough for one Emily Dickinson. I’d like to suggest that you get over your fear and ask for help from other writers. To help you, I have this:

Top 10 Questions To Ask Others & Avoid Being Labeled Another Emily DIckinson by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

1. What were the strengths of the book? Start off with a positive! If anything else goes wrong, you at least have one or two nice things others say. 

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.”
Emily Dickinson

2. Who was your favorite character, why? The characters need to be interesting, not necessarily likeable. They need to have a distinct arc. They need to change either for better or worse. They need to be consistent. 

3. Did you think that the plot lines were plausible? Even if your story takes place on a distant planet, underwater or sometime in the future, you need to make sure that the things that happen have the possibility of actually happening. If it is too far fetched, even in fantasy, your reader won’t be interested. 

“There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.”
Emily Dickinson, Selected Poems

4. Did you think anything was missing? You first readers should be paying close attention to what isn’t being written about? If they say to you, I kept waiting for this to happen and it didn’t.  Then you may want to find a way to fill that hole. If one reader thinks something’s missing, another may too. 

5. Where you ever tempted to put the book down and not pick it up? Why or why not? This is a good question. Your beta reader should tell you when things get boring or dry. If you don’t need the description of the back alley behind the pizza joint, don’t put it in. If you don’t need the backstory of the girl next door that explains her scar that you’ll never mention again, then take it out. Your reader’s willingness to keep going is good marker on whether or not you’re doing your job as a storyteller.

“But a Book is only the Heart’s Portrait- every Page a Pulse.”
Emily Dickinson

6. Did you find the setting fully described? Regardless of your genre, your setting will have a role to play in the story. The story itself will dictate how much of the setting is pertinent. Pay attention to what your beta reader says about it. You may have given us too much information or maybe not enough. 

7. Did you find the characters to be distinctive? Each character needs to be developed enough that the readers have no trouble remembering who is who. My personal goal is removing all the dialogue tags from their conversations and see if I can spot the distinctions in what they say. Ask your readers if they can find distinctions easily. If they can’t, consider fleshing them out more, or combining a couple of characters together. 

“I have been bent and broken, but -I hope- into a better shape.”
Emily Dickinson

8. Did you understand the goals of each of the characters? Each character should want something. Sometimes what they say they want and what they really want are two different things. Ask your readers if the goals are clear and reasonable. If they aren’t, then spend the time to clarify them. You may find by fine tuning goals, the character itself will become richer. 

9. Did you “see it coming” or were you surprised by the progress of the story? You story should be plausible, but not predictable. Hopefully your readers can be honest with you about what they saw coming and what may seem cliched. You may have to change a few things, but that’s okay, your work will be all the better. 

“Opinion is a fitting thing but truth outlasts the sun – if then we cannot own them both, possess the oldest one.”
Emily Dickinson

10. Do you wish that other things had happened to the characters that didn’t? I had a reader once who told me that she thought my poor main character went through far too many conflicts and I should ease up on her a bit. I respectfully disagreed. The variety of conflicts made the story a good one. But check with your readers. They may give you an idea you hadn’t thought of. 

Now Emily Dickinson did write, 

“Saying nothing sometimes says the most.”
Emily Dickinson

I’d have to disagree with her. I think that we need feedback from others. It is scary. But once your get your answers, handle them gracefully. You don’t need to follow every suggestion. Just use them for what they are: another helpful tool in your novel-sculpting.

“They might not need me; but they might.
I’ll let my head be just in sight;
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity.”
Emily Dickinson

And the nice thing about having relationships with other writers is that we can reciprocate! Our turn will come when we can be the one who is called to critique. Hopefully we’ll remember the experience and answer these questions with grace and gentleness.

You need not be afraid of others’ opinions about your work. As poetic as you may be, it’s healthier not to be an Emily Dickinson.

Take your chances with the world and be as good a you as you can be.

Top 10 Reasons You May Hate Marketing And What You Can Do About It by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

If I weren’t a writer and mother of five, I’d go into psychology or social work and listen to people.

Oh, I know it’s not all fun and games, like what I saw on The Bob Newhart show in the ’70’s, and from what I understand there’s a whole lotta of schoolin’ to go to, but I like thinking about what people are thinking about. It just could be fun!

psychology writing fear marketing sales ebooks self-publishing
This totally dates me. But I used to watch The Bob Newhart show on Saturday nights in the 1970s. It was the same night as Mary Tyler Moore and The Carol Burnett Show. Among other things, Bob Newhart played straight comedy against his kooky patients. I’d totally do that job if that’s all I had to do.

(And if you really love good situation comedy, click here to watch the pilot episode of The Bob Newhart Show.) 

Until I decide to take the plunge and become a shrink, I’ll satisfy myself with addressing the problem that some writers have:

The Reasons They Hate Marketing.

You poor, poor writers. You pour your heart and soul into your books. You create these magical worlds, these vibrant, three dimensional characters, these intricate plots, these thrilling stories that culminate in an figurative or literal explosion of action and dialogue that leaves your readers breathless, weepy and ready to plunk down more dough for the next installment.

Fabio: "Reading is so stimulating!" Damsel: "I was totally thinking reading. Yes! Reading!"
Fabio: “Reading is so stimulating!” Damsel: “I was totally thinking reading. Yes! Reading!”

Sadly, if we are to have readers, we have to go find them, convince them that our stories are worth spending money on and do it in somewhat civilized way.

The truth? We’d rather not. We’d rather hide behind our computer screens and only have the kinds of relationships that require us to type words.

I’d like to think, (I’m qualified to do this because I pretend to be a TV psychologist) that there’s more to our nervousness about marketing that we don’t like it. 

I’d like to suggest that there are real fears and anxieties here. And if that is the case, it’s going to take some doing to overcome them.

Top 10 Reasons You May Hate Marketing And What You Can Do About It by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

 

1. You’re not sure that you’re  good.

A lack of confidence is normal. Every author goes through that. How To Overcome: Hire a professional editor. Join a critique group through Scribofile.  Get a writing buddy on our Facebook group. Then, ask them for their honest feedback and then weigh what they say carefully. Improve where you need to but believe them when they say it’s good.

2. You have a creepy association with salesmen.

We all have creepy association with salesmen. Salesmen have a bad rap. They’re known for being slimy, smarmy and untrustworthy. How To Overcome: Just because others are bad sellers doesn’t mean you have to be. Remind yourself that your work is good, it’s worth buying and you have no ulterior motives. Be authentic with all your relationships and you’ll find selling to be easier.

3. You’ve seen the numbers and they’re not encouraging.

Millions and millions have books have been published in many different formats through many different types of publishers and platforms. It’s true that your little bitty book really isn’t much compared to them all. It’s enough to be very discouraged. How To Overcome: Have low expectations. Gain one reader at a time. Be content with small beginnings.

4. You’re  a little bit embarrassed that you are asking for money to do something you love.

How To Overcome: Change your thinking. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being paid for your hard work. You deserve something of value in exchange for the hard work you’ve put into it. You have talent, you’ve shared it with the world, now receive your compensation. The world operates like this and generosity will certainly open doors for you, you should never apologize for finishing the end of the transaction. This TED video explained to me so beautifully the art of asking. Amanda Palmer made me happy to give up my fear of asking.

asking Amanda Palmer marketing selling ebooks publlishing
Click the image to go right to the Ted link for this video.

5. You have haters.

We all have haters. That’s the beauty and the problem with art: what’s beautiful to some is repulsive to others. What to do: Thicken your skin a little and make your art the best it can possibly be. Then read all of these accounts of writers who were rejected and lambasted in reviews. Then, go back and read the good things your real fans have to say. There are more people in the world who would agree with them. Wouldn’t it be fun to find them?

6. You’ve failed before.

All of us have failed. We’ve failed from the first time we tried to walk, or read or even say coherent sentences. Our failure shouldn’t define us, it should just make us more human. What to do: Make a list of all the ways in which you are successful (if you need help, ask someone close to you). Practice saying positive things to yourself.  Try new strategies or approaches or take active steps to learn what you’re doing wrong that will make you more successful as you market.

7. You don’t want to be one of those pushy writers.

Some writers still haven’t got the message: hard sells get you nowhere. What to do: Don’t follow their example! Instead build relationships, ask questions, engage with people in an authentic way so that they want to buy what you’re selling. You never, ever have to be a slimy salesman.

selling books ebooks marketing hard sell

8. You’re not sure what you want.

What to do: Answer this: What does success look like to you? Is it thousands of books sold? Is it entertaining your friends and family? Think long and hard about what you want your sales goals to be and then take concrete steps to get there. Once you are on the path to your own desires, you may even find that marketing can be fun.

9. You’re not sure about the learning curve.

What to do: Have low expectations. Yup, it’s intimidating to think that once you write a book you still have to learn how to edit, publish, format, and design it. Then, once it’s available, you have to learn Pinterest, Twitter, WordPress, Canva, Tumblr, Periscope, Snapchat or whatever social media platform people are telling you that you need to sell your book. Instead of freaking out about all of it, outsource what you can and only concentrate on one or two social media platforms that you’re the most comfortable with. And go slowly. There’s no rush. If this is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

10. You just don’t like people.

What to do: Fake it till you make it. One of the reasons why you’re holed up in your office with your coffee, cigarettes, holey sweater and numerous cats is because the world that you create on your own terms is a lot nicer than reality. I get that. In our stories, the good guy wins, the homely girl finds love and everyone vacations in the Maldives. But honestly? The best marketing you’re going to do is going to come out of relationships and connections. You’re going to have to put on your big writer panties, go out into the world, either IRL or online, introduce yourself and be nice. Even if it’s not sincere. Even if all you know to talk about is coffee, cigarettes and cats. Do it. Everything about your life will be better with friends.

Or maybe your issues are deeper than Bob Newhart can handle in a 22 minute episode.

If they are, that’s okay.

But please know that lots of writers have to buck up their courage to market their books. This fear of putting yourself out there is pretty common. Consider joining a writing group (like all the sweet folks at 10 Minute Novelists) where you can find encouragement, tips and community. And they might just help you with your big issues.

And let me know if any of this helps.

I’ll make sure to send you a bill.

marketing sales books publishing fiction Twitter
It’s Mommy issues. Definitely.

 

Top Ten Ways To Deal With Writer’s Block by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Have you fought with writer’s block?

It sucks, doesn’t it?

Writer’s block is that state when there seems to be no inspiration. Writer’s block is when you wrestle back and forth in your confidence to create and still come up with nothing. Writer’s block is the realization that you have no ideas. Writer’s block is a searching for new words or new ideas and putting only dull words on the paper. Writer’s block can be dangerous in that we start believing that we’ll never have a good story again. Writer’s block is frustrating and maddening. Writer’s block can be blamed on our muse ignoring us, on our chest cold, on our own insecurities or on lies we’ve been told.

Top 10 Ways to Beat Writer's Block by Katharine Grubb

Writer’s block comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s fear based. Sometimes it’s energy based. Sometimes we’re just bored with our own ideas.

But these are some ways that you can overcome:

1. Fill your tank. If you’re not writing, you should be reading. Read broadly with as much diversity as you possibly can. Read in our genre and out of your genre. Read poetry and nonfiction. Read constantly.

2. Write anyway. Journal. People watch. Do the morning pages. Just add words. The habit of getting down a little will help you immensely.

3. Don’t equate your lack of productivity with your value. Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in the fact that we’re not writing, that we dig ourselves deeper into a pit of despair. Shake off any dark thoughts about this season. It happens to everyone.

4. Describe an anecdote. Write about anything that happened to you recently. Use the opportunity to write about it as practice. When you’re done, change the setting or characters or specific details to make it more creative. Even if this isn’t a publishable piece, your act of writing will help you grow in confidence.

5. Use a prompt without any expectation of a result. My favorite writing prompts are the first lines from great works of literature. I find that the craftsmanship of the first lines an inspiration. Now, I would never claim them as my own, but it does get my creative juices flowing.

6. Turn off the inner editor. First drafts are supposed to be messy. The editor comes in when you are completely satisfied with the drafting process, not any sooner.

7. Stop comparing yourself to others. This is good advice for all of life. But writers have a tendency to measure their success based on what others are doing. This is a huge mistake. Your creativity is yours alone. Just keep writing and don’t worry about what others are doing.

8. Give your projects breathing room. Put your project aside and come back to it in a month or even longer. We often need the perspective of time to see our art with fresh eyes and have a realistic vision for what needs to be done. Don’t be afraid to wait.

9. Surround yourself with other great art. I believe that art begets art. Listen to creative music. Go to an art museum. Watch high quality films. Your subconscious is hungry for the thoughtful and beautiful. Feed it. At some point, this art will show itself in your writing.

10. Read a writing book. Sometimes we’re blocked because we really don’t know how to do something in our stories. A writing book may help. If you haven’t your own collection of writing books, check out your local library.

Writer’s block is, I believe, just part of a journey of a writer.

Our creativity can move in and out like a tide. We can overcome writer’s block with discipline, practice, low expectations and stepping back into a playful place where we can enjoy writing again.

Our ideas are often organic beings. They are independent organisms of our life. They don’t have a time table nor a calendar. Wait on them. Give them time to stew properly.

Our ideas are never perfect. They require patient sculpting and reshaping. If you can lower your expectations of what they should look like, and ban your inner editor from the drafting stage, you can conquer the perfectionism that often comes with creating.

Our ideas will never be universally loved. Instead of focusing on who won’t like it, focus on who will. Don’t allow your fear of rejection to keep you from working.

We will not overcome writer’s block by procrastinating.

We will not overcome writer’s block by being too dependent on inspiration.

We will not overcome writer’s block by reminding ourselves over and over that hey! We have writer’s block!

You can beat writer’s block. I believe in you.

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 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? 

 

Top Eight Signs You May Be Doing Nanowrimo All Wrong

Is it really November? Is it really time to start that non-stop frenzy that requires 50,000 words in 30 days? It is!

Congratulations to all of you who are attempting it this year!

And to those of you who have tried, get discouraged and possibly think you are on the road to failure, just consider this:  you may be doing it wrong. 

Top Ten Signs Your Doing Nanowrimo Wrong

1. You think every word you write is golden. Um, your nano project is a first draft. Please, for the love of all that’s publishable, type this sentence ten times —> MY NANO PROJECT IS A FIRST DRAFT. The solution? Just plan on doing some major rewrites, revisions and edits long before you let a critic, agent, publisher or reviewer see it.

You just have to write the words.

2. The converse: you think every word you write is garbage, so you delete and try again, rewriting the same sentence fifty seven times. The solution? Don’t delete! Don’t edit! Your purpose is a high word count, to have the raw material of a good book. Just keep going and worry about editing later.

You just have to write the words.

3. You’ve got your character stuck in a corner so you quit. The solution? Give him wings and let him fly out of there. Leave him in the corner and throw down 3K on his backstory. Go to a different scene, or a different point of view, and write what’s happening elsewhere. You don’t have to save your hero in this draft. You just have to write the words.

Nano (2)

You just have to write the words.

4. Your outline isn’t as wonderful as it was in October, so you quit. The solution? Forget the outline. Go a different direction. You are the master of the outline, not the other way around. If you want start at the ending and work backward. No one says that you have to do your words in chronological order.

You just have to write the words.

5. Your write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method is stressing you out. You thought that this was the way to stay truly inspired. The solution? Go easy on yourself. You don’t have to be a creative genius all the time. Instead of wishing for the muse to show up, write about descriptions of the setting, character backstory, or the tragic forces that made your antagonist so nasty.

You just have to write the words.

6. You obsess over everyone else’s numbers. It feels like all your friends are knocking these big word counts every day and you’ve lost your confidence. The solution? Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. You only have to write for yourself. Also? If you spend your writing time today just writing all the reasons why you WILL succeed, it can count for you daily total.

NanoDisney

You just have to write the words.

7.  You think that all the big, famous writers do Nanowrimo, so this must be the ticket to fame. Nope. Not quite. The solution? Realize that every big, famous, published writer had their own unique ticket to fame and fortune. The only common denominator is their hard work. Nanowrimo is a great idea, but it’s only a tool that writers can use to get a draft. The reward comes in completing the goal, not fame or fortune.

You just have to write the words.

8. You think that winning Nanowrimo propels into a magical world of authorship. Nope. The solution to this thought? A reality check. Many, many people complete nanowrimo and their finished draft goes nowhere. Those 50,000 words is the literary equivalent of finding a piece of carbon. Don’t you dare assume that you can sell it off as a diamond without a lot of pressure and hard work.

Nanowrimo is fun, it’s hard work, and it can, at times, be stressful. But it is JUST a tool. It is not a replacement for good editing and revising, good character development or any other short cut. It is a great way to create raw materials for future masterpieces. We all have to start somewhere and if you’re working at Nanowrimo then you’re better than writers who never write a word at all.

You can do this! One word at a time! 


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. 

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.

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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!

 

#Top Ten Ways To Beat Insecurity As A Writer (At Least Temporarily) By Katharine Grubb

 

We are insecure for a lot of reasons.

We’re insecure because we probably have artistic temperaments that makes us feel deeply. We overthink and over analyze. We find it’s easier to dwell on what it negative in our life rather than what is positive. We may have lived in environments in which confidence and boldness was discouraged and despair was fertilized with lies and fear. We may lack skills. We may fear failure. We may long for approval and we know it’s hard to achieve it anywhere, much less in this field. We’ve been burned before. The last person who read our work was mean or hateful or didn’t get us. We’re  bound too tightly to the failures of yesterday. We speak a lot of negative words to ourselves. We compare others’ highlight reel to our bloopers. We are so aware of our weaknesses that we can’t comprehend that we have strengths. We’re too worried about what others think.

Top 10 Ways To Beat Insecurity As A Writer by Katharine Grubb

This insecurity is a poison.

It can seep into our lives, into our motivations, and into the words that we put together. This poison can infect our subconscious, our thoughts, and our habits. It has a paralysis that freezes all of our dreams. It’s a hallucinogen that creates ravenous monsters  that devour our hopes in one bite. It’s contagious. You can be given this pestilence by someone else with their disapproving looks, their snide comments, and their general disrespect of you.

What do you do if you are insecure?

Here are my Top 10 easy fixes for some short term relief from insecurity. The long term fixes my need bigger guns! 

1. Practice writing. You will get better with practice. Set a word count goal or set a time limit, even ten minutes will do, and put in your effort to get better. Strengthen those writing muscles with daily workouts, even a small one.

2. Read. Read books by authors that you would love to be compared to. Study what they are doing. Look for things that you know you can do like them, like character development or dialogue. Look for things that inspire you and analyze why it moves you so.

3. Take time alone. Get away, even for a few minutes, from any people or environment that is not completely supportive.

4. Practice positive self talk. This is tough and it takes practice. Write down truths about who you are.

5. Make a list of things that you are really good at. They don’t have to be writing related. But these are your strengths. And you should be proud of these.

6. Make a list of your accomplishments. Big or small. Things that you did that were hard and you succeeded at. These things should make you hold your head up high.

7. Go for a walk. Or exercise in some way. Exercise releases endorphines and those will make you feel better about yourself. My therapist said that 20 minutes of exercise is worth one dose of Prozac. I totally love this.

8. Write down personal goals. Make them small and measurable. Something for the day, something for the week. Something for the month. And then work toward those goals. Then reward yourself for meeting them.

9.Identify the toxic, discouraging people in your life and do your best to remove yourself from them. This is not easy, but emotional and verbal abuse can wear on your self esteem and wear you down. Stay with healthier people.

10. Eat well. Without getting militant about it, you will feel better and have a better emotional health if you minimize processed foods.

Want more? Stay hydrated. Limit stimulants. Get enough sleep.  Write about why you want to be a writer. What prompted this goal in the first place. Join a writers group. Like 10 Minute Novelists. See a therapist. Seek spiritual help.

Now all of these are practical steps. But this is not a complete list.

Being a writer is hard. Being a human being with emotional needs is harder. But you can do this. Any energy you put into caring for yourself emotionally is worth doing.


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.
I

Author Katharine Grubb  lives in Massachusetts, homeschools her five children, bakes bread, does a ridiculous amounts of laundry and sets her timer to write stories in ten minute increments. She believes in this so much she created a Facebook group for it (10 Minute Novelists) and she runs a website for the group: http://www.10minutenovelists.com. Her favorite type of books to read and write are quirky, imaginative tales of romance, faith and humor.


Starting in July, a new weekly newsletter, The Rallying Cry,  will be released from Katharine Grubb. Sign up if you need a weekly dose of encouragement covering all of your life, not just writing. 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.

Starting in July, a new weekly newsletter, The Rallying Cry, will be released from Katharine Grubb. Sign up if you need a weekly dose of encouragement covering all of your life, not just writing. 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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