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Posts tagged ‘creative life’

The Benefits of Writing Groups

I got my MA in May 2015. In one of my last classes, my professor said, “In three years sixty to seventy percent of you won’t be writing.” He went on to say that while you’re in school, it’s easy to write. You have assignments and people directing you to write. Once you graduate, you’re on your own.

If you are a freelance writer, or a tech writer as a profession, it may be easier. However, you’re writing for your job and these topics may not be what you really want to write. You get busy with work, life, family, etc. While the first few months can be filled with excitement and lots of good writing, after a while it might get hard.

How do you stay the course?

For me, a writing group saves the day. Even last year, when I was dealing with all the stress, I still managed to write something. Going to regular meetings says that I am making writing a priority. I’m carving out time every month to meet with other writers and discuss our work (and let’s be honest life stuff too). It’s a great supportive system that can motivate you to keep working and submitting. All our wins are celebrated and you have people who understand when you have set backs.

A writing group has kept me working, when it was very easy to stop. Every year has it own challenges. Whether it was moving, getting out of debt, dealing with health stuff, you name it the world has thrown it all at me (and keeps chucking more my way). It is very easy to say, “Writing can wait, I have more pressing things to do.” Having a group keeps me motivated. And I’m sure everyone else in my group feels the same way.

The best way to find a group is to go to places where writers congregate. Check out local community writing centers, writing societies, and on-line groups (I like Facebook groups.) to find people. Most likely, someone is looking for you too. It only takes two to start the group.

Be that Quirky Writer

We writers are an odd lot. I started reading this book, It Takes a Certain Type of to be a Writer by Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo. It’s full of quirky anecdotes about writers and their behavior. My take away is that every writer has a certain set of rituals, behaviors, and tics that makes them create that magic that ends up in their writing.

So I started thinking about some of my own quirky habits.

First, I write 90% of my stuff long hand first. After a long day of working at my computer for my day job, sometimes I just can’t look at another screen. Hand writing my stories ensures that the writing gets done for the day. One exception is the blogging. I always compose these posts on the computer.

Second, I need a good dose of caffeine just before I start. In the winter, it’s black or green tea. In the summer, it’s ice tea. Back in the day, it was a Cherry Coke or Coke Zero, but, ya know, we’re trying to clean up our diet, so that don’t fly no more. The drink not only perks me up, but also is a break between what I was doing before and the writing time. My brain switches over and once I finish, I’m ready to work.

Third, I  don’t like to talk about works in progress. In the past, I’ve opened up about stories I’m working on, detailing plot and character, but I always regret it. So my new rule is, no details until I’m good and ready.

Fourth, I like black ink. I’ll tolerate blue (or other colors), but I prefer black.

Fifth, I used to write my first drafts to music. That habit has changed over the years. Now I prefer silence. Occasionally I will turn the tv for the white noise, but it has to be something that I can tune out like white noise in the background.

Those are all the quirks I can think of now. I’m not too exciting with my writing rituals. I don’t like writing in bed, nor do I pace around like others. My little habits get the work done and I’ll keep doing them as long as they keep working.

How to Write an Amazing Story

I wish I had an answer. I wish I knew the formula that would write world-changing stories. If I did, this would be a different blog.

I heard once that all an artist can do is put work out there they believe in and hope that the right people find it. Trying to make history will not make it so. History is made only after time has gone by, not in the moment. Who knows what will really be remembered a hundred years?

I create stories that I love. I believe in them. I trust that the people who find and read them are those that are meant to. This doesn’t mean I am against marketing or promotion. How else are people going to know what you are creating unless you tell them? I’m mean people who write stories they don’t believe in thinking that is the way to get published. That is a bad road to go down. Putting your name on work you don’t believe in will only lead to trouble later.

Write something you believe in.

And do your best to let people know about it.

Finding Balance

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about balance. As I said earlier, I went to the doctor and she encouraged me to get back to exercising now that I am almost fully recovered from surgery. I want to fit that in again, along with fiction writing and my regular stuff. But I’ve also been thinking about other aspects of my life that I’ve let fall to the wayside. There are friendships I don’t put enough time into, travel I’d like to do, spirituality I’d like to explore more, and a whole host of other aspects.

About 15 years ago, I heard Tom Wolfe speak about the writing life. He said one of the best things a writer could do was go out and live a life. Don’t just sit around and write. Go out and see the world. I remember him saying that. He felt that writers had become too insular, where they were only writing about themselves as writers and nothing more. A dangerous, slippery slope I hope one day to never fall down.

A full life, full of mundane and exciting stuff is what we should all aim for. I’m striving for that now. Not an easy thing. Sometimes I feel like I’m pulled in so many directions and other times I feel like the dullest person in the room. Maybe the answer is that I need to do what I can each day to feel like I’m living my best life. Some days that’s going to be binge watching TV. Other days it will be squeezing in a workout and one thousand words of new fiction. And some will be spending time with the family/friends. I don’t have to do everything everyday.

I have to focus on doing my best each day and keeping things interesting.

Finding the Time

Cherry trees have blossomed.

One thing posting everyday has taught me — I have time to write. Sometimes it feels like I have zero time. My day job has drained me, or I have plans that take me away from my desk all day. Most days, however, I have a few minutes to write.

Went to the doctor this week and she encouraged me to get back into regular exercise. I thought, When is that going to happen? After work, no that is writing time. It’s going to be first thing in the morning for now. Maybe later I’ll change them. I used to be a “write first thing in the morning and workout in the evening” person. We’ll see. I can always change if I think the routine isn’t working.

In the past, people have always said, “When I have time, I’ll write.”

I always respond with, “You’ll never have time to write. You have to make time.”

But you knew that didn’t you (if you are a fellow writer)? Now I’m learning that I have to make time for everything else. Heck, even my grand plan to watch all of the GOT episodes before the season premiere on Sunday went awry. Last Sunday, as I started, I didn’t realize that Killing Eve was having a marathon. So GOT went on the back burner, Sandra Oh needed me now. And that day I still had to fit in a blog post, writing, reading more my friend’s novel, and grocery shopping. And some folks have way, way more responsibilities than me (like kids or aging parents). We do the best we can by making time for the important stuff.

And this month long challenge reminded me that I do consider my writing important. That I can carve out time to write (even a few paragraphs a day) among the craziness of life. This is important to me and I can make time for it. Everyday.

The Stories We Tell

I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling. I think it is because my novel hit a wall and I realized I have to rethink the story. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’ve been trying different versions to see what works. So far I haven’t found anything I like.

I have other short stories that I’ve started and not finished. I could work on them too. Like I said before, one of my goals is to write 6 new short stories this year (along with a novel). So far I’ve finished one. We’re into the fourth month of the year, so I need to get going. I don’t want to wake up and it’s November and I haven’t done anything.

Watching TV sometimes help. As some critics have said, we are in a golden age of TV. (Anyone else ready for the final season of Game of Thrones?) There are so many shows on TV and different ways of telling a story. Last night was the season premiere of Killing Eve and I love the storytelling on that show. It unfolds with these unbelievable circumstances, but their actions are completely in tune with each character. I just love it. My guilty pleasure.Also I find more plot driven shows, help me see a beginning, middle and end. Seeing how the writers lead the viewers on an arch is becoming helpful.

I’ve also been rereading myths. Why do some people become heroes and others become villains? What makes them good? Why does the audience care about them?

These are all the questions I’ve been exploring to help me write. My main character in my novel has conflict, but I’m not sure why she is doing what she is doing. I don’t understand her motivation. I guess I don’t know her well enough. You’d think after years, I would know more. Just goes to show that characters are always changing and surprising you.

One thing is for sure. The more I think about this in my writing, the better my writing is going to get. I’m not much of a spontaneous writer. I always leave some room for surprise, but I don’t like to just write and see where it goes. Nope. Not that kind of writer. I like to know my stories well. I’ll memorize the passages and live in the character’s heads for a while. Then I can write the story, their story, the way it should be.