I am definitely a with nuts person. You? Your character? Share in comments. And find more prompts here.
I am definitely a with nuts person. You? Your character? Share in comments. And find more prompts here.
I’m betraying my age here (which is fine, I’m old and I own it), but when I was younger there was a common saying that people would twist in funny way. I’m going to make like a banana and split, you’d say when you were leaving. Or, make like a busboy and get the fork out of here. Or, make like a tree and leave. We said them for all kinds of occasions.
Ah, yes, those were simpler times.
But I thought of those sayings the other morning when I was outside writing early in the morning, listening to the birds greet the day as the sun rose over the houses across the street. And I thought, I need to make like a bird and sing. (Only in my case, sing is a metaphor for write because, trust me, you don’t want to hear me sing.) Or, make like a flower and bloom. Or, make like an Oregon grape plant that the husband planted against all objections and take over the garden.
My point being: the birds don’t worry about who, if anybody, is listening, or if they are singing it right. The flowers don’t worry about if they look fat in that color of red, or if they are arranged in a way that will be pleasing to everyone. And the Oregon grape? Well, I’m pretty sure it has world domination in mind but never mind.
Because, wait for it here: we need to make like a writer and write. Because like birds singing, flowers blooming, and Oregon grape dominating, that’s what we do. Writers write. Except when we don’t. Because we worry. About how it will sound, how it looks, is it right? Will the agent I want to submit to like it, how will my readers react, what will my mother think when she reads that sex scene? Did I spell that word right, is the grammar correct, and how do I punctuate a sentence like that?
It gets worse when you start writing professionally (or aspire to) because all of those concerns can be front and center all the time. You have to push yourself to write fast, to go back to writing for the joy of it—even if you’ll eventually get paid, too.
Because I wager that none of us got into this writing biz because we wanted to fuss and worry over punctuation and sentence structure. (Okay, I know there are some of you grammar geeks out there shaking your heads.) We got into it because writing, to us, is singing, blooming, growing so marvelously lushly that there’s no room to walk past us on the deck. Am I right? And it really is easy to forget that.
So, next time you sit down to write, remember the birds. And the flowers. And the Oregon grape. Okay, not the Oregon grape. Remember why you do this…and make like a bird and sing.
Happy writing! Find more prompts here.
Yesterday I wrote about resistance.
But today I’m writing about its opposite, letting go. Which is funny, right? Like life is funny.
Anyway, here’s the deal. This past weekend, the hub and I took an overnight trip to Eugene, a hundred-ish miles down the road from Portland, and home of one of my alma maters, the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!). We were going to attend a birthday party for my friend and client, Kim Leval. (And what a fun party it was–but that’s a story for another day.)
When we take a short road trip, I usually
make ask my hub to drive so that I can knit. (I wear these so I don’t get carsick.) This past weekend, I had the perfect idiot knitting project (one you can do without paying much attention to). It is an airy scarf that I hope will be wide and long enough to wear as a shawl. I’m not that far along on it, but I made good progress in the car.
Something bad happened to my knitting. It started slanting. As far as I was concerned, the thing was supposed to come out all nice and neat, eventually forming one gargantuan rectangle I could artfully wrap around my shoulders. But instead it was freaking slanting. I kept telling myself it just appeared to be slanting, and that if I yanked on it enough, it would stop. So every knitting session turned out to be a marathon of yanking on the edges of the damn thing, then holding it up to see if that made any difference.
I wasmaking myself crazy trying to make the shawl into something it was never going to be. And I might just as well have been getting my teeth cleaned for all the enjoyment I was getting out of it.
Finally, driving home yesterday I had an epiphany: the shawl is slanting because it is creating a bias drape as I knit. I have no idea how or why this is happening. (I’ve been knitting since I was a kid, and still the craft offers mysteries to me.) But it is happening and no amount of yanking is going to change it. So I decided to quit fussing over it and relax and enjoy it.
I no longer care, either. It will be what it will be. Maybe it really is forming a bias drape, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it will magically become the giant rectangle I have in mind! But most likely it won’t. Doesn’t matter. Because, suddenly, the knitting is fun again. I am no longer resisting the natural shape of the shawl and instead I’m relaxing and enjoying it.
I don’t know about you, but this is all too familiar to me in other areas of my life. Like all the times I’ve tried to force a character (or a real person) do something they have no interest in doing. Or when I hang on to the idea of how a scene should go when it is clear that is leading itself in a different direction. Or when I keep trying to do the same thing over and over again in my career when it is clear it isn’t working.
And when I finally let go (which is surprisingly hard) the relief is so sweet.
Is there something in your writing or life you’re hanging onto that you need to release?
Update: I almost forgot! (Well, technically, I did forget.) My How To Get an Agent Class is tomorrow! Come join us! Just in time for summer pitching!
There’s a lot of noise in the world at the moment. Political, and societal to be sure. But there’s also all the information we get from the interwebs constantly, all day and even all night long. And much of it is designed to ensnare us—to click onto the website, read the news story, buy the item, support the cause.
It’s the status quo.
And as writers, it is our job to resist.
But wait, you say. You need all that information. You need it in order to have something to write about, you need it to support your WIP (as in research), you need it because you must know what is going on in the world.
Yeah, I hear you. I’m a huge input person. Next to writing, one of the things I love best in the world is gathering information. Set me up with a topic to research, a pile of books, and access to the internet, and I’m a happy woman.
But, there’s a limit to how much I—and you—can take in before it starts to become a detriment. Before it starts to affect our concentration levels, and our focus, to say nothing of our emotions and energy, both physical and mental.
Which is why I say you need to resist its lure.
Because when you do, you gain so much. It is difficult in the moment—I’ve had to tell myself not to click over to the internet numerous times as I’ve been writing this—but what I’ve gotten in return is clarity and focus. And far more enjoyment of the writing process.
And by resisting, you’re claiming your right to be different. To be a person who stands for writing and creativity and art. A person who dares to challenge the status quo. A person who follows her own inner tune.
That’s not always easy in this world, but it is vital. If you are going to do good work, you need to be able to hear your inner voice and you can only do that if you tune out the noise of the world.
So, let’s do it together. Resist the status quo! Turn to the page instead of the latest news story or blog post. And together we will change the world one word at a time.
Leave me a comment about what you’re writing–and resisting.
(FYI, this originally appeared as my weekly newsletter. If you’d like to get it delivered directly to your inbox, just fill out the form to the right.)
Share snippets in the comments! And find more writing prompts here.
Tuesday is Independence Day in the states. Yesterday was Canada Day in, um, Canada, which I think has something to do with becoming a country but I couldn’t quite tell from the Wikipedia page. (Forgive me Canadians, and perhaps one of you could enlighten me?)
The idea of independence and freedom is afoot in the world.
It’s something we all want, right? I mean, who wants to live their life in chains, real or imaginary? For most of us, thank God, the only kind of prisons we will experience will be mental and emotional. But those prisons can be excruciating and powerful.
And I am here to assert that the feeling of freedom and independence comes from one place only—within. Okay, I’m fresh off a weekend of watching kid movies, Trolls and Moana, so I admit maybe I’ve been a bit unduly affected by their messages. But this idea that it all comes from within is something I fervently believe in, and forget often.
So here’s a reminder for me and you: freedom comes from within, and the best tool I know to access that is writing. Yes, writing. Whether you’re exploring your emotions on the journaling page, or pouring them into a character in your WIP novel, or shaping them in the memoir you’re writing to make sense of your life, writing is your best path to mental freedom.
Because, you can put the drama on the page, as Julia Cameron says. And then it does have to go out into the world, where it can damage tender relationships. Freedom.
Because, you can spend time expressing yourself, doing what you feel called to do, rather than plopping down in front of the TV or computer. Freedom.
Because, you can put your stories out into the world, where they will affect others in positive ways, maybe even loosening some of the bonds that bind them. Freedom.
So, let freedom ring. Set pen to paper. Let it rip. It is your path to freedom and independence.
And don’t forget–my Freedom and Independence Coaching special runs through July 5th. Learn more here.
What are you working on this holiday weekend? Do leave a comment and let me know.
(This post originally appeared in my newsletter. If you’d like to have it delivered to your inbox every Sunday, just fill out the form to the right.)
Photo by kplantt.
What do you think? What is your working pattern?
Please share snippets in the comments. And you can buy a journal full of prompts (and room to write) here.
Sitting in church yesterday, one word kept popping out at me, even though the message wasn’t really focused on it. And that word was joy. I kept thinking about it in terms of writing. I wondered: where’s the joy in it? Lord knows, writing is a tough business full of rejection and low-paid work. So, is it worth it to keep at if there’s no joy in it? Am I still finding joy in it? Are you?
I am one of those writers who can’t not write. Even if you told me that I’d never make another penny from my work, never see anything published ever again, I’d still keep writing. I love the puzzle-like fun of putting a novel together and continuing to discover things about my characters. I love the self-discovery that ensues from a good journaling session. And I love writing about writing (and motivation and inspiration and all that good stuff) in my blog and newsletter.
So yeah, I still find joy in it. There’s nothing like the feeling I get after a good writing session, when I look up and find myself in love with everything in the world. That’s what sustains me when I get another rejection or I can’t seem to think of a topic for a blog post or the vicissitudes of life keep me away from my writing.
It’s the joy of it.
The joy of the creative process, of putting words on the page, one after another. When it is going well, it’s bliss.( Of course, when it’s not going well, it’s hell—but that’s a topic for another day.) That’s what keeps me going. And I assume, because I’m pretty sure you and I are not so different, that it’s what keeps you going as well.
But what happens if you’ve lost the joy in it? What if you long to write but the fire has gone out?
Here are a few things to try:
–Write fast. A lack of joy in writing comes from perfectionism, which manifests as laboring over every word. Short circuit that tendency by vowing to write fast. Set a timer and see how many words you can get on the page before it goes off. The words don’t have to be pretty, they just have to be on the page.
–Remember that writing is a process. Too often we get hung up on product. The joy comes in the process of writing, in that lovely feeling when you are so absorbed that time passes and you’re not even aware of it. Let yourself focus on the process without worrying about the end result.
–Write any old thing. If you’ve lost the fire for your novel, write an essay about a topic dear to your heart. If you’re struggling with your memoir, write a short story. Write a poem. Write in your journal. Write a play or movie script. Shake those brain cells and neurotransmitters up!
–Take a break. Tell yourself you can’t write. Can’t work on any of your projects. Can’t journal. If you are anything like me, you like to rebel against yourself, and this is a surefire way to get back to it and kindle some joy. If you really do end up taking a break, you’ll come back to it with space in your brain and heart to find the joy again.
I hope some of these suggestions help to motivate you. And if you are having a hard time finding the joy, might I suggest that coaching can help? Continuing through midnight on July 4th, I’m running a coaching special. For three-month, paid in advance clients, I’m offering two free extra sessions. That’s 14 sessions instead of 12. And for six-month, paid in advance clients, I’m adding on 4 sessions. Woot! That’s 28 sessions instead of 24. Just think what you can get done in a few months of one-on-one coaching with me. You could get a huge start on your novel. Or finish the project that’s moldering in the drawer. Or start the process of getting an agent—or get your book self published.
Interested? Contact me and let’s chat.