Otherwhere: Thus Beginneth

Goofy Halloween GuyHappy Halloween!

And so we come to the beginning of a new blog feature called Otherwhere.  (It's a word, for real, I found it on Thesaurus.com.) In my travels around the internet, I find lots of interesting things that I post on Twitter, or once in a blue moon, on Facebook.  But I've realized that you and I might not connect on those sites.  (Though we should.)  So I decided to save up the links during the week and share them here.  Sound good?  Okay, let's get started:

Puzzled as to how to write a compelling beginning? Janice Hardy of Fiction University has you covered.

And here's another Janice Hardy post.  Do you have a book of your heart?  I do.  It's my MFA book, the novel I wrote while studying fiction  for two years, Language of Trees and I still love it so much.  But nobody else did.  Well, that's not true.  Readers did, but the publishing world gave it a collective, "meh."  Anyway, this blog post discusses why you should love the book of your heart–and move on. 

I'm a Barbara O'Neal groupie. I love her writing and I read her monthly blog posts on Writer Unboxed avidly. Since I'm always trying to find time to get creating art of some kind into my life, the title of this post about Barbara's art days caught my eye.

I just moved my office, so I read Anne Wayman's article on Decluttering for Writers with interest.

Jane Friedman always has reliably good posts and I particularly enjoyed this one, on what it takes to be a career novelist.

Hankering for a writing retreat?  Author Joyce Maynard is now taking applications for the tiny house on her property.

And finally, here's a link to a post about Paris from one of my favorite Paris bloggers.  Because, Paris.  'Nuff said. 

What interesting things have you found on your travels this week?

The photo is one I took of my favorite goofy Halloween decoration.  It's about the only thing I've managed to get up this year. 




Five on Friday: Happy Halloween

IMG_20151025_174656It is a wonderful rainy, blustery day here in Portland as I write this–my favorite, at least for once in awhile.  And here’s what’s going on:

What I’m Reading: Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie and The Untethered Soul, both of which I’m pretty sure I was reading last week.  Things have been busy around here!  Next up is After You, which I can’t wait to dive into, and Rise of the Machines, a book on marketing.

What I’m Working On: Settling into my downstairs office (see photo) after a marathon work session on Sunday in which I unpacked a ton of boxes.  Alas, its been pointed out to me that there are still some unpacked boxes upstairs that never got moved.  But, honestly, I haven’t missed any of that stuff for a few months now, so I’m thinking most of it is going out the door.  I’m also writing my next novel, working with several clients and I have a new sort-of ghostwriting project.

What I’m Struggling With: Sugar.  There were sugar cookies in Halloween shapes for the adorable granddaughter to frost last week and that meant I had to eat a couple also.  And I’m baking pie tomorrow.  My chiropractor just reminded me that sugar aggravates inflammation and that it and this weather system that came in overnight were probably why my hips hurt so bad when I walked yesterday.  I’m going to be good starting Monday, I swear it!

What I’m Excited About: My blog redesign, a new feature here starting tomorrow and best of all A GIVEAWAY OF J.D. FROST’S NEW BOOK on Tuesday.  So come on back here to join in.

What I Want to Remind You About: If you live anywhere near Nashville, I’ll be there in January for the Room to Write retreat. Its a chance to have lots of time to write, meet other writers, plus get some good writerly info from moi and two others.  Read all about it here.

And of course, Happy Halloween to all!  What are you doing to celebrate?


Why Every Writer Should Do Nanowrimo

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this Sunday November 1st?   Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiRes

Why yes, yes it is, Charlotte.

Thank you.  So you know what that means:

Drumroll, please….

It's time for Nanowrimo!

What's that you say? You just crawled out from your writing cave and you haven't heard of Nanowrimo?  Well, let me clue you in. Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month, wherein participants write a novel during the month of November.  Yeah, the month with Thanksgiving and Black Friday in it.  Uh-huh.

For the purposes of Nanowrimo, a novel is considered to be 50,000 word,s which usually isn't a full-length novel, but its darn close. And to get 50K words done in a month is incredible.  You can finish the rest of it later.

I know.  Sounds like madness.  But its really pretty fun, in a masochistic kind of way.  And even if you only make it part way through, I believe it will benefit your writing.  Here's why:

1.  It will kick start you into a regular writing habit.  In order to complete Nanowrimo, you've got to write every day.  It's just too easy to get behind otherwise.  Yeah, some people may do it all in a few crazy-ass huge word count sessions, but for most people, the challenge will get accomplished a day at a time.  This is how all writing gets done over the long haul, and so even if you don't get to 50K words, you'll have gone a long way to cement a good habit.

2.  It will get you in the mindset of attaining daily writing goals.  When I've done the challenge (I actually completed it one year, have gone about half way in other years) I set myself a daily page count goal of 2,000 words to allow for days off and emergencies.  At other times of the year, I go for less than that, say in the 1K to 1,500 K range.  If I start to complain that such word counts are just too much, I remind myself of Nanowrimo and the 2,000 words a day.  And I keep writing.   Nanowrimo is the ultimate marathon.  Once you've completed it, you know you can do it again and you can't be a slacker!

3.  You can take advantage of the collection energy.  I'm not sure how many people do Nanowrimo each year, but it's in the millions, world-wide.  (It started out in 2000 with 21 people.)  Just think of the energy of all those people holed up in their writing caves, working away! It is astounding.  Plus, there are local meet-ups all over the world, which you can find out about on the site.

4.  You can get encouragement and advice from other writers.  There's tons of it on their website, and they generally send out helpful and motivating emails throughout the month as well.  But you do have to sign up for all this.

5.  It's the best training to write fast.  More and more in my old age, I'm convinced that just throwing words on the page is the way to go.  We too often let the inner critic or the inner roommate take over and rule us while we are writing, and that just slows us down.  Am I always able to write fast? No.  But its my goal. And writing 2K words a day helps.

6.  It gives you bragging rights.  Let's face it, we writers don't get a lot to crow about.  We pretty much do the same thing day after day, and then when we are finished we send our work out into the world and endure rejections.  So why not take advantage of something that actually let's you win–and give you something to brag about?

7.  It gives you an ironclad excuse to write.  When I was an MFA student, my favorite thing was to say, "Sorry, I can't, I'm a student and I've got an assignment due." For some reason people took this much more seriously than when I said, "Sorry I can't, I need to work on my novel."  Nanowrimo gives you an excuse!  You can now say, with grave authority "Sorry, I can't, I'm on deadline." Booyah!

Bonus reason:  It's fun!!!!!  Yeah, a non-writer hearing about writing 2K words a day and calling it fun would think we're nuts.  But you write because you love it.  You write because its fun.  So let yourself in on the party.

So, do tell: are you up for Nanowrimo? Have you done it before? Do you plan to do it again? 

(For other posts related to Nanowrimo, go here.)

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.


My BEST Writing Tip, I Promise

Writing_writer_dark_2531_lHemingway knew it and used it.

I've expounded on it numerous times, including recently. (That juxtaposition of sentences makes it appear that I might be comparing myself to Hemingway, to which I say: bwahahahaha).

It is the single most helpful tip for you to get words on the page, and here it is:


Case in point:

Me, yesterday morning.  I got up at the usual time to work on the novel.  I've been doing some re-organization on it and I planned to finish that up before moving on. After my plot session with Cathy Yardley, I have some changes to make.  However,  I am not going to go back and fuss over the first few chapters.  I am making good notes and writing a few additional scenes, but I'm not going back to change things.  Because that way, madness lies.  And not finishing drafts.

The night before, I had dutifully made some notes of what I wanted to accomplish–where, ahem, I was going–on a little yellow index card.  And that morning I sat down, ready to refer to my notes and get going. 

But I couldn't find the little yellow index card.

Panic in Needle Park!*   (I looked it up! Its a movie!)

I couldn't, for the life of me, remember what I had promised myself I would do.  So I farted around on the internet.  Looked at knitting sites. Read blogs. Checked email, again.

And then finally reminded myself that my brain was stronger than that and I could indeed remember what I had set out to do. So I did it, sort of.  But I'd easily wasted valuable writing time.

And of course, later that day I found the little yellow index card.  And at least the experience reminded me of how important it is to my process to KNOW WHERE I'M GOING.  And it gave me a blog post.

Here's a little something I found for you, since we were talking about Hemingway.  It's his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.  But before you watch it, how about you let on what your best writing tip is?


*Feck is my new favorite British-ism, or at least I'm assuming its British because I picked it up in that silly British novel I just read.

**Don't ask, its something my sister and I say to each other, based on, I think, the name of a long-ago book.

Photo by re_birf used under Creative Commons license.



Five on Friday: What’s Going On

Brown_pebbles_stone_251353_lWhat Who I'm in Love With: My new grandson, Owen Lewis Hopman, born October 13, thus becoming the 9th Libra among our extended family and friends.  He was two weeks overdue, and I'm convinced that he just wanted to make certain he had his very own birthday, rather than sharing it with a grandfather, grandmother, father or uncle (two of them), because he wasn't a big baby–7 pounds 6 ounces. 

What I'm Writing: My next novel, the one I started in France.  I'm the kind of writer who doesn't like to talk much about a book until it is done so I'll leave you guessing.  But I was struggling a little bit with the story, so this week I had a plot session with Cathy Yardley, in which she asked me a lot of questions about the story so far.  By the end of the hour, I had designated the inciting incident, plot points, pinch points, and my main character's goals, motivations and conflicts.  Since I no longer belong to a critique group, I really needed someone to bounce ideas off, and she delivered in a huge way.  Highly recommended.

What I'm Reading:  A silly Christmas/knitting novel set in a small English village, which I can't even remember the name of. It reads like a first draft, self published novel that has not been edited, and yet it was put out by a major house.  Of course, I'm still reading it–and I'm the queen of ditching books–so maybe that's why.  Up next is Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie by Beth Howard, (research!) and the sequel to Me Before You, the blockbuster-ish novel by Jojo Moyes, which I enjoyed a lot and we used as a teaching book in the 2014 France workshop.  And I still have the gazillion novels I downloaded on my Kindle before I went to France to read.

What I'm Obsessing About:  Knitting and needlework.  I just don't have enough time for all I want to do, possibly because I spend so much time drooling over blogs like Fringe Association, Mason-Dixon Knitting, Alabama Chanin, and Kate Davies, to name only a few. And let us not forget my Instagram feed which is crammed full of delightful feeds.

What's Going On:  You may have noticed that I've not been blogging as much lately.  I got out of the habit while in France and haven't recovered my momentum yet.  But I will.  This here blog has been around for eight years and counting, and its not going anywhere.  One of the problems is that I hate the current design, which looks the way it does only so it works on mobile devices.  Getting the design I want is going to require moving from Typepad to WordPress.  I've been twiddling my thumbs over what to do, mainly because of those eight years of content, which is a bit onerous to transfer from Typepad to WordPress.  But I think I'm coming up with some feasible solutions, so stay tuned.

What's Coming up:  Okay this makes Six Things on Friday, but oh well. We will be announcing the topic and location of our 2016 France workshop (hint: Ceret, Ceret, Ceret, my most favorite town in the south of France).  AND rumor has it there might be another European destination in the works for the spring.  I'll keep you posted!

Okay, that's it for me.  This weekend I'm going to finally finish setting up my office, which I moved from upstairs to downstairs right before I left for France, and catch up on work.  What's up for you these days?

Photo by Henkster.


Just Put The Words on the Page: Why is This So Hard Sometimes?

Soundsky-1229984You’ve heard it a million times, and so have I.  Hell, I’ve said it a million times: all you have to do to write is get yourself to the page and throw words at it.  And yet, sometimes this is just ridiculously difficult.

Like, for me, this morning, when I struggled with writing a scene. I let my attention wander to ponder a book I desperately needed wanted for research, and this led me down one rabbit hole after another.

All I had to do was throw words at the page until I finished the scene (which I had sketched out in note form already).  And I wasn’t doing it, until finally I strong-armed myself into completing the scene (which didn’t turn out half bad for a rough draft).  But it started me to thinking, once again, about why this happens.  We love writing or we wouldn’t be writers, right? And yet sometimes it takes the 10th army to get us to the page.

And I realized that for me, and maybe for you, too, its the constant carping of my inner voice.  When I listen to it, it leads me astray.  It says things like aw, c’mon just go check your email one more time.  Or, you know you’re a crappy writer and this particular scene sucks so why bother? Or, you’re stupid and so is your writing.  Or even, everybody hates you. (Now if that isn’t ridiculous, I don’t know what is.)

Yet when I’m able to ignore it, I go directly to the page and my writing flows.  I don’t waste time obsessing about what other people think of me or how my writing is going to be received.  I’m happy and I feel free.  These times have historically been few and far between, but they are getting more common with my understanding of the carping inner voice and some techniques to deal with it.

The inner voice is, of course, your ego and your ego’s job is to keep you safe.  S/he has done a good job up till now, because here you are, reading this in one relatively unscathed piece, correct?  And yet in your ego’s efforts to keep you safe, it sometimes often goes a bit too far.  Your ego would probably be delighted were you to stay safely at home, never risking venturing out into the big scary world.  This goes for the physical world and the mental world.  Free, unfettered creativity is the ego’s worst nightmare.

Because what if you reveal something deep and true and unique about yourself that people might judge?  What if those words you’re putting on the page become a book and people, gasp, actually read it? What if you succeed? What if you fail? What if people criticize you?  On and on the ego’s fears run, a constant litany and threat of doom.  If you listen to it, you’ll never get any writing done, trust me.

So not listening to it is the key.  But your inner voice is a persistent bugger, and it will continue to carp at you non-stop no matter how many times you scream at it to shut up.  Another way is called for.  That way is to acknowledge it and then let it go. As the revered meditation teacher and Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, just say hello and goodbye. This is surprisingly effective, especially when done over time.

And one of the things that has really helped me is something I learned from Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. Think about that inner voice as if it were a real live roommate in your home.  Would you give its constant chatter any credence? Would you pay attention to anything it said? Would you believe its crazy stream of words? Of course you wouldn’t.

If there’s one thing that drives me crazy, its a person who talks non-stop.  I end up tuning them out, ignoring them.  And yet I often let my inner voice run my life.  So I’ve given my inner roommate a name–Irene–and when she starts spouting nonsense I say to here, “Hello Irene.  Goodbye Irene.”  Then she can go off and spout away but I don’t have to listen to her.

This is a wonderful practice not just for writing but for every aspect of life.  It is such a relief to get away from Irene whenever I can!  And when I’m not listening to her, I can appreciate the present moment, and I can write with a whole brain and a whole heart.

Do you have an inner roommate who talks at you constantly? How do you tame him or her?

(Note: you may also be interested in posts I’ve written about our inner critics, a different but similar beast. You can read about that here or here.)

Image by seungmina.


The Secret to Writing More Than You Ever Thought Possible

Cartoon guy with crayonTo get more writing done, you could get up earlier, or stay up later.  To get more writing done you could close the door to your office and post a sign threatening death and dismemberment to anyone who enters.  You could escape to the coffee shop or go on a retreat. You could run away from home or refuse to leave it.

All of those are great ideas for getting writing done.  But none of them are worth the powder to blow them to hell without this one thing.  And so, da da da dum….the secret to getting more writing done than you ever thought possible is…wait for it…


I swear, in this day and age, focus is more precious than a king's treasures.  We have so many distractions pressing in on us all day, every day.  (For an amazing infographic that shows how much data is created every minute on the internet, click here.) And it's not just the internet. Some of us have families. (And don't think for a minute that once your kids are grown up, their distractions end. Ha! Then the grandchildren come along and it starts all over again.) Some have demanding jobs.  Or farms to manage. Or marathons to run.

All of these things combine to make focus a rare and twinkling jewel that is often hard to attain.  And since I am one of the most distractible humans on the planet (bright shiny object!) I have made a study of practices and techniques and even pills (yes, pills) that will help.  These are lessons learned the hard way, by me, the Queen of Beguilement. So here we go:

1. Know where you're going.  If you don't follow any of the other tips listed here, try this one.  It is the one that makes the most difference for me, hands down.  If I know what I'm going to write next, I'll get to the page and write it.  If I don't know, I stray onto the internet and before I know it, my time for writing is done.  A confused brain is a wandering brain.

2. Timed writing sprints.  Life saving.  Use the timer on your smart phone or find an app on the computer.  Set it for a pre-allotted period of time and then write and do nothing else until the timer goes off.  Then get up and walk around-sitting too long isn't good for you.  (Or get a stand-up desk.  I just did.) Start with 30 minutes and see how that works.  I've been working with 30-45 minute sprints.

3.  Remember, the writer is the one who stays in the room.  Last May, my daughter and I went to Seattle for the weekend.  We spent one glorious afternoon ensconced at a table at Elliott Bay Books.  She read design books and I read books on writing.  I perused a book by an author whose name escapes me and what impressed me was his quote, something to the effect that the writer is the one who stays in the room.  Because, I know I'm guilty of writing a sentence and then allowing myself to get distracted in the name of thinking.  Pay attention to how you work, you might find the same thing. So stay in the room.  This is actually a mindful practice that gets easier over time.

4. Chunk it down.  Sit down to write a book and you'll get totally overwhelmed.  But tell yourself that all you have to write is one paragraph–or one sentence–and that is something you can do.  So break your writing up into doable sections.  Remember what Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird–she keeps a small picture frame by her desk to remind herself that all she has to write is what she can see through the frame.

5.  Try a probiotic.  Here's that pill I promised you.  The good organisms that grow in your gut have a direct impact on your brain, and if you don't have a healthy stomach, you might have trouble focusing.  There's been a ton of research on this coming out recently.  You can read one article here

6.  Cultivate healthy thinking habits. When I'm stuck, or just need to think for a minute, I convince myself that taking a brief break on the internet will benefit me.  Ha! There's a rabbit hole, for sure.  What does work is for me to get up and walk around the house, or step outside for a minute.  It works for me to knit a row or two, or go put a load of laundry in the washing machine, or drink a glass of water.  I need to remember these healthy habits and use them instead of the unhealthy ones.

7.  Remember your passion.  A passionate mind is a focused mind.  When was the last time you were so engaged in a project that time passed and you were unaware of it?  That's focus at its highest level.  And passion can take you there.

8.  Meditate.  I hate this one, but it works, if for no other reason than it calms your mind.  And a calm mind is a focused mind.  I'm an on-again, off-again meditator, and I've probably not ever done it long enough at one stretch to really reap the full benefits of it, but I know when I do do it how much it helps.

9.  Get your ya-yas out.  Otherwise known as journaling.  When your brain is full of things you have to do, people you're holding grudges against, or other minutia of daily life, it is not a well-functioning brain.  It is an overloaded brain.  One way to deal with this is to dump it all on the page.  Journal first thing in the morning or last thing at night.  Use your journal as a brain dump, putting it all out there so your mind doesn't have to deal with it.

10.  Keep a notepad, scratch paper or index cards next to your computer.  When you have an idea that distracts you–a thought for a different part of the project, something you forgot to do, an item to add to the grocery list–note it and carry on with your writing.  Then make a time to go through all your jottings and deal with it accordingly.  This is an enormously helpful practice.

So those are my hard-won ideas about focus, what are yours?

Photo by julosstock.


Cool Tools for Writers

Object_White_Tool_261501_lA small round-up of items helpful for your writing…

I've been writing a lot, how about you?  But, um, you might have noticed I've not been blogging that much.  One problem is that I can't access Typepad from the Chrome browser on my computer, and that means I have to go open Microsoft Edge, which is kind of a pain.  And when I'm blogging on Microsoft Edge, my posts tend to get deleted for no known reason.  Neither of these are terrible, horrible problems, but combined, they are enough to deter me more often than not. But, I'm trying to get back into the swing of it, and I will.  I've been hanging out here for over eight years, so I'm not going anywhere now.  (This is what I tell my husband all the time, though I've been hanging out with him a looooot longer.)

Anyway, in my breaks from writing I always get up, stretch, walk around, take a bunch of deep breaths…oh who am I kidding? I do that sometimes.  But more often I screw around on the interwebs.  And I find things that I can share with you.  (See?  There's purpose to my farting around.)  So here are some of those things:

One Stop for Writers

I just found this yesterday, and it looks pretty cool–cool enough that I think I'll subscribe.  It is an online reference library for writers, comprising references, tools and downloads, and idea generators, among other good stuff.  It is brought to you by the people behind the Emotion Thesaurus,( and other thesauri of worth to writers), and Scrivener.  As far as I can tell many of the thesauri are included on the site, such as shape, physical features, weather, setting, and texture.  It is definitely worth checking out, and in my travels I found a coupon that is good for 50% off subscriptions (there are several plans) here.  It is only good until October 14, so shake a leg.

One Note

This is my new current favorite time-waster tool.  It comes free with Windows, or you can download it.  It is sort of like Evernote, only way, way, way simpler.  I had a brief fling with Evernote at the start of the year, but every time I went back on the site, I forgot how to navigate around, a sure sign that it does not work for me.  So there was nothing I could do but break it off with him.  Then when I was in France, my beloved writer friend J.D. Frost (who has his second book coming out soon which you should buy it and the first one as well) convinced me to try Scrivener again.  He graciously spent some time showing me around it and I dutifully downloaded the trial and started writing on it.  And lost my chapter not once, but twice.

In searching the web for some information about how I might have managed this feat, I came across a post by a guy (and I wish to god I could remember who it was so I could credit him) who wrote about creating story bibles for your novels on One Note.  (A story bible is a notebook or a file or a whatever that contains information you need to remember to write–details like when your character was born, his eye color, all the things that are really easy to forget.)  And I remembered using One Note briefly last year and liking it.

So now I have everything on One Note–story bibles, recipes, information I want to track for this blog, knitting patterns, everything.  I love it because it is simple.  It mimics a physical notebook in that you have sections and pages and you can add in links, and photos and all kinds of stuff.  But let me repeat–it is simple, and that's why I like it.  The forgotten person whose post reminded me of One Note made the point that its nice to have your story information somewhere other than Word, which doesn't really work all that well for this kind of thing, and I agree.  So go check it out.

And finally….this book:

The Write-Brain Workbook: 400 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing.

I have this sitting in my Amazon cart, waiting to press buy on.  I read a blog post about it (also lost in the cyber ether) and looked it up.  I like the looks of it because each exercise is short, and I plan to use them as warm-ups.  I do that with the Writer's Emergency Pack sometimes, and often I can't even finish the exercise, because it leads me so quickly into the work (which is another reason I like the idea of the One Stop for Writers site–I love me templates and worksheets).

Oh, and for the record–I ditched Scrivener again. It tempts me repeatedly, but the learning curve is just too steep at the moment.  I'd rather write.

 What writerly tools do you use and recommend?

Photo by levi_sz



Get Rid of Your Fear of Rejection Once and For All

Broken_cracked_glass_265858_lRejection.  It is a fact of the writer’s life.

I wish I could tell you that this was not so.  I wish I could tell you that everything you send off would get picked up immediately.  But I can’t.  It is just not the way the world works.  And so, alas, if you are a writer you will need to get used to rejection.

For some writers, the thought of rejection is so paralyzing that they simply won’t send work out to begin with.  This fear or rejection is, um, counter-productive to say the least.  Because you know the old saying: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

To help you with this fear, I could tell you all the rejection—>triumph stories.  You’ve heard the one about John Grisham, who sent his first book out __ (the number varies according to the telling) before someone saw the brilliance of it.  And we know what happened to him: gazillions of dollars later, he’s a happy man (or at least I damned well hope he is).

I’ve also often told the story of one of my MFA mentors who sent one short story out 34 times.  It got rejected 34 times.  On the 35th time, she got it accepted–and that story went on to win a Pushcart prize.

Or there’s my own story, about my first novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior.  I sent queries to 60 agents.  Yep, 60.  Its worth noting that I was getting encouraging rejections (we love this novel, but…).  The 61st time I sent it to a publisher.  And they picked it up.

So, rah rah rah and all that.  I do know from personal experience that stories such as these can lift me up in the moment until its time to actually send stuff out again.  And then … the voice of doom in my head begins.

But here’s help.  Because I’ve recently realized we deal with our fear of rejection from the wrong end of the equation.   We deal with it when it happens, when the it has the power to lay us out flat on the couch sobbing for days.  A huge part of the reason we get so discouraged over rejection is because we have such high hopes for our work.  We are convinced that we will send the story out once, and sure enough, it will get picked up.  We’ll contact an agent and she’ll snap us before the book is even written.   We send off the query, and every time we think about the results of it–publication, fame, accolades–we get a warm, glowy feeling inside.

Okay, so I’m here to tell you: the easiest way to deal with rejection is to get rid of your expectations in the first place.  Instead of thinking about publication and how glorious it will be, let your work be the reward.  When you know its time to send your piece out–and you will know if you’re honest with yourself–do your research and ship it out the door.  And then quit thinking about it and move on.

Cultivate an attitude of non-expectation.  Be Buddhist. Be Zen. Do not be attached to the outcome, period.  And get to work on your next project.

Let your work be your reward.

Then, when the rejection comes, it is far, far easier to shrug your shoulders and say to yourself, I guess it just wasn’t right for them, and move on.  And by moving on I mean, send it out again.  Because you haven’t put the weight of the world on your poor little query, it will be much happier to go out into the world and try once more.

Right?  So go send something out.  Right now.  I’m serious.  Do it.  And report back when you’re done.

Photograph by Jfg.


Why Every Writer Should Travel

 20150903_124030I'm just back from three weeks in Europe, one week for leading a writing workshop, and the other two for fun.

However, I am a firm believer that even the two "fun" weeks contributed greatly to my writing career.  Yeah, it might have looked like I was lolling about in the south of France, eating tapas in Barcelona, or wandering the back streets of Montparnasse, but it was all in service to my writing.  Riigght, you are saying, very slowly.  So let me count the ways, and convince you.

1.  Travel inspires me.  Duh.  This is the obvious reason most people travel.  Immersing oneself in different locales and cultures shows us new things, fires new neurons, inspires new ideas.   And, of course, ideas are good.  They are our life blood.  Awriter can never have too many ideas.  Ever.

2.  I'm different when I travel.  I don't know anyone, other than the people I'm traveling with, so all bets are off.  I can drink all night, swing from the rafters act anyway I want–talk to people I meet on the street, stop and stretch in the middle of the sidewalk, gaze with obvious rapture at a medieval cathedral.  Nobody knows me so I'm free.  And isn't this what we long to be on the page?  Once I regularly experience the feeling of freedom in my regular life, it is much easier to translate it to the page. IMG_20150915_161410

3.  Travel sometimes makes me uncomfortable.  Okay, let's face it.  Most of our lives are not hard.  Well, my life, anyway, is not hard.  Mostly I sit at the computer all day long and convince myself, hand on forehead that I'm suffering.  But travel is a different thing.  There are times when I don't know what's happening, or what stop the train just pulled into, or what the person in front of me is trying to say to me.  There are times I've probably embarrassed myself.  But you know what?  This is good, excellent, even.  It is good to feel discomfort once in awhile.  Because, after all, isn't that what we put our characters through? Don't we always say, the more conflict the better? Yes, yes, we do.

4.  Travel is fun.  And I don't care if you're trying to write or become an insurance agent, fun is important.  We get veeeery serious about our lives most of the time.

5.  Travel makes me adventurous.   I've gotten obsessed with reading the blog of Eugene Kaspersky.  He runs some crazy big cyber-security site and spends tons of time traveling, some of it adventuring.  He climbs volcanoes in Kamchatka, treks across snow fields in Iceland, circumnavigates the planet, and so on.  I'm just going to say right now I will do none of these things, ever.  But I love reading about him doing them.  And when I travel in my own tame way, I step out of my comfort zone into my own adventures.  And there are always adventures when you travel.

6.  Travel makes me try new things.  Like the unknown shellfish we tried at a seafood dinner in Port-Vendres, or climbing the side of a mountain (I exaggerate a tiny bit here) to reach the ruin of a castle when my hips were screaming in pain (again, a tad bit of poetic license, but still).  It can be as simple as turning now a new street, or trying a different café–things I don't do often enough here because I so easily get stuck in a rut.  Things that may somehow work their way into your writing.

7.  Travel lets me meet different kinds of people. There aren't a whole lot of French men or British women carousing down my street, for instance.  And it is relatively rare to even hear someone speak in a different tongue in my day to day life.  If there's one thing I love, its meeting people (I confess to a terrible extrovert streak–I'll talk to anybody, anywhere).  And one of the best things about travel is the different people you meet–the couple from Australia in Paris, or the nice lady from London who was toiling up the hill beside me.  Again, who knows what person might spark an idea for a character?

Okay, so I hear you.  You've got a newborn baby, you're in school, you have a demanding career.  And travel to Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, is just not on the horizon.   But, honestly, you can "travel" in your hometown.  Change up your routine, do something different, drive a new way to work.  Do something, anything to shake things up.

Last week, the morning after I got off the plane, my brain as foggy as a morning in November, and inspired by my visit to the Inter-marche Hyper (read=big, very big) supermarket in France, I went to the American version here that I usually avoid.  My shopping took me twice as long as I stumbled through the aisles trying to figure out where things were, but I discovered new products and chatted with an adorable, funny cashier.   One never knows when someone just like him shall appear in a book.

So, how about it?  How about we all spend the last three months of this year devoted to living with a spirit of adventure?  I'm in, are you?

Do you like to travel or hate it? Please leave a comment.


Ceiling of the amazing Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Sideways (no matter what I do, Typepad won't let me edit) image of a stone face at the cloister in Elne

(Tons more images of my trip on my Instagram feed.)