7 Things About Writing I’ve Learned in 7 Years of Blogging (With Giveaway!)

Birthday_party_celebration_261267_lSo, this week (yesterday, to be exact) is the seven year anniversary of my blog. Yep, I've been at this game for 7 years! I'm amazed, too, in some ways, and in other ways, not. Because from the minute I started blogging all those years ago I felt comfortable in this medium.  Sure, there have been times when I've lapsed in my posting (though surprisingly not all that often) and times when I was certain I'd never think of another thing to say about writing or the writing life.  But clearly I've recovered from those periods, because, well, here I am.

In my family we celebrate everything, so I think we need a Wordstrumpet birthday celebration, don't you? To that end, I'm giving away a few prizes which you'll have to read to the end to find out about. And in the meantime, I'll share with you what I've learned about writing in the past 7 years–because in many ways I feel I've come into my own as a writer as I've written this blog.  And I'm quite sure the two are not coincidental.

By the way, before we get started, you can read my first blog post here.

Okay, let's get on with it.  Here we go:

7 Things I've Learned About Writing

 1.  Let it Rip.  As mentioned above, blogging has turned out to be a natural medium for me.  Once I get an idea for a post, I rarely am blocked over it.  Most often, I just start writing and let it flow.  And flow it does.  This has spilled over into my other writing, too.  I find it far easier these days to throw words at the page, glumping them out so I can come back and rewrite them later.

2.  Not Everything is Perfect.  I've written over a thousand posts these past seven years and some of them are not that great.  A lot of them are really good, though–or at least I think they are!  When you're writing a lot of words, you are not always going to hit it out of the park and you'll drive yourself crazy if you try.  I'm not advocating you write crap, far from it.  Just loosen up on your standards a bit in order to get the words on the page.  

3.  It's All About Connection.  You guys–my loyal readers–are what keep me going and keep me writing posts.  I love the comments you leave, which always had immeasurably to the topic.  I love connecting with you!  And when you think about it, that's the essence of writing, isn't it?  Writing is a loop.  We put words on the page expecting somebody to read them, which is why we're all so obsessed with publishing.  The popular image of writers is of us in the ivory tower, all alone, writing, but I believe we desperately need connection.

4.  Social Media is Not a Waste of Time.  (And Twitter is about far more than what people ate for lunch.) I've met many people whose friendship I treasure on Twitter and through blogging.  We read and comment on each other's posts, support each other's book launches, and cheer each other on through all kinds of life events.  I've made business connections and hired people through Twitter. And I've even sold some books.  So don't shy away from using social media to build your author platform.  You can read a post I wrote about it here.

5. You've Got to Put Yourself Out There.  This is hard.  At least, I think it is.  You've got to get your work to a certain point and then let it go and let it seek its own place in the world.  Blogging has taught me how to put myself out in the world over and over and over again and bear the response, good or bad.  True story: when I first started my blog I told people about it but then told them not to look at it, because I was too nervous about what they'd think! Truly, I believe that fearing rejection (by our tribe, not agents and publishers)is such a primal response that we often refrain from putting our work in the world.

6.  Authenticity is Key.  This is, of course, closely related to #5.  You've got to put yourself out there as your own authentic self.  Because, you know, everybody else is taken.  

7.  Everything is Related to Writing.  When I started this blog, I had vague ideas of covering writing.  And then, as it developed, I realized I talked a lot about the writing life–how we writers move through our days, how we get inspired or blocked, what happens when we travel or new babies (in my case, grandchildren) come into our lives and suddenly everything changes.  And so I started writing about all of that.  And somewhere along the line, I realized, if you are a writer, the writing life encompasses everything–because everything is related to writing.  Period.

Okay, that's that.  And now onto the part you read all this way for: the presents!  Here they are:

–A signed print copy of my novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior.  (Makes a lovely gift if you already have a copy).

–A digital download of my novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior.

–A critique of your work–up to 25 pages.

Here's what you must do to enter: leave a comment telling me what you've learned in your writing lately (or over the last 7 years).  I will draw names randomly on Friday, April 4th, and announce the winners that day.

And truly, thank you all for reading and leaving comments and emailing me and supporting me in a million ways.  I treasure each one of you.

Photo by foobean01.

Call For Guest Posts

I'm going to be away the last week in April (at the Diamond writing retreat I'm co-leading) and the first week of May (in Maui, for a spiritual retreat with the women of my church.)

The Diamond retreat is at an old hotel that was once a stagecoach stop that does not have Wi-Fi or cell phone service, but the good news is that there 's a traveler's stop a few miles away that does.

The Maui retreat has no Wi-Fi.  Gulp.  I'll be without my computer for a week.  This is like saying I'll be without my arm for a week. 

But the point of all this is that I am going to have two weeks away from blogging.  And so I have had an idea.  I'm calling for guest posts.  I'm really interested in anything you have to say, but I'd especially like it if you wrote on this topic:

A Day in the Life of A Writer (or if you're an artist or creative, that's fine, too). 

Here's an example of what I mean in this post I wrote a few years ago.

I'm fascinated when I get to peek into the daily lives of other writers, and I think my readers will be, too. 

If you'd like to participate, email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com, putting GUEST POST in the subject line and I'll fill you in on the details.

Nashville Flooding

I had a blog post all ready in my brain to post today.

But I can't.

I'm totally distracted by news of the Nashville flood, trying to ascertain that all my friends are okay (so far all but a couple are accounted for, and several of those I've heard from have terrible damage).  Half of me wishes I was there, not that I could do much, because I think it is difficult to get around on flooded roads.

The national media isn't giving this story much attention, but the city is in terrible, terrible shape.  The Opryland hotel, for instance, is under six feet of water and will be closed for months.  I just watched a video on YouTube of a building (yes, a building) floating down I-24, a major freeway.  Here it is:

I've also found some photos from this Twitpic site. Check them out:

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicShare photos on twitter with Twitpic

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

I'm trying to figure out what the best way to help is going to be, probably donating to the Red Cross. A lot of the photos and videos I've seen show terrible damage to businesses and homes that are clearly owned by people without a lot of money; people who probably don't have flood insurance because they didn't think they needed it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime storm.

I'll be back to regular blogging tomorrow, but in the meantime, let's all send our thoughts and prayers to Nashville, okay? And once I figure out what the best way to donate to relief efforts is, I'll let you know.

***UPDATE: Thanks to JoAnn Ross via Twitter, go here to donate to the Middle Tennessee Red Cross.

The Party’s Over

The last few weeks, I've been running a feature called Festive Fridays on, well, Fridays.
Birthday_party_celebration_261267_l

But, I have to say, the party has been a bit of a dud.  Or at least it seems so to me.  The posts don't get any comments and I'm certainly not receiving breathless emails urging me to keep them up.  So I'm making like the police and shutting the party down.

Which returns me to my original problem of what to post on Fridays.  I often have appointments on Fridays which make it difficult to post.  And, since I've made a solemn vow to post every weekday, this is a problem.

But, never fear, I have come up with a new solution.  Are you ready?

Drum roll, please….

Guest posts!

Yes, I'm inviting you, my loyal readers to write me a guest post.  Here are the guidelines:

1.  They can be in the 500-word range, but if you write longer, I'll probably go for it, too.

2.  Topics can be on any aspect of writing, coaching, motivation, inspiration, spirituality, or the writer's life.

3.  Keep it clean and positive, as I'm on an anti-negativity kick.

Interested?  Email me at wordstrumpet@gmail.com with your idea or your finished piece and we'll talk.

Friday Question

Friday is often a busy day for me.  For whatever reason, lately my entire afternoon has been taken up withDesi-question-mark-817928-l appointments.  And I just about always go out to dinner with family and friends on Friday night, because, I'll be honest, by Friday I really want a glass of wine.

And, for whatever reason again, I have committed to writing a blog post every weekday, Monday through Friday.  Most days it is not a problem.  But often I get to Friday and feel rushed and end up wanting to post something short-ish but not knowing exactly what to write.

And then it occurred to me that others have solved this problem already.  Some do a Friday quote.  Others do a guest post on Fridays.  Or post a funny picture.  Or something…

So here's the deal.  I'm asking you, my wonderful readers, for ideas of something short yet useful to you, that I could post on Fridays.  A photo?  A quote? (I've got tons of those saved up in random places.) A question pertaining to writing or creativity?  A prompt? A guest post? Favorite link of the week?  An idea for a creative project?

Gee, I have more ideas for this than I thought–that's what happens when you start writing stuff down.  But I want to know what would be useful to you, so have it and comment away.  Give me a new idea or vote for one of the ones I already mentioned.

Photo by desi.Italy, used under Creative Commons 2.5 license. 

Step Right Up and Take the Survey!

As we start off this wonderful new year (I'm optimistic, aren't I?) I would like to find out more about what you like and dislike about this blog.  I'm curious to know why you read it and what you get out of it, as well as a bit about how your read it.

So, I've designed a survey.  Just click here to take it–it's not long, I promise.

As thanks, once you've taken the survey, come back here and leave a comment.  Next week, before I leave for Nashville, I'll put all the names in a digital hat and draw one, with the winner receiving a free manuscript critique (up to 20 pages).

I really am interested in what you have to say, so have at it.

Revising a Novel: Slowly, Slowly

I have ideas for blog posts.  The_Scream

I have brilliant thoughts to share with you.

I have illuminating commentary on the world at large.

I even have a brand new journal that is going to be devoted to ideas and information for this blog.

However, the journal has remained unopened, the ideas unprocessed, the thoughts simmering inside. I'm sure you can guess why.  I'm still working on the novel.  Slowly, slowly, as my mother used to say.  And this final rewrite is coming way a bit more slowly than I had anticipated.

I tell myself this is a good thing, and here's why.  At this late date (the eighth rewrite) everything in the novel is so intertwined that changing one teeny, tiny thing reverberates through it all.  So moving Peter's dramatic scene from one chapter to the next means changing everything that led up to it and everything that follows. 

And then, of course, there are the moments of panic.  As in, I'm pretty sure I liked it better the way it was before.  Those come about once a day every half hour or so, and that slows the whole process down.  Also, when you spend your whole, entire day at your desk working, with only one wee break for acupuncture (during whence you snore loudly and with abandon), you need to take yourself some breaks in the form of checking email, every minute hour or so.  It is a requirement of the job.

But, step by step we travel far, (which is another Mom saying if you hadn't guessed).  And I have travelled almost to the end of this draft.  Almost.  Just a couple chapters away.  Never mind that they are the most complicated ones to change.

I will be finished soon.

And then I shall return, refreshed, renewed and ready to write something, anything, other than my novel.

PS.  Check it out–I've been added to the Top 100 Writing Blogs on The Daily Reviewer.  Its that cute little badge to the right.

A Writer’s Diet: Slim Shots

Last week, Ray, my mailman, found me washing dishes in the kitchen.  He'd been knocking on the front door (haven't had a functioning doorbell in this house, ever) but I thought it was just the noisy construction guys around the corner, so I ignored the sound until he came around to the side door to roust me.

We chatted for a bit about the new roof and gutters (is there anything more boring to spend a small fortune on?) and then he handed me a package.  This was exciting, as packages are always exciting, but I didn't remember ordering anything so I was a bit puzzled.

Ah, but once I ripped the package open it all became clear. 

A month or so ago I got a mass email sent to bloggers, asking if they would like to review a diet product called Slim Shots.  Well, hell, I'm always up for experimentation with my body, especially if it means dropping a few pounds.  I sent off my acceptance, doubting that they would choose little ole me for the review, seeing as how I have a writing blog, not a dieting blog.  I never heard a thing more about it, until Ray delivered me package which turned out to be a one-week supply of Slim Shots.

What are Slim Shots?  They are a dietary supplement that helps to suppress your appetite.  As far as I can tell, they are at least not terribly bad for you, their main ingredients being palm oil and oat oil.  They come in little plastic packages, shot-size, amazingly enough.  You can drink them plain or add them to food or liquid.  For the first week, you drink one with breakfast and one with lunch, and then you graduate to just taking one with breakfast.

Dubious as I am about fad diets and miracle supplements, I kind of like these little guys. Thanks to the advice of my wonderful naturopath,  I've been working on the 80% full thing, which turns eating into a bit of a spiritual practice.  What you do is eat until you are 80% full and then quit.  Sounds easy, right?  But it is way harder than it sounds, because it forces you to seriously pay attention to what you are eating.  Half the time I'm gulping down a meal so I can get to the writing, or whatever else it is I want to do.  Or I'm eating with friends and family, and paying more attention to them to what I'm actually eating.  Figuring out when I'm full is difficult enough, but actually stopping before then is crazy hard.

So I think these Slim Shots help with that.  What I am not sure about is whether or not I'll actually pay for more of them.  They are spendy–did you think they'd be cheap?  And they make it cheaper if you do the auto-ship thing, which I've accidentally gotten hooked into before and very much regretted.  The auto-ship option is the default, so be very careful if you do decide to order.  My idea would be to order a month's supply to give my 80% full quest a boost and then take it from there myself. 

Because isn't it true that your stomach does actually shrink as you eat less, or is that just wishful thinking?  It is probably wishful thinking.  But I'm going with the idea, anyway…

The Accidental Vacation

I've been on hiatus.  Unlike when the television networks do this to one of their shows, this was not actually a planned break, just one of those things that happen once in awhile in the writing life.   Last week I moderated a panel at AWP, and as is the case with most conferences, didn't have a spare moment while I was there.

Since I've been home, its been wedding central.  Since my daughter is getting married, um, tomorrow, life has been hectic, moreso because we had about three weeks notice on the nuptials.  (And no, its not for the reason you think, her fiancee is being deployed by our beloved army.)

But I've also been enjoying life away from the computer.  Shocking, I know, but true.  I've not been on Twitter for over a week and I've been ignoring all but the most vital of emails. (Let's not even talk about the work projects I've temporarily set aside.)  Amazingly enough, the world hasn't ended. 

So all of this has been causing me to think, or Think, if you prefer.  I have some ideas (or Ideas) and will be sharing them with you soon.  In the meantime, I've got a house to finish cleaning before my sister arrives to stay with us this weekend.

I’m baaaaack

Please forgive the long absence (well, its only been a week and a half or so.  But that's an eon in blog years.)

I have not been blogging for two good reasons:      476px-Chimp_Brain_in_a_jar

1.  I was out of town.

2.  I have been having Thoughts, of a deep nature.

Thoughts about what, you might ask?  Well, if you read my last post, which was a survey asking why you read this blog (and offering a free ebook in return) you know that I've been pondering which direction I should go with the information I offer.

Thank you to those of you who responded, and for those of you who haven't yet, the offer still stands.  Meanwhile, my Thoughts have rejuvenated me and I'm feeling ready to return to regular posts with renewed vigor and more of a focus on the craft of writing and the life of a writer. 

However, let me just say that the bit about regular posts depends heavily on nature and the universe cooperating with me, neither of which has happened thus far this week.  I've been dealing with ice, snow, and my mother's furnace breaking on one of the coldest days of the year.    (Can you even imagine how much fun it was to call furnace repair companies yesterday and beg them to please come over?)

But, barring more natural disasters or appliances breaking, I will soon be back at it on a regular basis.  With all kinds of juicy goodness to come.   See you soon!

Photo by Gaetan Lee, used courtesy of Wikipedia, under Creative Commons 2.0 license.