Writing Coaching: What’s It All About, Anyway? + Gratitude Special + New Offer. Open to read about All the Things!

This post has a lot of moving parts, because there’s a lot going on! In it, I explain my coaching philosophy and what it looks like to work with me. It’s good information, but if your eyes lit up when you saw “gratitude special” or “new offer” in the subject line and want to learn about those, scroll down. Otherwise, carry on to read more.

What do you really want in 2020? To finish that novel? To write a memoir? To get a book contract or publish your own book? To submit a book proposal? Or maybe you just want to establish a regular writing practice, one that will feed and soother you through all life’s ups and downs.

Are you currently accomplishing these things? If not, I have a suggestion for you.  Why not ask for coaching as a Christmas gift? Those items you have on your Christmas list now? You’ll be tired of that cute outfit by next and that fancy blender will be gathering dust in the cupboard by this time next year. But if you spend the money on coaching instead, you could have a book out by this time next year. Or you could be submitting it to agents. Or you could have a completed book proposal.

Better yet, treat yourself.  There’s no better investment than spending money on you and what you’ve longed to do for so long. The world needs your voice, people.  Maybe what you need this year is coaching to get your words out in the world.

A lot of writers I come in contact with have vague ideas about writing coaching. They think they might need it—but they are not exactly sure what it entails. It sounds a bit mysterious and scary, too.  So, I’ve decided to demystify the process by explaining all the ways it can help you.

I’m also feeling all gushy and full of gratitude as we enter the holiday season, so I have special offering for you. But it’s only good until the end of November so you need to act fast!

And finally, for those of you who don’t need full-on coaching but instead some encouragement and nudging to get your creative practice back, I’ve designed a special program for you!

What is coaching all about, anyway?

First of all, let’s take a look at the coaching. Some of the concerns I’ve heard expressed include:

Does the coach tell me exactly what to do?

Does she boss me around and yell at me?  Send me off to do one hundred push-ups?

Do I have to do exactly what she says?

And what if I totally disagree with her?

I’m an old-school coach. I took life coaching training back in the early oughts, when it was still a relatively new thing. Back then, coaching was not about a stern coach telling you exactly what you needed to do. Rather, the coach understood that the client always knows the answer. It’s just that they sometimes need help pulling it up into the light of day.

I follow this precept in all my coaching. I assume that you know the answer—to what the next scene should be, or to why you aren’t sitting down to write regularly when you keep saying you want to.  But sometimes that answer is in your heart and hasn’t yet made it up to your brain. That’s where a good writing coach comes in.

How writing coaching can help you

–Getting words on the page. You want to write, but you have trouble getting to the computer. Or once you get there, you stare off into space without writing a word.

–Getting a supportive, objective opinion about your work. Yes, your mother loves it. But that’s what Moms do. They love you—and your work. A writing coach reads your work and tells you what works and what doesn’t.

–Help you develop ideas for plot and character. Brainstorming! Sometimes you need an objective eye to help you see things.

–Teach you everything about writing fiction and non-fiction. This is one reason I enjoy coaching so much—because as we discuss your work, I use examples from it as teaching moments.

–Help you establish a regular writing practice. You love to write, but you do it sporadically. You’d love to do it more.

–Guide you through the labyrinth of publishing. I’m familiar with both traditional and indie publishing and can help you decide which to pursue to begin with. After that, I can lead you through the process of submitting to agents. Or help you get going with self-publishing.

–Help you write a book proposal. Non-fiction books are sold through proposals these days. I’ve taught this, and guided clients to submit proposals that got rave reviews from agents. 

–Talk about marketing and social media. I know, you hate it. So do I. But it is a necessary evil that we must deal with.

How it works

You submit up to 20 pages of your work. I read it, critique it and send it back to you. We schedule a phone call to discuss it—and more, such as your writing practice and whether or not you are getting words on the page.

Gratitude Special

I’m grateful to all of you who read my newsletter. And I’m grateful to my wonderful clients. So I’m offering a Thanksgiving gratitude special.

Okay, here’s the deal. I’m raising my rates in January 2020. So if you are at all thinking of hiring me to coach you, now is the time to do it.

I’m also going to sweeten the pot. If you sign up by the end of November, I’ll gift you extra sessions! Those who sign up for a month (4 sessions) will get one extra session. That’s 5 sessions for the price of four. And those who sign up for three months (12 sessions) paid in advance, will get two extra sessions. That’s 14 sessions for the price of 12!

You can use these sessions any time, as you need them.

But remember—this gratitude special only runs through the end of November. You can start coaching any time it’s convenient, but to get the deal you need to commit and pay now.

New Offering: Jumpstart Your Writing!

Some of you may just need to get yourself going regularly again. You long to write but you never quite get to it. You don’t want to engage in a long-term coaching relationship and nor do you have a need for it.

What you do need is help establishing a regular practice.

I’ve realized that since this requires no reading and thus less of my time, I can offer a mini-coaching program to get you going again at a lower price. So here’s what I’m proposing: two or four hour-long sessions with me, depending on your needs. We’ll talk by phone or Skype or Zoom, whichever you prefer, and dig deep into your resistance and procrastination. Then we’ll figure out how to put those silly demons to rest once and for all so you can be the writer you long to be.

Because I’m passionate about helping writers get words on the page, I’m offering these at bargain basement rates: two hour-long sessions for $150, or four hour-long sessions for $300. I’ve got room in my schedule for just a few through the end of the year. Wouldn’t it be great to start 2020 with strategies and techniques to get your writing done?

Why me?

I’ve been teaching and coaching writing since 2003. I started shortly after I earned my MFA in fiction from Spalding University (have to brag a bit—it’s a top ten program). I’ve read hundreds of manuscripts, as a coach and editor and teacher.

And I’m a published novelist as well. My novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, was published in 2013 by Vagabondage Press, and my agent, Erin Niumata of Folio Lit, is currently shopping two other novels.

I’m not telling you this to brag (well, except for that one bit about my MFA program) but to tell you that I know my shit. I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s what I do. What I love.

And also—I’m nice. You’re not going to hear how terrible your work is from me. Yes, I’ll show you places where you can improve and explain why. But I’ll also point out what you’re doing right. I believe fervently that writers learn better from a supportive teacher than one who bullies.

So if you are interested, email me and we will set up a time to talk.  Or if you’re sure you want to do it and get in on the deal, reply and we’ll talk money, honey. And get going as soon as you want to!

A Love Letter About Being Busy and Flash Sales

As you read this, I’ll be on a plane home from Louisville, Kentucky, returning from a Homecoming celebration at my MFA alma mater, Spalding University.

But I’m writing this several days in advance, the Tuesday after Memorial Day to be exact, because, duh, I won’t have time while I’m gone. Meanwhile, I’ve managed to catch a cold and I still have mounds of work to do.

And that’s my whine for the day. Signing off. No, kidding. I’m still here.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I’m plowing through a to-do list a mile long. Okay, maybe half a mile. And my brain doesn’t seem to have a lot of extra room at the moment. Like, say, for writing a newsletter.

But it did have room for a brilliant idea to come through! Instead of writing a love letter I’m going to offer a flash sale. I actually thought about doing it over the Memorial Day weekend, when everybody else was, but I didn’t get around to it.

So here you go: flash sale on coaching. Yes, you heard that right.

I’m offering a 25% off my three-month, 12-session coaching plans.  I hate talking about money in a public forum, but let’s just say it’ll run you a bit under 1K. And be worth every penny.  Because if you’re struggling to write, or unsure where your novel or memoir is going, or don’t know a thing about writing, one-on-one coaching is a wonderful investment.

If you’re interested, all you have to do is email me at charlotte@charlottrainsdixon.com and we will figure out a time to talk.

And, for the record, I do hate it when people natter on about how busy they are, so I apologize. Part of the problem is that I’ve been so absorbed in plans for Louisville, and the workshop I’m teaching the weekend after, that I’ve not had much time to write. And that puts me off my feed, so to speak.

I would cheerily say we’d be back to normal next week, but that might not be true. Because I’m out of town again! (This time to teach my three-day novel-writing workshop at Sitka.) I’m sure we’ll all cope somehow.

A Love Letter About the Benefits of Being Prepared, in Writing and in Life

Be prepared.

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

Cue image of young boy dressed in khaki shorts and shirt with a kerchief tied around his neck. His hand is held next to his face in a three-finger salute.

Yeah, I know—are the boy scouts even a thing anymore? I don’t know. But whatever the current state of scout hood, their slogan lives on in our culture.

And I hate slogans like that.

Be prepared is kind of like the word discipline—it sends shivers up my spine. Because I’m a right-brained creative, all loosey-goosey and free and spirited and independent and all that. Being prepared is like absolving all sense of creativity, just like discipline.

Right?

Wrong.

Big time wrong.

I learned this the hard way with the first novel I wrote.

I got the idea and started writing. It was glorious, to this day one of the best writing experiences I’ve ever had. Once I sat down at my desk in the morning, I lost all track of time until my children arrived home from school and I’d be startled to see them.

And then I got to the end of the novel and realized it didn’t work. I’d gone done stray paths, off on tangents and into dark woods—none of which connected with each other. And it occurred to me that if I’d just taken time to get organized with some aspects of the novel ahead of time, that might not have happened.

So now I am a dedicated prepper.

But—I’m also still that same loosey-goosey right-brained writer who hates control or authority. So when I prep I do it in the most casual way possible and keep at it throughout the novel.

I mention all this because I happen to be teaching my system (hahahaha—I crack myself up, that sounds so grandiose) in a couple of places coming up. One is a quick half-hour interview on a telesummit and one is an actual three-day workshop. Okay, so I guess what I do is not that casual.

A bare bones outline: I talk about understanding setting, voice, style and theme, and the all-important character and plot. I am squeamish about getting too militant on rigid plot structures (there’s that freedom thing, you know—can’t box myself in), but I’m also fascinated with various theories of story. So I take the middle ground on that.

If you’re interested in either event, the information is below. And, of course, I’m always available for coaching on this topic and others related to writing.

In the meantime, are you prepared? For what happens in your next novel, or your life?

Love, light, and good writing,

P.S. Hit reply and tell me how you like to prep for things.

Things of Note

Articles

Here are my latest articles from Medium. (These are friend links, so you should be able to read them even if you’re not a paying customer.) If you read one and enjoy it, please do clap for it—clapping is one way that Medium’s algorithms work to pay me.

Establish a Positive Mindset

Stop Arguing for Your Limitations

And a couple of oldies:

The Collateral Benefits of Cultivating a Passion

Face the Daunting Page Like the Kick-Ass Writer You Are

Currently Reading

Still working on this one. It gets rave reviews, but I still think it is slow—and I’m over a hundred pages in:

The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides. I waited a long time to get this one from the library. So far, so good. Though the beginning is surprisingly slow for a book that has been hyped as the thriller of the year.

Okay, I lied. I gave up. The following book came in at the library and I started reading it and was hooked.

The Honey Bus, Meredith May. One of the reviews on Amazon called this book enchanting, and it is. It is a memoir with a ton of information about beekeeping in it as well.

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

The Writer’s Craft Telesummit—Free and online!  This starts tomorrow! Kevin Johns, the host, has interviewed a whole slew of writers on various topics relating to craft. My day is May 29th, and I’m talking about why you should prep for the novel, whether you’re a plotter or a pantser.

The Story Writer’s Path—I’m teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing, and it is incredibly inexpensive. We’ll go through all the things you need to do to prep to write a novel. You’ll leave ready to write—and that’s the only part of the process I can’t help you with! I’ve gotten two more sign-ups in the past week, but there’s still room for more if you’re interested. Click here for more info.

France 2019—Come to the south of France with me! Find all the details here. Limited space available and we’ve had another sign-up this week. I’d love to see you there!

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of interesting links and fun things related to writing.

This post contains affiliate links.

A Love Letter About the Sneakiness of Discouragement

I tend to get all excited about things and plunge in.

Like, say, an idea for a new book. Or an article or blog post. Or a whole new business. Or a knitted item.

I can see it all from start to finish. The end result is enshrined in my mind, surrounded with golden butterflies, silver hearts and rainbows. Happy music is playing. Unicorns prancing. (At least that’s what it feels like.)

And so, I plunge in. I’m a good, hard worker when I’m excited about something.

But I’m also very, very fickle. And easily bored. (Squirrel!)

So, very, very often, I get derailed.

It’s embarrassing to admit this, but if the rainbows and butterflies and unicorns take their time to appear, I ease off. The slow build is not for me.

And here’s the terrible part. I’m slacking off because I’m discouraged, and most of the time I don’t even know that. Because discouragement is a terrible, sneaky, beast.

I just realized this in relationship to my new habit of posting on Medium. There’s many reasons I prefer writing blog posts there as opposed to my blog that I’ve written for year. Chief among them is that the Medium interface is so easy and fun to use. It truly does remind me of blogging in the old days, when it was exciting and new.

And there’s a much bigger built-in audience.

There’s actual engagement again.

And you can make money.

This last has blinded me a little, I’ll admit. I read stories of people making a full-time income from Medium! Writers who publish one story and earn $543! And so on and so forth. It reminds me, again, of the glory days of blogging, when everybody and their uncle was pitching products that would tell you how to create blogging riches. (That ship has sailed big time.)

When my own earnings don’t quite hit that level overnight, when my view numbers aren’t stratospheric, when claps are low, discouragement kicks in and my enthusiasm wanes.

But, here’s the deal: I don’t even realize what’s happening. I tell myself I have more important things to do than write another post for Medium. I find myself ignoring the whole site, when usually I’m reading tons of articles on there. Or I just wander off and forget about it.

Because discouragement is a sneaky, sneaky beast.

But the good news is that it’s a beast that can be slayed.

It takes an act of huge will to realize what’s going on and get myself back on track. And writing blog posts for Medium isn’t the only arena where this happens. It happens with my novel, and, oh, just about any long-term project of any kind (knitting, say) I ever embark on.

What does that act of will involve? Observation. Becoming aware enough to ask myself, why haven’t I written a post for awhile? Where am I in the novel?

The funny thing is that once I realize what’s going on and pull myself back onboard, my enthusiasm reaches high peaks again. Until the next round of discouragement.

But at least I know how to kill it.

Things of Note

Articles

Here are my latest articles from Medium. (These are friend links, so you should be able to read them even if you’re not a paying customer.) If you read one and enjoy it, please do clap for it—clapping is one way that Medium’s algorithms work to pay me.

Increase Your Productivity by Following Your Natural Flow

Writing Mindset: Going All In

Currently Reading

The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides  I waited a long time to get this one from the library. So far, so good. Though the beginning is surprisingly slow for a book that has been hyped as the thriller of the year.

And I’m still working on both of the titles below. Neither is a fast read so they make great books to have on the night table, to be picked up once every few nights.

Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia, by Christina Thompson. https://amzn.to/2E2qTy3 This book is utterly fascinating to me. Many thousands of miles of vast, open ocean lies between many of the Polynesian islands, and yet they developed similar cultures. Highly recommended.

Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger https://amzn.to/2VE4r8J Still reading this one. It is not a quick read. I put it down for a few nights and read something else, then go back to it. I really love the way she handles language and scene.

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

The Writer’s Craft TelesummitFree and online! Kevin Johns, the host, has interviewed a whole slew of writers on various topics. My day is May 29th, and I’m talking about why you should prep for the novel, whether you’re a plotter or a pantser.

The Story Writer’s Path—I’m teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing, and it is incredibly inexpensive. We’ll go through all the things you need to do to prep to write a novel. You’ll leave ready to write—and that’s the only part of the process I can’t help you with! Click here for more info.

France 2019—Come to south of France with me! Find all the details here. Limited space available and we’ve had another sign-up this week. I’d love to see you there!

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of interesting links and fun things related to writing.

This post contains affiliate links.

A Love Letter About Creating a Container For Your Writing

A brief note: I’ve been having trouble with my website host, which is why I haven’t posted here for a couple of weeks. I’m doing a lot of blogging over at Medium, and you can see my posts here. I’ll keep posting my Love Letter every Sunday, but look for lots more articles about writing, inspiration, productivity and creativity on my Medium pages.  And, if you want to get my Love Letter directly into your inbox, you can sign up for that in the form to the left of this letter. I wasn’t sure what to write for this edition of my love letter.

Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash

Usually, I get an idea and it gathers steam throughout the week. Then, when it is time to put it all together, the words flow fairly easily.

But this week has been busy with a variety of things. I had a meeting of my bi-weekly critique group, I’m taking a class on self-publishing, and there’s the usual work for clients and my own writing. On top of that, my daughter was organizing the annual auction for her kid’s school, which was Friday night, and that required more of my time for picking up mini boyfriends from school and accompanying them on scooter rides to poach books from our favorite Little Free Library.

And so the clogged-up brain didn’t have much chance to cogitate on a love letter.

And I was facing the dreaded blank page.

Here’s what I try to remember to do in such situations: create a container.

No, I’m not urging you to start gardening, though it is a lovely activity. I’m talking about creating a container for your writing.

This is usually entails opening a file, giving it a name, and saving it. Simple, right? But there’s something about the act of making space for the next creation that helps to nudge it into being. I did this for this edition of the newsletter and I do it all the time for the next chapter of my book.

(Yes, I open a new file for each new chapter of the novel. Some people like to write it all in one file, and I have done that. I did it when I wrote Emma Jean. But it is easier for me to look at each chapter as a discrete unit, with rising and/or falling action, if I have it saved into separate files. And yes, I also know Scrivener makes compiling and un-compiling easy. But I’m still a Scrivener resister.)

You know the old saying—nature abhors a vacuum. And I do find this to be true. (So many of those old sayings are, which is why they’ve become clichés.) If you create a blank space, nature will rush in to fill it. Well, maybe not rush. There may be mental strolling.

I’ve been doing most of my blogging on Medium lately, and when I have an idea for a post, I open a new page on their site, and fill in some notes. Often, I don’t finish all in one sitting. So I’ve got several ongoing drafts going. As I think of things, I add them. At some point, it all comes together and I actually write the whole article.

There are other ways to create containers for your writing, too. Like buying (or recycling) a three-ring binder, for notes for your novel or memoir. Or getting your hands on a new journal or spiral notebook. Or opening up a new pack of index cards and arranging them in a holder. Oh, the promise of new office supplies!

And, come to think of it, a journal is a great container for your thoughts, your ideas, and your inspirations. While I still love pen on paper above all else, even your phone can be a container for your creativity. Open a file and write away. Capture your ideas before they float away.

Creating a container gives you a space to go that’s yours alone. Ready to be filled with all the glorious words.

Things of Note

Articles

Here are my latest articles from Medium. (These are friend links, so you should be able to read them even if you’re not a paying customer.)

How to Write a Fantastic Query Letter.

Just Focus on the Next Step

This Phrase is the #1 Killer of Dreams

Mindset Equals Success

Currently Reading

Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad, by Austin Kleon.  I still have this on my bedside table and read a bit every night. Fun and inspiring

Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger I got this one from the Book of the Month Club. I’d read a bit about it and was curious. The BoMC said it was a “difficult” read which almost turned me off. But I chose it anyway. And I’m glad I didn’t let that deter me. I’m really enjoying it. Not a lightning fast read, but who cares? She’s the kind of author that writes does detailed scene setting in a way I admire.

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

The Story Writer’s Path—I’m teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing, and it is incredibly inexpensive. Like $170 for three full days of teaching. Crazy, huh? We’ll go through all the things you need to do to prep to write a novel. You’ll leave ready to write—and that’s the only part of the process I can’t help you with! Click here for more info.

France 2019—Come to south of France with me! Find all the details here. We already have a number of people committed, so sign up soon.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and often we get some good conversation going.

This post contains affiliate links.

A Love Letter About Challenging Yourself

I went camping this weekend.

I am not a camper. I am a person who loves to stay in hotels, motels, and inns. Where there are rooms with warm, soft beds, a bar in the lobby to get a drink, maybe even a nice restaurant. Or even a crummy one. I like comfort and convenience, and a doorman to usher me in and out of the building.

I do not like sleeping in tents, dirt, or being cold.

But my granddaughter turned six on Friday and she wanted to go camping. I will do just about anything for my one and only granddaughter (the other three are all boys, and in truth I’ll do anything for them, too).

So we went camping.

There was dirt. And sticky marshmallow goop from S’mores all over everything, including the yarn of my knitting. Oh, and did I mention it rained? Actually, you might even describe as pouring. In buckets.

I rode down with my daughter and her two boys and the three-year-old threw up all over himself a mile or so from the campsite. As we stood on the side of the road, getting him cleaned up while I tried to entertain the seven-year-old, I said, “Well, at least they will have the cover set up and the fire going.”

Vomit taken care of, we continued on. And yes, they did have things set up and unpacked and the fire was going. The rain stopped and we ate hotdogs and the afore mentioned S’mores which can only be described as heavenly. There was wine and presents to be opened. I didn’t have to sleep in a tent, which creeps me out, and instead passed a semi-comfortable night in the back of my son-in-law’s work fan.

And it was all marvelous. I had a blast.

And now I’m looking at campers to buy.
I’m kidding about that last part. Sort of. But my point is that I had so much fun doing something that I had resisted for years. Something I had worried and fussed over.

How often do I do this in life? All the time. How often do I do it with my writing? All the time. I wring my hands and worry and tell myself I don’t know where the next scene is going and I fuss some more and then I finally sit down and force the words out.

And pretty soon they are coming out much more easily, and I remember why I love to write.

I’m going to try to remember my camping experience the next time I resist my writing. To challenge myself to forget all my stupid fears and carry on. And I hope you will, too.

Things of Note

Articles

Medium articles from the week (also, I’ve figured out how to get you a friend link so if my articles have been stuck behind a pay wall in the past they no longer are):

How to Establish A Regular Writing Practice

Quit Complaining About Not Having Enough Time to Write

Quit Resisting Journaling and Use it to Improve Your Writing

Currently Reading

I was in one of those funks where nothing I was reading was grabbing me. When that happens, I tend to put a book down and start another one, always longing for that immersive reading experience that makes me eager to get back to the book. Finally, finally, I picked up a book I’m eager to read at night.

A Tale of Two Families by Dodie Smith.

Her book, I Capture the Castle, is one of my favs of all time so I thought I’d try some of her others. And I’m loving this one. Of course, I just found out it is overdue at the library so I either have to read fast or buy it.

Circe, by Madeleine Miller

I had high hopes for this one. I’d read such glowing reviews. And the language is gorgeous, the description stellar. But I’ve gotten bogged down (okay, bored) story-wise. Haven’t fully given up yet, though.

Greek to Me, Further Adventures of the Comma Queen,  by Mary Norris.

Ditto to everything I said above. Except I think I’m giving up on this one.

Do you have a book to get me out of my dry spell?

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

Novel-Writing Workshop—I’m teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing. Click here for more info.

France 2019—Come to south of France with me! Find all the details here. We already have a number of people committed, so sign up soon.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and often we get some good conversation going.

This post contains affiliate links.

A Love Letter About Thinking Your Best Writing Thoughts

Think happy writer thoughts!

The writer’s brain can play tricks on you. At least mine does. It has a lousy memory. And it skews toward the negative when it is recalling things like the quality of my work.

As in, I think about a story I’ve been working on and groan. It’s so bad, I think. It will never be published. Why did I ever think I should be a writer? And on and on. Sometimes it takes a supreme effort to force myself to open the file.

And when I do, I’m surprised. Because the writing—and the work in general—is so much better than I remembered it.

My writer’s brain also forgets things like my best practices. I’ll wander past a blog espousing the importance of a detailed outline before starting a novel and I’ll panic because I don’t have one. Then I stop what I’m doing and begin working on one. Until I remember that writing those sorts of outlines don’t work for me.

Or, I’ll get excited about an idea and launch into working on it, forgetting that it works much better for me to get to know my characters and create a loose (and by loose, I mean very loose) list of scenes before I start writing.

I’m not the only one who does this. Case in point: a couple days ago, I was working with a client. I’m helping her with a memoir, the events of which took place nearly 20 years ago. She’s mostly characterized herself at that time as continuously crying, lost, powerless. But then she found the journals she wrote back then and a different story emerged. She was devastated by what happened, yes. But she also took practical steps to change her situation and responded to the unthinkable with love and compassion.

Our brains tend toward the negative, that’s all there is to it.

But recently I remembered something I read. Where and when is lost in the mists of time, and why it popped into my brain now is anybody’s guess. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot ever since.

It’s this: think the best thought you can.

As in, think the best thought you can at any given moment. Think the highest thought you can muster.

Writer’s brain, I’m looking at you! Think the best thought you can about your writing. We can debate endlessly whether thoughts are things. I happen to believe they are. But even if you don’t, I still think you ought to make a practice of thinking the best thought you can about your writing. Because why torture yourself? Doesn’t it feel better to think good thoughts than bad? Do dark thoughts make you write better or faster or different?

No, probably not. Instead, they likely make you write slower. Or not at all. At least that’s how my writer’s brain works. One whiff of negativity and poof! I’ve got an excuse not to write.

So I’m working on thinking the best thoughts I can—in writing and in life.

Leave a comment and tell me your best thoughts about your writing. For real! Do it! I may be a bit slow in answering, as I’ll be off on a writing retreat in a remote corner of Oregon that I hope to God has decent wi-fi.

Things of Note

Articles

Medium articles from the week:

Tips on Writing: Quick Fixes for Passive Voice

Writing Tips: Your Author’s Platform

The Muddle in the Middle: Finish Your Novel or Memoir (A Cautionary Tale, With Tips)

Currently Reading

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Just finished this one. I enjoyed it—and skimmed it a little, too. This is the second book I’ve read from this author and I notice she uses a lot of dialogue—sometimes page after page of it. It’s good, and easily readable, but also easy to skim.

The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks. Still working on this one. As seems to be my habit, I go all in for a book, even though I read several at a time. At the moment, I’ve been all in for the novel. I’ll definitely get back to this, though.

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

Novel-Writing Workshop—I’m also teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing. Click here for more info.

France 2019—Come to south of France with me! Find all the details here. We already have a number of people committed, so sign up soon.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and often we get some good conversation going.

This post contains affiliate links.

A Love Letter About Writing Conferences

I am brain dead.

I’m writing this love letter on Saturday morning, so that I can get it scheduled for release on Sunday. And for the last two days I’ve been at a writing conference. I’ll be returning for another dip this afternoon.

It’s not just any conference, it’s AWP.

AWP. Often the name is uttered in sepulcher tones. And that is because AWP is a near-mythical beast, due to its sheer size and breadth. Allow me to explain.

AWP stands for Association of Writers and Writing Programs and it runs for three days in cities all around the country, and this year it is in Portland. It attracts writers, editors, readers, book lovers, publishers, teachers and literary stars you follow on social media. 12,000 of them descend on the host city, all sporting lanyard name tags (this year they are robin’s egg blue) and toting AWP cloth bags (this year orange on white). The last few days, they’ve been all over Portland’s east side and downtown, scurrying like ants.

The conference offers panels and readings, lectures and talks. Like, hundreds of them. So many in each time slot it is overwhelming to comb through the massive schedule online and in the fat book they hand you at registration.

And then there are the off-site events all over the city. Restaurants and coffee shops anywhere near the convention center are booked at all hours for events. I attended a Happy Hour hosted by my literary agency and filled in for a friend, hosting an intimate memorial reading for a dear mentor.

An unimpressive shot of the line,which shows about one-tenth of it.

Oh, and did I mention the book fair? It is, like everything else associated with AWP, huge. MFA programs, creative writing communities, small presses, big publishers, individuals hawking books, and literary non-profits all share info about their programs, press buttons and tote bags on you, and some even offer chocolate. (That would be my MFA program, Spalding, whose booth I staffed on Friday morning.)

Suffice it to say, it is overwhelming. Some of the session rooms are small and overcrowded, with writers sitting in the aisles and blocking doors. (Can you say fire hazard?). And then there was the one hour of my life I lost standing in line to register. (The line curved around the exhibit hall lobby, went up one set of stairs, across a landing, up another set of stairs, past the ballrooms, up an escalator, down a set of stairs and along a corridor that led who knows where.)

And the panels vary dramatically in quality. Some, like the one I attended on travel writing and tarot for writers, are quite good. Some have one stand-out presenter, like the session I attended on author platform, but a couple who are not quite so good. And others are just, well, really different, like the panel I attended on the future of the narrative. Despite a couple of big-name stars on it, let’s just say this one wasn’t my cup of tea.

By the end of the day, my AWP bag was filled with books and magazines and glossy flyers that everyone seemed to want to press into my hands. My legs were starting to hurt (though my new hip held up remarkably well) and so was my head. My head was stuffed with all kinds of information it hadn’t yet had time to process. All I wanted to do was hide in a cave with a bottle of wine.

So why go? Why bother? With this or any other writing conference? Most writers are introverts and being with other people too much is painful. (I am one of the rare breed who is not, and even I get overwhelmed).

For so many reasons. The information is mostly helpful, and the readings inspiring. It is fun to meet new writers, see so many in every shape, size, age, gender and non-binary gender. It’s a chance to meet up with writers I might only see once a year. For me, I caught up with many out of town writers I know from my MFA program, and the five of us who shared a writing retreat in Ceret last March also had a reunion. It’s inspiring to see how many small presses are thriving in the world and fascinating to see the array of booths in the exhibit hall.

And mostly, it reminds you that you are a writer. That being a writer is important in the world. That it is something to be proud of. That it is an endeavor worth spending your time on even if you never get that huge advance you dream about.

So perhaps I’ll see you in San Antonio, where AWP will be held next year? Or maybe at another writing conference along the way? I sure hope so.

Leave a comment and tell me what you think of writing conferences.

Things of Note

Articles

Only one new article on Medium this week, because I was at the beach without wifi and then at AWP. But here it is.

The Collateral Benefits of Cultivating a Passion

And in case you didn’t see them, here are last week’s:

Woo-woo Writing Aids: Using Tarot for Your Work

Face the Daunting Page Like the Kick-ass Writer You Are

Currently Reading

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  I’m enjoying this one. It is compelling enough that I read a few pages each night after coming home brain dead from AWP.

The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks.  I love this book. It is totally self-help, so if that’s not your thing, skip it. But he manages to be encouraging with truly helpful ideas in an easily accessible style.

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

France 2019Come to south of France with me! Find all the details here.  We already have a number of people committed, so sign up soon.

Novel-Writing Workshop—I’m also teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing. Click here for more info.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and often we get some good conversation going.

This post contains affiliate links.

A Love Letter About Prompts, Writing Exercises, and Morning Pages

I’m reading The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life, by Marion Roach Smith, which I find charming in many ways. It is a slim volume by a popular writing teacher which has many good ideas for memoir writers.

In it, the author rants against the use of prompts, writing exercises, and morning pages. A waste of time, she says. You should always be writing with intent, she says. Too many people fill her classes who have journals full of things written to prompts and writing exercises and nothing else to show for their time. These activities fill their precious writing time and don’t allow the real writing to get done. So, don’t do them, she says. Period and forever.

I will admit that she has a point. Sort of.

If all you are doing is writing to prompts and filling pages of writing exercises, then yeah, there’s a problem happening there. (Unless that’s what you want to spend your precious writing time doing.)

But to me, the point of all these uber-activities is to get you to the page. To help you get to what it is you want to write. If it is just too overwhelming to think about diving into your novel and a quick free-write to a prompt gets you going, then that is fantastic. If you’re stuck on the page and can’t seem to get any words going, a writing exercise can break the mental log-jam. And if establishing a habit of morning pages leads you to identifying your heart’s desire, that is time well spent.

Just as with alcohol, you can learn to use writing prompts and exercises responsibly. Use them as a starting-point, as a way to hone your writing skills, or as a place to generate ideas. You can also use them as part of your WIP. Take the last line of the last scene you wrote and use it as a prompt. Use character-related prompts to jar loose that last bit of information you need for your character’s backstory.

There’s also the joy of using prompts for expressive writing and deep journaling. Using lines from poetry or inspirational quotes is a lovely practice for this. I’m sorry, I like doing this once in a while. My theory is that everything connects back to your writing eventually, so indulging in this kind of writing will eventually get you back to your WIP. And so what if it doesn’t? Writing something, anything, is time well spent.

Which leads me to a mini-rant, which is against writing experts who tell you exactly what to do. How to do it. When to do it. Why to do it. I realize that it is desirable and fashionable and to have a point of view. Something you stand for. Definitive recommendations.

But I’m a fan of polite recommendations. Let’s call them suggestions. I believe they can help you to find your way through the thicket. Stern instruction can lead you down the garden path of a writing style or manner that doesn’t work for you.

I’ve wasted weeks trying to slot my book idea into a meticulously crafted beat by beat outline according to an expert. Despite feeling uncomfortable with the process. Despite being desperate to start writing. I’ve listened to nay-sayers sneer at prompts, as if the pesky little sentences are so far beneath them as to be, well, kind of tacky, for simpletons, and I’ve avoided them because I wanted to be cool and sophisticated, too.

And is this not in some ways a microcosm for what’s ailing us in our culture today. Right? Amiright? Everybody thinking they have the answer. And there their answer is the only right answer. Pshaw. (A polite way of calling bullshit.)

Do what works for you. Read widely and garner inspiration and instruction where you can. Take what works for you and leave the rest. And in that spirit, I’m now going to go finish the book to see what tidbits of hers I can carry with me in my writing—and perhaps pass onto you.

Hit reply and tell me what you think of prompts and writing exercises. I’m all ears!

Things of Note

Articles

Here are my Medium articles for the week:

Woo-woo Writing Aids: Using Tarot for Your Work

Face the Daunting Page Like the Kick-ass Writer You Are

Currently Reading

The Lost Carousel of Provence, by Juliet Blackwell.  Not entirely sold on this one yet, the set-up seems a bit pat, but people I trust recommend it, so we’ll see!

The Memoir Project, by Marion Roach Smith. A slim volume but looks like it might be good for both memoirists and other breeds of writer. See above.

Dryer’s English, by Ben Dryer. Still working on this. It’s one to savor and remember. Who knew a book on grammar could be so funny?

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

Free Live Virtual Spring Retreat Recording—The virtual spring retreat had a much different energy to it than the winter one. It was a quiet, intimate gathering with lots of good writing. Here’s the link in case you want to listen and do follow some of the prompts.

France 2019—Come to south of France with me! Find all the details here. http://letsgowrite.com/the-way-of-the-artists-france-2019-workshop/ We already have a number of people committed, so sign up soon.

Novel-Writing Workshop—I’m also teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing. Click here for more info.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and often we get some good conversation going.

This post contains affiliate links.

A Love Letter About Envy, The Bad Kind and The Good Kind

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Here’s a short list of people I envy:

All writers everywhere on the planet who have a book contract with a major publishing house.
All successful self-published writers.
All writers who have control of their own schedules, i.e., plenty of time to write.
All writers who do not live with seven- and three-year-old boy hooligans.
All writers who are photogenic on Instagram.
All writers who do videos. (I’m not sure why; I hate videos.)

And here are some things that people might envy me for:

That I get to go to France everywhere in a mostly-paid for trip because I teach writing there.
That I get to go to other cool places (Astoria, Oregon, Nashville, Louisville) to teach writing.
That I earned my MFA.
That I have an agent with a top-notch agency.
That I have an amazing network of writers in my community.
That I live with seven- and three-year-old boy hooligans.

My point is not to brag, because most days I’m hard pressed to remember any of these things and be as freaking grateful for them as I should be. And that would be because I’m too busy being envious of all the writers who have what I don’t have. The grass is always greener, never the twain shall meet, all those good clichés.

Because of this tendency to get so mired in desperately wanting what we don’t have, most of the time we think envy is bad. We know this, right? Of course we do. Envy is bad, period. It can so seriously overcome you that you stop writing. Because—all those writers you envy out there? Better than you. So, so much better. You might as well give up.

We’ve all been there, and it’s no fun.

But what about when envy is good? Can it ever good? I’ve been so indoctrinated that envy is bad that I’d never stopped to consider any other angle. But recently I read a quote in a book on creativity that made me stop and think about it. The author mentions a Dutch word, benijden, that means benign envy. “It refers to an envy that motivates you to self-improvement deriving from another person’s impressive example.”

(The book is called Conscious Creativity, by Philippa Stanton—and I confess I’ve not read it, just the excerpt on Amazon. But I’m thinking of ordering it because it looks good. And it already made me think.)

And I thought about how often this is true for me. I realize, for instance, how I so often admire writers and because of this admiration, am filled with the desire to write myself. go immediately to the page. How my envy inspires me to work harder. How reading a scene in a novel I like instructs me. Reading the online presences of other authors inspires me to emulate what they do. One more.

And, really, isn’t envy the reason most of us became writers in the first place? Didn’t your envy of a writer getting to spend their time spinning stories drive you to begin this journey? I know it did for me.

So for now on, I’m all over my envy. At least when it is benijden. And I’m going to work to see how I can turn bad envy into good. Are you with me?

Love, light, and good writing,

P.S. There’s still time to sign up for two spring retreats—scroll down for info. And, hit reply and tell me who or what you envy.

Things of Note

Articles

Stop the presses, I wrote a blog post. It’s been months, people. The plan is to build on this momentum and write more, but though I’ve got a book full of ideas, I’ve had a hard time getting to blogging lately. So I’m not yet making any promises. This post is on what to do when you get stuck in your writing.

When You’re Stuck, Side-Step: a Work-Around for Writers

And, I wrote another one!

What Would Your Life Be Like if You Weren’t a Writer?

Currently Reading

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  Woman falls in love, gets married, and nine days later her husband dies. I’m not that far in, but apparently she then forges a relationship with the mother-in-law, whom she’s never met.

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza.  Yes, I am writing two novels at once. This one is a bit denser than the one above, which is quite light and breezy, despite it having a sad story. At least it’s sad at the beginning, where I still am. I didn’t plan to read two at once—usually I can manage a novel and a non-fiction at the same time—but there you go.

Dryer’s English, by Ben Dryer. Who knew a book on grammar could be so funny?

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

So much going on as spring struggles to arrive! I’ve got two spring retreats on the calendar, one virtual and one local. I’m teaching in a bucolic location on the Oregon coast this June, and of course, there’s France in September. Read on for all the details.

Refresh, Renew, Retreat—For my Portland readers, Let’s Go Write is hosting a one-day retreat, which will be a chance to spend tons of time writing, enjoy the camaraderie of other writers, and get some one-on-one coaching. More here.

Free Live Virtual Spring Retreat—Many of you enjoyed the winter retreat I co-led with my dear friend Patty Bechtold, and so now we are offering a spring version, complete with reflective writing, guided meditation, poetry, and more. You can read about it and sign up here.

France 2019—Would you like to study writing in the south of France with me? You can! Find all the details here. Space is filling up fast—we’ve had several sign-ups in the last two weeks—so hop on over and check it out!

Novel-Writing Workshop—I’m also teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing. Click here for more info.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and often we get some good conversation going.

This post contains affiliate links.