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.

A Love Letter About Imposter Syndrome

I’m an imposter.

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

That’s what the thoughts running through my head as I wrote this morning told me.

I’m not a real writer, I thought as I wrote dialogue between two brothers sitting at a coffee shop. This as I finished up Chapter Eight of a book I started in January. (I now date my chapters as I save them, so I can keep better track of how long it is taking me.) A real writer would be able to make this dialogue much crisper.

You call this writing? A real writer wouldn’t have written a crappy sentence like that. You’re not a real writer. Never mind that this is a first draft, and I’m working on laying the story down, not making perfect sentences.

Ursula LeGuin is a real writer. This thought rising as I write the word steering and think of the title of one LeGuin’s book on writing, “Steering the Craft.” But I’m not a real writer, because I’m not Ursula LeGuin.

All of this is nonsensical. My logical mind knows that. But somewhere deep in my subconscious, imposter thoughts lurk and surface when I’m writing. Does this happen to you? I think it happens to all writers at one time or another.

And it’s funny, because trying to capture the essence of this negative messages can be difficult. They flit away back into the depths of the brain, not wanting to be brought up into the light.

Because if they are brought up to the light, they dissipate. Pouf. Like the silly thoughts they are, they disappear into the air. And so that’s what you—and I—need to do to them when they appear. Say “thanks for those insights,” and keep on writing.

Recognize—and then ignore in favor of writing. It’s the way out. The funny thing is, the imposter thoughts aren’t as strong or prevalent when I’m not writing. And often these days I don’t even notice them.

Which leads me to believe this simple fact: the cure for all problems related to writing is to just keep writing.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

It seemed so unreal.

Something New

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.

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 .

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. Space is limited to eight, and a couple people have already committed, just saying.

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 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 an affiliate link.

Writing in Chaos (A Love Letter)

My life is chaos and distraction at the moment.

Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash

As many of you know, my daughter and her husband and two boys are living with us while we build an addition, after which my hub and I will move into that space and they will take over the main house. As if living with a seven-year-old poised to take over the world and a three-year-old ready to become a pirate is not chaos enough, having construction work going on is also a distraction. To put it mildly.

The addition is framed and roofed and the plumbers have done most of their work, though the city says they have to put in a bigger connector pipe. The day the plumbers were here I thought I’d go out of my mind trying to keep the indoor cats from getting out and my daughter’s dog from killing them. Or vice versa. We still have choices to make for bathroom finishing (who knew there were so many different kinds of bathroom vanities and medicine cabinets, not to mention lights to go over them).

Fast forward to Friday morning:

–Wake at 5 (I know, I wake up naturally at that time, no alarm), start writing, fight the urge to look again at bathroom vanities.
–Write a few words, take a quick hop over to Wayfair to, you guessed it, look at bathroom vanities.
–Write a few hundred words, take a quick break and realize that ETSY HAS BATHROOM VANITIES. Must investigate.
–Write a few hundred more words, discover that CRAIG’S LIST HAS BATHROOM VANITIES. Must research.
–Proceed like this for the better part of a couple hours and get almost to 1,000 words when daughter knocks on office door at 7 AM and says the electrician is coming.
–Close computer and tell myself I’ll finish my word count later in the day.
–Electrician arrives. “Good morning, I hope it is not too early!” Despite the fact that I’m in my awful looking jammies, no.
–Electrician requests meeting in the addition. Daughter and husband comply, leaving guess-who-yes-me with the boys.
–I fix their breakfast, repeatedly asking the seven-year-old to please quit reading and get dressed for school, secretly pleased that he loves reading so much.
–Eye on the clock. I have a 9 AM meeting with a client. And another meeting after that and several manuscripts to finish reading. Plus those random 200 words on the novel that didn’t get done first thing.
–Seven-year-old is still reading.
–Three-year-old is refusing to eat anything I fix him for breakfast. He’s been sick, but insists he wants to go to pre-school anyway. Will he get dressed, then? No.
–Daughter and husband are still in conference with electrician! Clock is ticking. Soon it will be time to leave for school!
–Manage to get seven-year-old dressed. But he’s got homework to finish! Which involves noting which books he has read all week—so he has to finish the book he’s reading in order to complete it.
–I need more coffee.
–Miracle occurs. Daughter and husband finish meeting, boys get to school on time, I’m able to shower. And get some work done! Except I never did get back to those elusive 200 words.

That’s my life these days. Of course, it is not always that crazy, and I do have the sanctuary of my office where I retire and lock the door (because it is the favorite space of all four of my grandchildren). The thing is, though, even when all is calm, there’s a lot pulling on my brain. I can feel it—I’m not at my sharpest. Just now I struggled to remember how to spell miracle. I could easily throw up my hands and decide not to write for a while.

But I don’t want to, because writing is the one thing that keeps me sane. It keeps me connected to the world. Without it, I’m unmoored—and I don’t need to be any more unmoored than I already am. So here’s what I’m trying to remember:

–It’s okay to take a break. When life gets chaotic and it is hard to accomplish everything on the to-do list, my inclination is to push myself to work harder. Often, the opposite tack is more effective. If I give myself a few minutes to sit down and knit or close my eyes, I’m more efficient.

–Self-care is a cliché for a reason. Because it helps you carry on through life! Keeping up with the things that keep me sane is vital. Things like drinking water, going on walks, doing my physical therapy exercises, eating right. And haircuts and pedicures and massages are good, too.

–It really is okay not to write for a while. The world is not going to quit turning on its axis if I don’t.

–It’s also okay to write if I want to! Because doing things that make me happy during chaotic times is important. And writing makes me happy.

–And….um….er….I forgot. I really did. Had something brilliant in mind to finish off this list and it just flew out of my mind. Because, chaos and distraction.

I hope your life is less chaotic and distracting than mine at the moment!

Leave a comment and tell me how you handle distraction!

Prompt

Here is your prompt of the week:

Lightning flashed and all around them was the sound of thunder.

Something New

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 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 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. 

Writing in Community (A Love Letter)

The first week in February, I was in fun, funky Astoria, Oregon to co-lead a writing workshop. Fabulous week with marvelous writers. The only downside was that after a mild winter, snow suddenly loomed in the forecast, so we left a couple days early—but not before finishing the workshop.

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

There were eight of us, and Debbie and I, the two teachers. During the first session, we asked writers what they wanted to get out of the workshop. Many said they sought writing community. At the end of the week, we asked what they’d gotten out of the workshop. Everyone said they’d gained community.

This made me happy. I think we writers forget how important community is, because most of the time we toil away at our desks alone. And yes, many of us are drawn to this profession because we are introverts. Add to that a natural tendency to get nervous about sharing work, and this can make us hesitant to even seek out community in the first place.

I am an extrovert of the highest order. Plunk me down amongst friends sharing a cup of coffee or a bottle of wine and I’m at my happiest. So it’s no surprise that I’ve found my way into a number of writing communities over the years. But I well remember attending my first writer’s group meeting and being so nervous I made my husband come with me. A short time later, I was on the board of that group. And in the meantime, I’d made the lovely discovery that writers are the most interesting people in the world.

Since then I’ve participated in two long-running critique groups (serially, I’m monogamous when it comes to writing groups; well, and marriage, too) and now I now co-lead a critique group as well as meet periodically with several other writers to review our work. Beyond that, I have writing friends with whom I meet to talk shop regularly. I take groups of writers to France every year, and also teach occasional workshops in Nashville. I’m also close with several writers with whom I earned my MFA. But I never could have envisioned this when I so hesitantly attended that first writing group meeting so long ago.

A few points if you are looking for community:

–Community does not have to center around critiquing, though if you can find a good critique group you’ll gain both community and help with your writing. Yes, it is intimidating as all hell the first time you share your work with a new group of writers. But over time, it gets easier (like rejection). Some people like to work one on one with crit partners and I’ve heard good things about that process, too.

–Most communities have local writing groups. Here in Portland we have Willamette Writers and Oregon Writer’s Colony. Both sponsor regular events. Your city likely has something similar.
Ask the Google.

–Many national organizations have local chapters. I’m a member of the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association, and the Romance Writers of America. The latter has an active local chapter, though I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never attended a meeting. Groups like Sisters in Crime and SCBWI, for children’s book authors, also have local chapters.

–Some writers I know have had good luck finding groups through Meet Up. Or you can take a class from a local college. Many of the writers I know first met through taking my business partner Debbie’s class at community college.

–You might also try asking on social media or at a community center.

–Take a workshop. Often these turn into ongoing communities, either locally or online. (May I humbly suggest you consider coming to France?)

Whichever you choose, I hope you get as much from your writing community as I get from ine!

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

Altogether now, let’s…..

Something New

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 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 so hop on over and check it out!

Novel Writing WorkshopRegistration is now open for my three-day workshop at the Sitka Center, which is in Oregon, not Alaska. I love teaching at this gorgeous spot and I’m excited to be returning again in June. Learn more here.

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.

The One Right Way to Write (A Love Letter)

Photo by June Admiraal on Unsplash

Okay, this is it, I’m going to tell you how to do it. After all these years, I’ve finally decided to share the secret. I am going to tell you the one right way to write. Are you ready? Here it is:

The one right way to write is the way that works for you.

The only secret is that you have to know yourself and your habits. And then you have to apply those to your writing. If your best-selling novelist neighbor rises at 5 AM to write every morning and exhorts you to do the same, but you prefer to stay up late to write, don’t listen to her. If you work all day Saturday, every Saturday, but don’t even think about your novel during the week and it is working for you—go for it. Ignore those people who say you need to write every day to establish a writing habit.

You do you. Do what works for you—and the words and pages will pile up.

I sometimes work with people who tell me what they are doing and then say, “Is that right? Is that okay to do it that way?” Yes, it is okay. It is okay habit-wise, and it is okay story-wise.

Provisos:

Habit-wise. If you are getting to the page regularly, whatever you are doing is working. Keep it up. Do not get swayed by glamorous writing gurus who tell you otherwise! But if what you are doing starts not working, then figure out a new schedule. And maybe consult those gurus for some ideas.

Story-wise. As long as you can make it work on the page, you can do it. Making it work on the page might take a bit of jiggering, revising, and editing, but that is what makes writing fun. Amiright?

So trust your own damn instincts, not someone else’s. You’ll be a lot happier in your writing, and after all, isn’t that why we do this? It’s not like we’re going to rich at it so we might as well have fun.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

It’s my way or the highway.

Something New

I’ve been thinking about starting a Patreon, but haven’t quite managed yet. In the meantime, I found Ko-Fi, which enables people to contribute a small amount to cover my coffee costs. Oh, who am I kidding, I’ll buy wine with it. Anyway, this is a total experiment. If you feel so inclined to buy me a glass of wine, click here for more info. I think it is user friendly-ish.

Happenings

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 so hop on over and check it out!

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.

Writing is Never Done (A Love Letter)

As you read this on Sunday morning, I’ll be in Astoria, gearing up for the welcome dinner for the Feast of the Senses writing workshop. I’ll be thinking about the workshop, and how best to make sure it is useful and inspiring for participants. And I’ll be thinking about my writing—my current WIP, a rewrite of the first draft of a novel that is so massive it hardly counts as a rewrite at all. More like a brand-new project. It has my brain engaged, the novel-writing synapses firing.

I’ll be pondering how, exactly, I can make that scene that has too much narrative in it work. How to deepen the character arc of the protagonist. Where to set the first big love scene. And I’ll be thinking about when I can carve out a moment to work on it.

Because, when you are a writer, your work is never done.

This is true of other occupations, both paid and unpaid, of course. Housework comes to mind, along with the old outdated saw, a woman’s work is never done. Well, cleaning is never done anyway.

But writing is different, because cleaning doesn’t constantly occupy your mind. (Okay, at least it has never taken up much space in my mind.) When you are a writer, there’s a constant yearning to write. Right? A constant pull to shut out the real world and enter the world of your imagination—putting words on the page.

I imagine this experience is quite similar for other creative activities, like painting, for instance. I do know I ponder knitting (what should I make next? How will that ribbing look? Should I use garter stitch instead?) often. But it doesn’t hold the huge amount of space in my brain that writing does.

And sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have the kind of job that you leave at work. That doesn’t come home with you. That you turn the light out on and don’t think about until the next morning. That doesn’t nag and pull at you. The kind of job where you can come home, cook dinner and sit in front of the TV without so much as a you should be writing kind of thought.

Because when you are a writer, the thought you should be writing is always just below the surface. You’re always aware of it. Brief moment to relax? You should be writing! Appointment canceled? You should be writing! Day off? You should be writing! I can’t imagine what it would be like to have the kind of life where this pull to write is the constant drumbeat of my life.

And honestly? I don’t think I really want to.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

No matter how hard I work it never all gets done.

Happenings

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 so hop on over and check it out!

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.