Love letters

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 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.

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. 

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.

On Constant Companions and Distraction (Tis the Season)

When I was younger, I smoked. It’s been twenty years now since I quit, but I still remember how much I loved smoking. (For years, I swore that once I hit my eighties I was going to take up smoking again, because at that age, who cares, right? But I no longer have any desire for it.) In response to a writing prompt recently, I wrote about how smoking had been my constant companion. The hardest thing about quitting was missing my best friend, cigarettes. They were with me always, through good times and bad, ready to soothe me whenever needed.

But when I thought about it more, I realized that my true lifelong companion has been writing. I’ve been scribbling in diaries and journals, writing poetry (that’s gone by the wayside) and reports and stories and articles and novels and blog posts and newsletters, some form of writing, all my life. Literally, since I was old enough to hold a pencil in my hand. And writing has been far more of a soothing comfort and BFF than smoking could ever have been. I’m grateful for it, so grateful.

Even constant companions get boring sometimes, though, and then it is easy to stray from them. Especially at this time of year, during the winter holidays, when everyone is shopping, wrapping presents, hanging out with family and friends, and so on. There’s a lot to get distracted by.  What’s a writer to do? I just happen to have some suggestions, based on hard experience.

Remember the value. Your constant companion, be it writing or drawing or painting or knitting or lawn mowing, is important. (Okay, let’s not lump smoking into this one.) Remember, not everyone has one.  This sounds dorky, but I feel like it is an honor to have one. I always have a place to go, no matter what. I have a place to go to bitch and moan, to celebrate, to laugh, to fall apart. Come to think of it my writing companion fills many of the same roles as a human companion without any of the other issues. (I will admit, I am a dedicated extrovert, so people are quite important to me as well.) And because I value it so highly, I will treat it with respect. At least most of the time.

Kaizen it. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that advocates small improvements, baby steps at a time. So often we think we have to do all the things, all at once, when, really, we can accomplish a lot a little at a time. Like writing, for instance. Because writing is accomplished one word at a time. The trick is to honor and congratulate yourself for every teeny, tiny step you take. It will add up!

Go back to it. The cool thing about constant companions is that they are always there for you. At least constant companions of the writing sort are. Stay away from your journal for a month and it makes no judgement about you when you return. It is just there, waiting for you, ready to take up where you left off. You don’t have to explain, or apologize, or get defensive about your absence (unlikely with a human). All you have to do it pick up your pen and start again, one word at a time.

Just relax and go with the distractions. Ha! I am so terrible at this. I planned a lovely four weeks of lazing about the house after my recent hip surgery, and that lasted about four days. I can barely get myself to take a nap, or enjoy an afternoon off. I’d rather torture myself by sitting at the computer staring at a blank page than giving up and doing something else. But maybe you are better at this than me? If so, I hereby give you permission to go for it. Allow the distractions to sweep you away, and most important, enjoy it while they do. Because, tis the season, the best time of the year, so you might as well have some fun.

So, in this festive season, I hope you have a constant companion that pleases you. And I also hope that if you are neglecting it amidst the current hustle and bustle, that you are not feeling guilty about it.  Because if it is a true constant companion, all the distractions in the world will ultimately not keep you from it.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

The most constant companion I’ve had in my life is….

Happenings

 A very cool teleseminar! It is called Writing Into the New Year. I’m going to be sending out full information on this to all of you this week (if you’re not on my list, click the button to the right to join), but on January 17, my dear friend Patty Bechtold  and I are doing a special expressive writing workshop.  It is called Writing Into the New Year, and it is FREE! Sign up here. 

 France 2019—We’ve posted the information for next year’s workshop! Find all the details here.  We’ve already had a few sign-ups and there’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year, so check it out now.

Coaching—I haven’t done a lot of it this past year, but I’m taking on a few new clients in January. If you are interested, email me and we will talk.

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 we often have lively writerly discussions going.

 

On Planning and Setting Goals (Or Not), A Love Letter

I’m such a sucker for reviewing and planning at this time of year. I’ve tried a million systems, some expensive, some not, some helpful, some way too detailed and structured to work for me. I’ve bought programs from Michael Hyatt, and calendars from Leonie Dawson.  Often I buy expensive planners that promise to make me more productive and focused. By February, they are abandoned.

Photo by Renáta-Adrienn on Unsplash

I tend to make elaborate plans, complete with ambitious, unattainable goals. Mid-year I look back and wonder what on earth I was thinking. I don’t want to do that this year, and yet I do love the process of planning (probably too much) and I don’t want to skip it. And so this year I am doing my my best to keep the process loose and open.

And still, I am a sucker for any post or article about end-of-the-year reviewing and planning.  This year, I’ve found some good ones, and luckily for me, they are pretty simple. You might be interested in:

The Max Daniels planner, which is a short PDF, and for $10 a great starting point.

I loved this post from Cynthia Morris, also very short and simple.  (I highly recommend getting on her list to be notified of when her next Devoted Writer program comes around).

Jeffrey Davis, who is running a month-long program on planning that it is not too late to join.

Michele PW has a good blog post on goal setting in a different way.

Taking a little bit of this, a little of that, and much inspiration from the above resources, here’s the plan I’m following (loosely, as always). And I’m still in the middle of it, so the jury is out as to how well it will work. Come next July I’ll know for sure!

–I’m using plain sheets of computer paper, though usually I prefer to work in a journal or spiral. But for this I felt I needed to see a bigger picture.

–I turned the paper sideways and drew a line down the middle, then labeled each half a specific month. With the help of my 2018 calendar and the photos on my phone, I was able to note what happened in each month. This is the first time I’ve done it this way and it was really helpful.

–Here is a wonderfully helpful tip from Cynthia Morris: review your year in terms of your values.  How did what you did align with what you hold most dear in your life? I loved this idea and it became key for me in mulling over my year.

–On a fresh piece of paper, brainstorm all the things you want for 2019. Note your writing-related goals. What projects do you want to finish? To start? Which ones need to go out into the world? Are you going to indie publish or look for an agent? Maybe you want to try something new, like writing memoir or essays rather than fiction or short stories. Write it all down.

Then there’s the personal, of course. The usual—lose weight, eat healthier, exercise, meditate, fun stuff, travel, hobbies, etc. This is an initial brain dump, off the top of your head. You can organize it later.

This may take more than one sheet of paper, and if you are so inclined you might also want to do it mind map style.  (Write 2019 in the middle of the page and draw lines out from it for each area of goals.)  As you do this, consider your values. Is what you’re writing on the page in line with what is most precious to you?

–Take a break. Go eat chocolate. Or drink wine. Or a nice hot cup of tea.

–Look at your brain dump. What are the things you really, really, really want to spend time doing? To quote Marie Kondo, what sparks your joy? Cross off everything else. (This is the hard part for me, and I’ll be honest, I’m not good at it. I want to do all the things.)

–Then create the same matrix of months as for 2018, only label them for 2019.  Write down all the things that are already scheduled, and then add in the things you want to make happen.

–From here, you can transfer these intentions/goals/desires to whatever you like best to work in—a bullet journal, a regular old-fashioned journal, your phone, a Word doc, one of the many gorgeous planners that are available. I’m partial to the Erin Condren planners, but at the moment I’m using my phone and a minimalistic bullet journal (no fancy hand-drawn spreads for me) to organize my life, time, and goals.

Et voila, there you have it—your year, planned, without too much muss and fuss.

Leave a comment and tell me how you like to review and plan at this time of year. Does this “system” appeal to you, or do you follow something else?

News Flash!—We’ve had a cancellation for the February Astoria Workshop. It filled up quickly, but one person had to back out for personal reasons. So there’s an open spot! Is it yours? Check out all the information about it here ,    and if you’re interested, reply to this newsletter.

 France 2019—We’ve posted the information for next year’s workshop! Find all the details here.  We’ve already had a few sign-ups and there’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year.

Coaching—I haven’t done a lot of it this past year, but I’m taking on a few new clients in January. If you are interested, reply to this email and we will talk.

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 we often have lively writerly discussions going.

This newsletter contains affiliate links.

 

On Beginning Again, A Love Letter (+ November Round-up

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

I’m two weeks out from my hip replacement surgery, and, as noted last week, I’m doing well. I jokingly tell people I’m a little disappointed—I thought I was going to have at least a month to laze about, reading and recovering. And now I feel like doing all the things!

Including writing.

Sort of.

Because, funny thing, the desire is there but I haven’t actually had a lot of luck getting words on the page. I write in my journal every morning.  I managed to write a post on Medium (see below), and I’ve now put together two newsletters. But every day in my journal I write about how eager I am to get back to my fiction. How today might be the day.

And then it isn’t.

While I am frustrated with myself, this gap between desire and action isn’t fully a bad thing, because it puts me right back into how it feels to be a beginner. When I was a young woman, I wanted to write stories so badly. And yet I had no idea how to do it. I’d open a page in my journal and feel blank. I didn’t know how to get started. I didn’t know what to write about.

Eventually I fell back on my education in journalism and started free-lancing articles. But I still wanted to write stories. Fiction.  It took me a long time to find the confidence to do it. And if I had known then, what I know now, it might not have taken so long.

Because now I know the secret: the only way out is through. The way to solve the problem of not writing is to write. Something, anything. Set a timer for 15 minutes, put pen to paper and write without stopping. (I mean it. Don’t stop.) Make yourself do it. (I’m telling myself this, too.)

The relief and joy you feel will far outweigh the earlier pain of procrastination. And then all you have to do is start over again. And again. And again. That’s how all books, essays, stories, blog posts, anything, are written.

A Prompt

Here is your prompt of the week:

Oh no, we have to start over again?

 Links

 I wrote a blog post about how surgery is like long distance travel on Medium. Read it here.

November Round-Up

Reading

Winter in Paradise, by Elin Hilderbrand.  A good read, but be aware—there’s a cliffhanger at the end that leaves you hanging until the next book, which isn’t out yet.

 

10% Happier, by Dan Harris. The benefits of meditation, mixed in with entertaining stories about the broadcast news business.

 

Sisters First, by Jenna and Barbara Bush. I never in a million years would have read this book. But my sister went to hear Jenna Bush speak as part of a lecture series she patronizes and brought me the book. I actually enjoyed it, and it made me respect the Bushes a whole lot more.

 

The Christmas Camp, by Karen Schaler.  Predictable and corny, but it was fun. And I was still in a bit of a haze from the anesthetic. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

Solace Island, by Meg Tilly. Yes, that Meg Tilly—the actress. I really enjoyed this romantic suspense novel, set in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. Oh boy, this one is a bit of a slog. I love Kingsolver’s writing style—her style is a joy to read. But every scene in this book turns into a polemic about a current or historical political or social problem. It gets a bit tedious.

Watching

All the Hallmark Christmas movies. Honestly, they are pretty much interchangeable and so are the actors and actresses and the names of the films, (hence why I’m not listing any). But I don’t care, I love them in all their tackiness anyway.

And Don’t Forget

 France 2019—We’ve posted the information for next year’s workshop! Find all the details here.  We’ve already had a few sign-ups and there’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year.

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 we often have lively writerly discussions going.

This post contains affiliate links.

Coming Out the Other Side + Holiday Special (A Love Letter)

Years ago I read a science fiction novel, the name and author of which is long lost in the mists of time and my brain. A female scientist (I think), living on another planet (of course), was studying an alien life form that appeared in the form of lights in a lake. The lights blinked on and off, saying I am here. I am alive. I am here.

I’m like one of those alien light forms. I am here! I am alive! I am here!

I made it through surgery with flying colors.  I woke in the recovery room, looked at the nurse, and said, “That’s it? It’s all done?” I was so amazed to remember nothing after being wheeled into the operating room—and then wake up two hours later, with nothing but blankness in between.

That was a week and a half ago and I’m doing great.  I’ve got very little pain, less than what I had before the surgery, to be honest. I’ve ditched my walker and am getting around easily with just a cane. (My advice to anybody getting hip replacement surgery: find a doc who does the direct superior approach. It is far less invasive and offers a much quicker recovery.) I’m working hard at physical therapy, doing my at-home exercises, and trying very hard not to do too much too fast.

And I am grateful. So, so grateful. It is such a gift to be given a second chance—an opportunity to live without pain. It’s a cliché bordering on the ludicrous to establish a gratitude practice, but the last few nights I’ve found myself spontaneously listing what and who I’m grateful for as I fall asleep.  My surgeon, all the nurses who cared for me, family, friends, and of course—you.

You who read my weekly missives, join the Facebook group, and read my blog posts. And so, in the spirit of this past weekend’s Black Friday/Small Business Saturday and the upcoming Cyber Monday, I am offering my own mine-sale.

Here’s the deal: two options, listed below. Please be aware that I won’t be booking any appointments until mid-December at the earliest. But you can grab the discount prices now and use the sessions any time over the next year. Prices good through Wednesday, November 28th at midnight Pacific time.

Also, please be aware that my rates will be going up in 2019.  I’ve had coaches yelling at me for years to raise them and it is time. So take advantage of one of these deals while you can!

You can pay direct by using the buttons below. Thank you!

 One Hour Coaching Session, during which we can talk about your work (you can send me up to 10 pages), brainstorm plot ideas, or talk about how to get your writing practice back on track.  $100.

 

Three Months Coaching at a killer price.   12 sessions of coaching, consisting of me reading 10-15 pages and a 30 minute phone or Skype conversation. $1,200. (You will NEVER get this low  price again.)



 

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

(No photos today because for some reason the media library is not accessible.)