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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 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 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.

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.

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole (A Love Letter)

A couple of mornings ago, Friday to be exact, I woke early, as I do, grabbed a huge travel mug of coffee, and headed to my office to write. I’ve been on a pretty good roll, working on my next novel. I have a loose outline in place and so far most of the time I feel on track. And I’m enjoying the writing.

But Friday morning I didn’t go right to the page. I had a bee buzzing about in my head. I’m almost done knitting one sweater and I’d realized I had some gorgeous wool  that I could use to start another. But I needed a pattern! And this was VERY important because I’m going to Astoria, Oregon in a week to teach and I NEED to start this new sweater before then so I have something to work on while there.

So I told myself I could browse for five minutes. And then I made the tragic mistake of the morning. I opened Ravelry. For those of you who don’t knit or crochet, Ravelry is where all the patterns live. All of them. (Seriously, the site had 7 million members as of 2017.) Not only can you look at the pattern designer’s information, but you can click through page after page of member postings showing how they knitted the sweater, complete with maker notes.

It is the mother of all rabbit holes for knitters. And Friday morning I happily tumbled into it for forty-five thirty twenty minutes. Oh, it was glorious as I considered one pattern after another as the minutes ticked by. And then, while I was at it, I saw that I had an email I wanted to look at, so that took some time. It took more time to answer it. And while I was at it, I needed to check my other email inbox. (Yes, I have two. Don’t ask why. It made sense at one time.)

And then I finally looked at the clock. And realized I’d wasted nearly my entire writing session.

Here’s the deal: I felt like crap afterwards. I had the same sick feeling inside as when I’ve willfully eaten too much or drank too much wine. Funny how all over indulging makes you feel the same, at least emotionally. And when I compared how that felt to how I feel after I’ve actually done the work I set out to do (Energized! Happy! Excited!), I cringed.

Your rabbit hole is probably not Ravelry. But I’m pretty sure you have one. (If you don’t, please contact me immediately so I can pick your brain about how you grew up to be a responsible adult with no bad habits.) We all do. So the only way to deal with it is awareness. For me, that starts with dissecting why this happened:

THE NUMBER ONE REASON IS BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW WHERE I WAS GOING. I’d taken the day off from working on the novel the day before, because I had to get up and out and didn’t have time for my usual writing session. And in the mad rush of all the things that happen in a day, including a long board meeting that night, I forgot where I was. (This would have been an easy fix, one I preach often myself: open up the damn file and re-read it. Or even skim it. Just to get it back in your brain.)

Because I lied to myself. As in, oh, I’ll just look for that sweater pattern on Ravelry for five minutes. I deserve a long break because of that long board meeting (see above) last night. Oh, Charlotte. You know better than that. Those five minutes can stretch to thirty-five in a couple clicks down the rabbit hole. As they did.

Because I didn’t use any of the fifty million tricks I know to get myself back on track. Things like free writing to a prompt. Writing something, anything in my journal. Setting a timer to limit knitting pattern time. Using Freedom to restrict access to the internet. Writing one crappy page. Writing nonsense. Writing anything, just to get words on the page. Because often that’s all it takes to get going again.

Because I convinced myself this was a noble activity. My brain needed a break. (Again: long board meeting. I like to belabor excuses.) I deserved to spend a little time looking at patterns. Oh, and hey, knitting is creative, too! (But mindlessly clicking through patterns is not.) And, even more noble, I had just also talked myself out of buying a very expensive yarn kit! Winning! All the more reason to look at patterns, because I was nobly using yarn I had. (I have a LOT of yarn.)

Because I didn’t stop myself long enough to do a gut check. And maybe if I had, I’d remember that I feel like crap after wasting time like this and I feel great after writing. So this is the crux of it: someone I (and maybe you) need a way to short circuit the procrastination momentum. One way suggested by Becca Syme in a class I took last spring, is to set a timer when I browse the internet. Another could be doing something physical to break the trance. This could be as easy as standing up from the computer. What works for me might not work for you, so let’s experiment, okay?

That’s it for now, and excuse me, I have a sweater pattern to go download.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

Down the rabbit hole we go.

Happenings

Virtual Retreat Link—Thanks to all of you who joined Patty Bechtold and I last week on our winter virtual retreat. We delved deeply into the sensory reactions to the season, and did some fun writing exercises. For those of you who missed it, you can have a listen here. And yes, we plan to do something similar again soon!

France 2019—Would you like to study writing in the south of France with me? You can! Find all the details here. There’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year, so check it out now.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links. Lately we’ve discussed the different types of editing, memoir writing, and more.

Your Most Important Priority (A Love Letter)

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Last week amongst the flood of junk interesting emails in my inbox, I had two that stood out. Each one caught my attention separately, but since they were variations on a theme, their messages really caught my attention.

The first was from prolific author Chris Fox. His message? You don’t have priorities, you have one main priority. Or should. And, of course, he and I both think it should be writing. Because if you keep saying you want to write, but then you don’t do it, writing is not a priority.

Here’s more from Chris on the topic: “…you don’t have priorities. You have a single priority. The word was originally singular, but somewhere along the way we expanded it. And the problem with having more than one priority is that if eight things are important, nothing is. Establishing your priority is critical. If you make something a priority, then I guarantee you it will get done.”

Those words really resonated with me, because since August I’ve had a host of distractions from my writing. There was the month in France  in September (not complaining about that one), surgery in November (not complaining about it, either), and then, of course, Christmas. With all of that behind me, I’m ready to focus on new priorities. Oops, I mean a new priority, singular. Which is actually an old priority. Writing, of course.

Because I’ve had the experience over and over again that when I make writing my number one priority, everything else falls into place. There is magically time for the blog posts, the client work, the teaching, the creation of new products. When I’m writing regularly, there’s enough of everything—time, energy, and most of all, joy. When I’m not writing, all of those things feel in short supply.

Which is why the subject line of Skye Warren’s email caught my attention as well: “When You Want Something You Will Find a Way.” Um, yes. Turns out this part of a quote from Rachel Hollis: “When you want something you will find a way. When you don’t want something, you will find an excuse.”

Oh, ouch. Are you squirming uncomfortable like I am? Tough love (for all of us), babe. Years ago I read in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a story that illustrated this maxim. It went something to the effect that when a man is interested in a woman, he will find the time to contact her. Okay, that story sounds a bit dated in today’s current cultural climate, but those of us of a certain age know there is truth in it. It’s really very simple. If you really, really want something, you’ll make time for it. This goes for exercise, or cooking healthy meals, or spending time with loved ones, or, oh yeah, writing.

For me, thinking of my writing as my priority makes everything else fall into place. It illuminates what is most important to me, and from that all else follows. I hope making writing your priority will do the same for you.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

Somewhere, beyond the horizon they sailed.

Happenings

France 2019—Would you like to study writing in the south of France with me? You can! Find all the details 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. Lately we’ve discussed the different types of editing, memoir writing, and more.