I'm directing you away from my blog today, in order to read a guest post I wrote over at An Angel's Share. This is the blog of my dear friend, Terry Price. Terry is a wonderful writer and also a writing teacher and coach. He and I met through the Writer's Loft at MTSU. We used to be co-directors of the program and now are both mentors there.
The post is a little bit of a departure from the Emma Jean-themed posts I've been doing for others in that I talk about how I got clear on what it was I really wanted to do and found my own true north. I hope you'll check it out.
Come back tomorrow for details on a cool interview that I did!
So, there's clarity for writers, and clarity about writing.
In a post about writing clarity, I'm being clear as mud.
So let me explain.
A few days ago, I was sitting in the backyard of a friend. Gorgeous summer night, and the surroundings were gorgeous, too: neatly mowed lawn and perfectly weeded and edged garden beds.
I thought to my own backyard, which is full of flowers, but in a wild, uncontrolled way. My husband's currently working on a garden path when he has time and let's just say you might see a weed or two back there.
The comparison of my friend's perfect back yard with my own wild one made me feel bad for a bit.
But then I remembered something: earlier this year, after a valiant but losing battle with weeds in the front garden beds, I got very clear about something. And that something was that I didn't want to spend a lot of time gardening. This year I hate gardening. (I reserve the right to love it again in the future, as I have in the past.) This year I want to focus on writing my novel and working on my business.
Clarity for this writer.
Which makes my life so much easier. Because I know that I have goals other than a perfect garden in mind, I don't have to waste time making myself feel bad about it. And this goes for other things, too.
Which is where the clarity about writing comes in.
I know exactly what I want to work on in the next few months: my next novel, my writing retreats, my novel-writing class, and my coaching. You may also know exactly what you want to write, and I hope you do, because this, too, makes life easier. There's no fussing about with deciding what to do, you just do it. (If you don't know what to write, may I suggest checking out my Punch for Prompt page? Choose a prompt and write to it for 20 minutes.)
Clarity is essential for writers and writing, and if you don't have it, I suggest you work on getting it. You'll get a lot more writing done. And you can quit making yourself feel bad about the weeds.
Do you have clarity about your writing? If you reach a murky point, how do you get clear again? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
**Need clarity about your novel? My new Get Your Novel Written Now class starts August 14th, and I'd love to have you join in. You can read more about it here.
What's one of the most powerful words in the English language?
As in, deciding to do something. With all your heart and soul. And then following through and doing it. No matter what.
There's magic in that there action. Deciding and doing it.
I bet you've experienced this. I know I have. When I've absolutely, positively committed to something with no waffling, amazing things happen. The problem is that most often we don't decide. We don't commit, or we commit in a half-assed way, leaving ourselves room to weasel out if we end up not liking it.
I've been thinking a lot about this. Last week I was in Orlando, at Suzanne Evans' 10K Coaching Club intensive. Suzanne emphasizes the importance of deciding in the sales cycle and also in life. Her position is that most of us wobble through life without really making strong decisions. Not so with successful people. They make quick decisions and follow through with action.
Deciding relates to writing, too (doesn't everything?). Have you had the wonderful experience of deciding to write a story and feeling like it was almost channelled to you? Or perhaps you have committed to writing a novel, and suddenly you are in that amazing space where every ounce of determination that you have goes to writing it.
Indecision is death to writing. It is death to action. And we are a society of indecisives. To be a writer is to be decisive by the very definition of the word–you're putting words on paper, one after another, a decisive action in and of itself. Writing is intentional, and intention is decision.
Are you with me on this?
Let's all decide to be more decisive about our writing, starting right here, right now, today.
What will you decide to write?
***Something I decided to do that I feel really good about is host writing retreats with my friend and fellow writer Debbie Guyol. Our first event is in San Antonio in October. Check out more here.
I work with writers and other creative types in a variety of ways, including one-hour sessions that help them to gain clarity about their work. I do this through this very website and at events like Room to Write in Nashville, where I am the resident "book doctor" on call to guide writers.
What I find over and over again is that confusion is common amongst us and it causes angst. The two of these together make up that state often known as writer's block.
We're confused about:
Which project to write
How to write it.
When to write it.
Who to write it to.
How to get it out in the world once its written.
And this causes angst:
Because confusion creates paralysis.
Over and over again, I see this paralysis in writers. But once we wade through the vast confusions our brains sometimes present us with, clarity rules. And suddenly writing happens.
How can you gain clarity, short of hiring me or attending a retreat? Here are some tips:
1. Corral Multiple Projects. We right-brained types have a lot of ideas, and every new idea is always the best one yet. This riot of ideas is wonderful, and the envy of many left-brainers. But it can also cause us not to finish projects. Learn how many projects you can handle at once (its three for most people) and stick with that number. Make notes of new ideas that occur and trust that you'll get to them in due time.
2. Trust the Internal. The world is an external-led machine. We respond to telephone calls, tweets and emails that interrupt our flow. We worry about what others think of us. We decide we shouldn't do a project because its too controversial, too sweet, too whatever. Instead of being externally-focused, learn to be internally-focused. What's right for you? Whats the project that makes your heart leap with joy? When can you turn off the internet and the phone and focus solely on your writing?
3. Be Okay With Choice. In order to get your creative ideas into the world of form, you're going to have to learn to exercise choice. I'm the master of unfinished projects, but I'm training myself to finish them, no matter how much I fear criticism, or "failure." Learn to choose your most important project and focus on it until it's done, with a couple of other secondary projects along for the ride.
4. Chunk It Down. Rome wasn't built in a day, it was built one brick at a time. Or whatever building material they used. Looking at a huge project such as a novel can be so overwhelming you'll never get to it. But start to think of it in terms of chapters, or better yet scenes that form parts of chapters, and it looks doable.
5. Work With Time. Work on your most important project first if you can. If writing a novel is your main goal, get up early and get your work session done first thing. This reinforces the internal point-of-view mentioned above–that your work and your ideas are the most important thing.
Give these tips a try and let me know how they work out for you. And if you have some tips of your own, feel free to share them.
When writing, it is important to have a place to go.
For instance, Ernest Hemingway always ended a writing session in the middle of a sentence, thus insuring that he had a place to go when he started the next day. I've relearned this lesson over and over again in my own work. If I wrap up a chapter all nice and neat, the next day I flounder about as I start a new chapter. But if I leave myself some room to work, things go much easier.
I am embarrassed to admit how many times I've scheduled a writing session, usually first thing in the morning because that is when I like to write fiction, and come to it unprepared. And it is dangerous, for me at least, to be unprepared because that is when the internet and email beckon. (I have this bad habit of clicking over to my email inboxes or yahoo home page when I stop to think. I tell myself it is to give my brain a break, but…you can be the judge of that.)
But clarity can be ridiculously easy to come by, at least the kind required to know where you going when you turn on your computer and get ready to write. It just takes a little advance thought. So here are my best strategies for having a place to go on the page:
1. Make Notes Ahead of Time. In advance of your writing session, go through what info you've collected and make notes, either of where you are at or what you want to start. If you know you are going to be working on a character sketch for your new novel, make a few quick notes. Your amazing subconscious mind will take what you've written and start working on more.
2. Read Your Work Over. Re-read what you've read, the night before if you can. (This works especially great if you are going to get up and write first thing.) Reading your work over reminds you of where you are, so you don't have to reinvent everything during your writing session.
3. Make Like Hemingway. Don't write to the end of a chapter. Stop a few paragraphs short. You can even go so far as to stop in the middle of a sentence, like Ernie did. This automatically gives you a place to go.
4. Carry Your Work With You. When I'm in the full heat of working on a novel, I carry the little spiral that I use for notes around with me everywhere. Not only is it at the ready if I have an idea, but there's something about the act of carrying it around that acknowledges the novel's importance and keeps it front and center in my brain.
So those are my thoughts on always being ready. What are yours? Comment away. And keep the phrase, have a place to go, in your fertile brains because I'm coming back to it tomorrow.