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November 30, 2011
For the past two days (plus today) I have been answering questions in the Writer’s Retreat Workshop on “Destressing the Writing Life.” You still have time to post a question today–or just pop by to read some of the discussion threads.
This subject isn’t just about destressing during the holidays. Frankly, we lead such busy lives these days that there are precious few “slower” months in the calendar year. You need to know how to destress your writing life every day.
In the workshop we’ve talked about such things as:
- stress caused by the flood of information on writing, publishing and marketing
- stress caused by the new social marketing–and how much is worthwhile
- setting goals that motivate without stressing you out
- handling multiple deadlines more easily
- critique groups–and how to benefit from them without adding stress to your writing life
- scheduling your writing day when juggling things like chores and a day job
- unexpected stress that comes with success
Check It Out!
If you have other questions on this topic that you’d like to see discussed, post them at the Writer’s Retreat Workshop before the day is out–and I’ll meet you there!
November 28, 2011
Nothing comes from nothing. If you’re having trouble with creative OUTput, it could well be because you have little creative INput.
I know–because that’s been my problem the past few months. I’ve been trying to fish from an empty pond. I’ve been trying to draw a drink of cool water from an empty well. The creative juices just aren’t flowing. (Why are all the metaphors for creativity liquid?)
Refresh Your Soul
“How do you enhance the creative power in your life?” asks Thomas KinKade in Lightposts for Living. “The starting point for all creative acts…is to live life and pay attention!” Get outdoors, study the birds and flowers and insects and rain up close. Go to museums and art galleries. Thumb through photos.
Katherine Paterson, award-winning children’s author, went so far as to say she didn’t even believe in writer’s block. She said that the thing that freezes a writer’s soul and leaves her staring in panic at a blank computer screen is writer’s starvation. If you need more creative “juice,” fill your mind and heart with sights, sounds, ideas, images, and experiences.
With the holidays ahead of us, you might be thinking, “Yeah, right, like I’m going to have time to go fill my creative well with images!” Don’t think of it as an added “thing to do,” but as a mind-set.
When you’re out shopping or going to school programs, take time to really look at the people…the decorations. When carols play over the WalMart loudspeakers, stop briefly and listen (or sing along). Make time to go to a Christmas concert. (My favorite one during the holidays is when my son-in-law plays in the Tubameisters’s concert on the Riverwalk.)
Take time to fill your mind and heart with sights, sounds, ideas, images, and experiences. And when 2012 rolls around, you’ll be ready to write–and you’ll have something to write about.
November 26, 2011
Starting yesterday, I split my two Facebook pages. From now on, the site for my “friends” will be less frequent, but more personal.
All the writing posts, quotes, tips, advice, and “writing chatter” will be posted on my page at KristiHollBooks which you will need to “like” if you want to keep getting the writing stuff. Then my Facebook friends who aren’t writers won’t be bothered by all the writing posts.
Just to be clear…you have to go to KristiHollBooks and press the “like” button at the top of the page to keep getting the writing posts and be part of those discussions. Or click the “like” button at the end of this post.
Thanks for making the switch now. I don’t want to lose anyone!
November 25, 2011
While eating your turkey and pumpkin pie left-overs today, here are some terrific articles to boost your creativity, rise above your writing fears, be encouraged in marketing your novel, and keep on keeping on!
Fourth week pep talk from a published author who uses NaNoWriMo in his own unique way–four great lessons learned here.
Blogs may be easy for nonfiction writers, but what about novelists? What is there to blog about? See this article on 13 Blog Post Ideas for Novelists.
Week three pep talk on how to keep going, knowing when to quit, and more.
Oh what to do about our writer’s fears? The title says it all! [I had read this before and got just as much out of reading it again. It's a good one to mark and re-read occasionally.]
As I said on Wednesday, this holiday weekend would be a good time to think ahead to your 2012 writing goals. The articles above will give you good things to consider. I’m excited to be heading into the new year with you!
November 23, 2011
This is the big weekend for putting up Christmas lights and (if you have the stamina) hitting the malls to start your Christmas shopping. Before you do that–while there is still a bit of sand left in the hour glass–let me suggest that you do one more thing this holiday weekend.
What Christmas writing wish would you like to see come true in 2012? It’s not too early to think about this. As the pace of the holiday season takes over, you’ll tend to put the writing on the back burner. Suddenly it will be 2012! This may be your last unrushed moment to think about your writing goals for next year.
Nearly eleven months of 2011 are over. I’m sure you had writing goals for this year. Where are you at this point? I highly encourage you to review your goals and take stock. Make a clear, detailed, written description of your current writing life.
Then create a detailed image of your future perfect writing life. What are some projects you’d love to work on? What are your secret writing dreams? Make a list.
To go from where you are to where you want to be as a writer, two things are critical. One has to do with your feelings, and the other has to do with your will.
Two Requirements for Fulfilled Writing Dreams
First, you need an overwhelming desire to change something in your life. (Perhaps you want to get on a regular writing schedule. Maybe you want to submit the finished stories hidden in your desk. Possibly you’re ready to find an agent.) Whatever your goals, the more specific, the better.
Second, you must be determined to move from wishing and hoping to taking action. It’s as simple as cause and effect: you must do something different (cause) in order to develop the writing life of your dreams (effect). This determination will also involve developing good habits to support, nurture, and sustain your changes. (These habits might include eating right, getting sufficient exercise and sleep, and curtailing time wasters like too much TV and Web surfing. I’ve been working on such a list this past week myself.)
Time to Take Action
This week, think about what habits you may need to implement–and which ones you may need to eliminate–to support your writing goals for 2012. Remember to take baby steps as you make changes. (January’s goal might be to write 20 minutes per day. February’s goal might be 30 minutes of daily writing, etc.)
Make the most of the remaining days to prepare yourself for your most successful writing year yet–in 2012.
November 21, 2011
I’ve had inquiries this month about critique openings after Christmas. I’m now filling time slots in January through March. At the website page you’ll find the particulars (what and how I critique, how long it takes, cost, etc.)
This news comes with a “warning”.
What’s this about crying and throwing things???
It’s in a quote from an author/editor who was talking about being critiqued. (Editors used to have time to do the lengthy critiques I now do for writers–five or six single-spaced pages of overall concerns as well as craft problems and line edits.) Being thoroughly critiqued is hard on everyone–no matter how much you’ve been published! On the other hand, if they’re not thorough, a critique isn’t worth your money.
Curse and Cry Period
Here’s what she said–and take it to heart:
“I tell writers whose work I edit that they should allow themselves a curse-and-cry period. This is after they receive the edited manuscript back from me. You’re never truly prepared for that marked-up manuscript. You’re immediately mad and crushed when you see all the things either that you didn’t do right or that this stupid reader didn’t understand. Criticism always hurts at some level. So let it hurt. Cry and throw things–I do–and then after you’ve vented and can calm down, go back and look at every mark and ask yourself each time if there’s any merit at all to this correction or question.” (Vinita Hampton Wright in The Soul Tells a Story.)
My Goal and Yours
If you have a manuscript that you feel is ready to be critiqued, I’d be glad to hear from you. I just like to forewarn people that I’m thorough. I’m not cruel and I try not to be blunt, and I always first point out the things you do well. But my goal is to help you pull your manuscript up to a more professional level so it can compete well in the marketplace.
One of my happiest times is when I get a package in the mail that turns out to be an autographed book inscribed with “thank you so much for your help in getting this book published…” My most recent gift was a thank-you note and a hardcover copy of Chasing the Nightbird (Peachtree Publishers) by Atlanta author, Krista Russell. I don’t know if she cried or threw things when she got my critique back, but she worked hard to make changes, and it paid off in a beautiful book.
Curse…cry…throw things if you need to. Then take a deep breath, re-vision your story, and get to work! You’ll be glad you did.
November 18, 2011
Before NaNoWriMo started, I took lots of time to think about my novel idea, do character sketches and backgrounds and goals and motives, read about scene structure and plotting, research the setting and background, and write a loose plot line. I was ready!
It was fun for nearly two weeks.
Writer’s Block Re-visited
About Day 12 of National Novel Writing Month, I hit a snag. Something didn’t feel right. I pushed ahead, determined to over-ride resistance and do my allotted daily words. It worked. Each following day, though, it felt worse. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I used every anti-procrastination trick I knew, including Procrastination Tip: Jump In! Although I was able to put down the daily quota of words, I knew I hadn’t fixed what was wrong.
By Day 15 I couldn’t write. Nothing. Calling myself names, eating chocolate, going for walks, moaning to a writer friend–nothing budged the block. I couldn’t get past the insistent feeling that something was wrong.
On my book shelf was a book I’d never read, and so I picked up On Writer’s Block: A New Approach to Creativity by Victoria Nelson. I didn’t feel a lot of hope until I read this in the first few pages: “Writers, when they are not writing, tend to think of themselves in a number of ways, all bad. They are–so they think–lazy, undisciplined shirkers, failures, cowardly frauds…However, properly interpreted, a block is the best thing that can happen to a writer. Resistance is a vital regulator of the creative process because it obliges us to suspend our plans and reconsider.”
Hmmm…maybe instead of pushing myself to keep writing, I should stop calling myself names and “suspend my plan and reconsider.” So that’s what I did. I stopped trying to make my daily quota of new words, backed up so I could see a longer view, and studied the book idea again. I didn’t see the problem right away. In fact, it didn’t dawn on me until I was washing dishes that night.
Mid-way through the book I had changed themes.
How’d That Happen?
This book idea had been on my back burner for a couple of years, and when I first thought of it, my theme was one thing. Last year when I re-worked the book idea, I saw a much better theme that would tie together the plot and two sub-plots. Because I had salvaged some of the first outline, I started out that way, but midway through the novel, my new theme showed up, causing a 90-degree turn in the plot which took the story off in another direction. If I kept going with my outline, I could now see that the story would never hang together. I had started out making one point, but the new ending was going to show something else entirely.
That was the “something wrong” I had sensed. That was the reason I was blocked in NaNo Land. And pushing through the roadblock my writer’s mind had thrown up wasn’t the answer. I needed to stop writing, go back to my outline, and think some more. I needed to “suspend my plans and reconsider.” That’s what I’ve been doing the last few days. I think I see how the problem can be fixed, but I really need to stop, go back, and fix some early chapters to see if it will all hang together by the end.
What To Do?
I hate to do that, because barring some miracle that cancels Thanksgiving and gives November 40 days this year, I won’t make it successfully to the “winner’s circle” in NaNo Land. But that’s okay. Last year I pushed through and kept going and made it to the finish line, but I still have a manuscript that I haven’t been able to revise. I don’t want another story like that.
Next week I will get going again, but if I don’t make it to the 50,000 word mark November 30, I will let myself off the hook. When I’m done, I would much rather have a book I like and can revise–even if my National Novel Writing Month finishes at Christmas!
November 16, 2011
Grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and give yourself permission to read something uplifting and helpful for fifteen minutes. Here’s a variety of posts, covering several subjects dear to the creative heart. Enjoy!
How to Avoid the Power of the Drift talks about the value of planning your life–and the dangers of NOT planning. You won’t “drift” into the writing life of your dreams.
The Week Three Pep Talk from NaNoWriMo by Deb Olin Unferth is full of great practical tips on how to keep going on your novel.
Ten Timeless Books for An Organized Mind gives you a great selection of books on getting organized and getting the writing done. (I already own #3, #5, #6, and #8. I just ordered #4 to learn how to de-clutter my mind!)
Procrastination is an artist’s site, but the issue concerns all creative pursuits. It ends with a great one-minute video showing procrastination in all its glory.
November 14, 2011
I’ve noticed one amazing thing about myself and other writers who claim to want to write more than anything else. Something odd takes over, and we fill the free time of our lives with all kinds of non-writing activities. We reach for things that make us feel good, that quell any anxiety we might be feeling, or at least keep us occupied.
What fills our lives–what quells our anxiety–can be either positive or negative. The activity we choose can be either a pacifier or a catalyst.
What’s the Outcome?
Activities that fall under the heading of “pacifiers” are things like mindless TV viewing, complaining about the sad state of publishing to all your writing friends, eating mass amounts of comfort food, surfing the Net, playing video games, or shopping till you drop.
Nothing good (for your writing career) comes from any of those activities. They serve simply as pacifiers, something to make the whining, fretful baby in us be quiet. But are we then any closer to our writing goals? No, not at all. We’ve simply passed some time–writing time that we can’t get back.
Positive Time Fillers
What if you’re tired of your non-writing rut, but you can’t seem to crawl out of it either? What can you fill your free time with instead of a pacifier activity? Why not try a catalyst instead? A catalyst is a springboard for change, something that nudges you in a better direction. The next time you feel anxious about your writing and you want to fill your time with something to soothe the fear, why not try a positive change agent?
Activities that fall into the catalyst category might include:
- watching an inspiring movie about an “overcomer”
- spending time with a writing mentor or coach
- reading an inspirational book or self-help writing book
- listening to motivational tapes
- reading a biography or watching a documentary about someone you admire (especially another writer)
- reading a current copy of The Writer or Writer’s Digest
- attending a writing conference, retreat or workshop
Think Ahead–Then Choose
We all feel anxious sometimes to the point of being stuck. That’s okay. Just be aware that there are activities that only pacify the fear (and waste your time)–but there are also enjoyable activities that can act as catalysts to get you writing. Choose the activity that is going to propel you forward, not help you stagnate even further.
We all have our favorite catalysts. Mine include reading inspirational writing books or writing articles I’ve saved over the years, Skyping with another author about writing issues, or watching a movie about authors (like Becoming Jane, Cross Creek, Finding Forrester, Finding Neverland, or Miss Potter).
What is your favorite pacifier–and what’s the effect on your writing? On the positive side, what is your most helpful catalyst and its effect on your writing? Please share some ideas that work best for you.
November 11, 2011
People often tell me that I’m very productive, so it was a shock recently to take a procrastination test and come out in the top 10% of procrastinators!
It said I scored 80 out of 100 possible points and “when it comes to putting things off, you often do so even though you know you shouldn’t… Though you are likely incredibly productive just before a deadline, you might not get all your work done and there is a lot of unwanted stress.”
Procrastination: Who, Me?
I wanted to mutter “stupid test,” but I was aware that certain bad writing habits (dare I call it procrastination?) were affecting the quality of my work. Oh, I got the writing done, but too often lately the quality was less than it could be because I delayed starting. I was submitting writing that was less than my best because it was hurried.
I think I had deluded myself into thinking there was no problem because I was busy all the time. I am never late with the educational writing, and usually early. I am never late for my M-W-F blogs or paid critiques. I don’t even procrastinate on writing nonfiction books. Just fiction. Just the “pulling words out of thin air and making up people and whole worlds” kind of writing.
Check Yourself Out
Why is getting started so hard? In a magazine article on procrastination in Children’s Writer, the following quote struck me as true–of me, anyway:
“In many cases, we procrastinate because we are anxious about the work at hand. It seems too difficult or onerous. ‘The hardest part of any task is the first five minutes. It’s like cold water. It’s just getting in that’s the hard part. Once you’re in, the water feels great,’ says Steel [a university professor who studies procrastination]. ‘Usually after procrastinating, once people finally get around to the task, they say, ‘I don’t know why I thought this would be so much worse than it was.’”
That struck me as true, so this week I’ve been starting my NaNoWriMo writing by setting a timer for just five minutes. Then I write furiously for five minutes, with permission to quit if I hate it at the end of five minutes. Have I stopped yet when the timer went off? No. I’m on a roll by then, and it wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d made it in my mind.
Why do we do this to ourselves over and over? It feels silly to have to “trick” my muse with a kitchen timer. But hey, it works, so I’ll probably keep doing it until I find something that works better!
What about you? What tricks do YOU use to get started?Newer Posts »