Monday, February 21, 2011

Slump -O- Rama

So, it's not that I don't like writing.
That's like saying I don't like coffee.
Neither one is true, and neither will ever happen in my lifetime.

However, when things around my life get busy -- things that have nothing to do with writing-- it seems that this is not only the first thing to go, but the first thing I don't want to do.

Okay, so sometimes I do want to write, especially when things get out-of-whack. It's an outlet of sorts; to get away from what I find myself so wrapped up in, and I can escape to a world of unreality.

But more often than not, like right now, I just can't get the will power to sit down and write anything major. Why am I telling you this? Because, going through a dry spell, a writers' slump, is a normal thing.

We go through periods of writing non-stop for days, thousands and thousands of words, only to look back a week later and wonder how we did that and now, more importantly, how we are going to write one measly sentence.

Here's the thing: if this is you right now, don't despair.

Currently, I too am sort of in this predicament. I can write for short -- very short-- moments, but my life beyond writing, the one that I'm more involved in now, is sapping my energy and creativity.

Many times this past week, I've terrified myself over the thought: What if I never get back that urge to write? What if my zeal for creating new worlds and characters disappears for good?

It won't. I won't. And it won't happen to you either.

Phases. That's what life is about. The Bible even talks about this sort of thing : "A time to weep, a time to laugh ... a time to be silent and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:4,7, NIV). King Solomon wrote those words, and he was -- and is-- still considered to be the wisest person of all time.

If HE had a bad day -- a day where writing was the last thing he wanted or felt he could do -- then, by all means, we are no different. When I think of this, I don't feel so bad. After all, he wrote books in the bible!

I almost didn't write this post because my circumstances seemed more pressing -- and even more enticing --than sloshing out words onto the screen in front of me.

But, here they are. And I feel a little better.  Many times, getting going is all we have to hurdle past and many times, that isn't a hurdle we feel like jumping over. The writing slump is what it is.

And it's okay.

Take the time to recuperate, restore your creativity, and wait for revelation for future writing. Because it will come. And when it does, be ready to write for a long, and fulfilling, time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Heart of Writing

One of the last resolutions I talked about --in my first post of the year (click here)-- was to find a way to sit down and write a letter or note (amidst our busy life) by hand. A real letter. A real written letter.

As in, to write it: as in pen to paper sort of thing.

The idea is so vague and distorted now -- as if it were a dinosaur that we don’t want to reckon with anymore -- that we seem old-fashioned if we write something out, even a thank you note. But, if you really want to appreciate the art form of writing again, then that dino needs to remain alive and active and not extinct.

Because today is Valentine’s Day, let us briefly discuss this idea of actual writing. If you have a loved one, someone you cherish and are planning on celebrating Valentine’s day with (or even if you’re not and just wanting to wish them a happy day) then you better have actually written out that note.

Text messages and e-mails, in my humble opinion, don’t count.

Whip out a red or white piece of paper, get some stickers, or hey, go buy a card, and then sit down and write something sweet. It doesn’t need to be long, just nice, sincere and yes, heartfelt.

Now, wasn’t that nice? You just utilized a communication device of old: real hand-writing!

Happy Valentine’s day all my writing friends, and it’s not too late to get a card, write something fantastically simple, and make someone else think you are the most thoughtful and old-school cool (in the good, non-Dino kind of way) person in their life.

And I’m thinking that might just warm your heart a little bit too.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jane Austen Writing Contest

Do you LOVE Jane Austens' work?

Do you LOVE writing?

Do you have a secret dream to write just like her? (Or in my case, to jump at the opportunity to write like Austen because it is so ridiculously hard?)

Then check out this great contest called Write Like Jane, where your love for both Austen and writing make a perfect combination ... just like Ms. Bennet and Darcy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Being Book Smart

I had good intentions last year to read a book a week. That's 52 books. It really shouldn't have been an issue. Certainly I could find something worth reading, with the library so close by. And that there were tons of things I loved to read about, well, I had this 2010 New Year's resolution in the bag!

I fell very short of that goal.

And it is why I revamped my goals for this year (by a lot) to only one book a month.

Before you tell me that this can't be right, that it seems rather extreme, like I should be horrified at reading so little, don't say it. At this point in my life, with a dog, my busy kids, cooking, housekeeping, working, editing ... reading has almost become laborious. In 2010, I forced myself to be something I wanted to be, and was still failing. After failing my own others-driven goal, I knew I had a problem.

It is understood that writers are supposed to read. This is a school-driven, author-proven, writer-demanded way of living and thinking. And yet, after reading through my kids homework, reading (and editing) other people's work, reading how to un-train the dog from jumping over guests, and reading how to use my newest appliance, or how to remedy my kids' latest sickness, me sitting down to read for fun just isn't fun anymore. I'm too dang tired to read by then.

That's sad. But, I don't want it to be this way. I LOVE reading. It's what made me want to be a writer; it's what makes me strive to write the book I want to write so that others can feel as refreshingly escaped into that far-away place, and return happier for it. I want that back!

But I don't want to feel guilty for not reading either.

So, in order to relax but also to make myself do something for me, I'm setting a goal of a book a month -- a fun, silly, serious, crazy or out of this world book -- and have it by my bed for me to read not because I'm fulfilling a goal, or having to do one more thing, but because it is good for me to read - for me. And even if it is just two pages a day.

I may not even make it to a book a month. It might be a book every two months. But, it is a goal worth pursing because it is about reading for fun; reading to get lost; reading to be someone else and remember why I love it so much. Readers make better writers. This is true. But not to the point when they dread it.

Without sounding like a public health announcement or a "Mother's Against Illiteracy" commercial, (Yeah, like my own illiteracy!) get out there and read for fun -- that is to say, when you can, and at your own pace and leisure, of course.

Happy reading.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Editing and Your Teeth

That title seems horribly incongruous. Yet, I mean every word of it. Let me start this post by asking you a question: Can editing really be your friend?

Let me ask a second question: Is editing really necessary?

Well, here's another question to think about while you ponder the veracity of the first two: Does the sun rise every morning?

The answer to the third question is the answer to the other two as well. Yes.

You must edit. You must go back and get rid of the excess. You must face the daunting task of wiping away scores of words from your computer -- the very words that fill your heart with joy. You MUST do this because those superfluous words do nothing for the story. As in, they are only there because it sounds good.

Sounding good is really not good, in the literary world. Because most of the time when you think you sound good, you sound like a prolific seal, barking up a storm over nothing. And that, my friends, is no good. Good writing comes from knowing how to edit your words. Plain and simple.

Editing is like brushing your teeth. Really. You have to take care of your teeth to keep them healthy and shiny. That means brushing, flossing, rinsing and more. If you don't, you've got one heck of an ugly mess that needs massive amounts of fixing just to see the start of original, pretty teeth.

Your manuscript is your teeth. No one wants to look at ugly teeth or be near bad breath. It's the same with your writing. Your first draft -- and sometimes second and third with insufficient editing -- are your teeth with gingivitis. No good.

Instead, you have to clean them, polish them and make them shine. And when you do, your writing will be like that magnificent, white smile that gleams from the fake television commercials like fresh snow.

Yes, you have to edit if you want to be a writer. Yes, the sun rises. And yes, you should brush your teeth. Talk about incongruous, and yet, I think you understand my point, right?

Get out there and brush, or rather, edit your stuff. Make editing your best friend.

You'll thank that "best friend editor within" when you get that book deal, or writing gig, and someone needs a headshot or interview and you'll have an awesome batch of shiny, sparkling material to go with your batch of shiny, sparkling teeth.