Inspirational Posts

Finding Your Passion by Cindy Scott

What do you want to do? It’s a very open-ended question. Do you mean right now? Or next week? Next year? Something that involves writing maybe? Give me something to work with here. No? Okay, I guess I can’t make this intro write itself. What do I want to do? Find my passion. I decided to be a sponsor for this Round of A Round of Words in 80 Days because I want to be able to inspire others to find their passion, as I was inspired to do. Right now I want your attention for the duration of this post. Hear me out, Dear Readers, it will be worth it!

How many times have you said you wanted to write a novel or publish said novel (or anything)? I know there were a good many times that I tried to write, but would lose interest with what I was doing or just get busy. It wasn’t until later that I realized I wasn’t inspired and lacked passion. I was doing the things that I enjoyed, but I didn’t realize what I really wanted. It can be really easy to lose sight of dreams if you don’t know what it is you want.

So, how did I find it?

It started with one person. Me! It started with me, because I chose to take a path and that path came via my friend Vickie. Maybe it during some of those late night Facebook chats about wanting to be a writer? She saw something, I think. She sent me a book and told me to read it. Thinking maybe it could help, she told me to give it a read and see if it could help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I am not one for self-help books, but I took this little 100 page e-book. It was a story of a writer/artist and how he had learned that the secret (one of many to come) to finding your (his) passion was easy.

He found out what was standing in his way.

 

“If you really want to do something, no one can stop you. But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.” 

 

Those words, they hit me pretty hard, truthfully, because I suddenly knew what was missing and standing in my way. ME!  There was a period where I tried figure it out what it was. It was me and my missing passion. Sometime later I started my blog. I had also just finish directing a show and the post show crash was hitting my hard and I need something (think therapeutic). Here I started to write…

Something else, when someone tells you that they believe in you, it makes you feel good, right? The person who gave me the book said it; the author of that book also said it. Suddenly I started to believe it. I could be a writer. I am a writer.

 

“Live deliberately. Decide: are you the kind of person things happen to, or the kind of person who makes things happen?”

 

That author, James Owen, said a lot of things in that little book, Drawing Out the Dragons. Then I realized I wanted to be that person. I wanted to live and to write deliberately. When you see it, you want it, and thus you need to good for it. Don’t let the little voices stop you, especially if those voices come from you stop you. I think I spent too much time listening to those voices; those little what-ifs are nasty little creatures. Powerful too!

Do you want it? I know I do.

It’s not always easy. It’s a battle. Sometimes you will find obstacles and speed bumps. Some days you may not want to write a single word and that’s okay. You want to know why? Because some days are not going to yield a high word count, or your muse goes on vacation, or sometimes you haven’t decided what you want yet. And you know what, that’s okay too! There really is no set plan to when you do anything. It’s just when you decide to do it, you just do it.

James had plenty of those days. Me too. But you know what?

 

“Sometimes a catastrophe is simply a course correction.” 

 

Even when there are those days when the worst happens, the catastrophe, you can still say, “I didn’t write today. It was a bad day, but tomorrow I will write.” That’s right! Every day is new and a blank canvas to create a new poem, a new story, a new painting, whatever you choose. I have had many a false start, a dead end, and half fulfilled promises. But, since finding my passion, I try to live deliberately. And it works! That catastrophe is often when the good rises from the bad. That course correction sometimes allows you to meet a publisher in your favourite coffee shop and strike up a conversation, meet your soul mate, or maybe inspiration for the novel that has been dancing around your head for forever.

Also, it is never too late. NEVER!

See, I wrote my first poem when I was about sevenish. I don’t have that poem anymore, but later in 8th grade I wrote two poems for a class project. From there I wrote in high school and college. I did spend plenty of time not writing, but that is okay too. I found out things about myself, made mistakes, and got a little dirty in the process. I then tried new things, like writing for the college paper for one semester and wrote my first one act play in 2011. I made choices. Sometimes they weren’t the right ones, but they did make me into who I am. And eventually I found my passion.

If I can give you any advise, Dear Readers, it is this: choose to live with a purpose, find your passion and go for it. It might take some time, but the key is, don’t give up. James didn’t. I didn’t either.

Finally I leave you with some words…I believe in you.

~*~

Cindy Scott

Ars Longa by Elizabeth Mitchell

That lyf so short,

the craft so long to learne,

Th’ assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge.

The Parliament of Fowls 1. Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343-1400).

Chaucer is paraphrasing Hippocrates, taken most likely from Seneca’s Latin rendering, “Ars longa, vita brevis,” in De Brevitate Vitae sect. 1. (Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, edited by Elizabeth Knowles. 5th edition, Oxford University Press, 2001).

One misunderstanding I hear many people voice is if one can get enough words on the page, one can write a novel.  Often those same people point to Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants as a NaNo novel, as if it sprang in galley proof off her computer screen on November 30th.  I do not know Sara Gruen, but I do not believe she e-mailed the draft to an agent on December 1st. However, I continue to meet far too many people who think their first draft is their last draft, although humans have known since the time of Hippocrates (circa 460-357 BCE) that art is difficult to master. Our own Beth Camp wrote this wonderfulpost about her multiple drafts this past winter, and Julie Rowe has this post on the focuses of the seven to eight separate drafts in her revision process. Yes, that is not a typo: seven to eight drafts. Therefore, I hate to disappoint, but writing 50,000 words in a month, or even a year, does not mean one has a ready-to-publish novel at the end of composition.

So, am I counseling giving up?  Not at all. I do counsel being realistic, in that any piece of writing will take learning, rewriting, more learning, more rewriting, in what will come to feel like an endless cycle worthy of one of Dante’s circles.

My other piece of advice comes from another clause of the quotation: “That lyf so short.” Start now. Life is short, and each year picks up velocity for me in some manner explicable only by science fiction. I have also had far too many object lessons on the fragility of life in the past two years. There is hard work to do, and eternity stretches before no one on earth.  My advice? Believe me, I am giving myself this advice as much as I am you, gentle reader. If you have a story to tell, start telling it, even if badly, even while learning to make it better, because time waits for no man, woman, or child.

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

Be Writers of Action

(We were short inspirational posts this round, and I’m slammed at work, so I’m leaving you with more inspirational quotes. ~Kait)

I don’t mean that you should necessarily write action adventure stories.  I mean that you should take action.  Don’t be ruled by fear.  Use ROW80 and our community here to take steps toward those dreams, every day, no matter how small.

Motivation

We are short an inspirational post this round–not sure if gremlins ate it, if I miscounted the number of sponsor I had, or if I dropped a ball somewhere (given all the traveling I’m doing for the evil day job, that’s totally possible), so I’m leaving you with some brief words of wisdom from Henry Ford.  Keep writing, y’all.

whether-you-think-you-can-or-think-you-cant-youre-right

Taking Inspiration from the Beginning: How to Move Past a Stalled Draft by Beth Camp

Thank you, Beth, for pinch hitting this round!

StartWhereYouAre

Photo of Bay View, Lake Pond Oreille, Idaho (Camp 2015).

 

Back when I taught a class or two of literature, I read somewhere that a truly great writer sets the theme of the whole story in the very first paragraph. My students didn’t believe me. So we tried analyzing a few opening paragraphs. There to our surprise, the writers had laid out the theme, subtly, of course, but in a few phrases, the basic conflict, mood, and genre of the story was implied.

Since then, I’ve discovered setting this not-quite-hook applies to even my own ugliest of drafts.

So why am I thinking about theme, conflict, character arc, and that opening hook today? Because my current novel — 90,000 words on paper — languishes. The appropriate ending escapes me. So I’m deep in revision, as Adrienne Rich said so poignantly, “Re-vision-the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction . . . .”

Where did I go wrong? I used those 3×5 cards to front-end engineer the overall structure, wrote character studies for all main characters, had a blast writing the chapters, letting the words flow more or less in line with those plotting cards, and revised to my heart’s content so that each scene would sing true to the story.

But, somehow caught up in chronicling what happened next, I lost sight of my characters’ motivations, their hopes and dreams, their flaws.

The last chapters found my two main characters facing each other across an abyss of irreconcilable differences at a time (mid-19th Century), when friendly divorce was unheard of. I hoped for a happy resolution. Alas, not even a great heart would forgive a man for taking another wife and fathering children, all of whom yet lived. And I didn’t want to maim the male character as a cosmic excuse for seeking comfort, or kill him off to create a wound my female character would necessarily need to heal.

So setting aside the drama, I’ve begun re-vision. Surprisingly, my process has led right back to the beginning, that opening chapter, that opening scene, those first few words that paint the essential conflict between my two main characters. I offer my process here in the hopes you may find it useful.

Draft a theme and blurb – without looking at your stalled draft. Name the key characters and the key conflict that underpins the whole story.

Rewrite the synopsis of each chapter as it is – so the whole story as it unfolds is absolutely clear and on ‘paper’.

Read through the chapter synopsis once to get a sense of the ‘big picture.’ Underline main characters and key conflicts so you can see where they appear, what they’re doing (and maybe why). Think again about their relationships, inner motivations, and flaws. Note: I was surprised to “see” that the main conflicts between my main characters didn’t emerge right away at all. Yet all through the drafting stage, I had thought these conflicts were obvious.

Make notes (pencil, pen, or virtual CAPS on that word-processed page) for anything that’s missing or seems a bit off. Add a brief description of what needs to be in this section, this chapter, this scene.

Write a synopsis of each section. Analyze how all fits together to support that theme you drafted at the beginning. OK, revise the theme if it no longer fits the story (or plan to revise the story so it supports the theme).

Ruthlessly chop away any chapter or scene that doesn’t belong. Note: I’m a chicken at this stage. I have a separate file named “scenes not used” that’s organized by chapter. In reality, I’ve never used any scene once moved to this file, but it serves as a kind of safety net, reassuring me that my work is not lost.

Write those new scenes. Refine the opening once again. Edit, edit, edit!

 

Once you are satisfied the opening, the story overall, and the ending are all cohesive, and the writing at this stage is the best you can create, send the whole draft out to your beta readers and look forward to another revision or two or three. Then, celebrate the ending of this story with another beginning – your next book.

Following this process (steps 1-5) has taken me about three weeks. I’m feeling better about my characters, the story I want to tell, and how it all fits together. Would it have been easier to have planned the story ahead of time? I still wonder. Since I’m currently writing historical fiction, the facts of a particular time shape the story. Maybe next time, though, I’ll write more productively. Or, maybe this is just how I work, slowly, very slowly.

Maybe you’ve never experienced a draft that simply stalled – rather like the sun not rising in the east or the snow geese not returning at winter. But just maybe my comments will help you to move past plot holes with aplomb.  That’s my hope.

A final note: I do subscribe to a few of those inspiring writerly newsletters (see links below for a few of my favorites). This week, Roz Morris suggested that our characters – at the very beginning of the story – need to appear “off balance.” Her post “How to add jeopardy to your story BEFORE the main conflict starts” says that by beginning with a sense of unease or instability, readers connect more intensely with our characters and identify with their conflicts. Her article gave me another layer to add to writing about my characters and helped me understand that elusive deep point of view.

Meanwhile, we each tell our stories from the heart, revising and learning the craft of writing as we persevere. May your writing go well!

A few blogs to check out:

 ~*~

Beth Camp

 

Own Who You Are By Elizabeth Mitchell

I grew up in the bad old days when properly brought up ladies did not boast. How that plays out in real life is one diminishes one’s accomplishments, but also turns away compliments. So when I hear, “Nice writing,” I reply with, “It’s nothing special.” It’s the writer’s equivalent of responding “This old thing?” to a compliment about a dress. August McLaughlin said some very nice words about a review I wrote of her Girl Boner podcasts.  My instinctive reaction came immediately to the fore, and I deflected her praise. Finally I realized it was impolite to reject her kind words, so I managed to say thank you.

 

Most of my family knows nothing about my writing, partly because it would be boasting to do anything to call attention to myself, or to talk about my accomplishments. I spent a lot of time conflicted about my writing, but I scribbled in notebooks in solitude and put them in drawers away from sight. It remained a secret conflict for decades.

 

I was at my brother’s wake when my secret came into the open. As I reacquainted myself with my nephew’s mother-in-law, she said, “Oh, you’re the writer.” I wanted to fall through the floor, or insist, “Not me,” but part of me refused to deny it. I don’t know to this day how my brother knew my secret. For a second, I was angry at him for telling his friends about me, but I quickly realized he must have been proud of my baby steps toward being a writer. Instead of denying it, I stood up a little straighter, and said, “Yes, I’m the writer.”

 

Exposing ourselves as writers swirls many feelings into conflict. Many of us are introverts, and uncomfortable with exposure. Publishing makes us vulnerable to the bad review, but the good review has its own danger, where one feels the pressure to keep writing more good books as the audience begins to expect them. And even if one writes well, one has to write fast, before the audience moves on to another author.

 

Even before we have published a work, we twist ourselves in knots over the pressure to succeed by building and keeping an audience. Another lesson from my childhood was I had to hide how smart I was, since I didn’t have beauty to cover for my brains. Since my inner nerd rampages through my writing, I worry that my posts and my fiction are too boring.

 

Also, writing carries its own vulnerability, because one has to look deep into oneself, to contemplate the wounds and scars within.  I realized I was not alone in this struggle when Shan’s post appeared, writing about the exact podcast on which I based my review of August’s podcasts, and talking about how hard it was for her to be vulnerable.  I opened my blog reader this morning to find that Shan has written a followup post where she describes how the comments and social media reaction to her earlier post are encouraging her to continue her baby steps to self-revelation.

 

With all the support I’ve gotten in the past from the RoW80 group and other writers, I’m slowly coming out of my cave. I am now saying to myself, “Own who you are.  Tell the people who matter to you that you are a writer.” It’s scary after so many years of hiding, but I believe it is a necessary step to writing with more authenticity and embracing the vulnerability that accompanies writing. I encourage all the RoWers to assess when one is hiding for whatever reason, and to make a small step to come out to the lip of the cave with me.

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

#ROW80: Advice From My Years of Teaching by Bev Baird

Stepping away from writing and blogging for several weeks was necessary, but for weeks before that I was out of sync with my goals. I was letting the gremlins in my mind dictate what and when I wrote.

As my situation improve and I contemplated a return to more regular routines of writing and blogging, I thought back to my years as an elementary teacher. I loved teaching and even today, I still miss being in the classroom, working with young children.

I realized as well that there were many lessons I could learn from my teaching of writing in the classroom. Children who wrote daily had little fear of words or spelling or technique. They just wrote and seemed to be inspired by the world around them. I need to follow their lead.

Here are some of the lessons I need to embrace:

  1. Writer’s Notebook

At the beginning of the school year, I gave each child a composition book to use to record thoughts, feelings and learnings. Each of us decorated the covers to make the books unique and then we used these daily.

I need to have my own notebook and get back to recording my ideas, thoughts, feelings and learnings about writing in one central spot and use it daily.

 

  1. Mentor Texts

I always began a writing lesson with a mentor text which lead into discussions of theme, techniques, and special words.

I need to continue reading books and discover my own mentor texts.

 

  1. Practice

We had daily practice of techniques and forms, both together as a group, in pairs and individually. We always had great fun writing poems together which we did often.

I need to continue to practice my craft regularly, with reading and courses, and of course writing.

  1. Just write

Every day we wrote for 15 – 30 minutes, usually free writing although sometimes there were set prompts. There were always prompts available if needed, whether word prompts or phots to inspire.

I need to get back to morning papers – to just write 3 – 5 pages each morning to silence the gremlins.

 

  1. Sharing

The children were able to talk with their peers and with me about their writing, seeking inspiration or help as needed.

I need to turn to my critique partners and writing group when I am stuck or just for inspiration.

 

  1. Celebrations

At the end of each week, we always celebrated published works – those pieces that had been edited, revised and published. The authors sat in a special chair and read their work, to much applause.

I too need to celebrate when I have finished a piece. And then I need to submit it.

 

Writing can be a lonely task, but it is rewarding. I need to remember the lessons learned and get back to writing full tilt again.

 ~*~

Bev Baird