Inspiration

Writing Through Calamity by Starr Bryson

Since many of you don’t know me, you perhaps don’t know my tales of woe.  The most recent of which includes several weeks where we got to play the guessing game of, “Water:  Will We or Won’t We?” in which the pipes in our house were frozen in an on again/off again fun game of winter temperatures.  The adventure ended with busted pipes, a flooded basement, and piles of dirty dishes; not to mention a very hippy-esque non-showered me at my wit’s end.

 

Just for added fun, life threw me a cold so nasty I couldn’t get out of bed or even function for several days.  Migraine headaches, sore throat, coughing fits, all of this and more came to visit me.  While I attempted to keep up with work I hardly managed that, let alone writing anything.

 

But even when we don’t have calamities and disasters in our households or sickness that halts our everyday lives – we still have life to deal with.  Life, in and of itself, can suck the minutes right of your day and the creativity right out of your brain.  You can wake up early, motivated to begin your day with all of the best intentions, and think, “THIS is the day! This is the day I will accomplish all 5,678 tasks on my To Do list, take care of the kids, get through my work, and make time for writing!”

 

But, before you know it, it’s dark outside, there’s dishes from dinner stacked all over the kitchen, fifteen people are pulling you in twenty different directions, not a thing got crossed off that To Do List, and your day is careening to an end without you ever touching your writing.

 

Sound familiar?

 

When life gets busy, even a short story can feel as daunting as The Great American Novel.  Sometimes even a blog post is too much to contemplate.  A simple update on Twitter or Facebook can amount to “all of the writing I have time for.”

 

How do you keep up the momentum on writing projects?  How do you stay inspired?

Make Time for Writing

If you have a busy schedule, then you’re going to have to schedule in your writing time.  You can’t wait for inspiration to strike or the perfect moment.  You won’t find the time if you don’t make the time.  Writing is important, or at least it should be.  Everything else in your schedule is important enough to have a chunk of your precious time set aside for just that task – make time for your writing.

Make writing a priority

More than just penciling in a time to write every day, you need to make writing a priority in your life.  Life is about balance, and part of that balance is sometimes making hard choices.  Sometimes we have to give up one thing to make room for another.  If being a writer is something you truly want to accomplish, then it might be time to take a look at your daily activities and start making those hard choices.  What can you give up in order to write?

 

Obviously, family obligations and work are not an option.  But, could you give up an hour of watching television every night?  Social activities?  No one ever said being a writer was going to be easy.  If you really want to be a writer, you are going to have to make room for it in your life.

Remember the Love of the Craft

Once we make writing a priority and we’ve scheduled it into our busy calendars, it can seem like a chore.  Once something is a chore, it’s no longer fun.  What was once a fun past time is now a job.  Writing might come to be an event that we resent, a time slot in our schedule no more fun than car pooling or doing dishes.

 

Trash that attitude right now.

 

Think back to when you first began writing.  What did it feel like?  Was it magical?  Did your fingers fly over the keys in a race against your brain to create fantastical lands of romance and adventure?  Was it a cathartic therapy session; you pouring out your feelings of helplessness and frustration onto the paper?  Did writing excite you, heal you, lift you up, and help you dream?

 

Was writing, once upon a time, your favorite place to visit?  Did you look forward to creating worlds with your words, inciting emotions in your readers, pouring emotional vomit onto the paper?

 

Think of all of the reasons you love to write, all the pride you feel when you call yourself a “writer”.

 

Remember when your relationship with writing was a brand new, heart pounding, head spinning romance?  Remember when the relationship was new, before life got in the way?

 

Remember that feeling.  Remember why you fell in love with writing.  Tap into that love and don’t let those feelings go.

 

Writing is a rewarding relationship. But just like any relationship, you have to make it a priority and keep the spark alive.  Writers need to fuel that fire, keep the romance alive with their craft.

 

Reconnect with your writing.  You’ll fall in love all over again.  And it will be magical.

~*~

Starr Bryson

Inspiration Is A Fickle Friend by Molley Mills

Being inspirational is difficult when you’re not inspired. This winter has left me entirely uninspired, with a capital I. It’s cold and we’re buried in snow. We’ve also had our turns of being cut down by the dreaded lurgy and shared our germs with each other with gay abandon! You’d be amazed how many rounds a cold can go when you’re living in close quarters and the outside temps are something straight out of the arctic.

Life throws curve balls like that and as writers we can use those experiences to flavour our words. Having ideas is a minute by minute thing for me and part of the writing process, so it counts, right? Those ideas are waiting to be developed and put onto paper or keyboard, which ever is the prefered method. But I never stick to my goals, life gets in the way. I’m terrible at it. I make plans and list and flow charts…and then nothing. It’s just the way it is, especially this month, since I played single parent while my husband was away on his much needed reconnection trip to the homeland.

I try to set time aside but there’s always a distraction, I guess learning to work through those is something I need to try harder to control. Accepting your flaws and working with them can help though. I often think of those pie charts about writers, who have all the time to develop their writing and yet, the night before deadline, they’re burning the midnight oil to finish, and surprisingly the product is good. Is it inspiration or sheer panic that motives them? Probably both. I’ve been guilty of that since the second year of middle school. I’ve always been the night before Queen. But when it comes, if you can just let it flow, then magic happens… or drivel, that happens too.

Be kind to yourselves in this writing process. Expect to ebb and flow with ideas and inspiration and writers block and crappy product. In amongst it all there is mastery, and that’s why we continue because we know somewhere deep down we have things to say, unique things and interesting ways of seeing the world. And someone is waiting to connect with that, use our words as an inspiration to their daily struggle.

Isn’t that why we write?

Yeah it is….

~*~

Molley Mills

Sometimes One Has To Be Patient by Alberta Ross

Sometimes one has to be patient.

 

I’m not that patient really. Would like everything at once but life rarely works like that.  We all of us here want to pen that masterpiece.  We struggle through employment, family commitments, ill health and just not enough hours in the day. The difficulty is too hang onto our dreams to believe that one day it will happen.  It will if we want it enough. But.

 

But but but.

It may take time and patience.

 

Long ago, when a child, I thought it would be neat to write a book.  I produced a hand drawn paper book of a few pages all about a rabbit – Master Rabbit to be sure. My parents kept it, proud of their child even if they weren’t proud of her spelling. We are talking about the late 1940s here. It spurred me to think one day I would write a proper book. Then I began to make a list of other things I was going to do.

 

I was a child of few ambitions, I didn’t want husband ,child or career, but the ones that I had were great in magnitude.

 

I wanted to travel the world(half the world was in  bombed ruins!)

I wanted to go to university( I was deemed too stupid to sit the children’s exams, and anyway girls didn’t really go to University)

I wanted to fly in a hot air balloon (not many about back then)

I wanted to go to Antarctica (no visitors allowed)

I wanted to write a book

I wanted to have my own little house(with wild garden and a couple of cats)

 

In the meantime I was at school dreaming my life away, deemed too stupid to bother with.

 

I grew up,began to look after children and began the travel; a decade + had gone since I first voiced this ambition.  I didn’t stop for years.

 

I managed to go on a course for hot air ballooning for my 40th birthday three + decades after I first voiced this one.

 

University, in a menopausal hiccup, in my late 40s was achieved and ‘stupid me’ got a BSc Hons and an MA. During this period I also got the chance to go to Antarctica, with the help of a legacy left my sister. Amazing

 

The house I managed after retirement,having it built just how I wanted it to be.  Nearly six decades after my childish dream.

 

The books followed a year or two later.

 

 

A long time to fulfill my ambitions, people say, but the time was never right, or the money was never there. Life and employment can grip one as tight as any chains. I never lost the dreams and grabbed opportunities when they came and, in the meantime, I lived life as it came, enjoyed myself, made friends, did some smaller interesting stuff. Collected memories and experiences and can say hand on heart I have had a good life.

 

The point is I achieved what I wanted eventually .Maybe not all at once, but with patience, and a fair amount of doggedness.

 

This last two years I have been struggling with heart failure which saps my energy and lays me low.  It quarrels furiously with my desire to write, sulks and sends me to bed if I try to finish  my WIP.  But I am defeating it.  I am slowly getting my own way.  I had to rethink my schedule a couple of times, accept the WIP wasn’t gong to be the speedier affairs of earlier books.  But I will finish it and I will write another. There may not be decades still in my life to wait, but I’m good for a few more years yet:)

 

If family or work is confining you, despair not.  Children grow(so quickly) money  hopefully becomes less of an issue (although it is more of one in my case!).  In the meantime you have accumulated memories, experiences and life  and love, all of which will feed into the writing and fling the words up high.

 

We must enjoy what we have, what we cannot change.  Hold on to our dreams of that masterpiece.  Be part of the world and garner every sensation we can while we wait for the dreams to come true.  ROW80 allows this.  Does not go for guilt or failure.  Smiles and tells us gently that all is well in this crazy closed world writers inhabit.

~*~

Alberta Ross

Disney, Potential, and Nothing Too Small by Lucy Ball

Even those of us who have never visited Disney Land or Disney World have still likely experienced the contagious joy and playfulness of our inner child, the spirited nature of dreams Walt Disney spent his life celebrating. Walt, himself was famous not only for his creativity and legendary imagination, but for his words of wisdom about the power of dreams, determination, and about setting and following through with goals.

Today, my family and I are fortunate to be visiting one of the Disney complexes, a magical land filled with hope and optimism. And sadly, my six year old is too sick to leave our room to join in on the festivities that go on without us. As she sleeps, I find myself thinking about the hundreds of quotes and memes I have seen stream across social media that are intended to inspire and uplift. Of those, Walt’s quotes are some of the most meaningful of all.

And so I find myself contemplating Walt’s legacy and lessons he objectified, as my six year old daughter rests quietly. I could consider the fact that she is too ill to go to one of the theme parks as a disappointment. I could be discouraged or even irritated that we aren’t joining her sister and her father today at Epcot. Instead, I’m feeling it’s a gift that we are staying here at the resort for the day instead. Don’t get me wrong, I could have done without waking up seventy-five times with her throughout the night to help hold the waste basket while she wretched repeatedly. I know she would rather be greeting her favorite characters and seeing the incredible attractions while her father and I do absolutely everything necessary to avert inevitable mid-day meltdowns. And yet, she’s resting peacefully.

She will likely wake up happy and chipper as can be. She’s probably even dreaming about the magic of the stories and their characters, the rides and the shows she’s experienced, and the wonder of seeing her imagination materialize in real life before her very eyes.

Some people don’t know that Walt was actually a co-founder of what we now know as the Walt Disney Company. His partner and original Disney CEO was, businessman and brother Roy Disney. In fact, Walt sadly died before his dream of a “Disney World” came to fruition. It was his brother Roy who would oversee construction and follow his brother’s dream through with the opening of Walt Disney World in Florida.

So what does this all have to do with goals and writing and #ROW80? Obviously, I could share quote upon quote by Walt Disney about setting goals and following your dreams and so on. Instead, I sit here watching my child sleep as I consider how incredibly simple the original inspiration for this magical celebration of art and imagination was.

While the Disney Company is an unrivaled entertainment and media empire, it is also a reminder to us all about the incredible potential in the simplicity of seeing the world through eyes of a child. Even Walt Disney himself, often reminded loyal fans of how this magical celebration of imagination began.

Sometimes we hesitate to attempt, we refuse to consider possibilities because our dreams seem overly simple. Or perhaps we feel too small in comparison to the enormity of the world to follow through with any idea that is less than epic.

To believe that no idea is too simple, no goal is too small, and no idea is too insignificant is to entertain an ideology our world is in desperate need of. It is within the minds of those of us who share these beliefs that the potential for magic in its purest form can be discovered. We are all slight in comparison to something or another.

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” ~Walt Disney

~*~

Lucy Ball

Don’t Break The Chain by John Holton

It’s the beginning of 2015 as I write this, and the various how-to sites are full of productivity “hacks” (i.e. hints or tips… why they don’t call them that, I have no idea why), about increasing your output and establishing new habits. One that comes up all the time is the “Seinfeld method,” the way Jerry Seinfeld established himself as a great comic.

When he was starting in the comedy business, Jerry figured out he had to write every day if he was going to make it. He bought a year-at-a-glance calendar and a red Magic Marker, hung the calendar on his wall, and, each day when he had finished, crossed out the date on the calendar with the marker. After a while, realizing how much fun it was to see his calendar gradually fill up with red X’s, he made it his goal not to have any dates that were not crossed off. He called it “Keep The Chain Going.”

I realized he was right, and that I had experienced it myself. I started on 750Words.com back in February 2012, and committed to completing the 750 words each day. The site told me after three days “You’re on a 3 day streak!” Then it was 4 days, then a few days later 7 days, then 30, 60, 90… Soon I was doing the 750 words just to see the number go up by one every day. Then, for some reason I can’t remember, after I had reached a streak of 403, I broke the chain. I felt terrible; I had broken the chain. I managed to get myself back on track, and, after a couple of false starts, I’m now (as of this writing) at 54 days in a row. I don’t want to let that chain get broken. And there have been times I’ve sat down at the computer at 11:30 at night (2330, if you keep time the way I do) and finished just before midnight. And, as tempting as it is to generate 750 words of “Lorem ipsum aliquat” etc., I’ve never had to rely on that to keep the chain going.

It’s been the same with my blogging. Last July, I challenged myself to blog at least once a day, every day, Monday to Sunday, for as long as I could. July 1 was the start of the Ultimate Blog Challenge (where you post daily for the month) and just kept going. Today, the chain stands at six months, eight days. I go to my web page and look in the upper left-hand corner at the calendar there, with all of its days marked off, and I don’t want to break that chain, either.

“Keep the chain going” is a technique that works for me, and for Jerry Seinfeld, and for others who have used it to establish a habit. Seeing the chain forming and keeping it going is a powerful incentive.

So, if you’ve been having trouble keeping a habit going, why not give it a try? Print a calendar (here’s a good source), use one of those calendars you get for free at church (it’s the beginning of the year, after all), or use this. Write your goal at the top of the page and hang it where you can see it. Every day you complete your daily goal, cross off the date on the calendar. Soon, if you’re faithful to the process, you’ll see a chain forming. Then, don’t break the chain.

All right? All right! Straight ahead!

~*~

John Holton

What Makes Us Tick? And Why Does It Matter? by Shan Jeniah Burton

It seems like a simple enough question, doesn’t it? Maybe even a little pointless?   

Or maybe not. 

ROW80 is, after all, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. And the thing about lives is that no two look just the same. That’s exactly what makes the act of setting personalized goals so empowering. Each of us can decide what we want to accomplish, based on our own vision, our own reality, and our own nature. We can have one goal, or many. We can have goals that, on the surface, have nothing to do with writing. Our goals can be short term, or take an extraordinarily long view, or anywhere in between.

It’s all up to us – each of us. Every time we check in, we have the chance to evaluate those goals, and to decide if they still work for us, if they fit with our vision, our reality, and our nature.

And that’s why knowing how we tick matters.

Take me, for instance. I’ve got a wide-angle mind; I do better with a sweeping variety of projects I can flit between. I’m OK with things taking longer than they would if I did doing one thing at a time. Every thing I’m engaged with feeds others in a symbiotic relationship, forming new connections encouraging plot tribbles and new projects. 

That might be torture to those of you who have laser-focus minds, or just like a more minimalistic, tidy approach that allows you to see big gains, fairly quickly, in return for your effort.

Lots of projects keep me energized, like carrots that luring me to say, “Good enough; let’s get on with other things now,” rather than, “It’ll never ever be good enough, so why do I even bother?”

That’s just part of the way I tick.

Like many of you, I’m a parent, in addition to being a writer. That, of course, puts wrinkles in my plans and my life that wouldn’t be there if I didn’t live with children. Having a spouse and a house adds others, and so do the companion animals who share our lives.

We homeschool, so while we aren’t tied to school schedules, I have paperwork to contend with several times a year. I spend most of my waking hours in close proximity to my kids. I might need to interrupt my writing anytime, because I’m their mom, and that’s part of my job.

For me, with this parenting and educational reality, my many diverse goals mean that there’s always something I can be doing to move me closer to my long-range vision. Shorter, easily stopped, less focus-intensive projects when the kids might need me, or I’ve got things to do or places to go, and longer, more challenging goals for when they’re doing their own thing, and I’m free to devote a stretch of time to my own.

For those who aren’t parents with children at home, or who have older or younger kids, or who pursue other educational paths, there might be a definite schedule that brackets when you can write, and what type of writing projects you can manage. One thing at a time might work best, in those situations, or just a few things that can be cleared from the to-do list fairly quickly.

With many goals, I can adapt to the changeable and free-flowing nature of my life. I need that, to keep ticking along.

Many of my fellow ROWers combine work and writing. I can decide when to write, and for how long, and I don’t have a schedule as much as I do a certain rhythm to my days. When they were little, writing was hit-or-miss, and it may be again, when we enter the ‘old enough to have a job, but not old enough to get a license phase’ next year. 

I’ll need to adapt, then – and that’s part of keeping my writing ticking along, too – the knowledge that life is change.

Each of our lives has a list of particulars far more complex than I’ve touched upon here. No one else can tell you what will make you more or less likely to achieve your goals, or what goals will suit you best, or even how to define whether you’ve succeeded at them. All of these things will depend on your unique situation. If what you’re trying to achieve, and the way you choose to pursue it, matches the way you tick, you’ll be free to focus on your goals, rather than struggling to fight your life or your nature.

So, what makes you tick? How do you like to write, and how does that fit with the rest of your life? How does your mind approach goals and challenges? Learning in general? If you haven’t given it much thought, adding that to your goals might do wonders for your progress, this round and beyond.

~*~

Shan Jeniah Burton

Do It Now by Elizabeth Mitchell

If you want different results, you have to put something different into the mix. If you keep putting the same ingredients in the cake, it will always turn out the same.  Pretty basic knowledge in baking, but still hard for me to put into my life. Many times, I have told myself, “I don’t like/want this [fill in the blank].” Sometime over the past several years, part of my brain has responded, “So change it.”  Now, with my “decade” birthday this spring bringing the dawning realization of my mortality, my brain responds: “So change it NOW.”

 

I would therefore like to add “Change it now” to Kait’s challenge in this first Round of 2015 to try something new and shake things up.  Shake off the comfort of the familiar. Let me assure you, I love my comfort zone.  It has no sharp edges to poke me, but it also does not challenge me, or anyone else.  Full of words I could write in my sleep, it has no bite, no truth.  Honestly, I’m scared silly of the truth, but it is all I have to offer.

 

I have often proclaimed my inability to write fiction. When I force myself to look at it honestly, my protest is a safe way to avoid the challenge and hard work involved in writing good fiction. Am I comfortable writing fiction?  No, not at all.  Three years ago, I shelved a story that occurred in a dream, because not only was it fiction, it was horror, which in all truth, I have no idea how to write. But should I shelve it out of cowardice?  The more I dig, I find there are more stories I want to tell, and each one frightens me more. But I’m going to try.

 

And I’m going to try now.  I hide behind the full-time day job and other responsibilities, saying that I will write when I’m retired.  I have told myself that I cannot write enough with these other responsibilities, but I wrote two academic articles totaling over 12,000 words in less than a year, so that inner conversation is patently untrue. While I will certainly have more free time after retirement, why am I waiting? Might it be cowardice? (The answer is an unequivocal “yes,” in case you are wondering).
My challenge to shake it up now is not just for us few neophytes in this group, but for all of us. Kait’s point that the same process doesn’t always work with a different book is surprisingly freeing for me.  Authors with several books behind them still have to leave their comfort zone and find something new that works. So I challenge those of you comfortable with this business of writing to shake things up and find a new approach. Those of you contemplating something very different–a new genre, non-fiction, or fiction–go for it.  So will you join me in my leap into the unknown?  Let’s do it now.

 ~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell