Inspiration

#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

Fear of the Page by Lauralynn Elliott

One of the things that has always hindered my writing is page fright. What is page fright? It’s this irrational fear when you sit down to start writing on whatever you’ve been working on. In fact, the fear might cause you not to even sit down at your chair. Sometimes, there’s a sense of dread when you even think about writing.

 

So, what causes page fright? I’m not sure I know exactly, but I have some ideas. We have to first understand WHY we fear before we can overcome the fear. Here are some things I’ve come up with.

 

  • You don’t think you have enough words in the story to make a full novel. Solution: This is one of my biggest fears. I’ve overcome this fear by deciding I don’t care how long a story is going to be. It’s going to be as long as it wants to be. I love writing novellas. Writing was so much more fun when I didn’t worry about length. Then someone told me novellas didn’t sell well, and I needed to write novels. I’ve struggled with page fright over every novel I’ve written. Now I say that’s a bunch of baloney (in the South, we don’t say “bologna”). These days, readers like to have different lengths to choose from, and novellas are great reads for busy people.

 

  • THAT author writes 3,000 words in one sitting. You can only write 500, so you must not be a very good or productive writer. Solution: Stop worrying about what others are doing. Everyone works at his/her own pace. There are so many factors involved in how many words you can write. You may have more obligations than another author. Your hands might give out sooner than someone else’s. You might simply like to think things out longer. Whatever the reason you write more slowly than you THINK you should, it’s YOUR reason, and it’s legitimate (unless you are playing on Facebook between paragraphs).

 

  • You might get writer’s block. Solution: Sit down at the computer and write SOMETHING. If you’re a plotter, you already have some idea of where to go. If you’re a pantser (don’t tell Kait, or she’ll get an eye twitch), just let the ideas flow. You can fix any problems later. You have to start somewhere.

 

  • You’re afraid you’ll work your butt off and put your whole soul into this story, and no one will buy it. Solution: Suck it up (oh, no, I just sounded like Chuck Wendig there, sorry). We all face this possibility. With the huge saturation of the market with self-published books, it’s very hard to be found. Your job is to write the best book you can write. Not the best book someone else can write, but the best book YOU can write. If you let fear stop you, then you’ll never know what you could have accomplished. I believe the best way to be found is to put as many books as you can out there. If you give up after one book because it didn’t sell like you thought it should, you might miss out on success. This isn’t an instant thing, especially these days. You have to be in this for the long haul. Have a five or ten year plan, not a plan to quit if your first book doesn’t do well.

 

Do any of these sound familiar to you? Or do you have other reasons to fear the page? If you DON’T have page fright, let us know how you DO feel when you sit down to write. I would love to hear your comments.

~*~

Lauralynn Elliott

Climbing Back In The Saddle by Eden Mabee

I’m not sure how it happened.  I fell off and…  damn, but it’s hard to climb back in the saddle and get those words written.  The horse keeps moving, you know.  The publishing world, the writing world, the social world…  it all kept moving, and here I was, stuck on the ground, stunned a bit, afraid to jump back in because I’d made a mistake and fell off.  I had stopped writing.

There were many reasons—we all have reasons for not writing.  For me, Life got busier than busy.  I had run out of ideas, and my characters weren’t talking to me.  All I could think of were lesson plans and schedules, and assignments and homework and getting my information into the State database so I could continue to work with kids and…  Well, you name it; I saw it as an excuse to take a break from writing regularly.  And once I stopped writing regularly…  I stopped writing.

I didn’t think it would hurt to take some time off.  Yeah, I felt estranged from fictional people that I once knew better than my own blood kin.  Yeah, I began to sleep badly as the once familiar catharsis and escape I had once relied on seemed to be gone.  But I was B.U.S.Y.  I had “important” things to do, children to care for, homework to finish for teachers, paperwork to do for the government, etc.  Writing was just a hobby for me, not my career…  it should have been set aside.

Or should it?

I don’t exaggerate when I say I was out of touch and more than a bit emotionally disconnected without having that regular contact with my characters.  After investing so much time on their lives and on the world I’d created, it was as if I had been torn from my family and home and forced to function in an alien environment.  Instead of moving day in and day out with the comfort and reassurance of knowing I had all these “people” there alongside me as I moved into what was a very new world  of becoming a teacher, I felt alone and uncertain.

And I’m not exaggerating the difficulty I have had sleeping since I stopped writing regularly.  The odd day I managed to write (I squeaked through NaNoWriMo by doing scattered days of crazy huge wordcounts followed by days of not being able to settle long  enough to write  ten words) , I woke up the next day feeling more creative and inspired.  Losing writing time was akin to not exercising day after day; I felt weak and unfit for most mental activities.

“That’s okay,” you might say.  “We’ve all stopped writing once or twice when Life took over.”  But I can’t be the only one who has noticed how much harder it is to start back up again than to keep going.  The one-day break… that’s not too bad; we call it a day of rest, a Sabbath as it were.  The week off… that’s a vacation.  But the months off… those are something else.  Usually when someone leaves a thing for so long, it is because they’ve chosen a different path in life, or that Life has chosen for them.

Enough is enough.  I am a writer, not a victim.  I can climb back up in that saddle and write, and I am inviting you to join me.  Let’s see where our writing takes us.

~*~

Eden Mabee

Being Accountable by Elizabeth Mitchell

Kait’s opening post https://aroundofwordsin80days.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/are-you-author-or-victim/

this Round hit a nerve, I admit.  She points out that making excuses, feeling like a victim, is a choice.  The crux of the problem is the safety of being the victim, because you have someone or something else to blame. I admit, I play it safe far too often.  The day job, the family, the dogs, or just being too tired or empty-brained, all get in the way of getting my writing done.

 

However, no one has all the time in the world to do what they want, so choices must be made. If writing matters to me, I will get up early, stay up late, or not watch that TV show (curses to on-demand television).  “If something blows up your plans to write, you need to revise them.  MAKE some time to make up for the lost work time,” Kait says, and she is spot on.  RoW is a supportive place to be accountable, and to keep one from being too hard on oneself as well.

 

Another arena I often act like a victim is how I compare myself with others. I sometimes suffer from jealousy when I look at other RoWers’ goals and word counts. I am a slow writer, seldom able to lock my infernal editor in the laundry room.  I always forget that comparing myself to others is apples to oranges.  Kait posted a link to Chuck Wendig’s post http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/04/08/counting-words/

about word count and comparisons.  If you don’t follow his blog, think about doing so. I will give the caveat that, as my late mother-in-law would have said, he swears like a sailor. Even if you find strong language offensive, his posts are always interesting, and often grounding.

 

In the word count post, Mr. Wendig celebrates a day of writing 10,000 words.  He then immediately addresses the twinge of jealousy that hits some readers, including me, calling it bs.  Compare with yourself, not others.  Much as it hits me as the 90’s “personal best” my kids heard in school all the time, he’s right. “Sometimes, writing is a game of inches. Sometimes it’s a act of great, clumsy leaps. You gotta take pride in the small steps as much as in the big jumps.”

 

Mr. Wendig links to a plan  http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/02/20/how-to-push-past-the-bullshit-and-write-that-goddamn-novel-a-very-simple-no-fuckery-writing-plan-to-get-shit-done/ to get the writing done. If I write 350 words a day five days a week, with weekends off, I would have the first draft of a novel at the end of a year.  With a little bit of found time, and found effort, I would be closer to my goals.  His last advice resonates: “Shut up and write.”

Who will jump into the accountability pool with me?

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

How to Juggle It All (Or What Happens When All The Balls Fall) by Fallon Brown

I often get asked how I get it all done, or at least how I can get so much done. And sometimes I feel like a bit of a fraud. I don’t “do it all”. Not anymore than anyone else. The truth is, I only do what I can. And often that doesn’t feel like enough.

 

We all have a bit of a juggling act we have to do in life. For some, it’s a day job and family. For someone else, it could be finding time for their hobby among their other responsibilities. I dropped the day job ball almost eight years ago. Not because of writing, at that time. Along with it being just before my daughter was born, we moved out of town(and by that, I don’t just mean to another town. We now live outside of town). Added to that, any money I would have made at a job in our town would have gone to childcare, so we figured it was better for me to stay home.

 

Now both kids are in school, and I still haven’t picked that ball back up. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have other balls to juggle. There is still family, making sure the kids get ready for school in the morning and get them off buses in the afternoon. And of course, they seem to think they need to eat every night. Then, there are other chores that need to be taken care of each day or at least week. They think they need clean clothes after all, and clean dishes to eat off of.

 

And there are other things that take up time. For me, it’s knitting, crochet, and reading. For you, it might be something else. As important as writing is to me, I need something else to relax me. Especially since writing tends to energize me. In fact, I rarely get that drained feeling from writing too much in a day(I get that feeling when I struggle to get the words out, though). So, I need something to wind back down.

 

So, how do you juggle all the things you need to do, the things you should do, and the things you really want to do? I guess it depends on where all those balls fall in the list of priorities. Most of the time, for me, writing falls between ‘should’ and ‘really want to’, with it leaning heavy to the ‘really want to’, and I make it a priority. The ‘Need to Do’ are sometimes the first ones that get dropped. Didn’t get the dishes done? Well, we still have a couple clean plates and forks. It can wait until tomorrow. I have found a pretty good routine that helps me balance, or at least juggle, everything. For the most part.

 

But, then there are the times when it feels like all the balls are dropping. Early in April, I was struggling with the words. Because I was trying to get all my words in first thing, I let the chores fall away too. Since I got behind on those, I fell behind on my knitting and reading, too. And I found out that like with writing, when I don’t get to read I feel a little crazed.

 

Sometimes you just have to pick the balls up again. For me, this usually involves moving whatever didn’t happen to the next day. Sometimes these lists can get long. But, I always start the next week over fresh, even if I ended up not accomplishing everything I wanted to. I use the weekends to catch up, particularly on my crafting or reading.

 

And sometimes you have to leave the balls where you drop them. Or at least adjust your juggling routine. I realized what one of the problems with my words was. Well, there were two different problems really. The first was an issue with the scene I was writing, and something I just had to push through. The other was the fact that another character was busy demanding my attention even though I hadn’t planned on writing that story yet. So, instead of fighting it, I rearranged my routine and split my daily word count between the two stories. Since I did that, words started flowing so much better.

 

No one is perfect. I’m sure we’ve all heard that before, and it’s true. We’re not always going to make our word count. We may miss a deadline or two. We’ll forget that one other thing we were supposed to do. But, we do what we can. And the “what we can” is different for everyone. I know mine might seem like a lot to some people, and yet most days I’m telling myself I could probably get more done. But, I know it could be that one extra ball that upsets everything.

~*~

Fallon Brown

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