Thursday, September 29, 2016

Are You A Worrier?

 Writers never worry. Right? No, that's all wrong. Writers do worry. A lot! 

What do they worry about? Look at this list and you'll probably be nodding your head if some of them hit home. 

We worry that: 
  • we will never be a published author
  • we cannot measure up to professionals
  • we aren't up to writing with proper mechanics
  • other writers far surpass our abilities
  • we aren't growing as a writer
  • we don't get enough emotion in what we write
  • we don't hook our readers immediately
  • we aren't able to write a full novel
  • we don't have enough time to write as much as we'd like to
  • our vocabulary is not up to that of other writers
  • editors will hate our submissions
  • we aren't very good at revising and editing our first drafts
The list could go on and on but you get the idea. All those worries are definitely a waste of time. Writers have a lot of doubt and insecurity, especially in the beginning stage of our writing journey. Even those who have published a lot have some of the same doubts. You can probably add to this list with other parts of the writing life that you worry about.

I love this quote. It is so true. Worry gets us nowhere fast. It is a total waste of time. Instead of worrying, we need to step back and take long, hard look at all the problems in the list above. Tackle them one at a time. Don't attempt to do it all at once. If you do, you will do more than worry. You might have a total meltdown. In all of our writing life, we need to tackle problems a little here, a little there. We can't climb Mt Everest in one day and we can't solve all these problems in one day either.

The Things That Happen to Us!

It's true that nothing that happens to a writer is ever wasted. Every place we go, everyone we meet, every situation we encounter all have merit for a writer.

Whatever we see or do is mentally filed away to be used when we write. Don't you sometimes wonder why your head is not three times the size it is, considering all the information we store in it? 

We do slip a great deal into our memory bank. When we write a story or a poem or essay, some little switch must come on in the inner recesses of our minds. The perfect thing we need for our project will pop out. 

We can't always will it to come out. It seems to happen without any prodding. We start to write a story about a place we've visited and as we write, mental pictures of the place flash through our minds like a film on a video screen. It allows us to use the best description of a place to give our reader a clear picture. 

Whether what happens to you, the writer, is joyful, exciting, or tragic. it stays with you and will be there for you when you're ready to write about whatever occurred. It can be the day after or twenty years later.

Embrace the things that happen to you for they will be the golden nuggets that help you write an outstanding piece. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Seeing Possible Stories in Lexington, Kentucky


We are spending a few days in Lexington, Kentucky this week. It's Horse Country and also home to the University of Kentucky. You've heard of all kinds of trails but the one in this area is the Bourbon Trail where you can visit one distillery after another.

The weather has been near perfect--sunshine and 75 yesterday. We are with two other couples who are ongtime friend and are enjoying time together. The men have played golf each morning and the women have shopped and enjoyed exploring the area. Today, we are meeting our husbands, after gofl, at the Horse Farm for a tour.

Evenings, we seek out interesting, local restaurants. Last night, we ate at Malone's Steakhouse where the service, atmosphere and food all deserve several stars. The night before we tried a local Soul Food place that did the southern food justice.

We've found the people to be very friendly and welcoming. They seem pleased to have visitors to their area and I can say that we are happy to be here.

I see story possibilities everywhere we've been. Just a few are these:

  • I noticed the hotel manager slipping his hands into rubber gloves. "Getting ready to operate?" I asked him. He grinned and answered "No, I'm going out to clean up the parking area." I was impressed that he was not delegating this job but doing it himself. 
  • In a department store, the clerk looked at my credit card and smiled. "My name is Nancy, too," she told me. Just then, another shopped chimed in with "I'm a Nancy, too!" We three discussed having this old-fashioned name. 
  • The steakhouse we ate at was filled with amazingly interesting diners. Any one of them could be used as a character in a fiction story or novel. A man eating his salad with chopsticks, rather than a fork, drew my attention. I wanted so badly to go ask him why! 
  • Getting lost in a strange city, despite having directions, is always a good basis for a story line. And yes, we did get lost as we tried to find our downtown hotel.
  • The people eating breakfast at the hotel intrigue me. Why are they staying here? Where did they come from? Where are they going? Business? Pleasure? Health issues (this is a regional medical center)? 
When you travel, use your writer's eye as you explore a new area and meet myriad people along the way. Make notes to use later. 

I'm looking forward to our visit to the Horse Farm this afternoon. There should be many story possibilities there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Paddling Your Own Canoe

The quote above is attributed to Katherine Hepburn, movie actress of the '40's and 50's.  Awards and admiration followed her during and after her Hollywood career. I think she was a perfect example of her own quote.'

Writers can apply the quote to their own journey. Some writers complain that they never seem to get anywhere, that they aren't being published as often as they like, that they aren't growing as a writer. If you're one of those writers, take a step back and look at how you've been pursuing your writing craft.

  1. Have you made enough time to write?
  2. Have you done enough research to give you the background needed?
  3. Have you revised and edited until the piece shines?
  4. Have you researched the appropriate markets or picked the same old, same old?
  5. Have you tried writing something different than you usually do?
  6. Have you looked for possible contests to enter?
  7. Have you submitted at least one piece each week?
  8. Have you given your best effort to each piece you write?
  9. Have you done writing exercises to practice your craft?
We'd all like to answer yes to these questions. If we're totally honest, there are going to be some no answers. None of us is perfect but we do strive to be better. If you want to answer yes to many of the questions, it's going to take hard work. You'll to paddle faster and faster. There is no one else who can do it for you. 

Mark the questions that are most important to you or ones that you feel needs work. Then make a list of what you need to do to improve. Pick up your paddle and move at your own pace. But do move!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Writers--Think About This

How long ago did you start writing? 20 years? 10 years? 1 year? More or less? No matter the number of years, you have made progress. Don't shake your head and tell me that you feel like you're stuck in a rut, have achieved little or nothing. Sure, you tell me, look at all the rejections I've gotten. Look at the frustrations I've lived through. Look at the writing friends who have surged ahead of me.

Even so, I am going to ask you to look back at your writing career. Think about the day you started. Think about the first time you worked up the courage to submit something you wrote. Think about the first rejection you received. Think about the melange of emotions you experienced then. Think about the very first time you were published and the effusive joy you had. Think about the many positives in your writing life.

And then, I am going to ask you to stand up tall and straight and be proud--so very proud--of what you have accomplished. Scratch the bad times. Consider only the good parts. You've worked hard. Now reap the happiness and surge ahead.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Rejections and Apples

It's apple picking time in many areas of our country. When I look at this basket of apples, I have visions of apple pie, apple cobbler, apple cake, applesauce, apple dumplings (my husband's fave) or just the goodness of a fresh, raw apple. 

In our writing world, we can compare our submissions to the basket of apples. We send our precious words to editors with the aim of being published. Our hopes are high but we are realistic enough to confirm the thought that chances of being rejected are higher than of being accepted. We fill our apple basket with work that has been published and we toss those worm-eaten apples, our rejections, into the trash. Usually in disgust.

Don't trash the rejections. Like the not-so-good apple, we can salvage something. We cut away the bad part of the apple and use the rest. Why not cut away the bad part of the rejected piece and use what is left? Take the remainder and build upon it to make it a better piece of writing. 

Take a good hard look at the rejected submission. I would suggest doing this a few days after getting the bad news. The same day you have emotions spinning through that wouldn't allow you to look as objectively as you can later. If you are lucky, the editor sent a note with the rejection saying why they did not accept it. But that happens only occasionally. If you get a note from an editor, pat yourself on the back. It means they did like something about your writing and perhaps they hope you'll submit again to them. Any editorial comment is encouraging. 

Mark the areas that are of importance to the piece in one color. Choose a different color to mark the places that could be cut--maybe redundancies, rambling away from the topic, poor grammar, boring dialogue--whatever it might be. Go line by line to check relevance. Essay writers sometimes forget to include that all-important 'universal truth' which is most important in essay writing. The fiction writer might have left out information the reader should have. There are any number of things that can either be omitted, changed, or expanded upon. 

When you go apple-picking this fall, or buy them at a roadside market or the local grocery store, think about those rejections. When you peel and slice apples for a pie, consider those rejected pieces in your files, the ones you kept. Take that first bite of a warm apple cobbler and remember that you're going to work on those rejected treasures of yours. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Ways We Write

One of the most repeated pieces of advice to writers is to write every day.  A worthy goal but not always possible. Life tends to get in our way and we have to answer the call to which situation takes priority any given day.

However, writers write even when not at their keyboards tap-tapping away. Let me list just a few of the places writers are thinking about writing:

  • in the shower
  • checkout line at the grocery store
  • in bed
  • filling the dishwasher
  • riding the commuter train to work
  • filling the gas tank
  • changing the baby's diaper
  • in church during the sermon ( oh yes, it's done quite often)
  • walking for exercise
We have story ideas swirling in our heads long before we sit down to write that first draft. Lines of a poem come to us at strange, and often inopportune, moments. A solution to a problem in the plot of a fiction story pops into our heads when we least expect it. 

We're writing when we do research for a story or interview someone that we will write about later. We're writing when we jot down notes to be used later. 

Even if you don't write something at the keyboard, or with pen and paper, every day, don't fret. I would bet that you're still writing in one of the ways pointed out above. Just don't stay away from the keyboard too many days in a row. Writing every day can become a habit but the reverse is also true.