Is Your Writing Life Affected by the Pandemic?

 



The quote for today says "Everything that happens in our life is a catalyst for change and growth."

These words seem to carry more weight in our world today than ever before. Since mid-March, I've certainly had time to look at many parts of life in a different light. More than likely, you have, too.

That includes our writing life. How has your outlook on your writing world changed? Do you feel as though you've grown as a writer, stayed the same as before, or regressed? 

I have not been nearly as inspired to write during this downtime, and that concerns me. Yes, I write this blog 5 days a week, and I keep up with my commitment to my online writing group, but writing new stories has been far slower than usual. In talking with other writers, I find that I am not alone in this change. In fact, many are doing even less than I am. If you're feeling the same way, don't despair. I'm hoping that when our lives start running on a more normal track, we'll want to write more.

I have seen calls for submissions in a couple places (please don't ask where; I didn't keep note of them), so some writers might find inspiration from seeing those calls. Try a search engine to see who is looking for pandemic stories. Since writers are always looking for inspiration and places to submit their work, it could be a real boon for some writers. 

There may even be a few writers who have been spurred to write more, not less, than usual. Cheers for all who fall into this category.

Some will delight in having more time to write since they aren't attending organized events, or spending time shopping, or have more time because they work at home and are not commuting. We're always hoping for more writing time, and now that it's been forced upon us, we should try to put it to good use. 

What about the growth part of the quote. Do you feel as if you have grown as a writer during the many months of our pandemic? If you're not writing, there is little chance for growth. For those who have been writing in 2020, you have a much better chance of growing as a writer. Keep going! 

The pandemic, the civil unrest, and the sniping back and forth of politicians is bound to affect us in many ways. Possibly in our writing life, as well. Take some time to ponder how you have been affected on your writing journey during this unusual time.

Writers--A Bouquet For You

 

From Me to You


I'm sending you flowers today for all the times you couldn't find inspiration to write.

I'm sending you flowers today for the rejections that have piled up through the years.

I'm sending you flowers today for the times you've written and deleted or torn up a draft.

I'm sending you flowers today for the days you've doubted your ability to write well enough to be published.

I'm sending you flowers today for the myriad times you've searched and searched for a market for your stories.

I'm sending you flowers today for the frustrations you've had on your writing journey.

I'm sending you flowers today to soothe the fears you've had about your ability to write.

I'm sending you flowers today for the zillion edits you've done on all the pieces you've written.

I'm sending you flowers today because you haven't given up.

I'm sending you flowers today because you're a writer, and that is to be celebrated.

I'm sending you flowers today because I am a writer, too, and I understand your writing world.

I'm sending you flowers today because I care.


In Writing--Faith Over Fear

 

 

Writers make mistakes as they move along their writing journey. None of us are totally immune to doing something we wished we hadn't in our writing life. 

Sometimes we hurry the process, and it shows. We don't present our best work when we move too quickly. Maybe we toss something in we think is correct but hadn't taken time to do a little checking or research. We could get called on it by a reader. We might grab a title quickly out of the air only to think of a much better one when it's too late. 

These are only a few of the mistakes we make. The more often that an error comes up, the more we fear moving on, or even trying to do so. This is when we need to give ourselves a pep talk. It's when we need to encourage faith in our own abilities. We need to put faith over fear. 

One of the best ways I know to increase your faith in yourself and decrease your fears in your writing life is to make two lists. List A should be made of all the things you fear about writing. In List B, show the pluses in your writing life, the good things that have happened, and what you feel are your strengths as a writer. On which list should you concentrate? That's a no-brainer question. 

We need to pump up our own confidence level and we should do it on a daily basis. Maybe then, we can start believing in ourselves. If you dwell daily on your mistakes and your fears about writing, what do you think will happen? Yes, you'll start convincing yourself that you cannot write well, that all you do is flub up. 

Learn to have faith in yourself. If you don't have it, no one else will have faith in you either. Editors and readers figure it out fairly easily when you write without confidence in what you can produce.

Let's go back to those lists. I said to concentrate on List B, but you might also want to go through the first list and address those fears, one by one. Ask yourself if the fear is justified or are you responsible for creating your own fear? If the fear is justified, what can you do about it? How can you change whatever that fear happens to be? 

Work at having faith over fear, and you'll be both a happier writer and a better one. 


Writers--Tight is Right

 



When we look at a blank page, be it in a book to use for journaling or on our computer screen, we can write anything we want to. And any way. It's our choice. No holds barred. But wait...

We do have to stay within certain perimeters if we want to see our work published. Editors set word counts. They tell us to send a 'story' not an 'essay' or they tell us what we send must be fiction, or sometimes true. They also don't want writers rambling all over the page. Instead, we're urged to 'write tight.' So many guidelines that fence us in a bit.

To be published, we must follow those rules set by the people who have the final say as to whether your story will be seen by the public or not. 

Let's look at the art of writing tight. Our aim in anything we write is to grab the reader's attention and keep it. If we ramble like a herd of cows on the prairie searching for ever-sweeter grass, we're going to lose our reader in a hurry. 

Master the following and you'll never have a problem being told to write tighter:
  1. Eliminate unnecessary words like just, really, quite, very. They do nothing but take up space. 
  2. Use active verbs to replace the 'to be' passives like was, is, had been, are. To do this, you may have to flip the order of the sentence. Don't just try to insert the active verb where you had the passive one. It doesn't always work.
  3. Practice writing flash fiction; enter flash fiction contests. You want to try the ones that ask for 100 to 300 words, or even less. There can be no extras in this kind of writing. 
  4. Delete words wherever you can. If your max word count is 1200, and you have 1357 words, don't despair. You can cut those extra words and not lose anything in your story. I've done it many times, and you can, too. Look for ways to reword a sentence so that it uses fewer words but still gets the same idea across. Cut those unnecessary words. Do all the things mentioned in this list, and you'll be surprised at how many words you can cut. 
  5. Get rid of dialog tags by using merely an action to show who spoke. Jane slammed the book on the table. "I will not read anything this woman writes again!" There is no need for the usual 'she said' It's perfectly clear who said it.
  6. Use clear and to the point sentences. Don't embellish with lots of adjectives and adverbs.
  7. Read a lot of poetry. Why? Poets are masterful in economizing on words. Note how they write and try it in your prose.
Can you write 'too tight?' Yes, and you want to be careful that you don't cut down and out so many things that you've lost your story and will surely lose your readers. 

Keep in mind that 'tight is right.'

 

Public Library Atrium, Manhattan, Kansas


The photo today is of a metal sculpture in my local library. It depicts the animals in Aesop's Fables. As well as being unique, it is dear to my heart as I was president of the Friends group at the time money was being raised, and the sculpture put up. It came in a big truck in pieces and reassembled. More than once, I have seen a child studying the animals and the rest of the lovely piece of art. 

The metal sculpture is an unusual and beautiful adornment to a building I love. My mother introduced me to the wonders of the library world when I was in first grade and had learned to write my name. That printing of my name was key to receiving my first library card. I had learned to read at school and was eager for more.

We're told that writers should be readers. That said, readers should be library users. One follows the other. Writers should not only read, but they should foster the love of reading in their children, or perhaps siblings, or even a spouse who had not been a reader when a marriage took place. 

I had better add here that there is nothing wrong with purchasing your books. Authors much prefer that you do, but many people cannot afford to buy myriad numbers of books over a year. Do buy some but use your library, too.

Think back over the years about the different libraries you have known--the first one you ever visited, perhaps your college library where you spent time studying and doing research, and the ones in the various towns you've lived in. Whenever we have moved, one of the first places I visit is the local library. Grade schools, middle schools and high schools also have libraries. They vary in size and quality. Many teachers have small libraries within a classroom. 

A Carnegie Library is one built with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist. Using his donated funds, these libraries were built between 1883 and 1929. The funds were not just tossed aimlessly to those communities who asked for them. The money was given along with a 6 Step Plan for librarians to follow. The original library in my community (Manhattan, KS) was one of the libraries built with this special fund. The building we have now is entirely different from that early one built more than 100 years ago. You might check to see if your local library was one of the original Carnegie Libraries. 

I have posted an essay about libraries that I wrote several years ago here a few times, so I won't post the entire piece now. Just one paragraph that tells about the library, any library, being my 'second home.' (Miss Maze was the librarian at the very first library I used)
 
Now, when I open the big glass door to my local library and walk through the atrium to the book-lined shelves, I feel just like I did when Miss Maze took my hand and led me to the children's books. I am happy and contented, as though loving arms have surrounded me with a great big hug. Best of all, I still feel exciting anticipation of the unknown treasure waiting for me amongst the volumes that line the shelves in my second home.

What is memorable about your own library experience? This would be a good topic for your Family Stories. 










The 'What if...?' Writing Exercise

 



I attended a writer's meeting on Zoom last night. The people there were all from California plus me all the way from Kansas. In one conversation about inspiration--where you find it--, an old exercise was mentioned. It's called the "What if...?" and is meant to stir your imagination.

For those not familiar with playing the "What if...?" game, it's not difficult and can reap many benefits. It also helps you develop your writer's eye so that you become more observant of your surroundings.

Let's say you're walking your small dog in the park. There are kids on bikes, mothers pushing strollers, and other dog walkers. In the distance, you spot an older man who has a large dog on a leash. The dog is pulling at the leash with every step. Your mind starts the exercise by saying 'What if that big, strong dog gets away from his master? What if the big dog runs toward me and my dog? What if he knocks over a small child on a bike? What if people start yelling? What if a policeman comes running, captures the dog, and returns him to the old man? But, what if the dog reaches my little Daisy-poo, picks her up in his massive jaws, and runs straight to the road running by the park? What if he suddenly stops and lays down in the grass with Daisy between his paws and gently licks her head? 

You can see how this goes. Your mind can develop several scenarios for this situation. Which one would make the best story? So many possibilities.

Another possible use of this exercise is when you're at a point in your story and find yourself without a clue as to where to go next. Play the "What if...?" game using as many possibilities as you can think of. You'll discard some right away as they are impossible or ridiculous. Others are ok but don't grab you. You're going to hold on to the one that makes you say, "oh yeah, that would work." 

You could be having a fine time at the beach, lounging on a chair in the sand watching a little boy digging in the sand by the water's edge. His mother is nearby. Your mind starts asking "What if the little boy ventured farther out in the water? What if the mother turned to talk to someone and didn't see him? What if some older boys are roughhousing and knock the little boy down? What if he goes underwater, sand pail and shovel still in hand? What if no one sees what happened?" Of course, in real life, we hope that little boy stays perfectly safe with Mama by his side. 

Use this exercise to move a story along and for inspiration for a new story to write. Do it often enough, and your mind will automatically start saying 'What if...?"

An Exercise to Set Your Writer's Voice Free




I've encouraged you to do freewrite exercises many times. Many times because they are worth your time and effort. The poster today gives you one reason to do the freewrite exercise--to set your writer's voice free. 

The exercise is quite simple. Pick up a book, open it, close your eyes and point to a page. Whatever word your finger lands on is your prompt word.  Set a timer for 10 minutes. Write the word, then let your fingers go as fast as you can writing whatever comes into your mind. It need no be a story; it can be a jumble of different sentences that have no relation to one another. Or, it can morph into a vignette, or slice of life piece. It's whatever comes from the recesses of your mind. 

It's possible that what you write ends up being pure drivel, or it can be something that has real merit, something you can build on. 

You're going into parts of your mind you don't always use by making this a no-holds-barred exercise. Opening closed doors in your subconscious can help you with future writing. 

If you don't want to use the 'pick a word blindly from a book' method, here is a list of word prompts. Choose one today and freewrite for 10 minutes. Don't stop and ponder. Just keep writing. Try another tomorrow and the next day. Most of all, have fun with this one.
  • sky
  • field
  • dynamite
  • sorrow
  • fun
  • carousel
  • train
  • elongated
  • misery
  • flower
  • storm

Is Your Writing Life Affected by the Pandemic?

  The quote for today says "Everything that happens in our life is a catalyst for change and growth." These words seem to carry mo...