Share: What Inspires You?

According to Wisegeek.com, “Many artists, writers, poets and musicians have said that their creative work has been inspired by an individual whom they refer to as their muse. A muse is someone who has such an influence on another that he or she becomes the focus and inspiration for that person’s creative work.”

Writers often talk about their muse and how it helps them get to work on their creative projects.

Every writer has something that inspires them–a person, a place, a song, etc. And in order to get and stay inspired, you need to figure out exactly what inspires you and channel it.

If it’s music that inspires you, listen to the same CD every time you write. If it’s a place, go there and write as often as you can. Or if it’s a far-off place, get a picture of it and keep it by your computer when you’re writing. If it’s a person, try to have that person around when you write, or at least keep a photo of them with you.

Another way to channel your muse is to sit down for five to ten minutes before you start to write and think about the person/place/etc. Remember times you’ve spent there or fun things you’ve done with the person.

By listening to the music or thinking about the person/place, you’re reminding yourself of why it inspires you and it will help continue to inspire you.

My muse is John Mayer. Even though I don’t know him, his music and his public personality have inspired almost every story I’ve ever written, including the novel I’m currently penning. Whenever I’m writing, I always listen to John Mayer (ok, sometimes I also listen to Seether, but whenever I’m writing my novel, I listen to John). This helps me channel the inspiration and keeps me writing.

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So what inspires you? Who/what is you muse?

Take A Break Every Now and Then


Writers are some of the hardest working people I know. Most of my writer friends are writers by day and writers by night. But working at magazines and freelance writing and in marketing and public relations departments all day long sometimes makes it hard to go home and continue working on that novel or screenplay or memoir. I know that happens to me a lot and I wish I could just work full-time from home so I could dedicate my time to my fiction, but you have to make a living somehow, right?

Writing all day long kind of sucks the creativity out of me. So what usually happens is, I end up spending very little time writing my novel and when I am writing it, I get burned out quickly.

Oddly enough, for a project at work, I’ve been researching and learning about job burnout. The symptoms of project burnout include:

  • Inability to concentrate on the task at hand–working on your project
  • General apathy, particularly in issues relating to your project
  • Lack of interest in socializing because you feel like you have to spend all your free time on your project
  • Inability to have fun
  • Feeling like nothing ever happens with the project
  • Feelings of stagnation
  • Feeling that no one cares what’s going on with your project
  • Feeling that everything is wrong or is not working out
  • an overall negative attitude

In order to be a writer for the long-haul, you need to takes breaks every so often in order not to get burned out on a project (especially when you write all day long).

Here are some ways to avoid project burnout:

  • Take a mini-vacation–go away for the weekend with your friends or significant other, take a day trip to the beach, go visit a friend who lives in another city. Anything you can do to take your mind off your project for a little bit is good.
  • Switch off–it’s good to be working on a couple projects at the same time* so if you get blocked on one you can work on the other. This helps me immensely with not burning out, but I also find by working on two or three projects simultaneously that when I’m working on one project, I’ll get ideas for the others.
  • Take a Break–leave the project for ten minutes, an hour, whatever and grab a cup of coffee, or take a walk around your favorite local mall. Getting your mind off your project for even a short period of time can help when you’re blocked. By thinking about something else, I always get ideas for my projects.

*One word of caution–don’t try working on more than three projects at one time or you may risk spreading yourself too thin. Instead, try to dedicate your time evenly to all of your projects. And ignore this caution when a project takes off; when this happens, you’re better off running with it and coming back to the other ones later.

Writers Take Note: Practice Makes Perfect

In the most recent issue of Shape magazine, Venus Williams, a tennis star and winner of numerous titles, talks about her seven ways to get motivated. And her first way involves practicing. She says:

“You have to practice to develop your talents–and learn to enjoy putting the effort in, otherwise you won’t succeed.”

She then explains that she does two hours of training per day in the gym and four hours per day on the court.

 

Procrastinating writers can learn a lot from Williams. She’s motivated, dedicated and, above all, reaches her goals.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a hard time putting in the effort and writing, which is the main reason why I don’t write most of the time. But this is something I, and every other procrastinating writer, needs to move past. If we’re ever going to succeed in our writing goals, we need to practice, practice, practice…and love doing it.

 

The best way to get started with practicing is to write, and write often. No more skipping days, no more “I don’t feel like writing,” no more “but there’s a rerun of Seinfeld on that I’ve never seen before.”

 

And you don’t need to jump into this and make a huge commitment. As Bill O’Hanlon says in his book, Write is a Verb (which I will be discussing in a later post), write for just 15 minutes a day to start. That’s it. Just 15 minutes. Eventually you’ll start to fall in love with writing and want to write for longer.

 

So do you think you can write for 15 minutes a day? Let’s try it together…then come back to let me know how you’re doing.

How To Push Through Blocks On the Road to Success

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up,” -Thomas A. Edison

That quote really struck home for me recently. I’ve been working on a lot of projects and I’ve been feeling like nothing is happening and I should just give up. But then I recalled this quote and told myself to keep on going. And it worked. A couple of my projects (including my novel!) have finally started to take shape, and I’m really excited about them again!
So I just wanted to share this with you because, as a procrastinator, I know, I understand how hard it can be to follow through on a project, especially when things start looking down. But you have to push through it.
There are always going to be times on the road to success where things get a little bumpy. This should be expected, but instead of allowing these bumps to throw you off course, let them be an opportunity for you to learn something–something about yourself, something about your project, something about writing.
Nothing worth it in life is easy.
And as they say, “A bend in the road isn’t the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.”

Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere

By Jennifer Blanchard

I came across the most amazing book (and then found out it was one of four in a series of books!) called Post Secret: Extraordinary confessions from ordinary lives, by Frank Warren.

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.

PostSecret began as an art installation for Artomatic 2004 in Washington, D.C. The simple concept of the project was that completely anonymous people decorate a postcard and portray a secret that they had never previously revealed. No restrictions were (or are) made on the content of the secret; only that it must be completely truthful and must never have been spoken before. Entries range from admissions of sexual misconduct and criminal activity to confessions of secret desires, embarrassing habits, hopes and dreams.

Since Frank Warren created the website on January 1, 2005, PostSecret has collected and displayed upwards of 2,500 original pieces of art from people across the United States and around the world.

The site, which started as an experiment on Blogspot, is updated every Sunday with approximately 20 new pieces which share a relatively constant style, giving all “artists” who participate some guidelines on how their secrets should be represented.

from Wikipedia

Not only is this a fantastic idea, but a great place to get story ideas, as well. After reading through my copy of the book, I came up with about 15 new story ideas!

So the point of this post is to get you thinking about–and looking for–places where you can get story ideas. Sometimes it’s the last place you’d think, sometimes it’s the first. But if you’re always on the look-out for ideas, then you’ll never be able to say: “I’ve got nothing to write about.”

Set A Specific Writing Time To Avoid Procrastination


By Jennifer Blanchard

If you’re like me, you tell yourself almost everyday “I’m going to write today.” And then you find 300 other things to do that are just “so much more important,” like cleaning the bathroom, washing the laundry, picking up after your kids, etc. And then you never end up getting around to writing. And then you feel guilty for the rest of the day/night/week.

But what you don’t realize, is that by saying “I’m going to write today,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. Especially if you’re a procrastinator.

When you tell yourself you’re going to “write today” or that you’re going to spend “the day” or “the weekend” writing, you’re bombarding yourself with having to write, which makes you feel overwhelmed, and then you look for a million other excuses not to write.

To get writing done, instead of saying “I’m going to write all weekend,” tell yourself “I’m going to write for two hours on Sunday.” By setting a specific day and amount of time, you are not only giving yourself freedom to do the other things you have to do (like walk the dog, bake a cake…you get the idea), but you’re allowing yourself freedom to write without feeling bombarded by it.

Give it a try this weekend. Choose a day and an amount of time, then when that day comes, sit down and spend that much time writing. That’s it. No more, no less.

I’m going to try it this weekend as well. Be sure to come back and let me know how it goes for you!

Believe! Proof You Can Get Published At Any Age

“There will be times on this journey, all you’ll see is darkness, but out there

somewhere light finds you,if you keep believing,” –Anonymous

 

I came across this article today about a 19-year-old girl who wrote her first novel at age 14 and is now having it published. Just a small reminder for all of us that it can happen, no matter how old we are.

 

Read the article here: The Daily Mail.

Never Give Up On Your Writing Dreams

“My mind tells me to give up, but my heart won’t let me,”–Anonymous

Many writers can identify with that quote above. Especially writers who’ve been rejected a lot, and writers who procrastinate to the point where they wonder why they’re even dreaming anymore.

Recently, I’ve had a few people make me feel like my writing dreams are impossible. And for a minute I started to think, maybe they’re right. Maybe this is something that will never happen for me. And then I tell myself to ignore them, stay positive and keep dreaming.

Sure, it’s really difficult to chase a dream and to keep on feeling like no matter what you do or how hard you work, you’re never going to get there. All writers understand this feeling (and actually, all dreamers understand this feeling, too!).

But you have to push through it. You have to keep on trying and, especially, keep on believing.

You have the power to make all your writing dreams come true. You just have to be willing to stand up to those who put you down and to look negativity in the face and say, “I’m doing it whether you like it or not.”

Because there will always be someone around who wants to knock you down. There will always be an editor who hates your work. There will always be a publisher who rejects you.

But if you believe in yourself, and keep on writing and keep on dreaming, eventually, you will get there. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

So whenever you feel like you’re losing your nerve, remember this: Critics didn’t put you here, so they can’t take you down.

5 Steps to Reaching the Writing Finish Line

“No matter how long it takes, if you keep moving,
you will reach the finish line,”-anonymous

 

Every writer, no matter what writing project they’re working on, has a goal in mind. A personal “finish line” they are trying to reach.

 

But for many writers, that finish line is so far in the distance they can’t quite see it (or even imagine reaching it).

 

Procrastination is a silent, but deadly killer. Well, deadly to your writing anyhow. Luckily, there’s a way to transform yourself from procrastinating writer to completed writer. And according to Cynthia Morris, author of the eBook “Cross the Finish Line! 5 Steps To Leaping Over The Hurdles to Completion,” it only takes 5 steps:

 

1) Identify your Motivation–start by answering the question: “What is important about becoming someone who finishes?” Understanding your motivation for wanting to write/work on your writing project is the way to align yourself with your personal finish line.

“A single affirmation or reminder of your commitment can do a lot toward achieving the finishing line,” Morris says. “Develop your own version of the Little Red Engine’s mantra: ‘I think I can, I think I can!'”

2) Commit to a Project–Oftentimes writers take on more projects than they can handle and end up not finishing any of them (I’m extremely guilty of this!). Morris suggests narrowing down where you will focus your time and energy. One way to do this is to make a list of all the writing projects you’d like to complete at some point. Go thru and number the list in order of importance to you. Then (no matter how difficult it may be) choose one or two projects to focus on, and put the rest on the back burner until you’re finished with your first couple projects. Although this may seem difficult, it’s the only way to ever become a finisher. Taking on too many projects at once will cause you to get overwhelmed.

 

3) Build Structure–deadlines, timelines and accountability will help you to stay on track toward the finish line. So the best way to become a finisher is to set a deadline for finishing your writing project (or mini-deadlines for a longer project like a novel) and stick to it.

 

“Your inner saboteur will pipe in with notions like ‘I’m not a deadline person,’ or ‘Lists don’t work for me,’ Morris says. “Take this as normal resistance that surfaces when you try something different. Sometimes creative people think they need to be free and flexible, but the truth is that structure allows creativity to flow.”

 

4) Stay on Track–figuring out your motivation, committing to a project and setting a schedule are the three most important steps to becoming a completer. Morris says that you must stay on track if you’re ever going to become a completer.

 

“Don’t flirt with your other ideas once you’ve committed to go all the way with one,” she says. “You’ll need to develop your creative stamina, hone your emotional intelligence, and stay connected to all the previous reminders about why you’re doing your project and what’s your payoff for finishing.”

 

5) Acknowledge and Celebration Completion–Morris says this step is an important part of the process, but is often overlooked. Writers start to get more motivated once they complete a project, so they usually just move on to the next one without taking some time out to celebrate their accomplishment.

 

“Before you pop the cork on the champagne bottle, take some time to acknowledge what it took to get here,” Morris says. “Take the opportunity to learn about your creative style and what it takes to bring your projects to fruition. Acknowledging and celebrating will help you build confidence to complete future projects.”

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So now that you know what it takes to become a finisher, it’s time to put the process to the test. Over the next couple days, think about what your motivation is, and try to commit to a project or two. And be sure to drop me a line and let me know how it’s all going.

Need Motivation? Hire A Coach

“You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them,
but by building a fire within,” Bob Nelson

Sports teams, upon winning a big game, often thank their coach. But why? The coach didn’t even do anything…or did they?The job of a coach is to teach, mentor and motivate. And when they do this, they spark something inside that causes you to take action. That’s why a lot of people have life coaches and personal trainers and nutrition counselors. All of these people are doing, in essence, the same job–motivating you to take action and succeed. And most importantly, they care whether or not you succeed.

A writing coach is no different. Their job is to offer you insight, advice and motivation for completing whatever project you’re working on. And they’ll stick with you until the final chapter.

I just hired a writing coach of my own. She’s going to be helping me work toward completing my very first novel. And I am so excited and eager to get started!

If this sounds like an option that would help you, I suggest doing some research and finding a writing coach that you feel you can work with. A good way to do this is to interview potential coaches to find out what they’re all about. Then make your decision. Some coaches are better with certain writing styles or certain subjects, etc.

Here’s an article on “7 Questions to Ask Before You Hire A Coach,” to get you started.

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Have you ever worked with a writing coach before? How was your experience?