The Secret to the Writing Life

Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com shared his “staring death in the face” story with us the other day. He noted that right after it happened, he all of a sudden felt alive again, like he had a new shot at life. And he didn’t want to spend that life doing something that didn’t excite him or that he wasn’t passionate about. So he got rid of the old and brought in the new. And he’s much happier now.

Read his inspiring story.

Not only did Brian’s story inspire me to take a look at my life and my dreams to see that the two aren’t matching up, but it also inspired me to take action. Yesterday, I sat down for almost 8 hours and worked on plot and character development for a novel I’ve been wanting to write forever.

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes near-death experiences are the best way to really wake up and realize that you only get one life, you should be living it the way you want to.

So what do you think? Did Brian inspire you to get started on those writing projects pronto?

Why Changing Locales Will Spark Your Creativity

Yesterday I was getting ready to work on a short story I have to turn in to my fiction professor this week as part of my final portfolio. I was sitting on my couch watching TV and trying to psych myself up to get some writing done. But as I looked around my house, I noticed a hundred things that needed to be done–clean the bathrooms, mop the kitchen floor, vacuum–and that’s when I knew I would never be able to get any writing done at home. So I decided to change locales.

I went to my local Starbucks (cliche for a writer, I know!), got myself a Caffè Vanilla Frappuccino, a bottle of water and a chocolate croissant, and found a small table nestled in the corner of the room. I sat down, pulled out my laptop and an amazing thing happened.

I was able to just start writing. There was nothing to distract me from my task of writing (other than my delicious croissant, which I polished off quickly). There were no chores to do, no TV shows to watch, no people around to bother me. It was just me and my laptop.

I ended up deciding to turn the short story I’ve been working on into a novel, and I got the first chapter written yesterday at Starbucks.

Getting writing done isn’t all that difficult. It just takes some focus and dedication. I found it very useful to get out of the house for a bit. It really forced me to concentrate only on writing.

So this week, I suggest you try this method of sparking creativity out. Find your favorite place, or a place that you can go without being distracted, and go there to write. Then drop me a comment and let me know how it went. Where did you go? What, if any, distractions did you find there? How much writing did you get done? Do you think it helped you to change locales?

Two Ideas For Motivating Yourself To Write

I’m always looking for creative ways to motivate, or “trick” myself into sitting down and writing. In the last few days, I’ve learned of and come up with some ideas that I think are worth trying. Here are two ideas to get you started:

  • Write a check to someone you hate–my creative writing professor said that when he was in desperate need of finishing one of his books, he motivated himself in an extreme, but helpful, way. He got out his check book and wrote a $1,000 check to a person that he hates more than anything. Then, he gave the check to one of his good friends and told them “If I don’t have my book finished by January 1, I want you to give this to the person and tell them to cash it.” Although pretty extreme, the idea of losing $1,000–and having it go to someone you hate–is a pretty good motivational tool to get your writing done.
  • Pretend like you’re already done with it–last night while I was sitting on the couch watching Jimmy Kimmel Live and not writing, I had a moment of inspiration. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I just made a book cover for the book I’m trying to write and then used it to cover up one of the books I own? So I did just that. I made a mock cover for the book I’m trying to write, then I cut it apart and taped it over one of my Stephen King books, making it look like I wrote the book. Then I placed it on my coffee table so that I could look at it all the time. I figured seeing my name “in print” would make me more likely to sit down and actually write the book.

So take a few minutes this weekend and try one of these motivational tactics out. Which one motivated you the most? And how much writing did you get done because of it? Got any motivational ideas of your own? Drop me a line and let me know!

How To Stop Thinking and Start Writing

One of the main ideas discussed in this blog is how to actually sit down and start writing. It seems like every writer I know is better at it than I am. In fact, I sometimes even feel a bit jealous of my writer friends who are actually writing.

The good news is: we’re not alone! Lots of writers feel this way.

Take Jane Northcote, for instance. She recently wrote her first book, started a blog, and she also wrote an amazing guest post on Copyblogger (yes, I love this site!) called “Getting Writing Done: How to Stop Thinking About It and Start Writing.”

Here are the 7 steps she recommends all writers follow–or at least those who are finding it hard to sit down and write:

1) Remember why you’re writing, and write it down first–Jane says that if you remind yourself about what the chapter/article/paper you’re writing will do for you (get you a good grade in school, impress your boss, get you a publishing deal, etc), you will be more likely to take action and start writing.

2) Stop using energy thinking about it and just do it–This one’s self-explanatory.

3) Remember the actions are finite–Once it’s done, it’s done!

4) Ask someone to manage you–This step works especially well for me personally. I have a good friend in California who is also a writer, and her and I check in with each other once a week to make sure we’re staying on top of our writing projects. Having someone to monitor my progress makes me a lot more focused because, as you all know, writing is a solitary task, so having a friend to lean on every once in a while makes life (and writing!) so much easier.

5) Tell a large number of people you’ll do it–The idea behind this one is not wanting to disappoint people. If you tell a large number of people that you’re going to have such-and-such written by a certain date, then they will not only hold you accountable, but you will most likely hold yourself accountable, as well.

6) Find something you enjoy and treat yourself–writing is a lot easier to handle when you’re doing it somewhere that you enjoy, like your favorite Starbucks location or from your front porch swing. You get the idea…

7) Do nothing else–Also self-explanatory!

And, actually, Jane’s post inspired me to stop thinking and start writing. I’ve recently begun the planning/proposal stages of a non-fiction book about writing.

Share With Us

How about you? What are you currently working on? Or if you can’t seem to get started, what’s holding you back?

Procrastinator’s Secret Weapon: A Writer’s Notebook

This is advice from the blog, Daily Writing Tips. The author says about keeping a writer’s notebook: “If you’ve ever had aspirations towards fiction-writing, you’ve doubtlessly heard the advice to keep a notebook on you at all times, to jot down those elusive flashes of brilliance that come at the most inopportune moments. It’s definitely a good idea to have pen and paper to hand as much as possible – however, the discipline of keeping a writers’ notebook means more than just scribbling a few words when inspiration strikes.”
Here’s a sum-up of the post—

Get in the habit of writing everyday by:

  • Writing first thing in the morning
  • Spending five minutes writing at some point in the morning, and five minutes in the afternoon
  • Writing just before going to bed
  • Jotting down some notes before starting on your (professional) writing session of the day

The authors say, “If you’re going to stick with writing fiction long-term, it needs to become part of your daily life.”

Here are some topics the authors write about in their notebooks:

  • To-do lists for writing sessions or writing days
  • Brainstorming for competition entries
  • Character sketches
  • Plot outlines
  • Snatches of dialogue
And, of course, if you’re interested in reading the entire thing, check it out here:

Keeping a Writer’s Notebook. 

I’ve kept a writer’s notebook for as long as I can remember. I usually have a few going at one time, actually (one for my purse, one for next to my bed, one in the living room with all my fiction stuff).

Share With Us

Do you currently keep a writer’s notebook? If so, how is that going for you? If not, are you going to start keeping one now? Why or why not?

 

 

 

30 Days To A Better Writer


I came across an interesting method of productivity on Copyblogger the other day. Writer Sonia Simone called it “3 Sure-Fire Steps For Beating The Boring Content Blues,” but I’m calling it “30 Days To A Better Writer.” (This is also known as “The Seinfeld method of productivity.“)
The entire method involves 3 easy steps:
  1. Write Everyday–This means everyday! For the next 30 days (or longer if you can stand it). And you can write anything you want: a scene in your novel, an act in a play, a blog post, a journal entry.

    Get a calendar and a marker. Then mark an ‘X’ across each day that you write. The idea is to not break the chain, and if you fall off or miss a day before you reach 30 days you start over.

    You don’t need to write all day, just set aside at least 20 minutes.”Practicing every day will create breakthrough improvement–if you do it enough days in a row. It will give your work a depth it didn’t have before, a maturity and a new clarity,” Simone says.

    Turn off your inner editor and give yourself permission to write crap. Sit down and write a crappy chapter in your novel.

    “Crap is just fine,” Simone says. “Skipping a day is not.”
      
  2. Post Your Blog Every 2 or 3 Days; Polish Your Work At Least Once A Week–You probably won’t publish every post you write, but try to publish every 2 or 3 days. This will keep your content fresh and your readers coming back.

    If you don’t have anywhere to publish your work right now (all you budding fiction writers!), try to go thru and edit a few pieces at least once a week.
      
  3. Capture 2 Ideas Everyday–Everyday, write down 2 ideas for a blog post or a scene in your short story or a verse of a poem. Make sure you have easy access to this list of ideas. The ideas don’t have to be good ideas; many will likely be pretty bad. What’s important is that you’re capturing lots of good ideas mixed in with the bad ones.

    “If you get completely stuck on ideas for the day, think of two different angles on the post you just wrote,” Simone says. “Or riffs on two current events. Or load up magazines.com and capture a couple of
    Cosmo headlines.”

    A wise writer once told me: “Everyone walks past a thousand story ideas everyday. Good writers see five or six; most people don’t see any.”


    Two ideas a day keeps the writer’s block away.

So, Why Does It Work?

Simone says it works for a couple reasons: “First, you can’t write well unless you can learn to ignore the part of your brain that wants things to be perfect.” and “Second, you’re learning a habit not only of writing daily but of original thinking daily.”
 

The Most Important Thing To Take Away


“You’ll learn what every serious writer knows–there is no such thing as inspiration,” Simone says. “There is work and there is a commitment to show up, and then there is the alchemy that lets you create better writing than you thought you could write. These things are a result of daily commitment and practice.”
The best part of all of this is you’ll have some “reserve writing” for days when you just can’t think of anything to write about or need an idea starter.
And remember, you don’t have to continue this forever…just for 30 days. Unless you want to…
So what do you think? Can you commit to 30 days of writing for at least 20 minutes a day?

Share With Us

If you commit to it, copy and paste this pledge into the comments section of this blog and fill in your information:
“I, __________, commit to write everyday for the next 30 days. I will keep track of my accomplishments by marking the day off on my calendar. I’ll also post my blog every two or three days/I’ll also edit my work at least once a week. And I will capture at least two ideas a day.”

How To Avoid Becoming A “One Day” Writer

By Jennifer Blanchard
Back when I was preparing for NaNoWriMo, I read “No Plot? No Problem!” by Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month, and he mentioned something in the book about not being a “one day” writer. And what he said is so profound, I felt the need to share it with you.
[As a sidenote, if you are interested in participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo, but aren’t sure what to write about, check out Baty’s book. It’s loaded with great information about how to get from day one to day 30 with a completed manuscript. It’s definitely a NaNoWriMo first-timer must-read!]
 
In Baty’s book, he says:

“Outside of writing classes, we never quite get the professional-grade push we need to tackle big, juicy, creative projects like novel writing….We’re slammed at work and busy at home…there’s barely enough time in a day all our mandatory obligations, so optional activities like novel writing, journaling, painting or playing music…are invariably left for another day…which is how most of us become ‘one day’ novelists. As in, ‘One day, I’d really like to write a novel.’ Problem is that that day never seems to come, and so we’re stuck.”

I’m sure we can all attest to what Baty is saying. It’s hard to find time for the things you want to do because there are so many things you need to do that come first. But in order to avoid being a “one day writer,” you need to find time–fifteen minutes a day, whatever–to get your writing done. (This is yet another reason why NoNoWriMo is such a great invention. It gives you a 30-day deadline in which to complete a 50,000-word novel.)

And actually, that’s the main way to going to get your novel written–by setting a deadline. I know I talk about this pretty often, but it’s a major factor in being a novelist, especially if you’d like to eventually write fiction for a living.

So to get you started on the path to no longer being a “one day writer,” here are 3 tips:

  • Set a Deadline–Since I just mentioned this, I thought I’d reiterate it. Although it’s sometimes difficult, setting self-imposed deadlines and meeting them will get you on writing faster (and better) than any other thing.

And don’t forget to reward yourself. If you hit a deadline–whatever it may have been–reward yourself. Take the day off from work and get a pedicure, go buy that new book you’ve wanted to read, get yourself something from your Amazon wishlist, anything that will make you feel rewarded and special, which will make you want to keep writing.

  • Step Away from the TV–If you’re going to get your writing done, you need to make time to write, which starts with blocking out all distractions. And a good distraction to eliminate first is the TV. Without even realizing it, TV has taken over much of our free time.For example, the other day I got an e-mail from a writer friend. She was talking about how she “really wants to write her book, but can’t find the time.” So I asked her, how much TV do you watch each night and she said, “Oh, about 4 hours.” Bingo! That’s 4 hours she could be writing.Obviously going cold-turkey on the TV time is not going to keep you away, but maybe, instead of spending 4 hours watching TV each night, cut back to 3 hours, and spend the fourth hour writing.
  • Leave Your Inner Editor at the Door–This is one of the biggest things you can do to avoid being a “one day” writer. Many times writers stop themselves from actually writing because they’re afraid it won’t be very good.This is a common fear for most writers, so don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself falling into this category. The important thing is you recognize it now and can take steps toward actually writing.One thing that I do which seems to be pretty helpful is I drew a “Turn Off Inner Editor” ‘button’ in my writing notebook. Now when I’m sitting down to write something, I first open my notebook and “push” the ‘button.’ Once I give myself permission to turn off my inner editor, I am able to write more without judgment.

So Procrastinating Writers…what say you? Are you ready to become a writer, rather than a “one day” writer?

How To Legally Protect Your Writing (The Cheap Way)

By Jennifer Blanchard

Writers everywhere have the same question–how do I protect my work? A lot of times writers worry about someone stealing their work, but don’t have the money to officially copyright it.

Good news…according to Brian A. Klems, the Writer’s Digest Newsletter Editor:

“Whenever you put something in a tangible format—written on paper, typed on computer, chiseled on stone tablets—it’s copyrighted and protected under U.S. copyright law. No tricks. No magic. It’s as simple as that.”

Klems added a post to his Questions and Quandaries blog this morning that gives more information about copyrighting your work (in an official capacity).

Also–keeping in mind what Klems just told us about copyrighting our work–since the burden of proof falls on you if someone steals your writing and tries to use it as their own, it’s a good idea to take the most recent copy of all your novels, short stories (that are in final form or have been sent out for publication), put them all in separate envelopes and have them sent certified mail to yourself.

Once you get them in the mail, don’t open them. I repeat: DO NOT OPEN THEM. Set them aside and don’t worry about them again unless you get involved in a copyright claim/lawsuit.

Since stuff you send through the mail has a “sent date” on it, you will now have the proof you need to win your copyright claim/lawsuit.

Another option is to seal each piece of writing in a separate envelope and then get each envelope notorized. Libraries usually have free notary services available.

Now get to copyrighting…I mean, writing. 🙂

17 Ways to Find 10 Minutes to Write


By Jennifer Blanchard

One of the most common excuses many writers give for why they procrastinate is “I don’t have the time to write.”

True, people are busier these days then they ever have been before–we’re multi-tasking machines, filling every second of our days with a task of some kind, always so busy….blah, blah, blah.

If you stop for a second and take a look at your day, I bet you can find at least 10 minutes somewhere that you can write (and you could probably even find a few 10-minute blocks of time).

You don’t have to be writing all day every day in order to get your writing done. You’d be surprised how efficient you can be when you only have ten minutes to write (especially if writing is something you truly love to do).

Inspired by the blog post, 10 Ways to Find 10 Minutes to Write, on DailyWritingTips.com, I am going to give you 17 ways you can find at least 10 minutes to write everyday. So here they are…17 ways to find 10 minutes to write every day:

  • Before you get out of bed in the morning–when you wake up, roll over, turn on your light, grab your notebook and write for 10 minutes (this is an exercise called “Morning Pages“).
  • While you’re waiting for your girlfriend/husband/kids to get out of the shower so you can get in.
  • While you’re waiting for the coffee to finish brewing
  • While you’re waiting for your kid’s school bus to come.
  • While you’re sitting in traffic–I don’t condone you write while you’re driving, but if you are sitting in traffic that is completely stopped (which happens a lot when there’s an accident), it’s ok to grab a notebook and jot a couple ideas down. (Just be sure to watch the road for when the cars start moving again.)
  • As soon as you get to your desk–when you get to the office, instead of spending a half hour checking your e-mails, take a quick glance to see if there are any e-mails that need immediate response, then grab a notebook or bring up a Word document and spend 10 minutes writing. You can always go back to the less-important e-mails later.
  • During your morning coffee/smoke break–bring your notebook with you and write.
  • During a meeting–yes, we all know that most meetings are a waste of time, so if you find yourself in one of these meetings, jot down some notes for your next story or poem.
  • On your lunch break–if you’re not using your lunch break to run errands, grab your laptop or notebook and head outside or to your company’s breakroom (or stay at your desk) and write while you eat (you may even get more than 10 minutes of writing time at lunch).
  • During your afternoon coffee/smoke break.
  • As soon as you walk in the door from work–yes, dinner needs to be made and there is homework to be done and a Girl Scout’s meeting and spending twenty minutes on the treadmill before bed. But before you do all that, take 10 minutes and write. Just getting down on paper those poem ideas or that great opening line to your next short story you came up with in your morning meeting will help you put your focus on the rest of your evening, while also keeping your writing on the back of your mind.
  • While dinner is cooking–unless you’re a beginner, you’ve probably mastered the art of making dinner. That also means you’ve got at least 10 minutes of time–while the rice is cooking, while the burgers are grilling–to write.
  • After dinner before you settle in to watch your favorite TV shows.
  • During the commercial breaks of your TV shows.
  • Before you go to bed–just quickly before you go to sleep, write for 10 minutes.
  • In place of watching a TV show you’ve already seen–you know what I’m talking about because we all do it: watching reruns of a show you like because there’s nothing better on. Instead, write for 10 minutes (or longer!).
  • After you put your kids to bed–once the little ones go to sleep, write!

So as you can see, there are plenty of ways to find 10 minutes in your day to write. No excuses, put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and write for 10 minutes today.