World of Words: My Experience at Festival of Faith and Writing

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

I had the privilege of attending the Festival of Faith and Writing or #FFWGR on twitter hosted by Calvin College every two years. It’s THE literary event and it floods our city with artists, creative, wordsmiths, and readers.

Maybe I’ve mentioned before the power of community to inspire, motivate, and engage people. Well the #FFWGR community is a testament to that power. They are my people. What a sense of kindred spirit.

However, I have a confession and a regret. I’ve considered myself “well read” but even as a voracious reader I found that I had not read anything by any of the numerous speakers.

In the months leading up to the Festival I checked out the speakers and facilitators. Looking at their books and descriptions on Amazon. Visiting their author pages and websites. Hitting their social media sites. All to find, I knew a handful of names and their reputation in the writing world.

Despite having read zero of the represented presenters, I have to say what an awesome event. It was filled with great tips and advice; motivation and humility; and an energetic group of vibrant characters. Did I mention they are my peeps?

Mostly the Festival provoked in me a challenge and a desire to do what I love; to write. I learned that swimming in words surrounded by others who love words as much, is the place I am at my best.

At the end of each of the three days I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from all the interaction and knowledge. I am after all an introvert which means I get zapped by the social parts of life. And still, my mood was high. I didn’t yell at my kids like I do when I get home from working. I responded differently. They experienced a kinder, gentler mom.

Calvin Campus © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Calvin Campus
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Writing is many things. Speakers referred to writing as:

  • Higher calling
  • Stewardship
  • Self-Examination
  • Silence
  • Worship
  • Mirrors and Windows

For me, writing is all of that plus it is who I am. My sanity is tied to my writing. It relaxes me in the midst of hectic life. Writing helps me express what I feel, what I want to see in the world, and how I want to be remembered.

No matter how many times I quit, coming back to a world of words is like coming home. Every speaker and contributor, every participant, and every moment of the Festival was the jumpstart I desperately needed.

My favor quotes and the most tweet-able statements (please keep in mind that the speaker may have been quoting someone else and I didn’t do a good job of capturing that):

The cynics among you have a lot of blah, blah, blah to lay at your feet. Skepticism is good. Cynicism is the killer of dreams. ~James McBride

Fiction is the lie that tells the truth.

~Hugh Cook

We give language to longings that have yet to be articulated. ~Sharon Garlough Brown

If you will extract the precious from the worthless, you will be my spokesman. ~Tracy Groot adapted from Jeremiah 15:19

When we choose the right word, it’s worth a thousand pictures.

~Richard Foster

I gave up pontificating for Lent. ~

Silence is writing. If you want to be a better writer, if you want to have things to say, you need to spend time in silence. ~Nathan Foster

Failure is an integral part of success … recognition is earned not bestowed … If I’ve never failed at anything in life, I am setting my goals to low. ~Pam Munoz Ryan

True objectivity is fiction. We all write from a specific social location. ~Valerie Weaver Zercher

What I know about anything applies to everything. ~Anne Lamott

You are so loved and preapproved. ~Anne Lamott

The sacrament of puttering … Laughter is carbonated holiness. ~Anne Lamott

It’s the business of the writer to tell what haunts us. ~Valerie Sayers

Talent is a God-given gift often squandered. ~Valerie Sayers

Writing fiction is like being in your underwear in front of the world.

~Suzanne Woods Fisher

I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing. ~Suzanne Woods Fisher adapted from 2 Samuel 24:24

All fantasy has a happy ending or at least a hopeful ending. ~G. Willow Wilson

Any belief system worth anything should tell an ethical message to all people. ~G. Willow Wilson

As writers of faith, we don’t have to operate with the scarcity principle because we serve at the pleasure of a generous Master.

~Rachel Held Evans

This is not a competition, it’s worship. ~Rachel Held Evans

Sitting in the sanctuary of his words. ~Rachel Held Evans

Amazing right? How can I not face writer’s block and rejection after hearing such statements of faith and writing? Bulletproof comes to mind.

I am still processing all of it. Ruminating.

I’ll tell you what though … since all of you are my peeps too, mark your calendars for the 2016 Festival of Faith and Writing.

I hope to see you there!

Advertisements

Remembering Where We Started …

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I have to start this post with a big THANK YOU to Letizia of reading interrupted, who’s recent post, Revisiting The Jefferson Bible, led her to her first blog post. Also, it led her down the path of checking out the first blog post of her followers.

When she commented on my first post it made me wonder what I’d said, what I’d been thinking almost two years ago. Reading it made me laugh. It made me smile.  It made me remember. 

Quite honestly, it nearly brought me to tears. Not because it was prolific or special, but it captured my feeling, my desire, my dream.

I am inspired by my intentions and hopes from that first post.

I was optimistic, and let’s face it, naïve, which of course is the beauty of beginnings.

Amazing how powerful and happy I felt about writing before I tried to incorporate ALL the advice in cyberspace or build a platform using social media. I was overwhelmed by self-imposed pressure to live up to an ideal of a writer, not defined by me, when all I wanted to do was tell a story.

Writing, and consequently blogging, lost the shiny new exterior because stats were tripping me up, checking the number of blog hits or new followers.  Worrying that I needed to change to increase my stats.

Writing became about pleasing others instead of pleasing me. My blog posts were about getting attention, catering to an audience. I didn’t know.  I see the time and care I put into those first posts because I was more concerned with liking what I wrote rather than having it liked.

Maybe you can tell by my personal marveling that I’ve been in the state of quitting writing for months now. If you recall, I shelved my novel recently.

Sammy, my writing partner, whom I love and adore, has been encouraging me and with each card, email, and phone call, I’d postpone my departure from the writing world one more day. I’d hold of giving up my title of writer for one more week.

She’ll be glad to read that I’m trying to work this out (albeit publicly) as opposed to avoiding the writing conversation.

And then, as if they’d planned it, another blogger buddy, Britt of A Physical Perspective, posted a renewed commitment to her writing dreams.  I am moved by her revelation and hope for the new year. Thank you, as well Britt.

Stories connect us. Good stories reveal something about who we are or what’s important to us. Letizia and Britt’s stories serve as great reminders.  Sammy’s investment in me keeps me sane. These events are a catalyst for creation. My muse is knocking. I’m tingly like someone sprinkled fairy dust.

So even though I didn’t make any resolutions for 2014, I am seriously considering making this a year of renewal … a year of remembering where I started … a year of celebrating where I am headed.

Which means, I am a writer, telling stories for me, while hoping others will love them too and join me on the journey.

I wish all my artistic and wordsmith friends a year of renewal!

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: A “Dear John” Letter to a Fictional Character

Dear Baby Girl,

What can I say? Arriving at this moment is surreal.

I thought we would be together for a long time; friends for life.

Our lives are inextricably linked with a common thread …

Eight year old you wanting to escape, finding solace in the pages of a book. Struggling to deal with the loss of your grandmother. Realizing the fate of two worlds rests on your young shoulders because only you can defeat the villainous Red Queen. Fighting the internal battle of the truth that surrounds you or accepting your mother’s beliefs.

And my forty something self, also longing to escape by penning your tale so others can escape into its pages. We’re a match made in heaven.

Yet here we are …

I have other characters whispering, okay shouting in my ear. Waking me from sound sleep and vibrating for my attention. Of course, I’ve denied them till now because I was committed to you. But I can’t deny my feelings for them any longer.

They speak to me in ways you haven’t in far too many months. Six to be exact. That’s not an accusation. It’s a fact. We don’t talk like we used to. Let’s face it, the spark is gone.

I crave the newness that comes at the beginning of a relationship. The “Honeymoon Phase” they call it. I miss that. I miss the excitement and exploration and surprise as we were getting to know each other. I need that.

Still I held on …

Why?

Because calling it quits would mean failure. Calling it quits would mean admitting that your story is bigger than my ability to tell it.

I know it’s selfish. I’ve stayed for the wrong reasons. I stayed because I was afraid of not finishing.

This may be cliché but:  It’s not you … It’s me.

After three years and four months of trying to make it work … three years and …

  • Countless reams of paper
  • Megabytes of memory
  • Tens of thousands of words
  • Three journals
  • Hundreds of phone calls and meetings
  • Lots of tears and heartache …

I have to say goodbye.

I have to put you on the shelf and walk away. We’re just holding each other back. I’m sorry. I know I’ll regret this one day.

There’s an old saying:

“If you love something very, very badly, let it go free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, it never was yours to begin with.”

Baby Girl … I pray you and your story come back to me. Please know that I love you, I just can be with you right now.

Tell the others bye for me …

Gail

Best of Breathe

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

As promised from my last post, I am sharing my Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference experience with you.

Instead of me telling you all about every detail, I’m going to give you the best sound bites that came out of the weekend.

I made every attempt to capture statements verbatim and will use quotation marks. With that said, please be forgiving if you later find I misquoted a speaker …

Take what works for you and leave the rest. Enjoy:

Treat your writing like a business because agents, editors, publishers, bookstores, and consumers do.” ~Peter DeHaan 

Writers shouldn’t settle for mere escapism.” ~Patti Hill 

No one is more qualified to give your message than you are.” ~Twila Belk 

If I took my character to a psychiatrist, what would I learn about them?” ~David Beach

Be faithful to the task of writing and God will do something with it. He probably won’t publish your thoughts though.” ~Latayne C. Scott 

If you get hung up on a form of writing, you won’t be able to write. Or, you get addicted to that form and you don’t move forward.” ~Tracy Groot 

Social media isn’t your platform, but it does direct people to your platform.” ~Peter DeHaan

I have a love-hate relationship with the writing life. I wouldn’t wish to have any other kind of life . . . and on the other hand, I wish it were easier. And it never is. The reward comes sentence by sentence. The reward comes in the unexpected inspiration. The reward comes from creating a character who lives and breathes and is perfectly real. But such effort it takes to attain the reward! I would have never believed it would take such effort.’ From Elizabeth George’s: Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life 

 “All dialogue should have tension.” ~Patti Hill

Don’t die with the story still in you … Let it out!” ~Twila Belk

Read your dialogue out loud in a monotone to see if the words move you anyway.” ~Patti Hill

We live most of our lives in contradiction … Quality writing requires friction.” ~Latayne C. Scott

Give the muse something to work with.” ~Tracy Groot on Preparation

An author’s job is to leave breadcrumbs.” ~Patti Hill

Our writing must link the reader from the seen to the unseen …” ~Latayne C. Scott

I needed to hear all these things and much more. My “to do” list has pretty much doubled, but I can’t focus on its length or I will be paralyzed by it. But it’s there in list form (in the margins of my writing notebook with g* as a signifier that I need to take action).

My “to read” list has grown by leaps and bounds. I’ve added titles written by the presenters and writing resources they recommend. Some of the writing resources I wanted to avoid but my desire to do so is futile.

Resources:

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Elements of Style by William Strunk
  • Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
  • Writer to Writer by Cecil Murphey

I’ll be back soon with a few more things to share from Breathe!

Being Selfish

Have desk, will write

Have desk, will write (Photo credit: Bright Meadow)

I wish I could say that my two months absence was due to writing furiously; especially sense my last post was titled “Back-To-Writing”. 

Alas, it’s just because life is life. We’ve been busy. Too busy to think creatively elsewhere thanks to:

  • Work volume that’s unseasonably high.
  • Dudes going back-to-school and the realization that I am not smarter than a 3rd grader (seriously, 3rd grade homework will be the death of me).
  • Catching up with friends I haven’t seen or heard from in a while.
  • Volunteer commitments which are important.

At the end of most days, I don’t have much to give. Right now, no one is getting the best me. My employer gets first dibs on my energy just because it’s first in my day. My dudes get marginally less than my job. My hubby never gets the best me (which is sad). And me … I don’t get any of me (which is pathetic).

I know, I’ve told you this before. You’re wondering, what’s new? Nothing’s changed. If anything, the pace of busy keeps increasing.

Back-to-writing didn’t go the way I planned.

What I learned in the process is I am not effective at writing every day. Every other works better. It allows me time to refill the creative bucket. Then brain dump the next day and keep moving.

I am thankful to have this writerly knowledge of myself.

Now, I’ll stop whining and tell you what I going to do about.

I am attending a two day writing conference this coming weekend. Hello, Breathe Christian Writers’ ConferenceHere I come!

The countdown is on. This year’s theme: Let It Out!

I’ve already registered for the workshops I’m interested in. Purchased new pens so I can fill as many blank pages as I can, with advice, thoughts, and maybe even new novel words.

Yep. It’s a big deal.

I am ready. I am going to be totally selfish and not worry about anything else for two days.

Our youngest dude is in a play that I will miss. His disappointment almost had me caving in; almost compromised my selfish ways. But it would have meant missing the keynote address on the first night of the conference. A topic I need to hear about: The Rule of Three

Thankfully, my husband reminded me that it’s okay to give myself this time. As a matter of fact, he’s excited because there’s a school event on a night he doesn’t have to work. Bonus. They will video it for me and we’ll watch it back as a family.

I’m going. No guilt trips.

Both of my writing partners were planning on attending with me. We’d all saved the date and talked about how great it would be when we could all gather together under one roof. Except, life happened. Babies, family, worthy things happened. Now they’re not coming.

I’m going anyway.

I turned my attention to two acquaintances who I met at the same event last year. I figured I’d still see some faces I knew. But one has a schedule conflict and the other decided not to go.

I’m going friendless … but I’m going. Wait … I’ll make new friends.

I don’t have any new story ideas; not starting a new project. I’m working on the same novel as last year this time (and the year before and the year before). Of course, I’ve made progress. Maybe not as much as I would like but …

I’m still going … hoping to be inspired.

Speaking of selfishness, I splurged and purchased new frocks to wear. I can always use more clothes and shoes but what a wonderful excuse to do so.

I’m going in style.

This is my gift to me. A writerly respite. A vacation from day to day. A writer’s retreat. A reboot if you will.

And, when it’s all over, I will share with all of you. Whatever I learn or think or feel … I will share with you. Community is a beautiful thing.

You’ll be hearing from me soon.

~Gail

image from Zemanta via WordPress.

excuses! Excuses! EXCUSES!

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  New Journals

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
New Journals

This post has been simmering in the creative juices of my stewpot brain for weeks.

I’ve been unwilling to let it come to a boil and bemoan (yet again) my lack of writing. I know this is the writer’s journey. The cycle of highs and lows. Triumphs and defeats.

But I wonder should I keep talking about the journey? Especially when said journey is at a standstill?

Apparently, the answer is yes because here I am, telling you (yet again) that I have writer’s block. Or better yet, as Jerry Cleaver, author of my go to resource, Immediate Fiction, puts it: “Page Fright”.

Last time I talked about writing, it was on the heels of a recommendation to take a sabbatical. To which I publicly said no, only to traverse that path anyway …

Confession: It’s been months since I’ve opened Scrivener. It’s been weeks since I made a note in my journal relative to the novel in progress. It’s been days since I’ve thought about my characters and what’s going on in their lives. Truly, I am embarrassed at my lack of concern for them.

So you’re probably wondering what has me blocked this time. What’s the trigger for my “page fright”?

  • Excuses
  • Self-loathing
  • Emotions
  • Self-doubt
  • Oh yeah and did I mention?
  • Excuses

Tell me my creative friends … have you ever said any of these things:

I’m too tired …

It’s an excuse. I have the energy to stay up all hours of the night and day watching TV or surfing the web (especially for books on Amazon) or playing games on my iPhone. So I’ll take the hit for this one. It’s really just laziness on my part.

I’m too busy …

And I am. I’m a wife and mom who works outside of the home. Needless to say in the last six months my day job workload has more than tripled; leaving no room for anything else. Except maybe: baby blankets? Remember all my friends who are expecting or adopting? Wait. That’s another excuse. If I’m being honest it just means I procrastinate and writing is first thing to go.

I don’t have time …

Okay, is this the same as being too busy? Maybe. What I know is in a high time in my writer cycle I would say something like: “It’s about making time,” which is a truthful declaration. And I would. I just don’t know what to do in the low times like right now.

Writers should read widely … inside and outside their genre

So, I’ve immersed myself in books. Isn’t that what the Goodreads 2013 Challenge is for? I need to read more before I can write well. Reading a well written novel should teach me tips and tricks. Unfortunately, all the great writing I’ve been reading is discouraging me … paralyzing me. Plus all the bad writing I’ve been reading is discouraging me. This losing myself in other people’s stories instead of my own is a distraction.

Who am I kidding … Nobody’s going to want to read this

The word drivel comes to mind which is why good writing and bad writing is discouraging. It all depends on the day I peruse my darlings. Sometimes I find gold and it makes me smile. Other times, I lay my head on my desk and weep because only rewriting can fix it. Ever been here?

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

“Put all excuses aside and remember this: YOU are capable.” ~Zig Ziglar

I’m not good enough because writing is hard …

Haha … this is Who-Am-I-Kidding’s kissing cousin. Writing is hard despite my love for words and the thrill of a story. Thanks to I-Don’t-Have-Time and I’m-Too-Tired, the last thing I want to do is invest my time in learning “the craft” of writing. I know … another play at laziness.

I need to build a platform …

Do I really? I mean, yes, I get it. I do. But having a platform and nothing meaningful or substantial as in finished to give those who would join “my tribe” is just social media fun not platform building. Distraction at its finest, right? Tweet. Friend. Post. Like. Sigh.

What is the cure for the excuse-itis I am experiencing? I’ve self-diagnosed the symptoms:

  • Distraction?
  • Procrastination?
  • Laziness?
  • Stress?

Truth be told, all my excuses boil down to good old fashioned FEAR.

  • Fear of finishing.
  • Fear of not finishing.
  • Fear that it’ll be bad.
  • Fear that it’ll be great.
  • The list is endless.

We are just a couple of months away from my self-imposed August deadline. WIP started in August 2011. I can look in my journal and tell you the day I penned the idea. I gave myself a year for completing. Ambitious for a first time novelist. Then I extended it to August 2012 and again to August 2013.

It’s fast approaching and I have little to show for it. I should cut myself some slack. August 2014 anyone?

Some of the podcasts I listen to have recently referenced authors who worked on a book for 10, 20, 30+ years before finishing.

Again I wonder … what’s the cure for excuses? Especially when the first words to form are my handy little phrases … there seems to be a shortage of the words I crave most. You know …

  • Clever words
  • Witty words
  • Rambling words
  • Story picture words
  • Pithy words
  • Words with friends (oh wait … no … strike this one)

I should be making word soup in my stewpot brain … not excuses …

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  New Ink

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
New Ink

And yet during this unexpected hiatus I’ve found it easier to tell people who ask what I do: 

“I am a writer.”

And to respond to the question: “What do you write?” with “I write YA fiction.”

Now like the sign off from the podcast Writing Excuses: “This has been Writing Excuses. You’re out of excuses. Now go write.”

Today, I’ll take that advice. I’m off to write in my stacks of beautifully blank journals; fighting “page fright” with ink. But before I go, tell me:

What self-talk keeps you from your creative pursuits? What’s on your list that isn’t on mine? And most important, how do you combat the excuse mill?

Hello World! One Year Later …

WordPress

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

Happy Blog-o-versary to me … One year ago I started blogging after three months of prep time.

I spent almost three years debating: should I or shouldn’t I? Once I decided I should then, came the other hard part:

  • Choosing a blog name
  • Picking a theme
  • Determining a publishing schedule (ha)
  • Writing posts (just in case inspiration didn’t hit on schedule)

I remember reading all the information WordPress had for new bloggers. And there were a few suggestions or statements that stuck with me.

  1. Blog often
  2. Like and comment frequently
  3. Make it a year and you’ll have staying power

It’s been an evolution and not the revolution I expected. Some how I anticipated that I would “arrive”, but understand now, it’s a journey.

Walk on the Edge

Walk on the Edge (Photo credit: Lel4nd)

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher

And it’s on this journey that I’ve found a supportive community … I’d like to say thank you to all the writers, creators, artists, innovator, and dreamers. You’ve made this year worth every moment. Thanks for each “like” and comment and follow. Thanks for reading and sharing. Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey and engaging me in conversation.

Although it’s been everything I hoped and nothing I expected all at the same time … maybe this next year holds the best!

Happy New Year … Anniversary … Birthday …

Images from Zemanta via WordPress

Word Choice – It Matters

 

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I’ve always been a writer but I am a fledgling novelist. One thing that writing a novel is teaching me: my vocabulary is lacking. Nonexistent really.

To think, vocabulary was once something I prided myself on.

I guess spending my formative years looking up words I didn’t know; writing down the definitions in my “reading journal”; and using the word in a sentence was for nothing. Especially because I don’t recall the majority of the words let alone their meanings.

Most of the time I rely on the context clues for meaning rather than the denotative meaning. There’s nothing wrong with doing this as a reader.

However, as a writer, I find myself struggling to convey what I mean without being repetitive. Or I have to use a thesaurus because I don’t know an alternative way to say certain things. And then it feels forced because they aren’t “my” words.

It’s a sad state …

Who wants to read a novel full of the same single descriptive word or phrase? For instance: “the twins” to describe our heroines.

Not me. Not any reader.

I know I can use: siblings, sisters, girls, daughters, doppelgänger. Or even combinations with: matched set, pair, identical, fraternal. But will it feel authentic coming from my mouth, my pen, my keystrokes?

Help!

I guess that’s why they say: “Writing is Re-writing.”

I wonder if this is part of finding my writer’s voice. The reason I choose the words I choose.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Poor vocabulary is limiting. HINT: I’m easy to beat in a game of Words with Friends or Scrabble which is why I won’t play against my hubby.

Although I am in a state of hysteria over this, I haven’t allowed it to slow me down. My choice? Let words flow. Even if the words are repetitive. I just need to get the story out. Right? Then I can go back and make the words matter.

This is part of the reason I am reluctant to share excerpts from my novel in progress. Eventually I’ll move past this issue. Or maybe the second draft will only contain deliberately repetitive statements, making it worthy to post.

Outside of using a thesaurus … I need to work on vocabulary building. My characters deserve a richer language than I have to offer right now.

Anyone else have this problem? What’s the cure?

Off to listen to my Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day and Grammar Girl podcasts. Oh yeah and to read more so I can learn from those who’ve done it well.

What I Learned at Jot

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I believe it’s important to continue to grow personally and learn new things, despite being a creature of habit. There’s a saying:  Knowledge is Power. Maybe you’ve heard it before. Anyway, this is the reason I encourage all writers to attend a writing conference.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a local event … one night only … four short hours … with writing time built in. JOT:  the GR writers mini-conference.

It was a great event. I dare say special. And what made it extra special, is my hubby went with me and we made a date night of it.

The most valuable lesson I learned at JOT wasn’t a specific bullet point from a specific presentation. It was the entirety of the experience. The most valuable lesson was steeped in reflection. Like hot water is to a tea bag, JOT was to my writer’s mind. Extracting the full flavor.

It finally occurred to me … What I’d failed to recognize before was suddenly clear. And I smiled to myself as I sat soaking up everything this event had to offer, sipping coffee with my notebook open, and my husband sitting next to me. Ahhh … the moment of enlightenment.

You’re wondering what I learned and why I was smiling?

I realized that I couldn’t appreciate the message of each presenter or the questions of each writer without having already failed at their writing advice.

Huh? Yes, there is something to be said for the try, fail, and adjust process.

Let me explain …

One presenter said, “Write your first draft as quickly as possible,” which is great advice.

The reason? Your writer’s voice changes over time. Each book or article you read or write; each day that passes and experiences lived cause you to evolve.

So the quicker you put all the words for your novel down the better it is for keeping a consistent voice and minimize some editing as a result. Makes sense.

But as someone who is well into her second year of a first draft (writing in the gaps of life), I can totally see it. When I read the earliest parts of my manuscript I can recall what I was reading and see how it influenced my output.

Do you see? I wouldn’t  have been able to wrap my mind around this concept if I weren’t living the failure of it already.

Another presenter talked briefly about platform. That all important word that strikes fear and stress into writers. Because we have to figure out how to use social media to gain a following of engaged readers.

He said, “The number one reason books are turned down [for publication] is lack of platform.” He defined platform as the ability to promote your story.

I understand how important platform is. Still I struggle with it. I worry, wonder, and doubt what I should or should not share. Is it worthy or value added?

And even though I’ve garnered around 200 followers between my blog and twitter account, I dare say only a handful are “engaged”. If I weren’t in the process of building my own platform this advice wouldn’t resonate with me.

Trying and failing is a remarkable teacher. If we adjust our actions based on where we fell short and what we were trying to achieve we stand to accomplish something great.

So don’t be afraid to jump in and just start.

Now you may think I’ve contradicted myself … I still advocate for attending writers’ conferences and applying practical knowledge gained.

Just remember there is plenty of advice out there on writing. Some of it is Best Practice and shouldn’t be ignored, but it doesn’t mean all of it will work for you.

I’ve learned a lot about my writing process just by trying. And I’ve learned a number of things by following the advice of others.

I appreciated my experience at JOT for the epiphany and because they delivered exactly what they promised:  Meet. Learn. Write. Looking forward to the next JOT.

What life event led to your most recent “aha moment”? Do you learn best by doing or from instruction? Feel free to leave me a comment. I’d love to hear your story.

3 Writer’s Truths

Writer's Stop

Writer’s Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)

I love how our experiences teach us the best lessons. I love how they shape us.

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard some interesting statements which have made me reflect on my writer life. These statements have led me to some new truths.

I want to share my new found knowledge with you. Forgive me if these are truths that you already carry around with you.

1. Knowing is half the battle.

I had the privilege of attending a motivational conference for work. One of the speakers said, “Know some stuff, so you can say some stuff.” Her topic was about meeting new people, striking up conversations with strangers.

My colleague and I were tickled by this assertion. Why? Because it’s obvious. To have something interesting to contribute to any conversation you have to know something.

I guess this is why some of the most frequent advice to writers is you should be readers especially in the genre you write. Reading is research. It helps you know stuff.

Another frequent piece of writer advice is write what you know. My recommendation … know some stuff, just as the speaker at this event said. Then you’ll have lots to say.

But equally important to remember, like in a conversation, is the other person knows something too. Your reader knows stuff. You don’t have to describe or explain everything because the readers’ experience can fill in gaps.

2. Boring is relative.

I listen to a few podcasts. On a recent episode of I Should Be Writing, the host was reading comments and questions from her listeners. One said, “My life isn’t interesting enough to blog about.” Hmmm.

Then I listened to an episode of Writing Excuses where the writing prompt was:  The Hero of the Most Boring Story Ever.

Both made me think of the Seinfeld phenomenon. A show about nothing that has a cult following.

Isn’t it the responsibility of the writer to help the reader connect to the content; to get them to feel something?

If our lives aren’t interesting or if we are the hero of the most boring story ever, it doesn’t matter. Boring is relative. We need to make them feel excited about what we perceive as boredom, just as Seinfeld writers accomplished.

My recommendation … write with abandon … write like what you have to say is the most important and exciting, interesting, wonderful story that needs telling. It’s your job.

3. Solitude produces the goods.

I recently added a new podcast to my list, The Introvert Entrepreneur. In this episode, they were explaining the differences between introversion and shyness. The guest quoted Carl Young, “…The introvert is usually happy alone with a rich imagination and prefers reflection to activity…”

This made me think of a cartoon that my mom-in-law sent me by Jason Love. The caption is:  “The writer:  Someone who spends a lifetime in solitude for the sake of communication.”

Sound like any writers you know? Maybe yourself. Definitely me.

Now … let me say that not all writers are introverts and not all introverts are shy … but it stands to reason that if introverts are recharged by their alone time that their best work would come during times of solitude.

My best writing ideas come when I am alone with my thoughts like curling my hair, taking a shower, doing the dishes or driving to work.

My recommendation … make solitude a priority if you want results. It can get your creative juices flowing.

So … these are my new truths. Maybe I’ve always known them but hadn’t categorized them. Either way I will be operating in truth.

What have your recent life experiences taught you? What new truths will you be exercising? Share the stuff you know in the comments and make it engaging!

Photo from Zemanta