The Writer’s Paradox

The Writer’s Paradox

Thank goodness for the online writing community. If I didn’t have a chorus of fellow writers echoing my gripes, I would think I was a lunatic. Why is it so common that, for those who love writing, writing is so damn difficult? (I know this isn’t true for all of us, but for the subset who share my very frustrating struggle, I hope you find some comfort in this commiseration)

I think about stories all day. At work, driving, in the shower, when I lie in bed at night. I hear them in song lyrics. When I write or read something, I immediately want to create something like it. I get so excited, I want to rush of and create something! So why is the actual act of putting pen to paper so difficult? I feel like I’m physically pulling the words from me, one at time. And they’re painfully stuck. I’ve tried to figure out exactly why this is, why I’m like this. Best I can figure from listening to others complain of a similar problem is the propensity for perfection and a fear of failure. I know that my first draft of something is going to be garbled nonsense at best, especially compared to the scenes in my noggin. Like, of course I understand that. It’s logical. It’s obvious. But in the moment, I can’t make that logic work for me. I can feel how overwhelmed I am when I write, trying to get it right the first time even though I know it’s impossible, even though I know I have all the time in the world to sit back and edit, and polish, and revise it into something I love. But since my dumbo brain won’t cooperate with this knowledge, I’ve tried to find ways to trick it. I’ve made a writing space with candles, and bobbles, and soft music, and nice pens. I break big goals into tiny ones. And it really works! Once I sit down and settle in and get over that initial block, I can get a good amount of writing in. Writing I don’t hate, even!

So now my biggest obstacle is getting my dang butt in the dang chair. I start to visualize that blank page waiting for me at night and I find every reason to avoid sitting down and doing the damn thing. So, to help me this NaNoWriMo, I’ve come up with a new gimmick. I’ve always been interested in tarot. I’m not really into any of the spiritual aspect of it, (or anything if I’m being honest- no disrespect intended for anyone that is) but I really like the idea of it as a tool for introspection and journaling. I was thinking of starting to keep a tarot journal at my desk, something fun and easy I can look forward to sitting down and doing in at the end of the day. It will serve (I hope) as a clever excuse to get myself settled into my writing space. Then once I’m done with a journal entry, I’ll be ready to write! If I tell myself I just need to get a few pages down, I know what will happen. When the pressure if off, the buildup gone, I usually get way more written then I’m expecting. I know this must make me seem like a 100% complete psychopath but I’m hoping that any other writers who have my unfortunate neurocies can take some inspiration from me. Or at least some comfort in knowing you’re not crazy and you’re not alone.

I hope everyone is having a low stress and fun November, whether it be productive or not. If anyone has any of their own little tips and tricks PLEASE add them in the comments. Please. XD

Back at it

Back at it

Woof. What a month. Made it through the holidays and survived the big boat show at work. Needless to say, I haven’t written or edited or done much of anything bookish in weeks. But my calendar is beginning to clear and it’s time to get back at it. So I’ll consider today day one of my 2018 writing schedule and I am incredibly anxious to get going again.

I’ve tried to use this blog as a way to check in with myself, stay organized and stay motivated and… it never seems to work. But I think it’s worth trying again. No harm in it, really- if it doesn’t help and only serves to get in the way, then it’ll just go dormant again.

 So! Let’s get a rough outline going.

The big question is, as always: will this year be the year I finally finish my freakin’ manuscript for book one? I reeeeally hope so. I’m going to try my damnedest to get there. And boy am I becoming impatient to get it out there and get some people looking at it. I love writing for myself- I deeply enjoy the process and it’s a lot of fun but there reaches a point where I’ve been working with these characters and ideas for so long that I crave feedback. I wish I could post it chapter by chapter on a site like fictionpress or wattpad but I know that’ll complicate things down the line if I feel that it’s good enough to submit to a publisher. And I don’t want to count myself out just yet. I want to try. So that means I need hurry up and finish it so I can start the publication process. If that doesn’t pan out, then I can explore posting it or self-publishing or whatever.

So that brings us back to the main goal: finish the damn thing.

I have the rough draft split into six pieces and I’ve got two done with edits. I’m about half way through part three but there’s still a lot of additional writing to do as well.

Let’s aim high and try to finish a piece every month. There’s half the month left and part three is half done so that works out. If I can successfully hit those goals that means I’d more or less have a finished draft by the end of April. That’s probably a bit ambitious but I’ll give it a shot and go from there.

I’ll try to update this thing at the end of every week. Or not! We’ll see what life brings.

Good luck to everyone else going through similar struggles. Happy writing!

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Fear & Self-Loathing in Las Veg- Er, the Midwest

Fear & Self-Loathing in Las Veg- Er, the Midwest

Week one of keeping a progress journal and, of course, I’m a little late with my entry. But here it is, it exists! PROGRESS.

It’s almost amazing how, the more I want to write, the more difficult it seems to be to find the time, energy, and motivation to actually do it. Yes, they appear to be directly proportional. (I’ve found it’s an often bemoaned reality in the writing community, so at least I’m not alone on this)
So it goes, I get myself all hyped up to work on my book. I’ll set aside time, make a schedule, set some goals and then, when it finally comes time to put pen to paper, I find an excuse to do something else. Anything else. It’s madness.

And yet, I find myself doing the same thing when it comes to practicing on my motorcycle. I’ll tell myself tonight, after work, I’m going on a nice long ride- really push the boundaries on my comfort zone. But then there’s laundry, and dishes, and boy golly the shower could use a scrub, and gosh, look at the time! No motorcycles tonight!

And I know why I’m doing it- I’m still a bit afraid of the bike. I still don’t have a lot of trust in my fledgling abilities- even though I know the only cure for that is, duh, MORE PRACTICE. But fear is a powerful distraction. And so, it’s easy to extrapolate, to assume fear plays a large part in my procrastination with my writing. But it’s more subtle, less sensible. My fear of practicing on the bike makes perfect sense- it’s bloody dangerous! But writing? What exactly am I afraid of? Fear of failure, of confirming my own mediocrity? Something like that.

But the solution is just as straightforward. Get your butt on the bike and ride, dammit! Metaphorically speaking, of course.

I’ve been reading a lot more lately as a compromise for when I can’t bring myself to write, and I’m finding it really helps. The more I read, the more I really, REALLY want to write, and it starts to tip the scales, my excitement beginning to outweigh the fear. My productivity is on the rise!

Now, if only I could find a similar strategy for the bike…

Tools of the Trade – Apps & Sites to Help You Write

Tools of the Trade – Apps & Sites to Help You Write

Through many years and many attempts at being a dedicated writer, I’ve learned there’s a lot more to completing a novel than simply sitting down and putting pen to page. To write a book takes practice, planning, the formation of solid habits, and the strategic use of tools.

Having finally found my stride as a writer, ( I think!) I wanted to share some of the tools that have made my writing process far more productive and a heck of a lot easier.

Dragon Dictation

Writing a rough draft is arguably the hardest part of the writing process. And everyone has their own style: some prefer a desktop computer in a quiet office, others a laptop at the crowded coffee shop. I like to be alone and I like to be mobile, but above all, I need my rough draft to be hand-written.

I’ve tried a thousand times to type up my rough drafts but I just can’t get used to it. I’m not a bad typist; I grew up with computers and I type all day at work. But something about sitting at a keyboard and trying to conquer the always-intimidating  blank page kills my energy. I need real paper and a nice fountain pen or a crisp new mechanical pencil. I need to be able to write in the margins, to scribble and cross out and draw arrows. I write twice as fast, three times as more, and am infinitely more satisfied with the quality of my rough drafts when they’re handwritten. And, for years, this was one of my biggest roadblocks. How do I convert a messy handwritten draft into a typed piece, ready for edits, without sitting down and committing to the frustrating monotony of transcribing? I despised it and I wouldn’t do it. Anything I’d written would never make it to the computer screen, so writing anything at all seemed almost pointless. Then someone showed me Dragon Dictation.

Dragon Dictation is a free app that converts spoken word to text with surprising accuracy. Now, all I have to do is read my rough draft to my phone. Dragon is able to take fairly large chunks at a time and, once I’m done, I can highlight the block of text, copy, and save it out to my email or my google drive. It’s a simple, effective solution to a problem I’ve been battling for ages.

 

Forest & Ink On

forest1For managing my writing sessions, I use a combination of two apps: Forest & Ink On. Forest assists with productivity by helping me avoid distraction. It also acts as a timer for my session. I select how long I want to write and the app starts growing a fictional little tree. Backing out of the app to access the rest of my phone kills the session and my tree. It helps me cull the urge to pick up my phone and I don’t get sidetracked mid-session. Plus it doesn’t interfere with my music. (I usually listen to Spotify from my phone when I write) When the timer is up, it lets me know with a soft chime. Then I can record my progress in the Ink On app. Ink On lets me set up projects with their own individual goals and tracks my progress. It also gives me a calendar with writing totals for each day. I love it’s simple, clean interface. It’s become indispensable in tracking and managing my progress and goals.

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Hemingway Editor

I love this site and I can’t wait to experiment with it more in my upcoming edits! This site is more than just a simple spelling & grammar check. The Hemingway Editor actually analyzes your writing for common draft problems. It highlights long, hard-to-read sentences,  complicated wording, adverbs, and use of passive voice. It’s a fantastic tool for self-edits; especially for someone like me, who can be a little blind to my own stylistic problems. While the site is free to use, you can also purchase your own personal copy (which includes offline use) for $9.99.

hemingway

Canva

When your project is finally complete, the next step is usually presentation.  Whether it be a full length novel, a short story, or a humble blog post, it’s always nice to have an appealing image complimenting your work. And unless you’re one of those ultra-talented types who’s good at both writing AND art, you may need a little help creating the perfect graphic. If you don’t have the contacts or the budget to get a professional, Canva works in a pinch. I especially like using it for temporary cover art, so I have something to make my works-in-progress stand out. It’s simple, easy to use, and inexpensive. A lot of the stock art is free and most of the fancier images are only a dollar each.

canva

And that’s about it! I hope you find some of these helpful in your own projects! If you have any neat apps or sites to share, please post them in the comments. Happy writing!

 

5 Ways To Make Writing Easier

5 Ways To Make Writing Easier

Some days the writing comes easy- I can’t help but write. I scribble ideas and excerpts in the margins at work, on napkins at coffee shops, on scraps in the parking lot. Other days it’s a real battle. (Let’s be honest, most days are like that) I avoid writing till it’s too late and I’m tired; or I sit down and stare at a blank page, frustrated. In those instances, it’s important to set myself up for success by blocking out the things that might break my focus, and using any means to make writing fun and easy, er, easier.

So if this scenario sounds a bit too familiar, here are my own personal five easy steps to a better writing session. Maybe they’ll help!

1)      Add Some Allure-

pens
I’m addicted to these things.

This is going to seem overly obvious, but when I buy things to make writing more fun, I am more likely to write! (crazy, right?!)  I think I used to avoid or feel guilty about buying the fancy notebook or the nifty pen because I knew it wasn’t necessary- it certainly wasn’t going to improve my writing.  But when you’re going to sink a lot of time and energy into something, you should splurge! Get that leather-bound number with the fancy clasp or the gold-leaf paper and don’t be afraid to fill it with your messy, haphazard first drafts. Get that twenty dollar pen with the luscious purple ink! I even went so far as to drop eighty dollars on a spiffy little Bluetooth keyboard that attaches to my hand-me-down iPad. Now I can edit on the couch without heaving the laptop out of my office, and guess what? I edit more! Take your writing seriously- if you have the money to buy yourself a neat toy, do it! I know I don’t need any of it, but I also know it definitely helps. Make it fun!

2)      Do NOT Edit-

I know I’ve touched on this before, but I can’t stress it enough. When trying to write a first draft, it is imperative that you do not go back and self-edit. I know it’s tempting; it was an incredibly hard habit to break. I, like most writers I’ve met, am a perfectionist. I write something and immediately want to start dissembling it, searching for the perfect word, the ideal phrasing. It absolutely destroys any momentum I’d worked up and progress skids to a halt. I’ve learned that I have to suck it up and push through. Never reread, never look back, no changes or corrections, no matter how small. I have to get that rough draft down and on paper with all its imperfections before I can allow myself to dig in and start pruning and polishing. Editing has to be it’s own separate step or I’ll never finish.

3)      Positive Reinforcement-

Since writing doesn’t pay the bills, my writing sessions naturally occupy the same space as my free time. That means writing is directly competing with my more frivolous, effortless hobbies. (video games, reading, youtube, pointlessly wandering the  internet, etc) This means the only way to ensure writing actually takes place is to do it first. I don’t allow myself to do anything unproductive until I’ve gotten something on paper. And the times I haven’t done this are proof of its effectiveness- If I let myself play before I work, I’m far more likely to see a big fat zero on my daily word count. So I let all my other hobbies become rewards for writing. I draw a lot of my inspiration from what I’m reading and what I’m playing, so these hobbies are actually an important part of the creative process, so long as they don’t encumber that process. Write first, play later.

4)      One Small Step At A Time-

After work, the commute, feed the pets, dinner, clean-up, and whatever else life throws at me, there’s often not a ton of time left in the day. Sometimes I only have ten minutes of writing in me before I feel burnt out and desperately need to enter the wind-down stage of my evening. And I’ve learned to accept that there’s nothing wrong with that. I set a monthly word goal that breaks down into small, bite-sized daily sessions; but some days I can’t even muster up enough creative energy to make those meager goals. So long as something, anything, hits the page each day, I’m happy. And I still sometimes miss days entirely.  Which is less happy. But each and every day is a new start and a new chance, and I can’t carry those failures with me- they’ll only weigh me down. I have to keep moving forward, one little step at time. Which means tiny writing sessions nestled in the nooks and crannies of my daily life.

5)      Stay Focused-

IMG_7264Even when I’ve successfully willed myself to sit down at my desk or hide away with a notebook, distraction still threatens to disrupt my work. Music is a must so I always have a pair of headphones handy. (I talk about my theory for selecting writing music here.) Then there’s the ever-present lure of the internet. When I’m on my laptop, I turn off my wifi. Since I use my phone to listen to music, it’s always near me while I write, tempting me.  To solve that issue, I use the app Forest. I highly recommend it- not only does it lock me out of my apps while not disrupting my music, but it also serves as a handy little timer for my session. (Plus I get to grow a cute little forest of productivity, so bonus)

 

And that’s how I do it! I hope some of this stuff helps. Happy writing and good luck!