Tag Archives: the writing life

Do you have the COURAGE?

courage-stoneWriting takes courage…

…the courage David had when he met Goliath.

Every time you sit down to write, you face the Goliaths of those who have gone before. The geniuses of Shakespeare, Hemingway, Wilde and Irving (insert any of your literary heroes.) You face the Goliath of the depth of the story you have to tell and the multitudinous words at your fingertips to express it. And you face the Goliath of your fears: Am I talented enough? Do I have anything new to say to the world? Will anyone read this?  What if this only matters to me? And on…

Writing takes courage…

…the courage Rosa Parks had when she refused to give up her seat on that Montgomery, Alabama bus.

When you call yourself a writer you refuse to ignore your soul’s mission for a creative existence. You face possible scorn for going against the rules of world order. You resist the laws of comfort and stability. You have the courage to live an amplified life to bring forth the precious gifts that lie within.

Writing takes courage…

…the courage of Martin Luther King Jr. when he shared his dream openly with the world.

You have courage the day you release your creation into the world where you face possible ridicule or disappointment from those you love and respect. You face possible rejection from publisher after publisher. You face possible anonymity and solitude if your work is out there with no affirmation of its worth, but you have the courage to do it anyway.

You have to be brave to be creative. You have to be daring. You have to be bold. As Jack Gilbert, former poet and teacher, said, “Without bravery, we would never be able to realize the vaulting scope of our own capacities. Without bravery, we would never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, our lives would remain small—far smaller than we probably want our lives to be.”

I am reading Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I am moved and inspired by every word as she describes her creative process in a deeply personal, yet practical and humourous way. She opens by talking about Jack Gilbert, who never made great fortune and fame from his poetry (although he could have). He would ask his writing students, “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”

Discovering your treasures, accepting them, and then boldly bringing them into the light for all to see are all acts of courage. Acts of courage the world needs from you.

Find your inner David, your Rosa, your Martin, and say yes…please.

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The Sky is Not the Limit

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Photograph by: FRED CHARTRAND , THE CANADIAN PRESS

Chris Hadfield is just plain cool.

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Commander Hadfield, Canada’s most earthy space ambassador and author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. His presentation resembled a TED talk, it was both inspiring and motivating, and wait for it—out of this world.

The thing that struck me the most is that he started dreaming what he describes as an “impossible dream” from the age of nine. Canada did not have a space program at the time, yet, he was determined to become an Astronaut. This meant preparing very early, advancing his education, learning to fly, learning to speak several languages, and learning to play guitar (now a terrestrial superstar by crooning David Bowie’s Space Oddity). He did these things and showed us ordinary earthlings that dreams do matter, even if only a slim possibility of manifestation, it can and will happen with dedication, preparation and patience.

There are days when I think finishing my current novel is an impossible dream. But I’m half-way there, I’m resuming momentum and receiving encouragement from my fellow Restless Writers. I can do this! And I will, because I am the commander of my writing career. I am dedicated, prepared, and ever so patient in the wonderful world of literary longings. My dream of becoming a novelist is too important to remain unlived. Sure, the odds are stacked against me. But I’m still going for it!

Thanks to extraordinary people like Chris Hadfield, who not only make us proud to be Canadian but who also show us how to make the impossible a reality.

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Filed under Author events, Books and stuff, Getting published, Inspiration

A picture paints a thousand words: how to use Pinterest as a writer

pinterest-catsThe last thing I want as a writer is another social networking platform to worry about. I have enough distractions, thank you very much. And so it begins…

With a little persuasion from Maria, I have started “Pinning.” I’m using Pinterest for my writing research. Sure, I’m creating personalized boards and pinning my favourite DIY ideas but I’m also pinning research visuals and catching on to why this popular online space might just be a useful resource for me as a writer.

Unlike most social media platforms, Pinterest is all about the imagery, and not the text. And who doesn’t love pictures! With its visual focus, it may seem counterintuitive that Pinterest would be great for writers, but I’m quickly learning how this tactic is proving to be a rich resource, particularly in the creative stages.

Creating visual pin boards can be a great way to help fuel your imagination and give readers a glimpse into your creative process. Here’s a glimpse at my board to give you an idea.

Now it’s your turn to “Pin It!”

Here are 8 ways that Pinterest can be useful to you as a writer.

1. Research. People (actors that represent your characters). Places (images of similar settings). Things (objects or time period references). Mood (scenes that create atmosphere and emotional overtones).

2. Motivation. Inspirational quotes and wisdom as a way to inspire and remind yourself why you write and what you want to accomplish.

3. Collaboration. Invite other writers to pin to your board and make comments. Organize writing teams and pitch ideas. Provide incentives (free books) to fellow writers.

4. Booklists. Market research and comparables to your book. Or books you want to read!

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5. Promotion. Images of your blog, posters, flyers, business cards, book covers, and book tour photos.

6. The Writing Life. Pin the view out the window from your desk. Your bookshelf. Your real-life storyboard/pin board. Or even your cat asleep on your laptop.

7. Stay current. Using the “Popular” feature on the Pinterest home page, you can instantly access the latest trends from all genres.

8. Connect with your fans. Pin boards show your personality and interests. It’s a great way to connect with others and express what you care about.

How do you use Pinterest? Feel free to share links to your pin boards in the comment section. We’d love to check them out!

B Jas

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Filed under Blogging, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing ideas, Writing resources

You Think Querying is Tough???

LD

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Filed under Getting published, Trials and Tribulations

Agent aficionado

Pinch me, please. I have an agent!

After many months of queries and pitches, it happened. I received an offer of representation. And not just for one manuscript, but for three of them: a middle-grade novel, a children’s picture book, and a non-fictional proposal. My head is still spinning. Spin, spin, sugar!

Prior to the offer, I received plenty of the standard rejection responses, with the usual one-liner pass. Then I started to receive referrals to ‘other’ agents, invitations to query ‘other’ manuscripts, and even personalized feedback—still in the form of rejection; however, it was some of the nicest, kindest, rejection yet. And for me as a writer, this was truly encouraging. In speaking with these agents by email and phone, I learned that my submission was one of value, even if additional work was required to make it shine.

Then I met Kathy LaVergne of Word|Link USA—and the rest was simple. I said “yes” to her offer of representation and signed, sealed, and mailed the agreement!

I’m thrilled to bits to be represented by Word|Link. In the short time I have worked with Kathy, she has been incredibly kind, supportive, and quick—with all three manuscripts currently on submission, and editor’s comments surfacing in my in-box. I’m fantastically fortunate to be working with an agency that, according to Publisher’s Marketplace is one of the top 20 dealmakers in the United States.

My hubby, the analogy-king, sums it all up like this: “It’s like you’re Danica Patrick, you have a car, but now you’ve gotta go to the races.” He’s right, I’m in the driver’s seat and I’m on my way,  über excited, as I enter this next chapter in my writing life—one step closer to publication.

And I must must must extend a gargantuan thank you to my readers (friends, family, beta testers), and especially my critique group and fellow Restless Writers, for helping me get my manuscript to a level worthy of submission.

Having an agent still means more waiting, more finger-crossing, more cringing, and of course more rejection. But I am stoked. Bring it on!

BJ

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Filed under Getting published, Success stories

Music to write by

Even my cat loves music!

Like writing, music is a big part of my life. I am married to a musician, and that means plenty of song, heaps of sound, and loads of (real) rock band. I have consequently become a “drummer-in-training” for accompaniment purposes. Yes, my (writing) life is a melodious one.

When it comes to writing, there is always music playing in the background (in some form or another), and I’d probably be lost without it. As I write this, I am listening to Arcade Fire (The Suburbs), their “sprawling but intimate new album.” Some other faves from the soundtrack to my writing life, are: MGMT, WeezerThe Cardigans, and (forgive me for this), Vinyl 95.3.

According to research from the University of California, listening to music creates new neural pathways in our brains that stimulate creativity. Music can train the brain for higher forms of thinking (bonus!). For me, music definitely inspires and sets a mood. It can also unleash writer’s block, relax the brain, jump-start a session, and infuse fiction with rich emotion. Music might just be my perfect muse.

How to use music as part of your writing practice:

  • Claim a starting song: Okay, this is vaguely similar to Pavlov’s famous experiments with dogs. Sound the bell. Play your song—every time you sit down to write. Consider Aerosmith’s Back In The Saddle Again.
  • Reflect the time period: Connect with your characters in every way possible. Are you chronicling the 1980s disco period? If so, you should, like, totally fill your writing brain with M-a-d-o-n-n-a.
  • Set the mood: Play music that reflects what you’re writing. If it’s action, how about some Smashing Pumpkins, Muse, or even Guiseppe Verdi’s, Stiffelio.
  • Keep it light: If this is all too much for you, give Mozart or Vivaldi a try for background music. Higher brain function will be yours.
  • Silence is golden: Use your starting song to get going, and then turn it off.

I. Love. Music. I am always surprised how quickly my brain responds to music. Give it a try. Do it often and be consistent; consistency is, after all, the age-old practice of successful writers.

What is YOUR music to write by?

Bjas

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Filed under Inspiration, Life and stuff, Motivation

My burnout recovery strategy…and other tips for over-worked writers

I just wrapped up several hellish weeks that included a busy schedule at work, some rush freelance work, writing group activities, a dozen birthday parties, one sick cat and a herniated disk. I have a feeling that final item was brought on by everything else. 

Those few weeks capped off a busy year that never seemed to take a breather. It wasn’t the kind of stress that a glass of wine and good night’s sleep could fix. I felt worn out every day. Some days I questioned what I had been thinking when I decided to pursue my writing. I found myself wishing for swine flu just so I could have a few days to do nothing but sleep. 

Being in a creative field means that you are vulnerable to burnout. It’s not the kind of work where you can simply check your brain into a locker, slog through your eight hours, and then reinstall your brain at the end of your shift. And for those who fit their writing in after an eight-hour-or-more slog…let’s just say that carpal tunnel isn’t the only thing you have to worry about.

Burnout can lead to long-term health problems that can spill over into all areas of your life. But here’s the good news: there are things you can do to prevent and treat burnout.

HelpGuide.org has some great resources for dealing with burnout. This resource takes the “Three Rs” approach to burnout: how to Recognize it, Reverse it, and build your Resilience.

For me, I found three things that really helped:

1. Learning to say “no”. I’m a people-pleaser by nature, and as a part-time freelancer, it’s like cutting off my arm to have to turn down a paycheque. But no typing means no working; no working means no income; and no income means I have to cancel HBO. So some “preventative nay-saying” was my first step.

2. Getting professional help. Luckily, my injury was in the early stages and some treatment will have me back up and working in no time. (Update: Chiropractic treatment? Meh. Massage treatment? Heavenly.)

3. Leaning on my informal support group. If I didn’t have the Restless Writers (even their odd new habit of calling me “Sultry Monkey”), I wouldn’t have any outlet for the stress of juggling a day-job and the writing life. Lori and Beckie—and yes, all our blog visitors and Twitter folk—are all a part of my mental-health care action team. I’m grateful to have you.

Thankfully, I’m on the mend. Have you had an experience with burnout? How did it happen? And how did you deal?

Maria

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