Friday, April 02, 2010

 

Friday Speak Out!: "The Write Life," Guest Post by Sherri Kuhn

The Write Life

by Sherri Kuhn

I have always considered myself a writer, even when everything I wrote remained in my head. Of course, I would never have called myself a writer to anyone else. This was more of an imagined second life, nestled in my head along with the grocery list, shoes sizes for my kids, and phone numbers of my next of kin. Words have always intrigued me, especially those twisted around to create sarcastic humor and wit.

Several years ago, I decided that to actually call myself a writer, well, I would have to write. I signed up for a fiction writing class at the local community college. The eclectic group that attended this night class would have made the basis for a great short story, except I was too busy trying to read the assigned books and do the assigned writing to write it. By the end of the course, I had learned a lot about writing fiction, successfully kept from breaking into tears at the constructive criticism, and written my first real short story (which, I might add, had a surprise ending that even the professor didn’t see coming). I still, however, would not refer to myself as a writer.

Fast forward several more years, during which I did little to no writing at all. Then one day while I was working in the yard, a story just came to me so clearly that I just had to write it down. It felt so good to feel the words flow! After some editing and re-reading, I sent my essay to the local newspaper for their reader submissions column. When I heard back that my story was chosen, I was so surprised! A few months later, another story came to me and I frantically wrote it, edited it, and sent it off to the newspaper again. I got an almost immediate response from the features editor that she loved it. I still didn’t quite feel like a “real” writer, but I was getting the idea.

Now with two mini successes under my belt, I started to wonder if I could really let the writer inside me live in my daily life. Would we get along, or would she be fighting for my time? Would the other parts of my life suffer when the writing part took over? How many of “me” can there be? Would my family resent her?

I decided to start slowly. As long as I did something related to writing each day, I was making progress on merging my second life with my first. I became a fan of writing pages on Facebook. I found a few writing blogs and started following them. Since having a blog requires you to actually write, I started my own blog. I read information on writing contests, online workshops, conferences, and self-publishing. I submitted an essay to a publisher.

Now I am a writer. But then again, I always was.

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Sherri Kuhn works with at-risk elementary school students, nags her two children, loves her husband, exercises once in a while, and is a newbie blogger. She has had several personal essays featured in the Contra Costa Times. Follow her observations about everyday life on her blog at http://oldtweener.blogspot.com/

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Friday, March 19, 2010

 

Friday Speak Out!: "Where Do Writers Go For Inspiration?" Guest Post by Anna Miller


Where Do Writers Go For Inspiration?

by Anna Miller

Writing has been my profession for a while now, but it has always been a passion for as long as I can remember. From school essays to writing short stories and poems for the school magazine and local book club, I would take part in all of them with an enthusiasm that my friends considered somewhat unnatural – they were not the bookish kind and did not understand the intensity I showed towards my paperback friends. I was never at a loss for words when asked to write, I always had something to write about, and long or short, I always loved the result of my creative expression. In short, I was my biggest fan and I had never heard of writer’s block let alone experienced it.

Well, that sure changed when I started writing for a living--I found that in a few years’ time, there were many times when I became disillusioned with writing and other times when I just could not pen a single sentence without hating it. In the old days, it would have been the equivalent of crumpled sheets of paper lying strewn around my writing table, but today, it’s more a case of banging the keyboard when you’re frustrated at the words not flowing freely. Every writer has faced this situation more than once during their careers – they’re stuck in a rut and short of inspiration, and cannot write even though they want to. So where do they go for inspiration?

In my experience, I’ve found that the following things work when you’re looking to rejuvenate your creativity and breathe a whiff of fresh air into your writing:

Broadening your horizons: When you expand your repertoire of activities, you grow as a writer because you learn much more about life than when confined to your desk and computer all day long. The first time I felt a mental block, I took a break from work and went out to sign up for tennis lessons. A few hours of this game every day, and I felt like a new person. I didn’t switch on my notebook for a week, not until I felt I was ready to write again. This time, the words were at my command and ready to do my bidding. So when you feel you need inspiration, just look around for other things that interest you. You’ll be back in the saddle sooner than you think.

Write about something else: If inspiration is what is lacking, try changing the subject you normally write about. If technology is your cup of tea, switch to coffee for a change and take on health or education or anything else you feel passionate or know about. Alternatively, start a personal blog where you can write about anything and everything that interests you. The point is that you must not write for your career’s sake; instead, you must write for your own. When you feel your confidence returning after a few well-written pieces, you’re ready to get back to writing as a profession.

Take time off: And finally, it’s best to just take time off from work to go do your own thing when you feel the dearth of inspiration. You’re probably just overworked and your brain is too tired to think anymore. So what you really need is some rest and rejuvenation, after which you’ll be good to go once again.

Image courtesy of http://www.bmpl.lib.me.us/writer.jpg

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Anna Miller is a staff writer for degree online . A native Houstonian, deep in the heart of Texas, she brings a friendliness and informality to her writing that makes it accessible to individuals of diverse backgrounds. With a background in print journalism she enjoys bringing her loyal readers innovative articles and resources which are both rigorously researched but informally presented. She welcomes your comments at her email id: anna.miller009@gmail.com.

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

 

Maintain Motivation in 2010

by LuAnn Schindler

This week, amidst holiday preparations, I sat down and began to map my writing goals for 2010. I'm a big picture person, so I made a visualization chart with generalized goals across the top and broke that flow chart into specific goals. (Some people might say Way to procrastinate, LuAnn, but I say I need visual proof that I'm working hard to meet my goals, so it's not procrastination!)

One problem I've dealt with in the past is maintaining focus on the prize. I may start the year with fountain pen or computer keyboard blazing, but winter doldrums fence me in, spring fever skips through my work, summer fun beckons for play time, and fall festivities fetch my fancy. In other words, life happens, and sometimes, those roadblocks slow down the journey to the goal. And, sometimes, goals shift or are left unmet during the year, causing motivation to wane when I need it the most.

What I've discovered through the writing years is this: We are the choices we make. If I choose not to write today, that's my prerogative. But, if I make that choice, I shouldn't complain, I shouldn't let it slow down tomorrow's writing, and I shouldn't let it interfere with the long-term outcomes I would like to achieve.

No, maintaining motivation is personal, but sometimes, it takes a village to raise a writer. Consider these four tips to keep inspired during the next 365 days.
  • Establish writing time. When I first began freelancing, I kept a rigid schedule. That lasted about six months until I realized the schedule was cutting into my creativity. Now, I make a to-do list and if it takes me three hours to research a possible story idea, I go with it. I make it work. That's one of the benefits of being a freelancer. But, I also make sure that I spend a certain amount of time each day writing. I'm the most productive from 4:30 - 7:30 p.m., and from 10:30 - 1:30 p.m, so I let those times work for me. Find a time that fits your schedule and use it - even if you can only spare ten minutes - to write.
  • Develop both short- and long-term goals. My visualization chart is a compilation of both. I like to plan my week and say to myself, Okay, here's what I would like to accomplish this week. But it's also important to have a direction to work toward. Otherwise, some pieces of work will stay on the back burner if you don't self-impose deadlines.
  • Share your work with other writers. It's important to get other opinions, especially from colleagues. That's how you grow in your craft. This is an area I need to work on. I joined a local writer's group, hoping to share my YA novel, but most of the group wanted to be given a topic and then write about it. While that may work for some writers, it's not the type of critique I need at this point in my career. I'm still searching for an appropriate online group that will fit my needs.
  • Celebrate your achievements. If an editor or a reader let you know how much they appreciate your work, celebrate! If you land a major article in a national magazine or sell a manuscript to a publishing house, celebrate! If you send a new query, celebrate. These moments provide impetus for writing careers, so go ahead, celebrate! I recently completed a three-part series for a regional newspaper, and an editor from one of my state's dailies sent a note to my editor, who forwarded it to me. In the note, he pointed out elements of my story that stood out. Trust me, I celebrated! I printed it out and have it directly behind my laptop screen so I remember why I write: to connect with readers.
  • Network . Connect with other writers and editors, develop relationships, and maintain a professional but friendly demeanor. First impressions are lasting, and hopefully you'll set the right tone with others who, someday, may use your work.
  • Learn a new skill. Even though the art of writing may change very little, we writers still need to keep our skills sharp. Attend a conference. Take a class. Buy new software that assists with writing. Learning a new skill and putting it to use will make you more marketable.

I'm glancing at my goal chart and re-reading what I hope to accomplish in 2010. With a visual reminder, reasonable goals, and writer friends who encourage, I can't go wrong. Maintaining motivation won't be a problem this year.

Happy Holidays! And, happy motivating!

Follow LuAnn on Twitter - @luannschindler

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Friday, September 25, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: "A Walk in the Park," Guest Post by Julie Bloss Kelsey

A Walk in the Park

by Julie Bloss Kelsey

“What is it?” she snaps. Impeccably dressed in a three-tiered suit, she looks like a walking wedding cake. Make that an angry walking wedding cake. I try not to laugh.

“We need to talk,” I say. “About your writing.”

At this, she pauses and absently picks invisible lint from her suit. “I don’t write. Not any more.” She picks up her pace.

"Yes, you do,” I say. I block her path. “Remember last night? You described the riders on the subway in that letter to your mother.”

She smiles. With her stride broken, I tug at her shoulder pad and point at the closest park bench. “Sit!”

She dutifully sits, but her legs soon lace tight. She crosses her arms. “I should get back to work,” she hisses in my direction.

“The work will wait,” I remind her. I use the same gentle tone of voice that I used the day before, and the day before that. “Stay with me awhile,” I whisper. “You’ll have fun.”

For a moment, I have her. She starts to point at the swaying leaves. Look at that! I think she’s going for the notebook!

She murmurs under her breath, “Look at that!”

But then she withdraws her hand. Into her pocket it goes. Out pops the day planner.

I hate that thing. This one is a tiny version of the monster that occupies her desk at work. Her office is a disaster: so much paperwork overflowing with writing, but none of it really matters. I wish I could convince her of that.

She is busy finding just the right tab in the day planner. “Accounts payable meeting at 2 pm.” She checks her watch. “I have to go.”

I grab at her sleeve, but I am no match for her when she’s like this.

“Look at the trees!” I shout at her retreating back. A passerby stares in my direction. I try again, focusing more intently on her. “Look at the trees. Don’t the leaves look like giant eyeballs?”

She stops mid-stride and casts a glance back at the park bench, wearing a curious smile. She checks her watch again. “Maybe there’s time,” she murmurs.

I heave a sigh of relief as she sits down, puts the planner away, and pulls out a ragged notebook and a ball-point pen.

“Now, where were we?” she asks.

I snuggle close. “We were looking at the eyeballs in the trees.” The aspens quake as if on cue.

She holds the pen over paper, so close that I can almost move the nib. My hand hovers over hers.

Curious trees
tap on my shoulder
gaze at my heart
watch my every move
remind me of what’s important.

We sit next to each other on the park bench for a long time, not talking, not writing, just enjoying each other’s company: a girl and her muse.


When not chasing after her three kids, Julie Bloss Kelsey enjoys writing poetry, creative nonfiction, magazine articles, and stories for children. Her work has appeared online at Absolute Write, FundsforWriters, and Writing-World.com. Visit her on the web at Mama Joules (http://www.mamajoules.blogspot.com), her family-friendly science blog.

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Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

 

Fall into Writing

Today is the first day of October, a great time for writing. I have to agree with Writer's Digest blogger Kevin Alexander, who says, "The fall is my prime writing time, friends." He goes on to joke that during this time of year, his productivity goes up (unscientifically) around 67%.

Summer, with its distractions (read: kids), is a tough time for heavy production. The demands of the winter holiday season also tug us away from our writing time. Right now is a great time for writing. October in particular is a nice long month to pursue writing goals.

What is your favorite writing season? Is there a time of year when you're most creative or hard working?

--MP

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

 

Quote Starters

When you're not sure what to write about, pondering a quotation can be a useful way to get started. The easiest thing to do is pick a quote you like and let yourself freewrite for ten or fifteen minutes. When you're done, you'll probably find the makings of an essay, article, or short story!

Below are some quotes you can use to spark your writing. Take a serious or a humorous approach with your response, whatever you prefer. I can envision some good stuff coming from any one of them.

For fun, try picking a number between one and ten, then doing a timed freewrite based on the corresponding numbered quote below.


1. "The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well." -Joe Ancis

2. "The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide." –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

3. "If you have a job without aggravations, you don’t have a job." -Malcom Forbes

4. "There is no such thing as 'fun for the whole family'." -Jerry Seinfeld

5. "The beginning is always today." -Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

6. "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards." -Benjamin Franklin

7. "Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance?" -Phyllis Diller

8. "Ever notice that 'What the hell' is always the right decision?" -Marilyn Monroe

9. "You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it." –Margaret Thatcher

10. "Only time can heal your broken heart, just as only time can heal his broken arms and legs." -Miss Piggy

--MP

*image courtesy of tomswift46, flickr.com

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Monday, May 12, 2008

 

More is Better

A story adapted from Art and Fear, by David Boyles and Ted Orland, goes like this: A ceramics teacher announced on the first day of class that he was dividing everyone into two groups. One group would be graded solely on the quantity of the work produced, and the other group would be graded solely on the quality of their work. To determine their grades, the teacher would bring in a scale on the last day of class and weigh the work of the "quantity" group; the students in the "quality" group would need to produce only one pot--a "perfect" one--to achieve an A.

Can you guess what happened? The works of the highest quality all came from the group being graded for quantity! While the quantity group was busy churning out piles of work, and learning from their mistakes, the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end, had little to show for their efforts.

Likewise, your writing success will come from lots of writing production. Make it your goal to complete more and more pieces of work, and watch the quality of your writing take off.

--MP

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Friday, March 14, 2008

 

Your Writing Space

Where do you write most often? At a fancy mahogany desk with carved feet? On your couch while the television provides background noise (and sometimes distraction)? In your favorite coffee shop, where other patrons provide company and inspiration?

People who don't write think that writers have it easy because we can perform our jobs and our craft just about anywhere. Even if you're camping in the woods with no electricity, there's always the option of writing on a legal pad with pencil or pen. We can work in our pajamas if we want. We can take the whole day off and work into the night if that's when we do our best work.

As writers, we know it's not always that easy. Sometimes ideas are hard to come by; the perfect turn of phrase is just out of reach. And then there's the dreaded Writer's Block.

We all have our favorite places to write. Some people find it easier to sit at a desk, while others would feel too confined and prefer writing at a sidewalk cafe. The space is not what matters most. What does is the fact that you're there more often than you're not. Many of you may remember this writers' riddle: What is the most important part of a writer's body?

My first guess was the hands. How else can you write without hands? But that's not the answer. The answer is: the butt.

If your butt isn't sitting in your writing space, no writing is being done.

So take a look at where you like to write the most, the area that makes you comfortable and provides you with all kinds of ideas. Where is this place? And are you in it right now?

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

 

Now What?


I’ll admit that I’ve procrastinated in writing this, my first WOW! blog, as I wondered what I could say as a writer. I began to really get worked up and poured through old blog posts in an effort to make sure I did not duplicate a topic covered once before. (And let me tell you, a lot has been covered!). So, what could I possibly say that hasn’t been said before? I lay in bed last night wondering this and came up with one answer: It’s all been said.

I froze.

Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh! If it’s all been said, then what on Earth am I going to write about? Have women everywhere come to this realization as I have? What will we do now that the job is done?

Panic started to set in.

“Okay, get a hold of yourself,” I began to mutter. There must be SOMETHING that hasn’t been voiced. There is undoubtedly something that hasn’t been tapped at this point. Think, think, think. And in that moment, the floodgates opened.

No, a golden pen didn’t fall from the sky. No, the lexicon of all lexicons didn’t mysteriously appear next to my MacBook. No, Julia Cameron didn’t show up at my front door to reveal the Zen filled wisdom within morning pages.

I realized that everything I have to say is new. No one anywhere has said exactly what I have in the way that only I can express my thoughts in words. It’s all new. Every single one of us offers a fresh voice to every topic and that is an exciting thought. No ground is off limits; as long as is it new to me, it’s uncharted territory.

And you? What is it that you have to say?

Debbie

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