Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Conflict. Without it, there is no story. There are four primary types of conflict that pit your protagonist against an enemy, him/herself, society, or nature. (Check out this fun visual definition of the four types of story conflict on Storyboard That.)

The recent “Snowmaggedon” that has been ravaging New England (where all the Live to Write – Write to Live bloggers happen to reside) has created plenty of conflict. So, here’s your challenge: Either tell us about some conflict the relentless snow has brought into your real life world, OR let your imagination go wild and give us the set-up for a fictional story about how massive amounts of snowfall might create story-worthy conflict. 


headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: My personal snow-induced conflict is one that arises between me, myself, and I. Each time the alerts come through on text, voice, and email that school has (yet again) been cancelled, I am torn between wanting to spend the day curled up on the couch with a good book, wanting to spend it doing snowy day things with my daughter, and feeling obligated to continue working as if it were a normal day. (After all, as long I have power and Internet access, my freelance writer’s world keeps spinning.) Usually, I end up trying to do all these things at once and fail miserably across the board. My attention and time is so splintered that I can’t enjoy (or be effective in) any of the roles, never mind all of them.

If I were to write a story about snow-induced conflict, however, I think it would be most fun to write about a person vs. person conflict. Snow accumulation is now so high that there is, quite literally, nowhere left to put the snow when it falls. And the meteorologists tell us there is more on the way. Tensions are rising and the extreme situation is bringing out both the best and worst in people. I could have a lot of fun writing about the escalating battles of neighbors with dueling snowblowers.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Well, I rode out the last storm at my sister’s house, and another sister moved my car while shoveling out the driveway and eventually took my car keys home with her. When she texted me with the news the next morning, I replied that I’d take my sister’s car and get my keys. She texted back that she’d parked my car in front of the garage where my sister’s car is, so I couldn’t get it out. On to Plan C! Since I was giving a talk in NH that evening (I was in MA) I had a deadline to meet–and I did. I can imagine a story where the same type of “series of misfortunes” happen, but don’t work out as well as my actual day did. That’s the hero’s saga, right? One damn thing after another. With all this snow, it could actually be a character in a story and would allow all kinds of normally implausible things to happen.

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: It is hard to describe what it is like trying to navigate the snow. I walk most places, and take the T. Not the best few weeks to use those modes of transport, but driving has been as bad.  So that has provided conflict. But as I was holding on to a fence, trying not to topple into the snow,  I noticed a tunnel into one of the lumps on the side of the street, showing a patch of a dark blue car door. I looked down the street, and noticed several lumps had similar tunnels. Someone had lost their car. With another foot or two due this weekend, I hope they found it!




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You are more than a writer.


I am a collection of experiences that is unique in all the expanse of space and time.

You fight hard for your art.

You create time where there isn’t any. You make hard choices and sacrifices.

You make your writing a priority.

Sometimes life gets in the way, and the best you can manage is a little time to think about a story, or an idea, or your craft. You have to be satisfied with nurturing your creations in silent, secret, intangible ways.

Other days, you give yourself the gift of time to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Sometimes, this feels like slipping smoothly down into a pool of inspiration, you submerge yourself and drink deeply. Other times the writing feels like hard labor on the chain gang, your whole being aching with the effort of chipping each precious word from an impassive wall of stone.

But, bliss or agony, you keep working. This is the process. This is your writing. This is what you fight for.

I understand. This is what we do. This is who we are.

Or, is it?

I am a writer. But, I am also a mother, a sister, and a daughter. I am a friend and a lover. I am a student and a teacher and a witness. I am a voice and a memory and a hope. I am a collection of experiences that is unique in all the expanse of space and time.

I am a writer, but I am more than a writer. And, you are, too.

You are are not just the writer writing or the words that are written.

You are the story.

You are the story that exists whether it is written down or not. Writing is simply the way you capture and share the story you are, how you make the immaterial material so that it can be perceived by others. Everything you write is an echo of the story that you are – a story about love, redemption, courage, justice, wonder, vulnerability … truth.

But, be careful. Do not confuse the pursuit of writing with the pursuit of truth.

Writing may help you discover your truth – the essence of your story – but writing does not create that truth.

Be a writer. Be the best writer you can be. But never forget that you are more than a writer. You are the story being written.


What I’m Learning About Writing: Your Brilliance is Fleeting

xanadumuseBack in the summer of 2010 (can it really be that long ago?!?) I wrote a post titled Capturing the Muse that laid out a 4-step process for capturing brilliant ideas before they evaporate into the ether. This week, I was reminded that I really ought to take my own advice more often.

I experienced several moments of clarity. They were lovely, hopeful moments. Each one was like a perfect flower, opening up before my mind’s eye like a blossom captured with the magic of time lapse photography. Unfortunately, each time I had one of these moments of insight, I was engaged in an activity that made it difficult to capture either the essence or detail of the idea. I was either in the shower, brushing my teeth, or driving.

I should have tried harder.

As you might have already guessed, these moments of brilliance sparkled but briefly before sputtering out of my consciousness, leaving only a sense of loss and regret for what might have been, had I only taken the time to make a note or record a quick voice memo.

Your writer’s mind is always working. It just doesn’t always work according to your schedule. You will have wonderful, inspiring ideas at the most inopportune moments. Don’t let them get away. Do as I say, not as I do. Make it a priority to snag your ideas out of the air before they vanish. Make use of the apps on your phone, carry a notebook, keep scribble pads in each and every room of the house. Do whatever you have to. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.


What I’m Reading: The Pocket Pema Chodron

book pocket pemaThis book has been sitting on my bedside table for years. I picked it up at an indie bookstore somewhere along the Maine coast, Camden perhaps. It was an impulse purchase. I remember standing at the counter paying for the other books I’d selected (a novel for myself and a picture book for my daughter). The bookseller and I were making small talk while she rang up my receipt when my hand reached out, almost of its own accord, to pick up this diminutive, but inexorably cheerful looking volume.

Not much larger than a deck of playing cards, this tiny tome has been a small but powerful touchstone in my life since that day. Though I still know little about Buddhism, I have found that each time I need comfort or guidance, this book is there for me. More times than I can count, I have opened to a random page and read just the words I needed to hear in that moment. It’s almost like magic.

The book contains 108 short selections from Chodron’s other books. The topics she addresses include fear, courage, patience, kindness, and goodness. Her voice is sure but gentle, her words unadorned but piercing. When I think about writers who touch on truth, Chodron always comes to mind.

This book may not have all the answers, but it has a way of asking all the right questions.


And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:


Finally, a quote for the week:


Here’s to being not only a writer, but to being the story worth writing. Have a great weekend. See you on the other side! 
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
Cosmos Photo Credit: Martin_Heigan via Compfight cc

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I’m in the middle of a project requiring consistent action on my part. I broke down the project into smaller parts, made a check-list of each of the different tasks involved, and started taking tiny steps forward, sometimes doing only one thing that required a few minutes in a day.

I’m at the point now where I have a daily goal to accomplish in order to complete the entire project on time. Each day I mark down where I need to be at the end of the day to stay on task and I try to do a little more than is required in order to stay ahead of the deadline. So far, I’m more than meeting my daily goals and expect to finish in plenty of time.

While I’m totally excited about the project, it has nothing to do with writing. (I’d tell you what it is, but it’s a surprise. I’ll tell you later.)

While conceiving, planning, and executing this project, I’ve also been reading the book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg, and it’s allowed me to figure out why I’m sticking to this new “habit” and also to apply what I’ve learned to my writing life.

At the end of the book, Mr. Duhigg states that any habit can be changed:

“However, to modify a habit, you must decide to change it. You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines, and find alternatives. You must know you have control and be self-conscious enough to use it.”

One of the habits I’d like to change is my habit of allowing myself to get distracted from my writing by other things, from my son calling me, to my email, to a TV show my husband is watching (and I can’t ignore.)

For me, it always comes down to a thought I am thinking. I sit down in the living room with my computer even though the TV is on because I’m thinking something like, “I deserve to relax a little at the end of the day.”

And, yes, I do deserve to relax at the end of the day. But I deserve to get my writing done (and I want to get it done) more.

So now, I’m making plans. First of all, I look at my calendar early in the morning (or even the night before) and I look for opportunities to get my writing done before 8 PM (I’m not a night owl.) Then I ask myself some questions—and answer them.

  • What am I going to do at 8 PM when the TV is on and I still have some writing I want to get done? I will ask Tom to shut the TV off or I will go in my office to write.
  • What am I going to do when I get to my son’s karate class? I’m going to open my iPad and write. I will not check my email or do a puzzle.
  • What am I going to do when I’m cleaning out my email inbox and I see a Facebook post I’d like to check out? Delete it and remind myself I can check Facebook after I finish my writing goal for the day.

My special project and my writing are getting done, and I’m creating new habits that support me and keep me moving in the direction of my dreams.

Do you have any habits you’d like to change?


Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and stepmother. I’m making small changes on a daily basis that are adding up to more writing in 2015.




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As much as I love language and believe in the magic of the written word, I must admit that we humans are innately visual creatures living in a visually driven era. From print magazines to television, film, and now social media, our world is consumed via highly visual mediums that use images to attract attention, convey information, and tell stories.

We writers can’t be blamed for being somewhat affronted by this state of affairs. For those of us who love to read and write, society’s general disdain for the written word can feel like a personal insult.  In my work as a copywriter and content marketer, I am often forced to concede that the best solutions require less text and more visuals. Brevity and the ability to marry words and images have become indispensible skills in today’s communication arts.

As a writer, you may resist embracing the visual. You may feel a responsibility to defend the bastions of the literary arts by eschewing social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram, sites that are driven almost exclusively by (mere) images.

Don’t be silly.

Once upon a time, stories were told using only pictures (think prehistoric cave paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphics). The truth is that there are countless stories just waiting to be discovered in the images all around us. And you can use images to help explore, capture, and promote your own stories.

Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking how you might use platforms like Pinterest and Instagram in your writing practice. I’ve also included links to other, much more comprehensive resources that will provide additional inspiration, examples, and how-to information.

I hope you have fun exploring and give the visual platforms a chance. You never know. It might actually make your writing that much better!



Do Research and Get Inspiration:

Create a private board (one only you can see) where you can collect images for a particular story. Searching through Pinterest’s vast archives, you can find pictures of settings, characters, and objects to help you describe and “flesh out” the world of your imagination.

Here’s a screen grab from my Magic, Mystery, and Fairytales board:

pinterest fairytales

Find Like-Minded People:

Are you into steampunk? Medieval romance? Space opera? Whatever your interests, there are people on Pinterest who have amassed impressive collections of related images. Create your own public boards on these topics and you’ll start finding and connecting with people who share your interests and may, eventually, be interested in your stories.

Here’s a screen grab from my Steampunk board:

pinterest steampunk

Learn Stuff:

Pinterest is a great place to collect resources, find new ideas, and explore solutions to all kinds of problems. There are profiles and boards dedicated to writing inspiration, editing tips, self publishing, and countless other writing- and publishing-related topics. Dig in!

Here are some infographics from a board called Useful Tips for Authors and Publishers:

pinterest tips

Promote Your Work:

Pinterest may seem like a silly guilty pleasure, but it has proven itself to be a marketing powerhouse. Creative folks on commerce sites like Etsy have found great success (and profit!) by using Pinterest to drive people to their online stores. You can use Pinterest to drive people to your blog or website. By using a combination of thematic and directly promotional posts, you can help increase awareness about your work. For instance, if you write gothic romances, you might create several thematic boards that have to do with gothic stories, styles, characters, and architecture, etc. When people interested in these images look you up, they will read in your bio that  you are an author of gothic stories and will be able to link to your website or blog. You can also be more direct by creating images that are specifically about your stories.

Here’s are some of the boards compiled and curated by author Kami Garcia, the writer behing the NYT bestselling Legion series among other works. She does a great job balancing directly promotional pins with thematically relevant ones:

pinterest kami garcia

Additional Blog Posts and Online Resources about Pinterest for Writers:


instagram icon

Discover Visual Writing Prompts:

I am an unapologetic Instagram addict. I love seeing all the different images that people share. From people to animals to art, from locations all around the globe, my Instagram feed is a veritable treasure trove of hidden stories. Just take a look at these provocative images from the wearegrryo account:

instagram shoes

instagram boys

instagram doginstagram book girl

















The creators of this curated account recently posted this along with the above photo collage of the girl with a book:

While historically Grryo has given the space for photographers to tell stories of true life, Grryo simply means storyteller. So, in the interest of true storytelling, in all it incarnations, Grryo is excited to announce that it will begin taking open submissions for works of fiction. Have a work of fiction you want to share? Short story, essay, poem or haiku? Please submit your words and photos …we’d love to share your stories.

Share Your Writing:

I am discovering more and more writers who are finding unique ways to share their poems and stories via Instagram’s visual platform. Just because the medium is focused on images instead of text doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and combine the two. Riojones7 posts beautiful images of original poems:

instagram riojones

Additional Blog Posts and Online Resources about Instagram for Writers:


The bottom line is that there is no reason that you, even though you are an artist who paints with words, can’t enjoy and exploit today’s visual means of communication. After all, it’s all stories.


Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

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Why You Write

Though perhaps I should spend less time questioning and more time simply doing, I have always had a fascination with why human beings create art and, in particular, why we write. When you spend as much time as we do putting words down, it’s only natural to be curious about the engine that drives such persistent effort.

In What Your Writing Is Missing and How to Get It, I wrote about finding the “why” behind your urge to write. Based on Simon Sinek’s fabulous TEDx talk about starting with why, that post was a call to arms, urging writers to dig deep and discover the personal beliefs and quests that power their creative urges.

Half a year later, in a post titled Why We Write – A Novel Answer, I shared insights from Mario Vargas Llosa’s slim tome, Letters to a Young Novelist. I was intrigued by his theory that we write as an act of rebellion against the way things are. This felt familiar to me, and for the first time I saw patterns in the themes and characters that exist in the stories I love to read and write.

Though it’s an endlessly interesting topic to explore, I don’t expect I’ll ever have a definitive answer to the question, “Why do I write?” My guess is that the answer is a complicated mixture of elements that have to do with our cultural exposure, personal history, and the fact that creating art is simply part of human nature.

I mean, how can anyone look at the art and mythology of ancient races and, not see that making art is simply part of who we are? Throughout the ages of recorded time – from prehistoric times to contemporary ones – we have always spent precious time and resources making art. We have always adorned ourselves and our habitations with beautiful creations that served primarily to express ideas or aesthetics. We have even brought artistry to the building of our shelters and fabrication of our most basic tools. And, we have always told stories.

Some stories served a specific purpose. A story about a fellow cave man being eaten by some savage beast, for instance, would have served as a cautionary tale. Other stories taught particular skills or morals or the history of a people. At the most basic level, stories have been a way for us to say, “I was here.”

And perhaps that is still, in large part, why we write stories today. We write to make our existence tangible, to share our experiences, and to help us make sense of the great enigma that is life. (I’m betting on the answer to the question being “42.”) We write to connect the dots – in our minds, between events, and between people and ideas. If I think about it too long, the concept begins to feel like a dizzying bit of fractal geometry.

Again, I concede that the main thing is not to know why we write, but simply to do it. Still, as writers, we are naturally curious about what makes people tick and why things happen the way they do. We are compelled to follow the myriad paths of the What If; and we never stop asking questions. Also, there is something to be said for understanding our motivations in order to better channel and focus our efforts.

What do you think? What inspires you to write? What do you find most satisfying about the process and the result? Do you feel like there is some primeval urge embedded in your DNA, or do you think the artistic need to create is something more personal?


What I’m Learning About Writing:

A meditation on the similarities between writing and shoveling snow. 

My daughter, Meghan. My, but they do grow up fast! ;)

My daughter, Meghan. My, but they do grow up fast! ;)

As my fellow writers here have mentioned, we had a bit of snow here in New England earlier this week. The blizzard of 2015 dropped more than thirty inches of snow in my neighborhood and created quite a mess in the process. Although I am fortunate enough to have the support of dedicated snow removal crews armed with plows and other clean-up equipment, there were still places (like my second story deck) that required hands-on attention.

Clearing that deck took the better part of two hours. As I huffed and puffed heaving shovelfuls of the white stuff over the railing, I got to thinking about how writing can be like shoveling. It may be an odd metaphor, but hear me out.

Facing a writing project is not that different from facing a massive pile of snow. At first, the task seems insurmountable. There is so much to do and you have no idea where to start. You’re just one person with a modest tool (be it pen or shovel). How can you hope to accomplish so much with so little?

But, eventually, you realize that there’s nothing for it but to dig in – one word, one shovelful at a time. The work is not glamorous. There is no magic involved. You simply put your back into it and make progress one small step at a time. With each word on the page and each shovelful moved from here to there, you can see a little more of your story or (in my case) a bit more of my deck.

As you surrender to the process, you think less about the ultimate goal and focus more on the work that’s right in front of you. The world falls away until there are only words, only snow. You settle into a groove. Your mind and body ache, but you keep going because this is now all you know.

And then, you pause and look up and realize how much you’ve accomplished. You see the pages and pages of your story or the expanse of snow-free landscape behind you, and you wonder – for a moment – how it happened. It seems like magic, but you know better. You’ve learned that you can move a mountain one spoonful of dirt at a time, and – likewise – you can write a story one word at a time. In fact, there is really no other way to accomplish either task.

Interestingly, after I’d reached the opposite end of the deck and could declare this small piece of my world satisfactorily clear of snow, I went back to where I started and found that my early work had been a bit shoddy. At the finish line of my snow shoveling marathon, my attention to detail had swept the decking free of nearly all evidence of the storm. At the starting line, I had left patches of snow here and there, and the edges were a mess. Despite being exhausted, I set about tidying up the one end to better match the “good” end.

And so it is with revision and editing. Though you may not realize it, each word you write helps you improve your technique and skill, so that when you return to the beginning, you will find things that need improvement. But, this will not be disheartening at all, because part of the fruits of your labor will be the hard-won skill to remedy such shortcomings.

In the end, whether your accomplishment is a clear deck or a good story, you will know that you have earned the win.


What I’m Reading:

book station 11Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, is a dystopian novel that has won great acclaim from critics, readers, and authors alike. Though I’m not usually a fan of the genre, Station Eleven does not read or feel like your typical post-apocalyptic story. Set in a frightening and bleak world ravaged by a fatal pandemic flu, it manages to tell a very human story without resorting to the usual artifices of extreme circumstance or saccharine tropes. Though Mandel strips away the facades that mask the darker sides of human nature, she does so in a way that also illuminates the most beautiful and admirable qualities of our species.

From the book jacket:

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek:“Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

As a writer, I was particularly drawn to Mandel’s exploration of how art might survive in (and even influence) such a harsh world. Though people in her future reality are reduced to the meanest existence and must expend almost all their energy and resources on mere survival, there are still those who live to preserve, create, and share art.

Though the scenes of desolation, cruelty, and heartbreaking loss were difficult to read, I took comfort in knowing that even in such an altered and seemingly ruined world, the artistic urge was not only alive, but ultimately an integral element in the rebuilding of a better tomorrow. Maybe that’s the point, after all.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

The blizzard derailed much of my blog reading for the week, but I managed to take in a few posts that are well worth sharing:

Finally, a quote for the week:

survival insufficient

Here’s to finding your why and embracing the inevitability of art each day of your life. Explore. Discover. But also remember to just accept that the art is in you.

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. i am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

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Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: I was talking with some fellow writers this week about a feeling general feeling of apathy and exhaustion that’s been creeping into our bones recently. Wondering if anyone else is feeling this way and if you think it’s related to this season of winter. 

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: Well, I have a May 15 deadline, which helps motivate me. I’ve got the book plotted, and have a daily “write this scene” goal. But honestly, if I didn’t have the deadline, I would totally give into eating cookies and reading. Lack of light, cold, layers of clothes, tough commutes–they all add up to blech. Blech does not help creative juices flow IMHO.

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: There are many things I appreciate about winter in New England – achingly blue skies, pristine snow fields, piercingly bright stars in the clear, cold night. I love the way winter’s fresh air invigorates body and soul, and the way the shorter days and tempestuous weather invite us to indulge in cozy pleasures. But, despite these joys, there are many things I dread about the season between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Though winter holds sparkling moments, those treasures are often all but lost amidst the gray expanse of days that seem to linger much longer than possible. I do have moments of wanting to just call it a day, curl up on the couch under a blanket, and let the rest of the world spin away without me. I also think that the solitude and quiet of winter invite reflection, and sometimes we are not content with what we discover. We find ourselves questioning our actions and choices and purpose. This may be uncomfortable and even disheartening, but I think it’s an important part of our creative process and our creative lives. So, even though it makes me cranky, I try to accept and even embrace this season for the gifts of insight it can bring.

photo by M. Shafer

photo by M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin: I do sometimes experience “apathy and exhaustion in my bones,” but usually the last three weeks of December, when the world is so dark. Holiday candles and celebrations help me through that time of year, but I get tired of them, too, and greet January with joy. I love winter, even when it’s gray and especially when it’s white. Skiing, snow-shoeing, ice skating, sledding – I love it all. I get outside as much as I can, even if it’s just to shovel and bring in wood.




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“Confident Writer” … it’s not a phrase you hear much, is it?

pin confidenceEarlier this week, I wrote and published an off-the-cuff confession about my habit of downplaying (and even demeaning) my writing in front of others. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I’m glad I chose to share my weakness, because it turns out that I’m not alone. Many of you apparently have the same knee-jerk reaction to innocent questions (and even compliments) about your writing.

Anyway, there were some wonderful comments on the post and the conversation got me thinking.

Sara Foley, for instance, pointed out that, “We have this funny thing that being a writer means a) being paid for writing b) a certain type of writing.”

And, bluecarpaintedgreen noted that, “Admitting you’re working on fiction pieces is a form of vulnerability, as it can hint at hopes and dreams; it’s personal.”

Soul Writer (aka Renee Brooks) offered a bit of encouragement, “It seems that we tend to put ourselves down a lot – especially as artists, and I do think a lot of it has to do with comparing ourselves to others. We just have to recognize that we are all relevant and that our gifts and talents deserve expression – no matter what.”

As I read the comments, I started wondering about what I could change so I don’t cringe when responding to the seemingly innocent but dreaded question, “What do you do?” I’m still pondering this quandary, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Expectations. Lose them. 

I don’t know much about Buddhism, but I’m fascinated by the influence expectations have on our happiness. These insidious little buggers pop up everywhere like little rain clouds casting shadows on our lives. Maybe you expected to have been published by now. Maybe you expect people to think less of you because you haven’t been published. Maybe you expect people to assume your writing is just a “cute” hobby.

Expectations back us into a corner. They set us up for failure before anything has even happened. Even positive expectations can create additional stress by increasing your odds of disappointment. It’s human nature to jump ahead, abandoning the present moment in order to try and predict what will happen in the future. But, in my experience, it doesn’t achieve much. Better to stay in the moment.

Comparison is evil. 

Comparing ourselves to others is also human nature and even more pointless than harboring expectations.

Though there may be points of similarity between one path and another, no two writer’s journeys are the same. Your experience is unique, but that doesn’t make it any better or worse than any other writer’s. It just makes it different.

When we compare ourselves to others, most of us tend to come out of it feeling inferior (more of that darn human nature). I’ve heard it said that the only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday. Have you grown since then? Have you learned anything? Have you gotten stronger in your craft? That’s the only acceptable comparison to make.

I said in my confessional post, “When someone asks you about what you do, they aren’t asking you to compare yourself to your ideal of a writer … They don’t deserve to have all your I’m-not-a-real-writer baggage dumped on their heads.” Remember that.

Let no one judge you, but you.

On a related note, you need to know and truly believe that no one has the right to judge you, but you. To date myself, Seinfeld had it right – you (and only you) are the rightful master of your domain. Other people can have their opinions, but yours is the only one that matters.

This is a particularly hard bit of advice for me to swallow because I tend to value Other People’s opinions over my own. Even if they are not in any way qualified to act as arbiter, I am easily persuaded that their two cents is worth way more than my own.

Dollars aren’t the only way to measure value.

Speaking of cents, it’s also important to remember that whether or not you are paid for your writing should not be the only measure of its worth. But, you already knew that.

Think about why you write and why you love writing. Is it because of the money? Not usually. Maybe you love the feeling of discovery as your words materialize on the page. Maybe you love the fulfillment you feel when you create a story out of thin air. Maybe writing brings you contentment and peace, or perhaps it inspires you to live your life more fully.

If you’re made to feel like your writing is “silly” or “indulgent,” remember all the riches it brings to your life. If the other person can’t understand that, I’m going to officially chalk that up as their loss.

It’s a work in progress, but I feel like I’m on the right track.

How about you? How do you manage the “What do you do?” question and all the angst it can bring?

What I’m Learning About Writing:

roller coasterMomentum is a seriously powerful writing tool.

I feel like I may have mentioned this before, but I’ve realized that writing tasks are kind of like roller coaster rides. When I’m just starting work on a piece, I feel like I’m settling into my seat, buckling up, and getting a tingling sensation up and down my spine. It’s a little nerve wracking. I don’t know what to expect. I’m afraid.

As I begin to write, it feels like my coaster car is clicking slowly up the track, each word landing on the page like the cog in the chain lift that pulls me up that first ascent. And then, as I start to gather speed and I can see the first peak, I feel my creative juices flowing more freely. I reach the apex, and looking down the other side have a moment of clarity about where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. Elation!

And then – whoosh! – everything becomes a blur as I hurtle down towards the next turn and the next incline. Up and down, around and around, loop-the-loop and upside down. Suddenly, the words are coming faster than my fingers can fly on the keyboard.

And then, just as suddenly, the ride is over and we’re pulling back into the station. I’m a little dizzy, but exhilarated. My hair, like my first draft, is a bit of a mess, but that’s okay. Now that my feet are back on solid ground, it’s time to start editing and revising. But, that’s a whole different ride.

What I’m Reading:

book breadcrumbsThis week I finished reading Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. This young adult novel is a retelling of The Snow Queen with bits and pieces of other fairytales woven into its shimmering, icy fabric. It’s an exciting story with edges of sadness – a story about growing up and discovering truths you never asked to know. It’s a tale of going into the dark woods and learning that they are so much darker and so much more complex than you ever imagined. The rules don’t work the way you thought they would and no one is who you expected them to be.

But, you also find out that even when you don’t understand the rules or know what you have to do, you can still accomplish things everyone told you were impossible. And though you might not have the fairytale ending you thought was there for the taking – was due you – you will find out that, in truth, the story never ends … and isn’t that better?

Ursu’s language is so beautiful it’s almost poetry – not only her word choices and sentence structure, but the overall cadence and rhythm of her narrative. I especially liked the musical way she uses repetition of words and imagery. It’s nearly hypnotic.

I read Breadcrumbs because of an essay I read in the Full Grown People anthology. Rebecca Stetson Werner’s essay, Into the Woods, quotes Ursu’s novel several times and I was intrigued in particular by this quote,

Now, the world is more than it seems to be. You know this, of course, because you read stories. You understand that there is the surface and then there are all the things that glimmer and shift underneath it. And you know that not everyone believes in those things, that there are people—a great many people—who believe the world cannot be any more than what they can see with their eyes. But we know better.

Anne Ursu, Breadcrumbs

Yes, we know better.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin the way you see

Here’s to discovering your confidence and riding your personal writing roller coaster with your hands in the air and a rebel yell. 

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. i am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
Roller Coaster Photo Credit: OliverN5 via Compfight cc

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