Top 5 Writer’s Weekend Edition Posts of 2016

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m having a little trouble getting back in gear after the holidays. It’s the start of a shiny New Year, but I’m not quite all the way into the swing of it yet. Though part of my malaise may yet be due to holiday hangover, I think I must admit at this point – nearly two weeks into 2017 – that it’s also partly due to my continuing struggle to process and deal with all the crazy things happening in the news … in my country. The results of last year’s election have awakened my inner activist, and I find that I am frequently distracted by the latest developments on the political scene. (Those are words I never thought I’d write.)

That said, I am a writer, and I must write. So, while it may take me some time to adjust to being consistently productive in this new environment, that is what I will do.

For today, however, I would like to share the top five Writer’s Weekend Edition posts from last year. I’ve selected them based on the number of comments they received, because I figure if someone likes something enough to take the time to comment, that is the truest measurement of how much that piece of writing has done its job.

Looking forward to another great year of sharing my random (and not-so-random) thoughts with you, and hopefully once again having the privilege of engaging in dialog with you about those ramblings.

_jamie sig

 

 


Number 5: Stillness, Solitude, and the Practice of Writing

Retreat HesseWriting is a solitary act, but being a writer is not.  We live in the Real World with everyone else, and our lives are just as full and noisy and chaotic as the next person’s. We have friends and family to care for and enjoy. We have day jobs (with meetings and emails and conference calls) and households to manage (via negotiation and sometimes bribery). We are subjected to the same onslaught of news, social media, and sundry other local and global communications as every other non-luddite member of this hyper-connected human race.  [Read more …]

Number 4: 3 Steps to Your Perfect Writing Life

Image from megankatenelson.com

Image from megankatenelson.com

Do you remember the first time you wrote? I don’t mean the first time you formed the letters of the alphabet or wrote your name. I mean the first time you sat down alone and wrote something all your own. Do you remember what  you wrote, why you wrote it, or what it felt like to put words – your words – down on the page? Did you have any idea then that you would keep writing – day after day, year after year?

Today marks thirty-nine years, one month, and thirteen days since I wrote my first journal entry. I was seven years-old at the time, and the words I chose for the first page of my first notebook were not my own. They were Shakespeare’s.  [Read more …]


Number 3: Why Writing Matters (How to Justify Your Passion)

free diverSometimes, the gravity of real life threatens to pull me out of my creative orbit. The inescapable responsibility of being human weighs heavily – the “Real World” of work, relationships, and surviving on this fragile planet crushing in on me like pressure on an ascending deep sea diver. The closer I get to daylight, the further I am from the intimate, interior depths of my creative endeavors. That inner life disappears into the darkness below as I’m drawn toward the surface, my tenuous connection lost until I dive again.

Above the waves, my belief in the importance of the world below fades.  Submerged in the process, my work felt real and worthwhile. [Read more …]


Number 2: A Writer’s New Year

Like the years, the days are each part of a continuum.

Like the years, the days are each part of a continuum.

The New Year is a time to reflect and plan. It’s a time to reevaluate our priorities and our progress toward our goals. Midnight on December 31st marks the seam between the old and the new; it is the boundary between the past and the future – the threshold over which we must step in order to enter the next phase of our lives.

Damn. That’s a lot of pressure.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of a fresh start. I also relish poring over the old year’s journal entries looking for thematic patterns in my thoughts and dreams. I love the creative process of finding the perfect word to embody my intentions for the year ahead, and the more arduous work of drilling down to discover exactly what those intentions might be. I love the myth and magic of the many New Year’s traditions that help us whisk away the old and ring in the new. [Read more …]


And the Number 1 Writer’s Weekend Edition Post of 2016 (based on number of comments): What’s Holding You Back from Your Writer’s Life?

Don't be scared of paper tigers.

Don’t be scared of paper tigers.

I’m in need of a writer-to-writer pep talk today, so I’ve decided to give myself one.

This isn’t going to be easy. I’m realizing, to my chagrin, that being optimistic and upbeat comes much more naturally when things are going well. Who’d have thought? Maintaining a good attitude is a bit more challenging when you’re stuck at the bottom of the proverbial well with no rope and no ladder (and a creeping suspicion that something malicious may be lurking down there with you, just waiting to jump out from the shadows and give you a nasty bite, or worse). [Read more …]


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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Edition – You’re Still You

qt-knost-broken-world

Today’s post will be a short one. I really only have one thing I want to tell you:

You’re still you.

Maybe you’re feeling like the world has gone mad; or maybe it seems like it’s always been mad, but you’re only noticing now, and it’s like waking up to find out that your bad dream wasn’t a dream at all.

What’s happening isn’t normal, but you’re still you.

Maybe you’re feeling disappointed about the way 2016 turned out for your personally. Maybe you didn’t meet your goals. Maybe your heart was broken. Maybe you lost your way.

I know it hurts, but you’re still you.

Maybe you are feeling doubtful or guilty about your creative endeavors. Maybe you’re worried that they are an indulgence, or that they don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Maybe you’re second guessing yourself.

I understand your fear, but you’re still you.

No matter what happens around you, no matter what people say, no matter how many setbacks you experience – You’re. Still. You. You are who you’ve always been and you’re always growing into the person you’re meant to be. What happens around you can touch you and influence you and affect your emotions, but it can’t change who you are unless you let it. All those forces exist outside of you. They aren’t really part of who you are in your heart, and  your heart is where your stories come from.

It’s okay to take time to grieve. It’s okay to give yourself space to worry and question and process all the change in your life. And, it’s okay to step back for a minute and just let it all wash over you. Just remember, always remember, that you are still you. Your stories are still your stories. Your voice is still your voice. That hasn’t changed. That will never change. And, that is your greatest strength and your most brilliant light. So, be you, be strong, and shine your light in the darkness. We need it more than ever.

xo

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, 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.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – Why Art Matters More Than Ever

 

pin-tell-stories-ecoI haven’t got my usual list of favorite blog posts and recently read books for you today. It’s been a long week and, like many people, I’ve been distracted from my usual routines by current events. I’m behind on client deadlines and pretty much irreversibly behind on my NaNoWriMo novel (a reality I’ll address in a future post).

As a writer, it’s never a good feeling when we become – for whatever reason –temporarily disconnected from our work; but I also know that writers are “writing” even when they are unable to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Everything we experience is part of our process. Everything.

So, while I don’t have a long list of links to share today, I did want to share links to a few pieces that helped me center and ground myself in the midst of all the chaos, uncertainty, and fear:

From Creating Art Matters More Than Ever by @KendraLevin:

I’ve heard many people talking about how trivial everything seems in comparison with national events and their global reverberations. Many writers were a week into National Novel Writing Month at the time of the election. To resume as if nothing has changed seems impossible; to focus on our own work when such massive changes are going on all around us can feel solipsistic and naïve, or the work can seem trivial.

But it’s not.

From On Going High by @danijshapiro:

To be a writer, and to be a teacher of writing, is to constantly, steadfastly open oneself up to what is.  To not shy away.  To feel fear and embrace that fear — otherwise known as courage — and to find a voice for what feels impossible to say.

From 5 Reasons Writing is Important to the World by @KMWeiland:

[podcast w/transcript]

Stories are, fundamentally, truths. Even when the author didn’t intend it to be so, even when he is unaware of it—even when the readers or viewers are unaware–a story is always a statement. If it is to ring true, then what it says must reflect reality—it must reflect what is true.

And what is true is always good—whether it is beautiful, whether it is dark, whether it is healing, whether it is painful. Truth is always a beacon, a guiding light pointing us back to the best things in life.

In a follow-up post, Weiland shares the personal stories of her readers/listeners as they wrote about why writing is important to them: 15 (More) Reasons Writing is Important – In Your Own Words.

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I hope that these posts might provide some comfort and inspiration to anyone who is struggling to reconnect with his or her writing. And I hope that maybe they will get us all thinking about the importance of connecting through story – of sharing and listening and learning.

 

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, 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.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Short and Sweet Advice for Writers – Gather Momentum

define momentum

I don’t know about you, but I often have trouble getting started on a writing project. I have no trouble with the pre-writing work – thinking about, exploring, and playing with an idea – but when I’m finally sitting in front off the blank screen, fingers poised over the keyboard, I freeze. I am suddenly gripped by self-doubt, fear, and indecision about what to do next.

This is to be expected. Getting started is hard. It’s like stepping off a cliff or out of a plane into … nothing. You’re on your own. You’ll probably fall for a while before you remember that you’ve got wings. It helps to have a process to get you going – a series of steps that you can lean on when you’re not really sure what to do first. (Here’s a 12-step process I use for many writing assignments. Feel free to borrow it!)

But, while starting is hugely important (I mean, you obviously need to do that first), it’s also important to KEEP GOING once you’ve started. This is where MOMENTUM comes in.

Say it with me: “Mo-men-tum.” It’s kind of fun to say. It almost has a rhythm that feels like you might be able to dance to it.

As defined by Merriam-Webster, momentum is:

  • the strength or force that something has when it is moving
  • the strength or force that allows something to continue or grow stronger or faster as time passes

I like the sound of that. Don’t you?

Think about it in terms of your writing. Have you ever been working on something and suddenly feel like you’ve reached the downside of a hill? You know – you’ve been slogging along and then something shifts and the words come more easily and your fingers can barely keep up with your brain? That’s momentum. It’s what happens just before you find “flow.”

So, how do you gain momentum?

You write. And you write and you write and you write. You don’t get up every two minutes to get a drink or check your email or dust the curios in the cabinet. You write. You get yourself started however you can, and then you keep going. You don’t give in to the temptation to step away. You don’t let the demons slow you down. You just keep putting one word after the other, even if you’re worried they might not be the right words. It doesn’t matter. You just keep climbing up that hill, one sentence at a time, and then – all of a sudden – you’ll feel a force at your back, pushing you forward and making the whole process easier. You’ll feel like you’re tripping lightly downhill instead of clawing your way up a steep slope. That’s momentum.

And it doesn’t just apply to the piece you’re working on right now. It also applies, on a larger scale, to your whole writing life.

Momentum. It’s a beautiful thing. Go out there and create it today.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, 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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Baby, you don’t have to be perfect.

Happy Monday, writers. Good weekend? I hope so.

I had another post planned for this morning, but then I came across this clip from the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon featuring the plucky pop singer Meghan Trainor taking an onstage dixie after performing her sexy new single, Me, Too.

I’m sharing this because it kind of melted my heart a little, and because it’s a sweet and funny reminder that, baby, you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. (Note the standing ovation Trainor receives from the audience at the end of the clip.)

My daughter and I have been fans of Trainor since her first hit single, All About that Bass. While I enjoy her sound (pop mixed with R&B and some throwback 50’s doowap vibes), what I love even more about Trainor is how she lets her real and imperfect self shine through without making it part of her schtick. This girl works hard to be as good as she is. She may not be the stereotypical pop star, but that doesn’t stop her from putting it all out there.

Did you know that she started out as a behind-the-scenes songwriter? The song that became her first massive hit (All About that Bass) was offered up to several well-established artists, but they all turned it down. Trainor decided to record it herself, and – voilá! – she was on her way.

Every artist comes up against self-doubt and has embarrassing moments that make us wish we could hit rewind and get a do-over. But you can’t let the fear of falling on your face keep you from stepping out on stage. Be brave. Be fierce. Give it your all. And if you slip or stumble, get up, brush yourself off, and get right back to work. Though there’s always the odd jackass who will point and laugh, most people will help you up and cheer you on.

The truth is, I’m rarely inspired by perfection. I’m inspired by imperfect people who know they’ve got flaws but who go out and do their thing anyway.

Rock on, Meghan. Rock on.


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PS – Tip of the hat to Mr. Fallon for handling this in the most awesome way possible.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition – a long-form post on writing and the writing life – and/or introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Writing Outside The Box

“Think outside the box” has always been one of the phrases I love to hate. In my agency days, it was something that echoed up and down the corridors, usually tripping lightly off the tongue of some overpaid creative director-type who couldn’t come up with a more helpful way to articulate his “vision.” The writers and designers would cringe in unison and wonder exactly what the hell they were supposed to do. Most of the time, they weren’t even aware they were in a box, never mind understanding how to get out of it.

Still, getting “outside the box” does have some validity in the world of marketing if you think of the box as the “shoulds” of marketing.

The myth of “best practices”

I have some bad news: there is no silver bullet, no 100% guaranteed roadmap, no one-size-fits-all solution. I also have some good news: there is no silver bullet, no 100% guaranteed roadmap, no one-size-fits-all solution.

If anyone comes to you and tells you they have The Answer, run.

There is no “always” or “never” in writing. There are some basic common sense guidelines, but, other than that, I don’t give the “shoulds” and “musts” of writing much credence. What works for someone else might work for you, or it might not. And, as the masters will tell you, even the most widely touted rules are made (once you have the chops) to be broken.

“Best” practices can quickly close in around you like that proverbial box. At first it seems comfy and cozy – safe, tested, proven. But in the end it winds up limiting your options, shutting down your creativity, and rendering you blind to opportunities that lie on the other side of the walls.

The truth is that the “best” in “best practices” depends entirely on the context – on the box you’re playing in.

YOU make the box

Maybe nobody puts Baby in a corner, but we often put ourselves in a box.

We listen to People Who Know Better and believe everything they say, even when it doesn’t quite ring true for us. We willingly subscribe to their methods and madness, contorting ourselves so we can climb inside their box. Though we might feel cramped or claustrophobic, we tell ourselves that we’ll get used to it. Though we may feel like we’re operating in the dark, we tell ourselves that soon the lights will come on and everything will be clear.

We stay in the box, but we shouldn’t.

Boxes have walls, and as you grow those walls will start to close in. Your view of Blue Sky Possibilities will start to shrink.

Your comfort zone vs. where the magic happens

If you stay too long inside the box, you start to get comfortable and complacent. You begin to distrust the world outside your box. You don’t want to try anything new; you just want to stick with the tried and true things that are already inside your box and within your comfort zone. After all, they are “best” practices – if you keep at them long enough, they are bound to work eventually, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Even if they do work, staying inside the box will likely cause you to miss out on more exciting, more effective, more “you” ways of becoming the writer only you can be. Your comfort zone might not seem so comfortable once you give yourself the chance to climb out of that box, wiggle your bare toes in the grass, inhale the fresh air, and stretch your limbs.

Stepping outside your box means giving yourself the chance to explore all the possibilities, indulge your creative urges, and discover new insights into your own writing process.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Leaving the faux security of the box can be scary at first, but the exhilaration you’ll feel once you realize that you don’t have to play by anyone else’s rules far outweighs any perceived risk. Fear will become excitement. You’ll feel like Julie Andrews spinning giddily through meadows of writing bliss.

Really.

Are you stuck in a box that doesn’t quite fit you? What could you do to step outside that box – outside your comfort zone and into the place where magic happens? 

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition – a long-form post on writing and the writing life – and/or introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post was adapted from a piece I originally wrote for my Suddenly Marketing blog. Who knew that the same get-out-of-the-box rule would apply to both marketing and writing?
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Big Magic

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Not many books I’ve read about writing and staying inspired have confronted the fear factor, so I was eager to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. At long last, the library copy became available, and I have the book in my hands.

What I like about what I’ve read so far is that Gilbert expands creativity beyond the page and talks about “creative living . . . a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”

One of the things I love about being a writer is license to be curious, because while I may escape to my studio every day to face the same blank page, I’m also tasked with learning new information, meeting new people, asking questions, being curious.

Gilbert acknowledges that courage is necessary for creativity. Some days, sitting at my desk is scary and I wish with all my heart that I’d become a lawyer. Meanwhile, I have friends who are lawyers who ask me, “How do you do it?” meaning get up and go to work without someone else providing the expectations, the office and the paycheck.

Most of the time I reply, “How do you do it?” meaning pull on a suit, commute to an office, and follow instructions.

Sometimes I wish I had an office job. (pixabay)

Sometimes I wish I had an office job. (pixabay)

Sometimes I wish I had an office job just for the camaraderie, coffee breaks and photocopier. I imagine life would be easier if I had someone else telling me what to do and handing me a weekly paycheck. But these are just details, and they’re not mine.

I’ve chosen the blank page, which some days feels like standing in front of a firing squad, and some days feels like floating weightless through outer space. Most days, it’s a mixture of the two. As Gilbert says, “It seems to me that my fear and my creativity are basically conjoined twins – as evidenced by the fact that creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching right alongside it.”

Having established that “Bravery, means doing something scary,” Gilbert discusses the magic of inspiration and recounts the remarkable story of abandoning a novel on which she’d been working long enough to develop significant and specific portions of the characterization, plot and setting, only to discover that Ann Pachett was just starting a book with similar characterization, plot and setting.

There's no limit on creativity. (pixabay)

There’s no limit on creativity. (pixabay)

What I like about this story is not so much Gilbert’s explanation of inspiration floating around until someone catches it, but her refutation that 1) creativity demands suffering, and 2) the amount of inspiration and creativity in the universe is limited. Both these ideas are commonplace – and untrue.

Where I write joyfully when I overcome fear. www.deborahleeluskin.com

Where I write joyfully when I overcome fear.
http://www.deborahleeluskin.com

It is entirely possible to be creative and joyful! In fact, being creative brings joy to the maker and the receiver(s) of creation, whether it be the cooking of a good meal or the writing of a good story. We live in an expanding universe – there’s no limit on creativity. Gilbert writes, “The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong and they are also annoying.”

Reading that sentence was Big Magic for me, so I closed the book and returned gleefully to my desk.

 

Into the Wilderness, is an award-winning love story set in Vermont in 1964.

Into the Wilderness, is Luskin’s award-winning love story set in Vermont in 1964.

Deborah Lee Luskin blogs weekly at Living in Place.

Weekend Edition – The Secret Truth About Writing

Morgan Freeman as God in Bruce Almighty, 2003

Morgan Freeman as God in Bruce Almighty, 2003

In the summer of 2007 my fourteen-year marriage was limping toward what would turn out to be a less-than-amicable divorce. I split my days between denial, mild panic attacks, and desperately trying to figure out what I would do to support myself and my three-year-old daughter. At the same time, my paternal grandmother passed away. After months of being in and out of rehab for various illnesses related to diabetes, she spent the end of her life in a hospice facility. I was there the day she died. We were not close, but she was the first family member I’d lost since I’d been grown-up enough to really understand what was happening. Only a few, brief hours before she passed, my Korean grandmother had gripped my hand in hers and told me earnestly that she was ready to take charge of her life now.

In the midst of all these big, traumatic events in my little world, Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone. The release of a shiny new piece of technology may not seem, at first glance, to have much to do with death and divorce; but that sleek device captured my imagination and quickly became the focus of a not entirely rational obsession.

With so many aspects of my life spinning out of control, the iPhone seemed to be an almost magical key to the life of order and control that I so desperately wanted.

··• )o( •··

On the day of the release, my daughter and I queued up outside the local Apple store along with hundreds of other shoppers who were eager to get their hands on this technological wonder. It took us three hours to gain entry into the bustling, white-on-white interior where Apple staff were delivering beautifully packaged new iPhones into the hands of customers who were as anxious and excited as expectant  parents.

Luckily for me, my mom and dad arrived to entertain my daughter just as she was beginning to lose patience with my constant admonitions about touching things and standing still. As my parents whisked her off to a less constrained environment, I finally took receipt of my own embossed box and the device that I was certain would give me all the tools I needed to organize, manage, and reinvent my life. I was ready, like my recently deceased grandmother, to take charge.

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My ex-husband will tell you that I’m a control freak, though – from where I’m standing – my “managerial” tendencies pale in comparison to those of his current wife. I will admit, however, to having Type-A personality traits and maybe even a touch of OCD. These characteristics make me more susceptible than the average person to the allure of devices, software, and procedural practices that promise superhuman speed and efficiency. I have been known to swoon upon discovering a new piece of software or iPhone app. As a writer, I sometimes worry that my fascination with technology and systems might compromise my creative spark; but I’ve also come to accept that this is who I am.

As you’ve probably already guessed, that first iPhone did not give me the ability to effortlessly transform my life into a well-ordered, Zen-like existence. Neither did any of next three iPhones that I purchased.  Nevertheless, my love for Apple’s crown jewel remains undiminished. I’ve just had to learn to temper my expectations. Now that I’ve been around the block a few times, I have a more realistic sense of what an iPhone can and cannot do to improve my life.

··• )o( •··

I’m starting to learn a similar lesson about writing.

For all it’s creative and inspirational glory, writing is, at it’s core, an act of control. As writers, we create worlds, characters, and the plots that send our characters careening through our worlds on adventures of love and discovery, triumph and tragedy. We manipulate words into sentences and sentences into stories, controlling what our readers see, hear, smell, and feel. Writers are, in a sense, the gods of our own realities.

Writing is also a way to exert control over our own lives and emotions. The process of writing grounds us, offering solace and comfort through the ritual of regular practice and the relief of cathartic release. Writing gives us a set of powerful tools with which we can plumb the depths of our own feelings, attempt to make some sense of the world around us, and even reshape perceptions – ours and those of others.

Ultimately, writing is a bid not only for control of the here and now, but also for a certain kind of immortality. Like any artist, the writer seeks to create something that will live on after its creator is long gone. It’s not enough, apparently, to control the creation of alternate realities, our emotions, and perceptions. Writing also strives to control time itself by allowing the author’s voice to time travel across years or even centuries to whisper its story into the hearts and minds of new readers living in another era.

··• )o( •··

I don’t pass any judgments on the controlling nature of writing. It is neither good nor bad; it just is. Mostly, it makes me laugh to think how long it’s taken me to figure this truth out.

I’m also learning to laugh at the futility of any effort to control life. I’m finally old enough to realize that even if we do everything we’re supposed to, life always gets the last word. There are no guarantees. There are no silver bullets. There are, however, plenty of plot twists. Even the best laid plans can go awry, and even the perfectly planned story can turn out differently than you expected.

I haven’t yet fully grasped the nature of the relationship between life and writing. I don’t know if I ever will, and that’s okay. For now, I’m just grateful that writing is such an important part of my life. Though I can acknowledge that the control it gives me is only an illusion, I can’t think of a worthier or more lovely illusion to pursue.

A story can cast a spell, but writing is not a magic wand. Words have undeniable power, but they are only a reflection of life, not the real thing. If you can recognize the distinction and still write with joy and enthusiasm, you’re on the right track.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts 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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Saturday Edition – In Troubled Times, Write

On Existential Dilemmas and the Creative Act:

When things get stormy, writing shines a light in the darkness.

When things get stormy, writing brings a light into the darkness.

I’ve been struggling with something lately. Though I intentionally minimize my news consumption (and try to restrict myself to the least sensationalist sources), I can’t help but notice that the world has gone a little mad. It’s scary out there. It’s as if the cruel and ridiculous worlds of satirical novelists like Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams have come to life; and suddenly the jokes aren’t so funny anymore. Global warming, economic collapse, war, terrorism, political corruption, religious intolerance, discrimination of all kinds – these are the living nightmares that keep so many of us up at night. These are Big Problems – global issues that affect all of humanity and very fate of this fragile planet.

My struggle is knowing what to do in the face of all this insanity.

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It’s an old saw, but a true one: Life is Short. This fall, I will celebrate my forty-seventh trip around the sun. I sailed past forty and even forty-five with hardly a second glance, but something about being this close to the half-century mark has made the sound of my personal countdown clock – tick-tock, tick-tock – a bit louder and more ominous. I have days where I channel Marisa Tomei’s character, Mona Lisa, from the movie My Cousin Vinny (you know the scene I mean), except instead of being worried about my biological clock, I’m worried about how to best spend my remaining time on this planet.

I mean, how do any of us live our Best Life, and what does that even mean anyway? I realize that the definition of a Good Life shifts wildly from person to person, and even –over the course of a lifetime – for each individual based on changing beliefs, new experiences, and the painful process of growing up. But lately I’ve been feeling more pressure than usual to, pardon the expression, figure this shit out.

I mean, what do we do? Do we embark on crusades and tilt at windmills, knowing full well that we have only the slimmest chance of making even the smallest difference? Or, do we focus on making our own tiny corner of the world more beautiful and kind, more tolerant and hopeful?

Or, maybe – just maybe – those two things are not mutually exclusive?

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I don’t know about you, but I am often torn between my desire to create and my sense of obligation to Real Life and Other People. I do my best to walk a straight and narrow line doing all the things that responsible people do, but I keep losing my balance because the gray matter inside my head is spinning at such velocity that the centrifugal force pushes me right off my feet. I feel distracted and unmoored because my attention and intention are split between taking care of the Real World and creating a world of my own.

I worry that writing is a self-indulgent waste of time, an unearned privilege, and a misuse of my one and precious life . I worry about being perpetually caught up with chronic navel gazing. But, eventually, my inner Guardian of my Writer Self steps in (usually with a slightly exasperated sigh) and straightens me out:

Writing is not self-indulgent. Writing is brave and generous. It is the act of digging deep down inside your heart, mind, and soul; extracting the truth you find there; polishing it to the best of your ability; and sharing it with others. Writing is the opposite of self-indulgent. Yes, it requires that you look within, but ultimately that internal searching is an effort to connect. Stories are not meant to be kept inside. Stories are, by nature, shared. They are the best gift you can give.

Though my conviction wavers now and again, I really do believe this.

Since the dawn of human consciousness, stories have informed, educated, inspired, and comforted us. Cautionary tales let us benefit from the wisdom of those more experienced than us. Stories about heroes and heroines inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves. Happy endings give us hope.

And, as a writer, the act of writing helps us break free of the paralyzing forces of fear and doubt. Though the state of affairs in the world may leave us feeling helpless, putting words down helps us understand our feelings and – if we share our stories – helps others understand, too. Through writing, you can transform the pain and fear. Through the alchemy of story, you can turn the darkness of conflict, tragedy, sorrow, and anger into forces for good.

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I have said before that I believe the world would be a better place if more people wrote. Writers never take things at face value. We are curious creatures. We ask questions. Lots of questions. We are happy to spend whole lifetimes exploring the endless possibilities of “What if?” We are observers, seekers, and storytellers. We are magicians who have the ability to make the otherwise invisible visible, thereby revealing the world as we see it to others – opening eyes and minds and hearts, creating connections, reminding readers that they are not alone. Never alone.

Writers have the potential to be beacons of hope – a light that keeps the darkness at bay. A small flame to guide and comfort us as we walk through our days and dream through our nights. Through our characters and our stories, our essays and our memoirs, we can be voices of reason, acceptance, and compassion. We can choose to write stories that embody kindness, empathy, beauty, and joy. We can inspire generosity, laughter, and understanding.

We can also expose evil. We can mirror the horrors that we see in the Real World, raising awareness through literal or metaphorical plot lines. We can imagine the outcome of some particular cruelty, folly, or corruption and enlighten people to the danger that lurks right under their noses.

Ultimately, stories – even the ones that reveal and teach – offer a momentary escape from the weight of the world. And, sometimes, this temporary reprieve from one’s problems is the greatest gift a story can give. The space created by a story gives us the chance to step back and take a broader view, to hear ourselves think, to connect the dots. Stories bring perspective and inspire us to think about our choices and actions in a different light. Whether we are writing them or reading them, stories help us step more fully into who we truly are.

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I will never stop struggling with this dilemma, but that’s okay. “Balance,” I’ve heard, is a verb, not a noun. I must gently remind myself that my Best Life is not a destination that exists entirely in either the Real World or my Writing World. My Best Life is an ongoing experience that moves seamlessly between the two unique but deeply connected hemispheres of my life. I will not tear myself apart worrying about writing when I’m fighting Real World battles or worrying about the fate of the Real World when I’m writing. I will accept that my Writer’s Life exists in both worlds, it’s just my role that changes. In the Real World, I am the observer; while in my writing world, I am a creator.

As for the question of whether it is more “right” to fight the good fight out in the Big, Wide World or to focus my energies on creating something beautiful in my small corner, I think that in a perfect world my creative efforts – no matter how modest – may be the greatest contribution I can make. Writing is how I take my stand. It represents my beliefs and my dreams. It embodies everything I want to nurture in the world. And, because I share some of what I write, writing also gives me a way to connect with others and make the world a little smaller and a little less scary.

So, if the news has you feeling a little discouraged or downright despondent, please don’t give up hope and please don’t put down your pen. The world needs writers more than ever. Write your stories. Share your thoughts. Send up a beacon of hope. Inspire and educate us. Help us to see the world in a new way. Remind us that we aren’t alone and that the good guys can still win.

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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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Write Drunk. Edit Sober.

Blogging can be scary. Some days, it feels like you’ve been pushed on stage and asked to do stand-up. The guy who was on before you totally killed it. The crowd was laughing in the aisles and people were repeating his catch phrase. Now you’re up there, peering through the glare of the floor lights, trying to catch a glimpse of the audience, sweating under the deep and awkward silence of a crowd waiting to see what you’re going to do.

Yeah. Sometimes, blogging is like that.

So, you ask yourself, how do people get brave enough to put themselves and their brands out there in authentic, vulnerable, stick-their-necks-out ways? How do they find the nerve to say the thing that needs to be said? What gives them the self-assurance they need to blog in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd so they can capture attention and make people give a damn?

The answer: courage.

As the saying goes – courage isn’t a lack of fear. It is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. True courage does not come easily. You have to dig down deep and find the strength to face the dragons that stand in your way. You have to take a breath, square your shoulders, and push yourself to do the thing that scares you.

But, there is another way. A shortcut called “liquid courage.” You know what I’m talking about – the inhibition-lowering, boldness-bolstering, let-me-at-‘em kind of courage. The sure-I’ll-karaoke kind of courage. The lemme-tell-you-what-I-think kind of courage.

If you haven’t gotten to the point in your blogging evolution where you can tap into true courage, if you’re still teetering on the edge of writing posts that make you cringe a little when you click the “publish” button, you might want to try writing like you’re a little tipsy.

Write drunk; edit sober.

Most often attributed to Hemingway, this little gem of writing advice is perfect for bloggers. Like good fiction, a good blog needs to reach out and grab the reader. It needs to say something worth saying, take some kind of stand. But too often we settle for the ho-hum and so-so. We play it safe.

This is called “going through the motions,” and it’s not going to help you attract attention or build an audience. It’s going to bore people. It’s hard to push beyond the easy, run-of-the-mill blog fodder to try something new or even controversial. I get it. But, if you don’t start taking steps in that direction, if you don’t start giving people something worth reading, why even bother blogging?

Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and get hammered; but what if we applied the attributes of intoxication to our blogger’s mindset?

Lowered Inhibitions

You’ve seen it a hundred times in the movies and probably in real life, too. The shy guy finally asks the pretty girl out. The shy girl finally gets up and sings her heart out to a bar full of dumbstruck friends. The downtrodden desk jockey finally stands up and tells his boss what he really thinks.

Turning down the volume of your internal censor can be a good thing for your blogging. If your primary worries are about being politically correct and pleasing everyone, you’ll end up watering everything down and diluting your message until it’s not worth hearing. Loosen up a little. Try to be less self-conscious. Roll with your “crazy” ideas.

Brilliant Random Associations and Wild, Unruly Bursts of Creative Insight

Speaking of crazy ideas, get some of those.

Make your brainstorming sessions a free-for-all, a no-bad-ideas zone.  Write down every wacky idea you have and cultivate a mindset of curiosity and creativity.

Sometimes it takes a little inebriation to see more clearly. How many winning ideas have been hatched during happy hour when we finally get a different perspective on the day? With our internal filters shut down, the ideas can suddenly flow freely – colliding into each other and creating new, hybrid ideas. Happy hour can be very fertile ground for innovation.

Swagger

“Lemme at ‘im!”

Eyes slightly glazed, but with a fire burning in them, you’re ready to take on Goliath … bare fisted … with one hand tied behind your back. You know you can handle him. No problem. No problem at all.

Blogging requires a little chutzpah. You have to believe that you’ve got what it takes. You have to believe you’ve got something worth saying. If anyone says, “Who do you think you are?”, you have to be ready to tell him exactly who you are.

Honesty

A cocktail, mixed correctly, is as good as the best high-test truth serum.

When you’ve had a few drinks pretenses drop, charades dissolve, and facades crumble. Your authentic self, who has been waiting patiently behind the lines of sobriety and propriety, rolls her head and cracks her knuckles like a boxer preparing to enter the ring. It’s finally game time – her turn to show her stuff.

“You know what I’ve always wanted to tell you?” … and then it all starts to come out – all the really juicy bits, all the stuff that keeps the listener hanging on every word. You don’t need a fancy vocabulary, you just need to tell it like it is – straight up, no filter.

Affection

“I love you guys.”

What is it about spirits that makes it so easy for us to express our affections? Defenses come down and the whole world seems like one big hug fest. How did we not see the awesomeoness of these people before?

Feel the love. Go with it. You’re trying to connect with your readers on a very real level. Why hold back? If you feel moved to do it, tell them you love them. They are the reason you’re here. They are the reason you do what you do. Go ahead – lay one on ‘em. They’ll love it.

The morning after

Hemingway’s approach is only effective if you work both sides of the equation. I think we’ve covered the “write drunk” part, but what about editing sober?

The key is breathing room. Premature publishing is akin to drunk dialing (or texting). The results can be disastrous and embarrassing. Brainstorm and write to your intoxicated heart’s content, but don’t hit “publish” until you’ve come down off your creative party train and can look at things with a sober and impartial eye.

Believe me, you don’t want to wake up with a tattoo you don’t remember getting.

From liquid courage to the real thing

Eventually, you’ll find that you don’t need a shot of faux fearlessness to blog like you really mean it. Over time, practicing blogging like you’re tipsy (even though you aren’t … really), will give you all the true courage you need to get out there and speak your mind in a unique and engaging way. You’ll feel at ease, be open to new and creative ideas, find your groove, embrace your truth, and surrender to your affections.

And that’s when the magic will happen. You won’t worry about feeling trapped up on a stage you didn’t want to be on in the first place. You will have found your voice, your audience, and your stride. You’ll be working that spotlight like a pro and having a great time doing it.

 


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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 long-form post on writing and the writing life – and/orintroduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This original version of this post appeared on suddenlymarketing.com.
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Image credit: WordsIGiveBy on etsy