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

Image from

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 …]

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.

Weekend Edition – A Writer’s New Year

silhouette sunrise sunset

A new day rising … or perhaps one ending. Endings and beginnings often turn out to be much the same thing.

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.

But, we all know that New Year’s resolutions rarely stick; and while I’m a big believer in cycles (especially creative ones), I doubt they conform to the constraints of the calendar. Our lives and our creativity exist on a continuum. They are not parsed out into 365-day units with hard stops and clean slates inserted at regular intervals. That would be too neat and predictable; and life and art are anything but neat and predictable.

With this in mind, I’m experimenting with a different approach to how I enter the New Year.

··• )o( •··

The trouble I have with the usual New Year’s schtick is our tendency to devalue the past in favor of a presumably better, and more perfect future. Though I’ve spent most of the last week happily unplugged from the Internet, a few visits to my usual digital haunts left me with an overwhelming sense that most people are relieved to see the backside of 2015 in a don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out/thank-the-gods-that’s-over kind of way.

I get it.  From global warming and international terrorism to cultural racism and political insanity, 2015 threw a lot at us. Add to that any personal and creative challenges you may have experienced, and it’s natural that you’d be more than ready to slam and bolt the door on the last 365 days. But before you walk away with nary a backward glance, perhaps it’s worth a few moments to consider what the year has taught you – for better or for worse.

··• )o( •··

Reflecting on the year gone by is an exercise that can quickly bring you down if you don’t keep your perspective. As human beings, we tend to be tough on ourselves. As writers, we can be downright merciless. Reviewing what you have accomplished inevitably leads to acknowledging what you have not accomplished, and those realizations can leave you feeling deflated, guilty, ashamed, and generally disappointed in yourself. Or, maybe that’s just me.

Each year, I stride into January with Big Dreams and High Hopes. A small voice in my head cheers the mantra, “This is the year! This is the year!” I can’t help but be swept up in the exhilarating annual revel of redemption and expectation. After all, who doesn’t love a second chance? For as long as I can remember, I have spent the end of December contemplating the same two creative/professional New Year’s goals: writing (and eventually publishing) fiction and developing a new business around my love of writing/reading/story/creativity (vs. around the marketing/copywriting that is my current bread-and-butter).

And, for as long as I can remember, I have so far “failed” to accomplish either of these two goals.

I say “failed” instead of FAILED because while I haven’t yet brought my visions of success and fulfillment to life, I haven’t given up either.  Each year I take a few more baby steps in the direction of my goals, and – equally important – I endeavor to keep my perspective about my accomplishments. Even if I’m unable to check off any items in the Big Goals category, I try to remember the value of lesser achievements in the Learning From My Mistakes and Trials category.

··• )o( •··

2015 served me more than my usual share of personal upheaval. For the first time in the seven years since my divorce, I returned to court to negotiate long overdue agreement updates with my still-hostile ex. I took on the daunting responsibility of home ownership, watched my impossibly grown-up daughter enter middle school, and learned a bit about being a grown up myself when my beau’s twenty-year-old daughter moved back in with him after seventeen years away. I had a minor (and, happily, short-lived) health scare that nevertheless made me think, and survived (barely) one of the busiest fourth quarters in my eight-year freelance writing career.

While all of this contributed to a general sense of sustained stress and tension for the year, it was a comparatively minor development in my writing life that brought me up short as I was preparing for the holidays: for the first time in my life, I was fired.

The details are immaterial. That the severing of relations was related to misunderstandings about scope and process rather than to the quality of my work didn’t soften the blow to my ego or lessen the negative effect on my income. One minute I was facing a Herculean writing task that would have forced me to work nights and weekends from mid-December right up until the holiday ( and would have resulted in a nice deposit in my bank account), and the next I was facing an empty calendar and an unexpected revenue deficit. The 180-degree about face gave me emotional whiplash and unleashed a flood of self doubt and anxiety.

But, as the hours passed, I found my spirits not only reviving, but rejoicing. I hadn’t realized how much the project had been coloring my outlook and mood. Even before I’d been fired, I’d been feeling like a failure. The impossible expectations were like a dark cloud hovering over me, siphoning off my confidence, self esteem, and energy. Once I was able to get past the initial sting of rejection, my heart and mind felt immeasurably lighter. Sure, I was out some cash, but the more I played the possible outcomes through in my head, the more I realized I’d dodged a bullet that would have ruined my holidays.

Ultimately, this unpleasant experience proved to me – in real-world, platitude-free terms – that time, happiness, and health are more valuable than money. The payment I would have earned could never have offset the price I would have paid working long hours that kept me from my loved ones and jeopardized my health.

Talk about a wake-up call.

In an interesting twist to the story, a few hours after I learned I’d been fired, I received an email from an editor at WordPress notifying me that my post Writing is My Real Job had been selected as a feature on Discover (formerly Freshly Pressed). I admit that it took me a little while to connect the dots, but once I stepped back to see the Big Picture – being fired off a lucrative job I wasn’t loving and then getting news that work I did for love was being recognized – I felt like the Universe had slapped me upside the head.

I couldn’t have wished for a more appropriate New Year’s gift.

··• )o( •··

This is why instead of slamming the door on 2015, this New Year’s season finds me taking my leisurely leave of the past twelve months. I’m still looking forward to the year ahead. I’m still full of my usual Pollyanna-ish ambition, optimism, and hope. But I’m also more aware than ever before that I will be better off in 2016 if I can build on what I learned in 2015 rather than throwing the year’s experiences – good and especially bad – into the trash like a half-baked first draft.

As I look back over last year in the context of planning the year ahead, I am paying particular attention to how I interpret “good” and “bad.” Going back to court was hard, but I discovered an unexpected reserve of confidence and calm. Having our housing in jeopardy and then committing to the financial responsibility of owning property were both terrifying, but we now have a home to call our own. Being fired was a bummer, but it was probably the only way I was going to see – really see – what is most important to me, both personally and professionally.

Processing my New Year this way – looking both backward and forward, layering my hopes and plans for the New Year on top of the successes and missteps of the old one – forces me to take a longer view of things – to look at the “old” year and the new one not as distinct entities that must be judged against each other, but as interwoven pieces of an unbroken continuum.

Likewise, I no longer feel the need to reinvent myself on January first. Like my life and my creative journey, I am not a series of annual iterations. There is no 2015 Jamie vs. a 2016 Jamie. There’s just me. I will still strive to learn and grow. I will still work to improve my craft, increase my success, and explore my potential; but I will also try to remember that I’m not broken or half-baked. What I’ve done in years past is not less valuable than what I will do in the years to come, and vice versa. It’s all part of one life.

I’ve heard it said that we should live only in the present because focusing too much on the past tends to stirs regrets while focusing too much on the future feeds our worries. But, I believe that the present moment exists fully only in the context of both our past and our future. We are who we are right now because of what we’ve experienced in the past and what we hope for the future. Our lives do not exist in a vacuum. They are shaped, guided, and inspired by everything that has come before and everything that is yet to come.

And, as writers, it’s this Big Picture way of looking at things that gives us the ability to bring past, present, future, and all the possibilities contained therein to life in an almost magical way. It’s this willingness to embrace the bad with the good, the triumphant with the tragic that allows us to harness the beautiful imperfection of all our experiences so we can tell the stories that matter most to us.

Happy New Year!


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.

Small Writing – Big Changes

miniature bookWhen you imagine success as a writer, what does it look like? Do you see yourself sitting on the couch across from your favorite late night host, exchanging witty banter about your latest bestseller? Do you think about receiving honorary degrees from prestigious schools just before delivering awe-inspiring commencement speeches that go viral on YouTube? Do you see yourself traveling from your writing cabin in upstate New York to your cottage on the Cape to your creative hideaway in the Pacific Northwest? Do you picture yourself on set, consulting with the director on the film adaptation of your latest runaway hit?

It’s okay. There’s no need to blush.
Maybe you have more modest dreams, but many of us would admit – if pressed – to having Big Dreams for our writing careers. There’s nothing wrong with that. We writers are known for our imaginations, after all. We have Big Ideas and Vision and are pretty damn adept at daydreaming, too. Why not go for that brass ring and envision a life as the next Stephen King or JK Rowling

Anything is possible.
I confess that I’ve wondered what life would be like as an iconic author with a rabid following. If I think about it for more than a moment or two, I will admit that it’s not a life I’d enjoy. I don’t like to leave my cats alone for too long and am easily overwhelmed by crowds of more than two or three.

Still, I would like to make my living writing essays and stories instead of web copy and white papers. More to the point, I’d like for my work to be read by thousands, even tens of thousands. I’d like to be able to reach a Big Audience and make a Big Difference with my Big Ideas. I’d like to be able to change the world with my words.
In her post, What It Takes to Change the World, the lovely and insightful blogger and career coach, Jennifer Gresham, takes a look at the mechanics of change. Hint: It might not be as much about Big Things as you think. Often, change is the result of many small and unassuming actions.

I think it is especially so with writing.

Though our story may be about a Big Idea, that idea is conveyed one word, one scene at a time – in bits and pieces that eventually come together to tell the whole story. There is no single, defining moment; all the small moments add up to create a shift in the reader’s perception or understanding. It is the combined collection of minute observations and subtle events that ultimately affect a change of heart or mind.

A bigger (longer) work does not have more power to change than a smaller (shorter) work. A poem may transform a life as much as a novel; a short story may break open a heart as readily as a screenplay. With writing, it’s not about quantity as much as it is about quality. A single, well-written essay has a better chance at delivering life-changing insights than a thousand-page tome of questionable quality.
Though I hope to someday publish stories and even novels, at the moment my published work consists of short-form blog posts and columns. It is easy for me to marginalize these pieces as insignificant, as simply stepping stones on the way to Something Better … Something Bigger. But, each of these pieces – no matter how small or ordinary – has the potential to create change.

Though I tend to refer to them as “just my little columns,” I have had dozens of people tell me how much they enjoy reading my bi-weekly installments in the local paper. Sure they are short, little essays, and sure the paper is a tiny local publication with a very unimpressive circulation, but that shouldn’t take away from the work. If my words can improve one person’s day by giving them hope, making them laugh, or helping them see something in a different way, I have created change with my writing. I have made a small difference.

And that, as Jen points out, is how you change the world.
So the next time you’re tempted to belittle your current work or your modest writing aspirations, don’t. Remember that each word, each scene, each idea that you share has the potential to inspire change in someone’s heart. The change may be small, but even small change has a habit of rippling out into the world and creating more change. You never know how far your words might reach. You may not wind up on late night TV, but that’s okay. You can change the world right from your own couch.

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit: lamont_cranston via Compfight cc

Friday Fun: Dream Writers’ Retreat

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: If you could attend any writers’ conference, retreat, or workshop, which one would it be and why. OR, if you could design one just for you – the perfect conference/retreat/workshop that doesn’t yet exist except in your head – what would it be like … and why?


Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: Such a great question! Hands down my favorite writers’ conference is New England Crime Bake held each November in Boston. Ooh la la, do I love this small con that offers a little bit of everything for readers and writers of any type of mystery. I don’t know another local con where I can mix, mingle, and chat with big name authors and agents – and put faces to the names of the folks I chat with on writers’ loops.

As for creating my own retreat – perfection would be a cozy house on a beach. I think 8 or so fellow writers would be a great number; we’d each have our own sleeping space and plenty of options for where to spend hours writing. Then a large gathering area to eat and talk about our writing. I could be any time of year – definitely have a fireplace in the winter, though! Walking along the beach is the most rejuvenating activity I’ve found, and I enjoy it year-round (although I don’t do it nearly as often as I want to!).

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: I love the New England Crime Bake too, and have gone to it every year but the first. It is exhausting, but inspiring. And I do like that it is small. I am going to Bouchercon for the first time this weekend, and will report back. It is a HUGE mystery/crime fiction conference, geared more for fans than for writers (from what I understand). Adding the Writers Police Academy to my must do list–hear great things!

I am part of another group blog, the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. This year I was invited to join their retreat (which they did last year as well) at a house in Old Orchard Beach. It was just terrific. (I blogged about it here.) Not only did we write, we had great conversations about careers, about what we brought to our group endeavor, and an impromptu Scrivener class.

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: So far, the only conference I’ve been to is the fabulous Muse Conference hosted annually by Boston’s Grub Street. I have attended twice and both times walked away exhausted (as Julie said), but also inspired and informed. Although the conference has grown tremendously since it began, it still has a very grass roots feel that makes me feel more at home than I imagine I would be at, say, a big New York conference.

I asked this question because I received an alert about next spring’s Iceland Writer’s Retreat. I have no intentions of running away to Iceland for five days, but the idea of it was so romantic that I couldn’t help daydreaming.

My perfect writing retreat would be a guilt free one. Like most of my fellow writers here at Live to Write – Write to Live, I have many responsibilities beyond my writing. What I would love more than anything is a retreat that didn’t leave me feeling selfish for taking time away from my daughter, my beau, my work, or my cats. (Yes, I feel guilty when I have to leave my cats.) If I could find a way to steal a couple of days all to myself without worrying about anyone or anything, that would be bliss.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I, too, think New England Crime Bake is an awesome conference. It’s fun, informative, and everyone there–authors, agents, and publishers–are all very down-to-earth.

I did go, once, to an amazing writing workshop (that felt like a retreat). I plan to go again one day. It’s The Self as the Source of the Story Writer’s Workshop that Christina Baldwin does every year out on Whidbey Island, in Washington. Many years ago, when I first started writing again after many years of just longing to do it, I met Christina at a medical conference and saw her flyer about this workshop. It happened to be on a week when my husband and I were both off and my stepchildren were away on an exciting vacation with their mom. I asked my husband (who is not a writer) if he would consider going with me. He said he would, then sent in a writing sample as all the participants had to do. He participated fully in the retreat, which was so wonderful. But the best part about the retreat was that the pace of life we lived that week was so much slower than our normal daily lives. We met twice a day for two hours to hear lectures about different writing topics, and we had plenty of time to write, run, and relax. There were 16 people in the group and we all ate lunch and dinner together. We also spent 36 hours together in silence, which was a powerful experience. On the last day we read out loud to each other. During the day of silence words just poured out of me. I still am amazed at how wonderful that whole week was. Sigh. One day I’ll go again.

Where I find my writing inspiration

It’s a common question non-writers ask writers: Where do you find your ideas?

And, I think, most writers reply with: Where don’t I get my ideas?

Every minute of every day can be an inspiration. A story idea can come from

  • a thought
  • a word
  • an overheard snippet of conversation
  • a person who crosses our line of vision
  • a news headline
  • something we read in a book
  • a song lyric
  • a sunset
  • a sunrise
  • pet antics
  • a dream
  • an object
  • a historical fact
  • helpful family and friends who seem to overflow with suggestions
  • a cartoon or comic strip
  • a painting
  • a quiet moment
  • a noisy cafe

Most of my inspiration comes from dreams, journaling, or prompts. I particularly enjoy photo prompts. Seeing a photo without any context makes my muse giggle and want to come out in a tutu to play.

To say my muse gets enthusiastic with a photo prompt is accurate. On occasion, a first draft of a story from a prompt will lead to a complete story. But more often it’s some word or phrase within that first draft that leads me to a story that needs to be told – or a character that needs his or her voice heard.

In regard to journaling (which I’m back to after a too-long hiatus), I find that by clearing clutter out of my head and getting it into my journal, my mind opens up and my dreams get very visual and can inspire stories.

Other than a couple of contests that I entered, I didn’t write any fiction last year. 2013 will see several stories written, and hopefully published! I’m part of a critique group again, which gives me the accountability. So along with that and my public statement here that I’ll write more, I’ll get some stories written.

What does your muse need to be creative? What type of inspiration fires you up the most?


Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She loves working with words, and helping others with their own. As Lisa Haselton, she writes fiction, co-blogs about mystery-related writing topics at Pen, Ink, and Crimes, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is a chat moderator at The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter

Becoming a better writer: the importance of silence

As a writer, you have voices in your head.

There’s your muse, inner critic, and story characters; your mentors, friends, and parents; other writers, agents, and literary pundits. It makes for a lot of noise in there. Add the barrage of external chatter and you have quite the cacophony. For most of us, it’s a ceaseless stream of incoming information, internal monologue, and the slippery and shadowy musings of the subconscious. It can easily become overwhelming, but we’ve adapted to the constant onslaught. We find a way to keep working.

But, to become a better a writer, you need to find a way to quiet all those voices.

There is a place inside you where stillness reigns. It’s not easy to get there, but there is creative magic in that haven of quiet and calm.

My friend Bernardo recently talked about this place, this “heart of the hurricane.” In this brief video, he talks about how we hold the whole and complete essence of our life’s experience at this core.

Episode-263 from on Vimeo.

I believe Bernardo is right. I believe we have the answers within us, if only we could get quiet enough to hear that small, still voice. In response to his post I wrote, “Finding the center and establishing a home there is so important to a life well lived. We each have to be able to hear the whisperings of our own heart if we are ever to know the secrets and dreams that are ours to hold and realize.”

As writers, we need that connection more than most.

We need it understand what drives us to create. We need it to unearth the stories that are ours to tell. We need it to become better at our craft.

A theme of silence has been twining through my days lately. Last week I was mostly absent from the web, abandoning Twitter, Facebook, and my beloved blogs for a week off with my beau. We spent a couple of afternoons at the beach – walking and talking, walking and not talking. I could almost feel the noise and rush of my hurricane edges settling and falling away – opening a wider and wider path to that quiet place in my heart. My head began to clear. Ideas emerged, shyly at first but then more boldly. Pieces of puzzles I’d been worrying at for months fell effortlessly into place.

As I came back to the Real World – the world of email and deadlines and the daily chaos and joy of my daughter – it’s wasn’t easy to hold onto the delicate thread that I was following through the forest of voices. As I sat to write, the voices began their usual clamoring. Having been neglected for a few days, each was eager to be heard – to imprint its opinions on my heart, direct my writing with critique, or divert me entirely from my task. But then I was reminded of the value of silence by a Twitter exchange with two friends – one old and one new – who were planning silent retreats. I’m not ready to go days without speaking, but the conversation reminded me that silence is, indeed, golden when it comes to connecting with my creative heart.

How often do you give yourself the gift of silence? What can you hear when you hush all the other voices in your head and listen to the one voice that really matters? How do those conversations affect your writing?
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of voice and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Fighting for my writing life

The very friendly and slightly mysterious red typewriter that greets visitors as they step off the antique elevator into Grub Streets office space.

Our motto here is “live to write – write to live.”

Today, I feel like I’ve been fighting tooth and nail for my right to write.

It’s not that anyone is actually trying to stop me from pursuing my dream. It’s just that life has a habit of getting in the way. It’s not exactly malignant or even unkind, just inconvenient and often – like today – insanely frustrating.

Though the fourth was a holiday for most folks in the states today, I worked. It was my choice. I have several large-ish copywriting deadlines looming and, since my daughter was spending the day with her dad, I figured I’d take advantage of the uninterrupted quiet and try to hammer out as much as I could. I began work at 9AM and didn’t stop (except to put the trash out, take a shower, and reheat some leftover pasta for dinner) until I hit the wall at 11PM. Despite a long day of butt-in-seat effort, I didn’t manage to get as much done as I’d hoped. *sigh*

That was when I started to feel like my resolve to write was being seriously (and cruelly) tested.

In case you missed it, I signed up for a six-week fiction writing class (the first I’ve taken in years). Last Thursday was the first class. My predicament this evening, as I sat cranky and cursing over my keyboard, is that I’m suddenly not sure there are enough working hours available to meet next week’s deadline. My knee-jerk solution was to consider skipping tomorrow’s class in order to free up time for my client project. Before the thought was even fully formed in my conscious mind, I was railing against it.

“No!” I thought with a silent vehemence that made the sentiment almost audible, “I won’t!” I felt raw and pointy emotions rising from my heart to my throat. I wanted to stamp my feet and pout. I wanted to shout that it isn’t fair. I wanted to crumple across my desk and cry.

Maybe it’s the recent full moon. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe I’m just over-tired from staying up to watch fireworks Tuesday night. Whatever the reason, I suddenly felt the weight and guilt of years (and years) of failing to follow through settling around me the way shovelfuls of dirt settle around a coffin. Smothering. Inescapable. Final.

Not a happy place.

It’s four minutes ’til midnight as I write this. Tomorrow I will go to class. Even though having that day back would make the next week of workdays much easier. Even though taking this class is costing me money while staying home to work would make me money. Even though my foul mood does not leave me in the best mindset for creative endeavors. Even though I feel a little guilty and self-indulgent for prioritizing my wants over my work obligations. Despite all this, I’m not giving up. I’m not caving in. I’m not bailing out. I am going to stick to my guns, keep my promise to myself, and show up to be a writer.

At the end of last week’s class, our instructor (the lovely Sophie Powell) asked each of us to state our writing intentions for the weeks ahead. As she went around the room, my classmates made various commitments – a half hour of writing each day, four hours of writing each day, a finished chapter, a completed outline, and so on. When it was my turn, I said, “I’m going to be completely honest and painfully realistic and say that the best I can commit to is showing up here each week.” In comparison to the intentions of my classmates, my promise sounded small and even a little lazy; but – in the context of my life – I knew it was a Big Deal.

I have a few other responsibilities for class – bringing a “perfect line” from a favorite book each week, unearthing and editing a piece I worked on years ago so I can bring it in to be workshopped by the class, and writing a couple pages of something new to share towards the end of our six weeks – but if  all I manage to pull off is perfect attendance, that’s going to be good enough for me … gold-star worthy, in fact.

Well, how about that? I’m feeling a little better. Hopefully, by the time you read this, it will be tomorrow morning and I’ll be refreshed and rested after a half-decent night’s sleep … ready to tackle my commute into the city so I can enjoy three hours of dedication to my dream and my craft. My wish for you today is that you are able to find some time and a perfect way to give your writing dream some love and attention. There is no such thing as tomorrow. Tomorrow is just a figment of your imagination. Today is all you have, so you have to use it wisely.

What will you write today?

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of voice and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Writer’s Block Cause 4 (and Big Hope): Your Vision

Epiphanies are not common, but I recently had two whoppers about the writing experience. One sidled up between the lines of Ann Patchett’s book, The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life. The other coalesced while I listened to Jen Louden’s wonderful Shero’s Journey class. The one-two punch of these realizations is still settling in, but I couldn’t wait to share them. 

Writing is a big deal. It carries a certain responsibility. Unlike speech, which hangs in the air for only a moment, the written word can long outlive its creator. The written word can be shared from person-to-person – pushing the writer’s thoughts and ideas far outside her immediate realm of influence. So, when we writers put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, we want to get it right … whatever “right” is.

And therein lies the problem.

Our vision for our work – our story, poem, or novel – can play a huge role in holding us back. Though it may be the thing that inspires us, it can also leave us feeling unworthy, incapable, small. The fear of failure that we talked about in the first post of this series attacks us from the outside with blatant negativity. No one wants to be rejected or ridiculed, but at least those demons are easily identified. They can be fought head on.

Fighting your vision is like fighting yourself. You cherish your opponent so much it hurts. The only feeling I can liken it to is the feeling of an expectant mother who is elated about the birth of her child, but at the same time paralyzed by a fear that she will not be a good mother.

In her book The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life, Ann Patchett writes about how she creates a novel in her head before ever writing a word. She describes this unwritten book as a butterfly companion that moves with her through her days:

This book, of which I have not yet written one word, is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its color, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight is the single perfect joy in my life. It is the greatest novel in the history of literature, and I have thought it up, and all I have to do is put it down on paper and then everyone can see this beauty that I see. 

The metaphor turns dark as Patchett explains what she must do to put the novel down on paper:

… I reach into the air and pluck the butterfly up. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it.

This is how our vision keeps us from writing our stories. It is more than a fear of being unable to capture the essence of the thing. It is a deep inner knowing that the process of writing a story will destroy that essence – the vision we have of it in our heads. Patchett says that the book she writes is “the dry husk of my friend, the broken body chipped, dismantled, and poorly reassembled.” She has betrayed her story. She has killed the thing so that she might see how it works and show it to others.

And here is where, for me, Jen Louden picks up the story.

In her Shero’s Journey class, Jen speaks about self-trust and self-betrayal. She talks about how we strive to achieve the one, but will always fall prey to the other. It’s human nature. We will make promises to ourselves, and we will break those promises. We will set goals and fall short. And that’s okay.

The important thing is to keep moving forward. Jen sees the cycle – which I believe applies to writing as well as to life – as making a promise, betraying yourself, forgiving yourself, beginning again. Most of us are probably already well versed in the promising and betraying parts of the process. (I know I am.) But how well do we even acknowledge the need for forgiveness and new beginnings?

If you have a beautiful story inside you, and you are afraid to commit it to paper or screen because you know to do so will mean maiming or outright killing your vision, remember this: you are the only one who can tell your story. You are the only one who has the vision to see its beauty. Without your sacrifice, the world will never be able to share in that beauty.

If a story were a living, breathing creature, I would never condone its murder for the purpose of letting others see it. But a story is not alive in that way. In fact, one might argue that a story must be killed in order to truly live. Think of your writing as the alchemy that transforms the idea of a story (which only you can enjoy) into a “living story” that can entertain, teach, and inspire others. The writing, then, is a kind of birth at least as much as it is a death. Without that transformation, the story will simply dissipate into nothingness. It will never make its way into the world as something of substance, a force that can move people to see the world and themselves in new ways. Without your sacrifice and labors, its spark will be extinguished, its light and color snuffed out.

Sure, its brilliance may be diminished in the process of being written. It may seem crippled to you – you who have seen it in all its original and pristine glory – but even crippled, it will have a new life and freedom. It will no longer be imprisoned inside your head. It will have the ability to go out into the world – touching minds and hearts, making a difference.

And, isn’t that why we write in the first place?

Tell me, is your vision holding you back? Are you willing to make the sacrifice to bring your story to life?
This is the fourth (and last!) post in a series about the causes of that fictitious condition known as writer’s block. In previous entries we talked about fear, finding the time to write and getting started. I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone who feels they have suffered from this inability to put words down. I just believe that if we can uncover and face the root causes of this uniquely literary affliction, we can slay the writer’s block dragon and get back to the work at hand. Who’s with me?

P.S. I highly recommend both Ann Patchett’s book Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Lifeand Jen Louden’s class Shero’s Journeyand – no – those are not affiliate links. I just love both enough to share them. 🙂


Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of voice and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image Credit: Curious Expeditions