#IWSG: Goals, Dreams, and Vision in the Writer’s Journey                        

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When I first started my writing career, I was a starry-eyed graduate student with little more than a head full of dreams and a heart full of stories, clutching a copy of Writing Down the Bones to my chest. I wrote for the sheer joy of it, the exhilaration, the thrill. I didn’t care about business, and I didn’t even know what platform was.

That was ten years ago. In the years that followed, I realized that I needed more than the wispy qualities of my dreams if I wanted to be in this for the long haul. I realized that writing is art, it’s storytelling, it’s magic, but there’s also a business side.

But, unfortunately, I went too far to the other side of the spectrum and got stuck on the hamster wheel of word-count goals and metrics. I became obsessed with things like “how many projects can I draft this year?” or “how many words can I write today?” And the storytelling suffered. Sure, it was finished. But it didn’t often sparkle the way I wanted it to. I’d lost my heart. I’d lost touch with the magic.

I’d tried to turn myself into a storytelling factory, and do you know where it led me, that starry-eyed dreamer who wrote for the sheer love of it? Burnout. I realized that my approach wasn’t working. It wasn’t organic enough.

In the years that followed grad school, I worked multiple jobs—at one point, three at a time, started a blog, attended writing conferences, met amazing people who have supported me on my journey, quit jobs to focus on writing, learned countless ways to improve my craft, started many projects, tried and failed, battled chronic illnesses…

Yeah, it’s been a journey. And you know what? I’m still only beginning. That’s the beauty and the frustration.

I still have goals. We need goals. That’s why challenges like NaNoWriMo and ROW80 work—because they give us tangible deadlines, finite targets that take “I want to write a novel” to “I’m writing a novel” and, finally “I wrote a novel.”

But as much as we need goals, we need vision. Vision gives goals a context. Without a vision, we’re just churning away in a sea of words. Without vision we lose our heart.

I still write for the sheer magic of it. Yes, I recognize that it’s hard work; it’s constant growth and improvement. It’s learning new skills. It’s putting ourselves and our work out there despite a fear of vulnerability. But whoa, when the magic whispers…I’m transported. That’s what they call flow, the magic of the storyteller’s life.

So, yes. Let’s dream. Let’s set goals. Let’s strive to achieve them. Let’s devise a plan and follow through.

But let’s do these things in the context of our vision. Who are we as storytellers? What is our passion? What brings us to the page? What do we want or need to say, and why are we saying it?

Love. Magic. Adventure. To tell deceptively simple stories that help rekindle people’s belief in the power of magic and love. For me, it’s that simple—and that complicated.

If I keep that vision in my peripheral as I write, I can make the steady progress that moves me along the writer’s road. I can move forward on my journey. Lose it and I’m a rat in a wheel, lost in word-count goals and deadlines.

We need those things.

Let’s just give them context.

(The Insecure Writer’s Support Group helps writers overcome their insecurities, and by offering encouragement creates a community of support. Visit their website to learn more.)

So now, tell me. What’s your writer’s vision?

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#IWSG Post: How I’ve Learned to Deal with Self-Doubt in my Writing Career

How I_ve Learned to Deal with Self-Doubt in my Writing Career

Self-doubt is a part of most people’s lives, but those of us walking a creative path are particularly susceptible. Self-doubt has the potential to stop us in our tracks, to paralyze us. It is, without a doubt, the number one cause of writer’s block.

So, is there anything we can do?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeI am no stranger to the doubt monster, that creature that rises out from the corner and looms over me, trying to scare me off my writing path. I spent a year where I made little progress on my larger projects, but through grit and faith, I managed to finish a few smaller projects that helped me to grow as a writer. One of these is a short story that has just been accepted for publication.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I’m not you, and what works for me won’t always work for you. But here are the things that helped me weather the Doubt Storm and come out the other side.

If doubt stops you cold in your writing tracks, find ways to continue to grow as a writer.

During the Doubt Storm, I found myself unable to work on my larger projects. But I wrote short stories and poetry. I read blog posts and books about writing and, more importantly, creativity. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic was especially helpful, but books such as those by Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones) and Julie Cameron (The Artist’s Way) are also beneficial. Or you could try books like Wild Creative by Tami Lynn Kent or Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

The point is to try to keep growing despite the doubt. If you’re not able to work on your Big Project, work on something else. Pen a few haikus. Try flash fiction. Find a writing prompt online and write something silly. Write a blog post. Read books about writing and creativity. The period of crippling doubt will pass. Have faith in that.

Fill the creative well.

What this means is different for all of us. For me, scrapbooking has proved a wonderful creative outlet. Time in nature or meditation helps me to feel connected and grounded. Find another creative outlet that rejuvenates you. For you, this might be cooking or photography or drawing. Read books that inspire you, and don’t be afraid to look for inspiration in unlikely places. If you write and read in the fantasy genre, pick up a good mystery or thriller. Reading books in varying genres also helps to fill the well. The point is to do things that help you grow creatively.

Understand that you are not a writing machine. Writing is less like a one-person factory and more like a garden. In other words, you are not a robot. You are a farmer.

There will be fallow periods, and they are vital to your creative process and growth. Ever wonder what happens to a field that isn’t allowed to lie fallow?

According to Vocabulary.com

Fallow comes from the old English word for plowing, and refers to the practice of leaving fields unplowed in rotation––when a field lies fallow, the soil regains nutrients that are sucked up by over-planting.

Ah. Sound familiar? That period in which I didn’t work on my stories proved sooo beneficial to my writing. I studied, I reflected, and yes, without realizing it, I grew. I emerged with a sense of clarity and purpose that I’d lost in the whole slog of word-count goals and obsession with finishing drafts.

Today, I’ve embraced a slow but steady approach. Instead of rushing through drafts, I write consistently but slowly. Most importantly, I learned so much during that fallow period, and it has infused my writing with a sense of purpose that wasn’t there before. So, consider that a slow period or dry spell might very well be a vital part of your creative process.

Practice gratitude.

This goes for life in general, but be grateful. This means celebrating what you’ve already achieved. That story that you wrote that you’re proud of, celebrate it and be thankful it chose you as its teller. Make a list of three things every day that you’re grateful for. Keep a gratitude journal. Make a practice of thankfulness and gratitude, and you’re readying yourself for the day when words begin to flow again.

Stop the comparisons.

There are people who never seem to experience doubt or dry spells. Don’t compare yourself if you do. There are people who are full of pithy sayings that do nothing but make you feel worse. And then, there will be wonderful writers whose fingers seem to be flying madly against the keys while you are stuck and starting to panic.

That’s okay. There’s no need to be angry at those people, although feelings of envy and despair might fill you. Just acknowledge they’re in a different place, and honor where you are. Accept that fallow periods might be necessary. Find ways you can grow without comparing your growth to someone else’s.

I can’t claim to have all the answers. Sometimes my own Doubt Monsters have threatened to eat me, and only through faith have I persisted. There are times when I’ve faltered, but I have managed to pick myself back up.

If you get a few words on the page, celebrate it. Don’t be afraid to celebrate the small things.

After all, what is a novel but a collection of small, connected moments?

What about you? How do you cope with self-doubt as a writer? Have you weathered a creative dry spell? What helped you make it through? Are you in one now?

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog hop. If you’re looking for a supportive community of writers, visit the group here.

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The Gravel Road: Abandoning Societal Definitions of Success for the Self-Determined Path

Country Dirt Road
Photo by Scamp, Dreamstime Stock Photos.

Lately I’ve been struggling with the notion of success—what it means, how we define it, how we unconsciously internalize cultural definitions of success and make them our own. And, ultimately, what it truly means to lead a successful, meaningful, purposeful life.

This year, I’ve struggled with my writing. I’m approaching four years of writing full time, and while I’ve had some successes—won two contests, had a request for a full manuscript, indie published two short stories, written a lot—I haven’t had a “big” win. I’ve started to wonder what I’m doing with my time, if my writing will ever have an impact, make a difference. I’ve started to wonder if writing is enough. And all that pondering has squashed my creativity, left me spinning my wheels, stuck in a ditch on the side of the gravel road that is my journey.

I tried to make it an interstate. But it’s not. My journey to “success,” whatever that might be, is a curving mountain road that snakes its way through forests, traveling alongside wending rivers and babbling streams. I will spot deer and ravens, wild turkeys and countless squirrels, maybe even a bear or a coyote. It is not a journey one takes in a sports car, zooming down the interstate. It’s a journey for a battered hatchback. A journey of thought. A labor of love.

Acknowledging that I had, in fact, internalized a societal definition of success helped me realize that what I want most is an adventure. I’m reminded of the precious, lovely, moving words of Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day”:

“I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

Ah. There it is. What do I plan to do with my one wild and precious life?

And then the answers poured forth. My trip to Germany in August offered clues, if only I bent my head and listened. I stood in the spray of a waterfall in Triberg and hiked to the ruins of an old castle, but the moment that brought me most joy was when, at the farm where I was staying, one of the goats escaped her pasture. My husband and father were unsuccessful in trying to corral her, so I went to help. She walked up to me and leaned against me, and I gently took her horns and guided her home. It was simple. It was beautiful. It took me back to my childhood, the place that inspired me to become a writer, walking the woods of home and dreaming up stories, all the while surrounded by creatures, both wild and domestic.

I can’t say I have all of the answers. But I have made my peace with the fact that my definition of success is not the same one that society has laid out so neatly for me, like a parent setting out a child’s clothes for school.

I will follow my stories wherever they take me. I will listen closely, as only our most creative selves can, and I will create. Maybe it won’t always be in words. Maybe I’ll learn to paint. Last week I made lavender goat’s milk soap, and the simple creative act filled me with wonderful energy. There are so many paths to explore. I won’t always drive my battered hatchback down the gravel road. Sometimes I’ll see a winding mountain path that leads over an arching footbridge and into the mossy hills. Sometimes I’ll park the car. Sometimes I’ll walk over the bridge. It’s not always about forging ahead. It’s about seeing the beauty along the way.

Blessed be.

Now tell me, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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Turning inward in the search for the creative spark

dreamstimefree_2786915-adam-borkowski-dreamstime-stock-photo
Photo by Adam Borkowski, Dreamstime.com

Perhaps it is that late autumn is a period for introspection, for turning inward, but I feel that I am starting to ask the right questions. Not, “Is who I am today who I was meant to be?” (which is what I would’ve asked a few years ago), but “Is who I am today who I want to be? Is this the type of life I will want, someday, to have led?”

I am starting to see that I lost myself in word-count tracking, asking, “How fast can I write?”

That, I have learned, is the wrong question—at least for me. For me, the real question is, “How deep can I go?” And, “How closely can I listen?” “How much can I open my heart to this story, this poem, this piece of work?” “How much of myself can I give?” “How much am I willing to lose?” “How much risk do I want to take?”

Turning inward is reconnecting me with my inner artist, the creative part of me that is linked to the creative energy of the universe. Turning inward is reminding me why I write. It is helping me to be open to myself and to the universe, or whatever you’d like to call the mysterious source of creative energy that guides our hands as we shape our creations.

In light of that, I am preceding slowly. At first, I hated that I was no longer writing 2K or 3K a day. I hated that I couldn’t see a story start to finish. My art went from being a list of “to-do’s” to this intangible thing that I couldn’t grapple with. After all, how do you wrangle a creature made of air and shadow and rainbows and mist? (And yes, somehow it seems to be made of all of these at once.)

I quit wrangling. I am a vessel, waiting for rainwater. The autumn wind has been fierce this weekend, and the heat has kicked on, and I am sitting with my laptop, drinking English Breakfast tea and allowing poems to murmur in my ear, and opening the door to the blustery night to find a strange new character standing there. She is setting out a saucer of cream and a loaf of soda bread as an offering to the faeries. Her life is about to change in ways not even I, the writer, can currently conceive. But this character has come to me, and if she wants me to, I am willing and ready to pen her story.

So where does that leave me on this week’s writing goals?

  • Do something writing-related every day, seven days a week: journal, write a poem, take notes on a story, read a writing book, brainstorm, etc. I met this goal, I’d say, five days out of seven: penning four poems; typing out the opening page of a novelette, one that I hope will be part of my Faerie Forest series; and reading poetry by some of my favorite poets (among them, Mary Oliver, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Joy Harjo, and Langston Hughes). I also started reading Autumn Thorns by Yasmine Galenorn, another of my favorite writers, and I bought a short story¸ As Good As Gold, by Heidi Wessman Kneale, to jump-start my creative process with the short story/novelette I’m penning.
  • Reconnect with my spiritual practice. I wrote a spell/meditation for the February full moon. My goal is to add one spell/meditation/ritual for each full moon and every Sabbat to my Book of Shadows. Not right away. Just over time.
  • Start a regular yoga practice. Yeah, not so much. I was supposed to attend a yoga/gemstone workshop on Saturday, but it was canceled. I’ve been lazy on this one.
  • At least twice a week, explore another creative outlet, anything from scrapbooking to cooking to home decorating or Feng Shui. Made ranch chicken tacos in the slow-cooker. The recipe was super simple, turned out really well, and—best of all—we got two nights worth of meals out of it. I also put “new” bedding on our bed. I pulled out a quilt that my husband’s aunt made for us for our wedding seven years ago. It is a work of art, and one that suits us perfectly, blue with a wave pattern and a smattering of star-patterned fabric, but we were always too scared to actually use it. I decided that I wanted to honor her hard work by actually putting the quilt on our bed. I added a few throw pillows pilfered from another room in the house, and now the bedroom has some water energy (flow and movement) and a touch of fire (passion, creative spark) where before it was only earth energy, which provides stability and balance, but can feel stagnant without balance from the other elements. I also bought new ottomans and throw pillows for the living room to bring some color into that space, since it was looking a little bland. So I’ll say this goal was a success this week.

Part of me is, perhaps, a little sad and frustrated that I’m not meeting mad word-count goals and finishing stories left and right. I am trying to learn to go with the flow, to embrace the shifting nature of creativity, and to be thankful that my stories and poems, my life’s work, have chosen me as their storyteller. That, in and of itself, is a blessing.

So instead of lamenting a period of slow writing, I am trying to embrace it. I don’t know whether it will be the new normal, but I am trying to lean back, sip my tea, and simply listen for a while.

What about you? What goals did you work on this week? Do you view hometending as a creative process? How do you revise your goals during slow periods, if you experience them?

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Beyond Word Counts: Embracing the nature of creativity

Antique cup with tea bag.
Photo from Jabiru, at Dreamstime.com.

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my creative path. There’s a lot of chatter in the writing blogosphere about word counts—how much we have written, or how much we should have written. I’ve heard some writers say they write 500 words a day. I’ve heard others say that if you can’t write at least 2,000 words a day, you can’t make it as a professional writer.

I’m a full-time writer. This is my job. But creativity is also a spiritual thing. Some people might say it’s not—and maybe for others, it isn’t. But for me, my stories, poems, etc. are gifts from the goddess. She sends them to me, and it’s my job to write them down and share them with others.

And sometimes, when I’m tracking word count, I forget that. Take, for example, the story I wrote this summer, Goblins and Grimoires. I wrote an average of 2,500 words a day on that story. And there were days when I was pushing myself to meet that goal. I would get stuck on the story and sit there until something popped into my head, and then force myself to keep writing until I met my goal.

And the first draft of that story is a mess. And now I see why: Because for me writing needs to steep like a cup of tea. You can’t just plop a tea bag in and start sipping. You have to wait for the flavors to release—and the stronger the brew you want, the longer you have to wait. Sure, some stories arrive nearly fully formed. Others emerge slowly.

For me, thinking is part of writing. And that’s why my crazy word count goals failed. I need time to think over a plot point. Time to mull over character arc and development. Time to figure out how to weave together romance and fantasy.

For now, I’m going slowly. I have plans to revise two short stories and a poem, indie publish one short story, and submit the other short story and poem to magazines. I played around with the poem a little this week and jotted down a few notes on one short story, Spirits of Embers. I’d also like to finish a final draft of Spellfire’s Kiss and submit it to publishers by early next year.

I’m also playing around with new stories as well, to keep the creative juices flowing. I’ve written 1,672 words in Entwined Magic, a new-adult fantasy romance novel, and 574 words in The Magic of Harthwaite Manor, a steampunk romance. I’m not setting deadlines or establishing expectations for those stories. For now, I’m playing.

And that’s the plan. Getting back in touch with my creativity—and the spiritual side of that creativity. Still moving forward, but allowing things to unfold at their own pace.

One of my other goals is to work on my social media platform. I’ve been doing a bit of that. I’ve been present on Facebook more and become approved as a Goodreads Author (yay!). My next steps are to set up my Amazon author page, reengage on Twitter, and create a Pinterest board for my published books. I’m behind on responding to blog comments and visiting blogs, so hopefully I can catch up on that soon.

All in all it’s been a productive week so far.

What about you? Do you think there’s a spiritual element to creativity? Do you need time to mull over your stories as you write, or do you just write without stopping? (And, of course, because creativity is a strange and intangible thing, there are no right answers.)

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Surviving a Creative Dry Spell

surviving-a-creative-dry-spell

I have been absent from the blogosphere for a while, taking a sort of mini-sabbatical. In the past two months I’ve rekindled my love of poetry, discovered the perfect banana bread recipe, and mostly just tried to figure out my next steps.

It happened like this: I was going strong, often writing 2,500 words a day. I was churning out manuscripts like crazy. Three years ago, I left my magazine writing job, and it was like all of these stories that had been bottled up for years came pouring out. And then, one day, I woke up, and that creative deluge was gone.

At first I thought it was writer’s block, but the feeling wasn’t the same. When I have writer’s block, I desperately want to write, and can’t. This feeling was different, a sense that I no longer wanted to write.

I’m a very driven person, and I need goals to focus on. Without those goals, I started to drift, feeling like I was wandering aimlessly through life, completely disconnected from my creativity. I had, in short, entered a dry spell.

I almost gave up on it, losing faith that I would ever again pen fiction. I tried to write new stories, but my imagination couldn’t cook up plots. I read articles about authors like Ursula Le Guin, inspiring tales of the creative process. It didn’t help. I still couldn’t write.

One day, I sat down in the café of a Barnes & Noble, my laptop in front of me. “Write something,” I told myself, unable to drift any longer. “Anything.” If I couldn’t write anymore, I’d decided, I would create a new goal. I dreamt up possibilities, but nothing stuck. I longed for the days when stories flowed like spring rivers fed by melting snowpack. I longed for the days when every moment held creative possibility. My creativity had always defined me, and it seemed to have disappeared.

That day in Barnes & Noble, I wrote a poem, the lamentation of a dragon whose kind have lost a war and are on the verge of extinction. If I couldn’t write fiction, I would write something else, I decided. I came home that day with hope that I could, once again, create.

I wish I could say that that day the dam broke. But it wasn’t like that. It was more the feeling of the first fat drops of rain falling on your head. A splatter here, a splatter there, but not yet creative energy in full force.

Drop by drop, my creative energy is returning. Perhaps what I felt was creative burnout, the result of penning story after story and setting completely unrealistic expectations for myself, expectations that went against my own creative process.

My plan is to publish another short story later this year, a piece titled Silver’s Stray. I’m not going to push myself to meet a lot of deadlines. I’m not going to set crazy goals. My goals are simple:

  • To really work on my author platform
  • To finish and polish Silver’s Stray and publish it by the end of the year
  • To finish and polish Spirits of Embers, a short story, and submit to at least one magazine
  • To launch my editing business

That’s it. I took a detour, saw a glimpse of what my life would be like without the creative drive that I wake to each day. It’s a drive to write something, anything—a journal entry, a spell, a story, a poem, a blog post. It’s a drive to create, however quickly or slowly. It’s a drive to give something meaningful to the world.

Have you ever gone through a creative dry spell? How did you handle it? How were you able to begin to create again?

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Stuck…but determined to move forward

Ever since I left my teaching job, the words have been flying as fast as I could type them. I had a plan, clear goals and was zooming toward them. And then, two weeks ago, I just got stuck. And I couldn’t seem to get unstuck.

It was partly the dose of reality that hit me. I realized that I couldn’t afford to publish books at the rate I wanted to. Could I write at that pace? Sure. Could I publish that many books without going broke? Uh, no.

That led to a lot of thinking and rethinking about my path. At the present, I think I’m going to aim for a hybrid path, submitting some of my books to publishers while self-publishing my short stories.

So last night I became determined to write something—anything. Just open a Word document and type a few words. As I was drifting off to sleep, a story idea came to me. So this afternoon I wrote—a little. I wrote a whopping 429 words in a middle-grade novel. Will I ever finish it? Who knows? But it got me unstuck and moving forward. My next goal is to revise Spellfire’s Kiss and get it ready for submission. So in the coming weeks I want to move forward with that.

My ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Wrote 429 words in a middle-grade story about triplets who find out they’re witches. A little cliché, I know, but after two weeks of no writing, I’ll take it and see where it goes. I’ve also been doing a lot of business things for writing: getting a PO Box, creating a new checking account for royalties and expenses, creating a spreadsheet to track the same, buying ISBNs, etc. I have a plan in place for the rest of the year. Now I just have to act on it.

Reading: Finished The Mist-Torn Witches by Barb Hendee last night and really enjoyed it. If you like fantasy with a mystery thrown in, I highly recommend this one.

Other goals: I haven’t gotten into an exercise regimen yet. I want to add some yoga and long walks to my daily routine. I did manage to paint the downstairs hallway, so hometending is coming along. I’m also trying to utilize other creative outlets as well. I’ve added some scrapbooking supplies to my Amazon cart for my next order, and last night I baked a loaf of banana bread that turned out well (I think the sour cream the recipe called for helped the bread stay nice and moist).

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? How do you get unstuck creatively? Have you read any good books lately?

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The Writer’s Mantra

November will mark two years since I left my magazine writing job to write fiction full time. (I was writing fiction part time before then.) I’ve grown in so many ways since that time, started so many new projects, and really found my voice as a writer.

And there’s one phrase I’ve found myself repeating over and over. It’s a mantra that keeps me sane and helps me fend off Doubt Demons—who always seem to be lurking in the shadows.

“I can fix this.”

If it weren’t for those words, I might have given up long ago. There have been plenty of moments when the Doubt Demons have whispered, “But what if you can’t?” And I’ve simply repeated the words “I. Can. Fix. This.”

As long as I keep putting words on the page, I’ll have something to edit. Nora Roberts said, “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.”

This is the process. We write. We have doubts. We struggle. We write something that, inevitably, needs work. We rewrite. We find more spots that need improvement. We do this until the story sings.

I’ve been using this phrase a lot over the last few days. I’ve been struggling with a story I’m writing, and those Doubt Demons are whispering nasty nothings in my ear. But I can’t fix a story I haven’t written. I can fix a scene that doesn’t work, dialogue that feels flat, or a character whose actions don’t sync with her personality. I can fix a lot of things.

So if it’s not working, I keep writing. Because I can fix it.

And now, my ROW80 check-in…

Writing: Wrote 1,123 words in “A Prince in Patience Point.”

Reading: Continued reading “Eldest” by Christopher Paolini.

A side note: As you can see, the website has a spiffy new look. Many thanks to Robin Ludwig for the header design!

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? What words or phrases do you find yourself repeating throughout the creative process?

Sunday ROW80 check-in

Over the years, I’ve come to accept that feelings like fear, anxiety, and doubt are part of the creative process. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of sharing our work with others…All of these feelings come and go. I recently discovered a great YouTube video about fear in our writing careers that I thought I’d share.

In her talk, “Facing Your Fears in Indie Publishing,” Susan Kaye Quinn addresses the different types of fear we face in our writing careers and how we can overcome them. Her video is geared toward indie authors, but it’s helpful regardless of what publishing path we’re taking.

ROW80 check-in

Writing:

  • Finish a second draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Revised two chapters this week.
  • Write a first draft of another novella. Wrote a rough outline and part of a new scene.
  • Read a minimum of four books on the business or craft of writing. Two of four books read. Finished reading “Write Your Novel from the Middle” by James Scott Bell.

Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Met for Tuesday-Thursday, not Monday or Friday.
  • Blog two times per week. Goal met.
  • Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Met for all days except Monday.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

What types of fear have you faced in your writing career? How did you overcome that fear and keep writing?

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Learning to embrace “slow” writing: Sunday ROW80 check-in

original image by Myndi Shafer, accessed at WANA Commons
original image by Myndi Shafer, accessed at WANA Commons

A few weeks ago, I suddenly found myself stuck on the project I was working on, revisions on a novella. I was, of course, incredibly frustrated with myself for my lack of progress. Now that the wheels are turning, my perspective has changed. I see I actually made quite a bit of progress during that time. It just wasn’t easily measured.

I suspect many writers have these “slow periods,” and that they are, in fact, a healthy part of the writing process. When we’re stuck on one project, there are plenty of ways to keep our momentum:

1.) Read a book about the craft of writing. This can help us understand why we’re stuck and helps us keep growing in our craft.

2.) “Morning pages”: In her book “The Artist’s Way,” Julia Cameron recommends three handwritten pages of free-writing or journaling every morning. These pages allow us to sweep the cobwebs from our minds. I’ve even found some story ideas in mine.

3.) The Ping-Pong method: When I realized I was stuck, I went into planning mode on another story. I did some plotting and some character work for a story I want to work on later this year. That meant I was still working, even if I didn’t have any progress on my WIP to report.

4.) Remember that thinking is part of the process: It’s hard to see thinking as writing, but thinking about our stories is vital to the creative process. Since I’m in revision mode with this story, I was mentally examining my story for weak points. I realized the dialogue needs to be strengthened. I realized the grand finale scene goes too smoothly for the good guys. And I realized there are places in the middle where the tension can be upped. During my so-called slow period, I was in fact mapping out potential solutions in my head. I see now that I came up with some solid solutions over the last few weeks, and now that the wheels are turning again, it’s time to put those ideas into action.

In short, I’ve learned that just because we can’t always measure our progress, that doesn’t mean we’re not making any. These times can serve as a sort of incubator for ideas. When we slow down, we discover solutions and possibilities that might not have occurred to us when we were zooming along. Now, I can approach these times with a sense of gratitude and patience.

ROW80 check-in:

1.) Writing:

  • Goal: To finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Revised two chapters this week and planned out additional changes.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing.

  • 4 of 4 books read. Goal met for this round.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Met for every day except Wednesday.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Goal met.
  • Blog 2 times a week. Goal met.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

When you find yourself spinning your wheels on a story, what do you do? Your comments brighten my day. I’d love to hear from you.