Thirteen Thoughts On Writing
Quick read, good reminders.
Thirteen Thoughts On Writing
Quick read, good reminders.
Despite being home sick today (on another round of antibiotics with a trip to the asthma doctor scheduled for tomorrow), I very much remain focused on the important things. I find it exciting to purposefully shed things that have taken my time and energy without providing benefit (and in some cases causing harm).
One of these things is writing. For me, I love the fact that writing can be hard. Challenges give me energy and drive. If writing were always easy, I would probably get bored. Most of my writing friends feel the same way. That being said, sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes we spend too much time worrying about what people will think and it slows us down. Today I gathered some of my favorite quotes and images to inspire me – to give me that second wind and push me toward the finish line. I hope it inspires you, too.
I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. ― Erica Jong via Writers Digest
“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” ― Flannery O’Connor via Goodreads
“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” ― George Orwell via Goodreads
“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” ― Stephen King via Goodreads
“Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.” ― Truman Capote via Writers Digest
I woke up this morning in Atlanta with the same awful headache that plagued me the entire DevNexus conference. Despite having looked forward to today’s Atlanta Writing Workshop for many weeks, I made the decision to just come home. Disappointed and cranky, I found a seat at breakfast as far from other humans as possible and stared at my phone, in case anyone thought to, I don’t know, make eye contact or something.
As I made the rounds on the social media sites, I found myself moving from cranky to irritated to angry, which has become a too-familiar pattern in these months since the election. I wandered around until I landed at the @realdonaldtrump Twitter account. Spiking my mood, I retweeted some snarky thing to no audience in particular – I guess so I’d feel like I have at least some kind of voice in this surreal new world – but instead of making me feel empowered, I felt even more deflated. I looked back over my Tweets for the past several weeks and realized all the emotion, all of the anger and fear and disappointment and confusion, had made its way onto my page.
My husband likes to say that anything that does not provide value and add something to your day should be cut out of your life. He’s much better than I am about cutting things (subjects, people, whatever) completely from his world. Not that he isn’t interested or engaged in all this Trump-craziness – we both have to be, as so much of what has transpired so far has impacted our professional lives directly in one way or another – but he doesn’t get as emotionally invested as I do. He sent his strongly-worded letter to Senator Graham; whereas, I write the letter, make the phone call, attend the town hall, Tweet about it, etc..
Today I think I reached my threshold. Between the news stories and the posts on Facebook and the Tweets, I feel like I’m drowning in Trump – suffocated by his narcissism, ignorance, bullying, and ugliness. Strangled by every word I hear about what he’s said or done today or what his minions have said or done. Making things worse are all the fights I’m witnessing on social media between my friends on the Trump Train and my friends wringing their hands in delight at the thought of derailment.
My dear friend Tess gave up on Twitter a few weeks ago. I don’t think I want to give up Twitter completely because I very much enjoy the socializing with my fellow writers and readers, but I knew before I left that breakfast table that I needed to find a way, somehow, to remove the negativity from my world. I want to do it, however, without sticking my head into the ground. I still need to be engaged serve as an advocate and defender. Surely there is a healthier option.
As I started the drive back to Columbia, I looked at the next book in queue in Audiobooks – Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer by Pricilla Shirer. Really? When I’m wallowed down deep in pissy attitude? I literally rolled my eyes. At God. I knew I was supposed to listen to it whether I wanted to or not. As I pulled out of the parking garage, I took a reluctant swipe at play, determined to not enjoy it.
Strategy 1 – Your Passion – Getting It Back When It’s Gone. I realized my morning bible time had all but disappeared, replaced by my morning ritual of “catching up on the news” before and after work each day. When was the last time I had some Bible time? It had gone the way of my writing and running and other things I’d been passionate about. WTH?
Strategy 2 – Your Focus – Fighting the Real Enemy. Have I been putting all my time and energy into fighting the wrong battles? Worrying about things I can’t change and ignoring the tools at my disposal that could truly make a difference?
Strategy 3 – Your Identity – Remembering Who You Are. At 45, I have reached a point in my life where most superficial things don’t really bother me much. I realized listening to this, however, that I was still really shaken by how “less than my best” my conference presentation was, especially in comparison with my colleague Doc Norton‘s presentation on a similar topic. Two thoughts. 1) Had my passion and focus here, for my work, been impacted, too? 2) Is there any person on the planet who isn’t at least a little insecure?
Strategy 4 – Your Family – Fortifying the Lives of Those You Love. Oh my family – a constant source of joy and worry. I don’t care how old your children get, you never stop worrying about them. And the grandkids, my little treasures, when was the last time I wrote each name in my prayer book and prayed for them as individuals?
Strategy 5 – Your Past – Ending the Reign of Guilt, Shame, and Regret. Every time I think I’ve accepted God’s forgiveness (and forgiven myself) for the many sins in my past, BAM!! out of the shadows comes some reminder. This is another area where my energy is often misdirected–when I should pray fervently and pity those people who would seek to hurt me rather than be irritated or angry.
Strategy 6 – Your Fears – Confronting Your Worries, Claiming Your Calling. All of the strategies struck me, but this one perhaps most. I am the Queen of procrastination and most of the time, it’s easy to point to why. I did it with my conference presentation. DevNexus is a really really technical conference. I’m an English major, not a computer engineer. Even being an application development manager and understanding (most) of every session I attended, I still worry every time I present there. I do the same thing with my writing. I’ll do anything BUT write the closer I get to the completion of a project.
I still have Strategies 7 through 10 to go, but I’m not stupid. I got the message loud and clear on why God wanted me to read this book. And why now. I have spent way too much time and focus on the things that not only add no value, they just make me angry or sad. And every time I retweet with some snarky response, it not only brings me down, it spreads the fever to all my readers. That’s not fair to them. That’s not why I keep a Twitter account in the first place.
So, my first strategy to implement is reorganizing my schedule and focus to spend my time and energy on what’s most important. Clearly I need to lay off the political posts, never look at Trump’s Twitter, and make my first activity every day my bible time. I need to be praying for the president, not trolling him.
It is also time to stop researching my books and finish writing them. I have more than enough material and continuing to read about things like neglected foster children and heroin overdoses just makes me angry at the world and the systems with holes as big as elephants in their safety nets… and they aren’t even central to the story! It’s just procrastination, like my other book, which I know I’ve been avoiding finishing because I’m absolutely sure there are a hundred Agile experts who know way more than me and should probably be writing that book themselves. What’s that? Is that Strategy 3 and Strategy 6 calling?
I do hope, through all of this, that I find the right channels to be heard and affect change in healthy, positive ways. I would guess that, after the quite direct messages I received, something to that effect is in order one way or another. I’m always amazed by where God takes me when I stop rolling my eyes and start listening to him.
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TMI Project is a nonprofit offering memoir workshops and storytelling performances that breed compassion and dismantle barriers to human connection.
Written by Millionaire’s Digest Staff Member: Amber M. Founder & Owner of: A Not So Jaded Life Millionaire’s Digest Staff Team, Author, Successful Living and Writing Writer 1. “Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life […]
I normally self-identify as a fiction writer, but one of my current projects takes the business writing I do (in my “day job”) to book level. I started it several years ago and nearly finished it before my career changed gears. I’m back in a position where it makes a lot of sense to pick it back up and finish it, but I really don’t know that much about the non-fiction publishing industry. Originally I thought I’d just publish it through PMI (my professional association), and I suppose that’s still an option, but over time the book has evolved to where it would be valuable to people outside of project management.
Ah, but where to start? Then, just the other day, I received a nice little PM note from Chuck Sambuchino @ChuckSambuchino telling me he would be teaching at the 2017 Atlanta Writing Workshop in February. Now I haven’t been to a writing workshop in years, but I know Chuck’s work, so I followed the link to see what topics he planned to take on at this year’s conference. One session in particular grabbed my interest:
Nonfiction Intense: Book Proposal Tips, taught by Chuck Sambuchino. This session is completely devoted to nonfiction that is not memoir. So if you are trying to create an awesome nonfiction book proposal, this presentation is for you. With both a writer and agent to instruct and answers questions, the session will talk about platform, identifying your book’s place in the market, effective pitching, and more.
While I’m not really planning on writing a memoir or middle school fiction any time soon, I did see a couple of other topics that also sounded interesting. The price – $169 for early-bird – seemed really reasonable, and having worked in the area, I know the venue is nice (The Westin Atlanta Perimeter North). Best of all, the workshop is on a Saturday (February 25, 2017) AND I just happen to be speaking at the DevNexus conference in Atlanta the day before. Win-win-win.
So, I’ll be attending, and I’m sharing the info about the workshop to my writing friends. Are you interested in a writing workshop that focuses on the publishing side of the business? Check it out! Hope to see you there! About the 2017 Atlanta Writing Workshop
It feels pretty good to have my hands on the keyboard again. I gave myself a three-month sabbatical from writing (and a myriad of other activities) to focus on my new role at work, and I’m glad I did, but I am beyond ready to get back into some regular habits. I know a lot of people shy away from New Years Resolutions because they so often end in failure; however, ever since I quit smoking cold turkey many years ago, I have enjoyed great success with them – from running marathons to earning my PMP – so here’s to continuing the tradition. This is the first time my resolutions haven’t including something brand new. This year is all about reviving old good habits that have taken last place in the busy-ness of life. And somewhat uncharacteristically, I’ve decided to get a bit personal in hopes that anyone reading this will take a look at their own habits and maybe avoid some of my bad decisions!
Resolution #1 – Running. Ever since I hobbled through the last half of a marathon with a stress fracture, I haven’t felt much like running. The past few weeks or so I’ve caught myself daydreaming about being out on a run…just me and my music and the fresh air. I don’t think I could ever feel like running if just for something like weight loss – there’s too many other types of exercise to force yourself to do something you don’t want to do or that you’re afraid you’ll hurt yourself again doing. But my daydreaming tells me my body is healed and my mind is aching for the peace and clear-thought that where such a large part of what made me start running in the first place.
Resolution #1a – Remember I haven’t had a good run in over a year and not get discouraged when I can’t just trot off a 5K before breakfast like I used to!
Resolution #1b – While the running focus is mostly mental-health-driven, part of the resolution is really putting more focus back on my physical health. In my 30s, making purposeful health choices (like quitting smoking and picking up running) helped me through some major health issues practically unscathed. A hysterectomy seemed like nothing to me compared to the alternative. (NOTE: please know I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness of this situation, especially for anyone facing it who still wants children. Thankfully, my kids were already teenagers).
After I made it through the surgery and all the procedures, I spent ten years focused on my health, religiously putting up with the inconvenience of tests and biopsies every three to six months. Then the weirdest thing happened. In 2015 I got my 10-year-cancer-free card and, apparently, went completely batshit insane. Like a dumbass, I went from working out 3-4 days a week to doing practically nothing. Do you know what happens when you quit working out? Yes, you gain weight, but that’s just vanity. The real issue is that you quit paying attention to the crap you put into your body. I still don’t know exactly how or why it happened. I even started eating fast food, for Pete’s sake! I suppose not having to purposefully think about it or shoved in my face every 90 or so days with a blood test here or a biopsy there made the threat of it less real. Which is crazy, since my mom died from cancer just three years ago and I’m a walking genetic clone.
So here we are a year later and (thank you God) I just got through my dozens of tests and specialist appointments with no sign of cancer (or anything else serious). Funny how fast that year went and how little I thought about it, but let me tell you, I did a lot of thinking (and remembering) as I went through all those tests again. And I was ashamed of myself and how I took it all for granted. This year I’m shaking all that off and get back into the awesomeness of healthy living!
Resolution #2 – Writing. I have two half-finished books that I’m determined to complete this year. One of them, a non-fiction book about Agile Project Methodology, I (legit) set aside to complete another large Agile implementation and purposefully test out some ideas and theories I had suggested in the book. I’ve got a ton of new material swirling around in my head (which may be part of the drive to run so I can sort it all out and start writing it down!)
The other, a work of fiction, quite honestly got set aside before I even hit the sabbatical. I had reached a point in writing that happened to coincide with some circumstances in real life and the emotional collision paralyzed me a bit. Whenever I wrote dark situations in the book as tight and tense as I think they need to be, I found it difficult to keep from picturing similar (worst-case scenario) events and situations happening to some real people I love.
Now let me preface that normally when I read something I wrote a few months or years prior, I am hyper-critical of my work. Sometimes I think parts are okay and maybe if I polished it I could salvage something, but for the most part, I fail to see any spark of originality, let alone brilliance, my professors and others have claimed to see. I read over my draft the other day and I realized that the parts I wrote with dread in my heart were some of the most honest and striking writing I have ever done. Also? The worst-case scenarios I kept picturing never materialized. I thought, maybe instead of hiding from the way my writing makes me feel, I need to embrace it and write through the emotion, raw as it is, and let my characters take on that dimension.
So there it is, for all the world to see. My New Years’ Resolutions. Perhaps now I’ll have to post every now and again on how it’s going and let the thought of that help keep me on track! 🙂
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