Month: September 2014

It’s Not You. Life Advice for Writing.

My life lately has been a non-stop, full force barrage of travel, celebration of major life events with friends and family, the usual team activities, and a whole (un)expected mess of personal troubles that has left me emotionally drained. Oh and I’m still editing, of course. Always editing.

So in the past few months, I’ve been recalibrating and reevaluating. Asking myself questions that I thought I’d already answered. Recognizing that the future I’d envisioned was changing; and that was probably a good thing, even if change is terrifying and my knee-jerk reaction is to fight against it.

I’ve also been reconnecting with friends. Good friends. The friends that I have held onto throughout the years not only because I enjoy their company, but because they understand me, care about me, and each is the type of person I strive to be (and hope I am).

These friends have done what good friends do – they’ve given me advice and listened to me as I work through everything in my head. I’ve listened too. And after a bit, I realized that a lot of what they were saying could also be applied to my writing. So I wanted to share some of that life advice for writing.

“Just push through it.”

Things will get better. Even if you’re stuck on a scene or you’ve reached the point where you feel torn between hating what you’re writing and loving it, don’t give up. Push through your writer’s block or doubt. Just keep writing and even if your first draft needs a LOT of revision, at least you’ll get over that bump and be able to move forward again.

“Keep busy.”

I’m a pretty busy person and always have been, but this advice has always been important for the writers I know since we’re prone to over-thinking everything when given the opportunity (however slight), and we tend to obsess over things. So when you’re writing, don’t dwell too long on a sentence. When you’re editing, don’t overthink a comment you’ve received or a workshop note. If you need to put a piece aside for a bit before returning to it, that’s fine; but always keep your writing life full.

“Sometimes it’s best to just let it go.”

Most writers I know have that one piece that they’ve been working on for months, sometimes years. It’s an idea that they’ve had for so long that they feel like they’ve invested so much time and thought into it, it must be a brilliant, worthy concept, right? Yet it’s been a disaster every time they start to write it. The advice here? Sometimes it’s best to just cut your losses and move on. Maybe you’re just not the writer best fit to develop that idea and instead of continuing to pound your head against the wall, your time might be better spent working on a new project, or one where the words aren’t stuck. Or maybe it’s just not the right time for you to work on that project, so shelve it for the future.

“Be selective.”

One of the best speeches I’ve heard lately came from one of my good friends as we sat in a hole-in-the-wall Mexican take-out at 3:30 AM, after a night of tequila and whiskey drinking. (No hang on, it was actually a good speech). After walking me through some of the poorer decisions I’ve made in my life, this friend proceeded to tell me that what I have now is an amazing opportunity to “be selective” with what I want out of life, and not sell myself short. “Figure out where you want to be, and then start figuring out what you need to get there.”

I’ve always felt like this is something writers should do with their work as well. You invest so much time and energy into your writing, you better be selective in what you choose to write about, and what you choose to spend your days working on. It’ll show in your work and you’ll be happier overall in the end with what you’ve accomplished.

“It’s not you.”

So we’ve all heard this before, but I wanted to add it here because so many writers I know have, at some point, experienced a major crisis of confidence. And you know what? It’s not you. You’re amazing. Even if you’ve recently received a scathing review from a critic or just an unenthused shrug from a friend after reading your work (which can sometimes feel worse than that critic’s review), don’t beat yourself up about it. If you want to be a writer, and you love writing, and you feel like your life would somehow be worse (or emptier) without it, then damn it – keep writing.

“Don’t be a stranger.”

I can sometimes be a recluse. Especially if I’m not feeling too good about what I’ve been writing lately, that feeling can transfer to an unwillingness to get out of the house and visit people. But writing is such a solitary act that I strongly believe writers need to surround themselves with good people and other writers. Definitely your friends and loved ones. So don’t be a stranger, even if you’re in a rut (or conversely, knocking out page after page a night). Inspiration can come from those you surround yourself with, and life is there to be lived too, not just written about.

So there you have it. What about you? What advice have you received lately that could be applied to your writing? Share in the comments section below, and keep writing!


7 Websites You Should Be Visiting

There’s so much information out there on the internet that you might feel overwhelmed with options on what to read, share, or view. That’s why aggregators are so popular – because everyone wants a quick, simple way to identify the most “important” (read: to them) and “interesting” (again, to them) news out of all the background noise.

Many people I know use Facebook or Twitter as their go-to website now. It’s the place they check to see what’s new, what’s trending, what might be worth viewing, reading, or sharing.

But what about other websites that are worth checking out, even on a daily basis, or for news that you might want to share yourself on your chosen social platform? Here are my suggestions for 7 Websites You Should Be Visiting.

7. Boing Boing

This is a great website that features interesting articles and news of note from all around the internet. It prides itself on being “the web’s favorite zine devoted to the weird, wonderful, and wicked things to be found in technology and culture.” The site’s writers/editors come from everywhere, including publications such as “The New York Times, Washington Post, Wired, Scientific American, NPR” and CNN.

6. Neatorama

This is a fun website to check out as it collects “neat” ideas culled from all over. Mostly geeky, these posts always bring a smile to my face and have such titles as, “The Geography of NFL Fandom,” “How Beans Become a Fart,” “Shakespearean Versions of Modern Songs.”

5. The Millions

The Millions is an online magazine “offering coverage on books, arts, and culture,” including some great book reviews, interviews, and essays on everything from the future of the crossword to books barflies might enjoy. If you’re a writer or lover of books or words, you don’t want to miss this website.

4. Longform

Longform is the term that now stands for longer, more in-depth articles or essays on topics, especially in a world that is dominated by catchy headlines and 150-450 word articles. If you’ve got some time to read some of the best longform out there right now, bookmark this website.

3. Letters of Note

This website recently went on a bit of a break so that the creator could compile and publish a book of the posts, but it will soon be up and running again, and in the meantime, you can check out the archive posts. The blog introduces a letter each post written by someone famous or to someone famous. True to its name, a noteworthy letter. As its creator explains, “Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos.” From rejection letters to (now) famous authors, or correspondence between great minds of a generation, this website shows a scan or photo of the letter (when possible) and then transcribes its contents for your reading pleasure.

2. Twisted Sifter

I happened upon Twisted Sifter one day and couldn’t have been happier. Another website aggregator that does a great job of finding interesting and unique posts from around the internet, TwistedSifter has a unique layout and always seems to pick out articles I haven’t seen anywhere else.

1. The Burning House

The Burning House is a simple concept for a blog that has produced some fascinating results. The premise is, “If your house was burning, what would you take with you?” As the website’s editor explains, “It’s a philosophical conflict between what’s practical, valuable, and sentimental… Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.” Anyone can submit their idea, as long as they include: Name, Age, Location, Occupation, and Website as well. The entires are a wonderful glimpse into what individuals find important, and can be a great story-starter of writers.

Creating Your Writing Space

Someone gave me a book once titled, The Writer’s Space, and it was one of those small gift books that I quite honestly skimmed through when I received it, and then set it aside not giving it a second thought. However, about a year later one of my (writer) friends was looking through my bookshelf and pulled it out.

“What’s this about?” He asked, thumbing through it. I gave the obvious response.

“It’s about creating your writing space,” I said.

“That’s cool,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to figure out a new one myself.”

That was the entirety of the conversation, and he put the book back in its place on the bookshelf, but later that evening, I pulled it off and decided to actually sit down and read it. Because it was an interesting idea.

How do you create a writing space that works for you?

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you’re choosing your writing space.

When do you like to write? In the morning or afternoon or evening? When do you have time to write? How much time are you willing to dedicate in one writing session? Too little and before you know it, your time is up and you haven’t given yourself a chance to create. Too much and you might begin to dread your writing time, and thus procrastinate or avoid writing.

Where do you like to write? Are you someone who likes to be alone? Do you need windows to the outside world or the feeling of coziness and a nurturing space? Do you like to be surrounded by other writers? Other people? Do you enjoy writing outside or inside? Are you more comfortable writing at your own place or in a public area? There are many options if you like to be surrounded by ambient (yet not distracting) activity. There are levels of ambient activity also. You could work at a library, in a coffee shop, or as part of a writers collective.

Are you more productive with or without background music on? Do you enjoy white noise or natural noise, or do you do your best work in silence? Do you need access to the internet while you write (I hope the answer is no) or can you completely unplug?

How do you write best? Do you use your laptop? Do you write on a tablet with a keyboard? Are you a legal pad and pen writer? Do you use a typewriter? Do you dictate into a digital recorder to capture it all later?

Once you answer these questions, you’ll be better able to understand how you write the best, and you’ll be ready to establish your writing space.

Here are a few places that have been known to work as writing spaces.

  • Your private office
  • A communal living space (such as a living room)
  • A coffee shop
  • A community center
  • A writers collective
  • A park
  • A quiet restaurant
  • A bar, usually during the daytime or early evening
  • A university
  • A library

What about you? Where’s your writing space? Do you have a favorite place to write that isn’t listed here? Share it in the comments section below!

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