Paula’s Post #91 —
I have a confession to make.
Sometimes I feel more like a ‘real writer’ than at others. Right now is one of those ‘other times’, when the demands of work and family dictate more time away from an immersive writing experience.
Do you, like me, love the intoxicating rush of finding yourself fully invested and immersed in a new novel? I’ve always enjoyed the ‘beginning’ when I’m just starting out, exploring potential new characters; deciding on settings and scenes that are key to the story; working on plotting, theme and of course everyone’s favourite: research. And no, I’m not being facetious. I love research as much as the actual writing.
But those are the ‘good times’.
What about when you are not caught up in the heady first weeks of plotting your novel. What about when you’ve been at it awhile, and you find, more often than not, you’re contending with the many everyday distractions that threaten to absorb all our writing time: family, work, home, errands and more errands, appointments and other obligations. Not to mention Facebook, Twitter, Google and, at this time of year Amazon.
Perhaps you’ve set a goal for yourself: 1000 words a day? 10 pages a week?
A perfectly modest, achievable goal, but seemingly unattainable when the demands of everyday life and the ever present danger of procrastination rule the writers’ roost.
So what do you do? How do you re-connect with your ‘inner writer’ and recapture that initial giddy enthusiasm that propelled you, headlong, into your current project?
I’m guessing that, like me, more than a few of you are hoping for the gift of ‘time’ this holiday season. But what about the other intangible ‘gifts’ writers so desperately crave? I know for this 5writer, my holiday wish list includes more than a few of these intangible gifts: fresh enthusiasm, motivation, creativity, technique and craft.
Some of these gifts require planning and forethought, some depend on the kindness and consideration of family and friends. But the quest to re-discover your inner writer can be enjoyable and achievable and something you may want too may want to ‘wish for’ this holiday season.
So, here, in no particular order, is a list of my own top 10 gifts for writers. Some are presents that you can give to yourself, others, you may need to enlist the generosity of family and friends. But don’t you deserve at least one or two of these little gifts this holiday season? Even if, like me, you’ve been more naughty than nice?
1. The Gift of a Writers Group.
We 5writers would be lost without one another. After every meeting we come away with new insight, new perspective, new resolve. If you are not yet in a group yourself, I urge you to join an existing writing group or critique group. Failing that, why not form one of your own? It is not hard as hard as it sounds. With the help of social media, you can find other writers in a similar situation. If they are anything like my 5writer colleagues, you’ll also find the gift of four new friends, for life. How great is that?
2. The Gift of Books.
Okay, so maybe this one is too easy. But if you are on someone’s gift list this year, why not ask them to skip the chocolates and bath soap and instead offer you the ‘gift’ of a writing book? There are many favourite authors represented on the shelves of the 5writers: Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, selected offerings from the people at Writers’ Digest. I’m sure you’ll find one to re-kindle your imagination.
3. The Gift of Travel.
Do you have an exotic setting for your new novel? If you do, and assuming it is not some imagined, dystopian universe, maybe it is time for a road trip? Nothing spurs the creative juices like travel, especially if the destination is intrinsic to your plot. I know 5writer Joe is longing for Amsterdam, but how about you?
4. The Gift of Experiential Activities.
We are writers. We ‘imagine’ things. But our craft demands that no matter what our imagination envisions, it must be compelling and believable. This is especially true for crime writers. So what are you waiting for? Get off your duff and get out there, don’t just sit in your office playing solitaire or doing the NY Times crossword puzzle every day. If your hero drives a twin turbo, supercharged Bentley Continental GTS, don’t just look at a pic of it on the internet. Head out to the dealership and take a look for yourself. Maybe they won’t let you actually test drive it, but you’ll at least get to explore the touch and smell of the buttery leather seats and maybe sit in the driver’s seat and check out the instrumentation. Or maybe you need to try skeet shooting, or downhill skiing, or bungee jumping (hey, this is your book, not mine). My point is that, to be a better writer, don’t just make it up. Try it out! Not only will your writing be more authentic, the thrill of the ‘experience’ may also inspire fresh enthusiasm to make the scene the very best it can be.
5. The Gift of Writing with all Five Senses.
And that brings me to this 5writers number 5 on the writers’ holiday gift list. How many of you are writing a book set in an exotic locale? While we can’t all jump on the next plane to Bangkok, nothing is stopping us from finding the most authentic Thai restaurant in town and sampling a few dishes. Maybe chat with the waiters too. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a ‘source’ who can provide advice and insight into the setting for your story. Who knows what you may turn up. Since this is the season of ‘eat’ ‘drink’ and ‘be merry’, I can think of nothing more fun than sampling some of the exotic, enticing dishes featured in our novels. You don’t need to be writing a culinary novel to bring a scene to life with the bustle of a busy kitchen, the fragrance of the spice cabinet, the flavours of an exotic locale. Imagine Ian Fleming writing a Bond novel, perhaps he was inspired by his own ‘shaken, not stirred’ martini. Remember the five senses and get out there and find some inspiration.
6. The Gift of Laughter.
Where do you think comedians get their material from? Sure, some make it up, but most have, yes, you guessed it, writers behind their repertoire of jokes. Writers who squirrel away little nuggets for use at some future date. Your novel may not be intentionally comedic, but even serious novels can benefit from the interjection of humour. Maybe it’s time to go on the hunt and mine some of these nuggets for your own treasure trove. You don’t need to use them now, but isn’t it nice to know they’ll be there for you ‘someday’?
7. The Gift of Time.
Okay, maybe I should move this to the ‘last but not least’ category. Suffice it to say, we all think we could use some more time for our writing. But what’s stopping you really? Are you actually going to sit there and tell me that this past year you didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Linkedin? If not, congratulations, you’re the only writer I know who is able to avoid the distractions of social media. But what if you unplugged for a day? Or better yet a weekend? Or a whole week. How much writing could you get done if you had more time?
8. The Gift of Permission.
And that brings me to a gift that will ensure you have even more quality time for your writing.. You see, I’m a bit of a ‘binge writer’. I need lots of undisciplined procrastination for weeks until guilt threatens to overwhelm me. Then, all of a sudden, Jupiter aligns with Mars and the Moon is in the Seventh House and I’m happy to write like mad. But what provokes these bursts of productivity? Often, it is the mere ability to escape from the demands of everyday life. To toss my usual ‘to do’ list of everyday chores and instead give myself permission to turn to work from a ‘To Do’ list with only one task inscribed: Write. So, this holiday, give yourself permission to leave the dust bunnies under the bed. You can revisit them after you’ve typed ‘The End’.
9. The Gift of Acceptance.
Are you a perfectionist? Have you re-written chapter one so many times you sometimes find it hard to figure out which is the most up-to-date draft? How about you just accept that at some point in the future you’re likely going to get a chance to re-write it in the future and for now, just move on. Write chapter two, and three and four… get to the end of the book and type ‘the end’. Only then will you truly know why and how you need to fix Chapter One.
10. The Gift of a Published Book.
Isn’t this the ultimate gift? The writers’ Holy Grail? But how do you get there from here? Perhaps you’re discouraged, a thick file of rejection letters tucked away in a file on the floor of your closet. Maybe you didn’t even get that far, afraid to submit your manuscript to traditional publishers for fear of more rejection. But maybe it is time to publish that book yourself? Let’s look at the story of Amanda Hocking. In the spring of 2010, Ms. Hocking was discouraged. Her novels had been rejected, not to put to fine a point on it, by everyone! She was broke. So broke, she couldn’t even afford the gas money to drive to Chicago to see an special exhibition on, of all things, ‘The Muppets’. So, what did she do? She dug out her big file of unpublished novels, determined to self-publish on Amazon and make just enough money to go see ‘The Muppets’. She had a small, achievable goal. What she didn’t expect was that, after all that rejection, her books would end up so wildly successful. By January 2012, in a space of just 20 months, Hocking has sold 1.5m books and made $2.5m dollars. In less than a year. Just because she wanted to see ‘The Muppets’ and had the courage to ‘take a chance’ to achieve that goal.
What about you?
What’s on your list of ‘Gifts for Writers’?