Just a Little

In the past four or five days, this is all the writing I’ve done:

Tuesday: 75 words

Wednesday: 73 words

Today: 315 words

These numbers might not look that impressive.  But each of those numbers represents a small victory for me.  None of those were days I wanted to write.  I felt uninspired, unsure, and a little annoyed.  Will this book ever end?  Will it ever be publishable?  Why am I even doing this?  Where is this plot going?

After writing another 75 words today, I was ready to close my laptop and call it quits for the day.  But I didn’t.  I decided to write one more sentence.  And then that spawned the idea for another sentence.  Three paragraphs later, I feel like I’ve finally written myself around the little wall of writer’s block that’s been in my way all week.  I got through the hard scene, and now I’m onto the exciting one.  Now I have a new idea to work with when I write tomorrow.

The longer I’m a writer, the more I’m learning that I need to push myself to work on my novel every day that I can.  And the more I do that, the easier it is to write.

So don’t stress if you can’t write 1,000 words every day.  Make yourself goals and try to stick to them.  For the next week, my goal is to write something on my novel every day.  It doesn’t have to be a ton, but I’m going to try to write consistently every day, even if it’s just a little.

Artsy Stuff and Learning Curves

Hello lovely writers!  Today’s post includes fanart, a poorly-drawn graph, and some rambling about learning to be a writer.  Hope you enjoy!

Long before I was a writer, I was an artist.  (Not necessarily a good one lol.)  I’ve been making things since I was a really little kid.  I’ve been drawing horses and dogs for as long as I can remember, and I’ve taken art classes since I was in middle school.  I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when I finish something I’m proud of.  I’ve always enjoyed art for the escape it provides: when I’m working on a piece of art, the rest of the world is entirely gone.

I’ll sometimes still get out the ol’ pencil box and do some fanart or whatever.  (Some examples below because why not?)

And just recently, I picked up the guitar!  My brother has had a guitar just sitting in his closet for the past few years, and I earlier this summer, I had the sudden idea to ask to borrow it.  So for the past several weeks, I’ve been teaching myself guitar!  (This is why I love the internet, guys: YouTube tutorials, online tuners, free guitar chords, and pretty much anything else you need.)  And it’s been so much fun.  I love the learning curve that exists for when I first learn something new.  It seems like every day I practice, I learn something new.  I’m constantly making big strides; I’m growing exponentially.

For example, the first day of playing guitar I could barely play a few chords.  On the third day, I could play a simple song really slowly.  By day 5, my fingerstips no longer felt like I was slicing them open.  Within just a few weeks, I’ve learned how to use a capo, I can play chords in quick succession, and I’m able to pick up new chords really quickly.  I’m starting to learn strumming patterns and put everything together to play songs at regular tempo.

I fondly remember my early days of writing, when I’d just started out.  Every chapter I completed was uncharted territory; every blog post I read taught me something new.  I was like a sponge as I discovered found craft books and online blogs.  And then about halfway through my first novel, I found the website Critique Circle.  I used to get so excited when my chapters would come up for critique, because I was always learning.  New terms, new ideas, new things to think about.  Characters, tension, showing vs telling, passive vs active voice, dialogue, setting.  So much to learn about.  Writing was so exciting.  It was new and special and a bit scary.  It was also so exciting, because it was so easy to find resources that broadened my knowledge.

Sometimes, now, I find it difficult to be in love with writing.  I’ve grown so much as a writer.  I know so much more; I have a lot more experience; I know what I’m doing.  Not that I’m an expert or anything LOL – obviously I’m always learning and honing my craft.  I’m just… not a beginner anymore.  And because I’m no longer a beginner, I’m not learning new things about writing at the same rate as I was when I first started writing.  For reference, I’ve made this nifty graph:

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If you’re thinking that it looks like I made this graph if MS Paint, then you’re correct.  🙂

I’m at the point in my writing journey where the speed at which I’m learning has started to level off a bit.  So it’s easier to get discouraged, because I don’t see my skill improving at the same rate it used to be.

That’s why it was so refreshing for me to start learning guitar.  I’m still in the “beginner” phases, where I’m learning so quickly that it’s exciting and enticing.

So here’s a question for all you experienced writers: how do you keep perusing your dreams and your art when the learning gets slow?

I actually do want your answers (leave a comment below!) but I’d also like to add my own answer.  I do it by reminding myself how far I’ve come.  I don’t take for granted the things I’ve learned.  And I remind myself why I learned them.  I didn’t just learn about writing so I could keep all that knowledge in my head.  I learned about writing so I could be a better writer.  

And I’m in love with writing.  Not with being a writer, or knowing about writing, or being a published author, or anything else.  With the actual writing.  With taking an idea and making it come alive.  With editing a mess of a story into a coherent book.  With making magic happen with words and fingertips on keys.  That’s what I love.  The knowledge is just a tool to help me do that better.  So who cares about learning curves?  Let’s go write stories.

I’m Back (in this country)!

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Hello friends!  Sorry for my lack of posting.  I’ve been off exploring and world-traveling, seeing mountains and Lochs and old castles, catching up on sleep and adjusting to time-zones.  In the space of a month, I’ve taken two international trips, plus one domestic trip involving a 12-hour trainride each way.  So while I’ve loved seeing spectacular scenery and cool ruins, I didn’t bring my laptop with me.  (I didn’t really have time for writing anyways.)

But after all my traveling, seeing, and learning, I was a little bit nervous to try my hand at writing again.  It had been a month since I’d worked on this story.  How was I going to jump back in?

Turns out, all it takes to jump back in to writing is to sit down, open my word document, and start working.

Look, it’s hard to go a while without writing.  But it’s also really nice to take some time off and go see the world.  I got to dream and plan and imagine in my time off.  I got to give my head a rest and read some good books and enjoy the beauty of nature.  And now?  Now it’s really nice to be sleeping in my own bed, not living out of my suitcase, and be writing again.  It’s really nice to have free time and cell reception and a story that I’m really excited to be working on.

So no matter where your summer plans are taking you, don’t forget that your writing is waiting.  Your story needs you.  And if it’s been a while since you’ve opened your word-doc, don’t be afraid to grab a coffee, sit down, and write.

 

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On Fear, and Writing for Fun

Bit of a mini-post today.  I just got back from Scotland last week, and I’m leaving the country again tomorrow!  So I’m a bit short on time.  But here’s something that’s been on my mind for a while.

Sometimes, I approach writing with fear or trepidation or pressure or worry or just general negativity.  I found this video (see below) a while ago, and I felt it related really well to being a novelist.  So often, I sit down to write with a voice in my brain going you have to publish story this someday.  You MUST be ‘good enough’ and you MUST write well.  Come on, you’ve been a writer for three years now.  Do better.  Get your act together.  If you’re not good enough, it’s just a whole waste of time.

I found an answer to this problem in a video by Tessa Violet.  She’s a phenomenal YouTuber and singer as well.  In this video, she talks about songwriting, which is super cool – and I think it compares well to novel-writing.  She says this wonderful phrase about two minutes into the video:

“A great way to never write anything is to enter into creativity with fear.”

 

You don’t have to watch the video if you don’t want to.  But she makes an excellent point: fear is the opposite of creativity.

So how do we stop this?  For me, it’s reminding myself that writing is play.  It’s fun.  I have to remind myself that (for now), it’s my HOBBY.  It means taking the pressure off myself to be perfect.  It means reminding myself of the things I like about writing.

It means letting myself enjoy the process, instead of being so very focused on the end result.  It means writing for me, and only me.  For MY enjoyment.  If I share my work later, that’s great!  If I get published later, woohoo!  But my rough draft is only for my eyes, and for my enjoyment.  (Not that every day of writing will be fun, or that it’s all sunshine and butterflies.  But since I’m currently not getting paid to write, literally the only reason I write is because I enjoy it.)

So.  If you’re finding it hard to write right now, maybe take the pressure off for a bit.  Write for the sheer fun of it.  Let your creativity flow, and give yourself permission to have a good time.  You never know what might happen, and you might be surprised by how good your writing is.

P.S. If you’re interested in more YouTube videos about writing and art, I recommend these: John Green, Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Nathan Zed, You’re Not Good Enough.

Caring for the Writer Outside – Part 2

Last post, I talked about caring for your inner writerly-self by consuming good art, and finding inspiration in the things you see and listen to and read.  The second part of this Writerly Care discussion is on Self Care – that is, taking care of the Outer You, the shell you walk around in every day.  We as human beings – and especially as writers – tend to forget to take care of ourselves sometimes.

Here’s the thing: I feel like it’s so much easier to access that creative side of my brain when my body is well taken care of.

I’ve found some pretty straightforward self-care methods that help me feel like a better, more energized person – so therefore also a better writer.  Here’s my top 5 tips for caring for the Outside of the Writer:

1.  Drink Water

*Whispers* okay I know this one is a bit cliche, and writers hate cliche things.  But really, folks.  Drink water instead of soda.  Drink water when you feel hungry.  Drink water as you write.  Drink ice water when you want something to make you feel better.  Drink water.

2.  Exercise (or at least go outside!)

I can feel your reactions.  You’re all doing this:

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“Hmmm, exercise?  No thanks.  I’d rather shoot myself in the foot.  Then I’d have a valid excuse to sit in my comfy chair all day.”

But listen.  I’m not saying you have to run a marathon.  I’m saying get up from your laptop and do 20 Jumping Jacks.  I’m saying take your dog on a walk.  Who knows? Maybe you’ll find some plot bunnies while you’re out walking around.  I know that for me, personally, I feel a lot better after exercising.  My mind is clear, my body is tired-in-a-good-way, and I feel energized and ready to face the day.  And when I do sit down to write, it’s that much easier to focus, sink into my world, and let the words flow from my fingertips.  A small writer’s block is often cured by some sunshine and fresh air.

And if the outdoors is too much for you, get up and put on some music, and dance around like a drunk giraffe (as demonstrated by the 11th Doctor in the gif below).  It will get your blood flowing and your ideas churning.

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3.  Eat (something) Healthy

I like to munch a lot as I write, so it’s important that I have some healthy snacks in my house.  If I consume chips and chocolate all day long, my body and mind feel yucky.  That’s not to say that you can’t eat chocolate.  Please, eat chocolate.  But also find some fruits or veggies that you enjoy.  Writing is hard, you guys, so why not fuel your physical self with good things instead of yucky things?

Also, I’ve heard some of you lovely writerly folk say that on a particularly intense writing day, you simply forget about meals.  I get it: there have been times when I’m mid-chapter and forget about eating lunch or something.  So, I recommend you stock your refrigerator (or, if you’re a college kid, your lil’ mini-fridge) full of healthy snacks like yogurt and fruit before a big writing day.  Then you can grab something nourishing and get right back to it.

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4.  Get Enough Sleep (at least occasionally)

I know we have this idea of the Brilliant Writer being up at 2am, madly pounding away at their keyboard.  But that doesn’t have to be true.  *Checks time* 1:58 am.  Hehehe.

Sure, if inspiration rears its ugly head at midnight, get up and type for a while.  But also, try to give yourself enough rest.  Don’t be afraid to take a night off to go to bed early and recharge your body.  You’re not going to be your best writerly self when you’re brain’s got a Tiredness Cloud hovering about.

Yes, coffee is a writer’s best friend.  But sometimes sleep is a good pal, too.

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5.  Forgive Yourself

Okay, this last one is a more about your inner writer than your outer one.  But this one is an important thing for me to remember: writing begins with forgiveness.  I grabbed this idea from this blog post, but let put it this way: don’t let yesterday’s failure affect today’s success.  Forgive yourself for not writing yesterday, or at all the past week, or the past month.  And then sit down and write today.

Look, right now I’m a busy college student, and writing isn’t my job.  It’s my hobby.  Being a full-time student is my job, and as much as I want writing to be my profession, it’s not right now.  So, if I’ve spent the last three days studying for exams instead of writing, I’m not going to beat myself up.  Sitting down to write today is wonderful and delightful, and if it’s the first time in a while I’ve done so, that’s okay.  I’m going to enjoy it anyways.

Which of these do you struggle with?  Do you relate to this advice at all?  Do you have any more writerly wisdom to share on the subject of self-care?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Caring for the Writer Inside, Part 1

This is part 1 of a short Writerly Care series I’m starting.  It’s not exactly writing advice, more like advice on being a writer and taking care of the artist within.

Today’s topic: consume good art.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes.

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I’m sure some of you have heard this before, or are at least familiar with the idea that good writers read a ton.  And I agree – I definitely feel like reading fuels me to write. Reading good books (and sometimes bad ones) makes me want to write good books.

BUT.  I also find inspiration in so many other things.

This is the best way I can describe it: seeing good art makes me want to create art.

I love following YouTubers who create things for a living.  I love following artists on Instagram who post their drawings and share their light.  I love songs that blend lyrics and rhythm and notes to make something beautiful and new.

So, this is your friendly reminder that you as a writer need to consume good art.  I have some suggestions if you’re feeling a deficit in your art diet:

1. Poetry

There’s something delightful about poetry.  It’s loud and soft, small and potent.  The words pack so much power in so little space.  I recently discovered Mary Oliver, and I really like her poetry.  I’m sure you’re familiar with some other new poets that are getting a lot of hype.  Go read the poetry, soak in the words, bask in the strength of them.

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2. Music

Browse through Spotify, click around on YouTube, listen to a new genre.  I’ve found that I have a constant need for new music, and it’s part of how I stay inspired.  Expand your horizons.  Try musicals, or soundtrack music, or indie, or country, or rap, or vidoegame music.  Let good music drive you to write good stories.

3. Old Favorites

I re-watched Fellowship of the Ring with a friend last night, and I feel like a new human. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favorite movies of all time.  Watching one of these again reminded me just how much stories matter, and how much they mean to people. These movies motivate me to keep telling my stories.

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Maybe you don’t have time for a 4-hour movie with a friend.  That’s okay; listen to a 4-minute old favorite song that makes you fall in love with being an artist.  Read a chapter from a favorite book to remind yourself why you’re a story-teller.

Consume good art.  Let it fill your soul so that it spills out onto the page when you write.  Take inspiration from the creators and writers and artists all around you.  Find things that you love and enjoy them, and then go create things to share with the world.

And if you need some suggestions to get you started, here’s some things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Music: Dear Evan Hansen (a new musical), A Playlist of My Favorite Soft/Chill Music, Some of My Favorite Instrumental Music

YouTubers (also musicians): Tessa Violet, Dodie ClarkPeter Hollens, Rusty Clanton

Instagramers: Mari Andrew (adorable artist), Inspired to Write (bestest human ever)

Let me know in comments if you experience this too – where seeing some great piece of art makes you want to create as well.  Also, let me know if you’ve found some great music/ movies/ art recently, or what you’re enjoying that inspires you.  Do you have artists you look up to?  Do you have a favorite movie that moves you to tears?  Share your thoughts.

Between Reading and Writing

I’ve often tried to explain the Creative Writing Process by saying, “I can lose myself while writing the same way that I can while reading.”  And this is so true; it’s part of the reason that I am a writer.  I love that escape from reality.

But here’s a dilemma that I sometimes find myself facing as a writer – specifically, as a college student studying for exams, a person with not enough free time: my reading and writing steal time from each other.

I’ve always liked books.  My dad would read me Narnia before bed when I was little, and my mom would pick out audiobooks for long carrides.  So I blame them for making me a bookworm.  But in middle school or early high school, I fell head-over-heels in love with books.  Other girls my age were going on their first dates; I was buying my first copy of Lord of the Rings.  I distinctively remember spending hours and hours reading when I was supposed to be doing schoolwork.  (I was homeschooled, so I would literally spend the day in bed, reading Eldest or The Fault in Our Stars.  Then I’d stay up late finishing neglected homework.  Don’t tell my mom.)

And then in 10th grade, I started writing.

Once more, I fell in love.  I didn’t know what I was doing; it was just a thing I could do where I could sit down with a laptop and spin worlds from my mind onto the screen.

And the back-and-forth has continued, generally fine.  But this semester has been busy a lot, and between homework and friends and everything else, I haven’t had a ton of free time.  That was okay, though, I was making time for writing.  I was squeezing in my noveling time between class and sleep.

But then, last week, I picked up this beautiful book:

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And suddenly, I wasn’t writing anymore.

And the book was so good that halfway through, I ordered the next two in the series from Amazon.  I’m now in the middle of City of Ashes (book two), and I absolutely love it.  But I’m a little worried about my own story – there are a total of SIX BOOKS in the City of Bones series, and then there’s a spin-off series (or two?) and an extra book and AHHHHHHHHHHH.

As writers, we often talk about learning to shove aside mundane duties and making time for our writing.  In fact, one of my favorite writerly people on the internet, @inspiredtowrite on Instagram, uses #MuggleResponsibilities to talk about things that get in the way of her writing time.  And I get it, sometimes we need to skip doing laundry for a week to focus on our story.

But what about reading?  Something I love, something that makes me a better writer?  How do I say no to that?

I’d love to hear your advice.  Because I’m the dive-headfirst-into-a-book-series type of person, and I’m missing my own story now.  But not quite enough to put down City of Ashes.  So I’m not sure what the answer is.

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Okay then.  John Green has spoken.