Thursday, September 27, 2012

Writer's Burnout

 Are you feeling burned out?
 Is your word count and productivity down? Don’t beat your head against a wall battling writer's block?
Shake those blues, and concentrate on something other than your work in progress.
Need some suggestions? (I thought you’d ask.)
1. Take some photographs.
• Grab your camera and take a field trip to a local park, busy shopping area, town square. Let yourself focus on whatever catches your fancy. You may look back at your images and see a spark of an idea in a situation, location or face of people being alone or interacting with each other. *Just don’t appear to be a stalker. This is what zoom lenses are for.
2. Take care of business.
• There are other tasks you can do that are writing related.
• Revise a manuscript
• Send out queries
• Research the market
3. Relax and smile. This is not the end of the world.
• Remember, “This, too, shall pass.”
• The more you worry, the harder it is to think clearly.
4. Vent your frustrations to someone you trust.
5. Take a break from writing.
• If the thought of having to write makes you feel ill or anxious, take a break. This is not the same as quitting. There’s nothing wrong will allowing yourself a brief sabbatical. Give your sabbatical a definite time frame. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I Love Books!

Last night I returned from the yearly ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) writers conference. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many kind and creative people. I learned lots and warmed my heart with the company of so many old and new friends.

And I brought some books home -- of course!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Boundaries—AKA Establishing Time and Space to Write Effectively Part 2

Last Tuesday we began our discussion on boundaries. If you’re really serious about being an author, you need to establish boundaries and develop good habits. Here are some suggestions to guard your time and be productive:

· If you have a spouse and (older) children in the home speak to them about the importance of uninterrupted writing time. Ask them to help you be productive by giving you time to write. For example, allow your family the opportunity to clean up and do the dinner dishes so you can get some 
writing done.

· Get up a few hours before others in your household to get some uninterrupted time on your computer.

· Shut the door to the room where you write. If you work in a room without a door (dining room, living room), light a candle next to your computer. When the candle is burning you’re not to be interrupted.

· Just say no. If you don’t consider your writing time to be sacred, no one else will either. It’s difficult to be productive when friends and family are calling to you, both with fun pursuits and the demands of life, but if you need to get your word count done for the day or week, tell them that you have to work.

· If you can manage it, try to eat a 30-minute lunch at work, and spend the other half of your lunch break writing.

· Do you work from home? Schedule all your errands for one day. Do you need to run to the Post Office? The dentist? Want to meet a friend for coffee? Schedule all your errands for one day. Running out of the house several times a week will eat into your scheduled writing time.

· Use a calendar. Figure out how many words per day you can comfortably write, and mark off how long it should take you to finish your writing project. Track your progress and watch your word count escalate!

· If my productivity is lagging, I’ll set a timer for 15 minutes and make sure I write at least 250 words. In an hour, I’ll write 1,000+ words.

· Practice discipline. Sometimes you must force yourself to sit down and write. Do it. Even if you only write a few hundred words, write daily.

· Keep your goal in mind, and visualize your success. Imagine how it will feel to write, “The End.” Visualize submitting your finished project to an editor or agent. Or take it a step farther and visualize your book sitting on a bookstore shelf.

· Set goals, and reward yourself. If you write x amount of words in an hour, allow yourself a walk around the block or a decadent snack.

· Make writing routine—try to write as a matter of routine every day, just like brushing your teeth or drinking enough water.

· Have an accountability partner. This doesn’t need to be a fellow writer. A friend or relative can check up on your progress and help to keep you on track.

To be successful, you must protect your writing time. Don’t feel as if it’s an act of selfishness. If you’re called to write, it’s up to you to carve out the time and space to do it. Write on, friends!

Do you have any suggestions to help writers protect their writing time? Come on, let's share!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Boundaries—AKA Establishing Time and Space to Write Effectively

If you want to be a writer, there’s no getting away from the fact that you have to write. And to write, you need time and space to create and complete your project.

People often don’t understand when a writer in their life chooses to sit by themselves and tap out a story on their computer instead of ____________. You fill in the blank: watch a movie, meet for coffee go for a walk, go out to dinner, play a board game, etc.

Remember the excitement you felt when you first decided to test the waters and become a writer? Remember the sparkling possibilities that dazzled your vision like shiny stars in a dark sky? It seemed so exciting. The thrill of completing that great novel or other writing project was the dream in your heart. Hold on to that dream.

The hard truth is that when you choose to become a writer you must count the cost of that decision. If you’re going to spend time writing, then you won’t have space to do lots of other stuff that used to occupy your day. There’s the price to pay for your decision, and it is calculated in time away from people you care about and hobbies you may enjoy. But if you’re sincere about your call to write, you’ll suck it up and get the work done.

Don’t lose sight of your writing goal. Diana Scharf Hunt, author and time-management guru says, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” If you don’t keep your eye on the prize (a completed manuscript or articles or blog posts), then you won’t maintain the necessary motivation. Most writers will tell you that it’s much more satisfying to have written a book than to be writing a book. It’s work. Period. But it’s doable!

What do you sacrifice in order to find time to write?

*Check back in on Tuesday for some practical advice on guarding your time to ensure productivity. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pre-Autumn Thoughts -- Rest!

After the busyness of summer, the appeal of autumn beacons. Shorter days. Warm, cozy clothes. 

When my kids were little an older, wiser friend told me one reason to love autumn is because your children come home earlier from their after-school play. She was right. 

Welcome, autumn. I look forward to slowing down, resting, pondering the fading year. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thinking about 9/11

I imagine thousands and thousands of words are clamoring on the Internet today, trying to get attention and speaking about the significance of the day.

Rather than compete with words of my own, I’m sharing others’ words—thoughts on faith, hope, and love.

Faith . . .

Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.  ~Madeleine L'Engle

Hope . . .

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.  ~Anne Lamott

Love . . .

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. ~1Corinthians 13: 1-7

Have a blessed day, friends.

Photo credit: click from

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Ideas are in the air

As a writer where do you come up with ideas? If you ask a seasoned writer, they’ll tell you that ideas are in the air.
Ideas are all around you. All you have to do is be observant. If you write fiction, look at the people around you, what quirks make you think, “What if that girl with the blue hair and nose ring was a closet Young Republican . . .?” What about the man in the grocery store, racing with his clunky cart down the aisle as if he’s playing chicken with oncoming shoppers? Why is he in such a hurry? All it takes is a germ of an idea to settle into a writer’s brain before they’re off and dreaming.
Don’t despair if you see someone else chasing the same idea. No two writers will create the same story, and ideas are not copyrightable. Your execution of an idea is what makes it unique.
And what about non-fiction writers? From where does their inspiration come? The answer is the same, from life.
Be attentive to the people you come into contact with. Ask questions. For example, I once visited a library that had a display of Hopalong Cassidy memorabilia. I contacted the man who owned the display and requested an interview. By focusing on different aspects of his collection and his passion for Hopalong Cassidy lunch boxes and paperback books, I was able to tweak the material and sell the article to two different markets.
What thrills you lately? What annoys you lately? Both of those topics are fodder for an article, short story, or novel. Open your eyes, remove your earphones, breath in the fragrance of the season, and write what you sense.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

How to enjoy a writers conference

Has your writing journey led you to the decision to attend a writers conference this year? Nervous? Eager?
For some writers, attending a conference is the highlight of their year. It’s an opportunity to spend time with others in the industry, to pitch their work to editors and agents, and it’s time to enjoy the company of like-minded folk.
Here are some thoughts to ponder before you go off to your conference:
Think outside yourself while you are at a conference. There are plenty of nervous souls and introverts putting themselves “out there.” The best thing you can do to assure yourself a good experience, is to reach out and make new friends. At my first national conference, I volunteered to be a meal greeter (aka door bouncer to make sure everyone was wearing a name tag). I still enjoy the friendships I made that year.
Give yourself a minute to sit in the lobby or join other writers when they have an impromptu brainstorming session. Some of those casual friendships you strike up might be the one’s you rely on for support and advice. Be flexible—someone may suggest going off campus for coffee or a meal. These are the times that life-long friendships can be forged.
If you’re going to have an appointment with an agent or an editor, read the conference notes (about their agency/publisher) if provided, or go online to research their company.
Don’t presume on a relationship that doesn’t exist, refer to agents/editors by formal names.
Be kind to the person with whom you have an appointment. Offer to give the agent/editor a bottle of water or cup of coffee. Remember, they may be weary from all the appointments they have to complete.
You may bring a proposal, sample chapters, or one sheet to meeting, but don’t be disappointed if agent/editor does not keep it. They can’t be burdened carrying home reams of paper.
Be friendly outside of the meeting, but don’t intrude on the agent/editor. You can chat about writing, but don’t ask them to stay up tonight reading your manuscript.
Most conferences will post a dress code in their brochure. Some have a very casual dress code. Regardless, present yourself well, don’t wear torn jeans or sweat pants.
Don’t feel you have to fill every moment of time with classes. Sometimes some alone time or some time writing your manuscript is better spent than lectures.
Plan on following up after the conference—and not only with proposals, but also by staying connected to the writers you met.