Intentional Rest vs. Shadow Comforts (You’re a Writer, You Need Rest, Dammit)

Photo by Robin Benzrihem on Unsplash

I had a tooth pulled yesterday. Not fun, in any universe. But it also went well and wasn’t that big of a deal. Minimal pain that could be easily controlled with Ibuprofen, very little swelling. I could eat as soon as the lidoicaine wore off, albeit slowly and carefully.

After the extraction, I texted my husband to say it was over and everything had gone well. He wrote back and told me to rest a little. Of course I will, I wrote back.

Hahahahaha. Because that’s really the last thing I had on my mind. I had manuscripts to read for a meeting that night and a column to write and submit to The Writing Cooperative on Medium. So yeah, I didn’t really end up resting.

But here’s the deal: I should have. Because instead of taking the time to relax with a book and maybe nod off for a while, I fought tiredness and distraction all afternoon. And for me tiredness and distraction comes in the form of what Jen Loudon calls shadow comforts. As in, scanning the digital front page of the New York Times for interesting articles. Reading an article in a favorite knitting blog. Checking in on the day’s news. Looking one more time to see if anybody has emailed me. And then remembering I was in the middle of writing an article.

Clearly, going down the internet rabbit hole is a huge shadow comfort for me. Today, even though I’m pretty much all over the tooth thing, I took the opposite tack. I was feeling a little sleepy after lunch so I repaired to my bed to read (I’m trying to finish Book #4 in the Maisie Dobbs series–Messenger of Truth) and also to doze for a bit. I came back to my office totally refreshed and ready to dive into the work–which I’ve been doing, without distraction for a couple of hours now.

There’s a whole thing going around in the writing community these days about how we should write fast and produce a ton. That’s all well and good–I actually like writing fast (with lots of time for editing built in after). But I am here to suggest that writing fast happens much more easily with a clear mind. And these days we are hammered with information from all angles. The statistics on how much information we process a day compared to even a few years ago are astounding. (This article has some stats that will blow your mind–and it is already a couple of years old.)

Yet we are trained culturally to be strong, to kick ass, to keep going, to feel the burn. Resting is seen as a weakness. One should only admit to being tired in the same breath as exclaiming how busy one is. I’m not immune to this and I bet you aren’t, either. While reading is one of my favorite ways to relax, its gotten so that I do most of it at night, right before bed. That’s because I feel guilty reading during the day. I’m not alone–this article by Austin Kleon quotes the director Paul Thomas Anderson:

“I still have trouble reading a book during the day because it somehow feels indulging… You know, like oh, my – this is so naughty. I’m actually reading at 10 o’clock in the morning. I think it’s just your upbringing – something about like you got to go to work, and you’ve got to – and move on. And still even – this is how I make my living. I still feel guilty. 10 o’clock, I mean – and it’s – but I’ve sunken into the pleasure of it – to think, my God, I’ve got my life in a way where I can read a book in the middle of the day.”

Can you related to that? I sure can. But, besides the fact that reading is a huge part of a writer’s job description, you also need to relax. So give yourself a break and get some rest. Intentional rest. Read, or meditate, or take a little snooze.

I’d love to hear about how you intentionally rest.

And please feel free to sign up for my weekly love letter–the link is on the right.

This post contains affiliate links. By clicking on them I get a small commission.

A Writer’s Confessions: My Planner Obsession

My name is Charlotte, and I am addicted to planners.

There, I’ve said it.

And, honestly, we probably should add in that I’m addicted to notebooks and journals, too. There is nothing more enticing to me than a notebook stuffed with writing, sticky notes, tabs, and other miscellanea, unless it is an empty notebook waiting to be filled with such things.

But planners occupy a whole different level of enticement. Within them lies possibility, future accomplishment, dreams and visions. And also the means to get you there–boxes to be checked off, lines to be written on, dates to be filled with exciting events.

All the things in the world.

I’ve been known to drop big bucks because of this planner obsession. (Actually, I try not to make it known, because I’d prefer that my husband not understand how much I spend on them.) Advertisers on Instagram and Facebook know my weakness because they shower my streams with ads for the perfect planner–and I click on every damn one.

Because I am always in search of the perfect planner. The one that will solve all my problems. Allow me to accomplish all my goals. Change my life for the better in all ways.

Sometimes I start the year with one planner, convinced it is the best ever, and a month later I’m already searching for another one. Some years I go through three or four. (This is painful and embarrassing to admit.)

But this year is different. And that is because I have given myself permission to use more than one planner. I now have three, and two active journals (three if you count the one I’m writing down my meals in). This is life-changing. And I’ve been able to give myself permission to do this because I’ve discovered the wonderful world of planner videos on YouTube.

You think having three planners and two journals is a lot? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

This woman, for example, uses something like a dozen every year. And more channels like hers abound on YouTube. And I love her because watching her video is what gave me permission to think outside the planner covers. I realize that I’ve always been searching for the one planner that can do it all. But I have a multi-faceted life, with a lot of diverse moving parts, and that just doesn’t work. Even having one journal doesn’t work for me. (And I also am that person with all the tabs open on her computer. Right now I have 30 going. Which is nothing, because I’ve weeded some out. The other day I had 47. My husband almost fainted when I told him that.)

Also–you my have guessed–I’m very right-brained. And right-brainers love having multiple containers be they planners, bags, suitcases, boxes or whatever. Don’t fence us in, people!

So now I shall share with you the planners and journals I’m using and please don’t judge:

  1. The Full Focus Planner from Michael Hyatt. These are for three months at a time, which is an advantage if you decide you don’t like it. But I do like it. So far, it’s the best one I’ve found for keeping track of my day-to-day appointments and to-dos. It has weekly planning pages, and then a double spread for each day. So on one side I can write my to-dos and on the other, notes. I’ve been looking for a planner with this arrangement forever–having that extra room to write notes really makes a difference for me.
  2. The Plot Your Work Writer’s Project Planner. This is specifically for writing and editing and publishing tracking. Plus there is space for planning social media and blogging. I love it. I bought the version punched for the disc system and purchased a cover and discs elsewhere.
  3. Master goal notebook. This isn’t so much a planner as a place to list goals, write down whys, etc. It’s just a cheap-o binder I bought on Amazon ages ago filled with all my ideas for achieving world domination.
  4. A Moleskine journal. Which is where I take notes, write long journal entries, etc. This is the one I grab when I’m heading out to a meeting.
  5. A really cool notebook from nuuna. I’m doing something different with it this year–writing a daily log of what happened the day before. I was inspired by those five year journals but found them a bit cramped. So much happens so quickly that I’m enjoying being able to go back and note what happened. I think it’s also a good practice for writers. I also write down a list of ideas and gratitudes. And, in the back I’m keeping a bullet journal.
  6. Random small journal. Forgot about this one. I always have a small ( 5 by 7-ish) inexpensive spiral by the side of my computer to scrawl notes on, write addresses, etc. Nothing in this needs to be preserved forever, it’s just for the moment.
  7. Plot Your Work Scene-Planning Notebook. Almost forgot this one. It came as a sample when I purchased the Writer’s Project Planner and I like it so much I’ve ordered two more. It’s a place to write down notes for your scenes and I’m finding it invaluable as I rewrite a novel.
  8. Client Notebook. Oh God, I forgot another one. I ordered a Tul disc notebook from to keep all my notes for clients in. I was using index cards but that got overwhelming fast and there wasn’t enough room for a lot of notes. Since this is a disc system, I can add and subtract as needed.

So it may seem that having all these planners and journals would take up a lot of time, but I actually find the opposite is true. I’m far more organized and aware of what I need to do on any given day with this system (if we could go so far as to call it that). And this whole planner thing has reminded me of what I constantly say to writers: do what works for you. If you think I’m nuts for using so many planners, so be it–and I’m happy if you can get your life into one grand book! It doesn’t matter the system, what matters is that it works.

So, tell me–do you use one planner, or multiples? Or none at all? And if the latter, please tell me how you survive in the world.

And here, for your viewing and inspiration pleasure, is the video I watched that started me down the path of multiple planner bliss.

I’m baaaaack! And Happy 2020

I have a confession to make.

I’ve been cheating on you. Having an affair.

Yes, it’s true. I’ve been writing blog posts on Medium for the last year or so, lured there by the prospect of making money and reaching a broader audience. And yeah, that happened. Sort of. I made enough money to buy myself a few bottles of wine every month, and found some new readers.

But I got sick of it.

Medium is a great site, and there’s all kinds of interesting articles there, and solid stuff on all aspects of writing. It’s totally worth it to spend five bucks a month for a membership so you can read as many as you want. But what I’ve seen happening is that the writers I follow now talk a whole lot less about writing and a whole lot more about writing on Medium. Gaming the system so you can make more money. And so on and so forth.

That makes me anxious. It makes me feel like I’m not doing enough, that I should be writing at least one Medium article a day. And then if you want to get your article on more eyes, you need to submit it to a publication. And if they don’t like your topic or the way you’ve formatted your article, they reject you. And that makes me pissed off. It is all a frantic hamster wheel that I want to step off of.

I’ve found myself wanting to write what I want, when I want. I’ve found myself not wanting to worry how much money I’ll earn off the post I’m writing. I’ve found myself wanting to return to my poor, neglected blog.

And so here I am, crawling back to my first true love, begging for forgiveness. Yeah, I know. Blogging is dead, yadda, yadda, yadda. But I don’t care. I still see plenty of thriving blogs on the internet–I think it is just that the way we connect is different now. We use social media instead of commenting, for the most part. And that’s okay with me–but so is leaving a comment if you feel like it.

I won’t blame you if you refuse to welcome me back. But I sure will be happy if you do. Because I’ve got some plans for 2020, yes I do. More regular blog posts, as mentioned, a new freebie, and maybe even, gasp, a couple of info products or classes. I’ll also start working on updating pages and eventually, a sorely-needed redesign. So stay tuned.

And in the meantime, another way to connect with me is through my weekly newsletter. It’s a love letter on various aspects of writing and writing inspiration, mostly the latter, and I also include links to cool articles and books. You can sign up here–I’d love to have you.

Or, if you’re interested in my workshops at home and abroad, check out my Let’s Go Write site. We have workshops coming up in England and France–and for those of you who live in Portland, we offer retreats pretty much on a monthly basis. Check it all out here. (That website is in the process of being re-designed so bear with us if its wonky for a bit.)

So, thanks for reading and Happy New Year to you! Let’s make 2020 a great one, despite what’s going on in the world.

Writing Coaching: What’s It All About, Anyway? + Gratitude Special + New Offer. Open to read about All the Things!

This post has a lot of moving parts, because there’s a lot going on! In it, I explain my coaching philosophy and what it looks like to work with me. It’s good information, but if your eyes lit up when you saw “gratitude special” or “new offer” in the subject line and want to learn about those, scroll down. Otherwise, carry on to read more.

What do you really want in 2020? To finish that novel? To write a memoir? To get a book contract or publish your own book? To submit a book proposal? Or maybe you just want to establish a regular writing practice, one that will feed and soother you through all life’s ups and downs.

Are you currently accomplishing these things? If not, I have a suggestion for you.  Why not ask for coaching as a Christmas gift? Those items you have on your Christmas list now? You’ll be tired of that cute outfit by next and that fancy blender will be gathering dust in the cupboard by this time next year. But if you spend the money on coaching instead, you could have a book out by this time next year. Or you could be submitting it to agents. Or you could have a completed book proposal.

Better yet, treat yourself.  There’s no better investment than spending money on you and what you’ve longed to do for so long. The world needs your voice, people.  Maybe what you need this year is coaching to get your words out in the world.

A lot of writers I come in contact with have vague ideas about writing coaching. They think they might need it—but they are not exactly sure what it entails. It sounds a bit mysterious and scary, too.  So, I’ve decided to demystify the process by explaining all the ways it can help you.

I’m also feeling all gushy and full of gratitude as we enter the holiday season, so I have special offering for you. But it’s only good until the end of November so you need to act fast!

And finally, for those of you who don’t need full-on coaching but instead some encouragement and nudging to get your creative practice back, I’ve designed a special program for you!

What is coaching all about, anyway?

First of all, let’s take a look at the coaching. Some of the concerns I’ve heard expressed include:

Does the coach tell me exactly what to do?

Does she boss me around and yell at me?  Send me off to do one hundred push-ups?

Do I have to do exactly what she says?

And what if I totally disagree with her?

I’m an old-school coach. I took life coaching training back in the early oughts, when it was still a relatively new thing. Back then, coaching was not about a stern coach telling you exactly what you needed to do. Rather, the coach understood that the client always knows the answer. It’s just that they sometimes need help pulling it up into the light of day.

I follow this precept in all my coaching. I assume that you know the answer—to what the next scene should be, or to why you aren’t sitting down to write regularly when you keep saying you want to.  But sometimes that answer is in your heart and hasn’t yet made it up to your brain. That’s where a good writing coach comes in.

How writing coaching can help you

–Getting words on the page. You want to write, but you have trouble getting to the computer. Or once you get there, you stare off into space without writing a word.

–Getting a supportive, objective opinion about your work. Yes, your mother loves it. But that’s what Moms do. They love you—and your work. A writing coach reads your work and tells you what works and what doesn’t.

–Help you develop ideas for plot and character. Brainstorming! Sometimes you need an objective eye to help you see things.

–Teach you everything about writing fiction and non-fiction. This is one reason I enjoy coaching so much—because as we discuss your work, I use examples from it as teaching moments.

–Help you establish a regular writing practice. You love to write, but you do it sporadically. You’d love to do it more.

–Guide you through the labyrinth of publishing. I’m familiar with both traditional and indie publishing and can help you decide which to pursue to begin with. After that, I can lead you through the process of submitting to agents. Or help you get going with self-publishing.

–Help you write a book proposal. Non-fiction books are sold through proposals these days. I’ve taught this, and guided clients to submit proposals that got rave reviews from agents. 

–Talk about marketing and social media. I know, you hate it. So do I. But it is a necessary evil that we must deal with.

How it works

You submit up to 20 pages of your work. I read it, critique it and send it back to you. We schedule a phone call to discuss it—and more, such as your writing practice and whether or not you are getting words on the page.

Gratitude Special

I’m grateful to all of you who read my newsletter. And I’m grateful to my wonderful clients. So I’m offering a Thanksgiving gratitude special.

Okay, here’s the deal. I’m raising my rates in January 2020. So if you are at all thinking of hiring me to coach you, now is the time to do it.

I’m also going to sweeten the pot. If you sign up by the end of November, I’ll gift you extra sessions! Those who sign up for a month (4 sessions) will get one extra session. That’s 5 sessions for the price of four. And those who sign up for three months (12 sessions) paid in advance, will get two extra sessions. That’s 14 sessions for the price of 12!

You can use these sessions any time, as you need them.

But remember—this gratitude special only runs through the end of November. You can start coaching any time it’s convenient, but to get the deal you need to commit and pay now.

New Offering: Jumpstart Your Writing!

Some of you may just need to get yourself going regularly again. You long to write but you never quite get to it. You don’t want to engage in a long-term coaching relationship and nor do you have a need for it.

What you do need is help establishing a regular practice.

I’ve realized that since this requires no reading and thus less of my time, I can offer a mini-coaching program to get you going again at a lower price. So here’s what I’m proposing: two or four hour-long sessions with me, depending on your needs. We’ll talk by phone or Skype or Zoom, whichever you prefer, and dig deep into your resistance and procrastination. Then we’ll figure out how to put those silly demons to rest once and for all so you can be the writer you long to be.

Because I’m passionate about helping writers get words on the page, I’m offering these at bargain basement rates: two hour-long sessions for $150, or four hour-long sessions for $300. I’ve got room in my schedule for just a few through the end of the year. Wouldn’t it be great to start 2020 with strategies and techniques to get your writing done?

Why me?

I’ve been teaching and coaching writing since 2003. I started shortly after I earned my MFA in fiction from Spalding University (have to brag a bit—it’s a top ten program). I’ve read hundreds of manuscripts, as a coach and editor and teacher.

And I’m a published novelist as well. My novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, was published in 2013 by Vagabondage Press, and my agent, Erin Niumata of Folio Lit, is currently shopping two other novels.

I’m not telling you this to brag (well, except for that one bit about my MFA program) but to tell you that I know my shit. I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s what I do. What I love.

And also—I’m nice. You’re not going to hear how terrible your work is from me. Yes, I’ll show you places where you can improve and explain why. But I’ll also point out what you’re doing right. I believe fervently that writers learn better from a supportive teacher than one who bullies.

So if you are interested, email me and we will set up a time to talk.  Or if you’re sure you want to do it and get in on the deal, reply and we’ll talk money, honey. And get going as soon as you want to!

A Love Letter About Being Busy and Flash Sales

As you read this, I’ll be on a plane home from Louisville, Kentucky, returning from a Homecoming celebration at my MFA alma mater, Spalding University.

But I’m writing this several days in advance, the Tuesday after Memorial Day to be exact, because, duh, I won’t have time while I’m gone. Meanwhile, I’ve managed to catch a cold and I still have mounds of work to do.

And that’s my whine for the day. Signing off. No, kidding. I’m still here.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I’m plowing through a to-do list a mile long. Okay, maybe half a mile. And my brain doesn’t seem to have a lot of extra room at the moment. Like, say, for writing a newsletter.

But it did have room for a brilliant idea to come through! Instead of writing a love letter I’m going to offer a flash sale. I actually thought about doing it over the Memorial Day weekend, when everybody else was, but I didn’t get around to it.

So here you go: flash sale on coaching. Yes, you heard that right.

I’m offering a 25% off my three-month, 12-session coaching plans.  I hate talking about money in a public forum, but let’s just say it’ll run you a bit under 1K. And be worth every penny.  Because if you’re struggling to write, or unsure where your novel or memoir is going, or don’t know a thing about writing, one-on-one coaching is a wonderful investment.

If you’re interested, all you have to do is email me at charlotte@charlottrainsdixon.com and we will figure out a time to talk.

And, for the record, I do hate it when people natter on about how busy they are, so I apologize. Part of the problem is that I’ve been so absorbed in plans for Louisville, and the workshop I’m teaching the weekend after, that I’ve not had much time to write. And that puts me off my feed, so to speak.

I would cheerily say we’d be back to normal next week, but that might not be true. Because I’m out of town again! (This time to teach my three-day novel-writing workshop at Sitka.) I’m sure we’ll all cope somehow.

A Love Letter About the Benefits of Being Prepared, in Writing and in Life

Be prepared.

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

Cue image of young boy dressed in khaki shorts and shirt with a kerchief tied around his neck. His hand is held next to his face in a three-finger salute.

Yeah, I know—are the boy scouts even a thing anymore? I don’t know. But whatever the current state of scout hood, their slogan lives on in our culture.

And I hate slogans like that.

Be prepared is kind of like the word discipline—it sends shivers up my spine. Because I’m a right-brained creative, all loosey-goosey and free and spirited and independent and all that. Being prepared is like absolving all sense of creativity, just like discipline.

Right?

Wrong.

Big time wrong.

I learned this the hard way with the first novel I wrote.

I got the idea and started writing. It was glorious, to this day one of the best writing experiences I’ve ever had. Once I sat down at my desk in the morning, I lost all track of time until my children arrived home from school and I’d be startled to see them.

And then I got to the end of the novel and realized it didn’t work. I’d gone done stray paths, off on tangents and into dark woods—none of which connected with each other. And it occurred to me that if I’d just taken time to get organized with some aspects of the novel ahead of time, that might not have happened.

So now I am a dedicated prepper.

But—I’m also still that same loosey-goosey right-brained writer who hates control or authority. So when I prep I do it in the most casual way possible and keep at it throughout the novel.

I mention all this because I happen to be teaching my system (hahahaha—I crack myself up, that sounds so grandiose) in a couple of places coming up. One is a quick half-hour interview on a telesummit and one is an actual three-day workshop. Okay, so I guess what I do is not that casual.

A bare bones outline: I talk about understanding setting, voice, style and theme, and the all-important character and plot. I am squeamish about getting too militant on rigid plot structures (there’s that freedom thing, you know—can’t box myself in), but I’m also fascinated with various theories of story. So I take the middle ground on that.

If you’re interested in either event, the information is below. And, of course, I’m always available for coaching on this topic and others related to writing.

In the meantime, are you prepared? For what happens in your next novel, or your life?

Love, light, and good writing,

P.S. Hit reply and tell me how you like to prep for things.

Things of Note

Articles

Here are my latest articles from Medium. (These are friend links, so you should be able to read them even if you’re not a paying customer.) If you read one and enjoy it, please do clap for it—clapping is one way that Medium’s algorithms work to pay me.

Establish a Positive Mindset

Stop Arguing for Your Limitations

And a couple of oldies:

The Collateral Benefits of Cultivating a Passion

Face the Daunting Page Like the Kick-Ass Writer You Are

Currently Reading

Still working on this one. It gets rave reviews, but I still think it is slow—and I’m over a hundred pages in:

The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides. I waited a long time to get this one from the library. So far, so good. Though the beginning is surprisingly slow for a book that has been hyped as the thriller of the year.

Okay, I lied. I gave up. The following book came in at the library and I started reading it and was hooked.

The Honey Bus, Meredith May. One of the reviews on Amazon called this book enchanting, and it is. It is a memoir with a ton of information about beekeeping in it as well.

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

The Writer’s Craft Telesummit—Free and online!  This starts tomorrow! Kevin Johns, the host, has interviewed a whole slew of writers on various topics relating to craft. My day is May 29th, and I’m talking about why you should prep for the novel, whether you’re a plotter or a pantser.

The Story Writer’s Path—I’m teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing, and it is incredibly inexpensive. We’ll go through all the things you need to do to prep to write a novel. You’ll leave ready to write—and that’s the only part of the process I can’t help you with! I’ve gotten two more sign-ups in the past week, but there’s still room for more if you’re interested. Click here for more info.

France 2019—Come to the south of France with me! Find all the details here. Limited space available and we’ve had another sign-up this week. I’d love to see you there!

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of interesting links and fun things related to writing.

This post contains affiliate links.

A Love Letter About the Sneakiness of Discouragement

I tend to get all excited about things and plunge in.

Like, say, an idea for a new book. Or an article or blog post. Or a whole new business. Or a knitted item.

I can see it all from start to finish. The end result is enshrined in my mind, surrounded with golden butterflies, silver hearts and rainbows. Happy music is playing. Unicorns prancing. (At least that’s what it feels like.)

And so, I plunge in. I’m a good, hard worker when I’m excited about something.

But I’m also very, very fickle. And easily bored. (Squirrel!)

So, very, very often, I get derailed.

It’s embarrassing to admit this, but if the rainbows and butterflies and unicorns take their time to appear, I ease off. The slow build is not for me.

And here’s the terrible part. I’m slacking off because I’m discouraged, and most of the time I don’t even know that. Because discouragement is a terrible, sneaky, beast.

I just realized this in relationship to my new habit of posting on Medium. There’s many reasons I prefer writing blog posts there as opposed to my blog that I’ve written for year. Chief among them is that the Medium interface is so easy and fun to use. It truly does remind me of blogging in the old days, when it was exciting and new.

And there’s a much bigger built-in audience.

There’s actual engagement again.

And you can make money.

This last has blinded me a little, I’ll admit. I read stories of people making a full-time income from Medium! Writers who publish one story and earn $543! And so on and so forth. It reminds me, again, of the glory days of blogging, when everybody and their uncle was pitching products that would tell you how to create blogging riches. (That ship has sailed big time.)

When my own earnings don’t quite hit that level overnight, when my view numbers aren’t stratospheric, when claps are low, discouragement kicks in and my enthusiasm wanes.

But, here’s the deal: I don’t even realize what’s happening. I tell myself I have more important things to do than write another post for Medium. I find myself ignoring the whole site, when usually I’m reading tons of articles on there. Or I just wander off and forget about it.

Because discouragement is a sneaky, sneaky beast.

But the good news is that it’s a beast that can be slayed.

It takes an act of huge will to realize what’s going on and get myself back on track. And writing blog posts for Medium isn’t the only arena where this happens. It happens with my novel, and, oh, just about any long-term project of any kind (knitting, say) I ever embark on.

What does that act of will involve? Observation. Becoming aware enough to ask myself, why haven’t I written a post for awhile? Where am I in the novel?

The funny thing is that once I realize what’s going on and pull myself back onboard, my enthusiasm reaches high peaks again. Until the next round of discouragement.

But at least I know how to kill it.

Things of Note

Articles

Here are my latest articles from Medium. (These are friend links, so you should be able to read them even if you’re not a paying customer.) If you read one and enjoy it, please do clap for it—clapping is one way that Medium’s algorithms work to pay me.

Increase Your Productivity by Following Your Natural Flow

Writing Mindset: Going All In

Currently Reading

The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides  I waited a long time to get this one from the library. So far, so good. Though the beginning is surprisingly slow for a book that has been hyped as the thriller of the year.

And I’m still working on both of the titles below. Neither is a fast read so they make great books to have on the night table, to be picked up once every few nights.

Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia, by Christina Thompson. https://amzn.to/2E2qTy3 This book is utterly fascinating to me. Many thousands of miles of vast, open ocean lies between many of the Polynesian islands, and yet they developed similar cultures. Highly recommended.

Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger https://amzn.to/2VE4r8J Still reading this one. It is not a quick read. I put it down for a few nights and read something else, then go back to it. I really love the way she handles language and scene.

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

The Writer’s Craft TelesummitFree and online! Kevin Johns, the host, has interviewed a whole slew of writers on various topics. My day is May 29th, and I’m talking about why you should prep for the novel, whether you’re a plotter or a pantser.

The Story Writer’s Path—I’m teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing, and it is incredibly inexpensive. We’ll go through all the things you need to do to prep to write a novel. You’ll leave ready to write—and that’s the only part of the process I can’t help you with! Click here for more info.

France 2019—Come to south of France with me! Find all the details here. Limited space available and we’ve had another sign-up this week. I’d love to see you there!

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of interesting links and fun things related to writing.

This post contains affiliate links.

A Love Letter About Creating a Container For Your Writing

A brief note: I’ve been having trouble with my website host, which is why I haven’t posted here for a couple of weeks. I’m doing a lot of blogging over at Medium, and you can see my posts here. I’ll keep posting my Love Letter every Sunday, but look for lots more articles about writing, inspiration, productivity and creativity on my Medium pages.  And, if you want to get my Love Letter directly into your inbox, you can sign up for that in the form to the left of this letter. I wasn’t sure what to write for this edition of my love letter.

Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash

Usually, I get an idea and it gathers steam throughout the week. Then, when it is time to put it all together, the words flow fairly easily.

But this week has been busy with a variety of things. I had a meeting of my bi-weekly critique group, I’m taking a class on self-publishing, and there’s the usual work for clients and my own writing. On top of that, my daughter was organizing the annual auction for her kid’s school, which was Friday night, and that required more of my time for picking up mini boyfriends from school and accompanying them on scooter rides to poach books from our favorite Little Free Library.

And so the clogged-up brain didn’t have much chance to cogitate on a love letter.

And I was facing the dreaded blank page.

Here’s what I try to remember to do in such situations: create a container.

No, I’m not urging you to start gardening, though it is a lovely activity. I’m talking about creating a container for your writing.

This is usually entails opening a file, giving it a name, and saving it. Simple, right? But there’s something about the act of making space for the next creation that helps to nudge it into being. I did this for this edition of the newsletter and I do it all the time for the next chapter of my book.

(Yes, I open a new file for each new chapter of the novel. Some people like to write it all in one file, and I have done that. I did it when I wrote Emma Jean. But it is easier for me to look at each chapter as a discrete unit, with rising and/or falling action, if I have it saved into separate files. And yes, I also know Scrivener makes compiling and un-compiling easy. But I’m still a Scrivener resister.)

You know the old saying—nature abhors a vacuum. And I do find this to be true. (So many of those old sayings are, which is why they’ve become clichés.) If you create a blank space, nature will rush in to fill it. Well, maybe not rush. There may be mental strolling.

I’ve been doing most of my blogging on Medium lately, and when I have an idea for a post, I open a new page on their site, and fill in some notes. Often, I don’t finish all in one sitting. So I’ve got several ongoing drafts going. As I think of things, I add them. At some point, it all comes together and I actually write the whole article.

There are other ways to create containers for your writing, too. Like buying (or recycling) a three-ring binder, for notes for your novel or memoir. Or getting your hands on a new journal or spiral notebook. Or opening up a new pack of index cards and arranging them in a holder. Oh, the promise of new office supplies!

And, come to think of it, a journal is a great container for your thoughts, your ideas, and your inspirations. While I still love pen on paper above all else, even your phone can be a container for your creativity. Open a file and write away. Capture your ideas before they float away.

Creating a container gives you a space to go that’s yours alone. Ready to be filled with all the glorious words.

Things of Note

Articles

Here are my latest articles from Medium. (These are friend links, so you should be able to read them even if you’re not a paying customer.)

How to Write a Fantastic Query Letter.

Just Focus on the Next Step

This Phrase is the #1 Killer of Dreams

Mindset Equals Success

Currently Reading

Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad, by Austin Kleon.  I still have this on my bedside table and read a bit every night. Fun and inspiring

Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger I got this one from the Book of the Month Club. I’d read a bit about it and was curious. The BoMC said it was a “difficult” read which almost turned me off. But I chose it anyway. And I’m glad I didn’t let that deter me. I’m really enjoying it. Not a lightning fast read, but who cares? She’s the kind of author that writes does detailed scene setting in a way I admire.

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

The Story Writer’s Path—I’m teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing, and it is incredibly inexpensive. Like $170 for three full days of teaching. Crazy, huh? We’ll go through all the things you need to do to prep to write a novel. You’ll leave ready to write—and that’s the only part of the process I can’t help you with! Click here for more info.

France 2019—Come to south of France with me! Find all the details here. We already have a number of people committed, so sign up soon.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and often we get some good conversation going.

This post contains affiliate links.

A Love Letter About Challenging Yourself

I went camping this weekend.

I am not a camper. I am a person who loves to stay in hotels, motels, and inns. Where there are rooms with warm, soft beds, a bar in the lobby to get a drink, maybe even a nice restaurant. Or even a crummy one. I like comfort and convenience, and a doorman to usher me in and out of the building.

I do not like sleeping in tents, dirt, or being cold.

But my granddaughter turned six on Friday and she wanted to go camping. I will do just about anything for my one and only granddaughter (the other three are all boys, and in truth I’ll do anything for them, too).

So we went camping.

There was dirt. And sticky marshmallow goop from S’mores all over everything, including the yarn of my knitting. Oh, and did I mention it rained? Actually, you might even describe as pouring. In buckets.

I rode down with my daughter and her two boys and the three-year-old threw up all over himself a mile or so from the campsite. As we stood on the side of the road, getting him cleaned up while I tried to entertain the seven-year-old, I said, “Well, at least they will have the cover set up and the fire going.”

Vomit taken care of, we continued on. And yes, they did have things set up and unpacked and the fire was going. The rain stopped and we ate hotdogs and the afore mentioned S’mores which can only be described as heavenly. There was wine and presents to be opened. I didn’t have to sleep in a tent, which creeps me out, and instead passed a semi-comfortable night in the back of my son-in-law’s work fan.

And it was all marvelous. I had a blast.

And now I’m looking at campers to buy.
I’m kidding about that last part. Sort of. But my point is that I had so much fun doing something that I had resisted for years. Something I had worried and fussed over.

How often do I do this in life? All the time. How often do I do it with my writing? All the time. I wring my hands and worry and tell myself I don’t know where the next scene is going and I fuss some more and then I finally sit down and force the words out.

And pretty soon they are coming out much more easily, and I remember why I love to write.

I’m going to try to remember my camping experience the next time I resist my writing. To challenge myself to forget all my stupid fears and carry on. And I hope you will, too.

Things of Note

Articles

Medium articles from the week (also, I’ve figured out how to get you a friend link so if my articles have been stuck behind a pay wall in the past they no longer are):

How to Establish A Regular Writing Practice

Quit Complaining About Not Having Enough Time to Write

Quit Resisting Journaling and Use it to Improve Your Writing

Currently Reading

I was in one of those funks where nothing I was reading was grabbing me. When that happens, I tend to put a book down and start another one, always longing for that immersive reading experience that makes me eager to get back to the book. Finally, finally, I picked up a book I’m eager to read at night.

A Tale of Two Families by Dodie Smith.

Her book, I Capture the Castle, is one of my favs of all time so I thought I’d try some of her others. And I’m loving this one. Of course, I just found out it is overdue at the library so I either have to read fast or buy it.

Circe, by Madeleine Miller

I had high hopes for this one. I’d read such glowing reviews. And the language is gorgeous, the description stellar. But I’ve gotten bogged down (okay, bored) story-wise. Haven’t fully given up yet, though.

Greek to Me, Further Adventures of the Comma Queen,  by Mary Norris.

Ditto to everything I said above. Except I think I’m giving up on this one.

Do you have a book to get me out of my dry spell?

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

Novel-Writing Workshop—I’m teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing. Click here for more info.

France 2019—Come to south of France with me! Find all the details here. We already have a number of people committed, so sign up soon.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and often we get some good conversation going.

This post contains affiliate links.

A Love Letter About Thinking Your Best Writing Thoughts

Think happy writer thoughts!

The writer’s brain can play tricks on you. At least mine does. It has a lousy memory. And it skews toward the negative when it is recalling things like the quality of my work.

As in, I think about a story I’ve been working on and groan. It’s so bad, I think. It will never be published. Why did I ever think I should be a writer? And on and on. Sometimes it takes a supreme effort to force myself to open the file.

And when I do, I’m surprised. Because the writing—and the work in general—is so much better than I remembered it.

My writer’s brain also forgets things like my best practices. I’ll wander past a blog espousing the importance of a detailed outline before starting a novel and I’ll panic because I don’t have one. Then I stop what I’m doing and begin working on one. Until I remember that writing those sorts of outlines don’t work for me.

Or, I’ll get excited about an idea and launch into working on it, forgetting that it works much better for me to get to know my characters and create a loose (and by loose, I mean very loose) list of scenes before I start writing.

I’m not the only one who does this. Case in point: a couple days ago, I was working with a client. I’m helping her with a memoir, the events of which took place nearly 20 years ago. She’s mostly characterized herself at that time as continuously crying, lost, powerless. But then she found the journals she wrote back then and a different story emerged. She was devastated by what happened, yes. But she also took practical steps to change her situation and responded to the unthinkable with love and compassion.

Our brains tend toward the negative, that’s all there is to it.

But recently I remembered something I read. Where and when is lost in the mists of time, and why it popped into my brain now is anybody’s guess. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot ever since.

It’s this: think the best thought you can.

As in, think the best thought you can at any given moment. Think the highest thought you can muster.

Writer’s brain, I’m looking at you! Think the best thought you can about your writing. We can debate endlessly whether thoughts are things. I happen to believe they are. But even if you don’t, I still think you ought to make a practice of thinking the best thought you can about your writing. Because why torture yourself? Doesn’t it feel better to think good thoughts than bad? Do dark thoughts make you write better or faster or different?

No, probably not. Instead, they likely make you write slower. Or not at all. At least that’s how my writer’s brain works. One whiff of negativity and poof! I’ve got an excuse not to write.

So I’m working on thinking the best thoughts I can—in writing and in life.

Leave a comment and tell me your best thoughts about your writing. For real! Do it! I may be a bit slow in answering, as I’ll be off on a writing retreat in a remote corner of Oregon that I hope to God has decent wi-fi.

Things of Note

Articles

Medium articles from the week:

Tips on Writing: Quick Fixes for Passive Voice

Writing Tips: Your Author’s Platform

The Muddle in the Middle: Finish Your Novel or Memoir (A Cautionary Tale, With Tips)

Currently Reading

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Just finished this one. I enjoyed it—and skimmed it a little, too. This is the second book I’ve read from this author and I notice she uses a lot of dialogue—sometimes page after page of it. It’s good, and easily readable, but also easy to skim.

The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks. Still working on this one. As seems to be my habit, I go all in for a book, even though I read several at a time. At the moment, I’ve been all in for the novel. I’ll definitely get back to this, though.

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

Novel-Writing Workshop—I’m also teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing. Click here for more info.

France 2019—Come to south of France with me! Find all the details here. We already have a number of people committed, so sign up soon.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and often we get some good conversation going.

This post contains affiliate links.