blogging · discipline · General Writing · goals · storytelling · Writing and Family

How to Write (or Get Your Writing Done)

My Dream

When I was a kid and decided I wanted to be a lyricist, I had to be inspired to write  a poem or song.  Inspiration usually came from pining over my latest crush, or listening to country music songs, or dreaming about being a famous songwriter when I grew up.  Most of my poems and lyrics were about love and heartbreak, except for the poem I wrote about my dog, Tippy. I wrote sad poems all through my teen years.

I took a break from writing in my twenties, but picked it up again when I was in my thirties and going through a divorce. I often would not write unless I was inspired by my own emotions. However, I was in my mid-thirties when I decided I need to find a way to practice writing discipline.

My lessons in discipline started when I signed up for creative writing classes taught by a published author. She told us that to be a writer you must write. We were required to submit 2,000 words each week, I believe, as well as participate in shared critiques of our work with classmates. This new writing routine was no easy task, especially for someone- me- who had spent some many years convinced that inspiration created the writing muse. I learned a lot while taking those writing classes.

Say Bu-bye to Inspiration

Inspiration is all in your head. It really is. Saying all those years that I could not write without inspiration was just another way of saying I was undisciplined, or maybe even  lazy when it came to my craft. While inspiration can motivate action, it was holding me back because I was allowing myself to write only when I felt like it. The bottom line is if you let that muse lead you, you will not get very much of anything done.

There is an old saying that inspiration has paved many roads to hell.  In the writing word, inspiration has paved many roads to  dead-end streets with garbage cans full of words that have been thrown away.

Say Hullo to Discipline

Treat discipline as a verb. This means taking action to  write in a way to ensure that your goals are being met. For example, if you plan is to submit stories to magazines, you need to sit down and write stories. If you want to find work as a non-fiction writer, you need to find magazines or paid sources to pitch to, and then write those articles.

A schedule is essential for a writer. whether it be a half hour in the morning, an hour in the evening, or every ten minutes on the hour throughout the day.  Go to your special writing space, shut out all distractions, fire your word processor up and start writing.  Just do it.

Create Goals

Once you have a schedule down, what are you going to do with all those words you are writing? I suggest creating goals, such as finding homes for the pieces you write. If you pen short stories, why not find magazines that accept your style of writing?  Duotrope is a great database to search short story markets.  Writer’s Digest offers this list, and  The Write Life blog lists 23 quality places to submit stories.

If you want make some or all your money from writing, then search out the writer’s job boards for projects that might be a fit for you. ProBlogger, Bloggingpro, and Freelance Writing are three job boards I like really well. Pick projects suitable for you, pitch your skills, and take a chance.

You can also find online blogs, publications, or websites that you would like to write for and do cold marketing. If you want to learn more about how to do this, I recommend The Well-Fed Writer (I saw Peter Bowerman speak a few years back, and he knows his stuff) and this blog by Elna Cain. There are many other blogs out there by people who make income from writing.

Stick to It

Once you have said goodbye to inspiration, hello to discipline, and created your goals, you need to stick to the plan. This does not mean you have to write every day, or be prepared to write at any given moment. It just means you need to treat writing as if it’s work.

If you have a nine-to-five job, then writing time might be a few hours a week, or three or four hours on the weekend. If you work part-time, then your writing time might be four or five hours every day. If you want to make income from writing, you need to make time to market yourself and get the word out about what you do.

So, no matter what you writing schedule is, or what you want to do with your writing, the important thing is to stick to the plan and get your writing done!

 

General Writing

Everything is a New Perspective

These last seventeen months have been ones of overload leading to renewal and a fresh perspective, and what feels like a new lease on life. My partner recovered well from his heart surgery. Late last spring, I changed law firms and now walk less than sixty seconds to my office. To celebrate all of our good fortunes, my partner and I spent a beautiful week during September 2016 in Rockport, Massachusetts with his family. Sometimes we visited castles, museums and islands, and other times we sat on the front porch eating snacks, sipping beverages and talking about memories and experiences.

I wish I could share that I have gotten plenty of creative writing done this year, when in fact my attention has been focused on writing articles for the Reap Record, the newsletter for Redwood Empire Association on Paralegals. I also, upon invitation, wrote an article on construction defect for our local Bar Association journal.

My creative writing has been on the back burner for too long, but now I am pushing myself to submit a short story to our local anthology.  I am exactly ten days away from the deadline and about 500 words in, with the story allowed a maximum word count of 2500.  All stories submitted for consideration must be about Sonoma County.  Two of my characters are from the late eighteen-hundreds who lived a small town in the northern part of the county, and my main character is from the same town in the mid nineteen-seventies.  In fact, if you were sitting in my office right now, you would see the pictures of my characters pinned to my bulletin board, along with photographs of that small town that burned down years ago.

Now that I am back in action mode, I have decided it’s time to set some goals:

  1. This week I will complete my short story and submit it before the deadline.
  2. This weekend I will work on my tax returns.
  3. Next week I will complete my article on family law for the Reap Record.
  4. During the coming weeks, I will do the necessary footwork for a mutual project in the works.

Finally, it’s time to get devote at least an hour a day to sitting in the chair and working on my stories. At some point, I will also decide whether to permanently shelve my novel, or refurbish parts into a new story.

Happy writing all, and always allow words to empower you.

The Glory

Surprise!

Yes, that’s Surprise in the literal sense!

It all started late last year when I was participating in a book launch at Copperfield’s Books for Water, an anthology published by Redwood Writers. After I read my short story, “The Wrong Address,” a woman came up to me, asked for my email address, and said if I heard from her it would be to adapt my story into a play. I was flattered she liked my story, but I forgot about the incident after a few days.

Well, about a month ago, my boss came to me and said he’d received an email from a Hilary Moore asking for my contact information because she wanted to make my short story into a play.  I had been surprised when my story was accepted into the anthology because it had been rejected by several magazines, but the email from Hilary was even more surprising! After she told me the mission of the Off The Page Reader’s Theater is to showcase local writers, I accepted with pride.

The last few weeks I have been walking on air in anticipation of event happening on April 24, 25, and 26, 2015.   I have shared the news and the event flyer (to the left) on Facebook, as well as published the information in the Redwood Writer. Don has told all his family and friends about the play, and many loved ones will be attending.

On April 25, Don and I will go out to dinner with family and then enjoy the play together. I can’t wait.

This success truly has taken me by complete Surprise! I feel more inspired to take charge of my writing life and continue putting words onto paper. In fact, just a week ago, I entered a short story, a psychological thriller, into a local writing contest. I am not much on contests, but I thought this might be kind of fun.

I have been able to cut back on the overtime at work and am taking advantage of the time to continue writing my novel in progress. I would also like to write some more short stories, as I believe I write better shorts than I do novels.

Someone suggested that I think about putting together a collection of short stories for publication.  I could do that, but I would want them all to be published elsewhere. I have four short stories that have been published, so that’s a good start.

Finally, I want to encourage all my writer friends and acquaintances to be proud of all writing successes and to continue writing.

Happy Writing all!