Tag Archives: improve your writing

When Inspiration Surprises You, Don’t Gag (But You Can Grab Your Towel)

I’m normally not one to share bits and pieces from motivational books. So much so, that a friend and I have a running joke: if something she wants to post makes me roll my eyes and say, “That’s gag worthy,” then she knows it’s sufficiently inspirational. We call it the “gag check.”

But I was flipping through a magazine the other day and came across an excerpt from Agapi Stassinopoulos’ new book, Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life. If I’d only read the blurb on the back cover, I wouldn’t have given a second thought to this book. It begins with, “This is your year of self-discovery, a journey to create a life filled with grace, meaning, zest, peace, and joy,” continues on, “And you’ll learn to trust your creativity, keep your heart open, and connect to the bigger spirit that lives inside you,” and ends, “Use it as a tool to unlock your goodness, and wake up to the joy of you!”

It all sounds a bit melodramatic for my taste. And then, I read the excerpt in the magazine article. This comes from the Weightwatchers magazine (March/April 2017) I discovered laying in the middle of the dining room table at my mother’s house:

“Consider this:14993052203_0b32989fc6_k

  • “You have 37.2 trillion cells in your body (compare that to the 400 billion stars in the galaxy!).
  • “The cells that make up your body are dying and being replaced all the time.
  • “By the time you’ve read this sentence, roughly 25 million cells will have died, but you’ll make 300 billion more as your day unfolds.

“Take a moment in reverence of the miracle of life you are.

“We have nothing to do with making this miracle happen; it’s working in spite of use, our inexhaustible life force. yet we take all this for granted. We worry that our breasts are too small, our butt too big, or our nose too long. If you ever feel insecure, insignificant, or inadequate, remember that there are more cells in your body than stars in the galaxy.”

The excerpt continues on in the article, but I found this part particularly interesting. I’d never thought about the human body that way. I’ve had my share of medical issues, and I’ve known others who’ve had theirs, and often I’m frustrated by how the human body can be both amazing–after all, human beings beat out all other similar lifeforms to survive to the modern age–and damaged. It can sometimes feel like our bodies are constantly failing us, and I occasionally wonder how human beings survived at all.

Then, I read this article, and it is incredible how complex our bodies are. We are dying and renewing every second of every day for all the years we’re alive.We’re not perfect, but we have a lot going for us. One of the biggest things is that we are capable of change. As a species, we might not like change because it’s challenging; it’s so much easier to keep the status quo, but we are able to alter our lives.

As Rob Reiner said, “Everybody talks about wanting to change things and help and fix, but ultimately all you can do is fix yourself. And that’s a lot. Because if you can fix yourself, it has a ripple effect.”

I think this can apply to writing as well, because writing can influence how people see the world. Not only your writing, but what you read. In my writing, I attempt to include deeper, more complex topics beneath the commercial plot, and most of my favorite books do the same. In terms of Stassinopoulos’ novel, just the excerpt made me think about my body differently. What I’ve been able to accomplish, while having medical complications, is amazing. My body is still going strong, despite what I’ve been through. My closest friends are the same way.

Take the time to appreciate your body and all the incredible things it does.

(Photo courtesy of Tom Hall.)

 

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Creating a Creativity-Fueled Workspace

16389062895_f1863e1609_oA few of my professors told me to write every chance I got. One professor in particular stated that she would take advantage of every opportunity, including while she was waiting in her children’s school pick-up line. She said she could get a good fifteen minutes of writing in. All you had to do was block out any distractions. Focus on your writing.

I tried something similar to that. However, it was an utter disaster. I kept getting distracted by all the people and noises around me. Plus, the air conditioning was cranked way up. All I could think about was how I wished I’d brought a jacket.

Even writing in my house, while other people are moving around me, is distracting. In grade school I never was able to watch TV/listen to music, while doing homework. The same goes for my writing. For me, I need to have a separate space, a space that’s distraction free. That means no music, TV, or other people. This is doubly so for revision, because I like to read aloud and talk to myself, while editing. I may even act out a few scenes to get all the staging straight.

Some things I’ve found that help me focus and get my creativity flowing are:

  1. Choose your space. This one seems obvious, but it can be more difficult than it first appears. Some people are able to work anywhere. I envy those people. If I don’t have a place, where I feel inspired and motivated and won’t be distracted, my brain will shut down. There’s a good chance I’ll end up watching TV or reading.

Think about the places where you’ve written your best pieces. Maybe it’s a specific bench at a park. Maybe it’s in your sunroom. Maybe it’s laying in the middle of the floor. The spot you choose should be relatively quiet, because you want to escape into your head.

Pay attention to the position your write in. For me, I write best when I’m sitting upright at a desk or cross-legged on the floor with my laptop and notebook on the coffee table. I like to be able to spread out, so I need a decent sized writing space.

  1. De-clutter. If you’ve ever done spring cleaning, you know that after you cleaned out your closets and drawers and have vacuumed and scrubbed every surface, you feel a lot better. De-cluttering is one of the best ways to increase motivation and productivity.

You may not notice it pre-cleaning, but clutter blocks creativity. The times that I’ve allowed clutter to accumulate, I’ve felt overwhelmed looking at the mess. I also felt cramped. I kept thinking about the mess. Once I cleaned up, my creative juices flowed a lot easier.

  1. Have natural light. This one is very important. Sunlight improves mood, alertness, and productivity. There’s a reason seasonal affective disorder occurs more often in the winter months than summer or why Alaskans tend to drink a lot more alcohol in the winter than summer.

Without good lighting, a space can appear dull. A fog settles over our brains decreasing our ability to think clearly and cohesively. Poor lighting affects our emotions. Good lighting induces feelings of elation, while dim lighting creates depressive feelings.

I write better when I have exposure to natural light. I’m able to concentrate on my writing and am in better touch with my emotions. However, I can’t face a window, while writing, because I’ll end up watching what’s going on outside.

Where’s your writing workspace?

(Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.)

Don’t be a Bad Writer! Learn What Good Writers Know

14753911496_29be0d1081_mMany people talk about bad writing versus good writing. Often the label of “good” or “bad” extends past the writing to the writer. There are many possible reasons as to why one writer may be considered “bad,” while another is thought of as “good.” But what is the main difference between good and bad writers?

Resilience.

Good writers are persistent. They refuse to give up. Bad writers stop when they hit a roadblock.

Most often a writer’s first novel isn’t all that great. Writing takes work, and the more you write, and the more you learn to write, the better you become at it. Writing a novel, short story, etc. is a big feat. However, writing a piece of work is only the first part. Revising and editing a piece comes after. Many times revision takes longer than writing the piece.

A writer friend of mine can write a novel in one month. Her first draft is a hot mess (she’s a pantser), which is part of the reason why it takes her months to revise. Typically, she’ll revise her novel twice before she gives it out to two to three beta readers. Then, she waits for their feedback, and when she gets that feedback, she listens to it.

Another friend of mine recently admitted that for the vast majority of feedback he receives, he simply nods his head and smiles, and then ignores whatever was said, rejecting it without any consideration. It’s not all that surprising that he is nowhere near as successful in the writing world as my previously mentioned friend.

Criticism makes your writing better. Having people other than yourself look at your work, allows you to see past your blind spots. You don’t have to be a perfectionist to be a good writer, but you do have to persevere, rewrite, and write consistently.

Bad writers don’t realize this, or choose not to.

You may have come across writers who get defensive when they receive feedback on their work. Maybe you’re one of those writers. It doesn’t help to be closed off to criticism. Yes, it can be frightening to think that your work it brilliant and then receive feedback and realize that your writing needs a lot of work. But in the end, your work will be more realistic and believable. It will have better pacing and will suck readers in. Make your work the best it can be, so that readers will stay up all night just to finish your work.

Do all you can to improve your writing. Be open to feedback and changing your work, even if that means cutting out a few chapters, eliminating a beloved character, or starting over. The goal is to make your work shine. Do whatever is necessary to make that happen.

What do you think?

(Photo courtesy of Internet Archive Book Images)