Tag Archives: inspiration

7 Blog Posts Sure to Wash Your Rainy Day Away

 

17207988968_9ca58cbdc4_oEveryone has those days where nothing seems to go right. Lady Luck is nursing a hangover. Karma decided to kick you in the butt. All you want to do is crawl under your covers and start anew tomorrow.

Let’s face it. Writers probably have a good number of those days, whether it’s because we wrote ourselves into a corner or got yet another rejection from a literary agent.

But, since hiding out under the covers isn’t feasible, here are seven links to blog posts that inspired me. I hope they inspire you too.

  1. The problem isn’t that life is unfair – it’s your broken idea of fairness

This article reaffirmed what I knew to be true, but didn’t want to admit. Life isn’t like what you were told when you were little. Just because you work hard or are a good person, doesn’t mean you’ll get everything you want.

However, once you master the real rules of life, you’ll be able to accomplish your goals. This article helps you toward figuring out and taking control of life’s rules.

But what’s almost more interesting than the article, are the comments that follow.

  1. Compatibility and Chemistry In Relationships

If you’re like me, you’ve used compatibility and chemistry interchangeably in the dating world. But compatibility and chemistry are two different concepts. This article delves into the differences between compatibility and chemistry, and why both concepts are necessary for a happy, loving relationship.

  1. The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes

This post comes from the blog, “zen habits.” A minimalist-style blog, zen habits tells it like it is, and then offers ways to increase life satisfaction by providing an alternative perception of the world.

One of my favorite aspects of this article is how the inevitability of change is presented in both a painful and beautiful light. Without change, stagnancy occurs. Change is necessary to evolve. Yet, most people resist change, and therefore create suffering for themselves. Through change, life can improve, but only if you embrace the change.

  1. 12 Lessons of Waking Up at 4:30 a.m. for 21 Days

I don’t know if I’d be able to do this, but I give props to Filipe, and to his new world view. This article is about more than waking up before the sun. It’s about eliminating obstacles and committing to a plan. The consequence of which is becoming more productive.

If I woke up at 4:30 a.m., I could get in a morning workout, or write for two hours before work. One of my professors told me that it’s good to write before your brain fully turns on, because when your brain is fully awake, your judge—that critic within you, who nitpicks your work—makes it harder for you to be creative.

  1. Find What You Love and Let It Kill You

All of these articles apply to writers in some way, but this one showcases how necessary it is for writers to write what they’re passionate about. As Gene Fowler said, “Writing is easy; all you have to do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”

  1. Fear is the Root of Your Problems

This article ties into the next. Many times in life we find ourselves up against something we fear. Often times, we don’t consciously recognize that the problem we’re currently having is based in fear. In this post, dealing with fear is addressed.

One part of this post I enjoy is how fear isn’t seen as the enemy. Fear is an integral part of us. Seeing fear as something we must destroy only harms us.

  1. Finding Peace with Uncertainty

I put this last because uncertainty is a huge part of a writer’s life. In this article, learning how to be okay with and even look forward to uncertainty is explored.

In the literary world, where less than one percent of writers become traditionally published authors, we have to learn to coexist with uncertainty. It’s the only way we’ll persevere.

What are some articles that have inspired you?

(Photo courtesy of john mcsporran.)

Quotes and Rejections: Surviving the World of Publishing

It’s safe to say writing is my passion. I like the act of writing, reading about writing, learning about writing, reading in general, both fiction and non-fiction, adult and young adult. Without writing my life would lack a vital component, but there are times when I don’t feel like writing or I feel like I’m not any good at it. Sometimes I’m tempted to throw down the pen and quit.

Writing isn’t easy. Shelling out an entire novel, revising, getting it critiqued, and revising a few more times is a long process. Then, having to write and revise the synopsis, blurb, and query letter all in the hopes of having an agent declare your book worthy of being published is another arduous step in the very long process of finding a place for your work among the shelves of other published novels.

Sometimes it all just feels futile, like you’re bashing your head repeatedly against a brick wall.

Long_and_Winding_Road_by_anonyms_one

When these moments of futility occur, I turn to quotes by published authors. It helps to know that I’m not alone in this process or feeling like I can’t find the right way to describe something…or that my work is a load of crap that should be burned.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite quotes:

“One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or ten pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
– Lawrence Block

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
– E. L. Doctorow

“You can’t write a novel all at once, any more than you can swallow a whale in one gulp. You do have to break it up into smaller chunks. But those smaller chunks aren’t good old familiar short stories. Novels aren’t built out of short stories. They are built out of scenes.”
– Orson Scott Card

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
– Ernest Hemingway

“It’s like making a movie: All sorts of accidental things will happen after you’ve set up the cameras. So you get lucky. Something will happen at the edge of the set and perhaps you start to go with that; you get some footage of that. You come into it accidentally. You set the story in motion and as you’re watching this thing begin, all these opportunities will show up. So, in order to exploit one thing or another, you may have to do research. You may have to find out more about Chinese immigrants, or you may have to find out about Halley’s Comet, or whatever, where you didn’t realize that you were going to have Chinese or Halley’s Comet in the story. So you do research on that, and it implies more, and the deeper you get into the story, the more it implies, the more suggestions it makes on the plot. Toward the end, the ending becomes inevitable.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“We writers are apt to forget that, as the gunsmoke fogs and the hero rides wildly to the rescue, although the background of this furious action is fixed indelibly in our own minds, it is not fixed in the mind of the reader. He won’t see or feel it unless you make him—bearing always in mind that you can’t stop the gunfight or the racing horse to do the job.”
– Gunnison Steele

“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!”
– Ray Bradbury

“Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”
– Jim Tully

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.”
– William Faulkner

“Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people of your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.”
– Leslie Gordon Barnard

“Don’t be dismayed by the opinions of editors, or critics. They are only the traffic cops of the arts.”

– Gene Fowler

“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.”
– Leigh Brackett

At times it may seem like published authors were immediately successful. Agents and publishing houses love advertising their wildly successful writers. However, most writers didn’t get an agent after they queried only five agents. They didn’t sell millions of copies of their debut novel. Most authors worked hard and diligently for years and received countless rejections before finding success.

Probably one of the best examples of this is J.K. Rowling. Though she got an agent quickly, she was rejected by almost every publishing house in the UK before her book sold. On top of that, she was told to get a day job because she wouldn’t make any money off of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.”

J.K. Rowling is now a billionaire and one of the most well-known authors in history.

Some other examples:

The “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series received over a hundred rejections. I don’t know about you, but I owned several of those books when I was younger, and the ones I owned were only a few of over a million copies that sold.

C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” spent years getting rejected before it sold. Not only is this series famous, several movies have been made of it.

Dan Brown was told his “The Da Vinci Code” was too badly written to be published. Millions of sold copies and a movie later, he’s doing just fine.

H.G. Wells was told his “The War of the Worlds” was “An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.’” It was published in 1898, is still in print, and was made into a movie both in 1953 and 2005.

The list goes on…

This isn’t so common nowadays with most literary agents preferring email query letters instead of paper, but authors will talk about how they received enough rejections to wallpaper a room or that they have drawers full of rejection letters. Yet, despite being told their work isn’t good enough to be published over and over again, they persisted, and enough they became published.

As Isaac Asimov says, “You must keep sending work out. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.”

Got any quotes on writing or rejection you turn to?

(Photo courtesy of Deviant Art.)

How to Start a Piece of Fiction

Where do stories come from? Are they born from birds with eagles’ beaks and tails of fire? Do they originate from springs with waters so crisp and clear you’d stop aging if you drank from them? Can you reach up into the sky and pluck stories from clouds?

That would be cool. But where do stories come from?

Everywhere.

They can come from an experience you or someone else had. Or they can start with something you heard. What you heard set off a spark. It inspired you.

Perhaps a story began with a character. Or a complication. The exploration of an idea. Maybe the story came from the question “what if.” Toni Morrison got the idea for her novel, Beloved, from an old newspaper clipping of a mother murdering her baby, just before she was dragged back into slavery. Morrison was interested in why the mother killed her child. What would drive a mother to murder her infant?

Twilight came from a dream Stephenie Meyer had.

A story can even begin with a sentence. Whatever causes that first spark, that bit which makes you want to examine an idea. Makes you need to explore it. Obsess over it.

A few tips on starting a novel:

  • Get it down. Whether the idea or words are good or not, write it. Put it on paper. Any negative emotions that come up (“This is stupid,” “No one thinks I’m a real writer,” “This is such a waste of time,” “I suck at writing.”) shouldn’t stop you because emotions change. Something you hate now, you may love later. The opposite also applies.

There’s a quote a professor I once had said. One of his former students said it to him. I’ll say it to you guys.

“It’s amazing what you can do as a writer, when you don’t care about what others think of you as a writer.”

  • Write what you know and don’t worry about what you don’t know. Many novels are written piece by piece, and then put together. Write the parts of the story you can picture clearly. You’ll figure out what you can’t see down the road, if you need to.
  • If you hit a roadblock, jump over it. There’s really nothing in fiction you can’t get away with. You make up the rules, the laws. If everyone is blue and can fly, then so be it. And if you get stuck, skip over it and come back. Whatever you do, don’t stop writing (Unless you feel like your head’s about to explode, then take a short break. Go for a hike. Watch something that makes you laugh).

In the end, you can get an idea for a story anywhere and start a story with anything. The key is to persist and not get overwhelmed. Don’t talk yourself out of completing a story, or even starting it. Get an idea, write it down. Flesh it out. Mold it. Sculpt it. And when you do get another idea, jot that one down too, so when you’re finished with the one you’re working on, you have another idea to build with.

Where do you get your ideas?

Watch Out! Slumps That Could Prevent You Finishing Your Novel

You’ve probably had a lot of ideas for novels. However, how many of them actually became a novel? My guess is not all of them. Most likely, most of them haven’t.

That’s not unusual, or a bad thing.

The problems begin when you find months have passed and you haven’t progressed, none of your ideas became novels, or you realize your novel is a hot mess and just stop.

Here are some things to watch for and how to fix them:

  1. The idea. You’ve got a great premise for a novel, but you don’t do any planning. The Fix: Move forward and set goals. You need to do some planning, even if it’s only a short synopsis (but it would be better to have more than that). Know your characters and the plot. You have to be familiar with what’s going to happen, so you can build up to it.
  2. The roadblock. You hit a wall and get stuck, and end up never getting back to your novel. The Fix: Don’t blindly plow through the problem. Stop writing and work on the problem itself. For example, if you’re unsure how your protagonist will react to a situation, don’t go ahead and jot down something that might be right. Take the time to figure out how your character would react. That way her reaction seems authentic.
  3. The First Draft. Great! You’ve finished your novel! You happily send it off to agents, just knowing the offers of representation are going to come pouring in. The Fix: First off, STOP. What you’ve got is a first draft. It’s not ready to be sent out. Reread, revise, give to beta readers, reread, revise, take a week or two away from it, reread, revise. It feels like a lot of work because it is. However, doing this will significantly up your chances of snagging an agent rather than if you simply sent out your first draft.

What writing slumps have you experienced? How’d you fix them?

Kicking Writer’s Block to the Curb

Many writers have experienced writer’s block at some point. Whether it’s not being able to come up with an idea or having a ton of ideas but not being able to commit to any of them. Getting stuck on a specific part of an outline or chapter, hitting a dead end and not knowing where your story took a wrong turn, not being able to find the right words, or having your inner critic shoot you down.

Many think that writer’s block can be overcome through sheer willpower. We want it to go away enough, then it will. However, sheer willpower doesn’t work all the time because there is usually something internal going on that we may be missing.

This internal conflict may be fear. We may have a voice in our head that says we’re not good enough, that we’re never going to get published, that everyone will think our writing is rubbish, or it could be the opposite.

Veronica Roth has dealt with anxiety issues due to caring a lot about what other people think. When she got famous, her anxiety spiked because she was in the public’s eye, and every person that read her work, and some that didn’t, were weighing in their opinions.

Some of those opinions weren’t pretty, especially when it came to Allegiant, the final book in Roth’s Divergent trilogy. Commenters said she destroyed her career, they gave her book one star reviews, and there were even some death threats. Talk about being negative, and wanting someone to conform to what people believe an ending should be.

But before I go too far down that bunny trail, let’s get back to writer’s block.

How do people get unstuck?

First off, understand what’s going on in your head when you get blocked. To do this, you need to become aware, to consider alternatives. It doesn’t help to use trial and error, to wait for inspiration, or to insist on a perfect draft.

Heads up: Perfectionism is a very good way to develop writer’s block.

Work on separating your inner voice from the daily world. If you’re worrying about what to get at the grocery store, whether or not you got an A on your biostatistics test, if your boss was happy with your latest article, if your boyfriend is still mad at you for not calling him back, and the fact that you haven’t had time to workout for three days in a row, you’re going to have a difficult time delving into your creative side.

Some ways to help connect with your inner voice:

  • Take a break from whatever you’re writing and do anything that’s creative. Paint, take pictures, make a scrapbook, woodwork, work on your website or blog.
  • Exercise. Doesn’t have to be strenuous. Get up and dance, practice yoga, go on hike or a walk around the neighborhood. Go for a bike ride. Find something that brings you to a peaceful state.
  • Free write. Take fifteen-twenty minutes to write whatever comes to you. It can be completely random, grammatically incorrect, and with a ton of punctuation errors. Just write.
  • Eliminate distractions. Put the phone away. Log off Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and whatever else you use for social media. Clean up your workspace. Find a quiet place to work. Let your family know that solitude is important to staying focused.

Most importantly, let go of your insecurities. That’s a lot easier said than done. But once you work through your fears and not worry about what others think, you’ll find the creative side of you is readily available.

Two quotes for overcoming writer’s block:

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” – Ernest Hemingway

“I haven’t had trouble with writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, clichéd writing, outright flailing around. Writing that doesn’t have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments. It seems writer’s block is often a dislike of writing badly and waiting for writing better to happen.” – Jennifer Egan

Have you ever had writer’s block? How did you overcome it?

The Birth Of An Idea

There’s one question writers tend to get asked universally: Where do your story ideas come from? 

There’s no one response to this question. There’s no correct answer that will help those searching for inspiration find it. 

Ideas can flow from anywhere. Many times they simply materialize out of the writer’s head. But there are some ways you can spark or jog ideas into something greater:

  1. Daydreams or nighttime dreams. If you remember what you dreamed about, you can often find inspiration. You just have to notice the details and pay attention to what can be used and what can’t.
  2. People, places, images. You could be sitting at the beach and notice a girl running along the sand. Something about her starts your mind churning. You could be visiting an ancient castle, once great but now in ruins. You could see an old woman, sitting at a kitchen table, holding a stack of half burned letters in her hands.
  3. Disagreements. Is there something you don’t agree with in the novels you read? How about in TV series? Is there something you believe is missing in these novels and TV shows?
  4. Ask yourself “What if…” type questions. What if you woke up and found yourself in a forest, naked?  I wonder what is behind that locked door. If only I could step into the trunk of a tree and find myself in another world.
  5. Experiences and emotions. Are there any experiences you’ve had or someone you know has had that stuck with you? Are there certain emotions or a combination of emotions you want to explore?

Ideas can sprout from anything and any moment. Finding ideas isn’t the hard part. The challenge is figuring out which ideas are worth pursuing, and then giving those ideas form on paper, fleshing them out enough to create an engaging and believable story.

Where do you get your ideas?