Eureka! My Story is an Infant…

I claim to be a writer of all things.

Sometimes, that feels like a lie.

It’s not as if I don’t have good reason to make this claim. In the past 15 years or so, I literally have written just about everything. From employee training manuals to web content, news articles to speeches. I covered events I had never been to and wrote multi-page news stories about them. I’ve cranked out literally hundreds of pages of web content about things so foreign to me I had to learn a new language to write it.

I don’t claim to be the best, I don’t even claim to be good. I just do what I am stirred to do. Writing is my bread and water. I breathe it in, it sustains me. I’ve done so much writing in so many different ways that none of it really intimidates me anymore. Except for one thing.

Which is why saying I’m a writer of all things sometimes feels like a farce.

I’ve been working on writing a fictional novel off and on for almost nine years. I’ve talked myself in and out of it a thousand times. I’ve (driven my writer’s group crazy) completely given up on it, and then the story comes lurking into my peripheral vision again, and I’m summoned to pull my butt out of bed at 3am to hammer out a new scene. The writer’s version of self-masochism.

Writing a novel is my biggest dream. It also scares the hell out of me.

Why? Because all that other writing, web content and news articles and speeches and such, that’s all small potatoes. If you ask me, fiction is the real McCoy. You’ve got to be a damn good writer to make a fictional story REAL.

This notion terrifies me.

You see, I have these wonderfully enchanting, beguiling stories in my head. (Trust me when I say that having an overzealous muse is both a blessing and a curse.) My characters are…beautiful. They are lovable and jaded and scarred and passionate and mysterious and utterly human. They have rich and complicated histories that bring them to perfectly fit into their place in the story. My book is full of intoxicating circumstances and exciting plot twists and turns that I know, if written well, will keep readers turning pages into the latest hours of the night.

Those are the things that I know, will sell my book. Those are also the things that keep me from writing it.

How will I do them justice?

How will I give my story the writing it deserves?

And so I start and stop and edit and rewrite and quit. I swear novel-writing off for good, go to work on other projects and am slowly drawn back into it. (Damn it.)

I go through it all again. And Again. And Again.It’s like that on-again, off-again boyfriend that you were both drawn to and repulsed by at the same time. (I now fully understand why all the literary greats were drinkers.)

Which brings me back to my book. Which I’m writing. For the hundred and seventy second time. Again.

This go-round has gone unexpectedly well. Last week I finished outlining the plot and chapter sequence and for a flash of a second, I felt like I might actually be able to kick this feeling of inadequacy and get this story written, once and for all.

Eureka!  I drove home from the coffee shop screaming out my car window: “I’m wriiiiiiting a noooveeeeell!” Several strange glances ensued. But I didn’t care. For the first time in maybe, EVER I actually felt like the real McCoy.

And then life happened. Work. Laundry. Kids. School. Tantrums. Grocery shopping. Sicknesses. Cleaning. Family dinners. I didn’t have an opportunity to write again for nearly a week.

And by then, of course I had over-thought the chapter sequence ten thousand times, to the point of convincing myself that all the holes in the story were going to be its downfall.

Aaaaaaaaaaghhhhh! Someone please make it stop!

But….

One night after the house was silent and all the family was long asleep, my muse awoke and beckoned me. I crept over to my desk and flipped open my laptop.

Go on, open it up love. Give it a read.

Read what?

Don’t be bloody ridiculous. You know what.

Since when are you British?

I have your attention, do I not?

Yes.

Ahhh, then no need for further discussion. So let’s have a look then shall we?

Go on love, read on.

I double-clicked the draft of my story on my desktop, and blindly started reading. The first chapter, along with some other passages, sections I had edited and rewritten half a dozen times, struck me as well-crafted. Others were not so hot, obviously slammed out in a twenty five minute increment between a laundry-folding marathon and pick up time at preschool. Some of the dialogue read like choking on cream cheese. And of course a whole hell of a lot of it what I had in my draft, I wanted to cut and paste into the recycle bin.

Keep going.

Why? Self torture?

Just do it.

So I read on. I read through the entire draft. Sure enough, I found more cheese and more garbage. But every so often, I’d uncover gem, glittering in the midst of telling-not-showing, cheesy dialogue and mindless narrative. In a few, fleeting passages I found pieces of the real, whole, perfect story. Characters, waiting for the story to morph and unfold them out of the confines of their pages, to come alive in the hearts and minds of readers. Waiting to be made real.

*Sigh*

I closed the document and sat quietly, my face illuminated by the glow of my laptop screen. I sunk my chin into the palm of my hand and stared into a picture of my two daughters, sitting on my desk.The voice appeared again, like a faint jingling of tiny bells  inside some quiet corner of my brain.

Your daughters. What lovely creatures they are.

They are a lot of time. And work. And patience. But they are lovely, aren’t they?

They are the very products of your life and your love.

Did you know how you were going to teach them things, when they were born?

No.

 When they were infants, did you ever fault them for not knowing how to smile?

Of course not. Watching a smile cross their faces for the first time was magic.

Did you ever give up teaching them how to talk? How to walk?

No. The little one had some trouble. I took her to physical therapy… after that she was off and running in no time.

Will you stop giving them any less love, knowing they still have so far to go?

Not a chance.

I have loved them, adored them at every stage. Watching them grow and evolve, supple spring leaves sprouting, unfolding, fading into a thousand brilliant shades, a new hue and texture and purpose for every season. That has been the greatest joy of my life.

This is what your writing needs, love. Love.

Yeah, but what about the—

You have to love your story for what it is, at any given time. All of it. At every stage.

It is no less loveable now, in its infancy, than your toddler was when she learned to walk. Your 8 year old learning to sing, or when she is a teenager and gives her heart away for the first time…

As you give your time and your love and effort to it, it will grow. It will get bigger and better and stronger and more beautiful with every stroke of the keys on your keyboard.

Slowly, it will become whole.

 And when it is ready, you will know. And then you will let go.

I took a breath. The voice fell silent and I sat for awhile in the dark, thinking about my story, about  what I had written from a new perspective. With the love and hope that every parent carries in her heart.

I realized that at nearly a decade old, my story was still in its infancy. Newborn and pliable and naive and lovable, drool and spit-up and wobbly legs and all. Cheesy and awkward, a little broken in parts, not understanding yet what it means to be whole.

My story is an infant. Wishing for me to love it, waiting for me to help it grow.

*Eureka.*

Back to the keyboard, then, love.

Till next time,

~CindyImage

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Top Ten Prompts to Inspire Creative Writing

If you’re a writer, an artist, musician or creative soul of any kind you’ve probably had those days when you just can’t produce anything worth… anything. The harder you try, the less effective you become and you get yourself into a ridiculously concrete mental block. It’s tough to pull yourself out of this phenomenon, and many times the feeling has negative effects in the rest of your life too.

As writers, we’ve found that completing writing prompts not only helps us get a fresh perspective in our writing, they open our minds in a myriad of other ways. The mental fog clears, and suddenly there are windows where there were once only walls.

These prompts our a few of our group’s favorites– and a few have even turned into some of our most beloved pieces. Give them a try, let us know how it goes, and we might even feature your response as a guest post!

Happy writing,

~C

10- They told her not to open the box…

9- You’re walking along a crowded street and an old woman hands you a brown paper bag. You take it from her and feel that it’s slightly weighted by whatever is inside. She smiles and disappears into the crowd. What is inside the bag, and what does it mean to you?

8-  This picture:

St. Etienne - Muse

7- Think of a character, either from a story you’re writing or a book you’ve read.  He/she has a favorite pair of shoes. Why are they special? Where did they come from? Where does he/she wear them? What stories go along with those shoes?

6- You wake up locked inside a closed coffin. Explain your initial reaction, how you attempt to escape, and what you remember about how you got there.

5- Find and buy (or take a picture of) an object at a thrift store, and write a short story or a scene around it. Below are some examples of objects we’ve used:

Vintage radiovintage gray tub

red high heelsrose colored glasses

4- You and your friends take a three mile hike up to a campsite and you’re sitting around the fire toasting marshmallows. Out of the blue one of your friends reveals a secret that turns your pleasant camping trip into a total nightmare…

3- Write a few paragraphs explaining how this picture came about, or what it represents:(image courtesy of www.vladstudio.com)

2- Write a story from the perspective of the family pet. The family is bringing home a new baby, going through a divorce, recently lost a loved one, the children are starting school, or they are moving across the country.

1- As a person or thing that inspires all your creativity and new ideas, your muse has been trying to contact you. Write a conversation between you and your muse. There are no limitations as to what he/she/it is, appears, or looks like. What does your muse want you to know? What is your reaction?

Top Ten Tuesday- Ten Signs You Might Be a Writer

the-writer2

10 -You notice all the things

This means you not only take interest life’s little details, you relish them. You appreciate sunrises, full moons, the smell of coffee percolating and the sound of your feet crunching on gravel. You don’t simply move through life in a happy blur. Rather, you get intoxicated in all the sights and sounds life has to offer:  Watching a bumblebee light on a lily, noticing the sticky yellow on the fuzzy surface of its back as it dips between blooms. Hearing the high notes of a classical prelude or the low notes of a Red Hot Chili Peppers ballad and finding the song reaches depths of your soul that can’t be named.

Bonus points if you not only notice the  details, you assign meaning to them, i.e., the patterns in the shadow of leaves remind you of a lace runner on your Grandmother’s kitchen table. This is obviously a sign, so you drop everything and call her.

9- You create alternate endings for…everything

You know without a doubt what should have actually happened at the end of The Notebook. You’re sure you know the missing answers in all the episodes of Lost. And you dream of what could have happened had Daisy never married Tom in The Great Gatsby…

You find yourself asking “What if” for things outside of movies too. Past relationships. Friends career choices. The road you took to work this morning. Each of those choices might have lead to alternate events, and you can’t deny you’re intrigued by that notion.

8- You regard reading as a near spiritual act

Every dedicated reader knows it’s bliss to get lost in a good book, but to a writer, a good book is a revelation. Pick up any of your favorite novels and you start finding truths on every page, parallels that speak to your life and what you’re navigating through at that very moment.You find signs in the dialogue, answers to all your big questions in the narrative.reading-a-book

You read and feel that life has new meaning. And sometimes, what you’re reading starts to make more sense than reality. Yep, you’re probably a writer.

7- You people-watch with a passion

Linger at a coffee shop or a city park and you instantly find yourself lost in the people around you. Wonder what she’s going to name her daughter, how she met her husband. Wonder why he’s red-eyed and puffy-faced, and yet breaking up with his girlfriend via Skype.

Your watching and wondering quickly heightens to the next level, in which you answer all the questions in your mind about the people you’ve been watching. She’s going to name her daughter Nina, after her sister. He can’t stand to break up in person because deep down he still loves her. Then…you create imagined scenarios for these people you’re watching.

You’re casting characters my friend. Your soul is trying to put them inside a story.

6- You daydream about fictional characters

Speaking of characters…Ever thought it would be titillating to have tea with Mr. Darcy? Yearned to forge that horrible, dark void with Frodo?  Or compared your current love-interest to the main character in the novel you’re reading…once, twice, a dozen times?

Yeah. Us too. You aren’t weird. But it’s a good sign there are probably characters in you waiting for the chance to be written into existence.

5- People say you’re a dreamer

But you’re not the only one… Head in the clouds, scatterbrained, wanderlust, or preoccupied. If any of these names have ever been cast at you, chances are your imagination is working at flittle_dreamer_wallpaper__yvt2ull capacity and creating something beautiful.  You have a literal art factory in there, stories waiting to find their way into the universe.



4- You’ve ever thrown a book across the room

Books are sacred, yes. But when they are bad, you take it personally. Poorly written, overstated, or books that take cheap shots at unsuspecting readers send you reeling, and that book flying.

We feel ya. Bad writing is like an insult you can’t shake. You have to do something physical to the book to feel even slightly satisfied.

3- Blank notebooks excite you

Simply put, something about all those blank pages is intriguing. The open possibilities of what might come to life in those lines…

2- You like big words and you cannot lie

You enjoy language, and sometimes use unusual words, just for thChild reading a dictionary in school uniforme sheer joy of their weight on your tongue. Imbrication. Unencumbered. Labrynthian. Mellifluous. You wonder why your friends don’t understand that words like these are music.

And…if you read the dictionary for fun as a kid, you most certainly belong in a writers circle. It’s the only place you won’t be referred to as a nerd.

1- You write to resolve

You have a fight with your best friend, and instead of calling her up to sort things out, you write her a novella-length email. When considering whether to take a new job, you write down all the reasons you might be in love with it, and all the reasons you might regret leaving your current employer. Yes, part of this is a natural and organized way to discover feelings and weigh options. But not everyone’s mind works this way.writing on notebook

If you can come to major conclusions in your life through a sharpened pencil, your favorite pen, or a keyboard- you probably have a knack for writing. It’s not only the process, it’s what happens between the lines. Insight. Creativity. Epiphany. Written to life.

We hope you decide to join us.

Til next time,

~Cindy

Top Ten Ways to Romance A Writer Girl

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

Awhile back I read a post over at Elephant Journal titled How to Love a Girl Who Writes. I showed it to the WTF group and we all had a version of the same reaction, ranging from:

“Oh. My. God.” to

*Sigh* to

“Now I finally understand what’s wrong with me!”

Since the founders of this blog are all writers and (well duh) women,  thought it might be fun to do a top ten list in the spirit of this article. We’re all at different phases of the romantic relationship story in our lives. But when it comes down to it, I think writer girls all really just want the same thing.

 So without further ado…

Top Ten Ways Romance a Writer Girl

10- Give her some S P A C E

For a writer girl, the act of writing is a little like peeing. You think I’m kidding, but seriously. When all systems are in order it flows nicely, it’s a release of sorts, it feels not only natural, but necessary. But it’s private–not something that should really be experienced with another human being in proximity. Respect that not every part of a person should be shared.

And hey guys, reading over our shoulder– whether it’s the last paragraph of an epic novel or a Facebook post, it just gives us the creeps. Just…don’t.

9- Be connected, not clingy

Yes, we want you to be interested in us and the things we love. But if your happiness hinges on ours, well…we’re both in trouble. Writer girls are…uh, emotionally erratic, to say the least. If she’s all undone about the death of a fictional character, or pissy because she has a major case of writer’s  block, hug her. Smile and say you love how passionate she is. And then move on. Offer to give her some alone time, or suggest the two of you go for a drive or see a movie.

We know we are all over the place, and believe it or not, writer girls don’t want someone who’s willing to wallow in our crazy. What we truly need is someone who anchors us to what is real.

8- Go for the quirky over the traditional

When it comes to showing her your love, you aren’t going to get far with the old standbys. The best tokens of affection for writer girls are those that mean something that no-one else would understand. Example: A leaf in a box, from the tree under which you kissed her for the first time. Or an antique key like the one in the story she’s writing.

You know that scene in Stranger Than Fiction, when Will Ferrel’s character gives Maggie Gyllenhall’s character  flours? All the writer girls (not to mention the baker girls) watching at that moment went aaaahhhh and melted just a little bit.


(Not flowers, flours. She’s a baker. See? Quirky and sweet. That’s the ticket.)

7- Embrace her crazy

IMG_1042

Picture of my feet, taken by my husband. No questions asked.

Most likely, if you’re with a writer girl, part of what drew you to her in the first place is her passion. She has the ability to make even the most ordinary moments seem complex, meaningful, and mind-blowing.. (Come on guys, you know this has potential for being hot.) Now, there is the other side of it, when she’s in a dark mood and the fact that you turned on the water while she was talking sends her reeling into the break-up zone. But, instead of being (very, very) afraid- what you need to do is man up and embrace it. Love her for storming off because you brushed your teeth. Go ahead and take that picture of her bare feet on concrete without asking why. Accept her crazy as part of her passion, and she’ll adore you for the rest of her days.


6- Follow your own passions

This one is fairly straightforward. Writer girls believe to the core that everyone should be passionate. Whether its your work, your family or even developing the latest gaming software, you need something that  from time-to-time, pulls you in your own direction. We might act jealous and irritated because you were gone for a day or a weekend…off doing something that doesn’t involve us. But lets face it, a little competition never hurt anyone, and without it, we’re going to think of you as a robot. Find something you love and do it. We’re passionate and we want you to be too.

5-Be Patient

Okay, I’m going to level… Writer girls are constantly being distracted by, well, everything. Probably we’re going to ask you to pull over so we can study the sun streaming through a cornfield, or wait for us while we hammer out a new idea through our laptop keyboard, about a thousand time over the course of our relationship. We need to know this isn’t going to send you through the roof. Which is why # 6 is a great idea. That way, we’re happy, you’re happy.

And we all know what two mutually happy people in a relationship together leads to.

4- Don’t read her writing…unless she asks

For a writer girl, there is nothing more personal than her own writing, especially a work-in-progress.  Don’t invade her privacy without being asked in. And if she truly loves you, she will ask, eventually.

An addendum: If she does ask you to read it, it’s critical that you actually read it. If you pretend that you did, she’s going to know. Don’t fake it, or next time she will. 😉

3- Don’t try to give her ideas…unless she asks

Ditto above, except replace the word “writing” with the word “ideas.” Trying to force your ideas into a writers writing…not to mention into her mind is toxic for a relationship.. Just don’t do it.

2- Be prepared for an epic romance

bare feet togetherI’m going to leave this one to the imagination, which is exactly what writer girls have lots of, which is why you should prepare yourself. For some things, there simply aren’t words.

1- READ.

I chose this as number one because it’s a toughie, and it’s probably the most important. We really, really need to be with someone who reads, and more importantly thinks about what he reads.

Okay, we understand not everyone is a literary connoisseur. You don’t have to read Faulkner novels or Tennessee Williams’ screenplays to turn our heads (Though, I’m not going to lie, we think guys who read Steinbeck and mist up over Of Mice and Men are kinda hot…) Magazine articles, blog posts, even the sports section of the newspaper can offer perspectives you won’t find watching TV.

Bottom line. We’re writers. If you don’t read you’re basically saying you don’t believe in the world that created us. So just do it, okay?

 

Thanks for reading, and hey, if you’re a writer-guy and would like to guest post a Top Ten Ways to Romance a Writer Guy, we’d love to hear from you.

Till next time,

~Cindy

3 Ways to Keep Writing…or How Not to Lose Your Writing Mojo

I promised to share some insider tips from our group about writing, and today I’m going to start with my ongoing advice to myself. Things I have to make myself do, outside of my freelance writing work and constant mommying.  Without these activities in my day to day life, I tend to lose my writing mojo, so to speak.

For me personally, my attempt to write just enough so that I actually feel good about calling myself a writer goes a little beyond typing at the keyboard. So that I feel like a writer, there are three things I do every day.

I Read

Yep. Everything. At any given time I’m reading a book I love, aopen-book-on-top-of-pile-of-booksnd one that I probably don’t love but I’m forcing myself to get through, if for no other reason than I know how I don’t want to write. On top of this I read newspapers, magazine articles, blog posts, and my very favorite– fresh, unpublished fiction from some future authors I am lucky enough to call friends. Everything I read, whether I love it or hate it, agree or disagree with its message, makes me a better writer in one way or another.

As far as what I like to read, I try to choose books that are similar to the genre in which I like to write. This helps with a myriad of things: what kind of characters are best for my stories, how dialogue and narration plays into the overall piece, the way the plot unfolds, and etc… When I’m reading a book I’ve chosen specifically because it’s like my own writing, I not only look for things I love, I find and analyze the things I don’t like. I ask myself why I didn’t like something, and what I might have done differently.

If you want to write but aren’t sure what genre might suit you best, think about your favorite books. Go back to the stories that stay inside your head long after you turn the last page, those favorites you keep on your shelf year after year.  Read them, even if it’s for the twentieth time and make a note of specific scenes, characters, paragraphs and pages that strike you. Chances are, you’ll find your writing voice there. If it means something to you, that’s probably the kind of thing you want to say with your writing. As the popular young adult fiction author Brandon Mull says: “Try to find the music that only you can hear.”

I Write

This may seem a little obvious, but if you’re a parent, have a job, or are working on a higher education (basically any form of adult human being) you know this isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are some days I literally have six minutes in between obligations. But I make myself write something every day. It might be a short conversation from my novel,  an idea for a scene, or even an idea for a new story.  hands_on_laptop_green_field-353x179

A lot of times, what I write is simply a random observation; a quick sentence about what the trees looked like after a storm or an overheard conversation that sparks an idea.  It can be any length, from a few simple sentences to a thousand word document. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t grammatically correct or especially poetic. The point is that original thoughts from my head have made it into print.

Try this, and do it without limits or rules. Anything goes. Trust me, this does wonders for the psyche. Start doing this and you’ll see instant results— hit with an onslaught of new words and ideas. The brain is a beautiful thing in that once it creates something new…it begs for more. There is simply no better way to inspire writing, than to write.

I Imagine  Romance

I have to admit this one is my favorite (and I chose this picture because it reminds me of the characters in my current project…*sigh*)

Ahem. Anyway, every day, just before I fall asleep I close my eyes and give my imagination a chance to hold my attention.  I just let whatever images come into my head play around there for awhile, to see what my muse comes up with.  A lot of times it’s random, anything from the perfect first kiss to a giant, fire-breathing dragon, but if I’m in the middle of working on a specific story, it’s an existing scene.  And even if I’ve re-written it twenty times, I figure if it comes about in my semi-subconscious, I still have probably not written it to its truest form.  So I let the muse have her way with my mind. And that isn’t as dirty as it sounds. (Well, okay maybe sometimes…)

Often, I simply let my mind settle into sleep and let the images gracefully fade away. But sometimes  (this is the best part!) I get an epiphany. Suddenly I have a new idea, the perfect premise for a new blog post, an essay or a poignant conversation between two of my characters. I keep a notebook or two, (or twenty) in my nightstand for just such occasion. I jot it all down without worrying what it sounds or looks like—just get the idea down there on the paper so I can tangibly reach for it later.  It’s the perfect way to capture random creativity. It’s like getting keynotes from my imagination

Zion NarrowsEssentially, those are the basics for me. Sometimes, a friend will come across something I’ve written, a blog post, part of my book, (a sarcastic Facebook post) and ask how I keep coming up with fresh things to write. In repeatedly doing these things I’ve discussed, that’s how.  Believe it or not, most of the time I have to lead my mind into the narrows of creativity.

Before I sign off, I feel compelled to say that my methods aren’t the only means for inspiring oneself into writing. On the contrary. In our little  group alone, each of us have probably tried a half-dozen different approaches on any given day, to keep the muse at hand.

I hope this has brought some insight to those of you who want to write but aren’t sure where to start. And for those of you that do write, I’d love to hear what keeps you inspired!

Gotta go, it’s time to imagine. 😉

~Cindy