“Real” Writers Write Anyway. Or Do They?

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This past July was the first time I haven’t met my Camp NaNo goal. What’s Camp NaNo you ask? Read about it here and perhaps you might decide to partake in April of 2020. 🙂

One week into the month and I suspected I might have a difficult time meeting my goal. Two weeks into the month and I knew I wouldn’t reach my goal. Between a family vacation, a heart procedure that required a hospital stay, the devastating deaths of two friends, and the emotional turmoil that accompanied these events, writing just wasn’t “there.” The fire went out.

While it was a difficult pill to swallow (I hate to “fail” when I’ve set my mind to doing something), by the end of the month I’d come to accept it. Rather peacefully, truth be told. But it didn’t happen until I began to believe that I hadn’t “failed.” I’d simply taken a much-needed time-out.

The difficulty I had in accepting it to begin with is something almost every writer likely deals with–others’ expectations of what it means to be a writer.

“Real” writers, I told myself, write no matter what. I’ve read in numerous articles that real writers don’t only write when they “feel” like it. They write no matter what. They sit their butt in the chair and write, by golly.

No. Matter. What.

So I asked myself–if I’m not a “real” writer, what does that make me? A fraud? A wanna-be? And if that’s the case, why bother?

The conclusion I came to after mulling this over, agonizing over the years I’ve likely been nothing but a fraud or a wanna-be, adding to the emotional turmoil I was already going through, is this:

No one–NO ONE–no matter how successful they might be, gets to determine who is a “real” writer. I’ve authored and published six books. I get to call myself a “real” writer if that’s what I believe I am. Even those who haven’t published anything at all, no one gets to decide if you are a “real” writer but you. Only you.

The fact that I needed a time-out (actually, that time-out is still ongoing), doesn’t make me less of a “real” writer, it makes me a smart writer. I can’t imagine never writing again. Never setting pen to the page–or fingers to the keyboard–and telling a story. Now that thought is enough to send me into a panic. Writing and creating brings me joy, peace, and a sense of purpose. It’s writing and creating that makes me feel alive.

But sometimes, we need to take a break from even the good things. We need to tend to what is right in front of us. Only you know what’s best for you and what your needs are. And if a time-out is one of those things, do it.

You’ll still be a “real” writer. Or photographer, painter, gardener, blogger, dancer…you get the picture.

This “real” writer is going to continue taking the time I need to heal and get back to the writing routine when the time is right for me. And I’ll be all the better for it.

Time for some feedback. Have you heard/read any “advice” that keeps you from feeling like you’re something less than what you are? Something that’s made you question your authenticity?

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

Making a Difference to Just One

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A while back a friend talked to me about her desire to make a difference in the lives of others by getting her “story” out there. That story consists of almost being murdered by her ex-husband. No one–as in not one–not even the doctors, expected her to survive. But survive she did! She’s truly a miracle. In fact she didn’t only survive, she’s by far one of the most positive, smiling, happy, and grateful people I know. Those who know her are blessed indeed.

During this talk we had, she was somewhat discouraged. She wanted to help so many and felt like she was reaching no one. Writing a book was at the top of her list, but anyone who is an author knows writing a book and getting it out there takes a long time. Because of her generous heart and caring spirit, she wanted to help people now. What she didn’t realize, and what I pointed out to her, is that she was helping people–every single day, and that each one she touches, is so important. She’s a first responder victim’s advocate, offering on-the-scene support to victims of crime. She’s won awards for all that she’s accomplished and does because of what she’s been through, using her experience for good. She speaks to groups of people, letting them know that nothing is too big to be overcome. She motivates, inspires, and brings joy.

Every. Single. Day.

Each of us that had a role in the prosecution of her case has been forever touched by her.

Fast forward nine months:

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I got a message from her the other day that said “Oh my God, you’re Alexandra Benn!” She proceeded to tell me that her therapist lent her two books, one of which was my book that I wrote under a pseudonym, Finding Peace Through Gratitude: The Secret to Healing from Trauma and Finding Joy in Every MomentShe went on to tell me what a difference the book has made in her life and that she didn’t know it was me until she saw my picture on the back. I’d even seen a photo she posted on social media of her chair at the pool with a bottle of water and a copy of the book.

Imagine my joy. I was moved to tears. The advice I’d given her months before came back full circle. And her voicing the difference my book made to her, made a difference to me.

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows I participate in Camp NaNoWriMo every April and July. This particular July, however, I’ve been preoccupied with life–vacation to Minnesota visiting family, chaos relating to my husband’s job, and surgery last week on my heart. Progress on my Camp NaNo project just wasn’t happening. But knowing my words made such an impact on this woman, one person, was all it took to get me back to it with gusto. Will I make my Camp NaNo goal? I don’t know. But I do know that knowing my words make a difference, that they bring me such joy to write–well, my friends, that’s all that matters. That I made a difference to one. Because that one is a woman who is beyond amazing.

And now I’m back off to Camp to keep on keepin’ on, despite reaching my goal or not. Whatever I write is that much more that I didn’t have at the end of June.

I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.
-Mother Teresa

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
-Mother Teresa

Passionate Writing

Not passion as in romance. But rather “passion” as described in another of Merriam Webster’s definitions:

A strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity.

Writing Longhand

As I was journaling the other day it occurred to me how much I enjoy writing longhand. From the feel of my hand sliding across the smooth surface of the paper, the ink pen gliding effortlessly, the different colors of ink on the page, and even white ink on black paper–all of it brings a new love of writing to the surface.

I began to wonder why I’ve only written by computer for so long and it came down to one thing–productivity. I can type far faster than I can write. And while productivity is good for a writer, so is keeping the passion for the process alive. Writing by hand and typing on a computer stimulate different parts of the brain. The part of the brain stimulated by hand writing is calling for my attention. (I found this article and could relate to more of it than not and wanted to share it with you.)

Anyone who has followed my blog knows how much I love Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. Though to be honest, July is my absolute favorite because it’s literally camping season. I get out my lantern and the s’more ingredients and “camp” in the comfort of my home office.

My original plan for Camp next month was to edit and revise book five, Shear Fear, in the Melanie Hogan mysteries. However, the neglected part of my brain has decided otherwise. My plan has changed to writing, by hand, with my fun-colored pens and a fun notebook, a Christmas novella in the Melanie Hogan mysteries. Instead of the light from the computer screen competing with my lantern or toting my laptop on vacation with me, I’ll be carrying my notebook and pens. Much lighter and without the lure of the Internet, oftentimes a writer’s time suck. At least this writer’s.

I’ve got my notebook selected, my pens ready to go (this is going to be a multi-colored project), my lantern is down from the shelf, and the s’more ingredients on my grocery list.

There’s nearly a month to go before Camp begins, but I’ll be prepared. In the meantime, I can plot and outline–by hand, of course.

What about you–do you prefer to write by hand, typewriter, or computer? Does it depend on the project?

I prefer the pen. There is something elemental about the glide and flow of nib and ink on paper.  ― James Robertson, The Testament of Gideon Mack

 

 

The Three E’s

Education, Education, and Education.
Oh, yeah, and education.
I love learning! And I recently had the perfect opportunity at the Northern Colorado Writer’s Conference. The theme? The Muse Cruise. It doesn’t get much better than that. 🙂

Below is the new director at the podium while the retiring director takes it easy on the lounge chair.

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Below is a photo of the keynote speaker, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Cynthia Swanson, who gave an incredibly motivating speech about successful writers at every age. Gives the older writers (ahem…like myself) hope that it’s never too late and to just keep on keepin’ on. Cynthia’s book, The Bookseller, is soon to be a motion picture starring Julia Roberts.

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Below is the bio of another fabulous presenter, Jordan Rosenfeld. Her bio speaks for itself. I attended Jordan’s class on How to Plot Your Novel Scene by Scene. Fantastic!

 

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Below is thriller author LS Hawker. I attended two of her classes, Social Media Marketing: Bookbub Ads, Facebook Ads, & Book Trailers, and also Writing a Thriller that Readers Can’t Put Down. All amazing information! She really knows her stuff and isn’t afraid to share!IMG_1071

Below is Steven Dunn, again whose bio speaks for itself. He taught a class on How to Get Sentences to Feel Like What They Describe. He used passages from his own work and let me tell you, they were powerful!

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Below is Jovan Mays, another keynote speaker. Jovan’s passion for poetry and family was contagious and touching. He had every person’s full attention and respect. Such an incredible man!

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I also attended two classes by the amazing Angie Hodapp, who I’ve mentioned in prior posts. I literally cannot get enough of her presentations. I can listen to the same one several times and still learn something new.

I always come away from conferences feeling so inspired and motivated. Last weekend I managed to get my WIP (work in progress), Abby’s Retribution, book two in the Whispering Pines duology, off to my beta readers. With that off my plate for the time being, I’m knee deep in reviewing the audio files for Shear Murder, book four in the Melanie Hogan mysteries, which my narrator sent to me a couple of weeks ago.

With another Camp NaNo coming in July, at which time I’ll be revising Shear Fear, book five in the Melanie Hogan mysteries, I’ve got my work cut out for me and a whole lot of tools in my belt with which to do it, thanks to conferences and writing classes.

Have you been to any writing conferences? What was your biggest take away?

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do. -Pele

The Thrill of the Climb

Today I’m posting some quotes that have made a huge impact on me and that go hand in hand with reaching the finish line of Camp NaNo (which was yesterday). Yes, I made my goal! It was a little “iffy” at times, but I did it. There’s nothing as exhilarating as reaching the summit! 🙂 TS EliotMark TwainThe Climb

Now it’s time to keep the discipline that I developed during Camp and head over to my WIP (work in progress) and git ‘er done. Book two in the two-book Whispering Pines duology, Abby’s Retribution, will be available later this year.

My advice for now is:

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Seize the Day.

And Happy May Day!

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Setting Goals

Camp NaNoWriMo began April 1st and I’m off and running. One of the best parts is the virtual cabins. We have 11 people in our cabin and the support, comradarie, and inspiration we get from each other is priceless. And, pardon me if it sounds like I’m bragging, but we do have the best cabin ever. 🙂

One of the things that has come up in conversation with my cabinmates is setting goals and it got me thinking.

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Camp NaNo comes around twice a year and NaNoWriMo every November. I set goals for these months and more often than not meet them if for no other reason than I won’t allow myself not to. So why, oh why, do I struggle to meet writing goals the rest of the months? Granted, it’s not that I’m unproductive in my writing life. I have seven published books and belong to a few writer’s groups. But I could be so much more productive if I set goals and was determined to meet them as I am during the NaNo months.

I’ve determined that as much of a blessing as electronics are, they’re equally a curse. It’s all too easy to hide behind a screen, whether it’s the computer or television screen, to “recover” from a long, hard day. Or to be mindlessly entertained. And to drag oneself away once settled in? Forget it. It has a vice-like grip.

All this from just the first week of Camp and there are still three more weeks to go! Having virtual cabinmates and chatting around a virtual campfire have proven to be most beneficial. 🙂

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Some of my cabinmates have blogs that I’ll list here in case you want to visit them. You won’t be sorry.

https://kitdunsmore.com/

https://rachelcarrera.wordpress.com/

What about you–do you set goals, writing or otherwise? Are you more likely to meet them or not? If you do set goals, what goals do you have? I’d love to hear and will be checking in between writing sprints.

Time to head back to Camp so I can meet my goal. Happy Reading, Happy Writing.

Off to Camp

It’s That Time Again!

It’s camping season again. Camp NaNoWriMo, that is.

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Fun with other writers in virtual cabins, brainstorming with each other, cheering one another on, virtual bonfires and s’mores, writing by lantern light…All the things to love about camping except pesky bugs.

This session I’ll be working on editing and revising book two in my Whispering Pines mystery, Abby’s Retribution. I got a new position a little more than a year ago where I work, which has given me a more satisfying day job. But it came with a price. I have less time to spend on my passion of writing and less creative energy. That sacrifice makes the months of Camp NaNo (April and July) all the more important to me.

Camp NaNo is a month of sheer writing bliss. You can set your own goals in increments of time (minutes, hours, etc.), words, lines, or pages. You can write a new novel, a series of short stories, poetry, or revise a work-in-progress. Basically, anything goes. If you’re interested but still want to know more, you can go to the website. If you decide you want to participate, go to the website, create your project, shoot me your user name, and I’ll send you an invite to my cabin.

Happy creating!

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We write to taste life in the moment and in retrospect. Anais Nin

Ready to Roll

Reenergized & Rejuvenated

We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden.           —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have you ever declared some time off, regardless of what other people think or do? It’s called being true to yourself and is one of the best things you can do for yourself and everyone else in your life.

In the writing world there are numerous beliefs. One widely held belief is that we “must” write every day. Another is that in order to be successful in the blogging world, one “must” adhere to a schedule.

While I believe both are important, I also believe they’re not the most important things. The MOST important is what is true for you. What fits in your life at this precise moment. I say that because our lives are fluid. Needs, priorities, available time, schedules…they all shift depending on the season you’re in at the moment. Heck, sometimes mine shift depending on the day. By trying to live someone else’s success or beliefs will only lead to struggle and burnout.

I took an extended break the past month and am all the better and healthier for it. I didn’t write hardly anything at all on my WIP (work in progress) but that doesn’t mean I left the writing life. Ideas came and went, percolating into bigger ideas that I jotted down. But I didn’t take the time to flesh them out. I simply let them wander aimlessly to see which direction they wanted to go.

I didn’t blog much, but that doesn’t mean I left it. I love the blogging community. It’s a place of online friendships and support that you can’t find anywhere else. And I’ve found peace with the fact that if I don’t blog every week, that’s okay. For me.

I didn’t read any books on the craft but that doesn’t mean I didn’t read and learn. I simply read other things, some for shear enjoyment without any hidden agenda, but in some I loosely noted style and detail.

What I did do is spend time nurturing family bonds. Growing relationships that are golden to me. I spent priceless time with my grandchildren, my grown children, and my extended family. I loved, cherished, enjoyed, and treasured every moment and will continue to do so. Every. Moment. I practiced living in the moment, keeping my mind completely present, rather than distracted by what I “should” be doing. I lived fully, feeding my soul and my spirit.

Because of that time “off”, busting out of routine, my writing life is again ready to roll. I’ve got plans to get my newsletter back on the road (if you’re interested in getting my newsletter, please email me and I’ll add you to my mailing list), I’ve submitted my project for the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo (revising book two in the Whispering Pines mystery, Abby’s Retribution), I’m signed up and ready to learn at the Northern Colorado Writer’s Conference in May, and a new mystery series is in the gestation phase.

By taking a break I didn’t lose any time, I gained it. And I gained so much more!

Do you ever go against what the majority believes to be true in order to be true to yourself?

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. -Henry David Thoreau

Writing Goals

 

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Nowhere does it say goals need to be set in January. In fact, it’s never too late to set goals. After all, today is the first day of the rest of your life. I spent some time this weekend reviewing my writing accomplishments from the past year and made some goals for 2019.

What I did in 2018:

  • Participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in both April and July, meeting my goal in both.
  • Participated in NaNoWriMo in November and won by completing 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days.
  • Entered into an agreement with a narrator through ACX, making my Melanie Hogan Series available as an audio book. Thus far Shear Madness and Shear Deception are available.
  • Attended the Colorado Gold Conference in Denver in September, spending three days fully immersed in all things writing.
  • Completed the first draft of book two, Abby’s Retribution, in the Whispering Pines mysteries.
  • Completed the first draft of book four, Shear Fear, in the Melanie Hogan mysteries.
  • Had a creative non-fiction essay chosen to be published in an anthology, Colorado’s Emerging Writers (2018).
  • Published book three in the Melanie Hogan mysteries, Shear Murder, on New Year’s Eve.

My goals for 2019:

  • Participate once again in Camp NaNoWriMo in both April and July; and, once again, meeting my goal.
  • Participate once again in NaNoWriMo in November; and, once again, win by meeting the 50,000-word goal. (I have to admit this one gives me a bit of anxiety already.)
  • Attend the Northern Colorado Writers Conference in Ft. Collins, CO in May.
  • Complete the project of finishing books three and four in the Melanie Hogan mysteries, Shear Malice and Shear Murder, in audio.
  • Work on learning and implementing some marketing techniques. I’ve never been comfortable with marketing and it’s time to step out of my comfort zone and just do it.
  • Teach a four to six-week creative writing class to kids ages 12-17. I’ve got the agenda and the location planned. I just need to schedule it.
  • Submit a short story to the Colorado’s Emerging Writers 2019 anthology.
  • Revise, edit, and publish book two in the Whispering Pines mystery.

Whew! I’ve got some work ahead of me. Work that will require cutting down on TV time. Ready! Set! Go!

Do you have any writing goals for 2019? I’d love to hear what they are.

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. Jim Rohn

Rhonda Blackhurst