“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

 

 

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!

NaNo Coffee Mug

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

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

 

 

I Found It!

Woo Hoo!

For years I have searched high and low for the perfect planner, as well as the perfect handbag.  I’ve found the planner, the handbag I’m still on the hunt for. As you can probably tell, I’m huge into organization and these two tools are all about making my life so much easier and, well, organized. Sometimes I’ve gone through several planners in a year, unable to find that perfect fit. This one I’ve invested some time in, making sure it’s what I’m looking for. It is, and so much more than I’d hoped for!

What is it?

The Passion Planner!

One of my writer friends introduced me to it. And let me tell you, this is a writer’s dream for planning, organizing, and even writing. IMG_0493

There are pages to jot down immediate, short-term, and long-term goals and space to explore and expand upon game-changers to make your year the best it can be. At the end of each month are pages to reflect upon the month, in journal format, what you’ve accomplished and several questions to help you make the best of the new month, like:

  • What was the most memorable part of t his past month? Describe it.
  • What or who are you especially grateful for this past month?
  • Name three things you can improve on this upcoming month. What concrete actions can you take to work towards these improvements?

There are questions that make you think about what you want to accomplish, such as:

  • What is the biggest goal you would like to accomplish this year?
  • Who or what motivates you most?
  • Write some words of encouragement for yourself to read during hard times.

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There is space to create your passion roadmap, your passion plan, and tips on how to best make it a success. Each weekly layout contains:

  • This Week’s Focus
  • Good Things That Happened
  • Personal To-Do List
  • Work To-Do List, and
  • Space of Infinite Possibility.

There are motivational quotes throughout. And there are plenty of blank pages in the back for notes, story-ideas, plot planning, or to write whatever your heart desires.

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So I can be reminded of the important things daily, the inside cover of mine includes two special reminders, “Right Here. Right Now,” and “Be Someone You Look Up To.” It also includes my Life Verse (Philippians 4:6-8), and My One Word for 2019 (to be revealed later).

Thrilled with my discovery? I couldn’t be more so! I’ve always enjoyed spending time in December to plan the following year. It gives me time to really think things through instead of making rash, off-the-cuff goals that I can’t (and don’t) follow through with. This planner has just made my planning so much easier and more fun!

Do you spend time planning the upcoming year? What is your best/favorite planning tool?

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. 
― Benjamin Franklin