Permission to Write

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This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a writer’s conference in Niwot, CO, hosted by Rachel Weaver, founder of  Colorado Writing School. I went with enthusiasm for what I might learn and came away with so much more than that. I came away with a head chock full of knowledge, a soul with renewed energy, a heart with renewed passion for the craft, and most important of all, validation for why I do what I do. A hall pass.

We writers are an insecure lot, and if we’re not making a lot of money at what we’re doing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering if our time spent writing is frivolous and if we should be doing something “important” instead. Despite five published books, another due out by the end of the year, it’s a rut I fall back into frequently, like the gutters my bowling balls rolled into when I used to bowl.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft (a book I highly recommend for writers of all levels) states that only approximately 5% of writers can support themselves and their families with their writing. Considering his book was published in 1999, eighteen years ago, that the number of writers has grown exponentially with the boom of self-publishing, and  the cost of living has gone up, that percentage is likely even lower today. Does that mean those of us who fall into the less than 95 percentile should pack it up and stop writing? Absolutely not!

Going to conferences or writer’s workshops gives me permission, if you will, to do what I love to do. My day job is a job. It’s my vocation. Writing is my avocation. My passion. And being in a room filled with other writers, those who find joy and fulfillment in the written word and telling stories, doesn’t only make that okay for me, it makes it healthy and good. And  Lord knows we can never have enough goodness.

Conferences and workshops provide the power of brainstorming with each other, the room alive from the electrical energy of so much creativity in one place. In one of the sessions I attended, the writing prompts and exercises produced the synopsis for book two in the Whispering Pines Mysteries. That, alone, made it a success. 🙂

Lunch was spent with Kerrie Flanagan, author, presenter, and writing consultant, who shared invaluable insight. Another was an agent panel with Becky LeJeune and Shana Kelly, who also had invaluable advice when querying. A writer cannot get these nuggets of gold camped out in an office with the door closed.

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Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavor. In a profession where most of us are introverts, finding comfort within the walls of our home office or tucked comfortably behind a computer screen, conferences and workshops offer a way for us to interact with people to “get” us. They provide connections to others in the industry. And it’s even enjoyable for us introverts!

So write on.  Go create. Get your stories out into the world. Permission granted.

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.           W. Somerset Maugham

 

 

 

 

And in the Beginning…

Beginnings

For those who have read my bio, you know my writing years began at the tender age of four. I took my fat little crayons in my fat little fingers and decided to experiment with words on the knotty pine walls of the living room. My parents were not impressed! But even back then, I had something to say and writing was the natural way for me to say it.
As the years went by, that didn’t change. The only thing that did change is that I graduated from crayon on walls to pen on paper. For that, my parents were grateful.

In my teen years, it was writing that helped me work through the tumultuous teen emotions and heartbreak. Many summer days, I lay in our little fishing boat, tied up to the dock, rocking as waves rolled up against the shoreline and lapped the bottom of the boat. I clutched my pen and paper and wrote poetry like there was no tomorrow. The words flowed endlessly. When I wasn’t in the boat, I was perched on the end of the dock, my feet dangling in the water, or plopped on my bed in my basement bedroom, crafting more poetry.

Fishing Boat
Fast forward a few years. I was still writing when I got pregnant with my first son. I penned 2 ½ novels (yup, not just 2, but 2 ½), which are still in boxes in my home office. I took a few writing classes, too. Then came my second son. The writing stopped. There was no spare time.

When my second son was in high school, I got my Associates of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies, and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. While everyone else was impressed, I knew it wasn’t what I was meant to do. My heart longed for the days when I was a writer.

When my second son graduated from high school, I followed my dream. I got back to writing and haven’t looked back. While I still maintain a day job in the legal field, my true calling, my avocation, is writing.

As I think about the journey to where I am now—five published books, two more in the works—there are three suggestions I have for beginning authors.

1.) Find a writing community, or even one or two other writers. Non-writers, family and friends included, think we just sit down, write and voila! A book appears. A non-writer can’t possibly know the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a piece of creative fiction—or non-fiction. And if that’s the only mindset you’re subjected to and hearing on your writing journey, you’ll start believing it yourself. Eventually you’ll start to think of yourself a failure when you’re unable to just sit down and magically produce a novel.

Additionally, the non-writer can view writing as a waste of time unless the writer is making a lot of money. You may hear that you should be spending your time on something more worthwhile, something “important,” whatever that means. “Important” means different things to different people. Writing is hugely important to me. And if you’re a writer, it will be to you, too. It’s not about how much money we make (though, I imagine you wouldn’t catch any of us complaining if we made a dollar to two), it’s about a need to express the creative side that’s burning inside of us. And it’s work. Hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

That being said, not all non-writers think this way. And if you feel they are, it’s important to ask yourself if there’s any validity to your feelings or if it’s your own insecurity and self-doubt that makes it feel that way. We writers are frequently tormented with self-doubt. It’s what many of us do best. Either way, let it go. If you don’t already, you’ll soon have a writing community reminding you you’re not alone. 

2.)  Plan your week and schedule in writing time. When first starting out, set a timer and just write. Don’t get up under any circumstance. Not for anything. This exercises your butt-in-chair muscle, even if it’s only for 15 minutes at a time. And don’t open the Internet to check anything. Your email will still be there when you’re done with your writing session, and your Facebook likes will still be there waiting. Even hard-core social media addicts can stay away for 15 minutes. If not, invest in Freedom. After you’ve created a habit of writing, play around to discover which method most accommodates your lifestyle—continue with timed writing sessions, decide on a set number of pages per day, word count goals, etc.

3.)  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else in the writing industry. We all have mentors and people we admire in the writing industry (think Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Joanna Penn) but don’t strive to be just like them. You are you. And you are fabulous. You have something unique to contribute to the reading world. And it would be a waste to deprive the world of that because you’re trying to be like someone else. As well, comparing yourself to other writers is the kiss of death. I struggle with comparisonitis as much as the next person, but I recognize it for what it is and kick it to the curb as soon as I realize that it’s trying to sink its fangs into my writing life.

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

And now it’s back for week three of Camp NaNo and more virtual camping.

Bonfire-Brainerd

Carpe Diem

Gratitude…for All and for One

Bill Wilson

Sometimes I get so caught up in being the best at something I lose my focus on what’s really important. Of course, being the Type A that I am, I’m usually killing myself striving to be the best at everything. And it’s here that I get into trouble.

Striving to be my own personal best and striving to be the best is the difference between the scenic journey of healthy living and the fast lane to insanity.

When I’ve accomplished something in my writing career, I find I want to be better. After all, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell and J. R. R. Tolkien have all topped the lists, so why shouldn’t I be able to?

When I’m doing my day job well, I find myself thinking of those who make millions at their job and wonder why I’m not able to be that successful. (Think Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg.)

When I see other blogs that have thousands of followers to my 354, I doubt my ability to be “good enough.”

And on and on and on…and thus begins the proverbial squirrel cage thinking, the squirrel being fed from comparing myself to others.

Gratitude, pure and simple, is the answer to putting the squirrel to rest.

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Gratitude that I’ve accomplished something that I love to do so much, appreciating that I’ve been blessed with a talent that breathes life into me.

Gratitude for having a day job with work that I enjoy, and pay that allows to me live comfortably, while experiencing satisfaction at being able to make a positive difference to victims of crime at a time when their entire world has been turned upside down and inside out.

Gratitude for each and every person who my blog has touched, each one individually. As long as I’ve been writing, which has been since the age of four when I wrote “words” on the living room wall with crayon :), my goal has never been to make millions, but to make a difference. If even to just one.

Every life touched, every one, matters.

In the words of Spock, played by the late, great Leonard Nimoy (may he RIP):

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” — Spock, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

But may we never forget the needs of one for the needs of the few or the many.

Carpe Diem

“Q” is for…

Quotes

I love quotes! They contain so much wisdom, motivation and inspiration in so few words.  They prove that less is often better when it comes to words, and that those few words can pack a powerful punch.

My ten favorite are:

10.)  “The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.”  -Norman Vincent Peale

9.)  “It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light. This is the dream, and it is possible.”
― Katie J. Davis

8.)  “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” -Dr. Seuss

7.)  “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach

6.)   “When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”  – Stephen King

5.)  “The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it.”  – Thomas S. Monson

4.)  “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”   – Norman Vincent Peale

3.) “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”  – Mother Teresa

2.)  The perfect description of a mom:  “…because “Mommy” is forever. It’s such a powerful name. Mommy means “I trust you.” Mommy means “you will protect me.” Mommy is for shouting when you need someone dependable and for laughing with when you are excited. Mommy is for crying on and cuddling with when you are sad, or giggling and hiding behind when you are embarrassed. Mommy is the fixer of boo-boos and the mender of broken hearts. Mommy is a comfort place – a safe place. Mommy means “you are mine and I am yours and we are family.”  – Katie Davis

1.) “Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.  Life is beauty, admire it.  Life is a dream, realize it.  Life is a challenge, meet it.  Life is a duty,  complete it.  Life is a game, play it.  Life is a promise, fulfill it.  Life is sorrow, overcome it.  Life is a song, sing it.  Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.  Life is an adventure, dare it.  Life is luck, make it.  Life is too precious, do not destroy it.  Life is life, fight for it.”
― Mother Teresa

As we write our stories and what’s in our hearts, may we always remember the importance of the words we write, the impact they have on another, and the joy they bring to many.

Write On.

 

Colorado Floods

Even too much of a good thing is not good.  And while rain in Colorado is typically a good and welcomed thing, it has now worn out its welcome.

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The city in which I live vaguely resembles the small fictional town of Chester’s Mill in Stephen King’s Under the Dome.  While we sit directly in the center of cities with homes and streets getting washed away and loved ones missing, and though we’ve been receiving record breaking rain, there have been no catastrophic rains causing the damage that is occurring in the cities surrounding us.

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A comment I heard plays in my mind–a familiar comment heard amid tragedy:  “How can God allow this to happen?”

I believe it’s important to remember that God is not the author of evil.  I believe God will use evil and catastrophe to bring out the good in people.  To encourage people to be there for one another.  To empathize with and help one another, bringing humanity to it’s best.

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Natural disasters can be especially devastating because despite the immeasurable pain and loss, there is no where to place the blame.  Mother Nature is too big and powerful.  But God is bigger and more powerful.  God will bring people together and He will heal.  He will restore and make whole again, bringing the situation under control.

Today may we lift up in prayer all those who have suffered devastating pain and loss from the floods, that their lives be fully restored, and that they feel His healing presence.

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All is Grace.

My Favorite Reading

Jane Austen & Flores

Jane Austen & Flores (Photo credit: Jane Austen in Portuguese)

Since as far back as I can remember, I have loved to read and write, spending countless child, adolescent, and adult hours escaping through books and writing.  When I was growing up, during the summer months when I wasn’t rushing off to school in the mornings, I would leisurely make my way to the lakeshore dock where our boat was tethered.  Still in my pajamas, I would lie in the rocking boat, listen to the waves lap against the shoreline, face to the sun, and do nothing but daydream and write.I’ve read many amazing books thorough the years, and more than I can possibly count that transported me to some pretty memorable imaginary places. But the following are my top ten that have hugely impacted my life in one way or another.

1.)   The Bible

The instruction manual for life as a whole and each moment that makes up that life.

2.)   The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

After too many friendships that have broken my heart and left me wondering if real friendships  even exist, this book has shown me that women with backgrounds and personalities as different as can be, not only can get along, but can teach one another, accept one another’s differences, and truly enjoy each other’s company.  And it all started with a love of reading and a particular author–Jane Austen.

3.)  On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

After an entertaining introduction to Stephen King’s life, this book is packed with timeless advice on the craft of writing.

4.)  Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Though I read this book very recently, I have no doubt whatsoever that the vivid descriptions and loveable characters Beth Hoffman created in this amazing piece of work will stick with me forever.  The Louis L’Amour of descriptive writing.

5.)   No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

This book, written by NaNoWriMo creator Chris Baty, gave me amazing insight, motivation and tips to complete the novel of which I am in the process of revising.

6.)   Praying for Strangers by River Jordan

This book helped me to see outside of myself and to pray for others, actively looking for and being aware of those God brings to me.  It reinforced the concept that I am here to help others and prayer is the most powerful way to help them.

7.)   The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This beautifully written book brings attention to a critical part of history that can be too comfortable not to remember.  Kathryn Stockett’s memorable and loveable characters bring a dimension to the less than admirable way of how people treat people still today.

8.)   Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

To tell the truth, I don’t exactly remember why this book impacted me except for the fact that a high school class in which this book was required reading,  I enjoyed it so much more than   everyone else that I helped many with the book report. Not surprisingly, several of us turned in very similar reports.  This book is on my bookshelf and will be on my list of books to read. Again.

9.)   The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Endless love, faithfulness and devotion.  It can–and does–happen!

10.)  The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This book reinforced for me at a young age that if we insist on only living up to what others think we can be rather than stretching beyond their expectations, we will never achieve our full potential.

And on the top of the list for books I want to read:

Book Chaos

Book Chaos (Photo credit: Sharon Drummond)

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (I enjoyed this movie so much that I’m looking forward to reading the book)

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald  (I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I’ve never read this book–yet.)

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (See #8 above)

If you have any others that you would like to recommend, please share what they are.

Grace to you.