Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tricks to Keep Writing

I've been blessed with very good news this summer. First, the requests for submissions and now I am a finalist in the Maggie contest. That's a great validation for me as a writer. Someone out there likes my writing who doesn't know me and people have asked to read my work. Great news! I am over the moon.

But I've been writing for five years and this is as close as I've come to seeing fruition of my goals. I know how hard it is to push through self-doubt and keep writing when the victories are not there. And this happens to all writers, published or unpublished. Apparently, the self-doubt and "this time they'll know I'm a fraud" thoughts creep into writers' minds on a very regular basis.

So how does one push past the fear and do it anyway? How does one go forth when the road is full of holes and one doesn't see any validation?

I don't have all the answers, but I have a few tricks that work for me. Here are some of them:

1) Write down a list of your strengths and post in on a wall or door in the place where you slog and slave over those novels. My list is taped on the inside of of office closet door. I open it up and stare at it a lot.
2) Write down at least 10 successes you've had in your life. One of mine is "teaching myself how to parent and I am a raising a good child to be a citizen of the world." (it doesn't have to be about writing--all of who you are goes into the process).
3) If someone sends you a note that praises you for who you are, keep it.
4) Celebrate EVERY writing milestone. I celebrate when I finish a first draft, revise, submit, query, final in a contest, place in a contest, meet my writing goals. Yesterday I printed the list of finalists for the Maggies and taped that up. Celebrate the fact that every time you get something done, you are actively pursuing your goals and dreams.
5) Post a quote that motivates you. I have one by Delle Jacobs: The object of goals is getting there... the object of dreams is the journey."
6) Write down things that make you happy. When you are facing a disappointment, do one or many of them to bring joy back into your life and restore your desire to create.
7) Surround yourself with people who edify your goals and dreams. People who are your cheerleaders. Your writing chapters are one major place to share your visions and dreams. But there are other people who want you to succeed who aren't writers. Keep them close. The other people who aren't positive, well, you know what they say about vampires. If you invite them into your house, they have permission to shoot for the jugular. I don't let emotional vampires into my life and that includes family members who are not my cheerleaders.
8) Call someone when you are stuck on a plot point, hash it out over the phone. Or meet for coffee and work it out there. Seek help.
9) They say write every day, but it's more than writing. It's feeding your creative soul. Read about the craft, learn about the craft, take on-line courses, study, and grow as a writer. Be open to feedback.
10) A practical way to keep writing on days that you'd rather pick up lint is to turn on a timer. I use my microwave timer. I set it for 60 minutes, sit down, stare at the computer. Write. When it beeps, I am occasionally relieved. Usually I am so engrossed in the story, I am sorry it is beeping. But I get up, take a break, make some coffee, whatever, and then it's back in the chair I go.
11) For those of you who work outside the home, and/or raise a family, I know it is even harder and you might feel pulled in a million directions. But give yourself permission to carve out a block of time to write. If it's only a 1/2 an hour, so be it. You'd be amazed at how much you can accomplish in 30 minutes. If you can, shoot for an hour. Even better. Work at creating speed and momentum.
12) The Personal Pity Party (aka: wine and chocolate for me and a bit of shopping) on bad days (like when I didn't final in the GH). You're allowed to do that -- for a finite time. Then get back in the chair. Tell yourself whatever you have to in order to get past the disappointment. I am an expert at self-delusion. When my scores came in, I said, "wow, I almost made it to the top half of the group. Cool!" Haha but it worked.
13) Remember that your journey is unique. Everyone has a different timeline and a different goal. Who knows when things will happen for you? For some it is winning a major competition. For others, it's finally getting the call. For published writers, it might be going from mid-list to NYT Best Seller list. Who knows? Don't worry about other people's journeys. Only be concerned with your own.
13) Park jealousy. It isn't healthy. It's bad karma. And it'll bite you in the behind. Be happy for those who walk ahead of you. They are carving a path for all of us.
14) Share what you have learned with those you know. Don't hoard. If you are open, the universe will open up even wider for you. Watch your opportunities grow as you become more giving.
15) Allow yourself to take breaks. Real breaks from writing between projects. Go and play. See a movie, go out with friends, fritz around and do nothing, and gasp... even get bored. Let your mind be refreshed and renewed. Then get back in the chair. Note: you must set a finite amount of time for the break and you must have start date in order to get back in the chair.

These are just some of my tricks. I'm sure many of you have other ideas to share. I'd love to learn how you get BICHOK: Butt in Chair, Hands on Keys.


Jeanie said...

Christine, this is wonderful! I'm going to print it out and post it next to my computer. Fabulous thoughts, girl, and so true.

I am naturally an insecure person. There it is. I came to the planet that way, and when it comes to my writing, whoo boy! I am so vulnerable. I've had to develop a tough skin, though, because you can't be a whiny baby and write, not if you plan to ever let anyone else see your work!

So, insecurity is like that obnoxious cousin that gets on your nerves, but you have to put up with him/her because your Mama says you have to be nice and play with them. I acknowledge my insecurity, but try not to let it spoil things, like that bratty cousin.

I work full time, and I have teenagers, so it's hard to find time to write. I set myself a goal, usually a chapter a week or 500 words a day, and if I don't meet that goal, my other bratty cousin, GUILT, raises her ugly head. Guilt is a motivating factor for me. Gets me in the chair to write every time. Or maybe it's a touch of OCD. Whatever, it gets my butt at the computer.

Oh, and having a writing group that pushes you to produce doesn't hurt!

Karen Beeching said...

Wow, Christine. You covered everything. Great blog!

I agree with it all. I would emphasize, I think it’s VERY important to attend all chapter meetings and get involved. Stay in touch with the writing business and keep up on the constantly changing information.

And yes, be happy for those succeeding and wish them well in their writing careers. It’s inspiring and you may need their advice later as you are getting closer to your own goals and dreams! (I speak from experience!)

And keep writing. Don't spend too much time on the same book. I write daily now, and I'm happy (and sad) to say it's become a bit of an addiction.

Christine said...

Jeanie: we all struggle with the demons you speak of--I think it comes with the territory. I'm so impressed that your goal is to write a chapter a week with all that you juggle. Good for you! I go by time now... seems to work for me. I am a time queen. It's actually kinda scary how accurate my internal clock is. Now I use it to my advantage. But words per day is one I like to use as well--especially when I am in first draft mode.

Karen: I love your addiction! Or as Carla once said, it's a "grand obsession." Ah yes, can't get those people out of my head. And by all means, yes, attend every chapter meeting you are able to attend. I think SM has excellent support within it and it is very helpful to building one's writing career.

Oh, I should add that the successes, strengths, and smile list are ideas I learned from on-line classes to help me get in the chair.

Christina Wolfer said...

Excellent post, Christine. One of the first things I learned when joining my local chapter was that I wasn't so different when I sat next to another writer. You and I have talked a lot about how important our local groups have become to us.

Another trick for me and probably too obvious to state, I have to love the story I'm writing. It keeps me writing and pushing to finish. I get invested in my characters - I can't leave them hanging without a happy ending, after all isn't the happy ending what we're all looking for.

Christine said...

Tina: that is so true. We must love our people. tho I do go thru stages of not liking them ... by about the 5th revision.... but then I fall in love all over again.

And you and I did spend a lot of time praising our chapters. They are great and they support our efforts. What I loved was that we came together via the RWA look for a roommate program and we could come together every evening and/or afternoon and rehash what we had learned.

And you were the queen of the party pitch! I am so woot for you!

M.V.Freeman said...

So very very true, this post touches me greatly.

I struggle with my internal critic (nasty little bugger)and procrastination.

If it wasn't for good friends like you, I'd probably still be talking about "finishing", and not being finished.

There is no excuse in writing. You either do it or you don't.

I plan on doing it.

May the words flow for everyone!!!

Christine said...

Woot Mary! Keep moving forward... you are FINISHED! That is an awesome thing. And now you can plan your next ideas while revising the first one--YOU FINISHED!! How many people say they will write a book and never do? You did it.

Mwah! and Hugs!