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June 2017

A Time to Create. A Time to Critique. (are you putting a cork in your creative flow?)

Let’s get brutally honest for a moment. Writing — I mean really going for it — is terrifying!

Each and every time you sit down to put words on page, you’re actually transcribing a little piece of you: your wildest dreams, your deepest desires. So what if you don’t like what you see looking back at you? What if your reflection exposes you to be not the creative genius you’d hoped and imagined, but a failure and a fraud?

And that’s just the first cause of anxiety… (Who wouldn’t want to be a writer?!) As if looking at your own work wasn’t cringe-worthy enough, if you have any hope of publication, at some stage you will have to cast your story (that hard-laboured insight into your soul) before the eyes of complete strangers! Or worse: people you know!

To some extent, the anxiety is only natural: the nerves, the fist-fulls of hair and palm-to-forehead moments… it’s all part of the writing process!

 And yet, anxiety may be the very thing that’s putting a stopper in your creative process. You may be carrying a parasite: a little monster I like to call…

 The Horrible What-iffer

The Horrible What-iffer comes along to gawk over the shoulders of would-be writers as they attempt to plant their sapling idea into the soil of a First Draft. Then, just as that idea is about to blossom, the Horrible What-iffer strikes!

What if it’s over-the-top?   

         What if it’s too long? Too slow?  

  What if it’s not what the market’s going for these days?

         What if your characters are a bit flat?

                                                                 What if it’s just. plain. dumb?”

I guarantee, if you’ve ever tried to create anything, you’ve heard that measly, mettling voice of The Horrible What-iffer. His antics are enough to make Shakespeare want to drop his quill, crumple his parchment and curl up in a fetal position on the floor as he beats his brow and sobs “No one will ever want to read this RUBBISH!” (Hey, it might have happened for all we know!)

You see, the Horrible What-iffer is absolute death to your creative process as a writer. There is nothing more paralyzing to Creativity than self-critical thoughts. They drown out the sound of our creative thinking and lead to self-destruction and eventually quitting before you ever have the chance to know what sort of full grown tree your sapling story idea would have matured into!

Thus ends tragically the career of many a writer before it’s begun. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Don’t be defeated by the Horrible What-iffer!

You can be creative. You can be self-critical. But like Harry Potter and Voldemort, the two cannot co-exist. One will eventually have to kill the other. There is only one solution: You must destroy the Horrible What-iffer before he destroys your story… your joy of writing… YOU! Shakespeare did it, and here’s how.

Imagine a big, bald tattooed club bouncer. Make him as repulsively scary as you like. Now set him to work in front of the VIP Creative Party going on in your mind every time you sit down to draft. When smarmy old Horrible What-iffer comes whiffling along with his party-pooping, negative notions to gate crash, POW! Mr. Mental Bouncer gives him what’s coming to him. And your Creative Party can go on in peace! It takes practice, but it’s well worth the discipline to keep your story alive and moving forward.

But aren’t we writer’s supposed to self-critique? Isn’t it our job to chip away at our ideas until they become the perfected story we can present to the world with pride?

Yes… and No. We will never create the perfect Story. Aiming for perfection will again paralyze your creativity. But we can strive to write better & better stories all the time. And yes, that requires revising your story with a critical eye.

 The point here is this: make sure you’re bringing in a critical eye at the right time (ie. NOT while writing your FIRST DRAFT!!!).

Here’s why you can’t Create & Critique at the same time:

 

The writer wears two different hats: The Creator Cap (that corresponds to our creative right-brain hemisphere), and the Editor Cap (which alerts our analytical left-brain hemisphere). New writers often try wearing both hats at once, but this is a fatal error. Each one has its time to shine. The left-brain helps the right-brain turn all of its fluttering fancies into some sort of coherent plan. But then it’s time to swap hats and let Mr. Editor left-brain take a backseat while Mr. Creator right-brain drives. Eventually, after the drafting phase, Mr. Editor left-brain will return on the scene to analyze, problem solve and tweak away to his heart’s content while Mr. Creator gets some well-earned R&R.

And so you see, the balance between Creativity and self-criticism is like a dance! But it’s entirely up to you, the writer, to make sure criticism of your work isn’t self-criticism (product of the Horrible What-iffer), and it isn’t stepping on Creativity’s toes. That would only throw off the whole process and put you back from achieving your goals.

So next time you sit down to draft, put criticism in his place, or you might just have to call your mental bouncer on him!

In The Beginning There Was A Goat Named Blue

Isn’t Blue adorable? She had two little girls this year, Cocoa and Zanzi. I’m naming all the goats born this year after bugs. If you can guess where I got those two names, I will know we are destined to be friends! Anyway, this is a post I wrote a while ago about how I get my story ideas; Blue was the inspiration for a 90K manuscript I hope to be worthy of submitting to agents by the end of this year. If it gets published, I might have to give her a commission.

I love it when Mez’s posts segue perfectly into what I’ve been thinking about! I would say great minds think alike, but I think it’s more like crazed, fantasy writing obsessed minds think alike, and that doesn’t sound quite as flattering. Oh well, at least it’s honest!

Mez posted some great tips on getting your creativity going, and I’m going to go from there. So let’s start from the very beginning…your very basic story idea. This is where observation and the ‘What if’ question comes in. We all get our ideas from different places since we are all different, so I’m just going to tell you where I got some of my ideas, and maybe that will give you some inspiration where to find yours!

If you read the About Us page, you know I raise dairy goats. Here’s how to get a fantasy story from goats! I have a cute little goat named Shining Bluestar. I just call her Blue. That’s her pictured above. Forgive the bad photo; she doesn’t stand still for more than a nanosecond! So Blue and I were going through our nightly routine, which goes something like this:

Me: Come on, Blue, time to get off the milk stand!

Blue: But I’m still hungry!

Me: Blue, there is water outside for you to drink. Come on.

Blue: But I want THIS water!

Me: BLUE! Come ON! Your sisters are already outside. LET’S GO!!

Blue: Hey, what’s that??

You get the idea. Since this is a nightly routine, my mind was wandering (a great thing for a mind to do!) and I got to thinking about Blue’s name. I’ve heard of lots of animals named Blue, but I would never name a goat Yellow or Orange, and I was wondering why that was. Then I backed up and wondered what a human named Blue would be like. The idea intrigued me, so while I milked my next group, I imagined a girl named Blue. Like my goat, she would be small but a force to be reckoned with. Like me, she would like fantasy animals, so I decided she wanted to be a cryptozoologist. A quick check on that told me it wasn’t what I thought it was (Big Foot and Nessie, not fairies and unicorns) but I liked the idea so much, I kept it.

By 2:00 AM (NOT a good idea, by the way) I had a pretty good idea who Blue was: a 17 year old blonde with blue eyes, not even five feet tall, who wants to be a cryptozoologist when she graduates, despite the fact her teachers discourage her. I knew her backstory and the guy she is going to fall in love with. What’s going to happen in Blue’s story? I HAVE NO IDEA!! But I have a character ready to go on an adventure because I asked “What if” in a completely random way.

Here’s a little exercise for you using “What if.” Open a document on your computer or turn to a blank page in your journal, and get ready. Imagine you’re sitting somewhere, maybe in a doctor’s office or a coffee shop, and you look over to see a small girl talking to her stuffed bear. Not just talking to it, you realize, but having a full on conversation with it.

So here’s your “What if.” What if the teddy bear is actually talking to her? What if she isn’t pretending, but having an actual conversation? How is this possible? Write down the first idea you think of.

Got it? Good! Now write down nine more. Go now, fast! Be creative, silly, scary, random, not even possible, just get down nine more ideas as fast as you can. If you have to, set a timer for 2 minutes and get those ideas down in that time. If you get stuck, look around. I find looking away from my screen or page helps!

If you are like me, the first five are easy. The next two are harder. The last ones get weird. But the very last one I came up with is the most interesting. I could definitely make a story out of it. I’ll post mine in the comments, feel free to post yours to!

There are things happening all around you that can inspire a story as long as you are looking for them and willing to ask “What if.” And to think way, way out of the box!

I also look to other books and movies for inspiration. Note, I am not talking about using other people’s ideas. But sometimes there is just a certain aspect of a book that resonates with you. I read a book years ago, and I found I really liked the idea of a werewolf guiding a girl through a forest. Random, right? But that idea led to another story I am working on now. It looks nothing like the book I read. (If anyone knows what book I am talking about, please tell me, I can’t remember! It’s got two simultaneous stories going on, one in our world, one in a fantasy realm. The real world story has a girl looking for her brother and the fantasy has a girl looking for a kidnapped dragon baby with the werewolf helping. I read it almost 10 years ago and really liked it!)

Anyways, back on track, while that book inspired me, I made sure my story was mine, not a variation of the book I read. I love rewriting books and movies in my head, and sometimes I realize what is in my head is no longer anything like how it started.

So here’s another exercise! Pick a movie or a book. What would you change about it? I usually start by making sure the main character is a girl, but that’s just me! Was there a certain scene in the book you absolutely loved…if only the author had done this instead? Write it the way you would have done it. You may not be able to use any of this, but follow the rabbit trail. If you change that scene, what else changes? Keep going and you may eventually find you’ve created a whole new story. I want to reiterate, plagiarism is bad! But take inspiration where you can get it.

One last one! Sometimes all it takes is a phrase or a sentence. Something you just like the sound of. I read a book about a girl trying to save her family home, a crumbling castle. I finished the book, opened a word document, and wrote this sentence:

I live in a castle.

Simple, right?

For some reason, I tend to start writing in first person, present tense, and end up writing in third person past tense. I’m weird. Anyway, I had the mysterious ‘I’ describe the castle a bit. Then tried to figure out who ‘I’ was. The princess? Nah, not feeling it. A servant? Cliché. So my next sentence was written.

I’m not the princess or a servant. No, I’m the castle…

In an effort to figure it out, I started listing everyone who might be in a castle. Guess what I went with! The castle cat. Yep, ‘I’ was a cat. And from that first short sentence, a trilogy was born. Crazy!

So keep an ear out. Sometimes you hear or think of something that would make a wonderful first sentence. I didn’t keep any of the stuff I wrote at first, but doesn’t matter, I had the idea. And make sure you write it down. It is beyond frustrating to come up with a sentence perfectly phrased, then realize you can’t remember the exact wording!

So there you go, some weird ways I came up with story ideas! Stay tuned for my next few posts. I’ll write about some ways to start your stories, end them, and maybe even how you can get through the hardest part, the middle of a story.

Write on!

The Art of Asking: putting the Quest back in Question

One of my all time favourite albums is This Side by the blue grass band Nickel Creek. I’ve stolen quite a few maxims from them as well. This one’s my favourite:

Only the curious have something to find.

It’s true, isn’t it? Think of the most creative person you know. That person who always sees shapes in the clouds and pulls stories out of thin air. That person who sees the world, not as it is, but as it might be. That person who’s forever asking the question “But what if…”

Maybe that person you know was just lucky to be born with a creative soul. But then, aren’t almost all children born with a sense of awe, a readiness to absorb information &, most notable of all, a billion questions on their lips?

The problem with many of us struggling artists is not a missing ‘creative gene’ but rather a loss of our childlike sense that life is a Grand Adventure. Thinking we’ve seen it all, we stop looking (see Part II on the Art of Observation). Not wanting to appear ignorant, we stop asking questions. We become jaded, & our imagination just doesn’t work like it used to.

But what if we could revive that lost art that comes so naturally to children…        the Art of Asking?

There is a direct correlation between Curiosity and Creativity. The one fuels the other. So if you let Curiosity dry up, you can bet your Creativity will sputter out & wind up rusting in the junkyard of your busy, uninspired mind… unless you choose to embark on a quest that can reverse the hands of time & get your Creative mind banging on all cylinders again.

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3 Ways Asking Sparks Creative Thinking

In his book for cooking up Creativity, Five Star Mind, Tom Wujec explains the revitalizing power of asking questions like this:

Inside the word ‘question’ is the word ‘quest’,  suggesting that within every question is an adventure, a pursuit which can lead us to hidden treasure.

1) Asking questions excites your mind out of its drowsy state by laying an open road before it.

Just like Bilbo Baggins startled from his stupor by a troop of adventuring dwarves, your brain secretly longs for a mystery to solve, a quest to fulfill. Asking questions is an invitation for the brain to step out of its routine & into an adventure.

2) Asking questions gets your brain moving. 

Wujec explains that a question puts the brain in a state of irresolution, a bit like an itch that demands scratching. And believe it or not, your brain LOVES this irresolute state! If you don’t believe it, just look at the masses of Sudoku & crossword puzzles sold in your local bookstore. The brain sees the challenge & sets right to work to scratch that itch. Before you know it, your creative mind is on fire!

Irresolution is a potent fuel, a source of energy & motivation. – Tom Wujec

3) Asking questions gives you a target & helps you aim. 

Here’s where you can apply the Art of Asking directly to your writing, & especially when you feel utterly & hopelessly stuck. Asking the right kind of questions can be the hand up you need to get you unstuck & on your way again. So just what are the “right kind” of questions? 

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The Quest for better Questions

The best questions drive us to see the bigger picture, not just the immediate problem.

For example:  Instead of Why is my protagonist so BORING?! Try What do I already know about this character?  -or- How might this character respond in another situation?

The best questions are open-ended, inviting not just one answer, but many possible solutions.

For example:  In what ways can I make my protagonist more interesting? or more believable?

Then scribble away! You’re only limited by the size of your paper.

The best questions may not lead you to a final resolution… They may even lead you to ask yet more questions! 

That’s OK! In fact, that’s the point! For the creative writer, it’s not the answers but the Art of Asking that counts. Merely asking keeps the creative mind in motion & childlike wonder alive. Mastering this art will take practice — so much unlearning to do before we can have the humility to learn afresh! But the pay-off is enormous! Just consider all the books on your shelves that began with a simple, silly question:

“What if you fell down a hole in the ground & landed upside-down in a fantasy world?”

“What if you walked into a wardrobe & found yourself in in a winter’s wood?”

“What if an ordinary boy discovered he was actually a wizard?”

Do you dare to begin the quest? Who knows where your questions may take you…

 

If you enjoyed this article, check out Got Creativity Parts I & II.   Sign up for email notifications so you never miss a writing tip!

 

The Art of Observation: how to seek & find creative inspiration

Moment of truth. Have you ever put off writing because you just didn’t feel “inspired”?

I wager most of us (myself included) would have to plead a big fat guilty. Fact is, lack of Inspiration holds a high position on the list of excuses wanna-be writers make for not writing.

Fair enough, you may say. Inspiration is a key ingredient of Creativity, right? You can’t create cold. You needs a catalyst to get the stone rolling; a spark to ignite the flame; a bolt of lightning to strike life into Frankenstein’s monster before he can rapturously proclaim “It’s aliiiive!”

But what if the bolt of Inspiration you’re waiting for never comes?

The word “Inspiration” comes from Latin that literally refers to the act of God breathing -or inspiring– life into being… breathing a soul into mere flesh & bones. Prime example: in the book of Genesis, God breaths life into Adam (the 1st man) & thereby infuses him with God’s own attributes, including & especially Creativity! Then he tells Adam to get up & start using it! Look around at all those stars, plants & animals… Give them names… Grow gardens, build houses, write sonnets, procreate & fill the earth with the fruit of Creativity, & all from that one little initial spark of Inspiration!

So here’s what I’m driving at. If you’re alive reading this, you have the same gift of Inspiration Adam had– a soul to drive you, 5 senses to take in the world around you & a brain to make some sense out of it all *(you might say that’s the bare bones of how Creativity works).

So why do we feel we’re lacking Inspiration? Maybe we’ve just forgotten how to find it. Maybe our 5 senses need a dusting off. Maybe instead of waiting for lightening to strike us right where we sit, we need to become storm chasers… or more aptly, Inspiration Chasers (you can just hear the epic theme music cue, right?).

I’m talking about The Art of Observation. If you’ll master it, I guarantee inspiration for your craft will never again be hard to find. But be warned: once you learn how to look, you may find Inspiration lurking literally everywhere… more than your brain & notebooks combined can possibly contain! Leonardo da Vinci summed up this principle well. He said,

l’esperienza fu maestra di chi scrisse bene. (Experience was the good writer’s teacher)

When we experience the world, not passively, but through the kind of active observation that would make Sherlock Holmes proud, we have all the inspiration we need to fuel our creative writing. How’s it done?

3 Tips for mastering the Art of Observation today:

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1) Be prepared to be surprised!

Inspiration comes in funny ways & when you least expect it… only you should be expecting it everywhere all the time. For instance, last week I was invited to a Sunday lunch. Only when I arrived at the lunch did I discover that I was one of ten guests & the only one under the age of 75. The afternoon was spent loudly articulating every word for those hard of hearing & repeating myself to the one lady with memory loss. A waste of an afternoon when I might have been reading Rilke or waiting in meditation for the inspiration bug to bite? Ha! I came away with mountains of it!

I soon discovered my lunch companions were a kaleidoscope of mannerisms, dialects, peculiarities & brilliant senses of humour, to say nothing of the wonderful narratives they shared from bygone days that might as well be fantasy lands for someone my age! Their lives were rich, their perspectives so different, & they were so very willing to share all that wealth with anyone willing to listen… on that Sunday afternoon, that someone was the privileged I.

Anyone you meet, if you look & listen long enough, has something unique to offer as fodder for fiction.

And the very young & very old in particular seem to overflow with inspiring tales and insights. So don’t shun new company. Go where people are. Strike up chats. Be a listening ear. Hear the untold stories that walk right past you every day. They might just inspire the plot for your next fiction piece!

2) Gird yourself with the writer’s weapons. en garde!

Once you’ve learned to look for inspiration in every new environment, you’ll want a way to catch it & keep it before it flits away (beware the writer’s curse: Inspiration always strikes whilst in the shower or behind the wheel! Do not attempt to write or type in these situations!!!).

Keep a handy little notebook & writing utensil of choice on your person whenever possible. One of the best habits you can form is keeping an observation journal. Write down your first impressions of a person, place or object. What made them or it stand out? How do they differ from others around them? Jot down physical traits, speech (tone, pace, notable turns of phrase), attitude, movements, expressions… sky’s the limit! Just get it down & don’t assume you’ll remember later on.

3) Distill your observations into literary descriptions

You could stop at step 2 & still reap the benefits of observation: your mind & notebooks would be that much richer with potential characters, settings or intriguing objects. But if you aim to write to the next level, why not go a step further?

A good writer does more than string together a load of adjectives when describing someone or something. She chooses those descriptions– nouns & verbs as well as adjectives & adverbs–- that capture the essence of the thing or character.

Remember, your readers have the gift of creative thought as well. They can fill in the gaps. What you the writer must give them is an impression on which they can build their own images of your created world.

And here we come to the beauty of writing. The writer captures inspiration in order to distill it and create something new to inspire the reader. You might call it recycling inspiration.

But it all begins by putting to death the old excuse that you’re “waiting for inspiration.” Instead, practice the Art of Observation! You’ll soon find Inspiration is yours for the taking & for the making!

STAY TUNED FOR GOT CREATIVITY part III! SIGN UP TO OUR EMAIL LIST SO YOU NEVER MISS A WRITING TIP!

4 questions to determine whether you’re feeding or starving your Creative energy

We all know it when we see it. We all want a little more of it… but what exactly is creativity anyway? Tom Wujec, creative thinking guru, hits the problem on the mark in his book Five Star Mind:

“Creativity is a familiar stranger. Trying to define it is like trying to capture a puff of smoke with your fingertips.”

How can it be that Creativity is at once so familiar–we recognize it in others all the time–and yet so strange and slippery when we try to pin it down for ourselves? We come to believe that Creativity is some sort of mystical super power with which only the select creative geniuses among us have been so fortunately graced. While they receive visions, the rest of us ordinary people dig around in the mud hoping to strike creative gold. And dang, it’s hard work!

If only there were some 5-step process to awakening your inner creative genius! If only you could be as creative as _____ (fill in the blank: that writer who seems to strike gold every time they breath)!  If only…

If I’m honest with myself, those “If only” thoughts require a vast amount of energy. Energy that might be converted into…I dunno… creative thinking? Because when it comes down to it, Creativity might be indefinable, but it is not unattainable.

I want to argue that you already have creativity. You are a creative person.

And no, you don’t just need to squeeze your eyes shut and recite the mantra “I am creative!” until you magically pop out a bestseller. I’m not talking about deluding yourself into thinking you’re creative, or even faking it until you make it. I’m suggesting that everybody’s got the ability to be creative.

Having said that, your Creativity won’t look like mine. Just think about it: we are each of us created uniquely. Doesn’t it make sense that what we create and how we create will be equally unique to each of us? What inspires you to create might not do beans for me. And now, finally, we begin to get closer to why Creativity evades definition: it is by nature always adapting, evolving, developing along with us, individually & uniquely.

Ok. So the closest we can get to defining Creativity is to accept that it defies definition–it looks different for each one us. But we still haven’t resolved how we can maximize our creative energy, whatever that means!

Well in Parts II & III of “Got Creativity”, I’ll give you some tried-&-true tools for shaking that Creative muscle awake & getting it buzzing again.

But just for now, here a couple of questions to help you determine whether you’re nourishing your own Creativity… or suffocating it.

Are you giving yourself the space & time to be Creative?

When it comes to stimulating Creativity, the problem is often not too little but too much. How often, in a quiet moment alone, do you savour a bit of mindless musing rather than reach for your smartphone & start flicking? How often do you sit back & stare out the window on long journeys or your daily commute rather than clicking on the radio/ipod/news app/etc.?

Psychologists tell us that when our brain is in information processing mode (ie. flicking through our phones or surfing the web for “inspiration”), we virtually shut down our ability to create. However, when our brains are in task negative or “boredom” mode, it’s like those creative neurons can finally clear the floor & get their dancing shoes on!

When it comes to Creativity, boredom is your friend. It’s a dying art. Letting your mind wander without any external stimulation might even intimidate you. But making that space & time for musing is the vital first step to waking up your own Creativity.

Be brave! Give it a go!

*(Creative photographers Phillip & Eileen Blume talk about the goods & evils of modern technology for Creative thought in this inspirational TedX Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOPVLuopnV0)

Are you bogged down trying to write for the Market?

As a budding writer, it’s all too easy to try and catch whatever winds the market is blowing to fill your creative sails. But don’t be caught out. Trying to perform for an ever-changing market will soon leave you in the creative doldrums.

One of the key ingredients of Creativity is passion. That’s why your creativity looks different to mine! The thing you’re passionate about, the thing that energizes & excites you, that’s the fuel for your creative fire. So keep a weather eye on the Market if you must, but don’t fret over it. Keep a journal & jot down ideas that excite you. Write what you are passionate about. Because chances are, there’s an audience out there that’s passionate about the very same thing!

Are you an Explorer?

More on this in Part III, but suffice it to say for now, Creativity happens when our minds are allowed to wonder, to inquire, to explore… No wonder kids seem to have Creativity coming out their ears!

Remember those good ol’ days as a kid, mixing up mud pies with whatever ingredients you could find in the garden? Sure, to Mum or Dad it might have looked like you were picking berries, tearing leaves and digging up earthworms. But in actuality, you were gathering mundane ingredients together to make something new & wonderfully disgusting. But that is the essence of Creativity! Like a mud pie chef, as writers we gather together our plot, our characters, our settings… we toss in a bit of our favourite books, a pinch of life experience, and… voila! Something totally new results!

So dare to take a second look at the world around you. What others see as mud you may come to see as a scrumptious pie.

Do you learn from hiccups?

Creative writing is quite a lot like cooking (& not just mud pies). You throw together the ingredients you’ve gathered, hoping to make a delicious, harmonious stew. Not every ingredient will blend & enhance as you hoped. That’s ok! The key is to let your creative ideas simmer. It takes time, trial & error. Sometimes it takes getting it wrong before you know how to set it right.

Remember, Creativity grows with you. It’s a journey, and a right fun one if you’ll except the hiccups as all part of it!

Stay tuned for Got Creativity Parts II & III! Sign up to our email list so you never miss a writing tip!

Check This Out!!

So Mez discovered a new blog/ website and shared it with me, and I am in love. It’s called Prolifiko and it’s a site dedicated to helping writers meet their goals and finish projects.

FINISH PROJECTS!!

That is where I have a hard time. Come up with a story idea? I got dozens. Starting the draft? No problem, my fingers itch to type/write it down. Plotting it out and fashioning characters? Love it. Actually finishing? Yeah…my current project is eight years old.

EIGHT YEARS.

What is wrong with me?!

But this cool new blog has tips to help writers be more productive and to develop regular writing habits. They also have a five day writing challenge and I’ve signed up for it as of today. I’m telling all of you so I’m more accountable. My goal: finish rough editing the 45,000 words I wrote last year of my manuscript Fey.  So, um, this is the story I was supposed to finish last October. I’m hanging my head in shame. But I’m once again attempting to finish!

So check out Prolifiko here and let us know what you think of it!

Don’t wait for “Someday” to start writing

This is one of Bri’s earliest posts on the blog. I’m bringing it back now because it’s such a great motivator for all of us procrastinators out there… those dreamer, wanna-be writers who need to change mindset and become REAL writers. So read on, and get ready to turn “someday” into TODAY!

“‘Someday.’ That’s a dangerous word…It’s really just a code for ‘never.’”

Quick! Name that movie! If you guessed Knight and Day, you are correct! If not, well, better luck next time.

Have you ever used that word? “Someday, I’m going to…” Most of us have, and since you are reading this blog, I’m assuming the rest of the sentence has something to do with writing.

When is your someday? Is it after you graduate? After the kids graduate? Maybe you are planning your someday for after you get a raise or even after you retire.

For us writers, I’m willing to bet our someday almost always has to do with having more time. Let’s face it; writing takes up a lot of time! And worse, it’s focused time, alone time. It’s don’t-you-know-I-can’t-write-and-carry-on-a-conversation time. And who has that kind of time?

However, I think someday needs to be today. Seriously. If you wait around until someday comes around, you take the chance someday will never come, or if it does, isn’t what you thought it was. There will always be demands on your time, but when something is important to you, you make time for it. If writing is important, make time now for it.

Try this. There are 168 hours in a week. Can you find two for your writing? You’re a writer, you’re supposed to be creative, so think creatively! Here’s what I came up with off the top of my head (or, er, the hours I’ve been composing this in my head…)

  • Rent a movie for the kids once a week and write while they watch
  • Go to bed an hour later twice a week, or get up earlier (unless you are like me and you turn into either a zombie or Dr. Jekyll one hair away from morphing into Mr. Hyde. In that case, please sleep!)
  • Here’s something radical: don’t go on social media for a day! Every time you start to go on social media, do some writing instead
  • Carry a journal and a pen with you everywhere and anytime you have five minutes, do some brainstorming or outlining. Use your lunch hours and all that time waiting around for appointments or people
  • Make an appointment with yourself and keep it as if it was a doctor’s appointment
  • Anything else you can think of! Like I said, be creative. For most of us, the time is there if we make writing a priority

Get a calendar and flip ahead to a year from today. Writing just two hours a week, you can have a 50,000-100,000 word first draft done on that date. That’s better than finding another year gone and you still no closer to your writing goals, don’t you think? Revise it in the next year, and voila! Time to start looking for agents instead of waiting for someday.

Want to start writing but need help?  Ask us your questions in the comment below, or email us at sippitsisters@gmail.com!

So you want to be a writer? Here’s how.

I wonder if you ever thought about this: every great author had to start from scratch.

Every successful writer out there was once a wisher… someone who wished she could write that book she’d been carrying around inside her just waiting to come out… someone, perhaps, a lot like you.  

How did they make the massive leap from wanna-be writer to real writer?

Was it a lucky break?

Was it some lightening bolt of creative genius that struck them by chance & resulted in a master piece?

I’m confident if you asked your favourite author, he would laugh before answering with a definite “Not a chance!”

So what is the secret? How do you stop wishing you were a writer & become one? I’ll tell you. Here it is, ready?

 The first three baby steps to switching gears from wanna-be to real writer

1. Declare yourself a writer 

As writing-coach Jeff Goins puts it, this is not about faking it until you make it. Deciding and declaring your status as a writer and not a wanna-be is essential to making that step. It’s about making a mental shift & setting your intention in stone. So go on. No more excuses. Write it down. Pin it on the wall. Tell a close friend: I am a writer. But of course that’s just the start… 

2. Start writing… now.

I know, I know. This one sounds like a total no-brainer. But actually, this obvious step is where most people fail to move from wanna-be to writer. Writers are people who write. Sure, they do other things too–dreaming, planning, researching–but all those things can become just ways of procrastinating from the one essential job of the writer, which is (you guessed it) WRITING! So if you want to be a writer but your’e not currently writing anything, get yourself a journal or a notepad and write something: ideas, observations, thoughts about stories you love… remember, you don’t have to write Gone With the Wind on day one. Baby steps. But you must write

3. Learn the basic tricks of the trade 

I absolutely believe the best way to become a better writer is to write, and write, and write. But you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Many have gone before you & picked up tricks– methods, processes, little secrets of the craft– that will make your new life as a writer a lot easier & a lot more fun. 

That’s where we come in! In June and July, we’re reposting our best writing-tips to walk you through the process & motivate you along the way. Writing a novel is an emotional roller-coaster, no matter how many times you’ve done it. There’s nothing like having a shoulder to cry on & a hand to guide you through each step. That’s what we’re here for!

So whether you’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo in July, writing your 100th novel, or giving this whole writing thing a go for the very first time, these tips are going to help you… I can guarantee it, because they’re the same tips that’ve helped us along the way! 

So here’s your homework: Declare yourself a writer today, & let’s get writing!
Sign up for our email alerts (in the right margin) so you don’t miss a single tip!

 

The Mystery Blogger Award

So co-writing a blog from two continents can be a little tough sometimes, so it took us a little while to respond to Nandini’s tag, but here it is! And we sincerely thank you for such an awesome tag.

Thank you, Nandini!

If you haven’t already, check out her blog here. It’s one of my absolute favorites!

And just what is The Mystery Blogger Award? Well, here it is in the creator’s own words:

“The Mystery Blogger Award is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.” 

-Okoto Enigma

Thanks for creating this award and Mez and I are thrilled to be nominated! Here’s a link to Okoto Enigma’s blog.

Here are the rules for this award. Who knew these things have rules?!

  1. Display the award logo on your blog.
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  3. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link.
  4. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  5. Answer 5 questions from the nominee.
  6. Nominate 10-20 bloggers.
  7. Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog.
  8. Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, including 1 weird or funny question.
  9. Share the link to your best post.

Rules 1-3, done!

So three things about me and Mez…let’s see…

1.  We love Pride and Prejudice, especially the 1995 movie adaptation. I can’t tell you how many times we have watched that 6 hour movie, pausing when Mr. Darcy give Elizabeth the look after the saves Georgiana from embarrassment. Swoon!

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2.  We love to travel. Really, who doesn’t? But traveling together, we’ve gone to France, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and several places throughout England, including Lyme, Bath, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, and London of course!

3.  We have a bit of a strange meeting up story. Before we met each other, we both lived in the same tiny town. Mez went to a different school, so we never met up. Then Mez moved and eventually became home-schooled. When she did, I switched to the school she had gone to! After that, at least 2-3 people from my home town asked me if I knew her, and I began to get rather irritated at this girl I didn’t know because no, I didn’t know her, stop asking! But she came back to school and we became friends before I fully usrealized, oh, she’s that girl. And the rest, as they say, is history!

And now, here are our answers to Nandini’s questions:

What is the last book you read that you would recommend to everyone who reads?

Mez: Just finished Lucy Strange’s debut MG novel The Secret of Nightingale Wood and was well impressed. I haven’t reviewed it just yet, but definitely recommend it.

Bri: Mine is a reread, but I just finished for the fifth or sixth time The True Meaning of Smekday. It is such a fun read and Tip is a hilarious, sarcastic, clever narrator.

What song is stuck in your head currently?

Mez: Slightly embarrassing, but my husband and I have been binge watching Flight of the Concords lately, so pretty much any of their songs is game to pop into my head throughout the day.

Bri: Mine is even more embarrassing than Mez’s. This is Halloween, Halloween, Halloween! The Nightmare Before Christmas, one of my favorite movies and favorite soundtracks to listen to while I milk the goats.

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What is your most anticipated movie of 2017?

Mez: It was Beauty and the Beast, but looking ahead, I’m super excited to see the film adaptation of Wonder in November (especially because I’m reading it right now!)

Bri: Same here with Beauty and the Beast! Now it’s A Monster Calls. I actually own it, just haven’t had the right time to watch it.

What game(s) did you love to play as a child?

Mez: Anything involving the outdoors and make-believe. I seem to remember my siblings and I wandering around the woods as orphans a lot of the time.

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Bri: We had a little ‘tree house’ (it wasn’t in a tree but on stilts) with a rope swing hanging from a tree. There we were fairies, princesses, and super heroes. We spent hours out there, imagining stories. Eventually I started writing them down, and that’s where it all started!

 

If you were to be stuck in one city (or town or village) of your choice for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Mez: Golly, that’s a tough one! But I’ve got to go with Oxford, England. Ok, it’s not the most exotic, but it’s nostalgic and magical and it just feels like home.

Bri: Assuming I could speak the language and my family could visit, I would have to say Paris. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there, but I loved it. Absolutely loved it, the architecture, the gardens, the food, and just the overall vibe.

Now for our nominees:

 

– Briana & Krista @ Pages Unbound
– Ami @ Luvtoread
– Loonyloonyvish @ Idlejabber 
– Katie Grace @ A Writer’s Faith
And here are your questions!
  1. Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert (or a little of both)?
  2. How do you get through writer’s block?
  3.  Coffee or tea and how do you drink it?
  4. What are your writing goals for this year?
  5. Fun question: If your could have any super power, what would it be? And would you be a hero, villain, or just have some fun?
Finally, a link to our best posts. That’s a tough one… I think I’ll pick Someday and Daily Doses of Magic.
Whew! Just about done. This was a bit exhausting, but a lot of fun! I hope everyone is having a great week. Can you believe we are heading into June, almost half way through the year! And Mez will be stateside soon!! Something to really look forward to. Night (or morning) everyone!

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