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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 

Who Needs a Schedule?

I want to go out on a limb here and say...YOU! You need a schedule.We all do. If you have a schedule-phobia, then you might have stopped reading by now. If you're vigorously shaking your head no, then just bear with me for a few more hundred words and let me tell you why I think everyone needs to find a schedule that works for them.

You will write more.
If you have a schedule, you will write more. I haven't done an official study, but I have talked to enough writers and have been a writer long enough to know this is true 95 percent of the time. (Estimated statistics there--we are not math geniuses after all.) Usually, if you have given yourself a scheduled time to write, this also means that you've made writing a priority. And if you've made writing a priority, then you're writing more and on a consistent basis.

Without scheduled writing time, writing might be the thing on the list that occurs when you get around to it. We all know that many times those list items never get finished.

It doesn't have to be a typical schedule.
If you are NOT a schedule person, and you are still with me, then thanks for hearing me out. You see, scheduled writing does not have to mean that every day at 5am, you are going to wake up and write. There are all different types of plans that work for people--the point is really to have a planned writing time and stick to it. This is why several novelists have taken my "Write a Novel with a Writing Coach" class because the way the class is set up, it makes writers stick to a schedule. The schedule is: every Friday, they must turn in a chapter or 15 pages to me. So before Friday then, they have to plan writing time to get this assignment finished--some people do it the weekend before and revise during the week. Others write at night when their children go to bed. Some do it on their lunch hour.

Maybe you have a critique group that meets every three weeks. So your schedule is--I have to have two chapters to turn in every three weeks. Therefore, how much time do I need to write these chapters before that date? Maybe it's not the same time for you every day, but you know you'll need ten hours before that three week deadline, and you work your writing time in that way.

Having a schedule saves you time.
One thing I have started doing is before I get up from my computer to do anything (get a snack, go to the bathroom, put a load of laundry in), I open up the next thing I'm going to work on or I type a line for the next paragraph or chapter, etc. The point is: planning ahead of time what you are going to do saves you time. So, even if you have to make your writing schedule day by day because you have a totally hectic life, thinking about WHEN you can have planned writing time the very next day and WHAT you will work on helps you use your limited time wisely; and (I sound like a broken record) you will be more productive.

If you are a schedule person, tell us below how you use a schedule to work your writing into your life. If you are not, then let us know--does this post drive you crazy?

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach, editor, author and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. You can find out more about her writing and coaching business here and her books here


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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

 

Five Ways to Kill Your Inner Critic


            I admit it. I have an inner critic who sometimes rears her ugly head. Her name's Edith.

            Edith lives in a ratty bathrobe and dingy house slippers that slap-slap-slap across the cracked and peeling-up linoleum floor. Sitting at an old kitchen table, she glares at me over her cat-eye glasses while she chain smokes. Edith's always glad to cut down my writing. So whenever she shuffles in, I have to tell her to "Shut up and get out. Now."

This is Edith and her grandson. He was never eager
to visit his grammy. Is it any wonder why?

          Most writers deal with an inner critic. How do we get rid of them?

          1.  One way to vanquish them is what I just did. Give your critic a name. A face. Be specific with the details. That way, you'll realize the voice that says your writing stinks is not coming from inside you... and you can then pull the welcome mat out from under their feet.

         2.  Realize how unreasonable you are when you expect perfection out of yourself. I read an article by Homaira Kabir and I lovedlovedloved her line, "I am my shadow as well as my light." We're a blend of the good and the bad, the brilliant and the sucky.

           If I wasn't writing this for WOW, I might put it in a cruder way. But since I am, I'll word it like this: you must empty your bowels before you have the room to enjoy the next delectable serving batch of bread pudding.
     
          Give yourself permission to write sub-par stuff, because it will make way for the stuff that sings...

        3.  Reverse the golden rule. Treat yourself the way you treat others. If a someone told a friend, "Your writing is a steaming pile of poop," what would you say to encourage the colleague and dispel the negativity?

         Whatever you would say to them, say to yourself. Aren't you worthy of decent treatment?





4.  Imagine the worst-case scenario.

        If I submit this story, the editor will definitely send me a rejection letter. In fact, he/she will be
        so appalled by my writing, they'll call me on the phone, to ensure I get the message that I should
        never, ever send any of my stories to any market on the planet. Just in case I try to slip through           the cracks, they'll send my name and picture to every other editor and publisher as a digital
        "not wanted" poster.

        Then they'll use my story to wipe their rear end after using the toilet...

        Most likely this will not happen. But just imagining the wild things that might happen might make you chuckle.
        

5.  Use that negative energy to do something positive. In a New York Times article Carl Richards wrote about an email he got from Chip Scanlan which said, "Whenever I'm blocked... I lower my standards. Correction, I do my best to not have any standards at all. I abandon my standards. I urge myself to write badly, and once I do that my fingers begin to fly, and the inner critic is powerless."

          Richards went onto write, "What might happen if you took all the energy that goes in to judging your work and put it right back into the wellspring of creating the work instead?"
     

     If you'd like to read an article about lowering your standards to free your creative flow, read this article.

        What clever ways do you have to get rid of your inner critic? Please share--we could all benefit from what works for you.

Sioux Roslawski is tattooed (only two words--on her wrist). She's also the member of two writing critique groups, and will gladly sit down and talk about the writing process--what works for you, what doesn't... just say the word (she really gets excited and starts gesturing and spittle-ing when it comes to writing). In her spare time (she teaches middle-schoolers) she reads, writes (mostly for Chicken Soup until she has the courage to venture outside of that box) and rescues golden retrievers for Love a Golden. If you'd like to read more, go to her blog.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

 

Living Through My Own Version of “The Glass Castle”


A double rainbow over the home we hope to stay in for years to come.

This weekend, the film adaptation of Jeanette Walls’ powerful memoir “The Glass Castle” opened in theaters. I read the book a few years ago and couldn’t put it down. Although I was fortunate and didn’t grow up with parents quite as erratic as the author’s, there were so many parts of the story that resonated with me. In fact, when I showed the movie trailer to both of my kids a few days ago, I couldn’t help but break down and weep.

I had a step-father who thought nothing of moving us from place to place every few months, we were constantly dodging creditors throughout my childhood, and there were many times we moved into questionable places that he had grand plans to “fix up and make our dream house.” That would only last a few months, and then we would move once again, leaving behind a house or mobile home with modest renovations completed. I tried to put some of my feelings about this down in an essay I wrote a few years ago, titled “Moving.”

I learned to live in a constant state of flux, holding my breath and waiting for the inevitable. If my parents were unhappy with our living situation, we simply packed up all our things and left. By the time I was in seventh grade, I had attended six different schools and lived in more houses and mobile homes than I’ll ever be able to remember. The cars my parents drove changed just as frequently. I hated starting new schools and trying to make friends from scratch. The Hispanic heritage on my mother’s side, awkward haircuts and big bulky glasses left me a prime target for ridicule and bullying in my younger years. To this day, I cannot walk into a room full of strangers without feeling my skin crawl.

For a long time, I had issues with all the “things” I felt we were collecting in our home. I wasn’t used to being able to save so much, because I was used to only holding on to the bare minimum of possessions so we could be ready for the next move. While I still don’t like clutter, I’ve made peace with a few things, as I also wrote.

So I’ve come to realize that maybe it’s a good thing to have an entire bin in the garage full of artwork from my son and daughter. It is okay if we store some of their old toys in our attic so they can reclaim them someday. That is what normal families do. My kids both attended the same preschool and have grown up with the children at their elementary school. I never had that opportunity. I lived in so many homes, had so many babysitters and attended so many schools, that its often hard to remember details like street names and zip codes, much less what the inside of the homes looked like.

I admire the courage Jeanette Walls had to put her story out there, especially since her mother is still alive. From what I can tell from some of the interviews I’ve read with Walls, her mother Rose Mary came to terms with what she describes as  "how her daughter remembered her childhood" and now even lives with the author and her husband in a cottage on their property.

As for me, my parents divorced in 2004. My stepfather went on to remarry and did end up building his dream house out in Colorado—only he did it with his new wife and not with us. My mother lives in a small home two-bedroom home but is happy as she can be, because she is dependent upon her own survival and supports herself by working 40+ hours a week at a hardware store. She has lived in the same place since the divorce. My husband and I bought a new house back in April that has everything we could ever want in it and we don’t plan on moving anytime soon.

I hope to provide a different life for my kids than the one I had.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who resides in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

 

Mom Writers on Entertaining Toddlers

Lots of us write and work from home while wearing our Mom hat. Older children can be distracted with books, electronics, or other quiet activities. Toddlers are a different story. In an online group someone recently asked for ideas and tips on entertaining toddlers while writing from home. I've compiled a few ideas and suggestions that can be helpful. Please leave your comments, suggestions, and ideas in the comment section. (even just words of encouragement are greatly appreciated)

1) An empty cardboard box - provides endless fun and imagination. Add some washable markers or crayons to make a space-ship, or some blankets and pillows for a slumber party!

2) An inflatable ball pit/pool/bounce house - with or without the balls can be super fun. These don't last long in our house so I never buy anything too terribly expensive, and be prepared...if you do add balls, you'll be picking them up quite often. I like to think of it as my daily aerobic activity and the children really enjoy throwing them around (they're too soft to hurt anyone or anything).

3) Inexpensive toys - cheap toys from the dollar store (hard hats, Dr kits, etc...) can be a lot of fun. Even though they break easily, I don't usually care much since they're super cheap and instead of expecting the toddlers to share a pricier item, they can each have their own.

4) Old clothing - not sure what to do with that old prom dress, fancy blouse with the stain on it? Fill a box with those old items and allow the toddlers to play dress up. Just prepare yourself as some adventurous kiddos may attempt to take off all their clothing before putting on the dress clothes. I like to supervise this activity by asking them to show me each outfit after they've put it on and before they role-play.

5) Television - it's okay if sometimes you turn on a children's program so you can get some work done. My current favorite is Beat Bugs on Netflix because the songs are enjoyable as opposed to being annoying or just tolerable. I'm not a huge fan of television, but sometimes a mom has to do what a mom has to do, right?




As a mom with toddlers as well as older children, some of the best advice I can offer is that this too in time shall pass. It's not always possible to write from home with the children around. Sometimes I wait until they're in bed, sometimes I wait until someone else can watch them and I sneak off to a coffee shop, and other times I grab a notebook and we head outdoors or to the park where they can play a little more freely and I can jot down ideas.

Parenting isn't easy and neither is writing. Be forgiving of yourself and your children. I have a quote on my bathroom mirror reminding me::


I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection


What has worked for you? What advice can you offer to others? We love hearing from you and thanks in advance for your comments and support!

Hugs,
~Crystal




Crystal is a council secretary and musician at her church, birth mother, babywearing cloth diapering
mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 10, Andre 9, Breccan 3, Delphine 2, and baby Eudora due this fall), two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

 

Putting Your Story Aside

It’s no secret. I have a tendency to bounce between projects. In part, this is because I do work-for-hire and it may very well interrupt a “fun” project. Yeah, that’s what I call my own writing – my fun work. But it isn’t all that fun when you can’t make it work. 

About three weeks ago, I started playing around with a new preschool poem. It was originally a Golden Shovel poem in which you use one line from a poem you love for inspiration and to supply the first word in each line of your own poem. Mine first attempt was a riff on a Poe’s Eldorado. Kindly put, it was awful.

Version 2, written the next day, was longer and worked better except that it still contained blank lines. Version 3 had everything filled in but the rhythm was off. On Day 4, I’d change one word and then change it back. Then I’d do that with a different word. Fortunately, I recognized the signs and turned my back on this particular project.

After a break of about a week, I got it back out. Coffee cup in hand, it took about 10 minutes to fix. Why?  Because I was smart enough to turn my back on the project. 

Unfortunately, it sometimes takes intervention to make me do this. I've been working on a picture book. I LOVE the premise. LOVE IT. Really. But something wasn’t working. I added a secondary character, but things still weren’t quite right.  I took the secondary character back out. Then I printed the manuscript for my critique group.

But I kept hearing this little voice.  “Don’t let them read it. It isn’t ready.”  I brought the manuscript home and handed it to my husband. Then I ran and jumped in the shower. Lots of water would mask the sound of him turning pages. 

I didn’t bother to dry off completely before I hunted him down. “Well?”

“Yeah. It doesn’t work.”

“What? What do you mean it doesn’t work?” It’s one thing for me to think it doesn’t work but where does this non-writer get off?

“You’ve got way too much going on. Yeti. Yoga. Cats. Too much.”

“But . . . yeti!”

“Too much.”

He was right, of course. I’d known something wasn’t working but apparently this time I needed someone else to tell me to set it aside. Hopefully a solution will come in time, because -- yeti! Seriously, how can I not write about yeti?

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins August 14th. 

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Friday, August 11, 2017

 

Friday Speak Out!: Taking Time to Write

by Amanda Crofutt

Balancing writing and my family has been something that I have struggled with since my first child. I now have three kids and two step kids. I think with time and practice it gets easier, but it is definitely something that is learned. I have written since I was a young teenager, writing was always an outlet for me. I am sure it is that way for many of us, but as I got older I discovered that I wanted to also inform people. I didn’t just want to put my emotions out there. Then at nineteen I had my first child, and I thought I would have to give it up. I loved him with all my heart, but at the same time I was a single parent struggling some days to find time to shower yet alone to write a quality essay of any length for anything, or anyone. As he got a little older I realized that as much as I loved my child I had left everything I had once loved behind for him. I had to start making time for me again. I had this Epiphany around the time he was almost a year old. I met my now husband around the same time, there is a lot that he helped me through but that is something that can be talked about some other time.

I realized that I needed to dedicate an hour to me a day, that was my magic number, as I call it anyway. The amount of time I spent doing something solely for me that made me feel good and happy and whole. I started by dedicating that time to writing, spending time at a lake, walking. As I did I realized what had been missing for a year was me, and my writing. I don’t know about most of you, but writing is how I make sense of the world around me. So to lose that most sacred part of me was almost like someone had cut out a large chunk of my heart. When I had my second child two years later I did not let up off of having one hour a day to myself, and now that I have five kids I still have one hour a day to do what I please, to write, to experience, to live life without thinking of being mom first and writer second.

The point of all of this is, find your magic number. It may be different than mine. It took me almost three weeks to figure out that it was an hour every day for me. It may be two hours every day for you. It may be an hour every other day. Find it, and then hold yourself to it until it is second nature. Take that time to take a walk so you can hear the birds, finish another chapter in your book. Maybe you just need an hour binge-watching your favorite show. We all get inspiration from different places, but find yours, take it and turn into something. You can’t do that without dedicated time to write. Here’s to your next piece.

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My name is Amanda, I have been a writer since my early teen years. Now I am a mom of five with a full time job. I have been married for three years to a veteran, which comes with its own ups and downs. I have recently decided to take to publishing my work. Visit: https://amandacrofutt.wordpress.com/  

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

 

The Best Laid Schemes: When Life Forces a Writing Moratorium

Ten days ago, I was in a car accident. Days later, after trying to ignore a constant headache, sick stomach, and concentration difficulties, a visit to the emergency room produced the diagnosis; I had a concussion.

"The best laid schemes. . . "
-Robert Burns
I hear about concussions all the time. Student athletes at my school frequently suffer from them. I knew these students struggled to keep up with school work but, until ten days ago, I didn’t realize what an impact a concussion could have on a person’s daily life.

The doctor’s instructions were simple: No reading. No writing. No computer. No phone. No television. I was to rest in a darkened room as much as possible until the symptoms subsided.

These instructions would be a tough pill for anyone to swallow, but I’m a writer. I’m a teacher. I’m a blogger. I’m a mom. It’s the last two weeks of summer break! I’m in the middle of manuscript edits requested by an agent!

All my work plans came crashing to a halt. I couldn’t write or read. I felt lost. Worse, I felt woefully behind on my progress and was worried how my writing aspirations would suffer from the loss of this precious time.

As I sat on the sofa, staring at the wall, I had to think of other ways to stick to my goals. I thought about my work in progress – the characters, the plot progression, the ending – and had time to contemplate each one. Small plot holes came to mind. I started to “talk out” the book with my husband and friends – anyone who would listen, really, because sitting on a couch in a darkened room all day is enough to bore anyone to tears - and they helped me find solutions to my problems. I couldn’t write, but I could think and talk. I had my daughter jot down important notes for me as new ideas emerged.

Parts of the book which plagued me began to take shape. I was fixing them – not in writing form, but in my head. I imagined the story, which was just as vivid as writing it down.

As for the no-reading rule – that one was easy to fix. I downloaded a few books on tape and listened to them as I did small tasks, like laundry, or cooking, or resting on the couch with the lights off. This, too, proved beneficial. One book – which will remain nameless – repeated words and phrases so often it was distracting. I made a mental note to watch out for that same mistake in my own writing.

I think everything happens for a reason. In this case, maybe my muse decided I needed to take a writing break and think my story through. As much as I wanted to work on it these last two weeks, taking a break has helped my novel.

I still have the concussion, but I’m doing my best to make the most out of this writing moratorium. As Robert Burns said, “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.” No matter how hard we plan, something can always go wrong.

Even if life isn’t forcing you to take a writing break, you might want to consider backing off for a few days. It could be the solution your story needs to take a step forward.


Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.

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