3 Ideas to Generate Content

Standard

One of the best sessions I heard at the Willamette Writers Conference was a panel of three agents. One of them in particular said something that has stuck with me.

swings

She was answering a question from the audience. After an agent had already signed you, the person asked, what should you do as a writer in the meantime while waiting for your manuscript to sell? She smiled and her eyes got big. “Write!” She said. “We want to know that you’re working on other things, that you’re still generating content.”

The principle of generating content was a huge one that I came away with from the conference. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? If you’re a writer, write all the time, every single day. Basic. However, maybe you’ll agree with me when I admit that often, I theorize and procrastinate far too much, and put pen to paper far too little.

Our content may not be stellar for quite awhile. It may suck. However, it will never even get close to awesome if we don’t generate it in the first place. In the words of P.D. James, “Don’t just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.”

If we spend all of our time fussing and thinking and tinkering around with the idea of our writing, we miss the opportunity to grow into a better writer.

So, generate content! The three “kick-starters” below are obvious, but they are my go-to, the fuel that keeps my writing flowing, even when I don’t feel like it, or when think that everything coming out of my brain is mush.

1) Journal. This keeps you in the habit of constantly processing life through writing. Plus, no one reads your journal (usually), so you can write an awful mess in there and nobody cares.

2) Read. Read a ton, then write about what you’re reading, or copy what you’re reading to gain a sense of the author’s style, or just let the reading marinate inside of you to add flavor to your writing projects.

3) Write. Yep, this soapbox again. Everyday, whether you feel like it or not. We have not reached the end of the year yet (aka reflection time), but I can already tell you the single biggest thing that has transformed my life as a writer this year is the decision to sit down and write every morning.

Do you get stuck sometimes in your writing? What helps you consistently generate content? Is there a particular activity that kick-starts you again?

Advertisements

July Reading

Standard

With all the hubbub of the writer’s conference, I forgot to mention how July reading went in the reading contest between my dad and I. It was tight last month, but I narrowly beat Dad in a mad race to the finish line! We both went on vacation at different times during July, so we had ample time to get massive amounts of reading done. As a result, it was a record-setting month for both of us.

lettuce

Dad sent me a great quote this last week from one of his favorite bloggers, Tim Challies, about reading:

“Sometimes you need to do a lot of reading to come away with one really good idea. Some books yield nothing but nonsense; some yield nothing but ideas you have come across a thousands times before. But then, at last, you find that one that delivers. There is such joy in it. Such reward.”

This was a great reminder for me once again of why it is so important to read as a writer. Often, the great ideas we get for writing projects are born out of what we’ve been reading. Not every book will produce inspiration for our writing, but the ones that do are well worth the wait.

On a “resources” note, I am getting into audiobooks for the first time this month. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long. I have a commute that is ideal for audiobooks (meaning, lots of traffic). If you’re looking for a great way to get a hold of audiobooks, Overdrive Media Console hooks you up to your local library network and you can check out lots of great audiobooks on your device-of-choice for free!

How have you seen certain books or authors directly impact your writing? What advice would you give to a writer who is struggling to find time to read?

Four Things I Learned at the Willamette Writer’s Conference

Standard

I attended the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland this weekend! Although my brain is crammed full to bursting from all of the information, I wouldn’t trade one minute of the weekend. It was truly amazing. I met a lot of great people, the speakers were excellent, and I pitched my novel to literary agents for the first time!

conferenceitems

Coming away from the experience, here is my biggest thought:

I waited far too long to attend a writer’s conference.

What I learned in the course of 72 hours from talking with other writers, asking questions, forcing myself to pitch even though I was scared, and just being an active participant, was worth months of reading and working on my own. The synergy that occurs in this type of setting is irreplaceable. In looking back over the last three days, here are four things I learned:

1) Come ready to engage. It’s such a short amount of time. If you have questions, ask them. If you want to meet someone, stick out your hand. It’s an amazing opportunity to be in the same spot with a ton of different people who are passionate about the same thing as you: writing!

2) Do what you’re afraid of. This was a great weekend for me in the realm of conquering fears. I did not realize how exposed I would feel talking about my writing with other people, but I’m so glad I did. I pitched twice, and both times, right before I went in, I was a ball of nerves. However, contrary to my prior fears, it went fine!

3) Write now, process later. I took lots of notes, not just in sessions, but also when people gave me great tips or a good book title or a useful website. My notebook is a scramble of things written upside down, sideways and completely out of any kind of order, but I’ll organize it all when I type it up, and that will also be a chance to process and chew on what I’ve learned.

4) Make an action list. Even before the conference was over, I started making an action list of things I needed to begin doing immediately when I got home. There is so much information to work through, but if I can decide what to start implementing immediately, there’s a much better chance this stuff will stick.

I’ll have more thoughts to share on the conference in future posts, but that’s it for now. Have you ever attended a writer’s conference? Are there useful tips you would give to others in addition to these?

 

 

 

Overcoming Doubt As a Writer

Standard

Doubt

I’ll be honest. I’ve been struggling with doubt quite a bit lately, especially as the writing conference is getting closer. It is only a week and a half away, and I am wondering if I am just a total wingnut for doing this. As remedy for the unwelcome invasion of writer’s doubt that seems to be making itself at home in me, I’ve written a few thoughts on doubt.

Perhaps you struggle with doubt in your writing, as well. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you are a picture of confidence. Congrats. If that’s the case, this is just for me then.

1) Doubt is inevitable. It may sound obvious, but the sooner we can embrace the fact that doubt is part of the writing life, the more we are ready to handle it when it comes. The most successful people in the world wrestle demons of doubt everyday. Why not me? Why not you?

2) Doubt is a positive sign. If you are exposing yourself in any way through art, doubt will be right there to shout you down. Doubt just may be a sign that you are doing something worthwhile, and if that’s the case, by golly, bear down and get it done! It may be hard, but it will be worth it.

3) Doubt can be harnessed. In my mind, this is the best part about doubt. It does not have to defeat you. You can let those voices in your head become the fuel for improvement. You will prove them wrong. You are proving them wrong every time you sit down at your desk and hammer out another 1,000 words.

One of the best blogs out there (in my humble opinion) that deals with the topic of doubt in the writing life is Bryan Hutchinson’s blog The Positive Writer. There are many great posts on the topic, and he even wrote a book called Writer’s Doubt. How fitting!

So how about you? When was the last time doubt crept into the midst of your writing? How did you deal with it? Feel free to leave a comment!

 

Goodbye Netflix, Hello Novel

Standard

I love Portland in the summer. It’s true we live with rain most of the year, but this is when we get to enjoy all the green the rain brings. It’s been awesome to head outside on adventures, and for a writer, that always seem to make the creative juices flow better. In fact, this is a great article by Colleen M. Story about how the greats used walking in their creative process. Below is a photo from an urban adventure with my friend Sarah. My favorite Portland bridge is in the background.

Portland

So lately, I’ve been thinking about the word no quite a bit. This is a word I wrestle with constantly in my life. Like many, I struggle with saying no to people, saying no to commitments and saying no to good things in order to have time for great things. Michael Hyatt has some great resources on his website about having good life margin, but I wanted to talk a bit about no specifically in relationship to pursuing the writing life. What will you say no to in order to make your writing dreams a reality? Here are some things I have (and am continuing) to say no to in order to make writing happen every day.

1) Movies. Yep, I still watch them, but not nearly as many as I used to. This not only gives me time for writing, but for reading in the evenings, as well. At any rate, I love movies, so this has been a gradual transition, and not without pain!

2) Television. I don’t have one. Kind of like chocolate in the house. If it’s there, I will eat it (possibly in one ungodly sitting). If the TV is there, I will turn it on, so it’s just easier if I don’t have one around.

3) Sleeping In. Now I will admit; I am a morning person, so this is not as much of a challenge for me, but it’s one that I try to enforce, even on the weekends. There is less distraction, more quiet, which for me, inevitably leads to more productivity. This is the single biggest factor that has changed my writing life. I simply get up early and write immediately, every day.

These are simple things. Pursuing the writing life does not involve turning your life upside down and abolishing every single bad habit you have or erasing every commitment on your calendar. It simply involves saying no to a few strategic things, and saying yes to the one thing you are passionate to pursue.

What things have you given up in order to make space for writing? How has it been difficult? What benefits have you seen? Feel free to leave a comment!

 

 

The Writer’s Conference

Standard

Well, too late to back down now! I have registered for the Willamette Writers Conference, which is coming up the first weekend in August. I am stoked, so nervous and just plain excited to be following through on this goal. It doesn’t matter what happens at the conference…the big step for me was signing up in the first place!

pamphlet

That being said, I have signed up for a couple of pitches and I plan to pitch my novel at the conference. Again, the biggest factor in this whole scenario for me is conquering fear. I have always been terrified of sharing my work, of having someone belittle my efforts and say to my face, “Hmm well, this story basically sucks. And you suck! Who do you think you are?!”

Does this happen to you, as well? The more times you replay the vignette in your head, the more monstrous it becomes. Before you realize it, the nightmare has descended into you crawling under a table to hide as the seven-foot-tall literary agent smacks you repeatedly with your manuscript and a gawking crowd gathers around to watch the fun.

Pretty sure this won’t happen. Pretty sure.

Anyway, if you want to know more about the conference, you can look up details here. What was your first conference like? Have you pitched before and how was the experience? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

The Foundation of the Writing Life

Standard

So many people want to be writers. They talk about it, they read books about it and they dream about the day when it will actually be a reality. I know because I was one of those people for many years. For a long time, I idealized being a writer, dreaming of a romantic life which entailed me sipping espresso on a balcony on the Mediterranean while the words flowed from my pen and my hair blew in the balmy breeze.

DSCN1842

 

I know I’m not alone in this fantasy. But of course, this is not reality, as anyone who truly has a compulsion to write will tell you. Most of the time, we are writing in the midst of clutter, noisy kids, full-time jobs, bills and dirty dishes. We do not write for the romance of it; we write because we have something to say. Any illusion that life will stop to give us those moments of inspiration has long since flown away, and we are left with a raw desire to get words down on paper, no matter the cost.

This then, is the foundation of the writing life. Unless you have something to say, you will never survive the daily grind of writing in the midst of chaos.

Will there be moments of romantic inspiration? Of course! I have written on the Mediterranean (although my hair is frizzy and didn’t quite blow in the balmy breeze the way I envisioned) and it was awesome! But so is completing a 100,000 word novel in the midst of a crazy life. It is the deep-seated knowledge that you have something to say which will keep propelling you forward.

Extraordinary work is often forged in the fires of an everyday existence.

So, when you are feeling discouraged, come back to the foundation: write because you have something to say. You personally have something to say that no one else can express.

Do you feel this conviction in your writing? What foundational things do you hold to that keep you going through low times in your writing? Feel free to share in the comments!

Reading Contest Update: Dad and I were reading maniacs during the month of June! We were neck-and-neck most of the month, but he beat me out at the end, 1,227 pages to my 1,158. Way to go Dad! Still, I am undaunted…