3 Ideas to Generate Content

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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.

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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?

July Reading

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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.

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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

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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!

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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?