While this is very true for writers, it is also true in life.
While this is very true for writers, it is also true in life.
Writer’s block is a topic we like to frequently touch on because it’s something that plagues us all! No matter what type of writer you may be, whether it’s technical writing, blogging, journalism, or you’re purely an author, you have done battle with this daunting foe. It rears its head at the most inconvenient times and makes you feel powerless. It’s seemingly a random occurrence that shows up and leaves as it pleases. This however, is not the case. There are several reasons that we suffer from writer’s block and several reasons why some are less plagued by it than others. Our muse or personal source of inspiration is one of the tools in our arsenal against writer’s block. Sadly, we often view our muse in the same way that we do writer’s block. We think it’s random. How many times have you felt the rush of inspiration striking and urging you to take action? How many times have you thought, “I just don’t feel inspired,” or “I wish my muse would speak to me?” Let me tell you, your muse is like that old friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile. You really miss them and want to talk to them, but you aren’t sure how to approach it. The answer is always as simple as reaching out and connecting with them.
The first step is identifying your muse. Now, I know this may seem pretty basic, but there are several of us who go completely by feel and haven’t put much thought into where their inspiration comes from. Your muse is, at its simplest, what motivates you. Let’s dive into that, shall we? Naturally, this will be different for everyone, but the core ideas are the same. Your muse speaks to you. You just have to stop, cut out the noise and distraction of everyday life, and listen. For authors, I find that your muse is often tied to the genre you are writing in. When you search for her using that filter, it will be much easier to identify your muse. For example, I love Fantasy. I love reading it, and I love writing it! So, I look at what inspires me most about Fantasy and I surround myself with those things while I’m writing. Which brings me to the second step of channeling your muse. Keeping your inspiration consistent throughout your day!
I am a visual person, so Fantasy imagery strikes me hard and inspires me without fail! Since I primarily write Fantasy, I will keep posters with Fantasy themes in my writing space, and I will change the lock screens of my phone and laptop to mirror the ideas of my current project. This is me channeling my muse, keeping in contact with my old friend inspiration. I also love music, as most of us do, so let your muse speak through the music you listen to as well. I personally love metal music, but not all of it is really inspiring for Fantasy, but I find some that is. When in the middle of a project, I listen to a lot of symphonic metal bands like Epica and Nightwish. The orchestral elements submerge me in a feel of the old world and put me in the Fantasy writing mood. If i’m feeling something a little lighter, I will listen to bands like Flogging Molly. The old Irish culture flows through the lyrics while the fiddles transport me to that medieval state of mind. A few common enemies to inspiration are distractions like TV and the internet, so I try to find creative ways to turn distractions into inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, even if you execute this part well, they are still distractions and too much of it will lead to excuses to not get your work done.
So, what do I mean by turning distractions into inspiration? I’m going to continue with writing Fantasy as an example. If I feel like binge watching TV, I try to keep the themes of what I’m watching within the realm of Fantasy. I will watch shows like The Magicians or movies like Lord of the Rings. The internet, particularly Facebook and social media, seems to be a huge source of distraction for us these days. In order to combat that, I try to follow a lot of pages that are Fantasy themed or engage in Fantasy discussions within the writers’ groups. Also, if I find myself staring at my phone or the computer, I will search through Pinterest boards. Just shuffling through Fantasy images usually helps send a shockwave of inspiration through my brain.
Obviously, you won’t be able to spend your whole day totally immersed in themes and elements from your genre. That could even be counterproductive. However, these are just some ways that you can channel your muse throughout your day to keep your inspiration flowing strong. Don’t Look at inspiration as some random phenomenon that strikes as it feels. Remember that your muse is as much a part of you as your willpower or your sense of humor. She is always there waiting to inspire you. It just depends on how much you feed her and nurture the relationship. When you combine steps 1 and 2, you are not only channeling your muse, but you are feeding her. Making her grow stronger and giving her a more prominent voice in your mind. So, instead of it being a step-by-step process, it’s more of an equation to bolster your personal investment.
As always, the team at WU! wishes you happy writing, urges you to stay inspired, and insists that you live limitless!!
Adam J Johnson
(Illustration: Apollo and the Muses)
The news was full in recent days with updates regarding an impending hurricane headed for the Gulf shore of the United States. A severe storm in an area still smarting from the horrors of hurricanes past deserves our attention.
I will admit, however, that there is a little part of me that becomes excited when a hurricane is forecast. The writing muse that lurks in my head hears “hurricane” and immediately conjures up scenes of roiling dark seas, ragged gray clouds, and howling wind driving heavy rain sideways, stinging all it touches.
A storm is coming.
I love storms. I love the growl of thunder. The boom reverberating off my chest sometimes takes my breath away. A purple streak of lightning both startles and excites me. Along the shore I love so much, the rough waves slamming into the soft sand display the power of the weather. Those emotions are strong, and I find that I often use weather to establish a mood.
For example, this is the opening passage of my upcoming novel One of Those Days:
“It was another one of those days, like every day in southern Louisiana. The sun was a golden glare in a washed-out sky, the air thick with moisture, its weight heavy and clinging to her skin. Adie Morgan winced against the bright light despite the dark sunglasses hiding her eyes.”
Yes, I opened a novel by describing the weather despite Elmore Leonard’s first writing tip, “Never open a book with the weather.” In this instance, the main character has returned to Louisiana due to a near family tragedy. I needed to show it was an ordinary day and weather is a good measure of how ordinary a day can be.
Concerning Leonard’s epitaph regarding weather, many writers stop with that statement, considering it gospel. However, Leonard went on to offer a justification. “If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long.” Leonard also added an exception—“If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.”
Hemingway didn’t adhere to Leonard’s pronouncement either. He wrote to John Dos Passos: “Remember to include the weather in your god damned book—weather is very important.” Going so far as to include a mention of the weather in the opening and in the body of such works as A Very Short Story, In Another Country, and Cross-Country.
Bullet-pointed rules rarely tell the entire story. The nuances of a subject are far better to use as guidance. In Leonard’s case, his apparent state of “never” is in truth a more thoughtful description of when using weather is appropriate.
I admit to employing weather as a tool whenever I can in my writing. I love the emotion invoked by weather. A gentle rain may be soothing or melancholy to a thoughtful character. A blizzard can be cozy and warm in front of a fire or bitter cold and frightening when stranded. Toss in a hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake, or volcano eruption, and you have chaos, fear, and often, heroism. You don’t need a significant weather event to invoke a mood, and that is precisely what the inclusion of weather can do to a story.
Foreshadowing is an invaluable tool in a writer’s arsenal and assists in building suspense. I wrote a character—a photographer—who ventured outside in a light rainstorm to take photographs, not realizing she was being followed. The rain provided a way for me to slow her down and become more aware of her surroundings, consequently becoming suspicious of the situation. Later in the day she went for a run, ominous clouds of a much stronger storm rolled in, and she increased her pace to hurry home. The storm broke before she reached safety and the bad guys following her caught up. As the subsequent scenes played out, the heavy rains remained as a constant, adding to the dark mood of the plot. The rain and later raging storm served to foreshadow the confrontation with the villains.
More than anything, weather can help set the mood of a story. The website Literary Devices defines mood “as a literary element that evokes certain feelings or vibes in readers through words and descriptions.” Mood is attained through setting, theme, word choice, and pacing.
Weather is a component of setting. Its impact is in the extremes of weather—blizzards, tornadoes, monsoons, heat waves—which have a wide-sweeping effect. Remember that even a calm, balmy evening can be integral to your story, but when the weather becomes too commonplace, better to keep the topic in the background as it is in real life.
Theme is the message that you want to convey to your readers. The theme can be love, good vs. evil, overcoming odds, survival, heroism, or other emotional experiences. Weather can affect the mood of your theme. The pain of unrequited or lost love could be represented by thunder, lightning, high wind, or rain. Joy could be represented by a sunny, warm day with a gentle breeze.
The selection of the proper word to use is crucial when writing and when setting a mood. When writing weather, referring to sunlight as bright or brilliant or blinding can convey different meanings. Referring to the air as hot and dry provides a different environment than calling the air hot and humid. Be cognizant of the impact of the words you use on your reader. One word can make a huge difference in your message.
Weather can augment the pacing of your story. Remember that alternating action with quieter narrative is essential. By providing “rest” sections in your story, the reader has a moment to take a breath before you ramp up the action again. Calm weather, even a soft rain or a cool breeze is restful. A powerful storm, an impending tornado, or the occurrence and aftermath of any significant weather event steps up the pace and suspense in your story.
A lesson learned is that all writing tips are not set in stone. There are exceptions to any opinion regardless of the experienced writers’ dictates. Use common sense and know when it is appropriate to follow your instincts. Break the “rule” when necessary but make sure it is for a reason and that it moves your story forward. Begin your story the way it needs to be begun.
Remember, opening with the weather is just fine. After all, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Deborah Ratliff is a Southerner with saltwater in her veins and a love of writing. A career in science and human resources provided the opportunity to write policies/procedures and training manuals, articles, and newsletters but her lifelong love of mystery novels beckoned. Deborah began writing mysteries and her first novel, Crescent City Lies will be published shortly with a second novel, One of Those Days to follow. Deborah regularly contributes articles on writing to the blog, Writers Unite! and serves as an administrator on the Facebook writing site, Writers Unite! which has 43,600 + members from around the globe.
Comparisons. We all do it—we compare ourselves to others. Does he write better than me? Is she more successful than I am? And we find that we’re not as good as some, and we are better than others. Or so it seems.
However, this is misleading at best, and dangerous at worst. What we perceive is not always what is really there. And what we compare ourselves to might be an incorrect image built up in our minds, supported by fear and self-doubt.
First, it’s important to understand that each of us is on a different path, our own unique journey. Someone else is on a different path. We have different skills and abilities, we write in different genres, and we aim for a different audience. We have different writing styles, different stories, different characters, and a different voice. So a comparison is not helpful at all.
Second, what we usually end up comparing is our inner insecure selves—our fears and self-doubts, with the perceived outer performance of someone else. However, what we see is the mask they show the world—the accomplishments that they share. That is not a fair comparison. We do not see their inner fears and doubts, which we all have. And we do not often acknowledge or appreciate our own accomplishments, which others may look up to. It’s not an equal comparison, and it never can be. You can’t compare the hidden inner world of one with the visible outer world of another. It just doesn’t work.
And even if someone else is more accomplished than we are, or has published or sold more books, remember that you don’t see how they started. We all start at the beginning—and they most likely started exactly where you are now, and it took many years, struggles, difficulties, and hardships for them to get where they are. No one is an accomplished, successful author at the beginning. So it’s not an equal comparison there, either. You can’t compare a beginner to an experienced person—we all start as beginners. And we all can work our way up to being experienced and successful.
Third, the only person we should compare ourselves to is who we used to be. We are not here to be better than anyone else, but to be better than who we were before. We should strive to improve—and to take pride in that when we do. Have you written a short story or poem? Wonderful! Have you outlined a story in a fantasy world? Excellent! Appreciate and love that! Take pride in it—in every step and accomplishment.
So as for comparisons—they are either inaccurate, inappropriate, or unhelpful. Or all three. My best advice is to let all comparisons go, and simply work on being the best that you can be. And support everyone else in being the best that they can be. There is room for all of us to succeed and do well.
And the best way to get there is to learn as much as you can, keep improving, and take pride in where you are. Enjoy the entire path of writing and publishing, every step along the way, and appreciate each moment. You deserve to be happy, no matter where you are on the journey.
You have unique abilities, unique stories, and a unique voice. No one can tell your story or do it the way you can. You fill a niche no one else can.
So let go of comparisons. Believe in yourself—because you truly are amazing.
Comparisons? They can bring you down. Forget them.
Know that you are awesome!
About The Author:
LYNN MICLEA grew up in New York and moved to California while in her twenties. A certified hypnotherapist, Reiki master practitioner, and musician, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she has held many jobs but has always loved reading and writing stories.
After retiring, Lynn further pursued her passion for writing, and she is now a successful author with many books published and more on the way.
She has published numerous books of nonfiction (memoirs and self-help guided imagery), and children’s stories (animal stories about kindness and helping others), and is currently publishing several books of fiction (thrillers, paranormal, and romance).
She hopes that through her writing, she can help empower others and add more joy and love to the world. She asks everyone to be kind to each other as we all share this journey through life together.
Lynn currently lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and two dogs.
Copyright © 2018 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.
When you found a true passion for writing, did you know it would be so hard? You love the creativity, crafting a story, but the business end of it seems daunting? That’s because it can be! You put your heart into a story, it’s your baby, and then you present it to the world. It might get rejected by publishers and editors might tell you to change it. People might even say you will never make it as an author. How can they say all that when you put so much emotion, so much effort into it? All the negativity can build on us and eventually get us to question our own abilities—even possibly believing what they say. Sometimes, unfortunately, it causes some to give up. This is our familiar friend, doubt. Doubt will always be there. It stifles creativity and kills success. So, how do we get past it? How do we become successful in the face of such a vile enemy?
Doubt is a natural coping mechanism. When we create and step out of our comfort zone, it’s a risk. We disrupt the safe state of our lives then doubt steps in to tell us not to take a risk because we are already comfortable—safe. While it may keep us comfortable, it also keeps us stagnant. The first step to defeating doubt is to acknowledge when it happens. When you hear that voice pop up saying, “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never make it,” identify that as doubt holding you back to keep you comfortable. We don’t want to just be comfortable, do we? We want to step out of our comfort zone because that’s where our current situation ends and growth begins. Stepping out of your comfort zone and denying doubt is the first step on the pathway to success.
Once you’ve acknowledged that nagging voice of self-doubt, you can begin to fight it and change your mindset. When it pops up, replace doubt with positive rhetoric. Tell yourself, “no, I can do this” or “yes, I am good enough!” Self-talk is a huge factor in your overall mindset and success. A lot of you may think mantras or self-affirmations are silly or a waste of time, but they truly do change the landscape of your mind. When trying new things, it usually takes around 30 days for something to become a habit and 90 days for it to become a lifestyle. The same is true for your self-talk and its direct correlation to your quality of life. When you repeat to yourself, “I’m unstoppable,” or “I can make my dreams come true,” or any positive message that you need in your life, it starts to become a part of you. If you repeat that for 30 days, how do you think you will feel? How about 60? How about 90? You will start to feel unstoppable, you will start to feel like you can grab your dreams and make them a reality. The same happens to us when we let doubt have a defining voice in our minds.
Think about it, how long have you had self-doubt? How long have you thought that you aren’t good enough or even that you don’t have enough time in the day? Chances are, it’s been more than 90 days, meaning that mindset has become a part of who you are. Doubt has become a guide in your life. This is nothing to be ashamed of. As previously stated, doubt is a mechanism to keep us safe and comfortable. We are only doing what will keep us safe. So don’t be ashamed of the doubt because it’s present in all of us—even the Titans of our craft suffer from doubt. The main difference is, they have conquered doubt, stepped out of their comfort zone and made the necessary adjustments to walk the road of success. Stephen King even fell victim to doubt. When he was an aspiring author he faced rejection after rejection. It came to a point where he let his doubt win and threw his newly-completed manuscript in the trash saying, “it’s no use, it will just be rejected.” His wife had so much faith in him that she pulled that manuscript out of the trash and sent it in for him. The manuscript that his wife sent in brought his first publishing contract. It was for a story you may have heard of—it was called “Carrie.”
So again, do not let doubt beat you into submission. Keep fighting it and stepping out of your comfort zone until you are successful because the key to success lies in each of us. Sometimes we just need a little push from someone who believes in us. If you don’t have that support, you need to be your own support, because if it is truly your dream then nobody can bring it to life except you. There are three simple steps to follow when overcoming doubt and freeing yourself from holding back.
Don’t think I’m offering you a quick fix for your self-doubt because that will only breed frustration and even stronger doubt. The road to defeating self-doubt is not an easy one or a fast one. You must constantly remind yourself that you ARE capable, you ARE good enough, and you WILL accomplish your goals. When you feel that doubt, that is the perfect time to take action. When you feel like you aren’t good enough to write that story, that’s when you write that story. If you think you shouldn’t send out a manuscript because they won’t accept it, that’s when you send out that manuscript. When you get into that positive cycle of challenging negative self-talk, replace it with positive. By taking action against the doubt, you will find yourself becoming more productive. You will find yourself becoming more positive. You will find yourself becoming more successful and ultimately, you will find yourself being a happier version of yourself.
Thank you all for spending this time with me and the rest of the Admin team from Writers Unite! We hope you Live Limitless and not only chase but live your dreams!
There is always a path from the place you are to the place you want to be. Never stop building the bridge to your dreams. Work hard, be persistent and you will create the reality you dream of.
We are used to creating new worlds for our characters and we work tirelessly to build full, exciting worlds for our readers. The truth is, we can do the same for ourselves and the key to that ideal world lies in each of us. We determine our mindset and outlook and that determines our world. Build well and build often.
Writing is an endless learning quest. In search of answers to our questions about grammar, structure, point of view, and all the components of writing, we join writing groups or search the internet for answers. We also attend writing seminars.
One would think that with assembling a collection of “experts” on writing it would be highly informative. However, remember the old idiom, “Never judge a book by its cover.” That phrase is very telling when attending a writers’ conference.
My expectations are always high when I attend seminars. I admit to being one of those people who love to learn regardless of the subject matter. With my passion for writing, attending a writing conference is an inspiring event for me.
Until I go.
Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy attending, but I often come away feeling very short-changed. I expect, especially if I have paid money, to be informed, engaged, and to a point, entertained by the speakers. I am not so naïve that I expect all speakers to be entertaining. I do expect them to be informed and organized when giving their talk.
In another article, we discussed what to expect when you search the internet for answers to your writing questions and how to judge the information given. There are considerable differences of opinion because much advice is subjective. Writing is a craft, not a science, and even the most rigid component of writing—grammar—has rules that can be bent. Our perception of what is correct when writing comes from our likes and dislikes within the general framework of the “rules.”
Which brings me back to the subject of seminar presentations. I do not expect to agree with the opinions or objectives of each presenter, nor do I expect to learn new things—a review of knowledge is as valuable as exposure to new ideas. What I do expect is that the presenter is organized, professional, and informative.
What happens in reality? Some presenters, especially those at smaller seminars, tend to be unprepared. A recent workshop I attended opened with an author who entitled her presentation as one subject. Then after a rambling introduction, off-topic and incoherent, she announced she was only discussing a portion of her announced topic. The presentation went downhill from there.
Another presentation was a frantic attempt to generate interaction with the attendees about creating characters. The presenters assembled the audience into small teams and assigned a task. The exercise was “describe a character” and their first question, “What color are his eyes?”
While the color of your character’s eyes can be an essential part of your plot, most of us are rather adept at giving a physical description of a character. We also know the pitfalls of providing that description in a tell-versus-show manner. In a group presentation, wouldn’t delving into the deeper attributes of character development be a more challenging and informative exercise? I tend to think so.
As authors, we should relish the opportunity to share our knowledge as well as promote our brand by speaking before diverse groups of people. While the opportunity to talk to fellow authors may arise more often, we should seek out presentations before non-writing-related groups to broaden our audience.
Before speaking in public, you need to prepare. Let’s look at the steps you should take to develop a presentation.
Steps to the Perfect Presentation:
Who is your audience?
What is the subject of your talk?
While you may have a bit of stage fright or feel uncomfortable, if you are prepared, you will do well. Remember, you are talking to people, your writing peers and those who are interested in talking to you, so enjoy the experience.
About the Author:
Deborah Ratliff is Southerner with saltwater in her veins and love of writing. A career in science and human resources provided the opportunity to write policies/procedures and training manuals, articles, and newsletters but her lifelong love of mystery novels beckoned. Deborah began writing mysteries and her first novel, Crescent City Lies will be published shortly with a second novel, One of Those Days to follow. Deborah regularly contributes articles on writing to the blog, Writers Unite! and serves as an administrator on the Facebook writing site, Writers Unite! which has 43,700 + members from around the globe.
Don’t say “I wish I made more money” or “I wish I could finish this novel” or “I wish this publishing company would accept my work.” If there is a change you want to see in any area of your life, you have to get up and make it happen! Never stop adding value to yourself, never stop practicing your craft and never stop building the life that you dream of! Words have power and YOU control that power! Use it wisely.