Plan My Release Party? NOW?

Celebrate Writerly Women,

I can almost hear you saying it: "Aren't you the one who's always telling us not to get ahead of ourselves? 'Don't worry about how you're going to promote your book when you haven't even written it yet.' So - what's with this blog post?"

I'm not talking about THAT kind of release party, silly. Yeah, it's fun to dream about hosting a big soiree the day your book comes out, starring you in a character themed outfit and featuring a catered spread, all of which will be captured by the local, statewide and national media. I'm not sure anybody does that except maybe the promoters of Harry Potter. I'm not even talking about a Facebook party -- which I have never really understood; where does the food come in? -- or an intimate dinner with your thirty-five closest friends.

In fact, I'm not even referring to the release of your BOOK when (not if) the day it hits the bookstores and Amazon. Where I'm going here is -- the release, the letting go of whatever is holding you back from ever reaching that day in the first place. 

You know the things. We've talked about them before, but here's a review list. Any of these make you gulp and get that hangdog look thing going on?

    * Blame: your significant other's lack of support, your kids or friends interrupting, your boss stealing your creative energy, your parents not raising you the way a child of your exceptional talent should have been brought up ...

    * Anger: at the publishing world for being so competitive, so picky, so unable to recognize real talent when they see it; at any of the people you're blaming, at Donald Trump for being President ... Angry

    * Fear: of failure, of succeeding, of making a fool of yourself, of finding out you don't have what it takes, of finding out you do and having to do it all over again

    * Avoidance: of admitting that any of the above is true, of the deep hurts you know will come up as you write, of the conflicts that arise in yourself every time you even think about it

    * Projection: the everybody-thinks-I'm-weird-when-I-write thinking, which is really your OWN thinking

    * Denial: of your talent, of the Call, of the doubts

    * The Urge to Pretend: that it doesn't matter to you as much as it does

We could all add our own items to that list of the things that keep us from FINISHING THE DADGUM PROJECT! The point is that we all have to face this truth if we ARE going to finish -- or even start well:

There really are no valid excuses. We either write ... or we don't.

Which leaves us where, exactly?

It leaves us staring at our personal Resistance Rebels and letting them go.

Not fighting them. Not shouting at them. Not engaging them in debate. Not even having an imaginary battle in which you run them through with your version of Ex Caliber. 

Just letting them off scot free to take their Great Rebellion elsewhere. Just putting a stop to the struggling, the wrestling, the soul searching. Just giving them a release party and then getting on with the business at hand.

And we do this how? I promise you I'm not going to burst into a rendition of "Let It Go." I swear it. Let it Go

But I am going to offer a simple plan for your release party. Simple -- though not necessarily easy -- and completely doable.

    Step One -- ACCEPT. Own up to the fact that your resistance is YOUR responsibility. Nobody can really keep you from writing. They even let convicted felons in prison write. And not only that -- accept that God gets it and still wants you to carry on with the gift you've been given. No matter how much you've neglected it in the past.

    Step Two -- PAY ATTENTION. Before you can send the Rebels on their way, you have to know how they operate in you. To use an often-OVER-used term, be mindful of the ways they convince you to resist the pad and pen, the keyboard, the laptop. Know their game and laugh and let them go the way you would a bunch of fourth-grade boys who think they can outsmart a bunch of fourth-grade girls (Girls always being the smarter sex, yes?) Choosing the top three from the above list is a good place to start.

    Step Three -- BE ENCOURAGED. I know it seems like we can get DIScouraged all by ourselves but being ENcouraged takes the input of someone else. Not so. Darlin', you know you have talent or you wouldn't even be reading this blog. You know God wants the best for you and the gifts God's woven into the very fiber of your being. You know what it feels like when the dialogue sings or the plot falls into place or the description gives you a chill up and down your arms. Sure, you can outsource encouragement, and we all need that too. But seriously, woman? Just BE ENCOURAGED by what you already know to be true. You've got this

 Step Four -- FOCUS ON THE FACT THAT YOU ARE. Not that you're a writer, that you're a storyteller or a poet or a brilliant spinner of non-fiction prose -- but just that you are here, period. You are all of the youness. And as you, purely and simply being, there is no room for debilitating doubt and trumped up reasons to procrastinate and paralyzing fear that you'll just be wasting your time. You can't deny that you ARE, you can't put off BEING, your can't squander the fact of your EXISTENCE as you. Get down to your soul and feel that peace.

 Step Five -- CELEBRATE. Party like it's 2019 (that doesn't work as well as the old song, "Party Like It's 1999" but you get it, right?) Have yourself an actual "I AM LETTING GO" soiree for just you and God and your gift and what you've written so far.

I actually did that when I was in Concord, Massachusetts, last month, researching and writing and rediscovering myself as a writer. I sat in the bay window of Caffe Nero in a wingback chair reminiscent of the Emerson/Thoreau era and I sipped the best soy latte on the planet and raised a toast to the printed-out, spiralbound manuscript of  Mandatory Sentence so far. Caffe Nero
I released us from the constraints of too much other work to do, of making money just in case, of the ridiculous notion that I might be done, of the very real possibility that I won't be published again. And then I thanked God. And then I just. Was. 

I'm pretending you're all my clients and I'm giving you an assignment: Identify exactly what you need to release back into the wild and give yourself a party for the sole person of opening the cages and letting them go. Include all the things a party needs -- food, drink, decorations, a theme. The only guests will be you, God and that manuscript that is begging you to give it as much attention as you've been doling out to those rebels who've never done a positive thing for you. 

Then report in! Who knows? Maybe we'll have a party right here ...

If you need a little more of a boost, here's what I recommend on this week's Book Shelf:

Non-Fiction:     Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert   The most most encouraging and reassuring book on creativity I've read in years.                                         Really.

Fiction:                 Elinor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman   This is her first novel, and it shows that she refused to let                                             the Rebels bar her way. Trust me.

Narrative Non-Fiction: The Magnolia Story, by Chip and Joanna Gaines    You don't have to be a Fixer Upper fan to be inspired by                                         the story of these two people who know how to let go and let the dreams flow. 

 

Enjoy!

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue                 

         


When the Paradigm Shifts

Doorway to HauteHey, my Writerly Women! I've just returned from heaven ... well, Concord, Massachusetts, where I spent a week ... wait for it ... researching for my novel, writing, writing, writing (and did I mention writing?) and taking a close look at where I am as writer and woman, and where I want to be. I made the trip solo, and although I missed my family (and all of you), I savored the solitude, the lack of obligation, the time and space to discover all kinds of things.

I try to snap pictures of doorways wherever I go (for obvious reasons), and this one is the entrance to one of my two favorite coffee shops in Concord -- The Haute.  Within these  walls, while sipping the most consistently perfect soy lattes anywhere, I not only got more of a feel for the almost magical place where my next four novels are set, but a palpable sense of who I am in this season of my life. I had what is known as a Paradigm Shift.

You've heard that term before, right? It was popularized by Thomas Kuhn, author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (And no, I have NOT read that book. Seriously?)  A paradigm (in case you need a refresher on the definition like I did) is a model or pattern or even a worldview underlying the theories of a usually a scientific subject, although most of us aren't using it that way. (If your eyes are starting to glaze over, hang with me for a few more sentences. I really am going somewhere relevant with this.)

A paradigm shift needs to happen when the whole structure of that model or view we've been living or working by becomes full of holes. When we've tried to fix it so many times it looks like Joan Rivers (if you don't remember Joan, she was a comedienne who was notorious for her many facelifts). Our paradigm needs a complete overhaul. A total make-over.  It's not a do-over or a revision. It's an entirely new  approach because you're seeing  everything with new eyes.   Sounds awesome, doesn't it? My desk in Concord

Yes. Awesome. And also pretty terrifying. Seriously, it's not that easy to change. Not everybody in your life is going to cheer you on (because you may not "be there for them" in the same ways). You may have to nudge your way out of what you thought was your comfort zone. Bottom line: it's change, and change means ohmygosh you could (dare I say it?) fail.

And yet -- this paradigm shift, if it comes to you as a genuine change in feeling and thinking, is your lifeline. It's pulling you toward growth into a new season.  Need an example? (Now we're getting to the Writerly Women part)

Ever since the Young Women Writers Retreat at Glen Eyrie in April, several of the writers who attended have reported that they feel different about their writing and the place it needs to occupy in their lives. One in particular -- ABIGAIL -- has experienced this paradigm shift we're talking about. I'm going to quote her because nobody says it better:

    * "Beating myself up is not humility."

  Chelsea and Abigail at YWW 2019  * "Writing isn't childish anymore. This is a big girl book. I'm writing a big girl book."

    * "Now I'm a writer who actually writes."

The words are great. The actions are even better. In the week I was away, she wrote 15 pages -- 15 fabulous pages -- of her novel. The shift in her view of her work was apparent the moment I started reading it. This is genuine change, and now nothing is the same.

This is not something we can "make" happen. But we CAN take the time  and the intention to look at our lives and our writing and see if the model we've been using is full of holes that can no longer be patched up like a pair of jeans. Maybe some questions will help:

    * Are you taking yourself seriously as a writer, even if you're not yet published?

    *  Are you saying (and saying honestly) that you want to write, but you're doing everything else BUT write? Is something making you  afraid to sit down and face the screen or the page?

    * Are you still thinking that devoting time to writing is somehow selfish (even though we've talked about that, ladies ...)? Is it you who's telling you that, or other people? Caffe Nero

    * Do you long to write, but when you do have time for it you're so exhausted from all the other things in your life you literally can't do it?

    * Are you being blocked by what Julia Cameron calls crazy-makers who discourage you from pursuing your gift, even subtly, perhaps by sabotaging your time just when you're about to turn to your work?

If  the answer to the first question is "no," or the answer to any of the other questions is "yes," it's time for a paradigm shift. As we've said, you can't force that, but you can allow it to happen, by doing any of these things:

    * Set aside time to consider deeply where you are and where you want to be. You don't have to leave home for a week like I did, but even a full day or an afternoon devoted entirely to that can make the difference between staying stuck with the patching of holes and embracing a whole new view.

  Tea in Concord  * Spread that out over several days if getting away isn't feasible. A minimum of an hour at a time, no electronic devices, everybody put on notice that you are not to be disturbed, can add up to some authentic discoveries.

    * If journalling, thinking, meditating on this is not your jam, try painting or collaging what's not satisfying and what satisfying could look like. 

    * Talk to someone you totally trust, who would be willing to dialogue with you without giving you advice or, worse yet, telling you to suck it up and count your blessings. I would do neither of those things, so feel free to  email me and we'll find a time to chat. I'm very serious about that, which should show you how important I believe this is.

What do you do once you begin to see things with those new-paradigm eyes? That's the beauty of it: you'll know. This different model that takes shape will naturally show you what needs to change, what steps you need to take. It won't happen overnight. It certainly isn't happening like that for me. But in mini-moves, with a far more authentic view of where I want to be, it's slowly taking place. It can for you too.

Right here in this community you have an opportunity to sort this out with like-minded people. Simply leave a comment telling us which question is leading you to consider what shift would be good for you. Or tell us what shift you've experienced lately. You can even rant about the shift you want to move into, but you're certain is never going to happen because ___________. As always, we're all in this together.

Now, something new to the blog -- the YOU MIGHT WANT TO READ section, where I'll recommend books that I've found mind-changing and want you to know about. This week's are all about people who experience major paradigm shifts and inspire us with the results.

FICTION: Where the Crawdads Sing,  Delia Owens

NARRATIVE NON-FICTION: Educated, by Tara Westover Week 1 books

INFORMATIVE NON-FICTION: Deep Creativity, by Deborah Anne Quibell, Dennis Patrick Slattery and Jennifer Leigh Selig

If you'd like a wonderful guide to executing that shift, look into Cultivating What Matters, by Lara Casey Media (order through www.cultivatewhatmatters.com. It's a little pricey but well worth the investment.

As our own GLORIA says, "Writing is like inhaling and reading is like exhaling. It's hard to breathe when you're always blowing out!"

 

Blessings!

Nancy Rue                     


The Why-Am-I-Torturing-Myself Spiral

Blank diagramHey, Writerly Women. How's it going?

Actually, that isn't just a greeting. It's the topic of today's post: How IS it going, this writing thing? In fact, IS it going at all?

Because I have a number of clients in From Shadow To Shelf and Doorways, it seems there is always at least one in the Writing Pit of Despair. We've probably all been there --

"I'm doing everything BUT writing. Seriously, who alphabetizes their spices when they don't even cook?"

  "Every time I sit down to write lately, all I can do is stare at the screen and think about enchiladas."

"I think I have to face the reality that all the good writing I'm going to do has already been done. I wonder if they need greeters at WalMart." Ashamed

Please feel free to write down your own wail. And once you've written it down, why not just go ahead and post it in a comment? The old adage is true: misery really does love another miserable person to sit down and commiserate with over coffee. The intriguing thing about that, though, is that pity parties for two or more often result in the participants deciding maybe they'll give it one more go.

That's my FIRST SUGGESTION for pulling out of the Why Am I Torturing Myself Spiral. Remember that tribe we talked about last week? Now -- when you're close to deciding you have no talent, no future, no self-discipline, nothing important to say (you get the idea)  -- is the perfect time to call, text or email one or all of them and say, "Do you have a minute to talk me down out of the Crazy Tree?"

We've all been up there, myself included. After the 2007 recession, the Golden Era of Christian Fiction began to rust and corrode. The 100+ books I'd had published made no difference in getting a new contract. "That last one didn't sell as well as we'd hoped" precluded new books. The day I realized the season of bliss was really and truly over, I started calling the members of my tribe. Paula. Dale. Father John. To name only a few. Granted, it took me another year to settle into a new season, but here I am. Writing. Mentoring writers. Looking at a new market. Thanks to the folks who gathered at the bottom of the Crazy Tree and talked me down.

Gloria at retreatAnd if you haven't quite found that group of supporters yet? It is quite possible to be your own supporter. My SECOND SUGGESTION is one that worked like the proverbial charm after the Young Women Writers Retreat last month. Being there was a high for all of us. Everybody was pawing the ground to get home and put all that great stuff they learned to work. Yeah, well, we'd all had that high before and we all knew how quickly you can come crashing down when faced with kids, stopped-up toilets, grouchy bosses, etc. SO -- each writer decorated a blank note card found in her goodie bag and addressed the envelope to herself. On the very last day, each person wrote herself an encouraging letter inside, specifically naming the things she'd learned, that had inspired her, as well as her next steps. They sealed them up and gave them to me. Two weeks after the event, I stamped them and mailed them out. SO many of them have contacted me with these reactions:

    "This came at EXACTLY the right moment."  

    "I was feeling like, 'what's the point?' and then I got my own letter and it changed everything."

    "I checked the mail every day, waiting for it. I did the happy dance when I got it. I can do this."

It works. The next time you're feeling pretty good about your sweet writer self, write yourself a note and seal it up. When you start to spiral down into the Pit, either open it up or mail it to yourself (if you can wait a few days). Seriously, do it. Because down in that space where your soul dwells, you KNOW you were meant to do this. You KNOW you can. Why not be as encouraging to yourself about that as you would be to a writer friend?

Now, sometimes the descent to the Pit has some evidence behind it. I wasn't getting contracts. No more requests to 'please write a book for us.' Fewer and fewer requests to speak. Clearly I had to find a different direction. One that still involved writing, just not the kind I'd been doing so successfully for 30 years. Maybe what I did can help you if you find yourself in the place of "This just isn't working."

    SUGGESTION #3.  Ask people who know you well what they see in you that is creative. That isn't a narcissistic question; you're gathering data. Fellow speaker Dawn Moore puts it this way: "What am I your go-to person for?" I was intrigued by the answers I received. They were enough to get me moving toward more exploration. I'm still doing it.

    SUGGESTION #4. If nobody's buying your work right now, write anyway. If you're even reading this blog post, I can safely say you can't not write. Journal. Finish that novel or short story or poem or non-fiction piece just because you want to -- not necessarily because somebody might publish it. Seriously, even if you're under contract, there is no total guarantee that your book will see print (publisher goes out of business, that kind of thing). If it does reach the shelves it might not be a best seller. We could all what-if ourselves endlessly ... or we could just write. Mj writing

    SUGGESTION #5. Do what GLORIA and ABIGAIL G. did recently. If you're stuck in the "Oh the heck with it" mire, call a writer friend and invite her to do a "Writing Sprint" with you. Hang up, set a time for 15 minutes and write without stopping. Then get on the phone/Skype/Zoom/Facetime again and compare. It worked wonders for them. I can't wait to try this at a retreat ...  

    SUGGESTION #6. See that blank diagram at the beginning of the post? It looks like you feel, right? -- gray, complicated ... How take a look at this one.

Concentric Japanese diagram

 

The possibilities that lie within a funk are really pretty creative and interesting and motivating. I did a whole BUNCH of self-exploration like this when I was floundering -- and the inspiration still hasn't stopped coming. I'm off to Concord, MA, next week to do research for my novels. A colleague and I are developing a program for non-fiction writers. Mentoring becomes more creative all the time  -- because God and I looked at me and said, "What else ya got?

Ladies, you got a lot. Come on up out of that spiral. Get down out of that crazy tree, or shout to us to help you. We're all in this together.

 

Blessings,

Nancy 

   


Creative Community: A Necessity

YWW 2019 groupHello, Writerly Women! Two weekends ago, we added to the community we've formed here on the blog. Some of the faces you see in this pic belong to writers whose names you've heard -- GLORIA, CAYLENE, ABIGAIL, SCOTIA. Others are new to the group -- two SARAHS, a JENNY, an AMALIE and a LAUREN. Our retreat at Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs was nothing short of amazing --

    * one writer came away with a complete outline for her non-fiction book

  •   * one received a request for a proposal from the on site publisher
  •  
  •     * one is already taking steps to change her living situation to make room for who she is and what she wants to do
  •   * one discovered her creative self, just for the joy of it
  •   * still another reported feeling significant for the first time in her life

    There's more, but you get the idea, yes? As much as I would like to take credit for inspiring all that wonderfulness, I really can't. Most of it came from the sheer energy of authentic, creative women supporting each other, being transparent about their dreams and opening up about the BOHOs (Big Ol' Hairy Obstacles) we all run into. ALL of us. 

 
THAT is the definition of Creative Community. And it's contagious. Five of the young women you see here have formed a writing group in the Springs and meet monthly -- in addition to a pretty steady stream of communication among them. I can document the difference that has made: the writing of every single one of them has grown ten-fold since last year when they first came together. 

Another trio gathers whenever they can to brainstorm about their stories and get inspiration from obscure movies. They know they are among the crazies -- and they're owning it. Goofy YWW 2019

As God would have it, four of the retreat ladies were from Pennsylvania and didn't know each other before they came. They are now forming their own creative community, something they've never had before. Chelsea and Abigail at YWW 2019

If we're going to stay sane in this thing called creative writing, we can't do it alone. We need the tribe. And not just when we're first starting out. . .

I always return home from leading workshops happy and satisfied, but physically depleted. It usually takes me three days just to unpack. Not so this time. When I got home to Tennessee, I had almost as much energy as my 19 month old chocolate lab, which is saying something. Filled with the enthusiasm of those 17 young women writers (the word enthuse does come from the Greek for 'filled with God' -- just sayin'), I was ready for the next thing. I had announced at the retreat that I was going to retire from one-on-one mentoring in July of 2021 -- but in a matter of days after hitting home soil, I was already working with a colleague on providing help for serious non-fiction writers and having in-depth conversations with artists and tech people about offering my writing courses on line. There are workbooks in the development phase -- and I'm off to Concord, Massachusetts week after next to do research for my novel.

Even goofier YWW 2019What the Sam Hill happened?

Creative Community.

Before the retreat where I was supposed to inspire OTHER PEOPLE, I was looking ahead to retirement. After immersing myself in their  energy, I'm starting a new yet next logical venture. Alone, we can have ideas and dreams -- but together we can find the boost that gets us going. I think it comes down to this marvelous quote by Mother Teresa:

I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.

Mother Teresa

So what do you do with that? If you weren't able to make the retreat -- if you feel like you live out in the middle of Not-Creative Land -- if the people you try to share your writing dreams with nod politely and all but pat you on the head and change the subject to something scintillating ... like where to get a great manicure (or eyelashes -- what is WITH that, anyway? I digress)   How do YOU find your people? 

I have some thoughts on that. Let's see if this helps:

  • Comment here regularly. On this blog. Start conversations. Use it like a Facebook chat if you want. When I had my teen blog for 8 years, I was amazed at the friendships that grew from that. Some of those now-women still keep in touch -- really in touch, as in visit each other in different states! You aren't going to find as many of your kind of people many other places. It's a start. Kate at Glen
  • Reach out to even one other artist in your area -- and she doesn't have to be a writer; visual artists, musicians, choreographers, photographers all possess the same creative energy that you do. Make it a thing. "Come to my house for a glass of wine and a sharing of creative woes and victories on THIS DATE at THIS TIME." Or, "Will you meet me for coffee at _______, just to talk without somebody thinking we're nuts? How about THIS DATE at THIS TIME?" Notice the specificity of it. This is no time for, "We should get together." Be the one who makes it happen.
  •  Whenever you're in a crowd or group locally -- a party, a church small group, a baby or wedding shower, in line at Starbucks -- make it known that you're a writer (and whatever other creative thing you do ... LILY, for example, is an amazing artist and photographer, ESTHER is also a gifted visual artist, KELLY is a film editor. See if anyone else pipes up with a, "You are? So am I!" Then refer to the second bullet point above.

Shall we start right here? Leave a comment or click here to email me what area you live in. I'll be happy -- no, I'll be delighted -- to connect you with your fellow aspiring authors who aren't far away from you. I'll get everyone's permission, of course, before I start giving out  email addresses.

If you're already in a Creative Community, will you share how yours formed, how it works and what it's done for you? After all, we ARE all in this together.

Speaking of which, the Glen Eyrie Writers Workshops are happening July 6-9. As soon as the website goes live I'll provide a link. This could be the first step toward finding your tribe. We would love to have you.

 

Blessings!

Nancy Rue 


A Conscious Walk

HOlzer bookHey, Writerly Women. Before I get into today's pondering point, I just want to say how jazzed I am that conversations are taking place in the Comments section and that you're sharing what you glean from the posts. Community is happening, which is essential. Writing can be isolating. We need our fellow story-tellers to assure us we haven't, as they say in England, "gone 'round the bend." 

So ... why the book cover today? This book was written by Burghild Nina Holzer. How could she be anything BUT a writer with a marvelous name like that? ( I confess to wanting to say it with a thick German accent and lots of spitting in the process. But I digress ...) One of the things she says absolutely nails what we've been talking about here: going deeper.

The reason so many people block themselves from writing, from creating, is that they are not here. They have a head full of blueprints for the goal, they have elaborate outlines of how to get there, but they have never taken a conscious walk from their bedroom to their bathroom.   

I don't think she's just talking about the stumble there at five in the morning. The metaphor is apt. Let's unpack it.

Last time, I asked you to think about your canvas --- that one theme that everything you write authentically will add a brush stroke to. GLORIA says hers is "Everyone wants to be seen and heard." NATASHA came in with, "Everyone has a story to tell." At first glance it seems that they could write one book about that and then have to move on. But if they -- and we -- stay here with that theme, dwelling, as Emily Dickinson says, in possibility, we find that those possibilities are virtually endless. 

The key is to  stop (often) all the planning, the angsting over the market and the social media demands, the stressing when we realize halfway through our manuscript that it isn't going anywhere. In fact, before we even begin a project, we truly do need to sit with it, where we are, and be conscious.

Now, if you're like me, you can't go hang out by a lake and dwell on this until it comes to you. (I live steps from the bank of one and I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times I've done that). If you can, I am in awe of you. Most of us, though, need to go through more of a process. Let's call it the Percolating Process. Percolator
(Friend and author Tim Shoemaker calls himself a crock pot when he does this; not to be confused with crack pot. Just wanted to be clear on that.)  I don't know if you're ever seen and heard a percolator do its thing, but it's quite charming. My parents had one when I was growing up, and I loved to watch and listen to it. When it's first turned on, it doesn't do anything. Then one blurt of weak coffee will appear in that glass thingie on the top and quickly disappear. Then two in a row, and then three, and so on with increasing frequency. The blurts make a sound that I'm having a hard time describing in words (should I admit that?) It's like bloop. Bloop-bloop. Bloop-bloop-bloop. Bloop-bloop-bloop-bloop-bloop BLOOP-bloop. It was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. When the blooping stops, the coffee is done. I can still picture my father's face when he took that first sip. The man knew how to enjoy.

When we are HERE, when we're CONSCIOUS, we can -- and must -- percolate. What does that look like? For me, it's this:

    1. First bloop: the hint of an idea. For my current novel, that came from hearing a spot on NPR.

2. Second bloop: the idea keeps coming back. That NPR story wouldn't leave me alone. I had to look it up on the internet, at which point I became even more intrigued.

3. Bloop-bloop-bloop: somebody that idea can happen to starts to take shape in my mind. The mother of a murdered teenage girl. Broken by the tragedy. Just now coming back to herself when ... Thoreau 4

4. Serious blooping: journaling. I wrote about Meredith for reams of pages, and then let her write to me. 

5. Deep blooping: epiphany. I happened to do a study (unrelated) of  Mary Magdalene and somehow I knew what my Merry (Meredith) was about. As always, there was a part of her that was a part of me I hadn't admitted to myself.

6. Stillness: going deeper. I researched Transcendentalism (you'll see why if/when you read it). I talked to women whose spiritual journeys I know are genuine. I kept journaling. Slowly I knew what the story was about -- not the plot but the inner journey. Merry's and this phase of mine.

7. Time to drink the coffee: enjoying shaping the novel. As a Planner, I did the fun part (for me) -- the character analyses, the plot skeleton, the rest of the research, the trip to Concord, Massachusetts, the interviews with experts. It felt delicious to put it all together in what I call my first draft, which is a 40+ page chapter by chapter outline.

I can never get to Step 7 if I don't percolate my way through Steps 1 through 6. 

Whatever your process is, you skip the percolation at your peril. Perked coffee, drip coffee, even Keurig coffee if it's good quality (check out the Black Rifle Company for the best I've tasted) is all far superior to instant. Does anybody even drink that anymore? Even when it comes to tea, yeah, I can make it in the microwave, but waiting for the kettle to boil and hearing the steam whistle and pouring the hot water over loose leaves of Cream of Earl Grey ... THAT is a process worth going through.

So, to think about, and hopefully comment on: Are you HERE with your current project? Have you taken the CONSCIOUS WALK through your protagonist's inner journey, and your own? Give it a shot. Ponder what brush stroke it adds to your canvas.   Share that with us, will you?

Our blog friend SARAH has joined the roster for the Glen Eyrie Young Women Writers Retreat. There's still room for 7 more. Just sayin'.  Click here for infoIMG_9678

                                                                            Blessings,

                                                                            Nancy Rue         


News From Natasha

Natashs's blog Hey, Writerly Women, this just in: NATASHA has a wonderful blog. She's writing about tough, timely things in a voice we NEED out there.

Check it out , and if you can, leave her a comment. I think you'll want to.

While I have you here, you DO know about the Young Women Writers Retreat April 12-14 at Glen Eyrie Conference Center in Colorado Springs, right? If not, hie thee hence to the website and check it out. HANNAH, ESTHER, GLORIA, JENNY,  CHELSEA, KELLY, SCOTIA, CAYLENE, KATE, ABIGAIL and AMALIE are all going to be there, and there is still room for 9 more. Scholarships are available through Glen Eyrie. Crazy group without Estherr  

 

 

Seriously, who wouldn't want to be part of this action? Our theme this year is "Making Room for Your Writing" , and I have a bunch of new activities planned and fresh approaches to implement. If you need more info, just email me.  The only requirements are that you be between 18  and 39  and you want writing to be part of your life.

See you back here Wednesday?

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue       


What's Your Canvas?

EverybodyHey, Writerly Women. Can I just say how delighted I am that our community here is coming together so beautifully? You're encouraging each other, celebrating victories, hopping onto your fellow writers' blogs and websites. Writing is such an isolating art most of the time, and the fact that you're participating in a group which recognizes that and comes in with support for that loneliness is, to me, a God thing. So welcome, our two latest additions: HANNAH and NATASHA -- both young, awesome fiction authors I'm honored to work with.

SO, how's the journaling going? I'm personally digging the whole spiral journaling thing. If you haven't read last week's post you might want to go there, because we'll be referring to that practice from time to time in the weeks to come. I'd still love to have pictures of your journals, and do feel free to comment about what your personal writing is showing you any time. 

That, of course, is part of our 40 days of going deeper into ourselves in order to go deeper in our writing. Good books have been written about creating richer characters and more complex stories. My favorite of those is Donald Maass's The Emotional Craft of Fiction.  Emotional craftI not only recommend it to my clients but I use it myself. I could just tell you to go buy it and end this post right here, seeing how "The Don"  -- as he's referred to by those who have studied under him -- poses many questions that encourage writers to search their own souls before they search those of their characters. In fact, do check it out if you haven't already.

But I'd like to approach this in a little bit different way -- from my own experience, which is basically what we all work from, right? (I'm trying not to be narcissistic here!). At the time I wrote the book you see above (with the world's longest title!) Everybody Tells Me To Be Myself, But I Don't Know Who I Am, I realized I wasn't saying anything I hadn't said before in the fiction I'd written, both for tweens and their grown-ups. Everything I'd written up to that point was about authenticity. Didn't matter if it was a tween fiction series, a set of novels for teens, a novel trilogy targeted to adult women, non-fiction books for all of those age groups ... even my blogs and Facebook posts ... they were all centered around the theme of being one's true self. I started pondering whether I should come up with something new. How much fruit could actually still be on that tree?

And then our priest (I'm Episcopalian) preached a sermon in which she said that it's quite true that every pastor, preacher, priest or what-have-you has only one sermon that he or she preaches over and over in some way. After explaining what hers was -- and son of a gun, she was right! -- she said (and this is one of my favorite phrases now): "The brush stroke I'm going to add to that canvas today is_____"

I have to admit I didn't hear much of the rest of that sermon (I'd heard it before obviously!) because I couldn't get that out of my mind. That was what I was doing as a writer. I only had one book in me. I just kept writing it in different ways and -- and this is the important part -- adding a new brush stroke every time.

That didn't just serve as a way to "get me off the hook". It actually forced me to go deeper with that same theme. If I was going to have new brush strokes to add, I myself needed to become more and more authentic, getting down to those false places where it can actually be painful to scrape junk out and make space for what's real. I quickly learned that it was not for the faint of heart. Girl artist

Writing isn't, unless we're putting out formula romances or cozy mysteries (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, okay?). If we want to write with meaning, with passion, with power we pretty much have to open a vein. But before we get out the scalpels, we need to know just what that canvas is.

    What is that theme your characters keep pulling you back to?

    What is the recurring issue in your life that seems to be taking years to resolve?

    What is common to the novels you read over and over, the films you'll watch repeatedly, the non-fiction books that continue to speak to you?

    What do you admire in the people you respect? What do you want to emulate?

Those are just a few of the questions that will help you discover the grand painting your life's work is creating. The answer to them will not only deepen your writing ... it will deepen you. If I hadn't written as much as I did from age 30 to age 62 (when I began to divide my writing time with mentoring) I wouldn't be the same person I am today. I'm not "there" yet. Seriously, we're not done 'til we're dead, are we? But I would not be as far along as I am if not for creating Lily and Sophie and Lucy and the Mean Girls and Sullivan Crisp and the 'Nama Beach High crowd and the Flagpole Girls and all the other characters who showed up on the page. They added brush stroke after brush stroke, and yet my new characters in my work-in-progress have found even more places on the canvas that need filling in with color and texture and perhaps some new styling. Asher's U collage 

You see what we're doing here, don't you? We're looking at not just one book out of you. We're talking about a body of work, each project taking us deeper. THAT right there is why it's so important to know, or at least have the whisper of an idea, what our life/writing theme is. Just one word -- that's all you need. 

Really, really, really this doesn't mean you're "stuck" with only one thing to write about. The possibilities for what you do with that if you're true to yourself are virtually endless. It's also guaranteed that it will evolve and grow as you do. So don't think of this as a decision you have to make for the rest of your life, but as an awesome discovery that will carry you on its creative wings for years to come. 

Will you tell us what your WORD is? Or if you don't know yet, will you describe how you're playing with ideas until the solid one comes to you? We would love to hear. This is big stuff. Who doesn't need the support of other artists who say, "Yes. You've got this. Get the brushes ready." 

Blessings on your delicious seeking,

Nancy Rue