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May 2018

The Writing Doors We Lock Ourselves

  Gate 2 dangerHey Writerly Women. Monday we talked about those writing doors that are slamming in our faces, making us feel like, "Seriously, what is the point?" I asked you to comment, and I was expecting things like:

*  I've gotten five rejections from agents and I'm ready to give up.

  • * I can't even GIVE my short stories away.
  • * The number of visits to my blog is embarrassing. I'm not even going to query publishers; they'll laugh in my face when they see that.

That wasn't what came up in your comments and emails at all, though. Your answers were actually more concerning. We can find a way to keep sending out those queries and searching for small publishing houses and going to writers conferences. But we can't even begin to knock on those doors if we don't have anything written! 

And why don't we?Because we've locked ourselves out.

* "I've been walking through some messy relationship stuff and haven't been able to focus."

  • "I keep wondering where I fit in this writing world and what I'm actually supposed to write for God."
  •     "I feel the pressure that I have to come up with something amazing or write in a genre that I don't like but others like in order to impress them."
  • "I'm afraid of failing to do well with writing. Though I'm toward the end of the revising journey, the part I'm working on seems to crucial to get right, and I'm afraid I don't have what it takes to seal the deal and make it truly good."
  • "Look for agents or publishers? I might not survive all those rejections."
  •  "Things still aren’t moving the way I’d like for them to move in the chapter that had me stuck. And since I’m trying to write linearly, everything else is stalled. I’ve considered skipping it and moving to the next chapter to see if that would help. I have revisited it several times, and still little success or momentum."

These aren't doors that are being closed to us by someone else. These are doors we've locked, bolted and padlocked ourselves.

And sometimes, these are the hardest to pry open. Time before the door

First of all, here's how you know the chain on that door is of your own making:

    * You sit in front of the computer screen frozen in time.

    * The very thought of trying to write makes you so anxious you want to throw up.

    * Your living space is cleaner than it's ever been because you're using it an excuse not to show up with pen in hand.

    * You're blaming your spouse, your kids, your job, your sciatica for keeping you from typing that first word or that next word or that last word.

What all of that means is this: YOU'RE SCARED SPITLESS!!!!

How do I know this? Been there. Over one hundred times. Every time I started one of my 125 books, I thought: Is this the one I'm not going to be able to do?  Are they finally going to discover that I'm a fraud? 

Every. Time.

I always went ahead and wrote the dang book because after the first several I always had a contract. And by the time I got to the end of the first chapter I thought: OH, yeah. I know how to do this. And then when I got to Chapter Seven (without fail) I thought: This is the worst piece of trash I've ever written. Why did I think I could do this again? 

I DON'T have a contract now, so if I didn't finish my current project nobody would be mad at me or ask me for the advance back. I still keep writing, though, because I know that voice -- both the one I hear and the one YOU hear -- is:

        * NOT REAL

            AND

     * NOT GOD.

That's your frightened false self talking. The one who tries to protect you from disappointment, rejection, shame. She talks so loud you can't hear God.  Inner critic barb

God, of course, never tells us we're losers, imposters, frauds, fakes or ridiculous to think we can use the gifts we've been given. Seriously, where is THAT in the Bible? God says things like: "Darlin', I wouldn't have given you the talent to express yourself in words and images OR the desire to do that if I didn't already know you can do it. And I want you to do it."

So how do you unlock the doors you personally have deadbolted so you can hear God saying, "Come in. We have stuff to do"?

I only know what I do. I've done it quite recently - AGAIN -- and it's extremely effective.

 

    * Banish the False Self. I imagine a gate to the kingdom of God we live in now (not the heavenly kingdom), and I picture a couple of angels guarding it, which they need to because my False Self is out there rattling the bars, begging me to let her in. She says she has something important to tell me. NOT. With that image in mind, I turn my back and move toward God, where the dreams and the plans and the words and the images and the stories are. Way Wards by sazariel

   * Don't put expectations of monetary and critical success on yourself. I never thought I'd write all those books. I never expected to actually be able to make a living at it. I just did it. And did it. And I kept doing it. Now, when the publishers are no longer calling me and I'm not making my whole income from writing, I'm still doing it. Who knows what will happen with my current project? I just know that if don't just do it, nothing will.

   * Make sure you spend plenty of time with God talking about this. Of course you're going to pray for other people and for the world. But it is NOT selfish to devote a significant amount of space journaling and praying and meditating on how God wants you to use this gift. WHETHER you should write is not the question. If you weren't supposed to, you wouldn't be reading this blog. It's in there. HOW is the question. Listen for the answer. It will come in surprising ways.

After today, we aren't going to spend any more time angsting over questions like "Am I good enough?", are we? We're going to get into the meat of HOW and WHAT. We''ll be so focused on that, we won't have a moment to spare locking doors so we can't get in.

So let's leave it with a line from an Eagles song that I love, called "Already Gone": "Often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key."

You have the key. Use it now, will you, to encourage each other? In your comment, tell us the next step you're going to take to JUST WRITE. We're all in this together.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue             

 


What Do We Do About Closed Writing Doors?

Endless doorways 2Hey, Writerly Women. When I stood at the end of this walkway in St. Thomas, it looked as if the hall of closed doorways was never-ending. And then of course -- because my mind is a crazy town of similes and metaphors -- it also occurred to me that getting stuck anywhere in our writing is exactly like that. 

     * You get so far in the novel and suddenly the idea doors slam shut and you decide it's the worst piece of trash you ever attempt to write.

     * You finish your piece and you edit it and you polish it and you let people read it and they all say it's amazing -- and then the publishing doors all appear to be locked, with no signs on them saying when they'll be opened.

     * You get interest in a piece of your work but the publisher says you first need to improve your social media numbers so you open accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, start a blog, pay to boost, learn to use hashtags -- and still only your mom, your best friend, your boyfriend and that Fan Girl who "likes" everybody visit any of them. As hard as you tried to pry that door open it still shut with your fingers in it.

When you get to that point, if one poor innocent person says, "Well, when God closes a door He opens a window," you want to smack him or her in the face.

I have so been there, my loves. For the first probably 25 to 30 years of my writing career, I didn't get that whole closed door thing. Doors I didn't even know were there flew open.  That was a very different time. When that time changed and the sound of slamming echoed in my head at every turn, I spent half my time wailing and half my time hoping I had never told anybody that when God closes a door, another one opens.

Before I go into what I did about that infinite hallway of sealed entrances, I'd love to hear from you. What doors seem currently blocked to you?  This is an opportunity to vent. Wail. Gnash teeth. Give us an image for what it feels like.

Because one of the major purposes of this blog is to help you realize you are NOT alone. Picture us all gathered at a retreat, passing the popcorn and the Kleenex. I'm right there with you. IMG_9720

 

Blessings,

Nancy

   


Does It Have To Be a Book?

ClubhouseHey, Writerly Women. One in your midst -- MEDOMFO -- reported a writing success this week:

I'm getting a poem published in a charity book that some young writers from The Rebelution's writing group The Young Writer are organising, and God willing, I may even get a short story and article published in the book as well!

This victory isn't going to send Medomfo to college -- at least not financially speaking. But it makes her a published author. It gives her a chance to reach out and nudge somebody (maybe a lot of somebodies) with a thought, an image, an idea, an inspiration. It could be the collection of words, artfully stitched together, that gets somebody out of bed or out of their hamster wheel thoughts. Y'never know, and the point is, she's a writer. She writes and she shares. Someday she'll probably do that in book form. In fact I'm sure she will because I've known her in blog world since she was, like, 10. Today is not that day, and yet still, she writes.

I actually got my start as a published author writing short stories for every magazine that would have me. Granted, there were a lot more print opportunities in the 80's and 90's than there are now. Every ministry had Sunday School take-home papers and magazines for various age groups, and I wrote for the Methodists, the Baptists, the Nazarenes, the non-denoms. I loved doing short stories, but I'd take a non-fiction piece if it came along. There were a couple of secular magazines used in high school health programs that had me submitting on a regular basis. I wrote articles about everything from sweat (which is a big deal when you're a teenager) to sleep (an even bigger deal) to choices about dating (the biggest deal of all). By the time I moved to focusing on books, I had over 200 short pieces in print, some of them more than once (second rights, third rights, etc.) I wasn't any better than any other writer. I just found ways to get my stuff out there because that's what writers do. Again, we write and we share.

These days the short piece pickin's are slimmer when it comes to print media. But the Internet is a veritable smorgasbord of options. Most of them don't pay, but when you're breaking in, that isn't the only reward you're looking for. Several benefits will come your way:

    * Name recognition.   Or should I say "voice recognition"?  If you write killer short stories or articles in that style that is distinctly your own, readers will look to see who the author is. Haven't you done that? "I think I know this writer ...Yeah, it IS Diana Sharples -- Leslie Farthing -- Margie Wood -- Karen Kay." 

* Future assignments.  Readers aren't the only ones who will remember your name. Editors looking for good writers will practically stalk you, and they might even pay you. 

  •    Experience.  I learned so much from working with editors back in my magazine days. How to communicate with them. How to stay in word count (not that any of my subsequent book publishers would agree that I learned about word limits ...) The economy of words. Following guidelines. By the time I got a contract for my first book,  I knew the basic drill and didn't feel like so much of a newbie. 
  • Publishing credits. When you query an agent with a proposal for your first book, it doesn't hurt to show that you're already a published author. You come across as a professional, and most publishing folks prefer to work with someone who knows what she's doing. This eliminates that whole Catch-22 situation -- how do I get published without publishing experience? Get you some. 
  • Confidence. I remember reading my first acceptance letter standing right in front of the mailbox at the end of the road in Dayton, Nevada, in 1981. A youth magazine that doesn't exist anymore offered me $80 for a short story I'd submitted. I had two thoughts. (1) "Now I can have my typewriter fixed." (2) "Now I'm an author." I'd always considered myself a writer. Now I was an author. From that moment on, I knew I could do more. I knew I was headed in the right direction. I knew I was good. It was like a kiss on the top of the head from a Loving Father, saying, "Of course you are."        
    Writers MarketHow do you do this now, in 2018? Actually, much the same way I did. One of the most valuable tools a freelance writer can own is a Writer's Market. This amazing book contains the names and information for all publishers of both books and magazines in the English language who accept free lance submissions. It's organized by categories so you can simply look up the type of magazine you have a piece for (youth, women's, sports, etc.) and study the entries.  Writers market inside
  • I went to the Religious category and immediately found a periodical that's looking for short fiction. (How anybody writes a piece of fiction in 500 words is beyond me, but that's a separate issue). Each entry will tell you everything you need to know about what they're looking for, how to submit, what they pay (or don't pay), etc. I received the new year's WM for Christmas every year back in the day and actually wore them out. 
  • If you read a magazine you really like, check out their guidelines for submission, which most will have somewhere. KAREN, another among us, has done pieces for some of the Stampington publications, which are very high quality. The fact that she's an artist doesn't hurt her any, so if you have photography or artistic skills as well as a writing gift, check out magazines such as Bella Grace, Flow and Somerset Home.

Google is, of course, your friend. I just Googled 'women's magazines accepting free lance submissions' and got 1,210,000 results. There aren't that many magazines, but there are that many articles and lists that tell you how to find them. Who knew? 

I still love to write short stories and do for Focus On the Family's Clubhouse magazine for tweens a couple of times a year. Recently Brio magazine for teen girls resumed print publication and it's just as much fun to write for as ever. COLLEEN and LESLIE have both had success with Focus's mags. If you'd like more information about that, just leave a comment.   Brio  

May I offer one last piece of advice? Avoid the kind of thinking that says, "I'm meant to write deeper, more serious stuff. I don't want to waste my time on smaller things." Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it: Don't be a short piece snob.  You probably can't recite To Kill a Mockingbird from memory, but chances are Emily Dickinson's I dwell in possibility is floating around in your brain somewhere. Many people who love to read, who are searching for wisdom in the written word, don't have time to lose themselves in epic tomes. Let's remember them, and sharpen our skills at the same time. 

If you'd like to make a comment, and we hope you do, will you share with us any opportunities you've found for getting short pieces published? And of course ask any questions you have on this topic. We're all in it together.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue 


Am I Called To Write?

Leslie 2Hey, Writerly Women! Mondays are showcase days when we spotlight writers from among us. Today I bring you LESLIE FARTHING, who is working on a novel I consider to be chick lit with a deeper meaning. The book is only in its first draft, and it's already both touching and fall on the floor funny. Leslie is also a consummate blogger, so much so that I have bequeathed my Tween You and Me Blog to her and another delightful client. I think you're going to love what she has to say, and I hope you'll join in the conversation she starts here. Ladies, Meet Leslie.

******   

I love writing. I always have. I love the feel of a fresh pencil in my hand and the sound it makes as it scratches the page. I love the process. Unseen thoughts becoming visible. Tangible. Accessible.

I love that you can erase words until you have conveyed exactly what you meant to say. No stuttering, hemming and hawing or having to backtrack. If you don’t like what or how you said it, you can fix it before you release it to the world.

 Leslie's 3 erasers.

Writers have changed my life. The way I see the world and interact with it. How I see God and interact with Him. They have opened up worlds I would never have known and insight I might never have considered. They have empowered me to imagine a better world and appreciate the life I have.

In Shattered Dreams, Larry Crabb helped me make sense of my life as it lay in pieces on the floor around me. At a time I thought I would never be whole again, he let me know that I was not alone. And I was not the only one.

In The Divine Romance, Gene Edwards changed the way I saw God, and my understanding of how God sees me. It is an allegory of creation. All the way to the Cross. And beyond. If you have ever struggled with the whole “Bride of Christ” concept, read this. Yesterday.

I read The Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado when I hated everything about my life. Especially my job. It gave me hope. And the courage to make a change. It’s what led me to teaching. And now writing.

Frank Peretti changed how I saw the spiritual world through his work, This Present Darkness. He enriched my understanding of spiritual warfare and changed the way I pray.

The list could go on.

And on.

And on.

Leslie's live  love repeat  

 But as much as books (and really it is the writers) have changed my life, I’m still trying to get my head and heart straight in regards to this writing gig and where I fit. It taps into a very vulnerable place in my soul where my dreams, the real ones that I don’t talk about, are nestled safely away from prying eyes.

 And one of the questions that I keep chewing on is this.

Am I called to write?

I mean, I love to write… But is it a calling? Or is it a whim?

It is a desire of my heart. But is it a desire of God’s heart for me?

In a recent Exploration, Nancy had me journal about the thoughts that interfere with my writing.  After much tears and gnashing of teeth, here is where I landed.

  •  I  want to live a life of maximum impact
  •  God has given me an ability to write.
  •  I will never know what kind of impact I can make through writing if I never try.
  • Writers have changed my life. Opened my eyes. Fed my hungry, hurting and weary soul. They have let me know that I am not alone. I am not the only one. My struggles are real. And there is hope at the foot of the cross.

Am I called to set people free? Help others know God? Open the eyes of the blind and set prisoners free? Feed hungry, hurting and weary souls? Let people know that there is hope at the foot of the cross?

Then yes, I am called to write.

Leslie's Eleanor RooseveltIn the comments section, I’d love to know: What questions do you chew on as a writer? What’s tripping you up mentally? And how have you made peace with it?

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives in My Head

(Aka Leslie Farthing)

www.lesliefarthing.com

Insta leslie.farthing

Facebook leslie Farthing


My Favorite Oxymoron: Organized Dreams

Gloria at retreatGood morning, Writerly Women. The marvelous braided young woman you see with the contagious grin -- that's GLORIA, budding author and friend of the blog, (as well as maker of hats for the homeless.) Gloria's description of her writing process is that it's like the potato masher which gets caught in the drawer and you have to keep tugging and bouncing and pulling until it finally comes loose. Yeah, I love me some Gloria. (Although I need to correct a former post in which I gave her credit for the "writing is like brownies" image; that was actually MACKENZIE. My apologies to all.)

But what I want to share from her today is her method for capturing the ideas that come willy-nilly -- the ones that aren't caught in the drawer yet because they're still flitting around out there. I'll let her tell you:

I'm always with my phone, so when ideas hit I open my notes app and type them out before they fly away! Sometimes (a lot of the time) I'm in the middle of a conversation when an idea hits, so most of my friends are familiar with me saying 'that was good, I need to write that down' and whipping out my phone. I really have to get it down right away or I'll never end up writing it!

Apparently you don't have to be part of the phone-in-the-face generation for that to work. MARGIE also grabs her cell when an idea flutters by, only her method has a slight twist. 

When I have a great idea but no access to my computer, I record a voice message on my phone. As I talk, the ideas start to flow!'

That gives validity to the propensity all us artists have for talking to ourselves. Although if I record on my phone I forget to go back and listen to it, which is probably because I'm not an audio learner.

But I digress.

DIANA'S butterfly net ...

 is a calendar. I write contemporary YA. So much of my characters' lives are dictated by the school calendar, that I find one from a school in the vicinity of my setting and write down all the breaks, holidays, test days, etc., and those days often inspire events in the novel. In my novel, Running Strong, the protagonist is focused on hearing those three little words, "I love you," at the Homecoming dance. Halloween plays a role in the third book of my mystery series. So I draw up a calendar page and start plugging in plot events as a way of outlining.

The method is as creative as the story-telling. It is, in fact, a vital part of that story-telling, and there are probably as many ways to capture ideas as there are writers doing the capturing. But there are a few things to keep in mind as you try to figure yours out -- if you haven't already -- or tweak what you have going -- because that's a thing that constantly happens. Organizing Dreams may seem like as much an oxymoron as Open Secret, but it isn't if you look at some key ingredients.

    * It needs to be portable -- so, significantly smaller than the metaphorical butterfly net. Phone notesIf it fits in the bag or backpack you haul around with you, you're good to go. At least one of my clients carries neither ... this is a concept I do not understand ... but her phone fits in her jeans pocket, so there you go. Make it as small and simple as said phone, a pad of index cards (they come spiral bound, which is my method of choice), or a slim notebook. Stick a pen in it. I can't tell you how many times I've had a scathingly brilliant idea and couldn't find a dang thing to write with. And I call myself a writer ...

   *  You need a place to transfer those notes when you get back to mission control (that space we talked about in a previous post).  That's why I like index cards, so I can slip them into the folder, binder or bin I have going (depending on the stage of development I'm in -- a topic for an entirely different day) That way when you sit down to write, you don't have to dig for your info. I don't know about you, but I wish I had a dollar for every minute I spend looking for stuff (keys, phone, my head), but I never have to work at locating my musings. I am a slave to my imagination!

   Notecards* If it's creative, you're more likely to use it. There are enough parts of the writing life that are about business. Gathering ideas isn't one of them. So no matter what method you use for reeling in those snippets before they get away, make it fun. Put those  phone notes in your own voice -- written or spoken -- reflecting your excitement. Decorate that pad or notebook. Get yourself some colored gel pens. Doodle. Indulge in exclamation points!!! This is the fun part, and if it isn't, make it so.

Those not indoctrinated into the writing world will think you're playing. You are. We must play if we are to create art of any kind. So break out the chartreuse felt tip or the package of stickers and bring in a crop of awesome thoughts. We'll be reading them someday ...

If you want to comment today -- in addition to responding to the above -- I would love to hear about your recent "smaller" writing successes. Articles. Short stories. Blog posts that elicited comments. A rejection letter that encouraged you to keep looking. We're going to talk about those Monday when blog friend LESLIE Leslie 1
will share a post with us.  I'll go first. I'm not having three or four books a year published like I used to, but last week a short story I recently wrote for Clubhouse Magazine won first place from the Evangelical Press Association for Fiction. I took a moment -- okay, more than a moment -- to say, "God, you rock. Thanks for the reassurance that I'm still doing what You want me to do. " And it's still fun.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue