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October 2020

Inspiration in the Pages

My bookshelfI'm looking out at a study in grays on this chilly afternoon. A sky like that creates the perfect neutral backdrop for the few bright leaves that still cling to the trees. Feels like a good time to do something I've been wanting to institute here since I revived the blog a few months ago, and that is to provide us with our very own ...

Insanely Interesting Book Shelf

Books on writing and creativity are some of my favorites to read and study and are among the few I'll read over and over again. (Life just feels too short at this point to re-read, you know?) Below you'll find the ones that inspired me, taught me and kept me motivated through my thirty-plus years as a writer. And as a growing-toward-wholeness person.

 

Artist's Way As I mentioned in a prervious post, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way had a profound impact in my life as a whole, not just as a writer. Her work helped me make the decision to go to full-time writing, and I have never looked back with regret.  I can't recommend it enough.

If you are in the over 50 crowd, I think you'd love her more recent book, It's Never Too Late To Begin Again. This one makes you feel like the best is yet to come -- and I'm discovering she's right! 

Never Too lateI like to read books on writing by my favorite fiction authors, so when I found Write Away by Elizabeth George in a used bookstore, I pounced on it. Even if she isn't your jam, finding books on the draft by your own favorite writers is a great way to jumpstart yourself and keep going. Stephen King's ______________, Gail Godwin's Publishing, and The Lost Landscape by Joyce Carol Oates are all worth looking into.

War of ArtAnother writing book by a great author deserves its own shout-out, and that is The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. If you can handle a little profanity, this is one you don't want to miss, especially if you struggle with getting yourself to sit down and write. It definitely helped me through a rough patch. His other work on writing, The Artist's Journey, is great for the continuing writing journey, as well as the on-going search for meaning. In both books the chapters are very short and pithy, and they hit the target like no other.  

For ANY point in your life as a writer, Donald Maass has a book for it. Some of my go-to volumes are Writing the Breakout Novel and The Emotional Craft of Fiction. If you can't get to one of his in-person intensives after the pandemic has passed -- they are a bit pricey though worth every dollar -- reading any of his books is the next best thing, and it is not a poor substitute. Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook is one I used after I outlined every one of my novels after 2006. There are several very full copies of it packing in a bin somewhere. (Come to think of it, who is ever going to look at those?)

There are two on my list that I haven't read yet, and I'd love to know if any of you have.

  • If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland, which is about the writing process

*  Escaping Into the Open by Elizabeth Berg

Definitely my next read will be Writing To Change the World, by Mary Pipher. Doesn't it sound just delicious?

You know what comes now, right? Please fill us in on the writing books that have helped create your path. I'll set up a Book Shelf in the right margin of the blog so we can continually add to it, and all our besties will be in one place for quick reference.

In the meantime, let's avoid the pitfall of just reading about writing and not actually DOING it! It can happen -- and none of these authors wants that, I'm sure. Can't wait to hear from you!

 

Blessings,

Nancy

 

 

 

 

 


Assorted Stuff!

Andrea's pumpkin artInsanely Interesting Writerly Women! I am SO glad to be back. Don't even get me started on my tirade about our internet server. I try to keep it positive here! Thanks for hanging in. We have a lot to catch up on.

First of all, your inspiration lists are, well, inspiring. ANDREA hasn't just made a list ... she went out and got her some new paint pens and look what she did! I've known her for a while now, and I have no idea she had a gift for visual art as well as writing. Andrea, there is a zaniness here that I would love to see even more of in your written work. And, y'know, since so much of what inspires you is kid-related, have you ever considered writing for them?

I say all that to point out that these Artist's Dates (which we are in the process of renaming) aren't just rituals to get our minds off other concerns. They're freeing ways to discover more of what we are and what we might write about and how.  The product of Andrea's outing for paint pens is not just the cutest darn art pumpkin ever but also the inspiration to explore new avenues and maybe even a new audience.

If taking that time to think about and carry out these dates with yourself still snags you (I don't have time, I can't think of anything, I need to be writing) it might help for us to have our own name for these outings (and innings!) that better defines what they're actually about. Maybe for us the word "Date" is too formal. (Does anyone actually date anymore?) I think we need -- Celebrate

A CONTEST!!!!!

Between now and Tuesday, November 3, submit your suggestion in an email to me (nnrue@att.net) . The following have been entered already:

Intentional Musings

Dream Space

Maker's Meandering

I'll compile them all Tuesday evening and post them Wednesday, November 4.

You'll have twenty-four hours to vote for your fave (I'm having you email your entries so you're not biased by the author)

On Thursday, November 5 I'll post the winner

Here's the prize:

The winner receives a critique from me of 1,000 words of her writing and a one-hour Zoom or Skype session to discuss.

Are you in?

Speaking of Zoom sessions, in tomorrow's post I'll give you instructions for signing up for a group one. This is a freebie! It's something we've talked about doing, and the time has come.

Friday, internet willing, we'll begin our Insanely Interesting Book Shelf, so be thinking about the books that have inspired you as a writer and as a growing person. My bookshelf

I told you we had a lot to catch up on! Okay, let's hear about those what are not called Artist Dates but will soon be called something original to us AND I can't wait to see your entries for the contest. Spread the word to anyone you haven't seen here on the blog lately.

Until tomorrow -- Write On!

 

Blessings,

Nancy

 


Treatment Plan #3: Come Alive

Julia-cameron-bwHey, Insanely Interesting Writerly Women. This lady -- Julia Cameron, another IIWW -- doesn't know it but she changed my creative life in 1995 with her still-in-print masterpiece, The Artist's Way.

In case you're not familiar with it, this not a book that you merely read. In order to derive full benefit from Ms. Cameron's wisdom, you have to DO this 12-step program for recovering your creativity. I followed it to the letter, did all of the things. Except one.

The Artist Date.

One of the tools for recovery that Julia prescribes is a weekly solo outing for at least an hour if not two in which you take your child artist on a creative excursion. It could be anything from cruising the aisles of a high end art supply store to digging through the bins at a thrift shop. From spending an afternoon in an art gallery to taking yourself to a matinee. The possibilities, she says, are endless. 

I did not find that to be true. Every time I got to the part in my week when I was supposed to venture out on an A.D., I couldn't think of a  single thing that appealed to me. The idea was to allow yourself to be inspired while simply enjoying, being free, taking in creativity instead of churning it out. But I hit a wall every time, and it invariably brought me to tears.

Sometimes it still does. Artist's Way

If I can't think of anything that might allow me to be absorbed in art, beauty, creativity, I must be more boring than a chemistry class (that's just me ...). You can only hang out in so many bookstores, which at times only depressed me because how was my stuff every going to compete with all this other great writing? Maybe I should stay home and keep working. She predicted that would happen and urged us to do it anyway. I can't say I tried that hard. I finally came to the conclusion that I was afraid I didn't know how to be inspired. It was too scary to pursue.

Until I stopped mentoring full time and no longer had the excuse that I needed to work. In this almost-year since my retirement, I've realized the seriousness of my workaholism. One of the most effective antidotes is to do the opposite. To play. I would have hit the same wall as I always had if I hadn't started reading magazines like In Her Studio, Where Women Create and Bella Grace, which are suffused with the absolute truth that we cannot create without inspiration, and we cannot be inspired unless we are intentional about seeking things that light us up and stir our passions.

 

This isn't just an artsy-fartsy idea. Howard Thurman,  African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader, said:

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

Howard_thurman

Those Artist's Dates. Those creative excursions (I think that was what Sara Ban Breathnach called them in Simple Abundance) . Those forays into inspiration that all creativity gurus walk about. Those are the actions that reveal what makes us come alive. And what makes us come alive is what makes great writing.

As I look back, I realize I actually used to open myself up to inspiration, just not in the structured way Ms. Cameron suggests. I took amazing research trips and always carved out time just to walk around and observe and absorb. I came away with more than just information for my novels. I came away changed. Now I see -- especially in this safer-at-home season -- that I don't have to leave town for two weeks in order to seek the things that make me come alive. I'm not skilled at this yet, but here's what I've learned so far.

Watching amazing series like Call the Midwife and Father Brown (I'm pretty much addicted to BritBox) brings out my desire to go deeper, to touch the hurt places, not just in my characters but in me. I set myself up with the perfect cup of tea (one must sip tea while watching British television) and my fave blanket and, of course, Gibbs, and absorb even episodes I've seen multiple times. I keep a leather notebook handy (a gift from HANNAH C!) to write down things that I want to ponder.

      THAT'S  AN ARTIST'S DATE

Father-brown

 

Almost every day Gibbs and I take what I'm calling a Wonder Walk. My intention is to come back each time with evidence of something that took me into the land of wonder. It might be a haiku in my head, a particularly beautiful weathered leaf or an image I can't wait to write down. Sometimes I have to walk a while to discover it. My mind tends to wander back to what to thaw out for dinner or how to handle a funky situation -- but I'm getting there. 

THAT'S AN ARTIST'S DATE

Gibbs at window

 

Mask securely on, I venture into Books-A-Million, buy the latest issue of one of those magazines mentioned above, come home and make a latte -- and spend the rest of the afternoon devouring it and pulling out quotes and pictures for later use in collages, blog posts, journals. That never fails to bring me to life.

THAT'S AN ARTIST'S DATE

Latte

 

Maybe this convivvium of insanely interesting writerly women should call them something different. Our intention is not just to be better writers. We want to, as Howard Thurman, bring ourselves to life. SO, I have two challenges for you this week:

CHALLENGE #1

WHAT DO YOU THINK WE SHOULD NAME OUR INTENTIONALLY INSPIRATIONAL THINGIES?

 

CHALLENGE #2

NAME FIVE (5) THINGS THAT INSPIRE YOU

( I tried to think of something for every letter of the alphabet, so that might be a way to approach it if you feel, well, uninspired)

 

Of COURSE share in a comment or by emailing me (nnrue@att.net). That is, as always, how we'll inspire each other.  I have no doubt you'll make your list in some marvelously creative way, just as LILY, CATHY, EMII, KATE B. -- ALL of you are wont to do.

Come alive, ladies. Come alive.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 

 

   


More Support for Our Intentions: Alive-Lines!

Jefferson deadline Hey, insanely interesting Writerly Women. I am LOVING not only your Intentions and your commitment to supporting them in concrete, realistic ways, but your encouragement of each other. Sharing ideas, being inspired, just saying, "Oh, you can SO do this" -- that's what this community is about.

One of the things I like most about what we're doing here is the lack of stress. I haven't heard anyone say, "I HAVE to get this thing done," or "If I'm not published by the end of 2021, I'm giving it up." I didn't suggest that we set expectations of time, and no one else has either.

Thank the good Lord.

Most goal-setting strategies include at least some kind of time range. Doesn't the T in SMART goal stand for "time"? We're not calling what we're formulating goals, because they're Intentions, so the time thing doesn't apply in the same way. However, most of us don't do well if we don't have some sense of when we'd like to see certain things happen.

Let's just not call them "deadlines."

It's no accident that the word "dead" is in this dreaded word for "it has to be done by ______" The term 'deadline' was first used during the American Civil War as the name for the line in a prison camp which the prisoner could not cross or he'd be shot! I mean, seriously. Actually, earlier in the 19th century, it described a line on a printing press, beyond which text would not print properly, so how that leap was made, no one is quite sure. 

By the early 1900's, "deadline" was being used for any line that shouldn't be crossed, not just one where the offender would be struck down. Though you would think that was true, the way some editors have viewed it since 1920 when it shifted to a synonym for "time limit", mostly in newspaper jargon. I once had a pencil that said "Deadlines amuse me," but those waiting for a manuscript seldom feel that way. Trust me. 

So, no, we won't be setting deadlines for ourselves. What I DO suggest is that we establish "Alive-Lines." I don't think that term will go viral, but for our purposes it works. Let's each ask:

What time range would keep that Intention alive?

20 minutesHere's what I mean.

As I was looking at my Intention to finish Book 1 of the Footnotes Collection, Mandatory Sentence, which I have been working on for longer than I have ever worked on a book before because I always had a (shudder) deadline, I found myself WANTING some sort of rhythm to keep me going, keep the thing alive. So I came up with some loose ranges that feel comfortable and yet somehow inspiring. I have a range for finishing Part I, writing Part II, writing Part III, completing revisions, researching agents, developing a proposal. I have them taped to the back of my journal, and I feel good about them. They feel real and fresh and provide just the amount of professionalism I need.

And I will not be shot -- self-inflicted or otherwise -- if life happens and I have to shift them a little.

So here's a mini-challenge for you -- before we look at the next part of our Treatment Plan tomorrow--

What is ONE Alive-Line you can establish for one of your Intentions?

And, of course, share! I want to highlight you insanely interesting women.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 

 


Supporting Those Intentions: Margie, Lily, Nancy ... and Victor

Victor HugoHey, insanely interesting Writerly Women. Legend has it that when Victor Hugo was faced with a brutal deadline, he gave away all his clothes except for a shawl (thank goodness) so he HAD to stay at home and work. The result: The Hunchback of Notre Dame. While we seem to have a theme of clothing removal on this blog (remember the truth-telling list?), I don't think we have to resort to that in order to meet our Intentions. 

But -- action IS required, and you. Are. On it.

Margie, who wants to finish Book 2, has scheduled her writing days and has garnered the support of friends and her book prayer team.

Lily's intention is to write in a way that changes lives. She's asking friends how they WANT their lives to change -- 8 so far! I was honored to be one of them. 

As for me, one of my intentions is to keep a meaningful writing journal. Journaling always keeps me centered and focused, and in this case I know it will bring me down out of the crazy tree when I start seriously wondering if I can do this novel thing again. My first step was to find the journal I started, but it seems to have gone the way of all flesh. So -- I made a new one. I like it so much better than the lost one, and I've used it ever since. Okay, so it's only been two days but it already feels like a friend. Wanna see?

Writing journal cover

I was trying to channel LILY with my little vignettes, but I think I need some practice. Still, it was fun! And, my loves, if this writing life isn't fun at least 80 percent of the time, we need to set THAT as an intention.

Writing Journal inside

Have a great weekend. Send me your First Step or post as a comment. And check in Monday when we'll talk about Zoom sessions. Oh, yes!

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 

 


Treatment Plan #2: Full-On Support

DrewHey insanely interesting Writerly Women. You have make your realistic, doable intentions clear, and that has been an inspiration to us. I am still treasuring and pondering so many of the things you've shared.

So ... what do we do with that stuff?

My first meditation teacher, Drew Sevel (hands down the most deliberate person I have ever met) always said, "Organize your body to support your intention." In order to meet the intention of, say, "Maintaining focus on God," or "Returning to God when I'm distracted," the body has to be aligned and alert and comfortable. There was something about the word "organizing" that really worked for me. I am, after all, the ultimate straightener, sorter and binder-maker!

Those wise words apply not just to the intentions set for meditation. They work for anything we choose to focus on. They will work for those bamboo shoots we've decided to carry proudly, heedless of the bins of other fruits that tempt us to toss our thought-trunks into things that are not ours to do. So let's talk about --

Organizing Yourself to Support Your Intention

If you are not a list-making, calendar creating, penultimate planner like I am, fear not! We're not talking about THAT kind of "organizing." If you've ever spent time and energy cleaning out your space or your Writing Bag, lining your pens up in a drawer and setting up folders for, well, everything, in the hope that your mind will be clearer and your writing will flow and you'll find yourself working on that novel or that poetry every. Single. Day -- you know it doesn't work that way. That only helps once you're truly motivated and confident and all those things we've said we want to be. Leslie's space

We're talking here about taking just one step to set yourself up to meet the first intention on your list. That step MAY be an action, but it could also be entirely internal. Some examples might help --

    KATE B. says she will complete her first book by the end of the year.  Her first step in organizing herself to meet that intention MAY be to set up a realistic writing schedule or figure out how many pages a day she'll need to write in order to get 'er done by December 31. OR it may be to journal about why it's so hard for her to work on this novel she loves so much or create an inspirational collage to inspire her. These steps might work for LILY too.

   AMALIE says she wants to have space and time that is allotted to writing. On the surface that may seem to be an entirely external intention, and on one level it is. A step might be having a family meeting and alerting the people in her household that X day and Y space are not to be disturbed. However, there may be something deeper going on. She might have to free-write about why it's tough for her to claim those hours and that square footage. Or have some interactions with other writers who do seem to carve that out, just to find out how they do it. That kind of moving forward might resonate with CATHY too.

With THoreau ANDREA states that she will be able to just have fun with her writing. How do we organize ourselves for fun?! This might seem like the hardest one yet, so she may have to make a playlist to listen to during her writing sessions or create cut-outs of her characters and have them hanging out on her desk. Internally, though, Andrea might have to explore just what fun looks like  for her or ask the people who love her what's delightful about her. (I suggest LESLIE for that job, Andrea!) I'm thinking these steps of joy might be perfect for COLLEEN as well.

You get the idea? I'll break it down for us:

1. Choose one of your bamboo-shoot intentions. You can decide whether you want to start with the easiest one or the hardest, or just close your eyes and point.

2. See if you can prayerfully discern whether your first step (and only the first) needs to be an external one (something you do or change physically) or an internal one (something you want to creatively explore within yourself)

3. With that determined, write down what that step will be. Make it short term and doable and, most important, something you can't wait to do. LILY will probably immediately create some kind of art around it. I can see EMII expressing it poetically. PAM --who knows, she might put it on a quilt square! If you just don't know what step to take first, brainstorm for every step you can think of -- on paper -- and the right one will rise to the top like cream.  

4. PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR! "Eventually" is not a word you'll want to use in this case. Carve out time to do it NOW, or at least within the next few days. Cultivate

5. Get outside support for that step. Ask a friend to check in with you in 24 hours to see if you've done it. Talk it over with your significant other, if that person is typically supportive. You have a READY-MADE source of support RIGHT HERE. Take a minute to post a comment -- (It doesn't have to be a tome!)

Here's how to do that.

INTENTION: Find my niche. STEP: I'm going to  write a paragraph about the same thing for 5 different audiences. (Sound good, Colleen?)

INTENTION: My writing will change lives for the better, globally. STEP: I'm going to take ask  5 friends how they want their lives to change. (What do you think, Lily?)

INTENTION: Figure out who I am without the writing. STEP: Collect images that resonate with me, spread them out and see what the whole says about who I am. (Just a thought, Natasha ...)

If you're meeting inner resistance -- But this isn't writing! It won't get my book done. Tell me how to DO this! -- trust me --

  • Every piece of writing began with one step, and most of those steps had nothing to do with plot, characters, point of view or followers on Twitter.
  • If you're stuck, just sitting there staring at the screen until you can't stand it and you have to go binge on ice cream or Netflix or Instagram isn't going to get you unstuck. Taking one small step will.
  • Once you take this step and others we'll talk about, those creative juices will begin to squeeze out like fresh lemonade. Before you know it, you'll be adding sugar and lapping it up. 

ConfusedAsk me how I know this ...

I'll do it with you:


INTENTION: I will keep a meaningful writing journal

STEP: Pull out the one I started for my novel, clip the old pages together and set up a fresh new page. With stamps and snippets of paper ...

SUPPORT: Tell Marijean (my daughter)  I'm doing it and tell her I'll show it to her next Thursday when we have our weekly Skype/creative journalling session.   

I need to close this post so I can go do that! I'm salivating ...

Post a comment, yes? Intention. Step. Support.

Salivating about that too. I need a napkin ...

Blessings,

Nancy Rue 


Holding Onto Those Bamboo Shoots: Colleen, Lily, Kate, Natasha (and Introducing Margie!)

LIly's cards 1
 Hey, insanely interesting Writerly Women. This post is going to be so rich with YOU-ness you might want to sit down with a cuppa and a treat. Pumpkin squares sound like a good idea, don't they? Truly savor the bamboo shoots -- AKA intentions -- of our fellow writers, and be as inspired as I am.

LILY

 My initial reaction to the exercise was a mixture of concern that I had nothing substantive or helpful to offer and confusion. To prepare and motivate myself to do the activity well, I employed some of my crafting and artsy skills to make fun cards to write on. That process also gave me time to think through and discern my expectations and hopes for a writing career. It took awhile for me to think of ten expectations to write. This was the first time in a long time I intentionally wrote down my dreams for a writing career. Once I was done, I flipped the cards over, so the writing was face down. I had each of my four kiddos flip one card over, and then I turned the last card over.

I couldn't wait to see what cards were turned over. I was probably much less anxious about what had been randomly chosen, because Nancy had added the caveat that we get to choose which desires or expectations we want to pursue. So, we could swap in and out whatever cards we want. Still, I wondered whether I'd keep what got turned over or swap some out. Lily's cards 2

These five cards with expectations for my writing career were the ones that were flipped over:

* My novels and/or writing become bestsellers.

* An agent gets passionate about my writing and chooses to represent me.

* I finish writing Nina's (as well as Anna's, Charles', and Erik's) story, however many books it takes, no matter what.

Lily's cards 3* My novels will be published by a major publishing house.

* My writing will change lives for the better, globally.

I didn't have any desire to flip over the other ones to see what I had missed. Rather, I wanted to embrace and pursue the ones that got chosen. Some of them gave me a surprising but good sort of jolt, an electrifying and encouraging wake-up: finishing Nina's story and improving lives. I don't want my writing to sit on people's shelves or inboxes. I want to encourage and make a difference in people's lives. Lilys cards 4

*****

Lily's whole thing makes me want to create little scenes for myself and photograph them. She is living the creative life. It's an innate intention with her. And can I just add that in a text to me, Lily said, "I realized I really need to keep moving forward. The wallowing needs to stop."

 
KATE B.

    Kate calls her collection her "Unintentional Bananas" . She created them in her fave coffee shop, which makes me want to fly to Colorado and join her. I know we will ALL meet there one day. Ah, but on to the list: (BTW -- Kate sent me great pictures and they would NOT upload. ):  )

I have to say that this was tough and took me a while to actually understand the assignment. Expectations for my Writing Career? Ha, I’d just be happy to finish my first draft by the end of the year -  a goal I'm driven to accomplish. I never looked beyond that, but imagine my surprise when I found that to be the farthest thing from the truth.

As with most things that confuse me, I waited till I could see what others put up so I could better understand. Daily posts rolled out, and not only was I further confused, but I wondered if I could actually do it. Like plotting a book, planning 5yr-goals, or setting an intended path, I have trouble with expectations because I don't expect anything for myself. Yes, FOR myself. To be honest, That realization startled me. Looking at those aspects of me would go against something I long ago established for myself.

Plot twist: I set an expectation on myself to never have any expectations in the first place, or to expect them to never come to pass.

Yes, I'll admit, this assignment scared me.

So, when I was  “called out” by you, Nancy, I knew I had face this fear whether I understood or not.

With my Writer Space Bag packed, I drove to my favorite cafe. I pulled out my index cards and twilled my favorite purple pen, thinking. I may run from ‘expectations’ but I know my hopes and desires, my bananas. The first 5 came easy, but the last ones took a while and I unearthed hidden expectations I didn't knew i had! I know this i mean to bring hope, but is it a little weird to be excited to see which ones I’d let go. Facing these intentions was the most eye opening I ever challenged myself to do.

Among my ‘Keep’ Bananas
1. I will complete my first book (by the end of the year)
2. I will  make a ‘world’ where many readers will want to explore
3 I will write to make all my readers engaged and happy
4. I intend to make Role Models for PreTeens/ Teens will want to be.
5. I will be published

Out of these only 1 is in my control -  Completing my first book.  
I may be able to make expansive worlds, character role models, hope that what I write will be exciting,  but the expectation fell on the READERS and if they’re as enamored as I hoped. However, the drive to create these elements in my writing is something I can at least strive for.

Among my 'Letting Go' Bananas
1. I will write from the heart - unfiltered
2. I will be the Author to Challenge and Renew the imaginations of the next generation.
3. I intend to write unique messages to come through my work
4. I hope to have a joint book signing with 1) my brother, and 2) my friends.
5. I intend to write 2-4 hours 3x a week.

Kate added: "Now, I'm willing to accept that whether or not others enjoy my writing is not in my control and I can let it go. After facing down this fear of mine, once I let go, I hope I can run free once more over the field of written word with an unbridled hand." With writing like that, Kate, I know those intentions will be met.

COLLEEN:

"Even as I struggled to write down ten intentions, it revealed my heart," Colleen said in her email to me. "I whittled them down to these five."

  1. Be intentional in my time with God and create with Him, not write what occurs to me for Him and then ask for His stamp of approval. 
  2. Have the guts to make the journey to my heart and then write what I find there. 
  3. Peel back the veil when I write--tell the truth, no matter how hard.
  4. Find my niche (alias Sweet Spot) and hunker down into it. Colleen

    5.Write consistently for a year and have fun doing it, for cryin' out loud!

Do you not LOVE this woman?

 

NATASHA:

    First Natasha bewailed the insanity of her life right now which is keeping her from being with us as much as she'd like. She said she'd have to just let this challenge simmer for a while .. and then ...

As an afterthought, I guess the simmering has gotten through a little- I think I've realized I don't want to let go of *any* of my expectations because the hope of becoming a writer, a real published speaks-into-someones-life writer, has been what's kept me going through a whole lot of hard times. If I let go of it, my future can seem quite bleak. And that's not a good thing.

 

*****

We've seen a range of wonderful, realistic intentions as wide as the Rockies themselves. Everyone of them is meet-able because we have let go of the bananas that aren't worth being trapped for and are proudly carrying the bamboo shoots that are ours to hold, as long as we are holding God within. I hope those of you who haven't shared yours will do so in a comment or at the very least post them somewhere in your own space where you can see them often. Always. 

Meanwhile, we continue to welcome insanely interesting women into our community. MARGIE has been with us in the past and is now reconnecting. I hope you'll give her a writerly greeting.

Margie 

Strengths

  1. Determination when I set my mind to accomplish something, such as writing a book.
  2. Love the brainstorming process - creating the story world and the characters
  3. Fall in love with my characters and they are always with me. I continually want to make them better so the reader will fall in love with them too!
  4. Pushing through the “really bad” writing has made me a better writer.
  5. Journaling with my characters (thanks for teaching me that, Nancy!) - learning their backstory/strength/weaknesses 
  6. I love being a part of several writing communities and the connection with other writers
  7. It’s so fun to encourage new writers as they begin their writing journey
  8. Took the very scary plunge and self published my first book.
  9. Have a deep faith and trust in God and know that He’s given me the story and will help me complete the writing and publishing process of book two.

Weaknesses

  1. Belief in my self and my abilities. Not seeing myself as God and others see me.
  2. Time management/procrastination
  3. Seems to take lots of time to wrap my brain around some writing concepts - like “POV”.
  4. I’m too hard on myself.
  5. Compare my writing to others and feel inadequate.
  6. I really dislike Marketing/website/newsletters.
  7. Creating tension and conflict in the story is hard because I love my characters and don’t want to see them suffer. Lol
  8.  My expectations are usually way higher than reality and that brings disappointments.

(NOTE: Margie's novel is available on Good Reads Margie's book

Tomorrow, in our regular post, we're going to talk about Treatment Plan #2 -- how to make those expectations happen. I'm going to lighten up a little on the challenge so you can catch your breath -- but there will be one. Get ready!

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Holding Onto Their Bamboo Shoots: Andrea and Amalie

Andrea's IntentionsHey, insanely interesting Writerly Women. The concept of setting realistic intentions which we have the power to fulfill has apparently struck a chord. Yeah, baby! If you read yesterday's post, you get the metaphor of holding onto your bamboo shoots. We CAN keep those elephant trunks from flailing all around -- and making us frustrated and guilty and prone to just vegging in front of Amazon Prime. (Though I do admit to a serious addiction to Father Brown).

Two of those among you who have met that challenge are Andrea and Amalie, and I think you'll be as inspired by their responses as I was.

 

ANDREA

 I took a deep breath, scribbled my heart onto 10 purple post-its (I love post-its and purple), folded them up, mixed well (as ordered), plucked out 5 and opened them up...and cried. They turned out to be my 5 biggest bananas. 

  1. My book will be published.
  2. I will be able to just have fun.
  3. I will make a difference. 
  4. I will let rejection go - as it only shows which doors are closed for a reason.
  5. I will make a living with my writing.

I like that you and Emii call them Intentions. Intentions give me hope. Out of the 5, I only have control over 2 - have fun and let go of rejection. I will choose to release the rest to the only One that has control, and hope the banana I have now is small enough to slip from the bottle. 

Okay, how much do you LOVE that last bit? "I hope the banana I have now is small enough to slip from the bottle." We want Costa Rican bananas. They are very small and very sweet. There's nothing like a metaphor that continues to serve! Thank you, Andrea. Andrea's latte (I hope she also intends to continue making those pumpkin spice lattes with brown sugar and foamed half and half. Oh. My. Word. I can taste it all the way from Hawaii.)

 Amalie's list seems to come from her previous list of Writing Challenges. That might be helpful to those of you who are still pondering the exercise. You ARE pondering it, aren't you -- Lily, Abigail, Hannah F., Gloria and Colleen?

 

AMALIE

 Writing expectations:

Keep: 

I want to write a work that will challenge people at a soul level, and will dare them to live with authenticity. 

I want to express myself and my experiences in a way that reflects God to others, and invites them to Him.

I want to have space and time that is allotted to writing. 

I want to write to clarify my thoughts for myself. 

I want to keep up with a community of writers. This is harder for me, as I prefer to watch and observe rather than to be seen and heard. 

 

Toss. These are not in my control. A lot of them need to be talked about with God as value issues. 

I want to be seen as wise and authentic for what and how I write. (Enneagram 5 with a 4 wing)

I want my words to make a difference.

I want to be seen, known, and understood through my writing.

I want to accomplish writing a book because other people say I can. I don’t want to let them down, and I want to prove that their faith in me is valid. 

I want to be published, despite my doubts that I would be.

 

Amalie totally gets it, doesn't she? She can write, she can express, she can carve out time and space, she can clarify and she can be in community. What comes of all of that ... completely up to God. 

Blah blah noWhat I love about all of your responses -- including CATHY'S in her comment -- is the conscious letting go. Cathy even got it down to specific words to avoid when setting intentions: "make" -- "stop" -- and I would include "get".    Andrea said this gives her hope. Now THAT is a word we want to keep and use and live our writing lives by. It is, after all, a God-thing. 

Tomorrow we'll hear from MARGIE, one of the hardest working writers I know. Thursday -- we'll move forward with what to DO with these bamboo shoots of ours. I'm licking my chops at the prospect.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


Other People's Bananas

Elephant-eating-bamboo-stick-isolated-white-141942855Hey, Insanely Interesting Writerly Women. As you're sharing your Intentions -- the ones you're keeping because they are actually in your power to maintain -- it's good to keep in mind that those "expectations" are yours and yours alone.

This story has come up in several different places in the last week so I'm thinking it's important. Elephants are a part of major festivities in India. You've probably seen pictures of them being paraded down the narrow streets, decked in gorgeous silk and even jewels. Another signature part of such celebrations are the vendors along those side streets, displaying delicious treats and sparkly stuff. Put those two things together and you have a situation. If unchecked, the playful, curious elephants (I LOVE these wonderful creatures for that reason) swing their ginormous trunks and pick up said treats and sparklies, from which chaos, of course, ensues. The trainers weren't born yesterday. Most will coax their elephants to hold onto a bamboo stick, so that those mischievous trunks stay occupied and the parade isn't disrupted by sweets and jewelry being strewn all over.  

It's been pointed out by more than one wise person that we can be like those elephants IF we don't have something that is ours to focus on. In our case, that would be our minimized list of intentions. What often keeps us from maintaining our focus is OTHER people's sweets and bananas and sparkling gems. If AMALIE and ANDREA and probably more of you who will be posting this week (how about it, Jenny, Hannah, the Kates, Chelsea, Kelly, Caylene ... no pressure, of course ...) -- if all of we  uniquely gifted women think too much about what OTHER writers are accomplishing,we'll start swinging our trunks and creating chaos for ourselves.

    * Someone in your writers' group has gotten a contract. You're still trying to finish your first draft. That contract is HER banana. Hang onto that stick and write the dang book

    * Somebody here on the blog shares that she intends to immerse herself in research so her work will be richer and better informed. You are in the process of editing your completed novel. That research immersion is HER banana. Hang onto that stick and revise your own book, layer by layer.

    * I say my intention is to keep a meaningful writing journal. The very thought of that breaks YOU out in full-body hives. That is MY banana. Hang onto your own stick and do whatever keeps you on track with your intention.

As long as your intentions are authentic and in your power to carry them out, regardless of the fruits, you will stay proudly on your course, holding that bamboo stick high. No chaos. No disorder. No flailing around comparing yourself to other writers. Revise those Intentions, will you? And then share them with us?

One more thing about the elephant story. The purpose of a beautifully bedecked elephant in the Indian festivities is to carry the likeness of a deity on her back. It goes without saying -- and yet we need to say it regularly -- this IS all for God. We ARE the image and likeness of God. We carry that ours-alone piece of bamboo FOR God. Kind of puts the bananas in perspective, doesn't it?

Blessings,

Nancy Rue   (NOTE: I don't advocate the use of elephants of any other animals for display if they are in any way neglected or mistreated. At the same time, I respect the traditions of other cultures, again, as long as the creatures involved have good lives.) 


Great Bananas ... uh Expectations: Nancy's List

Great-expectationsHey, Writerly Women. After doing the exercise I prescribed yesterday as part of our Treatment Plan for discouragement, it became clear to me that Charles Dickens -- or should I say, Pip -- had nothing on me (and perhaps all of us) when it comes to Great Expectations. Or in our case, bananas.  All he expected was to marry Estelle and be rich. My goals are far loftier -- and yours may be too.

Emii agrees. In her comment yesterday, she said her "bananas" were, "Things I didn’t even know I was holding, or at least didn’t think they were heavy and influential." That was certainly true for me. Oh, I knew I was clinging to them, but I didn't realize how, to use Emii's well-chosen word "influential", they have been, how heavily (another apt Emii word choice) they have weighed down my writing.

If you're thinking, "Oh, get over yourself, Nancy. How many books have you had published over the years -- and you don't have this in hand YET?" ya gotta remember that those books came out in the Golden Years of Christian publishing when it was relatively easy to find that agent and that traditional house -- at least far easier than it is now. AND I'm launching into a completely different market, which is like starting over, so as I've said before, I'm right where you are. And I'm every bit as human and vulnerable.

The point is (yeah, will you get to it, Nance?): some of those big old bananas DO set us up for being deprived of our freedom, just like those poor monkeys in India. (I still haven't figured out why people feel the need to capture them, and I'm trying not to be judgmental). I proved that to myself by doing the Ten Expectations Exercise from yesterday's post.

I didn't think I HAD 10 expectations until I started whipping through the cards. When I looked at the completed spread, I realized that only two of them were things I expected/hoped for from outside myself. Cards 1Which means they are  ultimately out of my control. I can do everything I can to sign with a general market agent and have my next however many books published by a traditional gm house, but I am not, in the end, the one who will decide whether that actually happens. The rest are all things I expect of myself. Interesting.  (They're face down in the picture because I was trying to follow my own rules!)

As prescribed, I chose five, sight un-seen.  I will live like a writer. I will write all four of the Footnotes Collection novels. I will write something for Rosen Publishing (New York house I used to write for). I will immerse myself in writing 4 mornings a week. I will be published with a traditional general market house. 

Cards 2When I studied those five, I was disappointed that some of the ones I really hoped I'd pick weren't in that group. THAT was when it occurred to me that we get to CHOOSE what our expectations and hopes are. There is no "rule"  that says we're stuck with a particular bunch of bananas.  I don't have to give up keeping a meaningful writing journal just so I can hold onto I will be published. Of course I would love to be published again, but that's an expectation left over from my former writing life.  I would love even more to create a meaningful journey to the best creative work I've ever done.

As Emii said in her comment,  "I love that there's only five." There is great freedom in that limitation, as long as we ourselves carefully and prayerfully select what those five things will be.

I was practically giddy as I picked my five -- and I decided to call them INTENTIONS. An intention is something we can keep doing forever. There is no "failure" to complete it, because it isn't so much something to achieve as it is a way to be.  Again, to quote Emii, "The things I’m keeping are very hopeful." Mine are too. Cards 3

I will be intentional about providing time and space to dream, reflect and plan.

I will keep a meaningful writing journal.

I will live like a writer, putting writing first in my creative blocks of time.

I will immerse myself in those blocks of time 4 mornings a week. 

I will write all four of the Footnotes Collection novels simply because I can't not.

The pressure is off. Those are MY intentions and I have what it takes to live into them. I can't fail.

The bottom line question, of course, is :

Can you continue writing if only those expectations over which you have control are met?

In my case, can I keep creating these novels if I don't sign on with an agent, successfully promote my back list, get published by a New York house and try pursue those other writing projects and my current one simultaneously? (I used to juggle multiple projects at once -- back when I was nuts. Okay, nuttier than I am now. Okay, just younger than I am now.) The answer to that is --

Yes!!!

Because that feels free. That releases me from the Is this good enough for "them?" That allows me to be intentional without even thinking about the fruits my efforts are "supposed" to bear. We don't actually grow fruit anyway. We plant, we nurture, we take care -- and the fruit will grow or it won't. The gardening itself has to be worth it WHILE WE ARE DOING IT. 

So, to add to our Treatment Plan: do all the steps as outlined yesterday. Then as you look at the five you've picked at random, CHOOSE whether those are actually bananas worth holding onto. Free yourself to CHOOSE the intentions that truly resonate with you.

And then, of course, please, please share. You make this community the safe, rich, encouraging, wise place that it is. That is always our intention!

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Treatment Plan #1: Let Go of the Banana

Monkey-bananav3Hey, Writerly Women! I'm loving our little friend. Sort of reminds me of myself these days ... wrinkles and funky hair and total focus on yummy stuff. He's here for a different reason, though. Bear with me -- there IS a connection for you.

 For some reason in India, where there are a lot of monkeys, the locals feel a need to catch them from time to time. Their method is inventive to say the least. They anchor a bottle to the ground, the neck of which is just large enough for a monkey's hand to fit through. Then they put a small banana in the bottle, sit back and wait.

Before long a monkey comes by, sees the banana, reaches his hand into the bottle, and grabs it. Here's the catch -- literally: the monkey discovers that he can't get his hand out of the bottle while holding onto the banana. He freaks out -- still clutching his find -- while the trap-setter calmly walks over and puts a burlap sack over him. Freaking out even more, the monkey finally releases that yellow piece of fruit and -- gotcha. He's captured.

Of course it's obvious to us that if the monkey just let go of the dang banana, he could run and a person could never catch him. Primates are fast. But most of the monkeys hang on to the banana until the sack goes over their head. Sure, that banana has significance to the little guy, but is it worth sacrificing his whole self for?

We may well ask, those of us who face the challenges of wanting this writing life SO much and yet meeting rejection after rejection. Why am I holding onto this dream banana when I could just let go and relieve myself of all this stress and disappointment? Why don't I just run before the final burlap sack finally drops over my head?

But that isn't really the question, in my view. The question is, what are we holding onto that makes this writing challenge so hard? What do we need to let go of that would keep us from being smothered in a bag of frustration because nobody wants our stuff?

In essence, what is your basic banana?

To make this easier, what do you say we try an exercise? You've been great about giving every challenge a shot, and I think this one may be our most important yet. Humor me? And yourselves?

Here we go:

Step 1.   Get yourself 10 index cards or 10 small pieces of paper. Hannah's plot cards

Step 2.  On each one, write one expectation or hope you have for your writing career. That could be anything from I will get an agent to I'll be able to make my living as a writer to Somebody, anybody with credentials, will say "This shows promise." One on each card or slip of paper. Ten of them.

Step 3. Turn them all over, face down. Mix them up. Really mix them up so there's no way you know what's written on them.

Step 4.  Without looking at them, choose five. Put the rest aside.

Step 5.  Turn the remaining 5 over so you can read them. Imagine these five hopes, dreams, expectations are the only ones that will ever be met. The rest? Forget about it. Will that be enough to keep you going? 

Step 6. Now the important question: Can you let go of the banana that is those other five things? Can you release those expectations and just write? Just. Write. 

Let it GoThat, my loves, is the Treatment Plan for the challenge every single one of you indicated in some way -- the seemingly insurmountable wall that is Is this really going anywhere? Am I doing all this creative work for nothing? The prescription:

Let go of half of your expectations and hopes. Write without thought of what the fruits of your labors might be. 

That is simple -- but harder to do than it sounds. If it were easy, they wouldn't be catching many monkeys in India. Fortunately we are not monkeys. We can change the way we think. And that can change our writing to a labor of love.

Next step: will you share with us those five things you're willing to release? Those five expectations that will release YOU from pressure and disappointment and frustration? Putting them in writing and saying, "Here's how I'm freeing myself," can make all the difference.

I'll post my list tomorrow, because I am right where you are. And we together are the Writerly Women.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 

 


Diagnosing Ourselves: Andrea and Lily

Andrea 2Hey, Writerly Women. Okay, THIS is going to be "insanely interesting." (I'm thinking we need to adopt that as our mantra!) Today we have BOTH lists from Andrea and from Lily. I'm loving the prospect of showcasing the strengths and challenges side by side -- so we can see how positive BOTH explorations are. 

Let's start with Andrea:

Ten things I excel at - with writing

  1. I can create scenes that twist your heart strings. Hurt/Comfort/Angst was my favorite to write for fanfiction. Usually when I have a rough day and just need a mental hug.
  1. I write killer cliff hangers. 
  1. I have a crazy imagination. I dream in technicolor. 
  1. I twist excellent plots.
  1. I create relatable characters. 
  1. I can paint with words. Description was the only story I got an A plus on in Creative Writing. I love to paint with words. 
  1. I can dream big - and make it seem realistic enough that the reader will believe it.
  1. I can see all sides of the story. I know the motivations and the back stories for all of my characters - even though I only show the POV of one. 
  1. I can play the book in my head - like a movie.
  2.  I am a plantzer - I rarely write out my whole plot when I write - but I do have to have to know the ending before I begin writing.

 

 (I can attest to the truth of everything on that list. I know Andrea's work well!)

Now ...

5 Things I need to work on: Andrea

  1. Fear of failure. I am an Enneagram 6 and I tend to overthink. A lot. About the story, will it be good enough, why would someone want to read it, what do I have to say that someone hasn’t already said better. Jay Shetty (great podcaster) says to just start - don’t think, just do it. That has helped a lot. I write for me first - and then for others. 
  1. Commas -- I use too many.
  1. I get overwhelmed and then I get blocked. Too many ideas - not sure which one to go with. 
  1. I’m not good with waiting. Sending stories into the ‘void’ of publishing and getting crickets in return gives me major anxiety. Why should I even try? It is just different than the fast paced Disaster world that I exist in. Getting used to it - and finding peace with waiting.
  2. Rejection - I made friends recently with an author who has published in my genre. She shared that it was really difficult for her to find an agent. And then to find a publisher. She eventually went to self publishing (which is expensive - especially in a world where thousands of books are published every day). Creation Science is controversial - which is really sad. I wrote the book I wanted to read - because no one had written one - and I searched and searched. I believe God gave me this story - and I believe that He will get it into the hands of the readers who need it. Whether that is 1 or 1,000 or 1 million is not my responsibility.

One of the many things I love about Andrea's list is that she already knows how to meet most of these challenges. As Kate B. said in her comment yesterday, we can't even begin to solve a problem if we haven't looked directly at it. Once we do, the answers are there.

Lily 2020Lily was more reluctant to share her strengths, as you will see, but what she came up with is a great piece of writing in itself. Check it out:

I heard someone call my name! I got called out to the carpet, and I'm gonna answer. (Eyes widening with resolve). I didn't answer the question, because I felt like I had no answers to offer. Writing strengths? I've got none. No agent has gotten excited enough about my writing to represent me and my work. I know writing worth isn't tied to that, but rejection comes hard. Here's my attempt at including some writing strengths:
1. I'm good at expressing feelings and emotions when I write, because I'm sharing from personal experiences.
2. Writing poetry is a go-to for me.
3. Some of my most powerful, fast, polished writing involves laying out dark, evil scenes. Some of those are so scary, I feel so dirty and disgusted afterward that I feel an urgent need to get together with friends for some rest and rehabilitation.
4. I've gotten pretty good at brainstorming all kinds of weird and fun scenes.
5. I have and continue to encourage others through my writing.
6. I motivate people through speaking and writing. Maybe that's related to the previous point.
 
Okay, so it isn't ten, Lily, but ya did good, girl. Knowing your writing, I can think of tons more ... As for those challenges:
 
 1. I struggle with how much setting to include.
2. I don't know how much character details to include.
3. I need to work on including more suspense, especially the kind that's drawn out in bits and pieces throughout the manuscript.
4. Working on the manuscript is hard, when I keep getting query rejections. But the truth is, I still very much believe in what I'm doing through my writing and I need to keep going.
5. I need to include more interior dialogue (I think it's more of a monologue). Lily and me
 
 
So what will we do with all this honest, clear, diagnostic stuff?
 
As I said in yesterday's post, all of the challenges we face are treatable. And they're treatable in part because we know our strengths. and because, going back several weeks, we know the truths we want to tell. have to tell. We know the things we need to develop are worth working on. 
 
So beginning tomorrow, we're going to look at our challenges one by one. I'll provide options, exercises, ways for you to share your work with us. I know you'll bring support and encouragement and share the approaches that have worked for you. As you've seen, one gal's forte is another woman's struggle. Together, we can find a treatment for absolutely everything.
 
I don't know about you, but this is sounding pretty delicious to me.
 
Blessings,
Nancy Rue

Diagnosing Ourselves: Kate and Colleen

Kate at GlenHey, Writerly Women. In a recent comment, I told Kate B. that her list of challenges (which you are about to read) was totally treatable. So why not think of these self-studies we're doing as a way of diagnosing what needs attention in our writing? Rather than "Here's where I'm a LOSER," we look at it as, "Here's where I need treatment." We gotta know what's wrong before we can fix it.   

So, I give you Kate's diagnosis of herself:

  1. Make a solid Plot and Sticking to it. - I don’t normally ‘plot’ as much I just want to explore a situation until I run it into the ground. But The second I need to Plot something I can’t stick to it and something always changes. That or I have issues with stack or extending a scene far longer than I intended. In the end I get half way though and I have a revelation that changes the story from the beginning.

2. Juggling different personalities. Most times when I write, my characters cast similar personalities that are close to mine because I get caught up in the situation. Even if I like the different quirks that come with each personality, separating them out in one story is a struggle for me.

3. Raising the Stakes. I love My characters and sometime I have trouble bringing their world crashing down around them. I can push their emotional buttons until I make them break and sometimes I do it too early, but the physical stakes I have a hard time with.

4. World Building. I’m a fantasy writer and this is the biggest issue. I can say I want a, b, and c to happen… But then the world doesn’t always exist.

5. Ideas. This is both a strength and a challenge because I Come up with too many. I’ll be 100 or so pages in and I’ll get and epiphany that I need to go back and write it in or it changes something . Or I come up with all the different paths my story can go and I fall in love with all 5 paths and then I get stuck having to hash out which one is best. 

As I said, totally treatable. We'll get to that, but first, Colleen ...

  1. While on the one hand I think it’s positive I’m not married to my work when someone critiques or edits it, something seems off that I’m not more invested in it. That concerns me.
  1. Even when I plan and plot my work, I tend to peter out before I get to the end. I’ve learned that this is because I don’t engage with my characters—I don’t know them well, so I don’t seem to care enough to see them through. I tend to look at plot before character, and intrinsically know this will cost me.
  1. I have a really hard time writing long. Although I appreciate it when other writers take the care to fill out the details of the ambience of a story and their characters’ feelings, I don’t seem to know how to do it in length. I’m the same way when I speak. If I can say it in twenty minutes, why do it in forty? Yet, I find myself in situations that require me to speak those forty minutes. *me shrugging* Colleen
  2. Sticking to a writing schedule. Oy vey. I know all the reasons why it is necessary and the adjoining benefits, yet I don’t do it. This is connected to number five in this list.

5.  I don’t trust my gut. When I have an idea I love, or conjure up a character I think everyone could love, I convince myself before I even get to the starting gate that I’m crazy to think I can do it. “Yeah, that’s fine for Harper Lee, Sheila Turnage, or Nancy J. Cavanaugh, but you? What makes you think you could do anything like that?” I hyperventilate and my heart races at the pure thought of trying. And yet something niggles at the back of mind . . . “You don’t know if that’s true or not. And how are you going to know if you don’t give it a rip?”*****I'm literally licking my chops to start treating these challenges, but I want to give all of you a chance to bring yours to the examining table. These brave ladies have provided the path. They're saying, "Do this! You're safe here!" Post as a comment or email me at nnrue@att.net.

Tomorrow we'll hear from Andrea, who has brought both of her lists at once. Comparing them will be a blast. YOU are a blast. Thank you for your honest, open and wonderfully witty contributions to this community.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


We Rock: Gloria and Amalie

With GloriaGloria says she is "reporting from the front lines of fighting writer's block." Who among us has not found ourselves THERE? She also says, "You're right, of course. It's good to take a good solid look at what you're good at from time to time." here's her good, solid look. Trust me, you're going to enjoy this.

1. I’m good at conveying my characters’ inner monologue, I really get inside their heads. 

2. My prose and writing style has a poetic rhythm to it that I love. 

3. I make fantastic one-liners. 

4. I’ve made great improvements in writing fight scenes, to the point where I get excited about twisting the knives and setting everything on fire. 

5. I’m good at helping other writers brainstorm and helping them bounce ideas around. Sometimes helping someone else with their stories makes things jingle loose with mine!

6. Uhhh, I’m starting to struggle here... I had the courage to ask a girl at my Panera Bread restaurant, who was  studying to become a mortician, how one might (hypothetically) fake their death, since one of the girls in my writing group had just sent out the question. [she was super nice and I still wonder how she’s doing all the time]

7. My metaphors are pretty unique and vivid. 

8. I’m good at putting an unexpected twist or shift of perspective at the end of my flash fiction pieces. 

9. I’m very comfortable writing from more than one perspective. 

10. I pour so much of my heart into my words. 

******

Amalie says she is trying to stay current with all the blog prompts, even as she's recovering from heart surgery. Anyone else feel like a slacker after reading that? More importantly she shared that she loved being able to channel her "energy toward something that grounds me to my soul." Yes. All of the yes. Amalie

 

I am an enneagram 5. I don’t often feel things, but when I do, I feel them big! If I write in those moments, I can communicate what I am feeling in a way that translates to the reader.

I see and understand both details and overarching themes that are generally missed by others. This shows up in my writing.

I love words, my vocabulary is expansive, and I actually know what the words mean when I use them. 🤣

I have a love for the ridiculous, and I’m pretty hilarious. Not many people get to see that side of me because of my fear of being foolish. As I learn to stop editing, and give my self permission to be fun, this aspect comes out more in my writing. Right now, it comes out more as subtle sarcasm, which can be missed by many readers. And, if I’m being honest, my sarcasm is really a self contemptuous shield to hide the thoughts and feelings I’m afraid to openly show.  I’d like to become more comfortable in conveying the humor I see and feel in ways that are freely and purely expressed.

I am intelligent, and I can write fairly intelligently on any topic that has captured my interest.

I am very good at researching.

I have a very good memory, when I’m not flared and if it’s something that is interesting to me.

I am a somewhat dexterous typist now. 🤪

My tush has just enough padding in the right spots to be able to sit comfortably while writing. 😉

 

Pam is right -- we are encouraging each other with these lists. And what a fascinating group we are. I think we prove what a person known as Atlas says on MindsJournal:

"I find it amusing that we're all pretending to be normal when we could be insanely interesting instead."

There is no pretending going on here!  Tomorrow we'll see the insanely interesting Colleen's list of 5 challenges. Wednesday, we're talking BOTH of Andrea's lists, which will be fun to compare. And then, of course, our regular Thursday post. Stand by for another challenge. And some help too.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


We Rock: Natasha and Emii

AshamedHey, Writerly Women! While some of you are thinking about your lists of 5 areas where you feel challenged with your writing, I'm delighted to present a few more lists of strengths.  These are apparently hard to come by, (You would think I was asking you to cut off your earlobe!) so I think each one needs to be highlighted. 

Let's celebrate Natasha first. Yes, she said the process was painful and made her feel "pathetic," but she put her big girl panties on and did that little thing:

  1. People are constantly telling me that they “feel” what I post- that the emotions I’m expressing are ones they themselves have. So I think the vulnerability in my writing is a gift, to remind others AND myself that we aren’t alone. The human experience is a universal one. 
  2. In prose for my novels, I do not write filtered- I write the world as I see it, which makes my writing real. Wow, I think this is the same as the last point- I write vulnerably, so I write believably, relateably. 
  3. I am really good at critiquing. This is not a craft one, but I *love* critiquing and I’m really good at helping point in the right direction while still affirming and praising the strong aspects of someone’s work. 
  4. I have my own voice. I think, if I had physical books, you could pick one off the shelf and be like, “Oh yeah, that’s Natasha’s work!” 

    5. I am emotionally connected to my work. Sometimes this bites me in the butt for my own head-space, but in terms of my writing itself it pays off big time. Again, this has so much to do with connection and creating feelings and experiences that reflect those of others where they are at. It's not 10 but it's a great start. Natashs's blog(This is Natasha's Blog)

 

Emii responded to my naming and shaming (there's something to be said for that technique) and gives us this:

 

o   Poetry is a natural language I use to convey big ideas

o   I find pleasure in cutting away unnecessary words

o   Can give myself fully to what I’m writing – emptying myself out + entirely energised (and losing track of time)

o   I know how to use grammar, which is handy because I’ve never understood grammar rules

o   My writing imitates the voice of whoever I’m reading at the time (not sure if that’s a strength or a case of still finding my own voice)

o   I can write fast!

o   I can stick to a writing schedule

o   I trust the process of creativity – in the words of The Artist’s Way, ‘I commit to bringing the quantity + trust God to bring the quality’!

o   I put myself on the page, trusting that what is most personal is most universal

o   I can write funny dialogue 

Emii

As I read these rockin' lists, I see that they're all different. We are strong in various, individual ways, which means to me that we're going to be able to help and guide each other. I intend to call on you for your input as we deal in our posts with the areas where you don't feel as sure, as confident.  Places where you feel like you're "taking a hit" as one of you expressed it in an email to me. Times when you're discouraged because you just can't make it come out right. Issues that make you want to consider underwater basket weaving or frog raising or chinchilla grooming as an alternative career. None of us has all the answers, but each of us has some of them.

Monday, get ready for Gloria and Amalie and how they rock. Meanwhile, make those lists of five (5) challenges. Just be kind to yourselves in the process!

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue     


Seeing What We're Not Seeing

Yogiraj"

Hey, Writerly Women. I promised -- or maybe I should say "threatened!" -- to guide us through the making of our second list: what are the areas of writing that challenge you most? Some of us had a tough time with the first list -- 10 Areas of Strength in Your Writing -- and I get the sense some of us are chomping at the proverbial bit to beat ourselves up. "Only five items?" you say. "But I could go on for pages!"

I'm not gonna let you wallow, ladies. As the Baroness of Beating Myself Up, I know whereof I speak: getting too far down that road is discouraging and defeating and leads to despair.

And there's enough of that going on, for very real reasons. Let's take a look at what Pam shared with us in a comment:

 "Just yesterday, I said out loud what I've been wondering for a few years now - is it time for me to stop writing? It's not that I believe I'm a bad writer, but with all the self publishing and all the pulling back of traditional houses accepting what I write, the market is so glutted and people don't want to pay more than a couple of dollars for the novel that took me 12 years to write (which included many hours of angst and tears and paying $$ for writing getaways and all the rest) and no marketing help and telling us we have to do all the social media, etc ... it all just makes me want to cry. And yet, I have IDEAS. Good ones! And when I stop writing to do other things, after a while I feel "off" and have to sit down at the computer and pull up a manuscript. Sigh. My therapist asked me yesterday - what would it look like if I stopped writing? I really don't know." Pam
Natasha echoed that: "Pam- I GET IT. It is soooooooo exhausting, the act of pouring yourself out there for what often feels like so little return. I constantly think of the "pearls before swine" saying, although I don't actually think the people not enjoying my work are swine. I hate feeling crushed after another rejection, or staring at my screen and wondering why it is I'm working on possibly another dead-end book when I could be writing an essay or heck, watching Netflix with my fam- I don't think I could just not write. And how much sanity does it bring me?" Natasha

Natasha and Pam are not alone. I hear this ALL the time -- sometimes even in my own head. I wish I had a perfect answer for you. I don't, but I do have some things to share that I hope will help. I'll start with a question asked by Yogiraj Achala, the author of Pigs Eat Wolves (the title alone makes you want to order it immediately, doesn't it?): 

"What are you not seeing because you are seeing what you are seeing?"

As we wrestle with the kinds of dilemmas we're talking about here, what are we seeing?

    * We're seeing an industry that is a hot mess right now, especially in Christian publishing. Even individual publishers I respect have told me they're struggling as much as we are.

    * We're seeing authors all OVER social media, posting and tweeting and Instagramming about their books, and we become nauseated at the very thought of doing that.

    * Unfortunately we're also seeing the discouragement turn to jealousy and anger. One gifted writer emailed me just last week and said,  "I have seen so many hurtful comments on FB within the Christian writers’ industry. I know there is only one God, but I question whether some us can be connected to the same God and believe so differently. Oh, and the meanness. Not necessarily toward me, but toward each other. I’ve had to step up on my praying and faith walk." 

With all that yuck smearing our lenses it's impossible to see what's actually true. Where the hope is. Where the path lies. So what do we do when our lenses are clouded? We clean them. And if that doesn't do the job, we get new ones. Only then can we start seeing what we weren't able to before. New glasses 2019

I don't know what that might look like for you, but here's what my vision tells me:

    * Something's gotta give with this industry soon. Otherwise it's going to die. That tells me two things.

        (1) We have to be ready with the best work we're capable of when the shift happens. I came in on the ground floor of the Christian fiction movement when I was in my late 30's, early 40's. Nobody was yet publishing the almost-edgy stuff I was writing, but they were ready for it. And so was I. Ten years earlier, it probably wouldn't have happened.

    (2) We have to be willing to rebuild it if it does wither on the vine completely. Some of the indie publishers are doing that already. We can be part of the creation of a new market, a new approach. The work you've submitted here makes that very clear. You are truth-tellers -- word-weavers -- image-makers. It's up to us, and we have the creative gifts for that. Why do you think I've revived this blog to bring us all together? So we can figure that out.

    * You know how they say, "Haters gotta hate?" I don't believe that, but I do believe that writers gotta write. Pam talks about "feeling off" when she doesn't write. Natasha intimates that it provides her with sanity. As for me -- it just won't leave me alone. It's like a nagging child: the only way to shut that kid up is to pay attention to her.

    * This writing that we're doing is essential to our inner journeys toward oneness with God. Notice what my email friend says: "I've had to step up on my praying and faith walk." That is in response to the discouragement and meanness she's seeing from Christian writers on Facebook. She goes on to say: "We never arrive spiritually, but God has shown me some areas in need of growth that I thought I'd already conquered. I guess sometimes we walk, fall and then get back up running." Only sometimes?  I too have a very long way still to travel, but I am the God-loving person I am now because of all the writing I've done, all the ways I've had to find to express truths through story.         

    * If you have a gift -- and every one of you does -- and you feel a call or a nudge or a conviction -- which I'm sure you do -- I believe we have an obligation to God to use it. We can't spend our time trying to determine what the fruits of our labors are likely to be. Doctors don't say, I'm not going to treat this patient because she might die anyway. Lawyers don't say, I know for a fact this guy is innocent, but I'm not going to defend him because I might lose. New mothers don't say, This world being what it is, this baby might grow up to be a shoplifter or a topless dancer. I'm taking her back to the hospital...

So why the Sam Hill are we saying, This might not get published. I might not find an agent. I might not sell many copies. I'm going to be embarrassed if this comes to nothing. I should take a job as an accountant, which I know I'll hate, because at least I'll make some money, which I will very likely never do as a writer. 

TRUE CONFESSION: I have written a bunch of books and they've been published and many were really successful. But I haven't had a new book published since 2015. So, yes, when I'm tired or I think I'm looking a lot older than I did yesterday, I wonder, Am I done? Do I actually have a place in the general market? Should I just quit and rest on my laurels so I don't look like a pathetic has-been? And then I recall the 80 year old woman at the Donald Maass Intensive last year who keeps cranking out books that she's self-publishing because it's, as she put it, "a gas!"I don't know what her religious beliefs were, if any, but she was doing the God-thing. 

How can we do less?

This may seem like an odd way to start, but here's the challenge:

    1. Make a list of ONLY FIVE areas of your writing where you feel challenged.

    2. Get yourself a cup of cocoa or green tea or whatever (I highly recommend matcha, for which you need an official dadgum bowl ... but I digress) and sip while you look at your list, as if it were written by a professional writer who does not give up on the constant improvement of her craft. No matter what the fruits may -- or may not -- be.

    3. Share that list, either in a comment or via email to me: nnrue@att.net.

Here's mine:

    1. I always write longer and wordier than the appropriate word count. It never fails: I get to about Chapter 7 and think, "This thing is going on forever!"

    2. I really have to work at expressing emotions through a character that I shy away from myself -- like anger, grief and despair.

   3. Describing geography and nature is a HUGE challenge for me. What the heck is a glen, a meadow, a ridge? 

   4. I second-guess myself about how much body language in dialogue is the right amount.

   5. I have to be super vigilant about not creating every protagonist to sound like me. There's my writing voice, and then there are their individual voices. 

Promise me that you will remember as you craft your list that yo2020-0118-Chase-1u are doing this to move yourself closer and closer to the writer you want to be. As one of my yoga mentors, Chase Bossart, says, "Set your intention., and what is important will be established in your life." I think Jesus would totally agree. 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue