Encouragement or Disdain

August 6, 2019

When I first contemplated writing fiction, I had no idea how to do it. Nevertheless, I forged ahead, rising early every morning and writing ferociously. In my quest to figure out what the heck I was doing, I pulled out a book on writing that had been on my bookshelf for a long time. It was the perfect book for me to read at that time.

The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner is a great book for new or doubting writers.

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Lerner got me. She knew what made me tick and why I felt the need to write. She understood my initial fears and the pain from derisive friends. “When I asked the readers of my blog,” she said, “if they remembered any hurtful things people had said to them about their writing, the comments poured in.”

Silly me. I thought everyone would be excited for me and encourage me. Instead, some of them laughed and even rolled their eyes. A common response was, “Yeah, I’m gonna write a book, too.” I was shocked at the disdain I encountered.

A few people encouraged me and those were the ones I clung to as I continued writing. My favorite piece of encouragement: “It’s about time you write a book!”


When I first began telling people I was writing a novel, many of them laughed or rolled their eyes.


As I wrote, another surprise emerged. In my writing, I was revealing a lot about myself – not in an autobiography or memoir but rather in the way I see the world and weave life experiences into the story line. When Lerner describes different types of writers, I immediately identified with the one who was worried about what other people would say.

What would my family and friends think? Was I revealing too much about myself? The fears were quick and unexpected and fierce. Fear of not being heard. Fear of being misunderstood.

“Writers tend to censor themselves,” she said, “for fear of what other people think, especially those at home.”

Now, I don’t care. I write what I write. If I’m revealing things about myself, so be it. If people see themselves or are critical, I don’t care. I’m not setting out to hurt anyone. I am writing from my life experiences, which are not like anyone else’s. Yet, my hope is that my readers will say, “Oh, I feel like that, too.”

Persistence in this craft was another unexpected necessity. If you receive nothing but encouragement, wow, that’s great. But I think most of us experience something different. The criticism of so-called “well-meaning people”, who tell you writing is an unattainable ambition, combined with your own self doubt can cripple you. That’s when ego and persistence come into play. I’ve always had plenty of both, which has brought me some trouble in the past but for which I’m now grateful.


Criticism, combined with your own self-doubt, can cripple you.  That’s where ego and persistence come into play.


Lerner addresses this: “…the degree of one’s perseverance is the best predictor of success. It is some combination of ability and ego, desire and discipline, that produces good work.”

She says writing is a calling. If you have to do it, you’re a writer. “Asking whether you’ve got it, whether you should stick with writing or quit, is a little like asking if you should continue living,” Lerner said. “For most writers, being unable to write is tantamount to suicide.”

When I got to about 40,000 words, people stopped rolling their eyes. Up until that point, I felt very alone. I received about 10 percent encouragement and 90 percent discouragement. So, I stopped telling people what I was doing.


For most writers, being unable to write is tantamount to suicide.”


And then when I didn’t have instant success, like I expected, more derision. And I beat myself up. Could I do this? Maybe I wasn’t good enough. Nevertheless, I kept going. I’m still going. And Betsy Lerner’s book helped me persevere.

Lerner also gives practical advice about agents and editors (this may be outdated by now), but it’s the first part of her book that appeals to me. If you have any doubt about your life as a writer, read it.

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What books on writing have encouraged you?

 

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Big Sky, Blank Paper

July 23, 2019

I don’t feel like writing. Creative writing, I mean – the novels and short stories I write that bring me such pleasure. It’s not writer’s block, at least not how I understand writer’s block. I have plenty of ideas floating around in my head that I’m itching to write down. I’m not avoiding or procrastinating. There are plenty of days when I don’t feel like writing, yet I sit down and do it anyway. This is different. I. Just. Can’t. Do. It.

As I’ve struggled to find my way back to my happy writing place, I read a blog post that helped. It’s titled “Motors” on “Andrew’s View of the Week”. He has a clever writing style using metaphors interspersed with engineering terms. Anyway, I think I’ve run out of creative energy and I need to recharge my batteries.

How do I recharge? People. I’m an extrovert, so social situations energize me. I’m very high energy, and I like new and different stimuli – people, places, food. Cities are filled with energy. So, what better place to recharge than going to two new cities on vacation?

In my last post, I talked about going to Portland. Here, I’ll talk briefly about Seattle and our train journey across country. I was especially looking forward to the train where I’d meet all new people and recharge. But first…

Seattle has hills, not quite San Francisco hills, but big ones! I’m sure we lost weight. We stayed by the Space Needle, but the highlight for me was the Chihuly Glass Garden. All I heard was there were amazing glass sculptures. A perfect description.

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Was I inspired to write? No.

The waterfront tourist area was fun; we had some great seafood. We especially enjoyed Pike Place Market, where we watched them “throw fish” and had the very best clam chowder and seafood chowder at…. Pike Place Chowder! If you go, it’s well worth the wait. And DON’T waste your time and money on an underground tour. That was stupid.

I still wasn’t in the mood to write, but I had high hopes the train journey would alleviate that.

After a couple days in Seattle, we boarded the train for our 50+ hour journey across country. We got a roomette, which is a sleeper room about the size of a dinner booth. Really.

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Meals in the dining car are included in the roomette price, and since there were just two of us, the hostess would seat us with other travelers at the booths for four.

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When we went to dinner the first night, I didn’t feel like talking to strangers, a feeling I attributed to being tired. However, I felt the same way the next day at breakfast. I put on a happy face and was social but I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to be by myself.

I strive for balance in my life and that includes some solitude, but I’d never felt the need for it on vacation. The new people were draining me. For a description of this feeling from a self-proclaimed introvert, check out Quaint Revival, where Shelley describes how an introvert feels in social situations, an eye-opener for me.

So, there we were on the train with hundreds of strangers in close proximity. And, I admit, we were a bit disappointed by the view. We were in the Great Plains. The flatlands. There’s nothing there except some distant mountains we saw for about 10 minutes.

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I had gone back to the roomette after an energy-draining lunch, while my boyfriend went to the observation car. I decided it was time to write, whether I felt like it or not, and I definitely did not feel it.

I pulled out the small table, and retrieved my writing tablet and pen. My arm felt like dead weight. It was all I could do to lift my arm and rest my wrist on the table.

I stared out the window determined to find some beauty. Gratitude welled up within me for seeing the country in a way I never had before. I continued staring out the window looking for something… anything. And then I looked up.

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It was like being in a snow globe. The sky went on forever. BIG SKY. Images of cowboys and campfires and roundups flooded my brain. The clouds were amazing.

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I saw submarines lined up. I saw a pig relaxing on its back. Go ahead, you can think I’m crazy. None of my friends saw anything other than clouds. (And do submarines even line up???)

I went a little nutty snapping pictures of clouds. And I started writing… not a whole story, just fragments.

Then the rain started, bringing contentment with it.

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The desolation frightened her a bit but the new life she was steaming towards had to be better than the one she had left behind…

What had she done? Where was the town? Her mother had told her repeatedly not to do this, but she was determined. Having grown up in the city, she hadn’t known there was this much unpopulated land. Arrgh. Then a dark-haired man strode through the rail car, his boots clomping. She caught her breath as he tipped his cowboy hat her way revealing bright blue eyes. Maybe this would be okay after all. (yeah, yeah, mostly cliché but it’s a start)

Big Sky country. Montana. I want to go back. Stay on a dude ranch. Ride horses.

North Dakota boasted the bluest sky I’ve ever seen, a sky almost as big as the Montana sky. And then I saw the rainbow. God’s promise. The sight filled me with joy.

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We traveled through a few more states, and I wrote a bit more. By the time we returned home, my batteries were about half charged. I’ll continue to seek out solitude and big nature, and I’m confident I’ll be back in my happy writing place soon.

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Read and Write in Portland

July 9, 2019

Portland, Oregon is a great place for readers and writers, something I discovered on my recent vacation.

My boyfriend and I decided to visit his son in Portland for a few days, spend some time in Seattle, and then take the train home. Since Portland is purported to be walkable, we booked a hotel downtown. After taking the light rail from the airport, we walked into the Heathman Hotel.

This is the hotel lobby lounge. Out of view is a fireplace with a sofa and chairs.20190616_082224 (2)

Nestled on the bookshelves, I saw:

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Yep, a melting clock. 

Reluctant to leave all these books, we eventually made it to our room, where we found:

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How cool is that, although I don’t get the “edit sober” idea.

The next morning, I went running along the Willamette River. Portland is called the city of bridges, among other things. You can run on most of the bridges, so I did.

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After some fabulous coffee and the farmers’ market, we went by the central library, where there are 22 benches etched with famous writers’ names. Check out the description of the library here. They also have The Sterling Room for Writers.

We went to Pioneer Square, also known as Portland’s living room.

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Then onto the place at the top of our to-do list — Powell’s City of Books, the biggest bookstore in the world.

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Powell’s could be called SHOCK and AWE. New books, used books, bestsellers, staff picks, signed copies, popular books, obscure books, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, every subject imaginable, with mugs, t-shirts, signs, tchotchkes and a coffee shop.

I wish I had taken pictures inside but I was too happy and overwhelmed. My boyfriend had gotten there before me, so he texted me to meet him at the information desk. Ha. I didn’t see him but I did see signs pointing to the purple room and red room and orange room. There are 9 color-coded rooms, 6 or 8 of them with an information desk. It took me awhile to find the right room, simply because the place is so huge. I followed the signs and eventually found him.

If you think people don’t read anymore, Powell’s will renew your faith. After spending a few hours there – we would have liked to stay longer but had more to do – we bypassed two checkout lines 25 people deep and got into the short line of about 15 people.

A reader’s version of heaven.

You’d think I came away loaded with books. I didn’t. I only bought one.

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My boyfriend bought a bunch of books, including this one.

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I weighed the books when we got home. On the first full day of our 9-day vacation, I bought a 4.4 pound book, and my boyfriend bought a 3.8 pound book. Note to self: Never do that again!

Back at the hotel that evening, we hung out in the hotel lounge library. Ahh… so relaxing surrounded by all those lovely books.

The next day, we headed back to the river, where my boyfriend’s son had booked us all on a river cruise for Father’s Day. It was quite nice, and the food was good, something I don’t expect on boat rides. I especially enjoyed the bottomless mimosas!

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We had a great time in Portland, and then we boarded the train. I’ll write about that next time.

Oh, and by the way, none of these places paid me to write about them, although they should have.

Happy reading and writing.

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Have you vacationed in a spot that seemed tailor-made for writers and readers?


Writing and Running

June 11, 2019

Sometimes when I’m mulling over what should happen next in a story, I go running. Getting away from my desk, running outside in the sunshine, I feel free. Free from pressure and constraints and time. Inspiration comes. Ideas flow.

I’m not a distance runner. I run 3 or 4 miles most days and I don’t go very fast. It makes me feel good and helps me stay in shape.

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When I’m lacing up my shoes to go out, I know the ideas will come. They always do. As I run out of my driveway and down my street, I praise God for the beauty of a summer day and the ability to move my limbs. I wave to the neighbors, talk to their dogs, and watch the squirrels skitter about.

I don’t think about anything except how grateful I am for what I’m doing at that moment and what I have in my life. Even on rainy days, I thank God for nourishing nature and thereby nourishing me. The cold days of winter are a little tougher, as my eyes run, my nose drips, and my throat hurts, but I know I’m clearing my mind, working my muscles, and that I’ll be sitting in front of my fireplace soon.

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Let me close this post with something I saw on Twitter. I added the “or running” part.  The only time I don’t feel like I should be doing something else, is when I’m writing… or running.

Have a great day, everyone.


Inspire Me

August 21, 2012

What inspires you? I’m writing novels, so inspiration has become more important to me than ever. Whether you’re writing your own novel, a press release, blog post or news article, giving a speech or planning a project, your best work shines through when you’re inspired. You just know. You can feel it.

Quotes and stories can inspire you. Heroes are often inspiring. Movies, TV shows, books, pictures, and even commercials can be sources of inspiration. Many people would list religion as their number one source of inspiration. How about watching Mother Nature – waves crashing or mountains touching the sky. I seem to derive a lot of inspiration from seemingly random conversations or unexpected comments from friends, colleagues, or even strangers. Too bad you never know when a potential source of inspiration is at hand.

Some of my favorite quotes are listed below. I hope you find some of them to be inspiring; feel free to add your own.

General Quotes

“You are never given a dream without the power to make it come true.” – Anon

 “Scars remind us where we’ve been, they don’t have to dictate where we’re going.” – Steve Forbes

“You gotta put something in before you can get something out.” – Zig Ziglar

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.” – Anon

 “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you are right.” – Henry Ford

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

“Nothing is impossible to a willing heart.” – John Heywood

“All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

 “You see things and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were and say ‘Why not?’”—George Bernard Shaw

“When you cease to dream, you cease to live.” – Malcolm Forbes

Quotes on Writing

“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” — Z.N. Hurston

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” — Robert Frost

“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.” — Isaac Asimov

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” — Kurt Vonnegut

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” — Orson Scott Card

“You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you’re writing.” — Gene Wolfe

 “Just keep writing. Keep reading. If you are meant to be a writer, a storyteller, it’ll work itself out. You just keep feeding it your energy, and giving it that crucial chance to work itself out. By reading and writing.” — Robin McKinley

 “We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.” — Somerset Maugham

Why I write ~ via @esmithrakoff on Twitter:

“I do it to share my thoughts, because I can’t meet the entire world for a beer.”


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