Mon. August 26, 2019: Shake Up Your Process — #upbeatauthors

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image by Felix Mittemeier via pixabay

Monday, August 26, 2019
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

We’ve been talking about different things that inspire us here on the blog for the Upbeat Authors Month of Inspiration. Today, our final day on this topic, let’s talk about shaking up our process as a way to inspire.

We all get stuck. We all have days where there’s resistance.

As a full time writer, I can’t afford the luxury of writer’s block. Yes, I said “luxury” and I will not apologize for it. If I want to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, I can’t indulge in writer’s block. When things get tough, I have to show up and do the work anyway. Just like in any other PROFESSION.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I look at my chapter and have no idea what to do next, even with a detailed outline. Or I know what to do, but the words feel like lead instead of taking fire and racing across the page.

Then I know it’s time to shake things up.

How do I do that?

Lots of different ways:

Shower. Yup. For me, that’s one of the best ways to work through plot problems. I take a shower. I get more inspiration in the shower than just about anywhere else. When a book gives me trouble, I am so clean I squeak and practically glow in the dark.

Cook. I love to cook. While I often like to cook focusing on the cooking itself, my mind often begins to wander and work out plot problems. Food and feeding each other is an important part of many of my books. When I set a book somewhere, I often cook meals from that area that are then incorporated into the book.

When I initially write cooking or food scenes, I overwrite them, overload them with detail and sensory description. I then cut back in the editing, leaving what is necessary to further plot & character.

Housework. Vacuuming, scrubbing things, folding laundry. Again, there are days when I want to do it mindfully, when I need to do it mindfully. Other times, I can let my imagination figure out how to solve writing problems. Then I’m eager to get back to my desk AND the house is clean!

Take a Walk. I’m lucky. I live in a neighborhood that is quiet enough to take a walk. I live a few miles from the beach. I live a few miles from several Audubon sanctuaries. Walking helps me clear my head and figure things out. I tried running, but I hated it so much that I stick to walking.

Additional yoga/meditation. Sometimes getting up and doing a few asanas or sitting on my zafu makes all the difference. It’s a refresher for my tired brain.

Read a book. Reading often fuels the writing. The danger is that you get so into the book, you lose the whole writing day. Sometimes I use a particular book as a reward AFTER I get in my quota for the day.

Switch projects. Sometimes this works, sometimes this doesn’t. If you have too many unfinished projects around, it drains creative energy. It’s important to finish what you start. I teach an entire class about this and have a Topic Workbook on it: THE GRAVEYARD OF ABANDONED PROJECTS.

Switch locations. When I get restless at either of the two desks in my writing room, I might write in the living room. Or out on the deck. I often go to the library to work. We’re lucky on Cape; every town has a wonderful library with a unique character. Library-hopping is an activity many locals enjoy. There’s also Cape Space, a wonderful co-working space. I don’t write much fiction there, but sometimes I’ll go if I need to video conference or work on projects for my marketing clients.

Go to a museum. As I’ve talked about, over and over again here, I use visual art to fuel my verbal art. Live music often does the same. Or dance. Or theatre.

Experiment in a new genre. Try writing something in a genre in which you don’t normally work. It can be flash fiction, if you like. Or it can grow into something different.

Write a scene several times, in several different perspectives. If you’re struggling with a multi-person scene, do one draft of it in the perspective of each character. Yes, you’ll cut a lot. One of the most ridiculous things I hear from writers in classes is they don’t want to write something that will get cut. It’s not a waste of time. You need what you learn from it to get to your ultimate goal.

Use prompts. There are prompts all over the place. In July, I posted one every day. They are still up here on the 31 Prompts page.

Write differently. If you always outline, try blank paging. If you NEVER outline, outline something and then follow through and write it. (Note: I don’t call it “pantsing.” To me that sounds like an STD. I call it “blank paging”). Whichever way you try, FINISH THE PROJECT. If you didn’t like this foray, you don’t have to do it that way again. BUT FINISH THE PROJECT.

Join online groups where you can hang out with other artists. I find Women Write Change to be especially valuable, in both good times and rough ones. The #remotechat group on Twitter, with its Wednesday afternoon chats, is terrific. We have so much fun there, and exchange so much useful information. #TheMerryWriter, also on Twitter, is a fun monthly game, and I’ve met some great people through it. I’ve had some excellent conversations with other artists of all types via Ello. Lori Widmer’s Words on the Page blog has grown into a tight, supportive community.

Get together with other artists in person. I like mixing with all kinds of artists. Too often, hanging just with writers lately has become a venting session or all the talk goes to marketing. It’s not enough about craft and content and ideas. (Again, this is why I love Women Write Change — we talk a lot about craft and ideas).

The HobNob Group ended when its founder died last year. I miss it terribly. It was a combination of visual, verbal, and performance artists. We got to learn from each other and support each other. I participate in some of the writer activities around here and go to conferences. I try to attend as many readings and author events as I can. I also go to opening receptions at local museums and art galleries. I’ve cut back on a lot of the other networking I was doing around here (chamber events, business networking events, etc), because I’m setting the foundation for moving in a different direction with my marketing writing.

Online is great, but meeting and spending time with other artists in person is even better.

Make sure you give yourself an Artist Date. We talked about that earlier. If you stick to that, and integrate a weekly Artist Date into your life, a commitment to yourself, you will find that you’re refilling your creative well, and that will flow into all areas of your life.

What are your favorite ways of changing up the process?

Wed. May 8, 2013: A Harsh Reality of a Writer’s Life

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Wednesday May 8, 2013
Dark Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

I have a post up on Gratitude and Growth about the ups and downs of the latest plantings. I hope you stop by and leave a comment.

I’m going to talk today a bit about the harsh reality of an author’s life, and the unrealistic expectations of part-time writers or non-writers put onto a writer.

I’m glad everyone enjoys the manuscript prep tips. Daily mailings like this take a LOT of time to put together, so it can only be something done sporadically. Because writing is my business and not my hobby, and how I pay the bills, what’s offered for free needs to generate enough new business to pay for more similar “events”. If it winds up being financially successful as well as building good will, I can do more. If people don’t buy my books and recommend my services, and it doesn’t generate new income, then I have to do something else that will INSTEAD of being able to put together another event like this. It’s that simple. Use the tips; land slots with publishers or magazines (I’ve created the tips because I genuinely want other writers to succeed — when one of us does well, it helps ALL of us); recommend my work as something that helped along the way, which will then generate new business for me, so I can afford to take the hours it requires to put together another event like this, offering a series of free useful things. Recommend my books (the novels and the Topic Workbooks) IF you like them and find them helpful. The income from book sales help pay the bills.

The time it takes to put together something like the daily mailing is the equivalent to writing about three chapters, and then the time it takes to do the daily mailing is the equivalent of about two pages’ worth of time each day. All of that is time away from my own, income-generating work. If it’s not my own work that’s put aside, it means it’s time away from a freelance writing or proofreading gig that will pay the electric bill for the month or get in that week’s groceries.

“Free” to you has cost to me — beyond just the time it takes to put together and the time away from my own work. It directly affects the bills. Eventually, it has to even out, or I can’t do it.

Would I write anyway with a “day job”? I did for many years, earning the right to be a full-time writer. When I left Broadway to be a full-time writer, I’d hit the crossroads where I could no longer do both. I HAD to make a decision. I chose writing. The harder of the two choices, but it also means I have to make more ruthless decisions and make sure I can pay my bills working at my PROFESSION.

That is the reality of a professional writer’s life. We pay the bills with our work, the same way the lawyer, the accountant, and the plumber do. That’s why it’s so important for those who label themselves “writer” to limit how much they write for “exposure” (when National Grid lets me pay my bills with “exposure”, I’ll be able to write for “exposure”), AND writers need to stop working for content mills, turning out dozens of articles a week for pennies and/or maybe/someday pay-per-click payments.

I want to write stories that people love and respond to. But if they don’t buy my books, I have to find another way to make a living. That doesn’t mean I’ll get a day job and write at night. It means I change careers. If people request a class, and I take the time to put it together and schedule it, it means I have turned down other paying work. If people then don’t sign up for the class, I’ve still put in that time and lost that other work, and now I have to hustle OTHER work to pay the bills — I don’t have the time or the financial cushion to re-schedule the class when it’s “convenient” — because, nine times out of ten, the people who wail the loudest about wanting/needing the class still won’t sign up for it, because they don’t want it badly enough to rearrange their schedules to do it. It’s not a priority for them. It’s something they’ll do if they have nothing better to do, including paint toe nails and watch reality TV. They don’t really want to be in a writing class that makes them actually, well, WRITE. It means the material is not in demand — therefore, there is no reason for me to offer it. That’s the way it works. I am the sole breadwinner in the family. I don’t have a husband or a trust fund to pay the bills. It’s all on ME.

If you like an author’s work — any author’s work, not just mine — go out there and buy books and post Amazon reviews and talk about the books on social media, so that said author can land another contract and write more books. Because if the author has to go get a job at McDonald’s or something else — to change careers — chances are, the other books won’t get written. Or, they might, but instead of being able to write a book a year or a book every two years, it might be a book every three or five, and few publishers and agents are going to invest in someone who can’t turn out regular content (yet too many publishers still don’t do their share in partnering with their authors to make sure the sales figures are high). We’re all on tight budgets — don’t cause yourself harm, or spend more than you can afford. But do whatever is in your power to encourage the people making the decisions to keep hiring the authors.

That’s reality.

Back to yesterday:

Many thanks to Donna Alward, who I met at the Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference. She writes at an amazing rate, working for one of the Harlequin lines, and also has a series of novellas out with Samhain. I happened to run across her on Twitter yesterday morning, when I was poking around not doing what I needed to do. She challenged us to an hour-long sprint 1K in one hour. I jumped at the chance. I did just over 1600 words in just under an hour, finishing the fourth chapter of LEADING OPPORTUNITIES. This is from Elliot’s, my male protag’s, POV, and it took some interesting turns. I like him a lot more than I originally envisioned. I mean, of course, my heroine has to adore him, but in the initial planning, he was a bit more of a dick than he is now. There’s still room for him to grow, but he’s more receptive to his surroundings (and still, loyal to a fault).

Worked with students, got some pitches out. Then, it was off to the Marine Life Center, and from there, on to New Bedford, to Gallery X, where the Marine Life Center may partner with the gallery for an exhibit in mid-June. The space is exciting. I wish I had the capacity at this point to create a piece for the exhibit. I’d love to do some soft sculpture, but I don’t think I can make it the priority it would need to be in order to get it done on time. I might do a mixed media words-and-image piece.

We then had lunch at No Problemo, which was really good. All in all, a lovely day.

On the way home, I started percolating on the new play — I have to submit ten pages by the end of the month — I realized that my initial opening and images are a different play than the original theme I intended. I need to separate those out and decide which play I’m writing NOW.

Spent some time reading on the deck. Both Tessa and Iris were in the enclosure. Iris has decided she’s missing out by staying inside, so now she wants to come out, as long as Tessa is close by (even though they stay as far apart as possible in the enclosure). I applied flea and tick medicine to all of them, so we’re covered in that arena.

Today, I have to work in the yard before the rain starts, do my 1K on LEADING OPPORTUNITIES, work on the non-fiction, work on the adaptation, and start ripping apart the book I finished on Sunday for revisions (I have only about 10 days to get this revision done). Early this evening, I have a Mermaid Ball meeting at the Marine Life Center.

So I better get going!

Devon