“If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.” ~ Norman Mailer
wow. Tolstoy was, amazing. Everyone loves his work. He is a writing god. Yes?
And somedays, maybe you even think that you have that literary genius bubbling up.
You are doing all the right things… and yet?
Rejection after rejection, after rejection. big sigh
First of all….It’s not getting the rejections that you should be focusing on, young padawan… it’s how many submissions you are putting out there in the ether.
Writing, like most sadomasochistic endeavors, is a numbers game. It’s about pushing through barriers and about persistance. Forget sleep. Forget food. Forget dust bunnies and fine dining.
And forget about Tolstoy.
You are not him. The days of writers like him are over.. can you ever imagine anyone saying anything like this… about a contemporary author?
The Soviets planted him at the top of their literary pantheon, largely because of the radical philosophy he preached amid the early rumblings of the October Revolution. The publication of “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina” made Tolstoy so famous that one contemporary described him as Russia’s second czar. He used that position to rail against the church, as well as the police, the army, meat eating, private property and all forms of violence.
Lenin loved Tolstoy’s “pent-up hatred.” He anointed him “the mirror of the Russian Revolution,” ignoring his pacifism and belief in God. As the 50th anniversary of his death approached, the Central Committee of the Communist Party began preparing two years in advance, so a monument would be ready for unveiling.
Okay, so now.. your petty rejections feel a little bit less harsh. and yet?
You want to be loved. You think your story was the best thing you’d ever written. You believe your novel is perfect and needs no edits. You just know that Oprah would cry if she read it. Heck, your Mom loved it, right?
listen to this:
Ten years ago Tolstoy’s great great grandson asked the church to revisit the 1901 ruling that excommunicated his great-great-grandfather. He never got an answer.
read more about TOLSTOY’S snubbing here
You’ve read it a million times.
Just do it.
You’ve heard it said… Getting your butt in the chair is the hardest thing.
So you bought a nice comfy chair…and now, in this new year? In 2011?
You have decided you will finally write. Every day.
And you can.
Don’t think you’ll write good words every day- or that you will like what you write everyday, or even that the words you write will be anything more than a list for the grocery store.
The thing is to get in the habit of having pen and paper, or computer, or smart phone handy for when those story ideas do some. That is what we’re driving for.
Writing, not as a chore, but as a habit.
Need a starting point?
If you are someone who gets easily distracted, or needs to work on a deadline, try these timers and alarms.
If you need goals and accountability? Join a local or online writing group that will keep you both motivated and on track with your projects.
And if you still need a kick in the butt? Write to us here. Let’s get you involved at one of our coastal 5 day writing retreats, where we guarantee you will get and stay on track.
Because that’s what writers do for each other.
I posted this article on my writing blog (the blog that I’m supposed to be writing in every day to share my daily writing progress…but am not…doing either, that is…long story…), and I then I thought maybe it might be worthwhile talking about this topic: Where do you find your inspiration for writing? Or maybe, it’s “Who inspires you to be a “better” writer?”
Maybe it’s a famous writer, like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King ? Or maybe it’s your Aunt Martha or your 6th grade English teacher. We are always going to be inspired by someone, more than one someone, and today, I’m sharing just a couple of my sources of inspiration.
First: the obvious ones. I’ll get those out of the way first:
- My husband, who is one of the most supportive, go-with-the-flow guys I know. I’m inspired by his ability to live a life of complete balance. And I wouldn’t even be a writer if I didn’t have you in my life. Truly.
- My kids, who have provided me with plenty of fodder for characters and such. Thanks for being clever, and funny, and just plain weird sometimes. It’s all good.
And, now, because I’m a giver…here are some new friends. You inspire me in different, and totally surprising ways.
I hope you enjoy reading their work as much as I do.
In her words, Canadian-writer, Colleen Friesen is “..a cappuccino and travel junkie. Like the collages I love to hammer, glue and sew together in my Sechelt studio,my writing is often a collection of ephemera, transitory images, random thoughts and events that happen wherever I find myself in the world.”
Colleen’s blog is a treat for me every day. I blame her, in truth, for distracting me from my own writing. Where I used to wake inspired to “write the damn book,” I now pour myself a cup of coffee and click over to Colleen’s blog to get my daily dose of inspiration. She’s an amazing wordsmith, and you’d be a fool not to take my advice and click over there — do it now I say — and subscribe to her daily posts. She’s that good.
Follow her blog here.
I “met” Dina recently. When I found her blog, “Making Baby Grand-The Novel” this “timeline” jumped out at me: “The Making ‘Baby Grand’ blog is born as a way to chronicle the writing process and share my trials and tribulations as a first-time novelist as I finish the writing of this book. Or maybe as a creative way to procrastinate. Not sure.”
A kindred spirit, to be sure. And as I’ve followed her progress, I’m inspired by her enthusiasm, and her progress. She’s actually done it. I aspire to get to where she is now. Check out her blog to find out more and follow Dina’s next steps as she continues the journey to publishing her novel.
Not only is Linda an incredible, award-winning writer – her short stories have been published in dozens of literary publications over the years — she’s an accomplished novelist and is always looking for ways to help other writers realize their dreams. You go girl!
She’s the founder and editor of scratch — “the writing contest that itching to discover new talent,” and partner in Write by the Water retreats for women If you haven’t read Linda’s ebook, Simple Intent , be sure to put it on her list, and follow the blog. Her smart and witty style will make you smile (and maybe blush a little).
There are so many great writers forging their way in this new world of blogging. And how great is it that we can share our work–ebooks, travel articles, random blog posts — with countless readers every day. Amazing.
Do you follow a writing blog that you’d like to share? Someone you connect with or who just makes you smile through their blog articles? I’d love to add them to my list. Let me know!
photo: Tom J Byrne
There are writing workshops, writing conferences and writing retreats. So how do you know which is the best for you?
Long answer short: All of them.
At different times of the writing life, you will reap benefits from attending all three of these functions.
Let me break it down for you. * insert funky hiphop music here*
THE WRITING WORKSHOP
This program can start as early as elementary school. Sure, at this age, you may be more into writing love letters to the cute boy who sits behind you, or, if you’re like me, hate letters to the dork who threw mud at you in the playground and ruined your white blouse, but… Mrs. Garbus knew what she was doing when she instituted an interdisciplinary writing technique which can build students’ fluency in writing through continuous, repeated exposure to the process of writing.
And I don’t mean staying after class and writing 600 times, “I will not laugh when someone wets their pants in science class.” But, yeah, I had that punishment way too many times, and as a result, I’m a very fast, yet sloppy writer to this day.
Adult writing workshops will give you writing time, as well as social and lecture time. Most of the attendees are there to work with a particular professional. A wise workshopper will attend not only to showcase existing work and add to works in progress, but also network with peers and have one’s work read and seen by industry pros who can help you get a leg up…or at the very least… a foot over the transom.
Workshops can be found as online courses, offered through community schools, colleges, literary magazines, publishers and even writers clubs. Generally one or more professional writers/authors/poets and or screenwriters are brought in and attendees are charged a fee to attend. It generally lasts one to two days, possibly a week.
- Online and in New York City, The Gotham Writers Workshop is very popular.
Sometimes new writers get discovered at workshops like these:
- TINHOUSE Summer Writers Workshop. See last year’s agenda
- And the super fabulous 2 year program at the University of Iowa, Iowa Writers Workshop
THE WRITING CONFERENCE
This type of program is generally longer, and more social or lecture based than the workshop. You may not have any writing time at all, unless you skip the nights in the bar and at least a few of the daytime readings. But if you do either of those things, you won’t reap what you came to sow. And that’s connections.
The conferences I’ve been to are about running and gunning 24 hours a day. You may catch the tail end of Robert Olen Butler’s reading because you were in another room listening to Dennis Lehane but trust me, he didn’t even notice you slip out the back of his crowded to capacity and then some space. You’ll pitch agents over cocktails, introduce yourself to editors at breakfast and if you’re lucky, get stuck in the elevator with a famous bigshot author, whose book you just happen to be reading. Yep.
Preparation is huge at these conferences. I have taken 4 days to map out the who, what, when and where of a big time event. Your phone and planner, and a few cheat sheets are a must. Nothing says amateur more than forgetting the name of the main character in the novel the author onstage is talking about. Even worse if you mispronounce the author’s name.
Do your homework. Prepare your pitch. Learn a few jokes and have some current industry knowledge… more than who’s sleeping with whom… because we all know how fast that can change.
- For Writers and Writing Professionals, The annual AWP Conference is the ultimate gig, whether you’re a guest, hosting or sitting on a panel, or merely attending, this is one bad boy of a conference.
- Webdelsol puts on the well repected and well attended Algonkian Writers Conferences, all over the US.
Many conferences are area specific, drawing on local talent. This is a great, inexpensive way to get your feet wet.
Some of my favorites, now that the Maui Conference and Southampton are kaput include:
- The SCWW
- The Key West Literary Seminar (part workshop, part conference)
- The Eckerd College Writers Conference
Check your local colleges and become a member of a local writers club, discounts may apply.
THE WRITERS RETREAT
Some people cannot really write at home. There are too many distractions: phones, doorbells, TV, kids, laundry, Ebay auctions and the distant cry of the cookie that will not be denied.
For these writers, the solution is a retreat.
This may take the form of a solo trip to the mountains and two days alone in a rustic cabin, or perhaps a month in France with a group of creative strangers and no Internet. Or, for some of us, it’s the combination of unique locale and writing friends who know just how to motivate you.
Your retreat is an individual choice, and as you grow in your career your needs will change, so never say never to a retreat option.
I suggest you try them all.
I have kicked everyone out and made my own home retreat, have driven to a resort in the mountains and written for 2 days alone, have rented a cheesy hotel room and snuck off with a writing partner for 2 nights, have traveled to the Florida coast, solo and with groups to stare at blue, blue water and let my mind create a place a reader will one day become just as blissfully lost to reality.
If you need some retreat ideas, there are a few places listed below, but understand this. A retreat means doing the work. Whether that is the mental part of figuring out where the story is going, or what’s not working, or the pounding out of a rough draft, your retreat is from society and distractions… not from the page.
Be sure you don’t make your retreat about shopping or visiting relatives… of course, you need to eat, and some downtime is expected, but for the most part this is dedicated butt in the chair time.
Listen to that little voice in your head. You owe it to yourself to escape- at least once a year.
Read more about workshops, conferences and retreats:
- Poets and Writers
- Writers Conferences and Centers
- Shaw Guide
- American Society of Journalists and Authors Annual Conference
- Writers and Editors One on One Conference
- International Women’s Writing Guild Summer Conference
- Scotland retreat
And of course, you can retreat with other women writers at Write By the Water ( a favorite of mine, of course!)
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to share time and space with other writers. It’s an experience that will not only provide you with the dedicated time to work on your craft, but you’ll come away with new friends and connections that will prove invaluable in your writing journey!
Have you attended a retreat or workshop? If so, we’d love to hear about it.