Hey Writer—the Good…

Hey Writer 04_2019Hey, writer—I know you’ve been working hard. You’re a little weary of the friends and family who give you quizzical looks while telling you writing isn’t really a job. The more direct word weapons sound like, “You can’t make any money being a writer unless your name is (fill in the blank).”

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
—Ernest Hemingway

The truth is, if you’re hardwired to write, it is a lot like bleeding. That’s the only reason anyone sticks with it. The wiring between the mind, heart, and page is made of long-running, soulish strands in a network buzzing with half-formed thoughts and phrases. Shiny ideas peek out of the rough, waiting to be threaded into a larger work.

Nothing is polished and perfect in the beginning. The draft never has perfection as a goal, and that’s exactly as it should be. The perfectionist will be stuck more often than not. (Ask me, the editor, how I know.) Every writer’s goal is to begin crafting the work, and it all begins with the first draft. They might be the most abstract or loosely constructed art form—or maybe the ugliest duckling ever hatched. It’s all about getting the words down, messy as they may be.

You’ve got one job in the draft: write all the words. Later you can evaluate the merit of the words, but not when you’re in the drafting mode.

When you’re ready, begin to self-edit. Think critically in this step but—heads up!—this stage may not be what you think. Streamline with a backspace or cut and paste good words that don’t work in a separate, safe space where they can germinate. Make changes in the manuscript that shape ideas, shore up the weak ones, and polish the content.

You may be tempted to focus on the negative. Don’t. You may easily find what’s wrong, but do you see what’s right? Do you know what you can build upon? This is the skill seasoned writers develop. They see the beginnings of greatness even in the rough.

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. —Michelangelo

Writer, find the good! Turn the words over and over in your mind until you find rough diamonds waiting to be perfectly cut to fit their form. Like Michelangelo, your job is to free written words to fly from the page and make a difference in the world.

Are you doing it?

Here’s your assignment for today. Take three (3) minutes to share in the comments below. What are your working on? What is one strength of your work or a happy accident you’ve found in your manuscript? What is it you execute well in writing?

Writers need community. What if we started to encourage one another in our strengths…

Thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to the sharing and encouragement that will come.

~Jennifer

 

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Hey Writer, Got Analysis Paralysis?

Writing exists in different parts of my mind—the forefront or the back—and, every so often it drives me out of it. A good number of writers I know have said something similar in conversation. One of my biggest struggles is the “stuck place” that goes along with over-thinking everything: plot or flow, content or structure, word choices, word count, the number of adverbs! (Kidding about that last one.)

And I’m brought back to one consistent truth in the writer life: writers write. Sure, they read and research and doodle sometimes, too, but they invest time in writing. When the analysis overwhelms the process, paralysis sets in. I don’t really believe this is the same thing as writer’s block. Analysis paralysis is something a little different. While the block is a dry inkwell, the paralysis feels something like the inkwell vacillating between explosion and implosion. Suddenly, the words just won’t flow because my mind just won’t play nicely with whatever is on the page or trying to get there.

I have a love-hate thing with the fact that writing is a mental thing. The beauty is that writing allows the pictures, stories, or ideas floating in my head to be shared with people anywhere and any time. The agony is that my mind can have so many incomplete thoughts floating around, and I somehow feel each one should be examined for validity before it hits the page. (This is ridiculous!) What’s a writer to do when the analysis breaks the beautiful process?

Here are three ideas that may help you get past the paralysis in your process:

  1. Take a walk and have a little talk with yourself. A change of scenery may be helpful. You just may have to give yourself permission to write badly or explore an incomplete thought’s development without evaluation. Agree to just write without judgment when you sit down again, if you can.
  2. Try writing from stream of consciousness as an exercise on a regular basis. Timed free-writes can be helpful with practice. You’ll often find you can get more words on the page when you have a specific topic or project to work on when you’ve practiced writing whatever comes to mind. You might also be interested in something like the “Five-Minute Friday” Link Up. Each week a very large group of writers will tackle a five-minute write on a single word topic. Give that a shot!
  3. Try the 10,000-foot view if you have to. You can’t land in “Pantser Land” with writers who just discover the plot (twists and all)? Back out of the project with an open mind and try outlining several different options for your work. Choose the one you like best, or ask someone to help you choose. I like to ask friends for ideas on plot or content when it’s possible or they are willing.

I won’t overwhelm you with a ton of ideas, but there’s at least three you might try. I know I sometimes just need encouragement to push forward in a project, so my “bonus idea” is—find another writer to chat with. See if you can talk shop (or not), if you need it.

Keep on keepin’ on, writer tribe!

~J

Hidden Gems in Unlikely Places

If we sat down for coffee and got to know one another, you’d learn something about me very quickly. I love a bargain when I can get one. Much to my husband’s chagrin, this leads to rifling through the racks, stacks, and shelves at my favorite spot: the thrift store. (Somebody tell me I’m not alone!)

And if we shopped together, at some point you’d see me moving at a snail’s pace by the book shelves. Treasures are just waiting to be found on those shelves, I’m convinced. I’ve found wonderful reads for a buck or two, and since writers read, I’ve got a good excuse to peruse the shelves very carefully.

As it happened, my last trip ended as most do—with a book shelf “crawl”—and a book caught my attention. The title was interesting, but then a cute little card boasting an adorable kitten and puppy photo op fell from the inside and drifted to the floor. Filling the inside and spilling to the back was a personal note from one woman to another. And yes, you guessed it. I chose to eavesdrop on the half of the conversation that had been passed along. (You would have done it, too, right?)

I immediately knew I wanted to take the book and the card home with me. I purchased a book I will definitely read, but I really purchased the beautiful, cursive encouragement that overflowed the card. It was perfect for me to read, and I was a little thankful the woman who first received it lost track of it. Then I thought, “Maybe this is something I could share…” 

We are stepping into an example of correspondence the way it used to be. So, from my anonymous friend to you all—puppy20kitten20card_zpsyws0ztte

Dear [friend]:

I am praying God will show you how to have victory in your present family conflicts + show you how to be an overcomer, even if no one else changes.

Remember [in] Eph 6:12, that these are spiritual battles + they will not be mastered by fleshly means. Also your victory or progress in the Lord is not dependent on what others do.

In Matt 6:33 we are told to seek first the Kingdom of God + its righteousness + all the rest we need will be given.

We know we cannot force people to fulfill our ideas of right + wrong. We can only hope to influence them by our Godly example + let God do the rest. I found the scripture I was mentioning to you the other day—I think it is God’s way for us to have influence, in your particular case Godly. I read it in the amplified Bible + it reads as follows

1 Pet 3:1
“In like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands, subordinate yourselves as being secondary to + dependent on them, + adapt yourselves to them so that even if any do not obey the word, they may be won over, not by discussion but by godly lives of their wives.”

But of course all people have free will so we are not sure of any outcome but I think God’s advice for any problem will be the best chance for a victory.

I pray for you + your family always for Godly wisdom to know how best to deal with all situations we find our self in. But take heart in what God will do for you as you keep working on the person he wants you to be no matter what others around you are doing
(over)

Because in the end God knows the only person we can control is ourself + that is the one we will be accountable for some day. In the meantime have faith that God will do his work in others lives also—doing all He can to bring them to a sanctified end.

Love,
R

So here we all sit, eavesdropping on the conversation between two women, and I want to imagine what their friendship looks like in real life. Do they sit at a kitchen table with tea or coffee? Maybe they stand in the lobby chatting just a little longer than the rest of the busy people shuffling in and out on a Sunday. Are they joined in heart and separated by generations?

We’ll never know, but I love the idea of imagining these two women doing life together. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all part of the package. Sitting patiently with one another during tough times is the real deal. Tears and a box of kleenex seems to be woven into this season of friendship between these two women. Providing encouragement and tangible resources is, too. One lends hope to the other with her words. I love that!

I said we needed to find our tribe in a previous post, and we sure do. But we need to find our real friends, too, whether they are part of our “creative clique” or not. More importantly, I wonder if it’s not crucial for us to find someone near us and pass the tissues to her when she needs them….

What do you think about this little half-conversation we’ve overheard in this card? I’m curious to hear what you think.

Thanks for reading!

~j