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Inspiration is for Waiters

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I recently heard a writer friend ask another writer friend what she did to get ‘inspired’ to write. The question threw me off guard. Who are these writers who wait for inspiration? In my experience inspiration only happens once I’m warmed up and that only happens when I sit down to write on a consistent basis.

The Secret is Consistency

The secret to finishing a book or a writing project is not a terrifically held secret. The secret is…consistency. As it is the ‘secret’ to success in any endeavor. You make a daily or weekly habit of writing. Not researching, not editing, not staring out the window (although there is a lot of all those things that happen). Not outlining or planning or vision boarding or plotting or structuring your three acts. These can happen at any time.

What you need is a dedicated time that you set aside just to write. Even if it’s noodling in your journal or free writing about that cat you saw in the window you walked by. Taking the time to prioritize your writing over all the other demands in your life will serve you well. Will this make you an instant best seller? Maybe. It will make you a finisher of projects and that is one step closer to authorship.

Angela’s Writing Habit – Better than Wheat Grass

My writing habit needs to be in the morning, before the kids wake up, or at night, after they’re in bed. I can’t write while distracted. It’s not just harder, it’s frustrating to be constantly pulled away from the thought and then I’m being not just a half-assed writer but an inattentive mom and both feel bad.

Writing should be all good. I had to experiment a few different times and days, and I found the best time for me is 5am, five days a week. I don’t recommend this for everyone but for me, with two young kids who are often awake by 6am for the day, and two part time jobs, this is what works. And I carry that satisfied, I admit it, smug-I-got-stuff-done attitude all day. Try it – the feeling is better than eating wheat grass for breakfast and recycling all your plastics.

A Sacred Space

Try making your writing time a sacred meeting with yourself. Light a candle, listen to your favorite music, it isn’t a ‘have-to’, it’s a ‘can’t wait to wake up and do this for myself’ thing.

Everyone who knows me knows I am not with the self-discipline. The only reason I’m not 600 pounds overweight is because my stomach is a delicate flower. Cake is my nemesis. And I love, love, love to sleep. Sleep is my favorite. So what pulls me out of bed and into the chair isn’t sheer will power. It’s that I know I’m going to enjoy this calm, quiet time to indulge in creating something all to myself. It’s my ‘me’ time. Writing isn’t a choice with me it’s a need, and I’ve learned to incorporate it into my life like all the other self-care things I do. It’s okay to need these things girls (and guys).

So, sorry for the dramatic title. But don’t wait for inspiration okay? You’ll be like skeleton guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the arrow of time through your heart. It’s never too late to start writing but life is better if you just give into it now. Right now. Off you get!

“If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” Dan Poynter

Featured

Morning Glories will Get You Feeling Glorious

Ah…Morning Glories. They really ARE glorious, aren’t they? I’m kind of in love with them. There has been a resurgence of heirloom varieties of flower and plants, and with it, some new problems.

Apparently there have been issues with teenagers getting high on the seeds. I KNOW. Teenagers, is there anything you won’t do to kill those brain cells your mama worked so hard to grow? Inside the seeds there are high levels of lysergic acid amide (LSA), an ingredient in the seeds that is similar chemically to LSD.

Who knew my beautiful morning glories propagate by shedding their little felony-class seeds all over the place?

I love heirloom flowers. I mean, I didn’t mean to. It wasn’t like I was walking around one day and was like…daisies? BAH. Fugetaboutit. I want me some HEIRLOOM flowers. None of this pansy new-pansies for this lady.

No. That’s crazy talk. And everyone who knows me knows I don’t follow trends, or even notice them, although that doesn’t mean I’m not affected by these trends. I’m sure because of other people being all ‘with it’ in the gardening world my local store starting stocking them. Did you know the Aztecs used them? The Chinese too, to the tune of about 3,000 years ago for their medicinal properties (laxative, not LSD although you never know).

I digress. I saw them on the packet and threw them in my cart. I didn’t even know if I could grow them. But I DID. And they come back, every year, and I can’t tell you how much THAT makes me happy. (Very. Very happy). You see, at heart I am a lazy gardener and anything that says…’you chill out Ange – I got this. We’ll see you next season and you don’t have to do a thing’ will always get my attention.

So, they are beautiful, they come back every year without me lifting a finger, and if I ever need to test my man-hood with an LCD inspired dream journey, I’m set! (I’m kidding, please don’t do this). Also, I’m not a man so there’s no need to test things.

In any case, that’s all folks, my little interlude, have a good weekend, eh? And don’t be eating those morning glory seeds…

Agents are Human

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I recently read an email from an anxious writer about whether or not we have to grab the agents attention in the first 500 words. Honestly I think that is probably a good buffer of about 250 words – and we need to remember that agents are human.

Sometimes as writers we get locked into adversarial thinking. Us against the thousands of submissions agents receive, and us against the high wall of the agents attention span. It can feel like it isn’t fair, or it’s too hard.

An agent’s day job is pitching the manuscripts they’ve already accepted to editors, to publishing houses, to be an advocate for their author throughout the process. When they’ve spent eight hours doing that, then they go home and start on the ‘slush’ pile. That’s right. They’re reading new submissions in their off time.

Do you know what I’m doing in my off time? Well it depends – when I’m done making dinner, packing lunches, ensuring homework and baths get done, and my two young children don’t destroy each other over the Mouse Trap game (someone needs to pick the yellow mouse! You can’t both use red!) I’m catching up on my reading, doing yoga (Adriene I love you) or if it’s a bad day, bingeing the next fantasy series on Netflix and eating ice cream after the kiddos are tucked in bed.

I assume agents don’t take the job then move to a deserted island in the pacific ocean. I assume they also have spouses, loved ones, some have young children, pets, maybe sick parents, possibly an addiction to amazon shopping, you know….they’re human.

So if it seems hard, or that good, slow moving literature can’t catch a break these days – maybe you’re right. Society in general is more distracted and our attention spans aren’t the greatest in the best of times.

But don’t let that dissuade you from trying, and remember it isn’t a fight, or a contest, it’s a marathon, and they WANT to find a good story to advocate for. Good stories are why they got into the literary business in the first place. It isn’t ‘us’ against ‘them’ it’s us against ourselves. Learn something every day. Don’t stop until you know it all. (So, never). And keep at it.

Denzel Washington once said, “If you hang around the barber shop, eventually you’re going to get a hair cut.” And if your novel or poem is the next Hemingway or Morrison, that will shine through.

Now go forth and write a lot, and when you’re ready, submit with grace. They’re waiting for the next great work of art to rock their world.

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Three Ways to Ease Back into the Writing Life

A few years ago my daughter was about three years old and I was home with my second, a bouncing (literally) baby boy. Life couldn’t have been better. I had everything I wanted. A loyal husband, enough money to pay the bills, and now two beautiful, healthy babies.

What more did I need? Besides sleep and to finish a hot mug of tea in one go?

I will tell you – and every writer out there published or not, ‘official’ or not will agree. There was something missing. I was journaling, sure, and reading books on kindle while Benji nursed. But I needed something more. A challenge, a project, that harpy siren-call to write would not let me rest.

Honestly at this point I thought, well, if I haven’t published anything by now it must not be meant to be, or, it’s too hard. It’s too hard to work for hours on a project that may never see the light of day, or worse, gets out there and people hate it. Gulp! Easier to just give up.

But then…and if you’ve read this far you know what I’m talking about…that restless urging to write would not let me be.

I say, give in to it. We cannot control the outcome of where our words will go or who will see them but the journey into ourselves that happens when we write is transformative and infinitely, inherently valuable all on it’s own. Creative writing will change your life. It has a way of drawing the poisons out and laying them on the page in font so bold you cannot deny the truth of it.

Here are three ways to jumpstart your writing journey:

  1. Writing Prompts. Hate them or love them they will get you writing. Here is a free ‘writer igniter’ writing prompt app from diymfa.com –https://diymfa.com/writer-igniter
  2. Schedule it in – and prioritize it. Block it off as important an appointment as a job interview or a much needed massage. Then tinker with the details. Try early morning, try after everyone else is in bed, try the middle of the afternoon. Tally up the moments it all worked and repeat.
  3. Treat it both like a sacred, holy moment and a fun play-date where you get to explore without editing that wide open space that is your inner world and the human condition all at once.
  4. This one is a bonus – write what excites you. Is it vampire-love in a post apocalyptic fantasy world where humans are almost extinct? Is it about a wild woman who throws off the constraints of contemporary life and transforms into a bird at night, hunting and flying free? Write what gets you excited to sit your butt in the chair and write. It’s as easy and as hard as that.

Lastly – as you all know I work for diymfa.com and I read hundreds of emails from beginner writers about their number one problems in getting their writing habits back on track. This week I received a sad email from a man who was told that getting published was like getting struck by lightening, twice.

I will tell you what I told him. If you stand in an open field in the middle of a rain storm long enough, you’re gonna get hit.

So whether publishing is your goal, or writing for writing’s sake – now is the time to get back into it. What are you reading this for? Go to it!

Oh and hey, email me your success stories, I wanna hear them! (yehthewriter@gmail.com)

It’s A Writer’s Life for Me!

“Writing is a craft, and storytelling is an art, and together they form this nebulous interstice where it’s just clowns juggling medium-sized cats and those cats are juggling little cat-sized chainsaws and the whole place is on fire and did I mention the “place” is actually a blimp and it’s drifting swiftly toward a flickering lighthouse operated by orphans?” Chuck Wendig

Isn’t that quote super fun? Doesn’t it make you feel like a rockstar for putting words to the page? It should. We put squiggly black lines on a white background and people download that into their brains. We create whole worlds and universes, characters we love and love to hate. Writers are weird, wonderful, amazing, MAGIC people.

If you haven’t stopped to appreciate that wild, wonderful, where-does-it-come-from urge to create, I suggest you do so now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Okay now I want us to put some consistency behind the magic. Consistency is the vehicle that will drive your magic to it’s final destination, in printed (or e-printed form) and into the hands of someone who will be just lit from within, just set ablaze by the words you’ve written.

We are here to change the world – and to do that we need to develop the habit of writing. We need to honor that muse and show up regularly.

Gabriela Pereira at DIYMFA.com is the one that showed me how to do this and it is called iteration.

Iteration: the chance to play around with both the time of day and the set-up of your writing habit. Do you work better in the morning before the kids get up, or at night after they’re in bed? Is there a time during the day, right before lunch, that you usually can commit to a bit of time? How much time can you consistently manage and how much is too overwhelming?​


Keep playing around with when and where and how much until you find the ‘heck, yeah’ moments and commit to those. Then life changes again and you get to ‘play around’ again!

 

How to be a Writer

Rumi tells us there is ‘a light seed grain inside. You fill it with yourself, or it dies.’

This is the writing life in a nutshell. You may do it for the dream of helping someone, for the dream of being someone’s favorite author. You may do it for the money (nothing wrong with this but it cannot sustain you in this endeavor if that is your only reason.) There are much, much easier ways to make money my friends.

No, the real pull of the writing life is the act of exploring that vortex of creativity inside yourself you can access no other way. Writing, like dreaming, “sometimes tells us what we are not ready to hear.” (Pat Schneider via Jane Yolen ‘Take Joy‘ – a book for writers’.)

There is no better tool to peel back the layers of your own psyche than the act of pulling words from the ether of your own soul and marching them into single file onto the page.

In fact, the harder you run from the issues you’re struggling with the more relentlessly they will show up in your work. So. If you don’t want to evolve, if you don’t want to grow – don’t write. Not one word. Because if you do it will smack you upside the head as subtle as a careening dump truck no matter how far away from reality you stray in your writing projects.

So don’t be a writer to change the world or help people or make money. Be a writer to change yourself, to push into the unknown, to delve deep into the unexplored darkness, dredge up the monsters most people are afraid to look at. That’s the sweet spot. You’ll know it when you reach it. No one has to read it but you need to write it.

I’ll finish up with sharing my firm conviction that there is no word wasted when you write. Each letter stacks and builds on the other. If you have a desire to write – you need to write. There is only one you in the entire universe that ever was or ever will be and if you don’t write it, no one will.

Now go forth and write y’all!

Writers With Day Jobs

Imposter syndrome is a real thing. It is so real, it’s been named. And we don’t have to explain what it means, do we, because if you write, you have struggled with this.

Let me be the first to assure you, dear writer, that you are not alone. Working on the customer service desk at DIYMFA.com I have received hundreds of emails from people struggling with the confidence to put pen to paper. I thought I was alone but it turns out, this feeling of being ‘not really a writer’ is a common one.

There are three main reasons I can see for this. 1) Our society is built on the premise that success means money. 2) Our society is built on the premise that success means fame. 3) Our society needs to chill.

Let me show you ten famous authors with day jobs. From the New York Library blog:

Roald Dahl, famous children’s author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory among many others, was a war time fight pilot and a spy for the British army intelligence. Talk about wearing more than one hat. Did you know that Author Conan Doyle was a successful physician?

So what were you saying about not feeling successful because you need a day job? If Roald Dahl can be a spy and a fighter pilot and a children’s book author, surely we can work at Starbucks and write the next influential sci-fi.

It’s okay not to make enough money not to live in a gorgeous mansion and travel in a private jet. It’s also okay if you want these things. I, myself, was not built for poverty. I like fuzzy slippers and flannel sheets and $8 latte’s. I’m sorry, but I do. I tell everyone I work to support my writing habit and it’s true. But it doesn’t mean I can’t also enjoy my day job. And my latte’s. Writers suffering in poverty for their art is so 19th century am I right?

So embrace your day job (or jobs) pay your bills, live your life, and if you’re also a mom like me, you write in the margins.

I leave you with this book that I read and re-read a few times and that inspired me to take the first step to re-start my adult writing journey: Wild Words: Rituals, Routines, and Rhythms for Braving the Writer’s Path by Nicole Gulotta.

As always here is a link to Gabriela Pereira’s book DIY MFA – Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build your Community. that helped me write ‘A Dragon Rises’ draft zero in six months.

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Being Useful

I mean, is there any better feeling? I’ve got some useful websites for beginner writers and an online writing conference to share details about.

Just found this awesome app called the Hemmingway app: and it does exactly what you think it does – highlight text that is clunky or wordy or too confusing. Where has this been all my life? Only issue is that it isn’t integrated into the Word docs like Grammerly – you need to copy and paste into it if you’ve already got a word doc on the go. If you’re starting fresh have at it!

Thesaurus Online: I do have a hard copy thesaurus, a couple actually and of course there is google but this is online and free, and is giving me more reliable results faster. (Also I often write early in the morning so turning on a light might wake up the littles).

My boss at DIY MFA.com and champion of writers everywhere is offering an online summit of sci-fi and fantasy author panel – sign-up is free but only for the next few days. Interviews will drop Nov 30th and replays will be available for seven days after as long as you’ve registered.

Six days until the conference starts!

You can sign up here: Writer Igniter Sci-Fi/Fantasy Summit.

Lastly – no reason for this meme but I have seen it a few times and it makes me smile:

Why Am I Doing This?

Someone asked me recently what this blog was for. I thought I knew the answer to that until I was asked directly. This blog started as a way to communicate what I’ve been doing in Texas to my friends and family back home in Canada.

Time saver: I’m still doing yoga and hanging with my dogs and my kids:

The longer I have been here the farther away from that original impulse I’ve gotten. Plus – who does blogs anymore am I right?

So I think I’m going to pivot, right here, right now, and dedicate the rest of my articles on this blog to be of some use to my community in general and society as a whole. (“Strive not to be a success, but to be of value.” – Albert Einstein)

Here we go, everybody, what I’ve learned this week:

If you run around putting out fires and handling ‘urgent’ issues you never have time for the important things. Like working out three times a week, like yoga or meditation or prayer. If you want a healthy, fulfilled life – you’ve got to plan for it.

Also, if you haven’t found Yoga with Adriene where have you been hiding? Free 20-30 minutes yoga sessions on Youtube. This 30 day yoga challenge will have you feeling back on top in no time. I’m currently doing my second round of this challenge and it’s made a big difference for me. (And Duke.)

Flu shots are good. I got mine last night and although I’ve heard the stats too (30% effective at times) if you do still get the flu – your body is like, oh, cool, no we’ve seen this it’s all good everyone, and you don’t get it as bad. Make sense. Flu shot = less severe illness or none at all. I had my kids watch me get mine so when they get theirs next week they’re not as anxious.

The fiction book I love right now:

The book of two ways by Jodi Picoult (Be prepared to laugh, then cry, then laugh again.) Quantum Mechanics, two plane crashes, a messy love story, an ancient Egyptian tomb? Sign me up please.

This episode on Brené Brown’s new podcast ‘Unlocking Us’ – who led me to my new favorite non-fiction book that is currently blowing my mind:

Burnout – the Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

Did you know you can’t control your emotions. (Whaaaat? I’ve been stuffing those down or years, of course you can!)

No. You’ve been IGNORING them, but they are there, hanging out, waiting to be able to finish the cycle. For my children’s sake – I need to figure this stuff out, am I right? Adulting…if it were easy there would be no need for Amazon and ice cream.

So that’s my blog entry for today – hopefully some of this was useful to you.

If you’d like to read more of what I’m writing, you can click on this link here to learn all about how poetry can save the world. And the latest poetry expresso I’m reading right now.

If you’ve had enough of me, but are totally into poetry, this is a really cool article by a writer at diymfa.com Identifying Themes in the Poetry we Read by Sara Letourneau

Is there a topic or book or podcast you’d like to hear more of? If so, drop me a line at angelathewriter@hotmail.com.

Autumn Falls

Autumn, how I’ve missed you. Is there anything more lovely to look forward to after a brutally hot summer? The promise of cozy sweaters and cool sheets. The anticipation of sitting in front of a roaring fire (or a picture of one on your TV) with a book and a mug of hot (Irish) chocolate?

Autumn has historically been linked with the growing cycle – of ripeness, abundance, of gathering and storing food for the long, dark winter ahead. It has been a time of transformations both personal and environmental.

It is in this vein I would like to draw your attention from the blooming roses already dying on the vine, to the crisp leaves crunching under foot. It is a time to cast off what hasn’t been working for you, stride forward with what is, and become a new creature. Let’s do it together.

For me this new creature means establishing a consistent writing practice. It means paying attention to my body and what it needs, and to how I’m feeling, even when it isn’t pleasant. It also means taking a look at how I relate and interact with the world around me.

Shame and guilt have not been working for me, neither to motivate me to do better, nor to creatively discover new solutions to old problems. So, bye-bye.

Speaking of shame and guilt I have been wondering lately about the nature of redemption. (As one does while imagining sitting in front of a roaring fire or a picture of one on the TV.)

What transformation is possible without the soothing council of forgiveness? As many of you know, I have a PHD in ‘looking on the bright side.’ If you’ve hurt my feelings or betrayed my trust in some way, I’ve probably already found a way to forgive you for it. My thought has been, in general, humanity could use more second chances, some more ‘forgive and forget.’

I propose this is no longer working for me either. Although it is in my nature to forgive (who wants to be all bitter and useless?) I will no longer be forgetting.

My ability to obliterate past injuries is like my superpower. For the most part this has served me well, and I used to pride myself on being able to get along with anyone, anytime.

However, as I get older (holding steady at 34) there are times, and some relationships, where this has not served me. In fact, my good nature has caused me to be taken advantage of.

Sometimes I’ve been manipulated in small ways, someone borrowing money and not repaying, pretending to be my friend to get to someone else (usually a boy). There are times when it has cut much deeper, and I have been taken advantage of in the cruelest ways possible. And I owe it to myself, and my children, to role model a healthy way of dealing with these kinds of interactions.

The first step? Admitting I have a problem. The goal is to be honest with myself, and to be a better human and mom today, than I was yesterday. And that means not forgetting how bad that person made me feel. It means choosing my peace of mind over their feelings.

“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.”– John Burrows

Where Is Your Mountain?

Where is your focus today? To be honest, I have taken pride in my ability to multitask, multi-focus. I’m working two jobs while studying for a third. And writing my second fantasy novel. Oh, and I’m raising two toddlers. So…mountains are not being moved, needless to say. Unless you count the laundry, every two weeks in an all day marathon I have dubbed ‘Operation Clean Shorts.’

I’m not proud anymore, in fact, I’m pretty sure I have a problem. Life is lived in these small ‘bubble’ moments. The kind that take your breath away, like the birth of a child or when that child has a near-miss with a patch of concrete, or an alligator. And I don’t want to miss even one.

Wait – what? Did I just say Alligator? Yes, alligator. My husband wanted an adventure on Labor day. I voted to stay home in my pajamas and work on my novel but the kids wanted a family day, so off I trudged to drag on my hiking boots, throw in my water shoes, and google ‘how clean is Lake Livingston?’ Turns out, not very. And while alligator mating season has been over for two months, the responsible parent would do well do watch out for them, especially if you’ve got snack sized toddlers splashing in the murky water.

Standing Guard Against Alligator Snacks
Eating Our Own Snacks

On the bright side, we all survived and I have this blog entry about it so…all in all not a total loss of a day. I did not move mountains on Monday, it’s true but I did re-plant the Jasmine bush that was root bound in an enormous, cracked clay pot.

If you’ve ever tried to dig a hole in Texas clay – I mean soil – you know how tough it is. It’s like digging a hole in wet cement. Slow. Going. But I was shoveling mud into a pail, and just when I’d stop for a break and groan about the measly half an inch I managed, I’d look over at the full bucket, amazed. I had dug a lot, it just didn’t LOOK like it. Every pail I filled gave me more motivation to keep doing, and faster than I’d ever done before, I had a nice wide place to plant my Jasmine. If that’s how you feel about your life – you are definitely not alone. I’m here working really hard and feeling like I’ve not budged an inch. Once I stop to keep track of the mud I’ve been slinging, it’s actually quite an impressive pile.

But – did I MOVE MOUNTAINS this week? No. I filled a bucket with mud. But maybe mountains are moved one bucket of mud at a time. Maybe if I can take Steven Jobs advice and focus, keep it simple, maybe those buckets can turn into mountains.

Also – happy grandparents day! Sept 13th everyone hug a grammie and grampie for us, okay? Miss you Nana and Papa!

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