Category: Writing

Project WritingIs…Grounding

Life is a little crazier than it’s normal brand of crazy this week, and this morning I got that itchy need-to-write feeling creep up in my chest which made me remember my #WRITINGIS project that, as promised, I have left hanging in the wind, forgotten in only one short week. But it’s nice to have it out there to come back to, so here I am with my ruminations on the page and my desire to write defining my morning while I let some tasks go unfinished for a little while longer.

And why? Why do I need to hastily untangle my ear buds to shove them in my ears and get typing? Why do I need to write right now? Why am I ignoring my phone and my email? And anyone trying to talk to me?

Because WRITING IS grounding.

In this moment, I need to remember who I am and what I am doing. I need to feel the careful pressure of the keys beneath my fingers while I breathe in deeply and remind myself that life swirls all around us and has a way of getting piled up and messy and as unmanageable as a toddlers curls are apt to be, and I need time to sit with it.

Sometimes in the crazy-busy, breathing is a healthy act of resistance, and writing reminds me to breathe.

It makes me stop.

It creates space.

You can only type so fast. You can only think so fast.

And when you write, you have to write something.

For me that something is sometimes

A word-laced root from my heart to the ground beneath my feet.

I watch the words emerge on the page, my breath fueling their creation, my mind settling into the rhythm of creating, my body feeling itself in this moment.

All the distractions and requests and lists pinging into my tired body are held at bay in this brief moment that I have carved out with the practice of putting words on the page.

It is a tiny reprieve, but it is a necessary one that reminds me about the rhythm of life and the need to be intentional about creating space and time and a connection to who I am and to what matters.

Writing does that for me. It lets me own my moment. It lets me use words to remember to feel my feet on the earth underneath me and to breath because #WRITINGIS so much, but for today WRITING IS grounding.

 

What is writing for you today?  Do you find writing to be grounding?  Follow along and let me know here and on instagram and twitter @bawriting with #writingis.

 

Hockey Puck Monkey Brain: AKA When You’ve Got Nothing

I write a lot of different things in a day.

On any given day, I might write

  • Emails
  • Feedback for student papers
  • Social media posts
  • To-do lists
  • Reminders
  • A blog post
  • Product copy
  • A section of book that I’m working on
  • Notes for class

And the list goes on.

Some of these are because I am a writer, and some are just the writing that everyone does in a day.

As a writer, the lines between work and non-work can get a little blurry.

Is this post for fun? Work? What about these notes I’m jotting down? Are they for a future book project or just random ruminations that will go nowhere? Wait a second, this to-do list is half work and half “stop the mail” and “clean the toilet.”


There are some times though when the writing is clearly work.  When you have to produce because someone is waiting for it and they will pay you if only you will send them some words on a page, it’s easy to choke and realize that just like Lorelei Gilmore of the famed Gilmore Girls, the only thing in your head is “hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey, monkey, underpants.”


When Hockey Puck Monkey Brain happens, how do you overcome it?

How do you get it together and make real sentences come out? And not just ones people can understand, but ones that are relevant to the project people are going to pay you for?

I’m sure there are a lot of ways, but for me, there are a few tried and true.

  • I reread the information that I have about the project. In detail. Multiple times.  This helps to focus me and remind me of the desired outcome.
  • I also get out an old school piece of paper…like the kind made from wood pulp or bamboo. There is just something for me about the scratchiness of a pencil on paper that jogs the mind.
  • I give myself permission to not get it right the first time, and I dive headlong into brainstorming.
  • I also reflect back on other times when I was in this situation, and I remind myself that the project always gets done.

I’ve felt this way before, and I was successful, so I can stop freaking out and let the pressure off a little.

It’s amazing what that can do for the creative process.

Of course there are always all the other things that your mom would tell you like

  • Don’t wait until the last minute
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a vegetable
  • Walk outside

But really…who does those things?

I know that this is not just for writers, and anyone can have days where focus, motivation, and creativity are running low.

How do you overcome HPM brain? Share your tips below so that we can all get more done and quit earlier on Fridays. 

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How to Write on a Hot Summer Day: Finding Rest and Inspiration

This summer has been a scorcher so far. During these hazy, lazy days of summer, sometimes it can be a little difficult to get motivated to do much more than what is necessary and then sit by the pool or in the shade of a rock until the heat subsides.

Out here in the desert we are having our usual high temps, so it’s no surprise, but the rest of the country seems to be pretty toasty too.

I find summers kind of funny because if it gets too hot, it is much like winter where you can’t go outside on account of the weather. The difference is that in the winter you can layer on more clothes, but in the summer, removing clothes beyond a certain point is relatively frowned upon.

Once you’ve taken off everything you can and you grab an ice-cold lemonade, how do you get motivated to get your words down on the page?

It probably depends on your life.

  • Maybe your kiddos are home for the summer, and you find that your days are packed with pool trips and library reading groups and more noise.
  • Perhaps you are a teacher and you have summers to catch up on sleep and seeing friends and all those things you don’t have time to do during they year when you are educating the future.
  • Maybe you work and your summer is just like every other time of year except that it’s hotter.
  • Or maybe you have some extra time on your hands and you’re bored and after you catch up on laundry, you are planning to wile your day away doing nothing.

What about your life makes the summer the perfect time to write? And what about summer makes writing difficult?

Thinking about what you want from your summer is the first step in harnessing these sweat-laden days.

I find that when we change to the summer season, I so badly want to get everything finished that I had to put aside during the school year.

Summers seem to be about excitement and change and expectations of fun. And while summers days can be all of those things, I find that sometimes I get really busy just like I do during the rest of the year, and then I am prone to be even more frustrated because I was really hoping to get a lot done in this different season.

This year I am really challenged to have clear expectations for myself. I have a few projects that I would like to get finished, and I am working toward those being done. But I am also giving myself a break and acknowledging that I have a tendency to over plan and even projects need time to grow.

The garden at Baker’s Seed Company in Mansfield, Missouri.  Go check them out if your summer plans include growing amazingly cool, heirloom plants.

I also like to look to summer days for inspiration.

Writing is, oddly enough, not just about writing.

Writing is about translating the human experience into words for other people to relate to.

And in order to do that, I find that it helps to set aside time to take in moments and the beauty around me.

If your schedule is a little upended in the summer like mine is, that can be the perfect time to see what is new around you.

  • Different fashions
  • New foods
  • New places
  • Sitting quietly with an iced coffee watching a group of kids not using their inside voices—so much funny

Lunch at a new place Palette in Atwater Village.  Food and colors are great inspiration.

And those hot days can also be great for rest.

Recharge.

Set down the expectations you have for your day and see what emerges. Read a magazine or watch the clouds move in the sky.

Cultivating a life of writing is about filling the tank so that you have something to say, and if you’re exhausted, it can be hard to keep going no matter the weather.

How do you spend your summer days? Do you find it easier to get writing and creating done or do you let it go for a while? What adventures have you found this summer and how have they inspired you?

 

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Why I Don’t Tweet (Much): Confessions of a Low-Tech Writer

I am not someone who shuns social media. I’ve been on Facebook forever, and I also recently began to use Instagram.  While the idea of a relatively text-free interface was a little strange at first, I found that I loved getting to display moments and have a snapshot of my life curated on one page. (And you can follow me here @bawriting.)

I have tried Twitter and heard of Snapchat and Periscope and Google+, and I have a Pinterest and a LinkedIn account, but I am not a regular contributor to any of these platforms for one very simple reason.

I have a limited amount of creative energy.

Writing is a creative enterprise.

It is an endeavor that requires my attention and focus and even the space that I leave empty in the back of my brain just to work on ideas when I’m cooking.

Writing is also generative process.

If I were just a writer who thought about ideas and characters and concepts, but I never generated actual written work, then I would be an ideaer and not a writer.  I have to create and produce, and as much as I love it and even in those moments when words flow and the creativity feels great, it is still costly. It takes time and effort and space in my soul.

 

I found years ago that the energy I expended trying to be clever on Twitter or curate articles and keep my account fresh or the process of engaging with others in those spaces robbed me of creative energy and time to generate writing.

This is not to say that I don’t waste time.

I do. Like a lot of people, I watch too much on Netflix, and I scroll through Facebook and Instagram like a robot when I’m in line at the post office.  I take time to grab pics for my Insta, and I try on occasion to share funny happenings on my FB.

My goal with media accounts has been for me to own them, rather than for them to own me.

It’s a difficult balance to strike.  I don’t always keep them up to date, and if I need to write, I might go dormant on either platform.

With Twitter, I felt that the pace and expectations were more, the content was harder to create, and the interactions were exhausting.  That being said, I do tweet a little bit, just to keep my presence alive.

Most people will tell you as a writer that you need a platform.

I resisted this reality for years.  I felt that the processes of creating and feeding the monster that I thought was a platform would rob me.

But I have come around a little.

If you want people to read you, you do need a platform.

You need a place for people to find you.

 

But that is it.

You do not need to win the internet.

You do not need to run 57 platforms.

You do not need to forget what you are doing while you “media.”

 

Maybe Twitter is easy for you.

Maybe you don’t enjoy Instagram.

Maybe you dislike them all and you designed a splash page with your name and email and a picture of your book.

You have to find what works for you.

 

Remember the goal and why you are engaging in media.

Remember that it is not about creating content but creating.

Don’t let creating your content and online self become a bear and  replace the time you could spend creating and being yourself.

What media platforms do you use? Do you find some easier and more enjoyable than others? Have you ever spent so much time creating content you didn’t have any time left to create? What advice would you give writers who are developing platforms?

 

 

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Accidental Writer: Debunking Myths of How Writers are Made

I used to think that I couldn’t be a writer because I didn’t have a childhood full of notebook scribbling and books illustrated with crayons. I didn’t write stories until I was in college, and those certainly left something to be desired.

I’m also not one of those people who reads books all the way straight through. I have books strung out behind me in varying degrees of unfinishedness and many stay that way forever.

And I’m not an exceptionally adept grammarian, so there’s that.

So imagine my surprise when one day I woke up and realized that I was a writer. There were none of the signs, and yet, here I am.

It was important for me to let go of all of those ideas that I had about what it means to be a real writer. I hadn’t been training since childhood under my covers with a flashlight, and I wasn’t going to stumble into the field as a journalist or accomplished line editor. I love to read, but rarely in a straight line.

But I do love words—not so much vocabulary and lists and spelling—but the power locked up in unuttered words to describe the ways that we live and feel our lives.

And writing, it found me.

During a particularly turbid bout of change, I started thinking about an experience, one that challenged what I thought I knew and left me a little unglued at the edges. Every night when I laid my head on the pillow, I’d string those words together into blurry sentences and gauzy paragraphs until I fell asleep only to repeat the next night.

All this brain writing led to excessive tossing and a husband who lovingly encouraged me to go write everything down so that we could both get some sleep.

That was my first book. It’s still on my shelf. It’s personal and waiting.

But it was the push that I needed to know that I could write.

And the rest, as they don’t say, is my present and hopefully my future.

I write and teach writing and think about writing pretty much everyday. And people pay me to do it, which is pretty cool. But there are plenty of days when I still wonder how the words find me. Maybe that is the point. Maybe we write when we are ready, when we give up.   When we let our experiences leak out in black and white. I’m still not quite sure how it works, and despite all the mystery and a complete inability to correctly use a relative pronoun, I am, for the most part, one happy writer.

When did you know that you were a writer?  Did you have all the signs from childhood or was it an unexpected journey?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  




 

 

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