Tag Archives: writing

Writing Unleashed

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I’ve discovered so many great books and resources on writing lately.  I would share them with you here, but there are too many.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to share them here separately, such as my post yesterday on Scrivener.  That way, they can all be linked via tags. Also, I do plan to write a few pieces for other blogs covering similar topics, so stay tuned.  As soon as they are published, I will link them here.

So why am I so fascinated with discovering new books on writing and writing tools? Well, I am continually seeking to become a better writer.  That is why I write.  I do have something to say, and when I finally start working seriously on something for publication, I want to be the best that I can be.

So, here is what I have learned so far:

  1. Famous books on writing are famous for a reason.  They are worth your time.  I have yet to be disappointed.  If you are looking for a place to start, this list should do it.  I am slowly working my way through it.  There is always something to learn.
  2. The online writing tools out there today offer something for every type of writer.  Do your research and choose wisely.  So many great things to try out!  It might take you some time to figure out what works for you, and that’s OK.  If something isn’t working well, see if you can find something better.
  3. It is fun helping others who love to write.  Seriously, I love to help, and it is great motivation for me to keep going.  If someone discovers 750 words, Scrivener, or On Writing by Stephen King thanks to my recommendation, all the better.  There is room for everyone.  My ideas are not your ideas, etc.  That, for me, is the beauty of any art.
  4. Writing groups – and critique groups in particular – are invaluable.  Any feedback I get from Mid-Michigan Writers is great.  Even if I decide not to use it, it alerts me to other ways of viewing my work.  As writers, we are too close to our own work.  No matter how perfect a piece may seem, there is always room for improvement.  Just being around other writers and discussing all things writing is priceless.
  5. There is always something else to learn.  This goes along with the fact that all writing – and I do mean all – can be improved.  Start with your interests and see where it takes you. If you get stuck, start researching, whether subject or genre.  It doesn’t matter much.  See what else is out there.  You will discover something.

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The more I learn about writing, the more I wish ELA (English Language Arts) curriculum spent more time on creative writing.  Plenty of instruction on how to nail those high school and college essays, but little in the way of creative writing instruction.  It is true now, and it was true twenty or even fifty years ago.  If writing were a separate subject in the high school curriculum, that certainly would have been my focus.  Sadly, creative writing courses are only offered at the college level (usually) – and many college students can’t find a way to fit it in due to either lack of time and/or money.  Notice I did not say lack of interest.

I only had the opportunity to pursue a general writing certificate program at the community college level due to the fact that I learned about the program thanks to a writing workshop and the fact that I was already taking classes there for my teaching certificate.  I loved my experience, and in some ways, I wish I could go back and complete some assignments as a more seasoned writer – my portfolio for one class in particular.  I know I’ve grown as a writer; I also realize I have a long way to go.

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Scrivener

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It is no secret that I am my own worst enemy at times. OK, most of the time. Lately, I’ve been spending time thinking of ways to write more efficiently and better organize my work. I keep coming back to Scrivener. I took the time to learn it a few years ago, and I loved it. The issue became I didn’t keep using it. I’m not exactly sure why I quit, but I did. Well, I am getting back into the habit again. It offers a variety of ways to organize all of my work.

In a recent post, I stated that Scrivener is the closest thing writers have to a digital studio. I firmly believe this. It is so versatile it can accommodate any form of writing and any organizational method. You get to create templates and forms to use for the type of writing you do most. There are preset options that include fiction and non-fiction, as well as a handful of specialty options. It may take me some time, but I am going to relearn Scrivener and start using it on a daily basis again. I owe it to myself. It makes back-end organization that much easier.

Is it worth the initial investment of time and money? For me, the answer is unequivocally yes. I took the time to go through the extensive in-program tutorial: a definite must if you want to make the learning curve a little shorter. Besides, there is humor built in. If you choose not to go through the tutorial, you may miss out on a lot of great features. In fact, I believe that is how people become overwhelmed. Scrivener is truly built for writers by writers. That means that it allows you to slice, dice, organize, and label all materials to your hearts content. Just remember that as a writer, no one is forcing you to use all the features at once. Out of all the writing software I’ve come across over the years, Scrivener continues to stand out. I see no need for anything else.

Then again, there are a lot of fun online platforms out there. At least that is one thing we have going for us as writers: our tools. I love the fact that there are so many great writing tools out there for little or even no cost. In fact, there are so many that it takes time to figure out what works best for the way you work. Only now, after years of trial and error, am I beginning to find a process that works best for me. Hopefully, it will get me where I need to go. It is worth it to take the time to figure out how you work best as a writer. There may be several stops and starts, but each time, it becomes easier than the last. Eventually, your process starts to emerge. No matter what your process may be – or your genre – there is a place for Scrivener.

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Writing All Around

 

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Allende QuoteIf you haven’t checked out the Guest Posts page yet, you are missing out.  I finally got around to finding a home for my other writing.  In the next few weeks, this page will be growing quickly.  As I put it together, I realized that I haven’t done a great job of curating my own work.

When I choose to do a guest post, I choose carefully.  I want my writing to be at home with other work on the page.  You will see that I have work in a variety of places, everything from a local genealogy newsletter to a website highlighting legends and paranormal activity in Michigan.  It is important to find the right home for your work.

One of my favorites is Adela’s Once a Little Girl. So far, I’ve only written one piece for her blog, but I will eventually write others.  Her blog focuses on childhood from the point of view of a little girl.  When I originally submitted my piece on Christmas and Santa, she had to change it slightly because she has young readers.  I love her work.

Other work for the Macbeth Academy blog, the Macbeth Post, is already scheduled, as are other pieces for Spartans Helping Spartans.  If you haven’t checked out either site yet, do so.  There is plenty of great information on both.

Macbeth Academy continues to inspire me.  It is a largely online academy dedicated to student writing.  Until I connected with Director Kayla Solinsky, I did not realize such online academies exist.  Soon I may share my own thoughts and ideas relating to Macbeth Academy itself here.  I will eventually do an informational interview with Kayla.

I love where I am going at the moment.  I’ve come across so many great resources and opportunities for writers lately that I can’t wait to share them with everyone.  If you can dream it, there is a place for it whether online or in print.

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Slowing Down

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December 2018 ~ A December of “Yes!”

“Don’t wish your life away.”  Among dozens of quotes I remember from my grandmother, that one sticks with me and forces me to keep going.  Lately, I’ve realized I’ve been rushing around so much, trying to do everything all at once to the point I am not as effective as I could be.

I know what I want out of life:  why don’t I have it already?  I’ve put in the hours and made the sacrifices.  It isn’t enough.  I am so busy keeping it all from falling to pieces that I’m going too quickly to the next big thing:  A squirrel trying to beat a blue jay at its own game at the bird feeder during a February deep freeze.  It’s time to slow down and get it right.

So, what does it all mean?  It means I am old enough to realize that some things take time to get right.  There are times when shortcuts hinder you.

This past fall, I decided to say “yes” to as many things as possible.  Even though I haven’t read Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes yet, the concept would not let me go.  I took it to the next level in December in an attempt to stave off seasonal depression and recapture all of what I love about Christmas.  The results were … mixed.

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I loved every minute of each and every thing I did in December.  I cherished every minute with my niece and nephews, my siblings and their significant others, my parents, extended family, and friends.  But, there comes a time when you question your sanity. Are we doing this because we “should” or are we doing this because we truly want to?  It is a legitimate question – and it deserves a full answer.

So, did it work?  Yes, I had a ton of fun.  Yes, I made a tons of memories with my family. But, I also came to the conclusion that less is more at times.  Maybe I don’t need to go to two Christmas teas – although I probably will again next year.  In the end, certain events were skipped.  None of us can do it all.

Ever since January 1st, I’ve thought long and hard about how I want to approach this experiment going forward.  As much as I disliked having so many snow days this year and sitting around being unable to work for a good chunk of January and February, it forced me to slow down.  It forced me to rethink how I want to approach things this spring and moving forward.

Now, of course, I have the opposite problem – and probably will each spring the rest of my working life.  Everything seems to happen at once.  We are in the midst of getting ready for season #60 at the canoe livery, I’m subbing every day, and I will soon start a long-term subbing position that won’t end until early June.  In midst of it all, I am ramping up the job search – a teaching position for next school year – and trying to once and for all get writing.  I can do this.  It is time to get intentional and concentrate on what truly matters.  I need to slow down.

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Book Review: “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg

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It isn’t every day that I can say a book fundamentally changed the way I view writing and how I write.  Such is the case with Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Somehow, I thought I read the book nearly a decade ago.  No. No I didn’t. That became clear when I picked it up recently.  I wish I read it ten years ago! Better late than never, I suppose.

I finished the book several weeks ago at this point, but I couldn’t quite capture the impression it left.  I took my time reading her essays and highlighted (in my Kindle version) what I perceived to be the best writing advice contained in each essay.  That is one feature I love about this book. Her advice is all nice and neatly wrapped up in small essays that make you feel as if you know her. So, how did it change the way I write?

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Well, here are a few changes that I made as a result of her book:

  1.  I finally got journaling right.  Finally.

I may have mentioned this before, but I have had a love/hate relationship with journaling for as long as I can remember.  I love the idea of journaling every day. Better yet is starting a new journal. Add online journals into the mix, and the entire thing is one huge mess.  I collect journals. I hate actually writing in the more beautiful ones at times. Beautiful journals call for beautiful words. No one gets it right the first time.  After a short period of time, I always wanted to start all over again. Repeat.

So, what changed?  Well, I started acknowledging there is a need to get the junk out of the way first.  That is where 750words comes in. By writing daily in this online journal daily – no frills, just the junk that comes to mind – I tend to become much more focused when I write a blog post or in one of my beautiful traditional journals.  I limit what I write in a traditional journal to one short page a day. It is much more focused.

Natalie refers to the “junk” as monkey mind, and that concept deserves its own blog post. The idea is that we all tend to think in circles. We have to write through our wandering thoughts before we can write something meaningful.  She discusses this concept throughout several of her essays.

  1.  Find What Works for You.

This seems so cliche, but she suggests experimenting to find what processes work for you.  No judgement regarding pen versus typing, morning versus evening, and so on. Writers need to write when and where they can.  She provides several wonderful examples of this and how the local atmosphere can seep into writing.

What really made the difference for me was her discussion of what works for her – writing in cheap one subject notebooks until she fills them up.  She goes on to say that the tools truly do not matter. While I knew that wouldn’t work for me, it did get me thinking. It finally hit me. A three-ring binder I could decorate with my favorite writing quotes and fill with tab dividers and loose-leaf notebook paper would work well.  I could plan, write, and revise blog posts without having to worry about destroying bound notebooks. A binder would allow me to reorganize different pieces as I see fit. So far, I love it. I also included some of my favorite blog posts, lists of topics, and writing prompts – anything to keep me writing.

  1.  Don’t Beat Yourself Up.

I would love to write full-time.  The reality is that I substitute teach, spend summers working in the family business, and so much more.  I am trying hard to find time to write everyday, but every once in a while, I don’t. I am learning to just pick up the next day.  I don’t need to stress about it. It is a little thing, but it helps. Creating a simple writing routine helped simplify everything.

I love the fact that she embraces the fact that everyone writes garbage.  We have to work through the garbage to get to the good stuff. Authentic details are everywhere.  Even when not writing, we are still hard at work collecting details, situations, characters, stories, ideas, and so much more.  In fact, that is one reason why I started blogging: I wanted to experiment with and collect different story ideas – to think out loud.

  1.  Write Everywhere and Anywhere.

Write.  Write. Write.  Writers spend so much time avoiding writing.  Plotting, planning, organizing, and even cleaning are all brilliant distractions from the actual writing itself. This is one reason why I head somewhere else when I actually want to get something done.  I can always find something to distract me when I am at home. Natalie goes so far as to offer tips on how to effectively use cafes and coffee shops as places to write. My dream is to have a wonderful coffee shop near my house.  It won’t happen any time soon, but a girl can dream.

Conclusions

Writing Down the Bones may mean different things to different writers, but I would recommend it to anyone who loves to write.  I think there is something in there for everyone. It is a book I will come back to time and time again. Writing Down the Bones already fundamentally changed the way I write.

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Projects Old and New

School

Over the last several weeks and months, I have finally recognized how important writing and reading is to my quality of life and my sheer happiness.  No joke.  If I have a writing project, I am happy.  As a student, I loved writing assignments.  Even if I didn’t love the subject, the book, or whatever it may be, I could always count on myself to do well. 

Some of my earliest and best memories of elementary school are of creating “stories.”  As I learned to write, my “stories” became less picture/drawing based and included more writing.  I love the fact that writing plays such a prominent role in my earliest educational memories.  By the way, I still can’t draw.

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What I’ve come to realize over the last week or so is that I didn’t value my early writing much. When I say early writing, I am not talking about childhood or even adolescent writing.  Those journals are safely tucked away never to see the light of day.  No, I am talking about the writing I did from 2005-2012.  During that time frame, I published dozens of throw-away articles for a now-defunct website called Associated Content.  As a writer for Associated Content, I wrote articles on all kinds of topics – reviews, how-to, and more – for a small upfront payment and then residuals.  Page views mattered!  After a couple of years, the site sold out to Yahoo!, which eventually shut it down.  Even though I had ample warning and could have saved my hundreds of articles, I didn’t.  I didn’t care enough.  The content just didn’t interest me enough.

While I don’t regret not putting in the time and effort to save my work with Associated Content, I do regret not saving my JamsBio work.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have much notice.  JamsBio, a now defunct online magazine, paid writers to discuss their memories as it related to music.  I only wrote ten blog posts, but it was the most fun I ever had “working.”  Even though I wish I had those articles, the ideas planted by writing those pieces live on.  I will eventually write something similar here.

The reason why all of this came to mind lately is due to different projects I am currently working on.  I just wrote my first piece for the Macbeth Post and had my first podcast published on Spartans Helping Spartans.  In fact, I am in the middle of writing a series of posts on study abroad for Spartans Helping Spartans as we speak. All wonderful stuff that I will share here.  

That’s just it.  I need to share some of my other work here.  There is an infamous piece I wrote on the Witchy Wolves of the Omer Plains for Michigan’s Otherside.  It is probably the earliest writing I did online or close to it.  I’ve toyed with the idea of a rewrite, but people keep finding it and sharing on Facebook.  Then there are a handful of articles I’ve written for the Huron Shores Genealogical Society Genogram. I’ve long meant to share them here permanently.  I just haven’t taken the time to do it yet.

As writers, we need to take care of our work and not let it become lost to time.  I wish were better at taking care of my own work. On a fun note, I came across an old online journal dating back to 2003.  Interesting doesn’t begin to describe it.  It brought back memories long since forgotten.  It is time for me to take better care of my own work.

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Best Laid Plans – Career

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I’ve spent a lot of time lately reevaluating where I am and what I want out of life.  What I want hasn’t changed much, but I have come to some conclusions.  I fully realize how close I am to having and creating the life I want.  I am so incredibly close.

Career –

So much revolves around my career.  I still intend to be a teacher, business owner, and writer – just not all at once.

My focus at the moment is teaching.  I am looking for a full-time teaching position for next year.  I don’t care much if it is Spanish, social studies, or business.  I already know how I’d set up my classroom and how I would organize, generally, my classes.  That is half the battle, right?

I also plan to look into teaching online.  While I don’t want to teach online my entire career, it might be a good way to get started.  There are so many possibilities at the moment.  I will land somewhere.

As for the canoe  livery, I am hoping Dad finally retires – or at least loosens up a bit.  I love the canoe livery – and it will always be a part of who I am.  I like where we are going.  I don’t know how much more we can change and grow until Dad retires.

I don’t want to lose sight of our primary business – rentals – and yet, I want to add to the experience.  Ultimately, we are in a pretty good place.  I am grateful that my brother Garrett (i.e. my future business partner) and I have similar ideas as to how we plan to expand the business.

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Then we come to writing.  My writing goals are long-term and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.  The other day I had a phone conversation with a family friend I’ve known most, if not all, my life.  It involved the donation of a river trip.  She then told me how much she enjoys reading my blog.  Next, she asked if I planned to write for publication.

The question itself caught me slightly off-guard.  Yes, I do intend to pursue publication at some point, but not in the immediate future.  It isn’t that I am completely putting my writing on hold – in fact, I’ve been writing every day, just not for public consumption – I am not making a career out of it at this point.

I need time and space to hone my skills and let my vision evolve.  Over the years, it already has.  There are many smaller projects to work on in the meantime.  I have no shortage of inspiration – and that is a wonderful thing.  I love the fact that I can use Google Drive for my planning and have access wherever I go.

This post, borne out of the idea that it might be helpful to explore what I’d like my life to look like over the next few years, is a good example of how my brain works when I write.  One idea expands into something much larger.  Instead of one simple blog post, I now have a series of posts on my hands.

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