Inspiration – Words of Wisdom

Inspiration can come from anywhere and often strikes at the most unexpected of moments. Often when you most need it, it’s the hardest to find. As a writer, and really as someone who endeavors to be creative in general, I’ve learned that you can’t rely on inspiration to appear to you. Rather you have to go out and seek it or, sometimes, learn to work without it. For those seeking a little inspiration, for my post today I’ve decided to compile a list of my five favorite inspirational quotes. They help me when I need a pick-me up, hopefully they’ll help you too!

  1. “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” – Joseph Campbell
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Photo by Jamie Hagan on Unsplash

  1. “Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.” – Marie Curie

 

  1. “Yes, I’ve always been a dreamer, and yes, I have always tried. And dreams are special things. But dreams are of no value if they’re not equipped with wings and feet and hands and all that. If you’re going to make a dream come true, you’ve got to work with it. You can’t just sit around. That’s a wish. That’s not a dream.” – Dolly Parton
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Photo by Peter Fogden on Unsplash

  1. “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” – Ella Fitzgerald

 

  1. “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” – John F. Kennedy
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Photo by Robert Baker on Unsplash

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Putting Yourself Out There – Submissions

There comes a time in most writers’ lives when the allure of being published becomes too strong to resist. We all, in our own way, write for ourselves, of course, but the idea that a wider audience could enjoy our work; that someone unknown to us could pick up an issue or click through to a website and see what we’ve written and be touched in some way is an idea that is hard to resist.

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Photo by Rey Seven on Unsplash

But how to go about it? Submitting to journals for publication is, to many, a complex process and a frightening prospect. How do I know I’ve picked the right journal for my work? Should I pay to submit my piece? How many times do I try before I give up? Below are five tips that have helped me be mildly successful as I navigate the wide world of submitting and publishing my shorter pieces. I will add, of course, that asking my fellow writers for advice and assistance has been a great help as well, and encourage anyone reading this to reach out to me with questions – I’ll answer the best I can!

  1. Read past issues of the journal your submitting to

Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it’s a good piece of advice to try and put into practice none the less. If the journal you are submitting to has any of the work they’ve previously accepted available to read, even if it’s just excerpts, READ IT. See how your own work compares in terms of tone, style, and subject matter. This is a good opportunity for you to vet the magazine and see if you want your work to be represented with them, as well as an opportunity to see if your work has a chance of being selected based on what the journal has previously gravitated towards.

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

  1. Pay attention to formatting guidelines

No matter how good your work is, you have to abide by journals’ formatting guidelines when submitting. Read submission guidelines carefully! In my experience every journal is a little bit different: some don’t want any identifying information on a submission, some want identifying information, but only in a certain place within the document, some don’t care, some only except PDFs, some anything but PDFs, etc. etc. These journals receive hundreds, thousands of submissions a period and are looking for any way to whittle down their pool of possible publications. Don’t get your piece thrown out simply because you didn’t follow instructions!

  1. Track your submissions

It’s time to break out that excel, baby. You’re going to need to keep track of when you submitted, to whom, what you submitted, when you can expect to hear back, and ultimately what you heard back. This is important because you’re probably going to be engaging in what they call “simultaneous submissions”, a.k.a. submitting the same piece to multiple journals. And when (not IF, WHEN) that piece gets accepted somewhere, you’ll need to make sure you let all the other journals you submitted to know that the work is no longer available.

With any luck, a majority of the journals you’ll be submitting to will use a tool called Submittable. Submittable will become your new best friend as it will do all this tracking for you. I love Submittable, as it even has a feature where you can search through journals that are currently open for submissions. Pretty much if a journal doesn’t do submissions through Submittable, I think twice before sending my work their way, simply because it means an extra step for me in keeping track of the process.

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

  1. Watch how much you’re spending

The sad truth is that submitting to journals can get expensive fast. Whether you’re just hoping to get published in someone’s next issue or you’re going for a special cash prize of some sort, I’d say about 75% of the time there is a fee involved in submitting. Now that does mean that 25% of the time, there is no fee! You can find opportunities out there that are free if paying even a nominal fee to have your work considered just isn’t in the cards for you right now (I think we’ve all been there). All that being said, most journals will charge anywhere from $3-$10 for a normal submission, to as much as $30 or $40 for a contest submission. Keep an eye on your budget, weigh the cost/benefit of the opportunity, and use your best judgement when submitting! Even if you’re sticking to the $3 a pop submissions, those can add up quick!

  1. Keep trying

The very first time you put your piece out there, it gets rejected. Fair enough, you think, and you go back and give the piece another look. Maybe you revise it a little and then try again. Another rejection. Perhaps there’s something wrong with the piece you’re just not seeing. You put it out to a critique group and get some thoughtful feedback, feedback you could’ve never gotten on your own. You tweak the piece some more and submit again, confident it’s as good as you can make it.

It gets rejected again.

I’m not the first person to say it, I certainly won’t be the last, but it’s at this point that I must urge you: DON’T GIVE UP. There are any number of reasons a piece gets rejected, and many of them having nothing to do with the quality of the piece. If you truly think you have something worth publishing and you know in your heart of hearts it’s as good as it can possibly be, keep submitting the piece. Use the steps above to make sure you’re submitting to the right places and losing as little as possible in this admittedly painful process, but keep trying. Someone, the right someone, is going to read your work and love it. But if you stop putting it out there, they’ll never find it. Don’t give up.

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Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

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O! For a Muse of Fire!

I’ve given myself a personal goal – to write 1,000 words a day, five days a week. In the grand scheme of things I’m not sure if this is a lofty goal or a laughable one, but to me it feels manageable; just tough enough that I feel proud when I accomplish it, but not so hard that I might as well quit before I even begin. But what do I do on those days when I’m at a loss for inspiration? I’m not blocked, necessarily, I just…have no new ideas! Do I stare at the blank page and just wait for something to come to me? Honestly, I’ve given that a shot and sometimes, just sometimes, it works. But most of the time I’m left feeling frustrated and useless. There has to be a better way.

There is.

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Below are five things that I do when I’m in need of a little inspiration. Hopefully they’ll be able to help you track down your uncooperative muse too!

  1. Read something different

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. If you’re all out of ideas, pick up something you would never read in a million years and give it a whirl. Never read any Faulkner? No time like the present! Hate romances? Try reading a chapter or two. Even if you don’t find anything you want to emulate, you may get an idea of something opposite that you want to try and write up.

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Photo by Fabiola Peñalba on Unsplash

  1. Listen to music

There’s something about just letting your mind wander as you listen to music. It’s not the same as staring at a blank screen and trying to squeeze out thoughts like toothpaste out of an empty tube. It’s more organic than that. Listening to music while courting the muse gives ideas space to grow and come into their own. Indeed, science has shown that listening to music helps improve cognition, enhance learning and memory, and even help encourage creativity or ‘divergent thinking’. I like putting on some jazz in the background when I’m struggling with thinking of new things to write, but whatever works for you, pump it up!

  1. Go back through abandoned pieces

If you’re like me you have a stack of half-finished short stories and novels that, for one reason or another, you never got back to. If you find yourself in a creative rut, now is the perfect time to delve into that mine of material and see what gems you can uncover. You might find that a piece you were working on is really close to being done, and only needs a few more bits and bobs that you were at a loss to provide before but now can see clearly. You may still not know what to do with a novel idea but love one of the characters you developed for it and want to use them in something else. The mind boggles at the possibilities.

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Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

  1. Draw from real life

If no new ideas are springing to mind, don’t be afraid to draw from things that are happening in real life. They don’t have to be huge, world-changing things either (though they can be if you want them to be). You can start writing a story about a person putting together a grocery list and who then finds a mysterious item in the back of their cabinet. You can start writing a story about someone taking their dog for a walk when they suddenly run into their old nemesis from high school. Most of the world’s best stories have mundane beginnings; don’t be afraid to start with the ordinary and write to the extraordinary!

  1. Give yourself permission to write something terrible

I find that what stops me from starting something new sometimes isn’t just a lack of new ideas, but a fear that whatever I put down won’t be ‘good’, whatever that arbitrary little word happens to mean at the moment. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is get out of your own way, and the way I do that when searching for new ideas is, right from the get go, by giving myself permission to write something terrible. It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to be something. When I do this, when I let go of self-expectation, I find that those new ideas flow a lot easier from my head down through my fingers and onto paper. Who cares if I don’t capture the idea perfectly the first time? I’ve given myself carte blanche to mess it up. The important thing is that I’m writing at all. That, after all, is the goal: to write and to write often. Editing and polishing can and should always happen later.

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Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

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“Art is Never Finished”

“Art is never finished, only abandoned”. This is a famous quote, often used when talking about the subject I wish to address today: how to know when a piece of writing is done. It’s a simple enough question. When am I finished? By what yardstick can I measure completeness when it comes to my work? But for such a simple question the answers are very complicated. Drawing from my own experience, here are the four signs that I look for when I’m working to determine whether or not the end is nigh for one of my pieces. These are guideposts that help me, hopefully they can help you too!

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Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash

  1. You’re only making minor changes to the piece

In this article I’m assuming you’ve been editing your piece for a while now. If you haven’t done at least three or four full-blown edits of your piece, do that first or you’re not even close to being done. But assuming you’ve done that, and you’re still tweaking and working with the piece, you’re eventually going to reach a point where you’re only making minor changes. Adjusting sentence structure ever so slightly, triple checking grammar, deleting a word and then putting it back – if you’re consistently doing these things and nothing more major, it’s a good sign that your piece is close to done.

  1. The piece has been beta read

If you’re not ready to have the piece read by someone else in a critical fashion, the piece is nowhere near done yet. Beta readers are invaluable at giving you feedback on the overall merits of your work and can help identify those last few major issues that you might be struggling with. Besides, to me a piece is never really done until someone else has laid eyes on it. Then it becomes a real thing, rather than just something I’m playing with in my spare time.

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Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

  1. You can walk away from the piece

If you can leave the piece for a few days or even a few weeks without feeling compelled to work on it, that’s a good sign that the piece is done. Still compulsively going back to make minor edits? See #1.

As a side note, if you haven’t let the piece rest at all during your time working with it, now would be a great opportunity to do so. I’ve said so before in other articles, but I believe that a piece of writing is like a good bottle of wine – you have to let it alone to breathe before it can be fully appreciated. If you think you’re done but you haven’t stepped away from the piece at all, try it. You might be surprised by what you find when you come back to it.

  1. You feel good about the piece

Notice that I said “good”; not that you feel “happy” with the piece, or that the piece is “perfect” or that you “know” that the piece is done. Just check in with yourself and ask, “Do I feel good about this piece? As it stands right now, am I comfortable with it?”

I’m a perfectionist, which means I have a hard time letting go of my work. I’ve had to teach myself to accept that no piece of mine is ever going to be ‘perfect’, whatever the hell that means anyway. Put I can strive for what I call in my mind ‘solid’. A solid piece, a piece that I feel stands up to scrutiny and says something, has become my standard of success. When I read over a piece and think to myself, “Yes, this piece is solid”, that’s when I know I’m done.

Each writer has to determine for themselves what they are striving for, but I urge you now, for your own sanity, make it something achievable. Set yourself a standard and meet it. That’s how you know you’re done with a piece.

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Dealing With Rejection

No one likes to be rejected. But for writers, rejection is part of the trade. Anyone who has ever been published has also been rejected, and many of us trying to get published worry that rejections are all that we’re ever going to see. How do we deal with the constant barrage of negativity that rejections bring? How does one cope with the discouragement and setbacks? Below I’ve laid out the six steps I take every time I receive a rejection. They work for me, hopefully they’ll work for you too!

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

  1. Don’t take it personally

This is the hardest step and that’s why I’ve put it first. Of course you’re going to take it personally – you put yourself out there and someone rejected you, how else are you supposed to take it? The best thing you can do for yourself when dealing with rejection is to take a moment and work past those initial feelings of defensiveness and pain by realizing that the people who rejected your work don’t even know you. They don’t! They don’t know that you make great pasta or that you have a beautiful smile or that you are a wonderful parent or any of the stuff that really matters and makes you a person. All they saw was a small snippet of your work and they rejected it for any number of reasons: it didn’t fit for the issue they were putting together, it was good, but someone else’s piece was just a little bit better, or who knows? They didn’t reject it because you’re a bad person or a bad writer. Until you can convince yourself of that, you’re not going to be able to move forward.

  1. Feel what you’re feeling

All that being said, don’t bottle up your emotions and put them to one side because you ‘know you shouldn’t be feeling this way’. If you feel disappointed or sad or upset, give yourself time and space to really be disappointed or sad or upset. You can’t ignore your feelings to make them go away. That will only make them worse.

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Photo by Rist Art on Unsplash

  1. Walk it Off

This goes hand in hand with not bottling up your emotions. Any time I get a rejection, I go for a walk. Let me tell you, I go for A LOT of walks. If walking isn’t your physical exercise of choice, go kick boxing, or go lift some weights – whatever you do that gets your blood pumping and your pores sweating, do it after you get a rejection. Exercising releases endorphins and endorphins is something you’ll be badly in need of after a ‘no’ comes through your door.

  1. Talk it Out

If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do when you get a rejection is tell other people about it. That’s shame talking and shame is poisonous. It’s going to take some mental reframing and it’s not going to feel natural, but I highly encourage you to share your failures as readily and openly as you do your successes. You know why? Because you TRIED SOMETHING. You had the guts to put yourself out there and try, and that’s something worth celebrating, even if it didn’t work out this time. Also, a side benefit of talking about your failures is that other people can help make you feel better! Don’t go bottling up those emotions! If you feel crushed, let someone know so they can validate your feelings and try to help. You don’t have to go through this alone.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

  1. Review the piece

Once you’ve done the steps above, now would be a good time to review the piece you submitted for consideration. See if there are any tweaks or edits you would make. If you were lucky enough to get a rejection with some feedback, you should definitely see if you can incorporate that feedback into the work itself. Spend some more time with your work, but not so much that it starts to drive you crazy. If you review it, and you still feel confident that it’s as good as you can make it, then there’s only one thing left to do.

  1. Try again

This is the second hardest thing to do after being rejected and it’s why I put it last. After you’ve been hurt, the last thing you want to do is go back for seconds. It’s insane, why would anyone put themselves through a painful process over and over again? Well, they say all writers are a little crazy and here’s the proof: in order to do what we do we have to consistently put ourselves out there and risk rejection. It’s the only way we grow and it’s the only way our work is ever going to be recognized.

But if anyone takes anything from this piece, I want it to be this: your writing can be rejected a hundred times, a thousand times, a hundred thousand times; and your value as a human being is not diminished by one iota. Getting published or not getting published, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter – what matters is all the little things we do every day that make us who we are. No rejection can ever take those things away from us.

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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Fighting Fear

Fear is one of our most primal emotions. If we let it, it can stand in the way of us accomplishing great things. At its worst, it can stop us from accomplishing anything at all. There is a lot of fear around being a writer, for me personally and for people in general. I think if there weren’t, a lot more people would be writing, rather than just talking about it. There’s a fear of failure, a fear of not being good enough, a fear of opening up and being vulnerable to the blank page – all of these are valid fears, but we can’t let them stand in the way of the creative process. Here are five things that I remind myself of in order to get the better of fear and do my best work writing.

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Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

  1. Nothing can be worse than nothing

There’s a quote that I have on my computer: “The worst thing you write is better than the best thing you did not write.” I summarize this to myself as “Nothing can be worse than nothing”. The blank page is terrifying, the blinking cursor a mocking bully – the sight of either often paralyze me with fear. What if what I write isn’t good? What if what I write is downright terrible?

The truth is, it might very well be. But I can fix what I’ve written – I can’t do anything to what I haven’t. There comes a time when you must have faith in your ability as an editor as much as your ability as a writer. That time might as well be now.

  1. I have been here before.

This thought can be terrifically frustrating at first, but it can also be reassuring if you sit with it long enough. You have looked this same fear in the eye before. It hasn’t changed. But you have. You’ve gone on and done things that maybe at one point in your life you didn’t think you were capable of doing. In the case of writing, you’ve written! You’ve gotten past this fear before and you can do it again. You might have to defeat it a hundred times, which is a drag, but every time you fight through it and put words on paper, you can have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve won once again and that defeating it is possible.

  1. This is where I am supposed to be right now.

A lot of my fear comes from thinking that I’m doing the wrong thing or that I’m going to screw up somehow and never be able to get back to the way things are supposed to be. One mantra that I find really helpful in assuaging those fears, both during my writing and just in general, is: this is where I am supposed to be right now. What this means to me is that I’m not meant to be doing anything else other than what I am engaged in in the moment. I’m not missing out on anything, or screwing anything up – it’s impossible for me to do that, because I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing. It’s not always easy to believe this, especially when what I’m doing or where I am isn’t something or someplace I like. But accepting that truth, that I am where I am and doing what I’m doing for a reason, helps alleviate a lot of pressure from my mind.

  1. Don’t feed the sharks

Think of your mind like an ocean. You’re sitting at the bottom of the ocean and above you is a coral reef, teeming with fish and other aquatic life. The fish represent all your thoughts. You can go up and swim with them, but in order to be mindful and present, it’s best to stay here on the bottom and just watch them flit about from one end of the coral reef to the other. On occasion, a shark may swim by. These sharks are the negative thoughts that disrupt your mind, thoughts like “I’m never going to be a good writer” and “It’s pointless to try, I’m just going to fail”. Just like we don’t go up and swim with the fish, don’t go up and swim with the sharks either! Don’t wrestle with them and certainly don’t feed them. Just let them swim past when they appear.

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Photo by Lubo Minar on Unsplash

  1. Success is possible

I’m not a natural optimist. But I’m working hard to change that. While I may not be ready to throw open my arms and declare “Everything will work out for the best! This is the best of all possible worlds!”, I do find that when combating fear, it’s important to remind myself that success IS possible. I may try and I may fail. That is true. But I may try and I may succeed. That is equally true. It’s important to remember too that success has variable definitions. Success today may mean sitting down and getting something, anything, down on paper. Success in the long-term may be something completely different, but that doesn’t diminish the success of the moment.

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Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

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Learned Patience

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Photo by Tyler Milligan on Unsplash

What no one tells you about pursuing your dreams is how much patience you’ll need to see them through. Perseverance, sure – people will talk about perseverance till they’re blue in the face and you could knock them over with a stiff breeze. But you could try as hard as you can twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year and get nothing more than burnt out, because what it really takes to succeed in your goals is patience.

Patience, learning to wait, learning to wait gracefully, has never been one of my strong suits. But it’s something I’m working on, day by day, just like my writing. Here are a few things that I’ve found help me when I’m growing impatient with the pace of my success:

  1. Distract yourself

You may not be able to get the results back from that latest writing contest any faster, or make your writing better by sheer force of will, but damn it, you can get your bathroom clean in one day and you can bake the most amazing batch of banana bread you’ve ever eaten and you can do a myriad of other small, but impressive tasks. Sometimes your brain is like an overactive puppy and it needs exercise and distraction.

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Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

  1. Gratitude

This has been a recent tool in my toolbox and to be completely honest with you, I’m not 100% sold on it – but I’ve been told by people whose job it is to know that over time, it really, really helps. Being impatient is partially a sign that you’re not taking stock of all the good things you currently have going for you. You want more, but have you even stopped to appreciate what you have? To cultivate patience, cultivate gratitude. I’m doing this by writing down a daily gratitude journal. Each day, I fill up exactly one page with a list of everything I’m grateful for. Sometimes they’re big things – the love of my family, that the sun comes up every day; sometimes they’re little things – that at least one thing made me smile yesterday, that dogs wag their tails when they’re happy. The point is to reflect on all the good things I do have instead of focus on the things that I don’t.

  1. Physical exercise

I don’t know about you all, but when I get impatient, I get frustrated. And when I get frustrated, I get affected physically – I start to squirm, all my muscles tense, sometimes I even feel like I’m about to cry. That’s why physical exercise can be a good kick in the pants for me to regain some composure. I don’t usually engage in anything too strenuous (a nice walk around the park does it for me most of the time) but I like to get my body up and moving.

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Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

  1. Talk it out

If you’re feeling impatient, talk to someone about it. Unload all your fears and frustrations, let it out and not only will you feel better for not keeping it bottled up inside, but you’ll often realize how ridiculous you sound all on your own. “I’m so frustrated I haven’t published a book yet!” Yeah, self, you’re 28 – you have plenty of time! Slow down, crazy head! “I’m so impatient to hear back from this agent!” Well, you can’t do anything about it, so why not do something more constructive with your energy instead? A friend might even have some great ideas of tasks you can put your back into while you wait.

  1. Meditation

I have a very loud mind. I’m a writer, after all. If my mind were quiet…well, I’d have nothing to say, now would I? Meditation and I have danced around each other for a long time. A long time. But I’ve finally gotten into a pretty consistent practice with it and I honestly can say I think it’s doing me some good. It’s not about emptying your mind of thoughts – that’s impossible. It’s about not chasing after the thoughts that go by. And isn’t that what patience is? Learning to let go of thoughts and desires and instead accept things as they are? Meditation is great practice for that. I personally use an app called “Headspace” and have been really enjoying it, but however or whatever works for you, I’d say give it a shot! We could all use a little more patience in our lives.

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Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

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Editing 101 – 5 Things You’ll Need

I’ve spent a lot of time on this site talking about the difficulties of writing – how hard it can be to sit down and consistently put pen to paper. But after the writing is done, there’s a whole other step that I wanted to take some time today to touch on: editing.

Now editing is the bane of many writers’ existence and for good reason. To sit down and purposefully dissect what you spent so much time assembling is not just a daunting task, but often feels counterproductive. Of course, editing is anything but – it’s the only way to improve at our craft and it’s the only way to truly make our writing the best it can be. But in order to do a really great job editing, there are a few things you need.

  1. Time

You’ll need time in a couple of different ways. First, you’ll need time away from your work. The best edits are done when there’s a bit of distance between you and the words and the only way to get that is to walk away from the manuscript for a while. This can be hard, especially when you feel like you’re on a roll, but trust me, it’s for the best. If you edit too soon after writing, one of two things may happen: (1 & Best Case). You’ll feel like everything you wrote is perfect just the way it is and barely needs to be touched. Viola! You’ve done it! (2 & Worst Case). You’ll feel like everything you wrote is unsalvageable crap and you need to throw it all away and start over again.

The truth is usually somewhere in between. Give yourself the time you need to figure that out.

But you’ll also need time because editing is not going to be a quick process, or at least it shouldn’t be. Editing is where the work of writing really happens and it can take two or three or twelve passes at a work before it’s truly done. Depending on the length of your story, that could mean days or months of editing work. Be patient with yourself. Put in the time now and you will not regret it in the end.

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Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

  1. Space

Just like it’s important for every writer to have dedicated writing space, I think it’s important to have dedicated editing space; a place you go when it’s time to whip out that red pen, whether that pen is literal or metaphorical for you. I’m also of the personal opinion that if you edit on the computer alone, you’re missing something from the process. Don’t be afraid to scribble yourself post it notes, flashcards, or spread out pages of story around you while you work if that’s what it takes. Just make sure you have the space!

  1. Multiple copies

I think most writers have learned this the hard way, so I’m putting this here so maybe someone else doesn’t have to. Never edit in the same file you wrote in. ALWAYS save a new file and perform all your edits there. Doing a new round of edits? Great! Save ANOTHER file. This will make it easier for you to really let loose with the cutting and reworking aspect of editing, when you know you always have your original you can fall back on if you hate what you’ve done. At certain stages of editing, I’ve even created brand new documents just for cut scenes. I almost never end up going back to those files, but to have them at the time feels awfully good.

 

  1. A strong voice

I mean this both literally and metaphorically. As a writer, having a strong voice is key during the editing process. You should know what the work is trying to say and how you want the story to sound in the end, that way you can work towards that. But you should also keep some water on hand, because your voice should get tired when you edit. If you’re not reading your work out loud at least once while you edit, it’s my opinion that you’re doing something very wrong. Reading aloud helps you hear what sentences are working and which aren’t, what dialogue comes off flat and what enriches character, where a metaphor captures a particular mood or image really well and where one derails the moment, and all kinds of other valuable things.  If you’ve never read your work out loud go back and do it now! I guarantee you’ll be surprised at what you hear!

  1. Someone else

In the end, there’s only so much editing of our own work we can do. Having someone else, whether it’s an independent freelance editor or a trusted friend, look at our work and give their feedback is a key step in the writing process. They will catch things that we won’t, that we can’t, because we’re just too close to the work, no matter how long we’ve let it sit for. It’s probably the scariest editing step to embark upon, but it’s also potentially the most rewarding. When someone else looks at our work, they find things that we can improve upon, it’s true, but they also see things that we’re doing well, things we haven’t noticed, but should appreciate! It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

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Gratitude – Writing Edition

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Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful; a readiness to show appreciation for good things and to return good things to others. I’ve been tasked, over the next week, to think about gratitude on a daily basis and it occurred to me that there was no better place to start than to list some of the writing related things for which I am grateful. Now these are in no particular order, I’m not more grateful for number one than I am for number four, they’re simply listed as they came into my head. But I challenge my fellow writers out there to think about their life, specifically their writing and ask themselves: what am I grateful for?

  1. I’m grateful for libraries (and by extension, librarians)

Ever since I was a child, I have been in love with libraries. After all, libraries are where books live and with the help of friendly neighborhood librarians, I could access them all. No tome was ever out-of-bounds to me in any library, whether it was the large public affair downtown or the small, several shelf wide collection in my father’s study. Without libraries I should have never come to adore the written word as I have today and without librarians I wouldn’t have dipped my toe in a fifth of the amazing fantasy worlds I now know.

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  1. I’m grateful for other writers

Whether they be world-famous or just getting started like me, other writers provide constant inspiration for me. They help encourage me to keep trying to perfect my art, offer praise and critique when necessary, and continually give me something to strive for. Some of my best friends over the years have been writers, as well as my biggest heroes. Writers have not just shaped my dreams, they’ve shaped the kind of person I am today.

  1. I’m grateful for my parents

Not once have my parents told me I couldn’t be a writer. Not once have they shown anything but support for my artistic endeavors, whatever shape they might take in the moment. They took a bookish young girl and told her that it was alright to be who she was, a gift I can never repay them for. Through actions and words, they’ve encouraged me to fight my demons and reach for the stars and be a writer, if that’s what I truly want to be.

  1. I’m grateful for my imagination

Sometimes it doesn’t always work when or how I want it to, but in the end my imagination is always there for me. It takes me on weird and wonderful adventures and encourages me to share them with others. My imagination makes me brave, makes me curious, makes me eager to engage with the world around me and it also makes sure that, as long as I am open to it, I’m never, ever bored.

  1. I’m grateful for language

What a gift to be able to communicate with people from across the world through a series of symbols and sounds! How miraculous to be able to twist and jumble and remix those symbols into patterns they’ve never taken on before to say something new, or something familiar and comforting, or something sweet, or something strange. Language, the ability to communicate, is something I should never take for granted.

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Dreams Worth Fighting For

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Dreams are what separate the hopeful from the hopeless. They are our last bastion against despair in an unkind and unfeeling world. It is my dream to one day become a published author and it’s this dream that keeps me going even when everything around me is telling me I’d be better off quitting. But lately, believing in my dream has been a struggle; it’s felt like an impossible dream, like it’s at the top of a very deep well and I’m at the very bottom of it.

If anyone else is feeling this way, I thought I’d pass along some of my favorite quotes about dreams and the importance of dreaming, quotes that always convince me that it’s worthwhile to keep looking up to those dreams and to keep trying to reach them, no matter how far away they might seem.

  1. Pope John XXIII

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”

  1. Paulo Coelho

“Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.”

  1. Langston Hughes

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

 

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  1. E. Lawrence

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”

  1. James Allen

“The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.”

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