Acting My Way into Feeling: Just Write!

Photo/KarenJordanI’m about to do one of the hardest things I’ve done recently—WRITE!

“What? How can that be?” you ask. “You’re a writer! Isn’t that what writers do?”

Confusion. I wish I could tell you what’s keeping me from doing what I need to do. But I don’t have any answers at this point.

In fact, I’m not even sure I have anything of substance to offer anyone now. But I’m just going to write—and hope something helpful surfaces. Anything is better than nothing at this point.

Confession. After church this morning, I confessed to my husband that I hadn’t really felt like going to church today and entering into worship. But I did. And I’m glad I did—the sermon really spoke to my heart.

Modification. I’m also reminded what I learned years ago in a behavior modification class at seminary: “You must act your way into feeling.”

At first, I didn’t have a clue what the professor meant by that statement. But I tried it, and it worked.

For instance, I NEVER feel like doing housework. But I ALWAYS feel good about finishing my work.

So, that’s what I’m doing right now. Write—even though I do NOT feel like writing. And in the process, I hope and pray the feeling and the words begin to flow again.

Examination. Have you ever faced this problem? Maybe you’re not a writer, and you don’t get it. But perhaps there is another issue you might be struggling with in your work or even at home.

Perhaps you want to be happy or thankful, but you just can’t conjure up those positive emotions right now. Or perhaps you just don’t “feel” like being anyone’s mom right now—but you ARE a mom.

Maybe you don’t have any romantic feelings toward your spouse anymore. I’ll share what a pastor advised one man who claimed he didn’t love his wife anymore. This wise counselor simply responded with quote from God’s Word.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . (Eph. 5:25 NIV).

Do you see his point? God’s Word reveals that love is a choice, not a feeling.

Decision. So, maybe—just maybe—we can experience joy and thankfulness as we make the decision to be happy or grateful.

What about writing? Well, I’ve learned that often I really don’t “feel” like writing. And many times I must just do what I don’t “feel” like doing.

Instruction. So, I guess I’ll just repeat the words of a wise writing instructor once again, “JUST WRITE!”

By the way, I hope my confession encourages you today to do whatever you need to do if you’re stuck!

And another thing—be blessed!

What strategy helps you when you don’t feel like writing?

Learning new marketing tricks

dog shaking handsI am living proof that even old dogs can learn new tricks.

Except that I’m not a dog and the tricks I’m referring to don’t have to do with “shake” and “roll over.”

As an author who came to the book publishing game in her mid-fifties, I realized I had to embrace the internet and social media marketing if I was going to play in the marketplace. As a result, I’ve read a lot of books over the past few years about online marketing and tried to apply that knowledge. But the book I’m finding the most instructional and helpful is Red Hot Internet Publicity because it gives you simple ideas you can implement easily and see immediate results.

twitter-bird-light-bgs.pngFor instance, I’ve never quite been sure how to leverage my Twitter activity into growing my audience; twice-daily tweets and random retweets of those I follow can only do so much in attracting engagement when you consider the enormity of the Twitter universe and its competing attractions. After taking just one tip from RHIP – participating in a group chat sponsored by one of my influential Twitter contacts – I picked up five new followers and at least one immediate book order. “Gee, this really works!” I thought. (Well, duh – the book’s title is Red Hot Internet Publicity, not Mediocre Marketing Online.) As a result, I’m now devoting effort to finding chats EVERY DAY hosted by key influencers in my book topic areas and being sure to participate with tweets and retweets. Yes, I know – it’s called a social network, and that means you’re supposed to be interacting with others, but somehow, actually “chatting” online had seemed a waste of time. No more.

facebook_circle_color-128Likewise, thanks to the book’s advice, I’m streamlining my Facebook involvement to make my time on it more productive. Sure, I’d read before that you need to have your marketing message in front of you every time you post, but I’d gotten lazy. After reviewing my message and tightening its focus (another recommendation from the book), I’ve been more vigilant about making EVERY post count with a comment that somehow reflects that message. The result has already yielded me new followers on my author page at Birder Murder Mama, which had stalled out in the last three months.

Those are just two of the ideas that have already made a difference for me in internet marketing. Being the perennial student that I am, I made a list from each chapter in RHIP of items to try out. Fortunately, I’m gearing up for a book release in May, so the timing to fire up my social media marketing is perfect, and I’m finding lots of opportunities to practice what I’m learning. And that – immediate practice of what I’m learning – is key. Too often, my ideas sit in a file for that magic “sometime” when I’ll get to it. But thanks to the simple presentation of RHIP, AND the timely suggestion from my agent to download and read this new book, my magic “sometime” is right now.

I guess my new trick is “shake” after all – shake up your marketing and see what happens!

Finding Your Voice as a Writer

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Speaking with a Microphone

At a writer’s conference or in an exchange with your literary agent, you might hear the admonition to find your voice as a writer. You will quickly recognize that locating this important item is the key to defining yourself as a professional writer, launching a successful writing career, and attracting readers.

As you seek to differentiate yourself from other writers and find your own style, your voice might feel elusive. Unsure of how to proceed, you may be tempted to echo the style of your favorite author, or try on a variety of writing styles in an attempt to find the best fit for you. However, your voice is an extension of who you are as a person. To a certain extent, your voice finds you as much as you find your voice. Consider how your voice as a writer arises naturally from your unique perspective, your particular audience, and your principal message.

1. Your unique perspective: Every writer brings a special blend of skills, life experience and creative ideas to each writing task. If a group of five writers sat around a table working on an article for a magazine using the same requirements and editorial guidance, I would expect five very different finished articles to emerge. For example, a writer with a science background might take a logical, structured approach to a subject, where a writer with a theatrical background might add more emotion. A writer who spent many years teaching history at the college level would probably include background material to give a historical context to the subject matter.

2. Your particular audience: A novice writer might dream of his or her words reaching a wide general audience, such as anyone passing by the best-selling books display in a Barnes & Noble store. However, most writers appeal to a certain segment of the book-reading population, often to people who are similar to the writer. A naturalist will likely attract readers who love spending time outdoors. Beyond simply thinking about the marketing of your books, think about who you are most likely to influence with your work. Will your writing reach young parents, new retirees, or college students? Is your writing complex or easily accessible? As a Christian writer, are you writing for someone new to the faith or a lifelong believer? Once you understand your particular audience, you can choose words and illustrations most effective for your readers, thus defining an aspect of your writing voice.

3. Your principal message: At the intersection of your passion and your experience, your principal message develops. You will feel most fulfilled as a writer when you write about topics that matter the most to you. Your readers, in turn, will sense your interest and excitement. You will produce your highest quality work when you write in your area of expertise. When writing articles for publications to augment your work as an author, try to choose topics that complement the messages that readers take away from your books. This focus will help you build a loyal base of readers and maintain a consistent writing voice.

What has helped you find your voice as a writer?

 

Take it with you when you go

moving dayMy husband retired from his job last December in Minnesota , and within a month, we were unpacking our worldly goods in our new home in Texas. Having relied heavily on my local readership for growing my book authoring career, I was faced with a choice: retire from my own career as a writer, or start it all over again in a new place.

Actually, there was no choice for me: since I can’t NOT write, here I am, back at square one. Except that this time around, I have eight years of experience and a track record as a published author behind me as I begin to cultivate my new area; my task is more transplanting than seeding. For any of you facing a geographic move, here are some of the positive and negative aspects of taking your authoring with you:

A fresh audience!

Positive: You have a fresh audience, which forces you to remember why you write, why you’re excited about what you write, and how what you do can serve readers in your new community. It’s a wonderful opportunity to look at your work from new angles and refresh your own enthusiasm for what you do. And with books already in print, you have product ready to promote in your new area – no waiting around for publication to happen – yet you can re-use the promotional tools you used the first time around, saving you the time and effort of developing new marketing strategies.

Negative: You have a fresh audience, which means you have to start over making connections with bookstores and other venues. Back to phone calls and building relationships (sigh).

A track record as an author!

Positive: You’ve got a track record as an author! Yes, you’re making phone calls, but you’re going to get farther faster in booking events because you’re a proven entity. Your past experience makes you smarter about ways to reach decision makers, adding to your credibility as a published author with new contacts. Since this is your second time around, you won’t waste money and time on the ideas that didn’t work when you were just starting your authoring career.

Negative: You have to put the time in again on building key relationships.

New sales!

Positive: You have a new geographic market to add to your original readership, potentially doubling sales for both old books and anything new to come. Just because you’re no longer physically available doesn’t mean your loyal readers from your old location will abandon your future releases – those fans need to be kept in the loop as you move forward, so be sure to continue communications with them (Facebook, author newsletter, etc.).

Negative: You will lose some readers who only enjoy local authors. Hopefully, though, the gains in your new area will outweigh the lost readers.

Can you add to these experiences/insights of taking your authoring career into new territory?

2 Important Questions for Writers and Speakers

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Sometimes you have to shove all the surface stuff to the side in order to see what’s underneath. (Beth Moore)

What do I have to say?

Several years ago, in a workshop for Christian Leaders and Speakers (CLASS), Christian communicator and author, Florence Littauer, taught us to ask ourselves two questions before standing in front of an audience to speak:

  1. Do I have anything to say?
  2. Do people need to hear it?

So, I ask myself that question every time I prepare to stand before an audience—whether it’s a group of writers, a church group, or class of college students.

As a writer and a writing instructor, I recognize the need for people to tell their stories. And I’ve seen lives change as they listen to other people share their life lessons, especially their faith stories. Passing along our faith and family stories also help us make sense of some of the crucial issues that we face in life.

As a women’s Bible study teacher, I know the importance of sharing personal stories with other women, particularly in a mentoring or discipleship relationship.

But as a mother and grandmother, I also know the importance of sharing my stories with my children and grandchildren. My stories are my legacy to the next generation.

I believe in the power of story! And I love to encourage and instruct other people how to communicate their faith and family stories.

So, I want to ask you those same questions that Florence asked us at one of my first CLASSeminars.

  1. Do YOU have anything to say?
  2. Do people need to hear it?

“Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation” (Matt. 12:37 The Message).

What questions do you ask yourself as you prepare to speak or write?

The Importance of Dreaming

Ever feel like your writing time has slipped into a series of tasks you are struggling to check off?

1500 hundred words and counting? Check.
Edits? Check.
Social media graphics for the week? Check.
Blog posts written and turned in? Check.
Responded to readers and answered emails? Check.
Laundry, grocery shopping, life things? Maybe check. Kinda.
Maintain sanity? In process.

If we aren’t careful our writing routine turns into a list that can drain our creativity and make us forget why we are writing. I am the queen of time management and boundaries. I have to be in order to prioritize and get things done. But sometimes in the midst of trying to be disciplined and organized, I miss out on the creativity that comes with dreaming. I actually plan time to dream. It’s vitally important to the rest of my list.

Dream a little bigger

Dreaming rejuvenates me.
One of my favorite questions to ask when it comes to writing is “what if.” What if my characters decided to do something totally unexpected? What if my villain surprises everyone? What if I create a setting that puts a unique spin on a scene? What if I created a character that absolutely fascinated my reader? Then how do I do all this?

“What if” is a powerful question, one I don’t ask nearly enough. But when I do, my writing sings more than normal and my creative juices flow.

I also like to story board. I may love words, but I am attracted to powerful visuals. It’s fun to create the scene and cast my characters by scouring the internet for photos that jog my creativity in a greater way. I pin them on a corkboard so that I can see and move them to help craft the story. This helps dream about possibilities. Possibilities are endless in our writing. We just have to seize them.

Dreaming rejuvenates the story.
I like to set a timer and see how many words I can spill on the page before time runs out, but occasionally this depletes my creativity instead of inspiring it. However, when I take time to dream before I start writing, even if I just spend fifteen minutes on a writing prompt, my writing carries a different kind of power and creativity. When I race the timer, my story has quality and quantity. My characters are also deeper and my settings more vivid.

Dreaming rejuvenates the reader.
Letting readers into my brainstorming and dreaming is fun to share with readers. This makes great social media content to excite them and help them invest in the story before they ever hold it in their hands. Inviting them into the dreaming helps them feel like part of the team and part of the journey. If you do this, be prepared to write faster to satisfy their growing curiosity.

Tasks and deadlines are part of writing, but dreaming and enjoying the writing…that’s the most vital part of the journey, for it informs everything else. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stuck, grab a pen and fun notepad, and don’t be afraid to dream a little, darling. I have a feeling you will like the results.

Advice from the Experts

I love browsing around writing boards on Pinterest with words from the literary experts. When I’m feeling discouraged, I find short, pithy quotes that remind me what my meandering plot is missing or quotes that encourage me to stay the course even when things aren’t going as well as I’d like. In any case, to start off the new year, here are a few I’d like to share with you.

Experts

You can’t use up the creativity. The more you use, the more you have. – Maya Angelou

A story is a letter that an author writes to himself, to tell himself things he would be unable to discover otherwise. – Carlos Ruiz Záfon

I can fix a bad page, but I can’t fix a blank one. – Nora Roberts

The difference in winning and losing is most often in not quitting. – Walt Disney

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles. – Shannon Hale

Love the writing, love the writing, love the writing. The rest will follow. – Jane Yolen

The key, the crux of the whole matter, is to FINISH YOUR MANUSCRIPT. You must learn to see this as the goal. Not the perfect word or the polished paragraph. A finished text. – Davis Bunn

The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying on the road. – Richard Price

When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make sure their character wants something right away, even it’s only a glass of water. – Kurt Vonnegut

When in doubt, make trouble for your character. Don’t let her stand on the edge of the pool, dipping her toe. Come up behind her and give her a good hard shove. – Janet Fitch

Novels are forged in passion, demand fidelity and commitment, often drive you to boredom or rage, sleep with you at night. They are the long haul. They are marriage. – David Leavitt

Be yourself and readers will follow you anywhere. Try to commit an act of writing and they will jump overboard to get away. – William Zinsser

Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes,  getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other, until finally there’s an explosion – that’s plot. – Leigh Brackett

Write even when the world is chaotic. You don’t need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes and a writing implement. – Cory Doctorow

Dialogue is action. It’s not characters making talk. A character’s words are tools he uses to get his way in a scene. – James Scott Bell

Write a little bit each day. One page a day means 365 pages in a year. – Francine Rivers

One should be able to return to the first sentence of a novel and find the resonance of the entire work. – Gloria Naylor

If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. –Toni Morrison

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. – Ray Bradbury