I admit it: I hate my life right now. I am feeling overworked, underpaid, and asked to take on more each and every year. Part of it has to do with recent leadership changes where I work. In the last three years, the college I work for has had three different deans. Each leader has his or her own priorities and initiatives, and the faculty and staff are faced with making sure the previous initiatives continue and starting the new ones that the new leader wants to implement. On Tuesday, I will be having a difficult conversation with the Administration, explaining that I need my nights and weekends back and asking what can either be dropped or shifted to someone else.
I am between projects right now. It is a foreign feeling for me. Normally, I race on to something else before finishing my current project, constantly scanning my environment for the next amazing thing to do or activity to try.
This year, I decided to try something different. I set an intention to finish what I start. It is more difficult than I imagined. Now, before starting something, I actually have to commit. No more leaping out of something because I’m stuck, bored or both.
Even though I have been writing and journaling consistently since I was eight years old, I still have problems with writer’s block. Take today, for example. I want to write this post but have been staring at my computer screen for almost an hour, trying to figure out what to write next.
Writer’s block never really goes away, for me anyway, and it can happen for any number of reasons. Typically, I find that writer’s block results from allowing external opinions or circumstances interfere with our writing practice.
This is a lesson I have had to learn over and over again, starting most memorably fifteen years ago when I decided to put writing first after finding inspiration and my voice while completing Julia Cameron’s creative unblocking course The Artist’s Way. The course was a revelation to me, and I got serious about my craft as a fiction writer and poet and applied to MFA programs in creative writing. I didn’t get accepted. I was devastated. I stopped writing for awhile but eventually took a creative writing course at my local community college and found the will to continue.
After working consistently on my craft for another three years, I got accepted to the MFA program at Columbia College in Chicago. I was ecstatic! FINALLY, I was going to earn the terminal degree that told the world I was a writer. The only problem? It didn’t work out.
Okay, I admit it: I am writing this blog post for myself today, just as much as I am writing it for all of you, my lovely audience. Why? Because even though I have made a career out of writing, there are still plenty of days when I doubt my own abilities and talents, and I recognize the need to talk myself back into what I know, based on the hard lessons about writing and life that I need to learn and re-learn.
Sometimes writing is fun, but anyone who writes on a regular basis also knows that it can be difficult, even when we’re excited about our particular writing project.
For me, two of the biggest problems when I’m writing a novel are avoiding boredom and staying focused. The issues are a bit counter intuitive since each requires a different solution. After years if experimenting, I started to pay attention to what specifically worked well for me, and so today I am going to share with you the best tips I know for how to stay focused when writing. Continue reading “5 Tips on How to Stay Focused When Writing a Novel”
As writers and artists, we often make things harder on ourselves than we need to and allow distractions to interfere with our writing and our art. There are, however, legitimate times in our lives when we have serious concerns or matters to attend to that draw our energy and attention away from our creative pursuits. At some point, though, it is important to recognize when we have allowed ourselves to stray too far from creating the work that is in integrity with who we are.
In some ways, I feel like my 30’s were my lost years. By the time I was in my early thirties, I had completed my graduate degree in creative writing and lost my father to cancer. Both events had a profound effect on my writing life for longer than was necessary. In an attempt to clear some current resistance I have with progressing with my novel and help those of you who are encountering similar difficulties, I am, today, sharing my writer’s regrets. Continue reading “One Writer’s Regrets”
There are several humorous scenes in the movie Adaptation in which the lead character, Charlie Kaufman (played by Nicholas Cage), struggles with the screenplay he is attempting to write. Well over his deadline, he attends a seminar by the famed Brian McKee. During the seminar, Kaufman asks a hypothetical question about a writer who wants to write a screenplay in which there are no major character arcs and that they continue on, frustrated. Kaufman adds that he sees this as a reflection of the real world.
The response from McKee, played by Brian Cox, is crushing. McKee, in front of an auditorium full of people, tells Kaufman that he’s out of his mind. That is the start of the rant, which ends with McKee screaming at Kaufman that he doesn’t know anything about life. McKee then lists all the things that happen in the real world: murder, genocide, breaking someone’s heart… and the list goes on.
As a writer, I set very high goals for myself, and perhaps you do, too. I have minimum time commitments or word counts for each of my different kinds of writing every day:
Blogging: 1000 words, 6 days each week
Fiction: 30 minutes – 1 hour daily (I spend more time writing fiction on Saturdays)
Non-fiction: 25 minutes daily, 5 days each week (I try to aim for 800-1200 words for each writing session)
There are times, though, where I cannot keep up with this word count and time commitment, and nothing makes me feel I’ve encountered burnout more than when I’m overwhelmed and can’t keep up with my goals. Eventually, I recognized that I needed to have a process in place that would allow me to recover from burnout more easily, and in this article, I will give some tips to avoid burnout with writing. Continue reading “Tips to Avoid Burnout with Writing”
I am a blogger, novelist, poet, and non-fiction writer. I work on my blogs and my novel-in-progress daily, so on any given day, I will end up writing in at least two of these four formats. On occasion, I’ll take a day off from blogging, but that is rare. There is almost always something that I feel I need to express that will allow me to enjoy new insights or that will help someone.
The novelist, screenwriter, and writing coach Alan Watt says that we ultimately write in order to evolve. I believe this is true as well. Part of my evolution includes creative self-expression and helping other writers and artists by providing advice, insights, and encouragements. Continue reading “Persistence with Writing Pays Off”
My guess is that this does happen to you because it happens to most of us. Despite our best efforts to write or create (if you’re another type of artist) every day, there are times when our routine for writing or creating gets hijacked by work, family, life, or some unforeseen circumstance.
This happened to me yesterday after an AMAZING writing streak. Things were going incredibly well. I exceeded the daily word counts I set for my blog and my nonfiction book. And my novel—you know, the one that I have been struggling with for the past seven years—is practically writing itself.