Inspiration for Reluctant Writers
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Read and Write and Read and Write . . .

Oh, what truth lies in this one sentence. Reading and writing are inextricably intertwined. A non-reader will never be a writer. It's just not possible. Reading voraciously, widely, and attentively (My apologies to Steven King for the use of adverbs.) expands a potential writer's vocabulary and his or her understanding of useful literary devices, sparks ideas for creating compelling sentences, and oh, so much more! If you refuse to read, you will not write, at least not well. It's just that simple. Read the classics, read modern work, read fiction, read nonfiction, history, biography, comics. Read everything you can get your hands on. You'll be surprised what you learn in the most unexpected

Failure Is Not Defeat

Every creative person takes a huge risk each time he or she pulls work out of the safe dark recesses of the studio and displays it in the light for all to see. We put our deepest thoughts -- and the secrets of our hearts out there for the whole world to judge. Perhaps our work will be understood, praised, and accepted, or, perhaps, it will be misunderstood, ridiculed, and rejected. We never know for sure until we try. Keep in mind, Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, endured 27 rejections of his first book before Vanguard finally agreed to publish it. That proves that only one thing is certain, we can't succeed if we don't free ourselves from the fear of failure and plunge headl

That's Original!

When I was a teenager contemplating my future, I considered becoming a concert pianist. I couldn't think of anything else that would bring me such joy. It had never occurred to me that I could write for a living. I brought my idea up to my wonderful and lovingly honest piano teacher. Her response? "It takes three things to be a concert pianist: passion for the music - you have that; tremendous discipline - you have that; and amazing natural talent - you don't have that." You might think that her words crushed me. They didn't. Because of her proven care for me, I knew she was right, and I moved on to other career choices, landing on communications and eventually zeroing in on writing. I wasn'

Writing IS a Real Job

I love talking to various people about writing as a career. The misconceptions I hear often make me smile. When I say I'm a writer, many assume I must have at least a few published books on the bookstore shelves. (I don't.) Or, they think it is not a "real" job but a hobby that anyone who wants to can successfully pick up in their spare time. (It's not.) If they only knew! Though it's not unusual for writers to have to take other jobs in order to pay the bills and keep food on the table, we consider writing our only real work. My dad (known by most as Pop) had a great saying: "Support your passion until your passion can support you," wisdom he'd learned from experience. Do whatever you have

Let Your Light Shine

Each of us has a spark that, when cultivated, can inspire and benefit others. No matter whether you are in your "right mind" like me (though some might argue that point) and possess an artistic brain with almost no ability to grasp science and math or if you are predominantly left-brain or are a more balanced thinker, you have a creativity that can be nurtured to disrupt the status-quo in your field. Now, more than ever before, companies are seeking employees willing to think creatively and take bold risks. Don't make the mistake of thinking you're not that type of thinker. Anyone can be that type of thinker if you free yourself from the confines of what is currently accepted as "the right"

The World in a Grain of Sand

Why do some see so much while most see so little? It's a matter of training ourselves to be aware. William Blake happens to be one of my favorite poets, and one of my favorite quotes of his reads, "To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour." As sentient creatures, we have the ability to appreciate the awe-inspiring creativity found in a single grain of sand or snowflake or wild flower or bird feather. We can be chilled to the core by the sound of a coyote's howl or thrilled by the virtuosity of a cellist or spurred to spontaneous, uncontrollable outbursts by a baby's belly laugh. Or, we can be so preoccup

"I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means"

Inigo Montoya's words to Vizzini drive home Munro's point. The story we think we are telling is often not the whole story, and the whole story and its meaning are what every writer must aspire to discover. Anecdotes spice up conversation, help to drive home a point, and, often, comprise good jokes. However, they do not make for good reading, because they are almost always just the visible piece of the iceberg. Writers must dive in, daring to tread the icy waters to find the whole picture. Often, when the whole story is clear, the anecdote takes on a drastically different meaning, and we see that it did not mean what we thought it meant. Writers who face the unknown to find the story at which


Remember the old adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? How wrong this particular piece of old "wisdom" is! Words can hurt. Words DO hurt. Sometimes, words hurt more than any physical attack, for they can wound us to our core and suck the life from our spirit. According to my research, this is a bastardization of the original and, in context, it changes the meaning dramatically, which illustrates Hawthorne's point perfectly. Words are just words. Like a knife is just a knife; how it's used is what makes the difference. As a knife can be used to slice a juicy steak, so it can be used to stab someone through the heart. In the same way, words can be used to

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Just as Dorothy and her compatriots experienced fear every step of the way on the yellow brick road as they strode arm in arm toward the Emerald City, so every writer worth his salt is terrified every time he sits down to write. As Hemingway put it, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." Writing is hard, painful, and frightening work. We make our hearts and souls vulnerable every time we commit a sentence to paper. We know, in the end all our ideas and thoughts, our sentences so carefully crafted will be out there for all the world to read . . . and criticize. Our work and, by extension, our selves will be judged. It's why writers are such great proc

Write, Rewrite. Repeat as Necessary

Ain't that the truth? Sometimes, I've written what I think is a brilliant article. Then, I read it and my heart sinks. Not brilliant but dull as all get-out. *sigh* Time for a rewrite. And, even if the first draft was pretty good, it can always be better and, usually, a LOT better. I have learned that editing and rewriting are just as important as the original story for the story to shine in all it's potential splendor. I've also learned that, even though I also work as an editor, I need another editor to look at my work for me. Fresh eyes and a virginal read can point out flaws in the story line, sentences that can be taken in a way I didn't intend, subject/verb agreement can be off, you na

Sounds Like . . .

We are bombarded by sound almost constantly, especially if living in a large city. Cars, sirens, people talking and yelling. When working in an office, there is the background noise of constant conversation and the cacophony of phones ringing and computer keys clacking. If at home, it may be the insistent cries of a baby, children fighting, or the constant clamor of the TV. Lawn mowers and leaf blowers disturb quiet communities. Sometimes, we have to just shut it out in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed and distracted by relentless, often unwelcome sound. And, then, it becomes habit. We stop listening. And then, we lose the ability to separate out the threads of beauty in the tapestry of s

"I Vant to Be Alone"

I've found this to be true of most creative people. We crave solitude. Why? I believe it's because we need time to be alone and quiet with our thoughts. Alone time feeds our spirits, because it gives us time to contemplate. We spend a lot of time trying to understand other people, ourselves, events, and work out how to deal with them. We also need that time to give our creative side a voice, to determine the best way to write, draw, paint, sing, compose, or choreograph our thoughts and feelings into art. It takes uninterrupted time, concentration, and focus to create, and our spirits begin to wither without it. We must abandon the crowds, the chatter, the laughter, and fun, sometimes, for ou

No One's Getting Out of This Alive!

Sounds hopeless, doesn't it? Lamott is right, though, we are all going to die, and we'll have struggles in between. Who wants to read a novel that only reminds us of grim reality? Unless . . . unless that book shows us how to live in the face of the grim reality. And, I don't mean merely survive, I mean dance in the hospital gown with your butt hangin' out; bling out the body cast; put baseball cards on the wheels of your wheelchair; tattoo your bald head kind of living. Now, I admit, some of those are a little out there, but I used hyperbole to point out there are ways to do more than just survive in the face of adversity, and that's what Lamott is talking about. Use your characters to insp

Who Am I?

Some of us remember the days when individuals "ran away" to parts unknown free of jobs, commitments, and all other encumbrances that might get in the way. The reasoning behind this behavior? To find oneself. While I don't believe that abandoning responsibility to discover one's true self is necessary, I do agree with Rushdie that it is critical to writing with authenticity. Think of the pre-teens with the mature voices singing about the pangs and heartache of love. They know nothing about the subject, and it shows in their interpretation or lack thereof. Experience is a great teacher, and pain brings out our truest being. While not fun, we find out what is in our core being, we learn the qua

The Wise Man and the Common Man

In my humble, questionably wise opinion, I think Aristotle was onto something. Writing thoughtfully can, sometimes, allow us to do more than entertain or even merely educate our readers. We have the opportunity to inspire, to cause them to think beyond their normal everyday realm, to open new doors of possibility, and of reality. We can introduce readers to the wider world that exists beyond their own sphere. That's the thinking like a wise person part. Then, we have to find a way to write what we've learned in a way that is not pedantic, but reader-friendly. Friends often tell me they enjoy getting letters from me, because I write as I talk, so they feel like I'm sitting in the room, chatti

I'll Have a Short One

I read this and thought what a "novel" idea. *groan* Sorry. Bad jokes are my specialty. Actually, I was a bit surprised to read this. This idea influenced me to get back into writing for magazines. While not exactly short stories, it works well for me as a nonfiction writer. I agree with Niven. Having to keep the story (or article) short and to the point. For me, having to tell the story in 2,000 words instead of 75,000 is a challenge and an excellent exercise in beginning well and choosing precise words that lead the reader to the heart of the story. It teaches us to avoid "going down rabbit trails when we should be hunting bear" as my brother-in-law likes to say.

Discipline Is the Key!

Discipline. I think I heard somewhere that it's a bad word not to be used in polite society or by children under the age of 45. Anyway, the Messrs. Merriam and Webster write that discipline is "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character." Well, alrighty, then, maybe this is a concept I should become more familiar with. Joking aside, I do find that the more I write, the better I get and the more frequently the muse seems to sit on my shoulder. The ideas come more readily; the stories flow with greater fluidity. There are times, though, when due to stress or exhaustion, I simply cannot sit down and work on a chapter of one of my books. On those days, I m

Don't Forget the Bang

First, who names a kid Wadsworth? I mean, come on, the teasing he must have gotten. I don't know; I haven't done the research, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that it must have been a family name. But still. My grandmother is a Rahmoeller. You won't find THAT in either of my kids' names! Just sayin'. As writers, we have a plethora of resources available to us dealing with how to begin our books or short stories, our articles and essays, but just how often do we see books dealing with how to end our stories? There are plenty of articles if you search them out, but we seem to be most concerned with the beginning. I get it. After all, if you don't grab a reader at the beginning, the

Why Bother?

Writers often wonder, "Why bother?" Writing is SO hard. It requires discipline, insight into human nature, willingness to bare one's soul, and choosing to put one's labor of love out in the world for total strangers to pass judgement. However, as Mr. Miller points out, "Writing is its own reward." Once the first, and usually bad, draft has been edited, rewritten, and fine tuned, we read our work with satisfaction, and perhaps a bit of surprise, that it's actually worth reading. Even if we never feel completely satisfied with our work, writing is a wonderful catharsis. It helps us gain perspective on our situation, our relationships, and our lives, and THAT is reward enough.

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