Everything else, Writing

Blocked.

 

 

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Writers block isn’t real.

It’s just an excuse to be lazy.

Real writers write. Every day.

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard some version of these statements. I’m not sure what the people offering this non-advice hope to achieve, but personally, I think such words are extraordinarily detrimental.

For one thing, nobody gets to tell an artist how to do their art. Some people naturally create more in certain seasons. Some artists work a day job (or two, or three) and only get to be creative on weekends. Or every third Thursday. Some artists are single parents, and the idea of creating on a daily basis is so laughable as to be fiction.

Beyond these things, though, is the harmful notion that a struggling person just isn’t trying hard enough. There are all sorts of reasons a creator might be blocked. Maybe they’ve been ill. Maybe there’s been a death in their family. A divorce. Maybe the season of life they are in has them caring for elderly parents around the clock. Depression. Anxiety. Insomnia. Maybe there’s no reason other than that they need a break, and their brain is trying to get that message through to them.

Real writers write. That’s true. You’ve got to write something. You don’t need to write every day, unless that’s the way you work. Pressing unrealistic expectations on someone already barely keeping their head above water isn’t helpful. Despite the overwhelming amount of advice suggesting writers are machines, meant to work every day, all day, without regard to physical or mental health or other difficult outside factors –

You know what? We’re not.

We’re just people. And sometimes being a person is hard. Sometimes the difficulties in life kill our creativity. That doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. That doesn’t mean we’re no longer writers. It means we’re human beings who need a break. And that’s okay.

Take it. Rest. Go outside. Deal with the things you need to deal with. Read. Learn something new. Spend time with your family. Your friends. Laugh. Cry. Heal.

And come back to it. Your story isn’t going to run away because you left it alone for a little while.

If you aren’t a writer but you know one, and they’ve shared with you that they are blocked, telling them they are making up excuses or being lazy isn’t helpful. Instead, encourage them. Remind them they deserve rest like anyone else.

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Bits and Whatnots, Writing

Helping Indie Authors Without Having to put on Pants

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(this is my indie friends book shelf)

Ways you can help support your favorite authors without washing your hair or wearing pants:

1. If you read their books, leave a review. I know, I know. You keep hearing this. But it is truly such an important thing. And I think sometimes people feel intimidated, as if they maybe don’t know the “right” way to review a book, so they just don’t. But you don’t have to take a How to Write a Book Review class in order to do this. Just go to Goodreads or Amazon, and where it says, “Would you like to leave a review?” click it. Click how many stars you would give the book. If you thought it was a two star book, that is fine. Be honest. Now write two sentences. They don’t have to be long. “I liked this book. It made me laugh.” is a sufficient review. The best part about leaving a review is, you don’t have to put on pants to do it. Nope. If you have read my books, please leave me a review. It would mean so much.

2. Add their books to your “Want to read” shelf on Goodreads.

3. Like reviews of their books on Goodreads or Amazon.

4. Share reviews of their books on social media.

5. Take pictures of their books when you get them and post them. Of course you can. You take pictures of your sleeping dog and your Chinese takeout dinner. You can also take pictures of books!

6. Read their books in public. This one may actually require pants. Sorry.

7. Talk about them. “I read this great book by So and So, I think you’d love it!”

8. Buy their books as birthday and Christmas gifts for your bibliophile friends and family. Books make great gifts, and they are already rectangular so you don’t have to put them in a box to wrap them.

9. Show up at their book signings. Depending on how close you are with the local police department, this one may also require pants.

10. Leave reviews on multiple sites. This does not mean you need to keep rewriting reviews. Just copy and paste. Ten seconds of time.

11. Send a message to your favorite author and tell them they inspire you. Or that they made you mad. Or laugh. Or cry. Tell them their work has touched you somehow. That might just be the day they were thinking about giving up and throwing their laptop out the window.

Bits and Whatnots, Writing

Things I Don’t Owe my Indie Friends.

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I love art.

Especially, I love indie art. I love the spirit behind it, and I love the sassiness of artists breaking off the mainstream, staying true to their visions.

I beta read for friends of mine when I’m able.

I buy indie books, and I’ll be straight with you, I do not have a lot of money. If I get money at Christmas, or for my birthday, I spend it supporting my friends who are indie authors.

I take pictures of their books and post them everywhere, on all my social media.

I add their books to my indie book Pinterest boards.

I shout about them on Twitter.

I review their work on various sites and share the reviews.

I don’t have to do these things, and I know. I know. You didn’t ask me to do it in the first place.

And truly, I expect nothing in return. I really don’t. I don’t expect that you will buy my book because I bought yours, or that you will review mine because I reviewed yours, or anything of the sort. It’s nice if you see it and thank me but it’s certainly not required.

But what I do have an issue with, is this:

Daily messages to ask if I’ve read it yet, if I’ve reviewed it yet. Now? How ’bout now? …now?

I’m doing this to be nice. It is not my job. I’ll be done when I’m done and that is all.

Another thing. If I post a friend’s book and say nice things about it, please do not comment on that post with something like, “Why didn’t you read mine yet?”

Dude. I have LOTS of indie friends. You are not the only one. Comments like that are childish and rude. Wait your turn.

If I’m reading something of yours and you know it, and you’re curious what I think, go ahead and ask me. We’ll talk. That’s fine.

But chronic haranguing, not cool.

I have four kids, and often babysit for family members. I have a regular freelance job with deadlines I must attend to. And, you know…I also write books. I have just come through a difficult holiday season with two family funerals. I’ve got health issues I am dealing with. I am busy with my life and I don’t need to justify that for you.

I won’t stop doing what I’m doing, my little part to support indie artists, especially writers.

I BELIEVE IN YOU. I believe in this movement. I believe in the diversity in art the indie community brings to the table.

I believe in encouraging artists, because we’ve got enough critics already.

But please, do not send me constant, manipulative messages whining about why I haven’t read your book yet. If I said I will do it, I will. If this is done more than a couple of times, I will still read your book but I will move it right down my stack and read it another time, to teach you a lesson about patience.

Instead of the constant focus on yourself, maybe try picking up an indie book by another author, read and review that while you wait for me to finish your book.

Imagine the impact we could have if we all supported one another.

Let’s try it and see what happens.

 

 

 

Bits and Whatnots, Writing

The Writing Machine.

“Be a machine.”

I read a lot of advice for writers that demands this of us. Stick to daily word counts. Be a machine. Write every day. Be a machine. Ignore distractions. Be a machine. Let nothing deter you.

This is great advice. If you are, in fact, a machine.

But I’m not a machine. I’m a person.

Writing is a job, sure. Like any other job, if you want to make headway, you’ve got to be committed.

And like any other job, you have to balance time. You might turn out more work if you’re a machine, but do we really want to just churn out work at the risk of missing out on other important life events?

It’s so easy for me to withdraw. So easy for me to not return calls, not answer the door, not make plans outside of my writing schedule.

It would be easy for me to drop off the face of the planet, just stay in my house and write, write, write. I like to be alone, typing away. Sometimes I think I like it too much.

I could stay inside and write forever. Rarely leave. I could churn out book after book after book. The ideas are there. The movies of future manuscripts play like a loop in my mind, over and over. Because of this, sometimes I forget.

I forget the fragile beauty of late autumn leaves.

I forget how wet concrete feels beneath bare feet.

I forget about the wind.

I forget my kids will never be this exact age again. Of course there is always tomorrow – but tomorrow they will be one day older.

I forget to have real conversations with my husband, conversations that don’t involve me talking while typing.

I forget to call and check in on my mom.

I forget to nurture friendships.

I forget I’m not a machine.

I’m a human being who is a writer. I need to stop and take breaks. How sad would it be if I died tomorrow, and my last significant touch was that of a keyboard?

Stop.

Stop, play with the baby. Look into her eyes.

Stop.

Hold my husband’s hand.

Listen with full mind about my son’s day at school.

Stop.

Go outside. Touch the leaves. Feel the raindrops.

Stop. Remember. Feel.

We aren’t created to be machines.

Bits and Whatnots, Writing

Help me help others.

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I love buying indie books.

When I hold them in my hands, it’s almost as if I can feel a piece of the author’s strength.

Writing a book is hard. Publishing a book, well, that takes a particular sort of strength.

It’s more than hard work. It’s taking your raw soul and sticking it out on the front porch, where passerby might point and laugh at it.

There’s always that risk. And here’s the thing: we are aware of that risk before we hit the publish button.

We do it anyway.

We do it because for the 99 people who might point and laugh, there is one who doesn’t.

For that one reader, we might build a connection. That connection is worth it. It’s worth it to me.

It’s worth it for so many other indie and small press authors I know.

I love weird art. I love attending craft fairs and coming across some tiny booth with a nervous artist who isn’t sure of themselves. They’ve toiled for months over their idea, struggling, failing, trying again.

They’ve loved their weird little idea so much, they’ve stayed up past midnight, long after the kids are in bed, knowing they’ve got to be up early for work. They’ve sacrificed money and valuable time and brought their art to a craft show or Ren Faire or Farmer’s Market, and they stand there, shifting around, hoping someone will stop by and notice their pieces.

These are the people I try to support. If I’ve got a choice between supporting Wally World and their cheap, mass-produced items or purchasing a creation born of love and independent spirit, I’m going to choose the struggling artist every time.

I rather desperately want a yarn bowl. I know a girl taking classes, learning to make vases and cups. Her skill set isn’t yet at a place where she can make me what I want, so I will wait. It might be another year or two. I would rather purchase a unique yarn bowl from someone I know.

I love imperfect art. When one edge is a little lopsided, that’s the one I choose. And I love to get to know other artists and have the opportunity to watch their art improve over time, to watch that spark of joy in their eyes when they’ve almost made their vision into reality.

I work so hard to help support other artists because I understand that feeling of having this great idea inside and desperately itching to make that idea into something tangible. When an artist finds their perfect niche, it’s an amazing thing to watch. The focus, the sacrifice, an artist is willing to make to see their idea come to fruition.

When I make a profit selling my books, I try always to take a portion (sometimes it’s a very small portion) and feed that back into the indie community. Because I love to read and write, I very often use that money to buy indie and small press books. By supporting indie and small press authors, I’m also helping to support their editors, cover artists, and formatters. It helps all of these people get the opportunity to make more art.

Or I might buy a single from a new indie band. (FYI, check out Deadman Fall.) Or a crooked piece of jewelry from a new crafter.

Sometimes, I pay my bills and take care of my household and there is no extra money to do this. But I still want to be supportive. So I write reviews for indie and small press books and post them on multiple sites. I share those reviews on Twitter and Facebook. I add books to my Pinterest book boards. I shout on social media about indie books and indie music that I love. I share artist’s pages and websites. These things cost me nothing but time, and I’m willing to stay up a little later, or get up a little early, to make the time to do it.

Most of my readers have followed me for a little while now, and if you’ve read much of anything on this blog before, you know I’m the parent of children who live with chronic illness. Medical appointments are frequent, the hospital is a long drive, and insurance doesn’t always cover the cost of medication. If you’ve followed me anytime within the last year or so, you probably also know that I was injured at the last job I had. Combined, these circumstances make it difficult for me to work at a “regular” job.

I write. A lot. I’m trying to get my work out there. I need help to do that.

I don’t have a big name, or extra money to spend on promotion. I have this little blog, and social media, and the wonderful people who take the time to purchase my work and read and review it.

I have you. I can’t fully express how grateful I am for the people who take the time to read this little unfancy blog in its tiny corner of the Internet. You follow me on social media and share my work. Thank you. You add me on Goodreads. Thank you. You tell your friends about my books.

THANK YOU.

Because of you, my lights are still on and there is watermelon in my fridge. Because of you, the dogs’ kibble dish is full and my kids aren’t going hungry. Because of you, I have gas in my tank to get to doctor appointments.

Some of you guys I don’t even know, but you keep showing me support. You rock.

I can’t afford big giveaways or promotional stunts. Money around here is tight and my wallet has eleven cents in it.

I can’t pay people to shout about my work.

What I’ve got is one indie book and one book I signed with a small press to publish.

What I’ve got is a sincere desire to help support other indie artists.

What I need is help.

When you choose to help support me and my writing, you are helping more than just me. You are helping my family. You are helping the editors, cover artists, and formatters.

You are helping me help support other artists.

As long as I am making money on my books, I will take a portion and use it to support some form of art.

If you follow me on social media, you will often see me take pictures of myself holding up indie and small press books I’ve bought. Authors don’t ask me to do this. I do it because I believe in supporting creative people who are brave enough to put their work out there. (Incidentally, I LOVE when people post pictures of themselves holding up one of my books and tag  me. It makes me smile the entire day. Thank you.)

I promise to continue putting my money back into the indie community.

Will you help me help others? Will you check out my books, and buy them if you are able? If not, will you share my writing on social media? Will you help me keep making art, and supporting others who do?

I would so appreciate it if you would.

Thanks. You guys rock.

Bits and Whatnots, Writing

My brain, on writing.

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Type, type, type, type. Does that need a semicolon? I think a period would be better. No. Yes. Maybe. Definitely a semicolon. Definitely a period. No. Wait. Was, or were? Was. Definitely was. Unless…no, it’s definitely was. Don’t forget, kid gets out of school early today. Don’t forget. I should write that down. Gimme the beat boys, and free my soul, I wanna get lost in the rock and roll and drift away…wait. What? Focus. Type, type, type. That was terrible. Backspace. Type, type, type. Much better. I think. I should read the entire chapter again, just to make sure. Scroll, scroll, scroll. I should turn on the TV, just for background noise. Oh, the dogs need to go out.  >takes dogs out< Type, type, type. I should erase this entire chapter. And THEN! I could…no, no, no. I need this chapter, so the thing can happen. Unless…I change the thing to later…type, type, type. Delete. Type, type, type. Oh, look! Pirates of the Caribbean is on! I should change the channel, I know I’ll get distracted.  And you, my brown eyed girl, do you remember when, we used to sing, shalalalalalalaladedah. Focus. Focus. Where was I? Oh, getting the dogs food. No wait. Didn’t I do that already this morning. >looks at dogs< >dogs look mournfully back< I can’t remember. Better feed them again. >feeds dogs< Type, type, type. OH MY GOD! I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before! It’s brilliant! Typetypetypetypetypetypetypetypetypetype. Oh, Jack, you scallywag! How many days left until Ren Fest opens? I should check. I need time to finish that new pirate outfit…What time is it? Don’t forget. Kid gets out of school early today. Take ham out for dinner. Didn’t I? I thought I already took it out. No, I don’t think I did. >checks for ham. Still in freezer< Oh! New idea for another book. I should write this down. No wait, I’ll remember. I could just open another doc and start…no. Finish this one. You’re so close! Well, I’m close unless I delete this chapter. Oh, God! DID I delete that chapter? Scroll, scroll, scroll. Whew. I didn’t. Type, type, type. I wonder if the Kid Rock concert is sold out yet. We were trying funny things, we were smoking funny things, making love out by the lake to our favorite song, Drinking whiskey out the bottle, not thinking ‘bout tomorrow, singing sweet home Alabama, all summer long. >realizes self is half standing, air drumming on desk. Stops< Focus. I know some writers knock out five thousand words a day. I struggle to hit two thousand. I suck as a writer. I should quit. Type, type, type. Too depressing. Delete. Type, type, type. Too cheerful. Delete. Wait. Doesn’t this guy have green eyes? Type, type, type. Don’t forget, kid gets out early today. I should write that down. Type, type, type. This is good, I love including symbolism. Is it too far of a reach, though? Will people get it? I should make it clearer. Now it’s too dumbed down. Make it something they have to think on for a minute. No, that’s too hard. Type, type, type. Now it’s too damn obvious. Soulshine, it’s better than sunshine, better than moonshine, damn sure better than rain. Will anyone catch that nod to Captain Jack Sparrow? Well, I know it’s there, and it’s damn funny. Did I ever take that ham out? Yes. Did I? Did I ever change that semicolon? Yes. No. Yes. I’m sure I did. Type, type, type. Oh, the dogs need to go out. >takes dogs out< I wonder if Adderall would help my word production. I should ask the doctor. Do I really have trouble focusing, or am I just lazy? Try harder. Type, type, type. Delete. Type, type, type. You, shook me allllllllll night long, yeah you….Focus. Type, type, type. Phone rings.

Kid: MOOOOOM! You forgot to pick me up early!