"Simple Song" - The Shins
Love’s such a delicate thing that we do with nothing to prove,
which I never knew.
"Simple Song" - The Shins
Love’s such a delicate thing that we do with nothing to prove,
which I never knew.
"The Ice Is Getting Thinner" - Death Cab For Cutie
"When I’m Small" - Phantogram
"Pink Rabbits" - The National
"Breakers" - Local Natives
Waiting for my words to catch like I’m trying
to strike a match that’s soaking wet.
Procrastination is one of a writer’s worst enemies just behind (because it came in late) distraction, second-guessing, a persistent text messaging friend, when Netflix decides to finally add the new season of your favorite TV show’s episodes you’ve been waiting on for months, seeing what Grumpy Cat is bashing today, a chocolate craving, and a myriad of other postponers.
Whether it’s your plot that’s holding you back, or your main character’s backstory you have been avoiding, this list may be able to help. No, no, read it now. Not later.
1. Figure out what your issue is, and be open to solving it.
Why is writing so hard? Why do you procrastinate? These questions can have so many different answers. One may be the total fear that whatever you do write will be garbage. That’s an unfair fear because what comes out is most likely going to be garbage the first time. And the second time. Or however many times it takes before you feel that it is better. This is called being a writer. Writers must practice their craft just like a doctor practices grueling surgeries. Maybe fear isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s that you don’t think you have any good ideas for stories. Untrue. You are worthy of the title writer as long as you work on it. Figure out what’s holding you back and address it head on. You may not be able to solve the problem immediately, but knowing what that problem is will open the door for you to move forward.
2. If you’re just beginning, don’t have a “writing time” set in stone.
This may seem like backward advice. Don’t you need to discipline yourself to spend time each day writing if you want to get anything done? Absolutely. But imposing on yourself a set time in which you must force the creative juices to flow isn’t the way to do it.
Setting a definite writing time might make you feel pressured to be wonderfully impressive right now, and you may find this to be a reason to run scared from your computer. This may seem silly, but it is a reality for many writers. If you can set a goal for a certain time each day and hold yourself to it then stick with it. That is an accomplishment in and of itself. On the other hand, if you find yourself experiencing the shame spiral that comes when blowing off your goals proves to be too much, and your writing begins to suffer for longer periods of time as you try to cope with feeling like a failure, you are not alone.
It’s beneficial to aim to write each day. All writers should have this goal. But don’t think that because you didn’t spit out 10 pages before lunch that your day is blown. Write when you can. Write when you feel creative. After allowing yourself this valuable freedom, you should begin to see less pressure in your daily writing, and you may find it quickly becoming easier to accomplish each day without need for strict schedules.
3. Create a soundtrack.
If you’re a music lover, maybe push this tip up to the number one spot. Consider creating a playlist specifically with your creative writing in mind. Don’t worry about looking silly when you tack on “Official Soundtrack” to the playlist’s name. This is an especially beneficial idea if you want your writing to become a movie one day.
Even if you’re not interested in seeing your work on the big screen, music can help set the tone for what you’re writing. A sensual scene can benefit from some Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey, TV On The Radio, and Alt-J. If your characters are feeling quirky, consider an old classic from The Clash or The Perishers. When action is building and things are getting suspenseful, see what the bands Tool or Purity Ring can do for you. Find songs that create emotional responses within yourself, and use that emotion to drive your writing.
4. Surround yourself with writers.
Having fellow writer friends may seem frustrating at times. If you have some, you may find yourself listening to what they are currently working on, and those writers will, no doubt, be moving forward on about ten different projects each when you have hit a lull. This can be beneficial for several reasons. Writers are competitive, and they need other writers in their lives to pull them along when the writing well runs dry. Writers benefit greatly from having other writers to talk to. To find encouragement from. Sometimes it will be your writer friends that drive you insane the most with their critiques or suggestions. That’s what they are there for. If you don’t have any writer friends add finding some to the list.
5. Make your writing available to others.
No, you don’t need to wait until everything is done. Bits and pieces shared with friends, family, Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere on the blogosphere can be amazing sources of inspiration. Just be aware of who you are sharing your work with. You don’t even have to share full stories, poems, whatever. Just write something that means anything to you, and let others see it. Definitely start a blog. Show others what you’re passionate about. You get yourself out there and continue to improve your writing skills by keeping them in use every day. It’s a two for one.
6. Submerge yourself in what interests you.
Read the styles that you want to write. Watch the kinds of movies or TV shows that captivate you because they are amazing motivators as well. Okay, so most motivating lists will tell you this and for good reason. Don’t read the classics if you’re not interested in them. Don’t read what everyone else is reading if the content doesn’t interest you. Search until you find a story, a style of writing, that grabs your heart and squeezes it until you have absolutely no choice but to take to the blank page. Find something that makes you say to yourself, “I have to be able to make someone else feel the way I do right now. I just have to.” Whatever grabs your attention, let it. Use it to motivate you to do the same for others.
7. Be proud of even the tiniest step forward.
Came up with a name for your main character? Awesome. Stared at the screen for an hour and wrote a paragraph? Fantastic. No, this isn’t sarcasm. It doesn’t matter how little you think you actually produced in a day. Every step forward is important. Stories, both fiction and nonfiction, poetry, anything—they are all made of tiny stepping stones, and without one to connect to the other, our writing falls flat. Celebrate. Every. Single. Word.
8. Don’t sweat the setbacks.
Most the time that’s not what they are anyway. Maybe you have experienced this: You wrote 20 pages over some amount of time, read it all at once and found gaps in logic, inconsistencies, and what you have deemed is total crap that no one would want to read. So what? You wrote it. You’re a writer. Ideas and stories evolve over time and over drafts. You may think to yourself, “Oh, four-letter-word. I’m going to have to write all of this again. It’s just no good.” Go ahead and do it without fear. Make edits. You will see plot, characterization, and action that you didn’t see before. You just have to be open to it. Setbacks make beautiful stories, so don’t let them scare you away from your own writing. Did you decide the name that took you all day to create for your main character was completely awful? No problem.You will make it better.
Let’s face it, writing can be tough. You may try to make your writing perfect the first go-round. You may set lofty goals. Then you Ping-Pong—This is good! This is absolutely embarrassing. Who would read this? And on it goes. But it’s such an amazing, almost impossible to put into words (err—that could be a problem) feeling when you get something down on the page and are able to stand back and look at what you have created. If you find yourself in a situation where procrastination seems to be your only friend, consider what you’ve read here on this list. Be patient with yourself, and don’t get discouraged. Your writing will be worth the wait.
When I was a little girl I was a famous writer. I was a big time Hollywood actress, a magician, a veterinarian, and Mariah Carey. The Mariah Carey. I loved stories—writing them, starring in them in theatrical productions that my friends and I would act out in front of our families on the weekends. I didn’t plan on growing up to be a novelist then. Writing was just something I did because it made me feel the power and satisfaction that only writing and creating can.
When I would sit down to write a story my mind would explode with images and plots, speeding out of control so my hand, see I didn’t know how to type at that age, never stood a chance at keeping up with the pace. The race would continue for hours as my brain kept throwing idea after idea out in the open while my hand scribbled furiously just trying to write it all down, to make it concrete, to just get it as far out of my own head as possible.
It was almost a maddening process but when those ideas were finally out and down on the page—there was nothing like it. I was never too young to feel that rush, that high almost, that creating a story you are proud of could give. This writing-with-ferocity style has translated to my adult life as one that’s very similar, just with a touch more anxiety sprinkled in. I find it sometimes harder to fully enjoy, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
Now, at least.
When I left childhood behind and entered my teens, I must have forgotten to bring my passion for writing along with me. Though I actually did still write. My silly or serious creative works about enchanted toy stores, ghosts of twin girls who died in a house fire, and magical green Easter eggs were replaced with diaries full of catty remarks about the teenage condition.
I still read books. I still followed the adventures of Harry Potter. But as for my writing, you could say it was my literary Dark Age. I was uninspired and let my imagination spend its time piecing together whatever outfit would give me the right “look” for my personality, what tattoos I wanted to get as soon as I turned 18, what hairstyle would make people want to have what I have, though, according to those diaries, I would become irate if people actually went out and got it.
I was just a high school teen. Sometimes I missed being a kid—not old enough to date or to have a driver’s license. The backyard was my playground, my theater. My notebooks were where I lived in my own fantasy worlds where everything was possible. Even though I momentarily left my writing world behind, it never left me. It just waited patiently for my return. Which I did.
After a failed attempt at pursuing a psychology degree at Auburn University—failed because I began to analyze everything and everyone, including myself, to such a degree that it began to drive me crazy and I decided I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life—I moved on to journalism. I remembered that childhood passion, and I decided that I wanted to write again. Journalism treated me well for some time, and I learned some useful skills, especially for my creative nonfiction pieces. I wasn’t allowed to be as creative as I wanted to be in that major, however, having to stick mostly to writing news stories, so I ultimately decided to leave it. That’s how I landed in the creative writing major, and I haven’t looked back since.
In the past several years I’ve learned a lot about myself. I got to know myself as a writer again, and through that, oddly enough, as a person again. I’ve developed my voice. I’ve discovered my style of writing. I’m aware that both of those things will continue to grow and change as I grow and change, and I’m okay with that. I think accepting that—as opposed to what I’ve done in the past, just trying to shove myself in some mold I desperately wanted to fit in—is another way I’ve grown as a writer.
I’ve got a long way to go. I don’t think learning and bettering your craft is a process that has an end, no matter what the craft is. I have to say I’m greatly looking forward to the future that is waiting for me outside of the University’s walls. The years I’ve spent inside them have taught me how to be me as a writer and how to be ready for whatever comes my way.
For me, I had it right when I was a kid. I want to be a novelist, a storyteller. I want to create worlds for people to explore, to play in, swim in, become completely submerged in. I want to create life on the page. Characters to fall in love with. Characters to hate. I want to give others the same chills and happiness and fear and attachment that I felt while getting to know Harry, Ron, and Hermione, or when I was learning just who the Wicked Witch of the West really is deep down inside in the novel Wicked by Gregory Maguire.
I know it’s a hard road, a dreamer’s career I’ve heard it called. I’ve always been one of those anyway, so why go running scared? I would love to write short stories and novellas. I would love to have my own column in a newspaper or magazine. I would love to be a screenwriter, a poet, a lyricist.
I am a writer. I’m ready for the rest of the world to know.
Each story and poem in this portfolio was inspired by my real life, as crazy and ass backwards as it can be at times. I’ve included stories about my hometown, how it’s grown, and how I’ve grown right along with it, and about the April 27 tornado outbreak that nearly tore the both of us down completely. A story about my dog and how eerily human she is. Fiction pieces about wedding madness and dark taverns where odd occurrences and unique romances flourish. A poem about my little family just spending time in the woods—a favorite memory.
This portfolio contains my time, my heart, and my love.