Writing 101: Write What You Know?

Writing 101 Graphic

Do you remember the first piece of writing advise you were ever given? I do.

“Write what you know.”

And, I do understand the point. The blank page can be scary. It can be intimidating and frustrating and feel like there is so much to do. It can be overwhelming, so someone told me to write what I knew. Write from the familiar voice inside my head. Write where I am comfortable with what I already know.

After a few years of dreaming of writing and trying to write what I know, I’ve come to two separate but equally relevant conclusions:

1. my life is not all that interesting.

Now, before you get all bothered and tell me that my life is not that boring, let me talk about what I mean for a minute.  My life is crazy busy. I do a lot of things I truly love. I am happy, well-adjusted and do my best to try and be joyful. My life is FULL. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I work full-time (plus, depending on the week). I read, I write, I play games. I volunteer. I walk my dog. I travel. I take vacations. I believe in trying new things. I live life to the full. But, my normal, everyday life? Not really worth writing about. I have been blessed with few tragedies and am stifled by few huge successes. What I know is deep. I am educated, and believe deeply that a person should never stop learning. But all those bits and pieces? They don’t make up the story I want to write. They are the story I want to tell with my life, for sure. But what I want to get lost in and write about? It’s not what I know…it’s what I want to know.

2. writing only what I know would be undeniably limiting.

See above. If everyone only wrote what they knew, there would be no science-fiction. There would be no fantasy. There would be no questioning of God, the universe and the stories around us. There would be no make believe. And, as an avid lover of fiction and writing that makes me want to believe in other worlds, my favorite works are often ground not in someone’s reality, but in their imagination. I believe if you’re writing non-fiction, you should tread carefully and write what you know – or what you’re willing to learn. But, when it comes the majority of writing, explore, envision, create new worlds. Look at the things you love about the world and incorporate them. What do you not like? How can you make it better? Write on, dear ones. Write the words and the worlds you can only imagine.

Throughout this series of blog posts, I will be sharing what works for me as a writer – and what doesn’t. I will be exploring my own renewed passion for writing and hopefully be giving you snippets and glimpses into the worlds I am creating. It’s going to be a fun journey!

signature

Adventures in Writing

1150275_10152908147804298_1426653830_n

I’m usually, at best, a sporadic blogger. I have the best of intentions, but those seem to fall by the wayside as my real, and very busy, life takes over. Then, I get discouraged because I haven’t created the online community I dream of having and I feel like no one reads my blog.

so….I’ve joined Jeff Goins in a 31 day blogging challenge to make my blog an intentional part of my life. Over the next 30 days, I will be blogging about the stuff I love and the stuff that makes me tick. I will be challenging my readers to share their stories and encourage other bloggers trying to make a name for themselves in this same journey.

Look for blogs from me like:

  • Make a Difference Monday – #madmlinkup – it’s pretty much the only blog I’m guaranteed to do every week
  • Writing what you know…and what you don’t know.
  • Book reviews
  • Book to movie adaption reviews – spoiler – there are very few good ones
  • Creating online community
  • Surprises galore!

I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think it will be a healthy way for me to be disciplined about writing regularly and will stretch my creative side a little more. My friend Chris Holmes recently published a book of encouragement and posts updates on his facebook page and blog regularly. As I was thinking about whether or not to do this challenge, this was what he posted last night:
10155209_10202483579601892_5366552371355124132_n

…and that pretty much sums up my writing life to this point. It’s time to be intentional and do something about it. So, here’s to 31 days of adventures in writing!

 

signature

Blog Hop: The Writer In Me

623b4-open-book-on-top-of-pile-of-books

(WordPress doesn’t want me to do this. It ate this entry twice).

I haven’t done a blog hop in awhile, but when Amy asked me to join her for this one, I, of course, had to say yes. It’s all about writing, being a writer, and the writing process 🙂 So here are the questions:

What am I writing or working on now?

Blogging. Attempting to write a short story (that may work itself into a novel someday). Poetry. Journal entries. Letters to myself. Prayers.

My writing this summer (and really this season of life) has been all over the place. I’ve written some heart-felt stuff. I’ve written some silly stuff. I’ve written a lot that has ended up in the trash pile because it wasn’t really worth the virtual or literal space it was taking up. I’ve been working on finding my voice. I’ve been working on finding my rhythm to write again.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’ve always been drawn to works that defy genre boundaries. I feel like genres can be helpful, but at the same time, they create limits. Instead I’m focusing on creating a voice that makes sense for my characters (fiction) and finding my voice (non-fiction). So, I guess what I do is “different” because I don’t even think about genre when I write. I tell the story and then I figure I’ll figure out where it fits best later.

Why do I write what I do?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I write because it helps get the internal crazy out onto paper. Writing helps me feel centered and grounded. Writing helps me feel out my place and purpose in the world. Writing is a challenge and an adventure all at once. I write what I write because the stories won’t leave me alone. They keep popping up in my head and in my heart until I don’t know what else to do with them. I write the non-fiction pieces I write because something inside me knows they might be able to help someone else. I write the dramas/plays I write because I can give voice to my world that way. I write because I don’t know how not to write.

How does my writing process work?

I have a writing process? Really? No. I don’t. I know I should. I know I should have a writing process that helps me see the world better and plan my time better. But really, I write right now when inspiration and time meet up. I jot notes to myself all the time. I keep everything in folders and pop open things randomly. I need more focus as a writer, that’s for sure.

So, now I’m supposed to find other people to answer these questions. Consider yourselves asked 🙂

signature

Waiting and Watching Till Morning

go to shereadstruth.com for great devotions and thoughts from women!

As part of the She Reads Truth community, they are inviting women to write their own devotions on Fridays. Today’s is based on Psalm 130. For more information, to to shereadstruth.com or look up the #shesharestruth hashtag on twitter or Facebook.

I am in a season of waiting. I’ve been in this season for a long time now, it feels like. I’ve been waiting for something to change and be different. The hardest part is that in this season, I haven’t been able to clearly articulate what it is that I’m waiting for – there are a thousand possibilities, and they all have some sort of value.

But, regardless, I wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

And then a moment comes; a moment where I feel like the waiting may be ending and changing and…then it’s not. So I go back to waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more.

Psalm 130:5-6 (MSG) says,

I pray to God—my life a prayer—
    and wait for what he’ll say and do.
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord,
    waiting and watching till morning,
    waiting and watching till morning.

I’ve never been good at waiting. I’m not good at being patient. I don’t like not having the answers. I want to be pro-active and active. I want to be moving forward in every aspect of my life, but I’m learning the more I push for movement when it’s not the right time, the more tired, stressed and angry I become. I become dissatisfied with my life because I want to be the catalyst for my own change. The reality is so different, though. I do not have to be the person pushing change in my life.

If I spent half the time praying for God to lead my life as I spent trying to push all the pieces into the frame I think is right, I cannot imagine the peace, the comfort, the stillness that would envelop me and change me. The path would be clearer and the way to make my passions the center of my life would be obvious. This Psalm is not about doing nothing but praying, but instead about remembering to start with praying. Be active. Seek opportunities. Make changes as they are revealed to you. But instead of just pushing your life to be what you think it should be, the key is to pray that your life be more what He says it can be.

Being The Easy Friend

Friendship BraceletsFor years, I have struggled with the simply complicated definition of friendship. Throughout my life I have been blessed with wonderful friends, some that I still talk to regularly and some that, if I’m honest, I cannot quite remember their names.

Friendship, is a tricky thing, especially as I get older. I remember the days where I just assumed that everyone would like me and that I would always have tons and tons of friends.

That allusion lasted for a few of my formative years, but the reality is this: friendship are fickle things.

I still remember the day the person I considered my best friend found a new best friend. It was heart-wrenching and painful. I was young, but not too young. Young enough to bounce back; old enough to understand that the pain was not just in my imagination. In true child-like form, though, I rebounded quickly. While my best friend maybe wasn’t my best friend, I still had good friends, great friends. In the darkness of middle school, they were lights. And, I had an excellent experience in high school. Instead of one best friend, i had a group of friends that moved fluidly from moment to moment. We laughed, we cried, we had an absolutely wonderful time together.

College came; friendships changed. And, once again I wondered what it would be like to have a best friend; that one person who would understand me more than anyone else. I made a friend, two actually, that I thought filled that gap of best friend. Then, once again, these friends found other friends, people that became their best friends. It should have hurt. But, it didn’t. Not as much, anyway. Because, between 7th grade and rapidly approaching my mid-30’s, I realized something that changed my world.

I didn’t have to have a best friend. I didn’t have to be number one on anyone’s speed dial. I didn’t have to be that person to anyone else. I could have deep, authentic relationships with people who I would be willing to step into traffic to save, but I don’t have to be anyone’s best. I don’t have to be the first person they call in their best moments and their worst moments. I am completely content with being someone who, if I am lucky, gets a text or email before information shows up on Facebook. I am the easy friend.

I like being the easy friend. I’ve never felt so free.

As women, we put a lot of pressure on each other and on our friends. We put a lot of expectation on what friendship should and could look like. I know I have put a lot on my friends and then felt horrible when they failed to meet my expectations. I have questioned the authenticity of friendships. And, all it does is hurt me in the long run.

So, today, once again, I am recommitting myself to being just a good friend; to being a friend that is there when people need me; a friend that people know they can trust and know that they don’t have to worry about my friendship. I am the easy friend. And I am okay with that. Again. Finally.

Time to Confess

 

 

Looking

It seems almost funny and fitting that the challenge issued as part of the 500 Words a Day challenge today is about confessing something. I wanted to just start writing again without addressing the “elephant” in my writing-world, but that was obviously not to be. So, here is what I am confessing:

I haven’t written in over a week.

At first it was just a day off. Then it was a weekend. Then a week. Here is the thing, though. I have thought about it every single day. I have opened my blog a few times and have even started several blogs. I have opened a couple different Word documents. I have read and re-read the introduction and outline of my book. I have puttered here and there with words, but I have not really written.

And, like all habits that are at that place of either forming or breaking, my writing sits. Every day I would look at the Facebook group. I would feel guilty for not writing. I would feel ashamed for what I was doing instead of writing. So, I kind of checked out.

I let my jealousy toward people succeeding at this journey get the better of me.

I let the fact that other people have bigger stories take the place of my story.

I stopped reading the blogs I loved because they were writing and I wasn’t.

I would see comments on Facebook posts and blogs and I would be frustrated that their writing is going so much better than mine.

I let the fact that I let one day turn into two turn into five turn into seven affect how I feel about my fellow writers.

That last one made me feel even more small, petty and less part of a community. Instead of loving the success of my friends, I was instead feeling sorry for myself and my lack of discipline and time management. And then the spiral continued. Today I decided I would write. The words are coming, but they’re hard. It’s like starting all over again, but without the excitement. Instead of being excited about writing, I’m confessing that I haven’t been a very good member of the writing community for the last week. I am sorry. I love the encouragement I get from my writing friends, but instead of celebrating their successes I have spent the last week wallowing in my own self-doubt.

Even writing this blog made me feel a little bad about what I was writing. I don’t want to lose the community that I’ve slowly started establishing. But, these days and weeks are why I have to write this and put it out there. Because these moments are just as real as the successes.

Sometimes confession is good for the soul. Sometimes it just reveals that, despite your best intentions, you are human and still fall prey to the insecurities and…sheer humanness that exists in us all.

Here’s to writing again, as painful, humbling, stretching and life-changing as every word can be.

500 Words a Day…Challenge Update

500words_wide-e1388529158371

It sounded so easy. 500 words a day. Given how quickly I tend to write, especially first drafts, this was not a huge commitment. At least I didn’t think so. The reality, however, nine days in, is very different. So, today’s blog post is dedicated to the four big expectations versus reality moments of this challenge for me so far.

Expectation One: I would write at least 500 words a day in the same manuscript.

Reality: I have written 500 words a day on all but one day, but they have not been on just one thing. I have written the opening words to my non-fiction book, a partial chapter outline of that book, several blog entries, a long-winded diatribe in my journal, several creative writing exercises from the 642 Things to Write About book, and several really bad poems. I thought at the end of January I would have 15,000 words toward my book done. It’s not looking like that at all. The non-fiction, I’m finding, it going to require a lot more thought that I had anticipated (not to mention research and surveys).

Expectation Two: Having a goal to write would make it easier to get up in the morning.

Reality: It’s cold and snowy and downright gross in Indiana right now. And, I have a comfortable bed and really enjoy sleeping. So, getting up early has simply not happened. You can call it lack of focus or determination or whatever you want, but the reality is I like the fact that I don’t have to get up early. I am simply not a morning person. And, on the mornings where I’ve tried to get up and write right away, I just stare at the blank page like it’s the enemy. There is no excitement in writing like that for me.

Expectation Three: I have a lot to say, so the words would come easy.

Reality: Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve really even focused on writing, even just a little bit. But, the words are not coming easy some days. Some days it’s like pulling teeth to get even a hundred words out that I don’t want to delete from the world forever. Part of this challenge is not to edit too much;  and that is really REALLY hard for me.

Expectation Four: I would realize I’d rather write than do a lot of the other things that take up my time.

Reality: This is about half-true. I would rather write than a lot of the things that I do that are not things I choose to do. If I could spend the eight-plus hours a day I sit in my office at work writing, I would love that (I think). But the reality is that writing is not my job, it’s my passion. So, “working writing in” during the few hours I have that are not at work is sometimes difficult. Because I do love to read and I love to spend time with friends and I love to actually talk to my husband and play with my dog. My friend Amy said it best when she reminded me that to really take this writing thing seriously, some things would have to go. I think I’m still really trying to work through that idea in my head and heart, even though I totally know that it is true.

So, here it is day nine. I’ve written approximately 4,000 words over the last nine days. I just pray a few of them make a difference.