I've talked a good bit here about dealing with real life versus your writing life, and how stress has sometimes disabled me. Recently, the things that put the most stress on me have gone into over drive. I'm going to give myself a little pat on the shoulder here, and say that no I didn't crawl into my little hole and whine about it. I've handled it quite well I think. But that's not the point of this blog. What is you ask? Well, in dealing with those things that add stress, I decided that some things in my life have to change, drastically change. I took a step back separating myself from working in a place that isn't mine, and made an effort to move in a direction down the path that I want to be on. Namely with my writing.
I contacted an editor a friend had recommended who mentors newbie authors. She's a great lady, with multiple publishing cred to her name. I'm constantly surprised how many people like her we have here in this rural back water place I call home. Anyway, she recommended I branch out of my current writing group a bit, and make an effort to enter contests, and the like. I've been hesitant to do the latter, as self-doubt tends to bite me pretty hard. I know we all go through phases where we doubt ourselves as writers, but mine seem like deep wells where not only am I fighting my own doubts, but my family's expectations of doing something practical with my life. But practical get's you a boat load of stress, and no happier in the long run. I don't want to do the practical thing any more.
Anyway, I'm staring down that invisible barrier within myself, and thinking for the first time in my life... I want this. I can do this... and only I can stand in my way. So I plan to put more effort into my writing, to put more of myself out there to grow my craft into something bigger, better than it is now.
Sometimes, maybe more often than we'd like... we just have to remind ourselves to close our eyes, take a breath, then take that step forward.
I've never had a project block me to the point that I haven't been able to make progress of some kind. Generally, if I'm blocked it's because something is bugging me, usually a plot point, or characters. In the case of my current wip, Tanglewood, I've possibly finally pinned down my mental brick wall to two issues. The first being my inner voice not wanting to kill off a character everyone loves, don't get me wrong... he has to die, and will, but I've finally realized it was my inner voice telling me it was too soon. Not to jump the gun so to speak. The second problem was equally obvious, even though lately I've been way to oblivious to it.
I've been stuck because the characters my mc has just traveled thirty miles with are finally coming into the actual main stage of the story. Why would that have my mental wheels spinning? Because I spent so much time building the characters, and the backing for my world, that I forgot to actually build my town! I know where the town is, and roughly what most of the buildings will be like, but I didn't actually map it out, and get into the little details. For a story like I'm writing, the details matter. The details will help sell it as an actual world, a place with real people and real problems. So I need to build the town, and the community that lives there. How could I have not seen it sooner?
Sometimes I get so focused on trying to tell the story, that I forget to build the things into the story that will actually make the story believable. I think I've done it with other projects, and ultimately it does my writing no justice, and makes my characters flat and less reliable or believable.
So, now here I set getting into world building again, hoping this will appease the mental brick wall that has been in my way for so many weeks.
I hope everyone is having as much luck breaking down their own mental barriers! -Corbyn
I've been writing a lot lately in this blog about getting, or staying in the writing frame of mind. For me that's obviously really important right now, but today I want to talk a little bit about real life writing groups. Specifically some of the reasons why you should join, and should stick with a group, even if it's not your cup of tea, or you feel like you've out grown the group, or maybe don't mesh well with a few of the people in said group.
Back in 2011 I decided I really wanted to write, more to the point I decided I wanted to get better at the craft in order to write good complete stories. For me this had been a long, long road. Late in the same year I ran into a client at work who was head of a local newspaper in the next town over. She really is a lovely lady, and as she saw me working on a piece at work in some down time, she asked if I'd like to read a novel she'd been working on for critique. I was amazed anyone would ask, so I agreed. Based on the critique I gave her I was asked to join the local writer's group, and have been a member ever since.
For better or worse, local writer's groups can be a miracle for the aspiring or new writer, but they are not limited to newbies. You'd be surprised how many small town communities actually do have writer's groups. I was amazed to learn that fifty miles from me, one of the oldest US writer's groups is still alive and kicking. So I would recommend that anyone who is interested in writing groups reach out to local community colleges, and libraries in your area to see if any locally are available. There is no substitute, even online in a great community such as this, for meeting with like minded people in an face to face setting.
You maybe thinking, I'm a writer, I like to watch people but don't feel like interacting with other people. Or my favorite excuse: Other writer's will kill my creativity and try to change my voice.
Writer's groups don't really work that way. They're only as valuable or altering to you as you the writer are willing to let them be. All any critique ever really amounts to is a suggestion from a reader/writer to the author. That's it. There are no laws that say once you get feedback you have to follow it. But please make no mistake, if you really want to seriously change your writing for the better you SHOULD be in a writing group.
As any of you who routinely read my stuff know, my grammar is NOT the best. I'm the first person to point this out, and I know it is a weak point for me as a writer, but imagine how bad it was when I started? Imagine how lack luster my descriptions were, in fact you don't have to imagine, many of my first feeble attempts at short stories are in fact still in the archive. I'm not saying that as a shameless plug for my work, simply pointing out how far my work has come thanks in large part to both the community here, and my rl writing group.
But sometimes we do out grow our groups. I rarely can keep myself in the writer's mind set long enough to
get much work done. I'm one of the biggest writing slackers I think I know. But if you talk to my rl writing group, who only gets to see me once a month, you'd think I was as prolific as a big name author. I'm not. I go days, weeks, even sometimes months with out writing more than a page or two. But I do make sure to take at least three pages with me to every meeting.
Why? Because at the heart of any good writing group, it's about the work. Your writing can't improve if your not critiquing other peoples work, and having your's critiqued as well. So even when it's down to the wire, I make sure I have stuff to take in. The group as a whole only benefits from reviewing what someone is willing to share. It's a safe place to air work before it's ready and to polish the craft. At the end of the day that's what most of us want and need. To work on our craft.
So in closing, if your not already a member of a real life writing group, or don't have a group online you consistently share work with, you maybe missing out. If you'd like recommendations for good beta readers on the site who give great critique I'm more than happy to help, just message me. I do also do critiques when asked or when posting in the forum section, it's only fair to critique others before posting your own work.
Anyway, I think that's enough of a rant for now. -Corbyn
It's been a while, and oh how I have missed you all. *ahem* That being said, on to the blog.
I find that in order to be consistently creative, I need a certain kind of head space. My head has to be in it, not just my heart. Lately, that's been easier said than done. I've not been able to push myself to find that right frame of mind to keep my creativity thriving.
As is often the case when I find myself that way, I get a little down in the dumps. All the old doubts creep in and start screaming at me again. You know the ones. They often say things like, "You can't do this, who the hell do you think you are?" Or other more colorful uses of the English language.
It's hard to keep those thoughts or feelings at bay. It's harder still to keep my head in the right frame of mind with real life butting in. There seems to be a common theme of my recent blog posts here. Real life interfering with creative life. For me the two just don't mesh well together right now. But I'm bound and determined to change that.
Anyway, enough for now, but I will ask, How do you foster your head space, muse, what ever you call it?
Nano left me with a depleted stock of words. I felt like my creativity was zapped, and I had nothing left to spare. That's a scary thought considering I only made it through writing half of my novel (yes I did "win" Nano and wrote well over 50k) but I felt drained. So it's been a while since I've written anything anywhere.
But, luckily I'm back! Though for those of you thinking, oh god no! Please feel free to hit the back button now.
Today, I'm tackling traditions, and one in particular. The gift exchange that my local writer's group does every year. It's one of the few Holiday get together's I actually look forward too. (Yeah, ok... I do just enjoy watching everyone fight over the box I wrap... but still!)
I've found Christmas to be too commercial. It's lost all the fun and wonder it had for me as a kid. With the exception of the gift exchange. Basically everyone in my writer's group brings a gift that's under $5.00. Every year I scrounge my house and put together what I've lovingly come to call, Writer's Survival kits. Every year the kit is different with variations in items and nick-nacks. Then I wrap it, as pristine as possible, and find the perfect bow, all of which hides mountains of tape to make the boxes difficult to get into.
Once at the gathering, we all draw numbers. Once a gift is chosen then opened, the next number in line has the option to "steal" the gift. Which can only happen twice before the gift becomes permanent, and a new one has to be fought over. This two times rule started once I joined the group, much to my glee. Every year, I get to sit back and watch people demolition my boxes (or drool) as I've been known to stick things like beef jerky, or chocolate along with other writer must have's in them.
I have to say I'm looking forward to the carnage tonight..
So, What's your favorite writing related tradition?
Separate names with a comma.