Monday, May 30, 2016

Getting Over Imposter Syndrome

The irony of this post is I feel like an imposter writing about this syndrome, as I am constantly battling it and nowhere near over it myself. But that also makes me an expert.

What is Imposter Syndrome?


Imposter syndrome is a persistent fear of being found out for a fraud. It’s often a part of being a creative, motivated, and highly achieving person when you also fail to internalize successes. I suffer from it. So do many people you would never suspect of ever doubting themselves.

My Qualifications


I’ve been writing stories for almost three decades, since I was eleven.
I’ve been drawing, carving, painting, and sculpting even longer.
I’ve published four books.
I’ve completed a series.
My books get great reviews.
I’ve had artwork in galleries.
I’ve sold several of my pieces for decent money.
I’ve been a professional copywriter for over four years.
I make a living off my writing.
I’ve been on dozens of panels about writing, technology, and art.
I’ve had successful booths, book signings, and school visits.
I feel like a complete fraud at least half of the time.

Why We Suffer from Imposter Syndrome



Artists and writers are extra susceptible to this syndrome due to the subjective nature of what we do.

We are literally making things up. I hammer words out of nothing or glue cardboard together.
We rely heavily on ourselves without much support during the process.
We often have little education or training in what we do.
We often have little to no qualifications.
Our work is subjective, and not everyone loves it.
Friends and family are not always helpful. If they praise our work, we assume they might be biased. If they criticize our work, we take it harder.
Publishing is hard, slow work with plenty of chances to doubt ourselves along the way.
We allow others to tear our work apart constantly. Critiques, edits, queries, rejections, and reviews open us up to attacks.
We pour ourselves into our work in ways that noncreative types do not. I can pinpoint pieces of my characters that belong to me and my personality. This makes it even more painful when people fail to love what we have created.

Why That Doesn’t Matter


None of that makes me or you an imposter. If anything, you are more successful than you know. Completing books and artistic projects isn’t something many people manage. Putting yourself out there is a success too. You just need to learn how to internalize your successes.


12 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome


  1. Be aware. Knowing that you suffer from a syndrome let’s you gain control over it. There is power in naming something. You can change it once you understand it and know that it’s something to overcome.
  2. Feelings aren’t reality. Feelings are often wrong, misplaced, and ultimately under your control. Feeling like a fraud doesn’t mean you are one, just like feeling anger doesn’t make you a violent person.
  3. Kill negative thoughts and words. The way you talk to yourself matters. Don’t belittle yourself. You wouldn’t talk to a friend that way. Don’t talk to yourself that way either. You deserve the same consideration and love you would give a friend.
  4. Get support. There are plenty of people out there willing to elevate you. Let them. There are happy, fun, supportive groups on Facebook everywhere you turn.
  5. Set attainable goals. Often we choose something huge as our grand success. Once we reach it, we’ll know we’ve made it for real. That’s a mistake that ignores all the steps along the way. Make smaller goals between the huge one and where you are now.
  6. Celebrate your successes. Every success, no matter how small, deserves to be recognized. You finish a chapter? Celebrate. You crank out a whole book? Celebrate. You finish an edit pass? You got it, CELEBRATE!! This will help you internalize those successes and see all the progress you have truly made.
  7. Be a part of those successes. Not everything can be attributed to luck. You made each one of those successes happen. You were a part of it. Own it and remember.
  8. Provide value. So you feel like a fraud? That doesn’t mean you can’t provide value where you can. Every panel I’ve been a part of, there has been one or two questions where I knew I could provide something of value to those listening. You can too. Say what you do know.
  9. Start a happy ego file. Many artists and authors collect good reviews and comments in one file to read when they’re feeling down. Add your successes to this too, along with how you felt when you hit each one. We sometimes need reminders.
  10. Don’t compare. You are not anyone else. You are you. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time and energy. Most of the people you are comparing yourself to feel like frauds at times too.
  11. Admit when wrong. Being wrong doesn’t make you a fraud. It just makes you wrong, which happens to all of us at times.
  12. Try. Trying to do something doesn’t make you a fraud. It means you are learning. You are becoming an expert with each new step you take. When I was learning to speak, I didn’t want to do it in front of people until I could do it as well as them. I would go out in my backyard and talk to our little pen of pigs day after day. 


Was I a talking fraud? Am I one now because I still stumble over new words or misspeak at times? No, I’m still an expert who has transformed my love of language into something more. I take those guttural sounds I practiced with the pigs and string them into words that become stories. I paint the interiors others’ heads as they read what I have made. There is expertise in that. There is magic.

Go. Be magical. Paint the world with your expertise and let go of the doubt. You are a success who is swimming in successes. I promise you will see them if you look.

____________________________

Charlie Pulsipher is a were-hamster and lemur enthusiast who lives in Saint George, Utah with his lovely wife and neurotic dog. He writes sci-fi and fantasy or some mix of the two. He plans on surviving the inevitable zombie-pocalypse that will surely start when dust bunnies rise up against their vacuum cleaner masters. He spends his time away from the keyboard hiking and camping in stunning Southern Utah. Don’t be fooled by his shy, humble exterior.

Find him online at www.charliepulsipher.com or his neglected twitter account @charliepulse.

He does bite and his velociraptor impression is quite scary. It’s probably the coolest thing about him.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Reinventing Your Process

Okay, so I've been writing for a long time. Well, probably not as long as some and probably longer than others. But from time to time, I find myself bored with the process I'm using. That, or I realize that the processes I'm using aren't working well enough anymore.

So I start to reinvent my process. The process of drafting, the process of revising, the process of publishing. Any of them -- and many others -- can be reinvented at any time. So if you find yourself in a rut, or you discover that the process you've always sworn by isn't netting you the results you want, it's time to reshape, reimagine, reinvent.



You don't have to spend a bunch of money or travel great distances to professional writing conferences to do this. You don't have to have an amazing, long-standing critique group -- though they are helpful!

No, if you have access to the Internet, you can begin to reinvent your process right now, today.

For example, I use to be a pantser. The thought of outlining my novel caused hives to break out in a deadly rash. I wrote many books this way, and the revision process was a killer. After a few years and several books, I was introduced to Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.


Everything changed. My drafting process went through a complete renovation as I read and studied and started beating out my novels BEFORE I wrote them.

Life-changing.

My process was reinvented.

Since then, I've read all 3 of his books on getting plot points in the right place, modified his screenwriting documents on his website (click on TOOLS) to fit novel-writing, and read many blogs of other authors and their process with using the beat sheet to plot their novels. (My personal favorite is Jami Gold's romance beat sheet. When I first started writing romance, I literally didn't know what to put on the page. There was no villain! The world wasn't at stake! And her beat sheet spreadsheet seriously saved my life. Check it out here!)

Fast-forward a few years, and I decided the way I was revising -- basically a whole-novel approach of trying to fix everything in one swift edit -- wasn't really working. I needed to dig deeper. Do better. Really REvise the novel.

I did happen to stumble upon the solution that resonated with me while at a writing conference. And it was Margie Lawson's Empowering Character's Emotions packet. She presented at the conference, and it wasn't about this topic. But I liked what she said so much -- it spoke to me -- that I checked out her website after the con.

She has packets you can download for cheap (about $25) and work through on your own or with a partner. I did both, and it absolutely, 100% changed how I revise a novel now. I need to invest in a highlighter company, but I feel like my books now deliver in both plot (because of the beat sheet) and character (because of the ECE packet I devoted an entire summer to learning).

Check out the Empowering Character Emotions packet here, and stay to check out more of what Margie offers. I literally did the course while sitting at the pool. And it was eye-opening.

A critique partner also turned me onto James Patterson's Masterclass. I just signed up, and I can't wait to go through his process of outlining a book. My friend said it was absolutely amazing -- and I've been reading the book she wrote using his method, and it is amazing too. (This course is $90, but she said well worth the price tag. And once you sign up, you complete the training on your own time. As fast or as slow as you want, right from your own computer -- pool-side if you want!)

Another reinvention success -- this time not mine. :)

Right now, I'm reading and watching training videos about marketing, specifically newsletter lists. My books aren't perfect, but once they're out there, I do know I have to do my best to sell them. What I've been doing isn't really cutting it anymore, so I'm looking to reinvent once again.

What processes have you reinvented? Which ones do you need to take a closer look at and consider reinventing? 


Liz Isaacson is the pen name for Elana Johnson as she writes inspirational romance, usually set in Texas, or Montana, or anywhere else horses and cowboys exist. Her Western inspirational romance series, the Three Rivers Ranch Romance series, is an Amazon #1 bestseller in Christian Romance, Military Romance, and Contemporary Christina Romance.

She lives in Utah, where she teaches elementary school, taxis her daughter to dance several times a week, and serves on her community's library board. Liz is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Agency, a PAN member of RWA, and an avid romance reader. Find her on Facebooktwitter, and her blog.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Shape of A Character

Several months ago, I saw an article on inc.com talking about the way that photographers chose to capture the essence of the same man. All six of them were told something different about the man. He was introduced as
  • a psychic 
  • a self-made millionaire
  • a former convict
  • a recovering alcoholic
  • a person who had saved someone's life
  • a fisherman
Though he wore the same clothes for each shoot, though the setting was the same, though they all only got about 10 minutes with the man, what they had been told about him completed guided what they wanted to capture in a single picture.

I'm not going to take the time to detail how they decided to capture him, but you can watch the short video here (I dare you not to feel something).


It got me thinking about the way that we choose to craft characters. I usually think about the characterization before I consider the physicality of a character, getting a feel for how they might sound, the kind of language they would use, the things in their environments that they will respond to well or weakly. And then I try to convey all those emotional factors to my reader, try to guide them to think about my characters the same way I do.

However, teaching high school English for nearly 10 years taught me something interesting as well. I would read a classic like The Scarlet Letter, or Hamlet and had to train myself to sit back and let the students tell me what they thought about the character. You see, they hadn't internalized the possible character motivations yet, hadn't considered the character across a decade of their own existence, and the way they interacted with this new person was often very different than how I'd come to know them.

With all this in mind, I'm left considering how I create the shape of a character.

  • Am I so determined to make everyone see my character one way that I am eliminating the possibility of a deeper character? 
  • Have I locked into a character with such determination that I don't allow him/her to reveal deeper, closer nuances that could drastically elevate the story? 
  • Even if it doesn't show up in the story, have I taken the time to consider why my character is the way he/she is? 

Just as most people have more depth than their first impression alludes to, so should our characters. We, as the writers, get to also be the photographers (to follow along with the metaphor of this post) of each character, which means we have the responsibility to show them to the world in an interesting and unique manner.

How do you go about character creation? Have you ever had a character who you thought you knew, who then surprised you? What about in books/movies/TV shows (spoiler free please). 

_________________________________________

Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as the Women's Fiction Writers Association quarterly magazine, where she also serves as a board member. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Joy in the Journey

Allowing your writing journey to unfold step by step in front of you and trying to be patient during this process, is a battle. After the many rewrites, rejections, and long hours put toward our beautiful creations, we want to be done with that certain project and start something new. But most of the time we hear, “It needs more strength and character to become what it needs to be.” That alone will leave us discouraged, disheartened, and uncertain if we should give it another try.

When I was twelve, I found out I had Scoliosis. This meant that my spine was curved rather than straight. Day to day activities were unbearable and exhausting. I felt tired, sore, and weak. Wearing a hard, plastic brace for twenty hours a day was my solution to strengthening my back. Strapped on tight, it hurt. I couldn’t breathe and it set me apart from other people. At twelve, I didn’t much like that and found myself retreating into isolation where I didn’t need to explain something that was weird or misunderstood to others.

After a few years, my back had gotten worse and I had to have back surgery to fix the damage before it could progress any more. After the surgery, I was down for a while and I found myself stuck with many thoughts. Mostly, I didn’t think I was a very strong person and wondered how I would get through the next few months. I had back tracked on the journey I had planned for myself in my head.

Every day, I had a nurse come in to help me roll over in bed and take care of the things that my independent self couldn’t do anymore. I was told it would take time and a lot of patience. Celebrating the little things I did to progress would be the best thing I could do to lift my spirits. A few days went by and learning to walk all over again was the next step. This gave me great anxiety as I just wanted to miraculously be able to get up and run down the hall saying, “I already know how to do this,” but I didn’t know how any more. Each step hurt, was slow, and the process felt relentless. So much practice to get to the stop. Over time, I asked to walk farther even after the nurse suggested to take a break. Determination and perseverance hit me hard and I was ready to tackle this massive giant. Giving up on myself, the process, and the growth I was gaining from this experience was no longer an option for me. No matter how slow I felt I was going, I was pressing on and that was something to celebrate.


Writing feels the same to me. The hill is steep going upward, overwhelming even. The many hours of walking through each step again and again, and again; can be exhausting and make you uncertain if you’re going anywhere at all. But you’re moving forward. The more you practice at your craft, the more you’ll learn and gain a greater understanding of essential keys needed to climb the mountain. You’re progressing and you begin to see what you’re capable of. Through it, you start unlocking things about who are you that you didn’t know existed until you hit that road block, building your stories and your own character. You know as a writer, that you can’t quit because it’s who you are. You are a writer. Giving up on writing would be similar to giving up on breathing.
So how do we continue to lift our spirits?

Embrace the small things.

Looking at the big picture and having goals is a beautiful thing and one I personally believe in doing consistently, but we often forget the little things that need just as much celebration. Rather you brainstormed, got a rejection, finished a novel, edited pages, did a pitch, people watched, or wrote another query, this is movement in the right direction.

Don’t compare your progress with others because it will never be the same. We all go through life, our day, and situations differently. Embrace those challenges as refining your craft to succeed in areas of your life. Make sure you write a weekly list of all the small things you did to get closer to your big goals. Post it where you can see, read it out loud, and go grab yourself a treat.

Cherish the journey from where you began to where you are now.

---------------

Lauri Schoenfeld’s first love is her little clan of three silly kidlets and her wonderful hubby, Andy. Writing is a close second. She began writing poems at the age of nine, and her love for literature and music developed into composing thirty songs.  In 2014 her short story, Christmas Treasure, was featured in an anthology called, Angels from their Realms of Story.  Her favorite genre to write is anything dark, psychological, and suspenseful, but she enjoys expanding her horizons and dipping her feet in other genres as well.  Lauri teaches summer writing classes for kids and mentors teens throughout the year. She’s a Child Abuse and Scoliosis Survivor. Lauri runs a group for teen girls with Scoliosis called, The S Squad. Their motto is Strength, Support and Self Confidence.  She’s been known to dance around the house with a spoon as her microphone and sneak toppings from the ice cream bar. Lauri’s taken online classes at the Institute of Children’s Literature and was the President of the League of Utah Writers, Oquirrh Chapter for two years.  She’s a member of Crime Writers and International Thriller Writers.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Engaging in a Collaborative Learning Environment

I’m heavily involved in my local Suzuki Strings group. It wasn’t something I grew up with – playing the piano is a pretty solitary event for a good amount of the training experience. But my daughters both gravitated to string instruments, and just as dads pick up mitts and head out to backyards when t-ball/machine pitch/little league season come around, I started accompanying and then became a board member.

Though I’ve been involved in music since I can remember, what I have learned over the last few years has been significant. But the greatest lesson that has manifested itself differently, and often, is that grouping learners together is invaluable. When an advanced student has to rethink about HOW they make a sound, WHY they are moving their arm, positioning their hand or directing the bow in a certain way across a certain part of the strings, fundamentals within the craft of musicality are recalled, reconfirmed, and a deeper appreciation for this habit is solidified.

The beginning students benefit as well. When they are allowed to make music as a small part of a more advanced group and with their teachers, they get familiar with how their instrument could sound, they have a goal to aim for.

A few weeks ago, my boss directed me to a TED talk by Victor Wooten, where Wooten that the way we learn and teach language is the way we should learn and teach all sorts of things. Children don’t learn to speak by only devoting 30 minutes a day to working through a set of identified words, they don’t learn by repeating just those words. Children learn to speak by being immersed in a world of language, surrounded by vocabulary that is easy and hard, attainable and beyond reach.


As writers, it is easy to slip into comfortable tendency to limit our associations with people who are on the same level as us, whatever that may be, but to totally hone our craft, we need to constantly be immersing ourselves in the art of writing. Of course personal interactions and live feedback are essential, but so is an awareness of both above and below where we are, an awareness of our strengths and weaknesses. We need to reflect on WHY we are at this level, HOW we got to be at this level, and WHAT we need to do to fill in the fundamental things we may have forgotten along our journey that may be hindering our progression.

SO HOW DO WE BUILD OUR COLLABORATIVE CLASSROOM?


Since getting together once a week with writers on different levels isn’t going to happen, the easiest way to do this is through reading, but we have to be mindful of what we are reading. Yes, it is essential that we read our genre, but it is also of utmost importance that we consider the very real possibility that reading JUST our genre could pigeonhole our writing. It’s rare that most people learn anything listening to their own single echo reverberating back through a canyon.

We have to remember the value of the collaborative classroom is the degrees of difference. Diversify the ages of characters you are reading, the degrees of magic, the manifestations of emotion. Experience books and movies and TV shows that are different than what you read, that play with pacing, character development, both intensities and kinds of emotional tensions.

But the degrees of difference show up in other art too. I listen to classical music nearly all day long: it’s the only kind of music I can listen to when I need to work. But in down times, I tune into the soulful brilliance of Adele, the happy feeling of Taylor Swift, the unexpected blends of genres from Time for Three and even rock out to Shinedown. I need to hear how each of these play with the sounds of heartbreak, happiness, celebration and sadness. How they negotiate the shifts in key, transition into a chorus, decide what to repeat and what to let linger as a solitary statement of strength.

And then, most important, I set aside time to consider how each of these artists honed their craft, what techniques they used. If it’s something I can’t figure out, I go back to craft books, looking through at what I’ve highlighted, scanning the table of contents for hints. And then, in the true collaborative nature of a classroom, I start asking others in pursuit of art if they have read, listened, seen, if what happened makes sense to them, if they can figure out how it was created.

For me, the best part of this creative pursuit is the thrill of knowing I can know more, better, deeper, richer, and that my meager thank you to those who have helped me advance in my knowledge and craft is to contribute to the collaboration and advancement of others as well.
_________________________________________

Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as the Women's Fiction Writers Association quarterly magazine, where she also serves as a board member. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Does What We Use to Write Influence How We Write? (iPad vs. AlphaSmart)

I write differently depending on what I use to write. I figured out along the way that I use Scrivener most effectively for revisions but not drafting. When I dictate what I want to write, I primarily write dialogue or direct thoughts (sort of like a deep POV). I've always viewed longhand writing as a romantic possibility, but sadly, it isn't an option for me due to a lingering case of carpal tunnel syndrome. This aspect of the writing process has always been interesting to me, akin to a recent study showing that use of digital media vs. paper influences the way we think.

A month ago, my laptop was pronounced (incorrectly) as dead, as a paperweight, as a piece of scrap. The end of the story however is a happy one: my laptop is fully functional again, and my fingers are lovingly tapping away at the keys as I type this post. However, during that month where we were separated, I had to figure out what to use to write. I have two other writing devices, though: my iPad and my AlphaSmart Neo. These devices are great for portable writing, and having no laptop for four weeks gave me the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of each. In the end, I found a clear winner in terms of productivity, and so today, I offer my comparison of these two writing devices.

Did each of these writing tools ultimately affect how I wrote? You bet it did.



First, my tablet. I have an iPad and iPad mini, the latter of which is shown below with its keyboard*. Incidentally, some of the pros and cons to on-the-go writing with a tablet are similar to if you use your laptop for portable writing.

*This is the setup that I have for my iPad mini with a Logitech keyboard.
I was going to take an actual picture of it, but my kids are using it.

iPad Pros:
- Very compact (especially the iPad mini). I can slip my tablet quite easily into my purse and even with the case, it is very portable and doesn't take up a lot of room.

- Easy to revise and edit. This could be a pro or a con. I use the Pages app on my iPad (the iPad-friendly equivalent to Word), so it's easy to scroll through and revise/edit. Now, I happen to be in the drafting phase, and this is not so great for me, because sometimes I wind up revising instead of what I should be doing, which is laying down new words.

- Night-writing. If you're like me, writing can (and sometimes needs to) occur at all hours, depending on when inspiration and energy strikes. However, recent research shows that staring at bright screens can mess up your sleep patterns. I discovered this handy trick not too long ago where you can invert colors on your screen by going to Settings --> General --> Accessibility --> Invert Colors. The first time I figured this out, it was magical. No more eye strain from staring at a white screen in the dark whilst sharing a hotel room with sleeping children, or at 4 a.m. when your brain wakes you up and demands a bit of dialogue be written. (This is not just an iPad specific thing. I do this on my laptop as well under System Preferences).

iPad Cons: 
- Charging. I'm usually good about remembering to pack my charger, but I've found myself in an occasional pinch when I'm writing and get a low battery alert, and suddenly my writing quest has morphed into a quest for an electrical outlet. No bueno. (Note: My portable keyboard only requires a charge every month or so, and that's with fairly regular use.)

- Not distraction-free. I'm prone to distraction. It's my Achilles' Heel. I realize that this is purely on me, but this winds up being the biggest con for the iPad. However, I have been able to mostly get around this by removing apps from my iPad that provide distractions aplenty (i.e., every single social media app is gone from my iPad). However, it's still too easy to hop onto it to zip off that quick email, or get onto a browser in the name of book research, and suddenly twenty minutes or *cough* more have gone by.

- My kids want the iPad. Self-explanatory.


Now for the AlphaSmart. If you've never heard of this wonderful device, that's because they are fairly old school. The AlphaSmart is a portable word processor that is used for one thing only: typing. There are several models out there, and I'll explain where I got mine below.

This is actually my AlphaSmart Neo 2, with my bony hand shown so you can get an idea of scale.

AlphaSmart Pros:
Battery powered with auto-backup for files. The AlphaSmart uses two AA batteries, and battery life is long. I've hardly even made a dent in my battery life in the several months since I got mine, and other writers report average life with typical use to be about a year or so. All of your keystrokes are automatically saved to the AlphaSmart's RAM, even if you take out the batteries (or let them die). I'm a bit paranoid about my iPad files, saving them to Dropbox and Google Docs after each major writing session. Why? Because I've lost quite a bit of progress before when the app crashed. I never have to worry about this with the AlphaSmart.

- Distraction-free. There are a few extra features on the AlphaSmart such as a calculator, and a word counter, and some typing applets, but they are not Facebook or Twitter. I don't find the calculator distracting at all (I didn't know it was there until a friend told me about it), I check my word count after each session, and I don't even mess with the typing applets because I don't know what they are. When I use my AlphaSmart, I type, type some more, and keep typing.

Full-sized keyboardThe feel of the AlphaSmart is really nice. It's very ergonomic and while the device is slightly bulkier than an iPad (see below), that con is offset by the benefit of a full-sized keyboard.

- Inexpensive. I purchased mine for $25. Whoa. That's less than what I paid for my carpal tunnel arm brace.

My kids aren't that interested in it. Self-explanatory.

AlphaSmart Cons: 
Bulkier. This, of course, is a relative thing. Because of the full-sized keyboard, my AlphaSmart is a bit larger than my iPad mini. It's not flat like a tablet either, but it is still very portable, weighing in at a little under two pounds. (Yes, I actually weighed it on the scale I use to weigh my guinea pig.)

No to night-writing. The screen for the AlphaSmart is not backlit and therefore not conducive to night-writing. That is, unless you have a book light or wear a head lamp.

Transferring files required. The AlphaSmart allows you to set up a total of 8 files, each file set up to hold approximately 10K words (I'm using each file for a different chapter that I'm drafting). When you're done writing, you do need to transfer your files to a computer. There is supposed to be some way to transfer it using an infrared (IR) signal, but I don't have the IR app for my laptop. Instead, the AlphaSmart comes with a USB cord that attaches to your laptop, and when you connect the two and hit a magical "send" button on the AlphaSmart, it will transfer what you've written to a file on your laptop. It does this by emulating all of the keystrokes in the AlphaSmart file you choose, so this can take up to several minutes (Out of all of the AlphaSmart features, my kids find watching this emulation process the most entertaining. I'm okay with this.)

- Third-party seller required. i.e., eBay. I originally learned about the AlphaSmart from another writer, and she had posted all of the things she liked about it (mostly the fact that it got her away from Facebook). She indicated she got it from eBay; this is because the AlphaSmart was discontinued in 2013**. I'd been riding the Struggle Bus with my WIP for some time and the idea of a distraction-free writing device to finish this draft appealed to me. Within minutes, I found several that were priced between $20-30 from eBay sellers with high ratings. (Yes, you always want to check seller ratings and feedback before purchasing.) I selected one from a top-rated seller that was listed with a "Buy-It-Now" option (because I hate waiting for auctions to end) that came with a guarantee and free returns, and within a few days, I was typing away.

**The company that made the AlphaSmart has online guides and technical information for all of their AlphaSmart models at http://www.renaissance.com (enter keywords in the search field to find what you're looking for).


Winner, winner, chicken dinner?

I mentioned above that there was a winner in terms of which device served me better this past month. The AlphaSmart was what I used almost exclusively. With it, I drafted completely new scenes, very rough ones that will ultimately require a few rounds of revision once I transfer them into my file on my laptop. But drafting was my goal, and I'm happy with my progress thanks to this little word processor.

The one time this month that I shifted over to my iPad mini was when I had to travel to Denver with my family for a wedding; I threw it in my purse along with the plethora of snacks I carried for the kids. I wrote a bit during the flights and at night in the hotel room, and while I did get some writing done, it was all revision and fine-tuning.

Now... I just have to figure out what to do now that I have my laptop back. :)

What do you use to write? Does it influence how you write? I would love to hear from you below!

____________________________________
Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL, and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. She writes on whatever she can get her hands on.
You can find out more about her at www.helenboswell.com.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How to Avoid Hold Ups in Your Writing

Do you feel like you are being held hostage by your dreams to write? What exactly is holding you up anyway?

Personally, I can name a few too many.

To start off, I took way too long to pick the name of my blog. I mean really, I wasn’t naming a child and I didn’t have my husband to battle every decision. (He’s a school teacher so any baby name I picked out was kicked out.) So why did I take 5 years to decide what I wanted to do with my blog name and its genetic counterparts?

Because I wanted a blog with kapow. I wanted pizazz. I wanted the name to claim its worldwide fame. Let’s face it, John or Sarah just wouldn’t do. (Besides the fact that it had nothing to do with my blog.) I was just plain overthinking this gig.

But really, I was just putting off my fears by stewing over a blog name. That’s so stinking lame.

And a waste of valuable writing time.

Imagine if babies came that way. You couldn’t have the baby until it was properly named. I would have had a kindergartener (and very sore ribs) before he entered this world. Well, maybe just the first baby would come that way anyway.

So I guess that’s what I was doing. Protecting myself by not moving forward on my goals and dreams. I knew in a moment a dream could get slashed, hashed; mashed (I’ve been to writers conferences and heard the horror stories). So, instead I was striving for perfection first time around. Go ahead- laugh.

It was easier to just talk about my goals and dreams, push around several great names, and predict my own outcome with a twinkle in my eye. I have to admit the anticipation is quite intriguing but it was slowing me way down.



And guess what? When I actually threw the blog out there (with its proper, uncontested, name) it wasn’t as big of a deal as I was making it. It was just some wimpy little banana gun hold up that kept me from writing. Don’t just take my word for it (though I’ll certainly give it to you) but learn from the pros how to handle a real life dilemma of a banana gun hold up. Check out these three brilliant words of wisdom that can help someone who is afraid to take the next step in their writing.

MAKE QUICK (Banana Split) DECISIONS


Napoleon Hill: “One of Henry Ford’s most outstanding qualities is his habit of reaching decisions quickly and definitely, and changing them slowly.”

I’ve learned that this has become one of my downfalls to writing: overthinking things too much. Boy, is it ever. The writing process won’t be perfect the first time but perfection in writing comes when we are willing to make mistakes in the process. Time is a valuable. Don’t waste it. Be quick to decide what you want to do with your writing then get to it.
Chop. Chop.

Quick Tip to Making Quick Decisions:


Slow decisions are just a writer’s defense mechanism for procrastinating. Quit holding up your writing by overthinking everything. (Believe me… I know how this works.)
Put time limits on your thinking. Yes, as writers we are used to deadlines but some of us actually need deadlines on making decisions. If overthinking is one of your downfalls give yourself a deadline. Stick to it. Even if it is for the naming of your blog, writing your first chapter, creating a character sketch. Whatever. Just pick a deadline, make a decision, and go with it. Expect mistakes but gain the reward of success in your writing by simply just writing.

Then, if something needs to be changed tap into those overthinking skills. Take your time to change your mind.

Ok, critique people… are you squeaking? Henry Ford was very successful because he had a vision and stuck to it. Others critiqued him but he knew what he wanted and let his idea play out. Be slow to change.

PEEL THE SHELL 

(But Don’t Slip on the Banana Peel)


Ben Franklin: “Either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.”

Write things that matter. Find an element that people can relate to and you can make a masterpiece from a simple thought. Getting to the heart is the most important thing you can do in your writing.
Some of my biggest slip ups in writing have been writing without purpose. These writings become flavorless. True, it may look good (great mechanics, great details, etc.) but no one ever gets to the fruit of what you are trying to say. (I’ve had some expert moments with flavorless banana peel moments. Sigh. It’s like eating anticlimactic banana popsicle. Psh. Where’s the banana Creamie when you want one?)

Quick Tips to Peeling the Shell and Getting to the Fruit:


Ask what is my purpose for this piece? Write something worth reading. This question has been the number one thing that has helped my writing. If I know the common element my writing naturally forms its own path. Bingo! This one little direct question at the beginning of any writing time keeps me from slipping all over the place.

Try something new. Do things worth reading. So if you find the writing isn’t working you have probably depleted your creative side. Fill it up by doing something new. Discover an idea you wouldn’t normally find. Then, go ahead, amaze us with your words.

Ben Franklin was a publisher, a writer, an inventor, a painter, and known for his diplomatic work. I believe he was successful because he was well rounded. Experience feeds ideas  and makes a writer peel back the shell of assumption and get right to the fruit.

MUSHY GUSHY DETAILS 

MAKE GREAT WRITING 

(and Banana Bread)


Helen Keller: “The most beautiful things in life cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.”

I’ve always loved writing but not until recently when I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer did I realize that I needed writing. Yep, needed it. I stopped writing for a few weeks after my diagnosis. I soon realized that I was depressed not because I had cancer but because I wasn’t doing what I truly loved. So, I started writing again. Writing breathes life into me. I felt it in my heart, it was the fruit of who I am. Write because you love it.

Quick Tip to Finding the Fruits of Your Writing:


Find the why behind your writing (and remember it). I’ve learned the reasons for writing are my genuine source of happiness. Take a break from it if you need to (bananas ripen better when they sit). Or start writing if you haven’t. See if your mood changes. Does the need to write nag at you? Is there an unseen force that pulls you toward writing? Are you depressed without it? Does a piece of your heart feel complete when you do so? Ask yourself this one question: Why do you write? And when you find your true reason your heart will get all mushy gush. It will flow into your writing. And people can’t help but want to eat it all up.

Helen Keller’s limitations made her a magnificent person. She is my hero. It was her heart that gave her truth to life. When she knew what something was her heart confirmed it to her and she could communicate to the world by following her heart. Don’t let your limitations in writing drag you down. Use them to help you bake up an incredible treat.

Are you discouraged or frightened to take the next step in your writing? Breathe. It’s just a little wimpy banana gun hold up. You’ve got this.
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Christie Perkins is a survivor of boy humor, chemo, and faulty recipes. She loves freelance writing and is a nonfiction junkie. A couple of national magazines have paid her for her work but her biggest paycheck is her incredible family. Christie hates spiders, the dark, and Shepherd’s Pie. Bleh. Mood boosters: white daisies, playing basketball, and peanut butter M&M’s. You can find out more about her at howperkyworks.com.