Writing

How Music Can Help Writers.

harpwithflowersBecause writing is such a solitary pursuit and can involve a great deal of silence, listening to music can help break that monotony. There is a quote that I find seems to sum up music pretty well – When Words Fail, Music Speaks. Of-course, as writers, we don’t want our words to fail; however, there are times when music can help us find exactly what it is we are looking for. Here are some ways in which music can help us as writers.

Motivation

I find listening to music can be a great motivator. In order to help with a positive start to the day and even get some writing done, listening to certain music can help. Find the music that cheers you up and/or songs with lyrics that get you motivated. My ‘go to’ motivator at the moment is Butterflies and Hurricanes by Muse (preferably the live version) – brilliant song and the lyrics are well suited to start writing.

Song Titles

Song titles are a great source of inspiration. After reading Anne R Allen’s post regarding book titles, I googled the discography of one particular artist and wrote down song titles that appealed to me. As a result, I came up with 55 song titles that could be used for ideas for short stories, novellas or novels. Through various other song titles, I have also come up with an idea that can be explored within a genre I generally don’t write in.

Video Clips

Watching video clips can often spark an idea for a story. They can also help envisage setting and/or a particular mood. One video clip that has always captured my imagination is The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails. It has a wonderful gothic look and, combined with the lyrics, it helps conjure up ideas for one of my WIPs.

Soundtracks

Some people write while listening to music, but I find it distracting; however some music can be of benefit to setting a scene or a mood within our stories. Movie soundtracks, or music from video games or television shows can really fire up the imagination or bring a tear to the eye (The Death of Jane Seymour – A Howling Wilderness from Season 3 of The Tudors gets me every time). Feeling such emotions from the music we listen to can help transform that emotion into the scenes we write.

Can you think of any other ways in which music can help writers? Do you use music to help you get motivated? Have you turned to music for story inspiration? Do you listen to music as you write or do you prefer to write in silence?

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Writing · Writing Process

5 Tips for New Writers.

old-letters-436502_1280A few weeks ago, I talked about the pitfalls of social media and the pull of marketing as writers. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find these things a curse when you’re easily distracted (yeah, squirrel). Sometimes it can be hard to even get started.

Listed below are a few techniques I’ve used. Hopefully they will also help you focus and get you back on track with your own writing.

1. Write Every Day

This is an old piece of writing advice that I never really took to until recently. In order to help me with this, I began a writing journal; writing as much or as little as required. This then led to new story ideas developing or existing ones expanded. My writing process may have been slow to begin with, but since then, I have begun writing longer pieces. At the end of each day, I have felt a sense of accomplishment. Writing every day then becomes a habit, and a new routine that moves you forward towards your goals.

2. Write What You Want to Write

Years ago, I tried my hand at writing a romance, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do it. Trouble was I was too busy concentrating on trends. The only way to truly find your own voice is to write the stories you want to write, otherwise you’ll lose interest very quickly.

3. Forget about Publication (for now)

Sometimes when we’re writing (or even before we even get started), we can be too busy thinking about the finished product. During my teenage years I wrote stories in serial form and let some of my friends read them. I certainly wasn’t thinking about publication back then. I wasn’t worried about perfection either. I wrote that mush simply for the pleasure of making things up. I was enjoying the process. As unpublished writers we don’t have to worry about deadlines either. Write for your own enjoyment. Experiment with different genres and styles of writing – take the time to work out what works for you. Have fun with it – worry about publication later.

4. Concentrate on One Thing at a Time

Some writers thrive on multi-tasking. I’ve tried it that way myself, for a while, yet found myself unable to focus and left a lot of work incomplete. Whenever a new idea pops up now, I write it down and let it simmer in the back of my mind for a while. I found this helps in two ways. It (a) allows you to work out characters, plot, etc for the new project instead of writing it up until you reach another dead end, and (b) my eagerness for starting the new project forces me to work faster on the current one.

5. Have a Plan

Think about what your ultimate writing goal is and consider the steps you need to take in order to make that goal possible. What kind of writing do you do other than novels, if any? In order to make a name for yourself, it helps to build up writing credits. Have a plan of what other types of writing you’d like to pursue, where they could be published and/or if you’d like to enter competitions. Every step you take can help you in building up a body of work.

Is there any advice that I’m missing? What advice do you have for other writers? What mistakes did you make when you first started writing?

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Life Lessons · Up Close & Personal · Writing

Are You Hiding Your Ambition?

hidden door

In another life, I spent close to ten years doing office work. Of-course looking back on it now it was more for the social aspect, rather than the work itself that I miss (the downside of the writers’ life is that it can be a lonely profession).

I was good at my job and within my first year at work, my supervisor saw my potential and I had progressed from typist to admin assistant. In later years I would go on to be head hunted by two managers and rather than accept the chance of promotion, I turned them both down. I was afraid of change and quite happy to stay in my ‘comfort zone’. When later asked what I wanted to do job wise within the office, I had no real answer.

One co-worker said something to me once that I have never forgotten: ‘You’re wasted in this place’. It wasn’t that I did not have the opportunities to progress; it’s just that I didn’t want to. I had no ambition to work my way up the corporate ladder. I had no intention of spending the rest of my life in an office job. And that’s exactly what it was – a job. I brought home some money every fortnight, which was great, but I was stuck doing something I didn’t want to do.

Office Motivation

It is the fortunate ones that manage to be in a job that they love. I have to admit that in the beginning of my employment years, I really enjoyed my job. I was learning something new all the time, yet in those last few years, things had become stale. I was bored; I wanted out.

One of the things that kept me sane was that throughout those years, I continued to write. On really slow days in the office, I would even bring some of my writing to work with me and work on a piece there (well, I guess technically speaking, I was working on something). I remained being creative for I was drawing as well as writing. I would share such pieces with close co-workers – one piece was read before I submitted it to a women’s magazine (and when I didn’t hear anything, I guess it was my first rejection).

Certainly back then I was much younger and had made mistakes, however, looking back on it all now, I managed to learn the following things:-

  1. Sometimes you really need to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and
  2. I wanted to be a writer above everything else.

Those years were not entirely wasted; I was practising my craft, doing writing courses via correspondence (those prehistoric days before the internet), and experimenting with writing in different genres. Back then, I clearly wasn’t ready to send my work out into the world, yet I knew that to have my work published was the ultimate goal. Sometimes what we long for can take a bit of time – after all, they do say good things come to those who wait.

Are you working towards your ‘dream job’ while working in another? Are you stuck in a job you don’t like? What do you do to get out of your ‘comfort zone’? Are you making the most of your time as a ‘pre-published’ author?

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Up Close & Personal · Writing

Writers: Embrace the Moment.

crossfit-534615_1280Recently I’ve discovered that one uses similar paths when it comes to writing and losing weight. Both require self-motivation, persistence, determination and a lot of hard work.

A few years ago I joined one of those more well-known weight loss programs. Within six months I had lost ten kilos (22 pounds). It was difficult to keep eating certain foods (especially to keep off the chocolate!), smaller portions and exercising every single day, but the rewards were well worth the effort. That was until I had completed my weight loss program. My husband’s response was simple: ‘That’s good’, he said. ‘Keep going’. Between his words and being on my own to maintain my weight, needless to say, I put all it all back on again (and then some 😦 ).

I had discovered the hard way that diets don’t work. People are always looking for the ‘quick fix’. Like diets, some people who say they want to be writers are not prepared to put in all the hard work and effort. They are not in it for the long haul – they are the ‘wannabes’ (and yes, I’m giving myself a good pep talk here, too).

Now I understand what my husband meant. I had made a good start, now I had to keep at it; this is where the hard work really starts. I had lost the weight, now I had to stay healthy. In order to do that I needed to be self-motivated and persistent in order to make sure all the work I had done had not been wasted.

If we’re really serious about writing, we don’t want to be lumped in with the ‘wannabes’. Less talk, more action. If we are doing something we enjoy, then we should make the most of every minute of it. Enjoy each step, even if at times, they may be slow. To be successful at our craft involves a lot of patience as well as hard work. It takes time to build publishing credits, become traditionally published and gather a loyal following. That is what will make all that time and effort all the more rewarding.

When your calf muscles cry out for mercy as you struggle up that hill, push yourself just that little bit further. No job worth doing will be easy. Just keep going.

Are you embracing where you are currently in your writing endeavours? Are you fed up with feeling like a ‘wannabe’ and afraid to make that first step?

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* I’ll be taking a short break from blogging during the Christmas/New Year period. I will be back on 14 January, 2015. Enjoy your Christmas everyone and have a safe and happy holiday season!

Writing

5 Discipline Techniques for New Writers.

Hourglass_Sand_CeremonyWhen I finished my University studies, I wanted to throw myself into writing, but I quickly found out that I was too mentally drained. I needed a break. That break turned into many months (yes, I know – hangs head in shame); my writing had become sporadic and I had accomplished little.

I didn’t want to admit it even to myself, that I had wasted too much time (Kristen Lamb has a recent post on this subject). I needed ways to manage my time better, come up with achievable, realistic goals and re-focus. It didn’t take long for me to realise I had a major problem with discipline.

Here are five techniques I’ve started using to help combat the issue.

1. Accountability buddy/writing group
As new writers, it’s great that we can write what we want, when we want. We are lucky that we have no boss to answer to, yet if we don’t get any writing done, we have no-one to blame but ourselves. We have to learn to be self-motivated and sometimes we could do with a little extra help. Find someone who is willing to become an accountability buddy – a fellow writer, a supportive friend or partner. I’ve made my husband my accountability buddy and ‘report in’ at the end of every week. Yes, I get the pep talk if I’ve been slack, but I also get the praise when I’m making progress. Writing groups can also be beneficial, especially those that meet regularly and set tasks for each session.

2. Deadlines
When studying for my University degree, I had numerous deadlines to meet. Once I knew when assignments were due for each subject, I planned accordingly. The closer to the deadline, the more effort I put in. As new writers, we have the luxury of not having to meet deadlines, however we can give ourselves self-imposed deadlines to make sure the writing gets done; otherwise we can slacken off. Give yourself realistic timeframes for each goal.

3. Daily Quotas
I’ve never really done well with these, which is one of the reasons why I have participated in NaNoWriMo a couple of times. Having to push yourself to reach a daily quota is very rewarding, especially when you manage to go over that quota. The more words you write, the more pages you produce (yes, starting small is still progress 🙂 ).

4. Time Yourself
Time can be the enemy for writers, even more so when you write against the clock. Use a timer to see how much you can write within a certain time frame. This also helps to determine whether you’re good at working under pressure or not.

5. Reward System
Hey, it works for kids and animals, right? Allow yourself to read that book, watch television, go on social media, or whatever it is you fancy once you’ve reached your daily quota. Treat yourself to something special when you’ve finished writing that novel draft. Every step is an accomplishment – you deserve the rewards.

Have you also struggled to get back into writing lately? Do you have a problem with discipline? What techniques do you use to make sure you get your writing done?

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This Writer's Life · Writing

Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

cavesenterance3smallAs new writers, we tend to be insecure and therefore focus on the negative; those people who try to persuade us not to pursue the life of a writer. Yet, we need more people who try to do the opposite; those who believe in us and encourage us to be who we really are. With my friends in the U.S.  approaching Thanksgiving this month, I felt it only appropriate to think about those who support us with our writing endeavours.

In high school, I used to write stories and give them to my friends to read in instalments. I guess you could say they were my first beta readers. Yet it was not until I met my husband that I had found someone who strongly believed I should pursue writing and take it more seriously. He was the first person I trusted to tell about my writing, without feeling ashamed of having that ambition. In fact, he thought it was a great idea!

In recent years, my writing group has disbanded, and although we didn’t meet very often, I managed to take some positive comments from them regarding my work. One man’s comment I will never forget. He said ‘You’ll get published one day; it’s just a matter of when’. These days, my husband is the lone driving force behind my writing (perhaps a large part of that is his plan for early retirement once I write my ‘best seller’ 😉 ) .

My husband likes to remind me of the small successes I have already made, as well as telling me that others have given positive comments on my writing. It is his support, more than anybody else that I rely on. He was the first to encourage me every step of the way, and continues to do so – even emailing me motivational quotes. My husband is prepared to be the sole bread winner while I try to make a success out of writing. I owe it to him to persevere.

As each of us work our way towards our own writing journey, we owe it to those people who stick by us. Sometimes they tend to believe in us better than we do ourselves! We need to put in the hard work and persist in putting our writing out into the world. We don’t know unless we try.

Do you have a good support group? Who is your ‘rock’? Have you ever received positive feedback that helps keep you going?

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This Writer's Life · Writing

Writing Within Toxic Relationships.

Since finishing my University studies, I took a well-deserved break. However, that break has since made my return to writing become a very slow journey. It has left me questioning my motivations and wonder if I really want to do this writing gig anymore. The simple answer is yes, it is who I am; yet I’ve become to realise that what is holding me back is a complete lack of self-confidence, brought about by toxic relationships.

Toxic relationships can happen in the form of friends, and although painful, it is easier to keep such relationships at a distance. However, toxic relationships in the form of family can be an even tougher challenge.

A few years after I left school, my mother laughed at the idea when I told her I always wanted to be a writer. To this day she insists I never knew what I wanted to do when I left school; either she refuses to listen or refuses to accept my career choice and who I really am (after all, ‘there’s no money in the arts’). She also insists that ‘you never had any self -confidence’. I hear it over and over again – the trouble is when you get told a lie often enough, you begin to believe it.

Despite how this all sounds, I’m not bagging out my mother; I’m only trying to demonstrate that some people (and often those closest to you) can destroy our self-esteem without even realising it. We want our family and friends to be proud of our achievements and support us in what we do, yet their good intentions to protect us from getting ourselves hurt can often backfire. We reach a certain age where we’re old enough to make our own decisions and learn from our own mistakes; this is what life is all about. Why should we let someone else’s opinions rule our lives?

After speaking to my cheerleader and accountability buddy (ie. my husband) about it he began showing me some motivational quotes. This is the one that spoke loudest to me:-

motivational quote

I’m beginning to find that by reading some good motivational quotes, walking and listening to writing podcasts and music early in the day helps to make me happy, and in turn, motivates me to write. It can be a long process, but finding that belief in yourself, in the end, ultimately begins with you.

Are you surrounded by others who lower your self-esteem? What do you do to keep up your motivation? Do you find it is more your family than your friends who try to demolish your dreams? What type of things has been said to you?

Image via theBERRY