Author Struggle – So Hard to Sit Down and Write

I love to write. I can write for hours. I dream about writing full time, eight hours a day. I have many, many ideas and with more time, I could write them all.

The reality is that I usually have one hour to write each day, sometimes an hour and a half. I love to write and yet I find it difficult to ignore distractions and just sit down and do it. Once I start, I’m fine. I quickly get into the groove and the hour flies by and I don’t want to stop. So why does it take me so long to get started?

distraction king quote.jpgI’m not alone in this struggle. On podcasts and blogs I’ve heard professional, full time writers confess that they, too, struggle to sit down and focus. They’re living the writing dream and yet it sounds like it never gets easier to get started.

Why is it so hard to sit and write?

#1 Writing is hard. Writing takes effort, concentration, problem solving, empathy, research, and creativity. You have to pour your subjective heart into something and then critique it objectively, push your imagination to the extreme, keep hundreds of  details straight, and build an emotional connection with characters who only exist in your mind. It’s fun, but it’s hard.

#2 Guilt. I have a family, a home, and responsibilities. Is it okay to take time away from those to play at my writing hobby? Shouldn’t I be cleaning bathrooms or bonding with my children or planning meals? Maybe. But when I stop writing for days to be responsible, I miss it. I get antsy and crabby. Writing makes me happy and I’m a person, not just a mom. I need to take care of myself, love myself, blah blah blah, sit down and write.

distraction zole quote#3 No hurry. It’s amazing what a deadline does for your focus. When the sequel to Sex Soup and Two Fisted Eating was only half written, my publisher asked to see it, and could I have it to him in three months? Sure, absolutely. It took me one year to write the first half of More Sex Soup and three months to  write the second half. When something is due, you get it done.

What if you have no deadline? Writing (and publishing) takes a long time and it’s hard to keep up a sense of urgency for something that won’t be complete for a year or more. If I don’t write today, no one cares but me. Sounds a bit sad, but it’s true.

distraction deadlineYou have to make your own deadlines, your own urgency. Submit to contests because they have deadlines. Put your writing on a blog and commit to posting every week or every month. Even if you only have four followers, it gives you a sense of accountability to those followers. Set goals for your work in progress and attach rewards or consequences to those goals. For example, reward yourself for meeting your goal by buying a new book or dinner with a favorite friend. Conversely, if you don’t meet your goal, no TV until you do or dust the baseboards in the whole house.  You can even challenge a writing friend to see who can finish 100 pages first. Loser buys coffee. You get the idea.

When you want to write but find yourself wasting time with distractions, know that you’re not alone in your struggle, but you do need to sit down and start. I’ll race you!

 

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24

 

Images courtesy of AZ Quotes (Stephen King), iz Quotes (Wole Soyinka), Boost Media (deadline)

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Include Your Passion in Your Writing

Today I pulled out a picture book I created for health class back in middle school. I laughed out loud when I saw it because 25 years later, I am once again drawing body cells with cartoon eyes.

disease book 1I’m working on a series of blog posts for Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating wherein I interview various organs whose body has recently been diagnosed with type two diabetes. Everyone’s blaming the disease on Pancreas, of course, but she claims it’s the fault of Muscle or the Kidney Twins.  In the illustrations, the organs sit in armchairs to chat with the hostess and I’m having fun adding silly mustaches to glucose and endoplasmic reticulum hair to exhausted cells.

disease book 2The blast from the past book got me thinking about where our interests and passions begin: some come naturally and some come from the influence of others. For example, my mother is a high school biology teacher who tries to make biology memorable for her students. To this day, my siblings and I can name the phases of cell reproduction because Mom invented a tale of lovers torn apart that made the phases fun. Just last month I spotted two giant stuffed sock ribosomes in the guest bedroom, ready for class. Mom is fascinated with biology, which led to my own fascination with how the body works. Mix in the conviction (and living proof) that learning can be fun, and voila! You get nerdy kidneys arguing about mustached glucose on a healthy living blog.

disease book 3What are some of your passions? Do you include them in your writing?

For a good time and a better understanding of type two diabetes, check out The Diabetes Debate: Whose Fault is it?

Romancing Great Falls

Great Falls National Park in Virginia has beauty, history, and enough boulders to please a mountain goat. It’s also one of the settings in my second contemporary romance novel and I’ve had a lot of fun incorporating the Falls into the story.

great-falls-nationalLet’s start with the great falls themselves. There are two major lookouts to view the natural wonder and the view is impressive. Nothing says romance like a waterfall.

 

IMG_4231Great Falls National Park is a bit like an outdoor United Nations. People of every nationality gather to hike, climb, picnic, and explore. My hero, Javier, is the descendant of Guatemalan refugees.

IMG_4232One of the coolest things about the park is that you can climb up, down, and around the huge boulders that flank the Potomac River. My heroine, Hillary, likes to explore off the main trails.

 

IMG_4238There’s so much history at the falls: floods, drownings, a booming canal town, and even an amusement park. The writer part of me goes crazy with the possible plot lines that history presents.

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I usually visit the park with my four children, so romance is not my focus, but it’s been a lot of fun revisiting the park as I write and seeing it through the eyes of a young couple figuring out who and what in life will be their priority.

Enthusiastic Productivity

rachel aaron 10kI recently read a post by Rachel Aaron on how she manages to write 10,000 words a day. That’s approximately 25 pages in 5-6 hours. Approximately. Shoot, even if my estimate is off by an hour or ten pages, that’s still amazing!

Rachel has a cool triangle with time, enthusiasm, and knowledge at the three points. Knowledge is knowing what you want to write before you start typing and time is carving out chunks of time to write because it takes a while to get into your groove and you want to stay in said groove as long as possible.

Enthusiasm was my favorite triangle point. The more excited you are about what you’re doing, the faster and better you’ll do it. Rachel recommends taking five minutes before you start your task to get yourself excited about it. For example, if you’re going to write a scene that is necessary plot-wise, but a bit of a yawner, then brainstorm ways to make it interesting: symbolism, unspoken communication between characters, a bit of humor, and so forth. Your “boring” scene will be better and you’ll get through it more quickly.

Rachel writes novels, but I believe her triangle applies to nonfiction as well. For example, I love blogging, but there are times when a blog post is “due” (because I said I would post weekly on Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating, and bimonthly here and by golly, I will), but I’m just not feeling it. I sit and the computer and whine: I don’t feel funny. I want to work on my novel instead. I want a nap. If I take a few minutes to get my creative juices flowing, though, writing becomes fun again. Enthusiasm is my favorite because it not only helps me write faster, but helps me write better.

What I Learned at a Writers Conference

Two weeks ago I attended a local(ish) writers conference. It was like entering an embassy while traveling abroad: everyone there spoke my language! POV, protagonist, proposal, pitch, platform, even Peter Piper. It was wonderful. Here are four things I learned that weekend.write his answer

  1. Bring a friend or make a friend. I’ve been to a writers conference twice by myself, but this time a friend came with me. SO fabulous! Apart from being able to share the fun and bounce ideas off of each other, having a friend gave me one unexpected advantage: confidence. We’re chatting, we’re laughing, and hey, there’s SuchAndSuch author, editor, web designer. Why don’t we go say hello? The conversation is already flowing between you, so it feels much more natural to approach the industry people you’d love to converse with.
  2. 250 business cards is a LOT of cards and handing out the first two will immediately show you the flaw in all of them. In my case, font size. I didn’t realize how small the font was until everyone I gave a card to held it at arm’s length and squinted at it through reading glasses. There’s a reason the standard font size on submissions is 12, not 10.
  3. Don’t burn your bridges when you don’t get the answer you were hoping for from an editor, agent, etc. I didn’t do this, but I had the urge and restrained myself. This year in particular I noticed how interconnected the publishing industry is. Editor A works for Publisher A, but is also an author represented by Agent B, who also represents Author C who is good friends with Editor D from Publisher D. They all know each other and your reputation can follow you – good or bad – around their circles.
  4. Talk with everyone. You will receive your best writing tips and make your best connections when you least expect it.

My last piece of advice is this: if you want to write, go to a writers conference! The experience you gain is invaluable.

Write What You Love Or Write What Sells?

2014 blog 006Should you write what you love or write what sells?

After eight years of writing novels, I still don’t know the answer to that question. I wish I did.

I love science fiction and fantasy and the first novel I wrote was a fantasy, but when I went to sell it six years ago, I heard the same thing over and over from Christian publishers: “Hmm, you write pretty well, but we don’t do fantasy. Do you have any romance novels?”

So I started writing romance novels.

With the exception of Jane Austin, I’ve never been a big fan of the genre, but I started reading my way through the romance gauntlet: contemporary, historical, Amish, suspense. I tried to analyze why I liked or didn’t like each book and used that information to write romance novels that I enjoy. I like writing romance, but I’m still waiting to see if my take on the genre will attract a publisher.

Last year at a writers conference I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were several Christian publishers looking at fantasy! Romance is still King, but the other genres are starting to grow.

So do I write what I love and hope it sells? Or do I write what sells in a way I love?

Have any of you answered this question? What conclusions did you come to and why/how?

Writing Tips From A Gardener

P1020974The more comparisons I draw between writing and gardening, the more appreciative I become of the creative process.  Here are a few of the ways growing plants and growing ideas are similar and what I’ve learned about both.

1. Waiting is essential and if you’re patient, you’ll enjoy the experience.  In the garden you plant, you weed, you water…and then you have to wait.  You can’t speed up the growing process.  You can’t speed up the writing process either.  (I’ve tried begging, pep talks, persuasion – on both plants and keyboards – and it does’t work.)  You get a good idea, develop it, put words on paper…and then you wait.  You wait a few weeks before you edit so you have fresh eyes, you wait while a few trusted friends read your work and give you feedback, and after you finally submit, you wait forever and a day.  Thankfully, it’s worth the wait.

P10101172. The weather is not always pleasant, but the diligent worker reaps a harvest.  Some writing days feel like it’s 60 degrees and sunny: the words flow, the muses are singing your song, and you could go on forever.  But to reap a harvest worth sharing, you also need to weed and water when it’s 100 degrees and humid; when it feels like work.

3. You must weed.  If it doesn’t belong in the story, pull it out.  This applies to poor wording, cheesy similes, beloved but useless characters,and  stagnant plot points, but it can apply to great writing as well. A rose can be a weed if your garden’s focus is vegetables. Plant the rose elsewhere.

P10103704. Harvest time is magic.  It’s a special joy to see the fruit of your hard work. Blogging is like planting radishes: you put it out there and get almost instantaneous feedback.  A book is more like a fruit tree: it can take years to harvest that produce.  I greatly enjoy my radishes, but I’m taking good care of my trees as well: here’s hoping that my fruit harvest comes in soon.

What’s worse for you: the weeding or the waiting?