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Open Book: Why Does My Writing Suck?

September 2, 2013 Leave a comment

I do not know one single writer that has not, at some time or other, asked the question: Why does my writing suck?

Of course, I thought I knew why. I thought that all my drafts were horrible. I dare not show them to anyone. They might figure out that what I deem is my only talent is rather a figment of my imagination.

Then, I came across this video, which is a shorter version of Baltimore radio host, Ira Glass’ explanation why we expect so much from our writing. Writing takes time to mature. So, if you have been beating yourself up over your lackluster writing attempts, have faith. I now play this video every time I secretly torture myself over my writing attempts. It centers me.

http://vimeo.com/24715531

Open Book: An Ending for 2011

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Happy Holidays!

We are about to witness the passing of another year.  I suspect there will be many changes in 2012. You can feel it in the air.  It starts with the economy, the political unrest on the national level and eventually trickles down into our homes and our daily lives.  Some people hate change.

Change is not a bad thing.  I mentioned to my husband the other day that when life or the course we have been on accumulates too many projects, collects too many peopleand things, the best action plan is to go back to basics.  Start from the beginning and incorporate into your life the essential behaviors and things that you would need to function.  (Most people do not make a distinction between need and want.  This distinction between your needs and wants list is the key to defining who you are.) Then add layers to it.  You will find that you will do things differently, cutting out unnecessary or outmoded steps in your life…allowing more new things to come into your life.  It is much like giving your bedroom a fresh coat of paint.  You first must clean out the entire room, pick out a paint color (goal) and then reintroduce only things that you need.

For me, change is been in the works throughout 2011.  I have learned much about myself, my motivation to write, and to maintain this website.  If you have noticed, I only post when I feel I have something to share.

So, I leave you on Christmas Eve with a great blog by Larry Brooks.  Here Larry shows us the long view of our writing journey.  It is something to think about as you reflect on your writing goals for 2012. http://storyfix.com/

May your new year be filled with conflict, mayhem and drama — of course, on paper, not in real life.   Are you ready?

Open Book: Is Blogging Overrated?

September 18, 2011 Leave a comment

After blogging for a couple of years now, I am wondering if blogging is overrated.  Yes, as a writer, you would think that this process is a no brainer and enjoyable.  But in truth, it steals time from my day, from my other writing and reading, and although pleasurable, may or may not be all that productive from a return on investment viewpoint.

In another blog written not long ago (http://www.corichu.com/blog/2011/08/22/create-blog-written/), I took the position that blogging is an activity that helps a new writer.  The blog is free self promotion, a foundation for building a loyal fan base when that first novel gets published.

I was struggling last week to come up with something worthy of writing.  I realize that “worthy” is subjective, but I wouldn’t want to read a blog if I didn’t expect to come away with a new idea, a different point of view, or at least a bit of humor.  Geesh, my time is worth something…and that’s what this blog is all about.  Is blogging overrated?  Am I getting something out of my time investment? 

Blog posts are not quick, easy breezy well-written snippets. I think more  like a journalist; someone who reports or makes sense out of a series of facts.  I just happened to pick the topic of writing, but I could be writing a blog about baseball fashion or nutrition, or focus on the aging baby boomer body.  I read other writing blogs, who have covered the grammar topic, the how-to topics very thoughtfully and thoroughly and wonder if I should just make this blog a series of great links that I found.  After all, the nuts and bolts of the writing process doesn’t change enough to warrant me to re-invent the wheel just because I can’t think of something to publish in my blog. 

Blogging pressure can be annoying. Besides, even though I write fairly quickly (and I do have opinions), I find that I just can’t  spew out anything that comes to mind.  I have to have a topic that I find interesting, come up with an outline, and then research the fine points.  All this is time consuming.  I don’t write my blog because I have a passion for it, and certainly I don’t like that I am adding to more deadlines on my to-do list.  Even though this is self induced, it is nevertheless annoying and pressure.

Marketing component. Also, what people fail to realize is a blog is a product.  Like any product to get the readership up, there is a marketing component.  If you create a blog, how many hours do you expect to spend reading, commenting and linking to other blogs….other social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter?

More time consumed? I hear that we are a nation of non-readers.  I can hardly believe that, but if it is true, then the vlog (video blogging) is the next big marketing platform.  And how much time are you going to invest in vlogging when blogging becomes passe? 

Money making blogs. If you are blogging because you think you are going to make money from affiliate programs, realize this venture has its own pecularities.  First, you will need a great niche…one that will have pull, even when you skip a few days.  (A good example is a celebrity watch blog.) Second, be prepared.  This as a full time job, even though it seems like a part time occupation—one that insidiously steals your time from you.  Third, Technorati reports that only about 10 percent of blogs are money producers.  Some are wildly successful, but most are not making more than $20K a year.  I have been reading about the success stories.  They are inspiring. 

Final Thoughts.  Eh, am I still going to blog?  Yup, I am. I don’t know why though.  It seems to boil down to my need to share.  I am on Facebook and Twitter, but for some reason I don’t post often. 

You will have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself.  Just remember what you devote to this activity usurps the time on another writing project, with the family, with friends or another activity.

Light bulb moment!  Hmmm, maybe I should be sharing and getting paid for it? LOL

Not Writing? An Act of Self Sabotage?

March 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Lucky bambooWriting is all about discipline.  I know that.  Then, my question is, what does it mean when you like to write but in the end find writing to be a task?  For those finding it difficult to settle down and write, is it part of our DNA to prefer activities that don’t chain ourselves to a chair?  Or are we running away from ourselves?  Will our writing reveal more about ourselves than we want to share?  All interesting questions for the writer who finds they are not writing.

Recently, I found out that I am not alone in this struggle.  A talented writer/ friend is exploring that very same question.  What in the world is holding us back?  Why are we self-sabotaging ourselves?

Probably the answer is different for all of us.  However, I do see a similarity as I listen to other potential writers (there are oodles of us out there), read writing threads, and read blogs.  It simply comes down to avoidance behavior. 

If you look closely at your favorite writer, or for that matter, any successful person, you will see that people who show up every day and work at their craft, their business, their passion are the ones who eventually reap rewards for overcoming the challenges from every day demands. 

So, I’m talking to all those out there, and I’m talking  to myself —  If you want to be successful at writing, you need to show up and write every day.  Although the editor in you will say “This sucks!”  Keep at it. You’ll get better and faster with just the commitment to working at your writing with consistency. 

If you have experienced yo-yo dieting, you know it doesn’t work.  All those successful weight loss stories come from a place of discipline and exercise.  Sorry to say, I’m learning that writing is no different. 

You are like your first novel.  Just like every character and every scene must in some way advance the plotline of your novel, so must the writing and reading activities of your writing time. 

I’d like to hear from you, if you had many starts and stops to your writing.  How did you eventually move past your hurdles?

Future of Writing Opportunities

October 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Recently, I bought a NOOK for my mother.  I was thinking about the direction of book publishing—wondering if we are knocking on the door of the Jetson’s lifestyle.  For those who have spent years commuting on public transportation know the weight of carrying a book around all day, of reading a newspaper without annoying people seated next to you every time you turned a page, and unable to read in dim light.  Yes, the e-reader makes reading more convenient.

If we accept that assumption, can we also assume that if e-readers gain popularity, especially in the schools (texts are more affordable on the e-reader), then the next generation encouraged and nurtured to read, will start a real surge in demand for good writers?  Are we writers going to be able to find our place in the publishing world with more ease, because the demand is higher?

Time will tell which direction and opportunities will be available to us through technological advances.  A few years ago, commentaries on the future of book publishing nervously predicted the end of the hard copy book.  I remember thinking afterward that a writer’s life will probably get harder with fewer publishers.  Life is interesting in that the 90’s gloom of the unknown have evolved in the expansion of more opportunities, not less.

After the 90’s, we witnessed the emergence of new writing opportunities for the web.  Even web development has spawned specialty writers, not only based on subject matter, but also in technological expertise.  New occupations have sprung up .  We now have blog writers, website copy writers, e-newsletter writers, e-magazine writers, and web ad copy.  There are video writers for the streaming video spots. Writers can publish online and can advertise their articles, books, etc in ads, and on other people’s online blogs.  Promoting one’s writing has never been easier.

Technology also has made publishing less expensive with computer editing and printing on demand.  Publisherz can print a modest first run and produce more copies when needed.  

Writers who know their craft are positioning themselves for the greatest jump in their careers.  It is coming.  Will you be ready?

August Doldrums

August 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Ooops!  Where did August go?  Was I having fun? Some. Was I working? Yes. Was I writing?  More like outlining. 

I hate putting my writing at the bottom of my to-do list.  Every time I try moving it up, I succeed for one or two days and then I let external demands derail me. I don’t imagine that I am alone.

August has been a month for reading…mostly background research for my germ of an idea for a series based on the Chinese immigration in the late 1800’s.  I should be taking notes, but I am so engrossed in the material that my eyes glide through the pages like a document feeder. 

August has been a time to ponder the direction of this blog.  I didn’t want this blog to be specifically about HOW to WRITE.  There are oodles of websites that can do it well and obviously are better at time management than I seem to be.  I thought maybe the journal angle would be fun, but who really wants to listen to me moan and groan about my inertia?  I certainly wouldn’t, but then again, maybe it would attract attention because global journal sharing seems to be the trend.

I could blog about my research, but then, why would I write the novel, if it is already out there for people to see?  Anyway, I am superstitious.  I don’t talk too much about these things in order to avoid being jinxed or too many people asking me questions like why isn’t it written already.  Maybe I should stick to reviewing a particular topic? 

Hmmm.  Well, it gives me pause for thought about which direction to take this blog.   Stay tune.

Finding Time to Write

July 5, 2010 Leave a comment

When I was in my 20’s I lived paycheck to paycheck for many months.  Eventually, as the Universe would have it, I would have to learn to be more responsible.  I had to have a major repair on my car and had saved nothing for an emergency. 

I did what everyone else would have done.  Charged it.  “Don’t worry too much. You have two paychecks before the bill arrived, ”  I told myself.  It was a very tight 90 days.  I don’t think the Universe expected me to be a financial wizard, but I knew that I had to do something different because living like a pauper wasn’t cutting it for me.   The lesson learned here is obvious:  Save something from every paycheck and don’t spend more than you earn.

That said, I need to take this page out of my experience playbook and apply it to my writing.  No money. No time.  Same difference.  I didn’t put my financial health high on the priority list and sooner or later, the inevitable expense threw my financial equilibrium off (and notice it only took one good size invoice).  Just like my financial negligence, I am doing the very same thing to my writing.  There are other things obviously more important to me, although I espouse how I value writing time. 

So I am applying what I have learned at work…well, intellectually learned at least…to my writing.

Here’s what the business coaches would say if I made novel writing my career:

Make writing the first thing you do each day.  Once the day has begun there is too much competition from distractions and external energies vying for your attention.  DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO OPEN YOUR EMAIL FIRST!  Guarenteed you will not have time to write.

Apply the Pareto Principle.  Those in business may know it as the 80/20 Rule…80% of your desired results come from 20% of your effort.  An example of this rule:  80% of all the books sold are written by 20% of authors.  So, it makes sense, that if you spent 20% of your day or about 2 hours on your writing, would that book be written and published by now?

To apply the Pareto Principle, you must drop all the busy work that gets you nowhere.  You may have to work on defining this, because we all get into habits of just doing.  Before each activity, ask yourself, “Will this task help me finish my novel?”  Some you will say overwhelming ly yes.  Some will be a little less connected.  For instance, a trip to the dentist.  The results of a dental visit is integral to the success of getting that novel done.  If you neglect your health, you will not have the energy, concentration to complete a novel.

You will have to learn to prioritize and organize.  If these traits do not come naturally to you, you need to step up to the plate and figure out how to make this work.

Writing a novel is like running a marathon.  You need to keep going until you reach the finish line.  Any distractions will certainly derail you from your goal.

On your computer create a tme tracker for your writing.  No doubt you have heard about food tracking for dieters. Well, you should track how much time you spend each day on your writing tasks. 

Ask for help and learn to delegate in your family.  Even though your family wants to support you, changing their behaviors to help you might be a challenge especially if you are dealing with teenagers.  I suggest you explain to your family what you would like to accomplish and what it means to them.  Some families will get on board with the change immediately; some will need more time to adjust. 

Learn to say NO.  This is one of the hardest lessons learned for women.  Women seem to be better at multi tasking and well, the nurturing and caring strengths actually work against women novelists.

Write a goal list for your writing.  You do it at work all the time.  You have a list of tasks you would like to get done that day.  You write grocery lists, errand lists, and procedual lists.  You will find better results if you know that you will finish writing a scene with the protagonist that day and read Publisher’s Weekly.  Accomplishing only two things a day for your writing is huge.  When you complete those two things. you know you have gotten something done and are that much closer to the finish line.

Are you ready?  Get set. Go.

Why Haven't You Written That Novel?

July 4, 2010 Leave a comment

missing puzzleI don’t have time to blog regularly.  I don’t have time to tweet or check facebook.  Some days I wonder why did I start this  blog.  I find the pressure to write a blog at the end of the day painful.   So, you can only imagine.  It should come as no surprise that my book ideas still sit in my head. 

I have analyzed my resistance.  I have told myself every excuse in the book.  I sometimes think I am like an addict to my established behaviors.  I make excuses so I do not have  to change, even though it would make a positive difference in my life and take me that much closer to achieving my writing aspiration — to write that novel.

Here are some classic symptoms.  You may recognize them in yourself.  I guess I’m doing that analytical thing again.  (And is blogging another avoidance behavior mechanism?) All of these actions murder the writing spirit.  Are derailing yourself from ever writing that novel?  How does one stop these self-sabotaging behaviors?

  • You are always too busy to write.  The holidays. The family. The house.
  • You start a story, but suddenly stop  because you don’t know what comes next.   You tell yourself, you are going to let yourself think about it ….the story eventually lands in a desk drawer bottom because you never find a good resolution.
  • You wait for inspiration, cause you don’t know how you want the story to progress and figure that when you see or hear it, you’ll know it.
  • You feel much better if you had someone to share your writing pain.  You can’t write anything without a partner.
  • You have anxiety about completing a project, because you may not feel you did this or that.
  • You think your first draft stinks…and most likely, it will.
  • Your family doesn’t support the alone time that it takes to write and research.
  • You find it much more fun to do the research and not so much the writing.  You like the idea of being a novel writer, but resist doing the work.
  • You over analyze everything.
  • You want each paragraph to be perfect, so you find it difficult to ever get to the end of a chapter. 
  • You do more blabbing about your story line than writing about it.  That has to mean something.

In the weeks to come, I will explore each of these Resistance to Success behaviors.  If you are reading this and want to share your story…maybe owning up to it will get you that much closer to achieving your writing goals.

Or if you have strategies to overcome the resistence to write, please feel free to share.

Nature or Nurture?

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I am in transition.  As I reflect back at my life (yesterday was my birthday), I see that I unwittingly followed in my mother’s footsteps.  Was this nuture or nature? 

I can make an argument for both.  My mom is the creative type, a bit wayward.  She has structure in her approach toward her goals, but the structure is limited to the scope of the immediate project.  She is detailed in a microcosmic way, never able to step outside herself and see the bigger picture…see that her artwork is wonderful and how her talent was never discovered (except by close friends and family). 

As I look back into a couple of generations before her, I see her shortcomings are the shortcomings of all the women in her family.  This could be  generational, societal, and ethnic —all equally responsible for her lack of consistency.  It could be a lack of a role model in self promotion.  But what if she were lucky to find the right mentor?  Would her inherent choices in life change? 

While genetics doesn’t help you make decisions, it does govern your responses to situations.  If you tend to be shy, self promotion may be extremely difficult.

I am so much like my mom, it is frightening.  I fear that I will follow in her footsteps.  The path isn’t quite the same, but the results parallel each other.  My mother strove for self-actualization in her artwork.   She is 80 plus years old, still painting, producing her best work, but the staccato rhythm of her projects makes it tough to get any momentum. 

My lifestyle differs from my mom, but yet, I too suffer the same staccato pattern.  Is it learned behavior or the inability to stay focused for any length of time? 

I am moving past my genetics, my learned  behavior.  I, unlike my mom, understand what strategies I have to employ to reach my goal.  I know I am not alone. My internal struggle is shared by many others.  I just wonder sometimes, if the adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has merit.

Writing Workshops

January 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Over a decade ago, I attended several writing workshops.  I always walked away disappointed and wondering  whether I could have used my time more wisely by spending it writing.

Today, I attended a writing workshop that for the first time brought some clarification to why I have been struggling with my writing  all these years.  

What I learned today is that the scope of my project is ambitious for a first time novelist.  The suggestion from the group was to take it in smaller chunks.  While that would seem obvious to anyone, the obvious becane obfuscated through too much isolated thinking and not enough sharing. 

For years I have been searching on and off for a writing partner. Inherently, I knew I needed someone to bounce ideas around with, to help keep me focused, and to provide the mental support when that inevitable writer’s pause strikes.  My mistake, as Edie Hemingway, today’s instructor, pointed out is not pairing with a writer that shared a similar genre.  No wonder why I cringed when my writing partner handed me a 50 page manuscript of science fiction or 3 pages of esoteric poetry!  I had no interest in reading much less critiquing a first draft manuscript.  It wasn’t my niche.

Another point I found interesting was the show of hands of writers who thought they were structured writers and those who thought they were intuitive writers.  I, of course, stood alone again.  I lean toward left brain, structured approaches to all tasks.   As we each presented our thoughts on a small writing assignment, it was amusing to hear how each one of us interpreted Edie’s assignment. 

Mine was 4 sentences, each about 12 words long.  I thought I misunderstood the assignment at first as I watched others writing away, scribbling furiously on a second page.   Just as too many words is not good, paucity of words is not good either.  My writing lacks that emotional ingredient that stirs up the reader’s passion and loyalty.  I have to learn to share my feelings, otherwise, there will never be a wide audience for my writing.

In any case, I feel motivated again.  This class was just what I needed to jumpstart my 2010 writing goal for the year.  Edie’s workshop breathed O2 into my book.

I wholly recommend Edie’s class, if you are in the area.  She runs workshops from her home in Frederick, MD and teaches classes at Frederick Community College.  http://www.ediehemingway.com/