6 Blogs to Recharge the Writing Life

Writing is solitary. In fact, the singleness of writing can become the elephant in your writing space. So much so, some writers lose the initial spark experienced when beginning that next book, essay, or blog post.

Perhaps you’ve been working on building your platform , and no one seems to be clamoring at your blog or on your Facebook fan page. And all you have for your hard work is a throbbing headache.

What to do to get back in the writing groove and use some of that creativity to work on your memoir, novel or yes, even the dreaded platform?

Look to the writing and blogging community-at-large. After all, this is a business where encouragement and support are readily available. However, despite the abundance of resources and tips, sometimes it’s hard to decide where to look.

Following are six blogs I consistently read. I always find something to reignite the lost spark of creativity or jar loose the stillness in my inspiration:

The Write Practice

The Write Practice is here to kick-start your practice.
You have to write millions of words no one is ever going to see
before you can write the ones that will change someone’s life.

Joe Bunting, founder of The Write Practice, supports and encourages writers of all ages and skill levels. Here you will find tutorials, writing prompts, writing tips and other resources.

Connect with Joe @write_practice on Twitter or on Facebook.

The Creative Penn

… where you will find resources to help you write, publish and market your book.

Joanna Penn, best-selling author, shares her own writing journey using both mistakes and lessons learned in the areas of writing, marketing and publishing. Joanna features guest posts from other writers willing to share their experiences and knowledge.

Connect with Joanna @thecreativepenn on Twitter or on Facebook.

Catherine, Caffeinated

Here’s a full list of all the “self-printing” category posts which chronicle my entire self-publishing adventure. I’ve tried to organize them in some sort of coherent way, but if you want to read them all—and you have, like, a week or so of your life to spare—you can click here to access all posts tagged with “self-printing” instead.

In addition to writing blog posts on “self-printing,” Catherine Ryan Howard is a writer and coffee enthusiast from Cork, Ireland. Her goal at Catherine, Caffeinated is to share with other writers her knowledge gained as self-publisher. A plethora of information is available on her blog, so I suggest a cup of coffee and a comfy place to sit when you’re ready to dig in.

Connect with Catherine @cathryanhoward on Twitter or on Facebook.

Goins, Writer

Here is where we wage war on the blank page, where we band together
to find purpose in our art and lives.

Jeff Goins generously shares his views on writing in the 21st century while also sharing resources and tips. His blog covers many topics on writing, passion and creativity.

Connect with Jeff @JeffGoins on Twitter or on Facebook.

Nina Amir

…she writes, speaks and teaches from a place of knowing that
what has worked for her will at least provide others with
a starting place from which to find what works best for them.

In her blog, How to Blog a Book, Nina Amir shows her readers how to blog a nonfiction book. However, fiction writers may also find many useful tips and ideas here. Nina offers posts based on her experiences as a freelance nonfiction book editor, writing coach, and consultant.

Connect with@NinaAmir on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook.

We Grow Media

I help writers share their stories and connect with readers.

Founder of We Grow Media, Dan Blank, works with writers through online courses, conferences and events, one-on-one consulting, workshops and speaking, and writing this blog, a weekly newsletter, and ebooks. Additionally, he also works with publishers and publishing agencies.

Connect with @DanBlank on Twitter.

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This listing is by no means complete and perhaps in the near future I’ll post others I keep an eye on.

And what about you? Is there a blog or blogs that can recharge you and your writing? If so, won’t you share in the comment section below? I’d love finding new resources!

11 Writing Tips from Henry Miller

Often I find myself pondering what has affected my ability to allocate specific time periods for my writing. After all, as much as I’d like to dedicate 24/7 to my writing, life has its other demands. Once I reach the point of sensing the tsunami-like after effects in my day, frustrations and emotions overwhelm any sense of remaining order in any so-called schedule.
Recently I’ve been reading about writing habits of some of our writing greats — Hemingway, Fitzgerald, King, Oates, and others.

Henry Miller, Author
Henry Miller, Author

Today I’m sharing the “Work Schedule, 1932-1933, –Henry Miller Miscellanea” I have strategically pinned above my computer.

His own writings in Henry Miller on Writing show Miller’s stringent writing schedule during the writing of the first of his many novels, Tropic of Cancer. Hoping to give momentum to his writing, Miller developed a writing schedule that included the following tenets:

(Image via Goodreads)

When I first came across this list of Miller’s “commandments,” I placed it in a prominent place near my computer hoping it would give similar forward progress for my writing. Most days, I glance at it more than once. Not all of Miller’s “commandments” are easily applied to my writing life, but some have made an impact on thoughts about my writing habits.

  • No. 1 — Write on one thing at a time until finished. I am notorious for beginning projects. If I grow bored, I’ll start another and another and another until I have several unfinished projects. This isn’t limited to writing. This proclivity for beginning multiple projects extends to quilting and knitting, and perhaps is the reason behind a habit of reading multiple books simultaneously. Note to self: Need to work on this!
  • No. 3 — Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand. Another of Mr. Miller’s commandments I need to heed. Often I sit down to write and it is not so much nervousness as fear that comes and sits on my shoulder. Like a harpie, fear sits there and taunts me with images of failure, mistakes, less than perfect work product and more. Another note to self: Stop it!
  • No. 9 — Discard the Program when you feel like it–but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.I’ve pondered what Mr. Miller means in this “commandment,” and I’ve come to the conclusion that “Discard the Program” doesn’t necessarily mean to walk away from your work, but to allow yourself the freedom to write, write, write and then the next day return to the plan initially drawn out for your book. Self, remember this!
  • No. 11 – Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards. Mr. Miller did not have email and social media calling his name first thing each day, so perhaps this was easier for him. However, I find myself drawn to checking our personal emails, then our business emails, and lastly Sherrey’s emails. Then I move to doing a little sharing of what my good writing friends have posted and shared. All of this before I’ve written a single word. One more note to self: I need discipline in this area.

Bottom line: No one writer has all the answers. No matter how famous, how prolific, how stringent his or her work method was.

Your work style and scheduling method is yours and yours alone, as is mine. However, some gems can be found in Mr. Miller’s “commandments.” It isn’t lost on me how my eyes fall to the same ones on his list each day. Somehow, however, those daily glances and self-admonitions don’t seem to be changing how I write or who I am.

How about you? Do you have set ways in which your day must play out? A daily writing schedule? Are you easily distracted by interruptions or can you allow yourself to float in and out of your writing?

Share your own thoughts on Miller’s “commandments” and share your own work style with us below.

7 Benefits of Reading for Writers

Over the last four months, productive writing in my “writing cave” has been predominantly lacking. A variety of reasons, too boring to bother you with, has been the cause of this downturn. Instead of writing, circumstances have allowed me to read more and different books than I usually read. My husband has even opened up new realms of reading for me.
To assuage my guilt as I sat and read more than I was writing, I focused on this quote from Stephen King in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft:

Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

So, having had the time to do a bit of reading lately, here are the tips I garnered and want to share with you:

1. Vocabulary Expansion. 

Even the most accomplished of writers can always come across a new word. Expanding one’s vocabulary is essential to writing in order to bring to our readers the gift of words perhaps they don’t know. Additionally, new words enhance a writer’s speaking vocabulary. The skill of being articulate and well-spoken is a benefit to any writer when speaking or engaging with agents, editors, and readers. If there are foreign language words in the text, you begin to learn another language. The increasing diversity in our population makes this another added benefit to reading.

2. Improved Writing Skills.

Increased vocabulary influences your creativity and imagination, thus improving your ability to write a great short story, fiction or nonfiction, or essay. Likewise, while reading another’s writing, your mind likely absorbs the style of the writer. The editor-in-chief at Pick the Brain explains in a post, 10 Ways to Improve Your Mind by Reading the Classics:

Reading the classics is the easiest way to improve your writing. While reading you unconsciously absorb the grammar and style of the author. Why not learn from the best? Great authors have a tendency to take over your mind. After reading, I’ve observed that my thoughts begin to mirror the writer’s style. This influence carries over to writing, helping form clear, rhythmic sentences.

In much the same way musicians influence other musicians and the masters other painters , writers learn from reading the works of other writers.

3. Boost to Your Creativity.

Reading fiction especially transports you to another time and place and generally, your mind floats freely to visualize “where” the book is taking you. The kind of creative process you sense in your reading also enhances the ability to business problems, write books and music, and for some, even research and create advancements to aid humanitarian needs. A boost in creativity also allows the reader and the writer to step into the emotions a character is feeling or experiencing. Imagination is not all about reality; it is also about becoming the character you are empathizing with. Remember as a child when you pretended you were someone else? As we grow older, we tend to lose that imaginative process but reading can sharpen it once again as we identify with characters. Reading books of other authors allows you to experience how they develop characters, paint the scenes, and imbue their characters with emotions.

4. Learn More About Yourself.

These last few weeks have broadened my reading horizon. My husband and I don’t always read the same genre. Lately, he has read works by John McPhee, famed The New Yorkercontributor and author of many books, and William Least Heat-Moon, author of several nonfiction works, including Blue HighwaysOccasionally, my husband would come to me to read a passage that he had enjoyed. The writing would be of such quality and nuance that I couldn’t resist reading a whole page and truthfully I wanted to take the book away from him. I have now started reading these two authors and others who write good narrative nonfiction. What I’m finding is an enjoyment of a genre I had rarely picked up before. I’m seeing the crafting of beautiful sentences turning into amazing landscapes, characters into living and breathing souls, and an array of subjects written about so creatively that I enjoyed them more than I thought I would. This often happens when you read something different, something outside your usual reading box.

5. Learn New Organizational Schemes.

Reading the works of others lets us in on how the writer organizes fiction, nonfiction, memoir, biography, and more. Reading a book or article gathered into the whole by a schematic pattern we’d never considered before may impact our current project or the next one in line. We literally learn a new method or pattern of writing. Whether we use it right away or not, it is a new organizational skill set that is available in our writing if we file it away somewhere so it is easily found again.

6. Discovery of New Ideas and Improved Analytical Skills.

I read a lot of memoir books as a general rule because that is the genre I am writing in currently. I want to see what others are doing in the writing and publishing of their stories because it triggers new ideas for me in my writing. As I read memoir, I gain insight into why a writer uses a certain method. This new knowledge then blends with my past knowledge which in turn corrects my misunderstanding of certain forms of writing, broadens my interests, and improves my problem solving skills. Because of these new ideas and skills, my reasoning improves and my analytical skill set is also enhanced allowing me to write solid and convincing material.

7. Improved Focus and Concentration.

Have you ever thought about all that you carry out within a five-minute span while on the Internet? In our Internet-crazed world, we multitask as if we were whirling dervishes! Likely you can in a single five-minute span to divide your time between a writing project, checking email, Skyping with a friend or two, watching your Twitter account, and monitoring your Smartphone. This type of fragmented behavior causes stress levels to rise and lowers your productivity. But when reading a book, your mind focuses solely on the story. Everything around you falls away and you are immersed in the finite details of your book. A sense of tranquility enters your world and your stress levels drop and when you resume your writing, you are more productive.

It is my hope that within this list of seven benefits you have found something new and helpful to you as a writer, or perhaps to you as a reader.

Don’t forget what the good Dr. Seuss says about reading. It applies to all of us–young and old, writers and non-writers:

What about you? Does reading help in your writing? If you have a specific example of how reading a book, essay or short story revealed something about your writing, please share it with the rest of us in comment below.

Barcelona Calling by Jane Kirkpatrick {A Review}

Today I’m posting a review of Jane Kirkpatrick’s novel, Barcelona Calling, on my faith blog, Sowing Seeds of Grace. Although this book is not in keeping with other topics I review or post here, the subject matter directly relates to the experiences of most, if not all, writers at some time in their writing life.Because I respect Jane Kirkpatrick as a friend, mentor and fellow writer, I wanted to share this light-hearted, witty, tiny bit of romance novel with you as the writing references Jane makes are true to her teaching methods and skills. To get a taste of Barcelona Calling follow this link to read my full review or I’ve offered a short blurb below.

Synopsis

How far will Annie go to become famous?

Annie Shaw’s dreams are far from simple: become a famous author and fall in love. But she’s in trouble after quitting her day job to write full-time. While her first novel was successful, her second novel tanked; and her new editor wants her to rewrite the ending of her latest work to ensure this one is more successful. In order to pursue love, fame, and the elusive “bestseller,” Annie relocates to Chicago, acquires a rambunctious dog, and participates in antics better suited to a television reality show than real life.

Can Annie’s best friends help her achieve her dreams of fame without destroying her future? And what about the love she gave up in Barcelona who wants her to return to him?

My Thoughts:

I have long been a Jane Kirkpatrick fan. When I picked up Barcelona Calling at a writers’ conference I was attending and Jane was co-leading, the synopsis surprised me.

Jane’s underlying themes are usually strength, courage and compassion with a lovely sprinkling of faith and humanity. Almost everything Jane has written to date has been written from the historical perspective of the Native Americans living in the Pacific Northwest, those people exploring and settling in the same region, strong women making strides in the world, events of a few decades ago in Oregon when a cult took over some land and what happened later, plus her own story of homesteading in Oregon. What was she doing writing a novel about romance and a young woman writer, I questioned to myself?

Obviously she was stepping outside the box and my curiosity got the better of me. I purchased the book, Jane autographed it for me, and I put in my bag. Until recently I had actually continued placing it behind other books I wanted to read. Then, looking for a change of reading pace, I picked it up. I’m so glad I did!

The things I learned from a writer’s perspective and about Jane were worth the price of the book and more. Jane lays out beautifully the life of the emerging writer. She takes the ups, downs, rejections, tears, joys and successes and tosses them lightly like a grand summer salad full of freshly picked fixings from the garden.

If you want to read more, here’s the link again.