Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: Being Creative Is Hard

Stay at Home Writer? How Not To Become a Hermit

When you’re asked by a new acquaintance what it is that you do for a living, and you say that you’re a writer, you can almost hear the cogs turning in their brain and you can visualize the images that flicker into their mind. Immediately, they picture you at a desk in a dimly lit room, sitting behind a laptop. There’s something slightly sinister about the scene of the reclusive writer, a la The Shining. While all work and no play doesn’t send you quite as cuckoo as Jack Nicholson, the life of a writer can be solitary; and finding the time to venture outside of your four walls can be tricky. However, you must resist the urge to become a hermit. Take a look at these ideal activities that will see you up and out of the house and enhance your writing.

Book Clubs

It may sound a little cliche, but it’s true that the more you read, the better the writer you become. As you read reams of novels from umpteen different genres, writing styles, vocabulary and literary devices flood into your subconscious. If you’re able to link up with a local book club, you can network with fellow book enthusiasts. This new network of friends can be a great support if you ever suffer a bout of writer’s block or if you just fancy popping for a coffee after a hard slog on your penultimate chapter.

Courses

Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you can’t undertake professional qualifications related to your field of work. Research local creative writing courses in your area. You may find that there’s an evening class at a local college; or if you fancy something a little more formal, you could even enroll in a literature degree. If you feel that your English credentials are already top notch, you may want to branch out and take a look at studying something else that is wholly unrelated to writing but will keep your CV looking relevant. The latest top of the range VBA training classes or SEO introductory courses will keep your IT skills up to date, just in case you ever want to enter the world of full-time employment again.

Visit Schools

If you’ve been lucky enough to have had some of your work published, try and make links with some local schools. It doesn’t matter whether you write for children or adults, local education establishments will relish the opportunity of having a published author to engage and enthuse their students. You could take samples of your work, run a workshop, or create a school text in conjunction with the children. Sometimes, you are paid for these school visits. Make a name for yourself in this field, and you could effectively supplement your income from writing.

Becoming a writer is very much a vocation. The hours are long, you need supreme self-motivation, and the rewards aren’t instant. However, if you stay committed and break up some of your long spells at the laptop, you won’t ever run the risk of becoming the stereotypical writing recluse.

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Making a Commitment to Morning Pages

I’m doing it. I’m making a commitment right here and now, to anyone reading this, that I’m writing Morning Pages every single morning!

What are Morning Pages? If you have read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, then you’re familiar with Morning Pages. OR if you have ever been to just about any writing conference or creativity workshop, you have probably heard about them. If not, Morning Pages are:

 Three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.  (From Julia Cameron’s website/book)

I started today (and actually wound up with FOUR pages). Day one down. I’ve had a creativity block for a while now–although every once in a while I am inspired to write something like this post, “A Letter to a Narcissist” I wrote this week. So, today during Morning Pages, I came up with a first sentence for a short story. No idea where that will lead me, but since then, I’ve been thinking about this line and who could say it and what the conflict for the story could be.

I did a Google search for “morning pages”, and I happened upon Chris Winfield’s site. His tagline is “take back your life.” He has a free ebook (in exchange for your email address) titled How to Save 23.3 Hours Each Week. His site is all about working smarter, not harder. But he also has this amazing page about Morning Pages, which you can check out here. He starts the post by saying he never thought he’d have time in the morning to write three pages by hand, but he made a commitment to do it; and since then, he says that some of these amazing things have happened in his life:

  • I’ve come up with ideas that changed my businesses
  • I’ve worked through issues that were bothering me and seemed overwhelming
  • I’ve been better in tune with my intuition and listening to my heart
  • They have shown me what’s most important in my life and helped me to focus on that
  • and more….(check out the link above to see what else he says)

Pretty amazing, right?

So I’m making the commitment. I also recently made the commitment to read something for enjoyment EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now I read a lot. I read a lot of online articles, blog posts, unfinished manuscripts, emails, kids’ books (to my daughter), and articles about agriculture. But I haven’t been reading for myself. My creativity and writing have suffered because of this. So, since last Sunday, 11/12/2017, I said: “Enough is enough.” Katie and I went to the library. I found a novel written by an author my friend suggested. And I’m happy to say that I have read at least one chapter every day.

Surely, all these positive steps–reading and Morning Pages–will continue to feed my creativity and renew my spirit, and soon that first line I wrote during my Morning Pages will turn into something more.

By the way, for some people, journaling (which is what Morning Pages is) can give you results in your life. If you have never checked out Mari L. McCarthy’s Create Write Now site, then you should. Start with this post I did on her book–all the links you will need to find out her amazing story are in that post here

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Creative Visualization for Writers by Nina Amir (Review)

Nina Amir, the author of How to Blog a Book, has a new release out titled, Creative Visualization for Writers: An Interactive Guide for Bringing Your Book Ideas and Your Writing Career to Life . In this interactive book, writers will find over 100 exercises designed to get your creative juices flowing, move beyond writer’s block (if you have it), and stretch your mind. In other words, this is a book that gives you permission to be a little eccentric, weird, over the top and encourages you to be more creative than maybe you have ever been in your life. It’s a book we writers have been looking for because we have already read many of the fantastic books about the writing craft–how to construct sentences, when to begin a novel, and what to use instead of adverbs. 🙂

So how is this book set up? There’s a short foreward from Dinty W. Moore, and then an introduction from Nina, where she exclaims, “Become a visionary,” and explains how the brain works, including a diagram of the left and right brain–most of us know that creative people spend a lot of time in the right side of their brain. Nina says that in this book the exercises help you to use both sides of your brain. Basically she’s encouraging you to get out of the limits we all seem to set for ourselves when we say: I can’t or I’m too busy or I’m stuck. What writer doesn’t need something like this book in their lives?

After the intro, she gets into the exercises. You will want to buy a print copy of this workbook, in my opinion, because the pages are full of questions and activities; space is provided for you to write down your answers and ideas. There are even writing-themed coloring pages (I know some of you are going to get this book just because of that!) and affirmation pages, where you can write down how you are a successful author or how you promote your work well. She quotes Muhammad  Ali, who said, ““It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”

The exercises are grouped into themes: Self-Exploration, Vision, Goals, Creativity, and Focus. Here are a couple snapshots of them:

nina-page-1 nina-page-2 nina-page-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although I read through this book quickly for this review and only did a few of the exercises, I can not wait to start at the very beginning and take my time with every single exercise–it’s one of my New Year’s goals, although I’m beginning it now. My writing life has not been in the forefront for a while, due to all the stuff I’ve written about on this blog, and so I can’t wait to stretch my mind and find my creative self again.

If you want to join me, you can buy the book here.

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An Honest Look at When Life Gets in the Way of Creativity (re-post)

This is an excerpt from a post originally published on WOW! Women On Writing‘s blog at http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2016/06/an-honest-look-at-when-life-gets-in-way.html on June 16, 2016.

give upWhat’s the problem?

Life is the problem. As I’ve discussed before on this blog, this past year, my husband and I have been going through a divorce, and this is the absolute hardest thing that has ever happened to me. If you are divorced, then at this time you are probably nodding your head. It has completely changed my writing and reading life, and I have been slowly trying to find my way back.

So as I was constructing a “helpful” post on dialogue last night and earlier today, I was thinking: maybe it would be better just to be honest with [WOW!] readers. When I am honest on Facebook about my life and feelings (without oversharing–of course–or being vague–which everyone hates), a lot of people respond.

How do we as creative people, as writers, get through emotional times? Some of you probably write and journal. Journal writing doesn’t work for me. Yes, I write down what I am going through in messages, emails, and texts to my friends. This form of communication actually works quite well for me. It is much easier for me to have an instant message conversation with my best friends than sometimes to have an actual conversation. It’s a form of writing, and I’m sure since I am a writer, this is why I find IM so helpful.

I also have plans to start a blog full of non-fiction, self-help, memoir-type posts, but finding the time and energy to do that has so far eluded me.

I am tired, fellow writers. I am full of anxiety and angst. I feel I have little direction. I thought I was out of “survival mode,” and recently, tried to do some things to work toward a better future, but I’m not there. I am still in survival mode–just getting by day by day as best I can.

I can’t think about finishing my middle-grade novel still. I can barely pick up a book to read. At night, I have all sorts of books on my nightstand calling out to me, and I feel like I don’t even have the energy to invest in someone’s wonderful story.

Don’t get me wrong. I am functioning. Every day is not terrible. I have a beautiful, smart, funny 5-year-old daughter whom I love spending time with. I have amazing friends and parents. I love teaching my WOW! Women On Writing novel classes, and I LOVE helping my editing clients–so I am going to keep doing these things, while I also try with baby steps to get back to what my true passion is–writing and reading. I also like my full-time job, which has to do with proofreading, graphic design, and marketing. So yeah, the left side of my brain is doing all right. It’s the right side that needs some time and TLC, I guess.

So I have no idea if anyone reading this who is also a writer, painter, illustrator, sculptor, musician, etc feels this way or has ever felt this way. But you are not alone. And if you’ve already been through a journey like mine and you are on the other side, I would love to hear about things that helped you.

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