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

Adaptation To Your Surroundings: Living In Another Country To Inspire Your Writing Career

(contributed post)

Writing is fast becoming the most popular nomadic pursuits of professional freelancers. Of course, the great advantage any writer has is that they can do the job from anywhere; and with the amount of online publications nowadays, and the fact that most of the money for freelancers comes from writing online, this gives the average freelancer options to go and work from anywhere in the world. But can you make your life and career better by moving to another country as a writer? Let’s try and answer the question.

Inspiration

Many of us fantasize about packing up our lives, moving to another country, and looking at the sunny horizons of a faraway land, while sitting on the beach, sipping an espresso, and getting to work on our dream project. This seems to be a common goal for many entrepreneurs. In fact, Tim Ferris’s New York Times bestseller, The Four Hour Work Week , is almost exclusively structured around that notion. We can aspire to have that type of lifestyle now, and it’s certainly more achievable, due to the fact that there are so many different projects available.

Different surroundings can provide various inspirations. Compare working in the British Isles to the Far East, for example. A complete contrast in climate and lifestyle can provide various inspiration points for any writer. But,  the vast majority of jobs out there for writers consist of blogging and content related roles, so, is moving to another country worth it as far as inspiration is concerned? Well, it is if you’re looking for a new lifestyle. You can write from anywhere in the world, but the new surroundings of a different country mean you could feel inspired by their culture. The choice of literature and cultural benchmarks could push you off into new directions as far as writing is concerned. It doesn’t even matter if you write content about the most mundane of topics; the fact is, by surrounding yourself with different approaches to culture: from the art, to the literature, to the theater, this is going to feed into every aspect of how you create. You could find a completely different angle, or hopefully a different way of creating work that excites you, even if you are writing about something that you aren’t particularly keen on. The life of a freelance writer means that you have to create content about topics the don’t particularly enthuse you. And so, this leads very nicely onto the next topic.

Motivation

If you surround yourself with new horizons, new people, and new lifestyles, the motivation to create could be difficult, but of course, a freelancer has to work, or they don’t get paid! Exchange rates and currency can mean that going from one country to another can result in a huge leap in income.  The great thing about being nomadic, if there is a culture that doesn’t work for you, where you feel uninspired and unmotivated, you can just get up and move on. There are so many properties for rent across the world, like https://www.rumah.com/rumah-disewa/di-area-depok-idjb10 in West Java, variety can truly be the spice of life, and you can reap the benefits of a well-paid writing job in comparison to the cost of living.  Not only this, but you can also align yourself with the working habits of the country . A lot of countries in the western world focus on the ideal of living to work, whereas there are more that focus on working to live. But a lot of us make the mistake of going where the money is, and we soon pine for the comforts of home.

Home And Away Comforts

Yes, even though we are seemingly living the high life, when moving to another country, where our money goes further, we feel well rested, and we have our fair share of sunshine–this may still not be enough. After all, we could feel homesick for a place that we spent a lot of our life trying to get away from. But when you are looking for creative inspiration, you need to actively seek out new experiences. There are going to be times when you feel dry and bereft of inspiration wherever you are; and if you are feeling homesick, or alienated in a foreign country, this can overwhelm us. But if you are struggling, it’s important to get involved with your local community, which can be very intimidating, but there are some useful hints on https://culturalvistas.org/blog/exchange-tips/6-ways-to-get-involved-in-your-host-community, and this can help to inspire you in so many different ways.

Whatever your reason for going abroad, whether it’s to broaden the mind or not, you are in a different environment, so you should let it feed into your creativity. If not, is it time to go home? Because a lot of people chase the money, and move abroad for more lucrative prospects, and now as social media can provide that shield between you and the world, you don’t necessarily have to ingratiate yourself with a community. And if you are seriously pining for home comforts, something as simple as a postcard, some tea bags, or a Skype chat with a friend might help you to realize why you left in the first place.

At What Point Should You Go Home?

Some people leave and never return, whereas others feel that they’ve scratched that itch. Some people return home after an adventure of a few years, because life duties have compelled them to return, such as family members, too many missed weddings and funerals, or even the fact that your working visa has simply run out. Going home can feel a bit deflating, or it can feel like you’ve had your fill of the world, and you want to go back to what is comfortable and that you inherently know. And it’s this that can help to fuel your creativity here on in.

Writing is a job that can be done from anywhere in the world, and if you feel that you’re getting stale, or you have concerns that your ability is going to be trumped by the next generation of freelancers, you owe it to yourself to broaden your mind, to open yourself up to new possibilities, because it’s this curiosity that will fuel your creativity. It’s something we should all do in our lives, live somewhere else; and when you are a writer armed with a laptop and a suitcase, the possibilities are endless. You will know when it’s time to go home because you will feel continually inspired. You will have a wealth of experiences to draw on, different cultures, different music, various literature and art, and it’s these things that will make you a better writer, even from home. 

 

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I Need To Write 500 Words a Day

All right, enough is a enough! That’s what I’m telling myself and you today. No more excuses. No more self-pity. No more being overwhelmed with life. I am writing 500 words a day even if this latest novel I’m working on goes nowhere!

What’s it about? Well, it’s for adults–that’s new for my fiction, most likely it would be considered women’s fiction. And it’s about a woman who has her first serious relationship with a narcissist in college, and she has an alcoholic sister. She doesn’t know who she is (maybe that’s the reason for my true self post the other day!) except for being connected to the narcissist her entire adult life and being a caregiver for her sister–so yes, she’s totally codependent. In this novel, I explore if it is possible to break free from these habitual patterns of unhealthy behavior and choose yourself over codependency.

And I need to work on this every day. I will write at least 500 words a day.

When I vowed on here to do Morning Pages, I did pretty well. I’m still writing in a journal in the morning several days a week, and it’s very helpful. So I think vowing on here to write 500 words a day will hold me more accountable than if I just tell myself I will do this.

Want to join me?

 

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A Few Odd Things About Me, Why I Don’t Like Air Conditioning, and Please Take My Poll About Yanny

Did you listen to the Laurel or Yanny sound clip? What did you hear?

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I start with that poll because it’s what inspired this blog post. I was scrolling on Facebook at my daughter’s bedtime, like I usually do, and I saw a post that said: “I’m Team Laurel.” I was thinking: Is this a How To Get Away With Murder thing I don’t know about? Is there another season of Bachelor already? What is Team Laurel? So I go on to read the comments, and I see that most people know exactly what he’s talking about and they’re saying either: “Me too” or “Team Yanny”

First, I commented: What are you people talking about? And then I googled. Even after reading the explanation of the Laurel and Yanny craze, I was like: How is this a thing? It’s just like the dress debate a couple years ago, which I also didn’t get. So then, another friend of mine told me to google the Yanny/Laurel debate, and I told her (still all on Facebook because who has real conversations any more? This stuff is much more important): “I did google.” She said, “Well, what did you hear?” And I said, “I didn’t listen. Am I weird or what?”

Does that make me weird? Does it make me NOT curious enough?

Here’s something else I discovered yesterday. I don’t like air conditioning. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for it. I live in St. Louis, where the humidity is ridiculous in the the summer. I also don’t have a good cross breeze in my home. But I mentioned this dislike to one of my friends, “I don’t like air conditioning.” And he said, “Why not?” (as in–are you crazy? How can you not like air conditioning?)

I didn’t really have an answer for him, but the biggest thing I kept thinking is: It makes me feel closed in. (I also don’t like air conditioning when it is on so cold in a place that you have to bring a parka in the summer either.) But, a furnace and heat don’t make me feel closed in during the winter. I guess it’s because on those in-between weather days (temps in the 70s and 80s) when my dog is panting and begging me to turn on the air conditioner because the temp in the house is reaching 77 degrees F, I like the windows open and the breeze hopefully coming in, and it feels like I am more productive and energetic.

Does that make me weird?

And here’s the last one I’ll share with you today because goodness, I hope you come back and read this blog again, and don’t think: She’s weird. Why would I listen to her advice/opinions about parenting or self-care or finance or dating?

I love writing. I love working on my novel. Whenever I do, I feel good–I get lost in the words, and I’m not constantly thinking about my problems, like I usually am. But I don’t do it on a regular basis. If I didn’t have my lovely critique group, I probably wouldn’t work on my novel at all. WHY DO I DO THIS? Why don’t I make time for something that brings me a natural high?

Does that make me odd?

 

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The Comparison Trap for Writers

Last week, I shared how much the book, video, and study group for The Comparison Trap positively influenced my life. I wanted to share with you a post I did for WOW! Women On Writing about how much comparison can hurt writers or any creative types! Here is the post I wrote on comparison and writing for The Muffin. (So…this is a re-post!)

I have been in a book study called The Comparison Trap by Sandra Stanley. In this study, we talk about how people, women especially, are terrible about comparing themselves to others, and this causes a lot of discontent and negative behavior. It causes broken relationships and broken spirits. Before taking this class and doing this study, I didn’t realize how often I compared myself to other women and felt like I wasn’t measuring up; or worse, I made myself feel better when someone wasn’t as successful as me.

I am so thankful this study came into my life, and of course, I started thinking about it in terms of being a writer. Writers also compare themselves to others, and it can cause writer’s block, a giving-up attitude, and hurt feelings between writer friends.

Have you ever found yourself reading a Facebook announcement from your writing friend about finally securing a big New York agent and thinking that’s it, I’m done, no one will ever want to represent me?

Or how about your critique group member who received her 20th rejection, and you are secretly celebrating because at least you had an acceptance last month?

I know both of these scenarios sound like you are horrible person, and you don’t have to admit that you have thought this way, but you probably have. And you are not alone. It’s human nature, but it’s not helpful to you, your creativity, or your career.

So what do you do?

What I’m learning with this book study I mentioned above is that “There is no win in comparison.” Stop looking to the left or right. You need to look at yourself and your talent. Think of how you can reach your writing goals and how you can improve your craft. Focus on you and your writing–not your Facebook friend’s new book, not your critique group member’s literary award, and certainly not your favorite writer you’ve been following on Twitter when she makes the bestseller’s list.

This does not mean you don’t celebrate success with every writer you know. This simply means that when you find yourself starting to compare another writer’s success or failure with your own, stop. Just stop. Because it is really true that there is no win in comparison. But you can win when you improve yourself!

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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.

contributed article

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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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