TBT: Day 30: Marching into the Void

This post was originally published March 30, 2013, and is one of my favorite posts ever.  It has been revisited in honor of Throw Back Thursday.  (Also, I find it amazing to remember that we once had over 50 participants!  I was much better at gathering the forces that year.  Next year, we’ll aim for more!)

 

By guest blogger Lenore Gusch

Back when I was still a student, complaining about being in school, how all of my time seemed to go to studies that didn’t have anything to do with my writing, and how much more creative I could be if I just had more time to myself, everyone warned me that life after graduation would be different, and maybe not in the ways I wanted. No more deadlines. No more workshops and writing prompts. No more interesting literary internships. No more instant writing community at my fingertips. My motivation to keep at it would have to be entirely my own.

It was true. I graduated, and suddenly was writing into a void. The writing community that had nurtured me for four years went missing.

Many of us on the March have been lucky to keep in touch with our writerly friends from school or to find our own new writing communities. (I still send drafts and story ideas back and forth with a few of my close friends.) Some have been even luckier to go on to MFAs, lead their own creative writing classrooms, or find other careers that foster their continuing to write. But I suspect that out of the fifty-six challengers this month, there are just as many of us who are not surrounded by a single other writer in our day to day lives. (My boyfriend sometimes jokes that he is illiterate, which, although completely untrue, still sends chills down my spine. He rarely reads and never, ever writes.) Many have other full time careers, significant others, and/or families commanding their attention. (Lots of it!) And still, we write on. For some reason, we insist upon it.

A lot of the posts on this March have been about doubts. “Why am I doing this?” “Am I crazy?” “Is my writing any good?” “What is the value of art, anyway?” Some of these are easier to answer, like the first one. Revisit Jennifer Simpsons blog to see why a whole slew of writers are sticking with this insane endeavor. Some of them are more problematic, like the second one. (Only you can tell you how truly neurotic you may or may not be, and why, and if you’re really crazy, you probably won’t be able to tell!) I tend to get hung up on the last one. What is the value of art? What is the value of writing? Why is it important that we tell stories to one another? Are there better things I should be doing? I have a deep belief built from groundless faith that it IS important. That it is, perhaps, the most important thing that humans can do while they’re stuck here together on the earth. But when it comes to articulating this to a society-at-large which is less and less invested in art as a measure of success and happiness, I often falter.

As a student, I had a built in excuse when I needed to go “work.” Now, when I have to explain to my boss why I don’t want to work full time at the douchey steakhouse downtown, or why I don’t want to go to yet another family dinner with my pseudo-inlaws, I can’t play the student card. I just have to be a degenerate recluse who isn’t motivated by things that make sense, like making as much money as possible, finding a career, starting a family, yadda yadda yadda. Instead, I’m just messing around with this weird hobby that few people really “get.” (I thought about writing a whole post on how society tends to measure success, and how we fit in—or don’t—as writers, but it goes down such a bitter rabbit hole that I thought better of it.)

Still, we are compulsive. We are crazy. We are going to do this thing no matter what, right?

Playing by the Mississippi river.  Absolutely not writing.

All that being said, I will be the first guest blogger this month to confess that I totally, utterly failed at reaching my Writer’s March goals this time around. Partly, it was just bad timing. The busiest month of the year at the douchey steakhouse is March, and I was working twice as many shifts as I usually do, which left little time or energy for anything else. Then, I spent a week in New Orleans with my two best friends and my illiterate boyfriend, where I ate and drank and napped to excess, cooked, read, took pictures, biked around the city exploring and listening to great live music. I had a wonderful, wonderful time. I never picked up a pen the entire time I was there. So partly, it was timing, but partly I was unwilling to be that crazy degenerate recluse who skips out on that breakfast with friends or that last beer in order to go home and write. I didn’t demand it.

We’ve established during this month together that, for whatever reason, this writing thing makes us happy. It fills some need in us. My advice is: embrace the fact that you may, indeed, be a crazy reclusive degenerate. Stop justifying your motives to yourself and others. If you need to work less (ya know, for “the man”) and write more, demand it. If you need more time alone, demand it. If the only way you can produce anything is with Ziggy Stardust playing on repeat at top volume, demand it. Society be damned! When you start to do more of what makes you happy and fulfilled, low and behold, you will become a more productive member of society anyhow. You will become a better lover, parent, and worker because your neurotic, creative itch will be scratched, and then you can contentedly go about other things.

Now that I’m getting ready to march out into the void again, I regret that I didn’t take more advantage of all the lovely advice and writing prompts this month. I wish that Writer’s March could last all year. I want to run around screaming “No! Don’t leave me! Don’t go! I don’t want to be alone again!” But the spirit of the March can carry on!

I try to read something, write something, and play at least one instrument every day, for any amount of time, even if it’s just five minutes. It’s sort of a mini-March that I keep in mind all year long. Here are some things I do to that help:

  • Set goals. They don’t have to be as extensive as what you chose to do in March. They don’t have to be daily. But as Sam keeps assuring us, they really do help.
  • Keep in touch with your writer friends. (Some of these bloggers have their own blogs you can follow, for example.) Even if they are only virtual, remember that you are not the only crazy one. Exchange work if at all possible, and if you’re lucky, find people who will give you honest critiques.
  • Buy a book of writing exercises, or look them up online, and play with them when you don’t feel like working on other projects.
  • Ask friends for writing prompts (even then non-writerly friends) and then give them the results (even if they don’t care).
  • Read as much as possible. I always think of reading as brain-food. Without enough brain-food your brain will be too hungry to write when you sit down to do it.
  • Remember that you don’t need to justify what you’re doing—to yourself or anyone else. 

Good luck out there. I’ll miss you!

TBT: Shameless Plug? or Inspiration?

In honor of the Facebook “Throw Back Thursday” Tradition, I thought I’d bring back Oldie’s But Goodies. This week’s TBT prompt was originally published in 2013 by Jennifer Simpson.

As Jenn writes:

“Goals are good. Measurable goals even better. But understanding the why: why is it important to you, what is your mission, what part of your soul does attaining this goal feed? Those are the things that will keep you going.”

Read the entire post here:

A Writer's March

Hopefully a little of both…

Before you dig in too deep with your Writer’s March goals, I’m going to suggest starting with writing about why you write

Last summer I had the pleasure of attending the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference as a graduate student intern–the last time I will be able to do that since I’ve now graduated. At The Conference I signed up for Seattle-based writer Priscilla Long‘s week-long class, “The Art of the Sentence, the Art of the Paragraph.” (PS there are still spots left in Priscilla’s class for the summer 2013 Conference)

Two great things were sparked by in-class writing exercises: one, an essay that while it has not yet found a home (rejected by 6 of the 12 journals I’ve sent it to) was a finalist for the A Room Of Her Own Orlando Prize for creative non fiction and two, the I…

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Go Gay or Go Home

At this year’s AWP Conference in Washington, D.C., I spoke on my first panel.  The panel

Hail from AWP

That’s me, hiding behind the podium, speaking with my hands!

was called, “The Politics of Queering Characters,” and was, as the title suggests, about the benefits and drawbacks of creating queer characters on the page (whether that page be fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry or otherwise).

I organized this panel in response to a talk Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You, gave at last year’s AWP.  For those unfamiliar with Greenwell, his latest novel has been hailed the “great gay novel of our time,” and as a queer writer, I was eager to hear him speak.  On the podium, Greenwell talked about his views on being marginalized as a “gay writer” (a place some writers try to avoid as it often is seen as a curse, a label that can keep a writer from becoming more established and well read).  He brought up Aristotle’s idea of the universal, that belief a writer’s our goal should be to tap into a collective consciousness of sorts, where no matter where you live or who you are, if the writer is doing their job, the reader will be moved by a “universal” sense of what it means to be human.

This is something I’ve always aspired towards in my own writing, this sense that all stories, even a queer story (especially a queer story), can be made into a story anyone can relate to, if done correctly.  This idea works with my own sense of idealism, and for years, I’d gone about on this quest quite happily.  But then, Greenwell threw a metaphorical wrench in that system.  He questioned this idea of the universal, wondering who it was made for?  Was it made for people like us?  Or was the universal created out of the artistic aesthetic of a privileged few.  And that aesthetic looks a lot paler, whiter, and straighter than my own.

And so Greenwell argued, why aim for the universal at all?  “I am a queer writer,” he said, “writing queer characters for a queer audience.”  He spoke, quite passionately, about the so-called “gay-ghetto,” claiming by the end that if James Baldwin and Virginia Woolf are in this “gay-ghetto,” then count him in.

Continue reading

Saturday Afternoon Inspiration

Happy Saturday, folks.  Here in Merced-land, we are laying down laminate floors and jamming to music.  It’s a busy day, but thanks to my commitment to you, I’ll still put words to the page by the end of the night and hope that, no matter what YOU are doing, you’ll do the same, too!

Today, I thought I’d leave words of wisdom to the wise.  Here are 13 inspiring quotes stolen from HERE and HERE and HERE.  Find the one that inspires you, and write it on a post-it.  Leave it somewhere on your desk to remind you as you go.

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Write it!

By guest blogger Bob Sabatini

Last year, I took part in some writing challenge for March, the name of which escapes me for the moment. I set the “modest” goal for myself of a thousand words a day, for a grand total of thirty-one thousand words. I called this “modest” because I’d easily cleared fifty-two thousand words for NaNoWriMo a few months earlier, during a month which is one day shorter. I put “modest” in quotes because I failed miserably last March. Quite simply, in March I stopped myself from writing anything I didn’t consider meaningful, while in November I let myself fully explore whatever I felt I had to say. In other words, by stopping myself from writing anything that wasn’t “meaningful,” I stopped myself from writing, period.

I feel it’s important that I make it clear the advice I’m about to give is not just meant to help writers better meet some arbitrary word-count goal, it is meant to make them better writers: do not stop yourself from writing. Don’t worry about what anybody else is going to think when they read it, whether you feel you “know enough” about the subject matter to write convincingly or that you know you’ll never be able to publish it. I am a firm believer in writing for the sake of writing and the writer’s right to write for nobody other than him or herself (try saying that five times fast). Anything you write—whether it is suitable for anybody else or not—is a whetstone for further sharpening your craft; practicing dialogue, understanding characters, testing images, whatever you feel your weaknesses may be.

You ever have an idea for a scene you’d like to write, but then stopped yourself because “it’ll never work in this story”? Think character x from story A would be a worthy adversary for character y from story B but don’t want to mix story A with story B? Write it anyways. Here’s a helpful equation:
—————————————x+y=practice writing dialogue.
Maybe there’s a situation you’d like to put a character in just to see how he handles it? Write it, it’ll help you get to know that character better. Want to write a sex scene but feel it’s totally gratuitous? Don’t even worry about justifying it, if it wants to be written, then write it!

Don’t stop yourself from writing because you feel you need to do more research. Let’s say you want to set a story in a cheese factory but don’t know the first thing about making cheese. You will need to do research in order to create a believable environment and believable characters to inhabit it, but don’t let a lack of research keep you from getting whatever wonderful idea that had you wanting to write a story about a cheese factory in the first place down on paper. Write it! Make it up as you go along, and make adjustments as needed when you do get that research done.

Last but certainly not least, do not stop yourself from writing something just because you know you’ll never be able to publish it. You know what I’m talking about: fan fiction. Interesting characters and settings from established books, movies and television shows should spark the imagination, and just because those characters are somebody else’s “intellectual property” doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with them for your own personal use. If you think it would be fun to have Alex from A Clockwork Orange steal the TARDIS, escape to the antebellum south and run afoul of Scarlet O’Hara… WRITE IT! Sure, you’ll almost certainly never acquire the rights to publish it, but that’s not the point, the point is to practice writing. Alex and Scarlet. Just try writing a page or two of that without needing to flex some underutilized imaginative muscle.

So, your writing prompt for today: Alex from A Clockwork Orange steals the TARDIS and takes it to________.

Week 2 – Post 2: Shape it up

By guest blogger Bob Sabatini

You may recall last year Sam shared a video of a talk by Kurt Vonnegut on the shape of plot. If you’re new to The March or if you want to refresh your memory, you might want to check it out here. Don’t mind me, I’ll wait. Now, I enjoyed the video immensely and suspect that Vonnegut is pulling our collective leg. However, there was something about the idea of writing stories to fit specific shapes that I found deeply unsettling.

I’m a firm believer that stories should tell themselves, that while broad structures could be useful in giving guideposts to a writer who is lost in a piece, but if the writing is going smoothly it should be allowed to explore. After all, what’s the point of taking a road trip if you don’t get off the Interstate once in a while?

I thought of doing a sarcastic response to this video by charting some of my own work. (Shameless plug in ten… nine…) “What did he plot?” you’re probably thinking. Well, I’m glad you asked. I decided to plot the first section from my book of short plays. Ok, was that too shameless? Perhaps, but it is pertinent. At no point when I was writing any of these plays was I thinking of structure, and yet each one is—to me, anyways—very satisfying.

At first I thought I’d just draw a random mess of lines on a page and call it a plotting of that section of plays, but struck by a sudden and inexplicable bout of honesty I decided to do my best to accurately chart each one of the 33 short plays according to Vonnegut’s grid. I mean, what if I’ve so internalized the “boy gets girl” shape or the “man in a hole” shape that I’m writing them without even thinking of it? What if I’d charted out my plays and found them clustering around those few tried-and-true curves? It would seem to invalidate my argument, don’t you think? I sat down with the manuscript and three different colors of pens. Here’s what happened: Continue reading

Day 30: Marching into the Void

By guest blogger Lenore Gusch

Back when I was still a student, complaining about being in school, how all of my time seemed to go to studies that didn’t have anything to do with my writing, and how much more creative I could be if I just had more time to myself, everyone warned me that life after graduation would be different, and maybe not in the ways I wanted. No more deadlines. No more workshops and writing prompts. No more interesting literary internships. No more instant writing community at my fingertips. My motivation to keep at it would have to be entirely my own.

It was true. I graduated, and suddenly was writing into a void. The writing community that had nurtured me for four years went missing.

Many of us on the March have been lucky to keep in touch with our writerly friends from school or to find our own new writing communities. (I still send drafts and story ideas back and forth with a few of my close friends.) Some have been even luckier to go on to MFAs, lead their own creative writing classrooms, or find other careers that foster their continuing to write. But I suspect that out of the fifty-six challengers this month, there are just as many of us who are not surrounded by a single other writer in our day to day lives. (My boyfriend sometimes jokes that he is illiterate, which, although completely untrue, still sends chills down my spine. He rarely reads and never, ever writes.) Many have other full time careers, significant others, and/or families commanding their attention. (Lots of it!) And still, we write on. For some reason, we insist upon it.

A lot of the posts on this March have been about doubts. “Why am I doing this?” “Am I crazy?” “Is my writing any good?” “What is the value of art, anyway?” Some of these are easier to answer, like the first one. Revisit Jennifer Simpsons blog to see why a whole slew of writers are sticking with this insane endeavor. Some of them are more problematic, like the second one. (Only you can tell you how truly neurotic you may or may not be, and why, and if you’re really crazy, you probably won’t be able to tell!) I tend to get hung up on the last one. What is the value of art? What is the value of writing? Why is it important that we tell stories to one another? Are there better things I should be doing? I have a deep belief built from groundless faith that it IS important. That it is, perhaps, the most important thing that humans can do while they’re stuck here together on the earth. But when it comes to articulating this to a society-at-large which is less and less invested in art as a measure of success and happiness, I often falter.

As a student, I had a built in excuse when I needed to go “work.” Now, when I have to explain to my boss why I don’t want to work full time at the douchey steakhouse downtown, or why I don’t want to go to yet another family dinner with my pseudo-inlaws, I can’t play the student card. I just have to be a degenerate recluse who isn’t motivated by things that make sense, like making as much money as possible, finding a career, starting a family, yadda yadda yadda. Instead, I’m just messing around with this weird hobby that few people really “get.” (I thought about writing a whole post on how society tends to measure success, and how we fit in—or don’t—as writers, but it goes down such a bitter rabbit hole that I thought better of it.)

Still, we are compulsive. We are crazy. We are going to do this thing no matter what, right?

Playing by the Mississippi river.  Absolutely not writing.

Playing by the Mississippi river. Absolutely not writing.

 

All that being said, I will be the first guest blogger this month to confess that I totally, utterly failed at reaching my Writer’s March goals this time around. Partly, it was just bad timing. The busiest month of the year at the douchey steakhouse is March, and I was working twice as many shifts as I usually do, which left little time or energy for anything else. Then, I spent a week in New Orleans with my two best friends and my illiterate boyfriend, where I ate and drank and napped to excess, cooked, read, took pictures, biked around the city exploring and listening to great live music. I had a wonderful, wonderful time. I never picked up a pen the entire time I was there. So partly, it was timing, but partly I was unwilling to be that crazy degenerate recluse who skips out on that breakfast with friends or that last beer in order to go home and write. I didn’t demand it.

We’ve established during this month together that, for whatever reason, this writing thing makes us happy. It fills some need in us. My advice is: embrace the fact that you may, indeed, be a crazy reclusive degenerate. Stop justifying your motives to yourself and others. If you need to work less (ya know, for “the man”) and write more, demand it. If you need more time alone, demand it. If the only way you can produce anything is with Ziggy Stardust playing on repeat at top volume, demand it. Society be damned! When you start to do more of what makes you happy and fulfilled, low and behold, you will become a more productive member of society anyhow. You will become a better lover, parent, and worker because your neurotic, creative itch will be scratched, and then you can contentedly go about other things.

Now that I’m getting ready to march out into the void again, I regret that I didn’t take more advantage of all the lovely advice and writing prompts this month. I wish that Writer’s March could last all year. I want to run around screaming “No! Don’t leave me! Don’t go! I don’t want to be alone again!” But the spirit of the March can carry on!

I try to read something, write something, and play at least one instrument every day, for any amount of time, even if it’s just five minutes. It’s sort of a mini-March that I keep in mind all year long. Here are some things I do to that help:

  • Set goals. They don’t have to be as extensive as what you chose to do in March. They don’t have to be daily. But as Sam keeps assuring us, they really do help.
  • Keep in touch with your writer friends. (Some of these bloggers have their own blogs you can follow, for example.) Even if they are only virtual, remember that you are not the only crazy one. Exchange work if at all possible, and if you’re lucky, find people who will give you honest critiques.
  • Buy a book of writing exercises, or look them up online, and play with them when you don’t feel like working on other projects.
  • Ask friends for writing prompts (even then non-writerly friends) and then give them the results (even if they don’t care).
  • Read as much as possible. I always think of reading as brain-food. Without enough brain-food your brain will be too hungry to write when you sit down to do it.
  • Remember that you don’t need to justify what you’re doing—to yourself or anyone else. 

Good luck out there. I’ll miss you!

Day 24: Showing up really is half the job—Book it

By guest blogger Bob Sabatini

As long as I could remember, I wanted to write a book someday. Longer than that, even. I recently came across papers from my elementary and middle school days, and what do I find over and over again? Spiral notebooks with some scribbled sketches—I hesitate to call them illustrations, exactly—on the cover over a very carefully lettered “by Bob Sabatini.” Once I could steel myself to open them up, what did I find? A title page on the first sheet, and then—I kid you not—a table of contents, with chapters listed as “Chapter I” through at least “Chapter X” and space for yet-to-be-determined page numbers, followed by somewhere between five to ten pages of almost illegible scrawl. Following that, I’d find some notes, some doodles, a few half-completed homework assignments, and a whole bunch of blank pages.

That was where doubt crept in. “You’ll never be a writer,” it would whisper, “this isn’t any good.” It was the same story with a number of the writing projects I attempted in the years off between graduating high school and beginning college, I’d spend weeks outlining a story or diagramming character interactions, and then I’d start writing, get discouraged, give up, give it another try only to get more discouraged.

By the time I discovered that there were such things as creative writing classes, I’d hit on the notion of the short-form work. I remember saying glibly “I can get a good beginning and a good ending, but I have trouble with the middle, so I’m just bringing the two together.” Ok, so now that book that I’d write “someday” would be a collection of short stories. Except… my doubts were still wearing me down. I’d start fussing over my short stories, even the shorter middle sections wouldn’t cooperate with my excellent beginnings and endings, and I was still not getting anything finished. By the time I transferred to UNM, I’d given up on the dream that I’d ever write that book.

BookOk, so how do you explain this?

This is me holding the final printer’s proof of my new book, A Play a Day Keeps the Grey Away. Clearly, something has changed. And as much as I’d like to tell you that change was brought about by some magic bullet or non-prescription pharmaceutical, the answer is about as prosaic as it gets. The answer, in fact, is something not exactly the same but freakishly similar to Writer’s March.

In the fall of 2009, I was in a playwriting class, the only objective of which was to have a 10-minute play ready for an undergraduate showcase to be performed the next spring. And on October first, I already had a 10-minute play mostly written. I had a fantastic beginning and an earth-shattering end, and I was fussing and fretting over the middle. In a one-on-one meeting with the instructor I was told, “Bob, you’re drunk on this piece.” He advised me to put it away before I worked it to death, and then gave me the most productive homework assignment I’ve ever gotten: “On Monday, I want to see ten pages of something completely new. I don’t care if it’s total crap, just as long as they’re new.”

What I decided to do was to write a miniature play, a scene, or some dramatic moment every day. Because the day I was given the assignment happened to be the first of the month, I decided to extend the project through to Halloween. So, just to review, one 31-day month, a commitment to write every day, a clearly stated daily goal and a ban on fretting over whether what I’ve written is “any good.” Sound familiar to any of my fellow Marchers? The result was 56 pages of new material, and—somewhat shockingly—very little of it was crap. It was one of the most freeing and generative times in my life, and once it was over, I was in a creative space that allowed me to write, very quickly, a completely new 10-minute play for the festival, better than the one I had been fretting over.

On a whim, I decided to try again in October 2010, and again found it to be a wonderfully creative and rewarding endeavor. What had once been a 10 page assignment became an annual tradition. In November of 2012, with four years worth of October plays threatening to bust the seams of the pronged folder I was keeping them in, the thought struck me, “there’s enough here to make a book.” All from making a commitment to write and then seeing that commitment through.

Now, those same doubts still whisper to me occasionally. “Your book is self-published,” they say. “It doesn’t have the cachet of having been ‘discovered,’ you won’t sell a dozen copies,” and so on. And here’s what I say to those doubts:

respectful response

Some (play)Writing Prompts:

1—The “White Elephant” in the room.

This is an exercise in working out how characters avoid talking about what’s really on their mind. Decide on two characters who have some hot-button topic (for absolutely no reason at all, I’ll give “abortion” as an example) which is very much on both of their minds, but which neither wants to discuss. Write a page or two of dialogue (and nothing else) in which the topic in question is never directly mentioned.

2—Dust off the White Pages

Open a telephone directory to a random page. Scan the names you see and look for the first one that jumps out at you. If you see the name of someone you know, keep looking or go to a different page. Once you’ve found a name, write it down. Examine the name for some time without really thinking about it. Set that timer Sam made you get for 10 minutes and write a monologue: what that person would tell an audience about him/her self if she/he were one of your characters.

3—Something poetic

Read a poem, then read it again. Adapt it in some way for the stage. If it’s a narrative poem, put that narrative on the stage. If the poem is more image-based, hold a striking image in your mind and turn it into a physical place. Put characters you write into that place and see what happens. If the poem evokes a “mood” or “tone,”  find ways to exploit/subvert/explore that mood with characters on a stage. The most important thing is to have fun with it.

Incidentally, to see one example of what can be done, you might want to check this play out

Day 20: Focus Focus

Hold onto your hats, folks, it’s about to get metaphysical in here.

On my writing desk, I keep a handful of things: an array of notebooks, a tin of pens, random memorabilia like a sumo wrestler paperweight and a glass fish within a fish, a scattering of framed photographs, Japanese candy, tissues, hand lotion, scotch tape, and a deck of Oracle Cards by Doreen Virtue called “Healing with the Angels.”

There are a number of writers who work with tarot cards including Stephen King, John Steinbeck, and Italo Calvino, who is quoted as saying that the tarot is “a machine for writing stories.”  If you Google “writers and the tarot,” you’ll encounter a slew of websites that offer the tarot as a useful  tool for writers (including this one that helps you choose a tarot deck and this one that offers different writerly spreads and this one that connects a group of Minnesota writers in an online forum).  Each presents ideas on exploring plot, developing characters, understanding setting, and other ways of overcoming writerly obstacles.

While I’ve used tarot cards in the past, over my own systems of trial and error, I have worked through different decks of cards and wound up with the Angel ones at my desk because, unlike the above authors, I don’t usually seek plot or character insight, I seek encouragement.  Whenever I am at a loss or feeling down or unsure why I am doing this thing writing thing anyway, I pull a card.

Today, I pulled a card for Writer’s March, and here is what I got:

Photo 66

And so, the angels offer up the advice of “Focus.”  I had to laugh because this is one card I pull for myself nearly every day, no matter how many times I shuffle the deck (which is crazy because there are 44 to choose from).  And here is the message:

Think about what you want, not what you don’t want.  Guard your thoughts carefully, because they create your experiences.

Sometimes it seems that our thoughts choose us, but this is never the case.  We always choose our thoughts–every moment.  Our thoughts always have an effect, and there are no neutral thoughts.  One-half second before you hold a thought, you decide to hold it.  So, with practice, you can learn to monitor and alter your thoughts.  This is the equivalent of putting your hands on the steering wheel of your life.

I love this card.  I usually pull it when I find myself getting distracted or making excuses for work.  It appears when I tell myself things like, “I don’t have time,” or “I’m too tired,” or “I can’t do this right now.”  The message of the card is simple.  Our thoughts have power.  When we think in the word “can’t,” we cut ourselves down because thoughts equal actions. If we think in can’t, then we won’t.  If we believe we can write, then we will.  If we believe we don’t have enough time or can’t muster the effort, then we won’t even try.  If we believe our work has meaning, then it does.

I cannot think of a more fitting message for Day 20 of this Writer’s March.  Perhaps, if you are like me, you are feeling the weight of the month.  It’s easy at this time, to cast our goals aside, to forget, to put off, to defer, to decline.  Well, friends, as the Angel oracle says: “Think about what you want, not what you don’t want.”  If you committed to this month, it is because you wanted to put writing in your life.  Remind yourself of why.  Now, go to it.  Act.  Write.

Shameless Plug? or Inspiration?

Hopefully a little of both…

Before you dig in too deep with your Writer’s March goals, I’m going to suggest starting with writing about why you write

Last summer I had the pleasure of attending the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference as a graduate student intern–the last time I will be able to do that since I’ve now graduated. At The Conference I signed up for Seattle-based writer Priscilla Long‘s week-long class, “The Art of the Sentence, the Art of the Paragraph.” (PS there are still spots left in Priscilla’s class for the summer 2013 Conference)

Two great things were sparked by in-class writing exercises: one, an essay that while it has not yet found a home (rejected by 6 of the 12 journals I’ve sent it to) was a finalist for the A Room Of Her Own Orlando Prize for creative non fiction and two, the I WRITE BECAUSE project.

In class, Priscilla had us write to the prompt, “I write because….” Twelve of us sat around the table and furiously wrote for 12 minutes. What amazed me was the commonality, that 12 people from different walks of life, different life histories, living in different parts of the country, at different ages, could connect on so many of the basics about why we are driven to do this writing thing. And how many of us like the sound of pencil on paper.

Maybe more importantly the exercise reminded me of why I’m doing this thing that is so often seemingly unrewarding.

Goals are good. Measurable goals even better. But understanding the why: why is it important to you, what is your mission, what part of your soul does attaining this goal feed? those are the things that will keep you going.

(and for a twist, if you’re curious, I wrote tongue-in-cheek “Why I DON’T write” post.)

And so, I invite you all to read about the exercise, then set your timer and go!

PS: did you know that you can get these blog posts delivered as emails right into your inbox.. on the sidebar you’ll see a tab that says “Write with us!” and you enter your email and we’ll send you prompts and inspiration every day throughout March.