NANOWRIMO: WEEK 4

Hey! You’re in the homestretch, and whether that is a cause for rejoicing or a cause for panic, it’s still your last week. Below are some thoughts. Remember to send me your email along with comments and stories about how its gone so far, what you’ve learned, what helped, what didn’t, what you’d do differently, or if you’d ever do it again. I’ll put your email into a drawing for a Writer Care Package, stuffed full of lots of useful goodies that every writer needs.

Here’s your final week pep talk.


Good morning!

For those of you who’ve been following me through the month of November, this marks the final installment of surviving NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month). I’ve been flowing with a life-stages theme, and had intended to title this week “Retirement” but the thing with NANO is that only some of us will spend the last week resting and reaping the rewards of a month packed with hours of dedication to your project. A lot of us will find this final week to be the last, desperate attempt to finish.

So this brief post is for those who are struggling through the last four to five days to make up those words, or at least push to do what they can.

I hope, more than anything, and even above the lofty goal of 50,000 words, that you are still trying. That you haven’t given up. That you have built a habit of writing so that you don’t feel complete in your day unless you’ve spent at least some time on your work.

Because, that’s the whole point. This month is more about teaching us to prioritize our lives to include our writing first (or at least at the top of the to-do list) and to know that we CAN accomplish great things when we give it the time and love it needs. It’s more about building the habit of writing than it is about reaching the specific goal.

So often in our lives we self-limit. So often we are told it can’t be done, we can’t, the work is too great, the effort pointless. So often we are told that struggle won’t be worth the outcome. But those voices and those opinions fail to factor in that it is not just the outcome that is rewarding. The end result is not all we are working for. Its the journey in getting there.

When we challenge ourselves, the bigger reward lies in the struggle. New ventures, hard and thankless work, and lofty goals teach us how to plan, how to plot, how to push ahead when we simply don’t feel like it or when others around us question or scoff at the ideas before us. Challenges shine a light on how amazing and resilient we are so that, no matter the outcome, we learn what we are capable of. And once we know what we are capable of, the bonds of doubt weaken and we begin to believe that if we can write a novel in a month, we can edit it, publish it, write another, and another, and another. And if we can write a book we can take a class, or teach a class. We can climb a mountain, we can travel across the world. We can do anything we set our minds to.

We can.

You can.

You’ve only got a few days left in this month and I BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN do anything you’ve set out to do. You are amazing. You are imperfectly perfect and there’s no one in the world who can finish this month the way you will.

Deep breath, writer. Don’t let the home stretch scare you. Let the struggle instead be your gift and one which you are grateful to work through. You can. You will.

NANOWRIMO: WEEK 3

Hey! It’s week 3 and if you haven’t sent me a comment or update on how your process is going, please do! I have a drawing going on for a Writer Care Package, with all sorts of fun goodies for you to enjoy as a treat for surviving this month. And speaking of surviving, let’s take a look at the dreaded week 3.


Hey there writer.

I know I don’t have to thank you for being here with me because if you are akin to me, you’re looking for any excuse to change up the monotony of this novel-writing month and escape that mad-dash. Perhaps you’re feeling like this story you’ve been pouring your heart and soul into for what seems like years is starting to stale. Things are getting drab. The plot line is petering out. The characters have run out of things to say.

This is the dreaded, dead-ended doldrum, (say that one a few times fast) of week 3. And it can often feel like middle age in its sunken sails, stagnant air, and the questioning of the choices that brought you here.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

With only days left in this crazy adventure, you may feel like you just don’t want to go on. That perhaps it would be easier to abandon your project all together and take a hot little novella out for a spin. Maybe start seeing some poetry on the side. Perhaps dabble in a little erotica?

While I encourage some dabbling (especially in erotica) I would argue that all of those exploratory practices can be done right in your own work in progress. So you’re bored, so you don’t know what the characters will say to one another…I urge you to start a new chapter, in the same document, where your characters take a jump off of the tracks and do something completely unexpected. Put them in a different time, put them in a different dynamic…hell, switch their genders and see what happens. Write a poem that serves as a synopsis to the story, first from one character’s perspective, and then from another’s. All of this play might help unlock the paths your novel needs to get going again. Think of it as putting some wind in those sails. A little spice in between the pages.

And all of those words you put down, even if they may be edited out later, still count as words towards your 50,000. Let’s be honest, at this point in the process, any word count is better than none.

It’s normal to feel a bit discouraged and bogged down in week 3, but what you’re building is worth hanging on to. It’s worth the investment of time and thought in this, the darkest, dreaded, dead-ended doldrums.

Hang in there kid. Go get freaky with your WIP and spice things up to see you through to the end.

Next week, look for the final, and highly inspirational installment of my NANOWRIMO survival guide.

NANOWRIMO: WEEK 2

Remember, comment below with how it’s going or send me quick email with any frustrations or elations you have and I’ll enter you to win a goodie basket with some books and writer self-care stuff that will help keep you going into this crazy month.

And now, this:

Hello! Thanks for taking the time to catch up with the blog in the middle of one of your (hopefully) busiest writing months. At this point your mind set is probably so swayed to creating that reading outside of your work in progress is a lot like talking to another adult after being seeped in toddler-speak non-stop all week.

I know that your time is precious so I’ll keep it short and sweet. (Like me, ya’ll)

The second week of NANOWRIMO is all about elaborating on, fleshing out, and developing your baby. Last week we talked about the excitement of new love, the honeymoon stage of writing, if you will. This week is about the baby you’ve made and what that means for not just your writing, but your life for the next seven to ten days.

I know a lot of you are parents, and though it may have been awhile since you’ve spent the midnight hours rocking teary-eyed cherub back to sleep, chances are you remember the sacrifice of time and autonomy for the good of the future. This week is not much different for the NANOWRIMO process. You are starting to see the commitment involved and how the expectations you may have had in the beginning are often dashed by the realities.

Because children don’t always behave the way you think they will. Characters show unexpected traits and say things that throw your dynamic out of whack like dropping the f-bomb at Christmas dinner with Grandma, or asking you for “boob!” loudly in a store.

Settings and plot lines stall with the same debilitating frustration as trying to get a two-year-old into shoes because you’re late for the doctor appointment and you haven’t showered in three days, and you ate cold, leftover mac n cheese for breakfast and you’re not sure if that’s their diaper that smells or the dog…

Keeping on top of the little fires that come up isn’t easy but I encourage you to set a flexible schedule (it works with kids; it works with writing). Give yourself two hours ideally but really whatever you have is fine. Leave half for just writing. Leave the other half to fix plot holes, develop your character’s personalities and backgrounds, build on your story arc, and brainstorm solutions for things that are cropping up as you pour ever more work into the novel. Look at it like doing the groundwork of, feeding, changing, and burping for half of it, and the other half cuddling, coloring, singing, and playing.

A well rounded “story” is equal parts meeting the basic needs and getting to play in the creation of it.

Good luck out there. Nap when it naps, grab a shower while your computer backs up. Drink some coffee and prep for the long nights. Remember the bigger picture. Novels and babies are investments in the future. The work, and love, and committed care you invest now will lead to rewarding results in both your story, your characters, and your craft.

Oh…and get a decent meal. You can’t run on PB&J crusts and half eaten apples forever.

NANOWRIMO: WEEK 1

Something new for this year, if you comment, share and/or email me with your frustrations, experiences, or adventures during this year’s NANOWRIMO, and I’ll enter you to win a goodie basket with some books and writer self-care stuff that will help keep you going into this crazy month.

Let’s talk about Week 1

Ah, yes, the glorious stage of excitement and foreplay. The thrill of fleshing out your characters, and having them say clever things to one another, and building beautiful worlds with soft hues and brilliant sunsets. It’s champagne and butterflies, it’s rainbows and 3 hour love-making sessions with your laptop (please, God, not literally…the keys are hard enough to keep clean with just my coffee and pastry habit).

The words come easy, the beginning is new and exciting, the chemistry is just right. Possibly you’ve been planning this novel for awhile, maybe you even used October to plan it out and things are running smoothly and in great gushes of inspiration and excitement. (I think ‘gushes’ might be just as bad as ‘moist’ for cringe-worthy words).

OR

You’re stuck in front of your blank page and wondering why in God’s name you agreed to this. The stress of completing such a herculean task is causing every neuron to march around your addled brain with tiny little picket signs protesting the ridiculous workload before they even endure it.

You’re thinking of giving up. It feels as though you agreed to do this on a brash weekend in Vegas and you might have done so under the influence of alcohol and you really don’t know this book that well and what will your parents say and… is it too late for an annulment?

In the first case: Congratulations, keep going! If you have the stamina and inspiration to do so, front load these first couple of weeks so you can have a few days to ride if you need to recover. (I can’t help but hear Sheriff Bart’s voice in my head “Man, them schnitzengrubens will wipe you out!” Come on, people…Blazing Saddles)

In the second case: Don’t give up just yet. So she/he’s a gamble and you may have rushed into things. It’s normal to be nervous. It’s normal to feel like there’s nowhere to go. But you’re a writer. And writer’s do best when they stop questioning the end product and just write. See where that impromptu spouse will lead you, let it play out for a few days and enjoy the crazy weird ride that you’re on.

The secret to NANOWRIMO is to not overthink it. Because that’s when you start looking for all the imperfections and plot holes that send you into editing mode and canceling out any forward movement you have.

If you’re having trouble with getting your word count every day here’s some tips that have helped me:

  1. Break it up into smaller sections. A little in the morning, a little at lunch, some at night. Carry the laptop or notebook with you and write a few lines whenever you have a chance
  2. Keep your characters in your head with you at all times. How would they react to what you’re doing? What would they say to each other in the grocery store line? Let them talk to each other while you’re doing the dishes or in that third useless meeting of the day (come on, we all know at least 2/3rds of all meetings are just wastes of time that allow one person to hear themselves talk).
  3. Strike when the fire is hot. If you are on a roll, do everything in your power to keep writing…then in the middle of a paragraph or even a sentence–stop. Yeah, you read that right. Stop. It will frustrate you and keep your mind on what will happen next until you pick it back up. Foreplay people…there’s nothing like a little flirtatious teasing to make the next interlude all the more passionate.
  4. DO NOT be discouraged if you have a short day. Every word counts and a 400 word day is still 400 words. Like running or training, or anything really–great things are accomplished not always in leaps and bounds but by small progressive steps forward.
  5. Rest your fingers and your brain. Take breaks, sleep well, eat well, exercise, and get away from it throughout the day. Burnout probably happens most in the first couple of weeks when our inspiration gets ahead of our ability to keep at it with the same frantic pace.

Okay. That’s all I’ve got for this week.

Remember for everyone who comments on this blog during the month of November, you’ll be enterd to win a goodie basket of Writer Stuff. (its capitalized because it’s official)

Good skill, Writer.

National Novel Writing Prep

It is that magical time of year again. That time where my blog posts get shorter, the house falls into disarray, and herd of cats goes unfed (not true, if it’s one thing that can take me away from my writing, its the screaming protest of three obviously starving felines).

National Novel Writing Month is upon us. In four days time, I hope you’ll be joining me on a journey of creativity, self discovery, and frustrating obstacles to overcome. Much like a marathon, NANOWRIMO is not just a test of the word count, but a test of your mental fortitude. As in years past, I will be offering a short blog each week to help inspire you through the process.

But this week, I want to help you get ready.

First, commit to the process. It’s daunting. It’s scary. It’s a mountain of words to conquer and so many people won’t even type the first ten. But it is also absolutely doable. It is within your reach, and you can accomplish it with a little hard work and determination.

Once you’ve decided to join me on the journey, go to this website: www.nanowrimo.org and register. The website has come a long way in recent years and provides opportunities to connect to local groups, online communities, offers articles and tips, fun little badges to click on as a way to motivate you, places to download your own inspiration (photos, pinterest boards, and playlists), and encouragement for every stage. Answer some of the questions, create a profile, and just set it up as detailed or as sparsely as you want.

Next, and I would recommend this, whether you’ve been plotting and daydreaming about this novel for years or the idea just hit you yesterday morning on the toilet…make yourself a rough outline. If you’re not sure how-search outline or plotting on my blog website and it will take you to some great articles on how to get started. I recommend at least breaking your novel into three arcs and giving a general timeline of what happens within each. This will give you direction if and when you start to falter.

Next, look at your schedule and decide when your most optimal times for writing are, and put it on your outlook or calendar as a ‘meeting’ or ‘appointment’. Don’t let it get taken over. Reserve the time so you and your family/work partners know you will be busy.

Make sure you take creative breaks (reading, watching a show, painting, whatever) and physical breaks (walks, runs, karate practice, naps etc) to keep your brain fresh and engaged and your body from being too stiff or jittery.

Stock up on snacks, coffee/tea, and water. Stay hydrated and healthy, and if all you have time wise for writing is night, make sure that you’re still giving yourself plenty of time to sleep. All in all, it’s only 1667 words a day you need to write. But some days it will feel more like 1,600,000, so do what you can to control the outside forces and story blocks that might make the process harder.

That’s your homework for the next four days. Get prepped. Get ready. Get set to go. You’ve got this.

Ode To The Trail

In the spirit of this monumental week (bookending the days with a mountain writing retreat and probably the death of me by trail marathon on Saturday) I give you a short and sweet look at what trail running will do for a soul and what we can learn from a steady state of being present. Enjoy.

Nothing about trail running is easy.  I mean, sure for some skinny running-all-his-life-young-mountain-goat type it’s probably a walk in the park.   But for me, aging-used-to-flat streets-and-shady-neighborhoods, its one of the most challenging things I’ve done.  I like running.  I like hiking.  I hate combining the two.  Not just because it is difficult but it takes the worst parts of both and combines them. 

Running down a sidewalk in the cool and quiet morning is a practice in meditation for me.  My mind can wander; it can go over plot lines or character traits, dialogues and settings.  It can breeze over life’s complicated spider webs of responsibilities and desires.  Hiking up a rocky and single-tract trail, in the middle of the beautiful and chaotic dance of nature, stopping to smell the sun soaked dirt and hear the clicking of bugs as they dodge past your ear is good for the primal soul within.

But when you combine the two, your mind cannot wander.  It must remain focused, because the speed of your journey is encumbered and dangerous, riddled with rocks and snakes and jagged-reaching branches.  You cannot look around beyond the future path of your feet because you will surely falter. Your feet are twisted and tripped and if you aren’t living solely in that specific moment of forward motion, you could end up rolling down a yucca spiked hill and planting face-first in the delicate sharp tear-drops of cactus.

Trail running is hard, not just because of the altitude, or the climbing, or the sheer terror of descending down rocky terrain at a speed that threatens my control.  It’s hard because it forces me to live in a specific moment.  I can only look ahead briefly, I cannot plan the next mile, only the next footfall.  It is hard.  But it’s also a brilliant lesson in staying focused in the moment you are in. 

Very often I get ahead of myself, even more so, I falter back into the past.  It’s comforting to go back in my mind to the places I’ve been and the people I knew.  Its exciting to imagine where I will go in the future, and easy to build it into much bigger dream than attainable.  But to live in the now, with what I have to work with and what lies directly on my path makes me get out of my head and truly live.  And that, my friends, is hard.

Writing Frequently Asked Questions

Given how heavy last week’s blog was, I thought I might lighten it up a bit. In the course of my career, as soon as people know I’m a writer, I’ve gotten a lot of questions, ranging from the concerned “What did your parents do to you?” to the outright rude, “Oh, so what restaurant do you bus tables at?” But some are genuine and interested.

I’ve picked out a few questions not just to give you my personal answers but as a way to think about your own journey as a writer and why having the answers to some of them is important, whether you get asked or not.

Writers Frequently Asked Questions:

How do you come up with your ideas?

I dunno man. It’s part magic and part just paying attention. Sometimes it’s a character from my childhood that I want to reformulate and expand upon. Sometimes I’m watching a nature show on octopods and flip the station to an expo on genetic research. I will say this for the good writers I know. Ideas are everywhere, and it’s all about paying attention to why each story, article, factoid, or fungi is interesting and how they could be moreso. Even though tropes and genres rarely change, the situations, characters, and actions are an endless pool of inspiration.

I’ve written about space captains and cowboys, Krampus’ nephew and Bacchus as a modern-day AA member. I’ve written about a nurse with OCD and a child who was the reincarnation of Peter Pan… Ideas are everywhere. Go on line, find prompts. Read the newspaper. Watch people. Read. Think about what makes a good story—a character you care about, an impossible situation, high stakes, dynamic growth. And give your brain down time to think and daydream (walking the dog, in the shower, at your kid’s soccer game—don’t look at me like that it’s okay to zone out for those once in a while too). Play with the What-If and don’t self limit.

Also—buy a small notebook and a pen (or you could use your phone, ugh) and write down things you notice, articles that were interesting, conversations you overhear, even the strangest ideas from out of nowhere. You never know…

How many hours do you write a day?

Pshhh… Listen, if all I needed to do in a day is write, I’d probably say at least 4 to 5 hours or more. But I don’t know any of us who don’t have some other job, a family, or otherwise adultish tasks to complete. So, I’m going to be completely honest and watch die-hard writing theorists gasp in shock.

Somedays I don’t write at all.

*gasp! How does she even call herself a writer!?*

Somedays I’m so plagued with class planning and familial obligations and oh-my-god-whats-growing-in-the-bathroom-sink, and teaching, and making dental appointments that I don’t get to sit down at my computer until late in the evening when my brain is effectively mush.

But it’s not always about the quantity.

Because sometimes on those nights, in the span of twenty minutes before bed, I can bang out three or four solid pages. Sometimes I only stare bleary eyed at what I wrote earlier in the week. The point is, it isn’t about the hours and hours of singularly devoted time you put in. It’s about concentrating and working with focus for every minute you do get and making it impactful over time.

So—on average in a week, I maybe write 1-2 hours a day. If you factor in editing and rewrites and marketing and advertising my stuff, that probably gets bumped up to about 3. It’s not as much as some…but for now, it’s what I have to work with and I capitalize on all the moments I can.

What are you working on now?

I’m not like other writers. I’m a goddamn, flighty scatterbrain. So my answer is…complicated *wheels out an old chalkboard packed full of a complex theory, diagrams, and stick figures*.

At any given moment I’ve got multiple projects and I’ll tell you why.

Because I get bored. And sometimes I’m tired. (hahahahaha—ah…that’s funny because I’m ALWAYS tired)

I’m not saying I can’t sit down, focus, and write a novel, end to end in about a month. I can. I have. I usually reserve all of November to do that. Or on projects with co-authors as there are expectations and deadlines to meet.

For me, having multiple projects that I enjoy helps to keep me engaged and inspired and lets me cater my writing to the state of my life that day.

Maybe I only have twenty minutes. So I write a poem, or submit a poem. Or both

Maybe I have an hour, but I’m not feeling very fictional—I work on my weekly blog or catch up on emails from other writing projects. Or get a solid chunk of editing done.

Maybe I have an uninterrupted afternoon, I’ve been daydreaming about my characters and what I can do to torture them…I’ll bust out a few chapters on my novel.

Being a writer is a career best done when diversified.

One, we learn how to write better when we give ourselves more variety.

Two, we will burn out less often when we can take breaks from something that’s got us stuck—AND, AND AND…sometimes being able to put down ‘stuck’ projects and work on something else will lead to that magical AHA moment of unstuckness, because your brain has stepped back and can look at it without so much intensity.

Three, in terms of getting paid? You might love your novel, but its your magazine articles that are paying for your PB and J’s while you wait for the next publisher to realize how amazing you are (and you are amazing)…so have something more lucrative if you want.

Four, I hate to say it, but marketing, editing, and submitting count as writing. It’s the new and best chance way to really make it as a writer these days.

So—what am I working on?

3 novels: one in first edits with a cowriter, one is the first in my new urban fantasy/romance series—heavy rewrites but mostly formulated, one is my Kindle Vella romance that I’m writing, frighteningly, chapter by chapter (I’ll plan that out better next time)

A weekly Blog post

3-5 Poems a week

The new Beautiful Stuff anthology

1-2 Submissions a week (leading to new poetry and flash fiction pieces)

Edits for some accepted short stories

Soon: Edits for my first novel coming out with 5 Prince Publishing

You make any money at that?

No.

Not at all.

After editing, marketing, and website fees are factored in, I’m actually, constantly, in a hole. In fact, I love writing so much, I started working a part time job just to afford it.

But this is important to know about yourself as a writer. Why do you write? For the money? Because there are ways to do that—freelance, magazine articles, content writing, textbook editing. But you should also know that getting published right away, with a good book deal and royalties is not common. It isn’t impossible but you’re going to have to work for it.

My suggestion is to write because you love it. Because if you do that, and you throw it out into the world to see if it lands with someone, and it doesn’t get picked up, then at least you loved what you did, enjoyed what you made, and created something that was meaningful. And that’s not nothing.

If you don’t enjoy it and try to meet a trend, or publish some MFA tome that you hated every minute of, I honestly believe that the chances of it ‘landing’ and being picked up, are less.

Stories with heart and passion behind them, are just better stories.

Do you get writer’s block?

I go back and forth about those two little words. Yes, I believe that writers can get blocked. but I prefer to call it “Life Blocked”.

Writing doesn’t get blocked. We block ourselves. We get in our own way. Life gets in our way. The other worries, concerns, judgments, conflicts, and comparisons surrounding us get in our way. The writing is always there, just waiting to come out. It’s not beyond our reach. Until we put up walls of insecurities and excuses in our own path.

Somedays the inspiration isn’t there. Write anyway (see my answer from above about switching up projects, doing something that is still writing but not what’s got you puzzled). Somedays you are burnt out. Take a day off. Watch stupid movies. Take a nap. Keep your hands off the computer until you’re gnashing to get back to putting words down. Writers forget that inspiration is always there, you just sometimes have to clear out the path before it will flow. That might mean writing that scene you’ve been dreading until it turns into one of your favorites. Or sitting in the chair, writing the worst shit you’ve ever written nonstop for thirty minutes via a timer until you realize that it’s not all bad and that you were just afraid admitting that we all write shitty stuff sometimes.

Don’t believe in writer’s block. Believe in normal human emotion and limitation, give yourself grace but don’t give yourself excuses.

Where can I find your work?

Always know this answer and, if possible, have a card with your info on it. You can find my work on Amazon, libraries, in some journals and newspapers as well as on my website. www.sarahreichertauthor.com (and yes, get a website)

How do you finish a book, I just can’t!

How do people climb Mt. Everest? How do people raise children? How do people retire comfortably after 45 years of work?

One step at a time. Always forward. Never giving up. Pause if you need, catch your breath, remember why you’re putting in the work, eyes on that distant horizon and keep moving. You will get stuck. You will want to quit. There will be stories you do have to quit or rewrite completely. Just don’t stop writing. One page a day. One sentence. Six chapters. It doesn’t matter. People who don’t finish their books have let the world win. They let their doubt win. They let the aspect of editing and cutting out what wasn’t working win. They let the fear of finishing a book and what that might mean for expectations on them win.

Don’t let fear or hard work stop you. Just write. Because you love it. Because you love the character. Because you love the journey. Because you love being lost in that world. When it gets hard, shift course, skip over the dark and come back after you’ve written through some light. There are a million ways to quit. But there are at least as many to persevere. Find what makes you keep going and do that.

Poetry 9-22-22

Today’s poem was written on the night that Roe vs. Wade was cancelled out by a strange and uneven balance in our country. After a certain Senator’s insistence that it should be made Federal Law…I thought it was time to bring it out.

I know the opinion differs but I think that we can all agree that the moment a human being’s own body is controlled by the government (made mostly of white and extremely privileged men) it is a bad turn of events. Any study of history tells us that when women are subjugated, the downfall of the society as a whole is not far behind.

So here’s a poem. If you’re offended, good. I hope you fucking are. Because if you’re offended a small part of you must recognize that it’s not your place, nor the governing body to tell any human that any one part of their biology is more important than their own life/dreams/heart/health/future. Any person with half a brain knows that being able to plan for and want a child means a happier, healthier and more productive society.

So read on. Or don’t. Write me a demeaning, threatening letter to prove that you really don’t actually care for human life and I’ll share it on the blog along with your email address. Share this with anyone who should know that they won’t stand alone as long as we all stand together.

And fuck Lindsey Graham…

I Fight

So this is for you

piggy tails and pink shirts

mohawks and punk rock and

discoverers of self

I fight for you

regardless of the future you envision

I fight for your right to choose it

To every mother,

daughter,

born daughter is a son

sister

aunt

grandmother

friend

I fight for your dreams

for the ideas and schemes

still settling in your soul

bigger than birthing babies

bigger than your womb

I fight for your life

when these things

turn toxic and would destroy you

if kept inside

I fight for your right to be human

to matter, beyond

your ability to propagate the species

You are not a broodmare

Not a human baby mill

You are greater than your single-cells

You are infinite and divine

and I fight for you

I will never stop fighting for you

for us

after eons of being

the ones denounced

and abused

the ones controlled

out of fear of our powerful force

to create

our strength in the long and

grinding trials of pain

out of the truth that we are greater

and more powerful

than they have ever aspired

I fight for our divinity

which caused them to put our faces

to the ground and

write religious texts

denouncing our evil natures

to keep us beneath,

out of need to control

the uncontrollable beauty

of life and power residing

not just in our bodies

but in our souls

For we were Lilith before we were eve

and we are divine

and our wombs are their birth places

and we are the power that seduces

and survives

and so we are not powerless

and I will fight for you

I will fight for me

I will fight

though I am tired

and I am worn thin and

I am hurt

and I am tired of fighting this fight

over and over

and over

souls and lives

the same battle since long ago

Still,

I will rise, again, and again,

to fight for every person,

born with a uterus,

that should be treated first

as a human

and never

as a maker of more insignificant men

hell bent on the destruction

of all that is more

than they can ever be.

Opportunities, Potential, and Failure

I’m winging today’s post. It’s due tomorrow and I really didn’t have a direction to head (did I mention I lost my blog ‘plan’ for the year–there will be a lot of winging it in the next couple of months). So today, I wanted to talk about opportunity, our own potential, and reframing failure.

What do all of those things have to do with writing? So very much.

Whether you write for the love and fun of it, for yourself, for a small base of fans, for your dog, or for millions of avid readers, we are all engaged in a delicate balance of these three elements. Let’s take a look at them from a writerly perspective.

Opportunities

As a writer, or artist of any sort, when you decide to commit to your craft for whatever end result, you should look at ways to not just get those words in, but to improve them, challenge your writing’s boundaries, and explore different dimensions. Examples of creating and pursuing opportunities include:

  1. Submitting your work to journals, newsletters, publishers, or any other outside source for consideration.
  2. Signing up for classes, workshops, critique groups, retreats and conferences
  3. Writing outside of your genre or comfort zone as an exploration (you can do this concurrently with the two suggestions above)
  4. Sign up to give talks, open mic nights, teach a class (adult, young adult, children) about what you do know that would be helpful for other writers/artists.

The key to opportunity is to not limit yourself by your own doubt. You may see a dozen different submission calls, or invitations to teach or whatever, but if you’re constantly thinking your work won’t be good enough, your experience not deep enough, then you won’t ever put yourself out there. And the fact is, opportunities are rarely about stumbling into the ‘right place/right time’, they are usually more about putting yourself in the right place and the right time (creating and fostering the glints of opportunity you do find). So don’t limit your potential with self doubt. You never know what you’re capable of until you step up and try. That leads us to:

Potential

I’ll tell you the only real thing I know about human potential. It’s limitless.

Often times we are held back by our beliefs, our history, our trauma and our fears. Any thing ever in our life that told us we were not good enough, undeserving, or powerless, seeps in and builds little walls inside our brain. And we often think that once we reach those walls, that we are at the end of our capabilities. Reframing how you think about your potential is the key to opening up new roads. How do you reframe? Well, I guess first you have to set your sights on something without killing it.

How often do we tell ourselves, “I can’t do that”, “That’s impossible”, “That won’t work” even before we let ourselves think through the logistics? Probably a lot. Now–I’m not saying that EVERYTHING is possible. We can’t time travel (yet) and change mistakes from our past (why would you want to?). We can’t/shouldn’t aim for goals that hurt or destroy others. I’m saying in the field of your writing, you have no idea what you’re capable of.

So find out what drives you, what you want, what you dream of and write it all down (you’re a writer after all). Follow it up with small and manageable goals that move you forward, a little each day. This is the way we get over those walls. By building a ladder, one rung at a time, by destroying the wall, one brick at a time. Stay constant, stay consistent. And remember that self-doubt is an insult to your potential. If you want something, if you’re willing to work for it, then you deserve it and are capable of having it.

Well, that little pep talk was kind of exhausting let’s move on to my favorite of the three.

Failure

Failure! Fuck yes. Failure is my favorite and I’ll tell you why. Because failure means you were reaching for something better, something impossible, something unlikely and unsure. Failure means you stepped past your line of ‘acceptable risk’ and went rogue. Failure means you believed in something strongly enough to leap over that wall blocking your way. Failure is never a failure.

I’m already 102 submissions into my 100 rejections in a year challenge. Before I started this challenge, every rejection letter I got was a tiny little knife in the heart. A potential dream killer, a step closer to hanging up my pen and getting a real job. But you come to learn a few things:

  1. Failure is rarely fatal. (Ok–there is a disclaimer that you can totally fail something and end up killing yourself, so let’s not get into any discussions of Evil-Knievel stunts) Getting a rejection letter, even the worst and harshest one imaginable, will not kill you. But it may just teach you something.
  2. Failure teaches us. Failures aren’t setbacks as long as we learn something from them. Look I’ve had this kooky little story that I love, rejected like 40 times. Which tells me that even though I love it, there is something missing or needing cleaned up about it. I’m learning what makes a better story every time I write and send out a ‘less-good’ story. I learn that I can tweak and re-read and edit and cut out what doesn’t work. I learn to send it to the right markets. I learn to follow the submission guidelines. I learn that maybe my freak-flag is too much for some. Maybe it’s not enough for others.
  3. Repeated failure is a lesson book that you can take with you. In writing, especially, you learn what works and what does not. In life it is the same. And we gain these lessons and this experience from exploring and creating the opportunities for ourselves.

And just like that, I brought it full circle. Opportunity, Potential, Failure–rinse and repeat.

Go out there today and find or make an opportunity. Submit someplace new. Query an agent. Finish that novel. Get through that hard scene. None of these things need to be pretty or perfect. But they do need to get done.

Like this blog post.

Self-Reflection and Time

The beautiful part of writing your own blog is that, while you can stay with one theme, sometimes its nice to get off the written path and…improvise a bit. Coming up with a blog this week (after I have somehow misplaced my blog plan for the year) saw me wobbling between some kind of self-promotion, poetry, or writing advice.

Well, I haven’t refined a poem that I’m ready to share yet, and I often get annoyed with too much self-promotion (my own mostly). I have lots of writing advice, but today I want to talk about time.

Time is a tricky sort of celestial magic. It is elusive and easy to lose, yet feels infinite and ongoing. The problem is that humans have such short spans of it to spend. And the more we spend, the faster what we have left goes. It is relative, and yet some moments can stop it. Days are long, but years are short. And the amount we are given is never guaranteed, nor is it ever enough.

So what do you plan to do with the time you have left?

I realize that working, sleeping, eating, caring for family and general ‘stay alive’ skills factor in. I’m talking about the minutes when you have a breadth of time to yourself.

Just before bed.

Right after you wake up.

That 15 minute break at work

the 20 minutes your baby is napping

The 2 minutes, sitting in your car before the kids get out.

The hours on your hands when your nest is empty.

The Saturday morning, the Wednesday afternoon, the Tuesday night…

You see, I just had another birthday, and every year when that date rolls around (especially since hitting 40) there is an urgent sense of morbidity.

What if this is the year?

That I get hit by someone watching their phone instead of the road while I’m out running. That my dog (or one, or all in a congregated attack of cats) trips me down the stairs. That I throw myself in front of my children, (or someone else’s) when a random gunman open fires at the grocery store. That I catch a benign case of the flu and run myself into walking pneumonia, and stop breathing in the night.

That the shadow on my pancreas has become a full-fledged tumor.

What if this is the last year I have left?

What do I want leave behind? I’m not trying to be a downer, or anticipate death. But time…

Time doesn’t slow for any of us. And time can stop us, dead, with the slightest universal plot twist.

What if this is the last year you have left? What if it’s the last month?

We don’t have time to wait. There is never a perfect time to do what you’ve always wanted to do. We have a limited time offer to live.

I have moments to enjoy with my children. I have a lot more naps in the sun with my dog. I have mountains to climb, smiles to spread, joy to foster, power to reclaim, and hurtful patterns to break. I don’t want to waste another minute on people who do not see my worth. I don’t want to waste a second on making the same mistakes that robbed me of time, or dignity, or love. I have so many more books to write. I have so many more poems to scribble down. More students to teach. More coffee to drink. More places to travel. More steps, more breaths, more life. And I want to pack as much of it all in, to every moment I have available.

Make a list. Today. This very minute. Pretend that it is all you have left to hope for and not much time to make it a reality. And start today. This very minute.

Time is not on our side. It is a ever-quickening beast, thundering beside us, and gaining ground. Your job, tiny chess-piece of the infinite universe, is to learn to move, and love, and live, every single moment you are here. So that when that monitor blip begins to slow, and the metronome of your heart ticks to ever-expanding spaces of silence… you know that you spent every beat of it well.