Tag Archives: challenges

The Hardest Part of Writing

This past Thursday I began the annual October Poetry Writing Month Challenge (OctPoWriMo). CJ got me started on it last year and I couldn’t wait for it to begin this year. And boy, did it ever start. I’ve already had two challenges that gave me pause. One was to write cinematically and the other was to write a shape poem on the subject of showing up. And BOOM, baby! I knew what to use as my subject for today’s post here.

Writing is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. To sit down in a chair and write for a set period of time is not natural, and the inclination is to procrastinate. To find anything else other than what you should be doing, i.e. writing. So, the hardest part of writing is showing up.

What I mean is to be focused on what you are doing. It’s relatively easy to become distracted. Let’s see, there’s Facebook, or Twitter, or, oh yeah, what was that thing on Amazon you were looking at? Or maybe there’s some housework that needs to be done, or you really should take that walk you’re supposed to be taking. Guess what…you aren’t showing up. In fact, there’s nothing being written because other things have taken your time and attention.

Now, I’m not talking about those things that really need taking care of, e.g. kids needing to be fed, dogs needing to be walked, the tire changed on the car. Obviously, family (and laundry) is important. But, I’m fairly certain that you can do without all the drama on Facebook for at least thirty minutes.

This is why I like doing writing challenges. They force me to show up, and that, in turn, sharpens my skills and strengthens my weaknesses. Especially when I’m doing an online blog challenge. I get immediate feedback from different readers and their viewpoints are invaluable. In minutes I can tell if I need to change POV or if I’ve missed something. Is the poem I wrote subpar or should I consider adding it to a future collection folder? What needs tweaking and what did I do right?

The two prompts that I was especially challenged by nearly had me stumped. Writing cinematically was a prompt where we had to view our favorite movie, scene, or video, mute it, and view it without sound. We then had to write a poem in such a way as to express the way the scene came across to us. Well, I don’t have a particularly favorite movie or video so I chose a scene from Sir Ian McKellen’s 2008 performance of King Lear. The scene itself had moved me to torrential sobbing. Sir Ian is like a grandfather figure to me and so the end scene is heart-wrenching. I didn’t much like the poem I wrote (read here), but I was surprised by how many people were moved by my words. I showed up and put a lot of thought and focus into it, even using two phrases from the play to emphasize Lear’s frame of mind. (By the by, this is an excellent exercise to utilize sensory perception-take away all sound and write only what you see.)

The other prompt was difficult only because I really do not like writing shape poetry. That’s where you write a poem whose form is a visual shape on the page. Think Shel Silverstein:

shel

The day I was supposed to write for this prompt ended up being incredibly busy, but I still pushed it off for as long as I could. I REALLY don’t like writing shape poetry (probably because my illustrative skills suck-Joe, feel like giving me some lessons?). But still, I showed up and completed the challenge:

Uncomfortably Numb 10-3-2015

Yes, I wanted to make you cross-eyed. No, not really. The spiral itself is central to the idea/theme of the poem. Here is the actual poem:

Uncomfortably Numb

By Jesi Scott

 

Those eternal days of not being enough

not having it all together

lost hopeless

small cry-yourself-to-sleep days

when even your heart doesn’t show up but hides

in the endless pit of hell on earth-

What brimstone scorches worse than this black hole named despair?

Sucked dry and spit back out into chaos where

the best you can do is show up but

your best isn’t good enough

and so you spiral down and down and down…but still, you show up.

The poem itself can stand alone but is definitely more impactful when utilizing the shape (spiral). It gives the sense I wanted to convey of falling in and spinning out of control.

I wouldn’t have come up with either of these poems if I hadn’t shown up. You have to make the time to write. You have to give it your complete attention.

Showing up is half the battle.

Have a great week!

Jesi

 

 

A Juggling Act

**Disclaimer, this post has not been proofread for any grammatical or spelling errors, so please read any errors that you come across and pretend that they are not really there. **

Wednesday. Today is Wednesday. It is just a day in the middle of the week for a lot of people, or also known as hump day.

Wednesdays are also the day I have a class scheduled and get my youngest to soccer practice and my oldest to church for bible study, after I have put in 9 hours at the office, made dinner and… and… I am forgetting something…

Oh right. It is also the day that I post here at TW.

I have a juggling act going on right now and I might’ve let a few of the balls drop lately, including remembering that I post on Wednesdays. Well, I cannot say that I have completely forgotten. I do remember – right as I lay down for sleep and go through my “to do” list in my head. That’s when I go “crap!”

But why dwell on what cannot be undone. Let us move forward…

Last night was my first class in English. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, the professor hadn’t posted his semester syllabus nor had he sent any pre-class emails giving us a heads up. Yes, I know this can be the norm, but my other professors already had made contact and I have been a complete mess of nerves about going back to school, so I really wanted something.

In class he explained the reason for the lack of a syllabus, of course system issues – we’ve all been there right? – And gave us a break down of what our next 16 weeks will look like. At this point I was both relieved and back to being freaked out. It occurred to me in the middle of this room, with 20 other bodies, that I will now be graded on my writing.

GRADED!

Graded, as in scored for pass or fail. (What in the hell was I thinking?)

This week’s assignment, we watched a video and have to give a thesis on the debate of the “Homeless Homed” project. It is less for a grade and more to show the professor my writing style. We need to give the argument vs argument concept; the argument being the claim plus the justification in the situation.

Claim + Justification = Argument

Then how the use of the “Art of Persuasion” and how a person can use techniques to coerce their audience. It is an interesting concept. And something as writers we all try to do. We use our voice and techniques or the “Art of Persuasion” to show/coerce the reader into feeling for our characters even if/when they are flawed.

Hmm, wonder what I will come up with.

So my question for you, do you know your writing style? And if so, are you comfortable enough with it to be graded on? Let me know in the comments.

Till next time,
~AJP

Branding Your Brand

Branding

There are people (who don’t write) that see writing being a solitary career. At one time I was one of these people. I’ll be honest, it was the idea of it being a solitary career path that pushed me to really focus on making writing a future career choice ad not just a mental hobby.

I thought that I would be able to write, edit, rewrite, and start sending things by mail/email and that be it. Done. Now I was not naïve enough to think getting published would ever be that easy, but the actual writing part, yes, yes I did.

Boy how wrong I was.

As writers we have to write, edit, rewrite, find beta readers, maybe a writing group, look for an agent (if you are going traditional)/ or figure out the whole publishing process (if you are self-publishing), AND brand yourself.

That’s right, I said we have to brand ourselves. When I first learned this, I was “What the (explicit)!”. Then I was, “What the (beep) is branding?” The initial mental image when hearing of this branding business was of a cow getting branded – like on a ranch with a red-hot metal Alpha poker. It wasn’t pretty.

To bad I do not know anyone in PR, like the individual who came up with the Frosted Flakes cereal logo with Tony the Tiger saying “They’re Grrrrreat!”. Yeah, I definitely need that person in my contacts list. I don’t even have a regular brand/style in my wardrobe; one day I will be wearing my cowboy boots with a dress, the next in a jeans with 5 inch heels, followed up by yoga pants day.

So along with everything else, I had/have to figure out how to brand myself. It truly sounds painful, and I have to do it all on my own. Hmm, I am thinking that cow thing isn’t sounding so bad after all. Quick and done by someone else…

Instead, us writers, we are on our own for the most part. So what do we need to do to get ourselves out there?

Luckily for us in today’s society we have the easily approachable social media. Anyone and everyone can be accessible with just a few keystrokes on our phones/tablets/laptops/desktops. Easy as one, two, three. Sort of. There are so many different outlets out there, it is overwhelming to choose what is right for you. But wait. There’s more. You also have to figure out what to say to a screen that conveys who YOU are, on a regular basis.

This can be difficult for some of us, easier for others, but really, we are writers so at the end of the day we are just awesome!

Have you thought about how you are going to brand yourself? Share with us down in the comments, we’d love to hear what you have to say. 

~AJP

 

Piggy back riding Time

After reading Jesi’s post on Monday and then CJ’s post on Tuesday, it seems time is a relevant issue here lately. So I am catching a piggy back ride on their topic. How do we solve the time management epidemic that is going around?

It isn’t like we can add more hours to our day, unless we start sleeping less at night. Hmm, I already average 5/6 hours as it is, if I cut back anymore, I am going to become a walking zombie and I think that will cause more of a problem than a resolution.

Here lately I have been feeling bogged down and writing hasn’t been a priority for me. Part of it has been readjusting my time management, but also because my head just hasn’t been in the game.

With a new job (that I hate), trying to find another new job (and succeeding, thankfully), school letting out (the kids have grown monstrous second heads and I am not sure who these kids are, but they have replaced my cute ones), chores (stupid evil tasks), exercising (got to keep those two-headed monsters and myself healthy), enrolling myself back into school (I needed to make sure that I filled any & all allotted free time), and the blogging (I keep forgetting that I have TWO blogs to write for), my actual writing has merely consisted of playing with scenes in my head.

Sure I have figured out how to fix some of my WIP problems, but that doesn’t really count in the writing world now does it?

We all have life and issues that get in the way. Jesi has her kids, CJ is working overtime, David is a juggler of professions, Amanda has family, floods and a (super exciting) Con coming up , and Joe… Joe is moving to Florida right now. Like. Right. Now. (Hope the weather is nasty and he gets a sunburn his first day! Just kidding. Kind of.) 🙂

In reality, our lives are always busy and going and going and going. Queue the Energizer Bunny, please. So it is up to us to MAKE the time to write. We just have to set reasonable goals for ourselves, be it 500 words a day, or just to write an hour a few times a week, as long as we are still putting words on paper. Because if we don’t, then where are we going?

My goal is to start writing 45 minutes four times a week. I will set aside certain days and times that will become my writing time and stick to it. This might change once I get my class schedule, but that is alright, as long as I find a new goal that fits my timetable and stick with it.

With a new season upon us, what are your goals? How do you time manage? Let me know in the comments below.

Till next time,

~AJP

time-to-write

5 Things I Have Learned From Blogging

I don’t know if you have a blog, or just love to read them (thanks for reading!), but I have found I have learned a lot since the first time I jumped into this crazy world that is blogging.  A friend of mine, Shelley, just did a reflection on her A to Z Challenge in April talking about what she learned about herself from the challenge. Her posts were very open, honest and revealing, not just to her readers, but also to herself. I am so proud of her, because I remember when she first talked about starting a blog and I know I what it feels like when you start a blogging journey.

Reading her reflection got me thinking about what I’ve learned, not just in that crazy and fun challenge, but in my time as a blogger. I have had my personal writing blog, Darling You Should Be Writing, for about a year and a half now. I started it primarily for the purpose of keeping myself accountable in a daily writing challenge I had set for myself, but it’s become such a great adventure. Today I thought I’d share my Top 5 Things I’ve Learned from Blogging.  Even though these are personal for me, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has experienced at least a few of these.

1) Blogging Can Sharpen New Writing Skills

Writing a blog is very different, for me, than writing fiction. While I wrote research papers in college, have written technical writing style work in my non-writing real world job, and did some journalistic writing in college, I’ve focused most of my attention on the creative writing side of things. I’m far more inclined to ink out a possible dialogue between my imaginary people I’m creating in my head than to document a real conversation I’ve had with a friend or family member, but there is a real lesson in capturing a real moment and sharing it with others. I can take a story that has affected me and then put it into a blog post to share with others. I don’t embellish, but I do try to present it in the most interesting light so hopefully someone out there actually cares to read it. Writing a blog is a great way to stretch those writing muscles regularly in a way you might not do otherwise.

2) Having A Forum To Share Your Thoughts Can Be A Beautiful Thing

While there are certainly opportunities to share your thoughts in comments and tweets and letters to the editor, I’ve found it’s been very fulfilling to have an outlet to share what I’ve been feeling about something in as many words as I like, with an audience who has chosen to read what I have to say, and in my own little blog world. I try to stick to writing topics for the most part, but when my kids do something that inspire me, I can write a post about it. When I want to explore some new territory, like poetry, I have a great place to throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. When an actor died unexpectedly, I could write a post about how heartbreaking the loss felt and what I felt could be learned from it. I have loved having a place to express myself and have found it quite therapeutic at times.

3) Blogging Helps To Develop Your Voice

Jumping into the blogging world, I fumbled around at first to find my voice. What did I want to say with my blog? In the very beginning I thought I would just track the writing challenge, but then I started posting more openly and really sharing a glimpse of myself. You could read my work and get an idea of what my writing style is, but you also just get a look at my perspective. I try to keep a relatively positive outlook in all my posts. It is reflective of my nature and I think runs pretty solidly through most any of my posts. A blog is a great way to play with the image you want to put out there to the world.

4) Building A Catalog Of Posts Feels Great

Just like picking up an old journal and re-visiting a moment in your past, it is great to go back into an old post from a year ago and remember where I was when I wrote that post. I can remember the work in progress I happened to be tackling right then. I can remember the first writing workshop I attended. I can remember the challenges I did. I can point to a post I did when writing a new post that touches on the same subject.  And it makes me proud to have a collection of things I’ve written stored up over time.

5) Blogging Can Give You A Great Connection To Others

One of the biggest things I’ve learned blogging is how fantastic it feels when you connect with someone who has read your blog. I’ve had perfect strangers comment on my blog that it affected them, sometimes inspiring them and other times just speaking to them. The idea that someone read something that I’ve written and said, “Oh yeah, that’s me!”, is a great feeling. Having comments that people enjoyed a post is the best. Having someone tell you in person that they read your blog and that it completely went with something they had been thinking, too is super cool. It’s easy to get isolated, but putting yourself out there means having the chance to have someone connect with you. It’s worth blogging every week for those few comments that drift in over a year and a half’s time. I promise.

And then, after learning all of this, I’m given the amazing opportunity to join this cast of Twisted Writers so I can have a whole new journey with them. In the few short months we have done this, it’s already been a great experience.  Hopefully you have enjoyed the ride as well!

Do you have a blog? What have you learned from blogging? Has it been a great experience or a challenging one? Please share with me in the comments. Please visit my blog and others in the blog roll on the right. Leave your blog in the comments and I’ll visit sometime this week!

Have a great week!

~CJS

I Triple Dog Dare You

Yes, I’m late today, but at least I’m not as late as I was last Monday. Today I want to talk a little about writing challenges and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

There are a lot of writing challenges available for writers of all sorts to participate in on the web. Some take place annually, such as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo which I participated in). Some are weekly all year long, such as The Daily Post’s Tuesday challenges and Charli Mills 99-Word Flash Fiction weekly challenge over on her blog Carrot Ranch Communications (which our very own AJ takes part in). Really, just google “writing challenges” and take your pick.

So why are there all these challenges? Why should you elect to participate in one?

No one says you have to do anything you don’t want to do. But, how are you to know your limits if you don’t test yourself? That’s something a challenge will do for you. Challenges, by definition, are a sort of call to action. To take part in something, to question the truth or validity of a thing, to invite someone to engage in a contest. When you participate in a challenge, whether for writing or anything else, you are questioning your ability to accomplish a task. Can you do what needs to be done? Are you good enough?

The problem with challenges, or at least participating in them, is that we tend to doubt our own abilities. We can’t do it so we don’t even try. We’re comfortable writing what we’ve been writing and we don’t want to try anything else. And that’s when your writing gets old and stale, and you find yourself in a writing rut. Then you ask why isn’t anyone liking what you write.

If you don’t push yourself to write, if you don’t try something new, your writing becomes a dry, crusty piece of bread that no one wants to eat. It ends up in the trash or food for birds. Committing to a challenge isn’t even necessary. Just challenging yourself to write something, even just a grocery list, can be a challenge in itself. Try just sitting down once a week with a piece of notebook paper and a pen (no computers) and filling in the entire paper. It doesn’t matter what you write as long as you fill in the paper. The challenge can be just writing once a week or just actually sitting your butt in the chair to write (something a lot of writers have trouble doing). And no one ever has to know whether you succeed or not.

Get out there and look up challenges this week and just see if there might be anything that catches your eye. You might find yourself attempting to write out of your “normal” genre, or maybe attempting poetry. But no matter what you challenge yourself with, keep challenging yourself and pushing your limits.

Jesi

Tools of the Trade

In any job, you have certain tools that are required to be able to do your job properly. Writing is no different. In general, writing requires some sort of writing implement consisting of either a computer with word processing software or ye olde pen and paper. Of course, it also helps to have a fairly decent understanding of the language you are writing in, and a good vocabulary helps as well as basic grammar. Then, of course you need an idea. But is that all you need?

Within the last year, I have met all kinds of writers: pansters, plotters, plotting pansters, natural storytellers, experienced authors, etc. But the one thing that stands out among everyone I’ve met is that the successful writers have empathy. You can write the most gorgeous scene to ever be written, but if your characters are lacking in emotion, you will be lacking in readers. If you can’t understand what it’s like being your character, then no one will be drawn in to your book to find out more. They won’t care enough about your characters to want to learn about them.

It sounds odd to have empathy for imaginary people who only live in your head but think about it. When you go to a movie that catches you up in it, what has drawn you? What is it that hooked you in the first place? What made you care enough to involve yourself emotionally? What about your favorite book? My guess is there was at least one character that grabbed you and held on. You got involved with an imaginary character. Why? Because you were able to empathize with them. And that is because the writer got inside that character and was able to understand him/her and write from their point of view.

As you know, CJ Stuart and I have been doing challenges ths month. We’re both doing the Blogging A to Z Challenge, and I’ve been doing a poetry challenge. Yesterday, the poetry challenge required me to write a persona poem. This is a poem written from a different perspective than my own. There were some really good ones. The best told a story from a fountain pen’s point of view. My blog friend, Lizzi Rogers, wrote from a statue’s perspective. And I wrote from an old woman’s view. (I have included my poem at the end of this post.)

All of us had to be able to consider what it was like to see through another’s eyes, even if those “eyes” happened to be inanimate objects. What makes a story compelling isn’t just a good plot. You also have to have believable characters who get you emotionally involved with them. Mark Twain said, “write what you know.” He was talking about emotions. It isn’t enough to create an imaginary world people want to live in. You must also create people that others want to empathize with. We all want to know that others are going through the same things we do. We want someone to cheer for.

This week I challenge you to write with empathy. See the world from a different perspective than your own. Go out and think about what someone else might be experiencing and try to understand life from their point of view. Or maybe, see things from a new angle. I wonder what the tree in my backyard is thinking…

Have a great Monday!

Jesi

Advice from Atropos*

By Jesi Scott

 

Look at me.

Look at me and dread the day you

look like me,

skin creasing, folding in on itself,

hair greying, thinning, turning white

as age gnaws on my bones.

 

With age comes wisdom,

or so they say.

Let me tell you what I have learned

in this lifetime.

Life is hard and unfair;

it is ugly and messy and so full of disappointment.

It leaves you scarred, your body marked,

and, sometimes your soul, for all eternity.

 

You will cry and beat your fists in rage;

it’s how we come into this world,

and how some of us go out, still fighting

the current that draws us inexorably

toward the waterfall without a paddle;

we all go over, willing or not.

 

But there are moments…

Oh, such moments!

Such sweet, pleasurable, blood-racing,

breath-holding, firework moments…

the touch of someone’s hand on

your’s, the sound of a baby’s first laugh,

the scent of fresh spring rain,

the silk of his or her lips on your lips.

Oh, how I will miss the simple

pleasure of a kiss.

 

So, look at me.

Look at me and remember these days of your youth,

for they will not come again.

Remember the hard days, and the good;

relish every heart-stopping, goose-pimple, champagne-bubble moment,

because these are what get us through,

and make life worth living.

 

*Atropos is one of the three Greek goddesses known as Fate. She represents one of the three ages of woman known as The Crone.