Inspiration vs. Dedication

As writers, we constantly struggle with productivity. We fret over our projects, sacrificing time, energy and sanity for them, but when we sit down to actually get work done, all of our notes and thoughts don’t translate to print. It’s like the muse just got up, left and took all the files with him.

For years, when I hit this brick wall of “writer’s block,” I would stare at the screen, write a sentence, rewrite said sentence, delete sentence then walk away. After all, why force it? If I force it, the writing will sound forced. Right?

But let’s be honest for a quick minute. “Writer’s Block” is really just a term we’ve put in place of procrastination to make us feel better. I know I’m guilty of it (see above “forced writing” excuse), but if there’s anything I’ve learned this past year, it’s:

  2. Polished manuscripts take numerous drafts, so you might as well pump out a vomit draft then make it gorgeous in revision.
  3. Sometimes looking at the big picture makes it difficult to identify individual small pieces. So don’t worry so much about the end product, focus on the individual plot points and eventually, your rough draft will start to look like a novel.

Basically, what I’m saying is writing a novel is a marathon. You just have to put one foot in front of the other.

A couple weeks [months] ago, Chuck Sambuchino, an editor at Writer’s Digest, tweeted the below quote:

“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.” ― H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I’m pretty sure this tweet was the revelation that motivated me through National Novel Writing Month. There were days where I stared at my screen and tried to find the right words to write.

The day that really sticks out to me of that entire month was the moment I made the transition from linear writing to non-linear.

I was sitting in Starbucks on November 5th attempting to write a scene between my MC and her [eventual] love interest. It was supposed to be the very first time the two characters communicated and the words just weren’t coming. I knew who both my characters were. I knew their intertwining story arches, but the words just weren’t coming.

Then Mr. Sambuchino tweeted that remarkable quote.

So I pulled out my outline and looked for a scene to write. This scene just happened to be the pinnacle of the characters’ relationship arch, which helped me write the evolution of their relationship in a more natural way. It also provided me with insight into both characters that I hadn’t quite had before.

In short, keep writing. Even if the words are awful and bland, just keep writing. Your first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect, plus your characters always find a way to throw a wrench in your perfect outline.

So stop fretting, don’t give up, and WRITE!

And follow @ChuckSambuchino on Twitter. Seriously, huge wealth of knowledge!

Happy writing, everyone!

My First NaNoWriMo: Pitfalls & How to Overcome Them

Holy crap, Batman! November’s almost over!

So for the last 26 days, I’ve been punch away at the 50k word challenge that is National Novel Writing Month. Being that this was my first time taking on the crazy challenge, I figured I’d share some tricks that I did to help me succeed as well as pitfalls I definitely ran into.

Before the month, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I mean I had some idea (after all, I am a research junkie), but I had a million and one insecurities and doubts running through my head. “Should I take this on?” “What if I get writer’s block?” “What if I come down with an epic case of laziness?” “What if I procrastinate until the last week, then have to sacrifice all sleep for the sake of meeting the goal?”

And my favorite insecurity leading up to NaNo: “What if I forget how to write?”

Well after I successfully validated my 50k words this morning (at 2 a.m. **cough cough**), I’m here to tell you that NaNoWriMo is totally doable.

What’s the trick? Just keep writing.

I know, I know. That’s what EVERYONE says, but there’s a reason for that: it works. Not going to lie to you, there were days I didn’t put one word to paper. I started off really well, knocking out 26k in the first week, but then I hit a dry spell where for nearly five days, I couldn’t (didn’t) open my laptop and get typing.

What got me out of that slump? A local Write-in with other NaNo participants in my area. Honestly, if it weren’t for those meet-ups with other writers, I probably would have lost a lot of motivation. I never put more words to paper than those nights I sat at a café and word-warred with other WriMo’s.

So for those of you who struggled with NaNoWriMo2014 or are contemplating participating in the future, next November, make time to participate in those Write-In’s.

Moving onto one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from other WriMo’s: Losing interest in your NaNo project.

Granted, it kind of depends on how far in you are with your word count, but if you’re halfway though or more, please please PLEASE don’t just throw in the towel.

Odds are you’ve just hit a wall in the story. So instead of giving up, I suggest you take some time to get to know your characters. Write a scene where your character shares their back-story or a scene where they’re pushed beyond their limits. It doesn’t matter if this scene doesn’t make it into the final draft, but count in toward your 50k regardless. Revision is for December. November is for writing.

This trick got me over many a [what I thought was] writer’s block. So instead of giving up, take a step back from the plot and get to know your characters.

Hope this helps you move forward with your writing project, whether or not it’s NaNoWriMo.

Happy Writing, Everyone!


Being a Writer and Combat Veteran

So today is Veteran’s Day, the one day a year where people remember to thank Veterans for their military service. Now I don’t pretend to speak for all Veterans, but I know for me personally, one day of gratitude hardly makes up for the sacrifices service members make.

I’m not saying this to be negative or be ungrateful for all the thanks, but more so to communicate that at the end of the day, Veterans still have to make peace with the sacrifices they have made to protect their countrymen and women.

Many Veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress in one form or another, at different intensities, and at different times. We all have our “triggers” that we have to face and learn to cope with. This is true of anyone who has suffered a traumatic event. Why Veterans are so susceptible to PTSD is the fact that while we’re overseas, we do not have the luxury of finding a “safe” place after said traumatic event. We are stuck in a foreign country until we are allowed to return home, forcing us to continue to deal with the constant emotional, physical and psychological stress of a deployment.

This means that though we cannot afford to feel “physically” safe, we have to find relief through emotional and psychological means. Many of my fellow unit members turned to creative means of relief (e.g. writing poetry, short stories).

I was no exception. Writing – a long-standing stress reliever for me – was what I turned to.

However, when I returned to the States, writing became difficult. I barely had enough energy to perform at work, let alone write. My one source of stress relief became a burden because I felt I simply didn’t have the energy to devote to it. So any free time I had was spent sleeping, attempting to regain what energy I was losing in trying to hold myself together during the day. But enough with that.

Three years after returning from Iraq, I’ve found myself again. Writing – the one positive (internal) constant in my life – is a priority again, which lets me know how I’m doing in the sanity department. I wouldn’t have gotten back here if it weren’t for a support system of friends, family and other people who have invested in my mental health. Because of their help, I am now able to participate in writing challenges like National Novel Writing Month (on Day 11, I’m at 21k of the 50k word challenge), maintain this blog, and participate in writers’ critique groups.

I know this post has been more of a rant than informative, but this is my challenge to you:

For those of you who suffer with PTSD or any other mental health issue, reach out to someone who will help inspire you to get healthy and motivate you to achieve goals you’ve cast aside due to your mental health.

For those of you who know someone who is struggling, reach out to them, ask them about their goals and what they’re doing to achieve them. If they’re falling off course, help motivate them to move forward.

Don’t just thank a Veteran. Show your appreciation by supporting them.