July 8th, 2019

The 5 Essential C’s for Writing

Orly Konig

Show of hands – who’s looked at social media posts from favorite authors and coveted (no, that’s not one of the c words … keep reading) that author’s success? And since we all know how real those social media posts are, I’m going to share with you my C-tips.

Creativity.

We’ve all heard that there are no unique stories to be told, that it’s only our personal spin that makes a version of the story stand out. Our super-power as writers is to see the magic in the ordinary. A headline or inanimate object or a person in the grocery store line can trigger an avalanche of story ideas.

A couple of years ago, my son and I took an ice cream making class/tour at a local boutique ice cream maker’s factory. At one point while listening to the owner explain the process, I realized I was watching a character in the book I was working on. The character in the book is male and looks nothing like her, but I’d been struggling to who he was and what he did. I can’t tell you what it was about her that triggered the connection, but standing in front of me, waxing poetic about cream was the missing piece of my book.

Last year, while driving from Maryland to Ohio for a climbing competition, I was staring out the window (no I wasn’t driving), daydreaming (okay, trying to distract myself from the speedometer) when I caught sight of two signs—one for an artisan village and another for a lake-side rental community of tiny houses. Four hours later when we arrived at our hotel, I had the premise for my work-in-progress.

I don’t recommend eye-balling strangers or standing on the side of a highway and staring at road signs, but I do suggest keeping your eyes and mind open to everything around you. Creativity is taking a kernel of an idea and transforming it into a world with living, breathing people; a world that readers want to disappear into.

Coffee.  

My trigger for writing is coffee. Anytime I sit to write, I have to have a mug next to me.

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to convert anyone (but if you’re interested, I can recommend a few amazing micro-roasters J ). For some, the trigger can be a diet Coke or tea or lighting a candle or whatever flips the switch on your brain from sloth mode to writer mode.

When I worked as an editor and then in the corporate world, my colleagues knew that when the big mug came out and I shut my office door, it was the equivalent of a do-not-disturb sign. I’ve never believed that writing happens when the mood strikes. Writing is my work. Writing happens when I sit at my computer. That giant mug next to me is the do-not-disturb sign to the brain squirrels (now if I could only teach those squirrels how to read that sign! And make coffee!!!).

Confidence.

This is a fun one and one I feel particularly well equipped to talk about because, my friends, I have the confidence of a chipmunk in an open field with hawks circling overhead.

When I first started writing fiction, it wasn’t with publishing in mind. I was looking for a creative outlet, nothing more. I didn’t even show my work to anyone for the longest time. But once the decision was made to pursue writing as a career, this little chipmunk had to strap on a helmet and tackle the gauntlet – critique partners, agents, editors, readers. And because I had extra confidence to toss about, I helped launch a writing association and started a side-gig as a book coach.  

Want to see the helmet now? It looks like a golf ball. But here’s the thing, I’m still out there dodging the hawks. No, my writing style isn’t for everyone. And no, my critique/coaching style isn’t for everyone either. But it is for some and those people are the ones who help motivate me to keep moving.

Control.

Another fun one. I have a wee problem with control. I need it. So yeah, making writing my career choice may not have been the smartest move. Then again, we don’t have control over everything in life either, do we? 

I’ve learned to focus on what I can control – write the best book possible, surround myself with writing buddies who are positive and supportive, retreat to my writing cave and disconnect from social media when I need an emotional break.

As for the things I can’t control – reviews, rejections, everyone else’s perfect lives on social media – I shrug off as much as possible. And on the days when my shrugger is broken, I refocus on something positive (or take a kick-boxing class).

Cats.

Actually, cat memes or dog memes or squirrel memes or whatever entertains you when your brain starts spinning and spitting out nonsense words. Because, let’s face it, we can’t write all the time and – hold the judgement – social media can be amazing for inspiration (don’t believe me? Check out this post.)

I could have also used another C word here: crochet. The yarn projects are a fabulous way for me to work through plot problems or story frustrations. That whole “busy fingers, quiet brain” thing really does work. Whether it’s yarn or painting or exercising or baking or gardening or whatever releases your brain cells from the tight grip of creating and allows them to roam and relax, embrace it.

What are some of your tips and tricks for maintaining your sanity (stop laughing!!!) with your writing?   

About Orly

After years in the corporate world (most of it in the space industry), Orly Konig took a leap into the creative world of fiction. She is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and an active member of the Tall Poppy Writers. When she’s not taking pictures of her cats or chauffeuring her son around, she’s helping writers as a book coach and working on her next novel.

She is the author of The Distance Home and Carousel Beach . Find her online at www.orlykonig.com.

19 responses to “The 5 Essential C’s for Writing”

  1. Laura Drake says:

    See? That's why we're buds. Our C's are the same! Too bad 'squirrels' doesn't start with a 'C', because I has them, too.

  2. Wow. You really hit all the right buttons for me with this one, Orly. Squeezing the brain, then releasing the bran. How each benefits us. It’s just like breathing...and heartbeats.

  3. Julie Glover says:

    Great C's! My one addition would be Closed Door. That is, I need alone time without distraction to get the writing done. I know some people can write in very distracting settings, but not this writer. I crave that quiet time. Thanks, Orly!

    • Orly Konig says:

      I was the same for the longest time, Julie. I've finally learned to write in distracting settings since it seems like more often than not, my only writing time is while my son is training at the climbing gyms. But a few days like that and I desperately need my quiet writing cave to regroup.

  4. Thanks, Orly! I wrote my first short story that sold while i was working full time and taking 9 units of night classes, so I thought I can write anywhere, anytime. Well, now that I have more time, it's harder, not easier. Your essay was just what I needed to hear. Cats are the best! I left a WIP on the floor next to my chair & one of mine came over and threw up on it. They're smarter than we think . . . (He was right. it needed work.)
    Thanks again.

    • Orly Konig says:

      I wrote my first manuscript while working full time and with a toddler, and yes, it's gotten way harder with more time on my hands. Amazing how that works.

      I was editing once at the farm and the naughty resident goat came to check on my progress. Clearly he wasn't impressed because in the blink of an eye he'd yanked a page out (from the middle no less - still haven't figured out how) and ate half of it.

      And cats ... thankfully, the only damage mine have done is shredding and discombobulating page order. 🙂

  5. becca says:

    This is great! Equal parts inspiring and humorous. Always nice to know you're not the only one addicted to coffee! This reminds me of a post I did a few weeks ago except better. (I won't be THAT person and add a link, haha.) I feel the need to sit down and write like crazy now!

  6. jagrout says:

    What a great way to flesh out flat characters into living, breathing human beings. I am presently starting another project and have been reading about character development and plotting and not getting much in the "aha!" moments. You post came into my writing life just when I need it most.

  7. Jenny Hansen says:

    Instead of cats (I'm allergic), I have candles. For some reason, lighting a candle flips the creativity and contemplation on for me. I stare into the flame like it's a portal to dreams. And maybe it is,,,

  8. dholcomb1 says:

    I can't sit in complete silence because of tinnitus, so I must have music in the background. Fortunately, it doesn't interfere with my creativity. I can tune out the words, I just need the noise at a low volume.

    denise

    • Fae Rowen says:

      Denise, I have a playlist for each book; well, each character in each book, so I play that "in the background." Works for me, too!

    • Fae Rowen says:

      Orly, you stole my idea! After doing a 6 "F" word list post, I was going to follow it up with C words. Oh, well, I guess we're just mind-melding from coast-to-coast. Thanks for doing a great job on "my" blog! Sometime you'll have to do a post on what a book coach does...

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