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.
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.
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!!!).
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.
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).
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?
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.