Writing Contest: How has Writing Positively Influenced My Life.

writer-605764_1280

I am participating in a writing contest for Positive Writer.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t enchanted by stories.

I read early, when I was 3, most likely going on 4. Books and stories have been a part of my life since before I can remember.

When I was six I wanted to write books. I had no idea what that meant or how to do it. In first grade, one of our assignments was to make a book. Now, I thought that it meant that I would be able to write one and take it home. Can you imagine my surprise when what my teacher intended was that each of us would make a page in a book that she kept? I was so disappointed.

From that point on, writing was big in my world. I liked diaries but didn’t keep them. I kept starting them and being a child in transition, I didn’t keep up with them. The thought was always there.

Getting my first official journal at age 13 was the best thing. I picked it out myself. Silk and turquoise blue with birds, I had that thing for years. Sadly it has been lost to time now. But it did do one thing: I’ve kept a journal since. I haven’t always written but I’ve had a journal, just in case I wanted to.

Writing has been the theme of my life.

Journals helped me to see what I needed to for my life. I still have most of them.

Writing stories was a different beast all together. I don’t remember ever writing stories as an assignment in school. I wonder if that happens now. Would things be different for me today if creative writing had been a part of my education?

The first time I tried to write a story that I remember was for a special assignment. It was still in school but it was for a story to read to the first graders. I think I was in 5th grade. I believe it was a colossal failure. I had no idea what I was doing.

I still have another that I wrote that same year. I was a superhero. Can you imagine?

I stopped the stories for a few years but not the desire. I have several I wrote in high school. Better but still very rough. My friends enjoyed reading them though. It was a mostly positive experience.

I believe it was during this time that I began to hear what many early writers hear. “Writing is a good hobby, but you still have to support yourself.” It was discouraging to say the least.

Over the next 20 years I wrote journals on and off always struggling to get a story out. I took classes on occasion but never made the leap to writing seriously.

An area where writing has served me is when I was pursuing higher education. I didn’t begin college until I was nearly 30, which is a whole other story. I discovered that I could convey my thoughts well enough to get good grades. For those years, nearly 9 of them, my writing consisted of nonfiction, writing assignments. I never suffered the anxiety of writing that other students reported. I, at times, had difficulty starting but once I did, things went well. As I look back, I didn’t feel like a writer even though I was.

During college, I took one creative writing class. It was my first time experiencing so many things. Reading my work out loud and getting feedback was a nail-biting challenge. I even wrote and submitted a cringeworthy story to the school writing journal and it was accepted. I’m still not sure how that happened.

Writing has been a theme of my life. No matter what else I’ve done, writing has been there. I’ve used journals to deal with my struggles. The dream of writing a novel that ended up on the New York Best Sellers list has been the one constant in my life.

So here I am, writing still. Things are different now, I must say. I’ve achieved so many of my other dreams, this appears to be the oldest and yet, most unachieved dream I have. It is time. I have begun.

It has taken me so long to get here, I still consider myself a beginning writer. However, I recently read a statement that said something like, if you have 50 blog posts then you aren’t a beginning writer any more.

This is number 47.

I guess it is time I changed my thinking. Again.

Planner or Pantser

typewriter-377042_1280Its been while since I’ve checked in with my current writing projects.

The good news is I am still writing.

That is always good news.

Of course with good news, comes the not as good news. My novel has hit a snag or I have hit a wall or something.

Normally when things get a little off with my writing I have a thing that I do. I fall back to education. Either reading or looking for someone to tell me how to write something. Anything to keep the procrastination going. The truth is I don’t necessarily need to look for learning opportunities. I just need to keep writing. Lessons abound in my own work, though it doesn’t hurt to seek knowledge.

There are very good reasons to seek out other learning opportunities.

One, it gives my creative juices a boost. New information can lead to new and often better writing.

Two, I am able to connect with other writers. I’ve said this before. We cannot work alone. We NEED each other for the encouragement, connections and sometimes, fun.

Three, learning new skills is important. Writing is one of those skills that can, and needs to, continually improve. The writing I do today won’t be as good as the writing I complete tomorrow.

All that being said, I have been looking at my novel and the struggles I’ve been having with it. In looking around, I rediscovered a method of novel planning that I am attempting.

When I say I’ve rediscovered it, Randy Ingerman has been around for a while so many of you writers have probably heard of his Snowflake method for planning a novel. I’ve subscribed to his newsletter for years. The rediscovery is that I haven’t really read it for years. Sorry, Randy.

He has written a book called How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method. I’m not sure if this is a print book, I purchased it as an ebook. Randy has taken a fairy tale and used it to show how to use his method. It is an interesting way to teach.

The first part of the book is the parable and the second half are the actual steps to use. I’ve read nearly all of it and now I’m impatient to begin. He begins with a one sentence summary of your novel and goes through to step by step outlining all of your scenes. There are 10 in all. I am working on step 3, which is characterization. If you are interested in at least checking out these steps, you can find them here – The Snowflake Method.

Though I’ve already written so much of my novel, my MC is no longer cooperating so I am hoping that by going through these steps, she will be a bit more willing. Even at step three, I have a much clearer picture of what is happening.

Its a lot of work to go backwards, which is essentially what I am doing, however, it won’t ever be finished if I don’t work at it. I really want to finish this novel.

There are so many ways of planning and executing a novel. The trick is to learn which one is the best for you. I wrote during NaNoWriMo and though wasn’t a complete pantser, I didn’t have so much of an outline when I wrote it. So, now I have to go back and rework so much.

The good news about this reworking is that much of what I’ve written will be useful. You know, except for those 10 chapters in the beginning that I threw out as backstory. Yeah, I did that. Hopefully, as I try this method I will have less of rewriting like that.

My next week or two, I will be spending a lot of energy working on my novel. Hopefully by the end of it the writing will flow and I will truly be able to say my novel is finished.

How do you write? Pantser or planner? Or, somewhere in between.

The Cost of Silence

I went to a training this week and one of the things that we talked about was the lack of the use of the word “no” when confronted with a choice.

yes-238374_1280That is not to say that we don’t have other ways to express our refusal but they are generally softer ones:

“I would love to but …”

“Sorry, I’ve got to do …”

We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings so we find ways to sugar coat our negative expressions. This can create problems.

At one point in my life I had some acquaintances who were building a multi-level marketing business and had finally gotten to my name. During the conversation, I used every soft refusal I had in my bag of tricks to make them go away. The problem was I never told them no and their training was such that as long as the potential client didn’t say the actual word no, they needed to push forward. It was not pleasant.

“No” is a complete sentence. Apparently we need permission to use it as such, without qualifiers or explanation.

This does go against our societal expectations. Especially as women, we are expected to be nice and acquiesce to whatever is coming at us. We are expected to smile no matter what and take care of those around us without comment or complaint. Though this is changing, I still run into these expectations each day.

Because we aren’t able to say the word no, “yes” is implied and if we can’t speak up, then we areyes-238378_1280 stuck. We are stuck cleaning up after people who are able to do it themselves, volunteering for too many things, overworked and under appreciated. We stay quiet because making a scene isn’t necessarily acceptable.

There is a cost to this silence.

The cost comes in resentment and anger, lack of sleep and health problems. We end up taking antacids, pain relievers and antidepressants, as if these will fix the issues.

Except that they won’t.

Nothing will change unless you do, and yes, I am speaking to myself. This is one time where we have a choice and we can speak up. We must become our own champions because no one else is going to do it for us.

This applies to men too. The stereotypical man isn’t allowed to show “soft” emotions, only anger and aggression. This is a societal expectation though I know men who break this. Men are allowed to say no but struggle with showing love to their partners and families.

The silence that follows reeks havoc on our lives, leaving us tired and jaded with everything.

Can this be changed just by saying “no”? Probably not.

What can happen is if we honor ourselves by saying “no” just once and see where that takes us. Our life will shift direction and perhaps you will keep on saying no to those things that don’t bring you joy and yes to the things that do. You may find yourself in a strange place.

A place of contentment where your honor yourself by how you’ve chosen to live. Or your life may take a completely different turn, which can be a good thing.yes-238376_1280

The point of this is to honor yourself and the things you really want out of life. There is no honor in always saying “yes” either verbally or by not saying anything.

By the way, honoring yourself doesn’t mean you dishonor everyone around you. There is a balance.

Honor yourself. This doesn’t make you a selfish person, though the world will tell you it does. It makes you a person who has the energy for those things you want to do, those things that make your life work.

Its a good thing yet so difficult to do.

Challenge: If you find yourself overwhelmed, try looking at something on your “must do” list and try saying “no”. The actual word. Not, “oh, I’m too busy,” or “something has come up”, which is my personal favorite.

Not to steal from a certain ad campaigns, but, just do it. Just say no.

All photo legally downloaded from Pixabay