Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Cleaning Tips

I would like to wish everyone a 'Happy Spring.' At this time last year, I posted about spring cleaning in the broader sense of the word as it pertained to writers, but today I'd like to focus specifically on refreshing our thoughts, attitudes and self-talk.

It's amazing how during a long, dark winter you can turn a blind eye to the staleness, grime and clutter that accumulates. Throw open those windows and let some fresh air in!
  • I write exclusively (insert fiction, non-fiction, romance, historicals, contemporaries, etc.) When we make this statement and put a period at the end, we limit the scope of our writing. We're saying that there is no room for God to do something new and fresh in us and we miss out on the possibilities. I'm not referring to genre-hopping. We need to build a brand and that takes time, but we can't be arrogant enough to assume that we know the mind of God. Leave yourself open to variety and to God's direction. This means that if we see ourselves as book writers, we should not close the door on short stories, personal experience pieces, magazine articles, or other forms of spreading God's story.
  • I can't really call myself a writer until I've sold something. This negative self-talk can be safe to hide behind. If we never state that we are writers no one will expect us to produce anything and we can avoid those awkward questions about when we are going to finish that book. And if we don't think of ourselves as professionals we can become complacent and not apply ourselves as we should, which is terribly convenient when we don't want to put in the long hours it might take to complete something of value.
  • I should only write what I know Writing what we know is a great place to start, but don't get stuck there. Ray Bradbury, while a lover of science fiction, had not gone into space himself when he wrote The Martian Chronicles (except in his imagination). At the very least, writing something completely different can be a great writing exercise that gets the creative juices flowing.
  • I don't really value (insert fiction, non-fiction, romance, historicals, contemporaries, etc.) This is arrogance, pure and simple. I'll admit I've been a book snob. I'm not referring to discernment about the quality of a book - I have devalued certain genres. Who am I to make that judgment? Just because it's not my favorite type of book doesn't make it less valuable. Wouldn't it be the funniest of jokes if God laid that kernel of a story in my imagination? He does have a sense of humor, you know.
  • I don't need anyone else to critique my writing This lone wolf mentality can only hurt your writing. If you aren't ready to accept constructive criticism, forget about submitting it to an editor. You're not ready. And I'm not talking about your mom - she loves you - I mean a small group of like-minded writers who will be gently honest and affirming at the same time. It takes time to find a group like this, but it's worth it.
  • I don't have time to write on a regular schedule I'm not buyin' it. You may not have a large block of time right now, but sit down and make a list of unclaimed moments that you have at your disposal. I'll bet the time adds up. When you're waiting at the doctor's office, riding the bus, early weekend mornings before your family is up or late at night when the house is quiet. It's not how much time, but your commitment to carving it out.
  • I can't justify investing in (books, conferences, retreats) Check out second-hand bookstores, 'Friends of the Library' sales, Amazon (cheap used books), and conference scholarships. Following writing blogs is free. Make your own writing retreat: take your notebook/notecards/laptop to a library's quiet room or take your lunch to a local park. Even better, partner with someone to add the dimension of feedback. If you are seriously following God's call to write, at some point you will need to attend a major writing conference such as Mount Hermon's Christian Writers Conference.

What attitudes or self-talk are holding you back? We'd love to hear!


Wendy Paine Miller said...

Always such wisdom here!

I like your "I don't really value" point. And I like that you call it arrogance.

I appreciate the open minds that write here.

~ Wendy

Susie Finkbeiner said...

I appreciate that you encouraged us to clean out the "lone wolf" mentality. One of the greatest tools I have as a writer is my critique group. I also have a dear and gentle friend who stock piles red pens. She went page by page with my first novel, explaining each edit. When you find that kind of editing friend, keep them!

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Wendy, thanks. We speak from experience here, even if it's painful. I only wish some book reviewers I've read would keep it in mind!
Susie, I think the 'lone wolf' gets more prominent the longer we write. We get a little experience under our belts, a little confidence, and we slink off from the pack to go it alone. Yikes!

Bonnie Grove said...

Once again, I'm energized by your wisdom, Debbie. Thank you for this checklist--every point more better than the last. Yes, more better!

Marian said...

Negative self-talk: writing is so much work and more people are writing and fewer people are buying books and you have to be a salesperson to sell the books and probably someone else has already said what I have to say and a writer spends so much time alone and somebody always needs something from me when I'm writing and my spelling is atrocous.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Marian, you are so right. If we don't counteract these with positives, we will freeze in our tracks. Or just wander off the path altogether.
Work can be very rewarding, even when it's hard. People are reading more than ever - just possibly in a different form. Learning to 'sell' stretches some of us, and doesn't it feel good to stretch? You probably say the 'same thing' differently. There is controversy about how many actual plots there are, but the consensus is it's a finite number. So we're creative about getting our stories out there.
You get the picture. Arm yourself :)

Kathleen Popa said...

Debbie, you're the queen of getting things done in bits of time. You inspire me time and again. Thank you.