Of Writers & Wroters: Pressing in to your Future or Settling Somewhere in your Past

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Where do you find the inspiration you need to make it to your writing desk faithfully? Is it your financial obligations pushing you forward? Is it your desire to prove everyone wrong who told you that you wouldn’t make a living as a writer; those family members and childhood friends who still crack little sarcastic jokes, asking when you’re going to get a ‘real job’? Are you in the fresh young love stage: you’ve recently discovered your passion for writing and have been caught in the honeymoon phase? Or, have you been writing long enough to realize that there’s nothing else able to bring real pleasure to your life than releasing the stories that are constantly being birthed inside you?

When I moved to Wichita Kansas from Northern California, I had a really hard time acclimating to the midwest culture. Over the next few years I became pretty impressed with Wichita’s music, art, and Independent film scene. Being excited about the art scene—and being the social butterfly that everyone says I am—I was invited to several Writers groups and I jumped at the offers.

Unfortunately, these groups didn’t bring any encouragement to me as a writer at all. In fact, after ‘hanging out’ at these so called ‘Writer’s Groups’ I ended up depressed with nothing to show for all the time I’d spent each week at these meetings. I wasn’t being encouraged to write. I wasn’t being encouraged to push myself; any encouragement I gave to the groups, to press on and believe that their best was yet to come, was shot down. I soon realized that:

(1) At these writing groups there wouldn’t actually be any writing happening

(2) There wouldn’t be any talk or challenging of each other to write

(3) Everyone was more than satisfied to live in the memories and stories of the few things they had written and had published somewhere in years long past.

The ones who had invited me to these groups, and those who filled the chairs in the quaint houses and local coffee shops where they met to tell their publishing stories from the ‘Good Old Days’—a time and place, within the stories of past moments. A place that I am not willing to live my future in—were all wonderful people. I love to sit and sip on a mug of hot coffee or tea and listen to their stories. I still do it today. I couldn’t, however, do it any longer as part of a ‘Writing Group.’ They were not writing groups; they were all reminiscing/talking groups—which were great for hanging out and reminiscing and talking. Not for writing or becoming better writers.

In a recent post, Gary Bizzo (www.garybizzo.com), shares an interesting quote from one of his friends. A quote that has been rolling around in my mind all morning:

“Some entrepreneurs are emotionally tied up in their smallness.”

Although Gary was using the quote to make a point about the potential that many small business owners miss out on because they’ve allowed themselves to find comfort in the ‘safety’ of what they are used to; the comfort zone of present success.

They’ve become satisfied living within the unsatisfying refuge of what they’ve already accomplished; giving themselves to the fact that thought that they’ve done their best, there’s nothing else to give, and they’ve accomplished all they are going to accomplish.

I don’t fit in with a group like that. You don’t fit in with a group like that. Those Writers (or I should say, Wroters) won’t be having cups of coffee or tea at 4 or5am—eyes barely open, still half dreaming—to continue working on their latest WIP; to edit pieces from the day before; to start their morning writing exercises; begin their routine submissions process, or—if like me or any number of literary Jedi out there—juggle the insanity of all-of-the-above.

Tenacity, Confidence, Addressing a Real Need.

These are what the patent specialists (www.2innovative.net) call “Key Concepts” when patenting business ideas. The same is true in the life of a writer.

  • TENACITY, to go against the flow; against the whispers and little cutting, sarcastic jokes; and against the temptation to find a home among the ‘Wroter’s Groups’ living in yesteryear. Tenacity to keep writing even when technical issues and computer crashes cause you to lose hundreds of thousands of words. Ouch, yes, I know and it’s happened to me too many times as well. That’s why God created Google Drive, iCloud Storage, BOX, Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox, and the Calitso it guys [ok maybe God didn’t create them but they can all be your literary salvation when your computer crashes.]
  • CONFIDENCE in your personal passion as a writer. The kind of confidence that propels you towards your computer, tablet, pen & paper, or typewriter every day to create the kind of literary magic that you do. It also takes confidence to respect your work enough to stay with it through edit and submission.
  • ADDRESSING A REAL NEED is at the heart of your talent. Humanity isn’t happy. Everyone is looking for happiness. Everyone is running after it as fast as they can; though no one is quite sure where to find it. Stories, books, novels, movies, comics, graphic novels, television shows and series, etc., ect., – these are the momentary escapes which, no matter how bad the economy is, continue to become more and more popular—and even more so when times are harder on people—because people want escape. People need their temporary escapes from reality to cope with a life that they’re not happy with. You and I are the writers, artists, filmmakers, who dream up and create those escapes.

Our creative talents and abilities create the alternate realities and escapes that fuel the mental vacations keeping the masses from becoming infected with the ‘crazies.’

For me, this is more than enough inspiration to meet my computer every morning over coffee. This is more than enough reason to keep romancing my Muse, to keep faithful with daily edits and rewrites; more than enough reason to keep submitting regardless of the rejections slips and resubmissions. With each published work we share another opportunity to offer hope and momentary relief to our fellow friends and family of humanity.

What inspires you to write?

What inspires you to keep meeting that computer each morning?

What inspires you to honor your heart, respect your purpose, fight for your freedom to be a creator?

I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers to you, Writers!

-Sam

@SamuelWConnelly

www.SamTheWriter.com 

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Fresh Eyes: Stepping Away to Get Closer

Futuristic glasses image by Syda Productions via Shutterstock

Futuristic glasses image by Syda Productions via Shutterstock

Some of us have been writing so long that we find ourselves going through the motions and not really seeing or expecting as much as we’d like from it. But—and this is the few times you’ll ever hear me say this—sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is to stop writing. Sometimes the best thing we can do is take out hand off of it, long enough to reclaim ourselves, renovate ourselves; look at our piece of work, our collection of works, and in some cases our goal or dreams again and examine them through new lenses.

While doing my normal weekly web surfing—for ideas about writing from unexpected places, for my other writing blog at SamTheWriter.com—I ran across a home renovation site, and these guys got me thinking about a simple yet essential practice that writer’s often forget about, or neglect. In neglecting or pushing it off, for ‘a better time,’ writers often end up suffering some very severe consequences that show up in quality of work, quantity of work, accessing creativity, and/or desire to continue their pursuit of a writing life.

The Lesson: Fresh Eyes, Fresh Mind

As writers, we suffer a creative form of literary bipolar disorder. It not only affects us writer’s but all Artists and Creatives. Some, like myself, see it as a frustrating rollercoaster-like relationship with our Muse. Other’s describe it as ‘being in’ or ‘falling out’ of touch with the Spirit of Creativity. However you define or describe it, you know what I’m talking about.

We love our WIPs (Work In Progress) one day and the next day we’re looking at it thinking, ‘What was I so freakin excited about when I wrote this?’ This is how many really great story and article ideas end up in the waste-basket-graveyard when they were good enough to be published—if only its creator had spent a little time away and had come back to it with fresh eyes it wouldn’t have died so premature. This is also the reason that many great story and article ideas get reject when the ideas were publish-worthy; the article or story’s creator, this time submitted it too early because they were so excited about the idea that they just couldn’t wait to send it off after the needed edits or rewrites.

A break, mini vacation…something—just get away from you work. I don’t care if you have to book a flight to Las Ventanas Del Mar [I’ve even highlighted the link for you], just get away from you work for a few days, even a week. When I finished my first 60,000-word novel, I literally hated it the day after I typed the last sentence. I was about to erase the whole thing when instead I decided to save it to a new flash drive I had been given, put it in my desk drawer. I didn’t look at it that week. One week lead to a month and that lead to forgetting about it for seven years!

About a year after I had written and saved the novel onto that flash, I moved to St. Louis to host a rock video show. Once I’d finally gotten around to setting up my office again I found the drive, popped it in and, after a few hours found myself, mouth gaping, in total shock and amazement at this work of fiction. Even more amazing to me was the fact that I had written it.

Yes, I took way too long of a vacation from it, but no I didn’t regret it being so long since I’d read it because it was like the manuscript has matured and evolved into something beautiful. IT hadn’t matured, of course, I had gained an important and essential writer’s resource. I was reading it through brand new specs: Fresh Eyes, a fresh mindset, and a fresh perception.

Everytime I write short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, blog posts (like this), articles for news sources or magazines and, especially posts or content for clients — as soon as I finish writing the piece I set it aside for as long as it needs to be; usually the time I spend away from it depends on length of word count, my emotional connection to it, or deadline.

I know several professional photographers and, it’s crazy how many photos they shoot, of the same subject, and crazier the time they spend going through each picture to find the perfect one to represent their work. You can tell a great photographer by, not only the quality of their work but, the quantity of quality work they put on their website. One could look at The Wright House Photography website and say that it’s a nice, clean, simple site. But when I look at it I see a photographer who has spent countless hours mulling through mountains of photos to represent herself—and her skill—through many hours of personal sacrifice.

Artists don’t just create a work and throw it out for all to see; they know that what they put out is a presentation of who they are. It’s the same with every single piece of work we writers complete. They don’t say, “Writing the first draft is easy, it’s the 20 to almost infinite following that’ll drive you insane,” for no reason.

If you really want to put your best work forward — take a break from it. Read it through the filter of fresh eyes. Time away will show you many things—both great and not-so-great—about your work; things you need to see with fresh eyes to edit properly.

Try them on now…

Maybe you have some great pieces of literary work right under your nose that you’ve filed away in a cabinet or computer file because you didn’t give it a chance. Maybe you stopped a project right in the middle because you decided it wasn’t what you originally thought that it was; it wasn’t turning out as you hoped it would. Maybe you need to pull those things out and look at them with fresh eyes and fresh mind. You never know, you could have the next best seller on your hands; or at least some really great idea to use as the framework for some new idea. You may just shock yourself at what you wrote and walked away from.

Maybe you’ve been staring at your monitor for the last few days frustrated because you don’t know where to take the story. The best thing you could do for that work is get away from it for a few days or week.

Try it. Let me know if you find a hidden treasure. I won’t be shy about accepting a finder’s fee if you end up at the top of a New York Times Best Sellers list. Just kidding, but not really.

Cheers to you writers!

As always: Write, Write, Write as if burning on fire…then submit!

-SamTheWriter

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Start The New Year WRITE! & Don’t Forget What You’ve Written

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“You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.”

– Isaac Asimov

I usually just skip the whole ‘making a New Year Resolution’ thing, but I do usually have a few things in mind that I want to accomplish in the new year. One of those things is publishing more work. As writer’s I would hope that we all want to accomplish that.

I hear writer’s all the time tell me that that only write for themselves and that they don’t really care to be published. To that, I call ‘Shenanigans’! Yes you do! We all do. We all love the feeling of having our work accepted by an editor and then published for others to enjoy. It’s a great feeling. It’s a beautiful moment. Seeing your work in print gives a special validation to your craft; the hours of research you put in, the creative chats you had with yourself in the quite- in the bathroom mirror, and endless cuts and rewrites.

The picture above is a picture of a cup of coffee in front of my iPad. I keep this picture as the background on my iPad. For me, it’s a reminder that I’m a writer and I have a job to do, so I should go ahead and get the ideas percolating and the coffee brewing.

I love and hate the quote above by Isaac Asimov. I love it because it’s true, and it gives an encouragement of hope for writers. I hate it because it’s true, and it reminds me that ‘just writing‘ won’t pay the cell phone bill.

I heard it said: “Persistence breaks down resistance.”  This is a marking and evangelism encouragement quotes, but when it comes to submitting your work I’ve found that persistence also builds resistance. I’m talking about the feeling you get when you receive a rejection slip, or two, of 50. The more you persistently send out your work to editors, the more you learn, the more feedback you get on your work, and the more resistance you build against the emotional feeling of defeat or failure.

2014 is here, and I hope as a writer you’re ready to scribble out some new ideas, stories, poems, etc. I hope that you’re diving into market research to find the names of the editors who may be looking for your work.

Although you have new ideas to scribble out and fresh stories to tell, do forget the gold that you have already written; the stories, articles, manuscripts written last year and before. While you’re hopping on the again, getting ready to blaze a new trail, start submitting the work you’ve finished. If you’re gonna get rejections, then start sending what you’ve already written- get the ball rolling. The feedback you get in some of those rejections are going to be the seasoning you needed in this fresh batch to give them just what they’re craving.

Cheers to you and this new year. 

Connect with me, and share you stories. I’d love to hear them.

-Cheers!       SamTheWriter

Follow Me @SamuelWConnelly 

Taste Something New- The Literary Buffet

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“We have always found the Irish to be odd,

they refuse to be English

Winston Churchill”

I love this quote. Partly because I am half Irish blood, and half because I think Churchill made some of the funniest, simple, and profound statements.

What does this statement have to do with writing?

A few years ago I while flipping through the channels, I was captured by this statement, “Everyone has some measure of prejudice.” I stopped for a moment to listen to this lady try and convince everyone of their inability to be non-prejudice. Soon I just laughed at the fact that she was referring to like and dislike. “Check this out,” she said, as if about to reveal some great, deep truth, “this young man told me, before the show that he did not like creamer in his coffee, because, ‘I like my coffee to be manly’, see that is a form of prejudice.”

I watched for about ten more minutes only to discover that I have some deep issues of prejudice-ism. Yea, my intolerance goes very far and includes: buttermilk, tomatoes, radishes, fried okra, cheap toilet paper, crotchless underwear, and much more.

All joking aside

Most of my life growing up in a Christian home, (nothing wrong with Christian homes, I am a Christian and hope I am creating a wonderful experience for my wife and kids in my Christian home) I was not allowed to read or listen to anything that was not bluntly and boldly Christian. I liked Jerry B. Jenkins, but I did not like the fact that he was my only option, “He is better and more wholesome than that evil Steven King. You’d never see those two guys socializing with each other, never!” my mother once said to me.

As my passion for writing began to increase my hunger for literature began to become harder and harder to satisfy. I started to visit libraries more, but I was afraid to pick up anything ‘secular’ for fear that the ground would open and swallow me alive, or lightening burst over my head.

I quickly discovered that I was raised to be prejudice towards most of the arts. One day, years later, I was home by myself watching the sci-fi channel, and I saw the Green Mile, edited for television (of course J). I loved the movie and wanted to find it at the local bookstore. When I finally got my hands on it, and discovered that it was a novel of short stories, I started burning through it like it was a juicy steak and I had not eaten for months.

I sat in the bookstore, laughing out loud, commenting, and just being stupidly absorbed, in that novel.

Then is happened

I took a moment to turn it over and see who this amazing author was and holy crap, it was Stephan King – basically I knew I had lost my soul. He was a master of horror, a messenger of evil, the King of kill, and …totally brilliant.

In that moment I found myself at a catastrophic intersection in my life. That day I put the book down. Later, however, I came to the conclusion that literature is an art, It is beautiful, and I can not believe that this wonderful beauty was not in some way a gift to man, by God. Call it God, the spirit of creativity, the muse, whatever- it is incredible.

As writers, we must write, but we must also read. So many creative minds work hard to wordsmith a literary masterpiece that we will miss, if we get hung up on silly rules (which count for nothing where eternity is concerned). If we allow our personal prejudices to create a wall, we can still be writers, but we limit our creativity.

I am not saying that we should all write horror, or mystery, or sci-fi, or whatever other genre there is out there, but in reading what you love (no matter who write it) and tasting other writers and genres, we discover writing techniques, new and amazing ways to describe a moment, and tips for plot that we may never find if we refuse to crack a few covers out side of our circle of preference.

I encourage you. Dom’t compromise your writing convictions, but feel free to explore the literary world. Be mature, not dictated by a specific taste. Believe me, once you just experiment and try new authors, you will find a lot of stuff you hate, but you will also connect with and discover a wonderfully wide expanse of beautifully crafted lands.

Feel free to browse the fields of sci-fi, or the hills of fiction-lit, the valleys of mystery and horror. Taste the refreshing waters of poetry, and climb the mountains of spiritual encouragement. If you have never read a ‘secular short story’ get your hands on some Ray Bradbury, Poe, or even Richard Matteson. If you have never read a spiritually encouraging story; grab some C.S. Lewis or Joan Anderson.

Try it all out.

kingjenkinsToday I picked up the Writer’s Digest, and to my astonishment, guess who is on the cover? You guessed it, Steven King & Jerry B. Jenkins… together. Come to find out, they both really enjoyed and knew each others work. Steven was a fan of Jerry’s Left Behind Series, and Jerry was a huge fan of Steven’s Green Mile, and The Stand. These Goliaths of the writing world met and found that they could fully enjoy each other. Sure King said that he did not personally believe that the world would end like the book of revelation says it will, and Jenkins feels a little uncomfortable with some of the more horrific work of the horror King, but they could agree upon one unmovable foundation,  writing is art, and it is a gift from God.

Let the English be English and the Irish be Irish. Taste it all, try something new. We writers stand before an international literary buffet. Grab a few plates, stuff yourself. It won’t all go to your hips, but it just might fill your head, with something wonderful.

SamTheWriter

Signing off

Submit before You Forget!

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‘Let your story or article sit before you submit it, but only for a day or two, perhaps a week. Then polish and send it off to market’

– Quote from Getting Published, Writer’s Digest Books

I have written over 200 short stories, 300 poems, 30 songs, around 300 articles, two novels (I’m currently shopping around) and have scratched my name into four picnic tables…(what can I say, writers must write…right?) and one of my biggest setbacks is that many of those stories have waited too long to be fondled by an editor.

Procrastination is one of those great enemies of writers. We write our stories, reread them, maybe even share them with a few friends, and then have a silly little ritual of hiding them away in our my-next-intention-is-to-submit-this-puppy box or file cabinet, and the next time we see them is when we lost our car keys in that general area. Even then we don’t have time to pick it back up…we are rushing out the door, late, because of those stupid keys.

I have said many times: Writers must Write, to be called writers. This is true, but there really is no reason, especially in these days with online publications, and a ton of literary magazines and e-zines, for a writer to be starving.

There are a ton of markets who are ready to buy your amazing piece. There are editors that are looking (as you read this) for your story, poem, or article.  But for some crazy reason, and I think it is because of this peanut scare, or editors fears of fleshing pickles walking the streets, editors are not going to come to your house and ask you for that story…

But can you imagine…..

You get a knock on the door. When you open it there is a man, dressed in a suit, clothes torn, hair messed up, and smells like Fred Bull’s (the 440 pound winner of last years hot dog eating contest) armpits.

You: “Can I help you?”

Editor: “I have walked 500 miles, and then I walked 500 more, just to be the editor who walked a 1,000 miles and now sits here at your door.”  (maybe that was a song…yeah)

You: “Why?” you ask the stinky little creepy man who looks like he lost a fight with an elephant…who doesn’t ….wear deodorant? (I don’t know)

Editor: “….because I know I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be the editor who buys your story from you.” (He might even have a singing twin!)

POINT is: It never happens this way…and if it does for you, record it and put it on YouTube!

You have to submit, and submit often, if you plan on getting your work published. I have had several things published, but I can tell you that I had to get my share of rejection slips first, and to get those I had to submit.

Don’t let anything stop you from submitting your work. As you write and hang out in cafe’s coffee shops, bookstores, etc. you are going to meet many people who all claim the same thing

“Yea, I have written several stories. They’re all on files, or drawers, somewhere, I think.” Fellow writer, I urge you to make it your personal, active daily goal to never become that person.

Don’t let fear stop you

  • Fear that no one will like your story- some won’t, who cares, you didn’t write it for them; others will love it. There are publications looking for it.
  • Fear that it will get rejected? It probably will, this is not bad, I look at it as the markets way of helping narrow my search’ it gets me closer, with each rejection, to the right market.

I want to encourage you to take out that piece that has been laying around for some time now, dust it off, polish it up, and send it off.

There are many ways to do get it done. I have a list of resources on my ‘Writers Help‘ section of my web site. Or you can check out places like Poets & Writers online.

What ever you do, do it.

You, my friend are a writer!

Sam

www.samthewriter.com

Write Because You Must!

42-16022523 Why are you writing? Why do you pick up your pen, tap on your keyboard, or scribble in your notepad? When was the last time you asked yourself the question: Why do I do this? If you have never asked yourself this question, I encourage you to take a few minutes (right now) and ask yourself. If you really want to be a writer, you need to know the answer. Do you write because you want to be published? Do you write because you want to get paid? I have asked other writers this question and have gotten some interesting answers, but the answer that you should hear your inner most soul responding back should be something along the lines of, “Because I love it”. One day while I was in a coffee shop close to my house I was approached by a young lady who saw my writing and thought she would make herself comfortable at the table next to mine. She asked what I was writing and then told me that she also writes. “What do you write?” I asked “Oh, anything really. It depends on what I am feeling at the time.” She answered. “Do you have anything published?” I asked “No, but maybe someday.” “Have you submitted any of your work anywhere?” “No” “Researched any writing markets?” I questioned “No, never thought about it.” She said with a smile. “Let me ask you a question.” I started, “Why do you write?” She looked at me and looked at my laptop, she looked around the room, and twirled her curly black hair with her index finger and then looked at me, smiled and said, “Because I couldn’t image myself not writing.” That answer was awesome, that was the answer that rings loudly in the hearts of all writers. Writers write because they must, they can not imagine themselves void of pen and paper. They must write, because they must write. That young lady really encouraged me that day and I have thought about her several times since. I know first hand that many writers have part and full time jobs. They must make a living, because if you are like me (married with children) you can not afford to be a starving artist. I have to be accountable with my family and make sure that I am bringing home a paycheck week to week. So, I do what I don’t want to do and work a full time job, and then come home and stay up late writing, or wake up way too early to write before I go to work and clock in. Juggling around a full time work schedule, with being a father (mother), husband (wife), with all of the after school activities, it could be very easy to say, “I don’t have time to write” and get stuck in a cycle for the rest of your life. But, if you love to write, you must find the time, sacrifice, to get it done. If you plan on someday making a living, writing, then you must push yourself to be consistent with it even in the hardest times. If you love it, I encourage you to do what you can to find a way to allow it to support you. If you must write, write. But if you are so busy with life that you can not see yourself getting paid for your writing, don’t put the pen down- write, write, write, because you love it. Maybe no one will ever see your work, maybe you will never be published, maybe you don’t care to be; that is fine, just write and keep writing because YOU know that you are a WRITER and writers are who they are because they do what they must do…Write. I hope that you will discover ways to find time to get away to write the stories that you are dying to read. I also find it incredibly helpful to sneak off to a public library and read what others have so passionately written. Before you head off to school or work, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m a writer who happens to work at McDonald’s, or Starbucks, or goes to school and Bla Bla University. I’m a writer who happens to be a full time manager at the bookstore or local deli. I am a writer who happens to work 40, 50, 60 hours a week…but no matter what I do to make a living, I know that I am a writer, and I’ll not stop writing.” Don’t get frustrated by the fact that you have a full time job. Don’t let your job steal your creative ability to fashion literary masterpieces on paper. Don’t let your occupation dictate who you are. Allow those things to be the financial tools by which you are given the home, computer, and materials, necessary to further the perfecting of who you are, as a writer. No matter what the future holds for you, Write, because you must! SamTheWriter signing off, www.samthewriter.com