What’s in your writing drawer?

What’s in your writing drawer?

Gwynn Scheltema

There’s plenty of advice out there on how to prepare your work for submitting, but what if, like me, your problem with submitting—is you!

Do any of these statements apply to you?

  • ·         You have completed work ready to send out that hasn’t been submitted ever.
  • ·         Many of your completed pieces have been waiting to go out for years.
  • ·         You have several projects that are “almost ready” to send out.
  • ·         You have pieces that you sent out once, had rejected and never submitted again.

head shot of isaac Asimov

 

“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

Facing fear

You likely already know that the prime reason for not sending your stuff out is fear:

  • ·         of rejection (I‘m not as good a writer as I thought I was)
  • ·         of success (now I’ll have to do it again)
  • ·         of someone stealing my ideas (lack of trust of new people or situations)
  • ·         of facing the reaction of readers (don’t like to be judged)
  • .         of rewrites and edits (what if I can’t do what they want)

book cover Art & Fear

What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit. Each step in the artmaking process puts that issue to the test.
― David BaylesArt and Fear

 

Like eating well and exercising, you know what to do and why you should do it, but you can’t bring yourself to do so. So here are a few ideas to help you over that hump:

1. Join the clubwoman afraid

We can’t control fears and feelings. Likely they are deep-rooted in our psyche. But we can find ways to move forward despite the fear.

Accept that pretty much every writer has these fears at one time or another. The trick is to accept it as part of the writing process. Embrace it and face it.

You will get rejected. It’s a given. But you will survive. You will live to write another day.

2. Let go

Ironically, the greatest feelings of self-doubt seem to come at the moment when the task is almost done. You want it to be perfect; the pressure to finish increases, and the knowledge that you will have to put it out there sits menacingly on your shoulder. But there comes a time when you must fight self-doubt and have faith in what you’ve created. You must let go.

If you don’t? What happens? Nothing. Your writing stays in the drawer. You beat yourself up for not moving forward. Nothing gets resolved.

3. Trust the Processtrust yourself

Fear focuses on unknown results of possible action. You can’t control unknown and possible. You can control process—and action. So start on the process of submitting; create a forward motion as a way to outwit, outrun, outsmart fear.

It’s hard, sure, but it’s the writing life. You can either face it or not. You can trust the process or live in fear. Your choice. The solution in your hands.

4. Get started!
  • ·         Set yourself a target date to have just ONE piece sent out.

Writers live by deadlines, so harness that attitude to help you submit. Make yourself publicly accountable—tell your writing buddy, your critique group, anyone who will call you on it.

  • ·         Break the process down into actionable tasks.

Submitting your work can feel overwhelming. But like any process, breaking things down into bite-size actionable pieces helps you to get started so that once begun, the task takes on a momentum of its own.

Try making a list for each stage of the process (which you can use again and again), and then tackle just one item on the list at a time. Tell yourself you only have to do one thing on the list. Chances are, once you get started, you’ll do a lot more. And each action you take will build your confidence. Focus on the idea that each small item is doable.leap of faith

5. Don’t Stop!

By the sheer law of averages, the more submissions you make, the more publishing success you will likely have. Think of rejections as “acknowledgments” that you are doing what real writers do. You are submitting!

A good place to start is writing contests. Join Ruth E. Walker and Dorothea Helms in May for their popular workshop Write to Win.

If you want to start the process now, make a public commitment in the comments below to a date to have ONE submission completed. We’ll follow up and see how you did.

 

 

How to Pack for a Writers’ Retreat

How to Pack for a Writers’ Retreat

Ruth E. Walker. Every time we organize a Writescape retreat, we email participants a “Useful Information & What to Pack” list. It’s full of practical advice. We remind them to bring comfortable clothes and outdoor wear for spring or fall. After all, Ontario weather can be as unpredictable as a newly discovered character for your novel. We suggest that they can bring munchies but not too many as we provide regular snacks and our 24/7 beverage stations are always ready to serve.

compass & mapWe provide maps and directions to the resort. And we remind writers to pack anything they need for writing.  Most importantly, we suggest they remember to bring their work in progress or ideas they want to develop. But if they forget those, Writescape retreats offer creativity sessions and other inspiration opportunities. We even have a companion workbook and an on-site inspiration station for those 3:00 a.m. inspiration needs.

Gwynn, Heather and I sometimes joke that anyone coming on a Writescape retreat just needs a change of underwear, their toothbrush and jammies.

But there are some other, more subtle things that don’t fit into a suitcase but that a writer should remember to bring on retreat. And these important items are needed no matter where you are heading:

An Open Mind
I’m not talking about how you see the world, your politics or your ethics. I’m talking about some internal housekeeping — owoman-readingpening your mind to possibilities. It’s a form of mindfulness. It’s you, paying attention to what your muse is suggesting. You, being open to the five senses — taste, touch, sight, smell, sound. You, bringing those senses into your writing. When your writing includes a range of sensory elements, your readers’ memories are tickled. And that results in writing with physical and emotional resonance.

A Plan
man writingHaving a plan may sound contradictory to what I just said about mindfulness but the two are companions on any successful retreat. Gwynn reminds us in every opening session to be S.M.A.R.T. in our retreat objectives: set plans for the weekend that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and that can be Timed. In short, if you don’t have a plan, how will you know what you have managed to accomplish?

Coming on retreat to “write something beautiful” is not as powerful as coming on retreat to “finish three vital scenes for the climax.” By the same token, planning to “write a complete novel” is not realistic unless you are on a 30-day NaNoWriMo retreat. Be reasonable. There’s nothing unrealistic about a plan that includes “relaxing with a daily lakeside walk and writing in my pajamas for two hours every day.”

Permission

Giving yourself permission — permission to experiment and explore, even permission to fail — offers you a delicious freedom from your inner critic. Most of us struggle with that quiet voice whispering in the background, telling us we’re not real writers. At one of our retreats, a participant told me she didn’t think she really was a writer, that her work “wasn’t good enough.” We talked about what makes “a writer” and how we all are on a continuous journey with the writing process. When she finally was able to read her work in one of the sharing opportunities, she was thrilled by the response. She got past her inner critic, gave herself permission to risk sharing her words and discovered validation when other writers responded to her work. And she’s grown so much since as a writer, seeing her work published in anthologies, winning writing contests and submitting her novel manuscript to agents and publishers. And all that happened because she gave herself “permission” at her first writing retreat.

Lisa and Andrea web largeOn April 22, a group of writers will be heading to Elmhirst’s Resort on Rice Lake. They will bring casual clothes, walking shoes, bathing suits for the indoor pool, and rain gear, just in case. They will also bring their works in progress or ideas folder, laptops or notebooks, and their pens or pencils. They will have packed a writer’s suitcase full of optimism, plans, outlines, rough drafts, objectives, hopes and dreams for their annual Spring Thaw retreat.

And Gwynn and I will do everything we can to help them achieve their plans and their dreams. Because, after all, that is exactly what they will expect of us.

Let’s Get Practical:  Packing your suitcase can be a real challenge, especially when you want to lug along your laptop and flash drives and chargers cords. Rolling clothes suitcase overflowinstead of folding can get you more space. But what about keeping it all organized and quick to pack and unpack?

Here are some amazing “packing hacks” In a YouTube video from “Dave Hax”. You’ll gain some space for those extras and keep your clothes neat and tidy. Do you have any packing tips?

Can You Write While Travelling?

Can You Write While Travelling?

Ruth E. Walker. My husband and I were visiting our son, daughter-in-law and grandsons in the Texas Panhandle last month. We had a hotel booked for most of the visit so I thought I might have time to do a bit of writing. After all, during the week, our grandsons were in school and their parents were working. Free time, I thought.
Hah! I’d forgotten how exhausting and complicated travel can be. Most of our “spare time” was spent in busy mode (planning and taking day trips, helping out around the house, etc.) Any other spare time was devoted to recovery mode: sleeping. (Grandparents everywhere will understand this.)

So I didn’t write. At least, not on paper.

The thing about travel is that you experience difference and, for writers, difference is pure inspiration gold. While we have been to Texas a few times in the past few years, it’s still intriguing to see men strolling through the modern Dallas airport, sporting wide-brimmed Stetsons and stylish leather jackets. There’s a kind of Texas-walk — confident and straight-ahead. And Texas talk, too — How y’all doin’? (If there is a group of you, it becomes: How all y’all doin’?)Stetson wearing man

There’s difference in food. Biscuits and gravy is on almost every menu and Taco Bell Texas figured out how to work it in: get your taco fixings in a tea biscuit. Before ordering iced tea in restaurants, I remember to ask for “sweet tea” or it comes decidedly unsweetened.

And in every Texas hotel we’ve ever stayed at, the waffle irons at the “Breakfast Included” stations are in the shape of the state.Texas

So what does this have to do with writing? Being somewhere different — whether on vacation or on a writing retreat — it tickles your mind and your senses. Sour gas odours from the oil wells.Oil drill in Texas Billboards touting Texas Pecan Company offering nut cracking services. Pecans fresh from my son’s front yard tree (and cracked locally.) The sticky and soft texture of a white tail deer’s tongue and lips taking a carrot from my hand. The quick intake of passengers’ breath when our plane hit strong turbulence coming home.

 

In short, the senses are on overdrive. For me, that usually results in my imagination working overtime, and it was certainly the case this time.

 

I’ve come home with an idea for a play. It’s rough. It has nothing to do with Texas. But it does have a lot to do with airplanes that encounter far more than turbulence. I’m excited just thinking about the possibilities of that play, of the characters, of the idea behind it all. Once I finish my current manuscript, I’ll be working on that script. I might even work in something about waffles. And pecans. And maybe even Texas. Or maybe none of it will end up in the play. Just the plane. Or maybe just the turbulence.

 

Remember that writing is not always about putting words on paper. Sometimes writing is all in your mind, full of inspiration and potential, just waiting its turn to land on your page.

Memo to Readers: Power of Personal Papers

Memo to Readers: Power of Personal Papers

DATE Since it was first published, The Diary of Anne Frank continues to be a bestselling non-fiction book, attracting thousands of readers each year who discover Anne’s spirit. Clara Callan won both the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award. Message in a Bottle. The Notebook. The Bible. Dracula. Griffen and Sabine….

All these titles are bestselling fiction and non-fiction books. All are joined by one basic element: the epistolary form. Using personal papers is not a new technique but it can be a powerful addition. And like any power tool in writing, it needs a thoughtful approach.letter-700386 web size

Let Ruth take you through this form’s limitless possibilities. From grocery lists and memos to diaries and love letters, the epistolary form has been an effective and economical way to convey information and capture the imagination of your reader.

A workshop participant: “I never realized how powerful this could be in my manuscript. Thank you!”

Date: 
Time: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Venue: TBA (Durham Region)
Fee: $90 [$80 for WCDR, WCYR, WCSC, SOH, CAA and other writing associations]

REGISTRATION:

Memo to Readers ($90)+HST
Memo to Readers ($80)+HST

PLEASE NOTE: When you hit the “Add to Cart” button, the PayPal order will show up at the top of the column to the right. To be taken to PayPal to finish your purchase, click on the yellow PayPal button. You can use a credit card on the PayPal site – you do not have to have a PayPal account

HST # 821104853RT0001

Mail in registration: Print the attached form and mail to Writescape c/o 101 Morningside Drive, RR3 Havelock, Ontario K0L 1Z0.  Remember to email us at info@writescape.ca to tell us you are sending your registration and payment by cheque.

Watch Your Language AND From Inspiration to Publication

Watch Your Language AND From Inspiration to Publication

Gwynn Scheltema and Ruth E. Walker are at the Ontario Writers’ Conference.

Gwynn is offering an advanced class: Watch Your Language. Dialect, foreign languages, accents and other linguistic touches provide diversity and authenticity to dialogue. Gwynn will help participants avoid character stereotypes so that what is being said is not overshadowed by how it’s being said. Gwynn’s popular workshops at the OWC are consistently highly rated and fully booked.

Ruth’s beginner workshop From Inspiration to Publication invites new writers to play with words through hands-on exercises and fun activities. Participants will risk a little and try on different forms of creative writing. Useful handouts offer tips on submitting material to the right market. Ruth will also serve as a Blue Pencil Mentor, offering helpful feedback in one-on-one discussions with writers about their manuscripts.

Gwynn and Ruth have been at the OWC since it launched, facilitating workshops, mentoring writers and enjoying the many speakers and learning opportunities that a comprehensive conference like this has to offer.

To register, visit the Ontario Writers’ Conference.