writer’s block

10 Reasons why every writer should come to this conference

When I first accepted the crazy notion that I was going to be a writer, I kept getting this advice: go to writers’ conferences and start networking. The idea made sense, but the price tag didn’t. I couldn’t afford tickets upwards of $500 on the off chance I meet someone who likes my pitch, and would remember me from the crowd of hundreds of other eager attendees.

If what you want isn’t out there, make it! It’s taken a lot of hard work, but I am proud to host a conference that is affordable (under $100 including lunch), and intimate. If you know a writer in the New York area, make sure they get a ticket before it sells out.

When and where is it, you ask?

Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 from 10am-4pm in Times Sq. 

Here are just some of the reasons why you should go:

  1. Pitch your story idea to Shira Hoffman, literary agent at McIntosh & Otis.
  2. Hear from my favorite contemporary author, Aryn Kyle, about writers’ residency programs and the process of turning a short story into a novel. P.S. if you haven’t read her work, pick up a copy of The God of Animals today!
  3. Meet other people with same interests and goals so you can start having creative dates together!
  4. Meet Deborah Emin, publisher of Sullivan Street Press, a company that is working to give the power and control back to writers.
  5. Get a behind the scenes look at the publishing world from Christina Bryza, a Senior Copywriter at Simon & Schuster.
  6. Get a free hour of guided writing, care of  Gotham Writers’ Workshop, in addition to a special discount for their classes.
  7. Take your craft seriously. When you spend money on your dreams, they start to become a reality.
  8. Build your support network.
  9. Free lunch!
  10. Get out of the house, get out of the rut, get out of your head, and come and have creative fun with others!

You can buy tickets here, or check out the official website.

A fun moment at the last conference.

A fun moment at the last conference.

The power of ( )

An example of a British-style crossword puzzle.The one thing that never ceases to amaze me about a crossword puzzles is that I can sit for a long time ruminating on a particular clue and not have foggiest idea what the answer is and then the next day I’ll pick up that crossword puzzle and instantly know the answer.

I find this to be true for writing. I can sit and labor on a particular sentence and not like any words that come to mind, but then come back to it the next day and the right words just pop up. Sometimes a break is all you need. Just because you’re not consciously thinking about something doesn’t mean the clever synapses in the back of your head aren’t hard at work figuring it out for you.

That’s why I started using (   )

This is my secret for powering through when I get stumped. Instead of dwelling on the right word choice, or going online to research a point I want to make, I simple put down this mark: (  ), and decide to come back to it later. Sometimes ( ) stands for the perfect adjective that I can’t think of in the moment, and sometimes it’s a place holder for an entire scene I want to add in my novel. Sometimes I write a note to myself inside the parentheses, such as (make this less boring), or (add a quote here), but often they are just blank.

Our brains are amazing, complex (figure out a good noun), and they are capable of so much more than we realize. The next time you’re stumped, type ( ) and move on to something else. Your brain will fill in the gap when it’s good and ready.

Blogger’s Block

Ahhh I took too much time off and now and I can’t think of what to blog about. I broke my cardinal rule:  Thou must keep producing. As long as I consistently write 2-3 posts a week, I have an unlimited wealth of ideas. My inner critic is silenced and I am free to write about whatever pops into my head.

RomaFictionFest - Conferenza 2010 - LL Cool J ...

But as soon as I take a break — let’s say for an amazing wedding in Maryland –when I return to my computer my brain is dead. No topic is good enough for my comeback post (ok it’s only been a nine days. LL Cool J definitely wouldn’t call it a comeback). It would be so much easier to go get ice cream rather than figure out what to write about. 

And so, here’s my back up cardinal rule: If thou can’t think of something to write, write about that. It’s pretty helpful; even as I write this I’m thinking about what I can post next. And if you don’t believe me, listen to modernist poet Charles Bukowski: “writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

What tips do you have for writer’s block?

***And if you need a laugh, say the title of this post three times fast.***

My cat ate my homework

I’ve been having a hard time writing lately. Maybe it’s a fear of success, maybe the rule of 750 is no longer working for me, maybe I can’t accept my shitty first drafts, or maybe it’s just my stupid cat!

Marla won’t leave me along when I write. Here’s just a small sample of her attachment from the last week:

Monday: She's testing out her new spot.

Monday: She’s testing out her new spot.

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Tuesday: She wants to make sure I include her in one of my stories.

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Wednesday: She’s starting to show her true colors.

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Thursday: She’s had enough of my noisy typing. Hands are meant to pet, not write.

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Friday: “I’m just going to rest my head for a bit. I’m not bothering you, am I?”

Saturday: Oh no, the other cat has joined in! I'm never going to finish my novel. Marla's not happy about the intrusion if you can't tell already.

Saturday: Oh no, the other cat has joined in! I’m never going to finish my novel. Marla’s not happy about the intrusion if you can’t tell already.

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Sunday: “Take a rest and pet me, dammit!”

Whoever said cats are standoffish, never tried writing next to one of them.

***Have a fantastic 4th of July!***

Shitty first drafts.

Last night I met with my friends in the Artist’s Way group. We meet every other week and discuss chapters of Julie Cameron’s book and encourage each other’s path to “creative recovery.” Occasionally we share our own writing and get feedback. I shared a piece that I’ve been working on for two years now. I’ve changed the plot, the characters, the narration style, and pretty much everything else you can change except the original idea. I even posted a tiny portion of it on the HeSo Project eleven months ago (although I was referring to a different writers group at that time and the writing has changed significantly since then).

 

About two months ago, I started drafting the newest version of the story. I wasn’t sure where it would go, but I decided to share it with the group anyway. They might have thought they were giving me harsh feedback, but I found it so helpful. After that I worked for weeks taking in the suggestions I liked, and wrote a piece that I’m really proud of.

 

I was so touched last night when one of the women in the group said, “You changed my idea of what it means to revise something. Your first piece was good,” then she held up my new writing, “but this is great.”

 

English: Former basketball player Michael Jordan

English: Former basketball player Michael Jordan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

She went on to tell us she had always thought that to revise something meant admitting defeat – good writers have to get it right the first time, or else they are not real writers.

 

When I first start writing something I always remind myself that I am writing, what Anne Lamott calls, “a shitty first draft.” It’s completely liberating to know that it’s ok if it sucks. It can only get better!

 

If you’re starting new, give yourself the allowance to suck and the time to get better. Michael Jordan didn’t dunk his first ball.

 

 

 

Another little tip

I’ve been working on my short story, Island of Trees, since I first got the idea for it during my trip to Nepal – two years ago. I’ve changed the main character four times, I’ve changed the perspective three times, I’ve changed the ending, the sequence, and the motivation countless times. I love the concept so much that I want to do it justice.

It seems that with every creative endeavor there is a fun period when you’re on a high and you feel so darn clever. And then the real work sets in.

Last night Mike was getting frustrated with his film scoring, and I was getting equally frustrated with my writing. When this feeling starts it’s so easy to stop working and turn on the t.v. Although it’s so annoying, we both acknowledged that the only thing to do is keeping producing – even if you think you’re making crap.

Whenever I reread something that I thought was garbage I’m always surprised by how good it is. Ok, it’s not always good, but at least I have something to work with. And here’s my tip:

It’s easier to work with shit than to work with nothing at all.

It’s almost like brainstorming; you have to throw out a bunch of ideas without any judgement, and then when you have a fresh mind you can start making it better.

A Tiny Tip

For all you writers out there who have ever experienced writer’s block I have a great tip. I’ve been working on a short story of mine and I came to a part that was very frustrating to write.

Instead of turning off my computer and getting some ice cream, I switched my font color to blue and told myself that anything in blue is just rambling and I’m allowed to write whatever nonsense comes to mind. And boy did it work! I could barely stop myself to go to the bathroom. It turns out the writing in blue was much better than anything I wrote before.

It’s a funny concept because in actuality I’m ‘allowed’ to write anything I want anytime I want. But for some reason I got it into my head that what I was writing was serious and every word I put down must be the best possible word – which is daunting and paralyzing. By making this tiny change in font color it felt like I was telling my internal critic, “Ok you can take a break now, I’m just playing around. I’ll let you know when I get back to the real stuff and you can criticize it all you want then.”

Writer’s block isn’t a lack of ideas – it’s a fear that anything you write won’t be good enough.

Even if you’re not a writer maybe there’s some other small change you can make to help you loosen up. For instance, if you’re a painter keep an extra canvas on hand and when you don’t know what to do next with your original painting, move to the extra canvas and go crazy there. I did this in art school and I usually liked the second canvas more than the original painting. If you’re an aspiring actor try saying the lines in a different accent when you’re rehearsing at home. If you write music (and you use a keyboard) press the xylophone button and write something with that funny sound. Can you think of any other small changes you can make in your creative endeavors that will help you loosen up?

How many HeSos does it take to screw in a light bulb?

I’m paraphrasing here, but when it took Thomas Edison a 1,000 attempts to make a decent light bulb he said “I have learned yet another way not to make a light bulb.” That’s a pretty healthy way to look at your failures.

As I enter the fourth month of blogging, I decided to review my blog to see if I am maintaining the original spirit of the HeSo project and following through on my goals (This is all very meta, I know). I promised to be “brutally honest” about all my successes and failures. So here goes.

In August, I set a goal of publishing a piece about the similarities of Madrid and NYC. While I was in Madrid I took extensive notes, and made lots of good comparisons. When I got back home I started the article about six or seven times, and I never got past the intro.

I learned something…I don’t like writing when there’s a clear assignment. It brings me back to high school English. But I did learn that I love writing fiction!

As I was trying to write the Spain piece, a new character for an old short story I wrote came to mind. Instead of laboring on an article I didn’t want to write, I let myself rewrite the story. I finished the 20 paged short story and I’m very happy with how it turned out. Now I just need to get it published.


In my post about using your enthusiasm, I wrote that I would give a more thorough review of, Start Something That Matters and have a free give away of the book. I haven’t done that yet, but the second I have more time to reread it – it’s on. I just have a really hard time rereading books because there are so many great books that I’ll never get a chance to read even if I live to a million 😦 So this is a temporary failure, BUT I know it will soon be a success.

Riding my Flying Pigeon in Astoria Park

One of my goals was to meet people who are following their HeSo and this has been a great success! I got to meet, and interview Lisa Bourque, founder of Wild Heart Coaching. I got to learn about my friend’s new bike career and I got a bike (which I rode to Astoria park Sunday! I love my bike so much!!!). I met someone at a Halloween party who just wrote a book and we’re planing to do an interview together! Having a goal to meet and learn from people who are following their heart has made me a lot more proactive in my friendship making. I’m meeting more people than ever before, listening more closely, and appreciating the tips they have. This has been one of the best successes for me.

from geektyrant.com

When I started this project, Ifully intended to start a pie making company. I envisioned future blog posts of my I Love Lucy-esque mishaps in the kitchen. However, when I really started the planning I realized it wasn’t for me. I love to make pies, but what I love the most is making them for someone special and seeing or hearing how much they love it. It just wouldn’t be the same making them in mass. Plus I don’t even have a dishwasher. I did, however, come up with another business idea that I love and I’ve been completely psyched for it!

Overall, I’ve been volunteering more, reading empowering books, getting out of my comfort zone, meeting more people, and thinking positively. I’m looking at my slip ups constructively and learning from them rather than letting them hold me back. Because I’m public about my goals I feel a sense of accountability to my fans out there (yes, I’m a rock star). My friends are actually using HeSo as a word now! Having the blog has motivated me beyond words. I never thought anyone would read what I had to say. I never thought I would have more than a paragraph to write. But here I am on my 40th post and I’m in a much better place than when I started. My light bulb is shining bright!