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Writing During the Holidays

Writing around the holidays

Holidays can be stressful, but writing doesn't have to be. Sometimes during the holidays, writers forget, or don't have time, or simply neglect one of their favorite pastimes, although not without good reasons.

Spending time with friends and family is necessary to make memories around this time of year. Many families have parts of the family all around the country, and even around the world who aren't seen at other parts of the year.

These family interactions can be used as inspiration. For example, a quirky, real-life aunt's characteristics could be used in a story. A cousin's crazy adventures could be helpful to a plot. The setting of a Christmas party could work well in a holiday story in the future.

Writing possibilities are endless when it comes to familial inspiration, because everyone has some sort of weird family setup, whether they realize it or not. Most likely they've accepted it as their own without thinking twice.

Sitting in a Christmas or other holiday party, you as a writer can come up with so many details that could be an addition to a story, poem, or article later on in your writing career. Even post-party, you can look back and pick out details that stood out in your mind, because if you vividly remember something from a gathering, it must be something important to your life and a good detail for a future story.

Don't think that a detail or story is too small to tell! If you have that mentality, you will miss out on interesting content, and cheat yourself on your true writing potential.  

As always, have faith in your own writing, and the places it can go. Even if you're not feeling confident with a piece, remember that everything you write (yes, really everything) makes you a better writer in the end because you learn from things that worked and you know subjects that you enjoy. Things you enjoy become easier to write, and things that you may not like as much become a challenge that may be daunting, but it still feels great when you finish a tough piece to write and publish it or share it with its intended audience.

Write, write, write! Even when you're busy, when you don't feel like it, when you have "more important" things to do. You won't regret it later. You'll really regret not writing when you look back on the holidays. You'll think about the time you spent with your family, and wonder why you didn't write in the free time you had. Write always, and remember forever. I write partly to remember more vividly. Use this talent to help yourself remember moments better too. 

Good luck with writing, around various holidays and family gatherings (and always), and happy writing to you as well!

Write What You Feel

Writing is an outlet. Without it, I'd be lost. Even more lost than I am. Don't pretend like you don't know what being lost is like. You don't have everything figured out, ever, in life. Whether you're a kid, a teenager, a twenty-something, in your thirties, forties, middle age, beyond over the hill, in your seventies, eighties, or even nineties, nothing is certain. Life throws curveballs every single day. Some are major life events, and others are tiny, mostly insignificant parts of a person's day.

Writing provides the relief that merely talking to someone else about won't always give to you. The act of writing is so therapeutic. Writing should make you feel something. Good writing moves us to write more and express ourselves, too.

Try to tell me otherwise, or convince me that writing is not important. You will fail to win that battle. I'll never stop writing. I'll never stop expressing myself in this way.

Today I'm writing to tell you that you can heal your emotional ailments with spilling words from your brain into a Word document or onto a physical page.

Writing is good. Not always positive, or quality, or right, but it is good. It heals. It challenges. It questions. Use writing daily to uncover the good, which can be found amidst the terrible, sad, uncertain. When there seems to be no hope, just wait. There will be some. In the meantime, write away your problems for a while by getting your frustrations out of your mind, without worrying about finding someone to talk to. Plus, sometimes the words flow more easily when you're not pressured by possible judgement. Writing is private unless you choose to publish it, or keep it somewhere that a person could easily read it, or decide to share it with someone close to you.

Everybody hurts, everybody cries, just not always in front of people. I think that writers pour 

their hearts, tears, and souls into their writing if they are truly committed to a piece or a story.

This started out as a one liner that I saved for later. That's how the magic of words and writing happens. People probably think that writers have everything - in terms of ideas - at once, and I'm here to tell you that we don't. If that, we have less together than non-writers (or people who don't enjoy writing for fun) have together, because of our tendency to think about things too long. Overthinking and writing go hand in hand. But sometimes, that can be so good for your stories. You can use an experience to emphasize the events in a short (or long) story, and that ability to insert yourself into that situation from the past will make it easier to write about. That fact is an exciting part about writing, because once you've had something happen to you, writing about it is the easy part. You've already faced it. Even if it is a sad time that you're writing about, you can add in previous happy times, or compare it to an exciting moment in your life, and possibly what happened in between. But even the most troubled situations that arise in life are worth writing about.

Write the hard stuff. Write about things that make you angry, write about things that make you cry, that make you FEEL something. It doesn't always have to be positive, or make you feel good.

Just write, it will be worth it.

Am I writing the "right" content?

Whether you're writing for a blog, for an online newspaper, for a class, for fun, or with intentions to publish someday, you'll probably wonder somewhere along the way if you're on the right track.

Writers everywhere doubt their writing. We criticize ourselves and ask ourselves if what we're writing is quality content. We'll sit and work, and then re-work what we're writing until we like what we have in front of us, and still feel unsure. This uncertainty goes along with simultaneously having a sense of pride in our work. An explanation of this is tough, really, because it seems much too contradictory to say that we are proud but unsure of ourselves. But then again, isn't everyone?

Anyone on a sports team could be nervous before a game and still be proud to be there and playing, no matter what level they are at. Whether they play in grade school, middle school, high school, collegiate, or professional sports, they have some amount of uncertainty. That never really goes away, not completely. I don't think it ever does. That uncertainty keeps the drive and passion alive.

The desire to keep on keeping on, to continue to write and tell stories that will entertain, inform, inspire, and much more.

The right content doesn't exist. If you're writing, you're on the right track. Show it to other people when you feel ready. If you don't feel like the piece is ready to be shown, keep writing.

Learning when to Pause and Not try too Hard

Being a writer is not easy. Actually, I think it's a lot harder to be a writer because I'm constantly thinking about storylines, phrases for poetry, and topics for articles that I could writer about. Overthinking in my daily life in general doesn't help.

This week, I really struggled. I told myself, I don't have anything to write about.

But obviously that's a terrible lie.

The writing topics I have are endless.

I tried to tell myself to write about something that matters. But what matters? The answer is different for everyone, I think. Because every person, writer or not, has different priorities, interests, passions, dislikes, fears, dreams, and goals.

If you're struggling to write, just stop thinking so deeply for a moment. Just simply think.

Don't ask other people for help. One, it shows weakness. I'm only half joking, because you really can write on your own. You are capable. You can and will succeed. Two, it skews your originality. Writing is most often a solitary activity— unless you're working on a collaborative project, which is also great. But I'm talking about the solo writing you're doing as a writer at any stage, published, unpublished, with a job in your field, in school or out, and whether or not you write for compensation. Sometimes it feels forced. It shouldn't.

Sometimes it doesn't come to you right away. You may need to sit down for a while to type or write, and then come back to what you're writing later. You may jump around and add details later. You probably will arrange and rearrange paragraphs and transitions. You'll over-utilize spellcheck and autocorrect because you're scrambling to get your thoughts down before they escape your mind forever. You'll create new anagrams that won't exist, and only for a moment, until they're lost forever to the cyberspace. Sometimes not even autocorrect will be able to decipher your digital chicken-scratch, and maybe you'll struggle to translate later on, too.

Who knows what you'll accomplish when you don't try too hard. Writers know that when you try *too* hard, it shows.

How do you determine trying too hard, you may ask? Well I think it just feels wrong, completely wrong, when you're trying too hard. When you can't come up with the next line in a poem or the mannerisms of a character in a novel.

I love writing, and I always will. I will never stop writing, but sometimes you need to pause to breathe and reflect on life. Going back later will give you the clarity of mind to continue. The amount of time you will need can vary depending on what you're writing about, but I feel as though it always works.

Try to just think about what you're currently feeling. Current events, random thoughts, social media posts, and more can be inspiration for writing that you can do today and in the future. Sometimes you have to jot down an idea that you won't end up using or thinking about again for a year. That's the beauty of technology today. The notes section of my phone and laptop have enabled me to write more things than I ever dreamed possible. I'll think of a snippet of a poem that I could compose while walking to work, and be able to capture it because I have the technological means.

There will be days when you want to sleep instead of writing. Or read instead of writing. Or do anything besides writing because you don't feel motivated or inspired. But you have to push past that and believe that what you write is important.

Deadwood: Not Just A City In South Dakota

Is eliminating deadwood only for the scholar? Who should focus most of getting rid of deadwood? Should creative writers focus just as much on the content as the words that surround the topic?

I think yes. All writers can focus on the words that they are including, or ones they are choosing to exclude. Simplify your writing. Perfect it, no matter if you're working on a dissertation, or a creative writing poem.

Deadwood, or unnecessary parts of sentences and short passages are distracting. They detract from the meaning of the subject(s).

Don't to try sound overly smart. Just use a word that you would speak out loud in a normal daily conversation, over a dictionary or thesaurus find that you've never spoken aloud.

On that note, you can read a section out loud to make it easier if need be. The interesting factor is that what one person considers necessary can be very different than another person's. Also, the words that you take out may make a passage boring. Don't cut too much. Glaser tells the reader that too much would be fifty percent. For example, if you have a two page proposal, condensing and cutting it down into one focused final version would be good. Any more cuts, though, would be excessive.

I took an advanced composition class in college, and the book I read during it had many good tips and pieces of advice about how to avoid deadwood. Reading Joe Glaser's Understanding Style helped me realize that I should try harder to take out the unneeded words.

One thing that is frustrating, though, is that I see deadwood everywhere after learning about how much unnecessary fillers are included in everyday writing! In my own writing, in the writing of other people, and in books (occasionally); it is hard because I cannot look past it without wanting to delete everything that's unnecessary. For my own writing, that's a great thing. When I'm reading other things, it distracts me a bit. But I am glad that I learned about avoiding deadwood and eliminating it after writing a first draft to maintain only the crucial information, and not keeping things that do not strengthen the argument or purpose.

Of course, a year later, I still find myself writing and rewriting things that are most important, because I tend to use "filler words" without even thinking about it. But edits following the writing process make the reader understand the subject more easily while providing a more concise paragraph or couple of sentences. The Glaser method simply states that if you can take it out of the sentence, do it. After writing a piece, or paragraph, (or any length of writing) try to take out words by putting brackets around the words that could be taken out of the sentence, and it would still make sense. Sometimes, a whole phrase is unnecessary. Most people use phrases in their writing without noticing, especially with idioms.

Glaser advises to avoid overwriting, but also take note to stay away from underwriting. A writer must think about what they are writing and make the call about how much they should include and exclude. It really depends on each case. Even though paying attention to deadwood is helpful, there is no "right" answer when it comes to the question of deadwood.

Where do I start?

One of the most difficult things I've faced as a writer is where to begin when I start something completely new.

Personally, I really enjoy using my "500 Writing Prompts" and "642 Things To Write About" idea books. They both have the most unique suggestions to jump start a writer's mind in the event of writer's block, or the desire to start a new or mini writing projects.

The best pieces of writing stem from small journal sessions, in my opinion. You, the writer, go into the writing process not pressuring yourself to sound a certain way, or impress anyone, or be perfectly "right" in plot, characters, or even lines of dialogue. The messy scribbles of notes and small, unorganized thoughts are a beautiful chaos that wind up fitting together like the pieces of a seemingly unsolvable puzzle.

Organization while writing drafts is overrated, unrealistic, and nearly impossible. Story-writing success wouldn't be half as gratifying if the road along the way wasn't a little bumpy and filled with distracting noises. Speaking of noise, I recently bought a typewriter and I have played around with it a little bit. It's a newer model, and although louder than I would have hoped, I think it's going to help me create amazing things, or at the very least, fragments of great ones. After all, what writer doesn't own a typewriter at some point in their life? No, I'm only mostly kidding about that generalization, but I think they are really fascinating. The only quirk that I'm worried about is the fact that the 'y' key doesn't work. Why, oh why? I'm wondering if I'll be able to write the next "Great American Novel" without using the letter 'y."

Great writing things start out, you probably know, as tiny little thoughts in a writer's brain. That alone is an astounding fact. The smallest factors of our lives can create great additions to our stories. The real, live stories we live create the stories we long to live, or the stories that thrill us and make us continue even when life tries to bring us down. The stories that we create arenas that we put together to someday inspire, move, thrill, and motivate other writers to create more. It's like the great chain of writing or something along those lines.

The best writing is the pieces that give us chills, or move us to tears, or make us want to create pieces of writing that have that much affect on a person or multiple people that we, ourselves, have experienced.

I only hope to use these books and other experiences to inspire great writing to piece together into a the next "great" story, maybe even best seller. Happy writing!

Choosing a Genre

What genre should I pick to write in?

Every writer has a favorite, but try to write in different genres. Ones that are out of your comfort zone. Venture into new places, like the characters in a book. Make stories that challenge your reader, and try to inspire them to challenge themselves as well.

Staying inside the boundaries of your comfort zone will not allow you the growth that you could undergo with writing in more than one genre.

There isn't a "right" way to start, but easy ones are to brainstorm and free write. Take a few minutes, and sit and frantically scribble (try to maintain legible handwriting, or your revisions might be more difficult - I know this firsthand), or slowly jot, whichever is your style. Whatever comes to mind, write it down. You can rearrange and change or fix the details later.

Write from wherever, from deep down or the tip of your tongue. Use inspiration from life, from books, from people you know, from people who make you want to be a better person, and from people who teach you how you don't want to act. Use those characteristics, places, settings, actions, and reactions to set up even the bare bones of a story. Some take years to write and edit, and then edit some more. A writer's editing is hardly ever completely done. It isn't done until it feels just right, and that might not be right away. Good things take time - and all writers want to have success.

While writing down your ideas, or even after you have some down, you'll want to begin organizing them. You might want to create a web, or map - you know, the bubbles connected by lines that intersect and may even cross over each other? - to organize your free writing. Yes, those lines may get a little crazy looking, but it will eventually all come together. You will have to work at it - nothing worthwhile is easy. Piece together details as you come up with them, and slowly watch the characters and plot develop in front of you.

Experiment with genre! You never know what amazing stories you'll end up writing.

Importance of Writing Each Day

Push yourself to write each day. I've seen a quote that reads, "You can't edit a blank page," and that's the complete truth. You may not write something worth reading every day, but you'll challenge yourself to improve your writing just by doing the very thing you love to do - write.

This is much more easily said than done, because some writers aren't to the point in their lives where they write for a living. They have other jobs to make ends meet, and they might not have a ton of spare time each day to write. That's where quality over quantity comes in. Sometimes the writing you'll accomplish will feel like neither great nor lengthy, but come back to it another day, change some things, or the whole thing. You might look at it differently tomorrow than you see it today. After all, you're not the same person you were then. A person is constantly changing, being shaped by their experiences, and their writing is shaped by those experiences as well.

My favorite thing to do is sit in a semi-busy public place- think coffee shop atmosphere- and silently observe the people around me. Take inspiration from conversations, from people who come in and leave the place, and just go from there. You can even just sit and write everything that comes to mind. Jot down your random thoughts and ideas, and you can piece them together later. There is no time limit on a piece of writing - aside from deadlines, of course, which I've always tended to struggle with. I'm sure that other writers will agree that we as a whole tend to procrastinate and put things off until the very last minute. I know the majority of my fellow English majors in college would agree that they'd put off the essays until the last minute. It's just a writing thing. We might be concerned with perfection, but other times, the inspiration and ideas are just not there.

But break out of your shell, and go outside - yes, I know, as both a bookworm and writer, that's a difficult task to achieve unless absolutely necessary - and you'll be surprised at what you accomplish.

There is No Secret Tip for Writing a Masterpiece

Is there a secret to success?

In terms of writing, I don't think there is a secret to success. In my opinion, every writer has a unique experience because of their different writing processes, various interests and writing desires, and timeline that they take to write something. Look at the different types of YA novels, and the range of topics there are. It's all about exposure. Depending on who reads it, promotes it, and loves it, your story could float or sink. You could get a story published and it won't be popular for a while.

Sometimes, pieces of writing don't become popular until after a writer's death. Look at the classics, and the greats that have written them. Some people get lucky, by having their writing be read by the right people at the right time.

It can be discouraging to see other writers getting books published, and making money by writing. But remember that getting published is a process. It may take longer than you think. Even being noticed may not happen like you imagine.

The time will give you time to craft your masterpiece. Of course, writers are ALWAYS proud of the work that they produce. Except when they're not. It's stressful and frustrating sometimes, because a writer will have an idea, and only be able to jot some of it down, because they're working, or driving, or doing something else that prevents them from doing what they love.

If writers had their way, they would be able to write all day, every day, without interruption. But sometimes, distractions help and inspire great pieces of a story. Writing an entire novel in one sitting just isn't realistic. Piece by piece, words are strung into sentences, sentences into chapters, and chapters into sections or parts, that make up a story within a novel. It's amazing to think that the words on the pages in a book were once mere thoughts of the author or authors who wrote it. The fascinating transition is getting them down into a notebook, and then typed up in a first version, or second, third - or however many it takes - before it is edited into its final version.

Walking away from the notebook or computer is necessary to clear a writer's head. Stopping and starting when you're not getting inspiration may be the path to continued success, but the key doesn't exist. There isn't a key, because the process of writing can be very different for every writer. Learning to work with the way that you write is helpful to keep yourself making progress on a piece or multiple pieces of writing at a time.

Be patient. You will write your masterpiece in time.

Tips for Dealing with Writer's Block

It's not news that writers often experience writer's block. Any writer will know how it feels to be completely blank, or to have tons of ideas that you hate and inspire nothing creative. But nothing today can inspire something tomorrow.

Writer's block can be so discouraging. It feels like failure, like you weren't able to come up with anything worth sharing with anyone. But writers also know that it doesn't last forever.

Here are some tips to avoid writer's block, or at least distract your brain from imploding with frustration at not being able to write new content, stories, poems, articles, or any other form of writing that you enjoy.

* Reread pieces of writing that you've written in the past. Inspiration is bound to be sparked by your brilliance of the past. At the very least, you'll be reminded of the success you've had before.

* Get some fresh air. Bring a notepad and pen, or your phone. Or both. A phone can die, but a notepad full of writing is forever. Staying inside all day will hinder productivity. The great outdoors can produce some really great writing.

* Read books. It doesn't matter if you read one page or one hundred, you'll learn about another person's writing. You can see the way they construct their sentences, and the way they weave in dialogue — or don't. Read some more. You'll find yourself yearning to create.

* Brainstorm. Yes. I consider it the evil of writing. When I brainstorm, I end up having ideas, but then wanting to expand too much on one or two, and being distracted by that desire to expand, and I forget to add to my list. Or I forego list making and decide to focus on one idea I had.

* Just write. Anything that comes to mind. Yes, this part is like brainstorming, except you should actually free write. Every word you think. You can try and make sense of it later. You can always edit later —this is what I struggle with— and rearrange, erase, and fix things later. Don't worry about it, now, just write.

You'll be surprised at what you discover about your own writing and your ability to accomplish your writing goals.

Happy writing!

Writers are an interesting bunch...

In the world of writing, the possibilities are endless. One would think that this makes writing easier. But that is not always the case. Having so many options can make writing so much more difficult.

Writing is magical. Think about all of the books you've ever read, and think about how many of them have impacted your life, whether the impact was positive or negative. You can probably name at least one of two that have had the strongest impact on your life. That is powerful. Writing can have a great effect on the lives of people everywhere. But that impact starts with writers - who have been shaped by other writers who have come before them.

Writers are interesting.

One of the worst things about being a writer is having too many thoughts pop into your head at once. Whether you're talking characters for a story, article ideas, or lines for a poem (or five), occassionally, everything will spring into your mind at one time. You'll be overwhelmed and surprised at the amount of creativity you have.

Or you'll have nothing. The saying "I've got nothing"? That happens. Too frequently for my liking. Your mind will be blank, barren of ideas or concepts, or seemingly even knowledge. For the moment, at least.

They'll think. And think. And then think some more. They'll probably get frustrated. I think all writers are blessed - er, sometimes cursed - with the ability to think about things, and analyze them. We're scientists of words. We'll take a paragraph and dissect it until we aren't sure that we know the meaning anymore because we've thought about it so much.

Sometimes this will make a writer over think the simplest things. They will begin to form habits of picking apart responses from anyone we encounter. Sometimes this comes off as us overreacting. Please excuse the writers in your life for this. It's something we wish we could turn off sometimes. It's tiring having to explain ourselves, and impossible to change how we think.

We try to explain through our writing - or we don't. Some of us write to tell our secrets, some of us tell to avoid them. We write to heal, to vent, to understand.

But one thing is constant - our love of writing. Conveying our thoughts, passions, fears, struggles, accomplishments, and dreams into words is our goal. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.

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