Stories to tell 3

I'm not a writer because I love to write.  I don't always love writing. I avoid it sometimes.  I even wash the dishes sometimes instead of writing.  Some days it not only doesn't come easy, it doesn't come at all, and I have to write "I don't know what to write" over and over in my notebook just to get a few hundred words to finally trickle out.

Some days the writing does come easy.  The words fly onto the page, and I look back and really like what I wrote.  I love the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment I get from a good writing session. That's still not why I'm a writer.

I am a writer because I have stories to tell.  There are stories inside me all the time, some half-formed, some less clear than that.  But it's constant.  I am flooded with story ideas and fragments and whole stories, all the time.  I need to tell them.

I think this is why most writers write, but I think it can be hard to let this be our reason. There's a lot of talk out there about your passion--living your passion, finding joy in your work (I'm sure there are hundreds of other phrases like this, but you get the idea).  We think we have to be constantly on fire about our writing, in love with it, living for it.

I bought into all these ideas about finding my passion, and when I didn't love writing I thought I was wrong about being a writer.  I thought I had to love writing or else I wasn't really a writer and was doing the wrong thing.

That is not true.  I am a writer.  You are a writer.  We might love writing, we might not; that might change every day.  We are not writers because we love writing. We are writers because we have stories to tell.
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3

Your Way

Since shifting to focusing on writers and writing, I've been taking things pretty slow around here.  I'm still getting a feel for how my love of writing and love/obsession with story structure and writing methods and all the nuts-and-bolts stuff will come together to make things better for myself and other writers.

To help with that, I've jumped in on ProBlogger's 31 Days to a Better Blog.  I've signed up before but didn't do much, but this time it's being done as a podcast, so I'm listening in the car.  So much easier to keep up with it this way!  I tell everyone else but forget for myself: Make it easy.  This will make it easy for me to gather my thoughts and share them here more regularly.

But back to the topic.  What is this thing, or what do I do around this place?

Your story, your way.  Your writing life, your way.  That's what MuseCraft is all about.  I'm here to guide writers to create their perfect writing lives and write their stories their way.  There is no one true way.  There's only your way.

That's what I'm here for.  So what can I do to help you and your writing dreams?

 

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2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Do you take writing classes?  Do you do exercises or tutorials from books and websites?

If you've been around the writing life for a while it might seem like you've found all the information you really need.  It might feel like a class on dialogue or setting is just going to be repetition of things you've already heard.  A class on basic creative writing?  You're so far beyond that!

Or maybe not.  Taking classes isn't all about learning something new (although that's great, too, so do if if you can).  It's about immersing yourself in your writing.  It's about setting aside time and attention solely for your writing.  It's about getting focused, maybe hearing a new take on an old subject, and building connections with fellow writers.

Why Take Classes:

  • External deadlines--class assignments will help keep you moving forward
  • Community--you'll meet other writers, including the teacher, either in person or virtually, and being around other writers is great for motivation
  • Focus--when you've paid for a class, you're more likely to actually put in the time and focus on your writing, at least during the duration of the course
  • Fresh ideas--you can always learn new things, even about something you already know a lot about; classes will let you hear ideas from others and maybe spark new ideas of your own

Why Use Tutorials and Exercises:

  • New ideas--someone else's questions may spark new ideas in you
  • Break through a block--questions and exercises can give you an entry point into your writing that can help you get past the blank page
  • New understanding--someone else's phrasing of something you already know can give you clearer understanding of the subject
  • Build a cushion--doing exercises can help you build up a stash of story ideas, story starters, scenes, and dialogue for later use which is especially helpful when you feel stuck

Obviously I'm a fan of taking classes to keep your writing flowing.  It's a great way to keep connected to your writing and to the writing community.  And tutorials, exercises, etc. are a great way to get your brain out of your personal grooves and into different thought patterns. So, especially if you're feeling stuck or sluggish in your writing lately, try out a class and see if it gets things going again. I think it will be worth your time.

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2

Ladder

I have been procrastinating on writing a new blog post.  You probably noticed that by the whole month that's passed since the last post.  I've been contemplating some big, exciting changes in the website and my coaching, but I wasn't entirely sure how to get started, so I just kept putting off writing about.

Basically the shift is going to be a shift in focus from creativity in general to topics about writers and writing and the writing life.  I'm sure I'll still throw in some posts about my other creative projects now and then; it's not like I'm going to stop painting, art journaling, taking photos, all of that because I'm shifting my online focus.  Most of that sharing will happen on Instagram and Twitter now, though, so if you like to see what I'm making you might want to follow me there. Just be aware that there will also be lots of pictures of my cats, because they're adorable!

So back to MuseCraft™.  If you don't consider yourself a writer, you might still want to stick around.  I think writing is for everyone, and I'll probably talk about that fairly often.  Think about it.  Do you blog? Post on Facebook?  Keep a journal?  You're writing.  Might as well figure out how to do it the best way for you, make it easy, have some fun.  And I think it's important for everyone to at least try out some forms of journaling, if only to stretch themselves and their limits and see how it feels, so I'll be talking about that, too.

I'll be writing a lot about journaling and writing practice because I think they are important for every creative.  I'll also be writing about things like plotting and story structure, classes and workshops and books I run across, and things like that.  And I'm sure I'll be broadening these categories and adding to them as I go along.  For now, just know that there's going to be a shift, but I hope you'll stick with me for the next phase.

 

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2

Red Doors 01
An easy entrance

Life is busy.  Sometimes, it feels really hard because there's always so much to do. And then we want to write books or paint pictures or create things on top of everything else! We have to figure out a way to fit it in, and when we do that, then comes the really hard part. We have to get started!

Is getting started really the hardest thing, though? A lot of us have it in our heads that starting is hard (I know I do). I've heard the phrase "getting started is the hardest part" so many times, about so many things--diet, exercise, writing, pretty much everything I might actually want to do--that it's kind of ingrained as truth now.

We've been brainwashed into thinking starting is hard, but it might not actually be so hard after all.  Especially if we go out of our way to make it a little bit easier.

If you have a tough time getting started on projects, make a decision that you're going to do everything you can to make this project easy.  Deciding up front that it's going to be an easy project, and reminding yourself as you go that this is going to be a smooth-sailing, easy thing, can change how you perceive your project.  Deciding that it's going to be easy can make it feel easier.

But back to getting started.  A lot of projects seem to have a natural starting place--chapter one, the first quilting stitches, the first strokes of paint on canvas.  These are where we begin, right? But do we have to?

Instead of beginning in what seems like the one-and-only starting place, look for easy entries into what you want to do:

  • Want to write an article?  Make a quick list of things you want to put in.
  • Want to create an outline for your novel?  Set up the document first before deciding anything else.
  • Want to paint a picture?  Set out your canvas and brushes and paints (or, if that's a lot right now, just set out your canvas and save the brushes and paints for later).

Then walk away.  Save the list or the outline document.  Tighten the paint caps.  Leave.  You have started.  And it was easy, right?

Now, keep doing things this way.  Every time you're going to work on your project, look for what feels easiest to do.  Every time you sit down to work, ask yourself "what can I do to make this easy?"  The easy thing might be the next part in the work, or it might be something that you would normally think of doing later in the process.  Go by what feels easy and doable, not what "should" come next.

Creativity doesn't have to be hard work.  It's okay for things to be easy whenever you can make them that way.  Your work won't suffer from making it easier, and you'll enjoy it more if it's not a struggle.  Give yourself a break.  Take the easy way.

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8

I imagine retreats recharging me and giving me lots of time to dream.
I imagine retreats recharging me and giving me lots of time to dream.

I've been thinking about retreats a lot lately.  I've never been on a big group one, although there are some I would love to go on and will get to someday.  But I've been thinking about what I'd like in a retreat, why I want to go on one.  I'd like to host some.  Some one-day retreats, some weekend retreats.  Maybe at some point a whole week retreat.

As I'm dreaming about retreats and brainstorming hosting some of my own, I'm wondering about what the rest of you might like, might be interested in, etc.  So, if you don't mind, would you take a moment to answer a few questions? I'll keep you posted on what I come up with after getting some feedback. Thanks!

If you were going on a creative or writing retreat, how long would you want it to be?

Why would you like to go on a creative or writing retreat?

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6

Writer. Artist. Painter. Photographer.

I am

What makes you feel like that, like the thing you want to be?

The usual response to this is: If you want to be a writer, write, then you're a writer.  (Same holds true for painting, photography, etc. I'm just going to use "writer" as my example here.)  This is good advice.  Writers write, so to be a writer, you should write.

I think there's more to it, though.  Doing the work will help you feel like what you want to be, but there are things that you can do and be part of that can maginify that belief in yourself. Sometimes you have experiences that plunge you deep into that I AM feeling.  It may be for just a moment, but for that little space of time you feel your writerliness down to your bones.

One of these experiences happened for me several years ago.  I had the wonderful good fortune to get in on a writing workshop led by Charles de Lint, my favorite author.  It was a small workshop, only fifteen of us.  And we sat at a table all together and talked about writing and fantasy stories and characters, and later we talked about the business of being a writer.  And we spent some time writing and then read our works aloud and Mr. de Lint gave us feedback.  And I floated out of there on a cloud, and I knew-- KNEW --that I am a writer.  I felt it!   I lose that feeling sometimes, but remembering this experience helps me bring it back.

Other things that help me grab hold of that feeling--writing in a coffee shop (actually writing, especially on a story, and not just free writing and not planning or character work or any of that); attending writing conferences; talking shop (plotting, characters, all of that) with a small group of active writers.

So my recommendation?  Do your thing, of course.  Write, paint, shoot, bake, knit, whatever it is.  But also seek out experiences that feel to you like what a "real" writer would do, and do as many of those things as you can.  Build up that feeling in yourself of I AM.  Carry it with you to help you ride through the dry spells that come to all of us.  Take it out into the world and let everyone know what you are.

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6

Fireworks Behind Tree
Happy New Year!  Yes, I know we're almost two weeks into it.  That's okay--it's still pretty new.  And I've been getting things in order in my house (seriously, where's that robot maid?) and in my planning.  And now I'm finally feeling together enough to write something up and really get this year rolling.

What do you do for the new year? Do you make resolutions?  Pick a word for the year?  Skip all of that?

I skip over the resolutions for the most part.  For one thing, I'm always making plans, tweaking them, setting new goals.  Resolutions just feel redundant.  The past couple of years, though, I have been setting experience goals.  In 2013 it was to try a new restaurant every month.  That one was great fun, and we found a couple of favorite spots that way.  Last year the goal was to try at least one new recipe a month, and that was a pretty big success, too, even though I wasn't as on top of keeping a list of what I tried so some of the recipes are off in the ether somewhere.  This year, I'm going to go on a photo walk every month. I love doing them, yet I hardly ever make the time.  I'm going to go someplace new each month and take photos (I may allow myself to include a couple of favorite spots I haven't been to in years because it's been so long that they're practically new).

Now about that word.  I tried it out several years ago when doing it became really popular.  I loved the idea of it!  I picked a word, wrote it in my journal, forgot about it by January 3.  A couple of years later I decided that the problem was that I didn't have any reminders of my word, so I decided to create these fun prayer flags.  I picked three words for that year and made flags for each one.  I hung them in my study, and occasionally I remembered to pay attention to them, but the exercise still seemed pretty pointless to me.  I quit doing the word-of-the-year for a couple of years.  But so many people I really like and respect were doing this word-of-the-year thing that I wanted to give it another go.  I knew, though,  that I needed to do something to keep my word fresh in my mind so it could actually be a guiding light, so I held off until I could figure out something that felt like it would work.

This was four (I think?) years ago.  At the same time as deciding to give the yearly word another go, I got an UnCalendar.  And a great idea was born.  Every week before I fill out plans and dates for the week, I write my word at the top of the left-hand page.  It makes me focus on my word each week if even for a moment, plus it keeps the word right there in front of me every time I open my calendar.  I won't say that I live by my words constantly, but writing it and seeing it every week does help me keep it in mind and make some decisions with that feeling in mind.

This year my word is "expansive."  I have "devotion" and "bigness" alongside it to keep it company, just to see if having multiple words changes anything for me.  This word, this idea of expansiveness, feels huge to me.  It feels like a stretch.  It feels a little scary and like living an expansive life might be something I don't know how to do.  It's a good word.

Mostly the things I do to set up the new year are designed to give me a feeling of possibilities, fun, and a clean slate.  I think those are great things to start a year with and much lighter than resolutions and plans to give things up and all that.

And you? What are you doing? How are you starting this new year?  I'd love to hear all about it.

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December Views

I've been kind of quiet these past couple of weeks (although I've been blogging a bit on my personal writing website, Mythic Writers).  Things are a little rough right now.  This will be my first Christmas without my mother, and she loved Christmas so much.  Everything is reminding me of her, especially since this week we just moved the big pieces of furniture we brought from her place into our house.

Mostly I've been keeping in touch with my creativity through photography, taking pics throughout each week of the ordinary yet beautiful things around me (I'll be doing a write-up and sharing lots more photos than the three above in my December newsletter--you can sign up for it there in the sidebar).  I've also been getting some things ready to introduce to the world in the first few months of 2015:

  • Your Writer's Path: A Personal Guide to Writing Your Story Your Way-this one will be a monthly coaching for writers to help them tell the stories they want to share with the world
  • Muse Moon--this will be a monthly art journaling and written meditation on the creative aspects of each full moon
  • Flash Journaling--this is a quick and fun art journaling + writing technique that helps you get thoughts down in small amounts of time and space
  • Aristotle's Plot--this is a story-planning mini class based mostly on Aristotle's Incline

There are a few more things stirring around, but these are the first ones I'm going to dive into.  A couple of them might have their own mailing lists, so I'll get the sign-up forms ready for you in the next couple of weeks.

I will probably be quiet again here for the next couple of weeks, although I'm going to try to prepare some rerun posts to share while I'm hibernating.  I will be sharing a write-up of my new planner I'm putting together, though, so if you're into planners and journals and art and office supplies, stay tuned.  This is going to be so cool!

See you next time!

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2

Things have been kind of busy around here what with the holidays coming up (Thanksgiving is already over!), the end of the year racing toward us, and lots of planning going on for noveling and coaching and classes.  I haven't had nearly as much time as I'd like for creative projects outside of novel outlining, but I know keeping my hand in the creative ring is really important for my general outlook on life.  So while I'm busy with a lot of in-my-head stuff right now, I've been making a point to do some photography.  Lucky for me, Mother Nature has really been helping out with this fantastic, constantly changing fairy ring right next to where I park my car at work.

Mushrooms 1

Mushrooms 2

Mushrooms 4

Mushrooms 5

Mushrooms 6

What about you?  What do you do when you are busy but want to keep your hand in the creative game?  Leave a note and let us know--we all like to add ideas to our stash.

 

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