10 Creative Ways to Keep Moving Forward During Nanowrimo

We’ve all had that dream: it’s an important day and you show up totally unprepared and, probably, naked. For writers who take the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge, this most commonly occurs on Day One: you’ve brewed your warm, comforting beverage of choice, assembled your meticulously curated writing playlist, filled the bathroom with catnip and locked the cats inside, and carefully arranged all the implements and tchotchkes on your desk into a pleasing geometric pattern. Then you sit and stare at a blinking cursor and have no idea what to write.

Whether it strikes at the very beginning of a novel or right at a crucial middle part, writer’s block is frustrating and potentially devastating. The most essential tool any author can have is a list of surefire ways of breaking out of its cold, clammy clutches. Here are ten creative ways to smash out of a creative funk.

Read Great Books
Your first step, always, should be to read a few of your favourite books. Since NaNoWriMo goes pretty fast, don’t try to read a whole novel, just skip to your favourite parts. Spending a few minutes with a beloved story usually gets the juices flowing. Alternatively, read a hot new title everyone’s talking about to stoke those fire of jealousy, one of the best motivators known to man.

Get Some Pro Advice
Another approach is to sit down with some of the best writers in history and ask their advice, which you can do by picking up a book like Stephen King’s On Writing or Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Or, depending on your taste in literature, a wilder example:Charles Bukowski’s On Writing, or Ray Bradbury’s Zen In the Art of Writing. You get the idea.

Write About Yourself
A great trick is to start writing about a frustrated writer. Writers as characters can be lazy, yes, but even if it’s a false start that has to be scrapped, writing about your own situation might offer a glimpse of an escape route. And writing about yourself is (usually) easy.

Just Start
Another trick is to simply begin writing without any concern over what the story is, who your characters are, or how in the world you’re going to finish those 50,000 words in thirty days. Just start describing something, or sketching a scene, anything. Just using your fingers and brain to put words on the screen can act like a starter motor, cranking your engine into gear.

Change Your Method
All writers develop a mechanical way of writing: the software used, the specific pen or pencil, the location of their work space. If you’re blocked, try changing things up. Switch to longhand if you work on a computer, or go sit in the garden with a laptop instead of rigidly upright at a desk. A change of mechanics can shock your brain into exploring a new way of working and thinking.

Stop Counting
Sometimes what blocks a writer is the pressure of getting 2,000 words in every day for a month. Try not paying attention to word counts for a week, instead just concentrating on telling a story, and often the pressure relief will un-crimp your creativity. And don’t forget, some incredible novels are less than 50,000 words, The Great Gatsby and Slaughterhouse-Five for example.

Change What You’re Writing
Sometimes writer’s block isn’t some mystery brain injury; sometimes it’s your subconscious trying to tell you you’re headed down the wrong path. Back up to the last major plot decision you made and see if there’s a more interesting choice you missed. Or, while it might break your heart, ask yourself if you should be writing something else entirely.

Read Some History
No novel, no matter how creative, can beat actual events for sheer twists and turns and thrilling drama. If the story won’t come, seed your brain with some of the most interesting (and true) stories ever told. Bonus: reading history trains you in how things actually happen, ramping up your verisimilitude skills.

Change – or Make – the Routine
Some writers like to work randomly, plopping down when the mood strikes and scribbling out a few hundred words here, a few hundred words there. Some go weeks without writing a word, and then hole up in their office for a month straight. As romantic as that sounds, you may work better with a rigid schedule. Try swapping your approach: go random if you normally have a schedule, and treat it like a job if you’re normally a random.

Feed Your Senses
Taking breaks is one of the most powerful tools a writer can use. Sometimes that panic over lost time is what’s blocking you in the first place. Take an hour and listen to some great music, or eat something delicious, or go for a walk in a beautiful spot. Feeding the senses stimulates creativity – think of Proust and the Madeleine!

Good luck, and keep writing – you are almost there!

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Via: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/ten-creative-ways-to-bust-out-of-your-writers-block-for-nanowrimo/

How to Handle Criticism of Your Writing

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If you are a writer, you will know that it already takes a brave individual to share themselves in such a vulnerable way. Writing is very personal, and so when a writer’s work is criticised, it feels very personal. Unfortunately, the world is not always that kind. So, here are some tips to help you deal with criticism as a writer:

It’s not personal

As I said above, when someone criticises your writing, it might feel like a personal attack, but it is not. At the end of the day, you need to keep in mind that it is not about you, but rather about the piece of work that you have produced.

Perhaps they don’t fully understand or appreciate what you are saying. Maybe they hold a different opinion, or would have gone about it in a different way. Whatever it is, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, so try not to take it to heart.

If you are feeling brave, engage in a discussion about what it was they didn’t like. Get some in depth feedback, then you can choose what to take on board and what to ignore. And if all else fails, pretend it never happened and move on.

Grow from it

Nobody likes to be criticised because it makes us feel inadequate. The thing is, none of us are perfect, and even the best writers have flaws. Criticism is part of life, and it is better to deal with it early on.

If you feel that the criticism you received is unfair, you can always take on your critic. Try to explain what you meant and where you were coming from. Bear in mind that this isn’t always productive. Sometimes it’s better to just ignore it and move on.

The way we handle other peoples’ negative opinions is going to determine if we grow or stagnate. Perhaps the criticism is an opportunity to improve and get better at your art. There is nothing wrong with getting help if you need it, whether online or asking a friend. All you are doing is improving your writing skills, and no one can criticise you for that.

More than one writing project

As a writer, you probably have more than one project going on at the same time. So if one seems not to be going to plan, put it on the shelf for a while and work on something else.

I am not saying that you should give up on any of your projects, but sometimes it is just one piece of writing that might need more work, and if it’s not going well it might start to get you down. So take a break and do something else you enjoy.

You are not defined by one manuscript or article. You want to make sure that you don’t pour all your energy into one project and let that define you. There is more to you and a lot more that can be done. So even if one of your projects fail, at least you know that you are already working on something else. Keep the faith.

Go with your gut

Sometimes people with no knowledge of writing want to give you their opinions. There comes a time where you have to start believing in your abilities and take these comments with a grain of salt.

Not every negative opinion is correct, and you might just have to leave things as they are. Be careful who you listen to. I would much rather take criticism from people in the industry, than from someone with no writing experience.

That said, even if your editor tells you that your writing is not up to scratch, you need to be willing to fight for what you believe in. There is nothing wrong with you trusting your work above the opinions of others. In fact, that shows that you are evolving and trusting in your skills.

If the criticism is constructive and you agree, go with it. If not, get more information and stick to what your gut is telling you.

Acceptance

There are moments when the criticism you receive is valid, and you just need to accept it. After accepting that you are a human being that makes mistakes, you then need to move on.

This moment does not define who you are or what type of writer you are. As long as you are growing through the process, it is all worth it. Allow yourself to make mistakes and do not beat yourself up about it.

Many writers struggle to get their work published, but they did not let one ‘no’ stop them from pursuing their goals. And every writer gets the odd bad review. You are going to have to grow a tough skin and understand that this is part of the job.

It doesn’t mean that you are a bad writer, but rather that you are still learning and growing. If the critic is correct in what they have to say, or if they have a different opinion, you should just accept it and move right on.

Conclusion

Being a writer is all about discovering who you are through your thoughts and written work. There is no end to this journey, and just like we evolve as people, we evolve in our writing skills.

Using online tools like a grammar checker does not mean that you are not good enough. It simply means that you are using everything available to you in order to learn and succeed.

Hold on to your goals and dreams and do not let one bad comment move you away from the path you are on. There will always be bumps in the road, but you need to get right back up and keep moving forward.

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Via: https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/how-to-handle-online-criticism-of-your-writing

8 Best-Sellers Started During National Novel Writing Month

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If you are doing NaNoWriMo, you will know by now that just getting it done is a challenge. So in order to provide you with some inspiration to keep going, here are 8 bestsellers that started out as NaNoWriMo projects.

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. Yes, the book that was on the best-seller lists for over a year, that was so popular that you read it in three different book clubs, and was turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, started as a NaNo novel. This book is easily one of the biggest NaNoWriMo success stories, except for maybe…

The Night Circusby Erin Morgenstern. The buzz for this best seller was everywhere in 2011, and judging by its rapturous reviews and strong sales (not to mention the fact that the movie rights were snapped up by the producers of the Harry Potter films), the hype was warranted. Not bad for something that began as 50,000 words of unconnected scenes and imagery. What eventually became The Night Circus began life in 2004, seven years before it was finally published.

Fangirlby Rainbow Rowell. Granted, Rowell had already published her first novel, Attachments, and sold her second, Eleanor & Park, when she sat down to write Fangirl in 2011. And though the book ended up being double the 50,000-word monthly goal, she credits the exercise for forcing her to dive into the world of her story and characters like never before, producing “some of the bravest writing” she’s ever done.

Woolby Hugh Howey. Howey’s dystopian sci-fi novel is one of those credited with putting self-publishing on the map: after selling tens of thousands of ebooks directly to readers, he signed a six-figure deal with a major publisher. Wool was originally issued as five separate novellas; Howey wrote three of them (and even published one!) in November 2011.

The Darwin Elevator, by Jason M. Hough. Hough’s first NaNoWriMo attempt resulted in a 50,280-word novel that “fell apart” after one good chapter. His second eventually became a New York Times best seller, the first in a trilogy of sci-fi thrillers that has earned the author comparisons to recent Hugo Award–winner John Scalzi.

CinderScarlet, and Cress by Marissa Meyer. Each of the three books in Meyer’s successful YA series of futuristic reimaginings of classic fairytales began as NaNoWriMo projects. How’s that for consistency?

Hopefully, proof that all your pain can amount to something positive will have reignited those burning desires that got you taking part in the madness in the first place. Now, back to the writing desk with you!

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Via: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/8-best-sellers-started-during-national-novel-writing-month/

10 Writing Strategies Any Writer Can Use For NaNoWriMo

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Tackling NaNoWriMo, but feel as though you need all the help you can get? I’ve got 10 winning NaNoWriMo strategies that any writer can use to make it to their 50,000-word goal. Even if you’ve never even heard of NaNoWriMo until right at this moment, I’ve got you covered.

Every November, hundreds of thousands of people across the globe buckle down to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. What began as a writing contest between friends has grown into a huge non-profit organization that provides creative-writing materials to schools and libraries around the U.S. In addition to its flagship event, NaNoWriMo now hosts Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July, which offer participants more flexibility than the November session.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: NaNoWriMo is not easy. Fifty-thousand words may not seem like a lot, but squeezing it into 30 days can be a nightmare if you’re not prepared to take on this particular beast. At the end of the month, your manuscript may look nothing like a bestseller, but you should at least have a firm foundation on which you can build your dream novel.

Here are 10 winning NaNoWriMo strategies to help you reach your target:

1. Accept That Your Manuscript Will Not Be Perfect

NaNoWriMo manuscripts have a lot of… potential. At 50,000 words, your novel will probably still need roughly 30,000 words, at the very least, to make it marketable to literary agents. It will be a whole lotta rough, with a few diamonds buried deep inside it, and you will still have weeks of editing and re-writing and re-editing ahead of you.

Don’t get discouraged by this. Just accept it as part of the process and keep moving forward. Your novel won’t be pretty when these 30 days are up, but that’s no reason to give up on it. Just remember that this is the worst your manuscript will ever be, and keep writing.

2. Block Out Your Time

You have more free time than you think you do! You just have to find your writing time and commit to it.

I like to use a calendar to block out my time for the week in 30-minute increments. Black out your work hours, mealtimes, and any other commitments you have, and you’ll see what kind of time you have left to work with.

Pro tip: Leave yourself a few hours of free time each day, so that you can veg out if you need to, and also so that you can work for longer on your NaNoWriMo manuscript on the days that you’re really feeling it.

3. Turn Off Your Internet

Believe me, I know how hard this is. Turning off your Internet makes about as much sense as shutting off your water or electricity. If you can’t turn off your Internet entirely, there are plenty of less extreme options that will have the same effect.

App-blockers, such as Freedom and SelfControl prevent you from accessing your favourite time-wasters during your writing periods. For $20, you can download Write or Die 2: a unique word processor that forces you to keep writing – or else.

For those of you who cannot be trusted with a computer or Internet-connected device at all, there are still distraction-free ways of getting your NaNoWriMo manuscript written. Lifehacker recommends purchasing an old word processor off the Internet, because its drawbacks, such as only displaying four lines at a time keep you focused on writing instead of editing (see Point No. 1 above). If you want a sleeker, more expensive experience, the Freewrite smart typewriter may be the word processor for you.

Of course, there’s also nothing wrong with good old fashioned pen and paper…

4. Take Your Manuscript With You Everywhere

I’m sure plenty of writers out there recognise this struggle: You sit down to work on your manuscript, but find yourself so easily distracted that you decide you cannot work until the dishes/laundry/dinner/taxes are done. But the next day, when you’re faced with an hour-long wait without your laptop, you’re chomping at the bit to get back to writing.

We’ll tackle the problem of environmental distractions in Point No. 9 below, but for now, let’s focus on ways that you can take your manuscript with you everywhere, so that an unexpected wait doesn’t derail your writing plans.

If you purchase a word processor or use pen and paper, you’re already good to go. Just make sure to take your novel-writing tools along with you wherever you may roam.

Don’t like those options? You should already be in the habit of backing up your novel on a flash drive that’s kept in a safe place, but having a duplicate drive that you carry on your person will allow you to work on your manuscript in any Internet cafés or computer labs you may pass. You might also consider using Google Docs or Dropbox instead of Microsoft Word, as Docs are accessible from any Internet-connected device, and can be exported as .PDFs and .DOC files.

5. Plot, or Not

NaNoWriMo divides writers into two categories, Plotters and Pantsers, but there’s a wide spectrum between the two. Plotters plan out as much of their novel as possible before NaNoWriMo begins, in the hopes that all their planning will prevent writer’s block and keep them motivated to finish.

Pantsers, on the other hand, fly into NaNoWriMo by the seat of their pants. They might have some idea of what they intend to write about, such a genre they wish to write, the specter of a main character, a vibrant snapshot of a particular scene, or even a loose concept of what will happen over the course of their story, but they haven’t outlined their novel or written extensive character profiles.

First-time Wrimos, you may not know which of the two you are, and that’s OK. Neither of these approaches is wrong. Every writer works differently, and some authors straddle the line between plotting and pantsing.

If you have some time before NaNoWriMo begins, it never hurts to come up with at least a general concept for your novel, but please don’t let time constraints or pre-writing block prevent you from participating. The NaNoWriMo message boards have lots of resources and support for Pantser success, so there’s no harm in simply diving in headfirst.

6. Try to Hit Higher Than Your Daily Word Count Goal

In order to reach your 50,000-word goal in 30 days, you need to write 1,667 words per day, or about seven pages. This may or may not sound like a daunting task, depending on your past writing experiences, but I will tell you that it’s quite difficult to keep up your 1,667-word habit every single day for 30 days straight. Things happen: people get sick, cats need to be fed, work days run long. Most NaNoWriMo participants will find themselves falling behind their daily targets at some point during the month.

The easiest way to fight back against that word-count behemoth is to try to write more than your daily goal as often as possible. Some people like to crank out 10,000 words on their first day, just to get ahead of the curve. If you can keep up that pace, you can defeat the NaNoWriMo behemoth in a week or less. Even if you can’t, those extra words will come in handy when something inevitably disrupts your writing flow later in the month.

7. Try New Things

You already know that your NaNoWriMo draft is going to be crappy, so why not try new things this month? You could throw in an experimental chapter, write meta-fiction, even construct your entire novel based on suggestions from writing prompt Twitter bots or TV Tropes’ “Random Trope” button. Seriously, spend a month playing in the big writing sandbox, and tell me you don’t feel better about your skills as a writer.

8. Participate in Every NaNoWriMo Event You Can

The next 30 days will be stuffed full of fun writing events to keep you on-track and entertained. NaNoWriMo hosts virtual write-ins and writing sprints for its worldwide community of writers, and you can also connect with liaisons in your area to find IRL meetups. Participate in any and all of these that you can. You’ll make new writing friends to keep you accountable, and you’ll have an incentive to write hard for the duration of every event.

9. Make Your Writing Space Livable … or Livewithable

There’s nothing worse than sitting down to write and realising that something, anything, isn’t right in your environment. Even the most laid-back writers find their sessions derailed by little nuisances.

Make your writing space comfortable ASAP, but don’t let the pursuit of the perfect writing space prevent you from churning out your 50,000 words! The goal is to make your dedicated writing area livewithable. If you can live – and write – without vacuuming/organising/refinishing, then do so!

So clean out the cobwebs, dust the shelves, set your light levels and speaker volume, and for the love of all that is decent and holy, make sure your coffee mug is clean, because you need to be writing, not keeping house, for the next 30 days.

10. When All Else Fails, Use Chandler’s Law

Raymond Chandler, the author of The Big Sleep, famously said of writing: “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” That’s Chandler’s Law, and you should never forget it.

These days, it might seem a little corny to have someone randomly appear, brandishing a firearm, especially if you’re writing high fantasy, or historical fiction of a certain age. But here’s the thing: There’s no way to get stuck when you’ve pulled out this card; having a man rush in with a gun forces you to keep writing. Use it as often as you like, because this is NaNoWriMo, and it should be fun.

Best of luck!

Via: https://www.bustle.com/10-writing-strategies-any-writer-can-use-nanowrimo

Top Tips For Authors To Overcome Writer’s Block

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Anytime you sit down at the keyboard to punch out a few lines on your next project; there is always the risk that you cannot find the right groove or inspiration. The more you struggle to get the words out, the more frustrating and challenging it can become. Minutes turn to hours, and hours to days, and still nothing.

Writer’s block is not a unique situation; every writer, no matter how skilled and accomplished, will find times when inspiration seems lost. One of the tricks to being a successful writer is knowing where to look to get back that inspiration.

Finding the inspiration for writing is possible. Let’s take a look at some tips to overcome writer’s block:

1. Change of scenery

Start with something simple. Sometimes it is just about getting away from your desk and having a change of scenery. Go out into nature, take a walk. This action will help you relax, and a relaxed mind can more easily come up with cohesive thoughts and better sentences than a tense mind.

2. Passion

Identify what you are personally passionate about. Is there an issue in which you are primarily interested? Your interests may resonate with others, which would give you a willing audience wanting to read more on the topic.

From your passions, you may glean an outline for a book and begin to flesh it out the more you think about it. From your desires, a book may take seed and blossom.

3. Fresh & Unique

Search beyond what is considered conventional. Your next book should be filled with new ideas, something unique and exciting. Publishers look for book outlines that are out of the box, a book with a unique presentation or discussion. Try and be fresh.

4. Special Features

Look at the books of some of your favourite authors. Do they use a particular technique or feature you can emulate with your topic? What was it about those books that drew you in and begged you to read?

5. New Impressions

Maybe you need a new perspective. Do something new to jostle your thought process. Try something extreme such as skydiving or scuba diving; if that’s a bit too out there for you, go hiking or finally visit that odd restaurant with a different ethnic cuisine. New impressions and perspectives always have an effect on inspiration.

6. Freewriting

Freewriting is writing about a certain topic for 10-15 minutes, and can be used as a way to find a breakthrough in writer’s block. It is intended to get your thoughts flowing freely. You start with a prompt that could be an emotion, a place, or an experience.

Take that prompt and write about it for a short period. It is suggested to do this on a regular basis just to keep you thinking and writing and growing. An excellent example of the freewriting technique can be found here on wikiHow.

7. Interviews

Talking with a friend may sometimes help you identify a topic or area that is ready for you to explore and write. You can brainstorm. Discuss ideas with friends and try to imagine a storyline or plot for your new book. Your friends may have suggestions for you. It might be something you cannot see for yourself. Good friends are hard to find, so if you have one or two, trust their judgment.

There may be a subject matter expert in your region whom you could interview on the topic you have identified. Collect all the information you gain from these interviews. Organise the thoughts and ideas to determine if there is anything worth including in your new book.

8. Professional Help

If you have your topic but just cannot get the words to flow, you may need help from a writing professional. It is not about someone else writing the whole book, but it could be they give you some ideas on one particular topic which would be just enough to get the juices of your brain flowing to take over the project.

9. Inspiration from Other Writers

Sometimes it is beneficial to revisit the work of other successful writers. More than likely, great authors have gone through dry spells just as you have and can offer a nugget of wisdom to point you in the right direction. A great place to start is by looking up some of their great quotes about writing.

10. Sleep

One of the age-old suggestions for many crossroads in life is to sleep on it. That can be true with writing. You may have a few thoughts or ideas that just won’t gel. Maybe sleeping on it will be helpful.

As you go to bed thinking of your book and the ideas surrounding it you may have dreams that give you the inspiration you need.

Conclusion

Be reassured, writer’s block will not last forever. Certainly, it can be frustrating while you are in the middle of it. But by putting into practice some of the suggestions above, you will change your focus from writer’s block and put it back into writing. Just that movement alone could do the trick.

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Via: https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/finding-inspiration-for-writing-a-bestseller

How to Overcome the Fear of Sharing Your Writing

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Keeping with the theme of fear, and overcoming it, here is some more great advice from blogger Leo Babauta for getting to grips with sharing your writing with the world, whether that’s blogging, writing short stories for magazines, or novel writing.

You’d think that after eight years of public blogging and writing books, I’d be completely free of fear when it comes to putting my writing out in public. You would, of course, be wrong. Hitting “publish” still makes me nervous.

I still get little shivers of nervousness when I hit the “Publish” button on any post, and bigger fears still when I publish a print book or ebook. Writing in public is like speaking in public, if you’re doing it right. You’re baring your soul for all to judge, and there are few things as scary as that. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not only doable, it’s worth the effort to overcome that fear.

I’ve had several people write to me recently asking me about their fears about writing their blog. One person said they deleted their blog because they thought what they’d written was too lame. She said, “I thought it would be great if you could share how to put yourself out there in public and not worry about it.”

Well, I wish I could share the secret to not worrying about putting your writing in public, but I don’t think it exists. It’s scary as hell.

And yet I manage to do it nearly daily. Here’s how:

Write for One Person

You may have heard this advice before from more than one author. It’s impossible to write for thousands of people at once – that’s like trying to have a conversation with a stadium full of people. Who are you addressing? What tone do you use? What do they care about? So instead I follow Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to write for one reader (for him it was his sister). For me, it’s often different people I care about (my wife, one of my kids, a sister, a friend, a specific reader with a problem). I try to write like I’m talking directly to them, and though I change the style a bit to fit my blog’s style, that’s what I have in mind as I write. This has the added benefit of not being as scary – you’re just talking to one person.

Start with a Tiny Audience

When I started my site Zen Habits, my only readers were my mom and my wife (thanks you guys!). It wasn’t too scary to write for them. Then I got a few more readers, but by then my comfort level grew and the fear wasn’t overwhelming. Then I had 50 readers, and it was like a big group of friends, because everyone was supportive. By the time I had hundreds and then thousands of readers, I felt like I knew what I was doing (nevermind that I still don’t). One of the great things about blogging, for writers, is that your comfort level grows as your audience does.

Get Over the Idea of Perfection

We freeze up when we think of the idea that we need to write the “perfect” blog post or book, so that everyone thinks highly of us. I’m telling you now: there’s no such thing as perfect. Not everyone will think your writing is the greatest. And that’s okay. If you accept that there will be some things you do that are good, and others that are less than good, and that’s part of being a human; you can embrace a wider range of possibilities. You don’t have to hit a home run with every swing or score a goal with every touch.

Be Motivated by Learning

Why should you even attempt to write when it’s so scary? Because if you don’t do the things that you’re afraid of, you never learn anything. The best learning comes when you try something you don’t know how to do, and make mistakes, and then learn how to fix those mistakes. And then repeat. If you want safe, you give up on learning.

Be Motivated by Helping

I write because people have said it’s helpful. They like seeing how someone else solved a problem, or that it’s even possible to overcome, or at the very least they like knowing that there are other people out there going through the same thing. When people give me that kind of feedback, I feel great, and I can’t wait to do the scary thing again.

Writing is transformative. It changes you, and the reader. You get feedback from the reader and learn from them. You get accountability and you have to reflect on what you’re learning. You become greater from the attempt to overcome the fear.

There has been no greater achievement in my life, other than raising my kids, than overcoming the thunderhold of fear and writing for all of you.

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Via: http://lifehacker.com/how-to-overcome-the-fear-of-sharing-your-writing-in-pub-1646791988

Facing the Fear and Imposter Syndrome 

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One thing I really took home from the Festival of Writing 2017 is that all writers suffer from self-doubt – something refered to in Debi Alper’s Facing the Fear workshop as “The Doubt Demons”. One of these demons is Imposter Syndrome, and it’s the one that plagues me most.

People who feel like impostors believe they have somehow managed to fool others into thinking they are more capable, intelligent or talented than they ‘know’ themselves to be.”

Imposter Syndrome is the belief that you’re out of your depth, you’re not really capable, and it’s only a matter of time before other ‘real’ writers suss you out. If you suffer from this, as I do, you will regularly have thoughts that you aren’t good enough, that your writing is crap, and no one wants to read it anyway. Well, I’m here to tell you (and myself) that this is NORMAL and EVERY writer, even those who have had massive success and published loads of books, suffers with this exact same thing.

So how do we deal with it?

Well, I found a really good article from The Guardian that deals with this topic, in which Dr. Valerie Young, an internationally-recognised expert on impostor syndrome suggests the following:

1. Get to the root cause of your impostor syndrome

In order to understand why you’re not currently capable of acknowledging your skills and talents, you’ll need to explore where these feelings stem from. According to Young, feelings of low self-worth could relate to family expectations, but they could just as easily arise from studying in a competitive environment or working in creative fields. (See, what did I tell you – all creative’s suffer with this!)

2. Talk about your experience with someone you trust 

You’re probably familiar with the notion that voicing worries or fears out loud will lessen the power they hold over you. “I would encourage anyone feeling that they may be experiencing imposter syndrome to talk about it with someone they trust; whether that be a professional or someone from their own circle of family and friends.”

3. Reframe your thoughts with positive self-talk 

The aim of practicing positive self-talk is to learn how to manage your thoughts when an impostor moment strikes. “If you want to stop feeling like an impostor, you have to stop thinking like one,” advises Young. “We need to become consciously aware of the impostor thoughts running through our head so that we can reframe them the way a non-impostor would,” she says.

4. Learn to believe in your self-worth 

“What we want is to feel confident 24/7, but that’s not how it works,” says Young. Instead she suggests learning how to act with confidence, even when you’re feeling insecure, as a way of gradually changing how you feel internally.  Taking back control of a situation can also help you rediscover your self-worth.

These are all great suggestions for dealing with the demons. Personally, I find positive affirmations help – telling myself I can do this, and telling the demon to go to hell.

Other things you could try are:

  • Calling the demon out
  • Conversing with the demon
  • Reading back some of your best work to give yourself confidence
  • Distracting yourself with a good book or a positive piece of music that lifts your spirits
  • Talking to other writer friends who understand how it feels or can reassure you how great your writing really is

Perhaps use a combination of the above, or simply keep reminding yourself that the very fact you feel like an imposter means you are a real writer, and puts you in the same group as even the best published writers, who also suffer from the same affliction.

Here is a little anecdote from Neil Gaiman to illustrate my point, and hopefully make you feel better. It certainly helped me:

Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

You can read the full Guardian article here: https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/impostor-syndrome-and-how-to-overcome-it