Manufactured Resistance

In an interview today with Rick Reale, author of Tires Optional (a nostalgic car-enthusiast’s novel about growing up and getting into trouble in a simpler time) I asked him about dealing with rejection. Rick had chosen to self-publish his book almost from the start, so being rejected wasn’t of particular concern to him, but he still gave advice on the subject.

Rick talked about how people will often say they’d like to write something, but for a slew of reasons, never actually write it. He called it manufacturing resistance.

This made sense to me. My road blocks, or manufactured resistance, seem to be related to the unknown (This may, of course, stem from an editor’s rather cross quote I found in a writer’s guide book the other day, firmly discouraging new writers from even thinking of pitching their ideas to said publication). But the more I learn from my interviews (and Michael’s!), the more I realize that fear of the unknown is more often fear of its becoming known— of facing the possibility that it may not be what you were hoping to find.

In writing especially, you have to take chances to grow. My fears are about pitching ideas and getting back a critique on something that had never even crossed my mind. Of course, if that turns out to be the case it’ll clearly be an important learning experience for me. But I’ll never know if I don’t try…

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Confessions of a Wordaholic

Image by Calamity Meg, courtesy of FlickrLast week my brother dropped the word ingenue into conversation, and while I had a good enough grasp of its definition to confidently agree with his assessment of a person as having that quality, I suddenly became aware that I couldn’t have used the word in a sentence of my own. As soon as our conversation was over I told him, “I’m adding ingenue to the list for my Word of the Week posts at WriterViews!”

…What I didn’t tell him was that first I was planning to slink away and quickly look up the definition of the word.

It’s rather amusing if you think about it. No one has full command of the entire contents of our dictionary A to Z, front to back. So why do some of us feel the need to cover it up when we don’t know a word’s definition? As a person who loves language, and as someone hoping to build a writing career, I’m continually striving to expand my vocabulary. Yet when I find myself faced with an unfamiliar word in conversation, I’ll often smile and nod anyway be the last person to admit that I don’t understand it.

I do however make a mental note to find out what it means ASAP. I guess that’s a start!

…Oh, before I forget– are you wondering what ingenou means? Head over to WriterViews and check out today’s Word of the Week post for the answer.

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2000 Views and a Lesson in Review

Image by Sirwiseowl, courtesy of Flickr

Gosh–I’ve been so busy with WriterViews and preparation for grad school that I almost let 2000 views go by unnoticed!

Two thousand isn’t the greatest landmark in blogging, but I didn’t expect that many so quickly. It seems only yesterday I started this blog, and already I’ve learned so much from it.

This week at WriterViews.com we’ve got tons of great interviews lined up, and I plan on making my own attempts at freelance writing based on the advice of successful friends. I’ll be sharing what I learn each step of the way over at the WV site, in the form of short afternoon blog posts.

Meanwhile, over here I’ll keep you posted about what I’m learning in general about the writing world. This week I’m revisiting an old lesson: time management. For my own work, I’m reminding myself that scheduling blocks of time/days is the best way to go about keeping yourself disciplined and organized in writing. That, and having a great calendar program!

P.S. Hearing that some of you can’t see the WriterViews website without becoming a member. Here’s a little secret: Membership is free! Also, there’s a small “skip” button under the membership sign up form if you’re really uncomfortable sharing your email address. But FYI, we don’t share your address with anyone, for any reason, so if you’re itching to see what membership is like, go on and give it a try! 

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Just Write?

Image by Chris Blakeley, courtesy of Flickr

It’s popping up on WordPress blogs, in books I’m reading, and in three of my six interviews so far this week: Just write.

Since it’s such widely-shared advice (three authors I’ve interviewed this week alone have said it), it must mean that quite a lot of people think it’s worth talking about. And it’s certainly gotten my attention this week. But does anybody really write every day?

You may recall an interview I did with Susan Shapiro several weeks ago on my webshow, WriterViews. Susan is the author of seven books, one of which I’m currently enjoying, called Only As Good As Your Word- Writing Lessons from My Favorite Literary Gurus. In her book, Shapiro constantly recalls advice her cousin shared with her about writing when she was younger:

“Don’t be self indulgent. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block,” he told her.

My initial thought when I read this was, “but what if I’m genuinely having trouble producing anything of value at a given moment? What’s the solution to that?”.

The fact that I’ve been given the advice “just write” so many times this week has given me pause to mull it over each time, and I’ve decided what it means to me:

Whether or not I write anything I’ll share with the rest of the world, the practice of writing each day improves my skills if nothing else. And more often it helps me to better understand what it really is that I was trying to convey in the first place.

So my thought for the day today, based on the advice to just write, is to keep writing today, even if only to tear it to bits revise it tomorrow. I know that what I do eventually share with others will be better because of all the revisions that came before it.

 

One of the authors who shared that advice is featured on WriterViews today. Come on over and see what we’re up to!

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Writing for the Pay and the Passion

Image by Digitalnative, courtesy of Flickr

Yesterday’s theme was boundaries. Today’s is balance. Two of this week’s interviewees yesterday shared some advice about writing to pay the bills vs. writing to feed your passion.

How many times have you heard someone (or yourself) say, “Oh, well I write _____, but it’s just to pay the bills– it’s not really a big deal”? Why is it that we feel ashamed about getting paid?

The authors I spoke with yesterday made the point that just because it’s not the glamorous glossy cover you’ve been aiming for, or the newspaper you’ve got your eyes set on, doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable use of your time and work you should be proud of. “If it were really not a big deal,” one of them reasoned, “they wouldn’t need to hire you to do it for them.”

When a college graduate walks into a new company and starts at an entry-level position, are they ashamed whenever they tell people what they do?

“Oh, well, it’s just entry-level, it’s not really a big deal.”

No way! They tell all their friends they’ve got a job (especially in this economy) and they’re getting started toward working their way to the top. Writing is no different.

That said, another writer added some advice about striking the right balance between the work that pays the bills, and the writing that fuels your fire. It’s very easy to get caught up in the writing you’re doing now, and keep telling yourself “someday I’ll do ____.”

So don’t get so down about the writing you do to start out if it doesn’t happen to be the writing you plan to do later. Just put your best foot (er…pen?) forward, and schedule in some time for “later” now.

Want to see one of the authors who inspired this post? Stop by WriterViews today and check out her interview.

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Time to Set up Some Ground Rules

Image by Minnea, courtesy of Flickr

Boundaries seem to be the theme of this week’s work-at-home writing adventures.

It seems a little counterintuitive that to work from home, I need to set limits on my time and activities. Maybe it was just the lack of sunshine when I used to work at an office that made me imagine a life working from home, with no rules or restrictions.

In theory it’s quite nice, of course; in practice, it’s a bit of a disaster. So I’ve set a writing schedule and an interview schedule for 5-6 interviews per week (which looks like it’ll soon round out the end of summer, at least).

Next on my to-do list is to accept the limits of what I can do for others. Not far into the mass of emails, I began to feel that certain tasks I was taking on were going to be detrimental to my productivity, like agreeing to a handful of writers’ requests that I send them email reminders at custom times prior to their interviews. I reached out for advice to some writer friends (Is it an unspoken rule that one sends reminders prior to interviewing someone? How do I keep up?). I was relieved to hear from them that this was not a common practice, and in their opinions taking on someone else’s schedule as my own responsibility was a bad idea. Phew!

I’m excited to have the next few months almost filled already with interviews. What I really want is to be able to quickly, effectively and efficiently get them scheduled, recorded and posted to the site. So no more all-nighters pretending I’m an email-writing bot, and no more assigning myself extra work, like agreeing to send interview reminders.

As for the reminders I’ve already promised, thank goodness Michael told me about Boomerang!

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And We’re Back…

Image by RambergMediaImages, courtesy of Flickr

Remember that post I made about never travelling without your laptop? I feel compelled to admit that on certain occasions I fail to take my own advice.

On this particular occasion (last weekend), my laptop wouldn’t fit into my luggage for the trip, and as it turned out, I had very little time for writing once I got there (if you’re curious I was helping my brother move out of his grad school apartment, and living it up with our friends in the city for a few nights of course).

Before we’d made it forty-five minutes into our five-hour drive to his old place, the ding of my phone’s email notification had sounded at least twenty times, giving me a feeling I feared would develop into a nervous tick if I didn’t do something about it.

Answering WriterViews messages from the car was out of the question, partially because they were mostly scheduling requests (tough to handle via email from a phone). Besides,

  • I needed my calendar for reference, and that’s tough to toggle on a phone as opposed to a computer
  • The cell signal kept varying, so at times it would take forever to load new messages
  • My phone was busy providing our musical entertainment (clearly the most important reason).

So before we were even out-of-state I set up an auto-reply as best I could (which, with the aforementioned issues, took approximately thirty minutes), letting all of my contacts know that I would be returning to my emails today.

Now that you’re caught up on the last five days or so, I should catch you up on the latest WV interview as well. Remember the niche-free author I mentioned previously, Tennille-Lynn Millo? Well, she and I finally got our schedules lined up and nailed down that interview! You can check it out here.

Time to dive into my inbox!

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What I’m Learning About Writers

Image by Will Lion, Courtesy of Flickr

This week in my interviews and interactions with authors, I’ve been noticing that good conversationalists make great writers. Why is that, you ask?

Well, almost every aspect of writing as a career– the art of creating a poem, story or a piece of nonfiction, and the business of getting published– has a lot to do with connecting with other people:

  • Extroverts are adept at making a point in a way that’s easy to understand and pleasing to the eye/ear.
  • They’re good at relating to others— an important quality for a storyteller, both for connecting to one’s readers, and for creating realistic lovable or “loatheable” characters.
  • Writing is not a one-person job; it’s an interaction within a community of people with a common goal of trying to get their work out to the right audience who will respond to it.
  • A great way to navigate the process of publication is to talk with those who have already done so.

That last point was the focus of Susan Shapiro’s advice from her interview with us– that every aspiring writer should have a mentor, or several. (Check out the interview for her tips on how to go about finding one, and for more of her outstanding insight and links to her books!)

Generally speaking, a person with ties to a community is more likely to succeed within that community. The writing world is no different, and the best way to get involved in any group is to start, or join, a conversation.

WriterViews update time: Later today I get to talk with a writer who always leaves me feeling inspired after our conversations. Tennille-Lynn Millo has a delightful, rather unorthodox, approach to freelancing, and her many published articles are proof that it works. Follow @writerviews on Twitter to see when her interview gets posted!

P.S. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ll know that we’ve got a lot of new interviews coming up in the next few months. Stay tuned!

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Lessons I’m Learning from Interviewing People

Before I started talking to people for WriterViews, I reminded myself to avoid repeating the same words too much, to look into the webcam and not at the screen– no matter how much my brain wants to focus on a face as opposed to a lens– and to try to treat it like an everyday conversation, to calm the “Oh gosh, I’m being recorded” nerves.

I’m still working on all of the above, but in addition to that I’ve been learning a lot of unexpected lessons so far.

Here are just a few:

  • Some people don’t really want to be interviewed, but may not tell you that. Once they’ve settled into your conversation they’re really great, but you feel like a jerk for having asked them to join you when you realize that, “I don’t have Skype” was more likely a veiled, “I don’t like being interviewed, but I don’t want to tell you ‘no.'”
  • Some people prefer to have their questions beforehand. This seems harmless enough, and if you’re lucky, you get someone who’s thoughtful about their answers and takes care to make them lead into one another, which makes for a really enjoyable and smooth interview. On the other hand, you may also run into someone who gets so excited that you barely get a word in edgewise, and quickly lose control of the conversation. So proceed with caution!
  • Of course everyone has opinions, and interviews are meant to discover them, but just because you ask for a subject’s opinion on one topic doesn’t mean you won’t hear their views on another. Sometimes people will say things that you disagree with, make you feel uncomfortable, or even make offensive remarks. I’m still not sure about the best way to deal with this one, but once I find out I’ll be sure to share.

But before I leave you with the impression that I’m not enjoying this process, let me clarify: I really am! I love meeting new people and learning about how they view the world (even if their vantage point isn’t remotely close to mine). And I’m having a fantastic time learning as I go. 

Coming soon on WriterViews, my phone interview with Susan Shapiro: In addition to having many other accomplishments in writing, she’s an inspiring author of several books, one in particular with a focus on how to make a career as a writer (wish they’d put that on the high school reading list!), and she teaches classes about the same subject at NYU. Another of her books, 5 Men Who Broke My Heart, is currently being made into a movie! As always, we’ll tweet when the interview is posted to our site.

On an unrelated note, do you hate ironing? I do. Check out my latest SuitMode article, posted today on their fashion blog, about how you could be spending less time on that particular chore.
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Catching Up

My English teachers always told me the best thing I could do for my writing was to write it, then step back for a day or so, and come back to edit after having taken a break. I find the same concept usually works for my blog when my posts start to feel a bit stale to me.

Unfortunately this also sometimes has the undesired effect of me losing track of time and forgetting to post for a few days…

So let’s catch up! Here’s what’s new:

Yesterday afternoon my inbox popped up with one new message. It was an email from the graduate program I applied to several months ago, letting me know that I’ve been accepted!

So what exactly does someone who’s still seeking a career goal pursue in graduate studies?

Well, it just so happens that this particular program has a rather open concept that happens to allow for the kind of exploration I started doing through this blog. It’s meant for professionals looking to improve their knowledge of their chosen field; of course, I’m trying to learn more about the different careers available to writers, so I plan on absorbing as much information as possible from the different classes available. And I hope to get some practice at different types of writing while I’m there, too!

And in keeping with the spirit of academic pursuits, this week on WriterViews I’ll be interviewing a successful journalist who shares her expertise through her books and in the classroom. But you don’t have to wait if you’re craving more interviews– this afternoon I get to speak with one of the only two women who worked on the Saturn V rocket at NASA, who’s since written two books about it. I’ll be asking her about the writing process, and naturally about her inspiration.

Follow me on Twitter to see when it gets posted!

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