writing life

On Writing a Book. Question from a Reader. My Insight.

On Writing a Book. Question from a Reader. My Insight.

I often get asked how to write a book. Recently I received this question from reader, Jennie: “I have felt for several years there is a “book” inside of me but I just can’t seem to put it into words.”

So I thought I’d share my insight here to not only hopefully help Jennie, but to help others who face this question too.

I want to first start by saying that I feel there is no right or wrong way. The key, I feel, is to find out what your best practice is for accomplishing a goal such as writing a book.

But let me back up for a moment and share some writing advice I’d heard a few years ago. It resonated with me, so perhaps it will you, too.

It really is quite simple – just begin.  Put your pen or pencil to the paper or your fingers to the keyboard and begin. Everything we do, no matter what it is or whatever art form, you have to just begin, right?  Brush to canvas, hands to clay, one foot in front of the other.

Some other advice I heard at one time is this:  Start with 15-minutes each day. Just write. Don’t edit. Send that critic who will no doubt show up, out for coffee.  And while the critic is heading out, send the perfectionist along with her, too. If you start with 15-minutes each day that roughly equals one page per day. If you did this for 365 days you’d have more than enough for a book at the end of the year. Now, this isn’t something you can publish as is. But this is then where you begin to edit, revise, and hone in on how you want it to take shape. Of course, if you want to accelerate the process you will have to write for more than 15 minutes a day.

That analysis simplified it for me. I realized how often we tend to look at an end result and how huge it can feel, instead of taking that first small step and just beginning.

I’ve found that there is also something to getting into the motion of beginning to write, and then the words will come. While I am definitely one who feels I must be inspired to write, I’ve also come to understand that if I sit my butt down in the chair, even if I have to stare at the blank screen for a while, that eventually I will begin and words will follow one after the other.

I tend toward the side of perfectionist, so this has taken practice for me to know it will not be perfect the first time I sit down to write. Nor will it be perfect the second, third, or fourth time. Nothing will ever be perfect. But if I put my best effort forward, and I continue at that without judgement of myself (which believe me, isn’t always easy!) I find that I’m quite happy that I made the effort. I started. And starting creates this forward movement.

Just the other day I was also talking with an author who just released her first book. We had a great discussion!  She said at the beginning of her writing career she tried to write like how one or another writer writes. Or got hooked into the “10 best ways” to write or the oodles of articles on writing that are out there. I shook my head enthusiastically as she talked as I could so relate!

Like this author, I no longer do that. I follow my own inner impulses and try to stay as tuned into them as possible. Outside distractions are always going to vie for our attention, so you have to know what makes you tick… or not tick, for that matter. And this, my fellow friends wanting to persue writing, is a practice – an ebb and flow – and give and take – a seek and find.

All these insights I’ve shared above have come clearer into view as I finished my manuscript recently for Wisdom Found in the Pause – Joie’s Gift. I had fits and starts. I beat myself up internally for not being where I thought I should be with it at certain times. I wanted to throw the towel in a handful of times. But I kept at it not truly knowing if it would turn into something or not. It took me three years to write it. I didn’t write everyday. But I thought about it an awful lot, though there were times I didn’t want to think about it at all.

And I realize sitting here today that this was my process for this particular book I’ve just finished writing. It wasn’t meant to surface fully until now. There were things I still had to learn and experience that became part of the manuscript that make it feel complete to me now.

So just begin. Be curious about where it will take you. Be gentle with yourself. And most of all….enjoy the ride!

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A Mix of Emotions

A Mix of Emotions

Happy Monday, Friends!

I just had to take another peek in the Robin nest today to see how the little ones are doing. They hatched last week Wednesday and I’m simply amazed at how fast they have grown since then. Almost double in size!  Whoa!

I’m utterly enjoying watching this new life take shape right outside the east side of my writing cottage window where these little darlings reside in the limelight Hydrangea tree that was just planted in May.

At the same time, I’m feeling some sadness that soon enough they will be leaving the nest. I have to admit that I didn’t know how long before that happens. I had to do a Google search. The result in my search tells me that baby Robin’s typically leave home around two weeks after they have hatched.

So I’m trying not to think about that day of them leaving that is right around the corner and instead just enjoy the time they are here.

And this has me relating this to my manuscript, Wisdom Found in the Pause. After checking in again this morning with my editor, she has promised I will have it no later than tomorrow morning.

I’ve had so many emotions around the writing of this, my second memoir, and the many stages I’ve walked through with it. It took me three years of fits and starts to get it to where I could feel comfortable in handing it over to an editor, which I did in mid-February.

I never anticipated having to have waited this long for it to return. Oh the thoughts that have run amok in my mind at times! It certainly has been a practice in patience and trusting in faith once again. While I believe the timing of much of anything is up to the Universe, I also do believe one must do their due diligence in following up on where things are at.

While I’m happy to know I will have my manuscript back in hand again, I’m also feeling anxious about it. While I want to work on it again and get it to the next step, it comes with trepidation, too. But I also know this is all part of the process of being a writer – and really a part of life and all the little steps we take to where we need to get to next.

Just like those little birds outside my window – all the stages they too have gone through. Soon they will take flight and no doubt with fits and starts too. But soon enough they will be flying off on their own and out into the world– and who knows where it will take them!

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My Zen Writing Cottage. Phase Two Begins – Nine Years Later.

My Zen Writing Cottage. Phase Two Begins - Nine Years Later.

You know the saying, “Good things come to those who wait?”

It was late summer 2007 when my dear John built me my writing cottage. A place of my own, off the corner of our deck. My private sanctuary to listen to the birds, write, feel connected to the world, or just a quiet place where I can think or just be.

The world turned upside down in 2008 when the economy sunk to an all time low. We were so scared, like many, that we may lose so many of the things we worked so hard for – John’s construction business or our home, or both.

We had to make some difficult decisions regarding our retirement savings, but we couldn’t risk losing the home we had come to love so dearly- our safe haven.

This also meant any landscaping we wanted to do, plus a white picket fence I wanted around my writing cottage, had to be put on hold.

It didn’t matter. We had a roof over our heads. We learned to cut even more from our personal overhead expense and from the construction business overhead. And we knew we were so much better off than many. We had nothing to complain about. We would do what we needed to survive.

Though there was much uncertainty and at times scary, we grew by leaps and bounds. Our determination and love grew stronger. We were a team and planned to stay one, no matter what.

And today as I sit in my writing cottage, the Pandora radio station playing Tuscany instrumental music, the wind blowing a brisk breeze for May, the sun shining, and the birds a flutter outside my window, Gidget curled up on the wicker chair next to me, I give thanks for the life I have.

Just outside the long five foot windows of my writing cottage, my heart smiles as John puts skirting around the bottom of my cottage. And this week if all goes as scheduled, the landscaping with an English garden theme will begin.

The long wait, though frustrating at times, has made it all the sweeter. And oh, how I look forward to the warm days ahead to see the flowers blooming all around me as a warm breeze will soon blow through the open windows too– and I shall be sitting here in complete bliss inside this sacred space that means the world to me.

And I picture myself a bit like Tasha Tudor, who loved to walk around her flowers for a little break in her day, a corgi or two in the lead.

Tasha Tudor

I do believe I just might think I’ve died and gone to heaven!

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