In Due Time – Writer’s Block

It’s amazing to me that I’ve spent a year blocked in many of my writing mediums. Blogging became a chore that caused more stress than pleasure, writing a short article came with as much pain as a tooth extraction and everything else, down to advertising copy, seemed “blah.” I was fighting an enormous block, mostly surrounded by medical conditions, treatments and therapy. But blocked, I was.

I finally went out and purchased a brand new journal and wrote only when something incredible happened. Not all those incredible moments were good, but incredible still. As I found comfort in working with words again, I ventured outside of my self-imposed barricade and began taking note of extraordinary happenings in the world around. With that, I had a little more fuel for that only-sometimes-used journal.

I decided that I was going to no longer work as a paid writer.

Yep. I said it.

I evaluated why I once loved writing and why that changed. I received my first-ever blue ribbon that came from writing almost twenty years ago. I loved words then. I explored new avenues of writing, didn’t harbor any self-doubt. Everything I did was perfect, because it was done. I cherished that time in my life as a writer.

But today, I can say that I don’t like deadlines. I do not like stress. Simplicity is what I need; in writing, living and life. So simplicity it is. And a very long hiatus from writing, at least writing anything for anyone.

And now, I have a great relationship with my Muse again. I only write inspired words and write them when inspired. I keep my notebook and pen handy for the moments when I cannot devote hours to writing as to retain that which my Muse delivered. And I play. I am nurturing all aspects of my creative self – including painting, again. The process of keeping myself readily available for my muse in all creative aspects has made me able to write again, for an audience.

Every writer experiences writer’s block. Good writers know when to put down the pen. For me, that pen was down for nearly a year. And now, it feels good to write.

Do you spend time nurturing other creative avenues in your life?

Find You And Your Voice: An Interview with Oneself

Find You and Your Voice

Rebecca: When was the last time you evaluated your goals, examined your dreams? Get real with yourself about who you are, what you want, and what really drives your life and your writing. Mysti Guymon-Reutlinger visits today during her own sabbatical. She is taking a few months to discover herself and shares this interview with oneself that we can each do to find or rediscover the writer within.

I’ve spent a great deal of time writing for WRA (now The Craft of Writing Fiction) discussing time management, office practices, and tools to help you succeed. Given the time since my last article here, there might be question as to my continued work. Let me assure you that Rebecca has been more than patient with me in regards to articles and there will be plenty more from me in the future. For now, I’m doing something outside the box for myself.

This morning, I woke to find silence in my house and, with my creative juices flowing, posed an interview to myself. This is something I’ve done with fictional characters to better understand their needs and desires and how they blend with the story line set forth.

Why did you decide to ‘disappear?’

It wasn’t a decision I made lightly. I have had many responsibilities in the writing world that I left. But in the end I know I needed to find Mysti beneath all the chaos to better serve my clients, family and me.

What are you hoping to find while off the map?

There are aspects of myself that I loved as a teen. I had an incredible determination to set goals and achieve them, no matter the odds. My life was simpler, allowing me the opportunity to really hammer out the kinks in what I was doing to reach success. By stepping away, I hope to regain much of that determination I once possessed.

Who are you wanting to become?

I can’t say I want to become anyone in particular. I want to be myself without the tension headaches and stress knots in my back. I want to rework how I work to have a wholesome, fulfilling life. I’m working on myself and my life to ensure that I have the best opportunity to achieve what it is I truly desire from life in general.

Where did you come up with this idea?

I’m sure I could bore you with the lengthy story, but in summary; I realized that I wasn’t happy on my current path and wanted to find a pleasant middle-ground again. I’ve always been an advocate for taking time for oneself and disconnecting from the computer, work and daily grind. Stepping away from all of those responsibilities for an extended period of time seemed very fitting for me. I’ve never been one to put one toe in the water to test the temperature, I’d rather jump in, feet first.

How are you working on yourself?

I am doing something different each day. From pampering my body and soul to trying new activities and foods. I am also reconnecting with family very intently after one very shocking and difficult death of recent weeks. Through all of that, I’m uncovering a new way to think, evaluate, act and react.

When do you plan on really resurfacing?

On my 30th birthday, October 30, 2010. I gave myself 4 months and 7 days to really work on myself and my life.

Is there any knowledge you’ve gained thus far that would help our readers?

Don’t be afraid to pull the plug.

By that, I’m not saying bail on all your gigs or writing endeavors. Instead, evaluate where you want to go and what key factors are most important. When running any business, you are in control of your destiny. You decide what is best for you and what isn’t. Act accordingly and you can find yourself enjoying the passion that inspired you to become a writer in the first place.

While this interview with myself is outside the box, the technique brings out great thought and understanding. When working with fictional characters, the questions I pose are much more intense and private. Just like I need to know myself at this stage in my life, knowing my characters inside and out will help me carry them through a story to completion.

What have you learned, or are you learning, about yourself as a writer? What would you ask yourself to find you and your voice?

Photo Credit: ihave3kids

Networking Know-How: Say YES To Opportunities

The Power of YES when NetworkingTo accept or decline? That is the question.

Networking is vital for any business, but especially for writers. If you are a reclusive writer, chances are you are missing out on precious opportunities for new clients, gigs, interview subjects, industry connections, and much more.

  • Say “Yes”!

    • Start small. It doesn’t take much effort to get “out there” with the public. Spend an extra hour in church, mingle during the coffee/cookie hour before or after services. If you typically stay after your service, opt to go an hour early and mingle with the earlier service or vice-versa. Go early to pick up kids from school and chat with the other parents. Accept more invitations to go out or visit with friends. While I wouldn’t hand out business cards to everyone, a simple conversation about what you do for a living will leave a lasting impression on a business owner.
  • Be A Host

    • For those with local clients or colleagues, host an event such as a coffee meeting between companies can increase the work-load for you! While you might not have a new project available immediately, bringing clients together to network will keep you in mind when he isn’t able to take on a project. You can socialize with prospective clients and fellow writers by hosting a morning tea or lunch. Perhaps consider a stationery or office supply party plan event.
  • Join A Writing Group

    • The group doesn’t have to be locally based. Join a writing group for accountability or editing. Fellow writers can call on you when they aren’t able to take a gig for any reason and you’ll all benefit from the shared support and mutual feedback. This might lead to some ghost-writing positions that you can claim on your resume or the right name being dropped in the right place at the right time.

Networking online is important for many writers, but failing to network off-line can be detrimental. By not answering the knock of opportunity you are failing yourself and your business. Change just one “no” into a “yes” today and begin sowing the benefits of all your hard work.

Don’t forget the Writer Must-Have’s when you venture outside your own writing nook.

How do you make the most of opportunities to say “yes” instead of “no” when networking?

Photo Credit: 06-03-06 © Amanda Rohde

A Day of Play to Recharge and Reinspire the Writer Within

Freelancing can be a rough business.  Receiving rejections, tedious rewrites, grumpy editors and more can plague everyone’s day and leave your family drained from the day’s ups and downs.  It might seem like a great idea to work later into the evening or throughout the weekend to catch up.  When deadlines are looming, a few extra hours is okay, but remembering to unwind and play is important, too.

Exercise is important for multiple reasons.  Exerting energy in bursts offers inspiration, boosts your metabolism, provides an outlet to physically exert frustrations, and helps keep your body healthy to handle the stressors of the day.  Spending the weekend away from the computer with your family offers plenty of activities that serve a dual purpose: exercise and bonding. 

Tips and Suggestions:

  • A picnic lunch at the park.
    • When planning your picnic out, remember to include plenty of items for outdoor fun.  Outdoor balls, wiffle balls and bats, plastic golfing games, frisbees, horseshoes and a volleyball serve in a pinch depending on your location.  If you find a part that serves different outdoor sports, invite friends and extended family to come along for added conversation and fun.
  • Walking along the waterways.
    • There’s a great program sponsored by called, “Cache in, trash out.”  You can apply the same principle to any outdoors walk you take.  Carry with you a couple of small trash bags and pick up any debris along the way that could harm the space you have to meander.  Not only are you doing your body good when walking, you’ve made a positive impact on the environment.  Who couldn’t feel good about that?
  • Biking and Hiking in the hills and mountains.
    • Planning a trip to the mountains takes a bit more planning.  You must remember all your basic necessities including water, survival tools (knife, flints, flares) as well as pack high energy foods capable of sustaining you in the event you are trapped for the night.  Investing in insulating blankets to carry is a wise idea, too.  Seldom do people find themselves stuck on the mountain with no way down, but if it happened to you, it would provide an amazing story to pitch to an editor once you return to civilization.
  • Visiting a zoo or other local museum.
    • When the weather is less than favorable for an outdoor adventure, spending time inside might just serve you well.  As long as you are away from your work space and doing something outside your normal routine.  Walking through a zoo or large museum will exercise your body and mind.  Animals and displays from the past will recharge your inspirational pool. 

For many writers, finding balance between home and family can be difficult.  No matter how you are pulled to put in an extra couple of hours, make sure you are choosing your hours wisely.  If you can spent time out recharging yourself and build memories with your family, it’s more than worth staying up an hour later or rising an hour early to finish out that assignment.  Afterall, why work hard to achieve success when you aren’t reaping the benefits of what you sow?

Resumes: The Deal Breaker

Job sites believe that concise resumes will offer an interview as the attention span of a person hiring is typically short. They hold to the adage that featuring key points is best. I’ve seen and experienced differently.

The standard resume consists of an introduction, work history with featured experience proficiencies, educational experience and with or without references. Expanding a resume to include awards, school transcripts and letters or recommendation can – and does – set you apart.

Following the two-page rule can cut you out from any position. While it is important to highlight key points quickly in a cover letter, also include additional information that is included above and beyond the standard resume. A potential employer is looking for the best person to fill a position. It is up to you to ensure your expertise and quality of workmanship is adequately represented.

While attending college, say you won an award for the most original Web site design. Take the time to scan or photo copy the award to include after your standard information. Showing proof of various achievements will only secure your value to the hiring firm.

Letters of recommendation should always be included with a resume. While stating, “References Available Upon Request” is typical, including recommendations from former and current colleagues and bosses establishes further rapport and drive to achieve.

I had mentioned that in a former relationship, my ex had an enormous resume. When I compiled all the information together, I learned a great deal. While he is now overseas making more money than most could fathom in a year, his resume was key to that – along with a solid work ethic and history.

His standard resume included:

  • Cover letter of one full page, ten-point Times font. The letter was signed either by pen or digitally with a copy of his signature scanned into the PC.
  • Resume consisting of four pages. All job responsibilities and additional educational awards were listed.
  • Seven letters of recommendation from various projects he worked on as a Civil Engineer.
  • Two letters of recommendation from current colleagues.
  • Photocopies of all awards and certifications he had received, along with a copy of his college transcript and diploma.

While the bulky stack of information seemed quite daunting, it served a purpose. My ex was able to showcase all of his abilities and proficiencies in his field before ever speaking with a potential employer. His interviews delved past the initial questions and moved quickly into what he could do for that company and what that company could offer in return.

The same process can be applied with freelancing. Showcase everything that you can, without digging out articles or out-dated Web site designs. If most of your work is done digitally, consider investing in USB flash drives to include with your resume. You can hold a great deal of information in a small space. Be smart in your resume decisions. What you share of yourself can make – or break – the deal.

To Begin: Breaking Through The Blank Page

There is nothing more dreadful to a writer than staring at a blank page on the computer. There is a sense of stage fright that hangs in the shadows, taunting your every attempt to begin writing the grand novel or article that has inspired your soul. The number of words looking to take that blank page to a completed piece scream in your mind as your heart begins to race. You are there, facing the firing squad in your mind. You are a writer. WHY CAN’T YOU WRITE?

First, take a deep breath. It’s only letters placed in such a manner as to form a word. That word will begin the sentence. The sentence will begin the paragraph and the paragraph starts a chapter. Beginning the chapter means you’ve officially begun the work you’ve set your sights upon. Congratulations!

Recently I had the privilege of chatting with a few writer friends online. As the conversation turned to beginnings, I chuckled at how I had begun writing this very piece, though unfinished. I had begun, something one writer was struggling with on her own. I mentioned at that point I was working an article tailored specifically to beginnings – and she couldn’t wait to read it for herself.

Having an idea is only one part to writing. To be a writer you must write.

Beginnings can be quite ugly. Especially if you have ignored that calling to sit down and write for any amount of time. It doesn’t matter what you do to start, what matters is that you’ve placed a word on a page and began expanding upon it to form a sentence; there go, writing.

What is incredible about writing – whether by pen or through typing – is the opportunity to edit that ugly beginning once the middle and end are complete. As a writer, you might produce one brilliant piece in your lifetime. That doesn’t mean that the rest of what you write is garbage. It just means the editor in you has to come out, but not until after you’ve written.

Taking the time to journal or freewrite about the subject you desire to write about will help break the silence that sends you into a near anxiety attack. Journaling and freewriting also reduce the stress you feel by the editor that nestles inside. It is only when we are writing an article or a large work of art that the editor likes to cause a disruption.

Next time you are looking to begin an article, short story, or novel; begin first by writing in your journal and transfer that writing to your blank page to reduce your anxiety. After all, it matters not how you begin, but that you do.

Do you ever struggle with the blank page? What do you do to get past the anxiety and begin?

Evaluate Your Business In 2010

With the new year upon us the fiscal year comes to a close. As a business owner, December and January is where all profits and losses are carefully examined in preparation for taxes in April. The hours of sorting receipts, tracking expenses and riffling though payments leaves misery to hold. If you are a wise one, you’ve kept great records and have a mature filing system for such items. Life sometimes happens and playing catch-up is necessary. Now is the time to begin that process.

While preparing a financial report of your freelancing business, consider this your time to evaluate what has worked, what has brought in successful funds and what has left you pinching pennies. As you track good months and bad, pull out your business plan and see where changes can be made, ensuring you have more good months in 2010. If you haven’t taken the time to write out a business plan, that time is now!

In examining the financial backbone of your business, take note of companies that brought in more financially and the type of work you performed. Pull up your old assignments. Recall the process of that work. Weigh the payment received with the time spent. Was your overall hourly wage in your targeted ballpark? Did you fall short by more than one or two dollars?

While surfing through those details, also pay attention to clients bringing in regular work.

Make a list of those clients and be sure to send a short note, thanking them for the opportunity to work with them, for them and beside them. This is a great opportunity to also bring your name to the front of a client’s mind. In the new year, businesses begin a strong drive to achieve success. Along side a new-found ambition, work loads are increased and freelancers have the exciting chance to make a jump towards their financial goals.

As you look through your clients and the genre’s of work performed, ask yourself if one niche market better serves you than others. Do you have clients that fell short of your hourly rate that you would like to continue working with? If so, ask for more pay per assignment. A pay increase as minuscule as three cents per word could make your financial goals.

Take your time, but act fast! 2009 is already behind us and 2010 offers you more opportunity as an entrepreneur. What are you going to do for yourself and your business in 2010?

Encouraging A Love of Working

Freelancing can be a tough profession. No matter if it is artwork, Web design, or writing, each comes with an ebb and flow to financial security. Even veteran freelancers can have a rough month or two each year. The lifestyle we choose to live can be exciting or discouraging depending on the month. Showing children the passion behind the profession can encourage of love of work and yield unexpected results, if you allow.

Being a full-time parent has been mentally and oftentimes physically exhausting. Knowing that each day will bring challenges and celebrations once made it difficult for me to truly enjoy the freelancing world that is my own. With a little ingenuity (and direction from my oldest son) we found the opportunity to encourage proper work ethics in my home.

My husband was laid off work in November. Although he was able to draw on unemployment benefits, there was a mass amount of financial stress through our home. It was through a series of events and taking time to truly examine what it is that I want from my life and career that all began unfolding quickly…

I announced to my family,

“I am going to work a FOURTY HOUR work week.“

Dumbfound looks shot across the face of my husband and oldest. That is when my son candidly asked, “How are you going to work Mom? You don’t really have a job.”

Step 1: Explain Your Work

So I sat that dear sweet child down and showed him various projects I had, assignments I needed to write and companies that paid me for my time, experience, and words. After about fifteen minutes, he said, “So you do work.” To my son, yes, I do work…

Step 2: To Work From Home?

And I work from home. I work out of the little room in the basement that has my dry erase boards upon the walls and a desk for my computer. That is my office. While I don’t go to a different building to work, I still work. As much as I would love to just sit at the computer and play games, there are bills that need to be paid – and what I do in that space helps.

Step 3: Answer the question, “Why do you just work in your office?”

And that was difficult. My son is quite a smart lad for five. He sees the world through a much different lens than myself. So I pondered…

It isn’t necessary to work in my office. I can work from the kitchen table or the front porch, weather permitting. And I have. My son has had the opportunity to see me flip from book to website as I research and back into Word as I type, cite, and proof an article. Yes, it took longer to work that way. No, I don’t regret it.

Step 4: Encourage Brainstorming WITH Your Child(ren)

Some might consider that stealing intellectual property of a child, but truly, it’s great! As an adult, we tend to move from the carefree way of thought. A child loves to think. Telling stories about a dinosaur or asking for a story, tailored to a character they love is all brainstorming. It might not be exactly what you are looking for by means of what a client is requesting, but it does add a new sense of unity – even when it is just your name on an article.

TIP: Ask your children to create a character for a story. Spend an hour a day free writing that story for your children. When you have it complete, read it to them.

Step 5: Family Goals

Using effective communication with children that are just beginning to understand your working process is crucial in this step. Sit down, after a good family dinner, and ask what your children would like to do during the year. Let their imaginations run wild. While your daughter might not be able to visit Betsy Ross as she died many years ago, you might be able to afford a trip to a museum where Betsy Ross is showcased. Explain that the time you spend working will help attain that goal as you can set aside $10 a week to pay for that trip.

As your children begin to understand how finances are tied to working, a strong and stable desire to work becomes present. Through our own conversations with our son, we are planning on a couple short trips this year. And for the record, I got a kiss on the cheek this morning and told to enjoy my day working by that same five-year-old who thought I didn’t have a job.

Enjoy your career and lifestyle as a freelancer. Share those joys with the ones closest to you, so they can be encouragement when you find yourself in a freelancing slump.

Simple Saviors: The Notebook and Pen

Notebook and Pen: Keep Writing, Anywhere, Anytime.Moving doesn’t always happen smoothly. Maintaining your writing during one of the most stressful times of your life is challenging. Ideas for articles come in many forms, this one is no different. Fortunately, the idea wasn’t lost because I took the opportunity to jot down a few thoughts before they left indefinitely.

Some of the most stressful times in a person’s life are moving, death, births, divorces, and weddings. All of those events are life altering. It is possible to write during those periods, even if the writing doesn’t produce an article at that exact moment. Recording your ideas becomes a necessary step to include with any major change in your life.

While undergoing any life changing time in your life, keep a notebook and pen with you at all times. The notebook doesn’t have to be fancy or large. A simple flip pad will do – and can fit in the back pocket of your jeans. Along side that notebook, keep a pen or pencil handy to scribble away ideas, thoughts, emotions or bits of conversation. After the words are scribbled, put the notebook away until you need it again.

When life has settled down and routine becomes familiar, you can pull out that same notebook and refer back to the pages. The mind is incredible, once you place words onto the page, you naturally recall the moment and everything associated to it. You will hear voices of dialogue, expressions on faces, emotions within, and, perhaps most importantly, the words played in your mind.

Make time to write, even when life is unsettled and routines unfamiliar.Ah, yes, those words. They are the ones that create the characters of a novel, a poem about the beautiful sky, and the article you’ve promised to write for an editor on the other end of a paycheck. With just a few simple words on a piece of paper, you will be capable of recalling all the information you need to complete that looming assignment or resume the novel that had you stuck.

It is a simple exercise that takes a bit of practice to master. Nurture your Muse by writing down all the words she supplies you. When it comes time to work through a challenging time in your life, your Muse will be kind to you. Chronicle your thoughts and ideas and begin learning how to recall the information she provided when the idea originally popped.

I’ll never go without my notebook and pen. You could say that they saved my tail during my most recent move. How has your notebook and pen saved you? Do you prefer a certain style of notebook or type of pen? What do you love most about your favorite notebook and pen?

Stock up on notebooks and pens!

Five Inspiration and Creativity Writing Tips

Five Inspiration and Creativity Writing Tips

It has happened to me hundreds of times.  My schedule is clear, children are occupied, housework is caught up, and suddenly my writing time flops because I don’t know how to start.  Starting is necessary to reach a finished article, short story, poem or novel. In order to write, you must practice writing on a regular basis. Inspiring writing comes with routine, innovation, and determination.

  • Writing Bursts

    Ban together with fellow writers and have a writing burst.  Twenty to thirty minutes of free writing will loosen the words – and your fingers – while building the creative juices.

  • Musical Melodies

    Playing a music selection during your writing time will help train your body to write during those same melodies.  Music will also create a white noise, blending all the distracting sounds.  A particular music selection can also bring back the inspiration of a particular story if you stop the tract when it becomes necessary to move onto other scheduled items.

  • Lists

    Writing out your lists for the day, including to-do’s, shopping, bills, and chores will allow you the opportunity to clear your mind of those tasks and focus on what you have set down to do during your writing time.

  • Scheduling

    It is not only important, but vital to a writer’s life to schedule your day around the time you write, not the other way around.  If you are trying to take care of life first and fail to nurture the writer within you, the writer within you will fail to perform when time comes.

  • Taking the phone off the hook

    Yes, I absolutely mean that.  The phone can be a major distraction.  Friends and family call when they feel the need to share a funny story or complain about the clerk at the store forgetting to give change.  There is no use in telling anyone to call you x many times in a row if it is an emergency.  There will always be one person who believes the clogged sink is worth interrupting you.  Unless you are a plumber and are able to snake a drain, it is NOT important.

You have the choice
each day
to nurture the creativity within
or to allow every other aspect in life
control your time to write.

What ways do you nurture the muse that inspires your words?
How do you block out the unnecessary to perform the necessary?