Tag Archives: inspiration

How to Write When You Lack Inspiration

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You’re half way through your novel and suddenly you don’t want to work on it anymore.

You’re past deadline and your editor wants to know where your manuscript is.

The thought of writing gives you a headache and sends you to bed.

We’ve all been there, the writer who doesn’t want to write. We’re tired, we’re bored. We’d like to take a break and do something else more exciting, even if it’s scrub the toilet or feed the pigs. Ernest Hemingway said it so well. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

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I believe writing is a gift. Others look at writing as a job. Either way, we all come to the page the same, inspired or not to get words on paper.

How we do that, though, is another story. Some writers designate a specific time, say, every day 8 a.m. to noon, as their writing time. During those hours they write, whether they feel like it or not. Others write in big chunks of time when they feel inspired. They let artistic inspiration take over and write until they are empty. Then they wait for the well to fill and repeat the process. Productivity is as varied as there are writers, and we each handle writing-time differently.

I don’t write everyday. Many days I lack inspiration. But I do do something writing-related everyday. This is my job and fans are waiting for the next story. I can’t let lack of inspiration keep me from doing the work. If I did, nothing would ever get done.

So here’s what I do when I don’t feel like writing.
I work on something writing related, like marketing.
I research for the next story.
I edit.
I do something writing related and record it on a calendar I keep on my desk. Too many blank days in my calendar means I’m lazy and unfocused and I need to get busy.

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If you’re feeling uninspired, here are some tips that may help.

1) Show up.

If it’s a workday, work. Record your progress on your calendar and then go play. At the end of the day you may not have written five pages, but you will have done something to move forward and the day won’t have been wasted.

2) Reward yourself with Internet and email after writing. You’d be surprised what a motivator that is.

3) Set a timer and start writing.

Turn off your internal editor and just start writing. Anything. Even if you write ‘this is crap’ for ten minutes. Free writing stimulates the brain and before you know it you’ll be in the zone. You can’t edit a blank page, so get to work.

4) Change your location.

Sometimes a change in location can be just the boost you need. Go outside and write in the sun. Go sit by a stream. Even a coffee shop or library can inspire you to be productive.

5) Work on something new, or collaborate with another writer.

Often we get tired of working on the same thing everyday. It’s boring and unchallenging. Work on something else. Have more than one story in the basket at a time. When you tire of one you can still be productive. Just be sure to complete those stories and not use this as an excuse to procrastinate.

6) Have a writing buddy.

Having someone who understands the writing process is invaluable. Whine to your writing buddy when you don’t want to write. Finding out that they are having a good productive day will tweak the competitor in you and send you to your desk. Before you know it the words will flow again.

7) Get up and move.

Take a walk. Take a coffee break. Physical exercise often stimulates the muse.

8) Listen to music and set the mood.

I have a meditation CD I play when I lack inspiration. Sometimes I also light a candle. These stimuli tell my brain it’s time to work and add pleasure to what can some days be daunting.

9) Read a good book. Read a bad book.

Either one will get you thinking. Why did he/she use that word? Why does this work so well? This is a piece of shit. I can do better.

10) Allow yourself to make mistakes.

The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be written.

Not every writer approaches the blank page the same. Some writers work best at night. Some in the morning. Some during the day when kids are in school. Some only when the muse strikes hot. How you approach the blank page is up to you. The trick is to be consistent, to keep writing even on days when you’d rather mow the lawn.

-Bonnie Dodge

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Filed under Archives 2016, Writing

A working retreat helps you realize you love writing

This summer and fall have been madness.

My daughter’s wedding. The Other Bunch Press release of “Hauntings from the Snake River Plain,” our new ghost anthology.

Then the release of my new book, “The Weeping Woman.”

Hustle, Hustle.

So when we talked about taking our annual retreat, I balked. Usually, I love going. We go to a friend’s cabin, eat well, drink wine and talk and yes, write. In the past, we have gone on excursions such as to ghost towns.

But this year, I had no time. Still, I am happy we went.

I relaxed. With my partners, we celebrated our hard work on Hauntings, of which we are very proud. We took time to work on new projects. We did writing prompts to get the writing juices pumping. We took walks and were inspired to write. I saw the salmon spawning and wrote a poem. We just talked about life  and our families. We ate well. (Fortunately my writing partners are great cooks.)

It made me again realize how much I love writing and although life gets in the way, and business of writing must get done–the marketing, the book signings, etc.–at the heart is still the love of writing.

So when you feel life pressing down on your chest like a sumo wrestler driving a forklift, take time for a retreat, a weekend one or one-day event. Then you can remember why you are putting yourself through such pain.

You love writing.

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Filed under Archives 2012, Writer retreats, Writing

What do writer’s strive for? Stirring up emotion

Read Bonnie Dodge’s great blog on that very topic. It’s entitled Alice Hoffman, Taylor Swift and Me.

Enjoy it. I did.

— Patricia Santos Marcantonio

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Filed under Archives 2011

How Do You Want to be Remembered?

One of the first exercises I tackled when I started writing was to create my own obituary. The point of the exercise was to get me to think about what I wanted to accomplish with my writing. Why was I writing? How did I want to be remembered? What kind of stories did I want to leave behind? That was many years ago and I wish I had kept the exercise because I can’t remember what I wrote. I’m sure I wrote something like “her books are entertaining and character driven” because I always wanted to see my books on the same shelf as Charles Dickens.

This may be a depressing topic for the month of December when things are festive and people are thinking about Christmas, but because it is the end of the year, it is a good time to reassess goals accomplished, and maybe set some new ones.

I’d like to share a story about my friend Mary Inman. Mary joined the Twin Falls Chapter of the Idaho Writers League back in the early 1990s, about the time I left my job at the bank to pursue writing full time. Mary was one of those interesting characters who had more ideas and experiences to recount than she had hours in the day. She was health conscious and walked everywhere she could. She was usually bubbling with energy and ideas. Always interested in life and history, Mary created Gramma Maudie, and from her rocking chair gave many presentations about life on the Oregon Trail. Mary organized walking tours of the original Twin Falls Village, and wrote a book about Twin Falls, Idaho, called Twin Falls Centurybook, 1904-2004.

Not only was Mary interested in history; she was also interested in conserving the planet. She started a xeriscaping club that met once a week at the Twin Falls city council chambers. She did all the legwork, sent out notices, arranged for knowledgeable speakers, organized fieldtrips to the South Hills to view native plants, and xeriscaped her yard to set an example.

Mary was the kind of person who wasn’t afraid to take a canoe down the river alone, or sleep in her car. Instead of shying away from strangers and “No,” she’d extend her hand and ask, “Do you have my book yet?” She was positive, full of energy, and probably had no idea how many lives she touched.

Mary Jane Inman died October 27, 2010, at her home. She was 82. At her request, her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered. Also at her request, no service was held, nor did an obituary run in the local paper. She was a pleasure to know, and I will miss her.

As 2010 draws to an end, take time to reflect on what you stand for. You don’t have to write an obituary, but it would be a good time to determine what you have to say, and what you want to leave behind.

Like my friend Mary, I want to be remembered for making a difference. I want to create characters that live long after my demise. I want readers to ponder my poetry after the books are closed and put away.

What would you like people to say about you when you are gone? Decide how you want to be remembered, and then get busy and do the things that will make it happen.
-Bonnie Dodge

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Filed under Archives 2010, Question of the Month, Writing

Love writing? How about movies about writing?

In addition to writing, I also love movies so what’s better than movies about writing? Here are just a few of my favorites. Please share yours.
Shakespeare in Love
Wonder Boys
Copote
Infamous
The Hours
Finding Forrester
American Slendor
Adaptation
Something’s Got to Give
Sleuth (the old one)

So after a hard day at the computer, sit back and watch one of these.

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

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Filed under Archives 2010, Writing

Make that novel happen this month

Today is the start of National Novel Writing Month and the challenge is to write a novel within the month of November. It’s a fantastic way to get that idea that’s been rumbling around your head onto paper. You just charge ahead every day and at the end of November, you have a great start. It’s fun and free. So what are you waiting for.

http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/whatisnano

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Filed under Archives 2010, Writing

Quitting the Day Job

On Oct. 1, 2010, I quit my day job to focus on full-time writing.
Was I excited? You bet.
Was I ready to get to work? Oh yeah.
Was I terrified? Certainly.
Let me tell you how it came about.
One day I decided that I was not going to wait until I was sixty something to focus on writing. I paid off all my credit cards, let go my housekeeper, saved up dough and quit work.
My family and friends were so supportive, particularly my husband Jerry, who is still at his day job. It did take some good talking on my part. I told him that instead of being holed up in my office writing in the evenings, that I would write during the day, so we could spend more time together. We would save money on me not driving or buying work clothes or lunch, or going out to dinner because I was too damn tired to cook.
I got us used to living on his salary.
There will be sacrifices, like not going out to buy exactly what I want. But I pray the old saying — The more you make, the more you spend — will hold true.
While it will take time to get used to my new work schedule, I can hardly wait to start. (On the advice of my daughter, I took a day or two off to decompress and it was a great suggestion.)
When I am ready to start my newly revised career, I have four writing projects ready to work on. I also will save time during the week to market my writing. Hopefully, those projects will pay off with money, as well as personal reward.
I am so fortunate that I was able to quit the day job, to tell the stories that are bursting inside me. To try and fail, to do and succeed.
Now the real work starts, but it is what I love to do. And what more could any writer, in fact, any person ask for?

Patricia Marcantonio

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Filed under Archives 2010, Writing

Grabbing story ideas at Stricker Ranch

As a writer, I look for story ideas everywhere I go. Recently, Patricia Santos Marcantonio and I took in Fright Nights in Old Towne Twin as a way to increase our cache of stories. For two hours we heard about the history of Twin Falls County and some of the colorful people who lived there. Not only did we come away with a better understanding of the area, we also came home with several new story ideas.

What if a ghost really haunts the public library?
What if Lyda Trueblood isn’t really buried in the Twin Falls Cemetery?
What if Stricker Ranch really is haunted?

As The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz declared, “I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I doooo.”, I do believe there are good story ideas all around us. All you have to do is reach out and grab one.
-Bonnie Dodge

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Filed under Archives 2010, story ideas

Philosophizing on writing

During dinner one evening, my friend and I talked about family, what’s happening in the world and our backyard, but ultimately the discussion turned to writing. Our usual chat over sushi.

We each had stories that we were working on, so we brainstormed ideas, ironed out character bumps, filled in plot holes.

But that night, the talk turned deeper, to the basics of why we sit in front of the computer and produce thoughts, characters, words, stories, essays and poems. The question was what do we want to get out of writing.

It was a damn good question.

My friend said that while having her work published would be great, she strived for perfection. To make each word and sentence count, to make each meaningful and to make the story go forward. That was what was keeping her writing.

“And you’re writing for the money,” she said.

“No,” I answered. I wrote so that I could get to a place where I would have the freedom to write full-time.

I think we both said aloud something we had probably been thinking for a long time — What we wanted to get out of the writing.

That is a good question for all to ask.

Do we want recognition? Or to see our name in print? Do we want the joy of expressing those thoughts and feelings that seem out of place if we speak them?

I have friends who are freelance writers who must write to pay bills, while others want to tell the stories within them as only they can and want satisfaction from that process.

Others may want an outlet for creativity, as music and painting is for others.

My friend reminded me of what Joanne Pence, a best-selling author, said at the workshop sponsored by The Other Bunch in April. Joanne said that writing and publishing are two separate things.

That makes total sense because the discussion was not what we wanted out of publishing, but what we wanted out of writing. That indeed makes them two different things with two different directions and sometimes, the twain will never meet.

What do we want out of writing?

Our answers may change over time, or not. But there is no wrong answer.

There is just the writing.

– Patricia Marcantonio

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Filed under Archives 2010, Question of the Month, Writing

Handling Rejection

Question: How many rejection slips should I receive before I decide to give up on my article or story?

Answer: There are many reasons stories and articles are rejected. Some of the reasons have to do with weak manuscripts. Others reflect the market and the editor. Marion Zimmer Bradley, in her article, “Why Did My Story Get Rejected?” claims the main reason stories are rejected are because “editors feel that the particular story will not give their readers the kind of specific reading experience they want or expect . . .” Even if you are a great writer, if the story isn’t right for the market, it will be rejected. So, instead of looking at rejection slips as signs of failure, look at rejection slips as tips for improving and revising your work. Rejection, if used properly, can make your work better.

Common reasons manuscripts are rejected:

Theme was weak, morbid, or depressing
Weak plot
A similar story has already been published
Insincere story, writer lacks knowledge of human nature
No suspense
Lack of motive
Unfit, unsuitable, or untimely
Not in harmony with editorial policy
Too long, too short
Editor does not like it
Weak or slow pace
The story was not complete or had a weak ending
The characters were cardboard with no imagination
Nothing much happened in the story. It was boring

If you want to be a writer, you must develop a thick skin. A dozen publishers and sixteen agents rejected John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, before it was accepted for print. Frank Herbert’s, Dune was rejected twenty times before successfully reaching print. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected thirty-eight times before finally finding a publisher. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by a dozen publishers before a small London company published it.

Rejection slips sting. The best thing to do with them is use them to improve your manuscripts. Do your homework. Know who is publishing the kinds of stories you want to write. Write the best story you can write, then send it out again and again and again until you find that editor who loves your story as much as you do, and is willing to take it to market.

-Bonnie Dodge

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Filed under Archives 2010