Monday, November 25, 2013

How to Break through Writer Self-Doubt

Self-doubt. Yep, that’s where I’m at in my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) journey. Or at least it’s where I was at this morning.

Picture of Escape Key on Keyboard
Escape from Writer Self-Doubt

I’ve smoothed that away for now.

You see, I’ve been writing all month without worrying too much about how it’s coming out; I think my writing is better than the last time I participated in this crazy “competition.” I’ve been devouring writing craft books like an addict.

I understand story structure better now (among other things).

A couple of weeks ago I had my daughter read what I’d written and she approved. Since my book is YA, that made me happy. Last night though, when I tried to explain the story to her and her friend, I couldn’t tell them exactly where it’s going. Yes, even though I made an outline, it’s still coming out pantser-style.

I also haven’t managed to narrow this story down to one line. Yet.

After that moment of clarity, I distracted myself: I looked at vegan fudge recipes; I had a tickle fight with my son and dog; I read one of the many books in my stack, “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell; I read another book on craft, "Story Engineering" by Larry Brooks. Larry's books helped me a lot, by the way. I'm on my second read-through.


Still, I went to bed frustrated.

Then this morning during my trip to Trader Joe’s for pumpkin fudge supplies, I came upon a car that had “ELF” on its license plate. This wouldn’t normally stand out except this is the third time in two weeks I’ve seen that word on a license plate (and not on the same car).

Seconds later, I saw “PAP” on another plate, which helped me to understand: The character Elf (from the movie “Elf”) goes to New York City to meet his dad; I felt safe in deciding it was my dad saying hello.

As soon as I’d made that conclusion, I came upon another car that said, “New York Times Best Selling Author” on it. I kid you not. (And yes, I did speed up to see who was driving that car. Ha ha!)

As I was flipping between fantasy that my dad was telling me my book was going to be the next big hit--and self-doubt--another car pulled in front of me with “NYT” on it.

So was all of this craziness a message from dad? I like to think so.

Was he telling me my book is the next New York Times best seller? Not necessarily. (Hey, I'm trying to be positive here!)

I believe it was a message for me to let my frustration drive off into the distance so I can keep pecking away at the keyboard.

Whether it’s a best seller or not isn’t the point. This NaNoWriMo process is teaching me about how to break through my frustrated-writer days and keep on going. It is also teaching me about how I function best as a writer and how I can become better.

So How Can You Break through Self-Doubt?
  • Compare yourself to nobody else.
  • Write without editing.
  • Come up with a general outline and then connect the dots, filling in the spaces between the plot points.
  • Focus on your word count.
  • Find something to help you get “outside your head.” I listen to a radio station I created on Pandora called “Liquid Mind.”
  • Utilize prompts to break through moments of frustration. For the month of November, follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter.
  • Write with a buddy.
  • In your non-writing time, read about the craft of writing or read fiction and note what you think works or doesn’t work.

I hope and have faith that with increased knowledge, my days of self-doubt will grow fewer in number. Ultimately, it will be the drive inside myself that will keep me going.

Write on!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? I would love to know how you've been doing all month and if you have any tips for writing through the month. Thank you!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Always Learn From Nature

Birds Helping Birds

November came and with it, six
Birds of Paradise who peeked
out from solstice lull, beaks
pointed towards sunless sky
and winked at me as humming-
birds dipped and dived
inside for an autumn drink, made
me thankful nature's beings care
for each other when man
isn’t looking.


I've been so focused on my NaNoWriMo work-in-progress that I've been limping along with the PAD Chapbook Challenge at Poetic Asides. I managed to squeak the above poem out for the Day 20 prompt though: 

"For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Always (blank),” replace the blank with a new word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: “Always on My Mind,” “Always Wrong,” “Always Writing Poems That Don’t Sound as Good the Next Day,” etc."


Monday, November 11, 2013

People in Trees by Mikola Gnisyuk

Mikola Gnisyuk, “People in Trees” (via Baibakov Art Projects)

Stranger than Strangers

Perched on birch tree
limbs, they posed like squirrels 
resting, nibbling acorn meat, on high
alert for anything
out of the ordinary, mainly natives
beneath them
creating footsteps
in winter’s first dusting. 


Written for the Day 11 PAD Challenge prompt: 

For today’s prompt, we’re going to write ekphrastic poetry–or poetry based off another piece of art. In the past, I’ve provided paintings, but today, I’m picking photographs (for something a little different). You may use one of the images below or choose your own.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Inanimate Objects - The Necklace

Scrambling to keep up, this poem will need some more editing. But for now, you get the rough cut. Day 8 of the November PAD Chapbook Challenge.

Break the Chains

Heart-Shaped Necklace

Oh brittle heart, the hand
that shaped you, jagged,
flawed, once part drink
and shell, where pearls bloomed
from sand and friction, you embody
lover’s loyalty through lifetimes,
memory loss, meetings anew,
the heart placed in man-
made holder to be embraced
upon a throbbing chest, the one
he loved best, or so he swore,
for one minute stretched
beyond her mind past
infinity of time. Oh brittle
heart, you’re out of order now,
imperfections brought you down
sold the heart from love’s
weightless words, now just
a broken chain, forgotten
inside dusty drawer.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Why Bother Writing Poetry?

The past couple of days have been productive for me. I participated in the NaNoWriMo writing sprints and overcame the stuck place I was in on the book I'm writing. I'm moving right along in my class, have been selecting works for the January issue of Mouse Tales Press, and I'm also watching 2013 pass me by. 

How is it November already?

I need to catch up on the November PAD Challenge. The poem below is not part of the challenge. It's just something I've been thinking about for a while. If nobody reads your work, does writing matter?

Fallen Tree
The Empty Forest Lives On

Silence in My Penned Forest

My words are a birch
tree, fallen in autumn wind-
storm, no one around to hear.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Is Mid-Life Crisis Real?

Yes, I now understand that it is indeed real, and what it's all about. My train has arrived there. 

Part of the stage I’m going through, I’m sure has been brought on by my entrance into pre-menopause. I feel the “old” slipping away. Some of it is exciting, knowing I’m leaving it all behind to make way for the new. It’s also a little scary. And sad. I have to grieve for what has gone or is going away.

I don’t spend every day thinking about the people in my life who have "died" (literally or figurartively), though I know I write about it a lot. Sometimes I am moved to write a poem about one of them.

I tried some Zentangle this morning (thanks, Sabra, for officially introducing me to that term). Nothing good came out of it. At least no good art, but it got my emotions flowing.  

Wishing Farewell to the Old

I’m Your Paper Doll

My shape has been
captured, a cardboard cut-
out, too stiff to bend, water dis-
integrates me into softened
soggy mess, won’t dry
back the same
as before the flood. Throw
me into a box, an outfit
for each day. Stuck
in that black one
I wore to your


Monday, November 4, 2013

The Last Time I Was Stumped

Yes, I skipped Day Two (for now). This was written for the Day Three PAD Challenge prompt: 

"For today’s prompt, write a “the last time I was here” poem. Imagine you’re returning to a spot (physical, emotional, psychological, etc.): Is it a good thing? Bad thing? What did you leave behind (if anything)? What’s there to welcome you back (again, if anything)?"

Photo of Axe in Stump
Hopefully the Last Stump

The last time I was here,
resting on a stump, splintered
by word overload, alphabet
soup stewing in my brain,
trying to contain misplaced
energy, rope it, wrangle it,
pull it back in until frayed ends
meet-and-greet new beginnings
at restless fingertips,
keyboard, or unsharpened
tongue. I wish I could say the last
time I was here was the last
time, and words lived
happily ever after, but last
times always circle back around
to first times, rolling
like a stump, bumping
and jumping over earth’s
word(l)y imperfections. 


Friday, November 1, 2013

(It Appears) The Ship Has Landed

This was written for Day 1 of Robert Lee Brewer's November PAD Chapbook Challenge.

Where Astronauts Lift Off

You told me you would
make an appearance
after you lifted off, give me
a sign, a signal, a cue
to take a heavy
breath once your now breath-
less body had arrived
at its new destination,
weightless, where breathing
is not a requirement, where
you can be nowhere
and everywhere all at once.
Your message came by text.
It said you went on the voyage
of a death
time; in space there is no
oxygen. In Heaven, there
is no need.