I am truly learning and embracing the joy of ‘less is more.’ As I intentionally take the time to build the life that I imagine for myself, I am living the truth that I can create without hustle. I can be a success without embracing the lie that I need to be stressed to do it. I don’t have to do ‘it’ the way everyone has shouted that ‘it’ needs to be done.
The wisdom is to perform for an audience of ONE (Yeshua Jesus) and to learn how to be better than the person you were the day before.
I have no need to keep up with the Jones…I don’t even know who the Jones are, which makes it all the better. My life is unique and designed by Christ. It is my honor and privilege to discover that path and walk it in faith in His hands.
My hands and knees may get messy along the way since the path is cleared by each step I take. There is grace in this way, hope, peace, and the fullness of joy.
Our lives are a blessing and a gift to be treasured. What we each have to give individually strengthens the whole.
Less striving to be like everyone else allows more of me to shine through.
Welcome to Week 1 of “Sow the Seeds, Seize the Dream 12 Week Creative Course.” I have to say that more than anything I am super excited about embarking on this journey with you.
No matter what your creative goals are, I want to see you soar!
Taking the steps, harnessing the faith and courage to walk on the waters of our curious creativity, is a grand thing and certainly not one to be taken lightly.
This is a big deal. You, making the decision to find your creative voice, to try something outside of your comfort zone, but oh so impressed upon your heart with a million ‘what ifs’ is a big deal.
The reality is everything will be as good as it is meant to be in the stage of development that it is in.
Today we begin with a simple but necessary introduction to the path we are going to take. Like with any journey, it is important that one counts the cost and gets ready for the road ahead.
The biggest hurdle we as creatives must leap over (we as humans) is that of ‘Perfectionism.’
PERFECTIONISM: The inability to accept anything that is below the standard of perfection.
Today, I just want to talk to you about how crippling ‘perfectionism’ can be and give you a few steps to move beyond this so-called giant.
I remember for over a period of five years I had gathered a mouthwatering collection of art supply, from paints to pens, paper, canvases … you name it, I pretty much had it. All of it gathered to create glorious art, but all of it gathered little more than dust as the fear of making something less than perfect crippled my hands from moving.
For five years my creativity bottle-necked because I was afraid to mess up the cotton fibers of my papers. I was simply afraid, afraid my results would not match my original design, afraid I would fail, afraid I wouldn’t measure up to the expectations of others … simply afraid.
Can you relate to that?
Many of us have a dream but do nothing with it, not because we are careless, but because we have become overly careful. Many times this ‘care’ which is actually insecurity and worry is birthed the fear of not being good enough.
The reality is everything will be as good as it is meant to be in the stage of development that it is in.
As the book of Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 puts it: “What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”
A five-year-old playing a mean tune of “Chopsticks” has done a fantastic job even though that song doesn’t compare in the minds of many to “Moonlight Sonata.” But if the five-year-old continues to try his or her hand at simplistic tunes until their muscles have learned to flow into something like “Jingle-Bells,” then there is hope that they will grow into pieces composed by Mozart and Beethoven.
This truth holds the same for ALL CREATIVES. We have to make peace with the truth that growing in our creativity is a messy business and will require some keys being played out of tune, some colors being poorly mixed, even some words being used out of context.
The mistakes are all a part of the growth process and actually, some things birthed out of imperfection have actually proven to be quite perfect. Here are a few examples:
Cream Cheese: Cream cheese was the IMPERFECT mistake made in 1872, created by American dairymen, William Lawrence of Chester, N.Y. In Mr. Lawrence’s attempt to create the French cheese called Neufchatel, he imperfectly, yet perfectly, created Cream Cheese which is a hit! I mean what is a bagel without cream cheese, and don’t get me started on cheesecake.
Ganache: I heard it on a Food show years ago that this chocolatey delight was created by a chef ‘accidentally’ and thusly, imperfectly knocking cream into some heated chocolate. In his attempt to create something else, this confection was invented.
Chocolate Chip Cookies: In 1938 American Chefs, Ruth Graves Wakefield and Sue Brides imperfectly yet perfectly came up with just about every cookie lover’s dream. Now, according to some, the chef’s were attempting to create a chocolate cookie, believing that the chocolate chips would melt in the batter only to find that the did not, but no one is complaining over that!
The point of these delicious examples is that there are people the world and time over who have stepped out of their comfort zones to attempt something new to them only to be blessed by the results of their imperfection. (I used food examples to whet your creative appetites.) They had a dream and vision for something and what they ended up with, although imperfect by some standards, ended up being better than they had imagined. They didn’t just set out to be perfect they set out to take hold of their creative dreams.
Today, we have the same opportunity as the folks mentioned. We can step out, divorcing the fear of perfectionism, but raising our expectation for something good to happen in us and through us creatively over the next 12 weeks.
CREATIVE FAITH IN ACTION:
Commit to a new definition of perfection. Find perfection in the ‘completion’ of each creative step required to get you from dream to vision, not in the flawless result of what you currently view as perfect. (For each person, this will be different. What is needed for an amateur make-up artist to complete is not the same as an aspiring author. )
Commit to attempting your creative endeavor while embracing the glory of imperfection. As Zig Ziglar put it, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly . . . until you can learn to do it well.”
Commit to acknowledging the goodness in each effort you have made toward your dream and call it ‘good.’ As in the dawn of Creation, The Lord God, at the end of His daily efforts of Creation, He blessed His work and called it GOOD! Yes, He had a bigger picture in mind (end result) but He acknowledged the goodness in the steps He’d made toward that goal. We have to do the same.
Those two words wield a whole lot of power, evoking emotions from giddy excitement to brain numbing dread.
Some writers stand strong on the side of excitement, ready to throw down words and metaphors like hot fire, while others battle cold sweats and nausea at the single thought of how many words it’s going to take to bring their creative vision to life.
I digress for just a moment. If you are one of those who struggles with where to begin with your novel-writing-journey, give this writing prompt I created a try. It’s called Write Your Novel in 365 Days.
With as few as 200 words a day, guided by a single word of the day to inspire you, you can have a complete novel written from start to finish in 365 days!
And just remember, your 365 day writing year starts on the day you begin. It could even be today!
Back to the original point.
No matter where you stand on the first-draft-spectrum, you will more often than not, run into those familiar feelings that try to convince you that what you are doing, or what you’ve done thus far just isn’t good enough in comparison to your original vision! (For some specific encouragement about that issue, read, 3 Reasons to Keep Creating.)
Your first draft is similar to a preliminary sketch in an artist’s sketchbook.
The point is, those thoughts you are having aren’t necessarily as untrue as they are irrelevant at the moment.
Now, let me explain my meaning before you leave this posting.
You are writing a first draft. Your first draft is similar to a preliminary sketch in an artist’s sketchbook. Sketches are lovely in their own right, but they are nothing compared to the polished finished piece.
The finished piece will have more color, more contrast, more depth. More care and focus is given to the finished piece.
This is the truth of your first written draft. It is a sketch. It’s good enough now as a ‘sketch’, but prepare yourself to make it even better as a final draft. . . and you will!
With that being said, here are 5 Crucial Things to Remember about your first draft to encourage you as you continue on this writing journey:
Just keep writing: First drafts don’t have to be perfect, they just have to BE in order to be worked into something incredible. Keep building your story’s foundation with this first round of word-slinging.
Don’t make the story into something that it is not: There is a saying in the visual art world that is, “Create what you see, not what you think you see.” In the case of writing, “Write what you see, not what you wish to see for convenience.” If you want to derail your stories authenticity and originality, try to fit it into a mold that makes you “comfortable,” but totally contradicts what the characters in your piece are laying out for you.
TRUST THE PLOT TO WORK ITSELF OUT!: If your story seems to have a conflict that has you uncertain about how it is going to resolve itself, don’t worry. If you follow your muse and honor point #2 the resolution will reveal itself at the appropriate time. For more on this read my post called, “The Hydra Effect: 3 Ways to Manage Multiple Plot Conflicts”.
Don’t mind the word count…too much: (Obviously, 200k is a lot to manage for a reader and even a writer at times.) Just write what the story is telling you in ALL the words that it tells you the first time around. You can trim and polish later.
Just have fun: What other reason is there for writing fiction besides to have fun?
So keep writing, my friends. Make those ugly word messes in your first draft. Create those run-ons and those dead end plot twists. All of this is part of the glory of writing a story!
You ever have that moment where you have been working on your novel all day, and the writing is so good that it has completely eaten up the reality around you? You are literally in your book.
Being word weary is when you have all of the meat of the story ready to be devoured, but no teeth to chew it.
Ideas are coming at you faster than bullets from a gun, the story is kicking, the plot is thickening…your eyes…your eyes are getting more tired by the minute, No! second. You are hitting the wrong keys left and right, slowing down your once brilliant pace.
What in the world is happening?!
You are Word Weary. ( I totally made up this phrase up…Just go with it.)
First, what is Word Weary? It is when your imagination is going 200mph, but your brain and cognitive skills are going 5mph and slowing with each key stroke.
You are thinking one thing and typing something else. It’s a mess.
Being word weary is when you have all of the meat of the story ready to be devoured, but no teeth to chew it.
Your body is awake and hyped up on adrenaline but your eyes have tapped out.
It simply means you are tired. It’s okay to be tired and even more so to rest. It is better to rest than run on fumes. The worst things happen when we write on fumes.
WHY SHOULDN’T WE WRITE WHEN WORD WEARY?:
When you are weary, anxiety kicks in, and with anxiety that beast called ‘Frustration’, that tells you to rush everything just to get it out.
What should have been detailed, fantastic scenes, full of punch and climactic power, end up confused, stuttered, and limp like cold spaghetti noodles.
All that fire of your creativity will get quenched by exhaustion and confusion will rob you of your train of thought.
When you read that section of writing later, you will think of it as junk, lose interest in what should have been a great nugget of creative work.
What could have been a great idea for later, has now turned to dust and fallen through the crevices of your keyboard.
WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?:
Your imagination was no longer flowing smoothly with the rest of your skills and everything became a frustrated blur.
But you just HAD to write a few more words, right? WRONG!
SO WHAT DO YOU DO IN THESE MOMENTS?:
Some people get a caffeine fix, but even that will buy you only so much concentration time.
There is a saying in visual art that is, “Know when to cut off your own hand.” The phrase is referring to knowing when a piece is finished before you take it from great to ruined with one stroke, and to a point of no return.
As writers, we need to know when to “cut off our own hands” or at least bind them for a time especially when we are WORD WEARY.
When we feel our eyes growing heavy from looking at a computer screen for hours, we should give ourselves a break:
Jot down our ideas and come back to them later.
Write them (type them) like you would a quick synopsis.
Record them with a voice recorder just as if you were writing the scene out by hand, and then type it later. There are so many options.
FOR THE FUTURE:
If you are not already in the habit of doing so, plan blocks of time to write. This will help keep you from becoming frustrated with Word Weariness.
Try to write at least 1 hour a day to no more than 3 hours per session if you choose to have more than one writing session a day.
I am still working out the kinks with this, but I know it is successful because I used this system two three years in a row for NaNoWriMo, and was able to have more than 50,000 viable words before the end of 30 days. It also kept me from wearing myself out.
Now I am allotting at least 1.5 hours a day to Ascension Graveyard during the day, with 1.5+ hours in the evening for editing and revising other works.
Writing, being creative is an organic, asymmetrical expression, that although free flowing, still needs to be tamed. It’s wise to catch it when it sparks, but just like a fire that is left uncontrolled, it will burn you out when it was only meant to warm you.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS? WHAT DO YOU DO TO KEEP FOR BECOMING WORD WEARY?
Writing. We don’t just do it because we love it. Most of us do it because we have to. The blessing of this ‘have to’ is that we actually enjoy it.
What I find most enjoyable are the moments I realize I’ve gained a greater level of freedom with my craft as I mature into my craft.
So how does one know they have achieved greater levels of maturity?
Here are 5 helpful hints:
1. You are no longer concerned with the timelines of others: So what your writer friend has successfully published 2 books within the last year and you have yet to dish out your debut novel. A ‘good-for-them’ is not a ‘bad-for-you’. They aren’t your competition.
‘Keeping up with the Jones’ or for Millennials, the ‘Kardashians’ is NOT an issue for you. You’ve learned to write at your own pace and respect the flow of your creativity, while celebrating the successes and milestones of others.
You realize your only competition is your own potential. Are you achieving it?
2. You no longer beat yourself up for not meeting your projected word count for the day: Sure, you enjoy hitting the nail directly on the head but you applaud yourself for giving an honest effort.
3. You rejoice and are grateful for the words you did dish out in a given day: Good viable words in a novel are NOT a dime a dozen. If you’ve been pursuing a writing career for long, you’ve already learned to NOT believe that hype.
To that end, you are grateful for every pearl that drops from your fingertips.
4. On word count, you realize that quality is always better than quantity: The less rambling you’ve done in your story means the less time it will take to revise it and make it shine.
You are all about good time management. The less clean-up required means the quicker you can move on to your next creative writing adventure.
5. (If you are a blogger) You’ve learned the customer isn’t always right, or rather the ‘troll’ leaving harsh, critical comments isn’t worth your emotional energy: You have embraced your right to monitor your comments section. You have a ‘delete’ button and aren’t afraid to use it!
We all know that “taking out the garbage” makes the room smell better. After all, feeding the trolls does take away from your writing time and again you are all about time management.
BONUS: You are all about creative growth so you celebrate what your real Followers, Fans, and Writing Friends have to say!: These folks believe in your craft as much as you do. They want to see you shine. When they give you a ‘thumbs-up’ or a ‘not-so-thumbs-up’ you take it and learn from it. You grow.
Creativity is growth. And we all grow at a different pace. So enjoy your journey along the way! After all, making the most of each moment is what maturity is all about.
*Note: This post is an updated version from one I created in 2014. Nevertheless, eat up!…I mean, who doesn’t like leftovers?
It amazes me how something as simple as Chopsticks can actually hold very profound power. After all, basic chopsticks are fashioned from two pieces of wood.
They are nothing more than sticks, but to use them, to be able to feed yourself with them takes practice and elegant form.
When thinking further about the analogy I made between Chopsticks and Time management, I realized the same holds true with creativity as a whole. To that end, I am to give you 3 tidbits to help you along your creative path.
Your art is a living, organic thing. Allow it to grow in its own way.”~ Crystal Robinson Clark
Years ago, I was having a conversation with my eldest sister, Crystal, about my art not doing what I wanted it to do and certainly not doing it within the window of time that I had set for it.
Crystal’s response was that “Your art is a living organic thing. Allow it to grow in its own way.” Referencing chopsticks made me think of this . Ruminating on the connection gave birth to the image below. (It’s more a diagram really)
A few years ago, while having lunch with some of my friends who are Korean, I learned that a person who holds the smallest amount of their chopsticks happens to be very proficient. In other words, the person who takes up the LEAST of controlled space, actually has the MOST power and control.
An employer who is able to have friendly relationships with his/her employees but still receives the utmost respect and honor from them is a person who takes up the Least but has the Most.
This comes from confidence. You can hold the reins with a lighter hand when you are confident in your position.
When it comes to time management, writing, creating visual art, I, like many others, have strained to make things happen in the exact way that I envisioned because of some type or form of fear. I was working out of a place of low creative confidence.
I shook those shackles off of my writing years ago and I am so glad that I did. My fiction has grown much stronger because of it. There is nothing more exhilarating than to be in the midst of typing and your main character suddenly makes a shocking decision that makes you gasp because you didn’t even see it coming.
I remember the first time this happened and me, shaking my head saying “Octavia! Why did you do that?! You are so stupid!” This is true organic creativity in action or writing with chopsticks.
I always have a “recipe” for my plot lines but I do not marry myself to them…I hold my writing chopsticks covering as little space as possible, leaving the rest to organic growth.
Some might be thinking, “Well, Candice, what do you do with ideas that pop in your head about a particular storyline you are working on?” Simple, I write those ideas down and keep them in a separate file.
I very rarely trash an idea altogether. Even if in the present moment it doesn’t seem to have a place, that doesn’t mean it won’t have a place in the future.
I like to think of these files as my “literary spice cabinet.” (I’ve mentioned this several times before.) When I come to a place in my manuscript that needs a little something special, I open up my file and I find the right plot twist, add it to my story and see if it works. I am guiding my creativity this way, not controlling it.
The same holds true for visual arts. I was taught in undergrad over a decade ago, that ratio of time for drawing is 30 to 70. I am to spend 30% of my time looking at my canvas or paper and 70% of the time looking at the form that I am capturing. This way I “draw what I see and not what I think I see.”
This is only relevant if you are creating from life, the 30 to 70, but it speaks again to being confident in your skill. Control says look at your paper more than the object you are recreating, while organic process says just flow.
In closing I want to encourage with the 3 tidbits I had woven in this posting:
1. Be free with your process: Remember what Crystal said, art is organic, so let your art grow in its own way…even if you have to trim the hedges later.
2. Hold your reins with an easy but steady hand: Only cover or control what is absolutely necessary to guide your art but allow it to become what it is meant to be.
Art is after all a lot like children. Children raised with overbearing, overprotective, controlling hands, never really grow up to become confident, able adults. Their potential gets stifled. They are birds with fragile wings or trees that never reach the sun.
Which leads us to our last tidbit…
3. Be confident in your ability: You’ve been given a gift so use it. Raise your creativity/child with confidence!
Children guided with a hand of confident authority typically end up being well-rounded adults, given just the right balance of boundary and freedom to become what they were meant to be.
So you’ve decided that you are going to finally sit down and write a novel. Fantastic! Making the decision to actually sit down and do so tends to be one of the hardest parts of the novel writing journey.
But more difficult than anything is the art of bringing your story from the start of its labor pains clear into a fulfilling delivery.
Let me begin by quoting a part of Scripture from the book of Isaiah:
Isaiah 37:3b “…for the children have come to the birth, and there is no strength to give birth.
To every trial and trouble, no matter how great the fruit, there tends to be one common denominator, that my friend is the root. ~ Candice Coates
The root cause of what keeps so many brilliant writers from accomplishing their goal of completing their novel is DISCOURAGEMENT.
Discouragement takes many forms and comes from many directions, some external while others internal, but all can rob us of our strength to carry on to the end.
Rather than mapping out a list of discouragements that keep you from completing your novel, I am going to encourage you to declare 3 reasons or more for why you are writing in the first place.
Whatever your 3 reasons are, I’d like for you to think of them as the 3 branches that form the anchor that keeps you steady during any discouraging storm.
Here are 3 reasons (but not the only reasons) why I write:
1. I write because it is cathartic: Writing a story, word-weaving is very relaxing. It brings me a sense of joy and pleasure.
Remembering that I write for self-relaxation removes the pressure of performance. If I have achieved my therapeutic goal by jotting down a few fictional words, then I have done well.
2. I write because I love to tell a story: Being able to give life to the characters that live in my head is an honor and privilege, one that allows me a get away from the cares of reality without even leaving the comfort of my home…although I do enjoy actual travel.
3. I write because I enjoy the challenge: I love trying new things in art, be it visual or written. Being able to put my own spin on a certain genre is something that gets my blood flowing.
To not have the answers, but to discover a new way of weaving words to present an age old topic like romance or science fiction is a reward all in itself.
So, why do YOU write? Taking the time to create your anchor is such an important part of your writing journey and process.
For me, remembering the therapeutic benefits, the love of the process, and the challenge of trying something new, always brings me back to my keyboard.
Remember what called you to yours in the first place and let those reasons be what keeps you there as you start and finish your novels!
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Without further ado, here are 9 things Kristin recommends for us to better balance our Blogging lives.
1. Get Up Early
Easier said than done. If I get up one hour before I usually do to get ready for work I never have the excuse to not blog. And when no one else is awake yet, you get a lot done.
The only way to get up early one day is to set an alarm and go to bed early the next night.
2. Pick Your Place
I prefer to write in quiet. I like to be alone with my thoughts. But some people like to be in busy coffee shops, hotels, and now I hear airports are great for people watching.
Some people get along well in nature where I will never dare bring my MacBook. But you have to choose what’s right for you!
3. Set a Timer
It’s easy to promise yourself to stay put even if it’s just forty five minutes. That’s ample time to get your mind going. Even if you sit for five without inspiration, it will come to you.
4. Consider it an Event
If your blog/book/whatever is really that important to you, you will make a date with yourself to make time for it. Everyone has time. We only say we’re too busy when everything else is a priority. It has to be a priority.
5. Stay in One Night
Some people are busier in than out i.e.: children, etc. But the idea is to have a night where you set up your posts for the week. Or you promise to write x amount of words of your novel.
6. Make Good Use of Your Time
It really depends on the lifestyle one has for all of these to work for you, so do what’s best for you! But, if you have ten minute breaks at work, use them to devote to responding to comments and Tweeting out your promotions.
If you have an hour lunch and it drags on in a poorly lit break room, use that time to write whatever you can. It’s also a good way to really take a break from your job because writing gets you out of reality.
7. Use the Same Computer Every time You Write
There was a time and by once upon a time, I mean last month, where I had three computers going. It was a mess. I work from home and I had my work laptop in my office, my old laptop next to it, my new MacBook on the side and I would have bought a bigger desk had I not been moving out of the country!
I wiped the old one out, gave my work computer back to my boss, and consolidated everything onto the new one. For a while, I would sneak writing into my work laptop which isn’t a good idea because if you’re not smart about it or your boss hates you they will find it.
But I worked from home, there were just too many laptops on my desk! Or, you have to transfer all these files over, you aren’t paying attention to character names, etc., and things get weird. It’s better to have it all in the same place.
8. Sit at a Desk
You need to be focused. Not in bed where you get tired. That just hurts my back from the slouch-a-while-nestly. Not at the dining room table where things spill. Not at the coffee table where your partner is watching television unless you really tune it out, and not next to your bills, accounts, receipts, phone, email, and whatever else is open to distract you.
9. Second Drafts
OK I’m totally not guilty of doing these in a previous life (like my last blog). I would get overzealous and post things immediately, like without reading them. Because it’s a blog, not a novel, right?
That was fun in the beginning and if that’s what kind of carefree blog you want to have then I say go for it. I don’t think writing is meant to be polished. And I started my blog just as a whatever kind of thing but it morphed into much more once I got more serious about it.
I thought the seriousness would = not fun anymore, but it’s really not the truth! I take time to do visuals now which is something I loathed. I reread my stuff the next day to check for tone and add anything I may have thought of after. But tone is a big one.
Sometimes I think I’m being funny and then I’m like, you just went very, very dark, dude lol. This extra twenty minutes of your life will be the difference between good and better.
Thank you, BlondeLucy, for stopping in and sharing. The pen and pad are yours!
5 Encouragements I would give to my younger writing self on what is most important about writing. By Blonde Lucy
As a fresh faced and eager newbie writer, you need lots of encouragement. Writing is not easy and at times, it can reduce you to a snivelling wreck.
This is what I would say to my younger self:
Forget the Writing Course at the local college. Expensive and a waste of time.
Forget the ‘Writing’ self-help books. Expensive and a waste of time.
Write! Just sit and write.
Write until you have nothing left inside you and then wake early to write more the next day.
Write and write until words dance in front of your eyes.
Writing every day for a few years is what makes a writer grow and develop.
I would say:
Start your blog. Post daily and use this a form of writing training. It is your daily workout.
Grow your Twitter following. Don’t be shy or afraid. Don’t think you are bothering people. Tweet. At first, no one will re-tweet or like your stuff but just keep tweeting and hash-tagging. Be consistent.
Listen to your gut instinct. You know what you want to write. Don’t be led by others. Don’t be persuaded to write for others. Write what you want to write.
Take part in a weekly blog battle or writing contest. This will be hard but it will sharpen your writing and enable you to forge friendships and networks with other writers. Learn from other writers through doing this. Make a point of reading all the entries and comparing them to yours. Look to see how the more advanced writers are describing objects and events. Look at their sentence structure. Soak it up like a sponge.
Enjoy it! Don’t get wrapped up in ‘when will I be published?’ daydreams. They are just a distraction. Be mindful and enjoy the little things about your writing; the mad scribble which starts an idea, the burst of excitement when you think of something new, the first time you hear a character talk to you and that feeling of pride when you complete your first draft.
Write my friend. Don’t stop!
Learn your trade and be grateful for your creative gift.