Friday, February 5, 2016

There is an ‘I’ in Writing: Self-Care for the Writer


By Linda Rettstatt


Many writers, me included, can be so caught up in writing that we forget to take care of ourselves. How do we care for and nurture the writer in us? We can get bogged down with too many projects going on at once and deadlines, deadlines, deadlines to meet. Our lives become cluttered. I was thinking about this today as I gazed around my apartment at the physical clutter. It’s hard to tap into my creative side when I’m surrounded by chaos. So, what do I do? I pack up my laptop and head to a coffee shop—where I’m surrounded by other people’s chaos.

Sometimes I can tune that out, but not always. I fall into a trap of non-productivity. Creating and maintaining a pleasant writing space is only part of caring for ourselves as writers.

Writing, in itself, is a solitary venture. I can lean toward becoming a hermit if I’m not careful. Part of caring for myself is making the time and finding the ways I can connect with friends, especially with other writers. A few writer friends and I meet every Thursday night at a local Panera Bread for what we call Authors Unplugged. We eat, chat, and then each work for about an hour on something (a book, a short story, editing, etc.). During our conversations, we might brainstorm, talk about upcoming conferences, and just share what’s going on in our lives.

Another suggestion I have for those of you engaged in writing is an annual writer’s retreat. Find a comfortable, affordable place (which is easier if you have a group of four to six people) and plan your own writer’s retreat weekend. Lesson learned: Do not spend most of your to-and-from days driving. Look nearby, within a three-hour or less driving distance. It’s a great way to step back from your routine, immerse yourself in the writing world, but also take time to relax.

Give yourself a break. Seriously. No one will do that for you. Step away from the laptop (or whatever instrument you use for writing). Take a day off and play. Spend time with family and friends. Don’t become enslaved to your writing that the ‘work’ of writing takes all the joy out of the process. Remember to laugh with friends, enjoy a meal with family, and just breathe.

When it comes to the care and feeding of the ‘I’ in writer, what works for one person might not work for another. Listen to yourself. Learn the things that nurture and free your creativity and do more of those things. If you don’t take care of your writer-self, no one else will.
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Linda Rettstatt is an award-winning author who discovered her passion for writing after years of working in the human services field. When she’s not writing, Linda loves travel, nature photography, and figuring out what makes people tick. Her fantasy is to win the lottery, buy an old Victorian home on the eastern shore and open a writer’s retreat. While she waits for that fantasy to materialize (i.e. that miracle to happen), she continues to live and work in NW Mississippi and to write under the constant observation of her tuxedo cat, Binky. Visit Linda’s website at www.lindarettstatt.com  Twitter:  @linda_rettstatt
Facebook:  Linda Rettstatt, Writing for Women  


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Is Your Writing Stuck? Relax on a Brown Sofa


By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine



Well, not really. I have a delightfully quirky friend named Sharon. We are kindred spirits. The other day, on Facebook, she posted this; "I've seen several trucks moving furniture, lately. In the bed of the truck, is a chocolate brown sofa with square wooden feet. I've seen this same sofa in TN, AR, and TX. My theory is that it's the same sofa. It just travels around never being unloaded."

This post struck my funny bone in a big way. After dropping my phone and breaking out into noisy laughter, for 5 minutes my mind began to concoct a witty response. However, it eluded me. Instead, all I could think about is Sharon's "traveling sofa." I told Sharon she should write a story about the sofa. Then was struck with an idea.

My current work in progress is a mystery series with an eccentric protagonist. She probably owns Sharon's brown sofa. I have not written much since the holidays on my WIP. I took a month-long creative sabbatical and was stuck as to how best to jump back into writing everyday on my WIP. I decided to use Sharon's "traveling sofa" post as a writing exercise to get the creative juices flowing. The result was two days straight of productive 20 hours of writing.


I highly recommend you find your own "traveling brown sofa." Take a browse through Facebook and find a wacky post that piques your interest. Be sure to set a timer for no more than 15 minutes because we all know that Facebook can be a black hole without a time limit.

Focus on only one Facebook post and begin to weave those words. Write for 10 minutes without stopping. Then transition and begin writing on your WIP. See how this writing exercise helps you get back on track with your WIP getting you "unstuck."

Just try it. What have you got to lose?






Wednesday, February 3, 2016

When the Inspiration Runs Out


By Andrea Merrell


I’ve heard people say, “I write because I can’t not write.” Maybe not the best way to say it, but you get the point. We write because that’s what we do. It’s who we are. It’s in our DNA. Sometimes ideas tumble so fast we can hardly keep up. Fingers fly across the keyboard as words pour out of our heart.

But what about those times when the well seems stopped up and the words don’t flow? What happens when we sit at the computer with our fingers poised—waiting for divine inspiration to strike—but nothing happens?

That’s when we dig deeper and allow our relationships and experiences to bring new vitality to our stories. Inspiration is all around us; all we have to do is be alert.

I love it when God sparks an idea in my devotional reading or when I’m absorbed in a novel by one of my favorite Southern authors. Sometimes I get ideas from a good movie or from listening to my five noisy granddaughters as they interact with each other. Some people get inspiration from nature, sunsets, and cuddly pets. If all else fails, a brisk walk is sure to clear the cobwebs and get those creative juices circulating.

Inspiration comes in many different forms and can happen when we least expect it, but allow me to offer three surefire sources: passion, knowledge, and pain.

Passion
What are you passionate about? What brings joy to your heart and tears to your eyes? What moves you with compassion? Find what drives you, and channel that passion into your writing. You’ll be amazed at the depth of your prose.

Knowledge
Draw from your training and expertise. Infuse your knowledge into your writing so others can benefit. Then stretch outside your comfort zone. Do some research and talk to professionals who can help you write about things that interest you.

Pain
To me, one of the most important resources is pain. Every one of us has faced and conquered difficult situations and circumstances. Our victories can bring encouragement to our readers. When I wrote Praying for the Prodigal, it came as the result of five long years of dealing with rebellious and destructive behavior from both of my children. Even though re-living many of the events was painful, tremendous healing took place as I told my story. Now, my story is bringing hope to others dealing with a prodigal. In God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted.

Your situation might be caring for an elderly parent. Maybe you’re struggling with weight loss, chronic illness, divorce, or even the death of a loved one. Turn those struggles into inspiration.

I believe our greatest words can come from our greatest pain. I also believe the more open, honest, and transparent we are with our readers, the more they can relate and the more impact our words will have on them. When our words are relevant and ring with truth, we have the ability to touch a hurting soul with encouragement and hope.
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Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also a freelance editor and has taught workshops at various writers’ conferences, including: Writers Advance Boot Camp, KCWC, and the CLASS Christian Writers’ Conference. Andrea is the author of Murder of a Manuscript and Praying for the Prodigal. She has been published in numerous anthologies and online venues. For more information, visit www.AndreaMerrell.com or www.TheWriteEditing.com.  You may also connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

School––Again?


By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine


It occurred to me last Monday, it was time to plan my schedule for the year in regards to working on my writing skills. Well, all of a sudden, it seemed overwhelming. How was I going to work that in this year with the schedule I already have. After all, there is my work, teaching a writers group, visiting and spending time with my children, siblings, and most important spending time with my husband, and the other areas, such as coffee with friends, etc.

I am one of these that believe we need continuing education each year to refresh what we know or learn new skills. Keeping our skills and minds fresh in what we do is important.  Most professions require continuing educational courses to keep their credentials.

For writers, although we normally don’t have to do this for “credentials”, we might consider doing this to make our writing better, fresher and taking our skills to the next level.

Obviously, with my work schedule with Southern Writers Magazine, I can’t find a time right now to go to the University and take one or more of their great courses, so for me the next best thing is to fit my schedule around “on-line” courses. Fortunately, some universities offer these. Now, there are free writing courses I understand on-line, however, I would certainly want to check those out before signing up and giving them my information. Not saying any are bad, just saying I will do my research.

One thing for sure this year, whichever course I choose to take, I will want to make sure of two things: There is a deadline and I have a week to complete each assignment. Without these two important factors for me, I will not be able to complete the course.

How about you, are you thinking in terms of refreshing some of your writing skills or perhaps learning new ones? If you are, please share your information on the places that offer good programs.

Have a fantastic year writing those words you have in your head!



Monday, February 1, 2016

Opening the Door to My Writing


By Shannon L. Brown


Writers have often heard that they should write what they know. I ran fast and far from that advice for years, not wanting to live in the past. I researched and credibly wrote about places I’d never seen and things I’d never experienced.

Then I discovered that writing what I know is more than telling my life story (which most of you wouldn’t want to read about). After writing hundreds of articles for small publications, I decided to embrace something from my past, knowledge gained growing up in a jewelry store. That eventually earned me a slot as the contributing editor of a jewelry trade journal and a writing award. Score one for write what you know.

My first novel, a middle grade mystery, is set in a fictitious town, but each of the two main characters have pieces of my personality in them. One of them enjoys hiking and wearing jeans, the other likes girly girl clothes, makeup and shopping. One loves chocolate, the other fruit. I’m both of these girls. I discovered that when you include pieces of yourself, the characters easily come alive. The response from readers has been positive as they try to decide which character they’re most like.

My second novel delved deeper into my past. I now live in the South, but I was born and raised in Alaska. As I began plotting the first clean romance in a series, I invented a small town just outside of Nashville. Then within twenty-four hours three people I’m close to told me I should write a book about Alaska.

But the past was the past. I wanted to live in the present and the future. I’m from an admittedly romantic place, but every place seems ordinary when it’s part of your life. After much prayer, I did set the book in Alaska, choosing an actual small town I loved as a child, one outside my home city of Anchorage. Something new happened as I wrote this book. It felt colorful and alive. Like the fun in skipping a rock on a pond, the happiness continued as the story vividly came to life. When you intimately know a location, it takes on a texture that it can’t from a casual acquaintance. And a wonderful side benefit is that I discovered that people love reading books about Alaska.

My past includes places and careers that yours does not. That doesn’t make yours any less interesting, and they may well be more interesting. Whether you’re from a small town or a big city, people enjoy reading about both. The schools you attended, the street you lived on, or currently live on, the jobs you’ve held, each can make a contribution to a solid piece of writing without having it become a memoir.

I found that opening the door to my past opened the door to my writing future. You may have doors that should be opened too.
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Shannon L. Brown was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and writes books that are fun and touch your heart. You'll see parts of Shannon's life and personality scattered throughout each of them. The clean romance Falling for Alaska is the first book in the Alaska Dream Romance series. The Feather Chase is a mystery for ages 8-12 and the first book in the Crime-Solving Cousins mystery series. Shannon spent years writing articles, but now devotes most of her writing time to novels. She lives in Tennessee, with her professor husband and calico cat. You can find Shannon at Website: www.shannonlbrown.com,  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shannonlbrownauthor Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27249246-falling-for-alaska Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/shannonlbrown1/


Friday, January 29, 2016

Being a Writer


By Deborah H. Bateman


As a writer it is easy to get caught up in doing all the things that go along with being a writer besides writing our books, such as: blogging, marketing, social media, writing conferences, speaking, etc. The list can go on and on. If we aren’t careful we can become obsessed with all of it and forget that we are human beings with many other needs including spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and financial.

Many of us have other roles to play in our lives. We may be parents, spouses, and some of us even employees. We have families to care for, relationships to tend to, and a house to clean, just to mention a few. We have to remember that writing is not our life; it is a part of our life. If we aren’t careful it can consume our lives and cause us to sacrifice some of the things that are most important to us.

I am preaching to the choir as I am writing this article in the middle of the night, but what can you do when you wake up with something on your mind, but get up and write it down. That’s what we writers do. These are lessons that I have had to learn and am continuing to learn. If we neglect our families, our homes, our relationships, and our own personal needs all for the sake of writing what kind of life will we have. We need to learn to carve out time for our writing in our lives, and all the things that go along with it and not let it be our life. I challenge you to examine your life today and see what areas you are neglecting and see how you can improve your life.  
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Deborah H.Bateman is an Author, publisher, blogger and website designer. She is the founder of Christian Daily Resources, a Christian online ministry dedicated to "Sharing God's Word." Deborah was born and raised in South Carolina, where she still resides with her husband. She has two beautiful daughters and five precious grandchildren. Besides writing and publishing books, Deborah enjoys cooking, interior decorating, and crafts. Deborah is the author of the books in the Daily Bible Reading Series. Deborah's Daily Bible Reading blog has been moved to her author site at: http://DeborahHBateman.com/blog. She is also the author of Bible Verse Tweet blog where she shares daily Bible studies and Bible verses at http://bibleversetweet.com You can check out her website at: http://ChristianDailyResources.com. Deborah enjoys "Sharing God's Word" and empowering others to share their message. Deborah's author site at: http://DeborahHBateman.com/. Deborah has a blog on her author site where she shares Daily Bible Reading and some self-publishing tips, digital publishing tips, indie publishing tips, book marketing tips, writing tips, and social media tips check it out at: http://DeborahHBateman.com/blog


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Someday Isle


By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine    


Someday Isle
Someday Isle is a beautiful place
That glows and glistens in the sun
A beautiful place we will never go
And nothing will ever get done

This is my take on Brian Tracey’s and Denis Waitley’s Someday Isle, pronounced Someday I’ll. Denis Waitley sees Someday Isle as a place to find happiness. Brian Tracey sees it as a crowded Isle full of people that share excuses for why they have yet to do the things they want to do someday. I see it differently.

I see Someday Isle as a carefree convenient place we all tend to escape to from time to time. I say escape to but actually it is not a destination. Someday Isle is in itself an excuse. You never need to travel to go there. We go there by simply saying, “Someday Isle clean the garage, visit a friend, do something with the kids or chase a dream.” Good intentions yes and a great idea but by using the phrase Someday Isle you commit to procrastination.

You procrastinate for many reasons. Usually using Someday Isle means you may not now have a legitimate excuse but you are buying time until one comes along. It could also mean you are hesitant and waiting for the right time to proceed. In the world of sales we call that waiting for all the lights to turn green before you leave the house. Odds are that will never happen.

“There are seven days in a week, and someday isn’t one of them.” Rita Chand
How do we overcome this habit of using Someday Isle? One way is when you catch yourself using “Someday Isle”, just say to yourself, “Why not TODAY?” Reality should set in and honesty takes over as you search for the ways to start today. If your idea was legitimate you should find a way to pursue it and take the first step now. Take Someday Isle and make it NOW!

Another way to break the habit is to do what Brian Tracey recommends, vote yourself off the island. Many of us watch the TV show Survivor and understand being voted off the island. In this case vote yourself off and the way to do it is determine you will decide on the position of “NO EXCUSES, ONLY SOLUTIONS”.

“Trust your gut” as they say. Believe in you intuition and instinct. Many great ideas come to us in this way. Don’t overlook an idea or a dream. Hang on to it, share it, get feedback and take that first step. Packing its bags and sending it off to Someday Isle should be the last thing you consider. .