Tag Archives: job

Finding Momentum When It’s Gone

I work on one big project at a time. The art of juggling two or three big projects at once is lost on me, as all the projects start to blend together in a weird, self-referencing word-soup. That means my writing process is a one-step-at-a-time deal. For a few weeks, I will do nothing but planning, plotting, and outlining. Then, for a few months, all I’m doing is writing. And then for up to year after that, I’m editing.

After I’ve been editing my work for so long, I’m often intimidated when I think of going back to writing. I’m worried I haven’t learned anything, or that I won’t apply what I’ve learned when I edited. I’m worried the flow and creativity has been stilted by too much editing work. I’m afraid I’ve lost my voice. I’m concerned I’m too focused on what will sell instead of what it is I’ve got to say.

It’s taken some time for me to learn how to get back into writing after time away. The “just sit down and write” advice doesn’t always cut it. You can plan your time down to the minute and regiment yourself to your schedule, and that works for a lot of people. Most people. But that doesn’t take care of the lack of confidence or the worries, and making myself sit in a chair and stare at a screen doesn’t help me find the heart of why I’m writing.

Over the years, I’ve learned the painful lesson that inspiration is incredibly important to my writing and my creative identity. It is true that, many times, you’ll have to write when the muse isn’t slinking around your shoulders and whispering in your ear. However, I think it’s easy to become distracted working that way – distracted from your core, from the reason you wanted to write in the first place. Viewing writing as a job, as work, is allowing it one step closer to becoming your job instead of your vocation, and divorcing it from passion altogether. In the day to day, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia. I’ve found it’s vital to be able to stop and ask myself what I’m looking to accomplish with the project in the first place. What am I trying to communicate?

Those answers don’t always come immediately. I often have to search for them. This is how:

  1. Journal
  2. Go to a natural history museum or cultural center
  3. Watch a documentary or two about subjects that I know very little about.
  4. Go for a hike/ go camping. Don’t allow myself my phone or any digital tethers
  5. Allow myself to daydream. Allow myself to forget my schedule and my to-do list
  6. Use my hands to make. Bake. Work on a motorcycle. Throw a pot on a wheel. Learn glassblowing. Draw. Make. Learn. Do. And let the mind wander

*Bring journal or a notebook when doing 2-6

These things have helped me focus back on my voice, consider my point of view, helped me remember what is important, and reminded me of our connection points as humans and therefore what we can all relate to on a primal and emotional level. I find allowing my mind to wander on these subjects through art, journaling, and being a student of life and nature itself helps focus my mind and prepare it for creativity and communication.

I mean, I get it. I sound like a neo-hippy. Check that language, man. Connection, point of view, creation, daydream, communication. All I’m missing are some essential oils to drip all over this blog post and some vegan gluten-free cookies for you, my awesome readers.

I acknowledge that most people can just put ass-in-seat and write, treating it like a job. Set a timer. Schedule writing time. Have strict daily, weekly, and monthly goals. These are all fantastic strategies to get you back on track with writing after a long break.

But if you happen to be somewhat like me, you need reflection. You need to ask yourself questions about not only your story, but why you’re writing it. And then you need time to think through the answers. Our culture has made it easy to become very busy very fast – to work through a to-do list everyday, go to bed, wake up, and repeat. But if you’re finding that you need less structure, more time – prioritize that. Prioritize time. Loosen your daily schedule. Allow four hours of writing time instead of two, knowing that some of those four hours may be you taking a walk, sitting outside, listening to music, thinking. Sometimes a few of those all at once. I think you’ll be surprised to find how much inspiration follows you on those walks and mind-walks, and soon, you’ll be back in your seat and writing, refreshed, collected, and ready.

It’s a Business

I graduated college in May 2007. I had no idea what to do next. Luckily, I landed a job interview with a well-known publishing company, and it turned out to be one of the best, hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn.

Annoying young business people being way too enthusiastic about business.
Annoying young business people being way too enthusiastic about business.

Dear Kristin circa May 2007,

Oh you beautiful, delicate flower, you. I know you think you’re really good now. Your writing isn’t bad. Really! I like how you use poetry-like metaphors that only a few people seem to understand, and your interesting paragraph structure. It’s all about the self-expression amiright? Yes, I am right, and so are you.

Like the Terminator, I come bearing news from the future. In a month or two, you’ll have an interview at a big publishing company. Yeah, I KNOW. Good job!

But you will not get the job. Wah wahhhhh. And it’s important that you don’t, so don’t go trying to change it. One of the most important life lessons you will learn happens in that interview.

In the interview, you’ll have a short conversation with the Associate Editor. She’ll tell you that after leaving college, she was idealistic. She was after changing the world. “Cool, me too!” you’ll think. And then she’ll drop this bomb on you. “But this is a business. Yes, it’s a publishing company, but it’s still a business.”

At the time, you’ll wonder why she’s trying to crush your spirit and decide she hasn’t had her coffee yet. In the months after the interview, you’ll understand.

No matter the cause or mission statement, every organization is a business. Every business needs to make money. If they happen to make dreams come true along the way, that’s cool. But the bottom line is that a company needs revenue to continue.

This is where you come in. You love writing, and you do it pretty well. Keep doing it. Keep getting better, keep making friends who are professionals. But also remember this: a publishing company is a business. In order for anyone to read those flowery prose pieces you like so much, you have to make sure they are sellable. Make sure the story is compelling, new, unique. You love experimental writing, and I’m not saying you should stop writing it. But you should also hone your skills on telling good, tight stories that publishers will want to buy.

The future is bright. Hone those skills. Write sellable stories while staying true to yourself.

Oh, and stop with the flowery prose. No one seems to like those but us. Er… me.

Hugs and Kisses
Love

Keep on keepin’ on,

Kristin circa August 2014

 

It’s My Job

keyboardIf I could go back to when I started writing, I would have treated my writing time differently. I would have started off treating it like a job and not a hobby and creating good habits. How would I do that? Glad I asked!

First, whether I was writing part time or full time, I would set a schedule and stick to it. If all I had time for was fifteen minutes a day right before bed or a half hour before I went to work or if I had the luxury of writing several hours a day, I would set that time aside and hold it sacred. It matters less how much time you have available than that you use it the way in which you need. At most other jobs, we’re expected to arrive at a set time, work for a set amount of time, take lunch at set times and leave at a set time. And while we’re there, we’re expected to accomplish certain tasks. This is what we’re paid to do. And you’re writing career should be no different, if you expect to make money from it someday.

So, I need to show up when I’m expected to, keep to my schedule and do what I’m expected. I am my own boss on this and I need to keep my employee-self on task. This not only helps me treat my writing professionally, but it tells others it’s a job I take seriously. Family and friends can be terrible sources of distraction whether they mean to or not. When they try to encroach on my scheduled work time, I would say what I’d say if I were at any other job, “Sorry, I can’t. I have to work.” Schedule lunches, meetings, errands and such for other times that aren’t your work time.

Second, write. Seems obvious. It isn’t. If I could go back, I would set aside other time for writing related tasks that are not writing. Checking email, reading articles/blogs/books about writing, plotting, editing, doing research, staring at the ceiling thinking and a list too long of other related things are NOT writing. They are all things I need to do in my writing career, but they are not writing. They are things I can usually do other times or squeeze in around the edges in little bits of down time. Some I can even do on commercial breaks at night while watching my favorite shows. And if I have to schedule time to do them, then I would. But I would not let it infringe on my sacred writing time, my work time (whatever time I had set for that).

Third, I would advise my early self to keep writing if I’m stuck. Crap can be fixed. Holes can be filled. Transitions can be built. But nothing can be done with nothing. So, if I’m stuck in the current scene. I can make some notes on what I’m thinking at the time and go to a different scene and work there. At least I’m doing my job.

I would tell me to take my job seriously. If I don’t, why would anyone else? And if I take my job seriously, then I will get my work done. I will finish stories. I will produce the necessary product to get it out there no matter in what way I choose to get it out there. You can’t query, edit, revise, sell, publish or market a product you do not have.

Yes, writing is an art. It takes creativity, but as Dave Farland/Dave Wolverton once told me, I can train myself to get into that creative mode really quick through good habits. Treating it all as a job, going to your work space at the set times you are scheduled to work and getting to it are the habits needed to train your brain to put on its creative work clothes quickly and get to your job.

After years, I still struggle with some of this, but the more I practice and ingrain these job habits, the more I get done and the better writer I become. So, that’s the advice I would give me if I could go back.

I’m looking forward to the rest of this month because as a professional, I’m always looking for better ways to improve my work, my work space, my work habits, and my work mentality.