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Don’t Let ‘Stuff’ Get in the Way of Your Writing

Jeff Goins has a point!

Jeff Goins has a point!

I’ve written about the importance of resting and also about finding time, even in a hectic day, to write. But, as we all know, balance is the key to allowing the flow of creativity to remain constant as it reduces that awful guilt when we don’t do at least a little bit of writing every day. It really is okay when you miss a day here and there because there will be days when you can’t stop writing you feel so inspired and energised. But if you’re not inspired don’t stress; there’s nothing like worry to kill the Muse.

But today I’m writing about those things in our lives that take up time that should be dedicated to our beloved craft, and as I write this I am, of course, speaking to myself as much as I’m speaking to you, dear Writer. I can procrastinate brilliantly. Actually, I believe I’ve made it into an art form. The only justification I can give my lax attitude is that I’ve just finished doing an epic rewrite of my last epic fantasy novel in my tetralogy and now it’s time to face the mammoth task of editing. My other three books I’ve written and published in a year. This last one is way overdue because I’ve moved to the UK. Talk about stressful! Unfortunately, I’ve used this as an excuse to take my time with Book 4 (The Sword Bearer’s Ascension) and now I regret procrastinating so fervently. People are waiting impatiently for my last installment and I feel awful about it!

Cover for Book 3

When life gets busy we tend to shift our focus onto the external and neglect the internal. What I mean by that is, as soon as our external environment takes up all our attention we lose touch with that spark inside us that ignites our creativity, our passion for storytelling, our inspiration, our desire to get it down on paper so that we can share it with the world. The external, monotonous, stressful, rushed world – professional and personal relationships, careers, responsibilities – keeps our attention away from what makes our hearts sing with inspiration, that part of us that gives us a reason to get up in the morning.

It is vital to understand that if we do not allow ourselves to be revitalised with the fire of our passions then life becomes meaningless and dull. We have to feed what makes us laugh and dance and sing because then we can deal with the external world – all that ‘stuff’. As a writer, you know that the only place you can find the buzz that makes you get up in the morning is turning inward and basking in the power of creativity. This is where your true life resides, not ‘out there’ but only inside where it’s quiet and peaceful and where all the answers will be found.

This is a lesson I’ve learned since moving to the UK and dealing with the ‘stuff’ that snatches away my attention from that which I love to do. It’s easy to lose sight of what is important (inside) by focusing only on the external world and being drained physically and emotionally by circumstances. I’ve gone days without writing because there’s been so much to do – unpacking, finding work, settling down in a foreign environment, new relationships, missing home and friends and family, etc. ‘Stuff’ got in the way of my passion and I truly resent it, which adds to my stress, which in turn drains me of creative energy.

Find your inspiration within!

Find your inspiration within!

Separating myself from the external and being alone and inward-focused has proven a creative lifesaver. I encourage you to not only find time to write, but to remove yourself from the external world and sit quietly with yourself and remember where your inspiration really comes from. You’ll never find it ‘out there’ only inside you.

I’d love to read your thoughts and if you’ve had similar struggles with the external world draining you of creative energy and stealing your passion and inspiration. If this is still going on in your life then I encourage you to step away and remove yourself to a quiet place where the only thing you can hear is your own heart speaking to you.

About 180 Days of Preparation are Drawing to a Close

British Flag

Since I started this crazy mission to move to the United Kingdom with my in-laws and hubby life has been chaotic, to say the least!

It’s been a crazy ride – some good, some not so good – but through it all I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of achieving if I believe that the Universe has my back. I discovered the power of my mind and how easily I can achieve what I want, and also how easily I can sabotage my life. When making such a huge life-changing decision there’s no room to entertain negativity in any form.

Keeping the last book in my epic fantasy tetralogy going has been the hardest because to rewrite and edit one needs time – hours to just sit by myself and focus on it. Truth be told, time has been very scarce and I haven’t made as much progress as I’d like.

That being said, I know that there are other priorities in my life at the moment and that every cent (soon to be pence) I possess has to go into our move. That means I have to wait until we’ve settled down a bit before collecting the coins I’ll need to publish The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4. I don’t like it, I must tell you. Delaying the urge to publish and get out number four tugs at my heart every day, but for now I have to trust that it will get published when the time is right.

I have delayed everything from writing to blogging to promoting until my life has some normalcy again. I am both excited and fed up of this move, but like everything else in life that requires all your attention it simply must be done. Once I have the time back to refocus almost exclusively on my writing then the book will get finished and published. Patience is always something I have to work on, especially when instant gratification is my mantra (he-he, not really! I do have some self-control, you know).

Having balance is the wisest choice and always leads you in the right direction. One step at a time.

Having balance is the wisest choice and always leads you in the right direction. One step at a time.

I have learned to trust my intuition telling me to be at peace, that everything will get done at the right time, in the right way. Despite a few annoying obstacles, from our decision to move, to me getting my UK visa, to our belongings travelling by sea and arriving a whole month early, to getting the cats sorted to take with us (a scary expense!) it’s all gone pretty well. We’ll be flying from South Africa to the United Kingdom on Tuesday the 30th of September and arriving on the 1st of October with high hopes and great excitement for what the future holds for us. I reckon it will take about a month before I am fully settled to finally finish rewriting and editing Book 4 and then focus on the publishing process.

How has life been for you these days, dear Writer? Anything exciting to share? I encourage you to trust yourself and whatever Power you believe in to guide you to goodness and greatness at the right time like it has for me and my family. Through this tough process I have learned to let go of all the negative thoughts and emotions that want to drag me down. I am being taken care of and all I have to do is trust and set my intent for what I want. This I have done and now I watch with awe as it unfolds. I urge you to do the same, whether it be for work/writing or your personal life, let go… You’ll get a lot more done when there’s nothing in the way, including yourself.

Rewriting and Editing is Not for Sissies!

 

Dream Landscape 1 by Chris H index17 sxcLast week I started reading my first draft of The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 after months of creation without looking back to do any rewrites or edits. I took the advice of seasoned authors and wrote with the single-minded goal to finish the story and not check back on what I’d written (as I’d done with my other works) until it was time to do a rewrite. And what I discovered took my breath away!

I’m a Pantster. I do not outline or have a storyboard with cards and post-its all over my wall. I have one notebook which I use to remind myself of particular details I need to include in the story relating to characters or descriptions or vital plot twists that will make the story better and more exciting. Those thoughts come to me when I’m not writing but doing other things completely unrelated to the craft like brushing my teeth, washing dishes, watching TV, or when I’m just about to fall asleep – the latter being the best time to come up with great ideas. When I sit at my computer I allow the story to tell itself without any interference from my perfectionist brain. I do not have a muse (that I know of), but I do believe that my stories come from a place I cannot describe, a place where the magic happens – that source you cannot explain to someone who has never had the privilege of creating magic with words.

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer's Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

Whenever I write and allow this inexplicable process to take over, I am always left dumbfounded by what comes out of me. So, when I began reading from the beginning, I was amazed with the incredible detail and power and beauty of the story. “Did I write that?” I frequently asked myself as I tightened up my style, got rid of extraneous words and redundancies, and checked spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I have been drawn into the story anew; I experience the turmoil and chaos of the battle scenes, the love stories, the grief and joy of the characters I fell in love with – the characters that are so much a part of me that to say goodbye to them is a special kind agony reserved only for storytellers, I believe.

Rewriting is hard work; it requires an unemotional approach because it is meant to remove the detritus that accumulates, the bad habits that have crept into my writing I’m still trying to get rid of, and the stuff I know my readers won’t be interested in. Sometimes its a brutal process, especially when you have to get rid of entire scenes or delete a sub-character you really love. But it is necessary in order to create a product as close to perfect as possible. (You do know that no work is ever perfect, right? That would remove the soul of any story.) Rewriting and editing polishes up the frenzied creating that went before, that first ‘pen to paper’ moment when the fire in your belly and brain is urging you to create just like an addict’s urge to satisfy his cravings. The latter is the most exciting part of writing – for me, anyway. I have no inhibitions, I do not concern myself with perfect spelling, grammar, punctuation (my typing skills are not fantastic as it is), and I do not get in the way of whatever/whoever is working through me. And that is when the magic happens!!

Pen on Paper

My readers are going to be blown away by the final book, but before they get their hands on it, it’s my responsibility to make it a smooth experience for them. It is my duty to make sure nothing creates a bump as they lose themselves in the story. My goal is to take them in so deep, to hypnotise them so completely, that when they are rudely pulled back into reality by the demands of normal life, they cannot remember the passing of time. All they do remember are the emotions of getting lost in a story so completely that time stood still for a little while.

Don’t you want power like that? I do. I have never received a greater compliment than when one of my readers tells me they couldn’t put my book down until they finished it – all 700 pages!

Rewriting is not for sissies, it isn’t for those who are only interested in the emotional aspect and who do not care enough about the quality of their craft. I have posted on this before: Balance between passion and knowledge is vital. It takes experience and patience to rewrite in a way that keeps the passion/emotion/magic in the story alive and then compliments it with great grammar, punctuation, and style. If we can learn to find the balance then we can be better storytellers. I make sure I learn something new ever day to improve my craft. I encourage you to do the same.

I love reading your thoughts! Do you agree with having balance between passion (that first frenzied, magical draft) and knowledge (the more emotionally removed process of rewriting and editing)?

Are You a Giver or a Trader?

"Please, God, I'll do anything! I don't need to be happy just rich and famous!"

“Please, God, I’ll do anything! I don’t need to be happy just rich and famous!”

If you had the opportunity, would you do anything to become a famous author, even if it destroys your soul?

I’ve just finished watching a fantastic programme called “Tapping the Source”, and one of the lessons I learned from this inspiring programme (one of many, let me tell you!) was doing something without expecting anything in return. That’s a very hard thing to do never mind to even consider, and it’s a good ol’ smack in the face for our egos because since when in these tough lives of ours do we do anything without hoping for or expecting something in return? I mean, we give cash to receive the things we desire, be it food, clothes, toys, that new iPhone, so we grow up learning that when we give something to someone then it is our right to get something in return.

The ironic thing is, though, that in reality if you want the great results in life like joy, abundance, success and even fame, it requires you to be thankful for everything you already have – whether you like those things in your life or not – and to give without expecting or demanding something in return. Your ego screams at you, “No, no, no! Don’t be an idiot! The next thing you’ll have people walking all over you and abusing your generosity. Are you insane?!”

Who's in control of your life, your arrogant, self-serving ego or the giving, loving person you were created to be? One destroys, the other creates.

Who’s in control of your life: your arrogant, self-serving ego or the giving, loving person you were created to be? One destroys, the other creates.

It’s true. As a ‘normal’ human being, brought up by well-meaning parents, I was taught that you don’t just give away what you’ve worked so hard for. Nothing’s for free! In order to get something you have to earn it – pay for it in some fashion. In other words, unless you trade something that’s precious to you then you will never get like in return and you learn to expect the same from others.

It’s very difficult for us to give away what we’ve poured sweat and tears into, what we’ve poured our very souls into. Like our books. For most of us it takes months of writing, then a couple more to revise, then a couple more to get edited, proofread, compiled, and then, finally, almost a year later, published. Now I must just give it away without getting anything in return? you ask. Are you nuts?!!

If you had to be honest with yourself, whenever you have those fabulous Amazon Select days when your precious work is available for free, you must feel a little cheated when hundreds of copies get downloaded (after you’ve only sold about twenty to thirty at .99c so far) and you know you will never see a dime; you will never get anything in return for the precious gift you’ve given to those hundreds of people. What exactly are your expectations going in? Do you ask yourself questions like: “Geez, can’t anyone just afford .99c, for goodness sake?” or “Are they buying it because I’m a great writer or because it’s free? Do they even know who I am? Do they even know what other books I’ve written?” Your ego steps in to protect and defend you with teeth bared. You feel despair, and that awful feeling of unfairness, of being done a great wrong, creeps into your gut and starts chomping away. Was the give-away as satisfying as you’d imagined, then?

The question you need to ask is this: What was my motivation for doing it?

If your motivation was to get a hundred reviews, and all those people demanding more of you and your writing, then okay. But what does it do to you when you don’t get that exact return on your investment? Do you begin to lose hope? Do you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities? Do you begin to think that everything you’ve done has been a waste of time, that an entire year of effort has been for naught and that it and you are now worthless and, in fact, completely invisible to the millions of readers out there?

I certainly hope not, dear writer!!!

I guess it boils down to expectation. But there’s the rub (I apologise for the copious clichés). When you give your beloved work away what exactly are your expectations? Do you expect to receive the same value back that you so generously put in? Or do you do it out of love – to share your work and passion and talent with the world and become wonderfully elated in the divine act of giving and sharing freely?

Having balance is always the wisest choice

Having perfect balance in your life and work is always the wisest choice

My advice would be to create a balance, because that’s what makes life so enjoyable and fulfilling. Have one give-away as an act of love and as your gift to the world to feed your soul with the joy it deserves, and then do a give-away where you work really hard to encourage people to get to know you and your work, to encourage them to spend money on you next time because you’re so incredibly worth it.

You are worth getting paid for what you do, but you are also worth the joy, love, and fulfilment sharing and giving without the expectation of receiving will bring your heart and soul. Find balance and your rewards will be beyond your wildest expectations.

The choice, dear writer, is yours.

I love hearing your thoughts! Please leave a comment and tell me about your experiences and what you think about giving without expecting anything in return, especially if it involves the sacrifice of your most precious gifts.

Images courtesy of eyebiz, wgroesel, and sradion

Related Articles:

Don’t Sell Yourself Too Cheaply – You are of Great Worth (moniquerockliffe.wordpress.com)

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