Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Writer's Survival Guide #IWSG

Because our best work happens when we're at our most vulnerable, it could be argued that writing is one of the most hazardous professions in the world. It's up there with bomb disposal, only we don't get a shield to stand behind. It's almost as bad as being a clown at a kid's birthday party, only we don't have a mask to hide behind. It's equal to being a guard in an insane asylum, only there are no bars holding the insanity back.

Since writing is not unlike surviving a zombie apocalypse, I've compiled a short list of rules on how best to cope with being a writer:

Rule #1: Cardio
When we're in the zone, or worse, trying to be in the zone, we sit around staring at our computer screens, our blank pages, the fuzz on the carpet. Our brains quickly turn to mush before we've even typed 'Chapter 1'. We need to get the blood flowing, the creativity sparking. The sparks of inspiration come from memory and daydream, but we can't access those resources if we're slumped and sluggish. If you can't bear the thought of those nasty star jumps—who invented that torture, anyway?—then go for a walk, ride a bike, use your gym membership that's been choking under a layer of dust.

Rule #2: Safety in Numbers
Not only is writing a sedentary occupation, it's also a solitary one. It can get mighty lonely as a writer—no office chit chat by the water cooler for us. The problem with being alone for so many hours is that we start to get a distorted view of our work. We'll either think it's awesome when it's not, or we'll think it's the worst piece of gelatinous sludge on a pile of stinking refuse when really it's awesome. We need to hang out with not just a group, but a crowd of supportive people. Friends and family keep us sane. Other writers keep us writing. Critique partners push us to do better. Editors keep our feet firmly planted on the ground. Publishers make our dreams come true.

Rule #3: Knowledge is Your Weapon
To charge onto the battleground unarmed is folly at best. The more you learn about the craft, the industry, and all things writing, the better equipped you'll become. Read copious amounts, in a range of genres. Read fiction and non-fiction. Read books on writing. Go to seminars. Attend conferences. Learn, learn and keep learning, and all the while keep writing. Take up arms and charge forth with strength and courage.

Rule #4: Enjoy the Little Things
As with a zombie apocalypse, you'll need to maintain your sanity by staying positive. Remember why you started writing in the first place. Was it to silence the voices, explore a concept, indulge in a little escapism? Or perhaps it was simply the love of stories and words. Remembering our reasons for embarking on this crazy journey will buoy us up so we're able to float down the river of insanity without getting wet.

Are you are survivor? Can you add any more rules to this list?

This post was written for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group founded by Alex J Cavanaugh and this month it's co-hosted by Rachna Chhabria, Mark Koopmans, and Lynda R Young (yours truly)!! To learn more or join up, click here.

#IWSG

86 comments:

  1. Some great advice here, Lynda, thank you. I have been feeling a little paranoid the last couple of weeks and need to get myself back on track.

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  2. '...our best work happens when we're at our most vulnerable.' I'd say that is as true as a jingle bell, Lynda. Being in the zone is such a strange thing. It's something that happens but is difficult to understand. Writing is a lonely thing and what I find particularly frustrating is that often people don't realize how much time went into writing something that's worth reading. It's almost as if often you're your best audience... Do you know what I mean?

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    1. I think at times we have to be our best audience because otherwise we might just pack it all in. The love of our work is what keeps us going.

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    2. I've heard it said that writers - especially bloggers - are by default narcissistic, especially those who recite their own work and get paid for it. I disagree but I'm biased.

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    3. Let;s put it in rhyme
      For that makes two. ;)

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  3. Excellent advice I don't write every month to the group having had internet problems but hopefully that will change in the future.

    Yvonne.

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  4. Aloha Co-host :)

    Ha, now there's a survival guide I need to print out and laminate :)

    Getting into the Zone is often hard, but it's where the creativity is and well worth the journey :)

    Speaking of which, have fun and possibly "see" you around the Blogisfear today :)

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  5. I think #2 is something writers forget quite often. You don't have to be an island. Great survival guide Lynda.

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  6. I'd add the double tap - read it twice (and out loud)

    mood

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  7. Remember why you started writing in the first place - now that's the most profound and true!
    And yes, double-tap.

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  8. And thank you for co-hosting this month!!!

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  9. All of these are definitely important! Most important to me is that I remember why I write: Because it's fun! Once I do that, all the other stuff: the critiques, the sleep deprivation, the loneliness fall away.

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  10. Congrats on co-hosting the IWSG, Lynda.
    The mention of "star jumps" conjures nightmares of school Physical Ed lessons, which I avoided at every possible opportunity... and rule #4 is a guaranteed winner!
    Great tips!

    Writer In Transit

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    1. I know right--those nightmares from school won't go away!! Star jumps should be outlawed ;)

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  11. Def. a survivor. WE can't get bogged down in the discouraging aspects of the industry - even if that's impossible - I always try to pull out of it as soon as possible!

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  12. Being a writer is definitely worse than being a clown at a birthday party! But also way better. Sometimes, it's better if I remain solitary. Trying to meet up with someone who is also writing just ends up being unproductive for us both--though fun!

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  13. I'm trying to get better at overcoming the solitary aspect of it...I'm a gregarious loner. Yes, I know that's an oxymoron (and so am I), but I can only deal with people when I can deal with them, otherwise, I like the solitude.

    Great post, Lynda!

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    1. As long as you don't become a hermit, it's all good.

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  14. I'm with you, Lynda. I have had some very inspirational moments while doing yoga or while sitting at the beach. The ocean open up that log jam in my mind. Even just a change in seats my house. I will move from one room in to another and that helps too. Great advice!

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  15. I'm a fan of number four. Life is short and the world won't stop if you aren't a writer. Cut yourself some slack and appreciate what you DO have in life.

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  16. I think it's important to know how to reignite the passion too. You know how you read a mind-blowing novel by an author you admire and it just makes you want to work twice as hard on your own? It's important to keep finding that kind of motivation.

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  17. That's a great list and recently I came to realize the importance of 1 and 4. It has made wonders. This is like the Tao of Writing. Everybody should keep all points in mind and practice them. :)

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  18. I've never understood people who don't use their gym memberships.... don't they now there are steamy hot trainers and fitness instructors there??? And naked people in the bathroom :)

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    1. That's actually what keeps me away... I compare myself to them and my inevitable reaction is to run and hide ;)

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    2. yes, dear, but here's the secret: those hot instructors and gym people admire our brains the same way we admire their bodies :) The same way we think they'd never be with us because we're not so slim and muscly, they think we'd never be with them because we're teachers, professors, doctors, writers..... :) But we can actually all enjoy eachother :)

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    3. I love the way you think, my dear Dezzy :)

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    4. Is our Dezzmeister talking about hot instructors again? Dezzy. Dezzy....

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    5. Our Dezzy does that. No complaints!

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  19. These are all great rules and I needed the reminder. I've set a new goal for this summer to get my kids out moving instead of sitting in front of the game system. That will help them and me get our blood pumping.

    I also have a wonderful writer's group that I meet with every week. Knowing real people as neurotic as me as been a huge blessing in my life. And they are helping arm me with the knowledge I need to get better.

    Loved this post!

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  20. No. 1 is vital. It is soo easy to just lose ourselves physically and just sit at the screen all day, only getting up when the stomach starts to growl. I'm signed up for a yoga class in 37 minutes. I have to get off my duff and get ready for it! :D

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  21. Everyone tends to say that number three- knowledge is your weapon is extremely important when it comes to writing and I have to agree. Great post.

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  22. Oh my gosh, this is SO awesome! Thanks for the reminders. Lately I've been focused on the laptop screen instead of cardio, and boy do I miss it!

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  23. I think a writer's vulnerability is in the eye of the beholder. I think people write to cope with their already preexisting vulnerabilities. Seeking out additional vulnerabilities in order to "inspire" writing is like standing under a suspended piano and waiting for it to drop;)

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  24. What a great list, Lynda! Number 2 is the one making the biggest impact on me at the moment. All the new connections I've made this past month have been amazing and made me desperate to stay in touch with those I've met while continuing to meet more.

    Towards that end, hi! Nice to meet you!

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  25. Thanks for co-hosting, Lynda! And great advice!

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  26. Hopping over from the IWSG hop and I'm glad I did!

    Great tips, Lynda...especially #1. It seems that a lot of us tend to forget that we still need to take care of the body, as well as the mind. Trying to eat healthy goes right along with exercising, in my opinion....though it's still tough.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month :)

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  27. It was definitely to silence the voices. They're all "write my story!" "no, write MINE."

    You always make me laugh, Lynda :)

    BTW, I finally read Make Believe -- AMAZING.

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  28. This is very good advice! I think critique groups and writers groups are the best things for writers to get involved with, because writing is most definitely a very solitary experience.

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  29. Great tips. I think I need to put number 1 to use right now. Finished editing a WIP and need to stretch my legs before diving back in on another WIP.

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  30. Great list. I think number 2 is so important. Especially Critique partners. They help your writing. I also joined a local writing group and we meet for lunch sometimes and talk about writing. It's nice to meet with other writers.

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  31. Good post and all great tips Lynda! I would add, take time out to refill the well of creativity is also important!

    All the best!

    Nas

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  32. I love it - as with zombies, cardio is especially good for writing. Glad you put it as rule #1 :)

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  33. Often the exercise, and what you see while doing so becomes enough to fill the writing coffers back up. Great post and thanks for hosting!

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  34. Awesome tips! I'm definitely a survivor and it's because of our fantastic community.

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  35. I agree with all of your rules. Especially the exercise. I don't actually exercise, but lot blocks have been destroyed while mowing the lawn. Something about walking back and forth for an hour with nothing better to do just lets my mind make connections I wouldn't otherwise see.

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  36. Particularly fond of "Remember why you started writing in the first place". All very good advice, well, except maybe for that cardio thing. Exercise? Voluntarily??? Oh, I get it. You're joking. Right? :-)

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    1. Get those feet pumping! Mush!Mush! ;)

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  37. Walking with my muse does so much for the inspiration and the heart! Good points all.

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  38. I agree with your point about seeking the company of those who are supportive of you. Just any random group wouldn't do.

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  39. I just love your suggestions. I have been trying to do more cardio and lately I have have been trying to enjoy the small things in life.

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  40. That's what I am working on, enjoying the little things and probably need to work on cardio, too.

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  41. Excellent advice. I'm charged by being an active participant in Blog Land. It may not be a water cooler, but it's a mighty cool hang out and place to enjoy the conversation. Regarding cardio, my fingers, hands and forearms are in really good shape thanks to all the typing I do. Anyone else notice this?

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    1. hehehe, I'd not thought of it that way, but you're so right!

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  42. Like M.J., my fingers are also quite svelte. I like to think I'm a survivor, but I need to exercise something more than my fingers and gray cells. Then again, I DO hop from blog to blog... hopping is exercise, right?

    Great post, and lots of good advise.

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    1. If the blog hopping makes your heart beat faster, then yes ;)

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  43. Hi from a fellow co-host. Great advice Lynda. I go for long walks, listen to music, do lots of exercise and read books to relax.


    Lyn, finally managed to get the signature link :)

    Rachna Chhabria
    Co-host IWSG
    Rachna's Scriptorium

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    1. Yay, Rachna! I like your list--all good for the writer within.

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  44. I like your list. If I had to add another, it would be diversify. But that's really more of an expansion of #3. I read while walking and usually write standing up, but incentive would still be a problem without my critique group. With little to no support at home, they were my only saving grace #4 until I stumbled into editing. Now I have a valid excuse to read, a concrete result of all the time I spend improving my writing, and regular money coming in while I struggle to finish my own book. Boom, #4 is back in bunches!

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  45. I tend to write quite well when I'm sleep-deprived. And by well I mean it's creative and interesting.

    I just need to make sure that I correct all the grammar errors and incomplete sentences in the morning. So my advise would be know how your own writing style works and then work with it.

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    1. great advice! Sometimes it takes a while to work out what that style is too so it's good to try different writings times, methods and styles until you find what works best.

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  46. Excellent advice. I need to stock up on the knowledge bit - if that's my weapon, I'm currently defending my self with an old banana.

    Thanks for putting Dognapped in the sidebar! You're ace! :)

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    1. bananas can be deadly... ;)

      Happy to help out, Charmaine!

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  47. Great post, Lynda.
    Thanks for hosting this month. :)

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  48. Great advice, thanks for sharing.
    And thanks for co-hosting this week.

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  49. This is a great post! I enjoyed these tips very much.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  50. Love all your advice...will follow!

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  51. Thank you for this list, Lynda. Especially today. I'm surrounded by cranky men!

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  52. Fantastic list. I wasn't doing number two in my early writing days. I really needed that.

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  53. I agree with the cardio. I took a 4.5 mile walk today that had some slopes. Broke a really good sweat and cleared my head. I always write better after a good walk.

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  54. Excellent advice all the way around. I've been lazy this week after A-Z, reading, shopping, reconnecting with family. It's been just what I needed.

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  55. Excellent advice. Thanks for taking the time to co-host.

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  56. I agree with your list, then I'd add I like to revisit the "What if" stage in my writing. That's usually where I start when I'm choosing a new project, but sometimes I can revitalize an old one that way, too!

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  57. What a great list of ways to cope! I particularly like #4- it's always good to remember why we choose to climb the steep hill!

    Wonderful post for IWSG :)

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  58. Great list, Lynda, and I love the crossover to the Zombpocalypse.

    Rule #5: Target the Brain
    In other words, don't dumb down your writing. Your readers will appreciate the subtleties and less tenuous connections rather than being told every little detail.

    Rule #6: There Is No Rule 6

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    1. excellent, excellent! I particularly like your #6

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  59. Heheee, the fuzz on the carpet. Yep. And fellow bloggers/writers definitely keep us sane! I walk for my writing breaks. Or do chores (bleh).

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  60. I always love your posts. For me, doing things like gardening or sanding something helps too - probably the equivalent of exercise in a way - it gives my brain a break. :)

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  61. How about: keep two sharpened #2 pencils with you at all times.

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    1. another great rule! The pencils can keep the vampires at bay too. Double purpose! ;)

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  62. Oh I do loathe exercise, but everyone needs it, and it is a great super-charge for he imagination. Either because we are walking and breathing in some fresh air, or because we are exercising and focus is much easier when we're trying to amuse ourselves while performing some cardio torture. :)

    Great post, Lynda.

    Shah X

    http://shahwharton.com

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  63. Thanks for the excellent tips. I'm joining a writing group on Tuesday so hopefully this will help with rule #2.

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  64. Great tips! Thanks for the reminders ;) I need to take more walks...

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  65. I think one more would be use your craft.
    There are so many people and places that can use our ability to make information come alive. In so doing our skills are honed for a new day.

    Thanks for the visit....

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