Category Archives: Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Find a mentor and supporter. Be a mentor and supporter.

Today would have been Grandma’s 92nd Birthday.

I dedicate today’s post to her.

10628236_10152626897901068_1432362446268020817_nGrandma was a newspaper-woman. I knew this from a young age, it was a part of her identity. She wasn’t just Grandma; she was Grandma, a newspaper-woman who was a voracious reader. She is the one I have to thank for the gift of books that helped launch me into being the reader that I am (not to mention the ongoing gift of Powells-money for Christmas many many years)

While we didn’t talk a lot about writing, not directly, but that doesn’t keep me from holding her as one of my writing role-models. Sometimes I would send her copies of my stories.  She read them all, commented on them, told me she saw promise.  She said I was a good writer, and when I was young that kind of encouragement was very helpful.  Grandma was not a free-hand with the compliments so when she said things like that I knew that I could take her words at face value.

I think it’s so important to find people in your life that will be honest with you about your art.  Who know the craft enough that they can be honest about it.  I was very lucky to have a grandma who could be one of those people for me.

She wrote an autobiography, various reflections and articles. We’d talked a few times about her thoughts of writing about women in the Bible. She traveled, she wrote, she raised four children, she lived her life.

Today is the day for an Insecure Writers Support Group post… and originally I was going to write something else, but my heart leads me to write this.  And I have learned the importance of following where the heart leads — particularly in writing.

I feel like today I want to be drawing inspiration from Grandma — I want to continue to use her as a role-model for how I can be, not just as a writer but as a person.  Live your life. Dream your dreams.  Follow your heart.

Find someone who will be a honest supporter. And perhaps try to find a way to be one for someone else.


 

This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a IWSG badgegreat group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG. 

We also put out a new book, available for free.  Check it out for great articles on topics from writing to publishing, everything in-between and beyond

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Taliana’s Spring Event (4): Artistry

You can read the start of Taliana’s Spring Adventure here.


AAs soon as Taliana stepped into the room she felt a sense of awe and reverence.  A high vaulted ceiling arched above, and the walls were covered with leather-bound tomes.  A window located high on the wall held an intricate stained-glass, which filtered a rainbow of light into the room.

In the middle of the room was a light wood desk where an old man sat hunched over a manuscript.  He was intensely focused on the work in front of him, his quill practically flying across the page as he wrote rapidly.

The man’s white hair stood in a semi-circle around his deep brown scalp.  He wore black clothes that reminded Taliana of a scholars robes, but she could see nothing more.  Simply the top of his head as he bent over the text.

She approached slowly but tried not to be too quiet, making just enough noise to let him know someone was there, so as to not startle him.  The thread of Evegran wove around him, winding around his arms and body, dancing about the quill and manuscript.  A different thread seemed to flow from what he wrote, and Taliana enjoyed watching the play between the two threads for a time.  She would expect them to knot and tangle, the way that they wound around each other, but they did not.  Instead it was like watching a carefully choreographed dance.

Without looking up the man inclined his head towards a chair by his desk.  Taliana took the seat, content to watch the interplay of threads for quite some time.  She was fairly mesmerized by them when his words pulled her attention back to the room.

“An artist has to be able to remain focused,” the man’s voice was rough, as though he were unaccustomed to speaking. “There are always trails that will pull us away, ideas that want our mind to run off in all directions.  But we must resist those temptations, keep focused on the task at hand.”  He did not look up as he spoke, continuing to write.

“Begging your pardon, sir,” Taliana shook her head though she knew he could not see her do so, “I disagree.”

His pen hovered over the paper, his head tilting slightly narrowed eyes looking at Taliana. “Continue,” he returned to his writing, though his attention now seemed split.

“There is something to be said for focus, certainly,” Taliana felt as though she had stepped into one of her fathers evenings of philosophical conversation, “but it seems like too much focus can limit the artist.  Those passing ideas, the tangential trails of a story or theme, those can help to enrich the work.  A storyteller who knows not just the details of the plot they are telling, but also the rich background stories of even the most peripheral character, is going to be able to weave a more true story.”

The man looked up fully at her now, his eyes still narrowed.  Very slowly he put the quill down, his hands folding on the desk in front of him.  He looked Taliana over carefully, seeming to take in every detail of her being.

“And what if the artist gets so lost in the side stories that they never return to the true story?”

“What if a painter gets so drawn in by the way the light plays across his subject that he ends up painting the light, rather than the subject?”  Taliana shrugged, “The result is still a piece of art, is it not?  There are a great many who have given us powerful work thanks to their willingness to look beyond their subject and be open to those other paths.”  She smiled at the man, “Who is to say what the true subject is supposed to be?”

The man nodded slowly as she spoke, his eyebrows drawn together in though.

“Each artist has their own journey,” he said finally in a voice that Taliana equated with one who was striving to sound like a great philosopher.  “And perhaps their own approach to that journey.  You, perhaps, must figure out what your journey is to be.”  He inclined his head towards the Book of Evegran still held tightly in her hands.  “Are you going to stay focused on the task or allow yourself to be distracted from the path?”  He let his gaze linger on the book, then looked up at Taliana his lips turning up in the smallest of smiles. “I shall be interested to see what you decide.”

With that he turned his attention back to the manuscript in front of him and Taliana knew that it was time for her to move on.  She stood, taking a breath and concentrating on her next step.  As she took that step, though, she saw the old man out of the corner of her eye.  Gently, he reached a hand into the air, carefully catching a piece of the Thead of Evegran and winding it around his little finger.

Continue the story...


Insecure Writers Support Group Note:

We each have our own styles of writing, our own ideas of the “way to write.”  What it really comes down to, though, is what is right for us.  Different methods of approach can make for interesting conversation and debate, but truly each of us has to decide how we are going to write, what is going to work for us in that moment, in that project.


This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a IWSG badgegreat group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG. 

We also put out a new book, available for free.  Check it out for great articles on topics from writing to publishing, everything in-between and beyond!

Listen To Your Younger Self

I was having a conversation with a friend some time ago about writing advice.  Now, in our 30s, we know that all advice comes wrapped up in the reality of that particular authors life.  We know it is okay to add to the advice things such as “within the constraints of our own lives.”

In our teens and 20s, however, the advice often seemed prescriptive.  When an author that you know and love tells you how to write, it is very hard to imagine that you should do anything counter to what the greats were saying.  They were successful, surely they knew the right way to do things, and if we can’t do what they say to do… then what hope do we have?

In our late-teens and 20’s we step into a whole new world – it’s a time of great change, when you are still getting your feet under you, trying to navigate that strange line between childhood and adulthood.  My own writing ambitions took a hit in those years because of the way my work was treated by peers in fiction workshops.  My confidence was already taking a hit on all ends during those early college years, my life was shifting dramatically, and my writing was (and had always been) my outlet to deal with the emotions and changes.  It was also where I was most vulnerable.  Perhaps those peers were trying to prove themselves, show to our instructor that they knew what they were doing, that they were true literary people… walking just slightly on the wrong side of that line of useful critique.

It took me a good ten years to regain even a shred of the level of confidence I had when I was in high school.  It took a decade for me to be ready to share my writing with anyone but the closest of friends, to remember the dream I had.  The dream that had gotten buried deep beneath layers of self-doubt and a conviction that writing could never be anything more than a hobby.

In that conversation about a month ago, my friend and I agreed that what the world needs is more writing advice for people like we were, as we were trying to figure out even the most basic foundations of who we are.  Gentler advice, more supportive of the reality of the lives of those young adults.  Advice that speaks to the reality that sometimes writing and reading are not going to be the ultimate focus of your attention.  That having to put other considerations first doesn’t mean you should give up your writing dreams, or that you don’t have what it takes.

I wish someone had taken me aside when I was in my early 20’s and told me that I should not let that little piece of me hide away for too long.  That it was okay if I didn’t write every day — if sometimes months passed before I could write something new.  I needed to be told that the only right way was the way that worked for you — that each of us has a different path to travel and what I do isn’t going to look the same as anyone else’s journey.

I know I am a stronger writer now than I was when I was younger, but I can’t help but wonder what things would look like if I hadn’t let those ambitions fade away for so long.  What if I had manage to hold onto that confidence that had me sending short stories out to magazines while I was still in high school?  What if I had known that the fact my rejection letters came with hand-written encouragement was a very good sign that I might have potential?

Sometimes I think we need to reconnect with our younger selves, before the harsh world gave us an onslaught of (hopefully) well-intentioned advice which may have actually undermined our self-confidence?

Have you gone through a time of crippling doubt with your writing?  Did you hold confidence in your younger years that you wish you could believe as strongly today?  What advice would you give to those writers who are also dealing with coming into the adult world?


This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a IWSG badgegreat group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG. 

We also put out a new book, available for free.  Check it out for great articles on topics from writing to publishing, everything in-between and beyond!

Kindergarten Wisdom: “Writing and Blogging is Awesome”

Life’s been busy, and I will admit I’ve been having a hard time keeping up with myself.  Mostly I just want to put out there a few words of wisdom I received in January.  A month that, once again, did not go as planned.

I didn’t meet my writing goals, or my editing goals.  I ended up putting a lot more time into side-projects (like Taliana’s UnBirthday party).  I had moments of uncertainty — where I wondered if I was losing my grasp and focus on my writing.

But I keep looking back at one particular present I got this year for my birthday.

For my birthday last month the daughter of one of my friends made me a card.  A little poem that now hangs on the bulletin board near my desk.  The best line of it: “Writing and Blogging is awesome.”

Writing is a part of who I am.  So much so that a girl in Kindergarten, whom I only get to see rarely (not nearly enough — such an awesome kiddo!), knows it.  It doesn’t matter to her that I didn’t edit as much as I wanted, or that my writing took a bit more time than I planned to get on the page.  She just knows that it is what I do.  And that it is awesome.

So remember that, fellow writers and bloggers.  I happen to know that this particular little girl is quite wise (and very smart, like scary-smart sometimes).  If she says that writing and blogging is awesome, I am inclined to believe her.  And I like to think that we who participate in such activities are awesome too.

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This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a IWSG badgegreat group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG. 

We have also, recently, put out a new book, for free (through most sites).  Check it out for all sorts of great articles on topics from writing to publishing, everything in-between and beyond!

Making Room Not To Write – Plus an Introduction

December was a month that saw very little writing on my part.  I had these grand plans for the month, I was going to get so much writing done, do some plotting for future editing, things like that.

But December did not go as I planned.  Almost no writing got done.  Absolutely no blog-formatting got done. Nearly no reading got done.

I’ll admit, I spent a bit of time beating myself up about that all.  I’ve told myself that I should have pushed, that I should have written even if it was a struggle, that I needed to write, that even if I wasn’t writing at least I could have looked at the layout of Disparate Threads, or revisited the outline of my novel-draft, or read more books. Something.

But I didn’t.  I hung out with friends some, and watched entirely too many shows on Netflix.  I did a little bit of cleaning, and a fair amount of sleeping.  There was work at the day job in there too, of course.  And I did make some Christmas gifts.

Still, I was beating myself up for not writing.  I wondered if I had been just fooling myself about being able to do “this writing thing.”  I had moments of wanting to think of myself as a failure — but something held me back from giving over entirely to that thought.

As I start to ease back into the writing work that I had intended to do in December, I realize something very important.  I needed to give myself that break — it wasn’t failure, rather self-care. Yes, sometimes there is a need to push yourself to keep going, even if you don’t feel like it, but sometimes it’s also important to allow yourself room to take a breath.  Giving myself permission to allow the space to not write helps me as I step back into my writing now.  A break does not mean failure.  Sometimes, a break is needed in order to refresh, recharge, and be able to keep going.

Yes, I’ve told myself this before, but apparently I need to be told it again.


This month we were invited to write a little Introduction about ourselves – so I’ll take a brief moment to do so.  There’s also plenty of “who am I?” pondering and rambling in my About Me page.

I’m Allison, and I hate writing bio’s and “about me” posts… I’m just bad at introducing myself.  I’m a writer, and technically a published author and poet, though the published piece isn’t something I mention often because I still feel like a fake in that regard in some ways.  I have an MA in Religion, a BA in History, and ponder going on for another Masters (in Public History) and maybe even a Doctorate. But for now I am focusing on keeping up at my pay-the-bills-job, and juggling my blogging and fiction writing in order to get an actual, functional, draft of my first novel done by the fall of 2015 (self-set goal). Also, I endeavor to stop using “and” and “but” at the start of so many of my sentences.


This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a IWSG badgegreat group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG. 

We have also, recently, put out a new book, for free (through most sites).  Check it out for all sorts of great articles on topics from writing to publishing, everything in-between and beyond!

Giving yourself a break!

I had a post in mind for this months Insecure Writer’s Support Group post… But then I got slammed with feeling sick, overwhelmed, and on buses that wanted to run late.

So instead I write this, on my phone while waiting to get home after a long day (and briefly edit before heading to work the next morning).

When I get home I plan to curl up and go to bed, I’ve been dreaming about it all day.  Because I  am drained, completely and thoroughly.
It really should be no surprise. I “won” NaNoWriMo this month, while working full time with a long commute, still keeping up on this blog and other projects, AND I cooked and prepared meals for much of a two-day Thanksgiving extravaganza, and the rest of the month wasn’t exactly low-key on the social scale. I should be tired.

And yet, I feel guilty for not planning to write tonight. For not writing much at all since the 26th.

I have to remind myself (and I am sure I’m not the only one needing this reminder), that we need to give ourselves breaks. Sometimes life overwhelms, and we then need to step back and give ourselves room to breath.  It doesn’t make one any less of a writer to not write for a short while – we need to take time to rest, and that’s okay. You know, sometimes it’s even okay to decide to watch some tv, rather than read a book – just another form of storytelling.

Pushing ourselves to far without a break can be detrimental. It can cause those insecurities to flare up and take control because we are weakened.  Just like a body pushed beyond its limit with not sleeping as well as you should, or not eating properly, can make you more vulnerable to illness, pushing yourself with your work too much (a little pushing is important) can make you more likely to start over-criticizing and questioning your ability and the worth of your art.

Writing is a draining activity – even in those amazing moments of story creation you are using a lot of energy and effort. So be sure to take the time to allow yourselves to refuel.

Sometimes it is okay to let yourself take a break. Sometimes it is even necessary.


Also, exciting news!  The Insecure Writer’s Support Group has a new book out!  For free (through most sites).  Check it out for all sorts of great articles on topics from writing to publishing, everything in-between and beyond!


This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a IWSG badgegreat group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG.  

Juggling Act

My elementary school gym teacher was also a clown, so my gym classes included things like juggling, riding a unicycle, and balancing a feather on your hand (and getting occasional opportunities to watch his ventriloquism act).  I learned valuable lessons in those classes, ones that I can readily apply to my life now — especially my writing life.

When we started juggling we used scarves.  Up goes one scarf, catch it.  Up goes one scarf, up goes another, catch, catch.  Throw, throw, catch, catch.    You learn a pattern, start out slow, and then build.  After mastering three scarves, you switch to juggling balls or bean-bags.  Throw, catch.  Throw, throw, catch, catch.  And then, when you get really good at that:  throw, throw, catch, throw, catch,  throw… or something like that.  I never quite managed to build to three very well.

I can sometimes keep three small stuffed animals in the air (enough to entertain toddlers), last time I tried a unicycle was probably about two decades ago (I think I did okay), and I still can balance a peacock feather on my hand like a pro.

But some people I know, they can juggle three, or even more exciting things.  Some of them can even do it while balancing on a unicycle.   They didn’t get there overnight, it took a lot of practice, dedication, and some amount of skill.

 As writers we’re always juggling.  There are paying jobs (writing or otherwise), families, friends, self-care, and writing to keep up with.  Within the writing itself there are often multiple characters, plot-lines, plot-snags, grammatical rules to obey (or not), scenes clamoring to be written, and scenes presenting problems.  Add to that social media, the “writer/author platforms,” networking and (if you have work already produced) marketing.  It is a lot to keep moving.

I’m early in the process.  I have to remind myself of that.  Just like juggling started out with the lightweight scarves, slowly building to more challenging things to catch.  We have to build up slowly, taking on too much at too quickly can end badly, like a novice juggler deciding to try knives or flames.

We’re all move at our own paces.  While the kid next to me may have been able to move from the scarves to the juggling balls faster than me, I might have been able to master the unicycle with more ease.

Writing is about balance.  “Just keep writing,” is bandied about as an important phrase, when you don’t feel like writing, keep writing.  But sometimes this isn’t the case.  Sometimes you need to just STOP writing, to give yourself room to breath.  When you’re juggling, if you start to lose the rhythm, you can quickly lose control, and it wont be long before they all fall.  You have to pace yourself.  You have to keep an eye to the rhythm.  Yes, it may speed up or slow down, but it is still there.

Same with writing.  Sometimes you’ll push and move fast, sometimes you’ll slow down and there will be more space between writing sessions.  There is a rhythm unique to you, and you need to learn to listen to that.

There are times when you can do it all.  When you can sit on the unicycle, juggling flaming knives while playing the kazoo and causing the tree to sing the alphabet backwards.  Embrace those moments when the world comes together and you are in “the flow” and able to do it all.  For me they are relatively rare, and I need to remember that they are not the bar to which I should hold myself, but rather a dream to reach for.

Other times you have to do things one at a time.  Start slowly and allow yourself space to breath.  There’s nothing wrong with only riding the unicycle for a while, or going back to scarves for a while to get your grounding.  Take your time.  It’s okay to have stumbles, to not get something written — because you can only do so much.  We can’t all always be juggling masters.

So.. it may be a somewhat jumbled metaphor but… I think it works.  Especially right now, in the starting stages of NaNo where I need to be reminded that, while it is a bit of a marathon, I still need to pace myself, and keep balancing in mind.


IWSG badge

  This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a great group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG.