Just Write #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

You’re the genius we’ve been waiting for…

I don’t care what anyone else tells you, there are no rules to writing, except to just write.   

There’s no set time you’re supposed to write. It doesn’t matter if you write all day, or just for a few minutes… You can write at 3 in the morning, or 9 O’clock at night.  The TV can be on in the background or the music playing, or it could be quiet with only the ocean waves hitting against the sandy shore…

It doesn’t matter how or where you do it, at a library, at your desk, sitting in your car – truly,  there are no rules to writing my friend, just one – to write. 

There’s no style that’s better either – using a pen, paper, typewriter or keyboard. Maybe you’re a storyteller who needs the beginning, middle and end of every great moment.  Or maybe you’re a journalist who just reports on what’s happening here?  Again, it doesn’t matter. Do both or do none. Or do something in between. Seriously, I swear, write however it suits you. But write, nonetheless.

Maybe you write scripts easily or a novel just jumps out of your head.  It’s true, you could also provide content on a blog or scribble profound thoughts on a napkin instead. All of it, yes all of it – makes you a writer, I swear it, my friend.

Did I just sound like Dr. Seuss? Of course, I did!  But what better example of a great writer to stick in your head?    

Look, there are no brownie points for how long your piece is. You can write gibberish or poetry. There really are no rules — and don’t worry, you’re not a better writer if only you’d read a bunch of books.  People keep peddling that one over and over again and I know it makes you feel bad – but don’t let it! It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t read books. But does it help?  Of course, it can!  But there’s no correlation between how many books you read verses how great of a writer you’ll be. Trust me, there’s no rule that says you’re better at anything because you’ve read 400 books, instead.  And while I’m here, blogging is surely writing.  Writing articles for a paper or magazine doesn’t make you more of a writer. Content writing means you can write and seduce people to buy things or to look over here. Cool, if that’s your thing.  You write scripts? Great. Good for you.  Writing is what makes you a writer. Period. End stop. Don’t compare yourself to others or make excuses for what you write.  You be YOU. Unapologetic-ally. And if you aspire to be better, to do better, then bravo take those steps when necessary, but stop putting yourself down and comparing yourself to others – if all it does is stop you from writing, then you’re doing it all wrong my friend. Pick up that pen and piece of paper and write, write, write!      

If you wake up every morning and you believe you’re a writer – then my goodness, lucky you, guess what?  You’re a writer! No one said this better than Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters to A Young Poet”. Think about it, someone was saying this way back then, and I’m sure someone else shared it way before that too – I’m sharing the same thought by the way, right now – NO ONE can tell you, NO ONE but you!

There are so many great writers who share some real truths.  And here’s my favorite one of them all – most great writers don’t spend most of their time writing!  Oh my God, what?   Writers think, and spend time mulling, dreaming, taking it all in!  …all of these are part of the process of being an artist, of being a writer. If no one ever told you, let me say it to you now:  It’s okay to do it your way!  If you write every day or weekly or monthly. Be proud! If you write notes, in a journal, on a blog or for a company. If you write in English or Spanish or Korean or French. All of it is welcome. Yes, you are a writer my friend. I promise you – I promise you,  you are! 

We stifle so many people by telling them “rules”. And then we stifle ourselves by believing it all too.  The best writers, the best artists I admire always break all the rules – ever notice that?   

I’m giving you permission damn-it, the world needs MORE writers, more artists, more genius and I think we’ve done a disservice by not telling the truth – there are no rules, no secrets to writing. Just write my friend, start writing, right now if it’s true!   

And once you’ve put down your words, once you’ve started down that process – everything else will start to unfold.  All will reveal itself, in time…. I promise you, it’s true. 

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The great thing about being a writer is a writer can be so many things – A poet can write songs – tell me Freddie Mercury wasn’t just a poet with an amazing genius band? Have you heard Bohemian Rhapsody?   Writers can teach and move you to believe in a better world – A writer named Aaron Sorkin comes to mind. He wrote the TV show The West Wing among others – I learned all about politics because of that show!   I bet you could name great pieces of work that all started with a stroke of a pen or keys.  When I think on it a bit,  I think everything starts with a piece of writing…Hmmmm…There are so many uses in our world for writing… writing is not just one thing.  So, I don’t know who needs to hear this again – but DO YOU.  Write your booty off and don’t question it so much! 

Writing is a communication.  The ability to share with others. A therapy to help oneself.  It comes in all forms. Once you let go and just write and you start to feel comfortable with your own process, then and only then, will it matter what comes next.  Yes, you start deciding what kind of writer you’d like to be.  Sometimes the kind of writer you are, just presents itself. And it’s not that rare to realize you are more than just one thing.  A poet, a lyricist, a musician, for example.  Maybe there’s a story you’d like to tell?  A book you’d like to write, a speech you’d like to share – or a stream of consciousness, uhem, you’d like to scream… Well, surely, there are rules on how to do all of that – you’ll figure it all out when it’s time.  I promise it will happen, but just start writing, start right now.      

The next great something is right there within you!  You are the genius we’ve been waiting for….  

No rules, my friend, just write. And the rest will unfold as it should, I promise.   

With fierce love,

Carmen

Exercising the Writer in You #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

My head gets overwhelmed at times with too much noise when I’m writing – when that happens, I know it’s time to put down my pen – or close my laptop – and go for a walk.  

About a mile in, I’ll start to exercise my writer brain by playing my “Describe the Character” game. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. What it does, is give you something else to focus on, while being a bit fun, easy – and if you’re lucky, you can actually develop the great beginnings of a character or scene out of the exercise.  In my first book CANELA, this was how I figured out how to combine characters.

Here’s how to play: simply pick a random item in the area and then, without justifying or qualifying, describe it as thoroughly as possible. In this case, about a mile into my walk, I saw a shadowy figure approaching me…without staring too directly, I took in all that I could.  Once I passed the person, I jotted down my thoughts in OneNote:

  • Tall, black running tights, white stripes, three.
  • Baseball cap, tight black shirt, pecs. Muscular.
  • Runner. Walking. Hurt. Long legs. Strong arms.
  • Smile, lots of teeth, white, capped. Bright blue eyes. Long lashes.
  • Brown hair, white, corporate, executive, Tesla.
  • Handsome, scruff, married, kids, forty-two.
  • Friendly, smirk. Head nod. Kind. Neighborly.
  • Deep. Fall. Cold. Confidence. Unafraid. Worthy.
  • Swimmer. Parent. Having a good day anyway. Nice.

When I’m having a tough time writing I see it as an opportunity to change things up a bit. As I mentioned in a past post about writer’s block, I like to think of these moments as opportunities.  It’s as if the universe is conspiring to have me try something else to get a different creative result.  And I have to say, after doing this, I’m hardly ever disappointed.  At the very least, it always gets rid of the noise.

I sometimes practice this at my desk as well. I can’t always just go for a walk, especially if it’s the dead of night, so in this case, there are other ways to exercise the writing jewels (my brain).  I’ll close my eyes, take a breath and let it out and whatever lands in my eye-line when I open them, that’s what gets described. Here’s what I wrote in OneNote about an ink cartridge:

  • Dirty. Complicated and expensive. Hate.
  • White, black, a mess of sorts.
  • Necessary. Important. Unavoidable, but useful.
  • Clear. Colorful. Toxic. Technology – Techy. Easy, home use.

Another way to do this is to put on any random song and describe how you feel immediately after listening… In this case, I listened to Lizzo’s Good As Hell

  • Positive. Joyful with an attitude. Walking like a model. Freedom.
  • Bopping. Swaying. Giggling. Laughing. Confident. Superior.
  • Happy. Smiling. Advising. Powerful. Elegant. Class. Proper with a touch of street smarts.
  • Beautiful. Fabulous. Building someone up. Feeling like you got more to do.

The point is, when you can, use tools available to exercise the creative juices.  I know writers who use flash cards or just do free writing exercises. The more ways you can self-motivate your creativity and learn to “unstuck” yourself, the better! Now, with these three descriptive pieces of information, I can start writing a new scene or develop a character.  At the very worst, I’ve had a little break and stopped the initial noise I had in my head. I can now get back to what I was working on. Win-win!

What tricks or tools do you use to keep yourself in that creative space? 

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Carmen

A Monthly Blog Hop for Authors Who Want to Learn More about Being Authors 
  

Take Care of YOU Simple Habits for the Writer, Creative, Everyone! #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

*Below is not a transcript of video.

A few years ago, I had to go to the doctor’s office because I was experiencing so much wrist pain I had to get it checked out.  At that time, I learned everything I needed to know about carpal tunnel syndrome and because it sidelined me for quite a while, I decided to start making some changes quickly to avoid ever going down that road again. I developed some really easy habits that I do every day that I wanted to share with everyone who writes, stares at a computer all day or is on the phone regularly.   

A lot of writers, and creative people in general, tend to overwork themselves especially when they’re in that zone or experiencing that ever elusive “light bulb” moment.  We’ll write for hours without stopping — we’re also prone to over-due it when we’re experiencing some sort of block – we’ll keep grinding and pushing, not realizing the possible physical toll we may be putting on ourselves, not to mention the mental one, by hunching over our laptops and staring at the computer screen for hours.  

I believe that keeping ourselves physically healthy is just as important as keeping our mental and emotional state in check.  As artists, sometimes we faulter on all of these in the hopes of creating that next masterpiece.  But I’d like to offer the idea that if you can implement some really simple habits now, it may help prevent you from unnecessary injury and pain later.  If you start now, it will also become a seamless part of your everyday way of working and will not impose on your creativity, but actually may help it! 

So, what am I talking about?  Well, please watch the video for a visual explanation.  But simply, start learning to take 1-minute breaks throughout your day to do some small stretches with your fingers, your wrists, neck and shoulders to give yourself a break from sitting in a static position.  Staying in the same position for long periods of time can lead to cramping, stiffness and in some cases, possible carpal tunnel syndrome.  Give yourself 30 seconds to a  minute break every hour at least, to reassess your body and stretch for just a bit. 

I use the alarm on my phone for just this purpose. I set it up to chime in one hour increments and the “ring” I use is a very subtle soothing chime. The type of “ring” you use IS important – I learned this the hard way – because sometimes you really are in that creative zone and you don’t want something to jar you out completely.  But a soft notification is just a reminder to finish the thought and do your quick stretches to take care of your fingers, shoulders, neck and overall posture. 

Please note: I’m not a doctor – so understand these ideas are what work for me and I’m sharing them with you in hopes that it will help you.  I also think it’s important to state that I don’t think these tiny stretches throughout your day should take the place of what we all should be doing to have good and healthy lives – eat right, work-out/be active, mediate, walk and make sure you hydrate with water regularly.  But adding these small moments throughout your day will definitely help with taking care of the physical part of you, the writer, the artist, the worker, so you can continue creating all those beautiful stories the world needs to hear. 

I hope this has been helpful. I’m curious what other people do to prevent from getting stiff or cramping while writing.  I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

This post is also part of a great group of writers called #AuthorToolboxBlogHop  – please click on this hashtag or the pic to find other great sources of tips and tricks that other great writers use to keep on creating… 

As always, thanks for stopping by! 

How to Become a Writer… a Better Writer #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

I was a dancer as a little kid.  I rehearsed early in the morning and after-school till late at night. I was diligent and passionate about performing and doing a fantastic job. There was also something innate about my dancing. I had to do it daily. It was a part of me.  I was pretty famous too – Well, I thought I was famous in the world, but in fact, I was just a well-known entity in my neighborhood, in my community.  Ha!  When I found out that my “fame” wasn’t world-wide I still rehearsed diligently – maybe even more so. Early in the morning before school, after-school, weekends… I developed a habit of working those muscles daily and always finding ways to improve – fame or the lack thereof, had nothing to do with it!    

Writing is the same way for me.  I don’t dance “professionally” anymore so writing has taken over that habit-forming rehearsal space.  I’m diligent about my writing practice. I write every morning in a hand-written journal, while I drink my coffee. I write during the day, generally for work.  And then, at night, I work on my stories or my exercises. My next work. My next project. Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal.  The practice of writing. It’s part of the process, the habit of working to become a better writer.   

And just like dancing, writing takes many different forms. I’m great at some types of writing and not-so-great at others, but I’m always in the pursuit of getting better.  I love writing content – especially in first person. I love writing stories, blog posts… however, I also enjoy the struggle of writing copy for a product I have no interest in – it reminds me of ballet class. I hated ballet with all my heart as a dancer, even though I loved watching it. As most everyone knows, if you’re going to call yourself a “dancer” you better at least know the basics of ballet and find a way to push on through, even if you don’t like it!  Writing copy for a product I don’t care about is almost like that.  A good example: I wrote copy for an electrician’s website recently. As much as I didn’t care that much about the subject matter in general, it was like that ballet class – I appreciated the work I had to do and ultimately, I got through it and did it brilliantly.  But only because I’d “rehearsed” my writing over and over again. When you practice your craft and you’re thrown a new category or style, you can easily maneuver your way through it because the basics are so innate — they’re a part of you. So much so, that when given a challenge, you’re always up for the task!  I may know absolutely nothing about how to be an electrician. But, I know enough about copy and how to write to sell his work – it’s easy enough to navigate and get it done!

So, why am I bringing all this up?  Well, I get this question a lot, especially after a speaking event about how I wrote my book CANELA. Everyone thinks they can sit down and just start writing their book. They think I might have a secret formula on how to do it — How do I find the time? How did I even start?  How do I find work as a writer?  Most people want to write their own story  — surely, anyone can hire a ghost writer – that’s one way to go, but most people fancy themselves a writer.  But what they don’t realize is, like anything else you want to excel at, you have to put in the work. Writing is NOT EASY! Yesterday, someone actually explained to me that they were planning to write their book and have it published before the Christmas holiday so they could give out as a gift.  They wanted my insight into how to make that happen.  Christmas is only four months away! WHAT?!?!?!

Well, suffice it to say, I told that person they should definitely consider hiring a ghost-writer, make it a real short story of just one moment in their life and call it a day.  But for everyone else who is serious about writing – whether it be your own story or just getting better as a writer, here’s my advice about how to start and how to keep your writing strong, fresh and ready for the next challenge:

Write every single day about anything and everything!  This will help you find and develop your voice. It doesn’t matter if you do it with a pen, on a computer or just for a few minutes a day. Rehearse every day. Write. Dance. Write. Repeat.  

Think about moments in your life and write those first. Don’t worry about the book and it’s beginning, middle and end just yet.  If you’re just starting out, or if you’re just stuck on where to start, just jot down the story of you and your brother taking a sleigh ride that winter when he broke his leg. Or write about your dog when he was a puppy and you first brought him home. It doesn’t have to be long at all – a few sentences. Just start the process of thinking something and writing it down. Thinking about dancing isn’t the same as actually getting up, putting on the music and gettin’ down. Same with writing. Stop just thinking about it writing that book and instead, write that thought down NOW!

When you don’t know what to write about, write about the first thing you see: Currently, I’m looking at my lamp. I think I need to change the bulb because it flickers every-so-often. I keep meaning to buy a bulb, but I always forget. I’m going to write that down in my grocery list right now! When you practice regularly, you can easily find a way to express yourself on paper.  That’s the goal. It’s like dancing – the more you do it, the more comfortable it is to just go with it and not think too deeply about HOW to do it, it just starts to flow.

Stretch your writing skills:  Here’s a fun way to do this. Put down your pen or close your laptop.  Watch TV.  Yup, I know, trust me. Watch TV, wait for the next commercial. Any commercial.  Before the commercial really starts, turn off the TV.  Write about that product and try and sell it through your writing in a goofy way. Be fun with it, play around a bit. It really helps – and hey, you may be a copywriter and not even know it – but walla! This is another way to change up your writing rehearsal time.  If you normally write stories, try a script, or a poem or write a speech.  All of these take different types of skills as a writer and regardless of whether you do it professionally or not, it’s stretching that writing tool. Just like when I took TAP as a dancer – I’m not a tap-dancer, but I surely can tap if I have too. I never knew that, until I forced myself to try…   

Be comfortable with your own voice. This will take time.  I know a lot of people are advocates of reading as much as possible in order to become a better writer – eeeh… I’m not sure how I feel about that. Don’t get me wrong, I watched other dancers growing up and admired them, but it was the music and the constant battle to be a better dancer and finding my authentic style that made me great. So, of course everyone should read books – I love to read – but I don’t think that’s the ultimate reason why I became a decent writer. Actually, writing daily makes me a decent writer. Learning what my voice “sounded” like on paper made me a more confident writer.  Being a confident writer, makes me a viable writer worthy of getting paid and more importantly, being “seen”! So, practice that writing and get comfortable with your own style and voice on paper!

If you want to be a writer, you need to write. If you want to be a decent or great writer, then you need to put in the rehearsal, the work. It’s not any different than any other profession. Writing is a skill that takes a lot of time and effort to perfect. Maybe you’re a born writer like Misty Copeland is a “born” ballet dancer?  Maybe it’s an innate talent? Writing/Dancing comes easy to you?  But know that Misty rehearses every day.  I rehearsed every day as a dancer and now I practice every day as a writer. The greats, especially the innately gifted, always rehearse and refine their gifts.  Writing is no different.  If you want to write, then sit down and start writing!  Do the work. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!  There are no short cuts success.  Period.

Click the link below if you want some other tips from other writers, authors, etc. about how to be a writer…any tips on dancing or for further questions/comments from me, please feel free to reach out to me anytime on my contact page!

Creative Drama – My Writing Issue

I love to write. As I’ve mentioned more than a few times on this platform, I tend to be an old school kinda writer too – I enjoy the feel of a pen against the texture of paper.  That’s my preferred mode of writing.   

The problem, of course, has been the inability to actually transform some of those pieces of writing immediately onto my blog – not that I think I’m writing such extraordinary stuff or anything, but some of that creative work could help someone else, or maybe by sharing it, I might be able to get some insight into what others think and feel about it too. I mean feedback is always a good thing.  But as an artist, as a writer, we want to share our work and I wasn’t doing any of that!

But I can’t lie – with my schedule, it’s tough to spend that time handwriting and then have to consider going back to type it all out just so I can post on my blog. By the time I get my head wrapped around the entire process,  the idea of actually wanting to post something just flitters away. I’ve lost all umph. 

There was a time when I was actually posting pictures of my actual handwritten journal entries.  I got some great feedback about that process. People kind of enjoyed looking and reading those.  But then the problem became I wasn’t writing freely because I knew I’d post it online so I wanted to “mind my manners” while writing. It just wasn’t fun or easy. Writing became a chore.  And honestly, I just couldn’t have any of that! NO WAY! Writing is my everything. My therapy. My outlet. My love! 

So, for the past couple of months I’ve been basically exercising, learning really, a new way to write and to share.  At first, it was a lot of work. Because it was changing the way I normally do things.  I’ve been writing like this since I was a little girl.  I had to re-train myself to do something new – to write in the “afternoon” sort of speak.  Now my early morning pages (cue anyone who has ever read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way) are reserved for therapeutic topics.  And whenever I get the urge to write too fully an idea that might be a great blog post or something to share,  I’ve taught myself to jot the idea down in one sentence, or record the thought, and save it to “write in the afternoon” – which really means: save the idea till you finish your morning pages and then switch to the laptop. 

It’s been difficult – because my best “thinking” is without a doubt early in the morning right after that delicious first sip of coffee.  I feel like every thought that’s been resting all night long while I sleep, comes perfectly alive and ready to be released first thing in the morning. Typing out those thoughts just didn’t feel the same. Clearly, what I was doing, wasn’t working. I was frustrated with not really sharing enough.  And isn’t that what this whole blogging thing, social media gig, is all about?  

Well, when what you’ve been doing isn’t working, change things up a bit – it might take a little time to get the hang of it, but it already seems to be so very worth it!  At least for me. 🙂