The Hardest Part #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop #Writing

What’s the Hardest Part of Writing?

I guess most people would talk about “writer’s block” but I’ve already spoken about that phenomenon and it’s not the hard part of writing at all. To me, that’s just part of the process of writing. 

For me, the hardest part of writing has nothing to do with writing. 

It’s like anything else –  I’m sure there are highs and lows to being a doctor or teacher or a painter or whatever profession we may be talking about, but if you love what you do, you’ll accept those parts of the process that feel heavier at times than the parts that are light and somewhat easier. So, writer’s block is just a heavier part of the process.  Struggling to finish a chapter or connect the dots between characters, just part of the job.

The hardest part of writing is what happens AFTER you finish your masterpiece. And this goes for all types of art – whatever it may be – whether a piece of writing, or something you’ve sculpted, painted, music or even mastering your acting skills – all of it, unless you’re planning on keeping it to yourself and just sharing it with family, has to become a business. The hardest part for me was NOT being aware of what to do AFTER I’d written my manuscript. I had no idea where to start, what to do – and so I did what many people do and started submitting my unsolicited work randomly to publishing houses hoping someone would read my “brilliant” writing and just have to publish it. 

That didn’t happen. 

After being thoroughly disappointed by continuous rejection letters, or worse, no response at all, I shelved my manuscript for a couple of years.  Of course, then naturally I started to believe it was a horrible piece of writing and a stupid idea. No matter how strong of a person you are – and no matter how many times people tell you NOT to pay attention to criticism, we’re all only human.  It grates on you.  Multiple rejection letters and terrible pieces of advice from strangers who clearly had NOT read my book – did a number on my confidence.  It was not a great time for me as a writer.  Self-confidence is a thing as an artist. 

So, my advice to anyone writing their first novel or script or poetry – START to think of your creativity today as a business.  I know it’s sometimes hard to find the time to write, but if you’re committed to your work, please also take the time –even if it’s just a few minutes a week to researching the “Business” end of your industry.  It took me so long to figure it out and even NOW I’m still learning some of the tricks to the trade. 

Here is some basic information to start you thinking about your creativity (whatever it is) as a business:

  1. Join LinkedIn (yes, even if you’re a writer, or actor or sculpture or whatever). I was never a big fan, but now it’s become the best place to connect with like-minded individuals.  Here’s why it’s great:  People in all types of businesses post their successes and failures and ideas and suggestions and it’s just another avenue to learn. Here’s my link if you want to add me:   https://www.linkedin.com/in/carmensbusiness/
  • Join BlogHops.  I never knew what this was until Author Raimey Gallant saw one of my blog posts and invited me to join!  This #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop is a great resource on so many levels!  But there are many “Blog Hops” and if you don’t know what they are – because I surely didn’t – then do a quick google search and get on board. It’s an easy way to connect with the community and share your thoughts and ideas as well as learn so much about the writing world as well!  (BlogHops can be for other topics as well…)
  • This piece of advice is mostly for my script and actor friends, but I bet it also applies to really anything at all:  know who the entertainment lawyers are for your industry. And if you can pay a retainer, or sign with a lawyer on a percentage basis, know that pitching your script is something a lawyer can help you do. Yes, everything is about money, so it might be harder if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer. But I learned THIS YEAR that studios, including places like Netflix and Amazon studios will be more likely to hear a pitch from a lawyer than someone who is sending out their ideas “unsolicited”. My book has been pitched to a production company for a possible deal with Netflix – NOTHING HAS COME OF IT YET and in this town that really means NOTHING. But, it would have never even gotten to this point – a legit hearing – if I hadn’t had a contact from a “legit” source.
  • Go to places that support writers (or whatever your craft may be).  Seek out organizations that have other ways to network and grow. For example, here in Los Angeles there is a great organization called Writer’s Blok.  It was much cheaper when I first joined back in the day and I can’t lie, I think the monthly costs are a little high nowadays – but if you join their mailing lists, they do have some free sessions and free events once in a while. The point is this is another great way to network.  I prefer NOT to write with other people – but I can’t lie, when I found this group and decided to try it, I took my manuscript off the shelf and finally found a way to get it published!  It was a great place to figure out what was next. Wherever you are on the globe, there might be a place in your neighborhood that has this type of organization.  I found this by going on MeetUp and just searching for “writers” within my neighborhood.  Best thing I ever did for my book!  And my confidence!

There is so much more I could list. But I just wanted to get the idea in your head that the hardest part of writing isn’t always about the writing.  It’s about realizing that in order to get your creativity SEEN, READ, HEARD – that you’re also going to have to wrap your head around it being a business!

There are so many people who write about self-publishing and/or how to get an agent and such – so I wanted to offer some other, less talked about ideas.

My hope is that this has you at least thinking about the business end of things… I hope this was helpful. 

‘til next time,

Carmen

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. 

——————————

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

Gang Form

For the past three weeks, I’ve been lacking a good night’s sleep.  There’s been that one cricket somewhere in a wall, near the doorway to my home that I just can’t find and kill.  What’s worse, I’ve been seeing crickets everywhere since.  In the kitchen, the bathroom, in my damn dreams!  The final straw for me, was the kitchen. Babies crickets crawling up a wall. Uggh.  After trying some home DIY remedies for about a day – “natural” type of things, I lost all hope and decided enough was enough. I called for pest control to come out and do its thing.

I spent the entire day and night elsewhere while they sprayed the space, and when I came home the following day, there were hundreds of dead crickets at my front door and doorway.  Clearly, my man from pest control had done his job well!  Never thought I’d be so happy to see such death.  But yeah, I was looking forward to getting a great night’s sleep.  First though, quick shower and a run to the grocery story…I washed my hair and threw on my baseball cap and ran out the door. 

When I returned from the grocery store in my car, the end of the alley way was closed off because of construction.  I had to back up and go around the block to get to my space from the other end of the second entrance. No biggy. It happens. 

As I made my way into the other entrance of my alleyway, a white van was parked on the ramp part of the entrance.  I could squeeze on by, but why would someone park right there?  It made no sense.  I waited for a moment and then carefully made my way past the small opening beside them.  As I passed on by, I looked over to see who it was.  I noticed it was a young woman, clearly looking frantically on her phone for what I assumed were directions. On the one hand, I thought it was smart that she pulled over to look for directions. On the other hand, it wasn’t the smartest place to pull over… I went on my way down the driveway.  And then I heard someone scream…

“What’chya lookin’ at, bitch?”

I checked my rear-view mirror.  From the opposite side of the opening to the driveway, this young Black woman wearing a white shirt and jeans was gesturing with her arms and now screaming, “Yeah, you. What you looking at? You have a problem or something?”

When I say it’s been years, I mean it has been decades since I did what I’m about to describe

I stopped my car, put it in park and got out the car.  I walked, almost ran, back up the driveway and when I got face to face to her I asked, “Are you talking to me?  Did you just call me a bitch?”

I was close enough to see the detail in the colorful, but mostly blackish grey tats across her neck, that ended close to her chin.  I stared straight into her eyes and said it again.  “Are you talking to me?”

She seemed startled but stood tough, her several long braids peeking out of her hoodie. “Yeah. What you lookin’ at?” 

I got closer. “First of all, I can look at whoever I want.  Second, I live here  and she’s not supposed to be parked there, my sista.  You sure you were calling me a bitch?”

She backed up a bit, pulling down her hood. “Naah, you didn’t have to get out your car is all.” Truth is, for all her bravado I could tell she was stunned that I was a Black woman and confronting her. I was so mad.

“Clearly, I did have to get out my car! Don’t be calling people names and calling people out for no damn reason because sometimes people will get out the car and confront you.”

Her voice lowered but she portrayed a quiet toughness. “Yeah, but you still didn’t need to get out the car, though.”

I got closer.  “Let me say this again – if you’re gonna call someone a bitch, that someone may actually respond.  So you best be prepared to answer for your words. You hear me?” I said it with such old school gang authority, I honestly don’t know what came over me. I was so angry with this girl.

She still wouldn’t back down. No apology was coming from her – but I could tell in her demeanor she knew she had made a mistake. 

I heard a car horn screech. I had stopped my car in the middle of the alleyway and left it there. Now I was blocking someone else.  A neighbor from across the way. A White guy I’ve never spoken too but have seen several times before. 

The young woman now interjected almost in a gleeful whisper, “Looks like you need to move your car.  See, like I said, you didn’t need to get out your car, ma’am.” 

I was thrown by my neighbor needing to get by. But I seared into the young woman’s eyes and said clearly, “You best be careful who you call a bitch. Not everyone is out to get you. And looking at someone ain’t a damn crime.”

I headed back toward my car but before I could jump back into it, my White guy neighbor who’d been honking his horn to get on by decided to interject: “Why did you even bother getting out of your car? Why would you waste your time with her -she’s crazy?” 

I took a deep breath. “Because. She’s not crazy.  She’s a young Black woman, in a White neighborhood and I was wearing a baseball cap.” He looked at me confused. I continued exasperated, “I needed her to know that I, a Black woman, live in this neighborhood – and yes that she belongs here too.  Not everyone is looking at her because she’s Black.  Sometimes, people are looking at you just because we’re looking.” 

He nodded his head in agreement, but I’m not sure he understood at all. 

I got back in my car and went to my garage. I pulled the car in and sat there for a minute. My hands were shaking.  Two decades later and clearly you can take the girl out of the hood, but the hood is always a part of who she is…  and that’s not a bad thing at all. 

That night, I finally got a good night’s sleep. Crickets no more.

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!