Monday, February 22, 2010

What has your journal done for you lately?

Whenever we are learning a new skill, practice is necessary. Practice is also necessary to maintain that skill. To write well, you must practice, practice, practice. Few people sit down and write a best seller without years of honing their skills. A journal is the perfect place for that practice. Here are some of the ways a journal will benefit your writing:

1. Store all your best ideas in your journal. So often a great idea hits us and we write it on a scrap of paper. If you get into the habit of writing the idea and a bit of description of it in your journal, you'll always know where you can find that next great plot or article idea.

2. I'm sure this happens to you. More often than not, my head spins with ideas and all the things I want to accomplish. Use your journal to empty your head so you can make room for creativity.

3. If you are not sure of your writing, the journal is the perfect place to try it out. Maybe you've heard of a new writing technique, but you don't want to try it out on your paying audience. Try it on your journal. Write, write, write, and then leave it alone. Come back a few days later to see how it sounds to you.

4. Use your journal to re-write. Often a scene in a book doesn't work. A journal is the perfect spot to write it a different way or five different ways without disturbing your book. When you get it just right, insert it.

It's your choice whether you use a paper journal or a put your journal on your computer. The form is yours. The point is to have a place to practice your writing with the judging eyes of the world.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Building Your Credibility as a Writer

In a perfect world, you could be left alone to write your book, you'd present it to the world, and millions would buy it. This is an image that dances through all of our heads of what should happen. It rarely happens this way, especially for the first-time writer.

Instead, it is important for writers to build up their writing credibility to ensure that their work is taken seriously when they do present their book to the world of readers, agents, and editors,. Here are some ways you can do that:

1. Write and publish outside your main project. If you are writing your first book, create credibility by writing magazine articles or writing for websites/blogs on the topic. Also, submit articles for publication in journals, if appropriate. Keep a list of the ones that are published and be sure to include the phrase, "I also write and have published numerous magazine articles," in your letter of introduction when you send your book out. No need at this date to list them all in the letter. Just be ready with it if they ask.

2. Enter some writing contests. There are many on-line sources for contests as well as ones through writing organizations and magazines. Enter them and keep a list of those in which you win , place or show. These laurels show agents and editors that others have taken you seriously.

3. Put up a blog about your writing or your topic. On social media sites show your willingness to promote your writing. With the writing world as competitive as it is, it is important that agents see that you have the potential to work hard to bring attention to your book and to help them sell it.

4. Take every opportunity and make opportunities of your own to do some public speaking on your topic. Public libraries are often open to allowing writers to use space in the library to present workshops or lectures on topics of interest. Take these opportunities to establish yourself as an expert on your topic.

All these activites will fill out your writing resume and add teeth to your claim to be a writer. Agents, editors and readers will take you more seriously when you can point to a few previous writing accomplishments.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Creative Responsibility

Writers/artists often find conflict between their desire and need to fulfill their creative urges and the necessity to meet obligations of concrete life.

Have you read Becoming a Writer? It's a classic by Dorothea Brandt, first published in 1934. It touches on the need to remain childlike in our creativity in order to reach into and draw from the depths of what we have to offer. By doing so, we have a chance to create something wonderful.

The other side of the writer/artist must manage the mundane, take care of daily activities and obligations, and encourage the artistic side to work and live responsibly.

While it's easy to agree with Brandt that it's important to allow the childlike creativity to reign without restriction in order to create our best work, that doesn't mean that being creative gives us license to ignore our responsibilities. We must remain good citizens and share in life's obligations.

I have known artists/writers who seem, at times, to be in creative worlds of their own. When they are in their creative zone, they have difficulty keeping up with more mundane activities, such as paying bills, making it to meetings and appointments on time, etc.

I don't happen to agree with the supposition that to be creative, one must be flaky. It's not only possible but important to find balance as writers/artists between our creative lives and our practical lives.