Using Instagram to Break Out of Writer’s Block

I haven’t been doing much writing lately. Who am I kidding, I haven’t written but a few pages here and there since the end of last year. I could easily say life’s gotten in the way, but the honest truth is I just haven’t felt inspired. And what is the writing life if you’re not inspired?

Inspiration, breaking yourself out of a self-imposed writer’s block, can come from some most unusual sources. Take social media for example. I’m not talking about websites like Writer’s Digest or any other writer’s magazine, chock full of well-intentioned but obvious advice – “A writer writes!” – that often times can leave a writer more discouraged than inspired. I’m talking about leveraging Instagram.

Instagram? You mean that app where people like Miley Cyrus and millions of others post selfies, or pics of their cats? Yeah, that app. I’m on Instagram, and I’m just as guilty of a few selfies as you are. But in between the selfies and cat pics are writers and poets posting snippets of their work. I’ve found these writers, thanks to Christina Hart, aka Daily Rants with the Bitch Next Door, and some of the writing I’ve been reading has been nothing short of profound and daring.

So I decided to take the plunge into the Instagram writer’s community pool and post some of my work:

Call it micro-fiction, or even poetry, but it’s me flexing my writing muscles again. You can’t cycle up a mountain without getting on the bike and hitting a few short roads first, no?

Question for you, dear reader: do you use other social media sites to motivate or inspire you or your writing? Share your results below!

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In Praise of Late Bloomers

For those of us who are in our 40s and are constantly reminded that creativity is best suited and served for by those younger than us (see Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 List), here’s a reminder that just because you’re 45 and you still haven’t published that novel (or, worse yet, finished it) doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

In Praise of Late Bloomers

The history of literature is rife with so-called “late bloomers,” writers who had the desire and the inklination to write, but never had a major work published until they turned 40 or later. Charles Bukowski didn’t publish his first novel, “Post Office,” until he was 51. Toni Morrison was nearly 40 when her first novel was published. You get the idea.

We tend to romanticize this notion that youth is a requirement for producing major works of art, and while that may be the case in, say, music or visual art, it doesn’t lend itself that well to literature. Sure, you can write a great novel when you’re 25. But you can also write a masterpiece when you’re 50.

For more inspiration, there’s Bloom, “…for writers and artists of all ages and stages, for anyone who believes that the artistic journey is, and should be, as particular and unique as each one of us; that there is no prescribed beeline to literary achievement.”

I, for one, need to be reminded of this every day, and remember that it will never be too late for me to achieve what I want to achieve as a writer.

(REPOST) – NaNoWriMo Is Upon Us: How to Get Inspired Even If You’re Not Participating

Hey everyone,

Sorry for the lack of posts here lately. Life’s getting in the way of blogging. Hopefully that will change soon.

I read this article this morning on Flavorwire, and was thinking of everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo, and those of us who aren’t:

NaNoWriMo Is Upon Us: How to Get Inspired Even If You’re Not Participating

Some helpful ideas to keep us writers engaged while we’re not participating in NaNoWriMo.

(Reblog) Should I Get an MFA? 27 Writers on Whether or Not to Get Your MFA

The age-old question that’s asked every year: should a writer get an MFA, or should they not get an MFA?

27 Writers on Whether or Not to Get Your MFA

Lots of food for thought from many writers who give their perspectives from both sides.

For those of you who’ve either gotten your MFAs, or are in the process of completing your MFA degrees, what’s your take? Worth the time and investment? Inquiring minds want to know.

Dear Editor, Or: What’s With All the Hate For Adverbs, Anyway? (Writing 101, Day Fourteen)

Author’s Note: Just a little background into the theme of this writing exercise.

Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration. If you need a boost, Google the word and see what images appear, and then go from there. 

Today’s twist: write the post in the form of a letter.

The word on page 29 of “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt is “Suddenly.” We now have our Word for the Day…

 

                                                                                      Horace J. Ishkabibble

                                                                                          Acme Book Editors

                                                                                                      Scranton, PA

                                                                                                     June 19, 2014

 

Dear Horace,

Many thanks right off the bat for the wonderful editing work you’ve done on your first pass for my manuscript, “And the Horse You Rode In On!”. I’m delighted to learn that your sterling reputation as a first-class editor truly preceeds itself, and the attention you’ve given my manuscript – not that it really needed it…haha! – puts me greatly at ease knowing my work is in trusted and careful hands.

I do want to say, however, that your insistence on striking through any descriptive word that ends in -ly slightly dismaying. I get it: ABVERBS, BAD! Hemingway despised them. Stephen King has been quoted as saying, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” I understand there’s a consensus that repeatedly using adverbs is a sign of poor writing. I mean, the sentence, “She walked slowly into the kitchen” just doesn’t carry the same weight as, “She sauntered into the kitchen.” Anyone can walk slowly, but sauntering suggests something else otherwise.

But I admit that I like the word “Suddenly,” which you don’t seem to. I used it five times in the first seven chapters of my manuscript, “And the Horse You Rode In On!“, and all five times, I saw this: suddenly. One of the uses of the word, I thought was pretty apt:

Jacob read aloud from his American History textbook. “While the Louisiana Purchase signaled Napoleon’s France was desperate for cash to fuel their campaigns of conquest throughout Eastern Europe, so much so that they were willing to sell much of what would become the Great Plains of the United States for arguably far less than what they were truly worth, the Purchase endorsed and approved by President Thomas Jefferson sowed the seeds of what would inevitably become the young Federal Government’s prevailing philosophy of expansion: Manifest Destiny, a belief that both Divinity and a geographical presence would allow the Federal Government to stake its claim to all the unsettled land west of the Mississippi River.”

“Not to be confused with Destiny’s Child,” Shelley chimed in, knitting a pair of booties she was going to make for her as-yet-unborn child, not making eye contact with her baby’s daddy.

“Cute, very cute. And instead of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ our national anthem should have been ‘Survivor,’ right?”

“Jake,” Shelley turned to him, suddenly, dropping her knitting needles. “Go get me a fly swatter. A big one. Hurry!”

Suddenly. Key word. It signals a turn of events. My goodness, what is happening now? What sort of foul being would interrupt their idyllic setting? Why would Shelley react with such terror? Take the word suddenly out, and Shelley could be just making idle chatter, or perhaps she’s prone to silly statements. The word suddenly now conveys something drastic is now afoot, and the reader’s attention is pulled into another, more important direction.

But I get it: it’s still an adverb. I’m sure there’s another way of describing that sentence without resorting to the use of an adverb. However, I must disagree. It’s perfectly fine to season your manuscript with a few, well-chosen adverbs. Think of them like a delectable garnish you’d sprinkle all over your chicken. Just enough will unlock untold flavors.

So, my point is, while I understand and appreciate the reasons why you’re suggesting the removal of adverbs like suddenly, I must respectfully decline the edit suggestions for the reasons I  have stated above. And, because, as a writer, sometimes you have to trust your instincts. I’m sure you can appreciate the sentiment.

The check’s in the mail.

Slavishly Yours,

Gus Sanchez

Guest Post – “5 Things I Learned Writing ‘Death By Ice Cream” by Rebecca Douglass

For the next installment in the Out Where the Buses Don’t Run Guest Blog Post Series, we now turn our attention to author and librarian Rebecca Douglass. Rebecca and I met on Goodreads a while back, and we’ve maintained our friend both there and through each others’ blogs.

She’s recently self-published another book, called “Death By Ice Cream.”

DeathByIceCream_FrontOnly

The synopsis of “Death By Ice Cream”:

Pismawallops Island is a quiet place where nothing much happens, even at the High School.  That’s why JJ MacGregor likes it.  When a high-handed new member of the PTA threatens to disrupt the even tenor of life in the middle of Puget Sound, JJ wants someone to take a firm stand against her.  But when Letitia Lemoine shows up very dead in the freezer where there should have been 30 boxes of ice cream bars, JJ worries that someone might have taken her command too seriously.  Not the sort to sit back while someone else solves her problems, JJ just can’t help asking a few questions.  But someone wants her to stop—and an acerbic sense of humor, insatiable curiosity, and carefully hidden dedication to duty lead her into more trouble than she knows how to handle.

Like any good writer, Rebecca looks back at the experience in writing “Death By Ice Cream” and recognizes there are some lessons to be learned. In her guest blog post, “5 Things I Learned Writing ‘Death By Ice Cream’,” Rebecca shares those lessons learned. I think we as writers can take a lot from what she’s learned. Not to mention she’s learned all this while retaining both a great sense of humor and some humility to boot.

Her bio:

Rebecca Douglass was raised on an Island in Puget Sound only a little bigger than Pismawallops.  She now lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area, and can be found on-line at www.ninjalibrarian.com and on Facebook as The Ninja Librarian.  Her books include the tall tales for all ages, The Ninja Librarian and Return to Skunk Corners.   Rebecca likes to spend her time outdoors, when not writing or working to make the schools the best they can be.  She spends her free time bicycling and running, and her vacations hiking, camping and backpacking.

rd author photo

Blog: http://ninjalibrarian.com

Book purchase links of all kinds: http://www.ninjalibrarian.com/p/blog-page_11.html

At any rate, here’s Rebecca’s guest post. Thanks to Rebecca for writing this and sharing!

________________________________________________________________

5 things I learned writing Death By Ice Cream

  1.  It’s best not to take ten years to draft a novel.
    This is particularly true if you don’t have an outline. I should have learned this with my first, mercifully unpublished, mystery. Often months went by between times I worked on it, and I would forget what had happened, not to mention where I was going. Death By Ice Cream was also originally drafted (though somewhat faster) before I committed to writing daily. Let’s just say it took a lot of work to create the tight, coherent story I wanted. So what I’ve learned, in all seriousness, is to work every day. A writer writes.
  2. If you love something about the story, it’s worth saving.
    I learned this from my editor, Inge Lamboo. I took her a draft resurrected from the files where it had languished since I’d given up shopping it to agents, and told her I wondered if it was worth trying to salvage. I thought about just taking the characters I loved and start over. She told me that if I loved the characters, the book would be worth working on. She was completely right. It wasn’t easy, but I not only loved the main characters but also the setting, so the process was rewarding, and the end product a book to be proud of.
  3. It may not be easier to write your mystery using an outline, but it’ll be a poodle-load easier to edit.
    Actually, I haven’t really tested this, yet (only the writing part, since I’ve drafted the sequel, Death By Trombone, with an outline, mostly). But it can’t make it any worse. And honestly, it was easier to write the first draft knowing who did it and why. But an outline doesn’t have to be a bunch of Roman numerals in a cascade. My “outline” was more a series of questions: who’s dead? Who found him? Who might have done it? Who did do it? Why? And will JJ’s love life ever improve? By the time I had answered most of these questions, I had a whole lot more—and also both a substantial back-story and a good idea where the novel would go and how it would get there.
  4. Everyone’s lying.
    The best advice I ever picked up (wherever I did pick it up, and I don’t remember now) was that everyone’s lying. This is probably true in any kind of novel—everyone has their secrets, and that’s what makes them interesting and complex. It’s doubly true in a mystery, where it’s all those lies about unrelated things that make it so hard for the sleuth to find the important lie. But it was surprisingly hard for me to do. I tend to write in a straight line, and make my characters honest upstanding citizens. Well, most are, but that never stopped them from lying.
  5. Most importantly, I learned I can do it.
    I can write a mystery that completely works. I was never sure I could, up until a reader with an ARC reported back that she read the whole thing in one sitting. That only happens if you’ve done something right. I’m looking forward to doing it again. And again. Because, despite the agony of editing and the gloom of sales and marketing, writing is the best job I can think of, and I’m one lucky lady to be able to do it.

Why Befriending Writers Should Bring Out the Competitor in You (Insecure Writer’s Support Group)

Author’s Note: Another first Wednesday of the month, another post for The Insecure
Writer’s Support Group
. Be sure to check out the many other writers participating in this blog hop. Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for leading the IWSG.

This Blogging Things Works Wonders! (Insecure Writer's Support Group)

 

Like me, many of you are no doubt friends with authors. Some of those friendships are mere acquaintances, perhaps, others closer than that. It seems obvious, of course, to be a writer and have friends that are also writers. I mean, why not surround yourself with those who understand why it is you delve deep into your prose, obsessing over the rhythms and cadence of every sentence?

I am inspired by my writer friends. They too have embraced the self-publishing wave, opting to become their own imprint. From their footsteps, I was inspired to take my own leap into the self-publishing world. Many of my writer friends helped me along the way, and continue to do so.

But I confess to being envious. Envious of the plaudits they’ve received, and the attention they’ve garnered elsewhere. However, I am not a man who wallows in jealousy. It’s a stupid, pointless emotion that gets you nowhere. If I’m envious, it only fuels my competitive streak. So when a friend gets a great review on Goodreads, I am excited for them, but there’s a part of me that says, “C’mon, Gus, you can do better!”

That I can do better doesn’t mean I want to one-up my writer friends in the my-book-got-better-reviews-than-yours, or, “Hey, look, my short story got picked up by Glimmer Train, and yours didn’t, NYEAH NYEAH NYEAH NYEAH!!!” It means I have to work harder, and write better. That competitive streak has fueled me to crank out more than 10 short stories in the past couple of months, as well as plug forward with my work-in-progress.

My point is we should draw inspiration from our fellow writers, because we share the same trials and tribulations, as well as the triumphs. And it doesn’t hurt being competitive with one another, as long as that competitive nature fuels your creativity, not your jealousy.