Tag Archives: Writers

Writers: Finally a good use for Pinterest!

I know plenty of women who are obsessed with Pinterest. From teachers to moms to fashionistas, Pinterest appeals to pretty much every woman I know, (as well as some of the men, too, I’m sure). Until today, this excluded me. I signed up because I use it from time to time for visual inspiration or to find a picture for my blog, but I have never got into pinning things, (I already waste my valuable writing time in too many ways).

However, one of my big goals in revisiting my book is to anchor it with more specific visual cues. I don’t want to turn into Steinbeck with full page descriptions of meadows, but three words here, five words there can really shape what readers see. I want my book to feel more textured, more quirky, more unique. This comes from no one other than myself. I feel like many of my visual descriptions are too generic, even if my goal is to keep much of my description minimalistic.

So– I’ve decided to create a board on Pinterest for images that fit with my vision of the book. Before I revisit each chapter, I’m spending a maximum of five minutes pinning images that mesh with what comes next. I tried it with my prologue this morning and the story felt much more alive. I could see Kristen’s outfit more clearly, I could see Jake’s gift sitting on the kitchen table. Best of all, by the end of the book, I will have a board full of images from their travels, their choices, their lives. I love it.

Feel free to stop by and watch my story grow. And, if you create a similar writing board for your work, I would love to check it out.

Any other good writing uses for Pinterest?

Pinterest is full of so many images

I have always googled images while I write, but Pinterest gives me a way to keep all of the images together, creating a visual storyboard of my novel.

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Vulnerability & the Courage to be Imperfect

Last night I deleted a post because it felt too vulnerable. An hour later, a friend sent me an email with this Ted Talk. Perfect timing, and a great listen.

“{T}he people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy… What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly… The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.” – Brené Brown

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I love when “happy” (or some variation) shows up as a search term that leads someone to my blog. Happy is my third most common search term, (surpassed only by my brother’s name and “Bubba’s Hawaii Robert Downey Jr”… Okay, that’s pretty odd…). Not claiming this makes me the happiest person on earth, but at least it means my blog must exist in some positive stratosphere if the word happy brings me visitors, (especially since the clicks are always to posts which have nothing to do with my book title).

Of course, I also get some weird ones, like “dunk tank my teacher” and “can you create water springs by swallowing a mountain.” I’m such a data nerd. This stuff fascinates me.

Any equally amusing search terms to report? What is your most common? Most disturbing? I think mine is “feed slave my toenails…”

Okay, I’m done reading these. Yuck.

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Writing Improvement Program: Which authors do you most admire?

According to The Art of War for Writers, “The idea is not to try to become an exact copy of the writer you admire. Rather, you are incorporating rhythms and possibilities into your own inner writing.” The book recommends copying down memorable passages and reading them aloud to feel the cadence of the words as part of your personal writing improvement program. I love this idea.

As my dream writing self, I would borrow the soulful honesty of Cheryl Strayed and combine it with the expert narrative weaving of Audrey Niffenegger and Jeffrey Eugenides, who both bring their stories to life through the eyes of unusual, but still relatable characters. Below you’ll find some quotes from their works that capture the gifts I would most like to cultivate in my own writing. Maybe there are better examples, but I always lend out my most beloved books, so I had to rely on Goodreads.

Which authors best embody your ideal writing self? I know the goal is to be unique, but there is something to be said for slowing down to examine what it is you most enjoy about your favorite writers. I’d love to hear who you admire. And, who knows, maybe you’ll inspire me to add a few more books to that growing pile on my dresser.

Stolen from Pinterest.  Not sure if that counts as stealing when it was already stolen, moral imperative I guess.

Some of my favorite Cheryl Strayed words… Thanks Pinterest.

Cheryl Strayed: Words that pierce your being.

“It is not so incomprehensible as you pretend, sweet pea. Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep.” – Dear Sugar

“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.” – Dear Sugar

“Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.” – Dear Sugar


Audrey Niffenegger: Intricately woven narrative with love at its core.

“We are walking down the street holding hands. There is a playground at the end of the block, and I run to the swings and I climb on and Henry takes the one next to me facing the opposite direction. And we swing higher and higher passing each other, sometimes in synch and sometimes streaming past each other so fast that it seems we are going to collide. And we laugh and laugh, and nothing can ever be sad, no one can be lost or dead or far away. Right now we are here and nothing can mar our perfection or steal the joy of this perfect moment.” – Time Traveler’s Wife

“The hardest lesson is Clare’s solitude. Sometimes I come home and Clare seems kind of irritated; I’ve interrupted some train of thought, broken into the dreary silence of her day. Sometimes I see an expression on Clare’s face that is like a closed door. She has gone inside the room of her mind and is sitting there knitting or something. I’ve discovered that Clare likes to be alone.” – Time Traveler’s Wife


Jeffrey Eugenides: The world seen through distinct but somehow familiar eyes.

“We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.” – Virgin Suicides

“I was thinking how amazing it was that the world contained so many lives. Out in these streets people were embroiled in a thousand different matters, money problems, love problems, school problems. People were falling in love, getting married, going to drug rehab, learning how to ice-skate, getting bifocals, studying for exams, trying on clothes, getting their hair-cut and getting born. And in some houses people were getting old and sick and were dying, leaving others to grieve. It was happening all the time, unnoticed, and it was the thing that really mattered.” – Middlesex

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A Call for Inspiration to Keep Writing

The last couple months I have given myself a free pass. I’ve scribbled little notes in journals, written blog posts, but spent no time on any particular writing project, other than to send out query letters. I told myself that until my 50 queries ran their course, I would take a break. Well, 43 queries later, it’s time to write again. I have 7 more to send, and, yes, I will, but I also need to start something new.

It’s interesting where the end of a project leaves you. 43 rejections piled up on top of me. The ones that bugged me most were from the agents who asked for more. The others I could brush aside, but those who read more, really thought about my work, and then still said no, hurt. I get it. I expected it, but it still shook my writing confidence. Every writer wants to think the first book he or she writes will be successful. You write and edit and revise for a year or more, feel like a superstar for actually finishing, and then think maybe you really did it.

However, the reality is that good writing takes time, practice, repetition, and more than anything else, proliferation. I think this pyramid sums up the reality for most writers:

Inspiration. Credit: The Art of War for Writers

Credit: The Art of War for Writers

So, here I am, with a manuscript that most likely needs something, no idea what to do with it, tired of thinking about it. The solution, move on for now. I’m going to send those last 7 queries to meet my goal, (and because, of course, a little ounce of hope still exists that maybe I’m one of those authors who makes it after an inordinate number of queries…). I will come back to it again, either to revise or self-publish. I just need a little distance with some more writing under my belt until then.

This realization in itself is an accomplishment. Last weekend I felt completely stuck in what to do next. Over our family dinner on Sunday night, my relatives encouraged me to just keep writing. A journalist friend suggested I write and submit some articles to pad my resume. My husband bought Ruby Sparks for us to watch which made me smile because it captured so many little feelings of being a writer. My aunt and uncle bought me a copy of The Art of War for Writers, the inscription on the front right page telling me not to stop.

Great way to kick off a new season of writing.

I’m so grateful to my family for finding ways to keep me inspired.

Alright, universe, you’ve made your point. Time to move forward. But then, I spent the past week agonizing over how to move forward: an article, my unfinished NaNoWriMo novel, something new altogether. Then, I realized it doesn’t matter. I should just write whatever sounds like fun. After all, as much as I’d love to be paid to write, I still have growth ahead of me, so I might as well enjoy whatever is next instead of trying to predict which project is most likely to bring me success.

Thankfully, the first third of the Art of War for Writers has also helped me regain this perspective. Sometimes, as writers, we need to hear the same advice again and again, or slightly differently. My favorite takeaways so far:

  • Don’t obsess over numbers or reviews. This was geared more toward published writers, but sometimes I waste time analyzing my WordPress and Facebook stats. Write instead.
  • Create a “writing improvement program” with: 1. Passages you love from other writers, 2. A compilation of the outside critique you receive, 3. Areas of focus and notes on how to improve.
  • Set a weekly word quota. Mine is now 3,000 words. Any words count, including blogs, but the hope is that at least half end up in projects. If I write 3,000 words a week, no matter what, then I’ll write 156,000 words a year, which darn well better include a book. Definitely an achievable goal.

More to come on all of this, but for now, I am just happy my motivation to keep writing has returned, thanks in large part to all of the wonderfully supportive people in my life.

If you write, I’d love to hear more inspiration– favorite books on writing, quotes, routines, tips for staying focused. What keeps you typing?

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