All posts by: Lisa Rivero

The Hiss of Silence: When We Don’t Write

Photo credit (cropped): matryosha (CC BY 2.0)

“You just have to turn up.” ~ Ian McEwan

In a recently published interview, bestselling and award-winning author Ian McEwan spoke about the difficulty of the writer’s private “hiss of silence” (scroll to the bottom of the post to watch the video):

“Sometimes I think I don’t like writing. I really hate it. I avoid it. Even when I know exactly what it is I’m going to write next, I just can’t bring..drag myself upstairs to the study to do it…. Other days, it just is irresistible.” ~ Ian McEwan

Following up on yesterday’s responses to the question “Why do you write?” here are your thoughts on “Why do you NOT write?” They are worth reading carefully, as I am sure they echo what most writers feel and think. Thank you to everyone for your candor and generosity. Bolded emphases are mine.

Why do I not write? Because I get too busy with parenting! Mostly. :) Lately I’ve been doing a daily sort of journaling project, and counting that as my writing, even though it isn’t creative writing.  ~ Jessica

Why do I not write? Because sometimes it’s just hard and I’m avoiding it. When I have to write a scene that is difficult for me to wrap my head around either because of logistics (an intense action scene) or consists of heavy emotion, I sometimes procrastinate. ~ Melissa

Fear. Fear that what people have always told me was true. That I was worthless and didn’t have anything new to say or think. But I, too, haven’t ignored my dark. I still treasure the poetry written in the dark. It, more than anything, expresses depth and raw sincerity. ~ Melissa

Why I don’t write is so much easier than why I write. Not enough time. Don’t have anything to say. Other things take priority. This turn about got me thinking that I need to go back and “noodle” some more on why I write. ~ Sheryl

In those times when I’ve tried to write, I’ve never gotten past the beginning. It’s always seemed that the story has been told before, and better, by someone else. ~Shan

And from Annette:

With my academic background I never feel I know enough so keep putting things off until I have done more research. I can write a first draft, but that doesn’t need perfection and it is OK to put notes in brackets (need to find this out!) but then I put off the rest. And sometimes I get stuck even on a first draft, or choose to write something easier. That’s the trouble with a PhD, the main thing it teaches you is how little you know, or even can know! I try to think that I do know more than most people (about what I was studying, though I want to write about other things now) and who really cares anyway (me! and my ex-supervisor!) and plenty of people write stuff with glaring errors in (though they will irritate me if I spot them…) but it does stop me from writing, or at least stop me from finishing stuff.

Also New Shiny Syndrome afflicts me quite a lot :) which doesn’t so much stop me from writing as stops me from finishing one thing before I want to move onto the next. And indecision. I have ideas at various stages of notes/planning/drafts for more than ten novels. Sometimes I finish a poem… :)

And then if I’m feeling tired and ill it’s hard to feel motivated to do anything. Also at the moment my laptop is malfunctioning so I can’t write in my favourite place on my preferred computer. I really must get that sorted out. And I have all these other things to do before I focus on writing again.

What we can take from McEwan’s experience is that as useful as it might be to understand why we don’t write so as to create more effective writing strategies, one solution—simple but not always easy—rises above all, even for the most successful authors: showing up.

“I have to write it to find out what it is.” ~ Ian McEwan

Continue Reading →

Why We Write

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt (CC BY 2.0)

Below are some of the responses that you gave to the question why do you write? [my bold emphases added]

I write to make sense of dreams. I write to flesh out ideas that will otherwise evaporate. I write whenever I give an assignment to my students—I’ve promised them that I will never give them an assignment that I wouldn’t do myself. I write to remember my childhood and so that my children and theirs will know it, too. I write to smooth out ideas. I write articles (but only when I’m asked to, for some reason). ~ Jane

I write because I’m amazed at what comes out when I do. The proverbial pen seems to tell me ideas rather than me telling it. ~ Deborah

I write because it’s fun, I enjoy it. Sometimes I still write even when it’s not fun, because it can help to write down difficult feelings, or work through a problem, but that’s more for the journal, or maybe a poem. I write to communicate, to entertain, to inform, to connect. I write because I can, because I must, because I want to. ~ Annette

I write for proof that I exist. ~ Laurel

It doesn’t get much more inspiring than that! Thanks, everyone.

Try it yourself, this time in 10 words or fewer: Why do YOU write? #WhyIWrite

Continue Reading →

Book Update: Create a Writing Life

With one week to go in the blog series, I am happy to show you my latest book cover idea (tada!):

After mulling over and discarding many titles (and even more images), I like Create a Writing Life for three reasons:

CREATE: A life of writing doesn’t just happen (serendipity) nor is it the result of following a one-size-fits-all formula. We each create our own writing life based on our desires and dreams, our goals and interests, our personalities and talents. Creative thinking theory and psychology can help us to design and follow a plan that works for each one of us.

WRITING: We can plan and think all we want, but, in the end, it all comes down to writing. Writing every day (or at least regularly). Writing what we want to write, for our own reasons. Prioritizing our writing even when life gets crazy or no one else understands.

LIFE: Why do we write? Many of us feel we simply have no choice. Writing gives our life meaning, regardless of acclaim or public success.

I am continuing to work on the ebook idea based on this series with plans to have it ready sometime in 2015 (blog subscribers will be the first to receive pre-publication copies). The final ebook and paperback will be available this fall, and I will be sending blog subscribers links to free pre-publication ebook copies at the end of September. Thank you to everyone for your continued reading and input!

What about you? What are your writing plans for the final month of summer?

Continue Reading →

Writing With Confidence

“Taking a big risk, and surviving, can be life-changing.” ~ The Confidence Code

Girl on Laptop in Park

Girl on Laptop in Park, by CollegeDegrees360 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Very early in this series, I referred to the book The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, who argue that we make a mistake if we believe that we can think our way into being more confident:

“Every piece of research we have studied, and every interview we have conducted, leads to the same conclusion. Nothing builds confidence like taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure. Risk keeps you on life’s edge. It keeps you growing, improving, and gaining confidence. By contrast, living in a zone where you’re assured of the outcome can turn flat and dreary quickly.” (The Confidence Code, p. 141)

Especially useful for writers are their suggestions for internal risks: “allowing ourselves to be imperfect, braving the displeasure of authority figures and loved ones, or learning to be more comfortable when you’re at the center of attention” (p. 142, emphases added). When we push through our self-doubt and fears—rather than thinking ourselves into inaction—we build our confidence muscles, regardless of whether the outcome is otherwise successful.

What actions can you take this weekend to strengthen your writing confidence?

See Also

Continue Reading →

Does your physical writing space need a makeover?

Photo by Brandt Kurowski (CC BY 2.0)

“Space is the stage on which we play out our lives.” ~ Tina Seelig, inGenius

How much thought do you give to your physical writing space?

While it is true that we sometimes need to write without excuses (see Jane Austen’s Writing Table), we also are wise to think about what specific aspects of our environment makes our writing both more productive and more enjoyable.

Tina Seelig, in her book inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity, reminds us, “Creative spaces lead to creative work”:

“Space is a key factor in each of our habitats, because it clearly communicates what you should and shouldn’t be doing. If you live and work in an environment that is stimulating, then your mind is open to fresh, new ideas. If, however, the environment is dull and confining, then your creativity is stifled.” (inGenius, p. 102)

Here are a few questions to help you to think about your writing space(s) and some photos for inspiration.

  • Do you prefer to be surrounded by technology when you write? Nature? Art? Pets?
  • Is everything you need for your writing (laptop, paper, notecards, pens, books) easy to see and retrieve?
  • Does a colorful and varied work environment inspire or distract you?
  • What kinds of background noises are conducive to your writing? Do you prefer quiet? Music? Human voices? Bird songs?
  • Do different writing tasks (drafting, plotting, revising, proofreading) respond better to different habitats?

While most of us don’t have the resources to create a perfect writing space, we can probably all make small changes that will pay off daily. Which of these habitats do you find most inviting? (See end of post for photo credits.)

A View of Nature
My writing desk with a view for today, by Cyril Vallée

Classic Author Style
Joseph Conrad's writing desk and typewriter, by Ben Sutherland

Surrounded by Books, Open to Visitors
Library and Writing Desk

Desk 2013, by Brandt Kurowski

Simplicity Without Distractions
Writing Desk

Colorfully Creative
Spiffy Shiny New Space

Photo Credits (in order of appearance): My writing desk with a view for today, by Cyril Vallée (CC BY-SA 2.0); Joseph Conrad’s writing desk and typewriter;, by Ben Sutherland (CC BY 2.0); Library and Writing Desk, by Bruce Tuten (CC BY 2.0); Desk 2013, by Brandt Kurowski (CC BY 2.0); Writing Desk, by Seamus Holman (CC BY-SA 2.0); Spiffy Shiny New Space, by Shan Jeniah Burton (CC BY 2.0)

Continue Reading →