Why You Have To Keep On Writing, Even When You’re Not

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”  ― Friedrich Nietzsche
Writing Frustration

This post is for a friend who is struggling with her writing at the moment.

Sometimes we all feel like chucking it in. We think about how much easier our life would be without the urge to write, the need to have written, the pull to create, the calling to translate our experience of being alive into something tangible that we can share. Our house would be cleaner. Our clothes would be properly hemmed and ironed. Our haircut wouldn’t be two months overdue. Our friends wouldn’t ask us about how our writing is going, and we wouldn’t have to hem and haw our way through an answer. We would wake up each morning with a practical and finite to-do list that did not include “write for an hour” or “finish short story” or write anything, anything at all, please.”

We would have peace of mind. All the time.

There is only one flaw in that line of thinking. It’s rubbish.

The urge to write does not go away because we tell it to. We might think we can give it up the way we give up a bad habit, but it doesn’t work that way. It would be like trying to give up loving. When we love fully—people, nature, life itself—we sometimes are on a high that seems to buoy us along, but other times our love brings us pain and sorrow and confusion. We might think that the answer is to give up loving so as to prevent the hard times.

We all know that’s not how it works.

If you are a writer who is struggling with the idea of whether you should keep at it, whether because you are comparing yourself to others or you are frustrated with the quest for publication or you simply aren’t writing much at the moment, remember that this, too, will pass.

“The lazy down days are part of the up days. Any day you are writing anything at all, even one sentence, is a cause for celebration. It’s that hard, what we are trying to do. Keep that in mind, and also the equally true thing—if I can do this, you can.” ~ Heather Sellers, Page after Page

1. Write your sentence today.

2. Celebrate.

3. Then watch or re-watch this TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, and tell your Dobby-like genius that you will show up, every day, because you have no choice:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA]

We go both round and upward: Why every writer should attend writer’s conferences

“Life is a journey up a spiral staircase; as we grow older we cover the ground we have covered before, only higher up; as we look down the winding stair below us we measure our progress by the number of places where we were but no longer are. The journey is both repetitious and progressive; we go both round and upward.” ~ William Butler Yeats


I don’t know about you, but 2012 rang in like the start of the Kentucky Derby and hasn’t slowed down since. That’s one reason I am counting the days to the AWP Annual Conference & Bookfair, which this year is in Chicago, an easy gallop from my home in Milwaukee. The conference falls conveniently at the end of my university’s break between terms, so I will have no grading to do, and I am working hard to clear the track so that those three or four days are dedicated to all things writing.

Writer’s conferences cost money, yes. They require some schedule juggling and planning. They may feel like a luxury, especially for writers who are not yet published.

But I am convinced they are a valuable part of any writer’s career.

One writer’s conference I have benefited from greatly is Milwaukee’s UWM Writers Festival. This year I was invited to share my experiences:

In the video, I talk about the differences between the two times when I attended the Festival, first in 2006 and then again in 2010. The second time, I was struck by how much more prepared I was to soak in the information and take advantage of opportunities. How much more I came away with, in terms of both energy and practical knowledge. How many people I connected with in a very real way. Coincidences and serendipity met me at every turn (for example, I found myself sitting next to someone who was born only miles from the rural community where I grew up), as they seem to do when we know we are in the very place where we are meant to be, at the only time that makes sense, with others who are meant to be there, too. This second experience was made possible by the first, and the first required the confidence to take the initial baby step: to sign up and tell myself, “I belong there.”

A writer’s career is less like the unrelenting laps of a horse race and more like a never-ending spiral staircase. As we climb the steps, it helps to stop and look at the view once in a while. Have we been here before? What is the same, but different? What patterns do we now notice? What distant landscapes are clearer? What details used to loom large but now are diminished? Being among other writers can help you to place yourself on your own staircase with its invaluable perspective.

If you have never attended a writer’s conference because you feel you don’t belong there or you don’t yet deserve it, shush those voices and get thee to the nearest registration form. You owe it to yourself as a writer.

Answering Laura Stanfill’s Seven Questions

Today I am tickled to be a part of Laura Stanfill’s Seven Question series, where she gives other writers a chance “to talk about writing from many different viewpoints and to address the question of why we, as human beings, are driven to create.”

Laura’s questions were fun and thought-provoking. Be sure to check our her blog and beautiful travel photos.

Coffee and Oranges in a Sunny Chair: Sunday Links for Writers

I do like this new habit of using a template for the weekly link round-up! I’ve been adding to this week’s collection link by link, as I found them, so when I woke up this morning—wallah!—all that was left was to tie up loose ends, proofread, and publish.

Sunny OrangeFrom Nina Badzin: Why the Rush to Publish?

Regular readers of this blog know I’m expecting baby #4 in early November. During this pregnancy I’ve been especially bitchy while I work on the newest novel. Whenever I sit down to work I’m badgering myself with messages like: You better get this book out now because you’ll have even less time in 2012. Stop wasting time. Write, write , write! Certainly there’s a place for getting as much out of my writing sessions as possible, but there’s no reason I have to be such a tyrant. [Read More]

Trends in Publishing: 15 People You Should Follow (and why)

From 40K: Twitter pages and blogs for 15 influential writing folks in the following categories: Industry Sages, Disruption, Community of Practice, and Radars.

CuppaIndie Publishing: Marketing (Part I)

This third in a series of five posts from PJ Kaiser looks at what she learned about marketing from the Indie Book Event 2011.

Michael Hyatt on Twitter

I’m back on Twitter after having closed my account several weeks ago. At some point I want to write about why I quit, why I came back, and how I hope to use Twitter in a way that is more rewarding than frustrating this time. Meanwhile, I enjoyed Michael Hyatt’s recent post, How I Unfollowed 108,698 People on Twitter and Reclaimed My Inbox. I struggled with managing only 1000, not 108,000 followers/followees, but it’s good to know that others with greater social media savvy than I also sometimes have to re-evaluate and change direction (or, in my case, start from scratch).

Wooden ChairFrom NPR: 3 Tales Told in the Shadow of Sept. 11

I’ve avoided reading fiction or poetry about 9/11, not out of principle of any kind, but because I simply haven’t wanted to. However, the three titles listed by John Freeman as part of NPR’s Three Books series intrigue me:

Not surprisingly, the best novels about Sept. 11 came from writers whose previous work had touched on the danger of war’s technology, of absolutist rhetoric, and the primacy of family in times of catastrophe.

Coffee and Oranges in a Sunny Chair: Sunday Links for Writers

It’s been awhile since I shared some links for writers, so with the new school year, it seems a good time to get back into the habit. To make it easier to make the habit stick, I’m setting up a post template of sorts (if you are interested in the details of how to do this on WordPress.com, check back in tomorrow). Meanwhile, let’s hit the links!

Sunny OrangeFrom The Book Designer: This Week in Blogs

The Book Designer has one of the best weekly blog round-ups around, with a focus on self-publishing. Even if you aren’t interested in indie authorship, you will find here useful information about the philosophy and craft and marketing of being a writer.

From The Morning News: The List Maker

I am a late bloomer when it comes to realizing the value of lists, and I’m fascinated by “natural list makers” and want to learn their secrets. At The Morning News, Jessica Gross muses on lists and list makers:

Since January 2010, I have saved 153 to-do lists on my computer. There is a list of books read in the past decade (annotated), a list of books I want to read (ever-expanding), a list of movies to watch (slower-growing). There is a list of great quotations, a list of great websites, a list of rejections I received in college, and a list entitled “Things I Do,” which at that time included a writing group, a cooking class, two book clubs, and volunteering. There is also a list entitled “Things I Love.” On this one: the subway, running outside, “radio/podcasts,” books, apples, and, indeed, making lists.

CuppaJane Friedman Interviewed by StoryWonk

If you are as much of a Jane Friedman fan as I am, you will want to listen to her recent podcast interview on StoryWonk, where she discusses, among other things, finding that sweet spot between writing and marketing.

Coffee House Press

The Sept. 1 – Oct. 31 reading period for Coffee House Press has just begun, so if you have a literary novel, full-length short story collection, collection of poetry, essay collection, or memoir, you might want to check out their submission guidelines. Online submissions are encouraged.

Wooden ChairFinding and Using Public Domain Photographs

When I was looking for public domain photographs to include in Oscar’s Gift learning how to use them effectively and legally, this online guide to public domain materials was very useful. Photography and history buffs, enjoy!