How to Tell if You’ve Found Your Calling

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First off, chances are that if you clicked on this article, the thing you’re considering your “calling” is not it.

When you’ve found that missing piece of your life’s puzzle, your passion, your priority, you won’t have to justify it as such, it will just be.

It will consume you, swallow you whole, and leave you willingly ragged and wide-eyed and desperate for more. It will be the thing you dream about, crave night and day… And another funny thing?

It might just be one of many callings you will have.

Creative types in particular get a bad rep for being flighty and non-committal when it comes to projects and passions. Someone could be head-over-heels dedicated to painting in watercolors, and one day wake up more passionate about photography than anything else before. The transition is usually not quite that abrupt or drastic, but the point is your calling might not be the one and only calling you get for the rest of your life. It might be one of two, or three, or fifteen.

But when you pour all of your energy into your craft and forget the world around you exists, including social media posts about finding yourself, then you have it.

So, when you lock in on something that makes you feel like you’d be empty without it, hold tight and let it rule your life as much as possible for as long as possible, because the fulfillment it will give is worth all of those sleepless nights.


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Allowing Yourself to Write the Mundane

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SPOILER ALERT: Not everything ever written is a holy grail.

Many works are steaming piles of inked garbage, and that is ok.

Even when you’re writing about how someone walks around a lake a lot or a conversation you had with someone about your eyebrows, it can still be considered writing … even if only remotely.

And whatever you write can lead to more interesting things to write about. At the very least it could be a challenge to make even the most mundane of subjects into something entertaining.

You know what? I actually kind of like that idea.
Consider this an early preview to this week’s prompt:

Try to think of something considerably boring about your life or surroundings, then challenge yourself to write about it in a way that is humorous or interesting.

Some of the best memoirs have elements of everyday life that would otherwise be considered unremarkable, and the author turned them into tiny adventures, if only to laugh at themselves after the fact.

The incredible thing that comes out of this process, however, is that you’re allowing yourself to play with style. If you remove the urge to make every word the right word, and instead focus on the overall idea, perhaps it will start to solidify that idea, which can be spruced up later.

Or not, your choice.

Writing something boring, something mundane, something that absolutely will never see the light of day is still better than not writing anything at all. Every time you put your pen to paper or fingers to keys, you’re learning more about your personal writing process, whereas not writing at all is training yourself to procrastinate, to hope for that sudden jolt of energy or inspiration that may never come.

Writing is work, and as with any job, writing must be approached with dedication and determination if anything is going to be produced. No, not everything will be the best thing ever…

But it could be.


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Please feel free to share any additional tips or your personal experiences with writing/blogging in the comments, and stay tuned for more prompts every Thursday!

Finding Time versus Making Time

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to write something, but felt I didn’t have the time.

I can’t count that high.

Something always takes precedence, planned or otherwise, and so my plethora of ideas continue to roll around in my head. The lucky few get written in a notebook or on a sticky note, but many disappear into the cerebral nether.

As many already know, I am currently expecting my second child in May, which puts a huge chunk of pressure on my shoulders. Nothing I do feels like it’s enough to prepare, I constantly feel swamped with work and home life, and my writing has absolutely taken a backseat in the chaos. It’s disheartening to know stories I love and want to finish are just sitting there, all but abandoned, but I just can’t find the time for them.

A few months back, I sat down with the publisher of a local newspaper to discuss what I should do if I wanted to become a columnist, and he, too, explained he felt as though he had too many ideas and too little time to make them a reality.

And the people who do end up writing them all have one thing in common: they made the time instead of waiting for it to magically appear.

Thing is, there are no neon signs that direct you to “Write Now” or fairies in your ear that yell at you until you put pen to paper.

The trick, as you’ll hear over and over, is to just do it. 

But what does that mean, really?

A place to start might be to make 15 minute work breaks dedicated to a few paragraphs or an outline. Give yourself one evening a week when you are left alone with your writing. Take an hour before bed or as soon as you wake up to crank out a chapter or short story. Make it one of the most fulfilling part time jobs you’ll ever have.

If you really want to complete a particular work, or set of works, don’t stop making the time to see them through.

Most of the writing I get done is in my leisure time (when I’m on break at work or at home and the only one awake in the house). I take advantage of comfortable, sunny days and go sit outside with a notebook or my laptop during lunch. On the weekends when my kid is napping, I spew some words onto a page that may or may not ever turn into anything more.

And I learned something, too.

When I started to swap out my usual TV series catch-up time to instead draft my own stories, I realized just how much time I spend watching Netflix or playing video games. All that time I was undoubtedly appreciating someone else’s work, I could have been nurturing my own.

All this is not to say you should sacrifice the things that help you relax after a long day, so by all means keep up with those still alive in The Walking Dead or enjoy a quick binge session of Vampire Diaries, but know the writers of those shows (and the books they originated from) put in the time to make their ideas into something more than just a passing thought.

Treat yours the same way they treated theirs: don’t let them sit too long on the back burner and risk losing them for good.

 

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Please feel free to share any additional tips or your personal experiences with writing/blogging in the comments, and stay tuned for more prompts every Thursday!

Keeping track of WIPs // FREE PRINTABLES

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I know we’re at the tail-end of January at this point, but I thought I’d share one method I use to keep track of the stories I start throughout the year.

Writing each one down and when I started writing it helps me to stay accountable and not let a story sit for too long unattended, or to know when to scrap it and move on. It’s a visual timeline of how long a short story or novel (or non-fiction, if you prefer) takes to complete, and gives me room to plan how much time to dedicate to each.

I hope these help you in your writing journey as well! Though the completion dates on mine may not be completely filled by the end of year, perhaps yours will be.

Happy writing!

For the full collection PDF, click here:

Writing Workshop – 2018 Collection

Included:

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“I should really write that down…” // Conquering the void of lost dreams & stories

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I think it’s safe to say that all of my bestselling novels can be summed up by the infamous phrase “I should really write that down…”

It’s usually said internally during a particularly beautiful, full-bodied dream with compelling storyline and enigmatic characters, all of which of course make me not want to leave the dream. Meanwhile, the rational piece of my brain is screeching “Wake up and write it down or you’ll forget it later!”

And I always do forget.

Sometimes, bits and pieces of those dreams reoccur in other, less exciting dreams of the day or night variety, and sometimes I do write them down, but they’re nowhere near as grandiose as the original. They’re left wanting, just waiting until the rest of the story swoops in and fills in the blanks.

As previously mentioned, all of my bestsellers are defined by that little phrase. The story never really comes back to save the day. And that, to me, is heartbreaking.

Now, it should be said that there’s no way of knowing if those dreams, once turned books, would actually be worth anything at all, but the point is that they could. I feel I’ve missed out on some truly amazing content that has been lost to the void of forgotten dreams, and that’s worth something to me. If I could just tap into that void, perhaps I could resurrect some of the ideas a conscious mind would enjoy, unlikely as that may be, but I am a dreamer afterall.

To remedy this problem, I’ve started keeping memos on my phone that are easy enough to pull up and add to in between REM cycles, and a collection of notebooks strewn around my home and office to capture daydreams. They’re not always the most glamorous notes (or understandable, for that matter), but they do the trick.

The hardest part, however, is breaking the habit of telling yourself you’ll remember and/or write it down later, when you have time. You have time now. Write it down. Flesh it out later, but get that idea on paper before it’s whisked away into the void with all of mine.

Depending on what you’re doing (i.e. NOT while driving), I challenge you for the next time you hear yourself think “I’ll write it down/remember it later,” to write it down right then. Don’t let yourself forget the idea that could turn into your masterpiece. Don’t let the chaos of life push your dreams into the void.

Don’t lose your story.

 

Did this article help inspire you? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to check out our other Tips & Tricks articles:

Please feel free to share any additional tips or your personal experiences with writing/blogging in the comments, and stay tuned for more prompts every Thursday!

Why You Should Follow Your Passion (like, NOW)

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I’m a new(ish) mom of a happy, healthy, exhausting 10-month-old bundle of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails. His name is Deklin. And he is my everything.

While I was pregnant with D, I was working a night shift for a newspaper conglomerate that had been rough even before I saw the little pink + on a stick. I knew in my gut that going back to work after my leave would likely be the complete end of my sanity after a newborn left it in shreds, so I decided to start looking into self-employment that would enable me to remain at home with my little. I tried Thumbtack, I tried Freelancer, I tried what I thought was the whole gamut of options for a wannabe stay-at-home-mom.

None of them panned out.

With defeat on my mind and a baby on the way, I turned to a dream I’d longed to do for years and never took the time to actually fulfill: I put all of my extra time and energy into my blog.

In my spare time both at work and at home, I was constantly brainstorming prompts for the blog, writing outlines for blog articles, and even forcing my beloved then-coworkers into being my sounding boards for any and every blog-related thought that crossed my mind (Kelly and Mark, I’m sorry for that, but I love y’all!).

The result is a site I’m obsessed with and want. When I decided to set my own deadlines and stick to them, blogging stopped seeming like an obligation, even less like a job, and became an escape. It was based on my passion for writing, and through it that passion has only flourished. I’ve launched into Round 3 of revisions for my first novel, plotted out the remainder of my second, created weekly writing prompts that are seemingly well received on Pinterest, and written more articles than I should have any right to.

I’m having fun.

No, my blog isn’t crazy-successful like some seem to be, but what I get out of it is more than money can buy: fulfillment. And what’s even better is that my little chunky monkey of a kiddo has a momma who is proud of herself. As a parent, being able to show your child that success comes in more forms than money is incredible. It’s a lesson I hope he one day understands, so that he, too, can do what makes him happy, even if it’s only in his spare time.

Transforming this site into something that brings me so much joy makes me only regret not putting this much effort into it sooner. So, go forth dreamers, go forth #Mompreneuers, go forth everyone, and follow that unique creativity within you.

You have so much yet to gain.

Think running a blog is your calling, too? Check out these walk-throughs on getting a blog started and see where it leads you:

How To Start A WordPress Blog On Bluehost from Making Sense of Cents

http://www.makingsenseofcents.com/2014/08/how-to-start-a-wordpress-blog-on-bluehost.html

THE FOOLPROOF WAY TO START A BLOG from Drink Coffee & Prosper

http://drinkcoffeeandprosper.com/foolproof-way-start-blog/

HOW TO START A MOM BLOG IN 2017 (FOR BEGINNERS) from Twins Mommy

https://twinsmommy.com/start-a-blog-for-beginner/

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Please feel free to share any additional tips or your personal experiences with writing/blogging in the comments, and stay tuned for more prompts every Thursday!


Why You Should Make a Soundtrack for Your Novel

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Making story soundtracks was one of my favorite procrastination techniques as a writer, but in recent years it has stopped being a diversion and started being essential.

Personally I am a big fan of Spotify, so I make playlists on the app that are labeled with the names of my current works-in-progress. You may favor iTunes, Pandora, or some other music program, but the key here is the ability to make your own playlists with the songs and artists in your arsenal. Most of the time, I’ll be listening to a song on the radio in my car on the way to work, and find myself imagining a world or a character I’ve created, so when I get to my destination, I add it into the applicable playlist. Later on, I’ll play it while I’m writing the scene or about the character it called to mind.

I’ve done this for three of my big projects so far with the intention of being part of my writing process instead of a way to avoid my work, which brings me to the whole point of this article: why you should make soundtracks for your own novel.

Music makes the story easier to visualize

Listening to music while you write can have the extremely cool effect of making it more like a movie in your head, so you can go on the epic journey alongside your characters. This makes it easier to “see” things happening, which in turn makes writing them easier.

It can help you gain a deeper understanding of your world

Many of the songs I use for my world-building are those loud movie trailer types, such as songs from Immediate Music, Pendulum, or even existing movie/game soundtracks like Pirates of the Caribbean and Assassin’s Creed. Many of these songs tend to be wordless and instead of telling me what the place or period looks like, they make me feel it.

Is your world dark and post-apocalyptic? Peppy and bright? Ancient and intense? There are thousands of songs out there that can get your pulse racing in a way that feels as though you are living in that world.

Great music can take you on a journey, so find songs and artists who will take you on the kind of journey you want to write.

It can help you gain a deeper understanding of your character

In contrast to the above point, some songs resonate on more personal levels. If you can, try to find at least two songs for each major character in your story: one that sounds like what would be playing during their greatest triumph and one for their greatest challenge. When you reach those points in your story, play those songs and stand alongside your heroes and villains as they tackle their experiences.

Music can get you out of a rut

Have you ever had that frustrating feeling of not knowing what to write next? No?

Liar. Even the greats have moments of pause, when the right words just aren’t obvious. Some people are fortunate enough to experience it on very rare occasions, but most of us have to trudge through the dreaded swamp of writer’s block at least a few times per project.

When the inevitable wall hits, having a story soundtrack to turn to can work wonders. Maybe giving one of your world-building songs another listen will spark a new city into your mind, or playing a character’s song of tribulation will show you a way to overcome it (or, if you’re in the business of wrecking your characters’ lives, it’ll prompt a new roadblock to throw in their path).

Did this article help you to create a soundtrack for your novel? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to check out our other Tips & Tricks articles:

 

 

Please feel free to share any additional tips or your personal experiences with writing/blogging in the comments, and stay tuned for more prompts every Thursday!

5 Reasons to Stop Comparing Your Work with Others

Please feel free to share any additional tips or your personal experiences with writing/blogging in the comments, and stay tuned for writing prompts every Thursday!

This idea was unoriginal, I knew that going in. I thought it was a brilliant idea, then stepped back, thought about it for a beat, and realized that someone had undoubtedly written about this same subject before.

Then I came across this post on Tumblr from HeyWriters:

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That is and will forever be some of the best advice: WRITE.

It doesn’t matter that someone else has written about this before. Maybe only one word differs between me and them, but one word can make all the difference.

So now, it’s your turn to find that inspiration, to write even when the inner voice says  “we’ve heard that one before.”

Steal like an Artist

There is a wonderful little book with this title that sums this entire concept up much more eloquently than I ever could. In all honesty, you should probably stop reading now and go buy that book. But the general idea is this: copy the greats or those whom you admire. Not exactly, but similarly. Make works that are not identical, but pay homage to what interests you and your personal creativity will flourish. That said…

Don’t rip off… Recreate

Read, read, read, but after all you have read, find what works and make it your own. Do not plagiarize someone else’s work, but instead see how you can transform it, mold it into something new and exciting, something that is perhaps better than the original, or is at the very least something different. Use what you have read before as a roadmap to discover what lights your soul on fire. One popular way to do this is to take a fairy tale (i.e. Cinderella) and modernize it or completely revamp it until it becomes its own piece of work (i.e. Cinder by Marissa Meyer).

Nothing is truly unique

There is a common thought that there is nothing truly “new” or “unique” in this world. Like the Tumblr post above explains, everything is recycled material in some form or fashion, sometimes knowingly, most times not. Most stories are, in essence, fanfictions of other stories. While a number of these are widely broadcast as Inspired By [insert work here], many are more subtle in the tributes they pay to their predecessors.

Comparisons are for reviews

I love sites like Goodreads for this with their Community Reviews and Readers also Enjoyed sections. It’s one of the easiest ways to hook readers: tell them how it relates to other things they like. If they liked that, they will like this. But that is something best saved for reviews. Let reviewers make those connections, and while not all of them may be exactly what you had in mind, those connections will draw your audience in. More often than not, authors who tell their readers what they are expected to link the book to will alienate those readers. Unless you are pitching your finished work to an agent and those comparisons are absolutely necessary to show that you meet their submission guidelines, leave them out.

It’s only hurting your process

Comparing yourself to others is the best way to make sure you never finish anything. As a lifelong procrastinator, this was typically my surest form of ending a project prematurely. It already exists. Someone else already did that. Someone else did it better. Someone else will eventually do it better. It’s a ridiculous means of pulling the ripcord, and returning to the comfort zone. So what if someone else did something similar? I guarantee you if you gave the same story idea to 100 different writers, you may find some similarities between the results, but they will all be true to the individual writer’s form.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: write from the heart and your work will already be ahead of the game because it’s yours.

Now, WRITE.

 

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Why You Should Write a Character Based on Yourself

Please feel free to share any additional tips or your personal experiences with writing/blogging in the comments, and stay tuned for more prompts every Thursday!

Long answer: Writing a character based on yourself with perhaps a different name, different occupation, or some other changed aspect can lend a wonderful hand to both your writing and your personal growth as a writer.

Short answer: It’s incredibly cathartic.

But in all honesty, I started a book with a main character modeled after the way I perceived myself. I gave her flaws similar to mine, and I gave her some of my aspirations. I let her loose in her own world to live the dreams I have for mine, and the results were amazing.

The character I had created turned into one of my absolute favorites to write, and by falling in love with her, I started to fall back in love with myself.

Granted, she can do a lot of things I can’t/won’t/shouldn’t, but that’s part of the beauty of her: she can have experiences that I can then live vicariously through her, without any real-world consequences.

In a way, she also allowed me to explore what is really important in my life. By making our priorities and lifestyles similar, I started to realize aspects of my life that were getting too much attention (and too much of my worry, like then-troubles at work) while other, more meaningful aspects (like taking time to travel and have dedicated “me time”) were not.

The same can be true for you as a writer. The character you create does not need to be an exact description of yourself and they do not need to do/love/desire the exact same things as you, but you can still create someone close enough to yourself that enables you to explore a kind of alternate reality. Try to make them as real as possible, just like any other character you write, but give them a little something extra, because in way, that character can become an extension of you. They can be the safety net, the trial run, the one into whom you channel your deepest desires and fears, and they will never chastise you for it.

And who knows? Over time, maybe that character will develop into something so strong that they can be shared with the rest of the world, or perhaps they will remain a personal escape in a private world you can use as a sandbox.

It’s all in your hands.

Have some writing tips & tricks you’d like to share or see discussed in future posts? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to check out our other Tips & Tricks articles: