“And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands? He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.” –Ray Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 451″
A couple of people have asked about the new button at the bottom of each blog post. Most readers recognize the social media buttons and the email/print buttons, but what the heck is this one?:
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At work, I’m on constant deadline. In the rare moments when I’m between breaking news events, I spend my time searching social media, contacting sources and checking out the competition for the next big story. I simply don’t have the time to dawdle.
When I attempt to write fiction, however, procrastination can sometimes get in the way of productivity. Making stuff up is far more challenging than sharing facts and quotes. There are no looming deadlines forcing me to buckle down. And, frequently, the fear of sucking whirls like a fog through my Nauru-sized imagination.
To prevent the blank page from mocking me into writer’s block, I simply buckle down and get to work. Here’s how:
Look for inspiration
* Read, in your preferred genre and outside of it. Learn how to become a better writer by reading authors who have serious talent.
* Carry a notebook at all times to store random titles, story ideas, characters and bits of dialogue.
* Subscribe to The Written Word, a free service that sends a writing- or publishing-related quote to your e-mail box.
* Subscribe to The 10th Muse. This mailing list offers one or two writing prompts a week, perfect for inspiring your latest journal entry or freewriting session.
* Speaking of freewriting, give it a try. Sometimes you just need to warm up a bit before diving into your latest writing project. There are plenty of great websites and books offering writing prompts, but I highly recommend “The Amazing Story Generator” by Jay Sacher.
* Turn off your phone. Seriously. Don’t just put it on vibrate. Turn it off.
* While you’re at it, shut down the Internet, too. Email, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, these sites are awesome …and total time-sucks. An easy way to hinder your access is to download and use Freedom.
* Avoid people who do not support your writing. If you grant access to these folks, they will poison your muse.
Develop a writing routine
* Timed pop-up reminders encourage me to stand every 30 minutes and stretch. Computer reminders point out upcoming appointments/events. I even have a reminder to alert me to the fact that my tea has finished brewing. Consider setting reminders on your computer to work on your latest project.
* Try the 100-word challenge. Every day, vow to write 100 words, no less. This practice not only encourages you to develop a daily writing habit, it builds up your confidence and your portfolio. Inevitably, you’ll write more than 100 words; the first 100 will simply clear out the dust bunnies in your brain.
* If you have a superstition that works for you, indulge yourself. Doing so will put you in a focused frame of mind to create. When I write nonfiction, I do so in my home office. I generally prefer to work in silence. I drink hot tea or pop. When writing fiction, I prefer to work away from my desk. I often listen to playlists specifically designed for the project at hand. And I drink iced chai lattes.
* Set self-imposed deadlines. I will finish my novel by the end of the year. I will blog five days a week. I will participate in National Novel Writing Month and pen 1,500 words a day for 30 days. Give yourself a goal and start working towards it.
* Know when to stop. I like to kill off random characters or leave them in a jam at the end of a chapter. That way I have something interesting to ponder for the rest of the day/night. I also like to end my daily writing effort in the middle of a sentence. Sounds odd, but it works.
Lastly, consider these sage words by John Gardner: “The real message is, write in any way that works for you: write in a tuxedo or in the shower with a raincoat or in a cave deep in the woods.”
If you’re free on Wednesday night (Sept. 17) and interested in discussing any and all things related to writing/publishing/journalism, I’ll be speaking to the Among the Elms writers group at the Toadstool Bookshop (222 West St., Keene, N.H.). The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome.
August has always been a Murphy month for me. At some point, without fail, bad things will happen, and by bad things I mean everything from technological difficulties, cooking mishaps, unexpected expenses, traffic jams, communication breakdowns and mosquito bites to debilitating illnesses, natural disasters, accidents and/or death.
As usual, this year did not break the trend. I won’t get into much detail here; let’s just say that several of the items on the above list occurred, all in the span of a week. So if I’ve been unusually grumpy lately, I apologize. August just has that effect on me.