Showing posts with label Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips. Show all posts

Monday, March 13, 2017

Writing: A Survival Guide for INFJs

Note: If you don't know your personality type, I highly suggest taking the 16Personalities test.

The day I discovered I'm an INFJ and read my first personality profile, it was like WHO ARE YOU AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SPYING ON MY LIFE? Suddenly, all my weirdness made sense. As I continued to learn about common strengths and weaknesses for my personality type, it was illuminating not just for my everyday life, but for my life as a writer.

They say INFJs make up the smallest percentage of all personality types—less than 1%. And from my very unofficial surveys it seems like writers ARE the 1%. It makes sense, since most INFJs are naturally creative. But while being an INFJ can make us feel unique, it also comes with a unique set of challenges, especially as writers. These struggles are something all writers may face (and on the flip side, not all INFJs may struggle with these), but if you find yourself having a particularly hard time in these areas (like me), here are some tips for surviving and thriving as an INFJ writer...

Struggle: We tend to be more sensitive to criticism and critique.



Why this can be a problem: If you're going to write a book, you're going to need critiques and you're going to face criticism.

What you can do: Realize that critique of your work is part of the process and business of being a writer. And it is NOT personal. When your critique partners read your latest manuscript and come back with suggestions, it's easy to get defensive. It's also easy to despair. Resist the urge to get sucked into either of those whirlpools. Find writing partners you trust and then remind yourself that they don't hate you or your book, no matter how many comments they make on your manuscript. In fact, they want to help you succeed. Critique is essential to growth and success as a writer—and FYI, none of us ever reach a point where we've "made it" and no longer need feedback. If it's not coming from your CPs, it's going to come from an agent or an editor. Learn to see this part of the writing life as a positive, not a negative.

Criticism can be a harder beast to face. My advice? Don't dwell on it. I know—easier said than done. But again, it's par for the course as a writer. Reading is subjective. What one reader thinks is amazing, another might hate. Think about all the books you've loved...and the ones you didn't. Yes, it might feel like a personal assault when someone dislikes our book, but in the end, it's just one person's opinion, and we don't have to let that opinion become part of our identity—as a person, or a writer.

Struggle: We can be extremely private.



Why this can be a problem: We try to go it alone.

What you can do: Find yourself a community of writers who know what you're going through. You don't have to tell them every detail of your life, but having friends who understand the ups and downs of the writing life—and who can offer encouragement and a safe space to feel all the feelings that come with it—is essential to staying emotionally healthy as a writer.

Struggle: We tend to be perfectionists.



Why this can be a problem: We can be tempted to quit in the first draft, or edit and revise for ages, convinced our words are never good enough.

What you can do: Learn that first drafts and perfection do NOT go together. Writing is messy and it takes time. Find trusted CPs and send them your work even when you know it's not perfect. In order for that manuscript to grow up into a book, it has to leave the nest. It will be okay, and so will you.

And remember, editing doesn't stop until that book is in print. Any agent you sign with is probably going to request a few changes, and once you have that glorious book deal, you'll be working with an editor who's going to request a whole lot more. Learn to let go and not obsess over every comma. Or should that be a semicolon? Maybe I should just rewrite the entire sentence so I don't have to figure out which one is right...(Don't pretend you haven't done this.)

Struggle: We hate feeling like we're not making progress, routine tasks are an annoyance, and interruptions push us over the edge.



Why this can be a problem: Cranky writer snaps at anyone and anything that causes delays in their writing goals or interrupts writing time. Despair sets in and we begin to question our life choices. Is this really worth it? Is it ever going to happen? I should just give up. 

What you can do: First, give yourself grace. Life happens. Sometimes you have a week where everything goes according to plan and you hit your daily word count goal with ease. Other weeks, the kids get sick, or appointments stack up, or bad news leaves you mentally and emotionally exhausted. You're lucky if you manage a paragraph. Realize that this is okay. It may be frustrating, but it's also out of your control.

Secondly, learn to prioritize. 99.9% of the writers I know (including myself) don't write full time. We're also students, employees, business owners, SAHMs trying to juggle writing and motherhood...all with tasks that *aren't* writing screaming for our attention. It's easy for writing to become that thing we do when we've managed to get everything else done. I don't know about you, but I have a strong tendency to get overwhelmed by the length of my to-do list, and I don't always prioritize that list very well. I want to check everything off the list as quickly as possible, but what I need to do is decide what HAS to be done today, and what can wait until tomorrow or the next day. If I have a graphic design job that's not due for two weeks, I don't have to finish it in the next eight hours, I can space it over the next few days. As much as I hate the stack of dirty dishes next to the sink, they'll still be there after a quick writing session. Figure out what part of your day is going to be the best time for writing (said time may shift from day to day), and when that time comes, write. For me, it's usually in the afternoon when the kids' homeschool work is done and they're free to watch cartoons or play video games. Sure I could be tempted to tackle that stack of dishes, but it's a lot easier to write during that window of relative peace and quiet. Later, when the husband is home and the kids are running wild through the house with their Nerf guns, and the dog is barking because the neighbors have dared to pull into their driveway—then I can do those dishes.

Struggle: We tend to neglect self care.



Why this can be a problem: Creative burnout is a real thing.

What you can do: This goes along with the last problem, in that it's easy to push yourself TOO hard to juggle life and responsibilities AND write your novel. That's why balance—and knowing when to take a break—is so important. 

Confession—when I'm deep in a project, writing or otherwise, I forget to eat. Yeah, you're not the first person to make that face at me. This is the point where I usually lose people. I have a couple of friends who totally feel me on this, but most folks hear that and are horrified. ("You forget to EAT? How is that even possible?") Turns out it's an INFJ quirk. I mean, I'm in the middle of a five hundred-word streak! Having to stop and make food is SO annoying. Do you know how long it takes to microwave that noodle bowl? Four minutes! I just...give me a second...if I don't write this down, I'll forget this brilliant line...it's okay, I had breakfast this morning...I think...how long have I had to pee this bad? 

Even on days where the words aren't flowing, it's easy to spend hours trying to squeeze something out of your brain and through your fingertips. When you're not actively writing, your mind is still swirling, trying to craft that perfect sentence or fill in that plot hole. Soon you're tired and cranky and your brain is mush. Every sentence sounds idiotic. Your anxiety is skyrocketing and you're convinced you're a sham—you'll never be a successful writer. Who were you kidding? Whut R werds? 

This is your hint that you need to take a break. Rest. Do something that inspires you creatively and/or relaxes your mind and body. Take a walk. Listen to music. Watch a film or read a book. I'm not a person who believes you have to write EVERY SINGLE DAY in order to be successful. In fact, I've found that I'm much more successful at meeting my goals if I include consistent breaks and moments of rest. Take time to recharge. Your manuscript will thank you. And when you do get back to writing? Take a muffin with you.


I'd love to hear from you! Did you connect with any of these struggles? What strategies have you implemented to help you overcome? 

This post is also appearing on To the Shelves - be sure to check out the other great writing tips available on the site!

Friday, July 12, 2013

On Unicorns, Rainbows, and Rest


I came across this photo in my Facebook feed last week (courtesy of The Institute of Children's Literature), and I couldn't help but breath a giant sigh of relief. Which was immediately followed by a torrent of doubt. But so many other people say you have to work through it. Write every day even if it sucks. Write yourself out of writer's block! Don't stop, no matter what!

For weeks I felt like I was beating my head against a wall with my current work-in-progress. I just couldn't seem to get back to that beautiful place of writerly bliss. You know, the place where I sit down and look at the blank screen and suddenly the story begins to flow effortlessly and the words stack up as my fingers fly across the keyboard like a unicorn galloping across a rainbow on the wings of inspiration.

Okay, in reality maybe there's not quite so many rainbows and unicorns, but you get what I'm saying.

I was forcing myself to write, waffling between two ideas--both with potential--but coming out with exactly what the above quote describes: uninspired dreck. The more I wrote, the more frustrated I became, and the more I fell into an "I love you but I don't like you right now" relationship with both of my stories. So, with few other options and still feeling like I was breaking some sort of set-in-stone, thou-shalt-not-stop-writing rule, I took the above advice and stepped away. I didn't touch my laptop for several days in a row, worked on other creative projects that didn't involve writing, and curled up for some much needed reading therapy. I cleared the clutter from my word-mired mind and made room for inspiration to return from its vacation.

And it did.

After a week, I began to feel the itch to take up my pen. And as of today, I finally have a solid outline for my book and am ready to press forward. 

Also, my house is freakishly clean.

I learned a couple things from this little exercise. One: At some point I think you have to release yourself from the notion that there's a perfect formula for anything. Otherwise, you'll waste valuable time trying to follow other people's strategies. Everyone's process is different, and that's okay. Maybe your path to inspiration looks like plowing forward now and straightening your plot lines later. Maybe it looks like taking a long walk or watching your favorite comedy. Maybe it looks like closing the laptop (or notebook) and only writing to jot down notes as they come to you. Whatever works for you, go forth and do without guilt.

Two: I think it's important to remember there's a difference between quitting and resting. Quitting is a result of fear. Resting is a result of movement. It's a natural and necessary part of the cycle: work, recharge, work, recharge. 

No matter what your strategy is for getting unstuck, I think it would benefit all of us to give ourselves permission to rest. You can't go forever without burning out. Just because you take a break, doesn't mean you're giving up--it means you're filling up. And that's not just okay, it's good.

What about you? What strategy works for you when it comes to tackling creative block? What refills your cup of inspiration? I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Appreciating Platforms

A couple weeks ago at writers' group, we started talking about the recent trend of publishers and agents wanting authors to have an established platform. Several people in the group were less than excited about this fact, feeling overwhelmed at just the thought of trying to juggle writing, blogging, websites, and social media accounts, all at the same time. I totally get it. It takes a lot of balance. There are times when I start to feel overloaded, and it's not like I have a huge following to interact with. But at the same time, I understand the value of this idea because I appreciate it, not just as a writer, but as a reader.

The easiest way for me to explain this is to share with you some of my favorite people to follow, and why: 

I'm lucky enough to have a few signed copies of Erin's novels on my bookshelf, thanks to contests and promotions on her Facebook page and blog. Not only is she a phenomenal writer, but she's the most kind and open author I've ever had the privilege of interacting with online. She's constantly engaging in conversations with her fans, asking and answering questions, and passing on encouragement to those of us who aspire to be as successful as she is. Her blog posts are always inspiring, honest, and real. I don't think you could find a better example of how an author platform should be used.

Jon's book START (see my review here) is all about figuring out your dream and turning it into a reality. What better topic for aspiring writers? Not only does Jon offer lots of encouraging and inspiring tweets and posts, but he's also hilarious. From comedic observations of every day life, to TV and sports commentary, to his knack for finding extremely awkward Pinterest posts, it's impossible to follow Jon and not laugh out loud at least once a day. 
  
Tony DiTerlizzi (@TonyDiTerlizzi) 
If you follow author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi on Twitter and/or Instagram, you'll get to see a constant gallery of his sketches. I love seeing his process when it comes to creating the beautiful images for The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Search for Wondla. He's also replied to several of my tweets, sometimes answering questions, and other times simply thanking me for a compliment. It's awesome to get an inside look into his books and their stunning artwork.
  
Ksenia Anske (@kseniaanske/kseniaanske.com) 
There are so many reasons I love following this woman. Blogger and up-and-coming author, she delights in interacting with her followers. Every day you'll find her answering questions, giving pep talks, celebrating victories, and generally boosting moral in the Twitter writing community. Do you need someone in your corner who will push you to write, write, write and never give up? Follow her. She has an incredible work ethic and is a great example of what it means to be dedicated to writing. And not in an intimidating "I'm so much better than you, you could never compare" manner, but in an uber-inspiring "You can do it, too!" sort of way.

I could add so many more...Bob Goff, Isaac Marion, Don Miller, Becca Rose, Kristin Lamb...the list goes on. 

Inspiration, encouragement, support, humor, writing tips, a glimpse into the lives of my favorite authors...all because of  their Twitter/Facebook/blog. All because they take the time to interact with me--the reader, the follower, the fan. I think if you can experience the excitement that comes with interaction like this, the idea of being able to provide the same for your own followers will seem a little less stressful and a lot more fun.

Friday, May 17, 2013

START by Jon Acuff

I've been following Jon Acuff's blog Stuff Christians Like for a while now, and if there's one person I can count on to bring humor to my Twitter and Instagram feed, it's him. In his NYT Bestseller START Jon brings his wit and wisdom together to create a phenomenal book about leaving average behind and traversing the path to awesome. 

One look at the cover, and you know this book is going to be great. Punch fear in the face? Do work that matters? Flip the awesome switch? Let's do this.

Jon begins with his signature humor before launching into a detailed road map of the 5 stages every successful life goes through: Learning, Editing, Mastering, Harvesting, and Guiding. He tells us what to expect in each stage, how to find victory and avoid pitfalls, and gives light bulb worthy advice on determining what finish line we hope to reach. He encourages and instructs, all while constantly nailing home the truth that age/experience level/money doesn't matter--you just have to start.

What Love Does did for my heart, START did for my dream. I closed this book inspired to continue to chase my dream and empowered with the tools I needed to do just that. Jon's writing has a way of drawing you in, making you feel like you're having a one-on-one conversation in his living room. He holds nothing back, opening himself up and sharing his great--and not so great--moments, all of which he uses to illustrate what he's learned in his own journey toward awesome. And there's a whole lot of awesome in these pages. Want to know how to silence the schizophrenic voices of fear? How to make time for your passions, ignore the critics, master your craft, and live life with an exclamation point instead of a question mark? Want to learn all that without being bored to death by a dry self-help manual? Read this book.

Whether your dreams seem too far gone to be realized, or you've already started down the road to awesome and are actively pursuing your passion, there's a vast amount of wisdom, motivation, and encouragement to be found here. Pick up this book and give yourself the chance you deserve. START will not only light a fire under your dream, it will give you the fuel to keep it burning.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing Lessons: Go for It

I've learned a lot of lessons as a writer over the past few years.

-In dialogue, characters can speak, shout, and whisper words, but never laugh or smile them.
-It is possible to edit 1100 words down to 500.
-I need to proof read carefully because my pinky finger has a mind of its own when I'm typing and insists on turning every "its" into an "it's".

But one of the biggest and best lessons I've learned is to just go for it. So many great things in life can come out of a willingness to take a chance.

I took a chance and, at the urging of my wonderfully supportive husband, enrolled in the Institute of Children's Literature. I've sent out dozens of short story manuscripts to children's magazines and braved the sting of rejection letters. I started a writers' group and began handing over pages filled with my heart and soul to be critiqued. Because of these things I learned how to pursue my dream of being a writer, received 5 publication acceptances, gained some wonderful friends, and my first children's novel is being edited and polished into something beautiful.

Last year I submitted a picture book manuscript to an agent. She didn't choose to take me on as a client. She said my book wasn't unique enough to make it in such a competitive market. But she did have some very nice things to say about my story. And if I hadn't gone for it, if I had chosen to let fear of rejection, fear of a harsh critique stop me, I would have never gotten those encouraging words that helped me feel like there was hope for my dream. (Not to mention that next time I get ready to contact an agent, I'll feel like I kinda, sorta know what I'm doing).

Last week I took another chance. I pitched my children's novel to NaNoWriMo's pitchapalooza. I'm sure I am just one of thousands vying for the 25 critique slots. And chances are probably slim that I'll be chosen as the grand prize winner and be introduced to an agent. But in the end, winning isn't the sole purpose of my submission. The purpose is practice. The purpose is growth. The purpose is to go for it. Like the old adage says, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

If you're going to chase a dream, you're going to have to take risks and put yourself out there. Sure, it might not happen. March 5th might come around and there will be 25 pitches and their accompanying critiques posted on the website, and it's very possible none of them will have my name on it. But then again, one of them could. One thing I know: Absolute statements like "that could never happen" don't belong in my vocabulary.

Mark Twain sums it up well in this quote, which I'll leave you with...

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.