Coffee Dates: Overwriter

Good Morning, Creatives!

Can I confess something to you guys? Like, heart-to-heart?

Good. Because I’m going to anyway.

I am a chronic overwriter.

Are you shocked? You should be. It’s true. I have a serious problem. My poor, poor editor is constantly having to cut things back and tell me to rein it in a little. (Hi, Beth! You’re my favorite!)

This week’s question is to soothe my own ego a bit. Or convince me to start a support group. Either way. Are you an underwriter or an overwriter? (If you’re not sure, judge it this way. When you finish a manuscript, do you have to add words or cut them out? Which do you have a harder time doing?)

I’m supposed to cut them out. I usually add them.

My Process

I love words. I love worlds. I love my worlds. So, because I love them so much, I love to spend a whole lot of time exploring them and showing all the little details, the cultures, the cities, the languages, and the people. I love to build cities and construct architecture and grow deep forests with lore that extends back to the beginnings of time.

One of my favorite authors is Victor Hugo. If that helps give you an idea of how bad I’ve gotten.

My Struggles Within That

Readers get bored! Stories need action, they need swift plots that plow through a lot of material and keep their readers engaged! As much as I enjoyed the chapter in Les Miserables about the Paris sewers, it didn’t move the plot forward.

Yes, I loved it.

Someday, I’ll write a book about those black labyrinths.

I’m strange that way.

But! Readers have to be engaged! And they don’t like pages and pages and pages of OVERWRITING! So I’m learning to cut back and do some of the exploring only in my mind. This issue is actually one of the reasons I started writing short stories. It taught me to say a lot in a very little amount of time.

Your Thoughts

What about you? Are you an underwriter, always struggling to flesh out your chapters and fill out your word count? Or are you constantly cutting sentences and struggling to get down to a certain point? Tell me about it in the comments!

A Writer’s Life: Expectation

What keeps a writer going?

That’s an interesting question. On the surface, it’s easy to rattle off a long list. Love of the story, dedication to their craft, or—as we talked about last week—determination.

But I’m inclined to think that at the base of it all, whether we admit it or not, the driving force behind our creativity is expectation. The expectation of a book in our hands, of our reader’s surprise and enjoyment of our book, of typing those exceptionally satisfying words, The End. Without expectation, the frustration and discouragement of writing can become too much.

Expectation

Expectation is so, so important for your writing journey. Goals, dreams, a solid idea of why you’re working as hard as you are is so important. If you don’t have that, you will peter out long before you reach the finish line. Whether you need a mantra, a dream journal, or a poster with your goals written out for you to see and read every morning, cultivating expectation is one of the most important things you can do.

Expectation is the trust that at the end of the journey, after all the bumps and snarls, there will be a finished product.

Everyone has dreams they’re running after, everyone has hopes . . . but sometimes we forget to define and hold onto those dreams and use them to drive their journey forward.

How To Make It Happen

Expectation should drive you forward—not hold you back with disappointment and frustration. It should be what keeps you together, keeps your writing, keeps you hoping on the days that are hard. Writing has ups and downs, and some seasons of the writing journey have more downs than ups. Without using expectation to keep myself moving, I would have given up a long time ago.

I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one solid dream.

Truth #1

Without expectation—or hope—the hard days will drag you down and eventually end your dream. We all have bad days. Whether you like it or not, there will be days when you want to give up. There will be days when it feels too hard and too impossible to continue.

Without expectation—without hope—your manuscripts have a good chance of ending up in the trash.

Truth #2

Expectation needs intentionality to thrive. An undefined dream won’t get you anywhere. Do you know where you want to be? Do you have a goal, a plan, something to shoot for and hold onto when things are tough? 

Expectation needs intentionality. Intentionality comes from a person who cares enough about their dreams to define them.

Three Tricks

  1. Know your dreams. Have a journal. Have a vision board. Know what you want and what you’re aiming for. Take some time to sit down and really define what you’re aiming at in your journey. Do you want to finish your book? Write a series? Be published? Hit a bestseller list? You need to know that and know that you know it.
  2. Plan big, and allow yourself to dream beyond your own limits. Instead of saying, I wish, say, I will. Big dreams are scary because they feel out of reach and impossible. But the first step to achieving a big dream is admitting that you have one—and turning it into a goal.
  3. Have step-by-step goals. A dream with step-by-step goals becomes a plan and becomes achievable. You want to be a bestseller? Write a killer book. Start working on your pitch, on marketing, on social media platforms. Work on what is in your reach now, and have steps to help you climb your mountain. You’ll get there.

One Solid Dream

Everyone needs a dream, an end goal that they can turn back to when things are hard and they are starting to question why they do the things they do. Struggling forward in pursuit of someone else’s dream will drain you—struggling forward in pursuit of your own dream will build you.

Writer, know your dream. Whether you want to be a published author or a teacher or a journalist or a blogger, know your dream. Set goals. Have a dream board, a place to go to when you are tired and discouraged and ready to give up.

Know your dream. Plan for your dream. And move forward in expectation.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What are your dreams for your future and your stories? Tell me about them in the comments!

This is the last installment in the Writer’s Life series. I so enjoyed this journey with you, and I hope you will tune in next week as we tackle nine truths in a writer’s journey.

Until next time!

Coffee Dates: Houses

Good Morning, Creatives!

Okay, all ya’ll are about to laugh at me. And not because I said all ya’ll. I’m allowed to say that because technically I was born in Texas and thus have the right to say ya’ll. And there are more than five of you, so it’s definitely all ya’ll.

I know these things.

Anyway, this week’s question is going to make you laugh at me. It’s silly and ridiculous and totally inconsequential, a question with no merit and no deep meaning.

I’m really excited.

Since we were talking about personality tests last week—specifically the Myers-Briggs test—this week, I wanted to ask about a different personality test. Specifically, Hogwarts houses.

My Process

I am pure Ravenclaw. I love books, I think too much, and I am not a biggest fan of having one ‘right way’ to do things.

Okay, ‘not a big fan’ is an understatement.

If there was one right answer to every question, no one would actually need to think.

My Struggles Within That

I have struggled deeply with this one. (Not really.) I wanted to be a Hufflepuff. I was so, so sure I was a Hufflepuff. My whole existence is a Hufflepuff kind of existence. They just seem like such warm-hearted, gentle, brilliant kind of people. The kind of brilliant that doesn’t quite make sense to most people.

But no. Knowledge is power. So I am a Ravenclaw.

Your Thoughts

Are there any Harry Potter fans out there? What is your house? Any other Ravenclaws around? Tell me in the comments!

A Writer’s Life: Determination

If you were to ask me what quality has gotten me through eight manuscripts, a thousand edits, and seven years of ups and downs, I would immediately tell you one thing.

Pure, cussed stubbornness.

Or, if you want to be elegant about it: determination. In my case, they’re pretty close to the same thing.

Determination

Writing when I’m inspired is my favorite thing. The words flow, ideas build and connect, and my characters cooperate and do what they’re told. It’s a beautiful thing.

I’ll be honest, though. I’m not very often ‘inspired’. Most of the time, I’m not. Instead, I’m faithful and I show up when I really, really don’t want to be there.

Determination will get you to the end of the journey, more so even than skill or talent.

A lot of people have great ideas when they start writing. They have good intentions, cool characters, and awesome plot ideas. But they never get past the first few chapters or even the first page. I see stories like this all the time, and it always breaks my heart because there is so much potential and not enough determination to make it happen.

How To Make It Happen

Determination—in my case—comes from a tendency towards stubbornness, but it’s something that I have cultivated too. I am determined to be the best I can be, I am determined to see my books in print, and I am determined to develop my skill set as a writer.

It’s a choice, and it’s a quality that I have developed over the years. I’ve done it with two truths, three tricks, and the next thing.

Truth #1

Determination is getting up in the morning to do what’s ahead of you—even if you don’t feel like it. No one feels like it every day. No one gets up every single morning and is inspired.

Muses are lazy. You have to be the one to get your muse out of bed and moving. You have to be the one who is rock hard and determined to get your stories finished and into the world.

Truth #2

Choosing determination is choosing your career above everything else—above that movie you wanted to watch, above the night out with your friends, above a day at the beach. I always encourage writers to take breaks, to live their lives, to spend time in nature and in the world to fuel their stories, but there is a line. A place where it’s time to shut the door, block the world out, and pursue your story instead. Without that, it will never happen.

Three Tricks

  1. Set a schedule. Have a routine. Know when you have time to write and show up for your sessions. If you write best in the morning, then show up in the mornings. If you need moonlight and starlight to fuel your stories, then set aside your evenings to write. Know your time and set your schedule.
  2. Know your limits—and your strengths. Some people write in bursts and floods. Some in a steady flow. Find your methods, find your strengths, and exploit them. 
  3. Decide what you want, and how badly you want it. Know your goals. Do you want to be an author? Do you want to finish this book, or write a series, or hit a bestseller list someday? Know what you want. More than that, know how much you are willing to sacrifice and how determined you are to see results.

The Next Thing

Do the next thing in front of you. I tell myself this all the time when I’m stuck, when I don’t know where to go next, and I need a direction for my week—or even my day. Instead of trying to plan three months or three years down the road, I am content with doing the next thing in front of me, the next chapter, the next blog post, the next graphic.

Your journey is your own, and the only way to tackle it is by taking it one step at a time.

So take a deep breath, and do the next thing in front of you.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

How do you cultivate determination in your writing journey? What does determination look like for you? Tell me about it in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, the last week of our twelve-week series, when we will be discussing expectations and how best to use them to your advantage.

Tying Up Loose Ends

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I am leaving tomorrow on a super special, very exciting trip.

One last hurrah, you might say, before my job begins and I have to settle into a desk and learn a new routine.

Since I love routines, I am very excited.

But the fact remains that tomorrow morning, somewhere between Very Dark and Sleep O’Clock, I will be crawling out of bed like a creature of the night and setting off on a road trip with three of my family members.

We are going many places. I will tell you about them next week when we have actually been to these many places.

Since I haven’t left yet, and my job hasn’t started yet, this last week has been all about tying up loose ends and preparing for a whole new season. I’ve gotten new glasses, a haircut, overhauled my wardrobe, cleaned my house . . . 

A lot of stuff, in other words. All the things I need to do before I show up for that first day.

One of the things that I have accomplished is to finish the first draft of my book, Of Bullfrogs and Snapdragons.

*Trumpets blare, people—mostly me—celebrate, a duck quacks*

Wait . . . what? I have a job where I’m getting paid to write and yet I’m still writing my own books?

Yes. In case you were wondering, my life plans are still the same. This job hasn’t changed them. I am still an author, I still have many books to write and many I want to publish, and I will still have a blog to keep up with.

And I’m going to manage all those things if it kills me.

No, I’m kidding.

Actually, I’m going to take it slow, learn my new routine, and adapt my life accordingly. Things will slow down a little, but I will still post on my blog, I will still write, I will still be me.

And, since I am not quite twenty five yet, I have plenty of time. My goal has always been a lifelong career, not instant fame or ten books on the market as fast as I can produce them. So, if you ever wonder what Abigail is doing with her life, just know that I am still here. Building away. Creating my empire.

And right now, that means tying up all my loose ends. Which probably means I should buy some groceries and do some meal planning.

Eh. I’ll do it when I get home.

In two weeks.

Any advice for someone starting their first ever office job? I’d love some wisdom from people are more experienced than I am!

Coffee Dates: Myers Briggs

Good Morning, Creatives!

Does anyone else need caffeine this morning? I do. Maybe not a straight cup of coffee or espresso, but I would not say no to a few cups of black tea with a little cream and honey. Just to get my brain moving in the right direction.

But! The weekend is near, O people of the pen, so take heart! We’re going to make it through!

Now, before I ask this week’s question, I want to clarify that I do not think any sort of test can put people in a box. We are created as beautiful, infinite beings with endless potential and ability to change. Our minds and our choices are our own, and what we decide to do with them shapes our brains.

However, sometimes the tests are fun. Personally, they make me laugh, and sometimes it really is fun to read through the descriptions and snicker over how close they came.

So, that said, today’s question is all about personality types! According to the Myers Briggs test, what is yours?

My Process

I am an INFJ, which stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judgement. I have never been one to search too deeply into ‘societies definition’ of what that means, but for me, it means that I spend a great deal of time alone, I am incredibly empathetic and can almost always tell when someone is having an off-day—sometimes just by glancing across the room—and it takes me a very long time to connect with and trust someone.

I also have an enormous amount of patience for a long task, thus my writing career.

My Struggles Within That

I hate public events! Parties are the worst. Especially if I don’t have one person I can latch onto and dig into the deep parts of life with, instead of struggling through small talk. I hate talking about myself in job interviews and meet-and-greets, and I hate pitching my novels! But I do it. Because I am an adult, and I do things I don’t necessarily like to do.

Your Thoughts

What is your personality type? More than that, what do those four letters mean to you? Are you outgoing and the life of the party, but struggle to maintain lasting friendships? Do you write, but scream sometimes because you need human interaction? Do you, like me, HATE pitching your novel? Tell me about it in the comments!

A Writer’s Life: Waiting

No one likes to wait. Whether we’re in the movie theater, in line at the bank, or refreshing your email browser, no one enjoys that feeling. Some of us ease the wait by playing on our phones, bringing a book along, or daydreaming, but the result is the same.

Time wasted.

Stuck in a place we’d rather be, sometimes waiting for something we’d rather not do. It’s frustrating, it’s a bit of a pain, and as adults, writers, and creatives, it’s something we all have to put up with and learn to deal with in a healthy way. After all, publishing a book is alllllll about the waiting. Agents have hundreds of submissions to sift through. Publishers have queues of books to release before yours will be ready. Everything about this process is slow.

And slow is hard if your mindset is wrong.

Waiting

As frustrating and unproductive as waiting feels, it can be turned into valuable—even vital—time for a writer. Depending, of course, on our mindset while we wait.

Waiting can strengthen you as a writer—or it can undermine you.

Waiting—especially waiting for responses on queries, submissions, or feedback—can seriously undermine a writer’s confidence in themselves or their work. Questions crop up in the silence that we’d rather not face. Questions like, have I just made a complete fool of myself? Or, are they taking so long to reply because they totally hate it?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the waiting is where I get the most insecure about what I’ve sent in. If I let myself, I can get into the worst, most damaging funks while I wait, and I can forget about getting any writing done in the meantime.

How To Make It Happen

And yet, I still have to write. I still have to continue on. The world doesn’t stop because I’m waiting for someone to respond to an email or an agent to finish reading my query and respond.

If the writing stops while I wait, I’ve both wasted endless amounts of time and trained my mind to stop producing under stress.

Neither of those are good things.

So, I’ve learned to keep going. I do it with two truths, three tricks, and a moment of stillness.

Truth #1

Waiting isn’t empty time. It might feel like empty time, it might feel like an ‘in-between’, but it isn’t. How you choose to fill your ‘in-between’ moments will ultimately determine what kind of writer you are and how well you produce under pressure.

It isn’t empty time. It’s extra time. Valuable time. Time to write, time to learn, time to develop your skills.

Truth #2

Your attitude is everything. Your work will suffer or thrive depending on how you view the waiting—and if you’re stressed out, convinced that your work isn’t being valued, or spending the time complaining, you aren’t taking advantage of the precious time you have ahead of you.

Three Tricks

  1. Don’t waste the time. As a writer who is pressed for time—all the time—I do my best to keep from wasting all my time on stress. Especially when I’m waiting for a reply. (Which, incidentally, I am doing this week.) Instead of focusing on the waiting, I get things done. If I don’t have the creativity for stories, I write tweets, blog posts, do some graphic design. Anything to check tasks off my to-do list and use the time I have wisely.
  2. Don’t check obsessively. I am the absolute worst about this one. Email, Facebook, Twitter. When I’m waiting for something, I check and recheck and double-check just to be sure. And it has never once has made any difference in how quickly my replies come through. Sometimes it really is better to shelve your phone for a while and move on to something else.
  3. Enjoy right now instead of focusing on someday. Someday will come, and when it comes it will have its own set of frustrations, fears, and headaches. Deal with them when they come, not now. Right now, enjoy the fact that you have time to write, that you have a project to work on, and that—even in this world of nine-to-fives—you get to be creative. That’s a gift.

A Moment Of Stillness

Take a moment. Be still. Close your eyes, and ground yourself. Take joy in where you are, in this stage of your journey, in the moment.

There is no hurry.

No rush.

No overwhelming need to race through your journey.

It may be tomorrow. It may be in six months. Whatever the time frame, you are still on the way, and you are still far ahead of those people who have given up, or never had the courage to try.

So pause. Take a deep breath. Have a moment of stillness and continue on.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What are you waiting for today? How are you using the in-between time to further yourself and your journey? Tell me about it in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, when we will be talking about faithfulness and the necessity of it in a writer’s journey.