16 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write

cropped-fi-mt-rainier.jpgIn my blog posts up to this point, I’ve discussed my reading and writing. (If you scroll back in time, you’ll find several posts on books – “On reading 100 memoirs in order to write one.”)  I’ll  twist here to discuss teaching. One of my favorite classes is Jumpstart Your Writing. I love to help students who are stuck, either because they lost their mojo or because they were too afraid to start their writer’s life. Here are 15 tips that help me and I hope my students as well.

16 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write
1.) Set your alarm for 45 minutes. Anyone can write for 45 minutes. Almost always, I keep writing long after the alarm sounds
2.) Believe in the power of revision. We can’t begin to revise until we have something down on paper. From there, our job is to revise and revise and revise. Jennifer Egan said she revised A Visit from the Goon Squad 57 times. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.
3.) Turn off your inner critic. When your mind says, “This is trash. This is horrid, say to yourself, “It doesn’t matter how good it is now, because I’ll rewrite and rewrite.”
4.) Only show your writing to someone you’re comfortable with –who may or may not be your partner, your spouse, your child.
5.) Connect to a writing group, either in person or on-line

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Gig Harbor Library, Gig Harbor, Washington

6.) Read 100 books of your genre
7.) Figure out your own writing bio-rhythm. Are you a night writer or a morning writer? Do you prefer writing at home or writing at the library or coffee shop? Do you need to write one hour a day (more or less) or do you prefer to write hours and hours at a time?
8.) Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer? Or both? The more you know about your personal writing style, the easier it will be to write.
9.) Schedule writing time on your calendar.
10.) Learn as much you can about writing well. Takes classes, go to conferences, go to workshops, watch instructional or author panel You Tube videos.
11.) Develop a tough skin. Realize everyone gets rejections. Share your rejections with supportive people. When you receive a comment in a rejection (as opposed to a form letter) consider it a success. Respond to the comment and resend the query or manuscript.
12.) Participate in Nanowrimo in November through your library, Richard Hugo House, or other locations around the Sound.

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Outside of Urulu, Australia

13.) Make a personal commitment. How do you do that? Decide your own manner of making the commitment.
14.) Throughout the day, write notes on your phone with writing ideas for stories, scenes that you’ve watched on the bus, street or wherever. Write each of the scents you notice throughout the day.
15.) Write affirmations and post them around the house. “I finished my book. I published my book. I have an agent. I won the Pulitzer prize.”
16.) Watch other artists—singers, comedians, painters, in their struggle. Being an artist is a brutal business, so we all need to support each other. Be a good literary citizen: attend author and poet events, write reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, read interviews and learn about resources on http://www.writersconnection.org, and drop a note to a favorite author. Believe in yourself. If these artists can do it, you can, too.

In Reluctant Defense of Women’s Fiction

Eight years ago, Carlene Cross advised writers to read one hundred books in the genre in which they wanted to write. I read one hundred memoirs, posted them on this blog, and five long years later Plicata Press published my award-winning memoir, A Long Way from Paris.

Writing a memoir is hard, excruciating at times, so I wanted to follow it with a “light” book. Perhaps a light mystery? When I finished my draft, however, my editor told me I had written women’s fiction.

“Women’s fiction?” Arrggh! I balked. Why not plain FICTION, rather than women’s fiction? There’s no corresponding “men’s fiction,” right? Of course, most fiction is men’s fiction. Or, certainly used to be. I honestly don’t have the stats.

I began a year-long investigation into “women’s fiction”- which I’ll refer to as “WF.” After my study, I concluded:

  • The label women’s fiction (WF) is an umbrella as broad as “creative non-fiction.” That is, so large it’s nearly meaningless. Traditionally, perhaps, women’s fiction meant fiction for, about, and by women. Its reputation, its branding, however, identifies most often with romance –superficial and light; about love, marriage, family or lack thereof. A mighty commercially profitable genre, by the way. Other WF delves into the loss of relationships and can be utterly depressing. I’m sorry, Jodi Picoult, you write extremely well, but sometimes I can’t stand to be any more miserable.
  • What could WF be? A satisfactory definition for me would include men’s works, novels and plays, about women and the issues they face. Have you read The Doll’s House or Hedda Gabler recently? Brilliant works by men about women feeling confined, women desiring independence, women wanting more than convention offers. I would absolutely include them in WF.
  • What should WF be? Do we need a genre, WF? Tell me the last time you saw Saul Bellow or Philip Roth write about menopause, or menstruation, or any other purely female issue. Yes, we do need the genre, and I’d love to see its image changed. How often do men walk away from the women’s fiction section of a bookstore? The truth is, WF runs the range from commercially romantic to intensely literate. It runs the gamut from George Elliott and Gertrude Stein to Joyce Carol Oates and Nora Roberts.

I studied this illusive “women’s fiction” genre to help clarify my own intention with my next books. In addition to the plays mentioned above, I resonated with the fiction of  Attica Locke, Joyce Carol Oates, Maria Semple and Anne Tyler. Blonde and An Accidental Tourist stuck to me like fly paper through 2017.

I also loved Lianne Moriarty’s books before Big, Little Lies became a smash hit because she writes in the new “up-market” category, stories which humorously touch on love, work, families, and affairs, but which then veer off into deeper issues once you’re hooked: spousal abuse, pre-natal depression, rape, class prejudice, and so forth. Add to my list, the jackpot. I recently reread Pride and Prejudice for the third time. Jane Austin gives WF prestige and satisfaction, with thoughtfully written books, funny, and profound. Yay, to all those Jane Austin fans who recognized this long before I.

In my search for the book I want to write, I decided upon a mash up of Joyce, Moriarty, Locke, and Tyler with a bit of Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca) thrown in. For four years, I’ve struggled to write the book that works for me –and then, hopefully, my readers. Finally, I am closer to a solution: I want to write a book that holds a mixture of fun and insight into women’s issues which, I believe, are the characteristics that helped make my memoir, A Long Way from Paris, become a success. So, readers, hold on to your seat. In a year of three, this light-hearted, thoughtful novel may appear on your favorite bookstore’s shelves.



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June 13, 2:00 P.M., King’s Books, Tacoma, Wa.

June 18, 6:00 P.M., Darvil’s Bookstore, Orcas Island, Wa.

June 20, 2015, 2:00 – 4:00 PM, Griffin’s Books, Friday Harbor, Wa.

June 21, 2015, 3:00 PM, Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, Wa

June 25, 2015, 7:00 P.M., University of Washington Bookstore, Seattle, Wa.

July 17, 2015, 7:00 PM, Inklings Bookstore, Yakima, Washington

July 18, 2015, Gig Harbor Artfest, Gig Harbor, Wa.

July 25, 2015, Portland Bookfest, Portland, Oregon

September 8, 2015, Soputhampton Library, Southampton, Ma.

September 25, 2015, AAUW Book Club, Gig Harbor, Wa.