Tag: motivation

Concentration in Chaos

LifeOn Writing

Last Tuesday, my Panda Express fortune cookie told me, “You are a bundle of energy, always on the go.” While I was slightly upset because that’s not a fortune, it was kind of interesting to read because it is very true. I’m the kind of person who’s not happy doing nothing. I get antsy after being inside for three hours, and I’d rather go for a walk than relax.

Normally I’m good at balancing this, but since I’ve been taking this class at GrubStreet, I need to spend a lot more time actually writing. Spoiler alert: it hasn’t been working out for me.

This past week really should have been exactly what I needed. MIT closed two days for snow, and I spent the rest of last week working from home due to dismal travel conditions (and maybe just a little laziness). But somehow I didn’t get much writing done. Instead I filled my time with useful, but notably less-important tasks such as cleaning, laundry, shoveling snow, and teaching myself Javascript. I’d even venture a guess and say that this blog post is just another procrastination tool…

So how do I move forward and concentrate on writing, when there are so many other things I could be spending my time doing? For one, I’m going to start writing on my commute again. Hopefully those snippets will help keep the creative juices flowing, making it easier when I try to sit down at 9pm and churn out some pages. I’m also going to make more specific writing goals, rather than just putting “write 3 pages” on my to-do list. For example, right now my goal is “write at least 8 more pages of that Thanksgiving scene you started, and don’t forget that you’re supposed to be using first person.” If those things don’t work, I’ll probably have to go back to the old standards: prayer, sleep deprivation, and snack-based motivation.

A New Normal

LifeOn Writing

It hasn’t taken long for me to settle into life in Boston. In fact, it has been surprisingly easy – I have great roommates, an amazing apartment, possibly the best job I could have hoped for, and a new place to explore. All of these things have made my transition pretty painless. In many ways, the hardest part is getting used to the fact that yes, this is actually my life, and this is what it’s going to be like for a while.

But it’s also a bit of a difficult task to figuring out how to merge the aspects of my life in college with the new ones I’m just beginning to explore. Nothing is just normal anymore, and everything I do makes me realize that I’m creating a new normal. A lifestyle that is similar to my usual one, but different somehow. And I think that’s been the real challenge.

I have the basics laid out – normal includes going to work, watching TV with my roommates, sometimes getting takeout. But then there are things I find myself missing, like yoga, and hours spent writing in eccentric coffee shops. I’ve started trying to incorporate these things into my daily schedule, but it’s hard when a part of me really just wants the old normal – Common Grounds and my favorite Sunday night yoga class.

So my goal for this week, which is somehow only week three of being in Boston, is to find those things. And maybe they won’t look exactly like what I’m used to – maybe it’s not a coffee shop, maybe it’s an hour spent writing after work; maybe it’s an early morning yoga class or a run instead. Either way, I know that this is the time to make the new normal one that I can live with, one that I know is right for me.

Moving Forward When You Aren’t Sure Where You’re Going

LifeMonthly UpdateOn Writing

Happy 2016! Like most years, this one began with a sense of newness. But this isn’t just the “I’m going to write every day” kind of New Year. This year it’s more like “I’m going to get a job and move to a new city and probably change my whole lifestyle.” It’s made me realize that at most points during my life, even those that I consider to be major turning points, there has never been so much ambiguity. Last year at this time I knew I’d be returning to school and then studying abroad in the summer; this year I know nothing.

It is possibly the scariest thing ever. It is also ridiculously refreshing.

don't live same year

Change is hard, but without it life seems pretty meaningless. I came across this quote a few days ago and was struck by just how true it is. For the last twenty-one years of my life, I’ve lived a routine of school years with little variation. Some years are virtually indistinguishable from others, aside from classes, various vacations, and movie premieres. So now it’s time for a big change.

The lack of certainty is a little exciting. In a month, I could be anywhere, doing anything. All it requires is taking a few steps at a time, just like I did all last year, and remembering that you have to give a little to see results. Sometimes it means spending a little extra money to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Sometimes it means taking a little extra time out of your day. But mostly it means taking a chance, even when you’re not sure of the outcome. For that reason, I hope that 2016 is a year of fearlessness in work, in writing, and in life.

Confidence: A Writer’s BFF

AdviceOn WritingSchool

Sometimes it’s hard to have confidence in words, even when they come from your own brain. We write them down, question them, write them again. Then we stare at them, wondering if they say what we want them too. It’s only second nature, but it’s also damaging when we don’t trust our words.

I’ve been writing a lot this semester, like I do most semesters, but I’ve found myself more confident in my writing. I trust that my words say what I mean when I write them down. If I feel like they don’t, I revise them. But it hasn’t always been this easy.

It’s hard, when writing is so personal, to prepare it for presentation to others. But what good is a masterpiece when there is no one to read it? One of the reasons I’ve been able to gain more confidence in my writing is by remembering that it is personal. Other people may read it, but I don’t have to listen to what they say. As long as I feel like it’s doing what I want it to, I don’t have to change a thing. My writing is mine, and I believe in it.

The reason confidence is important is because it shows through in your writing. The more confident you are, the more likely you’ll be able to make your readers see things the way you do. It comes full circle. So the next time you sit down to write anything, believe in your words. Believe that they mean what you want them to, that you are in control. Be confident in your ability and your stance, and you’ll be confident in your words.

Inspiration: The Writer’s Excuse

AdviceOn Writing

Let’s first note that I am not saying inspiration is bad. Inspiration is a great thing, often the best thing a writer could hope for. So what I’m addressing today is what happens when you don’t have inspiration.

We have all said these words, at least in our heads: “I’m just not feeling inspired today, so maybe I won’t write.” (Don’t deny it.)

The problem is, sometimes we get so into the ease of writing when we’re inspired that it becomes really difficult to write when we’re not. But you can’t just continue to wait for inspiration – you could be waiting forever! Plus, often what creates inspiration in the first place is working on a piece, getting to know it, and finding out what it needs.

How are you ever going to be inspired to finish something if you never look at it?

Honestly, beginning to write without inspiration is just getting used to hard work (the hard work that is writing, revising, and trying not to throw your laptop in frustration) – and what is writing without hard work?

The Identity of a Writer

On Writing

Identity is an important thing.

It’s what defines how you act, how people see you – it’s who you are.

So it’s important that, as writers, we identify ourselves as such. In fact, I think the first step in being a writer is being fully convinced that you are one.  The great thing is that you don’t have to wait until you’re published or a bestselling author to be a writer – all you have to do is write. 

Sometimes one of the biggest steps in starting to write is knowing that writing is a part of you. I remind myself of this every time I begin to psych myself out about a big project. I’ll think, “oh, I don’t know if I can write this genre.” But then I remind myself that writing is what I do, and it makes everything a little easier. 

Blast from the Past: A Lesson in Self Esteem

AdviceLifeOn WritingReading

I’ve been thinking a lot about reading lately, so this post is a sort of continuation of Wednesday’s post “Reading as a Writer,” except I think it’s a little more interesting…Enjoy!

Most of us hate reading our old writing, but there’s something to be said about studying it and realizing where you’ve grown. Honestly, I enjoy reading things I wrote years ago. Of course there are some stories that are horrifically bad, that I want to burn and pretend never existed – we all have those. But there are some that are surprisingly good, and in this post we’ll be discussing the merits of reading both.

First: the bad. You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you to dig up those notebooks you carried around with you in middle school – they usually include stories with characters named after your friends or that guy you had a crush on. Or if you’re older, things you wrote in college, or five or ten years ago. Anything that you’re distanced enough from to read objectively.

Reading these stories is an exercise in boosting your self-esteem. We’re reading our own work to see just how much we’ve grown in the time that has passed, how all of our hard work has paid off. Take pride in it. Reading these stories is an exercise in boosting your self-esteem.

And if you’ve picked out something you’re surprised to find is actually good, take pride in that as well. Of course, you’ll probably find some flaws (a cheesy line of dialogue or a character who could be better fleshed out), but you should feel good that you wrote something that still stands up to the test years later. I hope that this is also a self-esteem booster. Just think – if you wrote that ten years ago, what can you write now, after ten more years of practice?

This may seem dramatic or cheesy, but remember that I’m a big believer in the idea that you are your biggest fan. Most of the time, you’re the only one who can motivate yourself to write, and to write better, on a daily basis. And taking pride in your work is not thinking that you’re the best writer in the world, or that you have no flaws. It’s knowing yourself; your strengths and your weaknesses, and being proud of what you’ve accomplished anyway.

The Art of Helping Others

LifeOn WritingSchool

I had a sort of epiphany this semester.

In my creative writing class, we spent a lot of time workshopping our short stories. I made a comment about one girl’s work, and she told me after class that I always had the best responses and that I really helped her see the direction of her story.

My professor also told me this in one of our conferences. “You make great comments,” she said. “It’s often hard for students to find the balance between positive and critical, but you have it.”

It was a great feeling. I love writing, and I’ve always enjoyed the process of editing, but I’ve never really thought about how great it is to be able to help other people love writing as well.

We often see art, especially writing, as a solitary activity, and this can be limiting. When you work on writing with a group, or even just a partner, you make a commitment to help them make their writing the best it can be.

Just like it’s nice to share something you love with other – whether it’s a favorite meal, movie, or song – it’s good to be able to share the love of writing, that feeling you get from someone enjoying your work.

I think this is one of the reasons I want to become an editor. I know the feeling of being told my work is great,and it makes my day to be able to tell people the same thing about their work.

What I Learned in Boating School Is…

LifeMonthly UpdateOn WritingSchool

(I hope you all got that SpongeBob reference. Don’t worry, I’ll explain later.)

Another semester finished. I only have one more to go, which is a little hard to accept, but I’m starting to feel ready. When I posted in January about all of the writing I would be doing this semester (read the post here), I was a little scared. I’m proud to say that I’ve done every single thing I wasn’t sure I could, and successfully if I do say so myself.

My creative writing portfolio now includes three 8-10 page stories that I am so completely proud of. Though I complained about rewriting and doing edits (read the post that’s much more positive than it sounds here), it was the best thing I could have done for those stories. I’ve never thought of myself as a short story writer, but this class made me feel like one. I got great feedback, honed my skills, and learned more than I thought I would.

My screenplay ended up being a 97-page apocalyptic family drama that I sincerely enjoyed writing. Though the assignment was a difficult one, especially in a semester in which I felt as though I was writing every single existing genre, the late nights and long days were worth it. I haven’t been so proud of myself for a long time.

But the biggest thing was this magazine. I already posted about it here, and I won’t restate what I’ve said, but it was perhaps the most rewarding project I’ve ever been assigned. The end result is something I never would have thought I could have produced, and despite the roadblocks along the way, I wouldn’t change anything about it.

So, to revisit the title (and I hope this doesn’t lessen your view of me)…in one episode, SpongeBob is supposed to be writing an essay (10 words – I wish my essays were like this) so that Mrs. Puff can allow him to graduate boating school. She gives him seven words to start off with: “What I learned in boating school is…blankity…blankity…blank!” Mine’s going to be more than ten words, but here it is.

What I learned at Baylor this semester is:

  • school is hard, but don’t give up (you will sleep again someday, I promise)
  • feedback and criticism only make your writing better
  • you can do whatever you put your mind to


Screenplays and Schedules

LifeOn WritingSchool

This semester, I feel as if I’m writing on someone else’s schedule. In the past, even when I’ve had other classwork and writing assignments, I’ve always felt like I was able to do them at my leisure, when I felt like writing. Somehow it seemed as if writing was my idea, rather than the professor’s.

But especially as this semester comes to a close, my writing schedule feels forced. I don’t have time to go to Starbucks in the mornings and write until lunch time, even on weekends. I find myself frantically writing and editing during meals, before bed, and even at work.

I don’t particularly like it (though that doesn’t matter, because I have to do it), but it does create a sort of discipline, which is something that I know I need.

At the moment I’m working on writing a screenplay. At the beginning of the class, it seemed doable. I’ve written hundreds of pages before, and though I’d never written a screenplay I figured it would be easy enough.

Let me just say now that I was wrong. I’m three weeks out from the due date, and I’ve got about sixty pages left. It’s hard, but what I’ve been working on is getting rid of the idea of it being on someone else’s schedule. Instead of allowing the due dates to dictate my writing, I assign times for myself to work on different projects. It’s a way of taking back power, making it easier for myself to write.

It’s still not easy, but I’m finding myself falling into a rhythm, one I don’t often have during the semester, and that part I like. I can tell that I’m going to write more in the next month than I probably ever have before, and making it seem like it was my idea is the only way to make it bearable.

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