How do you write through stress?

When I was struggling through my senior year at college, I didn’t write. When I was working full time at my first design job and had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t write. When I was languishing in a thankless job, I didn’t write. Fighting through the first year of marriage, the first year of motherhood, health problems, financial problems, grief, pressure and worry, I didn’t write.

Life gets hard sometimes and while many people might take to writing as an outlet, for me, that well runs dry when I am stressed. Other outlets exists but I long to put my fingers to the keyboard and create a story. Instead I stare at a blank screen, separated from the truest source of my relief. Any forced attempts are more disheartening than helpful.

So I would love to know what other writers do.

Can you be creative when you are stressed out?

Is there a way you can write when the juices are busy working through some problem?

confessions of a winter hating writer

I’ll be honest here, I barely have the motivation to write this post. Winter just takes it out of me. I get through the holiday rush ready to jump into the new year with plans and projects and then I get cold.

I hate being cold.

The whole romance of winter, of snuggling into blankets and sipping hot chocolate is super cute for a day, but the reality is 9 degree nights and wind that makes my bones hurt even hunkered down in my warm house. It’s hard to put a silver lining on that.

But I’m going to try.

I am so damned close to finishing my edits. At least for now. All I have to do is sit down and do them.

But I caaaaan’t!

I want to. I really do. I even try, but just like that intensive work out routine and my plans to organize all the closets I just don’t have the motivation to keep going.

I would beat myself up and call myself mean names, but the truth is I’m over that. Especially for this. It’s a cycle, you see. A very natural one too.

I hibernate in the winter.

Every year I do this. I plan to get lots of stuff done while things are quiet in January and February and I just don’t. I have short bursts of productivity, but mostly I’m focused on my job as a mom, making good meals and surviving until the air doesn’t make me sad.

I have to accept it. It’s my natural cycle to hunker down in the winter and just try to keep warm. I don’t have alot of energy. I don’t have alot of motivation. It’s okay. Neither does the rest of the natural world.

So if I’m honest with myself, I may or may not get those edits done before the end of February, but I also can be sure that I will not only finish them in the spring, but I’ll also paint the house, organize the closets and the basement, finish a new first draft, and maybe even start using my elliptical again.

We all have cycles. Sometimes it’s okay to just go with them because maybe they exist to charge you up for what’s to come.

Stay Warm!

David Bowie; a character who created himself

Today I awoke to the news. I usually am not too affected by celebrity deaths but the loss of David Bowie affected me profoundly. As a child, he introduced me to the concept of sex appeal as Jareth the Goblin King, as a teenager he provided me with a safe retreat for my own weird thoughts. In college he charged me with rock and roll and later inspired my own music and writing.

He has been a dear friend to me without ever knowing me. A man so cool we could believe he was an alien, a goblin king, a tragic hero, a vampire, strange aristocracy.

He changed his image frequently and perfectly, settling at last as the rock and roll and fashion icon he’d been all along. All of his incarnations had their own story, a hero or a villain or something in between of books we never read but wanted to desperately.

It is a misconceptionn that David Bowie’s eyes were two different colors. In fact an accident as a child left one eye permanently dilated. I think perhaps this gave him a beautifully skewed vision of the world, one that refused to be hidden.

The man was brilliantly weird and embraced that part of himself so fully it lit him up as a beckon to all of those strange rock and rollers who felt at odds with the vanilla world around them. He gave them words and music that resounded within their souls. He gave them permission to put on different faces, to keep striving for outrageous perfection.

David Bowie wasn’t just a musician. He wasn’t just an actor. He was an artist genius. He was a creator and his greatest creation was himself.

Goodbye my friend. You never knew me but you gave me so much.

Thank you.

5 (supposedly) easy ways to make your story more professional

Everyone has to start out somewhere, and most of us, even those with disgustingly unfair amounts of natural talent don’t start out with professional quality work. But fortunately, you don’t have to have any natural talent to write a professional quality story.

If you are getting discouraged because no matter how much you read, write and edit you are still turning out things that come across as amateur, you are not alone. I have made all of the mistakes below and I’m willing to guess most other fictions writers have too (some published ones still do).

Here are my top five things to look for in your own writing that will improve the quality of your work and make your work stand out as that of a seasoned writer.

No more Mary Sue

Who is Mary Sue? Well she’s only the sweetest, prettiest, smartest, most talented girl (or boy) you’ve ever met, and on top of that, she doesn’t even know it! Everyone tells her, the hottest guys are in love with her, and other people hate her irrationally because they are soooooo jealous, but she’s so humble and sweet and unaware of her magic powers/super talents/overwhelming good looks that she never understand what the big deal is about. Amazingly enough, sometimes she bears startling similarities to her creator, the author.

I cannot stress this one enough as it seems to be the most prevalent problem for some writers to overcome. Mary Sue is more than over represented in published fiction already no one likes her. She’s boring. She’s too perfect and she is ruining your book. Scar her, Flaw her, or kill her, but don’t let her remain as she is.


Too much Backstory (too early)

This is one I still struggle with! During my creation phase, while I am getting to know my characters, their backstory reveals their lives and personality to me. Then I have these really neat details in the first chapter that I don’t want to let go of because they are so important to who the character is.

Important to me. Not to my readers. Not then. Not when they’re trying to figure out what the story is about. Backstory is distraction, boring and jarring. I have seen it done well, but in your case and mine, lets just cut it out or at least slice it down to a few sentences if it’s really important.


Exclamation points!

I don’t know why this is such a big deal! Some people really don’t like it! They say it should be used sparingly in dialogue or it seems like the character is always screaming!


 Passive Verbs

You probably already know this one but it is a hard habit to break. Cutting and replacing them with active verbs in the editing phase makes your writer stronger and easier to read. It is well worth your time.


 Lack of Research

Whether your plot takes place in 1984 Panama City or a Galaxy far far away, you need consistency and facts to bring it to life. Making up your own technology and history is just fine but it needs to be rooted somewhere. Got a teleport? You still need to have a fair idea about the science behind it, at least enough to make it logical. Putting werewolves into 16th Century France? You better have a firm working knowledge of titles, lands, customs, fashions and life of the time. Anything otherwise screams amateur.


*Worried you might have a Mary Sue on your hands? This awesome test will help you figure it out