Tag Archives: Guest Post

ICYMI: Writer’s Block is a Jerk

I knew I could rely on Anne to write a guest post for this year’s writing group, since she did such a great post last summer, “Journaling Past Writer’s Block,” and since, because I used to be her teacher, I feel like I can still give her assignments. (FYI, Anne: when you are an old, old lady, I will probably call you up and tell you to write an essay about something, and I’ll make you remove all of the adjectives and I’ll make you write it in the present tense [and because I am much older than you I will probably be calling you from beyond the grave, so just be prepared for that, to get a phone call from a ghost].)

Here I am, giving Anne an assignment, and there she is, laughing at me.

There I am, giving Anne an assignment, and there she is, laughing at me.

Anne has been having a hard time writing these past couple of weeks, in part because of her hectic schedule, and in part because of some disgusting writer’s block. So she figured that this would be a perfect topic to write about here, and a nice companion piece to her previous guest post.

This is a guest post from Anne Donald, a member of this summer’s Online Writing Group:

I’m currently in my senior (and a half) status at Columbia College Chicago, majoring in writing. I plan to finish and graduate with a BA at the end of the Fall 2017 semester.

This year has been a challenge for me, and, of course, for my writing. One thing that has helped my writing is when I write about current topics. Also reading has helped break my writer’s block. But I will say the one thing that helped most of all was when I took the course Fiction Writers and Censorship. It’s taught me about many types of censorship and has given me a new view on my writing and my life in general. Without this class I would have continued to self-censor.

The class also helped my writing because it has forced me to create more dynamic characters. For example, I tend to look at both sides of an argument and come to an informed conclusion; and now I can take that characteristic of mine and bring it to my characters. Finally I will say that another tactic, besides reading, is that I have been starting to write more politically. I have never done that before aside from middle school and high school assignments. But it brings a very freeing sense to see my normally outspoken, saucy nature on the page. It’s like a pressure release and a brain dump. Also it gives me alternative ways to develop my characters by using the fiction to bring these issues to light.

 

These are all great ideas for us to keep in mind if we hit a wall, and perfect to consider when thinking of what I was going on about Charles Bukowski earlier this week. And remember: even if you’re not writing something good, you’re writing. Eventually you’ll get past the layers of gobbledygook and into something good, something useful for your project.

(also, everyone: Anne really is saucy. she’s not exaggerating.)

Write on, everyone!

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Color-Coded Writing

Group member Katherine has been teaching with me in MCC’s English Department for years, but I’d really only known her as a teaching acquaintance. But at the end of this past spring semester, she came into my office to chat about writing (the kind of chat I am always in the mood for) and told me she’d finished the first draft of a memoir centered around her first pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage. She wanted to keep working on the manuscript and figure out what next steps to take toward publishing, so I thought she’d be a perfect fit for our group — and clearly she is! Here is Katherine’s method of organizing her thoughts and her revisions.

This is a guest post from Katherine Grant, a member of this summer’s Online Writing Group:

Well, currently I reread my work in its entirety (currently 85+ pages) about once every two weeks, but for smaller attempts at revision and improvement, I color-code my writing. This is something that I began doing when I was working on my master’s thesis in an attempt to keep track of what I felt like was completely finished, what still needed some attention, and what still needed to be started.

All of my text is black when I start, but when my memoir got past thirty pages, I used this strategy to keep track of where I thought I had made progress and where I needed to focus my attention.

A red color coded to-do

Color-Coded Writing

The color red has always served as my to-do list or for things that are nowhere near ready or not even started. I currently have a to-do list at the end of the memoir with anecdotes that still need to be written. For my students, I encourage a to-do list with their writing as well. I often refer to that to-do list as their road map to where they want to go on their next writing trip (what claims still need to be proven). Color-coding my writing helps me to keep the ideas in my head straight, even if I don’t have time to write them entirely just yet. I see RED and realize that work must be done.

The color blue means things are close and that I am pretty happy with this draft, but things aren’t quite polished or are not quite in the best location.

Black text means that the writing is done, polished, and in the correct location. Sometimes black text will still receive a minor revision to correct a typo or change a word choice, but major revisions are complete.

 

There is a lot written by and for teachers about using color-coding to help students differentiate supporting points and ideas as they develop academic essays, and it’s something I use in my classroom, too. But Katherine’s approach to using it within a document for revision is new to me and it’s something I’m interested in trying. Thanks, Katherine, for sharing your process!

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On Creativity and Criticism

Group member Bev participated in last year’s writing group and wrote an excellent guest post on what she learned about writing and about life from the chickens she raises on her farm.

In this post, Bev shares her ideas about a video of Dr. Brené Brown, professor of sociology and social work at the University of Houston, giving a talk to a group at 99u, a group whose mission is to “empower the creative community.”

This is a guest post from Beverly Dow, a member of this summer’s Online Writing Group:

I came late to social media. Born at the end of the Baby Boom (a circuitous way of saying I’m old), I have privacy issues. My younger friends finally wore me down, and I got on Facebook. For the most part, I agree with Betty White (who is even older) that Facebook is a colossal waste of time. Now and then, however, I come across something transformative. A friend posted a link to a TED talk by Dr. Brené Brown on vulnerability. I was hooked. Watched all her videos. Read her book, Daring Greatly. I won’t say I’m great at embracing vulnerability, but I now when I feel that discomfort, I tell myself, “Hey, I’m daring greatly. Good for me.”

As we start this writing workshop, I want to share this video of Dr. Brown talking to “sweaty creatives” about dealing with critics. The message is to get out of your own way. It isn’t about success or failure. It’s about having the courage to show up and get your ass kicked.

I can do that.

We can all do that! Thanks for sharing, Bev. Now, everyone: reserve the appropriate seats at your arena, and then walk up those stairs and do it.

Time to Get Lost

Group member Lisa is a colleague of mine in the MCC English Department and my office-mate on campus. In addition to being an excellent tea-drinking pal, Lisa co-advises the campus creative writing club with me, she is a fellow super-fan of The Walking Dead, and she’s a talented writer and has been published in The Florida Review, Black Warrior Review, and Mid-American Review.

When Lisa isn’t teaching, raising her three smart and gorgeous kids, or watching The Walking Dead, she’s finding “micro-moments” to write. Here’s how she does it.

This is a guest post from Lisa Crizer, a member of this summer’s Online Writing Group:

Lisa and Eli

I grew up in a loud family, to say the least. We discussed everything, and to the outsider I’m sure our conversations seemed like complete chaos. We watched a lot of TV, too. I’m completely comfortable with the dull background hum of daytime programming.

I like my surroundings loud and lively. I treasure the laughter and giggles that usually fill our rooms. I’m even learning to decipher the screams and squeals of the ever more frequent arguments between my girls. We are living life, with all of its sticky hands, mosquito bites, and nerve-sizzling mayhem.

Lately, however, days filled with hours of swimming and running around in the sun have led to late summer bedtimes. I love seeing my kids passed out in the corner of the couch, faces dirty from a day of fun. But, these later bedtimes have a sinister side effect — less time for me.

Our oldest daughter used to put herself to bed at 7:30. She still does. For years, my husband and I were spoiled with three hours each night all to ourselves. We were time-rich fools binge watching series on Netflix, having adult conversation, and doing crazy things like going to Target alone. Two children later and we are in a completely different boat; a completely different rickety old canoe in a deep, tumultuous ocean of constant companionship.

I never dreamt I’d seek out quiet; envy people dining alone at a restaurant, walking solo on the bike trail, or even just driving alone in their car listening to the radio. This summer has reminded me how important it is, as a writer, to have some solitude; time to think, make up scenarios, plan out conversations, flesh out characters.

So, what can I do? How can I rediscover this time and allow my mind to wander?

I wish I knew. I wish I had some great, disciplined plan where I would wake up every day a few hours before the kids and write. But, I don’t.

What I do have are “micro-moments”. Those precious instances where the TV is off, or the kids fall asleep in the car and I can finally turn off the Care Bears DVD. Or, the afternoon I’d been looking forward to for years, when I took my oldest to the bookstore and she read while I worked.

These “micro-moments” are hard to plan, and sometimes even hard to recognize. But right now they’re all I’ve got and I’m working hard not to waste them scrolling through my Facebook feed. If I can learn to appreciate these bits of calm, and string together all of these tiny specks of quiet time, I might just be able to get lost again once in a while.

We can all find these moments — we just have to look for them. Thanks, Lisa, for the reminder!

One Writer’s Process

When I was recruiting members for the Lake Projects Online Writing Group, I asked for volunteers to contribute guest posts for the blog. The posts could include details about the writer’s eight-week project, their writing process, or something else.

The first guest post was by Matthew Wasik, and it explained, in excellent detail, how to combat writer’s block. This post, by Anuar Escutia Ponce de León, discusses one writer’s process for putting together his motivational book, Looking for Stars in the Middle of the Darkness. Enjoy Anuar’s post!

This is a guest post from Anuar Escutia Ponce de León, a member of this summer’s Online Writing Group:

So far my writing progress has been going great. I have six chapters and the prologue of my book done. These chapters are some of the previous blogs I have posted on my blog, Wheelchairs Rock. I pretty just copy and paste them into my book. It was simple, but I did have to edit the posts into a book version.

My book idea is to share those moments full of tears and full of brightness that have taught me something valuable. I figure that readers could possible learn something valuable from the things that I’ve experienced in my life. Everyone has their own situation in life and each of us learn different important lessons. So I believe it’s always good to make the best out the lessons life gives us by sharing those lessons with others.

I have many posts written that I haven’t had the chance to put on my blog yet. So I’m going to add those posts to my book throughout these next weeks. Sometimes I feel like I have enough material to publish this book, but I believe I still have many more lessons to obtain. Those lessons could perhaps be very useful for this book.

Feel free to check out my blog and give me some feedback. It’s highly appreciated since my blogs will be chapters of my book in the future.

Thanks for post, Anuar! Writing a blog is a great way to test material, gain readers, and build a buzz about your story and your book. Good luck! (check out more from Anuar on his blog, Wheelchairs Rock)

Getting Rid of Writer’s Block

This is a guest post from Matthew Wasik, a member of this summer’s Online Writing Group:

Is writer’s block getting you down? Tired of staring at the screen, hoping Gunshija, Goddess of writers, will send you divine inspiration? Well, look no further! I, Matthew Wasik, am going to enlighten you on how I smash through writer’s block like the Hulk smashes through walls!

THE STEPS:

1:   Obtain the following items: a matchbox, the biggest bottle of gin you can find, and a picture of renowned pop star Taylor Swift. Set them on the table and croon softly to them.

2:   Light a match, stare at it until it burns down, and consider all the terrible choices you’ve made in life. Rinse and repeat until the matchbox is empty. Eat the empty matchbox.

3:   Smash the photograph while screaming “WHY DID YOU BETRAY ME, TAYLOR!? WHY?! I THOUGHT YOU WERE MY SOUL MATE!!!”

4:   Ignore the fact that you’ve never met Taylor Swift.

5:   Chug the bottle of gin.

6:   Curl into a ball and cry for several hours.

The tools you need to banish writer's block

The tools you need to banish writer’s block

Congratulations! You are now ready to write an award winning novel or build a robot! The world is your gin-soaked oyster! Go forth and CREATE!!!

…In all seriousness, my way of breaking through writer’s block is, oddly enough, to slide around it. If I get stuck on one project, I’ll switch to another one. Then I’ll return to the original project once my brain is reset. I don’t know if this would work for you, since I have a strange brain-mind, but feel free to try it!

 

Thanks for the tips, Matthew! Your brain-mind is amazing. (check out more from Matthew on his blog) Readers, now that you have some great writer’s block-busters, get writing!