Quick Link: The Aspiring Writer: When you feel like giving up

Quick links, bringing you great articles on writing from all over the web.

The last couple of weeks have been unreal in the real world. So I thought this was a good time for an inspirational post. From Jodi Gibson, what to do when you feel like giving up being a writer.

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The Aspiring Writer: When you feel like giving up

by Jodi Gibson

Don’t throw in the towel, make a swan instead!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post in my ongoing, although spasmodic, Aspiring Writer series, but I thought this would be a good one to add.

Have you ever felt like throwing it all in?

Every writer feels like giving up at some (or many) stages of their writing. Whether you’re in the throes of your first draft, or knee-deep in editing your umpteenth draft, there will be many times when you feel like throwing it all in.

Most times, this feeling passes. Whether you take a walk to clear your head, give yourself a few ‘writing-free’ days, or continue powering on, the urge will subside and you will rediscover your mojo and continue on.

But, what if that feeling doesn’t pass, or what if it seeds yourself in your brain and begins to take over?

With the rise of social media, we’re often drawn into the trap of putting forward ‘our best self’. We talk about our wins, and brush off our disappointments. Instagram is full of beautifully stylized picture-perfect moments or fragments of the best parts of our days. Sure sometimes the #keepingitreal hashtag raises its head, but they too are often carefully chosen.

But, sometimes writing feels too hard, pointless and fruitless. Sure, writing for yourself is a noble pursuit, but what if it’s not enough?

You want to be published, you want to be recognised, you want to be acknowledged. And not just by your mum or best friend.


Read the full post on Jodi Gibson










































Celebrating labor

There is a reason why writing a story is compared to having a baby…

Yesterday was Labor Day in the states. While commonly viewed as the official end of summer and a great time to shop, Labor Day has its historical roots in unions and the working person. No matter what your views on unions today, if it wasn’t for our forefathers gathering and sometimes losing their life we would not have weekends off, eight hour work days, child labor laws etc. Even minor details of today’s workforce that we take for granted like having working fire exits have their history in unionizing.

We need to go back to celebrating the hard working people. I grew up on the New England Protestant work ethic that work sets you free and learned from my family that there was dignity in hard work. That means manually or intellectually and often times both.

In a world of Kardashians, I would rather celebrate the hard working bakers in Houston, who being stuck at work decided to continue to work and make bread to help feed everyone. The can-do attitude of people who saw that they had boats and decided to use them to rescue others.

But we don’t need to do this just during emergencies. We need to celebrate the everyperson every day. I have taught my children to thank people who clean the restrooms because it is a horrible job and they do it well and we are blessed to have them. Yes, they get paid. But a job worth doing, done well, deserves gratitude.

And that comes back to you dear reader. I am grateful that you have taken the time to read this, my labor.

Writing is hard. Writing is work. Writing is labor. We should celebrate it along with everything else. Writers instruct. Writers allow us to escape into a world that fulfills our inner needs.  It is no coincidence that dictators and despots always try to diminish writers and control the message. Because it is their deepest terror that people will be inspired instead of caught in a trap of fear.

So have a good day and go do a job worth doing, well.



Elizabeth Gilbert’s Top 10 Tips for Writers to Stay Inspired and Kick-Start Your Creativity

Editor’s note: Any NaNoWriMo’s out there? National Novel Writing Month, where you try and write 10,000 words in the month of November is almost here. So you may notice posts that are a little skewed towards NaNoWriMo success for the next few weeks. If you have any questions, helpful hints, or good articles, let me know at paula@publetariat.com. My NaNoWriMo user name is Paula1849.

This post by Cynthia originally appeared on her site on 10/26/15.

The dreaded blank page. You just can’t find that perfect opening line. Or maybe you’ve finally hit the crucial point in your story only to find that – poof! – inspiration has vanished. Whether you’re a seasoned author or someone struggling to get those first scenes down, there’s always a time where the words stop flowing. Elizabeth Gilbert, whose most recent book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, delves into the many ways we can spark creativity in our lives, recently answered some questions from readers via Ask the Author on Goodreads. It’s no surprise that many of her answers offered encouragement and support to other writers. Read on for 10 ways to conquer that blank page!

Tip #1: Start Writing.

“At some point today, sit down with paper or a laptop, and set a timer for 15 minutes. You are not allowed to stand up until the 15 minutes are over. During that 15 minutes, write something. Anything — a letter, a poem, a list of people you hate, a prayer, all your favorite words, a childhood memory, a dream. Something. When the timer goes off, you’re done. Pat yourself on the back. You did it! Now do the same thing tomorrow. And the next day. You can do anything for 15 minutes a day. Trust me – stuff will start to happen.” Click here for the full answer.

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

This post by Steve Shepard originally appeared on Storyist.

“What are you writing this year?”

It’s the question on everyone’s lips at the regional NaNoWriMo kickoff parties. The answer, even among seasoned NaNoWriMo veterans, is often “I don’t know.” So if you don’t know either, relax—you’re in good company. Heck, even Chris Baty, the NaNoWriMo program director and cheerleader in chief, claims he doesn’t know what he’s writing yet.

If you’re looking for ideas, there are pleny of resources available to you: The NaNoWriMo forums, and Chris’s book No Plot? No Problem! are two of the best.

As this is my fourth year participating in NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d add to the mix by writing a quick how-to on the techniques that have worked for me.


Play “What If?”

So what should you write?

Conventional wisdom says that you should write what you know. If you’re a teacher, write about a teacher facing one of the many struggles teachers face. If you’re an accountant, write about an accountant facing accountant stuff.

Or not.

I disagree with this “conventional” wisdom. For many writers, part of the joy of writing is in learning about something new, and in living in a world of your making. The trick is finding a story idea that captures your imagination.

One of the more effective ways to do this is to play a game of “What If?” Look around you and ask what would happen if something you cared deeply about changed in a significant way. For example:


Read the full, lengthy post, which includes practical tips for mapping out your NaNoWriMo plan, on Storyist.

The Consistency Of Your Voice

This post by Ksenia Anske originally appeared on her site on 9/29/15.

You know that feeling you get when you read a fantastic book and it gives you shivers? When every page you turn makes you want to read more and more, and every sentence is so bloody good you want to read it twice and when you get to the end you’re devastated the book is over? I have been pondering about this lately, having recently read three books that took my breath away, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA by Ernest Hemingway and THE RITUAL by Adam Nevill and CRUDDY by Lynda Barry, and having dug up more information on all [the] authors and having read this interview with Adam Nevill and having put WHAT IT IS by Lynda Barry (a book on her creative method) and Hemingway’s ON WRITING on hold at the library, and all this pondering led me to write this post.

What was it so special about these books that got me?

The consistency of the voices. And where does this consistency come from? From rewriting until you bleed out of your eyes, it seems. In his interview Adam said that “there are ten versions of The Ritual on my computer. In fact there are some chapters that I cut out. Although I really liked the chapters, my inner reader said: this doesn’t feel right…. You have to trust your inner reader, write a draft and then leave it. When you go back to it, ensure you look at it with fresh eyes. If you’re only able to write a couple of evenings a week, because of work and other commitments, every time you return to it, you often find that the voice has changed. A lot of the re-writing is about making the voice consistent throughout.”


Read the full post on Ksenia Anske’s site.


Let Your Green-Eyed Monster Make You Insanely Successful

This post by Marcy McKay originally appeared on Bestseller Labs on 10/14/14.

Every writer has experienced this emotion. When ‘it’ happens, your head explodes, rage swirls through you, while an imaginary fist pounds your gut.

When? Why?

It so happens that overnight, the internet has been buzzing with the latest literary whiz kid, who hit the New York Times Bestsellers List.

“It was my first try at a novel,” she chirps.

Your bitterness tastes like bile.  Rage and resentment flood your veins.  That poison you’re feeling is…


No matter how the scenario plays out, the end result is the same.  You hate another writer for having what you want: fame, fortune and fabulousness.  All that glory should be yours.

This emotion is so all-consuming that its evil twin – envy, is listed as one of the Seven Deadly Sins.  The desire for others’ traits, status, abilities or situation is such an offense here in the human realm that your punishment is to spend eternity in the freezing waters of Hell.

I didn’t even know that Hell had freezing waters, but I’d rather not find out.

Jealous Much?

Jealousy does not work and play well with others.  There’s no room for abundance.  Only you get to be king of the mountain.

This recent Salon article showcases how one author’s deep envy for John Green on his success with “The Fault in Our Stars” almost destroyed their friendship.


Read the full post on Bestseller Labs.


Ask Polly: Should I Just Give Up on My Writing?

This post by Heather Havrilesky originally appeared on New York Magazine’s The Cut on 9/16/15.

Dear Polly,

I feel like you get lots of letters from folks either starting out pursuing their passion, or looking for a passion to begin with, but here I am, midlife, mid-career, full of passion but in a slump.

I’m a writer — a peer of yours, I guess, though age-wise, I’m staring straight at the big 5-0. And I’m stuck. I can’t seem to get to the next level and I’m frustrated. I do well enough that it’s a bona fide career — not “here’s my Brooklyn duplex” successful, but a humble income as a freelancer, which, combined with what my partner makes in a stable job, sets us up okay. There are books with my name on the spine on my shelf. Some good reviews (some truly awful). All assembled, I’m a “success.” But not really. I can’t talk about this with many people because as someone who is mid-career and mid-level, I’m not crying from the outfield here, and I can’t be picked up with a “Dust yourself off, kid, you’re young!” speech, either. It’s hard enough to make a profession of writing so I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Many, many people are trudging uphill, trying to get a toehold, so I know how good I’ve had it, relatively speaking. With so many earnest climbers on this Everest just trying to get to base camp, they can’t see you’re clinging to the side of the mountain, running out of oxygen and losing sight of the summit.


Read the full letter, and Polly’s lengthy reply, on The Cut.


That’s Too Much: The Problem with Prolific Writers

This post by Drew Nellins Smith originally appeared on The Millions on 9/2/15.

Lately I’ve been struck by the notion that there might be no books more lost than those buried in the overwhelming bibliographies of authors who have simply published too damn much.

On Thursday, The New York Times published an op-ed defense of prolific writers by one of the modern era’s most prolific writers himself, Stephen King. It was a timely bit of writing for me, a non-prolific writer with a first book deal in the works, for whom the question of appropriate literary output is often debated.

In King’s take, which is certainly worth a read, he basically argues two things. One, that there are great works buried in the overwhelming bibliographies of some writers. (i.e. “Alexandre Dumas wrote ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ and ‘The Three Musketeers’ — and some 250 other novels.”) And two, that for some authors, like him and Joyce Carol Oates, “prolificacy is sometimes inevitable.” He describes the crazy-making clamor of the voices in his head since his youth, all the stories crying out to be written.


Read the full post on The Millions.


Virginia Woolf on Why She Became a Writer and the Shock-Receiving Capacity Necessary for Being an Artist

This post by Maria Popova originally appeared on Brain Pickings on 9/9/15.

“Behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern…the whole world is a work of art… there is no Shakespeare… no Beethoven…no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.”

“Only art penetrates … the seeming realities of this world,” Saul Bellow asserted in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. “There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. This other reality is always sending us hints, which without art, we can’t receive.” Pablo Neruda illuminated this notion from another angle in his magnificent metaphor for why we make art, but the questions of what compels artists to reach for that other reality and how they go about it remains one of the greatest perplexities of the human experience.

No one has addressed this immutable mystery with more piercing insight than Virginia Woolf (January 25, 1882–March 28, 1941). In one of the most breathtaking passages ever written, found in her Moments of Being (public library) — the magnificent posthumous collection of Woolf’s only autobiographical writings — she considers what made her a writer and peers into the heart of the sensemaking mechanism we call art.


Read the full post on Brain Pickings.


Writing Begins With Forgiveness: Why One of the Most Common Pieces of Writing Advice Is Wrong

This post by Daniel José Older originally appeared on Seven Scribes on 9/9/15.

Writing advice blogs say it. Your favorite writers say it. MFA programs say it.

Write every single day.

It’s one of the most common pieces of writing advice and it’s wildly off base. I get it: The idea is to stay on your grind no matter what, don’t get discouraged, don’t slow down even when the muse isn’t cooperating and non-writing life tugs at your sleeve. In this convoluted, simplified version of the truly complex nature of creativity, missing a day is tantamount to giving up, the gateway drug to joining the masses of non-writing slouches.


Here’s what stops more people from writing than anything else: shame. That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be,’ ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame lives in the body, it clenches our muscles when we sit at the keyboard, takes up valuable mental space with useless, repetitive conversations. Shame, and the resulting paralysis, are what happen when the whole world drills into you that you should be writing every day and you’re not.


Read the full post on Seven Scribes.


Books Kept Me Alive In Prison

This post by Erwin James originally appeared on The Guardian on 8/31/15.

The end of the ban on sending books to prisoners in the UK reminds me just how vital they were to my survival inside, and to the life I have lived since

The official lifting on the ban on sending books to prisoners, which comes into effect on Tuesday, finally brings to an end one of the most irrational and baffling Ministry of Justice policy decisions in recent times. When I consider my life before prison and my life after prison, the difference is so immense it’s almost immeasurable. In my heart, I know that I could not have made the changes I needed to make, to live a contributing life, without education and books.

In 2008 I wrote a piece about The Grass Arena, the life story of former vagrant John Healy who found redemption through chess. “A good book can change the way you think about life,” was how I started the piece. Healy’s book had been sent to me by a probation officer in 1990 when I was around six years into my life sentence and struggling. “Read what this man has achieved and be inspired,” she wrote in the inside cover. I did and I was. Never could I have imagined then that 18 years later I would be instrumental in getting The Grass Arena republished as a Penguin Modern Classic. This book is still a source of inspiration and hope today.


Read the full post on The Guardian.


How to Become the Artist You Were Born to Be

This essay by Bernard Hiller originally appeared on The Huffington Post on 7/10/15.

By becoming authentic. WHAT’S STOPPING THAT?

Ask yourself, what did you have to do to be loved, as a child? Most kids are not encouraged to believe in their uniqueness. If you had to behave like someone other than yourself, then you stopped being your authentic self. And, what is authenticity? Sharing your passion with others and making your soul visible to the world.

Below is a list of common traits that prevent you from living your life and fulfilling your destiny.


1) Being a People Pleaser.
Behaving or doing something you don’t really want to do-in order to make someone else happy. People pleasers neglect their own needs and wants and inevitably become angry and frustrated. You’re hoping the other person will validate you, but you just end up being resentful.

Start loving your Needs and Wants. The better you feel about yourself, the more you are willing to invest in yourself. If you don’t invest in yourself, nobody else will.


2) Living in the Past or Future.


Read the full essay on The Huffington Post.


Better Writing Through Tabletop RPGs

This post by Claire Ryan originally appeared on her Raynfall blog on 5/9/15.

Everyone asks, how can I become a better writer?

The answers are usually something like: read more books in the genre you’re writing, write as much as you can, get feedback from other writers and readers. Yes, you should do all those things, and they will make you a better writer in general. But something that’s often overlooked (perhaps because it’s incredibly nerdy) is tabletop roleplaying.

RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons are amazing tools for focusing the mind on the process of storytelling. By running and playing in an RPG, you’ll develop skills and habits that will make your writing better – or at least easier!


Being a GM, or gamesmaster*, for an RPG is an interesting experience, and it has a steep learning curve to it. It starts with the setting of the game, which could be D&D, the various White Wolf games, Call of Cthulhu, or oldies like Rolemaster. You’ll get to grips with a setting and run games within it, but eventually, once you’ve got some experience and confidence, you’ll want to make your own setting.

*Publetariat Editor’s note: in the U.S. we call them “Dungeon Masters”

This is where things get crazy – and useful. Worldbuilding for a novel and worldbuilding for an RPG setting are exactly the same thing. You create the setting from the top down, laying out the land, races, magic or technology, and politics at a macro scale before you ever get to cities, groups, and individuals. As a GM, you never need to make the characters – those are your PCs – but you’ll have everything surrounding them locked down and ready to go long before the story ever begins.


Read the full post on Raynfall.


Be a More Productive Writer While Also Achieving Balance

This post by Jordan Rosenfeld originally appeared on Jane Friedman’s site on 4/23/15.

Note from Jane Friedman: Today’s guest post is by Jordan Rosenfeld (@JordanRosenfeld) and is an excerpt from A Writer’s Guide to Productivity, published by Writer’s Digest.

Surely you know one or more prolific writers who produce so much material that you wish you could bottle their energy and drink it down later for yourself.

Perhaps you even feel a little envious or resentful of their output: Hey, that could be me if only I didn’t have to [fill in the blank].

It’s easy to believe that a large quantity of writing is a sign of productivity, and thus, if you are not writing reams yourself, you aren’t being productive. But more writing does not necessarily equal better-quality writing, nor does faster writing lead to faster achievement of your goals.


The Pros and Cons of Fast Drafting

For at least six years, I, like millions of other slightly crazed, well-intentioned writers, have participated in NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—in which writers attempt to produce a 50,000-word novel in thirty days while running on caffeine, blind faith, and a spirit of adventure. The part of me that is like an endurance athlete always thinks this sounds like a great idea and enjoys the endorphin rush of writing toward a fast finish. And it is fun at various stages—particularly at the beginning before reality has set in. But you know what the honest truth is? It kills me every year. By the end of November I am the crankiest, most burned-out, and spent writer I know.


Read the full post on Jane Friedman’s site.


The Path to Success

This post by J.A. Konrath originally appeared on his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing on 4/12/15.

On the surface, the path to becoming a successful writer has three key components.

1. Write a great book.

2. Do whatever you can to make that book a success.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.

Like all paths, just because the path exists doesn’t mean you’ll be able to follow it. There are known routes up Mount Everest, but there are no guarantees you’d make the summit no matter how good you are or how hard you try. Even the best mountain climbers must deal with the unpredictability of weather, among many other bad things that can happen.

Luck is always a factor.

Even if you’re an Olympic gold medalist with natural talent and years of training, you were lucky no one was better than you at that time. Because all records get broken. Someone always winds up being better.

Hell, you were lucky a bunch of Greeks thought it was a fun idea to compete in sports thousands of years ago. Without them, you’d be doing something else.

Keeping the luck factor in mind, let’s review those three points.


Read the full post on A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.