Thirty Days of Good Advice: the round-up.

Thirty Days of Good Advice: the round-up.

I don't know about you, but these thirty days of writing advice have been a good, constant challenge to me. And I must have internalized it somehow, because I've just finished six days in a row of awesome work. Keeping a good balance, a healthy mindset, moving forward, making progress...

Getting stuff done. 

It's such an exhilarating feeling. I'm getting my writing superpowers back, y'all. (Or, at least, I've re-harnessed my ability to deeply revise half-a-dozen pages while sitting up in bed, glugging coffee. That's the same thing.)

So I do think that this mini-festival of writing quotes has plowed some good ground in me. It's been the happy party that I hoped it would be! 

But you know how things are after a fabulous get-together. Just before your guests trickle out the door, it's good to snap a group pic or two, right? We were all here, in the same place, at the same time. Let's document it!

So that's this post. The group picture.

Here's the roundup of links to each post in the series, for your browsing pleasure.

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Beating the writer's paradox.

Beating the writer's paradox.

This is one of those quotes that's both comforting and infuriating.

Comforting, because it totally tallies with my own experience. And I tend to assume that I'm crazy, or doing things wrong, and this was a big vote for You're-normal-like-other-writers-are-normal

But infuriating too. Because it keeps coming true, and I don't want it to come true. 

Frankly, I'd like to have a big splashy full life (think long dinner table outside surrounded by family and friends and huuuuge platters of food, Italian style), and a big splashy full writing career (a lot of published novels on the shelf, a lot).

I'm the kid at the candy counter saying, "I want two of each!! With extra chocolate!!"

I read writing memoirs and interviews with writers, trying to figure out how they do it, if they do it. 

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Let's be clear-thinking kids.

Let's be clear-thinking kids.

First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. -- Epictetus

Deceptively simple-sounding quote. Right? My first reaction was, "Astute observation, Captain Epictetus of the Obvious Brigade."

But then I realized how many times my sense of "what I would be" has shifted, without the "what I would do" following suit. How many times I've stumbled forward with a previous plan, when my internal compass has swiveled. 

I get a growing sense of frustration and displacement, but it can take me a while to put my finger on what has slipped out of place.

Ringing any bells for you too?

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Being scared of the right thing.

A good reminder before Monday comes knocking:

Failure is never as frightening as regret. So risk the failure; don't risk the regret. |

This week, I need to make serious tracks in revising my current work-in-progress. Some scenes just need a bit of tidying, but others... 

Let's just say, there will be a massive amount of re-imagining this week. 

And I can already feel that hovercraft of uncertainty skimming around in my mind. Rewriting is always a tricky business. I know that the old draft needs major reworking, but I'm always sure I'm making things worse. Sucking out the magic of the first draft, and replacing it with ponderous cluttered paragraphs.


But I want to face that head on this week. To risk it. 

I'd always regret it if I didn't tackle this draft. I mean, I freaking love this story. These crazy characters. All the messes they make, the trouble they get into, their narrow escapes. I even love the setting, which is a pretty big deal for me.

And I know I'd regret it if I didn't roll up my sleeves and keep working, until it's as polished and brilliant as I can make it. I need to be motivated by that possible regret. I need to stare down the possibility of failure, until it flinches first.

That's right, story of mine. I'm talking about you. This week, we'll get better together.

Failure is never as frightening as regret. -- Stefan G. Bucher

So how about you? How about your projects? Let's do this together, okay? This week, let's take a plunge. Let's be willing to risk.

Keep your superhero cape handy.

Keep your superhero cape handy.

This is the quote that I need when my writing dries up, my characters sound like one more item on a long to-do list, and nothing in my imagination captivates:

Learn your craft, by any and all means. ... Then practice it with all the art and magic you can muster. Be worthy of your vocation, which is, after all is said and done, truly a career of danger and daring. -- George Garrett

That--like so many other quotes in this series--could be an entire writing class. 

It reminds me again of just what is possible between the covers of a book.

And it shows me that I've tamed my vocation again. I turned it into something undernourished and miserable and bleak and grey.

Instead of a career of danger and daring.

Daring?? Sitting there in my pajamas thinking through the next few paragraphs?

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The end of the dud army.

The end of the dud army.

So here's a question for your Friday evening: What excuse cycles are you used to?

What are the sequences of thought that sneak into your mind, and cause a little chain reaction of stepping back from the work? 

It's the end of the week, and that makes it a good time to clean the lint out of our mental pockets, right? 

Here are the top four goofy excuses that have crept into my thinking this week, kicking me away from my desk: 

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The secret.

I caught my foot in another cycle of overthinking this afternoon. Overanalyzing, hyperscheduling, visualizing the worst, overplanning. 

I find myself in these cycles a lot.

So, into that bit of madness, this breath of simplicity:

Sometimes, the whole secret to writing is just this: sitting down. |

Because sometimes, that really is all I need to know. 

Sometimes that's the only rule I need to keep.

And sometimes, I need to remember that it can be that simple.

You write by sitting down and writing. -- Bernard Malamud

So speak up.

Here's another reason to write, from Annie Dillard. Because she knows about these things.

Give voice to your astonishment. Write what makes you passionate. Speak up. |


It's like a big bag of caffeine for the heart. 

Dillard's quote here gives me permission to be more aware of it, to track it, to sniff it out. 

What astonishes you? What dazzles and dizzies you? 

I tend to feel it in an instant, a little flash-fire of brilliance in a moment of beauty. This quote makes me want to throw a spotlight on it, and then step into that light. 

I'm new to Instagram, so I've been prowling around among all the photos, all the galleries and feeds. It's like a catalogue of wonder. I'm amazed by the landscapes, the food, art, and people. The perfect summer tomatoes, the mountains reflected on the lake, the kids throwing sand, the dog's patient expression, the frog wide-eyed on a child's palm. 

All the sweet astonishingness of ordinary (and extraordinary) days. 

We all need to be astonished, to move toward it.

And then this: We are meant to give voice to that.

To take the photos, write the poems, spin the stories, and capture the moment in one way or another. All of us, all us makers: that's our job. 

And it is needed. 

You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment. -- Annie Dillard

So what amazes you? What spins your heart around? And how are you giving voice to it? Let me know in the comments.

No matter what. {Let's keep going.}

Today's quote can pretty well speak for itself.

What I did have, which others perhaps didn't, was a capacity for sticking at it, which really is the point, not the talent at all. You have to stick at it. -- Doris Lessing

How much do I love that.

Now and then, I feel inspired. On very rare occasions, I even feel brilliant.

But most days, I am just a terribly ordinary writer-girl who is only doing this because she's too darned stubborn to give up.

In other words, I do have that capacity for sticking at it.

And that--on this very ordinary day--is a comforting thought.

So let's rally that stubbornness, that plow horse mentality. The part of us that will stick with it. Through the thick and also through the thin. 

And let's keep going. Let's stick.

Once again, persistence trumps talent. Stick with it. |

Today is another chance.

Every day, you get a new chance. So begin again. |

I love the truth in this: every day is a restart button. Every writing session can be better than I thought.

And why wait for a new day? Why not use every break to reset my thinking? Coming back after a meal, after an errand, after any extended interruption: it's a chance at new words. Better images. Cleaner sentences.

This is an especially good quote for me, since I'm revising one of my manuscripts. And it is all too easy to stare at my old paragraphs and either think: Hey, that's not so bad, I'll leave it, or, Oh my gosh, am I really that bad at this?

Today's my chance to do a little better. To take what was already decent, and turn up the volume, make it shine. To take what was crappy, and make it, well, at least mediocre!

Mediocre? I'm totally joking. Today I'll make it awesome. 

With each new dawn, every writer gets a second chance to write well. -- Eric Maisel