Fall in Love with Your Writing Life: A Super-Exciting February Series!

If you've felt a little distanced from your writing life lately, or if you're doing just fine: Either way, have we got a series for you!! Daily prompts for falling back into love with your writing life. This means you. Get ready to be a lot happier. | lucyflint.com

Friends!! I am beyond excited to introduce this February series. 

In honor of Valentine's Day and heart-shaped everything, we're going to focus on love this month. 

To be specific: Falling in love with our writing lives. 

As in: Meeting each other again for the first time. Reigniting that spark that made you love each other in the first place. And then, dating your writing life. 

Yes, really. Yes, you. 

For those of you who think that this is an incredibly weird metaphor: I understand. Really.

But when you think about it, it makes sense to think of having a relationship with writing, with the writing life. Because it acts like a true relationship in so many ways.

There are emotions. There's a trajectory of growth. There are even kids/books, if you'd like to go there.

Best of all, there's an ability to love writing more. And there's an ability to feel loved and accepted as the writers we are, in return.

Which is exactly what I'm aiming for by the end of this month, for all of us.

This daily, love-your-writing-life challenge is especially for you if: 

  • You feel like you and your writing life have been at odds lately.
  • If you have all kinds of EMOTIONS about your writing life. Feeling guilty, stressed, tired, uncreative. 
  • If things have just felt dry lately. Like you've lost your spark.
  • Or, if everything's going along swimmingly. Why not dive even deeper?

(Did I mention I'm super excited about this??)

Details: I'll post on Mondays and Thursdays like usual, and I'll have prompts listed for each day. Most will just take fifteen minutes or less.

Feel free to tweak them: If you don't have fifteen minutes, do a five-minute version. If the prompt says to go out and you can't, use the Internet. These prompts can be as flexible as you like.

The main point is: Just show up. Try these exercises, these new ways of thinking.

Let's be willing to be a little "out there," in the hopes that we all find a warmer, kinder, healthier, and HAPPIER writing life. 

That's what I want. All us lionhearts just incredibly happy with our writing lives.

Does that sound good? Sound like a plan?

Awesome.

Roll up your sleeves, find a blank notebook or a blank document, take a deep breath, and let's dive in.


February 1: Releasing expectations.

Any relationship can get cluttered with unrealistic expectations. They shape how we interpret behavior, they influence our demands, and—they make us really grumpy.

What are your hidden expectations for the writing life?

And what do you think the writing life has been expecting of you?

I used to expect that the writing life would: Make me lots of money, help me become more confident, and get me some nice splashy attention. (If it made me somehow look more amazing, that would be fine too.)

WHOOPS. That's not what the writing life does.

What the writing life actually promises is this: You will be surrounded by words, by reading and writing. And you will discover parts of yourself and the world around you through writing about them. That is the deal.

What I was looking for was more like a finishing school, a business degree, a public relations consultant, and a really great salon visit rolled into one. 

Meanwhile, I felt like the writing life expected certain things from me. 

I thought it wanted me to be a lot smarter than I am, more prone to writing poems. I thought it wanted me to have better taste in what I read. And I should belong to at least two writing groups where we give each other really insightful critiques on these novels that we'll take twenty years to write, and which will eventually be honored for all time.

WHOOPS. What the writing life actually got was: Me. Plain old Lucy.

With all my quirks, and all my loves, my absence of chic writing groups, no poems for years now, very messy drafts, very messy filing system, very messy desk. (I'm looking at you, stack of unwashed dishes!!)

Here's what I've learned: We writers don't have to be any different than who we actually are. 

You don't have to be any nerdier or smarter or more intrepid. You don't have to have had a better childhood or a worse one. You didn't need to have perfect grades or terrible ones. Your teachers might have loved your work or hated it. 

The Writing Life doesn't need you to be anything other than who you are. It just wants you to be honest about yourself, your life, your experiences, your perspective.

And willing to show up, using words.

In return, it can't promise money, splashy publishing deals, or fame.

But it does offer an incredible life of chasing ideas and images through words. Of describing the world around you, and creating whole new worlds together.

Which is a really lovely promise. 

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Take ten to fifteen minutes, and write down what you feel like you've expected from the writing life. Maybe you didn't realize you were expecting it, or maybe you did. But write down everything that you thought would happen to you and for you, just because you were writing. 

Also, if you feel like the whole image of "the Writing Life" meant that you had to be a different kind of person: write down all those things, those expectations, too. 

And then: Release them. Release them all.

Write down your statement of release: that you are going to let the writing life be exactly what it is. And that the writing life is THRILLED to see you show up as exactly who you are. 


February 2: Forgive the past.

This is tied to yesterday's challenge, but with a slightly different flavor.

If you've been doing this writing thing for a little while, there are probably some hurts in the past. 

There are drafts you never fixed, which sit in drawers, in closets, like little shipwrecks, taunting you.

Maybe there were times when you turned your back on the writing life for a month, or three, or whole years. Maybe you've had times where it felt like it was the writing that abandoned you. 

Maybe you've had some fights. (I've had three biggies.) Maybe there were threats. Words you didn't take back.

Maybe you even felt betrayed by an absence of creativity, by an idea that died halfway through the project.

Maybe you leaned hard on those false expectations, and then felt horribly let down. Maybe it even felt very realistic at the time.

Here's my embarrassing story: I once wrote an essay to enter a competition where the award was—I kid you not—a house

I thought: Perfect. My writing prowess will solve this little housing issue I have. 

... I didn't win.

It's ridiculous, but I was so mad at writing for a while. Never mind that the house probably went to someone with a much, much bigger need for it than I had.

I blamed writing, and I had a hard time working for a while.

What does this look like for you? What past hurts are there that still need to be dealt with? Do you feel bitter about writing? Angry toward it? 

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Forgiveness is this amazing thing. It's a debt canceler. It means that you take something that you feel like you are owed, and you decide to tear it up.

You're no longer going to demand payment. You aren't going to bring it up anymore. Not even through little snide references, or allusions, or teasing. 

It's the end of the debt. Period.

You're starting a new chapter now.

Write out a statement of forgiveness for writing. Cancel all the debts.

Forgive it for all the times when it was inexplicable, when you felt like it left you, when you didn't understand it and you blamed it for that.

And then write out how it forgives you, for the times when you shrugged it off, when you didn't take it seriously, when you gave up on it, when you weren't as committed as you could have been. 

Sometimes, we need to re-forgive, and that's totally okay. But really sit with this today, and practice letting go all the hurts you have around writing. Let 'em all go.

There are better times ahead.


February 3: Let's change our language.

One way our expectations and bitterness leak out of us is in our spoken words. In how we talk. 

Today, all I want us to do is to focus on our language. On how we talk about writing. What we say about it behind its back. How we talk about it to other people. 

What we say about our progress (or lack of it) on drafts. How we refer to past projects, past revisions, future prospects.

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Let's give ourselves a language makeover. Let's watch how we talk about writing, how we talk to writing, how we talk about our works-in-progress.

Practice being super aware of the tone of voice you use. Catch yourself before you roll your eyes.

Instead, let's talk about our writing in a really constructive way. Even if it's just what we say, to ourselves, in our own heads. (Writing can hear all that, you know.) 

Fill your head, your writing desk, your speech, with really constructive words. With accepting language.

Try to talk to and about writing as if you're talking about someone you really, really love. Even if they're being difficult right now. Even if they're really hard to figure out. 

Let's replace "Oh my gosh I HATE this and it's KILLING me" with "This is really difficult, and it's a big challenge, but I'm here, and we are going to figure it out, somehow."


And there you go!! By all means, let me know how it goes in the comments. Here's to releasing the negativity around our writing lives, so that we can love them more than ever.

... And if this has been valuable or exciting for you, spread the word!! Let's transform as many writing lives as possible this February!


Ready for the next batch of prompts? Click here!

This Is The Essential Holiday Survival Guide for Writers! (Part TWO.)

For starters, I want to say that I'm not taking back anything that I said in Part One of the holiday survival guide. Okay? I truly have used and loved using every tip in that post, and I mean every single one.

But.

I also really needed to say this, too.

Three things you absolutely need to practice doing, if you're gonna survive this holiday season. (And they probably aren't what you'd guess.) Part TWO of my essential holiday survival guide for writers. | lucyflint.com

This has been my usual writing practice during the holidays:

I get really psyched up about the holiday season, and I promise myself that this will be the Year of Balance and Harmony between writing and everything else.

And then I crash and burn, berate myself, and flounder around until, oh, about February. When I finally piece myself together again.

Honestly, this season throws me for a loop. And I'm finally realizing that it will just go ahead and keep doing that

I used to attack myself for how lazy I was, how undisciplined and unfocused.

I thought that a real writer would just keep on working, whatever the date on the calendar. Sure, take off for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but otherwise: I should be able to sail right through the season, full of words. 

I have spent so much time hating myself for missing writing sessions in December. 

I felt like a fraud, a hypocrite. And people think I'm actually WRITING! I'd shriek, and then flail about.

Holiday stuff, or writing stuff? Family gatherings, or character gatherings? Which do I skip? How do I clone myself already?

I spent so much time doing this. So much time being angry at myself for not managing it all flawlessly.

And now I think that, actually, all that time could have been better spent.

Instead of flailing, what if I just got back up, and learned to love writing more, learned to love my story more?

What if I just focused on getting back into the game?

Without all the blood and all the tears and all the flailing limbs.

There are going to be days (and weeks and even months) when writing just does not happen.

And I'd like to say: don't waste your time on the negative emotions. You don't need them.

Just come back and read. Come back and write.

So you've missed a day, or two, or eight, or thirty.

It's OKAY.

I just want to say that. It's okay.

Yes, you will feel rusty when you start again. Yes, you will probably think everything you're writing is crap.

Ignore the voices. They just show up after you've taken a break from writing, because they think that's their job. They are the gnats of the writing practice. Just brush them off.

That's your starting over plan: Shrug off the internal resistance. And simply paddle toward the words again.

Remind yourself of this as often as you need to, during the on-again, off-again, on-again writing schedule of the holidays.

Above all, skip the shame and the guilt.

Drowning yourself in misery because you haven't written in a while doesn't actually work. 

It doesn't make you a better writer. It doesn't make up for the time you spent away from the work. And it doesn't endow you with all kinds of discipline for the next time your work is disrupted.

I PROMISE you this.

If shame and guilt worked wonders in a writing life, then by now I'd be a multiple bestselling writer, fa-la-la-la-la-ing my way around the country on a book tour.

(Which I'm not.)

So, I've tried out that writing tactic, and I'm here to spread the word that it doesn't work. Let's try new tactics.

Let's try self-forgiveness.

Let's try getting up again and just brushing ourselves off and carrying on with the work.

So far, that's worked really well for my writing life. (And life in general.)

Yes, try to steer through the storm of events. Try to hang on to your story. Try to stay upright.

Snatch time for your work. Try all the fun suggestions from Part One of this guide, and see which ones work for you.

But also, please know this: If you do fall down, if suddenly you realize you've missed a whole month, it really isn't as big of a deal as it can sometimes feel like. 

It doesn't make you undisciplined, lazy, or a liar if your writing practice just sort of implodes during the holidays. 

It doesn't make you bad. And it doesn't mean you aren't committed.

It just means that life is big, and that stuff happens, like it always does.

It also means you don't control everything. (Which isn't such a bad thing after all.)

Most of all—and this is actually a rather exciting and good thing—it means that you and I can practice getting up again.

We can practice our agility. Which makes us resilient and strong in our writing, instead of brittle and defensive. It's a good direction to go. 

Okay?

So these are my three absolute essentials for the holidays:

1) Forgive yourself when you fall down. 

Be relentless about forgiveness. Keep giving it to yourself.

Even when you think you should beat yourself up, try forgiveness. Tell yourself it's okay. (Out loud is best.)

2) Refuse to believe all the lies about what this says about you as a writer, and about your discipline. 

The lies are totally uninformed. You don't have to listen to them. They don't realize all the other ways that you're growing as a person during this season. Down the road, that will translate to more writing and better stories.

So, ignore the lies.

3) And heck! Enjoy those holidays!!

If, like me, you are celebrating the birth of a King, then those celebrations really do deserve all the time and energy they take. And then some!

Yeah, I might not go to many parties, and I keep my shopping minimal, and I really will try to write as many days of December as I can...

But I also don't want to miss Christmas. I don't want to be over-focused on work, and under-focused on what matters most. 

So if it is a cold hard choice between participating in the holiday or writing, then choose the holiday.

And don't beat yourself up about it.

But choose that holiday with a wide open heart and wide open mind. Experience all of it.

And when it's all over, write down what you remember.

Start up again. Dust off your keyboard, your notebook, your pen. Re-establish your writing groove.

Starting over has been a consistent part of my writing life: I'm finally learning to treat it like a skill. I want to get really good at restarting. Instead of being afraid of it.

Are you on board with that?

Let's use this year's post-holiday season for practice. 

And don't forget: Kindness eases everything.

(Peppermint mochas don't hurt either.)

When Writer's Revenge Backfires

It's our privilege to put our personal enemies in our novels, and get their flaws down on paper. But sometimes it backfires on us. And not in the way you'd expect. | lucyflint.com

When I was in college, there was a girl that I, um, didn't get along with.

We were thrown together a lot, and she made me crazy. Almost literally.

She had a constantly demoralizing effect on me, reducing me from a happy-enough, confident-enough student into this ... mess. 

(One day I saw her coming down the hall of the science building. Before she could see me, I ducked into a nearby bathroom, and as I waited for the coast to clear, I watched in the mirror as my face broke into hives. I don't think anyone else has had that kind of effect on me.)

So, fast forward two years, when I wrote my first novel. And needed to put a minor antagonist in. Her personality suggested itself instantly.

AHA, I thought. Finally. All that suffering can have a purpose! 

I can put every character trait of hers right into my novel. She'd be the perfect disruption of the plot, the perfect wrench in my protagonist's plans.

And THEN, I can give my protagonist all the things I should have said. I can let her do all the things I should have done while this girl made my life a living hell.

Writer's revenge. We all know about this, right?

If life hands you a jerk, you get to use them in a book. That's the deal.

And that's what I set out to do.

I got her physical appearance down to a tee. All her worst character flaws (which was all of them, frankly, because I couldn't see a single redeemable thing about her in real life): there on paper. Marching through scenes. Mucking up my protagonist's life.

And then--I got into trouble. A lot of trouble.

And it's probably not what you think.

See, I believe in good books. Good stories. And that means stories with three-dimensional characters.

I don't buy characters that are pure evil, pure good, all terrible, all wonderful. I try not to write them, and I don't care to read about them either.

Which meant that I had to explore this antagonist's personality. This girl that I skewered so wonderfully with my words: I had to balance out her character.

This is not something I wanted to do, but the book demanded it. The story needed her to live and breathe as a real, rounded character.

As I considered ways to make her character more dynamic, I had to graft in slightly less-horrendous character traits. I gave her a really decent line or two. I made her take a stand against a worse character. I gave her just the slightest bit of redemption at the end.

It was hard work. It forced me to scrape the depths of my writerly generosity. 

And that's when it all happened, when it totally backfired, when it blew up in my face:

It made me reconsider the girl herself. The girl I hated so much.

I still shiver when I think of her, honestly. I still think she was pretty messed up, and if you put me in the same room with her, you'd see me claw my way through an air duct to get out.

But. Thanks to the work I did with her in my novel, I can now imagine that there's more to her real story. There were probably some terrible forces in her life that made her the way she was. I'm guessing some pretty ugly crap must have happened to her. 

I'm even willing to believe--just barely willing, but willing nonetheless--that there is something redeemable in her. That somewhere in her scabby soul, she has done something good. That she isn't pure awful.

I might even be mustering up a wisp of forgiveness or two. I might be letting it go, all of it, all the infuriating moments, all the insanity.

Writer's revenge. Approach it carefully.

It just might change your heart a bit.