A Little Navel Gazing

JordanA Writer's Guide to Persistence

Scroll down for some of the awesome writer tips that ran yesterday on my Facebook author page from some writers I admire deeply.

Normally I’m too shy to share interviews I’ve done, because who cares, right? But friends, this interview is full of important considerations for all of you–the reasons behind why I wrote A Writer’s Guide to Persistence, and it’s the marvelous Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow, Pictures of You and other amazing, heartfelt, deep novels you must read.


Caroline: I want to talk about the Building Boundaries chapter, because so many writers feel if they are not published, they don’t have the right to tell people not to drop by, or to cancel dinners.

Me: It comes down to this: we have to legitimize our writing to ourselves first, or no one will ever believe or respect us. The most serious writers just write and write and write. Every time I see someone post on Facebook that they will NOT be posting on Facebook for the foreseeable future to finish writing a book, I cheer for them. That is healthy boundary setting and a good reminder for the rest of us. It’s really no different, however, than a mother remembering to take care of herself so she can be the best mother she is capable of–a writer has to find ways to make time to write, thus turning away friends and canceling dinners–if it matters to her. It’s just non-negotiable in my book–to write, you have to shut out the world at times, and that means your loved ones, too, and hopefully they knew that going in when they met or married you 😉 Your children are just out of luck. What’s more, writers who don’t make time for their writing, in my experience, end up martyrs, or resentful, or cranky. If writing is your purpose, your joy, your gift or just a way to express yourself, then you’ll start to feel badly when you don’t do It. Pretty simple. Boundaries are just necessary.

Read the rest here

Caroline also graciously gave this tip for my Writing Tip-Shop, my virtual launch party for Persistence:

“Never. Give. Up. If you feel blocked, try writing in a different font or a different color. Ask your characters a question: what’s making you so angry/happy/miserable? And then see what they say.” —Caroline Leavitt.

Some of my Favorite Writing Tips from the Writing Tip-Shop:

  • “My writing tip is to read materials like you want to write. Want to be a novelist? Read novels voraciously! Want to be an essayist? Then by golly, you better be able to name your top favorite essays of this month. Practicing poet? Tell me lines from Plath, Whitman and Hughes. So many people claim they’re a writer, but if you’re not out there reading, you’re not even learning.” That’s part of the job. Next, write. — Kirsten Ott, @kirstenop http://gatheringoaks.com
  • A guitar teacher of mine (the same one who taught me to solo over “Summertime”) once advised me to stay in touch with my instrument at least enough to tune it every day. Better yet, play something–scales, a melody, that chord progression you can’t forget. As a writer I take this advice to mean I should at a minimum sharpen my pencil each morning or click open my pen. The rest comes; for me it comes from my obsessive nature once it’s awakened.” — Rebecca Lawton.http://www.beccalawton.com
  • “The most reassuring thing I’ve learned from years of studying and teaching writing is that talent is mostly myth. While a basic skill set–imagination, thoughtfulness, a sturdy sense of logic–is useful, the best resource a writer can have is persistence in the face of discouragement, boredom, and difficulty. Many people have the skills required to start writing, but those who keep writing are the ones who are willing to string sentences together even when there are more appealing ways to spend their time.” —Mandy Len Catron. http://www.thelovestoryproject.ca
  • “If you’re stuck, go for a walk. This sounds easy — it sounds glib. But it’s not. Writing isn’t just about the work; it’s about your life, all of it. If you’re not connected to the world around you, taking note of the rhythm or rush of your days, it makes the writing that much harder. Walking has done more for me than any number of workshops for shaking out problems and ideas, and reminds me that narrative is just a way of making sense of the life I’m already in.” — Antonia Malchik
  • “Develop a daily writing habit–maybe not forever, but for a month, at least long enough that you understand how it feels. National Novel Writing Month is this sort of endeavor, but you don’t have to join a movement. A private blog is perfect for this purpose because it automatically dates what you post and because you can keep it entirely to yourself or invited only readers you select, perhaps others trying to cultivate a daily writing habit. Write as if you’re drafting work, not as if you’re keeping a private diary. Don’t look back every day; instead, accumulate for a month, then see what you have to revise. Regularity, whether it’s daily for a month or weekly for an ongoing blog, feels different than sporadic writing. And if that rule of 10,000 to expertise is true, we need to be racking up hours and hours of practice.” — Dr. Anna Leahy, Chapman University
  • “Treat your whole life like a writing project. That weird dream you have? Keep thinking about it. That single image you keep seeing over and over in your mind, waiting for the right project to place it into? Write a piece about just that image. So many writers I know talk about writer’s block, or running out of ideas. When you use your whole life as inspiration, you’ll have so many ideas you couldn’t possibly turn them all into finished work. But ruminate. Ruminate relentlessly. Do not let the idea, the image, the persistent thought subside. Let them marinate in your brain until they come to fruition. I often don’t write a thing down until it’s finished, until I’ve been pondering it for months. So when you see me driving my kids to school? Or walking down the hall to my classroom? Or cooking dinner? Or putting gas in my car at dawn? That far away look in my eyes isn’t fatigue or daydreaming or exhaustion. It’s writing. The page comes last, and is always waiting.” Alice Anderson
  • “If you are feeling blocked, turn to the body. What do you (or your character) smell, see, hear, taste, feel? What senses do you tend to ignore on the page? Bring those senses to the forefront of your writing and watch your language come to richer, more vibrant life.” – Gayle Brandeis, author of FruitFlesh and The Book of Dead Birds


And this review by the marvelous Michelle Chouinard also captures the essence of the book so well, that it’s worth reading her very well written (and yes, glowing) review:

What makes the book work for me is the insight Rosenfeld has into writers’ fears and self-destructive reactions; for almost every topic in the book, Rosenfeld gave voice to a fear or concern that I’ve had, or that one of my writing friends has had. Every time Rosenfeld mentioned one of my fears, my brain cried ‘Yes! That’s it exactly!’. That insight alone is powerful: so many of us think we’re the only ones to ever have such-and-such fear, and because of that we’re not worthy of membership in the writing club; to see that others share our struggles gives hope and encouragement.  Maybe we’re not so strange after all, and if they can overcome it, so can we. And to that end, she uses her insight to break down the relationship between our fears and our self-destructive behaviors, and provides solutions.  
If you’ve never had the voices of doubt whisper to you, never had internet trolls slam your deeply personal work ‘til you want to crawl into a hole, and never had a stack of rejections make you question whether your dog can write better than you, you probably don’t need this book. But for the rest of us, it’s an excellent source of strength and guidance for the days when we want to put all our writing through the shredder and gorge ourselves on chocolate. 

Read the Rest Here

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JordanA Little Navel Gazing