Good Cliques Never Die!

I’ve always heard authors say it took years to complete a novel and assumed they were lazy. I mean, I wrote 31 books in ten years and I wrote them quickly!

Well, call me Judy because I was super judgy.

I have written half of The Dirty Book Club about nine times in the past four years. It’s an ambitious project that spans generations, includes secret rituals, funny conversations about dirty books, and great characters in their early 30s with lives that need some serious fixing. And it’s HARD!

My latest start-over was this January. Among other things I changed it from a novel with multiple points of view to a novel with one main voice. Now, seven months later I am on page 175 of a very crappy first draft. Some days are fun. Most suck. But I truly believe in this more than anything I’ve ever done. But those damn voices in my head!! They won’t stop yammering.

Lisi, you’re writing for grown-ups now. Lisi, your friends are going to read this. Lisi, your kids’ teachers are going to read it.

Oprah might. Your parents will for sure. So will the neighbors. And what about those opinionated book club members? You better not mess this up!!

Massie Block

This morning I wondered why I never went through this anxiety with the Clique. Sure, there were uninspired days and major burnout, but for the most part writing that series was pure joy. It’s not that I didn’t care about what you thought. It’s just that, well, I didn’t let myself care. I wrote what I wanted to write. Critics be damned! I let myself show up on those pages like some freak at a cheerleader’s party intent on dominating the dance floor.

The Clique

It’s been twelve years since the first Clique came out. You’re older now. Old enough to read The Dirty Book Club, that’s for sure. So I have named you my muses. The girls I’ve felt safe with since 2003. The ones who accepted me for the flawed and fabulous person that I am. I will think of you as I struggle to complete this first draft. Because you always understood me and you always supported me–way more than Oprah!

Long live My Clique!!!

TTYW,

Lisi

A BLAH-G IS BORN!

You know when you hit the fridge over an over again hoping something new will magically appear, and it doesn’t? Those wilted spinach leaves and that hairy-lipped carton of orange juice are still the only things in there! Well, that’s what trying to find words feels like today: a maddening cycle of hope and futility.

My brainwaves have short-circuited. Reduced to a blinking cursor; an anxious heartbeat flipping the bird at my lack of creativity.

Flip… flip… flip… 

As a professional writer it’s a terrifying place to be. All I’m good for are words and ideas. What am I supposed to do when I run out??

And yet, I am at my favorite sushi restaurant typing away. When I sat down I had NOTHING to write. Still, I forced myself to do it. And behold–A blah-g is born!

Okay, so technically, this is not about anything. But it’s also about everything–everything that being a writer is. Which is showing up and writing anyway, especially when the fridge is empty.

When you do, something filling always appears.

sushi

TTYW,

Lisi

Intention Deficit Disorder

intention

A few years ago, I was having one of my many panic attacks while trying to finish one of my many books before one of my many deadlines. Not one to wallow in my own suffering, I looked for help and found Candice. I’m sure I’ve written about her before. She is a life coach and really helped me look at my stresses in a new way so I could manage them. One of my biggest issues was Life vs. Work. As a writer, you really need to enter what I call The Cone Of Silence and stay there for many straight hours.

There are no texts inside the cone. No phone calls. No e-mails. No paying bills. No online shopping. No visits from friends. No doing dishes. No haircuts. No waxes. No mani’s or pedi’s. No reading. No listening to music with lyrics. No helping old people or ducklings cross the road.

It’s a cone.

A silent one.

And there’s only room for me.

So when do all those other things get done? Not on the weekends. The weekends are for my kids. Not at night. That’s when I decompress. Candace’s suggestion? Create one non-writing day every week–preferably the same day–and make it about your to-do list.

I made mine Wednesdays. And I’m so in love with it I want to marry it. This is the day I do all the other stuff that life’s vomiting in my face, and it’s worked incredibly well.

Another thing I recently discovered is Intent.com

The website was created by Mallika Chopra (yes, daughter of Deepak, but she is so much more). She wrote a book called Living With Intent that has brought so much meaning to my life. For those of you who are inundated with exams and not quite ready for a summer reading list, I suggest you join the website and get the app. It’s a game-changer.

Taking a moment to think about what you want each day really helps you get it. It’s so simple and so effective. And it doesn’t have to be spiritual or deep in any way. Look for mine, you’ll see. It can be about anything–no one judges. In fact, everyone supports.

You can also:

* Share your intents with other community members.
* Receive encouraging comments on your intents.
* Show your support for other people’s intents.
* Adopt other people’s intents that you can relate to.
* Sync your account with Twitter and Facebook so that your intents are automatically shared with your Twitter and Facebook friends.
* Reaffirm you intents every day so you stay on top of your goals.
* Track the intents that you completed or accomplished.
* Add inspirational or informational photos and videos to your intent.

Let me know when you’re on so I can follow you.

I intend to TTYW,

Lisi

WRITE ON

writing.poster

I’m receiving a number of comments and messages from readers looking for help becoming writers. Some of them lead me to believe you haven’t been keeping up with the Writing Process section here on the blah-g. Check this out first in case any of your questions have already been answered in depth: Blah Blah Blah Writing Process

And a few of you have asked me for some tips and tricks. Tips and tricks for writing, huh? I wish, sisters. I’ve said this before, but there aren’t any tricks. You have to write every day. It’s that simple. Read books in the genre you are writing so you can see how other people do it. Stephen King says if you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have the time–or tools–to write. So do it. Read and write as much as possible. Keep a notebook with you and write down amazing details you stumble on during the day. It’s these details that will bring your writing to life. And read about writing. Books on the actual craft are very helpful and inspiring. Be sure to check out my Tumblr I devote entirely to writerly things (okay, okay, there are some pups and Internet memes thrown in there, too) that I update every Tuesday and Thursday. It’s full of great writing tips for character development, story structure, inspirational words, and anything else you need to spark your creativity while honing your craft.

Writerly Words

Most of all don’t try to sound like anyone else. It’s your voice we want to hear because no one sees the world like you do. Neil Gaiman has my back on this one, albeit his version is a little more harsh:

Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you.

― Neil Gaiman

Which reminds me, developing a thick skin is step 1 in becoming a writer. Harper Lee agrees:

I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. — Harper Lee

Now hit it.

 

TTYW,

Lisi

 

Writers Musing

The aspiring writers who follow my blah-g often ask what I’m inspired by. The answer? A lot. Inspiration comes in any number of forms and if you pay close enough attention, most mundane aspects of life can spark the idea for a new character or a dramatic scene. But looking around with intention takes some effort and isn’t always a quick fix for when you need to feel inspired fast. The most fool-proof method in finding that creative spark when you need it is to simply pick up a book and read. Read everything: fiction, nonfiction, poetry. Read interesting blog posts and the inside of book jackets; read technical descriptions on boxes and definitions of scientific words. It will all inform you and may lead to something valuable in the next piece you’re working on. When I need that extra oomph on a particularly dry creative day, I turn to my journal where I store quotes by writers I respect. This always does the trick. And more often than not, these quotes are just as much about life itself than the act of writing alone. I’m sharing 25 ah-mazing quotes on writing, creativity and life by writers I love in the hope some of these words will help you the next time you sit down to create.

 

1. Anne Lamott from her book Bird by Bird

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

 2. Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth

“Try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.”

3. Donna Tartt, Pullitzer Prize winner and author of The Goldfinch

“Storytelling and elegant style don’t always go hand in hand.”

4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, acclaimed novelist, short story writer and speaker

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

5. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things 

“Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.”

6. Tina Fey, comedy writer and author of Bossy Pants

fey

7. Kurt Vonnegut, author of Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five

Vonnegut

“To practice any art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”

8. Diane Ackerman, author and poet

ackerman

9. Judy Blume, author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. 

“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”

10. Joan Didion, author and essayist

didion

11. Amy Poehler, comedy writer and author of Yes Please

Poehler

12. Anne Lamott from her book Bird by Bird

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

13. Nora Ephron, journalist, essayist, playwright, novelist, all around ah-mazing creative force 

Ephron

14. Jim Thompson, author and screenwriter 

“There is only one plot—things are not what they seem.”

15. James Baldwin, author of Giavanni’s Room

baldwin

16. Joan Didion from her book Slouching Towards Bethlehem 

“I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.”

17. Ray Bradbury, American science-fiction author 

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”

18. Alice Munro, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 

munro

19. Raymond Carver, poet and novelist, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

“You’ve got to work with your mistakes until they look intended.”

20. Mark Twain, American humorist and writer 

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Ha!

21. Margaret Atwood, acclaimed novelist, poet, essayist and environmental activist 

atwood

Atwood

22. Zadie Smith

“Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.”

23. Jeanette Winterson, author of Written on the Body and Gut Symmetries 

“If you continually write and read yourself as a fiction, you can change what’s crushing you.”

24. Ray Bradbury

“To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that god ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish for you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

25. Nora Ephron, Wellesley College Commencement Address, 1996

“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find som away to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”

The last two may have left me with a tear in one eye. Leave me with some of your favorite quotes on writing and life below in the comments.

 

TTYW,

Lisi