Five Easy Ways To Become Inspired To Write

Suffering from a lack of inspiration? Major case of writer’s block? Try these five easy ways to get inspired to write!

  1. Reading. Seeing the characters, concepts, and ideas of other writers can stimulate your own creative juices.
  2. Silence.  Too much stress in your life? Take some time out to relax and watch your creativity shine.
  3. Fun. All work and no play makes for dull writing. See friends, go out, have fun – you might just have a memorable experience worth writing about!
  4. Others’ Stories. Go on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, or through your cell phone address book. Ask yourself what interesting things can be fictionalized from your friends’ experiences? A helpful note: If it’s embarrassing to them, change the details to protect your friendship.
  5. Writing Prompts. Still completely baffled? When all else fails, there’s a wealth of writing prompts online.

What do you do when you’re out of ideas? Please share a comment to help other writers in this predicament!

How To Balance Writing, Publishing, and Networking?

My cousin Jerry, by most any account, has a pretty good life. He’s successful doing work that he loves, makes a nice amount of money, has a beautiful and charming wife, and three great children. When I talked to him about some of the initial challenges I was facing after I quit my job as an educator and planned to make a go of it as a writer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Jerry told me a story. As a man in his early twenties, he quickly earned more than double the salary of many of his middle-aged coworkers. How? When others put in 40 hours on the clock, with maybe 10 hours spent actually doing their jobs, he put in 80 hours, working beyond what was expected. Now, he doesn’t have to work so hard, though he still puts in a great deal time in projects he cares about. Those other guys, who knows what they’re doing now?

The point of this story is simple, if you’re serious about not just writing in your spare time, but making a career of being a writer, you’d better work hard. Still, even if you put in 80 hours per week, in such a competitive position as creative writing, if you’re not working smart, you just might end up stuck in as bad a position as Jerry’s former coworkers.

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One of the most difficult concerns for any writer looking to not just break in, but succeed, is the balance of writing, publishing, and networking. Here are a few suggestions that should help you work smarter, not harder:

  • Above all, write. One novel, three short stories, five poems – that’s not enough. Don’t even think about publishing or utilizing contacts and networking until you have a solid body of work. One success wouldn’t make a career, and the amount of time spent doing so is counterproductive. Make writing a consistent habit, have a lot of work to show around, and then start thinking about networking and publishing.
  • Understand that writing probably won’t make you rich. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are the extremely rare exceptions. That said, many writers can make a living off of writing alone, many times even off of creative writing alone. It helps if your budget isn’t extreme. If you are single and live in an area with a low cost of living in the United States, you could probably get by on around $1000/month. While you wouldn’t be living well on that, you could survive. Then, through perseverance and building your reputation, you could make a good deal more.
  •  The Internet is your friend. Creating a blog centered around your writing, or other topics of interest to writers, could be a great way to attract attention. Taking a participatory role in the culture of the writing community online will open yourself up to many new opportunities. Helping others will lead them to helping you. Websites like Upwork and Craigslist present many opportunities for publishers looking for ghostwriters. The pay may not be great, but with a body of work, a high-character approach, and determination, you can get those jobs and build traction. Do so.
  • Don’t be an outsider. Jumping off the previous point, many communities on the Internet are niche. If you write science-fiction or romance or mysteries, find where those writers and readers gather and become a part of their communities. Above all, help as many people as you can. Being a self-serving renegade can kill your chances of succeeded in today’s literary world.
  • Understand your markets. Don’t submit a 80,000 word science-fiction novel to an avant-garde poetry site. Respect publishers by being familiar with the writing that they publish and reading a significant amount of it. When you read the work that publishers put out, you’ll quickly know if it’s similar to your own. If it’s not, don’t waste your time and the publisher’s time with a submission. There are so many magazines and publishers that there is bound to be one that’s a good match for your style. Use Duotrope, Poets & Writers, or the Writer’s Market and find it!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a favor. In the words of new wave singer Morrissey of The Smiths, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” If you have a friend or other contact that could potentially lead to a solid break, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. The worst they can do is say no. Of course, make sure that you’ve done the basics first. Above all, follow their suggestions afterwards. Nothing burns out a good contact more than asking for a favor and not following through after someone does what you ask.

Taking these suggestions into account, you’ll be in an excellent position to advance your writing career. What do you think? What advice would you give to a new writer seeking to follow their dreams? Let’s start a dialogue.

 

Drinking At A Soviet Bar On My 33rd Birthday With The Guy Who Did The Song From Revenge of the Nerds

Running a literary magazine has its perks, believe me. Sure, it can be a chore to read through countless submissions, strategize on how to build engagement with readers and writers, and plot on how to scale up at an appropriate time, but there are some interesting things that come along with the job. Like meeting Leslie Bohem.

Les Bohem is an accomplished screenwriter (he wrote Dante’s Peak and wrote and co-produced, with Stephen Spielberg, the SyFy Channel show Taken), and musician (ex-member of Sparks and Gleaming Spires). More than his accomplishments, he’s a hell of a guy, and funny to boot. So, of course, the story of how I met Les Bohem started with a rejection letter from Beautiful / Losers Magazine.

Running Beautiful / Losers Magazine with two other editors, Dario Cannizzaro and Austin Wiggins, while simultaneously having a policy of pieces only getting accepted if they’re voted in unanimously, means that many amazing writers get rejected. Austin, Dario, Drew Gorman (who no longer is an editor with us,  but was at the time) and I all have different tastes, yet we all desire to uphold extremely high standards for publication. And so good pieces get rejected. Like Les’ first piece he submitted to us.

What made me reach out to Les after the rejection letter? Well, I did vote yes on his initial piece, but more than that, he was the frontman for Gleaming Spires. Gleaming Spires! If you’ve ever seen Revenge of the Nerds, you must remember their iconic song “Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?” A classic, one which I admitted to Les that I pirated off Napster when I was in high school. A pardonable offense clearly, although I do owe him a round for that. It’s justified.

Through our correspondence, we built a friendship, and when I learned that his son (Charlie Keys Bohem, a talented writer in his own right) was a student at Vassar College, the alma mater of my fiancee Lauren Rubin, well then, the bond was cemented. With an impending move to Baltimore from Norwalk, Connecticut the next day, I invited Les to join me and Lauren for some drinks at KGB Bar, a super chill hipster bar decorated with tons of Soviet paraphernalia in New York’s East Village. And he accepted.

We had an amazing time hanging out and drinking with Les Bohem. Sparks were a seminal band in the LA scene, Dante’s Peak was a great movie, and Taken was one of the most ambitious miniseries I’ve ever seen, but I’ll remember that night as the night I drank with the guy who did the song from Revenge of the Nerds. Cross that one off the bucket list.

 

 

 

Why It’s Important To Celebrate Other Writers’ Success

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A friend of mine who is a successful poet quipped, and in my opinion, not untruthfully, “Writers hate other writers.”

Unfortunately, what he said rings true. For many of us, rather than celebrating when other writers’ achieve a success, we utilize it as an opportunity to deride. Some writers will even extend this into their own circles of friends, turning against any writer who starts to amass a degree of success. This practice is not only in bad form, but it can also hinder a writer’s career.

Here are a few reasons why writers should celebrate other writers’ successes:

  1. The literary world is vast. There are many literary journals, publishing houses, contests, grants, and awards. You have a wideness of options as you go forward in your literary career and thus there’s no need to perceive any other writer as your competition.
  2.  Bad reputations become known. Writers talk amongst each other. So do editors and other literary figures. If you have a reputation as someone looking to bring enmity into the literary community, there is a possibility that your writing will be blacklisted, regardless of its quality.
  3. Successful writers can become valuable resources. In writing, like in anything else in life, successful individuals have far more power to influence and bring about the success of others. It is not wise to alienate people who can help you in your own literary career.
  4. It feels good. The simplest and most important reason is this – it makes the world a better place when you spread positivity rather than negativity. You will feel better when you make others feel good and this will lead to more creativity and productivity.

How do you feel about this topic? Do you think that within the literary community there is a significant amount of tension between writers? Leave a comment below to start this discussion.

 

The Importance of Reviews for Independent Writers

I am going to tell you a secret: As a general rule, I do not read independent writers. 

Perhaps I am biased. I have seen a handful of talented figures who are not publishing with literary journals or publishing houses through the blogosphere and through various publishing operations. They are the exceptions.

I was weaned on weighty writers who wrote heavy, simple, and philosophical fiction: Raymond Carver; Flannery O’Connor; Carson McCullers; Kent Haruf; etc. The intelligence and humanity of these writers doesn’t appear on indies much at all. Hell, that kind of intelligence and humanity doesn’t appear much even on the Big 5 or anywhere outside of the University of Iowa.

Indie writers can call me a conservative or wrong or whatever, but instead of calling me and those of my ilk names, what they ought to consider doing is concentrate on getting reviews.

I know an excellent website called Indie-Pendent Steam. The site is operated by Virginia Arthur. Virginia does not pull any punches in her reviews. If your writing needs work, even though you paid her for a review, she will still call it as it is. The good news for budding writers though is that Virginia will not post bad reviews, instead she will default to proofreading such work instead. Even with caring professionals like Virginia who take steps to protect the reputation of independent writers, many do not have the mental toughness to handle bad reviews, even if no one sees them. That’s a horrible character trait in any writer. Still, if you are an indie writer and want to prove people wrong and get people reading your stuff, you need to obtain some reviews to build that initial traction and pique readers’ interest.

As an editor, I am as tough as possible on my writers because to flatter with kind words will not serve any aspiring writer intent on crafting excellent fiction. As a book reviewer, Virginia takes a similar approach. If you’re an independent writer, you should seriously consider working with Virginia. Her book reviews are fair and unbiased. Her reviews actually hold weight with readers because there’s a quality attached to her opinion.

Love And The Writeaholic

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The message of this post is simple: Embrace love and enjoy life!

As a writer, it’s easy to push love away, to neglect exercise, to avoid seeing friends, to become a hermit, to miss out on life. For the sake of both your well-being and your writing – don’t do that!

By all means, stay focused on chasing your literary dreams. Take time to write because that’s the easiest way to improve your craft. Take time to network with other writers because they will help you learn of opportunities. Take time to target publications because if done effectively, you may get your writing published. However, don’t make those goals your entire life. Doing so will only stunt your creativity and your mental health.

On this Valentine’s Day, if you are fortunate enough to have a love to share it with, embrace him or her, and maybe, for the night, put down the pen.

 

Guest Post: Writing Through Chaos: Finding The Will To Write When Everything’s A Mess by Dee Em Vine

Every writer possesses an arsenal of excuses for not writing. A full-time student with a part-time job struggles to scrawl pages of thoughts onto paper in her down time. Mothers of young children must tend to their offspring’s every whim. A man whose day job saddles him with extra-long hours is too tired to pick up a pen by the time he gets home. The rapid advancement of technology over the course of the past three decades has created a cultural working environment not suitable for creative thought. Writing for a living can seem as allusive to some as becoming the next Hollywood starlet. Yet, the world of publishing has become more accessible than ever before. Prolific and talented writers will always find a market for their work. You can be one of them.

When I was a child, I enjoyed writing and drawing comics. As I grew older, I felt more inclined to hone in on my writing skills. As a result, I haven’t drawn anything in years. Part of this is because once I enrolled in university, my life simply became too busy to create comics by myself. I felt overwhelmed by my course load bundled with the side work I needed to make ends meet. After college, I experienced a summer of unemployment in NYC. Fed up with the lack of opportunities, I decided to begin teaching full time in China. I went from having a completely unstructured schedule to working sixteen hour days. With every new contract, the cycle continued. At first, I felt quite depressed and powerless. I couldn’t muster the inspiration or energy to write.

Then one day, as I sat in a fishing boat in the middle of a lake thinking about my visa, my muse came flying back. I went home and finished my first novel after several years of adding bits and pieces to it. I believe that taking that moment to enjoy a change of scenery helped me to come up with fresh ideas. It doesn’t have to be a big change, either. If you normally work in a Starbucks, try bringing your notebook to the park. Switch coffee for tea. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Breaking the mold is what good writing is all about.

Additionally, I think full-time writers should have as few responsibilities as possible. Minimize debt, cut back on the non-essentials of your budget, and get used to living a simple life. I definitely recommend having a day job. If you can’t find a daytime job, try volunteering. Regular social interaction is important for your mental health and your writing. You will need new events in your life to keep you motivated and new conversations to improve your dialogue. Being a writer shouldn’t be synonymous with being a hermit. That’s a bad stereotype I wish we could get rid of.

Finally, even in the most chaotic moments — when your midterms are due and you haven’t studied, when your baby is crying, when your parents are yelling — learn how to stay grounded. Make yourself an immovable rock in the storm. Filter that chaotic energy around you and put it into words. Use the notes app on your smartphone to take down new story ideas as they pop into your head. If you aren’t big on using tech, carry around a small notebook and a pen to write down ideas. Whatever you do, don’t shut down. Don’t put down the pen. Someone out there needs to see your words.

 

Dee Em Vine is a fiction author, entertainer, and artist. Vine was born in Chicago and raised between Northern Illinois and the Tampa Bay region of Florida. A drifter at heart, they write characters who frequently find themselves on the move. Vine’s literary work seamlessly weaves the fantastical with the political.

You can follow Dee Em Vine on Tumblr by clicking here.