Category Archives: Writing

Diving Into a Sea of Books–The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice To Writers

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one that you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice To Writers by Betsy Lerner, appears on suggested reading lists of different blogs about writing. The author, with years of experience as writer, editor, and now, literary agent, is well-qualified to write this helpful book.

In Part I, “Writing”, the author talks about traits of writers she knew, worked with, or read about. She points out the things writers are known for—introversion, perfectionism, working in solitude—have their downsides. This part of the book dragged for me, I have to admit, but her compassionate tone for writers was evident early on, and my interest in the book shot up when I started reading the second part of the book, “Publishing”.

Part II gives writers a valuable insider’s perspective on editing and traditional publishing. The author addresses questions such as: “Why is it taking so long for my editor to get back to me?” and “What is my publicist doing?” She emphasizes the importance of patience and politeness in the writer’s dealings with the various people involved in bringing the writer’s creation to the outside world. Ms. Lerner describes the many steps involved in a book’s publication, from the time a writer turns in the final draft of the manuscript to the time the book hits the bookshelves or appears online. Among other topics, she writes about dealing with rejection, what an author can do if the publisher doesn’t have much of a publicity effort going, and the reasons a book may not do as well in the marketplace as the writer hoped. Part II sounds like the advice and empathy you might find at a writers’ conference.

Language Alert: for readers who find certain words/phrases offensive (aka “adult language”), a few of those appear.

©P. Booher

 

 

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Learning from Crocuses

My last post, here, showed a few crocuses blooming. I saw the crocuses blooming, and the number of flowers surprised me. I counted around thirty—way more than the number of actual plants. But the plants didn’t get there by themselves. My mother and I planted them.

As a developing writer I am tempted to envy those writers who are better, more accomplished and more successful than me.

Seeing the crocuses blooming reminded me that it takes work to get success. Success doesn’t happen overnight or by itself. It requires investing time, effort, and depending on the venture, money and a willingness to take risks.

When envy starts to show its face I ask myself: Have I put in hours to learn craft, new technology, and marketing? Am I doing all I can to grow? These questions foil envy in its tracks.

©P. Booher

 

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A Life-long Learner

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Years ago a family member said to me, “You just want to be a professional student!” He didn’t say it in a complimentary way.

While I have an idea why the person said that (getting a formal education costs a lot, and you can never be sure you’ll get a job that makes that education worthwhile) his statement still hurt my feelings. The person was right, though. I enjoy learning facts—can’t help it. When I was eight or nine years old I used to sit and leaf through a book from our big set of encyclopedias, or even get lost in the dictionary. Now I sit in front of a computer and take online courses in writing; I get lost on the internet reading articles on diverse subjects such as Niagara Falls, the story behind the 1997 movie “Titanic”, and service dogs. It’s all good, and it’s all fun for me. It makes the little gray cells in my brain jump up and down for joy.

My family member’s comment aside, writing and other activities in life show me it’s valuable to have the mindset of a “professional student”.  I need to be humble enough to be teachable. I need discipline to keep myself learning. I don’t think it’s possible to improve in writing, or in a lot of other endeavors, without that type of mindset.  I’ve found an unexpected benefit of such a mindset is it adds richness to life. You get to see how the process of learning affects you, you figure out ways to learn things you need to know that you may not be naturally proficient at, and you see how facts are intertwined.  Yes, being a professional student costs, but the rewards are without measure!

©P. Booher

 

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God, Calling, and Creativity

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I believe God is the original Creator (see the Book of Genesis, Chapters 1 and 2). Those chapters vividly describe God’s creativity. I also believe God calls people to creative work, whether it be writing, painting, sculpting, gardening, architecture, finding better ways to solve problems, or any other way creativity displays itself. God is the Caller; we are the callees.

The following ideas are from thinking about The Soul Tells A Story:Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life by Vinita Hampton Wright.

  1. You can fulfill your calling from God in a variety of ways, depending on your situation and the time you have available in any one day. There’s flexibility. A calling never ends. You may do one kind of creativity for awhile, then start another, but it still falls under your calling.
  2. No one else can (or should) judge how you go about fulfilling your calling. That’s between you and God. Any person who does judge has no qualification to do so.
  3. Calling isn’t necessarily something you do for money. It might be, but often it is not. Calling goes “deeper” than work. It is in who you are and what you are gifted (in reality, created) to do. Calling makes God and you happy, and you aren’t happy until you are in some way fulfilling that calling.

 

©P. Booher

 

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Dueling Forces–Creativity and Its Enemies

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The more time I give to writing, the more I realize my creativity has “enemies”–things that can sap my creativity if I let them. Some are external, some internal; some are physical, mental, or emotional, but I need to be aware they can appear, and be prepared to deal with them.

“Enemies” of creativity:

  1. Tv shows which have violent, sexual, or just plain stupid content. That mental garbage stays in my mind too long.
  2. News programs–while most end with a positive, heartwarming story, 98% of the coverage is negative. I can’t do anything about the bad stuff. I can easily slide into despair, and that sabotages my creativity.
  3. Workplace gossip and drama. Again, it’s negative, not anything I can do about, and provokes anxiety.
  4. Physical aches and pains–if they are bad enough to be all-consuming. Normally, focusing on writing pushes whatever pain I may have away. I don’t have any pain. But if the pain is severe enough, it’s all I notice, and I have a real battle on my hands to do anything that is the least bit creative.
  5. Perfectionism–a “natural” enemy of creativity, because perfectionism demands perfection, and creativity can’t be forced into the confines of perfection. Creativity requires a sense of freedom, and perfectionism and that sense of freedom are at odds.
  6. Depression–another “natural” enemy of creativity. Depression sometimes comes as a result of physical pain.
  7. Low self-esteem–no surprise, because if you think lowly of yourself, you’ll feel as though you don’t have anything inside you to create with.
  8. Little self-care–this goes along with depression; low self-esteem, and perfectionism (perfectionists are often unrealistically hard on themselves and don’t allow themselves to get the support they need, whether that’s a massage or making a needed doctor’s visit, or whatever).
  9. Clutter–whether it’s physical clutter like papers all over the desk, dust bunnies in plain sight (not even hiding under the bed), or mental clutter such as bitterness, un-forgiveness, resentment, or a tightly-scheduled to-do-list, clutter can be highly detrimental to creativity.
  10. Giving too much weight to other people’s negative opinions of your creative expression. Years ago, a family member told me that “I’d never make any money writing”. I allowed that to squelch my desire to write for a long time. (BTW: that person was wrong; I’ve already made a little bit of money writing. I’ve also received much joy.)

I’ve been thinking of ways to fight these enemies. Creativity means too much to give up without a fight.

©P. Booher

 

 

 

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Reflections for This Writer’s Heart

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“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  Proverbs 4:23, KJV

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”  Psalms 19:14, KJV

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Philippians 4:6, KJV

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8, KJV

Keep going, don’t give in and don’t give up. Keep moving forward.

Till your own field; keep your attention on your own work; you have enough to do with that!

Don’t be distracted by what someone else has, does, says or whatever. That can lead to envy, jealousy, bitterness, gossip, and resentment–even of friends. Those attitudes will affect your creativity, big time, both in quantity and in quality.

Cultivate faith and be led by that, rather than fear.

©P. Booher

 

 

 

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Writing As Release

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Writing is a powerful way to release emotions. I’ve posted about this before, but this evening this really hit me.

I was writing down an idea for a devotional, when suddenly I started thinking of a friend who died last August. The catalyst for this was such a little thing: I have only a few more months left to pay on my car.  If my friend were still here, I know we could get together at a local restaurant and celebrate when the car is paid off, as we did for the closing on the sale of her father’s house, to settle his estate. Before I knew it, a wave of grief hit me and the tears began welling up in my eyes.

People who’ve experienced grief know this is the way it works: grief sneaks up on you days, months, even years after the person you cared for died. Grief doesn’t care where you are or what you are doing; it just hits you, and you need to deal with it.

I left off writing the devotional idea, turned to a new page in my notebook, and wrote, “Linette, I miss you! I only have a few months left until I get my car paid off and I know you would rejoice with me when that time comes…”  I wrote for about 15 minutes more, then the storm of grief abated, and I could continue with the idea for the devotional.

Although I’ve experienced the release that comes from writing, I’m still amazed that it happens. It’s a proven way to deal with strong emotions that blindside a person.

If you find yourself in the midst of grief, anger, fear, or any other emotions, try writing them out. You will find release and comfort in the act.

©P. Booher

 

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A Diamond In a Lump of Coal

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Writer/teacher/writing coach Kristi Holl offers sound advice and lots to think about on her blog, Writing to Encourage (www.kristiholl.com). Following her post, “Conversations Crucial for Creative Success”, I emailed her about lack of support for my writing from people who I thought would be supportive–ie., family members.

Kristi’s reply (reprinted here with permission): “One thing about learning to deal with family members who aren’t supportive or who ridicule: once you learn how to handle it, and forgive it, and let God comfort and support you, and work anyway…then later in your career when you have to deal with stuff like a negative review by someone, it’s not all that hard. Negative reviews from non-family members don’t have the power to hurt you nearly so much. When you do the hard stuff early on, it makes the way easier later.”

To me, her reply was as valuable as if I picked up a lump of coal, and then, as I rubbed my fingers on it, finding it was actually a diamond! I almost missed the “diamond” (the ability to brush off negative reviews) due to the “lump of coal” it was hiding in (negative comments or disbelief from family members). Had Kristi not pointed out the good in the painful circumstance, I would have missed it–and who knows how often I’ll need such perspective.

 

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©P. Booher

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The Gift of Writing

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The more I write, the more I realize writing truly is a gift. It’s a gift given to the writer first, then a gift to others.

While writing a short story I discovered I was learning how to write–by writing. I learned to leave in only what was needed to fit the theme and intent of that story. I took out what didn’t carry the story along, as well as what actually distracted from it, no matter how much I liked the original wording. To learn what to leave in and what to take out is an important skill for any writer, and one I hope to have many chances to practice.

Writing forces me to learn more– about the craft, about publishing, about technology.  I need to know much, much more. The more I learn, the more I find to learn! Developing the discipline to do this is a gift.

Writing is a narrow arena which gives me perspective on the wider arena that is my life. Reading blogs about how other writers tackle problems in writing (the notorious self-doubt, for one) gives me confidence and aids me in applying the same tactics to dilemmas in other parts of my life. The mindset which helps a writer to succeed can be used to resolve situations outside of writing.

For me, writing is a gift that keeps getting bigger.

©P. Booher

Author’s Suggestion: A number of blogs motivate and inspire me. Check these out: http.//positivewriter.com, https//writingcooperative.com, http://www.kristiholl.com, http://www.writersinthe storm.com, http://www.stevelaube.com, http://www.booksandsuch.com, http://www.writermag.com. Andy Mort in the UK writes about creativity in different forms at: https://www.andymort.com. Down under, David Rawlings has a unique perspective in his blog and his short stories at: https://davidrawlings.com/au.

 

 

 

 

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Diving Into A Sea of Books–Writer To Writer

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”–one that you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

Writer To Writer, subtitled Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing, by Cecil Murphey, is based on Mr. Murphey’s blog. Each of the book’s entries is short, one page in length, so the information is easy to digest. Mr. Murphey discusses using proper grammar, confusing words (which/that, for example), displaying professional behavior in interactions with other writers, editors, agents and publishers, following writing guidelines, dealing with writers’ block, handling rejections, having work edited, and many other facets of writing.

Mr. Murphey points out that if a person really wants to improve his writing, there are many ways to do it, such as books, blogs, classes, and conferences. He also points out that it takes time to learn to write well.

Comment: I hesitated buying this book; for me, it was a bit on the pricey side. However, I am glad I bought it. I refer to it often. One downside: my paperback edition published by OakTara doesn’t have an index, which in my opinion would have been helpful. However, there were several blank pages at the end, so I made my own customized index, listing answers to questions that repeatedly come up.

P. Booher

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