Friday, January 14, 2011
***Special guest post by Ashia R. Sims of www.ashiasims.com***
When I was 10 years old, I used to write stories, put them into construction paper-bound books and take them to school for my friends. I wrote these stories, and often illustrated, them myself. They got rave reviews and people would ask me to write more. I actually did two or three of these books during my fifth grade year. I was self publishing before I even knew what it was.
Fast forward to no, and I’m much older and determined to realize my dream of being an official writer with published work and everything. I can’t seem to fully pull the trigger on it. I have notes all over the place of great story ideas and lots of half-started stories saved in various notebooks, my computer hard drive and in my Blackberry. It’s amazing, what I was able to successfully accomplish when I was 10 I can’t seem to do now that I’m…not 10. When I sit down to write, it’s as though I have a temporary case of ADD. When I sit down to write, I remember at least three other things I should be doing and can’t shake my to-do list from my brain long enough to concentrate on my story. I can’t focus on my story enough to write more than a few hundred words even though the characters are moving around in my head with a definite story to tell.
I call it failure to launch. I am failing to officially launch my writing career even though every cell within me screams to be doing it. It’s odd because I think about writing all the time, even when I’m partaking in one of my favorite pastimes, reading. I’ve been racking my brain to figure out how to pull the trigger on my burgeoning career (yes, I’m calling it a career even though I’m in the start-up phase. I call it positive thinking.)
Recently, I stumbled across something that pushed me more into the direction of being an official writer with published work and everything. It was a writing prompt. In my quest to become a better, more prolific writer who actually finishes the story, I signed up for several e-newsletters about writing. I figure if I’m receiving regular emails about writing one of them will spur me on. I’d been having no such luck until I saw a message from one newsletter that invited people to submit stories of 600 words or less, each story starting with the same sentence. Easy enough, right? 600 words weren’t very much and the writing prompt gave the story an initial direction.
In spite of the easy requirements, it still took me a few days to dive in, but I did. I finished it before the deadline, submitted it (the hardest part) and actually got decent reviews from visitors to the website where my story was ultimately featured. I breathed a sigh of relief. It’s been quite a few years but I finally finished a story, and it wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t say that this one writing activity was enough to turn me into a writing machine, but it did push me toward writing more.
I realize that I need to make a concerted effort to write more. Although my characters still rattle around in my brain, they’re more imaginary than real. I’m much more inspired to actually write when I’m lead to do it by either deadline or duty. Now, while I plug away at my latest story because I’m determined to finish it, I am also looking for other deadline-oriented writing activities like writing prompts and contests. Below is a list of some of the e-newsletters and websites that I have joined to help push me closer to my life-long dream of being an official writer with published work and everything.
Funds for Writers (www.fundsforwriters.com): This is a great website with both a paid newsletter and a free one. I currently receive the free one and find it chock-full of goodies. Not only does the newsletter list writing contests and paying markets, it also lists residency programs, grants and publishing opportunities.
Writing.com: This is a website all about writing for writers. There are different levels of membership, both paid and unpaid. I currently have an unpaid account and it’s great. When you post your writing pieces on the website, people can comment on it. Since it’s a website for writers, the people reading your work will largely be writers themselves. The comments can be very constructive and helpful. There are also writing prompts, contests and other things to get you to write more. Another great thing is that there are genre specific newsletters and groups.
Writersweekly.com: This is a website and freelance writing ezine that you can either read directly on the site or subscribe to receive regular emails. This is cool because it involves both commercial writing opportunities as well as creative ones. It has job listings, publishing opportunities and contests. One great feature is the Whispers and Warnings section where you can read up on companies that mistreat writers by not paying them.
These resources have really helped me to keep writing more in focus. I make it a habit to read through the writing newsletters I receive, keeping an eye out for contests and writing prompts that interest me. My time issue has not magically disappeared, but my perspective has improved. I realize that writing is a journey and although my ultimate goal is to have a published novel, every word I write leads me down that path. Completing a 600-word story has given me a touch of the writing excitement of my youth. I figure that if at 10 years old, I could focus long enough to write a story, illustrate it, bind it and self publish it, I can finish a story now. My new perspective helps when I want to beat myself up for not being further along in my writing. I still may occasionally feel a little down, but rather than dwelling on it, I can go find a short story contest to enter and let that sense of accomplishment keep me moving forward. In addition to using these tools to keep me focused on my writing, I’m also putting more of my writing out there and slowly becoming an official writer with published work and everything. It’s a win-win!