Friday, July 29, 2016

spotlight on: motivation, determination and WORDS

Hello Everyone, and welcome to another installment of Stardust and Words' Monthly Spotlight! This is a feature where I pick a bookish topic each month and shine a spotlight on it. You can find the rest of these spotlight posts here! This is one of my favorite things on this blog, because I sometimes find myself falling into an endless cycle of reviews and Top Ten Tuesdays, without pausing to come up with some more creative outlets for this blog!

This month, I wanted to do something a little different than I've ever done before. I don't talk about myself, outside of my opinions on books,  a lot on here, because I just find it a lot more effective for me to stick to the books. But here's a tidbit: I write a lot. Not just blog posts and papers for school, but random short stories, journaling, snippets of books, plotting for series I want to write, and chipping away at novels and novellas. Writing, like reading, is something that centers me. It makes me happy. But it is also the hardest thing that I do on a day to day basis. Plenty of times (literally almost daily) I sit back and I'm so scared about the level of my writing and if I'll ever be as eloquent or creative as I want to be. But I keep going, even when I can only muster a hundred words in one sitting, and I thought I would share a little bit of why I do this and what keeps me going, just in case it helps someone out there, struggling with their desire to write and find their voice.

See, books are an enormous part of my life. Ever since I learned how to read, I've always had an inexplicable pull towards them. The librarians at my local library knew me from the time I was eight or so, because I'd check out 20 books at a time and walk out with them all balanced under my chin. When I was small and my parents wanted to discipline me, they would take away my books. And, to that token, I've always wanted to write a book that I would love to read. (if that makes sense) From a young age, I felt like there were gaps in the books available to me, and I would come up with ideas that I would write to fill these gaps. I don't really remember *deciding* that I wanted to be a writer, I just remember always having ideas and wanting to put them down on paper. And as I've gotten older, I've formed more tangible life goals for myself, but with this surety in the thing that I love has come a healthy amount of self-doubt! And sometimes this self-doubt threatens to keep me from moving the gears in my mind and getting words down. Which sucks! I think everyone who writes goes through this though, and the trick to it is finding ways to shut out the doubt and power through. So, here are my tips for getting through anxiety and doubt and self-consciousness when it comes to writing!

1. Write for yourself. This is something that I'd heard many times before it truly started to sink in, but it is the most valuable advice I've gotten in regards to writing. I think the trick to beating the doubt in yourself is to just free yourself from expectation and write something that you, and only you, are proud of. It truly does not matter if anyone likes your writing, as long as you like it. And when you're confident and in love with the worlds that you create, other people will see the passion and be drawn to your words. The minute you start thinking about how other people will perceive your writing is the minute you stumble and begin to sound false. Of course, be sensitive towards other people and their struggles, but don't change your ideas because you think people won't like them. If you want to write about vicious, sword wielding, lady space pirates, DO IT! Don't let the fear of other people's judgement stop you.

2. Determination is key. Whenever I find myself flagging, or getting discouraged, or berating myself because what I'm writing sounds stupid to me, I always always always want to stop. I just want to slam my computer closed or throw my pen across the room and watch approximately sixteen episodes of Gilmore Girls to drown out the thoughts in my head. But, I've found that stopping when you're at your weakest is the worst thing that you can possibly do for your writing. Stopping when you feel bad about what you're writing takes absolutely every single shred of motivation that you have and throws it out of the window. If you stop at a confusing place, or at a place where you're stalled and have no idea how to continue, it gets into your head, and you will avoid diving back into that quagmire with everything that you have. I once read an article about writing, it might have been written by V.E. Schwab, and it said that the greatest writers aren't the most talented or creative or eloquent, they're just the ones who are too stubborn to quit when their words sound like crap to them. So power through that lag! Write another hundred words, another five hundred words, as long as it takes for you to get back into that groove. Take it from someone who has abandoned many a project because she stopped when things got confusing: your writing is worth the time it takes to puzzle out your confusions. 

3. BUT! Know when to take a break, as well. Just as you should continue, even when you get frustrated, you should also know when to take a break. This is especially helpful when you are doing any sort of revision. If you find yourself getting super frustrated, or even angry, with the things that you're working on, that might be the perfect time to take a break. Any changes that you make in frustration could very well harm your draft, rather than hurt it. Even if the break consists of five minutes sitting cross legged on the floor, petting your dog, taking a breath away from the thing your working on can be remarkably clarifying. This might sound incredibly obvious, but it is important all the same. Stepping away for a breath of fresh air, a cup of tea, or a lunch with a friend will clear your mind like nothing else will. 

4. Find your environment. Everyone is different, and therefore everyone feels productive in different environments. For me, I find a little bit of noise helpful, because I can't work in places that are totally silent or too loud. I like coffee shops to a certain extent, but I feel like I do my best work from the couch in my apartment. I like instrumental music, because music that has words distracts me. I like tea or coffee when plotting, but no snacks or drinks when I'm buckling down to do word sprints. It really depends on your personal preference and focus level, and the best thing that you can do is identify the places that you feel most comfortable in and seek those out. If you aren't worried or distracted by your surroundings, that frees up more brainpower to focus on the thing that you're really trying to work on. If you are at a loss of how to begin with finding out the things that work for you, here are some helpful sites and playlists that have given me a lot of aid over the years! – simulates the sounds of a coffee shop, with different settings for how busy you want it to sound. – different types of user-created playlists! you can search by mood or genre.
(my favorite 8tracks playlists are: here, here, here, and here – this post has a ton of tips and tricks – tons of sound experiences, you can alter them as is comfortable to you
books like this! super helpful for when you're stumped and need inspiration!   

5. Read a lot. Reading a ton of books, especially in the genre of the thing you're trying to write, can be super helpful. Especially if you can use these books as inspiration for your own writing. I'm not talking about "borrowing" ideas, of course. I'm talking about taking apart the mechanics of these books, looking under the hood, if you will, and seeing what works and what doesn't. Seeing how confident other writers are in their voices can help you find yours, and seeing when things are really awesome or really abysmal can also be an enormous boost. Be careful of comparison, though. Every writer is different, and of course there are people that you're going to look up to, but comparing yourself to them is only going to hurt your own progress! Admire them while also having confidence in your own art! 

so those are my top four tips for keeping on track with writing! there are tons of other things I've picked up along the way, but they're more specific and these were the ones that I felt like were the most universally helpful. I hope you find this helpful, even if it is stuff that you've heard before, I hope hearing it from a different perspective helped you!



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