Monthly Archives

June 2013

Why INFJs and INFPs Have Such a Hard Time with Criticism

SAMSUNGI took a creative writing class in college that was made up of 25 writers. Each week a couple of us passed out a chapter of our work to everyone else. The next week we took turns getting feedback.

“Feedback” meant 24 other people sitting and staring at you and telling you about all of the problems they found in your writing.

I hated that class so much.

Whenever it was my turn my stomach dropped, I started sweating, my throat locked up, and I wanted to crawl under the table. Continue Reading

The Next Step

SAMSUNGIt takes a while to write your first novel.

And it takes so much energy, enthusiasm, and old-fashioned hard work, that most writers can think about nothing else but the finish line until they achieve that glorious goal.

But what happens after the euphoria has worn off? What happens when you’re finished editing and revising and now you want to do something with your book, like put it out there into the world for other people to actually read?

It’s time to take the next step.

The challenge is that, in this modern world, it seems like there are about a bazillion next steps a writer could choose to take.

To make the most effective Next Step, consider the following 3 areas:

Publishing
Do you want to self-publish, or do you want to go the traditional route with a literary agent?

Presence
What social media platform(s) do you want to use and what kind of image do you want new readers to have of you?

Creativity
What is the next book you’re going write? What’s your next creative project?

When you decide on anything in each of these three areas your choice is going to lead you to more questions, more decisions to be made, and more learning and research to do. But you have to start with the big choices first in order to start building the roadmap of where you want your career to take you.

If you make thoughtful choices in the realms of Publishing, Presence, and Creativity, the three areas will integrate into a dynamic, effective whole that serves you and gives you back tenfold of what you put into it.

Think of it this way: If your writing career is a highly successful human being, this is how it would break down:

Publishing – Body
This is the physical product of your labors. The paper manuscript, or digital Kindle edition, of your book.

And even if it is digital, it’s still a physical manifestation of you as a writer out there in writing space. While you’re writing your first novel, you might tell yourself no one will ever see it but there comes a time when offering it to readers (no matter what form you choose) is the healthiest thing you can do. Just like you wouldn’t keep your body locked up in the house your entire life, your book needs to get out there for a little fresh air and sunshine too.

Next Step
Choose how you want to publish and then go after it full force. Google “how-to” guides and “how do I?” questions. Research how to write a query letter. Take notes. Then research some more options. Throw everything you have at it until you figure out what it is you need to do to get published.

Presence – Mind
Your presence is going to be the primary way you connect with new readers. People who have never heard of you before will see your Facebook fan page, or your blog, or reader reviews on Amazon, and based on those brief accounts they’ll decide if your writing is a match for their tastes. It’s very similar to when you meet someone new in real life and connect through conversation. If you hold similar views, or even just opinions the other person finds interesting, the likelihood of connection is much greater. If you make thoughtful choices about cultivating your Author Presence, those other great minds that think alike will be drawn to your flame.

Next Step
You may end up doing a book tour or speaking engagements to build your Presence, but in the meantime, our world is an online world. Research social media for writers and then get out there and play! Choose one or two ways to connect online that you feel comfortable with and start building your Facebook fan page, blog, or whatever it is you want to use to connect with your readers.

Creativity – Soul
It is really awesome that you finished your book…but you can’t take a break from writing. Not for more than a week. The fountain of your creativity has to be exercised on a regular basis to keep up a good, strong flow. Your creativity really is the soul of you. That’s why you’re a writer, an artist. Yes, it’s important to tend to your career and get your ducks lined up in a row, but you must never sacrifice the actual writing. You’re not going to be able to do much of anything without your soul.

Next Step
It’s okay if you don’t have an idea for your next book yet, write a short story in the meantime. Or some poems. Or try your hand at songwriting. ANYTHING. Just keep writing.

When you finish writing that first book, the next step can seem daunting. That’s because it is. Being a writer isn’t like showing up for a regular job every day. It requires extraordinary amounts of courage, patience, faith, and guts. But at the same time it’s like anything else in life, one step at a time. The key is to make the big decisions first—decide where you want to go and how you want to travel—and then take start taking your journey step by step.

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Top 10 Favorite Fictional Writers

SAMSUNGBill Denbrough
It by Stephen King
Big Bill is the leader of the Losers Club. As a kid, he’s intelligent and thoughtful, although he suffers from a debilitating stutter. He grows up to write “horrorbooks” (as another character calls them) very similar to a bestselling author you might have heard of in real life…

Bilbo Baggins
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Bilbo’s tale of “There and Back Again” starts with him snuggling up in an overstuffed armchair with Hobbiton’s equivalent of guilty-pleasure junk food for a cozy night in, and ends with him fighting—and vanquishing—a gigantic brutal dragon for a mountain of gold. If you’re one of the few people in the world who has not yet read The Hobbit, you need to. Like, now. Go! Read it! We’ll wait.

Benno von Archimboldi
2666 by Roberto Bolano
Bolano’s behemoth masterpiece 2666 begins with four academics who are obsessed with the mysterious writer, Benno von Archimboldi, as they try to track him down through Europe and then Mexico. Archimboldi remains an enigma until then end of the book when the reader finally gets to meet him up close and the mystery is slowly and satisfyingly revealed.

Stephen Dedalus
Portrait of the Artist as Young Man and Ulysses by James Joyce
If you’ve ever felt like the label “tortured artist” was invented just for you, I suggest you get acquainted with Stephen Dedalus. He’s confused, he’s bitter, he’s sensitive and interesting, and he’s very, very well-read. By the time you travel with him through the beginning of Ulysses, the mind of his friend Leo Bloom will be a walk in the park in comparison.

Kilgore Trout
Breakfast of Champions, Slaughterhouse Five, and others by Kurt Vonnegut
Kilgore Trout might actually be as famous or more than Kurt Vonnegut. He appears in so many of Vonnegut’s books that readers start to think of him as an old friend and wonder where he is when he’s not around. And yes, he’s a thinly veiled representation of Vonnegut’s alter ego—but does any character exist who’s not a thinly veiled representation of a writer’s alter ego? I rest my case.

Sal Paradise
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Kerouac pushes “thinly veiled” into the territory of “all names have been slightly changed.” Sal Paradise is less a narrator than a wild and rollicking camera eye that records everything, hell bent on taking the reader with him on the adventure. And of course, who can resist his partner in crime, the incomparable Dean Moriarty? But that’s a whole ‘nother story…

Lestat de Lioncourt
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
Interview with the Vampire was one vampire sitting down in front of a tape recorder and letting it all hang out. The Vampire Lestat is Lestat himself making his rebuttal against the not-so-flattering tell-all that resulted from it. During the course of his tale, Lestat explains how he killed a pack of wolves single-handedly, became a vampire, and managed to live as a bloodsucker in inimitable Oscar Wilde-like elegance and style. A must read for vampire fans, and even for some who aren’t.

Gustav von Aschenbach
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
Mann set out to write this book as an exploration of the concept of passion as “degradation and confusion.” And by the end of this story, it really couldn’t get any more degrading or confusing for his protagonist, the respectable and uptight writer Gustav von Aschenbach. It’s not surprising that Mann ended up winning the Nobel Prize in Literature because this is one of the best banned books of all time.

Henry “Hank” Chinaski
Post Office, Factotum, Women and Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski
Whether he’s drinking, betting on the horses, or making-and-breaking-up with yet another new woman, the charm of Henry Chinaski is utterly irresistible. No, he can’t hold a job. And he drinks a little too much. But his life really sucks. In his place, you would have problems with steady employment and would drink a lot too. If you’re having a bad day—or worse, a bad year—Chinaski is the way to go.

Saint Gut-Free, Director Denial & Comrade Snarky
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
I know, I know—it’s technically three writers rolled under the heading of one. But the cast of aspiring geniuses that populate Palahniuk’s fictional writers’ retreat in Haunted are all so disgusting and hilarious that I couldn’t choose just one. Each character tells a story: Saint Gut-Free’s makes you feel queasy, Director Denial’s makes you feel icky, and Comrade Snarky’s might make you lose hope in humanity in general. Classic Palahniuk at his finest.

Who’s your favorite fictional writer? Tweet at me and let me know!

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What Every Writer Should Know

SAMSUNGI went through many years during which writing was my big secret. I wasn’t writing as much as I wanted to, and when I did sit down and write, it was so clunky and awkward that I was horribly ashamed of it. The thought of letting anyone else actually read my writing brought on waves of anxiety and fear.

So I didn’t tell anyone I was a writer, and whenever I wrote anything I hid it away.

Consequently, I didn’t get very much writing done.

Writing is one of the most challenging pursuits on this earth. Creating and listening to your characters, putting in the hours of work to get their stories down on paper, the weeks of revision, the months of waiting for feedback—all of it adds up to what feels like superhuman amounts of energy, time, and effort.

But if you were not meant to be a writer, you would never have the urge to do this kind of work in the first place.

Yes, today’s world is full of writers and the publishing industry is undergoing a complete revolution. Yes, it’s terrifying to put your work out there and be judged for it. Yes, you will question and doubt yourself, and you will wonder if you’re going to make it.

Yes to all of the above, and yes, you are still meant to be a writer.

That means that if you don’t write—if you turn away from your gifts as a storyteller—you will always feel like something is missing. You will always dream that your life could have turned out differently. And you will always feel an empty place inside.

The missing piece, the life that includes fulfillment, the sustenance to fill that empty place, these things are all to be found in your writing.

And you know it. If you didn’t, you would not be reading these words right now.

All humans need stories, this is how we learn and grow. Stories connect us with each other, plant seeds of creativity and change, and personalize different perspectives. Without stories, humanity would be cut off from so many valuable opportunities. In order to move forward as a planet, we need stories to show us the way.

Your life purpose as a writer is to pour your heart-and-soul energy into telling stories. It’s an extremely important job. And the beautiful thing is that your stories can be about anything as long as they spring from your own unique, authentic voice. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about slimy green space aliens with dozens of tentacles, or pirates who fall in love with princesses. If you’re writing as honestly as you can about the stories that show up inside your head, then you are doing your job on this planet extraordinarily well.

Your path is not the easiest path out there, and sometimes it won’t be very fun. A lot of other people won’t understand what you are, or why you are, or even the smallest thing about what you’re attempting to do. You’ll experience criticism, and rejection—probably a lot of rejection—and the never-ending worry of self-doubt. But you were called to be a writer because you were born with what it takes. Somewhere inside of you burns the creative desire, the grit and the guts you need, to walk such a challenging path.

Basically, it’s like you’re a warrior and a unicorn and a superhero all wrapped into one, with some bad days where you feel like you’re the ugly little hamster that no one wants to take home from the pet store.

Yeah, it’s that kind of challenging.

But you have it in you. You really do. And we’re in it together. That’s what’s so cool about there being so many other writers out there, and the publishing industry changing every day. You can choose to see these things as competition and proof of scarcity, or you can see them for what they really are—more people on planet earth who are kindred spirits to you, and more chances to find them. And let’s face it, as warrior-unicorn-superhero-hamsters, we always need to meet more of our own kind.

Stay the course. Keep writing. Believe in yourself.

Everything else is just details.

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The Real Reason You Can’t Stop Procrastinating

SAMSUNGFirst of all, let’s address some common concerns.

You are not lazy.

You are not useless.

And you are not doing anything wrong.

Lazy, useless people actually never worry about getting things done.

Lazy, useless people don’t have any projects, or even any ideas for projects, that they put off starting. You, on the other hand, have this intelligent, curious, creative brain that has many ideas and projects that you would love to follow through on and finish. But…procrastination tends to seep in.

So if you’re so intelligent, curious, and creative, then why do you have problems with procrastination at all?

Precisely because of those very same traits.

Intelligent, curious, creative people are also intense, driven, and struggle with perfectionism. Our brains work well with extremes, and that’s why we’re able to think not only outside the box, but we can also imagine what would happen if the box was invisible, had superpowers, or decided to impersonate a unicorn just for kicks.

This extreme mode of thinking sometimes gets us into trouble. When we think about starting the first chapter of our novel, we then leap ahead to the second and third chapters, then the ending, then how readers will react, then onto the book tour—and then we’re totally exhausted because all of these things have flitted through our mind in the space of one half second. And we haven’t even picked up the pen yet!

This is not a bad thing. Our brains are wild, dynamic creatures that must swim and fly and roam. Letting them do just that is totally okay. As long as there is one solid part of you that gets into the habit of hanging back and being the sensible parent. That part knows that your eyes are always bigger than your stomach and only lets you put one or two things on your plate instead the whole buffet.

The practice of writing down your goals can be extremely helpful when it comes to parenting yourself. You don’t have to go nuts with a crazy to-do list. In fact, it will be most helpful if you keep it simple. Most writers already know their big goal—write a book and get it published—so you don’t have to worry about that. What you want to do is write down your small goals, the things you can get done in one day.

So if you want to move forward with writing your novel, a daily goal list for you might look like this:

Write two pages

That’s it. The aim is to keep things simple, manageable and no-pressure. If two pages still seem overwhelming, then make your goal one page, or one paragraph. The amount of work does not matter. The forward motion is what matters. And beware of listening to the Beast of Self-Judgment who will try to tell you that you aren’t doing enough. The truth is that even one short paragraph gets you further than you were before.

Every time you think about starting or continuing a project you’re procrastinating on, pull out your post-it notes and write down one small goal connected to that project. Keep these notes somewhere all together and every day choose just one of them to complete. Some days you will feel like you breezed through that one job and you’re ready to tackle another. Go ahead. But be prepared for other days, when it will feel like a Herculean task to move through just that one little goal. No judging yourself when you’re in this space! Just move through the work and give yourself props for doing it.

Think of it this way—if you saw all the food you were going to eat in one year piled up in front of you, it would most likely make you feel physically ill. That’s how your path to success works. If you look at the whole thing together there is a 99% chance of you becoming overwhelmed. Truly successful people do a little bit each day and count on all those increments to add up.

Take the first step towards conquering procrastination—know that your eyes are always bigger than your stomach.

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