Coffee

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Because coffee really deserves it’s own post.

The delicious dark drink does seem a little more magical than most.  Most sources will tell you that the average cup of coffee has 100 mgs of caffeine.  What they won’t tell you is that it also has 500 mgs of motivation and 200 mgs of bravery – a little something that makes the blank page look a little less scary.

I can’t (read: won’t) write without a cup of coffee anymore, and I’m fine with that.  Since I started getting into the habit of grabbing a cup before I sit down with my computer I’ve actually doubled or tripled the amount of writing I do over the course of a week.  I’m more consistent, too.  Going to find a nice place to write isn’t nearly as appealing as the soothing routine of walking to the coffee shop, getting a fresh coffee, and sitting in front of my computer as it cools.  Eventually, after the temperature has gone from scalding to warm, and I take the first sip, I’m ready to start working.

It’s the routine, more than the caffeine, that gets me ready to work.  There’s a little switch in my brain that constantly checks for coffee. Am I holding a cup of coffee?  Yes.  Well okay then, I guess it’s time for me to start turning on all the working portions of my brain and getting them ready to go.  Sometimes all I need to do is lean forward and smell the coffee and I’m ready to write. Sometimes I look up and an hour has passed, my coffee is cold, and my writing is already finished.

What gets you in the mood to write?  Do you have a routine that helps you get into the zone?

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Do You See a Picture?

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Or do you see a story?

So you’re an aspiring writer, blogger, creative artist, whatever you want.  Chances are you spend about 2/3 of your time pursuing your passion, and 1/3 of your time reading blogs or interviews of those who are already seen as masters.  For those of us trying to write, we read books on craft, memoirs of writers, interviews, blogs… anything we can get our hands on really.  And a lot of the time the same sentiment pops up.

“If you’re really a writer, you can’t not tell a story.”  I agree.  Mostly.  But a lot of authors take it a step farther and say things like, “I can’t see a shoe on the street without making up a backstory of how it got there.”  Really?  I mean sure, the shoe could be the magical boot of a king from a thousand years ago… Or it could have fallen off of the back of a truck.  I don’t walk around all day creating stories for every loose item I see around (although if you’re someone who does, I admire your creativity).  But I also can’t look at an incredible picture like the one above and simply move on.

Chances are that if you’re like me, you wonder at the picture.  You think about it.  You want it to be a part of something bigger.  What was the photographer doing at the top of the hill at night? What were they thinking?  Did they go up there to escape something?

Now the thoughts are really flowing.  They were running away from a small town nestled in the snowy mountains… They were tired, having just gone up the steep slope but they knew they couldn’t stop moving.  At the same time, they couldn’t help but turn around for one last look at the beautiful sight beneath them.  Their heart wrenched in their chest because they knew they probably would never see that place ever again.  And then they vanished over the ridge.  What happened next?

Anything.  Anything you, or I, or the photographer want to happen next, could happen next. That’s an exciting thought.

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And some pictures deserve their thousand words.  Do you see 1,000 words in the picture at the beginning of this post?

How did you start your writing journey?

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A while back I wrote a post about a story’s true beginning.  I wrote about how outlining a book is not the real beginning of the process.  The real beginning is that little seed that pops into your head.  That concept that just won’t leave you alone until you explore it some more.

Well, our lives are our own stories, as are our careers (I’m being incredibly liberal with that word. It’s more like our hobbies) as writers.  Thank you to Jodie Llewellyn (http://jodiellewellyn.wordpress.com/), whose blog I was just reading, for the inspiration for this post.  But, who am I kidding?  I fully stole the idea for this post, title and all, so double the thanks I guess.

My writing journey all started with my mom, a lifelong English teacher.  In kindergarten she read me the first Harry Potter, and we all know what comes next.  I was so hooked that I guess I had to learn to read, because I couldn’t wait for nighttime to come to hear more of the story.

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Years later, I would get in trouble in 6th grade English on a regular basis for reading the books – for probably the tenth time – under my desk.

I first remember wanting to write because I would get so irrationally upset when a book series ended.  Why couldn’t J.K. Rowling have continued writing Harry Potter books forever?  Millions of us would have read them.  It was probably in 8th grade that I thought, “If I write my own books, they wouldn’t have to end until I wanted them to.”

My first good piece of writing sprang to life in tenth grade.  It’s a one page paper about what it would be like coming home to my deserted house several decades in the future.  My mom still has it hanging on the fridge.  I also wrote a one paragraph horror story in the same class, a writing exercise that we shared with each other.  Several of my friends came up to me after and said, “Wow, you’re an amazing writer.”  Doesn’t everyone like to be complimented?  Isn’t that a good enough reason to start writing?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Anyway, I fully dove into writing the next year.  I outlined and wrote my first book, which I finished at the end of 11th grade.  It was 90,000 words and the first book in a planned series of four.  I gave it to my mom, she read it in about a day, and she told me it was fantastic.  She’s very sweet. I recently re-read the book and let me tell you – if you ever want to read the worst knockoff of Harry Potter known to man, send me an email and I’ll show you 350 pages of laughably horrifying storytelling.

I’ve come a long way since then.  I’m now a senior in college, I’ve written dozens of short stories, two almost completed then discarded manuscripts, and am finally finishing another book (63 chapters down, 4 to go!) that I’m hopeful is lightyears ahead of the first one I churned out.  It’s taken me five years since my disastrous first attempt, but I think I’m finally  getting the hang of this thing.  My life, my writings habits, and my writing skills themselves have all come a long way.  I’m finally hopeful that I could soon be good enough to make a career out of this.  Ernest Hemingway said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”  And Robert Benchley later said, more comically, “It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”

Writing is work, and the more you do it, the better you get at it.  Or so I tell myself.  Here’s a video that I also found on Jodie Llewellyn’s blog (should I pay her for this?).  It’s something that puts into words what a lot of writers unfortunately don’t know, but definitely rings true for most of us.  It can give a lot of hope to writers just getting started on their journeys.

So that’s me.  How did you start your writing journey?  Maybe make a blog post about it.  It’s kind of fun to reminisce.

Has it Been a While?

Has it Been a While?

What happens to your writing – actually, what happens to any of your projects or ambitions – when you’ve been away for a while? So you’ve been busy – too much homework, too much partying, too much… Netflix? The rust sets in, you become complacent, you keep telling yourself you’ll do it tomorrow. I know, that’s what it’s been like for me with this blog.

I haven’t stopped writing. I’ve been doing it every day even though I haven’t posted about it. I’m a firm believer that the only way to get truly good at something is to practice it. Every day.

But what if you mess up? What if it’s been a while? It’s been five months since my last blog post, and I’m probably pretty rusty. But the only way to shake off the rust is to jump back into it.

Maybe some of us just need a solid motivational video:

Or some words of encouragement:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

A funny meme or two?
http://www.memecenter.com/fun/1332259/insert-retarded-boston-comment-below
http://www.memecenter.com/fun/369968/my-motivation

Maybe you should just get up and go drink three cups of coffee.

Different things work for different people, but the real key is to get up and get back into it. The first day is always the hardest, and there are a million excuses why today doesn’t have to be the day that you start again.

But the truth is that now is, and will always be, today. We only have a limited number of them. So why not make this today the one where you start (or continue) something worthwhile?