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    Learning to Handle Harsh Criticism

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 75 comments
    Jun
    15

    Discussion questions: What is the harshest external criticism of your writing you’ve ever received, either in public or in private? What was your external reaction, and what was your internal response? How did you move on from it? Does it still bother you? read more

    Mistreating Yourself

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 27 comments
    Jun
    1

    Discussion question: Are you prone to emotional and/or physical malaise as a result of writing? Does it affect you during your writing sessions, after, or both? How do you mitigate these effects, and how do you recover from them? Do you recall a particularly difficult example? Let us know in the comments. read more

    Your Pre-Writing Rituals

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 26 comments
    Apr
    27

    Discussion questions: Do you have any rituals, whether mental or physical, to get yourself into the writing headspace? Or to keep yourself there, once begun? If so, how do they help? Let us know in the comments. read more

    Jugglers & One-Track Writers

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 17 comments
    Jun
    2

    There’s a guy I hang out with who’s a writer. He’s working on a memoir, and has been for a couple of years. Right now, he’s setting that book aside.

    To write a white paper.

    On auto tires.

    For money, of course! It’s a day job. Auto tires are not a passion of his. (Did you ever notice that we never say “car tires,” only “auto tires”? Or am I making this up? But we say “car battery” rather than “auto battery”; “car horn” rather than “auto horn.”)

    But he said something interesting: “Whenever I have to do a big white paper, I need to stop working on the memoir. I only have enough headspace for one [writing project] at a time.”

    I’ve known many writers who operate the same way. One-track writers, let’s call ’em. read more

    Gaining — or Regaining — Your Focus

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 14 comments
    May
    20

    A few days ago, some Twitter pundit made a crack about Bull Durham being overrated and the Durham Bulls responded by calling the pundit overrated. It was all very silly, but it kept being tweeted into my timeline, so I had to see it again and again and again.

    It reminded me that Kevin Costner keeps living out what I imagine were his boyhood fantasies of playing baseball: Bull DurhamField of Dreams, one of my guilty pleasures (and a movie that’s arguably better than the book), and the just plain godawful pile of treacle For Love of the Game.

    Whenever I think of that movie I remember a recurring theme where Costner, as an aging ex-superstar… ugh, who cares about the plot. Whenever the crowd noise is getting to him, he takes a deep breath and then shuts out the noise by saying to himself, “Clear the mechanism.” It’s just so stupid.

    But the spirit of it is something I think about a lot, especially in regards to writing: How do we clear the noise and focus? read more

    Writing Through Upheaval

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 16 comments
    Apr
    8

    It’s been a nutty couple of weeks.

    We’re trying to move our website from one host to another, partly to address the problems you’ve encountered the past few months with our comments section: not receiving notifications; not being able to reply to another comment; not being able to comment at all!

    We’re also working on relocating our office.

    On the home front, we lived out of suitcases for a week, and spent an additional week sleeping in our living room because of a leak in our bedroom. Add to that some travel — international and domestic, expected and unexpected — and… well, like I said. It’s been nutty.

    And winter just won’t end!

    Both Justine and I are working on writing projects, and so this week’s question is: How does one write through such upheaval? read more

    Writing Exercises for Travel Delays

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 7 comments
    Dec
    22

    Today is my first day of Christmas vacation with the family, and my main task today was to pick up my sister from the airport at 2:30, a ninety-minute or so round trip. Which has now been scrapped, because her plane just taxied right back to the gate, and she’ll be spending the next four to six hours (if all goes well!) at the Austin airport.

    It’s hard to handle holiday travel with grace, even when your flights take off and land on time and without issues.

    If you’re stranded at the airport and feeling anxious, frustrated, or just plain old bored, you might try some writing exercises for a little bit of self-soothing.

    Here are three that I’ve tried in the past. Do you have your own? Share them with us below! read more

    A Fine Bogey Tale

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 8 comments
    Dec
    15

    Another thing I learned in Scotland: When Robert Louis Stevenson is asleep, do not wake him.

    In my edition of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Peter Harness writes in the afterword that the story “came to Stevenson, almost fully-formed, in an opium-induced nightmare.”

    Of that night, his wife, Fanny, says, “I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis.” So she woke him… and he was furious. “Why did you wake me?” Stevenson shouted. “I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.

    That fine bogey tale became Jekyll & Hyde. He wrote the first draft in three days. Then he burned it! He wrote the next draft in six days, a rate of over 10,000 words per day. And of course he was sick as hell the whole time.

    I wonder how the story might have changed if he’d have slept through to the end of the nightmare? Might it have been even more frightening? read more

    Does It Take a Village to Raise a Book?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 17 comments
    Oct
    24

    TL;DR version: Should you share your work, or even your ideas, before the writing is done? Or should you keep it to yourself until “The End” so that you don’t risk losing psychological steam? Share your thoughts and approaches in the comments below!

     

    Last weekend I had a workshop with my writing group in which we discussed the new opening to the book I’m working on. This was the first time the gang had seen anything from this WIP. I was hella nervous.

    But their feedback was warming and encouraging, and their comments were helpful. Better yet, two of the guys alerted me to a flaw in my prologue that I would never have spotted on my own, and which would have been harder and harder to fix the deeper I got into the book.

    Such feedback is a major reason why it can be useful to have beta readers, or even beta idea-bouncers-off-of.

    But there can be a dark side to sharing your work, or even your idea, before it’s fully cooked. read more

    Your Writing Fugue and You

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 10 comments
    Sep
    9

    TL;DR version: If you lose track of all time and space when you write, you’re not alone. It’s (unofficially) called a writing fugue, and it happens to many of us. WriteByNighter Joe C. worries that his writing fugues are a problem: he forgets to eat, forgets to move around, forgets to pee. If a writing fugue leads to better writing but some physical discomfort, is it worth it? It’s a question each fuguer must answer for him or herself.

     

    Lately we’ve all spent a lot of time discussing process, inspiration, where we write, how we write. What kind of headspace we need to get into in order to produce words.

    WriteByNighter Joe C. emailed to ask us about his process, in which he goes into a sort of trance when he writes, losing touch with both the world outside and with his own internal workings.

    “It’s almost self-destructive, what I do,” Joe writes. “Basically, I forget to do a fuckn’ thing. I have coffee [and start writing] … and then suddenly it’s 4 p.m., my back is stiff, and I realize I’ve been holding my bladder to the point of pain. I lose myself completely, and it happens all the time. … It’s weird.  My question is if you know of anyone who experiences this same behavior when they write.”

    Justine and I had a writing professor who refers to this as a “fugue state.” It’s not the actual dissociative disorder — don’t panic! — but it does resemble it in some ways.

    And it happens to me all the time. read more

    Getting Back into a Groove

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 21 comments
    Aug
    19

    TL;DR version: Help! I’ve fallen (out of my writing groove) and I can’t get up! After months of writing nearly every morning, and establishing a routine, I took two weeks off. Now that I’m trying to restart my routine, I’m finding that the words won’t come. When you fall off your routine, how do you get your groove back? Let me know in the comments below.

     

    For a number of reasons I shan’t bore you with, I haven’t written a word since August 1.

    For some of May and all of June and July, I’d been writing nearly every morning. I was in a groove and loving it. I established a pattern and stuck with it: roll out of bed, make coffee, go to the park, write by hand until satisfied (return home, pass out). I was beginning to see the finish line — far away on the horizon, but taking shape.

    Then I stopped. read more

    (Family) Secrets Secrets Are No Fun…

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 18 comments
    Jul
    23

    TL;DR version: Writing about family without stepping on feelings can be difficult. But when authenticity is at stake, which is more important: Loyalty to the narrative or loyalty to your loved ones? This week I want to discuss if/when writers have the right to take private matters public, and if so, whether or not we should pull our punches. Then at the end of the post I offer you a chance to choose my own adventure for me. Because, help!

     

    When writing about your family and/or friends, how do you strike a balance between writing honestly and sparing the feelings of your subjects? Is it possible to be both authentic and considerate? Is it a simple matter of knowing when to pull your punches versus when to swing full force?

    Every week we get at least one email or call from a writer wondering how to write about family without inflicting severe emotional damage and/or sowing discord. This week, the query comes from… me! Because I’m up against it myself. And I wrote a sort of choose your own adventure, and I’m curious to see which option you folks would go with. Or have gone with, since I know a lot of you have already worked through this topic.

    In other words: Help! read more




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