Posts Tagged ‘writing from the peak’

Silencing Your Inner Critic

Every writer seems to want to shut up the little voice that says, “That thing you’re writing? It’s no good.” Just like we want the magic secret to writing a good story, we want to know the secret switch that turns off every negative thing we ever think about our work.

Like a lot of things in writing, the solution is pretty simple…but not easy.

First, let’s define what’s not a problem. If your inner critic doesn’t keep you from writing what you want to write, it’s not a problem.
Louder, for those in the back: Your inner critic isn’t the problem. Not writing is the problem.

Your inner critic is still part of you, a part that sounds like the parent who never believed in you or the English teacher who hated your writing. That awful voice that’s tearing your work to pieces…

…it’s just you.

To be a good writer, you have to pour yourself into your writing, including the parts you don’t like. Where does a good villain come from? Do happy-go-lucky people write good dark nights of the soul?

A good long-term strategy for writing books embraces your inner critic. You can push yourself through a few books while ignoring that voice. (People push through a lot of things.) But you can’t push yourself through a career.

So how do you get your inner critic to work with you, rather than against you?

Thinking FictionGive your inner critic permission to be heard.

You can’t think your way through fiction. Thinking is part of writing fiction, true, but it isn’t the essence.

Fiction is a simulation, either of this world or of a world of your own creation. You establish the world, characters, and initial problem, and set some guidelines on how the story works.

You know what else is like that? A game.

You can’t play a game by deciding that you already won…and how. We say, “And in the end, this happens and that happens and this is how the reader will feel, and now I will write my book.”

But you have to play the game by playing it: set up the board, the rules, and all the pieces, and…see who wins.

Some writers play that part of the game by outlining first, then writing; others write first, then step back and make sure they didn’t cheat too badly. You can nudge the board a little, but not too much—readers notice.

Set up your story and then trust yourself to work it out. It won’t be easy. But it’s a lot easier than saying, “Everything I write is stupid.”
Different people will find different techniques. It won’t always feel safe—your best techniques might feel almost physically uncomfortable.
But they’ll be the ones that put the words on the page.

Studying Fiction

You can’t both improve as a writer and already be so good that you never need to improve.

Part of your inner critic is right: You’re not as good as you want to be.

But, like all criticism on writing, take it with a grain of salt: your inner critic may not know what is actually wrong. Like a bad critique group, it can start jumping to conclusions.

MORE COMMAS! FEWER COMMAS! WOODEN DIALOG! TOO MUCH EXPOSITION! TOO LITTLE!!!

The rules of fiction don’t matter, if they don’t work for you. What you need to learn is what works for you. And your inner critic can actually help with that.

Study other writers’ works. Chew their gristle in your teeth. Your inner critic may say, “I love that!” and start stealing techniques. It may also say, “I hate that!” and come up with creative ways to avoid whatever “that” is. And if you let your inner critic tear up other writers’ works, it won’t spend so much time on yours.

Don’t just read books about writing, though: the chewing has already been done for you.

Feeling Fiction

At some point, life gets to be too much and you can’t get the words done. It happens. Let’s talk about the gray area where you might or might not get words done, and how to get more words done.

You can do that by allowing your deepest feelings move into your fiction.

In some of us, this will result in darker fiction; in others, paradoxically, it will result in lighter fiction. It varies from story to story. When we open the door between fiction and reality, the results can be unpredictable.

These are the stories that allow us as writers to move forward with our lives, to grieve, to heal, to apologize, to regret, to celebrate, to embrace. Stories are how humans make life make sense. Writing a story can be how you make sense of right here, right now.

But how?

Stop and listen to your inner critic.

“This is stupid” might mean “I can’t pretend anymore that I’m not hurting.”

“I don’t know what to write next” might mean “I don’t know what to do next, either.”

“My character doesn’t want to do what the outline says” might mean “I can’t make myself fit into my own plans either.”

And then respond to how you really feel in your characters’ actions. Just acknowledging what you’re trying to tell yourself can open a magical door that makes everything you write richer.

It comes down to…

What this all comes down to is giving your inner critic permission to be heard. You don’t have to listen uncritically. But please do listen. Your inner critic isn’t there to hurt you, but to warn you that you’re not on the right path. It may not always be accurate, especially if you’ve been ignoring it or if you haven’t done a lot of studying. Your inner critic might be too mad to be fair…and it might be too ignorant to be right.

It can take a while to lower the alarm levels on your inner critic to useful levels. But once you do, your writing will probably feel less like work you have to push through, and more like the enjoyable—and exciting!—game that it really is.

 


DeAnna KnipplingDeAnna Knippling has two minor superpowers: speed-reading and babble. She types at over 10,000 words per minute and can make things up even faster than that. Her first job was hunting snipe for her father at twenty-five cents per head, with which she paid her way through college; her latest job involves a non-disclosure agreement, a dozen hitmen, a ballerina, a snowblower, three very small robots, and a disposable dictator in South America. Her cover job is that of freelance writer, editor, and designer living in Littleton, Colorado, with her husband, daughter, cat, more than one cupboard full of various condiments, and many shelves full of the very best books. She has her own indie small press, www.WonderlandPress.com, and her website is www.DeAnnaKnippling.com.

The Benefits of a Crash and Burn

Perhaps you participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with great success. If so, congratulations to you and stop reading. This article is for the broken, the wounded, the sick at heart who crashed and burned miserably in the month of November, despite every good intention to write that novel.

New Beginnings

Now we’re facing the time of new beginnings as we enter the new year. If you are still smarting from a November NaNoWriMo fail, setting 2019 writing goals may be the last thing you want to tackle right now.

I thought I could succeed at NaNoWriMo this year. Fifty thousand words in a month? Piece of cake. I’d done it before. I knew my calendar was tightly scheduled, but if I made a commitment, I would follow through. I’m one of Those People. If I say I’m going to do something, by golly I will walk through fire and flood to ensure I meet my obligation.

Halfway through November, I still had delusions I could make it happen. Three quarters of the way through, I had a decision to make. I threw in the towel. Surrendered. And felt horribly guilty that I had failed myself.

Get out of your ditch

There are dozens of quotes, memes, and greeting card messages about failure making you stronger. That doesn’t help much when you’re crumpled in the ditch after a spectacular crash and burn.

So now that we’ve whined a bit, what are we going to do about it? Quitting is always an option. If you can quit writing, then maybe you weren’t cut out for this brutal profession. My tough-love message is: if ordinary obstacles will prevent you from striving for your dreams, maybe your dreams weren’t so important after all. To be fair, sometimes we face extraordinary stress in life. Family, health, or simply overestimating our own stamina place an insurmountable obstacle in our path to writing success.

Turn it into SUCCESS Turn Goal-Setting Failures into Success

Here are my suggestions for turning writing failure into success.

  1. Know Yourself. You may end up in a writing or critique group with people of differing ambitions and drive. Maybe you take a workshop or read a how-to book full of enthusiasm. We’re not all focused, driven personalities. Don’t adopt an attitude that is not your own if it doesn’t work for you. Are you a procrastinator, needing multiple mini-goals to keep you on track? Or do you readily stick to a schedule and easily meet goals? Do you operate best under pressure, or do deadlines cause you to freeze up? Are you an Emily Dickinson type of writer, not needing much reader affirmation, or are you more on the Andy Weir end of the scale, running your work past readers constantly? Which type of writer are you?
  2. Define Success. Do some soul-searching. Why are you writing? What are you trying to accomplish? Look at past goals that you failed to achieve. Were you too ambitious, considering other time commitments in your life? Or did you set the bar too low? Whether you’re new to writing or a multi-published author, goals need to be adjusted with time and experience. If not hitting goals causes you to lose enthusiasm, maybe you need to set achievable goals to get yourself on track. Other writers need to constantly fall short to drive them to work harder. This goes back to Know Yourself.
  3. Make Concrete Goals. Once you understand your uniquely personal ambition, document your steps to that goal. A vague declaration that you intend to write a novel this year will not help you. Create a spreadsheet, time card, or writing session reminder. Clock in to your writing sessions. Be honest in tracking your goals. For a new writer, your primary goal should be to finish a story or novel. Period. Guess what the primary goal is for a multi-published author? Write that next story or novel. Writing is a constant.

Get Specific

Let’s get specific. Your goal is to write a novel in 2019. The typical novel is 350 pages, or 87,500 words. That breaks down to less than a page a day. Exceedingly doable, you tell yourself. But if you diddle around for eight months, then remember you had a goal, I can almost guarantee you will fail.

Decide whether your goal is per day or per week.
Novel in a year goal:
Pages per day = 0.95 = 239 words
Pages per week = 6.73 = 1,683 words

Some Pitfalls

The pitfall: do not give up on days when you don’t have the time for a full writing session. Obviously there is room for adjustment. You have a long weekend with no obligations. You enjoy a productive writing marathon that results in 5,000 words. My experience is that more often I have multiple miserly 15 minute a day writing sessions. These drive me closer to my goal as effectively as the marathons. Take what you can get.

Another pitfall: writing sessions don’t need to be perfect islands of peace and solitude. Sometimes you snatch a few minutes in the midst of a holiday. Maybe you’re hopping in and out of writerly bliss to cook dinner. You have to wear blinders to block out seeing the chaotic mess your apartment has fallen into, or wear headphones to block out family members watching TV.

In spite of your best intentions and careful planning, you fail. What now? Not setting concrete, measurable goals leaves you will a hollow feeling. You suck, and you don’t even know how badly. If you set goals, and track them with dedication, you can measure exactly how badly you suck. And I can almost guarantee it won’t be as bad as you think.

Celebrate!

You have a wonderful record of your efforts. Instead of saying “I failed to write a novel in a year,” you can say “I wrote half a novel this year.” That’s an amazing achievement worth celebrating.

I’m confident that you’ll reach the end of 2019 without that empty feeling. Goal setting will help you achieve your goals. At the very least, goals will take you a step closer to success.


Catherine Dilts Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, has written two novels for the multi-author cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library, and her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes, while others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. Visit Catherine’s website to learn more.

It’s a New Year…Let’s Set Some Goals

It’s true! 2019 is here! Goal setting is in motion, well, hopefully anyway.

Have you thought about it?

Let’s break it down together. Because, like many of us, I put it off, then before I know it, I’m making my way through January with no direction. It’s a thing! And, you know it.

We’ve all heard of SMART goals:
Specific—clear and concise.
Measurable—tracking your progress.
Achievable—challenging, yet achievable.
Relevant—consistent with all other life goals.
Timely—target deadline.

The things I’ve outlined below are what has worked for me. You will find your jam and what works for you. But, if you don’t have a jam yet, why not give mine a try.

Think of things you want to accomplish and write them down.

This is a list. There are so many schools of thought when it comes to ways to think of things you want to accomplish. Maybe you’re a spreadsheet kind of person. Maybe you have to go out and buy that shiny new notebook just for your goals. That’s me.

We’re talking about writing goals specifically, but other areas of your life come into play when you’re setting these goals, so why not include family, personal, and any other categories that are important to you. That makes you more motivated to complete your writing goals when you know everything else is in alignment.

This seems to be the hardest, for me anyway. I have a million things that I want to accomplish. I have a million and one things that need to be accomplished. YOU? Thought so!

Put these in order of importance, create timelines, and break them down.

Each category has a list, I assume. It’s important to identify what is important to do first. I’m not asking you to create a list that’s over-the-top out of control. It should include two or three things in each list. But you will have ONE main goal for each list.

Figure out your WHY for doing what you’re doing.

That’s one goal.
Your why, you ask? Your why is the reason you want to accomplish your goals. This goes back to step one. Let’s define your why when it comes to establishing your goals; thinking of the things you want to accomplish.

Your WHY is your deep-down personal motivation for what you do. Until you identify this, you won’t be able to figure out the what and how. This is the hardest for me.
This is also what can fuel you to complete your goals.

Find a friend. An accountability partner. Tell them your goals and your whys.

We all have the one person in our life that we tell everything to, whether they want to hear it or not. Find that person. Take them to coffee.

When you tell someone your goals, you feel a sense of commitment. You know it. It’s embarrassing to not finish or complete what you said you’d do.

Schedule regular reviews of your goals.

Good—this would be every six months. Put it in your calendar.
Better—once a quarter. This plays out every three months. Put it in your calendar.
Best—every month. Put it in your calendar.

When you see you are making progress with your goals, you’ll keep going.

Examples of writer goals:
In the next 12 months, I will read 12 books specific to my genre.
(Your Why) Because I want to become more proficient in writing in my genre and reading can help me see how others do it.

In the next 30 days, I will have a concrete plan for writing my novel.
(Your Why) Because writing my novel is my end goal and I must get writing it.

Examples for personal goals:
I will workout every day in the month of January.
(Your Why) Because it makes me a happier person, easier to live with, and I have a more positive attitude toward my writing goals.

Every payday for six months, I will set aside $50 for home projects.
(Your Why) Because I can’t use credit and paying for cash is how I roll.

Let’s wrap this up…

When you take the time to plan out your goals, write them down, figure out your why(s), phone a friend, the schedule reviews, you will have a very productive year.

Guaranteed!

 


Deb Buckingham headshotDeb Buckingham is a long time member and Vice President of Pikes Peak Writers. She is a published author of two successful knitting books, Dishcloth Diva and Dishcloth Diva Knits On. She writes for her own blog, and her artistic side is part of her every day. Deb is a creative photographer whose passion is “shooting” creatives in their own studios. She enjoys reading a well written novel.

Welcome to 2019!

Dear Readers,

Can you believe that 2018 has already come and gone? I should be used to this by now, but no, each new year catches me by surprise. The year is off and running before I can finish off the previous one. If 2019 is catching you by surprise rest assured that Writing from the Peak has your back.

Goals for 2019Letter from the Editor

To kick off PPW’s blog this New Year, I am excited to share an article from PPW’s new Vice President, Deb Buckingham, on setting goals. After reading her article I made my own plans for 2019. I have five (or is it six?) books in various stages of completion. My first goal is to have my cozy mystery completed enough to present it to Query 1-on-1 at PPWC2019. My second is to have The Manx (a fantasy that never seems to end) in the box by year end, and the third is to dedicate more time to Pikes Peak Writers. I haven’t quite decided how to make this happen, but I do have a couple of ideas in the works.

What are your goals for 2019? Share them on Facebook at: Pikes Peak Writers Connect

Upcoming Articles

To help you kick off 2019, Writing from the Peak has some great articles coming up. The series from our scholarship recipients continues (don’t forget to submit your application! Deadline is January 11th). As mentioned above, Deb Buckingham will share great ways to set goals and achieve them, followed by Catherine Dilts’ advice on how to turn a failed goal into a positive achievement. There are a couple of Sweet Success stories from Dan Grant and DeAnna Knippling. Lastly, you won’t want to miss Silencing Your Inner Critic by DeAnna Knippling, and Best Business Practices by Jason Henry.

Book Resource List

Did you find any “must have” books in the “How to Write” genre? Writing from the Peak is looking for your recommendations. Email your favorites (no more than 3) to: Editor@PikesPeakWriters.com. Include a short blurb on why you like it. (Don’t forget the author’s name and full title). Please…no brazen self promotions. If you have written a book you would like to add to this resource list please indicate that it is your own work. It would be nice to add a couple of other recommendations that are not your’s. Deadline to submit your suggestions is January 15, 2019.

Best of Everything in 2019

It’s going to be am amazing year. PPW is here to help you make the most of it. There are many resources for you on our website, monthly classes and special events, PPWC2019 (registration is now open), and so much more. Do you want more from PPW? Consider volunteering. PPW is operated solely by volunteers and can always use more help!

2019 is going to be an amazing year for writers, and I want to wish each and every one of you a wildly successful year!

 


KJ Scrim, Profile ImageManaging Editor, Kathie “KJ” Scrim, is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her inspiration for blogging, flash fiction, short stories, and the long haul of novel writing comes from her many life experiences. When she’s not writing you can find her somewhere in Colorado walking, hiking, or rock climbing at the local gym. 

Do you have an article you want to share? Have feedback about the blog? Please email Kathie at: editor@pikespeakwriters.com

On the Run from the Grammar Police

Grammar, hmmm. I found it surprisingly difficult to write this post. As it turns out, I am not entirely sure how I feel about the subject.

During the years I toiled as a tech writer, I remember snickering at the office memos our hard-working office admin sent out each week, sprinkled with random capitalization and odd use of quotes (Do “NOT” use the microwave). Along with my fellow writers, I offered some attempts at gentle correction, only to provoke an angry email response along the lines of What is you’re problem??? And yet another wedge was hammered between those of us who saw grammar errors leaping from the page and those who either didn’t see or didn’t care.

Grammar is Elitist

There seems to be an unhealthy idea swirling in the ether of our society (or at least certain portions of society) that worrying about grammar is elitist. Standards have become so lax that caring even a little bit about proper usage seems to mark you as some kind of cranky, obsessive English teacher, the kind that would whack your hands with a ruler for a misplaced apostrophe.

Many people seem to think that being a writer means being one of these Ms. McGrundy types. I’ve been asked if I spend my spare time diagramming sentences and musing on the difference between the subjunctive versus the objective tense. Not exactly. Most often, I’m simply trying to make sure I can get my point across without using too many passive verbs.

It turns out I am not immune to the culture around me. Worrying about some of the more arcane intricacies of grammar can seem fiddly and tedious. Some rules don’t stick in my head no matter how often I look them up. (That versus which for instance. I vaguely recall something about cats that are black and cats which are black . . . but it doesn’t help.)Worrying about some of the more arcane intricacies of grammar can seem fiddly and tedious.

Grammar Debated

For several months, I had a critique partner who offered little input about my story-telling abilities but provided volumes of carefully detailed examples of where I had gone tragically wrong with grammar rules. I had to think back to that long-suffering office admin and wince.

We wrangled back and forth between her rigid adhesion to super-correct usage versus my own more Humpty Dumpty-esque approach of making words mean just what I choose. My position? If you’re writing contemporary fiction, you need to be able to express your ideas in the current style of writing and talking. Do you want the voice you create in your reader’s mind to sound like Ms. McGrundy the English teacher? It may or may not be appropriate to your story and genre. (Don’t even get me started on dialogue. People, not even story people, do not speak in perfect, complete, grammatically correct sentences.)

Grammar Rules Change

I just can’t believe that it’s really a good idea to grab hold of one rule and cling to it regardless of how awkward the resulting sentence may be. Usage changes. What was once commonplace now sounds odd, although it may very well be perfectly correct. I say go ahead and end that sentence with a preposition, if that’s the direction you’re headed. And commas? Sprinkle them with impunity! (Ok, I realize I am shaky ground here. My name is Robin, and I, am, a, comma addict.)

Grammar Does Matter

But wait. Let me dial this back a little . . . in the end, grammar does matter, for one simple reason: clarity. Grammar helps us get the message across. And so, while I will never be a grammar maven, I will continue to use every single tool at my disposal to figure out how to tell a good story, even if that means looking up the difference between that and which.

Every. Freaking. Time.


Robin LabordeRobin Laborde is not sure exactly how long she has been a member of Pikes Peak Writers but she enjoys it very much. She worked as a technical writer for over ten years and has had nonfiction articles published in newspapers and magazines. While she is currently writing a speculative fiction novel set in the near future, she dreams of flying to the moon in a spaceship made from butterfly wings.

Letter from the Editor – November 2018

Dear PPW Readers,

Welcome to November and the first day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Are you participating? Last month Writing from the Peak covered many ways to prepare yourself for NaNo, and today is your day to fly. I wish all of you luck and perseverance as you dive head first into what might be one of the most grueling writing months of the year. Some will cross the finish line in twenty days, while others will crash and burn in two. No matter when you cross the line, just remember, success is not finishing first, but starting in the first place.Success is not finishing first, but that you started in the first place.

Writing from the Peak, will spend November helping you keep writing. Deb Buckingham will help you find ways to Generate Ideas. DeAnna Knippling will set the pace for you with Pacing Primer. Lit-Quotes by Gabrielle Brown, are always inspirational and a visit with the Grammar Police by Robin LaBorde will keep your writing free of comma comas. In addition to PPW’s blog, Pikes Peak Writers will also be hosting monthly events that will certainly add to your writing arsenal.

Open Critique
This FREE program provides a critique experience for a small number of PPW members who seek feedback on manuscript pages and who want to learn how to have positive critique group experiences.

Write Brains
Write Brain Sessions are free mini-workshops on the craft of writing, business of writing, and the writer’s life. Watch for them in Colorado Springs on the third Tuesday of most months. Pikes Peak Writers began offering monthly Write Brain workshops in 2004.

Write Drunk, Edit Sober
Come and enjoy some wonderful, guided improv writing prompts and a discussion about what those prompts produce.

Writers’ Night
Writers’ Night is two full hours of discussion, laughter, and fun with other local members of Pikes Peak Writers.

I wish everyone writing success in NaNoWriMo as well as anything you are doing this month. May you find the courage to sit at your writing table each day to conquer whatever writing beast you are facing.


KJ Scrim, Profile ImageManaging Editor, Kathie “KJ” Scrim, is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her inspiration for blogging, flash fiction, short stories, and the long haul of novel writing comes from her many life experiences. When she’s not writing you can find her somewhere in Colorado walking, hiking, or rock climbing at the local gym.

Writing is Art – Open for Submissions

One of the hardest parts of writing is submitting, whether to contests, agents, or magazines. Without submitting, you never know what you can achieve. Finding projects worth putting yourself out there can help.

It Takes a Tribe

Pikes Peak Writers is currently running two writing contests that end in a month. One of them is Writing is Art, a creative collaboration between Pikes Peak Writers and Cottonwood Center for the Arts. In the first iteration, which took place in fall of 2017, writers were asked to visit the galleries at Cottonwood to choose a piece of art by a participating artist. They were then given a single prompt to use in a story inspired by the artwork.

In part two of the contest, we’re asking authors to write a story to the prompt “It Takes a Tribe.” Winners’ stories will then be handed over to Cottonwood Center for the Arts, where artists will be given the opportunity to peruse the stories and find something that inspires them a visual creation of their own. This is a great opportunity for writers! It’s not often that intra-art projects like this one come about, yet they can be wonderful for inspiration and flourishing creativity.

This project was the brain child of Bowen Gillings, current president of PPW. When asked the inspiration behind the project, he responded with the following:

Writing is Art“Writing is Art was born out of a desire to show that creative writing, that literature, is an art in and of itself and deserves to be treated as such. With that foundation, I developed a two-fold concept to propel WiA forward. First, I wanted to partner with a venue that could appreciate writing for the art it is and that could embrace using writing in a visual way. Cottonwood Center for the Arts has a long history with PPW, so it was an ideal fit. Jon Khoury at Cottonwood got behind the idea right away and has continued to be instrumental in make WiA a success. Second, I wanted to show how art inspires art and how all art is open to the interpretation of the observer. WiA writers toured Cottonwood and chose pieces that moved them to create. Some of those works were abstract, some were still life, some were renderings of moments in time. Each piece struck a chord and the writer responded. I love that and cannot wait for the next phase, where writings inspire the creation of visual art.”

The Experience

We asked a few of the contributors to tell us about their experiences with part one:
Art evokes, cajoles, inspires, even coerces a response from the viewer. The response may be emotional, visceral, intellectual — but it can’t be denied. The initial Writing is Art project provided an opportunity to put words to my reaction to a piece of art. The process of viewing the piece, reflecting on and writing about it, and seeing the writing exhibited next to the art was a powerful, interactive experience that caused me to get just a little deeper inside of ‘Ocean 2’ by Terry Birkenfeld.”
— Vince Puzick

“I found out about Writing is Art during a Write Drunk, Edit Sober session. Since I only had been living in Colorado for a short time and was healing from a rough break-up, I felt hesitant about entering the contest. In fact, I wondered if continuing with my writing career was worthwhile at all even though everyone around me insisted I have talent. (I still think they must have me confused with someone else.) During a particularly difficult visit at my parents’ house, I locked myself in the guest room with the pictures of a few pieces that caught my eye at Cottonwood. I kept finding myself drawn to the pink closet with things tucked away. It made me think of packing the tangible and intangible items during my separation. I poured those memories and the emotion I pulled from the art into my piece, and surprisingly, my piece was among those selected for the show. It was so validating to see my work in the show and to meet some of the artists. I enjoyed the conversations between artists and writers about how they inspired each other. It was a privilege to be part of this unique collaboration and I look forward to the newest iteration of it.”Writing is Art by Shannon Lawrence
–Amy Armstrong

“Initially, I decided to participate in the very first Writing is Art as a show of support for Pikes Peak Writers and Cottonwood Center for the Arts, the organizations who paired up to make this happen. I enjoyed chatting with some of the artists and wandering the gallery, looking for possibilities. But then I became selfish. I chose my piece and wrote my little bit entirely driven by and for my own heart. What pleasure! I found myself writing poetry, though I’m not a poet. I considered keeping it to myself, but instead did the right thing and entered my work. And it was selected! It is possible that I may have jumped up and down and shared the news with all who would listen. I missed the gallery opening but stopping by on a quiet afternoon allowed me to take my time viewing, reading, and mulling over each of the art/word pairings. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside, to be a part of this display of talent and creativity. And so, in the end, I still found my selfish joy.”
–Gabrielle Brown

Free to Enter

 

Why not try it out? It’s free to enter, and though there are no cash prizes, we do hope to get enough contributions to create a table-top book with all the stories and art prints. Your story will be placed on display next to the artwork inspired by it, for anyone to visit. We’ll also have a gallery opening celebration in March!
For more information, visit the Facebook event page.

Ghosts of Downtown Writing Contest

In addition to this contest, we have a contest in partnership with Downtown Colorado Springs: Ghosts of Downtown Writing Contest. This one seeks your creepy stories about locations in downtown Colorado Springs. Tours will be led by the city, with both true and false stories being told. The guests will then try to guess which ones are real. As with Writing is Art, there are no cash prizes, but winners of this contest get free entry on one of the tours. What could be more fun than watching those taking the tour try to guess if your story is true or false? For more information visit the Facebook event page.

Contests End Soon!

Act fast if you’d like to participate in either of these projects! Writing is Art closes October 1, while Ghosts of Downtown closes September 30. Submission information can be found on the event pages and on our website under Upcoming Events on the main page.
What have you got to lose?


A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes primarily horror and fantasy. Her stories can be found in several anthologies and magazines, including Space and Time Magazine and The Literary Hatchet, and her short story collection Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations is now available. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking through the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there’s always a place to hide a body or birth a monster. Find her at www.thewarriormuse.com.

Letter from the Editor

Kathie KJ ScrimHello Pikes Peak Writers! My name is Kathie Scrimgeour (writing under the name K.J. Scrim) and I have taken the reins of Managing Editor From the Editorfor PPW’s blog. I have been the Sweet Success coordinator since 2013 and last year started the column, Meet the Members. When Gabrielle asked if I would be interested in taking over for her, it only seemed to be a natural transition.

PPW is an organization that is here to help all of us learn the craft of writing, editing, and publishing whether it is an epic five book high fantasy or a twenty-word flash fiction. Our blog is a wonderful resource to learn not only tips and tricks to be a better writer, but also a place for moral support and sometimes a few laughs.

As Managing Editor, I will strive for professional, fun, and informative content, and, in the same breath, ask for your help to reach these goals. We are accepting submissions from all members on all aspects of writing. Did you have an “ah-ha” moment at a Write Brain? We would love to hear about it. Have you struggled through writer’s block? How did you get through it? Have you ever had a book optioned for film? Been through a publishing nightmare? Experienced the difference between traditional and self-publishing? Do you know Scrivener, WordPress, or Blogger? What about PPW’s conference? What experiences have you had? These are just a few questions that you could share your experiences through. I am also open to all suggestions. Please contact me at editor@pikespeakwriters.com.

We are going to have a great time together here on Writing from the Peak. This month look for Barb Nickless’ post Devil in the Details, along with Jennifer Lovette’s piece on Facebook algorithms and Jasons Evans’ next installment about villains in historical fiction, plus more!
Bookmark this page so you can visit often.

Seeing the World Beyond – Open Up Your Inner Child’s Creativity, Part 3

Writing from the Peak PPW Logo

Readers, today we are fortunate to have the second of three installments in Liz Jeffries’ mini-series on creativity and unleashing your inner child.  Liz reminds us of the joy we find in writing, and how getting back in creative saddle can help overcome personal challenges. Liz shares her tried and true techniques for unleashing the imagination of our childhood and getting the results from mind to keyboard (or paper).  Today, in her final installment,  Liz addresses those questions she brought up last week and shares her tried and true creative tactics.


We need to feed that creative spark that lies within us. Oh yes, it’s always there, no matter how much adulthood and responsibility have tried to snuff it out. And we can feed it and help it grow. How you ask? Well here are some things I do for myself. Some of these have been taught to me by other people, some I got from books, some I just came up with on my own.

One of my new favorite techniques that I’ve been introduced to since joining Pikes Peak Writers is improv writing. Basically, take a prompt, give yourself a space of time (like 10 minutes) and just WRITE. It can be anything. There is no right or wrong. No one ever has to see it. It’s not anything that has to be made into a story, or has to go somewhere, or even has to make sense. It’s just a time to get your brain to think, to flow, to push yourself beyond the normal comfort zone of your writing. To exercise your brain. To maybe explore things you wouldn’t consider exploring in a ‘normal’ setting.

It’s easy. There’s tons of apps and websites that will create random prompts for you. And you don’t have to write on the exact prompt. For example, a lot of them are in first person, but maybe you feel more creative writing in third. So write in third! Just take the basic idea of the prompt and let it ignite the fires in your skull. And remember…NO RULES. Handwrite it if you have to, to break your mind out of the mold. I do. I find when I write on my laptop I get too consumed with making the story ‘pretty’ and I’ve barely gotten more than a few sentences in when the timer goes off. But put a pen and a piece of paper in my hand? I’m off to the races and I don’t really care what it reads like. I’m just writing.

A second tactic I use is to find new inspirations. It’s hard to be inspired sitting in front of a screen or searching Youtube. Whenever I find myself running a little low on the creativity meter, I try to find something to energize me. Like going to an art museum, listening to music, or going to the zoo. I especially love music. Listening to music and feeling the story that it speaks to you. Not the story the artist intends, although that’s usually really great too. I mean the story that the song speaks to you. Do you ever get images when you listen to a song? What are the emotions that you feel listening to it? Does it remind you of any memories? To just listen to the song, to let yourself drift into it. For nothing to exist in that moment but you and the song. To being open to whatever pops into your head as you listen to it.

I also journal a lot. Every morning I get up and write. It can be complete total gibberish, but I write. I write about how I feel. What I did the day before. Things I dreamed. Things I was looking forward to during the day. Old scars that cropped up that make me feel bad. Things I’m questioning. Whatever pops into my head, it goes down into the journal.

Another tactic is to use your creativity, but in a different way. I like to go do pottery. I also am teaching myself how to make things out of leather. Making things and writing are both an act of creation. But sometimes you can ‘run the well dry’ just doing one thing. Sometimes you have to try and explore something new to ‘jumpstart’ the creativity wheel for your writing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bent over the potter’s wheel working on a lump of clay when a random thought about my current story pops into my head, or an idea for my blog.

The last tip I have is to just go out into the world and open your mind up to observing and exploring. You can only write what you know and even the most far flung fantasies have to have some basis in reality, whether it’s emotions or how things act/react. We have to have some basis in reality so that our readers can relate. And the only way to understand the world is to observe it, to live it. I couldn’t write a book about climbing a mountain unless I had really done it. Oh, I could. I could pretend. I could read other’s accounts and try to use them. But it’s not the same as actually being there. Actually taking the steps to walk up the mountain. The breeze on your skin. The sun beating down. The smell of the pine trees. The call of the birds. I could not evoke the same emotion, could not describe the environment, the same way I could if I actually got out there, climbed a mountain and experienced it for myself. Saw it with my own eyes. Sensed it with my own senses.

I like people watching. Looking at how people dress, how they stand, what they might say or the gestures they make. I like taking those observations and creating little stories around them. Who they are. Where they come from. What their day might have been like. Where they are going later on. Of course, the stories aren’t true. But it’s an exercise in taking what I see and looking past the reality to the possibility of what might be. I like watching their mannerisms, their style and incorporating that into my characters. To give my characters a depth of reality.

And don’t stop yourself. What do I mean by that? If you get inspired by something, don’t immediately shoot yourself down by saying “oh that won’t make a good story” or “that won’t make it anywhere”. Don’t analyze! Will every inspiration be a story? NO! But by cutting off your inspiration before it has a chance to grow, by shooting it down before it even gets off the ground, trains your brain that it’s wrong. That it has to ‘think right’. Think like an adult. Be rational. Be reasonable. Be responsible. Don’t be daydreaming. Don’t be stuck in the clouds.

Yet that is precisely what we need to do! We need to be children. We need to daydream. We need to see past reality. We need to feed our ability to create. To forget, if even for only an hour, about bills and responsibilities. To let go of all the ‘rules’. To be silly. To be wacky. To push ourselves out of our comfort zones. To look at the world like a child. Where stuffed animals are real and dragons lie in wait around every corner. Where taking a sled down a hill is skiing down the Alps. Where a stick is a mighty sword, worthy of slaying a gigantic beast.

To be inspired by the world around us.

We need to play, without worrying about the ‘adult’ things waiting for us. To not worry about the hours we spend writing. We need to let ourselves get lost in this passion that we love.

The ways I talked about above are just some of the ways I use to inspire my creativity. Use them or find your own. After all, no one is inspired in the same way by the same things. But we do all share one thing. We all have a flame of creativity within us, just waiting to be used. It may be small, buried under all sorts of layers we put down as adults so we don’t act like kids. But it never dies. It’s there, waiting for you to find it and feed it.

It’s time. Release the child inside. Release your creativity. And just watch all the amazing places your mind takes you!

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pikes peak writers liz jeffries head shot

I have always thought of myself as a writer, writing books while I was still in elementary school. However, as I grew up I started suffering from undiagnosed severe chronic anxiety and depression, and emotional abuse from when I was a child that eventually destroyed my love of writing and art, as well as life. Skip ahead to 2011 when I was challenged by a friend to start living again, and dealing with my issues. I started a blog detailing my adventures learning how to ride a motorcycle and a mountain bike, and my slow understanding of my mental issues, and was amazed at the positive response. Slowly, my love for writing started growing again. Fast forward to 2016 when I hit a dead end with my life in Illinois and needed a new adventure. Within a week of deciding, I packed up all my gear and moved out to Colorado. Since coming to Colorado, my excitement and creativity has blossomed, as well as getting my anxiety and depression under control.

Email Liz Jeffries here.

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