In a Nanowrimo kind of mood?

Nope. I was, or at least I thought so. All it took was some outside negativity, and I was ready to jump ship.

I’ve put off deciding on a project, which means I’ve also delayed any planning, all month. So it’s probably safe to say I leaned toward not participating all along. Add in the fact that most the writers around me are also not feeling the call, which always gets to me and I never win when I go it alone, and this is no surprise.

Sadly, I needed a little encouragement, specifically today, to get over this dread and fear, or whatever my problem is, but there was none to be found. That’s not 100% true. My husband always encourages me, but in the face all everything else bringing/dragging me down, his awesomeness didn’t have a chance of working on me. Logic be damned! I’m as susceptible to feeling down and unmotivated as anyone else.

Who knows what the next thirty days will bring. I could change my mind, two or twelve times. Inspiration might smack me in the face (I wish), or I might re-watch Charmed all month. I’ll keep you all updated as I wade my way through this muck.

For anyone out there doing Nano this year, good luck. If you’re thinking about it, I strongly encourage you to go for it. Just because I’m not in the right headspace doesn’t mean I don’t believe the process works. It’s probably not for everyone, but it could be for you. Most years it’s for me too.

For those who don’t know what Nanowrimo is, go here. If you want to develop a daily writing habit and can handle being competitive with yourself, it’s an excellent way to go.

Writers Are Mean…

All writers are mean. We are abusive, bullying, nasty, horrible people. We are overly critical, judgy, and our standards are too high. We cause crying, anger, yelling, sadness, depression, anxiety, and sleeping problems. Writers do and are all these things, to ourselves, often.

Therefore, why on earth should we allow other writers to do the same to us? Too many times I’ve seen a writer trying to bring another one down. In most cases the perpetrator is doing so to make themselves feel better – superior. You know what makes me feel good when reading another writer’s work? Telling them the good things I see.

I’m more than happy to critique something when requested but generally most writers when they put themselves out for the world to see, i.e. a short story on their blog, or a Facebook post, etc, need encouragement.

Personally, I know sometimes I need the motivational push or someone to tell me it’s not terrible, or something else positive. So I have to assume other writers need the same.

Why can’t we hold each other up and be supportive instead of mean and judgemental? There are a few people I know who like to tear others down and it is clearly based on a lack of confidence on their part. Maybe no one helped them or encouraged them early in their career. I know that even when I or other writers in my community try now, these people don’t notice.

What if they were told the good stuff when they first started out? Would they feel the need to be crappy to other writers today? Maybe so, but also, maybe not.

Think about this. If you’re only surrounded by harsh comments, negativity, unwarranted criticism, and unfavorable comparisons for years, you’re probably going to be a pretty miserable human right? Since, as a writer, you’re going to do this to yourself and be unable to escape it, wouldn’t it be great if someone, preferably many someones, was there telling you what you did right? Saying how you are great with dialog or description, or how your writing voice is so clear. Maybe just telling you they love your stories.

Now what if it were other writers telling you the good stuff? As writers we can’t help it, we value what other writers say over everyone else. I mean, sure, your mom, or spouse, or best friend can say every word you write is perfection but you know they love you and that makes their credibility a little shaky (even if they are correct). When someone else who practices your craft gives you positive feedback, WHAM, it hits you in the ego in the best sort of way. Little tendrils of goodness invade your subconscious…maybe I’m not the worst writer on the planet…yeah, that is a damn good sentence…perhaps I can do this, etc.

I believe, as a writer, I have several jobs to do.

1: Write, as often as I can.

1.5: Finish what I start writing.

2: Always try to improve my craft.

3. Help other writers as much as possible.

The third one is very important to me. When I first started writing I was alone in it. One person encouraged me but only as a hobby. I was a stay at home mom with a husband who thought I should never do anything for me. My job was to be a mom and nothing else. Throughout the years I was actively discouraged and ignored when it came to writing. Everything from being told my writing sucked to being accused of being irresponsible for even trying. Once I was divorced and then married again I was the victim of subtle undermining. My confidence was shot and my desire to write was nil.

Then one day I realized something. My exes were A-holes who played on my real issue with writing: fear. I always worried I wasn’t good enough at it, that I was wasting time only to fail. I feared succeeding as much as failing. I was afraid of what others though or might think.

So I took the first steps toward writing regularly. Eventually I married a man who actually wants me to write. I found other writers in my community, most of which were encouraging and welcoming. The ones who aren’t, well, they can’t touch me after the stuff I heard from the exes.

Being around others like me changed everything. Now I write all the time. I have more confidence in what I do and I’m constantly improving.

When I meet new writers, or people trying to get back into it, with fear in their eyes, everything I went through comes back to me. So I step up and try to make them feel welcome. I share my story when needed and always have something positive to say about their work. I do the same for people who are actively writing. All I want is to be as supportive as I can. No one should have to feel bad about writing.

There will always be the negative writers around so I hope my attitude and others who think the same help to balance out the bad things we all have to hear. It takes so little effort to do these little things to help others and everyone benefits.

I’ll save my mean writer side for myself. Speaking of, after rereading this I spotted tons of complicated or shaky sentences and am fighting the urge to fix them. See? I don’t need anyone else to tell me I suck. Maybe someday I’ll even stop listening to myself.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to encourage at least one writer this week. I hope this message doesn’t self destruct!

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Writers & Coffee Shops

Why are writers drawn to coffee shops? Is it the need for caffeine, or maybe the ambiance? Perhaps it’s due to the feeling we are supposed to write in places like that, since many other writers do so.

For me it’s the smells. If you’ve read many of my posts you already know I despise the taste of coffee, but the smell, oh man, it’s amazing. There is a comforting feeling being in a place where coffee fragrance fills up the building. If only the stuff tasted as good as it seems like it would. Don’t lecture me, we all know coffee is an acquired taste.

I’m not sure why the scent impacts me so much but I have a theory. My parents drank coffee every morning when I was young. When I was old enough they started sending me to the kitchen to get them a refill, and eventually make the coffee and bring the first cup. Little kids are weird so I thought this was practically an honor.

Eventually I got to the point where it was a hassle and I started playing tricks.My mom never once thought it was funny when I ‘tripped’ and threw an empty mug at her. She fell for it every time. My dad, well I only did it a few times to him (daddy’s girl here), but he hated it and thought it was funny so it wasn’t worth it. It made for great memories, for me. I imagine my mom still doesn’t find it amusing.

My dad passed away when I was 15 and I hadn’t brought him coffee in years but I still associate the smell with bringing him and my mom their morning cup. I think about standing near the counter and watching the percolator, amazed at how it worked. I remember the smiles and thanks and feeling important.

So maybe I started coming to coffee shops because I heard it worked for other writers but I keep coming because it works for me. I get funny looks because I order hot tea but it tastes great and gives me my caffeinated fuel. Being judged for not drinking coffee even gave me a story called The Secret!

Of course, I can’t forget the people watching aspect. Already this morning I’ve been fascinated by the behavior of three different people. One was a woman who was clearly angry but trying to hold it in and possibly not take it out on the staff. Another was actually a family of four. I don’t know what happened but they came in with smiles and walked up to the counter. After a moment the dad looked angry and they all left, with the mom and two kids looking embarrassed. I’m pretty sure there is a story brewing after seeing that.

The most interesting was a man who came in looking exhausted. He never stopped moving. He paced for a while then when he sat down he fidgeted. His head swiveled around as if he was looking at everyone in the place but when his eyes reached me I could tell he didn’t see me. When they called his name a couple of the people working chatted with him, asking why he hadn’t been in for so long. Even his voice sounded tired as he told them his wife had just had a baby. Ah!

The poor thing leaned on the counter, which meant he stopped moving. It was clearly a mistake. He looked like he was going to fall over. His knees buckled a bit but he shook it off, showed off pictures of his child and left. I hope he made it safely home! There is also a story in my head after watching him.

Some of my best writing happened in coffee shops so I will continue to be a typical writer and hang out in these places.

To any other writers out there, if you work in coffee shops, what are your reasons? To any who don’t do this, I highly recommend it. Bring your headphones and enjoy!

Photo by Ryan McGuire. Go check out his work, it’s amazing!

Sidenote: I almost titled this post: Writers & Coffee Shops –  A Love Story.