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They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. I often think of the writing process when I hear that old adage. Writing can seem laborious when we proofread, edit, revise. These are the mundane parts of the process. The joy, for me, is in the creation, but that’s only one stage of the writing process.
So try to enjoy the journey, and not just the final, published product. Writing groups can help as you can share your writing with others and self-edit along the way. Writing is an isolating activity and a writing group can help with the isolation. You can also get helpful hints from fellow writers.
Readings can help also. Reading a work in progress can help to get feedback and it also helps to hear your work aloud. Samuel Butler says “I feel weak places at once when I read aloud where I thought, as long as I read to myself only, that the passage was alright…” The act of reading, line for line, can help the writer focus in a way that just rereading again can’t.
I used many of these “journey steps” to complete my collection of poetry that published earlier this year. Check it out:
I blog on Thursdays and do announcements on Tuesdays. Follow me.
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Years ago, an artists success was determined by art critics, collectors and publishers. Today, this has changed. Today these people are no longer in power and the writer is often an entrepreneur if she/he wants to make an income from her/his writing.
Vincent Van Gogh chose not to go commercial and only sold a few paintings in his life. Andy Warhol created The Factory to create and promote his work as an assembly line process. Writers also fall into different categories of commercialness. Some just prefer not to publish and read and write within circles of writing groups and friends. Others put a lot of effort into reading, blogging, working with publishers, etc. in order to sell copies. Some writers publish and promote their own books, while others publish with publishers and work in conjunction to promote the book.
Today’s artist/writer may have to brand their work, build an online presence, and stay aware and use social media trends. Margaret Atwood, with her book Testament, the sequel to A Handmaiden’s Tale, attracted hundred of fans to her book launch in London by having women dressed in red capes and white bonnets. She also simulcast it in three cities. She has been on the best-seller’s list many times.
Writers have to develop other skills besides writing to sell copies of their books. This means taking advantage of social media, blogging, and podcasting in order to reach potential customers. A writer has to decide how much time she/he wants to spend on promotion, which does take away from the creativity.
Check out my new collection of poems at: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/
The difference I have noticed between successful writers who publish and people who want to be writers is the time commitment. The successful writer takes his/her writing seriously and carves out time daily to write.
The successful writer is disciplined about writing, if not daily, at regular intervals, and sticks to that schedule. We all go through periods of vacation, periods of time devoted to family and friends, but within those diversions, the writer has discipline about devoting time to the craft.
Never assume that something will get done because you’ve told yourself it will. Have a disciplined approach, and rely on writing groups, calendars, schedules, good word processing systems, in other words, the tools of the trade in good order. Then sit down and write.
It took me ten years to write my most recent collection, but I finished and published it. Take a look:
I will blog regularly on Thursdays. I will make announcements on Tuesdays.
It’s really easy to get distracted when you write, especially now that we’re all largely home working and there are phone calls, emails and housework all conspiring to take away the writing time.
The human brain takes around 17 minutes to refocus on a task after a distraction. Losing focus while in the middle of writing, can seriously damage the quality of your content. If you want your writing to be the best quality content possible, you need to get rid of distractions.
Disable all notification on your computer and put your phone on silent so that you do not get disturbed in the middle of a writing session. Be disciplined enough to either do your housework before you write, or better yet, delay it until after your writing session.
If you put your writing first, you get more accomplished and the quality of the content will be better.
During the pandemic I wrote a collection of poetry and had it published. I did this by focusing. Take a look at the book:
When I write, I try to use language that fits the audience and matches the content of the poem. Inappropriate language can turn your reader or listener off before you even get them started.
You want your own unique voice to come through in your writing, but you don’t want that voice to stop your reader from going on. When I read aloud to an audience, I choose different material than when I know the reader will be reading. Some writing is better heard aloud and other writing needs to be read to grasp the ideas and complexities.
When you’re in a line-up of writers at a reading, you usually only have a few minutes to grab your audience. I usually use poems with repeated lines when I read aloud, and shorter, rather than longer poems.
I will be doing a reading from my recent collection Touch My Head Softly (Finishing Line Press, 2021) at a closing reception at the Hosmer Gallery of the Forbes Library virtually. Check it out:
The word polish means to make something smooth and shiny, like leather shoes So what does it mean to polish your writing?
Does it mean to go through your piece and get rid of minor errors? Or does it mean to improve or perfect? To me it means go over your writing and make sure that it all makes sense. This differs from editing in my mind, which refers more to going over your piece for minor errors in punctuation or grammar.
I am currently writing a long narrative poem, about the drowning earth, interspersed with haiku. There’s a lot to follow. I do a draft and then read it over once, revising as I go. It’s not yet polishing, which I do at the end.
My most recent collection of poetry that I published was a different process. It was a highly emotional collection about the death of my partner to Alzheimer’s. It was painful to write, and I just got it out on paper periodically over a number of years. I then polished it at the end. Take a look:
Ok, so your piece has been rejected. As writers, we all go through it. Rejection can be defined as the act of pushing something away. We submit a piece or a manuscript somewhere where we think it will be a fit, and the powers that be don’t see it that way.
One thing I find that helps is knowing that publishing is just a business. A publisher is looking for something specific and your writing may not fit the bill. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it just means it’s not what the publisher is looking for.
Most editors don’t comment on their rejections, but if you do get feedback, you may learn from it. I had an editor tell me I was using too many adjectives and adverbs. I took the advice to heart and started editing them out, and it made my writing stronger.
When a piece has been rejected several times, I try revising it. Language in its uneducated, natural form, reveals if we uncouple our own judgment and explore linguistic vehicles, the piece may be better. In poetry, it sometimes means trying a different format. If it’s a free verse poem, I’ll try something more formal, like a pantoum or sonnet. It sometimes can provide a different, more successful vehicle for the piece.
Another thing I sometimes try is reordering the piece. The last line might not be right. The last line might be found a stanza or two up. Maybe I’ve done too much explaining, and it wants cutting. Or the beginning of the piece might better serve it in the middle.
When I did my last collection, “Touch My Head Softly,” I kept rearranging the order of the poems. Then I realized nothing fit the beginning. So I wound up writing a prose poem to start off the collection.
When I’m going through rejections, I sometimes remind myself why I like to write, and this often makes me feel better. I wrote the poems in Touch My Head Softly, about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s in his sixties. It helped me to get through my grief by doing this and this became an end in itself.
You can view my collection Touch My Head Softly, at:
Touch My Head Softly can be viewed on Goodreads at: