Call me nosy, but I love to know about the writing processes of other writers. How do they do it? What are their challenges? Any secret tips? How do they work…and what can I learn? To that end, I’m happy to participate in summer blog tour sponsored by Sheri Andrunyk of IC Publishing, as a writer talking about her writing process.
Last week, author Heather Hans, LCSW, MSW, MBA, CPIC, gave us an inside peek at her writing process (click over if you missed it).
I connected with Heather after we were both quoted in this Forbes article on how to leave your unfulfilling job. Then, last week, we met in-person and she is just as utterly lovely, radiating wonderful energy, as she seems. If you haven’t met her yet, Heather is a Visionary, Healer & Teacher, and the author of The Heart of Self-Love: How to Radiate with Confidence. It is Heather’s firm belief that loving oneself is necessary to have fulfilling relationships and a successful life, and her book is an ingredient list that teaches people the steps to self-love and radiance. Connect with her on her blog or Twitter: @HeatherHansTV
How do you start your writing projects?
It depends on the project. For my book (Where in the OM Am I? One Woman’s Journey from the Corporate World to the Yoga Mat) it was a percolating process—different ideas or a passing thought would pop into my head for months and I’d file them away for later. Then I finally sat down and started writing. At first, it was all inspiration-driven—no boundaries, no discipline, no schedule. Sometimes, I wouldn’t write for days and then I would sit and write for hours and hours, sometimes late into the night. These were the best times. I felt totally connected—like a conduit for the words that were flowing through me and out onto the page. It was the actual experience of what you read about some “real” writers who are total artists, at one with their craft.
But it wasn’t (and isn’t) always like that. For smaller projects, for instance an article or blog post, it’s usually more structured. I have a topic in mind (or assigned) and I write to it. There are those moments of inspiration and flow, but the process feels different overall—more “assignment” and less “when the Muse shows up.”
Now I’m writing my second book and so far it’s been more functional and structured. Is this because I’m a more disciplined writer now or because the Muse is on vacation? (It IS July after all!)
I’ve been considering this topic a lot lately: do you need inspiration to write books? Is it possible to be as disciplined and structured with the book process as it is with articles? If it is possible, is it desirable? Isn’t there something wild and lovely about waiting for inspiration to strike (“The Muse has arrived!” I can imagine a mental courtier announcing with a ceremonious thump of his ornamental staff), and then flow with it?
Of course, that necessarily means we have to wait for the Muse to arrive (aka inspiration to strike)…which could involve a lot of waiting and therefore be inherently limiting.
I visualize this like surfing—waiting for a wave or creating your own waves. If it is possible to create your own waves, are they just as good as a wave that just came to you from its own organic origins?
I’m puzzling through this and would love to hear your thoughts!
How do you continue your writing projects?
I need to keep myself fresh and invigorated, which usually means mixing it up with a change of scenery (cue me, taking my rescue dog Peluda for walks throughout the day or going to the gym). But once I’m on a roll, I find it easier to keep rolling. I keep going back and finding loose threads and weaving them in until it’s as tightly knit as possible.
Once that’s in place, I go back over it and over it and over and over it, rewriting, refining, rewriting, refining, until I
want to pull my hair out…uh, I mean until I feel a wonderfully delightful sense of being “done.”
How do you finish your projects?
It’s a carefully concocted mix of incredible discipline…and delicious treats. (Sometimes, more treats.) The finishing stage for OM was definitely the hardest part for me. By then, I was four years into the process and I was energetically drained. I had to really dig down—deep down—to stay steadily with it through those last few months.
The treats are the better part. I like the sesame seed sticks and baked cheese sticks from Trader Joe’s. I also like the gummi bears and black licorice. If I’m dreading something, I pour myself little bowls of whatever I want, set them beside my laptop, and get to work.
What’s one challenge or additional tip that our collective communities could benefit from?
Find a practice that re-energizes, focuses, and refreshes you. My yoga practice was key to writing my book. Perhaps you prefer running, knitting, painting, tai chi…whatever it is that helps you release stress and help you focus, find it and do it.
When you feel overwhelmed, break it down into more manageable bites. Reward yourself for small steps (treats!). Breathe deeply and often. Remember that there is only one thing that is going to make you feel better and that is to actually do it. So sit down, take a deep breath, and do it.
To celebrate awesome author Jenna McCarthy‘s hilarious new book, I’ve Still Got It…I just can’t remember where I put it, summer (my fav season), and reading (a fav activity), I’m doing a *Fun, Fabulous, Summer Reading Giveaway!*
You…yes YOU could win this beach tote full of fun! Comment below with what you’ve “still got…and maybe can’t find” to be entered to WIN:
1. A copy of Jenna’s new book I’ve Still Got It…I just can’t remember where I put it WHICH JENNA WILL PERSONALIZE for the winner!!
2.A yellow polka dot beach bag…because why not?!
3. A pink leopard print water bottle–BPA-free natch–so you stay hydrated in style this summer!
4. A pink SPF-50 sun hat so that we can all stay as young-looking as possible.
5. And my favorite almond-coconut KIND bars (delicous! I live on them!)
Want more chances to win? Post this giveaway on social media, post the links below, and each one gives you ANOTHER CHANCE TO WIN!
I’m thrilled to announce that Where in the OM Am I? has been awarded Best Memoir by the National Indie Excellence Book Awards! This is such an honor and I am truly grateful.
After countless rounds of edits, denigration at the hands of my critique partners, flattery from friends and family, and many glasses of wine, my very first book finally made its way into the hands of actual readers on June 11, 2013.
You can also order a signed, personalized copy straight from me here on the Book tab!
Turns out that my anticipation was fully justified. Jenna McCarthy's hilarious. I was literally laughing (yes, out loud, drawing stares in public and fully not caring) from the first page. She is irreverent, unafraid of “bad” language, and one of the most insightful, side-splitting, spot-on authors and commentators on marriage.
If you doubt me, watch her TedX presentation from December.
Some sections will appeal and apply more to some people than others. For instance, I didn't fully relate to the TV remote chapter because, if I'm brutally honest, I am the remote hog in my marriage. But even the sections that you may not think apply to you (for instance, in my case, the ones on kids didn't apply to me as I'm as-of-yet happily child-free) will still wildly entertain you (there's a scene involving two kids, adult supervision, and public urination that had me LOL yet again). For most chapters, I had to wonder if McCarthy didn't have binoculars trained on me and my house fully bugged–she was that in-tune with living with and loving the not-so-handyman I married. (I checked, she doesn't–she's safely across the country in California…or so her bio claims.)
It's a long-term habit that when I read something especially funny or awesome, I turn down that page's corner in order to share it with my hubby or other close friends. Turns out this is a dangerous practice when reading this book–there are sections in my copy where sometimes every page has been marked in this way. Sometimes the tops AND bottom corners are turned in!
I wondered if my husband would find it as funny or if this was geared toward the ladies (as the title might indicate). But I needn't have worried my pretty little head: Hubs laughed as hard or harder than me. When he wasn't laughing so hard he went silent, he managed to gasp out, “That's just like us!”
Oh good–it seems we agree on something 😉
Bottom line: I love it. I've recommended it (and will continue to do so) for everyone.
Best for: Anyone in a long-term relationship
Stars: Five, baby!
Jenny Baranick teaches English composition, critical thinking, and a remedial English class called Writing Skills at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Consistently shocked at the poor grammar of her students, in January 2010, Jenny started her popular Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares blog.
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Confession: I read Le Cordon Bleu educated chef and author Kathleen Flinn’s first book, “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry,” a few years ago and loved it so much that I would’ve bought whatever she wrote next, no matter how good, bad, or unrelated. Fortunately, her subsequent book, “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks,” IS both good and also related.
I’m enjoying the same things about it that I enjoyed in the first book–her storytelling, the way she uses words, her sense of humor (I’m currently reading a chapter called, “The Pleasures of the Fish,” the name of which alone made me laugh), her sincere love and appreciation for food, her humility, and, of course, the recipes.
I confess,when I first read the flap, which talks about how a chance meeting with a stranger in the grocery store whose cart was loaded up with heavily processed, pre-fab
crap items, inspired Flinn to start the experiment that led to this book (she selected nine women who mostly eat frozen or fast food and taught them how to cook), I was worried that I’d be a little bored. Not because the topic’s boring–it’s not! I love stories of transformation and food–but because I’m already in a heated state of agreement with the premise and principles.
I eat an organic (whenever possible), plant-based diet with fish as my main source of protein. Fast food? Never touch the stuff. Frozen? Nope–I’m the 1950s time traveler who accidentally landed in this era but still loves to cook everything herself.
Yeah, that’s right–I actually love to cook. I love everything about it–I love paging through cookbooks, dreaming up menus, shopping at the farmer’s market, and cooking everything from scratch. I’m the geek who loves the taste, smell, and preparation of food and most of all, I love to eat.
No judgment on those who don’t, but you can understand my concern that I’d be all, “been there…done that…[yawn]” while reading this. Well I needn’t have feared. Flinn deftly offers many tips and tricks that I’ve learned from AND yummy recipes that are accessible to all levels of home cooks. I’m currently excited about a certain tomato and shrimp recipe.
I still love, “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry,” the most. But maybe you always love the first book you read by a certain author the most (Loyalty, people! Loyalty!). Or maybe it’s just plain hard to compete with a story that takes place in Paris. But that’s not a knock against “Kitchen Counter.” I’m thoroughly enjoying this second culinary/literary output by this thoroughly talented author and highly recommend it to all.