Friday, February 25, 2011

So You Think You're A Writer?

Many times in my life I have wondered if I could legitimately call myself a writer.  I've always struggled with the belief that you have to do something "grand" like write a book in order to accept that title.  I don't feel that way anymore.  Time and a little bit of wisdom have transformed those beliefs, and now I know that writing comes in many shapes and sizes.  Here are just a few thoughts I have that might help you realize if you are a writer or not.

  • If you have a burning desire in your heart to string words together in order to create a written piece of work you might just be a writer.  This work can be anything from a resume, to a press release, to a book.  These are all creative expressions and are thoughtful and artistic in their own way - they are created by writers.
  • If you find yourself reading articles, books, or anything else of that nature, and you are suddenly stricken with an idea to write then you might just be a writer.  These ideas don't always come while reading though.  Sometimes it's while you are doing the mundane tasks of every day living like washing the dishes. 
  • If you often find yourself running for a scrap of paper, a napkin, or something that you can write an idea down on before you forget it, then you are quite possibly a writer.  Of course, then finding these scraps in all locations around your house is also a good indication.  
  • You might especially be a writer if you are one who has ideas, but forgets them before you get a chance to write them down.  It is so frustrating when this happens. Of course, it's always those ideas that would have been your best story yet - maybe even your Pulitzer Prize winner!
  • If you sit down to write, but then become immobilized by your fear of what might or might not happen - like failure, success, or the fear that someone might actually read it - and instead you do a load of laundry, then you might be a writer.
  • If you find yourself reading blogs, books and magazines on writing all the time, then you better get on it because a writer is surely living inside of your heart. 
  • If you write anything, even if it's only journaling, and what you write is coming from your heart, then you are a writer!

These are only a few examples that popped into my head - things that I often experience or feel.  It's different for everyone.  For many it's a very private and personal thing, and for others there's nothing quite like seeing their own creations in print.  What defines being a writer in your eyes?   

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Readers, Readers Everywhere

    This week's Sunday paper had an article in it about Borders' financial woes.  This popular book store has been in business for over 40 years and at one point was booming above all others in the book business.  In fact, according to the article, they were even leaders in book sales for a short time because of the great deals they offered their patrons.  Now like so many other businesses today, they are facing bankruptcy and maybe even closure because of an apparent inability to keep up with the times.

    For Borders and even smaller book stores, competition is undeniably rough right now.  The options for reading enthusiasts out there are endless.  Not only do you have websites like, who sell books at great prices, but every day new technologies are popping up that make book buying and reading simple, inexpensive, and extremely convenient.

    Popular reading devices like Amazon's Kindle or even Barnes and Nobles Nook enable people to purchase great reads right from the comfort of their own home.  Many downloads are free, and online competition  for book sales allow customers to find prices suitable to their budgets.

    Of course, on the spot downloads are not the only advantage to owning one of these great little pieces of equipment.  Many come with all sorts of neat features.  For example, for those who enjoy the learning curve of reading, words with unclear meanings can be highlighted, clicked and then instantly defined - never even having to leave your seat to grab a dictionary.

    I have to admit, I don't have a Kindle or a Nook, but I do have a Sony Reader.  My sweet husband bought it for me for Christmas.  It doesn't have all the fancy bells and whistles of the aforementioned devices, but it is awesome.  I love it and as much as I enjoy the feel of a new book in my hands, or the smell of an antiquated classic, I certainly enjoy the convenience of being able to get a new book the second I finish one.  Let's face it, with four children, simply hopping in my car to go to the bookstore or library is not always an option for me.

    Of course, these reading devices are only a drop in the bucket of new technologies in the reading world.  There are now downloads for iPods and MP3 players, the fancy new Apple iPad e-readers, and of course, who could forget e-books?  Without a doubt there's something as simple or as fancy as any individual's preferences out there.  

    For loyal Borders customers, there's good news.  Most of their stores will remain open for a while.  Hopefully, they can jump in on the technology bandwagon and boost up enough sales to make it through these tough economic times.   And of course, for those who love to read, the sky is the limit!

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Three Ways to Become a Better Writer

    For some people, like my husband for example, the act of writing is about as enjoyable as cleaning the bathroom toilet, yet for others it exhilarates - it's the very breath of their life.  Ever present thoughts of writing invade their head at convenient and inconvenient times alike.  But the question is, how do great writers do it?  How do they become successful?  Do they possess a secret that's only revealed to a chosen few, or are they simply born with the talent?  Over the years, I have learned a few pointers that have helped me improve my craft.

    The first thing is to remember, especially for those who are just starting out, that writing doesn't always come easy.  It's a common misconception to think that the great writers of our time, and even those of our past, simply put pen to paper and wrote great pieces of literature.  This isn't so.

    Yes, occasionally ideas will pop into your head and it all flows from there.  More often an idea will come, but finding the right words is done with great difficulty.  Yet at other times you find yourself staring at a blank screen or piece of paper with no ideas or anything. 

    Good writing takes time, practice and hard work - sometimes many hours of hard work.  You can guarantee that a nicely crafted article or book has spent its fair share of time in the revision bin.   

    Another way to improve your writing may almost seem too good to be true - if you like reading that is.  With the fast-paced life that many of us live, it may be hard to carve out extra time for reading, but if you can neither you nor your writing skills will regret it.

    Reading goes beyond the obvious learning that you obtain from studying the latest self-help book.  What happens is an interesting transformation that can be likened to moving to a new region.  When a Northerner moves down South, he takes his own accent and dialect with him.  After living down there for a while he begins to take on the Southerner's drawl - without even realizing it. 

    Reading books helps you absorb styles, ideas that you might not have thought of prior to, and even vocabulary in much the same way as the Northerner absorbs his changes in speech. 

    In her book Bird By Bird, Anne Lammott says of reading, "What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die."

    It's these very worlds that she speaks of that broaden our horizons, that give us new insights and perspectives - new understandings to the human emotion, and even ideas for our own stories.  Just consider it grist for the  mill.  

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, one of the best pieces of advice I could give is to write, write, and write some more.  The most productive times in my life as a writer have always been when I was writing a lot.  Ideas actually were popping into my head out of nowhere.  Articles were coming together and writing felt as though it was coming from my heart, not just something I had to do. 

    The more you write, the better you get, the more passionate you feel.  The more passionate you feel, the more you want to write.  It's a cycle that breeds not only productivity, but also the kind of practice that makes an excellent writer.  

    Writing can be many good things to many people.  But remember, it is hard work, there's always more to learn, and practice does make perfect.  Keep those points in mind and if writing is the desire of your heart, you are sure to be destined for greatness!

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Happy Valentine's Day!

     What better day to start blogging again than on Valentine's Day!

    This last year has been very busy for me.  On May 19th I gave birth to our fourth (and final) child, Giana Rose.  The name Giana means God is Gracious, and let me tell you, He really is!  She is the light of our lives - just like our other girls - but such a pleasant nature has she!  I always say her name fits her because God knew that a nice disposition for a fourth child would serve me well on many days! 

    With a 15-year-old and an almost three-year-old, our house always has plenty of tantrums and drama to spare, yet it's also never lacking in fun, humor, and most of all LOVE.  Life is interesting.  Life is busy.  Life is good.

    Having all these babies has definitely changed the trajectory of my writing career.  I have kept up with my a degree.  I have done whatever writing that my full-time commitment to raising my girlies and my sometimes lacking energy levels have allowed. 

    Of course, I would like to say that I have been very productive with my writing, but that would be a flat-out lie, and even a tad-bit unrealistic.  I know that now is the time for me to enjoy my family.  Having a 15-year-old, I know all too well how quickly children grow.  This period in my life is fleeting and my first and most important priority and obligation is to them.   

    Until life slows down a bit, I will continue to give writing whatever remains of my time and energy - like posting here, even if it is just occasional - and keeping up with my writer friends who are always an inspiration to me. 

    As for Valentine's Day, remember that having someone special doesn't have to be a spouse or a significant other.  Our lives are filled with friends and family who are there for us during the good and bad times in our lives.  We should remember them daily and count our blessings for them, but since they make a special "love day" take a few moments to tell them how much you care - and a few moments to remember how much you are loved too!

    Happy Valentine's Day to you all!