With some people in my life, I've spoken at length about my writing dreams. But what many people don't know is that I'm haunted by them. I think it's actually quite common, to be haunted by your unachieved dreams. However, that's not all I'm haunted by. I'm haunted by story ideas, characters who beg to be written, and feelings that need to be given a home on paper. These ghosts are incessant. They are always behind me, tapping me on the shoulder. When I turn around, they're waiting for me. Silently waiting. Watching me. Making me remember that they're there and they will not be ignored.
But as friend and fellow blogger, Amanda Creasey from Mind the Dog Writing Blog, told me earlier this week, "There are worse things to be haunted by."
And she's right.
I'm not bothered one bit by the hauntings. I'm only bothered that I haven't figured out to make it come to life, how to bring my dreams to reality. So, this weekend, Amanda and I both agreed to write a post about our writing dreams. So, make sure to check her blog and read her post.
My Writing Dreams
Writing is Painful
Just because I enjoy writing doesn't mean it's easy. And many times, it's not even enjoyable. In fact, it can be downright painful. But you know what's more painful? Not writing.
I participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every year. Those 30 days are difficult. Beyond difficult, actually. I still work my two jobs and then somehow find time to write a novel. And when I'm ripping my hair out to meet word counts and to fit everything in or even if I'm trying to figure out what my character wants to do next, my husband has asked why I keep writing if I hate it, if it's hard.
I don't hate writing, but it is hard. I write because it's my soul's calling, if you will. My soul needs it. The only way I can explain it is that I feel I'm meant to write, and only then can I find peace...until the hauntings start again.
But you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. Writing on my own terms brings me fulfillment, peace, and joy. It gives me a place that I feel I belong. It gives me some of the missing puzzle pieces inside me. It helps me better understand myself, my experiences, and the world and people around me. It makes me more human.
But the only way for me to achieve those writing goals and bring my writing dreams to life is to just go for it. I have to make sure I make progress and push myself. Otherwise, I'm just going to get stuck where I am, being haunted forever by the what-ifs and what-might-have-beens.
What are your writing goals? Have unachieved dreams or characters haunted you?
For writers, books are oxygen. At least they are for me. There's so much I can learn from other writers, and I'd be foolish not to try to learn everything I can about the art of writing. But collecting books can be expensive. Fortunately, I've found ways to build an awesome collection without breaking the bank.
1. Scour Second-Hand Stores/Garage Sales/Estate Sales
This is probably a given, but I've found some of the most beautiful books at these places. While they're not free, you can get a killer deal. And the fun of it is that you never know what you'll discover. There's something special about that.
2. Goodreads Free Books
Did you know that you can enter to win free books (many times they're advanced reading copies) from Goodreads? It's fantastic. I've received close to ten free books this way. Sometimes they're not great, but then there are other times that you find a new favorite. If you ask me, that's well worth it. Plus, hello, it's free.
3. LibraryThing Free Books
LibraryThing has a similar free book program to Goodreads's program. You can enter to win free books. You just have to scroll through the options and pick the ones you'd love to read and review.
4. Review Exchanges on Author Sites
Some authors offer free books to help spread the word about their published works. Just recently, I came across an offer, and I took it. I just needed to read and review an author's newly published book. I had only a few days to do it, but I can't say no to a free book. I barely made the deadline, and a free book of my choice is coming my way soon.
Start following new authors, and be on the lookout for opportunities of your own.
5. Attending Workshops or Conferences
Attending writing workshops or conferences can earn you a free book, too. Last year, I attended a writing workshop, and after the class, the author gave a free book to each attendee. All she wanted in exchange was an honest review.
6. Free Gift for Webinar Attendance
I signed up for and attended a free writing-related webinar, and the first 100 people got a free book mailed to them, the book covering the topic of the webinar. It wasn't the reason I signed up for the webinar, but it was a nice bonus.
7. Public Library Book Sales
I saved the best for last. This is my FAVORITE way to build my book collection. It's not free, but it's so cheap that it might as well be. I wait all year for this. While you can generally always go to the for-sale section of your library and buy throughout the year, the big book sales will blow your mind.
And this year, I get to go to two! I went just a few days ago, and I bought six books for 3 1/2 dollars. For real. It's pure gold.
How have you built your own book collection without breaking the bank?
Mark Twain is sometimes credited with this quote: "Write what you know."
That quote has been tossed around in the writing world over and over again. I know I've heard it countless times, and I thought I knew what it meant. It's obvious, right? Write about things that have happened to you. Write about people you know, the things you've done. That's how you make writing authentic, right? Base everything you write on your own life experiences.
Well, partly wrong.
There is nothing wrong about writing based on your own life events. There's gold there. But I think the real meaning of that quote is all about emotions, not events.
Write what you know. Write what you feel. Write what you have felt.
Explore those base and complicated emotions in your writing. How did you feel when your first pet died? You experienced grief, sorrow, confusion, and pain. Use that to write. You don't have to make your characters lose a pet to use those personal emotions. You can use your own pain and grief as inspiration for your characters, but use it in a different way. The feeling will be authentic, even if the events themselves never happened to you.
That's the beauty of writing - that an author can make the reader feel, and feel deeply. How is it that you can read a fantasy novel based in a world that doesn't actually exist, and you can feel along with the character? It's because those root emotions the author uses are real.
Think about the last book that made you feel something. Was it because the character reached the finish line? Or slayed the dragon? Or stood up to their abusive family member? No. It was because of the emotions attached to those actions and experiences. It was because of that feeling of triumph, of accomplishment, of pride, and of relief. You felt along with the character because you've experienced those same emotions or feelings, or, at the very least, you're able to empathize.
Emotion is universal. We can all understand it, even if it's based around made-up people in made-up worlds. No matter what, we all feel the same things in the same ways. That's what builds connections between readers and characters. That's where the magic lives.
Writing what you know is about emotion, not events.
So, take a moment and write down or mentally explore things that happened to you in your life that made you feel deeply. Analyze those feelings. Understand why you felt that way.
And then start writing.
For years I've heard that happiness is a choice. I've struggled with that idea for a long time, but for the last few years, this idea has gnawed at me. And I've finally figured out why it bothers me so much.
The Basics of Emotions & Why We Need Them
Why do we feel? And why do we feel so deeply and with a variety of emotions? For me, the simple truth is that we're supposed to. As humans, we are complex, and that explains why we can have complicated and complex emotions throughout life.
If something makes us upset, I think that's perfectly normal. If something makes us sad, that is fine. That's a part of the human experience. I believe it's OK to be angry, sad, overwhelmed. And It's OK to feel happy.
We are given emotions so that we can process the events around us and those things that happen to us and those we love.
But emotions also help us realize when something needs to change. If we are unhappy, angry, sad, or whatever, something is wrong. Something has bothered us. Something rocks us to our core. Something may have even broken us apart inside.
So what do you do with that emotion? How do you channel it?
The Facade of Happiness
Happiness exists. In its true form, it’s beautiful. I've known moments of real happiness, and I cherish those times. Am I happy all the time? No, definitely not. Do I need to be happy all the time? I don't believe so. I don't think life is supposed to be only made up of happy moments or happy feelings.
I'm not saying you shouldn't try to see the good in situations. I think that's a valuable skill to have. I'm not great at it, but I can definitely appreciate its value. If you can find the beauty in any situation, more power to you. I think that's wonderful.
The Need for Change
My problem isn't with happiness in general or even being a natural or learned positive person. I have a problem with faking happiness for the simple fact of faking it, to appease, to fool yourself, to not deal with the truth in front of you. That doesn't benefit anyone, not even yourself. You can fake an emotion all you want, but deep down inside, your true feelings are there waiting. And they will come out one way or another.
Let me keep this general for a little while longer. If you don't enjoy your work or how someone treats another person, perhaps you should take a moment to understand why you're upset about it. Or maybe you feel stuck in your life and you feel like you want to claw your way out by any means necessary. Whatever your specific situation, know that these aren't hopeless feelings. In fact, they can become quite the opposite.
Use that disappointment, anger, fear, sadness, and anxiety as fuel - fuel for change. Change your life. Change your circumstances. Change Yourself. Change your surroundings. Change the world.
Don't sit by and allow the facade of happiness fool you into complacency. Seek for real happiness, and sometimes that will mean changing yourself. But sometimes that means taking a stand, taking action, and making a difference.
Think about it. What if Rosa Parks pretended to be happy with the social inequalities of the time? Change would've never happened.
What if Martin Luther King, Jr. ignored the injustice around him because his anger or disappointment made others feel uncomfortable?
What if Mother Teresa decided that she could just pretend to be happy and ignore the sadness and suffering all over the world?
How It Applies to Writing
What do you want to do with your life? Do you feel the drive, the need to write? How about being published? How about just expressing yourself through the written word?
What makes you unhappy about your current life? Are you meeting your writing goals?
I can tell you that I'm not. A few days ago, I just wanted to give up again. Just wanted to accept my life as it is. I was giving up and giving in to broken dreams and unfulfilled hopes. And then I read this blog post from Mind the Dog Writing Blog about never giving up, and it gave me some hope back.
So what have you been putting off? Have you always wanted to write a book? Write it!
Have you always wanted to start a blog? Start it!
Do you want to learn a new style of writing? Learn it!
Do you want to share your writing with just one person? Don't wait. Share it.
What have you done to change your own life? What have you changed to work toward your own writing or life dreams?
Earlier this year, I went to a ANWA writing workshop (read the blog post about that here). It consisted of a four-hour class with author Janette Rallison, and then finished off with a writing critique group, led by Rallison.
During the class, Rallison handed out free copies of one of her books, My Fair Godmother. I'll never refuse a free book, but I'll be honest, I didn't think I'd like it that much. I love YA literature, but from what I understood about the book, it seemed a little too high school to me. I've never gotten into that genre, except maybe when I was an actual teenager.
But because I took the free book, I figured I should just get through it so I could leave a review and complete my end of things.
Within the first couple pages, I was hooked. The story was so much better than I expected. I loved how it wasn't completely set in the real world, and how there was a magical element. It incorporated classic fairy tales, and Rallison had a lot of great humor in there. In one word - fantastic. I couldn't wait to keep reading this book, and I was bummed whenever I had to stop.
Her story's concept is very clever, and definitely not what I expected. Think about it; what would happen if your fairy godmother was only an average student? What kind of trouble could you get into if she didn't ace her godmother classes or even pass her tests? I love that idea!
Here's what I learned. Not everyone has to like every genre, but you can't judge a genre if you've never read it. But most importantly, you can't judge a book by its genre.
I also realized that I have a lot I can learn from Rallison. She's a solid writer, and she knows what she's doing.
You can find her book here:
I'm an adjunct creative writing professor and freelance writer, but I dream of being a published novelist. This is my journey.