8 Ways to Get Out Of A Book Slump

janko-ferlic-174927-unsplash

There are times in my life when reading comes easily. I can devour book after book and nearly every waking thought is about the story I’m reading and the next one I’ve yet to read. It’s an exhilarating feeling and often feels like it will never end… until it does.

Book slumps.

We’ve all been in them, so we all know how much they suck.

Book slumps are challenging and can be really frustrating. They can make you feel like you’re wasting your limited reading time. If you’re an avid reader, you know repeated weeks or months spent not reading can make life start to feel a bit bland. So how do you get out of this?

Well first, recognize that you’re in one. For me, this can look like picking up more than three books at a time and not getting very far in any of them because none seem to retain my interest. It can also manifest as me either not wanting to read or avoiding reading altogether. When I’m choosing to do anything besides reading I know that I’m probably in a slump.

Since I’m the type of person who feels it’s always important to be reading something, this is unacceptable. I know I’m not alone in this feeling. So here are a few tips and tricks I use when I need to get out of a book slump. Putting these to use typically help me snap out of it right quick.

1. Mix It Up

Of course the first step is to mix it up. Do you typically go for romance? Try a mystery. Purely a fiction reader? Try something non-fiction. If you’re stuck on sci-fi, go for something more contemporary. It’s not bad to have a favorite genre, but reading something with the same elements again and again can start to feel too repetitive, taking some of the magic away from the whole endeavor. Mixing things up can help renew your interest in reading in general, and then there’s the possibility of discovering a new genre you like. Win-win.

2. Mix It Up A Little More

If you’re constantly reading novels, try short stories. Into short stories? Try poems. Or maybe essays. Graphic Novels are always refreshing, at least for me. Similarly to the above, sometimes all it takes is a changing the type of book you’re reading for your interest to be renewed. Novel after novel after novel can be taxing. But going from novel to graphic novel to collection of essays can be just the variance you need to get you reading once more.

3. Read Shorter Works

If you’re picking up book after book and not getting through any of them, perhaps the problem you have is based on the length of the story. Once I wondered why I was having a hard time latching onto a new story when I realized that the book I had just finished was over 500 pages, and the new books I was attempting to read were about that amount, plus some. There’s nothing wrong with reading long books, but I do find that delving into a book that long takes some commitment. At the time, I just wasn’t up for that commitment. So if you want to read and you simply can’t seem to get back into it, opt for something you know you can fly through both to scratch that itch and to break the spell of just not being able to finish anything.

4. Re-read Something You Love

If reading itself is beginning to feel like a chore, then try re-reading a well-loved book. Chances are, it’ll help you remember why you love reading. Not to mention the physical act of making it through a book again can feel rewarding enough for you to get back to consistently reading.

5. Join A Book Club

Sometimes, taking the choice of your next read out of your hands can be exciting. And it could be that you’re in a slump because you’re overthinking your next read. So join a book club, and read whatever the current book choice is. Another benefit of this is that you’ll be held accountable by the others in your club to actually get through that book. It could be just the nudge you need.

6. Set Aside Time to Read

Life gets busy, and many times in the midst of it we stop doing the things that bring us joy. If you’re always on the move and don’t have a moment to sit down to read, well, that could be the reason you’re in a book slump. If you’re not making time for reading, it’s simply not going to happen. So be sure to plan a day, clear a few hours to actually sit down and read.

7. Go Where the Books Are

Go to a bookstore, a library, a book fair. Go to an author signing or reading or book conference. Surround yourself with books. Being in a book slump can knock the drive to read right out of you, so it can be refreshing to go to a place where you can’t help but think about reading again which can be just the kick in the pants you need.

8. Watch TV, Go See A Movie, Play Video Games, Etc.

If you’ve tried all of the above and still feel like you’re in a book slump, there’s a possibility you just need a break from reading completely. Try watching a movie, playing a video game or something else creative. While reading is rewarding it can also be mentally taxing, depending on what you’re reading. And it’s normal to want a break from some things you love. So don’t be afraid to wait until you really and truly feel the need to read again. And don’t worry, you will.

 

 

How about you? How do you manage to get out of a book slump? Do you use any of the ways I’ve mentioned, or something else?

 

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Delete, Delete, Delete: Reflections on Transitioning From Novel to Short Story Writing

delete, delete, delete.jpg

I want to say that over the years I’ve been writing I’ve managed to master multiple forms of the craft, but unfortunately, that’s not true. I’ve always had an interest in script-writing, but I just haven’t made it a priority. I loved writing personal essays, but haven’t done one since I’ve had a class that required me to. And I’m not sure I’ll ever muster up the desire to take another stab at poetry.

The truth of the matter is that since I’ve begun writing, my ideas have always been for novels. Almost any idea I have turns out to be an idea for a longer form of work.

I relish in the extensive planning, character building, and worldbuilding that often accompanies these ideas. Novels to me are gold. But although I love novels, I don’t want to be a writer who can only do novels. I still possess this desire to be well-rounded, which, in my mind, means experimenting with other forms of writing.

I take solace in the fact that one of my favorite writers, Octavia Butler, also saw novels as her preferred writing medium, which she mentions in  Blood Child, saying “I am essentially a novelist. The ideas that most interest me tend to be big. Exploring them takes more time and space than a short story can contain.”

Of course, all of this is said in the forward to her short-story collection. And if Octavia Butler can feel pretty much the same way I do and still write some kick-ass short stories, then I have to ask myself why shouldn’t I?

Why not short stories?

After all, a short story is only a shorter novel right? Well… yes and no.

I originally decided to try my hand at short stories because I didn’t think it would be that hard to make my ideas a little shorter. But, like most things that I assume will be easy solely because I don’t have experience with them yet, I was wrong. And if I’d thought a little more about it in the beginning, I would have realized that there are several things that you need to adjust to when transitioning from writing novels to writing short stories.

First, the arc needs to be smaller. That is to say – there needs to be only one arc and not multiple.

This is probably obvious. But it was hard in the beginning to adjust to the fact that I wouldn’t need to write multiple subplots worth of story. That I wouldn’t have to make pages worth of notes about all the characters, the world, the language, the politics, etc. That’s not to say that isn’t helpful and or necessary at times, but I found that as soon as I began doing this, my ideas suddenly wanted to morph into longer and longer stories and eventually become novels. Which is exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place.

And the other thing about short stories is you often need to adhere to a word count (if you’re going in for publication, especially), and when it comes to making sure you stay within your limits, the most important thing is to make sure you only keep in the story what needs to be there for it to progress. This is a difficult one for me. I love words. I’m terrible about being concise. And I often take twenty words to say something that could take two. It’s because of this that I’ve had to adopt a mantra when it comes to writing short stories.

Delete, delete, delete.

If you’re thinking of trying your hand at short stories, I suggest you adopt this mantra too.

So, if I find short stories pretty difficult and not always super fun, then why do I continue to try my hand at them? Because I firmly believe that the better you get with short story writing, the better you’ll be at novel writing. And besides, all writing is hard.

As previously stated, when writing short stories, you learn how to be concise. And being concise in your writing, being able to say what you want without confusing people is a wonderful skill to have. Making your writing sharper is something we should all strive for.

Then, there’s the fact the that short stories are, by definition, shorter than novels. Because of this, you’ll (ideally) be able to finish the story faster. If you can finish the story faster, then of course you’ll be able to see what it’s like to get to the finish line – to take a story from point A to point B successfully. And perhaps this doesn’t sound like a necessary thing, but if you’re anything like me and struggle with sticking with a story to the finish, then writing a short story may be a good idea. Seeing what it takes to finish a story can be both rewarding and educating, especially if it’s something you often have trouble with.

Writing short stories can also help you learn how to edit. You’ll have to edit to be concise, edit to make sure your writing it sharp and vibrant, you’ll have to delete, delete, delete. It’s all very important in the long run that you know how to edit something in full. Not to mention, it may be easier to edit something shorter to figure out your preferred editing style, as opposed to having to edit your full-length novel (which you will likely end up editing several times anyhow).

One last bonus for writing short stories: if you are trying to get published, you have a lot of options for short stories. There are many literary magazines and journals that call for short stories, and it can be useful to see what it takes to be published by submitting to these (also, you’ll be able to say you’ve gotten published, which, let’s be honest, is the bragging rights we all want).

So even though I consider myself a novel writer and longer forms of writing will always be my love, I still see the merit in getting some short story writing practice in. So why don’t you give it a try too? Who knows, you just might be surprised with how it transforms your writing.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

From Chair to Air: The What, Why, and How of Creating A Travel Vision Board

travel vision board

It happens every year around this time.

While casually scrolling through my Instagram or Facebook feed I’ll see photo after photo of friends on vacation in Spain or Thailand or Peru. All the travel bloggers I follow will begin posting more about their journeys because summer means longer days, warmer weather and more opportunities explore.  And then my grandparents will announce their latest vacation plans and leave before anyone has a chance to blink.

Every year I’m left wondering one thing: what the hell am I still doing here?

Despite my best efforts, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be one of those full-time travel bloggers whose lives both inspire and puzzle us (How do they make money? Seriously, who’s paying for this shit?).

After my first international trip abroad, I was determined to become one of them. I was certain it was what I wanted and that I’d be there in no time, but then it just… didn’t happen. Life and all of it’s fun and stressful surprises got in the way (hello student loans), and I found myself unable to travel as much as I wanted to despite the urge I had.

When I realized this, I sort of let my love and lust for travel slip into the background. I got into the routine of things, let myself enjoy the little taste and view into the world of travel that I got through social media posts.

But here’s a little nugget I’ve come to realize over the years: just because you can’t afford to pack up everything you own to travel full-time doesn’t make you any less of a traveler.

It just makes you a human person. Full-time travelers are the exception. Not the rule. Just think of all the people you actually know in real life. They’re not all Insta-famous travel bloggers, are they?

And anyway, just because you can’t travel now, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to travel any other time. You can’t let the routine of life make you forget that. So if you feel like you’ve been stuck and want to crave travel again, then I have a suggestion for you: create a travel vision board.

What is a travel vision board exactly? It’s a resource that will help you figure out where you want to go, encourage you to learn as much as you can about the locations before you go, and keep you constantly excited to get there. That way, life’s everyday necessities don’t quench your thirst for adventure.

Where you decide to create it is up to you. Use Pinterest, use Evernote, take it old school and use a binder and notebook. A travel vision board is something that I believe anyone who wants to travel more or get back into the spirit of traveling should have. Why? Because you’re not going anywhere if you won’t allow yourself to even think about it. Think of a travel vision board as a step on the way to buying your ticket.

Want to do it, but not sure what to even include on the your board? No problem. Below is a list of ideas of things to put on your board that will keep you inspired and get you ready to travel. Start with the below, and then see what else inspires and makes the most sense to you. To begin, try including:

  • Pictures of places you want to go
  • Inspiring bloggers/blog posts

  • Books (both non-fiction and fiction) about places you’re interested in
  • Maps
  • Restaurant Reviews & traditional foods
  • Information about customs in other countries

  • Information about flight deals, hotel/hostel deals, etc.
  • Language apps/learning tools

And of course, I’ll share a link to mine (right here), for those of you who like to see examples of what one can look like, though mine is by no means the rule, and you should format yours in the way that works best for you.

So what else can you think of to include on a travel vision board? And do you use one to inspire you to travel? If so, do you find it helps?

 

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

7 Places to Write Outside This Summer

digital-nomad-laptop-mockup-4778

There’s no denying that throughout the year we tend to write more at certain times than others. Take a minute to think about where and when you typically write. What do you think of as writing weather?

Fall and winter are typically the most popular times for writing. For one, these seasons are perfectly acceptable times to cozy up indoors, equipped with the excuse that the weather is too bad to go out. It helps that NaNoWriMo happens to be in the Fall. It also helps that many writers (myself included) are introverts who are perfectly happy staying in the comfortable bubble of our homes. When it comes to spring and summer, though… well, I know it’s difficult for me to stick to my writing goals when the sun’s out.

But if we’re serious about writing, then we should be writing at all times, not just when the weather inconveniences our outdoor excursions.

Writing isn’t and shouldn’t be seasonal, after all. And going outside to write can be surprisingly motivational. You can get some good dialogue bits (people watching and eavesdropping, anyone?), and it just might be the environment change you need to get through that scene you’ve been stuck on. We’re about halfway through the summer now. If you haven’t been writing all that much, do yourself a favor and take the time to recommit.

Don’t just enjoy the view from your window. Make a point of getting outside and getting some writing done while you’re at it.

Not sure where to go to write outside? Well, that’s what I’m here for. I’ve included both general ideas for those who live in different cities and specific recommendations if you’re in Seattle like me (us PNW’ers know we’ve got to take advantage of these precious months of sun while we’ve got them).

Now, no more putting off your writing until fall – get to it, writers!

1. Your Porch/Backyard

The simplest option of all. Take advantage of your backyard or porch by lounging out there and writing. As a bonus, you won’t even have to interact with other people. With this easy option, you get the benefit of being out in the sun and (technically) outside your house, while also staying close enough to skip the need for shoes, makeup, and regular clothes (writing pajamas anyone?).

2.  On a Hike

Kill two birds with one stone – get a nice workout and a get some writing done by going hiking with your notebook. This option presents yet another slim chance of human interaction (particularly if you go early), the exercise can stimulate your creativity, and being able to write while looking out over a beautiful vista is the stuff of dreams.

Seattle Rec: If you’re in Seattle – you’ve got a ton of options, but one of my favorites is Rattlesnake Ridge. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a hiker, but this hike is a good combination of easy enough for the unseasoned hiker, not too far from the city, and complete with a breathtaking view.

3. Coffee Shop Patio

Coffee shops are already welcome places for most of us, and many of them often have outdoor seating. If you’re a fan of this familiar option, you don’t have to change your favorite spot, but try grabbing that coffee and sitting down outside instead. Chances are, you’ll find yourself just as productive.

Seattle Rec: In Seattle your options for outdoor seating at a coffee shop are abundant, but if you need a new spot I’d recommend C & P Coffee Company. Located in West Seattle, this spot has a comfortable, homey feel (it was converted from a house to its current state after all). You’ll find outdoor seating in the front, but if that gets a little too loud for you (the front overlooks a busy street), then you’ll be happy to know there’s also space to write in the back patio area that doubles as a charming and quirky little garden.

4. Rooftop Bar

If you can deal with the inevitable noise that there will be at this location, then a rooftop bar might be great for you. Not to mention – if the bar’s got a rooftop location then it’s probably got a great view to go along with it. Bars are also great for people watching (and, let’s be honest, eavesdropping), which helps with dialogue. Go in the late afternoon or early evening, grab yourself a beer and get to writing.

Seattle Rec – Rooftop Brewing Company is a favorite pick for this. To be fair – it doesn’t have the greatest view that those hankering for a rooftop bar experience might desire. But it makes up for it with delicious, reasonably priced beer, unlimited (free) popcorn to snack on and a generally laid back vibe that feels more inviting than other bars in Seattle. They don’t have any food in house, but food trucks are often out front and who doesn’t love a food truck?

5. At the Park

Why not treat yourself to a picnic lunch and a little writing? Sit down at a table or bring a blanket and lay out in the grass of your neighborhood park. It’s there for a reason, so make use of it!

Seattle Rec – Jefferson Park in the Beacon Hill neighborhood can be a great option, especially if you want to go later in the evening. It’s at the top of a hill and doesn’t have a lot of shady spots, so going when the sun is at its highest point in the sky might not be the best course of action, but again, being at the top of a hill means it offers some seriously great views and of the city and the Olympics. Sunsets from this vantage point are gorgeous. The park is also large, so even when a lot of people are here, there are plenty of places to lay out without feeling crowded in.

6. On a Ferry/Boat

If you have access to a ferry, or you’re lucky enough to own a boat (or know someone who does), writing while on the water should be on your summer itinerary.  After all, who says you have to write while on land? Maybe you’ll even strike inspiration while afloat (pirates, anyone?). Being out on the water is a favorite summer pastime. And what better way to spend it than jotting down some of those ideas that have been bugging you all summer long?

Seattle Rec – The Seattle to Bainbridge ferry is a good one to take if you’re in the area. The ferry is large, has a decent crossing time (30-35 mins), offers some outdoor seating, and has place inside to grab coffee and a little snack if you get hungry. To avoid traffic, you may be better off walking on as opposed to driving, especially if you want to continue writing or adventure elsewhere once the ferry docks. After all, it’s only a ten minute walk from the Bainbridge ferry terminal to a variety of shops.

7. At The Beach

People like reading at the beach, so why not writing? Just be sure to bring a notebook to write in and not your laptop. No one wants to be picking sand out of their laptop for weeks afterwards. And if you really want the whole solitude at the beach feel just remember: the earlier you go the better.

Seattle Rec – Alki Beach may not be the prettiest beach (at least compared to beaches out of state), but it’s popular for a reason. It’s my pick because as far as Seattle beaches go, it’s technically one of the beachiest, and it’s great for both people watching and getting a bite to eat. Back behind the beach is a strip of restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream parlors and more. And across the water is, you guessed it, yet another great, unimpeded view of the city. Inspiration, motivation, answers to that burning question you’ve had about your story – they’re all bound to hit you out here.

 

So how about you? Do you have any particular places in your city that are your favorites when it comes to writing outside? Do you actually prefer writing during the summer?

Why You Need To Journal When You Travel

tumblr_mrkx4afDMG1qbxpdco1_1280

As a writer, I’ve always believed it’s important to keep a travel journal (and any journal, really), but have, sadly, been a little resistant to putting this idea into practice in the past. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that it’s not always easy to remember to journal when you’re on the move.

When I travel, I’m always trying to take things in and am so focused on what I’m experiencing that I  often don’t pay any attention to that blank little notebook in my bag. I want to keep my eyes open. I don’t want to sit down, jot a few notes about what’s happened and risk missing out on what’s happening at the moment.

And yet when I come back from a trip in which I didn’t journal, I tend to feel like… something’s missing.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned: experience is more than just the seeing. It’s the sights, the sounds, the smells, the feelings you have when you encounter new places, people and ideas. And sure, you can just depend on your memory when it comes to remembering and reflecting on the details of your trip. But writing things down brings them back to you in a way that our minds sometimes can’t.

And that’s the first and most basic reason you should journal while you travel: you’ll remember things you would have otherwise forgotten. Names of places, people, what you were wearing, what you ate, what you smelled, what you saw. Even if you’re not writing the most detailed account of your day, you’ll likely end up writing about something that you would have otherwise forgotten.

When you journal, and then re-read what you’ve written a a few months or years down the line, even the mundane details feel exciting. On my first night in Florence, I wrote about my experience eating at my first actual Italian restaurant. Before I read the entry all I’d recalled about that night was that I’d enjoyed the food and had drank maybe a little too much wine that night. But when I read back the entry, I discovered that I’d mentioned certain details that had escaped me since: the menu, hand written and completely in Italian so we’d had to guess with our orders; the children who had stared at us wide eyed and curious throughout the entire dinner; the chill in the air, since we’d chosen to sit outside even though it was a particularly windy night; and a bright white cat who walked back and forth between the tables and seemed to wink at us whenever it passed as if it knew something we didn’t. These had been insignificant little details when I wrote them, and perhaps they still are, but altogether they enrich my memory of the experience. They bring me back.

Being able to relive the experience through your words and getting back into the mindset you were in when you originally wrote the entry can also help when it comes to processing different emotions you might have on your travels. As long as you don’t sensor yourself in your writing (and why should you? This journal is just for you unless you choose to share it), you’ll be able to better understand why you might have particularly liked or disliked a place you went or an experience you had. And it could help you understand some of the difficult emotions you go through too.

Last year in Italy, I was confronted with the reality of my American privilege, something I don’t think of often. Living as a black woman in America where I feel the opposite of privileged, it was strange to have to come to terms with a privilege I do have, but rarely think about. I was angry when I wrote about it and confused and a little ashamed, but having had time to process those emotions since, I’m happy to be able to see how far I’ve come in my understanding since I wrote that hard entry.

So yes, journaling helps you to remember, it helps you relive, and it helps you to process. But more than anything, I think journaling while traveling helps to deepen your love of and appreciation for the place you’re in. Contrary to my initial belief about journaling taking me out of the moment, I find that when I do plan to journal, I’m much more likely to pay attention to the details in anticipation of writing them down later.

When I traveled to Ireland for my study abroad trip, our aim was to do a lot of note-taking, journaling and poetry writing about our experience. To this day, out of all my travels, the things I remember about Ireland are the most vivid. Trying your hardest to see, hear, taste, and smell in anticipation for writing about it later all makes you notice doesn’t take you out of the moment, the experience — it puts you right in.

So make an effort to journal the next time you travel. Take 30 minutes of your day before you go to sleep and jot down five things you did, saw, smelled, tasted, and heard that day and what you thought about them. Or do it while you’re on the bus or train. During breakfast, lunch or dinner. It can be as simple or as detailed as you want. And then, a year later, when you happen to come across those pictures you took again, you’ll be able pick up your journal and travel back to that exact time and place they taken and read a little note from you from the past. And you won’t regret it. I promise.

 

Do you journal when you travel? Why or why not? Do you find it’s as helpful for you when you recount your experiences? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. 🙂

 

Photo found here.

The Joys and Woes of Reading Slow

joywoephoto2

For the past four years, I have consistently failed my reading challenges. There are a number of contributing factors. It’s partially because I tend to set unreasonably high goals for myself. It’s partially for lack of trying and too much going on in my life. But yet another one of those is the fact that I can’t seem to pick up the pace when it comes to reading.

I’m a slow reader. And it’s not something that’s bothered me too much in the past (even while all my other reader friends zip through book after book as I tread my way through one), but as I see myself already falling almost ten books behind on my reading challenge this year, it’s made me think.

For one thing, it makes me question myself as a book blogger. And it’s also made me question if I can really call myself a voracious reader. After all, all other voracious readers and book bloggers I know can consume and pass through at least three books a week if they really try. And while I certainly do read more and enjoy reading more than a handful of my friends, I feel like without that element of quickness, describing myself as a voracious reader is a bit misleading.

Reading slow, purposefully or not is one thing that’s made me struggle with my perception of myself as a reader, but in brainstorming some reasons for why I don’t mind it (the joys) and why it bothers me (the woes), it’s given me some perspective on why I think this way, and even opened me up to different ideas about my reading style. I’ve listed them below, and I hope that it’ll open you up to exploring your own “reader’s identity” as well.

The Joys:

I have come to appreciate some aspects of being a slow reader. Even though it takes me a little longer to finish books, I tend to remember the books I read a little better. I have a habit of reading in bursts. I’ll pick up a book, read about halfway through and then put it down for a bit. This means when I come back to it, I usually have to skim through the part I’ve already read to get my bearings and remember where I was with the story. And doing this tends to make the story stick a bit better.

I’m not saying I remember every story I’ve ever read perfectly, but this help me when I’m reflecting on the story, remembering why I read it, and other impressions it left on me. I have a few friends who read books so fast, they can barely remember a thing about the book they’ve just read once they’ve finished it. Their method works for them and that’s fine, but when I finish a story, I want to remember why I liked or disliked it. I want to remember as much of it as I can.

Yet another benefit to reading slowly is that you’re maximizing the time you spend with books and characters you love. Ever sunk into a book that you just can’t get enough of and wished it could last even longer? Guess what, reading a book more slowly can do that! And sure I suppose this can work two fold and mean that you’ll also be spending time with characters and books you really don’t like. That’s just unavoidable sometimes. But it does bring me to my next point.

Being a slow reader makes you pickier about what you read since you know you’ll be spending a lot of time with it, and because of this, you’ll be more likely to pick up books you’ll like.  I should say this doesn’t mean that you don’t explore new books or move out of your comfort zone with your reading. But you’ll certainly think a little harder about what you want to read and spend your time with. And while it’s impossible to know whether or not you’ll really like a book until you’re nose-deep in it, it still is nice to have an idea of whether or not what you’re looking at next will be perfect for you.

The Woes:

And then there are the bad things about being a slow reader. For starters, it makes it hard to keep up with the books that are coming out, and easy to get overwhelmed with your reading list. I have no shame when it comes to expanding my book collection, but one thing I don’t like about it is wondering to myself if I’ll ever really get through all of those books. I know it’s not a race, but every added book makes me scratch my head a little more when I contemplate how, when, and if I’ll get through the latest stack.

Not only this, but reading slowly can make it harder to keep up with reading challenges, be they self-imposed, or book club deadlines. I desperately want to finish my 52 in 52 challenge this year, but again, being nearly ten books behind will certainly make that a bit harder than I anticipated. And I’ve been wanting to join a book club, but worry that even if I did a low commitment one, I might not be able to finish the books on time (which, admittedly, also has to do with my procrastination tendencies and my dislike of having other people tell me what and when to read things). Either way, reading slow doesn’t help with these.

And lastly, there are just some books that seem to take forever, and if you’re reading one of these and you don’t particularly like it, sometimes this can cause you to lose your reading mojo. I suppose this particular “woe” will apply more to someone like me who feels guilty if I don’t finish the books I read, but it can be hard to recover from this. Losing your reading mojo is one of the largest contributing factors to making you read even slower.

But even in the face of all these reading slow woes, I have come to realize one thing that stays true no matter what: it’s always better to read slow than to not read at all. So you shouldn’t put yourself down no matter what your reading quirks and habits may be. Just go on and finish that book. And then the next one. And the next one.

So what about you? Do you consider yourself a fast reader or a slow one? And do you see the benefits of either method? Do you like how you read, or wish you could change it up? Let me know in the comments!

 

Photo found here.

How To Read What You Write And Not Despise It

hownottodespisewriting

Have you ever been struck by an idea that inspires you to write without constraint or abandon and suddenly you’ve written a story so fresh and new and beautiful that you’re sure it’s the masterpiece you’ll forever be remembered by?

And then have you ever re-read that little masterpiece of yours right away and thought that it probably wouldn’t hold it’s own against a pile of horseshit?

We’ve all been there. Us writers can be unnecessarily hard on ourselves when it comes to our work, especially if we’re just starting out (and sometimes, in my case, even if you’re not). The problem is that it can be extremely hard to write down and capture the exact story you have in your head on paper and this is frustrating to no end. I can look at a story I’ve written that has received positive feedback from multiple people and still find reasons to despise it if it doesn’t match up exactly with what I wanted it to be.

But sometimes, there are actual moments when I get around that feeling, and can see my writing as something that, while it has its imperfections, isn’t just a steaming pile of hot garbage. These moments are golden. If I’m not busy crying over how much I hate my work and contemplating burning it all, I sometimes make an effort to do things that make me look at it more fairly. So I want to share some of them with those of you who also struggle with this. Because I promise you that unless you’re literally writing with poo, then what you’re writing is better than horse shit.

Time and Distance

I think this is one that is old, tried and true. Don’t read your stories right away if you can help it. Whenever I read the things that I write a day or two after writing them, I always find myself being overly critical, doubting my decisions, and my overall claim as a writer. I’m still too close to the story and still have that idealized version of it in my mind. Because of this I’ve learned to never trust that first read through. Instead, I like to give myself a few weeks or even months to forget it, work on other things, and come back to it with new eyes.

But even if you have read it too soon and decided you hate it immediately, not all is lost. In fact, when this happens, I find it easier to set it aside for a while and forget about it because my enthusiasm for it has waned. Sure, having to set it aside can be a bummer, but then, once I do find it again, I’ve usually forgotten most of what was written. This makes reading it a surprise.

For me, that surprise is the key to not hating a story I worked on. The further you get from a story, the newer it seems to you when you read it. And this newness helps you to look at it with more objectivity so you can approach it in the same way you might a new book — without any sort of preconceived disgust.

Reading Out Loud

Another little trick I have for not despising what I wrote is hearing it read out loud. You have a few different options for this.

First, you can just read it out loud to yourself. You have the benefit when you do this, of knowing exactly how you want it all to sound – the flow and speed of the paragraphs, the exact tone and delivery of the dialogue. Reading things out loud as opposed to in your head makes them sound different, unfamiliar. And again, it’s this unfamiliarity that can help you envision you story in a new way, so you don’t waste your time hating it outright. Not to mention, this is also great for editing.

Your second option is to have an online “narrator” read it. That is, you’ll listen to your work being read by some weird emotionless robot. Although it might be a little strange to listen to (and also a little hilarious for fantasy/sci-fi writers to hear the computer butcher your world names), removing the emotion from the reading process can help you see some of the bare bones of the story (and can help you catch some goofy spelling mistakes). You may have to tinker with a few of the options on these to get a voice that sounds the least robotic and reads at the speed that you want, but eventually you’ll find something you like. I usually use these sites if I’m opting for an online narrator.

Lastly, if your voice and robot voices just don’t cut it for you, you can ask a friend to read your story to you. This helps if you want to see and hear your work through someone else’s eyes. And because whoever reads it likely won’t read it in the same exact way you do, it’ll make your work sound new, unfamiliar, and hopefully, make it a little more interesting for you again. And a bonus for doing it this way: you’ll be able to ask your friend for some feedback on what they’ve just read, so you don’t have to go solely off of what you think.

Focus On the Positive

I know this one may seem hard, but one way to not despise what you write is to just try your hardest not to. Sometimes we get into the habit of disliking our writing so much that we feel like we have no choice in the matter. Well, you’re not pre-programmed to hate what you write. And if you feel that way, it’s time to rewrite the programming.

Instead of listing the things you can’t stand about your writing, how about just listing the things you do like about it. Are you particularly strong with dialogue? Awesome, focus on how you just killed it with that witty banter! Is setting your strong suit? Then admire how you crafted your world. Can’t think of anything? How about the fact that you actually wrote a story? And any story you do write, is one hundred percent better than one that you don’t write. So there, positivity.

Again, while it may feel natural to focus on all the bad stuff when it comes to our writing, taking a moment to look at what you’ve written and appreciating what you can do instead of what you can’t can be very beneficial. Hating your work ain’t going to get you nowhere, but being able to see it’s strong points in conjunction with its weaker ones sure will. No, it’s not easy, but honestly, what about being a writer is?

Know You’re Not Alone

And if all else fails, just know that you’re not alone on this struggle bus. Seriously, even some famous and seriously good authors have really struggled with liking their own work. To prove it (and if you’re the type of person who takes a special comfort in knowing that others who you really admire have the same problems you do) here’s some proof for you:

Octavia Butler hated her third novel Survivor so much that she repudiated it, didn’t allow it to be reprinted, and compared it to the “really offensive garbage” that she’d read when she was younger.

When Mark Twain began working on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he told his friend that he liked it “only tolerably well, as far as I have got, and may pigeon hole or burn the MS when it is done.”

Franz Kafka especially hated his work, and asked that all of his work be unread and burned upon his death. And even while he was alive, he apparently burned almost 90% of his work.

Feel any better about your own struggles now? Good. Just don’t go Kafka on us, and burn all of your work. Your writing deserves to live. Promise.

 

How about you? Do you struggle with liking what you write? Do you use any of these techniques when it comes to reading your work objectively or have any tricks I haven’t mentioned here? Let me know in the comments!

 

Photo found here.

Awkward Travel With Chels: Accidental Cock-Blocking in Rome

DSC_0329 - Copy (2)

I look naked. I wasn’t. I promise. Here’s an awkward photo. Below’s an awkward story. All things in harmony.

I wish I could say that I was one of those flawless travelers. You know, those put-together, insta-famous wizards of photography, who manage to charm and entice common folk like me into thinking we can become like just like them and travel the world without abandon or constraint. But that’s just not who I am as a person.  I’m more of the bumbling, nervous type who manages to look lost and confused almost any time I set foot outside my house. And this awkwardness likes to manifest itself when I’m traveling abroad.

So I’ve decided I’m going to share a story of one of my more embarrassing experiences I had while traveling abroad because we all like a good laugh/cringe don’t we? I’d originally planned to compile three of these moments into one post, but I’ll start with just one, so I can keep at least a shred of my dignity. Please do enjoy laughing at my expense, though.

This one happened in Rome, and to be honest, it’s one of those situations where I’m really not sure who it was more embarrassing for.

Peter and I were in Rome during the key month you want to go there weather-wise, which is the beginning of July. Needless to say, we were both sweating buckets on a daily basis. I’d taken to wearing only dresses while there since there really wasn’t anything else I could wear that I didn’t make me want to die as soon as I stepped outside into the lovely, welcoming 90+ degree heat.

Now, I know this probably sounds irrelevant and like way too much information, but I promise I’m going somewhere with it: my thighs touch when I walk. And my fellow thick thighed lady humans will know that the problem of wearing dresses in the heat is that as you’re walking around without pants to keep your thighs from making sweet, sweet love to each other, they rub together to the point where, especially if it’s hot and especially if you’re walking several miles a day, a lovely, burning chafing begins to appear. I’d planned for this and had been wearing spandex under my dresses to avoid it. But on this particular day, in a rush to get to Vatican City early enough to beat the crowds, I’d forgotten. This made for a very painful experience and a very cranky Chelsea.

Once we’d finished our morning extravaganza, I forced my boyfriend and I to walk back to the hostel so that I could have a quick change that would give my poor thighs, some much needed relief. We also thought it might be nice to have a little siesta before we went out to explore again.

Our hostel, like most, was a building that benefited from having an exceptional photographer for their website. The real life version was less modern and more dilapidated. As we walked into the quiet building, smelling the familiar smell of travelers come and gone (a mix of sweaty bodies, old, spilled wine, and dust), I felt as if there was a weird energy in the place that hadn’t been there before, but I shrugged it off.  I think some part of my brain knew what we were about to find.

We chatted quietly as we ascended the stairs, wondering if our hostel mates were going to be there too, which might disrupt our napping plans. There was nothing particularly wrong with the two as we’d discovered when we’d chatted with them the night before. One was a girl who seemed to really like the sound of her voice and enjoyed relaying her travel stories more than any of us enjoyed hearing them. And the other was a guy who didn’t speak nearly as much, but looked at us all with a mix of disinterest and disdain.

As we got to the door, I found myself feeling the same weird energy again, my subconscious giving me another moment to back out, but of course, I ignored it in favor of finally getting my hands on those spandex. My thighs were positively burning. So, I unlocked the door and discovered what the weird energy had been all along.

Our hostel mates were there after all… but at the moment they were both in way less clothing than we needed to see them in and having such a hardcore make out session that I wasn’t sure that they weren’t actually trying to chomp each other’s faces to bits. Neither had bothered to even look up at our sudden, not at all quiet, intrusion.

Now I’m sure most people may have simply backed away, left and ignored the situation (which, to his credit, Peter did), but I was so caught of guard both by what they were doing and their complete nonchalance about being caught, that somehow I managed to convince myself that maybe there wasn’t actually anything weird about this after all. I mean, it’s not like they were having sex… they were clearly about to, but I could easily get in and out before they started that and without making this thing weird, right?

With that thought, I resolved that me getting my spandex was more important than leaving them some privacy to continue their shenanigans (after all, we’d all payed for a shared room and I wasn’t about to be kicked out), I walked into the room, feeling my face burning from more than just the heat, and began sorting through my suitcase for the spandex.

They took a little longer to find than they should have. As I rifled through clothing and the seconds ticked on, the shock began to dissolve to panic as I became relatively certain that I had made the wrong decision. What sort of weirdo was I to stay there in the room while they were clearly trying to get it on? Or were they the weirdos for continuing (and ahem, I could hear them continuing), as we walked in? Did they even know I was still here? And, oh god… did they like that?

I found the spandex. I put them on. My cheeks were still heated from embarrassment as I turned around to leave and discovered that in the time it had taken me to slip on the beloved shorts, the canoodlers had ceased their canoodling and were now staring straight at me. Neither, had bothered to cover up their nakedness. I tried to focus on making eye contact.

“Um… hello,” was the only thing I could think of to say.

“Hey, what’s up?” Was the reply.

We then continued to have a lovely conversation about what Peter and I had done that day, where we were headed next and how fun Rome was. And then, polite and awkward small talk over, I finally rushed out the room, feeling more than a little unsettled about the events that had just transpired.

By the time Peter and I got back that night, they were sleeping, and by the time we woke up in the morning, their suitcases were packed and they were gone.

Looking back, I have to say that I’m fairly certain I handled that entire situation poorly. And if a similar situation arose again, I would most definitely leave any future canoodlers to simply… canoodle.

But we have to look on the bright side of all of this and in the end, hey, at least my thighs were happy.

So, what about you? Do you have any awkward travel stories to share? Has something similar ever happened to you? Either share in the comments of link to a post if you have one. Lord knows I need to read about other people being awkward af to know that I’m not the only one…

 

Best Music For Writing Fantasy Stories

fantasy_town-wallpaper-960x600

Ah, fantasy. What fun it is to be spirited away on adventures of magic and mystery through worlds fraught with powerful creatures, enigmatic strangers, and sprawling landscapes! As a writer, music is the number one thing to get me in the mood to write, but when it comes to writing fantasy stories, I find I often have to be a little more choosy.

Is it just me or can it be a little hard to get into the fantasy writing mood when you’re listening to some of the happiest, bounciest pop songs on the radio today? And even if you don’t have terrible taste in music like me and listen to music that’s more words, instrument, and emotion than bounce, sometimes it can be hard to find music that can really transport you into the world of your creation. Which is why I’ve done my best to find the best sources for fantasy inspired music that can do just that.

While I don’t have any specific song recommendations because I tend to just use streaming services and pre-made playlists rather than curate my own stuff, I think that if you’re looking for the perfect songs to go with your fantasy novel, you’ll probably be able to find them through one of these services. Happy listening my fellow fantasy nerds!

Continue reading

You’ve Got Your Idea, Now What?: How To Make It From Idea to Writing

typewriterdesk

A common question often asked of writers is some form of where they get their ideas. And I suppose it makes sense. When you read a book you find mind-blowingly good, it only seems natural to want to know how the author got their idea and what inspired it. But here’s the thing: as a writer, I’ve often found it tedious and pretty useless to list off where I get my ideas because the real and honest answer is this: everywhere.

Sometimes it’ll be from a line in a book, an imagined alternate ending to a movie, a set of lyrics from a song I really like. It might come to me from an overheard conversation, an imagined history for a person I see on the train, a suggestion from a friend. Sometimes, if I stare out my window long enough, an idea will come to me, if sleep doesn’t first. But what I’m really trying to say is ideas come from everywhere, but particularly from unique experiences, and just knowing where or how someone got their idea might not make it any easier for you to find your own.

If you intend to write a story, I think the better question to ask when it comes to ideas is how you grow an idea as opposed to letting it die a slow and painful death. Ideas can come easily (if you’re really looking) and manifest in the strangest of places, but I think it’s harder to know what to do with them once you have them. So this post is for those who need a bit of direction once you’ve got an idea that you want to see turn into something more.

Continue reading