Tag: Writing Inspiration

13
May

Writer’s Retreat

With the semester winding down, I am ready to focus all of my energy on writing and my upcoming book tour. Since the start of finals week, though, my batteries have been pretty low. As I worked on projects and essays, I kept thinking about how much I’d love to go on a writing retreat. If you’ve never had the opportunity, writing retreats are amazing, like a spa for your brain. You get to just focus on relaxing, getting your creativity flowing, and exercising your writing muscles. So, I’d love to go on a writing retreat, but I don’t have the extra money or time right now. But it got me thinking: why don’t I just have my own mini-writing retreat at home? Wouldn’t that be amazing?!

YES, it would be amazing! And that’s exactly what I am going to do. Wednesdays are my day off, and traditionally I’ve bogged them down with errands, chores, and other things that get in the way of my writing time. Today, I’m going on my very own retreat. The more I thought about it, the more I got excited. A retreat is a perfect way to get out of school mode and back into full-powered writing mode. To begin, I wrote down all of my favorite parts of going on a writing retreat and came up with a relaxing schedule for myself.

Julia’s Mini-Writing Retreat

7:00 a.m. Wake-up: brew a pot of mango green tea and write out goals for the day, and start writing!

A cup of tea can do a world of good

A cup of tea can do a world of good

9:00 a.m. Take a break for breakfast with Shane

10:00 a.m.-Noon Work on current chapter (goal #1 is to finish chapter by the end of the retreat!)

If you get stuck, try writing in a journal

If you get stuck, try writing in a journal

Break for lunch

1:00-3:00p.m. Continue work on chapter

Break for Yoga

Yoga helps me focus and relax

Yoga helps me focus and relax

Dinner: something delicious, healthy, and indulgent like this recipe for asparagus stuffed shells!

Relax: watch a movie, read a book, take a walk, spend some time in the garden…let my brain unwind for a bit

Before Bed: At least another half-hour of writing and set goals for tomorrow

Retreats are meant to be revitalizing and rejuvenating, so the important part of planning your own retreat is doing what is right for you. Whether you have an hour or a whole day, you can plan your own writing retreat. You can start with prompts from a writing guide (I recommend Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer), meditation, a run, some free journaling, a piece of chocolate cake–basically, whatever helps you get in the groove.

The most important part of a retreat is in the name: it takes you out of your normal world and helps you reconnect with your writing. For that reason, I’m going to take a break from social media for the day (after I post this) because it is the one distraction that draws me away from writing every time. So, no matter what you need a retreat for, turn off your cell phone, put your chores on hold, and have a wonderful time treating yourself.

See you when I get back! 🙂

Happy Wednesday!

What would your mini-retreat look like?

 

 

13
Apr

When Life Gives You Lemons: Write About It!

After this class is over, I want a t-shirt that says, “I Survived E-Publishing & Web Design L&I SCI 685.” The lettering would be all in gold glitter–possibly diamonds–because after this weekend, I deserve at least some glitter. Remember back on Friday how in my ignorant bliss I rambled on about my great writing groove and how much I’ve been writing? Enter, my web design project. I had planned to work on it Friday and Saturday night, and have it completed by the end of the weekend. Such innocence.

Long story short, I worked on the project for four hours on Friday only to discover that I hadn’t saved it in the correct format. Oh yes, there were tears.

It’s okay, I told myself. You’ve got all day Saturday. You can fix this.

I woke up extra early on Saturday to begin work. Two hours later, after managing to tweak the web layout with some simple code, I got a little cocky. I figured I was ready to make some big changes. And totally screwed the entire layout up, and I mean BAD. Everything went wonky because I deleted a few lines of code and couldn’t undo the damage.

As you can imagine, I reacted the way any 26-year-old professional writer and graduate school student would react: I threw a temper tantrum. Tears, yelling, throwing things across the room, I did it all.

When I finally calmed down, I realized I was overtired and did the only thing you can do after a temper tantrum. I took a nap. Yup, just like a five-year -old.

I’d forgotten just how magical naps are. When I awoke, my friend texted me and asked if I wanted to go HORSEBACK RIDING. I immediately turned from a five-year-old in to a twelve-year-old girl and squealed. After riding horses, we grilled outside because it was a gorgeous 60 degrees (I had no idea, being trapped in my cave of despair all morning), and ended up at the Roller Derby after dinner. Have you been to one? Imagine Xena in roller skates. It was crazy awesome, and I instantly wanted to be a Derby Girl–until my husband reminded me that I have a bleeding disorder.

*Sigh* Oh well, I’d just have to kick my assignment’s butt instead. Sunday, I did just that. I am proud to say that I made actual progress during the five hours I worked, and even got to play outside a bit and watch an old Donna Reed movie with Shane.

But why am I telling you all this? What does this have to do with writing? Nothing. I did absolutely no writing over the weekend. I hardly did any reading. I always hear people saying that writers write every day. If you are a writer and feel inadequate because you can’t commit that time, I am here to tell you that you are not alone. There used to be whole weeks where I didn’t get a chance to sit down with my thoughts. Months. It physically pained me not to write, but what was worse was the guilt: How can I be a writer if I don’t write?

Life happens. Sometimes you end up riding horses or screaming your head off at a roller derby. I wouldn’t have skipped out on those things for anything. In the long run, actually going out and experiencing life helps make me a better writer than staying cooped up in my cave and thinking about what they would be like. I planned on spending all of Sunday morning working on the sequel to Seven Stones, but I have a serious project due this week. So, what is a writer to do? Write a blog post about it! This is the first chance I’ve gotten to write for two days, so I figured I’d make the most of it. In my writing, I’ve learned that ALL experiences–good, bad, and ugly–can be used to your advantage.

Which brings me to my writing tip of the day. I’ve been reading Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. I’m not the biggest fan of non-fiction, so a writing guide has to be good to keep me turning pages. I’m happy to say that Writing Tools is full of inspirational tidbits and excellent workshop exercises to help get writers doing what we love best: writing! Here’s the tip that really hits home for me: Discount Nothing.

“Some days you will write many poor words. Other days you’ll write a few good words. The poor words may be a necessary path to the good words.”

As someone whose rewritten her current manuscript three times, I know that this is true. Words, whether they are gems or stinkers, are still words. Some days, you get to write them down. Other days, you just write them in your head. No matter what life throws at you, you are still a writer.

Here’s to a New Week of Writing! Happy Monday!

Ever have a story you wish you could write? What’s stopping you?

08
Apr

SEVEN STONES, Part 1: A Celtic Novel

The most frequent question I get asked about writing Seven Stones is where the heck I got the idea to combine Celtic and Ojibwe culture. The idea really seems to intrigue people (YAY! That was the hope!) because most wouldn’t have thought those two cultures have anything in common. Since it is such a fascinating topic to me (and hopefully my readers 😉 ), I decided to write a three-part post about the different elements of the writing process and how they all came together to form Seven Stones.

national-trust-for-scotland

Part One is going to focus on the Celtic aspects of the novel, Part Two will explore the Ojibwe elements, and Part Three will be about how I wove them together into a cohesive story. It was a fun, interesting, and ultimately organic process that lead to so many wonderful realizations, opportunities, and relationships. To get to the heart of Seven Stones, all I had to do was scratch the surface to see how these seemingly different cultures had so much in common. That is the goal of this whole endeavor, the reason why I wrote my novel: to show how when you just take the time to look, culture can bring us together instead of divide.

So! Without further adieu: grab a cup of coffee, maybe a lemon blueberry muffin, and read on!

Seven Stones, Part 1: A Celtic Novel

stone circle

Scotland has been a lifelong love of mine. Since I can remember, the craggy, heather-covered hills, windblown moors, and deep, mysterious lochs have held me in thrall. Everything about the land is seeped in mystery, drama, and a little bit of magic. When I set out to write a novel, I knew I wanted to capture that in words.

My fascination with Scotland and all things Celtic is in my blood. I am a descendant of Robert the Bruce (that guy from Braveheart? Well, not exactly historically accurate, but that’s my great-great-great-great-great x100 uncle) on my father’s side, something my family is very proud of. As a child, Scotland was always a wild, fairy tale land filled with castles, warriors, and the Fey. When I grew older, I devoured books on Scottish history and taught myself a decent amount of the Gaelic.

Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce

The history of Scotland is a proud one, but I wouldn’t exactly call it happy. Until recently (about 200 years, give or take), the Scottish people have fought constant power struggles with their neighbors, the English (or Sassenach, in the Gaelic). Ancient Scots were ruled by a clan (clann means “children” in the Gaelic) system. Each family was headed by a laird who provided land and protection in return for loyalty and service in times of war. During a time of English oppression, the Scots clan system was dismantled and Highlanders were forced off of their traditional homes, displacing hundreds of thousands of families. Speaking the native Gaelic language was outlawed and as a result, Scottish Gaelic almost died out completely.

I knew I wanted to incorporate some of that turbulent struggle into the story (and future stories!), and after researching Ojibwe history, I began to see the first parallels…but more on that next week. 🙂

200px-Triskele-Symbol1.svg

The bloody history of Scotland was inevitably intertwined with its mythology and religion. I was most interested in the Pre-Christian mythology, and was drawn to those ancient stone circles that dot the island. No one really knows how they got there or why they were built, but legends of their power have existed for centuries. Pre-Christian Scottish religion was deeply rooted in nature, so the stone circles are thought to have had a ritualistic or ceremonial purpose.

In Celtic mythology, dreams were sources of power, could provide glimpses of the future, and were closely connected to the spirit world. As stone circles were often known as portals to the Otherworld, dreams naturally played a big part in the legends surrounding the mystic power of the circles.

As a writer, that combination of mystery and drama is like chocolate to me–irresistible! So there I was with the beginnings of Seven Stones in Celtic lore and history. How did I decide to mix Ojibwe culture into the story? What kind of research did it take? Most importantly, how much chocolate did I eat during the writing process? The answer may shock you.

Find out in the next exciting installment of Seven Stones Part 2: An Ojibwe Novel coming soon to a blog near you! 🙂

If you want to learn more about Scottish history and lore, these websites were good starting places in my research:

Scottish History

Stone Circles

Happy Wednesday!

27
Feb

A Writer’s Road Trip

Friday Favorites: Road Trip Style

Road Trip Essentials: Notebook and a Clicky Pen

Road Trip Essentials: Notebook and a Clicky Pen

Who doesn’t love a road trip? Singing along with your favorite songs, hanging out with your best friend, and (of course) the snacks. Fresh and dried fruit, nuts, veggies, a mushroom pizza with truffled goat cheese, smoked mozzarella, and brie…I am all about the road trip snacks.

Road trips are a writer’s best friend. While I don’t usually write a ton during a trip, I am always looking out the window and tucking tidbits away for future stories. Writing is all about observing, and the constant change of scenery, people, and new experiences are an inspiration goldmine. Driving through the small towns that are sprinkled along the route often give me ideas for a setting. As cars pass me on the highway, I often wonder where that person is going or what her day has been like. Before I know it, I’ve got the beginnings of a story.

Most of all, road trips take me out of my element. When I’m traveling, my brain relaxes and just takes everything in.

9 hours is a long time, so you might as well make it fun. We do everything we can to make the trip part of the vacation instead of just driving time. Though there is quite a bit of napping, there is plenty of time to talk, laugh, and just enjoy some extra alone time. Some of the best memories of a vacation can come from the drive. Here are some of my favorite things about our road trip through Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin last weekend:

Duluth

A view from Enger Tower

A view from Enger Tower

I love this city. Shane and I went here on a mini-vacation last September and had a blast. From the lake walk to Enger Tower, this town has some seriously beautiful views. Every time we pass through Duluth, we make pull over at the rest stop just outside the city. Situated on a hill, the rest stop offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Gorgeous.

Wisconsin Cheese

I'm HOME!

I’m HOME!

I’m a cheesehead in every sense of the word. A road trip simply isn’t a road trip without stopping at one of the many local cheese stores and creameries. This past trip we visited Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet in DeForest and sampled dozens of cheeses from Vanilla-Carmel-Coconut Chevre to Bacon Muenster. In the end, we took home a pound of Brick cheese (my favorite), a pound of Smoked Cheddar (Shane’s favorite), and a half-pound of Ginger-Apricot Cheddar. Suffice to say that we’ve been enjoying exquisite grilled cheese sandwiches all week.

Audiobooks

The road goes ever on and on...

The road goes ever on and on…

Audiobooks are amazing, especially when you are as busy as I am. Between graduate school, the book release, writing, work, and life, finding time to read for pleasure is tough. With audiobooks, I get to read while I’m driving. They are freaking fantastic! For this trip, we brought along The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien is one of my favorite authors and Shane’s never read him before!) and Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan.

What is your favorite part of a road trip?

22 DAYS UNTIL BOOK LAUNCH!