Joanna Penn is a New York Times Bestselling Fiction author, but she’s also the host of one of my favorite podcasts and, in my opinion, the hands-down best online resource for indie writers out there. Here books are awesome (you can try one out for free here or here) and you can literally hear her smile on her podcast. If you’re thinking about indie publishing, listen to her old episodes, read her blog, and heed her advice. When I’m doing research on indie pub issues, my first Google searches always include “Joanna Penn.”
I feel like I’ve written about writing prompts before, but I’m trying to get this post and another out before I go to yoga this morning.
Let me just break off for a moment and say: I NEVER thought I would like hot yoga. Ever. I hate being hot. I hate sweating. I hate that “Oh my gosh I can’t breathe it’s too hot I’m suffocating” feeling. HOWEVER, I don’t know why I tried it, but I did. Hot Vinyassa Flow. And it is AWESOME. I really don’t “feel” the heat in the same way I did, say, doing the Music City Triathlon in 2010 when the heat index was 108. I get out and want water, absolutley, but I don’t feel like I’m going to puke.
(Okay, that’s a lie. Sometimes, when we get really into it, I do feel like I’m going to puke. Which is why I only drink tea and water before class.)
Anyway…Hot yoga. Don’t knock it ’till you try it.
Back to the prompts!
I’m a huge fan of writing prompts. All of my short stories started out from prompts. (None of my novels so far, but that’s not to say it won’t happen.) I’ve used prompts differently over the years, but the biggest was when I didn’t have a daily writing practice, I would always start out with a prompt. Read it, 15 minutes of free writing on the prompts, and then get to work on whatever project it was I was doing at the time (probably Home. Seems like it’s always Home.) I’ve got several books of prompts and have used various sites over the years, but lately I’ve been using a lot from Charlotte Rains Dixon’s Tumblr: Inventive Writing Prompts. Full disclosure, I know and love Charlotte, she’s mentored me through The Writer’s Loft/MTSU Write program and I’ve read her books and she’s just plain awesome. Which is why I highly recommend you check out the blog. Grab a prompt, and write. If nothing else, it will transport you for a good 10-15 minutes…or however long you decide to let the words flow.
A note about using prompts:
First, there are no real rules here. These are just my suggestions.
- Set a timer. It’s like meditation. Start with 5 minutes or so and work your way up.
- Write long hand or on the computer. It really doesn’t matter.
- Block all distractions. (Okay, so this one really is a rule.) If you’re on the computer, shut off your internet. If you’re long hand, shut off your phone. It’s only 5-15 minutes. You can do it.
- Don’t sensor yourself. Most of the writing you do with prompts will never see the light of day. It’s just an exercise. Just let the words flow out of your hand/fingers.
- If you have a work-in-progress, by all means, use the characters if it makes sense. If it doesn’t, don’t.
- Let yourself chose between two or three prompts, but don’t spend any more than a minute or two deciding. I’ve quite effectively wasted my writing time trying to decide which prompt to start with. Just pick one and go.
- Never, never, never, never, never for the love of all that’s holy never give your unpolished prompt writing to a critique group. First of all, it’s not fair to you. You’re not going to get good feedback on an unedited piece. Second, it’s not a good use of your partners’ time. If you like what you’ve written, awesome. Polish that baby up and distribute it. If you give out the raw meat, you’re going to lose the beauty in the unedited process because you’re going to get self-conscious.
- JUST DO IT. (TM) Nike
Photo by Captain Crunch
Take a moment, go to Google Art Project, and bookmark it. While you’re there, look up your favorite piece of art and zoom in.
(Go, right now. I’ll still be here when you get back.)
Okay. How much time has gone by? Hours? Days?
Yeah. I know.
IT’S LIKE SEEING THE PAINTINGS IN PERSON, AND GETTING CLOSER THAN THAT LITTLE MUSEUM LINE WILL LET YOU. And then, someday, when they add “touch” technology…
Which paintings are your favorites? I actually found Google Art Project from a link posted on pinterest of the moon from The Starry Night (the picture above.) It is everything.
–Full disclosure, I’ve been looking at paintings for a while instead of finishing this blog post. It feels a little bit like I just had an artist date.–
By the way, while we’re talking about art, have you seen the Blue/Black White/Gold dress debate? It has completely altered my perception of reality and color and now I just don’t trust my eyes.
This weekend, spend some time with Shauna Niequist.
I “met” her through Storyline, but fell in love with the honest thoughts she shares on trying to do it all. And the impossibility of it. And the real goal of finding balance as a woman. (I do think this site will be good for men, too.)
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
Happy Valentine’s Day!
If you follow me on Goodreads you know that I’ve had a few books on my “Currently Reading” shelf for more than a year. Two of them are The Artist’s Way Every Day and Simple Abundance I started both of these “daybooks” last year and stopped reading when life changed dramatically: Lily switched schools, I started my MFA program, and I really got serious about publishing Stealing the Ruby Slippers.
Last year I was trying to be really strict about reading them. It was something for my To-Do list and if I missed a few days I made myself go back and get caught up, entirely defeating the purpose of short bursts of inspiration.
This year, I’m doing things differently, and I’m loving it.
I’m missing days.
I’m purposefully skipping days.
I’m stopping in the middle of reading to journal or create.
And it’s WONDERFUL.
Yesterday, this Lucille Ball quote stood out to me in Simple Abundance, so I sat down and made myself a Valentine.
Lily loves Valentine’s Day (hearts, pink, it’s her thing) and it’s the anniversary of the first “real” date Chris and I went on. I have plans for special things for the kids and special things for Chris today. So, it was perfect, yesterday, to be reminded to do something special for myself too.
Selflessness has been put on a pedestal as the highest virtue, while narcissism is condemned. Often, the verse where Jesus says to “Love your neighbor as yourself” is quoted as a reminder to put other people first. Here’s the thing, though. We’re forgetting the last part of what he said. “As yourself.” Which means that it’s okay to love yourself. In fact, YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO SHOW LOVE TO YOURSELF BEFORE YOU CAN SHOW LOVE TO SOMEONE ELSE. Like the airlines say, “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you.Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. If you see someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.”
Because we’ll all pass out if we’re so busy trying to put a mask on someone else we can’t breathe ourselves.
Weekend Resource: The Book Designer
My weekend resource this week may be a little niche, but I feel like its often got information that can be used beyond just the publishing world, like general design information that can be used for all kinds of marketing. But the site really does focus on self and indie publishing, and it’s full of great information for writers at all levels. So, pursue the site, take a look at all the free resources, and start to look at every book cover and interior with a designer’s eye.
3 out of 5 Stars
The people over at TheBookDesigner were kind enough to give me a copy of the new book Joel wrote along with Betty Kelly Sargent, The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide: Every Indie Author’s Essential Directory-To Help You Prepare, Publish, and Promote Professional Looking Books.
This book is exactly what it says it is: a list of everything you should need to get your book polished, published and promoted. It’s broken in three sections: Prepare, Publish and Promote. In the Prepare section you’ll find listings for the people that will help you polish your work, like editors and designers, in addition to resources to make you a better writer, like professional associations and books to read. Publishing covers exactly what you would think it would: printers and distributers. Besides web designers and social media experts, the promotion section also includes contests, resources like blogs that will review your book, and sites that will let you list it.
Overall, I gave this book three of five stars for two reasons:
1) Everything in here can be found online with a Google search and, inevitably, the material in here was outdated the moment it was taken off-line and put in a static format. That said, THIS WILL SAVE YOU A TON OF TIME. You could spend hours or days researching this stuff on your own. Having it all here is awesome. At the beginning they ask for updated information to be submitted, so I’m curious how that will be communicated to people who have purchased the book, or if this will be like the Writer’s Digest Market Books that you need to re-buy every year (or buy a subscription to the website) to have up-to-date information.
2) I wanted there to be a lot more information about each of the categories listed. When I published my first book, I didn’t realize I needed separate content and copy editors. Based on my work with NoiseTrade, I know a lot of self-published authors don’t really understand the different ebook formats, or the difference between a print-on-demand publisher and a vanity press. Again, all this can be found online, but if you’re going to look it up, you might as well be looking up the services too.
I’ve had a really hard time deciding whether I’d recommend people purchase this book or not, and this is what I’ve decided: if you are fairly experienced in self-publishing, this will save you time and is totally worth the eight bucks. You know what you need, and this will give you a nice, quick way to find it. If you’re new to self-publishing, you really need to be spending the time researching all this stuff yourself. It’ll save you A LOT of money in the long run, even if it eats up your nights and weekends. Then come back in two or three years and buy the current version.
**Review copy was provided to me at no cost by the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
This weekend, you need to go spend some time with Austin Kleon. I have had his book Steal Like an Artist for quite a long time (I’ll be reading it this weekend) and just recently found his blog. I’m a huge fan of his weekly wrap ups (it’s actually what inspired this series on my site.)
Check him out.
I’m starting a new series on Fridays where I just call out some of the places on the internet I go for inspiration. I have a full list of really cool stuff I want to share. Today, I’m going to call out Glennon Melton from Momastery.
As a working mom, who is trying to be a “good Christian” but struggling a lot with really disliking the Christian subculture that has developed, I feel like I fall short more often than not. I don’t homeschool, or do many Pinterest projects with the kids…heck, I don’t even bake. So basically, I’m a terrible Christian mother.