Last week, I had the honor of getting to speak to a group of women writers. It was a Zoom presentation but I got to see a bunch of wonderful faces from the place I was born and raised, Phoenix.
Only a few minutes away, Scottsdale neighbors Phoenix to the east but we often went there to visit family. Anyway, I recently sent out in a newsletter information about the method of writing I use when times get tough. I call it The Icepick Approach© to writing. So, if you're not a subscriber, blog is the second best way to get some similar information. Likewise, if you're not one of my blog followers, below shows the expanded outline I used for the SSWW talk and something my newsletter recipients didn't get. This is the actual outline I read from to give the presentation...
TONIGHT, I WILL TALK ABOUT: Our stories as women writers.
Why we write—what keeps us writing and not giving up. How we grow once we identify as writers—ways to improve. How (and why) we write when times get tough. Goal-setting: Where we see ourselves as women writers in five years, ten years, twenty years
I OFFER THIS TO YOU TO DO AS AN EXERCISE DURING A TIME WHEN YOU CAN SIT, THINK, AND PONDER EACH QUESTION ABOUT YOUR STORY AS A WOMAN WRITER
1. WHY WE WRITE: WHAT KEEPS US WRITING AND NOT GIVING UP
Your Origin Story:
a. Why did you start writing?
b. What was the first kernel, the first idea that ignited your desire to put down words to your story in writing (whether fiction or nonfiction)?
Identify Your Obstacles:
a. First, make a list of why you SHOULD NOT write—cleaning the toilets (that’s mine), cleaning out an aviary or cluttered closet, getting the car cleaned, taxing kids around, caregiving a loved one, grocery shopping.
b. Next, write reasons why you can POSTPONE these responsibilities and chores.
c. Now, carve out time for yourself to write and put it into your weekly calendar. For me, I postpone but I also wake early, work feverishly on my writing until Bob gets up and, then again, for a couple hours in in between taking care of him each day.
d. Ask yourself this: Am I delegating mundane and time-consuming tasks to others who might be able to help so that I have time for my passion?
When we find other ways to handle responsibilities in our lives, we make it possible to succeed and not to give up.
2. HOW WE CONTINUE TO GROW ONCE WE IDENTIFY AS WOMEN WRITERS: WAYS TO IMPROVE OUR CRAFT
First point: We must believe we are writers before we can fully accept our fate to write.
HERE ARE SOME WAYS TO GROW IN CRAFT
a. Through Observation: We need to be consciously observant
1. Of our surroundings – inside and out
2. Of our proximity – take walks and consciously spy on things and people
3. Of our community/our town/or other towns through travel
b. Through Keying in on Our Own Psychological Profiles—we will see ourselves in others. When we see ourselves in others, we become more empathetic, compassionate, and can tell a more complete stories about our characters. We humans all experience similar pain, joy, heartbreak, grief, disappointment—maybe not sociopaths, and don’t ignore the sociopath when writing. They can be great models for characters and to juxtapose other characters against.
1. We need to tap into our own psychological profiles to write deep characters.
2. What’s OUR story?
a. What makes us tick?
b. Are we damaged goods? If so, why, how, when, where, who, what makes us damaged?
c. Are we recovering from some damage? If so, where in the phases of recovery are we: the beginning, middle, end (if there’s such a thing)?
c. Through Education: I first decided to quit my day job for writing back in 2004. But I didn’t know what I was doing. I needed formal training. My undergrad in accounting didn’t lean heavily on English studies. The only writing requirement was in technical writing.
1. So, I started reading how-to books and online sources.
2. I went to conferences, seminars, and workshops.
3. I went to a 2-week writing bootcamp and another 4-day intensive.
4. I took Jerry Jenkins certificated online creative writing course,
5. I took another certificated creative writing course from Wesleyan U through Coursera.org,
6. Finally, I enrolled in an MFA program through Lindenwood U.
But, I’m not sure if we ever really finish our educations.
3. HOW (AND WHY) WE WRITE WHEN TIMES GET TOUGH
Anyone can pick up a novel and find a “he done me wrong” story or a story about the death of a family member.
Psychologists often tell their patients to write when they are having trouble coping with some sort of loss or grief. The bookshelves are packed with these stories and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a great thing because when we read about struggle, we tend to empathize with those struggling.
And, yet, writing can be difficult while in the throes of grieving.
a. Mother died 2016
b. Robert died 2019
c. Bob in hospice; diagnosed with aphasia/frontotemporal dementia in 2017 and currently cannot take care of himself
So, how do we keep writing when we don’t feel like it?
I do what I have coined The Icepick Approach©. I chip away method of writing for the busy woman (and maybe a man, here or there). The Icepick Approach allows a writer the freedom and PERMISSION to write only a few sentences a day; good sentences that exude my emotional state. To do more would be overwhelming. When in the throes of deep grief, we can barely get through a day let alone write coherent scenes for a novel. So, I chip, chip away to stay on track and to get my creative flow out until it becomes too much and then I stop. But I do write every day. Chipping away.
That’s how, between 2015 and 2020, I completed:
1. How the Deer Moon Hungers
2. Gag Me
3. When You Leave Me
4. Storm Season
5. The Lesser Witness
6. The Dementia Chronicles
7. Plus, a few short stories for anthologies I was invited to write for.
8. Also, it’s the method I use for editing the Bobby’s Diner series which got picked up again and revitalized by a new publisher
4. WHERE DO WE SEE OURSELVES IN THE FUTURE (GOAL SETTING)?
I daydream about where my career will be in 5, 10, 15 years. So, here are my goals:
a. 5-year goal (within 5 years)
a. become a NY Times bestseller
b. get an article published in The New Yorker
c. get a Pulitzer Prize
b. 10-year goal (within 10 years)
a. Get a major film deal for one of my books
c. 15-year goal (within 15 years)
a. Rinse and repeat the first 5- and 10-year goals
I truly believe when you know your dreams and have goals to achieve them, you will know how to achieve them. But you have to keep writing to do any of that.
NOW, HERE’S MY GIFT TO YOU. IT’S A POINT OF CRAFT. I READ IT IN “THE SCREENWRITER’S BIBLE,” BY DAVID TROTTIER, IN WHICH TROTTIER INCLUDES A QUOTE FROM Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, IT SAYS: ‘If you think of something you wouldn’t want to happen to you or to someone you love, then you’ll have thought of something worth staging or filming.’” – by David Trottier, The Screenwriter’s Bible, 7th Edition: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script (p. 88). Published by Silman-James Press.
Did I mention how much fun I had? It was a blast getting to know everyone at the SSWW. Thank you again!