Step Away from the Vacuum

35702215_s“It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” — Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Do you have days when you can’t make yourself sit in your chair to write? I sure do. The solitude of writing at home can be productive, but some days, household chores and an endless to-do list distract me.

Shortly after a cross-country move last December, I connected with Inspire Christian Writers and met founder Beth Thompson through email. She invited me to her home for Friday morning writing sessions. Different than a critique group, this weekly gathering offered a sanctuary for writing with others.

Friday morning writing is now one of my most important calendar items. About the time each week, Dee Aspin says, “I like having writing time set aside on my calendar. It brings a sense of ‘going to work.’ By leaving my house to write, I see writing as work rather than a hobby.”

Knowing I have the writing appointment forces me to prepare ahead of time. I put my notebook and favorite pen on the kitchen counter Thursday evenings, but even before that, there’s work I must do. What resource materials will I need? Will I need my Bible? My iPad?

More important than the prep work is the knowledge that even if I fail to sit down to write earlier in the week, I will get words on paper Friday morning. Writer Joanne Butterfield says, “During the week, whether I have written as much as I could have, I know that I can spend the two hours doing what I might have avoided all week: writing.”

Butterfield and I are both new to the area and have enjoyed getting to know other writers through the writing group. Plus, working together on our own projects creates a companionable quiet time that fuels and energizes us.

The silence may be unsettling at first. Chrissy Drzewiecki says, “We all went about our business of writing. No talking. Just writing. This was hard for me at first. I like to talk about writing. But soon I realized what an awesome time it was just to write.”

Want to form your own writing group? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Reach out to writing friends in your community to form a group. Not sure where to look? Facebook, the Inspire site, and Twitter are all great resources for finding your local writing community. Sacramento Meet Up also has writing groups. You may also put up flyers at coffee shops.
  • Pick a time, day, and location to meet. My group meets Friday morning, usually at one of the member’s homes. If you don’t feel comfortable hosting each other at home, try a coffee shop or library where you can write together without too many outside distractions.
  • Decide whether you will have food. Will there be coffee? Snacks? A meal? Who will provide these? Our hostess usually prepares coffee, tea, and light snacks to get us going. After two hours of writing, we share a light lunch together.
  • Build in time for socializing. Decide whether to chat first and then write or catch up after your writing session. Dedicating a time to talk with one another will make the quiet time easier to maintain. My group usually opens with prayer, gets straight to writing, and then talks nonstop during lunch.
  • Enforce expectations, but also be flexible. If you have trouble focusing and staying quiet, be prepared with a gentle reminder (to yourself or others). Aspin says, “If we have too much fun talking, it distracts from the writing time. Everyone in the group has to be intentional, or it becomes something other than what it is intended for.”

Also decide whether you will share any of what you’ve written for feedback. I’m in a separate critique group, and having the two unique groups removes any anxiety I might otherwise feel on my writing days. Not that your critique group shouldn’t feel safe, but a writing-only group can be the safest of places to get words on paper or screen without worrying about what readers may think.

Nothing feels better after battling a vacuum of solitary days or the lure of the vacuum cleaner and a dirty carpet than to sit down with friends and accomplish God-ordained work. The promise is true in writing groups, too: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20, NASB).

Do you have tips for a writing group or other ideas for escaping the vacuum? Please share them in the comments below.

 

Hope SquiresHope Squires is the author of The Flourishing Tree (Lulu, 2014). She and her husband are adjusting to life in California after living in the Southeast their entire lives. They and their exuberant dog are learning to deal with skunks, rattlesnakes, and “a dry heat.” Hope blogs about nature, faith, and the flourishing life at theflourishingtree.com.

Becoming Known Part 4: Guest Blogging

by Carol Peterson

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If Jesus is your Senior Editor, He expects you to get your writing to the people who need to hear the message He’s leading you to share. Becoming known is one part of reaching those people.

Writers are often advised to blog as part of their process of becoming known. But not everyone has the inclination or the time or technical ability to set up a blog and keep it going. The blogosphere, however is still open to you. Even if you already have a blog, you should still consider expanding beyond the cyber boundaries of your own little URL.

One way to expand your world is to guest post on other folks’ blogs. Unless you’re a New York Times bestseller, you might not snag a spot at the hottest blog on the web. But chances are, you will still be able to find guest posting opportunities that will allow you to get your message (and your name) in front of others.

  1. Look at blogs you read. Would a message you have to share be a fit with that site? Check to see if the author has submission guidelines for guest postings. If not, she might still welcome them. Send an email or leave a comment with an idea for a post you might contribute.
  1. Look at sites in the genre you write. If you write Christian novels for women, find sites that have blogs for those readers. If your novel is set in a particular locale, is there a blogger who focuses on that location? If your protagonist rides horses, are there Christian cowboy church blogs that might like to hear from you? Brainstorm and Google ideas where what you have to say might be welcomed.
  1. Look at your personal associations and memberships. Does your church online newsletter post articles from its members? Does your writing association have a blog or newsletter that is looking for articles from its members? (Hint: for Inspire Christian Writers, the answer is “yes” for both the blog and newsletter).

When you find a blog where you would like to guest post, write up a one or two sentence summary of your message; indicate a word count and when you would be able to submit your piece. Make sure you follow the blogs guidelines for guest posts. Then…ask.

Managing a blog is time-consuming. Many bloggers welcome a guest post that will give them a break in their blogging schedule. The key from your end is to think how you can be helpful to others in a way that not only provides something of value to them and their readers but also helps you practice your craft and inches you out into the world.

Work to become known in your own little sphere and then make your sphere bigger.

This series on becoming known has looked at:

Why becoming known as an author follows the example of Jesus.

How to tackle the technical aspects of creating an Amazon book review.

How doing book reviews for other writers can help you become known, too.

 

Carol Pecarol_petersonterson is a Christian woman who can’t stop writing about God, His great big, beautiful world and our place in it. Carol writes for women and children and blogs at: http://carolpetersonauthor.com

She writes to educate, entertain and inspire–children, their teachers and parents, other writers, and readers of all genres.