December 26, 2017
Note From Rochelle
I’m off this week—catching up on some much-needed sleep, reading, and writing. I’ll be back next week with a brand new tip—and a few ideas for how you can make 2018 your best writing year ever!
Today, I’m delighted to welcome Milwaukee-area writer Marjorie Pagel to the blog. She’s the author of The Romance of Anna Smith and Other Stories and a longtime supporter of Write Now! Tips. She’s got five words to help you end 2017 well and begin 2018 with spirit!
Ready for 2018?
Five Action Verbs for Every Writer
by Marjorie Pagel
“Begin. Keep on beginning.”
This is the time of year when I start looking forward, with optimism, to new beginnings. My favorite book of meditations is Each Day a New Beginning by Karen Casey. And I remember the poem by Wisconsin’s first poet laureate, Ellen Kort, “Advice to Beginners.”
Begin. Keep on beginning. Nibble on everything.
Take a hike. Teach yourself to whistle. Lie.
The older you get the more they’ll want your stories.
Make them up. Talk to stones.
(from Ellen’s chapbook, If I Had My Life To Do Over I’d Pick More Daisies. For the complete poem, see Goodreads.
This morning, I was thinking of the “Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” and his dilemma: Then how should I begin/ To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?/ And how should I presume?
Don’t ask me how, but this led me to think about all the decisions any one of us is called upon to make during the course of a day. They aren’t always conscious decisions—our brains work on autopilot—and they are not often momentous decisions (Should I get up now or should I stay in bed a few minutes longer?)
I’m intrigued by the etymology of decide—from the Latin decider, literal meaning “to cut off.” Every time I make a decision, I am cutting off my other choices. So while Prufrock is deciding how to part his hair or whether or not to eat that peach I need to decide every day as I sit at my computer: Should I write about this or should I write about that?
This is one of the things I like about being in a writing group: it places me in that Decide now! frame of mind.
So many times when I’m talking to other writers or would-be writers, I learn that many of them spend more time talking about writing than they do in the actual practice of writing. They want to learn about agents and publishing before they have written anything that would be of mild interest to an agent or audience. Last month a friend of mine who is close to 90 told me of her plans to write some of her memories and family history for her grandchildren and future generations. She’s going to start writing one of these days when she has the time.
A few years ago, I signed up for an online writing workshop with Jenna Avery whose heralding call to all writers—neophytes and seasoned writers alike—is Practice. Practice. Practice. I found it thrilling to answer the call of “Get ready, get set, go,” and write non-stop for an hour with the knowledge that other writers across the country were writing at the very same time, and at the end of the hour we’d come back to report what we’d achieved.
That’s one thing that has remained constant over recent years: my writing practice. I like the freedom of writing whatever I choose without paying attention to the finer points like sentence structure, punctuation, spelling. All that can come later, if I choose to revise. Choices, decisions: never-ending. When my writing practice becomes routine—Just Do It! Now!—it takes away the anxiety of decision making.
I was one of those students who loved writing research papers because every new fact I learned, every memorable quotation I found, was exciting . . . and it would lead me on to more facts, more quotations. In those days, research meant setting life and limb inside an actual library, paging through reference books and tracking down information from books—real books shelved on actual shelves—using indexes to zero in on the specific information I was seeking.
These days I still love finding things in the library. It’s like having my own Discovery Channel—and it’s free. But I also love finding things in the ethereal world of the Internet. So much out there and I still need to use my sleuthing skills to zero in on the really good stuff. I especially like the speed with which I can locate things—like a line from T.S. Eliot or Ellen Kort’s poem on “Advice to Beginners.” It saves me lots of time trekking to the bricks and mortar library.
My biggest challenge is to avoid too many distractions. So many things interest me, so I’ve learned to put them on hold—to come back to another time. I am reminded of Anne Morrow Lindbergh who wisely said, “For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well.” (Gift from the Sea)
In The Pocket Muse: ideas and inspirations for writing,” Monica Wood tells how she and her husband saved a special bottle of wine with the intention of celebrating when her first short story had been accepted for publication. That took years, and so when they finally uncorked the wine, it had turned sour. Ever since that experience she has devised dozens of reasons to celebrate. She even celebrates a written rejection note because someone had taken the time to read her work and comment.
I recently discovered an online timer (e.ggtime.com) that ticks away the minutes in the background while I’m working at my computer. When the time is up, I can choose whether to continue (set the timer again) or get up for a stretch, a coffee, another task. A big project never seems too overwhelming when broken into segments. And whenever that timer goes off, it’s time to celebrate!
About the author. Marjorie Pagel participates in a roundtable critique group at Red Oak Writing, West Allis, Wisconsin. Her poem, “The Girls with the Grandmother Faces,” was published in the 2017 edition of Creative Wisconsin Literary Journal. Her recently published book of short stories, The Romance of Anna Smith and Other Stories, is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at https://www.writenowcoach.com.