Saturday, May 31, 2014

Buckled up to write?

Whenever I get in a car with someone my brain is programmed to ask: "Are you buckled?"

I used to be a random buckler, but when my three sons and their friend were in a roll-over accident and walked away without a scratch, I attributed their protection to their guardian angels (who are very tired, I think) and the fact all the boys were wearing their seatbelts. 

Over the last few decades we've learned that wearing a seatbelt provides invaluable protection to accident victims. And yet, as writers, hurtling through the highways of our stories, we rarely think to "buckle up" when we sit down at our desks, even though the risk of "crashing" is just as great as it is on our modern freeways. 

Have you ever crashed? I have. The after-effects of a crash can manifest as writer's block, as prolonged periods of procrastination, as fear (ever been afraid to open your WIP?), as incessant and futile fiddling with a story, as the inability to "launch" a manuscript via submission to an agent or editor. If you've been writing for any length of time, you've probably crashed at least once. 

What causes a crash? Poor visibility (lack of plotting/planning). Obstacles (unforeseen developments in the storyline). Road conditions (confusion, excess elements). Operator error (author fatigue, lack of experience, etc.). The possible causes are endless, and unique to the individual author and even the individual project. A writer might breeze through one story, only to "choke up" in the middle of the next project. In short, crashes are a risk we all take, every time we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

And so, are we buckled up to prevent serious injury in the event of a writing crash?

The Bible makes frequent mention of something called "a buckler," usually in reference to a shield (thank you, Templa Melnick!). The KJV Dictionary defines it like this:
buckler, n. A kind of shield, or piece of defensive armor, anciently used in war. It was composed of wood, or wickers woven together, covered with skin or leather, fortified with plates of brass or other metal, and worn on the left arm. On the middle was an umbo, boss or prominence, very useful in causing stones and darts to glance off. The buckler often was four feet long, and covered the whole body.
The buckler, like the shell of a turtle, provided full body defense against any attack of the enemy. Various sources say the buckler was routinely soaked in oil (the Holy Spirit) and water (the Word of God) in order to swiftly dispel flaming arrows. The "turtle-back" formation of the Roman army involved hooking these body-sized shields together and raising them overhead, then marching forward under the shelter provided.
2 The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
 Ps 18:2 KJV
If, as a writer, you've suffered a "crash," whether in the form of severe procrastination, or avoidance, or frustration, or fear, it's time to pull up your buckler—the Lord—to cover and defend the work of your hands. 

You may have been beating yourself up for a lack of discipline, or an inability to concentrate, or a failure to focus... but as one who is called of the Lord to write, it's entirely possible that the resistance you're encountering is spiritual in nature, and requires a spiritual response. 

We wouldn't think of teaching a Bible study, or speaking at a conference, or leading a small group, or preaching a sermon, without "covering" ourselves spiritually. Why do we continue to put ourselves "out there" as we write (definitely a spiritual exercise as much as a cognitive one) without benefit of His covering?

So, whether you've crashed or not, here's a challenge: before you begin writing, or even when you THINK about writing, call on the Lord as your buckler, acknowledge His protection and covering, create in your mind a safe place wherein you can write as the Lord intended you to write. Actively pull that buckler up over your writing space the same way you buckle your seatbelt when you get in the car. Your writing gift is valuable. Guard it.


Monday, May 19, 2014

It's time, it's time... for our next meeting!

Can you believe it? It's already time for our next monthly meeting!

We will be meeting at 10 AM this Saturday, May 24, at The Artful Cup from 10 AM until noon. (3090 N. 12th St.) in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Topic of discussion for this month?

Procrastination! (I know, it's not my favorite word, either.)

As we head into summer, with warmer weather and lots of family and community activities, it's easy to fall into the habit of procrastinating when it comes to our writing, particularly if we aren't on a deadline, and aren't accountable to anybody except ourselves to "get it done." What are some of the ways you overcome procrastination?

 Please join us, if you can! 

If the private room at The Artful Cup is available again, that's where we'll be. But if the weather is nice, maybe we'll sit outside on the porch and enjoy the sunshine. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

April Meeting Overview: Social Media and the Modern Writer


I'm just home from a vacation to the West Coast, trying to re-acclimate to things like laundry, email, and Colorado temperatures, and wanted to share some thoughts from our April meeting before they escape my memory. We covered a lot of subjects, but focused primarily on social media as it relates to our writing careers.

For the modern writer, establishing an online presence is a crucial part of self-promotion and marketing. While book tours and speaking engagements and signings and press releases are still important, the judicious use of Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, Blogger, Pinterest, Instagram, etc., gives every author with an Internet connection the ability to expand his or her "reach" worldwide. Just look at the numbers in this infographic created by titled "The Biggest Shift Since The Industrial Revolution":

How we go about creating that online presence varies from writer to writer, and that's OK. If the idea of blogging, for example, makes you uncomfortable because it's too time-consuming, or too personal, set up a website that you only need to update when you get ready for your next book release. If Facebook seems too intrusive, get a Pinterest account and find and share pictures that have to do with your latest writing project. And if you don't have time for lengthy blog posts, tweets on Twitter are limited to 140 characters. 
Feeling really bold? Take a video of yourself talking about your book project and share it on YouTube like James Rubart has done here. Or post your book trailer on Vimeo. Or join Goodreads and share book reviews and recommendations with thousands of other folks who love books. There's something for everyone... you don't have to do ALL the things.

On that note, another writer friend shared this article from CastleGate Press: "How do you effectively sell your books through social media?" last week. It answers a question that came up about using Pinterest to sell books, which is an interesting concept since Pinterest is less about words than pictures. Another plus, for the introverts among us, Pinterest tends to require less personal interaction than some of the other social media sites!

For another take on establishing a social media platform, check out this article: "How Successful Authors Use Social Media to Sell More Books."

One question we weren't really able to answer was how we can avoid being sucked into the time vortex that social media can become. Besides writing, many of us hold part-time or full-time jobs, care for families and homes, and spend a significant portion of time volunteering at church or school. Carving time for social media can be a real challenge. Any thoughts? Suggestions? Feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments!

Our meetings get better and better all the time, lots of laughs and encouragement and edification time. That said, be sure to add Saturday, May 24 to your calendar for our next meeting. Details and reminders to follow!