A superior moral justification for selfishness: the myth of human supremacy

A superior moral justification for selfishness: the myth of human supremacy

Review: Why are we killing the planet? “The Myth of Human Supremacy” nails troubling answers

From East Village Magazine

Human supremacy, according to Derrick Jensen, is a contradiction in terms. In The Myth of Human Supremacy, Jensen’s impassioned and intelligent analysis of the myth that proclaims we humans are superior beings, posits his approach with essential questions like, superior to what and whom? and the how and the why of that?

Dedicated to Planet Earth, the book’s opening quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions sets Jensen’s platform: “Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn’t mean we deserve to conquer the universe.”

the myth of human supremacyJensen amplifies Vonnegut : “How we behave in the world is profoundly influenced by how we experience the world which is profoundly influenced by what we believe about the world. Our collective behavior is killing the planet.” Jensen’s question is “Why?”—especially if humans are the superior beings? Why would they exterminate themselves and Mother Earth?

John Kenneth Galbraith offers an answer: “The modern conservative [and, I would say, the human supremacist] is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; and that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

Jensen follows with a searing array of examples of human supremacism from the absurd unquestioned beliefs that shore up culture and religion to the murdering of the oceans. His final example is human sociopathy. After quoting a description of sociopathy, Jensen concludes, “This is human supremacism.”

He begins his dissection of human supremacist mythology in earnest with Chapter 1, “The Great Chain of Being,” the Mother of all human supremacist myths, right up there with religious and historical mythologies. Or, civilization, as the supremacists call their vision of reality.

Unquestioned beliefs are the real authorities of any culture, states Jensen. “The creation of these ideologies of domination not only eases or erases the consciences of the perpetrators but makes resistance to these perpetrators seem futile.”

Myths are the stories of the people; they are not necessarily more than that. According to Jensen, religion is often the next line of defense in upholding the tenets of the “Great Chain of Being” myth. We are superior because God says we are. “Nothing to dispute here,” he replies. “Being number one makes it so much easier to rationalize exploiting everyone.” No critical thinking need apply.

Jensen turns from religious mythology to the Darwinian capitalism of our dominant economic model, based as it is on the insane notion that selfish individuals all attempting to maximally exploit each other will somehow create stable and healthy human communities.

“Why,” he asks, “don’t they use the word neighbor instead of competitor? While human supremacists are busy destroying life and asking why any being would ‘waste energy’ helping competitors, bacteria are busy helping each other gain resistance to antibiotics, helping each other to survive.”

Read more here…

 

Anthropocentrism

Environments Leiden and Boston: Brill Jensen, Derrick (2016). The Myth of Human Supremacy. Seven Stories Press. ISBN 978-1609806781.  Seigel, Michael T

Derrick Jensen

J. and Lierre Keith), PM Press, ISBN 978-1-60486-674-2 2016, The Myth of Human Supremacy Seven Stories Press (April 12, 2016), ISBN 978-1-60980-678-1

The Myth of Human Supremacy by Derrick Jensen — Reviews …

The Myth of Human Supremacy has 70 ratings and 18 reviews. Richard said: When an unlucky person has been swept away by the brainwashing of a wacko …

 

5 Time Tested Traits for Your Ultimate Romance Novel Protagonist

5 Time Tested Traits for Your Ultimate Romance Novel Protagonist

Romance Novel Protagonist

The best romantic heroes and heroines sweep us off our feet and make us believe in love again. Mediocre protagonists barely register.

As a romance writer, your priority is crafting characters that we remember long after putting the book down. Hard to pull off? You bet.

But heroes from long-dead civilizations, like Homer’s Odysseus and Helen of Troy, still resound today. There’s a good reason for it. Powerful characters live on by embodying mythic traits that we also associative with ourselves.

What can you, the humble romance novelist, learn from myth? Here are five traits every romance novel protagonist should have to stand out from the crowd.

1. They are Better Than You

Unsplash.com — Cristian Newman

Betty Bombshell, your romance heroine, is a high-powered magazine journalist living and working in New York City. She seems to have it all: a penthouse, a loyal dog. But something’s missing from her life.

We don’t just relate to our romance protagonists; we look up to them. The best romance protagonists allow readers to fantasize about living in their shoes. They present an idealized version of real life.

We don’t want to watch Johnny Casanova sit on the couch and pick lint out of his bellybutton, but we want to feel like we’re still party to everything going on in his life.

2. But They are Still Deeply Flawed

Unsplash.com — Larm Rmah

But we don’t want them to be too perfect. They need to experience challenges and conflict too.

Think of mythical heroes like Odysseus. Odysseus is an idealized Grecian man. He’s got a kingdom and a devoted wife. He’s known for his sharp wit and tremendous courage. But most of the terrible things that happen to Odysseus throughout The Odyssey happen because he’s too prideful and rash. This tragic flaw is also known as hubris. For example, he gets himself into trouble with the god Poseidon because, after blinding Poseidon’s cyclops son, he is quick to boast about his deeds.

Being able to see a character’s flaws and the trouble they can get her into allows her to come across as human and relatable.

3. They will Venture Out of Their Comfort Zone

Romance Novel Protagonist

Unsplash.com — Soroush Karimi

Even if their life seems comfortable on the outside, the story and their quest to find love will force them out of their comfort zone. This new found zeal might see them run off to New York on a whim to meet their true love (see Sleepless in Seattle). Whatever they might do, make them uncomfortable. Force them to make desperate choices. But, as you’re going to see in a second, whatever they do must feel worth the effort.

4. They will Risk Everything For Their Reward

Unsplash.com — Sweet Ice Cream Photography

Romance protagonists have one main goal: to get with the guy (or the girl). No matter what kinds of crazy misadventures Betty Bombshell and Johnny Casanova get into, the reward must be sweet enough to justify the journey.

Cinderella, depending on the version of her story, goes through a lot of crap. She’s got a stepmother and stepsisters who abuse her. She’s a servant in her own house. But by the end of the story, she struggles on to reach her (well-deserved) goal — marry the prince and leave home.

Because she’s willing to risk everything (the wrath of her stepmother, more abuse) and we know how much she stands to lose, we want her to win and succeed.

No matter how charmed your protagonist’s life may seem from the outside, we need to feel that she’ll lose everything if she doesn’t get to find Johnny Casanova.

5. It is Almost Destiny

Unsplash.com — Les Anderson

It’s hard to describe but, in a way, your heroine or hero is the best possible person to meet their love interest. The story and the circumstances that surround them almost feel destined.

We can’t imagine Romeo without Juliet. Or Scarlett O’Hara without Rhett. Your protagonist seems like, or becomes, the right person for the job, even if they don’t believe they are at first.

Takeaway

When creating your romance fiction, be sure to make your romance novel protagonist someone your readers can look up to. But heroine or hero needs to have one or more flaws to keep them human like the rest of us. Push them into uncomfortable situations where they’ll risk everything for their one true love.

 

How to Attain Top Writer Status on Medium – 7 Popular Themes in Writing

How to Attain Top Writer Status on Medium – 7 Popular Themes in Writing

How to Attain Top Writer Status on Medium

Imagine that you are a writer new to Medium. Question abound. What do I write about? What will people read? What has been written before? What will break through the noise?

In thinking about these questions and because I normally write about writing, I was curious to see what the Top Writers in Writing were writing about and how they got that designation.

I don’t know Medium’s algorithm of how to attain top writer status on Medium within any tag, but I do know that it is not based on the number of followers. My best guess is that is based on the number of 30-day recommendations within a tag. If anyone does have the definite answer, please clue us in with your response to this story.

Being something of a data geek, I decided to input the titles of the top three stories of the top 50 writers in Writing into a word cloud generator.

The lovely image above does give us an instant gratifying view of what people like to write and read about on Medium (within the “Writing” tag). However, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

I wanted to focus on the separate word occurrences to see if any interesting themes emerged from my small data set (see image below). I could have focused more on the titles themselves, but I was curious to see if the individual words would tell their own story.

The Data

how to attain top writer status on medium

The Writing tag is an odd one. Anyone can pick any tag they want for a story, and in a sense, all stories on Medium are “Writing” and some may pick that tag even if their topic isn’t specifically about writing. This caveat and other disclaimers are to say that my little data experiment is not perfect.

Indeed, the way I choose the themes and which words should fall under what theme was entirely subjective and an intuitive exercise. But it is my exercise so there. You can duplicate my work with any Medium “Top” tag. Knock yourself out.

The image of my spreadsheet handiwork is under the themes. There you will see the color key of the themes and the number of word occurrences and the words. For this exercise, I only worked with words that showed up at least twice.

Once I looked at all the words, I decided on the themes and color-coded them. Then I added the total of word occurrences for each theme. The total in each theme then allowed me to order the themes. Some words like “awesome” did not get included in a theme.

What is a little deceptive about the word cloud and the separate word occurrence is demonstrated by the word “Medium.” This word occurs the second most with 14 occurrences. So while writing about all things Medium is on my top theme list, when you add up words by theme, it comes in sixth.

The Top Themes

1. People

This theme surprised me a bit. I assumed that most writers would be focused on writing and writing skills in the “Writing” tag, but it does make sense when you think about it. After all, writers are writing for people to read. In this theme category, I included words that spoke to human emotions and desires like “love,” “want,” “comfort,” and “defeat.”

2. Improvement

I think that most of us that have been reading stories on Medium for any length of time have seen that writing about improvement is HUGE. It is, therefore, no surprise that writers want to read and write about improving our writing.

3. Writing about Writing

Again in the “Writing” tag, probably a no brainer here. For this theme, I also included the words, “storytelling,” “blogging,” and “book.” I could have put Book also under the Reading theme.

4. Time

The theme of time is also one that might not come right to mind for the “Writing” tag. But of course, as all writers know, having, finding, and making enough time to write is the golden key to writing happiness and bliss.

5. Creativity

Here is another theme that we would expect to show up in the “Writing” tag. I am not too surprised that it is number five, though. It is more difficult to write a definitive “How to” story about how to be more creative. Medium does seem to favor articles that are practical and step-wise. Here perhaps is an opportunity gap of popularity with a sparsity of good stories. Get writing!

6. Medium

One of the fascinating things I find about Medium is how much we all love to read about becoming more successful on Medium. The more you read about the platform, the more nuances you learn. And we love to read about other’s successes and what hasn’t worked. Let’s admit it, we are all obsessed with our Medium stats, yes? It is no accident that the word “Medium” had the second highest occurrence in top 3 stories for the top 50 writers in Writing.

7. Reading

I’ve heard it said that Medium is the YouTube for readers. And as writers, we should be reading whenever possible. I’ll spare you the Stephen King quote, but here’s some Faulkner for good measure:

Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.― William Faulkner

Takeaway for how to attain top writer status on Medium

People! Improve your writing — make time to be creative on Medium! Keep reading!

How to Rescue Your Heroine’s Journey Unique Character Arc

How to Rescue Your Heroine’s Journey Unique Character Arc

The Heroine’s Journey

When Joseph Campbell wrote his comparative mythology opus, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he set in motion the embracing of a mono-myth that would launch hundreds of Hollywood and novel writer’s careers.

Campbell’s dense academic writing is not for the fainthearted however and it was Christopher Vogler who brought Campbell’s work to the popular masses with his, The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, now in its third edition.

As you may have noticed, both of these works are based upon a male hero figure. For many years, most writers with female protagonists assumed that her journey or character arc would be no different. But it was Campbell who remarked,

“There are no models in our mythology for an individual woman’s quest. Nor is there any model for the male in marriage to an individuated female.” (cited in The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth)

Luckily, a few writers have rectified this situation, but before I get to the heroine’s journey, for those not familiar, I will recap Campbell’s hero’s journey (from Vogler’s work mentioned above):

  1. Heroes are introduced in the ORDINARY WORLD, where
  2. they receive the CALL TO ADVENTURE.
  3. They are RELUCTANT at first or REFUSE THE CALL, but
  4. are encouraged by a MENTOR to
  5. CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD and enter the Special World, where
  6. they encounter TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.
  7. They APPROACH THE INMOST CAVE, crossing a second threshold
  8. where they endure the SUPREME ORDEAL.
  9. They take possession of their REWARD and
  10. are pursued on THE ROAD BACK to the Ordinary World.
  11. They cross the third threshold, experience a RESURRECTION, and are transformed by the experience.
  12. They RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR, a boon or treasure to benefit the Ordinary World.

So, finally, with all that background out of the way, we can look to the heroine’s journey

One of the first to write about the heroine’s journey was Maureen Murdock. Her book is entitled, The Heroine’s Journey.

Another is The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth by Jean Benedict Raffa.

Both of the titles above (and quite a few more) have strong psychological leanings, so for my purposes, in this article, aimed at the fiction writer, I want to call special attention to 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.

What I like about this book is she provides two plot outlining worksheets, one for the “Feminine Journey” and one for the “Masculine Journey.” She also gives us a side-by-side comparison of the differences.

A few of these differences include:

  • a circular or episodic framework versus a linear framework
  • the heroine’s need to prove herself to herself (rather than the group)
  • traveling a path of allowance versus a path of resistance

Whether or not you agree with Schmidt’s take on the heroine’s journey, or even if you think there is no difference from the hero’s, if you are crafting a female protagonist, you should see if Schmidt’s ideas creates or expands a different way of being for your character.

If you are new to the world of archetypes (the hero and heroine are Jungian archetypes), the best place to start is Vogler’s The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. I have the second edition. My third edition is on the way. It is my hope that he has expanded it to include the heroine’s journey. Updates to come.

Fire up your Fiction! 9 Powerful Online Fiction Writing Courses

Fire up your Fiction! 9 Powerful Online Fiction Writing Courses

Online Fiction Writing Courses

There are now many great creative writing and online fiction writing courses. You could probably write a short story or outline a novel in the time it will take you to research and compare what’s out there. So, without any more time wasting, we’ve put together a few top courses that will get you back to writing…

Writing Tools

Scrivener Full Course on How to Write a Book in Scrivener

This course taught by Karen Prince will help you to master all the major features of your Scrivener writing software to write ebooks and paperback books. The course consists of 44 video lessons that will teach you all of Scrivener’s basics from setting things up, writing, sorting and editing to compiling your book for export.

Scrivener Simplified: How To Compile Your eBook for Export

This course taught by James Burchill is perfect for self-published authors. Includes BONUS a “BestSeller” Mindmap. The course contains 31 video lessons to cut right to the chase of exporting your ebook in MOBI, EPUB, PDF & more.

Outlining

Fiction Writing: A Complete Novel Outline Chapter by Chapter

In this course taught by Mike Dickson, learn the Hollywood secret to completing a comprehensive novel outline in as little as 2 weeks. After 42 video lessons, you will understand what a comprehensive novel outline should look like to give you the best chance at writing a complete first draft.

Writing

Write Your Best Fiction and Get It Published

This course is taught by Jeff Gerke, a five-time Writer’s Digest author. It has 45 video lessons from getting your best story idea to constructing your fiction proposal. Some of Jeff’s Writer Digest’s books include The Irresistible Novel, Plot Versus Character, The First 50 Pages, Write Your Novel in a Month, and The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction.

Novel Writing Workshop

This course taught by Steve Alcorn will help you turn your idea into a published novel, step by step. with 27 video lessons. Whether you’re a first-time novelist still planning your story or an experienced author looking for ways to bring your fiction to life Novel Writing Workshop will help you from your story structure all the way to getting published.

The Disobedient Writer: Break the Rules and Free Your Story

This course taught by Anya Achtenberg is a guide to taking your fiction writing and memoir writing beyond the same old formula and telling unforgettable stories. It consists of 39 video lessons that aim to free you from the tyranny of the rules and offer a solid foundation of techniques, or roads into writing, that expand your understanding of the workings of creativity, language, and story, and help you discover and bring forward your own best work.

Writing for Online Engagement: Fiction in a Digital World

This course taught by Rebecca Sky will introduce you to online fiction writing and you will learn the frameworks, techniques, and strategies for establishing, engaging, and growing a community around your work. 11 video lessons cover today’s writing landscape, tips for serialized fiction, merchandising individual stories, and marketing your work to build your personal brand — all to help you find success.

Revising

Revise and Edit Your Own Novel

This course taught by Ellen Brock will help you learn how to edit your own novel for traditional or self-publication with the help of a professional editor. In 29 video lessons, she walks you through examining your story structure and pacing, point of view, chapters and scenes, dialogue, and punctuation.

Publishing

Sell Your Novel to a Major Publisher (Writing Mastery)

This course taught by Jessica Brody is a comprehensive, step-by-step insider’s guide to selling your book and becoming a paid, published author. With 61 video lesson, she takes you from understanding the types of publishing, the entire publishing process, working with agents, creating your pitch and query letter, selling your novel, and navigating your book contract.

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Please let us know if you’ve tried any of these online fiction writing courses and what you think, or if you have others to recommend.

Please share your current fiction writing project!

What spending WWI & WWII with Ken Follett taught me about writing

What spending WWI & WWII with Ken Follett taught me about writing

Are you reading Ken Follett?

 

“They” say you should write the same kind of fiction (or books) that you like to read. Oh, dear. I’m screwed.

I like to read historical fiction.

I mean there is historical fiction and then there is Ken Follett.

For the last few weeks, I have been listening to his, The Century Trilogy (see below). A few years ago, I had read his book, The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel and had been astounded by the level of historical detail, the richness of the characters, and the intricate plots and subplots.

Follett makes no secret of his painstaking writing and rewriting process. After creating his detailed outline and first draft, he asks his editor, agent, family members, subject matter experts, and “ anybody else who will take an interest” to make copious notes:

I type up all these notes by page numbers and collate them using large ring binders. For example, I might have four comments for page 80 of my typescript, one from an editor, one from my agent, one from a family member and perhaps one from an expert I’m consulting, (like an FBI agent or a scientist or an historian). I put the two pages opposite one another in the ring binder so that when I come to rewrite I’ve got my first draft on one side and people’s comments on the other side. (Source: https://ken-follett.com/masterclass/completing.html)

Follett’s books are quite long. For some writers that might mean fluff that should be edited. I have never found this to be the case with Follett, and this quote gives us a clue — every sentence is reconsidered in his rewrites:

For the final six months, I go through the file page by page, rewriting.

I don’t edit my first draft. I don’t put the first draft on the screen at all because I find that makes me lazy. I key every word in again because that forces me to reconsider every sentence. You can almost always find a way to improve just about every sentence that you’ve written. I can, anyway. (Source: https://ken-follett.com/masterclass/completing.html)

All of Follett’s time and attention to detail is amazing, but what makes his historical fiction beyond exceptional is just that, the historical accuracy and his research. What makes me say, “I’m screwed” is how Follett does some of his research:

I often use the services of professional researchers, mainly Dan Starer of Research for Writers in New York. Dan produces reading lists on, say, earthquakes, clones or eighteenth-century criminal courts. He finds learned articles, out-of-print books and old maps, people for me to interview, experts and historians, detectives and FBI agents. Most of my books are checked for factual errors before publication by at least one technical consultant. (Source: https://ken-follett.com/masterclass/research.html)

Right there I’m lost. With all of those juicy historical goodies to pour through, I doubt I would ever get to the writing.

However, don’t let my trepidation stop you if you are stout of writing heart. Read more of Follett’s process here — his short Masterclass is free:

Ken Follett | Masterclass | Introduction

But first, of course, make sure to read some of his books if you haven’t yet.

To give you an idea of how epic (in all ways) and research-rich his novels are, his three book series, The Century Trilogy comes in at a whopping total of 3,024 pages.

The Century Trilogy Trade Paperback Boxed Set

Or, if like me, you need to multi-task your fiction reading while you work out, or commute, the three books on Audible will take you a total of about 99 hours of listening time. That’s 297 miles for this slow walker!

The Century Trilogy consists of:

  • Fall of Giants: Book One of the Century Trilogy
  • Winter of the World: Book Two of the Century Trilogy
  • Edge of Eternity: Book Three of the Century Trilogy

You can read more of the individual book descriptions yourself, but in short, Follett weaves the loves and losses of several sets of families and generations from different classes, from Russia, Wales, England, Germany, and the U.S., through World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and all the way to the 1980’s.

Follett’s deft handling of fear, death, prison camps, torture, and all the rest of humanities’ hellish inhumanity in the midst of war is a master class in itself.

But you will need to read  Ken Follett’s The Century Trilogy to discover more yourself.

How to make marketing demographics psychobabble work for your writing

How to make marketing demographics psychobabble work for your writing

Next in the marketing for writers series…

Marketing Demographics

Once you have thought about your “whys” of your writing (business):

  • What made you start writing? What is your “why” or your writing story?
  • What desire or need does your writing fulfill for others?
  • What makes your writing unique?
  • What qualities do you offer as a writer that makes your reader better off for having read your work vs. not reading you at all?

(If you haven’t thought about your “whys” yet read more in the introduction to the marketing for writers series.)

Now it is time to think about objections and demographics. Try to answer the following questions about your writing as it relates to your readers:

Objections

1. Are there any drawbacks to what you are offering to your readers (or your clients)?

For example, if you are a writing coach one objection might be:

It is difficult to quantify success with the writing process, or to have a final completed goal to call something “done.” There are many variables at play between the writer and coach, with the writer’s process that is not always set in stone and with the writing market in general.

2. As a follow-up to the previous question, are there any common objections that come up?

Staying with the same example, if you are a writing coach, a client may wonder, “How will I know if you can really help me? What proof can I see ahead of time? Is this a waste of my time? What guarantees do I have that my money isn’t just going down the drain?”

Or as an author, “How do I know if your book will be any good or help me?”

3. What will the reader, or you client lose if they don’t take you up on your offering now?

Writing coach example answer: they miss out on not taking their own work seriously enough to subject it to a process to make it stronger and to encourage growth and success.

Demographics and Psycho-graphics

1. What’s your target reader or client demographic? Age, income level, gender, occupation, etc. — the more information the better.

As an example here is my (long-winded) answer:

My target demographic is older women and men, with some education, a mid to high income, who have enough spare time to write and to work on improving their writing. They are also far enough along on a book or writing project that they are beginning to think about how they are going to promote it. Or they are just beginning and are worried that they need an author platform in order to get published. Or they have completed their project, have set up their website, etc., some social media but are struggling to get any traction — followers, etc.

My mission is to help all writers who struggle to get published, especially bloggers. More than this I’m trying to help with authenticity, finding your voice as a writer, being vulnerable, transparent, creating connections, and a community. And who want independence and freedom as writers as in their life.

2. What are their top 3 fears related to your niche? In other words, what keeps them up at night?

Again, my example answers:

  • That I won’t finish my book/project
  • That it will suck
  • That I’ll self-publish and no one will notice
  • That I’ve spent all this time and trouble writing and marketing and it is still going nowhere
  • That I can’t find or express my authentic voice
  • That I am writing in a vacuum — I have no connections

3. How does your service or product address those fears?

My example answers:

  • I will model authentic writing
  • I will provide accountability as a coach to stay on task
  • I will provide services to improve writing
  • I will provide promotion and can teach them to promote their own work
  • I will provide emotional counseling and help them with new ideas and avenues for marketing

Homework

Try to answer the above questions about marketing demographics for your service or product in your marketing workbook (hint: create a dedicated document or journal for this series, trust me, these answers will be very valuable as you build your writing or other business). Don’t worry if you are fuzzy about some of them, and some may change over time — this is totally natural. Mine have changed some since I first wrote them a few months ago.

Your Reading Assignment

Note: Some of the books I recommend will focus on advertising. Think of learning advertising as a master class in making your writing more popular. Many books on my marketing reading list come from Jon Morrow, so rest assured these titles are powerful and important for writers too.

CA$HVERTISING: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone

(Yes, the cover is damn cheesy, but the contents are gold.)

I discuss the secrets of this incredible book in depth starting here:

In the next lesson in this series, I will talk about results and doing a brief competitive analysis.

Marketing for writers: Why this writer loves marketing (how you can too!)

Marketing for writers: Why this writer loves marketing (how you can too!)

Marketing for writers

It is no secret that many successful writers and bloggers everywhere use the principles of copywriting to give their message more power and influence.

Advertising is only evil when it advertises evil things. — David Ogilvy

It is also no secret that most writers would like to earn money or their entire living from their writing. If this is true for you, then, understanding the psychology and principles behind advertising, marketing, and copywriting is essential.

Get to know your readers

Like any marketing effort, as a writer, you need to understand your readers. Ask yourself:

  1. What do your readers want?*
  2. How do they feel about what they want?
  3. Why do they act the way they do?

Once you can answer these questions, you can:

  1. Better understand what and how to write
  2. Write with emotions that your readers will relate to
  3. Reach a bigger reader base with your targeted writing
  4. Provide your readers more satisfaction by doing all of the above

*What do your readers really want?

According to Drew Eric Whitman (affiliate link), humans (i.e. your readers) have 8 needs or desires:

  1. Survival, enjoyment of life, life extension
  2. Enjoyment of food and beverages
  3. Freedom from fear, pain, and danger
  4. Sexual companionship
  5. Comfortable living conditions
  6. To be superior, winning, keeping up with the Joneses
  7. Care and protection of loved ones
  8. Social approval

Whitman provides some pretty convincing evidence (you’ll have to read the book) why tapping into one or more of these eight desires can dramatically affect sales, or in our case, readership.

People buy because of emotion and justify with logic. Force an emotional response by touching on a basic want or need. — “Seven Principles of Stopping Power,” The Young & Rubicam Traveling Creative Workshop

Homework

Before you publish your next article or longer work, fiction or nonfiction, think deeply about which of the eight needs or desires your writing topic most reflects. Can you capitalize on this knowledge with a change in title, or with an increased focus or theme?

Let us know about your homework results!


This article is meant to whet your marketing appetite. I am writing an entire series on marketing for writers. Please join me for more and little by little we will learn together to love marketing (or at least make it less painful).

Marketing for Writers – How to Love Marketing Even if You Don’t

Marketing for Writers – How to Love Marketing Even if You Don’t

Marketing for writers or how to make sweet marketing love for writers that don’t (love marketing)

Yes, it is sweet to imagine that you can just write and write non-stop. Sit under that tree and wax poetic. Ahhh, life is good.

No Twittering, Facebooking, Instagramming, Snap Chatting social media to update with your latest lunch epiphanies. No email list to build and build. No themes or new plug-ins to figure out and update. No writing of auto-response emails that suck the life-force out of every cell.

You get the idea. Marketing your writing is a real PITA.

You’re a writer, Gumby Damnit! Why should you care about marketing for writers?

And most of the time you have no idea if any of it is working. Or worse, you live in an echo-chamber of many loud crickets. HELLO!! hello, Anyone out there?!

But we all know it is necessary. In this huge world of shiny new objects every two seconds, you have to find a way to get your voice heard. You need to learn to love and embrace the creativity that it takes to get noticed.

Advertising is only evil when it advertises evil things. — David Ogilvy

Yes, marketing can be creative, and it can be fun. But where to start and what to do to know you are on the right track? I do have answers and I hope you will follow along with me as I present a series of marketing for writers “how-to” articles.

These articles will consist of some questions to answer and (at times) actionable steps. I will also recommend one marketing or closely related book that you should read.

I also suggest that you start a new dedicated marketing document “workbook” to keep all your answers. You will be amazed at what you come up with and all the ideas that begin to flow. Make sure you can keep it all together to so that you can refer back.

Sometimes I will include my (highly) personal answers as examples. Please ignore them if you wish, they are only there as a guide to jump start your thinking.

It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a very clear path to happiness. — Sheryl Sandberg

So, here is the first article / Q&A lesson for the Marketing for Writers series. Ready? Let’s get started!


Understanding Your Business (writing)

1. What made you start writing? What is your “why” or your writing story?

Example: Here is my simple answer for Daily Muse Books and my personal blog: I love to blog. I like to read about writing. I like to help writers. I love books. I enjoy marketing and have enjoyed helping writers and others with social media, blogging, and marketing.

2. What desire or need does your writing fulfill for others?

Example: My main service is to help writers with their craft and marketing so that they can do what they love full time. Many writers have a burning desire to do nothing but write, or at least to be able to write more.

3. What makes your writing unique?

Example: Other writers can leverage my mistakes. I have learned through many marketing mistakes. I have worked in many industries, and have owned several companies in which I did the marketing myself. As a writer myself, I am especially drawn to writers and have a heart to help them so they do not become overwhelmed with marketing and can in fact learn to enjoy it as a creative outlet.

4. What qualities do you offer as a writer that makes your reader better off for having read your work vs. not reading you at all?

Example: It is unique because I also have several advanced degrees including in psychology. This helps me work with the feeling aspect of being a writer and marketer. Writing involves our emotions to a high degree. Sometimes it is helpful to know why resistances, such as procrastination exists. I have also studied working with dreams. If we let our unconscious do some of the work at night, it is amazing what epiphanies can occur. Sleeping on a project before clicking “publish” usually aids insights and complexities that we miss in our rush to finish.

Your Reading Assignment

Note: Some of the books I recommend will focus on advertising. Think of learning advertising as a master class in making your writing more popular. Many books on my marketing reading list come from Jon Morrow, so rest assured these titles are powerful and important for writers too.

CA$HVERTISING: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone (affiliate links)

 

Drew Eric Whitman takes you on a wild, roller-coaster ride through the streets of New York’s famed Madison Avenue and teaches you the specific psychological techniques that today’s top copywriters and designers use to influence the masses… and how you can use them to rapidly increase your sales, no matter what you sell.

I have written more on Whitman’s book here:

And if you are a fast reading fool, you can view the full marketing reading list here:

Finally, I’d love to hear your answers to the four questions above in the comment/responses!

Letter to a young creative writer — How do I start?

Letter to a young creative writer — How do I start?

Letter to a young creative writer

Read and write as much as possible

This is to discover what kind of creative writing you would like to do. Most people will tell you to write the kind of things you like to read.

Some of the choices would be:

  • Fiction: short stories, novels, short-shorts
  • Nonfiction: Personal essays, magazine features, memoir, journaling, blogging, travel essays, nature writing
  • Poetry: Prose poems, haiku, sonnets, verse, and many more types

It might take many years and lots of writing before you know what you enjoy writing the most. You don’t have to pick one kind or genre…many people write fiction, articles, and poetry, or some combination, but you might discover that your writing “voice” is best suited to one genre or type.

Don’t worry too much about finding your writing “voice” at this point. You will discover that over the course of your being a creative writer.

Spark your Imagination

Creative writer

Unsplash.com — Riley Mccullough

No matter what kind of creative writing you decide you enjoy, finding ways to connect to your imagination is key.

Some writers use their dreams as a starting point, like Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein.

Other writers may start with photographs like Ranson Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Many writers like Henry David Thoreau, Annie Dillard, and Edward Abbey use nature to spark their imagination.

Still, others have started writing from artwork. This practice is called, exphrasis. Homer, Keats, and Ruskin are known for this type of writing.

Take some time to explore each of these sources of creativity. Also, don’t be afraid to start with a line of existing poetry or other writing and use this as your jumping off point. Sometimes we need to have some words on the page to get the creative writing juices flowing.

Learning from the Masters

creative writer

Unsplash.com — Lia Leslie

And speaking of the blank page, some writers suggest that you write out poems and fiction to learn how each sentence or phrase is constructed. Not too many people have patience for this, but if you want to understand how great writers write, there is no substitute for learning how to write a masterful sentence.

Indeed, many poetry creative writing classes still require that students memorize whole poems and then recite them. It is standard practice for students learning to paint to try to duplicate a masterpiece. Why should it be different for the creative writer?

The Disobedient Writer: Break the Rules and Free Your Story
An unconventional guide to taking your fiction writing beyond the same old formula and telling unforgettable stories

Seize the day!

When you get older, you will discover that a large part of being a creative writer is finding the time for it. Now is the best time for you to build in good writing habits — write every day! — because before you know it, you will have a job, school, kids, and all kinds of other distractions that will compete for your energy and focus.

Inspiration

“And then there is inspiration. Where does it come from? Mostly from the excitement of living. I get it from the diversity of a tree or the ripple of the sea, a bit of poetry, the sighting of a dolphin breaking the still water and moving toward me, anything that quickens you to the instant. And whether one would call this inspiration or necessity, I really do not know.” –Martha Graham, Blood Memories

What has inspired you to write? Brainstorm and write down as many of these things as you can. Pick one of these and write from the emotion it invokes in you. It is okay to write from anger or sadness. Any strong emotion is a great starting point for your creative writing. And don’t forget that you have a body! Write how it feels in your body and what your senses are experiencing in that moment.

The best writing is in the details.

Dare to be yourself.

Barbie’s {STEM} Inferiority Complex: Obstacles to Living an Authentic Life

Barbie’s {STEM} Inferiority Complex: Obstacles to Living an Authentic Life

Math Class is Tough and Barbie’s Inferiority Complex

In 1992, the Mattel toy company released a Teen Talk Barbie that said, “Math class is tough!” This phrase (later removed from Barbie’s repertoire) from a popular culture icon reflected the math anxiety that many students have.

As a teenager, I experienced math anxiety after my initial exposure to algebra. While I was able to overcome this in my college years, it had a lasting impact because it determined what I would major in.

I was very interested in the earth sciences as my father was a meteorologist, and I did well in my earth sciences courses, however, I decided not to risk such majors as I feared the math coursework that would be required. Instead, I eventually earned degrees in computer science and computer information systems, leading to a long career in database administration.

inferiority complex

Unsplash.com — Roman Mager

In conversations with other women working in information technology, I have found a similar background of math anxiety and interest in the sciences.

Although my evidence is anecdotal, I believe it is logical that someone with an interest in science, but who avoided the formal study of science due to math anxiety, may have found their own unorthodox way to working analytically through computers, technology, and business as a science substitute.

inferiority complex

Unsplash.com — Justin Luebke

I also believe that this math anxiety feeds into a larger inferiority complex that, as one matures and finds some measure of success may become less emotionally charged, less outwardly manifested as anxiety, but instead is insidiously accepted as an unconscious internalized complex, and a projection identification.

Once this projection of being inferior is accepted as one’s natural self, others also come to see you as holding this inferior position, and treat you as such, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

inferiority complex

Unsplash.com — Tiko Giorgadze

As women are a minority within the IT field; an inferior or marginal position is built into the system. If we then add this to our own inferiority complexes of various origins, such as math anxiety, the effect is compounded.

inferiority complex

https://ngcproject.org/statistics

As a minority group and culture, this inferior position becomes a system projection, which the group holds, and identifies with, making it a cultural complex.

inferiority complex

Unsplash.com – Samantha Sophia

An additional emotional wounding comes from living an unauthentic life, such as being subjected to command and control management practices, when women may typically work from a more pluralistic, collaborate model.

This trauma shows up when women (or men) are belittled or ignored if they are introverted, quiet, a feeling type, and relationship oriented. This may also occur if they are more family centered than career oriented, and if they have more needs to take time off for family responsibilities.

inferiority complex

Unsplash.com — Caleb Jones

Also, in general, women may get less important, or responsible project and work assignments, which in turn may limit their experience, advancement, leadership roles, and salaries.

With the women’s movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s, women have been in various postures of offense and defense. Trauma and wounds may vary from woman to woman and is dependent on whether she is in a posture of offense or defense.

For example, to be on the offensive, a woman may delay relationships and having children, in favor of school or career. Depending on her culture and other social factors, this may cause the trauma of feeling isolated, and perhaps the object of gossip or concern, for why she is not yet married, or a mother.

inferiority complex

Unsplash.com — Les Anderson

If she is on the defensive, a woman may feel some measure of an inferiority complex that she is forever being measured against her male peers, and comes up lacking, either in their eyes, her own, or both.

Finally, what I have heard from other women (and men) in IT, and is also true in my case, is that most women go into the IT field as a fairly sure way of making a good living. This usually means giving up the hopes and dreams of a more authentic vocation and is perhaps the deepest wound. However, it also is the one that, with time, success, and life changes, becomes the most unconscious, and the most difficult to heal or reverse.

I may never be able to replace my IT income with my vocation as a writer, but I will battle to the end in the attempt.

inferiority complex

Unsplash.com — Carl Cerstrand

How to write like Kafka: “Follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly”

How to write like Kafka: “Follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly”

How to write like Kafka

Perhaps I should not wish this on you. How to write like Kafka, that is.

After all, no one would accuse Kafka of being a happy person. He asked his friend Max Brod to burn all his manuscripts upon his death. Fortunately for us, Brod ignored this and had them published.

But perhaps you would like your writing to be more Kafkaesque. You enjoy mixing fun themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity.

“What’s Kafkaesque is when you enter a surreal world in which all your control patterns, all your plans, the whole way in which you have configured your own behavior, begins to fall to pieces, when you find yourself against a force that does not lend itself to the way you perceive the world.

“You don’t give up, you don’t lie down and die. What you do is struggle against this with all of your equipment, with whatever you have. But of course you don’t stand a chance. That’s Kafkaesque.” — Frederick R. Karl, author of Franz Kafka: Representative Man

So, if like me you enjoy imagining or writing about what it would be like to wake as a giant cockroach ( Ungeziefer ) read on…

Be obsessed

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”
Franz Kafka

How to write like Kafka

Stay well hidden

I need solitude for my writing; not ‘like a hermit’ — that wouldn’t be enough — but like a dead man.”
Franz Kafka

Wring emotions from your bones

“I am constantly trying to communicate something incommunicable, to explain something inexplicable, to tell about something I only feel in my bones and which can only be experienced in those bones. Basically it is nothing other than this fear we have so often talked about, but fear spread to everything, fear of the greatest as of the smallest, fear, paralyzing fear of pronouncing a word, although this fear may not only be fear but also a longing for something greater than all that is fearful.” ― Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena

Write Your Best Fiction and Get It Published
Learn the 10 essentials of fiction-writing mastery from a world-class teacher and Writer’s Digest fiction expert

A good blow to the head

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” ― Franz Kafka

how to write like kafka

By Atelier Jacobi: Sigismund Jacobi (1860–1935) (http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/news/2008_july_02) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Be quiet

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” ― Franz Kafka

 

Be not moved

“Writing is a deeper sleep than death.
Just as one wouldn’t pull a corpse from its grave,
I can’t be dragged from my desk at night.”
Franz Kafka

No squirrels

“Evil is whatever distracts.”
Franz Kafka

Statue de Kafka par Jaroslav Rona, Prague, Republique techeque

Religious fever

“Writing is prayer.”
Franz Kafka

Sympathy for the devil

“Perhaps there is another kind of writing, I only know this one, in the night, when anxiety does not let me sleep, I only know this one. And what is devilish in it seems to me quite clear. It is the vanity and the craving for enjoyment, which is forever whirring around oneself or even around someone else…and enjoying it. The wish that a naive person sometimes has: “I would like to die and watch others crying over me,” is what such a writer constantly experiences: he dies (or he does not live) and continually cries over himself”
Franz Kafka

http://web.archive.org/web/20110321041448/http://www.kafka-franz.com:80/kafka-biography.htm

Emerge from the underworld

“Each of us has his own way of emerging from the underworld, mine is by writing. That’s why the only way I can keep going, if at all, is by writing, not through rest and sleep. I am far more likely to achieve peace of mind through writing than the capacity to write through peace.”
Franz Kafka, Letters to Felice‎

How to write like Kafka writing prompt:

Painters are often instructed to learn to paint by imitating the masters. However, this advice is seldom given to creative writers for fear of plagiarism. Writers are therefore handicapped by this lack of ancestor connection, in addition to the pressure and perceived need of producing something entirely unique. Throw this uniqueness requirement out of the window for today:

Use one of the Kafka quotes above and write a nonfiction piece about how it moved you or relates to your own writing process. Or, take one line of Kafka’s fiction and use it for a short story start. Think about what is absurd about your own life and write about that.

Possible Research Questions

  • Does The Metamorphosis inform the present human condition through the symbols and metaphors of scapegoat, the unclean, sacrifice?
  • Does The Metamorphosis describe and create a technology of the monstrous?
  • What might this work suggest about the collective unconscious, and what can the modern reader glean from this?

A Really Short Kafka Bibliography

  • Glatzer, N. N., & Kafka, F. (1971). The complete stories. Schocken Books, New York.
  • Kafka, F., & Brod, M. (1988). The diaries, 1910–1923. New York: Schocken Books.
  • Kafka, F., & Brod, M. (1991). The blue octavo notebooks. Cambridge, MA: Exact Change.
  • Kafka, F., & Corngold, S. (1996). The metamorphosis: Translation, backgrounds and contexts, criticism. New York: W.W. Norton.
  • Kafka, F., & Mitchell, B. (1998). The trial: A new translation, based on the restored text ; translated and with a preface by Breon Mitchell.
  • Pawel, E. (1984). The nightmare of reason: A life of Franz Kafka. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.
  • Preece, J. (2002). The Cambridge companion to Kafka. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Jungian Interpretations:

  • Sokel, Walter H. (2002). The Myth of Power and the Self: Essays on Franz Kafka. Detroit: Wayne State UP.
  • Thweatt, J. (March 01, 1982). Sharp, Daryl. The Secret Raven: Conflict and Transformation in the Life of Franz Kafka. Toronto, Inner City Books, 1980. The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal, 3, 3, 41–54.
  • Whitlark, J. (1991). Behind the great wall: A post-Jungian approach to Kafkaesque literature. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Make sure to enter the latest 500 Words Club Giveaway!

What is a memoir  —  the ultimate memoir writer’s toolkit

What is a memoir  —  the ultimate memoir writer’s toolkit

What is a memoir?

How to be a memoir Rockstar — the ultimate memoir writer’s toolkit

what is a memoir?

Unsplash.com

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
— Dr. Seuss

“Remember that you own what happened to you. If your childhood was less than ideal, you may have been raised thinking that if you told the truth about what really went on in your family, a long bony white finger would emerge from a cloud and point to you, while a chilling voice thundered, “We *told* you not to tell.” But that was then. Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on.”
— Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

Perhaps you thought it would be easy…writing your life’s story, or just one small part…

After all, you know all the characters so well. Hey, you even get to be the protagonist!

You don’t even need to dream up a plot; you have already lived the vivid details. You just need to write it all down, right?

But when you start writing your memoir, you find it is, well, hard. REALLY hard.

You wrestle with:

What is a memoir, exactly?

Which point of view to use?

Do I start in the past or present?

Why does my narrator sound: snarky | whiny | apathetic?

How do I keep from hurting the ones I love?

How do I remember what was really said?

So many unanswered questions!

Sorry, I don’t have all the answers but I have rounded up this ultimate list* of those who do.

For the most part, this list consists of what is a memoir and “how to” write a memoir, not actual memoirs.

Please comment below if you see one that I have missed! And, please comment on your favorite memoir writing book on the list!

*Thanks to Maureen Murdock and Jennifer Selig for their list contributions.

“Harry Bernstein was a total failure when he wrote his bestselling memoir, The Invisible Wall. His prior forty (forty!) novels had been rejected by publishers. When his memoir came out, he was ninety-three years old. A quote from him: “If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book, God knows what other potentials lurk in other people, if we could only keep them alive well into their 90s.”
— James Altucher (Choose Yourself)

what is a memoir?

Unsplash.com

The ultimate what is a memoir “how to” list:

If reading a few from this list doesn’t help you learn what is a memoir, or how to start, well, I’m guessing you need to turn to fiction!

Speaking of fiction, don’t miss out on our Signed Outlander Easton Press giveaway!

Pow! Blam! Whaam! Why your words should slither crackle and crunch -Tip 497

Pow! Blam! Whaam! Why your words should slither crackle and crunch -Tip 497

“Thwizzit”* why onomatopoeia writing matters

“Lively, well-paced, flowing, strong, beautiful: these are all qualities of the sound of prose, and we rejoice in them as we read. And so good writers train their mind’s ear to listen to their own prose—to hear as they write.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft

There is so much that goes into writing, right? At least that is what you’ve been told…

You need to read in your chosen genre (assuming you already have picked one).

You need to understand your audience, your competition, your keywords, your killer headline or title, what writing software to use, and how to use it.

You need that special time of day and that special cozy writing nook.
Should you use your laptop, or paper and pen?

Yada, yada, yada. You get the point.

Hmmm, what are we missing here? Spell checker, grammar checker? Sure, sure.

No, grasshopper, something much humbler…something that because of all the noise and distraction that now surrounds the act of writing we writers have lost track. You need to remember that all writing is made up of single

WORDS.

When was the last time you read something aloud? When was the last time you rolled some tasty words on your tongue just for the joy of how they exploded in your ear? Remember the fun of onomatopoeia writing? Those yummy words that sound like what they mean, such as crunch and slither?

Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5027583

How much fun is your own writing to write and read?

How much fun is your own writing to write and read? Click To Tweet

Writing, at least of the creative kind (and perhaps all kinds), should evoke some emotion if the reader is to connect and engage with it.

But you can’t get to the emotion of words if you don’t spend time with the individual words themselves. Ursula K. Le Guin, in her book, Steering the Craft, provided examples where writers have written with joy and abandon with the shape, sound, and rhythm of words.

Most associate these elements with poetry, but there is no reason that your prose can not also be enlivened with the noise of words. Here is an example from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories:

BEFORE the High and Far-Off Times, O my Best Beloved, came the Time of the Very Beginnings; and that was in the days when the Eldest Magician was getting Things ready. First he got the Earth ready; then he got the Sea ready; and then he told all the Animals that they could come out and play. And the Animals said, ‘O Eldest Magician, what shall we play at?’ and he said, ‘I will show you. He took the Elephant—All-the-Elephant-there-was—and said, ‘Play at being an Elephant,’ and All-the-Elephant-there-was played. He took the Beaver—All-the-Beaver-there-was and said, ‘Play at being a Beaver,’ and All-the Beaver-there-was played. He took the Cow—All-the Cow-there-was—and said, ‘Play at being a Cow,’ and All-the-Cow-there-was played. He took the Turtle—All-the-Turtle there-was and said, ‘Play at being a Turtle,’ and All-the-Turtle-there-was played. One by one he took all the beasts and birds and fishes and told them what to play at.

onomatopoeia writing

Unsplash.com

If you find it a challenge to write like this, Le Guin suggests that you pretend you are writing for children. (To warm up, go back and read your favorite onomatopoeia writing or Dr. Seuss).

When writing more formally, decide on what key emotion(s) you would like to elicit from your readers. Brainstorm a list of emotional words that do this (or sign up above for my Power Words cheat sheet). Once you have your list, pick three of the words and say them aloud. Are they impactful and noisy or are they, meh. (Hint, you never want, meh.)

I also like to do a close reading of words and look up their etymology, or their history. Sometimes their history reveals some surprising results that takes my content deeper or in new directions. If you have never done this before, please give it a try (see writing prompt below).

Write Your Best Fiction and Get It Published
Learn the 10 essentials of fiction-writing mastery from a world-class teacher and Writer’s Digest fiction expert

Writing prompt – my Best Beloved, go forth!

Choose a piece of writing that you have done. Think about the key emotion that you’d like to leave with your readers. Have you used words that achieve this? Pick at least three words and look up their etymology. If that first layer of word history doesn’t spark anything new for you, go back in the etymology history and uncover the deeper roots of the word. What surprising thing have you learned about this word that you can incorporate into your existing writing? Perhaps it sparks some new ideas for new material great! Go from there.

If the above does not float your boat, take a piece of your writing (or new writing) and write it for reading to kindergarteners. Go for fun and surprise. Go for fear and anxiety. (Think Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are). Try onomatopoeia writing. Do not forget to read your work aloud and make some word noise!

The overall point of this exercise is not to write for children if that is not your thing, but to find ways to remember that words are individual, have histories, and emotional tones.

Scrivener

If you’re brave, please share your results in the comments below. Zoinks! What are your favorite onomatopoeic words?

Please join the #500WordsClub and let us know what you’re working on!

Carla Paton, Ph.D.-c is a writer, marketer, and Depth Psychologist. She loves helping writers with quick and easy marketing tips so they can get back to writing. Grab your free Power Words Cheat Sheet for Busy Writers, and then make those words shine!

*Mad Magazine cartoonist Don Martin, already popular for his exaggerated artwork, often employed comic-book style onomatopoeic “sound effects” in his drawings (for example, thwizzit is the sound of a sheet of paper being yanked from a typewriter). Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onomatopoeia

How to write & train your brain to be a kick-ass writer every day – Tip #498

How to write & train your brain to be a kick-ass writer every day – Tip #498

How to write by training your brain

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

 

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”
― Neil Gaiman

Are you wondering how to write? I mean, you know how to write, but maybe you are wondering how to write consistently and more, much more.

Are you staring at the screen or page with no clue, or are you jumping out of bed because you urgently need to get your ideas written?

Which writer do you want to be?

There are those writers who wait for inspiration to come and those that write every day no matter the circumstances or their mood.

There are those writers who wait for inspiration to come and those that write every day no… Click To Tweet

It no accident or happy quirk of birth that allows some writers to pour forth a steady stream of words at a decent pace and to do so almost every day.

If you are reading this post, I’m guessing that you too would like the secret to the magic writing formula. And yes, there is one.

The “how to write” more formula is to train your brain.

Warning. The training is some work. It takes discipline. If you are not serious about becoming a writing machine leave now and go watch some cat videos.

via GIPHY

Okay, now that it is just us serious people, here are the basics (details follow the list):

  1. Before you go to bed, think about what you might write the next day
  2. Set your alarm for at least 30 minutes early
  3. Sit down to write every day at the same time
  4. Rinse and repeat

Yup, that’s it. But wait; let’s break these points down a bit. (I can hear some of you thinking, this is stupid common sense, why waste my time reading on. Read that Stephen King quote again. It works for him – ’nuff said?)

Before you go to bed, think about what you might write the next day

Perhaps you don’t know if you want to write fiction, articles, memoirs or some other genre. That is okay. You will figure out what you are best suited to write over time. But that will only happen if you write enough to figure that out. So, for this exercise, let’s assume you want to write a blog post every day.

To train your brain, it is helpful to have a framework or a theme. This cuts down on the work of weeding through the entire universe. If you have a narrow focus, your brain can magnify the details. Writing is about the details.

For example, my current theme is helping writers by giving them 500 writing tips and prompts. When I go to bed, I know that I only have to write one tip the next day. This small focus lets my brain get busy. It doesn’t have to think about all the other things I could be writing. It knows it just needs to find that one needle by the time I sit down to write the next morning. Easy.

Sometimes, I already know what I want to write about the next day because it came to me during the day. But many times, I let my unconscious work on it through my dreams, which leads to step 2.

Set your alarm for at least 30 minutes early

I do my best creative thinking in the hypnagogic state between sleep and wakefulness. I set my alarm for 30 minutes early so I can linger in this state before I actually need to get up.

In this state, sometimes a fragment of a dream becomes an idea. But usually, I get a full idea for my writing that appears from the mist of this hypnogogic state. By thinking about my writing before I go to sleep and allowing it to work through the dream states, my unconscious rewards this steeping with an answer when I wake.

It may not happen for you the first few times you try this, but with time, it will. Read Naomi Epel’s book, Writers Dreaming: 25 Writers Talk about Their Dreams and the Creative Process to see how this process has worked for many writers.

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Sit down to write every day at the same time

This step is perhaps the most important. It doesn’t matter what time a day it is, but make sure it is free from distractions. For most writers, this usually means getting up before the rest of the household. If you are single with no needy toddlers about, then you may not need to set your alarm extra early, but chances are you still have a job to get to. If not a commute and somewhere you have to be, then you have other distractions such as email and phone calls which with to contend. For some a lunch hour works well. And for some, you must write late at night. You probably already know when you have the least distractions and the most energy. This is the sweet spot for writing consistently.

But the point is, to train your brain to be a writing warrior; you need to get it accustomed to a steady practice. This is difficult to quantify and prove, but so many writers have testified to the fact that they write more consistently if they write at the same time every day.

This consistency seems to make the brain ready. It is in a waiting and prepared state for you to begin. Perhaps a poor analogy, but think of your dog waiting for his morning treat. He knows full well that once you’ve gotten your tea and toast, it is coming. He waits patiently in his snack-getting-spot because he knows this is what happens every morning without fail. You don’t have to think about it, and neither does he. It is routine. This is how you want your writing habit to be. A routine removes the distractions, greases the wheels, and lets the writing flow.

how to write

Rinse and repeat

Of course, a routine and habit comes only with repetition. None of this is glamorous or surprising. But I will hold out that if you commit to these training steps, you will discover its magic.

  • You will have more ideas than you can write about in a lifetime.
  • You will wake excited to get to your computer or pen.
  • You won’t have to struggle for a word count.
  • You will have more pages than time to revise.

how to write

Writing prompt – No fairy dust required

Brainstorm several themes or a writing project that you’d like to write about over time. Pick one of these and break it down into ten smaller topics. If you already have a theme or project, come up with ten new topics that you can write about in one writing session, one per session. The trick is to make each topic small enough that you can cover most of it in an hour or two. If writing fiction, these topics would be one scene per session. You would not need to complete each in a session but it would get you going each day.

Now, you have a topic or scene to muse on before going to bed (Step 1). You will be surprised what happens overnight. If nothing happens the first or second time, you do have a starting point for your writing session. Start with a title or a first sentence and keep going. In this case, more is more. The more you write consistently, the more writing will come without effort.

Equipped with this idea, you don’t need to be in the mood to write or need to wait for inspiration. You now know how to write, now go.

Scrivener

If you dare, please share your results from the writing prompt in the comments below or something about your writing process.

Please join the #500WordsClub and let us know what you’re working on!

Carla Paton, Ph.D.-c is a writer, marketer, and Depth Psychologist. She loves helping writers with quick and easy marketing tips so they can get back to writing. Grab your free Power Words Cheat Sheet for Busy Writers, and then make those words shine!

500 writing tips and prompts #499 first draft & the enemy of the people

500 writing tips and prompts #499 first draft & the enemy of the people

Shitty first draft

“The first draft of anything is shit.”
— Ernest Hemingway

 

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

— Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

How many times have you started some writing but ran out of time because you were editing yourself over and over?

Or perhaps you got 1,000 words done, but were exhausted by self-doubt?

Stop the madness!

first draftI can think of no better writing tip to start off my 500 series of writing tips and prompts, than the shitty first draft mantra.

When first starting a project, repeat, I only need to write a shitty first draft. Frame it; stick it on your monitor.

When first starting a project, repeat, I only need to write a shitty first draft. Click To Tweet

Be forgiving of yourself, and remember, you only need to get words on paper for a first draft. Do not edit as you go. Turn off your Grammarly (and maybe remove the backspace key). You will need to revise, but the first draft is not the time.

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something — anything — down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft — you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.

— Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

Stop the editing and self-doubt; no one cares about your first draft and neither should you.

Now, let those fingers fly!

Writing prompt

Write a shitty first draft of a secret you’ve never told anyone (or hey make one up!). Write for 15 minutes, write, don’t think, do not stop.

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If you’re brave, please share your results in the comments below or your writing process.

Please join the #500WordsClub and let us know what you’re working on!

About the author. Carla Paton, Ph.D.-c is a writer, marketer, and Depth Psychologist. She loves helping writers with quick and easy marketing tips so they can get back to writing. Grab your free Power Words Cheat Sheet for Busy Writers, and then make those words shine!

Write 500 Words a Day Club Challenge #500WordsClub

Write 500 Words a Day Club Challenge #500WordsClub

Be Awesome – Write 500 Words a Day Club Challenge

You think you’ll never finish any writing project. Ever.

I’ve been there, and have tried all the tricks.

Set my alarm early. Check.

Beautiful sunrise. Check.

No checking of email. Check.

Disconnect from the Internet. Check.

Set my writing timer for 45 minutes. Check.

Blank page. Check.

Squirrel.

Write 500 words a day

2 hours later…Commute…email, problems, more email, problems, kids, dog escape, husband, kids, problems, snacks. Commute, laundry, dishes,
treadmill, shower, exhaustion. Rinse, repeat.

Be Great – How to Write 500 Words a Day

Yes, all the tricks we do to write are necessary. And I will write more
about them in the days to come, but above all, it is accountability that will help us to keep the squirrels in their rightful trees and not scurrying across our writing desks.

I am proposing that you join me in my quest and commitment to writing 500 words a day, no excuses.

Join me in my quest and commitment to writing 500 words a day, no excuses. Click To Tweet

Well, that’s fine for me, you say, but how do I know that you’ve done your writing for the day?

Write 500 Words a day

Easy! You are going to tell me about your writing victories, by commenting below, or by tweeting your awesome daily accomplishments with the hashtag #500wordsclub.

When I see your comment or tweet, I will give you a shout out on my DailyMuseBooks Twitter feed.

By participating daily in this FREE epic writing adventure you get:

  • 500 words written a day (reward enough, no?)
  • Kudos & more encouragement
  • Exposure of your writing project (if you want)
  • Inspirational tips and ideas to keep you motivated

Be Awesome – How to Write 500 Words a Day- Every Day

In the #500wordsclub you will get more kudos and support from the others in the same battle to get words on the page. You are going to tweet and share this right?!

Likewise, support your fellow clubbers by giving them a twitter or comment high five.

Write 500 Words a Day

Accountability is the golden writing key.

If you can’t afford a personal writing coach to kick your butt, then use the free writing #500wordsclub to support your efforts. Also get daily inspirational tips to keep you motivated.

Conclusion

The world is asleep.

You have your comfy, steaming mug of tea.

You have closed the door to intrusions and future-cares.

You have primed the writing well the night before.

You hit the blank screen running. Before you know it, an hour has passed and wah-lah! 500 words have made their way onto your page.

You can do this. And you can do it every day.

Join the #500WordsClub and get the support you need to write 500 words a day, get your writing finished, and out in the world.

About the Author

Carla Paton, Ph.D.-c is a writer, marketer, and Depth Psychologist. She
loves helping writers with quick and easy marketing tips so they can get
back to writing. Grab your free Power Words Cheat Sheet for Busy Writers, and then make those words shine!

 

Jung Corner: The Original Goth – German Expressionism, Nosferatu, and Film Noir

Jung Corner: The Original Goth – German Expressionism, Nosferatu, and Film Noir

The Centre of an Imaginative Whirlpool: Nosferatu and Weimar Culture – Part 1

The Original Goth – German Expressionism, Nosferatu, and Film Noir

“I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting.”   –  Bram Stoker, Dracula

What were, if any, the cultural and psychological undercurrents in German Expressionism that expressed the dichotomy between the Weimar Republic and the rise of Hitler? In the years between World War I and II, from roughly 1919 to 1929, the fledging and the short-lived Weimar Republic in Germany witnessed an extraordinary flourishing of philosophy, arts, and sciences. According to Bollucks (2010), professor of English at UW-Milwaukee, the Weimar Republic was “remarkable for the way it emerged from a catastrophe, more remarkable for the way it vanished into a still greater catastrophe, the world of Weimar represents modernism in its most vivid manifestation” (Wikipedia, n. p.). In addition, some have termed the art movement at this time in Germany, German Expressionism. However, this movement was also evident throughout Europe.

Also, with such a thriving of art, science, and culture, how is it that a Hitler could have arisen in such a milieu? What were the cultural and psychological undercurrents in the collective unconscious that could account for such an apparent dichotomy? More specifically, what were the stated or unstated beliefs of blood and race that shaped the Weimar romantic imagination to produce the string of horror and noir films such as, The Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari, The Golem, Faust, Waxworks, and Nosteratu? How much were such works influenced by the fear of Eastern Europeans; Jews and gypsies in particular?

German Expressionism

By Robert Wiene, director, died 1938; Rudolf Meinert, producer, died 1943; Erich Pommer, producer, died 1966; Hans Janowitz, writer, died 1954; Carl Mayer, writer, died 1944; Willy Hameister, Cinematographer, died 1938; – the movie Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26998065

Finally, and more broadly speaking, why have these fascinations persisted in our psyche and popular culture today? What are the whys, ways, and means of our need to produce monsters? Is there a repeated process, a technology of monster making; of monstrosity? Is this our need to project the alien “Other,” or our shadow? Or is it, as Nelson (2001) posits in The Secret Life of Puppets, the only acceptable way of our rational, Enlightenment selves to allow the eruption and consumption of the supernatural:

The way larger mainstream culture, via works of imagination instead of official creeds, subscribes to a nonrational, supernatural, quasi-religious view of the universe: pervasively, but behind our own backs. Consuming art forms of the fantastic is only one way that we as nonbelievers allow ourselves, unconsciously to believe. (p. vii)

Are the gothic and fantasy genres our method of individuation; our preferred, acceptable method of integrating the rational and irrational? I believe that the answer to all of the above is, “yes” and these are the questions that I will explore in further depth.

German Expressionism

By F.W. Murnau – screen capture around the 1hr 19min mark, PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22848473

In a series of posts, I will show that by reflecting the themes of menace, Germany’s romantic past, the recent humiliation of war, and the liminal space of dreams, fantasy and reality, F. W. Murnau’s 1922 film, Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror) (2007) captures the unique historical imagination of the Weimar Republic and in turn reflects our continuing need for reconciling the zeitgeist of the times with the spirit of the depths. I will also examine the Dracula vampire phenomenon in later posts.

References (for the German Expressionism entire series)

Dawidziak, M. (2008). The bedside, bathtub, and armchair companion to Dracula. New York: Continuum.

Eliade, M. (1959). The sacred and the profane: The nature of religion. New York: Harcourt, Brace.

Eliade, M. (1961). Images and symbols: Studies in religious symbolism. New York: Sheed & Ward.

Elsaesser, T. (2000). Weimar cinema and after: Germany’s historical imaginary. London: Routledge.

Gombrich, E. H. (1964). The Story of Art, By E.H. Gombrich. London: Phaidon Press.

Jung, C. G. (2009). The red book =: Liber novus. (S. Shamdasani, Ed.) New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

McDonald, B. (2010). Recreating the world: The sacred and the profane in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In J. Lynch, Critical insights Dracula by Bram Stoker (pp. 87-137). Pasadena, CA: Salem.

Moss, S. (1998). Bram Stoker and the Society for Psychical Research. In E. Miller, Dracula: The shade and the shadow (pp. 82-92). Trowbridge: Desert Island Books.

Murnau, F. W. (Director). (2007). Nosferatu [Motion Picture]. Kino International Corporation.

Nelson, V. (2001). The secret life of puppets. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Roberts, I. (2008). German expressionist cinema: The world of light and shadow. London: Wallflower Press.

Stoker. (1997). Dracula: Authoritative text, contexts, reviews and reactions, dramatic and film variations, criticism. (N. Auerbach, & D. J. Skal, Eds.) New York: W. W. Norton.

Stoker, B. (2009). Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A documentary journey into vampire country and the Dracula phenomenon. (E. Miller, Ed.) New York: Pegasus Books.

Wikipedia. (2010). Weimar Culture. Retrieved 12 4, 2010, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_culture

Morning Person – NOT – Body Rhythms Writing Myths, Realities, and Morning Pages

Morning Person – NOT – Body Rhythms Writing Myths, Realities, and Morning Pages

Morning Person – NOT – Body Rhythms Writing Myths, Realities, and Morning Pages

We all have our ideal morning, right? We wake up refreshed, get right to our keyboard, or morning pages journal and favorite pen, with a steaming mug of our favorite caffeinated beverage. The house is quiet. We have been good and not peeked at messages or emails. We commence writing something worthy, something all our own.

Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.
― Glen Cook, Sweet Silver Blues

It used to be that my favorite time of day was the hour or so before I go to sleep, work and chores done, curled in bed with a book. Now, however, or for the last two weeks at least, I have conquered my natural body rhythms (sleep, and then well, some more sleep) and have woken up with the sunrise. I have stolen at least an hour each morning before my work day for writing. Am I kidding myself? When will I revert to my natural sleep-in-as-long-as-possible rhythm? Is there even such a thing as a body clock? Or are these merely habits to reinforce or break? Yes, gasp, I think I may be becoming a morning person.

Body Rhythm Myths & Realities

morning pages

So, to reinforce this habit, how are we to reinvent our routines to accommodate our modern realities? While our bodies may be naturally tuned to wake at sunrise and wind down at sunset, most of us no longer keep traditional farmer schedules. In 1959, Dr. Franz Halberg coined this natural rhythm of sleep and wakefulness, the circadian rhythm. Circadian comes from the Latin meaning, “about a day.”

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

According to the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, circadian rhythms are about 24-hour cycles regulated by control centers in the middle of the brain called, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). The circadian rhythm reaches the most sleepiness in the middle of the night, reaches the least at awakening, while slight drowsiness then returns mid-afternoon. Indeed, besides sleep, there are about 100 known body functions that oscillate from high to low in a 24-hour period. With these built-in functions in mind, perhaps we should clue-in and work with them instead of against them.

Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.
—George Singleton

Listen to Your Mother

My writing life has suffered from my need for sleep. If I don’t get 8 to 9 hours a night, I feel groggy, and by the end of the week, if I remain at a cumulative deficit, I can even become ill. Then a good chunk of my weekend is lost to catching up on sleep…then Sunday night it is hard to get to sleep and of course, Monday morning, well, sucks. But, of course, my mother, who is always right, is right and if I force myself to get up at the same time EVERY morning, then I do sleep deeper and need less sleep. I am trying this logic again; it is working for now. I am happy, I am rested, and I am writing.

A Place to Start

If you need some new tool incentives (or a fresh smelling journal), one of the first early morning writing evangelists was Julia Cameron. Her The Artist's Way book and its subsequent offshoots are a good place to begin if you want some structure around your writing morning efforts. While certainly not the inventor of the practice, she coined the term, morning pages.

The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages. – Julia Cameron

 

morning pages

Conclusion

I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.
—Ray Bradbury

While modernity, with its productive extended hours of electric light, technology, and gadgets of every sort has extended our abilities beyond nature’s boundaries, we are still tied, body and mind to the earth’s rotation and the sun’s cycles. If we remember to honor circadian rhythms in our daily schedule and activities, Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep will reward us with more deep slumber and all its benefits, including early bird writing.

Please share what your morning writing routine is like, what has helped, or your morning person (or not) experiences.