Daily Writing Routines: Sound Familiar?

How did famous writers spend their day? How did their organize their time? Sierra Delarosa, who works for an infographics company, sends me infographics she thinks my readers will be interested in. This one caught my attention.

Writing on a schedule works, but every writer has a schedule that works. It may not be yours, but it could be–take a look at these routines and see if any of them can become comfortable for you.

A regular writing practice demands regular writing. Technology certainly helps, but it also distracts. This infographic includes a wide variety of writers, from Flannery O’Connor (Southern Gothic writer who wrote books and short stories) to Emily Post (etiquette columnist, whose work is carried on into modern etiquette.)

Not every writer had an outside job, but those that did made their private time important. That’s a major tip: your writing time is precious. Laundry can wait.

You can find the entire blog and other interesting stories at GlobalEnglishEditing. The infographic is entertaining, particularly if you know the authors, but not how they worked.

I am not promoting Global English Editing, nor their infographic or website. I was not paid to post this, I do find it interesting.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. She is also a creativity coach.

Being an Author

Being a book author means you also have to do your own marketing. Most publishing companies don’t do as much as they did five years ago, and some do nothing at all. That’s now the writer’s job.

So I try to schedule book events rather than book signings. Events are more interesting and have a better chance of attracting people. Libraries are a good place to do an event. You are guaranteed to get people who like reading at a library.

HeroBookI called a library to arrange a book signing for my book, The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.
We join the conversation in progress, as it slides inexorably downhill:
Me: . . . so I wondered if a book signing would be a good mix for your events this summer.
Librarian: Well, I don’t know, maybe if you did a children’s program. . .
Me: The book is really for adults who keep a journal.
Librarian: We are looking to do more performance art this summer, with guests from far away.
Me: Oh. I would have thought you’d be interested in your local writers, too.
Librarian: Look, it’s not like you are exactly J.A. Jance.

What a great praise for J.A. Jance, a writer of mysteries and suspense books who used to live in Tucson and now lives in Seattle. I’m a fan. So I wrote her and told her the story.
Her reply?
Many years ago, the same thing happened to her–except she was told “You are no Norman Mailer.” And then, incredibly, she told me two lesser-known libraries that had been helpful to her before she had several books on the New York Times best seller list.

None of us are all everyone wants us to be. What makes us great is the willingness to be who we have become. With some work, that is better than who we used to be. Because, great or not great, we can’t be anyone else.

-Quinn McDonald is happy about her book.  She is always impressed with the kindness of another writer.

Writing Through Revelations, Visions and Dreams

Stella Pope Duarte‘s new book, Writing through Revelations, Visions, and Dreams, the memoir of a writers’s soul, is an intriguing book. Stella does much more than tell stories from her own life, she invites us to wake up and pay attention to the signs in our lives.

Book_Cover__FinalDreams may well be prophecies, but “To become reality a prophecy needs the cooperation from the one who received the message,” she writes.

She struggled for weeks to understand the dream she had about her father, who said to her, “It’s right there, mija, in front of you, what you have to do next.” What was she supposed to see? Why wouldn’t her father tell her? But she didn’t let it go or forget it. She stayed aware, waiting for more information. She didn’t run to look up what the dream meant in a dream book, because only the dreamer can untangle the meanings of dreams. She continued to question the dream until she was in a bookstore, and a book fell off the shelf at her feet. It was a book abou a  South African woman of mixed race and the love and hate she experienced. It dawned on Stella that this woman’s values were similar to her own, even if they lived thousands of miles apart. “She wrote what she knew,” and at that moment, Stella understood that it was the hallmark of every writer, and she could no longer distance herself from her own past.

In her talk at Changing Hands Bookstore on Thursday night, Stella told us sheStella finally discovered that her father had foretold her becoming a writer. As a family therapist and a college professor, she had thought her career was in place, but her life of writing hadn’t begun. (Stella won the National Book Award for If I Die in Juárez in 2009)

Stella tells rapid-fire stories about growing up in Phoenix’s poorest barrio and living with domestic violence for years. She is brutally honest about this time in her life and what she learned from it. She shows the following slide:

angelStellaIt says, “If you come to terms with the dark parts of who you are,  you won’t have to marry them.” It was a profound moment. We are so attracted to what we are not, and feel it missing in our lives. It seems tempting and exotic, and yet, once we marry it, it becomes the foreign irritant in our lives that we struggle to change. We all know about the futility of changing other people, but that is the dance we do–we see the dark other parts of ourselves in a lover, we want it manifested, and when it does, we want to distance ourselves from it. You can’t do both, at least not at the same time.

The book is a combination of memoir, self-help for writers, and a comfort for those of us who have dreams that confuse and inspire us. The slim, 162-page volume is a quick read and an interesting view into the heart of a writer.

-Quinn McDonald couldn’t stay home and write; she had to go hear Stella Pope Duarte speak. And she’s glad she did.

Book Conversations

Some vignettes from conversations this week as I arrange book signings. I must immediately add that I have had wonderful conversations with delightful people and have signings scheduled, but those aren’t the ones that make my wrinkle my forehead in confusion. Here are a few of the more perplexing conversations:

Me: “I’m a local author with a book coming out in July. I’d like to discuss setting up a book signing.”
Bookstore person: [Sigh] “Another local author. We only do NATIONAL authors.”
Me: [Chuckling] “Well, I’m not originally from here, so maybe I can quality as a national author.”
Bookstore person: “No. If you were a real national author, we’d know about you.”

* * * * * *
Me: “. . .so I’m hoping you’ll want to join the virtual book tour.”
Acquaintance: “I dunno. Maybe. Send me six free copies for my book group.”
Me: ? ? ?
Me: “. . .so I’m wondering if you would do me the honor or reviewing the book on amazon.
Acquaintance: “Sure. Send me a couple of free books when they come out and I’ll take it on vacation with me in September.”
Me: “I can send you a link to an online pdf copy for review in 10 days. That way, perhaps you can get the review up soon after the book comes out, at the end of July. Is that possible for you?”
Acquaintance: “No. I want at least two free books if I’m going have to read it and ALSO write a review. And you know, I get to write whatever I want.”
Me: ” Of course you get to write whatever you want. That’s the purpose of a review. But it sounds like I’m asking you to do more than you are comfortable with.”
Acquaintance: “Yeah, you kind of are. So do I still get two free books?”
Acquaintance: “So your book would be perfect for this person I know. If you send him some free books, he might review it, and he might mention it on his blog. He has thousands of readers.”
Me: “Who are the readers on his blog?”
Acquaintance: “What difference does it make? Publicity is publicity. He might mention you”
Me: “But having a lot of people who are not interested in my book looking at it doesn’t make much sense.”
Acquaintance: “Well, if you don’t want my help, why should I ask this guy? Hey, now that I’ve given you a great lead, can you send me a free copy?”
Acquaintance: “So my friend will review your book. But he has to say whatever he wants. And you won’t know till it goes up on amazon. And no deadlines, either. Send him about half a dozen free copies.”
Me: “There are no free copies. I have to pay for them.” But there is a link to a review pdf online. I can send you that.
Acquaintance: “Don’t be so cheap. You have to spend money to make money. And I was the one who told you to self-publish, but no, you had to go with a publishing company.”
Me: [Confused, as conversation is going is opposite directions] “If I’d self-published, I would have still had to pay for them myself. And ahead of time.”
Acquaintance: “Well, you did it your way. Anyway, when it comes out, send me a free copy and I’ll proofread it for you. It will be good for you to know where you made mistakes.”

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art. The book is available on her site for pre-order from amazon.

Progress Report: The Book’s Title

Shadow of tree on roof of artist's tent, Tubac, AZ, 2010 ©

After teaching raw-art journaling for six years, I decided to write a book about it. I found a publisher, and with incredible luck, a gifted editor. I’ve written about the book contract and the research, so I won’t rehash that.

I have no idea how people who self-publish books manage without an editor. Maybe they hire an editor. I’ve been a writer for a very long time, and I am absolutely sure that every writer needs an editor. It has nothing to do with how well you know how to write, it has to do with seeing the book from a different perspective. And I don’t think writers can do that by themselves. When you write you don’t see the impact or the effect, you see the shadow of your work. And editor pulls back the screen and takes a look at your writing from the viewpoint of the person who will eventually read it. Big difference.

After I sent the editor the first two chapters, she sent me back the thumbnails. When I opened them, two chapters had become three, and the layout made so much more sense then what I thought was fine when I sent it. I had the feeling of seeing the forest when I had been writing trees.

The book is also real. For the first time it looks like it will when someone opens it. After six years of teaching classes, taking notes, drafting chapters, after a year of wondering why I want to write a book, knowing why, and sitting down to write, it was suddenly in front of me.

It’s not the first book I’ve written, but I did the first one on a fixed cash contract and didn’t get to choose the subject. I had to follow a general outline. I was paid to do a lot of research and assemble it.  This time, I’m writing what I know. I’m

Artifact statue, The Bario Gallery, Tubac, AZ

writing what makes sense to me.  I’m writing because I hope that other people will see it and think, “I know this feeling. I live in that space, too. This author lives in my studio.” And then, more than anything, I hope someone says, “Wow, I was hoping this would happen. I was hoping someone would understand me and write to me. This book was written just for me.” Because it is. So many people think they aren’t enough, don’t have enough to be an artist. And so many people do.

The editor suggested a different title. My first thought was, “No, I’ve planned this title.” But instantly I knew she was right. The book wasn’t just about raw art, it was about being raw. Standing with bare tools and writing on the cave wall, starting over every time you turn the page of your journal.  I love the concept of slow food. I love the concept of putting down the kits and putting yourself on the page. So this is the title of my book:

The Raw Journal: Making Meaning, Making Art. No Skills Required.

I am prepared to answer the question “How can you make art with no skills.” Ah. That’s raw art. We are all born to create. We are all born creative. It’s not a skill, it’s a right. We have to reclaim it.

Quinn McDonald’s book will be published by North Light books in the summer of 2011.