A Rosy New Year’s Day

Today is the first day of 2014 and I’m smelling roses. Both figuratively and literally.

For the past two decades I’ve spent this day more or less the same way. Probably my most continuous New Year’s Day tradition is watching the Rose Parade with my mom early in the morning, bemoaning that we’re stuck inside our home in snowy Michigan rather than outside in the beautiful California sunshine “ooo-ing” and “ahhh-ing” at the floats in person. We whine, complain and say, “next year, we’ll be there. Michigan State will play better. We’ll save more money. We’ll do this. We’ll do that. We’ll have all of those things we don’t have now.”

Well believe it or not, two decades later I’m at that Rose Parade – my first trip ever west of Chicago.

This trip is a big deal.

I don’t travel much. I don’t have a lot of cash. I don’t have a job. I don’t have a lot of things. But I am at the 100th Tournament of Roses – something that last year, although I may have resolved with my mom that we would go, I thought would be another unmet resolution.

Each year I reflect on what I want to change about my life – what’s left me restless or disappointed. I spend all of this energy focusing on how to improve the bad but I very rarely ever make it a reality. This year if my trip to the Rose Bowl will have taught me anything it’s that I’m better off focusing on the “making” part. Rather than reflecting, which I think us writers too often have a propensity to do, I’m going to take action this year.

I’m going to go out and get that job. I’m going to write that novel. I’m going to travel. I’m going to do all of these things rather than think about doing all of these things. And then I’m going to write about them.

Ashley HaglundAshley works in corporate, health care and non-profit communications. She loves starting new writing projects; is a media junkie; enjoys studying science, technology and patent law issues; and has a love/hate relationship with semi-colons. To see her face and be her internet friend, follow her on twitter.

Things To Do When You Have Writer’s Block

Writer’s block. Yuck.

What a horrible phrase, for a horrible phenomenon. It sounds like it should be a physical condition — something (or someone) is literally blocking you from committing words to a page — but in actuality it’s a mental condition, which is a far trickier foe to best.

It can happen to anyone at anytime, and there’s not one tried-and-true method for getting rid of it. While this may seem terrifying, it’s also slightly reassuring. All of us writers are united by our fight against writer’s block, and we all have our particular ways of breaking free.

Here are just a few:

-Write something else for a while.

-Get away from your computer/mobile device/whatever it is that you use to write with.

-Read a book — see how someone else did it.

-Watch a movie. Or binge-watch a TV show. Or subscribe to a YouTube series (may I suggest vlogbrothers?).

-Draw a picture.

-Map it out — I haven’t tried this myself but I’ve heard story maps (or really any kind of map) can help you organize your ideas in a much less daunting way.

-Grocery shop/order takeout.

-Cook. Bake. Heat something up in the microwave (preferably food-related — I don’t want to hear about anyone using this blog as an excuse to blow up a lightbulb or tin foil).

-Drink. Not excessively — Hemingway and all those other types have already been there and done that. Beer on the other hand is supposed to stimulate creativity.

-Do something active (I personally like running).

-Talk it out — with friends. Family. You significant other. Your cat. Your dog. Your imaginary pet goldfish. Etc.

-Scribble. Not write — scribble.

-Erase.

-Start over.

-Smash it with a hammer (you can take that as figurative or literal) and just keep on writing.

P.S. — And if all else fails, you can always turn your thoughts into a listicle (like this one).

Noelle is an email copywriter (yes, that is a thing) and occasional freelance writer. When she’s not typing or running, she can be found eating, sleeping, quoting a movie, or curled up in an easy chair with her nose stuck in a book. Sometimes she tweets too.

Stuck in Process

I had this interview once where they asked me about my writing experience.

I couldn’t very well say, “I could send you this short story I wrote in seventh grade about this  boy wizard, but like, it’s not a ripoff of Harry Potter or anything. Pinky swear.” And so I shrugged and said I had focused more on editing and the publishing process in college, not focusing on the words that floated around in my head and always found themselves scribbled on some paper. Fixing someone else’s words was exhilarating; coming up with my own (and showing them to people) was terrifying.

Later, the interviewer told me one of the main reasons I didn’t get the job was because I had very little writing experience.

For someone who has always considered themselves a word connoisseur, this deflated me. I didn’t have writing experience. Nothing that counted, anyway. All of the short stories and attempts-at-novels and plot lines I had written down counted for nothing my resume.

Theory: Maybe it was around the time that I decided to turn into an adult that I lost my creativity.

I had notebooks filling my childhood desk at home and another one I always kept in my bag during college for when the idea struck. I pulled it out only a few times in college. I’d rather go to Beer Rhetorics, or watch the Bachelorette, or shop on Grand River. I didn’t sit at the computer so much anymore, slamming away on the keyboard for hours at a time, my fingers not moving fast enough to satiate what my brain was telling me to say. I didn’t really notice until I started interviewing for big girl jobs that I had grown up from the idealistic “writer,” and had grown into the “editor.” I had transitioned from one world of words to the other without even realizing it.

Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE editing. I freelance edit, I edit at my job, I even edit some of Vanessa’s stuff from time to time.

I guess I’m having a hard time adjusting to this “correctness” problem. I can’t write a shitty first draft. I can’t get lost in the tale anymore; I get lost in the syntax, the commas.

Vanessa recently challenged me to get back into writing. I have been dipping my toes into it again, testing the water and seeing how it feels. It feels okay, I guess. A little like it used to, but still foreign and forced.

I haven’t changed all that much from over a month ago. I’m trying to put words to paper, but dragging my heels every step of the way. I can practically taste the inspiration — I have the desire to continue, the general idea of what I want this unwritten tale to be — but I can’t wrap my fingers around it.

So I’m reaching out to you, writers. What tactics do you use to get yourself out of a funk?

Lauren is a social media guru/web content manager/overall awesome editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.

We’re Writers, We’re Artists

I was in the middle of writing a blog post about blogging. And then I saw this…

And stopped everything.

I tossed aside my intellectual musings about meta-ness and stopped thinking so hard. I let my thoughts run away from me and appreciated my writing, Mary Lambert’s writing, VALCAN’s writing, you-person-I-don’t-know-yet-reads-my-blog’s writing for the art forms that they are.

Even though I collect a paycheck from a major corporation in exchange for stringing words and commas together, I’m a writer and I’m an artist. Ali’s a writer, front-end developer AND an artist. Vanessa is a digital media specialist, novelist AND an artist, Allegra’s a queer and gender studies rhetorician AND an artist. Chelsea, Noelle and Lauren are writers and artists too.

Our writing projects, be they trivial blog posts such as this, yet-to-be-completed novels, songs, poems, screenplays, cookbooks, websites, are all works of art. And yet I take these projects for granted. When I walk into my shared apartment, too tired to turn on the microwave to heat up leftover Tom-Yum soup, after a long day defending grammar and style in a power suit, I forget that I’m an artist. I forget that I have the resources and skills to finish that screenplay I started and turn it into something. I forget that I could turn these characters dancing around in my imagination into characters in a book instead.

Listening to Mary Lambert (of Same Love w/Macklemore fame) put an extraordinarily powerful poem to music, her calculated and honest articulation, and the beauty of the video reminds me that I could create something meaningful, emotional, and artful too.

I write, I create art. Sometimes all I need for inspiration is to remember that.

NOTE: Let’s take a sec and talk about Mary Lambert’s message. There is ABSOLUTELY no reason why any woman or girl should feel negatively about herself. If you know someone who is struggling with body image, self-worth, depressive thoughts, anxiety, or anything that’s making them feel less than the stellar person that they are, help ’em out. Here’s a website that will get you/them started: To Write Love on Her Arms.

Ashley HaglundAshley works in corporate, health care and non-profit communications. She loves starting new writing projects; is a media junkie; enjoys studying science, technology and patent law issues; and has a love/hate relationship with semi-colons. To see her face and be her internet friend, follow her on twitter.

In Exchange for Inspiration

I’ve been feeling the fuzzy blanket of bland nothingness Lauren so expertly articulated in her search for inspiration. I write all day. All kinds of projects. All kinds of copy. But when I go home, not a single creative thought enters my mind. Some days I can’t even figure out what to eat for dinner, and if you know me, you knows that’s very unusual.

But there’s an upside to this creative sinkhole I’ve found myself in. I refuse to blame my job because my job is awesome. I love it. And I love what it provides me with. Experience, new friendships, personal growth, sure, yes, of course. But also: cash. The freedom to buy whatever I want (within reason), whenever I want.

So, in exchange for inspiration, I’ve made a few purchases.

Keen walking sandals, $67 on sale. Because walking gives me ideas, and my old Keen sandals smelled.

Four prints from Society6, $84 with free shipping. Because if I can’t come up with my own ideas, the least I can do is support artists who can.

Copper mug, 20 cents, half off. Because Value World is great and Moscow mules are delicious.

Vodka, ginger beer, other accouterment, $20-ish. Because fancy hipster drinks don’t come cheap. Trying to trick myself into creativity. Trying to drink myself into creativity?

Sushi, $20. Because some days you need expensive sushi dinners. And when you have a job, you get to treat yo self. Sinking into creativity-loss denial with expensive, expertly arranged raw fish is just an added bonus.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere really. Not until I find that inspiration again. Except maybe on a walk in my new sandals.

Chelsea currently works as a copywriter at a software company. She is a syntax enthusiast and always enjoys a good dinner party.

Searching for Inspiration

Inspiration is everywhere, or so they say. If it is, I’d like to find it. Because in small town America, it’s nowhere to be seen. A midst the flat farm lands and the sleepy school campus on which I work — I can’t help but find myself…uninspired. (To be fair: campus is only sleepy because it is summer, but still).

I’ve checked under the couch cushions and have found spare change and that pen I lost months ago. I’ve looked in some old books I have, loving the words still but not finding any motivation in them. I’ve explored new stores and tried new things (foods, jobs, living on my own), and yet, when I open Word, I stare blankly at a blank screen.

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for about 40 minutes now, watching the news more than I have been writing these two and a half paragraphs. (The news? What am I? An adult?) If you would’ve asked me to blog about grammar, style, and life way back when in 2012 when I was still in PW, I would’ve flown through 20 posts without pausing to think.

So what has happened to me? What has changed in the year (and one month and two weeks and some odd days) since I graduated? Where is the girl who found inspiration in looking around the room and who could write for hours?

I think my portion of this blog will be dedicated to me learning to find myself again. I’ve lost her somewhere along the way, and I really miss her. It sounds so silly to write it out, but it’s true: I am lost without writing. It was my thing. My escape, my treasure, my pause button on life. I’d drift away into the words and I’d come out the other end feeling calm and yet somehow energized. And I want it back.

Here we go, world. You and me (and my six friends), trying to find inspiration.

Lauren is a social media guru/web content manager/overall awesome editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.