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.

Going Home + Gaining Perspective

Three weeks ago today I was celebrating the epic Michigan State football win. I had dropped a little more than I should have at Target, but it was OK. Michigan State had just beat our much hated rivals and I was loving my new responsibilities at work. Things were good.

Flash forward to today: My job is expiring in a month and I just returned from home after an unfortunate family health scare. This blog post is the first time I’m letting it all sink in (and beginning to regret those Target purchases).

Oh, how much life can change in such little time!

But when these major changes happen, it’s one of the times when my writing flows most freely and I become most inspired.

I began this post last week when I was home helping take care of my sister and had begun writing about how easy it was to write when I was home. I spent a lot of time in my childhood bedroom, sifting through old journals, swapping old tales with family members, and waiting at the hospital.

I would have thought for sure that the jam packed week (oh yeah, I was trying to put in a full 40 hour work week remotely too) would have stunted the creative juices, but amidst all of the stress and activities, when I’m surrounded by comforting things, food, and family I’m the most uninhibited in my writing.

In Milwaukee and Ann Arbor where I’ve been living for the most part over the past year, I was couch hopping and wasn’t comfortable. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t even think about writing. Every time I sat down in front of my computer to blog or write creatively I froze. This wasn’t my couch, my apartment, my coffee shop. I wasn’t home.

I was devastated earlier this week when I found out I would be leaving my job at the end of 2013. But then I realized I would most likely be heading home unless a job materializes in Milwaukee in the next three weeks. I’ll be surrounded by my father’s cooking, my mother’s big bear hugs, dinners with my grandparents, my favorite stuffed animals and the love and comfort of home.

So while three weeks ago I was blissfully happy and yet unable to write much of anything in my free time, today I find myself a little sad and yet overcome with the desire to write.

And my Spartans are winning. Things are on their way to being good.

Ashley HaglundAshley works in internal 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.

(Cheating On?) NaNoWriMo

The very first full-fledged story/novel I ever wrote initially started off as fan-fiction.

There, I got it off my chest. I took someone else’s characters and played. The stress of coming up with a setting and a timeline and characters that all flowed together was gone, and I just got to have fun.

It has since gone through three massive edits and is undergoing a fourth one — which includes removing one of the three main characters. Since its roots, I have changed the characters completely, changed the genre, and have an entirely different plot line from the original story. Have I written three different novels, then? Each slightly different than the other, each slightly (hopefully?) better?

Here’s the real question: Is it wrong to recycle ideas? 

I only ask because a love of my life/bane of my existence is coming up pretty soon: NaNoWriMo. In short, NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) is a competition where you try to write 50,000 words in the month of November. You don’t get anything if you complete it, but you have written 50k words so yay. That’s something.

I’ve participated in NaNo many times. I started the annual competition circa 2007 and have completed it precisely one time.  I was in college for a lot of those years with exams, and I fell out of love with writing during that time period — both of which are sort of excuses. But I still try, and usually fail within the first couple days/weeks. It’s kinda embarrassing.

This year, I’m trying NaNo. Again. And this year, I’m cheating.

You’re supposed to come up with a new idea and write. Instead, I am using an idea I had tried writing about a year ago, scrapping 85% of it, and starting again. I like the first chapter and nothing else. Why can’t I start over and use NaNo as an excuse to actually get something done? To actually write? To actually see if I’ve lost my creative edge? It’s worth a shot, anyway. Even if I don’t hit the 50k mark (which is likely), I’m at least writing — and that’s more than I can say for the past couple of weeks.

Any other writers out there trying NaNo? (And anyone else cheating with me? It’s okay to admit it! I won’t tell).

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.

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.