Unlock the Muse – January 15, 2019

This week I began reading the book There There, by Tommy Orange. This book is receiving a lot of attention, and I can understand why. It is very well written. This is a book I may need to reread at some point – after I’ve read it simply for the sake of reading a good book – and dissect it to see just what makes it so good.

Writers read. It’s part of the job description. Reading helps us strengthen our own craft. Reading fosters empathy and a greater understanding of the human nature – which is what we’re writing about, after all. Reading can also refresh your mind and spirit. When you’re own writing stalls, immerse yourself in the words of someone else for awhile.

Inspire
Your writing prompt for this week is:

If you had to compare yourself to the elements (earth, wind, fire, and water), which would you be? Write about why you chose the one you did.

Think about the properties of each of these four elements. Which one do you most relate to? Try this exercise with your main character(s) and see which one they would choose for themselves.

Encourage
Because I enjoyed the vocabulary sessions, I’ve decided to keep this bit from the old Unlock the Muse posts. So, I will take a look at this month’s theme word: Refresh.

re·fresh
/rəˈfreSH/

verb
Give new strength or energy to; reinvigorate.

Synonyms: reinvigorate, revitalize, revive, restore, brace, fortify, strengthen, enliven, stimulate, freshen, energize, exhilarate, reanimate, resuscitate, revivify, rejuvenate, regenerate, renew.

According to etymonline, the word refresh derives from the 14c Old French word refreschier, meaning to refresh or renew. To break it down further, the word comes from the prefix re-, meaning “again” and fresche, which means “fresh.” Therefore, to refresh means to “make fresh again.”

Happy writing!

Go and find new strength or energy for your writing!

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Unlock the Muse – January 8, 2019

This morning as I drove to work, the sunrise lit the sky with gorgeous pink and yellow light. A smattering of winter-darkened clouds crossed the pale blue backdrop. It was a beautiful morning, refreshing after a weekend of rain and high winds. 

Like the weather, your writing will have seasons of storms and volatility followed by calm and colorful sunrises. Our goal as writers should be to learn how to flow through these seasons and make the most of the unique opportunities each one presents.

Inspire
This week’s writing prompt is:

Why do you think writing can be so difficult? Try to articulate the complexity that make the process of writing a hard one.

Writing is difficult sometimes. Whether it’s finding the time, the will or the words, sometimes the struggle is real. Write about this struggle in a journal entry, or a letter to a favorite relative. Don’t allow yourself to get whiny (or maybe just a little bit), but try to seriously examine the reasons behind the struggle. Now, turn your musings into a poem, an essay or a short story.

Encourage
Just a little reminder…

refresh quote

Happy writing!

What are your greatest writing struggles? How do you refresh your muse?

Unlock the Muse – January 1, 2019

Welcome to a new year of Unlock the Muse! A weekly post intended to help inspire and encourage writers to keep on writing. I hope you all had a fabulous holiday season and are looking forward to a wonderful new year.

This year I’ve set the goal for myself to make progress on my novel series I’m working on. I have incomplete drafts for parts one and two of the five part series. My goal is to finish both of these drafts and ideally begin work on the third.

Inspire
Your writing prompt for this week is:

Document the weather. How has today’s weather affected you?

Keep a weather journal for the week. Jot down notes about how the weather affected your mood, your attitude, your actions. At the end of the week, write a few paragraphs, a story, an essay or a poem using your observations about the weather.

Encourage
New this year, I will propose a theme for each month and try to tie together the weekly post under that theme. For January 2019, the theme is Refresh.

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to take stock of where you are in respect to your goals. It’s also a good time to refresh your dreams and plan ahead for the coming year. Take some time to reflect on where you are as a writer and where you hope to go this year. If you’ve fallen into a slump, or have become discouraged with your writing, give yourself a break. Allow yourself the time to refresh your dream. Remember why it is that you write.

So, reflect, refresh and return to your writing.

Happy writing!

What are your writing goals for 2019?

Unlock the Muse – December 26, 2018

2018 is nearly over and a new year is about to begin. For many, this is the time for setting new goals, or embarking on a new adventure. Maybe you’ve left some things unfinished in 2018 and rather than begin something new, you will continue your current course. This is where I find myself at the end of 2018, too many incomplete projects I don’t care to abandon. In this light, I’ve decided to make 2019 the “Year of Finishing” and I intend to make great forward progress on this novel series I’m working on. What will 2019 be for you?

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

In 500 words, write page 237 of your autobiography.

When I asked Google, I found that the average autobiography is around 250-300 pages. That means that page 237 should be about the high point of the narration. What is the key moment in your life so far? Write about it.

Encourage
I have personally never felt compelled for any reason to write about my own life. I find other people’s lives – real or fictional – more interesting than my own. I have read many biographies and memoirs that I’ve enjoyed, however, and I’m grateful to those who are willing to share their stories.

Maybe you’ve considered writing your memoir, or maybe you’ve never even thought about it. Here’s a few reasons why you might want to consider it. Whether you’re writing for publication or self-edification, a memoir is a worthwhile effort.

If you’re looking for a good memoir to read, this list might provide a place to start.

Equip
It’s play week! Here’s a roll of the dice from Rory’s Story Cubes. Use one, use them all, or some combination thereof to inspire more words. Have fun!

StoryCubes7

Remember, next week Unlock the Muse will move to Tuesday (Muse-day). Hopefully, it will be a newly revitalized weekly post focused on inspiring and encouraging writers.

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing a link to your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask!

Unlock the Muse – December 19, 2018

Welcome to the next to the last muse-day post of 2018! The end of the year is often a time of reflection. A time to consider what has been accomplished in the past twelve months. I’ve nearly completed my largest reading challenge to date. I’ve written over 50,000 words toward a novel series. My blog continues to grow (if a bit slowly). I’m not yet where I’d like to be, but I’ve moved forward, and that’s what counts.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Is there something that you would really like to write about? Construct a query letter on the subject and send it to five appropriate magazines.

Maybe you have a story about your dog, or a humorous poem for children. Whatever you’ve written, be bold and send your words out into the world.

Encourage
One thing this week’s prompt is likely to lead to is rejection letters. Learning how to cope with this sort of rejection is an important part of being a writer. Here are some tips on rejection from authorunlimited.com.

Remember, don’t take it personally. Rejection can be an opportunity to learn and grow.

Equip
In light of today’s prompt to write a query letter, I’ve decided to do my vocabulary study on the word, query.

que·ry

/ˈkwirē/

noun
a question, especially one addressed to an official or organization.

verb
ask a question about something, especially in order to express one’s doubts about it or to check its validity or accuracy.

According to etymonline.com, the word query originates c. 1530s from the Latin quaere “a question, ask,” the imperative of quaerere “to seek, look for; strive, endeavor, strive to gain; ask, require, demand.” Figuratively it means to “seek mentally, seek to learn, or make inquiry.”

Your task this week, then, is to “strive to gain, ask, require or demand” publication of your work. I’m thinking, though, that it might be best to go a bit light on the demanding.

As I’ve mentioned in previous Muse postings, I am considering a few changes to this weekly post. This weekly writing prompt post began as a way to push myself to write more and to help encourage creativity in others. In 2018 it became “Unlock the Muse,” and I expanded the weekly post to include more – things like grammar tips and vocabulary studies. While these things are interesting, it isn’t where I wanted this post to go.

Therefore, in 2019, I’ve decided to scale back the scope of this weekly post and focus more on the inspiration and encouragement aspects and less on the instructing bits. There are many blogs out there teaching writers the various points of the craft, all far more qualified than myself. My focus will remain on encouraging others to write more words along with me and to have more fun in the process.

I will also be moving Unlock the Muse from Wednesday to Tuesday. The first Tuesday Muse-day will launch, appropriately I think, on January 1, 2019.

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing a link to your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask!

Unlock the Muse – December 12, 2018

My boys started basketball a couple weeks ago. My youngest is so shy, he won’t engage at all with his teammates or coaches. I was a shy child too, so I understand his pain. But that doesn’t make it any easier to help him through it.

Writing can be a little terrifying in its own way. If you find fear of what others will think holding you back in completing your project, give yourself the freedom to write just for yourself. Write the story that’s in your heart. No one else is going to read it until you share it.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Treat yourself when you break the block. Have a glass of wine or a bowl of ice cream. But don’t cheat. If you’re still stuck, you can’t have the wine or ice cream.

Sometimes the words won’t flow. It might be that life is just too busy. Or it could be that you simply need to recharge your creativity. If it’s the first, by all means, set up the reward system. If it’s one of the other two, you may just need to allow yourself to step away, lower your expectations and don’t beat yourself up.

And when the words start flowing again, totally reward yourself! Drink wine. Eat ice cream. Get a new puppy. Well, maybe not the puppy. That will distract you from writing!

Encourage
Since we’re on the subject of writer’s block this week, here are some tips from scribendi.com on how to beat it.

Equip
It’s grammar week, and today a question came up today between my writer siblings and I regarding when to use the singular or plural verb form. While the examples in The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White don’t include the exact situation we were discussing, I feel that what I did find justifies my answer.

Number 9 in the “Elementary Rules of Usage” says:

The number of the subject determines the number of the verb. 
Words that intervene between subject and verb do not affect the number of the verb.

The advice I gave my sister was to simplify the sentence. Take out the intervening words. At this point it is usually clear whether subject/verb combination should be singular or plural. Most of the time it works, but as with many “rules” in the English language, this one has a number of exceptions.

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing a link to your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask!

Unlock the Muse – December 5, 2018

It’s the beginning of a new month. The final month of 2018. And it’s a busy one, full of holiday craft bazaars, concerts at the elementary school, lighting candles, cookie exchanges, singing Christmas trees and secret Santas.

This time of year can also be difficult for a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons. Wherever you’re at, I hope you’ll find an outlet in writing.

Inspire
Here is your writing prompt for this first week of December:

What elementary or high school teacher most influenced your decision to write by helping you with your work or exposing you to great literature? Write a letter of appreciation thanking him or her. If you can locate the teacher, mail the letter.

Maybe it was a parent, or another relative who inspired you to write. A neighbor? A friend? A coworker? Whoever it was, write them a letter.

Encourage
After the frenzy that is NaNoWriMo, it can be all too easy to step away from the daily writing and let “taking a break” become consistently not writing. To avoid that, here are some great tips from prolifiko.com on how to continue (or create) a daily writing habit.

Equip
December can be a busy time filled with lots of traditional activities. My question for you this month is, how do you build these types of traditions into your fictional world?

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing a link to your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask!