Blogging Without Limits

I’ve struggled for more than a year now with redefining Person of Letters into something new that reflected more than just writing, because I am so much more than just a writer now. I’m not sure what exactly inspired me to log onto WordPress today, but I’m sure glad that I did. Continue reading

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It’s All About a Schedule

Since I’ve taken on this new project, I’ve realized that now more than ever I need to make myself a schedule. I talked a bit about the balance  in my Balancing Multiple Hats post. This contact position is more content and social media heavy than I have taken on prior, but I’m ready for the challenge and I think that the key to success is how I schedule my time.

While the time I have to write varies daily, I’ve sat down and made myself tangible goals to ensure I complete my tasks and that I’ve made the progress I need to stay on track.

  • Writing Sprints: The best thing about Twitter is having a strong community of writers on my side. I completed my first of what will probably many more with the help of Jeanne (@jeannevb). Tuning out of social networks for a while and keeping the TV turned off resulted in a quite productive hour.
  • Google Calendar: I am a huge fan of my tiny little pocket purse planner. I’ve decided to move into the technical age and input all of my meetings into the Google calendar that syncs with my Android. The automatic reminders of meetings are helpful.
  • A Blank Journal: I love having one of these with me to write down my notes about a project, keep track of information and have with me at all times to write outlines and ideas on for pieces. It’s a great compact item to have with me during my commute because it fits in my bag. It enables me to utilize available time during a commute.

What are your favorite tools and tips that you use when you are working on a project? Give me some ideas in the comments!

Seven Questions with your Favorite Writer/Blogger: Michelle Timian

I’ve always been curious about what inspires my favorite writers. Whether they are bloggers, freelancers, scriptwriters, TV writers or novelists, they have to draw inspiration from something.  I want to thank all of you who contributed your questions and I hope you enjoy this special edition of Seven Questions. If you want to see your favorite blogger/writer interviewed, contact me.

Name: Michelle Timian

Profession: Writer

Website: http://cursedthenovel.com/

Twitter: @michelle_timian

Her Impact on Me: Michelle and I have been working together for 3 1/2 years. Her dedication to her writing is insane as she continues to type ferociously on a daily basis. I’m proud to say I helped with the creation of this blog and I’m happy to help her celebrate it’s relaunch on October 24th.

 

 

Person of Letters: Why did you start writing/blogging? Was it for personal or for professional reasons?

Michelle Timian: There’s not a definite moment when I thought to myself, I am going to be a writer!  I’ve always known it.  I remember being five and making picture books for ridiculously swiping epics.  But it wasn’t until my disastrous first semester in college when I realized biology was not the major for me and that I really should change my major to English and Creative Writing.  That’s when I knew I had hit the “no turning back” point.  And it’s been great!  Since graduating college, I’ve been working on one project/idea or another. 

My novel CURSED, while it’s still a very new project (unlike some that’s been with me for years and several different format incarnations (comic books anyone?)), has been my greatest success so far.  A great deal of that stems from the cursedthenovel blog, which allows me to post pages of my novel online.  I’ve never created a blog before, so it’s been an exciting experience, especially seeing how many people have read my novel because of it.  My plan in the future is to use the cursedthenovel blog to talk about more than just page updates: I have ideas of discussing the inspirations behind CURSED, where the character’s names come from, what countries inspired Ladamay, etc. 

POL: How long do you think about what you are going to write before you write?

MT: Years.  Literally.  At least, that’s when I feel like I am writing at my best.  For my novel The Elevator, it took me about five years to reach the point where the heroes Jason and Samantha visit a character I’ve been planning since the idea for the novel struck me in 2004.  I really like getting a very specific plan for everything happening in a novel, which is essential when working on a long epic fantasy series like Elevator, and that takes a while (for me, at least!). 

For CURSED, things are different.  I’ve had the idea for this book in my head since March of this year before I started writing it in May.  I spent two months really plotting out the whole story, gaining an understanding of the emotional growth the characters go through, where I want the story to eventually end up at, and what needed to be done to get to that point.  So when I started in May, I had a pretty good idea where I was going.  An outline.  For example, when I planned the scene I will post on October 24th, my plan was “Treve and Leo are interrupted from talking; Treve goes to the prison temple.”  I had no clue how to get between these ideas until I was in the process of writing, and the answer was a huge surprise!

That really is the best part about writing.  I definitely love having a plan, but I also keep my expectations loose enough for the story to take me whenever it needs to go.  I like being as surprised and excited about my novel as the reader.

POL: Is there something you carry with you at all times to write ideas that may pop in your head? If so, what is its? A notebook, your smartphone, a scrap of paper?

MT: I have a creative journal with me at all times, but it’s not really vital to me; if I lose it, I won’t lose all of my ideas.  For CURSED, I have notes such as “Treve wears purple a lot” and “Remember the white mule.”  If these details don’t make it into the novel, it won’t be a catastrophe or create a plot hole…it’s just things that are so small that I might forget them.  Everything else is in my head. 

The only time I have gone crazy with taking notes was when I was traveling through the Slovenian countryside.  The moment I left Ljubljanain route to Zagreb,Croatia, I knew this was the landscape I wanted CURSED to be based in.  I kept writing down details I saw (such as the red, red soil and rocky meadows) and what buildings looked like and how the country people were dressed.  Pictures didn’t do it justice and I didn’t want to forget anything.  I mean, I wrote down what birds I saw and the color of trees.

On the far end of note-taking, I can never write out a whole summary before writing a novel.  To me, that’s like creating the whole story.  The thrill of creation is gone.  So I go over plot points in my head, over and over again, until it comes to the point where I write them.  It means I do a lot of thinking for my books, but I couldn’t have it any other way!

POL: How do you battle writers block?

MT: I let it run its course.  I never force a moment in the story if it doesn’t want to come, because I believe either something better is brewing in my subconscious or I just haven’t reached the point where I could write it.  I’ve never had a problem putting a story on hold to let it stew a while.  If I am desperate for something to write, though, I usually turn to something silly and pointless to get words on paper: stories that never get finished.  Eventually I get back to the “real” writing.

POL: What is your favorite book/blog? Do you draw inspiration from it?

MT: Hands down, The Lies of Locke Lamora.  For writers of any genre, but especially for fantasy writers, this book is simply amazing to get inspiration from.  The dialogue is the most sickeningly, wonderfully, well-crafted dialogue I have ever come across anywhere (except Shantaram, which is a lesson in making each character talk and sound completely different from one another).  His characters are so finely developed I have on several occasions felt afraid for their well-being.  The world-building is the best I’ve seen anywhere…to the point where I’ve noticed literary agents actually requesting works with as much flawless details as Lamora.  Plus, best part is…its fun.  It’s silly.  It’s hilarious, clever and so easy to get pulled into.  It’s about con men who aren’t really the nicest of people but they are so easy to root for. 

Any time I pick this book up, I keep analyzing it to see at what point I utterly believe in these characters, at what point they and their world become real…its amazing.  If I can ever achieve this level of perfection, I can call myself a good writer.

POL: Along the same lines of the previous question, which writers from the past have inspired you? (more points for naming obscure writers)

MT: One author I can never get enough of is Mervyn Peake.  He isn’t a favorite author of mine, but his novels are so incredibly whimsical, powerful and just plain bizarre (think Neverending Story soap opera) that I fall under his spell any time I pick up his books.  The world-building is so perfectly done, it’s fantastic.  I challenge anyone to read Titus Groan and not feel like you’ve actually entered some other world…everything Peake writes carries that kind of conviction.  I’m always inspired by it (and Lynch’s world-building too) that I would love to reach those same heights myself.

I am also a HUGE fan of Hergé’s style of adventure and always try to capture something similar in my own stories…something that can be just plain fun and exciting and sweeping without throwing too much angst into the mix, which is what turns me off of so many novels and comic books out nowadays.  I just want a fun book!

When I was a young writer, I really wanted to make something IMPORTANT and SERIOUS that would wow readers with how great my writing was.  I would only read the most literary books I could find and scoffed at anything that wasn’t a Pulitzer Prize winner or literature bestseller.  I read Roots when I was 11.  So you can imagine just how terrible and self-important my writing was back when I first started putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) in high school. 

Then I went to college.  After 4 years of reading nothing but classics and heavily important literary works and discussing all sorts of themes, I had enough.  I needed something light, fun, airy.  That was really when my writing turned around.  Some of the most eye-opening reads were William Goldman, T. H. White and especially Lawrence Block’s Hitman series.  Oh, and Wodehouse.  Which is a perfect read to start taking yourself less seriously.  It was almost a relief to find out that you can still make readers fall in love with the characters (Goldman), still have moral issues (Block) and still have an amazingly beautiful lessons to teach (White)….and still be silly.  Those are my goals for my own writing.

POL: Tell us something about you and your writing that we might not know.

MT: None of my characters have ever been based on real people.  You know, like cameos of friends, family, oddballs…  Instead, all my characters are based on myself.  I take some small aspect of my personality (good or bad) and make it a character’s defining quirk.  It makes it so much easier to write them!!

Seven Questions with your Favorite Blogger/Writer: Rachael Judd

I’ve always been curious about what inspires my favorite writers. Whether they are bloggers, freelancers, scriptwriters, TV writers or novelists, they have to draw inspiration from something.  I want to thank all of you who contributed your questions and I hope you enjoy the first of my new monthly Q&A series.  Look for this new feature on the first Thursday of every month. If you want to see your favorite blogger/writer interviewed, contact me.

Name: Rachael Judd

Profession: Copywriter, Blogger

Blog: http://mumblingmidnightmom.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @RachaelJudd

Her impact on me: Rachael has been one of my biggest supporters since we connected through Center Square Journal. She’s a frequently comments on this blog and is a talented writer.

Person of Letters: Why did you start writing/blogging? Was it for personal or for professional reasons?

Rachael Judd: I started writing for personal reasons, like most 20-somethings, I wrote for extra money.  City life, while exciting, was expensive.  With a college focus on English, writing was a logical way to use my skills.  I started taking freelancing seriously as a job possibility in 2008.  What was extra fun money now provides a part time income to help support our family.  Freelancing also inspired personal ideas and I took the the blogosphere in 2010 which has been a slow, but amazing, personal growth experience

POL: How long do you think about what you are going to write before you write?

RJ: It depends on the project.  Most projects have deadlines so you are limited to how much time you have to think things through.  My preferred time though is about a week of brainstorming.  It is great to talk to a client, get to know them and then begin to think through their business, their needs and their style.  While brainstorming a project or even a personal blog idea, you will find that the more time you have to think it through the more you can see the company/business/organization in every day life affecting you or someone you know.

POL: Is there something you carry with you at all times to write ideas that may pop in your head? If so, what is its? A notebook, your smartphone, a scrap of paper?

RJ: Notebooks – plural!  I am a disorganized thought collector to say the least.  I have a notebook in my purse (that is also a daytimer), a personal journal and I have a notebook at my desk.  Wherever I am I grab the closest item and jot down notes.  At the end of the week I collect these all electronically.

POL: How do you battle writers block?

RJ: Grabbing my personal journal and just letting it all out the old fashioned way – paper and pen!  It has been discussed here (http://personofletters.com/2011/09/01/whens-the-last-time-you-handwrote-something/) but I find sitting down to hand write whatever is on my mind helps clear the air.

I find that writers block isn’t generally a lack of ideas, but just the opposite.  I have the hardest time focusing on a single project or subject when there are too many ideas floating around.  Taking to my personal journal lets me put everything on paper,  personal and professional.  It clears the way for focus on the task at hand.

POL: What is your favorite book/blog? Do you draw inspiration from it?

RJ: This is a hard question! I am overwhelmingly inspired by writers who wear their heart on their sleeve.  But I find that writing, new via blogs or old via the classics, boils down to our relationships.  As a freelancer I want companies to connect with clients and as a blogger I want to encourage others in their every day life relationships.

That being said I am most inspired to write by Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility to be exact!).  Austen was a women who could translate life’s relationships in regards to work, love and even spirituality into comical, serious and inspiring words that ring true even now.

POL: Along the same lines of the previous question, which writers from the past have inspired you? (more points for naming obscure writers)

RJ: As I mentioned, writers of old are my greatest inspiration!  Here are a few to consider:

Herman Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (Das Glasperlenspiel) is a MUST READ for anyone that wants to understand the use of  metaphor intertwined on multiple levels. This book is a challenge.

Madeline L’Engle: Her fiction is world renowned, but her non-fiction is inspiring, check out Two Part Invention. Most authors are not what they appear.

Henri Nouwen:  A priest. A writer.  A sociologist.  A person of questions. Although Henri Nouwen is a spiritual guru to most, he still has more questions than answers like most of us.  Check out the Genese Diary.

Amy Tan: Writing fiction from our own history can run its course OR it can inspire a generation of people to look at life differently.  Skip the Joy Luck Club and get experimental with her novel Saving Fish From Drowning

POL: Tell us something about you and your writing that we might not know.

RJ: Although I make a living as a copywriter, I am most passionate about blogging and using my story to inspire others to positive action.  This is still a work in progress but right now one of my driving goals to keep writing. Hopefully my writing, whatever the platform, invokes in people a sense of self that is valuable, unique and needed in the world we live in.

Sisterhood of the Blogging Pants

Last Friday, I attended a going away bash for the fabulous Ruffly and Sweet and her husband. I was honored to meet many of the people that I had heard so much about.

As we sat around making small talk, Jackie asked me what I did and I said that I blogged and that I was on the lovely RufflyandSweet’s blog roll. Come to find out that Jackie, Nicole and I were her entire blog roll.  It was a lovely coincidence that we discovered ourselves and I’m honored to be listed with these lovely ladies. We’ve dubbed ourselves the Sisterhood of the Blogging Pants.

It continues to amaze me how wonderfully easy it is to connect with fellow writers. It was an honor to meet these ladies and I can’t wait to see what they blog about next. I encourage you to follow the blogs of my new foodie friends, For the Loaf of Bread and Foodie Reflections. And don’t forget to follow RufflyandSweet!

The Writer’s Arch-Nemisis: Writer’s Block

At one time or another, and more than writers like to admit, we get writer’s block. Being uninspired is frustrating and always seems to come at a time where it is very unwelcome. Whether it is right before a deadline or when you want to write for yourself, it’s frustrating.

That’s how this post came about.  My good friend and fellow blogger at Ruffly and Sweet asked me what I was planning on blogging about this week and I said that I didn’t know. She told me that is exactly what I should blog about.

This is the first time that I haven’t come across an article that I wanted to blog about or have had a fabulous experience that I wanted to share for Person of Letters. I just haven’t really been inspired to write and I haven’t been writing as often. But for me, the best thing to do when I’m feeling uninspired it to talk it out, either to myself or to those around me who are willing to listen. That’s how I became inspired today.

I’m the ultimate procrastinator and that coupled with writer’s block can make what I do extra difficult, but this is when I thrive. I feel my writing is best when the pressure is on and I know that I have to put my nose to the grindstone and turn things out quickly. I’ve always been this way and let’s face it; I’m not going to change. So I cope and I trudge through and I continue to write.

How do you cope with writer’s block? What do you do to get inspired? Share you suggestions for coping with writer’s block in the comments section!

Why Do We Blog?

My friend and I were having breakfast on Saturday and she told me that she was starting a blog. I can’t tell you anything about it yet, but once it’s up and running I will share it with you with her blessing. We talked a bit about why we wanted to blog and I wanted to share with you why I blog.

I started the Person of Letters blog for myself. I wanted to write something that I was interested in and provide myself an outlet for creativity and to write in complete sentences. When you write resumes, sometimes you forget how to write a complete sentence. I love being able to share my thoughts, struggles and ideas with a community who is interested and understands.

This blog has become so much more for me. Now it is about you, my readers, too. I am encouraged all the time by your comments, so please continue leaving them.  I never thought that I would have the number of followers that I have either. I love that you all Tweet me and ask when I am going to post next. You drive me to want to write more often.

It’s your turn.  Tell me why you blog and why you chose to blog about what you do. What does your blog mean to you? I can’t wait to read all of your comments!