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Althingi Anthology Project

Althingi Anthology Project

It’s finally announcement time!

I have been keeping this secret for MONTHS, but seeing some others spill the beans, I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer!

A few months ago, I was approached by the excellent co-editting team of Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad and Joshua Gillingham (a good friend of mine, and the author of The Gatewatch.) These two legends offered me the incredible privilege to contribute a rip-roaring, Tenth-Century Viking tale for the Althingi Anthology, set to release in Spring 2021.

The Althingi was an annual gathering in medieval Iceland, whereby the Viking landowners and nobles used their influence to settle disputes, create laws, and hand out judgments.

The Anthology will tie in with the Althingi board game, a “quick set-up, fast-play game of strength and influence for 2-4 players based in Viking-Age Iceland. Each player takes on the role of a powerful Chieftain and tries to take control of the annual gathering known as the Althingi through bribery, coercion, and intimidation.”

The publisher is the venerable Outland Entertainment, known for many SFF genre projects with some incredible creators.

This particular project is truly epic in scope and concept. Currently there is a Kickstarter campaign for the game, with some amazing stretch goal upgrades available, so please check it out and share with your friends!

I’m so grateful to be counted among a host of talented and exceptional contributers for Althingi. I can’t wait to read their stories!

More details as the release gets closer, but for now, I am excited to share this news with you, and so pleased to be a part of such a wonderful and history-focused project.

Audio Drama – Out Now

Audio Drama – Out Now

After six months of hard work and research, the audio adaptation of my Norse-inspired folktale The Seeing Trees has landed!

“In the forests of Scandinavia a family is besieged by a malicious raven which watches and follows them everywhere they go.  How will they escape from this curse and at what cost?  The Seeing Trees is a dark nordic mystery with elements of violence, peril, horror, language and elements that some listeners may find disturbing.”

Fascinated by Viking mythology and history, I wanted to bring a darker angle to this story. Here is a short interview I did with the podcast, covering the influences and inspiration. You can also hear a fantastic monologue by Charis McRoberts (Follow her here!) My interview starts at 10:30 min.

From the Press Release:

“The Alternative Stories And Fake Realities Podcast has produced an audio drama based on a dark, psychological short story by American writer Kaitlin Felix, “The Seeing Trees”. Working with a team of actors all recording their lines separately from their homes, we’ve pieced together a production that is compelling and immersive and made entirely under lockdown.”

Watch the trailer here:

We had a range of brilliant actors for our cast. Here are a few, and a full list with links to their social media profiles:

Tiffany Clare, Charlie Richards, Lewie Watson, Amy Forrest

Charlie Richards as Trygve 
Lewie Watson as Harleif
Tiffany Clare as Mother
Amy Forrest as Freja
Chris Gregory as Magnus and Townsman
Annika Kordes as Townswoman 1
Karen Cooper as Townswoman 2
Kelli Winkler is the presenter

The Old Norse incantation is performed by Charlie Richards, Tiffany Clare, myself and Chris Gregory, who is the excellent director and podcast runner. He also created the original music and soundscapes.

Below, I have included the Old Norse text of the “Sigrdrifa prayer,” which is located in the Sigrdrífumál section of the Poetic Edda. The translation is by Dr. Jackson Crawford. We used the Reconstructed Medieval Pronunciation, taken from his youtube video here.

Old Norse:

Heil dagr
Heilar dags sýnir
Heil nót ok nipt
Oreiðum augum
Lítið okkr þinig
ok gefið sitjöndum sigr

Heilir æsir,
heilar ásynjur,
heil sjá in fjölnýta fold,
mál ok mannvit
gefið okkr mærum tveim
ok læknishendr, meðan lifum

Modern English:

Hail the day!
Hail the sons of day!
Hail to night and her sister!
Look on the two of us here
with friendly eyes,
and give us victory.

Hail the gods!
Hail the goddesses!
Hail the hospitable earth!
Give the two of us
eloquent speech, and wisdom-
and healing hands, while we live.

Alternative Stories and Fake Realities Podcast is totally free to listen, and you can find them on any podcast provider. You can also follow on various social media platforms. Click the image below to find them. Happy Listening!

I am incredibly grateful to Chris Gregory and to the entire cast for making the Seeing Trees a truly remarkable experience! I’m blown away by this production, and all the hard work that went into it. I am looking forward to working with Alternative Stories and Fake Realities podcast again!

Summer Update

Summer Update

It’s July, and I have so much to share!

First piece of news:

If you haven’t seen on my social pages yet, I recently had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with Joshua Gillingham. (Shout out to you, Joshua!) He’s fascinating, and a great source of mythological knowledge. A bit of a Renaissance man, really. In addition to writing, he’s a musician, game designer, and an educator. His website is chock-full of cool stuff, so head over to check it out. His debut novel, with one of the most KICKASS covers I’ve ever seen, is due to release this Fall. It’s titled The Gatewatch, available from Crowsnest books.

Photo taken with permission from Joshua’s website.

My full interview can be found here. You will learn a bit more about my writing process, the inspiration for my novel Draugr, and get a rare peek at my workspace!

Second piece of news:

Update on my current WIP:

Draugr is finished! It’s been 9 months or so since I began, according to last year’s update. I typed The End about three weeks ago, and after a (very short) period of letting it lie, I am well into my first revision. If all goes well, the first round of editing should be done by the end of this month or next.

I have mentioned this before, but I have found K.M. Weiland to be an excellent resource towards understanding story structure, outlining, and plotting. I am a pantser by nature, but with Weiland’s help, I’ve become much more of a “plantser.” As a result, the revision process feels much less daunting than it did for Wergild. This novel is structured using the Three Act plan, and so my struggle has been to keep everything as tightly-wound as clockwork.

The biggest obstacles I’ve faced so far:

  • My opening chapter was weak, and too short. I just wasn’t satisfied with the introduction to Leif and his “Normal World.” So as much as I hated to dive back into the drafting process (I just want to be done!) I wrote two brand-new opening chapters. We’ll see how beta readers react, but I’m pretty confident they do the job they’re meant to.
  • Currently, I’m working on three new scenes at the end of Act One, which should launch my Act Two much more effectively. If I do this right, the scenes should fit together like puzzle pieces and make the transition into the main body of the story much more smooth.

Third piece of news:

Back in April, I performed a reading of my short story The Gate. Through that performance, I connected with and started attending the AWCZ Writer’s Group here in Zurich. They hold a meeting once a month, and I’ve really enjoyed each one.

With these activities, I have made some fabulous new friends. One is a truly gifted poet and illustrator, named TAK Erzinger. She’s been such a ray of light and inspiration! You can check out her new book of poetry here. Her website can be found here.

My other new friend is Lorraine Curran-Vu, a former teacher and current personal essayist. She’s also my new writing buddy! We try to meet once a week, which has been fantastic for productivity. This past Monday we met on Lake Zurich and wrote for an hour. Who wouldn’t want a view like this?

Fourth piece of news:

Two weeks ago, I met my writing buddy in Geneva for a wonderful workshop on revision, taught by Michele Bailat-Jones. She is a wonderful teacher and I learned so much from those two hours. It was especially relevant with all the revision work in front of me. I was also lucky enough to network with a bunch of professional writers, and I’m really excited to see where some of these connections go. Writing can be so isolating, so I’m excited to finally emerge from my darkened office.

Me and my writing buddy Lorraine Curran-Vu in Geneva

That’s my update for July. As I get further along in my revisions, I’ll be sure to keep you updated! Follow me on Twitter for everyday flimflam and chicanery. 

Publishing, Gremlins, and Angry Eyebrows

Publishing, Gremlins, and Angry Eyebrows

Summer in Zurich is stubborn this year, with its hornets and its sunburns.  It’s a slow dying, like the way a party runs down when there’s no more food. But still, I hear the death-rattle. October is almost here.

The richness of Autumn always invigorates me, and this one is especially enlivening. I can finally share all the NEWS I’ve been saving up for months!

I’M GETTING PUBLISHED!!!!!! 

*Not the final cover*

That’s right, everyone. A life-long dream, finally coming true! It’s just a short story, but it’s my very first work to be featured in a real-life, actually-touchable, not-making-this-up PUBLICATION! My short story, titled The Gate, will feature in the Kyanite Press Winter Digest, 2018. This issue follows the theme of Fables and Fairy Tales. Click the image to see their other issues. The special double-length Halloween Issue is out Oct. 1!

And I HAVE to tell you – everyone at Kyanite has been purely awesome to work and communicate with. Each one is super encouraging and creative. The best part is that they’re all writers themselves, so they KNOW. They get what it means to trudge though a project and do battle with trying to get published. 

Kyanite has three imprints for longer works: Glass (Digital format, speculative or niche fiction), Kiss (Romance), and Crypt (Horror). All three have releases up and coming in the next few weeks and months, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them.

AND!!!!!! Look at these cuties I got in the mail!!! Seriously, I love these guys.

Literally, I squeaked when I opened the package. Thank you, Kyanite! 

So, with the biggest news out there, I can tell you a little bit more about how this never-ending summer unfolded for us. First of all, THIS:

My gremlin son started his first year of Kindergarten about 6 weeks ago, and my mama-heart about burst. From equal amounts panic and pride. I gotta tell ya, nothing I’ve encountered this year has been as intimidating as a school system I am totally unfamiliar with, in a language I barely have a grasp on most days. After a rocky first couple of weeks, my crazy kid is more or less THRIVING now, bar the occasional refusal to speak German with his classmates. We’re getting there, though. I also enrolled him in an after-school English program to give him a bit more mother-tongue practice.

At the end of August, I flew to Atlanta, GA (by myself! In an airplane! ALONE! Minus gremlin kid! Heaven.) for my sister’s wedding. The trip was fantastic, and short, and probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a wedding. I served as the maid-of-honor, and many sisterly antics happened. The comedic highlight is most assuredly the legendary Angry Eyebrows. This photo isn’t for the faint of heart, so look away if Southern-style Grouch Marx eyebrow scare you.

Angry Eyebrows. So Angry.

My sister and I laughed our asses off…only after we sped home 20 MINUTES BEFORE THE CEREMONY!!!! to wipe off all that mess and redo my face. (Seriously, sister, thank you for not making me walk like this. I owe you a life-long debt of gratitude.)

And now for the last bit of news, and probably the most uncomfortable for me. Here it goes. Deep breath. Inhale.

I’ve abandoned my novel. 

Exhale. Yep, you’ve read that right. Wergild just isn’t happening right now. Some of you might notice that I’ve taken down the Excerpt I posted in July. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up or trashed my novel, but to keep a long story really short, I just had to face the fact that my book, the baby I’ve been working on for 7 years, just isn’t meant to be. At least in the form it is now.

The plot is solid, and most of my characters are too. But I’ve changed as a writer since I first began the story, and therefore the backbone of the book became problematic. With all the rewrites I’ve done, the editing, the restructuring, and the crying, the main idea I began with got lost in the mire of it all. I got burnt out, big time. You’ll recall I talked a little bit about that a few months ago. I am placing my novel on the back-burner, for good, or at least until I no longer hate the damn thing. 

I really really hate it, you guys. 

Instead, to cool some tempers that I know will get raised because of this news, may I submit to you something a bit more positive?

You all remember my poem from a few months back, this one? Well, it’s from my novella, titled Draugr. 

This novella is set before the events of Wergild, and features my favorite immortal asshole Viking, Leif Halfdan. The story is complete and stand-alone, but I’ve always had this niggle to expand it into a novel. Leif has so much more of his story to tell, and this story is so damn FUN to write.

So, I’m expanding it. Draugr will be novel-length, which just excites me to no end. Once I decided to set Wergild down, the way forward on this one became so clear to me, and I dove right in. I’ve already got the new first chapter written and in review. The rest of it will only be a matter of time before its ready for beta reading. Watch for an excerpt coming in October! 

Thanks for reading! Till next time, 

Mother of Gremlins and Keeper of the Angry Eyebrows, 

Kati Felix, *Actual Published Author*

Dumpster Fires and Whiteboards

Dumpster Fires and Whiteboards

Happy Independence Day! We’re well and truly entrenched in July now, and I find myself in the middle of my fifth year of living in Switzerland. And even though it seems that America might be a dumpster fire behind a seedy downtown hotel that never changes it sheets, that hasn’t diminished the pride and gratitude I feel as an American. And it’s with the classic American spirit of hope depsite the odds, that I’m making rather exciting plans for the second half of this year.

June saw us visiting the UK for a quick weekend with family, and then on to the Red Sea in Egypt for a week. Spring held a lot of stress and frustration for us, with many late work nights and not a few emotional breakdowns. As I mentioned in a previous post, I deal with some anxiety issues, and the last three months have been rough. With a view like this, though, all that stress melted off lickety split!

 

Jungle Aqua Park, Hurghada

 

While we were gone, I took a moment to examine my productivity and habits from the last few months. Being away gave me no further opportunity to distract myself with my own busy work; so all this self-reflection while poolside made me come to an unhappy conclusion:

I have not been juggling life very well, guys.  Dumpster fires aren’t only reserved for post-capitalist countries.

I don’t know if its stress and anxiety, or the combination of those two with good old-fashioned distraction, but my writing productivity has suffered and halted. I’ve been unable to work on anything for a few months, and it shows.

As I wrote in my post back in March, I began a period of rest and self-care, in the hopes that my creativity would rejuvenate and come back all the stronger, but unfortunately that period turned out to be more stressful than I anticipated. I couldn’t even read, and that was almost a greater shame. Thankfully, while packing for my trip, I had the presence of mind to pack a few books I picked up from the W.H. Smith in Gatwick airport, and – holy cow, guys – I devoured them like they were warm, fragrant bread and I was a starving peasant. Seriously, you should read them. I’ve included their covers and links to where you can buy them. 

Circe, by Madeline Miller

The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black

 

Overall, I’ve been holding true to my own advice:

My work would wait for me to be ready. And it was ok to not be ready for as long as it took.”  

These words have helped to silence my recriminations. So, in that spirit, this week has seen me put a few wheels into motion. If there’s anything I’m terrible at, it is organization, and that deficiency is largely the reason why productivity in all spheres of my life is down. So the logical step forward for me was to buy a whiteboard, of course.

 

“All of humanity’s problems are fixed now, guys! We have a whiteboard. *Cue the rejoicing*

Maybe if I can see my schedule in front of my face everyday, I’ll actually be inspired to create a realistic routine and therefore reduce my stress! Win-win!

But in all seriousness, these next six months will hold a lot of change for me, and the goals I have are realistic and not difficult to achieve. My son will attend Kindergarten in the mornings, beginning in August. I hope to use those mornings to plot out the first draft of my second novel and to plan for more frequent posts here.

There are a few other exciting changes in the works, and I’ll be posting about them soon. Keep an eye out for an excerpt from Wergild, my first novel, to be posted next week!

Until then,

May your fireworks be colourful and your barbecues hot. May your dumpster fires be extinguished and your whiteboards full of productivity. Happy Independence Day!

March 2018 Update

March 2018 Update

 

You know the quote that says “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.”

It’s a Robert Burns quote, and even though the Scots language can be difficult to piece through, the meaning is clear. We all plan, but sometimes those plans don’t work out. Right now, I feel like my plans got set on fire, stomped on, and then left in a pungent pile of steaming refuse.

In August, I shared a little bit about the process of writing my UF novel and how to push through when the inspiration isn’t there. It’s a lesson I seem to have forgotten. I just had to count on my fingers to see how many months it’s been since I finished my novel, and how many months since I’ve even opened the document. The result was 7. That seems like a while, doesn’t it?

Not all of these 7 months were fruitless. The most important task I needed to accomplish turned out to be both the easiest and most challenging.  The easy part came first. In September, I cast my net for feedback from my beta readers, and received so many incredible responses. From that feedback, I was able to compile a list of editing tasks. But guys…as much as I was all gung-ho back in August, by October I was burnt out. Six years to work on the same project, bleeding the words onto the paper and then concluding that you have to bleed some more?

The feedback I received was fabulous, and constructive, but some of it was hard to swallow, if I’m being honest. We’re always our own worst critics, until we aren’t. When faced with some of my weak spots, I felt just a teensy bit defeated and uninspired. My creativity dried up. I began to doubt my ability, my choice of genre, and even my desire to be a writer. That self-doubt paralyzed me. Every time I opened my master document of my novel, I hated every word. I wanted to burn it, delete it entirely, and start again.

Thankfully, I had a few amazing friends (shout out to Taryn, especially!) remind me that it was ok not to write. I didn’t have to edit my novel right then. I didn’t have to write anything. I didn’t even have to open the document if I didn’t want to. It would still be there. My work would wait for me to be ready. And it was ok to not be ready for as long as it took.

My brain had a little trouble wrapping itself around this concept. I am such a perfectionist, and such a do-er (my sisters would call me an overachiever) that I forget to let myself and my work just be. I convince myself I am not doing enough, or I am not doing well enough. The merry-go-round in my brain just can’t let it rest. I’m either a terrible writer or I’m not giving my best. That kind of self-condemnation is destructive. And paralyzing. 

And since I’m being rather transparent, that thinking pattern extends to my parenting, my housekeeping, and pretty much every sphere of my life. Perfectionism backs me into a corner and beats me over the head with my perceived failures, making me simultaneously hate my writing and myself.

It’s a daily battle to remind myself that I am enough, I am doing enough, and that it is ok to rest.

A lot of writing advice recommends letting a manuscript rest for a while before you pick it up to start editing. So in the spirit of making healthy choices for myself and my writing, I decided to just stop altogether. Self-care takes on many faces these days.

So, with the decision to put writing on the backburner, I turned my attention back toward more important issues within my family.

We spent the entire month of December in England, enjoying Christmas and the New Year with family. January saw us back home, under the weather with strep throat, and then February seemed eternal, with never-ending colds. March has dawned with an invigorated sense of optimism. We’ve begun choosing paint to redecorate our living room, and I’m buzzing with ideas.

We also just finished up a period of sub-zero temperatures here in Zurich. The sun is finally starting to peek out of the oppressive cloud-cover, and Spring feels just around the corner. With that shift in energy, I feel a shift within myself.

Just like the peeking sun, and the fragile snowdrops pushing their blooms through the ice, my creativity seems to feel the thaw. I’ve posted poems recently  – here and here – in an effort to flex those lax muscles. I even won a small award for a poem, which you can read here.

It feels good to work, even if it’s not my big projects. Motivation and inspiration are still a wee bit sleepy, but I’m confident. With this new lesson of extending grace to myself, I hope to have made the first steps in editing by next month.

 

 

Until my next update,

Take care, and remember to have grace for yourselves.

Success in Writing and Progress Report – August 2017

Success in Writing and Progress Report – August 2017

Near the end of 2011, I sat down and sketched out my first rough idea for an urban fantasy novel. And as I enthusiastically brainstormed and developed ideas, a bitter voice in my head told me to stop, to give up, to throw the towel in and relinquish the dream of being a writer. “Better to give up than be known as a bad writer,” it told me.

That small voice has been present from that day until the day I wrote the final word in my first novel. Three days ago, at 11 pm, I closed my google document and sat back in my office chair in complete disbelief. I’d done it. I’d finally finished my very first complete novel. And I told that small voice to suck it.

In another post, I will describe the six-year-long path I walked to reach the last page. But in this post, I want to focus on the present.

 

 

I began and abandoned dozens of stories over the fifteen years since I began writing. These stories range in genre from historical fiction, to urban fantasy, to romance, and even to fan fiction. After handfuls of chapters, or even just paragraphs, I’d hit a wall and quit, or lose interest and begin another story. I gave up on project after project. And for a very long time, I felt like a failure. I still do, on bad days. The question that runs through my head after every failed short story or work is perhaps a question every writer has after an uncompleted project:

  “How can I call myself a writer if I can’t even finish anything?”

Success can take on many different meanings to a writer. This is especially true if you’re a writer of fiction. For many, the ultimate goal in its simplest form is to finish the project, and then publish it. And if you don’t finish a project, it’s very tempting to call yourself a failure. And even if you do finish something, even if it’s as short as a haiku or as long as an epic fantasy, the inability to publish it can haunt you and create a hell of a lot of self-doubt.

Success for me meant never giving up. Even when depression or circumstances told me that I would never finish, that my novel was too broken, too cliche, too boring, or whatever lies the voice in my head decided to tell me any given day. Success meant that I sat down to write when I didn’t feel like it, and that was a lot of the time.

Success looked like marathon sprints over the course of a few hours, and it looked like one sentence in a month. It also looked like no words at all for months at a time.

I think the true success doesn’t look like the end result, or the achievement of publishing. Through this process of writing and sticking with this novel, through all the structure changes and plot refurbishment, all the character development, all the technology failures and loss of whole chapters, all the rewrites and editing, I learned that the true success is just showing up to the process again and again.

Let the creativity carry you. Let the frustration buoy you instead of lie to you. Sit down again and again and again. Type a word, delete it, come back another day. Just don’t quit.

You don’t have to write every day. You just have to write. That’s real. That’s truth. That’s success.

 

Next Steps:

 

Now that my Second Draft is more or less in working order, my next step is to go through a rough edit of the entire thing. I’ve never really figured out my large editing process, so this will be a fun period to get to know that part of myself. I enjoy editing, on a chapter-by-chapter scale, so editing the whole monster should be just that, but bigger, right? Right?!

Once I’ve gone through and made sure everything follows my plot structure the way I want it to, and I’ve managed not to obsess too much over little details, I’ll be searching for an agent. I’d like to see if I can find a professional editor, but that particular detail is kind of scary. And kind of expensive. So I’ll see if I can find an agent, and if by some miracle I do find one, we’ll see if they point me to an editor. This is going to be a long process, and I will share every step with you. I hope you’ll all come with me!

 

 

 

Finding a Way to Make Your Soul Sing

Finding a Way to Make Your Soul Sing

This is a guest post I made for The Stay at Home Something, a blog written and curated by my good friend Brooke Gale Louvier. In it, I detail the struggle of being both a mom and writer. Often, it’s a dark and difficult path. But sometimes, once in a while, there are days when my soul sings.

Image credits go to Brooke.

 

Finding a Way to Make Your Soul Sing

When you’re young, it seems that the whole world is full of adventure and promise. If you’re a writer or an artist, you seek to capture that wonder and possess it for yourself. Perhaps as an escape from the darkness in the world, or just for the ability to experience and share something beautiful every day. You’re a person who creates because that’s what makes your soul sing.

But what do you do when the singing stops and you’re left with silence?

I am a dreamer. Since I was a child I had a vision for my life that I held as the ideal.

When I was four, I wanted to be a paleontologist and discover Jurassic Park for myself. When I was ten, I wanted to be Indiana Jones and travel the world. I wanted to read every novel and story ever written. When I was twelve, I discovered writing. I wanted to create and live the same adventure novels I devoured like they were food and water and my very breath.

Then I grew up a little and wanted to be a missionary. For a girl who grew up in a charismatic church culture, this was the ultimate adventure. Serve God and have adventures? I could be a writer and a missionary! What an awesome idea!

My whole life seemed to be planned out perfectly. Though there were many vague details, I generally knew what I wanted to do. I never struggled with trying to figure out what path I should take in life.

Three years ago, my husband and I went bankrupt while in ministry in England, and had to move to a different country to start all over again. I also suffered a miscarriage. We weren’t planning to have kids for many years, so it was a double shock to us. This was the beginning of my worldview crashing around my ears. Right after the miscarriage and bankruptcy, I had to leave my husband for months to go back to the States to sort out my visa. Soon after I got back to my husband, we got pregnant.

Since I was a young teenager, I have struggled with cycles of situational depression and anxiety. After a year that felt like I was taking hits right and left, followed by an emergency C-Section and postpartum depression, I fell into a dark hole further and deeper than I thought possible. I lost the desire to create, to live, to even get out of bed most days.

My husband and I live in a country where we don’t speak the language, and can’t afford to put our son in a daycare. So I am a full-time stay-at-home-mom. I never expected this to be my life.

How do you find the way to make your soul sing when nothing makes sense?

I would be lying if I said I loved being a mother that first year and a bit. This sounds harsh, but I never believed a writer should conceal their true feelings. I can’t hold that rule for others and not myself. There were so many days when all I wanted to do was leave my son with someone else just so I could sleep or be alone. I felt better with time, though there are still challenging days. I am learning to find the joy in every day.

If every day is a gift, then every moment is meant for discovering the joy of living.

If you’re struggling with depression, with exhaustion, with lack of inspiration, or just plain old lack of motivation, listen. I hear you. I know what it feels like. I know the guilt can eat you alive. I know there are days when all you want to do is crawl back in bed and sleep the day away. I don’t have any easy answers. I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time.

But isn’t that the grandest adventure of them all?

What if the best adventures are not the ones you imagined as a child, but are the ones you live every day?

I encourage you to find a routine that works for you. It takes monumental amounts of courage, but take it one day at a time, one moment of joy at a time. If all you want to do is write one word that inspires you, do it! Who cares if it’s not a whole sentence or a whole page or a whole novel? Give yourself the grace to live. Create your own adventure. Allow your soul to sing again. When you find a way to let a few notes out, over time they build to a symphony.

Letting Loose Your Inner Child

Letting Loose Your Inner Child

We have all heard the little nuggets of wisdom and read all the articles on how to be a good writer. We’re taught grammar and punctuation in school. We are even taught that good writing looks a certain way, such as Steinbeck, J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Steven King, Shakespeare, or all the other great story tellers of grandeur. We are also somehow led to believe that bad writing takes the waif-like, substance-less forms of works like self-published ebooks of the dinosaur porn variety, or even mediocre fanfiction.

I contend that if you write down anything at all, even if it’s one stanza of poetry, or a line of dialogue, or even just a single word of passion written down in haste simply because it stirs something inside you – You are a good writer.

Hear me out before you tell me how terrible your writing is, or how much you want to improve. We’ve all been there. We all want to get better.

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. – Erica Jong

Isn’t this what we’re all afraid of? We’re all so scared of someone else – another writer, perhaps – judging our work and therefore judging us as not good enough.

Of all the writing advice I’ve ever encountered, there is one “rule” that sticks in my mind.

We all have two voices in our heads while we write. The Child and the Critic. They both are useful, if you let them do their job cooperatively.

The Child is the one with all the ideas, the joy, the sheer eagerness to pour your heart and veins onto the page.

The Critic is the one who tells you how to improve and how to edit and how to make it shine.

My Achilles’ Heel is the Critic. My brain is mostly attuned to the editing portion of the writing process, so I am always looking to improve it. But, like so many of us do, I take it too far. Like the Erica Jong quote above, I’ve never finished a work longer than a short story for school because I always got stuck a few chapters in, or right at the beginning of the “good stuff,” or conflict. I found myself hating everything I wrote and thinking it was too juvenile, too unstructured, not clear enough….you get the idea. I still struggle with these thoughts every time I sit down to a blank page.

Let me give you a bit of background:

The earliest I remember wanting to be an author was 7th grade. I was in a very small private school in the inner city. To improve the tiny arts program we had, the school introduced a creative writing teacher. He held all of two classes. I don’t remember much about what he taught before he left, but I do know that it made an impression to my barely-thirteen year old self.

A few weeks later, the school introduced a journalist. I knew him previously, he was a member of my church. I wrote a short story based on a dream that I had for an assignment and showed it to him. He showed me where I could improve and told me to bring it back to him when I’d rewritten it.

These two teachers encouraged me to see writing as something realistic, something I could do, something I had a talent for.

 I still have that story, in an old composition notebook. Later, I realized that my dream was based off a book I’d already read, so I’m glad I never showed that to anyone else. God forbid that a young girl plagiarize another author’s work!

As a teenager, I wrote Lord of the Rings fanfiction and dark poetry. My life was a turbulent wreck at that point, so these things were my escape. As I got older, my heart warmed up to the idea that this was my calling; this is what I was meant to do. although my mind continually pointed me in other directions.

So, back to my point. I took a Writing Class in East Texas in early 2010. I wrote more in that three-month period than I ever had up to that point. Every week, I was turning out work that I hated. Consistently. There was maybe one story that I didn’t want to rip up and burn. After that class, I was so burnt out that I didn’t put a pen to paper or finger to keyboard for a year. Aside from school assignments, the writer in me just didn’t think she “had it” anymore.

Everything I wrote seemed terrible, overthought, contrived, and immature.

But then I took a few classes in community college and I got a small measure of confidence back. I had a teacher who thought I had talent and asked me to be an editor for the campus magazine. While that didn’t pan out, it did renew in me the sense that this is something I could do for a career, or at least as a serious hobby.

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”  – Louis L’Amour

The Child portion of my writing does not like to come out and play too often. She is cautious, wanting to stay within the boundaries, always looking to the Critic to police her actions. And the Critic, too often, steps in to make sure everything is “as it should be.”

The last three years, I have worked on an urban fantasy novel. I am always embarrassed to tell people the genre because it’s “too nerdy,” and not serious enough. But I am proud to say I haven’t stopped working on it yet. Sure, I’ve gone months without touching it, but then I’ll come back to it and write ten pages before I get stuck for another three months. The first 10 chapters are absolute crap, but I won’t edit them until the whole damn thing is finished. When that will be, I have no idea. Sometimes it’s better to just tell the whole story, and then go back and fix it.

This is the primary function of the Child and the Critic. Let the Child out to play, unhindered. Children need to explore everything, need to see how things work, need to see what is in every nook and cranny.

Write your story, your poem, your essay, your memoir. Let it go where it wants to go. Just get everything out.

And then let the Critic out to polish it up. But always remember to let both of them respect the other.

However, you need to find the process that works for you. If you find you write better when you edit as you go, then do that! But if you find that you hate everything you write, and want to constantly change it, maybe it’s time to reexamine your process and let the Child have fun.

You are a good writer simply because you have the guts to open your veins to the page and bleed out words. Let yourself play. And then, once you have had your fun, let yourself make it shine, without worrying about someone else’s opinion.