Category Archives: Teamwork

Submit or Die: Join A Hashtag Community

You may have heard that in certain circles (largely academic), you must publish or perish.

Well, isn’t the same thing true of any writer? And if you are primarily a writer, and not, say, one who concerns themselves with the esoteric functions of some industry or industrial complex, then you really must publish or perish.

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Submit or die

And what do you need to do first, before you can publish? That’s right. Submit. So really, it’s Submit or Die. And that can mean several things.
You can submit your work to journals, websites, contests and the like. Or you can submit queries to agents, publishers or magazines to publish your articles. Really, the how or what doesn’t matter (I mean, yes, ultimately it does matter), because the bottom line is that you must submit something in order to get started.

There are many people who write and do not submit. They exist in a netherworld of anonymity, known as writers only to themselves and close friends and family (and sometimes, not even that). Sometimes, they think they are not good enough. Sometimes, they don’t think their work is ready or they say they simply don’t have time. There are as many reasons for not submitting as there are writers out there.

But the end result is that only those who submit get published. And those who talk about writing but do nothing about submitting are doing a disservice to their writing.

“So I played softball in high school for four years and utterly sucked at it. Like I was embarrassingly bad. That said, I stuck with it. Something about that practice of persistence in spite of continuous failure *read rejection letters*, has fully prepared me for my life as a writer. Thank You, Softball” – Sagirah Shahid

Recently, I saw a post by a poet friend on Facebook, telling how her experience with being bad at softball – but sticking with it – helped to prepare her for life as a writer. She graciously agreed to let me share it. Resiliency. Gotta have it.

But sometimes it’s easier to do other things, and no one will really notice, right? Well, that’s where a support group comes in. Encouragement and accountability might be the things you need to get yourself on a submitting track.

There are some who say that a true writer must write every day; but also some who say that you should just write whenever you can – but above all, make time for it. I have belonged to two groups over the past 9 or 10 months that have helped me do just that. They both offer Encouragement and Accountability. But no judgment.

The first one that I joined, and I would suggest everyone do this, goes along with the principle of writing every day. It is a monthly writing challenge, centered around a hashtag on Twitter, and I wrote about it here. The second one is a Facebook group that operates on the make-time-for-it option, called #1kTuesday, run by the talented and generous Molly Beth Griffin. Both encourage writing and have another thing in common: no judgment. We all have our demons. But we can still celebrate our successes, even the smallest ones, because small successes tend to pile up to be big successes.

Facebook group #SubmitSunday

What I would like to do is build up a similar kind of encouragement aimed at submissions. I will do this more on the model of #1kTuesday, with a Facebook group and a hashtag. I am calling it #SubmitSunday – though in reality there will be no penalty for submitting on other days. The idea, though, is that you will know as you are spending some time on a Sunday morning, afternoon or evening working on submissions that there are others out there doing the same thing. Make time for it.

And when you are done, you can head on over to the Facebook group and enter your accomplishment. I will ask anyone who is a member of the group to submit each Sunday (or any day) what they did, then I will tally them every Monday. It could be “Submitted to x number of journals,” or “Submitted “so-and-so” piece to x journal” or it could be “Worked on a proposal for a writing grant/residency for one hour.” It could even be “Researched markets with x resource for an hour.” It’s okay to do research, but Extra Brownie Points will be awarded for those who are actually submitting work, and who can name the piece and pass along the market that they submitted to.

Occasionally I will share resources that I know of and trust, and I would encourage others to do the same – places where markets, contests and grants are listed that others will find handy. I always share this kind of information with my students and it is nothing but a good feeling. If you are an editor of a publication or director of a program that awards grants or residencies to writers, I would love to see you post the details in the group or simply with the hashtag on Twitter. Open reading periods, deadlines for contests, requests for proposals – all is game.

I have already started the Facebook group, so please join #SubmitSunday. You don’t have to be a Friend of mine on Facebook, and you can invite anyone you want. Also, use the #SubmitSunday hashtag on Twitter (follow me there at @LindaWonder if you don’t already), and tell your friends! I hope that you can join me!

Joining the Writing Club

“I’m not a writer”

I have been teaching classes at the Loft Literary Center for about five years now, and there is something that I always run into. These classes fall on the career side of things – how to promote yourself, how to build an online platform, how to use social media, how to find speaking opportunities, that type of thing.

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Invariably, in any one of my classes, as we go around the group and do a little pre-class discovery, the same thing crops up. At least one person – and usually more than one – will indicate that the project they are working on, having written or at least hope to promote does not really qualify them as a writer. They always start out by saying, “I’m not a writer, but I wrote this book… “ Maybe it is a collection of stories their grandfather told, maybe a memoir about their childhood, maybe it is a series of essays on living in the northland. One woman collected and edited 2,000 of her mother’s letters, wrote introductions to each chapter, footnoted the whole thing, collected photos (including getting permission where necessary) and then told me she wasn’t a writer.

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My response to them is always the same. “You are a writer. Get over it. Own it.” I feel like they will not make great strides in promoting their project until they take ownership of it and realize that it came out of their own head. Never mind that it was a collection of letters, or stories someone else told them on the front porch, or just a little column that they scribbled for the weekly newspaper. It’s all writing – fiction isn’t the only thing that counts – and I want them to accept that.

I have always written, and I have always self-identified as a writer. I always saw myself sitting at a desk writing. There was never any doubt that my career would have something to do with writing. But then, it often did not. I wrote copy. I wrote press releases. I wrote tons of blog posts, social media posts, and articles. Still, that’s writing. Except when someone asks what you do, and you say you are a writer, and their question is always, “Would I have read anything you’ve written?” And the answer is well, no, not unless you’ve read the Cold Weather Rule brochure for the Public Utilities Commission, or the many press kits that I’ve written over the past several years, or perhaps the series of job search posts I wrote over the span of a year and a half for a careers blog. And no, they hadn’t.

Still, I couldn’t blame them. Because I knew there was something else in me, something else brewing. I just didn’t know what. Imagine my surprise when I finally started writing a big project, and it felt like I was butting into the club.

The Writing Challenge

Oh sure, I’d taken my stabs at writing a novel. I had started several when I was younger. I even tried to write a play once. I did NaNoWriMo in 2009, and barely got half way before I realized that the inane dribble I was spouting was going nowhere. I just wasn’t feeling it. I always maintained that I was a poet and essayist first.

Then this past April, I did a blog post challenge. I wanted to kickstart this blog, and it was somewhat helpful in doing that. But most of all, what it taught me was that if you are going to write, and you need to write every day in order to write, then you had better make it a priority, and you had better do it first thing. And it’s helpful to have support, accountability, and check-ins. So that’s a great lesson learned.

Still, I didn’t have an idea for that great novel. Then one night I stayed up late to watch a show on PBS on one of my favorite topics – ancient peoples. This one was about a series of discoveries just made in the last couple years, of Neolithic villages in the north of the British Isles. At the very end, the host made a comment and used a phrase that seared itself right into my very brain. I watched the end of that show with my mouth hanging open. I knew that I had a story.

I thought about it for a few weeks. Then I saw the August Writing Challenge hashtag (#AugWritingChallenge) on Twitter (there are other months, too, just check the website). I went to the website and read the whole thing. It was already August 1, and I didn’t have time to write anything that night, so I started the next night. I had already written the opening scene (or at least the first scene that came to my mind) on a legal pad. I typed it out. I typed some more. I got over 1000 words that first day. And I’ve been loving it ever since.

Giving Yourself Permission

The idea is to write at least 500 words a day, every day, for the whole month. There is an online participation log, and shout outs on Twitter. I love the log. I get to see all those numbers marching across the row, for every day I have written. There are a few zeros on there, but there are far more that are over 1000 words, and I know it will take a while, but it feels great. And the shout outs are really sweet, too. What better for someone sitting alone in a room with the blinds drawn on a summer day?

And now, hey. Guess what? I’m writing. I’m writing nearly every day. I’m writing this novel, and I’m writing blog posts for this poor neglected blog, and articles on my Books column on Examiner.com, and things that I have long promised to other people.

But sometimes, when I post my word counts on Twitter with the hashtag, I still feel like I’m play-acting a little bit. Like maybe those ‘real’ authors out there are going to somehow call me on it. I fall into the old trap: “I’m not really a writer, but I wrote this book.”

But that’s not true. I’m not play acting. I’m actually doing it. I’m giving myself permission. So, to quote another Twitter hashtag #TenThingsNottoSaytoaWriter, my contribution was “Would I have read anything you’ve written?”

Not yet. But some day, you just might.

Find me on Twitter at @LindaWonder and @PubBones and let’s talk about writing… !

Writing Help

Last year, I started working with a writing coach. I know, how lame that I would need help, right? I’ve been writing my whole life. Or at least that’s what one person said when I told him. He didn’t believe that ‘real writers’ needed a coach. Well, I do. And I’m a real writer.

I was able to work out an arrangement that was beneficial to both of us, and I enjoy our weekly phone calls. It is a half hour each week. It’s a check-in, but it’s also a motivation. There is nothing like knowing that in a few days someone is going to be asking you how you did with your writing this week. My husband never asks me that. So this is nice.

There is also the question of ‘What would you like to focus on today?’ Sometimes the calls go off in a completely different direction than what I thought we would talk about. Sometimes I have no idea at all what I want to discus. But we always, always find something that is meaningful and helpful. This is because my coach is a professional coach, and she grabs on to little things that I gloss over. And sometimes, they are not such little things.
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During my recent personal crisis, which comprised three different situations (any one of which would have been enough to deal with, thank you very much), my coach was invaluable. I was writing a lot, but it was mostly what I call grief poetry, which meant that most of it was just emotional outpouring. Not anything I’d care to share. But she helped me see the value in that. And the fact that maybe, someday, there might be a kernel of something, a little nugget of gold, in one of those pieces.

I spaced out at least two of our coaching sessions during the holidays due to rescheduling, but also because I was so out of my normal space that I simply forgot about them. But she didn’t guilt me about it. She didn’t accuse me of not being committed to my writing and not taking it seriously. She understood. And that was invaluable as well.

I have participated in coaching before, and this was not the case then. A coach is like any other relationship – you have to make sure it’s the right one for you. You have to have a connection, and above all, respect for each other’s work. I tell people this when they are looking for any professional to work with – a designer, a publicist or an editor. Some of these roles make it easier to overlook a bad fit. But they all benefit from a good fit.

And if you are a writer, and you think you might benefit from a prod now and then, consider getting yourself a writing coach. I know, lots of folks belong to writing groups. But for many reasons, this doesn’t work for everyone. I have never belonged to a writing group, and I think I finally figured out why.

Aside: I’m reading Quiet by Susan Cain right now, and in it, she writes about group dynamics for introverts. She explicitly discusses in chapter three why creatives may not work well in groups. Oh, this was music to my ears!

Maybe you just don’t know anyone with whom you could form a group. Maybe you live way out in the middle of nowhere, or have small children that make it difficult to commit to meetings. Don’t let this isolate you or make you feel as if you are not committed to your writing. If you can get a writing coach, that might work better for you than a writing group. Or it might be a good addition to belonging to a writing group. You will get a different kind of help from a writing coach. The point is that writing coaches are not just for elite writers. You are eligible.

But if you can’t do either, don’t dwell on it. Put it on your “someday” list and get your butt in the chair.

And just keep writing.

Further Resource: My writing coach is Rosanne Bane, author of Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance. You can find her at http://baneofyourresistance.com/ If you’d like to see further articles on this topic, let me know in the comments below. Questions? Concerns?