Continuing on the theme of jumpstarting one’s creativity with great and unnecessary side projects, let’s talk about Story A Day. Story A Day is a challenge, often called the Nanowrimo of short stories, that dares you to start and finish one story everyday of May (and sometimes September). There are no word limits on the stories and no pressure to publish them. These kinds of challenges are great for loosening up your writing, getting away from the editorial voices in your head, and exploring some of the ideas simmering in the back of your head. Additionally, founder Julie Duffy provides prompts before and during May to keep your ideas flowing. Interested? Me too. Find out all about it here.
I stumbled upon Story A Day through DIY MFA founder Gabriela Pereira’s podcast interview with Duffy. DIY MFA is another great way to jumpstart creativity, by as the name suggests, giving yourself a Do It Yourself Masters of Fine Arts. The self-driven program focuses on this simple equation: Writing + Reading + Community = MFA. It gives writers the building blocks to educate themselves the way they would be in a MFA program, but for free! It’s great if you have good self-discipline or want to direct your writing life with more purpose. I have been trying it for myself and so far I am enjoying reshaping my life to be more constructive for my writing career. It has been especially great for helping me read more around the genre I’m writing in (sci-fi), see what the competition is up to, figure out how I measure up, and what I can compare my book to when I’m ready to query agents. Conversely, Pereira’s advice to read short story anthologies in order to study aspects of storytelling in a more condensed format has gotten me to read more broadly. In all, it’s a great program and writers at any level can gain a lot from it. Learn more here.
I’m going to give Story A Day a whirl as well (wish me luck) and I would love to hear advice from anyone who has done it before as well as anyone who plans to do it this May so drop me a line in the comments below.
The idea of querying an agent is a scary one. You’re putting yourself out there for the inevitable rejection with the burning hope for acceptance. Agents and publishers can seem like far off dwellers of ivory towers staring down their noses at you, but Manuscript Wishlist brings them closer to Earth.
Manuscript Wishlist is a portal linking writers with agents and editors. “Manuscript Wish List® and #MSWL are designed to answer one crucial question in the submissions process: ‘What do you wish you had in your inbox?’” According to the site’s about page. It has recently been revamped and now agents and editors can update their own pages by themselves every time the answer to this question changes, so writers can be up-to-date on their wishlists. The site is a great resource for finding agents in a relatable, easily searchable database that helps you see them as humans. I have been using it to compile a list of agents that I will query once I am done with the final edit of my novel. I have found it really easy to use and helpful.
So if you are looking for representation and are not sure where to start: check out Manuscript Wishlist!
Perspective is something that can be elusive when we need it most. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own problems or even everyday routines and forget to look past our own noses. Here are a few different methods of taking a step back and looking at life from another angle.
Inspiration Perspective by Katta Hules.
Sometimes the best way to get a bit of perspective is to take ourselves out of our normal routine. This can be as complicated as taking off to travel the world or as simple as allowing yourself an actual day off to be sick. Author Sheila Heti has high praise for the latter in her Letter of Recommendation for the New York Times. Her essay expounds on the benefits of lying in bed and letting “all the thoughts of the last few months, all your experiences and memories, float up in your head.” She advocates it as a time to take stock and reflect on your place in life.
If you’re looking for an alternate way to solve a problem with a project, try procrastinating. I have found putting things on the back burner can help them simmer away and mature into something better. In fact, I have been putting off writing this post for almost exactly a month. But don’t take my word for it, Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania has written a very convincing piece on the matter called ‘Why I Taught Myself To Procrastinate.’ “When you procrastinate,” Grant says, “you’re more likely to let your mind wander. That gives you a better chance of stumbling onto the unusual and spotting unexpected patterns.”
Then again, maybe procrastination isn’t your problem, maybe you have too much distance from your projects and too many ideas you’re procrastinating on. Graphic novel author and productivity guru Jessica Abel calls this “idea debt” in her piece ‘Imagining Your Future Projects Is Holding You Back.’ She defines it as “when you spend too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be to have this thing done and in the world, too much time imagining how cool you will look, how in demand you’ll be, how much money you’ll make. And way too little time actually making the thing.” Abel suggests breaking down your project into doable steps and doing said steps. So come down to earth, make a plan, and do it!
Note: I found ‘Why I Taught Myself To Procrastinate’ and ‘Imagining Your Future Projects Is Holding You Back’ through Austin Kleon‘s newsletter.
Have any inspiration or advice? Share it below!
Monetary Inspiration by Katta Hules
Money is one of the most troublesome aspects of being creative. We need it to survive but we can’t be slaves to it either. I am currently in the process of transitioning from part-time day job to freelance writing and, oh man, is it scary. The loss of a decent steady paycheck (and tips) is hanging over my head as I make the change to actually getting paid for doing what I love.
Though I feel a little like I’ve stepped off a cliff into a void that may or may not have a trampoline at the bottom, I’m not sorry I’m making the change. Part of what inspired this move was Lean In’s article “How to Disrupt Yourself and Why.” In it, Whitney Johnson, a business thinker and former Wall Street analyst, explains how taking a step that might seem backwards in terms of earning potential can launch your career. To make her point Johnson quotes Carine Clark, the CEO of MaritzCX who has successfully disrupted herself time and time again, rising to the top of big companies before finding promising start-ups and joining them at a fraction of her former salary. Then she helps bring the start-up success and her investment soon pays off. Clark likes to sum up her attitude as “lose something now to win something that is bigger and better.”
But back to the money issue. Though disrupting oneself seems to be the way to go, it’s best not to go about it without a plan. Recently, my mother shared this great article from Go Girl Finance “Five Healthy Financial Habits for the Self-Employed.” The author, Katharine Paljug gives great advice about how to manage the sometimes chaotic finances of a freelancer. Her tips are easy, practical, and will no doubt save me and any other fledgling freelancer lots of grief come tax season.
And for any young professional fresh out of the education system, or anyone looking for financial independence, I recommend Paulette Perhach’s “A Story of a Fuck Off Fund.” This second person narrative straddles the line between story and advice article. It is informative, persuasive and beautifully written. It tells you exactly why you should squirrel money away for the just-in-case times without being preachy. I found this piece through Austin Kleon’s newsletter, and it is probably the most interesting article I’ve read this year.
Money is a necessity but that doesn’t mean it should rule our lives. We shouldn’t stifle ourselves to make ends meet, but that doesn’t mean we should be starving artists either. Somewhere in there is a happy medium and I’m looking to find it. Have any inspiration or advice? Share it below!
As a creative-type, especially one starting out with not much in the way of wide-spread [or you know, even mildly spread] acclaim, it can be hard to keep up the motivation. The self-esteem flags, the doubts bloom like large ugly flowers, and the questions [Can I do this? Am I really as good as I think I am? What if I fail?] that lurk in the back of the mind creep forward, growing in volume, until they’re all you can hear. And that’s when we need inspiration and validation the most. Friends, family, and significant others are the best for this, but in lieu of human contact, reading the stories of others can be nearly as uplifting. To that end, I have started collecting articles I have come across or that have been recommended to me.
- New York Magazine‘s ‘Beginnings’ series– This is a large, addicting collection of origin stories for people both famous and not who are successful in their respective fields. Each essay tells about the subject’s ‘Breakthrough Moment’ and gives the reader hope that if Jerry Seinfield could survive on $50 a week or Kevin Smith could find enough inspiration from a convenience store to launch his career, that maybe we could make it too. Recommendation found through Austin Kleon’s newsletter.
- Fighting the Restraints of Fear– Fear keeps us from doing so many things that could improve our lives. Leaving that hated job, traveling, going back to school, sending work out to be seen by someone else. This article from Lean In tackles the issue by breaking down common fears and asking the reader to examine their motivations for staying where they are in life. Lean In is a site promoting equality in the workforce through inspiration, education, and community building. It is geared towards women, but applicable to everyone. Found this article myself, but was turned on to Lean In by my mom. Thanks Mom!
- Strategies for Confidence Boosting– Like fear, lack of self confidence can keep us from doing things we need or want to do. Low self-esteem can be real problem for creative-types and women in particular. Women can be perceived as ‘bossy’ or ‘bitchy’ if they push too hard for something, so they don’t in order to be better liked. This Lean In article urges you to not overthink your actions. It also gives strategies for changing your attitude and approach towards getting what you need. Great for helping you make positive life changes.
Keep your spirits up and keep working towards your goals! Find any inspiring articles, videos, or links? Share them in the comments below!
I’m starting a new series called ‘Articles of Inspiration’ where I pull together awesome motivating sites I find through recommendation and my own meanderings on the internet.
The first post comes out tomorrow. I hope to post one a week so stay tuned! Recommendations are welcome.