Friday, May 6, 2016

5 Things to Do Get Out of a Writing Rut

No meeting May 2016  Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group

Has your writing gotten stale? Are you having trouble moving ahead with a project you are working on – or wish you were working on? Maybe you need a little help getting out of your rut. Here are some techniques to refresh yourself and your writing.

5 Ways to Get Out of Your Writing Rut

  1. Journal. If you’re suffering from writer’s block, it’s probably because of some anxiety or dilemma about what you are writing. Spend some time writing about what you think is causing the problem, and brainstorming ways past the problem. I do this when I’m planning a new scene or trying to bring a character to life – I just write about what I want to achieve, or why I’m having trouble achieving it, and often find that a solution comes to me quickly. This kind of journal writing is low-risk (no one but you will see it), and often frees the mind to explore possible solutions without anxiety. And it gets you writing. Block gone!
  2. Read. Sometimes writers just run out of ideas. But ideas aren't something we manufacture out of thin air -- they come from our creative mind applying itself to a given task. One often neglected way to stimulate our creative mind is to feed it some good reading material. Read just for your own entertainment and amusement – a great way to stimulate your writer’s imagination. Or, if you find you are making writing progress, but find your writing flat, clumsy, or uninspired, try reading a book or article on the craft of writing, and use the advice to polish your current work-in-progress. Sometimes we spend so much time writing we forget that great writers are always great readers first.
  3. Imitate. Not only is imitation the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s also a great way to learn from other writers. Pick something by a writer whose work you admire and try to imitate it as closely as you can. Do you like their fun, punchy style? Try it! Do you admire their moving examples? See if you can come up with some of your own. Maybe you like the way a favorite writer gets right to the point. Try revising something of your own to be similarly direct. Great writers and other artists have honed their skills by deliberate imitation for thousands of years, and you can, too.
  4. Ramble. Working smart is better than just working hard. Smart writers remember that creativity often happens when we are not trying to force ourselves to write. So take a ramble – not in your writing but in the great outdoors. Go outside, pick a pleasant path, and just walk at a leisurely pace, enjoying the scenery and letting your thoughts run free. This is my favorite way of getting out of a writing rut. I always return to my keyboard not only refreshed but refocused, as if my unconscious was working on my writing problem while the rest of me was enjoying a pleasant perambulation. Other physical activities, such as crocheting or mowing the lawn, can also allow your mind and your body to un-kink, leaving you refreshed and restored.
  5. Sleep. While we’re on the subject of letting our unconscious mind help us out, I’ve got to mention my favorite one, sleeping on it. When I'm having trouble getting my thoughts straight – or coming up with ideas– right before I go to sleep at night, I just remind myself of what I want to tackle in my writing project the next day and, almost always, I wake the next morning with a fresh idea that I can’t wait to get to work on. Sometimes I keep my Kindle tablet beside the bed so that I can jot ideas down before I even get out of bed. In fact, most of my best ideas and solutions to the most tedious problems spring to mind right after a good night’s sleep. I bet it will work for you, too.
As it happens, there will be no meeting of the DFW Catholic Writers Group in May – the fourth Tuesday meets at the University of Dallas have finished with the end of the spring term, and the usual second Tuesday meeting at Half Price Books will not take place this month.

So why not use the extra time to refresh your self? Then come to our next “second Tuesday” meeting, June 14, at Half Price Books and show us what you’ve been working on. We look forward to seeing you then. Here are the details of time and place. We hope to see you there!

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Catholic writers encourage and learn from one another


There will be two meetings of the D/FW Catholic Writers Group this month: our usual second Tuesday lunchtime meeting at the usual time and place, Tuesday, March 8. However, since our “fourth Tuesday” evening meeting would fall during Holy Week, a busy time for us all, we've decided to push it back to the fifth Tuesday the following week, March 29. It will take place as usual in room 42 of Haggarty Science Center on the University of Dallas campus, 7-9 p.m. Here are the details of time and place. 
 
Our meetings serve several purposes. First, they give us a chance to get out of our “writer’s cave” and connect with other writers. Writing is naturally a solitary endeavor, and can be a lonely one without the support and encouragement of others who understand our trials and challenges. Family and friends may be supportive, but they often don’t understand “why it’s taking your so long” to finish honing your work. Other writers will understand that, and may be able to offer you strategies from their own experience that will keep you going when you get discouraged.

Another important purpose of our meetings is to provide peer critique. When you spend hours, days, weeks working on a writing project, you may get so close to your project that you have trouble seeing it with fresh eyes. If you bring copies of a current work-in-progress to a meeting, you can get valuable input from other writers who can bring a fresh perspective on how your work appeals to readers, and offer suggestions on how to improve. I’ve heard that some critique groups can be quite brutal in their “honesty,” but I’ve never found critique sessions in our group to be anything but charitable and helpful. So if you are looking for kindly, but honest, feedback on your writing, the DFW Catholic Writers Group is a good place to get it.

And we are, of course, not just any writers group, but a group of Catholics, who are motivated by a desire to dedicate our talents to God and to infuse our writing – whether it is intended for a religious audience or not – with a Christian vision. When we help and encourage each other, we act out of a sincere desire to help each member communicate their own vision clearly and effectively through the written word.

I can tell you that I come away from every meeting reinvigorated and eager to get back to my own writing projects.  I think the same will be true for you if you join us. And remember, you have two opportunities this month: Tuesday, March 8, at lunchtime in Dallas, and March 29 in the evening at the University of Dallas in Irving.  I hope we see you there!

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

Monday, February 22, 2016

It's Not Too Late! Sign up now for the Catholic Writers Guild Conference Online

Three and a half years ago, just as I was about to try to launch a career as a commercial writer and editor, I had the good fortune to attend the 2012 Catholic Writers Conference. By some miracle, it was being held practically in my own backyard, in Arlington, Texas. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the experience changed my life forever – not least because it sparked the founding of the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group, which I’ve been an active part of ever since. It may be a long time before I have the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the Catholic Writers Guild (normally, it alternates annually between New Jersey and Chicago), but I hope very much to be able to take part in this year’s online conference – and you can, too.

Two things have helped me persevere in my efforts as a writer: the education I’ve gleaned from expert writers and editors, and the fellowship I’ve enjoyed through our local Catholic writers group and the Catholic Writers Guild Facebook group.  The upcoming online conference (March 4-6, 2016) will offer a combination of both, with a new webinar format that will make the online conference more engaging and interactive than ever. Check out this recent article on Aleteia to find out more about what makes the Catholic Writers Guild, and our online conference, special.

Here are some of the things you can look forward to:
  • A greater emphasis on how our faith informs our writing. We have speakers who will discuss writing as a Calling, literature as evangelization, and even how genre fiction like horror and science fiction can still reflect our Catholic values.
  • Practical advice and tips you can put to work immediately. From managing your time to reconstructing your plot, developing great characters to building your social media presence, our experienced and well-published presenters share their best practices.
  • Webinar format that incorporates audio and visuals. This year, our presenters come live to your screen. It’s easy – if you can handle Skype or Facetime, you can do this! (Don’t worry, there’s still chat available for talking or “passing notes.”)
  • Networking. One of the comments in the past has been there’s not time to just get to know fellow attendees. This year, there’s time in between each session, we have open chat time, plus an open chat room on the conference website.
  • Recordings! Did you have to run after a toddler and miss part of a lecture? We’ve got your back. We’ll have recordings of each session available for you free!
  • Pitch Sessions. They’re back! We’re recruiting publishers of Catholic and secular media to hear pitches from authors with manuscripts ready to submit! Check out the growing list.
Get all the details here. The cost is just $25 for Guild members, and $40 for anyone else.

Meanwhile, writers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area will have another opportunity to get together for critique and mutual encouragement this Tuesday evening, 23 February, at the University of Dallas. Join us!  Here are the details of time and place. Hope we see you there!

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

Monday, January 25, 2016

How are those writing resolutions holding up?



Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, did any of those resolutions include goals for your writing? Perhaps, like me, you already have particular projects in hand, and you have resolved to see them finished before the year is out. Or maybe you simply decided that this will be the year you finally get serious about writing. Either way, if you’re like me, you find that it’s already nearly the end of January and you have done little to follow through on your resolutions.

If that’s the case, don’t lose heart. The year is still young, and there's plenty of time to make some headway. If you need some encouragement – or accountability – try finding a writing partner or a stable writing group to help you maintain your resolve and make progress toward your writing goals. The Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group is here to help you, offering camaraderie, encouragement, and charitable critique. Our next meeting is Tuesday, January 26, at 7:00 p.m., at the University of Dallas.  Join us, and get the help and encouragement you need to follow through on your writing resolutions. Find details of our meeting time and place here. I hope we see you there!

If you don’t live in the area but still need a little guidance or encouragement, check out some of our popular blog posts, in the sidebar to the left.

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Year, New Meeting Time?


In the three years or so since our writers’ group was first founded, we’ve seen many people come and go, with a few faithful stalwarts who faithfully attend meetings. Some come with a vague but insistent feeling that there is something God is calling them to do, perhaps through writing. Others have projects in hand and seek some encouragement, advice, or companionship as they bring their writing projects to fruition. Many are beginners in the writing life, trying to develop habits that will help them follow through on their inspirations. We have tried to make writers of all levels of experience feel welcome and supported.

At present, we are reconsidering our meeting time (and place) for our regular, monthly meetings. Lunchtime on a Tuesday is perhaps not the most convenient time for busy people, for whom writing is not their main activity. So at this week’s “second Tuesday” meeting, January 12 (usual time, usual place), we’ll be discussing whether it would be better to meet on a weekday evening or a Saturday morning, rather than at lunchtime on a work day. If you want to get in on the discussion, please attend or – if unable to attend – contact Nancy Ward and let her know what time would suit your schedule best. Do you live in Tarrant County and find it difficult to get to Dallas for a meeting? Let us know. We can’t please everyone, but we’d like to accommodate as many potential members as possible.

For those of you who are “with us in spirit,” even if you are unable to attend meetings, keep in touch. Contact Nancy Ward to get on the email list. (You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.)

Update

After welcoming two new members at the January 12 meeting, and discussing feedback from those present and those on our email list, we have decided to leave our meeting schedule as it is for the time being.  Remember that our meetings are free and open to anyone who wishes to attend. If you would really like to connect with Catholic writers in the Metroplex area but find it impossible to attend either of our monthly meetings, please let us know.

Monday, November 16, 2015

November meeting: Change of Date

DFW Catholic Writers meet Tuesday, Nov. 17, 7-9 p.m., University of Dallas, 7-9 p.m.

This month, to accommodate the Thanksgiving Holiday, the “fourth Tuesday” meeting will actually take place on the third Tuesday, November 17. We will meet at the usual place, the University of Dallas Science Building, (building 5 on this campus map) room 42, right next to the Math dept downstairs. Hope we see you there!

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

This Week: Launch party Monday, writers' meeting Tuesday

Nancy Ward, founder of
DFW Catholic Writers Group
The founding member of our writing group, Nancy Ward, will be launching her new DVD, Sharing Your Faith Story, at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts (at the corner of Coit and Campbell in Plano) on Monday, October 12, from noon to 1:00 p.m. Drop by for refreshments and a live interview with Dave Palmer of KATH 910 AM radio. You can learn more about Nancy and her faith journey on her blog, Joy Alive in Our Hearts.

If your Columbus Day calendar is already full, you'll have another opportunity to meet Nancy the next day, Tuesday, October 13, at our regular second-Tuesday meeting of the DFW Catholic Writers Group at the usual time and place. All are welcome at our meetings. If you have a piece you'd like some feedback on, bring 8-10 copies to share. Or just come to report on what you're working on (or would like to work on), or seek advice and camaraderie. We hope to see you there!

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.