Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Write2TheEnd: Epiphanies, Priorities, and What's Next?

We wrapped our fall session of #Write2TheEnd last night with an epic THREE HOUR dinner at Ryebelle's with our new and forever *Writer* (with a capital W!) friends.

We were one participant down because SHE WAS GIVING BIRTH to our first #W2TE baby!! Even so, I can't believe none of us remembered to get a picture of our gathering! *head desk* Or of our participants with their certificates!! Ugh!

Ah well. I guess we were too happy that Ken was able to join us in Real Life this time.  For most of our meetings he participated via Skype from his travels in South Korea and China for his son's wedding! We are so proud of and impressed by his devotion to his project (which he completed), and by the support he received from his wife and family when he asked for it.

This is a lesson for us all in any creative endeavor. Our loved ones want to help and offer their support. Sometimes (always) we just need to verbalize what it is we need in order to receive it so we can meet success.

Same sun: going down in Michigan; rising in South Korea.
What Ken did right, and what we can all do in our daily lives, is he made his writing *work* a priority, even on the other side of the world.

He had a moment of pure joy and self-acceptance when "Writer" popped out of his mouth in response to customs asking for his profession -- which delighted us almost as much as seeing the sunrise from South Korea mirroring the sunset in southwest Michigan. Surreal.

Another epiphany we discussed: it's important to choose a project to focus on that speaks to the soul of the writer. If you are successful in getting a piece published, if you enjoy fame and notoriety from your work, you will speak about, think about, live, eat, and breathe your story for years to come.

Think of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville (or Cheeseburger in Paradise, Heaven-forbid), of Lynard Skynard's Free Bird. Artists perform their biggest hits at every gig to the end of their careers -- they damn well better love them! It's so much easier to do the work -- to succeed -- when you're doing it for yourself, when it feeds your soul, versus because you *should.*

As to what's next for #Write2TheEnd? We began with a goal of building a community of working writers. Thus far, we have worked only with local writers. We LOVE working face-to-face with each and every one of our participants. We want to keep our class size small so we can truly make a difference, so we can offer each paying participant a one-on-one, so that we can continue to over deliver and adjust our instruction so it best meets the needs of those who show up to learn during each season's session.

Sadly, we won't be offering an 8-week winter session. We are committed, however, to keeping our growing community supported and active and, most importantly, WRITING, throughout the holidays and winter months. If you are hungry for a driven, supportive, knowledgable writing community to help you move forward in your writing career, we hear you. If you are not local to Southwest Michigan, we hear you, too. We will offer a very limited number of remote opportunities to participants in #Write2TheEnd Mini-Courses. Stay tuned for more information.

Something we didn't expect when we began working with local writers in September was how fond we would become of these Writers who invested in themselves -- and in us -- because they believed they had a story to tell. We didn't anticipate holding back tears when it was time to say good-bye. We didn't anticipate looking at each other like proud parents when one of our participants delivered her completed chapbook to us as a thank you, or how the hairs on our arms would stand at attention when we could identify her use of some of the tools we taught, how her writing moved us and stayed with us on our drive (or walk) home, as we breathed in the aromatic fumes of a homemade soup, or kissed our children goodnight, making us savor moments and glimpses and hold these tight against our hearts.

However could we have known what teaching you has taught us? What it has gifted us? We can't wait for our next 8-week session in the spring, and we can't wait for the next time we are lucky enough to #Write2TheEnd with you.

Monday, September 29, 2014

3 Ways to Boost Your Writing Career Before You Are Published

Wanting to be a writer is like wanting to be a marathon runner. The training necessary for success starts long before the actual event.

You're not published yet? No matter. While waiting for the presses to roll (or the pixels to align), here are a few things you can do to jump-start your writing career:

1.) Own the power of your words.

Say "I'm a writer." Audibly. With integrity and authority. Go ahead... I'll wait.

How difficult was that? Did you feel like an imposter? Did you weaken the impact with a little laugh at the end? Did you speak at a different decibel level than normal? Did you hiccup into upspeak?

The words we speak have tremendous power. If we can't say words with confidence, chances are that we'll never act to make those words a reality.

The power of our words can be a double-edged sword. Wield them with care. Beware of speaking anything into existence that can damage your fledgling writing career. "I'm a loser." "I'll never get published." "My book stinks." "I can't handle rejection." These will suck the life from your writing faster than a carb-starved dieter can suck the filling from a Krispy Kreme.

If you write and submit that writing for possible publication, you will get rejected. This is a universal truism, as immutable as Planck's constant or the certainty that if you drop your toast it *will* land peanut-butter side down. Rejection stinks, but it doesn't mean your book does. It means you have to keep on saying "I'm a writer," keep on learning, keep on revising, and soldier on.

You otter be writing!
Crack those knuckles & get to work!
Saying "I'm a writer" has great value. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In addition, when said in response to the question "What do you do?" it can lead to fascinating conversations and connections that would otherwise go unexplored.

A writer writes. That's the definition of the word. A swimmer swims. A runner runs. An otter... otts? There is no exam that must be passed, no certificate of authenticity, no licensing board that determines who gets go define themselves as "writers."

The only requirement? Well, that leads me to #2...

2.) Write.

Often. Daily, if possible.

Polish your manuscript, by all means, but set a deadline for putting that work aside and beginning work on something new.

It is critical to have an answer to the age-old industry question: "What else do you have?"

The publishing world abounds with stories of writers whose first project sold wasn't the first project finished. This is actually the norm. The standard. Who knows? The project you are shopping now might need a reader base before it finds a publisher. It's very possible that your next project is the one that will establish that base. So -- get to work!

Some are chicks. Some only aspire to be chicks...
3.) Ax "Aspiring."

You know your social media profiles -- the ones you hope and pray the Powers That Be will stumble across, read, and become desperate to sign your witty self to a lucrative publishing contract? Now is the time to run -- don't walk -- and delete "aspiring" as a modifier to "writer." Few things scream "unformed egg-contained chick" more.

"Aspiring" means "I hope to be... someday... when I make it a priority and turn the television off and get off of Facebook and have a plan."

Make today the day you quit aspiring and begin perspiring. Roll up your proverbial sleeves, set a targeted date for completion, and get to work.

Perhaps today is the day aspiring takes a back seat to conspiring. Perhaps it's time to stop sitting around waiting for the world to come knocking at your door and instead make a plan for your success. Take a class. Find a critique partner. Solicit advice from publishing pros. Start building your network and enlarging your circle of influence. Soon, you may discover that the progress you are making in your writing is inspiring others as well as yourself...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Simplest Way to Write to the End

"I have a ton of great ideas. I start stories all the time, but never finish any." 
At #Write2TheEnd, we hear this from writers all the time. This, too:

"I have this story I'm dying to tell. I started it years ago. I've started it several times, but can't make myself finish it."

There are a million things we could say about sticktoitiveness, evaluating an idea's merits, and choosing one's projects wisely...

...but all that would just fill up space, without getting to the real core answer.

How does one finish a writing project? Do one of two things:

If it's within your grasp, take it!
1.) Pick the lowest hanging fruit.

Perhaps you have a plethora of stories all banging about in your head, clamoring for attention. Perhaps you suffer from "Magpie Syndrome" and are easily distracted from one project by others that look shinier, easier, more fun (funner?), or more worthy.

Ok, then.   Choose the story that is closest to being done -- the one that won't take much to push it over the edge to completion.

Now, look at the calendar. Give yourself a deadline. Make it reasonable so you don't set yourself up for failure, but ambitious enough that it challenges you. Sometimes all it takes to finish something is a concrete challenge we deem worthy of accepting.

Work on nothing but that until it is finished, edited, polished, and ready to send out into the cold, cruel world.


Om nom nom. Writing is *delicious.*
2.) Feed your soul. Choose the project that most speaks to you. The one you can't stop thinking about. The one you *have* to write.

You know the one.

Perhaps you’ve felt writing was frivolous, or bought into the notion that there were other, more worthwhile things you should be doing with your time. Many of us were nurtured to seek more lucrative than creative pursuits, but writing calls us anyway.

So go ahead: give yourself permission to get the words out of your head and into the world.

Take that project out of the bottom drawer (or your hard drive), dust it off (or update it to the latest version of Word), look deep into it's eyes and make it a promise...

Promise to work on no other creative endeavor until it is finished, edited, etc.

Notice a common thread?



Working on multiple projects at a time is like fighting a war on many fronts. It disperses your creativity rather than distilling it and concentrating it, making it far too easy to lose focus, drive, or passion.

Want to finish something? Then it's time to overcome your commitment issues.

Pick one.

Roll up your proverbial sleeves and get to work.

Stick with it.

Wrestle with it.

See it through. Then move on to another.

We never said the advice was easy, but it is simple.

What's the best advice you ever heard for finishing something? Tell us!

Adapted from a MuseInks blog post.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The End... And a New Beginning

The inaugural #Write2TheEnd Writers Workshop kicked off with a bang. Practically every genre of writing -- poetry, memoir, non-fiction, and fiction -- was represented in the Summer, 2014 session.

We met weekly. Some participants had never finished a book before. Others had publishing experience, but wanted to challenge themselves to produce something new. Some were introverts; some extroverts. Some had never comfortably called themselves "writers" before.

We all discovered that a lot can happen in eight weeks:

A mother of two can become a mother of three...

A parent can experience a life-threatening crisis...

Family members can require long-distance assistance scouting and purchasing a home, and help coordinating a major household move.

Friends and family can come to visit -- and stay... and stay...

Medical crises can result in hospital stays... or rehab... or, sadly, death...

ALL of this, and more, happened to our #Write2TheEnd participants this summer.

And we STILL wrote.

No Ifs, Ands, or Proverbial Butts

We stretched ourselves, setting goals at the beginning we knew were ambitious. Then life set in. Yet we persevered.

We wrote our proverbial butts off.

Kim & Ami are facilitators, but Ben is The Great Motivator.
We also kicked proverbial butt. I am honored to report that #Write2TheEnd participants have a 100% success rate for our first session.

One participant has two children under the age of 3 and another on the way. Yet, she wrote over 60,000 words on her novel and met her goal!

One participant is a natural introvert who lives an hour away. She took a leap of faith, never missed a meeting, completed an entire poetry chapbook to enter in a contest and met her goal!

As facilitators, Kim and I both felt that a high point of our whole summer was handing out certificates of completion -- and crisp, new $100 bills -- to each writer whose goals were met.

Here's what one of our participants had to say about her experience:

"I've tried several times to write this book for over 6 years, but never gotten very far. This summer, I did it! I wrote it! I had my money's worth out of the workshop already by Week 5!"

What's keeping you from leaping?
Here's another perspective:

"The #Write2TheEnd writer's workshop has been an incredible experience for me. I began the workshop with a started project. By the workshop's conclusion, my project was finished and ready for submission.

Throughout the workshop, Ami and Kim were encouraging. They made me feel my project was important and worthy of completion. They held me accountable for getting an adequate amount of work done each week so that my project would progress in a timely manner.

Kim and Ami are wonderful facilitators. They presented me with many useful tools which will continue to make me a better writer. 

I'd recommend #Write2TheEnd writer's workshop to anybody with a writing goal to achieve. I truly did Write2TheEnd."

All writers interested in finding out more about how #Write2TheEnd can help you finish writing or editing that pet project (you know the one...) are invited to a free Meet and Greet on Monday, August 25, at 420 Main Street in St. Joseph, MI.

Our Fall, 2014, session kicks off on Monday, September, 15 at 6:00 p.m. Sign up today! And come Write2TheEnd with us!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Write Like You Mean It: How to Escape the "Hobby" Lobby

Since last Monday, I've heard from several writers applauding Kim's excellent exercise for exorcising doubts (see: Introducing the Doubt Box).

Suzanne Fluhr had this to say about it:
...[M]y husband views my writing as a hobby (I'm a recovering lawyer). This makes it more difficult for me to see it as more than a hobby even though it feels like it deserves a weightier descriptor. I'm going to find a big ol' doubt box and banish my doubts there. Thanks for sharing this idea.
Doubt Box notwithstanding, Suzanne's "hobby" comment resonated with me. Like a big, thundering, bring-out-your-dead gong.

A hobby is a creative way to pass the time...
Ah, yes, the "hobby" label. Are you as familiar with that particular bete noir as I?

I'm guilty of telling myself that something as enjoyable as writing (no matter how much the words make me wrestle with them, I thoroughly enjoy the process) must somehow be self-indulgent, and must therefore take a back seat to things like laundry... and making meals... and running errands... and saying "yes" to whatever friends need when they call and begin a conversation with "since you don't have a real job..."

Not long ago, the realization that I had no problem making it a priority to finish clients' writing projects, but continually put my own on the back burner, smacked me upside the creative head.

Appalled at how cavalier I was toward my own writing, I resolved to allow myself to value my creative endeavors more highly. To schedule non-negotiable time for them in my week. To make my writing a priority.

Then I read about Charlie Munger selling himself the best hour of his day, elevating his personal pursuits and putting them on a par with his paying clients, giving himself permission to validate his own interests. That resonated enormously with me. I took a page from Mr. Munger's playbook and resolved that, for at least three days a week, I would dedicate the best, most creative part of my day to my own project.

... but writing well takes WORK.
Yes, client work still gets done. Yes, life still encroaches. (When, for instance, one's mother falls and fractures bones in her face and is life-flighted to a distant hospital, one's creativity suffers a setback.) But, barring emergencies, that time is MINE. Not mine to do with as I please. Not at all. I guard it jealously. That time is mine to work on my current Pet Writing Project.

I do not squander the time on social media, or answering email, or even answering texts or phone calls. I do not do laundry. I do not run errands. I do not clean, or cook, or do any of the thousand and one things I have allowed to distract me in the past. I am "on the clock," so to speak, and I do my darndest to make the most of it.

The payoff of the decision to stop treating my writing like a guilty pleasure was immediate. I now approach the day with my Pet Project at the top of my to-do list -- and, as a result, have made more progress on this project in the past three months than I have in the past three years. God willing, it will be finished by the end of July. And that, I don't mind telling you, feels goooooooood.

Paying myself the best part of my day has allowed me to banish the "hobby" doubt permanently. For the next two months, I challenge you to make your writing a priority and pay yourself in a similar manner. Kim and I would love to hear what happens when you do.

Here's granting you permission to fully embrace your writing aspirations!

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Introducing The Doubt Box

Last night kicked off the Summer, 2014, #Write2TheEnd Writers Workshop in St. Joseph, Michigan. We met the writers who had signed up, learned what their goals are for the next eight weeks, and discussed initial strategies for achieving those goals.

(At #W2TE, every participant who meets his or her self-determined goal by the end of the workshop receives $100. Co-facilitator Kim Jorgensen Gane and I are committed to doing everything in our power to help participants get that hundred bucks.)

I'm the Roll-Up-Your-Sleeves, No Excuses, Get To Work type. I love to present writers with tools for organizing their content, improving their productivity, and making the creative process easier.

In a sense, I'm the Activities Organizer. But Kim is the Emotional Core. Case in point:

How big must it be to hold all your doubts?
When we were preparing our presentations, Kim mentioned an exercise she had planned. She brought out a lovely, little blue box with a hinged lid. "This is the Doubt Box," she told me. "I'm going to have people to write out the doubts that are holding them back on the project they want to finish. Then they'll divest themselves of those doubts and put them in the box for the duration of the workshop."

I did not laugh. But I am a lousy actor, and "You've got to be kidding" must have shown clearly on my face.

"What?" said Kim. "Don't you like the Doubt Box?"

"It's not that I don't like it," I told her. "Exercises like that -- touchy-feely things -- just don't resonate with me. But that doesn't make them less valid. So, by all means, hit them with the Doubt Box. Oh, and by the way, can we burn the doubts at the end of the workshop? I can get into that. Because... fire!"

Kim humored me and nodded. So I am totally looking forward to the Doubt Flambe of the final session. But I digress...

Don't carry your doubts with you.
They'll weigh you down as you venture into the unknown.
During our first session, Kim talked about the importance of writers allowing themselves to see themselves as artists. Of claiming creative time and jealously guarding it against the vagaries of life. (No, she didn't use the word "vagaries." I'm paraphrasing.) She talked about the realities of unpublished writers sometimes seeing their work as frivolous, or themselves as frauds.

Then she brought out the Doubt Box.

As soon as she mentioned it and named it, before she'd even had a chance to fully explain her plan for it, our wonderful #Write2TheEnd participants grabbed pen and paper and began writing. They got it. Immediately.

The Doubt Box quickly accumulated pieces of paper -- each one a doubt that was weighing someone down, keeping that person from charging into the fray and tackling the writing endeavor that fed her soul. As the Doubt Box filled, the participants grew noticeably more positive -- more ready to get to work.

This. This is what #Write2TheEnd is all about. It's about finding ways to help writers commit to a project they love. It's about networking with others who share similar goals, but who may not have the same core approach as you. It's about being willing to divest yourself of doubts, and get writing.

What doubts are weighing you down? You can put them in a Doubt Box of your own. Share them below, then let them go. Put them in the comment box, and get them off of your back and out of your mind!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An Invitation to Southwestern Michigan Writers

If you're a writer in Michigan's Great Southwest this summer, you’re invited to Write2theEnd!

The #Write2TheEnd Writers Workshop(TM) is a summer course for writers like you who are itching to commit to That Project (you know the one) and see it through.

The place to be if you're a SW Michigan writer this summer.
#Write2TheEnd will provide tools, inspiration and accountability that encourage participants to complete either writing or editing a major project. We will focus solely on helping writers accomplish their quantifiable goals on a specific project in a specific time frame.

We invite you to join Write2theEnd facilitators Ami Hendrickson and Kim Jorgensen Gane at 420 Main Street (the old Masonic Temple at the corner of Elm and Main in downtown St. Joseph) on Wednesday, May 28, at 6:30 pm, for a FREE, no obligation, informational meet & greet.

The #Write2TheEnd Writer’s Workshop will take place on Monday afternoons and evenings (regular meetings will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m., with support hours/writing space offered before and after) through the summer.

It's time to fill that blank page...
Participation is $495 (less than the cost of eight weekly rounds of golf or eight meals out at a good restaurant :D). The fee includes a full hour of individual, one-on-one coaching with each facilitator, to be scheduled over the course of the 8-week period. If you know this is for you, reserve your spot now, with the PayPal button at the top right of the page.

To ensure personal attention from both facilitators, the workshop is limited to 15 participants. Each participant will set a personal Ultimate Goal for the Workshop on Day 1.

At the end, each person who has MET HIS or HER GOAL WILL RECEIVE $100 BACK.

#Write2TheEnd begins June 16 and ends on August 4.

We would love to have you join us on Wednesday the 28th. When you come, bring along with any other writers you think might benefit from writing to the end with us this summer! We look forward to answering any questions you might have then — or send an email to info (at) write2theend [dot] com for more information.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Imagine You Can Write2theEnd

by Kim Jorgensen Gane

Writing has become my way to salvation--my way to myself. I can no more imagine my life without writing than I can imagine my life without my family, or without an appendage I've been accustomed to using my whole life.

For those of you local to southwest Michigan who have followed my journey as a writer and thought, "me too ... someday." That day is here.

Editor, full-time working writer, and friend, Ami Hendrickson, and I are here to support you, inspire you, light a fire under you—to help YOU make someday today.

We're holding a free, no obligation informational meeting to introduce you to our joint endeavor, #Write2TheEnd Writers Workshop™.

On Wednesday, May 28, at 6:30 pm, in the old Masonic Temple, downtown St. Joe, at the corner of Elm & Main (420 Main St.), we will give you an overview of our syllabus and answer any questions you may have. In addition, you will leave with a small sample of what's to come; a mini-tool you can employ immediately to help move your writing from parked to forward.

I've overcome and come to own the permission and the soul pieces of writing for myself, and I believe I can help you do the same. I can assist with transformational writing, with essays, persuasive writing, blogging, and memoir. I can also help you see the value in being open to coaching, which I believe is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.

It’s difficult to be objective about our own creative endeavors. It’s easy to fall in love with our own words. Someone who truly has our best interests at heart—who believes in us—is invaluable in helping us see our goals to fruition. And seriously, Ami blew my mind when she introduced me to our first get-it-done tool. The tools, the HOW, the discipline, the next steps, that's what I need and I look forward to digging in to what Ami has to share, right beside you.

If you're thinking, "this summer just isn't the time," then perhaps you need to either give yourself permission to let go of your dreams of being a writer and move on to something else wonderful & fulfilling—but please do move on and actually do something else—or give yourself permission to take this course and see what you can accomplish right now. Chances are, if this opportunity appeals to you and you let it pass, someday will never come. The excuses only get better, believe me.

But consider this: how many summers have gone by since you first dreamed of writing that great American novel or memoir or screenplay or stageplay, or since you’ve let a completed project fester in a drawer? This is the summer you could turn dreaming into finishing--into writing to The End--Your End. If you could do it yourself, you would have by now. You need a team, a tribe of like-minded individuals to help you succeed in the goals we share.

Is your life worth less than mine? Is it worth less than your mother's, your father's, than your child's? There are many ways to support and to parent and to care for others. Ami and I agree that caring for ourselves—that leading fulfilling, joy-filled lives—is an important way to care for those we love, and provides a beautiful example for our children, and the joyful lives we hope they grow to lead.

Nowhere else will you get such a powerful combination of tools, know-how, practical and functional writing advice, combined with the coaching and inspiration that will help you overcome your writing hurdles. There's a reason Ami and I have found one another. We each fill the other's gaps in ways that can help turn YOU into a powerful FINISHER where your writing goals are concerned.

We want this for you. We want this for you badly enough that we’re willing to give you back $100 at the end of the eight weeks when you meet the goal you set on the first night. But we can't want it more than you want it.

Join our Facebook group, even if you’re not local to southwest Michigan, for free writing tips, engaging discussion, and inspirational posts. And please, if you’re able, join us in person on Wednesday, May 28th. We look forward to welcoming you, and any writer friends you’d like to bring along.

---> This is an excerpt from Kim's GANEPossible blog post. (Read the post, in which she also explains why she is happy to be wrong about the narrator of The Book Thief and why the movie makes her "wear the title of writer like a badge of honor.") 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Writer's Golden Rule

Want to kick your writing into high gear, all the way to The End? (Whatever "the end" means to you.)

Want to finish a first draft?

Want to polish a completed draft that's sitting in a drawer or on your hard drive?

Want to write, polish and submit a short story for publication?

Want to self-publish your ebook?

Want to simply define yourself as a writer and produce something to show for it?

If you're like many writers, you know the real question isn't "What do you want?" It's "What are you going to do about it?"
You know there is a difference between wanting a thing and doing a thing.

Many people want to write. They talk about it, fantasize about it, wish they had the time to do it. But they never take their dream of writing seriously enough to make it a reality.

And that is tragic. Because if you don't write your book, no one will.

Writing can be difficult. It's a solitary undertaking that non-writers rarely understand. But there is no escaping the Writer's Golden Rule...

The Writer’s Golden Rule: 

No one is more committed to my writing and my success than I am.

Why not do what you've always wanted? Why not write to "the end?"

At a #Write2TheEnd Writer's Workshop, you'll become part of a small, dedicated community of up to 15 other writers -- just like you -- who have decided that nothing, nothing, is going to stand in the way of making their dream come true.

You'll meet weekly with facilitators who will cheerlead, troubleshoot, and provide clear, actionable suggestions you can immediately apply to your project.

At #Write2TheEnd, we won't hold your hand --

-- but we'll applaud every step you take toward the finish line. YOUR finish line.

It's true: No one is more committed to your success than you are. But a #Write2TheEnd Writer's Workshop introduces you to a whole group of people who come close...