Writing projects, books read, inspirational quotes, musings, and more!
Today, I wanted to try something new and write up a recap of the past month.
I thought it would be a fantastic way to keep you updated on projects I’m working on as well as a way for me to share books and articles I’ve found inspiring and thought you might enjoy too.
We’ll see if it becomes a recurring series. 🙂
First, here’s what I did in August:
At the end of July, I went to a copywriting/business conference in Nashville, Tennessee and returned with lots of ideas for new articles and resources to create for you. In August, I dove into working on those.
Also got away from my desk, enjoyed the summer weather, and had some fun adventures, like going to a Triple A baseball game — the home team won and there were fireworks after the game.
Here are some highlights of what I wrote, what I read, and what I watched this past month:
What I’ve been writing…
I published several articles here on the blog and on Medium. In case you missed them, these were the three most popular ones this past month:
- 12 Books That Will Make You a Better Writer
- How Crafting a One-Sentence Synopsis Will Strengthen Your Writing
- 20 of the Best Free Online Tools for Writers
I was also excited to start working on a top-secret project. Well, it won’t be top secret anymore by the end of this paragraph, haha. So many of you have asked if I offer writing/copywriting courses. And the answer is — I’m in the process of designing and creating one right now!
My plan is to create short, in-depth courses on different topics: for example, one on how to write compelling words for your website homepage and about page, another on how to write powerful blog posts, etc.
I’m designing them so you get quick results. If you have a topic you’d love for me to make a course about, let me know.
I’ll be sharing updates about this in upcoming emails. Stay tuned!
I wrote a personal essay/short memoir (3,179 words) and now am in the process of finding it a home online or in print. It’s similar in style to this one I published on Medium several months ago. If you know of a website or magazine that publishes short memoirs, please share. I’m excited to keep improving my skills in this art form and write more creative nonfiction.
Additionally, I’ve been working on the plot of a middle grade novel. This is a story idea I’ve been mulling over for several years now. I even dove into writing a first draft a year or two ago (before I’d written out a plot). I reached the second act and realized there were major plot holes, and I needed to start over. Ugh! So I’ve been trying to get the plot down on paper. Unfortunately, I’m still getting hung up on the main climax. I might just start writing this month and see where the characters take me.
What I read:
Re-discovering J.R.R. Tolkien (and a wonderful quote on how difficult the writing process is even for famous writers)…
The Silmarillion was unlike any novel I’ve ever read. Tolkien’s son Christopher edited and published it posthumously in 1977 with assistance from fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay. It’s a prequel to everything that happens in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it’s written in a completely different style (it feels like you’re reading an ancient Greek myth or Norse saga), and its stories span centuries.
It was a beautiful and fascinating read. And it was also interesting reading about how Christopher Tolkien and Kay assembled this book from J. R. R. Tolkien’s unfinished manuscripts.
I loved this quote about the writing process that I came across in an interview with Kay (I found it encouraging — I hope you do too):
And I learned a lot about false starts in writing. I mean that in a really serious way. His [Tolkien’s] false starts. You learn that the great works have disastrous botched chapters, that the great writers recognise that they didn’t work. So I was looking at drafts of The Lord of the Rings and rough starts for The Silmarillion and came to realise they don’t spring full-blown, utterly, completely formed in brilliance. They get there with writing and rewriting and drudgery and mistakes, and eventually if you put in the hours and the patience, something good might happen. That was a very, very early lesson for me, looking at the Tolkien materials. That it’s not instantly magnificent. That it’s laboriously so, but it gets there. That was a huge, huge, still important lesson.
So, in August, I began re-reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy and finished The Fellowship of the Ring. It was an entirely different experience than when I read it ages ago at nine or ten years old, especially now that I had the background from The Silmarillion. I had a far deeper appreciation for Tolkien’s storytelling and the brilliance of his world-building.
How to Create Influential Work
I also re-read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women after watching the trailer for the new film and realizing I’d forgotten much of the story. Again, an interesting experience to read it now as an adult (I didn’t hate Amy this time around). 😉
Re-reading Tolkien’s and Alcott’s books got me thinking about what makes a book a classic or, at least, one that we can keep coming back to over the years and find new layers of meaning.
How can we create a piece of writing that withstands the test of time?
(Or even on a smaller level, say, a social media post that won’t be read and forgotten in a matter of minutes, but one that creates a lasting impression on the reader?)
I stumbled across a short article sharing Italo Calvino’s 14 Criteria for What Makes a Classic, and it’s definitely worth reading.
Though we might not write a book that rises to the level of a classic, we can learn a lot from the classics about how to create work that endures.
Whether you’re writing a novel or even a business book or a blog post, Calvino’s list is thought-provoking and an excellent guide to creating influential work.
A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading. — Italo Calvino
Writing Advice from Ray Bradbury
Also in August, I read Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, a beautifully written book about one summer in 1928 in a fictional town in Illinois.
When you read Bradbury, you can feel how much he loved to write, how much he is enjoying telling you a story. His enthusiasm is catching, and I always feel inspired after reading his work.
Here’s a wonderful article I stumbled across last month sharing his greatest writing advice: Ray Bradbury’s Greatest Writing Advice.
Whatever it is — whatever it is, do it! Sure there are going to be mistakes. Everything’s not going to be perfect. I’ve written thousands of words that no one will ever see. I had to write them in order to get rid of them. But then I’ve written a lot of other stuff too. So the good stuff stays, and the old stuff goes. — Ray Bradbury
How to Recharge Your Creativity
I also read The Creative Habit, a fantastic book on creativity by choreographer Twyla Tharp. Most creativity books I’ve read have been written by writers so it was interesting to get a different perspective on creativity (and to see how much the process of writing and choreographing a dance have in common).
I love how she includes stories about all different kinds of artists in this book —famous painters, musicians, etc.
There are creative exercises in the book that I didn’t do, but I think they would be helpful for someone in a creative rut. Definitely read this book if you’re looking for creative inspiration.
In the end, there is no ideal condition for creativity. What works for one person is useless for another. The only criterion is this: Make it easy on yourself. Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn’t scare you, doesn’t shut you down. It should make you want to be there, and once you find it, stick with it. To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that’s habit-forming. All preferred working states, no matter how eccentric, have one thing in common: When you enter into them, they compel you to get started. — Twyla Tharp
Some other articles I enjoyed:
- How Barbara Kingsolver reignited her love affair with words
- When You Give a Tree an Email Address
- At age 101, this woman released her first collection of poems
I also read some delightful memoir essays and a short novella in Italian, but I’m going to wrap this up here before it gets insanely long. If you read anything wonderful in August, I’d love to hear your book or article recommendations.
Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. — Stephen King
What I watched (a lesson in brilliant marketing):
I finally watched Avengers: End Game, the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War. Mixed feelings about this movie, but I’m not going to write anything further to avoid spoilers. I do think that these movies were designed around a brilliant marketing scheme. Avengers: Infinity War ended on a cliffhanger, which, of course, forced everyone who saw it to absolutely have to see the sequel.
I wrote about the power of cliffhanger endings and some unique ways to use them on social media, in blog posts, and even in emails in my article here: How to Make Your Writing and Marketing Captivating With The Cliffhanger Technique
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed reading and found an article or a book to read or a quote that inspired you. Wishing you much success with your writing projects in September! God bless.