So, About Last Night…

Posted on Updated on

UW snowy night

Last night I had the pleasure of guest lecturing at the University of Washington again, in the Fiction writing class. One young man asked me a question toward the end of the evening that I felt I left unanswered, and it bothered me all night. He asked how a writer can keep from being overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes to write a novel and how much there is to learn. I’ve been there!

Anyway, I half way answered before other students chimed in with other great ideas, but I felt I never fully addressed his sincere concern. What I did say was to stay connected to your passion, remember why you wanted to be a writer in the first place, because that part of you can get SO lost in all the work. Have artist/writer’s dates with yourself, I told him. Go to coffee shops or sit on a mountain or go to the beach with a pad and pen and write (old school) because the actual act of writing taps into your subconscious and connects you with your desires, and can connect you to a deeper level of storytelling. I reminded him about what I said early in my talk; that writing is a lifelong apprenticeship and that it’s critical to remember that, and to give yourself some grace. But I didn’t’ get much further than that as it was the end of the evening and we all had to go drive in the snow.

What I’d like to add is this…

By grasping the reality that writing is a lifelong apprenticeship you can lessen the burden of the pursuit of perfection because it’s unachievable for the vast majority of writers, especially in the beginning. You can only learn so much at a time, but keep learning, keep growing, keep expanding your writerly pursuits, knowledge and craft tools, and just get better with every new project, and remember (and cherish) the writing tools (and mentors) that aid you in the journey.

Most importantly, if writing is your passion, keep writing. Find mentors like your instructor, Scott Driscoll. Find your tribe, I wish I had told him that. Find a group of like-minded writers to meet up with every so often, either just for coffee and story talk or to write with. Finding your tribe helps you stay connected. Go to writing conferences. Read great works of literature (however you define them) and get inspired to do the same. Emulate other authors who you admire. Peruse bookstore shelves, read the first sentence of ten best sellers (in your genre) and go sit in the bookstore coffee shop (or wherever you like) and write.

Also, if you love language don’t forget to play with words. I love the sounds and meanings of certain words and try to use them in my writing when I can. Or concepts, like how an object can be metaphor in a story, that’s what I was playing with when I took a break from working on my novel a couple years ago and wrote a 700 word story that won the Writer’s Digest fiction contest. So play with words, who knows where it may lead. Then, if stuck, take a break from what you’re working on and work on something else. If you’re writing a dark, difficult piece, take a break and write something funny. Play with your words, they are your tools.

Write free hand, old school like Natalie Goldberg talks about in Writing Down the Bones. Pen and paper. It’s a transformational writing tool that connects you to your work on a deeper level than imagined.

A couple of my favorite writer’s dates with myself are; I love to go to coffee shops where I never go, in different parts of the city or take the ferry over to the islands and go to coffee shops there, and write. The fresh air on the ferry, the water and the change of scene reawakens my writing mind. I also go to art museums and sit on those couches in the middle of the room – where no one really ever sits – and gaze at great paintings, this stirs something inside me to write. Don’t know why, it just does.  Last week I went to Portland, stayed in a hotel, wrote till late night, got up early went to the corner café for coffee, wrote for a couple more hours and the went on with an exhilarating day (at the art museum) culminating in a writing session back at the same café where my day started, but this time with wine instead of coffee. I needed the time alone, in the city where my next novel takes place – my story world. I was completely recharged within 24 hours of alone time. Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband who encourages these needs in my life. So whatever your life permits, create writer’s dates (no matter how grand or how small), find companions on this life-long journey of learning, and never forget to restore, inspire and encourage yourself.

What stirs your muse? Figure that out and reconnect with it frequently.  For every unique writer there is a unique path. Find yours.

I am teaching The Artists Way for Writers at Edmonds Community College if you’d like to explore this further. Be well, keep writing. Cheers, Mindy

9 thoughts on “So, About Last Night…

    scottsblog13 said:
    February 22, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    Great job last night. You are an inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

      Mindy responded:
      February 23, 2018 at 12:22 am

      Thank you Scott, always a pleasure to chat with your students. They inspire me!

      Liked by 1 person

    Behind the Story said:
    February 22, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    You make a great case, Mindy, for ways in which a writer can avoid being overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes to write a novel . I hope that student has a chance to read this post.

    I found your descriptions of your “writer’s dates” inspiring. I keep telling myself I need to take more writers dates. Tomorrow or Saturday I think I’ll take a ferry ride or visit the Cascadia Art Museum. Thanks for the push.

    Liked by 1 person

      Mindy responded:
      February 23, 2018 at 12:20 am

      Thank you. And yes, please do take yourself on a writer’s date. We are so blessed to live here with the ferries and the islands, what great opportunities for quick, affordable escapes. Go have fun. Write!

      Liked by 2 people

    Kay said:
    February 23, 2018 at 12:46 am

    Waaaay too hard to leave a comment on your blog, I tried!!! So: Sounds like you are talking to me in a coffee shop, love the tone. And the doable tips are something we writers forget! It’s all about feeding the muse, writing down the ideas, and you lay out fresh ways to do this in edible snippets and give us writers new energy! Now if this is a selection of metaphors mixed enough for you, I’ll just say thanks for an energy-filled post!

    On Thu, Feb 22, 2018 at 10:34 AM, Mindy Halleck wrote:

    > Mindy posted: ” Last night I had the pleasure of guest lecturing at the > University of Washington again, in the Fiction writing class. One young man > asked me a question toward the end of the evening that I felt I left > unanswered, and it bothered me all night. He asked” >


      Mindy responded:
      February 23, 2018 at 2:42 pm

      Thanks for the feedback. Love mixed metaphors, HA ! And so sorry you had trouble leaving a comment. I’ve never heard that before, but will definitely check it out. Thanks for taking the time. Cheers, Mindy


    An Artist Date | Behind the Story said:
    February 25, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    […] the student in class, afterwards she felt his question deserved a more complete answer. Hence her blog post. I urge you to read it. It’s very […]


    Sam Semako said:
    December 26, 2019 at 8:07 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog post.

    Thanks for this.

    Kay mentioned FEEDING YOUR MUSE. I agree with that. I see having a writer’s date as a way of “feeding our muse”.

    In my own words, I often call that, FERTILIZE YOUR MIND.

    The more I expose myself to places, people, events, information, the more my mind gets fertilized. That assists me to easily generate ideas regarding what I am working on.

    What do you think.

    How often do you do this “writer’s Date” in a month?

    Have you been ever obstructed? What do you do?

    Once again, thanks.


      Mindy responded:
      December 26, 2019 at 6:52 pm

      Thank you for reading. And no, I never find myself (to use your word) obstructed, or blocked. If I feel I’m on the edge of that I grab a book of poetry and read. I find the rhythm frees my mind and moves me toward creativity. Good luck in your creative endeavors. Oh, and I get to a writers date once or twice a month. Weekly when I’m lucky. Cheers, Mindy

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.