All posts by Melanie Anastasiou

Walking, Sleeping, and Writing Better

“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.” Historian G. M. Trevelyan

walkerbanner1We’re built to walk, and our and bodies benefit.   Brains too, being part of the body (as I’m always forgetting as I hunch over and straighten up at my keyboard).

Walking helps gut health, as well, and I’m thrilled and baffled to learn that our guts are full of neurons.

Taking a tip from the Italians, who perambulate of a balmy evening, I’ve begun walking in the cold rain after supper, and by heaven, I sleep better.  There’s little better brain magic than sleep.

I’m up to 3 walks a day, at about 13,000 steps average, because, authors, I’m beginning to think that, like actors, swordfighters, and other athletes, we have a duty to our calling and our career to take our exercise, not just more seriously, but as a professional imperative.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseYou work hard to give your best to the world of readers. We are most grateful. Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

For more on walking, see my page Walking to Write, with 100 days of writing and other rewards for integrating an hour a day’s walking into a writing life.

Writers’ Block Busting

As a mystery writer, I love misdirection, because it sets me to investigating.  Quick and unhelpful answers to writing questions are some of my favourite black boxes.

The knee jerk answer we all get when we ask, “Why am I stuck?” is, “Writers’ block”.  Litmus test on this answer:  Quick?  Sure.  Unhelpful?  Totally.  So why do we accept this answer?  I’ll tell you why some of us accept it, it’s because if we have writers’ block then that’s proof we’re actually writers. So, once we relax and agree we really are writers, just as we have always wished to be, let’s deal with the serious issue of being stuck.

If we’re stuck, it’s like being stuck in any aspect of our lives that is getting us down.  It means we don’t have excellent goals to keep us interested, excited, and on track.  In writing, goals mean outlining.  So, when brainpages adhere one to the other, one way to get unstuck is

  1. Procure a timer
  2. Set the timer for 5 minutes
  3. Outline the beginning, middle, and end of your story for 1 character.  I often use the story evolution page from the brilliant First Draft in 30 Days : A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript(Paperback) – 2005 Edition 
    by Karen Wiesner

Repeat as necessary, for more characters, until the writing mind is raring to go.

In order to avoid getting stuck at all, outlining this way in odd 5 or 10 minute parcels of time during the week works wonders.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseWriting down your great goals fuels your writing career beautifully. Admirable practise.  Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

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Creating a Writing Career: Think Big

Some say we write for an audience of one.  Granted that our great work is writing the words that reader loves to read, we may also ask ourselves big-picture questions, like

  • What talks would I love to give?
  • How best may I receive, track, and deal with an increasing income?
  • How might I answer classic interview questions? 

Success expert Jim Rohn famously said, “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.” That’s thinking big, for even the best keep getting better.  Let me rephrase. Especially the best, get better.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week.  Cheers Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseYou arrange matters to get a great sleep most nights, ready for the writing ahead. Fab. Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

Mel will be dispensing more of her encouraging words of wisdom at the Creative Ink Festival in Burnaby from March 31st – April 2nd.  She’s not here in town often, so be sure not to miss her!

Galloping Time, Supporting Systems for the Writing Life

Now and then, a moment arrives, when hardly anybody wants anything from us. Maybe something was cancelled, leaving a serene empty space, or it’s the day after a holiday.

I used to go mad at such moments.  Quick, this is my chance to write 5400 words.  But, what if, instead of typing up a storm until the next serendipitously empty timeslot raises its noble head and invites us to gallop away upon it (okay, that’s a tempting thought to me too, so if you love that idea, leave this paragraph in your dust and ride away on inspiration), what if we use this little moment of peace to redesign the systems and reset the components of our lives to create timeslots of our own?  And perhaps ask 3 questions:

  1. If my perfect life and writing career were here, what would it look like?
    hint: every day includes time for relationships, for eating and moving well, and for kicking back.
  2. What am I using up time for that I don’t like much, and that doesn’t serve me or mine?
    hint: we all know what to do, so, how to do it?
  3. In the area of life where things seem so crazy they’re sucking my creative energy, is there any system, perhaps over the course of the week, that I could set in place to make things less onerous?
    hint: systems are not about achieving perfection, they are about our present selves doing something in a few minutes to save our future selves an hour for writing.

I don’t want to use my creative powers to deal with It’s five pm and there’s nothing to eat, what magic can I perform?  I like cooking, but I’d prefer to use the magic on my manuscript and have food in the fridge and a plan in the kitchen.  Come the weekend, I don’t want to take that big beautiful 3-hour drafting timeblock and use it to shoulder through crowds at Costco.  If we can generate a system or two, we can support our creative powers without shortchanging our lives and the people we adore.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers, Mel

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muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseWhatever the weather, you keep writing. Your persistence, endurance, and strong talent move your career along beautifully. Your Writing Muse 

Adventures in Writing

untitledEndurance is one of the great challenges in our writing careers — holding on with tenacious minds to the idea that we can do this, even though we’re working on page 17 with 350 left to go.  But even more boldly, we’re also attempting to devise something brilliant, something that has never been made before.  Originality has always been a daunting sort of goal.  Making something out of nothing is the ultimate creation within the arts.  By definition, creation takes us out of our comfort zones.

One trick to time management and self-motivation, is to find a way enjoy the tension and fear, rather than frittering our drafting time away with other things in an unconscious avoidance of a big leap in storytelling or any tricky aspect in our writing careers.

It’s kind of like a day up Whistler, I guess, facing the most challenging run we’ve ever taken.  And, we never wanted it to be easy.  If we do this crazy thing, we do it because we know we can.  It’s down to us to find a line and follow it, and to choose — not whether we’ll do it, we already know we will, we’re equipped with the skills we need, we’ve paid our bucks, and won’t turn back — but choose to enjoy the ride and wear a cool smile while the snow arcs up around us.  What a great day this is.  Of writing, I mean.  Darn, I’d love a day up Whistler, too.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers, Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse:

I admire your discipline as you create time blocks for planning, drafting, & revising during your busy week. Your Writing Muse 

Welcome to the Writers’ Café and Centre Stage. Be Prolific, Publish Often, Get Paid.

ProfileJan22017Writers'cafeOne of the many reasons we began publishing our literary quarterly Pulp Literature was that there were very few magazines that paid, and many that did not.  We firmly believe in paying authors.

Writers have a deep reservoir of great pieces.  Opportunities for paid publication can be tracked down on the Internet, although they are apt to go out of date quickly.  And, when agents and publishing firms are happy to accept unsolicited manuscripts, you want to know it.

Somebody’s got to scour the web for these opportunities, and since Mel is a mystery writer, and Jen is unstoppable in mounted combat, we decided we are the women to take on the challenge.  We search for paying opportunities, for open submissions windows, for publishers who are willing to take on emerging and established writers, and we devised a meeting place where you can find them.

Welcome to the Writers’ Café and Centre Stage, where there’s a paying opportunity posted at least once every day.  Cheers to you and your career, may you be prolific, publish often, and get paid for your excellent work.

With three cheers, from your Pulp Literature Team!

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This week from @yourwritingmuseYou’ve got talent, persistence, and a great love of learning. Top success indicators. Congratulations from Your Writing Muse.

The Pop-Up Writing Space

We most likely have, each of us, a dedicated writing office space of one kind or another. Here, seated or standing at our own desk, we often feel primed to begin. It’s almost like having a head start on the work. I hear some of us saying, as I have from time to time, I can only write when I’m alone in my office.

Still, charm of setting and pursuing a noble goal are not enough for storytelling, nor are they always enough for the writers who devise them. Just as the stories we’re writing demand transformation to hold a reader’s attention, our writers’ minds desire change to keep sharp.

Libraries.  Coffee shops.  Different areas in our homes.  If we consider devising pop-up writing spaces, should silence be a prerequisite?  Those of us who admire Jane Austen’s work know we’d be missing much had she required quiet.

A pop-up office won’t be as fab as our own perfectly — or madly — arranged private offices.  Especially office spaces we love with all our hearts.  But, even pleasures may fail to please when we settle into a favourite rut.  Our brains are our most important writing tools, and they thrive on change as much as comfort.

 I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse:

You keep the goals for your writing career in plain view. A perfect guide for your continued success. Your Writing Muse

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In Praise of Stationery

pen2smallMaybe it’s the same for you, author:  I love stationery stores. Once inside, there comes over me a feeling of pleasant expectancy mixed with the urge to guard my own actions.  It’s the same kind of self-restraint with which I’d approach choosing three magical wishes.

The new notebook, the perfect pen, the …

I think writers love stationery stores because they are shops jam-packed with possibility, of white pages and dark ink that magically become something at once concrete and ethereal when they come into our hands.  Transformation is what storytelling is all about.

Great dreams and concrete goals fuel our writing energy and grow the amount of time we spend working on our manuscripts in progress.  At any rate, this is what I tell myself — that time spent among the pens and paper is actually time saved from procrastination.  And that, in a way, it’s our natural habitat.

 I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers, Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseYou’ve got talent, persistence, and a great love of learning. Top success indicators, congratulations from Your Writing Muse.

Don’t miss a writing tips post!  We collect them once a month and send them to your inbox in our free newsletter.

Using the Lag to Become Superb

beatlebootsstampA brilliant and successful writer once told me, “All writers secretly wish they were musicians or baseball players.”

I don’t know whether that’s as true as it sounds, but watching professionals having fun in their profession never fails to thrill me.

Ron Howard’s documentary Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years, provides a view of The Beatles at the top of their field, taking the music (but not themselves or each other) seriously.  I love the way they josh, endure, satirize, remain true to their promises, adapt, compromise (the time they give to live performances,) and refuse to compromise (the recording sessions.)

And, they use the lag when things are slow to become superb.

The number of hours to excellence bandied about the Internet is 10,000, (and then on to another 10,000, I’ll bet) and those guys spent a chunk of theirs in Hamburg, playing eight hours a day, attempting to draw in passersby to a seedy club on a seedier strip.  I love to see the footage of the Fab Four making the most of their time on stage, the girls, the joking, and repeatedly creating the wild discipline required to play on through day and night.  Watching endurance, exuberance and excellence combined, I remind myself to smile while I write.  I’m kind of relieved that I’m spending my 10,000 in Vancouver and the UK, driven by nothing but deadline, with holly berries and sweet-singing blackbirds outside my office window.  I’m only kind of relievedthough.  Who doesn’t want to play music?  Or, baseball?  Who?

“I saw that Meryl Streep said ‘I just want to do my job well’.  And really, that’s all I’m ever trying to do.” -Paul McCartney

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseYou face your work with the happy, bold mindset that brings continuous growth and sure success.   Your Writing Muse @pulpliterature

Don’t miss a writing tips post!  We collect them once a month and send them to your inbox in our free newsletter.

Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen Keeps Working

notebookvellumsmallAs I read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, I’m delighted, but not surprised, to find that he is a superb storyteller and a beautiful writer.  Of course he is.  To a fiction writer, his  career  in music is a lesson in love of work and use of the lag time between early talent indicators and enormous success.

In the first quarter of the book, Springsteen talks about the times he lived in the back room of a surfboard shop, without ID or bank account.  His talent was strong, but his fans were few, and he worked on his music in the meantime.  His fans grew, and life got wilder, but the money was small, and he worked on his music in the meantime.  The money began to come in, but he knew he could be better, so he changed his direction, the money stopped, and he worked on his music in the meantime.  When the call came to play for Hammond, who ‘discovered’ Dylan, Springsteen had a strong folder of songs and was accepted, but the company said that he didn’t have a hit single, and so …

I wish I could thank people like Bruce Springsteen, who inspire aspirers. Springsteen got his chance later on to thank his inspiration, Bob Dylan, and instead found Dylan thanking him for playing his song at Kennedy Centre.  The greats are grateful.  They’re grateful for any moment they get to do their chosen work, and call it play.  And, in the meantime, they work to get even better.

Get Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen here.  An amazing read.  The kind you savour.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week.

Cheers to you, Mel

muse small

This week from @yourwritingmuse: I admire the way you deal with exchanges of power among characters in dialogue. These shifts and imbalances keep us reading your stories late into the night.  Your Writing Muse @pulpliterature

Don’t miss a writing tips post!  We collect them once a month and send them to your inbox in our free newsletter.