Why You Should Never Hit Delete

As writers, we tend to flit from one idea to the next. We fill notebook after notebook with all these wonderful ideas that hit us like a lightning bolt, but unless we live to be a hundred, rarely are all those ideas ever brought to life. Then, we start to second guess ourselves. We look back and see nothing but garbage, so we get rid of it. But I’m going to tell you something, and I want you to listen very closely when I do.

WRITERS SHOULD NEVER HIT DELETE!

Last week, I was flipping through old files and notebooks that I haven’t even thought about since I was a freshman in high school. They were filled with opening lines of dozens of different novels that I started randomly whenever an idea occurred to me. You see, when I was in school, I didn’t know how to focus on one project. I would work on two or three novels at a time and write in whichever one I was inspired to at the time. I carried multiple composition notebooks in my backpack at all times, and I would flit back and forth between novels constantly.

Now, do you have any idea how many of those notebooks contained full novels? Three. Yes, three out of more than ten composition notebooks held an actual novel. Those three included the first draft of my now published novel, Broken Halo, the first novel I ever wrote, titled An Unexpected Romance, and the first mystery thriller I ever attempted to write, called Love and Lies. The other notebooks ranged in length, from a few pages to a few sentences, and as I flipped through them, all of those ideas I had came flooding back to me.

That is what I want to teach you today: why you should never hit delete. It sounds trivial, and some of you may already abide by this, but it hit me that sometimes we overlook the treasure trove that rests in the past.

I will be the first to tell you that my first manuscript was utterly atrocious. Seriously, I won’t even let anyone read it anymore. Now, at the time that I wrote it, I thought it was phenomenal. I was so proud of it, and I would shove it at anyone who would take long enough to read through it. Luckily for me, no one told me it was terrible and discouraged me from pursuing my writing further; instead, they gave me feedback and helped me develop my skill. Now, when I read that first manuscript, I want to vomit, but that is only because I have improved in the near decade it has been since I wrote that novel. But that near decade has also given me more insight into the ideas I had back then.

Last week, while I was cleaning out my closet, I found my own treasure trove of ideas.

Now, you may be skeptical, wondering what on earth those terrible ideas could possibly offer to you now. But the human brain works in fascinating ways. When you put creative stimuli in front of it, like say, old unfinished plotlines you haven’t thought about in a decade, it starts cranking out ideas. As I sat there reading through the cringeworthy writing of a twelve-year-old Sheridan, I couldn’t stop coming up with ideas. I was back in those worlds I’d created in my adolescence, back with the friends I had forgotten about, and I was itching to pen their stories.

So, what’s next? If you keep all of your ideas, how on earth do you keep focused on one project at a time? Trust me, it is going to be tricky. (This is not to discount the method of working on multiple projects. If you can effectively do that, go for it and know that I bow to you, because your brain clearly functions much better than mine!) You are going to want to go back to those other ideas. So how do you stop yourself from doing that?

First, you must choose wisely. You need to take a minute and ask yourself which project you are most excited to pursue. You will stifle your creativity if you force yourself to work on another project. Then, remind yourself that it is okay to have multiple ideas at a time.

Buy yourself a notebook!! This is serious, guys, and again, some of you might already have one, but a notebook for ideas is a necessity. Jot down any idea that comes your way, along with as many details as you can, so that when you are ready to pursue that idea, you have plenty to go off of to get your juices flowing again. Buy multiple notebooks, if you would like, so that no matter where you are, you have somewhere to write down your ideas.

Finally, don’t ever get rid of those old manuscripts or notebooks. They may seem terrible now, but if you put enough work into them, you could make them phenomenal! If you’re a techie, organize them into a file on your desktop. If you’re old-school, buy a box to put them in and keep them somewhere easily accessible. Allow yourself to go back to them every once in awhile to find your creativity again and remind yourself that you are talented! Besides, you never know when an old idea might be exactly what you need for your current project. Take it from me, it tends to happen when you least expect it. Hitting delete could be terminal one day, so avoid it while you can and reap the rewards of decades-old ideas you gave up on. Sometimes, they age like fine wine.

8 Tips For the Unpaid Writer

I have a confession to make. I know you’re probably tired of hearing me say that, but this one is important: I haven’t been writing.

I feel like I need a shower after that…

It is true. Outside of the columns I have written for you lovely people, I haven’t written a word. I haven’t made any progress on my next e-book. It hit me the other day, and I almost wanted to cry, because I finally realized why I have been so unhappy lately. Because I haven’t been writing.

In my defense, it was not my first choice. Between working a full-time job, setting up this blog, going to school full-time, and still sleeping at some point, something was bound to fall through the cracks. Unfortunately, that something turned out to be what I love the most.

But these things happen, right? Tell me I am not the only one out in the universe who has fallen into a rut like this, because I can’t be. There is an end, though.

I have recommitted to this love of mine, and I won’t step out on him again. That I can promise you.

So, I am here to give you a few tips to work writing into your schedule before it gives you the ability to quit your day job.

  1. Buy a planner. Trust me on this, you will not regret it! I used to live for planners when I was in high school to keep track of assignments, but I stopped using them after graduation. Now that I am juggling so many different things at once, they are a necessity for me. In fact, I have two. One is a monthly planner that I use to plan my days. The other is a desktop pad that has weekly pages. I use that one for my to-do lists. They will help you stay on track and make sure you can get everything done that you need to in a day.
  2. Prioritize. What is more important to you: watching Netflix or writing a page or two in your novel? There will be sacrifices to make, but that does not mean that you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If entertainment such as Netflix or satellite television is a major distraction for you, use it as a reward. Don’t allow yourself TV time until you have written X amount. You have to find a window that works for you. For me, that means getting up at 5 A.M. to write before work.
  3. Carry a notebook with you. If you hate notebooks, get a note app on your phone. Just make sure that you always have a way to record any inspiration that comes your way. On the bus, on your lunch break, grab as many minutes as you can throughout your day. By the time you get to your window, your creative juices are already flowing, and you’ll be ready to go when you sit down at your computer.
  4. Allow yourself time to get reacquainted with your world. Depending on how long it has been since you penned something, you may need some time just to review what you were working on. (This is also where step 3 comes in. If you are early on in the process, all you have to review is notes, but if you don’t have them recorded somewhere, how are you supposed to review. (Just imagine for a second if J.K. Rowling never had that first napkin. I don’t want to imagine a world without Harry Potter, do you?) Don’t beat yourself up if you have to. That gem is still in your mind somewhere; it just may take some digging to find.
  5. Find somewhere where you won’t be distracted. This is crucial. You have done the work up until this point, you have forced yourself out of bed at some awful hour, but if you are not somewhere secluded and private, you will not be as productive as you could be. Find a corner in your house or go to the local coffee shop, whatever helps you focus on your work like a laser.
  6. Don’t be afraid to steamroll right through it. Your first priority is to get the story on paper. Don’t worry about perfect spelling or grammar. Just plow right through your first draft. You can always go back and flesh it out later.
  7. Build yourself a network. Creative people are often lonely, but it doesn’t have to be the case. Find people who love to write just as much as you do, people who can act as your sounding board and give you feedback, people who will encourage you to keep doing what you love.
  8. Finally, the most important step. STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP, AND JUST DO IT! I wrote that it in capital letters because it is that important. You have to stop beating yourself up because you didn’t write one day. You are human, you are going to mess up. Accept that now, and when you do, you will be able to just let it go and move on. So what if you didn’t write one day? Sit down and make up for it the next day. Life is going to get in the way at times, but you can’t let it get in the way all the time. Make the choice, make it happen, because I promise you that once you put your mind to, nothing in heaven or earth could stop you from doing what you set out to do.

© SEPTEMBER  2018 ALL IMAGES MADE USING CANVA DESIGN

Gaines, Gaines, and More Gains: A Review of Capital Gaines

I have something to confess. It is a guilty pleasure of mine, except I don’t think “guilty” is the right term for it. I’m sure a lot of you have this same pleasure: HGTV reality shows. It is seriously a problem, guys. I am obsessed with the renovation shows on that channel. I used to hate them, but then my mother got me hooked on them. Thanks, Mom. In reality, though, she had help from two very charismatic renovators.

The Gaines.

Yes, you guessed it. Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines are the reason I fell in love with renovation shows and why restoring an old, brick colonial to its former glory is now on my bucket list. I mean, who doesn’t love them?! Weirdos, that’s who! As you could probably guess, I was pretty bummed out when they announced they were leaving the show, but I am also very happy for them and the cute new addition to their family. However, I then had to deal with a Chip-and-Jo-sized hole in my entertainment, so when the opportunity arose to read Chip’s new book, Capital Gaines, I jumped at it.

For those of you who have watched the show, you know exactly how much of straight-shooter Chip is, and it is no different in his latest novel. In this story, he shares the details of how they started Magnolia and reached the level of success they are at now. Of course, there are plenty of jokes and shenanigans along the way to keep you entertained if you are like me and get bored easily by nonfiction. (I’m not the only one, right???)

What made this book so special to me is the way Chip wrote it. He really writes from the heart, and you can feel it in the text, almost as if he is a friend sitting right next you, giving you the advice of a lifetime. In our day and age, a lot of people on television are not the same in real life. It is almost like there are two different people, but that is not the case with Chip. He is the same loveable goofball in this book as he is on the screen. I finished this book feeling like a better person because of what he taught me on those pages. I felt more prepared to face this world after Chip imparted a little knowledge to me.

I highly recommend this novel to people of all ages, people who are simply looking for a pick-me-up or a little advice. Chip Gaines does a masterful job of combining the two in a way that only Chip Gaines could. That hole in my life hasn’t gone away because now they have made another, entirely different impact on me by making me feel like a friend for 184 pages. But that’s okay because it has changed me and my views on life and the world in indescribable ways. Chip and Jo may not be on our screens anymore, but they are certainly still effecting change in the world in the most wonderful ways possible.

And if by some chance that they ever see this article, I want them to know how grateful I am for what they have taught me. Chip, your novel is part of how I found the courage to even begin this blog. Jo, you have opened my eyes to the wonderful world of design, and I love you for it! Thank you both from the bottom of my heart, and God bless that beautiful, little family of yours!

As for the rest of you, pick up Capital Gaines. Make a change in your life for the better. Choose today to be a little stronger at something, to choose what makes you happy first. You know I am all about that!!

 

© SEPTEMBER  2018 ALL IMAGES MADE USING CANVA DESIGN

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Worrying: Put It To Use Instead

How many of you expect perfection? In yourself, in others? I know I do, way too often, actually. I always have a plan in mind, and when it doesn’t go accordingly (as life so often does), I tend to beat myself down. Looking back on  my life, I have realized that I have spent far too much time in those little pity parties when I should be getting back up and trying again.

That is all about to change.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we all have fears, worries, and worst-case scenarios. So, let’s have a little confession: what worries you the most?

For me, there is a broad side and narrow side to my biggest worry. I am worried that I will wake up twenty years from now and realize that I ended up in the kind of life I don’t want: stuck in a dead-end job I hate, unhappy and unfilled, having never seen anything outside of the same little town I grew up in. As I have mentioned in previous articles, Morgan is a wonderful place, but when you’re born with a seed of wanderlust in your heart and curiosity about the outside world like I was, it seems more like a cage. That is my biggest worry. I don’t want to live with a bunch of what-ifs. I don’t want to look back on my life and see nothing but missed opportunities and question marks. That’s what this blog is supposed to be: a record of all the things I have done to leave this cage.

But now, it’s time to be real, guys. There is another piece to this worry, a more imminent part. I am scared. I am scared that I have misread every feeling I have ever had about moving out of state, that I will never leave Utah. As most of you know, my goal is to move out of state for school. Well, it is application time, and, seeing as I picked the schools that have a 20%-30% acceptance rate, I am worried that I won’t get in. I am worried that am I wrong.

Now, the real question is: what do I do with that fear? I have some options. I could just accept defeat now and not even bother applying. After all, if my chances for acceptance are that low, why bother? That is a surefire way to turn myself into a liar and a fraud. I could apply without any real effort and just prepare for my rejection letters. Again, I would just become a liar. Finally, I could give every application every ounce of effort I have in me and wait for the acceptance letters, believing with every fiber of my being that they will come.

I know which option I choose. I must give it my all, or I can guarantee that I will wake up in twenty years with nothing but regret. So, I’m asking you: what option are you going to choose? We all have that one dream, that one idea that we want to execute more than anything in the world, but, as human nature tends to do, we’re all terrified of failing that dream. Yours may be vastly different from mine, but I know you have one. Even if you don’t know what that dream is, there is one there. Find that dream and give it your all, or regret will be your best friend, too.

Unfortunately, human nature dictates that that fear will not disappear once you decide to give your dream every effort. If anything, that fear will grow. The more you want something, the more you have to lose, the easier it is to let yourself down. So, how do you deal with it?

 

 

  1. You have to use it. Decide right now not to let that fear control you. Use it to fuel your pursuit of your ultimate dream. Think of that fear as your own personal antagonist. The more it says you can’t do something, the stronger you get in that area just to prove it wrong.
  2. Accept it. I know this one is going to be hard, but the sooner you accept that that fear isn’t going anywhere, the sooner you can take its power away.
  3. It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to feel those emotions every once and awhile. If you need to cry, then cry. You are human. You cannot hold it all in forever. Give yourself a break. Then wrap it up, dust yourself off, and get back to work.
  4. Find an outlet for those emotions. Some of you may only need ten minutes to yourself to clear your head. Some of you may need music or a movie. For me, it is a pen. I keep a journal and write in it every night before bed. I unload everything onto those pages, and when I wake up in the morning, I have a fresh start. Find whatever works for you and use it.
  5. Finally, you have to accept that you will let yourself down. You are going to fail, but when you do, you have a choice to make: let your failure be the end and decide your fate or take it as a learning lesson and try again.

You are human. So am I. But I am not going to let that fear stop me from doing what I love and creating the life of my dreams. Take it from me, living in fear is not living at all. I won’t do it anymore, and I don’t want you to, either. So, decide. Now. Take control of your life. Trust me, there is nothing more freeing.

 

© SEPTEMBER  2018 ALL IMAGES MADE USING CANVA DESIGN