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How I Started Writing

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A lot of people ask me about writing The Guild, but I realize I don’t often say WHY I wrote it. The reason: Because I was tired of doing nothing.

It takes a very brave person to express themselves creatively. I know the paralyzing fear of being bad very well; it’s one of my greatest weaknesses. For years I had a voice inside me telling I “should” do this and I “should” do that, but I couldn’t overcome the possibility of being horrible to actually risk doing something about it. So I did nothing. And I loathed myself for my weakness.

Finally I had a strange realization that time passes whether you’re doing something with it or not. It would be easy to let every day go by easily with no risk and then, at the end of the day (my life), I would look back and realize that fear ruled me: At that point there would be nothing I could do about it. So, I got off my butt! It wasn’t easy and I had a lot of lapses (I still do) but the experience of being ruthless with myself was an amazing lesson to learn.

I don’t want this to be a self-help entry (although it already kinda is, LOL), but I wanted to share a few of the resources that I used to overcome my fear and be willing to suck and start DOING stuff.

-The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron: This is a 12-week program that helps you “discover your creativity.” It is seriously self-help-y and has a large spiritual element to it (an aspect I skimmed over personally), but it does force a lot of introspection, exploring what you enjoy doing, what drives you etc. It also makes you to write every day for the 12-weeks, which was one of the most invaluable aspects.

-If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland: This book was written in 1938, which I find amazing as this authors voice is as fresh as if it were written yesterday. If The Artist’s Way is touchy feely, this book is nothing but pragmatic. The greatest thing I took away from this is the spirit that you can’t care what other people think, you have to create for yourself and no one else. It brings out the fighter in you. It’s geared towards writing but the lessons apply to anything really. This book is a kick in the pants and big warm hug all at once.

-Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. This is the best writing book I’ve ever read. The overwhelming idea of sitting down and “writing the whole thing” sets up expectations that are WAY too high! So much pressure :( This book makes it manageable, and is an enjoyable and frank look at writing by a wonderful author. Actually, I need to reread this as I’m experiencing this right now, LOL.

-Daily 5 Minute Writing Exercises by CM Mayo. After I finished “The Artists Way” I did these writing exercises every day for a year. I love having my notebooks full of these exercises to look back on! :) Creating the pattern of behavior of writing in the morning really helped me uncensor myself. I’ve lapsed a lot last year, but just started again and it’s amazing, doing the same exercises, how different my entries are.

- Lifehacker.com, zenhabits.net, 43 Folders and lifehack.org helped me get organized and prioritize. I am no saint but subscribing to these sites reminds me to get my act together when I go on a videogame or mystery novel bender.

-Sharing goals with friends. This entry doesn’t have a link, but it could, because your friends can be offline or online. It’s invaluable to share your goals with others so you can see that we all struggle together to make things happen. I had a weekly group I went to that helped me kick my WOW addiction and re-prioritize. I wouldn’t be here without that group of lovely people. We all share the same human weaknesses, but working in a vaccuum makes you lose that perspective. Having people in your life to use as a touchstone is important to get you through the hard days.

If you have any tips or links to resources that get you going, organized and creating, feel free to share!

Photo by AYUMi ~ PHOTOGRAPHY

  • http://uberscifigeek.com Raven Kai

    Thank you for sharing not only your experience and insight but the resources you used. Not only are you creative and talented but you’re surrounded by creative and talented people as well. Thank you for enriching all of our lives!

  • http://nichisstuff.blogspot.com Nicholas Schwab

    The fight against your inner lazy bastard is the biggest of them all ;) We can all do much more than we give ourself credit for… or in other words: fear of failing can be crippling.

    You are really inspiring and I hope that I’ll get back on track with my creative outlets. I think I might read one or two of your recommendations and see if they help :)
    Much love, N.

  • http://letskilldave.com David “LetsKillDave” Weller

    Bird By Bird is a GREAT book. I also recommend Gerald Weinberg’s “Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method”

    Oh, and “Hello from Austin!” (ok, actually, I live in Plugerville)

    [/me is WOW nerd too]

  • http://anthonymc.com anthony

    It is encouraging to hear that someone I see as being a bit of role-model for actually creating things and making their own way has struggled in the past with the same issues of fear and backsliding that plague my own work and goals. Thanks.

  • Famin

    Funny how we all read the same books; Bird by Bird is one I’ve literally read to pieces.

    I don’t have any real advice to add, but I was reading Joss Whedon’s Top Ten Writing Tips the other day (http://dannystack.blogspot.com/2009/01/joss-whedons-top-10-writing-tips.html) and one tip really resonated: Finish It. It’s too easy to start working on something new when you hit a snag with something you’ve been working on. And then you end up with seven unfinished pieces in the time you could’ve had one really good story.

  • http://otakureview.today.com LB

    My challenges as a reviewer/blogger aren’t nearly as pressuring as yours but I love getting tips whenever I can. I found that if nothing else, writing everyday is the most essential thing. I’m bad and don’t always publish everyday like I’m “supposed” to but as long as I write for at least 5-20 minutes everyday than I know that something has been accomplished. I don’t even edit those little writing breaks, I just write and something always comes of it later.

    The other big thing that I’ve found to be absolutely essential to my writing is keeping my personal journal going. I never kept one before but my friend at the time urged me to do so every single day. Even if it was just a shopping list, as long as I wrote in it every single day I would be able to keep my mind clear of useless clutter and organize my thought patterns better. I’m able to write so much easier/better since I started doing that a few years ago.

  • http://www.sixfeetunderthegun.com Quentin

    Very awesome.

  • http://www.simondyda.com Simon Dyda

    Thanks Felicia, this has been a very very useful post for me. In fact I think I’ll bookmark it and re-read it every day until I’ve finished at least one of those screenplays I haven’t started yet. :)

  • Maggie

    Finally I had a strange realization that time passes whether you’re doing something with it or not. It would be easy to let every day go by easily with no risk and then, at the end of the day (my life), I would look back and realize that fear ruled me: At that point there would be nothing I could do about it.

    I really like this. It’s so true – and it’s so easy to let your life get away from you. Anyway, nicely said (and done).

  • Dan

    I want to thank you.
    You just inspired me a whole heap.

    I am taking a intro to fiction writing course after being out of school for a decent number of years. I volunteered to go first and get a story workshopped by thursday due to some sadistic streak in myself. I have been sitting here… perusing the internets looking for distractions… snaking being the main one at this moment. At which point i ran across your twitter feed. Read it… linked it and brought me here. It came exactly and freakishly at the right moment. So presently you are my tool of the fates. I am now going to dive in and see what comes out…

    A heartfelt thank you…
    – - from a fellow WoW addict with writing aspirations
    (I played WoW for years… as an escape from life and my future… began some schooling again… deleted BC from my system… did well in school… term ended… restarted with WotLK for the last month… have suspended my account last week and delete it from my system as temptation is too strong… term starts now hoping to get stuff done)

  • http://truthsandhalftruths.typepad.com Nils

    I write for a living, and what you said struck home on a number of counts. Let me indulge myself and tell the story of how I wrote my first one-man show:

    I’d gone to Toronto, and been to see some plays while I was there. When I came back, a friend of mine who happens to be prominent in theatre called and asked how my time went, and what I’d seen in the big city.

    I told him I’d been to see what was then one of the world’s most popular one-man shows.

    “What’d you think?” he asked, then said “no, wait, I’ll tell you. You thought, “This is pretty good. But really … I could do this.”"

    “Yes!” I said. “That’s exactly what I was thinking!”

    “Want to know the big difference?” my friend asked.

    “Sure,” I said.

    And then, the wisest words I have ever heard: “The difference is, he fucking DID it.”

    Anyway – love The Guild, and particularly love your work on it. Thanks.

  • Scot M

    Thanks for these.

    As an until recently well paid guy in the software industry I have been thinking of exploring more creative outlets to see if I have anything there…these look like great tools to guide that exploration!

  • http://cranialjacksandconverse.blogspot.com/ NeuroMan42

    This post was very uplifting and spoke directly to me. I suffer from living in my rut, and fear of doing. I am a writer/podcaster, and your post is very touching and helpful. I will also bookmark and reread this when I begin to slip. Thank you for being honest, and awesome.

  • http://www.nasa.gov/ Ben

    I’m a big fan of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White.

  • http://furlongdesign.com Barnabas Nagy

    Thanks for the words they were encouraging and your site looks great.

  • http://twitter.com/mr_terrific Allen Holt

    Thanks for posting this, Felicia — not only are the specific links and books you’ve mentioned helpful, but just knowing that I’m not the only with a case of Elephantitis of the Shoulds and that it’s possible to overcome it is more than a little inspirational.

  • albie

    Thanks for writing this touchy feely stuff (which you do awesomely, by the way). You have no idea how much I needed to hear this advice. I really appreciate you being willing to share your experience. It’s so easy to get swept up in our own heads and forget that there are others going through — and dealing with — the exact same issues.

  • http://orangerful.livejournal.com orangerful

    Your post and twitters today have really inspired me. I used to write and draw a lot as a kid, back when everything you do is met with praise from those around you. Then I got older, started to see people that could do the same things, only better, with such ease (well, really they were practicing more than me, but I didn’t put those things together as a teen). So I just stopped. Because what was the point of trying if they were already better. I’m slowly getting over that. I don’t really draw anymore but I’ve gotten into photoshop and started sharing with my peers for feedback and it is an exhilarating experience.

    So I think I’m going to take some of those links you’ve posted and try to get back into the habit of writing. Thank you for sharing your story and these links.

  • http://www.heythatsmy.name/blog Jessica

    Thanks so much for this. I know exactly what you’re talking about as I’m still battling that fear of creating something bad and it is such a tough thing to kick. I’m definitely going to check out some of those books you recommended.

    As an add-on to your comment about sharing your goals with friends/family, I find that that’s also helpful because when you tell those people about your ideas, the really supportive ones have tendency to ask you about them down the line and it works as a good progress check. For example, I had a friend that was also a writer and told him about an idea for a story that I came up with and for awhile he would ask me about it every few weeks, which was an extra kick in the pants for me to actually sit down and write the story.

  • http://spartickes.blogspot.com/ josh

    Just chiming in to add Stephen King’s “On Writing” and “How to Write a Movie in 21 Days” by Viki King. (No relation.)

    Viki King’s book was the first screenwriting book I read that dealt with the feeling of needing to write but not being able to, along with your standard screenwriting info.

    I also find inspiration in Soderbergh’s books about the making of “sex, lies, and videotape”. He talks about the joys, and frustrations of making a movie. He also talks about being awkward around the talent, which is very refreshing to hear.

  • http://www.bathtub-productions.com/ Darth Angelus

    There are several things I find helpful when it comes to writing or making machinima.

    - Someone to talk to about whatever it is you’re doing. I’m lucky enough to have two people I can bounce ideas off of. For example, with my current project, I had a really good friend read through the script as I was working on it, she questioned parts of the story, pointed out anything that didn’t make sense or what could be improved.

    Don’t just pick anyone though, it’s got to be someone you feel comfortable sharing your ideas with, who understands what you’re trying to do and someone you can trust to be honest and not just tell you “yes that’s great” when it’s not.

    - I look at what inspired me to tell my own stories. Joss Whedon, J. Michael Straczynski and George Lucas (not his most recent work) are all influences, so anytime I get stuck, I’ll go watch an episode of Buffy or Firefly or Babylon 5 or whatever. Not to copy them, just to get the inspiration back and start my brain working again.

    - Gaming. Seriously, lets say I want to write a story involving a space battle. I’ll load up a game like Homeworld and play a few rounds, it gets me in a tactical frame of mind so when it comes to writing the battle, I can think about how it will unfold, what the characters will do to react to what the other side are doing and so on.

    • http://cranialjacksandconverse.blogspot.com/ NeuroMan42

      Your gaming comment works with me also. Certain kinds of music gets me in the mood for certain types of writing too.

  • http://www.dsidecreations.com/marylewys Mary Lewys

    Thank you for sharing, not only of yourself and your views into getting started creatively, but the resources that helped you.

    I look foward to finding new insight in those books.

  • http://www.shawnketcherside.com Shawn Ketcherside

    Nice list.

    A couple more that I really really found helpful for me:

    On Writing: By Stephen King — Regardless of whether or not you like his novels, this is one of – if not THE – best book on writing I’ve ever read.
    Story: Robert McKee — I’m often VERY wary of screenwriter-guru types, but this book stayed away from a lot of the rigid structuring (though it does talk about structure, cause, let’s face it, you GOTTA have it — just not in the dogmatic 3-act way). Where it excels is breaking down the peaks and valleys of story telling to better make the overall thing compelling.

    Anyway, Felicia, gotta say. I’ve been loving Season 2. I’m actually a developer on an MMO project right now, and many of us are fans — at least in my department.

  • http://pleonisticrants.blogspot.com/ Christopher

    As someone has fought those very same demons my whole life, it is a relief to see that people can climb out of it. Coincidentally I had just posted a blog about some of my own fights with that fear issue. Thanks for sharing.

    Christopher

    • http://pleonisticrants.blogspot.com/ Christopher

      “As someone that has” (I really should read my posts before I hit that little button.)

  • Fremer

    So weird. I was just beating myself up about the same exact things this weekend. I’ve been having that “paralyzing fear of being bad” and even worse, I’ve been letting it affect my work. It’s nice to hear I’m not alone. And thanks for the tips – I’m definitely going to try some of those out ASAP.

    Thanks for sharing, it means a lot!

  • http://www.faceofthecookie.com Kiala

    Every review or article I write for The Mercury or whoever is such a gut wrenching exercise in self-doubt, confusion, procrastination (oh hai internet thx for teh blogs an jezzzzebels), and fear – I swear every time I’ll never do it again.

    But I keep doing it, because it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do…you know, besides being a Viper Pilot on the Galactica, but that’s neither here nor there.

  • http://worldofhiglet.blogspot.com/ worldofhiglet

    Good share, Felicia! I’d like to add ‘Becoming a Writer” by Dorothea Brande as another excellent guide for anyone who seriously wants to write. It’s packed with information, exercises and guidance. It really makes you focus on whether writing is what you want to do and then helps you to reach the goals you want.

    And does this mean that the writing for Season 3 is underway? :)

  • Qooza

    I cannot recommend Steven Pressfield’s The War Of Art highly enough. It’s all about beating creative Resistance in all its forms (procrastination, self-doubt, self-loathing etc etc ad nauseum)

  • http://www.faceofthecookie.com Kiala

    Also, I can’t recommend cookies and tea highly enough.

    And vodka.

  • http://www.mysticalmagick.com/ Araceli

    This is a very thought provoking and stimulating post. Not just on writing really, but on doing anything in life. I’ve actually been working on a similar post myself. It’s hard to just stop thinking about what you want to do and planning what you want to do, and just do it. So much time is wasted on preparation rather than just doing. People make up all these excuses as to why they need to hold off or that they’re not good enough yet, but I think having regrets is worse than any excuse.

  • http://MySpace.Com/UnScene_Emo_Kid Son_Of_Synyster

    The number of comments this has already gotten so quickly depresses me. I long for human interaction :P. On topic, I don’t find fear of not being good nearly as paralyzing as the fact that the act of writing itself isn’t the most fun. I’m currently writing a sitcom pilot and I’ll spend days planning out scenes and getting excitied, write 2 pages and quit. Granted, I’m OCD and have to have everything from the way I word descriptions to how I use parantheticals perfectly consistent which puts a strain on writing, but still :P. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to actually finish it and write a blog entry to motivate others, but it’s doubtful =).

  • Anissa

    /agree re: Julia Cameron — good writing habits, but the spiritual stuff gets heavy-handed sometimes. I think the core of her program: Morning Pages, Artist’s Dates and Walking are very sound and have helped me.

    Bird by Bird — amazing stuff.

    I also find it helps to join in on the NaNoWriMo online phenom once a year, although last year it just about killed me.

    Keep up the good work. Time passes, indeed.

  • http://fadedsilverscreen.blogspot.com terrastrana

    Felicia, great post. I’ve always wanted to be a writer/creative person of some sort, yet similar insecurities have plagued me in the past few years. I always feel like what I’m attempting to create somehow isn’t good enough. Often enough, this keeps me from even starting a project in the first place.

    I will definitely have to check out some of the resources you’ve listed. I feel like my purpose in this life has something to do with writing/screenwriting/other creative pursuits, and I’m really hoping that someday I’ll have the guts and inspiration to churn out the artistic masterpiece that I’ve always longed to create.

  • John Marte

    Thanks for this, Felicia. I’ve been needing a bit of encouragement lately, but have some extra time now that I’m between jobs. Going to a local writers group for the first time tomorrow morning =)

  • http://twitter.com/rhiarti Rhiarti

    Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write such a generous and insightful article. I’ve been increasingly frustrated with the feeling of my life wasting away and thinking of writing as one of the few creative outlets left open to me, but have never really known where to start. …and I’ll stop there, before I get all gushy and nobody knows where to look! Suffice it to say, THANK YOU!

  • Jason B

    Great post. Please do more of this kind of stuff in the future. People mainly interact with you through the narrow lens this website, and I think it’s easy to lose Felicia the person for Felicia the myth. You know, Felicia Day: writer, actor, producer, genius, nerd, talented, beautiful, sociable, flawless. Personally, I like knowing that the celebrities who entertain us struggle as all humans do, because their imperfections make me feel less alone in mine.

  • http://www.gameplaywright.net Will Hindmarch

    A bit of writing advice from a colleague, who told me something I already knew, but in a way that I won’t forget: That damn muse doesn’t show up when you want to write — you write to get her to show up.

    I pick up bits of writing advice, carry them around for a while like a tourist with souvenirs, and then find that I’ve left them under my seat on the train, or on the dresser in the hotel.

    Lately, though, the thing that seems to get me to write is the nauseating fear that I will die soon without having done it, which sounds like what you’re saying. At the same time, I remind myself that it’s better to have written something into existence and have it be, you know, good, than it is to have it be perfect in my fantasy of fame and fortune.

    Voltaire — who was either a French philosopher during the Enlightenment or a giant anime gestalt robot built to battle space-Catholics, I forget which — said it like this: Perfection is the enemy of good.

  • http://www.feliciaday.com Felicia

    So many lovely comments! I’m so glad they’re inspiring to you all :) BTW these tools are directed at creating in general, the links are for writing, but the tools are for wherever your muse lies.

    And I would say this: Even if no one else in the world ever sees or appreciates what you make and do, you made it and your life is richer for it. I have to remind myself that a lot when I don’t think people will “like” something. :) I did it, and that is what counts.

    • jasonlmoore

      Felicia,

      I have recently realized that I too would look back on my life and realize that fear ruled me and came to the conclusion that I was not going to let that happen to me any more. I am taking great risks (compared to my past) and I view it from the perspective that the risk in and of itself is the reward.

      Thank you for your inspiring post, it re-affirmed to me that if someone such as yourself (whom I admire) has the same fears and has to struggle through them as well and manages to turn out the performances and work that you do, then I have much less to fear and can be successful doing what I love.

      So, from the bottom of my heart.. Thank you!

    • Rob McCord

      Is there anyway i could become a side character in this? I’ve always wanted to do something or be part of something like this, but I’m no good at writing the script. Big fan.

  • http://twitter.com/mexicanace Nicolas Villanueva

    Hi. I know this is a bit of a tangent, bit it’s the only thing that musters in my mind when I read this post.
    How can I get others to take me seriously? As a 2nd year math major at a technical institute, it’s damn near impossible :( Professors either expect us to be learning or keep to ourselves. I have various proofs and simplistic ideas that are unique and new to mathematics, but it appears that everywhere I go, professors don’t respect me due to my age (19) and lack of involvement in the ‘world of mathematics’. Is there another approach I should take? All I want to do is advance math for the sake of knowledge, and it’s what I do best.

    Oh, and sorry to hear about soary-ness feelings from roxy :/

    Thnx! ^_^

  • http://tim-jim.blogspot.com/ Jamwes

    Great tips. Thank you. I really should start getting up early and writing every morning. That is a great idea.

  • samatwitch

    Thank you for a wonderful post, Felicia, with some resources that I will be using in the future. I have several writing projects partly written (I did finish one novel years ago) and this is the impetus that will get me going again.

    Two books I recommend are: “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg and “Writing From the Inside Out” by Charlotte Edwards.

  • Evan

    Thank you so much for the tips on writing! Do you have tips on starting a blog? There seem to be a daunting number of options and choices… any blog “must haves” or common pitfalls to avoid that you can share with a prospective blogger about your own rise to internet fame? :)

  • http://www.themightybu.com/ Dave

    excellent post Felicia.

    one other writing book that I’ve found really direct and helpful is Writing Without Teachers by Peter Elbow. lots of emphasis on writing as a means of figuring out what you want to say, not the other way around.

  • http://www.declanstanley.com/ Declan Stanley

    Excellent recommendations Felicia.
    Another good tip is exercise. I find something simple like doing 25 jumping-jacks or running up and down a flight of stairs 10 times before I sit down to write gets the blood flowing and increases my productivity.

  • http://www.sixfeetunderthegun.com Quentin

    Gravatar test…

  • http://www.sixfeetunderthegun.com Quentin

    Win!

    Thanks Kiala.

  • http://shadoth.blogspot.com Tim Akers

    Writing for me has to happen when I have the time. Doctorow’s recent article in Locus about fitting writing into a busy life was something I needed five years ago. As it was I had to learn to do that from scratch, working around a hectic day job, a healthy family life and an unhealthy Magic habit to cut out whatever time I could to write. I had to learn to be creative on demand, which is a terrible thing to do to creativity.

    Anyway. The first book comes out later this year, and I’ve started the second. I’ve put away the Magic cards, yay, but watching The Guild got me playing WOW. At least my wife and I are raiding together, so I can put that under the “family time” column.

  • Adam

    Dr Horrible first made me sit up and seriously want to get out of my rut, I dug around a little and found The Guild and your blog and have been putting my house in order since, even before your last post.

    I loved the first series but from episode 4 of series 2 you hit a different plane and I thought, woah, this is getting as good as anything in Friends or Frasier (although of course with the less demanding run-times :p)

    Isn’t it odd that Dr Horrible and The Guild are so damn good but don’t intimidate? Not making anyone think ‘I could do better than that’, but still inspiring.

  • Greg F

    So I had a dream last night that I was working for “The Company” from Heroes. I was tasked to go back in time to help my younger self escape from a Nazi controlled theatre. Unfortunately, I was tracked by two other villains who weren’t going to make things easy. After running around killing Nazi’s for a while, the villains caught up with me and an epic battle ensued in the cellar of the dusty building.

    Only after I woke up did I realize that one of my enemies (the one with Zombie powers) had the exact profile of your Pirate’esque stunt-man from The Guild.

    Just thought I’d share…hah

  • http://www.threebk.blogspot.com BikerBob

    Great article and thanks for providing links to all those resources. I find myself enjoying writing quite a lot more now that I blog somewhat regularly. I’ve avoided writing anything with some meat because I’ve worried if I will really STINK at writing. Time to toss that idea out and just start churning. You can’t get great at something until you are first horrible at it (or something like that).

    Anyways, thanks.

  • http://god-has-a-blog.blogspot.com God

    Oh, my dear Felicia… You’re one of my favorites. Sometimes when I look at people like you, or Kirk Cameron, I just think to myself, “Way to create ‘em, God!”

    Keep up the wonderfulness!

  • Tim
  • Tim

    Ugh typo. That should be:
    One of the best resources I have is Max Hsu

  • http://wtfhms.blogspot.com -K. Campbell

    I know you’ve been getting this since you’ve posted this, but I, too, am thankful for you sharing your story. It’s eerie how similar our stories are and I have been feeling the same way. A fellow writer (up-and-coming) and good friend Keenan Allen told me this and its been branded on my brain: we, as writers, have a gift and we must infect the world with it. There’s something greater going on inside of us that can’t be taught when weilding this craft…

    just something to think about…

    -K. (your newest fan)

  • http://www.aveddy.com AV eddy

    Hi Felicia,

    Thanks for this blog post – found out about it from your Twitter. :) My creativities always seem to get to a certain spot, then end because (insert myriad of reasons here). Thanks for the inspiration and information to help me get going…again!

    Take care!

    eddy

  • Kristie

    Thank you for this list. I am trying to work on motivating myself as a writer and your words and these links helped give me a little boost again as I was beginning to get in my rutt. Thanks. :)

  • http://www.James-Strocel.com James Strocel

    Nice entry. See if you can get your web guy to hook you up with twtter tools on this blog (you use wordpress, right?). It’ll make a tweet each time you make a post. When you are pioneering a new medium, you can’t afford not to be heard,

  • http://iris-impressions.com Iris

    This is a great post, thanks! I bought The Artists Way a while back but haven’t actually even opened it yet out of fear.. fear that I might have to get off my ass and do something, I guess?! Your story is really inspiring though and I think it applies to all creative areas, not just writing.

  • http://iris-impressions.com Iris

    OK and serious blog jealousy here, you have threaded comments on wordpress.. I’ve been looking for that functionality for ages!

    • http://www.feliciaday.com Felicia

      I’m sure there’s a plugin for that Iris, just go to the WordPress main site and go to their plugin section. I’m very lucky because Dane the WordPress wizard provided that technology for me, but the cool thing about WordPress is that the community spreads the love around, it’s hard NOT to find the plugin you need :)

    • http://doesnotvalidate.com Dane

      I used a customized version of “Brian’s Threaded Comments” because there were some issues getting it to run in WP v2.7 – it’s nice and simple, and didn’t try to do too many things.

      I’d be happy to answer any questions, or if you run into a dead end just email:
      dane@doesnotvalidate.com

      I’d be happy to help anybody with WordPress stuff, provided I’m able.

      • http://iris-impressions.com Iris

        I did come across Brian’s Threaded Comments but disregarded it because it was written for a WP version from a bazillion years ago. Does it still work, or is there an updated version floating about somewhere?

        Thanks for responding by the way (both of you), didn’t expect that!

        • http://doesnotvalidate.com Dane

          There is not an updated version.

          Email me – and I’ll send you the one I’ve been hacking around on.

  • http://www.faceofthecookie.com Kiala

    IMPORTANT

    Brownies with peanut butter cups DO NOT help the writing process.

    I just don’t want anyone getting hurt.

    /PSA

  • T. Perran Mitchell

    I could not agree with you more about Bird by Bird. We had to read it for a creative writing class I took in college and it change my whole outlook on life. In fact I think I will reread it when I finish the book I’m reading now. The advice she give in that book is really applicable to all facets of life. I work QC specialist and I recommend it to all of my interns.

    I also once got some really great advice for Neil Gaiman. I meet him at a signing for Stardust and I told him how big of an influence on my own writing he was. He asked me if I wanted some advice on writing. Of course I said yes. So he signed my book:

    Tom
    1. Keep writing
    2. Finish things
    ~Neil

    I told him that that I got the first part down, but the second part is a bit of challenge. He told me it was the same for him. To hear that someone like Neil Gaiman goes thought the same troubles as a writer as I do really meant a lot to me.

    T.

    p.s. On a side note, I really like the guild and I have bit of an odd question about it. in the background of the scenes where you are on your computer I noticed a really cool lamp that has a paper looking lamp shade. Where did you get this lamp? I need a new lamp for my room and that one looked like it would match my décor.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/amalgamutt/2870012704/ Gino

    Being someone who can easily sit down for an hour or so, and write 30 pages for a script, but not finishing the entire project, makes me want to read some of your linked books. Next up…cutting down on run-on sentences and excessive use of commas…

    As for “The Guild” you nailed that one. Playing WoW since vanilla beta, and being a 40 man raid leader pre-BC, you perfectly encapsulated what life is like in that world…and outside of it.

  • http://www.jeffcarlisle.com JEff

    Felicia…
    Are you freaking out yet?
    Isn’t it amazing how many people you inspire?
    I hope you realize how rare that is…and how precious.

    Thanks for everything–keep making amazing stuff!

    Jeff

  • http://cranialjacksandconverse.blogspot.com/ NeuroMan42

    Once again I thank you Felicia, for your words of inspiration. Rock on Codex.

  • http://beingsama.blogspot.com Sama

    Amazing tips and encouragement, thank you!
    I second Anissa on the Nanowrimo thing, it really helps you to totally let go and just write the like crazy. It’s great fun and a wonderful community too!
    (btw, her name isn’ Julie, it’s Julia Cameron)

  • Joshua

    Is the worse fear fear of failing and disappointing yourself, or succeeding without feeling it’s deserved, and possibly disappointing everyone else later?

  • http://lukehill.com Luke Hill

    Great post! Greetings from an Austin, TX resident who’ll be making the move to L.A. this year.

    I’ve just recently discovered you and starting following your blog and watching The Guild. I just finished shooting a short web series and am working on another and have been looking to you as a model for the sort of hard-working person I should try to emulate, so it’s refreshing to see that you struggle with some of the same issues that I do. I’ve been writing off and on since I was a kid and even had a five year period in early adulthood where I managed to write two feature-length screenplays a year, but in the past few years I’d really lost my discipline.

    Just in the past six months or so I’ve finally gotten it back and have been working diligently on my writing/filmmaking career and for me, a lot of it had to do with (don’t laugh!) a Tony Robbins program a friend gave to me – it really helped me to more effectively manage my time and to realize what was most important to me and after way too long, I’m finally back on track! It feels so wonderful to create it makes we wonder why I ever let it slide in the first place! I’ve read the Artist’s Way (still have the journals) and have definitely spent some time w/ Lifehacker, Zen Habits, etc. but the other books you mention are new to me – I can’t wait to check them out. Thanks for your insight and inspiration.

  • http://hallower1980.blogspot.com Aaron

    “you have to create for yourself and no one else”

    Ironically enough, my creative writing teachers in college took the opposite approach… always hammering on “know your audience”. It’s a good rule, but more for the revision phase than when you’re first building the idea.

    Some other tips:

    Know your reviewers. Everyone knows that it’s important to share a rough draft with others. But what’s rarely taught is that knowing the personalities, views, and habits of the people reviewing your stuff is equally important. If you share your story with many people and then put those people together in a room, they’ll often disagree on whether something in your story is a problem or not, or what exactly it means. Some criticisms are objective, but most reflect something about the person offering. You need to understand how each person came to their criticisms and ask yourself how much that person fits the audience you’re going for.

    Show, don’t tell. (common advice)

    Don’t immediately write down every idea. Sometimes it’s good to hold a scene in your head for a while. That can keep the analytical side of your brain from intruding and making the idea ordinary, fitting it into a box you already have in your head. If your imagination gets out of hand, that’s fine — you can bring your idea back to reality later in revision. Or not, if reality sucks. ;)

    And don’t let a lapse in writing keep you from starting up again. Failure yesterday has no bearing on what you do today.

    Anyway, I hope that helps someone.

  • http://hallower1980.blogspot.com Aaron

    “Even if no one else in the world ever sees or appreciates what you make and do, you made it and your life is richer for it. I have to remind myself that a lot when I don’t think people will “like” something. :) I did it, and that is what counts.”

    Right on! I have more than a few riffs and songs that only I seem to like, but I keep playing them anyway. :)

  • Zachary Lee

    Thank you so much. I’ve been wanting to get into writing, I actually started writing my own T.V. show. These resources seem just the thing to help me. I appreciate the help from someone who used these and knows firsthand the material. I think your show is genius.

    Zach

  • http://glenjm.wordpress.com Glen

    Awesome post! I just put a couple of those books on hold at the library! Looking forward to whipping my ass into creative control.

    Continue to rock, lady!

  • http://www.danomi.com Young Che

    Great advice. It was a little selfhelp-y but it was also very timely. I call myself the writer who doesn’t write which is a whole lot different from being a ghostwriter.

  • http://floatingrunner.net/blog floatingrunner

    it was a dark and stormy night….

  • http://www.myspace.com/therandy Rendo

    Hi. This is a thank-you letter to send gratitude for your not-terribly-long-ago blog on your writing process and the suggestion of Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Though i have to skim through all the references to god stuff, it has been immensely useful and the morning pages have been incorporated into my daily routine. I don’t even bother putting them on to my To Do list anymore.

    Also, it inspired me to add a new weekly routine of Thankful Thursdays in which i send thank-you notes to friends, family, and famousness on Thursdays (famousness is for all the creative types that entertain and inspire me to create. also it helped my alliteration). You get the first one since it was your suggestion of the book and since The Guild inspired me to get off my butt and write some new shit. It’s odd going the self-help style route to write comedy (stand-up stuff, mostly mean… but with a smile), but it has helped tremendously.

    So thanks for the suggestion. Thanks for The Guild. Thanks for being adorable all the way back as Slayer Vi.

    Randy Mendez

  • Rory

    Some people hate Ayn Rand’s writing. I happen to like it. A lot.

    She wrote a book (well, it was originally a lecture course) on how to write Fiction, called ‘The Art of Fiction’.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Art-Fiction-Guide-Writers-Readers/dp/0452281547

    It’s a really helpful book. One of the most important things I’ve taken from that book (and from her other book on the subject, aptly named, ‘The Art of Non-Fiction’) is that writing is the final step in a long process of work.
    The reason people get stuck with writing is that they are waiting for inspiration, which means, a plan, a draft, an idea, some stylish flair and some metaphors, all at once. Rand basically lays out how you need to think through everything, e.g. “What is my theme?”, and, just as importantly, what it means for something to be a theme, as opposed to just a subject or a plot-point.

    Another very interesting point is ‘concretisation’. This is a philosophical principle which she applied to her writing (both Fiction and Non-Fiction). That is, that people do not learn by abstraction alone – especially in fiction. You cannot just say, “One day there was a strong, brave man”. You have to show him being strong, and doing brave things.

    Anyway, yeah, there’s lots of good stuff in that book, and I could go on for days. If it does not teach you anything about writing, then it will teach you something about reading, how to get the most out of a book, by considering all the elements she discusses there.

  • http://demanagement.com Affordable Housing

    Hi, Really interesting point .. i love your mini application used with ” How I Started Writing”.

  • http://www.hotbasketballshorts.com Basketball Shorts

    I am also starting to write, just hard to write for others. Its hard to let go of the fear but each time I write it gets easier. I am beginning to like it a whole lot. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • http://dudemeisterblogs.blogspot.com Arnold

    Wow, this has really inspired me. I know it was written over 2 years but just finding it now has made me feel… hopeful. I was getting to this state of depression and frustration with my inability to put pen to paper and actually write, rather than just think about it all. The 5 minute exercises look awesome and I can’t wait to get started with them, and after reading excerpts from the books I will definitely consider picking them up. So thank you Felicia, your words have really, truly, honestly helped. And with all these comments it’s good to know I wasn’t the only one with these issues. This is probably the most helpful thing I’ll read ever. Felicia, you may have just kick-started my career. :)

  • http://thunderpeel2001.blogspot.com JohnnyW

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I have started the Artist’s Way myself, and may start looking into the other books here. (Although the Artist’s Way does get a might spiritual, the author does at least push you to only believe what you want to believe.)

  • http://blog.gla-la-lam.com Qistina

    Thanks so much for the links! I’ve been doing CM Mayo’s July exercises. They’re immensely helpful.

  • Jason

    Great resources, thanks for the inspiration!

  • Melissa Stewart

    I know this is super old, but thanks Felicia! I’m a big fan, and this is so helpful and generous.

    I’ve been thinking about “doing something for awhile, and I’ve wanted to write for a long time but have believed I have nothing unique to give. I know that’s not true, as we are each unique & gifted. You are a beautiful example of someone who took your own normal experiences (e.g. WOW culture) and created art that so many people connect to. I need to stop being ruled by fear.

    I’m going to declare a creativity boot camp for myself soon and read some of these resources. Really, thank you, kind artist person!

  • http://blog.cryptision.com Ben Bates

    The past ten years has taught me, that no matter who you are, you can accomplish anything. I’ve had my life rip from me too many times to just give up, learning how to be creative will keep me going through darker times. Thank you for this inspirational piece. Sure, the article may be a bit old,but the wisdom in it is timeless.

  • Sarah

    Thanks for your inspiring words, Felicia! I’m starting online ‘college’ work in the fall (all my own organization, no degree) for creative writing and screenwriting, and I can’t wait to check out some of these resources. I was home-schooled in a small town and am extremely isolated and shy, but I just started watching and reading your work, and I can’t tell you how much it has encouraged me to create my own voice and start being confident in what I’ve been given.

  • Pingback: My battle with mental illnesses (part 6) | Eugene's Rants

  • Patrick

    Thanks Felica. I really appreciate your openness and the links to resources that helped you.

  • https://soundcloud.com/azulenemusic Chris

    I’ve shared this on fb, because I got the Brenda Ueland book and found it incredible. Thanks for your tips Felicia and keep on doing what you do, you’re an inspiration!

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