Saturday, June 10, 2017

Scary Words in Social Media Waters

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Publish. Send. Post. These can be scary words for writers who use social media, especially if they choose to share some of their creative work there.

Everyone knows I’m a writer. What if what I wrote is boring, meaningless, or (my favorite) stupid? What if I didn’t see a (horrors!) typo? What if I “forgot” to make sense?

Well, so what? Not everything we write is great. Not everything we write goes through a professional editing process (but I highly recommend routine self-editing to protect the writing reputation you have or hope to build).

We all make writing mistakes, especially if we’re typing on our phones with those tiny keyboards. But writing is meant to be read. And anything we write that can be accessed through social media will be read, even if only by our moms, third cousins on our dads’ sides, and people who in high school seemed kind of like stalkers, but we’ve connected with them on Facebook anyway.

Besides, look at the benefits. In brief posts, you can practice making even a single sentence beautiful with elegance and clarity. Twitter is a great challenge for that because of its character limit. You can dive into the social media waters with an effort to be brilliantly funny or inspiringly serious and see what floats—or doesn’t! You can encourage your friends and acquaintances with a new insight. If you share a link to a lengthy piece—a blog post, a short story, an essay—you might be able to test the waters with a new genre, a new audience, or a brand-new concept you’d like to develop. You can even devise a concise, to-the-point survey to learn what might help you propel your writing career in some way.

Or you can just have some fun and make your mom proud.

Sure, you must be prepared for no “likes” or “shares” or “comments.” But writers gotta write, and social media like Facebook and Twitter and easy access to blog platforms like WordPress and Blogger make it easier than ever to gain the benefits of putting your writing out there.

All you have to do is get past the scary words and dive in.

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Pill for Writer's Block

In last month’s issue of The Smithsonian Magazine, Robert Anthony Siegel told how he overcame his chronic writer’s block with a pill. Not just any pill, but a custom-designed placebo. A researcher prepared the medication for Siegel, who knew full well that the pill contained nothing more than cellulose.
He took the medication for two weeks before he noticed any change in his behavior. When he felt a strong urge to quit, he took a couple of extra pills instead. (“I was way, way over my dosage,” he confided.)
Gradually, his episodes of writer’s block became less frequent and debilitating. So did his panic attacks and insomnia. His experiment contributed to our knowledge of the placebo effect.
A few insights into the placebo effect may help you overcome writer’s block, even if you don’t use a placebo:
1. Your expectations shape your experience. Robert’s researcher did everything to make the prescription look like a real pharmaceutical: He gave Robert a written prescription for his druggist, who then gave him a labeled medicine bottle with the pills, a disclosure sheet about the medicine, and a hefty bill of $405. (“The price increases the sense of value,” the researcher told him. “It will make them work better.”)
You could do several things to heighten expectancy when you sit down to write. Draft a cover letter to accompany your submission to the editor or critique partner who’ll read it. If you’re going to meet that person to discuss your manuscript, make the appointment before you start to write. And so on. What if I don’t finish? you may be thinking. But if you anticipate failure, guess what happens.
2. Find an empathetic caregiver. The researcher filled that role in Robert’s case. He listened attentively to the consequences of writer’s block, helped Robert imagine how his life would change without it, and checked on his progress throughout the trial.
If you keep getting “stuck” with your writing, find a critique partner or mentor to help you. Your conversations with that person tell your subconscious mind: I am not well, but I’m taking steps to get well. This condition is not normal, but I have a capable friend who’ll help me return to normal.
3. Continue therapy when you see no results. At first, Siegel's writing remained “stuck” and his anxiety began to build. He emailed his lab worker one night to pour out his frustration, and got the reply: “As with any other medicine, it may take time to reach a therapeutic dose.” So he kept on taking the placebos as directed--and he began to write.

Joe Allison has been a member of the Indiana Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN. His non-fiction books include Setting Goals That Count and Swords and Whetstones.