to blog…or not to blog?

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I don’t believe those people who say you can write a blog post every week and never feel like what you’re writing has no meaning or purpose. I mean honestly, if I never contribute another 500-word musing to the world, will it actually make a difference? Does my sitting here making crap up as I go along really help anyone with anything?

Seriously?

Blogging is, by nature, kind of a self-centered thing to do. When we blog, it’s like we’re automatically assuming – or at least momentarily convincing ourselves — that what we have to say is of value, at least to someone. Plus, we’re also assuming we possess the qualifications necessary to offer “expert” advice on whatever it is we’re blogging about.

I know this from personal experience. I’ve been trying to blog consistently, every week, for a few months now. And every once in a while, I sit at my computer and wonder why the &*%$ I bother.

After all, if a blog is posted on the internet, and no one reads it, does it actually exist?

Ummm…yeah. (Existentialism, it turns out, does not apply to blogging.)

The reason I keep doing it is the reason we all keep doing it. Because we’re supposed to. Because, like exercise and vitamins, it’s supposed to be good for us. Or for our businesses, anyway. If you don’t have a business and you blog every week, you’re a whole ‘nother kind of animal entirely.

For the rest of us, who maybe aren’t bursting with brilliant things to say 24/7, there are some work-arounds that I know work for me. The biggest is to remember to stay true to myself, and maybe resist the temptation to try to come up with something brilliant and profound every week.

Like this week, I felt like I had something of value to say, so I’m here, at this moment, saying it (yes, I’m writing about writing as if it’s talking, but that’s another topic for another post…). Last week, on the other hand, I didn’t feel like I had any “advice” in me, and for some reason, I had a poem in there instead. So I wrote it. And that poem got more responses than most of the “important” blog posts I’ve written.

Go figure.

I guess that’s the main thing I forget about blogging. You never know. Maybe no one will read your blog post (although it will, in fact, still exist). But then again, maybe you’ll reach that one person who just happens to need to hear exactly what you’re saying. Or writing. Or maybe you’ll just make someone smile with a goofy poem.

Of course, since it’s my business, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that if you’re struggling to figure out what to blog about, or how to write in a way that represents you the way you want to be seen (as opposed to maybe uninspired or burnt out), I do this thing I call Copy Therapy that can help with that. You join me on my virtual “couch” (hence the term Copy Therapy) and we talk through whatever piece of writing or writing issue you might have. Then we work through it together to brainstorm and come up something amazing.

If that sounds like something you wanna get in on, click HERE – I’d love to work with you.

And if you just need some extra inspiration to get through your next post on your own, check out my free guide, The Positively True, Actual Professional Writer’s Guide to Beating Writer’s Block HERE.

Because your next blog post probably won’t change the world. But if you never write it, you’ll never know…

How I Accidentally Wrote a Novel

DARK SKY 1 (1)

Joel Canfield here.

So, it was a sunny Sunday, May 24th of this year, and my lovely wife Lisa and I were having lunch here on Roosevelt Island with a couple of writer pals, David Muhlfelder and Robert Thielke.  All four of us had ordered burgers and, as we wolfed them down, some other guy showed up at out table, a guy I didn’t know, and he immediately lambasted our diets. Which was fair.

Anyway, I found out his name was Joshua James and he lived over the river from us in Queens – Robert had invited him over to meet up with us. I also found out that Josh was a talented playwright, screenwriter – and, as it happens, novelist (he writes thrillers under a pseudonym, but check out his published plays by clicking here).  Even though a film of one of his scripts had just been released, he was the most excited about self-publishing his books. He told us excitedly that was where the future was at – and how he was racking up some great sales, as well as getting hundreds of amazing reviews. And if you guessed that his spiel set me on fire…

…well, you’d be wrong.

Lisa was the one hanging on his every word who suddenly wanted to get into the self-publishing game – I was the one in the corner rolling my eyes. I had no intention of writing a novel. A novel takes a lot of time and a lot of energy, and at this point in my life, I don’t have a lot of either to spare. Not only that, but I never got anywhere with the ones I did finish, back when I was in my twenties and thirties. The closest I got to getting published was to finally have a book agent read my stuff, love it and promise to get it in print. He died of a heart attack on a tennis court a couple of weeks later. Okay, it was a bigger tragedy for him than me, but still…

But then I fell asleep and everything changed.

Not during the lunch – that would have been rude. But after Lisa and I got home, I took a quick nap (our dog gets us up way too early) and suddenly the whole first chapter of a new book came to me while I slept, as well as the main character and the basic plot. I woke up on fire – and Lisa was looking at me as though I was nuts, which isn’t that unusual, I’ll grant you.

That week, I started writing DARK SKY and, two and a half months later, it was done. And sleep continued to be my biggest writing helper. I kept waking up in the middle of the night with the idea for the next chapter and then lay there in bed for a couple of hours working out the mechanics. But it was worth the ongoing exhaustion.

When I was done, Lisa went through the manuscript and helped me make some significant improvements, and then my talented son A.J. did the book cover design. In this house, everything’s a family affair.

The result was DARK SKY.  I’m excited about this book and I hope everyone reading this will give it a read. I’d love to write a whole series of these books with the same main character and I already have a plot for the next one. But people have to like this one first before I get crazy involved with another one.

That’s why, for now, I’m sleeping on it.

Anyway, DARK SKY is NOW on sale on Amazon in paperback and Kindle ebook editions…check it out here if you want.

a little mid-august creativity.

burned out- exhausted- just not feelin'

It’s the middle of August. The sun’s in the sky.

But alone in your office, you think you might cry.

You’re s’posed to be writing a post for your blog,

but it’s all turning into a bit of a slog.

Your premise? It’s weak. And your prose? It sounds clunky.

The whole piece is coming out just a bit funky

(and not in a good way – it’s pretty much junky).

But what can you do?  Stuff has got to get done

even when doing said stuff is not any fun.

Well, I happen to have a suggestion for you:

when the old stuff won’t work, why not try something new?

After all, no one said that you have to be boring

and lull your poor audience deep into snoring.

Tell your readers a story, share a Q and A,

write a script to be read like the lines in the play

(or a poem like the one I’m writing today).

The next time you’re blogging and feel lost and hazy,

it could be a sign that it’s time to go crazy.

Take a risk, take a chance, let your freak speak out loud —

you just might end up with something that makes you proud.

(and after all that, if you’re STILL stuck, why not download my FREE guide to beating writer’s block? or for an hour of intensive, one-on-one help to get your writing done, schedule a super-helpful Copy Therapy Session with me.)

in praise of the Mental Health Day…

burned out- exhausted- just not feelin'

Do you ever have one of those days when you don’t want to get out of bed?

When the thought of sitting down at your computer and actually doing something productive is about as appealing as shoving a red-hot poker in your eye?

When, as much as you want to, as much as you need to, as much as you know that you absolutely, no-questions-asked HAVE TO, you just…

…can’t?

I have some semi-radical advice for you.  Don’t.

Instead, take a Mental Health Day.

The Mental Health Day is the reason neither of my boys ever brought home one of those coveted “Perfect Attendance” awards when they were in school. They were basically good kids who generally did what they were supposed to do. But every couple of months, one of them would hit that wall where the thought of getting up and going to school and sitting at a desk for six hours just about drove them to tears.

As a mom, I knew my job was to get them dressed and out that door and into the hands of the public education system, where they belonged. But this subversive little voice inside me couldn’t help asking, “Why? What would be so bad about letting the kid have a day to hang around in his pajamas and eat cereal on the couch and play video games until his eyes glaze over? What harm would it do?”

And thus, the Mental Health Day was born.

Every so often, one of my boys would announce that he was taking a Mental Health Day, and then stay home and do pretty much whatever he wanted. And yeah, since my husband and I both worked at home, it occasionally drove one or both of us crazy. But eventually, the day would end, the kid would go back to school all rested and happy and grateful, and everything would go on as normal. Better even.

So. If it worked for them…why can’t it work for us grown ups?

Of course it can. Not only that, it does. At least it does for me. When I have one of those days where it feels like I’m dragging my body through quicksand, I give myself permission to just STOP. I banish all pressure and judgment and embrace my inner pajama-wearing, non-showering, video-game-playing slug.

And the next time you hit the wall, instead of running into it over and over again hoping it will somehow magically disappear, I invite you to just try, just one time, to do the same thing. Not that you have to wear pajamas or play video games – your inner slug is YOUR inner slug, after all. Just let your lazy flag fly – or just hang there…

You might not win a Perfect Attendance Award. But you’ll probably have a MUCH better day tomorrow.

Oh! And if the wall you hit happens to involve writing, you might want to consider downloading the FREE guide i call The Positively True Actual Professional Writer’s Guide to Beating Writer’s Block HERE.

You can even do it in your pajamas.

on idols and writer’s block…

If I’m getting stuck doing the thing I’m

You know that favorite writer you have? The one who constructs sentences that somehow reach deep inside your soul – or who makes you laugh so hard the person sitting next to you on the plane asks what you’re reading?

Or both?

Well, re: that writer, I have four words of advice for you:

Don’t write like that person.

Yes, that was five words. It’s Friday and I’m halfway out the mental door… :)

But as for my point, I’m serious. And this is not any sort of judgment as to whether or not you can, in fact, write like this author-you-admire. I just know no matter how hard I try, I’m never gonna be Joan Didion.

I also know that the act of trying to sound like someone you admire can be exhausting. You’ve already set the bar at “impossible,” so all that’s left is to reach for it over and over and over again.

And the super fun part? You never get there.

But even if you did, what would you have? A really good imitation of someone else. Instead of a 100% genuine peek inside your own brain and heart and soul. To which I know some of you are instantly yelling back at your computer screen…

THERE’S NOTHING IN MY BRAIN OR HEART OR SOUL THAT’S THAT INTERESTING!!!

Well, welcome to the club. Do you think I believe that every word that flows from my fingertips is interesting? Or even passable? That’s where writer’s block comes from – that reaching, that striving, that pushing to reach some literary nirvana – and then mentally shutting down when you realize you aren’t even close.

A better way, if I might make a gentle suggestion, is to just be honest. Express what you have to say in the true and genuine way it comes to you. Don’t worry if that’s the way Joan Didion or Elizabeth Gilbert or insert-literary-idol-here would say it. (And yes, I noticed I always seem to use the word “say.” Maybe because, to me, writing is like talking, only not out loud.)

When I work with people to help them write better, it’s all about helping them find their true voice, their sharpest perspective, their most quintessential turn of phrase. Because that’s the way they’re going to touch the heart or the soul or the funny bone of the people who need to hear from them.

It’s the way you’ll touch the people who need to hear from you.

And isn’t that what your readers deserve?

If you think you could maybe use some help finding your true voice, I would love to help. I offer this thing called Copy Therapy — it’s kind of like regular therapy, except instead of spending an hour talking about your mother, we talk about the thing you’re trying to say, and figure out the best, most powerful way to say it. In writing. CLICK HERE to find out how.

And if you’re looking for some other ways to break through writer’s block, and haven’t already, why not download The Positively True Actual Professional Writer’s Guide to Beating Writer’s Block HERE?

It’s not Joan Didion…but it helps.

Is It Time to Turn That Writing Project Over to a Ghostwriter?

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You’ve been telling people about that book you’re writing for a year – or two or three. And you’re starting to panic.

Because in reality, that “book” is more like a collection of random musings, old blog posts and other files on your computer that don’t exactly make sense together…

Or it’s one single, lonely page you’ve started 25 different times, in 25 different ways…but it never comes out right…

Or it’s just an idea you really, seriously intend to flesh out SOMEDAY…as soon as you carve out the time to write 150 or 200 pages…and figure out what’s gonna be on those pages…

SO…how’s that book ever gonna get done?

I have a gentle suggestion.

Maybe you should hire a ghostwriter.

The right ghostwriter (yes, there are “wrong” ghostwriters – but that’s for another time) will take those random musings and half-formed ideas and anything else you might have swirling around in your brain and magically transform them into a coherent, cohesive book that presents them to the world in the best possible way. She (or he) will give your ideas a structure with a beginning, middle and end, work with you to dig deep into your story or “thing” to find the answers to the questions your readers are dying to know, and present it all in a voice that sounds like you on your best day ever.

Does it cost money? Of course (even ghosts gotta eat!). But it could be the best investment you ever make.

If you’re ready to stop telling people about the book you’re going to write, and start showing off the book you wrote, maybe we should talk. click HERE for more info.

And if you’re stuck on your own writing project and need a little help, download the positively true, actual professional’s guide to beating writer’s block HERE.

Is it Time to Stop Writing Alone?

as of noon today,i will no longer bea (5)

I’ve been writing a lot about writer’s block lately. Which, maybe, you’ve noticed. All those posts about writer’s block, and do you have it, and are you wondering how to get rid of it? Yup, that was me. I wrote this little guide to dealing with it (that you can download here…), so I’ve been doing all I can to make sure Every. Single. Person. in the world knows it’s available. HERE.

But here’s the thing about the guide. It isn’t 100% foolproof. There are going to be times when you just get stuck. When your brain won’t budge no matter how many clever games you play with it. When you can’t get past the place where you are no matter how hard you try.

Those are the times when, maybe, you shouldn’t be writing alone.

I know, I know. Writing is kind of a solitary pursuit. But then again, sometimes you could really use another set of eyes to look at what you’ve done – and the other brain that goes with them to determine whether or not what you’ve done actually makes sense. Because something that makes perfectly perfect sense to you might look like a totally random assortment of words to somebody else.

And you definitely don’t want that.

Then there are those times when another brain would really help you catch what you might be missing, or make connections you’re not making, or find that perfect approach that, for whatever reason, you’re not seeing.

And those times when you need someone else there just to let you know you’re not crazy? Those are maybe the biggest.

So. Where does one find said person?

Well, a low pressure place to start might be asking someone you know and trust to read something you’ve written, or brainstorm with you. Or you might join a writer’s circle or challenge for a chance to share with other writers, and hold each other accountable, and maybe even get some group coaching.

Or if you want to focus on your results and yours alone, you might work one-on-one with a writing coach.

And…hey! I happen to be one of those.

As a writing coach, I work with struggling (and even not-so-struggling) writers to help them connect with their readers, focus their message and structure stuff so it makes sense and keeps readers reading (as opposed to drifting off in the middle). I help with all kinds of projects, from landing pages and websites structuring, developing and writing entire books. And everything in between.

All for a (very reasonable) fee. :)

If that sounds like something that might help you with your writing project, I’d be happy to be the help-er – just contact me HERE for more info.

And whatever your writing challenges might be, remember, you don’t always have to go it alone.

Even I don’t. I have my crazy husband sitting next to me all day long.