Confused About Publishing? Got Writer’s Block? Let’s Fix That.

Confused About Publishing? Got Writer’s Block? Let’s Fix That.

Confused About Publishing? Got Writer’s Block? Let’s Fix That. 

Hey there, Writers and muse daters. Many dream of becoming a successful author. Few ever make it. So where do they go wrong?

In order to become an author–let alone a successful one– you have to do a whole lot more than write. The path to publication is long and there are many, many places to get lost.

That’s why our VIP programs are designed to walk you through the whole process–or just the part you’re stuck on, if that’s what you need. 

We give you the coaching, support, knowledge, and support you need to go from struggling writer to published author.

We work with writers at three different phases:

  • Write or finish a novel in eight weeks
  • Revise novel to publishable and find an agent
  • Expand author platform and sell their book

We’ve gotten many authors in different stages of the writing process, to published. 

Sounds like something you’re interested in?

The Writing Gym is accepting select writers to join our community of successful, published authors.

If you’re serious about publishing in 2020, let’s chat. Drop yourself into my calendar here to talk to a member of our team.

Until next time. Happy Writing. 

Finding the Inspiration and Courage That Leads to Multiple Genre Success

Finding the Inspiration and Courage That Leads to Multiple Genre Success

Finding the Inspiration and Courage that leads to Multiple Genre Success

This is a transcript of the Writing Gym Podcast. To listen to the full episode, click here.

Today’s Writing Gym Podcast guest is Cristina Istrati. She writes in multiple genres–which is pretty amazing–and we asked her to share her writing process and inspiration with us.

Many writers have dreams of getting published. In Cristina’s case her dream came from a literal dream!

“I’d like to think it’s a bit unusual,” Cristina started, “How I started writing was actually through a dream that I had back in August 2007. ​I just dreamt myself writing books and that was it. The next day, I just grabbed a pen and some sheets and just started writing and the result of that was my first novel.​ I published it in 2009. This is how I started and like I said, I am working on my third novel in my series and I am so excited about it.”

It’s really a magical thing–to follow that impulse, that dream. And look where Cristina is now. She’s a published and award-winning writer. How did winning an award immediately after her debut novel impact her writing life? 

“I never expected it but I was very happy. The first thing is that it keeps you confident and it also stimulates you to keep going, to keep working on your stories, and to keep writing. Because at the end of the day this is what it is all about. Winning an award was a stimulation for me. I didn’t let it change me or anything a little bit close to arrogant or anything close to that, no, I kept working on my novels and I didn’t allow it to let it influence me in any negative way.”

I then asked Cristina about feedback. One of the things that I talk about a lot is the difference between the creative process and the revision process. They’re two very different functions. When we’re in the creative process, it’s really important not to let that feedback in or for that feedback to only be positive feedback. 

“When I was writing the first novel I didn’t get any feedback. I was so into writing; I was absorbed by the story and the characters and what I was doing there that it didn’t even cross my mind to actually ask a friend to read through it. I just went for it, wrote the book, and published it at the end. That was it. 

You never know–maybe somebody would’ve told me they didn’t like the story or it’s boring, or something like that and that might have discouraged me​ a bit. So, I’m happy that I didn’t ask for feedback from anybody. I just did it on my own.”

This is a really valuable tip for writers–like Cristina, writers must know when it’s time to let that feedback in or when it’s time to just really be in that creative zone. 

But what about after winning her award–did it change her writing process? 

“I had some fellow writers read my second novel but, somehow, I didn’t like their feedback. I didn’t take it personally because f​eedback is not about that. You just listen to what the other person is saying and if something resonates with you then you take it. That’s pretty much it. A writer should never take it personally.​ It’s not about the writer; it’s about the work itself. Feedback should only be looked at as pure feedback.

“What I didn’t like about their feedback was that they were too general. It was like they were talking about a different novel. I realized I just needed to follow my own intuition and to not give anyone the manuscript anymore, before it gets published. I wanted to follow my own gut feeling–both in writing and when it comes to feedback as well.”

Cristina’s talk about intuition resonated the most with me. Many writers get so wrapped up in what they’re writing and many get into this self-doubt, always asking themselves: “Is this right? I don’t know.” It makes such a difference when they start to believe in themselves and their writing. When writers get feedback, they mustn’t take it personally–much like what Cristina shared. 

As writers, we must be confident about the message we are putting out into the world. I know what is right for my book and I know that’s what I’m doing. How did Cristina develop her strong sense of writing intuition? 

“This may sound arrogant–and I totally understand if that’s the way it comes across–but when I see what I am writing, when I see the product of my work, I just feel confident about it and I don’t know where this confidence comes from. When there is something so, so strong and so,so beautiful about the story, it cannot be something random. That keeps me confident.”

“A writer’s story and characters are one. The minute the writer enters their room and starts writing, they become one with the novel and with everything else that is inside the novel. It’s like a universe. When you create something so strong and you feel like it is a part of you, and a part of your soul and heart, how can you not be confident and know? It’s twisting, I cannot understand this but this is what I feel.”

Definitely a unique perspective but one that I appreciate very much. There’s a different type of confidence that comes from the power of our piece–different from when we win awards and other things. Where we are writing has its own life, its own energy, and its own confidence. If writers are really listening to their piece and have faith in their piece, then there is a different kind of confidence that can overcome their impostor syndrome. 

“I think one of the reasons why writers aren’t so confident in themselves is because the media created many limiting concepts about the writing industry and one of of them is that you can’t make a living as a writer,” Cristina shared, “From my point of view, as long as the writers is 1000% committed, there is nothing they cannot achieve in terms of the writing career. There is no limit to what a writer can achieve as long as they are themselves, their journey, and their writing.” 

Resonating and true is something that I also believe in. At the Writing Gym, we have created a group of wonderful writers who are committed to their craft, who get feedback from published and award-winning authors like Cristina. I asked Cristina if a program like this had been available when she was just starting out, would it have been something she was interested in doing? 

“Any help is more than welcome–especially at the beginning. At the beginning every writer should get as much help as possible. That’s a bit of a critical point when the writer just starts out, the confidence is not so big. But if the passion–a really burning passion, the kind that wakes you up at night and compels you to write–is there then that is enough. If this confidence is not there, my advice for writers is to follow the passion, to make their passion a substitute for the confidence. As they hold on to that passion they have for writing, the confidence will make its way, too.”

Some people are born writers in the same way that some are born musicians or basketball players. But the rest of us humans on Earth, we have to work at the process over time, unless we are a true prodigy–and that’s okay. It’s part of the process to learn and to get quality feedback and to learn the skills that we need. 

Yet, even those naturally born writers, musicians, athletes all have to show up and do the work too. It goes for any kind of gift that people have.

As I mentioned before, Cristina writes in multiple genres. “It was very interesting for me to see that I could actually switch from romance to children’s stories and then I wrote mystery stories. I think it is a good thing for a writer to play with genres if they have the ability to, because then they wouldn’t be caged into one particular genre. I highly recommend that other writers try to write in other genres. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a masterpiece, it’s an exercise to see what will work and it’s helped me polish my writing skills and gave me that extra confidence.

 

“Another great benefit is that it nourishes your imagination. For me, at least, I get bored writing in one genre. I want more excitement, adventure, and switching from one genre to another really keeps things exciting for me.”

Cristina shared another amazing takeaway–the energy of the writer comes through the book and becomes absorbed by the reader. “The writer needs to be at his best. When he is writing, he needs to be bubbling with creative energy. That will be felt in his things.”

Lastly, I asked Cristina if she had one piece of advice for writers just starting out writing and struggling with it.

“Firstly, identify what you love to write about. It’s important to play with genres a bit in the beginning and see which one first you best. Without that certainty, you cannot write. And from here comes the lack of confidence. Figure out what genre first for you like a glove and just off and follow that. The more you write, the more you want to write and the more the passion will grow. This will give you confidence and you’ll want to keep doing that.” 

Well, there you go–the lovely advice for aspiring authors. Just identify what you love to write about and follow your intuition. Take the time to play with genres, figure it out, find your niche, and your calling, and all doubts will fade away. 

Until next time. Happy writing.

This is a transcript of the Writing Gym Podcast. To listen to the full episode, click here

How to Land your Ideal Literary Agent with Jeanne Covert

How to Land your Ideal Literary Agent with Jeanne Covert

How to Land your Ideal Literary Agent with Jeanne Covert

Today’s podcast episode features Jeanne Covert, a screenwriter and a member of the Writing Gym. Jeanne came to us with a finished novel–a script that she novelized–after hearing conflicting information from different editors. 

Jeanne Covert

“A lot of the information that they were giving me kind of conflicted with a lot of things that we do in film. And especially when it came to the suspense and the pace. I was used to a very, very fast pace.”     

I took a brief look at her manuscript and, in her words, I told her what exactly she was doing wrong and how to correct the situation. 

“And [coming to Annalisa] was the very best decision I’ve ever made. After working with [her], I saw what the editors were trying to tell me, but they didn’t know how to tell me because they didn’t understand screenwriting. But [Annalisa] did. It was eye opening the way she explained how elements in screenwriting translates over to the manuscript.” 

And [coming to Annalisa] was the very best decision I’ve ever made. 

Before the Writing Gym, Jeanne experienced a lot of frustration from the conflicting messages she’s received from different editors. But with the Writing Gym, she experiences a change. 

“Now I feel like I know what I’m doing. I feel like I understand the craft.” 

As a screenwriter, Jeanne worked more with the visuals. She enjoyed the pace, the action, and the internal development of her characters involved in films and writing for film. But at the Writing Gym, she also developed a love for writing novels. “Now, I’m beginning to grow in love with the words, not just the visuals.” 

She’s also noticed an improvement in her screenwriting and writing and marketing materials for a film. “No matter what kind of writing I’m doing, I can tell there’s been a huge increase in my skill.” 

As far as I can tell, this is a pretty good bang-for-your-back. She fell in love with writing and experienced a huge increase in skill and confidence. Besides these other accomplishments, we are celebrating two very exciting things for Jeanne. 

First, I just got off a meeting with her top-pick agent–who requested a script from her. 

“There was a manuscript request involved, which was extremely exciting to me because he is closed to queries at this point in time. So, even though he would be my top-pick agent, he’s not accepting unsolicited queries. It was off-limits until [Annalisa] was able to talk to him.”

Second, Jeanne received another manuscript request from a different agent–from a top agency, William Morris

“Because William Morris represents more media than just a novel writing,” Jeanne started, “I wanted them to represent me. I thought they would be a good fit for me. And it’s very exciting for me because you usually have to be recommended to that agency in order to get an agent to read your manuscript.” 

Well, then. How does it feel to get two manuscript requests from two top agencies? 

“It is absolutely very, very exciting because as a scriptwriter and as a reader for a producer, I read a lot of scripts. I know what it’s like to be inundated with submissions. It’s exciting for me to have the scripts requested because that means it’s not just in that pile that piles up on their digital desk. I’m very excited that at the same time it’s like, is this really happening?”

It is exciting, indeed, and such a huge accomplishment. We asked Jeanne if she had any word of advice for the people at our Facebook group, Write to Publish

“There’s so much I’ve learned. But one of the things that I really value that we do in the Writing Gym is how we work on our mindset. What many people may not know is that I have a dissociative identity disorder. And so one of the things that I have been working on for years is rewiring my brain. The way that the Writing Gym is conducted and the way that Annalisa works with us helps with that. We are constantly doing things to rewire our brains so that we’re more creative.” 

“I’ve been doing all of these things for years, so it’s not like they were new to me, but all of a sudden I’m doing this with a group of people and we’re kind of all in the same place and we’re all supporting each other and we’re all doing these things. I was shooting light years ahead on my mind work. And I just, I can’t express how wonderful that is. ”

It is so great to hear that Jeanne has found this kind of value in the work that we do at the Writing Gym. We asked her, then, what she would say to anyone thinking of joining our Writing Gym.

“I would say join,” she stated. “A lot of people don’t realize it takes a lot of work and effort to be at the professional level.” And she’s right. Even people who have master’s degrees are not at the level where they can be professionally published. “You don’t necessarily have to have a degree, but you have to have the knowledge. And this is one of the things I really discovered with the Writing Gym.” 

“If I was going to spend the money getting my MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) or spend the money on the Writing Gym, there is no question that I’d put that MFA money into the Writing Gym. The MFA may or may not get you where you want to be. But the Writing Gym, the work we do in the Writing Gym, gets us to where we want to be.” 

“I’ve had other writing coaches in screenwriting and whatever, but [Annalisa] bats for us harder, stronger, more than any other writing coach I have ever worked with.”

Thank you Jeanne for your kind words and for celebrating with us. 

Until next time, happy writing. 

How to Finally Shed that Skin, and Write the Book

How to Finally Shed that Skin, and Write the Book

How to Finally Shed that Skin and Write the Book

Welcome back Writers and Muse Daters. On this episode of our Writing Gym Podcast, we have Manny Wolfe as our guest. Manny Wolfe is a personal branding consultant as well as a writer and here, he talks to us about his book, The Tao of the Unbreakable Man

Manny Wolfe

“It’s the thing that launched me into space,” Manny says about his book, “It was written from… a desperate need for catharsis. It’s a book about catharsis and it gave me catharsis at the same time. I wrote the book to once and for all perform an exorcism on the way that the judgment and the disapproval of my family affected my life. [I see my book as] the final piece of shedding the really, really unhealthy skin of my childhood.”

It’s a book about catharsis and it gave me catharsis at the same time.

Naming a book is one of the things that writers struggle with and Manny shares his titling journey, one that is rooted in very important experiences from his life. 

He took inspiration from the Chinese philosophical concept of the Tao (or Dao, 道).  “Eastern philosophy has played a big part in framing the way I look at accountability, responsibility, dealing with challenges. All that stuff is very sort of important to me. And the reason I went with unbreakable was actually because of a rare moment where my mother and I were talking about some protracted struggle that I had been going through.” 

“And she just looked at me and said: I have no idea where you get that strength from. It was very uncommon for her to give direct complements. And it just stuck with me. ” 

Manny also wrote a paper in college in which he explores the idea of what it really means to be unbreakable and these two moments just met in his head. “It was no question. I’m calling it the “Tao of the Unbreakable Man.” 

One of the interesting observations from where I sit at Date with the Muse through the Writing Gym, is that there’s always a moment of breakdown and a moment where healing happens. At the Writing Gym, we help fiction and nonfiction authors alike, regardless of what genre they’re writing in. And it’s funny, because these moments of breakdown and healing happen to fiction and non-fiction writers alike. 

As a fiction writer, we asked Manny what his healing journey from writing was able to give him. 

“I do have a childhood and a young adult life that most people can’t wrap their heads around and so, if I’m being honest, I tell these stories to show off sometimes. But as I told these stories to my wife, she clearly and sincerely told me to write these experiences down. I didn’t know what to say. I tried to give her the excuse that I always planned to write a book, but I thought I’d wait until I was more successful. And she was flabbergasted.

She told me: “The fact that you’re alive and that you’re trying to be a good parent and that you’re trying to be a good man after what you went through is all the success you need to justify writing the story.”

He went home that night and started writing, “without trying to make [himself] look good, without trying to make the people [he’s had bad experiences with] look bad.” The whole thing was “therapeutic,” as Manny describes it, and he greatly credits his wife for grounding him. When it got to the point where he needed to end it, he was at a loss.

Yet, this was also the point in which his catharsis came in. “The whole book was really about my trying to fit in with my family and my guys and my dysfunction as a group.”

Being born in a cult, Manny stated that it affected how he created meaningful connections with others. He felt like he’ll never feel a connection outside of his own group that he grew up with. When he pulled away from them, little by little, the rift between him and them, as well as his identity was unavoidable. 

“I couldn’t stop writing until this is all out of me. It was physically hard and it was slow. But it felt like I pulled a cancer out of my mind. I felt all the injustice and the anger and the frustration and the sadness leave me. My whole life changed after writing that.” 

An extremely cathartic experience. Now that his message is out in the world, we asked Manny what kinds of benefits he has experienced from this. “Virtually all of the benefits were what you might call secondary or unexpected.” He admits that it feels great to say that his book is an international bestseller; it has an impact. To boil it down, he is happy about how many doors his book has opened up for him.

Manny has also shared what important lessons he got in the process of writing. “I realized that I was sort of processing the voices of all the authors I liked… Now, I literally have over 200 pages that I keep of false starts and I use those to remind me to just be my effing self. It was a real decluttering process to get to my own voice and to have courage. I’m writing for me. We hit the sweet spot in branding when we are our authentic selves.”

I’m writing for me.

Writing is one of the most intimate acts that we have because we’re sharing our soul with the world. It doesn’t matter if we’re writing fiction or not–at some point when we get into that piece of our soul, we become vulnerable. Manny then shared with us some insightful thoughts about writing as an art.

“I would argue that just telling the truth isn’t quite enough. Other people share great ideas, but it’s not always done in a way that makes me feel connected. A good writer, for me, has the ability to get their most important ideas out in a simple and engaging way.” 

Lastly, for aspiring writers, he advises them to grow their audience massively.

“And get to the point where you’re telling the truth. I’ll leave that vaguely so you can ponder that.” 

How to Finally Write that Book this Summer, Even if You Haven’t Written a Word

How to Finally Write that Book this Summer, Even if You Haven’t Written a Word

How to Finally Write that Book this Summer Even if You Haven’t Written a Word

By Annalisa Parent

Many would-be authors get overwhelmed by the size of a book-length project. Many of us find ourselves with additional free time on our hands this summer with fewer barbecues, farmers markets or fairs. How can you use this time to finally write your book? 

Here are some of my top tips from my writing coach archives. 

Write down your end goal. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve heard this one a million times. But, look, if you don’t know what you want to accomplish, you’ll never get it done. As Lewis Carroll famously wrote “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” 

Know what you want to accomplish. If you’re like most writers, when you start to untangle this “what I want” knot,  you’ll find it’s far more complicated than you first thought. 

For example, maybe your dream isn’t just a book, it’s a series, and movie rights, and a worldwide book tour. Those are all great ideas, but one step at a time. If you can hone in on the first step toward your dream, then you can break it down into actual action steps, moving it from nebulous dream to achievable goal. 

Choose a deadline

Choose a day that you are going to have this project done. This step cannot be overlooked, however, while deadlines are a huge motivator, here’s a pro tip: Post your deadline out on social media. Tell your friends, your parents, and especially someone who intimidates you just a little bit. Let these people hold you accountable and keep you motivated.

Once you set that deadline for yourself, you’re going to work backwards from that date to create your work plan. How much writing do you have to do each day to reach your goal, and how can you carve out the time to make it happen?

Remember that Creativity is Wonky.

Despite the best laid plans of mice and men (Thank you, Steinbeck and Burns) to write 5,000 words a day or a chapter an hour, creativity is not always a linear process. 

You may want to finish that chapter today, but your book–and your brain– have other ideas. When our characters (or ideas) misbehave, they’re often right. You may feel like you want the piece to take a certain shape or go in a certain direction. The brain is sending us a caution flag, though. When your creativity takes the lead, following it always bears fruit.  Really. I promise. 

Now, the piece you create today may not make the final cut for your book, but the information you garnered from the experience of following your creativity will always bring a benefit to the piece as a whole.

Find your best writer and be that writer 

All kinds of would-be mentors want to tell you that you have to do it this way or that way in order to be a real writer. There are some rules, especially if you want to traditionally publish. That said, in the creative phase the most important consideration is finding your creative flow. 

Write with a pencil or a tablet. Write outdoors or in your bed. Use an outline, or allow the natural flow of ideas. None of this fluff matters; here’s what does: Find the place where you can be at your creative best to get that draft out of you. 

After all, you can’t publish until you have a book. And you can’t have a book until you get it done.

The biggest key to success I have seen in writers who finish and publish well is that they find and embrace the writer they are, so they can write book after book with creative ease. 

Show up every day like it’s your job. 

My writing mentor, Julia Alvarez, wasn’t the first one to say it, but she was the first one to say it to me: Being a writer is 90% applying butt to chair. 

Write at the beach. Write in a hammock. Write on your lunch break. Whatever you do, make writing a habit, and you’ll see the results. 

You don’t get a dream body by going to the gym once, or even once a week. The same is true of writing a book. Show up. Do the work. Even when it stings. 

Remember that writing is art, and art takes time

Many writers get lost in the rabbit hole: Why is it taking me so long to finish my manuscript? This trap turns into self doubt. “I must not be a good writer.” “I’m never going to get it done.” Believe me, I’ve heard it all, and I’ve seen self-doubt and fear stymy project after project. 

What if you reframe this fear?  What if instead you say “Writing is art and art takes time.” 

Consider the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo. It took four and a half years for him to complete that masterpiece, which–frankly, if you’ve seen the level of detail–you know it’s astonishing he completed it so quickly. 

What else?

The Washington Monument took thirty years to construct; thirty full years.

Let’s think about more writing-related references. 

It took Victor Hugo twelve years to write Les Miserables and Harper Lee spent two and a half years writing To Kill a Mockingbird.

Writing is art, and art takes time. Completing your manuscript is not going to happen overnight, not because there’s something wrong with you, but because you are an artist.  Allow yourself to get into creative flow, and creativity will reward you with a cornucopia of ideas and finished pages.

Promise. I’ve watched it with my own eyes hundreds of times. 

Pace yourself. 

Working with the creative process and the brain’s natural function means you must be really honest with yourself about how much you can get done. It’s very admirable and ambitious if you say you’re going to get everything done today, but you also might be setting yourself up for failure. When you set yourself up for failure, you’ll feel yucky about yourself. You don’t want to come back to the project feeling like you failed. So, make reasonable goals for yourself and pace your project in a reasonable way.

Follow these steps above and you will notice how much lighter it feels to write and finish your project.

Annalisa Parent is a writing coach who has helped hundreds of authors to finish and publish well. She used neuroscientific principles to guide the writing process through her programs in the Writing Gym. To find out more, and to download her free e-book The Six Steps to Go from Struggling Writer to Published Author, visit www.datewiththemuse.com. 

Never Give Up on Your Writing

Never Give Up on Your Writing

Never Give Up on Your Writing

Hey there, writers and muse daters! Today I am really excited to Barbara Pattee, who has an amazing message for us about never giving up. Barbara is writing a romance novel, but one that dabbles a little in crime.

“I like romance that is a little more than ‘boy meets girl,’ or ‘girl meets boy,’ where everything ends happily ever after,” Barbara said.

Barbara joined the Writing Gym after years of writing on her own. For as long as she can remember, she has felt compelled to express herself through her writing.

“I’ve always been a writer,” she said. “I used to write in secret, because it wasn’t considered an important career. I even learned how to do shorthand.”

Her writing has taken many forms over the years. She has done short stories, poetry, and memoir pieces–including one she put together from stories her father told her when he had fallen ill.

“He started talking about his childhood, I started writing notes, and I wrote a memoir based on what he said,” Barbara said. “I read it to him, and he loved it.”

As much as Barbara enjoyed writing, there was something about it that left her unfulfilled.

“I wasn’t happy,” she said. “I knew that I wanted more. I’ve wanted to write something full-length.”

Barbara knew that she wanted to write a novel. But when she sought feedback–professional writers, writing groups, etc.–she encountered a lot of resistance. She wouldn’t allow it to deter her from her dream.

“I just said I would never give up,” she said. “And I didn’t.”

Like many writers, Barbara has her share of horror stories about what can happen when you look for feedback in the wrong places. One professor, a professional writer herself, read one of Barbara’s stories and practically drowned her in a torrent of negative criticism.

“She hated it,” Barbara said. “But classmates came to me, some in tears, saying they loved what I wrote. So I was getting a mixed messages.”

The feedback wasn’t helping at all; if anything, it hurt. Then, at a writers’ conference, Barbara saw Storytelling for Pantsers. The more she read it, the more she felt as if the book had been written just for her.

“I started reading it, and I thought, ‘She’s talking to me. She’s saying what I’m feeling,'” Barbara said. “I have dozens and dozens of books (about writing) that did not move me. But Storytelling for Pantsers spoke to me.”

The book spoke to Barbara’s aversion to outlining her stories. Finally, she had confirmation of what she had always believed: that she didn’t need an outline to write a good story.

“I’m a pantser,” she said. “I can’t do outlines. I had to do it in school and I hated it from the beginning.”

Reading the book inspired Barbara to get on a call with me.

“The call was very encouraging,” she said. “I liked that you don’t tell us we have to do something. What you do is you make suggestions, you give us ideas, you give us questions to answer.”

I invited Barbara to join the Writing Gym, and she accepted. Since then, we have been working together on her novel. Barbara enjoys the information and encouragement she get from the video modules on the Writing Gym website. She also loves the Salons, in which writers get together, write for 20 minutes based on a prompt, and share their writing with each other.

“There’s no negativity in Salon,” Barbara said. “And you also get feedback on what other writers hear in your story. Some things you may not think are that important wind up being extremely important and that encourages me as a writer.”

During one of the early Salons, Barbara wrote a piece that involved slavery–similar to the one her college professor had treated with disdain. As she shared it with the other writers, she braced herself for another barrage of negative feedback.

“I thought, ‘Am I going to get slammed again?’” Barbara remembers. “But I wasn’t. I was encouraged, and that was beautiful.”

Barbara said she has grown a great deal as a writer since joining the Gym.

“I have added a lot more emotion in my stories–which, as a child growing up I was taught that I had to hold back,” she said. “But, as a writer…I have to look inside myself, think about what I am feeling.”

Barbara’s writing is thriving. She credits her encouragement from me, and from her fellow “Gym Rats,” for helping her summon the courage to be vulnerable in her storytelling.

In the Writing Gym, we talk a lot about the inner critic – how listening to it can hold you back in your writing, and how you have to learn to silence it in order to maximize your storytelling potential. Barbara has wrestled with her inner critic for years. But now, she’s winning!

“My inner critic is upset, because she doesn’t have much to say now,” she said. “I’m smiling a lot more. Even my husband has noticed that.”

Barbara has been an amazing advocate of the Writing Gym; she recommends it to whoever will listen.

“I tell them about what it’s like being in the Writing Gym, and I’ve tried to encourage them to join,” she said. “I’m hoping that they will join even before my book is published. But after it’s published, I know they’re going to want to join.”

Barbara realizes that the Writing Gym isn’t for everyone. She knows it’s not a place for hobbyists.

“I think it’s really about deciding how serious you are,” she said about joining the Gym. “How much do you want to be a writer? Is it a hobby, or is it something you want as a career?”

Barbara has made her choice; she wants a writing career, and she’s willing to put in the work to get there. The more progress she makes, the more resolute she becomes.

“I will not give up. I’m going to continue.”

Thank you so much, Barbara! We love having you in the Writing Gym!

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