<![CDATA[Alyssa B Colton Writing & Editing - Blog]]>Mon, 20 May 2024 17:43:46 -0400Weebly<![CDATA[3 Quick Ways to Jump-Start Your Creativity NOW]]>Wed, 05 Jul 2023 14:27:22 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/3-quick-ways-to-jump-start-your-creativity-now

  • Writers and artists don’t wait for inspiration: they call it in. Here are some things you can do to get (or keep) those creative juices flowing!  Ready? Set? Go! 

  • 1. 10-Minute Sprints. 

  • Anyone can find 10 minutes in the day. Set a timer and let go: freewrite, draw, move your body, write out ideas for a project. The only requirement is that it’s productive work on your creative project (this doesn't mean that it has to be work you end up including or are happy about - just produce). Research, reading, or viewing materials, while helpful, don’t count. Set a goal for one 10-minute sprint a day. 

  • 2. Go Random.

  • Open a book or magazine and without looking, randomly put your finger down on a picture or text. Now, without thinking too much about it, use this as a jumping off point for a creative work or think of some way to add it to an existing work; perhaps in dialogue or having your character look at it. 

  • 3. Turn It Upside-Down

  • Choose a project that feels stale or old. Find a new way in. This might mean changing the genre or medium (make a story into a play; make a painting into a sculpture). Shut up any voices that are telling you to “stay in your zone.” Or, it might mean rewriting the opening of your story from a different character’s perspective. When all else fails, go opposite.

  • Another version of this exercise is to take a piece of work you admire and flip it around. Tell the story from a minor character’s point of view. Paint the garden from the viewpoint of a bug. See what happens when you set Shakespeare in the future on Mars. 
<![CDATA[How Do Writers Get Their Ideas?]]>Wed, 05 Jul 2023 14:23:12 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/how-do-writers-get-their-ideashttps://medium.com/@alyssabcolton/how-do-writers-get-their-ideas-b10e7af8653b]]><![CDATA[The Confident Writer]]>Wed, 05 Jul 2023 04:00:00 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/the-confident-writer
How does someone develop confidence as a writer? And why is it even necessary?

Think of the difference between seeing someone speak with confidence and someone who doesn’t. While we are turned off by arrogance, confidence can help deliver a message by putting the emphasis on the message instead of the person. If a speaker is mumbling, fidgeting, apologizing, and speaking in a low voice, while we may have compassion for this person, it does not help in message – or story – delivery.

Lack of confidence can inhibit you from putting down even the first word. Lack of confidence can keep you from sharing your work, a necessary part of the writing process if you want to publish work you can be proud of. 

So what do you do? It seems like a bit of a chicken and egg situation, but you build confidence by DOING. The doing then shows your brain you CAN do it.

Confidence comes from trying and failing and building resilience in order to keep trying, according to Kathy Kay and Claire Shipman in The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance –What Women Should Know:

Confidence “requires hard work, substantial risk, determined persistence, and sometimes bitter failure. Building it demands regular exposure to all these things. . . . Gaining confidence means getting outside your comfort zone, experiencing setbacks, and, with determination, picking yourself up again.” 
So how to build that confidence muscle? Start with baby steps. First, practice writing in private in any way you can. Journal, write stories or record memories in a place where you can allow yourself to be terrible, to write the “shitty first draft,” as Anne Lamott says. Give yourself permission to be terrible. (You might also try one of these exercises.) Then you might find a class, workshop, or critique group to share your writing with. This can be scary. Take the time to find out if the facilitator is experienced and thoughtful about sharing critique; if it's a group of peers, research and decide on some ground rules. Getting feedback on your writing can be difficult. But know this: it will make you a better writer. And remember, it’s not personal. (You are not the poem.)
Once you have a decent short piece – an essay, story, poem, or article – find a way to share it. Perhaps post it on a blog or in social media for friends and followers. Making your work public in this relatively low-stakes way can be a good way to build that confidence and resilience. 

You will likely worry what people will say. Or you might be disappointed when they don’t say anything at all. Know that people will have different reactions and responses. Whatever their response is IS NOT ABOUT YOU, even for very personal pieces. Consider, though, if any responses you get will help you be a better writer. Mostly, being a good writer is about clarity of message (as well as, of course, the substance of that message). Take what is helpful and ignore the rest.
Next, find a publication outlet that might consider it and start submitting. (Note that once you’ve posted it, even to a personal site, it might be ineligible for publication, so if this is your goal, do this first.) There’s no harm in shooting high, if the piece fits. If anything, it will help you weather rejection. Start collecting and being proud of those rejections. Rejection is a necessary part of being a writer. Eventually, you may need to find a smaller, more modest publication to submit to, and that’s ok too. Consider entering contests, too. 
Growing confidence means having courage to take that first step, and continuing even when you fail or it seems hard. Trust that persisting, even in the face of self-doubt, can help you be a more confident writer.
 More about confidence and writing in future posts!

<![CDATA[April 04th, 2023]]>Tue, 04 Apr 2023 12:57:06 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/april-04th-2023<![CDATA[Why Read and Write Poetry - Even If You're Not a Poet]]>Tue, 04 Apr 2023 12:47:12 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/why-read-and-write-poetry-even-if-youre-not-a-poet
I am not a poet. I don’t regularly read poetry. But I have read poetry, have written poems, and have taught poetry. I’m attracted to narrative, stories, characters, a fully developed character, plot and more. Poetry is like a tease 

But even for prose writers – even if you’re the most workaday prose writer – dipping your toes into poetry can be a way to enrich your writing.  

First, poetry is something you can read in the matter of  moments. You can read a complete poem in the time it takes to run a bath, brew a pot of coffee, or while waiting for your kid to be done with practice. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t savor it. Poems are meant to be read over and over, in quiet contemplation, to go back to again and again.

Second, poems give you glimpses into different worlds, different perspectives, tidbits of information and suggestions. Try writing a poem from the perspective of a character (real or imagined) and see what happens.  

Third, poems can teach you about language. Every word, more so than in prose, is there for a reason. In poetry you often come across words you may not be familiar with. Poets use language in different ways, playing with their sounds, what they look like on the page, and their meanings. Poems can help you step outside of your usual nature of things. If you write poetry, you are forced to work with language differently. While it can be important for prose writers to not stop and worry about every word or sentence on the page, sometimes we also need to learn how to slow down and do exactly that.  
Want to dive a bit further? Check out poets.org, where you can sign up to read or listen to a new poem every day. 
<![CDATA[An Evening with Paulina Porizkova]]>Thu, 09 Mar 2023 14:45:39 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/an-evening-with-paulina-porizkova

Two nights ago,  I went to see and listen to Paulina Porizkova, supermodel, actress, and author at the UAlbany Writers Institute. She is known by kids of the 80s from her appearance in the video "Drive" by The Cars - where she also met her husband, lead singer Ric Ocasek. She's been blowing up Instagram with her thoughts about aging, beauty, and more. She's controversial because she unapologetically tries to both celebrate and interrogate ideas of beauty, especially in a woman in her late 50s. She also talks and writes about the death - and betrayal - of her husband and the very real experience of grieving while under COVID lockdown. 
She's also a writer with three published books. She was talking about her most recent one, a memoir told through a collection of essays titled No Filter: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful. I admit I don't know that much about her or her work, but she came off as thoughtful, vulnerable, and truthful. Here are some of my thoughts about some of the discussion. 
I think one thing that was very meaningful to me at this moment in my life was her talking about how she deals with anxiety. She explained she feels anxiety, but she decides she's "not going to let anxiety win" and pushes herself to do what she's afraid of. Simple, but that's something that was especially helpful to hear, especially from someone who has already achieved success.    Paulina also talks about how people see famous people as a reflection or mirror of what they think that person is, not who that person really is. I've long found this an interesting theme. Why are we so fascinated by the famous? Just this morning I found myself caught up in watching "reels" of famous people doing every day things. A while back I wrote a novel that featured a supermodel. The basic premise was an "ordinary" woman discovering that she has a sister she never knew about - who is now a famous supermodel - which explores this theme (and others, mainly about family). 
Paulina went to see a psychic when she was young who told her she'd be famous and in movies, but that eventually she'd be a writer. At the time she balked at being "an old lady writer." "And now I'm an old lady writer!" she said with glee. I'm not sure what my exact takeaway is here, but I thought it was cool and interesting and perhaps says something about while we might have some ideas about how our life might go, we never know how we are going to ultimately get there. (I also always find it intriguing when people provide stories of psychic abilities. Is it possible? I don't know, but in this world, I think there is still so much we don't know (and perhaps never will. So I just see what lessons I can take away from it, rather than worry about whether something is true or not.)  

<![CDATA[4 Aspects of "Voice" in Writing]]>Sat, 04 Feb 2023 20:08:34 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/4-aspects-of-voice-in-writing
What are some aspects of writing that make up a writer's "voice"?

(1) Word choice. What words we choose to use affect voice, whether you choose casual, more academic, slang, or some combination of these. The use of abstract and concrete words and foreign words can also apply here.
(2) Sentence structure. Do you tend to write long, winding, complex sentences or short, choppy ones? Do you like to use fragments? Do you use commas?

(3) Attitude and tone. These are also conveyed by the above elements. It might also mean if someone likes to use a lot of words that convey sound (yahoo!) or if they are sarcastic, humorous, serious, reflective, etc

(4) Content and context can also be part of what drives voice. Someone who writes long descriptions of nature might adopt a different voice than someone who describes the excitement of a match in a boxing ring.

Where we come from, how we were raised, our patterns of speech, the use of stories and metaphors, also influence voice, as well as gender and class.

One of the best explanations of “voice” is in Mary Pipher’s Writing to Change the World. She describes her own struggle to leave behind a voice where she was “committing the act of literature” and eventually finding a way to match her writing voice more with her speaking voice.

Since we usually speak more casually than we write – especially if we’ve been steeped in academic writing, as she was --this is one goal.  But it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

Interested in learning more about voice, and how you can develop your own writer's voice? I'll be back tomorrow with some insight.

<![CDATA[The Telling Detail: Using Specificity To Tell Your Stories]]>Fri, 20 Jan 2023 23:46:39 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/the-telling-detail-using-specificity-to-tell-your-storiesPicture

One of the cardinal rules of storytelling is: make it specific. Any time you use stories, specificity helps to translate ideas, which live on an abstract level, to the concrete. 

So don’t be afraid to get real specific in your stories.
The trick though is not just using specifics to set a scene, describe a character, or illustrate an action. Good writers understand how to use the telling detail. 

Telling details are those details that tell us more than just what’s on the surface. 

Here are two examples of telling details.

"…the mother shrouded in a filthy ski jacket and tattered pants, draped over her child's closed casket."

The detail, Marion Roach Smith explains in her book about writing from life, relays the mother's grief, "stitched into the details about the jacket." (The word choice "shrouded" also echoes the death shroud, which further reinforces the point. )

Here's another example from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, where she introduces the character Nick:

"He's wearing the uniform . . . but his cap is titled at a jaunty angle and his sleeves are rolled to the elbow, showing his forearms, tanned but with a stipple of dark hairs. He has a cigarette stuck in the corner of his mouth, which shows that he too has something he can trade on the black market." 

The details - and the narrator's observation of the cigarette and what it means - hints that Nick may be predisposed to breaking the rules in this rigid society. 

Don't worry too much about trying to find the telling detail in your first draft: often these become clearer as you get an understanding of your story's themes. But it's important to be aware of them. Next time you're reading a good book, look for examples of the telling details and see how they add to the story.

<![CDATA[You Are Not the Poem (or Essay or Story): Detaching From Your Writing]]>Tue, 17 Jan 2023 19:07:06 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/you-are-not-the-poem-or-essay-or-story-detaching-from-your-writingOne of my favorite lessons from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is the lesson of detachment. In one chapter called “We Are Not the Poem,” she says: “Don’t identify too strongly with your work.” 
One takeaway is that we can remember to check our egos when we are asking for feedback on our work.
I have been repeatedly impressed by the brave students I have seen who have written and shared their stories about themselves and their lives—difficult, hard, sad stories about depression, suicide, and loss— and eagerly awaited feedback.
They wanted to make their writings the best they could be. They recognized that these stories were important, and that sharing them was powerful, and that by checking their egos and hearing honest feedback, they could make their stories even better.
It almost seems paradoxical—how can you detach from something that you are investing so much energy into? In a way, it’s like a religion. You have to trust, and have faith. 
For some reason the image that comes to me is of a railway car being detached from an engine. Your ego is like an empty (or even full) cargo car. The engine drags it behind. It may slow it down. Perhaps the fuel you need is in it. Instead, detach the car from the engine.
Put the fuel in the engine. Make the engine the glorious best it can be.
Make sure everything is working and in place and that the engineer who is driving it is competent and alert and not swigging from a vodka bottle.
Once everything is in place, unhook that car from the engine and let it go. Let your writing out into the world and just watch what happens, as if you were merely someone waiting for it to pass by. 

<![CDATA[Lessons at 52: Just Hang On]]>Mon, 16 Jan 2023 16:11:09 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/lessons-at-52-just-hang-onPicture
Once, not too longago,I was so upset that I drank half a bottle of wine and then sat on the floor crying. Fortunately, I had a friend nearby. I was feeling bad about something I should have done, that affected another friend’s life. My friend had shown forgiveness and understanding, and now I needed to show those things to myself. 
If there’s onething being alive 52 years has taught me, it’s that pain doesn’t last forever, at least not at the sharp, almost-unable-to-breathe way it first hits.

That doesn’t of course mean it doesn’t come back.

And it doesn’t mean that it might still be there as dull aches that come up. Some moments, some days can be simply unbearable. And once you’ve been through enough of those moments, you know you just need to hang on and get through it, to just let it flow until it’s ready to release.

Like holding a crying baby.

Like hanging on tight on a roller coaster ride for one more heart-dropping descent or loop-de-loop.

If you just hang on and be patient, you’ll find yourself back with your feet on the ground. And you’ll look up at the people on the roller coaster ride, shrieking and think, I got through that, and look, there are other people who are going through it now, and in the end, while we all might survive it a little differently--some with a smile of exhilaration wanting another go, some with a grim face of “I did it,” and some will stalk away, deciding they never want to do THAT again.

Of course we don’t always have a choice about living through the pain. But we must just hang on, and trust that we’ll get through it.