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Tips for Writers: Don’t Give Up and Take Yourself On

My baby on the climbing wall.

My baby on the climbing wall.

True confession:  In my day life, where I go to the office and do work that separate from my writing life, I’ve got a doctorate. I share this because that experience more than anything else in life taught me how to be a writer. The experience served as my personal writing boot camp.

A doctorate is a book, technically my first book. It’s written according to a set of specifications and then judged by a committee of experts, often one’s own personal pantheon of gods (talk about intimidation).  Statistically, most people don’t finish their thesis and it has nothing to with either a lack of talent or capability.  From what I’ve seen, the people who make it through are just stubbornly, tenaciously, uncompromisingly persistent.  They stick to it until it’s done—no matter how long it takes and what they have to do to move it forward.

It’s the same with writing. So tip one, don’t give up. It may take longer than you think, you may have to revise more than you realized, but if you stick it out from beginning to end and all the rewrites in between—you will grow as a writer. Grit Rules.

Grit requires tools. When I was struggling through the whole graduate process, another student who just finished, who frankly I didn’t like very much because I found him to be the most arrogant, condescending SOB I’d ever come across, deemed to share his secret with me for success. Why did I listen?  Because in that conversation he revealed to me a profound vulnerability and a deep wisdom that I use to this day. From that momentary human exchange, I also learned how to like him because he changed the way I saw him.  Its that piece of knowledge that got me through my thesis and keeps me coming back to the page as a writer.  Here’s what he told me, that made him if not a friend, then a valued colleague afterwards. Because the advice came from his heart and he was 100% right.

Whatever trips you up in life, whatever blocks you from moving forward, will be the obstacles that prevent you from finishing.  The Ph.D. is not an intellectual challenge, it’s an emotional one.

So is writing.

Tip two, learn to take yourself on, to manage your weaknesses and harness your strengths.

How does one do that?  I created a lot of tools that worked for me and I still use them. Here are a couple:

My challenge: procrastination, including but not limited to, a need to keep doing research.

My solution: rewards.  To get myself moving, I came with several reward structures that got me to push forward.  I used to write for half an hour, then take a reward period such as reading for 15 minutes, taking a walk around the block, having a cup of tea and yes, doing some additional research.  On really hard days, it might be a strange balance—write 10 minutes, reward 20. But whatever happened, I kept moving it forward

My challenge: when I’m alone I can get caught up in my own head and don’t get work done.

My solution: go where there are other people.  That could a library, a study room, a coffee shop, any place where I could look up and see other people. I didn’t have to be able to talk to them, I just needed some simulated social pressure to keep myself on the page.

What tricks do you use to keep yourself on track? How do you plow through the emotional time bombs that threaten to derail you?

Sabrina Garie is on a journey to create the most kick-ass heroine in romance fiction. You can meet the first heroine in Fires of Justice at Elloras Cave, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

What Author Do I Want to Be? I’ve Got To Be Me

The topic of the next two weeks is:  Which author did you or do you secretly want to be and why?
Whether its arrogance, stubbornness or plain stupidity, I don’t have any particular desire to be another author. There are certainly other writers I like and learn from, but that’s a far cry from wanting to be them. For my own sanity, I focus on being the best I can be.  A little envy is good to get the fire ignited under one’s butt, but too much is paralyzing. My life has taken its own unique turns and twists, so at this point I’ll stick with Sammy Davis Jr’s version of life and belt out my answer: “I’ve got to be me, I’ve got to be me, who else can I be but what I am?”

Sammy Davis 1956

I want my own style, my own voice, my own way of doing things. You may have gathered by now I’m not all that much of a joiner. I think that’s our role as writers, to share things in our own perspective of universal truths, packaged up in hopefully emotionally satisfying and well written prose, and some laughter and satisfaction along the way. Sure, I’d like J.K. Rowling’s fan base (and bank account) but really, that’s about as far as that goes.

Rather than selecting another writers,  I’ll list things I  wish I had done:

1) I wish I had started writing earlier, by that I mean actually finishing something. I’ve started and stopped so many times, throughout the years.  As I am by nature a glass-half-full kind a gal, I am just glad that I started.
2) I wish I had believed in myself and my potential more, rather than spent my life trying to please others (and this may explain number one).  But I do now, so I am running with it.
If instead of sitting around, wishing you were (fill in author), why don’t you wonder over to a blank page, write all over it and enjoy being you. We already have (fill in author), we need you.
When all is said and done, in the end, we walk our own paths, so I just embrace that reality, sit down at my computer and keep writing. Some days its sprint, others a jog, and others I go backwards. But its mine and I’ve gotta be me.  And I’ve got a new book coming soon.  Ain’t he beautiful?nextmove_msr
What are things you wished you’d done but didn’t and what are you doing about it now?


Sabrina Garie is on a journey to create the most kick-ass heroine in romance fiction. You can meet the first heroine in Fires of Justice at Elloras Cave, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

If on a winter’s night, a traveler passes through a wrinkle in time to where the wild things are, can she ever leave?

Today’s topic is favorite literary classics. I can’t pick just one so I opted for books that I return to again and again because they continue to speak to the parts of me that need to listen and be heard. Like me, the choices are eclectic.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

Meg Murray, the heroine, made alienation cool. An outsider in her family and at school,  she was my geek heroine before the word geek hit mainstream.  Not only did the story itself peak my interest, but for the first time, I felt that I was not alone.  I may follow my own drummer, but I needed to know that there was a whole band out there I might be able to join at some point.  I still read it when I feel the need to hear that other band playing.  I bought my daughter a copy when she was born.  I hope it gives her the same sense of belonging if and when she needs it.

If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino

When a writer like Calvino, who ripped convention into shreds and pushed the boundaries of creativity, penned a homage to readers, it is a tale like no other.  In a feast of changing styles and narrative forms,  Calvino memorialized the relationship between writer and reader in a book that had me turning pages, giggling and thinking non-stop. It is the  book I have gifted the most to others over the course of my life.

No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre

The play that brought us the line “hell is other people.”  I come back to it again and again as a reminder that our own choices and our willingness to change ultimately determines the degree of happiness we allow in our lives. Heavy? Yes, very but life can be.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

So not to end this on a down note, my last selection is a children’s book, that I adore to this day. In few words and elegant drawings, Sendak shined a star on rebellion as a font of creativity, unconditional love as our source of strength and the need of the explorer to have a home to return to.  Not to mention the importance of having fun.

What’s a classic to you–a book that makes you cry, smile, scream? Why do certain books deserve immortality while others collect dust in the basement or on the cloud? I love to hear from you.

Sabrina Garie is on a journey to create the most kick-ass heroine in romance fiction. You can meet the first heroine in Fires of Justice at Elloras Cave, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

My Secret Life…

Everyone has done a great job of introducing themselves so far—and Danica was kind enough to remind us that there’s no frontal nudity.  (No, I didn’t not have to go and
change my profile picture when I found that out.). 🙂

My name is Rebecca and I live up in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest.  Okay, maybe not so wild where I live.  But we have lakes, mountains, rivers, bears and wolves…so it isn’t NYC.  Of course, they have wolves there, too.

I’m a lawyer turned college professor who moonlights at night as a writer.  Sometimes when I’m teaching, I feel a bit like Clark Kent.  All buttoned down, proper and dignified. 
Sure, I have fun…and I think I’m kind of funny.   But when I go home, I break out the comfy socks and write about sexy Alpha males and vampires.  Often with quite a bit of spice.  If my students only knew!

The second book in my Dark Protector Series is coming out soon—it’s called CLAIMED and features the king of the vampires and his mate, a brilliant scientist.  Here’s the back
cover blurb:

A DARING RESCUE

Emma Paulsen is a geneticist driven by science.  But she’s also a psychic, so when a dark, good-hearted vampire frees her from the clutches of the evil Kurjans, she realizes he must be the man who’s been haunting her dreams.  But with a virus threatening vampire mates, Emma may discover a whole new meaning of “lovesick”…

A DEADLY DECISION

As King of the Realm, Dage Kayrs has learned to practice diplomacy.  Still, it’s taken three hundred years to find his mate,                                              so he’ll stop at nothing to protect her–even if it means turning                                                     his back on his own kind…

Thanks for dropping by today.  This is going to be a wonderful group blog – so many great stories to share.  While I feel like Clark Kent during the day…I’d rather be Wonderwoman.  🙂  If you were a superhero, which one would you be?

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