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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.

I Want It All

If I could be a shifter, what would I be?

I want it all, the whole shifter experience. Like Sam Merlotte in True Blood, able to turn into any animal he can visualize.

Sam Merlotte
Sam Merlotte Pictures

Every fantasy made manifest.

Fly like a bird.


Run as fast as a cheetah.


Swim with the dolphins.

dolphins 002

Hunt with a wolf.

Gray Wolf in Snow

The idea makes me greedy, hungry to taste the whole of what the earth has to offer–experiences that humans either don’t see or use technology to access. But let’s face it, flying in a metal plane couldn’t possibly come close to catching a wind current in your feathers.

Yes, I want it all. What about you?  Could you pick just one?

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.

A Second Vote for Beauty and the Beast With a Great Big But…

Illustration at page 39 in Europa's Fairy Book
Beauty and the Beast reigns as my favorite fairy tale (not to mention TV show, movie, doll sets) and has since I was a little girl.  It has so much good stuff packed into such a short little story. Danica nailed so much of it in her post. Here are a few more:

  • The true nature of love, that which lies in the realm of the heart and soul,
  • The power and limitations of seeing the world predominantly through our eyes. How what we see so quickly creates images, expectations and assumptions that we then have to work beyond to see the real prize beneath.
  • The power of redemption and forgiveness. The beast was serving a sentence for a cruel act. He learned, grew and found redemption first in his own heart, then from another. It does not eradicate the scars, but tempers their pain.
  • The need for reflection–how sometimes we have to step outside a situations to see it clearly, as Beauty did when she first leaves the Beast.
  • The karma of loyalty.  Beauty’s reward for unselfish love is ultimately love returned.

So rich in goodness, and yet, I do have a great big BUT…

I can’t imagine the story reversed, where the man sees through female ugliness to find the true beauty inside.  Women also carry a beast inside, although it may take a different form than the male.  For me, it the story is to achieve its full power, the values it puts forth must apply to all of us, no matter the actual starting point.

Anyone want to take that on, give me an example where it might be true? Where the male sees through ugliness and tames the beast in the woman?

I would love to be wrong.

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.

With a Flick of a Finger: First Date with a Wizard #Darkertempts

I’m an east coaster, one of the luckier ones on the fringes not at the center of Hurricane Sandy.   As I write, the shush of the winds is getting louder, an odd tree branch  slams against the brick of the house, the  overhead lights flicker.  My heart to all out there in the middle of it.  Be safe. Take care.

There’s a reason storms steal such a prominent place in our stories, our nightmares and our aspirations.  A symbol of passion, pent up and needy, and one of rage seeking outlet, it is dark chaos before the dulcet calm of peace.   The anger of the storm outside brings out the grounding that shelter gives to our lives—it is our haven, a manifestation of safety, security, home.  Passion tied to home, rage to security—the foundation of romance.

Just think: A darkened living room, lit by soft glow of candles and scented by crispness of a wood fire. Cliché?  Perhaps, but also timeless.  For it is here closest to elements, yet protected from them, is where I would choose the perfect first date with dark, ripped and wizard.

My dream guy—a magic wielder, who can blaze the fire brighter, have it shimmer in rainbow colors, and refill the glasses with hot mulled wine with a snap even though the electricity fizzled out hours ago and the supermarket’s been empty for days.

In the confines of the house, those wizard power can create a romantic, erotic journey anywhere, any place.  With a few choice words and finger slides (I won’t say where), we’re floating on rose petals to the bedroom or on a canal in Venice with the an off-key gondolier (a little unexpected dissonance adds to the uniqueness of the venture) or windsurfing along the Great Wall of China, playing tickle on the ceiling, riding centaurs in a grass-lined basement. The possibilities limited only by your imagination and your fears without ever leaving home.

If you had yourself a wizard, what would you do with him?

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.

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