Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘encouragement

The Art of the Questioner

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Sometimes, late at night, as I struggle to get words down, I ask myself the following question:

“Why, Barb, are you putting yourself through this?”

I suppose it’s because I feel I must. I enjoy writing, usually, even when it comes slowly and painfully. It keeps me amused, and focused, and allows me to question to my heart’s content.

Lately, I’ve been struggling especially hard because of whatever illness that’s laid me low this time. (I am starting to get a teensy bit better. But I say that while mentally crossing my fingers, as the last time I thought that, I was overly optimistic.) When I can’t concentrate, I can’t tell stories — period, end of discussion.

And when I can’t tell stories, I get completely frustrated, am incredibly hard to live with, and just am a major pain in the caboose.

(Hey, at least I admit it.)

But maybe this is missing the point a little bit. Because my questioning skills — whatever it is that makes me go, “Hm. What would happen if…” and then start writing down whatever comes next — are still there. Waiting for me to get healthy enough so I can use them; waiting for me to realize that even if I can’t write tomorrow, can’t write the day after that, I assuredly will write as soon as I possibly can because that is what’s inside me.

(My late husband taught me that, and he was right. As he usually was, but that’s another story for another day.)

So, maybe along with all the other things that make up my palette of writing skills and abilities, I should admit that the whole idea of questioning — or, as I put it in the title, the art of the questioner — is useful, in and of itself.

Because if you can’t question, you can’t possibly come up with a different scenario. And without different scenarios, you don’t do so well as a writer — especially not as a writer of science fiction and fantasy.

At any rate, the important thing to remember is that if you are having trouble writing today, that doesn’t make you a bad person. (I know that’s blindingly obvious, but it still needed to be said. Bear with me, OK?) Maybe you’re just stressed out. Maybe you’re sick. Maybe you’re exhausted. Maybe you’ve just had it with the world around you, and your body and mind and heart are all shouting, “Enough already!”

But whatever it is, you need to be kind to yourself. Understand that if you can’t write today, you will write tomorrow. And if you still can’t write tomorrow, you will write the day after that.

Because that is how you’re made. And that is what you’re going to do, come Hell or high water or whatever else, because you must do it or you’re not being your best self.

And in the meantime, keep asking questions!

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 10, 2017 at 5:51 am

Encouragement: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore? #InspirationalStuff

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As a writer, sometimes I need encouragement. Advice. Support.

And, like most of you, I don’t always get it.

So what can I do on days when I don’t feel encouraged?

Usually, I just put my mind to the task and do it anyway. But lately, I’ve been wondering this question: What if I tried to encourage myself, rather than tear myself down?

Why is it that we feel like there’s something wrong with self-encouragement? Why can’t we treat ourselves as gently as we’d treat our friends? Why can’t we give ourselves the encouragement we need, when no one else is doing it?

Interesting concept, no?

But how do you go about all that, when you don’t even know where to start?

Like I said, my tendency is to realize I’m not going to be encouraged, and just go and do it anyway. So what I do is look over what I have of my work-in-progress. Sometimes I add a little here, take a little out there… Then I get an idea, and I’m off to the races.

Even so, wouldn’t it be easier if, just for today, I told myself what I’d tell my friends?

So here’s what I want to tell you, if you’re feeling discouraged today:

  • Keep trying. You have a good idea. You just have to trust yourself.
  • Don’t give up. You’ve worked too hard for too long on this project to let a moment of discouragement derail you.
  • Believe in yourself. You can do anything you put your mind to, if you just keep going.

And if you still feel discouraged — if the above does not help you, because you’re ill or feeling tired or have physical limitations (all things I completely sympathize with) — I want to tell you this:

I, too, have days where, due to my physical limitations and other health issues, I must rest.

I hate those days, but they are necessary. They recharge my batteries, so I can come back stronger and better, more able to take on the challenges in my current work-in-progress, more willing to keep fighting.

Also, inability is not at all the same thing as unwillingness. It’s one thing to be unable to do something today. It’s another thing to be unwilling to do it.

That’s why I am a big advocate for listening to your body. If it says, “No,” go rest. If it says, “Maybe,” give it a try. You might just surprise yourself.

So, when you need encouragement, refer back to this blog. And remember to treat yourself gently, the way you would a friend.

It might just help you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 6, 2015 at 4:13 pm