My Ten Must Follow Writing Commandments

Everyone isn’t called to be a writer, but I believe that everyone is called to tell their story – and what better way to do that than to write it?

writers, writing, start writing, becomingthewoman, chiereme

Whether you’re just beginning your writing/storytelling journey from scratch, half-way through your book proposal, thinking about starting blog or just buying your first journal, it can be a difficult process to navigate without the right mindset. Get your bearings with the 10 commandments I’ve come to learn as a growing writer  and storyteller that have helped me stay motivated and consistent(ish).

1. Thou shalt not judge your stories (cradle them)

As writers, we are often our biggest critics. We doubt our craft, judge our amateur mistakes and expect every draft to be a masterpiece, but not until you learn to love your words. 

Stop being so hard on yourself. Everyone has to start somewhere.

 

2. Thou shalt not interrupt your creative flow with editing (edit later) 

I wish someone had told me this in the beginning. I was famous for writing and editing at the same time. I’d jot down a line, pause and draw a line through half of it. I was killing my creative process, slowing the soul dump that was taking place on the page. Let yourself get it all out on paper. It’s there that gems are discovered. Go back with a fine tooth comb after the creative dust has settled a bit. Your first priority is to the page. 

3. Thou shalt not rely on inspiration to start writing (schedule it)

This is a big one. When I first started writing intentionally, I thought that if I didn’t have a great deal of inspiration, I wouldn’t write anything of great value. Wrong. Some of best lines, stanzas and verses have come from the disciplined act of writing in my journal or in a daily notebook just for the sake of writing. When you write by habit instead of by an unpredictable muse (inspiration, energy, synergy, recent experience), you train your mind and your creativity to show up on cue and repeat. Don’t wait for the right moment to write, create it. 

4. Thou shalt not expect everyone to understand your work (surprise them) 

Let me say that again: everyone will not get it. Your poetry, your novels, your memoirs, your songs, or self-help books have an audience. Your tribe is waiting, but that doesn’t mean that uncle Bennie, your high school bestie or even your own parents will understand everything you create. Do you welcome feedback? Of course, is all of it necessary for your growth? Not necessarily. Use wisdom. Prayer regularly. If you feel the call to write, find yourself jotting down memories, quotes or character dialogue, and even if you’re just thinking about these things, you’re a writer. Don’t look for acceptance or approval. Find or create a community that waits for your next post and that you feel both honored and responsible to share your writing with on purpose. 

5. Thou shalt not stop at draft 1 (revise.revise.revise.) 

I’ve had quite a few moments in my 24 years when I thought my first draft was ‘all that.’ I turned in those papers with a smile, confident in my ability to move the reader to give me an A++ for my superior effort. That’s didn’t happen. Instead, I would get a paper full of red marks reminding me of the simple errors – human errors that are common to the first draft: spelling, incorrect word use, auto-correct (that you didn’t intend), missing words and lofty sentences. The most I would get on one of these ‘fly-boys,’ as I fondly call them was a note from the professor: “Good start…” Take it from me, multiple drafts means multiple chances to perfect your ideas. 

6. Thou shalt not wait to start writing your book (write now) 

This is something I’m still working through. I have so many ideas for books, chapbooks and the like, but not enough time to get them all done as quickly as I’d like. But that shouldn’t stop me or you from starting. After doing my research on the book pitching process, I learned that I don’t need to write my whole book to work with an agent, but that doesn’t mean that the book ends there. I am committed to to finishing what God has starting with each of the moments that have shaped my story. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will or even worse – they won’t. Start now. 

7. Thou shall not sell your soul or the soul of your work (passion over profit) 

As I continue to learn more and more about the business of writing, it’s very tempting to only focus on the monetary rewards (or lack thereof) instead of staying true to your passion. Yes, passions can be profitable, but I believe that once you marry your passions – give them the time, priority and belief that they deserve – you will have something worthy of sharing and worthy of monetary value to add to the success of committing to creating your work of art. 

8. Thou shalt not write in a vacuum (be well read) 

Though I strongly advice against over saturating your inbox with blog and other types of media outlet subscriptions (thank God for Unroll.me),  I do believe in developing our craft through the very lens we want to craft with our own stories: reading. Reading about the craft and sport of writing as well as the works of great, widely and scarcely known writers is a great way to expand your knowledge and challenge yourself to become a better writer on a daily basis. I know you may be wondering, why read the scarcely (not uber popular) writers if I read the big guys and girls? I’m glad you asked.

What I have found in my thousands upon thousands of hours reading, googling and stumbling upon the lesser known writers of the world is that talent is talent. Large platform or shaping platform. Good writing is good writing. There are quite a few self-published authors I adore more than the traditionally published. There are more off-the-wall, brutally honest and gut punching emotion filled words on blogs than in some books. Diversify your idea of a ‘good read,’ and some of the magic might just rub off on you.

9. Thou shalt not skip the process (bloom slowly) 

If you stay on this blog long enough, you’ll realize that the word, ‘process’ comes up a lot. It’s a word that I have hated,  admired, refused, had dinner with and eventually said “I do” to in the past 12 months. This is the meat of every story. Everyone tells us about the A and Z of their claim to fame, but what about the E,F,G? What about the times where you doubted yourself, when you fell in love with a God you couldn’t see, or that time that you were actually the problem? You can’t skip these intimate details of your story or the intimate moments of the writing journey. Embrace your beginning, celebrate every small victory, remember where you were six months ago and keep writing your way. . 

10. Thou shalt not compare yourself or work to others (there’s only one you) 

I touched on this some in number 8, but what I have learned in my quest to find more writers in my age bracket and similar writing stage is that there are a lot of good writers/bloggers out there. Ones that are more detailed, experienced and comfortable in their writing skin than I am. At first, it was a little depressing. Here I was thinking that my little blog was doing something spectacular, and then I get to Blog A, and Blog B, and Blog C and found myself rethinking my passion.

That’s the wrong attitude to have for so many reasons. A) God had gifted each of us with unique perspectives and gifts that only we can deliver. B) Those other blogs are not supposed to discourage me. C) They are there to remind me that my gift is needed. That there’s someone on the other side of the world and maybe even in your backyard who is waiting to hear your story. Waiting for the confirmation that their life has value. Waiting for you to press ‘publish’ and bring a little light into a dark world. Pick a few silent writer mentors, subscribe to their blogs, use them for inspiration and leisurely reading and unsubscribe from everything else that makes you feel inadequate or insecure. Believe in your words. 

And one more thing:

***Thou shalt not become passive about your passion (be intentional) Schedule your writing. Make a habit of creating at a certain time. Miss a few social events to reach a life event of meeting your goals. Don’t live in a vacuum, but don’t let distractions keep you unfocused. Plan well and execute even better. You can do this.

To our becoming,

Chiereme

Advertisements

Goal Getting 101: How to Keep Going Past January 1st

Goal setting is an important part of growing up and developing routines that can lead to  dipping our toes into what we hope to be life long habits, professions and passions. Every year more and more of us make goals and don’t end up revisiting those same goals past the first 2-3 moths of the new year.

Over the years, I’ve developed a few practices to help me remain consistent with my short-term and long-term goals. They are by no means exhaustive, but they have helped me to make good progress, and I want to share them with you!

goals, goal getting, chiereme fortune, becoming the woman, new years, new years resolutions, goal setting, planning

  1. Anticipate Interruptions

Family needs you. Washing powder runs out and that assignment is actually due this week instead of next. Be okay with starting, stopping, and coming back to your work – just make sure you actually come back within the next two days. After a more than two days, you’ll find it even harder to start again.

  1. Make your goals portable

Leave the cute tiny purse at home and find a spacious satchel, messenger bag, knapsack or wheeled bag (save your back) to lug your planner and tablet. You need to be able to carry your planner, workbooks, laptop or tablet, camera or any other materials/equipment you may need to setup a mobile workspace. You can try to cram it all  into your cute MK hobo, but I guarantee you’ll have a sore shoulder by Wednesday (trust me, I know). Don’t let being on the go slow your progress.

  1. Make every minute count

Disclaimer: downtime during a workday is not a license to use company resources to work on your personal stuff; but lunch breaks and as gross as it may sound, bathroom breaks are the perfect times to flush out ideas (no pun intended) and get a jumpstart on your devotional, next blog post, query emails or LinkedIn profile. When you’re investing in your dreams, every minute counts.

  1. Find Ways to keep yourself Accountable

Make your goals public – IG them, blog them, email them – whatever you need to do to help yourself stay on track. Start a challenge with your friends, family or audience to see what you can accomplish in community. Placing reminders on my phone, in my planners and on my desk help me remember the purpose of what I’m doing and why. 

  1. Don’t forget you are on a journey

It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of success and forget that everyone’s journey is unique. If you’re comparing your three months of newbie blogging to a three year blogging veteran, you will always feel like the losing team because of an unbalanced comparison. Look at the established influencers for inspiration, but stick with those only a step or three ahead of you for the purpose of motivation and research. Having someone in the same grind with as you, gives you a sense of relief and breeds more room for possible partnership. Remember: Comparison kills creativity. The world needs your voice, your ideas, and your story. Don’t become another copycat.

  1. Don’t lose focus:

It’s easy to get distracted in the moving parts of reaching  your goal instead of remembering the big picture. Make revisiting your big goal for refocusing a routine practice. We all get a little distracted every now and then so don’t be hard on yourself. We all want to be doers, but platform building, email lists and growing an audience can be enough to drive you crazy. Remember that your platform means NOTHING without your writing. Focus on your sweet spot and set specific times for mechanics like marketing, branding, networking and web maintenance ect.

  1. Don’t ignore your source

Someone or some situation inspired or influenced the passions that lead to your goal. Whether it’s God laying it on your heart, inspired by a family member or friends, or born out of frustration and pain, don’t forget what brought you to this point. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you would feel a year from now if it didn’t happen.

  1. Clear your mental space

If you’re house/office needs cleaning, homework is waiting to be completed, laundry is piled up or your meal prep is non-existent, even a scheduled hustle hour won’t be as fruitful. Declutter your mind and free-up more mental space by eliminating no brainers, weekly priority items and routine to-dos. Have designated days and times that don’t conflict with your goaling sessions. Do them throughout the week to leave bigger chunks of time available on the weekends. Dump it  by doing it and getting it out of the way! 

  1. Goal Session planning and task breakdown

If you want to be really consistent with working on your goals, having monthly, weekly and daily planning routines really help to make one gigantic goal more digestible by breaking it down into smaller, daily achievables.

  1. Use technology to compliment your strategy and hold yourself accountable.
  • The Evernote is my FAVORITE go-to tool for organizing my thoughts. Whatever I save on my phone is accessible from any computer and (1) additional device of my own on the free plan. Ditch the blah notepad that comes on every mobile phone and start using Evernote!
  • Integrate all of your calendars. What happens when your work computer crashes or you can’t access the fb event to find the address you’re headed to? Use your personal email  calendar and your work calendar to keep you on top of everything you’re scheduled to do. This method has save my butt so many times! Whether I was running late, out sick or having an off-day, the gentle reminders that a meeting was happening at 10:30AM or that I needed to buy a gift for a party that weekend made life ten times easier.
  • If you’re a list person, write it down and digitize it by simply taking a picture or download an app for task completion
  • Reminder: Your phone can help you succeed and not just distract you. Use your phone to link all of your email accounts (in use) and set a recurring day and time for getting specific task completed. These tasks can include time to plan, to write, to work on your blog, or to complete a work or home-related task. This little hack has helped  me establish consistent routines for working on my first book, getting my blog up and running, keeping up with work and grad school and having enough socks to make it through the week. There are also plenty of apps dedicated to helping you schedule reminders, complete tasks and visually track your progress. For me, integrating my google calendar and outlook have worked best, but checkout these apps below that have great reviews if you need an extra nudge to get things done. 

Now that you have a few strategies in mind for how to conquer your writing goals, blogging goals, or life goals, make sure you implement what you learned right away. Don’t read another blog post, click another pin or check any of your social media streams until you have put a few tasks on your calendar for this week.

Was any of this helpful? If so, I’d love to know!

To our Becoming,

Chiereme

10 Reasons You Can’t Stop Writing

With writing, getting started is often referenced as the hardest part of the process, but I disagree. What challenges me the most about writing isn’t just staring at a blank page, it’s the process of revisiting what I’ve actually written. Sometimes looking back at a diary or journal from my past is like revisiting old wounds, becoming that immature, insecure girl again as if no progress or growth has taken place. It can be tough, but the beautiful thing about intentionally reading through all of your writing is this: that part of you is now (thank GOD) just a page.

writing, author, blogging, chiereme fortune, becomingthewoman, freelancing, publish, journaling

Whatever is keeping you from writing is also keeping you from a special type of reflective healing, from seeing the growth God has produced in you, the many difficult seasons, relationships and hardships He has brought you through and potentially blocking the blessings that come with letting go and letting others in to how God has moved in our lives.

When I feel like writing is the last thing I want to do, here are a few thoughts I try to visually store somewhere near me to remind me of why I NEED to keep writing (and you too):

  • It’s one of the most authentic ways I connect with God

Before I knew what I was doing, journaling became a daily practice of release, exploration and invitation for God to answer some of the deepest and darkest questions I have asked of both Him and myself. It wasn’t until almost my senior year of high school that I realized that God was reading my journal. What I thought were just rants turned into prayers, prayers answered and testimonies because I knew that if God didn’t meet me or show me Himself anywhere else, I could count on Him being there. Sometimes I don’t have words to write and it’s often in those times that I invite Him to say to me what He wants to say and I end up with a sweet reminder that communion, fellowship and authentic relationship and time spent with God isn’t as complicated as I think it is. Most of the time it’s as simple as ink and paper.

  • Everything I write is like my own personal collection of “remember when’s and I thought I’d never…”

We all have memories. Some that we like to reference and others that we wish we didn’t have – either way, they are our memories to treasure whether they celebrate or provide caution for the steps we have taken and those that are now behind us. Writing helps me connect the dots of my story. It’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Document your journey for reference, for sharing, for celebrating and recognizing the woman that you have become.

  • I can say how I really feel

Ranting to our friends and loved ones is a great way to release pint up emotions, opinions and responses, but we can’t always say everything we feel even to the people we love. For me writing is often my sounding board for how I really feel. I’ve learned that in emotional moments and environments, even the best intentions can get really screwed up in a flurry of useless words exchanged in the heat of the moment. Though there are certainly times to just talk it out, there are also times when writing it down is both therapeutic and revealing that maybe we don’t need to say everything that comes to our minds. Writing has served as a filter of sorts for me as I navigate the chemical, emotional rollercoaster becoming a woman includes.

  • There’s a paper trail of prayer, answers, and faith

Many churches have (sadly) stopped the tradition of sharing testimonies out loud in church settings. Some churches are too big, some are too busy, and others are too modern to make time for one of the celebrated traditions of the early church in Acts. As a results, we walk around as if the only miracles to share involve physical conditions or shiny new cars. Writing provides a paper trail of the many prayers that God has answered or has left unanswered in our lives. It provides a detailed faith journey that only we know to capture, and can also help jog our memories the next time we are asked, any praise reports?

  • I can always reference things I’ve forgotten

It’s easy to feel like God is ignoring us, especially when everyone else seems to be super connected or in tune with Him as we struggle to be consistent. I find myself longing for things, people or experiences that look so more appealing that what I have encountered over the years, but when we really take the time to record every experience God brings into our lives, we find a pattern of generosity that only God can provide. You may not have a valentine this year, but has anyone ever bought you roses or made you feel special at one time or another? You wonder if it will ever be your turn, but did you so quickly forget the opportunities you’ve had in the past year vs. the previous year? Writing helps us organize and reference the times in our lives where we’ve felt most alive – proof that we have lived.

  • I can see where and how I’ve grown

One of the most painfully rewarding aspects of reading what you’ve written in the past is realizing how far God has brought you. Seeing how you used to think, feel, act or view life compared to where and who you are now is nothing short of a miracle, but you won’t know what you haven’t documented on paper. You can’t revisit who you used to be if on paper, she doesn’t exist. I didn’t want to get to 21, 25, or 30 and not be able to recall, reference, or share my story with my loved ones, other women on this journey or my daughter because I wouldn’t make the time to write it down. You owe it yourself. You owe it to the woman you will become.

  • It relieves stress and anxiety

Sometimes… a lot of the time, I get overwhelmed with everything that I need or want to do. Whether it’s the weight of juggling work, home life, serving, passion projects and those oh so lovely surprises we encounter week by week, writing has always served as my way of laying down EVERYTHING that’s on my plate to the all-knowing, all-capable God I serve. If I’m stressed, there’s usually a big correlation to the amount of time I have spent in prayer, in the Bible and in writing down what’s going on. Call it withdrawal, but going more than a do or say without writing usually means I haven’t prayed or sought God sincerely either since those times has been combined for me. If I want to stay stress free, I have to keep in constant communication with God and writing is one of my best ways of doing so.

  • It brings me joy

I often wonder if I’m on the right path when it comes to my purpose. Have I chosen the right job, am I making the best decision, is this the person I should date? All questions that have varying answers, but one thing is for sure: when I write, I feel the pleasure of God. It makes me feel like I’m walking in my purpose without having to force it, read it from a book or try to figure it out. It’s natural, it’s fulfilling, it’s peace and it brings me the most joy.

  • It’s a form of therapy

The funny thing about writing is that you amy start with a question or complaint and by the time you get to the end of page two, you realize that the issue or problem you brought before God was really a question or point He was posing to you. There have been so many times that I found myself examining my thoughts after penning a few pages of my concerns or feelings. It’s like a mirror that sometimes shows you what the real question is. Writing out my thoughts helps me to navigate my cluttered thoughts and really reflect on what it is I’m trying to say to God, someone else or myself. Writing reveals the little Oprah living in all of us.

  • I want to save you the many unnecessary headaches and heartaches I’ve experienced

The biggest reason I decided to start sharing my writing on this blog is because of you. I’ve been the woman lost in the wilderness of my thoughts, thinking that no one else knew what it was like to go through what I went through. I’ve been the woman who looked around and couldn’t seem to find anyone to relate to or ask questions. I’ve been the woman in a room of women who still felt like I was alone. I want to let you know that you’re not alone. I’m here too. I’m still questioning, I’m still praying and I’m still wondering how God is going to piece this patchwork story called my becoming together. I’m still learning how to spread my wings. I’m still hopeful that what I have learned will not go to waste. I’m still writing because I know that somewhere between the women I have befriended and the ones I may never meet, there’s still one who needs to know that her story and her words matter. I keep writing for myself and for you.

I hope this helps in your journey to keep writing your story. Your words have power and I’m here to help you find them.

Was this helpful? How do you stay motivated to keep writing?

Share in the comments below

To our Becoming,

Chiereme