Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Loving Writing’ Category

Writing and Mindset (or being purposeful in “now” writing)

In Loving Writing, Mindset, Reflections on Writing, Writing, Writing and Mindset on August 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

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To get into writing, try mindset and thinking about the “now” of the moment.

Mindset, or giving purpose to your direction, is a term I hear in the business world, but it’s just as applicable to writing—so are other business terms like lean startup, actuation and effectual thinking.

Mindset, as defined in decision theory and general systems theory, is a set of assumptions, methods or notations held by an individual or group of people. It’s also indicative of worldview and a philosophy of life.

Mindset: In the “Now”

A writing friend of mine simplified the concept, explaining it as being present in the moment and appreciating the “now.” Being present to writing takes letting go of past “failures,” erasing the idea of being stuck, which is going back to the past, and immersing immediately and in the now of writing.

Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., defined growth versus fixed mindsets in “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” published in 2006. A fixed mindset sees abilities as fixed, while a growth mindset allows for abilities to be developed and growth to occur.

Seeing your abilities as changeable is motivating, while seeing them as talent that cannot be adjusted is self-limiting. The idea that writing is something that can be learned and improved upon gives that motivation to try—it’s a way to bypass excuses and writer’s block, because even if it’s painful to write, doing it moves it forward. It’s growth no matter how and when you write.

Effectual vs. Causal Thinking

In business theory, a similar growth mindset occurs with effectual thinking, as opposed to more traditional causal thinking.

Cindy Skalicky, owner of On Point Communications, LLC, gave a presentation July 25 at the Loveland Business Development Center, “Mastering the Model: A Closer Look at Effectuation, Lean Startup & Business Model Canvas.”

“With small businesses, there is so much uncertainty from the beginning that causal thinking won’t result in the best outcome,” Skalicky said. “Causal thinking is effective if you already know about your business model, customers, products and what works and doesn’t. Effectual thinking is the opposite. With that, you need to take inventory of the self, what you’re good at and what you’re trained to do.”

With effectual writing, you begin with where you’re at in a project or within your abilities. Alternatively, with causal writing, you have a plan or outline for the writing without allowing for character interruptions and plot diversions; you stick strictly to the plan.

To write effectually, you may plan but you also adjust.

Skalicky compared aspects of causal and effectual thinking, which have one similarity and differ in everything else. They both involve predictions made at the beginning. But with causal thinking, there’s a specific goal in mind, an execution plan is implemented and data is gathered from the existing market and competition. Effectual thinking is having a basic idea or leaning, an idea of a plan and looking to the self and customers for the data.

“Effectuation is about me in relation to my idea,” Skalicky said.

Effectuation in Writing

In the writing world, effectuation is you as writer in relation to your story. You look to the story for the plotlines, letting the scenes unfold as you write, while having a rough plan in the back of your mind. This is a mix of writing by outline or being a plotter, combined with pantsing writing, or writing by the seat of your pants and writing as you go.

Another business term, actuate, refers to putting things into action or setting them in motion. To actuate your writing, you set things in motion by creating character identities and placing them in situations where they begin to act and speak according to who they are but also within the circumstances of the novel’s plot. They act and react as the story unfolds, but you haven’t planned out every little nuance of their activities and behaviors.

Actuate also works in relation to you as the writer. You can think about what actions you take in the now that will carry forward your writing goals. If you skip writing for a long period of time, motion will be halted and your writing will be less purposeful. You’ll be out of the mindset of the now of writing.

Lean Writing

A lean startup business model allows you to iterate and change your product for the better through feedback, learning from mistakes and failures and continuous small improvements, Skalicky said.

The same thing happens with writing—if you let it. You write and as you get into the writing, the characters and plot strands create their own feedback loop, and you, as the writer, can take note of what to change in the plot as you go along, or at the end when the revision process occurs. The writing won’t be perfect the first time, so you build and measure and learn, and pivot and persevere as needed. The writing then becomes in the now as it moves forward and backward in that loop until the strands are tight, and what you have is a MVP, not a Minimal Viable Product but maximum and viable.

It’s purposeful writing allowing for a mindset that accepts both the now and the possibility for change. You’re getting your MVP to market fast, or you’re writing quickly to get it out and then you go back to improve and improve some more.

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Shell’s Ink Spot launch

In Editing, Loving Writing, Writing, Writing Discipline on February 19, 2017 at 11:00 pm

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I reconfigured and launched my blog about writing and editing at my new website, http://www.shellsinkservices.com, on Valentine’s Day, which is fitting because I love writing and editing.

Here’s my initial blog at Shell’s Ink Spot:

Writing can be intimidating, especially figuring out where to start. Facing the blank page is something writers agonize over, because it beacons with, “Here I am. Write right here.”

The same goes with editing, especially when associated with the red pen. I’d considered making my tagline for Shell’s Ink Services “With a Flair of Red Ink,” but my family and friends, including one with marketing expertise, said to get rid of the red. Red is associated with love and passion (Happy Valentine’s Day!), but also with graded papers filled with things needed correcting.

Here at Shell’s Ink Services, I focus on writing and editing, because, though I face that blank page too many times to count, I love to write and I love to fix sentences. I’m taking that love to my Ink Spot. I’ll blog once a week on Mondays about writing and editing with practical tips but also reflect on the struggles associated with creating and perfecting content.

I’ve blogged for half a dozen years about the writing process and the writing life. My blog, shelleywidhalm.wordpress.com, is written from the vantage point of being a fiction writer to an audience consisting of other writers. But here, I’m writing from another perspective—I’m a new business owner writing my first blog, and I face a similar blank page. How do I fit all of my thoughts about writing and editing, plus owning a writing and editing business, into 300 to 500 words?

The best place to start is at the beginning. Writing happens in stages, such as freewriting, or writing whatever comes to mind, drafting, writing, editing and rewriting, followed by polishing. I can help writers figure out what they want to say and help them organize the content. What they say needs to have a clear message and voice and a good structure, cohesiveness and flow from the beginning to the end. The result is content that is “Crisp, Clear, Concise,” as stated in my tagline.

After the content is written comes the editing process that includes feedback from another writer or editor for a new perspective. Editing happens at both the line level, or each line of text for spelling, grammar, punctuation and mechanics, and the structural level, or what the entire piece looks like.

The editing is where I take out my pen, but I use blue or green ink, or the computer direct to copy. On that note, I’ve reached 400 words, and my blank page is gone, filled with ink.

Writing (and daring) to move

In Loving Writing, Reflections on Writing, Writing, Writing Inspiration, Writing Motivation on January 8, 2017 at 11:00 am

I am honored to be in the spotlight this week in Jennifer Tracy’s Inspire blog on her Linkedin page at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/shelley-writes-how-she-moved-jennifer-tracy-gray-.

Tracy is a motivational speaker who encourages getting out of ruts and getting moving. I found her message to be inspiring.

 

Shelley Writes How She was Moved…

Published on January 3, 2017

 

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Shelley Widhalm, left, intently listens to a Dare You to Move program Dec. 30, 2016, presented by Jennifer Tracy.

When I think about writing, I think it’s what I love most.

But sometimes I hate it. I face writer’s block, burnout, a lack of ideas, or a feeling of being stuck in a story or a character, not knowing how to pull it all together to get moving again.

In other words, I get insecure, and then I feel lost because writing is my anchor.

Since my sixth-grade year, I’ve known that writing is my passion, but in the last couple of years, I’ve realized that I’m not living up to that passion.

I’ve written six novels, dozens of short stories and hundreds of poems, and I write two blogs. Most of my work is unpublished. I’m aiming for traditional publication of my last two revised novels, both literary and character-driven, one young adult and the second adult. I’ve considered self-publishing, but will try the traditional route for now.

That’s not where I’ve got the lack. I’m querying agents, and I’ve compiled all the background materials. I’m also sending off my short stories and poems.

What I’m not doing is being courageous, the 100 percent, full-throttle kind.

I’m accepting, or making due with, my small dose of courage, but not the kind that’s allowing me to blare to the world that I have a great body of work. Even writing this makes me feel scared. I’m supposed to put on a brave front, right?

We all are.

I met Jennifer Tracy, a speaker and mentor, through my daytime writing job that serves as a way to expand my nonfiction writing and editing skills.

Jennifer’s business, Jennifer Tracy-Inspire, focuses on being courageous, overcoming adversity, making positive changes, having resiliency and becoming self-aware.

On her website, she has this quote, “Be inspired to change your life, regardless of where you are or what’s happened to you.” She says, “Look inward and find personal growth,” “Find courage to never give up,” “Discover power in self-awareness” and “Replace excuses with empowerment.”

When we met for coffee in June, I was amazed at her story and how she overcame a traumatic incident to rebuild her life, finding her own passions in the process. To me, she seemed happy and settled. She’d found her place in the world.

I sat across from her, keeping it all in, or most of it as I hinted to her about reeling from my own trauma. Trauma disrupts and causes a sense of loss that brings up those big life questions. It harms, hurts, dislodges, breaks, interrupts, and causes you to stagger. Who the heck am I? Who are you, world out there? Why did this happen to me?

What do I love?

Do I love?

Am I lovable?

What, why, how, who, where? Why? Why? Why?

I smiled at her. And I’ve been smiling as the tears slip through. I always thought I had it together, because I’ve always had my passion anchor.

After our meeting, I wrote in my journal: “I felt intrigued and a little more healed after talking with her. She said she’s learned a lot from her trauma and came up with self-talk methods, including a series of questions, all with the aim of being positive. What she said was so thoughtful and based on a lot of life experiences that it was hard to take it all in. I wish I could remember it all.”

I walked away from our talk—and wanting to meet her again—feeling like I need to let go, continue looking inward, and think about being positive, live being positive and bat away the negative.

I need to continue the slow hope and progression of finding and living out my passion.

And I need to be confident that I’ve written, love to write and am a writer no matter what happens in the world out there.

–Shelley Widhalm/ Shell’s Ink Services

Merry Christmas (and happy writing)!

In Loving Writing, Reflections on Writing, The Writing Life, Writing on December 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

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I’m showing off one of my gifts from Christmas 2015.

I want to wish my followers and readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in 2017.

I’ve enjoyed writing about the writing process, my ups and downs with writing and my life as a writer over the past few years.

Writing is a way to escape into a poem or story, play with language, capture experience and grow from seeing the world in different ways by finding new words, descriptions and visions, or ways of seeing, feeling and observing things.

I love when I’m in a coffee shop or on a walk and a poem strikes me, compelling me to find a piece of paper and start writing. I’ve gathered bits of napkins and pieces of paper over the years that I typed into my rolling poetry collection, which consists of all of my poems in one large document that’s too large for a chapbook or book of poetry.

I also love when I’m stuck in a short story or novel and meet up with friends for a writing session and feel like, um, I better write. So, I start writing and words come out even though what I write may not be the best—at least I’m writing and doing it. Oftentimes, I may write stuff to later cut, but I find that I’m moving forward in the story or figuring out something with plot or character.

My last love about writing that I’ll mention is how I may start off with a short story and somehow it becomes a novella, because I seem to not get to the story answer. This makes me wonder if the characters have more to say than I planned for, because I try to write my stories in one sitting session. Or it may be that I don’t know what I’m doing in this particular story and have things to learn about plot and character development.

Either way, it makes me feel a little stuck in my head and my own processes. Because I like to write without plotting, I decided for my next novel, I’m going to plot because that endless writing and not getting to the solution is a little painful, even if it is fun.

I hope you also had a fun year with writing.

And here’s to a great year of writing in 2017.

Thank you, Writing

In Loving Writing, Writing on November 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

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Giving thanks is a given for Thanksgiving, and the way my family and I said thank you added fun and creativity to the holiday.

This year, my brother and I visited our mother at her assisted living place for the noon meal.

Most of the residents sat at a long table in the center of the dining room, but a few of the families joined together at their own tables. Before the staff served the traditional fare of turkey, stuffing, potatoes and cranberries, the new volunteer director of activities told the 50 or so people in the room to find their tags next to the silverware and write what they were thankful for.

My first one was easy—and sorry this is sideways, but I couldn’t get the photo to rotate—because it was about my dog, Zoey. I wrote “My dog, Zoey,” and my mom said, “I knew you’d write that one.”

Next, I put my apartment, because I love it and where I live, feeling like it’s the first place that’s a perfect fit and so me.

I also love books, and I love writing and the fact that I love to write.

I got four tags, when there were supposed to be three per person, which was a good thing, because four wasn’t enough.

I’m also thankful for:

  • Nice people and getting smiles.
  • Running and lifting weights.
  • Being in shape.
  • The seasons and seeing spring leaves and the colors of fall.

And my list could go on and on.

The important thing is taking a moment to reflect—not just on Thanksgiving but every day. I try to find one thing to be thankful for, though Zoey always is a given, so really it is at least two things.