Where Writers Write: Ollin Morales

This week’s Where Writer’s Write post comes to us from Ollin Morales, a writer with a very unique take on writing spaces. If you have a rockin’ writing space you’d like to share with us, email me at kristinoffilerwrites@gmail.com.

I started a blog about two years ago (Courage 2 Create) chronicling the process of writing my first novel. I had no idea that people would read the blog, but not only did people start reading it, they liked it. They really liked it. The blog has become so much bigger than my own private little journey and me: it’s gone on to inspire others to follow their own passions.

The blog seeks to inspire people to create the kind of artistic work they want, and create the kind of life they want. When I began, I was writing the blog for myself. My intention was to get myself to write my novel (I had been postponing it for about two years). That really was how I started.

No grand dreams. I thought that maybe, in 5-10 years I’d get someone besides my sister to read it. But other than that, I really didn’t think anything would come of it.

But, as the blog grew, I began to commit myself more and more to helping people do what I had done, because I realized that me and my readers were both on similar journeys. I realized that my personal struggles weren’t personal at all. They were universal.

What is your writing space like?

There is no better “space” to write than the space I currently inhabit. It doesn’t matter where it is.

If the” space” where I write were to matter to me, and then I wouldn’t get any writing done. I would place too many qualifiers on my writing routine that way.

 I’d say, for instance: “I can’t write today because I’m not in my favorite coffee shop, or at my home office, or its raining, or I’m tired, or I’m in a bad mood, or I’m missing my favorite red pillow that I like to sit on, etc.”

Those qualifiers are blocks–ways in which I make excuses and put off the writing.

So, the best “space” to write for me is “no space.” Which is another way to say “every space.” Or “all space.”

Basically, I know that wherever I am, I can create the perfect conditions to write. I don’t need a specific space. I can always create the ideal space to write in. (You can do this, too.)

In a way, I am the perfect space to write in.

Thus, in order to get my writing done, I try to inhabit the space of “me” at all times. That “space” is a space of openness, honesty, patience, non-attachment and being.

You might call this response “overly philosophical,” or even “cryptic,” but I call it “incredibly practical.”

No matter where you are, if you ask yourself to be open, honest, patient, and if you ask yourself to not grasp at anything and simply be yourself, then you’ll find that you’ll get a whole lot of writing done that way.

Do you keep a writing routine? If so, what is your routine?

My true writing routine is “flexibility.” That’s the best routine.

I’ve had times when I was writing 20 hours a week, times when I wrote only 4 hours a week, and times when I didn’t write a single word. I don’t ask myself to conform to my writing routine, I ask my writing routine to conform to me and my current situation. This gets rid of a lot of stress on my part. Because my work life and social life are always in constant flux–always changing–a rigid writing routine would have me in chaos pretty much every day of my life.

So, I don’t have a rigid routine. I keep it flexible.

Sometimes I’m just too busy to write, so my routine adapts accordingly.

Sometimes, I have plenty of time to write, so my routine adapts accordingly.

 I recommend creating a routine that adapts to you and your schedule. Not the other way around.

If you do this, I will promise you that you will write with greater ease and peace.

What’s something unique and interesting about your writing space?

That it’s nearly impossible to describe, and even harder to implement, but that once implemented, it creates miraculous results.

If you could have any writing space in the world, what would it look like and why?

I don’t strive for any writing space other than the one I currently inhabit. (The space of “me” that I talked about previously.) To ask for a better one would be to fall into the fatal trap of grasping and attachment. It would mean that I would have to wait for a “the ideal writing space,” and would always be dissatisfied with the writing space I currently have, because it’s not the “ideal space” I have pictured in my head.

There is no writing space that is totally perfect, anyway. A writing space will always have its shortcomings.

The writing space I currently inhabit is the only one I have at the moment. So it is the best writing space I could ever have.

Why would I want anything more?

Ollin Morales is a fiction writer, blogger, freelancer, and ghostwriter. His blog, Courage 2 Create, chronicles his journey as he writes his first fiction novel. His blog offers writing advice as well as strategies to deal with life’s tough challenges. His blog was named one of The Top Ten Blogs for Writers by WriteToDone two years in a row (2011, 2012).

The Key to Rocking Nearly Every Type of Writing

Ever feel like your writing is falling absolutely flat on the page? Like its pulse has flatlined and you don’t know how to revive it?

There’s a simple way to get those vital signs back to a strong, healthy level. It doesn’t always take a complete overhaul to improve a piece of writing. Sometimes you just need this one missing element and your writing can breathe, dance, and kick ass again.

What is it?

Tension.

And I believe this applies to almost every kind of writing: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, copywriting, resume writing (yes, even resumes!), article writing, blog posts, tweets, Facebook statuses, newsletters, ebooks, informational reports. Maybe even grocery lists. But that depends on how creative you feel like getting in your daily life.

Think about it.

Tension holds attention. Say that out loud and tell me that doesn’t just sound like it makes sense. Those words are entwined.

Tension comes in many forms. In fiction, tension is all the horrible things you throw in your character’s way as she tries to attain that one thing she needs and wants more than anything else.

In copywriting, it happens when you address your reader’s pain points and teach them how you’ll help make their lives  better.

In blog posts, tension exists as a way to transmit useful information, or simply as a way to tell an engaging story to a captive audience.

It even applies to social media– write about your breakfast on Facebook, and you’ll get zero attention. But ask a question that creates an emotional response (which, essentially, is all tension is) or write about your break up, and suddenly you’ve got an audience, right?

Resumes have their own type of tension, too– your resume should illustrate the problems you helped fix and improve at your previous jobs. There you have it: tension + solution. The result? Engagement.

Tension doesn’t always have to be negative. Instead, onsider it a way to amp up your reader’s emotions enough that they care about what you’re writing.

Tension often allows readers to connect with your writing. If they can feel something, they’re in.

Tell me, do you consciously think about tension when you’re writing? Do you think it’s the key to good writing? 

Where Writers Write: Charlotte Bumstead

This week’s Where Writers Write post features Charlotte Bumstead. Enjoy this glimpse into her great writing space, and remember– if you want to be featured in the Where Writers Write series, email me at kristinoffilerwrites@gmail.com.

I’ve always loved the way the words act as my escape; carrying me like a magic carpet soaring across whatever landscape I happen to desire that day. Writing has not only become my favorite form of communication, but I also treasure the way one can use the words to capture a particular moment in time. The act of writing keeps me present, yet it also allows me to reflect on the past and to dream about the future. Somehow, the words are able to press pause when I no longer hold the remote.

Over the years, I have developed a passion for using the words not simply to explain my own life, but rather to illustrate the much more interesting and captivating lives of those all around me. I quickly decided to transform this passion of mine into a journalism degree and soon it became an imbedded piece of my life story—currently taking place just outside of Toronto, Ontario. This is where I do my researching and interviewing. It’s where I construct new ideas and sculpt them into stories for publication in magazines or for posting on my blog. This is where I write.

My office view

What is your writing space like?

Colorful, organized and bright (it’s the only room in the house with four windows). Nothing distracts me like a pile of unfiled papers or various notes left in disarray. My desk sits comfortably in the back corner of the angular room. The wall to my left is painted a soft shade of lavender; to my right is a contrasting touch of sand brown. This week’s to do list decorates my whiteboard with various assignments and deadlines. A shiny, black and silver globe is perched directly in front of me, just waiting to be spun so it can forecast my next imaginary travels.

Plants with pink and purple flowers and round, green leaves breathe freely all around me. The smiling faces of those I love sit in portrait form on the shelves above my head. The clippings of my very first magazine articles—one published online, the other in print—are displayed behind the glass of a wooden frame, reminding me that what may be just a dream one day, could become very real the next.

Beyond the photos and frames, a square black screen stares down at me until I choose to flip on the news or perhaps lose myself in a Friends rerun after a long evening spent at work. In the mornings I am accompanied by my favorite mug, filled to the brim with the dark, creamy liquid I refuse to live without. Its rich aroma encompasses the entire room, and somehow the words spill out with ease. In the evenings I settle for a steaming cup of tea until I am forced to peel my eyes away from the bright light of my beloved HP laptop. Although I write best in silence, the soft chirping of birds outside or kids playing in the street can sometimes bring an added effect.

 Do you keep a writing routine? If so, what is your routine?

I find I write best in the middle of the afternoon. I enjoy using my mornings for research, prep and interviews. But the first thing I do when I start my workday (or almost any day for that matter) is read. Whether it be the news, blogs, emails, or the current piece of fiction stashed in the drawer of my nightstand, I read anything and everything that happens to cross my path and catch my interest that day.

My spewing bookcase

Before I know it, ideas start bouncing around and the creative itch kicks in. I take notes so I don’t forget any of these initial prompts, and then I get down to work. I also spend way too much time on social media. I can get lost in a Twitter newsfeed like a toddler on an Easter egg hunt. One treat leads to another and before I know it, I’ve lost an hour of my day. Still, I don’t feel this time is wasted (at least half of it wasn’t); I’m always learning new tricks of the trade online.

Most of all, I keep my routine flexible. There’s always the possibility of a surprise deadline being thrown at me, or an interview that can only happen between 1:15 and 1:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. I stick to an organized schedule because it’s the only way I can balance my time. And yes, there’s a perfectly good chance I’ll end up working after 10pm on a random Sunday night so I’m ready to “start my week” the following morning.

What’s something unique and interesting about your writing space?

I share it with my boyfriend. I don’t know about it being unique, but his desk is nestled in the opposite corner of mine. If we are both sitting at our desks (which usually only happens first thing in the morning or in the evening when he gets home from work) our backs are to one another. It’s nice to have an editor so close by (as biased as he may perhaps be, his feedback doesn’t show it). And although I am often most productive when left alone, the freelance writing life can get lonely, so I find his company encouraging (most of the time).

If you could have any writing space in the world, what would it be like and why?

Like many of the other writers who have participated in this series, I would love to hear the sounds of a lake or ocean nearby. My ideal space would definitely be surrounded by natural beauty—perhaps it would have an extravagant waterfall within walking distance for whenever I happen to need a motivating boost (even a romantic, isolated creek would do). I love sitting out on the dock at a cottage with nothing but blue skies, a mug of coffee, my laptop and a cushioned chair (a setting I hope to enjoy quite often this summer). I find my “wild mind,” as Natalie Goldberg so cleverly coins it, reaches its climax of creativity when it is, in fact, in the wild. But I also love that I can be a bit of a nomad in my chosen career, transporting my writing space with me wherever I want to go—or wherever the magic carpet decides to take me.

Charlotte Bumstead is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Toronto, Ontario. She has been published in various Canadian magazines and newspapers, covering a wide-range of topics. She blogs about weaving her way through life as an aspiring writer over at Charlotte’s Web. She is also an avid lover of all most things social media. You can follow her on Twitter @c_bumstead.       

Where Writers Write: Jennifer Gargotto

This week’s Where Writers Write post features uber-talented Jennifer Gargotto. Enjoy this glimpse into her writing space, and remember– if you want to be featured in the Where Writers Write series, email me at kristinoffilerwrites@gmail.com.

I think every writer has a special relationship with their space. The thing about writing is that you can do it anywhere, so with that freedom comes great responsibility. No, not really, but it does leave a lot of options.

I’ve never really enjoyed working in coffee shops. I hate having to pack everything up every time I need to pee, as well as paying $3.00 for a cup of tea (hey, that rhymed! How Dr. Seussian of me). I really prefer being in my own little scattered space at home, with a full tea pot and endless cold water. I like to play my music loud, take a bath when I get chilly, and take afternoon breaks to go to yoga. I spend the day reading, brainstorming, making videos, writing posts, and bugging my boyfriend, Chase, online while he’s at work to help me with my sites (he’s a developer and a graphic designer, so his skills really come in handy).

Today I have three websites and an online course, so, in addition to those and freelance articles, guest posts, and the occasional interview I have more writing than I can keep up with. I find the more projects I have going on, the more I become a green-tea-drinking stressball, but also the happier I am, the more creative I am, and the better my work is (weird how that works, isn’t it?). 

With writing, you have to pick your moments. When I write for MsMorphosis, which is really personal and deals with really emotional issues, I like to talk to my audience with the openness and entertaining-ness of a conversation I’d have with an old girlfriend over a few too many glasses of wine – so that impacts when and how I write. I often choose to write those posts later in the evening, with an actual glass of wine, once my businesses and obligations are taken care of and I’m just relaxing with Bella and Chase. When I write for Blogging Fearlessly, the work is much more technical, so I prefer to work on it when I’m full of caffeine, alert, and on my A-game.

If you’re a writer, then your writing really has to be an extension who you are. The best way, I’ve found, to do it is to be comfortable in yourself, be comfortable when you’re working, and keep striving to be your best self. Have a writing space that reflects you. The more authentic it is, the better your work will be. I guarantee it.

What is your writing space like?

My writing space is a bit of chaos, but it’s organized chaos. The walls are filled with pictures, artwork, and lots of inspirational quotes (I guess you could say this room is the original MsQuotations). I have stacks and stacks of books and magazines, because I just can’t keep up (and reading is the most important part of being a writer!). I am big on graphs, outlines, and brainstorming – and I’m big on surrounding myself by these ideas, dreams, and visions. I have a bed for Bella, my pomeranian and the best cubicle-mate ever (ok, we work from home, but she’s still more than I deserve). The mug on my desk is for green tea, which I drink by the gallon while I work. I’m also in a Canada Dry sparking water phase ever since I gave up diet coke, so I’m drinking that by the (enormous) bottle as well.

Do you keep a writing routine?  If so, what is your routine?

Hmmm… yes and no. I have deadlines – Monday interviews for Blogging Fearlessly, two posts a week on each Blogging Fearlessly and MsMorphosis, regular newsletters, guest posts, and content creation for my course that I’m launching this summer; Love, Sex, and Blogging. I also do the occasional freelance article, so that needs to be on a calendar too.  Besides that, my routine is to waddle over from my bedroom to this desk everyday, get up occasionally for tea/water/food/yoga, and besides that just sit here until the work is done (sometimes by 6 pm, often until 9).

What’s something unique and interesting about your writing space?

For better or worse, it’s the fullest expression of me. I literally live in this little room, and there’s more magic that happens here than anywhere else in my (professional) life. I love having my own quiet work space, and I’m honored to live in a time where we can make a living writing from home and creating things.

 If you could have any writing space in the world, what would it look like and why?

If I could have any writing space in the world it would either be a little cottage in the south of France or a treehouse in the middle of a forest somewhere. I’ve always been fascinated by treehouses!

On a much more realistic note, my boyfriend and I are moving into a little house in a few months where we’re going to put together a far more structured office (with bookshelves and adult things like that) so that will be wonderful. Sharing the work I love in a (more organized space) with the person I love? It doesn’t get much better than that.

Jennifer Gargotto is a blogger, vlogger, writer and entrepreneur living in Denver, Colorado. She’s the writer and founder of MsMorphosis.comMsQuotations.com, and BloggingFearlessly.com – so if you’re interested in personal development, inspirational quotes, or growing personally or professionally online she’s your girl. Her current obsession is building her Sex, Love, and Blogging course – about discovering your passions and leveraging them to make money, build relationships, and fall in love with life – which is getting ready for release in summer 2012. If this sounds like something you could be into, get on the list at sexandblogging.com.

WSW: Writer Seeking Writer For Mutual Ass-Kicking

Uhhh, shut up, creativity. We'll start the novel tomorrow, ok?

I write. All the time. For work, on this blog, when I’m putting resumes together, when I’m writing stories. When I’m making grocery lists, penning thank you letters, or writing out bills (gag).

Yet there’s something keeping me from being as productive and prolific with my fiction work as I want to be. What is it? Oh, just accountability is all.

You see,  I do really well when I have a deadline and someone waiting on a finished product from me. This is probably why I loved my low-residency MFA program so much. Packets of work were due to mentors by the first Monday of every month. I could write freely because there were perimeters around the projects– everything had to get done by a due date, no questions asked.

In a backwards kind of way, having restrictions around my creative process actually gave me more freedom to take risks and try new things, because all it took was the push to just write.

This also explains why I’m having a hard time self-motivating when it comes to working on my novel and churning out short stories.

No one in the world cares whether or not I get that writing done. I’m not answering to anyone. There are no consequences if I don’t pump out 3 chapters this week and revise 2 short stories before the month ends. The only consequence is that I feel lousy about myself, but as a writer, that comes with the territory from time to time.

So this is a classified ad of sorts. If you’re a writer who also needs some accountability and ass-kicking, holler at me.

I’m looking for someone who is up for the following:

  • Weekly check-ins with each other to discuss our progress on particular projects
  • Mutual ass-kicking, guilt-tripping, and incentive-offering
  • A long-term writing relationship that will provide both of us with a trusted ear, a reliable eye, and an honest opinion
  • Fun, silliness, and a lot of not-taking-ourselves-too-seriously
  • But at the same time, able to buckle down, give and take feedback, and write like the dickens

Does this sound like something you’ve been needing, too? Leave a comment or shoot me an email and we’ll chat!

Where Writers Write: Tracie Banister

This week we welcome novelist Tracie Banister to the Where Writers Write series. Remember– if you want to be featured in the Where Writers Write series, email me at kristinoffilerwrites@gmail.com!

Hi!  My name is Tracie Banister, and I’m a novelist who likes to write books for women, about women.  My stories are pure escapism with lots of humor and romance, the kind of thing you’d read at the beach then pass along to your girlfriends.  I recently released my debut Chick Lit novel, Blame It on the Fame, and hope to publish a second book this summer.

I want to thank Kristin for allowing me to participate in this wonderful series about writers and their creative spaces.  I’m always fascinated to read what inspires and drives an artist, what his/her process is like, and what little quirks are a part of it.  I am a creature of habit and have been writing at the same small, beat-up desk since I started work on my very first novel (about 7 years ago.)

What is your writing space like?

I do my writing in my office/TV room.  It’s a place of comfort, solitude, and creativity.  The walls are painted a beautiful shade of moss green, a color I’ve always found very soothing.  When I’m writing and feel stuck or frustrated, I can just look straight ahead at the bare green wall behind my desk and my mind instantly clears.

In most areas of my life, I’m very organized, but not so with my desk.  I have an addiction to post-its and use them liberally, scribbling character names, plot ideas, research info, bits of dialogue, etc. on them.  So, those are always piled up messily on my desk, along with memo pads where I write a lot of notes for my different writing projects.  I, also, have multi-colored post-its plastered all over my plotting board, which sits on the floor next to my desk for easy access and reference.  I keep a couple of motivational and creativity-inspiring items on the right side of my desk – a Shakespeare paperweight that my brother picked up for me in Stratford-on-Avon when he was studying abroad. Hanging from The Bard’s neck is a silver pendant given to me by one of my dearest friends.  The inscription on the pendant says, “Never give up.”  I touch the top of Shakespeare’s head and the pendant every morning before I begin work on my computer.

Do you keep a writing routine? If so, what is your routine?

My brain really works best when it’s fresh, so I do most of my writing in the late morning/early afternoon.  I have a writing ritual – I pour myself a glass of Lemon La Croix Water, rub on some Origins hand cream (which has bergamot in it, so it smells like my beloved Earl Grey tea), and don my writing sweater (a comfy black cardigan.)  I work for a few hours in the morning then I take a break to exercise, eat lunch, and do a couple of crosswords (these always stimulate my brain and put me in the proper frame of mind to write.)  I go back to my WIP for a few more hours in the afternoon and usually end my day by rereading what I’ve written and making notes for the next scene or chapter.

What’s something unique and interesting about your writing space?

I have framed posters from Broadway shows on several of the walls in my office.  I am a big lover of the theatre and try to get to New York once a year to see as many plays and musicals as I can.  All art inspires and motivates me, so having these posters in my creative space reminds me not only of wonderful experiences, but what can be accomplished when you follow your dreams.

If you could have any writing space in the world, what would it look like and why?

I’ve often fantasized about having a cottage in the English countryside, something really quaint and cozy. In my cottage, I would have an office where the walls were lined with shelves of books so that I’d be surrounded by the creative genius of all the literary greats – Austen, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, the Brontes – and I’d put my desk in front of a big picture window that looked out onto a lovely English country garden teeming with flowers and greenery. I imagine myself sitting at that desk gazing out at that abundance of beauty and color and being very inspired.

Tracie Banister lives and writes in Atlanta. She blogs about her books and other fun stuff at http://traciebanister.blogspot.com/ and tweets at @traciebanister.

A big thank you to Tracie for sharing her space with us this week! What do you guys think? Would your dream writing space look like Tracie’s English countryside retreat?

Where Writers Write: Alyssa Martino

Welcome to this week’s edition of Where Writers Write, an exciting series here on the White Space where we’ll get a glimpse into the places and spaces where writers create their art. Alyssa is a writer I met online, one of the best ways to connect with like-minded, talented writers! If you’re interested in sharing your space with us, shoot me an email at kristinoffilerwrites@gmail.com.
Cozy writing area. Alas, you have also now seen where I sleep. Too personal?
Hi, everyone! Thanks to Kristin for this great blog idea and for inviting me to contribute. I’m glad to be here. Relieved, actually. Especially because I am but one more application away from completing my 13th (yes, 13th!) application to MFA in Creative Writing-Nonfiction programs. Kristin was a huge help to me through the process–informing me about her  experience receiving an MFA in fiction and providing hugely helpful substantive feedback on my writing sample. So, readers, cross your fingers for me! It’s all up to the writing gods now.
I’ve always loved writing. Now, as a Copywriter/Editor for a medical association, I’m able to fuel this desire daily. However, I didn’t always want to write about a topic as specific as radiology (Yup, X-rays, CT scans, and all that fun stuff – though I’ve written about some pretty interesting subjects!). That’s why I began freelancing in the evenings and on weekends–an endeavor that indefinitely requires a totally rockin’ space! Freelancing has allowed me to follow my passions, like about social justice, career trends, and profiling cool people in local newspapers. Here’s where and how I continue writing even AFTER my 9-to-5 editorial job.
 
What is your writing space like?

I used to sit on the floor of my college dorm room with my back against the door, as if I was shielding my lap top from intruders. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of writing in weird places. But now, I write on my bed. What can I say? It’s comfortable. Warm. Soft. And I feel trapped by chairs and desks. Plus there’s room to spread out my papers and notes around me.
Do you keep a writing routine? If so, what is your routine?
I don’t have a routine. I just write when the lightening strikes! But usually it’s late at night, and since I still work a full-time job, that’s best done on weekends most often.
 

What’s something unique and interesting about your writing space?

I recently had to move my bed around. It used to be framed under the window but my apartment was getting very cold when winter began, so I quickly did some rearranging. Related to writing, I’m pretty sure I frequently get red pen marks on the corners of my very nice and pricey duvet cover. Oops!
 
If you could have any writing space in the world, what would it look like and why?
I think it would be ever evolving. It would be outside when I needed inspiration, inside when I needed a cozy sweatshirt and slippers, hot when I was cold, cool when I was warm. It wouldn’t be static. Some days, it might be on a balcony with a view. Or other days, I would be right IN that view, on a beach or in the wild or near some beautiful, colorful city. Can they invent a place that includes all of that?
Alyssa Martino is a writer and editor just outside Washington, D.C. She loves digging for stories that connect people, place and possibility. Visit her site, www.alyssacmartino.com.
Thanks to Alyssa for sharing her space with us! Tell us what you think in the comments– do you write in bed? What does your dream writing space look like?