Archive for the 'Inspirations' Category

Feel Good and Fail Big

Last time we talked about the writing process from a tyro’s point of view. Let’s continue with that train of thought, and see if we can continue to build a coherent (and at least cautiously optimistic) view of the writer’s life.

Writing has been described as a battlefield, and the metaphor may be apt, but this battlefield is fluid; you never know where you’re going to make your breakthroughs. In fact, given that creativity often involves taking yourself by surprise, you [...]

When Life Hands You Lemons

photo by Mark Roy

Please welcome Kathleen McCleary to Writer Unboxed as a new regular columnist! Kathleen is the author of three novels—House and Home, A Simple Thing, and Leaving Haven—and has worked as a bookseller, bartender, and barista (all great jobs for gathering material for fiction). You can learn more about Kathleen in her bio box at the end of this post.

Three years ago, I had one of those summers in which everything that could go wrong did—and on a [...]


Flickr Creative Commons: RA.AZ

This delightful word was originally coined in the fifties to describe deliberately confusing bureaucratic jargon.  Since then, science fiction writers have co-opted the term for the scientific background you feed your readers to explain the ways in which your world differs from reality.  It’s the bafflegab that persuades your readers to suspend disbelief.

It’s most often used in science fiction, of course, but other genres use bafflegab as well.  Fantasy novels require a magic that behaves according [...]

If Buddha Wrote a Novel

By Jenny Downing on Flickr’s Creative Commons

Today’s guest is Renee Swindle, the author of newly released A Pinch Of Ooh La La and Shake Down The Stars (NAL/Penguin). Her first novel, Please Please Please, was an Essence Magazine bestseller. Renee has an MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. An admitted tea snob, Renee lives in Oakland with three rescue dogs and three cats—“Yep, six animals and me,” says Renee.

Dish magazine says, “Swindle has a way of making [...]

Rumination Frustration

I find myself in the writing phase I call Rumination. Julia Monroe Martin’s great post on this topic reminds me that some writers take and find pleasure in this phase. There are times I do, too, when I love the Rumination phase because everything—every character, every plot—is possible. The world feels like my oyster!

But after six months stuck in Rumination, the world just feels like my goiter.

I want to be in the phase called Putting Story on Paper. Or, Now We’re Cookin’. How about Actual [...]

Better than They Know Themselves

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

~ Henry David Thoreau (Walden)


Most readers and writers agree: the most memorable part of a story is usually not the plot, but the characters. It follows that as writers, we need to know our characters very well. And if we do our jobs, by the end of the book the reader will know our characters very well, too.

But something I haven’t [...]

On Giving Up

photo by Kyle Slattery

Please welcome today’s returning guest, Monica Bhide. Monica is an established nonfiction writer, appearing in Food & Wine, The New York Times, Parents, Cooking Light, Prevention, Bon Appetit, and many other publications. She’s been named one of the seven noteworthy food writers to watch by The Chicago Tribune, and one of the top 10 food writers on Twitter by Mashable. She’s also published three cookbooks, including her June release, Modern Spice: Inspired Indian recipes for the contemporary Kitchen.

Monica’s first short [...]

Writer, Interrupted

By Flickr’s See-ming Lee 李思明

Today’s guest is Maryann Reid, award-winning author and TV/radio social commentator. Maryann has been featured by countless media outlets including USA Today, Essence, Glamour, The CBS Early Show, and The Wendy Williams Experience. In addition, she is a popular guest lecturer at colleges—where she has taught writing and business skills to groups who want to lead their ideal life on their own terms. Maryann has been profiled in The New Yorker, Newsweek,, and NBC [...]

On the Many Dreams of Writing

Lately, I’ve been feeling like my life is living me. I have dreamed of being able to make a living as a writer since I was a teenager, but after several years of being a stay-at-home parent/part-time writer, I have recently taken on a new day job. Since I started spending a large chunk of my time in an office, I have been struggling with the feeling that I have given up on my dream of being a writer.

During the [...]

The Tyranny of Motive

Desperation by Josh Sommers

The legendary coach Vince Lombardi used to greet his players at training camp by saying: “Within every man there is a burning flame of desperation. That is why you are here.”

I would include women in that, of course, and wouldn’t restrict the application to football. Or sports. Or Wisconsin.

This flame of desperation arises from some nameless place inside us, creating a profound sense of yearning that we often cannot define, but it is as intrinsic to [...]

Imagining Beyond One’s Own Experience, or What the Fiction Writer Calls “Going to Work”

It’s not often that one hears a statement that is both undeniably true and contradictory to the nature of everything we do. But at a reception this past spring, I heard such a statement.

A small group of us were discussing the life of the author in whose honor the reception was being held. This author, who had written both a memoir and a novel, had been separated from his family at the age of twelve and forced to become a [...]

News for the Newbies

Recently a friend asked me to write a short call to action for her high school English class, to help them break out of the arrogant insecurity of youth and into the freewheeling creative writing process that you and I know so well. Below you will find, more or less, what I shared with them. Can I prevail upon you to share it with young writers you know? Because after all, hey, why should we adults have all the fun?

The [...]