Deb: Making Change

Denali sunrise from my office window

We humans are strange creatures. We crave routine, and yet
in many ways, we’re inspired by change. As writers, we can tease out our best work
by playing to both aspects of our creative selves.
At the end of my Jumpstart Your Writing workshop, I ask students
to write down what will be different as they move forward with their projects—what
they’ll allow themselves, what they’ll remember, what actions they’ll take.
Among their responses are this yin-and-yang—creating “mini-routines” that get
them into writing mode and also making changes that energize their work.
Among the changes that can move your writing forward:
free of the linear:
In our culture, we’re trained from a young age to think
and work in linear ways, from beginning to middle to end. But especially in the
early stages of a writing project, linear thinking inhibits creativity. There’s
no reason to write straight through from beginning to end. Stuck in the middle?
Jump ahead. Write key scenes from later in the piece. Write your ending. Then
go back and fill in the rest.
Switch up
the way you write:
Writing will never be efficient, but with the advent of word
processing, writers are able to work faster than ever. Still, typing has
disadvantages. Handwriting jars us out of the keypad-to-screen rut. By putting
pen to page, you can explore in more freewheeling ways. Visual activities such
as mapping, illustrating, and webbing help you access the more creative parts
of your brain.
See your
work differently:
When it’s time to revise—literally, to re-see your
work—find ways to make it look different. Change the font. Load up the file on
an e-reader. String a line across your work space and hang pages with
clothespins. Spread pages out on the floor.
the reader’s desire for change:
Part of what keeps readers turning the
pages is their desire to vicariously experience change. Active readers enjoy
anticipating how characters, setting, and event will activate changes in a
protagonist. A helpful goal for a writer: By the end of each scene, at least
one of the characters has experienced a change of mood, attitude, or direction.
A slight change, perhaps, but a change.
yourself with new perspectives:
Writing retreats and residencies aren’t
just about getting away from it all. One reason so much good work happens there
is that changes habits and scene nudges us to think and see in new ways. Travel
is wonderful, but there are other ways to shake things up. Take a writing workshop. Join a writing group. Write in new places that are easily accessible
from your home. Write in new places within your home. The bathtub? Sure. Just
remember that water and laptops don’t play well together.
As I write this post, I’m in the midst of acting on this
last point—packing up to leave Alaska after thirty-six years. It’s hard to
leave the familiar, especially as wild and beautiful as Alaska, landscape on a
scale that amazes no matter how long you’ve lived here. A place where the routine
never feels routine, where even daily walks with the dog immerse you in natural
Alaska is also the place where I’ve grown into myself as a writer. It’s where I’ve written all my published work (and a good amount that’s unpublished). It’s where I’ve enjoyed the generosity and warmth of the
writing community, right here at 49 Writers. A place where I’ve even built
something of a reputation, with one Library Journal reviewer kindly referring
to me as “one of Alaska’s leading storytellers.”
Still, I’m excited about the new perspectives that come with
relocating, a prospect I hadn’t entertained until a few months ago, when my
husband suggested a move to the Oregon coast. Family and job prospects (his)
are a huge draw, as is living within walking distance of the ocean. I’ll miss
the Denali sunrises, viewed from my office window. I’ll miss the moose
strolling through the yard. And I’ll miss seeing all of you in person.
But we’ll stay connected. For now, we’re keeping our Mat
Glacier cabin. (No, not so we can continue to collect PFDs.) I’ll still be
writing these posts. I plan to teach online workshops. And if you’re venturing
Outside, in the vicinity of the Oregon coast, a few miles south of Astoria, you’ve
got an open invitation to stop by for a visit.
Alaska has been good to me in more ways than I could ever
name. And in some small way, I hope I’m leaving it a little better than I found

But change is good. I intend to make the most of it.
Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the
independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb
 has authored sixteen
books. Her most recent are Write
Your Best Book
, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the
rest; What
Every Author Should Know
, a comprehensive guide to book publishing and
promotion; and Cold
, a novel that
“captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as
the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist.
Her next book, Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack
and the Klondike Race for Gold
, comes out in April, 2016.
A regular contributor to the
IBPA Independent, her views here are her own.

2 thoughts on “Deb: Making Change”

  1. Deb, thank you for your immeasurable contribution to the Alaska literary scene–I know you'll continue to make a mark wherever life takes you. It has been a privilege to know you.

  2. Wow – Congratulations on your next adventure, Deb. What you and Andromeda started with 49Writers, and what it has grown into, are a beautiful legacy. I wish you all the best and many happy travels.

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