Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, December 24, 2004

A passion for words.

I recently did something that I never thought I would do: I walked away from an opportunity to make some pretty good money. Despite the many “get rich quick” schemes out there, this type of venture was legitimate and it gave me the one advantage I need the most: The ability to work from home. I know of many entrepreneurs and stay-at-home moms who do this kind of thing and benefit financially, but after I learned what it was all about, I didn’t want to join them.

I didn’t want to join them because it had nothing to do with writing and everything to do with working for somebody else and doing nothing but sending E-mails out all day.

I have always wondered if I would be up to pursuing a career that didn’t involve writing. I always thought it was a good idea to, in order to keep the work mentality separate from my true passion for words, but after some serious soul-searching and trying out a couple of things, I’ve realized that I can’t do it. I can’t devote myself to spending hours doing something that has NOTHING to do with writing, because my true passion is with writing and only then can I use this passion to perform a job well. It is through writing where I can truly shine and it is with writing that, no matter how little or how much I can make from it, I will continue to persevere.

And even if I don’t make anything? I will continue to write, anyway. I will keep it up, because it’s what I am passionate about. I love words. I love using and playing with words. I love challenging my ability to use words to create a world, define a character, tell a story or to catch someone’s attention. I’ve recently been practicing writing advertisements for my books and I’ve enjoyed it immensely because it was a new challenge for me to test my skill with words.

I’ve been talking with my friend, Shaunna Privratsky (
http://shaunna67.tripod.com/ ), about this. She and I both agree that, despite the downs outweighing the ups, we could never “quit” writing. It’s just something we are both so passionate about. It’s our calling, our true love and our number one trait. Our writing defines us, motivates us, inspires us and teaches us in ways other things can’t. And we’re doing something that we love every single day. We’re not stationed at a desk from 9-to-5, dealing with nasty coworkers, telephone calls, business meetings and overbearing bosses. We’re dealing with something we are passionate about: Words. They are our tools for success, therapy, self-definition and creativity.

And you can always rest assured that words will never spread gossip about you all over the office.

When my book, 365 TIPS FOR WRITERS, came out on the 15th, my publisher, Beth Erickson, included an excerpt in the issue of Writing Etc. (her newsletter – find it at
http://filbertpublishing.com/ ).One of the tips she included in the newsletter was my tip, “Love being a writer.” She herself had something to say about this and I had a huge smile on my face after I read it, because she really reinforced what I’ve been feeling about writing all along:

“2004 Action Plan to Jumpstart Your Writing Career
Dawn's tip # 183 (see article above) says it all. "Love being a writer."
With so much discouragement, rampant low wages, and fear of failure in this biz, it's easy to forget why we persevere.Simple answer: we love to write. We love the written word.As 2004 draws to a close, take a moment during this busy holiday season to embrace your profession.You're a writer. You can affect your world.Rediscover the passion you once felt as you wrote and make 2005 your best year yet.”

Thank you, Beth, for such a powerful and inspiring message to me and all the other writers out there! I promise I
will try to do just that.

Friday, December 17, 2004


Bear with me, it’s been a tough week. Stressed out over Jennifer running a 102 fever for nearly 3 days and I had some tech goofs to deal with when I tried to post the E-zine this week. I finally got a shower today and feel human again but my brain is still fried.

One good thing that happened this week, though, is my second nonfiction book was released. Whoo-hoo! 365 TIPS FOR WRITERS: Inspiration, Writing Prompts and Beat the Block Tips to Turbocharge Your Creativity is now PUBLISHED and AVAILABLE from Filbert Publishing! SWEET! You can check it out here:
http://filbertpublishing.com/tips.htm As soon as I get the JPG image from the publisher, I’m putting it up on my site. I’m very excited about this book!! I know the subtitle is a little long but when my publisher made the suggestion, I gave her the usual thumbs-up and won’t complain. And, for the record, she says “Turbo Charge” and I say “Turbocharge.” The word is more powerful, folks! Just like “doublequick.” (You just can’t argue with a word like “doublequick!”)

And I’m gonna keep the word “turbocharge” whether this computer’s editing program likes it or not, so nyah!

OK, enough babbling. Sorry about that.


I’ve already written about how I got the idea for this book in the Introduction. And I know I’m no expert on writing but I took everything that I’ve learned the hard way and put it all into this book. Though I suspect I might’ve had a little help from my literary predecessors; I swear there was so many times I’d be writing this book without realizing what I was saying. Seriously, I kept turning around expecting to see Hemingway or Shakespeare’s ghost standing there giving me pointers! When I told people I was “in the zone” with this book, it was like the “supernatural zone” getting information from those better writers we can only read biographies about. This was scary, of course, but all that I could think about when that happened is just writing down EVERYTHING that came into my head. (And, FYI, I DID NOT channel this book from the great beyond. During the final proofing stages, I was little ol’ me again.)

This is one of the reasons I’m proud of the book, though. Despite my doubts, I truly think Hemingway might find it satisfactory. (Well, maybe except for the contracts part.) And while I’m not exactly trying to please a writer who has long since passed on, I do admire the man and hope to someday reach his level of success (except without the exit he took in the end – poor man). But, anyway. If he doesn’t, I hope my readers will. Well, some of them, at least. Can’t please everybody but, like I say in this book, I hope it pleases SOMEBODY.

At least now all those things I had to cope with when I was writing this book hasn’t been for nothing. All those times I stayed in the chair working on this book, spending HOURS every day laboring over it, celebrating every time I got to page 100 then 200, the times the UPS guy showed up at my door at 4:30 in the afternoon to find me barefoot and in my sweats, all the getting-out-of-the-house I gave up and the delaying of housework and giving Jennifer her bath (and out of her jammies) at 4 p.m. instead of 11 a.m., the freelance writing work I had to cut down on, the times I spent away from Jason and the crummy meals I cooked – ALL of it pays off now, because the book is published. Because I can confidently say I’ve written and have published a book on writing for writers. I never, EVER thought I’d write a writing book. After all, I always thought that was reserved for the successful famous names who’ve sold a ton of books and been writing their whole lives. But I have. I have written a book on writing. I’m not some famous name. I’ve never been published in a big magazine. But I wrote a book on writing that, apparently, was worthy enough of getting published. I made it. I broke in.

And now that it’s out, I’m ready to tell the whole world. I’m ready to get it into bookstores, libraries, schools, hospitals, senior homes and gift shops. I’m ready to create mugs quoting the pages of this book, tapes on more writing tips, T-shirts, journals and even a newsletter. Who knows? The sky’s the limit. As it stands now, I’m talking with the publisher about creating an audio CD.

Perhaps all of this is just from my excitement over the book being published. Perhaps this will all die away in a few months and people will forget about it. Perhaps this “high” I’m riding on will just as quickly disappear. But I’m not going to think about that now. For now, I’m going to think about riding it out. It’s a great feeling all the same, and no matter how short- or long-lasting it is, I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

Friday, December 10, 2004

When BIC becomes a PITA.

I got a good chuckle over a line I read in an article this week. To paraphrase, the line said that Sylvester Stallone had to handcuff himself to the kitchen table to get him to finish the script for Rocky. I laughed because it was definitely something I could relate to. What a coincidence that I read that particular sentence this particular week. I’ve spent the better part of this week doing some serious BIC (butt-in-chair) to finish up the final draft of a novel I have spent YEARS writing, rewriting and rewriting some more. But it’s been more like LIC (living-in-chair) because I was working on it anywhere from 4-8 hours every day. EVERY DAY.

And because I HATE spending so much time at the computer, I was NOT a happy camper. But neither was Jennifer; she constantly complained, “I want to go outside and play” and I could only whine, “I want to go outside and play, too.” Then after I read that sentence, I could actually start picturing myself handcuffed to the desk, because that urge to go outside and play kept growing stronger and STRONGER.

To compensate, though, I spent a lot of that time jumping in and out of the chair. I’d open my book file up at 6 a.m. then close it at 4 p.m., and during all that time I would be writing, jumping up to feed Jennifer, writing some more, jumping up to throw in a load of laundry, writing again, jumping up to vacuum the living room, etc. I wasn’t exactly sitting down for 10 hours straight but I did write so much in that book every day, it was amazing I could function in both worlds. Actually, that was pretty hard, because the more I got into finishing the story, the more absorbed with it I became. (There were many times I’d be sitting at the dinner table, blankly staring into space as I “lived” in my world.) I even broke down and cried when one of my characters died (THAT was a hard scene to write).

But at least all of that inactivity was made up for later on. After I was finished working on the book, I’d work up a sweat finishing up cleaning the house and playing outside with Jennifer (though I must confess that most of our outdoor activity this week took place after the sun had gone down). At first I thought I’d had more energy but I knew this was on account of my growing restlessness (one night I couldn’t go out, I spent a long time pacing all over the house). I can only hope I worked up enough exercise to balance the lack of it I had during all that time I sat down writing.

Which brings me to another point. You know how a lot of writers are overweight or a little pudgy? It’s because we spend so much time on our butt WRITING. I envy the person who can write standing up a la Hemingway, but a good many of us are sitting down. That’s why “BIC” is the standard term for writers at work. We’ve got our butts in the chair, WRITING. I remember looking at a picture of an author recently, who looked a little on the heavy side. I could only nod my head and say, “Yup, he’s a writer, all right.” I started to think you can really tell a person is a writer by how big their waist is.

I did finish the book and was relieved to finally get all 445 pages off to a publisher. But then I reread their guidelines and saw that, in addition to the manuscript and two synopses, I also had to include a marketing plan. Argh! Right about then I let out the biggest scream of my life. But I did as they requested (grumbling about MORE TIME in the chair) and got it all off. It's all DONE, OVER WITH and ready for come what may. And, after all that, I do feel good about myself. And gave myself two days off to "relax" before moving on with my other book projects.

Still, the BIC stuff no fun at all, especially for me. I mean, I CANNOT stay in a chair all day or for several hours at a stretch. I like to keep MOVING. But if I got a publisher ready to see it (as I did with this book) or if I got a deadline, then you can bet I’ll put in as much BIC as I can to get the job done. I can always make up for that inactivity later. We’re supposed to suffer for our art, right?

Friday, December 03, 2004


I have a very good reason for wanting to wrap up the novel-that’s-taken-me-forever-to-finish: I have another book coming out. In just TWELVE DAYS, I’ll be telling all the world that my book, 365 Tips For Writers: Inspiration, Writing Prompts and Beat The Block Tips to Turbocharge Your Creativity, is OUT and READY TO BUY!! Whoo-hoo!

And even though I didn’t get the novel done, I’ve spent a good part of this week working on the promo for this book. I’m sending out articles (even doing something I’ve never done before: Submitting reprints), writing up ads, securing ad space, getting review quotes to put on the book’s Web site and working on the press release. I’ve also got a thread going at the Absolute Write Water Cooler that is counting off the days getting closer to this book’s release. (Maybe it’s not day-by-day but at least it is SOMETHING!) (Hm, it would be neat if I could put something like that here or on my Web site.)

Of course, as with my last book, I’m VERY NERVOUS. Sure I’m excited, but the same old anxieties, doubts and fears keep picking at me. This time around, though, I’m confident the book is typo-free. (I caught one in an ARC and my publisher let me know she took care of it when I called her the other day.) But other worries keep nagging at me: What if writing pros put down this book as having absolutely NO VALUE to any writer? What if somebody plagiarizes the book? What if magazines like Writer’s Digest or The Writer hate it? What if somebody turns around and sues me for stealing THEIR book idea?

What if the book flops?

What if, what if. I’m right back where I was when MIDNIGHT OIL was coming out. And while it got some good reception, I’m finding it pretty hard to imagine what good things readers would have to say about it. If they’ll have anything to say at all. (One of my sisters was going through the ARC and said, “I need this book.” That sure helped me breathe a relieved sigh but, still, she IS my sister.) This book had very few beta readers: Peter Bowerman read it, but only because he wrote the Foreword for it. My younger brother, an aspiring writer, read only one tip in the book. And Jason read a couple. But other than that, no one has sat down, read the whole thing and made any comments or suggestions. Not on my end, anyway; my publisher had four beta readers before they accepted the book. And all I got from her was, “We think your book is fantastic.” And, sure, the glowing praise for the book’s CD lifted my spirits, but I don’t have any outside criticism on it.

Now I see the wisdom of having beta readers, for either fiction of nonfiction: You can go into this thing armed with some knowledge of everything in your book being fixed/explained, your book being able to do the job it’s meant to do and what kind of feedback you can prepare yourself for.

But despite having no beta readers, I AM confident about this book. I DO think it is good and can help other writers out there. I’ve even tested a few of those tips with writing groups and message boards. I know that there has been at least ONE writer who I communicated with through a writing group that felt better after hearing a tip.

And if I’ve managed to help at least ONE writer start writing, sending stuff out and defeat writer’s block because of my book, then my work is complete.