Posted in All Articles, For young writers

Here is why your literature teacher refuses to help you with creative writing

Are you disappointed with your literature teachers?

Do you wish they gave you professional feedback on your writing, but somehow, they never have time to read what you wrote?

Are you worried that your poor grades in literature class will decide whether you should be an author or not?

Do you feel resentment towards a teacher who told you that writing and publishing books was hard?

Then, read this article.

As a teenager, I was always at war with teachers of Polish. There were several reasons for that:

  • They would mark my writing poorly;
  • I didn’t want to accept any criticism;
  • I was sure they tried to tell me I had no talent;
  • I believed everyone wanted me to give up on writing;
  • The teachers weren’t writers and couldn’t give proper writing advice;
  • They were too busy to read my stories;

Now, as a grown up, I think that it was all unnecessary drama. I mostly got good advice from my Polish teachers. They tried to help me as much as they could. But, they didn’t have all the answers.

I don’t doubt that they knew A LOT about classical literature and stylistic devices. However, writing a book is much more than that. It requires special skills, patience, practice and experience.

Teachers aren’t required to know these things, because they aren’t writers. And that’s ok.

What does it teach us?

That you have to collect information on how to become an author from different sources.

And best sources of knowledge are other authors. Nowadays, with the knowledge of foreign languages, and the internet, it’s really easy to find advice given by authors. Google is a lot like the djinn from the lamp; whatever you ask it, it responds. Don’t waste this resource. Start googling what you don’t know, and you will get a ton of information instantly – probably more than one teacher could ever give you (it’s a lot like hitting the library).

Be humble and willing to change your mindset if this is what the situation advises you to do. When I was 21, I was so proud of being a novelist that I refused to seek readers on my own. I was sure that readers will find me, because my novel was somehow “special”. But, there are over 100 000 000 books in the whole world. I stayed stuck for 3 years without making any progress, and it almost squandered my writing career. In the end, I was faced with the choice: either to take advice from indie authors, or quit being an author alltogether. You know what I’ve chosen.

It’s difficult to take advice when you don’t have a teacher you could ask. But, never let the lack of the teacher stop you from uncovering your potential.

The greatest lessons are taught by life anyways, and not in class.

Sometimes, it happens that the best student meets one of the two types of horrible teachers:

  • The teacher who doesn’t care. It happened to me in junior high school. I wanted to prepare for the regional contest in English, but my English teacher was like “yeah, whatever, do what you want”. Each time I brought him extra homework, he shrugged. It was obvious he taught us not out of passion, but because he had to. Such a teacher won’t help you become a novelist. Get rid of your expectations.
  • The teacher who never praises you. In high school, I studied almost all the time, but it was nearly impossible to fulfill our teachers’ expectations. They wanted us to be better, and better, and better. We were constantly compared between one another, and they even made guesses who would score better results on finals. I felt unappreciated and like my GPA was more important than who I was as a person.

When we analyze both these examples, it’s obvious that the bad teachers don’t know how to appreciate a student that works hard. The reason for this is, teachers are afraid that a good word will make the student stop working hard. Which is not true, a good word can make wonders.

If you don’t believe in yourself, because your teacher didn’t believe in you, then you need to stop seeing them as the ultimate judge. You can become everything you wish, and if you want to become a published author who sells many books, this is entirely up to you. Don’t let a teacher who never tried, or gave up too soon, take your dream away from you.

Learning the classical literature is important, but what’s even more important, is studying the genre in which you want to write, as well as developing the style that fits your writing the most.

I hope this helps.

Stay inspired!

Posted in For young writers, All Articles, Writer's life

What to do when nobody believes in your writing dream?

“I will be an author,” I declared as a 9 year old. Did anybody take me seriously? I doubt it. At the time, I planned to be an artist, and actress, and a witch. Oh, and date Harry Potter.

“I will be an author,” I repeated as a 13 year old.But writing is very hard,” my Polish teachers told me, “you need a lot of knowledge“. ‘Ok,’ I thought to myself, ‘I will become a librarian when I am an adult. In this way, I will be able to read many books and maybe write one.”

“I will be an author,” I told my father as a 16 year old.An author? Yes, you can be an author, but you are not going to earn on it. Get a more realistic job.” I felt hurt by these words, but I kept writing nevertheless.

“I have become an author,” I thought to myself as a 21 year old, when I wrote and published my first novel in a vanity press. “M. R. Foti hides behind a pen name, but this won’t save her,” wrote one of my readers, “she is a mediocre author“.

“I am a failed author,” I believed as a 22 year old. I didn’t have any audience, hasn’t sold a single copy of my first novel in 10 months, and my second novel was rejected by all publishers. “If I give up, it’s going to break my heart. I’m already broken by life. I can’t give up on my dream to be a writer, I can’t, no matter what,” I told myself.

“I’m either gonna succeed as an author, or die trying,” I decided as a 23 year old. I started reading blogs by Joanna Penn, Jeff Goins and Michal Stawicki. I actually wrote an e-mail to Michal Stawicki, who kindly replied and encouraged me to try my luck on Amazon. I stopped waiting for traditional publishers to acknowledge me and let go of the “paperback-in-libraries” dream. I started writing in English, committed to building an international audience, and launched Always Inspired Writing.

You will be famous one day,” I heard as a 24 year old. You have so much talent. I am sure that you are going to make it. You just need time. Keep writing, because you must write, there is no other way for you.

So what to do when nobody believes in your writing dream?

Believe in it yourself.

If you check my social media, or even this blog, you’ll see that I always like my own posts. I am my own fan, and I will always be.

It really doesn’t matter what age you are, or how good you are at writing, or how bad. The only thing that matters is how bad you want it. If you want it really bad, you will structure your whole life so that you can work for it. And once you work for it persistently and ignore your failures, you will start succeeding.

There were so many people that didn’t believe in me. My friends, my teachers, even my husband. “You know,” he told me one evening, “in the beginning, I didn’t quite believe in your writing. But after I’ve met you, and saw how dedicated you were… I changed my mind. I am waiting for you to succeed, and I wish you all the best.”

When I was younger and somebody didn’t believe in me, I was sad and doubted myself. But then, then I thought, “Screw you. I’m gonna show you. I’m gonna show everyone. You don’t believe in me? Just wait and see.”

If you read the Ultimate Manifester, where I am much more personal than on Always Inspired Writing, you’ll learn that I’ve been fighting depression for 7 years. It started at age 17 and never actually went away. When you are depressed for so long, it really shapes you and your way of thinking. Why am I telling you so suddenly about this in here?

Because I want you to know, that it wasn’t easy for me to believe in myself, others and the world in general. If you knew me personally, you’d know I always have tons of doubts and question everything that I’m told. But I cared about writing so much, that I just forced myself to believe in it unconditionally.

With time, my writing dream became stronger than my depression.

There are days when I’m swimming in total darkness. But I still get up, wash my face, dress up, eat. I know I have to keep going. For the people around me, and for the writing dream. When the electric lights of my soul go out, my writing dream is like a spare candle, which makes everything brighter.

I know that there will be low sales, bad reviews, hateful comments and other nightmares. But, the love for my characters and their stories is giving me strength, and pushing me to do what I can each and every day.

Your writing dream is a small seed with the potential to grow into a powerful tree.

For this reason, you must take care of it. Water it regularly, fight pests and protect it from cold. Why? Because if you let others step on your writing dream, and trust that it’s never going to come true, you will finally stop believing in it and let it go.

Sometimes I’m walking quietly in the desert, when hounds of depression appear out of nowhere. I’m running away to my tree, and climb it. I am not powerless anymore; for the strength of my tree is with me.

Your writing dream has the potential to shield you from reality, and sometimes, we need that more than anything else. For this reason, ignore the people who don’t believe in your writing dream, and help it grow into something amazing.

I hope this helps, stay inspired.

Posted in All Articles, Be a smart writer, For young writers, Writer's problems

How to properly refuel your creativity, when original inspiration sources don’t work anymore and you have a novel to finish?

What do you do when the flames in your fireplace die out and you are planning to stay up for the night? Obviously, you have to add wood.

Same goes with your creativity. If you feel it’s burning out, you must add some fuel.

Now… What kind of fuel you use matters more than you think.

Do you know that it is possible to light fires in all colors of the rainbow thanks to chemistry? If you use boric acid, your fire will be green. If you use a non-toxic potassium compound, your fire will be purple. And if you burn plastic, it’s not going to burn well.

Why am I talking about it?

Because your fuel choices for writing should be dictated by the type of inspiration you are trying to obtain. If you want to feel inspired for fantasy – you must use fantasy as a fuel.

One of the reasons why people can’t finish their books is, they use the wrong fuel for inspiration.

They have purple fire in the fireplace, but instead of buying fuel for purple fire, they use the fuel for green fire. Obviously – the fire becomes green. Instead of being inspired for fantasy, they inspired themselves for non-fiction. This will very likely make them abandon the fantasy topic and start writing non-fiction.

If you fuel with recipe books, you can’t write a crime! Unless your master chef chooses to stab his victim with a kebab skewer. Which I guess wasn’t your main idea.

Now let’s talk about plastic as a fuel for our inspiration.

Plastic is a topic that sounds nice and maybe even appeals to us, but when we try to write it, just doesn’t work.

Example:

A pacifist reads a gripping murder mystery, which inspires them to write one, too. They plan the story and start researching poisons and weapons. However, violence grosses them out so much, that they actually can’t turn their heroes into murderers.

This is my case. Kazutaka Kodaka, Gōshō Aoyama, Joe Alex and Agatha Christie all make me want to write a murder mystery full of plot twists. But… this inspiration is plastic, cause I can’t write crime novels, and besides, I’m more for writing that promotes peace.

I think I will write a crime novel one day – I have plot and character ideas in my head that just won’t let me go. But right now, reading or watching anything with detectives is only fueling my creativity with plastic. It’s not gonna “burn” into writing, cause there are too many things that block me – for example, lack of skills required by the genre.

Now, let’s discuss creative fire.

Yes! There is such a thing as creative fire! It’s the opposite of the creative burnout.

Creative fire happens when you have added so much fuel to your creativity furnace that you are itching to start writing, and once you start writing, you will be writing until physical tiredness. The creative fire will keep on burning, allowing you to write massive amounts of high quality text in short periods of time.

Making creative fire is easy. You just need to refuel a lot with the right type of fuel and prevent yourself from writing for some time. After a while, you will be faster than a novel writing machine – I promise!

I will tell you now, how I learned the lesson about refueling creativity properly.

When I was 11, I was a fan of Code Lyoko. It’s an old French cartoon about kids who were fighting a computer virus in  digital world. I used to read a very popular fanfiction about it. This fanfiction had over 150 episodes, or maybe even more. The author wrote very often, almost every day, or every three days at most. I wondered, how she author managed to stay inspired for such a long time, and then I noticed that newest episodes were showing up each day in the afternoon, after Code Lyoko was aired on our local TV. I developed a theory, that the author was able to keep writing her fanfiction for so long, cause she was constantly inspired with the right kind of fuel.

Later, I observed other fanfiction writers. I’ve noticed that it was very easy for people to write about a certain topic if:

  • They were genuinely interested in it;
  • They found other people genuinely interested in it;
  • Those other people also wrote fanfictions about it;

Problems started when the topic became stale to most people who were interested into it.

I will give you another example:

D.N.Angel was an anime about phantom thieves with wings that gathered quite a lot of fans. However, since there wasn’t a second series of it, many fans abandoned it and turned to other things that inspired them.

As long as you can find something that will replace your original source of inspiration, that had already run out, you don’t need to worry.

My fanfiction about D.N.Angel is still somewhere in my writing folder, unfinished. I remember I really loved this story and I let it go with a heavy heart. If I could turn back in time to talk to my older self as a more experienced writer, I would just stay: “read books about angels, girl, and the inspiration will be back in an instant.”

And this is the thing that I want you to remember from this post.

Learn to use different sources to refuel your writing inspiration;  use sources that are connected to what you want to write, and when a source stops inspiring you, find another one. And it will be fine.

I hope this helps.

Stay inspired!

Posted in For young writers, Writer's problems

HALLOWEEN! Writers’ worst nightmares and other scary things about writing!

Your favorite pumpkin writer M. R. Foti (born one day before Halloween!) brings you a spooky list of terrible things that could happen to you if you are writer… and how to prevent them (or deal with them).

  1. Someone copy-pastes your writing. Either the whole article/story, or at least pieces. And they claim it as theirs. You’ve tried asking them to remove it, but they say: “What are you talking about? I am the real *your internet nickname*.” What to do: Try not to post your work online, except from short fragments / quotes that are for marketing purposes. If you plan to publish a story for free, then sign it at least with your pen name (or real name – if it’s the same as your pen name). Additionally, always keep your materials in one place and never delete them. If you had to prove authorship, they might turn out very useful.
  2. Someone steals your ideas and writes their own story with them. Actually, this is something that can’t truly be prevented; in reality, we all plagiarize, rewrite and remix other authors’ ideas. If you are writing about a kiss in the boat and someone else writes about a kiss in a boat, too, you can’t tell them not to. However – if your work was copied scene by scene and it’s clear – you must act. What to do: find the thief and sue them. Your book is a golden egg hen and you don’t want anyone else to steal it!
  3. Your short term writing progress is lost when computer resets. This doesn’t need explanation: you write, write and suddenly… blue screen of death! What to do: choose a writing program with autosave option. I loved writing in Notepad and Wordpad, but in the end I switched to Word – because Word automatically saves your document. The default setting should be autosaving each 10 minutes. I set it to 1 minute. Problem solved!
  4. Your long term writing progress is lost when computer dies. It has never ever happened to me. No, not because I was lucky – but because I have always treated my writing as a priority and I had spare copies. Now, I have even the stories I wrote when I was 11 – incredible, isn’t it? (I put it in the folder: “unusable writings”) What to do: zip your writing folder frequently. Put copies on your pendrive and upload them to Google Drive, too.
  5. Your novel gets bad reviews from the target audience readers. Nooo! It sounds horrible when I only think of it! How about you? What to do: be absolutely honest with yourself. Was your book read by the target audience interested in the genre? Maybe you attracted the wrong target audience by choosing a wrong genre or using an unsuitable cover? Was your book edited? Is it free from plot holes, grammar errors, incorrectly used words? Is it gripping or the reader must wait 100 pages before anything starts happening? Does your worldview or language offend anyone? You need a reality check. See also: 6 reasons why your book isn’t popular on social media and how to fix it.
  6. Your novel is under haters’ attack. It happens even to the best of the best. Haters are people that felt hurt by something you did directly or indirectly to them. What to do: differentiate between negative reviews (“I found this book boring”) and offensive reviews (“The author is a whore”). It’s important cause negative reviews won’t be deleted by the bookshop/library admins, while offensive ones most surely will. Also: pay attention if the chain of negative reviews doesn’t match the sales. If you got 10 one-star reviews in one day, it’s very likely that it’s always one person – especially if their accounts are new. You should tell to that to the bookshop/library owners, too. Related article: 20 things to tell yourself after receiving a bad review, to feel better.
  7. All publishers rejected your book. Don’t worry. Really. Publishers do reject tons of decent books! Why? Find out here. What to do: self-publish! It’s as easy as that. It’s going to be cheaper than asking a private publishing house to publish for you. Additionally: Don’t buy the idea that your book is too weird to be liked.
  8. Your sales drop to zero after a few dozen copies. Imagine a boat waiting at the river bank. If you push it, it will go in the right direction. But later, the river current will take it where it wants, and if the weather is bad, it might even sink. Pushing the boat is publishing – once you publish, your parents, friends, teachers will all pay attention to you. But if you don’t do anything to boost your sales, they will become lower and lower until they reach zero. Books  that aren’t in the libraries don’t get discovered. E-books by unknown authors released all over the market don’t get discovered. What to do: Your boat needs a motor (advertising agency). If you can’t afford it, at least get an oar! And in order to get anywhere, you actually need to use the oar, or motor, persistently. Don’t think that you will put three links to your book on your Facebook and it will be over. Marketing must be constant!
  9. Someone (or everyone) tells you: “you have no talent”. In the best case. Cause in the worst case, you’d think much more – and many worse things. Related article: When constructive criticism becomes destructive: is your beta reader a bully? What to do: ignore it completely! You have the right to write and nobody can take it away from you. If you want to be a writer, you will be a writer. In case you truly doubt whether you are talented, and wonder if talent can be learned/acquired, read this article: Where does talent come from? Why isn’t it a prerequisite for success?
  10. Writer’s block turns to creative burnout. You thought you would get to writing after a small break, however, you feel even more demotivated than you were before the break. You just don’t feel like writing, you don’t know what to writing, you feel like you’ve been donating blood daily for months and now you just can’t. What to do: I have created several resources that will help you deal with writer’s block and creative burn out. Check them here:

Those were writers’ nightmares – and here are other scary things connected to the writing process (and progress!):

  1. Receiving a really good writing contract.
  2. Seeing your book online.
  3. Reading reviews.
  4. Writing honestly about what matters to you.
  5. Writing about controversial issues.
  6. Your pen name getting discovered.
  7. Giving your novel to read to someone you personally know.
  8. Re-reading the first draft.
  9. Talking face to face to your readers.
  10. Giving interviews.

And the final resource for today which you might find useful if you are a writer who is chronically scared:

Why dealing with social anxiety is so important if you are an author.

Happy Halloween! Everyone, stay scared inspired!

Posted in Be a smart writer, For young writers

Where does talent come from? Why isn’t it a prerequisite for success?

Do you give talent too much importance? Do you spend a lot of time pondering whether you are talented or not? Does the idea of not having talent make you anxious? If you discovered you truly lacked talent, would you quit writing? Or would you stick to it no matter what?

A lot of people use the lack of talent as an excuse. For example, “I would like to write a book but I am not talented enough.” With such an attitude, they will never accomplish their goal.

When we think ‘talent’, we imagine an advantage we are born with. While it’s true that some people have a genetic predisposition towards something, let me ask you a question: how many people you know had done genotype testing to have their talents confirmed? Personally, I don’t know anyone, and as for the greatest writers who died already – it’s impossible to find out.

“You have talent” has become analogous with “You have mastered this skill”. And here is a sad situation that happens in a lots of schools:

The best student in the class is said to be smart and talented, while the runner-up always hears they have to “do better”. In this situation the best student might either become lazy and rely on their talents too much (which will make them disappointed in the future); or, they will grow up having an extreme pressure to always be the first. As for the runner up, they will feel constantly unappreciated and either throw the towel or fall in the trap of workaholism.

We are all born equal. Do you think an infant knows that they have talents? No. If you have an infant genetically predisposed to become a pianist, but you can’t afford a piano, instead you show them your beloved guitar – what do you think the child will choose in the future? Probably the guitar, because it will be closer to their heart. Yes, the genes do affect us, however this is just one side of the story.

I was always very curious in what makes one type of people better than the other. I wanted to know why some people win races and the other never make it. And here is the theory about what makes the talented people talented (apart from the genes, which we can’t even confirm they have):

Genuine interest in something + Love towards this thing + Doing this thing a lot + Striving to improve + Not giving up after mistakes / failures = Fast improvement + visible mastered skills (“talent”)

If there is somebody who writes better than you, it’s not because of their genes. How do I know this? If you make an adult trained writer sit next to a child that was confirmed to be genetically talented in writing, but received no education on how to write – who do you think will do better?

Let me tell you a story from my life: when I was 13, I had an internet friend, let’s call her Jane. We were a similar age, but she was so much more “talented”in writing. She had an amazing style, used a variety of words, and I truly savored everything she wrote, even if I wasn’t that much interested in the topic. I was convinced that Jane would become a bestselling writer when we both grew up, and I would always live in her shadow. But here is what actually happened: as Jane and I were growing up, she became interested in other things (mainly TV shows and her studies). She wrote less and less, and in the end, she completely abandoned writing. I was truly heartbroken, when I learned about it. I continued alone on my path. I published my first book, then wrote two more. Me, the girl who was always less talented than Jane.

Which leads us to the conclusion: whether you have talent or not, it doesn’t matter. Why, because being talented is NOT a prerequisite for success.

The prerequisites for success are:

  • passion
  • knowing your goal
  • working consistently on that goal (I can’t stress enough, how important is self discipline)
  • willing to learn from mistakes
  • improving yourself each day
  • continuing to do work towards the goal even if you keep failing
  • believing in yourself and whatever you want to give to the world
  • constantly seeking for and catching new opportunities
  • willing to reach out to the right people
  • being flexible and going with the flow

When people work silently for years at improving their craft and suddenly become an overnight success, they hear (at last!) that they are talented. But talent is not a superpower, it’s the end result, the by-product of all the hard work that they do.

Another story from my life: as a polyglot I’ve heard a thousand times that I am talented at learning languages. I haven’t done genotype testing and I don’t know if I am talented at languages. What I know is, I spent incredible amounts of time on learning each language for years (English – 18 years, Italian – 16 years, German – 11 years, Chinese – 5 years, Korean – 3 years). I often learned 2-3 languages simultaneously because I had to, and I didn’t complain, I just spend as much time as focused as I could. Obviously, when I encounter a language which isn’t connected to any other languages I know, e.g. Hindi or Arabic, I will be as clueless as everyone else in the beginner group. And any student who will be more passionate and disciplined, and learned Hindi or Arabic before, will be “more talented” than me.

Hard work always beats talent. If you haven’t watched this video yet, now it’s the best time to do it:

Seeing others being more talented than you is not a valid reason to give up on your own journey!!! When you see another person doing so much better than you, don’t be jealous/envious! Instead, tell yourself: if they did it, I can do it, too! Heck, I can do even better! When you see others having something that you desperately want, this is a sign that the thing you want so much is seeking you also; because it has already appeared in your reality. Do not suppress your dreams, instead, go and chase them! You don’t want to have the midlife crisis when everyone around you is collecting their harvests and you, well, have nothing to collect.

Stay inspired.