Writing is Like Exercise

It hit me today that (for me) writing is very much like exercise.

For about the past year I’ve been really bad for exercising. I always seem to have some reason or excuse why it’s not a convenient time to exercise. I’m either too tired, I have a headache, there are other things to do that are more important, there are other things I’d rather do (and so little time to do everything I want to do) or I simply don’t feel like it. The stupid thing is when I don’t exercise, I feel guilty. I get angry with myself for putting it off knowing that when I do exercise I feel good afterward. As much as I sometimes have to force myself to get started with exercise, I am almost always glad afterward that I did it. And then it makes me want to keep at it. When I get on a good roll with it, it makes me feel great and makes me want more. On the other hand, the longer I stay away from it, the harder it is to get back at it and the less motivated I am to get back on track.

It’s very much the same for me with writing. I go through periods of weeks, sometimes months where I will write little, if anything at all. With each day that passes, it gets easier and easier to put it off. There’s always an excuse. Maybe I’m tired from working all day, or I feel like I should spend the little time I have with my family. Sometimes I’m not feeling motivated or inspired to write. Often I am legitimately  busy with other things. And sometimes (though not often enough lately), I choose to pass up my writing time to make time to exercise.  The longer I go without writing, the more I forget all the reasons I write in the first place. But the pull to write never goes away, and like the failure to exercise, when I am not writing I feel a lot of guilt for not making the time for it.

For the past two days I’ve found myself with a fair bit of free time and have used some of it to work on my current novel. I wrote a chapter yesterday and was reminded of how much I enjoy the process of writing. In fact, once I got started, it was hard to stop. This morning when I woke up, I could hardly wait to get back at it. I wrote  nother chapter and started a third. Whenever I make the time to write I remember how much I love it and wonder what it is that could keep me from it for so long. Why do I make excuses, and procrastinate on doing something I enjoy? It’s not like this is a
new revelation or something. I’ve been going through this cycle for years.

The whole thing seems so stupid to me and I have no answers as to why I do this. Now that I have gotten back into a bit of a groove, I hope that this time I will stick to it and not forget the pleasure it gives me.

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50% Off Book Sale on Smashwords

If you’ve been considering purchasing an electronic copy of any of my novels, now is the time to do it. They are being offered at 50% off until July 31st on Smashwords. That’s only 99 cents each! Simply click on the link below to view all 4 books available. When you click on the link to any of the books, a coupon code will be provided to use upon checkout.

Smashwords offers a variety of electronic options including Kindle, ePub, HTML, PDF and more. You don’t need any fancy devices. If you have a computer to download to, you’re good to go.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=zwaniga

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Author Interview (Leanne Beattie)

Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to let you know about my author interview on Leanne Beattie’s Blog. To read it, follow this link:

http://leanneardellebeattie.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/author-interview-with-jennifer-zwaniga/

Thanks,

Jennifer

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Canada Day Gives Us a Chance to Reflect on Our Blessings

A few years ago I had an article printed in the KW Record newspaper reflecting on our blessings as Canadians. In honour of Canada Day, I thought I would post that article again. It never hurts to remember and appreciate how fortunate we truly are…

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Canada Day? What does it mean to you? Does it represent nothing more than a day off work, a chance to sleep in? Is it simply Canada Day celebrations and fireworks?

I have to admit that I was one of those people who viewed the Canada Day holiday as little more than a long weekend. On occasion, my family and I would participate in some of the local activities, but rarely did I give much thought to what Canada Day, and Canada itself, meant to me.

A new friendship has opened my eyes to the great things about this country that many of us are guilty of taking for granted. Over the past year, I have become friends with the parents of one of my son’s friends. About five years ago, the father came to Canada from Romania with the dream of bringing his family over to join him after getting established. A year later, his wife and two young sons joined him.

Both were highly educated University graduates with engineering degrees. They were successful, had good jobs, and a nice home.
And yet, they gave up what would be considered a decent lifestyle in Romania to start over in Canada, with the hopes of giving their children the chance for a better future. They have made many sacrifices including not being able to see most members of their families, taking jobs that are beneath their education levels, and retraining for different careers, all because they know that this country can offer their children opportunities they could never have had if they’d remained in Romania.

Recently, my husband and I spent an evening with our Romanian friends where they told us stories that most Canadians could not even begin to imagine. They told us of how, when they were in University, they had to study by candlelight because they were limited to two hours of hydro each day. Television was also limited to an hour or two a day.

In Canada, most families have a minimum of two vehicles, which are considered necessities; a vehicle in Romania is a luxury—a luxury that most cannot afford. While we complain of the price of gas, the car owners in Romania have had to deal with monthly gas rations, regardless of their ability to afford more. They would receive coupons that would allow a family less gas for the entire month than most of us use in an average week. They could not save these coupons, and they could not use them in a town other than their own. A family trip to the Black Sea could require storing gas purchases for an entire year, and taking the supply with them for the journey, ensuring they had enough gas to make the round trip. Stopping for gas along the way was not an option.

These were only a few of the incredible stories our friends shared with us. I believe that much of what they told us occurred back in the 1980s and that the situation today is not quite so severe, but it remains clear that there is no comparison between the two countries.

I couldn’t imagine having to telling my children they had to limit their combined TV, computer, and game time to two hours a day, much less have a limit of two hours of hydro for an entire day. And as much as I hate the price of gas, I know I can fill up when and where I want. I don’t have to give up driving for an extended length of time to save my gas so that my family can enjoy a
vacation together.

I have a whole new appreciation for the freedoms and opportunities of this country, and I hope that I never take any of it for granted again. On this Canada Day, I will be thinking of more than sleeping in and having a day off work. I will be thinking about how privileged I am to live in this great country and how proud I am to be Canadian.

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The Importance of a Critique Group

Anyone who wants to become a serious writer really needs to consider joining a critique group.

In my early years of writing, I heard it and read it over and over again. You need to be a part of a critique group. I fought the idea for years, telling myself that I didn’t need it. A critique group is great for other writers, but I’m fine on my own. I work better by  yself and I don’t need feedback from others. I worked like this for a long time.

About 5 years ago, I took a writing course at Conestog College in Kitchener, Ontario. One of the first things the instructor did was have us give a summary of the novel we were working on to the entire class. Gulp. I was terrified. I didn’t want to tell this group of  complete strangers what I was writing. What if it sounded stupid to them? I hated every moment of it, but I got through it. The next thing she did was split us into critique groups based on the genre of novel we were writing. Gulp again. This wasn’t what I signed up for. I just wanted to learn what I needed to learn to become a better writer.

As it turns out, a critique group was the very thing I needed to become a better writer. The real truth is that I’d always shied away
from the idea of joining a critique group because I was quite self conscious about sharing my writing with anyone.  I wasn’t happy about the idea that this was required for the course, but it ended up being one of the best things that came out it. It was through that writing course that I met Leanne and Sherry, who are to this day two of my dearest friends and writing buddies.

When the course finished, the three of us continued our group. Others have come and gone over the years. Another writer, Kelly, joined us a couple years back as well, and she has been a valuable addition to the group. We each have different strengths and by sharing our work and editing for one another we continuously learn and become better writers. We each have enormous respect for the writing and the opinions of the others. It’s great to have people of similar interest to share our disappointments and successes, and to help keep us motivated and inspired. This group and the people in it are probably the biggest reason that I am still writing today.

If you are a writer and think you don’t need a critique group, consider these benefits:

  • Having regularly scheduled meetings keeps you motivated to write – you are accountable to someone other than yourself
  • You are surrounding yourself with people who have similar goals and dreams
  • You will be part of a support group who will encourage you and cheer you on when you might be ready to quit and are wondering why you still bother at all
  • You will learn from the other writers and in the process become a better writer yourself
  • You will be able to offer help to other writers who will benefit from your point-of-view and strengths
  • It will help you develop the thick skin you need to continue pursuing your writing dream – the harsh reality is that writing is a tough business and it’s easy to get hurt feelings or have your dreams crushed when that rejection comes in
  • You just might make some lifelong friends in the process.

These are just a few things off the top of my head. I’m sure if I thought about it long enough, I’d come up with a bunch more.

(Thanks Leanne, Sherry and Kelly for your friendship and support. I don’t know where I’d be today without you guys.)

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E-books on Smashwords

I am excited to announce that my books are now available in electronic format on Smashwords. E-books are available in several formats, including:

  • HTML and Javascript (online reading)
  • PDF (download)
  • Kindle (download)
  • Epub, RFT, LRF (for Sony Reader), Palm Doc (PDB), Plain Text (download)
  • Plain Text (view as web page)

Check out my author profile on Smashwords at: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JenniferZwaniga

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Humble Beginnings

When I was in grade 4, my teacher assigned a project/contest where would be paired off to write a story with another student. At that time, I felt more comfortable writing the story alone, and was allowed to do so. I was very surprised when I learned that I had been selected as the winner. The prize: a chocolate bar! As much as I love chocolate, having my story chosen as the winner in the contest was a far greater prize. I was thrilled, and just a little bit proud.

The following year, I wrote my first ‘published’ book. Okay, so it wasn’t officially published, but it felt close enough to me at the time. I had written and illustrated a little Christmas book about a mouse. The school librarian was gracious enough to put it on the library shelves. I think it may have even been checked out a couple of times (go figure).

The point? I believe that writing has always been in my blood. Clearly, from a young age I enjoyed the idea of writing and it has never left me. In fact it has grown stronger over time. It’s something I feel deeply compelled to do, and even if I never earn another penny from my writing, I know it will be something I’ll do for the rest of my life, if only for my own entertainment and enjoyment. (Though it would be cool if I brought some enjoyment to others too.)

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