Monthly Archives: April 2016

Cheerleading for Writers: I – Ideas and Inspiration

“Where do you get your ideas from?” I’ve read this question in a couple of articles and even found a version of it on a title of several books for writers.

I’ve been asked this question as well.

The first impulse is often to say “I’ve no idea, where my ideas come from.”

This would be probably the most accurate answer, but I am aware that it might not be very well received if I say that.

So as often when in doubt I addressed a dictionary.

Here are the definitions of the words idea and inspiration I found in Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

Idea is:

  • a suggestion, thought, or plan,
  • knowledge or understanding about something,
  • a belief about something,
  • a purpose or reason for doing something;

and inspiration is:

  • someone or something that gives you ideas for doing something,
  • a sudden good idea,
  • someone that people admire and want to be like.

I think I have experienced and tapped from all of these aspects when I write or create something. This applies to all areas of life, both private and business. Including cooking, drawing with my children, cleaning the house, writing commercial offers, updating my website, writing application letters, business e-mails, etc.

But somehow when it comes to writing (my books, articles, guest posts) I sometimes catch myself being afraid that I will run out of ideas too soon or that I would only come up with the bad ones, which nobody would like.

So far it didn’t happen, but this fear comes up, especially when I am about to finish a project. A thought runs then in my head like a hamster in a running wheel, “What will come next?” This thought makes its appearance in various shapes and colors again and again, even with an army of other already existing ideas and started projects waiting for their turn to come.

It might be procrastination or running away from what I have to do in the current moment, but my brain tries to figure out again and again how ideas are generated inside it. And not only this: guided by this fear I try to collect ideas. I bought books with writing prompts, collect quotes, have hundreds of tagged links on my browsers’ favorites bar with all kind of great ideas to inspire me. Do I use any of them? Yes, I do. But only a small percentage from what I already gathered.

So where then do I tap my ideas mainly from? The question is in fact very simple. From all that I am ignited by the awareness of now. For example, if I am in a chat with a person, the combination what this person shares with me and all my experiences from the past as I perceive them now, all that is ignited by my curiosity and listening into a bright fire. The same happens when I create on my own in the quietness of my home during working hours or nights. Reading books, e-mails, surfing online or simply re-reading the end of the chapter I have been writing the day before are able to ignite an idea out of all gathered experiences into something new. But this fire is only ignited when I am fully present and not lost in thoughts about past of future. If I am lost in worried thoughts, then nothing happens. No fire, no warmth.

So the question is, do we really need to understand the mechanisms of idea generation and inspiration processes? Or is it just about diving into them and getting inspired by surrounding us world, circumstances we are in and all that we gathered on our way so far?

It is hard not to analyze everything, but I realize more and more often that a spark of an idea, process or inspiration are as much a miracle as conception and birth of a child. There might be certain biological processes to both, but you will never know when and how the fruitful ground you provide will generate an idea or a child.

So what remains? What shall we do if we can’t control this process?

The answer is both relieving and terrifying: Nothing.

Do you agree that ideas and inspiration are uncontrollable and simply visit us as some kind of angels or aliens? Or do you think that there is a logical and easily understandable process to all the ideas your brain generates? Can you control them and do you think there is a need for such a control? Or should we all just witness the process, enjoy it, as well as tap energy and magic from it?


Picture: I have no idea why, but I had an impression that our mailbox gave this bunny a feeling of a roof above his head. I made tens of pictures of him under it. He literally posed for me under it and then later he came closer to the window I stood behind. His sweet behaviour ignited many ideas for different scenes, both in respect to humans and animals.


“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: H – Hook (or Fun Detecting Antenna)

Two topics for me as a writer were almost as daunting and scary as the birth of my first child were for me as in 2010 a soon-to-become-mother.

These two topics were show-don’t-tell and hooks at the beginning of a book or a chapter.

There were positive examples I came across, but the wrong and utterly bad rang the loudest bell to me and I readily pictured myself to create only the bad kind of hooks. It seemed so easy to start a book badly, as a heavy and long birth of a first child was often claimed to occur more probably rather than as a pleasant experience.

I tried many beginnings for my first novel “The Truth About Family”. I tried also many forms of the same beginning, attempting various voices. I contemplated a long time to use or to discard the prologue, then I tried to squeeze the back-story and the inciting incident into the same first page of Chapter 1.

I started feeling desperate after writing and rewriting the first couple of chapters of my book. It looked like I would never be able to go over the beginning, since it appeared so terrible to me. Or at least not brilliant enough.

So what helped, since you have probably already heard that I did finish the book, and that this project was and still is very special for me?

My solution might not work for everyone, but it was ideal for me. I continued writing the story.

I wrote further mostly because I promised to get the story going. I promised it to three people, two of them being my beta readers, who read my book chapter-by-chapter, and one was my writing teacher, dear friend and best-selling author, Menna van Praag, in frames of her monthly international tele-seminars I’ve been participating in through the year 2014.

At some point of my continued writing I forgot all about the bad beginning and the bad first chapter.

And at a mostly unexpected for me moment the bad-hook-dilemma had resolved all by itself. This is how it happened.

According to the practice during those international writing seminars with Menna, I submitted three pages for Menna’s review. For that particular session, I submitted three first pages of – at that time – Chapter 9 of my book.

Menna sent me a written review with praise and constructive critique. But the light bulb went on during the phone session with all of us, her 9 students for that day. As Menna commented on my contribution, I learned something very special and very personal. An experience what a great hook meant for me, how it felt and how how I could recognize it for my writing.

Menna said, “I really enjoyed your three pages.” And then she said something, of which I recall almost each word since two years. Menna asked, “Why don’t you start your book with this chapter? You don’t have to put chapters sequentially in a book. You can come to the ‘start’ of the story later.”

I felt a wave of recognition showering over me. Here’s why.

This particular session I referred to above was my second with Menna. That means that for the first session I sent her the Chapter 1 and for the second Chapter 9. I left seven chapters in-between untouched. I looked through them, but I wasn’t drawn to revise them and send any of them to Menna. Instead I let myself being guided by, what I call now, my fun detecting antenna and chose the Chapter 9.

A year after that fateful seminar with Menna, I read an article by Rachel Aaron calledHow I Went From Writing:  2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day”. This article addressed her productivity as a writer. One of the three criteria she discovered working best to enhance her productivity and increase her wordcount reminded me of my hook-experience.

Here is what Rachel wrote in the section of her article titled “Side 3: Enthusiasm”:

“Those days I broke 10k were the days I was writing scenes I’d been dying to write since I planned the book. They were the candy bar scenes, the scenes I wrote all that other stuff to get to. By contrast, my slow days (days where I was struggling to break 5k) corresponded to the scenes I wasn’t that crazy about.

This was a duh moment for me, but it also brought up a troubling new problem. If I had scenes that were boring enough that I didn’t want to write them, then there was no way in hell anyone would want to read them. This was my novel, after all. If I didn’t love it, no one would.

This discovery turned out to be a fantastic one for my writing. I trashed and rewrote several otherwise perfectly good scenes, and the effect on the novel was amazing. Plus, my daily wordcount numbers shot up again because I was always excited about my work. Double bonus!”

Today as I write this article, I’ve checked on those old submissions to Menna’s writing seminars and found out that even before reading Rachel’s article and after the revealing seminar with Menna I did intuitively do the same. I let myself be lead by my enthusiasm.

This is what happened at the third seminar with Menna. I made the old Chapter 1 to be the second after the famous and by now treasured Chapter 9. As I let myself contemplate a bit about this chapter, I recognized that its start was slow because it was rather melancholic. The following scene was good and also engaging but the start was dragging because that protagonist was going with a head hanging low to the school master’s office. So I asked myself what could have happened before? Well, he was obviously sent to the school master’s office. But by whom, and where was he before that? That lead to a dynamic and interesting scene between adolescents bickering with each other (or rather one bickering at the protagonist). And this dialogue revealed some features of my characters, especially the protagonist, which I tried to reveal but couldn’t until that moment in the seven chapters untouched for some time. Here was a clear show-don’t-tell! And I found it just by identifying what made me enthusiastic, when I addressed that chapter.

So I followed my fun detecting antenna again. Even in the chapter I thought initially being a bad and boring one.

This fun detecting antenna helped me write a highly praised hook for my second book right from the start. Menna suggested that I test it by starting with another scene and after doing so I noticed that it wasn’t working. The first solution was working best.

All these experiences were and still are amazing. Sometimes I forget my fun detecting antenna and force myself to write something I have started but what clearly isn’t flowing and simply doesn’t work. But I discover more and more often, just like Rachel Aaron did for her wordcount, that fun factor isn’t a bonus, it’s a must for quality, because in that case the author puts his or her whole self, including heart, soul and best of the brain into their work.

Dear friends, if you have any remote fun reading these articles, then you can stay assured, and probably have noticed by now, that the topic choice and writing of the articles in this guide, were done by following my fun detecting antenna.

What kind of signal does your fun detecting antenna receive right now in respect to your work-in-project?


Picture: Worries tend to keep my look down. When I relax and recall inspiring passage in Menna’s latest book “The Witches of Cambridge”about how people rarely look up, I do just that, I look up, discover how beautiful the world is, and if I let myself be led by fun and enthusiasm, then I stop and capture the moment, whether with the camera of my mobile phone or with my heart. Last week my fun detecting antenna let me photograph a blooming tree on the way from Emma’s day-care to my home-office. Allowing myself to have such moments boosts the best in me both in respect of creativity and productivity.


“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Reading about Business Writing

Learning Business Writing

I love reading about writing craft. Especially on that of creative writing. I’ve read and continue to read about writing novels, short stories, picture books (even if I don’t plan to write any so far), memoirs, lyric essays, travel books, as well as about writing other works of creative non-fiction.

And I started talking here, in this blog, about the importance of creative writing for business.

But what about books on this other genre that all of us have to muster one way or another? What about books on business writing? I discovered that I didn’t read any so far. I did read guides how to write business letters, and I’ve read excerpts from books on how to write scientific publications, but what about reading a text- or a guide-book on how to write for business in all its facets? Do such books even exist?

They do! And as in any other genre of writing, there are true masters and gurus, other masters look up to.

Today I started to read a book of a scholar, who seems to be one such master.

The author is Wilma Davidson, Ed.D, and the book is “Business Writing: What Works, What Won’t (Third Edition)”.

I’ve been both captivated by the foreword of her doctoral mentor, Professor Jane Emig, who opened my eyes on how we all, who have a job, deal with business writing (job application letters, articles, reports, etc.), and Wilma Davidson herself, when she described the judgment and requirement for evaluation starting at school being the most probable reason why many if not hate, then at least are extremely scared of writing, especially at and for work.

So, I have this wish and idea to read the book and to report to you how I experience what I learn both as a creative writer and a business writer. And I am extremely curious what I will discover along the way.

Some questions to you at this point: What are various types of business writing you met in your work life so far? Did you have any challenges? And whether yes or no, why?

© 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: G – Genre

There are so many opinions about whether an author should stick with one genre or should just follow his or her gut and write whatever comes to mind independent of the known genres, or even deliberately try the author’s pen in a new and unknown genre.

I’ve read many books urging for one or another. All quite convincingly.

But I somehow listened more to those that said, “Stick with one genre.”

Apart from that, I had an idea that I had to write a romantic comedy since I loved reading them. But when I actually sat down wrote, something else came out. Suspense. With some romantic touch, but it was more women’s contemporary literature (especially the series “Life Upside Down”) with a lot of suspense and with a breath of a thriller and drama.

Then I started telling to my friends the following, “I will never write memoirs. This is simply not me!”

In reply they shrugged and were a bit surprised that I said that, because none of them asked whether I wanted to write a memoir. I kept saying that, when somebody simply asked me what genres I write. The ever returning and fierce statement “But not memoirs!” made me frown. If nobody asked me to write one, why did I said No aloud?

After some search and contemplation I recalled when this idea of “Memoirs-are-not-for-me” formed for the first time. I’d found a long article about memoirs and read every word of it with eagerness. Somewhere in the middle of my read my thoughts shouted, “No, this is too complicated. The memoirs are not for me. They are too conflicting and will stir too much worry in me and those described in them!”

And from that moment I kept repeating this statement, “Memoirs are not for me! I am writing only in one genre!” Which I could not really identify with since my first novel and the second book are so different. And my blog posts had a completely different shape. I avoided to think of their “shapes” as genres. I still had this idea that I had to and that I did want to stick with one genre.

But why was I so often thinking of memoirs and answering something with a No, which was not questioned by anyone? Who was asking me to write a memoir?

As I relaxed, took a step back and looked at it I had the answer. I was the one who wanted to write a memoir. And the fact was that I already was doing it. In my blog, and in my very first book “The Truth About Family” based on a true story of my father. I have written this book in the first voice as if my father had written his very own memoir.

As I realized this I discovered that a third or fourth genre sneaked into my writing. And these were guide books on business. How did that happen? Quite simply. I discovered a straightforward definition to something seeming complex to me and my colleagues in a technical community for many years and I wanted to share this discovery. So I blogged a book on this. And in the days as I write this, I revise it for publication.

But this is inconsistent with my aspiration to write in one genre!? What should I do now?, I thought as I detected the multiple genres I have been “messing with”.

Awareness and instantaneous transformation came to help again. I chose to look non-judgmentally at why I had this idea that I had to write in only one genre. I realized that this idea went further and claimed that writing in more than one genre would mean delivering writing of bad quality.

I frowned. Really? I read quite a few authors writing in multiple genres and delivering brilliant and memorable books. Take Elizabeth Gilbert and Stephen King for example.

So, why did I choose to listen only to those who said that writers should stick with only one genre? Why did I choose not to listen to others who claimed the opposite. Giving these considerations space, slowly I found the answer.

I took the recommendation by those who said that you have to write in only one genre as an absolute rule, which I had to follow.

I completely forgot that this was a way they have chosen. And that it is utterly human for all of us to urge others to do something what works for us. We all did this at least once in our lives.

But I have forgotten to look whether their recipe worked for me. And when I looked at this I found that it didn’t work for me. Before I considered this non-judgmentally I thought that I was doing something wrong. But the fact was that I didn’t. I simply had my own way.

As I started researching these ideas of mine without judging them and seeing how various cultures influenced me along the way I discovered something else.

I found what was the originating idea to all this, which channelled me to listen only to one-genre-recommendations. As a child I remember to have been told that I could not concentrate a long time on doing one thing. Which is true for many children. But I took it as my personal failure. And I remember that I thought for a long time that I was not good in finishing things.

As recently this idea appeared again I decided to estimate how much and how little I have finished so far on average.

PhD? Finished.

Work projects? Multiple successfully finished.

Books? Right now 5 written and published (three on Amazon and two on my site), plus two more manuscripts finished in the first draft.

Personal projects? Multiple successfully planned and facilitated to be carried out, including wedding and baptizing ceremonies.

And so on.

Unfinished? Yes, of course! But nothing prominent. Nothing, which I really wanted to be finished. Those that I wanted to get through, were seen through.

So, there was I with an answer to a riddle occupying me for a long time. I have listened to some erroneous ideas from long ago and stressed myself by believing them and judging myself for not being able to follow them.

A new question. Was it worth it? To have lived this through, to have experienced and to have investigated this dilemma? Yes. Because now I could tell you about this.

Dear friends, whether it is about writing in various genres or not, I invite you to look what you say No to, especially where nobody outside yourself asks you to do it. And above all look at this, if you say No again and again, and repeat it to many clueless listeners. Can it be that this idea is one of your truest desires, and that the one, who suggests this new idea, your brain so eagerly says No to, could this maybe your heart?


Picture: A fellow pedestrian measuring me critically last week on the streets of Aalborg. I can think of several genres, where he could be featured. I am wondering what kind of story he imagined a big stroller (with my daughter sleeping inside) and me to be in.


“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels


Cheerleading for Writers: F – Frankfurt Book Fair (or A Tale about Illusions)

I’m talking a lot about my brain (and human brains, in general) in this guide, and how observing its worrying and survival oriented nature — and observing it without judging it — helps me stop complaining and instead pursue what I want to do, for example writing.

I have also mentioned creativity of this wonderful nature’s invention in my head. Creativity, when producing new worries.

But of course it is also creative in constructive ways. During generating and realizing new ideas. During the true and inspiring creative process, which lets me grow spiritually and bloom also physically.

And there’s another way my brain can be creative. By creating dreams.

Rational, or constructive ones, which motivate me to be curious and passionate about what I am doing.

And then, there are illusions.

The Frankfurt Book Fair, and later due to the geographic proximity and a lower scale Gothenburg Book Fair , were my big illusions when I was writing my first book.

This is what happened.

Big book events fascinated me. I never attended one, even not until now.

I did attend some other big fairs. The Hanover Fair, for example, where I manned one of booths of the Technical University Darmstadt in the late 1990s . There I had a taste what it means to be one of the exhibitors and also go around and network as a visitor.

The same happened almost ten years later at the ILA Berlin Air Show (International Aerospace Exhibition and Conferences). I was there with the German branch of the company I have worked with at that time. My colleagues and me were thrilled to have visitors at our booth and gather new leads and create new business relationships for our company.

As an avid reader I fantasized about Frankfurt Book Fair and what it would mean to walk between all those shelves with new books, open and get a sneak peek into newest releases.

As soon as I decided to self-publish my first book, I threw away the fantasies about finding my books in a bookstore, and instead another fantasy appeared. A fantasy of me sitting at a booth at a book fair with a pile of my books on a table in front of me. And people going by, with some of them stopping by, looking curiously at the books, putting them back, and sometimes buying one, then two, then more. There was no vision for the end to this fantasy, like selling all books, just people being curious about my books and sometimes buying them.

I didn’t have any serious intention or plan for this, just a dream. But with the dates for the fairs (both in Frankfurt and Gothenburg) coming closer, I started feeling stressed, because it became obvious that I wouldn’t only be able to publish my book until then but also not be able to finish writing it.

OK, with this not being possible and being told by a fellow writer that exhibiting books and buying a place at a booth was extremely expensive, my brain switched to another fantasy. I have heard about a Self-Publishing Book Award by Writer’s Digest and other similar events by Amazon and other organizers. I got frustrated that I didn’t seem to make those deadlines either.

As I became aware of those multiple frustrations, and with the help of instantaneous transformation technique, I started to look what might be the source for these frustrations. And the answer was an idea that if I make it to a book fair or win in a writing competition then I will feel better as a writer, that then I will feel accomplished.

As soon as I realized that I became dumbfounded.

Really? Only having exhibited my books at book fairs or having won competitions could define me as an accomplished and satisfied author?

I couldn’t believe what my brain was generating because this was simply not true. The facts were the complete opposite.

These are the facts. Every time I sit down and write I experience accomplishment. Every time I go through the texts I have written I find there something I am not ashamed to share. And every comment, every feedback from a reader shows me that my books, my articles touch them.

Yes, some of my readers don’t write to me or comment after reading my books or articles, but this doesn’t mean I fail as a writer.

Not the number of feedbacks and not even the fact that I am not yet earning my full living with my writing make me feel as a writer or not. What really touches me is that I have found at least one very close friend through my writing alone. And I continue making friends through my writing. Or the friendship between me and my friends tightens as we read each other’s books or enjoy other results of each other’s creative processes, like music for example. And this is absolutely priceless!

Slowing down and becoming aware of all this was and is, every time I realise it, an immense gift. I am thrilled that I have the possibility to practice and experience this again and again.

The illusionary and self-deprecating thoughts still come time to time, especially when I go out of my comfort zone and am about to jump into something completely new and unknown. But with awareness of the true value of writing for me, these thoughts became less and less frequent and they are not that loud anymore. I realize that these illusions and thoughts implying that I am not good enough are just recordings I have learned through the culture I grew up and which was laid stone-by-stone, judgement-by-judgement, by many generations before me. Today I realize more often that in every new moment I have a choice to make. To write and enjoy the creative process or to complain and compare myself to some strange and diffuse version of myself (whom I actually don’t even like). And I realize that I am not alone in these discoveries, that more and more people make more and more often the choice to create and be active instead of being afraid, and instead of daydreaming illusions.

Coming back to the process of writing as my goal and enjoying the creativity including its surprises and emotions it generates in me, produced results I have never expected. Along with moving houses, working as a consultant and managing a family with two small children and a new business, I have published a novel, a novella and a short story within one year, including full revision and editing process, then I have written and published on my site two short e-books, I finalized several manuscripts, which I revise now and will publish this year, and I am working on at least three other works-in-progress.

In addition to this, I have also submitted one of my books to the Self-Published Book Award at Writer’s Digest.

Whether it wins or not is not the point of it all.

Something else matters. I express myself in my writing and I experience what my writing generates in others. And I learn how my motivation and passion to write infects my fellow writers to do the same.

Yes, all this matters and enriches me.

Dear writers, dear friends, please observe yourselves and how your readers react toward your writing. Even the negative feedback shows that your writing has steered your reader. And if you let your heart flow into your writing then I am sure that there will be at least one smile on the face of at least one of your readers. And this is what counts! Nothing else.

There is a cute tendency I have noticed. Negative comments and reviews on Amazon seem most frequently to appear first when the writer becomes popular with a growing number of readers. Then the wave of popularity sweeps a reader who might not enjoy this particular genre. But if you are like me — as I write this article — at the beginning of a writing and publishing career, then enjoy the support and motivation of your cheerleaders, who truly enjoy your writing. They might enjoy reading your work as much as you enjoy writing it.

Here is to the true gems we have and can enjoy now in this moment and not to illusions, which can bring us off track and fog our vision on the amazing ways we have chosen to walk!

Happy writing and happy creating!


Picture: without noticing and pushing it to happen, a dream came true. I have experienced seeing a pile of my books lying on a table in front of me. Not at a book fair, but at my very first author talk organized by the South Gate Society School of Creative Writing in Aalborg. The evening, at which I’d read from my books and answered questions by an audience who came specifically to hear me read and talk and who were interested in me as an author, was simply unforgettable and surpassing all my illusionary dreams about book fairs.


“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels