Take it where you can get it.
I have been stuck in a particular series. The biggest problem was the flashback element that was pivotal for the main character and for the storyline. The story dealt with witches and that made the flashback options wide open but I was stuck with what could have been a never-ending bog instead of the murky middle.
I mentioned it casually to my sixteen year old who is also a writer. I did it more out of frustration than asking a question. He not only offered the perfect solution, but did it out of reflex.
I have a lot to teach my son about the craft of writing, but I also have as much to learn from him. I don’t need some ninety year old curmudgeon to guide me, not when I have superteen on my side.
Where did you get help from an unsuspected source?
There is a major disconnect in the writer world. Drugs and drinking are held up like some sort of magic ladder to becoming famous. Growing up you are told the funny side of a famous old writer who wrote a masterpiece while on LSD. I see writers still trying to emulate this. There really is another way.
I found a magic fountain, it isn’t a new one, it was just new to me. I began doing Yoga and Meditation this summer. I still feel the writer pains, I still feel the demoralization of critics, trolls, and well meaning advice. The magic comes in by choosing to change my natural default setting. When I meditate I work on my self, not on the forces I can’t control. People are going to hate what I write. I can’t change that. Instead I work with what I can. I look at what they say, break it down to what they are really saying between the curses. Then I meditate or do yoga depending on how much I am worked up.
Writing comes from emotions. Sometimes, this leads to something beautiful. Even the happiest stories often come from a place of pain and wishing. The writer loses someone close to them. They write a story of redemption where their character defeats the odds that took the person they loved. The reader is overjoyed with the story of hope. They may never know the real story that is behind it. Most readers won’t even care.
Letting life happen, however it will, isn’t easy but it is simple. The only pain that reach you, is the one you let in. Things will happen. People will betray you. Acceptance is key. You need to let things come. How you deal with them is the only way they really can affect you. Write from your heart, write from your pain, write from any emotion that pushes you. Don’t let the pain become you, leave it on the page. No one will buy your story of every character dying, unless you magically became Shakespeare. There is too much perceived and real pain in the world. We as writers have a duty to take our pain and finding the outside perspective to find some kind of silver lining. The reader deserves to feel better by the end of the stories we write.
Putting Yoga and meditation into my life changed my writing. It has created a new atmosphere. I am able to write more prolifically. I have even found time to sleep again after years of insomnia. There is a reason so many writers are called Bohemian. It isn’t about becoming a poor artist. It is about the mind of the artist taking life’s pain and transforming it into a positive energy.
I am not sharing this because I am all-knowing. I am not an expert. I am only sharing what works for me.
Turn off your phone. This sounds like a simple thing to do. Yet so many of us allow social everything invade our already engaged brains. I don’t mean turn the ringer down, I mean turn it off! I turned off my phone and my kindle (which annoyingly announces every time someone poops on Facebook) Down time is the hallmark of a good writing environment.
I have 3 children, they all have important needs every fifteen minutes. I have a beautiful wife, who loves to talk about what celebrity did what or whom. I hang a sign on the refrigerator, I hang a sign next to my office. Sadly my office has no door so that doesn’t help. Over time though they have all learned that creative time is important for my good mood as much as anything else. Allow yourself to disconnect for a while. You will be thankful you did and stand back and be amazed at what you did all by yourself.
Let’s face it, most of us began as super fans of one writer or another. We devoured everything they wrote. We waited in lines to get the latest book so we could be the first to read the next installment. Whatever the case may be, we are readers first. The problem with this method of teaching ourselves to write, is we often feed our brains from the same trough as millions of other writers. Whether it be the next Stephen King, or J.K. Rowling.
The hardest thing to do is reminding yourself there are so many other styles, so many other genres, so many other humans that write well. Many of my friends suffer through the writing blinders they have imposed on themselves. This is especially true of male readers who refuse to read a romance novel. The lack of exposure to this other world of writing a love scene is lost on them. It shows, even in well known published authors. The male love scene is so often about what it feels like, what it looks like, what it does for them. There are very few male writers willing to write about how the scenario makes their character feel. I am not a psychologist, but I am willing to bet it has something to do with perceptions and gender insecurities. Men aren’t supposed to feel more than four or five emotions and rarely are those emotions allowed to conflict or even cohabitate during a single scene.
I know writing this, half of my readers are scoffing at the idea. Their love scenes are different. Their values are far superior to the hindbrain activity and are of an elevated nature. The idea that there is something wrong with describing a woman’s breast as anything more than the direct object of desire would not even register.
I am not more elevated than my peers, I am not better in anyway. I am however aware that this exists. There is a simple test for any reader to see the other side of things. Read a novel written by the opposite sex, in a genre you would have never read, and judge the differences. Not whether they are good or bad, but whether they convey a different feeling. Two writers can write about deep passion and even the exact same scene, but if it was directly pointed out, very rarely would a reader realize they were both describing the same act. A characters emotions are key and women are just as human as men. Writing the damsel in distress scenario takes on a very different meaning when she was just about to pick the lock herself instead of pining for a big strong man to save her. I have never met a woman that wouldn’t fight and figure out a way to save herself.
In the interest of stopping the cardboard cutout of women in novels versus the fully fleshed out 3-D male superhero. Remember we are all members of the same human race. We just might approach problems and pleasure from a different viewpoint.
I used to ask the question “How do I know when I have written something really well?” I was lost and it seemed all of the people that I looked up to for guidance couldn’t answer that question. Today I stumbled on not just the answer for me, but also the reason why none of my teachers could answer that question.
I was re-reading last weeks updates to my story, so I could get back in the groove, after taking an uncharacteristic weekend off from writing. I was half-way through the weeks work, when I caught myself laughing out loud to something one of my characters said. I have explained before, in another post, that I do create the characters but after that, I let them react naturally to their situation, environment, and history. That is why I rarely take credit for something witty my characters say, because I feel like it is exactly how that person would have reacted.
I finally got the feeling that has alluded me for so long. I was able to temporarily live in that world with them. I was able to feel the confusion one of my characters must have been going through. I felt my work as I read it. It is one of the greatest feelings as a writer.
When I told my wife about my a-ha moment, she looked at me as if I were slow. My wife is an amazing artist and I marvel at how effortless she makes it look to paint a scene, draw a person, sketch a thought, or even capture a feeling on canvas. If I had asked an artist, my epiphany would probably not have shocked me as much at three A.M. This is common knowledge for them, and taught on day one.
I took this new information and went back to read some old work from my teacher’s. It didn’t take long for me to realize not only is the definition of “writing well” fluid, it is subjective. The more I read, the more sad I became. I couldn’t find the spark in any of their writings. They used perfect form, a wide scope of imagery and base description, and interestingly complex plots. All of this perfection, and yet, the stories were flat. Many of the characters felt ramrodded into place to provide the perfect foil for the main character to get an idea across. In the end, the sad truth of why they couldn’t answer me was that they didn’t know either.
I know each of them could pick the bones clean from anything I write, and I welcome them to do it. I am terrible at using correct punctuation, using tropes from time to time, and references only a few would get. So I will never be an editor. Instead I will create, and let my characters do what they must.
Setting up your work space can be as important as your plot lines. When I first started writing I took my laptop where ever I could find to be able to write in peace. I was usually uncomfortable and the writing was some of the most challenging. Not because the writing was so well thought out, because I was not in my own place. The first thing I did was get on Ebay and bought a big monitor. I had to compensate for my ultraportable laptop having such a tiny screen. I use a dell business class laptop, this way I can use a docking station like companies do and get the benefits of a desktop and still have it portable when I need it.
I have found that using a monitor this size, I can turn the brightness to it’s lowest settings and reduce eye strain dramatically. Next up was my keyboard. I had to have something Mechanical. It had to sound and feel good when I typed on it. The programmable keys were just a plus.
I love the back-lighting and the responsive touch of the keys. The macros that let me program repetitive steps are nice as well.
Next I found a mouse that was also programmable. It is nice to have a laser mouse that lets you assign copy and paste functions to certain buttons. Even better with this mouse is those assignments are only active when I am running specific programs.
And the last thing I needed for my mini desk was something for focus. I love my jasmine candles and have several. I always wait for a sale on them and stock up when I can. It works for me, everyone is different. One of my friends uses a bonzai tree. This just happens to be my happy item on the desk.
Are any of these things necessary? Probably not. But they seem to make the writing process much more about the writing than the process. Everyone will have their own. I was asked by a friend what I used and thought I would share.
As the long editing work on my first “Sprite” novel continues, I have been forced to realize some changes were needed. I am doing research for my third Sprite Series story, rebuilding my online network, and working on better themed photos for each part of Sprite as I write them.
To say I am stretching myself thin is an understatement. I would also like to say, I would have it no other way. You will be seeing some minor changes here including a menu change that will take you to my other works. I will separate each property by the type of content. I will have my 5 day per week serial work on one site, my random short stories on another, My personal life blogging on yet another. I will also include my social sites in easy to use links including my Tumblr, twitter, and Google Plus. I hope everyone finds what they want to read easily with my new structure. This site will remain about my thoughts on the writing life and so you should see no thematic changes in the posts. (well except this one) Thank you to everyone who has taken time to participate in my writing life. I will always do my best to remain thoughtful of others, mindful of context, and protective of personal feelings. No hate here, just writing for the love of writing.
I have many writer friends who flounder for inspiration regularly. One was even cross with my five day per week writing schedule. She wanted to know where I found this magic fountain of inspiration and share the damn thing. She Wasn’t happy with my answer but hopefully some of you will be.
I am always on the lookout for anything unique, anything missed in the hectic rat race, just anything really. As an example I went out and walked to physical therapy instead of driving. It wasn’t far, and in less than half a mile I found my next short story. You are welcome to use the picture I took for your own inspiration.
You are even welcome to use the photo in your story if you like, just keep it creative commons friendly. The tracks reminded me of old times, They reminded me of my grandfather who adored trains and shared that love with me regularly. They also reminded me of all the disused track around my town. Then on the way back I saw several for sale signs on homes that had been redistricted from one of the best local schools to one of the worst. By the time I got home I had an entire story idea based off of a soon to be ghost town. Giving the town a voice in the comings and goings of the people.
My friend was not happy. She told me it wasn’t fair that a set of train tracks and a for sale sign did all of that. I don’t know, I feel writing is such a personal thing maybe there is no such thing as a fountain of inspiration. Every persons brain works a little different. That is what makes all of the wonderful writers I follow on here and Google+ such a treat. I have wanted to type “I never would have thought of that” a dozen times a day after reading some of their stories.
So in the end, do what makes you happy, write what you feel, that is why there are so many of us out here. Writing is personal. Even when it has nothing to do with you.
So I ignored my headache for a few days. I do this regularly until it becomes unbearable then I will take my medicine. I had two really bad migraines near the middle of last week and took my medicine for them but I am hyper-vigilant of taking it too often. I have had migraines since I was young. There was a time when some big name migraine meds were no longer working for me that I could count the days I didn’t have headaches easier than the ones I could. The upside after having a mini-TIA (mini-stroke) was they found something that helped. the downside. It could be addictive and could build up a tolerance in my system the way the big name stuff had before. So I live with them and tolerate the things I do to mitigate them. I wear Gunnar gaming glasses when I am looking at my screen for a long time. I try to eat healthy, I have lost weight, and have both increased and decreased stress. Yesterday I tried to write my next installment of my Bubbles Serial but could not get my hands to type. After four hours of typing, I managed three hundred words that were spelled incorrectly. So I got to spend most of my day in the hospital not getting anything written while they did CAT scans, made sure I had a heart, etc. I worried about missing my deadline even when I was laying in the CAT scan machine. They sent me home to arrange to see some specialists soon and I will.
The biggest thing I took away from this was just how important the writing process is to me. It may cause a bit of stress when I don’t make a deadline, but writing for me is like running is to some of my friends. They could go a day without it, but they would be thinking about it even sitting on a couch. I write not because I chose to do it, I write because I have to. It is the core of who I am, it is in everything I see and smell. I want to describe the world back to itself. If I do it well enough someone will see the beauty in the mundane parts of life.
The other thing is my family, They have been amazing. I try to find time everyday to play with them do something special with them. Even the oldest who has become too much like me for words. My wife is one of the most amazing people I have ever known. She has put up with me for 17 years, that is a huge plus in her favor. My daughter is at that rocking age where she likes to test her limits frequently. Half-way between a kid and a woman, she is growing up more beautiful and warm-hearted than I could have hoped. My youngest is a hundred mile and hour fastball. If you blink he will have done five cute things and one not so cute thing in the middle for balance. He is the rockstar of the group. Between them, my mother, father, and brother who are still in my life daily, My mother-in-law that always keeps me guessing and surprises me regularly, and my friends who check on me daily. I am one blessed writer.
So often I look like I have had no sleep, and usually it is true. I can say I never feel as alive as when I am breathing life into a two-dimensional character and building a world around them. Headaches be damned bring on the next project.