Writing and Creating Every Day

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It’s amazing how the time flies! Spring is busting out all over here. I just realized yesterday that it’s been almost FOUR months since I posted! What have I been up to? Quite a lot, I suppose.

The last time I posted was just before I started teaching a workshop at our library called Creativity Unleashed, based on The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. (More about that in a minute.)

I’ve been writing whenever possible, a lot of journaling with the Morning Pages, one of the tools from The Artist’s Way. Our writer’s group is going strong and I’ve been meeting with them on Thursday evenings whenever I could.

I worked really hard last fall on a futuristic, after the fall, mythic short story that I submitted to the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Contest… and got the rejection late winter. Then I turned around and submitted it to the Narrative Magazine… and also got rejected. Need to find somewhere else to submit it because it is a really good story and deserves to be published.

Anyway, I’ve just started reading blogs again and there are a couple posts that I’ve particularly enjoyed recently. One was sent to me by a friend and came out of Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog, inspiring and some good reminders, What I’ve Learned as a Writer. When I read it a couple months ago I realized I had been putting off reading because I didn’t feel I had time for it. Reading this reminded me I need to make time for it if I want to be a good writer.

Then I read one a friend of a friend posted from Chuck Wendig, similar inspiration but with a totally different spin, How To Push Past the Bullshit and Write That Goddamn Novel. (Warning, LOTS of profanity, but well punctuated.)

I can’t vouch for the idea that if you do a full-time job outside the home people will leave you alone to write in your free time, my 4 year old does not follow that logic, but I particularly like where he says, “You can sneeze 350 words.” Now that’s the kind of inspirational writing I can appreciate.

That night I sat down in a chair and wrote 350 words on the ending of my novel while my daughter played before bed time. I think she said something to me a couple times. I caught it and answered but didn’t let it distract me from my purpose. That’s what we need to be doing more of.

Okay, a little bit more about The Creativity Unleashed workshop I’ve just finished teaching.

For the past three months, I’ve been leading a workshop at my library that we called Creativity Unleashed, based on Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. Some years ago I picked up this book, read it and put it on my book shelf. Then, when I started getting serious about my writing but couldn’t afford any writing workshops, I decided to do the book as a 12 week workshop at home on my own. It really helped me open up creatively and start writing daily.

One of our group found she could get copies for everyone very cheaply online so we all purchased a copy of the book if we didn’t already have one. The composition of the group was very eclectic and the reasons for being there were just as diverse. The focus was increasing creativity wherever that might be in our lives, whether looking for a new job, writing, quilting, or whatever else it might entail.

Basic Tools

Morning pages, artist dates and weekly exercises are the basis of the Artist’s Way.

Morning Pages are pretty straight forward (and the bane of many a participant.) It is simply three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing as soon as you wake up. When I first started though, it was at 3 in the afternoon. I think the next day was around 2 pm and I worked my way back to mostly 7 am, after I’d been up an hour. I love them! They make me so much more focused for the rest of the day, but even I found it very difficult to get them in towards the end of our workshop when my munchkin had been sick almost continuously for a month and I was suffering severe sleep deprivation.

Cameron says the Artist Date is about filling up the artist’s well with images but our group just set about having fun and took themselves on a huge variety of artist dates. Of course, most of mine tended to have some component of writing but they often included taking in new stories in the form of movies or simply new experiences. I made a practice of checking our local Arts Council calendar for options. One participant brought up the concept of vision boards, where you cut out images from old magazines that appeal to you and I started one on Pinterest. People went to live jazz concerts, beginner bird walks, free movies at the library, and art gallery openings. One week for me it was simply about getting to read a whole mystery novel and another artist date involved cooking up a storm, including honey oat bread, buffalo wing meatballs and coconut pound cake with raspberry sauce.

Weekly exercises run the gamut from writing exercises, like a letter to your future self, to throwing out one piece of old clothing. I admit I did nearly all the exercises when I did this book the first time but then did not pay as close attention to them this time.

If that sounds interesting, I highly recommend you check out the book. I’ll be sharing more about the workshop in the weeks to come.

It’s Friday, go write something. Remember, none of us are promised tomorrow so if you love to write, make some time for it today.

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Writing dialogue without quotation marks?

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I just finished the novel Benediction by Kent Haruf. This was only the second book that I’ve read from the modern era that did not use quotes to set off dialogue. It wasn’t totally foreign to me but, to be honest, I wasn’t aware that there were a number of authors doing this.

The only other book that I’ve read, written in modern times, that used this quoteless dialogue was Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which I loved. It was a work of speculative fiction so I assumed that her lack of quotes to delineate dialogue was part of her intention to create a certain atmosphere. I accepted it and really enjoyed the story. I thought the lack of quotes gave it a very internal feeling.

I thought the lack of quotation marks in Benediction was difficult to follow at first but I was soon okay with it.  Again, I thought it gave the novel an internal feeling or perhaps even a timeless feel.  It was as if I were looking at events that happened through frosted glass.

I wondered why someone would choose not to use quote marks to delineate dialogue. I did a quick search online that led me to an article from Lionel Shriver on the Wall Street Journal site where I learned that a number of modern authors, including James Frey, Kent Heruf and Cormac McCarthy, are popularizing the trend.

Shriver contends that “By putting the onus on the reader to determine which lines are spoken and which not, the quoteless fad feeds the widespread conviction that popular fiction is fun while literature is arduous.”

Here’s one of my prime problems with it. I have no problem reading dialect and dialogue without quotation marks. I’m a very fast reader and can adapt. However, I know people who simply cannot read dialect, such as Mark Twain. Their brains simply don’t translate the written word into sound in their head. I believe that writing is about communicating. Anything that gets between the reader and the story inhibits that communication. Now, I know that not every book is for every reader but, as writers, shouldn’t we be trying to communicate in the most clear manner possible?

I also came upon a an interview Cormac McCarthy had done with Oprah some years ago in which he says that the intent is to make the reading easier, not harder. “If you write properly you shouldn’t have to punctuate.”

He does concede that “You really have to be aware that there are no quotation marks to guide people and write in such a way that it is not confusing who is speaking.”

I think that is a rather large challenge and whether writers who write without quotation marks live up to it is another matter altogether.

I took this issue to my writer’s group last night. One of my group contended that a good story will not be brought down by poor grammar or punctuation. Another member said she wouldn’t be able to get past the first few pages. Yet another threw something on the floor in disgust and said that it was sheer laziness on the author’s part.

I think I will personally continue to use quotation marks in my writing, but I won’t reject a book just because the author does not use them.

What do you think? Were you aware of modern authors writing books without quotation marks to set the dialogue apart? Do you enjoy it? Do you do it yourself? I’d love to hear some more perspectives.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron to Unleash Your Creativity!

Thomas Cole

I’m very excited. On Thursday we had the first meeting of a new group at my library that are devoting themselves to doing the 12 week course in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan. I was planning on 12 people but two extra showed up . . . and two more plan to join us yet!

We’re calling it Creativity Unleashed!

There are some people who have done this before, like myself, who are really excited about the possibilities. I did this ten years ago and it helped me get writing every single day, feel more balanced by releasing my anxieties on the page daily and curb that inner censor.

There are also people who have never done it but are creatively inclined and are looking forward to it. Then there are some people who don’t consider themselves creative but they’re willing to give it a chance. I hope it will pleasantly surprise them. I believe we are creating all the time, from a simple list . . .  to a meal . . .  to love letters.

My biggest hope for this workshop is that it will help me work through those last two chapters of Biomalware. Julia says, in the book, that you can’t keep putting down the same complaints in your morning pages without some kind of solutions presenting themselves.

Of course, finding time for three pages of long hand writing every morning can be difficult. She suggests setting your alarm for a half hour early. That sounds good right now.  However, that night, my daughter had a bad night and needed mommy at Midnight, 2 am, 4 am and she got up for the day at 6:55 am. I didn’t get to my morning pages until 3 in the afternoon.  (By then, I had a lot to say.)

The idea, however, is to get your worries and anxieties down on the page in the morning so you can be more productive the rest of the day.  I have no doubt there will be days I manage that and days I don’t. I will take what I can get.

There’s another reason I love doing workshops like this. Teaching someone else something they don’t know makes me feel competent when other areas of my life are making me feel incompetent. It’s very helpful. I sometimes forget I really have something to offer. It’s a good thing to get out of that head space.

I highly recommend this book to anyone out there, and I do mean anyone. You don’t have to be an artist. You could do the workshop on your own or  find some people to do it with you!

Have you ever used The Artist’s Way as a workshop for yourself? Alone or in a group?  How did it help you? Or did it?

Finding Your Best Time To Write

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I’ve been pondering how to find time to write, and my best time to write. I guess we all struggle with that. For me, the demands of being a mom with a full-time job and a long commute make it hard to get any time in, let alone my best time.

For me, part of it is just staying in that creative part of my brain. I frequently refer to this as story brain, keeping the story I’m working uppermost in my brain as I go throughout the day, focused on the story even though I’m doing other things.

Sometimes I worry that doing that makes me less present in my life but I can clearly remembering sitting in my camp chair outside this summer while my daughter played on her swing set and I wrote in my journal, both recording the moment and coming up with a piece of the short story I was writing. So maybe it isn’t staying in story brain but just creative mode. It definitely feels different from normal, going about the routine of the day, brain.

Another part is scheduling. My husband gave me a book for Christmas that he heard about on the Chiot’s Run organic blog, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind. It’s a collection of essays on the topic, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei. I’ve started reading a bit of it every day. Just the simple admonishment to do the thing that is most important first in your day instead of trying to get all the other little things out of the way first, is so obvious and yet counter to my typical thinking.

I can definitely say that I’m actually a morning person. Oh, not that I want to get up in the morning, but when I do get up early, in the neighborhood of six o’clock, I find myself feeling better and being so much more productive. When my daughter was going to sleep at midnight and getting up at 9 am with her father, I couldn’t do that. I was lucky to get myself to work on time. I love having my husband on first shift because it means I can get to bed earlier and get up at 6 am. I know it won’t last but I’m loving it and plan to make the most of it.

My challenge then is to make time for the morning pages (doing The Artist’s Way with a workshop group) and then write creatively. I can get up and do the morning pages then write in my head on the way to work and just use the voice recorder to catch anything I’ve worked through enough in my head to bother recording. That’s my best plan so far. Otherwise, I’m just going to have to write at night, which is fine but it’s definitely not my best time to write or my most creative. I’ll just have to edit more.

What are your challenges? How do you get your writing in? What’s your best time to write?

NaNoWriMo and Cafe Press

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Happy Post Thanksgiving/Last Ditch Effort at NaNoWriMo! I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and you’ve already “won” NaNoWriMo.  I enjoyed my Thanksgiving tremendously with both families this year but, as for NaNoWriMo, I’m still running behind. I am still running though. I have come a long way with this novel and I will finish.  I have today off and a write-in planned for tomorrow.  I know I can do it! Good Luck to all.

In other news, I’ve put my first Café Press selection of items together and they’re on sale today! I had posted this thought on Facebook, in the box above, that “Life is Strange, and so we write.” Several friends liked it and one said, “Bumper Sticker!” I thought, hey, I could do that. So I did a search online to make sure someone else wasn’t already using it. Then I went into Microsoft Publisher and made a text box, typed in the text, chose my font, chose the font size, chose the alignment and decided to put a border around the text. I saved it as a .jpeg and uploaded it to Café Press. They chose which items to place it on, including several types of mugs. I hope somebody out there likes it.  The design is labeled Life is Strange – Write.

One good thing about being forced to write a little slower this month – I’m going to “win” but I won’t be finished and that’s okay because I don’t feel burned out on it. I’ll keep going until it is then I’ll do a basic clean up edit and put it away for a month or so while I work on other things. I want to finish this book and try to sell it but I’m not going to rush it. I also have my second novel ready to be written (first five chapters are already written.) And I actually had an idea pop into my head that may become my third novel.

I don’t even remember what I was doing but I began to wonder what our society would be like if we had grown up around a more nature centered culture. Could we have industrialized under those circumstances?  If we did, what would it look like? Yes, it’s more questions than anything else at this point but it’s an intriguing line of thought for me and I think it may turn into something.

Life IS strange, and so I write. That is the great mystery and fun of it all.

Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Award & a New Story

Cayuga_Lake by Stilfehler

We had a GREAT time on Cayuga Lake last weekend, very relaxing, but now it’s back to work.

I’m working on applying for the Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Award.  They typically give out 5 awards of $6,000.00 and 5 “Promise” awards of $1,000.00.

You must have a child under the age of 18 (which I do) but there’s no application fee and it’s all done online.  The application is due by 5 pm (Pacific Time) on August 31st, which is Saturday.

I’ve applied for other grants before, so I already had half the work done.  They just want 4 samples of  work so I’m submitting two short stories, an essay and a memoir piece.

I made the mistake of not paying enough attention to what they were requesting otherwise so learn from my mistake.  I had combined my biography and letter of intent into one thing for another grant application and didn’t realize I need to write them separately for this one.

They want a biography, an artist statement that gives a “concise description of your work and goals as an artist,” a Curriculum Vitae (in other words, an artist’s resume that tells them where your work has been seen and what workshops you’ve attended) and a letter of intent that tells how you would use this award if you win one.

The thing that’s giving me the most trouble is the biography.  A lot of what I write is biographical in nature so it’s hard to know where to stop.  How much or how little should I say about myself, my life, my writing and my family?  The only direction they give is to include how your family life inspires or challenges your writing, if it’s relevant.  Well, yes, it is relevant, but what else do I include?  My mind went one way, focusing on my writing throughout my life, but I’m trying to keep it concise.  I mean, they didn’t even give me a word count maximum –  I could ramble on for ages!

So I went through and edited the writing pieces I’m submitting, yet again, then edited the resume, artist statement and letter of intent.  Then I realized I need to pull out a separate biography.  I’m almost there.

(Just went and looked at last Spring’s winners. I’m glad I didn’t look before.  It’s a little discouraging.  Everybody who won seems to be very accomplished.  Oh well, it’s worth a try.)

I’ve also been editing my entry for the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Contest.  Then I started getting this idea for a story about two angels and a demon that would be GREAT for the longer genre contest.  Unfortunately, that’s only two weeks away so I don’t know if I can have it ready in time.  It’s a good story so I’m pursuing it and if it’s not done, I’ll hold onto it.  I’m a little loath to send something I just finished writing into a contest anyway.  I prefer to let things set for a bit and edit again.

We had an unexpected day off on Wednesday because our power went out so I took myself down to the local coffee shop to write for a bit.  It was incredibly loud and I was getting a little annoyed but I decided to just listen and found that I was sitting next to a group of people talking about their Catholic religion.  My, how inspiring for my story since one of the characters is a priest!

So, I flagrantly eavesdropped and made a few notes.  They were telling religious jokes and laughing uproariously but they also hit on a few more serious topics.  Not sure if it has any relevance for what I’m writing but it did inspire me to think about my story and make some progress.  I’ve got a good idea of who my characters are and why they are there.  I also have the central question of the story, the theme and where it’s going, to guide the plot.  Now I just have to make sure all my scenes reflect and build on that.

It just seems like there has been a lot of great creative energy in the air lately, for my whole writing group at least.  Hopefully that is true for everyone out there.

The Words (movie) and Plagiarism

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My husband and I watched a movie last night, The Words, on the recommendation of two people who I work with at my library.

WARNING: If you’ve never seen the movie, this blog containers spoilers.

The premise is that a writer has written a book he is told is very good but it isn’t garnering him representation or a contract.  He has to get a regular job to support himself.  On their honeymoon in Paris, his wife buys him an old bag which he later finds has a manuscript in it.  It’s a masterpiece.  He retypes it and passes it off as his own.  Then the old man shows up and tells him he knows what the young man did because it’s his story, but he doesn’t want anything.

This movie didn’t really work for me, for two reasons.

First, I’ve been in a writer’s group for a few years now.  All of us would love to make a living at our writing.  Hell, we’d love to be bestselling and rich!  But, we would continue to write whether we ever sell it or not, because that’s what we do.  We write.  We’re writers.  We want to write and share through our writing.  What is the point of selling a piece of writing if it isn’t yours?  You’re not a writer, if you do that, you’re a publisher or an agent.  We writers live to create.  Did he think that if he just published the book he’d suddenly begin writing to that caliber?  We all know that’s not going to happen.  Good writing takes time and work.  The point is not to sell, the point is to create.

Maybe it’s just me, but in his place I think a lot of writers would have rather had the adventure of trying to find the person who actually wrote it.

Second, he says that he’s not where he’s supposed to be in life.  That’s not possible.  Wherever you are is where you’re supposed to be.  Life is a journey.  You have to let go of what you thought your life would be in order to find the life that’s waiting for you.  Maybe that just sounds like a platitude but it’s what I’ve found to be true and I guess I expect other writers to have that perspective but probably many don’t.

Okay, then you’ve got the whole Dennis Quaid storyline area that just doesn’t work.  Supposedly he’s written the book that tells this whole story of the young man’s plagiarism and old man, and he’s reading part of it at an award ceremony.  A young woman shows up who seems to know what is going on.  Now, if he’d published a novel before to critical acclaim like the one described in this new book, wouldn’t people recognize it instead of just this one girl suspecting that the new book was really what was going on in his own life?  Plus, she comes in with this all knowing attitude.  How?  I don’t think so.

Some of the cinematography was beautiful.  There was one shot that I had to go back and look at again, about a third of the way into the movie, with the Fall trees, the street and the sky line fogged in the background.  I would love to have that as a picture on my wall.  The soundtrack was beautiful too.

In the end,  The idea was interesting but the plot was not well executed.  I enjoyed it for the acting and the cinematography.  3 stars from me.  I am guessing that someone wrote this as a screenplay to be a box office smash with Dennis Quaid and Jeremy Irons.  (I went and checked, it was written by the directors.  They could have used a good writer’s group to poke holes in it before they turned it into a movie.)

What do you think?  Did you see the movie?  What about plagiarism?  As a writer, what’s the point?

What do you really NEED to write?

What do you really need to write? This question occurred to me as I was driving home last night. Unfortunately, I hadn’t set up my digital recorder so I pulled off at an exit and got it recording before I drove on.  (It helps me to remember.   Before I had it, I had to just, well…  remember.  It’s a great tool.)

This month is Camp NaNoWriMo again and though I am not participating this month it reminded me about reading Chris Baty’s  No Plot, No Problem.  It’s a really funny and enjoyable book.  He suggests a bunch of things you might want to have handy before you start to write.  There were some physical things like setting up your computer file, treats to reward yourself for keeping going, your favorite drinks, your favorite pens, pencils and notebooks, reference books you might want to refer to our use to jog your mind.  It was mostly things to make you more comfortable and help ease the task.  Some people write character sheets and plot everything out ahead of time.

Then there are intangible things like time, sufficient sleep to be coherent, quiet and space.  But people have done without those time and again.  (Though I do suspect that when people say they got up an hour early before going to work every day to write, they are largely getting sufficient sleep to suit them.)

I personally like a notebook or a bound journal and a really good pen.  I use my laptop a lot.  I have the Scrivener software but I haven’t actually used it, I use OpenOffice.  I have recorded things on my little digital recorder and used Dragon NaturallySpeaking to transcribe the dictation.  I use the Internet for research.  I always liked Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference for checking grammar and usage but more often I turn to Internet sources these days when I’m concerned.  All of these are great tools to make writing easier.

I like a sufficient amount of sleep but I find myself creating things at three in the morning while I’m rocking my daughter.  I like a quiet room and time to myself but most of the time I’m writing surrounded with people or at least while taking care of my daughter and being interrupted constantly for attention.

What really got me thinking about this topic was a blog post by a fellow writer.  He said that he had lost most of his vision and would continue writing as long as he could see to do so.

My brain screamed, “Nooooo!”

Thankfully, another writer responded with what I felt – you don’t need your eyesight to write.

It might make it a bit easier but all you really need is your mind.  Everything else is a tool to record what you’ve written and communicate it.  Think about it.  There is a great oral tradition that backs writing – storytelling.  People made up their stories, practiced them and shared them.  If that is all you can ever do then you are WRITING!

The point is we all have obstacles to our writing.  Sometimes they are external and sometimes they are internal, but there is nothing that can keep us from writing if we really want to.

Randy Pausch, in Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, said that “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

So, what do you really need to write?

Well Begun is NOT Half Done, But It’s a Start

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Well begun is not half done.  Not even close.  But it’s a start.

So, there’s been a little writing this week.  A couple small poems started, waiting to see if they lead anywhere. One is a spoken word poem about intrinsic self worth.   Yesterday morning I saw a couple Turkey Vultures on the peak of the barn roof and it made me think about a haiku  –

Two Turkey Vultures

Sitting on the old barn roof

Scan for cat’s dead moles

Yeah, that last line might need a little work, but at least I’m writing something.

I’ve been listening to Ted Talks about storytelling and writing while I work on things that don’t require my full attention this week.  I get all inspired and then when I can actually write, I’m too tired.  It sucks.

Today my goal is a list of everything I want to be doing, in writing, outside and inside the house.  I think it will help me focus on chipping away at my goals.

I’ve also been thinking about how the root of great writing is storytelling.  I grew up with a father who told really great stories about his childhood.  I think that’s part of what got me interested in writing.  I’ve heard of a writing method called the Snowflake method.  Someone told me about it once and the way they explained it, you start by writing down your story as if you were telling it to a friend or a small group at a party, to entertain, then you flesh it out, adding character traits, setting, details, etc.

There’s an ehow on how to write using that method here, but that isn’t the way it was initially explained to me.  I think I prefer the way it was explained to me.  This results in more of a synopsis that you can fill with details.

Overall, I prefer more of an organic method for writing, just starting with an idea and seeing where it leads me.

We looked at a writing method last night in writer’s group that suggested breaking the parts of writing out so that you research at the beginning, then write, then edit, doing things in an exact order.

I personally prefer to research until I reach a sort of escape velocity/ maximum threshold where I have to put pen to paper and start pouring the synthesized ideas out into something new.

One writer pointed out that he prefers to write then see what he needs to know and do the research then.  I suspect it’s a recursive process for most of us and while it’s wise to try not to edit while you’re doing the bulk of your writing, the writing and the research will circle around each other.

So, the light is peaking over the horizon and the writing has begun again.  I don’t feel quite as blocked but it’s building slowly instead of galloping along.  Time for a list and some good old-fashioned elbow grease.

Fear, Creativity and a TED Talk

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I live in fear

What should I do?

What can I do?

How about – what  I want to do?

Should anything else matter?

I haven’t been writing lately. That’s not entirely true. I have been journaling a LOT. I’ve also been dealing with a lot of fear. You see, it’s May, and during this month three years ago I had my daughter two months early and it was a very difficult recovery for me. Then, two years ago, a tornado hit my house while I was home alone with her. Both were very difficult times when I felt very alone. I’ve written some about the tornado (which you can see here in a flash fiction and here in an essay) but I’ve never really written much of anything about the events surrounding my daughter’s birth. Maybe I need to do that.

Anyway, it’s May. I managed to push aside those feelings of anxiety and dread until the couple days before her birthday then I got through it and felt better. Then we had a storm system come through and I realized my anxiety level was quite high so that instead of just making preparations and getting on with whatever else I needed to do, I went into hyper alert and spent nearly all my time flipping back and forth between the weather and Facebook. It isn’t very productive. It’s just stressful.

So, I’ve been thinking about dealing with that fear. I was sitting down to work on a crocheted necklace last night and decided to turn on a Ted Talk and in looking at the Entertainment selections, I found one by Karen Thompson Walker on What Fear Can Teach Us. One of the first things she talked about made me cry just a little and feel so much better. She said that fear is something we’re expected to grow up and get over, but some of the most creative minds in history, had profound trouble letting go of fear.

“But maybe it’s no coincidence that some of our most creative minds fail to leave these kinds of fears behind as adults. The same incredible imaginations that produced “The Origin of Species,” “Jane Eyre,” and “The Remembrance of Things Past,” also generated intense worries that haunted the adult lives of Charles Darwin, Charlotte Bronte and Marcel Proust.”

I admit, thinking myself in the company of such creative people immediately made me feel a little bit better. The fact is that my storytelling mind, which extrapolates into what could be, is going on an unauthorized journey and taking me along for short spaces of time. Maybe it’s saying that I’m not giving it enough of a workout, or maybe it’s just being obnoxious. Her talk made me think that I’m grateful for that part of my mind, even if it’s giving me more fear than I want at the moment. It’s my storytelling mind.  So, our creative story telling capability can be a double edged sword.

“But what if we looked at fear in a fresh way? What if we thought of fear as an amazing act of the imagination, something that can be as profound and insightful as storytelling itself?” Walker asked.

She goes on to tell the story of a whaling ship that inspired the story of Moby Dick, and how the people could have survived if they hadn’t been so scared of cannibalism that they passed up much nearer places where they could have gone ashore  in favor of a place that was out of reach.  Ironically, many starved to death and some turned to cannibalism to survive.

We all have fear to lesser or greater degrees. I would swear that I didn’t feel so much fear or have so much anxiety a few years ago but I have to work with where I am now. Maybe it could be useful in my storytelling. Certainly, it can help me to relate to characters who might be experiencing it. And if I can just find the fear in my mind that tells me I can’t possibly write the kind of book I want to, I may not be able to root it out and remove it but I can confront it and use those scientific skills Walker talks about to analyze it and refuse to let it keep me from doing what I want to do, from accomplishing what I want to accomplish, from writing a novel.

Fear is about the little stories we tell ourselves, either of the things that have happened or things that may happen. Sometimes the latter is triggered by the memory of the former, as when high winds and storm clouds around my house make me anxious.

Martha Beck recommends, in her book The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life, creating a moment of truth. I figure out what I’m feeling – angry, sad, scared, happy, etc., then ask myself what the story is that I’m telling myself that’s making me feel that way? Then I working on re-writing it.   It has been very helpful in a lot of instances when I’m angry or sad, but I tend to forget to try it when I’m scared, maybe too much adrenaline.  Here’s hoping it helps.

So, for the moment, journaling and blogging, not so much on the fiction writing.  I’m working on it and I’ll get back there.  It’s just going to take a little time.

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