Posted in a writing practice, creative process, writing

Leading the Witness.

 

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When I ask myself why I never finish anything- my mind will assume that this question is valid and that the statement is true and I will supply all kinds of evidence and end up concluding that I shouldn’t even bother writing. 

I call this particular kind of self-questioning leading the witness.

 It’s like there is this big trial going on inside me and the prosecuting attorney wants me to confess that I am guilty of never finishing anything–and of course I have this very compliant witness inside me that is swayed easily and will provide lots of evidence that I am guilty as charged.

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But the thing is it’s not true. I’m not guilty. I do finish things all kinds of things.

I have learned that when I feel stuck or confused, I try to ask questions like: What can I do today to get back on track- to keep me excited- to keep me focused on my writing goalsHow can I make better choices to keep going when I get bored or confused by my script— or how can I increase my focus  when I am distracted and in danger of  losing my momentum? These questions are more effective because they have me asking a wiser part of myself how to do what I am trying to do.

A writer asking themselves why they are not writing might miss the implied judgement in the question, and judgement of self is not useful for moving forward in life or in art.

Judgement– to stay with the legal metaphor is a way to  punish yourself and lock yourself up in a prison of self doubt. Or if that’s too dramatic-it’s  a good way to slow you down or even cause you to give up.

Who, what and how questions imply that there is a solution. These questions move us into a part of our brain where we can strategize and plan and problem-solve and analyze. How can I get the support I  need?  How can I organize my time to make room for writing?

If we want to transform something,  change something,  finish something, asking  why is not the best  way to do it.

Of course writers need to ask why their characters do what they do. Asking why can helps justify an action or a decision. But, writers do not need to supply evidence of their lack of discipline, dedication or actual talent around writing itself. That is a waste of your time.

So if you are  wondering why you aren’t writing,  don’t ask why.

If you do–well–I object–the prosecutor is leading the witness.

 

 

Posted in a writing practice, creative writing, work in progress, writing

Some work in progress–The beginning of a story

My Scribbled Secret Notebooks

This is the beginning of a story that I scribbled down in the coffee shop today.
I have had this idea in the back of my mind for a while.
It showed up in my notebook today like this.

My grandmother was quiet and mysterious and knew mysterious things.

She was part gypsy, at least that is what I grew up believing.

She could heal wounds, and cure sickness, and she always knew how things would turn out.

She could predict bad news, and see right through untrustworthy people.

She knew what to do about both.

She had secret recipes, and special remedies,

and wise old sayings, to fit every situation.

She believed in good luck and friendly forces.

She also believed in the unfriendly forces,

and she took great pains to protect us from them.

I would watch her fill a little cloth bag with needles,

and nails and…

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Posted in a writing practice, creative process, healing art, life lessons etc., writing

A New Year Wish for anyone struggling and not able to celebrate

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“Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

 It’s December 31st 2017.  I am re-blogging this post from 2013, a very difficult year in my life and I’m sending it out to anyone who has struggled this year.

Life this year has been stamping it’s foot, screaming at the top of it’s lungs–that I should face my life and not look away. Well I have faced my life. I’ve stared it down, and looked directly at jmany harsh truths. I’ve struggled with all my might, mostly against my own self torment. And here is what I have learned.

1. Not to fear my fear.

2. Not to feel bad about feeling bad.

3. Not to be ashamed of my shame.

4. I have everything I need to create change in my life.

5. And sometimes  disappointment and grief and loss are our greatest teachers.

So on this last day of the year when people are celebrating, I am going to take a moment to speak to those who are not.

If it has been a tough year for you–and you think you have nothing to celebrate–let me send you a message of hope. You are brave and amazing and resilient and strong, even if you don’t feel that way right now. And if you are looking into the abyss of your own lonely heart, let me tell you that I know what that is like.

Be kind to yourself. Be loving with yourself. Forgive yourself. Let yourself feel whatever you feel.

And if you have a hole inside you-that you can not fill or if you are angryand afraid, if you have a wound that has never healed–a mark that will not go away–remember you are absolutely beautiful, and your torn and tattered heart, only makes you more so.

I like to think of the Japanese idea of Wabi-sabi- and the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

So Happy Wabi Sabi New Year to you my kindred family.

I have hope for you even if you don’t right now.

Let me hold your hope for a while.  It will be here when you need it.

You are going to feel happy and  stardust shiny  again.

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Posted in a writing practice, life lessons etc., writing

Insider Secrets

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When I was a kid- my grade eight math teacher told our class about a mail-order scam where someone would put an ad in the classifieds–offering an ancient secret to becoming rich and famous. All you had to do was send nine dollars to a box number and the secret of unlimited wealth would be yours.

A few weeks later, a booklet in a plain brown package would arrive. You would tear open the package to discover that the secret was putting your own ad in the paper-and sending out the booklet yourself.  You could buy the booklet in bulk. You could put your ad in multiple newspapers and then before you knew it  you would be raking in the millions, nine bucks at a time.

I don’t think the mail-order scam is still around, but we have plenty of high tech versions of the same thing.

Recently out of curiosity,  I signed up for a free seminar that promised to teach the secrets to becoming a best selling author on Amazon.com

I realized pretty quickly that the the free seminar was just a pitch for the upgrade.

An upgrade would give me instant access to the special secret insider info, which was being shared for the first time by the hottest-most powerful, most successful superstars in the booming billion dollar e-book business. Apparently there were over ten thousand people who had already clicked through to the upgrade according to the ticking counter on the sidebar.  The upgrades were going like hotcakes.

Now I am a little bit overly skeptical by nature,  probably because of the x-ray glasses that I trustingly sent away for when I was eight. My x-ray glasses were a real life lesson.  But apparently there are many people who are willing to  believe that the flow of  wealth is only a secret away.

I clicked over to the upgrade page just to see what the deal was.

I saw–various upgrade packages available. For  two hundred and fifty dollars you would get the seminar but the  five hundred dollar bundle would get you the seminar plus the bonus lessons, and if you wanted to go directly to the sanctum of  insider secrets– well that would be a thousand dollars where you could get the seminar and the bonus lessons and a private coaching session from one of the experts,  plus  they would help you build your own website so that you could sell your ebooks and offer seminars  where you could sell  insider secrets. Well, I clicked myself out of there pretty quickly– but I have to admit a part of me was thinking, “Was I being negative again? Was I being fearful and closed minded? Was I blocking the flow of wealth and money?”  “No!” said the other part of me. What kind of inside track would you be on if ten thousand people were on it with you? That seminar and all those so called secrets were just the mail-order scam 2.0.

It’s kind of a metaphor for our human frailty. We want to believe there’s a short cut, a secret door, an easy way to get rich quick. Even rational intelligent people with college educations  and a lot of success in life will fall for Ponzi schemes.

Here is my secret.  And it’s free.  If you want to get rich writing ebooks, write one. Find out how hard it is to  actually write a book. Find out how difficult it is to shape an original idea and then develop it into something that makes sense. Find out how writing is painful and takes diligence and determination and time. A lot of time. Then when you have done that– you can look into how to sell it and get people to buy it.  It goes for anything in life. Do the work. There’s no shortcut. There’s no secret.

 

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Posted in a writing practice, creative process, creative writing, healing art, life lessons etc., poems, writing

Poem from a recurring dream.

I have built a little cage

on the edge of a cliff,

where I pretend–

to live contentedly,

rather than learn to swim across

the turbulent waters below.

Cushioned by the delusion of safety,

I hang there trapped–

above murky waters-

as if sitting alone in a cage–

is  preferable to the risk of drowning.

I watch with envy, all the

happy swimmers passing by.

They seem to calm the water

with their powerful strokes.

But the thought of being

swallowed by the current,

keeps me here,

behind the iron bars of

disappointment.

I  have dreamed this flooded landscape.

I have dreamed this turbulent water.

I have dreamed the murky depths.

And I have dreamed this cage.

Now  wide awake–

I am dreaming of a little red boat.

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Posted in a writing practice, creative process, creative writing

Some lists.

I reblogged this post from a few years ago

I think I have come a long way from this but some of them still apply.

 

Reasons I get stuck.

1. It is hard to keep going when the destination seems so
distant and unknown.

Imagining Frida
Imagining Frida

2. It is hard to keep believing in yourself–
when there is no real evidence that what you believe
is more than your ego gone wild.

3. It is hard to go on without recognition
or validation or reward–
because you could be delusional.
Completely mad.
It’s a distinct possibility.

4.It is hard to find a reason to keep going because of
all of the above.

5. And then there is the question of your own sanity.

So Here’s another list.

Reasons to question my own sanity.

1. I am writing the third draft a play–that may never be produced.

2. I probably could put time and effort into more lucrative pursuits yet
I persist.

3.The life of an artist is often painful, disappointing
frustrating and depressing.

I hate to say it, but this leads to another list .

Painful things about being an artist.

1.The weeping, nail-biting–
and hopeless staring at an empty
screen.

2.Thefeeling that I am absolutely on the right
track suddenly changing to the realization that I’m not.

3.Awareness that my ability
to say something-
that hasn’t been said-
by countless others–
seems–
a) lacking?
b)missing in action?
c)otherwise engaged.

3.The constant nagging voice inside me
saying unkind things about the value or validity
of my own work

4. Experiencing shame, jealousy and resentment for the success of others

5, Trying to not have jealousy and resentment for the success of others.

6. Feeling threatened by the success of others. Oh God! Help me!!!!

7. Though some artists, writers and actors are wildly successful
famous and rich– the majority of us deal with–

Oh dear– I guess it’s another list–

The 99 percent

1. lack of recognition,

2. crushing poverty

3. the thought of dying in obscurity

4. The realization that absolute failure is entirely possible

5. The ever looming reality of poverty–
and dying in obscurity increasing with age. Yikes!

BUT–

I realize that despite the above lists–

None of these are good enough reasons to give up my dream.

Not writing–because of fear of failure
ensures my success at one thing– failing.

Failure is possible enough without my helping it along.

And–If I do not write–

My fearful, negative, self will have defined me and
controlled me and won this battle.

AND SO

I keep

1. writing.

2. painting,

3. improving,

4. growing,

5. discovering–

and even though I am often–

1.stumbling

2. falling,
3.crashing,
4. burning.

I keep going.

Because

1.There is no turning back for me.

2.The road only goes one way.

3.There is no place that I can go back to.

4.The road behind me is closed.

Well folks–

if this has not been annoying enough–

Here is another list–this one is for you .

1.What are you working on?

2. If you are not really working on something–

What are you avoiding?

3.What are you risking by not risking?

What are you denying yourself

by not devoting yourself to the discipline?

4. What terrors are you subjecting yourself to

by not confronting the fear?

And last but not least–

5. Why are you reading my silly lists.

1.Go get to work.

2.Call the Muse.

3.Wait for her.

4.Don’t make other plans

She is most likely to show up when you are actually at your desk or your easel
on tapping away on a keyboard in bed or in a coffee shop or wherever you write.

Posted in a writing practice, work in progress

Preparation and effort–Ideas as tools.

“Creativity is not a gift from the Gods bestowed by some divine and mystical spark.
It is the product of preparation and effort and it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it.”
Twyla Tharp.

I love this quote

and I believe it–

I am perhaps a little more of the mind that magic is involved–

But I agree the magic part is only there–

when the preparation and effort is in place.

Ask any magician. They will agree.

And as far as the part about Gods bestowing divine and mystical sparks-

well I think that is the business of the Gods–

and our business as artists is:

the rigorous preparation and effort.

So I am with Twyla and I am encouraged by what she says,

But Twyla is a dancer–

so the daily discipline is clear–

but for a writer?

What is the preparation?

A dancer prepares every day by standing at the barre.

Maybe for writers it’s standing at the bar?

Just kidding. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

I do believe writers could learn from dancers in how they practice–

and how they understand the various functions of practice

or in other words what they are doing and why.

The warm-up to a dancer, is very specific and done in a particular

order to achieve desired results.

When writers sit down to work is there a preparation?

Something that focuses the mind and tunes up the imagination?

Is there a preparation for writers that readies us for the work

by opening and releasing the imagination

in a specific order?

Something that builds the muscles of our craft?

Something that strengthens our ability to

imagine and create intrigue, pathos, emotional truth?

I write this blog as a warm up to my daily writing session.

It’s my preparation

But it is a bit haphazard.

Whatever pops into my mind is what

ends up here.

What if I were to think like a dancer and focus on a particular creative

technique or tool.

For example I know that I need to raise the stakes for my character.

Raising the stakes is an expression used by actors and directors and screen writers.

It is an idea that works like a tool. It’s an idea with a purpose.

Here is an example:

An actor is playing a scene as if his character knows he will get what he wants from another character.

He is cocky self assure oozing with charisma but–the scene is boring.
.
The director might tell the actor to raise the stakes for himself in the scene.

He needs the actor to think about what it would cost the character–if he didn’t get

what he wants. This idea–this tool- could get the actor to think of the negative outcomes

–the losses–the pain that he would experience if he didn’t get the other character

to agree to the plan.

Suddenly the actor can see another way to play the scene.

Now he can use the tool of raising the stakes to layer in a whole level of anxiety

underneath his words. The actor himself is affected now–

He has an inner life to his character now.

His character has terror to contend with–

and this inner life makes the once boring scene, now, riveting.

See what I mean by an idea that is a tool?

You use the idea. You apply the idea.

Not all ideas about writing are like tools.

In my case I know I need to raise the stakes for

one of my characters.

I have to make him really scared to lose anything more.

So far he has been ok with having nothing to lose–

and that’s the problem.

He’s never in any jeopardy.

He’s always pretty much ok.

Nobody worries about this guy.

I chose to have him be this way but now–

I need to force the issue that is facing him.

I have to make the audience see what he is up against–

I have to make them care.

I have to make him face himself and do what a hero does.

He has to come up against something that all his easy going acceptance

and street wise spiritual enlightenment can not fend off.

I have to find the modern day monster that will devour him unless he kills the monster.

–ok so how could I prepare for pushing him over the edge and into the monster’s lair?

Maybe I just did. Maybe defining the tool and thinking about why I have to use it

actually opened my mind a little–stretched my imagination nicely–

and hey– I do want to get to work now.

I am excited. Gotta push that guy into the fire and scare him–

I just realized, I been to0 easy on him.

I liked him too much.

I still like him–and I will save him–

but not til he faces the monster.

Posted in a writing practice, work in progress

Creativity and Anxiety and Fearlessness and other humorous topics.

Last year at this time I decided to be fearless–

and do something that I had wanted to do,

for a very long time.

I learned that deciding to be fearless,

does not mean conquering fear.

It means to go ahead despite fear.

Deciding to be fearless, actually increased my fear.

It was like a challenge to my fear–

and my fear didn’t want to back down.

Somehow though I persevered.

Fear was not going to stop me.

Anxiety attacks would grab hold of me and I would

breathe through them or pant and wheeze desperately,

as the case demanded. I used anything and everything

to stick to the program and not give up–

or avoid or delay or make excuses or change my mind.

My inner demon keeper kept sending me all manner

of dire warnings, and predictions of doom and disaster–

but I kept going. I fought my fears.

I used Buddhist chanting. I recited affirmations.

I prayed. I meditated.

I took up EFT and tapped myself calm.

I even used a Youtube Hypnosis video– by The Whispering Hypnotist.

Are you familiar with the Whispering Hypnotist?

I found him when I was surfing the internet in the the middle

of one terrible sleepless night.

The whispering hypnotist made me sleep.

I think looking back, his video didn’t so much,

calm my fears as scare the shit out them.

He was much scarier than they were.

Point is–I got through it all.

Because I was more scared of not doing

what I had always wanted to do–

than doing it.

Now I am looking at a new goal and getting ready

to be fearless again. I did it the first time

so I know I can do it again–face the fear I mean.

It’s just fear. And fear is just a yucky feeling.

Fear can be transformed to courage–

It can. It really can–

but only when you face it.

If I can face it you can.

I am a girl with a few issues so I mean this.

Here’s my goal.

I plan to do a marathon writing month in April.

I want to complete ninety pages. I want to go past the dead zone–

where the ideas suck– and the point is lost– and the characters

are weak– and the language is trite– and the story is boring-

and the idea is derivative. I want to penetrate the murk of

my own mind where the ooze of mental mud threatens to suck me down.

Ok–sorry– I know– you get the point.

But if fear begins to rear it’s ugly head

there is always the Whispering Hypnotist.

Posted in a writing practice, creative process

Catching stories-ideas are everywhere right?

I find stories everywhere and I grab em when nobody’s looking.

Sometimes the stories are attached to people I pass on the street.

I take the stories home and make them my own.

Yesterday I saw a story in a red hat and fishnet hose running down the street waving for a taxi.

I wasn’t fast enough. That story got away.

Today I saw a story on the Broadway bus.

It was attached to a bedraggled little woman wearing a sparkly witch hat.

She had a sign hanging around her neck.

I read the sign as the woman came down
the aisle. It had a lot of biblical quotations on it.

I just knew she would sit beside me.

And she did. Her sign kept jabbing me in the ribs.

“I had a vision from God” she said.

“He told me  that he is sending down a doozy of an earth quake”

I like it when God uses words like doozy I said.

. I got off the bus with the story in my net. It’s my story now.

I don’t think I will see the woman with the witch hat again, but I have the story.

I went to the coffee bar the other day.

A  woman dressed all in pink  came and asked me if she could share my table.

She had at least 30 silver bangles on each wrist.

I could see she was dripping with stories. She was  festooned with stories.

One story  got up on it’s hind legs and whispered something at me in a raspy voice. .

I could hear it distinctly  when the woman  asked me for a cigarette.

The story wanted to tell itself to me.

The story wanted to  jump  in my net. It didn’t need the slightest persuasion.

It was coming home with me. I know what to do with a story like that.