Some work in progress–The beginning of a story-reposting to inspire myself to finish it.

This is the beginning of a story that I scribbled down in the coffee shop.
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 bits of broken wire.

Sharp things.  Broken twigs. spiky leaves. Dried nettles-

would end up in the little bag.

She would put the little bag under the door mat.

What are you doing Gran? I would ask.

“Doing what needs doing” she would answer.

My mom would tell me, “Oh it’s something Irish–

Something to keep intruders away. superstition that’s all.

But I would watch my Grandma hide a bottle of my Grandad’s whiskey,

way in the back of the cupboard. She would carefully sprinkle a line

of coarse salt in front of it, and then stack the mason jars

of peaches and carrots and crabapples

in front of the line of salt.

What are you doing Gran? I would ask

“You can see what I am doing,

or are your eyes just for show then, and you can’t really see?”

My Grandad would come home, and look behind the piano for his whiskey.

He’d come into the kitchen scratching his head.

He’d open the cupboard and move the jars around.

“Where have you hidden my whiskey Maggie?” he would say.

But he would never find the bottle.

He couldn’t see it. Even though it was right there in front of his eyes.

If I asked Gran too many questions though,

I was always told something that would make me feel

as if I shouldn’t have asked– as if knowing this information,

would be a terrible burden to me. It wasn’t what she said–

t was what she didn’t say that made me know this.

So I didn’t ask questions–

at least not often.

Sometimes though Gran would make me feel,

as if we had shared a special secret.

I could never remember the secret.

I just knew something wonderful had passed between us.

And every moment I spent with her seemed magic, and precious,

and I was convinced she had remarkable abilities.

I was convinced she could make things happen.

She did things efficiently quickly and without any fuss.

She seemed to do whatever she did, without actually doing it.

She would tell me a story of her girlhood in Ireland,

while she ironed the shirts, baked a pie, washed the dishes,

and swept the kitchen floor.

I would be so carried away with the sound of her voice

and her tales of the fancy french seamstress that taught her

at the Dressmaking school, or the Scottish School Master,

who was sweet on her sister Esther,

that I couldn’t remember the unfolding of the

ironing board, or the basket of white shirts, or the

flour and lard, or the rolling pin or the big bowl on the table,

or the broom or the dustpan. Yet suddenly she would be taking

a golden brown apple pie out of the oven.

And the shirts would be hanging crisp and white on the hangers.

The dishes were washed and the floor was swept.

I didn’t have to ask any questions

I knew she was magic without being told.

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.

The morning ramble.

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story. Ursula Le Guin

I think that creative people struggle with the idea of recognition.

There is something about feeling like a show off and being made to feel ashamed, that is confusing.

We are not supposed to admit we want to be recognized and praised and rewarded and seen and understood.

Recognition is a big part of how an artist moves forward in the world.

If no one sees your paintings, or no one reads your words it’s hard to keep going.

If no one recognizes your work is of merit it is hard to keep working.

Recognition is the light that helps us see where we are going when the road is dark.

And it hurts and confuses us when our work goes unrecognized.

And we can become resentful and jealous when we see others who are,

successful, loved, appreciated; their work acknowledged and praised.

I thought about Ursula le Guin’s quote at the top of this post and I thought Yes.

I would love to have readers.

I would love to liberate my little black marks, and send them flying

into the hearts and minds of my audience.

I would love to be adored.

It would be grand. So would large sums of money pouring daily into my bank account.

Normally I would not admit any of this. Too embarrassing. Too egotistical.

But I do admit it. All of it. I admit how I would swoon to be recognized,

and rewarded for the effort I make as an artist.

I shrink and shrivel in despair when I am ignored.

So having admitted this to the world or at least to the four or five people

who will see this post–

I ask myself how to achieve this? Let me think. Hmmmm?

Excuse me, I am thinking. Uh??????

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Oh Gawd. Yikes. I dunno! I have no idea.

Sigh.

Because– if I think about the murky world of achieving success-

my brain immediately kicks into a coma like state.

I don’t need a coma like state right now.

I am trying to write a blog post and I am trying to write a play.

And luckily I have already come to terms with this question.

I have the answer. It’s simple.

The “hows” of being recognized, acclaimed, loved etc– are a waste of time.

The “how to be successful strategies” will usually result in defeat.

We will come up with lots of wrong “hows” and then feel as if we have

failed if the “hows” don’t work. It’s not about the hows.

God, Fate, life, the mysterious forces of the universe will take care of the “hows”

My job is not to put time into thinking how I will be recognized for my work

My job is to do the work. I don’t need to think for one second about how to achieve recognition.

The thing I need to think about is what is my story about?

At least for now. What is my character’s name?

What is her relationship with her husband, brother, mother etc.?

What is my character doing right now? What hilarious thing will she say next?

What will happen in the end to my character? Is she going to die or–

will they discover a miraculous cure just in time?

Am I in love with my characters?

If not why? Am I excited by my story?

My concern with recognition is not within my power to influence.

Not really, not now. Because what I want to be recognized for– is really good work.

Sometimes I wonder if I should be trying harder to get more readers for this blog.

I don’t have many fans or followers and I could be disheartened by that.

But I am not actually devoted to writing blog posts that bring waves of readers to my site.

Not that I wouldn’t love that–but that is not my true goal.

And I think you have to be clear on the true goal and it can’t be recognition.

I have looked at the sites that tell you how to be a successful blogger

And I am not following their advice. I can’t.

Because it matters to me what I am recognized for if I am ever so blessed to be recognized.

Sure Writing the 10 best ways to have multiple orgasms while writing a novel

could very well drive traffic to my blog. So would “lose weight while writing”.

That is not what I want to do. That is not my work.

So I will continue to come humbly to the work–that I really love and want to do–

quietly recognizing myself and acclaiming myself and my commitment

to tell my stories in my own voice and build my craft as a writer.

I will shine my own light on my own path, and stay on the path,

dark and lonely as it may be–as diligently and devotedly as I can.

Even if diligence is sporadic–with breaks and rests and endless interruptions and delays.

I will stay on the path and let the “hows” of recognition take care of themselves.

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.

More magic cures for writers block Day Two-Ideas

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper
until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
Gene Fowler

So I have been writing about writers block.

I find it to be a fascinating phenomenon.

I know a few writer friends who complain about it.

That’s probably the reason I am writing about it here.

Wikipedia tells me that Writer’s block is a condition, “primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.”

I am reminded by the article of how some great authors have apparently been plagued with

the condition, to the point that their careers were destroyed.

Now it would be my guess that the underlying cause for the writer’s block–things like

anxiety disorders, major depression or alcoholism, were the reasons that the writers

were blocked to that degree. Of course it could be argued that the Writer’s Block

caused the depression etc so perhaps its a kind of vicious cycle. I don’t know for sure.

But I am continuing to address, the subject even if I don’t know if it exists or not.

And today I am addressing the strange bugaboo–

The Idea and how having one or not,

stops writers from writing.

I wrote a post a few weeks back about ideas

In that post I quote Neil Gaiman who says–

”The Ideas aren’t the hard bit. They’re a small component of the whole.
Creating believable people who do more or less what you tell them to is much harder. And hardest by far is the process of simply sitting down and putting one word after another to construct whatever it is you’re trying to build:
making it interesting, making it new.”

But even if ideas aren’t the hard bit I still hear people complaining about them

in two ways.

“I have so many ideas but I can’t seem to get to writing them so I don’t write”

Or

“I haven’t got an idea about what to write about so I don’t write.”

Ok so then two separate cures are in order.

But first, What is an idea?

The dictionary defines an idea in a lot of different ways.

The three that I think are most useful are:

1. a mental concept
2. an impression
3. an opinion, view, or belief:

Usually when writers say that they have an idea for a play, or a story, or a screen play etc–

they are using definition #1 a mental concept. They are thinking of either the narrative,

or the characters or the event, that causes a chain reaction and so on.

Sometimes they are thinking of all of these things–but in a general and conceptual way.

I know writers who can tell you in a couple of sentences what the idea is.

They have a powerful burst of inspiration and they see it all in their mind.

“It’s about a pair of star crossed lovers who would

rather die than be apart–and so they do die.”

But the story or play is not a mental concept and so the idea is not enough.

So if you are this kind of writer and you get the mental concept kind of ideas–

but you are stuck on how to write the actual play or story or what have you–

I think that the cure for you is to immediately begin to outline the idea as quickly as possible.

At least as much of it as you can. You can start from the end and decide what ultimately happens.

They both die.And then go back to the beginning to figure out how.

Some writers start at the beginning and outline the “beats or scenes of the story.

They give the scenes titles.

THE PHONE CALL

MARY RECEIVES THE PHONE CALL THAT CHANGED HER LIFE
Phone rings. We see Mary listen. She gasps and faints.

The outline helps the writer contain that powerful burst of inspiration–

so that it doesn’t escape or fizzle out.

It helps lay out the story and show you what parts of the story you know

and don’t know.

The outline of course can be changed and tweaked and restructured but

it allows you to keep the chaos of possibilities at bay.

And you can work on a scene– in any order, without confusing yourself.

SCENE ONE THE BED CHAMBER OF THE DUCHESS

The phantom pirate climbs in the window with his dagger and approaches the sleeping Duchess–

And then if you are a little shy on the details–you are missing some technical info–

like how to kill a duchess with a dagger perhaps–

or even how to scale a castle wall,

you can jump to another scene.

Some writers tell me they can not work–without an outline.

So hurry up. Take that mental concept of yours and create the outline immediately.

Ok. But then what if you are suffering from the other

kind of not writing.

You might be like me.

My kind of idea is more like Defenition #2 An impression.

I will have a fuzzy emotional or visual sense of something.

Some injustice. Some struggle or paradox.

It’s an idea suggesting itself but it’s not very clear.

I have to write to clarify my thinking.

I am like an archaeologist digging and sifting through the layers, of my own imagination.

I don’t know exactly what I am looking for, but I know it’s there–and I will

recognize it when I write it.

So the cure for me is to write my way to the idea.

So you see if you get these kinds of ideas– or even no ideas at all

the cure is to write your way through to the part of your imagination where the ideas are.

But you know–ultimately I think the only cure for any kind of writer’s block is to write

and keep writing–anything at all and to do it every day–which is what I am about to go

and do right now. How about you?

Magic cures for writers block- Day One. Ask good questions.

In this post I am going to address the notion of writer’s block.

In all honesty I don’t actually get full blown writers block.

I write every day. I am always journalling, blogging, scribbling,

pondering, musing, reflecting, or working out something on paper.

Writing is how I clear my mind, and make sense of the world.

It’s a habit I guess.

However–I do get Writer’s Delay.

I do reach a point where I hit the fabled brick wall.

I stop. I agonize. I worry. I get depressed.

I want to quit- throw in the towel.

I tell myself horrible things and predict dire circumstances for myself.

None of this is useful of course, but luckily I don’t spend a lot of time on this phase.

Eventually I ask myself where do I go from here?

Thing is–I am rarely able to answer this question.

Where do I go from here? It’s not a helpful question.

It is what I call a bewildering question.

A better question is What does my character want right now?

Or What is getting in the way of what my character wants right now?

What is she going to do to get past the obstacle right now?

Sometimes I go deeper– and I ask Why does my character want what she wants,

right now?

Or how desperate-how driven, is she to get what she wants right now?

Is she hiding what she wants from herself? Is it a secret?

What will it cost her if she doesn’t succeed? What will she stand to lose?

Has she admitted to herself or anyone else what she really truly wants?

How does, what she wants, affect her?

Does she think she deserves what she wants?

Does it drive her insane?

Is it killing her to not get it?

Or one of my favourites–What is she willing to do?  To sacrifice?

Who is she willing to hurt, maim or kill?

What is she willing to risk, or lose or destroy?

Do you see what I mean?

Do you see how all these questions focus the story,and move it forward?

Do you see how these kind of questions enliven your imagination?

Do you see how can amplify and intensify the action of the story?

These are the good questions, that will help me write a more compelling story, and better dialogue.

So there you have it. My #1 Magic Cure for Writer’s block or writers Delay.

Ask Good Questions.

Sometimes my plot, theme, and everything else will emerge from these questions.

If I am at the wall, it’s because I have forgotten the questions or I need to ask them again.

Ok Now maybe you are not at the place where you think you even know what to write about.You are not ready to ask what your character wants, because you don’t really knowwho your character is. Or maybe you have an idea but you don’t know what to do with it? It’s a idea that is getting dirty with waiting.

Sometimes I haven’t got a clue what to write about, and I am sure I have

an inferior imagination, or that I lack the intelligence that a writer needs–

see yesterdays post here

and other times I have so many ideas clamouring for my attention–

that I can’t decide what to write about.

So next time I will share what I do when either of these things happen.

Overcoming creative blocks– magic cures.

I am in bed recovering from surgery and bored out of my mind.

The wasteland of daytime television stretches out before me endlessly it seems.

“I could be working on my play.” I say to myself hopefully.

As I open the lap top I listen for an engaged response from deep within–

some murmurings of eagerness or zest–a shimmer of enthusiasm perhaps.

But all I get is a weak whimper and a shudder of shame.

I realize that somehow my inner prosecutor– modelled after Hamilton Burger–

you might know him from Perry Mason re-runs–has now taken over my mind.

He is addressing the judge and jury that lives in my head.

They are the folks behind the Salem Witch Trials and the Spanish Inquisition.

“Ladies and Gentleman this woman has no discernible talent–no imagination and no original ideas.

She is guilty of the crime of self delusion! How dare she call herself a writer?

Send her back to her jail cell and sentence her to watch endless reruns of Perry Mason.”

Well–ok– that didn’t happen. Actually instead of writing my play

I wrote the above silliness. Please forgive me. Tee hee.

But truth is, I have been struggling with, if not, a full blown writer’s block,

a fairly serious writer’s delay.

All the roads in my imagination seem to be closed,

and I can’t get to where I want to go.

It is time I dig out my list of magic cures for this pesky nuisance,

and get myself back on the road. I have faced this before. I can do it again.

This coming week I will be posting my favourite creative cures so stay tuned.

Feel free to use any of these cures for whatever creative ailments you are suffering with.

Perry Mason is not on right now so it’s back to the Storage Wars Marathon. I just loves Barry Weiss.

keep going

End-of-September“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better”
Samuel Beckett

I am not a person that likes to make mistakes in public.

And I am squeamish about the subject of failure.

But here I am publicly declaring that I have failed more than a few times.

I have given up, quit, stopped, thrown in the towel.

I have been: rejected, dismissed, ignored, misunderstood.

I have faltered, and stumbled and fumbled and messed up in many ways.

And I have lived to tell you about it here.

The reason I do this is simple.

It’s to remind myself to keep going despite failing.

And it’s even more important to know and accept that most assuredly we

will trip over our own limitations

and tumble over our own foolish mistakes.

The thing is to keep going anyway.

This is the only way to defeat the malaise–

to go boldly past the fear–

to leap across the emptiness that will be there.

The thing is to stand courageous in the face of our fear.

And especially — the kind of fear that disguises itself as:

self pity, self doubt, or worse judgement and criticism of

others.

I am learning–to leap past these creativity killers or

go directly to Creativity Jail–a dank depressing place where you

hear recordings of how badly you suck– played in heavy rotation.

The remedy?

Write your play, your novel, your screen play, your poem–

or write something else. Make a list. Write a letter. Just keep going.

Practice. Practice practice.

And remember some fearful part of your self

will try to stop you

because of:

-not enough knowledge.

-not enough imagination.

-not enough time

-not enough credit

-not enough positive feedback

-not enough originality

-not enough energy

-not enough ability

-not enough clarity

-not enough talent

-not enough money

-not enough space

-not enough mental acuity

-not enough privacy

-not enough experience.

-not enough patience.

Don’t listen to that part of yourself.

If you don’t have enough of something

figure out how to get it but keep going.

Keep Going. My motto in life.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes on the subject

You fail only if you stop… Ray Bradbury

“I never know where I am going with a painting. I only know where I’ve been, and frankly, I believe that every painter is in a state of continual failure. The only constant in a painter’s life is failure” William Bailey

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. Truman Capote

and my most favourite of all from Emily Carr

“I thought my mountain was coming this morning. It was near to speaking when suddenly it shifted, sulked, and returned to smallness. It has eluded me again and sits there, puny and dull. Why?”

Oh and by the way. If you want to do yourself a favour immediately to help you keep going–
buy a copy of Stephen Pressfield’s WAR OF ART and DO THE WORK

Alchemy

It’s not the artist that makes the art.

It’s the art that makes the artist.

The art tests us.

The art shapes us.

The art leads us.

We think we create the art–

but it’s the art that creates us.

This is what is important.

This is what we must learn.

This is what we must remember.

It’s the daily practice that matters.

It’s the devotion to the process and the willingness to

come humbly to the work knowing we may fail that day.

It’s the willingness to know that terrible failure and keep going anyway.

It’s just another day at the desk–or at the easel or in the studio.

We must be patient. Humble.

It’s all about the concentrated daily effort that leads to the finished

work of art. And total surrender to the mysterious alchemy that allows us

to spring forth newly made. Transformed.

Base Metal into Gold.