Influence

Billy Collins (poet) believes we must read to be influenced, and suggests young people mimic their favorite writers in order to develop their skills and to develop their own voice.

I think many young writers do this. It’s a natural form of development.

Other writers are afraid to read when they’re lion.jpgwriting; they don’t want to be influenced. I think by the point you develop your own voice, you won’t so easily be influenced.

I think reading Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion was imperative for me to stumble across. I’d never attempted to intimate him – but he took my understanding of writing and voice to a whole new level. The storyline, the use of language, and the originality of his voice was unlike anything I’ve ever read and it blew my mind.

What reading Ondaatje did for me was to help launch my voice and style. I say this because at the time, I was mired in instructors and writers telling me no, no, no. They so strongly believed in their own way of doing things, they didn’t allow other writers to develop in other ways. It was limiting.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – read far and wide! Do not be afraid of being influenced – open yourself to learning something new!

 

Blocked? How to shake it loose.

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Creative blocks are brought on by various reasons.

Writers, poets, artists, musicians need to express themselves. Sometimes, something plugs our flow of creativity.

My friend and I have found release in other creative outlets. She took a watercolor painting class. She feared, at first, that she was taking away from her writing; however, what she found is that it opened her flow and she felt even more creative and was able to add even more to her usual creativity.

I take art and other classes on a regular basis. Most of the time their directly related to writing, but sometimes they are not – but they still feed my imagination and add depth to my writing.

The Healer’s Daughter will be released on May 15th in The Ear. This story came pouring out after a six week drawing class I took at a local museum/gallery. And… I feel like it’s one of my best, filled with color and meaning.

Shake something loose by trying another outlet. You may come back stronger and more creative than before.

Defeat Creative Block

wolf.pngGive it physicality.

Give it a personality.

Describe it. Face it. Challenge it. And beat it down.

The Watcher at the Gate by Gail Godwin talks about creative block. One of the assignments I give my class is to draw a picture of what stops them from writing. Some of them draw a picture of an old english professor and some draw pictures of wild beasts. They report, that after giving their block a presence, they are better able to handle it.

 

Photo Credit

Protect the Process…

processDan Brown believes strongly in protecting the process.

By process, he means, the writing schedule and habits that create the difference between a writer who produces and the writer who does not.

This has become personally important to me; and lately it has come to my attention that there’s more to protecting the process than just showing up.

It’s about protecting yourself from the negative forces that affect the writing.

We are often disturbed and distracted by people and events around us. I’m not talking about the road raging driver or ineffective salesperson- we should never allow such an insignificant person or event to affect us at all.

I believe we have to prioritize who and what is important – they come first in our lives either before, after, or within our process. The rest of the world must fall away.

I don’t make appointments during my writing time. That has become a habit for the last some years. However, I have allowed other things to interrupt my life, things I thought were vital. This is mostly due to what is expected of me as a social, agreeable person. Lately, though, I’ve realized do have a choice.

I don’t care if I come across as a little anti-social or less agreeable. I’m protecting myself from people and events who will affect my time, writing, and state of mind.

I used to see a writer regularly arguing with others on social media. I asked him why he didn’t just ignore these people. He said it didn’t bother him, they needed to be taught a lesson.

Recently, he deleted many of his social media accounts and limiting his time on others, telling his followers that all the interactions were causing him distress and he hadn’t been able to write.

I’m not only talking about social media, but the regular, sometimes expected, social interactions we have. If they are draining, why do we take part in them? Expectations? Do we get anything out of it?

If not, then rethink it.

 

The Writer’s Support System

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Maybe it’s me, but I doubt I’m alone in this: A writer’s support system sometimes seems a shaky and insecure. Some people do not understand, others say ridiculous things, and some are even jealous of our steps forward.

Finding a support system is an active and ongoing endeavor. People move on, they step back, and we need to keep moving forward, be unwilling to let negative people and comments to hold us back.

Don’t be afraid to move on. It doesn’t mean you have to cut contact with everyone or even anyone, but you certainly want to keep those who are positive supporters of your in the forefront of your mind and heart.

Sometimes, we feel very alone. Writing is a solitary act, but we don’t have to live in a bubble. Make contact through writer’s groups, online and in person. Meet other writers at conferences or critique groups and stay in contact with them. Join a book group, we need friends.

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Photo Credit: Noreen Lace / Here in the Silence

 

It Hurts!

yogaWriting hurts – no, seriously, sitting for long periods of time makes my back ache.

Now, we have standing desks, but studies show that’s only moving the pain around, not really as good for you as first thought.

My trainer recommends getting up every fifteen minutes to stretch and walk around. But, when I’m in the flow, three or four hours have gone by and I’ve even forgotten to eat!

Longfellow may have been the first yoga3to use a standing desk; he alternated between sitting and standing, which I think is a good idea.

Charles Dickens described his writing as “prowling rooms, sitting down, getting up….”; It’s purported he owned “all manner of comfortable easy chairs.”

It’s more about the way we sit and stand that is hurting us. Our shoulders coming forward and our heads hung puts far too much pressure on the back of our necks and can cause permanent damage.

Laptops don’t help. When we hadyoga4 our desktop computers, it was all about raising the screen to eye level, sitting in an ergonomic chair, with our arms at a comfortable angle. With laptops, either our head is tilted down or our forearms at a strange angle.

ChildsPoseNoBackground-300x165Yoga to the rescue! In order to keep our backs and legs healthy, there’s a few simple yoga poses (you could even do some of them at your desk!).

Spinx pose will help with those rounded shoulders and neck pressure.

Child’s pose and/or downward dog will also relieve some of the yoga2pressure.

Thread the Needle Pose is one of the best.

These are the easiest, but writers can benefit from a regular yoga class or a yoga routine.