Friday Feature: Valerie Cooper and Finding Writing Time

I’m more familiar with Valerie Cooper’s poetry, as we’ve both appeared in Delphinium Literary Magazine. So when she contacted me about writing a piece about finding time, I thought she’d have something important to say. We’re both single parents, except mine are now grown, which gives me more time. Hers is still quite young – and as I once did – she searches for little bits of time to write.

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vcooper1As a single parent, writing can be difficult. I’m required to be creative and write around my daughter’s schedule. I find time in the mornings, for twenty or thirty minutes, before I get her up for pre-school. At work, I take five minutes here and there when I can to make notes or outline an idea or twElise Climbing Rocks in Central Park NYCo. I get another hour, if I’m not too tired, after I read her stories and put her to sleep.

I know my friends who don’t have kids have more time than I. But, also, my friends who don’t have kids aren’t as focused as I am on being successful. Children take a lot of your time, much of your energy, but what you receive in return is far more satisfying than much else life has to offer. My daughter inspires me to work harder, to be successful. Before her, I thought, “I’ll get there some day.” But after she was born and I looked into those big, beautiful eyes, it lit a fire under me!

Many writers complain about not enough writing time. Life is busy and messy. We need to work around it. So sometimes I get up early. Other times, I stay up late. I get creative and grab what might be otherwise wasted moments.

vcooper3I write poetry in the park on warm Saturday afternoons while the children are screaming with joy on the climbing gym. I write lyrics in the parking lot, in the chilled air of my car, waiting for pre-school to end. I outline a story over the humid stove, while my daughter waits impatiently at the dining room table, chomping on carrots.

There is time, it just comes in increments, joyfully swinging around everything else in your life. It’s there. You just have to grasp it.

Valerie Cooper

Delphinium

The Kiss

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Thanks, Valerie. Much Luck!

For everyone else, I suggest one of these!

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Writer Wednesday: Writer Dreams

We all get those ideas that occur to us in the middle of the night as we’re rolling over, sleepwe reach for a pillow and poof – a story occurs to us.  Some of us continue to snuggle tight to that pillow and tell ourselves we’ll remember it in the morning …zzzzz… and it’s gone; others of us roll back over, grab that notebook and make notes.

Some of those notes are not going to make a darn bit of sense in the morning, some will. My idea for “Of Strays and Exes” came to me in the middle of the night in the form of a strange first line…  “when I ran over my neighbor’s dog…”  I grabbed that notebook and started scribbling. I put it down, only to take it up again and again until I finally got out of bed and wrote nearly the whole story before climbing back into bed for an hour’s sleep before work.

sleep1There’s something magical happening in our brains at certain moments during the night. We’re transitioning from deep rem sleep back to stage one, nrem sleep, where we are most likely to be awakened; this is also about the time, along with other times, that hypnagogic sleep is taking place. This is a transitional state for our minds and bodies, and the best time for “stories” to happen.

During that hypnagogic stage. We’re barely asleep, barely awake and sparks are happening between neurons that give us bright ideas, great lines, interesting themes.

Most of us are working people who have to get up in the morning and go to work or raise our children or help our parents, so we don’t grab those moments as we might if say – we were independently wealthy and didn’t have to do a 9 to 5er. charlie

If you can’t write at night, try to capture that hypnagogic state during your disciplined writing time or  other random moments.

I had to have an MRI recently. Have you ever been in one of those machines, clicking, burring, whirring, and it sounds like you’re trapped in a jet engine of sorts?  I put myself in one of those states and by the time the technician was pulling me out, I wanted to stay in longer.

It’s meditation and breathing – you knew I was going to say that. But for this meditation, lay down, think about your breathing while blocking everything out except the images of your story.

If you’re using this to create stories, think blue sky, blue sky, blue sky while breathing in and out. Let whatever happens in that sky occur. When you come up on an image that works for you – and you will – follow that image like a cloud in the sky, see where it takes you.

Or – of course – if you can, get up in the middle of the night and follow those half-wakeful/half hypnagogic dreams…

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Writer Wednesday: Critique Partners – a little bit of heaven!

Some years ago, I belonged to a critique group. critique-3-300x225Of the four writers, none had been published and I became the only one who expressed specific goals. In one session, a women writer spent the whole time helping another writer without responding to the rest of us. It sometimes happened, so we weren’t offended; but the following week, the same woman spent two minutes on mine and said something to the effect, “I don’t even know what to tell you with this…” before moving to another person. I realized I was wasting my time there.

Years after that, at a meeting, I sat next to a colleague I barely knew. She mentioned she was a writer, and we soon struck up a friendship and critique partnership.

critiqueWe’d meet once a week or once every other week to read and review each other’s work. Timing and responses began bumpy but smoothed out rather quickly. We were near the same writing level, although I give her credit for being better than I. As we got to know one another, we understood what the other was attempting to accomplish in their own fiction. This helped us read one another’s work more productively.

The most important elements in a critique partnership is respecting the other, giving honest opinions without being brutal, and accepting criticism. As professionals, we didn’t experience issues in offering or receiving the feedback. At some points, we may have disagreed, but we didn’t let it interrupt what had (and has) become a successful venture.

My writing has vastly improved because of this partnership. I benefited from the critique1authentic and detailed critiques with increased confidence, which lead me to more submissions, and ultimately more publications.

 

How you might form a successful alliance:

  • A mutual understanding of writing goals and aesthetics.
  • Similar level of writing experience (or someone who has more than you. You want to grow from this experience and you’ll have a chance to give back.)
  • Trust & honesty – go hand in hand.
  • Time and availability to meet or exchange work.
  • Although it may help if you write in the same genre, it’s not required.

 

For those of you who have partners or experiences, did I miss anything?

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Writer Wednesday: 4am Success

No, not me. I don’t get up at 4am, but some successful writers have.

earlyriser2Auden, Hugo, and others woke at 4am

Vonnegut and Angelou woke around 5am.

Milton and others at 6.

Sadly, I’m more along the lines of Stephen King, I like to be in my writing chair by 8 with a cup of tea; however, if I wake up earlier or later, it doesn’t mean I waste time. I get my rear in that chair – inspiration or no inspiration. Sometimes I start writing and don’t stop until hunger threatens; sometimes I stare at a blank page forcing words to lay down.

Occasionally, I consider attempting this 4am lifestyle. But I wonder how effective I’d be for the earlierriser3rest of my day. I’d have to change my thinking first – about sleep and the lack thereof. I value a good night’s sleep.

However, it’s true – 4am – no disruptions, no appointments, no phones ringing, no neighbors knocking on your door. 4am does have it’s benefits.

It’s not imperative to get up early (although studies show earlier risers are generally happier!); it is paramount to have a routine. Mine works best when I roll out of bed, make tea, shove open the curtains, and start writing.

What works best for you?

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Nice Feature of West End –

Thanks, Darrell!

Check out SnowFlakes in a Blizzard

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If anyone would like a free audible copy – let me know by commenting below. First two people only!

Friday Feature: Building a Community of Writers – Rebecca Clark

Hi, All.  Today, I asked Rebecca Clark to tell us about The Writer’s Point.

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My name is Rebecca Clark. I am the founder of The Write Point, a free social networking community for writers, editors, publishers, beta readers, and literary agents.

Here’s my story.

For the past 15 years I’ve been writing fiction stories. Mainly for myself. It wasn’t until about 7 years ago that I thought maybe I could actually publish something! I wanted to share my make-believe worlds with others. So, I dug deep into the Internet to see what I could find about agents, publishing, the editing process, and what ever else a successful book entailed. I found several forums full of knowledgeable authors.

Forums are messy, in my opinion. I was a brand new writer lost in a world of writers who knew everything I needed to know, but somehow I felt that I didn’t fit in. There was one forum website in particular that made me feel like I shouldn’t be a writer at all. Every question I asked was answered with “google it”.

So, I googled it. I learned so much on my own, but I really just wanted to be a part of a community, some place where I felt at home with people just like me.

Last year, I decided that if I couldn’t find a place to call “home”, I’d create one. So, I did! Fortunately for me, a couple of years ago, I graduated with a degree in Computer Information Systems: Website Development and Design. I could take the time to build upon the idea, and actually understand what I was doing in the process.

The Write Point is a FREE community that I hope will become a place for new writers to feel welcome, and experienced writers can share their expertise without making anyone feel like they aren’t good enough!

Noreen, thank you for allowing me to share the story of The Write Point. To learn more about us, visit https://thewritepoint.com.

The Write Point Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/thewritepoint

You can also find me tweeting here: https://www.twitter.com/bekkahclark and here https://www.twitter.com/twp_network

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Many thanks, Rebecca.

Writers, Enjoy!

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Friday Feature – Fantasy for Mental Health by Lara Lee

 

Today, I’ve asked Lara Lee, fantasy author to write something for us.

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fantasy2In brainstorming ideas for one of my novels, I decided to research the question: Can a person be immune to brainwashing? We have all seen on television or in movies or even old books the trope of someone being brainwashed to do horrendous crimes against their will. It is overused, so I often stay away from it. My villain just seemed the kind of person to try and brainwash my hero, but I was curious how this worked in reality. Other books have their protagonist resist by the strength of their will. Was that how it is done?

No!

I was absolutely shocked by the research I came across. Strong-willed people were not immune to brainwashing, daydreamers were. Often, those resistant to brainwashing were people no one would expect, average looking people with little to brag about. Why is this?

First, we have to deal with what brainwashing is. Many people over the recent years have argued that true brainwashing doesn’t exist. Just like hypnosis, a person cannot be forced to do something against their foundation beliefs. The term and identification of the phenomenon of brainwashing came from around the time of the Korean War. Prisoners of war were “brainwashed” and then released to their home countries as spies for the Koreans. The same phenomenon was also seen in cults in the US and other organizations. These people did change. They did act in a way that they previously thought was wrong. Something happened to them that changed them.fantasy1

Brainwashing, like the movies, doesn’t happen. People’s thoughts are not wiped clean and then planted with new thoughts, but what does happen is that a person is put in such restrictive environment that denies all basic needs until the point that the person either is on the brink of a nervous breakdown or experiences one. Then the captor offers “kindness” such as water or food and slowly breaks down the victim’s foundational beliefs to those that the captor wants. They are convinced and persuaded under pressure to adopt new ideas. Sometimes these new thoughts stick for a lifetime. Sometimes they only last until a healthy lifestyle is restored. It again depends on the person.

As I read this description, I realized that sometimes life events bring people to the point of breaking, even without a captor. We have all heard of people who suffered emotional breakdowns just from trauma in ordinary living. Deaths, illness, financial struggles, relationship problems produce extraordinary strain. Life can be hard, and at times people break. Depression, anxiety, and PTSD are common. Some people endure a lot in life and stay strong. Some people crumble relatively quickly. So I continued my research wondering how one would fight this mental breakdown. It stopped being about brainwashing and more about mental health. How do we endure high stress without falling apart?

The secret is dissociation.

It turns out, that people who can disassociate from the circumstance that they are in do well. This practice is often taught to soldiers in the military to help in case they are captured and tortured. Dissociation is the process of mentally removing yourself from reality and separating your emotions from your circumstances. If not done intentionally, it can be a psychological disorder, but, when done intentionally, it provides a brief relief from the pain of reality.

To me, this sounds like escapism literature, my favorite being fantasy. We all either have said or heard someone say that they read or go to the movies to “get away” from life. This act of “getting away” is to remove yourself from reality for a time into a fake world. Escapism is often about ignoring the pain of reality to have a little fun, or just to “veg” for a while. Sounds a little like disassociation right?

Not all entertainment is escapism. Some highlight the painful realities of life, but the popularity of the superhero movies, Harry Potter, Twilight, Game of Thrones, and The Hunger Games show that escapism is alive and well. I personally remember in some of the darkest times of my life escaping into books to bring relief to my emotions. I read nearly the entire Dresden file series that had been written up to at that point when a loved one was dying. I was often asked how I survived some of what I went through without shutting down, getting a divorce, or turning to substance abuse. I do have a Christian faith that I depend on, but I think I was also provided a way of emotion disassociation through fantasy fiction that helped me bare the emotions. God is not against fantasy; he told parables himself.fantasy

From the beginning of human history, we have had folklore, myths, legends, and fairy tales. These are the precursor to our modern fantasy fiction. The ancient world knew they needed an escape from the harsh realities of life. The human mind can only handle so much before breaking and caving in. Some seek relief in substance abuse or unhealthy relationships. Fantasy is a place in which you can be the hero and in control for 300 pages. Perhaps you will never endure the type of stress used in brainwashing, but I think we all can benefit from a bit of fantasy.

 

Lara Lee

The Shadow of the Gryphon

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Thank you, Lara!