Descending into Madness…

logo1-the-descent-into-madnessSometimes, that’s what writing feels like.

I recently finished a particularly difficult story. I’d written it over the summer. Then life happened, and while I wrote here and there and started new things, finished other things, submitted, and even came back to this story repeatedly, it refused to be finished.

This story became the terrible twos who kept throwing a spoon down on the floor and crying for me to pick it up only to throw it down again.

When my real children did this – I left the spoon on the floor and shrugged, “guess you’re using your fingers now,” but you can’t do that with a story, huh?

But what you can do with the story – as with all writing – is keep showing up. That’s what I did. I kept putting that story in front of me and trying to work out of the kinks. We can’t give up the story when it gets hard.

One of my favorite stories is one Stephen King tells about Carrie. I’m paraphrasing here: His wife found Carrie in the trash and brought it back to him, saying something to the effect, you can’t stop just because it got hard.

(of course these are the days when we used typewriters or notebooks and were able to physically put those in the trash and not just click delete, which, by the way, don’t ever do!  Ignore the story, put it elsewhere, but don’t delete it!)

And I’ve read/heard the above King/Carrie story a few different ways, so it may not be exact; however, the point is – You can’t give up a story because it’s hard.

Even if the story never gets published – I learned something by writing it, by sticking it out.

The new term in student success is “Grit.”  (I know, it’s also an old John Wayne movie). It alludes to the idea that the students who struggle and push through who will become a successful student and graduate. It applies across the board – school, life, and definitely writing! (Not surprisingly, to that movie as well).

I recall another story I’d had a particularly challenging time with. And just when I thought it was finished – the dreaded blue screen!  It was gone. Memory wiped. I gave it a few weeks (and a long weekend in New Orleans) and came back at it.  “Psychic Surprise Party” was published six months later in The Oleander Review. (It will be republished in May online).

Even if this one is never published, I learned something by doing it. I’ve learned something in all of these not-yet-published stories and poems. We are writers. We are driven to write. It is our little corner of the puzzle-solving-world in which we exist.

The next one might be easier. And maybe it’s smilethis challenging one that will push something out of the way for the next one. Maybe the next one will be difficult too, but we’re going somewhere, learning something – keep pushing through.

That’s what makes us writers.

And we’re all a little mad here…..

 

 

 

 

 

A Habit of Success

66 days –

That is what a new study says it takes to form new habits.  The study participants reported a range from 2 to 254, with 66 being an average.

writing+ritual+It depends on the person. With me, it takes 3 to 4 weeks for me to stick to my commitment. And every year my teaching schedule changes, so there’s two to three months a year for me to recommit.

The holidays, however, throws many people off.

However, once the commitment is made and the habit is in place, it’s much easier to get back into the mind space. The secret is to jump right back into the habit after a holiday or change.  writing

Also, I think you have to make an effort to guard that commitment. Don’t be tempted to make lunch plans on a writing hour, make it for later or for a different day.

Life too easily distracts us and, without habits firmly in place, we are easily swayed.

Feed Your Creativity

According to science, exercise can feed creativity. Before you turn away, click the blog.gifunfollow button or run off screaming – oh no, she’s telling us to exercise, I knew it! – they say just getting out of the chair, walking for twenty minutes, or even (gasp) cleaning, just moving our bodies can get some juices flowing and give us a fresh outlook to come back to our writing.

So, no, you don’t have to go to the gym, learn kickboxing, or twist yourself into a pretzel, just take a deep breath and walk around in a circle for a few moments.  Who knows, dizziness of the circling might give you some great ideas!

Friday Feature: Ron Terranova and his buddy, The Cyclops, Polyphemus.

i, poly for kdp
Introducing- The Cyclops Polyphemus

My novella, “I, Polyphemus,” is now available on Amazon.com. Writing this book has been a labor of love for me, involving a couple of years of rewrites and research. With its publication I thought I would blog an introduction into the book’s genesis.

I became fascinated with Greek mythology when I was eleven after I nearly died from a serious illness. It was also at this same time that I began to write.

The tales of gods, heroes and fantastic creatures were somehow palliative, and drew me away from my focus on my illness. Of the many tales that captured my imagination, Homer’s Odyssey was my favorite, and Odysseus was my favorite hero. He was not the strongest or greatest warrior among the Greeks, but throughout the story he is referred to with the sobriquet “Wily” Odysseus. Reluctant to go to war against the Trojans, he acquiesces, angering Poseidon, who makes his journey home after the fall of Troy a long and tormented one

In book IX of the Odyssey, the cyclops Polyphemus is introduced. Odysseus and a number of his men take harbor on Cyclops Island on their way home to Ithaca. Nearly starving, they discover a cave stocked with milk and cheeses and glut themselves, when the cave’s occupant, Polyphemus, arrives home, and, after perfunctory introductions, begins to devour the Greeks.
In the Odyssey, of all of the characters Odysseus encounters, whether it be Circe, the Sirens, Calypso or the Lotus Eaters, seemed knowable. But Polyphemus was a brute riddle. For me he represented the existential absurd, as it seemed he was put on Earth for the sole purpose of encountering Odysseus and eating his men. He is a one dimensional enigma.
rterranovaAs a writer, the challenge to flesh him out and make him a sympathetic character was akin to the alchemist’s feat of turning base metal into gold. But what if in my story he is a loving shepherd who feels his sheep are his children? What if in my tale, Odysseus and his men instead of eating his cheese, murder his children? And what if the violation unleashes the dormant poet within the brute?
Through the years, as I would revisit the Odyssey, and as my political world view evolved, my perception of Odysseus evolved as well. He became more nuanced and less sympathetic. His wiles now seemed deceitful and duplicitous. He was complicit in the murder of civilians in the villages surrounding the walled fortress of Troy, he was an active agent in a war of aggression and the architect of the wooden horse that brought down Troy. He could now be recast as an imperialist, sociopath and war criminal. In my story he is the antagonist provoking Polyphemus into violence and madness.

This is a novella, but stylistically it has elements of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey as an epic narrative poem. The narrative is almost exclusively in the voice and point of view of Polyphemus. In portions of the story the narration weaves in and out of dreams, and enters the realms of Magical Realism and Surrealism. As in Homer’s works, the characters exist in a duplicitous world where intervention from the gods and Fates is constant.

The most central character next to Polyphemus is the centaur Chiron, who represents reason and denies the gods’ existence, and becomes a benevolent father figure to Polyphemus. Incorporating numerous characters from Greek mythology into the story was at first a challenge, but ultimately I felt I chose the right ones as my vision of Polyphemus began to take form.

As a character grows and begins to take shape, it is almost as if at some point the writer passes the torch to the character; the writing almost seems co-authored. For me, this happened when Polyphemus goes mad. It was as if I had become an observer merely chronicling what I saw as Polyphemus came to full, complex fruition- a mad poet, a vengeful father and a killer who kills with dark, sarcastic humor and a flamboyant joie de vivre. The complicated anti-hero Homer would never recognize was born.

I put everything I’ve learned and everything I had into this book, and my reinvented protagonist has become like a brother.

With that, let me introduce you to my one eyed friend- the cyclops Polyphemus.

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Thanks, Ron!

noreen

Friday Feature: Facing Challenges

vickyMy Name is Vicky Mclellan, since I was young I have always wanted to be an author.  But I have also faced many challenges in my life, I am Physically Disabled; my mother gave me up at the age of nine. I was raised by my Grandmother and Aunt.  Even though I cannot walk, I do not let it stop me from chasing my dreams, I have Graduated High-School, and I have become a published author.

I think my motivation comes from my heartbreaks as a child. Being left behind, feeling like I was different and out of place, I want to prove that just because a person is different and has different kinds of challenges that others cannot understand, they are still worthy, they still have a voice that deserves to be heard. No matter how many tears I’ve cried through-out my life, I have never given up, because I know that I matter, others like me matter. I want other people to feel like they can reach for their dreams, no matter what walk of life they have had, or what they face. They can fight for the life they want, as long as they never give up. Waking up in the morning is half the battle – I know those words have been said many times, and it sounds like I’m just trying to fill up space, but take it from me, a person who has felt unworthy and useless many times in my life, the will to wake up everyday, sometimes takes true strength to find.  

My motivation to write also comes from wanting to give others an outlet and show them that they are never alone, their dreams matter, it does get better, and there’s always somewhere constructive to vent – The Page. And that is truly my motivation. That’s what pushes me, and feeds my drive – Pushes My Pen – if You will.  

I have always tried to spin my bad situations into a positive learning experience; I find writing helps me do that. Even when I write fiction, I find it helps me put things in perspective and see a situation from all sides because most of the characters I write about have a little piece of my personality in them.  There’s something about seeing something written down, staring at the words, seeing part of me on that page, really helps me find myself on days when I feel lost.  vickey1

   I find that writing in general, has inspired me to become more creative and kept my heart alive. When you’re not mobile, its hard to find things that stimulate the mind, The world kind of gets small, and writing has opened so many doors for me, it has really helped me to open up.  I hope that when others read my material, they feel that emotion and openness.  My motivation as a writer is to not only show people that there is more to me than just a metal wheelchair, but to let them hear my voice and to show others that they can speak too.  My message to the world is to never stop creating. 

Vicky Mclellan

Bath Time

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Thanks for sharing, Vicky! Much luck!

noreen

Writer Wednesday: Sharing is….?

climbing helping  team work , success conceptIn a writer’s group, I asked a specific person how one would use a certain program. They responded with, “I’d be glad to show you; my rates are very reasonable.”

I was shocked into silence. I asked a simple question, and they wanted to charge me for their answer?

But, then again, they have the right to earn a living by selling their knowledge.

How often have I given my knowledge for free? I could charge, I thought, for all the information and skills I’ve accumulated over the years.

But – wait a minute – writers really don’t make that much money, and we’re all strugglingshare3 in the same boat of trying to get our books, articles, short stories, or other out there to larger audiences.

Think of being on a life-raft and you are the one who has the clean water, or maybe the secret to cleaning the water, would you really sell it to another passenger? Some people would.

There’s a story from a Gladwell book about how post-its came about. (To simplify:) One worker in the paper department bumped into someone from their glue department, they both talked about what they were working on and the problems there were having. If only we could….   and boom – two collaborators came up with an idea worked together to bring that to fruition by sharing their expertise and invented something we all use (and made billions for 3M!).  Companies like 3M, Apple, Google, and others now use that theory to come up with new ideas, products, and solutions for every day problems!

shareWhen we all work together, we all become better humans. I want to share my ideas and experiences and share other writer’s with you, other ideas with everyone who desires to listen.

I have a job; I have many jobs. I’m not about to take advantage of others who are students in life or in writing and try to make a buck from them. I’d rather share my knowledge. I’d rather help my fellow passengers on this journey.

Thanks to all who have shared their knowledge with me. Thank you to those writers who give of themselves and their resources to make a better writing community.

When we work together, we can all benefit.

share1

Friday Feature: Waiting is NOT the hardest part….

I’d hate to disagree with our dearly departed master musician, Tom Petty, but the waiting is not the hardest part – That’s a myth.

waiting2Waiting is the easy part.

If I haven’t lost you yet, let me explain.

Some people spend their lives waiting. They dream of doing more, but they create excuses of why they can’t or why they haven’t yet. They’re waiting for…. fill in the blank…. the right time, the right place, until they finish this, until that happens.  It’s an excuse.

When you’ve moved forward and accomplished something, the waiting becomes the easy part.

 

The hardest part is jumping over every damn hurdle that life puts in front of you.

The hardest part is avoiding those people who want to limit you.

The hardest part is not buying into the self doubt that holds many people back.

The hardest part is doing the work. And then doing more work.

The hardest party is putting yourself out there and face the possible criticism.

The hardest part is never giving up.

Magnifying Glass - Action

 

Rejection is not the hardest part – it’s just part of the whole. The whole world is not going to love everything we do.

Waiting for the results is not the hardest part – that’s part of the whole.

Motivation or inspiration is not the hardest part – not even sure that’s part of the whole, but it helps.

 

Action is what is required to be successful.

Sometimes, action makes others around you uncomfortable. They’ll try to criticize your forward movement as wrong action. I can’t tell you how many times people have harped on something I’ve done as if I’ve ruined my chances at success, when in fact it was a step in the right direction.

I’m unclear if it’s a fear of rejection or the fear of success itself that keeps people stagnated in excuses. If they become successful, their lives will have to change. They’d have to continue to work, to duplicate their success.

waiting5I consider it is not a fear of failure – because, by not trying, aren’t they failures already? Or maybe that’s it – they can claim they never “got their chance,” when, in fact, they never actually took a chance. That’s the true failure.

Success follows action. Action takes work. As long as their is forward movement, there is no failure. As long as one doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up, there is no failure.

Don’t wait. Move forward. Slowly. Consistently. Misstep and get up again. Keep moving forward.