What’s So Scary?

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“Don’t be afraid of failure.  The reality is that most people successes rise out of the ashes of their previous failures.”

From a new documentary on Netflix titled Creativity. The narrator is talking to the creator of Game of Thrones. The creator is talking about how many times he’s failed.

I started this to say – what are you afraid of?

Then I wanted to ask – what if there was no such thing as fear? What would you do? What could you do?

I want you to think about that. What if fear was not in the human range of emotion or thought?

 

On my bookshelf

I’ve finished my Tana French detective series and didn’t want to go to bed without another book in hand. (Nevermind there are three on my bedside table).

bookshelf.pngI began browsing my bookshelf, which is semi-organized: books I’ve read and loved. Books I want to read. School books. Writing books. and, of course, Poe books

I also have something mixed in that would seem, at first glance, not to belong. Books on psychology, the law, philosophy. I assume many writer’s bookshelves are this way.

A writer needs a wide variety of knowledge.

I know we have google at our disposal; however, I find reading books about, for example, the Psychology of Marketing allows me to get an in depth look that a wikipage or a few short articles are not going to give me. This allows me to create a more realistic character or more thorough background to make the story more believable.

For West End, I needed to understand two things, the idea of an absent or unloving mother, and the different forms depression can take. Anxiety runs throughout my work from Of Strays and Exes to Life of Clouds – which features children affected in different ways by the disappearance of their father.

I’ve heard handymen say they are the jack of all trades. I think writers are akin to that. We need to learn many things in order to live many lives.

 

 

 

 

Fiction = Lies / Writers = Liars?

gaiman.jpgNeil Gaiman says lies are what fiction is made of. Well, yes, but….

He says, we make up people and places and put them in circumstances which aren’t true. Yes, well, but…

But we tell some sort of universal truth with these lies and that’s what makes it good fiction.

Gaiman is all about honesty, so I’m surprised he calls what we do lies. I don’t consider fiction lies. But I can see how people think it is. But then, do we call writers liars? I would hope not.

There’s a difference, isn’t there?  I, personally, keep my life honest. I appreciate honesty from everyone in my circle and will not continue to be around people who are known to have lied.

Plato believed fiction was dangerous to society. He wrote in “dialogues” to teach philosophy or what he believed philosophical truths.

He was fictionalizing these dialogues. And if fictions, like philosophy, seek truth and honesty, aren’t they important?plato.jpg

Gaiman says the magic of fiction is the big, important truth.

I guess, if the fiction doesn’t tell us a truth, it has been a waste of our time, of our words, and is, therefore, a lie.

 

Read

We’ve heard that we should read aloud to ourselves. And we absolutely know this works. We are able to hear our mistakes, rewrite and hear it a different way to see if it sounds better.

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But how many of us actually do it?

Back in the day (as my students say), copy-editors and writers read the work aloud with one another or within a group to catch mistakes before publications. Some critique groups do this as well.

When I read aloud, it sounds the way I think I want it to sound. It helps me to have someone else read it to me while I’m reading it on the screen.

This is what I suggest. Microsoft word has a setting that will read the text to you. I’ve found this incredibly helpful.

There are a number of programs if you don’t have microsoft or can’t stand the monotone.

Some writers record themselves reading the story, then listen to it while they reread in order to catch mistakes.

Let’s be honest – we all make mistakes. And to be more honest – it doesn’t look good in publication. Unfortunately, I’ve sent things out with mistakes. Fortunately, I’ve had some great editors (and publishers) who called my attention to these errors.

 

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.

 

How is a Writer like a Peanut?

How are you like a peanut?

I gave this prompt to my students. Even as I was assigning this prompt, I saw the looks on their faces. They were not the first class to question my sanity; that happens regularly. So, my answer, must be “I’m a little nutty.”

Some of my students came up with amazing responses.

peanut

  • Like a peanut, I have a hard shell. But once I open up, I’m quite pleasant to know.
  • Like a peanut, I’m coming out of my shell.
  • Like a peanut, I’m a little rough around the edges, but smooth on the inside.
  • Like a peanut, I am versatile.
  • Like a peanut in a shell, I am not alone.
  • Like a peanut, I’m caramel colored.

This is challenging and, as writers, we must challenge ourselves. When we challenge ourselves, new parts of us open and allow us to grow and see life from a different point of view.

Choose an item from your refrigerator or snack drawer and compare it to yourself.
(Or choose an item and compare it to your main character.)

If you’d like to share it in our group, please do. peanut2

 

Dare to Suck

indexSteven Tyler of Aerosmith says, “Dare to Suck.”

It seems that he and his band mates have a regular meeting in which they bring the wildest, crappiest, outlandish ideas to toss them around and see if they work.

9 out of 10 of those ideas have to be trashed – but the tenth gets you something like “Dude Walks Like a Lady.”

Why not throw around ideas that seem completely outrageous?!  They can always be strays.jpgcanned later, but in the meantime you have some ideas to play with and you might, well, come up with something good.

I wrote the line, “When I killed my neighbors dog…” My friends said, you can not use that. But I played with it to see where it might take me, and I wrote “Of Strays and Exes” by just playing with this strange line that came to me in a dream.

It was accepted for publication in Pilcrow and Dagger almost immediately and later made into a podcast. You can find it kindle now, or search P&G’s podcasts.

**Disclaimer: No animals were killed or injured in the writing of that story.