Writer Wednesday – The Mystery of Flow

Door-Into-MindIdeas come easily to some writers, not so smoothly to others.

There’s a little door to our writing mind which must always remain open and then things will flow in and out. it’s a frame of mind, to be open and to listen, or to always have writing on your mind, like a song playing in the background.

In a supermarket, the cashier says something to me. It could be an every day comment that strikes me a little strange. That (creative) door is standing ajar and a shadow is leaning against the frame when the cashier, red hair piled 50’s high, said something about “blueberry pie.” But I heard Blue Pie. My writer mind twirls within possibilities. That idea that lingered at the door-frame to my writer mind smacked right into the blue pie and it became a dog named Blue and Grandmother’s award-winning pie at a local fair in the height of the home-making 50’s.

I’m standing in the window of my little home watering plants; the catnip falls to my feet and I remember a dream I had the night before. Catnip Dreams begins whirring.doors

Enough of the bleating sirens, says an annoyed neighbor upon hearing yet another car alarm as my dog anxiously howls at the buzz. He says sirens. I hear a howl. I see ancient mermaids sitting on a rock caterwauling.

The space between our everyday life our creative brain must not close. Between kids and to-do lists, work and school, it must become a screen which catches things and holds them, even somewhat distorted, until we race to a notebook and write.

doors.jpg

Friday Feature – Fantasy for Mental Health by Lara Lee

 

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Thank you, Lara!

 

Writer Wednesday: Napccident’s Happen

Screenshot_20180228-182712.jpg

Napccident: when a person rests their eyes

and unintentionally falls asleep. The napccident

may last anywhere from five minutes to two or more hours.

 

I read an article that stated mental and physical exhaustion are different and that those with mental exhaustion nap to re-energize. Writers are, sometimes, prone to mental exhaustion. We are excited by our writing, then we crash. Or, those days when writing is torturous, we want to crash.

Another article stated that naps are ways to procrastinate.nap

Both are true. I’ve rested to recover from a challenging writing day, and I’ve definitely taken advantage of interludes as a means of procrastination. However, when I’m excited about my project and it’s pouring out, I rarely pause. I even have a hard time sleeping at night because my mind is alive with story.

When I get stuck on a piece of writing, a plot point, a character, I use respites to help me overcome that difficulty. By being still and allowing my mind to wander within the story, the challenge is overcome.

Decide if your napccident is avoidance behavior and make it be productive for you.

In yoga, we set intentions. If you lie down or close your eyes to procrastinate, accept that behavior and set an intention to be more productive. It’s not the pressure of a goal or promise, but it’s an email to your unconscious to get back on track.

 

Happy Napccident!

 

nap1

Writing Wednesday – STRESS!

stress

One of the worst types of writer’s block is caused by stress.

I like to roll out of bed and get straight to writing before any other distraction or activity comes up. I find that I work better and longer if I push everything else away until a manageable time. However, I find stress takes me completely out of my writing brain.

Where I can stop for breakfast, talk to friends or family, or even keep an appointment and get back to writing, when I’m stopped by a stressful event or activity I find it extremely difficult to do any work.

The good thing is that it takes a lot to get me to that level of stress; however, that’s not so Stressed-Brainfor many writers. Besides the littlest distractions causing problems for many writers, any stress weighing on a writer can keep them from being productive. One of the elements of stress is the inability to focus on anything else – it is the most distracting distraction a writer can face. Stress causes us to avoid things – things like writing!

If you’re experiencing something like this and can’t get on track with your writing, you need to ask yourself what is happening in the background of your life. It depends on each individual’s ability to handle stress, but it could be a small thing like a car problem or a large thing like a family problem. These things wreak havoc with our ability to be productive.

Again, my cure for this is to focus first on my writing and, second, on anything else. Cures for others might be similar. Block out the stress and focus on the writing – this could be a way of de-stressing. Creating a time to worry about problems is an age old recommendation. Years ago, someone told me “plan ten minutes before bedtime to worry.” I, personally, prefer before sleep and after waking to be the least stressful times. But it could still work – schedule your worry time like we all should schedule our writing time. Or, give yourself time to solve that problem, and realize if it’s something you can not solve and let it go.

stress2Let it go! If it is a stress we have no power over that is the only answer. It will pass. Focus on the writing, that you can control!

I like the quote “you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” That’s what we have to remember. We can choose to stress about problems that we can’t immediately solve, or we can choose to use our writing as a distraction from that stress.

If you’ve found anything that’s worked for you, please post it in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Next week – decision making and writing.

Friday Feature: Second Chance – Iuliana Foos

The second indulgence of our Friday Feature is Author Iuliana Foos’ personal story- Enjoy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

iuliana

Thank you so much for hosting me today.

Born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, I had a childhood and upbringing different from what most people outside the country are accustomed to. Since an early age, I loved to read. Growing up in a communist country, where all information was closely supervised, I soon ran out of book to read.

I had to start of course with the literature mandatory in school, all Romanian authors, but soon, I started to borrow books from my parents’ collection. When most people hear ‘Black Market’ they think of illegal merchandise. For us, was also books. Coming across translated international authors, wasn’t easy, but not impossible either.

It was when I fell in love with ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexander Dumas, the first romance book I ever read. I was only in my early to teens, so extremely impressionable. Until today I still believe everyone should have at least one sword, even if only for decorative purposes.

When I attempted to read ‘War and Peace’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I failed miserably, falling asleep before finishing a whole page. I still didn’t get the courage to go back and try to read what at that time, for me, was the most boring book, so I never made it past the first chapter. It served as a good paperweight, and many times I used it to hide underneath another book, usually something frowned upon, like ‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell.

Around the same time, I managed to put my greedy hands on translated adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, whose themes are still successfully rehashed today.

One of my best finds has to be Greek Mythology Adaptations. Those gods are still inspiring.

By the time I was sixteen, I ran out of books to devour, and started to make my own stories. In school and at home, I was busy creating worlds and characters in my head. The visit at Dracula’s Castle uncovered infinite possibilities. Our ordinary world had become that day less important than my fantasy one. You can only imagine the new level of commotion in my mind. It was the first time I knew what I wanted to do in my life: be an author.

With my first job, life started to interfere with my dreams of writing. Living though the revolution that ended the communism in Romania, brought hope. Unfortunately, the bitter taste of disappointment with the new life, convinced me to leave behind everything I knew. Only months before my twenty-ninth birthday I emigrated to Canada, in a search of a better life.

As an immigrant, I had an allowance of two large travel bags, each no heavier than forty kilograms (or eighty pounds), so I packed my life in those and started new. I still have my fifteen large notebooks, handwritten in Romanian with my first stories. They took half of one of my allowed bags, my most precious possessions.

Year after year, I drifted further and further from my dreams. With bills to pay and life in general happening every minute of the day, I had to stay focused on my sales/marketing career.

When I thought life couldn’t surprise me anymore, it did. I divorced and years later, remarried. Following my husband meant yet another big move, this time to the United States of America, my new home. He encouraged me to revisit my dream, give writing a second chance, and so I did.

New challenges rose, but I was determined not to let anything stand between me and my dream this time. Not even writing in a language that is not my native couldn’t stop me. It took me seventeen years to even dare consider it. English is not even my second language, but my fourth. I was fluent in Spanish at nineteen, and in French at thirty. With time I lost the ability to speak any of the two, but I still can understand some.

If you ever look for a challenge to test your courage and drive, try it. Pick the best language you speak, other than your first, and write a novel. Let me know how that works out. No, really, let me know. If you think having an accent is bad, wait until you have to figure out grammar. Thank God, the accent doesn’t come through in writing.

Many people start new chapters at some point in their lives. For some, the change is major, for others not so much. For me, it was monumental. All three times.

So here I stand today, humbled and grateful for everything I went through. I carry the scars of my battles, and the sweet memories of my victories. Every adventure and step I took brought me where I am today.

I’ve learned to never lose hope. It took me over thirty years to live the dream I had as a teenager. It is never too late to reach that dream you have. Hold on to it. Foster it’s growth, and above all else, never give up. Second chances happen when you least expect it.

iulianna

 

 

Facebook

Amazon

Twitter

Bloodline Origins

 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Iuliana – thank you for sharing your story. It’s always heartwarming to hear a story of challenges overcome!  Much luck on your book.

Writer Wednesday: Say Yes to the Edit….

When I’ve mentioned, within a writer’s group, an editor asked for changes the room heats with disagreement.

writerblog2

 

“You’re not going to do it, are you?”

“Why would you sell yourself like that?”

“How dare they?!”

 

They dare because they are willing to publish my work; and while it does matter what they ask, I’m willing to listen and consider their ideas and advice. Usually, it is merely for clarifications or changes in simple sentence structure or the like.

My story, $1.00 Stories, was originally published by the Chicano Tribune’s Printers Row Journal. When that editor called me and hesitantly said, “we’re requesting changes;” I think he was quite surprised with my, “certainly.” The only requested was a few clarifications between the character’s name, Chris, and his nickname, C.C.

writerblog3It would be foolhardy and, even, unprofessional for me to say no without hearing them out.

While I suppose many writers believe the editor might ask for major changes in ideas or plot, I haven’t had any ask me for such things. As writers, we need to be open to consider what is said.

By request, I critiqued another writer’s work. I offered my point of view, and they became offended, tried to explain what they meant in this scene or that narration. My response, “there are all great ideas, but they are not in there.” The young person huffed off, I believe, without hearing me. Writers, we cannot be that sensitive.

We are not perfect human beings. We make errors. Some things are clear to us, but not to others. We can improve our work for the better by listening to others’ opinions. Of course, not all are worth considering. But an editor’s opinion, one who is willing to publish your work, is valuable.

 

writerblog1

Friday Feature: Guest Author Margie Harding.

I wanted to start something new and feature other opinions, ideas, and authors on Fridays. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Margie Harding, author of The Paxton Series.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Writing is a passion I’ve been developing for many years.  While I blog, have written devotionals for teen girls, a novel about my experience of attending college as a non-traditional student thirty years after high school graduation (receiving an AA degree in Elementary Education), and more; I have been provided yet another challenge that warms my heart.

For years I have said, “It takes a special person to be a special education teacher and it isn’t me!”  I have five children and sixteen grandchildren and still a special education interest alluded me!  It was never my heart’s desire.  God has a sense of humor, I think.  After all these years of avoiding special needs and disabilities, I have begun a new children’s book series on this particular subject!

We call the series, “The Paxton Series” with our setting in the Black Hills of South Dakota, paxtonusing the wild animals of the area as our characters.  (Paxton the Prairie Dog shows up in every book, if nothing more than in a cameo appearance!)  The books are written for the child with the disability or special need….and for the child that asks, “What is wrong with my friend?” —and there are amazing illustrations, thankfully from someone who is able to acclimate the disability to the particular animal!

When the series started, I had no intention of a “disability series,” yet it morphed into this before I’d realized the need for this kind of material or impact it could make.  I attended a church organized disability conference two years ago and for the first time heard the term “disability people group” and learned much about these special people for whom I was writing!  The statistics astounded me!  I knew this was to be my life’s mission.

I am delighted to say this series is being well received –and will continue indefinitely! (The list is up to 60+).  Doors have opened I never imagined as schools, colleges (using them to teach students to be special needs educators) and other groups have found the merit of sharing these books with children, parents, educators, medical staff and others!

Invitations to share about the books from a “special needs” perspective, have also arisen and I am delighted to be an advocate for these children (and adults) who are often neglected in a variety of areas, (even if unintentionally) including written stories they can relate to.

There is very little actual reading material for children who have special needs; and paxton2certainly not for those young ones introduced to special needs children, as integration into mainstream classrooms continue.  Their peers are often confused by what they see as “different” and perhaps even “wrong” when it can’t be defined by the “normal classroom rules.”  My books attempt to bridge that gap, and are a great starting place for teachers.  They are written to aid in understanding, inclusion, and acceptance of those behaviors that are different from the traditional “norm.”

There are ten books in the series currently.

Paxton’s World on Fire                                                          Introduction

An Early Arrival                                                                     Preemie

The Great Race                                                                       Asthma

Ears Like Gramps                                                                   Hearing

Lillianna Moves to the Country                                              Down’s Syndrome

Micah Mink Goes to the Concert                                           Autism

Mixed Up Words                                                                    Dyslexia

Special Goalie                                                                        MD

Opal’s New Dream                                                                 Arthritis

The Camping Trip                                                                 ADHD

 

Coming soon:

The Spelling Bee                                                                    Diabetes   (September)

Madison’s Sad Christmas                                                       Depression (November)

Bristol Goes To School                                                          Cancer      (2019)

Harbinger Village                                                                   Cerebral Palsy     (2019)

Fabian’s Smile                                                                        Cleft Palate            (2019)

Our children face an amazing list of challenges.  God has placed me in a position to be able to do something fundamentally good.  I am humbled to be able to place words on paper that can help children understand what is going on in their bodies, as well as, a resource parents and teachers can use to help other children understand what is happening with their friends who seem different than themselves. If you are interested in any of these books or those to be released in the coming months and years, contact me, authormargieharding@gmail.com or visit http://www.paxtonseries.com or amazon.com.

**An added note — All 10 books are both in softcover and hardback….and we are just beginning to add a toddler version of the current K-3rd grade books (although the books are used for older students in special education classes, as well), and I am working on a chapter book!  The first toddler book, The Big Fire, should be available in just a couple weeks.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Margie – thank you for guesting. I’m grateful I could host your blog and further the word about these important books.  NL