Alone, in the dark, write

Turn off as many lights as you can bear. Except, of course, a little book light or candle so you can write.

As your eyes adjust, you’ll be able to see things, outlines, shapes; write about the darkness surrounding you, what you can see, what you can’t see, and what you wish you could see.

candle.jpg

Motivation Vs Inspiration

inspiratin.jpgI hear a number of writer’s ask about how to get inspired or keep inspiration. I think they’re confusing inspiration with motivation.

We are inspired by the things around us, an odd phrase, a beautiful scene, a great idea. The motivation comes to write it down. You must keep motivated long after the inspiration abates.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where dedication comes in.

With dedication to the craft, even when motivation and/or inspiration fail you – you will not fail.

Inspiration is just the beginning! Stay dedicated. Motivation will follow.

What Do the Flowers Mean?

lily

Sometimes a flower is just a flower, but sometimes the flower is a tell tale sign, a foreshadowing of what is to come. That’s for the writer to decide.

However, I think the writer must stay consistent. If you’re using flowers in the story and use a lily to insinuate death or disaster, then you can’t just throw a carnation in later without thinking what that might mean.

Good stories have that layering that critical readers can spot and will enjoy. However, I think, too much can kill a story. As I said, if you’re using flowers as symbols stick with that. If you add flowers, the alignment of the stars, the colors of the curtains, and grandma’s foretelling – that might be too much. It’s like hitting the reader over the head with the symbolism and it’ll detract from the storytelling.

Go to Sleep

sleeping-babyIf you’ve reached a point in your story where you’re stuck, or perhaps some small thing is niggling at you, tell yourself what it is before you go to sleep.

There’s a number of things I’ve done in order to enhance or forward my writing – and the above is one of the things. Margaret Atwood recommends the same.

But I’ve gone further. I was writing a poem and I knew one line wasn’t quite right. I kept going over it and over it and could not seem to find the right words in the right order to bring the poem together. As I went to bed that night – I told myself to dream about it.

At 4am, I woke up with the line! I scribbled it in the notebook (which sits next to my bed) and turned over to go back to sleep.

Not only do I tell myself the problem I’m dealing with in my writing before I go to sleep, but I also think about different story lines for my characters. This keeps me juiced, so to speak, with inspiration. The next morning, I’m ready to hop out of bed and write.

Sometimes, of course, this backfires and I want to write then and there – which I do. But most of it can and does wait for that dreaded blank page the next morning.

Read Like a Wordsmith

wordDon’t read other words like a critic looking for the good, bad, and ugly. Read to discover what the author did well and how they did it.

This is reading like a writer, like a wordsmith.

Atwood says she will only review something if she likes it. She is not a critic and won’t write a bad review.

One of my friends told me he won’t even write a bad yelp review. He says, I praise those who deserve it, but it’s not my place to criticize.

I thought this was a great idea.

If you feel you must say something to alert other readers, then be honest and specific, but do add at least one good thing about the book, story, movie, service etc.

 

Be Gentle

easy

There are times when you have to be hard on yourself.

Then there are other times when you have to offer yourself a break.

Be hard on yourself if you sit around watching television or playing on social media instead of writing.

Give yourself a break if you’re not feeling well.

Be hard on yourself if you allow yourself to be distracted or blocked.

Give yourself a break if you write something that you later have to delete because it doesn’t work.

You should have expectations of yourself, goals you want to attain, and you should attempt to reach those goals instead of sitting around giving yourself excuses not to try.

But things will go wrong; at times, you will fall short of your goals, you will make mistakes – this is the time to forgive yourself.

 

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…..