amusing musings…considering conundra…dark sparks

Archive for December, 2007

A word after a word after a word…

“A word after a word after a word is power,” according to Margaret Atwood, and she ought to know.

A new learning for me is that writing about why I am stuck is still writing, and I like it better when I write on the blog rather than scribbling in some notebook that I likely can’t read next week. I like seeing what I am thinking, and that opens up ideas that I would not have considered otherwise.  It allows nearly forgotten memories, thoughts and beliefs bubble to the top where they can be exploited.

So, despite a rather drippy episode with my sinuses (TMI, sorry!)  I sat down BIC-HOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard) and tapped out one word after another between draining my nose.  I didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel like writing.  I had no inspiration except for the image of the scene I didn’t want to write. But I wrote anyway. That is the secret, and apparently it is one I will have to learn over and over.  

I couldn’t see how a person would survive being strangled if she were dead to the world in deep sleep, so I woke her up enough to realize that something was not right, hearing her antag banging around in the dark, looking for the wand that they both need to get away from their current location. Then I was free to write the fight scene with my protag having something of a fighting chance.

Two insights into writing on the same day. What a relief! After getting the first 600 words out, another 1000 came right along behind, and I discovered that a third character has information that the protag Maven and the readers will need to tie in another thread  concering some other clients of hers–dwarves. Maven has her own thoughts on dwarves

As James Braush is fond of saying, take action. So, having gotten through one scene, I cranked into another, leaving me a good starting place for today.  As icing on the cake, another writer left me a comment with some insights to her own process.  Take a look at Mystery Shrink’s ideas on writing and learning from the movies.


Resistance – Overidentification with Character

The main character of my WIP is currently asleep, dead tired and vulnerable to a person who was unconscious when she went to sleep. The very next scene requires that the second character attack my protag, and I just don’t want to write it.  I can certainly put the scene later in the book, but in the protag’s arc, it goes right here. I’m not sure what the results will be, or the long ranging effects of this struggle, and I am fairly sure that my usually intrepid heroine will not prevail on the short term.

I know what causes this problem. I am too close to my heroine. She always does what I would like to think I would do in her place.  I’ve let her protect herself as much as she can, but the confrontation is coming, and she just won’t stay awake (in the face of several sleepless days and nights, plus a large amount of magic use.) Not being an outliner, I don’t know what happens next or why they can’t wake up together and argue things out logically.

Now this may seem to be a silly problem, and it is. I know if I just keep typing something will work out. I know that given the rules of magic in the story, this struggle for posession of a magic wand will affect both of the characters, and others who have been involved in magic done with that wand.  I am stuck in my world building, so it’s time to make up a few more rules about how things work, get a quick bio of the secondary character–a rogue fairy godmother who has already planned to kill my protag–and then find the funny bits.  Piece of cake, right?

 I hope that my hesitation means that this part is critical to the story, and I am not just having a lazy moment. I could dodge over to another sub-plot and bring it up to date, which might give me some ideas on using the new rules in lots of different ways.  Any one with suggestions for this kind of sticky place, feel free to leave a comment or link.

The Power of Story: Book Review

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!  Is that why you are stuck?  

 When Jim Loehr’s The Power of Story came through my mail slot, I remembered that I hadn’t ordered my free book from Bookwise this month, so they just sent me one. I’m glad they did. It’s a good one, not about how to write fitction, but how to write truth, how to write your own life.  And in life, as in fiction, writing is rewriting. 

Loehr explains how our minds are hard-wired to think in terms of narrative, of stories, and how the false stories we repeat to ourselves keep us from achieving the joy, love and success we desire from life. The subtitle of the book is Rewrite Your Destiny in Business and in Life. Much more than just positive thinking, Loehr uses this metaphor to help Fortune 500 executives, athletes, and other professionals change their stories to acievce wnat they really want: deep relationships with their spouse and children, vibrant health, joy and fulfillment in their work, time to enjoy the money that they make.  

He emphasizes the need for engagement with whatever activity we are doing–focus on being present in the moment and putting all of one’s energy into the task at hand. He calls the common lack of engagment at work “presenteeism,” the word for people who show up but who are disengaged, unfocused. This disengagment can be due to poor nutrition, lack of sleep, lack of exercise or habitual lack of focus from multitasking.  I know that my performance is affected by these things, not the least of which is dozing off at my desk in boredom.

While you won’t find any new information–you know what it is that you need to do and aren’t doing, though you may not be so aware of the stories you tell yourself to keep your self comfortably in denial –the logical explanations and real life examples fit into the metaphor of writing a story, with you as the hero of your life. The difference of his book is the structural outline of how to make the changes in one’s story  and then take the action to embody those changes. For example, he suggests to corporate VPs that they encourage their subordinates to exercise while at work, to provide healthy alternatives to canteen and cafeteria menus, to limit meeting times, and to encourage people to take time for children’s activities such as ball games and school plays. He tells them to lead by example.

Loehr gives a storyboard for revising the old stories (excuses, self-deception, denial) into new stories, based on one’s purpose in life.  First, write down your purpose–what do you want to leave behind when you die? What do you want people to say about you? Why are you doing the things you do? Then pick an area in your life that does not support that and think of the changes you might make to realign your life. One man left his cellphone in his car, so that he would not be distracted from his time with his wife and chidren.  Another man made a point of calling home to speak to his sons at 8pm every night that he was travelling so that he could talk to them and stay in relationship with them.

Once you have your purpose and your new story about what you are doing, you set up action rituals, record your performance on them and repeat those actions for ninety days. The twelve step programs have used “90 meetings in 90 days” for decades to get people making enough changes to support their new life-affirming story.  After you have a new habit firmly embedded in your subconscious  along with its new and purpose-filled story, you choose another new ritual to establish.  Loehr provides a strong framework for changing the stories to help the reader revise all life limiting stories.

Guilt and Gratitude as a Novel Premise

The sequel to my first novel [soon to be a major something or other!!!] centers around the effects of guilt, both felt and denied, and the effect of gratitude in dispelling guilt and reversing its effects.  I did not know this until I had written a few thousand words, and started to try some outlining and brainstorming.

 I’m not an outliner, very much seat-of-the-pants muddle along writer, but I wanted to get this draft cranked out a in fewer than two years, preferably six months. So I’ve been trying James N. Frey’s Damn Good Novel techniques and Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake. But I could not figure out what my main character wanted–she had her wish granted, but the Happily Ever After just hadn’t kicked in for her.  She was waiting for the other shoe to drop. But another character, the male lead, had a serious guilt problem–his girlfriend ODed, and he felt responsible. 

Then I had a conversation with my favorite poet and spiritual advisor, Chris Wilkerson, about guilt, and he told me that the opposite of guilt was gratitude. The scales fell from my eyes and I saw how each of the characters from opus one had regrets and s’psostas  that they hadn’t worked through.

But one character in particular was grateful for her wish coming true, and she did not find herself stuck worrying about the past or the future. That was when I knew my premise:  Only gratitude can release one from the imprisonment of guilt.

Seems like a worthwhile idea to explore,  a serious message. Now all I have to do is to find funny ways of expressing it without preaching and without being obnoxious.  I saw the Eight Reindeer Monologues this weekend, and it taught me a strong lesson about parody not being necessarily the most effective way to get a message across.  I do not ever want someone to laugh when one of my characters says “I gave at the office. I was raped.”

But that’s a blog for another day when I have less to think about.  Today I am thinking about my own denied guilt and how the ways I get stuck are tied to guilt and denial. And I am thinking about gratitude and how many things for which I am truly thankful, even though Thanksgiving was last month.  It’s still Hallowthankmasnewbowl Season.

Is there a good guilt, different from remorse at being caught, and is there any value in it other than its push to repent and find redemption in forgiveness?

Can one forgive oneself, truly and deeply, not denying responsibility but allowing and accepting the past as it is?

Is wallowing in guilt worse or different from denial that guilt or responsibility exists?

Can one truly learn to be grateful for the mistakes that one has made, in order to see the growth that was prompted by the mistake?

Theses are the questions which I will pose to my characters and see how they will respond.

After all, response-ability is different from guilt. One who is guilty has no ability to respond or to act unless there is redemption from without and gratitude within.

Writing Every Day

I decded last week that I would write every day–and I do: comments on student papers, posts to my work blog, emails, articles for the SWA newsletter, anything but fiction. My second novel sits back in the second row hoping to get a few minutes today.

I have no excuses.

I chose to do other things–shopping, a concert, a party, watching two movies in one evening. Why do I put off doing one of the things that brings me pleasure?

It’s work. I don’t know where the story is going, and despite Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake, I have no outline. My main character and I share a sense of deep shift in our lives, almost like a psychic earthquake, wondering where our next step will land, and if there is a path ahead, or open fields or desert or jungle. I don’t know where I am going, and neither does she, so I don’t know where she is going. Take a step. Write a word. Write another word. Take a step.

I’ve been reading James Braush’s story about the spiritual awakening of a homeless man. He writes every day. I look forward to hearing his story every day and seeing what his next offer will be about internet marketing. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone wanted to read what I posted every day? I would only have to post something every day.

I was dreaming about his subject matter this morning, that I too was homeless though I had a laptop, but it was stolen when I stopped paying attention to my surroundings. Then the officical person at the shelter stuck his foot in my face and told me that it was my fault for not paying attention. He said he knew who had the computer, but I could not stay at that shelter that night because I had let someone else take it. If you don’t use it, you lose it. It was a wakeup call, and it woke me up at 5:30 to get up and get writing.

So here I am, typing, letting my tea and agave soak into my brain to wake up as the fog outside the house resolves into landscape. It is a trust issue….can I trust myself? The only answer is to take a step, like Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail, knowing that if I fall, no one will hear the sound of one pen dropping.

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