Author Archives: goodmorningmystic

About goodmorningmystic

Mystic Archaeologist digging through the mundane in search of the sacred.

Nanowrimo…

I’m going to win this time.  Oh yeah.   And I’m going to finish.  This time.

Them there are fightin’ words.

(Feeling strong now…)(I’m gonna make it up those steps…)(It’s the eye of the tiger…)

My husband stopped by my desk to ask why I was punching air.   I proudly forecasted my intent to win Nanowrimo.  “Win what?” Were those dollar signs in his eyes?

“You win NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words of your novel between November 1 and November 30.”

He sort of chuckled in a loving sort of way as he left the room where I purportly write fiction.

Muse:  (sighs)
Me:  Are you in?  I can’t do this without you.
Muse:  I know.  Let’s do this.

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Words…Must…Be…Used

The other night I was sitting with my six-year old grandson while he was taking a bath. He loves a hot bath. He rolls around with his assortment of rubber ducks that look like knights, a few Imaginext soldiers and several sharks and he talks…and he talks and talks and talks…incessantly. I just sit and listen. Occasionally I get a word or two in but typically…he does the talking.

Instinct tells me that he needs this time to just – get it all out – especially after he’d come home that afternoon to report that he’d gotten his second “red light” that week (and it was only Wednesday!) for excessive talking. Sigh.

So, as I sat there listening to the evening’s stream-of-consciousness I couldn’t help but appreciate the fact that, as his teacher pointed out, my six-year old grandson has a lot of words to use and he is determined to use them. I know just how he feels.

Writers have words (words and words and words and words…) that must be used.  The words race around the brain and beg to be spilled out onto a page – somewhere, anywhere.   Sometimes I feel like I’ll just BURST if I don’t use them!

Muse: How about spilling a few words into your book?

 

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Aeon Timeline…Escapes Me

I am the “IT” guy in my house. No lie. When someone can’t get their computer to behave or their print spool is spinning out of control or a router needs diagnostic care – they call on me. Now, keep in mind that my husband is a software developer (nod, nod…that’s right…oh yeah). So, with this in mind, I find it incredibly frustrating (and just a little bit embarrassing) to admit that I am unable to figure out how to use Aeon Timeline. Sniff, sniff.

I downloaded Aeon Timeline – easy enough. Then I began to happily add arcs and events and entities to track my ever expanding outline. I was in love with this software!!! And then I wanted to make a change – to add a birthday to a personality – and I was stuck! Eventually I had to delete the entity and start over. Surely I must be missing a step, I thought.

For two full days I tried to develop a positive user relationship with Aeon. I re-read the manual, added calendars, watched tutorial videos – again, deleted calendars, searched the internet for other frustrated users, added more calendars, searched the internet for success stories, started (again) with new calendars, deleted those new calendars (again)…and then…I gave up. Sigh.

Muse: Do you need this software to write???
Me: Sigh. No.
Muse: Need I say more???
Me. No. Sigh.

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Where, oh where, has the time gone…

I opened Scrivener for the first time this morning and gasped to see that the LAST time I’d saved a file in my current project was…November 14th, 2013…the day my daughter had her gasterectomy.  Have I really gone two months without writing???

I managed to write during the months of September, October and November while I was in Chicago with my daughter, taking care of her and her family while she gained the strength necessary to live through the 11/14/13 surgery she had to remove her dysfunctional stomach.   It was at that point when all came to a skidding halt.   To be honest, I’ve been super busy and too supremely distracted to write.   The surgery was a success – thank God.  Two weeks later it was time for me to go home.  I commandeered (with the permission of his parents) my six year old grandson and brought him back to Colorado with me.  Super trooper that he is, the little guy resumed first grade after the Thanksgiving break and thus remains at Mima and Papa’s while his Mom, who arrived in Colorado on 12/22/13 after a 12/04/13 emergency surgery to fix a leak, recovers from her ordeal, splitting her time on my couch and in her Dad’s favorite chair (true love is letting your daughter occupy your most special nap place).

Sidebar:  I have a whole new respect for the stomach organ.  Never again will I abuse my own precious gut with anything that isn’t purely organic.  No more GMO’s or their derivatives, no more pesticides, no more chemicals – nada, zilch, zed.  I had the same reaction to cigarettes after seeing my boss in the hospital after surgery to remove his tongue thanks to his stage four throat cancer.  Take note:  It matters what you put in your mouth.  Some of the things you put in your mouth are just not worth whatever fleeting pleasure they give you.  Speaking of pleasure, please eat the best, most pure food available.  You won’t believe how much better organic tastes!  Love your body…and your body will love you back:)

Speaking of loving yourself…it’s time to get back to business – my business.  I’ve put all the Christmas stuff away, cleaned up the basement and cleared off my desks.  And so today, this day, marks the first day since the surgery that I’ve had available to sit down and write (after I vacuum and dust).  Of course my doubting dragon lost no time at all in poking his nasty little head out of my subconscious to dare me to proceed with confidence.  Can I really do this writing thing?  Sigh.  Is this really my bliss????

Muse:  Yes.  I am your sword and your strength.  You write.  I will take care of the dragon.

Me:  Bless you.

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The Ying Yang of It All

It’s good to be home. I get to sleep in my own bed, reacquaint myself with my husband, and I get to write once more.

It’s not good to be home. I miss my daughter. I miss my grandson. I worry about them both.

Where is the middle ground, I ask. It’s not quite home and not quite away. I anticipate that soon, two years time perhaps (when my son-in-law completes his Residency), my daughter and her little family will move back to Colorado. THEN I will be happy and all will be good.

Until then…what? Be unhappy? Neutral? Live in the future and not in the present? Live in both the future and the present?

I know and accept that imperfection is the natural state of being for us humans. Why then am I disappointed when things/life strays away from my expectation of perfection?

Muse: I hope you will use this angst you’re feeling in your writing.

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Climb Every Mountain…

I wanted to bring my daughter back home to Colorado with me. She wanted to come for a visit; a change of place, of space, might help her state of mind. Alas, she’s too sick to make the trip.

My bopping around the house, healthy, energetic…normal…I think my presence, my behavior, my living-a-normal-life is too much for my daughter. It’s bad enough that my daughter has to cope with constant nausea. My pathetic and repetitious attempt to seek out the illusory silver lining in the hurricane bearing down on her life is too much for her to stomach.

She can’t see the forest for the trees (whatever that means). She doesn’t see God opening any doors; just the windows closing. She shudders with every slam. Door after door after window after window; the claustrophobia of the prison that’s become her broken down body is best borne in isolation.

She won’t tell me flat out to leave but she’s not asking me to stay longer either. My mom-sense tells me she doesn’t want me around. I don’t take this personally. My heart understands; my head doesn’t. I can go home…for awhile. I can come back.

It’s not that change is difficult…it’s the positive that’s the hill-climb.

Muse: …
Me: Are you there?
Muse: I will wait for you. When you’re ready. I’m here.

Categories: Chronic Illness, Writing | Leave a comment

The Wisdom of Thomas

I was watching Thomas the Tank Engine yesterday. One of the conductors made the following observation.

“Sometimes a change is as good as a rest.”

True. A vacation is really a change – of place, of space, of your state of mind. I note that three weeks racing through Europe was surprisingly restful. Two weeks of devoted attention to my six year old grandson (sans the ‘rents) was joyful, invigorating. A few days on a beach is just plain…sigh…ahhhhh.

Some change is not restful.

Even though one week with my seriously ill daughter is a change of place and space and state of mind, even though this time involves very little physical activity outside the norm, it’s far, very far, distant planets far, from a rest. And if you suggested to my daughter that lying on the couch all day long listening to the click-click-click of the pump pushing “feed” through the tube in her stomach is a “change as good as a rest” – she’d toss you out the door with the power of a steely-eyed look that I’m told she learned from me.

My heart breaks to watch her watch her husband bustle off to work while she must stay home. What about her life, her job, her future.

Negative change is not restful…not by any stretch of the imagination.

Muse: ….
Me: I feel so alone.

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Shirley Valentine…My Hero

My husband encouraged me to consider this time away from home as a vacation. I wondered what he meant by this statement because…well…I’m in Chicago. Did he mean that I should stop writing??? No, of course not. Then I realized he must be urging me to ascend to a higher level of thinking; so pondered what it means to be on vacation.

It’s presupposed that your life’s routine is a rut. Every once in awhile you need to vacate your rut so it can be tidied up a bit by the life fairies while you’re gone and when you return from your vacation you can either jump back into your rut (expecting it to be somehow miraculously changed) and resume your life – or – start over and make a new rut.

As I understand, if life’s autopilot kicks on while you’re on vacation you’ve overstayed your welcome because a vacation is not supposed to include anything that even remotely resembles a routine (or your real life)(except if you vacation with your kids)(you know what I mean). If a vacation becomes a routine you are to leave that happy place immediately and return to your rut. Why? Because the reestablishment of a rut…even in a new place…is assumed to negatively affect your mental health.

So…apparently a rut is a bad place? No, not to me; not anymore. This, of course, is a fallacy. Just ask Shirley Valentine.

I understand that the “something” I’m missing while away from home is my rut (aka “space”). Thus, I will lovingly embrace my rut at home however I need to try a bit harder to make a new rut here in this new place.

Muse: Just be sure this new rut permits you to return to writing.
Me: Of course. All ruts lead to writing.

Muse: What’s a mojo???

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Where, oh where has my mojo gone….

I’m having a hard time finding my mojo. I had previously believed that it would follow me anywhere but this is not so as is evidenced by my inability to write while in my daughter’s house. I’ve tried getting up early, I’ve sat at the dining room table, on the couch, on the porch. Nothing works.

Funny, I had previously believed that my life/writing routine needed to change in order to make way for a new and improved routine that would magically inspire my creative energy and transform me into a super writer!

Woops…too much Tree Fu Tom.

Anyway…the life change I thought I needed has occurred (albeit temporarily) however my ability to write has been greatly impacted in a perilously negative way. So…where is my mojo?

Back home in it’s space.

I miss my mojo…and my “space” (sigh). That’s not to say that the “space” I’m in at present lacks for any comfort; it’s just that it’s missing something. My mojo.

Muse: What is missing in your current space? Your computer? Your mind? Your manuscript? No. All of these things are present. What’s holding you back???

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Heavy Mettle

How does the serious writer deal with the lack of time and energy to attend to the business of writing when a personal crisis of the family-type sucks up so much time that the said serious writer is unable to attend to said business???

This personal crisis requires monumental spiritual courage. I can manage the ebb and flow of the “why is this happening” waves of pity and recovery. I look forward to the end point of this most recent crisis (more will come…thanks to the nature of chronic illness). I can manage almost anything my daughter’s illness throws at me without excessive emotion with one exception.

I confess; I get very weepy when I mourn the time away from writing. I know this sounds horrible but sometimes I’m resentful. And then I feel guilty for putting my selfish needs before the needs of my beloved child. And then I get weepy again…for all kinds of reasons. It’s a cycle of the most vicious kind. Trust me on this.

Anyway, it’s been almost a month since I’ve had the luxury of sitting at my computer, consumed with angst about what to say/write next. Gee…I miss all that nail-biting and self-doubt that accompanies my writing routine (sigh).

Muse: I miss you. Take care of your daughter.

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Welcome to my head…

I have characters – fabricated in my seemingly simple imagination – who will not leave me alone. Unfortunately, these characters play no role in the piece of fiction in which I am currently involved. No. These pesky imaginary friends (soon to be frenemies, if they don’t knock it off) come to me in my dreams (waking and sleeping) and insist that I resume their stories.

Adiabola is the most insistent. She’s inhabits a fantasy world where priests are women. But Adiabola is no run-of-the-mill priestess; she’s a shape-shifting priestess with ancient powers, the last of her kind in a world that is turning to male sky gods. Her existence is threatened by those who find a woman such as Adiabola dangerous to their evolving way of looking at the world of Spirit.

This woman will not leave me alone! God knows I love her but I can’t take responsibility for her running around and messing up my REM sleep. Okay. I created her but really, she’s driving me crazy!

And then there is Briege…Adiabola’s protégé. Briege is pushy but she is nowhere near as annoying as Adiabola when it comes to demanding that the story proceed.

Okay, alright. I get the message. These women have places to go, people to change…goals to accomplish. Well, they’ll have to wait for just a little while longer. I have a whole cast of 4th century characters primed and ready to go. They are about to educate the world about the true role the barbarians played in the fall of the Roman Empire (and I’m not talking about those jokers in the Capital One credit card ads…cute as they are).

Me: Please help me get some sleep.
Muse: They are your characters. You made them and then just left them hanging there in the midst of conflict, their lives unlived. What do you expect?

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Hormones

“…there’s a hormone secreted into the bloodstream of most writers that makes them hate their own work while they are doing it, or immediately after. This, coupled with the chorus of critical reaction from those privileged to take a first look, is almost enough to discourage further work entirely.”

Francis Ford Coppola, “Letter to the Reader,” Zoetrope Magazine

Despite the roadblocks, bumps in the road and wrong turns…it’s nice to know I travel in good company.

Muse: You are wasting time. Get back to work.
Me: (Sigh) What would I do without your encouragement?
Muse: How about…go back to your day job?

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Morning Pages

I have a copy of The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron .

I’ve had this book for awhile, since it was first published in 1992. I pull this book off the “now what” shelf of my writer’s library when I’m…stuck. About three months ago I lovingly referenced this book, once again. I opened the book to page one and began to read. I vowed that this time I would finish the program because, I confess, I have never read any further than Task #1, page 37.

“Every morning, set your clock one-half hour early; get up and
write three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness morning writing.
Do no reread these pages or allow anyone else to read them. Ideally, stick
these pages in a large manila envelope, or hide them somewhere.
Welcome to the morning pages.”

True to my personality, I don’t exactly follow the directions. I keep my Morning Pages in a nicely bound journal. I keep the journal out on a table on my porch where I have my coffee every morning. Every once in awhile I re-read what I’ve written. My use of the Morning Pages subsides once I get going with my writing, but when I need them again, when things slow down, I return to my journal and begin again.

Ms. Cameron says that the Morning Pages will change you. She is so right. I am changed by what I write in my Morning Pages. My most recent change is reflected in my discovery of what MOTIVATION means! Yes!!!

And I am changed in that I now see the value of my timeline exercise. I now understand that I need to take my timelines to the next level. I need to read them closely and reflect upon them in terms of how/what my characters were feeling and why they did what they did that caused these events to occur. My timelines are the best way for me to connect with my characters. I know that my timelines are important. They are NOT a waste of time.

Muse: Why don’t you keep reading this book?
Me: I don’t have time. I’m too busy writing.

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AHA!!!

I’ve been working on a timeline for my historical characters. I’ve spent the better part of the past three months (not including the month spent in Europe…sigh) going through my research resources in order to include as much relative information as I can cull to my character timeline.

I’m currently at page 39 and counting.

Recently I had to stop and ask myself…is this timeline just one more tool in my already-too-crowded procrastination garage – OR – does this timeline serve a purpose to move my writing forward?

Of course, initially I chose the “tool” option. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to beat myself up.

But THEN, whilst writing my Morning Pages, I had a proverbial Aha moment!

Muse: It’s about time.

I realized that time spent on the timeline for my historical characters is actually a great way (pat on the back) to “get to know” my characters!

I have to confess – I do not like creating characters. I’m certain that this is the reason I prefer to write historical pieces; the characters have already existed. All I have to do is fill in the “thoughts and feelings” blanks. But I need a timeline in order to understand my real characters and the real events in their lives so that I might intuit why they made the choices they made and how they might have reacted to their decisions (drum roll, please…) – to uncover their motivation!

Call me “thick” but could it be that after 12 years of writing and reading about writing and going to writing conferences (blah, blah, blah) I finally understand the connection between character development and motivation???

Muse: Not thick. Nothing you’ve encountered up to now has demonstrated this connection until you pushed your way through the door and past the doubt.
Me: Thanks. I mean it.
Muse: No problem. Get back to your timeline.

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Goal, Motivation, Conflict

I have wasted sooooo much ink and waaayyyy too much paper making notes, note after note after note, on my main character’s goal, motivation and conflict.

I get what a goal is (or do I????). A goal is the “what.” It’s a desired result, a purpose or an objective. Got it. Check.

I get conflict; who doesn’t. Conflict is the reason your character can’t have his goal.

What I don’t get is the motivation part. I know that motivation is the “why.” Why do your characters want their goal? Why do that do what they do? Why, why, why. My head aches. My eyes cross. What the heck is motivation??? Arrrrgggg!!!

As soon as my inner angst has subsided I go to my massive library of writing books and pull from the shelves my favorite book on the subject, Goal, Motivation & Conflict, by Debra Dixon, Gryphon Books for Writers, Memphis, Tennessee. 1996.

Ms. Dixon says that, “Motivation is possibly the most important of the three elements of GMC because you can do anything in fiction. There are no limits. Everything truly is possible as long as you help your reader understand why your characters do what they do. Why they land themselves in impossible situations. Why they make the choices they make.”

Okay. Wait for it. Nothing. I still don’t get it. What is the motivation for my characters in my story. Why do they do what they do?

Note that my inability to grasp the seemingly simple concept of motivation is by no means the fault of Ms. Dixon. I just don’t get motivation. I read and I read and I just don’t get it. Nada. I wait for the “click.” Nothing. Silence.

I get that failure to motivate properly will break your book. This motivation thing is hard. It’s difficult for the character and it’s really difficult for the writer!

Me: Please, Ms. Muse…help me understand motivation! Please, please, please…
Muse: Why?
Me: Because…I want to be a writer. I want to finish this book. I want readers to love my characters and I want my characters to effect my readers just as much as they have impacted me.
Muse: Ask your character’s why…get them to tell you their “because.”

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Routine, route, rout

I need a new route for my routine.  I need to rout the ruinous behavior(s) that have ravaged my routine and reduced my writing to rubble.  I need to put a stop to the ransack of my energy and repair the wreckage of what remains of my confidence.

Here I go again, associating words that on the surface have no direct relationship to each other outside my unique philosophical bent.  That’s okay.  According to Mark David Gerson in his book, The Voice of the Muse, “Words are your teachers.  Don’t run from your words (…).  Let them teach you all they have to teach you.”

And still the words just keep coming.  Sabotage, interruption, interference, impairment.

Muse:  Stop fighting yourself. 

Surrender.  Submit.  Give up.  Give in.  Admit defeat.  Yield.

Muse:  You are a writer.

Alright then.  You’re right.  I am a writer.  Like a completely accidental misfiring, I have to quit shooting myself in the proverbial foot.  I will not be injured.  I will not take myself out of this game.  No.  There is no slip-up here, no misstep, no mistake.  I want to write.  I have to write. 

Muse:  Don’t be afraid.
Me:  I’m terrified.

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Routine Revisited

Wake up. Get out of bed. Take care of body functions. Get a coffee. See to the animals.  Open the blinds, curtains, windows (weather permitting). Scan the calendar for upcoming appointments.  Sit down.  Drink coffee.  Think about writing.  Then think about other activities I need to do other than writing.

Muse:  This is where it all falls apart.
Me:  Maybe I could get up earlier?

Arg.  My dentist wants to know why I grind my teeth; by reading this blog you now know why.  How am I to shake up this carefully choreographed dance around not doing what I want to do?  I look to Ms. Phillips, author of The Storymind Writer’s Library, who in her infinite wisdom says the following, “the situation, reasons, passions, or even the nature of the person himself may have changed in some way that makes the routine no longer effective, counterproductive, inordinately costly, or unsustainably unpleasant.”

Gulp.  Questions must be asked and answered, not only of my characters, but more importantly, of myself.  Has my situation changed?  Is my reason for writing…different?  Could it be that my passion for writing has diminished or, horror of horrors, could I have changed in some way that renders me no longer interested in writing???

Me:  Muse?  Are you there?
Muse:  Perhaps it’s time for some self-examination.

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Trapped in a Routine

It’s been almost three weeks since my return from Nirvana and I’ve produced nada. I’ve been wondering how I could go from my post-trip “all-writing-engines-revved-to-maximum-capacity”  to the pencil-tapping vacuum in which I currently sit (lovingly called my office).

Not to worry! I think I’ve stumbled upon a way to get back to writing!

Muse:  I would hardly call my incessant nagging a “stumble.”

From whence came this epiphany, you ask?  Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator of Dramatica, has a wonderful blog that I doubt I could live without.  In fact, while in Europe The Storymind Writer’s Library was one of the only emails I would allow myself to receive on a daily basis. Anyway, one of Ms. Phillips’ most recent posts struck my Muse so strongly that I have not been able to get Her to quit bothering me about it.

Muse:  Thank you.

I now understand that “trapped in a routine” for both characters and the writer is an enormous “block” that has wedged itself in the crevasse of my desire to write and my inability to put word to paper.  I must use the experience of my trip to Europe as a way to not only jostle my own creative lethargy but to also shake up my characters. Lord knows we all need to be set free from routine!

Muse:  You’re welcome. Now break that routine…the one where you whine about not writing…and get to work!

P.S.  I love, love, love Dramatica. I use it to discipline my inconsistent and convoluted plots, characters, etcetera, etcetera.  Dramatica doesn’t help you write your tome but rather keeps the story development headed in a direction that doesn’t require a reader “mind-meld” exercise in order to understand your story’s progress.

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Veni, vidi, vici

Tap, tap, tap.  That’s my pencil hitting my notebook.  I wonder in Julius Caesar ever had a moment such as this?  Did he ever look out over the Tiber and think, “Now what?”

I was greedy tourist.  I sopped up as much “experience” in Italy and Germay as I could possibly retain.  It was wonderful.  I spent the trip home with a silly grin pasted to my face.  Some say it was exhaustion but I know better.  I was in a daze reminiscent of that bittersweet parting of lovers when you know that you’re in love.  Sigh.

Alas, two weeks and six days later I’m missing every magnificent little moment of my trip.  I miss the incessant sirens in Rome and the dogs peeing on everything in Venice.  I was happy to continue to roll around in the afterglow of that happy memory of sailing down the Rhine until yesterday when my husband asked me if I’d had a chance to employ some of my newly acquired experience to my writing.

Buzz kill.

Muse:  Put the lead end of that pencil to paper and get going.
Me:  Buzz kill.

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Travel as Inspiration

Did I mention that I spent the month of May in Italy and Germany?  The purpose of this epic trip to exotic locales featured in my novels was research.  The dozens of books that I’ve amassed about ancient Rome are great for historical background but this 21st century woman needed more experience.

The Muse tempted me to journey further toward the prize.  At first I tried to be practical.  Suffice it to say that spending hours watching total strangers traipse around Rome in their travel videos posted on YouTube is nothing like actually being in Rome yourself.   I relented; I had no choice.   I had to go.

Now, two weeks and five days later, I need to apply…experience…to…paper.  Oy.  This is much harder than I thought it was going to be.

Muse:   I want you to succeed.  Don’t mess this up.

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Writer’s Prayer

Being the creative person I am, when in search for a writer’s prayer I immediately consulted the internet.

What’s wrong with me?  I’m a writer.  Do I really need to plagiarize someone else’s message to the Divine in order to pray?

I hereby pledge from this day forward to be responsible for my own unique spiritual communication.

Dearest One:  Empower me with the discipline to apply seat to chair, fingers to keyboard, and mind to project.  Let me find the strength within to chase away the doubt.  Open my heart to the emotion and spirit of my characters.  Let me write what is true and honest.   

**********

Muse:  Amen

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Routine…Mean…Obscene…

I’m working on a prompt for today.  For some strange reason my mind wanders to words that rhyme with routine.

Caffeine, codeine, latrine, hygiene, gangrene, houseclean, morphine.

The theme here seems to be cleanliness and medication.

**********

Muse:  You forgot – scene.
Me:  What would I do without you?

**********

I use Evan Marshall’s book, The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, when sketching out my scenes.  Mr. Marshall, I’ll call him Evan, uses “sections” as a plotting device.  A section is a single unit of action in a novel.  I became a much more disciplined writer once I started using Evan’s “section” device.

Today I will work on sections for Theodosius and perhaps for the Hildegard project.  I love sections!      

Section, inflexion, direction…rejection.

**********

Muse:  Get to work!!!

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Prompt

When it comes to writing it appears that when faced with a blank page the writer should look to a “prompt” in order to get the creative juices flowing.  I’m in the midst of six fiction projects and one non-fiction travel project.  Why on earth would I need to look to some random descriptive scenario in order to “prompt” the application of word to paper?

Should a somewhat different definition of “prompt” be applied to my writing routine?

1. Being on time; punctual.
2. Carried out or performed without delay: a prompt reply.
3. To move to act; spur; incite: A noise prompted the guard to go back and investigate.
4. To give rise to; inspire: The accident prompted a review of school safety policy.
5. To assist with a reminder; remind.
6. To assist by providing the next words of a forgotten passage; cue.

Okay. So, every morning I will punctually write a prompt that will incite me to remember where I was when I last wrote.

I’m good to go.

**********

Muse:  I don’t see “kick in the pants” listed in the definition above?

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Routine

Wake up. Get out of bed. Take care of body functions. Get a coffee. See to the animals. Open the blinds, curtains, windows (weather permitting). Scan the calendar for upcoming appointments. Sit down. Drink coffee. Think about writing. Then think about other activities I need to do other than writing.

I can go all day without writing. This of course leads to beating myself up a the end of the day for NOT writing. Oy.

Obviously my routine needs to change. I need a new plan – to commence immediately.

Strike “think about other activities I need to do other than writing” and replace with the following:

Get dressed (yes, put on clothing appropriate for general public view). Go directly to desk. Open planner. Review notes left the previous day on the plan for today (yes, you will need to close your day with a plan for tomorrow). Turn on computer. ***Do not (I repeat) DO NOT go to any web page other than this page – your new start page (yes, you are no longer allowed to start the day with a quick shop with Amazon). Start your work day with a prompt, a prayer, a plan and a post. Open Scrivener. Start writing.

Wow. How easy was that!!!

**********

Muse: I’ll believe it when I see.

Me: Gee. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Muse: Get to work.

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Playing Hooky

It’s Tuesday.  I’m not at home – writing.  I should be.  Why not?

I’m playing hooky.

Hooky is a great word.  Imagine someone standing behind the curtain of my life.  They’ve extended an unseen object with a hook on the end and they’ve yanked me from my desk.  I’m hooked.  I’m gone.

Where are we going? I ask.  Somewhere fun?  Is this a good hook or a bad hook?  Have I been rescued for some good cause or abducted for some nefarious reason?

Should I have avoided the hook?  I guess I could have ducked.  I could have fought harder.  I could have resisted.  I didn’t.

So regardless of whether I am a victim of the hook or gracious recipient of a gift, I am not writing.

I am grocery shopping.

Muse:  Let someone else do the grocery shopping.

Ms. D:  But…but

Muse:  Stop procrastinating.  No more excuses.  Get back to work.

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The Follow-Through…

Ah…another new year.

I woke up this morning with a revelation about resolutions.    You see, apparently (just prior to consciousness) my unconscious mind was busy working out the kinks in my list of New Year’s resolutions.  The “asleep” part of me was desperately trying to help my “waking self” avoid the pitfalls of resolutions gone bad.

And so, whilst I contemplated getting out of my warm, cozy bed to write, it occurred to me that I approach the composition of New Year’s resolutions in much the same way as a child who sits on Santa’s lap with a well-rehearsed Christmas list in hand (or at least in her head).  Now, we all know what goes into the careful execution of a properly communicated Christmas list.  You ensure that Santa knows what you want and then on Christmas morning you wake up and – poof – the contents of your list (at least one thing) is nicely wrapped up under the tree.  Why is it that I seem to apply the same methodology to New Year’s Resolutions?  Really.  Year after year I make my list and then…well, we all know how the story ends.  I know, I know…it’s all in the follow-through.

Ah…follow-through!  Cause and effect.

Out of respect for my hard-working unconscious waking thoughts, this year I’m going to try something novel (pun intended).  For example, instead of listing “publish my novel” as a resolution (and then hoping and wishing and praying it will happen), I’m going to apply the principle of causality.  I will begin with the action that I hope (with a little luck and a lot of dedication and will power) will produce a certain response in the form of another event…my completed resolution!   See below.

 

Action:  Work my patooty off and write like the mad woman I know I am.

Response to the Action:  Finish my novel.

Resulting Event:  Publish my novel by years’ end.

 

Muse:  Really?  You’ve just figured this out?  And you actually expect to publish a novel?

Ms. D:  Is there another Muse out there?  A nicer Muse?

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Courage and Characters

I’ve got to bring my characters to life.  They need to do more than “do” stuff.  I need to make them live, breathe, want, need.  They need to “be”…real.

As such I am currently in search of deeper motivation for my characters.  I need to stay out of the shallows of your stereotypical “archetype.”  Where do I go to find these characters?  Ms. Muse???

Ms. Muse:  Write what you know.

Ms. D:  Really???  That’s it???

Ms. Muse:  Yes.  That’s it.  If writing was easy, you wouldn’t be wasting your time writing this blog.

Slam…the truth.  But then…insight!  I get it!  Write what you know.  We’re not talking about birdhouse construction or synchronized swimming.  We’re talking about the knowledge you hold in your heart; your experience, your life.

I’m reminded of Pat Conroy and The Great Santini.  He wrote about the characters he knew.  He took a chance.  He wrote from the heart and crafted a novel of extreme depth.  I’ve heard it said that initially his father refused to speak to him after he read the book but then proudly attended the premier of the film of his son’s novel.

Mr. Conroy is a more-than-worthy inspiration.

I’m going to do it.  Since I lack the creativity to “make people up” I’m going to use what I know to bring my characters to life.  I’m going to dive deep and explore the bottomless fathoms of the various character traits of those with whom I’m most familiar, including but not limited to, my not-so-normal extended family, referred to in private as “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

I wonder if anyone will recognize themselves???  Gulp.

Ms. D:  Dare I strive to go there?  Do I have the courage to take the plunge into the abyss of the heart and soul of my characters?

Ms. Muse:  Do you want to be nice…or published?

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The Devil in the Inkstand…

The good news is that the short story I submitted to a dozen writing contests last March, Prayer for the Dead, will be published in December!  Yippee!  It did not win a competition however my story will be included in the Northern Colorado Writer’s anthology as an “Editor’s Choice” selection.  Oh…joy!!!   Really.  I’m excited.

The bad news is that on the same day I received the email informing me of this wonderful news I also received review comments back on my current project.  My very honest and highly trusted reviewer informed me that I was off the mark.  Really, really off.  The problem is my voice.  To put it bluntly she thought my novel was boring.  My reviewer asked a pointed question.  “What happened to your voice; what did you do with the writer who wrote Prayer for the Dead?  Bring her back and let her write this novel.”

So I ask the Muse…now what????  How do I find my voice???  (If you were inside my head you’d cringe at the tone of my whine).

And the Muse says..stop asking stupid questions to which you already know the answers.  Re-read The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes.  You will, as Mr. Keyes says, “trip over yourself.”   If you’re not willing to turn over the rocks and expose who you are…then don’t expect anyone to want to read what you write.

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Drafting and re-drafting…

It’s the circle of life.  I must face the fact that I prefer to organize my writing more than actually placing words on paper that logically constitute a scene.  Oy.

I take solace in the words of Dwight Swain.  He says (about writing) that, “It’s the only craft that gets harder as you go along instead of easier.  Skill brings awareness of deficiences.”  Techniques of the Selling Writer, p. 284.

Well…duh!

Let’s see if the eight hours I spent yesterday restructuring my novel and just generally tiddying up my desk will produce the direction I need to continue to pen my tome!  I have high hopes!

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Pinch Me…

I understand that there is really only one secret to writing a novel.  Just one.  It involves sitting down…and writing.

What my heart desires, my body…well, I just can’t get her to sit down in that chair and write.

And so I issue this plea to my Muse:  Where, oh where does one find the “butt glue” necessary to achieve my dreams?

It doesn’t take long for her to respond.

“Get off this blog and get back to work!”

 

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