That’s Something To Be Proud Of

25 Jul

My dad worked at a job he hated for twenty-five years.

Stop and think about that for a moment.  It’s really hard for me to comprehend.  I’ve had some crap jobs during my lifetime (cleaning pig pens comes to mind), but I’ve never stayed with them for more than a year or so. Twenty-five years?  My God, what that must have been like for him, or for any of the millions of other people who have done the same thing over the years . . . coal miners . . . assembly line workers . . . I can’t wrap my brain around what that must be like.

And the thing is, I never heard him complain.  I asked him about it once, back when I was maybe fifteen, or sixteen, I caught up with my dad one Saturday afternoon and asked him how he did it, getting up every morning, going to work at a job he disliked, knowing that day, like all the other days, was as good as it gets . . . no chance for advancement, no future prospects . . . how the hell did he do it, I asked.

And he simply told me that a man should take pride in a job well-done, and in providing for his family, and it was no more complicated than that.

Now, in my sixtieth year, I understand.  Now, as a writer, I get it.

At least, as a writer, I have the privilege to get up each morning and do something I am passionate about, but there are no promises regarding fame or future sales.  For all I know, I may do this for a total of twenty or twenty-five years, with no prospects and no chance of ever being well-known.  That’s just the reality all writers, artists, or musicians face.  So we take pride in doing our jobs well, in being the best writers, artists, or musicians we can be, and by doing that we will have advanced the Arts and done our part to entertain and inform the general public.

We are the voices of our generation, and our work will stand the test of time.

And that’s something to be proud of!

Keep that in mind as you go about the business of creating today.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Storyteller’s Legacy

18 Jul

 

A long time ago, gosh, back before I decided I wanted to be a writer, maybe twenty years ago, I wrote a short story called “Sam’s Legacy.” I think I published it on HubPages, where is promptly died a slow death, and then I published it on NIUME, or some other site, where it also died a slow death.

I wrote that story about a next-door neighbor of mine when I was a little kid.  I was only about five when we moved into the home on 18th Street in Tacoma, and our neighbors were Sam Witherspoon and his wife Delores.  I don’t know how old Sam and Delores were when we moved next door to them, but I do know that Sam came across the Oregon Trail when he was just about my age of five. Well Sam and Delores told me some incredible stories over the years about life “out west” during the second half of the 19th Century, and I’m sure my love of history came from those stories that they told me about covered wagons, Indians, barn-building, drunken fights in mining towns, and the hardships and victories attached to life in the west way back then.

Yes, I was at an impressionable age, so obviously their stories were fascinating, but it was also the way they told their stories that helped them to come alive.  I could smell the smoke from the teepees on the Great Plains.  I could imagine gathering bison pies under the broiling sun in order to start a fire for cooking after covering another fifteen miles on the Trail.  I understood the fear they experienced, the bone-weariness of it all, mixed with the wonder of seeing a new land for the first time.

They were great storytellers, and their storytelling greatly affected me.

And now I’m a storyteller, and it is my hope that one day my stories will greatly affect another little boy, or girl, and they will decide to become a storyteller.

It is a noble undertaking we have chosen.  We are the storytellers of our generation.

Treat your calling with respect and reverence.

Be the best damned storyteller you can be!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Trust Your Instincts

11 Jul

I was talking to my best friend, Frank, on the phone the other day.  I’ve known Frank for fifty-five years now, so we have a good amount of reminiscing to do whenever we talk.  On this particular discussion we were talking about baseball.

Summers were for baseball when we were growing up.  If we weren’t playing for a team we were getting guys together for games of “pick-up,” and if we weren’t doing that we were watching the local AAA team, the Tacoma Giants, play at Cheney Stadium during their homestands.

Frank and I were pretty similar in our playing abilities.  Neither of us could hit worth a damn, but we were both excellent outfielders.  We had that innate ability to track a fly ball off the bat, determine how hard it was hit, envision the path of the flyball, do it all in split-seconds, and take the shortest route to where the ball would land.  Not everyone has that ability.  There are players who will play for decades and never develop those kinds of instincts.  Standing three-hundred feet from the batter, hearing the tone of the bat hitting the ball, following the trajectory of that ball, toss in a little trigonometry, adjust for the wind speed, and knowing exactly where the ball will end up is not something you can teach a young kid.  They either have it or they don’t.  Practice helps, of course, but we are talking about a talent that goes beyond practice.

I’m not bragging, mind you.  I don’t brag. I’m simply stating fact.  Some have it, some don’t!

THE POINT OF THIS

It’s not that different in writing.

I re-read “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck, a couple years ago, and one sentence in that masterpiece stood out to me.  It was in the first chapter . . . hell, it might have been the very first sentence . . . anyway, that sentence seemed to go on forever.  It was the longest sentence I have ever seen in a novel.  It defied all logic.  It really broke all the rules.

And yet it worked perfectly for that novel!

You can’t teach that.  In fact, most teachers do not teach that sort of grammatical freelance.  If a teacher tried to diagram that sentence they would need a strong shot of whiskey afterwards.

And yet it worked perfectly for that novel!

The point is this: a large part of the craft of writing is instinctual.  There are times when grammatical rules can, and should, be broken.  I believe voice, and rhythm, are much more important than strict adherence to grammatical rules.  I can teach someone to write in a grammatically-correct manner.  I cannot teach them their own voice.

Thus sayeth Bill!

Have a great week of writing; have a better week of living!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Learning in Real Life

6 Jul Learning from Real People

I love farmers markets!  Love working them, love talking to people, just love the whole atmosphere of it all.  A market is a community of sorts. The vendors all know each other, and you get to know regular customers by name, and it’s just a very cool scene to be in on a nice summer’s day.

Amanda and her husband just purchased a home and they move in August 1st.  She is quite excited about it.  Brenda tasted our goat cheese for the first time and said we should rename it “OH MY GOD!”  Bob’s daughter is going into first grade next year and he’s one proud father.  Olivia is on vacation in Atlanta to see relatives.  An old friend of mine, someone I haven’t seen in 35 years, stopped by and spent some time with me at the market last week.  It was great to see him. Bev is doing what Bev does best, making people feel welcomed, making people feel as though they matter, and they all love her for it. Anthony’s daughter played music for four hours, non-stop, guitar and piano, just winging it song after song after song, a twenty-something young woman with the talent of five people.  The local fire crew stopped by and supported us; I gave them some free cheese in appreciation for the work they do.

And so it goes, week after week, new friends, old friends, people being people, laughing, supporting, interacting, one big extended happy family, just one small event in one small town in the United States, Tumwater, Washington, a dot on the roadmap of life, but oh, so important.

These are the people we novelists write about.  These are the people you non-fiction writers write to.

I can’t say this enough: writers need to interact with the public.  We are the storytellers of our generation, and the public is our audience and, quite often, the inspiration for our stories.

IT’S IN MY BLOOD

Not really, but I do come from farming stock, Iowa to be specific, corn farmers, hard-working people who believed in community and believed in the importance of local farms and buying locally.  I love the tradition and perhaps that is why I love the markets so much . . . but the other part is . . . I just like people.  Oh sure, they can drive me nuts from time to time, but generally speaking I do love them.  People are fascinating, and community is important, and I can’t imagine anywhere I would rather be on a summer afternoon than working our booth in Tumwater.

Who knows? Maybe a few of my customers will be characters in my next book.

I’ve rambled on long enough.  I think you get the point I’m making.  We writers do not live in a vacuum.  If you want your characters to come alive on the page, you will eventually have to meet an actual human being.

Get out there and mingle!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Get Ready for a Shock

27 Jun

My dad was into the DIY craze before it was a craze.  Most likely this was the end result from growing up during the Great Depression.  One learned, during that difficult time in our history, to take care of things on your own.  Carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, car repair, these were things my father knew nothing about, but he learned through dogged determination and need.

I remember, growing up, that we didn’t have the money for repairmen.  Dad worked hard . . . Mom worked hard . . . and all that hard work was for paying bills for necessities.  We rarely had extras . . . we rarely had disposable income . . . we weren’t poor but we certainly were not rolling in dough.

I remember one time in particular.  The upstairs bedroom lights wouldn’t turn on.  The switch worked fine, and there was no way my dad was going to call in an electrician to handle the job, so he tackled it on his own.  He took off the switch plate and started checking out wires to see if he could find the problem, and within thirty seconds he was knocked on his ass by an electrical shock.  I was there watching, and it was nothing less than frightening to see my 200 pound father knocked back from the wall, falling ass-over-teakettle.

He shook his head, rubbed his hands on his pants, stood up shakily and then resume working.  He eventually found the problem, spliced some wires, and we finally had lights again in that room.

I don’t mind telling you that incident scared the hell out of me, and to this day I won’t do electrical work, but a lesson was learned, and it is that lesson I pass on to you today.

Most of us writers do not have huge budgets for marketing.  Thank God for social media, or most of our work would never be heard of by the reading public.  The point being we have to just keep on keeping on.  We try marketing techniques, and if they don’t work we try other marketing techniques, and if those don’t work we keep trying.  We do not have the option to quit, and we do not have the resources to call in experts.

We keep on trying until we work it out!

What’s there to be afraid of?  The power is turned off on our particular job. There’s no chance we’ll get shocked!

Have a great week of writing, marketing, and living!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Work Smarter

20 Jun

Some of you may know that I love the game of baseball.  It has a sentimental value for me because it was the game my father taught me, a game he and I spent many hours playing together.  Some of my earliest memories are of me at four and five years of age, waiting for dad to come home from work, so we could play ball across the street from our home on an empty lot.  He would hit ground balls to me, and fly balls, and he would patiently teach me how to properly field them all.

As I got older he worked with me on pitching, how to properly release the ball, how to throw a curveball, and a knuckleball, and eventually I became good enough to pitch on my high school team, and then for the college team until my shoulder was injured my junior year and I had to stop playing.

I remember one game in particular, back when I was about thirteen.  I could throw pretty hard for a thirteen year old, and most teams I could handle simply by throwing the ball past the opposing batters.  They simply could not catch up with my fastball.

Until one day in July we played the second place team, a team with a lot of talented batters, and it took them about two innings to zero in on my fastball, to get their timing fixed on it, and suddenly every pitch I threw was being hammered for a hit.  One run, two runs, three runs . . . finally I got out of that inning after giving up four runs, and I was one frustrated baseball player when I got to the dugout to sit down and rest.  It seemed the harder I threw, the harder the other team hit the ball . . . really just a matter of physics, but I was in no mood to discuss physics when that inning ended.

I was getting a drink of water when my dad met me at the water cooler.  He asked me, with that grin on his face I remember so well, how my day was progressing.  I was almost in tears when I told him that no matter how hard I threw, the other team was just killing my fastball, and I didn’t know what to do.  Dad said just two words to me and then walked back to the stands and sat down next to my mother.  He said “throw smarter!”  I knew exactly what he meant.  If they were hitting my fastball then I needed to throw smarter and start throwing my curveball and knuckleball.

We won that game 5-4 and I didn’t give up a hit the last five innings, and a valuable lesson had been learned.

It is that lesson I pass on to you today.  Work smarter!  Make a priority list.  Realize that you may not be able to do everything you want to do as a writer.  Hell, you may have to drop some of your goals, and concentrate on the big goals, or you may have to seek help to fix a problem you can’t seem to fix . . . work smarter!

I hope you all have a fantastic week of writing . . . and living!  Remember how gifted you are.  Remember that probably one percent of the population can do what you do as well as you do it…one percent!

You are extraordinary!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Death of a Chicken

13 Jun

We had a chicken die last week.  One of our original six, she was with us for four years and one day she just got sick and died.

We had a rabbit die the next day.  I have no clue why.  I went out to feed the rabbits that morning and one of them was stiff as a board.

The first thing I thought . . . both times . . . was that I was a failure as an urban farmer.  I must have done something wrong.  I must have forgotten to do something, or done something incorrectly . . . but, of course, that was ridiculous.  Nobody loves their animals and birds like Bev and I love ours.  We pamper them all, from the newborn quail to the cranky old hen, they are all our pets and we love our time with them. We have studied and we work hard to do things properly, so the fact is those two died simply because it was their time to die.  It was nobody’s fault and that’s just the way it goes.  Despite my best efforts, it just didn’t work out for that hen or that rabbit.

That true story is a perfect metaphor for the profession of writing.

There are going to be times when, despite your best writing, and despite your best marketing efforts, you simply will not get the views or the sales you desire.  That’s just the way it goes, my friends.  It is not a direct condemnation of your abilities as a writer, and it may not be a condemnation of your abilities as a marketer.  Maybe it just wasn’t the right time, or place, for that article or book . . . and maybe it never will be.

There are no guarantees in the writing profession.  Most writers fail to achieve success measured by great sales.  That’s just “the real of it,” and no amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth will change that.

Write, first and foremost, for the sheer love of writing.  That way you will never feel like you failed.

THE SECRET TO FREELANCING

I was asked the other day what my secret was regarding freelancing, or at least one solid piece of advice for making money freelancing . . . I have a couple things to say about it, if you’re interested.

It took me seven years of hard work to get where I’m at right now.  None of my success happened overnight, so there’s my first piece of advice . . . treat it like any other job and work hard.

The other thing I think is important is to not put all your eggs in one basket.  I make money from writing from a number of sources.  I have income from my books (15 and counting) and I have income from customers (5 steady customers) and I have income from services I provide to writers.  I do that so in case one source of income dries up, I still have others to fall back on.  I think diversifying is a wise move in freelancing.  I also believe in the Numbers Game. The more books I write and publish, the more income I’ll receive.  I learned this from common sense and a book I read called “Write, Publish, Repeat.”

So there you have it, and add one more: I have a constant desire to succeed, so I refuse to give up.

Have a great week and remember, you are appreciated greatly by little old me.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Get Out and Meet Your Characters

6 Jun

I work two farmers’ markets each week.

And it’s fascinating!

Here’s something you may, or may not, know about me: I’m an introvert.  It’s painful at times, truly.  I don’t feel like I fit in this world, and I avoid groups of people like the plague.   I will always speak if spoken to, but I would rather not get into a conversation most days.  I’m also painfully shy.  Always have been and I suspect I always will be.

So for me to enjoy working a farmers market is amazing . . . and I’m oddly good at it.  Bev says I am charismatic when I’m working the markets and I try to never argue with Bev.  I was that way working retail at a store I owned back in the 80’s.  Customers loved to come into our store and shoot the shit with me, but at the end of the day I was exhausted and conflicted because a part of me hated the experience.

Anyway, back to the story.  I work two farmers’ markets each week, and it is fascinating.  People are fascinating.  People, in my humble opinion, are the greatest show on earth.  The markets give me the chance to really observe people, to listen to them, to gauge their reactions, to watch them as they talk to friends or as they talk to me, to pick up on individual quirks and nuances, little facial tells when they experience something for the first time . . . the old and the young, the healthy and infirmed, the skinny and the full-bodies, the physically-beautiful and the intrinsically-beautiful, they are all on display for four hours each market, and I am enthralled by them all, and . . .

It is a great training ground for any writer!  I think working some sort of retail should be a required activity for any novelist.  Seriously!  Fiction is about the five senses. It is about characters and reactions.  It is about the human experience, the telling of the story, the story itself, and the reception of the story, and a good novelist needs to be aware of that “human experience” connection.

So get out there and rock n roll with other humans.  Watch them!  Truly watch them!  And then borrow from them the next time you sit down to work on that novel or poem.

THANK YOU LIL SIS

A big thank you to Cyndi for guest-blogging here last week.  It was just what the doctor ordered for me, and judging from the response it was very interesting for most of you . . . a win-win situation!

AND ANOTHER THANK YOU, WORLDWIDE

A HUGE thank you to all my writer friends, in New Zealand, in Jolly Old England, in Malaysia and Canada and Iowa, in New York and Ireland and Brazil…thank you for making this ultra-shy introvert feel wanted and loved!  You rock my world!

Bill

“Helping writers spread their wings and fly.”

Guest Blog by a Dear Friend

30 May

I call her my Lil Sis, and she receives that name because I love her to pieces and wish I had a little sister like her.  Her name is Cynthia Calhoun and she has offered to do my post this week, giving me a needed break while I heal some emotional wounds.

With that out of the way, I turn it all over to my Little Sister!

 

Writing is a craft, a calling. We pour our souls into the project at hand and hope that the rest of the world appreciates what we have borne through life experience and sheer hard work.

And Bill – or Big Bro, as I call him – truly exemplifies experience and hard work! I’m so glad to be here writing a post on his blog!

I wanted to create a post that would speak to his readers, while giving ideas to be creative!

So here goes….

Even the most adept writer needs help with making their writing more engaging, more powerful and more colorful.

Just how do you, as a writer, make your work more colorful, descriptive and engaging?

It’s not as difficult as you’d think, and there are a number of ways you can spruce up your writing.

Practice and Practice…and Eliminate Distractions

Every writer worth their salt knows this. But actually doing that is another thing.

How many folks out there sit down to the computer and find other distractions? You sit down at 9am to write, and before you know it, the clock almost mocks you as it says, “12:54 pm.” You glare at it, silencing the little sneering voice that beams out from the numbers.

There are ways to help with distractions. You can install a “distraction free” app on you computer so that you can’t check the internet.

Similarly, you can use the “focus” setting in Microsoft Word (or similar program), or there’s a program called, “Focus Writer,” which is a bare-bones writing program that uses a full-screen mode. If you use Scrivener, there’s a similar function.

Other things you can do: Set a timer. Some folks get motivated by seeing a countdown. This is something I use almost daily. Set it for an hour and FOCUS.

At the end of that hour, step away and give yourself a break. Then come back to it and use the timer again.

Have a policy of checking email once, or at the most, twice per day. If you constantly answer emails as they come in, you have to refocus and bring yourself to concentrate all over gain. Getting into a “flow” state takes at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted activity. It’s also extremely easy to slip out of it.

Experiment with what works for you, though: set a word limit. How much do you want to do in a day?

Try different things to see what works for you. Ideally, you do this every day and establish a routine with it: same time, same place.

Journaling

If you know me at all, then you’ll know that I’m a life-long journaler (yeah, I made that word up). I can’t live without getting words on the screen (or paper).

This tip will work for people who naturally like to do this, but we’re all different. My friend Bill here says he’s not a journaler, but obviously that has not held him back. Have you SEEN all the books he’s published!?

However, when you sit down to journal, it’s good to do this first thing in the morning (or after a mindfulness exercise) before other activities in the day crowd out this special time.

If you don’t have ideas, think about a quote that resonates with you, explore ideas for your next book, or you can talk about a problem you want to work out. Still, you can talk about dreams and things you want to do with your life.

The point of this exercise is three-fold: you get out all those stray thoughts that might otherwise occur to you while you’re working, you boost your productivity by actually getting a block of writing done early in the day, and it allows you to work on your craft in a pressure-free environment. It’s also a good idea to make this a daily activity.

Free-Writing

This is related to journaling, but with a different goal: to stimulate the generation of ideas. Sometimes you are staring at a blank screen, feeling the pressure you’re putting on yourself to produce something. Anything.

A free-write can be about putting a word down on paper and see what your mind does with it.

For example, right now, get out a piece of paper and find a place where you can write down a note for a quick free-write.

Now, write down the first word that comes to mind. Don’t judge your word.

For me, in this instant, I thought of “giraffe.”

Next, I’ll let my mind wander for a moment about all the words related to giraffe and what it makes me think of: African safari, animals in zoos, beautiful patterns, gentle creatures, feeding giraffes, the tale of the extra tall giraffe, and more.

As you write all those words down, you can put them into a list, or just write them across the page – whatever you’d like to do.

But then, think about the other ideas that come from those words and phrases and start writing – don’t worry about punctuation or a story line, just write whatever comes to mind in stream-of-consciousness style.

Here’s mine: “giraffe went to the department store he wasn’t supposed to be there but why is it his fault, the kid brought him there and made him wait outside, well it was hot and he got tired of waiting, so he walked through the revolving door much to the surprise of the greeter in a pantsuit who was going to call security but then decided to just let him walk through the store it was like she understood the giraffe was trying to find someone” – that’s what I came up with in 60 seconds.

You can keep going for as little or as much time as you want. But the key is to give yourself permission to just write like crazy, no editing or backspacing, and just see what happens. Do this whenever you need ideas.

Mind Maps

Similar to free-writing, mind maps are fun. You start with a single idea. Perhaps you have the subject or a theme for a book you’d like to write. In the center of a large paper, you write it down. Then, attach a line to that circle and add another idea. Try to keep them to fewer than four or five words; shorter is better.

Let your mind go wild and try not to censor any ideas. Sometimes the most outlandish idea will actually lead to that one perfect one for your next book or project.

Again, this activity can be as short or as long as you want, but aim for a minimum of 5 minutes. It’s especially useful to do before starting a big project.

10 Ideas a Day

The thing about writing is that we’ll come across someone else’s work and say, “that’s a good idea! Why didn’t I think of that?”

The truth is, that person just didn’t come up with a good idea without having to work at it. Coming up with good ideas is an art, and you have to start with a lot of bad ideas, first.

This exercise is actually more about quantity rather than quality. While that may seem counter-intuitive, think of it like creating Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture: “you just chip away everything that doesn’t look like David.”

Incredibly, this is how idea-generation works: you have to chip away at the bad ideas to be left with the good ones.

In the mornings, as often as possible, make yourself write down 10 ideas about a theme or subject. About anything.

Why? Because often, unrelated bad ideas help to uncover the one good idea – that you can use immediately or for another project.

Date your list of ideas so you can refer to it later.

Then write down a topic for which you want to generate more ideas.

Don’t let yourself get up from the chair until you’ve come up with ten.

If you can’t think of anything, try the free-write activity, first.

Since we were talking about giraffes in the free-write activity above, let’s go with that.

The guidelines: no judgement about how good or bad those ideas are, don’t let yourself get up until you have 10 ideas, bad ideas allowed – the more the better – because that gets you closer to uncovering a good idea!

10 Ideas: Writing a story about Giraffes:

  1. Giraffe meets a unicorn.
  2. Giraffe meets a family on safari in Africa.
  3. A giraffe born with three legs.
  4. The giraffe who was set free.
  5. Giraffes and civil wars in Africa.
  6. The giraffe and the baby monkey.
  7. Giraffe gets a yellow hat.
  8. Giraffe becomes Aware.
  9. The mindful giraffe.
  10. Giraffe helps banish Barnum & Bailey’s circus from existence.

It might seem like all I think about are giraffes, and while they are awesome creatures, I can assure you I don’t think about them with reckless abandon.

I may or may not ever use anything on this list. That doesn’t mean that this list is useless.

There are other ideas I can possibly take away from this: civil wars, baby monkeys, awareness, mindfulness – these subjects make my brain go, “hmm.”

When I come back to do another 10 ideas, I can take the words that piqued my interest and go with those.

When you first start doing this, it might be hard to come up with 10 ideas. But, it gets easier over time and you start to get really good at coming up with ideas.

Index Cards

In this digital age, the ubiquitousness of the smart phone has allowed us to easily take notes. But what if our phone is charging or we’re standing in the rain outside, or we’re not near our phones, or we don’t feel like typing a whole narrative onto a tiny screen?

Cue the index cards!

Some of the best ideas come when we’re away from work and away from writing.

I personally carry index cards (and a pen) in my car, in my bag, in my office, and they’re in several areas around the house.

Any idea I have gets a place on these cards.

I’ve come up with some brilliant ideas and having a card around to immediately write it down prevents me from completely losing that idea.

They’re easy to refer back to and don’t take up much space. When you’ve had a chance to properly work with the idea you had on the card, then you can recycle it.

One of the best places to keep an index card is in the book you’re currently reading. When you have an idea, it’s so easy to quickly jot it down.

Read Others’ Work

This is a huge one. If you’re a mystery writer, it’s good practice to read other mystery writers’ novels – you’ve probably heard that before. There have been countless times I’ve been reading a book and that triggers an idea for an upcoming story.

Even so, get out of your genre from time to time. It’s a great way to get a new perspective. Often times you’ll learn something new and you never know how you’ll be able to apply that back to your own writing.

But as you read, always be thinking, “What if?” 

What if the giraffe was purple? What if the giraffe was a prince in disguise? What if the giraffe was supposed to be on an ark somewhere?

Those “what-if” questions can really make your mind wander.

Do Unrelated Activities

You’re in the shower and a brilliant idea comes to you. Or, you’re on a hike and you think of the perfect solution to the problem you’ve been working on.

Sound familiar?

When you’re working on something, and you’re consciously thinking about it, ideas can be harder to come by. But, when you really want to find a solution to a problem or get ideas, doing a completely unrelated activity can generate ideas because your subconscious continues to work on it.

So, sometimes it pays to take a well-needed break, refill your cup and let your subconscious work on its own. You might be surprised!

Be Mindful

Okay, now for my favorite. This one activity can really change the way you look at things and your level of creativity.

Each morning, before I do anything else, I set a timer and spend time in mindful silence.

I try to focus just on breathing, and try to limit any thinking about work or ideas about things.

Of course, if my mind insists on thinking about something, I’ll grab an index card, write it down, and continue with my mindful silence. These days I spend 60 minutes in silence, but over a decade ago when I first started, I only did 5-10 minutes.

But now, spending this time in silence, focused on my breathing, clears out my mind completely. It is then that I feel primed to generate ideas.

Indeed, all these activities are on my list for whenever I need original ideas for better, more creative writing. I’m also grateful Big Bro let me share some of the techniques I use to generate ideas for my own writing, whether it’s a blog post, a drawing, a poem, or fiction.

 

About Cynthia

Cynthia has been a life-long writer. Most of her writing centers on non-fiction, although she makes occasional forays into the world of fiction. She writes over at Intuitive and Spiritual and enjoys a mindful existence, filled with journals, artwork, and walking all over the place. Her coloring book, The Tree of Life: A Coloring Journey is her newest work, due out on June 2, 2017.

ONE FINAL NOTE FROM BILL

I’ve seen her coloring book and it is fantastic…I’ve even colored in it…so, if you want a great gift for someone, or a great gift for yourself, this coloring book is my suggestion.

Thanks so much, Lil Sis!  You’re the best!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

 

 

 

Connecting Emotionally with our Readers

23 May

I’m currently writing a reflective piece about a fifty-year friendship which is about to come to an end.

My best friend, Frank, is dying of spinal cancer.  I suspect he will be gone by this fall, and when he leaves me, a giant hole will appear in my heart.  That is in no way hyperbole.  It is very hard for me to even think about this without crying.  Frank has meant that much to me over the years, the brother I never had, a man who has been with me through most of the great, and horrible, events of my life.

And he is dying, and it hurts greatly to write about our relationship, but I want to finish it before he dies, so he can read it, so he will know how much I love him.

So I’m writing this piece, and I cry, and my throat constricts as the words arrive.  I can only do a couple paragraphs in each sitting because it is too emotionally draining for me.  I have only allowed myself to become “close” to a handful of people during my entire life.  I have closed off a part of my heart to protect myself from the pain of loss, but Frank is one of those who always held an important piece, and even writing that last sentence has me in tears.

What’s the point?

OUR JOB AS WRITERS

Well, we have many jobs, depending on the type of writer we are.  Writers of novels are, first and foremost, storytellers, and they must never forget that fact.  Non-fiction writers are fact-gatherers and fact-sharers.

Underlining all of the types of writing is this important fact:  we all share the same five senses, and a good writer, one who really wants to connect with his/her readers, will always remember those five senses.  It is my job, as a writer, to make a scene come alive.  I am the ears, the nose, the throat, the eyes, and the fingers of my readers, and if I’ve done my job properly they will feel as though they are in my scenes.

With regards to my reflective piece about Frank, if I’ve done my job, you, too, will mourn the loss of a quality human being, or you will be transported back to a time of great loss you experienced.

In this particular case, with this particular piece, it will be a painful experience, but one which must be written . . . sweet melancholy . . . a painful celebration . . .

Thank you!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”