Reason You Aren’t Writing #3

In my last post about why you might not be writing, I talked about the benefits of freewriting and how it can kickstart us on stuck days so we can get going or get into the flow of writing.

And sometimes, even when we’ve been able to write pages and pages, we know that something’s missing… we know that we’ve sidestepped something important that could deepen the story or character, but we can’t quite locate it.

Writing with our opposing hand can help.

Much like freewriting, it “tricks” our brain into working differently, and in this case, it’s about more than just helping us get into the flow state. It’s about accessing parts of our brain that have gone quiet and that likely hold some wisdom our story needs.

If you do this enough, fascinating information will bubble up from your subconscious, flow down your arm, through your hand, into your pen, and onto the page. And don’t be surprised if those neuropeptides scientist and pharmacologist, Candace Pert, wrote about come into play. That is, you’ll probably feel some feelings…

If you’re thinking I don’t want to spend my precious time scrawling nonsense in child-like penmanship, think again. Give it a shot. Chances are, you would have wasted more time agonizing over the fact that the thing you want is eluding you. When we write with our opposing hand, we light up dormant synapses in our brain. And again… magic.

When you do this exercise, do what Tony, my yoga teachers says: Notice what you notice, and feel what you feel.

And here’s your writing prompt: When [your protagonist’s name] was a girl/boy, the thing she/he wanted more than anything else was _________________.

Set a timer for 10 minutes, pick up your favorite writing utensil, and go.

Then…

Head over to the Writing Through the Body™ Writers Group on Facebook and let us know how it went. What was the process like? Did you unearth something unexpected? Did you get a new idea or gain an insight that will help you move some aspect of your current writing project forward or more deeply? I look forward to hearing.

Sending you mad writing mojo…

The Reason You Aren’t Writing #2

In a recent post, I talked about the #1 reason I hear people give for not writing. In this post, we’re looking at another common reason for not writing: not being able to stay with the writing and go deep with an idea, character, or scene. Some people call the ability to do this FLOW.

It’s not uncommon for people to carve out the time, then sit down at their desk or go to a coffee shop with the best of intentions, only to find themselves unable to locate the next nugget they can use to move their story forward.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote that being in flow means “…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

We’ve all experienced flow, and it feels amazing, right? And because we’ve felt it at times makes it even more frustrating when we can’t get there again. The truth is, we won’t float off into flow state every single time we sit down to write. Or at least, we ought not count on it.

There’s a trick to help with this, and most – if not all – of us know about it, yet we rarely do it.

Freewriting.

The next time you’re sitting, staring at a blank page or screen, uncertain about where to begin, do this freewriting exercise, and use the prompt at the end of this post.

With this in mind, let’s have a go at it.

If you’ve forgotten the rules of freewriting, here they are.

  • Set your timer for 10 minutes.
  • Write non-stop. Don’t let the pencil or pen leave the page until the timer goes off (and yes… you have to do this the old-fashioned way with pencil/pen and paper and not at the keyboard. Don’t ask me to explain because I can’t, but when we write by hand, something different happens in our brains).
  • Give yourself permission to not know. If you get stuck, simply write something like “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write.” Eventually, something new and unexpected will replace it. (It’s only 10 minutes. Try it!) Again… magic.
  • Don’t worry about perfection. Just let it all out. Spelling and punctuation be damned!
  • Envision a garden hose. Think about the first time you turn on the hose in the Spring. It’s full of dirt, webs, and bugs that have made the hose their home. Turning on the water flushes out all the “stuff,” and eventually, clear, clean water flows. That’s what free writing does for your writer’s brain. Flushes, cleans, and primes the creative pump. Think of this as a mini version of flow.
  • Dry, rinse, and repeat as needed throughout the day, week, month, year… the rest of your writing life.

Before you get to work on the short story, novel, script, memoir, or whatever gem you’ve got going, do some freewriting. Even if you aren’t stuck, freewriting is a great warm-up for your regular writing practice. Think of it as priming the creative pump to enable flow. Words you didn’t know were knocking around in your brain will flow right out your hand and onto the page. Really. It’s magic.

Here’s your prompt: As soon as she turned the corner and saw it, she remembered why she had come.

After you’ve completed the writing exercise… head over to the Writing Through the Body™ Writers Group on Facebook and let us know how it went. You don’t have to share what you wrote (unless you want to, of course!), but let us know what the process was like. Tell us what poured out onto the page that allowed you to create something new or add to your in-progress work. (AFTER you’ve written it, of course…) 🙂

I can’t wait to hear how it went!

Sending you mad writing mojo…

How understanding the crown chakra will improve your writing

Believe it or not, your characters’ spiritual lives have a big impact on their stories, whether that’s part of the plotline or not. Just as with we humans, our characters have spiritual beliefs – or not – that inform their motivations and decisions in life. In religion, this is called the eschatology of a belief system: what we think happens to us when we die, whether or not we believe in karma, how we view humanity’s purpose in this life, or whether we believe in past lives.

Even if we don’t embrace any of these beliefs, the fact that we don’t also influences our day-to-day motivations and decisions.

It’s easy to by-pass this part of our characters’ development, but it’s essential, I think. Whether your character is a mystic or an atheist, a Buddhist or a Baptist, their belief system – or lack thereof – has everything to do with their movement through life and their story world.

After you’ve gotten clear about a character’s inner world, as we do when using the Third Eye Chakra, go one step further and think about the character’s connection (or not) to a higher power. This higher power can be anything – even their own sense of inner wisdom. Or their meditation practice. Or their love of literature. Their daily hike. Or their daily cocktail. It doesn’t have to be overtly religious or spiritual.

Understanding our characters to this degree can help us portray their complexities in deeply moving and complex ways. And this is the very quality our stories need to have if we want them to stay with readers long after they’ve put our work down.

What is the source of your character’s higher power, and how does it inform her/his way of moving in the world?

Kate Spade – stories behind the stories

I know this is a little “late,” but there’s something about Kate Spade’s suicide… I just needed some time.

I really felt it on June 6 when I learned about her passing at her own hand. I have no deep connection to her. I don’t own one of her bags, and I really didn’t know anything about her or her company until I listened to the interview with her and her husband, Andy, on the podcast How I Built This a while back.

As a gritty, motivated entrepreneur, I listen to the podcast religiously. I find it inspirational, and so many of the stories I’ve heard there have inspired me to keep going and to believe that I, too, can build something notable, meaningful.

Kate and Andy Spade’s interview stayed with me. There was something about how they were together, and something about her, in particular, stuck. She had style. There was a sense of calm in her voice and an assured knowledge she possessed as a businesswoman.

The conversation with them created an image in my mind of their life, of her, of them together, and so when I read about her suicide, I was surprised. And saddened.

The precision, the class, the style of her products – of her presence… she brought a certain upscale sparkle to the world. She reminded us that aesthetics matter, that they aren’t frivolous, but necessities of life. Because when we surround ourselves with beautiful things – not for the sake of materialism, but because beauty touches us – our lives are enhanced, and our souls and spirits respond for the good.

Her passing – and the soon-after passing of Anthony Bourdain – made me think of the snapshots we have of each other’s lives. The way we see snippets that we think inform us of the whole of a person, when, in fact, what we know is really only a sliver of their world, much the way photographs work.

The still moment caught by an onlooker, the smiles, the seemingly joyous moments in life that may have been real in that isolated moment, are oftentimes a miniscule glimpse of the real story that lies beneath.

Like so many others, Kate Spade led two distinct lives. The one for the “camera” and the full one… the one embroidered in the variegated emotional colors of humanity striving to do its best, while feeling alone, deserted, desolate.

My fascination with the human condition and with human stories compels me to care about Kate Spade. About her husband, and now, especially, about her daughter. I want to know who Kate Spade was, what she was like, and I want to know about her struggles. I want to know her family. I want to know the woman behind the name change that came not long before she left this plane of existence.

Not in a voyeuristic or intrusive sort of way, but because I crave to hear, understand, and embrace the human condition and all its dark, messy – even dirty – corners… those places where the truth hides… the truths we hide from others and from ourselves.

And it makes me acutely aware that I need to check in on the people I care about regularly and ask them how they are… not in a passing sort of way but in a real way… no, how are you, really? Are you suffering? Can I help? Are you happy? About what? I want the details…

No doubt Kate Spade had people in her life who were concerned about her, and even though they may have reached out – even though we can reach out daily to the people we love – it’s no guarantee that we can stop them from doing what they’re going to do.

But we can form a bond with them based on real human connection. A bond that reverberates between worlds, between realms, and can maybe, possibly, serve as a healing balm in times of loss.

How understanding the third eye chakra will improve your writing

Getting inside our characters’ heads can feel second-nature to us writers, and oftentimes, we gravitate to stream-of-consciousness or interior monologues. This can work – as William Faulkner showed us with The Sound and the Fury (although the novel’s success was delayed… and I found it unreadable, but I digress). However, we need to ask ourselves what we want to accomplish with this kind of invasion to our characters’ minds.

Showing our readers all the troubled, angry, tired, sad, fragile, and destructive thoughts in our characters’ minds is most definitely a way to connect them with and help them empathize with characters. And the way we do that can mean success or failure.

After we’ve gotten clear with our characters’ voices – as discussed with the Throat Chakra – we can explore their Third Eye Chakra, which is the seat of intuition. What do they know, without a doubt? (We typically think of this as a “gut-level” response to life; however, it starts here, in the Third Eye Chakra, a somewhat ethereal part of us that defies “rational” human thought.)

Whether our characters trust their intuition or not is one thing, and the way we portray that intuition is another. We run interior monologues all the time. This is how we sort out life. We run through a multitude of scenarios, trying on all the “what-ifs” for each one.

What our characters think, HOW they think (stream of consciousness, more understandable broken thoughts, or pretend conversations), and what they do with those thoughts informs not just our readers about how to interpret their stories, but us, the writers of those stories, as well.

How do your characters’ thoughts align – or not – with their desires and motivations, and what does this tell you about their ability to make decisions?