Thursday, April 13, 2017

8 Methods to improve your Creative Madness

A novel never feels real to me until I hit the first ten thousand words. Then, I feel obligated to finish the dang thing! And the 10k word count, the ink threshold in my brain is beginning to overflow with ideas.

But how do I keep that creative momentum up? Here are a few of the methods that help me:

1. Morning Meditation: I read a bit of philosophy, poetry or biblical wisdom for a few minutes. My current favorite is Earth Prayers from around the World edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon.

2.  Exercise: I do physical exercises to get myself energized before I plop in front of the computer. Other times I write a little first and then exercise just to break things up.

3. Writing Excuses: I am getting into the habit of listening to this fabulous podcast whenever I exercise, or take a lunch break.

4. Online Stopwatch: I use the countdown tool to keep myself from getting distracted too often. Sometimes I set the timer for only 15 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes. Usually I stop using it once I get into the flow of ink.

5. Music: Playing music often inspires me while I write. This method doesn't work for everyone, but it definitely helps me. Also, making up a track list that expresses the mood of a chapter or character also gets me energized to write.

6. Get gritty! I re-read this story shared by Paulo Coelho and written by W. Timothy Gallway, and tell my fragile whining ego to shut up because every story starts as a seed. Of course it will be gangling and strange as it grows and needs pruning to shape it into its end form. So take pride in the dirt and nourishing dark and keep pushing towards the light.

 “When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.”

‘We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed.

“When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped, nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear.

‘We stand in wonder at the process taking place, and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development.

“The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential.

‘It seems to be constantly in the process of change: Yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.

“A flower is not better when it blooms than when it is merely a bud; at each stage it is the same thing — a flower in the process of expressing its potential.”

7. Write something, even if it is just one sentence: still working on this one! The point is to get myself into the habit of facing my ink demons. Start with just a sentence, and the next day make it three, and before long paragraphs and pages come next.

8.  Fallow Days: Some days I just don't write, and that's okay. Quiet times nourish creativity, too.

 What are the methods that work for you?

Friday, March 3, 2017

New Novel Alert! Cyborg+Boy

So I have been working on a new novel since January!


EVER so slowly . . .

Getting the plot and character details right is taking much longer than I thought it would, but I hope to have the full draft completed by the end of June. I won't give any hints about the story today, except to say that this is the song I imagine complementing the last chapter of the novel:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Writing by Taoist "Nondwelling"

"All beings work, without exception:
if they live without possessiveness,
act without presumption,
and do not dwell on success,
then by this very nondwelling
success will not leave.

-Wisdom from the Tao Te Ching 

These words struck a powerful chord with me when I read them earlier this week, because I realized I had forgotten how important the concept of "nondwelling" is in the writing process. I will break nondwelling down into four steps:

1. (Write) Live without possessiveness

Sometimes I hold myself back in my writing because I am unwilling to recognize that an idea is not working. I sabotage my own progress by clinging to ineffective plot threads because I want them to work. I have to let go in order to keep learning, improvising, and yes, revising yet again. Sometimes that means letting go of a sentence, or a page, a chapter, or even a whole book.

2. (Write) Act without presumption  

I have been guilty of presuming my own "inherent" creativity will provide enough sparkly thoughts to make a good book. But creativity is just a spark and even that becomes a weak ember when starved of fuel. The creative fire has to be fed, and that means hard work gathering all the kindling: reading other books to nurture my mind, refining my writing craft by learning from other writers (The Writing Excuses podcast is awesome!), and building a fairly consistent writing routine even if that means just one sentence a day sometimes.

3. (Just write!) Do not dwell on success

This is perhaps the hardest part of nondwelling to put into practice, at least for me. I always obsess over each word, wondering if it is inferior, if all my ideas are banal, if I am wasting my time on a novel that will never make the cut. Wondering if I just don't have what it takes: the stamina, creativity, humility, and diligence to polish a lumpy pebble into a scintillating syllabic jewel. Sometimes I don't. And that's okay . . . because I'm never done writing!

The only way to shake off my mental paralysis is to grow a writer's skin as thick as a dragon's hide, one scale of courage at a time. I must allow myself the right to ink my heart out because that is the wellspring of my dreams, while a publishing deal is more of a goal than a dream. If I obsess over whether I will ever become a published author or not, then I will fail my ultimate dream: to become a vibrant storyteller. This truth will make me suffer if I deny it, because then I am dishonest with myself about why I ever started writing in the first place.

4. (Write, and . . . ) Success will not leave?

Maybe success will mean a spot on a bookshelf and a shiny Kirkus Review one day. Maybe it won't. But if I can wholeheartedly commit myself to honing my craft, and make even just one reader laugh, or stay up late at night reading my novel because their fingers and brain are glued to the page, then I will have succeeded.