Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Falling In Love With Your Character

Falling in love with one of your characters is treacherous but not unfamiliar territory for a writer. Forget the ego complex of how great you are to have created the perfect character, because if your character is perfect you failed. Forget the fact that falling in love is probably inevitable because of the concentrated time you spent with her/him/it, likely during the cherished late evening hours. You know them better than anyone else. You know what they will say, think or feel, because as the writer you shared intimate thoughts with them first.

You powered through a difficult chapter where your character was not cooperating with you. Perhaps the words didn’t fall effortlessly from your pen and off their lips. Perhaps, it was your first fight together. You compromised, or someone won, but it doesn’t matter now because all is forgiven and they can do no wrong. They speak just the way you want. They dress appropriate to every occasion. They have been transformed into your muse and suddenly you write for them, willingly and madly.

This is natural but difficult. Because, despite all your backstory and character interviews and sketches or magazine collages, this persona you conceived, the love of this part of your life, is not real.

You can argue that they are based on real people, or are the manifestation of imagined experiences. You may go philosophical and ask, “Well, is any of this real?” To which I will probably try to change the subject. 

Your creation is real to you, and if you do a good job, will be real to the majority of people who read your work. And that is where the sweet agony lives. You can not have dinner with your character. You can not wipe away their tears, or dance with them and hear them sing a sultry song softly in your ear. 

What you created exists in your mind and on the page and depending on how well you did that, they will also rest in your reader’s mind. Once in there, your reader may fall smitten with them too. It’s what you want, but it breaks your heart, because you do not want to share your love, but you must.

Your manuscript pages spread out before you like a scrapbook. You reminisce over older drafts and favorite passages. You can probably find the line they spoke that wooed you, standing out like a first kiss. You may weep when you read their final scene. 

No matter how effective you are, no one else will share in that relationship because it’s deeply personal. The relationship between the writer and the character they love is mesmerizing. There is no greater example of unrequited love.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Writing Yet?

With October on the horizon many writers realize there’s less than 100 days left in the year. Maybe they better get started on something. Starting something is great. Finishing is better.

If you’ve got a writing goal make a clear distinction between your goals and your wishes. You don't want to catch wish-itis. Goals are concrete. They are specific, motivating, attainable, relevant and time based. Candidly, I think potentially unattainable is fine. I prefer the people who are over ambitious to those who are underwhelmed. Their hopes and dreams may end in disappointment, but at least they didn’t start that way. When you’re committed you can achieve more than you think.

Maybe you’re a procrastinator. That’s okay, but right now you need to write now. So schedule your procrastination time for later. Don’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration doesn't sit around all day hoping to be found. It does its thing with or without you. It doesn’t really care and it’s not thinking about you so stop wasting your time. If you should happen to meet, give it a happy hug like a little seen friend and keep writing.

To me, a writer without the means to write is like a non-writer with the means. So do whatever gyrations you need to do to before you write, then you’ve got to write. Until then, you're just thinking. Thinkers are great, but they don’t get things done. Doers get things done. 

Some writers become overwhelmed with ideas. Blessed with the curse of imagination they let them float by like dandelion seeds. Pluck a few ideas that strike you and plant them on the page or bury them in your notebook. After a week, see what blooms then use all your resources to nurture that. Let everything else become noise.

Still not writing? Try this formula: 
Day 1 - Write something.
Day 2 - Write more. 
Day 3 - Write better. 

Eschew the pseudo experts who tell you how to create. You know how. Now, you must do. 

Write often or little, 
Because you can 
Or because you must.
Write of silly things that move the world.
Or serious things that must be stopped.
Write to educate and entertain
Others or yourself.
Write for the pride that comes with seeing
Your writing on another’s shelf.
Write to record your feelings, thoughts or fears.
Write in a way that brings the stoics to tears.
Write because your gifted 
And you’ve a perspective to share.
Write the things that others would never dare.
Write. You need no more excuses.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Write Anyway

There is a growing contingent of people who believe writer's block is the writer's fancy way of making laziness or procrastination sound more "arty" and even admirable. It's a kind of creative martyrdom.

"I want to write...I need to write...I just can't do it right now. The muse's are being too cruel."

Sounds good. But it makes me yawn.

Yes, anyone who has had the urge to write has from time to time been vexed by the blank page, or even the next paragraph. Sometimes it feels like you've run out of things to say. You're washed over by a wave of anxiety that maybe you're done, there's nothing left in you. Perhaps you feel an anger. A wall has been erected separating you from your creative genius, denying you the wit and spellbinding prose you imagined. I suppose you could call THAT writer's block. The thing is, it takes more than that to stop a writer. A writer writes anyway. It might be crap, it might be lofty. It doesn't matter, because it's written. That's better progress than all the bemoaning coming from those who haven't spilled any ink.

A writer writes.

That's not to say things don't keep writer's from writing, but that's always the writer's choice. An argument with a loved one can ruin your day, or it can inspire a character's rage. Feeling sullen or ill can keep you from the keyboard, or that keyboard may be your therapy.

I'm not interested in people who say they write, but don't. To me the one who struggles over which words to cut or add, or feels pain over tone or tempo is a far more engaging person than one who laments that the writing gods aren't favoring them today.

Give me a break.

A writer writes.

I've fallen down on my novel. I've not picked it up to edit it since that dreadful chapter twelve got under my skin. I'm not blocked. I'm chicken shit. I'm a damn good writer and could fix it in thirty minutes, if I sat down and faced it. Instead I've written other things. Poems, business articles, newsletters. I've not stopped writing. I've stopped working on that project, and it's pissing me off. That's my responsibility. Not the kids who want to play, not the loved one who provoked a draining argument, not the economy which fills me with financial tension. No, righties, it's not even Obama's fault. It's mine.

A writer writes, that's the thing that makes a writer unique to everyone else. So don't be a hack. The next time you bleat about not writing, at least put it in an email so you will have written something.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Goal Factory

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Can you imagine what you would feel like if six months from now, you achieved great strides in your goals?

Most people can't, so most people don't. Most people don't even have goals, and of the one's that do, most have too many.

People say they don't have enough time or money to achieve their goals. It's that kind of thinking that continues to keep them from their dreams.

Some people sabotage themselves. They do all the "right" things and then panic. What if they succeed? What would happen next? It freaks them out, so instead of one or two more steps toward greatness, they settle for mediocrity.

Think back six months ago. Did you have a great goal in mind? Did you think you would have achieved it by now? Maybe you nibbled at it, like a tentative child eying an unusual dessert, torn between wanting it because, well it's dessert, but hesitant because it looks different and someone might be trying to pull a fast one.

People are well intentioned. Most have great desires, but they stumble because, as John Lennon once sang, Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. That doesn't mean you should quit your goals. In fact, it should heighten your resolve.

Can you imagine something your yearning to achieve is so great that nothing can derail you from it?

Are you smirking with that distinctive grin that tips one corner of your mouth upward and makes your eyes sparkle?

I know you are because it's the look that people who share the same devilish secret can't hide. It's possibility, and passion and a hint of giddiness that makes you come alive each time you think of it. You've been found out and the thought of helping you find, set or get your goal is what makes me smirk.

I don't want people to be okay losing that feeling. I don't want people deferring their dreams any more. I want everyone to have a great goal of their own choosing and the confidence and resources to achieve it. That's why I'm excited to announce a new Accountability Partner driven program, "The Goal Factory."

It assembles several key components into an intensive goal creation process covering topics like:

  • Finding your next Great Goal through Goal Discovery

  • Conducting a Life Harmony Audit.

  • How to find and use your values to guide your vision

  • Acting with Purpose.

  • Making Your Great Goal Real.

CLICK HERE to Learn more about The Goal Factory, and if you're ready to find, set or get your next great goal, get in touch with me.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Always. But Sometimes, Never.

Writers know that there are certain words that clutter the page. Nearly, Rather, Some and Very are common examples. That's not to say they're never used or always omitted, but when you see them, you know the writer was being a little lazy in that sentence because they could have written it in a different, compelling way.

People get lazy in their discussions with each other. Always and Never are two words that get loudly bantered about like a ping pong ball. Those two words in particular are emotionally charged and most often used when the speaker is expressing a definitive opinion, disguised in an accusation.

An argument inevitably occurs when one speaker starts with an, "I always..." or a "You never..."

The unavoidable reaction from the other sounds like, "You always..." or "I never..."

On and on it goes. Point, counter point; both issue opinions that they think are facts.

Facts have certainty while the words Always and Never only sound like they do. True, the sun always rises in the East and sets in the West. Not true, that you never make the bed. You probably have at least once and probably will again. Nature has some certainty to it, we do not. Always and Never are inflammatory rhetoric seldom used in a well meaning way.

Always is forever,
and most things seldom are.
Never is not ever,
and that goes a bit too far.
Sometimes rests between the two,
with honesty and moderation.
But sometimes lacks the punch for you,
and reeks of hesitation.

Always and Never have been used in a destructive manner for too long. I'm not suggesting a movement that strips them from your vocabulary. I'm suggesting you use them when stating a desire instead of blame.

Be honest with Sometimes, which can probably replace Always and Never in most of your language. Grow more definitive in your life. Don't have values or beliefs that you sometimes follow. And of course...


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Please Ban My Books

I saw this article pass through my Facebook stream today, about a Catholic School Student who runs a secret banned books library from their locker. CLICK HERE TO READ

What struck me, besides the fact that it's sorta difficult to call something secret if I'm reading about it on the web, is the fact the people STILL think banning a book is an intelligent thing to do. Banning something is one of the best PR moves an author could hope for. It stimulates curiosity. We should all be so lucky.

Let's think back in history when banning books, or burning them to illustrate one's fear over the written word and expression of ideas has worked effectively. It doesn't. When you demonize something you don't understand you highlight your ignorance. It's weird to me that people still attempt to do it. 

It's also strange to me that kids are passing tangible books around, like they were in a ... what's that thing called .... where you can borrow books .... not Amazon's Netflix idea, that other thing ... oh yeah, a freaking library. A FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY which any one can visit (though in some cities it may be only open between 1pm and 2:45pm every other Tuesday).

Nearly every "classic" book can be found online, also for free. So what is it that causes kids to want to read, even it it's off of pages instead or a screen?

Adults who tell them they can't.

Adults who moan and groan about too much sex and violence on TV and in video games.

Tell them to read a book.

Adults have befuddled me my whole life. Sometimes I wish they would grow up.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Candles on a Beach

A line of candles smolder 
on a lonely beach.  
Waves lap closer, 
but they’re just out of reach.
Rocks from the jetty
cast long shadows 
thanks to the white light 
of the full moon.
Fishing boats dot the horizon,
like symmetrical stars 
rising in the night. 
No music, 
save the rumbling surf.
So many bright lights in this darkness 
each illuminates for another. 
As it should be. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Organized to Write

I haven't been writing for a couple of days because I've been organizing. instead I know, classic avoidance stuff. I've got a lot of stuff I want to put out into the world and it's been difficult prioritizing. I've been sorting files and projects on my MacBook trying to find some order because for some reason once I dig down into a few layers of files I get a mini anxiety attack. I can't explain it. I don't want to explore it. I just want the feeling to go away.

So I've been minimizing all the files, or at least grouping them into sections that will make it easier to find what I'm looking for. I'm naming things, not in some coy way that I'll forget three months from now, but by just calling it what it is. Simple enough, except three months ago I didn't think that way. I created a document, called it something I thought would be useful and saved it to my desktop. There's only so many times you can do this before the desktop becomes full, so I stuffed them into a file called "writing" because that's what they are. I kept doing this week after week and eventually, as I tucked things away it began to feel similar to stuffing things under the bed. This is always a bad sign.

So I've been unpacking all the damage I've done. Sorting with a touch more logic with files named WIPCreative Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Tips and Ideas among others. Not perfect. Not bad. The beauty of a Mac is the Spotlight search field which has gotten me out of jams far more that I'd like to admit. Why be orderly? Because I feel better. There's a place for everything and everything has a place mentality.

It's the difference between a cluttered desk and a clean desk. There's not a right way or a wrong way. There's just written or unwritten.

I like the desk and desktop to be clean when I approach it, just like a blank sheet of paper. Then, as the creativity or brute force sets in, I give myself permission to muddy it up. That's the "in progress" part for me. When I'm done with the project...or company is coming over, I can put most things away and look presentable.

It must work, because now I'm organized and I just wrote. Tada!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When a Character is Complimentary to the Writer

“The women are not undressing you. It’s not seduction they feel. It’s the afterglow. They are imagining themselves laying in bed with you, their arms draped over you, deeply satisfied after a session of lovemaking. You are their cigarette and they want to take one more long drag of you before falling into a blissful sleep. That’s what your words do to them.”

Those are the words Donna McKnight shares with Ken Shea, a successful poet in my story, "Three Blinks and a Sigh". I read it again recently and I gotta say, this Ken Shea fellow is a lucky guy. Doesn't every writer want to know their words have some type of effect on the audience? And doesn't every male writer, either secretly or overtly hope to elicit a similar reaction from female readers? Or is that just me?

Every author wants to move their reader, and most began their passion for writing with some fantasy about how the power of their finely crafted words would rock some one's world - if not the entire world. 

Interesting to contemplate:

What got you into writing in the first place? (probably a guy or a girl)

What kept you writing? (probably accolades or the promise of some)

What keeps you from writing? (yourself, but you can blame anyone you want. No one cares if you write or not)

And what drives you to write again? (probably that last statement because it may have pissed you off and you'll be motivated to write just to prove me wrong but by doing so you will have proved me right)

I think the writer who doesn't care what others think of their writing is either, only writing in their journal, or have reached a level of financial or emotional success that gives them the liberty to let it hang out there.

Now, of course I care what people think of my writing, I haven't reached that level of emotional success yet. Caring about the readers opinion is wise, but that doesn't mean you have to change, you may just need to find different readers.

This blog is a different outpost for me. It's tone is different from what my friends and family call my "business writing". Here I give myself the freedom to ramble my thoughts across the screen when I should be in bed catching up on sleep.

As a business writer it's nice to get feedback on your perspective of a particular belief or product. As a creative writer, it's also nice, and scary, because in poetry and prose, the writer is likely to leave a little more of themselves on the page. 

It's akin to when the fourth wall comes down in television. The writer sometimes encourages a character to gently compliment the writer because of their deep rooted and irrational fear that it may be the only one who does.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Addicted to School Supplies

I'm a menace this time of year. It's nearly impossible for me to pass up twenty-five cent notebooks or massive multipacks of pens. I gaze at new three-ring binders and marvel and the latest models and colors as if they were Italian automobiles.

For all the technology I have access to, from speech to text software and digital mind maps I still desire the  tangible paper and ink. This is why traditional books won't vanish completely. Lot's of people who have money to spend still like tactile things.

Occasionally I wonder if this makes me less productive. This particular post is a stream of conscious, but some I've hand written on scrap paper, dictated and transcribed then edited and imported. That's a lot of steps...for what? This isn't meant to be lasting art. I never suspect a reader is thinking, "what was his motivation for that sentence structure."

Could it be I feel more productive when I'm surrounded by paper? There's evidence of my imprint all over my office. In messy notebooks and pristine journals, on sticky notes and envelopes and in crumpled balls in the wastebasket. All of it feels more satisfying there rather than a glowing desktop that I shut down each day. It's more satisfying for me to empty real trash filled with real bad writing than clicking a button on my virtual screen (also filled with poor writing). When I empty real trash, it's almost meditative. I reflect for a moment on those past struggles.

I think it's liberating to be able to throw things out. Which makes me now flash to my childhood and an episode of Yogi Bear and Friends when they are flying their ark over an island run by a guy who only uses things once and throws them away. Naturally he's the villain and pollution ensues. So it's not like I don't have a little twinge of guilt when I toss barely used pages away. But come on, it's motivating to me to have a stack of spiral notebooks or fancy composition books accessible that I can fill with different ideas, topics, stories, business plans, lists and what have you. They sit there at the corner of my desk imploring me to fill them, like a frosted glass in the freezer on a hot day begs for a cold drink.

It's damn hot where I am right now, and I suddenly want a cold drink ... and more notebooks.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Always. But Sometimes, Never.

This one came to me fairly quickly as part of another project I'm working on:
Always is forever, 
and most things seldom are. 
Never is not ever, 
and that goes a bit too far.
Sometimes rests between the two, 
with honesty and moderation. 
But sometimes lacks the punch for you, 
and reeks of hesitation.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Goal PlanningThe good news is you can set goals anytime you want. You don’t have to wait until New Year’s Eve, the beginning of a new quarter or even a Monday. You can start right now.

Turbo charge your goals by using the Goal Planner Worksheet from Karl Bimshas Consulting. It will help you organize your thoughts and serve as a blueprint for achieving what’s important to you.

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Write Advice - The Shop

Visit the Write Advice Online Shop for Gifts and Shirts

You'll find top inspirational quotes taken directly from my practice and quote book, "Write Advice; Inspirations, tips and thoughts for leaders and artists." 

Find gifts that are perfect for the writer, leader or artist in your life who's ready to make a difference!

Click HERE

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Distraction

I joined a poetry group on LinkedIn of all places and answered the challenge to share a poem about attraction without using the word. Here's what I came up with.

Friday Distraction 

She pulls you toward her,
Like north to south.
She speaks with her eyes,
And blots her mouth.

She clears her throat
In a subtle way
As the waiter takes
The plates away.

You suggest dessert
Or just peruse the list.
Making mental note of the time,
And the several trains you’ve missed.

She beams at the choices
Of chocolates and liqueur,
Of cakes and cobblers
And other treats that blur.

She is mesmerizing,
Alluring, a pleasant distraction.
Then she startles you
With her sudden reaction.

“None for me.
Too rich, too sweet, too soon”
You nod your clouded head,
Still floating like a ballon.

A peck goodnight
Across the cheek.
Your legs still tremble
As you try to speak.

She hushes you,
Gives a wave,
And departs across the street.
Red heat flushes through,
But you did not cave,
And kept it all discrete.

You can read other poems by visiting Wooing of the Mind. Throw me a challenge and let's see what I can come up with.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

When Your Writing is Like Bad Roast Beef

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to editing your own work. There are those who print out their latest draft, settle into their comfy spot and read for the sheer joy of reading. There are those who don't ever print their work because they read and edit exclusively on screen. There are some who spend an inordinate amount of time over each sentence, reading and rewriting until perfection is achieved. I'm not any of these.

I never stop editing. For me, a piece is never done, I just run out of time and it's good enough. I don't suggest this is an ideal for everyone. For example, I know far too many writers who don't edit a damn thing for one reason or another. I admire them, and it annoys me. It always has. Back in school I would have to study for hours to maybe eke out a B while another seemingly oblivious student would have an aw crap moment and finish their assignment in the hall on the way to class and earn an A. Remarkable, though my remarks were not always vocal or supportive.

When editing my own manuscript I like to expect that the warm copy I pick up from the local printer will be an enjoyable read. But I immediately spot things. Yes, grammatical things and typos, which annoy me, but I've learned to forgive myself and move on. It's the plot questions, or the character development, or the pace or some other major thing that throws me into a funk.

That's where I am on Chapter 12 of Three Blinks and a Sigh. I can't get past the first paragraphs. Chapter 11 is good, and Chapter 13 makes sense, but Chapter 12 sucks and it's disappointing. It's like bad roast beef stuck between the most savory bread you can imagine. You've been there. You're craving a roast beef sandwich for days and you finally get one only to discover the meat is overcooked, shiny and a weird color. It's doesn't even smell good and the things you craved now ruins your appetite. That's my Chapter 12 and I find myself just staring at it with disgust.

So how do you combat a lousy chapter? Skip it.

I recall a high school english teacher who presented a very freeing concept to me. He said when you're working on an early draft and you can't come up with the right word or phrase, don't struggle over it. Instead, draw a blank line and keep going. You can come back to it later. What sweet liberation! If that can apply to a word or phrase, why not a sentence or a paragraph or a whole frigging chapter?

It can. It should.

I've been staring at this disappointing sandwich on my plate for four days and I'm still starving. Don't be like that in your writing. Your writing needs to compel others and keep you moving. If you come across a section that stops you in your tracks, make note of why in the margins. Star it with a big *Needs Work* and move on. Don't sit there and bemoan it. Keep moving forward.

Words are like money, they are a renewable resource. Given the right skills you can create more. So don't let a bad investment (or chapter) hold you back. Keep producing. Keep moving forward. In the distance of a few pages you'll get some perspective and will determine your next course of action. You might be struck with an idea to rewrite it, or perhaps you'll cut it completely, or maybe the key content will dissolve from that chapter and reemerge into others where they make better sense or provide greater power and clarity.

Don't let your own writing delay you from getting something written.