Posts Tagged ‘writing’
Mariah Wheeler is a creative spark in the small, but vibrant town of Pittsboro, North Carolina where I reside. Her Joyful Jewel Gallery is in the heart of downtown Pittsboro and has become a destination to explore, marvel and buy works from over 150 local artists. Her deep passion for art and supporting artists has enriched the community.
Writers always need fresh ways to tap into their imaginations. Three years ago, Mariah, along with poet Sheridan Bushnell, conceived of the idea of inviting writers to come to the gallery and write about art. Their idea developed into the much anticipated annual ‘Vision and Voice’ event where writers are asked to read what they wrote after their visit and the corresponding artists are asked to display their objects and say a few words about the art-making process.
Engaging with art objects, in this event, provides a unique opportunity to stretch one’s aesthetic sensibilities. I’ve participated in ‘Vision and Voice’ since the beginning and each time I’ve been amazed at how focusing on a work of art challenges my own assumptions about what I can write. In looking closely at a piece of art, I find myself asking different questions (about plot, character and setting) than when I usually sit down to write. The ‘Vision and Voice’ event also supports an enriching cross-fertilization of ideas and collaborative engagement between writers and artists that doesn’t often happen.
Mariah’s poem ‘A Hat is Better than a TV’ was inspired by hats made by Brooks, a fiber artist. Brooks makes all kinds of textile wonders and sells them at the Joyful Jewel. Mariah modeled the hats while Brooks read the poem. The audience loved it! I’m so glad that Mariah is letting me pass on the sweetness, whimsy and insight of this poem to you.
A Hat is Better Than A TV
I am invited to Kazi Jane’s 2nd birthday party, and
I’m in the pink along with:
Cotton Candy Kisses
Giggles, Games, and Balloons
Glow Worm Tea Cakes
A Grandmother’s Love
The military calls me, and
I’m at the ready:
The medals have already been earned and attached
I can divert attention at the last minute
(the enemy is dazzled & confused)
Hiding in trees or in a meadow is possible
I am just too cute to shoot
The Queen is found to be an imposter, and
I visit Buckingham:
A Palace Guard (in a similar hat) recognizes me as Queen
A stately fascinator is ready for me to wear after my coronation,
and it has room for the crown jewels on the crown
I feel like Dudley Moore as Amadeus when riding in the parade
I decide to safari in Africa, and
my camouflage allows:
Closeness with elephants and giraffes
A gazelle’s invitation to dance
Frolicking in the dirt (which remains invisible on my head)
A bird to find a nesting site complete with fuzz for the nest
I’m in my own hat, and
standing out in the crowd, I:
Bring fun to strangers by eliciting their smiles
Know that blue matches my eyes and I feel pretty.
Am reminded of Christmas tinsel and break out in song
Have a bad hair day and still look good
I say “A Hat is Better Than a TV” because:
Imagination has a prop ready for action
It can go with me, in a useful way, when I’m outdoors
I can take it with me wherever I go
Because Dreams accumulate underneath a hat
and nothing happens underneath a TV
Author Reflection: I am proprietor of the Joyful Jewel, where every day I see the great beauty that local hands guided by an undefinable muse are creating every day.
These hats by Brooks make me laugh and get my imagination going. They do the same for any patron who tries one on.
I remember anxiety creeping over me in Marjorie Hudson’s ‘Strategies for the Writing Life’ workshop when she cheerfully asked the group to name and claim our writing ‘accomplishments’ so far. People immediately raised their hands and asked questions like: Do you mean publication credits? How far back can we start our list? Does a personalized rejection letter count? What if I can’t think of anything?
She calmly explained that we could count anything and everything that has happened in our writing lives that we believe strengthened or encouraged us. This could include the time our teacher in the third grade chose to read our essay in front of the class to submitting an op-ed to getting a poem published in a literary journal. Our list could include helpful feedback we received from an editor or agent (even if they passed on the book), or reassuring words from a published writer. Most of us undertook the task with a kind of grim determination. And, I felt that I was bound to have a short and uninteresting list.
After about ten minutes, she asked us to read from our lists. The mood in the room softened as people shared. As it turns out until we were asked to reflect on the shape of our writing lives, most of us had either forgotten or discounted many of the positive things that had shown up. Several people did mention publication as an aspect of their accomplishments, but much of it included specific moments of encouragement expressed by peers, teachers and other published writers. Often words of encouragement allowed us to keep going in the face of high self-doubt and flat out fear. We also celebrated the fact that many of us had completed various types of writing projects and with some additional strategic effort, some might eventually find their way into publication. My list included the over 50 journals I have amassed, over my life, that are stuffed with ideas, dream fragments, stories, and chapters of novels. Hearing the lists of the other writers uplifted and inspired me.
Since that workshop in the spring of 2011, I have often gone back to the list in my notebook as well as the longer ‘accomplishments’ list that I keep on my computer. Some of the writers in that workshop posted their list in their writing space for daily inspiration.
It is easy to forget or minimize the ways in which the writing life is sustained. A list is evidence of one’s deep intentions that we can turn toward during moments of skepticism about our progress.
It is atypical that a writer gets anything published during a normal week and highly unlikely that more than one thing gets published. The first two weeks of April have been exceptionally good to me, so I’ve got new things to add to my list.
I received news that I am the 3rd place prize winner in the Carolina Woman Magazine Writing Contest, for my speculative fiction short story ‘Urban Wendy’. They will publish the piece in an upcoming issue.
For fun, I’ve included a few lines from the beginning of the story:
Marisol pulls another strand of red hair from a perfectly glazed Dunkin Donut, holds it up and looks at the stray bits of delicate pink icing clinging to the hair. Marisol reminds herself that her other team members working this shift don’t have red hair, nor does anyone else working here. Just like the icing clinging to the hair, Marisol knows that Wendy is trying to cling to her.
When Marisol announced she was leaving Wendy’s to work at Dunkin Donuts, two weeks ago, her co-workers warned her.
“Expect a visit from Wendy,” they said. Marisol looked at the goofy-looking freckled girl on the napkins she had passed out so many times to snot-nosed kids, harried mothers and dope addicts.
“She doesn’t like it when we leave without warning,” one of them whispered.
“You gotta to be kidding me. I’ll tell her a thing or two,” Marisol said. She filed their concerns of Wendy the phantom stalker, under ‘another urban legend’ and said good bye to the drab brown uniform, the never ending work of keeping the salad bar clean and organized, and sought her fortune among coffee and donuts.
* * *
A prose piece, ‘The Poison Our Grandmothers and Mothers Drank’ that I wrote in 2010 found a perfect home at Trivia: Voices of Feminism, an online magazine. This piece was created for the wonderful ‘Vision and Voice’ event at the Joyful Jewel gallery (in Pittsboro, North Carolina), where writers are invited to write about art. Then the writer gets to read the piece and the artist attends, too, and remarks about the inspiration behind the art.
Sharon Blessum’s photograph (below) triggered a memory about a powerful dream regarding my grandmother and other female elders that I wrestled with for many years. In the piece, I tackle the metaphorical ‘poison’, given societal constraints, that many of our female ancestors swallowed, and how I integrate this knowledge into my work as a professor and coach.
Spring is here!
Spring presents writers with a perfect time to reassess, reorganize and rededicate ourselves to the projects that we most want to bring into the world. Spring powers us with the energy to tackle physical spaces (and states of mind) that no longer serve our writing life.
Last December, I made a major commitment to re-imagining my writing space. I was tired of being one of those people who always seemed to ‘be in the process of organizing’, arguably one of the most important rooms in my house, without ever accomplishing a significant change. My writing career during the last two years has taken off in remarkable ways and I began to view my perpetually cluttered room as a pattern of self-sabotage.
These before pictures show that my space definitely needed some attention!
The challenge came as I began to unpack. I needed to create new systems and to let go of stuff. During the cold days of December I often found myself frustrated, overwhelmed and entirely baffled that I could feel so emotionally undone by this process.
I began to explore how some of my discomfort in relating to space was closely tied to childhood patterns. Due to financial constraints I shared a room with my mother from the age of nine until eighteen. I missed out on a lot of developmental experiences of the joys and challenges of having one’s own room and caring for it. Although this wasn’t the sole cause of clutter in my life, I understood why I held onto things too long (often coming from a place of scarcity or deprivation), and also how I simultaneously paid little attention to the aesthetics of space. After these insights, the organizing went a lot smoother.
Although this spring I still have a few more things to work on in my new space, I am in love with it!
Spring cleaning, for you, may not involve any deep-seated emotional issues. But, if you think it could, you can begin by asking the following questions:
-Is clutter an ongoing issue for me?
-Have I experienced patterns of deprivation that may effect how I relate to material objects?
-Do I feel unusually sad, frustrated, or angry as I try to declutter and organize my space?
Depending on your answers, you may want to solicit support from a coach or therapist who specializes in organizational issues.
The first step in my spring cleaning process is to reassess your space, your schedule, and patterns of mind to see what is supporting or not supporting your writing life.
Go and look at your writing space. What’s the state of it? Do you feel a sense of ease when you look at it? Is it crammed with stuff that belongs in other rooms of your house? If you live with other people, is this space known as your special writing area?
Have you even claimed some special place yet, or are you waiting for permission from someone else? If you’re struggling with this, see my post on claiming creative space.
Survey your space and make a quick list of what you feel needs your attention most. The questions below are not exhaustive, but offer a good place to start.
-Do you need to organize and sort your paper files?
-Would it be useful to create an index for your piles of journals?
-Are there notes from conferences and workshops that need to be reviewed and filed?
-Are there writing exercises that could be useful to you if they were typed up?
-When was the last time you did a backup of your computer files? Do you need to delete or add programs?
-Do you need to release some writing books? Welcome others?
-Do you need to physically clean your computer?
-Do you have visible reminders of your writing accomplishments? Is it time to take some down and put up new ones?
-Do you have too much or too little of something in your space?
-Do you need more or less shelf space?
-Are there big physical jobs you’d like to do (i.e. paint)?
Once you have your list you can break each item down into specific tasks.
It’s important to not get overwhelmed during spring cleaning. Many people decide they will devote a day to a spring cleaning project and then realize that they’re cranky after two hours and that the task requires at least two days. Start small and reward yourself often. Why not take from now until the official start of summer to spring clean? You could choose one project each week. I suggest working in 15-30 minute intervals so there’s less chance of getting frustrated and overwhelmed. I enjoy using an online stopwatch.
What are you reassessing right now in support of your writing life?
Scratching can look like borrowing and appropriating, but it’s an essential part of creativity. It’s primal and very private. It’s a way of saying to the gods, “Oh, don’t mind me, I’ll just wander around in these back hallways…”and then grabbing that piece of fire and running like hell.
-Twyla Tharp, choreographer
Where do you get your ideas? How do you generate small ideas that lead to big writing projects? It’s almost springtime and as we put away our winter coats, boots and hats, we naturally desire to generate fresh ideas for our writing life. Twyla Tharp, world famous choreographer, in her understated, but powerful book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use it For Life, uses the concept of ‘scratching’ as a method for finding and incubating new ideas.
‘Scratching’, she observes is what we do so we aren’t always waiting for the “thunderbolt” of inspiration to hit. Tharp says, “That’s what I’m doing when I begin a piece. I’m digging through everything to find something. It’s like clawing at the side of a mountain to get a toehold, a grip, some sort of traction to keep moving upward and onward.”
Twarp notes the importance of reading, as a place to scratch for ideas. Many writers reread the classics or work by mentors they love as a way to sharpen their senses and generate new perspectives. Tharp likes to read ‘archeologically’, backwards in time, working her way from a contemporary idea back to an ancient text. When working on an idea for a dance she began with Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy which led her to Dionysus and then studies of Dionysus (worship of and symbols connected to), which led her to Euripides and his The Bacchae. These readings led to her choreograph ‘Bacchae’, a dance that explores hubris and is loosely based on the Euripides text.
Years ago, inspired by her idea of reading as a type of scratching, I made a list of the subjects that I typically read about both as an academic and as a creative writer.
List: self-help /’how to’ in yoga, health and wellness, women’s health, women’s empowerment, public speaking; craft of writing books; cookbooks; leadership; 18-20th century African American history, spirituality; creativity; women’s spirituality; African American women; black feminism; dreams; sociology of race; women’s and gender studies; elections and campaigns; feminist theory, history of the American university; genres: speculative fiction, thrillers, literary
When finished with this list, I felt pretty impressed. But then I asked myself, what are the subjects I rarely read, have no working knowledge of, couldn’t put two sentences together about, or even avoid?
List: biographies, colonial American history, travel memoirs, animals, romance, celebrities, sailing, cars, history of language, math and science, sports, nature, children’s books, plays, poetry, Christian fiction, true crime, technical books
Doing this exercise motivated me to dig into many unexplored subjects.
What would your reading lists look like?
Here are three scratching strategies:
-Flirt with a different genre (or subgenre)-It’s always fun to explore a different genre than the one that’s become your norm. In a recent writing workshop, the instructor encouraged us to take a short piece that we were working on, keep the characters but rewrite it using a different genre. This exercise felt so liberating. I found myself exploring space opera with what had started out as a realistic story. I have little working knowledge of space operas, but it was fun to use my imagination to fill in the gaps.
-Visit a writer’s residence or historic site-Traveling to see a writer’s home is a kind of pilgrimage that can bring us fresh insights. This spring, I’m hoping to travel to Edenton, NC to learn a bit more about Harriet Jacobs, a fugitive slave, writer and abolitionist who penned Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl under the pseudonym Linda Brent.
-Mine Magazines-Acquire ten magazines that you never read (you can buy some and collect others from friends, the doctor’s office, libraries, etc.) and read them from cover to cover. Keep a list in your notebook about the trends, ideas, musings, and writers that spark your interest.
Where are you going to scratch for ideas this spring?
We all need encouragement and support for our writing lives. And, the beginning of the year invites us to try out new ideas. Here is a list of strategies that have bolstered my writing life. May they support and inspire you.
1) Plan a Submission Party
In my first writing group, more than fifteen years ago, I learned about the power of holding at least one ‘submission party’ during the year. A submission party meant that we planned a date and we all brought our polished manuscripts, manila envelopes, our bundle of SASEs (self-addressed stamped envelopes –yes, back in those days you had to send manuscripts via snail mail and with a SASE!), and food and drink to someone’s house. We helped each other write query letters, find new markets to submit work, develop submission charts, and triple check final copies of stories. And, the best part of all, we’d each leave with several stuffed packets ready to mail to magazine and anthology editors and contest judges. These parties uplifted us and took the fear, dread and challenge out of submitting. And, they helped us get a batch of stories into the mail at one time.
At your next writers’ group meeting, suggest hosting a submission party during the first quarter of the year. And, if you’re not in a group (Well, you should be! When focused friendly people come together to support each other, they can produce incredible results!), then ask a writing buddy, if he or she would be interested in executing this idea on a smaller scale.
Reading your work in front of an audience is an invaluable experience for a writer. We can see when people lean toward us, laugh (one hopes at the appropriate places), and get a sense of how our words affect others. Readings help us to become comfortable with our work no matter what the reaction. We meet new friends and learn about the work of other writers. I did three readings last year (two of which I helped to create). In most places there are many opportunities to read your work in public—open mics organized by writing groups, in bookstores and cafes, writing conferences, and informal gatherings with friends. Practice, practice and practice some more.
How many readings did you participate in during 2012? Shoot to double this number in 2013.
3) Volunteer to Support and Serve a Published Writer That You Know
I have been privileged to accompany one of my writing teachers, Marjorie Hudson, to several speaking events and workshops. I learned invaluable things watching a working writer deal with the public aspect of a writing life: speaking, promoting, coaching, and book signing.
Writers always need more support. If you have a friend or an acquaintance who has recently published a book, offer to help them promote it in some way. If you don’t know any published writers, this is a great way to connect with a local writer whose work that you admire.
Be a personal assistant, or driver, for a day. If they are scheduled to give readings, see if you can help carry books, set up a display, sell books, and assist with small tasks that would make their life easier. You can learn a lot from watching how other writers handle being in the public eye.
4) Strive for 99 Rejections
Years ago, Marjorie Hudson, shifted my perspective on submitting one’s work and coping with rejection. She declared that as part of claiming the mantle of a writer, one should strive to gather at least 99 rejections. I sat in the workshop feeling pretty smug thinking that surely with all the years that I have been trying to get published I reached that number, no problem. Later, when I reviewed my submission file, I was shocked to realize that I wasn’t even half way close to 99 rejections! This revelation spurred me on submit my work, in a serious and organized way.
I love Chris Offutt’s essay, ‘The Eleventh Draft’, where he discusses how he dealt with the fear of rejection:
“The notion of submitting anything to a magazine filled me with terror. A stranger would read my precious words, judge them deficient, and reject them, which meant I was worthless. A poet friend was so astonished by my inaction that he shamed me into sending stories out. My goal, however, was not publication, which was still too scary a thought. My goal was a hundred rejections a year.
I mailed my stories in multiple submissions and waited eagerly for their return, which they promptly did. Each rejection brought me that much closer to my goal—a cause for celebration, rather than depression. Eventually disaster struck. The Coe Review published my first story in spring 1990. The magazine was in the small industrial town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a circulation that barely surpassed the city limits. The payment was one copy of the magazine, and the editor spelled my name wrong. Nevertheless, I felt valid in every way—I was no longer a hillbilly with a pencil full of dreams. I was a real live writer.”
The common suggestion is for writers to have at least five pieces submitted at any given time.
Are you close to 99 rejections? Every time you receive one, think of it as a step forward in your writing apprenticeship. (BTW, holding a submissions party, regularly, can help you send out more material faster.)
5) Create Some Writing Affirmations
An affirmation is a short, simple, positive declarative phrase that as Eric Maisel says, in Coaching The Artist Within, “you say to yourself because you want to think a certain way…or because you want to aim yourself in a positive direction.” Writers can benefit from using affirmations as our inner critics, judges, and evaluators are often uninvited guests during our writing sessions.
A decade ago, I made a tape recording of me saying writing affirmations. I was living in California, on a post-doctoral fellowship, not a member of any writing group, and accumulating rejections at rate that made me gnash my teeth daily. At that point in my life the inner critic often got the best of me. I needed something to remind me of my basic goodness, as a human being, and encourage me as a writer.
Listening back to them now, it’s clear that I don’t have that same inner wobbly feeling about claiming writing as a love, devotion, craft and profession. Nor do I have the same fears. But those early affirmations (i.e. I am a writer!), spoken with conviction definitely built a bridge from there to here.
Writing, speaking and even recording affirmations creates a powerful state of mind. Here are some to get you started.
6) Commitment Publicly to a Writing Goal and Ask for Accountability
As a coach, I know that to make long lasting positive changes, we need structure and accountability. Over the past year, I’ve seen many writers use their virtual networks (as well as face to face ones) to get support in meeting an important writing goal. Editor, author advocate and She Writes publisher, Brooke Warner publicly announced her intention of finishing a book by a certain date. She also asked for support to help keep her accountable while writing and this request yielded wonders!
What’s one writing goal you’d consider announcing publicly and asking for accountability?
7) Buy a New Subscription to a Writing Magazine and/or Literary Journal
Where do you learn about the field of publishing? How do you find out about new writers? We do this in many ways, through blogs, friends, librarians and visits to bookstores. However, writing magazines and literary journals can also play a key role in our professional development. You’ve probably been thinking about treating yourself to new subscription to a writing magazine or literary journal for some time. Do it! When I finish this post, I’m off to subscribe to Poets and Writers.
Why is it so easy to believe the awful and never believe the good?
The use of affirmations has come a long way. An affirmation is a short, simple, positive declarative phrase that as Eric Maisel says, in Coaching The Artist Within, “you say to yourself because you want to think a certain way…or because you want to aim yourself in a positive direction.” You can use them as ‘thought substitutes’ to dispute self-injurious thoughts (as a cognitive behavioral approach), or to provide incentive and encouragement when those seem to be in short supply. Now that many psychologists, mental health workers and coaches advocate the use of affirmations, they’ve become respectable. Gone are the days that affirmations made you think of Shirley MacLaine, flouncy scarves, and quartz crystals. (Though for the record, I’ve liked each of the above at different times in my life.)
Writers can benefit from using affirmations as our inner critics, judges, and evaluators are often uninvited guests during our writing sessions. Carolyn See is one of the few writers who writes about using affirmations, saying that they make “a nice counterpart to the other wretched noise that gets turned up in your brain when you write, or even think about writing: “Look at Mr. Big Man!” (in Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers)
She uses them to defeat the din of naysayers and to help her students think differently about their writing challenges. Here I’m quoting from two different passages in Making a Literary Life:
“Everybody’s seen it: nobody wants it,” my own very sweet editor said to me about the (then nonexistent) paperback of my memoir, Dreaming. “Everybody’s seen it; nobody wants it.” Yikes! Ow! The pain! It’s a good thing I remembered that I deserve the very best and now is the time for it” and thus got up the courage to call a friend of mine at a university press. The paperback is still in print, doing very nicely, thank God.”
I can’t tell you how many times my writing students have said to me, “I can’t do dialogue.” Or, “I have so much trouble with plot!” Or, “I don’t know what to put into this story and what to cut. I can’t seem to figure out what’s important.”
I say to them, “How about if you could do dialogue?” Or, “You have the perfect plot, right there in your brain.” Or, “You’re a perfect editor; you just don’t know it yet.”
They don’t buy it; they can’t buy it. So I suggest they say, out loud, in the car, at home, “Up until now, I couldn’t do dialogue, but now I love it I can’t wait to type in those quotation marks and see what my characters have to say!” And, “Up until now, I had some trouble with plot, but now it’s my greatest strength. I’m a fiend for plot.” And, “My natural good taste and fine subconscious mind naturally know what to put in and what to cut out of a story.”
Using affirmations about writing (and creativity) have helped me over the years. I sometimes write a few affirmations as a warm-up to a writing session. I also keep a few posted in key places in my home office. I’m currently reviewing some of my stock ones and seeing if I want to keep them for 2013.
What’s your experience with using affirmations to support your writing? Do you already use affirmations? Do you write them down and/or say them aloud? I’d love to hear what has worked for you.
If not, can you use some affirmations for your writing life for 2013?
I’ve provided some affirmations below culled from Julia Cameron, Eric Maisel, Carolyn See and myself:
My heart is a garden for creative ideas.
My ideas come faster than I can write, and they’re all good ideas.
Revising is the best part of writing.
My writing dreams are worthy ones.
Anxiety comes with the territory. I can manage and even embrace my anxiety.
If I grow quiet, the writing will happen.
To write is to improvise. I will become jazz.
My creative work is highly valued.
I trust my resources.
I honor my writing by keeping the right words and setting the rest free for another day.
For books that combine writing prompts with affirmations, see Susan Shaughnessy’s Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers. Julia Cameron’s Heart Steps (Prayers and Declarations for a Creative Life) is a small but potent book that comforts and uplifts.
Photo Credit: Belinda Witzenhausen (see her site for more great photos of writing affirmations)
Friday marked the Winter Solstice and we’ve now entered into the winter season. Winter is an ideal time for writers to take stock of the light and dark aspects of their writing. So much of writing (and creating more generally), is about cultivating the willingness to explore the unknown, uncharted and mysterious places of the imaginative psyche. Often it feels as if we are in the dark while creating. During winter, we can review our writing accomplishments of the year and plant dream seeds for the future. As we turn inward into the muck of our own fertile landscape, we mirror the outward cycle of the earth.
The prompts below can support your writing practice during winter:
The time I felt the most joy, in 2012, when writing was…
I am most of proud of my writing practice in 2012 because…
What continues to interest me about my writing is…
I took the most risk this year in writing about…
The fresh new writing that wants to be born in 2013 is…
Creating support for my writing life during the winter season looks like…
My strategies to reduce time and energy wasters that take me away from writing include…
The writing seeds that are growing in the deep dark are…
A self-limiting belief I have about my writing that I could release into the light is…
Posted September 16, 2012on:
Hi! My Sunday Surprise includes tidbits gathered from here and there. Soon I will return to my longer posts, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this interlude.
-I’m now on Twitter and loving every moment of it. I’m reconnecting with teachers and alums from 1996 Clarion East, a science fiction and fantasy writers’ summer intensive, that I attended! Come find me @MicheleTBerger
-Visual artists trick our brains all the time in how we perceive light and color. This article on CNN.com explores what neuroscience is teaching us about how we perceive art.
-I gave a workshop, ‘Are You a Wooer or Withholder? What’s Your Creative Relationship Style?’ a few weeks ago for the ‘Sisters In Crime’ writers’ group in Raleigh. One of the prompts I gave them was to imagine that an adoptions worker comes to interview them on their capacity to “adopt the creative”(based on Deena Metzger’s work). Judy Hogan, farmer, co-founder of Carolina Wren Press and newly minted mystery author attended the workshop and just posted a dialogue between her and the adoptions worker. You might want to try the exercise and then read Judy’s engaging response.
-Feel like you’ve lost that loving feeling with your Muse? Brenda Moquez’s quirky and funny dialogue with her Muse might give you some ideas about how to court yours!
-Very compelling post by Kate Elliot on the male gaze, the female gaze, and women’s sexualized portrayals in fantasy and science fiction novels.
-A thought about persistence. Yesterday, after an all-day faculty retreat I got to the gym as planned so that I could exercise as a reward. Well, I quickly realized that in my early morning haste, I had forgotten to pack my sneakers. I also had to be somewhere else within an hour and knew that if I didn’t work out during my allotted time, it wasn’t going to happen later. So, although I felt a bit silly, I changed into my workout clothes and grabbed my patent blue wedge shoes (the only shoes with me), and walked with my head held high, barefoot, into the gym’s workout area. I picked up a few magazines and sat down at one of the recumbent bike stations, put on my shoes and began my thirty minute workout. Yes, I felt a bit silly as people walked by and looked at me pedaling away in my nice shoes. However, it was more important for me to be true to my fitness goals then let a little thing like shoes stop me. This incident made me think of writing. It is so easy to get off our game if one little thing goes wrong during our scheduled writing time. It could be that we’re out our special tea, or the pen we love has just gone dry. Or, that we have an interruption that we have to attend to. And, we can feel silly and out of sorts that we have to make do with our sometimes ‘less than perfect’ writing life. But, if we remind ourselves that our larger goal of consistent writing practice is so much more important than fleeting frustration when things don’t go as planned, we just might find ourselves able to persevere and receive a greater payoff in the long run.
(Photo Credit: these shoes look a lot like the ones that I wore while pedaling. http://www.shopoloriswank.com/product/patent-blue-gucci-wedge)
Making all the Time You Need and Then Some: A Review of Marney Makridakis’s Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life
Posted September 4, 2012on:
At every creativity workshop I have ever taught, I always get the question: How do I find time to do more of what I love? The metaphors about time that I encounter working with clients often include the language of battle, scarcity, worry, challenge and management. I think that’s true for most of us. Think about it. When’s the last time you heard someone say, “I’ve got all the time I need for x?” or, “I’m not crazy busy anymore. Time feels like molasses.” or, “Time–my little bundle of joy!” The fact that people struggle with time is not news. What is news is that author Marney Makridakis in her pioneering book, Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life shows us that it is possible and even fun to learn how to shift, visualize, command, tickle, seduce, and measure time in completely new and revolutionary ways.
I am head-over-heels in love with this book and declare Marney, a genius. Marney is a well-known artist, entrepreneur, coach and founder of ArtellaLand.com, the ground-breaking online community for artists, writers, and creative individuals. She also promotes the ARTbundance philosophy, an innovative approach to self-improvement through creativity.
Her deep wisdom as a successful coach, artist and student of time is evident in this book. Creating Time is beautifully written, edited and incorporates insights and original art from a variety of folk, including professional artists but also many people from Marnie’s creative community. You’ll find how to ‘stretch and shrink’ time from creative guru Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (aka SARK), view original artwork by entrepreneur Leonie Dawson and artist Brian Andreas.
Marney taps into the mundane and magical aspects of our psychological (nonlinear) and temporal (linear) experience of time. She advocates that we need an expansive view of time and that time is a “valuable resource far more infinite than we tend to think it is.” Her constant reminder to us is how to become better aware of the states in which we perceive time, so we’re less aware of the limiting factors of time “but more aware of the present moment.” She helps us discover “more tools to support this blissful state.”
In the first section, you begin by exploring your relationship to both linear and nonlinear forms of time. Once you’ve done some excavation work assessing your needs and desires that are time related, the next section introduces and helps you tap into unique methods for creating time through creativity. You go deep in these chapters as Marney presents a specific concept and interweaves anecdotes, personal stories, literary and pop culture references, and scientific theory (everyone gets a refresher course on the theory of relativity!). After reading chapters in this section that include, ‘Creating Time Though Stillness’, ‘Creating Time Through Metaphor’, and ‘Creating Time through Synchronicity’, you will not doubt that we can indeed create time outside of our usual and often narrow frame and “welcome a new way to experience time.” Each chapter concludes with an engaging ARTsignment, an art project that is designed to activate and expand self-awareness and transformation. You don’t have to possess any particular set of artistic skills to dive right in get started. In this book you learn by doing and will be inspired to try your hand at the ARTsignments as you see many examples of others’ interpretations.
The third section integrates all of the time concepts you’ve learned over the course of the book and offers diagnostic tips about what techniques might be best to apply right away. She provides a list of quotes that form a nice short hand for charting one’s self talk (i.e. like “I’m always worried about the past or the future, and I find it hard it hard to live in the moment.” or “I don’t have a realistic sense of time. I’m always procrastinating and am never sure of how long things take.”), and what techniques to try right away.
Creating Time stands alone as a book that seamlessly and deliciously combines creativity with science and offers adventure after adventure to completely expand our sense of time. If your relationship with time is tired, played out, frustrating, confusing and one that always seems to be defined by scarcity and lack, order this book today. It’s definitely time for a change!
Posted August 12, 2012on:
I don’t think I’ll stop smiling for a few days. I just received news that the anthology You Don’t Say: Stories in the Second Person by Ink Monkey Press is out and my story ‘Family Line’ is in it! The editor accepted the story a few months ago, but since I wasn’t sure when the anthology would appear, I kept my fabulous news mostly to myself. This is my first fiction publication and it ranks up there with other incredible life moments. To publish literally means ‘to make public’. To the aspiring writer, however, being published connotes acceptance and brings a sweet spot of satisfaction that someone else finds your work compelling.
Family Line’s history from beginning to end has been a testimony to the power of persistence, and the importance of asking for and receiving support. Here are a few things that happened along the way:
1) Last October, I noticed an announcement from our local library for writers of all ages to contribute to their first ever ‘Scary Shorts’ contest. Entries were 500 words or less. I knew nothing about writing ‘flash fiction’. I told other writers about the contest, but didn’t finish my story by the deadline. At the Scary Shorts event, I was happy watching my fellow writers read, but bummed that I didn’t finish my story on time while encouraging others to do so.
2) I saw a speculative fiction contest in March 2012 (by a contest that shall remain unnamed), and used that deadline as an opportunity to spiff up my story. The premise is that a fifteen year-old boy from the Bronx is off on a trip to visit his cousins in North Carolina who he considers backwards. They tell him about a book of spells that they claim an ancestor used to free the family from slavery. Of course, the boy is dubious and havoc ensues from there.
My original draft was 500 words and was told in the second person. I’d become obsessed with writing in the second person after reading Kevin Canty’s short stories.
This contest had a flash fiction category with a 500 word limit. Perfect! I took the story to my prompt writing group (with only a few days to spare to deadline) got feedback on it, but was still having trouble bringing all the elements together. Majorie Hudson, the teacher, stayed with me after class and offered insightful suggestions. She became the first ‘godmother’ for this story. I left, revised and submitted my story to the contest. Woo-hoo! I had a great feeling about the outcome.
3) My feeling evaporated when I received the following email from the contest administrator a few days later:
I am sorry to tell you that we inadvertently lost your entry, so that it was not included in the judging. This has never happened before (and we have taken steps to ensure that it does not happen again); part of the problem was that a different M. Berger also entered the contest, and we conflated your entries. Your story is very strong and well-written; it would certainly have been sent on to the final judge, which make this doubly unfortunate.
We will process a refund for you; again, I apologize for the error, and hope you will enter again next year.
What???? Crushed describes the state that I stayed in for a week after this notice. All that work, I thought, for nothing! I put the story aside worked on other things.
Thank goodness I’ve become obsessive in reviewing calls for stories for anthologies, contests, literary journals, etc. A few weeks after the contest debacle, I saw an anthology call for short second person stories. Perfect! Woo hoo! I sent my story off again with high hopes.
4) I received a note from Mandi Lynch, the editor that said, she and her staff liked the story very much, but felt that the story was too short and they weren’t including it in the anthology.
5) I sat there breathing very hard looking, at this email, for a long time. I believed in this story. I believed in its original premise, crisp dialogue and good characterization. So, I mustered up some courage and thought, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before—ask the editor for a second chance.
I wrote her a short and direct email:
Thanks for your email and interest in my story. Would you be willing to take another look at it, if I worked it up to about 1500 words or so? And, if so, when would you want to see it? I’m taking a bit of a gamble here, but thought I should ask. Thanks for your time!
6) I was able to email this editor because I’ve been taking good care of all those inner critics and writing gremlins. I could have lapsed into a fatal version of ‘This rejection proves that you know nothing about writing. No one is going to want this story. Give up, etc.”
Mandi, the editor, responded quickly and said yes she was willing to take a second look at it. She was in a time crunch, so I had a little over a week to get her something.
7) Then I panicked! I had to take a good story from 500 words and expand it into 1500 words and ideally something she would consider publishing. In a fever I began work on it and realized that because of the deadline I was going to have to do something else that I hadn’t done before…ask for help from different places. I asked my monthly writing group to look at a draft of the story. I felt uncomfortable asking for help on a story out of our regular cycle. But, I did it. I also posted my story on my online writing community with SARK (Write it Now with SARK), also a big risk given that I didn’t have a shared face to face writing history with them.
8) Support flooded in from all corners! Writers from the monthly group gave amazing feedback. They even appreciated being asked! Several folks from the WINS group also gave thoughtful feedback and encouragement. People were rooting for me to revise and submit this story.
Finally, I took the story to my evening writing class with Melissa Delbridge. I read it to the class, got feedback, but still struggled with the ending. After class, Melissa suggested we look at the story together. I protested as I didn’t want to take up more of her time. She said not to worry and then we sat there and she read my story out loud—line by line—and together we examined the areas that weren’t working. Can I tell you what it means when a writing teacher takes the time (after teaching a two hour class no less!) to sit with you and give you her undivided attention? All I could do was say thank you profusely and sail away into the night. Melissa was the second ‘godmother’ to ‘Family Line’.
9) I revised my heart out and made Mandi’s deadline. The next day I received an email from her. She loved the revision and I was in the anthology!
10) Lessons: Never give up on an idea that you believe in. Remember editors are people, too. They can be open to looking at revised work. Be willing to revise until the work sings. Ask for support, even when it make you uncomfortable. Ask for support from people that you haven’t asked from before. Receive all support graciously. Believe you are worthy of it. Celebrate your success with your creative tribe. Repeat!
Thanks to my creative tribe: Tim, Melissa, Marjorie, The First Thursday Writers’ Group, “The “Girls Monthly Writing Group, DJ, Cathy and Michele and others on WINS
You Don’t Say: Stories in the Second Person is available from Amazon