The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘affirmations

I’m thrilled that my essay about Octavia Butler is now in print in the new collection: Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler.

In celebration of what would have been her 70th birthday and in recognition of Butler’s enormous influence on speculative fiction Twelfth Planet Press has published a selection of letters and essays written by science fiction and fantasy’s writers, editors, critics and fans. There are letters from people who knew Butler and those who didn’t; some who studied under her at the Clarion and Clarion West workshops and others who attended those same workshops because of her; letters that are deeply personal, deeply political, and deeply poetic; and letters that question the place of literature in life and society today.

 

 

I write about Octavia Butler’s use of affirmations to support her writing and how I have viewed her life as a model for creative practice. Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time know how important a tool I think affirmations are for creative people. In 2016, I committed to a daily practice of  writing an original affirmation about creativity and posting it on this blog. This practice provided tremendous nourishment for my creative life.

There are many writers in this collection that are well-known in the science fiction community including Nisi Shawl, Nnedi Okrafor, L. Timmel Duchamp, and Steven Barnes, but also you’ll discover newer writers (like myself) in this hefty 405 page book.

A few months ago, Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal, the editors of LT gave a great interview here.

If you’re a Butler fan, you’ll want this work in your library. If you have friends that are OB fans, please pass on info about this book!

 

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It’s so easy to talk ourselves out of submitting our work. Rejection is painful. Even though I am a coach and a creative writer, I, too, find ways to ‘self-reject’ my work. It’s never a good idea. Always get your work under review, submitted, in the pile, seen. It’s a simple fact that if we creatives want to have an audience, someone has to read, see, or hear and experience our work. The only way we can do that is to submit our work to others.

In January, I taught a workshop called ‘Charting Your Path to Publication: Tips, Techniques and Lessons for Writers.’ An amazing group of writers came out to learn how to beat the odds of rejection when submitting to journals, magazines, etc. We talked about strategies to submit our work, the courage to send it out and the perseverance to keep going in the face of rejection.

I shared how inspired I was by a great interview with the writer Laurence MacNaughton on Mur Lafferty’s “I Should Be Writing” podcast. He shared that he struggled for many many years getting his fiction published. He had many cardboard boxes filled with rejection letters. When he moved into a new home, he decided to open up those boxes and count his rejection letters.

He counted and stacked up 100, 200, and 300 rejection letters. As I listened to the story, I held my breath. So many questions ran through my mind. How many did he have? Where was he going to stop? How many rejection letters did I have a decade ago? He kept on counting and found himself at 500, 600, and then 800 rejections. He stopped when he reached a 1000 rejection letters. He stopped counting them even though he had more letters! He felt so bad about it that he stopped temporarily writing. He felt like anyone who could amass 1000 rejection letters should not write.

He said that that not writing was really hard and that he soon came to the realization that writing was essential to his mission and purpose on the planet. It’s what gave him joy. He decided to write, no matter whether he was published or not. He kept submitting his work and soon after that sold one of his novels. He’s now a full-time writer.

I was very moved by this story as it reminds us that all we can control is what we send out and although we will inevitably get rejected, we have to submit our work. And, we have to find joy in the writing itself, no matter what the outcome. As Laurence says, “Rejections mean you are doing what you need to do, you just need to keep going.”

Recently, I almost talked myself out of submitting work.  Last fall, I saw this call:

Octavia Estelle Butler was born on 22 June, 1947, and died in 2006. In celebration of what would have been her 70th birthday in 2017, and in recognition of Butler’s enormous influence on speculative fiction, and African-American literature more generally, Twelfth Planet Press is publishing a selection of letters and essays written by science fiction and fantasy’s writers, editors, critics and fans.

I got goose bumps reading this call. Octavia Butler is one of my favorite authors. I teach her work and her nonfiction essay, “Positive Obsession” is one that I credit for inspiration in pursuing my writing life.

I put it on my calendar to submit, but as the deadline approached, I found myself saying:

“Every prominent speculative fiction writer is going to submit something—I can’t compete.”

“I want to write about the impact of her nonfiction on me and her use of affirmations to boost her confidence. The editors probably won’t be interested in that.”

And on…

I was about to talk myself right out of submitting due to fear. I was going to self-reject. Thank goodness a writing friend messaged me with the link and said, “Hey, I know you’re a Butler fan, you’re submitting to this right?’

That little encouragement got me in gear. I decided to write the essay. I told myself, if it gets rejected, I can pitch to the speculative fiction magazine. Someone could want this essay.

I sent it off, pleased with the essay, but not expecting anything.

I’m thrilled to say that my essay WILL appear in the anthology. I am so honored to be in this collection. See details below.

Always give others a chance to evaluate your work. Never self-reject!

We are excited to announce the contributors of original letters and essays for Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. There are letters from people who knew Butler and those who didn’t; some who studied under her at the Clarion and Clarion West workshops and others who attended those same workshops because of her; letters that are deeply personal, deeply political, and deeply poetic; and letters that question the place of literature in life and society today. Essays include original pieces about Butler’s short story “Bloodchild” and whether we should respect Butler’s wishes about not reprinting certain works. All of these original pieces show the place that Octavia Butler had, has, and will continue to have in the lives of modern writers, editors, critics and fans. Our contributors include:

Rasha Abdulhadi
Raffaella Baccolini
Moya Bailey
Steven Barnes
Michele Tracy Berger
Tara Betts
Lisa Bennett Bolekaja
Mary Elizabeth Burroughs
K Tempest Bradford
Cassandra Brennan
Jennifer Marie Brissett
Stephanie Burgis
Christopher Caldwell
Gerry Canavan
Joyce Chng
Indra Das
L Timmel Duchamp
Sophia Echavarria
Tuere TS Ganges
Stephen R Gold
Jewelle Gomez
Kate Gordon
Rebecca J Holden
Tiara Janté
Valjeanne Jeffers
Alex Jennings
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Kathleen Kayembe
Hunter Liguore
Karen Lord
ZM Quỳnh
Asata Radcliffe
Aurelius Raines II
Cat Rambo
Nisi Shawl
Jeremy Sim
Amanda Emily Smith
Cat Sparks
Elizabeth Stephens
Rachel Swirsky
Bogi Takács
Sheree Renée Thomas
Jeffrey Allen Tucker
Brenda Tyrrell
Paul Weimer
Ben H Winters
K Ceres Wright
Hoda Zaki

Luminescent Threads will also include reprints of articles that have appeared in various forums, like SF Studies, exploring different aspects of Butler’s work.

Luminescent Threads will be published by Twelfth Planet Press in June 2017.

 

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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 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.

Inspired by her strategy, years ago, 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 fiction

When finished with this list, I felt pretty impressed.

But then I asked myself, what are the subjects I rarely read in, have no working knowledge of, couldn’t put two sentences together about, or even avoid?

Here’s that list: general biographies, colonial American history, world history, geography, 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 even subgenre)-It’s always fun to explore a different writing 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. A few years ago, I traveled 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. My literary pilgrimage was so rejuvenating.

-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 about the trends, ideas and musings that spark your interest.

Where are you going to scratch for ideas this spring?

 

Affirmations-366Days#366: I create the internal focus needed for writing success.

For new readers, here’s why I’m committing to writing affirmations, about the creative process, during the next 366 days.

We had a blast on my ‘Affirm the Writer in You’ webinar on Thursday! Here is the replay, available through the end of Jan 3.

A way to be connected to your Writing Self is through having what I call a strong ‘creative core’. I talked about this revolutionary concept on the webinar. The concept of the creative core is the foundation of all my work.

Just like you have a physical core that stabilizes you, you also have a ‘creative core’. For many of us, our creative core is underdeveloped. We’re often easily knocked off course, produce inconsistent results and struggle to keep our focus.

As you’re making plans for your writing success in 2017, I’m inviting you to join me in my signature 4 week ‘Tone Your Creative Core™’ Program which helps creative people deal with the universal blockers and dream killers that ALL creative people struggle with.
My program is designed tackle the areas that creative people, ESPECIALLY writers struggle with most: time, abundance and prosperity, feeling worthy to create and goal-setting. Through this program you will get to experience your best creative self.

This program shapes your ‘creativity core’ so that it unleashes your potential. You will be rewarded with a new level of energy, focus and commitment!

  • You’ll strengthen a relationship with your Writing Self
  • You’ll learn how to create with consistency, passion and purpose.
  • You’ll learn how to recognize and conquer your internal and external saboteurs.

I have a special FAST-ACTION Bonus-– if you act by 11:59 Jan 3rd you will ALSO receive a personal coaching session with me! I bring my experience as a published writer and creativity coach and provide structure and accountability to support you. If you’ve been wanting to work with a coach to receive individualized support, here’s your opportunity.

2nd Bonus: You’ll also receive my 40 day Affirmation workbook. In this workbook, I share 40 powerful affirmations about writing that will inspire and encourage you every time you face the page. As you know, my daily practice of using affirmations has changed my life. I did a recent guest blog post talking about lessons learned.

3rd Bonus:  MP3 audio file of how to generate energy for your creative work (esp. when you just don’t feel like it). I interviewed successful writers, artists and coaches about how to generate more energy for your creativity, even when you don’t feel like it! They share their secrets and phenomenal tips. You’ll hear from Eric Maisel, SARK, Amanda Owen and many more. You’ll have at your fingertips numerous strategies to combat feeling overwhelmed and just TOO TIRED TO CREATE!

The investment for you is $67. Start the New Year by investing in your creative life and guaranteeing transformation!

Sign up here.

Affirmations-366Days#365: Every day, I welcome the opportunity to write.

For new readers, here’s why I’m committing to writing affirmations, about the creative process, during the next 366 days.

Affirmations-366Days#364: I affirm the writer in me.

For new readers, here’s why I’m committing to writing affirmations, about the creative process, during the next 366 days.


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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