Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stuck Like Old Chewing Gum?

Writers are filled with neurosis. With all the time spent alone trying to work out a story, thinking being the major occupation, it is inevitable thinking about one’s self will be in the mix; about one’s place in the world, one’s place in relationship to other writers and other human beings or any number of subjects in the known universe—or outside it. A distraction.
Guilt is a major weakness to be chewed on and spit out. Anything we feel we should be doing and are not comes into the mix.
Mental trips rotate around our mind like a merry-go-round about our writing. “My work is superior, why isn’t it recognized as such?” Or, “My writing sucks, it’s not up to par, what if everyone hates it?”
Then there is writer’s block or lack of inspiration. “Maybe if I fix my work schedule and update my priorities, and avoid procrastination, and drum up some motivation—and maybe even find that perfect writing program that will simplify the whole writing process. . . .” And on and on.
Oh, and sarcasm. Lots of sarcasm pours out of molting writers.
Until finally that book or story is finished. And then the promotion and marketing begins. . . . "How can I promote enough but not too much? I don’t want to aggravate people.”  I can’t/don’t want to do that!”
So what’s a writer to do when he/she is too much in his head and is stuck on any number of subjects or processes?
Stop thinking. Take a break from your mind.
Meditate or take a walk and feel the air on your skin, listen to the sounds around you – or the sound of silence. Let your senses take in the world. Tamp down the processes you overuse and need a break from (thinking and seeing) and instead focus on smell, touch, taste – intuition. Give it enough time and you will feel the ideas, inspiration, motivations return as they slowly seep in or quickly pop up.
Sometimes that’s all we need to do and the last thing our mind lets us do. It wants to ‘figure it out at all costs.’ So, maybe it is time to forcefully pull the plug and get yourself some space. Give yourself a break when it seems you have the least amount of time. If it gets you past that stuck, resistant place, it is gaining you time in the end.
Oh, by the way, this works for anyone, not just writers. Then, when you're unstuck, pop in a fresh stick of gum and begin chewing all over again.

Do you have a process you use to get un-stuck? I'd love to hear about it.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Perfume Perfidy

Well here it is—fall again. The flyers are coming out advertising the nesting-instinct-items—you know the ones from Macy’s Home section. I resist the urge to buy another comforter or quilt, but Oooh look at that blue and white one, it matches my dinnerware. Of course they will not be seen at the same time, unless I serve breakfast in bed which is not likely to happen any time soon because breakfast is not my favorite meal of the day. It’s hard for me to look an egg in the eye before eleven—brunch is good, though.
So I resist and close the Home Sale magazine flyer for Macy’s. But then the perfume inserts fall out. Aaagh! I’m in trouble now. Like I need another perfume. (My perfume weakness is documented in my 2012 post)

I resist the Dior Jadore ad—you know, the one with Charlize Theron striding confidently down the crystal, chandelier-dripping hall in the Chateau de Versailles, while the camera artfully focuses on her long, model-strutting legs traversing the parquet floors (reminds me of my days in the sun when my legs were long, thin and supple and my knick-name was Long Tall Sally. Sigh!)

Anywho—on to the next, a Gucchi Guilty Pour Homme ad. Ohhh! Maybe I should buy my man that scent? No! . . . (I’m doing a good job of resisting this morning.)

Versace?—not tempted. (toss)

Jimmy Choo (Whaaat? Shoes weren’t enough, now perfume?) The Man scent is nice, though.

Prada’s Luna Rossa—my hand is shaking. Tempting me.

Last it’s Dolce & Gabbana’s Dolce. Hmmm. I open the tab and rub it on my wrist . . . . Okay, I’m in serious trouble—it’s anybody’s guess where this is headed. A Trip to Macy’s might be on the agenda today.

What's your flyer ad weakness? Perfumes? Linens? Furniture? Shoes . . . uh, don't get me started on that one.







Thursday, July 17, 2014

Filling the Dry Well

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been taking a breather and getting some space in my expectations. I think writers, at least this one, need space from the responsibilities of either writing or promoting. A vacation from the writing business.

When I overdo on anything, I get sort of nauseous. Then I know it's time to back off and regroup. I am not afraid to stop everything to do this. Promotion be damned. The pressure is always on to write, write, write. And then, promote, promote, promote. But sometimes that is the last thing needed by this writer. To put pressure on myself when I need a break is to further dam up my energy.

So, in May, I went to the ocean. I took several days and planted myself alone in an environment that fed and healed my soul. I was grateful to have that time and that place. I was housed in the midst of trees and animals in the woods of Pacific Grove, California. 

I watched deer walk by my window most days, squirrels play in the dirt and chase each other around the trees and ravens greet me loudly each day when I stepped outside. Sometimes leading the way, sometimes dogging my heels.

A short stroll along the walkway built over the ecological area to preserve the native plants from damage took me right to the ocean.

I people-watched, climbed over rocks to the tide pools, noting anemone and birds while collecting shells and pretty bits of things like a bird.

I observed the various bird tracks on the sand in early morning before people waded through destroying the poetic visual. And noted the waves and change of tides over the span of those few days

I laid back on the warm sand, eyes closed while running my fingers through the grains and taking in the warmth of the sun on a hazy, cool afternoon.

Poetry ran through my head. Writing ideas flitted through my mind. But I just let them slide by, knowing they would come back to visit when I was ready to write again.

I drank coffee in the misty, foggy mornings while seated on the leather couch inside the lodge, reading stories on my Kindle.

Warmed by a blazing fire the staff kept stoked all morning, I jotted down notes of the trip and ideas for stories to come.

One story has since evolved into a flash fiction piece in Sirens Call Publication e-zine, called Night Lover, an erotic horror story which was a new genre for me in their Crypto theme. It is free to download at the site.

I also came up with an idea for a past-life short story, more in my genre, and eventually entered it to the SLO Nightwriters contest, themed: Déjà vu. (I'm waiting until the end of July to find out what happens with that one)

So if you find yourself blocked, stuck, dry, barren, depleted, blank—i.e. writer’s block, then try a change of place. A place where you can notice the details around you that you miss in your everyday life. The fresh perspective is effective in filling your dry writing well.

Does a change of place appeal to you? Work to fill your well?


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Breathe in, Breathe out

This post is targeting writers, but really it's for all artists—everyone (whether a home-maker or a mechanic).

To start, I will say this to the writers. I am not an expert on craft, so I have nothing for you there. That is your job as a writer to go find a teacher, a craft book and/or a writing group. There are many good teachers on-line, as well.

Breathe In

Structuring your writing
For as many writers as are out there, there are just as many ways to structure your:
  • Writing time
  • Writing style
  • The way you get inspiration
  • The way you execute that inspiration

Too many writers worry about the how of the above (pantser  vs. plotter), effectively freezing their energy and leaving them incapacitated by the shoulds and should nots.

Every writer must find his own way, ultimately, but the Art (dance, visual, written…music) must be studied and learned before beginning to practice professionally (there’s another should—but this is different, so take heed). You’ve heard it before but I repeat it:
Before you can break the rules, you must know the rules.

Too many young writers are throwing their work out there (publication) and are then getting discouraged because no one is interested/excited/buying (but sometimes that latter one is not because of skill).

The Emotional component
There are basic, underlying structures that are at play upon which your art is founded. If you fail to know what those structures are, your creation will lack the strength and power it might otherwise have—a nice way to say it might suck.

As I’ve said, I’m not an expert in craft instruction—so to me, when a piece fails (aside from writing skill), it’s because it’s lacking the proper empowerment (the blueprint or keys to a reader’s emotions—and emotions are what hook a reader. Not all keys fit the locks on all reader’s doors. So you want to have as many keys as possible to open the most doors (emotional and mental triggers).

Sometimes the trigger is a love of words strung together in a beautiful, compelling way. Other times, and for more readers today, I think, the hook is the emotional tug at the heart, the recognition that the writer knows what the reader is feeling and is talking to her. Then the reader gets caught up and is carried along.

So, if you’ve learned your craft, and understood this emotional component, where do you go from there? How do you get inspired? It is said, just plant your bottom in a chair and start. I disagree, but then if you’ve been following me any length of time, you know I'm ornery and disagree with the status quo a lot.

Breathe Out

Art is not created in a vacuum
Sometimes you need to get away from the books and the thinking and just be in life. Rub up against others and experience, exchange ideas and absorb living before you are able to transmute those experiences effectively into art.

Live life to be able to write about it in a compelling way. Be an Auntie Mame and go for it.

I have a novel that I started but had to put aside to finish the present one (which is now sitting with a publisher-smile).  I decided that this time I am going to organize it in a plotter's way (I’ve been so pantser in the past). So, I am taking my own advice and am going to the ocean, to Monterey, California this month to get re-invigorated and focused—expressly on that novel--my own writer retreat. I intend to complete it more quickly than I did my last one. I’m embracing the new experiences and stimulation my days at the coast will undoubtedly have—because I expect as much. (rubbing my hands gleefully)

If you are at that same moment in your writing, don't just dream of a writer's retreat, create your own—go forth to be inspired and energized.

Then go and write.
 Where are you in your writing? Need inspiration?







Sunday, April 20, 2014

Murder in the Worst Degree

Guest poster, Marilyn Meredith, long time friend and author of 35 published books is doing a blog tour and has agreed to post on my blog today. She is here to talk about the latest book in her Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.
Romance in Rocky Bluff?

Cora Ramos is not only a good friend, but a San Joaquine Sister in Crime, and we both have books published by Oak Tree Press. Cora’s book is full of romance, and she asked me how romance plays a part in Murder in the Worst Degree.

Anyone who has read the last few books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series knows that Officer Gordon Butler has been most unlucky in many ways, and this includes the romance department.

When he was new to the Rocky Bluff P.D. he lost his wife to his partner. He was interested in Stacey Wilbur, but she gave her heart to Detective Doug Milligan. When he did find someone who seemed to return his love, she turned out to be the prime suspect in a murder. Despite his efforts to clear her name, things didn’t turn out as he hoped.
An attractive new hire immediately caught Gordon’s eye, but he wasn’t the only one to notice her.

Maybe things are looking up for Gordon in Murder in the Worst Degree, but both he and his recent love can’t help but wonder how the new Chief of Police feels about fraternization among fellow officers. Until they can find out, the romance might have to be put on hold.

And that’s about all I’m going to say about this particular romance. If you want to find out how it turns out for Gordon, you’ll just have to read Murder in the Worst Degree.
Blurb for the latest RBPD mystery, Murder in the Worst Degree: The body that washes up on the beach leads Detectives Milligan and Zachary on a murder investigation that includes the victim’s family members, his housekeeper, three long-time friends, and a mystery woman.
Bio: F. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith is the author of over 35 published books. She enjoys writing about police officers and their families and how what happens on the job affects the family and vice versa. Having several members of her own family involved in law enforcement, as well as many friends, she’s witnessed some of this first-hand.


Once again I am offering the opportunity to have your name used for a character in a book if you comment on the most blogs during this tour for Murder in the Worst Degree.
Tomorrow I’ll be visiting here


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cora’s Crazy Creative Process



I sometimes relate to Vincent Van Gogh, not the ear-cutting-off-thing, but the crazy visions and overload his brain must have endured. Do all artists get like this from time to time, or all the time?

This past month I’ve been overloaded with sensory stimuli and it has produced all kinds of interesting ideas, visions and past life reflections that have been amazing. (Did you notice I slipped in that part about past lives? Well, I’ll get to that.)

I went to Left Coast Crime in Monterey, mystery conference par excellence. For five days I was exposed to other writers, information and experiences that left a strong mark on me. I could talk about all that I learned, but today that would be too tedious, since the REAL learning occurred afterwards in dreams and inspiration after-the-fact.

To add to the stimuli from the conference, I took a road trip up north to San Francisco to visit with my daughter and the day I drove back became an experience of another sort. It was a day in and out of sun and rain, across different terrain and coastline scenarios until my emotions were rung out. I got home happy but exhausted and the next few days had dreams that shook me to my core, from depression to elation, and set me on another writing project (I have several going at the moment). I keep journals of my ideas and ‘craziness’ and have for years—they are being well worn after my recent adventures.

I will just briefly (because it might actually end up as a novella) mention one of these dreams/visions that came. Was it a past life? (my writing theme, it seems—Dance the Dream Awake being my first past life novel). Is it wishful thinking? Is it a psychic flash of another time—or is it strictly imagination? Who knows, maybe a combination of all. Who can say what happens in the mind of an artist and where our ideas come from?

I use ‘past life’ as my construct to understand the images in a way that I can reason out and ‘get my head into’ the place where the ideas flow for a story such as this:

Picture a Roman Centurian, strong elite warrior. He briefly sees a woman through an alcove window into her garden. When their eyes meet, there is instant recognition—electrical sparks run through both of them—he has had lifetimes with this lady and they recognize each other’s energy right away—but I won’t go on. You get the idea where this is going—it’s a romance. But can you relate to the fact that we sometimes meet people and have instant rapport with them even though we just met—an uncanny familiarity.

What happens next? Will they get together? What will that mean for him and for her? Have they had other lifetimes together and this connection happens because they know each other so well? Where have they been together before, and how does that affect where they are now, and how they will relate this time around, and what obstacles will keep them apart? Etc., etc.

How did this come from a road trip? What stimulated that creative idea in my mind? Does it even matter that we know?

So there it is, the crazy creative process that feels much like I imagine Vincent went through (although for him disease was probably a big part of it—but then, aren’t all artists a bit out there to a greater or lesser degree?)

 (I know I ramble a bit, all part of my female brain that goes off in several directions all at once to glean the inspiration and information I need.)


Tell me what you think about this creative process.  

Have you ever had that déjà vu experience with another person?

What do you think of past lives? Believe or no?


Friday, March 28, 2014

Coming Out of Your Box

What box are you in? You don’t think you're in one? It's what controls your life and limits you.
When writers write, their limitations come through. The audience feels it and may not choose to be governed by your limiting beliefs—your inauthentic self. Oh, you have an audience for those in boxes similar to yours, but try and expand to a wider audience and you find yourself limited, which reinforces your fear of letting go. I challenge writers to ease out, break out, smash out of your boxes by letting more of your true self shine.

Fear is the biggest box, maybe the only box. We all have fears but we are not all honest with ourselves about them. Or we do not choose to look at our fears, because then we might have to change – and well, we don’t want change (the evil you know is better than the evil you don’t know).

We have our public persona and we have our private persona – and we have our secrets known to only a few. As a writer, I see too many other writers fear to let their private self slip into their public persona. There is even the idea that letting your personal self come through can damage your career. But being the rebel that I am, I let a lot into my public persona, to the point of throwing out some outrageous stuff to shake people up and get them thinking and re-evaluating their concepts.

I have come to the conclusion that that is exactly the fear I want to challenge and get past, even if it means I never have an audience for my writing. On the other hand, I just might find a different audience that I gave little or no thought to before now. Perhaps everyone on my Facebook page will unfollow me for some of the outrageous stuff I put out, but then, maybe I will gain a whole new set of followers who ‘get’ me. Since I herald from a unique group of those with ‘hippy’ ideas, who don’t really give a flying fig what society thinks, I’m in large company.

I digress a moment. When the hippie ‘movement’ began it was a time when all the ‘movements’ of the 60’s began exploding. A new wave of energy came through to incite us to change. Everyone fell along the lines their spirit vibrated to (a hippie expression-sorry). We moved into politics, civil rights, women’s freedoms or no-more-war movements -- or explored changing art forms, or new age philosophies, etc., etc. The energy moved us to make changes, but it also moved those who opposed change -- those in power that felt the threat of new thinking, and its inevitable weakening of their power structure that kept us nicely contained. They dug in deep, trying to put up blocks against this surge that formed to take back our freedoms.

Now don’t expect a linear, exact timeline from me. You’ll only get the essence of what occurred because the point I am making is that the second wave of change is coming. Those that ‘feel’ it are preparing themselves – or struggling to hang onto the old, the safe; the ‘evil we know.’

I’m throwing this out there for you to think about, to challenge you to open up to a greater part of yourself that wants to shine. Don’t stay in your box, whether you're a writer or not.

If you stop and give yourself some quiet reflection time, you will feel that part of you deep inside wanting, pushing to be free.
Do you recognize the changes you are being pushed to make? Will you make them or will you stay in your box?