Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Meandering Through the Windmills of Our Mind

I was in San Francisco this past weekend. Coming off the 280 Freeway, I descended down Market Street for a pristine, clear view of the city. It left me in awe of its jewel-like quality under a clear, cloudless sky. 

I asked myself why people crowd into this small (46.9 square miles) area, piled on top of each other (over 17,000 people per square mile) to be here? Inspiration, free-thinking, uninhibited expression—take your pick. 

I was in need of inspiration and this visit did not disappoint.

Lately, I’ve been noting that many writers/bloggers are getting tired of the tread mill of blogging-promoting-marketing (even Jane Friedman has called it quits from blogging for the moment) and still trying to get their works in progress completed (me included). Inspiration wanes in the constant output and effort that affords no let up.

What if we changed up our thinking?

Sometimes we get stuck and don’t know how to proceed because we’ve been on a certain path and can’t find the next opening. It appears blocked in front of us as far as we can see. You know the phrase, “straight as an arrow?” Well we might take inspiration from the outback, indigenous people by thinking, “bent like a boomerang.”

What if we moved from rut thinking (you know, staying in the grooves or on the tracks along the same time worn paths) to meandering for a while? Think of the term, walk-about. There is no set goal, there is only exploration. Being open to what might come, by not being goal oriented, we can stay open to what our own creative self might like to offer up. Don’t think of this as the opposite of goal-oriented thinking—maybe just a break from said thinking.

Last year, I read Daniel Pinchbeck (The Return of Quetzacoatl) and the underpinnings of my mind were changed forever. Sometimes we need inspiration from places we would not ordinarily look; we need to keep our minds open to new ideas so they can come in and find room to play.

If the 60s in San Francisco did anything, it changed my 'rut thinking' forever. Perhaps what is needed is some exposure to different ideas; new ways of looking at our writing problem. Nothing will 'un-stick’ us if we stay on the same path when a detour is indicated.

Shaman meandering or quest seeking might be in order. Try exploring, traversing strange ground, maybe learning something new to pry open the mind and heart to see the world in an expanded way. Change of place helps because we can get a different view of the world if we take the shades off and really enter into it. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep getting what we’ve been getting.

The thing with inspiration is that it comes in its own good time. There is the school of thought that we must keep on banging away at getting down those words (if a writer) but as an artist we also require inspiration and that doesn’t always come on our time schedule. While most of the time it comes while “beating the bush” (by writing, writing, writing), we have to recognize that sometimes and/or for some people what is needed is some meandering with no rigid schedule or straight jacket to-do list.

My San Francisco visit inspired me to take another sip from my eclectic cool-aid once again and journey into the wilderness for some new inspiration. Since finishing the series on character building for writers, through astrology and the Tarot, I've been wanting to do a series on the Tarot as the path to creativity (or whatever shows up).

So next post (or maybe the one after), I will start with the history of the Tarot—ideas about where it came from, why it was created and what we can learn from it. Then we will travel a new road each week, along the Tarot's path, to see what we can glean for our creative needs. Hope you join me on that journey across the eclectic ethers. 

Are you stuck right now? What do you do for inspiration or to motivate you?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Author Habits & Habitations

Years ago I remember seeing the writing room of a famous writer (I can’t remember which author it was now but I think a sci-fi writer) and he had lots of tchotchkes and knick knacks around his desk and along his shelves—things that inspired him to write his stories, I imagine.

It got me wondering what writers’ rooms look like these days. During my research I put together a sampling of pictures and short excerpts of where, how and why writers write where they do. I could only find a source for writers of the UK, but they’re writing spaces are very interesting. I was surprised at some.

Alexander Masters: Also writes in bed. Note alligator talisman above. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jun/06/writers-room-alexander-masters#

Miranda Seymour: Writes as a desk in her bedroom.

Kevin Crossley-Holland:  A reconverted barn. 

I know many artists are messy. I figure those might be the pantsers—little bits and pieces of torn pages from newspapers or magazines, books, sticky pads and what not—like me like some people I know.

What does your writing place look like—messy or neat? Share if you dare. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tchotchke Treasures

Tchotchke (pronounced choch-ka ) is a small toy, gewgaw, knickknack, bauble, lagniappe, trinket, or kitsch. Depending on context, the term has a connotation of worthlessness or disposability, as well as tackiness, and has long been used by Jewish-Americans and in the regional speech of New York City and elsewhere.--Wikipedia

When I was a child in New York, I had a toy box in the bottom of my closet where I kept all the little toy “treasures” I collected from cereal and Cracker Jack boxes 

Also included, were the promotional items from serial radio programs (badges, spy rings, Little Orphan Annie code-o-graph and other thingies).  They were all added to my motley collection of toy cars, miniature guns (Cowboys and Indians were big—Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, etc. made even little girls fans of guns and horses) and other what-nots. 

Like a bird attracted to little sparkly rocks, feathers and imaginative bits and pieces, I tucked them all away in that toy box, occasionally taking them out to inspect them and dream the dreams of an imaginative seven year old.

The other day, while trying to get rid of clutter in my office, I found a hat box full of small tchotches. No longer the stuff of childhood, this box contained empty perfume bottle samples, a handmade dinosaur my daughter made thirty years ago,  some crystals and various touch stones collected during my New Age/Hippie days and other bits and pieces of silly and serious things.  

After pulling the hat box out this time, I remembered the toy box I had as a child and realized that I still have a thingie box of collected items that continue to inspire and delight me when I pull them out to inspect them. My creative child is alive and well.

Then I wondered, how many other people have boxes like this (or maybe a drawer somewhere). I’m sure you creative types have something similar, if not an actual box. 

Do you?  What do you collect?  I’d love to hear about it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A View From the Garden

I was watching Goldie Hawn on the Dr. Oz show talk about her new book, Ten Mindful Minutes. I subscribe to the theory that we need to take time to let our minds rest. When we are under stress (who isn't) and busy with any number of things in our lives, we sometimes just need to stop, if only for 10 minutes. The brain needs rest just as our bodies do, and taking 10 minutes to let everything go and just BE is a necessity.

Dr. Oz followed up Goldie's suggestions by showing pictures of how the brain responds to meditation/mindfulness by actually strengthening certain parts. We all know that illnesses can occur from being over-stressed.

So, long story short, I took some downtime this week (from all the social media--forgive me peeps for seeming to ignore you) to recoup my energies in my garden. Here are some pictures:

First ripe tomato: (deliciously enjoyed in salad the day it was picked)

I call this our hummingbird tree (don't know the scientific name). The hummingbirds come early and stay late to enjoy the honey. I love watching their antics. They are very territorial and will dive-bomb unwanted visitors.

Before the weather turns deadly around here (in the 100s), I like to sit under the arbor, enjoy my plants and read.

All spring I work to pull weeds, re-pot, clean up dead plants that didn't make it through the winter until I can just sit and enjoy this environment for a while.

I added a pathway last year and the plants are coming along nicely.

With cactus at the end of the pathway.....

and herbs all around....

. . .rosemary (with pots of tomatoes on left)

. . .and oregano (I use a lot of it in cooking and this plant has been with me for years).

Of course there are the garden guardians:

Saint Francis       and       the sun god.

And even my personal guardian (Buddy ) who sits near me ceaselessly (he recently had his long Lhasa Apso coat clipped for the summer).

You can tell he's sweet, right?
He is just as he looks.

But enough of my relaxation--now you go find a spot --10 minutes to let go of all the stress and anxiety.

Not everyone has a yard garden. So where and how do you relax (Yoga, gardening, exercising, hiking)?

No cheating by telling me reading. I'm talking about not using the mind to do something--I'm talking about stopping the mind for a while and not thinking (10 minutes a day can make a difference in physically strengthening your brain).  Do you?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Starry Maiden

It is very fitting that I started this series about combining Astrology and the Tarot for use in character development with Libra and am now ending it with Virgo. 

Long ago when astrology was in its infant stages, the portion of the zodiac now ascribed to Libra was Virgo/Scorpio territory. Libra was a late comer whose scales of justice were carved out of the claws of the Scorpion which became the top of Libra's scale.

But let’s begin with the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece. There were two goddesses of justice, Themis and her daughter Dike (Astraea at left)

Themis was one of the Titans, a nature deity born of sky god Uranus and Ge. She was the goddess of divine justice. And was advisor to Zeus (Jupiter) after he purged the old pantheon.

Themis mated with Zeus to produce their daughter, Dike (Astrea) who became the goddess of mundane justice. Both Themis and Dike were portrayed with a sword, but only Themis was blindfolded and carried the scales of divine justice. (See Justice card which is tied to Libra)

"Dike was one of the Horae, the plural of the Greek word for “hour” and origin of the word horoscope, which means “the marker of the hour.” The Greeks worshipped the Horae goddesses as the hours of the seasons of the year. The Horae were wardens of the skies and guardians of the gates of heaven. They also cared for, yoked and unyoked the horses that drew the chariots of the gods. It was the Horae who welcomed, tended to and adorned Venus/Aphrodite at her birth." Star IQ

Dike (or Astraea, meaning starry maiden) was depicted as a virgin crowned with ears of grain and carrying a scale to weigh her grain. (See Empress card and note the stars in her crown) She is the innocent goddess of mortal justice who advised her father Zeus of the wickedness in the hearts of men and destroyed the wrongdoers (Note the lightening bolts in her hands in the Greek picture above). The Empress's sign, Virgo, came just before Scorpio in the heavens—until Libra was inserted between them and now The Empress represents Libra.

Virgo has a strong sense of responsibility to others and is represented by the Hermit card of the Tarot. The Hermit carries a lantern to light his way and all who follow. He represents an introspective, solitary journey to explore unknown and neglected parts of the self and to help others with their search for meaning.

A rational thinker, Virgo has a strong aptitude towards detail, is dependable and feels a responsibility to those who rely on him. He/she is your detail man/woman; hard-working, attentive, often meticulous and can be quite industrious with an active imagination.

Virgos often have an uncanny ability to tap into their intuition—the light that the Hermit carries in his lantern; an inner guiding light.

Virgo weakness can occur if she is overly cautious and distrusting of others (picture Dike sitting next to Zeus, telling him of the dark heart of man). Virgo needs to guard against obsessive thinking, of choosing ignorance over enlightenment and by being ruled by fear. This will isolate her and she will truly become the Hermit but without the lantern to guide her.

When using Virgo as a template for character, she can be challenged by her fears and the machinations of her own mind—creating isolation and a distrusting nature. She can be the fussy worrier or the overly critical and harsh perfectionist.


She can learn patience and acceptance of others, using her light to uplift others. Will her imagination pick out the fearful details that will derail her life or will she overcome obstacles using her intuition to guide her through her dark times? She might be modest and shy, meticulous and reliable, practical and diligent or intelligent and analytical. 

These are the seeds for your Virgo character and possible story challenges.
There are many other attributes for Virgo and a good source to find out more is Astrology-online 

Other sources I used for this post:
Star IQ  

Friday, June 8, 2012

To Blog Or Not To Blog, Is That The Question?

Writers have been busy building blogs, platforms and improving their marketing skills but some are reaching a decision time. The fever pitch with which they have been operating under is causing them to drop like flies is taking its toll.

            To post blogs 2 or 3 times a week, or not, that is the question.

Well respected Anne R. Allen came out the other day and talked about slow-blogging where you blog less but be sure you have a good post when you do. Quality always wins over quantity, but does that mean we should give up trying to build/create a blog people want to visit by decreasing our presence with less blogs?

Do we want to throw our hands up and say, see—Anne Allen thinks we should slow blog, so now I have the perfect excuse to give up I’m going to stop trying so hard.

Stop for a moment, writers. Think what it is you want and how you plan on getting there. Was KristenLamb wrong when she said we need to blog 2 or 3 times a week to build brand? I know I decided months ago that I couldn’t write 3 blogs in a week; that was too much for me. But even with 2 blogs a week, I still can’t find time to write on my own writing projects, so maybe Anne is right. 

Or, am I still learning to effectively use my time learning to write quicker, smarter, more creatively? Is there a learning curve here and should I keep on blogging at 2 times a week?

I wanted to have the perfect solution for you so I could appear smart and amaze you. I don’t have the answer; I only have the answer for me—for today.

I know this subject is going to raise a lot of discussion so I dipped into the electic cool-aid and found a video that might help us put blogging into perspective. It is about mind, quantum physics and what we create from the top scientists and thinkers who have given this subject much exploration and thought.  It might help. 

Thoughts to consider:
  • Do you write blog posts that take too long to write, and no one wants to read because they gag because when they see all those words (tighly packed together with no space between paragraphs)?
  • Have you found your voice?
  • Should you write one blog a month (and still not have found your voice), only now no one comes around any more to even read that one blog?
  • Do you drive people away with short, meaningless posts?
  • Do people stop coming around because you have nothing to say but you keep blogging the same things anyway?
  • Should you keep blogging to find your voice, your audience, your own subject matter that will matter?
  • Has all your blogging time been building a following? So should you make a change or keep doing what you are doing?

Your comments might help us all make up our minds or at least reach a temporary solution, so comment away. Your opinion is valuable.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why We Read What We Read

After my last post briefly explored the subject of why we read certain books even though they may not be written with the highest standards of writing excellence, I read Sara Walpert Foster's blog post this week and had a few more thoughts about the subject. I fear this will this raise more controversy.

First of all let me say this subject raised a lot of strong emotions on both sides of the issue—to read or not to read books by writers if said books are not written well. After reading Sara’s post, the question came up again with a few possible answers. You should read Sara’s post and then come back—or vice versa, I’m flexible.

What makes us read something we know is not the best work but feeds something in us that we crave. For every reader it will be something different, because we are all different. One person cannot dictate what another person should or shouldn’t read or not read. The gate keepers are not in control of the books out there any more, and in some ways this is a good thing. (I heard that scream, wait. . .)

Not all writers are good with craft and mechanics, but they have ideas that need to be expressed. Not all readers are willing to read those ideas unless they are packaged better (in good craft and mechanics). We are all different. Some of us want beautifully written books (the ideal).

Some of us want to explore new ideas, ideas that we might be struggling with, or have resisted and want to consider even at the expense of good quality writing. Or maybe feed the prurient side of us that we haven't fully explored. There are as many reasons for reading as there are for writing. Not all readers are good readers. Not all writers are good writers. But one thing is for sure, the doors have been thrown open for everyone to find what they need.

One thing I do believe, no one takes away from you because of what they put out. If a writer puts out a work of crapola, it doesn’t take any readers away from your well written work that you’ve lovingly labored over and perfected. I don't think it lowers the standards; it only enlarges the reader base. Something for everyone. Better a reader read crap then not read at all-my philosophy. Some will vehemently disagree. (I can already hear the rumblings and see the fists shaking.)

When I was a teenager there were confession magazines, not your top of the line reading matter, that emphasized emotional garbage. In an effort to get me to read, my mother encouraged me to read whatever I wanted--just read. She knew that I would grow tired of the emotional roller coaster of the salacious confession magazines and finally find better reading material. That advice was right for me. 

But do you think this is a good idea for everyone? I’d like to hear your opinion, you might change mine.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What Do Readers Want?

Are we are on the verge of a new way of reading and writing books? How much emphasis do we place on editing? We all know (well, maybe not the big publishing houses) that publishing is turning a corner and what we find down the next block of the digital world may or may not delight us. 

Last week, I took an unofficial survey of what readers looked for in a story and what would cause them to discontinue reading a book they’d already started. Most based their reading on:
·        plot
·        character development
·        subject matter

Since a lot of the free e-books (and not free) coming out have mistakes in them (punctuation, grammar, story technique, plot and story evolution), I wondered what elements would keep people from reading poorly edited copy, if at all? It seems our minds can easily read over minor mistakes (as in the selection above), and maybe even some major ones. But at what point would you stop reading?

Here are the results of my very unofficial survey. People read for a variety of reasons, the main ones being evenly divided between:
  • plot/story:
      -to get lost in the story (escape)
      -a problem to solve; a mystery
      -interesting story line
      -effectiveness of weaving a tale (voice, included)

  • well developed characters, including:
      -a love interest

As long as they above was met satisfactorily, most said they would allow for minor violations of the rules of good writing as long as the errors didn't interfere with the enjoyment of the story or interrupt the flow. 

So, writers, concentrate on the winning elements and don't stress on the minor ones. 

Any additional comments, disagreements or questions? (The answers will still be unofficial.)