Write it–Productivity through Retreat

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photo by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

Often times writers push themselves to the limit then wonder why they suffer from anxiety and doubts. When we push ourselves to the point of exhaustion, the well runs dry. We end up plowing our way through metaphorical bramble. Or we trudge across a creative desert thirsting for that first inspired sentence to a best-selling novel or a Pulitzer Prize winning news article.

When I mention retreat I’m not talking about indulging in procrastination. I’m not even talking about attending a writer’s retreat since that often involves workshops and master writing sessions. I’m talking about taking the phone off the hook, disengaging from the world and not thinking about writing at all. Often inspiration comes when we’re washing the dishes, walking the dog, or hiking in nature.

For writers who have been putting in their time everyday, take a vacation for even as long as a week (if there isn’t a deadline to meet). Spend time with family members or friends. Go camping. Go to the beach or travel to place that could even inspire your current novel or your next one. I know that when I wrote Agnes and Yves, I longed to visit Paris and San Francisco. I even believe that I would have written a better novel if I could have grounded my body in those locations to pick up the sensory of my characters.

For those of you who crave structure in your life, do the Artist’s Way program or the parts that don’t feel like drudgery. That would include the artist’s date and the daily walks as well as, the morning pages. But if you want to completely free yourself from the task of writing for a week, skip the morning pages. Although if you use those pages to delve into any subconscious blocks, they prove fruitful, thus releasing you from an emotional desert.

For anyone who feels miserable with the writing process in general, reassess whether or not you truly want to write. Often times people go into writing because a teacher or parent encouraged them to write, but they don’t actually enjoy writing. Some times people think that writing is the easiest art form or the most accessible and they indulge their creative spirit with writing. But we can engage in a myriad of creative endeavors that are more fulfilling, especially for gregarious social types. Face it, writing is a lonely process that isn’t suited for some personality types.

However, if you find yourself feeling refreshed and ready to jump into a writing project after a retreat, then stick to writing. I have been writing professionally since the age of 22 and I have trudged through many proverbial deserts in regard to writing. Yet, I stick with writing because I get more benefits from it than not. I love expressing myself through written words and I especially enjoy fleshing out characters that appear in my novels.

If you can ask yourself on a bad day what you would do with your life even if you didn’t earn money at it, and writing comes up, then this is your calling. However, if you don’t enjoy sitting your butt in a writer’s chair and staring at a computer screen for hours at a time, then perhaps a career in performing arts would appeal to you instead. I don’t believe in self-torture or high drama in which writers trot out their neurosis du jour. During this age of energy shifts and transformation, it’s important that each of us lives out our true destiny and not try to live up to some ideal projected on a movie screen (or to please our parents).

In the meantime, retreat from writing, and when the inspiration begins pouring through you, launch your next project with renewed energy.

I am an astrologer and intuitive coach that specializes in working with entrepreneurs and artists. Sign up at Whole Astrology for a session. I’ll start coaching sessions by Skype in late August. If you are an agent or editor interested in pursuing my short fiction or novels, please contact me at patriciacrowherlevi at gmail com

 

Write It–Getting Started & Typing the First Word

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Whether you’re planning on writing a short story or a novel or even a screenplay, you start with the first word. Perhaps it’s not the best word, but it’s a launching point. Many writers freak while staring at the blank computer screen blinking at them or the blank page in a typewriter. But just like a journey begins with a single step, a story begins with the first word.

And don’t worry if the word is good enough. Don’t worry if you start with a pronoun or a name of a person. Don’t fret that your sentence won’t end up in the most beautiful literary sentences of the modern era. Don’t compare yourself to Charles Dickens or Jane Austen or William Shakespeare who I bet also suffered anxiety while staring at a blank page.

The difference between an aspiring writer and an accomplished writer revolves around getting the words on a page. So what if you toss out several sheets of paper or hit delete so often you end up with sore fingers. But instead of tossing or deleting, just keep going. Treat it like an automatic writing session. Time yourself and just write. Then after you complete one to three pages, look for the gems. Only edit after the conclusion of your timed session.

Now, some writers think that they can start out writing poetry. They reason that poetry is short and takes less effort. Wrong! Poetry is a highly skilled form where poets carefully choose words that have the most impact. Don’t confuse condensed with short and therefore, less work. Poets are efficient writers and they too toss out reams of paper as they search for the perfect words to express emotions and inner thoughts. They also have an excellent sense of rhythm which is why some poets also perform music.

If you believe then that short fiction is the way to go because it also involves less words and wordplay than a novel, think again. Many authors find that writing short stories poses more challenges than novel writing. Again, we’re dealing with getting the most bang for the buck. Short fiction writers have less space to make an impact on their readers while still fitting in a call-to-action, the character’s journey, climax and resolution. The introduction must grab a reader’s attention and hold that reader captive for the duration of three to ten to twenty pages. Some short stories run 100 pages. Did you know that Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is a short story?

So if you want to go from aspiring writer to accomplished author, start with a single word. Then type the first sentence, leading to the first paragraph. On the first day, you complete a single page, double typed. Then after that, you commit to writing at least three pages a day. Intuitive Coach Sonia Choquette once advised me (during a writing block) to complete three pages a day. Once I committed to this routine (every morning), I completed my first non-fiction book within six months. And this did include a lengthy bibliography.

I also used that approach to write my first novel, Super-Nature Heroes. And it took me six months to complete the rough draft. Then I returned to that novel several times since its completion in the spring of 2005 (same time I completed my first short video project) to do rewrites. As I grew as an author, I took those new skills back to the drawing board. Writing is hard work that should also feel enjoyable. Just like an athlete works out every day and feels those endorphin rushing through the brain, writers also experience an endorphin high at the end of each rigorous writing session.

Now, it’s time to open your word processing program and type that first word. And if your first sentence sounds moronic to you, know that’s just your ego talking. Keep going. You can also get inspired by reading the first sentences in several novels. I’ve tried this trick too. Just don’t plagiarize the sentences. You can copy the form though. Look for authors who write beautiful sentences and learn from them too. Whatever you do, launch your first or next story today.

I am an author, intuitive-creativity coach and astrologer. Contact me through Whole Astrology for a session. In the future, I will offer Skype sessions, but for now, the session are either in-person or through e-mail. If you’re an agent or editor interested in my projects, please contact me at patriciacrowherlevi at gmail