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Keep a Journal (It could transform into a memoir)

There are those times during our lives when we seem to be observing characters in a bigger story. That story is the life events you experience. And then in retrospect you realize that slice of pie event is the perfect fodder for a memoir.

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But when you sit down to write the memoir you can’t remember the highlights of your experience or the chronological order of your timeline. Yet, you know when you were going through a rough patch or even a good one, a story arc presented itself. Not only that, the people you met became wild and unique characters in your personal story. It’s that saying, some things you just can’t make up.

Often times, the events that shape memoirs are in retrospect. However, there were times in my life where the story arc was intense and I knew I had material for a memoir. The problem was, I didn’t keep a daily journal of the events and people I met. So, then the memoirs I write blur around edges like a dream fading upon awakening in the morning.

The type of journal we must keep for the major events of our lives must have sensual details. What I mean by that is that we record an inventory of smells, tastes, physical sensations, intense emotions, sounds, and other sensory that will later draw the reader into our stories. It’s not that the readers will experience our life stories in the same way that we did but that they will engage with our storytelling.

Keeping the journal will also help us stay in the moment instead of getting stuck in the past or lost in the future. “Be here now” is the motto for a good memoirist. When the reader picks up our memoir they will journey with us every step of the way. It helps that we leave touchstones and even pauses in the drama.

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Also write down those pauses in the journal. Write down the poems that came into your thoughts, the trees you spent an afternoon resting underneath, the child who cheered you up on a bad day by simply smiling at you. And what about that evening when a good friend invited you for dinner and you forgot about your challenges and gave your soul a rest? Even the most tragic times in our lives offer us respite by even just noticing the beauty of the planet. Seeing butterflies or a ladybug landing on my hand helped me get through some challenges. Simple things save us from falling into the pit of hopelessness.

The first time when I endured being homeless in Bellingham, Washington, I knew I had a memoir in the works, but I didn’t keep a journal. I ranted in a journal and I did card readings for myself but I didn’t keep track of the events I experienced. I regretted that later when I wrote my memoir, Woman Sleeping on a Couch.

Tip: paste photographs in your journal since they will trigger your memory in the future.

I made the same mistake when I fostered Sobaka, a German shorthaired pointer, but thankfully, I started writing my memoir on the foster dog before he went to his forever home. I also collected stories about the dog from family members since he was my brother’s dog at that time. That ended up in my memoir, Tofu Girl and the Foster Dog That Rescued Her.

I believe that I will write a third memoir about my relocation to Vermont and the plot twist. I had a dream to become an animal communicator in Vermont but ended up homeless instead. The memoir will have the same title as another blog of mine, Washingtonian Living in Vermont. But too bad I haven’t taken notes from the past nine months. I have kept journals but it’s been too crazy to keep up.

Publication is another story…

I don’t know what will happen with my memoirs. I don’t trust the current state of the book publishing industry. Perhaps, I just wrote the memoirs for myself or for family members to have in the future. Or maybe we will revamp the book publishing industry and clear out the corruption so that books with a lot of heart and soul will be published again. One can hope.

I have to say that there have been few memoirs that have caught my attention in recent years. I tend to read the ones focusing on animal rescue or conservation efforts to save species. The last compelling memoir I read was Bicycling with Butterflies. And now when I see Monarch butterflies flitting in the flowers, I remember this wonderful story of the young woman who cycled along with migrating butterflies from Mexico to Canada to advocate for protecting the habitat and migration paths of the Monarch.

The final reason writing daily events in a journal is that often a writer decides years later to write a memoir of a time in their life. And if they didn’t keep a journal they won’t recall the most important events that create the peak in the memoir. Or their memory will be faulty. They’ll have to put words into people’s mouths and elaborate to tell their story. It’s better to keep a journal whether or not life events turn into a memoir or not.

You never know. You might be living a story that becomes the next Eat, Pray, Love.

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Please leave a comment or a like if you would like to read another article on writing memoirs or a list of tips for writing one.

Empty Phrases That Annoy Me

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Lately, I’ve noticed annoying phrases that writers and speakers use. One of the phrases is, “At the end of the day…” Other phrases include, “When all is said and done,” and “Alternatively…” And everyone is using the word, “literally” in the wrong context without even caring.

These phrases sound empty and they become irritating after several YouTube hosts or podcasters use them (which is virtually in every video now). The problem with using empty phrases that we pick up through osmosis is that they add nothing to the sentence. They contribute zero emotional appeal to the theme presented. And the person using the phrases comes off as trendy instead of insightful.

Authentic writing comes from the soul. It comes from carefully crafted thoughts and paragraphs. And when we use simple language that gets us from point A to point B we are more likely to engage the reader or listener. We can also use language rhythmically which many great speakers such as Martin Luther King, Jr. have done. One exercise that helps with creating rhythmic writing is to listen to music from around the world or at least jazz syncopation. The later is what made Jack Kerouac a compelling author.

When we read classic literature even books from the twentieth century we hear authentic voices. No two authors were alike and part of that was that book publishing sought diverse narratives that told the stories of that age. Even genre fiction lacked trite formulas that appear in modern books. Have publishers lost sight of the art and craft of writing compelling fiction. Or have authors (and speakers) become lazy?

I’m an author who spends time crafting a perfect sentence. And I champion authors who take a painstaking approach to get every word right. It’s not about stretching the word count to meet the current genre requirements. Nor is about waxing poetry in every paragraph. Yet, some authors move their stories forward with ease while also using words beautifully and powerfully. I purchase their books as opposed to just checking them out from the library (then forgetting about the books).

I encourage emerging and established authors to read the classics as well as, read books from various genres written decades if not centuries ago. Explore the language of that time. Explore the speech of the characters and how that speech helps readers visualize the characters. Also, explore succinct ways landscape is described and how the landscape transforms into symbolic language.

I’m glad I took English literature classes in high school and at a university. This exploration formed the basis of my novel writing decades later. Any of us can study English literature by reading classics and even joining a discussion group. Also, search for inexpensive online courses. I found two excellent editing and revising classes on Udemy. I saw creative writing courses offered too.

When we delve deeper into the language which we speak and write we are less likely to use borrowed phrases from the prominent people of our time. Now, some people enjoy hearing people use trendy phrases. And when they start parroting those phrases of their favorite political leader, celebrity, or YouTube host, they fit in with their peers. I just find it irritating on my nerves that the world lacks original speakers and thinkers like it did in the past. I sorely miss Joseph Campbell.

Perhaps, you disagree with me. But before you leave a comment to debate my observations, consider my words. As authors we invent new phrases. We recreate language. And we make characterization compelling while constructing plots that seem familiar but with an odd twists (we’ve not read yet).

And my message to agents and editors, open your minds and think outside of the box. I realize you’re in the business to sell books, even if they are banal creative non-fiction ghost-written for celebrities. Or maybe you enjoy the dark literature which only contributes despair and more fear to a world already dripping with anxiety.

You are decision-makers who determine what gets read and what stays in a slush pile. And in doing that you might have thrown a future classic into the recycling bin. And if it wasn’t you, then it was an intern who had been trained as a parrot instead of an authentic thinker.

Personally, I prefer that a young intern out of grad school not determine my trajectory as an author. That’s disrespectful to us authors who have been crafting stories for decades. We might not possess the glamour of an actress-turned-social-activist or any number of who’s who for the twenty-first century (written by ghost writers).

These are my thoughts for the moment. They might sound bitter. Or they might sound jaded. But I’ve been in the literary trenches for several decades crafting real stories that if given a pair of wings would soar.

Write it—Tricks to Writing Dialogue

 

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First, I’m glad that I studied acting and playwriting while I earned my BA because those experiences help me write dialogue. Second, all writers need to know that dialogue is not filler for a story.

The best novels fit the dialogue into the glove of the characters’ background, dislikes, passions, and psychological architecture. And finally, writing compelling dialogue propels the story forward, gives the reader insights into the characters’ motivations (and hidden motivations), and fuels the conflicts that eventually lead to resolution.

So, the author must give thought to the dialogue. I prefer to overwrite the dialogue and then condense and delete during the rewriting process. By this point, I have a good grasp of my characters, their backstory, their conflicts with each other, and their motivations. I also enjoy my privy to the plot, the subplot, the climactic moments, and the resolution, especially when I’m writing a third person narrative.

A background in journalism comes in handy too. As a journalist, I interview each of my characters. Actually, I grill them and draw every ounce of humanity from them. I ask them their intentions, their hidden desires, and their motivations, especially in connection with the other characters, even the supporting characters.

Charles Dickens

While I wrote the first two drafts, of my  YA novel, “Lately, Queen Mamadou,” a conflict between best friends, Maggie (the protagonist) and Meghan (a fellow dancer) developed. The eating disorder that Meghan succumbed to heightened the conflict between the two women and also brought the main climactic moment.

A subplot revolves around Danny and JC, two gay dancers and the conflict they experience with ballroom and non-ballet dance. And then to add to the colorful dialogue, I included diverse points of view in the novel because Danny and JC are gay, JC is Puerto Rican, the dance character Monique is of mixed African descent, and another character Deva is an exchange student from India.

But the most fun dialogue to write revolves around Celia, (Maggie’s mother who is a new age hippie) who channels an ancient African queen. Writing that dialogue (of the channel sessions and telepathic conversations) involved channeling on my part. But isn’t that what we do as authors? We’re not just writers by profession. We also include journalism, spiritual channeling, and playwriting in our work. If we observe and listen well, then we also play the role of a detective and sometimes, a psychoanalyst.

Getting back to the topic of writing dialogue. It takes practice. It takes good listening skills and that includes listening to our still inner voice, aka, our intuition. I think that that it’s a myth that writers work in isolation. Yes, we spend time alone with our fingers riding the laptop keyboard. We spend time alone during our research.

And yes, we spend time alone working out the plot, the story, and the other elements of the story. But in order to write compelling dialogue, we must get out in the world and tune our ears to natural dialogue. Watching dialogue on television shows or in movies or even studying the dialogue in novels, won’t help us write our own dialogue. We must also dig deeper into the souls of our characters while keeping our ears tuned to the world around us.

Dialogue creates a dance of ideas between characters. Dialogue lives and breathes as well as, kicking life into our characters and into the stories we write. Dialogue has rhythm, melody, and harmony along with silence as in pauses for the characters to reflect.

Finally, don’t write down the inner chatter in your head and call that dialogue. Don’t send your characters off in a rant about the stuff that matters to you, but might not resonate with your characters. Bad dialogue is the author speaking from their own mind instead of the characters’ hearts. Avoid your ego getting in your way or your dialogue will fall flat. The critics and the readers will notice that the dialogue does not sound authentic coming from your characters’ mouths.

Writing is a road to mastership. It takes practice and years of developing characters and compelling stories, whether you write long or short fiction. The best authors combine raw talent with the willingness to hone their craft. And part of that involves getting feedback about the story development, the character development, and the dialogue. And the best question to ask is “Does this feel real to you?”

I am currently working on the third draft of my sixth novel. I also channel spirits, work as an astrologer, and as a journalist. I coach creatives to be their best selves and to show up fully with their work. Sign up for a session which includes astrology, channeling, and or card reading (along with practical everyday advice for authors). I also accept donations through PayPal if you find these articles useful.

 

Write It–Embracing Detours

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You’re on track with your character development and you carefully drew out your storyline on a whiteboard or on butcher paper. Then, all of a sudden, your character(s) take a detour. What do you do?

First, don’t panic. Detours often bring a richer story with them and you go deeper with your characters. If the detour is at the beginning of your book then rewrite the opening chapters with the new character insights.

If you reached the halfway point of your novel or are close to the end of it, then keep going with your new story and character development. Then when you start your rewrites, start from scratch. Otherwise, you’ll deal with a chaotic manuscript fraught with errors.

Often times when we rush in and start the novel before the story becomes solid in our minds, we run the risk of characters taking detours. Even if we do wait until we’ve mapped out our storylines and developed our characters, they keep evolving as we write and we still encounter detours. However, I think detours are actually a sign that we are on the right path.

If you work with storyboards then note the detours on the boards and then go back later to rectify the story that occurs before the detour. Sometimes the detours add a nice plot twists and you change little in the early parts of the manuscript. It depends on the story and the type of character involved.

I still think it’s a good idea to get fully acquainted with the characters. Interview them to learn about their thoughts and feelings; likes and pet peeves. Write down their physical attributes (petite, blonde, with fuller lips, and small feet). The color of a character’s hair matters since hair color is often linked to cultural references or perceived personality types such as the bubbly blonde or the fiery redhead.  A character’s ethnicity matters too and we often work harder at researching their identity to avoid generalizations.

Hair color and body type also define a character’s experience and perception of the world as well as, how other characters perceive them. Even the readers of the book have biases towards hair, skin, and eye color or body weight. One annoying detour happens when we created a character with cropped blonde hair and later learn that she has long red hair. We thought the character came from German heritage but she came from an Irish family of immigrants. See how that changes the story?

Other detours occur when we learn that the character works at a different profession then we first imagined. Or the character who we thought was heterosexual joins the LGBT community and rushes out of the closet. This happened with at least two of my characters during my novel writing endeavors.

Detours happen and often time the change of direction brings deeper meaning and more depth to a story. Some spiritual teachers suggest that characters represent hidden parts of our psyche or our unclaimed shadows. Whether that is the case or if the characters live outside of us (but still in our imagination), embrace the detours. Just like in life, those detours rescue us from another fate or in the least, lead us to the real treasure.

Need inspiration, sign up for a creativity coaching session with me. I combine channeling, cards, and astrology as tools to help you become the best writer possible. I charge $100 an hour for a Skype session. Payment.

 

The Practice–Speaking the Language of Your Characters

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I don’t know about you but I come up with my best ideas when I’m walking. And yesterday, I thought about writing a post about delving into the language of fictitional characters.

The thought came to me because I was considering the research that it takes for an author to create dialogue and scenarios around a character’s career, lifestyle, or region that they inhabit. Some people would call this the vernacular of the character. And just like architects speak and write about vernacular houses for particular regions, authors also populate their novels with the right lingo, terms, and language for their particular characters to make the story more real in a reader’s mind.

Now, some folks would say that they’re not writing a historic or a realism novel. But even if you are creating a new realm for your characters to inhabit you still need to define a language and liguistics for your charcters and scenarios. Think of J.R.R. Tolkein’s magical languages for his different groups of characters, as an example, or the Harry Potter series characters and their unique lingo.

This sounds simpler than it is. And many budding novelist fail because they use everyday and modern language for their characters based on shallow observations. They forgot to do their research and hone their characters’ conversations and daily encounters. For instance, if your main character is a doctor, then wouldn’t it behoove you to research medical terminology and spend time in a medical environment as well as, interview medical doctors?

With all my screenplays and novels, I delved into research, interviewing people in various real-life situations, reading books, and even picking up dictionaries with terminology or foreign languages and still, I left much uncovered. For my screenplay Love and Intangible States, I observed a life drawing class as well as, I traveled to Vancouver, Canada where most of the story takes place.

And for my novel “Love Quadrangle” I set the story mostly in a local setting where I could visit the places where my characters inhabited. And for Quebec, since I wasn’t able to travel to the Canadian Province, I researched through books and interactions with people from Quebec as well as, a French language teacher who had a friend who lived in Quebec.

I also researched brain damage, and different types of music by sending questions to neurologists who study music and brain damage. And I observed an architecture firm to research my architect character and interviewed an architect. She also read one of my earliest drafts of the novel which she found realistic.

So, here is a list of learning the language and lingo of your characters:

  • Research, research, research
  • Read through terminology and language dictionaries for words
  • Interview people with the same professions as your characters
  • Hang out in the locales of your characters (for realism novels)
  • Join social media groups of your characters lifestyles, interests, and professions
  • Read similar books (but don’t just rely on that)
  • Travel
  • Spend time in a library collecting notes until your brain is overflowing with details
  • Write short scenarios with dialogue before beginning the novel
  • Interview your characters
  • Watch realistic movies (documentaries as opposed to fictional movies)
  • Try out your conversations and character languages on a native of that language or lingo or profession

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Some authors love research and others despise it. But there is nothing more enjoyable to the reader as a well-researched and defined novel. Readers need to gain trust with their authors and they do this when the authors make their stories believable. We all appreciate researched novels.

As a journalist, I gained research skills in my early twenties at the same time I was developing my poetic voice. Both skills have served me well. And I appreciate reading well-researched and engaging novels. I think we all do.

If you would like creative coaching with astrology, experience in the arts, and metaphysical tools, sign up for an hour session with me or we can negotiate a fee for a series of sessions. I have experience with self-publishing, the writing process (over 30 years), and motivation. Just ask. And check out Belle Author on Facebook and Patricia Herlevi on YouTube.

Write it–5 Practices to Develop Memorable Characters

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Mexican Actress Maria Del Rio

I feel fortunate that most of my fictional characters came to me. In other words, I didn’t develop them from scratch. I either borrowed from mythology, past lore, or the characters popped into my head one day like a friend popping over for tea.

However, having said that, I spent time learning the nuances and secrets of these characters before writing the novels or short fiction in which they appeared. Some characters actually traveled around with me sometimes for months, and other times, for years, before I sat down to pen their stories.

And since I find it a major literary sin to write flat characters, I work with tools and practices to nurture fleshed out characters. They don’t just take up ink and paper. I write characters that will enter the headspace of my readers (or future readers) and stay there for years like a well-worn classic. My goal is to create characters as memorable as Holly Golightly or Elizabeth Bennett.

  1. So, here are 5 practices to help you create unforgettable characters: Work with an astrologer (if you don’t know astrology) and draw up astrology charts for your characters. 

If you are an astrologer or are versed in astrology, you can do this yourself. I had an online friend for many years who was both an astrologer and an author. I was astounded when she told me she produced charts for all her characters. At the time, I was only giving my characters Sun, Moon, and Rising Signs. This is the quickest way to psychologically understand your characters, their shadows, strengths, and methods of sabotage. You can also draw up relationship charts for the characters.

2. Create vision boards (one for each character)

If astrology is too intense or complicated, the next best metaphysical tool to creating characters is to create vision boards. And this is as easy as ripping pictures out of magazines and pasting them on to a large sheet of paper. You can also add buzz words, stickers, and even write affirmations for the characters on the boards. I like this practice because you can give your characters physical attributes based on the people that appear in the magazine pictures.

3. Base the characters on people you knew in the past or met along the way

I based two of my women characters on women I met on a bus. One woman seemed like a younger version of the woman she sat beside. And when these two women disembarked from the bus, they walked in opposite directions. In fact, I didn’t only get characters from this encounter, I also came up with a storyline and a plot. These women characters appear in my screenplay, Love & Intangible States.

4. Keep a dream journal and create characters from dream people

I used to keep dream journals and I include channeling and telepathy in this category. My characters, Pierre and Miranda came from the telepathic communication I had with an architect for several years. I combined this with an encounter with an attractive man I saw working in a cafe who sat near a window working on his laptop.

5. Reinvent mythological or legendary people 

Actually, this is trending right now, especially with commercial and fantasy novels. When I researched the market for my urban fantasy/commercial fiction Enter 5-D, I discovered a plethora of modernized or reinterpreted gods and legendary people. You could also reinvent folktale and folklore characters.

Even though there are many versions of Orpheus and Eurydice, I didn’t feel that these characters were fleshed out, so I reinvented the characters. I gave them occupations and invented new realms for them to occupy. I had a blast doing this.

I am both an author and metaphysical coach. If you are looking for inspiration and coaching, sign up for a session at Whole Astrology

 

Write it–Remedies for Overwriting

Vancouver 2002I hope that you’re not a writer such as me who juggles several blogs, writes for publications, squeezes in short fiction, and rewrites several novels because if I don’t have something to write, I get twisted out of shape. Even writers of this ilk require rest for an exhausted brain. So, I’m going to share some practices with you to relax your mind and body, even when you feel an urgency to keep writing.

I often wonder if a fear of death causes me to keep writing, even when the words appear blurry on my laptop screen. It’s not that I wish to immortalize myself, but I feel like I cheat death if I have a project that requires completion. Or maybe there’s something else lurking beneath the surface. And perhaps, all artists struggle with this urgency to create at all cost to the mind-body-soul.

And yet, we can’t create from a dry well. And we fill the well through rest, relaxation, and recreation. I like the word, “re-creation” because it suggests that when we enjoy ourselves we become more creative. And it doesn’t matter if recreation revolves around canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, walking, or engaging in a group sport. Photography also provides a form of recreation, if you don’t make a living as a professional photographer. And writing poetry also counts if you’re not writing poems for publication. Even, journaling provides an outlet for recreation, especially if it is combined with camping, hiking, or other outdoor activities.

Healthy Escapes from the Overwork:

  1. Stroll around a neighborhood block or take a long walk across town or a city. Go some place you haven’t been before.
  2. Travel short-distance by train or a commuter bus. Allow your mind to drift as you gaze out the window. You could bring a journal, but it’s better not to write down the thoughts. Instead, get lost in tangents.
  3. Listen to music.
  4. Play music, such as drums, guitar, flute, or jam with other musicians. Music is a good way to get back in touch with your physical body. It also entertains the creative muse.
  5. Put on music and dance.
  6. Practice yoga.
  7. Meditate.
  8. Go to lunch with friends or take yourself out to lunch at a cafe.
  9. Sit in a city park and observe others.
  10. Take the dog for a walk.
  11. Go the beach and build sand castles. It’s good sometimes to make things that have a short lifespan.
  12. Bake cookies or bread.
  13. Cook a meal for a friend.
  14. Clean house.
  15. Work with singing bowls or tuning forks to clear your aura.

Try not to:

1. Spend too much time on social media

2. Rant

3. Gossip

4. Get drunk

5. Shop for things you don’t actually need

I like the idea of recreation. And I also like the idea of delving into the subconscious mind and healing toxic beliefs and patterns that turn us into workaholics. We have nothing to prove to the world. No one really cares how many words we type each day unless we work for an editor or we are way past our publication deadline for a book.

And one last piece of advice. If you tend to overwork yourself there is no danger that anyone will ever call you lazy. You have nothing to prove to the world. And you don’t require anyone’s approval. But when you’re relaxing, you’ll discover the part of you that requires healing, which is probably a punitive parental voice in the back of your mind.

Sign up for a creative coaching session with me. I use astrology, cards, and channeling as tools to help you to show up as the best version of yourself. And also check out my metaphysical articles.

 

Write it–Turning Distractions into Copy

DSCN6075Often times we think we’re going to sit down and write the Great American novel. Or we want to write the next big fantasy series. But we find that family members or elements of our life distract us from pursuing our novel-writing dream.

Sometimes life events interrupt our artistic pursuits. However, we can transform those distractions into art. Let me give you an example. While I worked on my romantic comedy novel, Love Quadrangle, I ended up living in between homes. While I had no intention of writing a memoir, my circumstances begged to be turned into a manuscript.

Then when I thought I had settled into a new home and I worked on completing my fantasy novel, Enter 5-D, I found myself living in between homes again. The scenarios I experienced with narcissistic types in my life, the peril of not knowing there I would rest my head on some given nights, and the trauma I healed in therapy sessions begged for another memoir.

And here’s the rub–I never wanted to write a memoir. I’m not the sort of person who wants to show up as a character in a book. Yet, the distractions in my life begged me to create narratives. And that’s how it works. Often times, and pardon my metaphysical exploration here, the Universe has other plans for us. We’re not supposed to be the next Harry Potter author. Instead, we are asked to tackle the big issues of our time by writing a personal story.

In fact, this is what happened to author Liz Gilbert. She published novels that didn’t really go anywhere. And then when she published her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, her writing career broke wide open. So maybe, the career move is writing the memoir about an experience with a universal appeal. That might be hard to swallow for authors who consider themselves purely fiction writers. And yet, we must travel to the place where we can mine gold and not stay stuck in a place that isn’t for us.

So here are 5 tips for turning your life events into compelling narratives:

  • Take copious notes while you are enduring a life-altering experience. If you don’t already keep a journal, start one.
  • Keep quotes handy from the people who appear on your path. And keep records of dates and locations.
  • Read how-to books on writing memoirs.
  • Join a writing group that specializes in non-fiction (if you enjoy the group support).
  • Take workshops on writing non-fiction

Another suggestion is to start a blog instead of a journal. This helps you build a platform and attract followers who you can transform into readers of your memoir in the future. And do get into social media groups of people going through similar experiences. However, do not rant in these groups as this just turns future readers off.

In the meantime, I am considering rewriting my first memoir (again) and getting started on my second one. I find that I require a distance from my experiences so that I can write from a clear head space.

If you would like astrology or metaphysical coaching advice for your writing projects, sign up for a session at Whole Astrology.

The Practice–5 Ways to Get Unstuck

 

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Photo by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

You’re staring at a blank page while your frustration mounts higher by the minute. A litany of shoulds ring through your thoughts–“I should write three pages a day.” “I should have completed this novel by now.” “I should have something ready for my writing group.” And yet, your gaze roams to the window and you would rather spend time in a kayak on a lake than torture yourself with writing expectations. So, head to the lake…

 

That’s right. When writing feels more like a chore than a passion, it’s time to take a vacation from it. And that’s not the same as procrastination. In fact, taking time off from writing allows you to get back into the flow. Our expectations cause us to jam up the flow and when there’s no flow the muse takes a hike (and in a place, you would rather be).

So, if you’re like me whipping your back with guilt because you didn’t follow a writing schedule this week, forgive yourself. Use the following tips to get you back into your groove. And realize, that if you reside in the Pacific Northwest or any place that rains most of the year, you have my permission to get outside on a sunny day and let it all hang out. Or spend a day with your characters in a rustic setting.

  1. Literally, jump in a lake or at least visit a large body of water. Muses enjoy beautiful settings and they enjoy movement such as hiking, jogging, or just roaming in nature with a camera. Get outdoors. Get fresh air and with that, you will solve your problems and figure out your characters’ motives.  And your health improves tremendously too when you get outdoors. You’ll have more energy to bring back to your writing schedule.
  2. Give up your writing schedule (if you are a workaholic). Instead, of sitting down at a particular time of day and writing a certain amount of pages or words, dis that. The problem with writing schedules is that they don’t allow for other areas of our lives to blossom. And we begin to dread having to do something at a certain time each day. (The opposite is true for people who procrastinate). They do require a schedule.
  3. Engage in one of your hobbies such as photography, painting, sculpting, or photography. When you work on something else that is creative it draws you back to your writing.
  4. Take Julia Cameron’s advice (The Artist’s Way) and write your three morning pages first thing when you wake up. This helps you clear your head from obsessions, worries, and doubts which keep you spinning your wheels. This author-teacher also advises us to go for a daily walk and to take ourselves out on an artist’s date once a week. See the book, The Artist’s Way for a full description.
  5. Go out with a friend. Go see a movie, go for a walk, or simply share a meal together and get caught up on each other’s lives. And who knows, if you discuss your book with your friend, he or she might have some good ideas to propel you forward, especially if your friend is a writer.

Do any of these five things and release yourself from writer’s bondage. I’ve been writing professionally since 1986. I’ve had my flowing days and I’ve been stuck behind the dam on other days. I know that all the above activities I mentioned bring release (so does eating dark chocolate) and help you get back in the flow. If these tips don’t work, then ask yourself if writing is really your passion or just something someone told you would be good at. Truth-telling leads you to your real calling and to a less stressful life.

I’m an astrologer-coach who specializes in sessions for creative people. Sign up for a session in-person or by Skype if you are located in the Pacific NW. I give astrology readings internationally through reports or by Skype. Also, follow me on Facebook.

Write it–Crafting Dynamic Sentences

While we can write usable and adequate sentences, why not raise the stakes and craft a vivid sentence that also gets to the point? Here is an example.

Her skin was the color of milk.  Or her skin was milky white.

This sentence is adequate and we understand that this woman has white skin. I find the sentence flat and too passive. My eyes want to skim over it as opposed to seeing the image.

Here’s a better sentence using a metaphor.

The skin on her arms was like milk.

This sentence seems cliche to me even if it gets its point across.

This next sentence gives us more vivid details and has a photographic effect. This is what I aim for in my own writing, at least in theory, if not in practice.

The vendor reached out her arms to grab the bagels on the table–her milky flesh highlighted by the July sunrays.

True, the sentence is a bit longer. This is because it is a complex sentence with concrete details. The readers don’t have to think too hard as they see a woman vendor with a paler complexion. (Of course, she could have skin the color of chocolate milk too!)

I hope my suggestions prove helpful for you or inspire you to write sentences that pop off the page. I think that my job as a writer is to provide visuals as well as, fodder to seduce all the senses. Don’t we wish to engage our readers?

Check out my narrated stories on YouTube. And feel free to leave vivid sentences in the comments below. Thank you for stopping by Belle Author and for following this blog. I am also on Facebook.