Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Posts tagged ‘chocolate’

First Monday Mentoring for January – writers, what is your special word for 2015?

It’s the first Monday of January on this blog, when you can ask questions and discuss any aspect of writing that concerns you.
It’s also when many of us make – and sadly, quickly break – our resolutions for the New Year. We aim to be slimmer, fitter and more active; give up bad habits, and be more productive.

These resolutions are soon broken, not because they are unworthy goals, but because they aim for perfection, not a natural place for humans to be.

We can still work toward these goals, but they probably should be built into everyday life, rather than pressuring us at such a sociable time. For myself, I started eating more sensibly about five months ago, and am already reaping the benefits. Had I started during the most indulgent season of the year, I’d have far less chance of making the changes stick.

The one-word approach

On Facebook recently, one of my friends posted what I think is a far more creative approach to the New Year. Award-winning American Romance Author, Holly Jacobs, said rather than making resolutions, she chooses a word to inspire her through the coming year. Last year her chosen word was step, a commitment to taking more steps each day. This year Holly chose stretch which, when you think about it, is what all writers should do – not only stretch ourselves physically, but mentally, with new writing challenges and experiences.

The one-word idea makes perfect sense to me. The problem is, like many of you following this blog, I work with words. Lots and lots of words. So far, I’ve published nearly five million words in books alone, with movie scripts, short stories, novellas and articles probably adding another million.

How on earth do I choose just one?

There are writing-related words – brainwave, inspiration, dedication, productivity, imagination, success, creativity.
Scary words – procrastination, deadlines, endurance, not really the encouragement I’m looking for.
After much soul searching, I finally settled on a word to sum up my hopes and plans for 2015.

*drum roll, please*

My word for 2015 is ENRICHMENT.

As a volunteer guide at Canberra’s National Zoo and Aquarium for over ten years, I was very familiar with this word. When visitors commented on how happy and energetic the animals all looked, enrichment was the reason.

Hummer, the handsome giraffe at Canberra's National Zoo & Aquarium

Hummer, the handsome giraffe at Canberra’s National Zoo & Aquarium

Everyone from zoo keepers to volunteers and children enjoying the vacation programs either contributed materials or helped make toys for the animals. Toys are usually food-related such as screw-top bottles or egg cartons filled with seeds and treats. Each item is tailored to the animal’s needs and skills, and is designed to challenge and entertain, while eventually rewarding the animal’s efforts.

In summer, frozen treats are on offer, such as “bloodcicles” for the big cats, and frozen fish for the massive European brown bears. One year, the zoo’s owners brought in a load of snow from the Snowy Mountains, and heaped it around the enclosures. Seeing a 400kg brown bear shyly check out a scary pile of snow was fun for animals and zoo visitors alike.

Enrichment for writers
374940_286966798000327_100000610271289_988012_99036818_n

As a fan of enrichment at the zoo, I can see it working well for writers. We’re also prone to boredom if we don’t have enough variety in our work. We also need rewards to stay motivated. Chocolate is a favourite, but movies, research trips and reading time can also enrich our writing lives.

Right now, in the heat of an Aussie summer, a pile of snow in my backyard has plenty of appeal.

What word would you like to adopt for 2015?
Share your word and reasoning with us in the comments below. I moderate posts to avoid spam, but if you want your comment to appear right away, click on the “sign me up” box at right to subscribe. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy New Year and may all your words flow in 2015,

Valerie
http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
See the new cover of Valerie’s Beacons book, Birthright, at http://tinyurl.com/mxtmbx6
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer in You
at http://valerieparv.com/course.html

First Monday Mentoring for September – tracking down Scribblopithecus, the writing breed

Welcome. It’s first Monday again, when I answer questions about any aspect of the writing life.

Recently I attended the national conference of Romance Writers of Australia, one of the largest gatherings of writers in the country. Headliners included New York Times’ best-sellers, publishers, agents and writers of all kinds. I presented a workshop on drawing readers into your fictional world.

In the breaks, talk ranged around contracts, submissions and other professional concerns, but also about lesser-known aspects such as the courage needed to write, and how hard it is to diet in such an unpredictable business. This made me think it was time to look at what this crazy business really means.

If David Attenborough wanted to make one of his celebrated documentaries about writers, where would he start? Would he find us in herds like gazelle, or stalking alone like tigers. Would we be fearful or confronting? Do we use protective coloration or can you spot the breed from a distance?

129150525655983727

Confusingly, the answer to all the above would be yes. Writers – call us Scribblopithecus – do gather in herds such as the RWA conference. But more commonly, they hole up in their writing caves, struggling to deal with the real world.

Protective coloration goes by the name of jammies, short for pyjamas, the species’ unofficial uniform. In writing mode, Scribblopithecus can stay in this camouflage for days.

While Scribblopithecus doesn’t actually hibernate, they frequently enter a torpor, a state where they are unresponsive to family and friends, reluctant to initiate communication, and focused entirely on their internal world.

Locating Scribblopithecus is challenging because their habitats are so varied. You find them in every country of the world, existing like cuckoos in a range of settings known as “day jobs.” In these, you may be hard-pressed to spot the writer, so well do they disguise themselves. They’re wonderful mimics, copying the calls and behavior of their day-job counterparts.

But in their natural surroundings they spend hours mesmerized by computer screens and tablets on which they make their characteristic scratchy markings. They’re fussy, though. The markings must be just so, or they will be removed and Scribblopithecus will start over, sometimes dozens of times.

Despite this preoccupation, Scribblopithecus also collects objects called notebooks, the more stylish the better. They seldom defile notebooks with scratchings, but will treasure and fondle them as their collection grows. An environment such as Office Works or Kikki.K can induce an ecstasy state as the species rushes to acquire every object around them.

Scribblopithecus is an omnivore but has a particular fondness for chocolate, despite its effect on their generally sedentary lifestyle. If anyone raids their stash, they can become aggressive, although few specimens engage in physical confrontation.

1545836_682195081801435_1470958944_n

Interpreting their scratchings can be confusing. The amount of mayhem, death and destruction represented can lead one to assume that aggression is a natural trait. In fact, Scribblopithecus tends toward shyness, preferring to communicate via its screens rather than face to face. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter are their natural homes and #amwriting is one of the latter’s more distinctive calls.

So what is to be concluded about this species? No two are alike, they alternate between herd and solitary behaviour, experience long periods of torpor and express their aggression passively, through their scratchings. They are also an enduring species, their scratchings being found on cave walls throughout the ancient world.

Should you encounter Scribblopithecus, it’s advisable to offer chocolate and back slowly away lest you find yourself represented in their scratchings and killed off in an unpleasant manner. This symbolic violence is characteristic, along with talking to themselves, mock aggression when they wish to be solitary, and a complete lack of time sense.

It’s safest not to try to placate an aroused specimen. Misuse of apostrophes and terminology such as, “there, they’re, their” has been known to induce an attack frenzy which few outsiders have survived.

So there you have it. Have you met Scribblopithecus? Are you one of the species yourself? Please leave a comment here, moderated unless you click Sign Me Up at right. Or better still, leave chocolate to avoid being killed symbolically.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
AORW cover
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer in You

at http://valerieparv.com/course.html

5 things writers should not take into the New Year

It’s not only First Monday time again, when I open this blog to your questions about writing and publishing, it’s also the start of a New Year when many are making resolutions for how you want to be in 2014. Common ones are to be thinner, fitter, more successful and preferably richer than in the year gone by. As writers we may also resolve to get more writing done and set the bar higher in terms of what we expect of ourselves and our work.
All these are worthwhile goals. And as the saying goes, if you shoot for the moon and miss, you will still land among the stars. But while you’re shooting for the moon, consider 5 things you should NOT take into 2014.

427408_10150977023476295_1897787372_n

1. Unhelpful habits
Many writers “fuel” ourselves in ways that aren’t good for us. Chocolate, anyone? This year, resolve to change some of those habits for better ones that support you and your work. Before writing this, I headed for the kitchen for coffee and a home-made cookie. In my head I heard, unhelpful habit, and stopped to ask myself what besides a cookie would meet my needs, picking up a small bowl of grapes instead. I can also look at alternatives as creative fuel. Some writers use music, scented candles, a workspace set up a certain way, or playing a game or two to get themselves into the right frame of mind. As we move into 2014, what unhelpful habits can you switch for more helpful ones?

2. Procrastination
Depending on how long it goes on, procrastination can show itself as anything from a sudden need to clean out the refrigerator (in the domestic sense, rather than point 1 above), to full-on writer’s block when you can’t produce words at all. Start by asking yourself whether you’re distracted or blocked. When I find myself dodging a project, it’s almost always because it’s not ready to start yet. I either need more information – say about characters or story elements, or I’m trying to force the story to go in the wrong direction. Taking stock, doing some brainstorming with a supportive friend, or on paper; or filling in the research gaps often gets me going again. If you’re blocked because of fear – of not being good enough, or of looking foolish, for example – it helps to reread something you’ve already written to remind yourself of what you can achieve. If you’re a new writer, you might join a group or sign up for a workshop as a way to get over your fears in a helpful environment.

3. Tired ideas
If you’ve been struggling to write and don’t feel you’re making progress, use the new year to put away tired material. If you’re sick of it, readers are unlikely to be inspired, either. Try something new – a new style, format, genre – invent a new series character or world, and see where they lead. Freshen your approach and you’ll very likely recapture the excitement of writing as you go into 2014.

4. Negative self image
The nature of writing can lead us to question ourselves and even our sanity. Are we crazy spending time listening to voices in our heads, writing about imaginary people, and mentally living in made-up settings? But it’s not crazy, it’s what writers do. Then we share our stories with readers as our gift to the world. (See my previous blog on using your unique gifts.) We also ask ourselves why we think we’re good enough to follow in the steps of the great writers before us. I have no doubt they asked themselves the same thing. A healthy dose of uncertainty can be a spur to success, as long as it doesn’t overwhelm you.

5. Over-confidence
This may seem to contradict point 4, but it doesn’t. As I mentioned, having a healthy dose of uncertainty is good, whatever we want to achieve. It keeps us striving to do better, to prove that one story or one book wasn’t a fluke. Writing anything can seem like a miracle – and it is! But we must be able to step back from the work and see its flaws as well as its magic. Both are usually in the writing you’ve just completed. Setting it aside for a while and starting something new can restore your objectivity. In writing as well as in life, we need a balance between under and over-confidence, to achieve our best.

As a writer, what don’t you want to take into 2014? Share your experiences in the comment box below. I regret they must be moderated to avoid rudeness and spam. To have your comment appear right away, click on “sign me up” at lower right. I don’t share your email details with anyone.
Happy New Year and may your words flow freely,

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
AORW cover
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews of Valerie’s novel, Birthright, at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Finding your tribe, why it’s vital to writers

Okay, writing isn’t the only solitary occupation. Train driving is also lonely – but you don’t have to first invent the train.

I’m writing this from the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Perth, Western Australia, where I’m their Established Writer-in-Residence for four weeks. The centre is the oldest of its kind in Australia and is set in the green hills behind Perth. My cottage is surrounded by bushy garden, a few minutes from the main house.  As this is my first experience as a writer-in-residence, I didn’t expect to feel so completely at home within minutes of getting here.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I was among my ‘tribe’

Anyone who has attended a writing conference will know what I mean. You may never have set eyes on these people before but you feel an instant kinship with them. They “get” what you’re about. If you talk about killing someone, they don’t call the police. They know you mean in your fiction. (At least we hope!)

They don’t look at you sideways when you mention writing 500 words in a day, because they know it’s progress on the day before when you wrote none.

They also understand that writing words is the most important thing in your life after your family. Well maybe equal with.

And that’s okay too.

It’s great to fit in

They don’t feel slighted if you break off in mid-conversation to write something down so you won’t forget it. They’ve been there and done that.

They completely understand why you’re still in your jammies at 4pm

Far from making you a slacker and a slob, it means you had other priorities, most of them to do with writing.

They also understand the meaning of a “good rejection.” No other profession gets so excited when a publisher turns you down, but with encouraging comments about your work.  We know how much that means.

Settling in to this place dedicated to writers and writing was practically instant. I love that my accommodation has a huge desk under a window, with a view all the way to the Perth skyline. That’s inspiration for you. And that it has a proper office chair so I can spend as long as I want writing without killing my back.

The cottage also came with a basket of goodies including Lindt blueberry chocolate, Ferrer Rocher chocolates, fresh dates (are we sensing a theme here?) and wonderful fruit teas.

All they ask in return is that I write and talk about writing

During my stay I’ll complete my own project, give a workshop, read my work at a literary dinner, and talk about books at a breakfast open to the public. Many writing groups meet at the centre and I want to visit as many as I can. I started with a poetry group and loved every minute, even though poetry isn’t my thing. Hey, it’s writing and they’re writers, what more do I need?

Where is your tribe? At a particular place? Perhaps online? How did you find them and what do they mean to you?

To me? Everything.

Valerie

In residence at www.kspf.iinet.net.au

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

 

 

Tag Cloud