Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Posts tagged ‘creativity’

First Monday Mentoring May 2020 – what you CAN write during the crisis…and a challenge

Last month I looked at why many writers are finding it hard to write during the Covid-19 crisis, even if you have more time at home than ever.

One meme going round the Internet says:

I was going to write my novel when I have time.

Now I realise the problem wasn’t the time.

Instead we’re fitting in an orgy of bread making, cooking, crafting, and organising our homes. The clue may be under our noses. All these activities are largely governed by our left brains, the areas of logic, reason, order, judgement and the like. The right brain deals largely with creativity, possibility, daydreams and fantasies.

Rather than physical divisions, right and left brains are now regarded more as groups of function located in different parts of the brain, called on in various combinations according to the task at hand.

It may help to imagine your left brain being in charge of facts, while the right deals with fantasy. For us to feel comfortable our left brains prefer “everything in its place”. At present, few of us are in familiar territory. Even at home we may be working remotely, overseeing children’s lessons, worrying about family and friends. Sometimes it’s hard even to remember what day it is. With much of our world in crisis, the left brain tries hard to stay in charge, making it easier to cook, sew and organise, than to access the creative zone needed for writing.

 

The problem can be unrelieved stress which impacts health in everything from disturbed sleep to major illness. Feeling uncertain and out of control much of the time compounds the problem. Getting accurate information without overwhelming yourself can help manage stress levels.

Some writers can work anywhere, taking their creative space with them in the form of favorite pens, laptops, or whatever else their left brains need. Used often enough, they can reassure the left brain that it’s safe to relax, allowing the right brain to do its thing.

If you write full time, working from home may be slightly less difficult, but having the family around all the time, and your attention pulled a dozen different ways, can still be a strain. So how do you get your left brain into its happy place and out of the way of your creative right bran? Here are five suggestions.

  • Set up your writing place. If your desk has been taken over by children studying at home, find another quiet spot to set up your writing device, favourite stationery, coffee mug and project notes.  Until the new space feels familiar, aim to tackle left-brain tasks such as outlining a story, developing characters or writing cover blurb. Set up a small whiteboard and coloured markers, file cards, a program such as Scrivener, whatever works for you.
  • Set realistic goals and word counts, even if they’re below what you can usually achieve. My mantra is, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done.”
  • Try to go to your writing place at a similar time each day. Sit there staring at the screen even if nothing comes. Set a timer for how long you’ll stay put. Your right brain is soon bored. Write a few words in the general direction of your project and you may find your right brain getting the message.
  • Use rituals to encourage a creative mindset. Favorite music, scented candles, even a few games of Solitaire may help. Set a time for the rituals to end and the writing to begin. Interviewing a character can help. Ask them who they are and what they’re doing in your story. Write stream of consciousness. Keep going, asking the character questions until they start to answer back. I suggested this process to the current holder of the Valerie Parv Award. She tried it and emailed back, “OMG this is amazing. You’ve just taught me automatic writing.”
  • Be grateful for whatever progress you make, and tell yourself you look forward to your next creative session. Then reward yourself with something enjoyable; gardening, cooking, sorting through old photos or playing with pets. These let your right brain mull over what came from your previous session. If you find this happening, grab your phone or notebook and capture whatever comes. Ideas can be easily lost if not noted down.
  • Be kind to yourself and appreciate whatever you manage to achieve. Write whatever you can, wherever you can. Keeping up your writing practice will stand you in good stead when you’re able to get back to it on a more regular basis. Remember not to compare yourself to others for, as the Desiderata says, always there will be greater or lesser persons than yourself. And remember Plato’s advice – life must be lived as play.

English actor, Jacob Scipio (Bad Boys for Life) is stuck at home in London. In an interview with journalist, Duncan Lay (Sunday Telegraph, May 3, 2020), Scipio said, “ I try to write every day and I‘ve been writing more in quarantine. What’s helped me is a bit of routine, cocooning myself and trying to find some enjoyment in this time.”

Usually I suggest adding your thoughts in the space below. This time, I invite you to contribute a few words of actual writing. Using some of the suggestions here, create a title for your new story, briefly describe a character, or write a grabby opening sentence, and share the result in the comment space. Or use the challenges when you’re in your own writing space, and let us know how you did.

Let’s make some new words happen.

Happy writing,

Valerie

Valerie is a Member of the Order of Australia

Author of 90 books in 29 languages

Australia Day Ambassador

Life Member, Romance Writers of Australia

Australian Society of Authors’ medal recipient

On Twitter @ValerieParv, Facebook and www.valerieparv.com

Represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd, Sydney

 

 

 

 

First Monday Mentoring May 2017 – how to write while you sleep

Last month I discussed the importance of happiness to your writing. Following that, I was asked why we get some of our best ideas just before sleep or as we’re waking up.

The reason is our state of mind at these times. The floaty time before we fall sleep is called hypnagogic and the time before full awakening is hypnopompic.  These times between sleeping and waking can be rich sources of inspiration.

Writer Robert Louis Stevenson, composer Wolfgang Mozart and scientist Albert Einstein are among the great thinkers who’ve said they produced some of their best ideas during these periods. Writers today can discover the same. The sense of mental and physical relaxation as well as the kinds of brainwaves we produce, may be the magic ingredients.

Alpha and Theta

Measured by an encephalogram, we are known to produce Alpha and theta brainwaves as we sink into sleep, or return to wakefulness. These are the slower brainwave cycles when it’s easier to form new ideas. By practising mental and physical relaxation techniques, you can learn to produce these waves.

Like acquiring any habit, you first use your conscious mind to access the alpha-theta state. Many recorded guides are available to help. You may need to try a few to find one that suits you. I try to do a 30-minute relaxation exercise most days.

When you’re able to achieve a tranquil mood and can sustain it for a little time, you can try using it to solve writing problems or access new ideas.

Drop the problem or question into your mind like a pebble into a pool, then let it go. Don’t try to force ideas to come. Instead, trust your mind to keep working on the problem while you sleep.

Have a notebook or smart phone handy to record whatever comes up at the end of your relaxation period. While the times just before or after sleep are rich sources of inspiration, they’re not good for storing short-term memories. Unless you write your brilliant idea down you’re likely to wake up knowing you had a great idea if only you could remember what it was.

While you rest, information you may not have been aware of gathering can become more accessible. You’re also more likely to experiment with new thought combinations that you might resist if you were fully awake, a process called sleep synthesis.

5 benefits of writing while you sleep:

  1. The times right before and after sleep are rich sources of inspiration not always accessible when we’re wide awake.
  2. Of the four types of measurable brainwaves – alpha, beta, delta and theta – the alpha-theta mix is most connected with ideas and problem solving.
  3. You can teach yourself to produce alpha-theta brainwaves by learning and practising a relaxation technique.
  4. The benefits of these mind states are refreshment, reduced anxiety, creative freedom and better information processing. That’s why when you’re struggling with a writing problem, you may be advised to “sleep on it.”
  5. Keeping a notebook or smart phone by your bedside lets you capture any ideas and thoughts that come to you in alpha-theta meditation. In this state we don’t tend to store memories so you’ll recall having a good idea, but not what it was.

Have you thought of a great idea as you drifted off to sleep, or awoken knowing the answer to a writing problem? I’d love to share your experiences here. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

 

Valerie

 

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is out now

3 books complete in one volume

For international orders, print & ebook formats,

Booktopia http://tinyurl.com/hj3477e

From Amazon for Kindle http://tinyurl.com/hxmmqsk

What’s it all about, Alfie? Where do you get ideas?

When I confess to being a writer, I can usually count on being asked one of three questions, if not all three.

1. Where do you get your ideas.

2. How long does it take you to write a book?

and

3. How much money do you make?

I’ve never understood why people need to know how long it takes me to write a book. When I did a radio interview in Sydney with the amazing Nora Roberts, her answer was, “As long as it takes every time.” Do you think people are hoping we’ll say we dashed the book off in a week? They certainly seem disappointed when I tell them a romance novel takes me around three months to complete. The book may have been germinating in my head for a lot longer, sometimes years, until I find the right characters and conflict to make the story work. Sometimes the act of writing the book is much faster, and perhaps that’s the element most non-writers associate with “writing”. But as I’ve said many times, a writer (ie me) is working when they’re staring out a window. Which leads me to the big question, where writers get ideas.

American novelist, Lawrence Block, said he tried telling people he subscribes to The Ideas Book, a magazine filled with plot ideas from which subscribers could pick and choose. They could reserve an idea they liked and build a book around it. None of this was true, of course, there’s no such publication. But too many people believed there was, and asked Block how they could become subscribers.

What is an idea, really? Is it a grand flash of inspiration? Where does it come from and why does it land on some people and not others? The answer is often simply practice. Writers and artists get more ideas/flashes of inspiration because we spend more time looking for them. We train ourselves to see 2 plus 2 and answer – a pair of swans or 22. And then keep asking the question until we get really bizarre answers like aliens who live and die in pairs, or mirror image creatures called 2 and plus2. You can play this game yourself and I’ll guarantee you’ll start getting excited about at least one of your answers. Maybe enough to want to write about it.

At my website http://www.valerieparv.com I have a home study course called Free the Writer in You which gives you more tools like this to improve your own creativity. I tutor every students individually, which is why you should probably sit down before clicking on the cost. But you will learn how to handle the hardest part of the writing process – overcoming your fear. I’ll deal with fear in another post, because it’s a big issue and more common than most would-be writers realize.  In the meantime, you now know at least part of the answer to where we get ideas.

As to how much money I make, I can only say that people have a lot of strange ideas about that, too.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

Tag Cloud