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Posts tagged ‘muse’

First Monday Mentoring June 2018 – more ways to unblock your writing

Over the last two Monday Mentoring blogs, I’ve explored two sides of the same coin – how do you generate ideas when your mind is blank, and how do you get your muse to show up reliably.

Recently an American Facebook friend and reader of this blog, Marion, said her muse had been MIA for ages, and she was thinking of firing her. Eating chocolate cake was mentioned as an alternative to writing.

I reminded her of the need to be kind to your muse, really your creative inner self. Instead of firing her, I recommended sharing the chocolate cake with Musie, as Marion calls her.

Not a good idea to leave Muse out of the fun

As an aside, I like that she gave Musie an identity, bringing her to life. Another writer calls her muse Rafe, a name that sounds darkly handsome and heroic, the ideal inspiration for a writer of romance novels.

Musie sounds like fun, someone you can hang out and play with – and share chocolate cake. I’m also curious about the name being one letter away from Music because Marion is a talented musician who plays regularly at historical recreation events. Perhaps Musie/Music serves a dual role in Marion’s creative life.

Well, she was smart enough to go with the notion, “sharing” the chocolate cake with Musie. The two of them not only reconnected, but Marion was sufficiently inspired to make progress with her current writing project.

She says Musie still isn’t talking but has hinted that maybe the heroine knows – and can’t stand – the hero because of something that happened in the past. This creates tension and puzzles the hero who is too busy worrying about the safety of his daughter to wonder about the heroine’s concerns. Some of these ideas were already in train when Marion sat down with Musie. But Marion had seen herself as stuck and, as many of us do, blamed the muse for being uncooperative.

 

Muse loves playing games

As a certain sci-fi villain says, resistance is futile. Being tough on your muse is the least likely way to gain their help. Most people including musae* resist being forced to do anything, or else we do it grudgingly and not give it our best.  *Marion tells me this is the plural of muse

If you want your muse – the creative part of your subconscious mind – to deliver exciting and challenging ideas you can work up into stories, it helps to be gentle. A slice of cake doesn’t hurt, either. Here are some more ways you can encourage your muse to cooperate:

Change how you work

If you usually work on a screen, try writing notes on a clipboard, a tablet or in an exercise book. You can use different backgrounds to suit the story mood – pink for romance, blue for sci-fi, green for something environmental, for example.

Change your approach

Take the pressure off by recording your thoughts. Phrase the content any old way; talking as if to a friend. If recording makes you self-conscious, and I confess it does for me, you might write in the form of a letter, a Facebook post or a series of tweets. Writing in point form helps me. As I work, the points become longer and longer until I’m adding bits of dialogue and description, and before long I’m flying.

Change your location

Writing in a different place can give your muse a fresh start. Last month we talked about working in a coffee shop, but how about in a different room at home, at the beach or in a beautiful park? You don’t need perfect surroundings. Sometimes your creative right brain prefers a familiar place where your critical left brain feels relaxed and comfortable.

Write your thoughts down

This beats staring into space and can help you visualize the material more clearly. Write something like, “This project is a (book, article, novella) about…” and fill in whatever details you have. Ramble on; explore the topic however it comes. When it starts to catch fire, you can switch to a more convenient format.

Change your point of view

If you’ve been focusing on the hero and heroine, switch to the villain’s point of view. Write a scene where he/she is watching the good guys and plotting mayhem. Remember, we are all heroes of our own stories. Your villain feels justified in whatever they plan, believing that the good guys deserve what they get. This can be refreshing to you and your muse, with the bonus of ensuring you develop your bad guys as completely as your heroes.

Choose the options that work best for you, and enjoy the process.

If you try any of these approaches, please share the results with us in the comments below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your post can appear right away if you click on ‘sign me up’ at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

For more like this check out Valerie’s online course,

Free The Writer in You

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

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First Monday Mentoring, May 2018 – if you write it, muse will come

Last month my Swedish friend, Agneta Angie Probst, asked about the best places to write. In the comments she wanted advice on getting her muse to show up, a large enough topic to deserve a separate blog and here it is.

Firstly muses are unreliable partners. They arrive when they want and deliver only as much as they choose. But they can be encouraged with the right incentives.

In the 1989 fantasy film, Field of Dreams, an Iowa farmer played by Kevin Costner, heard voices telling him, “If you build it, he will come.” Believing that legendary baseball player, Shoeless Joe Jackson, was the ghostly voice, Costner’s character levelled a field of corn and built a baseball field. His neighbours thought him crazy but he was vindicated when the ghosts of history’s greatest players including Jackson emerged from the corn and played baseball on the field. Without spoiling the ending, suffice to say Jackson wasn’t the character’s only muse.

If a voice in your head told you to build a sporting field on your land, would you do it? What about if the same voice urged you to write a certain character’s story? There’s little difference because following your muse is as much an act of faith as Costner’s character ploughing his corn under.

Our stories come from deep inside us, agglomerates of people we’ve encountered, places we’ve been or read about, and events we’ve imagined. It’s said that our brains can’t tell the difference between something real and something vividly imagined so all our experiences end up simmering in the melting pot of imagination, emerging as story inspirations.

Your muse is timid, treat him/her gently

This may answer the question most asked of writers – where do we get ideas? Millions of non-writers have seen Field of Dreams. Few would connect Costner’s response with how we writers react to voices whispered in our ears. Or as I did, see Rembrandt’s painting, The Evangelist Matthew Inspired by the Angel and link the angel whispering to Matthew with my muse talking to me. I was so taken with this idea that I had a copy of the painting made to hang in my home.

Some writers name their muse; others hold that he/she lives in the melting pot of imagination. Or hovers over us, whispering ideas. However you visualise your muse, remember it’s an elusive creature. Here are three ways to coax  your muse to come to you:

  1. Be gentle

Just as yelling at a child tends to escalate a tantrum, mistreating your muse has the same effect. They shrink away and refuse to co-operate. Be gentle instead. When the muse whispers, close your eyes and listen. Be grateful that he/she has come out to play. Even if the muse starts talking when you’re in the shower or at a restaurant,  be welcoming. Keep a notebook or phone app handy to capture whatever you’re given.

  1. Be non-judgmental

As children, we were often told to do our best, fine unless it’s misread as “do it right.” You may automatically add, “or else” as a shadow of some larger person looms. It’s easy to fall into the critical state that was the lot of many children. If they show you a story they’ve written, it takes great self-control to avoid saying, “That’s lovely dear but you could have done this part better.” Thus treated, their fragile young muse may well go into hiding for years or forever. Be strong enough to praise the work without judgment and allow the muse to grow.

  1. Be open

Your muse delivers ideas in many ways. Sometimes the idea is only a beginning. While being gentle, don’t fall in love with the first idea the muse presents. Without criticism be playful and open to where the idea might lead. Look at it from all angles. Ask yourself, “What if?” What if the characters in this idea were children, or very old people. Or very old people who looked like children? What if the first part of the idea was given a different ending? Or happened on an island instead of in a city? Your muse loves to play mental games and may well surprise you when given a little encouragement.

 

Your muse loves to play mental games.

As we discussed in the April FMM Blog, setting yourself up to write at the same place, whether in a cafe or a corner at home, is one of the best ways to get your muse to show up, especially if you aim for the same time each day. As the habit strengthens, the muse gets the idea that this is “writing time” and will show up more reliably, keen to be part of the magic.

For more on muse magic, I recommend Anne R. Allen’s Blog…with Ruth Harris at http://tinyurl.com/yc853uer Ruth Harris calls a muse visit a gift to yourself, “tapping us on the shoulder or bopping us on the nose just to make sure we’re paying attention.”

How do you pay attention to your muse? How and when is it there for you? Please share with us in the comments below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your post can appear right away if you click on ‘sign me up’ at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

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

www.valerieparv.com/course.html

 

First Monday Mentoring Dec 2017 – writing needs the gift of time

We’re all time poor. What free time we once had is now eaten up by social media, online activities and binge-watching TV series. Admittedly these are choices we make, but so much of life is lived digitally now that even restricting yourself won’t free up a great deal more time.

Yet as writers, we need time to think, to play with ideas – what if my character does this or that? As I say in The Art of Romance Writing, writers are working when we’re staring out of windows.

Last week someone posted on Facebook that writers “must write every day.” Past Valerie Parv Award winner, Erica Hayes, bounced back with, “Write when you can. We’re not in prison.”

I agree. Having made a living with words since my twenties, I know life doesn’t let you write every day and you’re not a failure if you don’t.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) finished last week. Now international, NaNoWriMo considers you a “winner” if you produce 50,000 words during November.

The worldwide success of NaNoWriMo shows that the challenge suits many writers. For others like me, it’s their idea of a nightmare. No surprises here. In a high school English class we were assigned to write a story on a set topic during the period. Most students immediately launched themselves into writing while I stared into space, dreaming up my story content.

Ten minutes from the end of the class I started writing. By then I knew who my characters were and what they were all about. I couldn’t have started writing any sooner. I still can’t. I started out as what’s called a plotter, the opposite of a pantser, writers who start putting words down before they know where they’re going. Over time and some 90 books I’ve morphed into a combination of both, plotting a little less and writing sooner while trusting my characters to help me fill in the gaps.

I still need thinking time.

A trip to America a month ago was not supposed to be work. On every flight card under “purpose of travel” I happily ticked vacation. My muse had other ideas.

In Honolulu, I soon found myself up early at the desk in my hotel room, scribbling many pages of notes for a new novel. A few pages in, I glanced out the window to the Royal Hawai’ian Hotel and Waikiki Beach beyond. Even they couldn’t distract me from the story unfolding in my mind. It’s still revealing itself to me as I write this blog back in Oz.

Yet if someone had told me I must write every day of that vacation, I doubt my muse would have co-operated. Even muses need to get out and play sometimes. Last month I wrote about filling the creative well, exposing yourself to new experiences. In Hawai’i I realised  that’s what I’d been doing in Houston.

While I laughed, talked my head off and explored with my BFFs Sherry and Laura, my muse was soaking up new input. None of it was related to the new book, and yet it was. Had I not given my brain time out to admire astronauts and butterflies, my muse may not have connected the mental dots that led to the new idea.

And when all the note taking and scribbling was done, Waikiki was still waiting.

How do you treat your muse – as a mouse on a treadmill, or a fragile resource? Do ideas come to you when you think you’re goofing off? Please share your thoughts in the box below. It’s 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.

Have a happy festive season however you traditionally celebrate, and enjoy your writing in the year ahead.

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

I am honoured to be appointed

Australia Day Ambassador 2017

to the Gundagai NSW community

First Monday Mentoring November 2016 – five ways to start writing when you’d rather watch paint dry

Hi and welcome to First Monday Mentoring when we discuss aspects of writing not normally talked about.

For instance, the art of watching paint dry. I’m doing it a lot lately, not literally, but in the sense of not wanting to sit down at my desk and write actual words. After being published for four decades, and ninety books, this is a strange experience.

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I’ve found all manner of things to fill the time, from reading to giving my home a spring makeover. Watching too many real estate and renovating programs may make one thing springboard off another. I also wonder, is this how people fill their time when they don’t have stories and characters chattering away in their heads?

After a while you start to wonder if the muse has deserted you for good. Not that I’m a big fan of the muse, believing that professional writers write, inspired or not. Over many years, when I’ve been unable to conjure up the exact words I want, I’ve given myself permission to write any old how, telling myself it will be edited later.

This process has never failed me – until now. But as with everything to do with writing, there are no absolutes. The process of writing is what spy thriller writer, Len Deighton, called “a muddled system of trial and error.” He said the hardest lesson to learn is that thousands of words must be written and then discarded or rewritten before the “keepers” emerge.

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Deighton said he softened the blow by keeping his early drafts for months before throwing them away. If nothing else, this gave him the objectivity which is mostly lacking when confronting our freshly written drafts.

Writers trip ourselves up in dozens of ways. The most common, fear of failure, can lead to making sure we have no time to write that best seller. Spring makeover, anyone? Social media, while being a useful promotional tool, can feel as if we’re writing, without contributing a single word to a manuscript.

So here are five ways to stop yourself watching paint drying – or real estate programs.

  1. Find your best writing time and protect it ferociously

The time needn’t be from nine to five, unless it suits you. If you are most productive in the early hours or late into the night, keep these times free from distraction and interruption.

  1. Have your own writing place

Even if it’s only a corner of a room, or in your car, having that space and associating it with writing can be a powerful tool.

  1. Develop a writing habit

Victor Pineiro, blogged here http://tinyurl.com/zym8cq4 about writing his first novel by working on a laptop during his hour-long train trip to work. He says, “The key was not getting angry at myself for writing pure garbage some days. This was just an experiment — nothing to lose. As you’ve read dozens of times, once you do something for thirty days it becomes habit .” Once his laptop was open, he says, he felt obligated to write and it slowly became a habit.

  1. Use the small chunks of time

Like Pineiro, you can write while commuting; dictate story notes on your hands-free phone as you drive; plot the next step in your book while awaiting an appointment; or read reference material online while the kids play sport. This frees up your writing time to generate actual words.

  1. Write for yourself at first

I’ve blogged here about the critic over your shoulder, the inner voice insisting you can’t write so why bother? Somehow we have to overcome the critic and write anyway. Writing for yourself alone, and not letting anyone see your work until you’re ready, often helps. You can also do what Kate Grenville told me she does – put a sign over your desk, reminding yourself, “It can all be fixed tomorrow.”

What every writer's conscience should look like

What every writer’s conscience should look like

Now all I have to do is take my own advice. Right after I check out this Tiny House makeover.

Feel free to comment or share your experiences below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam. If you’d like your comments to appear right away, click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is available from Harlequin from November 21  

outback-code-21-nov-2017

 

 

Where will the leap year take your writing relationships? First Monday Mentoring for March

Last week we wished Happy Birthday to all the leap year babies born on February 29. Thanks to Julius Caesar simplifying the early Roman calendar, the extra day happens every four years and was designed to keep festivals occurring around the same season each year.
In Ireland it’s said that women may propose marriage only in leap years, a tradition that has spread worldwide.
But this is a writing forum, so we’re interested in your creative relationships. In 2016 will you be dealing with critique partners and significant others in your life? Proposing (pitching) work to an agent or editor? What will be your relationship with your muse? With the online world?

*
I’m exploring some of these relationships during a 2-day workshop at the Canberra Writers’ Centre on 2 and 3 April, joined by my long-time agent, Linda Tate, who will share her take on the writer-agent relationship. The workshop sold out within days, showing that there’s a need for writers to focus on these aspects of the work.

*
Equally important are relationships with family and friends. Writing can make us so inwardly focused that it’s easy to forget there’s life beyond the current manuscript. It’s vital we make time for real people, as well as fictional ones. For without real relationships and a social life, we can end up with little new to write about.

Cat writer

Four questions to ask yourself this leap year:

1. Is this writing project serving the people I care about?
It may bring income, make you a more rounded person – I know when I’m kept from writing, I become very hard to live with – but when my husband was alive, I made sure he knew how important he was to me. After he passed, I was glad I hadn’t put writing ahead of his needs. Keeping a work-life balance is key.

2. Is this project serving my goals as a writer?
Writing reviews or blogs and contributing to social media may feel like work – and publishers do encourage writers to have a strong online presence – but if your real writing work is neglected, it may help to look at your priorities.

3. Is this writing serving my wider community?
This doesn’t contradict point two, because community involvement provides ideas and enrichment to you, as a writer. Serving as a volunteer zoo guide at the National Zoo in Canberra for ten years got me away from the computer, meeting people from around the world, and befriending some truly amazing animals.

4. Is this project the best use of my time and energy?
Only you can write your books. A dear friend talked of a real-life experience she intended to write about “someday.” Sadly, she died with the book not even started. Her experiences were never shared with readers and are now lost forever. A famous meme on Facebook quotes J K Rowling on how she managed to be a single mother while writing her Harry Potter books. Her answer was that she didn’t do housework for four years. Priorities.

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Being a writer – if you’re serious about it – is a nonstop juggling act. If you add in a day job, life gets even more challenging. It’s up to you how you handle it. But look first at the time sucks – endlessly checking Facebook or Twitter; sharing so much of your life via your devices that you forget to actually live it; binge watching TV shows and movies.

There’s no harm in doing some of this some of the time, as long as you make conscious decisions on how to have a balanced life and still get your writing done.

2016 can be your year to leap ahead with your writing, and it doesn’t have to be at the cost of other aspects of your life.

Now over to you. How do you manage your writing and relationships? Will you be proposing (pitching) to an agent or editor this year? A leap year is about growth and change. And getting to that all-important happy ever after. Or happy for now. How will you get there?

Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can skip this step by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
Happy writing,
Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer In You
At http://www.valerieparv.com/course.html

What do you need in order to write?

 

Use whatever works for you

The author William Faulkner famously said that the tools he needed for his work were paper, tobacco, food and a little whiskey.

Among the authors I know, chocolate would be high on the list. Music, depending on what works for you – it doesn’t for me. I can’t write to music that has or had words. The nearest I can come is the formless “new age” type of music which I find very useful in freeing the muse. Yet just as many writers like to prepare a playlist related to a particular book, assembling the music on an iPod for easy access.

Then there are what I call rituals. These are the steps you find yourself taking automatically, to settle yourself and the muse down to write.

Morning pages

In “The Artist’s Way”, Julia Cameron recommended writing a few pages every morning about anything that comes to your mind, not necessarily to do with the work in progress. These morning pages can be a freeing-up activity if they work for you.

Rituals can be more mundane, such as tidying the desk, lighting scented candles or playing a game, although the latter should be done to a strict timetable or the writing session can fly by without a word being written. Voice of experience? Now why would you think that? <vbg> Just because I had to banish all forms of Solitaire off my desktop and laptop…

Do you need a particular pen for note-taking, a special colour of scribble pad, or a lucky charm? Make sure you keep them handy.

 

A sense of place

Sometimes a particular place gets you into the writing mindset. For some it can be the local coffee shop. For J K Rowling, it was a hotel room where she finished the last volume in the Harry Potter series. When I was Established Writer in Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre in the Perth hills, I had access to Katharine’s writing studio in the gardens. I even wrote a Tanka (Japanese lyric poem) to mark the experience:

In Katharine’s studio

I search for words.

Pine cones clatter

On to metal roof.

Awakening my muse.

Do you even know what would awaken your muse? The best way to find out is by experimenting. Try writing at different times and in different places. When you discover what works best, keep that time and place sacred and try to write there every day at the same time. Play with scented candles, music, lucky charms, until one or more “click with you, then keep them close by when you’re settling down to write.

Creative writing is not a nine-to-five activity. It’s an art form and requires respect and nurturing. May the muse be with you.

 Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

 Australia Day Ambassador 2013

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

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