Category Archives: writing

Creativity and When Someone Just Doesn’t Get Your Art: The Sympathetic Resonance Theory Connection

Have you ever had someone in your writer’s group just not “get you?”

Have you ever had such a bad critique or Amazon review that you wanted to crawl under the nearest table?

That’s part of the artist’s life–that your writing, your song, your art, isn’t for everyone, but when it happens, it’s still difficult/frustrating/embarrassing/disappointing/there aren’t enough adjectives in the world to describe just how hurtful it can be.

I’ve come to realize that when someone doesn’t get you it’s just discordant harmonies.

What’s that?

Let me get practical– if you have to guitars in a room and you pluck a G string on one of the guitars you will actually notice that the other untouched guitar G string will begin to vibrate.

Like calls to like.

This morning I reread a self-help book I really love called, Bounce Back, (I’m a self-help junkie) and I came across this  term: sympathetic resonance theory. It’s used in music and has lots of scientific, health and technological applications including biofeedback, helping to reset irregular heart rhythms and research in sound waves for military application.

A quick wiki definition is this–sympathetic resonance: ” …a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness.”

The Center for Neuroacoustic Research shows that the government has long been studying the effects of sound on the brain. Jung called it our collective consciousness, but there’s something to the ancient sounds that call to us.

NASA has space recordings that are eerily similar to the primordial, nature and organic sounds found on our own planet. Sounds and rhythms repeat and mimic throughout our universe. According to the Center for Neuroacoustic Research, “Dolphin/ocean sounds, slowed down 64 times, sound very similar to human voice sounds and some of the Voyager I and II space recordings. Normal dolphin sounds speeded up two octaves sound like birds. Seagull sounds slowed down two octaves, sound like dolphins. Human voice sounds speeded up, sound first like birds and then like dolphins, etc. – all with a powerful effect on the subconscious mind.”

We’ve been playing with sound to alter or enhance our state of consciousness for thousands of years.  The Chinese gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, bells, religious chants, Indian tambour drums, African and Middle Eastern drums and doonbeks, based on the “tonic” note are sounds we are drawn to. Why? Our brains crave certain tones and beats. These tones can soothe us or agitate us.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS5CZ10WnN4Bu1Wwc-SVUFfygSyct8zHpkgCNa_DWpuFGjOk4bo

What’s that got to do with creativity?

When it comes to art and creativity, whether it’s an author or a musician or a visual artist, not everyone is going to get your art.
They’re just not.

We long for readers. We long for listeners. Appreciators of our paintings, sculptures,  but know that you will always, always have a few that adore you, a few that abhor you, and a large percentage that just don’t care. Art of all kinds is subjective. Your music, your words, your painting, it’s not for everyone. The more you are authentic the more you will distinguish yourself and your audience. Not just music, but all art resonates at a different wave length. We cannot deny that certain music, art, or writing either soothes or agitates us–just like sound waves.

Likewise, we long to find other creative souls to “bounce” our ideas off of (interesting, that turn of phrase), and yet we oftentimes find ourselves at odds with other creative souls. Is it jealousy? Not always. Sometimes they’re the F to our G. Either can make lovely music, just not together. No right. No wrong. Just different songs.

Surrounding ourselves with a tribe, with folks who get us (our harmonies) those who challenge us in a good way, who are on somewhat tandem journeys is important and even crucial to our development, but occasionally we’ll come across someone who is our counter in the  most destructive of ways. They cause us to doubt. They feed on our worst qualities and we spend far too much time enmeshed in drama and not creating at all. We have much to learn from them, and they from us, but they do not need to be a part of your tribe. They actually sap your creative energies. Only you know who they are and how much time you need to walk with them, to learn what you need to learn, and when to recognize that your time together was just that–for a time.

All of art has a resonance. It will bong like the clapper on a bell. Your tribe, your readers, your listeners, your viewers will know in their bones that you speak their language, or in the example/metaphor at hand, sing their song. It’s okay that there are G books and G songs in this world as there are F books and F songs.

There is room in this old world for all our songs.

 

Resources:

http://www.neuroacoustic.com/methods.html

Bounce Back by Karen Salmansohn’s

http://skeptoid.com/blog/2013/05/24/sympathetic-resonance-technology/

A cool sympathetic resonance sculpture:

http://vimeo.com/6887898

 

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100 Questions, 100 Pebbles: Blasting Through Your Creativity Walls

Questions.
Questions are incubated in a curious mind.

Leonardo Da Vinci was known for his curiosity. He turned those questions into notebooks filled with notes and drawings, and then he took those details and turned many of them into paintings, sculptures, experiments, and used his ideas to create canals, aquifers, and military applications. He’s a genius, you argue. You don’t have time to doodle in a notebook. But the truth is, we ask questions all the time. We just don’t always listen.

In truth, you do have time to doodle. so make time to doodle. Curly Q’s aside, keep a notebook with you all the time. Jot down ideas, book titles, quotes and jokes, recipes and names. Spend five minutes of your lunch hour drawing a pod you found by your car that morning. It doesn’t have to be great. It’s not about your artistry, it’s about your curiosity.


Start by asking yourself 100 questions.
***

You won’t even know what bothers you, what worries you, what creativity walls are boxing you in, or even what fascinates you until you get it out of your head and onto the page. The power of 100 questions is emptying your mind as hard and as fast as you can. No censor. Blast through. Ask the mundane to the profane. Should I buy a smart car? Why did my parents divorce when I was two years old? How can I improve my running time? How do I ask for a raise–and get it? Do woodpeckers get headaches? Why isn’t my character in my new novel relatable? Why does the riff in this song bother me? And what is anti matter, anyway?

From every day questions to is there a God, questions are like pebbles we carry in our pockets. One pebble doesn’t weigh us down, but 100 might. Some questions lead to answers that make our lives easier while other questions lead to more questions–and some questions send us down wonderful rabbit holes that enrich our lives.

The assignment, if you choose to accept, is to get a pen and paper, or sit at your computer, and give yourself about one hour. Write out 100 questions as fast as you can. Don’t worry if they repeat. Don’t worry if they seem trite, or if they really don’t have an answer. Expect a few pauses. Just sit and wait. Reread some of your other questions. Ask really silly questions–why haven’t I ever seen a double rainbow? Why can’t I blow bubbles? Should I take up clogging? Sit until a new river of thought forms.

After you get your 100 questions on paper, keep it somewhere you can look at them often. You don’t have to go about solving your own questions. For the most part, in the next few days, weeks, and months, the subjects you wrote about will appear in your life. You’ll watch a movie and it’ll mention something. You’ll turn on the Discovery Channel and there it is–your sister-in-law will tell you about a friend of a friend of a friend–and there’s your solution. It doesn’t even take effort (overt effort) on your part. It just happens. Other questions will float to the surface and you’ll look it up online or buy a book. One by one, your questions will begin to pop up in your life–and your pockets will grow light.

What’s the purpose of 100 questions?
To see what’s been taking up space in your brain.
To see what bones you’ve been gnawing on.
You’ll begin to see patterns in your questions.

What to do with your questions once you’ve written them down.

Color code your questions.
Get some highlight markers and dot each science question in green.
Highlight any relationship questions in red.
Highlight any questions that have to do with your creativity (art, music, writing, inventions, etc.) in yellow.
Look for a few other categories.
Rearrange your list so your groupings hang together.
Notice what has been weighing on you.
Consider getting help–ask a friend who has faced a similar dilemma, get a book, a coach, do some journaling, or talk with a professional, and by all means, take that first step if you need to make amends. Pebbles have a way of turning into boulders if we hold onto them too long.

Here’s the fun part:
Choose one item to explore.

Say, for instance, one of your questions was, “How can I move to France?” Although that might not be feasible in the near future, you could start renting French films, buy Rosetta Stone or another language course and learn French, pick up a French cookbook at your local library sale, collect Eiffel towers, or start writing letters to your great aunt to happens to have lived in France after college. That one question doesn’t lead you straight to dual citizenship. Instead, it leads you on a glorious winding road trip, and if you ever move abroad, you’ll be much better prepared, and if your desires change, then you’ve enjoyed a journey of the mind and heart without ever having to apply for a green card.

So often we feel stuck. Our creativity juices are more like mud-pies, and we have no idea nor inclination as to how to get unstuck. 100 questions is just that–100 tiny curiosities. Give yourself permission to explore. Ask questions, big, little, silly, absurd. Turn a concept over and over, look at the backside, look at its counterpart. Let your curiosity run amok.

Where will 100 questions lead you?
Now, that’s a good question.

***This exercise is taken from Michael Gelb’s Discover Your Genius.

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Need a Nap? Take a Nap! Rest and Creativity: The Amazing Connection

A couple of years ago I had a major talk for a college coming up. Mothering Mother (my book) was the spring selection read for the entire college. I was invited to not only give a talk, but to also visit several departments, talk with students, a luncheon talk with the staff, a one-woman play in the community, and any other publicity (television/radio) that might arise. Pressure. I had to be ON. I needed to be prepared, present, interesting, educational, entertaining and all in all, a razzle-dazzle kind of gal for all of the upcoming events. And that’s when it hit me: I need to rest.

This isn’t just woo-woo. Rest is crucial to creativity. A recent study out of Harvard Health shows a direct correlation between creativity and rest. A group was given a complex problem to solve and then divided. One half of the group was told to work on the problem all day. The other half was encouraged to nap. Not only nap (not just a ten minute break), but were allowed to rest long enough to enter REM sleep. You guessed it. The group that napped showed a 40% cognitive improvement in problem solving. “Those whose naps were long enough to enter REM sleep did 40% better on the test than nappers who didn’t get any REM sleep and non-nappers. Rather than simply boosting alertness and attention, REM sleep allowed the brain to work creatively on the problems that had been posed before sleep.”

No wonder Google now encourages naps. Other great nappers include Albert Einstein, Salvadore Dali, Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison.

Salvador Dali

Back to my story: I spent the next two months (or more) preparing for the various components of my upcoming events–preparing posters, writing blogs, tapping into social media to help promote the event, lots of phone calls, printing of new materials, practicing endless hours so that my talks were seamless–and yes, plucking the wiry eyebrows and checking off a rather formidable list of personal hygiene items.

As the time came closer my world grew quiet. I stepped aside from other commitments. I spent time in my garden. I rode my bike. I took naps. I envisioned myself fully present with folks who needed me not only to talk, but more importantly, to listen. Every time an anxious thought entered my being I imagined us (students, professors, community folk) in a circle laughing, talking, sharing, reading, crying. I decided that going to these events rested and fully present was the best gift I could give myself–and everyone else. In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love, I wrapped us in love and light.

So…how’d it go?

Amazing.

I was received with kindness and ease. I was treated with respect and appreciation.

I was able to handle several days of a busy schedule and welcomed each event and each group of people with joy, sweetness and intention. It is truly one of my best “author” experiences that will forever cherish. And I don’t believe it would have turned out so well if I hadn’t tapped into the secret of rest.

Rest doesn’t mean sleeping (although it includes sleeping).

Rest is a state of regeneration.

Our brains are “free” from our consciousness (and critic) while we sleep. Solutions can “come to us,” when we stop trying so hard.

Rest doesn’t just mean catching some zzz’s. It’s whatever feeds your spirit.

Clean water, long walks, talking with people who invigorate your mind and spirit.

It might mean creating a meal, deadheading a bed of flowers, bird watching all afternoon, pouring through magazines and surrounding yourself with positive images. It might even mean addressing some minor irritations that are sapping you of your thoughts. It’s also body care–yoga, stretching, getting a massage, swimming, catching up on dental appointments, perhaps doing a juice cleanse.

It means time for quiet. For reflection. For envisioning how you want to feel at whatever is coming up for you. I wanted to feel deeply rested, present, and have the energy to give myself wholeheartedly to this endeavor.

Flash forward three years:

New opportunities are swirling around me. Several possibilities at once.

My head is spinning and my first thought is:

“Whew! There’s a whole lot about to happen–I better rest!”

PS
A special thanks to the folks at Owensboro Community College–

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Is Overthinking Smothering Your Creativity and Sapping Your Happiness?

I woke up at 4:50 this morning–overthinking. Decisions I’ve been wrestling with. Deprecating thoughts. You’re wasting your precious life. Why can’t you just….what are you waiting for…you’ve been going in circles for how long? If I were  my roommate, which I kind of am in this mind-body living arrangement, I’d tell myself to shut the hell up and go back to sleep. Overthinking is in many applications just another word for self-doubt–and self-doubt is battery acid when it’s spilled over creativity. Nothing is more corrosive. Nothing will sap you of energy, momentum, and happiness.

It’s time I re-listened to a book that I came  across recently but apparently haven’t fully mastered. The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer taught me something I didn’t fully know before now and as Anne Lamott says (paraphrased), “My mind is a dangerous playground–and I don’t dare go there alone!”

The Untethered Soul asked me to question my own thoughts and perceptions. It says my thoughts aren’t me and the reason I can know they’re not me is that I (some part of me–soul, spirit, consciousness, whatever you want to call it) can observe my thoughts. You can only observe something that is separate from your own  being, therefore it is separate and deserves to be considered, at times, a hostile witness of my own life.

Wow. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to not have to believe all those nasty thoughts.

 

This is from Amazon: Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.

This book, copublished with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), offers a frank and friendly discussion of consciousness and how we can develop it. In part one, he examines the notion of self and the inner dialogue we all live with. Part two examines the experience of energy as it flows through us and works to show readers how to open their hearts to the energy of experience that permeates their lives. Ways to overcome tendencies to close down to the rest of the world are the subject of part three. Enlightenment, the embrace of universal consciousness, is the subject of part four. And finally, in part five, Singer returns to daily life and the pursuit of unconditional happiness. Throughout, the book maintains a light and engaging tone, free from heavy dogma and prescriptive religious references. The easy exercises that figure in each chapter help readers experience the ideas that Singer presents. Visit www.untetheredsoul.com  for more information.

So, what I’ve been doing is writing Future Me. (Over at www.futureme.org

It’s taken the place  of my journals.  I find that I’m kinder and clearer when I write to myself. Here’s what I  wrote today that will be delivered to myself one year from today. (You can pick any time for the email to be delivered).

Dear FutureMe,
Are you overthinking again?
Is it keeping you spinning your wheels?
Up at night?
Turn it off, my love. It’s a waste of your precious time and energy on this earth.
Put on music. Go for a run. Dance. Clean. Do anything to drown out the incessant inner chatter.
Whatever it is that you’re doing–throw yourself in whole heart and all. Make mistakes. Big ones. Risk. Go for it. It’s better than living in paralyzing fear of getting it right or staying status  quo.
Ask yourself: looking back on this day what will you regret the most? Doing or not doing? It’s almost always the not doing.
So whatever you decide. Do it. If you need to close the circle then close it. If it’s time for the wandering void, then wander.
If it’s time to make new choices, go for it.
Life is an adventure and you are your own Magellan. Be out front scouting out new lands.
I love you.

Questions:

How does overthinking effect  your creativity/writing/art?

What do you do when you realize you’ve been overthinking?

Have you ever questioned that nasty roommate?

 

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Top Ten Writer’s Block Excuses (Reasons)

Writer’s block come in all kinds and sizes of excuses (reasons). Some are quite inventive.

Top Ten Writer’s Block Excuses (Reasons)

1. I’m all out of ideas.

2. All my ideas are lame.

3. Is that a lump I feel? Can you get lumps there? I better write my obit–quick.

3. I don’t know how to do this. In fact, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I’m a sham.

4. I can’t write until I clean off my desk/do the laundry/pay the bills/walk the dog….

5.. I’m bored with my story/article/poem.

6.. It’s shit. Pure dribble and nothing more.

7. Face it, I’m no Hemingway, Chandler, Updike. Hell, I’m not even Charles Schultz.

8. I need to make some real money.

9. I hate writing. I hate keyboards and notecards. I hate research. I hate this desk and this lamp–it’s so dim. My back hurts. I need a new chair, that’s the problem. Some people write sitting on a giant ball, maybe I need a giant ball. I hate dialogue, and I loathe revising. Why the #*%&  do I put myself through this torture?

10. It’s taking too long. Who’s going to publish a first novel by a 90 year old newbie author?

Bonus: I’m tired and getting rejections suck.

I’m embarrassed and yeah, a little sad about how my writing career is going. I thought I’d have made it by now, whatever that means…

Wow, that was easy to write. The old adage of write what you know really works. This inner loop plays in my head all day, most every day.

You’ve got your own list, I’m sure, but I bet we have one thing in common. One thing we haven’t said aloud.

If I don’t write I won’t be rejected.

No risk. No risk. 

If you don’t take the risk you risk nothing of value…therefore you can’t get hurt. (Delusional thinking at best)

I don’t have any spiffy answers today. I just needed to write my list and look at it.

I think I’m going to take one of my despised notecards and write, No Risk. No Risk, on it.

I need to mull that one over.

Want to add to the list? Leave a comment.

I enjoy other’s self-loathing. It makes me feel oh so normal.

I might have missed one–wouldn’t want to leave out a perfectly good excuse (reason).

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Do One Thing Different: Creativity and Writer Block Breakthroughs

“The way to get unblocked is to lose our inhibitions and stop worrying about being right.”

~Paul Arden 

“How do I get past a writer’s block? I lower my standards.” That’s what W. Va. creative writing professor Gail Galloway Adams told me years ago. Perfectionism and procrastination are toxic kissing cousins when it comes to creativity blocks. I’d say that doubt (which feeds self-criticism) slides into the mix, but as a person who makes a living (kinda-sorta) off my communication skills I don’t have the luxury of staying stuck for long.

Paul Arden addresses this issue in his international best seller It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by reminding us to not be afraid of silly ideas.

Arden quotes British actor/comedian, John Cleese, “High creativity is responding to situations without critical thought,” (playfulness).

 

Improv isn’t as willy-nilly as you might think. It comes from being loose, from snatching at whatever comes to mind, from taking risks, from extrapolating from the past and attaching it to some hair-ball out there idea you can’t fathom or track where it came from.

Actors do it on stage. Musicians do it in jam sessions (and some perform this way) Yet writers and visual artists usually create in private and strive to hone their work to perfection. Too bad. It takes all the fun out it, and it doesn’t always produce good work. Improvising pulls from your talents but adds the element of surprise, whimsy, and the magic and mayhem of the moment. It’s not expected to be perfect. You-get-what-you-get can  produce phenomenal-breakthrough work.

Who wouldn’t love see Robin Williams live just playing with and off the audience?

Who wouldn’t give the contents of their checking account to have been privy to one of the Beatles jam sessions with everyone trying out new rifts and blurting out lyrics–duds and all?

Who wouldn’t want to hand Jackson Pollack his next color bucket so he can splatter paint in what looks like string theory on canvas?

So how does an artist, a writer get unblocked?

Paul Arden gives some suggestions:

1. Do the opposite of what you’ve been doing.

2. Look around–out the window, in your office, on your desk or on the wall. Incorporate what you see into your solution.

3. Go silly. Fat Bastard is a popular French wine. Don’t tell me that you might not buy that wine just because of the unconventional name?

And I’ll add one more–from another book I adore, Do One Thing Different, Ten Simple Ways to Change Your Life, by Bill Hanolon.

Today, right now, whatever you’re about to do–do it different. Walk backwards to your mailbox. Brush your teeth with your left hand. Drive to the grocery store using a different route. Your brain is so used to the monotony of your life that it spits out more monotony–you get back what you put in. Mixing it up charges those neurons.

Now, look at your art. Do one thing different. Ask what if. Ramp up the risk. Write a fight scene cool and an every day scene hot.

I triple-dog dare you to get silly, to do the opposite, to try one thing different.

Just see what happens.

I’m up for the challenge, are you?

 

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Throw Your Heart Over the Fence, Living an Artist’s Life

In the equestrian world when you’re getting ready to ask your horse to jump (and you’re scared, you doubt, you hesitate) what you need to do is to throw your heart over the fence…and then jump after it. That’s what we have to do as writers, artists, and musicians. We have to take that wild daring leap. There are no promises of the outcome–if your novel will be published, if your short story will be be accepted, if your painting/sculpture will be accepted into an exhibition, or your song will find its audience. That’s not really your concern. You are to do one thing: Leap.

Maybe that’s why so many of us toy with our art. We don’t take it serious. We piddle (mydictionary.com tells me that this means an act of urination, to spend time in trifling activities–and that this word is probably a blend from two other words–piss and puddle) .

We allow the glitter of distraction to lure us down yet another path. We pick up new hobbies. Knitting. Cycling. Making our own sushi. We download a new playlist. Rewatch the last season of Downton Abbey. We blame the “new economy” for a tougher, leaner publishing world. Besides, readers are more interested in fluff than true literary work (we tell ourselves that fluff is beneath us).

To leap is a scary thing. Not only do you risk rejection, you risk disappointment.

Julia Cameron reminds us in Letters to a Young Artist that to become discouraged literally means to lose heart.

Couer is French for heart–dis-courage. Julia says, “When we become dis-couraged we move away from our heart and what it knows and loves.”

Courage is a matter of the heart.

That’s why the Lion in the Wizard of Oz was given a badge of courage that he wore over his heart.

As tenacious as I am when it comes to my art, I too, lose heart. Doubt swirls.

You’re not that good. Give it up. Just be happy, be happy with your life and don’t torture yourself. The world doesn’t need another writer. If you had put this much effort into a career you would be making 100K+. You missed your opportunity. You’re lazy, that’s your problem. You don’t want to work hard. You like being different. Why don’t you get with the program. Earn your keep. Earn some freakin’ money and get your own IRA. What is it –really–that you do all day/night/weekend?  

Some days it starts early in the morning. It’s not a conscious thought. It’s a niggling in the back of me somewhere.

For the most part I fight it. I ignore it.

Sometimes I imagine another me.

I could be a mixologist. I’m a people person. Food/drink, I love. Showing up each night and being “on.”  It’s part chemistry, part intuition. Dress down, but cool, like I’m not trying…this old thing? I got it at a thrift store in SoHo. The boots were my grandmother’s. Here’s your drink. Call it a Red Badge.

I could do it.

I could be a park ranger. Tell stories all day–at Ellis Island, or repair fencing in Montana and figure out what to do about the ever growing coyote population. I might need to drive a few of them to northern Canada, get lost on the way. At least I would be outside breathing in God’s air, not chained to the desk leg of corporate life. I could rock a pair of tight fitting Dickies pants, hell, I could wear a dickey under my park ranger boy scout looking shirt, but I’d have to lose the hat. The hat looks like the guy in Curious George.

I could move to New York. Get into fashion. Get into acting. Go back to school and get a Ph.D. is art history and become a curator. Or…I could open a junque shop. Collect oddities and paint on the siding. Murals that take decades. I could get written up in my local paper and they’d take a photograph of my wall. My hodge-podge shop would have to have a cat you’d find unexpectedly in an overturned enamel percolator or on top of a pyramid of books. And a Saint Bernard, every store needs a big sweet sleepy dog that lays right in the middle of things greeting customers with only the lift of his droopy lids. I’d create still-lifes out of stuffed ravens, old superman comic books, and the blue percolator with the cat in it.

Oops. I did it, I slid back into the arts. That’s the problem.

At the root of me beats an artist’s heart. A rebel. A naughty child with a potty mouth. A pseudo-philosopher. A star-dazer. Belly-button gazer.

So I’m back full circle.

I have to figure things out and I do that with words. I do that with color. I eavesdrop and peek around corners. I want to know stuff about other people, about me. I want to tell a story, a story that makes you forget to breathe, that makes you forget that you’re sitting or standing or wherever the hell you are or whatever the hell you were doing before. I want to tell you a story that messes with you–big time. I want you to bump into your beliefs like you side-step dance with a stranger who just won’t get out of your way. This way, that, no you go this way, I’ll go that.

I guess it comes down to this.

I want time.

Time to wander through the aisles of an Indian grocery, to unscrew the top of lilac water, to pick up some prickly over-sized avocado shaped thing with a green and yellow striped rind and wonder how they cook it. Boiled?  With curry? I want to ask someone but I am a foreigner in this produce department. Wary eyes turn away. So this is what that feels like.

Time to sit on the subway and miss my stop because a guy with a banjo has just broke into a bluesy rendition of Dixie, his few teeth the color somewhere between banana peel and mango, his wrinkled fingers two-stepping over taut strings. I want to know him, where he slept last night and whose arms held him twenty years ago. I want to taste the gas station coffee he sips black and cold. I want to sit here with my ankles hugging each other with Dixie wafting in and through me.

I want time, which is rather ironic since time is more or less an illusion.

I want to tell that other me who worries about my IRA to be patient.

It’ll all work out.

I just need a little more time.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex…

It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

– Albert Einstein

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Why Exercise Benefits Writers

 

This is a guest post written by Jim Rollince, www.gymsource.com  

As a writer, you may not get the exercise that you need because you are always stuck in front of a computer.  You may find that your back begins to ache after a long day of writing or that your knuckles feel tight and uncomfortable.  Writers have a job that tends to make them quite sedentary, which means that they do not get up as often as they should.  What’s more, many writers do not realize just how beneficial a little exercise can be for their creativity and their thought process.  A little exercise really does go a long way.

 

One thing to keep in mind is that exercise has a variety of benefits, and these benefits are amazingly useful for writers.  Exercise helps to ease tension and clear the mind.  Just imagine walking down a path on a chilly autumn day and the thoughts and ideas that come to you.  You may not realize that in the process you are getting your cardio exercise for the day and improving your overall health.  People who exercise tend to be happier than those who are sedentary.  You may find it easier to write when you are in a better mood because of getting a little exercise.

 

Another thing you should seriously consider is taking breaks while you are writing.  You probably sit for hours a day typing up articles, blog posts, or even e-books that you plan to sell.  The body was simply not designed to be still in a sitting position for hours and hours at a time.  Consider taking breaks every half an hour.  Get up and take a quick walk on your home gym equipment or simply intertwine your fingers and stretch your arms above your head.  Move your feet around and roll your shoulders back.  Even these small exercises can make a major difference in how you feel at the end of the day.

 

Treadmills and ellipticals are great for writers because they can sit in the home and be used whenever it is convenient for you.  Between writing a chapter or an article for a client, you should get on the treadmill for a couple of minutes.  You can either listen to music or simply walk and think about what you are going to write next.  Giving your mind a time to rest and your eyes a little space from the computer screen, you may find that ideas come more easily to you.

 

Exercise is vital for anyone who has a job that causes them to be sedentary.  Writers are among the most common when it comes to living sedentary lives.  Just think of how creative you can be if you take a walk every other day on a lovely path or through a park.  Look at the changing seasons and smell the fresh air.  Your articles, stories, or even blog posts will come right to you during these walks.  What’s more, you will be improving your health and extending your life in the process.

 

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Submitting Short Stories, The How and Why for Writers

If I had more time I’d have written a shorter letter–Mark Twain

In my last blog I wrote that I would be writing as much as I work out. I’ve already put in an hour of marketing this morning. Marketing counts. It’s a necessary part of the writing process. Yesterday I submitted a finished short story to three places as well as looked at various publishing houses, author websites and killer log lines. My summer goal is to publish a short story I’ve recently polished–I would say finished, but there is no finish.

Why spend time writing short stories? It’s true you rarely make a dime off of short stories, although I’m rather happy to report that my highest paying short story was 1500 smackeroos (which impresses the hell out of me), but that was several years back before publishing took the recent economic beating. Nowadays writers work for pittance or are supposed to just be happy seeing their name on the ‘net. I’ve been offered to write a 600 word blog/article for five bucks. That’ll never pay for my inevitable carpel tunnel surgery.

 Most short stories get published in literary presses, journals, and ezines. Not much money there, if any. So why bother with the short story form?

First, they can be lovely little gems. I have a dozen or so short stories I’ve read that I carry in my coin-purse of a soul and they speak to me at unexpected times. Like an extra grandmother offering her saged wisdoms and warnings just when I need a reminder.  I’m a big fan of anthologies such as New Stories From the South compiled by Algonquin books. They peruse the journals and choose their favs, and some of them become my favs. A few years back I drove the now Algonquin editor Kathy Pories to the airport after a writer’s conference and we discussed our all-time favorite short stories–some of which she had personally chosen. I was in writer heaven. Our conversation resembled a world-class ping-pong match of exuberant and unabashed literary joy.

The other reason to bother writing and/or reading short stories is that there is perhaps no greater teaching tool. Short stories are laser-focused writing. Every word counts. Every scene must deliver. There is no filler, and little space for transitions that don’t nail it immediately. They push the writer to concentrate. They take multiple revisions (for me, anyway) and the actually help to push the writer to his/her next level. I know of no better way to fine tune your authentic writer’s voice than to try to create a complete story that pulls the reader in fast and yet leaves air to ponder in less than 5,000 words.

Some short stories focus on character development and motivation, a literary skill most writers need to hone. Other short stories are experimental in form and style. Some are edgy, most are quiet, a few are exquisite with a lyricism found mainly in poetry. Only a select few wind up in the New Yorker or the Paris Review but all short stories are in one way or another a true work of dedicated art.

I’ve managed to place three short stories this year in a publishing home. That’s actually pretty good considering how tough the market is and how long it takes to write and polish one of these pups. Deep South Magazine has selected to publish one of mine–“The Middle of Nowhere” this fall. It’s set in a North Georgia gas station and all I’m saying is that there’s a pet monkey who reads the paper (upside down). The story itself is ten years old. I’ve rewritten that little sucker  a few dozen times, quite a few dozen, actually. I keep twenty or so stories going at all times, exploring what I mean to say, what psychological underpinnings are still gnawing at me, what about the structure I’ve chosen does or doesn’t work.

And here’s the point I’m getting at–I think–I write short stories to learn. To learn how to write, how to live, how to be. Or not to be (Cliche? Perhaps. Needed? Probably not. Implied, so nix the last line).

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Does Art Imitate Life? Writers Wanna Know

I’ve been on a workout kick this summer. I spent 2 1/2 hours at the gym yesterday and today–lifting weights, running, Zumba. Why? Sick and tired of being sick and tired might top my list. Sick of my own procrastinating. Tired of letting myself down. I’ve shared with more than one fellow writer that I believe whatever issues we have ON the page–we have OFF the page as well (character development, run-on sentences, purple prose, motivation, weak on plot, you name it and you can find a real world counterpoint).

After ten solid weeks of working out at least an hour a day 5/6 days a week  I’m starting to see some muscle definition. I could barely do one real push up and now I can do 20. (Who knew?) What do I like about working out the most? For that 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, however long I’m there, all I think about is what I’m doing at that moment. My mind and body are in sync. The rest of my life doesn’t exist. All the crap, the worry, the regret, the guilt–vanished. It’s just me and what I’m capable of. That alone is worth the gym membership.

Like most everybody I know, I over-think. I analyze everything and everybody and every word they said or I said. It’s exhausting. In the gym I don’t. It’s tough enough to lift 40 pounds and squat 50 times and that’s all my brain and muscles can tackle at one time. There are all kinds of benefits

So I came home today and flexed in the mirror–my new favorite thing to do with my burgeoning girlie biceps  (no wonder they call it a vanity mirror!) and I thought, “Wow, I’ve made quite a commitment here–and that thought was immediately followed with–why don’t I make the same time commitment to my writing each day?

Gym time for writing time. Sounds like a lotta time, I know, but it’s amazing how much time you have if you give up television and housework. A few other luxuries might have to be nixed as well, like chewing each bite of food 20 times or changing the cat litter. On second thought, cat litter is on the must do list.

Maybe art just might imitate life.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Question:

What does your art/writing mirror? A relationship? A room in your house? See any correlations?

 

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