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May 2016

Part II: The Art of Observation~ how to seek & find Inspiration

Moment of truth: Have you ever put off writing because you just didn’t feel “inspired”? I wager most of us (myself included) would have to plead guilty.

Lack of Inspiration holds a high position on the list of excuses wanna-be writers make for not writing.

Fair enough, you may say. Inspiration is a key ingredient of Creativity, right? You can’t create cold. One needs a catalyst to get the stone rolling; a spark to ignite the flame; a bolt of lightning to strike life into Frankenstein’s monster before he can rapturously proclaim “It’s aliiiive!”

But what if the Inspiration you’re waiting for doesn’t come?

The word “Inspiration” comes from Latin that literally refers to the act of God breathing -or inspiring– life into being… breathing a soul into mere flesh & bones. Prime example: in the book of Genesis, God breaths life into Adam (the 1st man) & thereby infuses him with God’s own attributes, including & especially Creativity! Then he tells Adam to get up & start using it! Look around at all those stars, plants & animals! Give them names! Grow gardens, build houses, write sonnets, procreate & fill the earth with the fruit of Creativity…& all from that one little initial spark of Inspiration.

So here’s what I’m driving at. If you’re alive reading this, you have the same gift of Inspiration Adam had– a soul to drive you, 5 senses to take in the world around you & a brain to make some sense and use out of it all *(that, you might say is the bare bones of how Creativity works).

So why do we feel we’re lacking Inspiration? Maybe we’ve just forgotten how to find it. Maybe our 5 senses need a dusting off. Maybe instead of waiting for lightening to strike us right where we sit, we need to become storm chasers… or more aptly, Inspiration Chasers (you can just hear the epic theme music cue, right?).

I’m talking about The Art of Observation. If you’ll master it, I guarantee inspiration for your craft will never again be hard to find. But be warned: once you learn how to look, you may find Inspiration lurking literally everywhere, more than your brain & notebooks combined can possibly contain! Leonardo da Vinci summed up this principle well when he said

l’esperienza fu maestra di chi scrisse bene. (Experience was the good writer’s teacher)

When we experience the world, not passively, but through the kind of active observation that would make Sherlock Holmes proud, we have all the inspiration we need to fuel our creative writing.

So here’s my first tip: Be prepared to be surprised!

Inspiration comes in funny ways & when you least expect it… only you should be expecting it everywhere & all the time. For instance, last week I was invited to a Sunday lunch. Only when I arrived at the lunch did I discover that I was one of ten guests & the only one under the age of 75. The afternoon was spent loudly articulating every word for those hard of hearing & repeating myself to the one lady with memory loss. A waste of an afternoon when I might have been reading Rilke or waiting in meditation for the inspiration bug to bite? Ha! I came away with mountains of it!

I soon discovered my lunch companions were a kaleidoscope of mannerisms, dialects, peculiarities & brilliant senses of humour, to say nothing of the wonderful narratives they shared from bygone days that might as well be fantasy lands for one my age! Their lives were rich, their perspectives so different, & they were so very willing to share all that wealth with anyone willing to listen… on that Sunday afternoon, that someone was the privileged I.

Anyone you meet, if you look & listen long enough, has something unique to offer as fodder for fiction. And the very young & very old in particular seem to overflow with inspiring tales and insights. So don’t shun new company. Strike up chats. Be a listen ear. Hear the untold stories that walk right past you every day. They might just inspire the plot for your next fiction piece!

Secondly, gird yourself with the writer’s weapons: en garde!

Once you’ve learned to look for inspiration in every new environment, you’ll want a way to catch it & keep it before it flits away (beware the writer’s curse: Inspiration always strikes whilst in the shower or behind the wheel! Do not attempt to write or type in these situations!).

Keep a handy little notebook & writing utensil of choice on your person whenever possible. One of the best habits you can form is keeping an observation journal. Write down your first impressions of a person, place or object. What made them or it stand out? How do they differ from others around them? Jot down physical traits, speech (tone, pace, notable turns of phrase), attitude, movements, expressions… sky’s the limit! Just get it down & don’t assume you’ll remember later on.

And finally, distill your observations into literary descriptions

you could stop at step 2 & still reap the benefits of observation: your mind & notebooks would be that much fuller of potential characters, settings or intriguing objects. But if you aim to write to the next level, why not go a step further?

A good writer does more than string together a load of adjectives when describing someone or something. She chooses those descriptions-nouns & verbs as well as adjectives & adverbs–that capture the essence of the thing or character. Remember, your readers have the gift of creative thought as well. They can fill in the gaps. What you the writer must give them is an impression on which they can build their own images of your created world.

And here we come to the beauty of writing. The writer captures inspiration in order to distill it and create something new to inspire the reader. You might call it recycling inspiration! But it all begins by putting to death the old excuse that you’re “waiting for inspiration”. Instead, practice the Art of Observation! You’ll soon find Inspiration is yours for the taking & for the making!

Part I: What exactly is creativity anyway? (& how do I get me some?)

We all know it when we see it. We all want a little more of it… but what exactly is creativity anyway? Tom Wujec, creative thinking guru, hits it on the mark in his book Five Star Mind:

“Creativity is a familiar stranger. Trying to define it is like trying to capture a puff of smoke with your fingertips.”

How can it be that Creativity is at once so familiar–we recognize it in others all the time–and yet strange and slippery when we try to pin it down for ourselves? We come to believe that Creativity is some sort of mystical super power with which only the select creative geniuses among us have been so fortunately graced. While they receive visions, the rest of us ordinary people dig around in the mud hoping to strike creative gold. And dang, it’s hard work!

If only there were some 5-step process to awakening your inner creative genius! If only you could be as creative as _(fill in the blank: that writer who seems to strike gold every time they breath)_!  If only…

You know, “If only” thoughts require a vast amount of energy. Energy that might be converted into…I dunno… creative thinking? Because when it comes down to it, Creativity might be indefinable, but it is not unattainable. You’ve already got it! And no, you don’t just need to squeeze your eyes shut and recite the mantra “I am creative!” until you magically pop out a bestseller. I’m not talking about deluding yourself into thinking you’re creative. I’m suggesting that everybody’s got the ability to be creative, but your Creativity won’t look like mine. Just think about it! We are each of us created uniquely. Doesn’t it make sense that what we create and how we create will be equally unique to each of us? What inspires you to create might not do beans for me. And now, finally, we begin to get closer to why Creativity evades definition: it is by nature always adapting, evolving, developing along with us, individually & uniquely.

Ok. So the closest we can get to defining Creativity is to accept that it defies definition–it looks different for each one us. But we still haven’t resolved how we can maximize our creative energy, whatever that means!

Well in Parts II & III of “Got Creativity”, I’ll give you some tried-&-true tools for shaking that Creative muscle awake & getting it buzzing again.

But just for now, the following questions will help you to find out if you are nourishing your own Creativity… or suffocating it:

Are you giving yourself the space & time to be Creative?

When it comes to stimulating Creativity, the problem is often not too little but too much. How often, in a quiet moment alone, do you savour a bit of mindless musing rather than reach for your smartphone & start flicking? How often do you sit back & stare out the window on long journeys or your daily commute rather than clicking on the radio/ipod/news app/etc.?

Psychologists tell us that when our brain is in information processing mode (ie. flicking through our phones or surfing the web for “inspiration”), we virtually shut down our ability to create. However, when our brains are in task negative or “boredom” mode, it’s like those creative neurons can finally clear the floor & get their dancing shoes on!

When it comes to Creativity, boredom is your friend. It’s a lost art — letting your mind wander without any external stimulation might even intimidate you. But making that space & time for musing is the vital first step to waking up your own Creativity. Be brave! Give it a go!

*(Photographers Phillip & Eileen Blume talk about the goods & evils of modern technology for Creative thought in this inspirational TedX Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOPVLuopnV0)

Are you bogged down trying to write for the Market?

As a budding writer, it’s all too easy to try to catch whatever winds the market is blowing to fill your creative sails. But don’t be caught out-trying to perform for an ever-changing market will soon leave you in the creative doldrums.

One of the key ingredients of Creativity is passion. That’s why your creativity looks different to mine! The thing you’re passionate about, the thing that energizes & excites you, that’s the fuel for your creative fire. So keep a weather eye on the Market if you must, but don’t fret over it. Write what you are passionate about. Because chances are, there’s an audience out there passionate about the very same thing!

Are you an Explorer?

More on this in Part III, but suffice it to say for now, Creativity happens when our minds are allowed to wonder, to inquire, to explore… No wonder kids seem to have Creativity coming out their ears!

Remember those good ol’ days as a kid, mixing up mud pies with whatever ingredients you could find in the garden? Sure, to Mum or Dad it might have looked like you were picking berries, tearing leaves and digging up earthworms. But in actuality, you were gathering mundane ingredients together to make something new & wonderfully disgusting. But that is the essence of Creativity! Like a mud pie chef, we gather together our plot, our characters, our settings…we toss in a bit of our favourite books, a pinch of life experience, and… voila! Something totally new results!

So dare to take a second look at the world around you. What others see as mud you may come to see as a scrumptious pie.

Do you learn from hiccups?

Creative writing is quite a lot like cooking, actually (& not just mud pies). You throw together the ingredients you’ve gathered, hoping to make a delicious, harmonious stew. Not every ingredient will blend & enhance as you hoped. That’s ok! The key is to let your creative ideas simmer. It takes time, trial & error. Sometimes it takes getting it wrong before you know how to set it right.

Remember, Creativity grows with you. It’s a journey, and a right fun one if you’ll except the hiccups as part of it!

Got Creativity?: 3-part series to get your creative juices flowing

Here’s an exercise for you: next time you’re at a ho-hum dinner party, strike up a riveting conversation by asking your fellow guests, “Would you consider yourself a creative person?” Unless the table is comprised of confident, free-spirited, arty-farty types, the answers are likely to lean towards the negative. Most people wish they were creative, but feel they just haven’t got it (it being that mystical creative spark some people seem to be just born with…you know, the J.K.Rowlings among us).

Now ask yourself the same question: Am I a creative person? Have I ‘got’ creativity? Chances are if you’re a writer, you at least brand yourself the creative type… after all, isn’t Creativity a writer’s bread & butter? Every jot & tittle of our stories requires a little flex of our creative muscles. We must be creative for our art… or die trying!

But how often do we feel like Creativity lies just beyond our reach? We turn green with envy after reading a great novel bursting with creative ideas we wish we’d thought of, but didn’t… or lose focus and flow in our story because of that dreaded Creative Block?  Do you ever feel like Creativity is evading you? You chase it down like Alice chasing after the white rabbit, but every time you gain on it, it gives you the slip! And on & on goes the relentless rabbit’s chase until your energy tank is running on empty.

This lack or loss or block of Creativity has been the death of many a potential story & nipped many a just-blooming-writing-career in the bud. “If I could just pin down that white rabbit, Creativity!” we cry. For then we might domesticate him in order that, like a faithful pet, he  would come when called upon and do our bidding! But how?

Well I’m here to say, DON’T THROW IN YOUR CREATIVE TOWEL JUST YET! So long as you are human, there is hope. After all, Creativity is one of the features that sets us apart from many of the creatures who share this planet with us… like sea squirts. *(My sincere apologies if I have just slighted any creative sea squirts out there unawares!) Creativity is a wonderful gift, not a pesky evasive rodent. It’s meant to be exercised and enjoyed, and its fruits enjoyed by others.

When it comes to Creativity, it’s not about whether you’ve got it or not. It’s how you use it that counts. It’s a thing to be nurtured, an appetite to be whet, a muscle to beef up. And for the rest of this 3-part series, we’re here to help you PUMP YOUR CREATIVE MUSCLES UP!!!  We may not have the magic key to unlock the Creativity treasure trove, but we can at least give you some tips to start you out on the right foot. We’ll unpack…

I. What exactly is Creativity anyway?  (and how do I get me some?)

II. The Art of Observation: how to seek & find Inspiration

III. The Art of Asking: the writer’s quest for questions

So stay tuned!

**Not yet following Brewhaha? You can sign up on the Home page to receive email notifications when we publish new posts (included parts 1-3 of “Got Creativity?”). If you’re a writer, reader, tea-drinker or wanna-be, we’d love for you to join our growing creative community!

 

 

 

The Oven Fairie

I know I already posted today, but wanted to share little happening in my home. I posted to our blog and decided to reward myself with scones before I settled down to write. The chocolate chips were calling to me and I knew if I didn’t make scones soon, there wouldn’t be enough chips left to make them. I always use half white flour and half wheat flour…that makes them healthy, right?

So I start out with the intention of making scones, planning on making some chocolate mint tea to go with them. So imagine my surprise and horror when I pulled out the pans, and instead of scones, there were COOKIES! The fairie who lives in my oven changed the scones into oatmeal raisin cookies where the raisins are chocolate chips! How dare she!!

Oh well. It’s not my fault I now have a plate of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, which incidentally go very well with Jane Austen black tea. No, not my fault at all.

Happy Friday everyone! Have a fun and safe weekend, and don’t forget to do some writing.IMG_1521.jpg

How do I…

So you’ve decided you are finally going to start writing regularly. Your Horrible Whatiffer has died an equally horrible death (and you are standing by with stakes if it rises up again) and you’ve ruthlessly hunted down a couple hours a week to write. You were ruthless, right? You have an amazing idea or a character you know every reader is going to love. You sit down at your desk or in a coffee shop, open up a new document on your computer aaand…you have no idea how to start. How do you turn an idea or a character into a 100,000 word story?

Or you have the start, have the end, even have random scenes throughout the story. Plot points A, G, K, Q, and Z, but you can’t figure out where the rest of the alphabet is.

And lastly, maybe you have a whole first draft done. It’s good, but you know it can be better, you just aren’t sure how to go about making it as perfect as it can be.

Never fear! We live in an awesome era of information overload. You can find online courses about turf management, find websites on how to macramé, and even tons of information on, drum roll please, all aspects of fiction writing! Yay!

I’m sure most of us wish we could go all out and get our masters in creative writing. Putting that in a query letter would definitely look good. Unfortunately, time, life, and money (not to mention some of us practically break out in hives at the thought of going to school again…not me of course…) prevent many of us from accomplishing this goal. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to write. There are online courses, blogs (obviously), websites, and books all about fiction writing.

A good place to start is Writer’s Digest. This website is chock full of resources for writers. You can subscribe to the magazine, take writing courses, browse the books, or read all the free tips. You can also look at the books in your local bookstores or on Amazon. Can’t afford a book but really want to read one? Remember the local library! Even if your library doesn’t have any books on writing, most librarians are happy to track some down for you.

Still overwhelmed? Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham
  • The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke
  • Write Great Fiction series (this is several books by different authors on specific aspects of writing including revision, dialogue, plot & structure and characters)

We also plan on creating a new page specifically for writing resources, so keep an eye out for it. We’ll let you know what worked for us and any books we are currently working through and how we like them.

Whatever you need help with, there’s a book or course for that! So if you are struggling, don’t struggle alone. There are a lot of resources to help you through the difficult process of writing. So write on!

Novel writing: not for the faint of heart

Of all the metaphors authors use to describe the writing process, there’s one in particular that resonates with me in a big way: Writing is like running in a race. And I don’t mean no piddly 5k jog. I am talking marathon here! (NB: I give full license to anyone who has actually run a marathon to chime in!). So just a quick caveat at this stage: If you’re looking for a relaxing walk in the park at the end of the day, don’t sign up to write a novel! But if you’re looking to go the distance, to stretch the limits of your imagination and pump up those creative muscles, READ ON!

Previously we said the hardest part of writing was the Start. And that’s true! Same goes for running. Most people you know will never run a marathon because they’ll never sign up to one. You’ve got to tie on those running shoes and step up to the start line before you can even breach the task of running the race. And let’s face it, that’s where most people fail at the writing business as well. Fear of failure keeps writing that novel in the realm of “Someday”, and the Horrible Whatiffer lives to die another day. (see previous blog post on starting if you haven’t got a clue what I’m on about!)

But let’s hope you’re one of the few and far between who have crossed that barrier. And if you are, congratulations! The sheer fact that you’re writing means you’re a writer! That’s more than the majority of wanna-bes-but-never-wills out there can say. But now there’s a new challenge: Sticking it out to the finish line.

At first, you and your novel may have enjoyed a ‘honeymoon’ phase. Ideas flowed like milk and honey, your imaginative mind was fueled up and on fire, and inspiration just seemed to step out and introduce itself at every turn. But now a little time has passed, and the word count is getting smaller as your stamina wanes. You fret about sitting down to that sticky scene that seems to go nowhere. You tell yourself through gritted teeth “I just want to be done with this blasted (or insert your choice word) thing!”

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Every successful writer out there has walked through the valleys before reaching their peaks. Don’t believe me? Just pick up a copy of Writers & Artists Handbook and read through some of the author bios. Successful authors are marathon runners. They are people who understand that writing requires pacing yourself. Sometimes it’s easy sailing, sure. But other times, every foot forward costs everything you’ve got. It’s not always graceful, not always pretty. You may find yourself utterly stuck in the mud! But pushing through it all, getting to the end no matter the setbacks, that’s what counts.

So here are a handful of practical tips to keep you steady and on track, or get you out of that mud puddle if you’re stuck:

  • Keep Moving, even if you don’t like what you’re writing. As author Jodi Picoult puts it, “You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” (Writers & Artists Yearbook 2016)
  • Write a 1-liner pitch for your book (the bare essence of what it’s about). Every time you get stuck, return to that line. This is your finish line. Are you moving towards it? If not, where did you get off track?
  • Return to your first love. If you’re seriously stuck, lay on your back, close your eyes, put on a piece of music that expresses the feel of your story, and try to remember your excitement in those early days. Playlists are great for running, but they work wonders for writing marathons too!
  • Use the Buddy System! Get a friend to keep you accountable on deadlines & word counts. Or just to listen as you work through your story’s kinks out loud! *another little bonus tip here: keep your deadlines realistic. No need to rush it! Remember, pace yourself.
  • BE OPTIMISTIC! Easier said than done, I hear you say. And don’t I know it! But 90% of a finishing marathon happens in your head. It might just be 99.9% of writing a novel. Take those negative “I’m never gonna…” thoughts captive and choose to think positively.

turtle-finishline

Remember, writers are not a higher race of beings who produce audience-worthy material each time they set pen to paper. Writers are simply people who write, no matter the discouragements or the setbacks. So keep your eye on the prize and stride (or crawl) onward with pride. You are on your way to crossing that finish line and joining the ranks of writers on the other side!

All ye fellow writers out there! Got an inspiring story or a favourite tip to add? Share the wealth & leave it in a comment below.

Someday

“‘Someday.’ That’s a dangerous word…It’s really just a code for ‘never.’”

Quick! Name that movie! If you guessed Knight and Day, you are correct! If not, well, better luck next time.

Have you ever used that word? “Someday, I’m going to…” Most of us have, and since you are reading this blog, I’m assuming the rest of the sentence has something to do with writing.

When is your someday? Is it after you graduate? After the kids graduate? Maybe you are planning your someday for after you get a raise or even after you retire.

For us writers, I’m willing to bet our someday almost always has to do with having more time. Let’s face it; writing takes up a lot of time! And worse, it’s focused time, alone time. It’s don’t-you-know-I-can’t-write-and-carry-on-a-conversation time. And who has that kind of time?

However, I think someday needs to be today. Seriously. If you wait around until someday comes around, you take the chance someday will never come, or if it does, isn’t what you thought it was. There will always be demands on your time, but when something is important to you, you make time for it. If writing is important, make time now for it.

Try this. There are 168 hours in a week. Can you find two for your writing? You’re a writer, you’re supposed to be creative, so think creatively! Here’s what I came up with off the top of my head (or, er, the hours I’ve been composing this in my head…)

  • Rent a movie for the kids once a week and write while they watch
  • Go to bed an hour later twice a week, or get up earlier (unless you are like me and you turn into either a zombie or Dr. Jekyll one hair away from morphing into Mr. Hyde. In that case, please sleep!)
  • Here’s something radical: don’t go on social media for a day! Every time you start to go on social media, do some writing instead
  • Carry a journal and a pen with you everywhere and anytime you have five minutes, do some brainstorming or outlining. Use your lunch hours and all that time waiting around for appointments or people
  • Make an appointment with yourself and keep it as if it was a doctor’s appointment
  • Anything else you can think of! Like I said, be creative. For most of us, the time is there if we make writing a priority

Get a calendar and flip ahead to a year from today. Writing just two hours a week, you can have a 50,000-100,000 word first draft done on that date. That’s better than finding another year gone and you still no closer to your writing goals, don’t you think? Revise it in the next year, and voila! Time to start looking for agents instead of waiting for someday.

A Time to Critique, A Time to Create: how writers cork their own creative flow

Let’s get brutally honest for a moment, shall we? Writing– I mean really going for it–is terrifying! Each and every time you sit down to put words on page, you’re actually transcribing a little piece of you: your wildest dreams, your deepest desires. So what if you don’t like what you see looking back at you? What if your reflection exposes you to be not the creative genius you’d hoped and imagined, but a failure…a fraud?

And that’s just the first cause of anxiety… (Who wouldn’t want to be a writer?!) As if looking at your own work wasn’t cringe-worthy enough, if you have any hope of publication, at some stage you will have to cast your story–that rather revealing extension of you–before the eyes of complete strangers! Or worse… People you know!

“Oh, I never tell anyone I know that I’m writing a novel. They might ask to read it!” If only I had 5p for each time I’ve heard an aspiring writer say those words, eyes wide with horror at the very thought. I know I’ve said them, and far more seasoned and successful writers than I are just as guilty. Well then, you might reasonably conclude, it’s only natural! The nerves, the fist-fulls of hair and palm-to-forehead moments… it’s all part of the writing process! Indeed it is, and yet anxiety may be the very thing that’s putting a stopper in your creative process.

You may be carrying a parasite: a little monster I like to call The Horrible Whatiffer.

The Horrible Whatiffer comes along to gawk over shoulder as you transfer ideas to page in the form of a rough draft. Just as some new scene is about to blossom…“Wait!” he wails. “What if it’s over-the-top? What if it’s too long? Too slow? What if it’s not what the market’s going for these days? What if your characters are a bit flat? What if… it’s just. plain. dumb?”

Oh yes, if you’ve ever tried to create anything, you’ve heard the measly, meddling voice of The Horrible Whatiffer. His antics are enough to make Shakespeare want to drop his quill, crumple his parchment and curl up in a fetal position on the floor as he beats his brow and sobs “No one will ever want to read this RUBBISH!”

Hey, it might have happened for all we know!

You see, The Horrible Whatiffer is Absolute Death to your creative process as as a writer. There is nothing more paralyzing to creativity than over-loud, self-critical thoughts. They drown out the sound of our creative thinking and lead to self-destruction. And self-destruction is the very bane of creativity. One of the other will have to go.

There is only one solution: You must destroy The Horrible Whatiffer before he destroys your story… your joy of writing… YOU! Shakespeare did it, and here’s how. Imagine a big, bald tattooed bouncer. Use your creativity! Make him as repulsively scary as you like. Now set him to work in front of the VIP creative party going on in your mind every time you sit down to draft. When smarmy old Horrible Whatiffer comes whiffling along with his party-pooping, negative notions to gate crash: POW! Mr. Mental Bouncer gives him what’s coming to him. And the creative party can go on in peace! It takes practice, but it’s well worth the discipline to keep your story alive and moving forward.

“But,” I hear you protest, “aren’t we writer’s supposed to self-critique? Isn’t it our job to chip away at our ideas until they become the perfected story we can present to the world with pride?

The answer is a resounding “YES!” Only make sure you’re bringing in a self-critical eye at the right time (ie. NOT whilst writing your FIRST DRAFT!!!). The writer wears two different hats: The creator cap that corresponds to our creative right brain hemisphere, and the editor cap which alerts our analytical left brain hemisphere. New writers often try wearing both hats at once, but this is a fatal error. Each one has its time to shine– the left brain helps the right brain turn all of its fluttering fancies into some sort of coherent plan. But then it’s time to swap hats and let Mr. Editor take a backseat while Mr. Creator right brain drives. Eventually, after the drafting phase, Mr. Editor will return to the scene to analyze, problem solve and tweak away to his heart’s content while Mr. Creator gets some well-earned R&R.

What Happens When the Right Side of the Brain Crashes,,,

And so you see, the balance between creativity and self-criticism is like a dance! But it’s entirely up to you, the writer, to make sure self-criticism isn’t stepping on creativity’s toes. That would only throw off the whole process and put you back from achieving your goals. So next time you sit down to draft, put self-criticism in his place, or you might just have to call your mental bouncer on him!

 

The Writer’s Bogeyman: THE S.T.A.R.T….duh duh duh

Have you ever noticed that the longer you try to evade starting something, the bigger, scarier and uglier The Start becomes? Whether it’s your next novel, or next chapter, or even something so simple as your next blog entry, you will have to clear that monster of a hurdle looming larger and larger the longer you put it off: The Start.

We’ve all heard it said before, “starting is the hardest part of writing” (or just about anything in life, I might add). But why should that be? After all, most of us have discovered that once we look the beast in the eye and take him full on by the horns, like the pilgrim Christian facing Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation, scary Mr. Start turns out to be nothing more than a little pussycat. He is easily put in his place, and we, the pen-bearing pilgrims, are permitted passage into the heart of our novel, chapter, blog…or whatever the writing journey that lay ahead may be.

And yet, the next time we meet Mr. Start at the beginning of some other road, we melt all over again as if we’d never conquered him before.

Might I offer my own little bit of personal insight as to why I shrink time and time again from the starting line? For me, it’s pretty simple really: I fear failure. In order to fail at something (say writing this blog), I must first begin or start that something. So, (says my self-preserving but rather boring side), if I don’t start, then I can’t possibly fail! Eureka! Or not…

So essentially, the big bad Start Bogeyman is a monster of my own making! He is my best effort at self-sabotage. As long as I build him up in my mind as a grizzly, menacing, unconquerable beast, then I can find one-hundred reasons per hour why I should just put off meeting him… just a little longer…maybe till I’ve got a stroke of inspiration…or a big wave of energy…or a publisher coming after me with a large stick…

But I think a much better idea than sapping all my creative juices turning pussycat into Apollyon would be to make a little adjustment to my thinking cap. For example, I might try sticking these handy dandy words to my brain with mental post-it note:Success-Failure-Quotes-7Note the little word going, ie. getting started! Learning to embrace failure is a BIG topic for another blog post (or a thousand), but here’s the gist: failure will be part of the journey to getting it right. That’s certain. But what is equally certain is that you and I will never get it right at all if we DON’T. START. SOMEWHERE!

Trust me, I’m preaching to the choir. The sooner you start — that first line, word, capitalized letter– the sooner you can get on with the journey. Who knows what adventures might be in store!

So, all ye fellow writers or wanna-be-writers out there, I dare you: Pick up your ballpoint sword, look that blank page squarely in the eye, and….(drum roll)…. START!

You’ll soon be asking yourself just what you were so afraid of.

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