Of Writers & Wroters: Pressing in to your Future or Settling Somewhere in your Past

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Where do you find the inspiration you need to make it to your writing desk faithfully? Is it your financial obligations pushing you forward? Is it your desire to prove everyone wrong who told you that you wouldn’t make a living as a writer; those family members and childhood friends who still crack little sarcastic jokes, asking when you’re going to get a ‘real job’? Are you in the fresh young love stage: you’ve recently discovered your passion for writing and have been caught in the honeymoon phase? Or, have you been writing long enough to realize that there’s nothing else able to bring real pleasure to your life than releasing the stories that are constantly being birthed inside you?

When I moved to Wichita Kansas from Northern California, I had a really hard time acclimating to the midwest culture. Over the next few years I became pretty impressed with Wichita’s music, art, and Independent film scene. Being excited about the art scene—and being the social butterfly that everyone says I am—I was invited to several Writers groups and I jumped at the offers.

Unfortunately, these groups didn’t bring any encouragement to me as a writer at all. In fact, after ‘hanging out’ at these so called ‘Writer’s Groups’ I ended up depressed with nothing to show for all the time I’d spent each week at these meetings. I wasn’t being encouraged to write. I wasn’t being encouraged to push myself; any encouragement I gave to the groups, to press on and believe that their best was yet to come, was shot down. I soon realized that:

(1) At these writing groups there wouldn’t actually be any writing happening

(2) There wouldn’t be any talk or challenging of each other to write

(3) Everyone was more than satisfied to live in the memories and stories of the few things they had written and had published somewhere in years long past.

The ones who had invited me to these groups, and those who filled the chairs in the quaint houses and local coffee shops where they met to tell their publishing stories from the ‘Good Old Days’—a time and place, within the stories of past moments. A place that I am not willing to live my future in—were all wonderful people. I love to sit and sip on a mug of hot coffee or tea and listen to their stories. I still do it today. I couldn’t, however, do it any longer as part of a ‘Writing Group.’ They were not writing groups; they were all reminiscing/talking groups—which were great for hanging out and reminiscing and talking. Not for writing or becoming better writers.

In a recent post, Gary Bizzo (www.garybizzo.com), shares an interesting quote from one of his friends. A quote that has been rolling around in my mind all morning:

“Some entrepreneurs are emotionally tied up in their smallness.”

Although Gary was using the quote to make a point about the potential that many small business owners miss out on because they’ve allowed themselves to find comfort in the ‘safety’ of what they are used to; the comfort zone of present success.

They’ve become satisfied living within the unsatisfying refuge of what they’ve already accomplished; giving themselves to the fact that thought that they’ve done their best, there’s nothing else to give, and they’ve accomplished all they are going to accomplish.

I don’t fit in with a group like that. You don’t fit in with a group like that. Those Writers (or I should say, Wroters) won’t be having cups of coffee or tea at 4 or5am—eyes barely open, still half dreaming—to continue working on their latest WIP; to edit pieces from the day before; to start their morning writing exercises; begin their routine submissions process, or—if like me or any number of literary Jedi out there—juggle the insanity of all-of-the-above.

Tenacity, Confidence, Addressing a Real Need.

These are what the patent specialists (www.2innovative.net) call “Key Concepts” when patenting business ideas. The same is true in the life of a writer.

  • TENACITY, to go against the flow; against the whispers and little cutting, sarcastic jokes; and against the temptation to find a home among the ‘Wroter’s Groups’ living in yesteryear. Tenacity to keep writing even when technical issues and computer crashes cause you to lose hundreds of thousands of words. Ouch, yes, I know and it’s happened to me too many times as well. That’s why God created Google Drive, iCloud Storage, BOX, Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox, and the Calitso it guys [ok maybe God didn’t create them but they can all be your literary salvation when your computer crashes.]
  • CONFIDENCE in your personal passion as a writer. The kind of confidence that propels you towards your computer, tablet, pen & paper, or typewriter every day to create the kind of literary magic that you do. It also takes confidence to respect your work enough to stay with it through edit and submission.
  • ADDRESSING A REAL NEED is at the heart of your talent. Humanity isn’t happy. Everyone is looking for happiness. Everyone is running after it as fast as they can; though no one is quite sure where to find it. Stories, books, novels, movies, comics, graphic novels, television shows and series, etc., ect., – these are the momentary escapes which, no matter how bad the economy is, continue to become more and more popular—and even more so when times are harder on people—because people want escape. People need their temporary escapes from reality to cope with a life that they’re not happy with. You and I are the writers, artists, filmmakers, who dream up and create those escapes.

Our creative talents and abilities create the alternate realities and escapes that fuel the mental vacations keeping the masses from becoming infected with the ‘crazies.’

For me, this is more than enough inspiration to meet my computer every morning over coffee. This is more than enough reason to keep romancing my Muse, to keep faithful with daily edits and rewrites; more than enough reason to keep submitting regardless of the rejections slips and resubmissions. With each published work we share another opportunity to offer hope and momentary relief to our fellow friends and family of humanity.

What inspires you to write?

What inspires you to keep meeting that computer each morning?

What inspires you to honor your heart, respect your purpose, fight for your freedom to be a creator?

I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers to you, Writers!

-Sam

@SamuelWConnelly

www.SamTheWriter.com 

Fresh Eyes: Stepping Away to Get Closer

Futuristic glasses image by Syda Productions via Shutterstock

Futuristic glasses image by Syda Productions via Shutterstock

Some of us have been writing so long that we find ourselves going through the motions and not really seeing or expecting as much as we’d like from it. But—and this is the few times you’ll ever hear me say this—sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is to stop writing. Sometimes the best thing we can do is take out hand off of it, long enough to reclaim ourselves, renovate ourselves; look at our piece of work, our collection of works, and in some cases our goal or dreams again and examine them through new lenses.

While doing my normal weekly web surfing—for ideas about writing from unexpected places, for my other writing blog at SamTheWriter.com—I ran across a home renovation site, and these guys got me thinking about a simple yet essential practice that writer’s often forget about, or neglect. In neglecting or pushing it off, for ‘a better time,’ writers often end up suffering some very severe consequences that show up in quality of work, quantity of work, accessing creativity, and/or desire to continue their pursuit of a writing life.

The Lesson: Fresh Eyes, Fresh Mind

As writers, we suffer a creative form of literary bipolar disorder. It not only affects us writer’s but all Artists and Creatives. Some, like myself, see it as a frustrating rollercoaster-like relationship with our Muse. Other’s describe it as ‘being in’ or ‘falling out’ of touch with the Spirit of Creativity. However you define or describe it, you know what I’m talking about.

We love our WIPs (Work In Progress) one day and the next day we’re looking at it thinking, ‘What was I so freakin excited about when I wrote this?’ This is how many really great story and article ideas end up in the waste-basket-graveyard when they were good enough to be published—if only its creator had spent a little time away and had come back to it with fresh eyes it wouldn’t have died so premature. This is also the reason that many great story and article ideas get reject when the ideas were publish-worthy; the article or story’s creator, this time submitted it too early because they were so excited about the idea that they just couldn’t wait to send it off after the needed edits or rewrites.

A break, mini vacation…something—just get away from you work. I don’t care if you have to book a flight to Las Ventanas Del Mar [I’ve even highlighted the link for you], just get away from you work for a few days, even a week. When I finished my first 60,000-word novel, I literally hated it the day after I typed the last sentence. I was about to erase the whole thing when instead I decided to save it to a new flash drive I had been given, put it in my desk drawer. I didn’t look at it that week. One week lead to a month and that lead to forgetting about it for seven years!

About a year after I had written and saved the novel onto that flash, I moved to St. Louis to host a rock video show. Once I’d finally gotten around to setting up my office again I found the drive, popped it in and, after a few hours found myself, mouth gaping, in total shock and amazement at this work of fiction. Even more amazing to me was the fact that I had written it.

Yes, I took way too long of a vacation from it, but no I didn’t regret it being so long since I’d read it because it was like the manuscript has matured and evolved into something beautiful. IT hadn’t matured, of course, I had gained an important and essential writer’s resource. I was reading it through brand new specs: Fresh Eyes, a fresh mindset, and a fresh perception.

Everytime I write short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, blog posts (like this), articles for news sources or magazines and, especially posts or content for clients — as soon as I finish writing the piece I set it aside for as long as it needs to be; usually the time I spend away from it depends on length of word count, my emotional connection to it, or deadline.

I know several professional photographers and, it’s crazy how many photos they shoot, of the same subject, and crazier the time they spend going through each picture to find the perfect one to represent their work. You can tell a great photographer by, not only the quality of their work but, the quantity of quality work they put on their website. One could look at The Wright House Photography website and say that it’s a nice, clean, simple site. But when I look at it I see a photographer who has spent countless hours mulling through mountains of photos to represent herself—and her skill—through many hours of personal sacrifice.

Artists don’t just create a work and throw it out for all to see; they know that what they put out is a presentation of who they are. It’s the same with every single piece of work we writers complete. They don’t say, “Writing the first draft is easy, it’s the 20 to almost infinite following that’ll drive you insane,” for no reason.

If you really want to put your best work forward — take a break from it. Read it through the filter of fresh eyes. Time away will show you many things—both great and not-so-great—about your work; things you need to see with fresh eyes to edit properly.

Try them on now…

Maybe you have some great pieces of literary work right under your nose that you’ve filed away in a cabinet or computer file because you didn’t give it a chance. Maybe you stopped a project right in the middle because you decided it wasn’t what you originally thought that it was; it wasn’t turning out as you hoped it would. Maybe you need to pull those things out and look at them with fresh eyes and fresh mind. You never know, you could have the next best seller on your hands; or at least some really great idea to use as the framework for some new idea. You may just shock yourself at what you wrote and walked away from.

Maybe you’ve been staring at your monitor for the last few days frustrated because you don’t know where to take the story. The best thing you could do for that work is get away from it for a few days or week.

Try it. Let me know if you find a hidden treasure. I won’t be shy about accepting a finder’s fee if you end up at the top of a New York Times Best Sellers list. Just kidding, but not really.

Cheers to you writers!

As always: Write, Write, Write as if burning on fire…then submit!

-SamTheWriter

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Romancing The Muse

 

As writer’s, we all go through those times where it seems as though creativity has completely dried up and that wonderful fairytale wilderness in the infinite realm of words which lives on the other side of our reality has shut its door and locked us out.

In those moments of desolation and desperation it can feel as though the Muse, herself, has rejected us as artists, as lovers – in the love-game of literary affection and  perpetual passion within the euphoria of the wordsmith.

But, and there is a but…

The Muse can be moved. She can be aroused. She can be taken by the hand, she can be kissed, and in doing so, she can be romanced.

Some say that the Muse is that feeling of passion an artist gets in a Perfect Moment, a moment so unrealistically real that the artist is forced to create art.  Some say that the act of creating art under such influence is a bi-product of some physical equivalence of metaphysical love making. Not that the art was the product of the Muse, but the product of the union between the artist and the spirit of creativity.

Regardless of what or who the Muse may be, she (or it) can be romanced. The Muse is possibly different for each of us.  To me the Muse is more like a lover; a warm hand, and passionate heart which brings the feeling of intoxication when around. No matter what you find your Muse to be, the key to unlocking the creative attributes that they, for some reason, release in you, is to romance them.

Romancing The Muse takes Work on the Artist’s Part –

It is not always easy to be romantic. In my life I am always trying to come up with ways to be romantic, but when it comes down to it: even someone who is as passionate as I am does not always feel like being passionate. It takes work sometimes for me to get into that ‘loving-feeling‘.  As for romancing the Muse, I have to keep myself moving. I have to take time to take walks along the river, or down town, or hide in that secret park down town that few people know is there. I have to keep my eyes open and write down things that I see that I know would be perfect in helping create that amazing moment later.

Work at doing what ever you can to keep the creative juices flowing.  Keep yourself alive by keeping yourself working at not falling asleep to the needs and desires of the Muse.

Romancing the Muse Means Knowing When to Just Give In –

Sometimes the Muse pursues you. Sometimes your Muse wants to get your creativity going. the Muse is creative life. She speaks to me in music, dreams, visions, songs, and other people. A touch from my Muse creates short stories. A kiss from her lips builds planets, cities, and civilizations in my mind. A walk with the Muse gives me the opportunity to understand everything and everyone around me.  When My Muse wants me, I must be ready to say “Here I am”. The Muse is passionate. The Muse is emotional, and full of potency. Unlocking the doors of limitless creative literary life is in her kiss.

When she wants me, I will be there. If she wants to dance, I will dance. If she wants to listen, I will listen. When she wants to kiss, I will be ready. When she just wants me, I’ll make sure I am not too busy with ‘stuff’. Artists many times get so stuck on what they want to Muse to do for them, that they neglect her needs. This causes creative death.

When she calls out…know when to just give in.

Romancing the Muse Is About Not Missing the Moment –

Finally, there are also times when everything seems to just come together. The seconds turn to an infinity, the atmosphere changes, the earth becomes a platform to a dance between you and your Muse. Everything, and the purpose of everything is all about the Moment that has pulled you into its reality. You find yourself in a parallel universe that is 100% more real than reality.  Your Muse and You have just stumbled into an alternate Right Now, and what happens there is all up to you.

Moments are unique to those who discover themselves in them. They are different for each person. They are caused by feeling, circumstances, passion, emotion, the physical surroundings, You and your Muse. They can be easily missed, if the artist not open, ready, willing, or not aware of it.  Don’t miss a moment. It can be at a park, a river walk, a grave yard,  a church, or your porch. The place is just as important to everything thing else in the specific moment. Don’t miss it.

Romance Her, and then write, write, write!

SamTheWriter,

signing off.

www.samthewriter.com

A.T.M. Exercise : Wrong Alley

At This Moment exercise

9:06 am

Wrong Alley

My hands are warm, wet, not my own. My heart pounds, my breath is erratic. A blast of cold air hits my face. I am in an alley. The smell of maggot infested dumpsters makes my stomach turn.

Where am I? A flower pot smashes on the ground thirty feet away. I look up the side of the building. A shadowy head peers out from a window, four or five stories high. It vanishes. The sounds of angry traffic fills the small alley way. Looking down the long hallway of dumpsters, and darkly shadowed door entry ways I see the lights of a busy city street ahead.

The fear of going out into the busy street brings feelings of fear, but the feelings of fear are quickly eaten and digested with a overwhelming need to be far from here. I am hemmed in on all other sides by the alleys massive walls, lined with curious windows; like eyes, watching me, silently accusing me, waiting for the right moment to tell the dark doors to open up and swallow me inside.

I can’t remember how I got here. I was just home, sleeping in my bed, next to my wife, is Andrews Texas. Andrews has no hungry, accusing buildings, with staring windows.

I rub my hand through my hair. Wet, thick, sticky. I look at my hands, they are covered with dark syrup. As I examine them closer I feel the penetrating stare of the windows on me. I try to run, but stumble over something that sends me crashing to the ground.

Something large lies on the cold ground. I get on my knees and crawl over to inspect it. It is covered in the syrup-like… it is blood! It is a man! I push myself away from from him. Looking around the alley the windows seem to expand; wide-eyed and accusing me with a tangible silence.

I scurry to my feet. There is something shiny by my feet. A piece of metal: a knife. My hunting knife!

The silence is filled with chaos. The shadowy door ways start to creak, as if to open up, massive mouths ready to tear me apart and drag me into their basements.

The sounds of police sirens scream through the atmosphere. They are coming for me.

I could not have killed that man. I would have remembered. I don’t remember. Where am I? How did I get here? A metal door bursts open from behind me. I start running. Another door opens and darkness reaches out for me. I run as quickly as I can towards the traffic. Invisible pupils move, staying fix on me. I am an ant running from under the shadow of a fast shoe.

Red and blue lights ahead

Sirens blare.

“Here I am.” I scream. 100 yards, large slithering shadow tongues are on my heels. 70 yards, I wave my arms at the police car parked at the end of the alley. 50 yards, the windows turn into angry eyes with pointed brows, wrinkled brick forehead. All the doors fly open from around me, all the way to the street, like school lockers. 30 yards; I reach my hands out in front of me and gulp in the enough air to scream loud enough to wake the city.

The air is thick, like an invisible arm forcing its way down my throat. My head begins to spin. Am I falling? I twist around in slow motion. The windows seem to smile, brazenly.

The doors slam closed.

Two uniformed officers step into the alley and shine their flash lights.

The alley is lined with maggot infested dumpsters and shadowy entry ways. It is silent, almost too silent. The alleys massive walls are lined with curious windows; like eyes, sleeping now; fully satisfied.

The police officers turn and walk back to their patrol car. Wrong alley, they think.

My TV Ate My Homework

tvimagesam Today I had planned to write for a solid four hours. I pinned in my whole day last night:

1. 6am- Wake up, make coffee, take a shower, read Psalms 141 then, dissect The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot, and sip down the last cup of coffee while topping my morning off with a short story from In The Arms Of Angels, by Joan Wester Anderson.

2. 7:20am – Wake up my son and daughter, help my wife, Diane, get them fed, dressed, and dropped off at school by 8am

3. 8:30am – Go to the YMCA. 1 hour – cardio, 1 hour split between chest, abs, and upper back.

4. 11:00am – Lunch with wife

5. 11:30- 3:30pm – write, write, write

6. 3:45pm- Pick up children ……

The day was perfectly planned, al the way till 10:30pm, ending in bed with my wife.

Did it happen this way?

Nope

Why?

Two Words: Creativity Killer

I have talked about things that hinder our creative process, but I want to expose a vampire, or creativity leach, which longs to feed on the artists ability to create. It is the natural enemy to the Muse, and although it can be helpful, it’s in the misuse or abuse that makes it so harmful to your creative-self.

TELEVISION: It ate my schedule

There are always going to be a reasons to turn the TV on. Today I wanted turned it on right about before I got to number 3 on my list of morning goals. I had a moment to check the headline news, while my wife was getting her workout clothes together. While watching the news, there was a story about a man who hid 2 pipe bombs in his stepson’s girlfriend’s house. The story was crazy, and I was drawn in. Then there was another story about a man in California who killed himself, as a result of losing everything with his stocks. After that, they interviewed specialists in the area of suicide who said there have been several suicides over the last few weeks, directly linked to the economic crash.

Story after story, and I was sucked into it all.

At one point I went to comment to my wife about a story we were watching when I found that I was the only one watching. She was cuddled up with a throw pillow, sleeping. I looked at the atomic clock by my computer- 2:57pm. “Oh crap!” I heard myself say. I jumped up and was about to wake my wife when the thought came to me: “I can wake her now, but what good would it do when it comes to our work out, or regaining my writing time?” None. She had to work at the Birth Care Center (labor and delivery nurse) from 7pm till 7:30am. She needed the sleep; I just blew my morning away.

Learning opportunity for me in all of this:

There is something showing on the television at all times, for everyone. Although it can be nice to sit and enjoy a favorite program, a writer can not afford to sit in front of the tube too long. There have been many nights that I have had it in mind to write a certain number of words, an article, essay, short story, etc. and could not make my hand push that little red power button in a timely manner. Before I know it, it’s 2am, and I am too tired to write, and sucked dry of any creative juices.

A writer must write to survive. A writer must spend quality time, daily, with his or her pen and pad (or key board). The writers that Make It in the industry are the ones that Do It at home. I have mentioned before that someone once said, “80% of succeeding and getting the job done is showing up” To get your Work In Progress (WIP) published you first have to finish your WIP. To finished it you have to show up and write. The television is not the only monster out there, there are many things that can steal your creativity.

It is your job to see your writing as -well, just that – your job:

You have to show up.

You have to sit and work

Be mentally clocked in

Don’t mess around while your on the clock

Don’t milk that time.

Don’t spend too much time in the break room

Remember, I am not saying that the TV is evil. All I am saying is keep your focus on your craft.

Don’t let re-runs of the X-Files or The Twilight Zone eat your sci-fi novel. Keep C.S.I. and Cold Case from killing your Mystery Novel. Get your essays, articles, and non-fiction pieces out of the mouth of the morning news.

When your Muse wakes you in the middle of the night asking to see what you did created with the tools she gave you, don’t be caught saying something stupid like, “Sorry my TV ate my homework.”

Write, Write, Write!

SamTheWriter,

signing off