Articles in the Psychology and Emotion Category

by Moira Allen

You want to write, but you don’t. Or perhaps you start, but can’t bring yourself to finish, leaving a dozen promising articles or stories in various stages of incompletion. Or perhaps you finish, but can’t quite bring yourself to stuff those pages into an envelope and pop them in the mail. Your family, friends, or critique group say your work is wonderful. So what is holding you back?

This scenario is far from rare. It isn’t the same as the dreaded malady we call “writer’s block.” It’s more like “submitter’s block,” and I’ve known many excellent writers who suffer from it. They produce quality work — stories, novels, articles — and earn well-deserved praise from peers in critique groups, yet balk at the thought of actually sending that work to market.

Ironically, this syndrome rarely impairs the clueless, who remain willing to send single-spaced, 40-page, grammatically challenged “short stories” into the market without a second thought. And therein lies the key: A writer must reach a certain degree of competence before s/he can begin to question that competence. And questions of competence lie at the core of “submitter’s block.”

The “am I good enough?” question plagues nearly every writer, from newbies to established authors. New writers find the question particularly difficult, because they have less “external information” on which to base an answer. But even if you’ve sold several pieces, you may feel qualms if you try to break into a different subject area or better-paying market, or to switch from nonfiction to fiction or from short pieces to book-length manuscripts.

It would be easy to dismiss this as an issue of “low self-esteem”. If that were the problem, however, “submitter’s block” would never affect writers who have a relatively high self-esteem — yet it does. I believe another factor is at work: The issue of “image.”

When one utters the words, “I want to be a writer,” one automatically has an image of what a writer is. Often that image is more visual than verbal. One person may “see” a writer as a studious, professorial type pecking at a keyboard in a room filled with books; another may “see” a well-groomed, confident author holding forth at a major talk show. No matter what we “see” when we think of a “real” writer, however, the problem is that all too often, we don’t see ourselves.

If your inner “portrait of a writer” doesn’t match what you see in the mirror, you doubt your ability to “become” what you imagine a writer to be. This concern is often fueled by interviews with successful writers whose work habits, experiences, and, yes, personal appearances, bear little resemblance to our own. If we don’t measure up, how can our manuscripts?

What’s needed is a little healthy myth-popping. Let’s take some of those images out of our mental closets and see how they withstand the light of reality!

Myths of the “Real Writer”

By now, hopefully, you’ve put aside the notion that a “real writer” is paid by the wheelbarrow. But what about some of the other things we’ve been led to believe about real, successful, big-name writers?

  1. Real writers are organized. This image is deceptive, because when most of us visualize “organization,” we see “neatness.” An organized writer, we imagine, would have projects filed in neat folders, labeled and cross-referenced, with charts to track works-in-progress. Such a writer’s desk wouldn’t look like ours, with papers and folders strewn everywhere, and notes from our last phone interview scrawled on a piece of junk mail. But does such a desk mean you are really disorganized? Chances are, the answer is no. If you can lay your hands on the folder you need, or read those scrawled notes when it’s time to type up the interview, maybe you don’t need color-coded files. Organization isn’t about neatness; it’s about whatever works best for the individual. And no matter how messy your desk is, somewhere there is a highly successful author whose work-space looks far worse than yours.
  2. Real writers are learned. Many of us cherish the image of the scholarly writer, coke-bottle glasses perched on an inkstained nose, surrounded by shelves and shelves of esoteric books. In reality, a great many highly successful (and extremely well-paid) authors never graduated from college (let alone from a college writing program). Some of the world’s most respected authors worked on tramp steamers, or fought in prize rings, or swept floors, or washed dishes. Many had no opportunity for higher education, because of poverty or because such doors were closed to their race or gender. The power of their words did not come from the ivory tower of academia, but from the grubby alleys of life. So don’t worry about whether you’ve taken the right “courses” to be a successful writer; no matter how little formal training you’ve had, you’ll be able to find a great writer who had less.
  3. Real writers have lived through lots of gritty, intense, life-changing experiences. Granted, Ernest Hemingway got around. But not every action writer has stood in the bullring or wrestled with marlin on the high seas. Nor must a writer suffer tragedy, loss, depression, rejection (excluding rejection letters), or similar “life lessons” to be able to write about the human experience. No matter what your “condition” may be, you’ll find something in your own experience that resonates with others. The key is to recognize those experiences and lessons that have made a difference in your life — even if you haven’t sailed the world or swept floors for a living.
  4. Real writers aren’t like other people. Sometimes, this myth is a sanitized way of saying that real writers are a little crazy, or gain their best inspirations from controlled substances. A good way to dispel the second part of this myth is simply to write something while drunk and read it when sober. As for the rest, “real” writers are pretty much like other folks: They want to pay the bills, eat at a nice restaurant every once in awhile, and put the kids through college. But this myth also has a kernel of truth: Writers aren’t like everyone else. How many of your friends, colleagues, classmates, coworkers, and family members understand your passion for words? How many would give up a full-time job and paid vacations for the uncertainty of the writing life? If you’ve decided that your love of words outweighs your love of evening television or even of a regular paycheck, you’ve already met this criterion: You’re not like everyone else (and who knows, maybe you are a little crazy!). But you are like many great writers who made the same choices.
  5. Real writers are confident. Some are. Some aren’t. But if you’re “blocked” from sending that novel to a publisher because you can’t imagine yourself on Oprah, relax and buy some stamps. Even if your book is accepted, it’s going to be a couple of years before Oprah gets a copy of the galleys, or your phone number. Meanwhile, you may find that you do have what it takes to give a brief talk to your local writer’s club, or go online for an author chat, or accept an invitation to speak at a conference. And before you know it, when Oprah does call, you’ll be willing to think about it — because you’ve discovered that jitters aren’t fatal, and that you really do have something to say, even if (like many “real” writers) you have to drink a bottle of Pepto-Bismol before you can say it!
  6. Real writers are driven. Here’s one of the stickier myths: If you were “driven,” nothing would keep you from finishing that novel, that story, that article. The fact that you haven’t is surely a sign that you don’t care enough about writing to make it your top priority. The simple truth is that most people have multiple priorities, and writing is very often not the first. Chances are, you’re not going to divorce your spouse or put your children in foster homes (however appealing both options might seem) just to get more writing time — or give up your job and eat out of dumpsters while finishing your first novel. Only mythical figures can afford to focus on a single, all-consuming goal; they don’t have to shop for groceries, wash clothes, or change the oil in the car. Successful writers, on the other hand, are simply folks who have learned how to add writing into life’s complex balancing act.
  7. Real writers write every day. You’ve read this advice in every writing magazine, so it must be true, right? Real writers either dedicate a certain number of hours per day to writing, or don’t stop until they’ve completed a certain number of pages. If you don’t write every day, your writing muscle will get “flabby.” If you don’t write today, it will be harder to write tomorrow, and almost impossible the next day. Or so you’re told. Alas, I can’t recall where I read an article that beautifully punctured this myth, so I’ll paraphrase: Do doctors see patients every day? Do sculptors sculpt every day? Do pastors preach every day? No! Folks with ordinary day jobs don’t “work” every day, and neither do writers. Indeed, if we do not take time to relax, refresh, walk around, and interact with the world outside our keyboards, we are likely to lose our ability to remain “fresh” as writers — not to mention the fact that we won’t find very much to write about! That doesn’t mean that a regular writing schedule isn’t important; it is. But a regular “living” schedule is important too. If you’re trying to write every day just because you think you must, writing will soon become a joyless chore, empty of passion or inspiration.

There are, of course, real writers who write every day, real writers with multiple advanced degrees, real writers whose prose derives from the anguish of life experience, and real writers who wouldn’t feel the slightest butterfly-twinge at the thought of guesting on Oprah. There are also thousands upon thousands of others, an infinite variety of “models” from which to choose. The next time you find yourself wondering what a “real” writer looks like, therefore, don’t pick up a writing magazine. Instead, go look in the mirror. Then, finish that piece and put it in the mail.

Copyright © 2001 Moira Allen

6 December 2012

I’m having a bad day which makes it particularly terrifying to consider writing. I can’t help but wonder how much of my writing might become influenced by my mood. Because I’m feeling resentful, frustrated, angry, lonely, bitter, etc. my writing will be all of those things. That wouldn’t make for compelling reading/viewing, would it?

Because of this low mood I am also far more critical and rude. My creative mind is being shouted at for its stupidity and pathetic attempts to contribute meaningful sustenance. My logical mind rejects everything and is really quite brutal about it. The hardest thing is, I KNOW it is wrong. Primarily because it hates everything. It hates other people, it hates itself, and it hates fresh new ideas that might actually be pretty brilliant.

So, all in all, the mood affects the writing. How do you handle moodiness? Is it something that crops up because I’m female or do men have days when they hate everything too?

Even writing this, I hate it. I read blog posts and social media online which is ok, less hate, but I can’t really be bothered to comment, contribute, share, or rave about how great I thought something was. Which is a shame because some of them really are great. At least, I would have thought so, and said so, were I not in such a bitchy mood.

What is worse is that I really don’t want to do much of anything. Which of course leads me into more resentment and hate, this time of myself. I’m name calling myself, lazy, pathetic, stupid. And then a few more, insecure, unlovable. Which is just, OUCH! See how mean I am? Even to myself.

How do I bring myself to the page when I am feeling all that? How do I use it to fuel my work? There are occasions when having Bipolar can be wonderful for the work. When I’m manic I can charge through and get a lot done. The high energy drives the scene and the lack of a filter encourages risks and lets me into all sorts of worlds I might not normally be able to see in to. The opposite end of those moods are more defeating. The opposite of being high isn’t being low, it’s being nothing, apathy, stagnation.

The trick then is to find a way past stagnation. There must be some way to use this negative energy in a productive way. Or, should I do what that evil voice inside that constantly tries to defeat me suggests? Should I sleep through it and write only when I’m feeling better? I’ve done that, it doesn’t work, because if I only write when I feel good then there are a lot of days I don’t write and those days increase as that negative voice realises it can talk me out of writing.

Tonight, at 8pm, after the kids are in bed and I can be alone with the page, I’ll see what writing in this mood creates. Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions, ideas, or even if you can relate to tumultuous emotions and their effect on the writing, please leave a comment below. On a day like today, it would be nice to know that I’m not alone in the world.

15 February 2012

Yesterday, I posted a comment to the forlorn-looking Crafting Fiction Page on Facebook. The page is forlorn-looking because I’ve been on hiatus (for the most part) for several months. While I have posted here sporadically and occasionally drifted through Facebook with a question, comment, or recommendation, it has been mostly quiet on the writing front in my life. And I have missed it. Every day, at some point in the day, I’ve thought, “I should write today.” It’s a drifting thought, usually followed by a great big dollop of what Steven Pressfield in The War of Art calls, “Resistance with a capital R”.

One of the things I noticed during my hiatus is that the writing, the characters, tear away flesh from the inside-out of my body. The book I started working on in December of 2006 claws against the inside of my skin. The characters are screaming; I had turned the volume on their voices down to a mouse-whisper but behind my eyes I can see their mouths gaping in muted cries of terror. Honestly, they are like b-grade horror movie stars. They plead and quiver as if some great monster threatens their very existence. And I suppose it does, it’s name is Resistance.

Every day the pain and emotional turmoil of not writing has been splitting my heart. I have excuses, the primary being that I was busy with full-time university study on top of single parenting, a new romantic relationship, keeping a house, and all the other million things that make up living a normal life. The point is, while I was living a life of sorts I wasn’t really living. Without my writing I feel more like I’m ghost-like, moving through the motions of pretending to be alive but intangibly ineffective in the real world. My mind and body participate but my soul is absent. Do you ever feel that way about your writing? Is it such an integral part of the person you are supposed to be that not writing feels like a kind of death?

Eventually, in the pain of not writing it occurred to me that the simple fix would be to write. Of course, simple fixes are never simple. I turn my computer on with the intention of putting words to the page and there it is again, that demon, Resistance. I experience it in a profoundly tangible way as anxiety attacks. Every time I contemplate writing my heart thuds in a rapid staccato that might lead to the explosion of arterial walls. When I, for the barest moment, dwell on my novel, or the non-fiction book at the top of my ‘in progress’ list, or even this blog my breath catches and my lungs grow tight so that I think the cavity of my chest is being crushed in an ethereal vice. Right now, my fingers are brushing across the keys but my hands are quivering, my stomach is churning, and inside my mind the voice of Resistance is yelling “Run!” I want to give in to that plea because I know the moment I stop writing all of those sensations will disappear and I will feel this overwhelmingly beautiful sensation of relief. But I won’t stop, do you know why?

I won’t stop tonight because I remember the pain of my not writing tearing like ligament-by-ligament slices with a dull scalpel. If I don’t write tonight then instead of this anxiety that I’m feeling right now, instead of this Resistance, I’ll feel shame and resentment and guilt. If I don’t write tonight then I’ll be failing to live into the person I truly am. I’ll be less of myself and less of the person I was created to be. I choose to be here because I’ve weighted the two experiences and I believe that writing is worth more to me than not writing. I actively choose to defy Resistance, and it’s a difficult and demanding choice, but it is one that has to be consciously made.

So now, I’m asking you what I asked on Facebook, “What’s the longest hiatus from writing you’ve ever taken and why did you stay away so long?“, and then I’m going to say: If you are still on hiatus, choose to end it today. There is no reason you can give that justifies not living into the person you are meant to be and if you are meant to be a writer, if you believe your writing is a part of the soul-creature you are in this lifetime then you owe it to yourself to begin again. All it takes is a promise to yourself, an active choice, a commitment followed by action. Start small, a paragraph, a page. Decide that you will write today, and do it.

You know that horrible anxiety I was feeling? It’s easing up because I look down at my word count and can see I’ve written over 800 words. That’s pretty good and I’ll give myself kudos for that. I did it. I sat and I wrote and I survived the blaring of my heart and the crawling of my skin and I came through. That sense of incredible relief that I would have got if I had stopped earlier will come soon but the shame, resentment and guilt will not because today I wrote. Today I lived into the person I am supposed to be and I’ll do it again tomorrow. Will you?

1 September 2011

Writer’s block is the bane of anyone and everyone who writes. You’ll be cruising through a story, your words are flowing nicely, until suddenly you’ve hit the brakes and can’t restart the engine. Most of us try to work through the road block, endlessly searching for inspiration, but sometimes you just can’t produce anything worthwhile. Instead of cursing the writing gods or pressing the delete button, take your hands off the keyboard, take a deep breath and consider trying one of these 20 creative ways to overcome writer’s block:

  1. Relaxation Techniques: Practicing relaxation techniques can be extremely effective for overcoming writer’s block. Relaxation techniques can improve concentration, boost confidence and increase blood flow to major muscles. Taking a break from your writing to do a relaxation exercise will get your blood flowing and your brain back on track.
  2. Attend a Writer’s Workshop: Attending a writer’s workshop is a surefire way to inspire you and overcome writer’s block. You may not be able to attend a workshop at the onset of writer’s block, but you can take the lessons and tricks you learned that will help you rise above writer’s block.
  3. Jot in a Journal: It’s a good idea to carry a journal with you whenever you’re out and not sitting in front of a computer, so you can jot down story ideas, character names, conflicts or anything that comes to mind. Then, when you’re stuck on something, you can refer to the journal for ideas or inspiration.
  4. Sleep on It: You may have exhausted your brain of ideas for one day, so it might be in your best interest to sleep it off. More than likely, you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to tackle your story the next day.
  5. Read Inspirational Quotes: Sometimes the only way to get inspired is to read other’s inspiring words. Try reading inspirational quotes that will rejuvenate your spirit and get you back to writing.
  6. Go for a Walk or Jog: Sometimes the only way to get back on track with your writing is to get moving. Go for a walk or jog to clear your mind and take in your surroundings. You never know what observation could be applied to your story and overcome your writer’s block.
  7. Do Something Mindless: When you’re experiencing writer’s block, it’s best to step away from the computer and calm your brain down. You may find it beneficial to do something mindless like watch television, a movie or read a magazine before you return to writing.
  8. Switch to Another Project: When you’re experiencing writer’s block, take a breather from what you’re working on and switch to another project. That way you’re still being productive and exercising your brain, before returning to your original project.
  9. Writing Exercises: When you’ve fallen into a writing slump, try a writing exercise that will help you brainstorm and keep your mind fresh. Some writing exercises provide a prompt that narrows your focus, while others are free of constraints.
  10. Stream-of-Consciousness Writing: Stream-of-consciousness writing allows you to use interior monologue to put your thoughts on paper. This kind of writing is raw and often difficult to follow, but it can clear your mind of nonsense and help you get back on track.
  11. Change Sceneries: Your desk and white walls will get pretty old after a while. Venture away from your normal workspace and change sceneries when you are struggling with writer’s block. Even changing rooms within your house or going to your backyard will offer enough variety to get you out of your funk.
  12. Play a Game: Playing games is a nice break from the frustrations of writer’s block, but it can also help you overcome the challenges in your writing. Games of all kinds can have a positive effect on your creativity and problem-solving skills.
  13. Make an Inspiration Board: An inspiration board is an effective tool for overcoming writer’s block. This board is a collection of visual ideas like newspaper clippings, magazine pictures, photographs and just about anything that can be used to inspire you when you’re in a major slump.
  14. Switch Art Forms: Sometimes you’ve got to step out of your art form and into another to start fresh. When you have writer’s block, you may want to shift your efforts toward another art form, such as playing a musical instrument, painting, drawing, dancing or photography. Whatever experience you choose, it will surely boost creativity and freshen your writing.
  15. Unplug the Internet: Unplugging the Internet is one solution to overcoming writer’s block. This will put a temporary end to the countless distractions that circulate the web, like Facebook, Twitter and even e-mail. Getting back to the basics is refreshing and can make a huge difference in your overall productivity.
  16. Read Blogs: One way to overcome writer’s block is to read the work of others. Blogs are fun to read and they touch on so many different topics that are bound to give you an idea or two.
  17. Cut out the Rules: Writing without rules is especially helpful for those who have writer’s block. This approach allows you to write without inhibitions and let the words flow without interruption. In order to practice this difficult exercise, you’ll have to ignore spelling, grammar, formatting and context rules and just write. You can always edit later.
  18. Listen to Music: Music can be extremely inspirational and relaxing at the same time. Listening to the right song can spark a new idea, help you solve a problem and collect your thoughts, which may be all you need to get over a bad case of writer’s block.
  19. Talk and Ask Questions: When all else fails, spark up a conversation with others to get past your writer’s block. Better yet, ask fellow writers what they think of your topic or how can you expand on a particular part of your story. You’d be surprised by the amount of great ideas that come from the people you interact with everyday.
  20. Follow the News: Whether you pick up a newspaper, turn on the local news channel or read a story online, the news is filled with real, raw stories that can be incredibly inspiring. News articles are also great references for expanding your vocabulary.

This post is shared by Corinne Reidy and originally appeared here, 20 Creative Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block.

12 April 2011

Meet Nava Atlas, author of The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing LifeRebecca says: I’m excited today to be able to introduce you all to Nava Atlas, a talented writer who is blog touring this month and through April with the fantastic ladies of WOW! Women on Writing. Nava has written a fantastic book for writers, rich with the stories and truths of talented female authors across time. I’ll be sharing a full review of The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life on April 14th and between now and then you have a chance to win your own copy by writing a short blog post about your own experiences with self-doubt, self-acceptance, and writing. But before I tell you more about that, let’s hear from Nava about her own experiences and those of three exceptional women of literature.

Self-Acceptance: A Hard-Fought Battle, Even for Accomplished Authors

by Nava Atlas

There’s a cartoon on my bulletin board of two caterpillars creeping along, with a butterfly hovering above them. One caterpillar eyes the butterfly suspiciously, and says, “You’ll never catch me going up in one of those things!” Maybe it isn’t what the cartoonist intended, but I see it as a metaphor for the sad state of women’s self-esteem. We’re destined to become glorious butterflies, yet we persist in perceiving ourselves as caterpillars, opting for crawling the safer but less exciting ground, instead of allowing ourselves to take flight.

It’s a tough task to reach the level of self-acceptance that allows a writer to feel she deserves to let her talent shine, and reap the rewards of hard work. Think of favorite classic authors such as Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, and Louisa May Alcott, with their distinct styles and personas. It’s hard to imagine that they didn’t burst forth with the kind of self-regard that would allow them to write and succeed gloriously. And yet—they didn’t. Like most of us, they struggled with self-acceptance for years, sometimes for decades. Consider:

Edith Wharton, a wealthy heiress, was surrounded by disapproval, from her snooty mother and society friends to her gadfly husband, who scoffed at her literary pursuits. She tiptoed haltingly into the world of print, hampered by crippling insecurity. It took many small victories — published stories, books, and warm reviews — before Wharton believed she was worthy of success. Finally, “The reception of my books gave me the self-confidence I had so long lacked…” It took the reinforcement of the public and her peers for her to acquire a new image of herself as a capable, talented author—one who, before very long, became the first female author to win the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1921 for The Age of Innocence.

Like Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf’s need for approval was vast, and she sought it from her husband, friends, publishers, and critics. But unlike Edith Wharton, those closest to her gave her just that. That didn’t allay her constant struggle with self-doubt, seeing herself as somehow “less than.” “I can assure you,” she wrote to her friend Vita Sackville-West, “all my novels were first-rate before I wrote them.” When her publishers or husband praised her efforts, it meant everything to her. Woolf needed the reinforcement of others to build a foundation of self-acceptance, which in turn gave her courage to create works that were experimental and far ahead of their time. Though self-doubt never left her, it was a catalyst to constantly do better, not a signal to stop growing.

Louisa May Alcott was determined to make a living by writing, no small feat for a woman of her time. To support her family, she wrote thrillers, gothics, and “sensational tales” under pseudonyms. After years of toil, she took up her publisher’s request to try a “girls’ story,” and reluctantly cranked out Little Women. Though neither she nor her publisher thought highly of the results, the book became an immediate best-seller. When she learned of its embrace by the public, Alcott changed her tune: “It reads better than I expected. Not a bit sensational, but simple and true…” No longer going from one anonymous literary identity to another, self-acceptance came after the “simple and true” novel that emerged from the pen of its reluctant author met an enthusiastic audience. Her career blossomed, as did the fortune she had long craved.

Once I learned of the universal struggles of authors like Wharton, Woolf, and Alcott while researching The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life, I realized that I was behaving more like the two caterpillars in the cartoon than the butterfly. I’ve played it safe by accepting only a certain version of myself as a writer, one that’s occasionally at odds with the “real me.” I think that’s about to change!

Like the two caterpillars crawling ever so slowly on the ground, the illusion of safety can get in the way of progress. After all, caterpillars are vulnerable to getting smooshed on the road. Sometimes acceptance of a new version of ourselves—as writers who have arrived, or are just on the cusp of doing so—lags behind what others have already perceived about us: we’re already aloft, like the butterfly; we just need the courage to lose sight of the ground below.

The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life by Nava AtlasRebecca says: Nava is available today to answer questions if you’d like to ask them by leaving a comment or say hi and let her know what you think of her post and her book.

Now, if you’d like a chance to win a copy of The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life there are a few opportunities over the course of Nava’s blog tour that you can find on the WOW! Women on Writing blog along with her other stops.

To win the copy I have available for a loyal Crafting Fiction reader, share your own experience with self-doubt as a writer in 300 to 600 words. Have you experienced self-doubt? Are you searching for approval, and acceptance from others as well as yourself? How has this influenced you as a writer?

You can share your blog post in one of two ways: either post it to your own blog or website with a link back to this post, or send it to me as a guest post for The Craft of Writing Fiction (either by email or in the dashboard).

28 March 2011

At the end of the first “How To Think Sideways” lesson, Holly points us to some further reading, particularly for those who are primarily right-brain oriented (like me). I found the material on “logical argument” and “fallacy” particularly fascinating (especially when I could grasp them in relation to given examples). I could see how this topic would connect to my university studies; critical thinking, and presenting arguments in assignments. It resonated with me in a way I would not have been prepared for or open to before I began my university studies.

But what was more inspiring was how the “logical fallacy” readings clicked within me with regard to the “FEEL never thinks” aspect of Holly’s course. One of the greatest “opportunities” I’ve been facing with my writing is anxiety. I realised that I spend a great deal on the emotion rather than the logic.

As I was reading through the “logical fallacy” and “logical argument” material I realised that I could use these to debunk anxious thoughts (aka emotional unTHINKing). It’s just the same as when I use logic “this dress is $79.99, I could buy three $25.99 dresses for less than this single dress, therefore this dress is too expensive” to talk myself out of an emotional “I want this dress” (and possibly into buying three dresses instead of one) while shopping.

I could apply logical argument to the logical fallacies that presented as writing anxiety. Like this:
Anxiety = logical fallacy: You don’t know your protagonist well enough to portray him effectively on the page.

  • Argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument to ignorance)
    You haven’t tried to write yet so you don’t know how well you know your protagonist or if you could effectively write him on the page.
  • Argumentum ad logicam (argument to logic).
    Your argument is based on the assumption that you do not know your protagonist “well enough” yet there is no conclusive evidence as to how well you do or do not know him.
  • Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument or appeal to authority)
    Who is the judge of your “effectiveness” and how can YOU judge your effectiveness unless you have material from which to make such judgements? Who is the judge of how “well” you need to know your protagonist to write him effectively and how can YOU determine at which point you might know him “well enough”?
  • Non Sequitur (“It does not follow”)
    Just because you do not know your protagonist well does not mean that you could not portray him effectively on the page if you tried.

As I wrote this logical argument I realised that this example also ties in with PERFECT never finishes (I may never feel I know my protagonist “well enough” to make an effective portrayal – effective could be synonymous with perfect),
and SAFE never starts (I won’t write anything if I’m waiting to know my protagonist “well enough” to be effective).)

It’s incredible these insights and “AHA!” moments I’m discovering through this writing course. And it’s only week one! I’m eager to explore the course material further and I’m looking forward to the weeks ahead.

25 February 2011

Have you ever been “suckered” into something? Emotional blackmail, manipulation, guilt, and all those touchy-feely things get you doing things you don’t really want or need to do. In fact, this sort of materialistic manipulation of my emotions is the primary reason I DO NOT WATCH T.V. Or at least, the T.V. I watch is striped of all advertising. Advertising makes me retch (or sometimes laugh) at the ridiculous antics of marketers.

Everything we do in life, everything we buy, comes from two places, want and need. The wants come from your gut; your emotional desires. “Oh! I want that dress! It’s so pretty” If you act only on your wants you’ll be facing some pretty dire consequences. This is how I could relate to Holly’s lessons regarding FEEL.

I know what it is to impulse buy. When Bipolar sends me manic I have to take very firm control of these impulses. I have to remind myself to pause, to THINK, and to evaluate every potential purchase I might make. “Yes,” I tell myself, “that dress is pretty, but it’s also $79.99 and I don’t need it at that price.”

When it comes to shopping I’ve got this one handled. But how does FEEL affect my writing?

Oh, oh! THERE it is. Every time I give into anxiety and choose NOT to write, I’m dominated by FEEL. The logic, THINK, knows that there is nothing to fear. THINK knows that writing is about putting word after word on the page. It knows that the process, while emotional, is technical. Words are the domain of the left brain, the logical brain, the thinking brain.

Creativity I’ve got mastered. That’s right brain. Creativity is feeling. And I’m tapped into my creativity. I’m confident of my creativity. I never sit down to write and find myself grasping for my imagination or my ideas.

But I do find myself grasping for my logic. I flounder in a sea of FEEL, of emotion, and fail to hear the reasonable side of my voice telling me to THINK. I struggle to find how to put my creativity into logical constructions. I need to use that left brain to organise my ideas and to put them into a pattern and shape that makes sense.

So, next time I sit down to write and get swallowed up in FEEL I’ll call on THINK and ask him to express to my emotional mind a logical argument. Step aside emotions, we’re working now, and that’s what writing is, work. Strictly professional, emotions aside.

Do you spend more time in FEEL (the land of emotions and imagery) or THINK (the land of organisation and words)?

24 February 2011

I used to be a VICTIM. I used to think there were all sorts of things I could not do for myself. But I woke up hard when I HAD TO. There is a refreshing power that comes from having to do things for yourself. When you step away from the crutch of society, of family, of friends, and of the little “things” in life that you “depend” on, you’ll discover that what you really NEED is minimal and completely within your own power to get.

You don’t need to BUY anything. You don’t need to OWN anything. You don’t even need to BE anything, for anyone. As I think if breaking out of VICTIM-mode the song, “Pay Attention” by Valeria Andrews and Ryan Toby comes to mind from the movie, “Sister Act 2″ starring Whoopi Goldberg.

If you wanna be somebody
If you wanna go somewhere
You better wake up and pay attention…
…expect from yourself, and you’ll respect yourself
you control your destiny…

This song is all about taking charge of your life and stepping out to make things happen for yourself. Don’t expect others to SAVE you. And don’t live down to your situation. Rise above!

I’ve been learning to do that for the past six years, and I’ll continue to learn because sometimes those sneaky VICTIM thoughts get around my independence. When you notice you’ve taken charge of one area of your life, look around, where are you still waiting to be rescued?

For me, I spend a lot of time “waiting” for that magic bullet that will make writing easier. I hunt about for the “magic pill” that will take away my anxiety. No more! I am NOT a VICTIM! I’m waking up and paying attention. I depend only on ME, I respect myself, and I CONTROL MY DESTINY!

23 February 2011

Wow! One part of the “SAFE” barrier to thinking really connected with me. In the first lesson of Holly Lisle’s “How To Think Sideways” Novel Writing Course, Holly said:

“SAFE is a construct of the conscious mind. The conscious mind likes to feel sheltered, and doesn’t care about the truth if a nice bit of fiction will draw the shades over the danger in the real world.

Your subconscious mind, your Muse, knows there are monsters, and knows that if you do not go out to battle them, they will come home to chase you. Your muse will, in fact, make small monsters into big ones if you do not take risks and give it an occasional big one to battle.”

That’s how I’ve been feeling. I feel like ALL of my monsters are big ones. At least my anxiety level does. But my conscious mind tries to figure out what all the fuss is about. It knows these monsters are tiny and it can’t understand why they cause me such fear.

My subconscious has been hard at work fattening up my monsters so it can have something decent to battle. Because I’ve spent so long “hiding” from my dreams or stepping back from taking those risks that will move me toward my “moonbeams” my Muse is stuck in a comfort zone (of sorts) and needs to manifest these anxieties to keep itself entertained and to protect itself from the monsters that might follow it home.

It’s time to STOP playing it SAFE. Safe is easy, but it’s also stagnant. And it feels AWFUL! I don’t like safe. What I’d like, is a finished book; a published book. What I’d like is to feel alive and free of this anxiety. I want to face down real monsters and feel like a champion, a hero, doing it.

No more SAFE!

How about you? Do you find you play it safe and have trouble getting started? What monsters has your Muse created to protect itself from reality?

If you haven’t already checked it out, I honestly recommend Holly’s Course, “How To Think Sideways“. Just the first lesson is worth the price of the whole first month and if you find it’s not for you Holly has a satisfaction guarantee that makes trying it out for yourself risk-free.

21 February 2011

It’s amazing to me that I’ve spent a year blocked in many of my writing mediums. Blogging became a chore that caused more stress than pleasure, writing a short article came with as much pain as a tooth extraction and everything else, down to advertising copy, seemed “blah.” I was fighting an enormous block, mostly surrounded by medical conditions, treatments and therapy. But blocked, I was.

I finally went out and purchased a brand new journal and wrote only when something incredible happened. Not all those incredible moments were good, but incredible still. As I found comfort in working with words again, I ventured outside of my self-imposed barricade and began taking note of extraordinary happenings in the world around. With that, I had a little more fuel for that only-sometimes-used journal.

I decided that I was going to no longer work as a paid writer.

Yep. I said it.

I evaluated why I once loved writing and why that changed. I received my first-ever blue ribbon that came from writing almost twenty years ago. I loved words then. I explored new avenues of writing, didn’t harbor any self-doubt. Everything I did was perfect, because it was done. I cherished that time in my life as a writer.

But today, I can say that I don’t like deadlines. I do not like stress. Simplicity is what I need; in writing, living and life. So simplicity it is. And a very long hiatus from writing, at least writing anything for anyone.

And now, I have a great relationship with my Muse again. I only write inspired words and write them when inspired. I keep my notebook and pen handy for the moments when I cannot devote hours to writing as to retain that which my Muse delivered. And I play. I am nurturing all aspects of my creative self – including painting, again. The process of keeping myself readily available for my muse in all creative aspects has made me able to write again, for an audience.

Every writer experiences writer’s block. Good writers know when to put down the pen. For me, that pen was down for nearly a year. And now, it feels good to write.

Do you spend time nurturing other creative avenues in your life?

18 October 2010