I can sleep when I am dead…

…this…according to my internal clock (life of an insomniac) and the alarm clock that is my Muse (life of a writer)…motto of story = Drink more coffee!

Sleep is over-rated anyway…No seriously, before you lecture me on the importance of sleep, I rate sleep highly especially because it tends to elude me. Main reason # 1: I am an insomniac, irrefutable, incurable. Believe me I have tried everything from acupuncture to sleeping pills to sleeping herbs to lavender sachets on pillows to silk eye masks to white noise machines. I have just learned to accept that about myself. Reason # 2: My mind does not switch off…I can lie in bed for hours with my eyes closed and still sleep does not arrive. I think I need to send a “redirect all mail” to the Sandman as he has obvious issues with getting to me in time each night. Reason # 3: (and the reason that led me to writing this post) My muse drags me out from my sleep-starved state, usually just as I have finally fallen asleep, at the craziest hours with the best ideas and sometimes if I am lucky enough with the best scenes.

Funnily enough I can be sitting in front of the computer all day waiting for inspiration to strike and nothing happens. But come the hour between 3 -4 am and he won’t shut up. But don’t get me wrong I am not complaining. Thank goodness my Muse won’t shut up. But just once it would be nice if he kept human hours not cat hours. Now you can see why this blog is called “Wrestling the Muse”: He is usually trying to drag me kicking and screaming from a very sleep-starved state and I am usually wrestling to get back to sleep. Who wins? The Muse. Sorry Sandman. But my writerly Muse trumps you every time and kicks your butt to the curb…sleeping dust or no sleeping dust.

This was the scene in my bedroom this morning at about 4.45am. I know this was the time because when I was dragged from my sleep (which had only arrived at 3.15am) I looked at the clock to see if I had actually made it to past sunrise which my aching mental muscles prodded me into denying. What dragged me from sleep? My Muse and the first scene of my new WIP. I saw the scene as clear as if I watching it on a high-definition 3d cinematic screen. For about a minute I wrestled with my Muse and gambled whether if I rolled over and ignored it, I would be able to remember it when I woke up after sunrise. But the wrestling did not last long as I knew the gamble would come with the higher risk of me not remembering what I had seen. So without switching on the light, I grabbed my iPod touch and logged into my Evernote app (Not just a name-dropping plug…This app is amazing! My favourite note-taking/note-syncing app – seriously you should try it out!) and wrote exactly what I saw in my mind’s eye. I barely knew what I was writing as I was still in a 1/2 sleep/wake state. Then I rolled over and fell exhaustedly into sleep again. When I woke the second time this morning (this time after sunrise) I had the next 2 scenes ready to write as well. The Muse’s prodding was so strong that instead of my usual dreamless sleep I fell straight back into the scenes of my WIP.

So now I sit with the first three scenes, two new characters and very little sleep. But I am not tired. Instead I am high on adrenaline. The exact same way I get when watching a scary movie or after rigorous exercise is how I am feeling right now. It is early afternoon now and I am buzzing with adrenaline, excitement and anticipation. To be honest, the scenes that I dreamt were not how I was planning on starting the WIP. I had a total other beginning in mind or rather my conscious mind had another plan entirely. But my Muse / my Sub-conscious knew better this time. This beginning, coming from the depths of a sleep-starved mind is much stronger and more visceral in intensity than what I had planned in my conscious awake state.

Perhaps there is something to that scientifically speaking…Perhaps because our subconscious mind knows no inhibitions nor any doubts, what comes from these sleep-starved states is more pure and real than what we can plan in our wake states. Perhaps also it is because our conscious editor is not active in our sub-conscious self. We are only creative and instinctual creatures in this raw, sub-conscious state. Perhaps writers are all just lucid dreamers more in touch with listening to our subconscious selves. Perhaps we need to not fight our subconscious creative instincts with our conscious plans.

For me, as much as I can plan a story or plot a pathway on a map for my characters, rarely does my story or my characters stay on the path. I tend to always “colour outside the lines” and my best writing comes from these early morning wrestlings with my Muse. Funnily enough new stories always arrive when I am busy with another story. They never wait their turn. But then again I will take that over “searching and not finding” inspiration any day.

So on second thought I won’t send a complaint to the Sandman for missing my address yet again. Instead I am thankful for wrestling with my muse whether it be at pre-dawn or post-sunrise. I know the real problems will start when I am no longer being dragged from my sleep to write down that fleeting piece of inspiration, that one of a kind sentence or that crucial scene.

>>What about you? Are you often dragged out of sleep to write down that idea? How many ideas have you lost the tail end of because you rolled over and chose sleep over inspiration? Do your ideas for new stories wait their turns for you to finish the current WIP? Are we just slaves to our inspiration and creativity? Well as long as my inspiration / creativity / imagination/ sub-conscious / Muse keeps my notepad full of ideas and my stories full of new scenes than I am happy to be a slave to it. Anyway…I can sleep when I am dead.<<

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”
― Ray Bradbury

May Inspiration be your key today | Dance Free

Courtesy of Dodinsky's Garden of Thoughts

“The unfriendly assumptions of others about who we are weaken our soul’s resolve if we allow them to magnify, because in doing so it will inversely diminish our perspective of who we can be. Life’s infinite possibilities are discovered only by those who freed themselves from the bondage of self-doubt.” – by Dodinsky
300px-LesCorsetsLeFuretParis18cutA

Writing without words…

LesCorsetsLeFuretParis18cutA

Image via Wikipedia

…I know you just saw the title of this post and ???????  filled your mind…

Of course you and I both know that writing defines words. Or does it? Is it words that fill your mind before you start writing? Or is your mind assailed by images, emotions,instincts, sensory stimulation?

I believe that text-book writing is filled with words both in the conception and the birth of the product. But is poetry / prose / fiction filled with words? How do you picture your imagination – in essence, how do you imagine your imagination? Is it words you see?

Maybe it is. But for me writing inspiration is not made up of words. Indeed sometimes I battle to find the words to convey what I see, hear and feel in my imagination. For me, my poetry in particular is not formed of words. Although words in a poetic form are the final birth product of my conception, words are not how those poems begin. For me poetry is music, emotion, passion, heart, sound, sight, taste, feel and instinct. Words don’t come into it. But to convey what I feel, I must use words. Because we are verbal creatures. We speak with words. Words give my poems a voice. But my poems could easily be a music composition, a sculpture, a painting or a photograph. All of these would convey the feelings and emotions that are in my poetry.

What about fiction and prose? Surely those come under “writing with words”? Do they? For myself my stories come through sensory and emotional stimulation. I write best with music. This is common to a lot of writers. But for me the music I am listening to leaks out and inspires my writing. If I put a name to it, I could call it The Fountain head of Music and the water that flows from here is the inspiration behind my stories.

Which part of the human brain is the home of creativity? The right side of the brain or the Right Brain is. The left side of your brain dictates logic, thought and speech. The right side dictates emotion, fantasy and creativity. Aha!

So why do we end up writing with words? We choose to write with words so that our right side of our brain can communicate with our left side of the brain. We choose to write because society finds words easier to interpret and understand than a painting, a sculpture or a music composition.

The talent of a writer is to interpret those feelings, emotions and senses into words and sentences that the average Joe can understand and appreciate. It is a worthy gift that holds a weight on the shoulders of a writer. As writers we are the bridge between logic and emotion, we are the bridge between fantasy and understanding.

So when we feel blocked or battle to get past a point in a story is it because we have dead-ended inspiration? Have we lost inspiration? No, I don’t believe we have. Speaking for myself, I get blocked when I use too much of my left brain and over-think a story / character / scene. I use that time to peel back the layers of my story and try to refocus on what the original conception was. It might have been a dream I had. (I often get my story ideas from dreams – a visual smorgasbord of random sights and sounds.) It might have been from a piece of classical music I  hear. It might have been inspired by something I saw. I start refocusing with my right side of my brain and that’s what unlocks me. I don’t like the term “blocked”. I prefer the term “locked”. All you have to do sometimes is retrace your imagination’s steps and find where you misplaced the key so that you can unlock the story again.

The epiphany of the day is that the key to interpreting your imagination and your inspiration through words is to refocus the right side of your brain. You need to write without words….

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

 

Thursday Tips – Be an Imaginer

Rendering of human brain.

Image via Wikipedia

It’s that time of week again: Thursday. Which means it must be time for Thursday Tips. This week this blog has been focused on creativity. Today’s tips will be no different.

How to develop your creativity?

Firstly before we work on how to develop your creativity, you need to understand creativity. What the word, the concept and the action of creativity actually are.

creativity |ˌkrē-āˈtivitē|

noun

the use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work.


imagination |iˌmajəˈnā sh ən|

noun

the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses : she’d never been blessed with a vivid imagination.• the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful : technology gives workers the chance to use their imagination.• the part of the mind that imagines things : a girl who existed only in my imagination.ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French from Latin imaginatio(n-), from the verb imaginari ‘picture to oneself,’ from imago, imagin- ‘image.’


idea |īˈdēə|

noun

1 a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action : they don’t think it’s a very good idea.• a concept or mental impression : our menu list will give you some idea of how interesting a low-fat diet can be.• an opinion or belief : nineteenth-century ideas about drinking.• a feeling that something is probable or possible : he had an idea that she must feel the same.

2 ( the idea) the aim or purpose : I took a job with the idea of getting some money together.

3 Philosophy (in Platonic thought) an eternally existing pattern of which individual things in any class are imperfect copies.• (in Kantian thought) a concept of pure reason, not empirically based in experience.

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create |krēˈāt|

verb

[ trans. ]bring (something) into existence : he created a thirty-acre lake | over 170 jobs were created.• cause (something) to happen as a result of one’s actions : divorce only created problems for children.• (of an actor) originate (a role) by playing a character for the first time.• invest (someone) with a new rank or title : he was created a baronet.

ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense [form out of nothing,] used of a divine or supernatural being): from Latin creat- ‘produced,’ from the verb creare.


imagine |iˈmajən|

verb

[ trans. ]1 form a mental image or concept of : imagine a road trip from Philadelphia to Chicago | [with clause ] I couldn’t imagine what she expected to tell them.• [often as adj. ] ( imagined) believe (something unreal or untrue) to exist or be so : they suffered from ill health, real or imagined, throughout their lives.

2 [with clause ] suppose or assume : after Ned died, everyone imagined that Mabel would move away.• [as exclam. ] just suppose : imagine! to outwit Heydrich!DERIVATIVESimaginer |1ˈmødʒənər| nounORIGIN Middle English : from Old French imaginer, from Latin imaginare ‘form an image of, represent’ and imaginari ‘picture to oneself,’ both from imago, imagin- ‘image.’

Above are 3 nouns that make up the definition of creativity. These define what creativity means. It is the innate ability of the human brain. Creativity is what separates us from the other mammals. We have the unique ability to create, imagine and think. Our ideas make us creative. Our creativity is fostered by our imagination.

For me though I disagree with the one of the above definitions. Creativity is grammatically speaking a noun. However for Creativity to be fostered an action is needed: The action of creating and imagining.

For creativity to be successful, it needs to be a verb. I know that I may be throwing a spanner in the grammatical works and right now my inner editor is attempting to bite her tongue but I am sticking to my guns on this one.

Creativity must be a verb. It is an action word. What is more active than the art of creating something. For me creativity is also the opposite of destruction. Creativity is a tool we are able to use to fuel emotion. Through creativity you can make someone feel something or see something using the tool of your imagination. Creativity is a gift.

This brings me to Imagination. Imagination derives from an old french word: Imaginer.

Imaginer Meaning and Definition from Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

    Imaginer Im*ag”in*er, n. One who forms ideas or conceptions; one who contrives. –Bacon.

What a stunning concept! What a creative concept! What better calling than to be an Imaginer?

So today’s Thursday tips are:

  1. Become an Imaginer.
  2. Use your mind as a fountain for ideas.
  3. Let no idea escape: Keep a journal just for ideas. No matter how random an idea may seem, do not throw away the seed. Write it down and see what germinates. you may be surprised.
  4. Nurture your curiosity: This will fuel even more ideas.
  5. Nurture your right-brain thinking.
  6. Exercise your most important muscle: Your brain.
  7. Think outside the square: Stretch your horizons of what is possible. This is called imagination. If it has not been done, imagine how it could be done.
  8. Learn at least 1 new creative or artistic skill every week.
  9. Teach someone at least 1 new creative or artistic skill every month.
  10. Most important make Creativity an Action in your daily life.

May you have a creatively rich week.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.



Looking at the world with different eyes

Sunlight dappling my day

Sun trapped under my tread

These are two of my favourite shots that I took in the last couple of weeks for my project 365 – where I take 365 photos in a year. I love the “different view of the world” idea that these two shots give.

The first image is taken beneath a tree looking up through the leaves at the afternoon sky.

The second image is taken of beach sand. On the West Coast of New Zealand, most of the beaches are black sand beaches. The incredible thing about black sand beaches though is that when the sand becomes wet, it becomes a virtual mirror and will reflect anything. The shot that I took is of the sun and clouds reflected in the sand.

The most fascinating thing about any form of art is that is makes you look at the world with different eyes. I think that is what fuels my creativity – my search for it, my need for it, my passion for it, my focus for it. I love the way creativity makes ordinary images suddenly extraordinary. That is the true wonder of all creative arts for me:

Creativity in the hands of imagination and the heart of inspiration has the ability to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, the plain into the beautiful, the simple into the challenge, the view into a vision.

Whether I am writing a poem, or working on some prose or even taking a photograph – I am transported into a world of the POSSIBLE. Suddenly dreams can be reached and the stars are within touching distance. My common and ordinary troubles seem to disappear for those moments when I am focused on creativity.

I need to be creative. For me not to be able to write or create is like a thirsty man in a desert. I may survive for a short time but “survive” will be the operative word. I will not be able to live with ease. For like water fuels a person’s body, creativity fuels my heart and nurtures my soul. I drink in words like that thirsty man near death drinks in water. Those who know me well know that the best torture for me would be to take away my pens and my paper. I would find a way to write even if it were with my nails scratching into a wall.

Writing is therapy for me. Some people go to psychiatrists and lie on couches telling a stranger their problems. I believe in the healing power of therapy but I do not go to a psychiatrist. Writing is my therapist. Words are my medicine. Poetry is my recovery. How do I describe myself? I am a writer. Whether I had nothing published or whether I am published in 50 languages: I am a writer. Irregardless. I am a writer. It is the only passion that keeps me sane. It helps me understand the world in its idiotic simplicity and its terrible complexities. It helps me understand myself and puts words to the wordless emotions that fill my heart to overfill. When I put a pen in my hand and put that pen to paper that is when the world makes sense. In a senseless and cruel world; writing is my form of release, escape and succor. Without writing I will not cease to exist. But I would be no better than a prisoner in solitary confinement for a lifetime sentence. Writing makes the world a better place for me. Writing makes me a better person for the world.

Hippocrates put is perfectly:

Ars longa,
vita brevis,
occasio praeceps,
experimentum periculosum,
iudicium difficile.

(translated)

Life is short,
[the] art long,
opportunity fleeting,
experiment dangerous,
judgment difficult.”
Hippocrates

What does creativity mean to you?

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Monday Mental Muscles

I have decided to create a new weekly category called Monday Mental Muscles.

Mondays are a Chore for most people being a day that people want to get over as soon as possible. For traditional workers Monday is the signal that the weekend has ended and the work / school week begins. So I have decided that Monday should be the day set aside for my writing challenges. Fortunately for me, Monday is a day away from the dj (day job, not club cd mixer). On Monday I like to stretch my creative muscles by giving myself writing dares or writing challenges. So from October, I am now incorporating this into this blog.

Think of Mondays as gym for your imagination. You may have been busy with rest & relaxation on the weekend. At the end of Monday, you may be feeling stressed, frustrated, imaginatively “flat” and mentally tired. This is the time when you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and do some Pilates for the mind by attempting a Monday Challenge.

The Rules & Requirements:

  1. Pick at least 1 of 3 challenges to complete before Tuesday midnight.
  2. Comment under each Monday challenge on which challenge you have picked.
  3. If you have blogged about the challenge, link back to my blog.
  4. Pay it Forward – feel free to pass on my Monday Challenges to any writing buddies.

Happy adventuring in Monday Challenges!

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Monday Challenges – October, 4th, 2010

Focus on the Protagonist & Antagonist

  1. Interview: Call your Protagonist and your Antagonist in for a job interview. The jobs that they will be interviewing for are their roles in your WIP (work in progress) or MS (manuscript).
  2. Blind Date: Set up your Protagonist or your Antagonist on a dating website where you have to answer questions relating to what the perfect blind date (person, time, place, activity) would be for your character.
  3. Lottery Ticket Winner: Either your Protagonist or your Antagonist has won the big prize draw in the Lottery. Interview your character and find out what they would spend their winnings on.

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© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Suspense: Rapid. Strained. Tense. Goosebumps.

Fear of the Dark

Image by stuant63 via Flickr

Da dum, Da dum…The drums start rolling in the background. The whine of a lone flute plays out its haunting notes.. All of a sudden the eery music stops and the deafening roar of silence fills your screen.

The night is dark. Not even a full moon lights up the gloom. A twig breaks. Someone is out there. Fear raises all the tiny hairs on my arms. I shiver with the adrenalin. Halting foot-steps are the only sound. I pray that my hiding place, in the hollow of the old tree stump, is not betrayed. My lungs are bursting with the trapped air. My heart beats are pounding enough to drown all hearing. The world has gone silent except for my pounding heart. Another twig snaps. I see a faint outline of a darkening just past the stump. A shadow? Fear takes over and every limb in my body fights my stillness. I want to run. I have become prey. The darkened shape moves. It grows. My heart threatens to leave my twitching body and fly into the darkness of escape. The darkened form takes shape. It becomes a large hand encased in black leather. The fingers are long and hypnotize me. I push myself as far back into the hollow as the dead wood will allow me. My eyes are locked on the hand. It moves forward, seeking, towards my throat…My breath now held tightly, the edges of my vision start blurring. The hand creeps closer and closer. Searching. Just as I can almost feel the long fingers close around my throat; my vision fades. The last thing I know is the cold smooth leather touching my throat. I pass out.

After reading the above, how do you feel? Do you feel tense? Did your heart beat increase? Did your breath become shallow? If you answered yes to any of these questions then the paragraph was a successful foray into suspense. To be fair, you have no idea who the main character is. You do not know their agenda nor do you have any answers as to why they are being hunted. All you know is the little that I have chosen to tell you. It is night. There is no moon. The scene takes place outdoors, where there are trees and fallen twigs on the ground. There are two characters in the scene. A person hiding in the hollow of an old tree stump and someone else following or searching for the hiding person. You do not know if the person that is hiding is a protagonist or an antagonist. All you do know is that you want the “hunter” to miss the hiding place. Then the scene changes and the “hunter” seems to have found the hiding place. A hand reaches into the hiding place. The only identifying marks are that the fingers are long and the “hunter” appears to be wearing a black leather glove. Do you hold your breath as the “hunted” one does? Are you sitting on the edge of your seat? You are left with questions. The “hunted” passes out. Do “they” pass out from strangulation or fainting from fear? Do you want to find out more? Are you filled with questions and frustrated to find out the answers?

This is SUSPENSE. This is what every chapter in your story arc should have. Suspense is the vital element in every story that locks your reader into wanting more. Suspense is not just about “being hunted” but it is about “holding back vital information”. You do not always need to clue a reader in on every part of the story. In fact by only giving them tiny amounts of a story, you are goading them into reading more. You have successfully captured their curiosity by intriguing them, even frustrating them by holding back. Very few readers will be able to resist the temptation to read on from this point. Now, you have their attention!

When developing plot-lines and story arcs, sometimes you can forget that at the heart of the story there has to be a burning reason for the reader to want to go on. This burning reason is the element of suspense. Script-writers and movie directors have the advantage of sound and music to add suspense and set a tense scene. As a writer, you also have tools at your disposal. You have the descriptive powers of words. You can paint a scene in a reader’s mind with words. Suspense is not painting too much of the picture so that the reader does not need to use imagination. As writers we have more power than a scriptwriter or a movie director. We have the power of imagination at our disposal. Not just our own imagination but the imaginations of our reader. Use this tool! Use the reader’s imagination to build suspense into your story arcs.

You can also build suspense into your character arcs by not revealing too much about the character’s backstory or agenda. Mystery is an irresistible temptation to everyone. You can build suspense into your character arc by giving away snippets of information. Hold back the key elements of your character’s agenda and personality until the reader is drawn so far into your story that there is now no chance of them turning back or halting the adventure. Thriller and suspense writers have this talent at building suspense and it seems to come across effortlessly as a tool in their respective genres. But just because you may not be writing a thriller or suspense, it does not mean that you cannot use those same tools to build suspense.

There is a reason that so many top-selling books and authors belong to the suspense and thriller genres. As macabre as it may be, everyone loves being “scared”. This does not mean that crime is thrilling. What exactly do people love about being “scared”? In my view, I think people love the feel of the adrenalin coursing through their bodies. Their senses seem to become keener. Their reflexes seem to become sharper. In short, whether you are scared or excited your body has the same physiological symptoms. That is why people think they love being “scared”. That is also why thriller and suspense novelists and script-writers, the world over, are so popular and so successful as a result of that popularity with the masses.

So, next time, before you start writing your next chapter or delving into your character’s agenda: remember that rush of adrenalin. Remember that mystery is the answer to hooking your reader. Use your reader’s imagination along with your skill with words and you will be building suspense that will enthrall you and your reader. Remember to hold elements back. Temptation is wanting to know more about the mysterious and the forbidden. Imagination is a powerful tool to build suspense: not your imagination but using your reader’s imagination to draw them into your scene.The vital information that every good suspense/thriller writer knows: withhold vital information and only give out tastes of a scene or a character. Your reader will thank you. More importantly, your reader will keep on coming back for more.


All rights reserved © Kim Koning.