I have always been fascinated with the spaces where creatives love to retreat to. I loved the Hachette vlog series #WhereIWrite. I absolutely love Catching Days’ How We Spend Our Days interview series where Cynthia Newberry Martin asks writers to guest-post on how they spend their days. I have also just recently found the delightful rabbit hole of Novelicious’s My Writing Room.
To me there is something sacred about being let into a creative space. For many creatives, this space is often where they feel most like themselves. It is a nest where they can retreat to succour their creativity. So I thought I would invite you into my #WriteSpace for a short while.
So I have seen a few posts on various blogs, facebook statuses and twitter where writers give the world a glimpse into their google searches. I was mostly inspired by the post by Leigh. K. Hunt.
As a writer I tend to do a lot of research. I do it the old fashioned way by taking out library books. Believe me I have lived down my fair share of raised eyebrows by blue-rinsed-haired little old ladies at the check out counter. Sometimes I am tempted to ask them what they are thinking as they stamp my books of nefarious themes.
But I probably do about 60% of research with the help of Google. Google is my friend. Although sometimes that friend takes me to places I may not want to go. Did I mention I Love to research. When I get started with a new W.I.P (Work in Progress) it becomes both an obsession and an addiction to research. Let me preface this by saying, for those who don’t know me, I don’t write romance. I write about serial killers, unsolved murders and the paranormal.
Unlike actors who like to use The Method school of acting, it is unadvisable for a thriller writer to try this method to better get into their character’s minds. Unadvisable because it would mean breaking quite a few laws, committing crimes, having to evade the law by obtaining a false identity and skipping the country to some tropical island where nobody speaks your language (preferred), where cocktails are the preferred beverage (goes without saying) and where there is no internet (less likely to be caught by the law).
Although in the interests of being open and honest, I have placed my body in weird death positions to see if it is physically feasible to lie in that way. As I reread what I just wrote I realise how ridiculous my logic is because after all if you’re dead it does not matter if it is “physically feasible” to be in your death position.
I have been a thriller and crime reader since I can remember. For me the thriller especially gives the deepest insight into what makes the Homo sapiens tick and more importantly what makes the ticking manic enough to give into a darker nature. I follow true life crime stories too because of this same fascination. So naturally it was natural that I fell into writing about the darker side of human nature.
Of course by now we are all aware that every little thing we do online is seen somewhere by someone, usually a worker drone at some international alphabet lettered company. If you’re online, you’re not private. I have often wondered what people would think about my google history.
So first let me repeat that I AM A PARANORMAL THRILLER AUTHOR.
It is vital that in the interests of authenticity, I must know about what I write. Which is where Google comes in. Just like the saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”; Don’t judge this writer by her google search history nor by the books she chooses to write.
Let me ensure you:
I am sane.
I do not have mental issues.
I do not want to nor have I murdered anyone.
I do not keep a list of people who annoy me.
I do not own a weapon of any sort.
I do know how to take an intruder or person with bad intent down.
I do know how to take a weapon off someone.
My Google Search History
History of Tattoos
Mythology of Tattoos
Understanding Serial Killers
Serial Killers, Motives, Crimes
Psychopaths vs Sociopaths
The Nature of Evil
CSI and Forensic Investigations
Multiple Personality Disorder
Dissociative Identity Disorder
Nurture vs Nature
Crime in New Orleans
Old New Orleans
The History of New Orleans
New Orleans Mardi Gras
New Orleans Jazz
French Quarter, New Orleans
Streets of New Orleans
Famous sites in New Orleans
Food in New Orleans
Crime in New Orleans
Crime Investigation in New Orleans
So what’s in your Google Search History?
Do you make the cut for any Big Brother Suspects list?
What is the weirdest thing you have searched for on Google?
Books that I recommend to hide those weird search subjects from Big Brother:
I just recently found the books below and now I swear by them. I have not given up Google yet but these books answer so many questions about forensics in fiction, many I had not even thought of. Both books are in question/answer format. The questions come from fiction authors and the answers come from experts in the forensics/medical/criminal investigation/legal fields.
Highly Recommend adding these two books to your book shelf. Even if you are not an author the books are intriguing enough to keep anyone interested.
Not the character Angela Lansbury played in Murder She Wrote…No this Jessica Fletcher is my newly purchased vintage typewriter. Yes, my typewriter has a name. If you can name your car, then I can name my typewriter. Jessica Fletcher is one of my all-time favourite fictional characters so what better name to use to christen my beautiful “new’ typing baby. As much as I am a technology-addict and have all the latest gadgets I am also a bit of a purist when it comes to the act of writing. I like a little of the old and the new. I have been looking for a vintage typewriter for about 5 years now and this month I found Jessica Fletcher. She is an Imperial Good Companion 5 Typewriter Circa 1957.
Typewriters are works of art. Comparing them to our modern-day machines from MacBooks to iPad is like comparing a grand piano to an electric keyboard. Yes the electric keyboard is more portable but it is not a thing of beauty. Nothing beats a grand piano. For me a typewriter is a work of art. There is something that gets me excited about that clickety-clack of the keys or the smell of the ink or getting the ink stains on your fingers as you adjust or change the ink ribbon. The other day I read an article about an author who types out their first drafts on a typewriter for that sheer “inspirational digital-distraction-free ambience” and then transfers that to the computer for the editing stages. I LOVE that idea. It inspired me. Soon after reading this article, I found “Jessica Fletcher” online and I knew I had found my “machine of inspiration”.
Being the enlightened writing purist that I am 😉 I used Google to look up the history of “Jessica Fletcher” and her sister machines. I was delighted to unearth a few gems. The Good Companion Portable Typewriters were named after a best-selling novel “THE GOOD COMPANIONS” by English Novelist J.B. Priestly published in 1929. (Aside, a typewriter named after a best-selling novel – KISMET for this writer.) The first Good Companions were unveiled in 1932 with the Marketing Campaign of: “The Good Companion brings fame to writers.” The typewriters went on to becoming the most popular typewriter in England when it got the Royal stamp of approval (Royal as in the The House of Windsor of Buckingham Palace.) when His Majesty King George V (Reigning Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather.) purchased one for his own use.
From 1932 to 1963 the Imperial Good Companions went through 7 different designs and were called Good Companion 1 – 5. The Good Companion 5 – “Jessica Fletcher” was the last design and most modern version of these typewriters. Imperial then went on to manufacture three other typewriters after the Good Companions but the company ceased production and closed its doors in 1974.
“Jessica Fletcher”and her sister machines were very modern for the day. The innovative design contained these new additions to the Companion Portable Typewriters:
An aluminium body in a fibreglass case
A 4-colour choice ribbon
Touch-Control (where the writer/typist can choose the striking power of the keys to match individual finger strength)
Two colour Stencil Selector
Total Platen control for precision paper register
Automatic Ribbon Reverse
A Finger-friendly basket shift which means very little pressure is needed to operate the keys
I have tested all the keys and they all seem to be in perfect condition. I do need a new ribbon so will have to still buy that. The keys feel much smoother than any typewriter I used to use at school. The keys also feel much more tactile. “Jessica Fletcher” has the very sexy, curvy style that the most gorgeous 1950s ladies had. (Think the stylish female cast of Mad Men.) The colour is gorgeous too: a metallic silvery blue-green. It is not an accident that I compared the vintage looks of “Jessica Fletcher” to a Grand Piano. When I lift the lid and take a closer look it reminds me of a harp or an opened Grand Piano. “Jessica Fletcher” has only had one owner and it is obvious that she took good care of her baby.
No matter what instrument I use to “Getting the Words down”; whether it be pencil, pen, fountain ink, typewriter, MacBook, iPod, there is something about a vintage typewriter that inspires me in some deeper place. Perhaps it is the sensual feel of the keys that are made for my fingers or the sound of those letters hitting the paper but there is a definite sensuality that typing on a vintage typewriter brings to the craft of writing. Maybe it is a longing for simpler times and slower times when you did not have a million immediate distractions and a clamouring to use up time at a rate of knots. Perhaps it is the storyteller facet of this writer that is drawn to working on a vintage typewriter or longhand writing with a fountain pen because storytellers are the history-keepers of the world. So perhaps it is up to us storytellers, us history-keepers to constantly bring Renaissance to our corners of the world. Perhaps it is up to us storytellers to teach the stories of the past to inspire the storytellers of the future. What I love about “The Good Companions” in particular is that they were among the first portable typewriters that were not only inspired by a novelist and his novel but were marketed and manufactured for the Writers not the Typists or the Secretaries. This is a machine that must be cherished but must be used. It was never manufactured to collect dust on a shelf in an attic. It was manufactured to help writers tell their stories to the world. That is what this writer is going to do. “Jessica Fletcher” is going to let me tell my stories with a romantic blush of the past and all the writers and their stories that have gone before me.
Jessica Fletcher, my literary Grand Piano, sits in pride of place next to MacGyver, my literary electric keyboard, my Macbook. Sitting, pride of place, in the centre of my beautiful antique roll top desk Jessica Fletcher has found her home.
” The Good Companion brings fame to writers.” – Kismet with perhaps a hint of destiny for this writer…
“This Good Companion brings joy & inspiration to this writer.”
There is a place for The Typewriter in the 21st Century.
Would you/Have you found a place for a Typewriter in your world?
If you have not ever used a typewriter, what are your thoughts on typewriters?
Which favourite vintage model typewriter do you lust after?
An image came up on my Facebook feed this week and sparked the idea for this blog post…
Coffee and Writers go together like Petroleum and Grand Prix.
Coffee and I began our love affair lustful addiction in a town on the southern coast of Greece, 50kms from Athens. I was 21 and on my first overseas trip to visit my BFF in Greece. I left South Africa innocent of the vice that was soon to have me addicted, enthralled and enticed. In Greece my two drink options were Coffee or Ouzo. With that first sip of dark viscous liquid (I amspeaking about the small cups of Greek coffee not Ouzo. 😉 Ouzo is a post for another day. ) that looked like a cross between mud and volcanic ooze I was hypnotized and Coffee became my favourite vice. From there it was a short fall to sipping the sweet, strong, rich goodness of a Greek Frappé. (I am not talking about the Westernised Frappucino that tastes more like a milkshakethan any cousin of the original Frappé.) The lustful addiction had entrapped me and I was lost to the rich, decadent embrace of caffeine.
Writers drink coffee. Writers love coffee-shops or cafes. There is an ambience to writing in a coffee shop that is akin to a GP racing car driver at a race track. Just like the aromas of petroleum and exhaust fuel excite a professional GP driver so do the aromas of caffeine and the inexhaustible supply of dialogue inspiration and quirky characters at a coffee shop excite the writer. This is especially true for the writer who writes full time. Writing is a lonely job at the best of times but when you are tucked away in your writing cave – just you and the voices of your characters – it can be very lonely. This is when a visit to the coffee shop offers fresh inspiration. You order your favourite order of coffee, tuck yourself in at a corner table, open up the laptop/macbook/pen&paper and start writing. I like to choose a corner table with a view of the baristas & coffee machines and a view of the comings and goings of the coffee shop patrons. At this spot, I can keep an eye on what is happening around me but also make sure that nobody sneaks up behind me: very important since my pages/screen tend to be filled with ghostly hauntings, chilling killers stalking my main characters and dark places.
Every time I drink a cup of coffee I am transported to the places I have enjoyed great coffee…from the coast of Greece to the souks of Dubai to the alleys of Melbourne to the many cafes of Auckland…coffee is a passport not only to creativity but to the memory of the places I have been.
There are still a few places I want to travel to enjoy coffee in…Rome, Vienna, Barcelona, New York but the top of this list would have to be…
My Coffee-Passport Bucket List
I would love to walk in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre in Paris, another of the 9 best coffee places in the world. Every writer should travel to Paris and soak up the literary ambience. I shall save that for the Bucket List.
In the meantime, excuse me while I brew myself an Espresso Macchiato and open up the next page in my WIP. Mmm I can smell the rich smell of that decadent nectar now and it is sparking some fresh words in the WIP.
Do you have a love affair with coffee? What are your favourite coffee orders?
Do you write in coffee shops?
Where in the world is your favourite place to enjoy coffee? What place is on your coffee-passport bucket list?
Below are some of my favourite coffee-writer quotes and some of my favourite coffee orders.
Oropos, Greece – where Coffee & I first met
“Coffee. Creative lighter fluid.”
My favourite ways to drink the decadent dark nectar
Greek Frappé in Santorini, Greece
Make your own Greek Frappé
This recipe makes enough for one serving.
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee (Nescafe Original red label is the most popular brand)
(Greek Nescafe is super strong so for all other Nescafe use 3-4 tsp coffee)
1 1/2 cups cold water
In a shaker or blender mix together 5 Tbs water, coffee and sugar to taste.
Shake contents for about 30 seconds or blend for about 10 seconds. The result should be simply foam.
Pour into tall glass and add the ice cubes. Add remaining water and milk to taste. Put in a straw. Milk and sugar are according to taste. It is not obligatory to add them.
“Coffee falls into the stomach … ideas begin to move, things remembered arrive at full gallop … the shafts of wit start up like sharp-shooters, similies arise, the paper is covered with ink …” -Honoré de Balzac
Espresso Con Panna
A double shot of espresso top with whipped cream
“The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” –T. S. Elliot
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old water-proof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.”
*Warning: This post is messy and doesn’t sugar-coat the ugly truth and is a personal confessional of sorts*
Writing is hard work. Writing is especially difficult when you are expected to plumb through the dreck, muck & mire in real life dramas to find a spark of creativity. Non-writers who think that writing a story is easy have obviously never tried themselves. Life is no easier for a writer than it is for a non-writer. There is no “escape” from real life dramas. Real life is Messy at the best of times and at the worst of times it takes all your strength to keep swimming to keep yourself from sinking and drowning. Sometimes the mess that is LIFE drains all the energy – both physical and mental – out of you and you are as creative as a dried-up sponge with all the water squeezed out of it. It is so tempting to stop swimming and just let the tide take you. You tell yourself “It is not giving up. It is just giving in to the inevitable.”. You wonder what the point of fighting it all is for. Why bother to keep swimming if the tide is going to overpower you and wash you out to sea eventually?
The thing is LIFE is a journey and not a destination. Nobody said it would be a vacation. Nobody said it would be fair. Nobody said it would be easy. Nobody said there would be enough good to balance out the bad. Creative people are by nature more emotional and more sensitive. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and with every tear and every scar from our lives we flesh out our characters, shade our stories with emotional truths and try to make sense of the MESS. But sometimes real life truths are too painful to plumb for a creative spark and a kernel of inspiration. Sometimes the last thing we want to do is rehash real life in a story. Even fiction has an underlying element of emotional truth. And sometimes it is easier to believe the white lies than face the truths. This is when writing is hard for me. This is when I go into hiding from my own creativity. This is where I have been living for the past two months. Although ‘living’ is an optimistic term because really all I have been doing is ‘surviving’ at the best and treading water just keeping my head clear enough to gasp out a few breaths at the worst.
Usually writing helps keep me sane. Only 3 times in my life have I been in hibernation from writing and now is one of those times. I look at my screen and the flashing cursor mocks me. I take out my notebooks and try to write down words, any words at this point will do. But the words don’t come. It feels like I have a dam inside me just about bursting through the walls of my heart. I know I should let the dam wash through but I am scared the heaviness of the waters will pull me under. So instead I tamp down on the dam’s strength, I build the walls higher and bolster them with false euphemisms, easy white lies I tell myself. Every time I look at the screen or open a blank page of my notebook I know what I want to write but they are not good words, not a creative spark. They are dark thoughts, heavy emotions and poisonous threads that will weave themselves into a cobweb around my words and my creativity.
As I write this post I realise though that I am a writer and words are my way of dealing with crap that I don’t want to deal with. Which is why the cursor mocks me, the blank note-page empty of ink splotches mocks me. Because I am fooling nobody but myself. I don’t want to process the dark emotions. I want to hibernate from everything but especially words. Because one thing I cannot do is write a white lie to make things easier. That is just not how I am built. My words are the truest part of me. When I want to take a vacation from my real life I escape into the world of stories. I realise I have been blocking myself. I am my writer’s block. Hibernation and not writing is easier but it kills me a little more inside. I am the dam wall holding back the words, keeping the emotions at bay. Life should not be about surviving. It should be about LIVING and that means the dark shades are as important to colour in as the light shades are. Perhaps the darkest shades are the ones we need the most because if there is no dark there need be no light. I am ready to un-dam those waters and let the dark words out so the spark of a match will lead me back to my creativity and back to my place of sanity: writing. I have to remind myself that even the rubbish words are still words. As scary as it is, it is time to un-dam the words. Otherwise I may as well just give up now. I am too stubborn to give up yet.
I am reminded by an old saying that some parents tell their toddlers: USE YOUR WORDS.
How do you find the creative in the dreck of real life drama?
Have you ever felt like you were your own wall, your own block?
How did you work through it?
I leave you with the advice of one of my heroes: F. Scott Fitzgerald. A man who knew the darkness and wrote a way out of it.
November 9, 1938
I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.
This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories “In Our Time” went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In “This Side of Paradise” I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.
The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.
That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is “nice” is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the “works.” You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.
In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,
Your old friend,
F. Scott Fitzgerald
P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.
*Aside: For my writer friends out there, this is a great letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald about the price one needs to pay to be a successful writer. A little background, in late 1938, eager to gain some feedback on her work, aspiring young author and Radcliffe sophomore Frances Turnbull sent a copy of her latest story to celebrated novelist and friend of the family, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Before long the feedback arrived, in the form of the somewhat harsh but admirably honest reply seen above.* [Source: F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters; Image: F. Scott Fitzgerald, via. Globe Bookstore and Cafe (facebook)]
The greatest creative minds don’t waste time telling white lies and don’t waste words sugar-coating the ugly truths. They dive into the deepest tides of that sinking mud and they get messy with the truth. They embrace the dark to give the light a canvas to shine from.
Is obsession a bad thing? Sometimes it can be especially if your obsession is a person. But for most careers and most dreams obsession *in a particular field/set of skills* is not only healthy but necessary for success. I – like so much of the world – have been caught up in the Olympics over the last few weeks. With 9 dedicated channels to 24/7 Olympic coverage on the television, there is always some event to watch or some interview with an athlete. These Olympian athletes are prime examples of Obsession being a necessary boost to fulfilling their ultimate dream of besting their personal best times and ultimately standing on the podium accepting a medal.
Growing up I was fascinated by the law, science and journalism. I chose my high school subjects with that focus in mind. It was a toss-up between being a criminal prosecutor, a pathologist, a criminal psychologist or a National Geographic journalist or a war journalist. I was also enamoured *and still am* with the FBI and MI6. Unfortunately though geography did not favour me here.
“A writer is someone who writes, that’s all. You can’t stop it; you can’t make yourself do anything else but that.” Gore Vidal (Writer)
Life had another route for me though, one that would lead me to the truest path for me and that is writing. If I had pursued any of those adolescent dream careers I might have come to the writing path much later. I am certain no matter what route I chose it would have eventually lead me to writing. But for now I am really glad that due to life circumstances I did not pursue any of those careers.
obsession |əbˈseSHən| noun the state of being obsessed with someone or something: she cared for him with a devotion bordering on obsession.• an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind: he was in the grip of an obsession he was powerless to resist. DERIVATIVES obsessional |-SHənl|adjective,obsessionally |-SHənl-ē|adverbORIGIN early 16th cent. (in the sense ‘siege’): from Latin obsessio(n-), from the verb obsidere (see obsess) .*Dictionary Definition*
I am a 100% all or nothing type of person. When I put my mind to something I put it in 100% effort and everything else falls to the wayside. I also have a perfectionist gene inherited from my German mother that won’t allow me to be anything than the best or put any less than 100% effort in. Which is why I am glad I did not pursue those early dream careers. I would have thrown myself headfirst into them and writing would have fallen to the side.
But my dogged determination, my stubborn perfectionism and a tendency to obsess serve me perfectly in Writing. As a writer my characters have their own careers, their own obsessions that have to come across as authentic. So here is where my leaning towards the law, justice, science and journalism can be played out on the page.
One of my favourite parts of a new story, any story, is the research. To come off as authentic your plot, your setting and your characters have to be obsessively researched. Once you have come up with the idea then the FUN part begins. You get to throw yourself into a hunt for information of all kinds.
“If you don’t have obsessions, don’t write. My characters are obsessed.” – Marguerite Young
My current WIP deals with serial killers, psychics, tattooists and the FBI. So to get my facts correct I must study up on everything I can to get the characters right and to come up with an authentic plot. The internet is fantastic for the modern-day writer. Now with a tap of a button I can research millions of articles related to the subjects contained in my WIP. I can connect with experts in these fields through their online presence by following their blogs, emailing them pertinent questions and picking their brains on likely hypotheticals.
Even though I am writing fiction, I still have to get the facts straight. If I don’t, the errors will be picked up by readers. The worst thing for a writer is to come across as inauthentic. So for this WIP a tendency to obsess combined with an adolescent fascination of criminal law and justice gets to play out in my research. This means I am in my element. For the time that I write in the Voice of my characters I get to see the world and the story through their POV. I get to “be” a criminal profiler much like the actors on shows like CRIMINAL MINDS (One of my television obsessions.) have to step into the shoes of criminal profilers. I also get to understand the alternative world of the tattooists and psychics.
So even though I did not become a criminal prosecutor, a criminal psychologist, a pathologist, a National Geographic journalist or a war journalist…I get to “be” all these for a time period in my stories and through my characters. I get to write about people in these fields and for as long as I crank out the words in the drafts I get to “be” these people. I get to rub shoulders with the experts who are willing to assist me.
“You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.” – John Irving (Novelist)
Yes, a tendency to obsess over the details and the facts and to walk in your characters’ shoes/inhabit their lives is necessary to write authentic fiction. I know I am a writer because even in life’s worst circumstances in real life I am spinning these seeds into story ideas. I hear things, see things, experience things and my itch to get it into a story is nothing if obsessive. It is true what they say, be careful what you tell a writer…you may read about it in one of their stories. Writers are the obsessive magpies of the world always on the hunt for that shiny new idea.
What are your obsessions?
If you could have your life over, what dream career would you have?
As a reader, have you come across glaring errors in stories that have had you questioning the author?
As a writer, what has been your favourite subject to research and obsess over?
This last weekend I had the rare pleasure of attending an art exhibition of the Modern Masters “Degas to Dali” that called my city a temporary home on loan from The National Galleries of Scotland. With 79 works by over 60 Modern Masters from Renoir to Monet, Degas to Dali, Picasso to Warhol and Van Gogh to Matisse it was a feast for the creative senses.
You are probably wondering what an art exhibition of The Modern Masters has to do with writing and Wrestling the Muse. Everything. Writing is just another form of art. Where the great Masters of the art world used exquisite brushstrokes to create pictures and stir the senses, writers use ink blotches and words to create worlds that a reader can step into. Writing, Painting, Sculpture, Music are all forms of Art. If you are a writer, you are a creator of worlds and an artist of words.
What struck me during my tour of the exhibition was how alike a painter wrestling with his creation is to a writer wrestling with his. We both have a very specific vision of the completed work but at times the journey to get to that point of writing The End or framing that completed canvas is fraught with struggle. There was a room where the quotes of these great Modern Masters had been displayed on a wall. These are some of the quotes that stood out to me. These same quotes could directly be used for us writers.
I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else. – Pablo Picasso
I have a horror of people who speak about the beautiful. What is the beautiful? One must speak of problems in paintinga story! – Pablo Picasso
If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paintwrite a hundred canvasesstories on the same theme. – Pablo Picasso
Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working. – Pablo Picasso
It took me four years to paint write like Raphael (insert a Master of Literature here), but a lifetime to paintwrite like a child. – Pablo Picasso
Action is the foundational key to all success. – Pablo Picasso
An idea is a point of departure and no more. As soon as you elaborate it, it becomes transformed by thought. – Pablo Picasso
Are we to paintwrite what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it? – Pablo Picasso
Art is the elimination of the unnecessary. – Pablo Picasso
Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone. – Pablo Picaso
Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. – Pablo Picasso
Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.– Pablo Picasso
PaintingWriting is a blind man’s profession. He paintswrites not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.- Pablo Picasso
The hidden harmony is better than the obvious. – Pablo Picasso
The more technique you have, the less you have to worry about it. The more technique there is,the less there is. – Pablo Picasso
Just like the great artists, us writers have to get messy with our creations. We have to be willing to be ink-splattered. We have to be bold and unafraid. We have to let the story take control over the technique. We have to disappear so our characters can talk to the reader. We need to remember to tell stories like a child does. We need to let loose our passions into the story. We need to remember that up close we the artists may see only brushstrokes and mess but from a distance our audience the reader needs to see the full picture. We need to step back and look at our work with the eye of a reader to truly see if we are consistent in the path our story has taken. Remember to not only read but to look at beautiful art, listen to beautiful music, touch a beautiful sculpture. Seek out inspiration and it will show itself to you.
I want to play hookie…with my new WIP that is. I have been stuck in an editing foxhole for months now on my current WIP and really I am getting fed up with myself. I have a problem. I am a perfectionist and I cannot stop myself editing and editing and editing… Is there a perfectionist anonymous group out there or an editing anonymous group? Maybe there should be! There could be a 13 step recovery process…OH and I detest synopsis writing! Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with the editing process or with a perfectionist gene?
One of the first steps of curing a problem and recovering from it is in accepting the problem and admitting that you have a problem.
Confession: I am a Perfectionist and my problem is that once I start looking for errors and editing…I cannot stop.
I have no idea if there is a group called Perfectionist Anonymous but I have decided that writers like me desperately need a group like this for recovering editing addicts. We need an intervention and we need people we can call when the urge to continue editing ad infinitum hits us. It is a quagmire of sinking sand that sucks us in even as we try to clamber out. The more we struggle against it, the deeper we sink.
So every recovery program and intervention has a step by step list of dos and don’ts in the steps to becoming cured. So I have come up with a 13 step recovery program for all writers who suffer from Editorix Perfectionist.
13 Steps to Overcoming Editorix Perfectionism
Say the Words: I am a Perfectionist and suffer from perfectionism – the neurotic need to find error and fault and correct and recorrect and still recorrect.
Ask for an intervention to be held by more saner individuals than your neurotic self.
Step away from the manuscript, now on it’s umpteenth draft.
Close the folder entitled WIP – Nth edit.
Repeat to yourself ” Perfectionism is a sly form of Procrastination” – stick this note on every available surface.
Type “The End” on current Nth draft of WIP – and mean it.
Hide all red pens, correction fluid and erasers.
You are a writer not an editor. You have no sane moments nor objective moments when it comes to your WIP. Doctors are not allowed to treat their own family members so writers should not be allowed to edit their own works without assistance and intervention.
The first edit is allowed, the second edit is treading on dangerous ground and the third edit is an edit gone too far.
Surround yourself with notes telling you: You are not useless. You do not write rubbish. Your work is fit for more than a trash can – both on the computer desktop and near the desk. Perfectionism is an unattainable myth as it is as the opposite of humanity – since you are a human, you are imperfect anyway – pointless to fight it.
Surround yourself with critique partners, writing buddies and other writers who know what you struggle against and who know that the writer’s fragile ego is our own worst enemy. Do not be afraid to say you need help before you destroy both your sanity and your manuscript.
Step away from the edited WIP and take a walk with a notebook. Write down the plot for the next manuscript.
Begin writing the new manuscript and find refreshment and creative fulfillment in throwing yourself head-first into a creative binge. (No editing allowed at least until You have typed “the End” on the first draft!)
So this week I am going to be closing the editing folder on Ring a Ring o’ Roses (Nth draft). I am submitting the synopsis and query and then I will leave the rest to the fates that be. I am opening my notebook and starting work on The Tattooist. Editor Kim is going away– she had no business being here for so long anyway. Writer Kim is returning. I am a writer. I am not an Editor. Saner individuals than me become editors, I will stick to what I do best and that is WRITING not EDITING. To be clear I am a recovering not a cured Editorix Perfectionist. This is a continuing struggle.
I am going to do more than play Hookie with The Tattooist. I am going to have a full-blown affair with The Tattooist. The urge to write must take control over the urge to edit. I cannot wait for that delicious feeling of playing hookie and that first blush of the first draft.
Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with the editing process or with a perfectionist gene?
Sign up here _______ if you would like to become a member of Editorix Perfectionism Anonymous.
Excerpts…”I am surrounded by people who kinda believe that life’s messy love it, and I am more the “life’s messy: clean it up, organize it and put in into a pinto box.” [👍 ]
“…lean into the discomfort of the work and I am like, you know, Knock discomfort upside its head and move it over…”
“I want to separate bravery and courage for you for a moment. Courage: The original definition of courage when it first came into the English language; it’s from the latin word “cor” meaning “heart” and the original definition was: is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart…and so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect…”
Writing is that for me…the courage to be imperfect and to be comfortable in my own skin while being naked in my vulnerability. 👌
March is over and we are already into the second quarter of 2012. Don’t look now, the year is flying by. So how are those goals, ambitions, resolutions and aims looking? You know, the ones you made in that fresh first blush of 2012. Some of you may be feeling pretty damn happy with how the year is going so far but then some of you will be wanting to throw up in your hands in frustration and just bury your head in hibernation… For me, this year has been a mixed bag so far … I have taken steps forward and I have wanted to step back and throw things. But this is not a moan or a groan… You don’t have the time for that and I don’t have the energy for that. Three months are done. Three months are gone. No point in complaining. If you stumbled off the path to success, it is not too late! You just have to keep walking and when you don’t have strength to walk, keep crawling as long as you are moving FORWARD! So say it with me now: Goodbye March, Hello April!
Make April all about the “A” in ATTITUDE. My April is about being a FIGHTER. No, fighting is not wrong at least not if it is done the right way. The FIGHTING I am talking about is the Fight to put your own stamp on this world. Personality can’t really change but ATTITUDE can. You can choose what Attitude you are going to begin April with. Don’t give up just because you are behind. Behind is a good place to start from, it motivates you to kick some ass and get ahead. Fight for your goals. Fight for your dreams. Fight for your wins.
Think of 2 boxers in a boxing match. (I meant the human kind not the dog kind.) The fight is not always won by a knock out. It is won by the fighter with the most guts who gets the most “right” hits in. The point is to keep fighting until that whistle blows. So are you going to be the fighter who backs away or are you going to keep swinging and stay in the fight? It’s your choice. Nobody can make it for you.
Over the last few months I have been doing battle with one of manuscripts. It had got to the point that I wanted to give up fighting for it and wanted to just give it up. I was very close to hitting the delete button on the whole thing. But I have this stubborn streak in me that just won’t quit and won’t give in or give up. I think my ms has a little of that too. One of the people in my life, a writer, friend and mentor, got “real” with me and told me to quit “bitching” about how much I hate this manuscript and to send it to her for a second opinion. She told me I was not allowed to delete it, was not allowed to do anything to it until she had read the whole thing and offered me her thoughts and opinions. So reluctantly I sent it though in the back of my mind I was still going to delete it but this time I would have even more reason because she would tell me what I knew all along: this manuscript sux! She read it. She skyped me. She told me she loved the story and was super p…ed off that I had not sent her the ending as she was left wanting more. (I had deleted the whole ending because the ms was not feeling right to me.)
HOLD ON! What! She “loved” it. This turned my decision on its head. We skyped some more and she convinced me that there was something special in this ms. It took a long conversation (ok it was more of a pep-talk) to remind me why this story and these characters had called to me in the first place. So I agreed to her kind offer that she would walk the edits through with me chapter by chapter. This is what I have been doing the last couple of weeks.
You know what? The manuscript’s beautiful layers are being revealed bit by bit. I am back in love with the story. I can see the holes and I know what will fill them. I still have quite a bit of work to do but I am now excited because I am back on the path and walking up that hill. But the great thing is that when I get too caught up in doubts (or ego as she likes to say) I have another pair of eyes on it. Sometimes working on your own manuscript is a bit like looking in the mirror. You don’t always see the truth or the beautiful parts because you are examining the faults too closely. Sometimes you have to look at yourself through another’s eyes to appreciate the “real” you. I think it is the same way with a manuscript. And this is why it is important to have a writing BFF or two.
What’s a writing BFF? Let me start by what they aren’t. Writing BFFs are not YES People. Writing BFFs are not jealous of your success. Writing BFFs are not your mothers or your puppies. Writing BFFs are honest. Writing BFFs will not pander to your particular brand of head-crap. They are the people who will tell you the truth about your writing. They are the people in your corner who will wipe your brow and then push you back into the ring even when you want to leave the stadium. They are the people in your corner that stop you from hitting delete just because you can/want to. They are the people who are there, whether you are flying high with success or at the end of your tether over the edge. They are the people who understand my particular brand of self-doubt/ battle against perfection because they are running the same marathon. I am lucky to have a few writing BFFs, each vital for my sanity. A thousand thank you’s to you!
Writing is hard. This is not an easy thing we have chosen to do. We put ourselves and our work out there for people to judge and sometimes the judgements (though not personal) feel very personal and feel like a kick in the gut. I was asked the other day whether I regret quitting the day job and doing this writing thing full-time. The writer who asked me was thinking of doing the same thing. I was honest. I told them that it is hard work and it is an uphill run most of the time. But I also told them it was the best choice I have ever made. I don’t regret it not one bit. Writing is also not a race: not a race against other writers or a race to finish. It is a marathon. You are the only runner on this marathon. It is your path and only you can run it. Success might take time but that is ok. You have time. Don’t waste the time you have. I may never make millions from it (if wishes were gold) but this is not why I am on this path. Millions of dollars might make life easier but it doesn’t grant happiness. Chasing your dreams gives you a reason for happiness and obtaining those dreams makes you happy. I write because this is what I love to do. It is not the only thing I can do but it is the thing that makes me happiest.
Maybe you have been in the same spot as I found myself a couple of weeks ago. Maybe you have been tempted to hit delete or worse to think you are not a writer and want to give up. STOP. Get honest with yourself. Lose the EGO. Get yourself a writing BFF you trust and let them get “real” with you. You may be surprised like I was. You may be talked down from the edge like I was. So make this your month to get real with your dreams and get back to the reason why you started in this fight in the first place. Don’t step out of the ring just because you got scared. There is nothing wrong with being scared. But there is something wrong with fear stopping you in your tracks and knocking you down. I am sure even if we speak to the best of the best in any industry, they all have moments of fear. But it is FIGHTING through that FEAR that is the important difference between failure and success. Try for success, you have nothing to lose!
Have you had doubts fill your head? Have you had an MS you wanted to/did delete? What got you through it? Tell me, I would love to know. After all we’re all just dreamers chasing a fantastic dream. How many people really get to say they chased their dream, win or lose, they did not give up? That is true success. The rest is just icing on the top.
Today on #storycraft – on twitter – we discussed POV or Points of View in a story. What is most common? What is most challenging? What works? What doesn’t work? Single or multiple?
POV in a story is unavoidable. In fact POV is unavoidable in most areas of our daily life. Depending on who is telling the story will guide the listener’s or reader’s perspective and judgement. Just by using a different point of view in a story can change the whole direction of the story. POV is power. But like all bases of power, if used correctly it will aid the story and better the story, if used incorrectly it will bring ruin.
Breaking it down we have the two most common points of view in a story:
First (1st) Person
Third (3rd) Person
What is the difference between these two POVs in simple terms?
First person is telling the story from a character’s point of view using the pronouns “I”, “me”, “my” and “mine”. This POV brings depth to your story because as your character is telling it, the reader sees, hears, touches,tastes and feels the same things that the character does. They are literally walking in your character’s shoes. This is very useful to a writer because immediately it brings sympathy andy empathy into the relationship between the story and the reader. The reader starts “pulling” for the character to succeed. The cons are that it can be limiting as you can only tell the story through one set of eyes and one perspective.
Third person is the most common and most preferred POV in writing. Third person is the writer using a narrator or character to tell the story the way they see it unfold. You will see that the pronouns used here are “her”, “his”, “their”, “she”, “he” or “them”. Though the story is told from more of a distance, than with 1st Person, you can show all the elements and characters of the scene. Third Person is like focusing through the lens and view-finder of a camera and then taking a picture.
Then there is a third POV called Second (2nd) Person. This is the writer telling the story directly to the reader, either using themselves as the narrator or using a character as the narrator. The pronouns used here are “you” and “your”. This is the least used POV out of the three. It is one that is very difficult to get right without “lecturing” the reader.
There is no correct POV to use for any story although for certain genres there are preferred suggestions on POV. Ultimately choosing the POV depends on the writer and the type of story they are telling. Then it brings us to whether you should have a single POV or multiple POVs in a story. Again this depends on how you as the writer want to tell your story. The golden rule in all instances though is:
Don’t confuse the reader.
If you are going to attempt multiple POVs it is better to keep very distinctive voices for each different POV. Multiple POVs or switching POVs in a story can work very well. They work especially well if the story has more than one tense flowing through it. You can keep the tenses separate and distinct by choosing a different POV for each different tense. Another effective use for switching POVs is if you have characters of different genders telling the story. Again though, you would have to be true to that character’s voice.
Summing up from the chat we had today on #storycraft:
Summing up: 3rd is preferred method but 1st is effective for YA and for immediacy as well as getting into character’s head..Important to have a distinct Voice for each POV if switching POV in story. Keep in mind, don’t confuse the reader…When switching genders for different POVs…keep true to gender. Betas of different genders come in handy then.
This brings me to the Mental Muscles for this Monday:
Today I want you to write a scene. It can be any scene. Pick 1 POV. Then put it aside and rewrite the scene in a different POV. Then lastly put that aside and rewrite the scene in multiple POVs.
If you want a further challenge, rewrite using different tenses.
If you have never written in 1st Person for instance, this will give you a feel for it. Remember every day we need to be flexing those mental muscles of ours. As writers we need that mental muscle – the brain – to be fit, healthy and flexible. So start flexing those muscles.
If you want to read more of the #storycraft chat I mentioned at the beginning of the post: just click on the first #storycraft and it will take you to the chat transcript.
Join the conversation: What is your preferred POV as a writer then as a reader? Why?