Saturday, September 24, 2011

Three Things I Learned About Writing at a Social Work Conference - Part I

The infamous “they” say that inspiration for writing can come from any source.  In my case, “they” were right.  This week, my understanding of the craft and my personal process of writing was influenced by lessons I learned at the NASW-Wyoming Chapter’s Annual Social Work Conference.  As the post became rather lengthy, I have broken it into two parts.  This week I focus on an aspect of craft that gained clarity in my mind.   Next week I will finish with lessons  about some personal aspects of the writing process.

About the Craft:  Characters and plot are intertwined.  I understood this intellectually, but I never really grasped the simplicity of this concept until this conference.

The opening speaker at the conference, the Rev. Rodger McDaniel, spoke about systems of care, and made a statement to the effect of “A judge lives in a world where he/she gives an order or direction and expects it to be followed.  Our clients don’t live on that planet.”  Light bulb moment.  Conflict exists between the judge and the client, not because they are at enmity with each other, but for no other reason than they have differing world views.  The planet our protagonists and antagonists live on is their worldview, their needs and desires - what makes them human and real.  It’s their character.  The conflict that arises because of their worldviews is plot. 

The best thing about this understanding is it makes sub-plots (finally) understandable.  Who we are spills out into a variety of areas of our lives.  For example, if I had been abandoned as a child, I may have difficulty trusting others.  This trust issue would present itself in my life in many different environments and situations.  I might have difficulty with authority, I may have poor intimate relationships, the list can continue in myriad directions.  Therefore, if I’m writing a romance about a woman with trust issues, the main plot would be her relationship with the male lead character, but I can throw in a sub-plot about her trust issues at work and the difficulty she has with a controlling boss.  Still working on the main plot, but it is augmented and strengthened by the sub-plot.

That’s it for this week.  Please come back next Saturday, when I explain the lessons I learned about writerly passion and myself.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Twitter scares me.  I can be honest about it.  It is for that reason that, when I entered the social media stream two summers ago, I decided to wait on Twitter.  I focused on creating a blog and joining Facebook.  Over the last year, I have read numerous articles about Twitter.  The number of authors who mention Twitter as one of the most important ways they connect to others indicates it is an important social media tool to use.  In August, I read a fabulous two-part blog post over at Writer Unboxed by Nina Badzin, called the Art and Science of Twitter  (which you can find part 1 here and part 2 here).  I felt ready to take the plunge.  I got a twitter handle and jumped into the Twitter stream.

I was wonderfully surprised to find Nina there to meet me.   She gave me some pointers on my profile and even generously followed me, so I wouldn’t be talking to myself in cyberspace.  Personally, I think she deserves a place in heaven just for being so kind to me!  I set up twelve people to follow, and put out a tweet.  I have since tweeted eight times over the last several weeks, and retweeted once.  I have four followers, and I don’t know what to say to them.  The Twitter current is slowly pushing me to the shores of the Twitter stream.  But I’m not going to go down without a fight.

I have noticed all of the people I am following are big name people.  While that is wonderful, because I feel like I am listening in on a conversation Neil Gaiman or Prof. Brian Cox are having with some “other person,” it also is terrible, because I am not going to interrupt that conversation.  There is no way I am going to break into their stream and start responding.  I don’t even know if I am allowed to!
I have decided that I need to follow more people with whom I can have a conversation.  I need to find people of like interests that I am not afraid to approach.  To that end, I am going to search out Twitter users who are more “normal.”  Also, if any of you, gentle readers J, would like a follower, please let me know and I would be happy to follow you.

I also am going to go back to Nina Badzin’s blog and read everything she has about Twitter.  I am convinced that I can successfully use Twitter to reach out and communicate with others.  I am just starting the trek up the sharp side of the learning curve.  Hope to see you soon on the Twitter stream!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Trust the Process

To be truthful, I stole the title of this post from John Taylor, bass player of Duran Duran.  In his case, the title referenced the process of living a happy life, both clean and sober.  For me, the words jump to mind as I trip over rejections, uncertainty, frustration, apathy, and any number of obstacle illusions that appear in the path of this journey of becoming a successfully published author. 
Dr. Joyce Brothers said “Trust your hunches.  They’re usually based on facts filed away, just below the conscious level.”  For those who claim “Pantser” title (of writing by the seat of their pants, instead of outlining or putting much thought into direction), I imagine the trusting of hunches is quite a simple task.  I, unfortunately, cannot claim “pantser-ship.”  I am firmly bound by rules and like the structure of a simple outline.  I don’t know how much of an anomaly I am, but I have come to embrace the fact that I am what I am.  For me, structure provides stable soil in which my creative impulses grow to fruition.  That being said, I have had to learn to allow my hunches to fully expand.  I have to remind myself to trust the process of writing, of exploring and delving into the fertile ground of my subconscious outside of the outlined fences I erect around my work in progress.  It makes me uneasy at times.  I want assurances that I am writing the best story, that I’m doing it right.  It’s hard to step back and trust in intuition, but it gets easier with practice, and there is no more joyful surprise than when the muse speaks, pulling from my subconscious the absolutely most perfect ending, or story twist, or character so that I am shocked I didn’t think of it before.
I also have to remind myself to trust the process of becoming a writer.  When I compare my journey to that of other writer’s, I sometimes become frustrated.  I am acutely aware of the clock ticking and the years passing.  I have met most of my self-imposed goal posts, but still become afraid that the cost may end up outweighing the benefit.  Placing my trust in an unknown outcome is an extremely hard thing to do.  Trusting the process of becoming a writer means my journey is the best journey for me.  I do not need to compare myself with other writer’s, instead I can be happy for their successes.  I can take my time learning what I need to learn, because the next lesson will arrive when I am ready for it.  The process of becoming then becomes the goal.  And, as long as you continue to write and learn, you can’t fail at becoming. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Please Check Back!

Hey!  I wanted to note that, due to family vacation time, I will be posting a little later this week.  If you happened by here before I do post the new post (about trusting the process of writing) then please check back after Sunday night.  Thanks!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Review of Steven Pressfield's The War of Art by Guest Blogger, Kaelin P. Hornsby

It is my great pleasure to introduce the first guest blogger on Motivation for Creation, Kaelin P. Hornsby.  Kaelin is a freelance writer and aspiring sci-fi novelist, who hails from the Pacific Northwest.  After conquering traditional college, she devised her own continuing-ed program, including the occasional academic writing conference such as the Writing the Rockies Conference, where I had the great fortune to meet her.  She’s currently working on a time-travel novella, Antiquity, which you can find at her blog:  Welcome, Kaelin!

A friend recommended Steven Pressfield’s  The War of Art to me and, despite the depth and breadth of my ‘to read’ pile, I managed to get to it before summer was out.  Much to the book’s credit, its 165 page length had something to do with it getting ushered to the top of the list.  Pressfield, known chiefly for his military/historical fiction and for his non-fiction novel-turned-film, The Legend of Bagger Vance, produced this 2002 work with an eye toward inspiring anyone struggling with creative endeavors.  Where others might offer advice in the guise of catchy notions like making lists, organizing the desk, or maximizing production with the help of a day planner, Pressfield instead examines why on Earth we’d be having problems in the first place.
Resistance, he espouses, is the real problem.  The book’s three sections, indeed, make this clear – Resistance, Combating Resistance, and Beyond Resistance.  He casts resistance in the role of a literal villain which asserts itself as distraction, laziness, fear, doubt or anything else that stands between the creator and what he or she wishes to create.  The book demands that the reader confront: “why am I not making my dream a priority?” and goes on to explore potential whys and how to deal with them.  Among the usual suspects (guilt, uncertainty, lack of confidence), Pressfield offers the best perspective I have ever encountered on the oft-mocked notion of “fear of success.”  Sure, it sounds insane, why would anyone fear success?  Pressfield offers the insightful deduction that, as creatures with a long history of tribal-based survival, we’re often reluctant to do something that would set us apart from our community. 
Venturing into the spritual/mystical aspect of creativity, Pressfield stresses the importance of acknowledging the inspiration behind artistic effort.  Whether a writer/painter/musician believes in a god or the power of the universe or in having a personal muse, Pressfield feels it is vital to recognize that influence, and to respect it.  Certainly, there are plenty of authors who describe writing not as a process of ‘making up’ a story, but of discovering it – and it is this idea that Pressfield builds upon.  It frees the artist, to some degree, to believe that showing up and doing the work is the real key, and in trusting the rest to inspiration.
While it may or may not solve every artist’s problem with procrastination, it is one of the most thought-provoking works I have found on creativity.  If reading it hasn’t stopped me from getting distracted while writing, it has made me more aware of my distraction, more conscious of just how much time I’m wasting.  And knowing, as they say, is half the battle.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Motivation Station

After speaking with some writer friends, I decided to open up the Motivation Station.  It is a place for those who are interested in some company on the journey to meet their writing goals to share their successes and gain support in their struggles.  At this time the only real rules are that we use kind words that are positive in nature.  Click on the page link above, and check it out!


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