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TWIST and BOUNCE to Progress

5 Sep

Attention, OK-Mart shoppers: this month I’m offering a BOGO. Blog One power word, Get One free! Like that multi-tasking TWIST?

Once again this fall, I’ve undertaken a Writer’s Digest online class to force me at gunpoint inspire me to make progress on my historical novel. So August had me twisting to churn out 15,000 words. And by TWIST I mean writhing and squirming on the floor from the pain of an inescapable deadline.

To make it, I had to say ‘no’ to volunteering more at my daughter’s school, which was very hard for me to do. I also put my son in full-day preschool, which was even harder. I thought I would be overridden by guilt. Instead, I was energized and motivated by such a generous gift to myself, a gift that my inner artist deeply appreciates and is returning in kind.

LA InterchangeStill, I struggle with my internal antagonists: insecurity, indecision, imperfection. Once I get going in a scene or section of a scene, I’m happy in the process of actual, you know, writing. To me, crafting dialogue is the icing on the Brussels sprouts. But it takes a lot out of me to get there or decide the exact events within a given scene. I get stalled, even overwhelmed, by the infinite possibilities. It’s like Frost’s The Road Less Traveled but on the twisted East LA Interchange. It’s hard to see where each road will take me, if it will connect to my other roads, and even how to find the right on ramp.

All roads diverged at a point of plot,
And sorry I could not travel each
And be one writer, long I thought
And looked down one longer than I ought
To where it bent in the story line…

This is where the BOUNCE comes in. When I encounter an interchange or detour, my natural inclination is to pull off at the next exit for a Diet Coke and Snickers, maybe catch a movie, flip through my Facebook, alphabetize the cereal boxes in my pantry–anything to avoid driving.  However, I am retraining myself to bounce through it instead.

Taking on a buoyant attitude of BOUNCE propels me from a defeatist all-or-nothing something-is-wrong-with-me mentality to a resilient something-or-something-else whatever-gets-me-to-the-next-sentence outlook. Once through a stressful trouble spot, I can relax again. Even if I’m not exactly sure where I’m going, I took a road to keep traveling. And that has made all the difference.

September Power Word: BOUNCE!

2 Sep
Susan Adams, Dallas, TX; cc-by-sa 2.0

Susan Adams, Dallas, TX; cc-by-sa 2.0

Happy Labor Day!

Summer has just about come and gone, but weep not. I, the Muse, love all seasons.  Each season brings its own sights, sounds, and activities.

Today, savor one last day of the lazy days of summer.  Once you’ve enjoyed the diversions of summer, it’s time to BOUNCE back into school, work and, of course, new creative endeavors.

What new book, painting, pottery, dance, film or other project do you have in store this month?  I’m waiting…

TWIST! Change it up

24 Aug
John Talbot; Ottawa, Canada (Crystal DNA at the National Arts Center) CC 2.0

John Talbot; Ottawa, Canada (Crystal DNA at the National Arts Center) CC 2.0

Once again, I have taken on too much.  Sound familiar?  I have a hard time saying “no” to Really Interesting and Cool Stuff, even when I don’t have the bandwidth.  It’s literally in my DNA.  The thing is, when you’re creative, you can’t just do the Stuff That Must Be Done and ignore all the Really Interesting And Cool Stuff that happens along in life. Denying the experience of those cool and interesting things = souldeath.  And I, for one, am not interested in souldeath, despite some of the really cool zombie movies that are out there these days.

Speaking of zombie movies, I saw one recently that I absolutely love: Warm Bodies.  I’ve never been a zombie fan, but this movie made me one.  How? Simply put, some of the best scriptwriting I’ve seen in a long time.  Somehow, the writer managed to create a story that was all at once cleverly funny, awkwardly romantic, sweetly heroic and brain-eating(ly?) gory.  And, by the way, it had a rockin’ soundtrack.

Probably my favorite scene is when a group of zombies, on their way to SAVE the planet, is walking down the highway – in slo-mo – to Rock You Like A Hurricane by the Scorpions.  Hilarious.  Brilliant. And, you are totally cheering them on.

So, how did the screenwriter(s) do this?  Took something that was “good” and gave it a twist.

Zombie eating brains = good.

Zombie developing crush on a human = twist.

Zombies, zoned-out and wandering around an airport = good.

Zombie who collects and listens to 80’s vinyl  = twist.

See how that works?  Another example is Vivi,’s book: Olivia Twisted, coming out this November (warning: shameless friend-promotion.) She wrote a modern take on the classic Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  But instead of just making the same story happen in a contemporary setting, instead of making the youths pickpockets, she made them hackers.  Great twist, right?  Oh, and the protag is a girl, but you probably knew that already.

The best part about TWISTing your creative work is: it’s fun!  And, definitely helps prevent souldeath.  This month, as I’ve written, I’ve tried to remember to throw in some twists that really up the interest.

What are you working on that’s good, but would be great if you gave it a TWIST!?

August Power Word: TWIST!

4 Aug
Unexpected twists in plots and life are good; they provide the best opportunities to grow by reacting in a new way.

Unexpected twists in plots and life are good; they provide helpful opportunities to react in new ways, changing us.

This month the Muse challenges you to TWIST! Interesting characters, in books as in life, never travel forward in straight lines. They face obstacles and conflicts. They make detours and even u-turns. Just when they solve one problem, another bigger problem arises, making them feel like they’re just moving in circles.

But with each iteration around your problems (or those of your fictional characters), heightened stakes come with heightened potential for growth. What first presents itself as an unfortunate turn of events might actually be the very thing that propels you closer to your goal.

So embrace the TWIST! Combine things in new ways like Chick Vivi, whose debut young adult novel, Olivia Twisted, comes out this fall. Or stretch yourself like Chick Eva, who’s tackling her final exams for health and nutrition school.

Whatever you’re facing, imagine yourself as the heroine or hero in your own story. Persevere through challenges and even losses, knowing that you’re becoming more fascinating and more dynamic with each TWIST.

FLARE! Shine bright, o talented ones!

1 Aug

So I’ve been half-watching (cuz you know – laptop’s always on the lap, duh) these amazing competitions on So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Got Talent, and these people have some serious talent! These days, we’re accustomed to watching the ones who “aren’t good enough” get booted off these shows, but HELLO—even the ones who go home are sometimes incredible!

Which makes me think about some of the reviews I’ve read on some incredible books lately. There are simply amazing books that have made me laugh, cry, and everything in between. Then I go on Goodreads to find out that not everyone feels the way I do. It’s truly shocking when I see a one-star review on a book I thought was fantastic! Sometimes I wonder, “Did you read the same thing I did?”

But it happens. With my book debut just three months out, I admit that this thought has plagued me. Especially considering the company I work for in my day job, I’m used to having happy people around me constantly. Very happy! (See if you can figure it out.) Now I’m putting myself out there—wait, not me, just my book—and who knows what will happen. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that most authors feel this way—nervous about reviews, hoping the gifs aren’t too horrible, and hoping no one throws virtual rotten eggs at your door.

I just have to keep in mind that as with the crazy talent I see on these shows, everyone’s opinions differ. It’s not personal, it’s just business–or whatever.

So yeah, this is probably the closest I’ll get to a review-paranoid post (no promises). I am just grateful to know I’m in good company, regardless of what happens!

So go forth and shine, o talented ones, and don’t fear the reaper of rejection. Can someone remind me of this later?

FLARE! Like a beacon

27 Jul

I’ve got a confession: when I first started thinking about our power word this month, all I could think about was the movie Office Space.  You remember the TGI Friday’s knockoff restaurant where the employees had to wear a lot of “flare” on their suspenders?  It still cracks me up.  But that kind of flare didn’t inspire me to write.

Then, I thought about a flare being a beacon.  A beacon helps people find their way.  That’s what I needed.  To cut through all the clutter of ideas in my head and focus on reaching a single point.  To stay true to that goal. Right now, that goal is a middle grade novel.  I’m tempted to get sidetracked now that I’ve hit the murky middle.  When I sit down to write and I say “I don’t know what they do next,” I’m tempted to get up and walk away. But I will not.  My FLARE is a beacon burning in the distance and I’m staying focused on it.

What are you focused on this month?

FLARE! into the Night

5 Jul

mjzGRrw

This silent sky envelops all my soul,
A fading flicker dimmed by dark despair.
Alone and empty, lost in this black hole,
I search for stars but see hope shine nowhere.

And yet I burn, sole evidence I live,
With longings, disappointments, failures, fears.
Such toxic fuels, if used, new power give.
Ignited, inner anger disappears.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is no path, no safe and structured rise,
But only straggled streams of struggling light.
Ideas like constellations fill the skies
Once braved to flare into the hopeless night.

DIVE….Do what the French Do!

30 Jun

I was in France a few weeks ago with my husband for vacation.  It was my first time in Europe.  And I had an amazing time.   I learned so much about myself during this trip that I didn’t realize.  We live in a world of always having to be busy.  I will talk for myself, I always have to be busy, always have to be doing something new.  I feel unproductive if I’m not doing something.

966204_10201500832301643_1808902320_o (2)How did I come to realize this?  My husband and I went to the Eiffel Tower and below we saw a beautiful park name The Parc Du Champ de Mars that people were just lying on the ground relaxing.  I was so excited about lying down on the ground, looking at the Eiffel Tower and relaxing.  Well guess what I couldn’t.  My husband had no problem, but I felt so restless.  First half hours it was nice just people watching and they all looked so relaxed.  Some eating cheese , bread and drinking wine.   I just got on my phone and started reading my facebook, walked around, till I had tell my husband it was time to go.

It drove me crazy why I JUST couldn’t relax.   The more I thought about it, I realize that I was always running around doing things.   I did not know how to relax.  Just to lay there and do nothing and admire the small things.  Like the sky, flowers, grass, watch the kids play. Why have I never just taken some food, blanket a good book and enjoyed all the blessing that I have.  How can I appreciate everything I have if I’m always trying to stay one step ahead, always running around trying to do to many things and not really enjoying it.

Well I got my chance again.  8 days into our trip we were heading to Barcelona from South of France on train.  Well guess what?  We missed the train and were forced to wait 6 hours with our entire luggage for the next train.

Here was my chance!  The funny thing was that the night before someone had recommend for us to buy a bottle of wine, some cheese and bread to take on the train.  My husband was so upset but in front of the train station was a beautiful park and I looked at my husband and told him lets go sit on the grass and have a picnic.  My husband said “for 6 hours?”  YES!!!!!  And we did!  We had our wine, cheese and bread, we talked, he took a nap, I read a book and just people watch for 6 hours.

Was it a coincidence? Maybe or maybe not, but it was what I needed to renew my energy and come back with a clearer mind and learn to take time to relax and enjoy the outdoors without feeling that I have to always be doing something.

So, I’m diving into new territory here.  In hopes that it makes me a more rounded person, a better wife and mother and more creative.

Now you know what I will be doing this summer and it’s OK to enjoy the little thing in life, like sitting in the park with some good food and great company.

So thank you France for teaching me to relax!

DIVE! at your target

30 Jun

I must make a confession: I just came up with what DIVE! means to me.  And it’s the end of June.  So much for it being my power word for the month.

A power word is supposed to be a mantra I can use to focus and motivate myself.  I’ve gotta feel it deep in my gut.  All month, I’ve thought about different forms of diving – scuba diving, sky diving, springboard diving, cliff diving. None of them spoke to me.  Actually, they did, and they all said, “Meh…”

Ahhhh...

Ahhhh…

I went to Hawaii on vacation and thought I’d find inspiration for my metaphor there.  But even there, I never dove!  The pool, the pond at the bottom of the falls, the snorkeling lagoon at the hotel, they were all too shallow.  We took a surfing lesson, which was way cool, but they advised us not to dive off our boards because it wasn’t that deep and there was a reef scattered throughout the waves.  Of course, Hawaii was gorgeous and fun and I can’t wait to go back.  But I still couldn’t find the meaning of DIVE!  What my brain kept saying was relaaaax, wander, enjoy…  

This is largely the approach I’ve been taking to my writing as well. With predictable results.

Then, this past weekend, I went on a writing retreat with some great writer friends. It was fun, we met some other great people, shared our writing and got some great feedback.  Yes, I can’t stop saying ‘great.’  It was.  For me the most important benefit was getting some feedback which helped me focus and motivated me to pursue one particular project like a hawk.

Coopers Hawk (William H. Majoros - CCA-SA)

Coopers Hawk (William H. Majoros – CCA-SA)

Now, like a hawk, I’ve got my prey in my sights and I’m going to DIVE! until I nail that sucker.

DIVE! to Your Quiet Place

26 Jun

You’re standing at the deep end, waiting for a clearing, your toes palpating the smooth brick edgers. The pool is packed. Children squeal and splash, whine and wade. Parents chase and cajole. A toddler passes behind you screaming, “Nooo!”

You bend your knees and stretch your arms forward, bringing your hands to a point. You, too, are a parent. You, too, are a child. So you dive.

Gliding below the surface with a gentle break, you slope onward and downward. You open your hold and touch your splayed fingers to the bottom. When you look up through the rippled light, bodies run but their words are muted, distant. At last you can hear your own thoughts, your own words. You realize that you can stay here for as long as you want. You’ve always felt restless, but now you rest contently in your comforting, watery quietude.

You are a mermaid, one made for two worlds. For you, breathing the water below the surface is as natural and essential as the air above it. When you stay on land too long, you suffocate. To this peaceful place you long to return, muffling the noises and focusing on your private passion. Here is where you find your flow. Ideas pour out, and time passes unnoticed. Why did you wait so long, you wonder, so long to return to this place you love.

20130626-112358.jpg

Have you ever had a dream like this, too, that you could breathe underwater? For us mermaids, going down for creative air is essential. But contrary to common artistic guilt, getting there does not require planning a solo vacation. Instead, we each can slip into it unnoticed amid the chaos by claiming small moments with ourself and our laptop, piano, paints, sewing machine, whatever.

During this season of busy family fun, how do you get to your quiet place? What would you like to do next there?

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