Category Archives: Inspire Me Watson

Inspire Me Watson! Write what you feel.

I saw a quote online last week that’s really stuck with me.

Writers don’t write from experience, though many are resistant to admit that they don’t. I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.
American activist, writer, educator and commentator, Nikki Giovanni

I’ve been thinking a lot about that. If we all only wrote what we know, there’d be a bazillion incredibly boring autobiographies on the market, and very little else. Writing what you know is only going to get you so far. But how is it possible to write about something you DON’T know? Easy. The situations and experiences we write about might be fantastical, but human emotions and reactions are pretty much universal. We all understand joy, anger, betrayal, love, loss, longing, fear, and a thousand other feelings. The trick is writing characters and situations with that understanding in mind.

Let me explain. No, it’s too much. Let me sum up. Most people are familiar with the works of Stephen King. I’m reasonably certain that he has no first-hand experience as a pyrokinetic teenaged girl, a rabid dog, a psychotic murdering clown, or a head-injury-induced psychic. Even still, he writes all of these characters with such care that we can see them as actual, three-dimensional people rather than as faceless paper dolls. It’s not scientifically assessed and meticulously assembled facts about the characters or situations that draw us in to their worlds, but the fact that, despite strange powers or otherwise unbelievable plots, we respond to the humanity of their situations.

So that’s what I took from this quote. If you can build your stories around the sorts of things we can all identify with as human beings, readers will be drawn to even the most inhuman of characters. And as a dragon, that makes me happy.

 

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Inspire Me, Watson

It’s not something I try to hide, but it’s also not something I talk about constantly, but it’s relevant to my current inspiration levels, so here goes. I have bipolar disorder. Most of the time, I tend to the high-strung end of the spectrum (which comes in handy for marathon writing bursts), but this time of year often swings me to the dark side. Family obligations, stress, longer nights and shorter days, post-holiday disappointment, loss of my usual routine, cold and dismal weather, and a thousand other things tend to pile up like ashes squishing my little flame of joy into a sputtering ember. Yes, fireplace metaphor. Shut up, it’s like my one happy thing about miserable weather.

Some days I don’t even feel like turning on the computer. Even my twitter and tumblr lives (aka FUNSIES!)  have been flat lately. I just don’t have the energy.

The last thing I want to do is give myself a big inspirational kick in the pants. I can’t pull myself up by my bootstraps when I refuse to change out of my fuzzy slippers.

I haven’t been writing much lately. It’s both a cause and an effect of depression. It’s one of those lovely Catch-22 tricks the universe has played on my thinky-box.

This is when I have to remind myself, no matter how idiotic it sounds in the moment, it doesn’t last forever. *Reflexively grinds teeth, then takes deep cleansing breaths.* There are things I can do to help pull myself back into balance, to drag myself back to the keyboard and put words in rational order, to fan the sad little briquette of my soul back up into the RAGING INFERNO OF CREATION. *Obligatory fist-pump and dinosaur scream, followed by feelings of dorky humiliation.* OKAY. MOVING ON.

I’ve been dealing with this for years now. At least in my case (and everyone is obviously different), I’ve learned a few things that might help, if you’re also lost in the ashes.

While I can’t just “snap myself out of it,” or “cheer up,” I have learned that I can be a lot like Pavlov’s Dog. *Insert tongue joke here.* You know, do a thing enough times and eventually you get pretty consistent results. Ring a bell, I drool. Change up my routine in certain strategic ways, and BOOM what do you know? I’m writing again! I just can’t help it anymore.

Some of these may seem completely counter-intuitive, but hear me out, and then take what works for you.

Dress up. Or at least dress up compared to pajamas and my ratty bathrobe (which is totally what I’m wearing right now, so as usual, please make this advice part of your high-sodium diet, thanks). I don’t mean drag out your prom dress or rent a tux, when I look like a slugabed, I behave like a slugabed. Go figure. Sometimes I can trick my brain into paying more attention by paying more attention to my body.

On that note: Exercise. I get up and move. I make excuses to avoid working out. I haven’t done a full workout since around New Year’s. When I realized it earlier today, I had one of those stare-into-the-face-of-god moments. Like, YES. This is part of my problem! Slack-jawed drooling may have occurred during my moment of revelation. It may not have occurred. *It occurred.*

Sleep regularly. This is a big one for me. This time of year I generally go on reading binges. I figure if I’m not actively writing, I’ll read more. All writers should read lots. This is a good thing. This is what I convince myself of when I glance at the clock at it’s 4 am and I’m still reading. Reading is good, but sleep is also good.

Take care of business. Sometimes the Grand Pile O’ Crap That Keeps Us Living Indoors (aka, bills, paperwork, etc.) overflows my work space, and I spend more time fretting over the clutter. I catch glimpses of my notes mingled in with the junk of everyday life. It’s much easier to sit down first thing in the morning and succeed at a writing goal if the first thing I see is all my happy little notes smiling up at me unencumbered by the water bill, the passport I forgot to renew, the postcard from my dentist telling me it’s time for my biannual torture session, the last three grocery lists, five random books, and everything else that ends up tossed on the pile. I actually write more when the rest of the stuff, important or not, has been taken care of first.

Stare at the draft. Some days I don’t get any words written. I stare at the blinking cursor and imagine it’s trying to hypnotize me into becoming a lounge singer, or a chicken, or a potato. Or maybe a writer. Seems like a logical next step. But to get to that point, I have to close everything else on the computer and only work on that cursor. No research tabs to distract me. No twitter. Even if just for an hour. If nothing else, I get a good meditation out of it.

I guess this is getting sort of rambly now. I’ll shut up and let you get back to writing. Stupid thing is, I’m actually feeling more like writing again right now. Sometimes the easiest first step is to sit down and write up something like this. This is nothing like writing a novel, but it’s a hell of a lot closer than those grocery lists were.

Happy travels, and may you stay one step ahead of the dragon. 🙂

 

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Inspire me, Watson

The-Landscape-Nature-WallpaperLots of things have different meanings for many of us in our interpretations and delivery. Its like looking at a piece of art and attempt to identify what the artist is trying to accomplish and whether or not the artist has succeeded – some of us simply see strokes and forms. How long are you supposed to look at the art until you understand? Does anyone care? Or are we just happy to have a pretty piece on our wall? When people ask what inspires me, I have to say nature. But of course, I would say that being out in nature most of my time. Nature sucks you into her world and opens up realms of possibilities, and if you stop and listen, you’ll be amazed at what you will find.

Now, workshop time: Find yourself a quiet spot, you don’t have to go to Mount Everest or Tristan de Cunha, it could be your garden, a park, a nature reserve, somewhere you can truly reflect. Sit or stand, that’s your choice, close your eyes and take a deep breath. What do you hear? The wind in the trees, the birds chirping and singing, the bees busy working, the snap of a branch. Ok, open your eyes, there may be a masked murderer creeping up on you! Or it could be a creature foraging for food – let’s go for the latter, now close your eyes again. What do you smell? The musk of the dead leaves under foot, the freshly mown grass, the dainty floral scent of the flower, the earthy tones of the stream.

Open your mouth, what can you taste? Jasmine, lavender, that fly that just landed on your tongue. Now spread your arms and open your fingers let the air circulate around you – how do you feel? Free, safe, connected? Or do you feel like a loon stood in the woods with your arms outstretched and mouth open wide? Open your eyes, what do you see? The squirrel rummaging around the undergrowth, the butterfly fluttering around your head, the ladybird climbing a blade of grass, or that dog poo you really should have avoided earlier. If you’re not sitting, sit, and let your fingers scrunch the earth (not near that dog poo, but if that gives you inspiration, then go for it), now roll the earth around your fingers and let it soak into your skin.

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This is how I begin my inspiration, it frees my mind and gets me ready to prepare. Now I go and get myself some prey… I mean, people watch. Take in mannerisms, accents, body language, scents, interaction between humans, humans and their pets, human emotion, animal emotion, the weather, reactions to weather. Are you a stand in the rain and smile up at the sky kind of person or run inside for fear of melting (no witches were harmed in that reference). It’s all part of nature, and we are all connected. Open yourself to mother nature and you too will be inspired.

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(click on Christian the lion to watch an amazing reunion of two men and their companion)


Inspire Me, Watson

by Laura, aka The Dragon

Each Wednesday, the Midnight Types will share a bit of inspiration. I am humbled and delighted to be the first to light the fires of imagination beneath our collective derrieres. Sometimes, a little well placed heat is just the thing to ease you into something new. A beginning.

I’ve been thinking a lot about beginnings lately. They are all at once scary, invigorating, uncertain, and exciting. Every new thing brings equal measures of joy and fear. There’s no way to know what each beginning holds in store for us. Just committing ourselves to something new is huge, but without that first overwhelming step, we’d never get anywhere.

Midnight is itself a beginning. The clock ticks from one second to the next, and magically it’s a new day. It gives us a chance to start fresh every twenty-four hours. So what if I didn’t get everything done yesterday? I have today, and I won’t let it pass without significance.

The Midnight Type is a huge new beginning for me, personally. This amazing group of people, of writers, of talented and creepy and entertaining characters, has invited me to contribute to this effort. I’m honored and baffled, but I’m loving every minute of it. So here goes, my attempt at inspiration, whether you are starting your first writing project, about to query for the first (or second, or third) time, or releasing your first published work into the world. It all begins at the beginning.

I’ve been writing for several years. Writing is not new to me, yet I’m still constantly confronted with beginnings. Every day I am challenged to begin again. Some days are more challenging than others. Here are a few thoughts that keep me going when I start to despair that I’ll ever reach my goal. Sometimes I need a swift kick in my scaly, stubbornly dragon-like pants.

At the start of a new project (which is where I am right now), I begin with research. I tend to get bogged down a little here. I possess a possibly unhealthy love of information, if the number of tabs I have open in Chrome at the moment is any indicator. I swear, my browser has only crashed once this week under the weight of it all. Research (or outlining, or making notes, or whatever holds you back from actually sitting down and putting words on the page) is more like the stretching you do before running. It’s good, it’s healthy, but if you never stand up and run, you’ll never get anywhere. There will be time for more research as the story grows. Plots grow and change in strange ways as they work themselves out in ink or pixels. I’ve had mountains of research go unused (WASTED! says my twisted mind) when a story took a hard left turn in chapter three. I jogged right off the edge of the map, and into Officially Uncharted Territory. HERE BE DRAGONS! AND NEW BEGINNINGS! The moral of this story for me is: STOP IT ALREADY AND WRITE. *pants KICKED*

Editing is another stumbling block I’d prefer to think of as a new beginning. Sure, the story is all there, but looking at it from a new perspective–as a whole instead of as a series of scenes and characters and ideas–gives me a chance to start over. Like an artist looking at a big lump of plaster, or at a cauldron of molten metal, or whatever (I am so not aware of how artists do the art), editing is where the molding really begins. I’ve hacked thousands of words from stories, only to replace them with thousands of different words. Every time I take another pass, the story becomes tighter, the overall picture clearer, just as the artist’s sculpture is more refined each time they see it from a different angle.

Once you’ve edited and polished, run your story past your trusted writer friends, critique partners, and edited and polished again (and then again), it’s time for one of the most terrifying beginnings I’ve faced as a writer: querying. I’ve spent weeks crafting query letters, researching agents, and consuming enough ice cream to freeze my nerves up enough to hit send on a query email. This is the first new beginning for a writer that’s almost completely out of our control. Up to this point, it’s been up to us as individuals to ooze our stories out into something pleasing to ourselves, but then BLAMMO! It’s time to leave our dank and cozy writing caves and stretch our wings in the dazzling light of day. Luckily for me, dragons have beautiful glittering scales (not to mention threatening talons and impressive fangs). The manuscripts I send out are hopefully just as glittery after all that polishing.

There are so many other beginnings for a writer, but these are the big ones for me. No matter where you are, from thinking about your first story idea to gearing up for your first book release, it can be suffocating. Like my recurring nightmare of drowning in fire extinguisher foam, but let’s not speak of that. For me, the easiest way to keep going is to see every step as a fresh start. Every day when I sit down to write, I see a new beginning, a new pile of kindling to set ablaze.

What are your thoughts on beginnings? How do you kick your metaphorical pants into gear? Or your literal pants? I mean, maybe you’re some sort of robot with a transmission in your pants. That would actually be awesome. Or terrifying. Either way, I’d like to know about it.

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