Results are Important – On Quitting or Fueling Creativity

It is human nature to expect award or recognition. It makes us feel good. As kids we looked forward to hear our parents praise. We felt good when our good grades were recognized as an achievement. If we did as expected our parents would say “good boy/girl.” We are conditioned to expect good results from our efforts; that is, until you become a writer or an artist.

Writers put on long hours and much effort when writing and publishing a novel. We expect results, good results, and the reward for all our hard work. When it doesn’t materialize in the form of income, recognition, good reviews (or any reviews), our faith and confidence may dwindle, and so does our motivation. I think most writers have gone through this, but not all writers have conquered the disillusion and loneliness that a writing career may offer at some point. Some writers quit for good, others may become angry, cynical, or depressed, thus their writing being affected by this state of mind and soul. The point is that results are important, however we measure them. In the absence of these measured results, we must fuel our motivation to go on writing, otherwise quitting becomes an option.

If you write for the love of it and could care less if your work touches (or not) a soul or two, then continue writing for the love of it. It is a valid goal as any other. However, if you want to inspire, reach out to people, entertain, educate, earn a living, and touch a few hearts, or whatever your goal might be, then you should think about riding the wave while getting wet in the process, even in the ocean of your tears. If results are few, then fuel your creativity as the only way to keep on writing. It is up to us to inspire and maintain a level of creativity that will carry us through the dark hours. It may sound macabre, but if you are a writer you know well how much of your soul you put into your work, and that is why many writers and artists take it very personal. After all, there are bits and pieces of you all over the pages.

During the dark hours, it may seem impossible to maintain creativity, but if you keep nourishing ideas, playing with them, and foreseeing projects, this becomes part of the process and you will get through. Results are also part of the process, only a small part; they are a measuring tool, but they do not define you as a writer, or as a person (when you take your craft very personal). As long as you realize this, you will continue creating and will not quit. Fuel your creativity, fuel your writing.

I wrote this poem on one of my darkest hours, and I want to share it alongside this post.

 

The Day I Quit

 

Breathless. Exhaustion of the soul

Fearless. What else is there to fear?

Weak from thriving

Strength in hiding.

Relentless search

to nowhere leads

Passionate failures

Death from within.

The Soul, the heart

Dim light, a beat

Beneath the darkness

life still exists.

A fire within

the ice melts slow

thawing the heart

and a frozen soul.

No faith, no hope

To live, to die

Not without a fight

For I will quit only after I die.

How to Tame a Multi-Creative Spirit

TameChanged from natural wilderness to a manageable state. (American Heritage Dictionary)

 

The above definition will serve the tone of this post. As creatives we have an abundance of inspiration flowing, and many times, this same flow overwhelms our creative spirit. A person who seems to have many talents, or ways in which this flow of inspiration is expressed may find it difficult to focus on one talent, thus making it challenging to grow or develop a talent further. A multi-creative spirit may find itself in creative chaos at a particular moment becoming a bit confused as where to focus the intention to create. A writer may feel the need to pursue painting or photography, or any other artistic interest, pulling himself/herself away from the writing career that he/she is following. Many times, this burst of creative passion leads to doubt as to what path to follow. A person may be talented in many areas, however as human beings we live within the constrictions of a material world ruled by time and space, making it difficult to create as much as we wish to, and leaving us in creative exhaustion, spreading ourselves too thin, and eventually opening a door to frustration. So, what is a multi-creative spirit to do?

Focus seems to be the answer. Whether you are great at writing or painting or many more creative venues is not the issue here, but how to manage your creative state in a way that leaves you feeling outside of creative chaos, more fulfilled, and with a clear vision. It is fine to love all your talents and feel equally passionate about them, however one of them will need to be placed first in your fulfillment scale. Prioritizing next the rest of your passions. You may want to dedicate more time developing and growing as a writer, while enjoying your painting as a hobby or as a secondary source of income or fulfillment and not necessarily tied to your income, to present an example. This will take the pressure of the need to be “great” at every talent or perform 100 percent in all, at all times. It brings to mind the adage, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

As we live, we evolve, and so do our interests and passions. Wanting to excel in all our creative passions/interests might feel natural; however, when we learn to tame our multi-creative spirit it might lead to a better use of our talents, less frustration, and peace of mind, thus a more relaxed state of being that becomes fertile ground for inspiration to flow without the natural constraints that we put on it. In the end, it may work to our advantage and facilitate a state of creativity that leads to mindful fulfillment and nourishing of the creator in us. In this way we respect our gifts, as well as our creative self, and ultimately, the Creator and Giver of it all.

The Most Needed Break After a Novel – Emotional Exhaustion

English: Emotions Q-sort

English: Emotions Q-sort (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Emotionally exhausted – that is how I feel after writing the first draft of a novel. I find that the first draft takes a large chunk of energy out of me. Possibly because I find myself experiencing the moods and emotions of characters as I write them, and because most of the time I do not follow a rich or detailed outline, and many times the characters drive the novel. Sometimes, I do not know the ending. This is true for the novel I am writing now – The Book of Sharon. Unlike the other two, it has brought me to a new level of emotional exhaustion, and I have found myself needing to take a longer break from it during periods of writing. Part of it is because it takes a different format from the earlier novels, but also, because it is written in different voices, besides my voice as an author. It responds to the character’s individuality, but also to at least three different tones throughout, as part of the new format. It has proven to be a challenge.

After the first draft (hopefully the end of December for this one), I need to take a few weeks off from a novel before proceeding to a second draft and rewrites. I do that for every draft after. It helps me unplug not only from emotions, but also disconnect my brain from the novel, so I can approach it fresh for the next draft.  In order to go through rewrites, I need to disconnect from it as much as I can.  I have to leave the writer behind close doors, and become a reader, before it goes through other sets of eyes, and a last edit.

In general, I think writers and artists have a heightened sense of emotions, and awareness of environment. When we immerse ourselves in a fictional world, we end up experiencing a lot of it, at the same time we are creating, and it could be refreshing and exhausting. This is why sometimes, writers tend to see the editing process from outsiders with cautious eyes. The question seems to be, how can this person totally understand this world I have created, if he/she has not lived in and through it? The question is the answer. Precisely because of it; because a reader is not the writer, he/she comes to the story detached, and this enables him/her to view it with unbiased sight.

I have read that the first novel (published or not), the first story a writer creates, has a lot of the writer’s experiences/issues in it, camouflaged, and many times, it responds to an internal healing process, whether the writer becomes aware of it or not during the creative process. It is because of this closeness that a writer might not see what is missing in the pages, what is not clear to the reader; to the writer it is there, in his mind and heart, present at all times, but not necessarily clear enough for the reader.

Emotional exhaustion during writing may present itself as a total mind and heart fatigue, but also as a need to retreat for a while, as well as a resistance to go back to the story and keep on writing (not to be confused with writer’s block). One must be cautious to not overdo or over extend a much-needed break.

 

Doubting Your Path, Saving Your Step

In most cultures, education is important and regarded as primordial in obtaining a great job, and a better future/life. I agree that education is one of the greatest tools/steps a person can take to enrich his/her life, as well as to open doors to a good future (and present); however, at times, society blinds us to accept expectations that may not be our own. It is not unheard of the person who becomes a lawyer planning to earn a healthy income, when his/her heart is speaking art, and every cell of his/her body is aching to live creating art (whatever the form), but the mind is focusing on the material/monetary part of making a living, therefore he/she chooses the path of less resistance, a more secure path. Years later, despite a successful career and many achievements, there is a void that can be felt, despite futile attempts to fill it with —————– fill in the blank. What is that void, and why?

Most likely, it is the crevices of the creative self, drying out and opening up, longing for a fresh start, and a bit of creativity.  It is the soul that starved for art for so many years and the creative spirit that has not died because it still has not fulfilled its joy. Some answer the call, changing careers and accepting a joyful way of life, while others ignore the call, deciding to stay safe, and sacrificing the experience of a more fulfilling journey. They have their own reasons, all valid, however costly.

The myth of the starving artist continues to keep the creative spirit at bay, preventing some artists to use education as a great and valuable tool to perfect their craft and create a satisfying pathway when they embark on the journey of their lives – selecting a career they love, loving what they do, doing what they love. Education enriches the journey. When you doubt your path, you can save your step, or a lifetime of steps, by using education to enhance your passion.

What if you doubt your path, even when you know that it is what you should be doing? You have listened to your heart, took a few steps in the right direction, and now, you doubt. You may have come to a halt, saving your step, and puzzled, frustrated at the lack of results, enveloped in exhaustion, saturated with the sweat of your hard work, dedication, and tears … collapsing almost, with every heartbeat that becomes faint, as you fall into your knees, looking at the dirt on the road, the dust that surrounds your creative self, and you see the drops that seem to kiss it, as they fall, the tears, the sweat … . I am so tired, you think, because you cannot utter the words. The lack of results (whatever your measure) rendered you mute, numb to creativity, desolated, angry. Angry with you and the entire world. Why? you think. I have done everything I should, and more; why? you whisper, why? you cry out! In your hands, the dirt of frustration you hold tight, squeezing every grain, until you open them, and slowly release the sand into the breeze, watching it go, lifting your eyes up, up from the dirt of the pathway, and taking in the same breeze that carries the sand. Then you notice the sky, the clouds, the birds … as if for the first time.  Because you have looked at your steps for so long, focusing on the pathway, hurried in your journey, dying to get there fast, you forgot to look up and take in all the beauty that looking up held for you. It is a new perspective now, and all it took was to save your step. Now, somehow your path seems anew, the journey seems full of possibility, and your creative soul, refreshed. Doubt? You don’t seem to find it. You breathe, you dust yourself up, you smile, and feeling grateful you happen to find yourself standing up, ready to take the next step. It is a new perspective, and all it took was to save your step.

Les Miserables and Your Novel

Six degrees of separation.

Six degrees of separation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Miserable – Very unhappy; wretched – causing distress or discomfort – wretchedly poor. American Heritage Dictionary

 

For the purpose of this post, lets define “Les miserables” as the person(s) who showers in negativity, gets fueled by it, and is incapable of celebrating other’s good news. Now that we have defined the phrase to suit this post, I will tell you why I decided to write it.  No, the reason is not to vent (well, maybe a little), but to help other artists/writers who might be experiencing (being the target) a dose of it.

I will illustrate with an example of a recent encounter with the type.  If you are an artist/writer/creative you know how sensitive and attached to your work you are – it is inevitable and it comes with the territory.  At one point, you may become your art form, and it may become the air you breathe, your sustenance, your all.  In your excitement, you may want to share the good news, and if you are a writer, maybe even give a signed and dedicated copy of your novel to someone.  Now, that was a nice gesture, wasn’t it?

If the person falls into the les miserables category, be prepared for what will follow – a complete mockery of your gesture, a lack of respect for your art form, a complete disregard of your efforts, therefore ignoring the good news, and even the blunt admission of not intending to read it, followed by the “what’s about, I bet you it is about monsters, haunted houses … and other thoughtless les miserables remarks.” And by now, you must be wondering, and the answer is yes – it happened to me.  In this case, le miserable was not at stranger, and with not many degrees of separation.

Well, and how do you handle such les miserables?  Simply by taking the higher road. This is how to do it.

  • You refrain yourself from chopping any heads, from uttering any #*&^%# words, and proceed to breath deeply.
  • You answer any mocking questions with the professionalism of the author you are – because that is the road you have chosen.
  • You stick to the content of your book, and do not give the story away.  If the person wants to know, then let them go through the trouble of reading; after all, you just gave a signed and dedicated copy to him/her.
  •  Although you  realize that you have “slightly” been disrespected as a creative, and cannot understand why you still have that “deer hit by foglights look” on your face, you manage to politely smile, and charmingly add this sentence – “It was a lot of work, and I am so proud of myself.”
  • Next, you have to admit something to yourself, and I think this is the hardest part, and that is – “Not everyone will be happy about your good news.”
  • Once you admit that and understand that we as humans, are diversely motivated, it will be easy to let it go, and it won’t hurt your creative self as much.
  • Next, you make a mental note – “this person does not get a free copy of any of your future novels.”
  • Followed by, maybe you should consider how often you want to experience negativity and bad vibes, and decide to insert a few degrees of separation between you and that person, so the negativity and “put down” attitude does not affect your creative self.  This is not about holding grudges, this is about understanding that many times, it is better to surround yourself with more uplifting people, and leave les miserables to themselves.  If these are ties that cannot be severed completely (as in family/in laws…), then insert as many degrees of separation as you need to maintain the peace without hurting your creative self.
  • Then, let it out, share your story with one true friend who is uplifting, without engaging in character-bashing, but just exercising a natural gesture of sharing a bad experience.
  • Next, understand that this will not be the only time you will encounter les miserables in your journey.
  • And finally, let it go and don’t make more of it than what it is – no need to hold onto the negative experience – release it, and get ready to keep creating and making your next piece.

Hope that this post helps any of you that might be experiencing a dose of not requested les miserables attitude.  Keep strong, uplift your creative self, and keep creating.  🙂

Welcome Your Muse

Hesiod and the Muse

Hesiod and the Muse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some reason, the Muse have visited frequently these couple of months.  She has knocked at the door of my mind and dreams.  What happens when your Muse shows up?  Do you ignore her/him or honor her request?  I chose to pay attention.  Let me give you and example of how she made her appearance and what I did at the moment.

Last week, I was at the parking lot of a local WAWA with my husband.  We got coffee and were ready to go on the road.  We were talking and observing the people going in and out, just casual conversation.  My husband said something, and that triggered a rainstorm of images in my mind.  It was a complete story, and I liked it.  I said to my husband, “Wait, let me write something down really quick.”  I took a small notebook and pen that I keep in the car and wrote about all the images as best I could.  He knew what I was doing so he kept quiet until I finished, enjoying his coffee.  In a few minutes, I was done writing, and we proceeded with our conversation.  Once I got home, in the afternoon, I took out my notes and I typed a more detailed version of the images.  The reason for this is that I need as much detail as possible, since that story will be filed until I am able to work on it, since I still have to finish writing book 2 and 3 of The Dinorah Chronicles.  This is an example of how the Muse visited quickly and how I listened to her.  I could have ignored the story, and kept doing what I was doing, hoping that I would remember all the details later, but with me it doesn’t happen that way; I would have forgotten.

That same week, I had a very fast dream. Once awaken, I remembered it, and realized it was the beginning of a story that I liked, a different story, and unrelated to anything that I was working on at the time or other ideas.  Immediately, I wrote it down, as I realized that the Muse had visited once more.  This is how I acknowledge the Muse.  I dream a lot; however, not every dream is necessary something that I would like to write.  Recognizing the Muse’s visit is a way of acknowledging her gift.

As writers, we may get ideas 24/7, and usually these come out of the sudden.  This is why it is important to have a small notepad/pen nearby.  I keep one in my bag, at my bedside, and in the car.  Just for when the Muse shows up.

How do you acknowledge your Muse?

Why I Chose to Self-Publish in 2013

The decision to self-publish did not come easy to me, neither did it come after tons of rejections, since I stopped myself from sending queries, after sending one.  I realized that more than anything else, I had to define what I wanted out of my love for writing, before going forward.  I knew that I was not doing it for money (for most writers, there’s none in it), or to become a famous author one day … One thing that I knew for sure was that I loved to write, and it seemed that I could do that forever, if the opportunity to turn that passion into a career path presented itself.   Why choose to self publish without even making a real attempt at publishing a novel by going through the usual channels and motion?  It all came down to Creative Control.

Having control over the entire process, and not having to depend on others to decide how or when the story came out matched my working style, work ethics, and personality.  In addition, I never understood why someone who never gave birth to the story would understand it in a deeper level, enough to change parts of it (I’m not talking here about fixing gaps, and other valuable efforts/work of editors and the traditional industry in general).  I wanted the opportunity to craft the entire project, learn from it, and grow from it and with it.  The decision to self-publish was clear only after I understood that all I wanted was to have creative control if writing was going to be something that I would want to do for the long run, and possibly for the rest of my life.

I was aware that it would be a long, slow and tedious process, tons of work, and an exhausting venture, that is, if I was going to do it the right way, and not in a hurry to publish in digital or in print.  The need for getting published fast was not even an issue, when I considered the facts and information.  However, the need to control the process, the schedule, the dates, the story, the deadlines, the art, the release … and all the other issues that go along with it was what I seem to long for the more  I thought about the issue.

I have read about self-published authors who after selling many of their books successfully, have signed up with a well-known publisher.  I totally understand the need of having people taking care of the small details, sites, emails, and putting together a book … all that is a ton of work, and very difficult to do for one person, especially if that author has become a best-selling author; besides, it robs from the main purpose, which is writing the story, and many more stories to come.  So while creative control is a wonderful concept, it doesn’t come easy, and in an ideal scenario, the best of both worlds would be the “perfect balance,” if there is such a thing.  For now, I am very happy to have found my “balance” for the moment, and that is to have been able to understand and finally, make the decision of releasing my piled up novels in 2013.  In doing so, I go with the confidence and peace of mind that it is the right path for me and the decision has not been rushed by any external factors.

Are you unsure of which path to take with your writing endeavor?  Are you torn between traditional venues and the rapidly evolving self-publishing industry?  Is this the only thing stopping you?  For me, it was, but once I understood what I wanted from my writing, the path became clear.  Ask yourself this question, “What do I want from my writing?”

I Think, Therefore I Am – Not!

English: Picture of the super starbrust galaxy...

English: Picture of the super starbrust galaxy. The green and red splotch in this image is the most active star-making galaxy in the very distant universe. Nicknamed “Baby Boom,” the galaxy is churning out an average of up to 4,000 stars per year, more than 100 times the number produced in our own Milky Way galaxy. It was spotted 12.3 billion light-years away by a suite of telescopes, including NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The French Philosopher Renee Descartes gave us a lot to think about when he said, “I think, therefore I am.”  I used to ponder a lot on this phrase, and although it seems to explain a lot of our behavior, somehow, it always felt incomplete to me.  Why?  Well, lets take this example, and this happens to me a lot.  My husband jokes, “Oh, she’s thinking about it, soon I’ll see it.”  And this is true for me, when I start thinking a lot about something, I end up doing it, and the ball starts rolling, unless I stop myself somehow, usually for a good reason.  But I think that Descartes phrase applies to emotion as well, if I think that I am upset, unhappy … I end up feeling that way.  However, this is where the phrase feels incomplete to me – in the “doing” part.  For the thinking to pass the threshold into reality, an action is required.

Creativity is in our nature, implanted in our right side of the brain; too bad that we have not developed it fully.  For me to think of something and make it real, the act of creation, of doing, must follow.  Rene Descartes phrase tells us of the great capacity of imagination and wonder that we have; our whole existence is based on ideas that came to reality, inventions that came to be, and gave birth to other technologies, but for all that to happen, one of us had to have an idea, imagine it, designed it, dream of it – Think of it.  The threads of reality vibrate when we think about this miracle – all you see around you, was an idea in someones’ mind at one point in time.  The computer in front of you, the cup of coffee next to you, the pen, the paper, the little knickknacks sitting on your desk… That reality came to be only, and only, after someone imagine it, and later it was created.

The magnificence of that realization, is so deep and beautiful that it only tells us that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible – it just hasn’t been imagined yet, created.  Science, technologies, ideas, dreams, hopes … all of it swirls in a dance of creation, and in the end, it comes to be – it materializes and joins what we call “reality.”  Think about this, how profound … it spells no limits!  Reality comes after thought, after creativity, after creation – not before.  Many times, technologies have to be in place first, and this is where its beauty and amazement starts – we depend on each other to imagine, so we can create.  And we create because it is our nature, as we are part of creation itself, one source to it all.  Reality exists when one idea meets another and another and another … We are creators of reality and that is how we come to be – I THINK, IMAGINE, I CREATE, THEREFORE I AM!

The Quest for Mind Domination – Our Quest

English: Earth rotation as seen against the Mi...

English: Earth rotation as seen against the Milkyway-background. Animation from 20 single exposures with a DSLR on an motorized, equatorial mount. Deutsch: Rotation der Erde gegenüber dem Milchstrassenhintergrund. Animation aus 20 Einzelaufnahmen mit einer DSLR auf motorisierter, äquatorialer Montierung. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day, I was thinking about what makes “me” and inevitably, I went down memory lane, visiting childhood and young adult memories.  I saw a young mind being shaped by the people and experiences around it, a series of beliefs, traditions, cultural traits … which began clothing and molding “me.”   Although I turned out a decent human being, I realized that I could have shed out a few of those beliefs or ideas, with which I was not totally in tune with (as a young adult and older), but accepted anyway, since they had been passed on by generations and culture.

Many times, we feel obligated to believe or “honor” a system of beliefs/values/information that has been passed along in our upbringing and we end up living our life in a constant silent battle of ideas.  Our mind has been dominated by other’s beliefs/ideas and they have nested in us for so long, that even when we feel that we no longer need them, we feel obligated to carry them with us, in fear of dishonoring someone’s memory or culture or social ties.  We don’t realize the harm that we are doing to “me” when we keep holding on to ideas that do not fit us anymore.

In being fair to “me” I realized that one can only continue to grow and evolve if one sheds out all that does not feel in tune with the actual self, with the person that is and continues to be, whether that be religious, social, or cultural ideas.  Is that an easy thing to do? Not really; most likely, you will encounter opposition from many sides, internal and external, as well as judgement or pre-assumptions.  The real issue here is, do you keep evolving or do you “play nice” and hold on to those ideas (which do not serve you anymore) for self-preservation (avoiding judgement or hurting feelings).

It takes guts to say, “I am finally free and I don’t have to believe in anything anymore; I just am.”  The key words here are have to.  When you feel that you have to believe or accept an idea which you have outgrown you are denying the essence of being; you are reversing the process of creation, of creativity.  You may exist, but you are not – you are not creating, you are un-creating.  You are denying your essence (I’m not talking about ego here).  I choose to believe that I am part of a greater and collective creation, and that in order to honor (LOVE) that essence, first, I must honor (LOVE) my own.  To be (part of creation), first I have to know and respect that I am.  By acknowledging that, I am opening the door to LOVE, the essence to all.

 

Celebrate the Good Fortune and Success of thy Brother

Rainbow and Flowers

Rainbow and Flowers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t understand it when I happen to come across negative and plain disrespectful comments (not real reviews) about a new published book (or art work), whether from an old or new author.  What puzzles me is that many times, these comments don’t seem to help in any way the writer or artist who made the comment.  On the contrary, I think that this negativity hurts the writer/artist and paints an aura of insecurity or jealousy around the writer/artist.  This could end up hurting the artist who might end up loosing many readers/fans for these reasons,

  • They may already enjoy the works of the author/artist who’s being criticized.
  • They may not like to entertain any kind of negativity or bashing and are ready to cut off the source of it.
  • They believe that in this world, there is plenty for everybody and that celebrating the success of another does not take away from your own.
  • They may enjoy variety in the books they read or the artwork they love.
  • They believe that this world is made of all kinds and everyone has something to offer and contribute to it, even when they don’t necessarily like the piece.
  • They believe that if everyone acted in the same way and liked the same things and were mere copies of each other, this would be a very boring world.
  • They believe that a step towards belittling someone or someone’s work is a step backwards and does not help personal and professional development/growth.
  • They believe that there is a better way to say what they think without hurting the feelings of a fellow artist/writer.
  • They believe that acting in a negative and bashful way towards a fellow artist/writer might be interpreted as desperation, frustration, or jealousy.
  • They believe that by celebrating the success of others, they attract good karma and bounty to themselves.
  • They believe in these mantras – What comes around goes around.  You reap what you sow.   It is a small world.  Be kind to the people on your way up, because they are the same people you will meet on your way down.  The wheels are turning.  Keep the faith.  You never know who will open the next door for you, or who is ready to close it on your face.  When words are not better than silence, it is best to not pronounce them.  Live and let live.
  • They believe that they are a tiny spec on this world, but an important part of it.
  • They believe that times change and that “times” are subject to the people who live on “those times.”
  • They believe that their art/craft is not about them, but about the ones who will find it and benefit – even if only one person.
  • They believe in themselves, and that is enough to celebrate another.

Keep it clean, keep it positive, keep it happy!