Discovering Themes in Your Novels – A Healing Process

I remember watching best-selling author Kate DiCamillo on an interview on YouTube, and something she said stuck with me. I don’t remember the exact words but it was about how sometimes in a more personal level, a novel is a healing process for the writer. At first glance, it may seem as a regular story but later, there might be symbolism in it that only the author will understand and recognize as personal issues that in a way, are healing/addressed through the story, whether past or present issues.

I thought about my novels and went in search of a deeper understanding. At first glance, the stories appear as pure creativity, and unrelated – just an inspired story. However, once I got beyond the written lines, a whole world of symbolism appeared in front of me. I understood what DiCamillo meant. I discovered healing through those pages, and much more. There was a part of me inside the story that only I could understand, and totally oblivious/secret to a reader. I am not saying that every novel I (or you) write will have encrypted meaning and be a healing vessel, but it is possible that somewhere along the line, it may happen. The mind is amazing and it finds a way.

If you are a writer, go back to one of your early stories and look at it beyond the written lines, go on a discovery mission, and pay attention at what comes to mind. It may surprise you and delight you as well. We write for ourselves as much as we write for the readers.

On Faith and Writing

When I read poetry I notice one thing, the poem is sad/dark, almost as if it bleeds through the page, or on the other hand, it celebrates life, is an exaltation of nature or love, or whatever the subject seems to be, therefore transmitting a peaceful or joyful vibe through the page. It seems as if a tormented soul or a happy one wrote the lines, although that is not necessarily true.

Ernest Hemingway once said,”There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Maybe he was right, but what comes out of your veins? What do you bleed? I have found that for me, inspiration may come from nowhere, unexpected, and sometimes, it is directly influenced by my mood. I’ve noticed that when my faith dwindles, so does my writing. It is when my faith is up that I do my best writing, whether I may be going through a difficult situation or not. By faith I don’t mean religion, but my disposition to believe and trust. That said, I can predict when my motivation will suffer, and when my writing will lack. How to prevent this?

The answer is not so much to prevent, because life is full of ups and downs – it is human life’s nature. Instead, maintaining a conscious positive and high disposition (with effort and despite the circumstances) is what seems to help. I must keep up a high level of trust and frequency to support the flow of my writing, otherwise, it becomes forced, superficial, and dense. So my writing seems to be tied to my faith.

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” Ernest Hemingway

The Old Writers

While reading a 2011 Country Diary, I came across these old writing quotes, and I think they are interesting and reflect the old writing wisdom, and still applicable today. I decided to share them with you.

“Anyone who wishes to become a good writer should endeavor, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid.” – Henry Watson Fowler, The King’s English, 1908

“Dear authors! Suit your topics to your strength, and ponder well your subject and its length; or lift your load before you’re quite aware what weight your shoulder will, or will not, bear.” – George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)

“Then, rising with Aurora’s light, the Muse invoked, sit down to write; Blot out, correct, insert, refine, enlarge, diminish, interline.”Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

“Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially.” Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888)

 

I think there is good wisdom here. I found the last line of the last one a bit funny, but certainly speaks of how protective and zealous as writers we are with our work and ideas. However, today the internet has blessed us with a way of coming together and share those ideas, ask for advice, and give to one another. I hope you enjoy these bits of old wisdom.

 

A Happy Coincidence

Sometimes, writing takes life on its own. With my first novel, Moonlit Valley, I felt as if the story wrote itself. The characters presented themselves, and I dare to say, named themselves. The writing process is different for everyone, and I have to say that I enjoyed the writing of that first novel; it was an adventure. After a while, I went back and looked at it with different eyes. I found symbolism in it, and a happy coincidence with some of the character’s names. When I looked at the common meaning of their names, what I found intrigued me and excited me. The meaning match the character in an almost eerie coincidence; it is how I imagined them. Here are a few of the names. If you read Moonlit Valley, you will understand what I mean.

  • Jeremy = God will uplift
  • Rose = Flower
  • Cole Angelou = Victorious + Angel
  • Lara = Cheerful
  • Hael = Immense/living in hall
  • Dinorah = Judgement
  • Leah = Weary
  • Olga = Holy
  • Anne = Gracious
  • Maurice = Dark skinned (I imagined this character tall and dark)
  • Jake = Pale/supplanter
  • Robert (town’s mayor) = Famous (of importance)

I found very amusing the coincidence of the meaning matching the characters and my idea of them. After all, writing is a very profound and spiritual endeavor, an act of letting go, of listening, and of invention and communion between writer and characters/story.

moonlit-valley-coverfrontnew.jpg

 

When Inspiration is Not Enough

Cloud

Cloud (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many times, I have heard that inspiration is all around us, and may show up unexpected, can come from anywhere because it is everywhere; I’ ve even written about it on this blog. However, I have found that sometimes, inspiration is not enough. How come?

For me, it happens when despite being inspired, the writing presents a challenge. I know what I have to write, or I had written it, but deep inside I have trouble dealing with it – more of a spiritual denial, I think. It is on these instances that I have to step it up a bit, and connect spiritually with my work. It helps me understand my human limitations. It helps me view the overall picture and understand why I have written it, and at the same time understand my perception of it/my conflict. This is happening now when I am writing The Book of Sharon, and another reason why it has been a challenging novel. Sometimes, I’ve had to take a few days between chapters to reconnect with the book (on purpose) and stop fighting my own limitations. I am thinking that because of this, editing will be as challenging or more when time comes.

As individuals, we have our own ways to reconnect spiritually, recharge our batteries, and try to gain a deeper understanding of our work and of the world that surrounds us. For me, prayer/meditation, contemplating nature, awareness of the moment, among other things, help with this. One thing I know for sure is not to ignore when inspiration is not enough. By taking the necessary time to do this, I think that we help and authenticate the process.

 

Inspirational Pictures

I have not done an inspirational picture post in a while, and since it is Wednesday, hump day, why not? These, I took around my home. I gave them titles to inspire you.

LIGHT AS A FEATHER

Photo by MAD

Photo by MAD

AMONG THORNS, I STAND PROUD

Photo by MAD

Photo by MAD

AS ABOVE, SO BELOW

Photo by MAD

Photo by MAD

I hope you enjoy these and wish that they inspire you to write/create.

Clock versus Pen

A woman searches for inspiration, in this 1898...

A woman searches for inspiration, in this 1898 painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have set a December date for the first draft of The Book of Sharon, and over the next couple of weeks, making it happen will be a priority. My focus has wandered between several projects, and now, it is down to clock versus pen. I am goal oriented and I dislike missing a generous timeframe. It happens, and sometimes our focus splits in many directions. One little trap that I have identify as far as my working habits is learning to battle the generous flow of ideas that one story may generate at a particular point when writing. That is, one scene, character, or something about research may trigger ideas that spark the creation of future novels. It is easy to become sidetracked by these ideas, and become an octopus of multiple future projects, and by default, a turtle on the projects at hand. I have been guilty of it, many times hindering the progress of the story at hand. So far, I have three future books lined up, and unless I deal with the one at hand, in the now, none of them will become reality. This is an easy trap to fall into, and one not so easy to get out of, that is, unless you realize it. Why is that?

The answer is simple – because you as a writer, are working on what you are supposed to do – write and research, and that in itself gives you the illusion – that you are working hard “in the now” (and you are), when in reality, you have crossed the time/space of your current project wandering into a dimension of future projects, and unless you return to the “now” to work on the story at hand, it will consume your productivity, making it harder to make progress, to advance your project. Without productivity in the now, there are no results, no future stories, despite the many lined-up stories. You might argue that research on future novels/projects is healthy, and it is; however, it is when that research is hindering progress of a current project (taking its allotted time) that it becomes a productivity/time management issue.  What happens to inspiration or the “mood for writing?” I believe that there is a time to be inspired and act on it, but also a time (more so) to work hard when inspiration is not present. In other words, if you wait for inspiration to start writing, you will never finish a story. This is why time management for writers is so important. Setting priorities, a balance between work and personal priorities is essential. This post addresses writing priorities. Other than work that has a deadline, my priority (writing) should be my current novel, and anything that falls under it – editing, cover work, early promotion … although these are secondary to it, but an important part that must be done. When doing research, I must stick to the necessary research for the novel, needed to advance the writing of it.

I used to believe that multitasking was good; I was wrong. Multitasking is opposite to productivity – it is the opposite to “being in the now,” and being in the now promotes the flow of productivity, the healthy flow of the project at hand. There are circumstances when multitasking will save the day (ask a busy Mom), however, when multitasking becomes a modus operandi, it hinders the healthy flow of life, of work, and if you are a writer, eventually of inspiration – the Muse itself. As far as my work is concerned, I have learned to name the thieves of productivity, the future ghosts of now, by anchoring foot and returning to the task at hand when I begin to wander, to sabotage myself.

 

 

 

The Closet

Linen Closet

Linen Closet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A bit different from what I usually write, maybe dark and creepy, but inspiration comes in all colors, and sometimes, unexpected 🙂

 

The Closet

 

Hanging by a thread,

Pinky lets go of the rope,

Fighting to grab thin air,

I began to fall, deep dark hole.

 

Nails screeching the atmosphere,

Long way down the depth of soul,

The slow fall, miles of hope,

Pretending the bottom never touch.

 

The closet calls, inviting

A safe haven of obscurity

Knowing truth, I avoid the call

For if I go in, I will never be back.

 

Not lost of body,

Not lost of soul,

But of the mind,

Long lost, lone gone.

 

 

 

 

On Writers and Money

Question book

Question book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may seem an odd topic, but it is one of the most annoying questions I get asked, directly or indirectly by people I know, and by strangers. It is asked as soon as the topic of my writing or books comes up. Besides annoying, I find it intrusive, and a lack of good manners. It comes in many forms, but the root of the question is the same. And the person’s goal is to know if I make money as a writer and how much. Here are some examples of the same question.

  • Are you making a living at it?
  • How much money you make?
  • Is it easy; do you sell a lot of books?
  • How are you doing with it?
  • I see a lot of people publishing books; how easy is that, is there money in it?
  • How long does it take to make it?
  • What else you do to pay the bills?
  • One can’t survive on that, right?
  • I hear the book business is not doing to well; all those book stores closing, right?
  • Oh, do you make good money?

I can go on an on giving you examples of the same question worded directly or indirectly.  When I think about it, the people who ask this question do not understand what writing entails, and most likely, they have a paycheck mentality.  I bet that for most writers who are serious and take their craft to heart, money is the last thing in their minds when they are writing.  Yes, we all want to make a living at doing the thing we love most; this is how it should be. We should all make a living this way, doing the things we love and are passionate about, but most people don’t. Most people don’t understand when someone’s passion goes beyond monetary compensation, or even fame/recognition. I bet that the majority of dedicated writers don’t care about money or fame; it is a byproduct of their love and effort while writing.  However, to be fair to all sides, there are those who write with the hopes of becoming e-book millionaires or gain fame and recognition in the field. Besides, there is nothing wrong about making lots of money and being blessed doing what you love and serving people. To me, writing goes beyond monetary compensation and fame (as a primary goal), and while I hope to one day do exponentially marvelous, that does not mean that I would love the craft more for it, or less if I don’t.

So by now, you are probably thinking what my answer is when I am asked. It usually goes along these lines –

  • I am very happy doing what I do, how about you?
  • I am lucky and blessed to work doing what I love.
  • I don’t price my passions; do you?
  • The day money becomes my story, that day I will stop writing.
  • I let the faeries worry about that part, while my Muse works on the most important one.
  • I am well.

And so along those lines it goes, usually the probing stops there.  So feel free to use those lines if like me, you get annoyed by the question. If you paint, are an artist, or live your passion, most likely, you will be asked the question many times. Some people don’t mind it, some people do, and it has nothing to do with how much money you make. Feel free to comment on the topic, how do you feel about the subject of money and writing?