Spotlight? No, thanks.

English: American author Stephenie Meyer at th...

English: American author Stephenie Meyer at the Twilight premiere. November 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What prompted this post was an old vampire movie that I was watching last night.  These days, when I think of vampires, Stephenie Meyer comes to mind, and Dracula of course.  Then, I thought of how her quiet life became a frenzy of writing one book after another, short deadlines, one movie after another, many interviews, galas, tons of huge book signings, all marketable Twilight paraphernalia … and so on.  The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with my inner self that I wouldn’t want to be in those shoes.  Why?  It seems so exhilarating and who doesn’t love the spotlight?

The answer is me, and I am sure that there are some writers who love their quiet lives and privacy, and would not like the type of success that brings all that frenzy with it.  I am not anti-social, I like it quiet, and I love my privacy.  I love to give when no one is looking – that is my overall style.  Where is Stephenie Meyer today?  Probably very busy with new projects and the current ones, as well as dealing with the comet’s tail left behind.  God bless her, as it takes a lot of energy and patience to handle that kind of spotlight.

When I visualize a writing career, I see writing, readers, a strong sincere commitment to the readers, and more writing, and more writing, and more writing.  Somehow, I wouldn’t want to include galas, craziness, and tons of attention into my writing dreams.  Given that what happened to Stephenie Meyer is not the usual way things develop, and at such speed, however, she is a good example of what I wouldn’t want to experience in my future as a writer (and of course, I also want to make a living at doing what I love – the bills have to be paid).

Have you visualized your writing career?  Are you published and experiencing it?  How do you visualize your spotlight?  At the flip of a switch or as a growing light with a dimmer?  Which style suits you better – smashing Boom success a la Meyer or rhythmic success a la Coelho?  Would you write for the love of it and for that one reader who has to read your book, or for fame?  Do you write because you love the craft or with a future dollar sign/spotlight on the back of your mind (meaning becoming famous).

The answer to these questions will help you figure out what you want from your writing career and your internal level of comfort.  Feel free to share your point of view.

The Elusiveness of Success

A carpenters' ruler with centimetre divisions

A carpenters’ ruler with centimetre divisions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At one point or another, we think about success, about how “successful” we are in our lives or endeavors.  The problem with measuring success is that we usually measure it against an ideal set up by society or against the success of others in our circle or people whom we admire and consider successful.  It is no surprise that most people would consider themselves unsuccessful and may feel a bit discouraged or sad about their stagnant lives or careers.  Little do we know that we are looking in the wrong direction and we are using the wrong measuring stick.

The question is, if we want to be successful (success is defined here as feeling realized and whole) why are we looking outwards when we should be looking inwards?  Why use the success of others as a measuring stick when we are our own “self” with unique dreams and goals, feelings about those dreams and goals, and a sense of where we want to be, whether clear or not at the moment.

Maybe it is that we are taught (since early age) to look at role models not so much in admiration but as imitation.  When we are asked the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” we are being asked, “who do you want to be like?”  If we happen to give the wrong answer, our parents or caretakers will offer a better suggestion – “why not becoming a – fill the blank – instead?”  And the quest for success starts.

I think that society needs role models, but not at the expense of creativity and individuality.  Role models fuel dreams, mentors inspire.  All that is good; however, it is sad that today we look to Hollywood to find role models, when we might have one in our backyards (and that is not to say that there aren’t any role models in Hollywood, because there are).  Without sounding preachy, let’s go back to the topic of success and why it may seem so elusive.

“Why don’t I feel successful?”  This is a good question to ask ourselves.  It focuses on the individual and his/her feelings, which is an inward point of view.  The minute we focus our answer outwards, there lies the problem (the culprit).  A possible answer could be – “Because I have not found an agent or a publisher yet” or “Because I don’t have much money” or “Because my art is not selling well enough” or “Because I am no Stephenie Meyer or Bill Gates” and it could go on and on …  These are examples of answers that point outwards and offer the wrong measuring stick.  The feelings of inadequacy that you might be experiencing may not be yours at all but rooted into the illusion of becoming like someone else, and that in itself is denying your own individuality (in a sense).  And this is why success is so elusive for most of us – because looking inwards is not that easy, and it is not what we were taught as we grew up.

So today, look inwards, take account of all your efforts, and see how far you have come, and celebrate that.  It is the first step to feeling successful and capturing the elusive butterfly.  Greatness comes from within and it becomes when it is directed to the service of others.

Writing – The Dream Approach

Adam Elsheimer - Jacob's Dream - WGA7493

Image via Wikipedia

Much has been written about dreams and their meaning.  There are many sleep clinics, and studies have been conducted on the subject.  Most people remember a dream, and for some, dreaming is as frequent as brushing their teeth.  While some hardly pay attention to their dreams, others, take them seriously, and analyze them, in search of guidance from the subconscious, or the universal mind.

However we happen to approach our dreams, one thing is certain – they are unique to each individual, and they paint a unique portrait.  When we dream, our subconscious is opening, unguarded, and we are honest with ourselves – there’s no hypocrisy in our dreams; they are rooted deeply.  They represent our goals, our fears, our preoccupation with daily events, or what we truly think.  Sometimes, they might appear meaningless or bizarre, or the result of a movie we had seen.  However, when you dig deeper, at your reactions and behavior in a dream, you can always find a piece of truth embedded.

For writers, dreams can be a bountiful source of inspiration.  One segment of a dream can become a best seller novel.  A great example of this is the novel Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  Writer’s block can be fought with a good dose of dreaming.

So, next time you “hit the sack,” make sure to place a piece of paper and a pen under your pillow.  Your muse will be thank you for it.

Writer’s Wisdom 91

Magic Versus Grounding

How do you like to write your fiction?  Do you like magical settings and characters, or do you like some grounding elements that may give the story more realism?  I would choose one or the other for good continuity.  The Harry Potter books are a good example of magical worlds.  Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga is an example of grounding a magical and fictional world.  She gave her vampires and werewolves characteristics of nature or used cultural folklore to make her settings and characters more real to the reader.

To ground a fictional story you can utilize science as well.  You can stretch the imagination of the reader but still keep a small piece tied to the ground.

Writer’s Wisdom 87

When Cities Take Life

Many times, authors write a novel and most of it takes place in a particular city or spot – being that city real or imaginary is not important.  Sometimes the soul of the city comes alive and the city itself becomes a character, an important part of the story.  The city breathes and even talks to the reader as he/she follows the story.  This always fascinated me – how a city or place awakens and sometimes takes over its place in the story and the readers minds.

A good example of this is the city of Forks in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.  Forks is a real place in Washington, but it also became real in the minds and hearts of readers.  The real city of Forks has seen a flock of Twilight fans visiting and touring while reminiscing about their favorite parts in the books.

Another good example is the city of Barcelona, Spain in “The Angels Game” by Carlos Ruiz Safon, and what better example to illustrate this point than the island in the TV series Lost.  The island becomes the main character, in my opinion.

Such is the power of words and description, conveying feelings, emotions, smells, sounds … that they become spells that give life to cities and places, and those places continue to grow and develop infinitely in the mind of readers – an amazing and extraordinary event.

Writer’s Wisdom 84

The Magic of Best-selling Authors

What is the key to enchanting writing?  What is the secret of best-selling authors?  I am sure that most of us, at one point, have been captivated  with a book from a favorite author – being that person a best-selling author or not.  How do best-selling authors get to captivate so many readers?  It seems natural to think that they plan their writing and target a certain section of the population to obtain readership.  Right?

This could not be further from the truth.  While being interviewed many best-selling authors have said that they write for themselves – as in the case of Stephenie Meyer or Lee Child.  They say that they are honest to the story when writing, and they keep honest to the reader.  They seem to be of the opinion that if you evoke feelings in yourself when writing the story, you will evoke feelings on the reader as well.  Another trend is that they also mention how blessed they feel to be doing what they love – to write.

So there is no big secret of best-selling authors.  It seems that they write with passion for themselves – and they love it.

Writer’s Wisdom 68

What fits into the story?

When writing a story many ideas will come to you; sometimes the gates of inspiration will be open and a flood of characters, circumstances and themes will overtake you.  You may be tempted to incorporate all in your story, after all, you may think – they came to you while writing that particular story.  Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Some things may not fit in the current chain of events, and may fit later – or not fit at all.  However, write down these  ideas as they will become fuel for other writing projects.

When editing your current story, mind how things fit together.  Cut out what doesn’t fit right or what seems lengthy and does not contribute anything to it.   Readers will devour a story with an easy flow .  The Twilight Saga from Stephenie Meyer is a good example of mammoth books with excellent flow for the reader.

Writer’s Wisdom 66

Mind your ideas.

Ideas come from everywhere; from something you heard, saw, remembered, an object, a smell, or from something you read.  Some writers avoid reading the genre in which they are writing their current piece.  The reason, they are weary of borrowing any ideas, without intention.

The other day I read about the lawsuit going on between the estate of  British author Adrian Jacobs and J.K. Rowling.  It alleges plagiarism on Rowling’s part, but of course, not substantiated.  It got me thinking on how many similar ideas float in a writer’s world, and how easy is to be influenced by a similar idea.  I don’t consider this plagiarism, as many people can have the same idea and express it in a completely different way.  This is not a copy.  However, more than ever, we should mind our ideas, since writing has evolved in so many ways due to the internet and the many ways in which you can share your work these days.  Ideas are free, and you are free to write what you want, as long as it does not land you in already claimed territory.

Writer’s Wisdom 63

The story that I love …

Who do you write for?  Although books are categorized or targeted for sale to particular groups of readers, such as young adults … I keep hearing best-selling authors saying during interviews that they sat down to write a story that they would love.  Some of them say that they wrote the story for themselves.  This is a very important point since it determines how you approach the writing of a piece. 

If you sit down to write the story that you love, you will be connected with that piece much more that if you think that you are writing for such and such group of readers – a bit of pressure there.  Of course some authors will take advantage of a trend, such as the trend of vampires.  It seems that since Stephenie Meyer wrote Twilight and the sequels and it was a hit with young readers as well as adults, everyone is writing about vampires and werewolves now.  The vampire has been awakened again.  And that is fine.

So next time you sit down to write, ask yourself this question:  “Am I writing the story that I love?”

Writer’s Wisdom 21

Writing with Heart

Writing a piece is more than telling a story.  If you are passionate about writing, you write with your heart.  You give something in you, to the story.  Author Harlan Coben expressed in a Borders interview:  “I like to write with heart, otherwise it is not going to work for me.”  I agree with his comment; to make a piece that captures the readers, there has to be passion in it.

Author Wally Lamb expressed:  “Write a book for yourself, and let the readers that have to find it, find it.” 

Another author that follows the same rule is Jamie Lee Curtis.  She told Borders:  “I don’t do it for achievement; it is pure expression for me.”  Another good example of this is best selling author John Grisham.  He writes legal thrillers, mostly, but he says that he writes whatever he wants; he has fun with the genre.  He says he does not know where he is going as far as sticking with a genre.  Some of his books have been made into movies (The Firm, The Appeal).  In his own words to Borders:  “You can’t get too serious, the pages have to turn.”

And perhaps, the best example we have about a best selling author who writes with heart is Stephenie Meyer.  Her first book, Twilight, she wrote for herself – at the kitchen table.  The very successful series followed, and captured the heart of fans all over.

So, next time you pick up your pen (or your mouse), ask yourself this question:  “Am I putting my heart to it?”