The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Use it All

Sensitive, sculpture by Miquel Blay (1910)

Sensitive, sculpture by Miquel Blay (1910) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s post is about how you can use your good, bad, and ugly in your writing. That is, the experiences that have taught you much, and that you acknowledge as being of impact. It may bring good or bad feelings to memory, maybe even ugly emotions, but despite that truth, all are very valuable to use in your writing. Be thankful for all you experience, because as a writer, it will translate into genuine characters, giving credibility, strength, and sentiment to your story.

Maybe you were back-stabbed by a best friend, cheated, or even experienced an excruciating event. As sad as it might be for you to remember, it serves you well as a writer because you know how it feels and you can translate the feeling into words. Given that you use the right words, readers will experience the feeling. In a way, achieving intimacy between author and reader.

Bad and ugly experiences can have an inspirational or paralyzing effect because they are that powerful, emotionally speaking. You control the response. You can let feelings and emotions control you to the point of writer’s block, or you can try to understand those and absorb strength/focus/inspiration from the experience; it is up to you, and the time for dealing with the bad and the ugly varies from person to person; however, the time for resolve/action always comes, leaving it to you to make the best or worst of it. You will emerge stronger or weaker, and so the writer in you.

Embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly, grieve and understand it, and let it serve you well.

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.

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?

Cyber Hopping

Icon-type silhouette of an airplane. (Mainly t...

Icon-type silhouette of an airplane. (Mainly to be used in Userboxes) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to guest post for Michelle Proulx, a talented young writer, author of Imminent Danger.  Here is the link to her awesome blog, where you can find my blog post – The Point of No Return.

I hope that you enjoy the blog post and that you visit Michelle’s fun and upbeat blog – you will love it.

 

Productivity Recipe and Boredom Blast

When inspiration runs dry and you get a case of the blues, whether writer’s block is operating on the background or frustration knocks at your door, productivity suffers and boredom settles in – life’s loses its luster, gray days abound, and opaque hours seem to stop time.  This may happen to anyone, at any time; I have been there.  I want to share with you a simple system I came up with that will help you fight those blues and keep you from becoming bored or uninspired.  I assure you that you will always have something to dream about, something to be grateful for, and something to do.  That in itself can jumpstart your inspiration.  I call this system my Inspirational Jars, and that is just what it is.  I use three empty glass jars and I label each one – Love Notes, Pick a Chore, and Promise Jar.  Each Jar has a purpose; each jar gives me something to do.

  • PICK A CHORE – I fill this jar with all kinds of single chores written in small cards (make them colorful for fun and visual impact).  I write as many things that come to mind that I have to do, whether soon or in a near future.
  • LOVE NOTES – In this jar, I write the things that I would like to do for others (in small cards so they fit in the jar), whether it is to make a gift, visit someone, call someone, invite someone to dine, wash my husband’s truck … It is all about giving and Love.
  • PROMISE JAR – This jar is very important to me because it contains many dreams and things that I want or love to do.  Things that are in a distant future or things that I can do right away.  It doesn’t matter how big the dream is; it goes inside that jar.

The idea is to sit down and write as many small cards you can and fill those bottles, and if one day you think of something else, just write it and deposit it in the bottle.  If you ever feel bored, uninspired, and not knowing what to do, pick one card from one of the bottles and do/dream/plan/execute whatever you wrote on that card.  If it is something you cannot do now, you can always put it back and pick a card from another bottle or from the same jar, or you can sit down and dream/plan how to work towards that dream or goal.  You will never ran out of things to do if you keep filling those inspirational jars.  Make them pretty, colorful and enticing.  Have fun creating this system.  Create your own system depending on what you want to do.  For example, a jar for blogging topics, a jar for writing scenes or character names … Mine are just what I use to keep productivity and inspiration alive.  Here is what my Inspirational Jars look like.

 

Inspirational Jars

I hope that you enjoyed this tip.

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.  🙂

About Creativity and Appreciation

Creativity – Characterized by originality and expressiveness; imaginative (American Heritage Dictionary)

Appreciation – Recognition of the quality, value, significance, or magnitude of people and things.  (American Heritage Dictionary)

Looking at those definitions, one can see the close relation between the two words.  When we create something, whatever that may be, we put ourselves into that project; we give much effort, and there is a sense of pride in the very depth of our artistic soul.  Many times, we are so proud of our work that we want to share it with the world, or with friends and family – many times, there is no feedback, many times, it seems as if no one is listening.  There is no appreciation.

And that takes us to the definition of appreciation and why a bit of appreciation goes a long way.  Artists/writers are emotional and very creative people, whether they show it on the outside or not.  Lack of feedback or appreciation can weaken the artist’s spirit.  It may seem as if a vortex has swallowed his/her precious efforts and no one seems to notice.  What’s worse is that the artist/writer identifies with his/her work so deeply that lack of appreciation translates into lack of esteem/love/appreciation towards the artist-persona, or the human behind the work or piece of art.  Therefore, we as writers/artists tend to suffer when our work is ignored, not recognize or praised, and we may fall into artistic self-pity or worst, depression and lack of motivation, which can only lead to artist or writer’s block and the false belief that “we are just not good enough.”

Next time you are feeling so low in relation to your art or writing, think of why you are feeling that way.  It may be that you are lacking a bit of appreciation from the ones who matter most, or even from yourself.  If others fail to verbalize appreciation for your work (many times this is the form of appreciation that we pay close attention to or notice the most), then look at the image in the mirror, smile, and know that whom you see is capable of much, much more, and has an eternal creative spirit that wants to keep going.

About Isolation and Inspiration

Namib desert dunes

Namib desert dunes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IsolationTo cause to be alone or apart … (from the American Heritage Dictionary)

InspirationThe excitement of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity … (see American Heritage Dictionary)

When we look at the common definition of these words, it is easy to see the relationship between being isolated and becoming inspired.  One can lead to the next or may cancel the other.

Sometimes, it is necessary to remove yourself from the daily grind for a while and look for solitude, to isolate yourself, to be able to reconnect with the source of inspiration.

Sometimes, too much isolation can kill inspiration.  This happens when isolation has led to boredom or lack of excitement, rendering the mind and soul victims of lethargic existence.

While a dose of separation from the world is good from time to time, an overdose will kill the spirit, which needs a flow of the senses, a flow of ideas, to create and rejoice on its creation/inspiration.

Isolation can fuel inspiration in short doses, but it can kill creativity when it becomes self-imposed for long.  A bit of both is refreshing to the soul.

Have you experience this relationship between the two?  Feel free to relate your writing or artistic experience.