Losing My Mojo, or, A Ray of Light

There was an article in the Sunday Oregonian yesterday about all the crises we face in the world–the oil spill, war, the economy–and how they are getting people down.
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No, duh.

Usually I am immune to the tyranny of news stories.  Aware, but immune.

Lately, though, I've let it all get me down.  Yesterday, as I tried to work on a piece of writing, I got totally distracted by coverage of a local story, a missing seven-year-old boy, who one minute was happily running down the hall of his school and the next was gone. I was feeling down and discouraged.  Sad about the boy and worried about his mother.  Frustrated by the lack of progress in finding an agent for my novel. (Which absolutely, utterly pales in comparison to the plight of the missing boy.)

And the thought came to me, unbidden:

What if you could be the ray of light in all of this?

I know, it sounds ridiculously new age and schmaltzy.  But my brain works that way sometimes.  Yours probably does too, you just won't admit it publicly.

So, what if I could be a ray of light?  What if you could?  What would we do?

I dunno, I really don't.  But here's a few ideas:

1.  Quit watching the news.  Okay, I don't watch it.  But I read the newspaper.  And I read internet sites avidly.  And even if I could lessen my exposure just a little bit, I would make a better light.

2.  Meditate.  I have an off and on relationship with the practice.  But every time I get into an on period I feel much better.  Clearer.  Dare I say it? Lighter.  More in touch with myself, connected with the universe. 

3.  Write more.  It's the cure for anything that ails you.

4.  Find other creative outlets.  I like to mess around with painting, for instance.  Or needlework.  Or gardening.  Creativity, like writing, is the best revenge.

5.  Read more books.  Good books, classics or great examples of contemporary work.  And read fewer things on the internet.  Except for this blog, of course.

That's five.  Not bad for a discouraged person.  Actually, pondering ways to not be discouraged is quite helpful.  I feel better now.  Think I'll go have a glass of wine.  And maybe that deserves a number, too!

6.  Drink red wine.  And that makes me think of another one…

7.  Hang out with people you love.  Because that is what it is all about, isn't it?

Join me as I grope through the dark.  What are your ideas for shining light in these perilous times?  Or just for getting us all through Monday?

Lessons From a Rock Concert, Part One

Saturday night I went to see the Eagles.  Until then, I had forgotten how much rock concerts inspire me.  
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Experiencing a concert is such an all-encompassing event for me, I end up feeling determined to go forth and do my creative work with renewed vigor.

I mean, musicians have to be creative on so many levels.  Not only do they have to worry about writing the music, but then there are lyrics to think about.  And after that they have to strap on the guitar or pick up the drumsticks and stand in front of thousands of people and play their hearts out.

All I have to do is write.  And lord knows, often enough I complain about that.

Two things kept going through my head as I was at the concert:

1.  Oh my God, we're so lucky.  All of us who are creative in any way, shape, or form are just damn lucky. Because we have a hunger to share, and we share it–we shape the world through our creativity.  And there's no better fate than that.

2. Once you have found it, never let it go.  (This is a line from a song in a musical–The King and I?) I've been through periods where I've lost it for awhile.  To be honest, I'm coming out of one now.  Oh, I never lose it completely any more.  I can't, because I earn my living writing so I have to keep at it.  But sometimes I lose it where my personal writing is concerned.

What, you may ask, is it?

The spark.

The germ.

The seed.

The life.

The energy.

The inspiration that grows into a project that keeps you up late or gets you up early in the morning.

The connection you feel when you're working on it, how you transcend who you are and become part of something bigger–the way you do when you're at a concert, or watching a sunset, or gazing into the eyes of someone you love, or writing.

It is all connected.  All we have to do is take it and put it on the page.

I have more thoughts on this, to be posted tomorrow in the form of actual, real live, useful takeaways.  In the meantime, feel free to share what inspires you.

What If…?

What if…every time you did something you didn't want to do, you put the energy you'd usually use
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What if…every time you were at work you acted grateful for the paycheck instead of whining about what a crappy job you have?

What if…every time  you failed you were happy for the lesson you learned?

What if….every time you talked with a friend you spoke of positive things instead of gossiping?

What if…every time you paid a bill you were grateful for the services provided instead of being shocked at how the amount is?

What if…every time you ate you said thanks for every bite instead of worrying about the calories?

What if…every time you thought about your body you told it how strong and gorgeous it is, instead of worrying about your fat thigh?

Just sayin'.

Anybody what to add a what if or two?

Photo by Eleaf, courtesy of Everystockphoto.

The Party’s Over

The last few weeks, I've been running a feature called Festive Fridays on, well, Fridays.
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But, I have to say, the party has been a bit of a dud.  Or at least it seems so to me.  The posts don't get any comments and I'm certainly not receiving breathless emails urging me to keep them up.  So I'm making like the police and shutting the party down.

Which returns me to my original problem of what to post on Fridays.  I often have appointments on Fridays which make it difficult to post.  And, since I've made a solemn vow to post every weekday, this is a problem.

But, never fear, I have come up with a new solution.  Are you ready?

Drum roll, please….

Guest posts!

Yes, I'm inviting you, my loyal readers to write me a guest post.  Here are the guidelines:

1.  They can be in the 500-word range, but if you write longer, I'll probably go for it, too.

2.  Topics can be on any aspect of writing, coaching, motivation, inspiration, spirituality, or the writer's life.

3.  Keep it clean and positive, as I'm on an anti-negativity kick.

Interested?  Email me at wordstrumpet@gmail.com with your idea or your finished piece and we'll talk.

When I Am Writing…

"When I am writing my problems become invisible and I am the person I always was.  All is well.  I am as I should be."   Roger Ebert

I copied this quote from a profile of Roger Ebert that appears in Esquire.

Nearly four years ago, Ebert had most of his lower jaw removed due to thyroid cancer surgery.  Since then he hasn't eaten, drank, or spoken a word–he communicates by writing or a keyboard to voice device.  But in many ways his writing has been revitalized, as he writes a blog for the Chicago Sun-Times on a variety of topics.  In one of the most touching images that illustrates the article, there's a blue post-it note, with a message from Ebert written on it–"There is no need to pity me.  Look how happy I am. This has led to an explosion of writing."

The article, by Chris Jones, is an inspiration, well worth reading.  And Ebert's blog–he calls it a journal–is well worth reading, too.  I got absorbed in it when I went in search of the correct link, and forgot I was in the middle of writing a post. 

So, this is what I've got for you today, since I've got a busy day full of appointments–why are my Fridays always busy days full of appointments?–and I wanted to leave you with something.  Trust me, this article is much more inspiring than anything I could come up with on the fly.

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend, everyone.  Oh–and if anything from the article hits you as being worth sharing, come on back and leave a comment.  I think the first quote alone is worth clutching to your heart.

Ah, But Here’s the Rub

A couple months ago I wrote a post titled Write Three Pages a Day and You’ll Be Happy.

This command, and the post I wrote about it, are all true.  I believe this statement with all my heart, because I believe that as writers, we must write regularly to be happy.

However….

Upon rare occasion, there may come a day, when you realize, as youmdutifully write your three pages a day on a daily basis, that you are lost and meandering.  In a dark wood, wandering, so to speak.  Unsure where those three pages a day are taking you, if anywhere.

Not that this has ever happened to me, mind you.  Just sayin’ it might happen.  It just might.

And you will need to be prepared if it does.  Because when if this happens you might inadvertently feel worse for having written your three pages then if you’d not written at all.  Here you are, diligently writing, yet you seem to be wandering far afield.  No plot appears.  Your characters are aimless, boring creatures.  Your words like dead and flat on the page.

What to do when this happens?

I don’t know, really.  The truth is, nobody does.  Feeling lost and uncertain where you are going in a project is an occupational hazard.  Rare are the writing projects that write themselves.  Wonderful as they are, they can be a curse, too, because if that happens to you even once, you’ll spend the rest of your life wishing and hoping that it will happen again.  It might.  But then again, it might not.

But even though I don’t really have the answer, I’ve managed to muster some suggestions.  So here we go:

What To Do When You Don’t Have a Clue What You’re Writing

1. Cry.  I am sort of kidding about this, but sort of not.  Crying is very cathartic.

2.  Remember that the only way out is through.  You know what this means. Keep writing.

3.  Trust.  This is related to #2.  You must trust that the story will out, that the cream will rise to the crop, that the….you get the idea.

4.  Go back to the basics and plan.  Ask yourself questions about the characters, or interview them.  Put scenes on 3 by 5 cards and arrange and rearrange them.  Make a plot outline–work fast and just write down everything you know about what happens next.  Or write up some scene guides–noting all the physical details of the scene, who is in it, where it takes place, what will happen, what the scene needs to accomplish and so forth.

5. Take a break.  I know, I know, I’m forever harping about writing regularly.  But once in awhile you can let yourself off the hook and take a little break.  As long as it is the pause that refreshes and not the time you quit working on the novel or screenplay forever.

6.  And finally, for some fresh inspiration, download Chris Guillebeau’s free ebook called, The Art of Nonconformity: A Brief Guide to World Domination.  I think you’ll enjoy it and find it useful.