Power Writing: 15 Keys to Unleashing Your Creativity

Welcome to a new series on creativity and how to unleash it in your writing. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be presenting the 15 crucial keys to consistently accessing your creativity.

First, though, I want to talk about creativity in general. I consider it to be one branch of the Three-Fold Writer’s Path, and in many ways, it is the most crucial. You can be the most talented writer in the world, but if you are not sitting down and using that talent, what use is it? If you don’t develop ways to convince yourself to return to the computer, over and over, on bad days and good, your talent will lay fallow, never to see the light of day.

And in my book there are few things sadder. Well, war and starving children in Africa, but you know what I mean. In developed countries, I’m convinced that the cause of much of our contemporary angst stems from people not exercising their creativity. Unexpressed creativity starts as a longing and turns into depression, or worse, perhaps, rage.

It is hard to be creative on a regular basis. Creativity is active. It requires us to think, to do, to act, to, well, create. These days, there are so many wonderful passive activities available to us that do not require action—surfing the internet, watching one of 500 available channels on TV, to name only a couple—that creating is practically a radical act.

Which makes it all the more important to do it regularly.

Creativity is a muscle. It gets stronger as you use it. When you go to the gym regularly and lift weights you build your physical muscles. So, too, with creativity. When you express yourself regularly, it becomes easier and more comfortable. The words flow and you develop a facility with them. The paint glides across the canvas. It doesn’t take you hours to find all your supplies. Ideas come as if by magic.

The opposite is true, too. Once you get away from the habit of creativity, it becomes ever more difficult to return. You have no idea where your drawing pencils are. You can’t, for the life of you, recall where you intended to go next in your novel. And what on earth were you trying to evoke with that mess of color on the canvas?

It only gets harder. And that longing inside you will grow and grow…until it becomes something else, something you probably really don’t want to allow to fester. So why not take the path that seems harder at first but is actually the easiest?

It is ultimately the easiest path because it leads you home to your heart and your soul and the very essence of your being. Which, in the end, is really all there is.

Check back here on Wednesday to read Power Writing: The First Three Keys.

Amazing Novel: The Master and Margarita

Bulgakov David the Poet wrote and told me he was reading an incredible Russian novel.  "What a novel this is," he said.  And because I admired that nice turn of phrase I ordered the book from Amazon.

It is The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Written as a satire during the Stalin years, and because of that unpublished for thirty years, the novel is about the arrival of the devil in Moscow and the mayhem that ensues.  There is also a storyline set in Jerusalem about Pontius Pilate meeting with Yeshua Ha-Nozri (sorta Jesus, but sorta not).  Apparently there is a third storyline, which I’ve not yet reached (I’m only a couple chapters in) about Margarita learning to fly.  Can’t wait for that one.

The reviews on Amazon refer to this novel as being life-changing, and everyone’s favorite novel ever, etc, etc.  Now I know we have to take reviews on Amazon with a huge dollop of salt but in this case I think the reviewers are writing truthfully.  There’s no reason to hype Bulgakov because he’s been dead since 1940.

My edition of the novel has good annotations and a nice afterword, but I thought I might want a bit more and I’ve found some great links.  There’s Wikipedia, of course, and I also found a great site called Master and Margarita.  Check it out here.  It’s worth it to go read the welcome page just for the romance of it all.

Google Notebooks: Eighth Wonder of the World

800pxchichenitza_el_castillo
I’ve been reading about the search to name the new Seven Wonders of the World. Some of the frontrunners are The Great Wall of China, Machu Pichu, and the Colosseum in Rome. My own personal vote is for Chichen Itza, in the Yucatan, one of the coolest (though not temperature wise) places I’ve ever been.

Anyway, the search for the new Seven Wonders of the World is all well and good, but I have discovered what is the Eighth Wonder of the World, at least if you are a writer.

It is the Google notebook.

This is the coolest feature that you can download by going to the Google notebook page. With the Google notebook, you can make online notebooks on as many subjects as your little heart desires. It is like bookmarking only way easier to organize. I am an inveterate hard-copy notebook creator, so this is like a dream come true. I make notebooks for all my assignments now, for blog entries, for stuff I might some day sort of be interested in, for, well, just about anything.

For instance, I recently had a copywriting assignment to write a report about Voodoo (Zombies! So cool!). I organized all my online research for the assignment into a Google notebook created for that topic. From now I, I’ll organize all my copywriting jobs that way.

The way it works is simple. Once you download it, a little blue icon appears in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. This is your link to your notebooks. Then when you find something of interest, ie, a website, you click the icon and add the link. You can also make comments about it. Or you can click the icon just to make comments. You can cut and paste specific info into it. And, I’m sure there is much more to the application than I have discovered, as the truth of the matter is that I’m pretty un-techy. (The fact that I can manage to maintain this blog is a minor miracle.)

But, God, show me a way to make a notebook of any kind and I’m all over it.

Photo of Chichen Itza by Sergio Blazquez, published here under Creative Commons license 2.5.

David’s Poetry

My friend David Hetzler has a poem on the Short North Gazette.  He’s an awesome poet, and he’ll be reading with the Umbrella Poets in Columbus, Ohio on July 27th.  Go listen–he’s an awesome reader, too.  Check out his poem in the Gazette here.

Slow Writing Movement

Exquisitecorpsebirthday20068 Andrew Gallix wrote a post on his Guardian blog about a movement he (sorta jokingly) invented called the Slow Writing Movement.  He wrote a thought-provoking post about it yesterday, making the point that with the advent of the word processor, writing has become faster, and with the Internet, publishing is fast, too.

"As a result, what often passes for fiction today would have been considered no more than an early draft a few years ago," Gallix says.  He goes on to define two schools of writers:  The Ionic, whose adherents write fast and furious, and the Platonic, who still believe in rewriting and revising, and who "belong to an aristocratic lineage which is at odds with our egalitarian times."   

Gallix takes the Ionic (read: fast) writers, including Georges Simenon, who apparently once promised (or threatened) to lock himself in a glass cage and write a novel in three days, and the nice people over at Nanowrimo, who encourage people to write a novel in a month, to task. 

The best line in the whole piece, however, is when Gallix levels his acid-pen at Jack Kerouac, whose work is lumped in with others such as The Surrealists, and referred to as "penis-extension tall tales of binge typing."  Lord, I love that sentence, even if I don’t agree with him.

I have to admit I’ve never actually read Kerouac, but I’ve always been fascinated with the automatic writing and the Surrealists’ Exquisite Corpse games.  And I am the biggest fan of Joseph Cornell on the planet.  But I digress.

While Andrew Gallix makes some good points about the preponderance of slap-dash writing in the world today, I am still a fan of fast writing.  Fast writing allows you to bypass your critic, and your ego, and the part of you that insists that everything be perfect and pretty.  It allows you to write directly from your heart, or your soul, or your spirit, or whatever you want to call it.  Because of all this, I believe that fast writing is the best way to allow a writer’s natural voice to emerge. 

BUT, and this is a really big BUT, after you’ve allowed the fast writing to emerge, the slow writing must follow.   Slow writing involves rewriting and revising and editing, and then doing it again.  And again.  And again.  This is the crucial part of writing that new writers sometimes miss.

New writers sometimes get stuck in the rush that comes from being totally engrossed in the writing.  Its like falling in love–and just as when you are in love with a person, you fall in love with the writing that results from this process.  Then you start to believe that no rewriting is necessary.

Ah, but trust me, you need to rewrite.  Very few pieces of writing come out fully formed and perfect on the first draft.  And when they do, they are channeled.  I don’t care what anybody says.

Writing is rewriting.  Period. 

So write fast at first and then go back and write slow. 

Image of an Exquisite Corpse graphic from Wikipedia, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license, and I sure hope I’m doing the attributions on the images right.

Fourth of July Updates

Happy Fourth of July. 

It strikes me as amusing that this is one holiday we often refer to by date, as in have a good Fourth.  Rarely do we refer to it as Independence Day.    Think about it–we don’t say Happy Twenty-Fifth for Christmas.  Odd.

Updates:

Joe Bare sent me a link to a sight about lucid dreaming.  You can access that here.  Its pretty cool stuff.

In my post about Blog evangelism in Orange County, I forgot one of the most important things.  I won one of the prizes they give out at the end and it was a beautiful collection of soap and lotions from the Tara Collection.  These are wonderful products.  Check them out here. 

And Happy Fourth.  Or Happy Independence Day.

Ghostwriting

One of the main ways I make my living is through ghostwriting, and I love it.  I get to write about topics I’d never write about otherwise, meet fascinating people, and enter the minds of those fascinating people.  Sort of like writing fiction, only not.

What is Ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting is when I write the book for you but your name appears on the book.  As far as the world knows, you are the author of the book.  If I’m lucky, you might thank me in the acknowledgments .  But even that is not really necessary.  Some big-time ghostwriters even get a “with” credit, as in “by famous person with ghostwriter.”  But not usually.

Who Uses Ghostwriters?

A better question might be, who doesn’t use a ghostwriter?  Generally, ghostwriters are employed for non-fiction projects, though many a novel has been ghostwritten (you can read a post I wrote about that here.)   Many of the best-selling business and self-help books are ghostwritten, as are those by politicians and celebrities. 

Not only famous people hire ghostwriters.  People in all walks of life who are too busy to write a book or simply feel they don’t have a way with word hire ghostwriters.  Working with a ghostwriter can be an efficient way of getting your book to print.

Why Do I Need a Book?

You may not have dreams of bestseller status, but you do need a book.  Why? Here are some reasons:

  • A book lends your career immediate status and prestige.  No matter what profession you are in, having a book to show for yourself gives you credibility.
  • If you do any public speaking, or aspire to, you need a book because many speaking bureaus will not book you unless you have one. 
  • A book  offers a potential  additional income stream.   You may choose to sell it on the internet or as a  back-of-the-room product.  If you are providing useful content on your website or blog, people will want to buy a book to read more.  If you are giving inspiring lectures, people will want to read more.  Give them what they want–a book.
  • A book offers you a chance to spread your message in a different channel.  Make no mistake, even iin this digital age, a book is still considered the ultimate authority.

What is The Ghostwriting Process?

People come to me when they have an idea for a book, have been struggling to write one for awhile, or need to get a product out fast, for any of the above reasons.  Generally, the client will have a fair amount of material or notes on the project ready.  If this is not the case, there may be quite a bit of upfront interviewing time required. 

It is my job to take this material and shape it into a finished product that reflects the voice and style of the client.  No two of the books that I ghostwrite will sound like the same author if I’ve done my job correctly.  I assess the potential readers and what sort of style might be appropriate for them, also.

Every project differs, but basically I’ll send the client constant updates of the the manuscript for him or her to edit and make changes on.  I guarantee my work and I’m not happy until the client is happy. 

How Long Does it Take?

The time frame varies.  I’ve gotten books out in as short as a month, while some projects tend to take much longer.

How Much Does it Cost?

While I have a base fee, again, each project will vary in cost.  It depends on how much material you have ready.  Some books really only need a rewrite or edit, while others require a massive assembly of notes and research.  Still others may need a lot of upfront interviewing time to pull the story out of the client, and this, of course, will cost more.   Please, please, please don’t assume that a ghostwriter will work for royalties only.  We’re professionals, too, folks, and we like to eat also.  Royalties are more of an “if” than a “for certain” and if they do every manifest, it may not be for months or years in the future.  Unless you can find a ghostwriter who needs experience and a credit to show, forget about asking us to work for royalties.

I’m Sold, What’s My Next Step?

Contact me  and we’ll discuss specifics.  If you’re not quite ready to hire a ghostwriter, and want to do it yourself, I can help coach you to get your book onto the page, too.

A Post Not About Writing: Party in Venice

Canalsml Went to a party on the Venice canals on Saturday night.  It was a large party, with multiple bands playing sequentially, the grill going full time with hot dogs and hamburgers, and a great potluck spread.  We were there as the guests of film director and producer Lina Shanklin, even though she never made it to the party.

I had a blast.  I love the canals and the people at the party were friendly and fun to talk to.  Everyone was named John and came from Culver City.  Okay, that’s not true, but I did meet two different men named John and they both lived in Culver City.  The first actually spelled his name J-O-N and was a retired computer guy who now played in a band and experimented with lucid dreaming.  He wasn’t especially old, either.  The second spelled his name the traditional way and was in radio.  He was one of the people who made a fortune (I might be exaggerating a little) selling ring tones when that business first exploded.  Now he’s going to write a novel about internet dating.  I also had a nice talk with a professor from USC.

Came home with a headache from the wine and Mary-Suzanne got it go away with ThetaHealing.  (The photo of the canals is by her, too.)

What does all this have to do with writing?  Not a thing.  Not one thing.  But there will be more posts to come on that topic very, very soon. 

Writing and Waterfalls

Over on one of my webpages, I wrote about the Columbia Gorge (in connection with writing) and illustrated it with photos of waterfalls in the area.

Waterfall Take a look at this gorgeous photo.  It is from my friend Suzanne Peters, who is, clearly, and awesome photographer.  She told me she had lots of photos of waterfalls and would send me some to illustrate my post.

But this one is so cool I thought it deserved its own post.  Go check out her work at Lifewishes Photography.  By the way, at this very moment she is sitting across the room designing a new banner for this blog.  Suzanne is also very good at graphic design and website design. And ThetaHealing. And being a fabulous friend.

What does this have to do with writing?  Well, nothing really.  Except that over the years that I’ve known Suzanne she and I have been a "creative cluster" (as Julia Cameron is fond of saying) of two.  She’s supported me in my writing career and I’ve supported her in her photography career, and now also as she branches out into other areas such as ThetaHealing . 

Having the support of another person is vital in a world where it can be common for others not to support your creative quests.  So I’m very grateful to her.