writing

We’re Not Cattle: Bowing Out of the Branding Game

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I wanted to be someone else.

Fierce winds rattled my door tonight. The road so dark, even the brights seemed insufficient. Each curve I drove as I went to pick my daughter up, even the ones I knew well, surprised me.

Night can be blinding in a different kind of way. It consumes all that lies outside the circle of headlights, jealously guarding its treasure. Though hours earlier I’d seen the foliage surrounding this long stretch of blacktop, now my chest thumped some sort of never more rhythm. Would I make it home? What about the deer? Which passing car would travel just close enough to push us both into untimely terror?

Too many questions on such a dark evening, and not the ones that mattered.

My recent past has been a struggle of confidence and conformity… or nonconformity. With such strong personalities surrounding me, I’ve spent more time questioning every decision than I do making them. And everyone has a very strong opinion, which is fair because I have a habit of asking for them.

By the way, popular vote is no way to actually live a life. Trying to be everybody ends up making a person nobody pretty fast.

Tonight the quiet resoundingly thrums against my eardrums. It speaks of change and certainty and life that will burst forward with Acme rocket speed. The wind has come to push away the deep cold of a too soon winter… or perhaps pull it near. Either way, the tingle spreading up my back and down my arms isn’t chill, but the swift current of something new and ancient.

I wanted to be someone else. I fought so hard to be anybody else, but in the thralls of a transforming season surrender is inevitable. We can only run so long before the vibration of the world throws silken tendrils around us. Not to envelope, not to control, but to allow wisdom we avoid to catch up and sink in.

Tomorrow came twenty minutes ago with this message:Somewhere in your life now, you may be feeling pressured to fit in and wear some kind of label. But you don’t need it.”

When I walk through the nearby forest, there are dozens of plants, trees and flowers. Not a single one has a label plastered to them, so I couldn’t begin to tell you exactly what kind they are, but I appreciate the beauty of each one. Their varied shapes and colors offer wonderment, peace and pleasure. Nature doesn’t require a label to exist, and long after we’ve screwed everything up, then disappeared, it’ll still be going strong… without our carefully planned categories.

I thought I wanted to be someone else. I thought I needed a label – author, coach, developmental developer person, writer of spiritual fiction, young adult urban something or other.

But it’s time to give up on those illusions. Not the words or the support or the passion, but on the need to fit in somewhere so I can be something to the right people. Does anybody know who those people are? If you do, make sure they don’t get my number.

At some point we have to draw a line. Not the chalk kind that dissolves after a heavy rain or the magic marker kind that fades with time and a good scrubbing. This one has to be a freaking monument of stone and steel with a diamond shield nature can’t break down through elemental persistence… and neither can anybody else.

The time of identifying people by their profession – the cobbler, the thatcher, the mercantile, the author – is long gone. The time of using more snark and profanity and sharp jabs to get attention should be. And sticking a label on me or imprinting my backside with a red hot iron thingy makes me no more or less effective at what I’ve chosen to do.

After spending a third of my life (because I plan to make 120) trying to be everything to everyone, trying to figure out the exact label so people will instantly know who I am and what I stand for, I’m bowing out of the branding game. Mostly because hot pokers make me nervous and I’m not fond of being considered cattle-like. 

I help people get things written, but only if they’re willing to take personal responsibility for their passion because I can’t want it for them. I work with structure and flow and making words count because I have an unending passion to clean up stuff and support people. I write, and sometimes I do it well… sometimes not so much, but I won’t ever stop. I like classic Winnie-the-Pooh and bubbles and helping Spirit when it comes knocking on my door.

These are things about me, but they don’t define me because categories are illusions we use as security blankets so people can decide at a distance if we’re the right people.

When all the paperwork is finished my name will be Kassie (sounds like Casey) Ranee Dillon. You may know me as Ranee. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Hope to see you again soon.

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Categories: branding, conformity, conscious choices, labels, opinions, professional identity, what once was, writing, Writing Process | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

An Excerpt of Something New: No Name Lane

Today I’m posting an excerpt from my new project. Mainly because I was up all night with an ill little redhead, but I don’t want to fall short of my goal to post regularly. So you get a sneak peek of No Name Lane: Diary of an Angel. 

We’re all angels to someone, and this story is a journey about returning to love, both from within and without. It encompansses the reality of a greater spiritual world. It’s the foundation of hope and kindness we build within ourselves, how every thought leads to an action, which can lift or teardown. It’s all about choices, and whether we have the courage to make them with complete and total unconditional love and accept such love in return.

Mind you, it hasn’t been through the editor yet, so please forgive any errors. I’m on schedule to finish it by the end of the month to release in late November.

 

00 No Name Lane

 

***

In the early years, sometime around my early twenties, I’d met a woman. The deep creases on her liver spotted skin moved into a near grotesque mask every time she spoke, hiding the rather kind heart buried beneath. She came from a time removed from this world, a society of money where people don’t speak about it because they didn’t need to, it’s implied by the way they carry themselves. It was a world I didn’t know, one I hadn’t seen in my childhood, but she showed me how to live in it.

On a warm spring day, we sat in the garden drinking tea, watching the tender blooms unfurl to capture the morning sun. I served, as was custom in this society for the youth to honor the aged. She smiled with a swaying nod when I asked about sugar and cream. Motions of elegance, the only way to describe her every movement, but then she was raised to embrace economy of expression. Every smile had a meaning, every scowl a purpose, all of it a symphony of language without a single word.

She told me a story once, and I didn’t understand it then, but I do now.

***

The sensei sat in the center of a rice paper and pale wood room, waiting for his student. A young man wrapped in robes entered whisper-quiet and knelt before him eager to start the day’s lesson. Jasmine incense swirled around the two, a moment of inner calm to steady the heart and mind, and the silence of it rang in their ears, but neither moved.

Finally, the sensei opened his eyes and considered the enthusiastic face before him. “Show me the meaning of kindness, my student.”

And so, the youth scurried away and returned with a bowl of stew. “You haven’t eaten all day, master, please take this stew and nourish yourself.”

Sensei smacked the bowl across the room, and closed his eyes again. “Show me the meaning of kindness,” he ordered.

The young man cleaned up the mess, left the room, and returned with a soft pillow. “Please, master, the floor is hard and your bones are aged. Take this pillow and rest upon it.”

Sensei grabbed it, ripped the feathered stuffing out, and again closed his eyes. “Now, show me the meaning of kindness.”

With slower steps, the youth cleaned the mess, sluggishly walked out, then returned, but with empty hands. He knelt before Sensei, a disheartened frown upon his face, and presented a gift of nothing to his mentor.

The aged master opened his eyes for the last time, considering the youth and his bare hands. A knowing smile full of wisdom graced his lips. He saw the broken spirit of a once vibrant pupil, and recognized the defeat in heart ready to serve the world.

He took the youth’s hands, and said, “No amount of kindness can be offered to those who are unwilling to receive it. You will find, in this world, those who will be unable to accept such a gift, but know it is no reflection of you, my student. But also, do not tolerate cruelty if that is their response. Honor your spirit and offer theirs kindness from a distance.”

***

Of course, I nodded and smiled as if I understood, but she knew I wouldn’t, not completely. My people pleasing ways, my desire to see the best in everyone would cause far more pain until I learned the lesson through experience.

And humans were like that too.

Sometimes it took living the stark reality of people’s cruelty to fully grasp a concept, and I’d spent many years offering the bowl of stew to everyone and anyone. Not so much as a means to garner favor, but because I’d lived in a pit of deepest darkness as a child. Abuse—physical and emotional, the torment of teasing by children taught too well, love only given under conditions of perfection, the terror of not wanting to fall asleep because I’d relive the nightmare again.

It was more than my winged origins, more than a higher calling, but a sincere desire to present only love because there was too much of the other in this world. But humans thrived on conflict, a contented net of safety they’d grown insecure to release. They understood hate intimately and couldn’t conceive of someone wanting only the best for them. This foreign gift of unconditional acceptance evoked anxiety and suspicion.

She tried to warn me back then. “You have a grace beyond your years, despite the circumstances of your childhood. The world will steal it from you, but only if you let them. My peers would have me broken, even in my aged state, but they’ll never receive such satisfaction. I am victim of nothing, a survivor of nothing. I am now and will always be a woman of means because I choose to be nothing less.”

Again I nodded with no more understanding than I had earlier. Instead, I focused on refreshing the tea and cutting a few roses to place in the vase on the garden table.

She responded with a smile resembling a grimace. “In time, you’ll understand, but promise me you’ll never forget.”

“I promise.” My words holding far less conviction than hers.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the garden and house. She’d point out antiques handed down through her family. They had a rich history, reaching back to royalty several generations removed. I enjoyed these moments together, her laughter, her kindness, her quiet lessons. Not exactly a mother or grandmother, but somehow family all the same.

It was the last tea we ever had together. Her family didn’t invite me to the wake or funeral, but I wouldn’t have gone. She asked me not to grieve her, only to remember our time together. My only thought now—how could I ever forget?

Categories: angels on earth, Choice, new projects, novella, spirituality, unconditional love, writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Why I’ll only be a Bestseller by Accident.

 

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Bestseller. Amazon Bestseller. New York Times Bestseller.

It’s a constant mantra in the writing and publishing industry. Write more, market more, sell more. Those words can be found on nearly every blog from nearly every writer or publisher disguised in a variety of ways.

My first publisher warned me about launch day – don’t expect too much, this is a long process, it takes time and larger catalogs to get the sales numbers you’re expecting, etc.

He was trying to soften the blow of disappointment most first time authors experience. A kind gesture really, but my anxiety and frustration leading to launch day had nothing to do with expectations for sales. It was merely a matter of the push and conflict to get there.

I recently spoke with another publisher. This man’s enthusiasm is absolutely contagious. I mean, he is seriously pumped to make sure one of his authors becomes a bestseller. And hell, I believe he’ll get exactly that. They have a host of talented authors who will do well, if not extraordinarily well.

He said, “One of you are going to be a bestseller, it’s a matter of odds.”

He’s right, but it brought up a dilemma I’ve struggled with since I started writing. In fact, as I clumsily described what I wanted for my career and from them as a publisher, I inadvertently offended their marketing director by implying I didn’t their services to market. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Why? Because I don’t really market, but this goes back to the title of my post.

In all the conversations I’ve had with writers and publishers, not one of them actually listened to or believed me when I said, “I don’t write to be a bestseller. I write because I have no other way to get rid of the stories in my head. Whether I sell one book or a thousand, it doesn’t matter because I have to write.”

“Oh, that’s not true because I know you’d be thrilled to see your name on that list,” they’ll say.

“Right, but you’d be happy with the money,” they’ll assert.

“Every writer who says that is lying to themselves,” they’ll challenge.

In the exhaustion of yet another failed attempt at communication, I quietly slip away to the peaceful silence of my gatehouse. Here, the trees know why I write. Their reverent observation encourages self-reflection and honest words. With shushing whispers and ancient wisdom, they speak of being true to my vision, the one compelling me to write this post today.

I admire the authors I know that spend hours trying to achieve amazing success in publishing. But that’s their path, and I respect the hell out of it. My path is different, something I realized very early on, but couldn’t quite put into words until now.

My goals as an author are modest – write, edit, format, cover, and print.

Their simplicity has nothing to do with avoiding work. Hell, writing a book or several is damn hard work, and I believe in every story I write. But it’s not about sales or notoriety. It’s not about being on some list, like an international show dog on display. It’s not about proving my worth or ability as an author.

This is about looking back in fifty years, taking my very last breath while lying next to the man I love, and smiling one last time, knowing I accomplished everything I wanted to, knowing I lived my passion well.

 

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Categories: author, bestseller, Publishing, simplicity, writing | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Authenticity because anything else is slow death

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A butterfly landed on my hand today while I sat in the car listening to the radio. For anyone who knows me, it’s a regular thing to just hang out in the car with my feet propped up. I suppose it reminds me that I’m never stuck anywhere. I’m here by choice and can leave whenever I choose.

Anyway, this butterfly spent well over three minutes poking at my fingers as if nectar would pour out of the tips. His antenna flipped forward, then back up,  and no matter how I moved my hand it didn’t flutter away.

Starstuffs, one of my favorite reference sites for animal totems, says this about butterflies:

“Major transformations and transmutations taking place, outcome is different than expected. Symbol of joy, color, gentleness, lightness, and change in life. Awakens us to dance on the winds of life, teaches that growth doesn’t have to be painful, allows us to discover the important issues in life for conscious transformation. Can you discern what is important right now? Don’t sweat the small stuff, be joyful and thankful for your blessings.”

More than the transformative message of this experience is a greater truth I’ve come to realize —

Inner peace is an active pursuit.

It takes a conscious effort to remove or ignore negativity, not just within but from others as well. When I allow outside opinions to be the barometer by which I determine my worth or change the core of who I am to suit the whims of someone else, I’m giving them power over me. More over, I’m giving them my peace.

The fragile peace I’d started to gain in my universe was nearly destroyed. It’s funny really, how the harsh words and condemnation of someone we love can cut so deep, can make us question our very character. And for a brief moment, I did. I sat crying in a puddle, wondering what happened over that weekend to make someone think I’d ever actively or passively seek to hurt anyone.

Then I realized something I’d said days before, “I won’t be anybody but myself. If you want me to be someone else I should stay home.”

Authenticity.

I’ve come to a peculiar time in my life where being anything other than myself is impossible. I carry my passion and peace everywhere and won’t hide how I feel or who I am.

It translates to my writing — actively, viscerally, authentically me. All the passion and purpose I possess bleeds in black and white just as certainly as it does in my real live life. And that was the problem.

During the course of a phone call, I heard the message loud and clear — it’s okay to myself in quiet intimate moments when no one was watching, but in the bright daylight of other’s view I had to be someone else.

And here’s where the new tagline for this site was born…

Authenticity because anything else is slow death.

Comparatively, I’ve learned very little in four decades on this planet. But a chance encounter with a butterfly reminded of the most important lesson. Inner peace is an active pursuit. It requires being myself unapologetically, recognizing the truth of my existence, removing negativity, accepting unconditional love and blessings, acknowledging my failures and successes as small steps towards a larger goal, and never using the opinions of others to measure my worth. It also requires a great deal of honest self reflection.

Nothing is more smothering than hiding a part of myself. Like the totem butterfly suggests I’ve reached a point of conscious transformation. In that quest, I’ve found my peace again. I’ve found love of good people. I’ve found love within myself. I will not sacrifice it for anyone, but I do hope to one day to craft a life with another soul actively seeking inner peace.

Categories: belief, certainty, Choice, contentment, hope, love, relationships, self reflection, spirituality, the universes we create, writing | Tags: | 3 Comments

The Illusion of Separation

 

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Illusions are easy to live in, especially for an optimist. And the world desperately conspires to give them breath with the idea we can all get along. Why not? We’re all the same… on the inside.

Well, that’s an illusion too, isn’t it?

Society is hell bent on creating separation. It gives people another illusion – that of power. Countries and social circles hunger for it, and will use any means, be it hate or love, to control a little speck of the universe. They force people to defend their rights, defend their very character, even in the face of those who love them.

Twelve years ago, the country found a new enemy, but they didn’t stop at the faceless “terror” living thousands of miles away. Much like the Japanese American interment camps during WWII, our own citizens became the demons we fought. Suspicion, targeting, blackballing; all it becoming the norm, forcing otherwise innocent people to prove they were actually innocent. Guised as protection, the powers that be used this fire to enact several laws and create agencies to further tight their hold on the country, thus expanding their power.

McCarthyism in the early to mid 1950’s is yet another example. Many writers, directors, and actors as well as everyday citizens lost entire careers, entire families ripped apart because of finger pointing and rumor. It pitted neighbor squarely against neighbor in  a quest to prove personal innocence. Again, suspicion and fear became the norm and tool by which “order” and conformity was maintained.

But we’re more evolved now, right?

If society wasn’t hell bent on creating separation, I might say yes. But power and control are mighty tempting things. The lust for them lives in the eyes of society, and it will find the one perceived threat to its sovereignty,  then ban together and point fingers to divert attention from its end goal.

The concept of separation and the lust for power is a heavy theme in my novel, Ring Binder – The Binding of Twelve, because I believe books should be entertaining but also incorporate themes that break illusion.

Allison grew up in a small town plagued by rumors about her family. The peculiar behavior of her grandmother Shanley created the perfect target for a town that thrived on drama and separation. Of course, Allison didn’t help the situation by choosing not to follow social norms for the sake of getting along. She isolated herself from ridicule and sideways glances, adding to the tension. But the grab for social rankings and the separatist attitude of the majority of town’s residence seemed petty and childish at best.

When Allison ventured into the world of her people this dynamic was magnified. The ruling council of the Mutaní lusted for power and control, maintaining both by encouraging suspicion and unease. Again, the rules of their society served one purpose – separation. By preying on people’s fear of the Iska, soul feeding demons who hunted them, the council effectively manipulated the will and minds of the many to accomplish their end goal, which created a cycle of death killing entire generations.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to governments. It trickles down to infect social circles and even families. When we buy into the illusion of us versus them, when we gossip and spread rumors to defame another simply to maintain power and control over the people in our universe, then we become the monsters of separation. And while I still believe everyone, despite the individual and internal battles we fight, can find a way to get along, it’s difficult to tolerate energy in my universe that thrives on making people choose sides or creates division for the sake of maintaining power.

So what’s the alternative? I’m not sure.

How can we put an end to the illusion that we need to separate into camps? Hell, if I know.

My best option at the moment is respect people from a distance until we find common ground; until everyone realizes we have this one life, this one planet we share, and none of us will ever have power or control over it. At least, not for too long.

I leave you with the opening quote in Ring Binder from Samuel Lonary, shifter and Binder trainer.

“Longevity has given me the ability to look past the common struggles of life. I’ve seen power rise with the dawn only to be reclaimed by darkness. In the reach for control, the one constant is the moon. Pulling the tide with each orbit, the moon reaches into the hearts of men to touch them with power and insanity. For centuries, the Mutaní drew upon its light for ascension. We sought connection to the objects on a spiritual plane, but in this quest, the power corrupts. As our focus turned from the preservation of life to the sole saviors of humanity, the Mutaní forgot the lessons of history. All power is borrowed, even ours. Eventually, it too will set as the moon rises.”

 

 

Categories: freedom, lettng go, life, questions, self reflection, spirituality, the fear that binds us, the universes we create, themes, what once was, writing | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

An Author Who makes Excuses Invalid: Alex Laybourne

Writers are good at creating excuses not to write. Let’s face it, we’re a creative bunch with broad imaginations, so it’s no wonder we’re able to concoct amazingly intricate ways to lie to ourselves.

Let me introduce everyone to an author I admire greatly who makes every excuse automatically invalid.

Alex Laybourne

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I’ve watched his career and life through social media over the past several years. We’ve chatted about everything from family to writing. With four children and a full time job, money and time are in short supply, but can’t isn’t in this man’s vocabulary. 

He gets up in the wee hours of the morning to edit and write blog posts, then carves out a few minutes during lunch to write books, and ends the day with marketing for other authors and freelance work. When exactly does this man sleep? Probably never, but can’t isn’t in his vocabulary.

He recently released his second horror novel in his Highway to Hell series, Trials and Tribulations. Along with a host of short stories set to come out, he’s been doing radio interviews and blog tours. Did I point out the four munchkins, full time job, daily blog posts, and marketing for other authors?

I should also mention one of his sons, now 4, has autism. For anyone who has dealt with an autistic child, you already know the great patience and care it takes to ensure these children have full lives in a compassionate environment. The outbursts alone, usually caused by an inability to process their surroundings and emotions, can be challenging and exhausting. For Alex, this simply makes his son unique. 

All excuses are now invalid.

 

Hero is a mighty big word, so I won’t lay that weight on his shoulders, but I admire the hell out of him. Watching his struggles and triumphs has shown me anything is absolutely possible if you pour every ounce of your passion into it. 

I can’t. There’s no time. It’s too much work. I’ll never get it done. No one will like it anyway.

These words have been stricken from my vocabulary. They don’t exist anymore, due in no small part to the many authors I see carving out five more minutes to devote to their dreams. They have no more time or money or energy than anyone else. The only difference is choice. With single-minded determination, people like Alex choose to solidly plant their backsides in a chair and write. 

It’s not about inspiration or muses or excuses. It’s about putting words on the freaking page, even when they’re crappy. Because first drafts aren’t final drafts. Let me say that again…

First drafts aren’t final drafts.

I’ll post more on drafts later, but for now… to learn more about Alex, catch him on Facebook, Twitter, Website, and find the first novel in his Highway to Hell series on Amazon.

I leave two questions for you to ponder: Where could you carve out five more minutes to devote to your passion? What excuses keep you from finding them?

Categories: Alex Laybourne, author, excuses, Highway to Hell, writing | Tags: | 11 Comments

Coaching Philosophy & Empowering Writers

0empowerement-meditation

—to give ability to; enable or permit.

“Wait, no one needs to give me permission to write my book. They’re not in my head. How could they possibly know what it’s supposed to look like?”—what every writer should be saying.

But we don’t. Instead, we spend hours asking every person we know, scouring every blog post and agent site, and second guessing every word we write.  We think we don’t know jack about creating a story and the things we write are total crap because we don’t know jack.  *waves and smiles at the actual guy named Jack who might be reading this post*

This thinking is—

FLAWED.

 

As a writing coach, I hear more reasons why people can’t write than why they can or should write. So, my job, my sole mission is to empower them to take back their power and words. Given the definition, it feels more like enabling, but the truth is most people feel like they need permission to tell their story in their voice until they gain confidence and footing. We’re human; we need an atta boy… or kick in the ass.

My job involves more physics than anything—

A Writer in Motion Tends to Stay in Motion.

 

Meaning if I can help you find the tools to begin writing while quieting the internal and external voices, then you’ll keep writing until you realize the truth:

You never really needed my permission in the first place.

Not the best philosophy for repeat business, but I’m not a crutch. I’m a tool. *giggles quietly because I’m also a three year old at heart*

How do I perform this magical act of getting writers to write?

Well, I break coaching down into a few simple steps… because, like most writers, I have a short attention span:

  1. Accountability—a chapter a week, then two chapters, and finally two+. The reality is most people require an outside force—editors, publishers, coaches, readers—that expect them to finish by a certain date. Sure, one out of ten might be self-motivated, but the rest of us (including me) need deadlines.
  2. Enabling—this is where I give you permission to write your story, your way. We talk about the scope of your world and the characters. We get inside your process to make it stronger, then we work on the first timid steps on the path to your career as an author, which leads to the final step…
  3. Structure—the simplest and most comprehensive way to plot out a novel. It’s not the Holy Grail of plotting. It isn’t even the only plot structure in existence, but it’s a place to start until you find one that works for you. And even better, you can use it for a wide range of work from short stories to novels to entire series. Each have an arc, I explain in non-industry, everyday terms.

The biggest mistake we make as authors is to assume anyone—other authors, editors, coaches—know more about our story than we do. While they can provide insight into structure, grammar, flow, and character/story development, they can’t and shouldn’t decide whether a character is motivated by love or hate or guilt, whether magic is innate or comes from an object, whether a fire or flood or death is appropriate, or anything else that may or may not happen in your story. That’s content, and that’s yours.

Why?

Your Story,

Your Story,

Your Story.

 

By definition, that means only one person can determine the content. YOU. Not your writers’ group, not your friends, not your coach, not your editor. They can tell you what they’d like to see in your story. They can even tell you if it’s coming across the way you intend it to come across. But always remember, everyone has a perspective, everyone has an opinion. Neither are gospel, both will more often than not reflect individual taste, and on rare occasions some might spark ideas that will add to your plot, but the third should be mulled over very carefully. If it doesn’t fit, then don’t be afraid to throw it out.

The truth is you’re gonna second guess yourself, even after you publish. The only choice is to do it anyway. Give it the best you can, make the next one even better, then actually take a moment to be proud of the fact that you did it in the first place.

***

Need a hand? Go here ~~> http://rebeccatdickson.com/write-raw/ and tell Becky you want me.  ; )

Categories: writing, writing is play, Writing Process | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

YOU are the story. Write now.

The story goes that some U.S. Patent official resigned years ago because everything already exists. His alleged reasoning was since every idea has already been generated, no one needed a patent office.

Though this rumor still exists – and I giggle at the thought – it reminds me of something a college professor told me.

“Only eight story lines exist in the history of the world. No story is ever unique. Therefore, nothing new is ever created. We’re simply…

(Read the entire post at http://rebeccatdickson.com/2013/08/08/you-are-the-story-write-now/)
Categories: belief, the fear that binds us, writing, Writing Process | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Magic of Writing

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Children amaze me. Not just their eternal sense of wonder, but their keen insight into worlds we adults no longer see.

Bug is planning her first series. She’s twelve-years-old. That’s right, not even a teenager and she’s begun to plan out something many adults struggle with daily.

She said to me tonight, “All writers are magicians. We all just have different magic tricks.”

The conversation came about as most do — the two of us planning out mom and Bug activities. She began by suggesting brainstorming session where we help each other through ‘stuck’ parts of our plots. (Yeah, I love this kid.)

I told her, “If you make the world real for your characters, then it will be real for your readers. ”

“Like magic,” she said. “I love writing because we can build entire worlds and make people think they’re real. Like my Warrior Cat books. I believe in Warrior Cat clans because the writers did such a good job with the details. They explained everything like it was real. So it is.”

Out of the mouth of munchkins.

We often forget the power we have as writers. Think about it, we create universes. And done well, people can live in them for a brief time. Done exceptionally well, people find hope and wisdom in the lives of fictional characters and worlds.

But we didn’t come by this knowledge through chance. These are hopes and dreams we carry with us. Wisdom we’ve learned by beating our heads against enough walls until we finally broke through to some sort of truth. Our personal truth.

We only hedge to write what we’ve learned because of fear. Fear of judgement, fear we can’t say it like we’ve learned it, fear someone will stand up and say, “You’re full of crap.”

Kids don’t have this fear because it’s a learned behavior. They don’t yet recognize the voices saying it can’t really happen, something like that can’t possibly exist. Nope, they still wait by the windowsill, looking for Peter Pan to whisk them away. They still believe in a tribe of cats, healing the sick with ancient natural recipes.

They still believe.

Somewhere along the line we adults stop believing in magic. Not all, but most. We got caught up in bills and responsibilities and reality. Yuckers. The magic inside us, the one still seeing fairies dance on toadstools, dissipates or disappears, leaving us neck-deep in what must be real. Because fairy tales are childish things, not fit for grown-ups like us.

This is the death sentence of grown-up reality.

We as writers must step back into childhood, into the magic of other worlds we create in our heads. Though responsibilities linger, we must remember stories are crafted for play, crafted by the magic within us. It’s the only way to make them real for our readers. If we can’t believe that these universes exist, how can we then possibly expect our readers to live in them?

We can’t. More accurately, we don’t have the right to ask anyone to buy into worlds we ourselves don’t completely and totally play in. Otherwise, we run the risk of being hypocrites. Really, think about it, asking someone to accept something we don’t. Just doesn’t sit right, does it?

Pen and paper, keyboard and screen, we are magicians. If only for moment, we conjure through words — our slight of hand the plot twists and stories secrets of characters and worlds. We must be able to step away from our inner perfectionist and all the industry jargon that chokes away the play in our writing.

We must believe fairy tales are real. It’s the only way to absolutely convince our readers that our pens are wands and our universes are playgrounds for their minds.

 

Categories: belief, children, innocence, magic, the universes we create, writing, writing is play | Tags: | 3 Comments

The Business of Writing

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So often writers complain about lack of inspiration or writer’s block. It’s not that these aren’t issues for us, but I see a larger problem behind the complaints. The best way to illustrate exactly what I mean would be to chronicle my journey as a writer.

When I first started writing, I waited for that lightning strike of inspiration to begin a post or story. Convinced that writing was a matter of feeling the words, I would go for days or weeks without putting pen to page, and then emotionally vomit out words. The posts were fair and well-received, but in all honesty they weren’t anything earth shattering. Sure, I had my own style—slightly clunky at times—and form. Again nothing any other writer couldn’t do.

This process applied to my novel as well. I would wait days, weeks, or sometimes months before I would block out a scene because I thought the universe needed to send me just the right inspiration to write it properly. I’d used everything from the dishes to laundry to my kids as an excuse as to why I wasn’t open to that divine hammer wallop.

The truth? I’d chosen not to do the work, chosen not to put in the long hours required to write properly or continually.

It’s akin to a toddler throwing a tantrum. “I can’t write, I can’t write, I can’t do it! You’re not gonna make me until I’m good and ready.” Yep, that was me inside my head.

*squeezes temples in shame*

After working with some incredible editors and writing coaches, I began to see the cycle clearly—the choice I’d made time and again to not write. Even now I fall back into that pattern for a little bit before I stop, reset, and refocus.

The work of a writer is not in waiting for inspiration or the right mood, it’s a dedication to putting our rears into the chair and blocking or outlining or actually writing. There’s never a lack of stories or subjects, only a lack of commitment to our craft. That may sound harsh, but more often than not I find that it’s true.

Writing is hard work. To do it well, we must continually hone our craft through reading, taking classes, writing, blocking, or working with people who can help us see through our bad habits. It requires the same devotion as any other profession. In order for us to continue to grow we must make the choice to work hard and work often. That’s the cold, hard, in our face truth.

Having said all of that, I do believe that taking a break from a WIP—consciously putting it aside for several months—can give us a new perspective. Time is good for that, but it doesn’t mean that we walk away from writing altogether. There are still other stories, posts, or craft-based books for us to seek out. Again, we must choose to evolve or find something else that better suits our personalities and passions. But even then, we’ll still need to put in the effort to make that new passion a success.

So, I guess this post is a call to action, a call to my fellow writers to make the choice to write instead of excuses as to why it’s not happening. I know it’s in you, I’ve seen the incredible universes inside your head. Make the choice to live out your passion whether or not you know exactly where it’s going or how to get there. All journeys start somewhere and it’s the steps in-between that make every moment worth it.

*Heart Hugs*

Categories: Choice, Craft, Inspiration, journey, writing, Writing Process | Tags: , , | 12 Comments

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