Where Art Comes From When You Don’t Know Where It Comes From

fear needles usSometimes art is ground out one step at a time. I’ve done that, and even produced things I’m proud of that way.

Sometimes, art spurts out like mustard from the sun-stricken picnic table. When this happens to me, it always produces something I love.

Once we have the basic skills, writing is a combination of persistence and getting out of your own way. More precisely, getting your conscious, the prefrontal cortex which usually drives the bus; er, your brain, out of the way of your unconscious, including the limbic system where your emotions live, the amygdala where your fears live, and other scary medical terms where other important truths hide out.

To be sure, it is the job of our conscious mind to navigate, to step in when unconsciousness won’t do.

For a writer, that stage is editing, not writing. … more … “Where Art Comes From When You Don’t Know Where It Comes From”

Truth or Consequences: It’s Not Just a Town in New Mexico Any More

New Mexico windowTraffic is down here at Someday Box. We aren’t surprised, Best Beloved and I. The reposts from Finding Why and Business Heretics. Excerpts. Links to hither and yon.

Being the needy angsty type, my first impulse is to ask how I can make you love me more. The Dylan poster on my wall says it doesn’t matter who loves you as long as you love you.

Most of you show up on Friday, after the newsletter goes out. The in-between posts get less love, maybe because they’re not fresh. Maybe because the titles aren’t compelling. Maybe because they’re about someone else instead of me, and you’re all slavering and lusting for more me, less them.

Maybe I should have my head examined.

Truth is, there are consequences to change.

… more … “Truth or Consequences: It’s Not Just a Town in New Mexico Any More”

Writing in Public: A Silkworm Instead of a Parachute

happy landings!A guitarist I once knew said he had a friend who wanted a band to play at his anniversary party.

I said “Take the gig, and we’ll put a band together.”

He blinked a couple times and said “I find your level of confidence disturbing.”

Since I grew up (at the age of 43) I’ve often leapt from airplanes with a silkworm instead of a parachute. It lends immediacy to the task.

I chickened out just a little and didn’t tell you about this until I was 11,000 words in, but I’m writing another light mystery, a 1,000-word chapter at a time, over on my personal blog. It’s called A Long Hard Look.

I have an idea where the story will go, just as when you leap from an airplane you’re fairly certain of your destination.

Getting there in one piece, though, is not a foregone conclusion.

Lost Days, Lost Time; Or, You Can’t Fill a Black Hole

I have struggled with depression my whole life. During the past 10 years it has improved immensely, especially the past few. I now consider myself a happy person, a content person. The black days which used to be the norm are now rare.

But they’re not gone.

… more … “Lost Days, Lost Time; Or, You Can’t Fill a Black Hole”

Nobody Sees Until You Say They Do

photo http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1077691 by Zsuzsanna Kilian http://www.sxc.hu/profile/nkzsYou do know that you’re the boss, right?

They’re your words.

Nobody gets to see them until you say they do.

The next eyes to see your words will be the eyes watching as you write.

Sure, it’s still scary like Hitchcock.

But it’s not scary like a loony wielding a framing hammer, like you think it is.

How Do I Know if I’m a Real Writer or Not?

?In another of my newsletter signup welcome email conversations, Michael asked,

As an old guy, my only real question about publishing in general is: am I considered to be a writer, for real, if I’m not published by a traditional publisher?

By you, or by traditional publishers, or by your readers, or by your family, or by other self-published authors?

You might guess that some folks will look down on you, and some won’t.

I think the answer that matters is what it feels like to you.

I’ve self-published 10 books. Anyone who thinks I’m not an author, a real writer, can take a flying leap. I know what I am.

You probably do, too.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to be who you are and do what you do.

Pre-Writing (#4 of 6 Tools to Write)

#4 in a series of 6

Another mistake we make is to assume that what flows from our pen must be finished product. Logically, we know this makes no sense. There’s always a bit of re-writing before the proofreading and editing. We would never expect others to deliver perfection without practice.

photo of picture frame http://www.sxc.hu/photo/636590 by Oliver Gruener http://www.sxc.hu/profile/PlusverdeWhether it’s the next chapter in your novel or a page of marketing copy for your website, it can help to sit down and intentionally scribble the ugliest, roughest draft you can imagine. Make it your plan to write something so simple, so messy, so basic, so ugly, that you can’t possibly use it. This is just a note to yourself about what you’re planning to think about considering writing.

This is much like the trick I use to get myself to do household chores. If a picture needs hanging, next time I see the hammer I lay it on the floor where the picture is to be hung. Then when I run across the box of nails, I set that in place. If the picture needs a hanger attached to it, that goes in the pile as well. Eventually I walk past, look at this instant picture hanging kit sitting on the floor, and realize that it will take almost no effort to finish the task. It gets done.

The hardest part about writing is writing. Not the polishing, the formatting, the editing. Just starting. Just putting down the few words that say what we really mean.

Pre-writing is a way to start ugly and simple and just get something down on paper.

Once the task is started, sometimes the compulsion to continue is overwhelming.

That’s okay too.

Continued tomorrow.

Timer (#3 of 6 Tools to Write)

#3 in a series of 6

photo http://www.sxc.hu/photo/429177 by scott craig http://www.cancerbox.com/Being passionate souls, writers have a tendency to over promise, over commit and just plain try too hard.

When facing a challenging task, it’s human nature to try to swallow the elephant in one gulp. Every “getting things done” specialist in the world tells us that’s wrong — and yet we persist. If you want a jump start on eating the elephant, start with one tiny bite.

If you’re 12 years behind on your book, it’s easy to assume that it will take four hours a day for the next 10 years to catch up. And what happens is you spend four hours a day worrying about writing and zero hours a day doing it. If you missed yesterday’s post on habits and rituals, go back and read it. Then we’ll talk about why a 5-minute timer is such a great habit-building tool.

This all-or-nothing perspective makes habit-building a real challenge. … more … “Timer (#3 of 6 Tools to Write)”

What Are You Willing to Risk for Your Art?

Entrepreneurs love to talk about risk, especially the risks they take to bring their products and services to market.

They always seem to be talking about money. They invest heavily in their creation and if it doesn’t take off they could lost it all.

I have yet to hear one of these risk-takers say they’ll lose everything they own.

Even that isn’t what’s scary.

If running out of money is the worst thing you can imagine you don’t have much imagination.

Maslow's Heirarchy: the higher you go . . .

… more … “What Are You Willing to Risk for Your Art?”

When There Are No Exceptions

photo http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1319306 by Nick Albufairas http://www.sxc.hu/profile/nickwijnanFacts are facts, right?

Here’s a fact you may remember from Middle School Biology: the human body has 206 bones.

Except sometimes.

It’s not uncommon to have an extra rib, or an extra bone in the arch of your foot. (Between the two, it could be as high as 20% of the population.) Those people have 207 bones. (Unless you have both an extra rib and one of 3 possible extra bones in your foot.)

Exceptions exist. Even to well-known medical facts.

Let me ask you about another fact: does listening to Mozart make you smarter? Will it make your child smarter?

… more … “When There Are No Exceptions”