Are You Wandering Aimlessly?

May 9, 2020


The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has been unbelievable on so many levels. From the speed at which it spread, to the closing of borders, schools and universities…and the cancellation of conferences, seminars and businesses in general.

It’s been a long, dark road.

The discussions about opening up again are all interesting, but they seem to be split between encouraging massive bursts of productivity and gentle, realistic spurts of things that are more manageable.

So many authors I connect with are struggling these days to write and feel productive, because they’re home with cats, dogs, kids, partners and noise. But, even those without all of the noise and distractions are struggling, too, because being alone is not easy either.

This begs the question, again…What do we need to make the work of writing possible? What makes us feel like we’re productive in terms of creating finished pieces of writing?

I have written many posts over the last few years about mental blocks to writing, and how to work through them. Some of the posts I come back to often remind me of this…

We don’t find time to write, we have to make it.

It’s not just physical time but, more importantly, mental time that we need. That space in your mind that can be focused just on writing…and not everything else that’s going on. This is often hard to do when your head is full of uncertainty and anxiety.

Despite all the rhetoric, we have no idea when we will be allowed to travel again, how long things should be closed, or what kind of ‘normal’ we’ll return to when everything re-opens. As an indie author, if I don’t go to book-signings, or put out new work, I don’t get paid. So, I need to keep writing and being productive.

But, like a lot of you, I’m listless, both figuratively and literally. The emotional toll of all of this should not be under-estimated. Stress has a significant effect on our ability to focus on tasks that require concentration and cleverness.

The uncertainty of the extraordinary emotional strain is perhaps the worst of it – how long is this going to last, and what will the world be like when the pandemic is past?

Talk About It
Don’t just quietly acknowledge this, but make a small space in your online engagements with colleagues and friends to voice some of the anxieties we all feel. We’re not alone in all this, but we often feel like we are, and what we feel is what creates both emotional and mental static that can be hard to work around.

I’ve mentioned it to some old friends recently. I shared anxieties with several of them, found it was mutual and, surprisingly, it seemed to help (me, anyway).

To follow-up on my last post…we all need to seek a new balance, allowing ourselves time to work through the other stuff in our head right now. We need to acknowledge our own stress and anxiety, and be kind to ourselves by creating a work routine…pushing to get things done every day, so we don’t meander around aimlessly, feeling like we’re not doing anything useful at all.

This is not business-as-usual, so we need to let ourselves have a few more moments of listlessness than we usually allow.

I’m certain it will jump-start creativity, and I’m also sure my writing, and yours, will start again soon.

Stay safe.

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Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

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You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

How Do You Write During a Crisis?

April 8, 2020

Writing can be lonely work in the best of times.

As we’ve entered the national emergency collective state, the news about COVID-19 has become pretty much all anyone can think about. It certainly made concentrating on this blog, not to mention my fiction writing, hard to get started.

And then I realized that what I actually wanted to talk about hasn’t changed much at all.

Even though I’m no longer young, I’m very lucky and grateful to be healthy and able to work at home.

What this ordeal has made clear to me, though, is how deep my lack-based thinking goes. My house is paid for. The pantry and freezer are full. My spectacular bride and one of my sons are with me. How I can look at my fully-stocked pantry and fixate on the fact I didn’t buy an extra bag of rice?

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? This is a moment when we are all forced into stillness with everything, including our fears. But it can also be an excellent opportunity to learn how to take better care of ourselves and each other.

And those are lessons that extend to our creative process.

If you find yourself at home now with hours of time that could be spent writing, but you can’t seem to get started…it’s all right. You don’t have to.

I’m going to say that again, you do not have to write. If you want to, great. If it makes you feel good, by all means, do it.

But if you’re too scattered, distracted or unfocused, as I sometimes am, give yourself a pass. After all, our very foundations are being stress-tested right now. At this moment, we are certainly not in a position to force ourselves into productive shapes.

Consider Not What You Want, But What You Need
We do not have to create. We can find space for more. We can re-read a book we love. Watch a movie. Binge watch Netflix.

More than that, we can check on elderly neighbors or bake a pie (well, my wife would probably chase me out of the kitchen for that one). We can donate to our community food bank or watch a whole season of reality television in an afternoon, because it makes us laugh and keeps us sane.

Several of my friends, including one who now lives in Florida, sit in our respective houses and text each other every weeknight during the televised game show Jeopardy, answering the questions as if we were still going to the local pub for trivia. It’s not the same, of course, but we all enjoy it, and it’s the fastest half hour of the week.

We can use these moments, if we are healthy, safe, secure and lucky enough to have our friends and all of those other things, to get clear on what really feeds us. And then to give it to ourselves with no strings attached.

Then later, whenever we’re ready and that beam of sunlight finally breaks through, we can write.

Stay safe.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

When Things are Dramatically Complete

March 20, 2020

Photo: Kromlau Bridge (also known as Devil’s Bridge) in Gablenz, Germany

I don’t think anyone would argue writing fiction, whether it’s a novel or a short-story, is a craft. One that requires an adept handling of many elements. But what does adept handling mean?

Every author is different, of course.

Lately, like a lot of folks during this coronavirus scare, I’m stuck in the house…and I’m writing. I think it’s worth mentioning again that I don’t write to an outline. In other words, I don’t plan ahead before drafting my stories.

The reason?

It’s simple. I don’t want to know beforehand what’s going to happen. If I know the direction it’s going to take, it probably won’t be a good book, because I write to find out what the characters have to tell me.

If I already know, it will bore me…and I’ll likely bore the reader, too.

I shoot for an organic development that leads the characters, and the reader, to a place where each character, for better or worse, is somewhere new. Sometimes, like in the picture above, that might seem like it’s right back at the beginning.

But, if I’ve done it right, they are there in such a way they have grown measurably, and perhaps actually know that place for the first time. Dramatically, they are complete.

It’s Never One Size Fits All
But keep in mind that in fiction, just like in life, one size never fits all. Even the blank spaces, the things that are left unsaid, should be unspoken for a reason.

I’ve been writing for years, but I’m still amazed how stories evolve as you work on them. For instance, some of my writing comes out in long bursts of prose, while some seems to go on the page at a plodding pace. It can be frustrating.

However, regardless of the pace, I always consider two key questions: What is absolutely necessary to telling the story and, perhaps more important, how can the author know this?

A good story is an emotional labyrinth, after all, a maze you find your way through as the characters tell you about it. Well-done stories can transport readers and ignite imaginations…but crafting them is easier said than done.

The imagined world you create in your writing can be liberating. It can also be a daunting challenge. After all, if you plan to welcome readers into that world of your creation, it has to be somewhere they, as an audience, will want to live…at least for a short time.

Focus on the Details
World-building does not mean you have to throw everything about day-to-day reality out the window. Always remember…no matter where they are, people are people.

Build your stories around a core of realistic characters and relatable behavior, and it will make your imagined world that much more captivating. The more you can strategically and artistically throw in such content, the more engrossing your world will feel to readers.

Few things turn a reader off faster than a world that doesn’t make sense or, worse, refuses to play by its own rules. After all, readers give an author the benefit of the doubt when they suspend disbelief and allow themselves to live in your world.

Making the imagined worlds internally consistent is the responsibility authors owe them in return. As the writer, give yourself space to explore and discover your new world in the same way your readers will when it’s their turn to experience it.

Believe me, it will be an immense benefit to your efforts.

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The book-signing scheduled at the Leon & Lulu Books and Authors Event in Clawson on March 22, 2020 has been postponed. Please check their website for updates.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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