How Do We Become the Person We Always Wanted to Be?

The Mirror of Merlin

 

“But you also have choices. Yes — and choices are nothing less than the power of creation. Through them, you can create your own life, your own future, your own destiny… By your choices you might even create an entirely new world, one that will spring into being from the ruins of the old.” — T.A. Barron from The Mirror of Merlin

 

Is it luck? Is it perseverance? Is it some combination of the two? Or maybe its an age-old secret only handed down to a select few? Or maybe the answer lies somewhere else entirely? How do we truly become the person we always wanted to be?

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Writing, a Never Ending Journey of Exploration and Learning

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” — E.L. Doctorow

If someone told me as I first started writing about nine years ago that my writing would be a never ending journey, I’m not sure I would have set out on that particular path. Granted, most people start writing for a reason, which usually includes the buzzing of character voices and ideas that won’t shut up. That was my case, and even with that warning I probably wouldn’t have had a choice in the matter. I find writing to be the only way to get the voices to shut the hell up (yeah, that makes me sound pretty certifiable huh?). But it’s the idea of the never ending that might make most people bulk, though I have learned since then that never ending can be a good thing.

When I started writing, I didn’t even know how to put a decent sentence together. Of course back then, I thought I could do at least that much, but I was young, delusional, and a little stupid. I don’t even dare look back at my writing from the very beginning because I’d cringe way too much. It was embarrassing. Really it was.

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The Broken Brain

How many times have you felt like you’ve had a broken brain? You know… like when your mind just refuses to work? When a word is just beyond reach? When an idea can’t seem to fully form. Or how about when forgetfulness rules the day? Some might call that a bad day or give it a technical term like a cognitive malfunction, but I call it broken brain.

I get broken brain a lot. Too much actually. I can go whole days where words and thoughts just aren’t coming out like they should. Hell, I’ve had whole weeks like that. It’s frustrating to know the word you want to use, but can’t quite get it from the brain to tongue, or brain to page.

So is there a cure? Can this malfunction be restored? Can the broken brain be repaired?

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The Benefit of Being a Writer

We choose to become writers for many reasons. We do it just because we can (or want to), we do it because we love stories, we do it because we have a need to release the emotions inside, we do it to let the voices whispering to us out, and we do it as a challenge to see if it can be done. Those are just a few reasons. And some of us start writing for more than just one reason. But mostly I think we write because we are seeking answers to the complex world that we live.

Let’s face it, life sucks. Some days suck more than others, and sometimes whole years don’t need to be talked about at all. Many people fall back on things to help get them through those hard times. Things like alcohol, drugs, other people (usually the wrong people), copious amounts of time dedicated to escapisms like television, books, gaming, ect. and god knows what else. But as writers we are lucky, because writers have an outlet to work out some of those hard times.

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Marathon Writer: Riding the High

Picture taken by my bored and frustrated son.

Well, I just finished probably one of the most intense writing sessions ever since the writing bug bit me a little over 6 years ago. I can hardly believe it, but I managed a whopping 45,000 words in one week on a new novel idea. Yep, 45,000 in ONE week. The most I ever wrote in a stretch was 50,000, which was over a full month for the NaNoWriMo in 2010, so for me this is HUGE deal.

 I’ve been sitting on this story idea since Janurary of this year. I didn’t write on it, because I didn’t feel like I had a story worth pursuing, but over the last few months the idea just kept building and growing until one night I picked up the computer and wrote two chapters without breaking a sweat. The next day I wrote three chapters and the day after that five, and so on. I just couldn’t stop writing. The ideas kept coming and my fingers kept typing (and I’m pretty certain my keyboard was smoking there for awhile). For my efforts, I ended up with the first seventeen chapters and other snippet scenes to my new book idea.

This marathon of writing didn’t come without a price. Unfortunately that meant I spent time on my writing that should have gone to other things like my four year old son. Now I’m paying the price with outright rebellion and lots of tantrums from my little guy. He wants his mommy time back. So whether I like it or not, my marathon has come to an end. I’m not entirely sure if it’s from the guilt of ignoring my boy, or that I’m just burned out from all the writing, but even still it was a beautiful thing to be in the zone like that.

I know that inspiration like that doesn’t come around very often (I’m the Queen of erratic writing), or maybe I should say that I unconsciously stunt that sort of inspiration because I can’t afford the time with being a full time mom, but I hope that I can one day ride that high again, because for a writer it doesn’t get much better than that.

Oh, and as for my new story idea…

Think Game of Thrones meets Star Wars and that’s all I’m going to say- for now. 😉

The Missing Muse Part 2: Rediscovering the Magic

Part one of this series talked about the Muse or magic and how it can slip away on us at the most inopportune times, but here are some ways to get that creativity back. Nothing inspires inspiration more than other’s creativity, so that is why the first 4 suggestions are listed first. All the asterisks are the things I do on a regular basis to help stimulate the Muse. As you can see, it usually takes more than one way to keep the Muse strong. It’s about overlapping the inspiration to what works best for you and creating a lifestyle that the Muse feels stimulated to stay in.

*Listen to inspirational music What types of music inspires you to write? Make a playlist and play it. Write to it or simply play it in the background until the Muse decides to speak.

*Find a picture that touches a cord within There are may times when surfing through the internet or looking through books that I find a picture that I have to stop and stare at. It calls to me and something inside blossoms. Find those pictures, remember those pictures and create a scrap book of them (either online or an actual book) to reference for when the they are needed the most.

*Read things that move you: Read everything and anything. Find things you like and things you hate. Know what is out there so that it can be used in future stories or avoided like the plague. Mostly just read and you might be surprised when and where the magic might hit. Read blogs (a blog post from A Place For Writers inspired me to write this blog), inspiring emails, a good book, short stories, magazines, the backs of cereal boxes, anything and everything is game so dive in and be prepared to be inspired.

*Find quotes that inspire It’s amazing how a short cluster of words can be the catalyst to an spectacular moment when light bulbs go off and the Muse kicks into to high gear. It’s happened to me many a time, so get in the habit of looking for quotes that inspire and make a library of them to be gazed upon when the Muse grows distant. Check out this site to search for your quote.

Go for a walk Sometimes it is a simple matter of displacing oneself from the normality and routine of the everyday to get in touch with the Muse. A great way to do this is to go for a walk. It also gets the blood pumping, which is also a good way to get the brain working. So drop what you’re doing and get outside to enjoy the beauty in the world around. Inspiration might just be down the block from your doorway.

*Mediate on a regular basis Another great way to get the Muse to come is to meditate, especially on a regular basis. Meditation is all about clearing the mind of the everyday clutter and junk so that the mind can rest, once rested the mind can then focus better. So sit down and take 10 or 15 minutes a day to sweep out the trash and be amazed at what you find in the cobwebbed corners. Check out this website to help learn how to meditate and here is a video as well.

Try something new: Sometimes finding the spark of creativity is about stepping out of the normal and trying something new. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t? A sport, learn to dance, learn a new language, learn to scuba dive, be more out-going, ect… Try it and it may even earn a spot in your next story.

*Take time out to observe the world around you and become inspired by what you see: The knowledge we posses is what makes us great writers and gives us tools to create the prefect character and universe, if we stunt out knowledge then we stunt the Muse within. Get inspired by observing the world around. Sit on a park bench and watch kids play, go to the mall and watch people shop, get outside and observe nature around you, let the world around you bring the Muse back to life.

Watch a movie that has inspired you in the past It’s important to note here that if you want REAL inspiration you should turn the television off because it is usually more of a distraction than a help, but at times there are movies that can inspire writing. For me that would be movies like Gladiator or Adaptation. And the TV series Doctor Who. Every time I watch these emotionally charged movies and show, I always leave with a deep sense of profound wonder as it sparks the beauty within.

*Spend time and talk to other writers This can end up a two way street. The writer(s) may inspire you and in return you might be the one to inspire, either way it’s a wonderful thing to be able to share your successes and failures as a writer. Some times talking to someone who shares your passion of writing can make all the difference in the world.

*Free write: To be a good writer one must first develop the habit of being a writer, which means writing everyday. This can be difficult sometimes, especially when the Muse is playing hide and seek, but I find free writing a great way to expel the the clutter from the mind and allow the Muse to flow. Several ways to free write is using writing prompts or just write for a period of time about anything that might come to mind usually 10 to 15 minutes.

Sometimes the spark of creativity is so buried that it might need some “extra” help.  This is when the big guns should come out. It then becomes a matter of peeling back the thick layers that are keeping you from reaching your muse.

Extra help (the big guns)

Face a fear Fear can be our biggest hurtle in life and it can often hold us back on multiple levels. Facing a fear (fear of failure, fear of success, fear of talking to people, ect.) can help unlock the Muse and let it flow more freely.
Address an issue that’s been a problem: There are others things that can cause interference with the Muse. If a problem becomes so big that it dominates all other thoughts, it can quite literally choke the life right out of the Muse. These problems can include things like: an issue with a friend or family, financial difficulties, something that’s always on your mind that normally wouldn’t be, a medical issue that you’ve been avoiding, ect.
Take a piece of writing from when you first started writing and compare it to your current work This can be a real eye opener. It’s easy as a writer to become discouraged and think that the progress we are making is not going anywhere. You begin to think, “What’s the point.” The next time this happens take out a piece of writing from when you first started, or even a year ago, and compare to what you’re currently working on and see for yourself just how far you’ve come. You might be surprised at what you discover.
It really all boils down to your mind. If you want to be more creative, if you want to rediscover the magic, if you want to get in touch with the Muse, change your mind. Once your mind is in the right place, then you’ll be free to focus on the creativity within. Don’t let the world distract you from being who you want to be.

The Missing Muse Part 1: Where Did the Magic Go?

Have you ever found yourself writing without a muse? One minute it’s there and the next it’s gone just like a puff of smoke. You do everything but stand on your head to try to get it back and your muse laughs as it plays the elusive game of hide and seek, taunting you in a devilish manner. This seems to be a common problem for me, in fact I have gone weeks, even months without a muse. I write anyways, but the writing is more force and even unnatural. I begin to wonder why I started writing in the first place. 


The magic is gone and all I’m left with is a stack of tasks to complete that builds into a mountain too high to climb: getting that story ready for submission, working on the second draft of a novel, outlining a new story idea, connecting with fellow writers, critiquing a friend’s story, brushing up on good writing techniques, going to writer meetings and still somehow find time to update the blog. Oh, and then living the everyday life that always manages to throw a wrench in best laid plans. Is there ever an end to the insanity? I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the muse runs and hides too delicate to suffer the abuse of demands.

How does one get past all the demands, all the expectations and all the things that need to happen to make it as a writer and still be able to stay connected to the muse? I think there are several things a person can do that include prioritizing, organizing, and learning techniques that makes the process of writing easier to accomplish. But there is also a basic element that should be the driving force of a creative writer that keeps the fire lit and the muse strong and healthy. It is the magic of creativity.

It’s the magic of possibilities and endless ideas. It’s the magic of “what if” and “what about this.” It is a way to cope with an out of control life and bring some sort of peace to a soul in turmoil. It’s the ability to create a world we can control and understand. It’s about giving our fears a face and being brave enough to discover the darkest corners of our hearts. It’s about great joys and painful sorrows. It’s about being ourselves and becoming more than we are. It’s about studying the human condition and hoping to make a great discovery about ourselves in the process. It’s the magic of creating something from nothing and taking one idea to create a great master piece.

Do you believe in magic? I do. The magic that lies deep within. If a person should dig deep enough, it can be tapped into, but often it is easy to become bogged down with the “I need to do this” “I can’t do that” “I’m expected to do that,” which stifles the ability to tap into the magic until it’s forgotten that the magic existed in the first place.

The next time the muse disappears leaving you in a puddle of despair remember the magic with. Connect to it, open up to receive it and dig beneath the layers to become steeped in it. Ask yourself “what if” and let the mind discover the possibilities. Don’t be afraid to open new doors. Most of all embrace your flaws and accept them for what they are then find away to work with them instead of against them. If inspiration refuses to come, then take a leap off the cliff of doubt and get it back. Catch the wisps of ideas and let your imagination know no bounds. Are you banging your head against the wall in search of your muse? Stop making yourself a bloody mess and rediscover the magic within.
Need ideas on how to tap into the magic of creativity? Check out The Missing Muse Part 2: Rediscovering the Magic.

This post was “inspired” by a blog from A Place for Writers titled What If by Dave Tallman.