Michaeline: Mental Space, Flow and Writing

A picture of many colors denoting evolution from ape to man to robot. Butterflies, corals, jungle, houses, cities

Creative flow makes random ideas feel like they have a connection and a progression. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Thursday, Kay talked about Virginia Woolf’s famous essay about how writers find a dedicated physical space and an emotional space for writing very useful – and how women writers often didn’t/don’t have that privilege.

I mentioned that I find it easy to find physical space, but mental space is much more difficult for me to carve out. I got to wondering, what exactly do I mean by that?

For me, I don’t really craft my writing until I go into edit mode. Writing just happens to me; sometimes I feel like a fountain, sometimes I feel like a conduit. I get in that state called “flow”.

And I often fall into flow – when I’m reading an interesting book or article on the internet, when I’m listening to music with a good beat, when I’m making a worksheet for school. Time and space lose their meaning, and I’m riding a mental wave that is going to take me somewhere – I’m not always sure Continue reading

Nancy: Because Every Story Is a Special Snowflake

Writers love to talk about writing processes. We’re pantsers, or plotters, or ultra-plotters. We follow the hero’s journey, or Lisa Cron’s story genius method, or the snowflake method (no, seriously!), or one of a thousand either guru-inspired approaches. We write chronologically. Or out of order. Or by writing all the turning points first and filling in the interstitial spaces after that. We swear by writing every day, or binge-write a few times a week or a month.

By the time we’ve spent a few years on this journey and gotten a few completed stories under our belts, most of us have discovered our own process, our unique mix story theory and project organization and time management that ultimately results in a book. And once we understand our own approach, we learn to rely on it to get us through the next story deadline, and the one after that, and…you get the idea. And that can be a wonderful thing. It’s a well-worn path that becomes a shortcut to our creativity. An annotated roadmap to get us from nascent idea rattling around inside our bizarre writer brains to full-fledged story ready to go out into the world. A comforting guide to get us through the rough spots.

Until it stops working.

While every book requires tweaks and adjustments to our approach, every now and then there’s a book that so special (yes, that’s a euphemism for PITA) that we have to throw our trusty process right out the window. And so that’s where I find myself today, with the next installment in the Harrow’s Finest Five series, Harry and Adelia’s love story.

If this ever happens to you in your creative journey–and odds are, it will–it’s important to remember it’s normal, it’s surmountable, and it’s probably even good for you. After all, what good is creativity if it’s easy and stagnant and follows that same stupid rut-filled path every time, anyway? And in case you do ever hit that wall, I’ll tell you the same thing my wise writing friends have been telling me: Continue reading

Elizabeth: Cold Starts and Fresh Starts

Stories waiting to be told

Sometimes the hardest part of writing is getting that first sentence on the page.  There is nothing quite as demoralizing as staring at a blank screen, fingers poised over the keys, with a mind completely devoid of any creative thought.  Diana Gabaldon refers to her approach to combating this common writing problem as her cold start process, which she discusses here.

This week on the blog we’ve been discussing our own cold start processes.  In their own posts Justine, Nancy, and Jeanne each focused on their cold start processes for existing stories.  Many of their steps, like re-reading what was previously written, making sure to have a story-plan in place before even starting to write (spreadsheets and planers and outlines, oh my!), and working up a scene skeleton (with characters, beats, goals, etc.) echo some of methods I’ve used in the past, with varying degrees of success, depending upon the story in question and the amount of effort I’ve been willing to expend (day jobs can put a real crimp in one’s creative inclinations).

There are, however, two things I’ve consistently found helpful when I’m really focusing on writing. Continue reading

Nancy: The Over-Planner’s Approach to Cold Starts

When all else fails, you could try warming up the process with ‘a wee dram’.

Creativity is fleeting. Stories are ornery. Words are elusive. Writing is just damn hard.

Or so it seems on those days when the writing mojo is nowhere to be found. Diana Gabaldon refers to her approach to combatting this common writing problem as her cold start process, which she discusses in this clip. This week, we ladies are discussing our own cold start processes. So here’s Nancy’s guide to unsticking when stuck, in 4 simple steps.

Avoidance. When it comes to  bad writing days, I’m a firm believer in an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. In other, words, I try to avoid them. At least, I do my best to avoid one of the leading causes of these creativity blocks: not knowing where to go next.

One of the things I found fascinating about the Gabaldon clip is that at the end, she announces that she realizes where her character is physically for the next scene. If I didn’t know where my characters were going to be for each scene of the next act, let alone the very next scene, I would spend most writing days crying in a corner. The joy that some creators find in writing in the dark and tunneling their way to their story would break my brain. It simply Is. Not. My. Process. Continue reading

Justine: Cold-Starting the Writing Process

A few weeks ago, fellow Eight Lady Jeanne shared with us a video of Diana Gabaldon’s cold start process…in other words, how she turns on her writing mojo when she’s stuck. Turns out, in this example, she used a Sotheby’s catalog to simulate her creativity.

Diana’s cold start process is vastly different from Jeanne’s, which gave her to think it would be interesting (and perhaps helpful) if all the Eight Ladies shared how we get going when the words just won’t come. So, starting today, for the next week, we’ll share the processes we use when we need to get writing. (No writer’s block for us!) Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing Treats

old advertising of a lemonade drink with lemons

Oooh, oooh, lemonade! Story-time is around the corner! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Summer’s here in the northern hemisphere, and it’s a brilliant time to treat yourself!

Use that treat to provide some writing motivation, and you’ll get double the trick from your treat. Or, use it to provide pleasurable associations for your summer writing task. If you are consistent in rewarding yourself, you could establish good habits.

First: give yourself a stick blender if you don’t already have one. This can be a reward for a job well-done, or a little bribe for some sit-down time. Plus, it’ll play a major role in many of the treats I outline.

If you are a bit stuck, go cherry-picking or strawberry-picking. Let your mind wander as your body is busy with a mindless task. Enjoy the sun, and the stretch of your muscles, and allow yourself a little wonder time. Bonus: A lot of places here allow you to pick-n-eat as you go. But even if they don’t, you’ll have delicious fruit to take home. Freeze half for later. Sit down and write, then indulge with a bowl of summer fruit.

Hot? Suffering for your art while sweating over the keyboard? Continue reading

Michaeline: When Words Fail

The Oblique Strategy of the Day was “State the problem in words as simply as possible”.

A girl gagged in a laboratory, watching a gooey liquid man experiment with test tubes

When words fail, sometimes you have to use other tools to define the problem. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

And you’d think this would be an easy-peasy strategy for the writer, since what we do is words. But there are two sides of every argument, and there are two sides to every brain, and sometimes, just sometimes, the problem isn’t from the verbal half of the brain, but that mysterious, artsy-fartsy, swirly-whirly half of the brain that sends us dreams of hairbrushes and neglects to make clear exactly what that means.

So, when you don’t even have clear images to base your words on, it’s time to dig in the toolbox and look for other techniques to make the problem more clear – because half of solving any problem is knowing exactly what the problem is. Continue reading

Michaeline: Gordon Ramsay Crossover Writing Lessons, Part One

Gordon Ramsay with a lamb around his neck and shoulders.

Gordon Ramsay took this little lamb to school. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

WARNING: Profanity. (It involves Gordon Ramsay. What did you fucking expect?)

To a certain extent, art is art is art. Still, I was surprised how applicable some of the lessons Gordon Ramsay taught his restauranteurs were to the art of writing.

Here’s the deal: I’ve avoided Kitchen Nightmares and that kind of reality show because I heard there’s a lot of yelling, and humiliation just isn’t my jam. But I was feeling depressed, spending entirely too much time on YouTube, and the only interesting thing in my recommended feed was a clip from such a show. I’d seen Gordon Ramsay on things like Jimmy Fallon, so I decided three minutes of my time was not too big of a loss.

Dear Readers, three minutes turned into hours and hours of binge-watching over the last couple of weeks. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I’ve seen British Kitchen Nightmares, American Kitchen Nightmares, clips and full episodes, and an assorted chocolate box of Gordon Ramsay all over the modern media. And I regret nothing.

Yes, there’s yelling and sometimes humiliation. But there’s also a combination of mystery Continue reading

Nancy: 7 Ways to Jump-Start a Stalled Writing Project

Sometimes it takes more than cables to jump-start your creativity energy.

Sometimes it takes more than cables to jump-start your creativity energy!

We’ve all been there. We’re going merrily along, making headway on our work in progress (WIP), writing the latest and greatest masterpiece. And then life happens. Sick kids, aging parents, day job crises, family emergencies. We’ve had our fair share of these kinds of life interruptions among the Eight Ladies over the past month. And when the crisis is over, we take a deep breath, count our blessings, and get back to work.

At least, that’s the goal – to get back to the masterpiece because, you know, the world is waiting! But sometimes those life interruptions or writer’s block or some other impediment shuts down our writer’s brain. The project stalls. We flounder. We try to get back into the project, but it’s just not clicking. So what’s a frustrated creative genius (that’s you!) to do? Before you spend thousands of dollars on therapy or give up writing to take up bourbon drinking full time (pro tip: bourbon drinking does NOT pay well), I have a few suggestions that might help you find your way back to your story. Continue reading

Michaeline: You Are Feeling Strong And Confident

Could a little hypnosis open up your imagination? If you think it's worth a try, it probably is. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Could a little hypnosis open up your imagination? If you think it’s worth a try, it probably is. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been looking at hypnosis tracks on YouTube this summer in an effort to write more.
Hypnosis doesn’t work for everyone, and I’m a firm believer in “if you don’t want to do it, hypnosis can’t make you”. But, I think writers as a group tend to be highly suggestible. Don’t you agree? (-: If you said yes, there’s a good chance you are highly suggestible, too, and hypnosis might be worth a try. Continue reading