Michaeline: Finding inspiration inside your own writing

A samurai smashing up a Japanese interior -- he's stomped on the sliding door, and there's an upturned table with a broken vase a little shogi game pieces all over the floor.

“No, no, a cracked cup and a torn sliding door actually shows the beauty of impermanence!” #Why we can’t have nice things at our tea ceremony. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I was chatting with a friend yesterday, and she was explaining why she wasn’t writing anymore; it was a long tale of interesting diversions (and socially responsible ones!), and she said that one thing that is taking up her creative mojo is introducing Japanese culture to foreigners. She provides a tea ceremony experience that is more than just people sitting on a mat, drinking the traditional bitter tea and having a taste of the beautiful tea sweets. She asks them to think about why the tea ceremony came about.

How much do you know about the Japanese tea ceremony? In many schools of tea philosophy, it’s very ritualized, and kids can join tea ceremony clubs in high school, while adults can study further and become teachers. Everything is prescribed: you fold your napkin this way. You rinse the teapot that way. You admire the tea bowl, take a drink in a certain manner, wipe the rim, then pass it to the next guest for them to admire, drink and wipe.

This ceremony often takes place in a very small, humble hut with a little door that looks like it was made for Little People. Big people must bend over and enter – the official line is that it shows humility and a lack of pride.

But my friend asks people to look beyond that. She gave two examples of why 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: Story Bites for When You Just Can’t

There are a lot of excuses and reasons for not writing, and let’s face it: they are boring, often similar, and people will try and talk you out of them. You know your own business best, and if you say you can’t write today, I believe you. Some days are like that. Hell, some years are like that.

But, if you have a story that you are feeling guilty about, there are little things you can do that don’t take up much time at all – things that will help you feel better, and may even provide some of that spark and energy you need to find the time to write the rest.

If you’ve got five minutes . . . . (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

If you have five minutes:
Find a song, listen to it, and decide to add it to your playlist (or not). Either way, you are thinking about your story and the basic building blocks that define it. We’ve talked about playlists on this blog before. Nancy: A Little Mood Music (March 16, 2015) and Jilly: Building a Playlist (March 6, 2016)
Find a picture for your picture file. You may want to set a timer for this so you don’t drop down some Google Image Rabbit Hole. My heroine, Bunny Blavatsky, mostly sprang from a picture search, and you can find some sketches and flash fiction about her and her world right here on this blog. Michaeline: Bunny Blavatsky Arrives in New York (December 26, 2015)

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

Michille: A Pill to Get Rid of Writer’s Block

pills istock-168763163Seriously. There’s a pill. I heard an interview with Robert Anthony Siegel on NPR Radio in which he discussed a one-man open-label placebo trial he’d undertaken with John Kelley. Siegel is a writer and Kelley is a psychology professor at Endicott College and the deputy director of Harvard’s Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter, a program devoted to the interdisciplinary study of the placebo effect. The goal was to get rid of Siegel’s writer’s block, and the panic attacks and insomnia that went hand-in-hand with the writer’s block. The interview was a discussion about the research and subsequent article in the Smithsonian Magazine – “Why I Take Fake Pills: Surprising new research shows that placebos still work even when you know they’re not real.Continue reading

Michaeline: Let’s Have Fun With Writer’s Block! Strategy #3

Playing with puppets was a little bit awkward, but it paid off.

Two children in the ocean playing with dolls in a toy boat.

All at sea with your work in progress? Try finding a friend to play off of. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

My writing buddy came over for lunch on Sunday, and fortunately, she’s the kind of bright, cheerful person who is willing to try anything. So even though I felt like a fool for asking, I knew she’d probably give the puppet play a work.

Anyone who has played dollies in the past (or with figurines) knows how it goes. I had my friend read the prequel to my current WIP so she’d get a feel for Thom and Nixie, the characters who were giving me problems. Then I said, “You be Thom, and I’ll be Nixie.” And we played.

After one slip-up, I gave her free reign with the character – it’s not productive to say to your partner, “No, he doesn’t act like that.” The point is to figure out things your own brain can’t think up. I can play the scene later by myself and make the character “do it right”. But my friend was very kind. After her short joke about, “That’s not how you play dollies,” Continue reading

Michaeline: Let’s Have Fun With Writer’s Block! Strategy #2

Give your characters a new dimension through home puppet theater! (Photo: Michaeline Duskova)

Give your characters a new dimension through home puppet theater! (Photo: Michaeline Duskova)

Today’s strategy: Tunnel under writer’s block with home puppet theater!

Before I started writing for real, I made stories with my sister. During the long summer vacations in Nebraska, we’d watch soap operas in the morning, and in the afternoon we’d hang out in the cool basement with our Barbies and create new stories of betrayal and love and intrigue. We only had one Ken doll, which gave our stories a nice triangle status. After that, we were only limited by our imaginations and our crafting skills. (-: Fortunately, we had very good imaginations.

So, strategy number two for overcoming writer’s block is Continue reading