Just Wait

Do you ever get stuck in the middle of writing something? Pressed for time, stressed, frustrated and wish you could just summon the muse and order up an idea?

The following is kind of a follow up to a piece of flash fiction I wrote awhile back, Conversations With a Muse. This post spurred a train of thought that led to many things, but mostly the idea of what it would be like to have a muse to chat with, and after writing that one I had some distinct ideas about what mine would be like.

A few days ago I got stuck writing a critical turning point of my book, so I started thinking about what my muse would say if I tried to order up an idea. It went something like this…

***

“What good is hopen window snowaving a muse if inspiration is only ever random?” I wonder out loud, staring at the snow-capped row of houses in the distance. I’ve been sitting at my desk, not writing for an hour. The wintry air coming through the half-open window has turned my fingers to ice (I often write with the window open, even in winter. I have a theory that stale air leads to stale thoughts) and now typing at the keyboard is literally, physically painful.

I’m stuck in a critical scene of the book I’m working on. I know something crucial happens at this point, my main character sees a ghost- or something akin to a ghost, and those are the only details I know for certain. I seem to be missing the serendipitous knowing of details that will make the scene flow into the story. I’ve been listening to ethereal violin music and reading Poe and chapters from ghost stories all morning, no luck. It’s obvious this solution is not currently firing somewhere in the synapses inside my brain.

I need a muse.

“You know it doesn’t work that way,” a musical voice says, seeming to come from above and below and behind. “You don’t just call us up, order up an idea and that’s it. If that’s what you want go ask a human.”

“Christopher, you scared the hell out of me. I thought you only showed up at night. Where are you anyway?”

“I show up when I want to show up. I’m seen when I want to be seen.”

“Yeah,” I huff. “I know. But since you’re here maybe you could give it a whirl.”

“I’m not an accountant. You don’t just call me up, I provide the service you want and then we both go on our way.” I can’t see him but I can hear that his words are soaked in a smirk.

“Why not?”

“Well, if you want to get technical, if we…do business like humans do, you’d have to pay me. And believe me honey, you couldn’t afford it.”

“Yes, you’re very valuable. Also hilarious.” I try to mirror his sarcasm but mine only comes out half as effective. “So…if you can’t help me why are you here?”

“Listen. Art is born of inspiration. And inspiration can’t become art unless it’s pure.”

“Wait. What? What does that even mean?”

“Gaaahh, you humans can be so thick. Alright because I know there’s talent in that head of yours…somewhere, I’ll spell it out.” He clears his throat. “If you don’t have the answer yet, it’s for a reason.”

“But— I only have so much time to write. I have kids, remember?”

“Just be quiet. For an hour. For a day. A week even. Just be still and patient and wait. And hey, here’s something innovative: Listen.

“That’s it? That’s your answer? Just wait?”

“That’s it. Brilliant, no?”

The voice fades to a whisper and the room is quiet again. The only sound is the swooshing of an occasional car maneuvering the slush-soaked road behind my house. I sigh, close my laptop, climb into bed and close my eyes.

And I wait.

Eureka! My Story is an Infant…

I claim to be a writer of all things.

Sometimes, that feels like a lie.

It’s not as if I don’t have good reason to make this claim. In the past 15 years or so, I literally have written just about everything. From employee training manuals to web content, news articles to speeches. I covered events I had never been to and wrote multi-page news stories about them. I’ve cranked out literally hundreds of pages of web content about things so foreign to me I had to learn a new language to write it.

I don’t claim to be the best, I don’t even claim to be good. I just do what I am stirred to do. Writing is my bread and water. I breathe it in, it sustains me. I’ve done so much writing in so many different ways that none of it really intimidates me anymore. Except for one thing.

Which is why saying I’m a writer of all things sometimes feels like a farce.

I’ve been working on writing a fictional novel off and on for almost nine years. I’ve talked myself in and out of it a thousand times. I’ve (driven my writer’s group crazy) completely given up on it, and then the story comes lurking into my peripheral vision again, and I’m summoned to pull my butt out of bed at 3am to hammer out a new scene. The writer’s version of self-masochism.

Writing a novel is my biggest dream. It also scares the hell out of me.

Why? Because all that other writing, web content and news articles and speeches and such, that’s all small potatoes. If you ask me, fiction is the real McCoy. You’ve got to be a damn good writer to make a fictional story REAL.

This notion terrifies me.

You see, I have these wonderfully enchanting, beguiling stories in my head. (Trust me when I say that having an overzealous muse is both a blessing and a curse.) My characters are…beautiful. They are lovable and jaded and scarred and passionate and mysterious and utterly human. They have rich and complicated histories that bring them to perfectly fit into their place in the story. My book is full of intoxicating circumstances and exciting plot twists and turns that I know, if written well, will keep readers turning pages into the latest hours of the night.

Those are the things that I know, will sell my book. Those are also the things that keep me from writing it.

How will I do them justice?

How will I give my story the writing it deserves?

And so I start and stop and edit and rewrite and quit. I swear novel-writing off for good, go to work on other projects and am slowly drawn back into it. (Damn it.)

I go through it all again. And Again. And Again.It’s like that on-again, off-again boyfriend that you were both drawn to and repulsed by at the same time. (I now fully understand why all the literary greats were drinkers.)

Which brings me back to my book. Which I’m writing. For the hundred and seventy second time. Again.

This go-round has gone unexpectedly well. Last week I finished outlining the plot and chapter sequence and for a flash of a second, I felt like I might actually be able to kick this feeling of inadequacy and get this story written, once and for all.

Eureka!  I drove home from the coffee shop screaming out my car window: “I’m wriiiiiiting a noooveeeeell!” Several strange glances ensued. But I didn’t care. For the first time in maybe, EVER I actually felt like the real McCoy.

And then life happened. Work. Laundry. Kids. School. Tantrums. Grocery shopping. Sicknesses. Cleaning. Family dinners. I didn’t have an opportunity to write again for nearly a week.

And by then, of course I had over-thought the chapter sequence ten thousand times, to the point of convincing myself that all the holes in the story were going to be its downfall.

Aaaaaaaaaaghhhhh! Someone please make it stop!

But….

One night after the house was silent and all the family was long asleep, my muse awoke and beckoned me. I crept over to my desk and flipped open my laptop.

Go on, open it up love. Give it a read.

Read what?

Don’t be bloody ridiculous. You know what.

Since when are you British?

I have your attention, do I not?

Yes.

Ahhh, then no need for further discussion. So let’s have a look then shall we?

Go on love, read on.

I double-clicked the draft of my story on my desktop, and blindly started reading. The first chapter, along with some other passages, sections I had edited and rewritten half a dozen times, struck me as well-crafted. Others were not so hot, obviously slammed out in a twenty five minute increment between a laundry-folding marathon and pick up time at preschool. Some of the dialogue read like choking on cream cheese. And of course a whole hell of a lot of it what I had in my draft, I wanted to cut and paste into the recycle bin.

Keep going.

Why? Self torture?

Just do it.

So I read on. I read through the entire draft. Sure enough, I found more cheese and more garbage. But every so often, I’d uncover gem, glittering in the midst of telling-not-showing, cheesy dialogue and mindless narrative. In a few, fleeting passages I found pieces of the real, whole, perfect story. Characters, waiting for the story to morph and unfold them out of the confines of their pages, to come alive in the hearts and minds of readers. Waiting to be made real.

*Sigh*

I closed the document and sat quietly, my face illuminated by the glow of my laptop screen. I sunk my chin into the palm of my hand and stared into a picture of my two daughters, sitting on my desk.The voice appeared again, like a faint jingling of tiny bells  inside some quiet corner of my brain.

Your daughters. What lovely creatures they are.

They are a lot of time. And work. And patience. But they are lovely, aren’t they?

They are the very products of your life and your love.

Did you know how you were going to teach them things, when they were born?

No.

 When they were infants, did you ever fault them for not knowing how to smile?

Of course not. Watching a smile cross their faces for the first time was magic.

Did you ever give up teaching them how to talk? How to walk?

No. The little one had some trouble. I took her to physical therapy… after that she was off and running in no time.

Will you stop giving them any less love, knowing they still have so far to go?

Not a chance.

I have loved them, adored them at every stage. Watching them grow and evolve, supple spring leaves sprouting, unfolding, fading into a thousand brilliant shades, a new hue and texture and purpose for every season. That has been the greatest joy of my life.

This is what your writing needs, love. Love.

Yeah, but what about the—

You have to love your story for what it is, at any given time. All of it. At every stage.

It is no less loveable now, in its infancy, than your toddler was when she learned to walk. Your 8 year old learning to sing, or when she is a teenager and gives her heart away for the first time…

As you give your time and your love and effort to it, it will grow. It will get bigger and better and stronger and more beautiful with every stroke of the keys on your keyboard.

Slowly, it will become whole.

 And when it is ready, you will know. And then you will let go.

I took a breath. The voice fell silent and I sat for awhile in the dark, thinking about my story, about  what I had written from a new perspective. With the love and hope that every parent carries in her heart.

I realized that at nearly a decade old, my story was still in its infancy. Newborn and pliable and naive and lovable, drool and spit-up and wobbly legs and all. Cheesy and awkward, a little broken in parts, not understanding yet what it means to be whole.

My story is an infant. Wishing for me to love it, waiting for me to help it grow.

*Eureka.*

Back to the keyboard, then, love.

Till next time,

~CindyImage

Fruit Flies…and An Announcement

Yep. You read that right. This post is about fruit flies.

It does, after all, follow Lori’s tomato sandwich story. And what comes after fresh produce inevitably? Fruit flies.

Our group resides in Northern Utah and this time of year is known as harvest season. So many wonderful fruits and veggies for the taking! In early autumn I become kind of a fruit-stand spaz and try to hit every one of the local farmers stands within 20 miles of my house. I’m a serial produce buyer.

Needless to say over the past six weeks I’ve been collecting (and consuming) fresh peaches, apples, pears, onions and garlic from a variety of different micro climates in my area. Not to mention harvesting the tomatoes, peppers and raspberries from my own garden.

And with all the lovely, delectable foods come the fruit flies. Hundreds of them. Some are the usual, tiny gray variety, others are fat and darker in color. We found a sort of striped-looking brown one in the pantry the other day and I wondered if I had inadvertently discovered a new species.

The fruit flies at my house are ethnically diverse and rich in background and history, because they have hitchhiked on the journeys of produce from a hundred different farms. They have found refuge in the warmth and plentiful fruit of my kitchen.

I’m like Nelson Mandela for gnats.

For awhile I tried to be cool about it, shrugged and said that bugs are part of life. Had the live and let live philosophy, don’t sweat the small stuff, exist in my natural environment sort of mindset. Because I’m cool and green and open like that.

Except that I’m not.

Right around the time I found a fruit fly hovering around my toothbrush, just after flicking one off the rim of my coffee cup, the cool and green and open Cindy went far, far away. The anxiety-ridden, control-freakish germaphob manifested in her place and I went:

“Eeeeeeeew! THERE ARE A THOUSAND BUGS LIVING AROUND ME.“

That night my husband agreed that the ethnically diverse fruit flies had become like the 28 year old chain-smoking gaming-fanatic that won’t leave his parents’ basement.

It was time for them to go. He went to the almighty Google for answers.

“Trick them with yogurt or apple cider vinegar in a cup,” it said. “Create a funnel with paper around the cup. They can crawl through the hole but they can’t find their way out. Collect the fruit flies and simply throw the cup away.”

He went to work on finding the ingredients and designing the funnel. He, being the mechanically minded perfectionist that he is spent so long designing and re-designing the funnel that I (watching Parenthood, drinking an apple ale and trying to forget that vagrant bugs were in every room) became annoyed and said,

“Seriously, they are fruit flies! How complicated does it need to be?”

Proving me both stupid and wrong.

BoromirWe set out the cups of yogurt and apple cider vinegar. The fruit flies did not climb into the funnel, the colonies did not disappear. Some flies did not even leave the refuge of tomatoes and peaches, ripening on the kitchen counter. They “simply” gathered around the rim, as to enjoy the wonderful new smell. They seemed more relaxed than ever before.

You don’t think fruit flies can get more relaxed? Well, I’m here to tell you they can.

So now not only is my home a safe haven from frost for refugee fruit flies from many lands, I’m providing them with aromatherapy. Hell, next I’ll probably open a fruit-fly gluten-free bakery and yoga studio.

Probably the colonies at the local fruit stands have created mythical stories about a ginormic bug saint who arrives with reusable, eco-friendly shopping bags and exalts the faithful to a land of warmth and manna.

I got to thinking about their hanging out around the veritable hot tub of aromas. The fruit flies didn’t know we were trying to trap them, and frankly I don’t think they cared. The cup smelled nice and rotten and yeasty and so they went there. They didn’t go: “Wait! What if this is the wrong choice? What if following these horrible, wonderful and enchanting smells will eventually lead to our demise?”

They just DID it. And for the fruit flies that landed at my house, it worked out pretty well.

Even if I had kept my mouth shut and my husband had designed the Ultimate Fruit Fly Snare of Death and they had ended up at death’s door, I’m pretty sure they would have been okay with that too, because even death is an inevitable part of the fruit fly version of Who Are We Supposed to Be and What We Are Supposed to Do.

At this point you might be asking yourself what fruit flies has to do with writing. (Or maybe you don’t care, either of which is okay. We accept all kinds here at WTF.) The answer is nothing, (other than the fact that I’ve swatted like seven of them away while writing this post.)

The answer is also everything.

After a year of getting in my own way and a summer spent deliberating what the point was to my life, I decided I was just going to stop taking everything so seriously, just be who I am and start writing the novel I’ve always wanted to write.

And yeah, it might not turn out in my favor. I may drive myself insane trying to figure out the three different timelines I’ve created. I may waste an enormous amount of time and then decide to move on to bigger and better things.I may die in utter euphoria, in a pool of warm yogurt.

But you know what? Maybe it will turn out in my favor.

And for that reason alone I have to try. To put all other unnecessary things aside and do the thing I was born to do. To write the #*$(&! book!

I’m at a point in my life I truly have no choice other than move forward purely on instinct. Kind of like the fruit flies. (There goes one now.)

*sigh*

Alright, fruit flies. I owe you for one epiphany. You can hang around until I find a better place to ripen my peaches. But if I see you giving one another massages, so help me I’m calling the exterminator.

Till next time,

~Cindy

Superstitious, crazy, or just plain magical?

The OfficeCr

Happy F-13 Firefans,

Last night I noticed a fellow writer’s Facebook Post:

“I’m on 13,000 words and I have to go to bed soon. What do I do? What do I DO?!”

And then in the comments he explained:

“You don’t seem to understand the severity of this situation. I am on 13,000 words, in less than 3 hours it will officially be Friday the 13th, and I have to be in bed soon if I wanna be up in time for work. I. Am. Going. To. DIE.”

Part of me wanted to reassure him that superstition has only as much power as a person allows it to have. The other part wanted to say:  “What are you insane? You KNOW you have to keep writing, right? And stop talking about it here, you’re going to jinx yourself!”

Superstitions. Jinxes. Talismans. Lucky charms.  Odd traditions and rituals we think can ward off bad luck. Society’s creative-minded are synonymous with believing in some kind of other-worldly magic that can influence the course of our daily lives. Why is that? What is it about creating art that makes us…well frankly, paranoid?

For me it isn’t the notions widely believed in by society. Nope. Too cliché.  I tend to shy away from any idea that the general population accepts as truth. Things like black cats being cursed, four-leaf clovers bringing luck to the finder, that the Twilight series is actually good. You know, that kind of thing.

Nah, I tend to put serendipitous stock in my own self-established little rituals and idiosyncrasies. Let me illustrate.

For many years, I thought that if I didn’t wear matching bra and underwear, I’d encounter all kinds of mishaps during the day. (I think it’s important to note that I had to give this notion up after having kids, and start wearing whatever the hell was clean and within my sleep-deprived grasp.) But since I was a teenager, and to this day I will still wear specific pieces of jewelry when I’m going to be with certain people. I have a random assortment of items I keep in my desk drawer—(A smoothed river stone. A seashell.  A picture of my Grandpa. An antique key. A green candle.)  I keep them near my working space because there is a small part of me that believes they hold some kind of magic that gives me the power to think, and write creatively.

I once discussed some of my weird little superstitions with a therapist. Yep, I said the “T” word. Truly, if you know me, you can’t be all that surprised. (But ahhhh, therapy. I highly recommend it, especially if you are a writer of any kind. For all the useless BS you come out with, you’ll double that in writing material.)

Anyway, she smiled and told me that this, assigning meaning to random objects and rituals is very common. She said it was something called “Magical Thinking.”

I sat there and thought about it for a few seconds, and then said: “Yeah, I always knew I was magical.”

The fear in her eyes, combined with an overall look of resigned defeat was a moment I won’t forget. It was superb. True story. But that’s beside the point.

The point is, writers, artists, actors, musicians…most of us are just a tad superstitious, whether we choose to acknowledge it as that or not. Some pretty famous creative minds have had what my therapist so condescendingly dubbed “Magical Thinking.” Truman Capote felt his writing wasn’t true to form unless he was lying down puffing a cigarette and drinking a sherry. When T.S. Eliot was writing, he insisted visitors address him as “The Captain” and smeared his face with green tinted powder.

I could go on and on with evidence of crazy writers and artists in history.  But the point is not WHY most of us believe in all kinds of weird rituals and superstitions. The point is that they seem to work.

For whatever reasons, believing in these things allows us to capture and transform our creative thoughts into things that others can enjoy. And whether it’s because there are truly supernatural forces at work, or whether it’s simply us manifesting our own success with the power of believing, doesn’t really matter. It just is.

So I was thinking about all of this, earlier today while I did some housecleaning. I was on my way upstairs with a handful of hangers and tripped, fell up the steps, poked myself in the eye with one of the hangers, and landed with my chin dangerously close to my preschooler’s pee-soaked pull-up. (Yes. I have a preschooler that wears pull-ups at night. Don’t judge, believe me, it’s the least of my worries.) While lying there pondering my fate, my mind reeled off into that very artist-like weirdness.

This happened. It’s because it’s Friday the 13th. And tonight I’m going to a poetry awards banquet, during which it is a slight possibility that I will win an award and get called onstage and….Wait, or worse! There is a slight possibility that I won’t win anything and get called onstage at all, because it’s Friday the Freakin 13th!. What a horrible, horrible day to be attending the first writing contest awards ceremony I’ve ever taken part in! Aaaaah!

Then I pulled my chin out of the pee, tossed the hanger aside and thought. Nah. I don’t believe in Friday the 13th, anyway. I make my own fate, and I’m going to enjoy having entered my first writing contest whether or not I win.

And then I went and changed into green underwear.

Top Ten Prompts to Inspire Creative Writing

If you’re a writer, an artist, musician or creative soul of any kind you’ve probably had those days when you just can’t produce anything worth… anything. The harder you try, the less effective you become and you get yourself into a ridiculously concrete mental block. It’s tough to pull yourself out of this phenomenon, and many times the feeling has negative effects in the rest of your life too.

As writers, we’ve found that completing writing prompts not only helps us get a fresh perspective in our writing, they open our minds in a myriad of other ways. The mental fog clears, and suddenly there are windows where there were once only walls.

These prompts our a few of our group’s favorites– and a few have even turned into some of our most beloved pieces. Give them a try, let us know how it goes, and we might even feature your response as a guest post!

Happy writing,

~C

10- They told her not to open the box…

9- You’re walking along a crowded street and an old woman hands you a brown paper bag. You take it from her and feel that it’s slightly weighted by whatever is inside. She smiles and disappears into the crowd. What is inside the bag, and what does it mean to you?

8-  This picture:

St. Etienne - Muse

7- Think of a character, either from a story you’re writing or a book you’ve read.  He/she has a favorite pair of shoes. Why are they special? Where did they come from? Where does he/she wear them? What stories go along with those shoes?

6- You wake up locked inside a closed coffin. Explain your initial reaction, how you attempt to escape, and what you remember about how you got there.

5- Find and buy (or take a picture of) an object at a thrift store, and write a short story or a scene around it. Below are some examples of objects we’ve used:

Vintage radiovintage gray tub

red high heelsrose colored glasses

4- You and your friends take a three mile hike up to a campsite and you’re sitting around the fire toasting marshmallows. Out of the blue one of your friends reveals a secret that turns your pleasant camping trip into a total nightmare…

3- Write a few paragraphs explaining how this picture came about, or what it represents:(image courtesy of www.vladstudio.com)

2- Write a story from the perspective of the family pet. The family is bringing home a new baby, going through a divorce, recently lost a loved one, the children are starting school, or they are moving across the country.

1- As a person or thing that inspires all your creativity and new ideas, your muse has been trying to contact you. Write a conversation between you and your muse. There are no limitations as to what he/she/it is, appears, or looks like. What does your muse want you to know? What is your reaction?

Guest Post- Poetry by April Stromberg

One of our loyal readers and friends experienced a painful and sudden loss in her life about a year ago. Though she hadn’t thought much about writing before, she turned to guest-postingwriting to help work through some powerful feelings about what happened.

Many times, writing is a tool to help us express words we can’t say, shed light on true emotions and set our hearts free. We here at Writing the Fire feel a kinship with those who are led to writing this way. We are honored to share April’s beautiful expression of love and loss and growth in her poems. We hope you enjoy them too.

***

The Last Time

Cold, only your face showing.
The last time I hugged you,
You weren’t alive.

Hard, speaking in short sentences.
The last time I saw you,
You were alive.

Aprils guest post

Warm, your voice was inviting.
The last time we spoke,
You were alive.

Soft, your ashes on my fingers.
The last time I touched you,
You weren’t alive.

The End

What have I learned?
Life is really too short.
Love doesn’t always last.
No one’s opinion matters.
I survived this.  I am strong.

About April Stromberg

April - Copy (2)I grew up the 5th child in a family with 7 kids, in Northern California.  After meeting my husband and dating for only 5 months, I moved to Salt Lake City and married him.  Three apartments, two houses, several jobs, two kids, one dog, several fish, and thirteen years later, I’m finally finding myself.

I never gave writing a thought until last year when my older brother died by suicide.  Not always wanting to burden my family with extra sadness, I took a pen and let the emotions flow.  It has become my therapy.  I’m allowed to say what I want without worrying about what other people think.  Most of them are sad because, well, grief is sad. 

I love to read like it’s nobody’s business.  I bake like a madwoman.  I eat until I’m full and love every bite.

I listen to happy music when I’m happy.  Sad music when I’m sad.  Melancholy music when I’m in a funk that I can’t get out of and dance music when I feel like dancing.

Top Ten Ways to Make a Woman Angry

I don’t know if it’s the end of summer and everyone is at the peak of laziness/apathy, or if there are just several men who are acting a little stupid lately, but I want to post this as a public service announcement. Please take note.

10. Leave your laundry on the bathroom floor – We are not your maid nor your mother. It is laundrynearly as easy to remove your clothes and put them in the hamper as it is to toss them on the bathroom floor. We hate walking into the bathroom and stepping on your clothes, especially your underwear. (You know the reason as well as we do.) We hate hunting for your socks behind the toilet. Just put your clothing in the appropriate receptacle and avoid the problem.

9. Whining – We know that things don’t always go your way. We know that you’re working hard and that you have a lot on your plate. So do we. Whining does not make it better, in fact, it makes the situation nearly unbearable. Please. If you want to complain, at least find a creative way to do it.

8. Anger at stupid things – This might seem hypocritical, but seriously, when you want to kick someone’s ass for cutting you off in traffic, we want to kick your ass.

7. Call watching YOUR children “baby-sitting” – When you spend time with your children without their mother you are NOT baby-sitting. What you are doing is being a father. Fatherhood is frightening, confusing, messy and chaotic. So is motherhood. Mothers do not have all the answers. We’re winging it just like you are. Creating children takes two. So does raising them.

6. Treating us as if we’re irrational…all the time – Look. We know that there are certain times of the month that we may seem a little bit emotional, or out of sorts. But that’s not every day. Sometimes we have a point and if you ask if it’s “that time of the month” we’re going to be upset. Even if it is “that time” why would that make what we say invalid?

5. Minimize her feelings – this one goes along with number six. Even if we might, maybe, could be irrational. The feelings we are having are real and disregarding them doesn’t make them go away. In fact, if we ignore our feelings they just get bottled up and the situation gets worse and worse. If we are feeling angry, sad or anxious, don’t tell us to NOT feel that way. Say that you understand and bring us a cup of tea, some chocolate, and listen. We’ll be happier…and so will you.

action-figures4. Putting too much stock in toys – Okay we understand that you like the X-box. We have things that we like too. We know you might have a passion for firearms, or games, or…I don’t know…action figures. Whatever it is, people are more important than your toys. Your children, your significant other, your parents, visitors, all more important. Keep your priorities straight. If someone breaks a toy, be polite, it’s okay to be upset. It’s not okay to act as if the world is about to end or to make whoever broke it feel as if they are worthless.

3. Laugh at her passion – This blog is primarily for writers, but all women have something that is their passion. Trust me, there is a fire within her for something. If she shares it with you and you treat it as if it is a joke, you’ll not only make her angry, you’ll extinguish some of that fire. Instead of laughing at her, take some time to explore her passion with her. You’ll learn something about her that will fascinate you. You’ll get a glimpse of her that she won’t show you unless she feels safe. We promise, she will come alive and you’ll be amazed at the depth of your love.

2. Ignoring magic – Magic exists. It is all around us, and most of the women I know can see it. There is magic at the turning of the seasons. There is magic in the birth of a child, in new love, in old love, in music, in poetry. Most women can see it, grow with it and enjoy it. If we try to share something magical with you, it’s probably in your best interest to agree that whatever we are speaking of is beautiful. Or at least smile and nod. If we’re trying to share magic with you and you just stare at us and then say, “Hey, did you pay the car payment? It was due yesterday.” We’re going to be really angry.

1. Forgetting to show compassion – The ability to imagine another person’s plight is part of what makes us human. Too often, we forget to try to see a person’s life through their eyes. Lacking compassion makes us judgmental and negative. Without compassion, we’re dooming ourselves to see the world through a single pair of eyes – our own. How boring! And how empty! If you want to keep us happy, practice compassion with everyone you meet. Try to understand your fellow beings on their terms. Not only will it keep us happy, you will live a more fulfilled life. It will allow you to see people as God does, as wonderful, fallible beings full of potential and promise.

compassionate

Top Ten Tuesday- Ten Signs You Might Be a Writer

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10 -You notice all the things

This means you not only take interest life’s little details, you relish them. You appreciate sunrises, full moons, the smell of coffee percolating and the sound of your feet crunching on gravel. You don’t simply move through life in a happy blur. Rather, you get intoxicated in all the sights and sounds life has to offer:  Watching a bumblebee light on a lily, noticing the sticky yellow on the fuzzy surface of its back as it dips between blooms. Hearing the high notes of a classical prelude or the low notes of a Red Hot Chili Peppers ballad and finding the song reaches depths of your soul that can’t be named.

Bonus points if you not only notice the  details, you assign meaning to them, i.e., the patterns in the shadow of leaves remind you of a lace runner on your Grandmother’s kitchen table. This is obviously a sign, so you drop everything and call her.

9- You create alternate endings for…everything

You know without a doubt what should have actually happened at the end of The Notebook. You’re sure you know the missing answers in all the episodes of Lost. And you dream of what could have happened had Daisy never married Tom in The Great Gatsby…

You find yourself asking “What if” for things outside of movies too. Past relationships. Friends career choices. The road you took to work this morning. Each of those choices might have lead to alternate events, and you can’t deny you’re intrigued by that notion.

8- You regard reading as a near spiritual act

Every dedicated reader knows it’s bliss to get lost in a good book, but to a writer, a good book is a revelation. Pick up any of your favorite novels and you start finding truths on every page, parallels that speak to your life and what you’re navigating through at that very moment.You find signs in the dialogue, answers to all your big questions in the narrative.reading-a-book

You read and feel that life has new meaning. And sometimes, what you’re reading starts to make more sense than reality. Yep, you’re probably a writer.

7- You people-watch with a passion

Linger at a coffee shop or a city park and you instantly find yourself lost in the people around you. Wonder what she’s going to name her daughter, how she met her husband. Wonder why he’s red-eyed and puffy-faced, and yet breaking up with his girlfriend via Skype.

Your watching and wondering quickly heightens to the next level, in which you answer all the questions in your mind about the people you’ve been watching. She’s going to name her daughter Nina, after her sister. He can’t stand to break up in person because deep down he still loves her. Then…you create imagined scenarios for these people you’re watching.

You’re casting characters my friend. Your soul is trying to put them inside a story.

6- You daydream about fictional characters

Speaking of characters…Ever thought it would be titillating to have tea with Mr. Darcy? Yearned to forge that horrible, dark void with Frodo?  Or compared your current love-interest to the main character in the novel you’re reading…once, twice, a dozen times?

Yeah. Us too. You aren’t weird. But it’s a good sign there are probably characters in you waiting for the chance to be written into existence.

5- People say you’re a dreamer

But you’re not the only one… Head in the clouds, scatterbrained, wanderlust, or preoccupied. If any of these names have ever been cast at you, chances are your imagination is working at flittle_dreamer_wallpaper__yvt2ull capacity and creating something beautiful.  You have a literal art factory in there, stories waiting to find their way into the universe.



4- You’ve ever thrown a book across the room

Books are sacred, yes. But when they are bad, you take it personally. Poorly written, overstated, or books that take cheap shots at unsuspecting readers send you reeling, and that book flying.

We feel ya. Bad writing is like an insult you can’t shake. You have to do something physical to the book to feel even slightly satisfied.

3- Blank notebooks excite you

Simply put, something about all those blank pages is intriguing. The open possibilities of what might come to life in those lines…

2- You like big words and you cannot lie

You enjoy language, and sometimes use unusual words, just for thChild reading a dictionary in school uniforme sheer joy of their weight on your tongue. Imbrication. Unencumbered. Labrynthian. Mellifluous. You wonder why your friends don’t understand that words like these are music.

And…if you read the dictionary for fun as a kid, you most certainly belong in a writers circle. It’s the only place you won’t be referred to as a nerd.

1- You write to resolve

You have a fight with your best friend, and instead of calling her up to sort things out, you write her a novella-length email. When considering whether to take a new job, you write down all the reasons you might be in love with it, and all the reasons you might regret leaving your current employer. Yes, part of this is a natural and organized way to discover feelings and weigh options. But not everyone’s mind works this way.writing on notebook

If you can come to major conclusions in your life through a sharpened pencil, your favorite pen, or a keyboard- you probably have a knack for writing. It’s not only the process, it’s what happens between the lines. Insight. Creativity. Epiphany. Written to life.

We hope you decide to join us.

Til next time,

~Cindy

Top Ten Ways to Romance A Writer Girl

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

Awhile back I read a post over at Elephant Journal titled How to Love a Girl Who Writes. I showed it to the WTF group and we all had a version of the same reaction, ranging from:

“Oh. My. God.” to

*Sigh* to

“Now I finally understand what’s wrong with me!”

Since the founders of this blog are all writers and (well duh) women,  thought it might be fun to do a top ten list in the spirit of this article. We’re all at different phases of the romantic relationship story in our lives. But when it comes down to it, I think writer girls all really just want the same thing.

 So without further ado…

Top Ten Ways Romance a Writer Girl

10- Give her some S P A C E

For a writer girl, the act of writing is a little like peeing. You think I’m kidding, but seriously. When all systems are in order it flows nicely, it’s a release of sorts, it feels not only natural, but necessary. But it’s private–not something that should really be experienced with another human being in proximity. Respect that not every part of a person should be shared.

And hey guys, reading over our shoulder– whether it’s the last paragraph of an epic novel or a Facebook post, it just gives us the creeps. Just…don’t.

9- Be connected, not clingy

Yes, we want you to be interested in us and the things we love. But if your happiness hinges on ours, well…we’re both in trouble. Writer girls are…uh, emotionally erratic, to say the least. If she’s all undone about the death of a fictional character, or pissy because she has a major case of writer’s  block, hug her. Smile and say you love how passionate she is. And then move on. Offer to give her some alone time, or suggest the two of you go for a drive or see a movie.

We know we are all over the place, and believe it or not, writer girls don’t want someone who’s willing to wallow in our crazy. What we truly need is someone who anchors us to what is real.

8- Go for the quirky over the traditional

When it comes to showing her your love, you aren’t going to get far with the old standbys. The best tokens of affection for writer girls are those that mean something that no-one else would understand. Example: A leaf in a box, from the tree under which you kissed her for the first time. Or an antique key like the one in the story she’s writing.

You know that scene in Stranger Than Fiction, when Will Ferrel’s character gives Maggie Gyllenhall’s character  flours? All the writer girls (not to mention the baker girls) watching at that moment went aaaahhhh and melted just a little bit.


(Not flowers, flours. She’s a baker. See? Quirky and sweet. That’s the ticket.)

7- Embrace her crazy

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Picture of my feet, taken by my husband. No questions asked.

Most likely, if you’re with a writer girl, part of what drew you to her in the first place is her passion. She has the ability to make even the most ordinary moments seem complex, meaningful, and mind-blowing.. (Come on guys, you know this has potential for being hot.) Now, there is the other side of it, when she’s in a dark mood and the fact that you turned on the water while she was talking sends her reeling into the break-up zone. But, instead of being (very, very) afraid- what you need to do is man up and embrace it. Love her for storming off because you brushed your teeth. Go ahead and take that picture of her bare feet on concrete without asking why. Accept her crazy as part of her passion, and she’ll adore you for the rest of her days.


6- Follow your own passions

This one is fairly straightforward. Writer girls believe to the core that everyone should be passionate. Whether its your work, your family or even developing the latest gaming software, you need something that  from time-to-time, pulls you in your own direction. We might act jealous and irritated because you were gone for a day or a weekend…off doing something that doesn’t involve us. But lets face it, a little competition never hurt anyone, and without it, we’re going to think of you as a robot. Find something you love and do it. We’re passionate and we want you to be too.

5-Be Patient

Okay, I’m going to level… Writer girls are constantly being distracted by, well, everything. Probably we’re going to ask you to pull over so we can study the sun streaming through a cornfield, or wait for us while we hammer out a new idea through our laptop keyboard, about a thousand time over the course of our relationship. We need to know this isn’t going to send you through the roof. Which is why # 6 is a great idea. That way, we’re happy, you’re happy.

And we all know what two mutually happy people in a relationship together leads to.

4- Don’t read her writing…unless she asks

For a writer girl, there is nothing more personal than her own writing, especially a work-in-progress.  Don’t invade her privacy without being asked in. And if she truly loves you, she will ask, eventually.

An addendum: If she does ask you to read it, it’s critical that you actually read it. If you pretend that you did, she’s going to know. Don’t fake it, or next time she will. 😉

3- Don’t try to give her ideas…unless she asks

Ditto above, except replace the word “writing” with the word “ideas.” Trying to force your ideas into a writers writing…not to mention into her mind is toxic for a relationship.. Just don’t do it.

2- Be prepared for an epic romance

bare feet togetherI’m going to leave this one to the imagination, which is exactly what writer girls have lots of, which is why you should prepare yourself. For some things, there simply aren’t words.

1- READ.

I chose this as number one because it’s a toughie, and it’s probably the most important. We really, really need to be with someone who reads, and more importantly thinks about what he reads.

Okay, we understand not everyone is a literary connoisseur. You don’t have to read Faulkner novels or Tennessee Williams’ screenplays to turn our heads (Though, I’m not going to lie, we think guys who read Steinbeck and mist up over Of Mice and Men are kinda hot…) Magazine articles, blog posts, even the sports section of the newspaper can offer perspectives you won’t find watching TV.

Bottom line. We’re writers. If you don’t read you’re basically saying you don’t believe in the world that created us. So just do it, okay?

 

Thanks for reading, and hey, if you’re a writer-guy and would like to guest post a Top Ten Ways to Romance a Writer Guy, we’d love to hear from you.

Till next time,

~Cindy

Moxie Monday – Becoming the Stereotype

Why is it that writers have a reputation for being scattered? Tortured, isolated, weird… even crazy?

I have been writing professionally and otherwise for years. Anyone who knows me will attest that I’m really not this way at all. I’m a pretty organized and tidy person. I’m fairly social, have friends of all types in various places. And well, yeah, I’m weird. But no weirder than any individual in her own unique humanness. weird writer

Since starting this group with my co-bloggers, I’ve met writers of all kinds. Some of them have been odd and scattered, live like hermits and spend sleepless night torturing themselves over things that only exist inside their heads. Yeah, we do that sometimes. But guess what? It isn’t just writers baby.  That personality type fans across the spectrum of people in all types of careers.

(Right now there are messy accountants. tortured homemakers, weird city planners closing their eyes and saying, “Thank You.”)

So how come writers get the stigma?

I’ll tell you why. Let me illustrate with the events of the past week.

I had plans to finish my longstanding book this summer. I’ve had the story in my head nearly 8 years. It’s something I’ve coined as “bigger than me.” Meaning, I was given the gift a great idea, and need to do the story justice in writing it well. It has driven me to take classes, read books, basically fine-tune my skills as a writer. It’s because of those things that I’ve taken several breaks from actually writing it. I’ve come a long way, and this spring I deemed the summer of 2013 as “The One.” The summer I would finally finish writing my book.

Like most writers, I’m constantly juggling three or four (or more) new ideas in the back of my mind. My Muse is pretty prolific in the offering up of new and beautiful things that inspire me to put pen to paper (or…fingers to keyboard.) It’s all very lovely, and it leads to some pretty major distraction. But I had a plan. I sat down late one night and made a list:

Stories That Have Been in My Head Since the Dawn of Time That I Plan to Write.

There were thirteen. It was a little jarring. I felt a little like a schizophrenic patient whose psychiatrist has just discerned all her various personalities. But no, even this didn’t send me reeling into that dark writer stereotype.???????????????????????????????

I bought six thousand notebooks. (Okay, well like fifteen) I made some nifty labels that represented each of my ideas,  told myself I had a handle on my Multiple Story Disorder. Every time a new idea came into my head, I’d simply write it down in the appropriate notebook. It worked beautifully.

I was on a roll. I pulled on my big girl pants and went back to the outline for my current project. I tightened it, improved it, and forged forward. I filled a couple of plot-holes. I even wrote three new scenes. Nothing was going to stop me now! Yes. This was shaping up to become The Summer.

And then the Muse asked me to dance.

I wrote something for the blog, just off the top of my head. I wrote it so flippantly, it practically didn’t even cross into the conscious part of my mind. But an idea emerged from the words I’d written that was downright life-changing.

Over the course of the next few days I realized what I wrote was not just fiction. It had deeper meaning. It was a story, pieces of my past that I had long tucked away. Parts of me left undiscovered. A story that begged to be explored, learned and eventually retold.
As soon as the idea became clear, I knew it was something that shook my very foundation as a writer, as a person. It was what I needed to write this summer.

tortured writerDespite my social personality, my organized outlook, all the beautifully detailed plans I had to finish my book, I became all the ugly writer stereotype. I stayed up all night jotting down memories and sorting out scenes in my head from over 20 years ago. I’d torture myself, second guessing whether I should even be writing this story, and how much of it was truth. I turned down friendly offers from friends so that I could spend my spare time writing. My normally tidy house became a neglected wreck, and the creativity I use to run my household and manage to work a little on the side was all spent on channeling this new story.  (Luckily, I have been blessed with an extremely understanding husband and fairly adaptable kids. And I’m self-employed, so no chance of getting fired.)

So there it is. I proved the stereotype. As a writer, for an entire week I was scattered, tortured, isolated, weird and crazy. I’m not always that way. Not often, even. But such as it is.

Writers don’t want to be type-cast any more than any human being does. But sometimes, we do it anyway. We’re willing to pigeonhole ourselves into the label, participate in the behaviors that “define us.” Because writers, like other artists (the ones who truly care,) will do whatever is necessary, stereotypes or no, to produce something meaningful.

That blog post brought Writing the Fire more publicity than anything else we’ve ever posted here. The things that came out of my mind as a result of it are some of the most powerful things I have ever written. And yeah, I was (and am) a little bit crazy in the process. But lets face it, sometimes it takes torture to get truth. Isolation to get creativity.

Crazy to get art.

Till Next Time,

~C

PS: If you liked this post, head on over to The Muses Library. It’s an invaluable resource if you’d like to learn more about, indeed why writers are crazy.