Monday, September 28, 2009
When you get stuck in your writing or need the answer to a question related to your career, such as whether a particular agent is right for you or you should spend the money to attend a particular conference, ask your subconscious mind for a Dream Solution. Write your question on an index card, addressing your subconscious mind, and put it under your pillow. The next morning, be alert to any hunches or feelings that guide you toward the right answer. Sometimes the answer will "pop" into your head or you will get an overwhelming sense that you should take one action over another.
Check in every Monday for weekly creativity tips from THINKING WRITE: The Secret to Freeing Your Creative Mind, available now from Adams Media.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Q: You have been writing poetry for a long time, and I'm often amazed at how your poems resonate with something that is going on in my own life. Talk some about your poetry-writing process and where you get your inspiration.
Q: Pink Zinnia was inspired by your grandmother. What was she like? Was she also a poet?
Q: What is the hardest part about being a poet? What's the best part?
Q: Can you share a favorite stanza or entire poem from this latest collection?
A: This one is a favorite of my nephew John Abbott:
Thank you for being with us today,
Saturday, September 26, 2009
For those of you who missed it, here's the popular blog I posted over at Star Crossed Romance last week. Please leave a comment!
Your Most Powerful Writing Tool
You have in your possession a writing tool that is more beneficial to you than all other tools combined, and it’s likely your most underutilized—your subconscious mind. Learning to use your subconscious mind will open up avenues of creative inspiration that can benefit your writing in ways you may have never thought possible.
There are three components to your mind, as studied and analyzed by Sigmund Freud, the father of modern day psychology. First is the conscious mind, the day to day thinking portion of mind. The conscious mind can only attend to one thought at a time, so you are limited in how much information is available to you using your conscious mind.
The preconscious mind is a layer between the conscious and the subconscious. It’s a very concrete, “all or nothing” portion of mind that often causes conflict and attempts to interfere with the goals of the conscious mind. I call this interference the “anti-writer™.” I will give you a technique for dealing with your anti-writer later in this article.
The subconscious mind operates independently from your conscious and preconscious. It is like a giant computer system with multiple input sources, constantly recording all of the details of your life. The subconscious has some very unique characteristics. For instance, it is always alert; it functions even during periods when the conscious mind is asleep or altered in some way, such as surgery. It stores material indefinitely. All of the information that you are exposed to on a day to day basis is stored in the subconscious. Think about how gaining access to this treasure trove of material can impact your ability to write scenes and create characters. Last, the subconscious creates your reality. Many people have spoken about this truth before, such as Napoleon Hill, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Zig Ziglar, and others—basically, what you think about all the time programs your subconscious mind to bring into reality. Learning to direct this power can help you achieve your writing goals.
Easy Ways to Work With Your Subconscious
Here are some easy ways to tap into the power of your subconscious mind.
Ask for a Dream Solution
Dreams are a spontaneous way that the subconscious gets information to the conscious mind. Robert Louis Stevenson is one famous writer known for using his dreams almost exclusively for material. He called his dreams “the stage” of his mind. He would go to sleep at night anticipating receiving the next chapter for his work in progress. He even credited his famous story Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde to a dream.
You can use your dreams in the same way by asking for what I call a dream solution. You do this by asking your subconscious mind a question before you go to sleep, such as, “Subconscious, what is the next scene in my novel?” or “Subconscious, would Agent X be a good match for me?" or “Subconscious, give me an idea for a new book.”
Some people write the question on an index card and put it under their pillow. The gesture is symbolic, but writing down the instruction seems to increase the chances of a dream solution.
Sometimes the answer may come to you first thing in the morning, other times it comes at an unexpected moment days or even weeks later. It takes time to learn how your subconscious mind provides you with the answer; some people experience hunches, others get flashes of insight, others get “feelings” that they should take some action. The more you practice with dream solutions the more attuned you will become to the unique way your subconscious communicates with you.
I have used dream solution work with my own writing. The night before I handed in the manuscript for Time to Write, I asked my subconscious mind to alert me to any errors in the copy. When I woke up, I got a mental picture of three misspelled words and found the errors in the exact sections that my subconscious had indicated they would be in.
The Hypnagogic State
The Hypnagogic state is a phase of sleep that occurs naturally before falling asleep and before fully waking up. It’s characterized by altered consciousness; some people see flashes of light, others hear their name being called, and ideas that under ordinary conditions have no association are perceived as being connected. It’s a period ripe with creativity. Mary Shelley got the idea for the classic novel Frankenstein while in this drowsy state.
One way to practice with the hypnagogic state without drifting into full sleep is to lay down and hold one arm straight up. You can learn to stay in the zone between sleeping and wakefulness just by balancing your arm up. When you feel yourself getting too sleepy, write down whatever was going through your mind at the time.
Beware Your Anti-Writer™!
Everything that passes from your subconscious into your conscious mind must pass through the preconscious, which is where the anti-writer™ resides. If this anti-writer™ portion is not controlled, it can interfere with your ability to use your subconscious mind for maximum creative gain and thwart your writing goals. The anti-writer™ usually manifests in the form of negative comments you say or think about your abilities as a writer.
To combat your anti-writer™, record all negative statements you say or think about your writing abilities in a notebook. At the end of two weeks, note themes or statements that are repeated more than three times. Next, write countering statements on index cards and say these out loud daily, especially when you have a negative thought. For instance, if your anti-writer statement is, "I just don't have the time to write with my busy schedule," counter with, "I know there is time in my day to write and I will find it." Immediately countering the statement will set up a habit of neutralizing these negative thoughts.
Your subconscious mind is your most powerful writing ally. Learning to tap into this vast creative resource will aid both your creativity and your writing career efforts. There are many more exercises in my book, THINKING WRITE, The Secret to Freeing Your Creative Mind, just released by Adams Media.
Moody, Dr. Raymond: www.lifeafterlife.com
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein, third edition. Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, London, 1831.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. Across the Plains. Chattus & Windus, London, 1892
Stone, R. Michael, Counseling & Consultation Services: www.unlearnsmoking.com
copyright: 2009 Kelly L. Stone, all rights reserved. Unauthorized use of this article in any format is strictly prohibited without written permission from the author.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Finding TIME TO WRITE can be done, no matter how busy you are! Time to Write: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing into Your Busy Life (Adams Media, Jan 2008) reveals how 104 professional authors, including more than 40 NYT bestsellers, managed to find time to write before they were career published, all while holding down jobs, caring for families, juggling household responsibilities and managing to get sufficient amounts of sleep.
Everyone is busy, so finding time to write must be woven into the fabric of your day to day life, one thread at a time. Here are a few tips:
1) Make writing appointments. Making time to write is similar to any new activity that you are attempting to fit into your life; let's use exercise as an example. How do you do it? You plan ahead. You decide that you'll exercise for twenty minutes, three times a week. You might choose Tuesday and Thursday at six o’clock and Saturday at nine o’clock. It's the same idea with writing. Decide when you will write, and then jot it down in your calendar. Whatever time slots you choose, write them down and then…
2) …keep the appointments. Just like you won't reap the health benefits that come with exercise if you don’t regularly break a sweat, you won't reap the benefits of consistent writing if you routinely blow it off. So work hard to keep that writing appointment. Treat it like it’s “real,” just like an appointment with the doctor or at your child’s school. The only way to do this is to exercise self-discipline and make yourself follow through.
3) Stay Focused. When it’s writing time, you should be writing. Don't let yourself get sucked into surfing the Internet, checking e-mail or making a grocery list.
4) Plan your work. When you make the weekly appointments, also plan what you’ll be working on during that time: Monday you'll use your twenty minutes to create plot points, Wednesday you'll use the hour for writing freely on your draft and during Friday’s thirty minute session, you'll revise what you did that week. Maximize the time spent at your desk by planning ahead how you'll tackle that day's writing session.
5) Set long range and intermediate goals. Knowing what you're striving for (long range goals) will help you decide how much time you need to write and how much work you should produce during that time (intermediate goals). For example, decide what date in the future you want to have your book finished. Then, work backwards to determine how much writing you should do every week to meet that deadline. If the draft of your novel will be four hundred pages and you want to finish it in a year, then you'll have to write thirty-three pages per month (four-hundred divided by twelve), or roughly eight pages a week (thirty-three divided by four). If you write three days a week, that's two to three pages each sitting. Break your writing down this way to make time management seem easier.
6) Make up lost time. Let’s face it--life happens. If you miss a writing appointment because your kid gets sick or your car breaks down or there’s a family function you simply must attend, cut yourself some slack, but do plan to make up the lost time the following week if possible. This means you might have to make four writing appointments instead of your usual three, or write two hours one day instead of just one. Make every effort to stay on track with your weekly goal.
7) Reward yourself. This is an important step because you want to associate positive feelings with that self-discipline you’ve been practicing. It reinforces the behavior and increases the chances that you’ll do it again. So at the end of each week that you kept your writing appointments, do something nice for yourself. Take a bubble bath, get a pedicure, have a romantic dinner with your spouse or buy your favorite author's latest release. You can even reward yourself at the end of each writing session. For example: If I write for thirty minutes, I can watch General Hospital.Finding time to write is a dilemma that every writer faces, published or not. The tips above are based on my interviews with 104 professional writers on how they do it, and there are a lot more in TIME TO WRITE. Give them a try!