Mental Illness & Writing (My Story Part One)

“Being different and thinking differently make a person unforgettable.” –Suzy Kassem

My mental illness is definitely not something I generally like to talk about; however, it’s probably one of the main reasons why I write.

I saw this quote on the internet the other day, and it got me thinking about things.  Lots of things.

“No matter what we make, creativity always changes the creator.” -anonymous

Anyone who creates, whether you’re a photographer, musician, or writer (the list can go on and on), not only do you have the ability to change your own life through the act of creating, but other people’s lives as well.

How do creatives have such powerful impact?  One of the best answers I found was in this explanation:

“Art does not show people what to do, yet engaging with a good work of art can connect you to your senses, body, and mind. It can make the world felt. And this felt feeling may spur thinking, engagement, and even action.” -Olafur Eliasson, Why Art Has the Power To Change the World

To create is to connect. And in this day and age, we as the whole seemed to have lost the ability to truly connect with ourselves, to people, and to the world that surrounds us.

Is it a wonder to why we feel so lonely? So disconnected?

Yes, we have this thing called technology in abundance but it can NOT fully step into the role of the connector. While there is that feeling of being connected to someone on the other side of the digital barrier, it still feels artificial. Not real or alive.

On the other hand, creative arts have the ability to do just that.

Through music, paintings, sculptures, photographs, poetry, and on and on.  So, while art has the power to bring people together, it also has the power to heal especially for the creator (aka artist, songwriter, poet, etc…you get the idea).

How does art heal us?

Art and music affect every cell in the body instantly to create a healing physiology that changes the immune system and blood flow to all the organs. Art and Music also immediately change a person’s perceptions of their world. They change attitude, emotional state, and pain perception. They create hope and positivity and they help people cope with difficulties. They transform a person’s outlook and way of being in the world.” –How Art Heals-Mind/Body Physiology

Music has always been in my family especially on my mother’s side which yielded several musicians including an uncle who went on to play with an award-winning Native American-Folk band, December Wind.  As a girl, I can remember many occasions when family members gathered together at my Grandmother’s house for a “jam session” completed with guitars, banjo, fiddle, accordion, harmonica and even a set of spoons.  I was at an age where I was misunderstood (no one knew I was partially deaf until later) and music was something I understood. I’d sit on the floor, and “listened” to the beats and deep bass sounds for hours.

Although I loved music, I never learned to play an instrument (the desire was there though), I ended up singing in the school and church choirs for several years (I’d harmonized through the “beats” and reading music).

Since I couldn’t be a musician, I found myself drawn to words.  Words I also understood so I delved deep in the worlds created by words.  Here I connected with characters who became my friends since I had so few in the real world (byproduct of being “different”).  After accidentally discovering writing (the story behind this discovery can be found here), I’d took my favorite characters (Scooby Doo and Shaggy were among those) and created my own world with them in it.

Writing became a lifeline to the intense loneliness I’d felt.

When I was in college, I took to writing journals as a way of dealing with the stress and pressures that went with being a student living away from home.

In 1992, I stopped writing altogether.  This was the year I was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome (a form of Retinitis Pigmentosa-progressive blindness-which included hearing loss).

Depression really emerged at this point in my life though I was never diagnosed.  And when I married my first husband, Aaron, anger replaced everything else I was feeling and he bore, unfortunately, the brunt of it.  The depression and anger steadily grew worse over time, and then the worst happened.

He was killed in a car accident.

Grief and regrets overwhelmed me, and I nearly did the unthinkable.  I backed out just before it was too late as I realized that this would be the ultimate regret that I could never return from.  Worse of all, it would hurt my family as well as Aaron’s.

I just couldn’t do it.

Instead, I poured all my attention and strength into finishing college (which I did over a year after Aaron’s death). By this time, I’d moved out in my own apartment, but also had regressed from all social activities becoming a hermit with very little contact to the outside world.

Then Jay came into my life (actually he returned to my life, but that is another story of its own).  He changed everything by not only marrying me, but by reintroducing writing back into my life through a gift of a leather-bound journal.

In this journal, I spew all my anger and pain like vomit.  When the pages were all full, I closed the book and packed it away (even to this day I have not gone back to read it).

Now being emptied, the healing can begin.

(This is just part one of my story.  I plan to continue in the near future)

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How Is It That A Song Can Sound So Poetic?

Since it’s National Poetry Writing Month and that I’m from a family that’s musically inclined, I’ve wondered how interesting it was that songs, in general, can sound so poetic (and why on earth do people believe that poems can’t be sung?).

Both have a beat (rhythm) as you sing (or say) the words. Both have verses which tend to have some sort of a rhyming scheme. Both have the power to evoke emotions and images. On the other hand, the lines of a song tend to be much shorter than most poems; and frankly, a lot catchier (easier to remember).

So, yeah, there are few similarities between a song and a poem, but when you really get down to the nitty-gritty, they are two separate entities that may “sound” and at times “appear” like one another, but they’re not.

With being hearing impaired, it’s more difficult to compare these two side by side just by listening; however, when I go to write a poem, and then a song, that’s when those differences become much more apparent to me.

Here’s a little fun. Read the lines below and decide if this is a song or a poem:

You say you’ll give me
Eyes in a moon of blindness
A river in a time of dryness
A harbor in the tempest

Caged #IWSG

“Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage.”
― Richard Lovelace

For those of us who are attempting or have attempted to write our story (I’m referring to the story of our lives whether it’s a memoir or through short stories or poems), something always seem to stop us from finishing it (or in my case, starting).  It’s like there this solid wall blocking my way, more specifically my pen, from getting the words out of my head.

The words are there and so are the images, but I feel like my head (or something else altogether) is like a cage keeping them within invisible bars.

It is so utterly frustrating.

I keep asking myself – what’s holding me back?

Fear.

Fear of what? 

Of hurting someone who I love? Or, hurting myself?

Maybe both.

Fear of the truth. Of finally allowing myself to be freed of all the pain I kept locked in

A writer who’s caged by past regrets and unwilling to let them go because she believes she deserves all the pain she feels.

How messed up is that?

My heart knows I must write my story, but convincing whatever part of me that’s holding the words back has been a battle I’ve fought for years.

A battle I fear I will ultimately lose.

What about you? Are you struggling to free your words?

Avi Kaplan: The Evolution (in Videos)

There are only a handful of musicians who move and excite me otherwise they are mostly meh. I hadn’t really been able to truly dig music since the ’80s (with few exceptions).

Until nearly five years ago (2014) when I stumbled across Pentatonix’s Christmas video, The Little Drummer Boy, on You Tube.  Two vocalists in particular stood out to me: Kirstin Maldonado and Avi Kaplan.  I especially loved Avi’s booming bass voice. I was very sad when he announced in early 2017 that he was leaving Pentatonix to pursue his own music as well as to spend more time with his family.

It’s been a joy watching him grow and mature as a musician striving to find his own path.  And boy, with his latest song, I believe he has finally arrived.  But, in order to truly appreciate his latest music, you really need to revisit his past music, and then as you listen to the Change On the Rise, you will truly understand why his fans are so excited and wowed and stunned!

Avi was born and grew up in Visalia, California, a city in the San Joaquin Valley.  Being Jewish, he was subjected to ridicules and bullying as a kid. Having grown up near the Sequoia National Park, nature greatly influenced his music.

In the video below, you will hear the story of how Pentatonix and Avi came together to compete on a television show (Sing Off) that would change their lives forever.

September 2011

The video below was where I first discovered Avi (in 2014).

December 2012

The song below won Pentatonix their first Grammy.

2013

Below was Avi’s final performance with Pentatonix.

September 2017

Avi loved Folk music so naturally the music in his debut album fell in that genre. The song below is my favorite.

First solo album (Sage & Stone) released in June 2017-Avi & the Sequoias

I believe sometime in 2017, he moved to Tennessee to live in a cabin deep in the forest outside of Nashville. Here he would spend his quiet days writing and playing songs. Every once in a while a video surfaced of him. Otherwise, he basically took a sabbatical in order to delve into his own music away from the chaotic world.

September 2018

And then this! This music video premiered on You Tube on the said date below. For those who closely followed Avi and his music, well, this was a real treat.  We’ve listened to the kind of music he sang in the past, and this…this was NOT what we expected.  Far, far from it!  We were speechless and so incredibly moved to tears.  Yes, Avi is finally coming into his own. And I expect him to continue to surprise and shock us with his talent in songwriting and singing.  Oh, did I mention that voice?  Simply put…there is no other like it.

March 22, 2019

Avi’s official website 

His You Tube channel

FANtastical Friday: My Favorite Bass Singers

 

Who says that bass singers can’t be successful? There are plenty of bands with bass singers; but, how many of them are the lead singers? Or better yet, soloist?

Hmm, I can only think of a few.

Eddy Vedder, Pearl Jam

 

Johnny Cash

 

Randy Travis

 

Josh Turner

 

Jim Morrison, The Doors

 

These are just a few I could think off the top of my head. Anyhoo, the reason I got on this bandwagon was because of a new song I listened to earlier today that just absolutely wowed me.  Newly released to the public (earlier today), Change On the Rise by Avi Kaplan (formerly the bass singer from Pentatonix). His voice is incredible!  I believe we are possibly looking at one of the prolific bass singers in modern time right here.  Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Q&A with Beth and Ezra Barany about PLAN YOUR NOVEL LIKE A PRO

 

 

*Today we have two very special and amazing guests with us! Let’s give Beth and Ezra Barany, both award-winning authors, a warm welcome! 

 

  1. Tell us a little bit about each of you, and why you both decided to work together as teachers and mentors.  When you’re not helping other writers, you both also write fiction. Tell us about them.

 

Beth here. Our collaboration didn’t happen overnight. When Ezra and I first met we were both writers, but not yet teachers. Pretty soon after getting married we decided to teach overseas. So we both got training in teaching English to foreigners. Then we went to Paris to teach English for two years.

When we got back home, Ezra got his credential to be a high school physics teacher and I went to work in a bookstore and then an office.

Fast forward 3 years, I decided to start a business helping writers as a creativity coach. Pretty soon when I started doing presentations, Ezra helped me with some of them. Then he had a break from teaching high school and started to teach more actively with me. He approaches writing differently than I do, so I really wanted to include his perspective so that the writers could benefit.

Over the years I’ve been asking him to teach various aspects that he knows well so that we have a more robust group of courses for writers.

I write young adult fantasy, paranormal romance, and science fiction mystery, and have series published in the first two. Many of my interests have been very different than Ezra’s and that’s been great. When I met him he was writing short stories in horror, mystery, and surrealistic fiction. Ezra has published 3 books in his Torah Codes series.

 

Presto! Ezra speaking! As Beth said, it took some time before we worked together as teachers. But uniting our teaching superpowers was inevitable by the way we both loved the craft and business of writing and wanted the world to see how fun it could be.

We toyed with the idea of cowriting a story, but our genres are so different, that we find it’s best if we stick to editing each other’s work.

 

  1. In what ways are your creative process different from one another, and how did you manage to weave them together as you teach and mentor other writers?

 

Beth here: I am much more of an organic writer than Ezra. I start with character and evolve the plot from there. I also start with a clear idea of my genre, and I think this is where he and I are similar.

And because I have an organic approach to the writing process I would notice where there were holes and ask to see if Ezra could fill them. Since he has a more linear approach to planning his novels I knew that would be helpful to some people, and I learned from it too.

 

Abracadabra! This is Ezra! I’m a plotter. A severe plotter. We’re talking write-every-detail-of-each-scene-on-index-cards plotter.

I tend to start with the “Holy crap! I didn’t see that coming!” idea of what happens in the thriller, and how it will make the reader want to share the thriller with all her friends.

From there, I think of the main moments that fit a standard hero’s journey or Act I II and III model, those moments that lead up to the climax I already have in mind. I usually do so by using a problem-solution tool, such as Problem: Jacob gets attacked by lobsters at the restaurant; Solution: Jennifer, chef extraordinaire, fends off the lobsters with a hatchet. I scribble the problem-solution scenes down on index cards and then I fill in missing scenes on more index cards.

My biggest issue is character development, and that’s where Beth saves the day. She asks me questions about the characters that make me discover there’s more to the story than I originally intended.

Overall, I’d say Beth’s strengths are my weaknesses in writing and vice-versa, so our skills complement each other in helping round out the skills of other writers.

 

  1. You both just published a book, Plan Your Novel Like a Pro: And Have Fun Doing It! Tell us about it, and about how you both put this together.

 

Beth here:This book is based on a course we have been teaching for over five years. The material just evolved out of mostly my process and then adding in Ezra’s process where it made sense.

I was the main driver in producing an editing the book and Ezra looked at everything, added editorial comments, and created the awesome cover with my input.

 

Ezra here: What she said.

 

  1. Where can we find this book?

 

You can find this book at all these vendors:

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

iBooks

Other vendors

 

  1. Where is your favorite place to write?  Why?

 

Beth here: I love to plan and write my first draft at cafés. I love the ambient noise, the fact that even though I am alone in the project I am surrounded by other people doing their thing, and it gets me out of my house, so I have a change of pace.

 

Voila! Ezra at the post now! I love to dig holes in the ground and find chests of gold bullion and non-sequiturs.

As for places to write, I, too, like writing my first drafts at cafés. I like the possibility of someone coming up to me and saying, “You’re writing a thriller? No way! You’re the most amazing person in the world!”

It hasn’t happened yet, but yeah. That would be cool.

 

  1. In each of your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing writers today?

 

Beth here: One of the biggest obstacles facing writers today is just starting the process. Often writers don’t know where to begin and that can be overwhelming and confusing. Another huge obstacle is that they feel that there might be something wrong with them because their ideas don’t fit the mainstream. Lastly I see writers not even starting because they don’t think they can do it even though they really want to write a novel.

 

Ezra’s mouth talking now: I agree. B.I.C. is one of the toughest tasks writers have to overcome. B.I.C. stands for Butt In Chair. Getting started is hard for me and, I believe, for other writers. But there’s the five-minute solution. As soon as a writer sits down, tells herself, “I’m going to write for five minutes,” and starts writing, those five minutes typically end up being a half hour.

Another tough obstacle is the desire to get it right the first time. Analysis paralysis. I tell myself that my goal is to write crap and have fun doing it. Often, if I’m having fun writing the story, readers will enjoy reading it. Also, giving myself permission to write crap takes the pressure off to be perfect.

 

  1. Any additional comments or advice you’d like to add for our readers?

 

Beth here: If you have the dream and the desire to write a novel but don’t know where to begin, then I recommend you start by setting the timer for five minutes and just write. Nonstop. Not caring about typos or anything. Not caring if you repeat yourself or write nonsense. Writing is a practice, writing is something you can get better at. And if you want to write a novel, you absolutely can. I believe in you.

 

Ezra here: *hug*

 

********

 

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

“I can honestly say this book saved a manuscript that was headed for the shredder!” — Ann W. Shannon

This book will help you get excited to plan your novel. The tools shared here are designed to spark your muse and give you confidence when you sit down to write your story. Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: And Have Fun Doing It! is for organic writers and pansters who want a roadmap to follow, so that they can let their creativity loose.

This 168-book comes with 20 chapters, lots of exercises, and a free bonus workbook.

 

About Beth Barany

Beth Barany is an award-winning novelist, master neuro-linguistic programming practitioner, and certified creativity coach for writers. She specializes in helping writers experience clarity, so they can write, revise, and proudly publish their novels to the delight of their readers. Her courses are packed with useful hands-on information that you can implement right away. She runs an online school for fiction writers and a 12-month group coaching program to help them get published. More resources on publishing, book marketing, and novel writing are on her blog, Writer’s Fun Zone. When she’s not helping writers, Beth writes magical tales of romance, mystery, and adventure that empower women and girls to be the heroes of their own lives.

About Ezra Barany

Ezra Barany loves riveting readers with thrillers, but by order of the Department of Motor Vehicles he must place a warning on every book cover, “Do not read while driving.” His first two books in The Torah Codes series were award-winning international bestsellers. In his free time, he has eye-opening discussions on the art of writing novels with his wife and book coach Beth Barany. A high school physics teacher, Ezra lives in Oakland with his beloved wife and two cats working on the next book in The Torah Codes series. Ezra, not the cats. For a free short story in The Torah Codes series, “Mourner’s Kaddish,” go to http://www.thetorahcodes.com/.

 

 

 

 

Why Writers Should Keep Writing

 

Some reasons as to why you should stay committed to your writing:

 

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
Peter Handke

“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” —Albert Camus

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
Ernest Hemingway

“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.”
John Updike, WD

“I think the deeper you go into questions, the deeper or more interesting the questions get. And I think that’s the job of art.”
Andre Dubus III, WD

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”
Ray Bradbury, WD

“Writers live twice.” —Natalie Goldberg

“Tears are words that need to be written.”
Paulo Coelho

“A day will come when the story inside you will want to breathe on it’s own. That’s when you’ll start writing.”
Sarah Noffke

“When we share our stories, what it does is, it opens up our hearts for other people to share their stories. And it gives us the sense that we are not alone on this journey.”
Janine Shepherd

 

How Confident Are You (As A Writer)?

Pixabay

*Note: I’m participating in the #Write28Days (February) hosted by Anita Ojeda. Click here if you would like tp participate. 

 

So, really, how confident are you in yourself as a writer and in your writing abilities?

Personally, I can say without hesitation that I have very little confidence in myself as a writer, and many times this lack of confidence stops me from writing.

How sad is that?

What’s holding me back? What am I really afraid of?

Fear of failure? Of what others think about my stories and poems? Fear of success?

What???

The only answers that keep coming back to me are:

I need to write.  I need to tell my story-in my own way.  The price is too high NOT to write.

Again, what??? These tell me nothing about what I’m afraid of.

Then, another answer rings through my head:

My writing has to be perfect. If I can’t get it just right with the first try, why bother? I’ll never be good enough anyway.

Oh…yeah…this one cuts deep.  I keep going back to trying to be good at that one thing. It’s the search that never ends. It all goes back to my childhood when my (hearing) disability made me feel inferior to other normal kids (because they’d thought me strange because I spoke funny, or heard things incorrectly and they’d laugh at me, or called me “booby” when I acted clueless to what was going on around me, etc.). Or when I learned I was slowly losing my sight at the age of 21 just when I was beginning to get a feel of what I wanted for in a career, and this diagnosis shook my confidence, no, it destroyed it, and I gave up any and all aspirations.

On the other side, people who’ve known me for most if not all of my life would tell me how feisty I was when I was younger, how much harder I worked at something when the others believed I’d never be able to accomplish, and I’d do just that, how the guy who used to call me names found out one day he’d pushed me too far when I shove him against a wall with a hockey stick (he never bothered me again after that), and on and on.  My own mother said I was the strongest person she’d ever known, and how I was an inspiration to her.

Now, I look at the mirror and I can’t see that girl anymore.

Where did she go?

But, the real question is:

Will she ever return? Is it possible to become that girl again? 

I can’t help but  to feel so lost. How did I end up being this lost? But, is that necessarily a bad thing? A quote I read some time ago came back:

Sometimes the only way to ever find yourself is to get completely lost.” – Kellie Elmore

I feel there is truth to this quote. I also believe that the path to re-discovering myself will be through writing; and in writing, I believe I will regain my confidence.

 

 

3 Reasons As To Why You Should Accept Your Flaws (As a Writer)

 

 

You know the saying, no one is perfect, right?  Yet, so many are trying to be perfect, and failing miserably at it. Including writers.

Especially writers!

I don’t think I’ve known very many writers who didn’t give a darn about the quality of their written work. In fact, many of us get so hung up in believing that our writing needs to be perfect before we can send it out into the world. The problem is, this way of thinking is probably the number one reason why nothing gets completed (and in many instances, even started).

Heck, perfectionism is one of the root causes of the so-called “writer’s block.”

What a writer to do?

Here are some reasons why we should accept those flaws as writers.

!. It lowers the stress level.  I think Stephen King was on to something when he said:

“As with all other aspects of the narrative art, you will improve with practice, but practice will never make you perfect.”

No matter if you’re an unpublished writer or a prolific, best-selling author, the writing craft is a life-long apprenticeship where there are no masters.  Instead of agonizing over your struggles in grasping certain grammatical rules, realize that we all have issues with them. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. You will never get the story “perfectly” written in the first draft. The sooner we accept that, the easier the words will flow.

 

2. Your flaws are what sets you apart from the others.

“Flaws are what makes people most interesting.” -Minh Tan

Some of the most interesting people in the world have been writers and the first one to come to mind is Ernest Hemingway. Aside from his flamboyant and active lifestyle, he was noted for his writing style. He lived in a time where literary (aka elaborate) writing dominated; but his style ran counter to this. He preferred to write lean descriptions while relying more on dialogue and action to tell the story. Many, at first, viewed this to be a flawed writing style; instead, he gained notoriety and eventually won many awards (including the Nobel). His writing style wasn’t the only reason for his success; it was also the kind of stories, their characters and content, that set him apart from the other writers of the time. Much of this was due to his wartime experiences as well as his battles with mental illness and alcoholism. All of these were responsible for fundamentally shaping  his style of writing.

He was an imperfect man who wrote unforgettable stories.  So, embrace your flaws and make them your strengths rather than view them as weaknesses.  It is our flaws that will set our writing apart from the others, and it is also our flaws which readers can connect and identify with.

3. Your flaws are part of what makes you, well, you!

I love Ann Lamott. She just has a way with words, and putting things into perspective.

Our flaws can make our creative life messy, but they contain some of the juiciest morsels for our stories. And stories are the reflection of who we are as writers. So, stop trying to be perfect and accept your flaws as mere extensions of who you are as a person, and as a writer.

One last quote from Ann Lamott to ponder on:

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California).”