“Fan”tastical Friday: Helen Keller

 

I’ve never really gave much notice to the term “fandom” until I looked up the meaning of the word in a dictionary:

-“the state or condition of being a fan of someone or something.”

This definition made me chuckle as it sounds like something out of a psychology textbook.  So, I looked at what Wikipedia had to say:

-“a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.”

Meaning, you can be a “fan” of not just individuals or movies or a particular kind of music; but, also of an ideal, an interest, motive, etc..  I think you get the idea.

I suppose now that I’m thinking (oh, so dangerous) I am a fan of multiple things.

For today, I will focus on one of them.

Women with great inner strength.

Helen Keller.  Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. Mother Teresa. Anne Frank. Maya Angelou.

There are just too many to list here but the one who has been the greatest inspiration to me was Helen Keller.

Although I am legally blind and deaf, I still have enough of both to manage.  But Helen had none of both and she still got around!  There are days when I get frustrated at my shortcomings and limitations to the point I just want to quit and throw in the towel (and I’ve done this before which brought only misery for me),  but I have to remind myself that there are (and have been) others who persevered and thrived despite their disabilities.

Which gives me hope.

And some days, that is all I need to continue on.

 

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

-Helen Keller

 

 

Creativity and Mental Illness

I read an article recently that got me thinking about creativity and its role in mental illness (or vice versa): Creativity and mental illness share genetic markers on Genetic Literacy Project.

“Scientists in Iceland report that genetic factors that raise the risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are found more often in people in creative professions.”

Hmm, this statement wasn’t anything I did NOT know; however…

“Kari Stefansson, founder and CEO of deCODE, a genetics company based in Reykjavik, said the findings, described in the journal Nature Neuroscience, point to a common biology for some mental disorders and creativity. ‘To be creative, you have to think differently,’ he told the Guardian. ‘And when we are different, we have a tendency to be labelled strange, crazy and even insane.’”

Wait, there’s more…

“Stefansson believes that scores of genes increase the risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These may alter the ways in which many people think, but in most people do nothing very harmful. But for 1% of the population, genetic factors, life experiences and other influences can culminate in problems, and a diagnosis of mental illness.”

Not only do we, as creatives, think differently I believe we also feel differently.  And we just don’t look (or feel) at the surface, we dig deep.

Very deep.

We dare to.

We must.

It’s okay if we’re viewed as being different.

Odd.

We’re used to being alone, standing in a room full of strangers (even family members tend to be viewed as strangers at times).

But do all of these make us mentally ill?

We tend to delve so deeply into our minds that we start to see things (and people) that may or may not be there.

We talk to our characters that no one else can hear.

Our minds…our imagination are our greatest weapons.

And our downfall.

All because “normal” people do not understand us.

But does that make us mentally ill?

Writing: Looking Way Ahead

Click on the image to access this group's official page

Click on the image to access this group’s official page

The question for December: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

Wow, my first month with the group and they just had to ask this question.  What is a writing career?  I have always considered a career as something you get paid for while you pursue a passion or an occupational path which leads to promotions and higher pay grades.

I have hung up that “hat” in January 2015.  You see, I have a progressive disability called Usher Syndrome (where I’m slowly losing my vision coupled with moderate hearing loss); and because of this, I “retired” and went on Social Security.  And because I receive the SS disability benefits, I’m not to earn an income.

I’m only 45.

And believe me, I still have lots to live for!

So, back to the question.

In order to clear my conscience and help me figure out my answer, I consulted a dictionary and here what it had to say about the word, career:

“An occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one’s lifework.”

Hmm, still having trouble with applying this word to my situation.  Let’s see what else I can find.

“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’.”-Maya Angelou

That’s it!  A writing career to me isn’t about “making a living” but “making a life.”

Now that I’m feeling better about things, let’s move on.

For the first part of the question: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now?

Though I’ve been regularly writing and publishing (short stuff) since 2007, I still haven’t found that niche. I desire to have a book of some sort traditionally published in five years, but whether it’ll be the fiction or nonfiction sort, I haven’t a clue.  I have dabbled in all forms and nearly all genres, and I’m still in the dark.

Does this mean I should try to be one of those multi-genre/format kind of writer?

Or, should I continue to try and narrow down the area or areas of “expertise” for myself?

I’m starting to wonder if maybe I need to find a mentor to help guide me on this journey.

Sheesh, I’m all over the place.  See what you did, IWSG?  😉

On to the second part of the question: what’s your plan to get there?

At this juncture, I plan to continue what I’m currently doing: craft the kind of fictional stories that I’d want to read, and then find a home for them; plus write micropoems and essays about my various life experiences (have been dealt with a lot of losses that I’m still trying to work through).

Whew.

Survived this one.

What about you?  Where do you see yourself, as a writer, in five years?

 

 

The Magic of Writing (A Tale of Rediscovery)

book-magic

 

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”-Stephen King

Why did you fall in love with books?  How about with writing?

For me, it was the ability of books to transport me to other worlds; to meet new and interesting characters, to explore exciting and wondrous places and creatures.  They took me away from reality and I discovered the magical realm of imagination.

In time, I learned to transform those fantastical worlds in to words.

Magic was real to me.  I believed in impossibilities.

Myths and legends.

In dreams.

I’ve been called naive for most of my life.  Probably because I choose not to see the world in its present state (dark, ugly and full of chaos and violence); but with possibilities and potentials.

Hope and beauty.

I choose to look at the world with a child-like view.

Hence, I still believe in Santa Claus and elves, and knights in shining armors.

Does this make me silly?

Maybe.

It’s how I survive in these ever darkening times.

However, for the past several years reality has been slowly poisoning my mind.

I wanted to write darker stuff.  The media is full of these kinds of images and messages.

My inner being grew more hollowed.

Depression and negative thoughts settled in.

These writings that I could never seem to finish made me feel so…so empty.

I began to doubt myself as a writer, and even considered giving it up completely.

Then yesterday I sat down to watch an old favorite movie; one I hadn’t seen in several years.  Actually, I watched the first two back-to-back:

harry-potter-chamber-of-secrets

I felt like a kid all over again.  My mind full of magical things.

Ideas.

The same ideas I had many years ago but have shelved them.

No more.

It’s time I honor the writer I truly am.

“I want to be magic. I want to touch the heart of the world and make it smile. I want to be a friend of elves and live in a tree. Or under a hill. I want to marry a moonbeam and hear the stars sing. I don’t want to pretend at magic anymore. I want to be magic.”-Charles de Lint

 

Writer, Who’s Your Inspiration?

 

lessons

Fun Friday (Share Your Link Day)

stories are gifts

 

Hey-you made it!  It’s Friday!  Time for a little fun 🙂

Have you ever thought of what your motto and mantra are as a writer?   These are great to have for those days when nothing seems clear-cut, and you feel like you’re wandering around in perpetual circles.

In case you may have forgotten, we’ll clarify exactly what these mean.  On to the dictionary shall we?

Motto: “a sentence, phrase, or word expressing the spirit or purpose of a person (in this case, writer).”

Mantra: “an often repeated word, formula, or phrase, often a truism: If I hear theless is more’ mantra one more time, I’ll scream.”

Okay, I’ll start off.

My motto is:

agony maya angelou

 

 

 

 

 

 

This pretty much sums up my purpose in being a writer: to get this all-consuming gnawing out of me.  Only thing, this gnawing encompasses so many different things which means this may take me a lifetime to extract.  Truly agonizing (at least for me it is).

 

My mantra is:

You must write the book that you feel is missing from your bookshelf.”-Elizabeth Gilbert

There are many versions of this type of statement.  If you don’t see the story you want to read, write it!

 

Now, it’s your turn.   Write a post about what  your motto and mantra are and share the link to the post in the comment section below.  I will then come and visit!

Writers and Experiences

beartooth two

 

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

 

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

 

 

As a writer, do you believe that every new experience added to your life’s resume can add value to your writing?

A new perspective.  A new sensation.

An added dimension.  A new layer.

New…everything.

Isn’t it amazing how much of our experiences actually end up in our stories?  How each new experience changes us however minute?

Life can be so rich and enriching…if we allow it to be.

As writers, new experiences are what make our stories come alive.   For some readers, these may be the only ways they can experience new things.  New places.  Meet new people.

Our writing can also heal.  Unite.  End wars and disputes.

So, if you’d ever questioned whether or not your experiences aren’t important…

Think again.

Our roles as writers in civilization are crucial.

Don’t hold back.  Get out there and experience life with an open mind.

The world may depend on it.

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

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A Writer’s Mind (Poll)

What Do You Fear Most As a Writer? (Poll)

 

 

“Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.” -Charles Stanley

Writing Through Your Fears

fear and resistance

 

 

 

 

Ever had a passion project in mind that kept nudging at you all hours of the day; but, when you sat down to actually begin working on it only to find that your mind had gone completely blank?

 

What did you do?

 

If you’re like many writers, you blamed it on “writer’s block.”

 

In Gabriela Pereira’s upcoming book, DIY MFA, she states that there is no such thing as “writer’s block;” rather it’s resistance.  The more meaningful the project is, the more one has to lose so the greater the resistance.  She went on to say that instead of looking at this resistance as an enemy, look at it as a compass.    Use it to guide as you work through this resistance.

 

So, instead of running from it…

 

Face it.

 

In doing so, you may surprise yourself at what you’d uncover.  Many writers have discovered valuable breakthroughs by working through their fears.

 

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”
–Henry Ford

 

I have battled with the fear of inferiority.  That anything I do will not be good enough. So, instead of working through this and continue producing as a writer, I’d stop writing altogether.

 

Sounds familiar?

 

Over time, I have (somewhat) overcome this by writing and finishing short works of fiction, and poetry; however, I’ve yet to complete a long work of fiction (a novel; heck,  even a novella would be nice).   I’d get about a quarter of a way through, and then stop.

 

No one’s gonna want to read this.

 

It’s never going to be published so why bother?

 

On and on it goes.

 

I know where this resistance is coming from.  It’s stemming from various painful experiences in my past.  Instead of working through this, I’m allowing it to stop me from doing what I love.  And it’s making me miserable.

 

I’m going to take Gabriela’s advice and begin viewing this resistance as my compass, and allow it to guide me down the path I’m destined for.

 

Will you do the same?

 

“What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.” –Jiddu Krishnamurti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creativity Myths

diy mfa book

 

In Gabriela Pereira’s upcoming book, DIY MFA, she debunks the following 5 creativity myths:

  1. Creativity is an exclusive club, and you can’t be part of it.
  2. Creativity is innate–you either have it or you don’t.
  3. Creativity is driven by chaos, so there’s no way to control it.
  4. Creativity is all about getting that one “Big Idea.”
  5. Creativity is focusing on an idea until it’s perfect.

#5 resonates most with me.  I’m a perfectionist in pretty much all things.  You’d think this would make me a “master” of anything I attempt.

Nope.

Instead, I rarely follow through or finish anything because I am a perfectionist.

If I can’t get it right in my first attempt, it gets discarded or set aside permanently.  I kept comparing myself to the successful writers (JK Rowling, Stephen King and Madeleine L’Engle for examples) which made things even worse for me.  I found that not only I couldn’t finish what I started, I couldn’t even get started on anything!

For a long time, I thought that perhaps I wasn’t meant to be a writer because I had no skills or talent for it.

Then, I began to study the history of these writers more closely.

It took JK Rowling about five years to write the first book of Harry Potter.  This manuscript was rejected twelve times before being accepted.

Stephen King threw his first manuscript, Carrie, in the trash because he wasn’t happy with its progress.  It wasn’t good enough.   Tabitha, his wife, retrieved it and encouraged him to not give up on it.  To finish it.  God bless that woman.

Madeleine L’Engle was very shy and introverted as a girl; so much so, many deemed her as “stupid.”  So, she reverted to imaginary friends and worlds.   Writing grew out of this.  With very few publications under her belt, she faced rejection time and time again.  Eventually, at the age of 40, she decided to give up on writing altogether.  However, the inner voice wouldn’t let her do it.  She would write A Wrinkle in Time which would ultimately be rejected more than thirty times before being published.

Wow…these writers weren’t perfect.   They didn’t happen upon success over night.

No, success came slow and hard for each of them.

Anne Lamott summed it up best for me:

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”

Oh, this rang true and clear for me!   Other than the fact that I am a bit on the crazy side, I don’t relish the thought of being miserable for the rest of my life.  I’d rather write than NOT.  I also began to realize that just about every successful writer out there had to work hard in their craft to get where they are.

Which means that there is no such thing as being “perfect.”  Just lots and lots of practice.

 

Do any of the creativity myths listed above resonate with you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, You Discovered Your Writing Superpower-What’s Your Kryptonite?

weakness turns to strength

 

In an earlier post (Every Writer Has a Superpower!), there’s a quiz you could take to find what your storytelling superpower is.  However, there is a dark side to this.  Each writer has something, a weakness, that tends to drain his or her superpower or make it useless (if we let it).

Not a very pleasant thought, huh?

What’s the key to overcoming this?

Acknowledging that yes, there is something that’s holding you back from achieving that next level as a writer.

Now, you must take action.

Find out what this Kryptonite is, and then work through it.  Instead of just accepting it, find ways to improve this area of weakness in your writing.

“Our strength grows out of our weakness.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Adversity tends to make a person stronger- if faced head-on.

A lot of times, one’s Kryptonite is related closely to one’s superpower.

For instance, my storytelling superpower is Survivor:

“You’ve got a penchant for characters who will do whatever it takes to survive….regardless of their situation, you’re drawn to creating characters your readers will admire for their pluck, determination, and sheer creative willpower.”

This is spot on for me.  My characters will do whatever necessary to survive; however, in doing so, they tend to be so focused on survival, they forget the human-side of things like feeling emotions.   They’re so busy reacting, moving from one crisis to the next like some kind of a robot, they don’t try to stop for a split moment to deal with the emotional trauma they’re experiencing.

I’m great at creating suspense in my stories; but they lack the human-element: emotions.  The one thing that grabs a reader, and hook him or her throughout the entire story.  The one thing that breathes life into characters.  The one and same that gives any given story that special uniqueness.  Otherwise, it falls short of greatness, always missing its true potential.

The same is true in my own life.  I’ve gone through several periods where I endured losses and painful changes that in order to get through them, I’d completely shut off my emotions.

My main focus was to survive.  Adding my feelings to the mix was too much for me to deal with.  I figured that I’d deal with them later.

Only I never did.

Now, I’m faced with worsening anxiety issues and becoming more of a recluse.

My family is starting to suffer because of this Kryptonite.  And so is my writing.

I’m just now acknowledging that this is my Kryptonite.

Next, I must take action.  To find ways of injecting emotions back in to my characters, my stories.

But first-I need to allow those emotions to flow through me.  To re-open the door of my heart, and allow it to breathe.

I need to live again.

Only then will my stories come to life.

What about you?  Have you identified your Kryptonite yet?  What kinds of action will you take to address it?

*Do you have that desire to get to the next level as a writer?  Here’s a book that may help you!

A Writer’s Vulnerable Heart (Part One)

     “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”  –Brene Brown
    “I can’t write to please everyone, but someone, somewhere will be touched if I put my heart into it.”-Sara Winters
    “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”-William Wordsworth
crying eye
My mind is full of rich and varied images.  Layers of story lines twist and turn with one another; sometimes overlapping, other times becoming as one.  Faces of characters float before my eyes with expressions of pain, joy, and anger.  They’re all there.  In my head.
    Yet, when I write them down on paper (or through the keyboard), the emotions are well, flat.  Stale.  Lifeless.
    I even had a few editors, two especially, who’d read different short stories and both came to the same conclusion:  my characters lacked emotions.
    Really? 
    Funny, when I “act” out various scenes in my head, the strong emotions would rush to the surface, and occasionally, I’d find myself crying, or laughing.   But, why can’t I make these same emotions flow through my characters?
    What’s wrong with my characters?
    What’s wrong with me?
    All my life I have suppressed my emotions.  Especially the tears.  For me, they were signs of weakness.   Heck, I even have difficulties with intimacy in my marriage because it requires me to be vulnerable.
    Vulnerability=weakness.
    I crave connection with people; yet I shy away from them.
    Fear.  Of. What???
    One of my biggest fears is ending up alone.  And that’s exactly where my current path is leading me.
    Sad, huh?
    No, its pathetic!
    Bottom line, I know if I don’t resolve these issues on a personal level, as a writer I will never truly reach people.  Touch them.   Because in order to do that, I need to expose my inner soul, my wounded heart; I need to show my vulnerabilities through the characters, reveal them all to the world; only then, will I be able to touch readers with words.
    If only…

Quotes About Writing and Blogging

I’m still contemplating on my dual roles as a writer and a blogger; but, here are several quotes I came across that caught my attention:

“Blogging is good for your career. A well-executed blog sets you apart as an expert in your field.” -Penelope Trunk

“I think of us as journalists; the medium we work in is blogging.” -Joshua Micah Marshall

“Blogging is just writing — writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology.” -Simon Dumenco

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” -Philip Pullman

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” -Annais Nin

Do you have any favorite quotes about writing and/or blogging that you like to share?

 

 

 

Writing Through the Chaos

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” Deepak Chopra

“Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.” Stephen Sandheim

storm prairie

In all the chaos of this world, is it really possible to find that “stillness” within you?   Could art (in my case, writing) be the key to bringing that “stillness” back into our lives?

Everything in my life is currently out of whack, and I’m having a very difficult time trying to find my rhythm as a writer again.  I’m still living out of bins and eating off paper plates, and cooking meals in the microwave all the while trying to keep my house immaculately (with seven cats and a young boy) clean and odor-free for potential buyers/realtors who can come at any given moment. Hubby has been out in North Dakota for almost a month now working in his new job.  He thinks he has found us a home there, but now we’re just waiting on someone to buy our house here.  Logistics can be a real pain.

Son is really missing his dad so I’m trying to stay positive and upbeat for him.  My mom comes over every other day to visit and help me when she can, but she’s still dealing with losing her life’s mate, and I’m trying to be there for her emotionally (as I have been a widow once).  But, I am really missing my daddy too.

*Sigh*

To top it all off, I’m juggling bills and various expenses with only one income; trying to make it all stretch  just long enough ’till my disability benefits come through. Oh, and trying to keep my anxiety level down because of the worrying of not hearing or seeing something when I should have in order to avoid any major disaster (wish my darn eyes and ears would work like everyone’s else).

All the stressing and worrying have me so distracted, I’m finding it nearly impossible to focus on writing; and this would then add on to my frustration since I really need this outlet to calm my nerves down, and free my mind of all the clutter that keeps piling up in this over-stimulated mind of mine.

*Sigh*

Something has to give.  So, here I go, sitting my butt down in the chair (one of the few furniture still left in the house), and I’m going to write.  It may not be eloquent or any good at all…but I know this action will miraculously (as only writing can do for me) still my racing thoughts and quiet my nerves.

Thank goodness.

prairie

 

The Power and the Freedom Of Words

flag

 

“A picture can tell a thousand words,
but a few words can change it’s story.”
-Sebastyne Young

 

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”
-Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind)

 

“Use the right word and not its second cousin.”-Mark Twain

 

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.” Mark Twain

 

“All the great things are simple,power-of-the-pen
and many can be expressed in a single word:
freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”
– Winston Churchill

 

“Every human has four endowments self-awareness, conscience,
independent will and creative imagination.
These give us the ultimate human freedom…the power to choose,  to respond, to change.”
– Stephen Covey

 

“Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some under-culture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.” -Don Delillo

 

 

How many writers (from both present and past) can you think of whose writings have impacted civilization as a whole?  How many of these writers wrote as free men/women, or under some form of confinement?   Writers who use their words wisely can change hearts, minds, even the world!

As writers, let us live and write with conviction and with purpose.

Happy 4th!

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.-E.P. Powell

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.-Frederick Keonig