About Me

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I still feel like a teenager on the inside, unfortunately my children do remind me how old I am!! I have lived for 20+ years as an Irish expat in The Netherlands. My favourite city here has to be Amsterdam.

Writing, reading, authentic living. It's all here at The Writing Process

Welcome to my blog. Let me start by telling you that I love writing. I love the sense of vitality it gives me. I love that it helps me to make sense of the world and to the people in it. I love that it helps me become wiser, more intuitive, empathic, and most of all autonomous.

All aspects - reading, writing and observing - are what make the process complete. The essence is storytelling, and learning about
life and yourself.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Just take the time to listen

Now and then you have to stop and listen to what the universe is trying to tell you. I was having quite a difficult time staying focussed, my writing suffered, and as a result my wellbeing. I was getting all sorts of signals from the universe, as one does, you know those little whispers that tell you to slow down, or change course, or come to a decision about something or other. I was choosing to ignore all these little whispers and as a result the universe started shouting at me, really loud, so I had to take note. I don't think I need to dwell on all the various ways I was shouted at, suffice it to say, the little book reviews below are the result of that shouting. Here goes:

So, okay uinverse, you don´t have to shout any more. I am listening. I will get on with getting over the break up and I will get back to writing and reconnecting with the world at large as my true self.
I bought two books - and don't laugh. Is he Mr Right? - Mira Kirshenbaum, and It's called a break up because it's broken - Greg Berhrendt.
And know what, they were both great. They were practical, honest, and oh so true. What it comes down to, in both books, is always self worth. Why do we fool ourselves into staying with anything, be it a relationship or a job or whatever, long after they don't fit us or fulfill us any more? We stay because we lack the confidence to do something different. Relationships that have become dead horses are flogged endlessly. But you know what? Dead is dead, and I haven't met a horse with a Lazarus complex yet. Most are just processed into dog food!
Mira Kirshenbaum talks about chemistry and how that is more important than finding someone who is compatible. Compatible does not equal good match. Chemistry equals good match. Chemistry will see you through hard times because chemistry creates the emotional bond that is the foundation in a lasting relationship. Then it doesn't matter so much if you both like the same movies or read the same books. BUT, Kirshenbaum warns, if you meet your partner when your life is being tested, say you have suffered a loss of some sort, or are still recovering from your previous separation, then the relief you feel, or the exhileration during the 'in love' stage may create what she calls counterfeit chemistry. In order to judge whether the chemistry is real or counterfeit, you need to give the relationship time to unfold. Do not move in with a new partner until the dust has settled. Wait until life returns to normal, and then see if you still feel the chemistry. Should the chemistry prove itself to be counterfeit, then you need to get out. And here is where the mistakes are made. Often, due to lack of confidence in ourselves or in the universe to provide, we will stay in the relationship long after the fire has dwindled, preventing ourselves from getting out there to find a more suitable partner, and a richer life.
In Greg Behrendt's book, which was so familiar it brought an embarassing colour to my cheeks, he emphasises the need to face reality and have the confidence to realise that just because a guy dumps you, does not mean there is anything wrong with you. The relationship is broken, but the people who were in it, aren't. Both are worthy people who have become stuck in a dead connection. He warns against rewriting the relationship after the breakup to only include the best of times. It's broken, and it's only the heartache that wants an excuse not to go through the process of separation. Only the heartache that would rather go back to a dissatisfying relationship instead of accepting the separation and healing itself. Like Krishenbaum, Behrendt says that it is the lack of self confidence that draws us back into the relationship. Fear of the unknown. Fear of ending up on the shelf. Behrendt says that most of us neglect our most important relationship, the one with ourselves. Self love is the best basis for a sound relationship with someone else. Learn your likes and dislikes, because then you know what a relationship needs to provide. And if you find yourself in a situation where these needs are not being met, you will at least have someone to fall back on - yourself. You will be less inclined to endure a situation that is not contributing to your happiness.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Doing the Work

By doing the work, I mean now physically getting on with putting the words onto paper, or into a document on your word processor.
We have discussed motivation, emotion (our own and the characters), we have recognised the voices in our head, criticising us, and hindering our progress. We have also looked at plot, chapter breakdown, opening sentences, characterization and a host of other aspects of the writing process.
Before I delve deeper into the less concrete aspects of writing, I feel the time is ripe to 'get mechanical'. And by that I mean, simply, the actual process of writing itself.
Take yourself seriously. Without this key commitment, very little in the way of novel progression is likely to happen. Having cleared the way emotionally, and having recognized your own talent, and inspiration, your next commitment is to your writing time.
Whether you feel connected to your higher inspiration or not, whether you feel you could look Dickens in the eye or not, whether you can envision yourself writing the magic words 'The End' or not, you will still have to WRITE.
Make a simple promise to yourself to sit at your desk, switch on the computer, or pick up a pen, and write. Word follows word, sentence follows sentence, and paragraph follows paragraph. And that's the truth. There is no other way.
It is not enough to live in the future and keep telling yourself and those around you that you have a brilliant idea, and that one day, when you have the time, you might write that novel. Today is yesterday's future, and tomorrow's past. So today is the day. Finding the time is your gift to yourself. Finding the time is proving to yourself that you know how to prioritize and categorize and choose. Today you will, instead of switching on your TV, write.
Write even when you don't feel inspired and take refuge in all the tricks and tools we have discussed in earlier articles.
At this stage of your process, the quality takes a back seat to consistency. And by consistency I mean, becoming the kind of writer you can rely on - one that writes!
Learning to be a writer is no different from learning to play the piano. It is no different from deciding to sport on a regular basis. It all takes practice and it takes the commitment to building new habits. Healthy habits.
You will find that as the days go by, and you become accustomed to you, the writer, that your skills will improve. You will find the sentences flowing more easily, paragraphs becoming more complete, and you will discover a hidden vocabulary, that has lived inside your head, waiting for you to tap into it.
But more than this, writing will become an integral part of your life, a solid part of your day.
You will become comfortable with you, the writer.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

More emotion

In the last article I brought up the subject of emotions, which led to a discussion on 'love', which I had not specifically mentioned in my list of basic emotions. That is because I see love as a verb rather than an emotion. 'Love' is something we do, and it is the result of needing to fulfill an emotion. It can be driven by fear, need for sex, joy, or a combination of any of the five emotions. I think when writing, this is a very important distinction to make. Also, love in any of its forms, will appear in a piece of writing - always if we consider that this is usually the underlying motivation of the characters. They will either be driven by their need to gain love and approval, or they will be motivated by the need to pamper themselves (self love).
The opposite of love, would be hate, you imagine. Well, consider this. The opposite of love, or absense of love is fear.
Those who seek love in order to banish fear, are responding to their need to eradicate the fear rather than their desire to give love (love as a verb or an action). The love so gained is transitory, and weak and not everlasting and pure.
And, in my own humble opinion, these themes can be traced to the fundament of any story. These are the most basic motivators. Here we find the internal conflicts within each individual. Here we find the reasons why characters act in a particular way. More importantly, here we find the way of emphathising with our characters.
Even if we choose to write about an axe murderer or a child abuser, or allow one to appear in our story, if we can find his fear, his absence of love, then we can stir up some compassion and give ourselves permission to write him or her without being blocked by prejudice or hate.
In The Cloths of Heaven, I have included characters whose behaviour is socially unacceptable, immoral, but I have moved beyond my own personal opinion of their behaviour and dug into their 'souls' and found their motivator. Then, though I do not condone their actions, I can continue to 'write' them and experience them as whole human beings, caught up in their own inner conflict.
I recognise their search for love. I recognise their need to diminish fear.
A wonderful example of this ability to empathise with a distasteful character can be found in Nabokov's 'Lolita'. Here, Nabokov creeps into the skin of a pedofile and manages to humanise him. Somehow, Nabokov has moved beyond the act of abuse and the abuser, and written, with wonderful skill I might add, this man's story of survival and need and loneliness. At times Humbert, the main character, can be pitied. It is not the abuse that is emphasised, but the loneliness and fear and insecurity that have caused it. I have emphasised here the need to move beyond personal prejudice or pre-conceived notions when dealing with fictional characters. I have deliberately used distasteful examples because I do believe that only when we can connect with the negative as well as the positive can we truly write brilliant fiction. When we ourselves allow fear to censor us (remember those voices in our own heads) then what we write will be weak, two dimensional, and unappealing to a reader.