They say that in order to become a good writer, you have to read a lot and write a lot. This is absolutely true. You also have to keep going…no matter what. And there may be a lot of what. … Continue reading
Although it seems counter intuitive, readers are primarily interested in the author after which they’ll read their books. An author could, for example, write prolifically yet have readers want to know intimate details about them. Readers, I’ve come to understand, long for this intimate knowledge combined with an emotional rapport with the author. It’s that “special bond” that lets readers know you’re human and that you care—about them and the world around you, generally speaking.
Let me tell you a bit about myself
When I was a teenager, I read Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book, Manifest Your Destiny. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I already mentioned this. Although I’m repeating myself, I’d like to tell you more about my discovery now.
I read the book in a secret hiding place: our home’s verandah, where all the unused yet accumulated clutter was stored. I chose the verandah because I didn’t want anyone to know I was reading such a book. That’s because, on some level, I knew that what the book said was extremely powerful and that, provided one believed, it could happen. I remember squatting, surrounded by messiness (an old bicycle, my enormous, stuffed Clifford toy), staring at the book’s cover with its yellow hue and smiling author who mesmerized me. I looked at a then younger version of Dr. Dyer wondering, “Who is this man who knows such things?”
After reading the book, I promptly forgot all about it and proceeded to do all of the things (read, societally approved and expected behaviour) that everyone does. The idea, though, that manifesting one’s destiny was possible, however, remained planted somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind. It didn’t fade away. It remained for future reference.
As a teenager reading Dr. Dyer’s book, the idea that I could write books which would be distributed and sold all over the planet arose in my mind. It was probably too much for me to absorb, then, which is why I blocked it out.
There’s a time for everything
In the same way that we can’t force a flower to bloom, we can’t make an idea germinate before its time. Forcing something before its time can have counter productive, not to say disastrous, effects.
Image courtesy of dreamtime.
Today was a wonderful day because I wrote two more chapters for SD: HTLTLYL (abbreviated).
For the past month, my life has been a blur. I’ve been on the go virtually nonstop, performing as if I were a robot instead of a person. I barely had time for grooming let alone writing. Having said that, how can one write when one has no time?
Out of the country and on the road, it seems as if I have zero time. Yet, the moment came when, all of a sudden, in a burst of inspiration, I knew that two more chapters—yes, the more or less predictable two—had arrived.
I wrote. They were good chapters, made sense and seemed to emerge spontaneously. And they were related to the experiences I’d been having.
Writing comes naturally
The honest truth is that I wasn’t able to write until today. During a quiet moment, I knew that the words had arrived. It was almost as if they’d waited until this very moment. The words knew that I was too busy to pen them and had waited. They’d waited somewhere in the misty world where words wait for authors. It’s a space that exists somehwere beyond where I will ever know. Nevertheless, this space exists and it holds onto words until the right moment.
The words arrived at the very moment when I became available to receive them. The words somehow knew that my busyness had come to a temporary halt, and they came. It’s almost as if they asked, “Would you like two more chapters now?”
The two chapters for the e-book SD: HTLTLYL, an e-book about which I’d had zero time to think about, came as a natural progression to where I’d left off. I did not have to remember or figure out anything, the words just came and made perfect sense.
Like a computer program
If, as authors, we make ourselves available, the words we’ve been waiting for will come. I know this to be true because I experienced it. I would describe it as a computer program that is made to generate books, too many to count. Each book is there, waiting in line, waiting for its turn to emerge from the “waiting room.” The words, paragraphs and chapters are ready, just waiting for me to record them.
When inspiration strikes
Inspiration knows when to come. It comes when there’s an opening; when you, the author, have a free moment. That’s when it comes. Your job is to “listen” and write down the words.
This is how to write when you have zero time.
“Painted Mountain II” Photographer: Luba Rascheff
I finished a short book, 101GNOA (abbreviated), and am working on 101GNOA, 2. I find that when I have a book in ready format (for Amazon, Kindle, for example), it’s very easy to expand upon what has already been written. You’ll be hearing more about these two, little power-punching books in about five months from now or so once they clear copyright.
Although some may disagree, for me personally, inspiration is the key to good writing. Without inspiration, I don’t believe that I would be able to offer readers memorable material.
There is a certain humanity to Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth that has stayed with me over the years. I can’t say the same for the multitude of novels I’ve read, some written by well-known authors. This speaks volumes about an inexplicable quality that has so much more to do with the soul than an ability to mechanistically assemble carefully crafted sentences like car parts in a factory.
What is it, therefore, that makes one story—or parts thereof—stick to one’s memory and others slip away into oblivion?
Research and critical thinking
Combined with inspiration is research and critical thinking. When inspiration comes—and count your blessings when it does—you’ll need to structure it in such a way as to make sense. There must be cohesion and it must fit inside a larger context. In other words, it’s got to make sense; and I’m not just talking about the plot, names of characters, event sequence, color cordination, etc. I’m referring to meaning that goes beyond syntax, grammar, spelling, plot, paragraph formation, suspense and conclusion.
When I write and feel inspired, there is a ‘flow’ that starts which can be likened to a flowing stream of water. Momentum builds up and content ‘pours’ out of me. This is the kind of inspiration that writers should aspire for. Why? Why should we be inspired at all? I believe that writers for whom it is the case should stop struggling in order to express themselves.
The big secret is that writing can and should be a lot easier than it’s made out to be, provided you’re inspired.
Working versus struggling
To say that one must struggle in order to produce memorable content is a myth.
Doing research for, say, a historical novel—I’ve done this and can speak to it—constitutes work but doesn’t represent a struggle. Struggling is when we must exert effort in order to say something.
Uplifting oneself toward inspiration
To be inspired one has to seek inspiration or, at the very least, be open to receive it. When inspiration ‘knocks’ at the door, it’s up to you to open it.
Inspiration will come, but it won’t come all the time. That’s because it isn’t humanly possible to be inspired at all times. It is, however, within the realm of possibility to be inspired some of the time.
Whatever its frequency, inspiration is the source of memorable content that makes an impact and changes lives.
May you be inspired!
There’s a famous author whose name I can’t recall. Prior to attaining fame, he holed himself up in an attic with the intention of writing the ultimate novel. He sat in his attic room, at his desk, for one month staring at a blank sheet of paper unable to write anything at all. He couldn’t pen a single word.
The young man left the attic room and started traveling. He had experiences that moved and changed him. It was only then that he was able to write the novel he had tried to start prematurely in vain. He realized that, without life experience, without having felt anything, he had nothing to say. The aspiring author had been a blank slate needing to be filled.
It is only after reading much, living much, analyzing much and practising the art of writing much that we are able to, with few words, say things that are meaningful and have the potential to influence readers. Anything prior to that represents crude attempts at expression that could be likened to a Neanderthal trying to recite Shakespeare.
Frozen in time
Writers possess a unique gift: we can freeze time. Writing enables us to take situations and immortalize them. And, by immortalizing situations, we ultimately immortalize ourselves. We leave behind us a body of works that can be read again and again, works that speak to those lived events that changed us and have the capacity to change others.
At the right time
There’s a time for everything and this includes producing a literary work. As much as people extol motivation, the best creations are produced through inspiration. In the same way that the now-famous author sat at his attic desk staring at a blank sheet of paper for one month lacked inspiration, we who lack inspiration should leave our ‘attic room’ and head for the proverbial trail.
In slow motion
Writing about the events that ‘fill our slates’ and civilize us is a lifelong proposition. It has everything to do with maintaining the determination to put pen to paper and tell our story. And it has nothing to do with lacking inspiration.
You will become immortal through your writings
One of the hardest things for a seasoned author to do is to move from writing fiction to writing non-fiction. I can attest to this because it happened to me in 2008. It is precisely this, however, that will catapult you into immortality. It is the step that authors fear most yet must take in order to move into another sphere.
The late Maria Zaousi, a well-known, Greek author and friend, talked to me about how she moved from writing fiction to fact. She told me that it was one of the most liberating decisions she’d ever made.
Maria was a very generous person. I was living in Athens at the time. In Europe, heating systems start working at fixed dates regardless of what the weather is like. It became very cold very soon and my cousin George’s apartment was freezing. Maria generously gave my cousin and I a large amount of firewood to warm ourselves.
This happened in 2001, but I still remember Maria’s words.
Rest in peace, Maria, and may your works continue to be read.
Image title: “Wealth, power and desired immortality: monuments and tombs (Sphinx and Pyramid).
Image source: http://www.oubey.com
Do you ever look at a blank page and can’t seem to write a word? You have no idea at all what to write. You may start with something, struggle, and then, after a while, stop. You may even write several pages and then crumple them up because you feel dissatisfied with what you’ve written.
These are signs that you lack inspiration.
Inspiration, whose origin in Middle English means “divine guidance” and, via the Old French from the late Latin verb “inspirare,” means “breathe or blow into ‘from in-‘into’ + spirare ‘breathe.’ The word was originally used of a divine or supernatural being, in the sense ‘impart a truth or idea to someone.'” 1
Many people today know that by performing breathing exercises they engage in meditation. These kinds of exercises enable people to relax and “tap into” inspiration.
No rush here
If you want to be inspired, the best thing is not to rush. Forcing something will get you nothing but dissatisfaction. It’s like trying to make a flower grow. A typical flower grows naturally when it’s well rooted in soil and receives enough sunshine and water. The process cannot be rushed. It’s the same way with writing.
I believe that time plays a great role in receiving inspiration. If you can’t seem to come up with something, take a break, relax and drink a cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. This will put your mind off of forcing yourself to come up with something. As you relax, over time, thoughts will traverse your mind. One thought will lead to another and, all of a sudden, you’ve come up with an idea for your blog post, chapter or novel!
Although the thoughts will be brief and almost like ‘sparks,’ you then need to enhance them by adding more to what you’ve received. This is where the hard work of writing and editing comes in. You will need to ‘dig’ around the ‘flower’ of your thoughts, clear out the ‘weeds’ and make sure you add plenty of ‘water.’
Nurture your inspiration
The ‘sparks’ you receive need to be nurtured in order to bloom into the beauty that they were always meant to be: an inspired project. You need to nurture the seeds of inspiration so that they can grow. In many ways, writing a good blog post, chapter or novel is like cooking a great meal. My Aunt Sue says that if you put love into your cooking, the result will be wonderful. It’s the same way with writing.
Don’t overcook the meal
Adding too many words to a project can be disastrous because your literary inspiration could ‘go up in flames.’ It’s important to say just enough, but no more than what is necessary.
May you be inspired today.
Image title: “Beautiful Swan”
Photographer: Luba Rascheff
How much attention do you pay to your environment? Do you notice what’s happening around you? How careful are you regarding details pertaining to, for example, your job?
Many people go about their daily business as if they wore blinders. They focus on a goal yet ignore everything else. It’s as if nothing existed but their singular aim with the rest of the world meaning next to nothing. This is not the right approach to take because: details do matter.
Glossing over important details means that you will lose golden opportunities. Your understanding will be diminished; you will be more rigid and less flexible; your capacity to enjoy life will be curtailed; and you will miss out on life-transforming knowledge.
We are not isolated beings single-mindedly following personal agendas. We are socially-interconnected beings whose behavior affects everyone and everything around us.
In order to fully experience the richness of our existence, we need to stop “blindly” pursuing limited, personal gain. Our gain will come in full when we admit that we are interwoven into the social fabric.
The 5 steps to seeing detail and increasing awareness
- Observe Your ability to observe (whether documents, people or situations) will increase your acumen. The power of observation (i.e., paying attention to minutiae) will draw you closer to reality.
- Remember the details you see After observing important details, write notes to help you remember what you’ve seen. You could, for example, keep a work-related journal and use dates and times to record matters of importance.
- Incorporate what you’ve seen As you re-read your journal entries or notes, remember the details you described using the written word in your mind’s eye. This will increase your ability to: connect with the world around you; develop your memory; and, ultimately, improve your work performance.
- Understand the relevance of detail When you read your journal, you will realize the high degree to which people and events are interconnected; where you belong in the story; and the great importance of minutiae in all things.
- Enjoy your new, heightened awareness It would not be an exaggeration to say that paying attention increases awareness. Paying attention to the details (e.g., of your job) will enhance your ability to hear and see; focus; and make connections that will increase your awareness and, in turn, result in benefits.
Aaaaaaaiiiieeeeeeee! This is the ‘war cry’ that Bruce Lee emits before performing a series of moves that incapacitate his opponents perfectly.
In the same way that Lee disciplines his mind to execute the moves that categorically put his opponents ‘out of business,’ we need to discipline our minds before writing.
Economy of speech
Although it’s tempting to use a multitude of words to say something, we should be sparse in our speech. In the same way that Lee uses economy of movement–to produce best effect–we should do the same with the written word.
The best effect results when there is harmony between thought and word.
Remember your goal
Your goal is to express an idea in the simplest and most elegant way. Your aim is to immediately convey something powerful to your audience.
In the same way that Lee strikes selectively, we should ‘precision strike’ with keywords. Keywords are the action words that make our story come to life. They are the punchline.
A constant state of awareness
In order to maintain the effect of suspense, our writing must mirror our constant state of awareness. This is our commitment to remaining alert to the details of our lives. As we purposefully pay attention to what surrounds us by disciplining our minds, this will invariably reflect in the quality of our writing. As we become better and better at acting when we must and speaking when needed, our writing will reflect our state of mind.
Mind creates words
Our thinking creates what we write. How and what we think are intimately tied to what we write. They cannot be separated.
Let the fight begin
We begin the fight–to produce the perfect story–by developing techniques that help us discipline our minds so that the product we produce is a reflection of what we’ve achieved.
The outside mirrors the inside
What we write mirrors what we think. For best effect, we must have the ‘best’ thinking, so to speak.
Take your time
In the same way that it took years for Bruce Lee to attain the level he did, it will take you years in the field of writing.
Remember, the secret to perfect writing is perfect mind discipline.