My apologies for not posting yesterday, on Wednesday. I had a rough day, and am still somewhat going through it. But, I will be posting again on Wednesdays as usual, starting next week. In addition to reviewing After Dark by Haruki Murakami, who we discussed in another post, I’m going to be reviewing a controversial book…to be announced!
Currently, my writing is going well, but I would still like to share this article about writer’s block and depression:
Today I’m sharing a snippet of my own writing, a piece of history, if you will. Currently I’m working on a YA historical novel set during the American Civil War era, as well as researching publishing a poetry chapbook the traditional way. If you have any ideas or resources, let me know!
My book is a draft right now, and I’m still figuring out a lot of details. My story follows Patience, a middle-class young woman in New York who gets displaced during the Civil War, and learns how to become assertive and finds her purpose in life, as she’s forced to face challenges she had never imagined.
My story asks the question: How can we find the strength within ourselves to keep going, even when we are afraid? It’s about finding confidence and self-love and self-esteem, even amidst bullying and self-doubt. The story is for young adults who, much like me when I was a teenager, feel like a bit of a wallflower, invisible, a bit lost in the world, and may suffer from anxiety or depression. Looming over and intertwined with these emotional and communication issues throughout the story is the larger issue of racism that was prevalent during Civil War times (to make a huge understatement!) and sadly, remains prevalent today. I hope that through Patience’s story, readers can find some inspiration to keep going, and to love and believe in themselves.
Here is my little snippet, wherein Patience gets bullied by her sister and her friends:
An icy winter gust blasted past, fluttering Patience’s scarf in the wind. She took advantage of the distraction to look down and wrestle with it, hiding her tears. She blinked furiously, waiting for the birds with gold-limned blue bodies on her scarf to be more than blobs in her vision. There. She gulped back mucus into her throat and looked up again.
Celia’s fierce blue eyes were needling her still. She tossed her red curls and turned to her newest friend, Thomas. “Wait until you see the silly things Patience comes up with about the seasons! As if her blathering about Pastor Ellings’ service wasn’t dull enough just now. She walks around the house with her stockings half on like a child, regaling us about the newest snowflake she saw on her windowsill. I’m so glad I’m old enough to not share a room with her anymore.”
Everyone except Patience laughed. Celia knew just as well as Patience that they hadn’t shared a room since Leo moved out when Patience was fifteen and Celia was seventeen, two years ago. She always liked to make her newest complaint or sorrow sound immediate.
Patience knew there was no use saying anything. After all, Celia would just refute Patience’s claim, or laugh at her. Celia’s new friends Thomas and Arthur, and especially her old friends Margaret and Anna, would laugh with Celia and never believe she was as unkind or vindictive as Patience knew her to be. So Patience swallowed her words as usual. She tried to turn her mouth up to make it seem like she was laughing with them, not being laughed at.
Untitled, (C) C.S. Kinnaird, 2021
I feel so shy to share my work, honestly. It’s been so long since I’ve written consistently. My writing is quite rusty, like a rough-hewn piece of granite rather than the exquisite marble I’d like it to be. Posting on this blog and participating in NaNoWriMo 2020, even partially, has really helped me. I’ve been feeling much more encouraged than in recent years; if you go back through my archives, you can see my lack of posts; that correlated with a lot of depression and self-doubt I’d been experiencing. I’m so glad to have gotten out of that. It’s also rare that I posted any of my own writing, which I’m also hoping to do more of in 2021.
I really tend to be a perfectionist. It took having the free time that quarantine in 2020 granted, for me to stop listening to my Inner Editor and try my hand at being creative again. It started with going back to oil painting, and singing a couple successful “Amazing Grace”s on my new ukulele, to spark a sense of confidence and fun that I needed to dive back into writing, too. Also, putting aside my fantasy story, which I mentioned before and have done some drawings for, helped – to give myself permission to work on something else! It has been a breath of fresh air.
I haven’t done any drawings for this unnamed draft so far. But here are some images that have inspired me, from Pinterest:
I would be honored and curious to know what you think of this snippet of my writing, and of the Civil War images. Also, if you have any ideas to lend in regards to the Civil War era or historical writing, I’d love to hear it!
Recently, I’ve been feeling quite inspired. After a long time of struggle with my novel revision on my epic fantasy novel, (epic as in the genre, not tooting my own horn), I’ve finally got back in the game. Somehow, ideas have been flowing through me as to what changes need to be made to plot, what needs to happen to bring certain changes in my characters, and how the ending needs to be tweaked here and there.
I am very excited to be working on this novel again. Part of what, I think, inspired me, was watching a video where the creators of the Lord of the Rings films honour Tolkien and talk about his life. Thinking about how long he took to write his masterpiece encourages me in revising my book; if it took him so long to write, and it’s Tolkien, then there is nothing wrong with me taking a long time. Sometimes, that’s just how it is. As long as I’m feeling inspired, why worry over time?
THE MAGIC OF NON-MAGICAL FICTION
It also helps that a few ideas for a new novel have percolated into my brain. For once, I’m thinking of writing a non-magical fiction, one set in real history. I am not sure what era I want to set it in, but perhaps American Civil War. It will be a tale of two sisters, I know that, with some family drama and conflict. There will be romance somewhere in there. And part of the book will be characters’ letters to each other. That’s some of what I know so far.
So, that is exciting, too. For I love research! Writing historical fiction requires a lot of research. Previously I found the thought daunting, but now, it enlivens me. I will get to find out so many interesting things about people and places in history. And, perhaps being stuck to set rules of writing historical fiction, without the “anything, everything” of magic being a factor, will help me rest my mind.
Rest is so important. I have been trying to get more aware of my health in 2020 so far, and I think this mental rest, times of no to-do lists, has helped the creative juices flow through me.
My posts here will not be as often, for I am busy writing and researching. But, I’d still like to share poetry, and other works that inspire me, as well as articles and items I find on the technique and process of writing.
THE GREAT BOOK OF AMBER, Book Recommendation
Currently, I am reading a fantastic book, the first of the 10 “The Great Book of Amber” novels, by Roger Zelazny. It is a sort of battle for the throne fantasy novel, so far, with some very intriguing, unique magics. Check it out!
It has not been easy to be on the 500 words/day wagon. I have fallen off multiple times, and it’s been barely a week.
When you don’t have much confidence in your writing left, and haven’t been writing consistently in a long time, it’s really hard to stay on the wagon. The stacks of hay are wet and smell like sweaty shoes. The barrels of who-knows-what slosh loudly and bang against each other. You feel sweaty and like if only you were in a grove of cooling, shady trees, you could write, but instead you’re in this wagon. And there’s other people around you, sucking on pens, dipping quills in gorgeous navy-blue ink, armed with Mead notebooks and moleskins, writing.
Then there’s you, sitting in the corner, notebook and pen in hand…staring at a blank page.
NOTE: The featured image for this post appeared in 2015 on lalachinoise.wordpress.com originally, on a post about writer’s block (there are no coincidences!): link here
What to do? How to get the gears going again? They say free-write, write anything. But then I just write about how difficult writing is now, or how I don’t want to, or how I do but it’s so difficult, ugh! I want to write a story. I want to write fiction. Or at least poetry. C’mon, brain!
So you sit, staring at the blank page. And staring. And staring.
Then you realize, wow. I’m writing a blog post. That’s progress! And the other day, you wrote some ideas for the book you’ve been stuck in revision on. And put out of your mind all those other writers; they’re not you. They don’t know your experiences. They’re not writing your story. Your story, which you know is good, and you listed out all the best scenes to not cut; now you just have to link them all together.
So, any ideas, my friends? How do I link these good scenes together, and revise this darn book?
Ideas…or not? Help!
Or should I work on something new? A couple ideas have come to me, characters from my college thesis, and I think I might just want to write a short story or two, and not think about novels and outlines; so much planning involved, so much research. And since I always put magic in stories, maybe it would be fun to write a story with no magic in it. I could focus on the characters’ emotions and the events, and not have to think out rules of magic, etc. Maybe I should let my tired old brain just get chugging very…very…slowly.
I hope to come out with a fiction update on this blog soon. Keep your eyes peeled.
Also, is anyone into the Artist’s Way? I feel like if I had a group reading and doing the activities with me, it would help me lot, but I can’t seem to finish the whole thing alone.
Today I’ll talk about writing in relation to tarot card reading!
I’m going to try to improve and post more frequently. Thank you to all my followers.
Using tarot as a writer
There are so many ways that we can use tarot as writers. For example we can use tarot cards to:
Get guidance on what to write next
Ask the cards questions when we’re stuck in the middle of a project
As inspiration for mystical concepts in our stories
For drawing ideas for illustrating our stories
A tarot reading for a writer
Today I decided to ask the cards for help in revising my novel. I asked for what mood I should have going forward, and what action could I take?
Here are my results:
The Hanged Man
The hanged man card is very interesting! At first I felt a little scared when I pulled this card, because it’s a card of huge transformation, which comes more towards the end of the Fool’s journey.
My current tarot study book, “The New Tarot Handbook” by Rachel Pollack, indicates surrender to change, tapping in to our deep values, and joyful revelation.
I really love interpreting this. What I think it means is, I have to think back on the original values that I had and wanted to bring to life in this book. I have to not worry about others’ views, and tap into that unique otherworldly perspective that is writing, being a dreamer. I have to let it flow through my fingers like a revelation, like something new, and not plan and plod too much.
I feel super encouraged by this card!
For action I got this card:
Ace of Cups
This card is about beginnings, like all aces. It is also pure energy and emotional, because it is part of the cup suit. It is a gift of healing, grace, and love. It indicates emotional and spiritual nourishment, Pollack says, and awareness. A gift given freely.
This may seem like an abstract card answer for an action question. My thought is that it means I should be sure to take care of myself. I need to give myself more of what gives me happiness, respect my writing time, and have spiritual quiet time.
Isn’t it neat to see the types of messages and help tarot cards can be for writers?
My next tarot post will be about using tarot to illustrate my book’s characters. I’m hoping this will inspire me more. I have a rough sketch and so far it’s pretty exciting!
Have any of you done tarot readings before, or been read? What mystical things do you use to motivate your own writing?
I betrayed you by not posting when I said I would. I made it sound like I would post every week, without fail, but I failed to uphold that promise and your trust. Please accept my sincere apologies.
Since so much time has passed, I’ve had time to think about why I just couldn’t sit down and write that blog post. Here is why:
I haven’t felt inspired in my writing and so I felt like a liar to post on this blog, which is about writing. I have been reading The Artist’s Way, but I have a terrible confession to make:
I do not write my morning pages.
Yup! You read that right. I have been voluntarily skipping one of the most important regimens of the Artist’s Way workshop process. Because I have not been pouring out my thoughts every morning, my worries continue to entangle, stop me from writing, and stop me from even posting on this blog. This is what happened to me in the last two weeks (I was supposed to post about a week ago).
Tonight I attended a traditional Indian music concert. I brought my notebook with me, just in case I got ideas for finishing the outline of my novel revision. Ever since my inspired post here, where I talked about the flash of inspiration that caused me to outline roughly half my book…I’ve got nothing to show. Nothing has been written of that outline since. So I brought my notebook, thinking the mellow music of the sitar, the humming of the sarod, and the fast beat of the tabla might get my gears going.
Lo and behold, it did.
I wrote this blog post while listening to that fantastic mystical medley of sound. The conclusion I came to is this:
Don’t Let Go of What is Precious to You.
I know those of you with children, especially little girls, have probably gotten very familiar with the song Let It Go from the Disney film Frozen. Well, here is a lesson to the opposite: Don’t Let Go!
Don’t let go of what you want to do, or be, or see, etc. Don’t stop writing. Don’t stop that healthy new diet or exercise regime. Don’t stop getting up early when it feels good and you’ve finally got a rhythm going. Don’t stop caring about something that may be so difficult or so painful, but when you decide to care, you are amply rewarded. Even though what you want to achieve may seem far and the process to obtain it may be challenging, keep going.
They say that that which is precious, which is most rare, is most difficult to obtain. Writing is one of the hardest anyone can do, I think, and this is why so many people quit before they’ve even started. So many people are surprised when they hear you are a writer. Half of them, I think, are shocked that you are surviving, and the other half is scoffing and waiting with bated breath for you to fail.
Half of the time, that little voice of contempt that thinks you will fail, is your own self. It is the monster in you that Julia Cameron mentions in her books. It is the Inner Editor. It is the voice of so-called “reason” that stomps on your dreams.
Go out there and make it happen. Dance, write, take classes, whatever it is! Don’t let it go.
And if you DO stop, if you lose your momentum…start up again. Don’t let you stop you. Form or join a support group, if that’s what you feel may help. We all have our bad days. Just don’t let one bad day become “the day I stopped _____.” Let it be just a bad day, nothing more.
This may all sound like a bunch of junk. But look at the other side of it. Right now you are maybe living in an existence in which you have most likely already let it go. You are living in an existence that is easy, or lazy. I know that I certainly am.
There are reasons we continue to let go of what is important to us. Staying away from those things is easier and requires less of us, or does not disturb our loved ones, or our schedules, or our Facebook time. But just try to grab hold of it again, please. Give it one day. Then, give it another.
You will feel the difference. I promise this, because I have experienced it. When I write for days after maybe a month of not writing, it feels so good. I’ve had success with this in other areas of life, too – spiritual, health, finance, etc. Try to create a habit of what you don’t want to let go of. I am telling this to myself, even more than I am telling it to you.
What do you not want to let go of? Please share in the comments.
Think of it as your chance to finally tell Elsa to shut up and stop singing! *wink*
This week’s chapter of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way was very good. It made me take a deep breath, grumble and groan, but it was good. I had to face the many ways in which I block myself from writing. I say so many negative things to myself in my head, but actually writing them down and thinking about what they were was painful. Painful, but necessary – as they say, “No pain, no gain”. Ouch.
Instead of trying to summarize this week’s chapter, I will share with you Cameron’s Rules of the Road that she outlines and describes in this chapter:
The Rules of the Road
By Julia Cameron:
Show up at the page. Use the page to rest, to dream, to try.
Fill the well by caring for my artist [sortof like the inner child concept].
Set small and gentle goals, and meet them.
Pray for guidance, courage, and humility.
Remember that it is far harder and more painful to be a blocked artist than it is to do the work.
Be alert, always, for the presence of the Great Creator leading and helping my artist.
Choose companions who encourage me to do the work, not just talk about doing the work or why I am not doing the work.
Remember that the Great Creator loves creativity.
Remember that it is my job to do the work, not judge the work.
Place this sign in my workplace: “Great Creator, I will take care of the quantity. You take care of the quality.”
We have daily conversations with ourselves, silently, inside our heads. A lot of this chapter was about our daily inner conversations regarding our art (in my case, my chosen art is writing). We may say a lot of negative things about making our daily word count, why don’t we write enough, why can’t we write like so-and-so, why aren’t we published yet, why can’t our current book be as good as our last, etc. All of this talk is self-defeating and is full of self-doubt.
Cameron gives nice anecdotes and analogies in this chapter about the evil of self-doubt. For example, we keep all of our good, wilder ideas glowing, outside of a room full of things we find comfortable. When we encounter one of those bright ideas and, instead of seeing its delight we are afraid, we shut the door on it. Slam!
The most helpful detail amidst the anecdotes and analogies that stabbed into me was: Pay attention. One can only be delighted in life if we pay attention. Deadening ourselves with doubtful self-talk is a demon of inattentiveness.
They say, “Smell the roses”, and this is the basic idea: Pay attention to the world, and you will find delight and happiness, instead of darkness. Pay attention, Cameron says, and self-doubt will not persuade you to its side.
She does not just leave it at that, though. She gives a list of tasks at the end of the chapter, which include listing 20 things you like, choosing 2 for that week, and then actually doing them. She covers why and how to cut toxic people out of your life, comparing non-active creatives to a group of alcoholic friends that want their newly non-alcoholic friend to return to the familiar fold. Tempting and easy as it may be, Cameron cautions her readers and students against such a move, saying the only way to progress, in a way, is pain.
Paying attention is painful. Growing as a person is painful. Growing as a writer is painful. This is what Cameron communicates in the second week of her book.
Battling My Dragon
This week was tough for me; I’m a little behind, and still doing some my tasks that were at the end of this chapter. I brought myself on a little shopping trip and let myself get some useful but fun items I had been really wanting. I have yet to bake, which was one item on my list that I enjoy doing but always find excuses not to do.
As for the writing itself, well…my goal today is to just finish one page, that’s how deadened I am inside, how wonder-less, how pained. Right now it hurts to write, because I’ve spent too much time talking to the self-doubt in my head. But I’m just going to go through the pain, and write that page.
A sweet thing about this chapter is that continuing to read The Artist’s Way gave me the bravery to look at my book more objectively – as I revise it – and consider rearranging the first few chapters in various ways, to see what events needs to happen first. It’s very exciting and scary! I’ll let you know how it goes, once I’ve decided on an arrangement. After that, I’m moving on past chapter 9 to further revision and rewriting.
I hope that all of you are doing well in writing, doing whatever it is that makes you feel successful in it, whether that be researching, revising, drafting, doodling…but if you aren’t feeling good about it right now, take heart. I’m in the same spot as you. You’re not alone. And the pain you’re feeling right now, you CAN work through it, and you won’t be despondent or unproductive forever. Remember that.
And maybe pick up your own copy of The Artist’s Way!
This week I’ve been contemplating the issues and non-issues in my work-in-progress novel and how to fix said issues. At the same time, I’ve tried to be gentle with myself and not make myself so stressed that I struggle to write at all.
In light of this difficult balance, I decided to visit my old, helpful friend: Writer Unboxed.
Reading the Artist’s Way a little bit more this week got me started on a list of things that stop me from writing. I’m going to work on each point. More on that later.
For now, I recommend thenWriter Unboxed article about one item on my obstacle list: comparing yourself to other writers. You can find it in the first sentence of this post.