Mon. Aug. 19, 2019: Feng Shui for Inspiration — #UpbeatAuthors

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image by silviarita via pixabay.com

Monday, August 19, 2019
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

We’ve talked about using paintings to inspire us when we’re stuck. So many other art forms can also be used: any of the fine arts (sculpture, textiles, mixed media) or music or dance or anything else.

But sometimes nothing works.

That’s when applying the principles of Feng Shui to our creativity is useful.

There are two parts to this: applying it to the space in which you work, and applying it to the project itself. It might sound weird to Feng Shui a project, but I’ll explain how I do it.

There are multiple schools of Feng Shui. I like the Black Hat School, which Karen Rauch Carter details in her book MOVE YOUR STUFF, CHANGE YOUR LIFE. In my opinion, this is the best Feng Shui book out there, and makes the most sense to my life.

Feng Shui for Space
Draw a bagua, writing in the nine life areas: career, skills & knowledge, family, prosperity, fame & reputation, relationships & love, creativity & children, helpful people & travel, and health in the appropriate points, per the typical bagua. In this piece, the techniques I talk about are from the Black Hat School. If you use Compass School, or a different technique, you might have to adjust where you stand with your bagua to survey the space.

Holding the bagua in your hand, stand in the doorway of your workspace and look around the room. Look at the placement of furniture, decorations, windows, mirrors, etc., and see what falls into each area of the bagua.

Using advice from the Feng Shui School of choice, start moving around objects so that they fit into the correct area of the bagua. If there’s something that can’t be moved, or something missing, look up the “cures” to balance it out. Even more important, clean your workspace. Tidy things up. Dust. Vacuum. Wash the windows. Water the plants. Rearrange furniture if you can or want to. Change the curtains or tablecloths or throw pillows or pictures. Remove anything that is dead or broken. Remove anything that doesn’t serve you any more.

Look through the rest of the house or things you have packed away to see if you already own something that serves as a “cure.”

You don’t have to throw out items with sentimental value just because they don’t fit the space anymore. Pack them away, with gentleness and compassion. A time will come when you want to freshen your space again, and then it might fit. In lean times and sad times, items I packed away ages ago have come in handy on multiple physical and emotional levels.

I genuinely believe that all these organizers who try to get you to throw out perfectly good “stuff” are just trying to get you to buy more stuff. If it’s still useful and purposeful, even if it isn’t needed right this second, pack it gently away and save it for the future.

Take another look at the space. If something still doesn’t feel quite right, keep tweaking it. But I bet you feel happier just being in the space.

Often cleaning up my writing room helps get me out of the “stuck” place, or the uninspired place.

Additionally, looking at the areas in both my writing room and the overall house, and making adjustments in the relevant areas will help get my creativity moving again.

Stand at your front door, looking at your entire space. Where does your writing space fall within the bagua? Mine is in the Helpful People & Travel sector in this house. So I have power tools in the writing room that serve Helpful People & Travel in respect to the overall house, while also looking at the room itself and seeing where the room itself falls into the bagua. It can get a little confusing sometimes, and I find myself adjusting and readjusting after most big projects. I’m a nester, which means wherever I work — the desk, the reading/writing chair, etc. — I tend to pile up what I’m using.

Feng Shui for Projects
How the heck do you Feng Shui a project?

I bet there’s advice on that out there somewhere. At the time of this writing, I haven’t read any, but writing this piece makes me want to hunt it down, if it exists.

However, I’ve come up with a couple of techniques on my own.

Have Your Character Do Some Feng Shui
See what happens if you write a scene or sequence where your character does some Feng Shui on their own space. Sometimes rearranging the character’s space helps the writer push through. That doesn’t mean you have to leave the sequence in the piece, unless it works. You can always cut it.

Remember that nothing written is ever wasted, even if it’s cut from the final draft. You needed to write it to GET to the final draft.

Use the Bagua on Your Plot
Take a look at the nine areas of the bagua. How do they relate to your protagonist’s journey? What pieces are missing, and how do they serve as a catalyst to the protagonist’s journey? Are any of them healed during the course of the book?

Conversely, when you look at the bagua, is there any area you can think of making more difficult for your character, and upping the stakes on the story? Is anything going a little too well in the character’s life, and needs more complications for a more engaging plot?

The act of cleaning and rearranging gets you out of torpor and into motion. As your body moves, your brain starts to re-engage, and that helps get your creativity flowing. Plus, a beautiful space is a much more welcoming space for your work!

Change Where You Work on the Project
Where does your workspace fall into the bagua of your home? Is there another place that would work better? Perhaps the Creativity & Children sector, or the Career Sector? The Prosperity or the Fame and Reputation Sector? Trying working in a different spot, and see if that rattles the creativity loose again.

This Week’s Task
Read a book on Feng Shui (libraries usually have several). Compare different styles. Pick one area of your home to Feng Shui and work on it.

Have you used Feng Shui in your home or your work? What style do you use? What were the results? Let me know in the comments.

Also, in the comments, talk about your Artist Date, and what kind of paintings or other art you experienced, and how it helped.

Mon. Aug. 12, 2019: Paintings as Inspiration – #UpbeatAuthors

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image courtesy of Pexels via pixabay.com

Monday, August 12, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter DIRECT (as of yesterday)
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

Last Week:
Last week , we talked about Still Lifes and taking an object in your home to use as inspiration.

What did you use? What kind of piece came out of it? A story? A play? A song? A painting? A dance? Something else? Leave your answer in the comments (mine will be there as well). I’ll also post the title of the book I looked at with Still Lifes in it. I tend to gravitate to the Dutch painters for that.

Paintings as Inspiration
I love to use paintings as a jumping off point for a new piece. If I’m feeling stuck or un-creative or like any of the various fragments and outlines and Ideas I’ve jotted down are worthless, I go to a museum and look at paintings (I always prefer to do it in person) or I get a book out of the library and look, or a DVD on a great museum.

I find Edward Hopper’s work particularly inspiring. New York Movie is one of my favorite pieces, and it inspired what may wind up as a long short story or a novella (I’ve been working on it, on and off, around other projects, for several years).

I love wandering into a museum and letting the pictures and sculptures “speak” to me. I may not get the story the painter intended to tell; but I always come away with something. I always come away feeling brighter and fuller and excited.

Details
One of the things I like to do in paintings is to look closely at what is not central to the action. For instance, in Canaletto’s “Rio dei Mendicanti: looking South” (1723?), I’m less interested in the men on the sunny side of the canal in conversation than in the darker, right side of the painting, with the laundry lines hanging out of the window, the woman shaking her broom, and the man perched on the edge of the building, nearly in the canal, cleaning the side of the building. To me, there’s something furtive about the man. Is he observing the place in order to rob it? Although it’s a not a rich area, filled with working people. Are the acoustics in that position good, allowing him to eavesdrop on the conversation of the burghers across the water from him? That’s a possibility. Or does he not want them to recognize him? Does he have a dispute with one of them? Or is he simply going about his day, doing his work, and has to adjust his position so as not to get hit with the debris from the broom shaken out above him? (Aside: I’m writing a play about Canaletto’s sisters, so I’m looking at a lot of his paintings these past months).

This painting could inspire an historical piece (probably a mystery) tying those three elements together. Or a short radio play. Or I could take the ideas and sensations it provokes and set them somewhere completely different: A New York tenement or a created world in a fantasy novel.

In Poussin’s “Summer”, the woman with the bowls beside the tree and the man in the background handling the horses are more interesting to me than the central figure of a man kneeling before the other man. Is the woman going about her business, ignoring what is going on? I don’t think so. She may be related to the kneeling man, or perhaps he is her lover. Or perhaps her lover is the man on the other side of the tree, drinking, out of the sight line of the man in charge. What’s going on in the woman’s mind? There are so many wonderful possibilities.

Even a portrait can inspire. Several years ago, I wrote a play about Lavinia Fontana, the first woman painter in the Renaissance who took in commissions like the men. One of my favorites of her paintings is the portrait “Portrait of a Lady of the Court.” This woman looks like she has a secret. She and Lavinia share it. But we must guess. My research into the extensive network of powerful Bolognese women at the time reinforces that idea, and the research helps me look at the painting with more knowledge.

This Week’s Challenge:
This week, give yourself an Artist’s Date (thanks to Julia Cameron for encouraging us to do that) to go to a museum or a gallery and look at paintings. Pick one that inspires you and write something about it.

You can leave information about it in the comments below, or wait until next week.

Monday, Aug. 5, 2019: Inspiration Starts at Home — #UpbeatAuthors

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image courtesy of Jill Wellington via Pixabay.com

Monday, August 5, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde

 

We’re down from five retrogrades to only four, so some of the pressure’s easing off.

The month of August is about inspiration, which is one of my favorite topics. I’ll share some of the ways I find inspiration. I always find that I have far more stories to tell than I have time in which to tell them. I have to pick and choose.

Let’s get something straight right from the start: I don’t understand boredom or people who claim they’re bored. I have zero patience with them.

The world is a fascinating place. There’s always something interesting around, and there’s always something that needs doing.

My dad used to say, “Only boring people are bored. People who don’t have the capacity for critical thought or motivation or interest.”

The older I get, the more I realize he’s right.

When someone whines about boredom, it sends up a red flag, and I use one of the tools of gentle disengagement we discussed last month.

People who are bored suck the energy out of a room and the life out of inspired people. They feed off the energy, without reciprocating anything.

Inspiration is all around us. We have to look at things with fresh eyes. This is where the mindfulness techniques of yoga and meditation pay off. If you are in the moment, that means you are paying attention. Your powers of observation are fine-tuned.

As writers, we MUST be observant to the small, unusual detail in order to bring characters and stories to life.

As I discussed in our topics on kindness and tolerance, start finding inspiration at home.

Look at things in your space, the things you take for granted, differently. You probably have photos or small objects that give you pleasure. You put them out on a shelf on a desk because they have meaning. You’re so used to looking at them every day that you don’t SEE them anymore.

Change that.

There’s a visualization technique where you pick three objects and stare at them. You pretend you’re an ant crawling over them and look at every tiny detail. You pretend you’re a bird flying over it and look at details from that perspective. Then you close your eyes and recreate the objects in your mind’s eye.

Think of it as “Still Life for the Mind.”

Go online or get a book out of the library on still lifes, and see how those powers of observation inspired painters.

We are going to talk more about paintings next week, but still lifes in art tie in both to this week and next week’s discussion.

Being able to recreate the object in your mind’s eye might not happen the first time you try this, but if you do this every day for ten minutes or so, it gets easier and easier.

Look, really look at the objects in your home with fresh eyes. There might be things that are tired, and need to rest for awhile. Put them away. They will be new when you decide to take them out again. There might be things that you need to release — give away, throw away, remove from your life. We will talk more about this a couple of weeks down the road, how to use Feng Shui techniques to bump up your inspiration. But again, this entire month’s discussions are all of a piece. They build on each other.

Walk around your house. Pick one thing that you haven’t really, really looked at for awhile.

This week, spend time with it. Let it tell you a story. It might be “its” story. It might inspire a story about something or someone else.

In the comments, tell us which object you’ve picked. Next week, we will talk about this experience, while also trying something new.

 

Published in: on August 5, 2019 at 6:02 am  Comments (3)  
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Wed. July 31, 2019: Learning, Growing, Planning

Wednesday, July 31, 2019
New Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mercury goes DIRECT today (thank goodness) — but it’s almost midnight by the time it does so
Hot, humid, storms in the evening

I don’t do well in this heat and humidity. I’m like the cats — all I want to do is lie around and do nothing.

Hop on over to Ink-Dipped Advice to see the second chapter of Fred’s adventures trying to hire a writer for his small business.

Meditation was great on Monday afternoon. A big group, and a great session.

I’m reading Jean Claude Izzo’s Marseilles trilogy. It’s quite wonderful. His tone reminds me a bit of Ron MacLean’s in HEADLONG.

I’m learning a lot from reading these international novels in translation. Not books by Americans set overseas, but books by writers about their own countries. The tone, the pace, the structure is very different from what we consider the “formula” for the genre, and it works.

I hope my little tiny publisher grows to the point where it can sell/negotiate international rights. I already know my plays do better in the UK and Australia than in the US; my friends in France, Spain, and Germany think my books would do well there, if translated properly.

Up early on Tuesday. Great session on ELLA, mediocre one on GRAVE REACH, but I’m determined to get back into its groove. I need to get it out to my editor soon. Fortunately, THE BARD’S LAMENT and DEADLY GROVE are properly percolating, so I hope not to get behind on those. Although I have to jump right back into the next round of revisions for BALTHAZAAR and then for DHARMA when GRAVE REACH goes out.

I’ve figured out where I want the next two ELLA books to go (it was always meant to be a trilogy), and how to make each book stand alone, while the three will be satisfying together. After that, I can decide if I want to write more ELLA books, or if I’ve said everything I have to say. I’m nearly at the two thirds point with ELLA. It’s been fun to write steadily, but not have a daily quota or a deadline on it.

My friend was pleased with the blurb I wrote for his book. I’m glad; it’s a lovely book and deserves to do well.

Still trying to pull myself out of the mire of discouragement. Client work yesterday was challenging, and will be so today. I’m working on my article for Llewellyn — that will probably go out early next week. I’m polishing some pitches. They’re taking longer than I expected, but I’d rather do them well than rush them and alienate a potential new-to-me editor.

Tomorrow is Lammas, one of the biggest days in my personal calendar. I’m trying to decide if I want to take a few days to disconnect and focus on writing, yoga, meditation, and the changes I’m trying to make.

Next Monday, the upbeat authors posts start on inspiration for the month of August. Believe me, I have plenty to say about that!

Have a lovely day. If I do decide to take a break, also have a lovely weekend as we slide into August.

 

Mon. July 22, 2019: Commitment – The Myth of “No Time” – #UpbeatAuthors

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image courtesy of Nile via http://www.pixabay.com

Monday, July 22
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

 

In this month of commitment, let’s explore the myth of “no time.”

“No time” or “I don’t have time” is often the excuse we give for not doing something.

Writers who aren’t serious about writing often give this as their excuse for not writing. So do non-writers, who say they’d write a book “if they had time.” No, they wouldn’t. If they wanted to write a book, they’d sit down and write a book. They don’t want it enough.

We all have 24 hours in a day. How we choose to use them defines us.

It’s not that we “don’t have time” to do something. It’s that it’s not a priority to make time for it. So let’s just be honest, because we are writers, and words matter. Use the correct ones when you don’t do something.

Each of us has different things we need to prioritize to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, our families safe. Then, we slot in the rest of the things.

Too often, it’s not time itself we lack, but time management skills. Time management skills are learned.

We also have to weigh the realities of what we want to make time for with what else is going on in life.

For me, the “necessity” of eight hours’ sleep per night is a myth. If I had bought into that myth, I could not have had a career and earned my living working in theatre and film and television production for decades. That is simply not a reality in that line of work. The profession will not change because I want eight hours’ sleep a night. Either I have to adapt, or I don’t get to be a part of that profession.

Fortunately, eight hours’ sleep a night is more detrimental than useful to me. Granted, I spent too many years not getting enough sleep — from one to four hours’ worth. I spent too much time in a state of perpetual exhaustion.

But six hours’ sleep a night is, for me, optimal. It’s natural for me to wake up after that period, feeling refreshed and eager to meet the day. Eight hours or more? I’m groggy and have trouble focusing all day. I’m more irritable on eight hours than I am on four. My muscles hurt, I get more headaches, I’m not focused. I’m not rested. Less than six hours? I can cope for several weeks, but then need to take an entire day in bed.

Yes, all those studies say you can’t catch up. But I adapted in order to have a career about which I was passionate. A career that was more important to me than demanding to lose ONE THIRD of my life in sleep. I am an individual, and it took a lot of years and a lot of mistakes, but I found something that works for me.

It’s the same with writing. When I have deadlines, I get up earlier or go to bed later. The writing is my priority. That is why I am a writer and not in a different profession. I am the breadwinner in the family. I am, technically, head of the household. “Not having time” is not an option.

Who gets that time changes. I get my time very early in the morning, because that is my peak creative time. That is spent on my novels, short stories, plays, etc. Clients get excellent work, too, but they get it within traditional business hours. Unless I’m on a tight deadline and I’m behind, in which case I do what’s necessary to get it done ON TIME.

Which brings us to punctuality, which is another part of commitment. Being ON TIME is important. Whether it’s sending something in by deadline or meeting a friend somewhere, being ON TIME is important.

Do we run into obstacles sometimes? Of course we do. And then we let the other party know.

But being constantly late? Laughing it off that “I’m always late, I can’t be on time, that’s just who I am”?

Then you are not someone I want in my life.

Way back, before the age of mobile phones, when I met someone at a location, I waited 15 minutes. If they didn’t turn up, and they didn’t phone the location and have me tracked down to say they were on their way — I left.

Being late is a sign of disrespect. It sends the message, “My time is more important than yours, I am more important than you are, and you need to waste your time in order to fit my schedule.”

That’s not true. It’s part of being an energy vampire, draining energy from all those around you instead of generating your own.

You’re late all the time? We will have a conversation about it.

It keeps happening? You’re out of my life. You’re not willing to respect me or my time. I refuse to remain in that situation. Unless you’re a first responder of some sort, work on your time management and be there, or let me know far enough in advance so I can make other plans. I get to choose who is in my life and who isn’t.

It’s part of our social commitment to each other. I don’t care how funny or brilliant or whatever someone thinks they are — if you don’t respect me, and live that respect, if it’s not a reciprocal relationship, I don’t want any part of it.

Because my writing is such a high priority in my life, I am ferociously protective of my time.

Do I always manage it well?

Of course not. I’m human. I faff around. Often, when I catch myself wasting time (which is different from taking breaks, daydreaming, and doing all those other things non-writers consider “wasting” time, but are actually an important part of the creative process), it indicates there’s something wrong with the project on which I’m working. Once I can dissect what it is, I can either solve it, or complete the project and not take on another one from that client again.

How do you mange your time? What tools do you use to keep on track? What is the biggest thing that derails you?

Published in: on July 22, 2019 at 5:48 am  Comments (1)  
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Mon. July 15, 2019: When Commitment Becomes Harmful — #upbeatauthors

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image courtesy of Open Clipart via http://www.pixabay.com

Monday, July 15, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

For the past few weeks, we’ve explored how important it is to keep your word once you give it, and the importance of commitment to your writing.

But there are times when we must break a commitment, and that is when the commitment hurts us.

Most of us have been in negative job or personal situations, where we feel trapped. We build a case of misplaced loyalty to a person or a situation that doesn’t deserve it. Perhaps it worked for us at one time. But people grow and change. We are as likely to outgrow people as we are situations.

Ask yourself the following:
What portion of the day am I unhappy?

How does my physical body respond when I think of this person/situation, or when I know I have to deal with it?

Do I need a rest/break/sabbatical, or do I need to leave?

Why do I think I have to stay?

What steps can I take to improve the situation? Can I discuss problems or challenges, can I ask for what I need?

What do I need to do to get myself out of this?

Do I need outside help? If so, where can I get it?

It can take weeks or even months to find answers to these questions, but if you keep at it and genuinely explore, you can do it.

Sometimes, you can improve the relationship or situation. But if you can’t, and it puts you in physical or emotional danger, ask for help and get out. It’s not easy, it often takes longer than we want it to, but it’s vital.
If you need to break the commitment, do your best to be both kind and honest. Too often people claim they’re being “honest” when, in fact, they’re being cruel. Be clear, don’t over-explain, and, if it’s warranted, make a clean break. Lying, procrastinating, avoidance all draw it out and make it more painful for everyone involved.

Treat the others in the situation with the gentleness you would wish, if the situation were reversed.

Commitments are important, but your well-being is even more so.

How do you deal with respectfully breaking a commitment?

Published in: on July 15, 2019 at 6:09 am  Comments (1)  
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Mon. July 8, 2019: Commitment To Your Writing #UpbeatAuthors

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Image by Stocksnap via Pixabay

Monday, July 8, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

Enough retrogrades for you? Buckle up, buttercups, it’s a rocky month. But the retrogrades will also help clear out a lot of the deadwood and make way for new growth.

We are Upbeat Authors. We want to make the world better through our writing. That doesn’t mean denying that bad things happen. It means exploring and sharing ways that we can work through the bad and build something better.

It means nothing if we can’t finish anything. If we perpetually start things and let put them aside when the next Shiny Idea floats in front of us.

Those of us who write full-time know that we have to juggle multiple projects and meet our commitments to keep a roof over our head and food on the table. Part-time writers and hobbyist writers face different challenges to also keep sheltered and fed.

Finishing projects is vital.

It’s great to play with ideas. Some of them will work. Some of them will not. You don’t want to hang on to a project that’s not going anywhere and drains energy.

But unfinished projects drain creative energy, and if we let too many unfinished projects hang around, it’s like drowning in quicksand.

I actually teach a course on this, and have a Topic Workbook called THE GRAVEYARD OF ABANDONED PROJECTS.

Also, some ideas formulate before they are ready to bloom into full projects. I have pieces where the idea arrived years before I actually write the project, and I’ve often had several false starts along the way.

There’s a big difference between DECIDING to put a project aside and just LETTING it slide.

Contracted projects on deadlines always get first attention. They have to. That’s the deal of being a professional writer. Earliest deadline/highest pay = first attention.

But there are always other projects begging for time that need to be slotted in around it. You need to be a time management whiz without feeling like you’re trapped and never have a minute to do anything fun with friends or family or just hang out and do nothing. All of that is important.

Ideas tend to come in batches. Some ideas demand to be spun out a bit. Some won’t work.

How do you handle it all?

I’m offering some suggestions that work for me, and there are specific exercises in the workbook.

When I get an idea, I jot it down as soon as possible. I try to keep a “Fragment” or “Whatevers” notebook with me at all times.

I DATE each entry. Like a journal. Because sometimes, when I go back to the idea, the context of WHEN it hit me winds up being important.

Contracted projects, like the Coventina Circle, Gwen Finnegan, and Nautical Namaste series, are outlined in advance. I need to be able to drop right down into them the moment I work on them, and not have to wonder about what happens next.

However, I consider outlines roadmaps rather than prisons. I deviate often. I follow where the story leads. Sometimes it leads back to the outline, sometimes not. Sometimes the tangents are cut, although I learn something important from writing them.

Remember, as a writer, nothing is ever wasted.

Uncontracted projects that have to work around the contracted ones, have a different process. Sometimes I’ll outline the whole piece. Other times, I’ll make notes, and then write my way into the book for about four chapters to see if it’s viable.

If it is, I find a way to work it into the schedule.

If it’s not, I write a temporary ending scene, wherever it stops. I either retire it or put it in stasis, and turn my attention back to the viable projects.

Every few months, I review the projects in stasis. Is there a project in there that’s calling? Has it reached its time? If so, I read through it, make notes, and fit it back into the schedule. If not, I leave it in stasis. Because it has a temporary ending, it’s not an unfinished project that’s draining energy through lack of attention.

Every couple of years, I review retired projects. Often, they stay retired. I needed to work on them to learn something — readers don’t need them.

But, every once in awhile, a project from the retired pile shows promise, and comes back out. Dusted off, freshened up, maybe a new perspective, and becomes viable again.

My minimum goal for my own fiction, plays, etc., (separate from marketing writing, articles assignments, reviews, etc.) is 1K/day. I generally do that first thing in the morning, and the pages add up. I up my game as I need to when under deadline pressure.

Right now, I’m working on contracted fiction and play projects at 1-2.5K/day and another 750-1000 words longhand on an uncontracted projected. This is around the other paid writing assignments. I will have to adjust upwards on the contracted fiction a bit, but the uncontracted — there’s no pressure, no deadline, so as long as I do a little every day, no guilt, only pleasure.

There are days I don’t write. Most of those are planned days off, and then I try to write more in the days BEFORE planned time off (because if you wait until after, you never catch up). I lost a few days a couple of weeks ago, when I was unexpectedly sick and couldn’t even think or sit up, much less write. It happens.

But, for the most part, I keep a steady pace. It keeps the momentum going, the pages adding up. I keep my commitment to the work, the deadlines, but most important of all — I keep my commitment to myself.

If you don’t respect yourself and your writing, no one else has any reason to, either.

How do you keep your commitment to your work?

Monday, May 27, 2019: Find Inner Peace By Taking Time Off #UpbeatAuthors

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Today is Memorial Day in the United States.

I plan on working on my Inner Peace by taking time off and making up the day as I go along.

What are your plans?

Whatever they are, enjoy!

Published in: on May 27, 2019 at 5:37 am  Comments Off on Monday, May 27, 2019: Find Inner Peace By Taking Time Off #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. May 20, 2019: Inner Peace in Times of Adversity #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, May 20, 2019
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde

Hey, when you have a handle on today’s topic, share, will you?

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling with this. I had an unexpected car repair, and I had to ask for help, including starting a Go Fund Me. I was worried I couldn’t get the car back on the road, or that it wouldn’t survive long if I did, and I didn’t know what to do.

If it wasn’t for my daily yoga and meditation practice, I would have had a complete breakdown.

I came pretty darn close, as it was.

But every time I was sure I would lose my grip on “the edge of the verge” as a theatre colleague used to say, I would go to the mat or I’d go to the zafu and try to find a few minutes of peace. Those few minutes of either movement or stillness helped me steady. Helped me refocus. Helped me think clearly, so I could do what was necessary to take action and make decisions to deal with the situation.

I still had sleepless nights.

I still had days when I fell into bed early, because I couldn’t function any more.

There were tears and fears.

But, with the help of friends and colleagues, and the help of my daily yoga and meditation practices, I survived.

It clarified a few harsh realities of my life, and means the upcoming changes for this year may need to happen sooner rather than later.

I wouldn’t say I found “inner peace” — but I found a few moments of reprieve, and those helped me cope.

How do you cope when life throws adversity your way? How do you try to achieve “inner peace?”

 

Published in: on May 20, 2019 at 5:32 am  Comments (2)  
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Mon. May 13, 2019: Inner Peace – Detachment #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, May 13, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde

I promised you a post about detachment and inner peace, so I’m delivering.

One of the frustrating aspects of studying meditation and different paths is when the instructors and meditators talk about the need for “detachment.” Or, sometimes, it’s phrased as “non-attachment.”

I don’t believe that artists can approach the world with detachment. Our work doesn’t resonate unless it’s passionate. Unless it’s created with passion and life and juice and emotion.

So when these instructors talk about living a life of “non-attachment,” I admit I want to smack them upside the head with the Frying Pan of Creation.

I think one of the reasons we’re in a societal and humanitarian crisis, locally and globally, is because we’ve removed the humanity from interaction. Computers make arbitrary decisions on hiring, firing, insurance claims, bank loans. Employees hide behind “company policy” in order to get away with debasing and harming their fellow humans.

That’s what “non-attachment” encourages. Yes, whenever I bring that up in a class or a session, I get a lecture filled with psycho-babble terms claiming that’s not what “detachment” or “non-attachment” mean at all. But look at how it’s actually practiced. Look at what happens when we detach from each other as human beings. De-humanization, which leads to the classification of those inconvenient “others” that leads to the fascism and authoritarianism we currently face. To sit on our mats chanting “non-attachment” or to put our hands over our ears and sing, “la-la-la, I don’t do politics” — if we want to stay alive and to have a world in which our children can live, that is not an option.

Especially for artists.

Artists have the capacity, and, more importantly, the responsibility to change the world. While entertaining. Those are not mutually exclusive. The best art entertains AND informs. Art can be lighthearted and fun and brain candy and still relevant. Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s too relevant and so heavy-handed that it shuts the audience down instead of opening them up. That’s where craft is necessary.

Artists can build buffers between themselves and many of the demands of daily life because they need a type of sacred space to create. At the same time, daily life keeps artists connected. Things like cooking and doing laundry soothe me and give me a chance to clear my head. Physical tasks balance mental tasks. But artists cannot and should not detach from passion, emotion, complexity, and a wide range of experience, or their art will become soulless.

At the same time, once the first flush of creation is done, be it the first draft or a rendering or whatever form, the artist DOES have to step back, take a breath. Take a break, so that it can be approached and improved from the point of view as though someone else created it.

Finishing your draft and starting edits an minute later, an hour later, even a day later — you don’t have the distance and objectivity to see what doesn’t work. You need to detach from the first flush of creation in order to layer in craft and make it the best it can be. You practice “non-attachment” to every word in the draft, but you are not detached from the craft in the creative process that allows it to engage and enchant your audience. You do not detach from the meld of art and craft that allows an audience to experience something new to them. To change their frame of reference. To see the world through different eyes.

What do you is shift your perspective in order to elevate your creation to the next level. Cut out what doesn’t work. Polish what does. That takes investment, commitment, and a different type of passion.

You detach from the belief that every word in a draft is inviolate and can’t be improved. But you are committed to making the draft better. And the next one even more so.

You balance the frenzy with creation with the steady progress of craft. So that when you release it into the world, it has the ability to fly.

Every person who interacts will do so from their own frame of reference. There will be as many gradations of response as there are individuals who interact with it. That’s beautiful.

But it comes from a deep sense of connection to the world, not detachment.

I detach from toxic individuals and situations. Not everyone wishes us well. A bad review? Sure, it hurts. It’s disappointing. At the same time, ask yourself, “Who is this person in my life? Why should this opinion matter beyond this moment?” Sometimes, it will. Other times, it is a single opinion that can give you information, but don’t let it bully you.

There are books or articles I read that don’t work for me. There are situations when it is my job to state what doesn’t work and why. I don’t wish to harm the individual, and my opinion is a single opinion. It may matter to some people — to people who trust my recommendations or the publication in which they appear. It won’t matter to plenty of others. I try to be specific. I try not to be cruel. I focus on the work.

There’s a wide variety of art and literature, for a wide variety of tastes. We like what we like. Hopefully, we’re receptive enough to explore outside our comfort zones. Sometimes, it will open new directions for us; other times, it’s not for us. We can find something unsuitable without attacking those who enjoy it (provided it doesn’t cause harm, danger, or abuse to others).

There are plenty of pleasures other people like that I don’t. But I can still enjoy their enjoyment. Their enthusiasm makes me smile. I’m happy they found something that makes them happy, even if I don’t share in the experience.

Because we are not detached. We are connected. That doesn’t mean we deny ourselves solitude or quiet when we need it. We can be connected within our stillness. In my weekly meditation group, we are all within ourselves, yet connected by sharing the experience of quiet and focus. In my daily meditations, I am alone, yet often feel more connected to others than I do going about my day. Strengthening those connections, rather than isolating ourselves further, makes a huge difference.

I don’t find inner peace by an ambiguous “detachment” or “non-attachment.” I detach from specifics at specific times, and work on my deeper connections. Because that is what feeds my passion, and, ultimately, my art.

 

Mon. May 6, 2019: Inner Peace – What Does That Mean? #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, May 6, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde

I’m interested in exploring this topic with you over the month. Because I’m stymied.

“Inner Peace” is something amorphous to me. We hear a lot about it, but what does it feel like?

I honestly can think of moments when I felt it. When I felt content and calm, and happy to be in that moment.

But then life continued, and that “inner peace” fled.

I’ve read dozens of books on how to achieve it. None of them worked. Most of them were so far removed from the realities of my life that they left me more unsettled than when I started.

My conclusion from this is that I’m going to have to come up with both my own definition, and find ways to attempt it. If any of my attempts help you, I’m glad of it. If you have suggestions, feel free to drop a comment. I’m happy to hear them.

My idea of Inner Peace is to find that place in my core where I can meet the world with grace and serenity, even when I’m battened by exterior forces on all sides.

Yeah, I don’t see achieving that any time soon.

The moments I can feel it and recognize it are valuable, though. But how do I get there?

I realize that the world is not all about me. But, quite frankly, I sometimes feel that not enough of it IS about me. Constant demands are made on me to accommodate everyone around me, yet too often, they are not willing to offer me even a fraction of the same.

It’s something I’ve found increasingly frustrating over the past few years. Non-reciprocity.

No interaction will be exactly even, because we each have our own value system. But when things get too far out of balance, it causes distress, illness, and unhappiness.

There has to be at least some reciprocity, be it tangible or emotional.

Far too many people intone, in sonorous voices, about detachment and lowering expectations. I’m going to write an entire post on detachment. We will get to that. But lowering expectations? That’s part of the reason we’re in such a global societal mess in the first place. We’ve devalued intelligence and lowered expectations. The bar for basic decency is so low that it’s buried.

It’s important to remember that, whenever possible, you need to disengage from the toxic. I’m more pro-active about that now on social media. Every time I unfollow or block someone toxic, I feel like a burden has been lifted. Not just from my shoulders, but my heart.

Disengaging from toxic emotional vampires helps with inner peace.

I think of “peace” as being a quiet place, whereas “happiness” is more active.

But in order to find peace, I have to define what makes me happy.

Sometimes that means recognizing that people, situations, things I assumed were givens make me unhappy, and doing what I can to eliminate or change them. Sometimes, I don’t even realize that something or someone made me unhappy until that thing or person is no longer part of my life.

So for me, the first steps to inner peace mean recognizing what makes me happy. Naming those things and deciding how to appreciate them more in the moment, and give myself more moments with them.

Being aware of those moments of happiness while I’m IN those moments, taking what I call an “emotional snapshot” and holding the moment with gratitude makes me more aware of when they come up, and they give me a sense memory to draw on in more difficult times –and in my writing.

Writing makes me happy, even on the tough days. For me, when I need to come to center, to where it all starts for me, it always takes me back to the writing. It’s how I make sense of the world. How I make sense of myself.

For me, inner peace starts with a steady writing schedule, and a constant creation process. It starts with not allowing anyone to sabotage that process (including myself). It starts with recognizing that I am a writer to my bones and my soul, and working forward from there.

 

Published in: on May 6, 2019 at 6:25 am  Comments Off on Mon. May 6, 2019: Inner Peace – What Does That Mean? #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. April 22, 2019: Make The World a Better Place — Community #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, April 22, 2019
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde

This week, we talk about making the world a better place by building community and participating in your community.

What, exactly, does “building community” mean?

Different things to different people. To some, it means reaching out to those who don’t like to participate, and to encourage them so to do. That’s great for extroverts, but as an introvert who is forced into extroversion far too often and gets resentful, I build it in different ways. Ways that don’t force me to pretend to be something I’m not.

I consider what I’m interested in, and where my skills might be an asset. Then, I see which organizations could use those skills. I do my research, I attend open houses or events to see if we’d be a good fit. If what I do matches what they need, we discuss ways for me to volunteer.

One of my biggest mistakes when I moved here was downplaying some of my skills and doing tasks with which I was uncomfortable under the adage of “being a good sport.” Around here, too many people are hostile to people with New York skills, citing, “This isn’t New York.” No, it’s not. The only place that’s New York is actually New York. But some of the skills that are successful there can be successful anywhere, and dismissing skills because they worked in New York is a stupid reason not to use them.

Having learned the hard way, I’m done with that.

I’ve also learned to put my foot down when the organization demands something I don’t do, with the claim, “well that’s what we need” — ESPECIALLY when I told them, early on, what tasks I was uncomfortable with and would not do. Too many organizations just want bodies to deploy and aren’t honest about the work that needs doing. It’s one thing if there’s a crunch time to say, “We could really use an extra pair of hands for this.” Hey, no problem, glad to help. It’s quite another to send multiple emails every week demanding I do things I said I wouldn’t do.

It means I’ll leave the organization. Especially as a volunteer, I am not going to spend my rare time off, unpaid, doing things that make me miserable. It makes MY world a worse place, and it doesn’t help further the organization’s mission.

In volunteering, honesty on both sides and firm boundaries are vital for the volunteer-organization relationship to work. The more specific and honest the initial conversation, the better the overall relationship, and the better everyone works for the betterment of all.

Another way to make the world a better place in your community is to look around and see what needs to be done. Does an elderly neighbor need help with yard work or grocery shopping or someone to help walk the dog? Is a neighbor sick and could use a few meals they can just heat up? Is a fundraiser looking for someone to staff a table or write invitations or do something you enjoy doing?

The local library is an information center. They often have a community board, and their website carries information on programs, talks, community events.

If you have an area of expertise, ask your local library if they’d like you to give a talk on it. Partner with them. Attend other events they host. Funding is cut if people don’t attend. When I worked for a library, those who couldn’t be bothered to attend the free programs were always the ones who moaned that there weren’t enough programs offered. If you want events to exist, you have to make the effort to attend them when they do, or they will cease. If there’s no reciprocity, they stop.

Attend local theatre productions and art openings and wine tastings, if you’re interested in any of that. These programs have no reason to exist if people don’t attend. We’re all tired after a long day at work, but if you make an effort once or twice a week, it improves your community.

The Chamber of Commerce is another organization that makes the community a better place. Attend an open house. Get to know other businesses. See if it makes sense to become a member. As a freelancer, in most places I’ve lived, the Chamber of Commerce is one of the best resources for networking, community building, business building, and laughter around.

When you go to these events, smile. Introduce yourself. Talk to people. Make the effort, even if you’re shy. Look around for the person who is quiet and doesn’t know anyone else, either, and say hello. Be the inclusion you want. Don’t wait for other people to do it.

Create what you’re looking for, instead of expecting others to do it. When you create what you want and need and love, you attract those seeking the same. That’s how you find your tribe.

Mon. April 15, 2019: Make the World a Better Place #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, April 15, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Tax Day
Patriot’s Day in MA

 

Yeah, Jupiter Retrograde on Tax Day. Isn’t that fun? We already know anyone who actually works for a living is getting screwed out of a refund, while the richest get yet another break.

Week 3 of our month about “Make the World a Better Place” focuses on how to do so at work.

Many of us, as writers, work on our own or remotely. We started making our home a better place last week; this week, we make our work a better place, even if we work from home.

Others of us work outside of the home in whatever fields we work in when we’re not writing.

Work situations can be toxic, especially if we’re in a position where we can’t immediately leave a bad situation. Also, remember that everyone has bad days. Sometimes people are thoughtless or exhausted or overwhelmed and lash out. WE all need to practice a certain amount of forgiveness and give each other some breathing room. When it becomes a detrimental pattern, then you have to choose which action you take further, but remember that you will have bad days, and your co-workers have bad days, so try to approach the work situation with compassion.

So, how do you make wherever you work a better place?

Here are some things I have found that help. Try them or don’t, as you please:

Come in with a smile and a cheerful greeting. It makes a difference. People will start associating you with a pleasant start to the day.
Answer the phone sounding cheerful. Again, that makes a difference. It can also diffuse a tense situation if the other person has a gripe.
Have a small item you can put in your workspace that personalizes it. Some places don’t want you to personalize your workspace. Unless it’s a safety issue, I suggest finding another job as soon as possible, because, in my experience, it means they are trying to dehumanize their employees. But a small stone or shell or photo or mug or something that is uniquely YOU that you can put in your space when you arrive and then tuck back in your bag when you leave also ritualizes the work day. You put it down, and it helps indicate you’re starting work. You put it away, and this portion of your day is finished. Even if you work at home, entering the space where you work and performing a specific action to start and end your day makes a big difference.
Listen to your co-workers and learn about them. Pay attention. REMEMBER what is said in conversations. I worked with someone who, whether it was personal or work-related, would constantly say, “You can’t expect me to remember that.” Yes, I can. If I relay information you need for your task, remembering it or writing it down so you can refer to it later is called being professional. If it’s something personal, then it’s called being a decent human being. (Note: I no longer interact with this person at ALL, thank goodness).
Know what’s going on in your field. Read internal newsletters and reports. Read external information about the profession. Know what’s happening, what’s changing, what’s phased out. Be that valuable reference who knows the pulse of your profession. Relay appropriate information where it will do the most good.
Communicate with clarity and precision. Take good notes, especially in phone conversations. Send a summary of the phone conversation by email immediately after, stating that you will proceed on your understanding of the next steps based on this summary, unless you hear otherwise within one business day. Documentation is vital, and accurate documentation saves a lot of agony down the line.
Avoid passive aggressive behavior in yourself and call it out in others. You can say, “If something is bothering you, please let me know instead of expecting me to guess.” If it continues to be a problem, go to a supervisor for a discussion. In my experience, more sabotage and harm on both personal and professional levels is done through passive aggressive behavior than through direct attack.
Be honest without being cruel. If you disagree with something, or you find something unethical or unacceptable, calmly and clearly speak up using a positive language as possible. Don’t let an aggressor trap you into an argument. Remember that you can say “no” without a qualifier. “No” means “no.” If challenged, you have the option to say, “Because my answer is no.”
Be kind whenever possible. As we discussed in our work on kindness a few weeks ago, kindness is not weakness. It’s the opposite. As mentioned above, everyone has bad days. When a co-worker is struggling, sometimes even a kind word makes all the difference.

We spend so much time with our co-workers; even remote workers have to deal with people more often than we sometimes wish!

But when we remember that every word and every action has an impact on our co-workers, when we take that extra beat to think before we speak, we can make a positive difference.

Published in: on April 15, 2019 at 6:50 am  Comments (1)  
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