David Foster Wallace – Writing Quote Wednesday

DFWWQW

Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using Flickr photo by Livid Fiction originally taken by Steve Rose

What does it mean to be authentic?

According to Wikipedia, it is “the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures.” 

I was in a relationship for a long time where I couldn’t be my authentic self for many reasons (which I won’t go into here). I felt that, to have a successful relationship, I needed to hide my true self. Whenever I’d venture into an area in my creative life that made me happy and felt true and right for me, the other person would put it down, or make it seem bad and wrong.

I made the excuse to myself that I needed to be inauthentic in order to make the other person happy.

This was a major mistake because, in the end, both of us ended up being much more unhappy than if we were true to our own spirit and character from the beginning. The relationship ended. My creativity and psyche suffered for a long time; I didn’t express myself as powerfully and as authentically as I knew I could.

I know for myself, when I acknowledge what’s authentic for me and pursue that (not always achieving it, but at least pursuing it), my writing and other creative work is clearer, stronger and reaches a wider audience.

When I try to write what I think other people want to read, it’s not as strong as when I listen to my authentic self and try to write from my vision, my way of “fracturing reality,” as David Foster Wallace said.

I think the journey to authenticity is lifelong and changes as you grow and change as a person. It’s one of the many reasons I continue to pursue a creative life. Every day I get to decide how authentic of a life I’m going to lead.

Do you remember a time when you weren’t true to your authentic self and how it affected you?

Leave a comment to tell us about it.

If you aren’t being as authentic in your life now as you’d like to, what’s stopping you?

Maybe by telling your story, you’ll find an authentic way of breaking through whatever is holding you back. I know I have.

Now it’s your turn.

***

Watch David Foster Wallace talk about ambition from PBS Digital Studios on YouTube.com

Livid Fiction on Flickr.com. (CC License)

Claire Cook – Writing Quote Wednesday

ClaireCookWritingQuote

Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny from Flickr photo by Aaron Evans

According to her bio page on Amazon.com, Claire Cook was writing her first novel at 45 in her minivan and walking the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of Must Love Dogs at 50. It’s the kind of story of re-invention and stick-to-itiveness that I love.

Cook is now the international bestselling author of 11 novels and a sought-after re-invention speaker. If you’re searching for a way to get a motivated and stay on track, I highly recommend her latest book, Never Too Late, Your Roadmap to Re-invention (without getting lost along the way). You can order it on Amazon.com by clicking this LINK. (4.9 out of 5 stars)

You can also find out more about Cook by visiting her official publisher’s page at SimonandSchuster.com HERE or on Twitter @ClaireCookwrite.

Let me know what you think of Cook’s work in the comments section! I always appreciate hearing from everyone.

***

Watch Claire Cook on the #BTLiveChat on YouTube.com

Flickr photo by Aaron Evans (CC License)

Writing Prompt 07: The 10 Most Expensive Houses in the World

5251901518_0be924551f_b

Flickr photo “Greystone Mansion” by Graham

Take a look at these sprawling mansions by clicking on this link to HowStuffWorks.com.

  • What motivates someone to build and live in these mega-homes?
  • What happens if you lose your money and have to move into a “regular” home or no home at all?
  • What if you are an impostor living as a guest in one of these homes?
  • What happens when you are found out?

Write a story exploring one of these ideas and post the link here.

Have an amazing writing day! Stories are the Wildest Things.

Eleanor Roosevelt – Writing Quote Wednesday

EleanorRooseveltWQW

Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using Flickr photo by Jeff Kubina

I live close to our longest-serving First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s modest house, Vall-Kill. She said of her beloved cottage, “Vall-Kill is where I used to find myself and grow.”

During all this growth, I wonder how often she was humiliated by telling the truth?

According to Wikipedia.com Eleanor Roosevelt held over 348 press conferences during her husband’s twelve-year presidency. She also published a monthly column in Woman’s Home Companion and once wrote such a strongly worded editorial in a newspaper that her husband, Franklin, had to publish a reply.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project states that she left volumes of writing and never used a ghost writer. According to the site, she wrote 27 books, more than 8,000 columns and 555 articles. She also gave more than 75 speeches a year.

When was the last time you told a truth in fiction that you couldn’t tell IRL? Leave me a comment and let me know.

***

Watch Frank Sinatra speaking to Eleanor Roosevelt on YouTube.com

Flickr photo by Jeff Kubina (CC License)

Writing Prompt 06: Can a Story Change the World? Writing Stories for Peace

3159001573_b34f465212_o

Flickr photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

3158999283_3c71b8ef9f_o

Flickr photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

Conflicts are raging in the world as I write this post.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright appeared on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ yesterday and summed up the state of the world right now by saying, “there are an awful lot of things that are going on that need understanding [and] an explanation.” According to the Kansas City Star she also said, “To put it mildly, the world is a mess.”

My Huffington Post news feed certainly reads like the end of civilization:

What small thing can we do to bring peace to those who hate and rage? How can we comfort those who are facing horrors as an everyday fact of life? Is it possible to make a difference with just one small voice?

Stories are the Wildest Things because they can change the world. Sometimes stories can make change that lasts for generations and sometimes our stories are here for the briefest of moments and then gone. But even if it’s just for a few moments of solace in the midst of chaos, stories can help us see the world from a different point of view. Can we tell powerful enough stories to stop the escalating chaos in the world?

I don’t know if that is possible, but I do know that as we write and share our writing with the world, those who read our stories are opened up to new possibilities, new ways of thinking, new ideas about how the world works and what our place is in this world.

I challenge you today to write a story for peace.

It doesn’t have to be about how to achieve peace or about peace and what it means. It doesn’t even have to be a peaceful story.

Create something beautiful out of this chaos. Write a story that will live on as a reminder to those who come after us that hate and rage does not have to define us. Be creative. Move us. Make us feel something. Do it in 1500 words or less. Then share it with others. Invite others to take part. Starting a dialogue through story can be a powerful thing. Let’s change the world by writing stories for peace.

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. How many anniversaries like this will we have on our calendars by the time my four-year-old grows up? Will he grow up and know a time when we have not been at war?

Have a peaceful day.

4 Steps to Get More Writing Done by Sowing your Wild Oats

Flickr photo "Sea Oats" by James Lee

Don’t feel like sitting down at the computer to write? Then don’t.

Not yet anyway.

Sometimes, you can get more writing done by sowing your wild OATS.

The phrase “sowing your wild oats” is an idiom meaning to “do wild and foolish things in one’s youth” according to The Free Dictionary.

Now, when I say this, I don’t mean you should go out and do a bunch of wild and foolish things and then come home and write about them. I want to share a technique I sometimes use to get more writing done. I’m using the acronym O.A.T.S. to explain the technique, so I had to find an idiom that matched the acronym. “Sowing your wild oats” is what I came up with.

Like Grammar Girl, I’m crazy about English idioms. I also love learning about idioms in other languages, too. They really show off the power of metaphorical language to express ourselves. They can also show us how crazy and wild our language can seem to other people.

I chose “sowing your wild oats” as an acronym for this exercise because I was looking for a way to get more writing done by doing something “wild and foolish” instead of forcing myself to sit at the computer banging my head against the keyboard to come up with writing ideas.

If you follow each step of the “sowing your wild OATS” process, you’ll have a finished piece of writing that you gets out there into the world instead of languishing on your hard drive.

Leave me a comment with a link to anything you create using this method and I’ll check it out. Any other thoughts or comments are also greatly appreciated!

How to Sow Your Wild Oats

1. Observe

As you know from my post 10 Ways to Know You’re a Writer, I love the app Evernote. I make sure I have a copy on whatever device I carry with me so that I can make quick notes and keep them organized. I keep a folder called “Observations” in the app where I’ll jot down things I notice throughout the day that might come in handy for my writing later.

I’m currently doing some work on a feature film. The main part of the action takes place in a high school on Long Island. Instead of sitting around waiting and chatting (there is a LOT of sitting around and waiting and chatting on a film set), I decided to “sow my wild oats” and get a little writing done without actually sitting down at the computer.

I pulled out my device, opened up Evernote and made some observations. Since my work in progress (#WIP) is set in a middle school in Tarrytown, NY, I wanted to use this opportunity to get some authentic detail about schools today.

Here are some of my notes:

Boy’s bathrooms – voices echo off tile, rust spots on the walls near urinals (eww), gray tiles with ugly peach paint above, no locks on stalls

Hall lockers have a THICK coat of blue paint from years of repainting and abuse. They really are wide enough for Lance (my main character) to be stuffed into. Should I ask my son if I can stuff him inside one? (I didn’t.)

Most of the trophies in the trophy case were for tennis. Must be a school of wealthy students. Maybe a tennis pro is a coach?

Really confusing layout of hallways. Freshmen must get lost all the time.

There were a lot more observations, but I’ll stop there.

Now I could’ve just closed the app and said, “I did my writing for the day. Ah!” But just observing and taking notes doesn’t really get any writing done. Those notes are like a warm-up. If I stop there, they’ll just sit there collecting electronic dust in my Evernote app unless I do something with them.

If you have tons of files, notes, scribbles, and jottings lying around, e-dust them off by taking the next step.

2. Analyze

Before deciding what to do with your casual observations, analyze them. I don’t mean going through and judging them, “This one is terrible! This one is awesome! This one is meh.” (I often do that, though. Sigh.)

I mean thinking about them differently. Try finding the connections, figuring out what the observations are trying to say and what they mean. Sometimes I see patterns and meanings that I hadn’t noticed when I was just writing down the original thoughts.

For this set of observations at the high school, one or two or possibly all of them will make their way into my middle grade paranormal adventure novel. My main character, Lancelot Greengrass, is kind of small and occasionally gets pushed around because of his size. The kids who do this call him “Grass-stains” because of his weird last name and because he always has grass stains on his knees from falling down when he gets pushed.

As I analyze the observations I made, some them are getting me excited to add those details into my story. I can’t wait to get to the computer and write. Excitement is always a clue that those ideas are the ones to pursue when you take the next step.

3. Transform

The bare facts are rarely enough when writing for an audience. Even news tells a story from the point of view of the person observing it.

What we call “voice” can be thought of as the transformation of “what happened” into “this is how I saw it, processed it, understood it. I hope you will, too.”

This is the part of the process that usually happens in the shower or while you’re doing the dishes. Your inner critic is distracted by the mundane activity and your creative brain makes connections you didn’t think would happen. Suddenly, you have a great idea! The original observations suddenly transform into another way of using them.

The blue paint on the lockers might become an activity for the janitor to be doing in the hallway.

The gym teacher might become a washed up tennis pro after seeing those tennis trophies in the display case.

Lance might get lost all the time because he’s new at Washington Irving Middle School.

And, lastly, the observations I made might make the transformation from details to be used in my novel into details I can use for a blog post like this one. (See how I did that?)

4. Send

This last step is the most important. It’s what Austin Kleon talks about in his excellent book, Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (and in this GREAT VIDEO).

We all write because we love it and it’s how we express ourselves creatively. Some of us keep our writing to ourselves and some of us have a world-wide audience. No matter what size audience you have or form your writing takes: a blog, short story, play, screenplay, novel, article, poem, textbook, a letter to the editor or a love note, you need to send those words out into the world in order for them to make a difference and to learn something about what your writing is all about and what you have to say.

As Mr. Kleon says, “The only way to find your voice is to use it.”

This final step to getting more writing done is called Send but it could just as easily be called Sowing. Like a farmer sowing seeds on a plowed field, we need to do the same with our writing. When you cast your words out there like seeds, you’ll be amazed at what grows. So go make some Observations, Analyze them for content and connections, Transform them into something creative and amazing and then Send those words out into the world.

Now go forth and sow your wild OATS!

Writing Prompt 05: World’s 10 Most Mysterious Photographs

For this prompt choose one of the 10 photographs from this fascinating video by Hybrid Librarian and write a story that relates to the actual photograph or the circumstances surrounding or suggested by the photograph. I’m particularly drawn to the photograph of STS088-724-66, the Black Knight satellite.

An alternative would be to write a story about an album of mysterious photographs that someone finds or is given.

  • Why are the photographs in the album?
  • What do they depict?
  • What does the protagonist need to do to solve the mystery of the photographs?

When you write a story using this prompt, please send me a link. If you have any other ideas based on this prompt, leave a comment. Thanks for sharing!

Stories are the Wildest Things.

Philip Pullman – Writing Quote Wednesday

WritingQuotePullman

Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny with Flickr photo by Joseph Voves

I like to say we human beings live in story like fish live in water. Take fish out of water and they can’t live, they flop around gasping for breath wondering, “What happened?”

The same is true for us. We ask the same question, over and over again, every day of our lives.

“What happened?”

When we don’t answer that question we feel just like those poor fish.

When we experience anything, major or minor, we tell a story to relate it to those we care about (or to anyone who will listen). We want to share our experience with others and let them know, “This is how it is for me.”

I’m grateful that I get to do that every day as part of my human being-ness. I chose Mr. Pullman’s quote today because it puts the importance of story right up there with shelter, nourishment and companionship.

Please leave a comment about something that happened to you recently that made a big difference in your life. I’d love to hear about it.

Stories are the Wildest Things.

 ***

Watch Philip Pullman doing an Open University lecture about his writing on YouTube.com

Flickr photo by Joseph Voves (CC License)

Writing Prompt 04: Write a Character who is the Opposite of You

Flickr photo "Opposites" by Karen Cox

Flickr photo “Opposites” by Karen Cox

What is the opposite of “you”?

When you think about who “you” are, what are the list of qualities you identify with yourself?

Are you loving, honest and polite?

Are you helpful and always there for your friends?

Make a list of qualities that you identify with and then make a list of everything that is the opposite.

Instead of loving, honest and polite, make the character hateful, lying and rude.

Helpful and always there becomes spiteful and withdrawn.

Write a story whose protagonist is the opposite of you. Try to avoid clichés and really show us how this person functions in the world. Let us see what they want and why they want it. Then throw in some obstacles that get in their way. Post a link to the story in the comments section.

Have a great writing day!

Is this the Single Greatest Tool for Solving Problems?

This short video by Mindvalley Academy, the online university for transformational education, teaches you a three-step technique for finding inspiration by one of the founders of the self-actualization movement, Napoleon Hill.

The ideas in this video remind me of how Steven Pressfield invocates the Muse before beginning his work for the day. He discusses this at length in his powerful book, The War of Art, a must-read for anyone engaged in creative pursuits.

I think there is some value in meditating on those who have gone before us and made progress in areas that we would like to make progress in. Theorists say that there are anywhere from 10-14 dimensions (or beyond). The ninth dimension is made up of “selection patterns that represent a generalized preference for one kind of universe over another.” I have a feeling that when we are accessing our imaginations, we are somehow tapping into this dimension of infinite possibilities.

I have no way of proving any of this, and my mind starts to fizz and pop like an electrical breaker box full of wet sprockets when I try to imagine how the ninth, tenth, etc. dimensions work, but I like the idea that there is a storehouse of all possible ideas that we can get access to if we are still enough and listen.

Let me know how the meetings with your mentors go by dropping me a line at pauljennynyc@gmail.com or leaving a comment below.