Exercising the Writer in You #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

My head gets overwhelmed at times with too much noise when I’m writing – when that happens, I know it’s time to put down my pen – or close my laptop – and go for a walk.  

About a mile in, I’ll start to exercise my writer brain by playing my “Describe the Character” game. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. What it does, is give you something else to focus on, while being a bit fun, easy – and if you’re lucky, you can actually develop the great beginnings of a character or scene out of the exercise.  In my first book CANELA, this was how I figured out how to combine characters.

Here’s how to play: simply pick a random item in the area and then, without justifying or qualifying, describe it as thoroughly as possible. In this case, about a mile into my walk, I saw a shadowy figure approaching me…without staring too directly, I took in all that I could.  Once I passed the person, I jotted down my thoughts in OneNote:

  • Tall, black running tights, white stripes, three.
  • Baseball cap, tight black shirt, pecs. Muscular.
  • Runner. Walking. Hurt. Long legs. Strong arms.
  • Smile, lots of teeth, white, capped. Bright blue eyes. Long lashes.
  • Brown hair, white, corporate, executive, Tesla.
  • Handsome, scruff, married, kids, forty-two.
  • Friendly, smirk. Head nod. Kind. Neighborly.
  • Deep. Fall. Cold. Confidence. Unafraid. Worthy.
  • Swimmer. Parent. Having a good day anyway. Nice.

When I’m having a tough time writing I see it as an opportunity to change things up a bit. As I mentioned in a past post about writer’s block, I like to think of these moments as opportunities.  It’s as if the universe is conspiring to have me try something else to get a different creative result.  And I have to say, after doing this, I’m hardly ever disappointed.  At the very least, it always gets rid of the noise.

I sometimes practice this at my desk as well. I can’t always just go for a walk, especially if it’s the dead of night, so in this case, there are other ways to exercise the writing jewels (my brain).  I’ll close my eyes, take a breath and let it out and whatever lands in my eye-line when I open them, that’s what gets described. Here’s what I wrote in OneNote about an ink cartridge:

  • Dirty. Complicated and expensive. Hate.
  • White, black, a mess of sorts.
  • Necessary. Important. Unavoidable, but useful.
  • Clear. Colorful. Toxic. Technology – Techy. Easy, home use.

Another way to do this is to put on any random song and describe how you feel immediately after listening… In this case, I listened to Lizzo’s Good As Hell

  • Positive. Joyful with an attitude. Walking like a model. Freedom.
  • Bopping. Swaying. Giggling. Laughing. Confident. Superior.
  • Happy. Smiling. Advising. Powerful. Elegant. Class. Proper with a touch of street smarts.
  • Beautiful. Fabulous. Building someone up. Feeling like you got more to do.

The point is, when you can, use tools available to exercise the creative juices.  I know writers who use flash cards or just do free writing exercises. The more ways you can self-motivate your creativity and learn to “unstuck” yourself, the better! Now, with these three descriptive pieces of information, I can start writing a new scene or develop a character.  At the very worst, I’ve had a little break and stopped the initial noise I had in my head. I can now get back to what I was working on. Win-win!

What tricks or tools do you use to keep yourself in that creative space? 

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Carmen

A Monthly Blog Hop for Authors Who Want to Learn More about Being Authors 
  

Take Care of YOU Simple Habits for the Writer, Creative, Everyone! #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

*Below is not a transcript of video.

A few years ago, I had to go to the doctor’s office because I was experiencing so much wrist pain I had to get it checked out.  At that time, I learned everything I needed to know about carpal tunnel syndrome and because it sidelined me for quite a while, I decided to start making some changes quickly to avoid ever going down that road again. I developed some really easy habits that I do every day that I wanted to share with everyone who writes, stares at a computer all day or is on the phone regularly.   

A lot of writers, and creative people in general, tend to overwork themselves especially when they’re in that zone or experiencing that ever elusive “light bulb” moment.  We’ll write for hours without stopping — we’re also prone to over-due it when we’re experiencing some sort of block – we’ll keep grinding and pushing, not realizing the possible physical toll we may be putting on ourselves, not to mention the mental one, by hunching over our laptops and staring at the computer screen for hours.  

I believe that keeping ourselves physically healthy is just as important as keeping our mental and emotional state in check.  As artists, sometimes we faulter on all of these in the hopes of creating that next masterpiece.  But I’d like to offer the idea that if you can implement some really simple habits now, it may help prevent you from unnecessary injury and pain later.  If you start now, it will also become a seamless part of your everyday way of working and will not impose on your creativity, but actually may help it! 

So, what am I talking about?  Well, please watch the video for a visual explanation.  But simply, start learning to take 1-minute breaks throughout your day to do some small stretches with your fingers, your wrists, neck and shoulders to give yourself a break from sitting in a static position.  Staying in the same position for long periods of time can lead to cramping, stiffness and in some cases, possible carpal tunnel syndrome.  Give yourself 30 seconds to a  minute break every hour at least, to reassess your body and stretch for just a bit. 

I use the alarm on my phone for just this purpose. I set it up to chime in one hour increments and the “ring” I use is a very subtle soothing chime. The type of “ring” you use IS important – I learned this the hard way – because sometimes you really are in that creative zone and you don’t want something to jar you out completely.  But a soft notification is just a reminder to finish the thought and do your quick stretches to take care of your fingers, shoulders, neck and overall posture. 

Please note: I’m not a doctor – so understand these ideas are what work for me and I’m sharing them with you in hopes that it will help you.  I also think it’s important to state that I don’t think these tiny stretches throughout your day should take the place of what we all should be doing to have good and healthy lives – eat right, work-out/be active, mediate, walk and make sure you hydrate with water regularly.  But adding these small moments throughout your day will definitely help with taking care of the physical part of you, the writer, the artist, the worker, so you can continue creating all those beautiful stories the world needs to hear. 

I hope this has been helpful. I’m curious what other people do to prevent from getting stiff or cramping while writing.  I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

This post is also part of a great group of writers called #AuthorToolboxBlogHop  – please click on this hashtag or the pic to find other great sources of tips and tricks that other great writers use to keep on creating… 

As always, thanks for stopping by! 

Tell Your Story: Part 2 How To Create

TELL YOUR STORY: HOW TO CREATE? 

So, if you’ve decided to tell your story, how do you go about doing it?

How do you go about writing, or sculpting or filming or whatever it is bitmoji-20190402030809you’re going to do – to write your story — How do you go about doing that?

[Please continue reading the lightly transcribed post below or click on the podcast and listen to the recording]

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Well, the truth is – there is no right or wrong way to do things. But I will say this – especially as a writer – I always think about when I danced. I was an bitmoji-20190402030846amazing dancer.  It’s something I was born with as a kid.  And I loved to dance.  I was passionate about it.

I can remember people who would come up to me and try to copy me.  And they would always look the most awkward and the weirdest — because they were trying to copy something that I was doing. They were complimenting me — they were saying, “oh you’re such a great dancer I want to be just like you.”

So that was a very flattering thing — but they always looked out of place – out of sorts.

The people that looked the best, the people that I always admired, were the people that got up and danced any way. They did it their own way.  It didn’t matter if they were in rhythm or if they were out-of-sorts, or if they were just doing these strange and interesting hand movements and their feet were all awkward — I always loved this ability to be an individual.  And to be dynamic. And willing to just do it your own way. They will always the happiest dancers, the best dancers and everyone was paying attention to them.

That’s what I think the creative process is like.

That’s why I think — whatever it is you choose to do to tell your story — however you choose to do that  is going to be right if you do it from your own inner place of joy and happiness.

Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t some technique involved. It doesn’t mean there aren’t some better ways to do things – but you know, that’s what an editor is for.  When it comes to writing…when I started writing, I just wrote and I let it all come out.  And then I let the story mold itself.  And I figured out ways to thread things through so that the story would have “connection”.  But at the end of the day I still had somebody else read it.  I had an editor go through it — and that person goes in and looks at it and says, “Hey you know what? This is a great idea…”  or “This works here and here, but this doesn’t make sense…”.

So don’t worry about all that stuff afterwards.

Just sit down and sculpt whatever you’re going to sculpt.  Do it however you going to do it. All that other stuff will come through.  All the other possibilities to kind of refine it and touch it up or fix it  —  so that your voice can be heard the way in which you intend.  We’ll get there — you’ll get there after you have that base part.  Because I have to tell you, all those people that danced the way that they wanted to dance they were feeling the music! They were in joy! They were happiness! And afterwards, they were the people I wanted to talk to.  They were the people I wanted to learn from.  And it has nothing to do with dancing, and everything with being an individual and being unique and being strong and having courage.  And to me, that’s what the creative process is.  It’s all about us finding that inner strength,  that inner courage,  that inner love,  that inner joy —  and sharing it with the world.  bitmoji-20190328073700

Because at the end of the day, I feel like that’s what we’re here to do.  To share the best parts of who we are with everyone and hopefully along the way that will help someone else too!

As always, thanks for stopping by. Have a sweet day and I’ll be back again soon.

Bye.

Carmen