How I Get My Ideas

Shakespeare - Great ideas
Shakespeare – Great ideas

“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” ~ Elmore Leonard, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

“I don’t know exactly where ideas come from, but when I’m working well ideas just appear. I’ve heard other people say similar things – so it’s one of the ways I know there’s help and guidance out there. It’s just a matter of our figuring out how to receive the ideas or information that are waiting to be heard.” ~ Jim Henson

“My creative process is quite slow. I hear melodies in my head while I’m washing the dishes and I allow my subconscious to do the work.” ~ Sinead O’Connor

I’m in the process of writing my first novel and the question I get asked the most when people hear me talk about it is, “How did you get the idea for your book?” That’s something that’s kind of hard to explain unless you’re a writer too. I don’t think the muses visit people who are highly creative in exactly the same ways, but here’s how it happens for me.

First of all, a writer doesn’t get just one idea. Okay, maybe initially we do get one idea. But during the writing process I’ve had hundreds of ideas. Some ideas made it into the book, others I chucked because they slowed down the story, or I discovered they didn’t fit with the overall message I was trying to get across.

To tell you how I got the initial idea for my novel, first I have to tell you my internal thought process. The way I learn from my experiences. When something happens, or a new idea occurs to me, I often set it on the back burner of my mind. I let it simmer along with all the other things I’m trying to figure out. I’m not really paying active attention to those simmering ideas, yet they are there. At some point I may see a movie, read a book, hear a song, or someone says something to me that applies to one of those pots that I’ve got simmering and I make a connection. A light bulb goes off and I have an aha moment. The two seemingly unrelated concepts have come together to give me a completely new idea. They finally make sense.

That’s also often how I get material for this blog. That’s definitely what happened when I got the idea for The Space Between Time, my novel. And it keeps happening little by little as I continue to work on and revise the book.

The initial incident was this: It was 1999. My husband and I had moved to Arizona three years earlier to be near our parents who had all retired here. Part of our motivation for moving was because my father had heart disease and not knowing how long he had to live, we wanted to be close to him. One weekend, we drove the five hours to see my parents. Something about that weekend made me feel that my father had taken a turn for the worse and was on a descent to his eventual death. As we drove home, I was thinking about my father and all the wonderful things he’d taught me and wondering how I’d cope with his not being here. Then the kernel of an idea for a book about the relationship between a father and a daughter came to me. In a way, it would be my tribute to my father. When I got home I began to write.

Unfortunately for the book project, I got a full-time teaching job very soon after and didn’t have time for writing. However, I put it on the back burner of my mind and thought about it often.

Finally, several years later, I’d had enough of teaching high school and began my writing career. But for some reason, I felt compelled to write a memoir first. However, when it was finished, I decided not to publish it. There was one advantage to writing the memoir before the novel. I got a perspective on all the things I’d learned over the years especially those things I’d learned from my father.

At first, after finishing my memoir, I was a little stumped what my next writing project should be. Then I remembered the novel I’d started all those years ago. This was now 2010 and my father had passed away in 2004. I’d had sufficient time to mourn his passing and to get a handle on the nature of our relationship. When I hit upon going back to the novel, I was happy to pick up where I’d left off.

I’d set my story in the past, 1858 was where it began, but at about the half-way point of finishing my manuscript, I came to stand still. My novel needed something new. For a month or two I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to say with my story. Just when I was beginning to get frustrated, I got the inspiration I needed. Something someone said, clicked with my thoughts and feelings about my novel, and I had that blessed aha idea that helped send me off in a new direction with my book. All of sudden I was energized. It wasn’t long, relatively speaking, until I had finished the rough draft. Now, of course, the real work of revising and polishing began.

As I worked on the book revisions, I understood that the real technique I use to help me find inspiration is related to daydreaming. When I was stumped about how to fix a scene, I’d spend a little bit of time allowing my mind to wander. I’d read a book, or watch a movie, or sit and watch the sunrise or sunset then the answer would come. Every day I give myself time to have no mental tasks at all, or at least not strenuous mental tasks. In all honesty, I can’t say my mind is ever quiet, except for short periods during meditation. I’ve learned that answers to questions I’m asking about any aspect of my life, can’t be forced. I have to let go and trust that the perfect answer for whatever dilemma I’m wrestling with will present itself in time.

Most of the time my best ideas come in the netherworld between sleeping and waking, or while driving, or taking a shower, or doing housework, because all the while, I’m still connected to all those simmering ideas on the back burner of my mind but I’m not consciously thinking about them. I give myself permission to allow something in the movie, or book, or song to trigger an idea that fits the project I’m working on. In fact, I got the idea for the title to my novel while listening to a Beatles song one night on the way home from teaching my college class. And the funny thing is, I don’t remember which song it was, but that’s not what’s important. It’s that my mind was open to suggestions from the ethers to the problem of what to name my book. Then at the right time, the answer came.

Let me say that just because I’ve shared my method for getting ideas for creative projects with you, doesn’t mean you have to do it like I do. Everyone has their own way. The important thing is to let go and let yourself discover how ideas come to you. Being creative involves trust. You have to trust that a way to express what you’ve longed to share will come to you. Then when it does, create whatever you’re inspired to create.

One final important thing to remember is, don’t judge your work, especially when you first start out. Just create the work and let it go. You’ll get better as you practice, and more ideas will come to you. It’s kind of like learning to walk or talk. When we first stood on our feet, we fell down, when we first tired to speak we couldn’t pronounce the words very well, but the more we practiced the better we got, because we learned to use our muscles to the best advantage. Creativity is another muscle that needs to be developed and the more we use it the stronger it gets.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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On Death and Life

Butterfly Close up“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” ~ Rumi

My dear Aunt Nila died on Saturday. I wasn’t able to be with her in her last days, which makes me sad. However, my mother was with her, the sister she shared a bed with. She could be extremely sad, but she’s not. She told me that her sister was surrounded by so much love that she was happy to share in a most beautiful experience. In fact, I could feel the love when I sent Reiki after hearing that my Aunt had collapsed and was in a coma. Not only was my Aunt surrounded by family, many friends came to say their goodbyes as well. That’s how I want to go, surrounded by love.

My Aunt Nila was a fierce and loyal friend. She was funny and gregarious. I wouldn’t say she was a great cook or housekeeper, but that didn’t matter to those she who knew her. She had an open heart and was willing to help anyone in need. People loved her because she accepted them without judgment. My Aunt Nila left the world a better place in which to live and that’s the best epitaph anyone can have.

While I was thinking about this post not only contemplating what to write about my Aunt’s life, but what to write about death in general, I realized that I’ve done a great deal of thinking about death and the meaning of life in the past few years. In fact, that’s one of the themes of The Space Between Time, the novel I’m writing. One of my readers said it was a dark book, but I don’t see it that way. We all ask the question, what is the purpose of living in this human form and then leaving it? Granted the death of a loved one can be a sorrowful experience, but I believe every experience we have, gives us an opportunity for deeper understanding about ourselves and our purpose for being here.

It’s true most of us don’t like to think or talk about death. Beyond this earthly life is the unknown, and that’s really scary for most people. I’ve had a chance to observe three or four people during their death process and there is something so beautiful about embracing what comes after leaving this earthly body. It’s sad when the process is filled with fear. My father’s death process was one that had a big impact on me. We talked quite a bit about what he’d learned during his lifetime that helped him approach his death without the anxiety many people feel. He believed that death is just a kind of portal to another chapter in our lives.

I know my father was right. It’s hard to explain how I know this, it’s really just a feeling because I’ve never had a near death experience, but I think that when our physical bodies die, we’re set free. I don’t know the full meaning of why we’re here on earth or that of our bigger lives after we leave it. But it feels to me like there is a plan for this living and dying thing that we go through. It’s just that when we’re in our dense human bodies it’s difficult to understand the bigger picture.

Just because I feel that there is life after death, doesn’t mean I don’t mourn my loved ones when they die. I miss talking to them, and in my Aunt’s case, I won’t get to see her one last time to say goodbye. That makes me weep, but I’m weeping for myself and the lost moments with my Aunt Nila that I failed to gather. And yet, she’s not gone. The love we felt for each other still lives on. That gives me comfort and hope.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Bridging the Gap

Earth from the Moon
Earth from the Moon

“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” ~ Malala Yousafzai

“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” ~ Wayne Dyer

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” ~ Pablo Picasso

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

During the spring, I was kind of stuck with my novel, The Space Between Time. I felt like it was pretty good, but even I got bored in the middle of the book. I couldn’t quite identify what was wrong with it. When you’ve lived and breathed a project like writing a novel for so long, I’ve been working on it for five years, you need outside help to point out the weak parts of the story. Then a writer friend of mine said something that helped me see the problem with the story arc I had created. She said, “Get your main character into trouble and keep her there.” On one level I knew she was right. On another, I felt resistance. I didn’t want to admit that there was a gap between where I was headed in my personal life and where the lives of my characters needed to go. My characters needed to get into sticky situations, the kind I avoid like the plague.

At first my heart sank at having to go back to my novel to add more complications for my main characters. But the more I thought about it, I realized that the stories I love best are the ones where the characters face very difficult challenges, learn something profound and are changed in the process. So my challenge became, can I do that in my novel too?

Yesterday, I finished another round of major revisions, which I started in May, and am ready to send the manuscript off to my writer friends to get comments and suggestions for more revisions. I like what I’ve done, but I have to admit that sometimes I shy away from too much conflict. Maybe I empathize with my characters too much. Feeling such deep empathy for others can be a problem at times and when I’m writing I sometimes weep for my characters because of the situations I’ve put them into. Maybe that’s a sign I’m on the right track. Even though I like the complications I’ve added, I also think I might need to take them even farther. That’s what I hope to get advice about from my beta readers.

There are many times when I have to remind myself that this writing a novel business is a long process and it doesn’t do to rush it. So, for a couple of weeks I’ll rest my mind, focus on other projects and deal with whatever needs to be changed when I get the comments back from my friends.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Nothing Matters

Tarantula Nebula
Tarantula Nebula

“Bad news is: You can’t make people like, love, understand, validate, accept, or be nice to you. You can’t control them either. Good news is: It doesn’t matter.” ~ Daily Vibes on Facebook

“You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.” ~ Wayne Dyer

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation.” ~ Wayne Dyer

“Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.” ~ The ManKind Project on Facebook

“Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you.” ~ A Course in Miracles, pg. 728

Years ago when Neale Donald Walsch said to me, “Contemplate these words: Nothing matters and you think it does.” I was appalled at his attitude. How could he say such a thing when there was so much suffering in the world! Yet on some level, I already knew that there was much more going on behind the scene of the world I was living in than was readily visible. I asked myself, “Do I trust God or not?” Though on one level I thought Neale was daft, I did as he said. It took me several years of contemplation to understand what he meant by those words.

Finally, in the early nineties I had a huge aha moment. My experience was so profound that I began to talk about what I’d learned and immediately was met with resistance and condemnation. People said to me exactly what I had thought when Neale had given me the assignment. “How dare you say nothing matters. Look at all the suffering in the world. Look at the injustice.” Well that shut me down pretty quickly. I didn’t know how to make others understand what I knew to be true. God’s reality is something you must experience for yourself. Some people just don’t want to change their perspective. However, I didn’t give up what I’d learned.

Fast forward to these last couple of weeks. In the interim, I’d been very selective about sharing my huge aha. Some people get it, others look at me as if I have two heads. But I knew that whenever anything rocked my personal life, or the lives of millions around the world, that there was a much larger purpose to those events. I knew that what my friend John Berger says is true, “There are no victims, only volunteers.” What I’ve come to realize is that the world is as we choose to see it. If we see a dangerous world, that’s what we experience. If we see a friendly, supportive world that’s what we experience. It’s our choice while we’re in this physical form. The thing is once we leave this physical body, we’re back with God and part of the real reality once more. However, we can live in God’s reality while in our physical bodies. We can that is if enough of us choose to let go of our old ways of thinking and being.

Last week I wrote about seeing the movie Judgment at Nuremberg again and how what I’d been studying in A Course in Miracles affected my viewpoint of the movie. History tells us that the Allies thought they were so superior to the Nazis, as if we haven’t committed our own atrocities, that they put the Nazi leaders on trial for crimes to humanity. They condemned many Nazi leaders to death or life imprisonment. I was reminded of just how sacred and profound a change forgiveness can make in the life of a person, or in a society. While withholding forgiveness can devastate and perpetuate suffering.

A week later my husband and I were watching CBS Sunday Morning. On it was a segment about Dick Cheney and the new book he and his daughter have written together. I was appalled when Cheney’s daughter said, with such love in her eyes, that her father had more integrity than anyone she’d ever known. My reaction was not kind or forgiving. Oh how I wanted to blame him for the Iraq war, for his warmongering and greed. I wanted to see him get punished for all the lives lost, and proliferation of the war machine under his watch just like the Nazi’s had been. Then I stopped. Here was my opportunity to learn a new part of that old lesson.

As you might imagine, I’ve had to take some time to think and reconnect with the idea that nothing matters. Fortunately this morning as I was again studying A Course in Miracles, I understood that I’m no better than Dick Cheney and I have no right to judge him. The old part of me wants to punish him for seeing a dangerous world and for condemning all of us who strive to see a world filled with God’s love. But condemnation is not love. I can’t return attack for attack and make the world a better place. If I condemn Mr. Cheney, then I put myself right back into that dangerous world we see on the nightly news.

The problem with condemnation is that it ignores the spiritual beings underneath all of our attitudes and actions. We are more than our physical bodies and our lives continue after our bodies deteriorate. We don’t have to suffer pain and strife. We can choose to see the world differently. We must be willing to let go of what we were taught about the world and how it works. We need to get a new vision of who God is and who we are in relation to Her/Him.

When I’m confronted with someone like Dick Cheney, I’ll have to remind myself that he doesn’t know his own connection to the Divine. Eventually it will become second nature for me. That’s when I will live in love and peace completely. Until that time, I’ll continue to write and speak about what I’m learning. If I’m not understood, if I’m condemned as a Pollyanna, if I’m told I don’t understand the real world, that’s okay. The world I see is a much more loving and peaceful place in which to live and all I can do is to hold that vision so that, hopefully, others will join me there. Eventually enough of us will make the shift and the old world of struggle and strife will fade away.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to make a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Drama Fatigue

Marco Polo“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” ~ Wayne Dyer

“You know the value of every article of merchandise, but if you don’t know the value of your own soul, it’s all foolishness.” ~ Rumi

“No critic ever changed the world.” ~ Robin Sharma

“Do not fear to lose what needs to be lost.” ~ Sue Monk Kidd

Last week a student in one of my theatre classes came to class with yet another crisis in her life. She reminds me so much of myself at her age which is a little bit disconcerting. Pain and suffering exude from her every pore and many of the other students merely tolerate her because every week it’s some new crisis. Seeing her struggle week after week, this is her fourth class with me, it finally came to me that I have some tools that may help her break the cycle of continual drama in her life.

Looking back on my life, I can see now that I was once addicted to lots of drama. I don’t think I’m alone in that. After all, it’s drama that sells in the media. My teen years and early twenties were filled with one crisis after another that would eat away at what little self-esteem and peace of mind that I gathered during the times of quiet. Finally in college, two wonderful mentors suggested that I begin keeping a journal and that I get involved in theatre. That was the beginning of a life long climb out of the vortex of pain, fear and suffering. It seems ironic that acting helped me reduce the drama in my life, but I used it as a tool rather than as a way to create more angst. I have been grateful for those mentors and their suggestions. Using those tools has helped me come to an extremely peaceful place in my life. But my student helped me see that, in a way I have become peaceful, but in another way I still have lots of work to do.

Because of this student, I realize that there are times when my first reaction to a situation is to go back to those old feelings that I’ve worked so hard to expunge. I’m now determined to do another round of letting go of old habits, for that is what I believe all our negative emotions are.

One of the things I love about working at home is the fact that I don’t have to be immersed in other people’s negative stuff all day everyday. It’s difficult for me to maintain my calm in public sometimes because I’m highly empathetic. Just a few weeks ago I forgot to put up my guards when I atttended the convocation for the associate faculty and I got really riled up in one of the break out sessions over stuff that doesn’t really matter. It took me a while to get over that. So, I have lots of work to do to be calm and peaceful no matter what the situation and this students is reminding me that the work is always on going.

Fear is never a good state to be in, nor is guilt, or suffering. If I can help one student, and myself let go of those feelings, then I’ve done something helpful for more people in our circle of influence.

I’ve decided that I’ll present her with a gift of a journal during Wednesday night’s class. Maybe she’ll begin to feel better if she writes her troubles down like I did. It’s definitely worth a try.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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