I Almost Fell into the Trap

Let’s Get Working

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” ~ Steven Pressfield.

“Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Whew. This morning I almost fell into the trap of thinking that I was stuck on my novel. I haven’t been able to work on it for a couple of days because of chores and teaching duties. When I left it last, I wasn’t quite sure what to write next, which precipitated my assumption that I couldn’t write today.

Thank heavens I remembered what Steven Pressfield, Elizabeth Gilbert, and so many other authors have said. Just sit your self down and start writing. It might not end up in the final manuscript, but that doesn’t matter. Once you begin writing you’ll get unstuck. So, I had one little idea which turned into a much bigger scene than I thought. That was nice.

Something I learned while acting and directing stage productions is that some rehearsals are just bad. There would be so many times I’d hit a roadblock on understanding, or being able to portray my character, or as a director I wasn’t able to make my actors understand what I wanted from them. The thing is, there are limited rehearsals. So, in those situations, it’s not possible to take a break, or do a retreat to work stuff out. You have to do it on the fly. You have to keep plugging forward.

Writing is sometimes like that when there is a deadline to meet, like when I’m working on these blog posts. In those cases, I just have to finish my piece as best as I can and call it good. When I’m working on my novel it’s a little bit different. I have more leeway in terms of time limits, but even then there are stages of writing that are more fun than others. I usually start off well, then after I exhaust my initial ideas, the writing gets more difficult because I have to find my way from point A, to point Z and I’m not quite sure how to get there. On the hard days I’d rather wait for inspiration, read my book, take a nap or even do housework, which I hate, rather than push forward.

To me writing is like building a house. You have to make sure you have a strong foundation. That’s the stage I’m in now with this new book. Even though much of what I’m writing won’t end up in the finished manuscript, I need to write it out. It’s like creating the blue prints. I can’t get to the sprucing up and decorating the story until I have written all the important details of the foundation that I can later pick and choose from for the final version.

I’m still young, in terms of being a writer, and I have to remember that every new project has it’s own set of problems; every first draft is crap. But as Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, “Done is better than good.” With each blog post, I write a rough draft, then revise it. But I have limited time, so done is better than good is my motto because I’ve pledged to myself that I will write and post once a week. I’ve done that since 2013, a fact that I’m proud of. I have now pledged to myself that I will write a sequel novel to The Space Between Time. My goal is to get the initial draft finished by next August or September, so pardon me, but I’ve got to go and get cracking on that project.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel. It’s available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and will soon be available in a print-on-demand version at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

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My Book is Published. Now What?

Elizabeth Gilbert At TED

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” ~ Edward de Bono

“Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.” ~ Yo-Yo Ma

“I was a writer before ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ and I’ll be a writer after it’s over. It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

I was going to make this post about the marketing and promotion that is a necessary part of publishing a book, but this morning I saw a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert from 2009 about what happens to many creatives after a big success. She related what she had experienced after the explosive success of her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. It wasn’t her reaction to the fame, that caused her to take a step back and examine the creative process, it was the reaction of others.

I don’t know why we think we have a right to comment on, or be concerned for other people in intrusive soul killing ways. When Elizabeth related the fact that people were indicating that she had created her ONE masterpiece and how did she feel about that? And how was she going to cope with that fact? I cringed, just like she did.

The thing is, she has written another big block buster book since her first. It’s Big Magic, which I have read. It’s about the creative process and it’s been an inspiration for me. She debunks lots of old myths about the tortured artist idea. She’s right it’s time to think of artists in new ways. And she wrote the book for artists, so they can be cycle breakers. I decided to break out of the starving, tortured artist mould and just have fun writing.

Here’s the thing, I’ve written a novel, my first. It took me seven years to complete. It’s taking my husband a week, to prepare the manuscript for publication as an ebook. Then it will take us two or three weeks, maybe more, to complete the process to publish it for the print-on-demand version. It will be a big relief and, of course, I’ll have lots of work to do promoting the book. It may be popular, it may not. But I have lots more to say, and in fact, I’ve started work on its sequel. In addition, I have begun a fantasy book, and I’ve got an idea of taking some of my blog posts and creating a book of them as well. None of my work may hit the New York Times bestseller list. I have fun visualizing that one or two will, but if that never happens, I’ll be just fine. Because I write for me, not for you. Sorry if that sounds callous.

I do hope that my work touches people, that they get something out of it. But, my writing is about doing what poetess Ruth Stone does, I’m catching ideas as they flow by and putting them down on paper. Only in my process, unlike hers, some of the ideas come and pitch a tent, go fishing, hiking, bathe in the sun, roast marshmallows at the campfire for a while before they turn back to letting me in on what it is they want to say. I have lots of ideas camping out in the back of my head. So if one of them comes to fruition and it’s popular, that’s great! But I’ve got others waiting to let me in on their secrets, and when they do I’ll learn something as I’m writing them down.

I hope next week to share the download link for The Space Between Time. If you decide to read it, I hope you’ll share it with others, and even write a review.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share this post with a friend, and leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

The Creative Life

Calla Lilies
Calla Lilies

“Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” ~ Brené Brown

“Curiosity is what keeps you working steadily, while hotter emotions may come and go.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

A few days ago I began reading, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s about living a creative life without fear. Some books blow your mind, others help you work through trauma, others are just plain fun. Then there are the books that confirm your feelings, your point of view. Those books can give you courage to continue on the road you’ve chosen. Big Magic is that kind of book for me.

Though I’ve only been writing for eight years and consider myself a new writer, I do have years of experience in the world of theatre. And to echo something from Elizabeth’s book, when you commit yourself to the creative life, you have to stick with it through thick and thin. I’ve been cast as characters that were very different from me and consequently very difficult to play because I had a hard time relating to them. On the other hand I’ve played characters that were so much like me that it was difficult to know where the character ended and I began.

Writing is like that too. Some days I sit down to write my weekly blog post or work on my novel and the words flow out my fingers with little need of revision. Other times I struggle with the concepts I’m trying to convey. I write, then dump whole sections or sometimes begin over. Since I’m under a deadline for my blog, I have to publish it even though what I’ve written may not adequately express the idea that’s been running around in my head looking for an outlet.

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I’d like to try my hand at writing essays and stories to send to publications with open submissions. One particular opportunity struck my fancy. The magazine, Story has called for submissions on the theme of identity. When I saw that, I thought, “I have lots to say on that topic,” and I began writing. That was over two months ago and I’m still struggling with the piece. The deadline for submission is fast approaching and I have too much to say about identity. I can’t narrow my thoughts down into a coherent whole. It’s like when I get close to a vital idea for the piece it floats away from me. As a result I may not get it together in time to submit it for publication.

I was feeling discouraged about that, but after reading Big Magic, my viewpoint has changed. Maybe I’m not supposed to write about identity. On the other hand a story idea flitted toward me the other day, and it’s demanding attention. This story wants to be written, and written by me. Elizabeth’s theory is that creative ideas float around until they find the person who is supposed to bring the idea to life. That’s how this new story idea feels to me, unlike the essay on identity. I’ll continue to work on the essay until it tells me to quit. That’s all a creative person can do, follow the breadcrumbs and see where they lead you.

You also have to put your work out into the world anyway you can. Last night in the section I was reading, Elizabeth related a story of the first piece she had published. The title of the story was “Pilgrims”, and the editor of Esquire magazine wanted to publish it. She was ecstatic. Finally after years of trying, her work would be published in a major magazine. Then she got a call. A large advertising sponsor had backed out of placing their ads and the editor would have to reduce the number of pages for the edition that was to include her story. They wanted to know if she would be willing to cut her ten page story by thirty percent. She could wait for a future publication, but the magazine business was changeable, her contact warned, and her story might never be published. She chose to rewrite the story and it turned out to be a good thing she did, because two months later, the editor left for a new position and her story would have gone into oblivion.

Choosing the creative life sends the practitioner off into a mysterious world. There are peaks and valleys. One day everything is going well with your project and the next, the idea well is dry, or tastes funny, or has gone underground and is flowing toward another artist. All we can do is commit to the work. I find that the deeper my commitment, the more I’m supported by the creativity fairies who sometimes lead me in directions I had no intention of going. Yet, I’ve committed myself to them, so I must follow. The point is, I look forward every morning to sitting down at my computer and following the breadcrumbs left for me that day.

Well, this is one of those blog posts that is kind of all over the place. My ideas are still not completely formed. The ideas from Big Magic are still drifting around in my head, and out in the ethers waiting to crystalize. That doesn’t matter. I’ll publish this post anyway.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016