Monday, August 13, 2012

Old Advice, New Inspiration


Between writing and spurts of fiction novels, I’ve been immersed in a lovely new craft book called: THE STORY WITHIN by Laura Oliver. When I read Chapter 4: The Science of Inspiration, I immediately thought of Q. Mostly that he’d say, “See! Isn’t that what I’ve been saying all along?”

Laura talks about the difference between your right and left brain. Your right brain is the creative side, the one who sees princes and maidens in cloud shapes. Your left brain is the one that looks at a cloud and sees rain and bugs you into go and get your umbrella. The right brain is your muse half—your muse never really goes anywhere, but it can easily get drowned out by the Greek chorus of your left brain, constantly bombarding you with unnecessary information, linear information like your kitchen is dirty, your bills are unpaid, and the current solution you’ve come up for your plot problem couldn’t possibly work. Who would ever believe such a load of rubbish? And furthermore, who would read such a load of rubbish?

Incidentally this is around the time your right brain (and muse) check out and go hang out with more positive entities. Or sticks her fingers in her ears and goes “Lalalalalalalalalaa” and refuse to listen anymore, or even behave.

This is incidentally why your inspiration strikes when you’re washing dishes, vacuuming, driving, walking, or doing anything that doesn’t require a lot of attention but keeps your left brain properly distracted and your right brain to go, “Oh, thank God, he shut up. As I was saying, I think you should do X, Y, Z in your story.”

The muse is always with you.

In Chapter 2: Point of Origin, Laura talks about quantum mechanics. She talks about how everything in the universe is composed of teeny tiny atoms—and then she compares this to writing. We’ve all got to start somewhere; and your story is composed of many things, many scenes, that may or may not seem related, but when you get the whole, you see how it all works together. (Reminded me a bit about that blog I did about Jason.)

This book also talks specifics in craft like plot, character, setting, and backstory. She also talks about taking care of yourself as a writer, finding time to write if you have children, to not punish yourself if you’re not writing as much as you think you should if you do have children (or other family matters) in your life. There’s not a time limit on this stuff is basically what she’s saying, and beating yourself up for taking time away from your family isn’t exactly helping your writing or your muse. Still, if writing does make you happier, it does seem family is more than happy to let you have a bit of time of your own to do it. And who knows? Eventually it may just be the sort of thing that pays for Disney World—and you can bet your sweet ass those kids aren’t going to mind about a few hours of self-entertainment now if they know Disney World is in the offing.

Reading this book was a lot like sitting with a life coach who was telling me all the things I knew, but presenting old things in new ways with refreshing anecdotes and re-inspiring me to keep writing and plowing along.

What’s your favorite writing advice you’ve ever read? Any favorite writing books or articles, or just a quote? What re-inspires you and keeps you plugging along?

31 comments:

quantum said...

I've been in a parallel universe of British Olympic Glory, but now the bubble of euphoria has burst and its Monday and its Helli's book review day. Reality is back! LOL

This book sounds like something that I might have written .... though I would have included some Feynman Diagrams for illustration and called it 'The Quantum Mechanics of story writing'.

Very nice review Helli. I think you've really got the hang of the right/left brain stuff.

My favourite writing advice/comment:

Stephen King in 'On Writing'
This is a short book because most books about writing are
filled with bullshit. Fiction writers, present company included,
don’t understand very much about what they do—not why it
works when it’s good, not why it doesn’t when it’s bad. I figured the shorter the book, the less the bullshit.


I think writing is a bit like cycling. You just get on a bike and do it. If you're good you will win Olympic medals, if you're awful it will get you to work. LOL

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

My favorite is and will always be "Write the damn book."

It's what it all comes down to in the end.

Marnee Bailey said...

I always loved this, Q. Fiction writers, present company included,don’t understand very much about what they do—not why it works when it’s good, not why it doesn’t when it’s bad. I figured the shorter the book, the less the bullshit.

LOL! So true!! And ON WRITING is one of my favorite books on the subject. :)

Hells - I think that the science of how the brain works is fascinating. And, it explains why my mind works best when my hands have something to do. I've been tricking my IC with crocheting. When I feel stopped up, I have been working on this afghan I started when I started plotting this book. It keeps the hands busy so I can think. LOL!!

Di R said...

I began this blog nodding my head and agreeing with the right/left brain stuff. (One of my cp's has done a lot of research on it and had given great workshops on it.)

Then you wrote, "Reading this book was a lot like sitting with a life coach who was telling me all the things I knew, but presenting old things in new ways with refreshing anecdotes and re-inspiring me to keep writing and plowing along." And this is when this book shot to the top of my TBB list. (Actually, I ordered it before I commented.)

My current favorite quote is "Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale." -Hans Christian Andersen

It reminds me that in order to tell a (hopefully) good and compelling story, I have to make the time to enjoy my real life, to be filled up.

Great blog, Hellion!

Di

MsHellion said...

Q, I thought of you a lot when reading this book because she pulls things from science quite a bit. I thought for sure she must be collaborating with you. And then I thought, if Q ever read a writing book, it'd be this one. It would speak to him. She was very lyrical and warm.

Stephen King's ON WRITING is the only other writing book I've read cover to cover. I have other writing books I've really liked and adored, but so few of them have I actually read cover to cover. I'll usually rave about the first half, apply it to the writing, then abandon the book. Nope, this one I read the whole thing. It wasn't so much a quick fix sort of book as it was a fix the inner you so you can write yourself out of it.

Don't worry. There's another book review day tomorrow, but I imagine this is the book you'll like more. *LOL*

MsHellion said...

Sabrina, EXACTLY, with the follow up writing advice of: HANDS ON KEYBOARD, BUTT IN CHAIR. It gets it done!

MsHellion said...

(I have to go back to Q for a second, I'm so cracking up at his metaphor of "If you're good, you can go to the Olympics; if you're bad, you can get to work." *ROTFLMAO* I love it!)

MsHellion said...

Marn, EXCELLENT! Exactly! Crocheting would be a perfect trick! (I bet this is partially why Jenny Crusie knits.) I think this is part of the reason why writing longhand works for me, because my left brain is concentrating on writing the cursive and my right brain gets to talk. But it's not the same as typing--for some reason my left brain is still bullying when I type and I don't know why. I don't know if it doesn't take as much thought to type or what...but typing rarely works for keeping the left brain behaved so I can write.

MsHellion said...

And I'm jealous you'll have an AFGHAN *and* a BOOK at the end of this!

MsHellion said...

Di R--Oh, you'll have to tell me if you like the book! I love it; I think I may reread it again. I'm tempted to buy a copy for each of my writing friends. *LOL*

I *LOVE* your quote and how it applies to your writing life. That is so true; and such a beautiful way to honor yourself as writer. Well done!

Marnee Bailey said...

Hells, my afghan is 3/4 of the way done now. It's a pretty easy pattern, repetitive. And I'm not that far into the book yet. So I might have two afghans. LOL!! The technique helped me finish edits on the last story. I made a sweater.

I figure, if it works, I'll use it. And my fam'll just have to suck it up if they get afghans as gifts from me from now until, well, forever. LOL!!

MsHellion said...

Don't worry, Marn, you can't be warm enough in the winter where you live. They'll appreciate them quite well, I'm sure! If not, you can always mail one of the pirates one. :) Or we can start auctioning them off for money to go to Atlanta. *LOL*

RWR's AUCTION FOR CONFERENCE FUNDS--get your very own afghan in questionable colors...or a self-portrait painting of Hellie, which may or may not actually look like a person when she's done. One of a kind!

Marnee Bailey said...

Hahahaha!! SOunds good!! :)

TerriOsburn said...

I read this earlier and just realized I never commented. It's been that kind of day. I must be the only writer who does not own that Stephen King book. And I'm sure he'd say that means I'm not a real writer. *sigh*

He's a tough nut.

I think the bit about you're not writing to please everyone you're only writing to please your readers. In other words, stop trying to write a book everyone will like and write a book you'd like. Then readers like you will love it.

Also, stop shooting for perfection on the page. There is no such thing.

Of course, I have no idea where I've gotten these little tidbits over the years, but kudos to whoever came up with them.

MsHellion said...

Yeah, I didn't want to bitch and moan, but I was really close. *LOL*

Actually Stephen King would probably give you a thumbs up for being smart enough not to be sucked into writing books and just sit and write like you're supposed to. *LOL*

The first I attribute to J.K. Rowling (though it was way before her--but she's the perfect example.)

Nora is the second.

P. Kirby said...

I've got a couple author quotes stuck to my writing desk where I can see them. One is from Janet Evanovich.

“Don’t fall into the trap of rewriting chapter one until it’s perfect. And don’t discard everything you write halfway through because you’re sure it sucks. Writing stuff that sucks is part of the learning process!”

The other is by Arthur Miller: "To write any kind of imaginary work, you gotta fall on your sword. You gotta be ready to be blasted out of existence. Lots of times, the blood is on the floor."

In general, I'm not a fan of books about writing, but I enjoyed Stephen King's On Writing. He really doesn't get into pedantic, one-size-fits-all rules, and instead just talks about his writing journey.

TerriOsburn said...

That is fantastic advice from Evanovich!

Maureen said...

This books reminds me of one I read a few months ago, called Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. It isn't about writing, per se, but it is about how the brain works to make those intuitive leaps of imagination and creativity. He used examples like post its, pixar studios and Dylan...but it all relates.

He talked specifically about why showers played such an important part of freeing the brain from the distractions and blathering of the left brain... One of the few places in our modern life where there an be no phone, no computer, no internet...etc.

I'll have to grab this book because I'd love to read of the science purely in conjunction with writing...

Now, my current fav quote...actually comes from the Symphony of Science "The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together."

Why does that inspire me? Well, substitute words with atoms and you get what I'm seeing... ;-)

Janga said...

My favorite book on writing is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. Reading it always gives me the feeling that she's talking directly to me. My favorite advice on writing changes according to where I am in my own writing process. Today's favorite is from a science fiction/fantasy author whom I've never read: "It is perfectly okay to write garbage--as long as you edit brilliantly." - C. J. Cherryh.

I discovered a craft book I love from the Poets and Writers recommended list: A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves. It has the best writing propmpts. I doubt that I will ever actually use them to write every day, but they have worked beautifully for me over the past several weeks when I get stuck. I skim the prompts until I spot one that resonates with where I am in my WIP, and then I start writing.

Janga said...

I meant to add an example. Last week I started with one prompt--"These are the things women don't know about love." I ended up with ten usable pages from that session.

MsHellion said...

Pat, I'm totally guilty of doing the very thing Janet said. I'll get to chapter 8, freak out, and won't write anymore. DEMORALIZING!

Definitely blood on the floor. *LOL*

MsHellion said...

Mo, I'm going to have to see if I can find the IMAGINE book. I think I'd like it. :) And the atoms quote makes perfect sense. I got it without the explanation--but my brain was already there with the science anyway. At least for now!

TerriOsburn said...

Dang it, Janga. Now I want to read those 10 pages. That's a great prompt!

MsHellion said...

Janga, I dust off BIRD BY BIRD off every once in a while and start reading it. I may have read it cover to cover, but I think she's one of those people who excites me mid-book, I start writing again, and forget to finish reading the book. But I love her description of herself in home video, of being a J. Alfred Prufrock crab, scuttling into the frame, then scuttling back out. *LOL* I totally got that.

Writer's Book of Days was the very first writer's book I ever bought for myself. I still have it too and love the writing prompts! I too love skimming the prompts until I can find one that inspires me to write something.

MsHellion said...

Don't you love how Janga teases us? *LOL*

TerriOsburn said...

I'm excited she called them "usable" pages. Knowing how picky she is, they must be amazing. LOL!

Marnee Bailey said...

I love that Evanovich advice too. :)

Good stuff.

I don't have any good writing quotes. I realized I hadn't answered that part. I only have my Just Keep Swimming mantra. :) I should find some more inspiration.

Maureen said...

See? It happened again. I put the blog into a coma...

Maureen said...

Okay, I jumped the gun... Janga! I love CJ Cherryh. Wonderful author!

I want to add that the quote Marn found for me on Friday is a real keeper...

"Serious writers write, inspired or not. Over time they discover that routine is a better friend to them than inspiration." Ralph Keyes

That is going up behind the new desk when it all comes together...

Maureen said...

Okay, I just downloaded the book and read the intro and have a new fav quote... "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
John A. Shedd

That one resonates in me...

Marnee Bailey said...

Oh, Mo, I think that quote works for me too. I need to be going on an adventure, expanding the old horizons.