Influenced Concepts

Influenced Concepts

…the first step in creativity is not focusing on goals but letting go of them. Being open and aimless. Forgetting preconceived notions.

Jill Jepson

Are any of my ideas original thought? Or have I been deluding myself?

Some time ago, I was receiving Jill Jepson’s newsletter in my email inbox twice a month. I unsubscribed from her letters after a while because I was so busy trying to make some sort of progress on my WiP. Her emails were still valid for where I was in my writing, but the time with so many emails had to stop.

Anyway, I have a list of possible blog post topics that sit in one of my notebooks in my OneNote app. I add to it as I see potential phrases and sentences that spark topic ideas for me. When I came across this one written by Jill, I thought maybe getting back to the simplest of basics might be good.

Jill’s lines got me reflecting about times when I let my mind wander randomly. It was difficult to find those old times at first. So much of what I do is planned, deliberate, intentional, methodical. If I do this one thing, then such and such will be next. So much of my everyday life is like this. It’s rare for me to follow the flight of a fleeting thought. Most of my life is far from being original.

Long ago I used to play the flute. It took four years of doing exactly what the teacher told me to do before I let my imagination have a say in what I played. With the flute, I did forget about those preconceived notions and aimlessly made up melodies once I was done with my hour of rigid practice. It was also back then that I wrote stories, letting my young imagination take me wherever it felt like going at that particular moment.

Yes, there was a time when I was utterly and completely creative.

Then life got in the way as it has the bad habit of doing. Jill’s email got me questioning whether I could bring all that originality back or had I lost it forever.

Of course, that question lead to other ones like is writing the right path for me. I can’t play the flute anymore. Still, writing isn’t my only option. I’ve done needlepoint, Native American crafts, web graphics, and even dabbled in painting. Did I choose the right craft to pursue seriously?

I know that one of the reasons I chose writing is that it’s so extremely accessible to me. I didn’t have to buy a thing to get started either. Everything needed was already with me.

Those other options would require me finding stores where I could buy the supplies. There aren’t any art craft supply stores in this town. Even if there were, how was I suppose to get to them and what would I use for money?

Now, accessibility wasn’t the only reason for taking up writing. I’m so much more comfortable writing than I am talking. I think it’s because I can change what I say before anyone sees it. The chances of me being misunderstood are much less.

Jill also mentioned goals as something that might squash the creative pulse. Yes, I most certainly agree. I have a nasty habit of letting my thoughts jump to the end of what I’m trying to do. Often, it’s just for a transient moment but it still stops me from having my attention solely on what I’m doing at the time.

Goal watching can definitely ruin creative flow. This makes me wonder why personal coaches keep stressing the aspect of looking at goals, keep an eye on the big picture, and keep on shooting for what’s in the future. How can anyone get anything done that way? Or does it just put money into the coach’s pocket?

Are your ideas and dreams influenced, or are they more of the created kind?

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” ― Martha Graham


Mental Illness in Fiction

Mental Illness in Fiction
Image courtesy of Mohammad Irtez Khan

As I inchmeal along in my WiP, I feel a compelling allurement to the general theme of my story, namely how mental illness affects a person’s life. It may seem simple at first. Reality gets distorted.

That answers the what, but how about the how, why, and when? We may know people who battle these illnesses and not even be aware of their struggle as we go through our daily lives. And if we do know, even if the person is a close friend or family member telling us more than he or she would tell someone else, I doubt seriously that we can know, with any certainty at all, how it feels from the inside.

Writing about these sorts of disorders isn’t, in truth, going to get me inside a person who bears these disturbances, but I think it’ll get me closer to understanding these plights from the outside. Yes, I write about what I think is going on inside the head of my protagonist. What I’m actually doing though is combining, adding, and/or subtracting what I’ve read in case studies. In reality, each person who confronts the demons of these illnesses are experiencing it differently, if only just marginally. After all, they are all individuals just like everyone else.


To give you an idea of what I’m referring to, I have General Anxiety Disorder. My symptoms are:

  • Persistent fear, sometimes without any obvious cause, that is present everyday
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Muscle tension; muscle aches
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Digestive issues
  • Insomnia and/or sleeping too much
  • Irritability

For many people, they do experience these same symptoms on occasion, but don’t have a clue as to how they would handle each one twenty-four/seven. In addition, most people experience only one to three of these symptoms at one time when something monumental comes into their lives. Without medication, daily tasks done every day would be completely overwhelming for me.

Now this is just an overview of a mental illness. Even doctors don’t really know what thoughts I have when I go through this anxiety. The unrelenting indecision, flightiness, stiffness, nausea, and so on come crashing down as if I’m being buried alive. Even that doesn’t tell you what is actually going on with my thoughts though. All I can tell you is the medication is a must for me to live a normal life.


Why am I feeling driven by this motif?

Way long ago, back in the 1970s, I entered college with the major of Sociology/Social Work. I was enthralled by the entire field. When I took my first class in Psychology, it literally trapped me. I couldn’t get enough of the subject. Everything I read lead to more questions I needed answered.

Unfortunately, the hardships of life reared up. The need to survive took over my need for answers somehow. So I quit and found a job. Luckily, it was within the scope of my major. I worked as a financial patient representative at a hospital.

Now that I don’t work outside the home anymore, I’m back to finding the answers to all of those questions while I fulfill my secondary dream of writing.

[Do you wonder why I didn’t continue my education while I worked? That’s a story I’ll save for another day sometime in the future.]


Writing and studying go hand in hand for this project.

As I write about the character’s struggles, I have the Internet open for search, have my two Psychology textbooks at reach on a shelf next to me, and have The Emotional Thesaurus in between where my keyboard is and my monitor.

Writing a book that is so jumbled with emotions, beliefs, and thoughts isn’t an easy task for a first novel. Yet, the dominance the subject has over me leaves no choice in the matter. There are many days when I wonder if I’ll ever get to that point where I look at publishing it.


Does your WiP have you enslaved?

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. ~Vita Sackville-West


Redesigning My Work Plan

Redesigning My Work Plan

First, just to get it out of the way, my WiP is now over 25,000 words. It hasn’t grown much since August, less than 12,000 words worth.

I’m still a pantser for the most part. I do character questionnaires as the characters pop into the story. I use the Bing map to lay out where my story is happening, again, as the need arises. Both are just a tactic I use so I don’t forget details and end up making new particulars that don’t fit.

The process is slow. Most of this is due to the passages with physical movement by the characters. I find them hardest for me to do. Thoughts, dialogue, and description are the easiest. It’s a good thing my preference in genre isn’t something like Action and Adventure. I’m relatively sure I wouldn’t have a chance in that, and I would have given up long ago.

During the summer I was hoping to get more done. I was telling everyone, including myself, that warm or cold weather didn’t matter. I still think it doesn’t, but looking at the difference between what I did in the summer vs. what I’ve accomplished just in the last three weeks, there’s obviously something about summer that puts me in a slump.

Could it be that my poor little brain cannot get off the school time routine? School starts in August for the U.S. students these days. Back in ancient times, when I was in school, the school year started in September. I was one of those kids who was chomping at the bit to get back to the classroom by the second week of August . Summer had become a big ugly bore for me. Still, I’m quite certain my motivation wasn’t really ready until September. I would walk into the classroom, sit in my assigned seat and willingly put my nose to the grindstone.

Since the latter part of that first week of September, I’ve had good writing spurts. I’m not up to good sessions yet, but it’s better than working like a snail.

Did I hear you whispering about NaNoWriMo? No, don’t expect me to do it. I have a distraction that’s unbelievably annoying. There would be too many days when I wouldn’t get enough done. Get rid of the distraction? I would if I could, but I can’t.

Still, there’s a lot I can do to boost my output. Most of what I need is psychological in nature. Whatever works, right?

I still don’t have a new desk top. I’ve come to the conclusion that it just isn’t going to happen. However, I spotted one at the Wal-Mart site that is within my budget because of birthday money I received. It isn’t super fancy giving me oodles of surface space. It isn’t even real wood, plaster board. It does have the CPU compartment where I want it. It does have a couple of drawers instead of one. And most important psychologically, it isn’t an orange tinted wood stain. It’s charcoal! I’ll still need the shelf for all of the cable equipment, but I do have a piece of wood that will suffice for that. Sure, doesn’t sound psychological, does it? But it is. This orangy finish is so ugly and disquiet.

My space isn’t the only thing that needs rejuvenate.

Some of the blog posts I’ve been reading talk about when writing should be and how much time a session should be. For the longest time, I thought my schedule was okay. I’d like to start at about six in the morning, but there’s that distraction. So I opted for 9:30 to 11:30am. Then another session at 2:00pm for another two hours or more. But then I started questioning the wisdom of all that advice. Is a two-hour stretch enough? How many breaks are right for me? How about all those who write at night?

Come to find out, if I can’t start early, I’m better off waiting until at least 11:00am to start writing on my WiP. The morning is filled with other things that are kind of an obsession with me. Make the bed. Put the morning dishes in the dishwasher and clean off the kitchen surfaces. Do the laundry. Clean bathrooms. Vacuum and dust. By rearranging my time to write, I will get more of the story down and will be more focused. I can write from 11am to 3pm without having my brain go off to something else. Even after that, if the motivation is still high, I could continue for another two hours.

Of course, because of when I’ll be writing, I’ll need food that can sit on my desk and won’t taste raunchy if it lays there a while. Additionally, it has to be filled with protein, and be a little light on salt. There’s only one dish I’m going to have trouble with. That’s my cottage cheese with fruit. It’s a mainstay for me.

Yes, I’ll take a break or two in that span, but no more than ten minutes.

I will be at leisure on the weekends. Working on my WiP without some sort of long break is bound to make me go bonkers. This doesn’t mean I won’t work on it at all, but there won’t be the strict schedule. Instead, I’ll be working more on my blog post, writing comments at other blogs, sending email to friends, and doing some reading. Sure I do these things every evening, but I’m tired then. I’m sure it shows in my writing.

I won’t be visiting as many blogs during the week, waiting to do most of that on Saturday and Sunday. This will afford me time to expand my character questionnaires so they don’t have any chance of being less than three dimensional. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.


Will this new plan work? I think it will, although it remained to be proven.

Have you revamped your work plan lately?

“Being in the mood to write, like being in the mood to make love, is a luxury that isn’t necessary in a long-term relationship. Just as the first caress can lead to a change of heart, the first sentence, however tentative and awkward, can lead to a desire to go just a little further.” ― Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life


Sending Out the Wrong Vibes

Sending Out the Wrong Vibes
Image provided by rikdom

I guess I’m not paying adequate attention to the impression I throw out to people. I’m not sure when the inappropriate signals started spurting out from me though. It might have begun over twenty-five years ago. Or it could have been as little as eight years ago. One thing is for sure though. I’ve gotten to the point where I try to avoid as much face-to-face time with all as much as I possibly can.

And what are these wrong vibes?

Somehow, most people are thinking than I don’t know very much at all. They are assuming they know more than me and better than me about almost any subject, even the ones that are dearest to me. They surmise that my knowledge is outdated, faulty, or doesn’t apply to the situation. And they do all of this without asking me a single question or listening to what I have to say on the subject in its entirety. They make their assessment on limited information that may not be right and without any regard for what I may know.

I’m absolutely sure there are people out there, somewhere on this planet, who will respect me enough to hear me out to the end. However, I don’t seem to attract those type of people, at least not away from the internet. Instead, I seem to be drawing in  a fair number of people who are self-serving, some to the point of being narcissistic.

I try, tactfully, to be assertive, only find myself in a yelling match with these people. I try just keeping my mouth shut, but then they wonder why I haven’t said anything in reply to whatever they are saying. I try agreeing with them as much as I can without feeling like a total sham, but that’s hard on me. I eventually have to just walk away because of psychosomatic issues like a headache or stomach ache.

I’m one of those who has a terrible time telling lies. I can do it, but expect me to recount it with the truth, probably sooner than later. Being a phony with people doesn’t work well with me. Fear of being found out dwells deep within me at first and, eventually, takes over everything. Only spilling out the truth sets me free.

I’m perplexed as to why these people think they can be allowed to have such control over me. I question why they think whatever they say is more valid than what I say. I wonder why they must put contrary statements into the middle of my part of the conversation.

Although I can’t say I don’t mind being wrong about something, if I am wrong, I certainly want to be corrected so I can be right from there on forward. However, I’m hurt and exasperated when I’m certain I have my facts straight and these people automatically presume I’m wrong without hearing me out.

Do they believe I’m wrong because I’m disabled? Does my inability to walk like everyone else and use my right arm like everyone else predispose my capabilities to not have the right information? Or is it that I’m a threat to them in some way, and they have a dire need to have control over whatever is frightening them about me?

I assure you, if I could find more people to have face-to-face time with who would give me the respect I believe I deserve, I’d be spending a lot of time with them and enjoying their company.

Is there a way I can send different vibes out? Would I have to put on a different attitude that I’m not used to having? And if it is a different attitude that would do the job, what is that attitude?

As my life is though, I will continue to sidestep these encounters as often as I can. Of course, because life is what it is, I can’t avoid these people all together. It’s a crying shame too.


Do you have people in your life who are like this?

Image provided by Board of Wisdom
Image provided by Board of Wisdom


Maybe Self-Doubt isn’t Bad

Maybe Self-Doubt isn't Bad
Image provided by Bob Blakley

As of late, I’ve been coming across hoards of articles about how we should feel about ourselves. Writers are telling me in their blog posts about how to somehow feel marvelous when I’m writing, no matter where I am in my WiP, no matter what obstacles I’m facing. Feel-good web sites are giving me advice about how to prepare to feel terrific for the entire day. Some of them read like instructions to put a model together.

I’m not believing a word I’m reading. How can I? Writing is a passion for me. This doesn’t mean I’m going to feel spectacular whenever I sit at the keyboard though. For me, passion means I’d do whatever it takes to be in the process of a WiP, and to hell with how it may be feeling at the time. There are many days when it’s grueling. I’m having to puck each sentence out of my noggin and place it on the page next to the last period, all the while wishing the ideas would flow. And expecting to be happy for the entire day is ludicrous. Especially since I’m a writer with many issues. Life is full of ups and downs. To force myself not to experience all of it is making my life less than what it can be. I just can’t imagine myself going to the dentist with a beaming smile on my face.

One of my “big” feelings is self-doubt. I’m usually in a mode of questioning myself about something. With some, it’s fear that runs them ragged. Others live days in total guilt mode over something they really didn’t have much choice in. Mine is self-doubt.

Self-doubt isn’t reserved just for those of us who write. However, as a group, I’d say we’re the most vocal about this so-called flaw. You may not want to believe it, but executives of such companies like Sony, Microsoft, General Mills, and others have this same lack of confidence and esteem going on inside them. They just don’t tell anyone. Often they aren’t even telling their significant others, whoever they may be. I, as a writer, can feel this thing in me every times I put my fingers on the keyboard. “Should I say it this way?” “Should I say it at all?” “What if I changed things around?” “Would that work or is it just as hideous as it was the other way?”

About a week ago I was thinking about this flaw in me. It came to mind while I was reworking a character profile. I had added in arrogance, narcissism, and hotheadedness for this character’s traits, but I still needed to come up with why she was that way. Any therapist is likely to tell me that the person doesn’t see herself as being terrific, engaging, and righteous. That all those rotten qualities are a facade for what she really feels inside. Her not facing what she feels is what’s wrong with her. Instead, she acts out to avoid the underlying feeling[s].

What if I faced my self-doubt about my capabilities as a writer? What would I find? I’d discover what I already know about me. I’m atrocious with spelling and vocabulary. So much so that I will not write a single word without a dictionary and thesaurus on hand. Often I don’t word sentences, and sometimes whole paragraphs, in the right order. I do a kind of cart-before-the-horse thing in a lot of cases. My attempts to be eloquent are crude. I want my writing to be lyrical, but I know the instant I read it, it’s anything but impassioned. I have a lot to doubt. I, often, wonder why I bother to try to do something in the craft at all.

Yet, it’s these marrings in my skills that make me try to write every day. They’re imperfections I can try to alleviate, if not get rid of all together–at some point in the far future–maybe. Some I’ll never ever rid myself of, and I’ll just have to come to terms with those facts and trudge forward dragging them behind me.

The doubt I wrestle with is what makes me ask the questions that, once dealt with, will improve the process in my projects. Without this uncertainty snaking up, down, and around, entwining with the story that’s in my head, my WiP would, most certainly, end up flat, boring, and completely repulsive.

Of course, I don’t want it to take over my passion. Some of what I write is okay. Sure, not spectacular, maybe not even good, but passable. I dutifully give myself a kudo–not two, just one.

A blogging friend of mine has told me she likes my “no frills” writing. Well, that isn’t anything like lyrical, is it? So be it. I do like the thought of being one of those people who is up front, straight forward, down to earth. The “no frills” thing kind goes along with that. Still, the  apprehension is there, haunting me to do better. Kind words are fine, but what is in me still prevails.

Eventually, I’ll have to push this feeling into a closet somewhere so that I can get a real sense of how I’m doing from others–in particular, an editor, or even a beta reader. Nevertheless, this emotion does have purpose for me.


Do you think of self-doubt as way to insure that you strive to be better? Or does it hang you up?

“A modern philosopher who has never once suspected himself of being a charlatan must be such a shallow mind that his work is probably not worth reading.” ― Leszek Kołakowski, Metaphysical Horror