Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place

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Grist for the Mill

listeners at panel

No matter how much we enjoy our art or craft of choice, no matter how often we fall into that  “zone” of pure bliss when we engage our creative process, most of the time it is still hard work.  It is not made any easier when we reach a point of exhaustion and we just do not have any more internal strength to draw upon.   The result is this: that novel gets stalled, that half-finished painting sits on an easel, and the lyrics of that song elude the grasp.  We need grist for the mill of our creative process.

I overcome this exhaustion and find inspiration in a number of ways, mostly involving going to a place of sensory or intellectual stimulation.  For example, this past weekend, I attended the LA Times Festival of Books with my writer’s journal in hand with the sole purpose of gathering ideas and being inspired.

I have heard it stated many times that to learn to write well one should read the works of authors who write well.   It also helps to listen to what they say about their writing process.   I attended two panels discussions that explored themes in Young Adult fiction and had the opportunity to consider some advice from these authors:

Sara Benincasa
Gwenda Bond
Anthony Breznican
Jo Knowles
Danielle Paige
Andrea Portes
Sarah Tomp

I cannot remember which one of these authors said this, but it struck such a chord that I wrote this in my journal: “Read everything and don’t let anyone tell you what you read or write is wrong.”

Danielle Paige suggested  “write beyond your comfort zone.”  Sara Benincasa added that you should “follow your fear” when you write.  We should incorporate autobiographical themes into our writing by exploring parts of our life and places we have been, even the painful ones.

To the delight of many in the audience, Sara Benincasa also said “write fan fiction because it is awesome.”  It is okay to be a fan.

Some more practical advice:  “Write it first to get the story down and then go find yourself a publisher,” not the other way around.

Finally, the best bit of instruction was — and again I am sorry I did not note who said it — never apologize for your opinion or point of view.  Even today, girls are still taught in school to defer to boys in expressing themselves.  This leads to many men being confident in expressing their thoughts while many women apologize for articulating theirs.  That is, a man may say “This is such-and-so and it is correct,” whereas a woman may say “I’m sorry, I may be wrong, but I believe such-and-so.”  Only apologize for things you have done wrong.  Never apologize for a thought or opinion.  Be confident in your writing.

I went to the festival hoping to come away with an idea or two on what to write.  Instead I learned a few things on HOW to write.  My plan going forward is to get out of my comfort zone, face my fears, and start trolling the deep waters of my own experience to write on.

I will strive to write from different points of view.

Lastly, I will cease to use the passive, apologetic, cowardly voice, and adopt a more straightforward one.

The grist mill is starting to turn.

ljg 2015.


The Sucking Vortex

I have heard it said that social media is the playground of the truly crazy where you will see many pathologies played out in a public arena. As true as that may be, I have also met many sane and wonderful people online who have actually become friends in the real sense. I know people from all over the world who have given generously of their time and wisdom to encourage me in my creative endeavors and to give me sound advice in many personal situations.

Additionally, my creative works would have no way of reaching an audience without social media. I would just be another writer whose works would never leave the confines of a computer hard drive.

Thank goodness for social media, yes?

However, we who are on social media for any length time will eventually discover that there are some terrible drawbacks to playing on this ball field.

Aside from the obvious – dealing with those faceless unknown people whom we will never see with any real clarity and who display their worst behavior – if we play with it long enough, social media will eventually become a soul-sucking addiction.

How much time do we waste reading cat memes and watching the current viral videos instead of actually creating? It is perfectly fine to set aside a few minutes for some entertainment, but for me, this “entertainment” has often gone on for hours, well into the night. (How many of you check for Facebook notifications when you get up at 2 am to pee?)

What does it do to one’s writing skills to have thoughts conveyed in only 150 words at a time?

Dealing with difficult posters can be so emotionally debilitating that one might not have the energy to lift a pen or a paintbrush to create.

We need real-life fodder to fuel our creative endeavors which we will not get if we don’t move our butts away from our computer desks or from our devices to get outside and live a real life.

Recently, I engaged in a spiritual fast which included not only giving up food but also giving up social media for a day. Just a day!   The food was easy. Not signing on to social media for 24 hours was dreadful.  Can we say that I am a tad addicted?   Yes, yes we can.

All this being said, you will see less of me on Facebook. I have simply had enough. Am I gone completely? No, absolutely not. I won’t forsake the exchange of ideas with my cadre of fellow creatives.   I will check frequently but I won’t be on all the time. I am moving my FaceBook and Twitter app icons to the last screen of my device so I don’t see that I have notifications every time I pick up my device. I am turning off the notification alert function on my settings. I will not carry my device around with me wherever I go.

I need to start swimming away from that spinning vortex. My life depends upon it.


Reality Bites: Longer Strides

shoesIt has been a little less than three weeks since I realized that reality bites and if I did not do something to improve my wellness, I would be heading for a less-than-optimal life — if indeed a life at all.

So a status report:

Juicing continues, though I am not keen on kale and other leafy greens.  (Kale juice smells like lawn clippings….)

I find that I cannot exclusively stick to the vegan thing.  Not enough umami.   However, with the help of an egg or two during the week and a tiny bit of cheese, I have been doing better than expected with a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.  (Okay, I did have some lox with a bagel a couple of mornings ago).

I think the biggest improvement is getting out every day for the last week to walk (with a bit of jogging).  I started short-range but am reaching further each time I go out.  This morning I did a bit over 2 miles in 35 minutes.  The challenge will be to continue this routine during the work week now that I have returned from Spring break.

Also, I have been struggling with people who have said things intended to deflate or minimize my endeavor.  So unfortunately I have needed to stop sharing with them my progress.  I need to do whatever is necessary to keep focused.

My commitment to a more healthful life-style has also brought about a re-commitment to other things in my life — a return to daily writing practice and a deepening of my personal spirituality — to name a couple.   The brain-fog is lifting and clarity of thinking is starting to return.

So I will continue this stride for a while.  I should probably start taking herbal supplements too but I’m not quite ready for that yet.

My thanks to all who have been providing encouraging words and practical advice.   🙂