Getting Stuck in a Niche Ditch

There is no “Universal Author,” who is effective at telling there story in endless numbers of formats powerfully. If it were writing would be an even more difficult career move. The best an undiscovered author could hope for is, the guy who could make any style a best seller was neither a good listener, nor very observant. Individual writers are good in different genres (and sub-genres, stages in the writing/ publishing process.) unique talents are great….And…

When you/me/we find ourselves setting aside time to write on a certain topic or chapter in our niche style, what do we do when nothing comes? Days turn into weeks, and months, and years. This subject is something that rings true, but every effort at brainstorming and working backwards, sideways, and diagonally doesn’t come out right, or at all. I’m supposed to have a talent for writing (_____) , and I can’t even connect A to B. Do I give up on my story/point?

If it’s important we are driven to find a solution. Here’s one that works for me when writing prose of almost any form: try writing the “stuck” idea in a new format based on the issue getting in the way. I often use free verse poetry as a brain dump to help me recall details of a story and keep them vivid and concise. Sometimes I cut and paste my end product directly into the piece I’m working on, at the very least I have a new direction and/or details I didn’t before and use them in my prose to build my bridge forward.

Poetry may not be your particular choice, but different styles make writers focus on different aspects of what we want to say. Whatever format you choose take a little time to learn about the style, yes digress onto a side road of writing research. Not only will you discover new means of expression, but it can lead you back to your story with a clearer idea and greater passion.

The style you choose to try and dislodge your mental block isn’t meant to distract you or win the Nobel for literature. In the end you may despise the style and still favour yours, but I’d bet engaging differently with your creation will give you a new element to move your work forward.

If nothing else, the purposeful break could do the trick!

Watching my Mouth,and my Keyboard

I started getting interested in the mechanics of language, linguistics and Noam Chomsky, because I wondered what made my writing appealing to other people. Could I appeal to a broader group by using different vocabulary and get the same message across and valued by a greater audience?

I know that one of the most effective ways to have an impact is to help readers “feel” an idea. (Political ads are a good example, low slow music for a negative ad/sunlight and kids happily learning for a positive one.) It is said a picture paints a thousand words; if done well 5 words can paint a thousand pictures. Much of the power in ASPCA ads comes from the lyrics BEHIND the imaged of sad, poorly treated, pets-to-be.

I am beginning to understand more of the potential of words on a page (or screen) and how uniquely powerful they are, alone. When we read, the image each audience member creates is different even if the words have similar meaning because we all have different associations with meanings of sentences and different contextual life experience with the messages conveyed. I’ll give you an example below.

Imagine Joanna Shmoe wrote the following sentence: Rachel smirked mysteriously before she walked into the hardware store.

I know a few Rachels. No matter how hard we try, our brains will look for patterns and relationships; so, I read the sentence with expectations that “Rachel” will behave similarly in the author’s story as the Rachels do in my experience. Consider the word smirk, is it playful, ominous, or condescending in your mind? Ff the author decided not to qualify it where does it take you? If the smirk is qualified as painful, but you think of smirks as evil, could you shake your own association with the image in your mind?

The complexity of language and its living nature is sometimes hard two wrap our head around. (That is one of the many challenges in the law: interpretation.) Simultaneously, interpretation of language is a powerful tool allowing infinite meaning with the finite number of sounds/words people can create. (Gotta love sarcasm and humor; passive aggressiveness – not so much.

A tip to say good night: if you want to know how readers will generally view a character, write a few paragraphs in that characters voice and share it with friends. Ask them to describe the character as they would a casual acquaintance you had never met. If the language used gives the vibe you want to the majority, great! if not, try different language/descriptors. Check out my tools >PAGE< to find help!

Bonne Nuit! (goodnight!),

Sickybeat!

I Ran Out of Brain Power (To Make a Witty Title!)

It takes mental training to strengthen focusing abilities of many people and that kinda sucks! If I can’t sit and push out a chapter, or a page, of good quality in one sitting during a quarantine, then what can I do during breaks to refresh my thought process and desire to write? How long will it take?

If you’ve ever had any thoughts like this, I can help you find answers. Starting with the second question; recharging breaks can take as little as a few minutes. YAAAY! The lesson that is recurrent in my life applies here; listen to your body. If it seems as though you are facing writer’s block, or a general long lasting funk, there is likely a reason, and it often goes beyond material quality.

When my brain want’s to avoid writing and I pull it along like dead weight while I am witty and happy in other situations, [even cleaning the toilet!] (gasp!!) The way I have luck fixing my process is by taking apart the pieces of it until I see the piece that needs oiling or changing. Has my space changed? Am I lonely/depressed does the topic of my writing bring up unaddressed emotions? Am I sick physically? Etc….. Some blocks are easier to fix and clear than others and there is no one write way (see what I did there? I hope it makes you 😀 )

Now if your in need an everyday type of break to recharge, I have a solid approach beginning with the same step every time: create distance. For me that means whatever I do to recharge I don’t do it with my laptop. Whatever your main place is to put your story ideas get away from it; when at my laptop I am in writer mode, even on Twitter. You can use your phone for internet if you want to do that. But, even then, on a break where I intend to return to a project the same day, I try to escape the screens until I am satisfied with my writing for the day. – Our brains are unconsciously cued by environment.

I DO:

Read books I’m interested in (legal books/ Linguistics books/ neurobiology/science of mental health and autobiography are my jam!)

Listen to music and sing along shamelessly (Shania Twain is my musician of choice followed by P!nk do not try and tease me over it, That Don’t Impress Me Much! I’ve learned to tune out negativity about music!) DO YOUR THING!

Doodle/Color- I love doodling because I change my focus from words to imagery and color and the process is less in my head. Since I am creating a visual image I focus on different details than those I do in prose.

If, when you return to writing, you have trouble picking up at the start try using another format (For example, poetry has many sub-formats to choose from). Talking knots out verbally can also help.

Do you take breaks while writing? How can you tell When you need one? What do you do to entertain yourself during a break? Maybe you’ve thought of something I haven’t! Please comment and tell me your method.

See you soon,

SickyBeat

Echos of a Child’s Mind.

I was told as a child that I was not a good vocalist-NOT just by my siblings-by teachers in music classes. It made sense, when I heard my voice recorded the way others hear it, I despised it. No wonder my high school teacher scolded me in the middle of class practice. Music had been a chosen part of my curriculum until I dropped the class sophomore year and didn’t look back.

the idea that I was a lost cause musically, became a defensive joke I have hid behind for the last 17+ years. A week ago, bored in quarantine, I stumbled on a karaoke app and downloaded it. If I can’t laugh at my sister’s shenanigans, or my friends’, I CAN create my own. Best of all, I could use my killuoke (I’m so inherently bad it may kill!) to amuse everyone into a laughing ab workout,

When I started with this app, I was as cringe worthy as ever. I kept playing around to de-stress between editing sessions. I learned a lot about breath, tongue placement, and how I remember what hitting certain notes feels like. What was a joke and a good break the ice intro to this website has become a skill that I can mold again- I am not defined.

I had an epiphany today thinking about the way a writer needs a thick skin starting out, that need is something I had when it came to my voice. I didn’t take the time to demand an explanation, owned it as truth, accepting it by age 14 and leaving something that brings me peace and joy.

Similarly the skill of writing elicits negative feedback and people own it without demanding explanation. How can we improve the skill without using and sculpting that muscle. If someone can’t explain their opinion and support it, it’s no more valuable than an empty paper bag in the wind. Writing means to me that I write until I like a piece as a whole every day when I wake up. If I cringe I need to work my writing muscle more.

If you’re curious:

This < is what I sounded like when I first started working with my voice

Here < is my more recent one after 13 days of practice and exploration

I won’t become a professional singer, I don’t want to, I do want to write and I’ll keep going until I’m satisfied. I hope you discover that courage too!

Here

Procrastination and Perfectionism -Riddle Me This.

Am I the only writer who only gets good ideas ten miles away from my computer, paper and pencil and even my dumb smart phone?

I’m relatively sure tech isn’t out to get me, (yet.)

But, every single time I create time and space to write, writing process is akin to pushing an insecure stack of snow bricks up a hill. As soon as the process begins my well form idea comes apart; some bricks in shattered flakes too small to be mended to the perfection of “was.” Other great ideas hit the ground and become so deformed I wonder if they ever were as great as i thought. If i am able to get a portion of ideas written–200 words in a sitting– I fizzle out and step away in exhaustion.

Some of the issues I and, I dare say, others deal with are engrained in us from an infinite number of experiences…I struggle with perfectionism because my experience with noticeable Cerebral Palsy has taught me how unintelligent people think I am. I over compensate.

There are day-to-day things that are simpler to address in the moment, like block and quick fatigue. Here’s what I do and why.

if I find trouble getting ideas to the page I Search for related material in multiple formats and explore. usually images stimulate my emotions enough (careful not to over do emotional triggers please, please!!!!) It’s easier for me to write when I’m somewhat emotionally motivated.

If I get tired within a short period, I force myself to leave for ten minutes and find another activity that I can fully focus on. I repeat this pattern until I need a full recharge. This also builds mental endurance so that I can focus longer before needing a break.

If I’m sick with the flu or depressed and writing is torture I stop! I spent two and a half years just writing a draft of SickyBeat because of health issues. Months passed without writing a word and I hated it. Some of my problems were out of my control, but more than a few would’ve been manageable if I took care of myself instead of trying to force out what usually didn’t come. Rest is preparation, NOT failure.

Now that I stopped procrastinating and finished this post I’m going to take my dopamine filled head and get ready for bed! Is there anything you would add to this post?

Goodnight everyone!

If/Then Statements and Relationships

When I’m not doing any authorly focused activities ( writing, research, reading, building/maintaining relationships, promotion…) I am studying law and for the law school entrance exam. there is much in the entrance exam that I can do naturally well on an average day, and the parts I struggle with….*Cough looking at you Analytical Reasoning diagrams…Cough,* I improve with practice and patience.

Anyway, in the exam if/then statements are a critical way to express relationships in the abstract. For example: (given fact): if DudeX walks then ChickN runs. The idea is to realize that, given a relationship between facts (people) we can greatly restrain the possible number of conclusions made about the information and learn more than we might at first notice.

To carry forward my example, we know that if DudeX DOES NOT WALK then ChickN doesn’t have to run. She can take part in any number of things given the untold circumstances of my example situation because the other factor (DudeX) didn’t play by the rule.

Why would I mention this here on a writing blog? Because, the other day someone asked me why they should care about this blog or anything I do and I was reminded of these if then statements used to define rules and relationships in law which help lawyers figure out outcomes of cases.

I may never become rich, certain people won’t relate to or agree with what I say, but we exist in the same space essentially. If you see me and don’t engage we have no relationship and then we may miss out on something important we could have offered one another. As in any relationship one can find a way to leave, (especially an internet website) but we can’t know what we are unaware of…… If someone comes off as annoying because they were trying to get an ad up for a blog like mine and the ad didn’t come out as the author intended (I don’t do internet ads I’m a law geek and writer not an advertiser, captain!) Why make a harsh statement?

We attempt things before we know them. We see people before we talk to them. Where are we if we start in negativity? And what we miss out on then?

Light!

I’ll tell you a secret: this attempt at publishing is for my third work. My first was a write-edit-type-print local chap book “Call Me Crazy!” I had my cousin (in her late 30s then), and it was the two of us working to put 100 poems together. we did everything ourselves with only family. I had no idea how to be successful in writing, but had been told by people who had no relation to me, and little to lose telling the truth, tell me I had a knack for poetry.

Having my cousin as the nuts and bolts was helpful, the thing was she didn’t share the same passion for the subject of that chap book: Shania Twain. If I hadn’t been around she would’ve never had anything to do with Shania. Hate may be to strong a word, but my cousin certainly didn’t like the music. I wanted to meet Shania Twain and hoped poetry might gain some of her attention. (She does write all of her songs.)

The poetry didn’t work. I made the goal of meeting Shania at age 11, and by age 21 some crazy things (and some predictable, but nonetheless funny things) happened to me. Every time I would share more than one anecdote about my path in life or to meet Shania I was told, “No really? You should write a book.” So I switched poetry for prose.

“I Ain’t Goin’ Down!” was a bit more professional, it was pay to publish ($1,000 without promotional assistance) I through a release party, did one reading to a captive audience, and one where no one showed up. I went to local radio stations and my local paper WITH FREE COOKIES! I tried to get it into local book stores…. I think I sold 80 copies since June 2009.

Long and short 3 things kept me from getting where I wanted to go back then.

1. Impatience: I pushed out content even as I struggled with my health and didn’t want to wait through editing and research and healing. I wanted to write right into America’s home libraries in a year with little knowledge and fewer connections.

2. Health: Cerebral Palsy, Severe Enduring Anorexia, Major Depressive Disorder, and Chronic Pseudo Obstruction (a rare bowel condition that put me through 13 surgeries and a lot of other things that I wrote about for my new Sickybeat manuscript…) I worked through all of it. After the majority of my intestine was removed, I came out of anaesthesia insisting I MUST take a walk. The spasms were so strong the nurses made me turn around after 100 ft or so.

The truth is because I would not let myself rest and heal when I was sick, I wasn’t able to put out my best work. I was lucky if I was coherent at times. My mental health played into the physical and until I was able and willing to break that cycle I couldn’t write the way I meant to.

3. Resources: I asked around to find out if anyone knew how to find a publisher or an editor back in 2008. I had no idea where one even looked for those things. I ended up bugging a librarian friend into editing for me because I was volunteering there at the time. I didn’t pay her for it (Eeek! thank goodness she did it anyway! THANKS CATHY! ❤ )

Today, my ducks are in a row and I want to help everyone who wants to share their writing so, I’ve made a page called “Tools Connections” with links to people and things that have helped me the most in writing/creating/editing and the publication process!

I invite you to check it out —HERE I hope it helps light your journey!

This too shall pass.

There are a lot of things parents subject their children to that give the parent satisfaction purely because they drive the child insane (my mom’s favorite might have been “The Weenie-Whiney Club theme song she start every time we said something wasn’t fair.) These moments of parental revenge seem to have more value to them the more I look back.

If I didn’t like something I had to face like the special education teacher who seemed to feel justified in telling me how I should fix my hair everyday of my freshman year in high school, mom always reminded me, “This too shall pass.” I wouldn’t be a high school student forever, and I had little power to change this instructor’s perception of my ability to fix my own hair or of my intelligence.

In more painful/frightening situations in my 31 years, from fighting the fear brought on by Anorexia, to the 15 surgeries and countless hospital stays, those too passed. It is harder that the happiest moments passed faster than the gut wrenching ones (that’s what makes depression scary; we can’t see the change), but I have seen people find it. I have found it, even after a decade of physical suffering. I am on an upward health and happiness trajectory tonight.

No path is ever straight (unless you’re under 20 and tell my mom something’s unfair then it Is straight to the Weenie-Whiney club theme… ) but with the big picture things there are no guarantees or constants. I am well overall because I work and rest so that I can be well, I grow and change as my life does.

This morning though, I woke up a debilitating headache and sweating. When I got up and took some OTC pain and allergy medicine I had plans for this new day in quarantine. I went to eat my cereal, and the first bite left me nauseous and weak. it was all I could manage to crawl back into bed and remind myself that this too, shall pass. if I treat it appropriately; “appropriate” treatmeant turned out to be more medicine and 4 hours of hard sleep.

If I had taken my customary route of working despite my illness, I would’ve accomplished little, and nothing of the quality I desire. In quarantine I have had to give up almost every plan I had worked so hard to become healthy to make, but I am at home because I know not to work against my own self interests. I have created new ideas (this blog!) with the knowledge that quarantine will pass, and it doesn’t go any faster if I ignore it.

The original members of the Weenie-Whiney Club

Lip Syncing Update…

My original plan was to lip-Sync my favourite songs so everyone could have a little laugh while getting to know me but, I feel even MORE ridiculous doing that than I do singing.(Dunno HOW that’s possible…But here we are!)

That said, here you go!

AND happy passover, Easter, Ramadan, and SPRING!

Never

First, never listen to a thunderstorm after 6pm unless you intend to fall asleep.

Second, never stop questioning and learning you will never get bored. The desire for more knowledge will help many more people than ever get harmed. For example: I seek out more information on the way language works in the brain (Noam Chomsky books are so good on the subject and require a literary stamina for the curious bystander. )

I seek out that knowledge to make myself a better listener, future juvenile law judge, and a better writer. I am not so arrogant to believe that I am beyond become better, as my story demonstrates.

Because of my curiosity I stumbled on a writer’s design website called Paint Brush today! Using the free tools I came up with a teaser ffror the book I’m editing.

Yes, it is intentionally blurry. (Partially for effect & partly to maintain an element of suprise!) Do you have any feedback? Thoughts on the title? (Would you be interested?) How does the court make you feel, interested, creeped out, annoyed, or curious?

Stay happy and healthy everyone!