Before and After – Haikus on a Sunday Morning

Here are two Haikus. I wrote one before I read the Sunday papers. I wrote the second after I read the Sunday papers.

 

I shouldn’t have read the Sunday papers.

 

Before
Magnolia walls
Sunday sleeps long in this house
Safe in our cocoon

After
Wild wind sweeps the earth
Rain drowns sorrow – futures grow
Blind in our cocoon

 

Screw Plan B!

If you’re working on your first book/film/creative “thing”, at some point you’ll send it to an expert (or a buyer) who, you hope, will be instrumental in getting you published, on the big screen or otherwise into  the world.

While you wait for their verdict, you might find yourself in a form of limbo because (in your view) their view might be the thing that determines what direction you take next:

Plan A – Living the dream!
Plan B – Self-publish… trash the project… hide out in Bali… qualify as a shrink… start a finger painting club… become a monk…

If your expert declares that your work is “Genius and Ready To Go!” then Plan A it is. But if the verdict is slightly south of average, you might think you have no choice but to move to Plan B.

You’re a realist, right? Especially if you have a family to support. But you’re also a dreamer. So your thinking might go something like this:

“I have a dream to be a best selling writer/director/artist… AND I have a family to support. I don’t have a trust fund, so I have to earn a living while I create my magic. HOWEVER, I need time and mental space to create said magic, BUT I can’t spend an unknown length of time walking the tightrope between a practical job and creating my dream. SO, what to do?”

Do you create a Plan B in case your art is kicked back? Do you go to Plan B even though every minute you spend on Plan B saps the core out your soul?

What if you took the chance and focused completely and unflinchingly on Plan A? What if Plan B never entered your head? Would you write/paint/create in a different way if there was no Plan B? Would Plan A be better, smarter and more determined? If there was no Plan B, would you find a way for Plan A to work no matter what?

I think, when we give ourselves an out, we’ve already decided to quit. So no Plan B.

Be Brave, folks. Stick with it.
Tina

 

You’re your own writer. Do what works for you…

When you’Write your own way - Tina Konstant on Writingre up a ladder, any ladder, it’s natural to look at people who have made it to the top already, see what they did to reach those lofty heights and copy/model/emulate… call it what you like… 

In a writer’s world, that could mean taking advice from one successful writer and getting up and 4 a.m. to write for three hours. That’s “Golden Time”. Or, taking advice from another author and sitting at your desk for eight hours straight regardless of what comes out. Perhaps you’ll follow the time honoured wisdom of writing every day no matter how you feel. Or do a Dame Barbara Cartland and write in bed (I think that’s the myth).

The trouble with doing what other people do, is that that’s what OTHER PEOPLE do.

If we all did what other people did, we’d end up with nothing original. Now, I tried working at 4 a.m. and quite honestly, I was too irritable to write a damn thing. I tried to write in bed, but fell asleep. I sat at my desk for eight hours and got a sore arse.

What other people do doesn’t work for me and most likely won’t work for you, because watching other people up their own ladders and copying what they do only gives us a small piece of their personal puzzle. We only see what stands out.

There’s a successful climber who wears orange. So you wear orange. There’s another one who sings Yankee Doodle. So you sing your heart out. What you miss is the single common factor they all have. They’re all taking one step at a time in an upward direction.

So it doesn’t matter whether you write in bed, an office, on a beach, in a coffee shop, or on the back of your hand. It doesn’t matter whether it’s at dawn, noon or dusk. It doesn’t matter if you drink white tea, black tea, green tea or coffee. The single thing that all successful writers do is WRITE. One word at a time.

It’s that simple.

How you do it is up to you.

So do yourself a favour… Look to yourself. What works for you? What fits in your world?

Instead of trying to mimic your hero’s habits, read their output and produce your own in your own time and in your own way.

Your best writing time might be at 11 p.m. on your neighbours roof. You might like to write by hand and type it in later. You might like to write unplanned. You might like a cappuccino at your elbow. You might like to have three projects on the go. You might like to take days off from writing every now and then to let things soak. You might like post-it notes. Maybe your best work is done in the bath.

It’s about time you perpetuated your own myth, don’t you think?

Be happy, enjoy, hang with the bats.

Ideas, ideas and glorious inspiration!

hMy bet is you’re not just a writer. You’re also an employee, a parent, a cleaner-upper and a dozen other things, which doesn’t leave much space for inspiration because you’re too busy fussing about what keeps money in the bank, your job secure, your kids safe, your dogs fed, your grass short, your garage clear… you get the picture. In our normal lives, there’s very little time for inspiration because we’re too busy dealing with the mundane. So if you’re starved of ideas, take a moment to look at what’s going on in your head.

Do yourself a favour… Take a moment to sit down with no distractions (I know, you might have to go to the toilet to do this – and even then, there’s no guarantee) and write down everything you THINK about every day. Not the stuff you do, but what you THINK about. What fills your head? What do you plan, worry about, fret over? Here are a few examples:

–     When to walk the dogs
–     Sorting food for animals and humans in the house.
–     Dinners for the next week
–     Mail
–     Finances
–     Space
–     Grass cutting and lack of it
–     Cleaning the car
–     Sorting the house, garage, office
–     The boss or your staff
–     The job, the need to get one or change one
–     Kids uniforms
–     Issues at school
And the list goes on forever…

Now, have a look at that list and be REAL about when you actually DO this stuff and how often it needs to happen.

–     Walk the dogs? Once a day. Do you really need to think about it?
–     Feed the animals and the people in the house? Plan a menu, write it down and move on.
–     Kids to school? Morning.
–     Household admin? Once a week.
–     Cut the grass? Saturday morning. Again, do you really need to think about it?

You get my drift?

We might only need to do something once a day or once a week, but we think about it ALL THE TIME!

Instead of thinking about characters, story lines or learning something new and inspiring, we’re filling our heads with administrivia.

Instead of smelling the dish we’re preparing so we can let our characters do the same in the next book/short story, we’re thinking about a grocery list!

Ideas and inspiration are like orchids in a hailstorm. If all you do is rain hell down on them, they’ll have no space to grow.

So monitor your thoughts. When you find yourself fretting, pondering, stressing or re-hashing routine stuff, say instead: “Thanks, got that, I’ll deal with it when I need to. Now for something more interesting…”

Have fun today folks. Give your head some space and inspiration a chance.
Tina

Keep Calm… It’s just a novel! 12 ways to chill your boots if your novel freaks you out.

Keep Calm! It's just a novel.OMG!!!!! It’s been a month/a year/a decade and I haven’t finished my novel!!!!!!!! Damn, we wind ourselves up about the most remarkable things. 

It’s all a question of perspective. The main problem is that our perspective (the glorious writer) doesn’t match the rest of the world. We have a schedule! Doesn’t the world get that? We have deadlines! The thing is, the more you freak out over your novel (whatever stage you’re at) the slower the process will become.

So here are at least 12 ways to chill your boots if your novel starts to freak you out.

ONE: Do something that’s worth freaking out over. If you’re scared of heights, go skydiving! I guarantee that facing down something worthy of being freaked by will put your novel in perspective.

TWO: Play tiddlywinks. I don’t know what it is… Maybe it’s the comical seriousness required to get the little suckers in the cup. Takes your mind off things.

THREE: Remove all deadline. Obliterate them. Don’t set them!

FOUR: Get some puppy therapy! Even watching this video will make you smile. So go get some!!

FIVE: Go rock-climbing or scuba-diving. There’s something about these two sports that will put you in an almost meditative state. Blissful. I promise. Get to it.

SIX: Get a mix of people you like, love and maybe not like so much and go play paintball! Shoot the folk you don’t like and blame your buddy. Yeah, baby!

SEVEN: Watch a whole day of TV! Sod it!! TWO DAYS! Get a box set of something awesome and watch every episode back-to-back.

EIGHT: Go on a course. Choose something you’re fascinated in, something unrelated to your book, something you’ve always wanted to learn about. Make sure it’s a real class with real people, not online. Climb right into the subject. Boots and all.

NINE: SING! Doesn’t matter if you can’t. Really it doesn’t. Just open your lungs like a parrot at dusk and squawk! If you like, join a choir and make a habit of it. Your noise is too great for the shower! Get it out there!!

TEN: Go to a tap dance class. I bet there is research somewhere that proves that tap dancing is the most liberating of all the dance forms. There is something remarkable about making music with your feet.

ELEVEN: Get a full on, no messing, hot-stone massage.

TWELVE: Pick up a favourite book by your favourite author, find a coffee shop, take your shoes off and enjoy.

Last I looked, writing a novel was supposed to be fun. So snap open the goodie bag and jump in the puddle… doesn’t matter what you do, but whatever it is, keep calm… it’s just a novel.

Add mellow to your writing day today…
Tina

 

How to get from the real world to a story idea?

How to go from real world to story ideasfind story ideas in the real worldThe short story is a fiction microcosm. A Petri dish where all the elements of a good read, from story idea to the afterglow you get when it stays with you, are present, but in small pieces.

As part of my own exploration into that Petri dish, I’m reading a lot of short stories by some very good writers, including Joanne Harris’s collection, “A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String.”

Before the start of each short story she writes a short paragraph introducing the story and sometimes describes what inspired it. In many cases, the leap from the real world to the story idea is a big one.

I looked at my own short stories and realised that similarly, many of them bear little resemblance to what inspired them in the first place.

As I let that idea stroll around my head I began to see the “intangible something” that fills that gap between the real world and the story idea. After all that strolling and thinking, I also finally accepted that any time I tried to force the leap from “real world” to “story idea” the story just didn’t work. 

Hence the question: How to get from real world to story idea? What happens in the gap between real life and fiction? Where does the story evolve from? What is that spark that forms the bridge between fact and fiction? Where does it come from?

In the quest for a great story idea, the most elusive of all writing tools, inspiration, clearly plays a part. 

So I did some web research into inspiration. Here are a few views from other people:

ONE: I like this one most… From a blog by Ariel Constantinof: How to find inspiration for writing? Don’t: Ariel says you don’t find it, you make it. It’s not some magic that floats into your head. You seek it out and if it doesn’t happen, just start writing anyway. I agree. I do this a lot. Start with a few words and sometimes an image, and it goes from there. The ending, you’ll find, is as much a surprise to you as your audience.

TWO: Write to Done gives 31 ways to find inspiration, from blogs to people watching. The common factor with most of these suggestions is that you get into the world! Why? Because more often than not the conversations we have with ourselves are nonsense. If you’re looking for inspiration, you need to get out of your own head!

THREE: Another approach is taken by Henri Junttila in his article Inspire to Write. Meditation, silence, quietude. Getting out of your own head by going deeper into it 🙂 Very cool.

To be inspired, you need raw material.

Stephen King’s famous comment on reading, I think, sums it up: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

When all that raw material from a thousand different sources stews and simmers in our minds, the ideas, no matter now disparate merge and a story idea blossoms whether we like it or not.

This blooming happens at the most random of times (in the shower, in a hot tub, walking the dogs, washing dishes…) which is why, perhaps, we think there is some magic behind inspiration. The truth is, if you read and think, explore and converse with the world, then inspiration is inevitable. All those small ideas bind together making it possible to make the leap from carpets to cats.

Make magic today folks.
Tina