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Posts tagged ‘mental exercise’

Driving Productivity

And I don’t mean in a vehicle. Although I got some excellent news to close out July! My youngest daughter passed her driving test. She’d put it off, and off, because she was afraid of failing, or of getting in an accident, or… something. Finally, the last straw was that she really needed to drive to get a decent job. That, and I’d told the girls they couldn’t move out until they had their driver’s licenses. You’re vulnerable without that, I told them. So I’m very proud, and happy. And this is totally not what this post is about, just a proud mommy moment.

Or is it? This post was supposed to be about overcoming doubt and reaching goals. I’m going to talk about writing, but the driving is part of it as well. We have to set goal in life. But as we found, my daughter and I, someone external saying ‘I want you to do this.’ even with the urgency that I explained the necessity of her learning to drive, was insufficient. It wasn’t until she decided that “I need this” that real progress and success happened. Read more

A Bit of Mental Exercise

pulp magazine

Jet Powers #4
Published 1951 by Magazine Enterprises.
Cover by Bob Powell.

pulp magazine cover

Lost Worlds #5
Published October 1952 by Standard Comics.
Cover by John Giunta (pencils) and Nick Cardy (inks)


Good Well, ok, it’s a morning. 

Between kids, chaos, and still not recovering from whatever crud has it’s tendrils into my lungs, I’m sorry, I didn’t get a coherent and witty post written up for today, you’re getting a recycled  re-purposed post. I did find the pulp magazine covers, which amused me. How much has changed in our art aesthetics! It’s a couple of years old, but compare those to this collection of ‘modern art’ 

So here’s a blast from the past post I wrote back in 2013. Combined with the art, where does it take your brain? Kinetic Stories

Kinetic Stories

“I get great ideas all the time. And promptly forget ’em. Ideas are like raindrops in the Pacific Northwest. Grains of sand in the Sahara. Plenty out there. It’s the Butt in Chair time that distinguishes writers from wannabes.” – David Pascoe

“This is why I don’t mind giving away ideas. They are free, because they don’t have stories and real characters attached. I can always get another idea. It’s the story and the characters that are truly valuable. (Though I can’t let them RULE… or there is chaos. Believe me). Besides, “nothing new under the sun”, but things that exist are more important than things that are in potential.”  – Margot St. Aubin

I got into one of those terrific conversations you can have online with like-minded people, and had a realization. Ideas are potential, but when you turn them into a story, you release that, and it becomes kinetic. The momentum of developing a world, peopling it, and adding conflict, resolution, and working at the writing, that is what makes a writer.

Writing, and reading, seem to be one of the most passive sports there is, until you consider the mystery that is our brain, and mirror neurons. While still poorly understood, the thing that is certain is: they allow us to feel what others are feeling. While we are reading, then, we are vicariously living through the characters. This doesn’t seem like a new thought, we’ve all used books to escape our humdrum lives and go ‘elsewhere’ for a while. Have you ever felt wrung out and exhausted after reading a really good book? Mirror neurons explain that ‘book hangover’ very well.

So reading is then a kinetic exercise, not just sitting in a chair scanning words. Writing is the way we turn the potential energy of ideas into that kinetic energy for the reader. Is it any wonder a good writer can lay down words and walk away feeling worn out? Not to mention, unlike the physical realm, the energy an idea sparks seems endless. It’s not limited to one or two treatments. Hand a single idea to ten writers, and you will get back ten very different stories.

If you have trouble coming up with ideas for stories, consider that you may be trying too hard. Ask for ideas. Anyone unwilling to share an idea doesn’t realize the potential energy held within it, far more than they can fully grasp. An idea doesn’t have to be lengthy, I wrote a story based off two words once. Find a group of writers and share story challenges. I participated in a group like that for about a year, and it was a terrific writing exercise, to fit these short idea challenges into the confines of a story, essay, or poem.

When you have an idea, even if you don’t have time to write it, or aren’t sure where it’s going, jot it down. You may come back to it later and be able to develop its potential. Or you can hand it off to someone else, as the leader of our writing group did recently, with a paragraph that has spawned close to 20 stories from a single seed. Every one of them different and exciting.

What’s your latest idea?

Uncorking the Genie

We’re all familiar with writer’s block, even those of us who aren’t writers. What, you never dreaded a school paper just because you didn’t know what to say? At least with a research paper, or a book report, there’s a kernel of… something there. With fiction it’s both easier and harder. Easier because, as you rightly point out, we’re just making it all up. Harder because fiction, unlike real life, must make a modicum of sense and follow a narrative path (even if said path doubles back on itself a few times. But woe betide the writer who loses his Reader in the deep dark woods far from home. The Reader may close up the book in fright, having lost the path entirely, and worse, they may never choose you, Author, as their guide again).

With all this in mind, is it any wonder we have times where we stare at the blank screen/paper and wonder just where our fickle muse got off to? Surely that mental genie is having more fun than we are, stuck here staring at the incessant blinking cursor. For me, being a professional means I need to have a measurable, predictable output when I sit down to write. But it’s not always possible. Sometimes to pull that cork, I have to build up a head of steam and pop it out by pressure, first. Like yesterday. We drove for about six hours, down into Kentucky and back, and spent about six hours visiting while we were down there. Tiring day, but as my Evil Muse pointed out, the next time I complain about being blocked, he’s going to pick up the car keys and herd me to it for a long drive to nowhere. We talk, in the car, and often enough we talk about writing. Sometimes he’ll give me the idea that crystallizes everything that has been floating nebulously around in my head and boom… it all comes out of solution into a beautiful structure.

For those times that hours in the car are just not practical, other solutions I have found include standing in the shower (there’s something about being places where you CANNOT write, and suddenly you need to write), doing dishes, walking the dog… Others have reported good results from similar activities.

However, for consistent daily results, keep in mind that writing is mental exercise. Just like building muscle and burning fat, you can’t just sit down one day, put in a huge burst of effort, and expect that to do all the work and you don’t have to go to the gym again this year. Small daily exercises will yield far more effective results in the long term. It feels uncomfortable and awkward at first, to make yourself write. You may doubt that what you are writing is worth keeping. I will be honest, in the long run you might not keep that work. But in the beginning, you aren’t allowed to doubt it. Keep writing, and when you come to the end of the tale, then and only then may you go back and see what you have wrought.

I’ve seen far too many people get hung up there, on the rocks and shoals of doubt. With the beginning of a story, they suddenly doubt if it’s right. Or they are uncomfortable with what they are writing. Readers may not know this, but writers are insecure, shallow creatures. This is why we crave and cling onto reviews, even long after our efforts on that particular book have ceased. However, if you the Author never finish that story, you’ll never know whether you got it right, or not.

I rarely give writing advice. When I do, it consists of a few simple things, but they all center around this. Write. Just write. if your muse is being recalcitrant, you can either pop the cork out by thinking about the story until it comes to life in your head and you wind up dictating it all in a rush as it is told to you, or you can force the cork out slowly by writing a little every day. Like exercise, that’s a slower process. But it will pay off in the long run, as you build up the mental muscles until when a sudden need says ‘I need a story/blog post/paper in an hour.. Go!” you’ll be able to do it almost effortlessly. And while a 10K word day will be a physical ache, after, it will also be a thrill like standing on top of a mountain looking down and remembering the day you could barely make it across a parking lot.