Losing Myself in a Creative Project

Lucinda’s birthday present, painted by Xo Terra

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” ~ Maya Angelou

We’re back from vacation and I’m keeping the promise to myself to work on my novel before I do any other work. I know, it’s only a few days, but today when the timer went off, I didn’t want to stop working. So, I didn’t. I had forgotten how many scenes I had already written. Of course not all of them will be included in the final book, but it was nice to know I am well on my way to finishing the rough draft.

At the moment I’m interweaving Jenna and Morgan’s stories from their respective time periods. Then I’ll be able to see what needs to be added and what portions slow the story down and must be cut. Some writers love the initial work of creating their story. Not me. I love the revision process. One of my favorite things to do is to figure out the plot points of a movie I’ve watched or story I’ve read and it’s no different when I’m revising my books. I’m nerdy that way. Reading the different segments and figuring out how to put them into the modern plot outline helps me understand the shape of the story I’m trying to tell.

This realization, that I love to lose myself in writing, relates to my spiritual practice as well. Over the last few years I’ve practiced staying in the moment, rather than worrying about the future or regretting what happened in the past. Today as I read and revised, and moved segments of my story around, it felt as if time had truly stopped. I was in a kind of no man’s land of flowing creativity. It felt good. It’s a different feeling than the sense of accomplishment of ticking tasks off my to do list. Some people get great satisfaction out of doing that. I don’t feel that way. Yes, I’m happy to have accomplished lots of tasks, but it doesn’t feed my soul like becoming immersed in a creative project does.

This feeling of losing myself in working on my novel, will, I hope, keep me in the mode of putting it first day after day. I do at times feel tempted to go back on my resolve, but that’s just a matter long held habits.

What I’m coming to realize is that I must get back to compartmentalizing my tasks. When I was working on my first B.A., I soon realized that I could get overwhelmed with all the reading and homework I was required to do. I have no idea where this idea came from, but I decided that to stay sane, I had to pick one bit of work, do that, and then choose the next until all the tasks were finished. Since my life is going through a transition, and will be getting more busy, I think it’s time to revive that long forgotten practice only this time I’m giving the thing I love best the top priority.

I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if everyone put aside what they “should” do and worked on what their hearts longed to do. Barry and I had a friend long ago who said, “Should is a four letter word.” And she was right. We might have fewer people on anti-depressants and fewer grumps if everyone avoided that word “should”.

If you could do anything you wanted to do, what would that be? What’s stopping you from doing it? How does that make you feel? I’m just curious because those are questions I’ve asked myself many times over the years.

Maybe 2020 is the year for all of us to find a way to follow our passions.

Thanks for commenting and liking my posts. I appreciate the feedback.

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Have a blessed weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2020

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Except that Jenna’s life is shattered and she must find a way to put it back together. When she finds old journals, she joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, rather than traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.

The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords and for Kindle at Amazon, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news when the audiobook version is published. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Woes and Rewards of Writing

My Favorite Books
My Favorite Books

“Honesty is your innate ability to stand completely exposed, allowing the world to do what it may and say what it will so that you may know who you are beyond the realm of ideas.” ~ Matt Kahn, Whatever Arises, Love That.

“When I run after what I think I want,
my days are a furnace of stress and anxiety;
if I sit in my own place of patience,
what I need flows to me, and without pain.
From this I understand that what I want also wants me,
is looking for me and attracting me.
There is a great secret here
for anyone who can grasp it.” ~ Rumi

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way,
that some poems don’t rhyme,
and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end …
Life is about not knowing,
having to change,
taking the moment and making the best of it,
without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Delicious Ambiguity …” ~ Gilda Lee Radner

“Do not compromise your artistic principles, ever. Know who you are and know how you got there. And choose your associates wisely. The ones who believe in you will stay by your side through thick and thin. The rest will disappear and you must allow them to disappear. Please yourself first. Be your own worst critic. Dive fearlessly into your own soul. Everything else is minutia. ~ Terry Green

In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows part 2, Dumbledore says that “Words, in my most humble opinion, are our most inexhaustible source of magic.” I agree with him, or rather Steve Kloves who wrote the screenplay. But sometimes finding the right words to express the inner experience is difficult. I’ve been struggling with that as I continue the seemingly endless revisions to my first novel, The Space Between Time.

Part of the difficulty I’m having has to do with the fact that I’ve come to a peaceful place in my life and I find that it’s difficult to remember all the pain and suffering that brought me here. But conflict is the heart of story and if my two main characters are a reflection of my own life’s journey, then I’ve got to put them through the same kind of life shattering situations I experienced. My characters have to make mistakes and the wrong assumptions, they have to struggle to grow and improve their lives just like I’ve had to do. If I don’t write them this way, they won’t be well rounded characters.

At first I resisted going back and digging up my past. Who wants to live their own dark times? I wanted my characters to be happy enlightened people. But my book was boring and didn’t reflect real life. Something interesting has happened as I’ve worked to remember. I’ve discovered that issues I thought were healed long ago, still have rough edges that prick and hurt. Writing and working on myself are like a dance. Sometimes my toes get stepped on, but that wakes me up to the next round of healing I need to do, which in turn helps me make the situations in my book more realistic.

There are times when I feel very vulnerable and exposed by what I’ve written. It can be such an uncomfortable place in which to be. Yet creativity is impossible if we’re not open to uncertainty. Ah, delicious ambiguity! That’s where the possibilities lie. Writing reveals the heart of the writer and exposes it to the world. Artists know that none of us can move forward, we can’t have that happy life we long for without becoming vulnerable. When we embrace uncertainty, possibilities open up for us. That’s what my characters are teaching me. I hope doing all this self-examination is helping to improve my book. I guess we’ll see.

Ah, well, back to revising and peeling back the layers.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

The Blessing of Patience

My Favorite Books
My Favorite Books

“The longest journey
is the journey inwards.
Of him who has chosen his destiny,
Who has started upon his quest
For the source of his being.” ~ Dag Hammarskjöld

“Imagination is what is there after you know everything; without knowledge, one’s imagination may be too thin – lacking in strength and too fragile to build on.” ~ American director Zelda Fichandler

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” ~ E. L. Doctorow

I’ve discovered this book revision business is not for sissies. It’s a long process of peeling back the layers to get to the real thing I’m trying to say.

Before Christmas, I was very impatient to get the revisions finished during my month long break from teaching. But, of course, my hopes did not come true and in a way that’s a blessing. To tell you the truth I’ve been impatient to finish my novel for a year or more. That was part of the problem with earlier drafts. I rushed through important sections of the story. It’s never good to cheat the reader by not exploring an issue the characters must deal with.

The other day I watched Sense and Sensibility as my personal tribute to actor Alan Rickman who died last week. He’s one of my favorite actors. Part of the reason I love his work is because he never rushed through his lines. In his movies, you always know exactly what he’s saying because he enunciates every word enhancing the emotional emphasis.

After watching the movie, I was reading the trivia on Internet Movie Database. In it Emma Thompson, the screenwriter, stated that she’s a slow writer. It took her three years to finish the screenplay. When I read that, I had to admit I’m a slow writer too. And something about her saying that, allowed me to finally let go of trying to finish my book quickly. I am going to hold it within my being so I can more easily see beneath the surface of where the story is leading me.

Something else helped me decide that working slowly but steadily is a good thing. I watched the movie Proof in preparation for my dramatic structure students watching it tonight. It’s about Catherine, a mathematics genius, who has to put her life on hold to take care of her mentally ill father, Robert, who is a mathematics legend for solving an important proof when he was in his twenties. Catherine and Hal, Robert’s former student, are talking about Hal’s work in mathematics. He’s discouraged and doesn’t think he’ll ever make any significant contribution to the field. Catherine encourages him by saying something like, “You have to chip away at a problem. Sometimes you have to come at it sideways.” That’s what creative people do. They think outside the box.

It’s too bad we live in a fast food society where we demand instant gratification because the invention, the social change, the play, musical piece, or painting all take time. Sometimes many years. Building a healthy business takes lots of work too. Just as changing your life for the better takes a consistent effort and sometimes you have to sneak up on your problems from the side to get the perspective you need to solve them.

I’m not quite sure how I’ll approach my novel from the side. Perhaps being silent and listening to my characters speak to me is the best way to do it. In any case, I’ll keep chipping away at my novel until it tells me it’s finished. I’ll let you know from time to time how it’s coming.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

The Value of a True Friend

Pumpkin Possibilities
Pumpkin Possibilities

“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.” ~ Junot Diaz

“True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“I define friendship as a bond that transcends all barriers. When you are ready to expect anything and everything from friends, good bad or ugly … that’s what I call true friendship.” ~ Harbhajan Singh

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” ~ Helen Keller

I’ve got a terrific writer friend, or maybe she’s my mentor, who has read my manuscript more than once and tells it like it is. Last Friday I got her assessment back on the latest revisions and she wasn’t afraid to tell me I have more work to do. On the one hand, I’m sad when she tells me I need to do more work, on the other it’s a relief. It’s a relief to have a friend who knows exactly what I’m going through writing my first novel, and who doesn’t shy away from telling me what needs improving.

The first time she read my manuscript was in the spring. At that time she told me her story of sending what she thought was a finished manuscript off to a contest thinking she was going to win the prize, get an agent and have her book published by a traditional publisher. When she got the critique from one of the judges that she needed to do more work, she was devastated. “She told me things I didn’t want to hear but in the end her suggestions made the book better.” Right now I can relate to that. And I’m so glad that my friend is willing to do that for me. I could ignore her and publish my book now, but for some reason, that’s just not my style. I want it to be the best it can be.

The thing is, when artists mentor each other by giving honest critiques, there can be a hidden blessing in it. My friend told me my characters and story were good, from a new perspective, but it still needs more work. Thank heavens I don’t have to throw the entire thing out and start over again. I’m sure my friend would have been brutally honest and told me if I needed to do that. I’m not as courageous when giving critique. Or at least not with people I’ve only met online. I think bad news should be delivered in person.

About a year ago I had someone send me their manuscript so I could write a review of the book and post it to my blog. It was a romance novel, not one of my favorite genres, but I agreed. I could tell it was written by an amateur, like me. I think it may have even been a first draft. There were so many mistakes that I gave up reading it. I did learn a great deal from reading the manuscript, but I’m sorry to say I never sent any of my extensive corrections and comments back to the young writer. I was afraid if I did I would discourage her from ever writing another book. And continuing to write is one of the best ways we become better writers.

I’m sorry to say I was a coward. When I wrote the blog post about her book, I couldn’t in good conscience tell people to go buy it. So I couched everything I said about it in terms of what I’d learned from the experience of reading it for review. I have to thank that author for giving me a wakeup call about my own writing.

For those of you who are writers, I’m sure you know exactly how I’m feeling. I want to get my work out into the world. The long gestation period of birthing a novel can get tedious at times. The thing is the baby is born when its ready and not before. My baby isn’t ready to be born yet. I wish she were, but being impatient and rushing the process isn’t good. We don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression with readers. I’m not willing to rush my process just so I can say I’ve published a novel, or so I can sell some books. Nope. I’ll keep plugging away until my friend and I think the book is finished.

I’ll keep you posted about how it’s going. Perhaps I’ll include little snippets of my novel from time to time to get your take on how I’m doing. Creative and constructive criticism is always welcome.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with friends.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

How Do You Know When It’s Finished?

Approved by my readers
Approved by my readers

“The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lighting bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there’s ongoing creative revelations. Yes, it’s really helpful to be marching toward a specific destination, but, along the way, you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow.” ~ Carlton Cuse

“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” ~ Julia Cameron

“Any creative process is about being in a territory which isn’t secure, isn’t necessarily familiar, and isn’t convenient in any sort of way. And that’s the excitement of it.” ~ Susanne Bier

“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” ~ Elmore Leonard, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

When I first thought of writing this post, I was asking myself, “How in the heck will I know when my book is finished?” It’s been such a long time in coming. Years in fact. After so many revisions, so many I’ve lost count, I wonder if I will know when my manuscript is ready to publish.

Many authors think they are finished with their manuscript so they go through the long process of finding an agent, then a publisher, then there are more edits according to the advice of the publishers. No wonder so many people who think they want to write the next great American novel give up. You spend years writing and revising and then you will probably get rejection after rejection before, or if, someone decides they want to publish your book. And then it takes another year or two before its available in bookstores. I’m not sure I have that much time. After all, I’m a late bloomer. I didn’t begin writing until I was fifty-four years old. I’m now sixty-two. I don’t want to wait another two or three years to see my book published.

That’s why I’ve decided to publish my book myself instead of waiting until a publisher decides its worth their time. Maybe I’m crazy, but something inside tells me to follow my own instincts about every aspect of this process and not rely on the approval of other people. In any case, the way the publishing world has evolved, even a new writer backed by a traditional publisher, needs to have a following in place and they have to do much of the marketing themselves. So, why not self-publish? The process of publishing a book is fairly easy now days.

Even though I’ve decided to publish the book myself, I still have the question in my head, “How will I know when its finished?” This is what I think happens. There is a click in an artists head that tells him or her when their piece is complete. That doesn’t mean perfect, it just means that the work is as finished as the author’s abilities allow at that time. Nothing created is ever perfect, but there comes a point when any changes made to the painting, or the song, or the book are just changes. They don’t improve the piece.

I read a quote recently, I can’t remember where, that said something like, “An author writes the book, it’s the reader who attaches the meaning.” Since I believe that is true, it’s my job to finish telling the story that wants to be told and then send it out into the world. No one will be able to attach the meaning to it that I do because they didn’t live the experiences that brought the book into being. I just hope it touches people. That’s the most I can hope for. Writing this article has helped me see that my manuscript IS nearly finished. There may be a few more tweaks after my writer friends give me their comments, but my instincts tell me that I don’t need to make any more major changes. It’s as good as I can make it and that has to be good enough for me. I hope it’s good enough for my readers.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015