5 Step Meditation to Meet your Muse

Muses are stubborn. Muses are taskmasters. Muses are responsible for those moments when we realize we must take all of our carefully crafted notes and abandoned them, because the story has taken on a life of its own, and has done something we have never planned. It is that moment when we feel like we are not in control at all, and merely writing down something that is being given to us by someone, or something else. They are the stubborn characters who will not conform to our plans, and they are the inspiring darlings that we both curse and adore in turn. It is when our characters have their own lives, ambitions, and wills that we do not control.

Of course, not all of us create this way. If this is not how your creative mind works, don’t worry. I’ve known many wonderful writers who do not experience “muses” like this. Additionally, I’ve known many poor ones who do. So, it is no indicator of talent or creativity, in my opinion.  It just so happens I do write this way, however, and it is something that gives me a lot of enjoyment.

I dearly love it when I can feel as though thoughts or actions come from characters themselves and not from me. Many times I have met writers who believed that their characters really did exist on a spiritual plane, and spoke to them through some kind of magical means. I think that it is a beautiful belief, but it is not one I personally share. My own belief is that it is an illusion, but it indicates I know my characters so intimately, that their personalities become second nature. Knowledge of how they would respond becomes reflexive and instinctual and can take over my creative process without my needing to will it.

The exercise I am going to offer here will work with whatever your beliefs on muses are. If you are not a writer who works with muses, and are interested in learning more about the process, this will work for you, too. This is a meditation exercise. The first three steps are a very basic meditation technique that works for me, and are intended to help introduce people to the practice. If you have your own meditation technique that works for you, skip the first three steps.

1.            Find a comfortable position in a safe and comfortable place: This can be a bed, a favorite chair, or anywhere else you are free from interruptions.

2.            Focus on your breath: Count to five slowly while you inhale, hold your breath for another count of five, then exhale slowly on the same five count. If your thoughts distract you, bring your mind back to your breath and the counting.

3.            Relax: Be aware of your body as well as your breathing. Relax any part that feels tense. You may want to start a progression, from your toes, to your feet, to your ankles, legs, etc., consciously relaxing each part of your body in progression. Or, you can pick a method that feels comfortable and natural to you.

4.            Visualize:  Meditation can take years to learn, and a lifetime to master. Many people find the first three steps difficult to maintain.  Do not worry if your mind is restless; that is common among creative people. Once you feel ready, stop the counting of your breaths and visualize a place in which you would like to meet your muse. This could be any meeting place that has significance to you, your character, and your story. I would recommend it be a place where you and your muse can meet in private, though. Other characters can be distracting.

5.            Meet: Visualize the character you are wishing to “meet” coming into this space. Do not speak to them right away. Just picture them. Picture what they are wearing, how they enter, how they stand in front of you. Focus on that. When you are comfortable, greet them. Measure how they respond. If you need to pause and consider how they will respond to your greeting, or explore different variations on how you will greet them and how they will respond, take the time to do so. Immediacy is a goal for some, but is not always the way it starts. Enjoy trying on different variations and seeing which ones feel right, if you need to. Welcome them as a friend. Invite them to join your story, even ask their opinions.  Take your time.

Obviously, this is all very generic. Each meditation experience will be a unique and personal one. You may not be able to clear your head of the groceries you need to buy, or the phone calls you need to make. It’s very easy to think of what you need to get done when you are trying to think of nothing at all. But, keep trying. And remember, getting frustrated in itself can be distracting.

If you do have a good experience, I would love to hear about it. I dearly love reading about people’s emotional journeys with their characters. And, I hope to post some of my own in the future as I start a new draft of my novel.

Also, if you would like to read more metaphysical articles for writers, please let me know that too. Happy writing, everyone!

Read more at http://www.georgettegraham.com

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Writing Resolutions

Hello, everyone! The combination of stress and joy that is the Holidays has passed. 2012 is gone and 2013 has begun.  New Year’s is always a time for goal setting and newfound optimism. This year isn’t any different.

New Year’s is also a time for resolutions. In addition to the usual personal improvement resolutions, involving work and social goals, I’ve also made a number of writing resolutions. I thought I’d share them.

  1. Write something every day: It doesn’t matter if it’s a character sketch or a random snatch of dialog, as long as it is something. There is no minimum word limit here, just to write something.
  2. Spend more time in character development: Let the characters speak their own minds to me. Let the plot develop organically from their personalities rather than trying to make them jump through hoops and fit into boxes I make for them.
  3. Set a writing schedule: Schedule time in the day that will be my writing time, and stick to that schedule.
  4. Read more: Nothing helps my writing like reading good writing. Also, I have a lot of craft books that I have not read yet. I resolve to read those before I acquire more.

I realize fully that these are fairly standard suggested resolutions that one will see in any given writing book or blog. None of this is original. But, I hope that publishing this here will help me keep my resolutions. I always believe that telling people about your resolutions makes you more accountable to them. Don’t you agree?

I would like to know what some of your writing resolutions are.

Have a great 2013!

Three Things to Write When You’re Not Writing!

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Hello bloggers and blog-readers,

Best Cat In the World and I had a bit of a rough month last month. He’s something of a Nanowrimo widow, lamenting my paying more attention to my keyboard than to him. It would have been amusing if I hadn’t been trying to build my word count.  It was a tight race, but I did make it in spite of him.

I know, our writing goals are not typically word –count based. That’s a November thing. But, we all get writer’s block when we just don’t feel like we can go on with a project. I realized that the things that can build your word count in November, can help you keep writing when you’re blocked, too.

Now, I realize that these are things that will likely be edited out of the final draft. Do not let that bother you. The act of getting it on paper, or at least into your word processor, will help the world that you’re writing about become more vivid to your mind’s eye and enhance your writing, even if your readers never read these text-building tricks.

1. Descriptions – Describe something. Add as much detail as you want. Try to picture the character’s face, clothes, house, or the room they’re in, as vividly and in as much detail as you can. Write down how many steps are on the staircase to the bedroom, or how many buttons are on a character’s shirt. Write about what they’re wearing or what they’re eating or what the layout of their kitchen is. Yes, you do not want to stop your scene and add in a long paragraph detailing your main character’s shoes in your final draft. But, thinking about what kind of shoes your character would wear and writing a description can be a fun way to think more deeply about your character. The information is valuable, even if it’s only read by you.

2. Character Dreams – Write out, in detail, a vivid dream your character had. This is a great way to help crystallize your character’s hopes, ambitions, fears, and a great way to work out how their back-story colors their current personality. It’s really an enjoyable way to enter into your character’s psyche and explore. Understanding how your characters tick is a great way to work out how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking about, and what they’ll do next. I love this one when I’m stuck.

3. Change point of view – Now, this one is not universal. It only works if you’re writing in the first person, or a limited third person point of view. But, if you really don’t know what to do next, try writing a scene over again from a different key character’s point of view. How does that character see the actions of your primary character? What’s going through their head as the action unfolds?  This can completely change the way you think about a scene, and offer a lot of ideas on how to progress.

We do not need to limit our writing to things that will be read by others. Writing for ourselves only, to see our thoughts on paper, has value. These steps will not enrich your prose if you leave them in. But, the process of writing them can help strengthen your grasp on your characters and their world.

And isn’t that what we all need when we’re stuck?

Happy Writing

The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge: Conclusion

Well, it’s time for me to bring my self-imposed challenge to a close.  This post has been a little slow-coming, but I’ve been going back and looking at my prompts in the two previous posts. I’ve enjoyed myself, really. It was a fun thing to do.

Unfortunately, as I look back, I don’t believe the results were anything particularly amazing. I did enjoy doing it. It was a fun challenge to write the same prompts twice over at different times of the day and in different moods. The prompts and schedule are here, if anyone would still like to try.

What did I learn from this exercise? In truth, not what I’d hoped. I had hoped for some kind of a pattern. Like, I’m more whimsical or fanciful when I’m stressed or that I’m more literal in the morning. I’d have thought that my mood or the time of day might have influence over what I write, and that I would be able to notice that influence in a small experiment like this.

I didn’t. I wish I could say that I did.

In a way, this surprises me. I seem to be just as whimsical when I’m at work as when I’m relaxed. I seem just as silly in the morning as I am at night. That’s not to say that I didn’t learn anything. I think a lot of what I found about was how I respond to a prompt. I write about my daydreams, things that I think are exciting and funny. They’re things that I want to read, or want to see. In that regard, I think I’m something of a selfish writer. Perhaps if I’d done more prompts, and repeated them more times, I would have found something. Yet, I didn’t.

Did anyone else try this?  Did anyone gain any more insight than I did?

The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge: Results part 2

Here’s my second set of The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challengeresults. I’ll post my musings on the two sets of answers this weekend. Enjoy!

Just Keep Writing!

 

Monday: I wrote this in the evening, during some downtime in a relatively easy shift.

Prompt:  You arrive at work to find that something is missing and has been replaced with something else.

Being a test pilot is about the best job I could hope for, really. Not that it’s an easy job to get. It isn’t. And it’s not that it isn’t dangerous either. It is. It’s just that, really, I can’t think of a more exciting sentence to say to yourself:  “I’m a test pilot.”

So, imagine my surprise when I went to work, opened my locker to take out my flight suit, and found a fairy costume made out of pink netting, sequins, glitter, and pink spandex tights.

I do not think I will be flying today.

 

Tuesday: I did this one in the morning again, after breakfast, drinking coffee. I was in a pretty good mood.

Prompt:  During your morning coffee, you open the newspaper and read something shocking about someone you know.

The old man who lived next door was almost 90. He lived quietly and never asked for anything. When someone asked if he was all right living on his own, he replied that he could take care of himself. When someone asked if he had a family that might stop in and check on him, he simply changed the subject. I used to stop in and check on him. As the years went on, I used to go grocery shopping for him. He was almost 90 when he went into the hospital. We were sad when he did not come home, but not surprised.

No one knows who provided the information for the obituary. But, as I read the paper I smiled as I learned that before he’d retired almost thirty years ago, he’d been at the top of his profession.

That profession was as one of the world’s foremost spies.

 

Wednesday:  I was up pretty late when I wrote this, but my spirits were pretty high.

Prompt: You go swimming and while you’re at the pool, you meet someone from very far away, who is in need of your help.

When I was a child, I used to love to swim to the bottom of the pool. It made me feel like I was exploring something, the depth was exciting. It felt dangerous, even though I knew that I was safe. Even as adult sometimes I go to touch the bottom while I’m swimming.

One day, in late summer, I was swimming in the deep section, and swam down to touch the bottom. It was more a repetition of a habit than something I consciously decided to do.

As I was reaching out to touch the rough concrete, a scream bubbled up from me. A head reached out to touch mine. Kicking wildly, I broke the surface panting and gasping for air.

Next to me bobbed a small head, a beautiful face, and long matted green hair.

“I need help. Please.”

I didn’t know where the mermaid had come from, but I was happy to drive her to the beach.

 

Thursday:  Morning again. I was kind of tired though, and was stiff from sleeping in a bad position.

Prompt: Prompt: Write about the best possible way to meet the love of your life.

“Oh please, the Harry Potter books are full of plot holes!”

“I agree, but the writing and characters still carry it. I appreciate Tolkien, but frankly I always found it inaccessible. I might even agree that Tolkien is better, but ultimately Rowling just reads better.”

“How can you say that?”

“How can you say that you actually enjoy slogging through Tolkien’s chapter-long passages about history and battles and dates? It’s so long winded!”

“If we agreed, I would be so bored right now.”

 

Friday: I was in a really good mood Friday. I had a good lunch and watched a good movie. I wrote this mid-afternoon.

Prompt: It’s the end of a long work day. All you want to do is relax, but something keeps preventing it.

Friday, the week was over and time to unwind. I was in a good mood, had no obligations, and was ready get everything together. All I wanted to do was make some popcorn and enjoy a movie and enjoy the afternoon. After a long week, I felt like just being lazy.

I sat down on the couch and realized that I wanted something eat while I watched the movie, so I went into the kitchen to make some food. Microwaves are a great invention. Once I had some warm food, I sat back down. “It would be so nice to put on some pajamas, since I don’t have anywhere to go today.” But, I could not find them. They were dirty. So, time to do laundry. Well, they’ll be better nice and warm from the dryer.

As I sat down to watch TV, I realized there was dust on the screen.

Relaxing can be hard work sometimes.

The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge: Results part 1

I decided to post the first week’s results from The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge! Enjoy. I’ll post the second week’s results, plus the analysis next week. In the meantime, enjoy!

Monday:  I wrote this in the morning, before work. I was tired, but calm, and drinking coffee.

Prompt:  You arrive at work to find that something is missing and has been replaced with something else.

“Monday again.” the sigh could not help but escape me. I dropped myself into the desk chair and looked around the office. The light on the phone was blinking: a message.

I picked up the phone and pushed the blinking button.

“Are you there? Can you hear me?” It was a child’s voice speaking to me.

It was a moment before I could respond. I looked down again, and I was talking into the face of Spiderman, his eyes speakers and his mouth a microphone, and a little walkie talkie antenna sticking out over his ear.

Suddenly, it was summer, and I was eleven years old.

Tuesday:  I wrote this late at night, before I went to bed. I was tired, but in a good mood. It had been a fun day.

Prompt:  During your morning coffee, you open the newspaper and read something shocking about someone you know.

The story was amusing, truly. I laughed as I read it. Someone had gone into one of those stores you have to be eighteen to get into, stolen a rather elaborate marital aid, and ran from the shop. What made it even more entertaining, was the fact that someone else was waiting outside in the car. The car sped off down the street before the person who worked there could even get the number on the license plate.

The fact that it was planned, a sort of “heist” was what got me laughing the hardest.

I was still laughing as I related the story to my elderly grandmother, who had the taste for naughty humor that only comes with the sense of self old age grants. But, she didn’t laugh as I told the story.

She only blushed.

Wednesday: I wrote this on notebook paper during my shift at work. It was a slightly stressful shift, and I was tense and a little annoyed.

Prompt: You go swimming and while you’re at the pool, you meet someone from very far away, who is in need of your help.

It was the summer of 2012. What a vibrant and exciting summer, and one I will never forget. It was the first warm day, and the pools had just opened. I was happy to go. Singing to myself as I got into my swimsuit, I stood under the required shower and entered the pool area.

I could see that there was someone in the lane reserved for those who only want to swim laps. I’d always rather just swim around, so I ignored that part of the pool anyway. Yet, I noticed that the person swimming there was amazing.

He doubled everyone else’s speed, and his form was like something I’d seen on TV.

He came up to take a breath and shook the water out of his brown hair.

“You’re Michael Phelps!” I said.

He grinned a crooked toothed smile at me.

“I’m lost.  I’m supposed to be in London. Can you help me?”

Thursday: I wrote this after lunch. I was feeling a little sick, and had a headache that day.

Prompt: Write about the best possible way to meet the love of your life.

Today, I went to a writer’s group. I was bored as we shared our work. It was the usual range, nothing really bad, but nothing struck me as exceptional either. I include my own work in this assessment. A listless feeling was beginning to creep over me.

I was looking out the window, when I heard a poem that made me turn around and pay attention. The reader was a young man, about my own age. I could feel the smile spreading across my face without my willing it.

When the leader of the group asked up to divide ourselves into critique groups, I did not hesitate.

Friday: This is another late night one.  I was quite tired. Interesting to note: BCITW (Best Cat in the World) was on my bed. I believe he inspired it.

Prompt: It’s the end of a long work day. All you want to do is relax, but something keeps preventing it.

It had been an exceptionally difficult shift, at the end of an amazingly difficult week. I wanted nothing but to make some tea, sit in my chair, and watch my favorite TV show.

If you’d offered me the moon, but I had to work one more shift to get it, I would have had to respectfully decline.

I went to make the tea, but there I found my cat, Logan, on the counter. I put him gently on the ground and made the tea, sighing in frustration. I sat down and put on the TV, but I heard him meowing in the kitchen. I realized that I’d forgotten to feed him. After I filled his dish, I realized that the little jerk had coughed up a hair ball on the floor. So, I had to spend ten minutes cleaning up the carpet.

When people ask me “Why do you keep a cat?” I always answer “Because, he helps me relax.”

Challenge Delayed by Fire

I was doing the The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge! with the writing prompts.

Perhaps it is ironic to the point of being appropriate that life got in the way. The town in which I live was surrounded by brush fires last week. There was some property damage,  but no loss of life was recorded. I am fortunate that the only way in which I was affected, is that the poor air quality resulting from the smoke played havoc with my allergies.

I was safe from the fire, but my nose and eyes were in misery.

In a Benadryl fog, looking at everything through watery eyes, constantly rubbing my nose, I thought to myself, “Well,  this will make an interesting contrast for future entries of the writing challenge.” However, it held on for so many days. Not wanting to write a week’s worth of “I wrote this when I was sick” prompts, I’m starting over again this week.

I might post some sick prompts after it is over though, just for laughs.

If anyone else is going to try the challenge, let me know!