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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The Devil’s In the Details

This isn’t the first article I’ve written about characters. Characters are important! All of the action and plot twists and witty dialogue in the world won’t do you any good if your readers do not feel a connection to your characters and care about what happens to them. People read to see what will happen to your characters. End of story!

I know many of us have some pretty strong emotional investments in our characters. Some of us even feel as though they have their minds of their own, and have taken on their own lives and make their own decisions and we are simply taking dictation.

We are all adept at making our characters live and breathe for us. But, what makes them live and breathe for the reader? Well, when I think of characters that really came alive off the page for me, I think of Robert Langdon;  I think of his fear of elevators and his Mickey Mouse watch. When I think of Harry Potter, I think of his glasses, trainers, and his scar. In other words, the devil is in the details.

When I’m writing and trying to bring a character into focus, I start thinking about details. What cereal does this person eat for breakfast? What stores do they shop at? I’ve frequently been amazed by how working out these tiny details can make the big ones come into clear and brilliant focus.

Of course, overwhelming your reader is something to be careful of. You’ll bore your readers if you fill your page with descriptions of meal preferences and nail polish shades. But,  that doesn’t mean it won’t help you to know them yourself or pay for you to spend some time thinking about them.

And, picking a few key ones to share, like a Mickey Mouse Watch, can really make your character stand out.

What are some of your favorite character quirks and details? What details about your characters endear them to you?

I’d love to hear.

Non Fictional Feelings about Fictional Characters

Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Chocolate is half price, and many of us are thinking about love in one form or another. And, it made me think about something I’ve seen circling the internet. fictional

 

Have you ever had an emotional attachment to a fictional character? While we all know that “the real thing” requires a real person, emotional attachments to fictional characters are pretty non-fictional. Whether it’s one of ours or one from our favorite story, I think most of us have fallen in love with a fictional character.

 

My own crush is a common enough one. I saw Les Miserables on stage when I was thirteen years old, and read Victor Hugo’s sweeping novel shortly afterwards.  Since then I’ve had a very deep emotional attachment to the character of Enjolras. It’s funny, my view of him has changed over the years, from a teenage girl seeing him as heroic and noble, to an adult woman seeing him as idealistic and naïve, but with a touching innocence and purity to his absence of cynicism and faith that his revolution would bring about change.  But, while my view has changed, my feelings haven’t.

 

How many fictional character crushes have you had? Do you think that it is normal and healthy, or is it strange? Do you think that fictional character crushes are devices used to market mediocre fiction to young readers, or does it take talent and skill write a character that a reader can fall in love with?

 

What characters do you love?

 

I’d love to hear about it.

The Promised Announcement

 

Everything evolves, even over the course of a year. I celebrated my one year anniversary for this blog just a few months ago. This little piece of the internet has become very precious to me. Since I hit my first anniversary, I’ve been working to make my little home here bigger and more interesting. And, I’m pleased to say that, with the help of some work writing educational material for a local business, I am able to afford a small amount of legitimacy.

 

Some of you may have noticed already, but I am very happy to announce that I have my own domain.

 

GeorgetteGraham.com is official now.

 

I am smiling as I type this, and I hope you all can share in my happiness.

 

And please, if you are so inclined, check out my Facebook and Twitter in the sidebar.

 

Best wishes to everyone.

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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?