Monthly Archives: November 2012

Creativity Begets Creativity

So, I’m dating a guitarist. This is probably not as cool as you’re thinking. I’m not backstage at a Melissa Etheridge concert, watching my woman rock out while barely dressed women throw their underwear around. Mostly, I just hear a lot of really great music coming from the music room. Sometimes, I hear “strum, strum, strum, shit. Strum, strum, strum, shit.” Still, I love it. Something amazing happens to my brain when I am sitting at my computer, working on school work or a short story or my novel and there is live music coming from the next room or across the breakfast table from me. Live music does something to me that just listening to a CD or my Ipod cannot quite recreate. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s being played by someone I love… or maybe just the fact that it is personal and imperfect, yet beautiful. Whatever the reason, listening to it opens my creativity and allows me to work with ease. The ideas flow better; it is easier for me to think and create.

I think that it is because creativity begets creativity. I am in the presence of someone who is audibly learning and discovering and digging into those deep places where learning takes place. Writing is a pretty quiet activity. (I mean, except for those times when I am suffering from writer’s block and I grab my hair and say, “fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.”) Music is a shared activity, whether the musician intended it to be shared or not. Writing is not. I can call a friend and read a passage out loud to her or send a short story to a friend, but it still isn’t the same as immersing someone in my creative process, the way I can become immersed in my girlfriend’s process.

It’s kind of changed my outlook, though. Sitting with a couple of her friends, listening to them play and sing together, it struck me that I could probably write song lyrics, too. I mean, why not? It isn’t really any different than writing a poem, and unlike poetry, people actually *like* songs that rhyme. Of course, I’m not discounting the fact that I dislike writing poetry so much that I once wrote a poem about hating poetry for a class assignment. Granted, I did get an A.

But it isn’t just branching out into other writing genres. I’ve recently borrowed a banjo from a friend and have been practicing it for a little every day. My notes are getting a little cleaner. I think I’ve kind of fallen in love with the instrument. I’ve already decided that I need to buy a banjo and find someone to give me lessons when I get back to Ohio. And I got a drum. A djembe. That’s next on my list of instruments to try to master. I am going to a drumming circle in a couple of weeks. I figure they will either tell me that I suck, or welcome me into the fold. Either way, it will be something new and exciting and why the hell not?

I honestly never thought I would be trying to learn a musical instrument at the age of 42. But then, I never thought I would write a novel at the age of 41. And I never thought I would one day be living on the royalties of that novel while I write my second novel. And I certainly never thought that one day, I would be able to say that I am only ten classes away from getting my BA in English at the ripe old age of (if I graduate at this time next year) 43! Well, creative does beget creativity and the more you stretch and flex those creative muscles, the stronger they become. Who knows? Maybe next, I’ll learn to play the trombone. Or perhaps I’ll become fluent in Italian. Or maybe…. well, maybe I’ll just focus on finishing my second novel and mastering the banjo for now.

Check back with me next year, though. You might be amazed.

http://www.sapphirebooks.com/beth.html

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction Writing

Asking the Right Questions.

I believe the Universe, the Creator, the spirits, your own soul, something, gives you what you need when you need it, as long as you know what to ask for. Maybe you don’t get it right away, or maybe you were asking for the wrong thing, but eventually, you will have everything you need. And a few things you just want.

And I think the creator has a sense of humor. A small example: Lucretia and I went hiking the weekend before last. As we were walking on the trail, I said, “I really want to see a wild turkey today.” A few minutes later, Lucretia spotted something on the ground, reached down to pick it up and handed it to me. “A wild turkey feather,” she said. Well, I *did* say that I wanted to see a wild turkey. Perhaps I should have specified that I would like to see one in its entirety.

Fast forward, we went to the hootenanny that I talked about last blog. I loved it so much that I decided that I want to learn to play the banjo. Now, banjos are pretty expensive, so I told L that I was going to find one, probably in a thrift store or something, for like thirty bucks. I figured that way, it wouldn’t be so expensive that I would feel bad if I turned out to hate it. Well, it didn’t work out quite like that, but a couple of days later, we were at a friend’s house and I mentioned how I really want to learn to play the banjo and Lynda told me I could borrow her banjo for a couple of weeks to try it out and see if I like playing it. First of all, I didn’t even know that she had a banjo! Secondly, thank you, Universe. I needed that.

The universe listens. This is probably important to note, because lately, I have been having a lot of problems with my second novel; I have been having trouble getting into my characters and unlike my last novel, I am not really sure where it is going. So, what I have been thinking in my head is “I don’t know if I can finish my second novel.” Well, I didn’t think that about the banjo. I merely said, “I’m going to learn the banjo and I am going to find a banjo so I can start practicing.” With the turkey, I simply said, “I want to see a wild turkey.” Somehow, the universe always provides what you put out there that you want.

So, when I am putting out these negative thoughts, I am bringing them back to me. Instead of thinking that I can’t finish this book, I am going to start putting it out there that I *am* going to finish this book, and then move on to the next one that is already bouncing around in my head. I am going to start saying that I *am* going to do this, I *will* do this, I am mostly certainly going to do this. And the universe will respond in kind.

Your thoughts are probably your most powerful tool to creating your own world and making your own dreams come true. Make sure they aren’t working against you.

P.S. I *love* the banjo.

http://www.sapphirebooks.com/beth.html

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction Writing

Is This Going to be in Your Book?

I have had an interesting couple of days. Friday, I went to my first Yoga class, and it was delightful. Please understand, my only experience with yoga before this was Tony Horton’s Power Yoga, in which there is no such thing as relaxing, gentle stretching, or becoming one with your breathing… it is a relentless 90 minute pain fest that leaves me wanting to punch Tony in his stupid face, if only I could lift my arms at that point to do it. So, Gentle Yoga. The instructor spoke in a soft voice and told us to do what we can… bend into the stretch but don’t go too far. Feel the moment. Not that it wasn’t a workout, because it was. But it was a gentle and comforting workout that stretched out my entire body and allowed me to focus on my breathing and be completely present in the moment. At the end of the class, we all spent about ten minutes on our mats, with blankets and pillows, listening to the instructor take us through a guided mediation. Afterward, we all relaxed into almost unconsciousness and I probably would have fallen asleep if not for the fact that one lady who was on a mat near me, asked in a loud voice, “So, are we going to be in your next book?”

Fast forward to Sunday. My love and I went to an honest to goodness hootenanny. Yup. A bunch of people, mostly old, mostly men, with fiddles and banjos and harmonicas and guitars picking away at old bluegrass music. It was AWESOME. Those of us who were non-musicians generally hung out in the kitchen, getting the food ready and chatting. I got involved in a pretty deep conversation with a few people. We started talking about gay marriage and how it was legalized in Iowa. I was fortunate to be with a bunch of like minded people, including one very old guy with a pointy beard who was pretty quiet throughout the whole conversation, just listening to all of the back and forth until at one point, he pointed his finger into the middle of the circle of people and said, “Anyone should be allowed to get married.” and then didn’t say another word. Another lesson learned. Don’t judge a book by its cover. I would have assumed this old guy was totally against gay marriage. I like lessons such as that, though. I like it when my assumptions are challenged because I shouldn’t be making assumptions like that in the first place.

Fast forward a bit, the conversation was getting heated (though not argumentative) and we were all having a great time, when someone who had been relatively quiet throughout the whole talk said, “Do you think this is going to go in your next book?”

I am actually asked that question a lot. When people find out that I am a writer, that is usually one of the first things I hear along with “Oh, I’m writing (will write, want to write, did write) a book too!”

The one about the book is the big one, though. People want to see themselves in something, after all. So, will this yoga class/hootenanny/auction/coffee house/whatever be in my next book? Well, yes…in a small way, I think that almost everything I experience goes into what I write in one way or another. The events shape me, which in turn shapes my writing. Big events have big places. After the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, I wrote a couple of paragraphs in which one of the characters tries and fails to explain the essence of the festival to other characters. So, yes, events often show up in my writings.

Of course, that’s not what people really want to know. What they really want to know, specifically, is if they are going to show up as a character. And the only answer to that is… yes and no. Definitive, huh? The thing is that if you have a quirky character trait, or something about you interests me, or I find something strange or likable or unlikable about you, chances are that a future character may show up with that particular trait. But will that character be you? No. It will be the amalgamation of you and me and the guy at the bus stop and that woman I talked to on the internet last week and my sister and my girlfriend and the lady who rides her bike through town collecting bottles to return for deposit. Look, every character I have has bits of me in it. And it’s possible that some of them have bits of you. But with the exception of Andy’s racquetball partner who is named after my sister’s co-worker, Nate, I do not have any characters who are based on any one person, including myself. And this is probably important to note, because my mother was adamant about wanting people to know that she is *not* the pot-smoking, sex class attending, strap-on fan, hippie mom from “Man Enough.”  In fact, the only thing my mother has in common with the mom in my novel is that they are both mothers.

And that’s okay. That’s good. Just like life itself, a novel becomes the sum of its parts. And you, all of you, are, in one way or another, my parts. You have all helped to make me who I am at this very moment and for that, I am extremely grateful. So, make sure to read my next book… and look for yourself. Chances are, you might be able to point to something and turn to your friends and say, “Hey. That’s me.”

http://www.sapphirebooks.com/beth.html

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction Writing

Recognizing Each Other

I think there has to come a time in everyone’s life when they stop judging people and start loving them and recognizing their value instead. I’ve seen too many people that I love fall into the old habit of making negative comments about other people. “Would you look at what she is wearing!” or “Man, he has really gained a lot of weight.” In these last few years of making a serious effort to become a more mindful and kind person, I’ve really tried to squash not just comments like that, but thoughts of them as well. It is not my place to judge if someone’s skirt is too short or if they have too many piercings. It is only my place to judge whether or not those things are right for me.

In coming to a place where we learn to stop being unkind to other people, we can move into a place where we recognize and love and promote each other. Instead of making ourselves toxic by being cruel, we can open ourselves up to being loving and helpful. We can turn into the kind of person who lifts and bolsters others, instead of bringing them down. And I think, when we do this, it has the effect of lifting us up as well.

In this case, I am talking specifically about promoting other authors. I don’t think it has a hurtful effect on my book sales if I tell people that they absolutely *must* buy the latest book by Linda Kay Silva. It doesn’t do me any harm to let it be known that I am in the middle of “Flowers from Iraq” by Sunny Alexander. And I don’t see how telling my erotic loving friends that if they want to read something steamy, they should pick up “Always Faithful” by Isabella. The list goes on. When I read a new book that I love, I tell people about it. It doesn’t hurt my book sales. And it may help people who are in the same boat that I am… writing, struggling, living their dream, getting their word out there.

The thing about embracing people and working to help them succeed is that it will come back to you. I don’t give with the expectation of receiving something in return. But I can tell you that the universe recognizes love over hate and it returns the love. One author recently called me to light a fire under me to market more, write more, do more. I needed it and I needed it precisely at that time. Another author just sent me a private message with some ideas for marketing. Another friend has a friend who is a librarian and wants to get us together to talk about getting my book out there. These people aren’t doing these things because they want me to do something for them. They are doing them because, like me, they believe in paying it forward, in helping other people in whatever way you have the power to help. And I believe, I truly do, that things are coming back to them as well, even if I am not the one returning the favor to those particular people.

It’s an amazing circle, isn’t it? The point is that we can create this in all areas of our lives. You can make a conscious decision to be positive. You can make a conscious decision to be kind, loving, and generous. This isn’t necessarily an innate trait… this is something you can cultivate in yourself. You can choose to be happy and you can choose to share your happiness and the more happiness you share, the more will come back to you. I believe this is true of everything. Success, love, happiness… it all comes back to you when you put it out there.

So, yes, I will keep promoting other authors and I will keep taking help when it is offered. And in the meantime, I will get back to working on my second novel before my friend Wen comes through the phone line and hits me in the head with my computer. (Her own fashion of loving help, trust me.)

And in the meantime… buy *my* book… it’s awesome.

http://www.sapphirebooks.com/beth.html

4 Comments

Filed under Fiction Writing

Creating Community

I went to a writer’s group a couple of weeks ago. There were eight of us. One was a gamer who is writing a role playing game about the death of the Ice Lord or something like that…. Another is working on a historical fantasy novel. One wants to write a book and is there for guidance. Three have self-published at least one book. One was the daughter of the historical fantasy guy. And there was me.

It turned out that we didn’t do much comparing our notes about writing. We introduced ourselves. I was the only new person, so they asked me a lot of questions about my book, about publishing, about editing, etc. Then we all just kind of basically chatted. It was nice, but it wasn’t really what I was looking for. What I really want in a writer’s group is a place where we are all forced to write something every week, then bring it to the group and critique each other. Still, it was nice to be around other writers, if only for the sense of community.

Don’t get me wrong, Facebook is great. I have a lot of virtual writer friends and belong to a couple of online author’s groups where I can throw out questions and get answers. But there is nothing like the back and forth of actual face to face interaction and I miss that.

It isn’t just the forced accountability. It’s knowing that once a week (or month or whatever) you are going to be with a group of people who understand what you are going through and who are possibly going through the same things. It’s having a place to ask questions and being able to answer others. I don’t know about you, but if someone just randomly throws out to me, “So, do you have any questions about writing?” I draw a blank. The questions come in the discourse, in the give and take, when there is a quick and joyful conversation going on and everyone’s neurons are being stimulated. *Then* the questions lead to more questions and the answers lead to more questions and the conversation becomes a living and breathing thing that grows into one big ball of creativity. Or something like that.

At any rate, *that* is what I am looking for. A round table discussion with a bunch of writers who will help to stimulate my creativity and get me excited about marketing and editing and publishing and all of that icky behind the scenes stuff that isn’t nearly as exciting as writing, but still just as important.

And you know, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a writer’s group. It could be a group of creative individuals. It could be a group of feminists. It could be a group of people who like to drink coffee and talk about Neil Gaiman books. It could be a circle of middle aged college students. It could be anything.

I think this has become important to me lately because I am lonely. I miss being around people. I miss having circles… whether it is a circle of writers, a circle of lesbians, a circle of friends, or a circle of family, I think I am used to being around groups of people who care about me and stimulate me intellectually. I don’t think I am meant to be one of those solitary writers, living alone in the woods, not bathing, growing a long beard, and communing with wolves. (Well, I can’t really grow a beard, but it has been a while since I shaved my legs.) (Not, of course, that it isn’t wonderful to be with my love and my dogs, but I miss people… plural.)

And maybe that is why I am still mourning for Mich fest, though a few months have passed. There was a community to end all communities. Thousands of womyn, working together, eating together, walking in the woods, playing music, writing, shooting arrows, throwing tomahawks, sharing stories around bonfires, dancing, loving, embracing each other in spirit and reality and just generally having an amazing time.

I want to go back to Michigan. I want Michfest to exist every day. But since it doesn’t, maybe it is up to me to create a community wherever I am. Maybe I need to figure out a way to get out there and meet people with common interests and common goals and bring them together to create little circles of inspiration and action.

What do you all think? How do you create community in your lives?

http://www.amazon.com/Man-Enough-ebook/dp/B008GVR7BK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1341484984&sr=1-1

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction Writing

Marketing

I’ve said it before that some writers are just natural personalities. They have a gift for getting up in front of a crowd and getting themselves out there. They tout their novels, they sell themselves, and they just somehow seem to instinctively know what to do to make it work.

Some of us are a little more introverted. Now, let’s be fair, I am a pretty outgoing person. I enjoy meeting new people, I have a good time in small social groups, and once I get the first few minutes behind me, I am actually pretty good at speaking to a crowd.

But I have to admit that selling myself is a little more difficult than I thought it would be. I don’t know where to begin. Do I call random bookstores and ask them if they want me to come in and talk about my book? And if so, and if they say yes, what if no one shows up? Do I find groups that might want to hear me? Since my book has a transgendered character, I think I should seek out trans groups, but I am just not sure how to approach them. “Hi, I wrote a really charming and adorable FTM character. Want me to come sell myself at your group?” It’s a little awkward.

My good friend and mentor has given me some ideas and, armed with the list, I have been attacking some of the online resources. Somehow, tempered in that, is the idea that I don’t want to be *too* pushy, too in-your-face with myself. Is that a societal construct? Is that a latent belief that women should be quiet and unassuming? I think that I am a pretty out and proud feminist woman, but maybe there are some lingering doubts that if I am too pushy, then people won’t like me.

I’m not sure. But for whatever reason, I do seem to have trouble marketing myself, despite the fact that I actually adore my novel and I think it is a charming and funny, yet socially important piece on orientation and gender in today’s world. It’s important. And it should be important to more people than just the groups that are already affected by these issues. I would like to see it read by people who *don’t* know anything about transgender or gay issues. I need to market to them as well, and I am not sure how to make that happen.

So, I am calling on you, my wonderful friends to offer some ideas and help me figure out how to make it happen.

http://www.sapphirebooks.com/beth.html

2 Comments

Filed under Fiction Writing, Goals