Saturday, September 18, 2010

What's your world look like?

My world isn't the world it was two months ago, before I started this journalism gig. I've been trying to figure out how blogging fits in or fits back in. The direction of this blog needed to change. What I really need is a place to think and wonder and direct my life to the place I really want it to be.  And I no longer feel able to come up with pieces of advice when I'm not sure what I'm doing or where I'm going.

So I'm going to examine how it is I'm creating my world by simply putting it before my eyes. Why use a blog? I'm very conscientious and will make myself write because I hate not updating this.

What's my world look like? Well, its filled with days of thinking up and writing stories on the LA Pagan community. I interview people, I visit occult shops, I attend events and then I sit down and pen their stories. Then I work on marketing the column. It is fun to get to know people. I'd like it even more if the pay was better. I'd like it even more if it didn't take time away from the real writing, the writing I love. I miss writing fiction and poetry. I do a little of it, but not enough to get something into publishable shape.

So I ask myself why am I taking all this time on something that doesn't pay well and isn't the dream job? I do it as a service to the LA Pagan community. I want them to all know one another. I want the larger world to know us Pagans are fun, interesting, and not so different from the them. But why can't I let it go enough to do the work I'd rather be doing or at least work that pays a lot more money. Maybe I'm afraid to do the creative work. What if my dream job doesn't pan out? And I know I'm avoiding the work that pays more because most of that isn't what I want either.

I guess I have to ask myself what do I really want and what do I really need? I need money and I want satisfying work that I love; work that isn't work. Where do I begin? Maybe I begin again. Maybe I sit here and think and write and avoid the chores that I'd usually do on a Saturday morning. Maybe I get out there before it gets to hot and think while I sweep. Either way, at some point I start consciously creating the world I want to live in.

After the meditation, the yard work. (I did laundry on Tuesday.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I’ve been drifting away from this blog for weeks. I started a new project which has taken up more time than I thought it would. Starting something new always takes more time. And before you know it, things that you thought were important have drifted to the background.

Now I didn’t forget about this blog, it is still important to me. I had written a few rough draft blog entries, but never got around to posting. It seemed like too much work on top of what I was already doing.

When our attention shifts we drift in the direction it’s pointed. Our energy is used for our new project and for moving to another kind of focus. The ease or difficulty of the shift depends on what kind of attention is needed for certain projects. Is it loose and open or intensely focused attention? Think of the energy needed to shift from writing a poem to accounting.

My attention is not only on something else, it is on something that is using a higher level of energy than I use for writing blogs, novels, or poetry. Energy usage is heavier and moving back and forth takes more energy. I’m doing journalism which is a type of writing that is detailed and research oriented. Now using this type of attention may be easy for some, but it’s not for me and it’s also new to me.

So think about what you want to accomplish. Then look at where you put your attention. Are you moving toward what you want in your life or are you seeing that shore you don’t want to land on loom ever larger? If you don’t like where you’re heading shift your attention. Use it to steer your life toward what it is you do want and you’ll find yourself getting ever closer to your goals.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Heart the key to the reality of your dreams

“It is frightening to think how many things are made and unmade with words; they are so far removed from us, trapped in their eternal imprecision, indifferent with regard to our most urgent needs; they recoil at the moment when we seize them; they have their life and we have ours.”

~Rainer Maria Rilke from “The Wisdom of Rilke”

Do we rely too heavily on words? Last week I talked about how we use words to create concepts that can become walls. This time I wonder about the words themselves and how they can’t really express exactly what is in our hearts.

This is where poetry and metaphor come in; they can get at the essence of our desires. Metaphor rises above mere words. But we are still using words and making concepts from them.

Creating our reality takes more than words. Feeling is the key. As we saw last week, forming concepts about what we want gets in the way of manifesting that desire. That’s because concepts are created by imprecise words as well as the fact that our focus goes to the concepts and not the true desire.

But we can feel, in this moment, the way we want to feel in the reality of our choosing. We can feel right now what it would be like. Words can be a guide. They can help us figure it out; know what it is that we don’t want so we can get to what it is we do want. But it is the feeling that actually takes us there.

Words, like Rilke says, “are so far removed from us.” Expecting words alone to create what is in our hearts is foolish. Don’t get me wrong, words are a very powerful tool, but they are just that, a tool, an imprecise one at that. That is why Rilke is frightened by the fact that so much is made and unmade by them. They don’t create or uncreate what’s in our hearts, only what is in our minds. The mind without the heart is willing to do anything.

What we need to do is to consciously put our hearts into the process, to marry heart and mind. When we express ourselves from the heart, wonderful, moving pieces of art can be brought forth. The life we had only dreamed of can be manifested as well and we can begin to live the reality of our dreams.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Words can become walls

“According to the Buddhist tradition, the spiritual path is the process of cutting through our confusion, of uncovering the awakened state of mind.” ~Chogyam Trungpa from The Essential Chogyam Trungpa
So how do we cut through our confusion? One of the things we can do is let go of the words. In the same book, Trungpa refers to an aspect of the ego, “The Lord of Speech refers to the use of concepts as filters to screen us from direct perception of what is.” Our words can get in the way of directly experiencing our life.

I’ve done a lot of writing about how we use words to create our reality. This is true, but sometimes our words can become walls. Perhaps we need to empty our mind and take a look without all that stuff blocking our view. All those ideas and concepts that fill our minds are just thoughts and sometimes we take them too seriously. We may start to believe our way is the best or even the only way.

The way to prevent closing ourselves off is to ask questions. Questions punch holes in our walls. But you must not grasp for answers to those questions. Live with the holes in your concepts and ideas. Holes in your walls let the air in so you can breathe and be inspired.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
Ok, you have holes in your wall, now what? You need to wait, be open. For example, you may be looking for love and not having any luck. Instead of having an exact idea of what you want, try asking questions, but don’t try to answer, wait. While you’re living with your question you might have an idea or desire to learn French. Follow that desire. Perhaps that class will go to France where you meet the love of your life. Letting go of the reality you were trying to create can free you up for insights.

We think we know how to create our world and forget that we are co-creators, not sole creators. The Universe will conspire with us if we’re open to it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How to Cast a Spell over Yourself

Speak words of power and the life you want will magically appear.

Is it as simple as that? Can we just use some power words and have all those circumstances we don’t like be replaced by ones we love? Well…

We can certainly become more aware of our self-talk which will enable us to replace those words that leave us feeling less than powerful, but this takes time. Our culture has us trained to want quick fixes. Getting the life of your dreams will not happen overnight.

So, now we’ve been speaking our words of power for a few weeks, but the spell doesn’t seem to be working. Now what? Are you listening? Have you replaced all those words that aren’t true? Words you direct toward yourself like, hate, stupid, can’t, tired, and so on? My guess is that you’re not catching all of those negative words and phrases. It takes time. But what takes the most time is believing that these new words apply to you and your life. You may ask, “Am I really smart, good enough, enthusiastic?” Are the words you’ve used to replace you’re old vocabulary true of you? Think about this. You need to find words that ring true for you. Then it’s just going to take time to convince yourself that they are true of you. The more you’ve been conditioned to believe negative, untrue things about yourself, the longer it’s going to take for the spell to work.


• Find your words of power, your fire words (empowering words that speak of the life you want and the person you truly are). Remember, these are words you’re going to use to create your reality and not the reality your mother wants for you.

• Pay close attention to how you talk to yourself and what words you speak during your day. Anytime you catch yourself using a disempowering and untrue word replace it with one of your words of power.

• Do this for the rest of your life. (No one is perfect, but you will get better at it.)

• Watch as your life begins to resemble the one you envisioned.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

There is Always Tomorrow…Right?

If you put your life and dreams on hold until some perfect time in the future, your life becomes a crapshoot. If something good or bad happens then you either feel like a lucky recipient of fate or a victim of her weaving. But remember, we are not victims under these circumstances. We have a choice, always, and are employing our ability to choose when we choose to do nothing.

Why do we procrastinate and put our lives on hold? Sometimes we sound like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, who is always saying, “I won’t think of it now. I’ll think of it tomorrow.” Maybe we don’t believe we can have the life of our dreams or maybe life has disappointed us one too many times. There may be a lot of reasons we keep putting life off until tomorrow, the tomorrow that we think will be the perfect time. But there is no guarantee that tomorrow will arrive. In fact, when tomorrow comes, it is today. Truly there is no tomorrow, so stop waiting for it.

There is something you can do now, right this minute, that will move your life in the direction of your dreams. Start small or you’ll overwhelm yourself. Break that step into even smaller steps if you have to; just do something today because that is the only time you really have to act. Scarlett’s last words in Gone With the Wind are: “After all, tomorrow is another day.” Don’t let those be your last words.

Writing Tip: Writers may be the worst procrastinators in the world. Some of that may be because we are opening ourselves up for all the world to see. Try not to think about that too much and just write. Allow it to flow freely and you’ll be amazed at how authentic it is when you don’t let yourself get in the way. Of course, there is room for editing after you’ve got it outside of yourself and on paper, but first, just let it go and know that you are a part of a creative Universe. Don’t hold back. People will be drawn to what is real.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The World’s a Stage Not a Drama

Does life have to be a struggle or is it only that way because we think it has to be?
I’ve begun to wonder why my life is so full of drama. Am I bored or just too afraid of attracting the good things into my life?
I think the drama began when I was thirteen and my father became ill. He died when I was fourteen. No, wait, it started earlier. I liked the attention I got when I was ill, so sometimes I milked it and sometimes the case of chicken pox or measles I had was the worst case the school nurse had ever seen.
Ever since then I’ve experienced points of major crisis. But what if I decide my excitement is going to come from joyous occasions and the fulfillment of my dreams instead drama? What if I decided life doesn’t have to be a struggle? Will more of the good things I want in life be what I experience? Though I may have some downs, I don’t have to see struggle as a way of making life more exciting. Besides, drama is ultimately no fun anyway.

You might want to take a look at what has gone on in your life. What patterns do you see? Why do you think you have those patterns? Look at the words you use to describe your situation. You might be surprised at what you find. And if you don’t like what you see, contemplate why you believe as you do then get quiet and listen. The insights will come and when they do, your view will change. With different perspectives and new understandings your life will change, too.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Sense of Wonder

                       Photos by Charles Elliott

This is not the moment for a long face or frown,
Throw your fears out of your mind and let the joy in –
It’s like finding a piece of jade in the middle of a dung heap:
The workman stands and wipes the dirt off it in wonder.

Kuan Yin Poem #16
~translated by Martin Palmer and Jay Ramsay

with Man-Ho Kwok

Last weekend I visited a sacred place in the desert. Just outside of the small town of Adelanto, California, in the middle of the high desert, stands a 60 ton, 25 foot tall white marble statue of the Chinese Goddess of compassion, Kuan Yin, The One Who Hears the Cries of the World. She stands at the end of a walkway of other white marble statues. How they are still white I don’t know. A rather large dust devil blew through and engulfed me briefly. I was coated in grit. Luckily I saw it coming; I turned away and covered my head until it passed.

This past year has felt like that, a year of being engulfed in windblown dirt spinning about me so that I could hardly breathe. All I could do was wait for it to pass. The cloud of dust came upon me when my husband came home from a doctor’s appointment. I knew the news wasn’t good when he said sit down before telling me. The C word was mentioned and from that moment on we were both caught up in the whirl wind.

The dust devil that was last year has now passed. My husband is doing well now, but I feel covered in grit like I was last weekend. It’s like I need to wash off all that fear and stress that built up over last year. But as the poem says, in the midst of dung the workman finds a piece of jade; such a wonder to find something so beautiful in a dung heap. It’s so surprising to find the jewel in our seemingly negative experiences, but if we look back we see that we’ve changed, usually in a good way. I know I’m stronger and I feel closer to my husband now.


Last weekend’s experience with the dust devil may have left me coated in dirt, but I also felt blessed by the wind and earth as I stood in front of Happy Buddha and watched the dust devil spin on into the distance. And I know Kuan Yin has heard my cries and has led me to find the beauty within my trials.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Painting a Better World

Have you ever paid close attention to what words you typically employ when describing something or when describing how you feel? I notice I often use words like ‘ok’ or ‘fine’ when asked about something. How boring and nondescript is that? I would never do that in writing so why do I paint a rather ho hum world with the words I use in speaking?

A lot of the time we use ‘ok’ or ‘fine’ because it’s easy. People just ask how you are or how your day is out of common courtesy, but often are too busy to really want a full description. Sometimes I’m too tired or busy myself to want to say more. Maybe the person who asked is someone I don’t know well enough anyway.

But what are we doing when we toss off these meaningless words? If words have power, are we draining our energy by doing this? I know energy is drained if we constantly use negative words to describe things, but what is happening when we use these boring, nondescript words? I think we are distancing ourselves from each other and from our own lives and feelings. At least a negative description would offer some color and we’d be expressing how we really feel. Describing our true feelings would be engaging, well, not if we are too negative or always using negative words, but if we’re real about it, others will feel like we’re truly trying to communicate with them.

This use of drab language can cause us to stop paying attention or maybe we haven’t paid attention in a long time, (see my blog post of April 25 called “Pay Attention”). We don’t really see the thing we’re trying to describe or we’re not in touch with how we feel. If we would take the time to see and feel we’d be much better at painting our world. It could also be that our vocabulary is lacking. Pick up a thesaurus once in awhile and browse. There are so many colorful words that can be used to paint your canvas, your reality.

We can all learn to be master painters of life using descriptive words to color our experience. Practice this. Next time someone asks how you are say: “I feel alive; the sunrise over the skyscrapers this morning washed the city in gold.” Watch that person’s face light up envisioning the beautiful picture of life you just created.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


The root system of a plant or tree seeks out nourishment and helps to hold the plant fast to its place on the earth. When we talk about our roots, as people, we’re talking about where we came from, our family and ancestral roots as well as the place where we grew up. We also talk about putting down roots when we want to settle or plant ourselves in one place. But are we looking for nourishment when we talk about our roots? Some of us are. There is much to be learned from our ancestors. We can also learn about ourselves when we look to how our past has shaped who we are now.

As much as where we grew up, who are parents are, etc. has influenced who we’ve become, we always have a choice in who we are and what our life is like now. If we are unhappy with our lives it can be all too easy to blame our parents or childhood circumstances. Don’t do that. We are more than our past. What came before doesn’t dictate what will happen now and in the future. It’s great to learn from our parents and ancestors, but don’t let their lives dictate what yours will be.

Tap into your roots. Drink deeply from all those past lives in your family and from the spirit of the place where you grew up. Metabolize it. Feel those lives run through your veins. Say this is a part of who I am and then follow that tap root within, deep into the well of your true source of being and know that you are Spirit. Somewhere in all that the individual that is you lives. Be that unique person with roots in the past and in the eternal. Let these roots feed you and then express them through your being as only you can. Live the life you were born to live so that someday your life can nourish another’s. Tell the stories of your ancestors, but live your own.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pay Attention!

What do you spend your attention on? Your reality stems from where you’ve put your attention. If I pay a lot of attention to news stories about the kidnapping of children, I’ll see that as a potential threat everywhere. If I pay a lot of attention to my neighbors and my neighborhood and see that not much is going on in the way of kidnapping, I’ll feel safe. Same goes for paying attention to the news about our bad economy. Even if I have a secure job in a prospering industry, if my attention goes to the negative news about the economy, I may end up being afraid of losing my job. It would seem it is much better to spend your attention on your immediate experiences, the place where you can get the truest information for your life.

So what is in your immediate experience? Do you spend all your time and attention on your career or on friends and family? If it’s your career you’ve paid more attention to then your social life may be lacking. Instead of asking: “Why am I lonely?” or “Why can’t I find someone to spend my life with?” you might want to ask: “Where is my attention going?” If your answer is career then you have the answer to the other two questions. If you don’t like your world as it is, know that it can be transformed by changing where you put your attention.

So pay attention to where your focus is and know that is what creates your world. Shift your focus, change your life.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

If You’re Hearing Voices, Should You Listen?

Is that little voice inside our head or that feeling that stirs in our gut, real? We hear something, feel something, but what is it? It does seem to be real, at least to us personally. And it is often right. You know the times when on a multiple choice test you keep hearing “Pick A.”, in your head, but you ignore it only to find out later that A, was indeed, the correct answer. Or the time you have this gut feeling to take another route home and later discover there was a major accident on your usual way home. We call this knowing, intuition, but what is it, exactly?

Some might say its instinct, but instinct is more biological, more hard wired. Intuition is a vague notion. For example, being attracted to someone in such a powerful way that the feeling of wanting to be close to them consumes you is instinct. That little voice that keeps telling you this would be a bad idea is intuition. Your instinct may be more powerful, but if that person is truly trouble then that little voice may become a more visceral feeling in your gut. Something inside you is trying very hard to get your attention, is trying to override those powerful instincts. Why do our instincts seem stronger than our intuition? It’s probably because we’ve spent a lot of time pretending those inklings weren’t real. Besides, how can we possibly know this perfectly nice person is going to harm us when there are no outward signs of this side of their character?

But we do know. We know things, but can’t explain why. Since we’re all connected and share the same Consciousness, doesn’t it seem possible to know more than just what our outer senses can tell us? The more aware we are of this, then the more we can know.

Stay tuned in to that inner voice. It is real. It is a part of the higher reality we all share in. The more we listen the better we’ll get at living the reality we want to live.

Writing Tip: The collective unconscious is an amazing resource for writers and there are many ways to tap into it. We do it often, anyway. An idea hits you, you have no idea where it came from, it’s just the soup of Knowledge we all swim in. Dreams are another way of accessing it. Some of my best ideas have come from dreams. Often writers, when in the flow, are in a trance state which seems to be a direct line to this collective sphere of knowing. One way I get into that trance state, if I’m just not feeling it at the moment, is to listen to music that seems to relate in some way to what I want to write about. What are some of the ways you gain access to the collective Mind?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reality Lives in the Moment

Photo by Charles Elliott

So often we wonder how we can change our reality when maybe the reality we want is right in front of us and we’d see it if we opened to the present moment.

Our minds are usually filled with, I have tos, I wish I hads, what ifs, etc. When are we present? Maybe we don’t like our lives because we fill them with so many thoughts about the past and future that we hardly know what the present looks like. What if we just stopped? Just stopped thinking, doing, moving. What would you notice?

Yesterday I visited Rose Hills Memorial Park. Not only is there nothing like a cemetery to put things into perspective, it’s also a very beautiful place. The roses are in full bloom and the graves are covered with Easter flowers and gifts to loved ones no longer sharing this moment in body. I visited the highest point where there stands an amazing Buddhist temple and cemetery. This temple, with Chinese Palace architecture, looks out over a green canyon and in the distance you can see downtown LA. I stood looking out over the green hills with the sounds of Buddhist chants in my ears and the wind or Spirit giving me goose bumps. My eyes, filled with tears, just took in what was right in front of them…reality.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

We Paint Our World With Our Emotions

If I look closely I can see that what I’m thinking is being colored by what I’m feeling. Like right now, after reading an article in the paper about the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, I find myself thinking that not only is it exclusive, it is also very arrogant and self righteous (ok, I guess I don’t need to look to hard to see what I’m feeling). This prayer meeting included only readings from the Old and New Testaments and Christian prayers. I feel like saying, “How dare they!” Underneath that thought is, obviously, anger. I’m angry because I know there are others in the community who are not Christian, so this Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast excludes a number of people in the community. I’m one of the non-Christians, but I am very spiritual and so I’m hurt that they haven’t chosen a more inclusive program. If I let go of my emotions for a moment I can think of some positive things about the prayer breakfast. For me, it’s good to know that there is a spiritual component to the people in this town. Another good thing is that such a gathering is a way of creating community.

My emotions aren’t only a negative influence, though. I feel upset by this events exclusivity and so that leads me to thoughts about what such an event means in a diverse community. It leads me to wonder if it’s ok that this is a city council event. My emotions can stimulate thought, not just usurp it.

Our emotions add color to our lives. They can also be a guide as to what is really going on inside us. We may try to point to pure reasoning when it’s really emotion that is affecting our thoughts. For instance, people used to think that Africans were subhuman. They thought it was a perfectly logical conclusion, but it was a thought colored by fear. Look closely at what you think. Is there an emotion behind that thought that has created it? Is there any thinking really going on or is pure emotion being spewed. What is your reality and how are you coloring it? You can feel all you can feel, but learn to remain aware of those emotions and what they can do to our ability to think.

Writing Tip:

Knowing how our emotions affect us is also helpful when creating characters. The complexity of human emotion can be employed to create colorful characters and thereby, richer stories. Use books on character types to help you out. So get out your color palate and start layering on the hues.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wake Up! And Tell Another Story

Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people.

Cheshire Cat: Oh, you can't help that. Most everyone's mad here.
[laughs maniacally; starts to disappear]

Cheshire Cat: You may have noticed that I'm not all there myself.

~Alice In Wonderland (1951)

What is madness? Is it simply another view of reality that differs from most? Is it that the mad see what most of us don’t? If so, then are most of us mad because we don’t see what those we classify as mad, see? We tend to call those who can’t cope in our shared reality (read: society) mad, but who’s to say that our shared reality isn’t some mad vision? Perhaps it is. Maybe those who can’t cope are made mad by this shared vision.

In the latest Alice in Wonderland movie, “Alice”, we see why the Mad Hatter may be mad. His world was destroyed in an instant. His perpetual tea party was a way of keeping some part of that lost world intact. When Alice arrives back in Wonderland after thirteen years, his tea party has deteriorated. His illusion is faltering. Is our illusion, our shared reality, faltering, too? It seems what once seemed to work, no longer does. The new Alice movie talks about making our own choices and not choosing what is dictated to us by society. Alice is more awake now, for this dream is no longer a dream and because she is awake she can direct the story as she wishes.

Perhaps we all need to wake up and realize we can tell another story. The illusion need not decay into a nightmare. We can live our dream and change our story if we don’t like what we are living right now. It’s still just a story we tell, but it can be a conscious one.

Do you like the story you’re living? If not, what story would you like to tell instead?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Weave a Better World by Living Your Bliss

“If we will not be marplots with our miserable interferences, the work, the society, letters, arts, science, religion of men would go on far better than now, and the Heaven predicted from the beginning of the world; and still predicted from the bottom of the heart, would organize itself, as do now the rose and the air and the sun.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The world we weave would be a better place if we all followed our bliss; that which our very nature bids us to do. So often we choose to live our lives as we’ve been told we should or how we think we should, and not what would bring us contentment and joy.

Now it may seem that society is not very friendly to some of the things we would like to do for a living. So what! The world is not a better place, at the moment, for all our dutiful choices. I liken us all to a symphony, each person an individual musician who, by playing their instrument according to their particular part, brings a much needed piece to the whole. Together these individuals create a beautiful piece of music.

Play your part. Add your voice. I know you’ve heard this before, but are you doing it? Please do so if you’re not. I believe if we all do what is in our nature and be who we truly are that the world will be happier. How do you feel doing something you don’t like, lousy right? At some point you may begin to get sick. Maybe you get high blood pressure, weight gain, heart troubles, etc. from the stress of being someone you’re not. Now imagine thousands, even millions of people feeling this way. Yeah, you have our world as it stands now.

Choose to live your bliss. We all have some duties, but how we fulfill them is up to us. If you can’t rush out and live your dream right now, start following a path that will get you there. I’m finding my way back to my true self. Join me. Let’s make beautiful music together. Or in a textile metaphor: Let’s weave a tapestry so beautiful that we’ll wonder why we ever made anything else.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Are We Reflections of Reality?

Let me get all Platonic on you for a minute. Behind this piece of paper I’m writing on (I write in long hand first) is an idea of paper, or more accurately, an idea of a writing surface that manifests as a piece of paper. If I close my eyes I can picture many writing surfaces. Paper, chalk board, computer screen, etc. When I let go of those images and the words describing them, I’m left, supposedly, with an essence called writing surface. I’ve been practicing this. I’m still not quite sure I’m grasping what the essence is exactly, but I’m practicing.

So, if there are essences then I, this person named Joanne Elliott, am a reflection of something else. I’m ok with this. The more far out the thinking, the more ok I am with this notion.

So what the heck does all this mean you say? I can only tell you this: I’m not sure.

But I can see how to use this thinking exercise to talk about writing. The idea or ideas inside your mind are reflected in your writing. The stuff you get on paper is only a reflection of those original ideas. It’s near impossible to match those shimmering things inside our minds, but the words we write can still be beautiful. And so can life. The only perfection is in those essences behind everything, so don’t worry about it. Just write.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Through My Eyes Only….To See or Not to See

What’s real when we all have different perspectives? Is there some objective reality out there? And even if there is, does that matter since we each have our own view of reality?

Understanding that we have different perspectives seems especially pertinent when it comes to relationships. Let’s say Amy thinks Jim isn’t paying enough attention to her and Jim thinks they spend too much time together. What’s real? What would other people see? A friend might see that Jim is paying attention and tell Amy that maybe she’s wanting more than is reasonable. The friend might tell Amy to ask for what she thinks she needs instead of just being annoyed. Jim might see Amy as angry and cold. Amy is being cold because she’s hurt, and so tries to manipulate more attention from Jim, but that doesn’t seem to be working.

This is all too complex for me. So what is real, the friends more objective view? The friend’s view can’t be the whole story because they don’t get to see all that goes on between Amy and Jim. Jim and Amy’s views are a problem because their emotions blur their vision and make things even more complex. It’s a miracle we humans cope at all. But we do. We do because of our ability to imagine life from someone else’s perspective. This can open our eyes and clear our vision.

In the case of relationships maybe the question of reality doesn’t matter so much as being able to see through the eyes of the other. When we are open to other points of view, we are expanding our own. This expansion is also a part of a storyteller’s ability to create characters. So practice this in both your writing and in your life. I guarantee things will be less dramatic in your life and more dramatic in your works of art.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mark My Words!

What do we mean when we say “mark my words?” We usually mean our words have communicated a truth about something that has yet to come to pass. We tend to be smug in our assertions about the future based on what we see or experience now. For example, let’s say the neighbor’s kid just hit you with a water balloon. In a huff you say: “That kid is going to be nothing but trouble when he grows up. You mark my words!” You are the all powerful seer and people should mark your words because they will be true someday. As much power as our words have, we are not all powerful, especially when it comes to other peoples’ lives or even the lives of the characters we create.

Of course, your words could have an effect if you actually said them to the kid. It gets messy when we use our words to try to change others, though. The opposite of what we want can happen and they may resent or blame us. The only person you can really change is yourself. And even then don’t be so smug as to mark your words for yourself. You’re an organic being, always in flux. Don’t tell yourself you’ll only be one way. If you think about it, you’re never exactly the way you were the day before. That’s great news! We can’t really be poured into some mold of our own or someone else’s creation and be permanently fixed forever in a certain form.

Remember, that I mentioned not marking your words about the characters you create? If you are going to tell a good story, your characters need to be allowed to take on a life of their own. Your character outline is not something you want to write in stone. As you write, your characters will surprise you. Let them. They may lead you to a better story or give you clues as to where you might want to take the plot next.

Be open to the creative process and to life. Things don’t work well boxed in and rarely do things go exactly how you thought they would. So relax, enjoy, and see what happens next.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Creating from the Dream World

“I tell my writing students that works of art do not come from the mind; they come from the place where you dream.”
~Robert Olen Butler

Last week I wrote about how we can use our dreams to create our stories both in life and on the page. This week I’m going to let someone else talk via his online lectures. Robert Olen Butler is Pulitzer-winning novelist and professor of creative writing at Florida State University. His book “From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction” inspired me to go deeper into the trance state when writing fiction. I don’t follow his process completely, but he has given me confidence to write from the subconscious. I’m more comfortable there. I’ve never been one to create detailed outlines. Of course we need to use whatever works best for us, but I think what he has to say about the creative process is helpful.

Have you ever tried to live your life by a detailed plan and then have your life be completely derailed from this plan? I know when I get too caught up in the details of my plan that I’m not present enough to deal with the derailment. I’ve found it’s better to be in touch with your intuition and go with the flow. Sure, have goals and plans, we all need direction, but don’t adhere to them to the point of trying to force life to happen the way you want. You may miss out on something better. Same goes for writing. Have a loose plan if you need one, but be open to what floats up out of the subconscious. That’s where the real magic takes place. It’s the source of the spells you want to cast with your words.

So enough chatter from me, go visit Robert’s “Inside Creative Writing” web page and listen to his sessions on his process. They are long and there are 17 of them, but give it a try. I have yet to go through them all. It is interesting and so is the book. At the very least, go into that writing trance and see what comes up from the depths.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Reality of Dreams

When we close our eyes at night other realities emerge from within us. Some say it’s our subconscious playing out what happened during the day and trying to make sense of it. Some say it is other worlds that we visit when we sleep. I think it’s probably both and sometimes neither. Our dreaming is fluid. Trying to order it and box it into perfect categories will only warp the meanings we receive. Take heed of your dreams, but use a poet’s eye when you try to understand what they are about. Look and see how they can help you make sense of yourself and your life.

Dreams also bring us many interesting ideas for writing, especially in creative writing. I had a dream the other night in which I was doing some rather mundane things and then a story idea came to me. When I woke up I remembered it. It’s a pretty good idea. I might use it. I wasn’t trying to get an idea from my dreams, but it is possible to purposely use your dreams for such things.

Now you may say you don’t remember your dreams. That can be remedied. Before you go to sleep tell yourself you will remember your dreams. Soon you will. Also when you do dream, write it down. Don’t wait until morning because you will most likely forget it. The very act of doing these things trains you to be aware of your dream life.

Once you’ve established yourself as a conscious dreamer* you can use your dreams for more detailed work. You can ask yourself a question before you go to sleep. Try asking about a project you are having trouble with. Maybe you want to know where next to take it. See what comes up and remember to look at your dreams with poet’s eyes because the subconscious uses metaphor, symbols, and images. But sometimes a door is just a door. Learn to know the difference and don’t over analyze.

Dreams are just another aspect of your reality. They can provide you with insights and help with problems. You can learn a lot about yourself and with this self-knowledge you can create the reality of your dreams.

*I’m not talking about lucid dreaming. I’m talking about being aware of your dreaming not being awake in the dream. You want to let the subconscious do the work which is impossible once you are conscious in a dream.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Are You Speaking in First Draft Mode?

Every day we talk to many people, but how often do we think about the words we choose? In writing we dash off that first draft, more attention going to the ideas we want to express than to the words we use to do it. Then in the rewrite we think carefully about what words work best to get our idea across that threshold between minds. But when talking to people, it seems we’re often in first draft mode. This seems especially so when we communicate with those we are in relationship with, because we know that they will get our meaning, or will they?

What if we say, “I don’t want to watch that stupid show.” That may be true, but what if our loved one does like it? Now they think, that we think, that they are stupid. Of course, we don’t think that. We could question their taste in this particular circumstance, but we think they are intelligent human beings. We didn’t mean anything by it. I once told an old boyfriend that, “I feel we’re growing apart.” This threw him. He became very upset. There was truth in those words and their power set things in motion. Maybe there was no easy way to bring it up, but at the time I didn’t necessarily want to break up, but that’s what happened within a few months. With those words I set things in motion within my psyche and his. My reality shifted.

Remember what your parents used to say: “Think before you speak,” and “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” It seems they understood that words carry a lot of power. Why do we understand this in writing, but then run our mouth on automatic in our speech?

It’s too easy to just open your mouth and speak, but writing makes you slow down. Slowing down and thinking helps. You contemplate the myriad of ways to say things until you settle on the most effective way for your purposes. (If you’re not doing this in your writing and you think that the first thing that you put down on paper is perfect, I’d ask you to take a second look at what’s on the paper. Rarely is it perfect the first time, even for the most experienced writer.)

The next time someone asks you something, or you feel the need to voice your opinion, take a moment before you answer. Stop and think about the best way to express yourself. What you say can change things, so make sure you mean what you say.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Write for the Ear

W.B. Yeats said, “Write for the ear.” I’m an ear person so this is something I feel is important for my own understanding. But I also think we can get a lot more from our words if we keep this in mind.

The sounds of words are especially important in poetry. Not all poets think so though. Some poets write strictly for the page, but I say there is more power when your words are written to be heard. According to the Vedics you get the idea of something via the sound of the word, that the sound is the “the shelter of the meaning”. Greater understanding can be gotten through hearing the spoken word. In hearing it you get the speakers tone and inflection as well as any layers of meaning embedded in the sounds. It’s also true that when the sound of language flows your reader won’t stumble over your words. It keeps them in the flow where they can best get what you are saying.

Physically giving voice to something not only gives it more power via the meaning in the sounds it also extends its reach to a wider audience. Words as sounds vibrating through air cast a wider spell. They also cast a more potent spell by creating a physical experience which gives more dimensions to the event of hearing a piece of writing.

What about affirmations? Does speaking the reality we want work better than just keeping it in our heads? When we vibrate those words through our bodies we can viscerally feel the words which makes what we envision feel more alive. Try it and see what works best for you.

So keep the ear in mind when writing. Sound adds more power. And remember the power of sound when speaking your truth and creating your reality. Words are potent and that potency can be multiplied by turning words in your head into vibrations that resonate through your body and in the air.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What Do You Do With Back Story?

I’m in the midst of editing my novel. Sometimes this seems like a chore and then other times there is something very liberating about taking out whole sections of it. So why did I write these sections in the first place? One reason seems to be that I was telling myself details of the story that others don’t really need to know. It’s called back story. As an author I can write a better story knowing all the details of the character’s life. As a reader you don’t need or even want to know that much, you just want to get on with the action of the here and now.

Can we get on with the action of our lives without bringing our personal back story to bear on our current life situation? You know all that stuff about how your mother spanked you when you were five or how the school bully scarred you for life. The good stuff is also a part of your back story. Do these past experiences matter now? Do they continue to dictate who you are? You can reframe those experiences if need be, but my advice is to cut them out of your story. The good, the bad, the ugly can all go. Sure they reside in your memories, but you don’t live out your memories. Those are just stored away for future reference or some nostalgic moment.

Your memories are about who you were yesterday. Who are you today? What story do you want to tell? Choose your words wisely because they have power. Just look at your life now and then look at what stories you’ve been telling yourself. See? Powerful stuff right?

Monday, January 11, 2010

If You Don’t Feel Like Writing Don’t

I guess I could just say I don’t feel like writing and leave it at that…but I won’t. I don’t normally condone not writing. I’m one that needs to sit here and keep my fingers moving. All too often I put it off. But once in awhile you only cause more frustration by trying harder to get something down on paper. There is no forcing the muse just as there is no forcing life itself.

Most of the time it’s better to at least sit and wait for the muse to come or do some free-writing exercises because usually you’ll get something after you’ve primed the pump. A lot of the time that will be all you need to do. Then there are times when no amount of priming unstops the block or the feeling that I just don’t want to do this right now. Being the queen of procrastination I know when I’m procrastinating and when I’m not. When I feel like something is more important than writing that is when I need to sit and write. But when I’m sitting there and feeling empty I need to do something to fill me back up.

In those cases when you just feel depleted it’s ok to do something else. Anything else. Get outside of your head for awhile by exercising, dancing, or just going for a walk. Feed your soul with beautiful music or by viewing works of art. Cook a fantastic meal or dessert. Engage all the senses. Then come back to the writing.

This applies to life too. There are days when you just don’t want to do the chores or the job. Now some things you need to do regardless, but when you really feel uninspired by life try something else. Take a different route to work, listen to different music in the car or no music at all, do your chores to music or think up some way of doing them differently. Shake it up a bit or a lot. Suddenly you’ll feel more alive. And that’s what we’re here for isn’t it? To live and create.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Change Your Conceptual Metaphor Change Your Life

Metaphor has the power to shake you up or rock your world or _________ (insert metaphor here). It’s a great tool in literature. It helps make something more meaningful and real to the reader.

Let me show you what I mean. Below is a line of a poem that is written literally.

“I love him so much.”

We understand it, but do we feel it? Do we really understand what the poet means by “so much”?
Let’s transform this line:

“My love for him boils over.”

Not great poetry, but now we see and have a sense of what the poet is really feeling. We understand now what they mean by “so much”. We feel the heat and how overwhelmed by emotion the poet is.

Metaphor not only makes better literature, it can make for a better life. This tool is how we understand our world. How else can we communicate the unseen?

We associate love with a warm feeling because as a baby we were embraced in the warmth of our mother’s arms. From this stems metaphors like “burning love”. The unconscious conceptual metaphor of “love is warmth” translates into many of our conscious metaphors like "you give me a warm feeling".

Not only are these conceptual metaphors hard wired some are also cultural like “time is money”. Though we may consciously say this we take its meaning to heart, it is deeply imbedded into the collective unconscious. This particular one is so powerful that it has taken over our way of perceiving the world in the past few centuries. How’s that for rocking your world.

Know the power of metaphor. Use it to make a better poem. And really know the power of conceptual metaphor. Dig into your unconscious mind for them and see what rules your world. If you don’t like what you see all you need to do is change it. Come up with some new metaphors for your life in 2010. See what kind of life and art you can create in the coming year.