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.