Concocting an Inspiration Buffet

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A topic came up for us last week. We were discussing where our inspiration comes from when we begin a new writing project. Dozens of suggestions clamored to the surface and different ones tugged on each of our sleeves.
Primarily for Andrea, it’s her intuition. She tunes in, and the story calls to her.
For Leslie, it’s more visual. It can be a memory tangent or a photograph as the catalyst. It can be picturing the characters in action or conversation. Any piece of art can get her started.
Other times it’s a combination of those two, with additional spices added.
We stay alert to opportunities around us which leads to asking questions that draw out the story. This is about making a conscious decision to fly manually. We come out of autopilot and listen to the world around/inside of us.
It can be as simple walking down Main Street, seeing an always deserted restaurant full of people and wondering what led to this moment. Questions beget other questions, and soon a plot develops. Will it be a mystery? A comedy, drama, or something supernatural? Only time will tell.
We do know that it’s important to be open to inspiration everywhere we go. It could be our next story.
Where do you get your inspiration?

Whys and What Ifs?

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Questions lead places. They don’t stop like words do at the end of a sentence. They’re an invitation to go somewhere potentially new and bountiful.

 

I use powerful questions in my coaching practice, and I use a different set when I write. I ask myself ‘What if?’ and ‘Why?’ plus the rest of the ‘W & H’ questions to get deeper into plot and character development and motivating goals.

 

Let’s say I want to write a short story featuring a ham sandwich. Before or after doing some preliminary brainstorming, whether listing, mind-mapping, or stacking categories/subsets, I would develop tangents that might come from the food and ask:

 

Why is the sandwich important?

How did it enter the story?

When was it made?

What is its composition?

Who will eat it?

Where are they located: the eater and the food?

 

I might write out a few sets of those like reps at a gym, just for fun. Then I prioritize which questions are most central to the story I feel forming in my brain. After I do that, I begin with, ‘What ifs?’

 

What if it’s poisoned?

What if it was stolen from someone who struggles for food every day?

What if the bread is moldy?

What if it has a smell that brings back an important memory?

What if it’s the last food available?

What if it falls on the floor and/or gets stepped on?

What if there’s a paper inside that contains the password for an important account?

 

I could go on quite a while like this, but when I finish for the time being, again I prioritize them. I see which ones have the most potential and are of the most interest to me.

 

Do you use questions in your writing? Have you found any helpful ways to think about them that give you more mileage? We’d love to hear questions, snippets, topics, anything you’d like to share as an example of your questioning strategy.

A question may be simple, but it’s a powerful tool for life and creativity.

 

3… 2…1… Reentry

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We’ve been busy since we last saw you. We hope you’ve kept well and happy. You’ve been in our thoughts.

In the interim, we finished the first draft of our novel after a full year’s creative endeavor. We look forward to sharing snippets and scenes and in-betweens.

We’d like to pose questions and invitations for you to share your works as well.

We are now prepping for a month’s-long set of revision passes.

We find Janice Hardy’s suggestions invaluable as are James Scott Bell’s. The former suggested prepping the book by creating an editorial map with this format for each chapter. You could easily do it for each scene as well:

[SUMMARY

First line

Last line.

Revision Thoughts: ]

 

Here’s the link to Janice’s helpful resource: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/02/revison-prep-create-editorial-map.html

Next steps for us include an outline of the three acts and the main turning points within them.

~*~

We’ve missed this space and community. Bloggers everywhere have been in our thoughts. One good thing is we’ve been learning every day we’ve written.

Originally, we didn’t know how coauthoring would go with the two of us having different schedules, varying levels of pain, and the ever-burgeoning list of doctor appointments.

It wasn’t always easy, yet we persevered. We’re now looking for a way to celebrate our, ‘We did it!’ moment in time by reentering 2penthrupain. Please celebrate with us if you have a spare moment or two.

We know the blog is an essential part of what we’re trying to accomplish – touching base with other readers and writers.

We have a few new areas of interest coming up including finding a publisher. We were all set to go with a publishing company, but fortunately happened upon some unfortunate information. In the end because of our research, we decided not to sign their contract though it had been a slam dunk for the months leading up to the discoveries. Something kept us from actually signing the darn thing for quite a while.

Andrea took a month’s creative writing course with prompts. She’s been producing some wonderful stories on a near daily basis…. The rest were poems of equally inspiring innovation. She found the course both eye-opening and mind-stretching.

In our next post we will feature one of her short stories.

The course was offered through Creative Writing Now with Nancy Strauss.

She’s currently offering a free 3 Day Course on Endless Story Ideas. Here is the link.

http://www.creative-writing-now.com/free-online-writing-courses.html

We look forward to diving back in. Thank you for your continued support. We’d love to hear from you.

Meningitis Mind Sentences

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Throughout my early life I wrote my pain on paper, and it seemed to help. I wasn’t conscious that I was dealing with it that way until an event in my early twenties.

One morning I woke up to get ready for work, and fell into my closet. Next I drove my little blue Fiat to work as if I was underwater, falling to the asphalt, eventually arriving bloodied and confused in the office.

I agreed to go to the hospital at the urging of my neurologist, who was concerned about these symptoms along with the intensity of my headaches and the fact that my naturopath had seen some unusual activity behind my eyes.

They took spinal fluid to rule out the most dangerous potential cause of these anomalies. My neurologist thought it unlikely but better to be safe.

It turned out to be true. I had spinal meningitis, and the next people I saw wore outfits akin to space suits. I stayed a month, and none of the doctors I saw could answer my simple questions: Will I live through this? Will I once again be able to complete sentences and think as well as I once did?

It’s difficult to describe the level of completely useless fear I felt when one after another answered, “We don’t know yet.”

At first, I was not allowed to sit up or stand. I had to do everything lying down. I would eat by rolling over onto my side carefully and using a straw. Though I was in the perfect posture for it, the one thing I couldn’t do was sleep. People entered hourly. There were lights, sounds, and people crying in the night. And there was pain and fear.

All the while I wrote in my mind. Affected cognitively, I couldn’t do much, but I constantly repeated the mantra I had been given by my meditation teacher. Over and over again, I would not only say it, but see it in my mind’s eye. I clung to those words like the lifeline they were. They kept me from drowning in my own fear.

Later, I continued, interspersing thoughts of purpose. “What did I want to do with my life when I was well again?” It took a long time for me to complete thoughts of any complexity, but I was gradually certain I would like to be a naturopath, one of those kind people who spent so much time to help me figure out what was wrong after a slew of doctors told me it was everything from an ear infection to my imagination. I will be a naturopath, I thought, and I asked my nurse for help sending away for information long before the eras of laptops, wifi, and cell phones. Snail mail was IT, baby.

While I waited to hear, I started to sit up again. I responded to cards with a line or two of text and a scribbled picture of the sun, heart, or a flower.

I wrote one line of feelings over and over until I thought of another line to repeat. They soothed my imaginings of the future.

I found out that I needed to do something else to fund the years of study it would take to become a naturopath. I thought I’d like to teach.

All this came together through thoughts that were pinned down to paper so they wouldn’t fly off into the stratosphere before completion. Slowly, I learned to complete sentences again. I applied to schools and wrote their essays with persistence. I struggled to stand and balance my body, and in a month’s time live outside of a hospital. I was a lucky girl who lived.

I did not become a naturopath, but I did become a teacher. I worked at it lovingly for a decade and a half.

Though I will always live with remnants meningitis left in my body, I know I would not be the person I am grateful to be today were it not for that experience and the time spent with myself, talking, whispering, and writing through the pain.

And You, Ma’am… What Are Your Thoughts?

Katharine Hepburn on

We think it would be fun and perhaps revealing to interview each other. It started as a future interest in adding guest bloggers and writers from time to time who have things to share about any of the main topics this blog is about. The beginning of Western Civilization stood upon such simple dialogues , and though we’re neither Socrates nor Plato, everyone has something worthwhile, universal, and unique to share.

As we build connections and lead up to asking others, we thought it might be interesting, since there are two of us, to interview each other. We’ll bring in an imaginary Dick Cavett, though of course our sprite is no match for the man who interviewed Katherine Hepburn as depicted above.   (Leslie)

~*~

What is your favorite portion of the book and why – without giving any big spoilers away of course, especially if it’s in the second half of the book.

(Leslie) – One of my favorite parts of the story is the Prologue. I’m sticking to the beginning here so as not to ‘spoil’ things. Herein we find out there is an ancient, deep friendship between two mysterious beings. I like how they could be anyone until we find out something about their language and the nature of at least one of them. I especially love how it evolves into something ethereal in a short few paragraphs. I have room to imagine the characters and the place where they are meeting.

(Andrea) – One of my favorite parts is when our hero discovers her moment of hope, her turning point (unbeknownst to her).

What were your earliest memories of writing or being a ‘writer?’

(Leslie) – My uncle was attending the Ohio State University Veterinary School, and I was 7 at the time. He was the first person to ever write straight-up from his heart the way he saw things. He also wrote so as to inspire responses from me. I was interested in this new hobby, and so… we had a correspondence. It turned out to be the first of many to come. He basically changed my life with those invitations and longed-for letters of daily goings-on and questions that made me think about my life differently. I daily thank you, dearest Uncle, for such a great gift.

(Andrea) – I believe I had just turned 12. I was at the beach with Marcy (other sister) and her friend.  I took out a pad and pen and started writing poems.  They encouraged me with every poem they read. I found that the words flowed through me and came easily.  I was excited for the first time about something. That was before the reason I stopped writing of course.  Then, years later, I discovered it again through you Leslie. So thank you for that.  It was funny because the way you first reminded me was when I asked you to read over some emails I had written to a particular someone and you said, your writing flows so well and you have a way with words.  It took a few more years but I finally unblocked the memory of why I stopped in the first place and started to find my voice again.

What are your most helpful tips for writers of any age?

(Leslie) – These may seem like things you’ve heard a thousand times over, but it possible, try not to filter them out. They’ve proven helpful for me, and perhaps they might for you as well. The very first thing is to write, every day if possible, but as often as you can. You will sync yourself up the more you do, and it will become more and more a central part of you.

What does the experience of writing feel like to you?

(Leslie) – Writing feels like a liquid process to me. It’s a combination of swimming and flying, and it comes from my heart. My head has its part, sure, and especially when revising and editing… but I am very aware of the flicker of physical sparks radiating from my heart when I write. It feels like a surprise waits around every corner because it is only by writing it that I know what will be said and done. However much I plan a piece, story, or a novel – which is still writing – I do not know what the action and how it will announce itself will be until I write it down. Writing is soaring in a timeless space. It is also physical and emotional. I get goosebumps. I lean forward in my chair. I get flashes of heat and chill. Writing feels like being engaged with something on such a deep level that it is life, pouring out onto the screen or page.

(Andrea) – It feels like there isn’t anyone or anything around me.  Just me and my stuck thoughts getting released from their sentence. I know, I’m corny, but that’s just me 🙂  I come alive and feel the rush of excitement when I feel it’s written the way it’s intended. On the flip side, I am depressed when I feel blocked or write something I don’t feel is my best.  I have to remember that any writing, whether to be shared or not, is still my expression and I need to accept all of it.  The vulnerability is something I need to get used to.  That is the hardest part for me. The moment of sharing and opening myself up to others and their words in return.

What is the message behind this book?

(Leslie) – We want people to feel empowered. We are speaking primarily to Young Adults, so that they can incorporate messages of self-worth and personal power within themselves as they grow, but it is our hope that the story will be read and enjoyed by people of all ages. It is hard for us as humans to feel that things are the best they can be at any given moment. There are so many issues that need immediate attention in our world. Perhaps we’re not always happy with our own behavior. There is an old Sanskrit saying I love very much – and for some reason when I set to type this, Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz popped into my head. It ends with this sentence: “When the Perfect is taken away from the Perfect, only the Perfect remains.” There are clues all around us. We need the eyes, the perspective, to see these clues and understand. It is my fondest hope that a person might walk away from this book saying aloud to the supposedly empty air, “I always knew there was more to me and this world than I ever suspected!” Truly, there is, and we are that… When we know we are … a new world view and life begins.

Do you have a synopsis (teaser trailer version) for us?

(Leslie)  – It is a story about a hero and her inner and outer demons, and how she got to know herself better and better than she ever realized possible.

~*~

Post facto: The Socratic and Platonic references didn’t wind up being much of a bullseye here since Andrea and I pretty much aligned in our answers. Therefore there was no need for dialogues from opposing points of view working toward a resolution of truth using reason.

Also, it feels good to both participate in the same post again. We hope to find diverse ways of doing that. If you have any answers to any of the questions posed here that refer to you, OR ideas about how to create an interactive form of post, we’d love to hear from you. Or any words of wisdom or whimsy you might like to weave into this subject matter. See you on Wednesday!

Lost and Found

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I find it very difficult waiting. Patience has never been one of my strong suits, since, forever.

I would like all our projects to be done…like…yesterday, please?

I know things take time, and time gives ideas room to percolate. All the best things require patience. I am doing my best in that regard.

Leslie came over to stay for a week so we could work together. We hadn’t been able to work on the book for a few days since we needed to get going on some funding ideas for our projects. The book is always a living entity in my head, though. It’s on my mind, but actual written words have been held up.

Finally! The last few days we got back to writing, and I feel motivated again. We were able to clean and tighten up chapters that we wrote before and also wrote new chapters. In the end we sent through Chapter 13 to the editor. We are waiting to hear back so we can continue to make corrections. Also, we are knee deep in Chapter 14.

Sharing the teaser (first four chapters) gets easier each time as our confidence grows.

We find it easier to write side by side. Going back and forth with the dialogue helps us find the exact words to use. We feed off the combined creative energies in the room. It took us 20 minutes to find the best two words for a description, and when we found them, it was definitely an “oh that’s so perfect” kind of feeling. We also felt that way about a section we weren’t sure how to describe until the idea presented itself. We worked on it together. So amazing when we really feel those parts.   Such emotional moments.

Some ideas come to me from my bathroom floor. The floor is swirly and looks like characters so I stare at it and see story lines. I take what I can get wherever I can get it.

Sharing bits and pieces with a number of people and receiving positive results is exciting. It makes me want to finish it all the more. Today I read it to my family. Actually, the computer read it. I was too nervous.

My father, who I’ve been afraid to share it with the most, had his back to me. I could see a third of his face. As the last word of the last sentence was uttered, I watched his head nod. At the same time, the part of his face that was exposed had the look of approval. He liked it. “Hey Mikey, he liked it.” (just like the old ‘Life’ cereal commercial.)

Yay, what a hurdle that was for me. This whole time wondering if he would think it worthwhile. Today was definitely a turning point. When we started the book, I read little bits to my other sister, my mother, and some friends, but I just couldn’t get up the nerve to share it with Dad for fear he wouldn’t like it or be disappointed. It was really a good feeling. I felt like it gave me the green light to keep going.

There is a renewed energy in me. I am very happy today.

I look forward to the writing days ahead. They are what keep me going.   This book has been the best therapy through the storm that has been my life. There has always been a part of me missing. Even though I was a chef, a cool career, I was never fully satisfied. I am thankful I have such skills, but always felt aimless. Goalless. Writing gives me the hope I need to make it through another day. “I was lost but now I’m found.” I know that’s an old song about religion, but it applies here. I truly understand the meaning it has for me now.

I never knew before that this could be my possible life. To be truly happy living what I love. One of my other favorite quotes of late is, “I make a career out of living happily ever after.” That is one of my daily mantras. It keeps me going on a daily basis. Thank you to all those who write inspiring quotes. You are much needed in this world. I am grateful for you…..(Andrea)

I found this book helpful in the process of doing writing therapy maybe you will too…

 

Climbing the Hill of Hope

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9/21/2014

We’ve been making great strides with the book lately.   After stopping for a while to work on other projects that needed our attention, we are back in the full swing of things. This is when I feel my best and see my future a little brighter. It doesn’t mean that in ‘the here and now,’ I physically feel well, but it greatly helps my mental state. When I/we are working on the book and it’s flowing, I get a glimpse of everything I want to happen, who I want to become. I imagine myself completely well, physically and mentally. I visualize all of the traveling we will be doing to promote her and it gets me excited. I see the book cover so clearly and can feel it in my hands. I am in the moment, turning each and every brand new page.

When it must sit by the wayside, I have to admit, I’m in a lower place. I do my best to rally, but in order for me to fully bring myself back, I need to be working on our story.

The below was written during a break we had to take from the book. It makes sense I was feeling the way I felt below. I am hopeful for my future, I just have to keep the book alive in myself and on paper…

I expect a full recovery!

[7/24/2014]

I got up and went to Physical Therapy again. It was too strenuous the first day and I couldn’t get out of bed the day after, so he had to lessen the intensity. He asked me to remember how I felt later today since I forgot how I felt during the day of the first session.

Well I’ll remember how I felt all right. My back is making sure of that. It went out on me as I was getting on the table for an MRI. Oh what fun trying to keep my head from moving for the half hour MRI while my back is spasming all over the place. Yes I can definitely tell him how the rest of my day was. I don’t think I’ll forget this time.

I wasn’t even thinking of being claustrophobic in the machine until the tech said “we’ll be putting you in to about your waist” It was then that I started to panic. I knew I had to just get through it without freaking out. I started counting and breathing. Just kept my eyes shut and pretended I wasn’t in a coffin.

Then I went for a massage since I didn’t want to be miserable for the next few days of pain my back would have in store for me. It usually helps but this time the guy was giving me one of the worst chair massages I’ve had. It was so disconnected and not soothing at all. He actually answered the phone a few times while one hand was still working on me. It was more comical than annoying at that point. I tried not to get upset about it. That would definitely not help the ounce of relaxation I was trying to absorb. Not sure if it helped or not. Trying not to move around too much.

Feeling a bit disconnected myself today. I guess that’s why I got massagus interruptus guy. Makes sense. I just have to say “tomorrow will be a better day.”

I got some troubling news today. Luckily it’s not health related so I am very grateful. Sure I cried for a bit. Spoke to my sister and my mom. It helped. I could really go off the deep end about it but I am trying to use my new skills and tell myself “all is well” and I really do believe it. I just have to keep moving forward and not give up. Whatever happens, it will all be okay. It’s a huge improvement I must say. In the past, I would have probably cried all night, curled up in a ball, unable to move. Instead I decided to sit and write about it. Sure, it’s not the best thing I’ve written, it easily could be the worst thing I’ve written, but at least I’m writing.

As time goes on, I will get my sense of humor back. It comes and goes. I’ve been waiting over a year to feel like myself again. I certainly don’t want this to be the personality I’ve settled into, but I know it’s a huge transitional time for me. One step at a time. I know I’ll be back…..

[~Andrea]

There is a special focus on peace this weekend, Saturday night and all day Sunday.

May it extend into forever.

[~Leslie]

 

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Have Dahl’s Hopes

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(Andrea)   There is magic everywhere. We just have to be aware and open.   It’s a puzzle, but once you see the pattern you can find it if you want to. It’s also a game of hide and seek. Ask a question, spin yourself around, and then go find the answer.

Sometimes, it’s about admitting you’re afraid. Look at your fear and know that it will all be okay.

I took yesterday off since I worked all day [that] Saturday. I was very happy about being able to get some good organizational work done on the book. I was a little discouraged when I read on the Internet that some readers don’t like flashbacks, and that they are much more interested in the present. You may lose the reader if it’s not done correctly.

I have fretted about this since we need back story. Can the flashbacks hold the reader’s interest? Without them, I feel the story would fall short, so I am leaving them in. We may need to tweak and remove unnecessary parts, but I vote yes to the back story. (Leslie: “And I like it too.”)

After taking yesterday off, however, I haven’t been able to get back into the groove again today. I’ve been getting down on my work. Still, I know it’s a good story. Will others feel the same?

I watched a show that is in its final season. Though earlier seasons were enjoyable, this was not very good. They kept doing flashbacks for no reason other than filling space. It’s really boring. That was also where some of my fear’s been coming from today.

As I was sitting in doubt, my other sister sent me a “Words with friends” word. I looked at the word she sent, and it was, “Hope.” It was a much needed word on a day like this… a synchronicity of sorts, bringing the shift that I needed.

I shuffled my letters. Not the best ones. HHPADLS. What to do with that? I tried a few different combinations using ‘S’ at the end of hope. They all came back as ‘Not a word.’ I finally tried something different since I knew the word ‘Dal’ as lentils. I added an H for extra points to see if it would go. It did.

Now, sometimes I look up words when I don’t know what they mean. I wasn’t going to with this one but something nudged me.

Half way down the search results, I saw, ‘Roald Dahl.’ I’d never heard of him before but I did see a blurb that he was the writer of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Willy Wonka is a longtime favorite of mine as I am sure it is for many people. But the thing you see is that Willy Wonka has continued to come up since before I started writing the book and it keeps coming up. I see it all over the place. It’s even referenced in the book we’re writing.

Then I read some of his quotes. They spoke to me clearly. Of all the great ones, this one jumped out at me:

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Well, I believe.

The next word my sister sent was, “Have.”

I put them together and I ‘Have Dahl’s Hopes’

See the magic. Be the magic. That is my wish for everyone in this day and age.

 ~*~

(Leslie) This was written when August was brand new, and a lot’s flowed under the writing bridge since then. After writing the above, Andrea had seen Roald Dahl pretty much everywhere in the interim… so it only made sense to post this entry on what would have been his 98th birthday… today: the thirteenth of September.

Since this awareness of his existence has become evident, he whispers to us. We strive to approach that state where he lives, looking ever more closely, more carefully, for every tiny speck of magic. Then we can expand it on a daily basis, seeing ourselves stepping inside as we do.

EARLY EDITION (T-85 minutes, Birthday Edition)