From the author of Mexican Gothic and Gods of Jade and Shadow, we now have a scintillating noir thriller set in 1970’s Mexico City during the student uprisings of the Guerra sucia, the Mexican theater of the Cold War. I could not put this book down. From the outset, I was drawn to the rather eccentric life of Maite, a disgruntled legal secretary with an impressive collection of vintage vinyl albums and a penchant for obsessing over the romantic comic book Secret Romance while the city around her is steeped in revolt and political unrest.

Maite’s natural curiosity leads her to begin investigating the suspicious disappearance of the beautiful, well-to-do art student who lives next-door, Leonora, whose life she both admires and envies. Along the way, she discovers Leonora’s connections lead straight to the heart of the country’s political foment – radical student groups and the government agents threatening to quiet any unruly dissenters.

The co-protagonist, Elvis, is every bit as intriguing as Maite. Given little choice other than to fend for himself on the streets, he’s committed to working for El Mago, a tough-as-nails crime boss devoted to squelching the political activists threatening to overthrow the city. Elvis loves old movies, crossword puzzles, and memorizing his word-of-the-day. Despite not wanting to carry a gun, much less use it, his assignment is to find out where Leonora has disappeared to and why.

Danger looms on the streets as Maite and Elvis both seek to learn what has become of Leonora. A mutual love of rock ‘n roll leads to a chance meeting at a cafe jukebox neither of them will ever forget, and a spiraling web of danger from which they’re forced to extricate themselves. I appreciate Silvia’s tight, voice-driven prose and her unconventional depiction of Maite as an antiheroine. Her storytelling genius has reached new heights as she continues to effortlessly master new genres. 

Sexy, daring, and nail-bitingly suspenseful, Velvet Was the Night is sure to enthrall you, heart and soul. Give it a read. You won’t regret it, I promise. It’s not every day a book comes along with a classic playlist like this one. 

 

I took pains recently to interview myself after a particularly good writing session, one in which I wrote 2,700 words in a sitting, wrapped up in that most envied of states among writers: the state of flow.

Ah, flow! To be completely absorbed in one’s work to the point that everything else fades away – bills, laundry, emails, life concerns in general – and the created world IS reality, our fingers merely a conduit on the receiving end of a movie-like thread playing out in our minds. 

So idyllic when it happens. So rare when it does. That’s why I caught myself afterward.

What had I done to achieve this? How could I make it happen again? What perfect combination of circumstances had led to this fortuitous happenstance, and how could I guarantee myself more of it?

Here’s how that conversation went:

Did you feel prepared to write today?

No. I was pretty nervous, in fact. This chapter involved a fight scene, which I’m unused to writing. I’d envisioned the setting the characters would be in and a bit about how the fight would play out, but I was no more prepared than any other day I commit to write. 

So you’re an outliner. Do you feel having a plan limits you as you write?

Not at all. Although I’m an intuitive writer, having a plan ahead of time keeps my story on the rails and prevents it (well, me) from going off into the weeds. 

What does it feel like to enter your story and experience the world through your character’s eyes as you write?

When it happens, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. I don’t have to work at imagining what my characters are saying and doing because they’re more real than I am. I’m the observer intruding on their world and their desires. Thankfully, they let me stay and chronicle what they’re up to. It feels more like a privilege than anything else, to be honest. 

Would you go so far as to say you’re participating in the collective subconscious?

I don’t know about that. I’m not sure, but I’m not opposed to ruling it out. *laughs* Imagination is a more powerful tool than we realize, and far more accessible to us than we think. That truth, for me, is much easier to acknowledge than to put into practice. I allow too many fears to sway me on any given day. It’s a constant battle to push those voices of fear into the background so I can hear the steady whisper of the story communicating with me.

Interesting. Your story talks to you?

Oh, absolutely. I’m convinced it’s talking far more than I’m able to listen. When the myriad distractions of life aren’t drowning it out, the fear is. Or tries to. 

What kind of fear?

*chuckles* You name it. Fear that what I’m capable of rendering on paper doesn’t match up to my vision for the piece, that my writing is cliche or uninteresting to anyone but me. That I haven’t mined my idea for any deeper meaning. That it won’t measure up. Rejection. 

How do you get past that and get any writing done?

Ah, funny you ask. I wonder that myself sometimes. *laughs* One of the most daunting aspects of writing is that the more you learn how to write well, the easier it is to mess up. At the same time as your writing improves, you learn more ways to fail, so to speak. That can really freeze you up if you allow it to. The trick is not to take yourself too seriously, especially early in a draft, and remember that mistakes are a part of the process, too. They can guide you to the heart of your piece, if you’re willing to get them out on paper first. 

Mistakes are a part of the process. I like that. 

I figured you would. That’s the beauty and the joy of writing, and the key to finding flow. 

What’s that? The key to finding flow?

Grace. Writing, like any form of self-expression, is extending grace to yourself. You don’t have to get it right on the first try. No one’s requiring that of you. Only you’re doing that. You get as many do-overs as you need to make it work. 

And this, my creative friends, is the take-home message from the post-flow interview I undertook with myself: Extend yourself grace. Prepare as much as you can, then give yourself room to be surprised by the power of your own imagination. The bad writing days will likely outnumber the good ones. It hardly matters. The point is to write, whether your fears are deafening or you’ve beaten them down to a dull roar. 

When you’re sharing that polished draft, no one’s counting how many rewrites it took to get there. That’s between you and the Page and, believe me, that’s one of many secrets you can trust the Page to keep.

 

Tidepool book cover

 

If you’re looking for a cross between H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and The Addams Family, search no further than this month’s book-of-the-month, Tidepool. I’ve been in the mood for Gothic fiction lately, and the haunted seaside town of Tidepool with its washed-up, mutilated corpses and black-gowned Victorian grande dame, Ms. Ada Oliver, did not disappoint.

I will admit, the book got off to kind of a slow start for me. By halfway through, though, I was hooked, as invested as Sorrow Hamilton in uncovering what became of her brother, Henry, once he left pre-WWI Baltimore to promote a business venture in the shabby, tight-knit coastal community of Tidepool, never to return home again. 

The townspeople are unfriendly and evade all Sorrow’s questions regarding her brother’s whereabouts. The streets and buildings reek of fish and rotting offal. Sorrow is about to give up, go back to Baltimore, and let her dad send in detectives to handle the case when she finds she first has to reckon with Ada Oliver: a powerful, wealthy heiress with a mysterious past, and an even more horrifying secret she keeps locked away in the basement of her hilltop mansion. 

Sorrow has to decide if the price of discovering the truth behind her brother’s disappearance is worth risking her own life in Tidepool’s deadly grip, and I, for one, was not expecting the twists and turns she took as a character by the end of the book. 

A compelling work of not-so-believable but viably creepy horror that is sure to keep you reading late into the night and hardly daring to peer into the ocean’s depths the same way ever again. I recommend you seek out Tidepool’s darkest secrets…if you dare.

Vintage Typewriter Letters Retro  - Skitterphoto / Pixabay

 

Listen, I get it. If adding another item to your to-do list every day doesn’t sound like fun, that’s because you might be thinking about journaling the wrong way. Imagine if I told you it’s like talking to the kindest, most understanding, forgiving, and patient person about your deepest hurts, worst nightmares, and most nagging fears, and they GET IT. Even more than that, they don’t talk back. They listen. They see you through the worst. When you come out on the other side, they’re there…cheering you on before the next big hurdle. 

Who wouldn’t clear their schedule to make time for this every day?

Yes, of course, you’re thinking, but that person’s not me! I’m my own worst enemy, worst critic, worst cheerleader, you name it. 

Possibly. You might be right. But you don’t have to be. I had the same objections as you, before I started journaling. Ironically, the daily discipline of spelling out my thoughts, feelings, dreams, and desires on paper was the one thing that saved me from the harsher modes of self-evaluation I was used to inflicting on myself. 

As a writer, I’m constantly putting myself in my characters’ shoes. The act of creation necessitates that, like an actor, I view life from their perspective and, with empathy and compassion, portray their logical reactions and feelings in a believable, trustworthy way on paper. When I journal, I’m capturing my own internal life on paper, like that of a character, allowing me to consider my thoughts, feelings, and reactions as a passive observer. 

If I’m too caught up in my own mind to view my thoughts and feelings as a passive observer would, I can’t do anything about them. But I can if they’re someone else’s thoughts and feelings. That’s what journaling does. It frees us from our own perceptions and judgments of ourselves long enough for our subconscious to intervene and help us out, like a friend or a counselor would. The page gives us breathing room from our own minds, a break in the music, time enough to deal gently with ourselves instead of jumping to react, to do the next thing (and the quicker, the better in our culture!).

Rule number one: there are no rules. The sky’s the limit when you journal. Hate punctuation? Don’t use any. Don’t know what to write about? Note the first angry/sad/reflective thought that comes to mind and follow where it leads. None of what you write has to make any sense. In fact, if it doesn’t, that’s probably better. The more masks you peel off, the better. If you can’t be honest with yourself, who can you be honest with?

Without further ado, here is my beginner’s guide to committing to a daily habit of journaling:

J – Just listen. Don’t censor yourself when you write. Whatever is on your mind or in your heart is fair game. Give yourself permission to say whatever you’re thinking or feeling, no matter how ____ it sounds.

O – Observe. When you’re done writing, sit back and read what you’ve written with no judgement. Pretend your words are those of a good friend or someone you’re genuinely curious about.

U – Understand. Search for patterns in your thinking, common triggers for your emotions. Continue to remain neutral to your own observations about what you see. (This is easier to do when you’ve been journaling a while.) 

R – Relate/empathize. Let your subconscious do what it’s amazing at. Be human. Have as much compassion on yourself as you would if these words were coming from the mouth of your best friend in the whole world, or someone you dearly love. 

N – Nudge. In time, you’ll be able to predict your own negative thought patterns and triggers. Here’s where it gets exciting: you can begin nudging those thoughts and feelings in a new direction. 

A – Accept. Life isn’t perfect. None of us are perfect, nor do any of us deal with life perfectly. *shocker* Recognizing that everything you think and feel comes with the territory of being human is nothing short of…liberating. 

L – Learn. Journaling is learning. Learning to listen to yourself and to practice withholding judgment. Learning to treat yourself like a human being. Learning to be kind, to empathize, to champion yourself, and help yourself grow.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that journaling is a habit you can’t afford not to try. It’s certainly been a catalyst for my own artistic development and well-being. I would love if it did the same for you. 

Got any tips you’d love to share about journaling? Drop me a line! I’d love to hear what those are.

 

Much more than the vivid portrayal of an iconic American star’s rise to fame, Blonde is a masterful recounting of the rich inner life of Norma Jeane Baker, the orphan fated to become one of the most celebrated actresses of her time, Marilyn Monroe. I’ve grown to love the seamless, floating narrative style of Joyce Carol Oates’ lyric prose, and I can honestly say this is the best work of hers I’ve read to date. (Although Mudwoman comes in a close second!)

What initially attracted me to reading Blonde, I can’t exactly say. I’m not a diehard Monroe fan, although I’ve watched a movie or two she starred in. I’d heard it was one of Joyce Carol Oates’ best books, and after this read, I can definitely get behind that! Recently I’ve been struggling with developing a closer third person point-of-view in my own writing, so maybe it was the autobiographical nature of the book that drew me in. (Though Oates has clearly stated the story is not meant to be biographical in the strictest sense.) 

I quickly discovered a voice within the pages that kept me enthralled until the very last one. We can immediately sympathize with Oates’ rendering of Norma Jeane, estranged from her mother as a young girl and shuttled through a string of squalid foster homes until a chance encounter with a less than savory, enterprising Marxist photographer landed her in the limelight of the Hollywood acting scene when she was nineteen years old.

You don’t have to be a Marilyn Monroe fan to appreciate the artistic mastery of this fictionalized accounting of her life, delivered skillfully through the intimate voice of the actress herself. The magic behind the myth is highlighted in all its glorious grit and glamour, a powerful and evocative tribute to the deeply conflicted and driven woman who emptied herself to leave a lasting impression on the silver screen for generations to come.

Man Writer Quill Writing Male  - Prawny / Pixabay

 

Stephen King used to write in his laundry room. Edith Wharton wrote while covered up in bed, her dog on one side, an inkwell on the other. Charles Dickens had his beloved desk shipped to him when he knew he would be gone from home awhile. Agatha Christie would sit in her large Victorian bathtub and munch an apple while conceiving the plots to her novels. 

Every writer adopts a creative ritual of their own, whether it’s a special place, an item of furniture they occupy, or a certain time of day they prefer to do their work. This ritual takes on a certain significance, a comfortability, and becomes a sacred zone where the air breathes differently and the Muse can be heard. 

I call mine Creative Space, though it’s actually the dining room table I’ve annexed for use as a makeshift desk and paper repository. After five years of claiming the space and filling it with the etchings of my imagination, it’s been transformed. When I sit down in my writing chair, I’m not in the dining room anymore. 

I’m in a place where I can create freely, with no interruptions or external concerns. Sure, they try to invade. That’s when I focus on what occupies the space, so that when the intrusions come, I’m anchored in Creative Space and not the outside world. 

Allow me to share with you five key items that populate my writing pad and ground me in my work:

  1. Pieces of inspiration. A white feather. A favorite quote from the tab on a tea bag. A bound collection of my Dad’s paintings. Whatever artifacts inspire you, particularly if they’re pleasing to the five senses, surround yourself with these items. I haven’t tried an air plant or a scented candle yet, but those might be fun to add to the mix.  
  2. A tiny calendar. A big calendar would be distracting, so I create a small one on a piece of scrap paper and keep it nearby as my writing calendar. I block off the days I know I can’t write due to work-related or other reasons, and that helps me set goals for the days during that month when I can write. I pencil in those goals and stay mindful of them day-to-day. The process gives me a real sense of accomplishment, despite the fact that some months I can’t write as often, or as many days, as I’d like. 
  3. Early drafts of my current WIP. I learned the hard way when doing revisions that the favorite lines I never think I’ll reuse, I invariably will. If I’ve boxed the draft and buried it in a dark corner of the attic, I’ll waste precious writing time unpacking it and exposing it to the light of day again. Now I keep my old drafts close at hand for easy access while working through those endless revisions. 
  4. Notes to myself. At the end of every writing period, I try to set myself up for success. I either construct a solid, working outline for the next chapter, or if I’m in the middle of a chapter, I leave myself notes about what state of mind my characters are in and what logical next move in the plot they will want to make. These notes are an invaluable memory tool when I return to the page after several days of being separated from the head space of my writing. 
  5. Willpower. I prefer to think of it as my shadow-self, my other writerly-half: the part of me that is doggedly committed to producing the one piece of writing that only I can create. I leave that person behind in my writing chair every time I leave Creative Space, and I join forces with them every time I sit back down to create again. A healthy dose of willpower is what it takes to see your word babies through the many stages of revision to completion. Let it saturate your creative territory and the Censor won’t have an inch of wiggle room to invade.

It’s been a pleasure giving you a micro-peek into the macrocosm that is my Creative Space, my world within worlds. I hope you have such a space set aside where you can seek refreshment and allow the words to flow freely.

Care to relate what keeps you grounded in your writing nook? Drop me a line! Let’s keep each other inspired.  

Hamnet front book cover

 

“God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” Never have the great playwright’s words rung so true as in this sweeping tale of 1580’s England, a country reeling from the ravages of the Black Death as one family in particular struggles to recover from an untimely loss.

Never once in this story does Maggie O’Farrell mention the name of the young Latin tutor who steals the heart of the farmer’s daughter, Agnes. She doesn’t need to, because immediately we see Agnes is the touchstone of her young husband’s future. Despite her eccentricities as an herbalist skilled in healing, her deep connection with the earth, and her seer-type visions, she is the grounding force behind her young husband’s meteoric rise to fame on the London stage. 

When their youngest son succumbs to a sudden fever, the family is thrown into a turmoil of grief. Through courageous transcendence of this grief, a dramatic masterpiece is born. Though little is known about Hamnet, the youngest of Shakespeare’s sons, his name lives on in one of the most celebrated plays of all time.

What Maggie O’Farrell offers in this story is a rendering of a time not so dissimilar from our own: a world fraught by illness and the threat of loss. Her imaginative portrayal of the personal struggle behind the life and work of one of the most famous playwrights in history is so illuminating as to become a source of inspiration itself. 

Give this book a read. I promise you, the ending is worth the journey. I still have the goosebumps to prove it.

It's not who you are that's holding you back, it's who you think you're not.

Ever sat down at your computer, opened a blank page, and had the thought cross your mind that you have no right to be there? To set words to paper, much less suppose that anything you can imagine will be of any value or enjoyment to anyone else? 

Welcome to the club.

For a certain percentage of writers (if not all of us at least once in our lives, let’s be honest!), we’ve struggled with Impostor Syndrome when it comes to our writing. I’m here to remind you that you’re not alone, and hopefully shed light on some possible solutions, or ways of coping with one of the most nagging messages the Internal Critic plies us with:

You’re a fraud. You’re not a real writer. 

Where does this thought come from? That’s one of the first questions I asked myself when I sat down to write this post today. When have I ever given my brain permission to treat me like a second-class citizen when it comes to my work?

While articles point to personality traits (perfectionism, hello, that’s you) and family background as potential origins of Impostor Syndrome, when it comes to creativity, my theory is a bit different. Think back to the last time you spoke with someone about your writing. Invariably, at some point in the conversation, you were stopped and confronted with the question, “So when are you getting published?” A natural response, but it sets up an expectation in our minds that leads to faulty reasoning deep inside our psyche: to be successful as a writer, or any kind of artist for that matter, our work has to be commercially available on the market. 

Marketability is considered the sum total of artistic achievement in our society. The question may as well be “Isn’t your writing (i.e., art) making any money yet?” 

I don’t know about you, but if I sit down to write with marketability as the first thing on my mind, my fingers freeze on the keys. Maybe some writers can work this way, and that’s great if they can, but my poet’s heart is kindled by a spark. Usually a very tiny one. Often it’s a situation that comes to mind, or a unique setting. A character with an interesting ability or a special kind of magic. A single, powerful image. 

That’s what inspires me to explore the blank page. 

If I sit down to write expecting that what will flow through my imagination to the keys is going to be the next greatest smash hit on the bestseller lists, I’ll clam up tighter than an oyster in its shell. But if I pay attention to the spark that kindled my creative curiosity from the outset, working to develop the concept into a full-blown story with a plot, a meaningful theme, and colorful characters on a life-changing quest of discovery, then I can write. 

I think Impostor Syndrome strikes when we are trying too hard to squeeze our writing into a successful mold, one we believe will be the ticket to seeing our words in print. I’m not talking about genre conventions, or writing to capture an audience with specific preconceptions about what they like to read. Those steps come later in the developmental process. What I am talking about is allowing the notion that we are unworthy to write to keep us from approaching the page in the first place. Not everything we write needs an audience, at least not right away.

If Impostor Syndrome is something you face routinely, or even if you’ve had the feeling you want to write, but think no one would want to read what you write, here are some tips:

  1. Question the Internal Critic. Every time a negative thought about your writing pops up, ask yourself if there’s any basis of truth to the statement. What have you been told about your writing in the past, and what steps have you taken to improve your craft? Are there external factors that might be contributing? Is this thought helpful or is it damaging self-talk? 
  2. Reshape your thinking. When given fair criticism of your writing, be open to alternate interpretations. Although criticism can be viewed as an attack, it’s much healthier to adopt an open mind as to how other readers perceive your work and will only serve to enrich your future writing.
  3. Keep track of your successes. Rejection comes with the territory and if we’re not careful, it can bury us. Remind yourself of the times your writing resonated with a reader, or your editor congratulated you on a job well done. Keep these memories in your writing space and review them often.
  4. Talk with your writing buddies. If you don’t have a community of writers you can share your struggles with, find one. Local writing groups, online critique sites, and writer’s conferences are all good places to start building those relationships. When you have a bad writing day (or week), these are the people you can turn to for sympathy and support.
  5. Be kind to yourself. Extending the same level of compassion to yourself as you would to another writer is vital. A good litmus test when I’m down on my writing is to ask myself, “Would I talk this way to another writer about their work?” If the answer is no, it’s time to ease up on the self-reproach. Self-care is essential to approaching the page without anxiety. For me, that means lots of yoga, time spent outdoors or in self-reflection, and journaling out my feelings. 

Impostor Syndrome is real and its effects can be devastating if we allow it to drive a wedge between us and bringing our ideas to life on the page. Thankfully, it can be overcome with lots of hard work, steady vigilance, and a supportive community of writers who understand and can sympathize. 

Do you struggle with feeling like a fraud? Have you ever allowed criticism of your writing, whether your own or someone else’s, to keep you from writing? If so, drop me a line and let’s chat. I’d love to help work through our creative struggles together!

 

Labyrinth of the Spirits cover art

 

The Labyrinth of the Spirits is, quite frankly, the best book I have read all year. My advice is to cook a weeks’ worth of meals ahead of time, shut off your phone’s ringer, and get real familiar with your couch or the coziest seat in your reading nook. Once you pick up this fast-paced, heart-pounding thriller, you will be glued to the pages, I guarantee it. Although it’s the final installment in a four-part series involving the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, the stories are meant to be read in whatever order you wish to consume them.

Twenty years after the bombing of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War in 1938, Alicia Gris still bears the emotional and physical burdens of that tumultuous and violent time. Ready to forge a new life for herself after working as an investigator in the Madrid secret police for the last decade, she is given one final assignment: to solve the disappearance of Spain’s Minister of Culture, Mauricio Valls.

Together with her police partner, Vargas, the two set out on a dangerous mission that will ultimately expose a series of grisly murders and kidnappings linked directly to Franco’s regime in post-war Barcelona. The closer they come to finding Valls, the more treacherous the threats become, leading them through the dark labyrinth of Barcelona’s streets and into an even darker period of corruption in its history.

Alicia is gritty and sassy, not to mention beautiful and dangerous. She refuses to trade the truth for a lie and it is my firm belief that she will win your heart by the end of this novel, as she did mine.

Whether or not you choose to read the other three books in the series is up to you. This is one I would refuse to pass up. If you decide to read it, drop me a line. I’d love to fangirl over Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n with you. He is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest authors of magical realism of our time.

Pen Ball Point Paper Crumpled  - steve_a_johnson / Pixabay

 

The dreaded blank page. A cursor blinking in time to the beat of your heart, every stroke a missed opportunity to lay down another word, to piece together the story in your mind and bring it to life on paper.

We joke about “writer’s block,” or worse yet, live in fear and trembling of when it might strike us as writers. Can the well of inspiration run dry? Is it possible to run out of ideas, or at least what we consider the good ones? Is it a disease, something requiring treatment or long periods of self-evaluation and inner reflection?

Although numerous studies have been conducted to elucidate the causes and potential remedies for writer’s block, I won’t enumerate those here. Instead, I’ll offer my honest opinion about creative blockage from personal experience. 

Writer’s block exists to the extent that I allow it to control my decision whether or not to write that day. I don’t mean to sound simplistic, but it is as simple as the decision to say “yes” or “no.” I can always write something, whether it’s a journal entry about how I’m feeling or a few scribbled notes about a story idea or plot element I’m working on. 

The important thing is that I say “yes” to my writing, every day.

I don’t mean to imply that the “yes” is easy. Sometimes it is, often it isn’t. 

For me, the “blocked” feeling hits as soon as I start to either a.) worry excessively about following the perceived “rules” of writing or b.) worry about what others will think of what I’ve written. In other words, the more self-conscious I become about the work I’m doing, the more likely I am to freeze in fear of not measuring up. I lose the joy of what captivated me about the idea in the first place, and I get hung up on the externals. My internal love for the story falters, and I slip. 

This might sound like a jump, but bear with me. Learning about different brainwave states felt revelatory for me shortly after incorporating yoga and meditation into my life and writing routine. In short: 

Beta state is where our brains spend most of our waking hours. It’s where we feel most strongly engaged in mental activities and is great for productivity, concentration, increased logic, and critical thinking. However, spending excessive amounts of time in a beta state results in overwhelm, stress, anxiety, and burnout. 

In Alpha state, we are relaxed both physically and mentally. Our hemispheres are synchronized and the brain is fully active. This is the state induced by activities like yoga or meditation, artistic creation, or simply taking a break to go on walk. Here we experience expanded mental clarity and the link between our conscious and subconscious mind exists at its strongest.

I might argue that a feeling of flow comes from being in a deeper Theta state, in which body awareness vanishes and we feel heightened intuition, inspiration, as well as deep-seated peace, contentment, and even bliss.

My point is this: writer’s block exists in Beta state. Trick your brain into Alpha state and you’ve won the battle. Release your subconscious mind from the storm of anxiety that Beta state produces, and it will connect you to the heart of fascination with your story once again.

Here are some practical ways to do this: 

  1. Cultivate a regular habit of ingesting the things that inspire you. When I start to feel dry, I turn to the books, poems, music, or artwork that first inspired the idea of the piece I’m working on. Many times when I encounter difficulties with a story, it’s because I moved quite far away from my initial “mind’s eye” conception of the piece. Returning to what inspired me in the first place can be all the refresher I need to get the writing back on the rails, so to speak.
  2. Try your hand at a new form of writing. Don’t let apathy for your writing set in! If you are starting to feel bored or overwhelmed with your current WIP, turn to a new form of writing, such as poetry, short stories, or flash fiction. A change of pace might be all you need to reignite your motivation for your long-form projects, i.e., novels. 
  3. Don’t take your moods too seriously. I’m serious about this one. *laughs* The wonderful thing about achieving Alpha state is that my mood seems to disappear once I’m there. I may approach the blank page cranky, self-conscious, or even despairing over my writing, but once I immerse in my created world, I’ve forgotten whatever mood I started out in. Every thought and emotion is for the story from there on out.
  4. Be open to wild, new ideas. First drafts are all about exploration, so don’t be afraid to let your imagination loose in this phase of writing. Editing comes later. Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, that first draft is for getting your idea down on paper. Don’t lose sight of what initially attracted you to the idea and just write. 
  5. Build a trusted community of readers and critiquers. They will be your cheering squad from the sidelines when you need it! These are the folks you can trust with your work in its early stages. Likely, they will be other readers, writers, or professionals – people who can show you what both the strengths and weaknesses of your work are, and help connect you to the deeper truths you are trying to impart.

“Writer’s block” doesn’t have to be a real thing, not for those of us with stories to tell and words to put to paper. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them. Drop me a line. Let’s see if we can inspire each other in our writing journey!