Filtering by Tag: writing

Dark night of the soul: Creative challenge

I've had a really hard month. I worked like a dervish through May and June, looking forward to a bit of down time in July. I had great plans.

I was going to spend an indulgent amount of time with my horses. Chained to my deadlines during May and June, I could see myself spending every spare moment with them, taking long walks through secluded laneways, stopping so they could graze the choicest grass. The vision was so real I could even feel the winter chill in my bones as I anticipated the coming joys. It was going to be the happiest of times.

And that wasn't all. I was also going to write 30,000 words of the forensic psychology novel, Top Dog, that I'm working on at the moment. I had it all worked out, and ambitious as that word count may sound, it wasn't unrealistic given the way I write - in fits and bursts of slow, agonizing progress (where every word is bled, painfully, out of my struggling brain) followed by an avalanche of words once my momentum reaches a certain, indefinable tipping point.

That wasn't how things turned out, of course. At the end of June, my beautiful big Thoroughbred, Mister Mo, died after a two day, desperate battle with colic. Gone were my dreams of rejuvenating in the shadow of his unwavering love and companionship. Gone was the dearest of friends.

Grief stricken and exhausted, when the much anticipated July break actually arrived, I found myself in no position to benefit from it. There was no happiness, no prolific writing, no energy of any sort to be found.

Drawing upon a lifetime of stoicism and fuelled by an ongoing overdose of chocolate (which I'm now going to have to work off), I've trudged along with my commitments anyway, writing a chapter or two here and there, creating some new images, and I even fabricated a sterling silver ring that I rather like. But there's been no joy, no pleasure, not even the remotest hint of inspiration through this bleak winter.

Determined to re-ignite some semblance of enthusiasm for life, I've embarked on a 30 day challenge: Do something creative every day. No rules. Just whatever inspires me on the day. No project too big or too small. No restriction on mediums.

I'm going to blog my results daily, and the question is this: Will this creative challenge - which combines discipline with mindfulness and creativity - lift my spirits and re-ignite my passion for the creative pursuits that normally occupy all my spare moments? Theoretically, it should. The brain is a network of neural links, and stimulation in one part of the network should have a flow-on stimulatory effect in other parts of the network.

You can follow my challenge here or by liking my Facebook writer's page, but if you think this is a good idea, why not join me?

With you in spirit.

With you in spirit.

Making 'em suffer: The downside of empathy

Empathy is an interesting word. In common parlance, it describes the ability to understand what it would be like to be in someone else's position - to imagine yourself in someone else's shoes. Its meaning is more complex in psychological circles, where it's considered a personality trait that you can have more or less of, but the gist is still the same: awareness and understanding of the feelings of another person.

This sounds like a great - even necessary - trait for a writer to have, doesn't it? If you're going to wrest a tear from a reader's eye when your heroine loses the love of her life, then you'll need to be able to understand how she feels so you can convey the full extent of her desolation to your readers.

While there have doubtless been many successful narcissistic writers (and narcissists are defined by a lack of empathy), these writers are far more likely to have been renowned for their dashing prose - oh my, what a turn of phrase! - than for their perspective taking abilities. Narcissists can really only see the world from their own point of view, and they live to impress, not understand. Other people are of interest only insofar as they impact on the narcissist.

So empathy, for a writer, is an excellent thing to have. Yet, like most good things, it has a downside. It's not always helpful, for instance, when it comes to making characters suffer - and suffer they absolutely must. There's a saying in writing circles that 'if your characters are having a good time, your reader is not'. I've no idea who initially penned it, but it's true. Page turners are built on the back of conflict. When your hero or heroine is in trouble, you just have to keep reading until you know how things turn out. Good writers keep us trapped in this state until they're good and ready to release us.

Which leads me to my problem.

I'm redrafting Soundscape (my first novel) at the moment, having just received some valuable feedback from Jo-Anne and Richard. What do I need to do? Make my heroine suffer more. Make my hero less nice. Inflict more pain. Create trouble. Start arguments.

It's a tough gig for an empath, and it isn't as if I'd shirked my responsibilities in the first place. My characters already had their struggles to overcome and I was already feeling bad for it - inflicting suffering doeesn't come naturally. But what can you do? There's nothing else for it. It has to be done. I'm going to have to man up and make their lives even more difficult than they already are.

My one consolation is that it's fiction.

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