Tag Archives: the writer’s life

Does the Soul of Your Book Have Cravings?

Kashmir: Symphonic Led Zeppelin
Kashmir: Symphonic Led Zeppelin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In many ways, I’ve had an ideal writer’s life for the last few years.  For a while,  I was very frustrated with myself, because I felt like I was doing the novel-writing process in the wrong way, and that I was missing some right way to be creative.

For the last six months, I’ve taken a different approach to giving birth to my novel.  Rather than thinking of novel-writing as a project or task to be completed, I’ve begun to work with the soul of my book, and treat it as though it were a person rather than an inanimate object that will sit on a shelf or in the Amazon cloud.

One thing that has been helping me to move forward is to look even more closely at the parallels between creating a novel and giving birth to children.

My child-bearing experience was different from many women.   I stopped working as much as possible when I had both my kids and enjoyed the pregnancy.   I believed and still believe that women should treat themselves very kindly when they are pregnant.

On the whole I look back at my pregnancies as some of the most enjoyable times of my life, because I felt that I was doing sacred work.  My belief was that my children were special people being sent by God to live in the world and take part in the Great Turning of our world.  I still believe they are my greatest creations.

Yet, I also feel that the books that I’m writing could be contributions to changing the way we look at the world to support a Great Turning towards honoring life and the earth more than greed and materialism.  Creating the novels has actually felt more difficult for me than having children.  So, I’m starting to honor more and more what I did when I was pregnant.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed.

During both pregnancies, I had cravings for foods that I never liked before then.  The one I remember the most is pink grapefruit juice.  I couldn’t get enough of it while I was pregnant with both of my children, and hated grapefruit juice before that time.   I still like to drink it every so often, because it reminds me of that special time in my life.

Led Zeppelin, January 1975, Chicago
Led Zeppelin, January 1975, Chicago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My novel has different cravings.

While I’ve been writing my novel, I’ve had a strange desire to listen to Led Zeppelin music, which I didn’t like at any other time in my life although, though I had always loved the song Kashmir.  As I started writing more deeply, I started to get weirdly obsessed with listening to Kashmir, and then decided maybe I should listen to more Led Zeppelin and found I now like it.

It’s the strangest thing to me, but I feel like somehow Led Zeppelin music has a certain kind of soul to it that the soul of my book craves.  For someone who is fairly introverted and loves quiet, lyrical New Age and Classical music this attraction to Led Zeppelin music feels odd.

On top of that,  I started writing my own music and lyrics.  That has helped me to hear the book’s story.  I attribute these new connections with music to the soul of the book requiring me to be lyrical in a different way for it.

When I was pregnant with both of my boys, I had a certain way of living that I’m now embracing with novel-writing. While pregnant, I allowed myself to:

  • Trust that something bigger than myself was working through me.
  • Treat that time of giving birth as a holy gift and treasured it.
  • Enjoy the process of listening to what the soul of my book needs to grow and flourish.
  • Act upon what the soul of the new life in me needs.
  • Appreciate that giving birth takes a lot of energy so I deserve to be kind to myself.
  • Allow the new life to come forth when it is ready.
Past Childbirth Scene
Past Childbirth Scene (Photo credit: nep)

This is my way of giving birth to children and novels.  It’s not for everyone.  Other people who I knew worked very hard while they were pregnant and it was not a big deal to them.  They could multi-task.  For the most part, I could only do one thing.

Other women’s childbirth experience was very different from mine, but also good for them.  Just like there are other people who work full-time and write great books, there are many ways to be a writer.  Some people need quiet, some need to be writing around other people.

We all have to find the way to give birth that is best for us.  There is no one size fits all approach to writing.

Have you found your own path to honoring the cravings and soul of your writing?

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Rise to Meet the Day . . . Uriah Heep and the Writer’s Life

Yesterday, a new writer friend, Marta, suggested that I listen to Uriah Heep’s song Tales, as she felt the song might have something important to tell me about the novel I’m writing.  Tonight, as I listened to the song on YouTube and looked up the lyrics, I found the words applied to much more than my novel.  You may remember these words from Tales that I found particularly inspiring:

Thus we have learned to live
While mortal men stand waiting to die.
How can we do what must be done in
Just one short life.

And if you ask, then you must know. If you still doubt, you should be told.
It was not we that made it so.
It was by those who went before.

And there you sit, tomorrow’s child
So full of love, so full of life
But you must rise to meet the day
Lest you become another tale

Though these words were written some thirty, maybe forty years ago, I needed to hear them again today.

When I was driving home this afternoon from my son’s weekend basketball tournament, the miles and miles of winter brown Illinois farm country called forth many long forgotten memories.

From the time I was 12 through 18, I lived in a secluded little community, some twenty miles outside of a small town where I went to school in Geneseo, Illinois.  It was a slower time then.  I spent long days and nights wondering who I would become.  My friends and I fished in a small pond not far from my house.  I felt out of place in this world yet fascinated by it and of course there was the backdrop of the array of different types of music in the seventies.

As we drove homewards this afternoon, we passed through many towns that our high school football team played like Metamora and LaSalle-Peru.   The small towns and the fields look the same as I remember from the 7o’s.  I rarely drive through these places anymore. Here’s a picture of downtown Geneseo, which still looks much like I remember it.

It was in the 1970’s that I began to realize that I had some talent as a writer and a deep love of literature and philosophy.   My favorite heroes were writers. Life has a way of turning out differently than the dreams of our youth.  Certainly, my life path meandered down different roads than I would have ever imagined taking when I was my son’s age.  I was 13 in 1975, around the time I first heard Uriah Heep.

More than thirty years later, I  was having one of those existential days spent wondering about the futility of all my strivings, and pondering if maybe it’s time to leave hopes and dreams for writing tales to people much younger than me.   I was feeling the words from Macbeth that my high school English teacher had made us memorize:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

The idea that my life was “just another tale” was weighing heavily on me.

Then Tales came along with the tonic for this kind of existential angst:

A reminder that we must rise up to meet the day and do what must be done in this short life of ours.  We must learn to live knowing that our life is short and vulnerable.

So, for another day I must find a way to do what must be done  .  .  . I must keep writing and listening and responding to the messages that the world sends me . . .  and you?

How must you rise up to meet your destiny this day?

Re-write Inspired by John Cleese

I don’t always follow the writing exercises on other blogs, or I would never actually get anything done.  Yesterday, however, I ended up clicking through one focused on creativity by Erica V. and listening to John Cleese talk about his writing process.

First of all, I love Monty Python, so that alone prompted me to watch the video.  Then, as Cleese spoke, in very practical terms on how he used his unconscious to become more creative, I thought why not give his ideas a try.  I was particularly intrigued by his experience of rewriting a play that he had lost from memory, and finding the second version to be better.

When I think about it, I have also been employing this technique, to shut out my controlling critical conscious mind, though I have had many more revisions than Cleese.  I have been finding when a draft of my novel is finished and I begin writing the whole story completely over, the next version gets better.  I was trying to edit my last draft in bits and pieces because I wanted to be done with the story.  This morning though I decided to trust my unconscious and rewrite the whole novel AGAIN.  Moreover, I decided to return to the original inspiration that I had for the book, which was a dream that I had a long time ago. 

Back in 1997, I had asked God/the universe for a dream to help me write a romantic fairly tale riffing off of a Snow White and Rose Red story, that was to be set in modern Chicago.  Instead of getting a dream about modern Chicago, I had an incredibly vivid and powerful dream that was set in medieval France that was actually quite violent and frightening in many ways.  Ever since I had the dream, I had been trying to change the story to be more reflective of modern Chicago, and be a gentler, kinder story, but it’s never really worked.

Today, I decided that I have to trust my unconscious instincts more, and let a bigger swath of my mind clean up the novel for me.  I wrote about 3800 words of the novel in three hours today.  Only about 97,000 more words to go.  I’m going to put in three hours per day until it’s finished in whatever form the story wants to come out.  Then, I’m done with writing drafts of this novel.  If I’m not confident enough to show this final draft to an agent, I will move on to my next creative writing project and let this one go.  I just know it needs to be finished in one way or another this year.

How about you? Do any of you have techniques for writing with your unconscious that have helped you refine and complete your projects?