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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Guest Author: Athena WiseNRich

Today’s guest author is a dear friend of mine who crossed my path when we shared a common “day job” a few years ago. She’s here to talk to us about how we let ourself get in the way of ourself.

Without further ado…Ms. Athena WiseNRich…

Are you a rigid thinker? Do many of your responses start with, “No…”? Do you hear yourself begin a sentence with, “I/we can’t…” or “I/we don’t…”? Does your mind skitter away from thoughts of change? Are you certain there’s nothing better for you than what you’ve got right now? Ah…it’s possible you may be a rigid thinker.

How can I possibly say that? Let me introduce myself: Athena WiseNrich, recovering Rigid Thinker.

For many years I heard the voices of others, real and imagined, in my head; “No…,” “You can’t…,” “You don’t…” Then those voices became MY voice: “No…,” “I can’t…,” “I don’t…,” and I was a believer. No matter what anyone said, did, wrote, or sung to me, I wouldn’t/couldn’t change my thinking and everything — EVERYTHING — I saw supported that negative thinking. I remember idly following a thought that started with, “What if…,” chugged past “I can’t even…,” and arrived at the junction of, “What’s the point?” and “It just doesn’t matter.” My rigid thinking had become rigor mortis. I was alive, yet dead.

I could have continued to exist at that crossroads; I know many people who have taken up residence there. I remember living in a house with a crooked staircase and asking someone to come up with a plan to fix it; their response was rigid: “No. You’ll get used to it.” I’ve spun in the family circle of folks who believe they have no power in their lives and I’ve watched their dispositions sour by the year. I’ve seen friends, acquaintances and strangers stand in the middle of a stream and refuse to move, no matter how fast the current or how high the water, simply because they couldn’t see another/better option. What I couldn’t see is how I could live like that.

I decided I had to change. If I wanted to bounce out of bed in the morning with a smile on my face that remained there all day, I’d need to adjust the way I felt about my reality. I wanted freedom, fun, laughter, warmth and intimacy. I didn’t want bondage to someone or something and I certainly didn’t want anger, depression or suppression. Living with a crooked staircase was no longer an option.

How could I do that? For me, it started with an agreement with my inner being: do the work. Delve deep into murky corners and painful memories and hear — really hear — what I believed to be true. And identify the original voice of that belief. It’s not always easy to comply.

Human beings repress thoughts and memories for a reason; sometimes it’s survival, sometimes it’s fear. Sometimes it’s denial. Murky corners are scary things; what’s the point of shedding light on things said or done so many years ago? At first I thought I could gloss over memories, like brushing a coat of primer over a water-stained ceiling before painting it the color of my choice. I quickly recognized that, unfortunately, if I don’t fix the leak in the roof, the stain returns with the next rain — and it may be bigger.

Sigh.

Well then, second step: meditation and journaling, counseling and conversation with professionals. Through years of practice and open communication with others, I’ve learned who I really am, what I’m willing to stand for (inner strength vs. rigid thinking) and what I need to change. I learned (and this was VERY important) to make MYSELF happy. I learned I have no control over the happiness of anyone else; I can only control my own. I learned I can choose my beliefs, take responsibility for my actions, disassociate from the deeds of others and stand alone without rigidity. I learned to plan my own journey, avoiding swamps and pitfalls by recognizing the terrain. And I learned the difference between what is “My Sht” and what is “Not my Sht.”

Over the years, I’ve “loosened up.” I strive to accept humans for the divine and perfect beings we are. (Yes, I did say perfect. There’s only one of you, so how can you be less than perfect?) Every opinion someone expresses to me is feedback, not criticism or direction. I get to choose how I feel about it and whether I embrace or reject it.

What do I do now when I encounter rigid thinking? How do I react when someone takes a stand for “being right” and defends it with every breath they take? Eh. I let them. After all, their opinion is just “Not my Sh*t.”

Thanks, Athena!

Want to read more from Athena? You can pick up a copy of her books Sitara: Legend Of The Morning StarGuide to Affinitive Readings, Elemental Creativity, The Blade and the Broken Heart, and Zaftig Goddess Wisdom.

You can also follow her for more get out of your own way wisdom:

Google +  https://plus.google.com/100316852001941258575/posts

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AthenaWiseNrich

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/hp/?dnr=Srq42Wf5QH3yfkzvSYZl2Br5QHULwGisj8Pa

IMDb:  www.imdb.me/goddessofallshesurveys

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EYNK Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft

This is based on a Stephen King article I talked about in “Everything You Need to Know.

King states that to be a successful writer, you should “never look at a reference book while doing a first draft.” He basically says to put away any and all reference materials and just write. His point here is that stopping to look something up kills the writing process. It breaks your train of thought, pulls you out of the moment, and steals the momentum of your writing. He gave a very wordy rendition of the “writers write” principle.

Again, keeping in mind King’s article/interview was from the late 1980s, he didn’t really go into the distractions of the Internet and all the wonderful-word killers like Facebook, Twitter, and Pintrest. Earlier this month, I posted about how to tell if you are a “real” writer and I shared tips I used to keep me writing a little every day. One of the things I do is keep a copy of A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves (I talked about this book in Writing Prompts too) on my desk within arm’s reach. If I need a writing prompt to get me started, I pull that book out, flip to the current date and do the prompt. Going on the Internet to search for a writing prompt is a mind boggling waste of writing time. It is distracting and so much worse than looking at a reference book.

Even as I type this post, I don’t have anything open except this screen. However, my Kindle is lying beside me and I can hear my Facebook notification ping at random intervals. Knowing Facebook, it’s probably a game request, but either way I’m in no real hurry to check. Still, that little noise pulls me out of my head and out of my writing.

As you write, give yourself permission to insert place holders until your writing session is over. You can fill in the blanks then. For example, I was working on a first draft of a novel. Out of nowhere, I wrote in a couple grandparents I really hadn’t planned to include so I had no names ready for them. I think I talked about this before, but if I name characters on the fly, they end up starting with an A. Always. Instead of stopping my writing process completely to find a name that didn’t begin with an A, I typed NEEDNAMEF for the grandmother and NEEDNAMEM for the grandfather. Whenever I get around to naming them, I’ll do a search and replace to change these. In another piece I was working on, I needed names for four different villages so they became Village Wwww, Village Xxxx, Village Yyyy, and Village Zzzz. I try to use something that isn’t a typical word to make the find/replace process easier.

Memory Monday-The Big Dipper

Memory Monday-The Big Dipper

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

King’s Island in Cincinnati, OH opened for the season this past weekend and in honor of my love of roller coasters, I thought I’d share a little memory about our local theme park. We have a small amusement park called Camden Park here in West Virginia. Back in 1902, it started as a picnic spot where for railroaders. Later, upon acquiring a merry-go-round in 1903, it became an amusement park. It is still in operation today and will kick off their summer season soon.

The star attraction at the park since 1958: The Big Dipper. Here’s the details from Wikipedia:

Big Dipper – Camden Park’s most famous attraction, a traditional wooden roller coaster built by National Amusement Devices in 1958. The ride replaced an earlier roller coaster that had been built on the same site about 1912, and which was demolished in 1957. The Big Dipper features original Century Flyer cars with working headlights, and a classic figure-eight track design.[3] The ride’s name refers to a big dip measuring almost the full height of the roller coaster after the first turn. A second, shallower dip leads into an unlit tunnel, from which the cars emerge shortly before returning to the pavilion to let off passengers. The Big Dipper is one of only three National Amusement Devices roller coasters still in operation; one of the other two is Camden Park’s miniature roller coaster, the Lil’ Dipper. American Coaster Enthusiasts lists the Big Dipper as an “ACE Coaster Classic.”

As a child growing up in this area, a trip to Camden Park was the highlight of the summer. If we were really lucky, we would get to go a few times. Back then, parking was free and an all day hand stamp to ride rides was relatively inexpensive. Adults who didn’t ride any of the rides could get in for a few dollars and then just buy tickets if they wanted to ride one or two attractions.

Somewhere in the mid-80s, I went with a group of kids to Camden Park. This trip was either a class field trip, a Girl Scout event, or a 4-H event; I don’t remember which. However, before leaving, I remember my mom giving me a lengthy lecture about how dangerous the Big Dipper was and then she forbade to ride it under any circumstances. She swore the boards on the coaster supports hadn’t been replaced or repaired since she was a child. I stood in my living room and promised my mother I wouldn’t ride the Big Dipper.

Can you guess where this is going? If you guessed I was an obedient child who always did as she was told and had a wonderful day NOT riding the Big Dipper…you’d be flat out wrong. I’m pretty sure it was the first thing I rode as soon as I got through the gate. It’s a ROLLER COASTER! How could I not ride it?

I got home that evening and gave my mom the “full” report of how much fun I had and how I didn’t ride the Big Dipper like she said. Little did I know, the local newspaper was there taking pictures and doing a story on the event (which makes me think it had to be Girl Scouts or 4-H related as a school field trip wouldn’t have warranted media coverage). The next day, I walk in the kitchen and Mom is reading the newspaper.

“Marsha, are you sure you didn’t ride the Big Dipper yesterday?”

“Yep, I’m sure. I didn’t ride it.”

“What do you make of this?” She shoves the paper toward me and there I was on the front page of the Life section on the Big Dipper.

“I’m not sure.”

“You didn’t ride the Big Dipper?”

“Nope. I can’t help it that girl looks like me.” I looked my mother dead, straight in the eyes and LIED.

I don’t remember getting in trouble for riding the Big Dipper or lying; although, I should have been in trouble for both. The only reason I could think of that I didn’t get in trouble is because Grandpa always said: “If you’re gonna lie, stick to your story. Don’t change it. That’s how you get caught.”

EYNK-Remove every extraneous word

This is based on a Stephen King article I talked about in “Everything You Need to Know.”

King states that to be a successful writer, you must remove every extraneous word. Specifically, if “you want to write for money? Get to the point.”

There are several things King could be referring to with this statement. In the article, he gave an example of a piece he wrote for a newspaper where the editor removed the flowery language. To this point, your writing should match the style of the publication. Writing for a newspaper, magazine, your personal blog, and as a copywriter are all different. Some formats may allow for flowery language, but most do not. They are tailored to the reader and the reader want to get to the “what’s in it for me” point as quickly as possible.

For writing fiction, removing extraneous words might seem contradictory. After all, writers are always being told to “show” instead of “tell” and to show the reader something you have to describe it in detail for pages and pages so the reader has a perfect image of the item, place, person, etc.

Not exactly. There are ways to show the reader the image without spending pages describing a leaf. Some years ago, I read the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel. The first book, The Clan of the Cave Bear, was decent. A few descriptions were a little long, but Auel was setting the stage for a story set in the Ice Age and things were a tad bit different back then. Her attention to detail showed her devotion to her research and creating the proper setting for her story. The problem with the series is that books 2-6 are highly repetitive and overly descriptive. I finished the series because I like to finish a series once I start it, but I skimmed sections and it seem the skimmed sections increased with each passing book. For example, the last book was roughly 848 pages and I only probably read about 250-300 pages and skimmed the rest.

In a series, there will be references throughout the books to things or people from earlier books. That’s fine. The first time the thing, person, or place is introduced, give us the descriptors. When that thing, person, or place comes up in the next book, a brief description to remind readers what, who, where is sufficient. If the detail is important, include it. In a single novel, if your main character wearing a green striped shirt is important, leave it in the story. If that detail doesn’t define your main character or give the reader a clue to some future event, take it out.

Oh, and one more thing…watch out for the word “that.” Make sure “that” is actually needed every time you use it. I find most of the time [that] it isn’t needed.

Memory Monday-I’m a Murderer

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

Before I turned 16, Mom and Granny allowed to drive the truck and car on the dirt road of our “holler” and I did so every chance I got. One summer Saturday, the family loaded into the truck and went to the grocery store. When we got back home, we stopped at Aunt Connie’s and unloaded her groceries first. Then, as usual, I jumped in the driver’s seat to drive the truck across the creek to Granny’s house. Grandpa had passed away years before, but Granny kept his truck and the camper top that went on the back. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I would say I was around 13-14 years old.

Granny and Jimmy, one of the neighborhood boys, decided to leave the tailgate down to sit on it for the ride to Granny’s. I pulled out of Aunt Connie’s driveway with no issues. There was a tree branch sticking out over the road on the other side of the creek. It was right in the path where I would normally drive out of the creek. Not wanting to scratch the truck, I tried to avoid the stick and somehow ended up pressing down on the accelerator. The truck shot halfway up the bank in front of me. On the back tailgate, Granny and Jimmy half tumbled, half jumped off the truck, but not before one of them hit the camper hatch with their head and shattered the glass.

The truck stopped and there was of a lot of yelling. Somehow I got the impression Granny was dead and I had killed her. I ran. I ran the rest of the way home and to the barn to hide. I was sobbing hysterically thinking I had done the most horrible thing I could do. Mom tracked me down once they got the truck of the bank and to the house to unload the groceries.

“Marsha, come on to the house.”

“No. I killed Granny.”

“Granny’s fine. Come on.”

“No she isn’t, I killed her!” I remember being so mad at Mom for not believing me, not being mad at me, and for lying.

“I’m telling you, she is fine. So are Jimmy and the truck.”

“No! I killed her.”

Mom left me sitting there. According to my mom, she went back to the house and told my Granny I was being a “little fool” and I thought I killed her. Finally, Granny came to the barn to get me. I really couldn’t argue that I killed her with her standing there so I went to the house with her.

The next week, we went for groceries as normal. I didn’t try to get in the driver’s seat once Connie’s things were unloaded. Granny looked at me and said, “Well, get up there. The truck won’t drive itself. The ice cream is melting.” That was Granny, logical to a fault and a lover of ice cream.

I drove us home without incident from there on out. I’m thankful Granny and Mom didn’t let me quit driving after my little accident.

EYNK-Be Self-Critical

This is based on a Stephen King article I talked about in “Everything You Need to Know.”

King states that to be a successful writer, you must be self-critical. Specifically, “If you haven’t marked up your manuscript a lot, you did a lazy job. Only God gets things right the first time. Don’t be a slob.”

Being self-critical can be a double edge sword. If you aren’t self-critical about your work, you really are being a fool. First drafts are first drafts for a reason. They are supposed to be messy and you are supposed to rework and revise what you write. At least you should if you want to put your best foot forward.

If you can’t be self-critical about your own work, make sure you have friends and/or family that will read your stuff and be honest with you. The “be honest” part is critical. If your test reader loves everything you do, they probably aren’t being critical and that won’t help you. If you are lucky enough to find a friend or family member who will offer you solid critical feedback, listen to them and incorporate their suggestions.

There is a flip side to being self-critical. Sometimes writers, myself included, can be too self-critical. I’ve experienced times where I convince myself my work is horrible and not worth reading. I edit out the parts that are working along with the parts that aren’t until the entire file gets deleted. I have one “novel” I refuse to touch because it’s so bad. I like the premise of the story, but the execution was rough.

As hard as it might be, don’t let self-criticism entangle itself with self-doubt. This situation often leads to lost stories, less writing, and missed opportunities to share your work with others. Find other writers, whether virtually or locally, and form critique groups. This can help keep self-criticism and self-doubt separated and in check!

The Mermaid’s Sister

The Mermaid’s Sister

The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble

I’m not a fan of most Young Adult novels. Some of the recent super popular YA books have been mind numbing disasters, but this one caught my eye. It was one of four books offered as part of the Kindle First selections for February and I thought all four books sound interesting so I took my two free ones and pre-ordered the other two.

What do you get when you mix curses, charms, orphans, traveling snake oils salesmen/carnies, a dragon, and a mermaid? You get this book. Cute, easy to read.

Why I read this book: Again, it sounded interesting. It was fairly cheap (Kindle version). I just finished reading The Sparrow a few weeks ago which was a heavy-themed book so this seemed like a nice departure. Oh and mermaids. Who doesn’t love a good human/mermaid morph story?

What I liked: The characters are well developed and the cast of characters were relatively small. The animals in the story weren’t just animals, they were characters too with personalities and mannerism that really added to the mythology of the story. The plot had some predictable elements, but there were enough twists or misdirection if you will to keep it from being boring.

What I didn’t like: It is written in first person, present tense which took a little getting used to as I read. As a writer, kudos to Noble for doing it well, but as a reader, ugh. Keeping in mind it is a YA novel, my criticism of the story being simple seems unfair, but the story was simple.

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