Going through the fog

Today I drove to work. I do that regularly, but this time there was quite a lot of fog around, and the early hour made it appear even heavier than it actually was.

I could not help but feel that going through the fog is a bit like writing. Especially when you write freely, without a real fleshed-out plan.

The area directly around you is visible. You have a reasonable idea what you have, what you can write about. It is what you see without straining your eyes. Further away there are shapes. Some you recognise, like trees, buildings, lamp-posts. The fog however eats up their exact shape, so they may have changed since you last saw them. Well, they probably haven’t. Although… did the house on the corner really look like that yesterday?

Going further away in the fog there are still shapes, shadows really. Things that probably belong there, but… what are they? What were they? What will they turn into? The mist shrouds their real nature, there is promise in these shapes, potential. And potential threat. Will they make life good, or are they there to ruin the story?

And then there is the material you can’t see. It is hidden behind the thick layers of low cloud and fog. You know it’s out there, waiting to be discovered, to be used, to appear and do whatever it can to and in your story. You can only find it when you “boldly go into the fog, where no author has gone before“, and seek out everything that is there, waiting for you. And yes, at times that can be a bit scary, when you go out on a limb into a realm you’ve never set foot before. There may be rock or solid ground, but you can also find yourself in quicksand.

This way, going through the fog is like writing for me. Exciting, and full of promises. Some of which aren’t kept. And some I never saw coming.

Featured quote

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.
-Winston Churchill

Banned book week in the USA

Some ink. A ream of paper. And a bunch of words. That is what makes a book. Lately, also electronics come into view for books.

Books can be threatening. They can be kept away from believers by the people who run religions. They can be kept away from the ordinary folk by the people who run governments.

From September 24th until October 1st it is Banned Books Week in the United States. (Read more here.)

It is all about books that scare the bejeebus out of people in powerful places. Books that open up what should remain covered, books that tell what should remain untold.

Does your country have a “banned books” list? If yes, how many are on that list? And is that list freely available, or is it kept under lock and key for the safety of freedom?

How well does your country or government deal with rebellious thoughts and extra-ordinary ideas and opinions that emerge from books?

Books. Are they something to be scared of?

The seventh book, and writing in general

Yes, there is a seventh Hilda book. For a long time it was under scrutiny of my inner editor, and I found someone friendly and helpful enough to proofread it and slap me over the head if there are wrong connections and other mistakes. And there were several! (Thank you, Carol! You’re hired for book 8 as well!)

It is amazing how much pleasure and satisfaction I find in writing. Most of the fun is in the Hilda books of course. She is an amazing character to write. At times I just collapse behind the keyboard for laughter, and when I regained myself I always hope that the readers of the story will find as much pleasure in there as I do. The short stories of Lily Marin are so different. Those are the very difficult ones to write for me. There is so much going inside and around her, so much stuff she is dealing with while she wants to fit in despite being afraid to fit in, her fear of her alter ego being found out.

Sometimes I read again some of the stories I wrote. The antics of Hilda make me grin, that never fails. Is it strange to read (and laugh) your own stories, I wonder? Do other authors do that as well? For me it is a way to see what I did wrong, to find places and ways that I can improve my writing, as well as seeing how it has changed already. For that reason for instance I reworked the first Hilda story and put that out on Smashwords and Amazon.

And the final word is on Hilda too: I have started to write book 8. It is progressing nicely.

 

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Featured quote

“Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.”
– Don Delillo, American novelist. 

Proven ways to increase your creativity

Someone I know posted this link to an excellent article on how to improve your creativity as a copywriter.

The post is not very long, and an interesting read as well.

Here is a sample of the text, to wet your appetite. Or not.

As copywriters we are constantly fuelled by our own creativity. It’s what separates us from people who can write but who can’t do it well. It’s what we’re paid for – to generate interesting and new ideas and then to apply and illustrate them. But the creative process is a strange thing. It is something that we grow to both love and hate. There is nothing more exciting and enjoyable than thinking up a new idea but there’s also nothing worse than being stuck with writers block.

After producing my first few hundred seo articles I realised very quickly that my ability to be creative was defining my success. In times of creative triumph I would be able to whisk out several engaging articles in the space of a few hours whereas in a creative lull it would take me a day to finish one piece. I decided that I wanted to know more about why I was being creative at  specific times and how I could tap into this state of mind whenever I wanted to. I ended up buying “59 seconds” by Professor Richard Wiseman which promised a whole chapter on enhancing creativity.

What made the book so attractive to me was the emphasis that it placed on evidence and research. I am naturally a very sceptical person and so I was only interested in advice that had been verified and confirmed. Professor Wiseman did not let me down. The book cites well over 100 different studies of research and offers practical advice that can be used to improve all aspects of day to day life. I was so impressed by the effect his creativity chapter had on the way I write that I decided I had to share what I had learned. Below is the best advice for improving creativity I have ever received.

 

Mood and the magic

In the beginning of August I went through a rather difficult, upsetting period.

No worries, gentle reader, I am not going to bare my soul here on that subject. Enough soul-baring is happening in my writing, I dare say.

What struck me very clearly though, in that period, was that I could not write. Not even the first days after the situation had been dealt with. Oh, I could sit down, start up my trusty copy of Writer’s Café and type words, but that was not writing. I tried it more than once, and I threw away more words in those days than I care to think of.

I was not lacking things to write, I usually have two or three stories underway and also some never-ending editing, but it did not work. Whatever I wrote, it fell in the category of blurb, mess, junk, no-goodness. Have you been there? Do you know the mountain of detritus that remain when you finally manage to escape from the mood?

This, gentle reader, has never happened to me before. Usually when I do not feel good, I tend to write my misery away. It may end up as dark fantasy, stuff that is so grim I don’t even want to put it out for others to read, but this time it was… nothing. Just words.

I once read somewhere that “a professional can deliver his best even when he is not feeling well”. I am sure that applies to another kind of professional. In my daytime job I can do that. In my writing, I discovered, it just does not work. There is obviously too much emotion involved in writing. When emotion is blocked, or takes too much energy to be dealt with, it is hard or even impossible to focus that on creativity.