Psychic Hunches

I once had a client who I met at a book fair, where I had a table promoting my ghostwriting services. He came up to me and said, “Oh, I want to write a book—I need to talk to you.” I said, “Great—what do you want to write a book about?” And he said, “I don’t know.”

Now there was a challenge. He just felt that he had a book inside him somewhere, but he’d never written anything, or thought much about what he wanted in his book, until that moment. You meet a lot of “tire-kickers” at book fairs, but this guy was serious. He actually hired me to help him find out what his book was about. I charged him a low consulting fee to spend some hours talking about why he wanted to write a book, what his passions were, who he wanted to reach, and so on, and I recorded the conversation. And eventually a focus for the book did emerge, and he then hired me to ghostwrite it for him.

The book was about psychic hunches and how to follow them through.

Free the Creator

free-creatorNext year I’ll be teaching a new class on writing and visual art, titled “Freeing the Creator Within,” with my good friend and amazing mixed-media artist Gwen Delmore. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ll be covering in this 4-week class. If you’re interested, let us know and we’ll let you know when and where the class will be offered.

Through a variety of exercises and techniques, this class helps participants access, explore and share beliefs beneath beliefs. They learn to by-pass internal editors and critics and find the poetry and beauty within themselves.

Each of the four 2-hour classes consists of introductions to new techniques, many choices of in-class writing and art exercises, voluntary sharing, and non-critical feedback. Participants will take home a notebook filled with vignettes, poetry, sketches, paintings, and collages created in class. All materials provided.

Class One: The seven non-rules of writing exploration: controlling the editor and trusting yourself. Play with printed images as you explore who you are.

Class Two: Original details and sensory specifics: it’s a daffodil, not a flower. Explore how concrete images can illustrate emotions and desires.

Class Three: Exploring absurdity and the forbidden: why be polite, politically correct or logical. Tear down your art and build it back up again.

Class Four: Mining & Springboarding: where do you get your ideas? Discover where your inspiration comes from.

Let us know what you think. Would you be interested in a class like this?

Worry

beautiful 35 year old woman stands in front of the windowAlthough it had been my dream since childhood, I did not become a full-time writer until I was middle-aged. It was a scary decision, and many co-workers, acquaintances, family, and friends thought I was completely bonkers to give up a well-paying job for a nebulous dream. Even after I proved that I could indeed support myself by writing, they thought I was nuts to continue with it. “I’d never do that,” said my former co-workers. “Are you sure you can keep jumping over all the hurdles, especially at your age?” said one of my helpful aunties. “Aren’t you worried about the future? What will happen when you get old?” asked one of my closest friends.

Ah, those hurdles. They are there, you know. But I found that the hardest hurdles to jump over were all in my own head. Worrying about whether I’d spend all my savings and end up on welfare, worrying about pleasing my clients, worrying that no one would hire me, worrying that I’d embarrass myself and my family by failing, worrying worrying worrying.

I’m not sure you can ever banish worry entirely. It seems to be part of who we are as humans. But I have learned to replace much of my worry with trust. On good days, and even on average days, I trust that the universe wants me to succeed. I trust that if I do my part, the universe will do its part.

But I confess that on bad days I might revert to worrying. There have been days when I’m sure the proverbial bag-lady is hanging out in my closet, waiting for me to fail so she can lend me her shopping cart. I start to think longingly about handy things like salaries, medical benefits, 401Ks, sick days, and vacations days—you know, all those “guarantees” that I used to have.

And then I remember that the word guarantee represents a total illusion. No amount of worry will guarantee success. Worry does not work. One of my favorite quotations about worry is by Peter McWilliams: “Worry is interest paid on a debt you may not owe.”

I also remember those people in my life who have supported me in this crazy dream. Especially my two grown daughters, who have been kind enough to tell me they have been inspired by my mid-life leap, and when they get to middle age, they will know how to do it right. It is comments like these, from people I love and respect, which remind me that we are all teachers for one another. We’re not here for ourselves.

BTW, none of my worries came true. What a waste of time worry is.

The above is an excerpt from my ebook Ghost Stories for Real Ghosts, which is part of my online course “Learn to Ghost.” If you’re interested in becoming a ghostwriter, check it out here.

Pokemon Go Home

27541305793_f19c00519a_zThe other day I went to my writers’ group meeting, as I do almost every week. Lots of good writers there, with good ideas, encouragement, and support for each other. Also laughter about the absurdities of our profession. I’m a big fan of writers’ groups, because as we all know, writing can be lonely at times. Isolating even. It’s good to be with people of like mind and similar issues.

On this particular day I came a little early and there were only four other members of the group sitting around the table. They were deep in discussion when I arrived. Serious involved expressions on their faces, interspersed with loud barks of laughter and snorts. Even some hand waving. I tried to catch a clue as to what they were so animated about, but for at least ten minutes I was totally at a loss.

“I’m tired of catching rabbits, I should trade.”
“Are you saving your evolving?”
“You should always wait for your eggs to hatch, you’ll get double.”
“OMG there’s a wheedle!”
“Wheedles suck!”
“Rat attacks …”

The light suddenly went on when one of them said, “Pokemon Go is the best exercise ever. I figure in a year’s time the world will be filled with thin geeks with muscular bodies.”

My writers’ group has been hijacked by Pokemon Go! Sigh. Perhaps this is an escape from today’s political trauma drama. I hope both go away soon. I need to get back to the real world inside my head.

Starving Artists

Starving ArtistsThis post originally appeared on The Blood Red Pencil in April of 2013. If you are a writer and have not read this blog, you are missing some good stuff. Here’s what I wrote:

I have a young grandson who I think is musically talented. In fact, I think he is gifted, although I suppose it is remotely possible that I am a tiny bit prejudiced. But what is my grandson doing in a blog post about writing?

He’s here because I want my grandson to live a happy and fulfilled life, and I fear that he will begin to hear those voices in his head shooting him the very same line of BS that I got when I first knew I wanted to be a writer. These voices are familiar to all American artists, whatever their art form.

Art is just a hobby, not a profession. You can’t make money at music, writing, acting, painting, etc. – unless you are really really lucky and become Beyonce or Dan Brown or Judy Chicago – you have about the same chance of becoming rich in the arts as you do of winning the lottery. Make sure you train for something else to fall back on, because you will need it. People who try to become artists are immature Peter Pan types who don’t want to grow up and face the real world. Most artists end up broke or mooching on their relatives. Artists are selfish types who are always looking to others to support them. Arts are an extra.

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

One of the things I find ironic and infuriating is that the same negative messages are true for athletics also, yet sports does not get this treatment nearly as often or as stridently as the arts do. Children are encouraged, even expected, to try their hand – and other body parts – at sports.

What if we encouraged budding artists the same way? Arts are the heart of any society; we need artists. What if we actually compensated artists for their contributions to society – and not just the tiny percentage who manage to rise to the top? What if painters and sculptors and poets and trombone players made as much money as corporate executives and engineers and doctors?

What would have happened if Mozart, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Van Gogh – or to take American examples, Yo Yo Ma, Ray Charles, Meryl Streep, Ansel Adams, Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison – what if they had given in to those negative messages and gave up their dreams? Our society would be unrecognizable if there were no artists. In fact, our society would be dead without them.

What if my grandson was encouraged to become a musician? Would that be so bad? Would he really be condemned to starving in a garret? What if we encouraged children to explore and develop their artistic side? Perhaps we would have a nation of art lovers, instead of money lovers and sports fanatics.

Perhaps that would be just as good, or maybe, just maybe, even better.

A Limber Mind

Eating Mythos Soup - trimmedHere’s a writing tip to use every time your writing feels staid, stale, and stuck. Write a paragraph and make every sentence start with the same simple phrase, usually an “I + Verb” phrase, written very fast with no pauses between sentences to think. Be careful with this one, because if you do this correctly your mind might show you things you didn’t want to acknowledge. I’ll be brave today and share one of my own exercises, using the phrase “I don’t want”. As you will see, it is pretty darn scary but handy to know. (BTW, this shows up in my book Eating Mythos Soup (amazon link). Sometimes your exercises might even get published.

I don’t want to cry, for my eyes redden and my nose runs, and I must avert my face from those who might regard me with pity. I don’t want to be alone at the end of my life, with no one to hold my hand when I die. I don’t want to sit at a table with a plastic tablecloth, eating dinner alone in front of the TV. I don’t want the deep holes of loneliness to appear like zit craters in my skin, into which I might free fall forever.

I don’t want to dream, for then the black petaled flowers of fear bloom in the night, and their noxious rotting perfume eddies in a swirling cloud about me. I don’t want to make mistakes, for the red sand ants imprisoned in my belly will sting me to humiliating acts of grovel and apology. I don’t want to be angry, for then the self-loathing that lurks like an orange cancerous clown in the hidden lobes of my brain will dance in the center ring to the crack of the ringmaster’s whip.

I don’t want knowledge, for then I might find out that God is just a joke and there is no meaning to whatever we are doing here. I don’t want to know that no one sees me as their one true love. ©Eating Mythos Soup, 2000

Haiku Friday: Undress

WritersToday my haiku is from May 29th of my new book A Haiku Book of Days for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Other Artists, one of a 7-book series. The haiku topic for today is “Undress”:

 

undress a body
follow the bones with your brush
showcase the beauty

 

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

 

You can purchase this book on Amazon here.

Haiku Friday: Silk

WritersToday my haiku is from May 22nd of my new book A Haiku Book of Days for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Other Artists, one of a 7-book series. The haiku topic for today is “Silk”:

over the shoulders
a long curved line to the feet
silk puddles on floor

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

You can purchase this book on Amazon here

Haiku Friday: Flap

WritersToday my haiku is from May 15th of my new book A Haiku Book of Days for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Other Artists, one of a 7-book series. The haiku topic for today is “Flap”:

flap your black swan wings
hoot like a young chimpanzee
dance a lively dance

 

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

 

You can purchase this book on Amazon here.

Listen to Yourself

Part of head woman with hand to ear listeningI wrote this blog post back in 2011 for The Blood Red Pencil, and am reposting it here because I think it contains a good tip, for ghostwriters and all writers.

Naturally, ghostwriters need to be good writers, but there is another skill that is equally important. We need to be good interviewers. Interviews are not only for gathering information; they also allow me to capture the unique voice of my client. I’ve written before about this facet of my job as a ghostwriter, but I think some tips that help ghostwriters can equally well help all writers, ghostly or not. Here is one such tip.

Interview yourself. Talk your thoughts instead of writing them. Tell a story, or muse and ponder, out loud – and record yourself doing so. Then play it back.

What metaphors and idioms do you use? Do you have an accent, or use words and phrases that betray your origins? What are you not saying, and why aren’t you saying it? Pay attention to the cadence of your speech, the rhythm of your words. Do you write true to your own voice?

Transcribe the recording verbatim, and then edit the transcription, removing the ums and ers and sidetracks, but preserving the rhythm and your voice. Who knows, maybe you will learn something new about yourself.

By the way, this also works for building fictional characters. Talk aloud as if you are your character. What are they trying to tell you? Are you listening?