Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Timing is Everything

Ever heard of the term "and then there are days?"  We've all had them, the day where nothing seems to go right and where nothing you planned quite works out the way you want it to.  No matter how much you take on, and how well you've planned it, there is always something that goes a bit off.

Publishing is like that as well.  I recently sat down with my editor to discuss some ways to make a book that I am co-writing with another person stronger and more useful.  Considering it's written for a niche market, there needs to be a something to it.  That day was planned out, except, that there were a couple of pylons in the way.  We had both forgotten our other commitments, one of which was family time.

Never the less, we worked on the chapters which needed to be done so that our readers can have a better experience.  That wasn't an easy thing to do.  We had a plan to get through two chapters and also make sure that our synopsis and outlines were followed within the book.

It seemed like a good plan, it seemed like we could do this, but I had a time limit and my editor tends to be very busy, and he has little time to deal with publishing options which came up.  We talked about self-publishing this book, and we talked about the merits of finding a literary agent.  We talked about what needed to be done to market this book, and we talked about formatting.  Unfortunately, all this talk meant again, we had little time for editing.

We needed to discuss these issues, but we needed to edit.  What happened was we lost our focus, we lost our direction.  I am a bit of a talker, so this leads to many conversations which often aren't needed at the particular moment in time.  Editing is not my strong suite, and I feel that I have trouble getting any reader's attention.  I will say I'm not a bad writer, but I have a lot of room for improvement.

What went wrong?  Nothing, except that everything went to "heck."  We did get some productive things done, but not as much as we could have.  The problem was simple in retrospect, we had piled up too many things in the time we were not meeting, and at the meeting we became focus on the bumps and not the here and now.

It's a sort of neurological thing, where you know you have to get something done, but the rest of the somethings you need to do as well with the people you interact with are still there.  Timing is everything when it comes to writing, and this is why it all went sideways.  Yes, things got done but not the things that were most needed.

Will it affect creativity? If we had not realized what was happening it most certainly would have affected me.  I am creative but I lack a grounding focus, which is why working as a team on both books and Living a Life of Writing is so vital to becoming more creative, and publishing more.

If timing is everything, planning is simple, I could focus on edits, and not worry- at that time- about other publishing matters.  My mind would have been at ease and I am sure so would my editors.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Creativity and the Stress of Success

Creativity is a lot like money for us writers: It doesn’t grow on trees... but we sure as heck wish it did! Some of this month we wanted to dedicate to the creative process and how to turn your creative ideas into something worthy of publishing. As we have said before, not every idea is a gem, but how we get better at hitting the mark is definitely a skill worth honing if you hope to be successful in your career as a writer (here of course only really referring to lucrative success... I’m sure you can feel successful just having any idea sometimes).

In my graduate studies I used to have frequent conversations with a friend of mine in our course on the neurobiology of learning and memory surrounding creativity and the neurological origin of those “creative sparks.” Our brains are amazing at acquiring new information by establishing new networks between our brain cells (otherwise known as neurons) based on a stimulating input. This information can be linked to other information, senses, experiences, or even past memories and can also be subsequently modified at a later date.  The interesting thing about creativity from a neurological perspective is that it is a synthesis of new connections often in response to very little input (if any at all). It is in some ways like your brain working in reverse of how it is used to working. Rather than receiving input and establishing related connections, creativity forges connections to generate an output. Now, this is my simplified musings on the concept of creativity, but I think when we think about it this way, we can understand why it isn’t always the easiest thing to be creative.

This idea helps to explain why certain mental and physiological states really prevent us from being able to be creative at times. A while ago on my other blog TheVoiceNotes, I wrote a post surrounding stress and the effects it has on our body. As writers and artists we are often under time crunches or under stress for a variety of other reasons (be it financial, personal, emotional, etc etc etc).  This stress creates an imbalance and distracting environment for our minds and bodies. In essence we are bombarding our brain with input as it tries to maintain a balanced physiological state. Now with all this input and brain activity, imagine trying to attempt to generate new and unique connections when these neurons are already overactive. Not an easy task.

In contrast, when we are inspired by other writing or music, it is almost like our brain activity is acting like a booster to facilitate new connections. In science we often call this sort of “booster effect” a priming effect. Just like in painting, you have to work harder and use more coats of paint if you want to paint over or correct a mistake you made. However, if you have a primer, it covers this for you and allows your new colour to be vibrant and undiluted by what came before.

This hopefully starts to get you thinking about creativity and how you can maybe best foster a positive environment for it when you are attempting to write. Creativity is such an important part of our lives and careers as writers and artists. We owe it to ourselves and our craft to make sure we prime it so it can reach its full potential!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The “Pylon” Effect

                It seems appropriate to talk about this particular challenge at the end of the month, with all the days of the month behind us but not REALLY. What I mean is that rather than just passing by, when I look back on the past month it seems like the days are more additive than finite sequence. It seems this principle applies itself to shorter daily or weekly snapshots of my life as well. Busy times just seem to get busier as the tasks “pile on”... so I call it the Pylon Effect.

                In some ways it’s a lot like if you had a bunch of marbles you were dropping into the top of a pylon. There’s more space at the bottom so they begin to pile up and weigh you down until they come to a point and overflow. Among the many metaphors I’ve used in my time on the blog, I’ll admit it’s one of the “looser” ones, but I like the play on words so bare with me.

                However you choose to label it, the Pylon Effect is a real situation for many artists. We seem to be the masochistic type that like to take on as much as we can (granted, sometimes it’s not a choice). You don’t always realize how much you’ve taken on until it climaxes in an overwhelming wash (sort of like the pylon: you can’t see how many marbles you have dropped in until that last one when it overflows). 

                The way I try and avoid letting this happen is by lifting up the pylon and letting all the marbles lay in a single layer on the floor in the form of a visual schedule. Something physical (not on a computer or my phone) that makes me feel I have some tangible control over the things I’m doing. Then when I complete a task I can physically remove it or at least track it. What strategies do you use? This time is never an easy one to navigate but we are a community of writers, and I think we have a valuable forum to help each other and share our strategies.

                These first few months have been excellent for starting to figure out who we are as writers and improve from the inside out. Now it’s time for us to get back to different writing styles and publication styles. Hopefully in the coming months we can have more input from our readers about experiences they have had. Our dream for this blog is to make it more of an interactive experience with our readers and get away from just offering one perspective. Feel free to send suggestions and experiences our way. You’re our audience and our inspiration... and you keep us loving what we do!

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