GETTING THE SATISFYING DEATH-BED MOMENT

WANTED: NOVELIST

ARE YOU NAIVELY HOPEFUL? WILLING TO EMBARRASS YOURSELF? FREE TO PLAY THE FOOL?

This could be a job ad for a first-time novelist (or whatever it is you want to be). Does it sound depressing? It shouldn’t.

It should sound liberating. Let’s break it down together.

Naïve Hopefulness

It’s easy to lose hope when reading about the odds of publication. One minute you love your novel, the next minute you’re ashamed for being so dumbly naïve to have bothered writing it.

The plain truth is that we can’t know the future. We like to think we can manipulate Life if we are goal-oriented and ‘willing to do what it takes.’ We pretend it’s possible to master the universe in this way, but the reality is Life proves time and again we’re not in control.

This truth blares when that coveted agent rejects your query or your novel doesn’t sell as anyone hoped. This, despite your passion and doing what it took.

It doesn’t seem fair. Thus, you conclude that it’s naïve (read: stupid) to have hope.

Forget control. It’s a crock. Revel in the fact that you are ultimately unable to control outcomes of the future, such as successful publication. Hooray! Logic then dictates you may relax at last. Meanwhile, contemplate how many times Life has surprised you. It’s truly a mark of wisdom to recognize that anything can happen. That’s why it’s super smart to be hopeful even though you’re naïve. Besides, anyone can see it’s proof of your goodwill toward the world to press ahead and try to provide someone with a good read.

So how about that? To be naïve and hopeful makes you a good person. Indulge, therefore, in your writing without doubt or shame AND with the wisdom that Life does what it wants with ease—after you’ve done your part, of course.

Also, you must be…

Willing to Embarrass Yourself

Come on, now. The willingness to embarrass yourself is an excellent approach for any endeavor in life, not just writing a novel. Otherwise you get to the end of your life with regrets. Please, PLEASE get this instruction through your head: Choose risk over regret. It’s the only way to get that satisfying death-bed moment.

Listen. It is entirely probable that if your novel is published and a number of people read it, at least one somebody will think it’s god-awful. This critic may, in fact, write a review on Amazon which seems designed to shut you up forever, if not shame you into an apology for making them read it. You’ll wonder what you ever did to this stranger who clearly hates your guts and knows about your bad hair day. But it gets worse. It will come to mind that your family, friends, and enemies are going to read this tart review.

This will be embarrassing, okay?

And there’s the key word: OKAY.

Be okay with embarrassment.

It’s a simple requirement. Simple! Just remember this phrase: Straw into Gold. When you do receive criticism or flat-out rejection for the story you’ve slaved over and fallen in love with, remember that you’re a grown-up and can take it. In fact, you are free to do so. You are free to ignore criticism you deem irrelevant, free to learn from insightful criticism and improve your storytelling skill, and you are especially free to remember the positive comments just as much as the negative ones. Got it?

Moving on…

Free to Play the Fool

Let’s consider the big picture here.

You are free to follow your dream to write. Period. This is true even if you have a day job for paying the mortgage, did you know that? You are free to play with characters and plot, not caring about success as the world usually defines it. You can do your thing as you see fit. After all, this is America, damn it!

Here’s the problem:

Everyone wants to be as happy as a fool but without being a fool.

Read that again.

This avoidance of fooldom is nonsense and even kind of boring. I suggest this: if you truly love writing as you say, if you truly get lost in words and the crafting of a story, then consider yourself tasked by Life with being a fool and get about the business of writing that novel, NO MATTER WHAT. The alternative, just so you know, is seeking approval by playing whatever respectful role you believe family or friends expect of you.

Which is it? Play the fool and have fun, or play the role and develop indigestion?

Fools are really, really genuine people. They are open-hearted, open-minded, and ridiculously happy. Think about it.

This is a high calling, to be foolish. New, outrageous, and delightful creations have come from those willing to honor their unique interests and obsessions. Fooldom is the space of invention.

Go on now, invent your story. Do it with abandon, for the sheer love of it. Do it uniquely. Weirdly.

Like a fool.

 

WHEN YOU LOVE WRITING BUT IT’S HARD

If you want to write and be happy doing it, here’s what you must do:

Find a reason to write. A real reason. THE reason.

It’s not enough to have a purpose such as paying the rent, or a magical knowing that you were meant to be a writer, or to be graced with talent, or to have this really great idea for a story. Sorry, but that’s not going to do it. You won’t write. Instead you will distract yourself, complain, and lie (to yourself). Those around you will see plainly that though you proclaim your love of writing, you are more likely to be found reheating your chai tea, paging through a book of baby names because your protagonist’s name doesn’t feel right, cheating with disavowed social media, and possibly donning boots to pooper-scooper your back yard.

But, you insist, you love to write! Forgive your family and friends, but they may entertain skepticism. It’s okay. It’s not your fault you’re not writing. There’s something you didn’t realize. You need your soul on board, and it’s not.

Here’s the thing. Your soul doesn’t agree to write just because you believe that you have something you really want to say—a message to communicate. That is, however, a great beginning. What is so critical, and what will light up your soul such that it flat won’t matter if rejection emails are shredding your hopes and dreams, is CLARITY.

Clarity has to do with you, the real you, your deepest soul, your experience, your worldview. Once you truly, really and truly, KNOW what the most important thing for you to give the world is, you will write. You will write what your soul must communicate. What’s great is you’ll also find the sparkle in your life.

And Life does sparkle, or is meant to. Wake up your soul, people. This matters whether you’re a writer or not, by the way. After all, when you go digging in your soul for clarity on what you have to give to the world, who knows what you may find? You may discover a new path you want to take. And yes, new paths usually appear to lead to dark scary woods like in The Wizard of Oz, so you’re really going to need that light of clarity to show the way and bolster your courage. I’m assuming you have no man in a lion-suit to do it for you. Remember it’s okay to be curious and try out all kinds of different paths, just so long as you’re honoring your clarity. That’s a responsible life. A happy life.

But back to writing. Your soul may be here to communicate something like Quit taking life so seriously and laugh! when you write a novel about a woman’s birthing of twins during her boss’s dream wedding on a yacht. Or perhaps your deepest heart wants to trigger change in the world through a sci-fi story in which humanity undergoes an evolution of consciousness. I would read that, so please write it if you have it in you. Or your soul may be urging you to get on with the writing of: What’s with Weeding? Thoughts on Non-Violent and Inclusive Gardening.

None of these examples is more important than another; there is no way to judge literature as worthy or unworthy, much less as worth writing. Once you are clear, very clear, on what your soul wants to communicate, you will experience the energy to write and finally let go of insecurities about getting an agent, reader reviews, criticism from family, or success as measured by best-seller lists or the delightful increase of retirement investment accounts.

Of course you want readers—but not for the sake of success of yourself or your book. You desire readers for the joy of giving what your soul wants to give, whether that’s a thrill, a laugh, an epiphany, a good cry, an awareness, a challenge. If you’re writing from your soul, the writing is worthy. Period. Don’t live or die according to who your publisher is or how you’re rated on Amazon. We are interconnected, and your joy in writing, your fun in writing, your personal evolution through writing—benefits us all in unseen ways.

So if you feel frustrated or disappointed or overwhelmed or bored with writing—get clear.
I’ve got some homework to help with this. Whether or not you’re a writer, type or scrawl what comes to your mind when you ask yourself these questions:

How can I best love myself? How can I best love my family?
What do I need to know or have? What do the ones I love most need to know or have? What does the world need to know or have?
What will help make the world a happier place?
What is unique about me that the world could use?
How do I need to change? What change would benefit the world?

Take your time with the questions. Allow yourself space for some deep thoughts which may be serious or not. Most of all, be honest with yourself.

To thine own self be true, Shakespeare wrote. That’s all you ever have to do. This was his famed advice, and he was a pretty good writer.

ARRIVAL MOVIE MIND OPENING

Saw Arrival at the movies yesterday. If you liked Interstellar or Inception, this is a good one for you to go see. It’s mind-bending, so that you walk out of the theater really thinking. I love transformational storytelling, especially when it triggers you to contemplate what sort of evolution of the mind may be possible. Though we tend to think of humanity as being at the pinnacle of evolution, I personally hope for much more. The makers of this movie are my kind of tribe, definitely.

PURPLETON VILLAGE BEGINS

My next novel is a supernatural murder mystery called Purpleton Village. It features an apparition, a mountain retreat for writers, and a psychiatrist whose wife is accused of being a witch. I’ve worked as a counselor and have an interest in psychology, so mental illness will feature prominently in this novel. The story will also be about a sort of evolution in consciousness…waiting to see what all I come up with to give the story meaning.

Just finished an outline of scenes for the novel and have begun writing the story. I’d like to drown myself in the Village all day and into the night, but my day job prevents this…still, the storytelling of Purpleton Village has begun!

DEAN KOONTZ ON VISIONARY FICTION

Read a really interesting interview at visionaryfictionalliance.com with best-selling author Dean Koontz about visionary fiction, which I call transformational fiction. Here’s a quote:

“If visionary fiction is indeed a school of writing, and if it isn’t torn apart by conflicting political forces within it (there are always conflicting political forces), then I think it has every chance of gaining attention as a legitimate and major form. To have force, it needs to avoid elevating emotion over reason, as New Age did; it needs not to lose its way in the nanotech evangelism of futurists like Ray Kurzweil; and it needs to avoid forming around people with the announced intention of aggressively transforming the world, because therein lies the danger of messianic delusion.”

Well expressed, Mr. Koontz.

TRANSFORMATIONAL FICTION

WHAT IS TRANSFORMATIONAL FICTION?

Fiction is usually described in writer workshops as being either plot or character-driven, though the most memorable stories give attention to both by having plot twists as well as at least one character who has changed in a dramatic way by the end of the story.

Transformational storytelling adds a distinct THIRD element.

In addition to plot twists and character evolution, transformational fiction is meant to tell a story in which the reader is offered the opportunity to gain self-knowledge or some other truth that shifts how life is lived. Basically, this type of fiction is meant to shake the reader AWAKE.

I write about spirituality; I love the timeless question “Who are we?” and peering deeply into the commonalities of religions. My friend Jan Krause Greene, author of I Call Myself Earth Girl, writes fiction about saving the environment of Earth (using an intriguing plot line with a protagonist who becomes mysteriously pregnant). Whatever the actual story line of transformational fiction, it’s meant to be meaningful TO THE READER and not just the fictional characters.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the amazing mythologist Joseph Campbell:

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

Transformational fiction is meant to help with this.

~Cricket

NIGHT SKY

“Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.” ~ Paul Hawkens

How sadly true is this? I’m always saying to my husband at odd moments: “Wow. We live on a spinning planet in a GALAXY!” The very thought of it throws me into awe and silences my mind. This is usually a wonderful relief. ~Cricket

INSPIRATION IS NATURAL

“There is no rush. Life is not in a hurry. Be like the seasons. Winter is not trying to become summer. Spring does not rush towards autumn. The grass grows at its own pace.” ~ Jeff Foster

I’m so unbelievably relaxed. I left my day job a couple of weeks ago, and now I am free to work all I want to on my current novel about the esoteric college. I’m in no hurry, and so the ideas are flowing and the fictional world is building. I’d describe my experience with writing right now as NATURALLY INSPIRED. I feel alive.

~Cricket

A PHILOSOPHICAL HOGWARTS

I miss Hogwarts.

And so I’m having fun creating my own spiritual, philosophical, and haunted version of Hogwarts for my next novel. Mine is a college filled with students who all have a mental health diagnosis and who only study philosophy. It’s an evolving idea…I keep changing my mind about the ghostly element of this story…but it will reveal itself to me eventually.

Hoping to have a first draft completed before Christmas!

~Cricket