Lessons from Writing Boot Camp

Following are the most important lessons from my Writing Boot Camp:

DESIGN VERSUS DISCOVERY

I am a writer who likes to discover. I jump and I leap right in to a text to see what happens… therefore, I have many texts! My challenge is to think design, basically plot for a story. What do I want to make happen? Figuring out plot points. Creating a plot along a narrative arc. Missing a plot is missing a sense of purpose.

THE NARRATIVE ARC

Beginning. Character in the midst of everyday life. Some kind of disruption, perhaps a person from the past. Sensual protagonist goes on a journey. Pass through gates, one crisis, another crisis. Climax is reached. Decision must be made. All seems lost. Protagonist will fail? Resolution, whether good or bad. Fulfillment. A new kind of Normal.

TYPES OF FICTION

Two large categories and one small: General Fiction and Genre Fiction and then Literary Fiction. General Fiction is that specific story, basically, I spin a story, my story, that specific story. Genre Fiction is a story held to a genre like sci-fi, romance, western, crime, mystery, historical and so on. Literary Fiction is what we all read: the classic stories that last.

MEMOIR

My relationship with something Specific. Not my whole life. One specific and unique experience that changed me. High degree of uniqueness. External and internal journey. My specific relationship to that dramatic experience. Based on truth. Written as fiction. Needs a plot.

PLAY

To write for the Body and not only for the eye of the reader. Think action. Think body language. Internal/external. Internal action are thoughts, expressed through narrative. External action is dialogue, expressed through characters directly. Narrative tells while dialogue shows.

ORGANIZATION

Having material for memoir, play, novel and short story I need to get organized. A file for each project, whether on my computer or in drawers. Because I like to see and feel what I have written I like hard copies and because I want my material accessible I have cubby holes for each project. Which project do I start?

THE CRAFT WORKS LATERALLY

I can work on characters for one project while working on a plot for another. My writing informs my projects. I cannot actively write the story out for more than one project at a time.

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WRITING BOOT CAMP

My Writing Boot Camp

Tomorrow morning I will start on a ten day writing boot camp. Hurray. I’m excited. Mostly about getting into a writing practice! 1000 words every day.

I worked on my novel for 5 months and hit a wall. A total wall. Where to go from there? And I dropped it. I tried to write from the outside. Not working. Seeing some story unfold. But where’s my heart in that? When I write from my own experiences my writing is better, more profound, more intense, more full of passion.

This is where I need to go. Through pain, through agony, through discipline, through practice and as the matter of fact, I’ve taking up running, because I signed up for a 10K which means !@#$%^&* I have to run to achieve my goal. Exactly how I need to approach my writing!

On my mark, get set, GO.

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What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Women are keeping their maiden name in larger numbers. For practical reasons more than feminist or political reasons. Yes! I have always asked the question WHY should I change my name because I marry? I never have understood that. What is the benefit? I know many women who marry, divorce, marry again and are confused about their last name.

Why would I not identify with my name like any male person? Why am I part of my husband that way? Yes. I know. The romance of creating a new family together, where everyone in that family share the same last name. The traditional nuclear family. Until it breaks up. Or not. But we are not separate bubbles like that. We belong to ancestry of many names: my four grandparents all had different names growing up and I know them all because I’m part of them all, but I go only by one name: my father’s last name. And yes, I have my father’s name instead of my husband’s name, so still, a male person’s name.

I like the Icelandic way: Elizabeth Petersdottir (because my father was Peter, so I’m Petersdaughter, and my brother would be Erik Petersson, son of Peter), then again, still from the father. I like the Spanish way, where you carry two last names: one from your mother and one from your father, at least that spells equality, and then your children will get one each of the two last names you and your husband have: a new combination. That is my favorite!

My husband’s last name is Madsen (son of Mads, even though he is not, but a some point that name was formed that way), and I never took his name. We talked about putting our last names together, but they don’t sound good like that. He kept his and I kept mine. Our three children all have Madsen. I know they’re mine, so what’s in a name?

Whatever name you are given at birth is the one you identify with – the European Royal families only have first names, which is another way to go – and some people buy into new names altogether. Does it matter? Not really. But changing your name 3-4 times during a lifetime? That is plain silly.

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The Energy we Create

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I wonder about the energy we create. Or the energy we exchange. Or the energy we are attracted to. For instance, I feel different levels of energy, depending on the people I’m with; or the spaces I’m in; or the goals I’m pursuing.

When a person is more energetic than I am, I become more energetic, but when a person is more mellow than I am, I become more mellow. The energy between another person and myself create the space we are in: I respond to highly task oriented people and together we fulfill a goal the best possible way; I also respond to a more laissez-faire attitude from another person and together we relax and enjoy the present moment.

However, I have found that I have a hard time being in the same energetic field for more than a limited time, as I have my own rhythmic energy. When by myself I allow my own intuitive way of producing and maintaining energy that provides for best results in the long run, at least, when it comes to the work I want to have done.

To keep going on a regular schedule, I alternate between running, writing, eating, biking, painting, walking, and socializing. If I were in a 9-5 job I would not have that option. My rhythmic energy yields to the energy of the working place. Or, my energy field spars with the energy fields of my co-workers, which creates a whole new field.

I was just with my sister and brother to move our mother into a Senior Living place. My sister wields her energy like a sword, while my brother is more low key. Because we had a limited time to create our mother’s new home the way she likes it, I did appreciate the high energy from my sister as my own energy accelerated accordingly. On the other hand, my brother’s softer energy works well with our mother on a regular basis, as he is the one physically closest to her.

The energy we create, from meditating together , to dancing together, to finishing projects together, keeps me thinking how we fit or do not fit together and how, when we do fit, optimal energy is created and fulfillment is reached.

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GRANDPARENT GRIEF

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I have six grandchildren between infant and up to 10 years old. I had just turned 50 before I became a grandma, or as I am being called, bedstemor, which is the Danish equivalent and which in fact means bestmom.

I love to visit with these beautiful new people or have them visit with me. Unfortunately, they do not live where I live and I have to travel Northwest or Midwest from California to see them. So it is. My children are more successful outside California, and I have become a Californian by default.

I know many grandparents follow their children to where they live – so did my parents, but I’m not ready to do that. I like my small town that I live in and have friends, from close to friendly, and would not want to lose any of them. This is my home.

But when I return from visiting with grandchildren I need a day to grieve. I’m not fully aware of this because I think I’m just frustrated with having to enter my daily life with what that entails and I lose track of meaning and purpose. I’m depressed. And I think it’s me or perhaps, my husband, while really, it’s grieving.

I’m the oldest of 5 siblings and babysat a lot growing up. Then I was a young mother of 22 and then a grandmother at 50. Children are a huge part of my life and they create meaning for me. Since my own 3 children left home I’ve been stoic in searching for new meaning. And because I’ve always been interested in art, whether theater, stories, and/or images, I knew where to find new meaning and purpose.

But really! I have great love for my grandchildren (and children). Just like my mother and I wonder, is this inherited? Or is it because I’ve always been connected to children? From big sister, to mother, to grandmother. Who knows. But I am painting both children and grandchildren and loving it!

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What is Your Path?

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I met a new person over coffee today. He is a writer and lives in town. We talked about how our paths have crossed and the concept of paths crossing. Paths cross in many ways, at many times, and in many places. Ours crossed because we are both writers, because we are both drawn magnetically to our town, and because we are open to the universe.

Both of us have lived in many places, have had different careers and gone through higher education; we are family people and rooted in our community. We have come to Calistoga, our town, because this is our path, to be here, at this time. Being here comes naturally and why that is, is intriguing.

We are conscious about how everything we have done and experienced is woven into a pattern that informs our path but eludes us momentarily as we cannot see nor imagine the finished pattern of our lives. The many detours and ups and downs we both have been through are an integral part of the overall pattern that leads us on our path.

This is hard for us to understand. Because we are taught to follow a linear path, a path that takes the direction of A to Z. So, when are we at M? Do we know? How can a linear direction be achieved? Nothing in nature is linear. But staying with a thread, as for example, living in Calistoga; or writing; or doing meditation; or painting; or meeting new people will – when woven together – reveal our path organically.

Perhaps, some people are merely inclined to doing many things, living many places, and wearing many hats, and for them (myself included) the idea of a path that is informed of our many meandering threads, is comforting and nourishing.

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Writing is so hard!

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I’ve been painting lately. And I love it. For me, it is not as hard as writing. But I like writing. And I want to write. But it seems like such an endless process. With a painting I’m done at some point. With a story, I can go back and revise and revise. I like to write blogs, because they are done when they are done. But right now, I’m writing on a novel and that is HARD!

I believe there is more thinking involved with writing or perhaps, your critic sits closer to your ear; for me, I always hear the critic. I do think about what to paint before I get started, but to lean in and let form, shape, color, take over is cool! How do I lean in to my writing? I would like to know.

To paint is solitary. To write is solitary. But I have found that I need writing partners more than I need painting partners. I know many artists and we get together socially and we meet at Art Fairs, at exhibits, at art fundraisers and so on, but I don’t meet socially with writers – with them I meet professionally. To help each other out. To critique each other. To read each other’s work.

As a writer you DO NEED a reader. Unmistakably. But as a painter you can manage without the viewer until you’re done. You follow what you like and paint it. Then it is up to the viewer whether (s)he likes it. In writing you are faced with more rules: word choice, grammar, syntax, show instead of tell, and so on…it is difficult but very worth while.

By the way, my painting above is called “Let it Rain” and the paint brushes are raining down through the mouth of ? a being ! symbolizing just to let art flow through you. The silhouette on the right is the director, the critic, the one that thinks she knows…and the figure to the left is the human swallowed by faith, by belief, that there is only one way…

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