24/7 Writer Brain

Year of Yes cover image“Being a writer invades my life 24/7.”

When I read that line in Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes, I thought, Exactly.

All day long I take mental notes of everything I see. I can’t not do this, even when I want to shut my brain off. Even when I notice stupid details that will likely never make it into my writing, like how cigarette butts pile up in intersections where people empty their ashtrays while their cars idle or how the smell of the dollar store clings to you even after you’ve been out of the store for hours.

And I wonder about everything…The Wal-Mart employee with the raccoon eyes, snapping her gum as she stands frozen, starring at a shelf, a product in her hand. Is she putting away returned items? Is she doing a price check? Has her brain frozen in place? Does she know her eyeliner is running? Does she care? Maybe she’s depressed? Maybe her boyfriend just broke up with her this morning after he used her toothbrush and took the last bagel. Maybe….

The squished toad on the driveway, guts spewed out its flattened mouth. Did the driver notice before they ran it over? Did I run it over? The flattened skin has the same texture as a football.

The pink hue to the light at dusk and how it makes everything softer, the same way snow makes everything look cleaner. How do you capture its essence in words?

Walking the dog, I find myself narrating my actions as if I was in the story itself. “They crested the hill and scanned the woods for the fox that keeps watch over the chicken pen. A hawk circled overhead– was it a sign?”

busy beesI can’t seem to stop my brain. I tell it to chill, but it doesn’t listen. Maybe I should sign up for yoga or learn to meditate. Something to stop my busy brain.

Sometimes I’m frustrated when I can’t seem to put into words what I truly feel in my heart. The perfect words that floated through my thoughts as I ran along our country roads this morning, escape me when I finally sit down to type them out. When I read the writing of someone like Shonda Rimes, who so easily, almost embarrassingly, spills her heart on the page, I think, “Yes! That’s it!” I’m grateful for her talent and strive to open my own heart unfiltered as she does.

I find there to be a magic in writing, a power well beyond me. So I’m grateful for this 24/7 invasion. It makes my days richer, even as it means that my mind is preoccupied and sometimes I forget about the clothes on the line or the tea I left steeping on the counter.

Writing makes life more real for me. I’m awed by the potential power it holds. Maybe this next sentence will change a life or lift a spirit, bring back a memory, or at the very least, make someone wonder. Maybe it will shine right through, all the way from my heart to yours.

maybe it will shine

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

COMING AUGUST 2018 FROM Pegasus Books:

Another Good Dog cover

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Lacking Inspiration?

Feeling inspired?

No?

You’re surrounded by inspiration, as ever-present as the air you breathe.

Okay, sometimes you have to reach further to find it, but it’s there, believe me.  All you need is an open mind, a little creativity, and a good analogy.

Okay, maybe the analogy doesn’t have to be that good.

Glancing around my workspace, I can see a pencil sharpener. That pencil sharpener is like me working on my latest manuscript  – I carve and twist and sharpen my point to perfection, but really, will anybody need that pencil? Nobody uses pencils anymore.

Depressing? Yeah, kind of.

Here’s an even more depressing one from PG Wodehouse:

“It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo.”

Do you suppose he was looking out the window at his garden when he came up with that one or maybe there was a brochure for the grand canyon on his desk?

Maybe you read that and thought, who thinks like that?

I would assert – anyone and everyone.

You, for instance.

You are surrounded by potential analogies. They’re everywhere.

My oldest child is a creative soul. This made him both a pleasure and a pain to raise.

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He is also smart. His standardized test scores came in very high in every area, except one.

Analogies.

These questions he would miss with alarming regularity. The problem was that he could always see two sides of everything.

analogies

He could absolutely understand how a bear could live in a hotel or a table could be used to sleep or a car is part of a kitchen or that something that is right is very wrong.

Look around you.

What does that lamp look like? A snake? A butter churn? An alien?

How could whether or not you made your bed this morning be an analogy for how you live your life?

What about your dog? Is he living the life he always wanted or is he a prisoner in a foreign land who has adapted well?

The truck rattling down the street — where is it going? What is it carrying? What has it seen? Who’s trapped inside? Did it runover the walnuts covering the street, the sound of the shells cracking like bullets exploding?

There is inspiration all around you, free for the taking.

inspiration

My cat has been slowly destroying my laptop. Whenever I leave it open, she nests on it. Her relentless plucking has removed key after key, her efforts so thorough most are unable to be snapped back on. This week she tore off the control key. I’m annoyed with her, but I’m sure there’s an essay in there. (I’ve lost my control….)

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Being open to possibility is the first step to discovering inspiration.

Sometimes when I’m journaling and can’t think of what to write, I’ll open a nearby book and randomly place my finger on a word or line. Then I’ll either continue the sentence or write about what that word or line brings to my mind. Other times I’ll look out the window and see what first catches my eye and explore why.

You can find inspiration on billboards, click bait, cereal packaging, or sales circulars. You can find it in the dirty laundry on the floor or the gunk in the sink drainer or the sarcasm in your teenager’s remark. There are analogies to be had in being late because the cat threw up or being lost when your GPS fails you.

Inspiration is everywhere. The place is lousy with it.

Breathe it in, and see where it takes your mind.

Need a chuckle? Check out these hilarious analogies written by high school students.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

 

Sometimes It’s Brilliant, Sometimes it’s Cleaning Vegetables

“If every time you sat down, you expected something great, writing would always be a great disappointment.” -Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones)

This is the third post I’ve written for the blog this week. (Do notice that it’s the only post I’ve actually posted.)

The magic just wasn’t happening.

*sigh*

Maybe it’s the sore shoulder. (Writing injury. No lie. I won’t bore you with the entire post I wrote about it.)

Maybe it’s the gray-gray-gray of the never-ever-ever-ever ending winter. (We still have to get through February? March? The dental hygienist reminded me that April can be iffy, too.)

Maybe it’s the lack of puppies. (I own that addiction.)

Maybe it’s my new (depressing) resolution not to eat after 6pm (including wine?).

Whatever it is, when I sat down to write, everything that came out was boring and trite and no-help-to-anyone.

Those days happen. They’re part of being a writer.

Now here’s the part about being a professional writer….

I still wrote. Every. Day.

Even when it was horrible.

Because you know what?

IMG_1899Every time I put what’s on my mind and in my heart onto the page, it makes room for the bigger, better thoughts. Kind of like cleaning vegetables. I shucked the skin and cut off the core and picked out the seeds. Necessary work to get to the good stuff.

So maybe when I sit down to write next week, it’ll be clear sailing. Nothing but brilliance in prose form.

And if not?

I’ll write anyway.

How about you?

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

 

Is There Any Reason to be Reasonable?

Every new year I make a list of resolutions. This year’s list is long. I’m not going to share it here because that would mean you might hold me to it. I’m gonna hold me to it, so you don’t have to. But also because some of my resolutions are deeply personal. I’m digging deeper this year.

2017 was fine. Lots of good stuff happened. I learned quite a lot. I adopted a puppy and bought a convertible, so I really can’t complain.

But 2018….this is gonna be my year. I’m going to make it so.

When I first scratched out my list, I thought, yeah, right, you are so overshooting. But then I thought – why can’t I overshoot? Why can’t I reach for bigger stuff and bigger dreams (and maybe a smaller waistline)? Why can’t I want it all?

I’ve read a slew of new year’s posts full of very nice resolutions and advice. Make it reasonable. Make it doable. Make it measurable. Pick one word, one resolution, focus on that.

Why?

I see no reason to be reasonable. Our world has seemed incredibly unreasonable this past year. No one else is staying within the lines, why should I?

And doable? Well, there’s no way to know if something is doable until you try to do it. So I plan to.

And the thing about measurable is that it’s restrictive and reeks of judgment. It’s more or less a pass/fail situation and that doesn’t leave enough room for really great tries or hitting it out of the park. As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss,  you’ll land among the stars.”

shoot for the moon

I’ve made ten resolutions. Ten big ones. For a great part of my life, I’ve been practical; I was learning, growing, practicing, trying, but you know what? I don’t know how much life I left (neither do you), so enough rehearsing, it’s time to act. It’s time to make this thing real.

How about you? What are you resolving to change? Cause if you don’t get moving, you’ll surely get runover just sitting there. It’s time, people.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

 

What is YOUR Creative Self Saying?

I started teaching a new course of Creative Writing this week. I forgot how much I love it. My class last spring didn’t fill and was canceled. At the time, I was busy preparing for a book launch, so I was somewhat relieved.

Driving home after class this week, I was energized. It’s so exciting to work with writers who are just beginning their journey. The possibilities are fresh and exciting.

The knowing nods when we talk about the urgent need to write, reassure me. I’m not the only crazy person in my town who feels this compelling urge to bear witness to all the little oddities in my life and heart.

pexels-photo-115782We talked about what we write and why. So many echoed the same sentiment—a voice running through their heads aching to get out on paper. I recognize that insistency. It’s their creative spirit. Everyone has one. That spirit can find its way out in a plethora of ways, but when its left trapped inside, unrecognized and unfed, it can lead to a confused despondency, a sadness borne of a day-after-day sameness. Continue reading “What is YOUR Creative Self Saying?”

May the Power of Literature Change Your Life (Week Two of my Be-a-Better-Writer Reading Program)

Okay, I’ve changed my mind.

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This is a picture of my cat Hermoine, because she changes her mind frequently and never apologizes about it (she also sits shamelessly on the heater vent and hogs all the heat in the kitchen). Please do not take note of the filthy floor, focus on the cat.

 

 

Story Genius and Lisa Cron are pretty genius.

After sharing my disdain last week, I take it all back. Digging deeper into this book, I’m finding nugget after nugget of gold.

Maybe I was a bit sensitive after her comments about pantsers (those of us who write by the seat of our pants as opposed to careful outlining). I’ve decided that Lisa Cron actually does have room for pantsers in her heart. At least my kind of pantsing.

She’s not shoving an outline down my throat (at least at this point), but she does want me to know exactly what it is my protagonist wants and what is keeping her from it. The intersection of those points is what she terms the ‘third rail.’

While I may have no idea what’s going to happen in any story I start, I do know my protagonist inside and out and am very certain of what she wants. I even know the first obstacle which will throw her into a tailspin and start my story. After that, though, all bets are off, but inevitably obstacle after obstacle will present itself.

In my novel Girls’ Weekend there were three protagonists (although Cron has helped me see that there is actually an ‘alpha protagonist’) and I knew what those women wanted (even though not all of them did) and what stood in their way. In reality, looking back, that could have been three books. A nice little series. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

So, yeah, enjoying Story Genius.

The other books are also inspiring me, even Donald Maass. Here’s a line I’ve been ruminating on from Fire in Fiction:

“Like a handshake, an opening and closing line can create impressions and expectations. They can set a tone.”

I’ve gone back and begun looking at each chapter and studied my opening and closing lines. It’s one way to be certain my story is bringing the reader along purposefully. He also talks about being certain there’s a purpose in every scene, not just artfully rendered sentences. I’m a serious proponent of that direction, and I chuckled at his line about the purpose not having to be obvious. There’s no need to “squat atop it like an elephant on an egg.” Totally going to steal that line at some point.

And then this from Fierce on the Page:

“This is the power of the written word. As we take in a story that affects us, we meet ourselves more deeply.”

Yes. That’s exactly it.

Natalie Goldberg echoes this sentiment:

“A responsibility of literature is to make people awake, present, alive.”

Doing all this reading about craft and purpose and style and function some days makes my head spin a bit and makes me feel like not only do I not know what I’m doing, but maybe I should apply for a job at the new Burger King that just opened in town. But Jordan Rosenfeld was there to catch me when she wrote:

“Trust your gut about what resonates and what does not. Know that you’ll know what to cut and what to keep…..You will find the alive passages, and you can even choose to build on them. Those are the words you are meant to write; similarly, the life that flows is the one you’re meant to live.”

I think she might have more faith in me that I have in myself, but I’ll borrow it for now.

May the power of literature change your life this week.


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