What They Are Saying...

"This book was a fast easy read, and a fun romp. All in all, the book charmed me."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How A"Muse”ing

I was recently asked if I ever get writer's block. I quickly answered, “No. I don't believe in writer's block. I always have something to say.” But that's a short answer to a much more complex process.

In fact, there are times I don't write, sometimes for months. Then, there are times when my fingers can't type fast enough. I've written entire novels in three days. It's a phenomena I've come to accept about writing, which I've chalked up to “inspiration”. 

Simply put, I wait for my muse.

In ancient times, the Greeks and Romans, who had incredible arts like music, poetry, paintings, and sculpture, believed that those who created these works did not do so alone. They were guided by daemons, or genies, or muses. Artists were merely vessels that the gods used to express themselves. Before the Renaissance, artists “had” genius, now they “are” genius.

The Moors of Northern Africa ruled the Iberian peninsula (where Spain is now) for over 700 years. They loved the art of dance, and when they would see a dancer preform incredible acts – leap so high, spin so fast, clearly illuminated from within – they would clap and cheer, “There! That's God!”, or “Allah! Allah! Allah!” To this day, in Spain, when a fearless matador dances with the bull or a Flamenco dancer delights, the crowd cheers, “Olé! Olé! Olé!” That is where the word came from.

Personally, I don't believe in gods, but I can't deny that there are days when images fill my mind, demanding to be put to paper, and do so now, now, now! I don’t' think I'm weird. And I know I'm not alone.

One day, Paul McCartney woke up humming a song. It bothered him because he didn't know it's name, or even when he heard it. It haunted him the entire day. Finally, he told his band about it (the Beatles, maybe you've heard of them) and hummed it for them. “Nope,” they said, “that song doesn't exist.”

They recorded it. You know it as “Yesterday.”
Ruth Stone

Poet Ruth Stone told Elizabeth Gilbert that as a child she could “feel” poems rushing at her. When that happened, she'd race into the house to grab pencil and paper and write them as they came. Occasionally, she'd be late, and as the poem pushed through her she'd reach out, grab it, and force it back in, writing every word as she did so. In those instances, the poem was “perfect and intact”. And completely backwards.

There's an advantage to believing that you, as an artist, or comedian, or writer, are NOT alone. If you've sat down to create and what you end up with isn't awesome, you're not entirely to blame. The lack of success is not solely yours. The flip side, of course, is, should your work hit it out of the park, you'll have to admit, you weren't alone.

Maybe you are a genius. Maybe you can be creative without your muse. But your muse will never be creative without you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year Resolutions

Did you make a New Year's resolution?

Every year, nearly half of the American population makes a New Year's resolution, promising that this year they'd stop overeating, lose weight, quit smoking, get closer to God, be nicer, live easier, and on and on. Sadly, eighty-eight percent of all resolutions fail. Odds are you know they're going to fail. So why do we bother?

The New Year resolution is a tradition that started, as far as we know, with the ancient Babylonians. It was the Romans, however, who gave us the concept as we know it today. They would make promised to Janus, the God of beginnings and passages (also, the God of gateways, doors, or transitions). The Romans believed that the beginning of everything was an omen as a rule, so they celebrated every new month. But the first month after the longest night? Seemed prudent to make special offerings, and promises, and greetings to one another. They even named the month after him. January.

Thus the humble beginnings of New Year resolutions.

Obscure deities aside, now that you've made a resolution how will you achieve it? You made it for a reason, no doubt.

Studies have shown that there are four actions you can take to help turn your resolution into a real life change.

1. Promise manageable steps

It's very easy to say “I'm going to lose weight” but that alone isn't enough. It isn't even enough to say “...and therefore I just joined the gym.” I can tell you, having been a long time gym member, that every January attendance goes up, and by March all the machines are vacant again. You even know you need to diet. However, the broad stroke of “losing weight” bears no weight. So try smaller goals. For example, “I'm going to eat 500 calories less every day for the next week, and repeat that every other week.” Now you have a concrete plan of actions, and odds are it will yield concrete “weight loss” results. Similarly, don't plan on “quitting smoking”, plan on “one less cigarette every week.”

2. Make a public promise

Nothing says determination like announcing your intentions. You can do this in person or in an email, but let family and friends know what you're planning this year. It will help you recognize the effort as more than just words, or a passing whim, or a silly promise made over a glass of champagne.

3. Seek out support

Others are in a similar situation, regardless of what the situation is. Find a group, be it friends, or family, or a Meet Up. Or find someone to do this with you. Talk about your successes and your failures, and let them talk about theirs. It's easier to face a challenge when you face it with others and reaffirm you are not alone.

4. Don't give up

Okay, you had a bad day/week/month -- we all do. Acknowledge that and get back into the swing of things. Anything worthwhile doing is worth a second or third attempt.

I sincerely wish you the best in the new year. Happy 2015!